Seasons Greetings

I meant to write a post on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day but as it turned out, I was having such a lovely and full time with my family that the right opportunity just didn’t materialise.

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So a bit of a belated Merry Christmas to anyone that might be reading this. I hope you’ve all been having a great time over the holidays. I wrote in a post earlier this month that this was our first Christmas just the four of us and my, what a lovely Christmas it was. Peaceful, fun and purposeful in remembering what we were celebrating. Sophia and Isaac were just brimming with excitement from the morning of Christmas Eve and it didn’t dissipate until the moment they collapsed exhausted and happy into their beds on Boxing Day night. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t overexcited. We took things at our own pace, went to Church, popped to the pub with some friends for a Christmas drink then pottered home and Isaac had a nap whilst I cooked a hefty chunk of turkey and Dan and Sophia played with some of her presents. We had a delicious meal (if I do say so myself!) before slowly getting the kids to bed and then I coerced Dan into watching Christmas Dr Who with me – it had to be done!

Anyway, I’m not going off on one today (I promise!) so will bid you adieu and leave you with a few pictures from our day. (An aside is that I realised I didn’t get any photos of stocking/present opening which made me a bit sad but Dan surmised that it was good evidence that we’d been enjoying ourselves too much and I’m going with that, I guess it’s better to be in the moment than always recording it – I did remember the obligatory cheesy pose with stockings the night before though!)

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Thoughts on Food

I know I’ve sort of pinched the title from my last post but it is incredibly fitting for the content of my latest incoherent rambling, for I’ve been thinking about food. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about our attitudes to food and how we want our children to think about food. I am aware that this is an incredibly sensitive topic and I’m going to try and proceed as delicately as possible but apologies in advance for any offence, it is definitely not intended!

I love food. Always have done, always will. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that in itself. But, I do have a tendency to over eat, to comfort eat and to try and feed people to solve sadness. And I no longer think these are healthy attitudes towards food.  I was quite chubby as a child and as a teenager and whilst at university I wasn’t fat but there was definitely more weight on me than my body needed. Weirdly, during both my pregnancies I lost weight. I mean, I obviously put on weight because of the baby bump but not long after the birth of Sophia I was thinner than I’d ever been. For me breastfeeding further aided this process and 6 months after Isaac was born I think I probably fell into the ‘slender’ category, fitting into a dress size 2 sizes smaller than pre children. But both times after breastfeeding the weight started to creep back on.

And this summer I started to think about it all. I felt better at a lower weight, had more energy, more confidence and clinically speaking, was probably healthier. I started to stop snacking when the kids snacked and in the evenings (they need the extra calories as they are constantly moving and their metabolism’s are much quicker and more efficient, me…not so much), ate smaller portions, less cake and chocolate, and tried to make healthier meals for us all. And I didn’t feel particularly hungry at the loss of the extra food, which surprised me. I started exercising more regularly (still probably only twice a week) and found my energy levels and posture improving. So I am trying to keep this change in lifestyle going as it is having a  positive affect on me.

It seems to me that the media either talks about our obesity epidemic or the increase of eating disorders (especially in children). We are going down one of two routes, either so desperate to look good that we starve ourselves or embracing food and not really being sensible about what our body actually needs, only thinking of what our head wants.

At the end of the day, every human being has a different weight that is ideal for them but generally speaking, it’s not going to be extremely heavy or thin. My concern here isn’t so much about beauty or the way we look. Far from it. Although it’s great to feel attractive, it is so subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. So much has already been said about this and the effect it is having on our children (recently I read these two articles which I loved and think are definitely worth a look: When Your Mother Says She’s Fat and A Beautiful Body). I’m very aware of society’s obsession with the way we look and strive to try and counter it if the subject comes up with Sophia and Isaac, I try and focus on characteristics of their personality, deeds they have done, that are beautiful, rather than the way they look (which is hard as I do – biased Mother here – think they are both absolutely gorgeous!) No, my concern is with the actual health of our bodies. Maintaining a good weight is essential for our hearts, our kidneys, livers, bones…pretty much everything!

