Things you shouldn't say on the internet

Monday, 28 December 2015

So, I've been away from blogging for a while. Just having a little break. While I was gone, I read a thread on a website that I will not name (!) about things that people shouldn't be allowed to post on social media.

This is the final list of things that you shouldn't talk about on the internet:

  • Your job
  • Your diet
  • Your holidays
  • Your health
  • Your hobbies
  • Your social life
  • Your relationships
  • What you eat
  • What you wear
  • Your pets
  • Your children
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Your achievements
  • Your kids achievements
  • Your problems
Which leaves, er, the weather.

But for goodness sake, don't talk about the weather! People really hate that.

I did have a little pause after I read the thread. Every now and then I like to stop and consider whether I am happy with sharing what I do online, and occasionally, I want to just withdraw from the internet altogether.

Then I gave myself a head wobble and realised that sometimes people just like to complain. And if you put yourself out there (which everyone that goes onto social media does, essentially, but especially if you write blogs or are a vlogger or something like that), then someone will find something to complain about. Eventually. What really matters with things like this is that your loved ones are okay with what you put out there.

And that you want to do it.

The fact is, if you want even the slightest bit of recognition online, someone out there is going to not like you very much.

Some people might even be able to muster up the energy to hate you.

And do you know what? It doesn't really matter. A wise man once said 'If you're holding out for universal popularity, Hagrid, you're going to be in this cabin for a long time.' (That person may have been Albus Dumbledore). He's right! Some people just like to hate stuff. And they really like to talk about how much they hate stuff. They like to try and convince other people to hate stuff. That is their choice. But it shouldn't impact upon your life.

Essentially, humans like to moan about things. Who doesn't like a good moan every now and then? So, the person who is moaning that her Facebook feed is full of a million almost identical photographs of babies, is probably having their status read by someone who is rolling their eyes and saying 'Oh for goodness sake, I don't need to see another million selfies of you in the toilet of a club'. For example. As humans we find it almost impossible NOT to be annoyed by other people. Here I am now, moaning about people who moan.

What I'm trying to say is: yes be careful. Yes, think about what you're putting out there, preferably before you put it out there. 

And if people don't like what you have to say, then, well. They don't. What gives that anonymous person the right to stop you from doing something that you love?

I know you've probably heard this a million times before. So have I. And I believe it, too. But sometimes I need to, you know, shout it at myself.

Sometimes we let fear of other people's reactions stop us from doing things we really want to do.

Sometimes we use 'fear of other people's reactions' as an excuse to not do something that is a bit out of our comfort zones.

I should probably end this with something really empowering and uplifting.

DO IT! DO THE THING! GO FOR IT! OVERCOME YOUR OBSTACLES! YAY! I BELIEVE IN YOU!

Now go and do that thing.






Seriously. What are you still doing here? Go!

Riverford Recipe Box - Review

Friday, 18 December 2015

A few weeks ago, I had an email from the lovely people at Riverford asking if I would like to try out one of their new recipe boxes for free!

Obviously I said yes because I love food.

I like veg box schemes, so was interested to try a Recipe Box. They are made for people who are too busy to sit down and plan menus/go shopping for ingredients, so that they can still be able to enjoy cooking and eating good food with fresh ingredients. I chose the 'quick' option because half an hour is about all the time I have for cooking in the evenings.


When it arrived I was very excited.


as was my toddler.

The box was really nicely laid out, with three small sections for each meal. The chilled ingredients were kept cool in an insulated bag. The box also came with an introduction-to-Riverford booklet with an a-z guide to vegetables, and three recipe cards.

The recipes in my box were a speedy ham hock pie, squash and rosemary tagliatelle with creme fraiche and nutmeg, and beef pho with sprout leaves, shallots and udon noodles.




I have to give props to the people organising the boxes and writing the recipes - the ingredients are seasonal and fresh, and worked together (i.e using half the tub of creme fraiche for the pie and the other half for the pasta dish). The recipes themselves work, with very clear instructions, and the timings were perfect.

And they were so good. The squash-and-rosemary tagliatelle was the least exciting to us personally because it is the kind of thing I might cook anyway, but was still delicious. The speedy ham hock pie was quick and easy to assemble, filling, and looked really lovely on the plate. The beef pho was full of flavour (and made me crave noodle soup a lot since we ate it).

The ingredients were organic and of a very high quality, especially the beef, which was about a million miles away from chewy-hard-to-eat supermarket beef like we would normally buy plus the portion sizes were generous. They are sold as boxes for two people, but they easily fed us and our two-year-old.

I learnt some tricks from these boxes, too - like grating veg instead of chopping so it cooks quicker, and cooking the puff pastry lid of a pie separately while you cook the filling and then assembling it all at the end - so I could imagine over time we would probably become better cooks by using the boxes.

I do contest slightly that any recipe involving preparing a whole butternut squash is 'easy' but then again I have a thing against chopping up squashes (because with our knives cutting up a squash feels a bit like trying to saw into a brick).


A very very tasty pie.

A downside for me is the price. I understand the ingredients are of a very high standard and you are paying for the convenience of having the meals planned and delivered to you, but the quick recipe box is £39.95 - and that includes three dinners for two adults. For us, this would be out of our normal price range (by quite a bit!). The vegetarian option is a bit cheaper, but I feel these boxes are definitely more suited for people who can afford to spend a bit more on their food.

I would quite like to see a 'budget' version of a box like this released, for families who could do with the convenience and time-saving aspect, but can't quite afford the more expensive ones. I'm unsure how this would work, because with companies like Riverford you are paying for the quality of the ingredients, but I would still love to see a lower-priced version.

