Keeping A Record

It’s been nearly three months to the day since my last post so I thought it was probably time to sit down and write an update, if only for my future-self’s sake, rather than for those of you that might be reading this (as let’s face it, how interesting is someone else’s life really?) No, my reason for blogging is two fold. Firstly, it forces me to exercise my creative muscles and to focus on something that isn’t work or the kids. The impetus to kick me out of my dry spell came from seeing a friend’s beautiful art work on instagram (Hi KT!) We briefly spoke about her illustrating a children’s book I was writing a long time ago and seeing her gorgeous work made me realise that I’ve been spending too much time working and not enough writing simply for the love of writing. So I’m going to try and make time to write for me, here and on my works-in-progress. It’s highly likely none of it will go anywhere but at least I’m giving it a go!

Secondly, I’m posting to keep a record of our life over the last few months. When I first started home educating I saw other families incredibly organised ways of recording and documenting their days. Unfortunately, commitment to seeing things through is not my strong point and this applies to all areas of life… I have so many half-filled records of what we’ve been up to, both from an ‘academic’ point of view and a general ‘making memories’ persepctive. This blog seems to be one of the longest lasting endeavours I’ve ever undertaken as an adult so I figure I’ll stick with it for now.

So…what have we been up to? Well, I guess most significantly, we moved house from Topsham to Newton Abbot at the end of August. It’s mad really, we’ve only been here 6 weeks or so but it already feels like we’ve been here forever. I think I’m used to moving after a lifetime of  not staying anywhere more than a few years so adapatability comes easily. The kids are getting there. They are loving the space that the new house offers but Isaac especially is missing Topsham and getting quite anxious about various things. But I’ve got a two-pronged approach to dealing with this. I’m trying to give him space to be sad and make sure we can still see our Topsham friends. But I’m also trying to maximise opportunities to explore our new area and highlight the things that might appeal to him as ‘being better’ than where we used to be. Today we went on an epic exploration of the estate next door and found two new play parks, a pretty cool pond and most excitingly (for me at least), a walnut tree! We brought home a bag full and that was pretty much the highlight of the week for me!

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Also significantly, me and Dan celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary just a few weeks ago. We did so in style by disappearing to Italy for three nights whilst my frankly heroic parents took on the task of keeping the kids alive and happy in our absence. Whilst Mum and Dad took them hiking in the Lake District, Dan and I explored Pompeii, visited the top of Vesuvius, swam in the Bay of Naples and ate all the carbs (because let’s face it, you can’t go to Italy and not eat pizza and gelato for the duration of the trip).

In the home ed world things have re-started for the academic year. The big two and I have embarked on a Egyptian project, a quest to learn Italian (to be practised on a family holiday there next year hopefully), have started a new awesome weekly curriculum with friends (looking at a different piece of art but then expanding it to look at the wider scope of subjects around it – geography, history, politics…etc), have started a new geographical themed project at our weekly social group and of course the normal reading, writing, maths and Forest School. Oh, and our Garden Group has finally got round to starting our fire circle mosiac and we’ve got some cool conservation stuff underway and lined up for the winter months. Phew! Isaac has started football training with the local team and Sophia is now doing two hours of dancing each week (musical theatre and hip hop…just to mix things up!). Eli is loving Kindergarten and was meant to try ‘Mini Kickers’ last week but lost his nerve at the last minute. Busy busy!

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Moving away from the kids, I’ve increased my hours with The Outdoors Group and am very much enjoying my work there. My long-term dream is to do the Forest School Leader Training but it’s just not the right time for me yet. I’m still trying to balance running and weightlifting but have now discovered an enthusiasm for calisthenics as well. I’ve got headstands down and am working on forearm stands and handstands now. I’ve seen progress in both these areas which is encouraging. Pole has taken a back step and whilst I really want to get into climbing, there just aren’t enough hours in the week. In running, my average pace has mysteriously hugely improved since getting back from holiday (maybe it was the pizza?!). I got my 5k and 10k PB in the last few weeks (23:44 and 52:45 respectively) and I’ve got the Great West Run in a fortnight so hoping to smash my 2 hour goal…we’ll see!

Dan’s absolutely smashing all calisthenic and weight lifting goals he sets himself, is starting a new job next month, has re-discovered his fondness for graphic novels and is enjoying having the space to play music a bit more in the new house. He’s also acquired a drone and has shown a natural talent for photography which is pretty bloody cool! I even managed to get him to agree to doing a Mountain Marathon with me once the kids are a bit older….given that he’s not a fan of cardio, I thought this was quite a feat. Of course, asking him after a glass of Italy’s finest bubbles might have been the key there!