The culture of eating and drinking what we want, when we want, combined with a dramatic increase in the time spent in front of a screen cannot be a good thing. I’m not sure where I’m going with this really but just to remind us maybe to think a bit more about what we’re putting in us. To ask ourselves if we’re really hungry when we go for that late evening snack, to try and choose a healthy option rather than more cake, to think about the content of what we’re cooking, to maybe cook from scratch a bit more rather than choose the ready made option stuffed with preservatives and chemicals, to stop and decide whether a sugar or salt laden food is really going to make us feel better after a rough day or whether it’s just habit and association. Mainly, just to think.

That’s what I’ll be doing from now on. I won’t be never eating homemade cakes or having a takeaway or a second helping that I don’t really need. But I will be trying to make healthier choices for my body, to mirror good attitudes for my children so that hopefully they will grow up and be able to eat well but also know when to stop. And mainly, so that my body will live up to it’s full potential…I’ve got plans, it needs to be able to keep up!

Thoughts on Four

Tis the eve of Sophia’s 4th birthday and I’m beavering away in the kitchen attempting a rainbow cake (baking SIX separate cakes before I even get to decorating…the word you are looking for is tedious) as requested by the birthday girl.

I glanced over at the presents waiting to be wrapped and it’s struck me again just how old four is. And I know, I know, all the people with older/grown up/grand/ children will say something like ‘you just wait until they are16/leave home/get married/have kids…etc’ but hear me out.

When a child turns 3 they often don’t have a good grasp on verbal communication,  bladder control, self care or particularly meaningful thoughts but visit that child a year later and crikey, things have changed. They’re no longer a baby,  they can hold a decent conversation (even if it does involve their supposed day trip of walking to Australia and back!), have a basic level of self care and a wider understanding (and often concern) about people and the world around them.  They are old enough to go to school if that is the choice you make and generally have graduated from the category of babies and toddlers to children.

It’s remarkable and a little scary. I often look at and listen to Sophia and wonder how I missed the change. And of course I didn’t but it was so gradual I didn’t notice it until I stopped to reflect.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to make the mistake (again) of expecting more than she is capable of. Ongoing, often daily,  tantrums are a reminder that she still needs my help a lot in dealing with frustration and disappointment,  especially when tired. But I’m not going to underestimate her either.

This girl of ours, she’s a keeper. She is an absolute pleasure to hang out with, is filled to the brim and overflowing with love and laughter,  is ridiculously clumsy (just like her mum!) but so resilient with it, is so smart she outwits me most of the time and more than anything just exudes a genuine warm and concern for others well being. I am so proud to be her mother.

Baby girl Sophia, we love you.
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Am hoping you have a most excellent birthday tomorrow.

P.S Sorry for the mush folks, normal service will resume shortly.

It’s Christmas time…

…mistletoe and wine…

As children we learnt the alternative version of this song, I seem to remember it featured radioactive slime and eating the budgie for tea. We took great delight in singing it in chorus before collapsing into giggles for our bemused parents. An informal tradition from 18 Christmases with a gaggle of siblings.

Inspired by a friend’s ace blog featuring their adventures in the run up to Christmas (which you can find here) I thought I’d write some musings about Christmas traditions and the whole holiday period. I’ll try not to go on too much of a materialistic/consumerist rant though I can’t promise anything!

Obviously as a Christian the reason for the season (I never tire of that little rhyme!) for us is Jesus and his birth. So this year I wanted to really put the emphasis on that during the Advent season. A new addition last year was a hanging nativity advent calendar that my Mum rescued and passed on to us. We had one growing up and loved watching the scene build over 24 days to feature the whole shebang of kings, shepherds, angels and of course Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. Last year Isaac was too young and Sophia did them all but this year they’re both enjoying taking turns putting the characters on though not without a bit of ‘but he gets to put on both the angels and I WANT to put on an angel’ that comes with the sibling territory.

IMG_2143This year we are also doing a Jesse tree. The idea of this is to focus on the genealogy of Jesus so from 1st to 25th December we go through prominent figures in the Bible from Adam to Jesus, each day reading a short passage and exploring it before hanging something on our Jesse tree (this year just a branch in a vase of pebbles) to mark that day and person. At the moment all our ‘ornaments’ save one are just paper discs backed on card but I’m hoping that over the years we can swap them out for little ornaments that match the days. I really like this so far, it’s useful for all of us to remember what we’re actually celebrating at Christmas and it’s a bit deeper than we usually go into the Bible for Sophia which is cool as it reminds me that she is capable of understanding and exploring more than I think she is.