I was really pleased with our experience with Riverford. They have been really friendly and helpful and seem like a very ethical company to buy from. If at some point in the future we decide to start getting a fruit and vegetable box delivered again, I think I will try theirs. They provide a variety of different boxes - just veg or fruit, or a mixture of both, salad boxes, meat boxes, boxes of veg for juicing, as well as their new recipe boxes. So if you are thinking of starting up a New Year, healthy-organic-eating thing, I definitely recommend them.

Thank you Riverford for the lovely box and the very tasty meals!

November round-up: feeling unChristmassy, and mad conversations with toddlers

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

1. 

Haven't written in a while. Sorry. It's funny because I feel like I haven't properly 'unwound' in a while and I think that's because putting my thoughts into words is the way that I do that. We've had a pretty busy November to be fair.

That's normal, though, I think. For family life. Sometimes I find myself with tons of time to spare, and sometimes I barely have time to get the washing done.

I should probably be doing washing now, actually ...

2. 

It is the first of December and I am not feeling at all Christmassy. Which is fine, because Christmas is, you know, not happening tomorrow. Instead, though, I am feeling tired. Like, utterly exhausted. Can't-use-my-brain-properly tired.

The un-funny thing about tiredness is that it stops you from doing all the stuff you want to do. Because the things you have to do (like, you know, cleaning) seems to take longer and I am unable to multitask as efficiently as I used to. I get to the end of an exhausted day and think: what did I actually accomplish today? I didn't do any amazing crafts with my toddler. I didn't go on a walk with her, I didn't help anyone, I didn't get time to pray, I didn't get my Bible study done, I didn't try anything new, I didn't get any writing done.

But then I remember that we shouldn't measure our worth as humans based on accomplishments. Because some tasks are just ongoing. Relationships, for example - with anyone. Child, parents, husband, friends. You never 'finish' them. You keep evolving them. Which is lovely, obviously.

But sometimes, you have days where everything that you do is ... not done. I think a lot of people are in the same position: day after day they do tasks that never get finished, jobs that won't get you praise or admiration, just things that you keep your head down and get on with.

Those little tasks, those never-ending things. They make a difference to the people you love.

So if you are having one of those 'daily grind' type days where mindfulness isn't working and you are starting to doubt that you are worth anything: stop a minute. As a person, you matter. Your life and all the things that you do with it, whether they are big grand accomplishments or just folding laundry yet again - are important.

That is about as deep as I can get on a half-working tired-brain!

Besides, I've still got 24 days to get into the Christmas spirit. And to do all my Christmas shopping.

3. 

Let's travel back to last Tuesday:

We are walking along a well-trodden path, on our way to toddler group. It is raining. Jellybean is toddling along. She picks up the most gross, slimy-looking stick she can find and then uses it as a walking stick. It makes her look like a hobbit with a raincoat on.

'Mama?'

'Yes, baby?'

'I see ooshawatta now.'

I pause. Usually I can decipher what she's saying no problem. When she first started to babble and no-one understood what she was saying, I did. I know that 'wow-wow' means 'another one' and that 'disonaur' is 'dinosaur' and that 'heh-haa' means feather.

I have no idea what 'ooshawatta' means.

'What was that?'

She continues her toddling, aided by the slimy stick, which is now leaving mud trails on her hand and up the sleeve of her coat. 'I see ooshawatta today.'

She looks at me expectantly. Stops walking.

'Err ... ooshawatta?'

'Yep. Ooshawatta.'

I nod. 'I see.'

But she is still standing there. Waiting. I realise she is not going to be fobbed off. She knows I don't understand her and is waiting for the penny to drop.

'What do you mean, ooshawatta?'

'I see ooshawatta, Mama.' She's getting impatient now. I grope wildly in my brain for something that we might have seen along that path before.

'Er - caterpillar?'

She looks at me as if I am the most ridiculous person in the world and it is testing her patience just to be around me. 'NO Mama. Ooshawatta!'

I try and chivvy her along. 'Okay, you'll see an ooshawatta. Let's go to toddlers.'

'Ooshawatta Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Ooshawatta!'

And so on. All the way down the lane. We don't see an ooshawatta. I still have no idea what it means. I text it to my husband without any explanation. 'Ooshawatta.'

He doesn't even question it which says something about the messages we normally send each other.

I love it. I love being parent to a child who is just learning to talk. I love hearing what goes on in her head. She cheerfully told my mother the other day 'Nanny, I have spiders in my legs.'

Sometimes she calls my husband 'babe'.

4.

Speaking of!

November was the month of my husbands thirtieth birthday! Which makes me feel a bit wobbly because he was twenty when we met, and to my teenage self twenty seemed quite grown up. I feel like I have blinked and suddenly we're almost middle-aged. But I honestly can't remember what life was like without him.

*Brief pause to allow you to make fake vomiting noises*

Anyway we had a week-long board gaming event and if you know my husband, you will know how unbelievably happy this made him, so thank you to everyone for coming and making it awesome. Many games were played, much junk food was eaten.

It was so good!

Here's some pics from this month:


I'm off to power nap!

Fear, love, and the everyday stuff

Monday, 16 November 2015

My parents sometimes like to tell the story about how I used to hate medicine.

Calpol, antibiotics, anything: the taste of medicine made me feel so sick that they used to have to deploy all sorts of tactics to get me to take it. They'd get me to take one sip, and then have nearly a whole glass of water to wash away the taste. Or they'd get me to take little tiny amounts at a time. 'One ... two ... three ... sip!' Sometimes this would take so long, my Dad says, that by the time I finished it, it was almost time for the next lot. He may be exaggerating slightly. But he might not be

Also, more than once, I was immediately sick after having medicine, thereby undoing all their hard work. 

My sisters remember this and sometimes like to talk about it if the subject of Calpol ever comes up. 'Oh yeah, I remember ... one ... two ... three ... sip!'

