Taking It Slow

As a general rule, I don’t take photos whilst I run. There are two reasons for this. The first and main reason is because I am rather competitive by nature, not with other people, but with past versions of myself. I don’t want to waste time by stopping to snap a good view, no matter how breathtaking, as I’m always trying to run as fast as possible and beat previous personal records. The second (minor) reason is just because I’m not very good at taking photos! I don’t take the time to adjust the settings or compose a good scene, as in the rest of my life, I rush to get it done and be on my way.

But this morning, I went for a run and I knew it would be slow. I’ve had a month off training due to illness and every time I’ve attempted to run in the last few weeks my lungs have felt like they’re going to give up in protest at the cheek of me making them work. I also did a rather brutal leg day yesterday and my glutes are angry with DOMS. So this morning I set off in the beautiful Spring sunshine with a brilliant blue sky above me and took my time. I just ran 4.5 miles around the country lanes nearby but it was so restorative. My lungs worked and because I wasn’t racing myself I didn’t beat myself up when I stopped to walk up some particularly steep hills (even with the knowledge that I usually run up them). I even stopped to take a picture of the rolling Devon hills with Dartmoor looming in the distance.

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People often react with a mixture of horror and bemusement when they find out how much training I do (5/6 days a week of running or in the gym) but for me, it’s my time away from the kids, just for me to re-set. It’s my medicine for mental health, my quiet headspace to think and just be me. After 50 minutes running in the gorgeous fresh air this morning, I feel ready for whatever the day throws at me, whether that be warring brothers or a particularly hefty workload. And this morning I feel like I also finally took on board everyone’s advice to slow down.

In life I am prone to trying to do everything quickly. Sometimes this is in the fitness side of things, trying to lift ridiculously heavy weights without building up to them or trying to launch into a crow pose or handstand without all the conditioning and beginner progressions necessary to lay the groundwork. Sometimes this is in the house, doing a half-assed job of washing up or other housework just to get it over with. Sometimes this is in my role as a parent, rushing bedtime or games with the kids, simply because of parenting-fatigue or an inability to be in the moment when there is a never-ending to-do list. Sometimes this is in my self-care, not taking enough time to rest because I’m anxious to get back to my busy schedule.

But after having been ill for the best part of a month, I have had to slow down. My body wouldn’t let me rush anything! And actually, I think I’ve come out the other side hopefully a little wiser for it. Which is why, when I came in from my run this morning with an urge to write, instead of putting it to one side to pack lunches, do home ed and process registration forms for work, I decided to sit down with a cup of tea and share my ramblings with whoever might be reading this instead.

Sometimes there are deadlines that have to be stuck to and sometimes you do need to hurry. But a lot of the time, it’s all in our heads. We can probably take five and slow down without any horrendous consequences. So I’d encourage you if, like me, you’re prone to rushing, to take it slow today. Even if it’s just taking a few minutes to sit in the sun and soak up the rays before getting back to the grindstone, you’ll feel better for it. (Or if time, family and work allows, do what we did yesterday and spend several hours lounging on the beach enjoying the spring sunshine and the water gently lapping the shore – bliss. See, I told you I’m learning!)

Sophia Jumping!

This photo is courtesy of the talented and most lovely Elsie

 

 

 

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New Year, New Me?!

We are finally approaching the end of the first month of the year and it’s taken me this long to think about what I want for the year ahead. We spent New Years Eve with some lovely friends and in the morning, spent some time making ‘vision boards’, cutting out pictures and words of things that we wanted to come into our lives during 2019. I liked the idea but didn’t put much as thought into it as I could have, hence my board finishing with a picture of aspargus middle and centre (meant to represent growing generally, not just a love of this particular vegetable), a bottle of gin and some other assorted outdoorsy and fitness related cuttings.

I knew from the offset that for me, 2019 was about saying ‘no’. During the last few months of 2018 I was struggling to manage with fitting everything into our lives that we wanted or needed to. I have never been good at turning down opportunities and prioritising but by December I felt absolutely burnt out and constantly slightly frantic as I attempted to get everything done whilst still saying yes to every invitation offered. So I knew that 2019 needed to be about doing less, about saying no to opportunities that aren’t right for us at the moment, about prioritising what is really important to us. I was also starting to struggle with Home Ed, I didn’t (and don’t) want to send the kids to school but I was also starting to feel the strain of having them around me all. the. time. I was starting to revert back to being a bit of a shouty Mum (which I hate) and the atmosphere in the house was on a decline. And this was mostly just because we were always rushing to fit everything in. I needed to revisit the Orange Rhino blog and remember that the children are my mirror, if I’m chilled and willing to talk through things rather than snap, so are they!