And I think that’s us caught up. I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads because how can you condense the life of five people over three months into a few hundred words and pictures? But I’ve given it my darndest best shot! And now it’s off to investigate my children’s book and see if it’s worth reviving. I’ll keep you updated…

If you made it to the end of this, hats off to you. If you thought, TLDR (too long, didn’t read)…that’s totally understandable. Here’s the summary: we’ve moved house and gone on holiday, life is plodding along, everyone is well.

 

 

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And…breathe.

I’m not going to mince my words. Over the last few weeks, the behaviour of my children has been pretty unpleasant. They’ve been bickering constantly, there has been shouting and screaming fits (regularly) and I’ve even been hit whilst trying to help them negotiate a tricky situation. Thus far, I have been fairly successfully fostering a calm facade and have managed to avoid shouting mostly but I am so far past the end of my tether at this point that the veneer is starting to crack. What I’m most puzzled by is what is causing it. Usually I can pinpoint a reason for such a noticeable decline in temperament but this time, I am clueless. If I was going to clutch at straws I’d suggest that maybe it’s the end result of too much time inside after recurrent bouts of illness and a long wet and cold winter. I’m not convinced though. If it was just one of them I’d blame sleep or hormones but for it to be all of them (actually not so much the smallest) is a bit of a mystery.

However, I have long known the best way for me to manage through such a season of discontent. And that is with regular breaks to go somewhere, by myself, and just enjoy the peace. One such opportunity presented itself last weekend when I realised it was time to do a long training run for the upcoming mini ultra. So I laced my (new!) trainers, packed my running belt with snacks and headed out for a blissful 3 hours of running around the Exeter Green Circle. I covered 18 miles and returned with very muddy and slightly bleeding legs (I lost an argument with some brambles) but feeling much more “zen”. It’s amazing what a little bit of exercise and some time outside without the constant refrain of ‘Muuuuuuuum’ can do for your mood!

And whilst I don’t fully blame cabin fever or the upcoming full moon for their moods, it does have to be said that after a consecutive few days of getting them outside to play or walk for several hours they have been a little bit better. Granted, today in Rougemont Gardens the boys and my friend’s son drew the glances of a fair few passers by with their exuberant running, yelling and general mud covered antics. But after that and an afternoon exploring her amazing garden we returned home with everyone feeling a little happier and a little less grouchy.

I refuse to believe scare mongering of a third Beast this Easter and am living naively in the belief that it will be, if not glorious sunshine, at least not too wet or cold. I am hoping to cram in as much outside time as possible to the coming bank holiday weekend in the hopes that I can fully shake the grumps out of my kids and enjoy a few weeks off our normal routine with a little more harmony than we’ve seen of late. And if it is cold and wet, then that’s what raincoats and woolly hats are for! As long as I remember to grab my moments to breathe, then we’ll weather this rough patch and come out the other side with no hard feelings!

Taking Time For You

I’m aware that I’m in danger of this sounding something like a self-help column this week but I want to write about self-care and about taking time to nurture yourself. With Mother’s Day just gone, it seems like a timely reminder that Mum’s (and indeed everyone) need a bit of a break regularly, not just once a year in an avalanche of flowers, homemade cards and breakfast in bed. But we are not passive in this, we need to claim space and time for ourselves.

It’s easy in life, especially as a parent (but not exclusively to those with small folk), to get so bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that need doing and meeting the needs of everyone around us that we forget about our own needs. Self-care is the buzz term for this but really, it just means remembering that you are a human with your own needs and wants and recognising that it’s not selfish to take some time to meet them. Mother’s especially can be prone to playing (unintentionally) the role of martyr, running themselves ragged looking after those in their lives and getting all their work done, constantly juggling tasks and appointments in order to keep their families ticking over. But the problem with this is that more often than not, we end up feeling burnt out, tired and resentful.

Luckily, the solution is not a hard one. Self-care doesn’t mean jetting off for an all inclusive spa-weekend once a month (although once in a while wouldn’t go amiss!) Rather, it means adopting a practice of remembering every day, to honour yourself by doing something that’s just for you. That might be taking the time to go for a run or to an exercise class, to sit down with a tea and a book or trashy Netflix show for an hour, it might be choosing to take some extra time to prepare a nutritious meal to better fuel your body, it might be simply going to bed early rather than spending an extra two hours tidying and tying up the loose ends of the day.