And we all laugh about how annoying and frustrating I was.

That's the thing though: you just expect your parents to do stuff like that for you, because that was their job. I know that I was poorly a lot when I was little. I used to get high temperatures all the time. I used to be sick a lot. But hey, I'm their kid! 

My parents have told me about a time when I was little and I was rushed to hospital (with suspected meningitis, possibly? I'll have to ask them). I had a raging temperature and, apparently, nurses had to pin me down to get a drip into my arm. I can imagine it now, when they tell me: Mum and Dad pacing up and down an empty hospital corridor, in tears, listening to me screaming as the nurses tried to get an IV into me. Sitting by my bed, all the windows open and blasting in icy winter air, staring at me, hoping and praying that my fever would go down.

It doesn't feel real when they tell me. (Partly because the only memory I have of this incident is of a little musical toy that they had in the hospital that I loved.) But it must have been terrifying. Exhausting. Draining. 

There is no fear like the fear you feel when your kid is ill and you can't help them. I know this now. It is a piercing, terrible, helpless fear.

I don't know why I'm thinking about this today. I suppose because I've been thinking about my own childhood memories and matching them up to what Mum and Dad must have experienced. I had a happy childhood, which meant I was protected from the stress of adult life and kept innocent and unafraid of the world. Even when awful things happened to my parents, they protected me.

The thing is, you don't ever switch off from being a parent, even when they're asleep. Because there's always something to do, or think about. When you're a child - or a young adult - you don't necessarily appreciate everything your parents do. There's all this everyday stuff that you have to do that your child doesn't even know about. Like ... food shopping and meal planning. Budgeting in a way that allows you not to panic at Christmas. All the RELENTLESS baskets of washing. Clearing out the slimy lettuce and furry carrots from the back of the fridge. Scooping poo out of the bath. Having chewed, and then suddenly unwanted, food spat out into your hand by your toddler. The running list of things to do. Need to get her on the list for preschool. Need to cut her toenails tonight. The way you have to leave the house with a luggage bag full of things that you probably won't use, with the knowledge that if you leave one thing behind, that will be the one thing that you actually need.

And sometimes, you do all this with the theme tune to Paw Patrol in your head on loop.

You do it all though without complaint. (Okay, sometimes with a bit of complaint. I don't think anyone in the history of the universe has ever scooped poo out of a bath and felt happy about it). Because, you know, that's what you do. That's your job. And you love them. And that's just the normal stuff: that doesn't include the late-night trips to an out-of-hours-GP, or chasing your potty-afraid toddler around whilst wielding a tube in an attempt to catch their wee in it to be tested, or walking to the shops after having no sleep in order to buy ice lollies for your feverish child.

I suppose what I am trying to say is this: I really, REALLY appreciate my parents now. Even now, they are there: buying us the odd thing that we might need, coming over to help me clean down the backs of our radiators, the reminders that they are there for us, no matter what time of the day or night. And not only for me, but for Chris, whom they have embraced like he is their own son, and for Jellybean, whom they love so fiercely that sometimes they call pretty much just to tell me that.

I know how hard it is sometimes. How scary and frustrating and stressful it can be.

It all gets cancelled out, though. By the wonder of it. By the awe of seeing your child grow up. By the love. A whole day of exhaustion and emotion can be turned around just by the way your kid goes all smiley and gooey when she looks at you sometimes. The fear of raising a child in a world that isn't safe (particularly at the moment) is conquered by the utter joy of loving someone that much.

It's worth it. No matter how tired it might make you feel or how frustrating it can be or how long the days feel sometimes. It's always worth the hard work.

I'm sure my parents would say that. Even though all three of us were pains in the bum sometimes.


Thanks Mum and Dad!

Hope conquers fear.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

I don't normally write blog posts about terror attacks or natural disasters or other heartbreaking tragedies. It's not me being insensitive. I just don't know how to put words to it. In the face of utter terror, devastation, and extreme violence, my words seem pathetic and small.

So I don't write them. Usually.

But I don't think I can post anything else without mentioning the terror attacks over the weekend. Obviously in Paris, which has seen my Facebook feed turn blue, white and red (understandably), but also the attack in Beirut on Thursday, which was just as bloody, just as despicable, and just as awful as the one that we have been mourning closer to home.

There is a lot of darkness in the world. Sometimes all I have to do is glance at the headlines and I can feel it pressing in on me from all sides. It's a scary world in which to raise a child.

It's also a beautiful one. Still.

So, while my prayers have been as much 'Why is this happening, God?' as well as 'please be with those poor people, Lord' (and I'll happily admit that. I struggle sometimes with injustice and cruelty and where my faith fits around that), I still believe, obviously, in Jesus, but also in hope, and in courage, and bravery, and in the ability of people to keep going, to carry on, to not allow fear to overcome them.

This is my little tribute. To the people of Paris who have gone out the next day, who have walked blood-spilled, glass-shattered streets to see their loved ones or help those in need or to just, you know, go to work. And to the people of Beirut, whose complex situations we may not see as much in our media, but whose lives matter just as much.

Book review: A Better Man by Leah McLaren

Monday, 9 November 2015

I'm doing another book review today! I was sent a free copy via Britmum's Book Club, to read and review. So, here is my honest opinion ...

*whispers*

I didn't like it that much.

I'll explain the premise: Nick is a very wealthy, successful man, with a beautiful wife, twins, a huge house, and a (long-suffering) nanny. All fine, on the surface. However, he is desperately unhappy in his marriage, and decides that he wants a divorce. He approaches his friend Gray, a divorce lawyer, for advice. Gray basically tells him that, if Nick decides to divorce now, his wife Maya would be entitled to almost everything (as she is a stay-at-home mother to the twins). However, he could get a better deal if he could prove to the courts that he had been a good husband all along, as they might be a little more sympathetic toward him.