IMG_2148So this is obviously the essence of Christmas for our family. But… I most definitely bulk it out! As a child I think the most exciting part of reaching December 1st for me was that the Christmas books came out. When Sophia was born I vowed to collect a similar assortment of Christmas books for our kids and said I’d buy one or two each year. However, this is Sophia’s 4th Christmas and we already have close to 20 books. Oops. What can I say, I’m a sucker for stories. What’s cool though is how they have both started just getting books out to look at throughout the day, they are most definitely appreciating the box of Christmas books as well.IMG_2150

We’re getting a tree this weekend (real, of course) which we’re all excited about decorating and I need to get some mincemeat so we can get on with making some mince pies. In a way it’s quite a busy season, I’ve lots of cards and presents to make. Historically we both find present choosing and buying incredibly stressful and feel like we never get it right so we decided this year to make all our presents (kids excluded). So I’ve been holed up in the kitchen whenever I’ve had a chance to get on with preserving and waxy experiments and need to get my needles out for some woolly gifts. At times I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by it but mostly I’m enjoying it. I like actually putting my time and head into presents rather than just clicking a ‘buy’ button on a website somewhere. It feels more personal and I’m hoping the recipients will appreciate the thought and love. Fingers crossed!

This year is the first year that I’ve heard of the Elf on the Shelf tradition and mostly it’s just made me sad. Although there is an element of fun and magic to it (what mischief will they get up to overnight?!) I can’t shake the undertones of the elves monitoring your behaviour and reporting back to Father Christmas. I really resent using the idea of the big man in red as a way of essentially bribing your children to behave. For one thing, it can only really work in December and surely it’s better to be consistent in parenting and behavioural management all year round. Also, I’ve heard numerous parents threaten to take away presents which I assume they wouldn’t follow through on so it’s basically a lie. I realise I might come across quite strongly and I do apologise, I intend no offence and wouldn’t dream to tell people how to parent, we all do the best we can and what we feel is right for our own kids. I guess I just find it so odd. I  much prefer the Imagination Tree’s take on the Elves with the Kindness Elves. There are no consequences to them and they gently encourage kind deeds with a suggestion each morning on things for the family to do from baking cookies for a friend to visiting an elderly lonely neighbours. Infusing the advent season with care and love for those around us.

Christmas has become insanely over commercialised. I know the beginning of Christmas appearing early in the shops was apparently during World War Two when American stores starting selling Christmas related items early so relatives could send them to their family serving in Europe in time for Christmas which is quite a lovely sentiment in itself but unfortunately it started a fashion of starting earlier and earlier and we’ve reached the ridiculous state of seeing mince pies in shops in September. This means the advertising starts then as well and two years ago the BBC reported most UK families would spend between £530 and £682 on Christmas with predictions last year of folk in the UK spending £29 million over Christmas. These are incredibly high figures, put stress on families and I would argue, are largely unnecessary.

Children don’t need toys (especially plastic, electronic short lived ones) coming out their ears, friends and family would probably be happy just to spend time together than give each other things we don’t really need or want, it’s nice to share good food but there’s no need to eat and drink to excess and I think it’s time to put the focus on presence, not presents.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to give gifts, especially when a lot of love and thought has been put into them and you know they’ll be well used and appreciated but I just think we end up buying tat for every Dick, Tom and Harry and maybe we just need to take a step back and reevaluate our approach to Christmas. Last year I think I had my best Christmas ever as an adult. We spent it at our friends flat in Brighton and unfortunately, out of 8 of us, 6 were in varying stage of being struck down the flu. However, this meant that we had no expectations for the day and as a result it was incredibly relaxed and enjoyable. We pottered, we opened presents, went to church, gently cooked the dinner and just chilled out. It was a real testament to the power of good company. It’ll be a hard one to top.

This year is mine and Dan’s first Christmas alone with the kids. I’m hoping to embrace the flu soaked atmosphere of last year, not to expect anything in particular, to relax, not to rush or demand anything of anyone but just to celebrate the birth of Jesus and enjoy being around my gorgeous family.

Presence, not presents.