And the thing is, if we regularly make time to honour ourselves, we’ll find tension dissipating in other areas of our lives. We’ll have more patience and energy to deal with the demands that life throws at us. It’s not selfish to take time for ourselves. It’s not selfish to say no to a request to play by the kids or to turn down extra hours at work. It’s OK to put ourselves first once in a while. I remember reading something Dr Sears had written when Sophia was just a toddler, he wrote that the sun does not rise and set on one member of the family but rather that everyone in the family were of equal importance. He wrote that sometimes one person’s needs will be more pressing than others but that in the grand scheme of things, a family should equally look after each other.

I’ve come a long way in the way of self-care and now make sure I take time daily to do something for me (usually go to the gym or eat separately from the kids so I can eat something yummy I know they won’t touch!) and the difference is noticeable. I find that I shout less and that as a general rule, our house is calmer. I’m not going to lie, we still have stressful, grouchy days but there are less of them. So if you had a lovely Mother’s Day but wished you were given the opportunity to focus on yourself a little more, don’t wait another year. Adopt an attitude of daily self-care and take some time (even if it’s just 10 minutes) for yourself, you won’t regret it!

Germ Central

In my BC life (Before Children), I rarely got ill. I seemed to avoid most bugs and viruses and when I did catch them, it was a mild bone of contention with Dan that I was only ever ill for 24 hours before bouncing back to normal. I was proud of what seemed like a particularly hardy constitution and took for granted my good state of health.

Fast forward almost eight years and oh, how things have changed. The addition of children to my life has brought it with an unwelcome consequence, that of an unending steam of germs and the consequent illnesses they incur. Anyone that knows me will attest to the fact that unfortunately, I am not a particularly gracious patient. I cannot stand being poorly and am prone to letting that known to anyone in the vicinity. I think it’s just that I find it frustrating to have to cancel plans and for tasks to build up as I take a temporary leave of absence. I do realise that this is an area of my personality that could do with some improvement though and I am doing my best to rectify it. I would hope that Dan would say that I have got a little better over the last year or two.

As you have probably guessed, this weekend I was struck down with a 24 hour tummy bug, kindly given to me by my eldest daughter. Our plans to go shopping and then the local fireworks had to be cancelled and I spent all of yesterday languishing in bed and on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself. True to form I am basically fully recovered today and a plan has been hatched to watch fireworks from Woodbury Common tonight (I thought it was best to stay away from crowds for fear of infecting folk) so all is well. It has left me though thinking about people with ongoing illnesses and poor health.

I have many friends with chronic illnesses or health conditions (as well as a husband!) and I can honestly say that all of them are incredibly stoic at weathering what their bodies throw at them and just getting on with it. It makes me a bit ashamed of my moaning about a mere tummy bug to be honest. I can’t begin to fathom what life must be like when you face illness and all the challenges it brings, be that physical or mental, on a daily basis. I have so much respect for these friends and family of mine.

I’m afraid there’s no big takeaway from this column or funny anecdote to conclude things, just a bit of a rambling reflection about how we shouldn’t take our health for granted, about how we should actively make sure we look after our bodies, both mentally and physically. And finally, a reminder to be aware of friends who are not so fortunate, to go out of our way to help them and show them that we’re thinking of them. Bake them a cake, offer to go shopping or walk their dog, see if there is anything in particular they need help with.

Here We Go Again

During my marathon training I said to Dan, on more than one occasion, that I wouldn’t sign up for another marathon for a while as I felt the training was impacting on our family life too much. I knew even then that I’d run another but planned to not do it for at least a year, if not more. However, things change (sometimes quicker than we anticipate) and as it happens, I will be running my second marathon in a mere 8 weeks time. Sorry Dan!

I had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and my thoughts were that if I ran another marathon fairly quickly after my first, my body would already been trained and the training wouldn’t need to be quite so intense and time consuming. (Seasoned runners may be holding heads in their hands at this point in the column!) I also spotted that The Eden Project host a marathon and the part trail/part road route appealed to me. Plus we get a day out at Eden afterwards which is always a bonus in my books.

My Dad is running again with me and I’m looking forward to this one with a lot less apprehension than I did the North Devon affair. I think the reason for that is two-fold. Firstly, obviously I’ve completed one marathon so I know I can do it. Secondly, the route is a lot less hilly and includes more road running so it should be easier. Obviously we’ll be running in October rather than June so it will be chillier but given that the last one started in torrential rain, I’m not too worried about the weather.