So, Nick sets about being the 'perfect' husband. He goes from barely seeing his children, flirting incessantly with other women and ignoring his wife, to being more attentive. He starts to leave the office slightly earlier than normal. And so the ice that has built between Nick and Maya starts to thaw. And, lo and behold! (This is the part that had me rolling my eyes slightly) Nick realises how much of an idiot he has been, and that he loved his wife all along, and he should have treated her better in the first place.

But then, of course, Maya finds out that Nick had been planning to divorce her, and the whole attempt at saving their marriage was a sham.

I found this book immensely frustrating. I really enjoyed the writing and thought some of the prose was quite lovely. Like this little section:

'Gray may be the only person who understands the evolution of Nick. The change and where it came from. She realises it is this - not the new job or the whisky - that's causing the humming in her veins, that accelerated feeling that she has had for the past few days of hovering slightly above earth, moving just above the legal human speed limit.'

That was what kept me reading - the descriptive passages.

The characters, however? I didn't warm to them.

I just felt that all the adults in this book (except maybe the nanny) were immensely selfish. I hated the way that Nick treated his wife and children. I hated the way that Maya was so ... ALL or nothing. It was either look after the twins and shut out her husband, or ignore the twins completely. There was no realism to it, no balance. I disliked the fact that Maya dropped all her principles at once - she was very much a stereotypical 'earth mother' to begin with. It just felt a bit false. I disliked Gray entirely.

And I felt for the twins (even though the descriptions of them and their behaviour made me smile a bit. In fact, they were probably the most sympathetic and realistic characters in the whole book! Along with the nanny.)

I just felt it lacked redemption. The ending didn't make up for it, really. The characters 'grew', I suppose, but they went about it in the most selfish way possible, whilst barely communicating with each other.

However, reading the other reviews suggests to me that I am in the minority on this one, and that people seemed to like the observations it makes on modern marriage. Usually, I can suspend my disbelief when reading a book, but on the whole this felt a little false to me. However, the writing itself was very good. Which almost made it more frustrating to read ;)

A Better Man by Leah McLaren is published by Corvus Books and you can buy it here.

Thank you Britmums for the free copy!

Calm down: ideas for screen-free quiet time for toddlers

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

True Confession time (again): I have been relying WAY too much on screens recently.

First of all: I don't actually think there is anything wrong with children watching TV. I think they can be a great learning tool. CBeebies has some really good, educational, fun shows. I think they can aid language development if used properly. I don't think TV is evil, nor do I think it's something parents should use as a stick to beat themselves with.

Also, sometimes, I watch TV for fun - and I think it's fine that my daughter does the same. Also I quite like watching Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom in the mornings

It's just that we've been watching too much of it. Recently, Jellybean has been hit with some mystery virus that leaves her tired and not feeling up to much, so she's been watching films with me. I rely on TV to help me get certain things done - like cooking, or having a shower, or having a manic tidy up before friends come round ... and so on. I think maybe it's been a bit too much.

So in conclusion - I am not about to go screen-free. I'm just in search of quiet things for Jellybean to do when I am tired or I need to get on with my own stuff. Things that need minimal set up and pack down, preferably. Jellybean is struggling with sleep at the moment, too. She fights it in the day AND night and sometimes she gets teary and stressed because she's so tired. So she needs a bit of quiet time.

Here are a few things I have tried:

1. Lentils

Lentils are the easiest sensory play in terms of set up and pack down. Splash mat + container + things to scoop and pour them into. Jellybean loves the noise they make (especially when poured into something metal like an empty tin) and the feel of them in her hands and so do I plus they are easy to sweep up and my hoover deals with them okay.


2. Sensory Balloons

I've tried a few things from Pinterest to occupy Jellybean - things like sensory bottles (she really liked these as a baby), pipe cleaners in a colander, pom poms dropped through a tube - and she does like them, but she gets bored of them after a few minutes. Still, a few minutes are a few minutes and I think children respond to things differently, so I am trying sensory balloons (idea from Creative Playhouse)

They are literally balloons with stuff in them from my cupboards. Ours have flour, couscous, pasta, rice, salt, and dried beans in them. They took about five minutes to make.


She did quite like feeling them for a few minutes so it was worth a try I guess!

3. Music

We love music. Sometimes I like to blast it out and dance like a madwoman just to make me feel a bit  more energized ;) but Jellybean likes to listen to kids music too.

If you have Spotify (or money to buy CD's!) you should check out Sticky Kids. They have collections of nursery rhymes with different themes and some good action songs. Jellybean loves them.

She also loves the In the Night Garden soundtrack. I know some parents don't like ITNG because the characters talk gibberish, but I'm not worried about it. The narrator speaks very well, and Jellybean really likes it. The soundtrack is nice because it's not just music - it's a narrated journey through the garden. Jellybean tells me what's happening because she remembers it 'Iggle Piggle going on walk in garden, Mama. Iggle Piggle fell down. Oops! Get his blanket!'

It has the added bonus of being quite calming. We used to play it in the baby room I worked in to help the babies go to sleep sometimes. And, as I write this, Jellybean is laying on the sofa quietly listening to it and hopefully nodding off

4. Puzzles

The key to all of these things, I think, is rotating them so that they don't get bored. I had the puzzles put away for quite a while because she lost interest in them. Now we've got them out again and they keep her occupied for a while.

5. Audiobooks/story CDs

Jellybean has a couple of these now. They are quite a nice, snuggly-up thing to do together on mornings when I am exhausted/not very well.

The Book People have quite a nice selection. Also I found a website called Story Nory, which is fab! It has hundreds of free audio stories for kids. They are too old for Jellybean but I thought I'd mention it if you have older children.

