E+E column: Keeping calm

I’m feeling a bit more serious this week I’m afraid. The last month or so has seen me becoming more irritable and short tempered with the kids and I’ve been quicker to resort to shouting when their behaviour has been challenging. After a particularly shameful episode on Friday at bedtime, I was doing some remorseful thinking and got stuck on the question, what do I want them to remember? As adults, reminiscing about their childhood, what do I want to be the overall atmosphere that they recall?

We’ve all seen ‘memes’ about not worrying too much about mess and although I agree that it’s unlikely that they’ll recall fondly a clean house, I’m thinking more of the emotional side of things. I don’t know how far back they’ll remember things, but I hate to think that some of their earliest memories could be of me shouting at them. I want them to remember their early years as being full of love, laughter and spontaneity – cheesy but true. There are also a million and one articles and blogs out there urging parents not to be so hard on themselves, to recognise our own needs and feelings as important. And this is undeniably true. But at the end of the day as an adult, I should have better self control than they, as children possess. Even if it requires all my inner strength, I should be able to refrain from releasing by frustration through shouting and to parent them calmly. Because when I do, lo and behold, they shout less. Their behaviour is intrinsically shaped and moulded by mine. They copy me more than I’d care to admit (I think many parents have a funny but embarrassing story about a young children repeating words they probably shouldn’t know)!

And I’m trying to also remember that they aren’t trying to make me cross. They don’t want a grumpy, shouting Mum. They’re just testing boundaries, learning about what behaviour is acceptable and what finding their place in the world. There is no malicious intent behind their behaviour even if it does wind me up. So I’m going to try and remember that and hopefully gently lead them down the right path rather than dragging them kicking and screaming. So apologies for being a bit gloomy but really I’d like to think of this as positive as I embrace a less angry approach to parenting (again!) this summer. I feel a bit nervous sharing it so publicly but I thought that if I was able to even help one parent with the way they interact with their children, it is worth it.

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A new dresser

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Funny how sometimes just something simple like a new to us (family heirloom) dresser can transform a room and with it, lift your mood. Every time I walk through the living room at the moment my eye is drawn to this corner and for some reason it makes me really happy. We may live in a tiny rented house with crumbly walls and carpets that have seen better days but this is a good spot. Maybe that makes me slightly vain but there you have it, I find pleasure in the sturdy pine dresser,  concealing within it all manner of craft materials and the comfy papasan chair nestled beside it. 

It also gave me the impetus to tidy up another spot, admittedly not such a pretty one. I’ve finally cleared and reorganised my home ed unit,  ready for the new school year in September.  Now I can relax and enjoy the holidays! I’ve been working on a post about our home ed direction and future plans, fitting as we’ve just finished our first ‘proper’ year. Progress is slow though I’m afraid,  I’ve been expending my precious childfree time elsewhere,  working out a lot, penning my ramblings for the column, doing some other research and writing. I’ll try and not neglect the blog though,  promise! 

I’d better keep this short and sweet and shoot off now though, a soggy (but thoroughly enjoyable) camping trip on Dartmoor this weekend has left me in need of my bed. Hope this finds you all well, happy and enjoying the last days of July, in spite of the rain.

E+E column: A very British summer

I’ve been feeling rather sentimental this week about our British sensibilities in regards to our incredibly changeable weather. Other countries might mock us for our ‘stiff upper lip’ but I think our resilience and ability to always look on the bright side of a gloomy cloud are not to be scoffed at. Take last weekend for example. Our Church was throwing a 60th anniversary celebration complete with face painting, BBQ and bouncy castle. Of course, this meant that shortly after the formal service finished, the heavens opened and torrential rain descended. Not deterred though, we still had a BBQ under the canopy of leaky gazebo’s and when all tables indoors were full, a hardy bunch of us carried our overflowing plates of delicious fare to the slightly damp tables outside and ate to the accompaniment of the rain hammering on the canvas roof above our heads. The kids were similarly not dissuaded from the allure of a bouncy castle and took to it with great gusto, despite the water pooling in corners.

The sun started to peek through towards the end (typically!) and Dan and I decided to swing by the river in Thorverton for a quick spot of wild swimming at a popular local spot. We trudged through the fields to the ‘beach’ and as everyone else got changed under the trees (I had the baby asleep in sling so sadly had to sit out), dark clouds once more filled the sky and another downpour commenced. I watched through the weeping willow branches as Dan and the kids, undeterred, tiptoed gingerly into the river and then embracing the situation went in for a quick but invigorating dip before drying off and squelching back through the wet fields to the car to head home and warm up with promised hot chocolates.