Despite having signed up a month or so ago, my running has been somewhat sporadic. I have been doing a lot of weight training though so hopefully that’ll make up for it. However, the last two weekends I’ve gone out for a long run (last week was 10 miles) and I’ll be increasing these every week now for a bit before tapering again. In fact, we’re off to Wales on holiday in a few weeks and I spotted a trail half marathon occurring whilst we’re there so I thought I might as well incorporate that into my training as well (another sorry and thank you to Dan here for running whilst we’re on holiday!)

I’m excited about the challenge ahead though and although I really enjoy body building, I do think that running is my sport. I was chatting to a friend recently and said to her that I think that when you discover what activity is meant for you, you just know. And once you’re started, it would appear that you can’t stop! And to think that as a teenager I used to hate running…

Fitting it all in (everyone needs a super Dad)

I woke up feeling glum today. I have been a lot recently. I don’t really know why, perhaps it’s the adjustment to having three (although I don’t think so), maybe it’s my itchy feet and mind, feeling a bit stagnant, maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the knowledge that it is simply impossible to fit in everything I need and want to do. The housework needs to be done (at least to a basic degree of cleanliness), meals need to be prepared, laundry washed/dried/put away, I need to follow our chosen curriculum, if only loosely, in order to satisfy Sophia’s desire to learn, I need to spend meaningful time with Isaac, I often need to feed Elijah, I need to take them out to our groups several times a week. On top of this I want to be able to workout (cardio and weights) 3-4 times a week, I want to keep on top of regular posts for this blog, I want to express milk for a lady who I promised some to, I want to knit, to read, to bake, to play cello. I want to spend time with Dan where we’re not just sat in front of the box watching shows on netflix. I’d like to make time to get involved with local politics (especially after the election results – but I’ll save that for another post). But there is absolutely no way I can do all of that, even a fraction of it, to the standards that I’d like to. It seems unlikely that I will ever be able to meet the needs of everyone to the extent that they need and I’d like.

I was feeling it all getting on top of me and asked Dan if he’d drop Sophia to dancing and take the boys to the park. As they left the house and the silence descended, I physically felt the waves of relief wash over me. I immediately felt guilty (mother guilt eh!) before deciding what was a priority for this stolen hour to myself. I knew I needed to get some exercise, that it would help to shift the gloom. So I popped on my running gear, locked the door and escaped. It was only 25 minutes but there’s nothing like running by the river at high tide, feet pounding, birds singing, heart racing, to clear your head. I arrived home feeling, if not happy, at least more focused and less grumpy. After a quick shower, I  managed to whizz the hoover round before getting dinner on. Amazing really, the power of a mere 60 minutes of solitude and of getting some exercise. No wonder everyone keeps banging on about it!

But the thought that struck me mostly was that this wouldn’t have been possible without Dan. And I do take him for granted. I’m not one for slushy posts but I do feel like he’s taking on Super Dad (capitalised and everything!) status this year. From the final weeks of pregnancy where I couldn’t get around much and he snuck in park trips and little outings with the kids in every spare window of time he could find, during my almost complete bedrest immediately after Elijah was born when he took over childcare, house care and wife care completely to these early months where he is always there to take one, two or even all three children off my hands in order to facilitate some time for me to get some things done. I am beyond blessed to have him as my other half in life.

And it was him that dished out some wise words when I was bemoaning my inability to do everything I wanted/needed to. That it wasn’t all on me, that we work as a family together. That the needs of everyone don’t have to met solely by me. That we should all pitch in together and hopefully that way, we’ll get by and even find time to enjoy ourselves.

I know I’m not the only one struggling. So I wanted to write this short post not because I wanted pity, or because I’m being smug about my wonderfully supportive husband. No I wanted to write this to remind myself, to remind you, that we are not capable of doing it all. And we shouldn’t have to be. So don’t beat yourselves up over messy houses, missed workouts, the opting out of some educational or fun activity for the small people because you’re just not feeling up to it. Remember to take help when offered, to ask for help when needed and to accept, that the well being of our family does not rest solely on our shoulders. For a family to be successful, everyone needs to put in and take out. A mother does not a family make. And man, what a relief that is to realise. So do what you can without pushing yourself too hard, prioritise the essential and most desirable. And then relax. And be happy.

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P.S. Thank you again Dan. Love you!