6. Spoons + random objects + cupcake tray

This kept a very tired and grumpy toddler quite happy today. I used things I found round the house of different sizes (dried beans, pasta, and some bits and bobs from her toys), some plastic spoons and some little tiny metal spoons (I bought these because I was going to make hot chocolate spoons at Christmas and forgot to do it).



Jellybean really enjoyed sitting down to scoop the objects from the tray into a bowl. Took two minutes to set up and allowed me to write some of this blog post.

I don't trust her entirely with those dried beans though so I watched her quite closely at the same time. But she really enjoyed them. Maybe I will try making this for her. One day. When I have energy again ;)

7. A box of boxes

This is what it sounds like: a shoebox full of different boxes and lids.

Basically I keep everything I can in order to use it some future activity/craft thing, so any interesting shaped cardboard/plastic boxes have been kept 'just in case' for a while now. And I still keep on keeping things. Because why throw something away if you can use it again?

#frugal #ecofriendly

Anyway I decided to give Jellybean all these boxes and lids to see if she would enjoy pairing them up and she did. I know of other kids far more box-obsessed than my own though, so I could see this working more for them. So that's my tip: keep hold of boxes!

***

I would love to hear your ideas for screen-free wind down time ... preferably low effort ones! Comments appreciated :)

Positivity

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

One of the complex reasons behind my feeling a bit bummed out at the moment is how overwhelmed I feel at life's problems. And not just my own. My family and friends are, obviously, very important to me, and when they are troubled my heart kind of sinks with them. But it's also the general state of the world. Another day, another news story, another war, another mass shooting, another case of women being treated as nothing but objects to sell, the gap between rich and poor growing wider and wider. I want to know that these things go on: in fact, I think one of the biggest reasons why there is so much inequality and injustice in the world is that we who are fortunate and powerful enough to protest against it simply aren't paying attention. We bury our heads in the sand. I don't want to be that person that doesn't care enough to give these things space in my head.

But when you are feeling a bit low it's hard to see these things and not to allow them to totally overtake your life and your mood.

Because here's the thing: I have a happy life.

I want to enjoy it.

I want to embrace it.

I want to be positive.

When you're feeling low, you can get drawn into negative things. It's kind of like a virus seeking to grow by finding something to feed on. And so I click on the news stories I know will make me angry and I get sucked into conversations that I shouldn't and then suddenly I feel like



And rather than try and fix it I just moan about it because it's easier.

But everything doesn't suck! A lot of things are amazing and beautiful and good and they deserve to be celebrated.

Sometimes we need to get angry in order to get motivated to make changes. We should be furious at inequality and the rich/poor divide and human trafficking and the growing number of children in poverty. But it is rarely my job to fix those things. It is my job to care about these things, and help out where I can, and to pray for people. But not to get angry and ruminate and get pointlessly stressed about things I can't change.

I want to be more positive. I want to create positive things, or at least, point people in the direction of them. I want to be one of those people that celebrates. 'Look how great all these things are!' Because it's so easy to forget, to let the small joys of life slip through your fingers, unseen, unheard.

I found this the other day:


Which is kind of true actually. The most radiant people I know are positive: they laugh a lot, they talk about positive things, they find joy in everyday life. It does seem to shine out of them, that positivity. It's not fake or forced: these people have problems and heart aches like everyone else. They don't shut themselves off from the wider world. They just have the ability to see the good things in life too.

It's a skill: trying to live in a world of joy and happiness mixed with sadness and heartbreak. Trying to find your way in it can feel uncomfortable sometimes. And I don't always get the balance right. I don't feel bad about that. Sometimes, it's just the way things are. And when you feel low, sometimes the hardest thing is to deliberately force your mind onto something good.

I will carry on enjoying things in my life. I will enjoy

Tickle fights

And unexpected gifts

And kitchen dancing

And important meetings over tea and cake with teddy bears

And laughing helplessly over a deliberately mispronounced word ('bray-voww.')

And that feeling of sinking into bed at the end of a long day

And being in the company of the two people in the world that I love so much that it almost hurts.

And an undeserved love from a wonderful God.

I am privileged to have those things and I don't want to waste them.

For every moment that sees me sinking into darkness, there are many more that bring light.


If you like my blog, I have some questions for you!

Friday, 9 October 2015

The last month or so has been kind of difficult in some ways and most of my mental energy has gone towards that. Just, you know, life stuff. Now I'm trying to regroup after a few weeks of rubbish and I'm determined to make changes to move forward.

Positivity. I might have it tattooed on me or something. Be positive, be positive, be positive!

So anyway I've been thinking seriously about this blog. I've been writing this for nearly three years now. It's funny looking back and seeing how much has changed. I would like to be a better blogger, really. I am massively inconsistent with my posting which I would like to change.

I suppose I've held back on the blog front because I know it can become all-consuming if you allow it to be. To be a successful blogger, I'd say, is nearly as much about how many connections you are willing to make as it is the content. I'm not very good at that. I'm not very good at gathering followers on Twitter. I'm not very good at making my blog more visible. I don't get stuff like SEO. I don't have a 'brand'. I'm unsure at this point whether or not I will push more towards that kind of stuff. I suppose you have to if you want more people to read it.

I just like writing. That's the thing. I like sharing my life with people. I suppose that is a bit narcissistic. But I can brush that opinion off (the way I see it, if you don't like it: don't read it. The end). I mean, I started this blog to share with a few close friends because I wanted a visible record of the fact that I was striving to be closer to God and to be more positive and to celebrate the little things.