I concluded that both of these events were probably, if anything, enhanced by the weather. No one is going to forget the comedic timing of torrential downpour on the day of a planned BBQ after a week of gorgeous sunshine and I’m certain the children will forever remember Dan letting them take turns to cling to his back like limpets as he swam them round one of nature’s swimming pools in the rain. Boxing Day 2014 will certainly never be forgotten by ourselves as the day when we decided to brave a bracing walk on Dartmoor to shake off the Christmas gluttony despite sub-zero temperatures and driving rain. Thank goodness for Fox Tor Café for a warming lunch and cup of tea afterwards!

So rather than be miserable by the fact that the heat wave has quickly been replaced by gloomy grey skies and outbursts of rain, I’m going to live up to our national stereotype and say, come wind or rain, we’re going to stick to our plans and enjoy this summer. Although having said that, another heat wave wouldn’t go amiss of course…

 

A most memorable Boxing Day!

A most memorable Boxing Day!

E+E column: The simple pleasures; a stick collection

(I have recently had the pleasure of being asked to write a weekly column for the Monday edition of the Exeter Express and Echo. As they don’t publish the columns on their website, I’ve decided to post mine here every Wednesday.)

The mind of a small child must be a most wonderful place to be; simultaneously incredibly simple and completely unfathomable. Isaac has been collecting sticks. The collection snuck up on me with no warning. He always picks up sticks, wherever we go – even if we’ve just popped out to the shops, somewhere you imagine there to be no sticks, he seems to return clutching one triumphantly. I started to realise that these sticks were scattered around the house, building up in the most inconvenient places, the stairs, dining room table, kitchen sides… I declared that all sticks must live outside (a kill joy I know). Isaac was pretty unfazed by this declaration but did request a vessel to store said sticks. In fact, it was at this point that he first uttered the phrase ‘stick collection’. Although, actually, what I think he said was ‘my collection of hitting sticks’.

So, a suitable container (broken seaside bucket) was scavenged and now the stick collection (of whose use is apparently for hitting) now lives in the garden, conveniently located right next to the back door when it is constantly being kicked over, sticks reclaimed and somehow finding their way, yes, that’s right…back inside the house. But who’s to argue with such an easy collection. Sticks are free, they’re everywhere. And the process of finding and claiming them seems to be one that requires much thought and produces unending joy. In fact, so skilled at choosing just the right stick is my son that, at Forest School (which as you might imagine, takes place in a forest – a place abundant with sticks), he was the target of much envy from a small friend having chosen apparently the most desirable stick in the whole woods.  To our untrained eye, they are all much of a muchness. But from the skilled perspective of a three year old boy, apparently they are incredibly unique and distinguishable. Is it the length? The girth? The species of tree or bush from which it came? Or does it depend on what use it is intended for – marshmallow cooking, fire lighting, painting, or indeed…hitting?

So the stick collection remains (mostly outside). And grows… Perhaps when it comes to fire season this winter, some of them might find their way into the burning pile. Only in the interest of keeping the collection to a manageable size of course. But on the whole, how can I deny the simple pleasure of keeping and building a stick collection? If only as adults we could take quite as  much joy from such a small and easy thing.

03.07.15

The end of an era…

I’m referring of course to Dan’s twenties as he turned the big 3-0 a fortnight ago. I’ve been doing a birthday post for the kids for the last few years now and couldn’t resist the opportunity to mark Dan’s milestone birthday here on the blog (though don’t go expecting one every year husbot)!
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It’s taken me a while to catch up as we spent his birthday weekend camping at West Town Farm in Ide for our dear friends Kate and Ben’s wedding and last weekend camping at the marvellous Burnbake campsite in Dorset for Dan’s 30th with a group of family and friends. Busy busy!
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September will mark ten years since we met and without being soppy, I can safely say that there is no one I’d have rather spent the last decade with. It has been an absolute pleasure and a complete privilege to have been his fellow adventurer as we’ve moved a ridiculous number of times, lived on a boat, played lots of music, discovered a love of weightlifting and (I guess they should get a mention) produced three rather outstanding children.
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He is an outstanding husband and father, annoyingly clever, loving, quietly considerate and wise, has a soul meltingly beautiful singing voice and tops it all off with the most wicked sense of humour and mischievous grin I’ve ever seen. (The kids are fast becoming A class pranksters under his tutelage…)

Thank you my dear for the last decade, love you more than my rambling words will ever convey. Here’s to the next ten!

dan and I

happy dan and i

dan!

Notice a theme here…. 😉

baby 1

thanks dan

gigging

tennis

they all love daddy

They all love Daddy the most!

singing dan

crabs1