So I’ve made some decisions and had some things happen that already is helping me feel positive and hopefully, less stressed about the year ahead. Firstly, I decided not to run any marathons this year. I know that sounds stupid but I have done three in the last two years and have a growing list of races I’d like to try so had just taken it for granted that I’d run at least one this year. The training however, is fairly sizeable and inevitably eats into our time as a family as well as my own time. (Another reason is because I want to focus on calisthenics and strength training this year but that’s possibly another post – albeit maybe a boring one for most!) So I have committed to not running any races longer than 10 miles and feel really happy with that decision.

Secondly, my wonderful, amazing parents (can you tell I’m sucking up!?) have kindly offered to take the kids for a morning on a fortnightly basis for violin and piano lessons and some reading practice for Isaac and I am so excited! I’m going to pop down the road to a cafe to get some work done in peace and the kids are excited about the extra time with their grandparents.

I’m also trying to make a conscious point of not saying yes to all the incredible home education opportuities that arise on an almost daily basis. I’m starting to realise that we don’t have to go on every trip and that the children’s education will not suffer if we don’t! On the contrary, it means I should actually be able to commit to planning and executing the projects they have requested (WWII and Victorians) and that we will get some more much-needed time at home to do some structured work (and for me to get some of my work done in daylight hours rather than working to 10pm every evening)!

There are a few other things potentially in the offing but really, I think it’s a change of attitude rather than any huge monumental changes to our lifestyle which is going to have the biggest affect on me this year.  I don’t usually subscribe to the ‘new year, new you’ school of thought but this year I have used the change in the calendar to mark an end to one way of doing things. I’m going to say no to more things but also try and rebalance our life so that my work, home ed and my love of fitness all gets an equal say rather than one dominating over the others. It’s only a few weeks in but I’m feeling momentously more relaxed than I did a month ago already!

What about you all? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions or has the New Year prompted you to rethink the way you do things? Or how are you finding 2019 so far? (Brexit notwithstanding, obviously that’s just a dire shadow clouding all of us!) I’d love to hear from you!

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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.

 

 

Having It All

Over the last few years I’ve gone through a variety of ‘occupations’ alongside being a full time Mum and home educator. I trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter when Sophia was a toddler and for a while volunteered in a postnatal ward and then at community groups. After Isaac I trained as a doula but after my first client had to take a break due to the arrival of Elijah.

Then, not long after Eli, a good friend offered me a break and I entered the world of social media management. I did this on a low scale with just a handful of clients for a few years before starting my current role on the admin team at the wonderful Outdoors Group (the company behind the locally loved Exeter, Exmouth and now Okehampton Forest Schools).

Not long after starting the latter role, I realised my work-life balance was skewing heavily in the wrong direction so I stopped working with my social media clients to just concentrate on the Forest School admin and the kids. I felt that finally I had found a balance. I enjoy work but also have time to do everything I need to with the kids for their home education. I’ve even found time to run two marathons! I’ve been feeling smug, I’m busy but I felt like I was doing everything I wanted to.

Then a seed planted itself deep in my brain, I really really want to do the training to become a Forest School Leader. I started trying to work out how I could fit this into our already very full life. Whether there was anyway I could take on extra work and meet the needs of everyone else.

But a conversation with my Dad last week hit a chord with me, he was talking about a time when me and my siblings were young and he was doing too much with work, Church, judo and family life. He said he made the hard decision to stop practising judo even though he loved it. I realised that sometimes we need to make these hard decisions in order to preserve a good balance in life and allow ourselves some breathing time.

Life with small children is very, very full and it’s probably not the season for me to be doing more than I am at the moment. It’s taken me a long time to realise this but as soon as I did, I felt a massive sense of relief, a weight off my shoulders. Sometimes it’s not possible to have it all but that’s ok. We are sold a myth that we should say yes to everything, that we should do everything we want to do.

But in reality, life is a series of compromises and making decisions that are most sensible for a healthy balance in life. We should enjoy our lives but there’s no point filling them to the brink with activities and work otherwise we won’t have the energy to appreciate them! So I’m embracing the season I’m in at the moment with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever. There will be many more years when my children are older in which I can further my career or take on more challenges if I so wish. For now, I’m embracing what I have, for what it is.