Then I realised when I was pregnant with Jellybean that I get kind of riled up when I write sometimes and actually, sometimes my words can resonate with people, which is an awesome and kind of overwhelming thing. When I read a sentence and something in it clicks with me, and I think 'oh, I get that' then I feel that, in some small way, I have a connection with the person that wrote it. And to be able to write coherently enough to have that effect on someone else is quite something to me ;) 

The other element of my blog, which has been more recent, is about activity ideas and things like that. Practical stuff. I really enjoy writing that kind of thing too because those are the kind of blogs I spend hours cycling through. I like ideas that require little money (because we have none) and so I quite like putting those things up. I also like writing recipes. And book reviews! It's so nice to have a space to write down how I feel about a book, as well as instead of talking Chris's ear off about it.

But in the spirit of new starts (and I really need some new starts right now) I would like to ask your opinion. Because I'm trying to figure out what I want this blog to be. And I can't decide. The sensible thing to do would be to streamline, I think. To pick one thing and focus on it. But I love writing about all sorts of different things. I can't decide whether to just embrace the fact that my blog is always going to be about everything and just focus on being more consistent with posting (i.e practical posts on a Friday, waffly posts on a Monday, that sort of thing) or whether to, I don't know, ditch the activity ideas or something.

So I'd like to ask you a massive favour if you read this: would you mind answering some questions for me? You can just answer some of them or give me a general opinion (or none of those things, obviously!). You could comment here, or email me, or send me a PM on Facebook, or tweet me, or something.

Anyway:
  • What are your favourite kind of posts on this blog? 
  • Do you read blogs in general? What are the things you admire about your favourite blogs?
  • Would you prefer it if I only had my semi-emotional waffly kind of posts about life and motherhood and things on here, and get rid of my other stuff, or
  • Would you like to see more posts about raising children on a budget i.e. recipes, activity ideas, etc?
  • Is it clear when you look at my blog what it's about? Would you prefer a clearer layout with more obviously signposted categories?
Sorry, that's quite a few questions. Don't feel you have to answer. I just want to push forward and make more of an effort for you. For me that means focusing mostly on creating interesting posts to read. But also that involves fiddling with the layout if necessary/making more of an effort to learn technical things.

I do love blogging, all of it, and I don't feel in any way obliged to keep going with it. But I do enjoy sharing life with others. That's what I love about blogging - whether I'm reading a post about, I don't know, 101 things to do with gloop and thinking wow! I never knew you could do so much with gloop! or I'm reading an emotional post about motherhood and sitting there crying my eyes out, I think there's something inspiring about people sharing their (sometimes hard-earned) knowledge with others.

It beats reading celebrity gossip, anyway ;)

Anyway, if you have time, I'd appreciate feedback before I start making crazy changes! You can Tweet me @whispertoroar or email me at meganbidmead@gmail.com. Or send me an FB message/comment.

Now to raise the money to chop all my hair off ... #newhairnewstart

Love to you all!

Three easy autumn crafts for lazy people

Thursday, 8 October 2015

So it's at this time of the year that I go into a Pinterest daydream. I imagine my house to be decorated with homemade wreathes and everything to be softly lit by sparkly candles. I imagine curling up on the sofa in the evening under a blanket after a long day of crunchy leaf walks and fun (but beautiful) pumpkin or leaf-based crafts with my toddler. I imagine making loads of pies. (Not to eat all at once, although I do have a large capacity for pie-eating).

I also start to feel the pressure of making beautiful blog posts at this time of year. Like 101 things to do with the insides of pumpkins or how to make something pretty with your toddler to pin up on your fridge. That is the problem with being kind of artsy. You feel this enormous pressure to not be too late for seasonal things. All the cool kids were making their autumn crafts in, like, July. (They really weren't. The cool kids were probably sneaking into clubs and getting tattoos or something.)

I mean, I love autumn. I love the colours, I love the cool weather, I love the feeling of being cosy inside when the nights start drawing in. I love being outside in it. Frankly, I plan to be outside as often as I can over the next couple of months. I expect we will play in the leaves. We might go out firework-spotting in November. I will do a bit of baking because we have an enormous bag of cooking apples to use up.


I like having an excuse to wear big shirts and leggings all day long. It's seasonal!

But I'm letting go of sparkly-pumpkin-cinnamon-spiced perfection. Maybe one day. I do admire those women that can make their home look lovely whilst looking after small children and creating beautiful masterpieces ... but for now, it's good for her, not for me.

I like doing easy stuff to celebrate the season. My activities have all the heart of all those lovely Pinterest things, but none of the finesse. My crafts say 'I really love this time of year but I don't have the skills of patience to make anything particularly pretty or photogenic!'

If you are like me, and your crafts are made with love but are a bit wonkaloid, then read on, my friend. I will make you a non-cinnamon-spiced instant coffee and maybe a choccie digestive while you read because that's how we roll in this house.

Autumn fruit printing

Q) What is easy to cut in half?

A) NOT A TINY PUMPKIN.

I dunno what these tiny pumpkins are made for but it's obviously not eating because good Lord they're hard to chop up. I mean, it doesn't help that our knives went blunt about three years ago and we no longer use them for cutting so much as sawing, but still.





So anyway. I remember doing this kind of thing as a kid. I thought it would be cute to include mini pumpkins. CLEARLY WRONG.

Pears and apples work pretty well, though. Cut in half, squidge in paint, stamp. Done.


Pictured: the inevitable. Yummy, painty pears.

Leaf window

One cute thing that was kind of perfect though was walking through the park with my excitable toddler collecting leaves. She kept saying things like 'a BEAUTIFUL tree, Mama!' which is obviously the cutest thing ever.

Anyway, I decided to stick these up in Jellybean's window as a kind of low-effort Autumn display. They look quite nice in the evening when the sun starts to set.



Autumn collages

I actually made this in preschool as a kid. I think my Mum still has it somewhere. Essentially you draw something that looks like this:


I'll give you a moment to enjoy my drawing skills.

Then your child can colour it in and smother it in glue and stick sunflower seeds on it. We also made a pumpkin:


And then a crazy free-for-all picture with all sorts of stuff on it:




So there we have it. Three autumn crafts for idealistic but slightly lazy people. Enjoy! :)


The Pyramid

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A while back I read this post by Jennifer Fulwiler and it has transformed my decision-making process. (Mostly). She suggests that, in order not to lose sight of our priorities, we should put them in order. Starting with the most important at the bottom. Here is mine:


This is not a black-and-white thing. Sometimes you need to be fluid with it. 'God' is, obviously, huge. I wouldn't expect Him to just sit in one box, even if it's just the biggest one, so I use that to kind of mean prayer and things like that. Chris and Jellybean come next. And so on.

It doesn't necessarily mean that I am going to ignore a friend having a crisis because I have scheduled to have a twenty minute workout and need to tick off my 'health' box. It's more fluid than that ... it's more of a grounding thing. More about what I spend my spare time doing, and what I allow the most room in my head.

I mean, our lives are made of making decisions. Big ones, like where to send your kids to school, and little ones, like what to have for dinner. Being good at making decisions is a vital kind of wisdom, but you can't always expect to get it right. Still, all those decisions make up the rhythm of our lives. They set the tone. And my gosh, I need to be more strict about what things I allow myself to dwell on. Some things need thought time and prayer. Some things just need to be ... let go.

(Some phrases are totally ruined by songs. 'Let it go' being an obvious one. Also the other day I accidentally said 'I've gotta get through this' to my husband. THANK YOU BRAIN for torturing me with that song for three days afterwards).

So anyway. I keep thinking about my pyramid when I get up in the mornings. Hoping to make the right choices and to prioritise the right things. Hoping to look after myself a bit more, too.

A little more organisation. A little less stress. That's the way forward.

I have always loved September for new starts. I love that back-to-school, new-beginnings feeling that it brings. But September has honestly passed by in a blur of sickness and a little bit of stress, so I'm making our new beginning month October instead.

October is the new September is the new January ;) pyramids are the new, er, something. I dunno. I think I need to have a lie down now ...

Happy Wednesday everyone!

September Round-Up

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Bad blogger

I've been a very inconsistent blogger this month. Partly due to disorganisation, and partly due to FLIPPING illnesses. Again. And again. It seems that once one of us has gotten over it, the other one goes down with it. As we speak, I am sitting here in my PJ's at half past two in the afternoon with my hair scraped back into a Mum bun while Jellybean lounges on the sofa next to me with a temperature. Autumn illnesses have arrived and pummelled us all. I have been making smoothies with lots of healthy things in and taking vitamins and where has that gotten me? Nowhere.

But I am hoping we will have brilliant reinforced immune systems for the rest of the winter. *Crosses fingers* *sneezes*

It's also been a really fun month with birthdays and board games and a food festival and lots of lovely walks in the cooler weather. But I haven't saved up much to write about because, you know, ill. For the last couple of weeks. Almost constantly.

Got some fun posts coming up though so I hope you can forgive me :)

Mental health things

I had a some really lovely, thoughtful, and honest responses to my post about depression, which made me feel good about posting it. I wrote it a few weeks before and dithered about it for a long time. The thing about depression is that it kind of makes you want to curl up in a shadowy corner and be ignored by everybody. I've found that misery doesn't actually like company very much at all. But, I like company, and I like that people felt brave enough to tell me that they are suffering from mental health issues, or that their loved ones suffer from it, and it made me realise even more that these kind of things need to be talked about.

So thank you for that. For reading it and for messaging me/commenting on it. I really appreciate it. The more I talk about it, process it, and learn about it, the more I realise that anxiety is not actually part of me, it is just something that is happening to me, and holding onto that distinction is really important.

Birthdays

Jellybean turned two this month, which was right at the start of the month, and she loved every single second of being the birthday girl. We loved every single second of being parents-to-the-birthday-girl. There's something so magical and innocent about special occasions when you have a kid.

I was much more organised this year, and therefore a lot more chilled out on the day itself. It was so lovely to see her excitement on the morning of her birthday. 'Gonna be cake ... candles ... dancin'... balloooooons ...'

It was a day of pure happiness. And you could not find me, after she had fallen asleep on our bed in a state of total exhaustion that night, having a sniff of her hair and a little cry. No, you could not.

I did make a good cake this time:


May not look amazing but tasted pretty good ...

Here's my photo round up of the month:


Look out for October. Got lots of cool posts planned!

Everyday grace

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Grace.

It's Jellybean's middle name. Technically, it means this:

1. Smoothness and elegance of movement: she moved through the water with effortless grace.

2. Courteous good will: he had the good grace to apologize to her afterwards.

2a. (Graces) An attractively polite manner of behaving: she has all the social graces

3. (In Christian belief) the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

I mean all of those are good things, but it was the latter I thought of when we decided on her name, stroking my swollen belly and marvelling at the miraculousness of it all. I mean, when I look back on the direction my life COULD have taken, to find myself sitting here with a beautiful daughter and a wonderful husband is astounding.

Sometimes, I have to go back and just reflect on it a bit. On what I have been given. I have to kind of re-astound.

'Blessed' is a bit of a dodgy word at the moment. I've read a lot of blog posts about it, and I have been pondering what it means myself. I mean, when we say 'God has blessed me with a new car', what does that say to the many people who might be desperately praying for transport but are unable to afford it or obtain it? That God loves us more and them less? When we say we are 'blessed' by good health, what does that say to people who are suffering with sickness, with disease? That they aren't as favoured by God?

But then who am I to decide how God blesses people and in what way?

It's a tricky word. But I'm not talking about it today. I'm talking about 'grace' which is a HUGE word in terms of theological importance but is different than 'blessing' or 'blessed'. Grace, to me, speaks of love in its purest form. Love itself: not just the outward expressions of that love, but the love that is at the root of those things.

Grace speaks of love that knows no bounds, love that is unending. Sacrificial, burning love.




Grace also speaks, to me, of forgiveness.

When we ask people for grace, it is kind of like asking them for understanding, patience, mercy. It's saying 'I need you to be forgiving of me here. I need you to understand that I might do things wrong, but still to be patient with me.'

That is what I ask of my daughter, and that she asks of me. Not that we ever say it: it just is.

The thing is, Jellybean and I are close. We are very close. Two years of almost uninterrupted time together will do that. She is just as close to her Dad, but still, she spends the most time with me, and therefore we get to see each other at our best and at our worst.

At her worst? Jellybean is temperamental and rude and stubborn.

At her best? Jellybean is THE best. She is funny, sweet, kind, polite, and loving, OH so loving. It pours out of her like she can't contain it.

At my worst?

I am judgemental. I am cowardly. I am absent-minded. I am uncaring. I am cynical. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am bitter. I am afraid.

At my best?

That's the trick question, see, because I don't SEE my best in myself very much. My brain focuses in on all the mistakes I make and there are many of them.

We spend so much time together, Jellybean and I. We have a zillion joyful moments in the bank, memories stashed away like Inside Out. I think some of her 'core memories' are moments she has spent with me.

But sometimes, I am not a very good mother.

Take today, for instance. The pain from my trigeminal neuralgia was singing its steady hum, the backdrop to every movement I made, every thought I had. Occasionally, something - eating, speaking, even just breathing - made its song swell into a scream and I wanted to scream, but couldn't. The pain makes everything around me seem so loud and overwhelming and close. And so I'm standing in the kitchen and I'm desperate for a break from, you know, being awake, and Jellybean is tired and angry from being tired and I'm angry with her for not napping and therefore making my day more difficult and I am snapping at her because of it.

I hate that.

It's not her fault, it's mine, obviously. I suppose I can pin some of the blame on my stupid damaged trigeminal nerve, but I can't blame that for everything, as much as I want to.

Little moments like this need grace.

I need her to give me grace. Grace allows a bit of wriggle room for mistake making. It kind of encompasses forgiveness too, the grace I am thinking of. It is a person deciding 'Okay, you are annoying me right now but I am forgiving you in advance. I allow you the space to be a bit of an idiot because I love you.'



She does, too. She gives me grace in her own way, and I give it to her.

I need to give myself some of that space to be unperfect. To make mistakes.

I need to accept that I will make mistakes and not hate myself for it.

And I need to make more room for God's grace.

I really need His grace to, you know, fill in the cracks left by my own attempts at being everything to my daughter. I need His grace to see me through each day. Recently, I've been desperate for practical advice when I read Christian stuff. I don't just want to pray: I want to take ACTION. I don't want peaceful thoughts, I want to actively make peace, somehow. I want information on how to do that. I want steps to take, something tangible.

This is normal I think, in having faith. Sometimes you want to reduce it down to something bite-sized that you can hold in your hands. The concept of God's grace, though, is huge and kind of fluid. It slips through your fingers. It seeps into your life. Into yourself. It is free, undeserved, and utterly mysterious.

But I do acknowledge its existence. The grace of God. I pray for it often, especially recently. I have taken to short prayers, while the kettle boils, while I chop up more cucumber sticks for Jellybean (that girl is going to turn into a cucumber at the rate she eats it. I, on the other hand, am going to turn into coffee). 'I need your grace here, Lord. Give me grace so I can extend it to my daughter. Or even myself.'
.
This act of pausing and praying, of asking, is a tiny relief in what can sometimes be a tsunami of a stressful day. It is a way for me to acknowledge God's reign over my life. Over myself. And it reminds me, briefly, to let go. To hold on less tightly to the idea of being everything, to everyone, at all times, at all costs. That I can lean on God and trust Him to take care of me.

Tiny moments of the day. They last a few seconds. I am more keenly aware of my need for grace and forgiveness when I am unable to give it myself.

At my best?

I guess, at my best, I am loving, and I do my best.

I trust God to help me with the rest.

***

Grace also speaks to me of thankfulness. We say grace at each mealtime, a short prayer of thanks for our food. It becomes a bit robotic at times. It is supposed to be a reminder of how lucky ('blessed?') we are to have food. Healthy nutritious food whenever we want it. Water on tap. Time to spend together. These are basic things that I take for granted but I want to show thanks for them.

Sometimes, though, we just parrot it, and Chris and I take a peek at Jellybean, who is squeezing her eyes shut with all her might and clasping her little hands together. It is adorable.

I want to take the principle of that part of grace - thankfulness - and weave it into our days. I think I do this as best I can. I like the idea of mindfulness - of being fully present and aware of every situation you find yourself in, so as best to appreciate it - but frankly my mind sometimes is like a pinball, racing around and bashing into obstacles and lighting up new thoughts. I can't really force it to settle fully onto, I don't know, sitting down with Jellybean to play with her new farm animals. But that's okay. Things like mindfulness and mental health exercises are only good if you don't let it become another stick to beat yourself with. I try to be mindful, when I can. This is good enough.

That is giving myself grace, see?

***

I guess I will never understand how blessings, forgiveness, and grace work. Until I see God in person and ask Him. I get the feeling, though, that when that moment happens, a lot of things will not have to be said out loud.

I rely on it, though. Like a lifeline. And I try to give it to others in my human way.

It is a beautiful word.

And a beautiful middle name, for a beautiful, and graceful daughter.

***



Started a new study last week and it is speaking into all the vulnerable ouchy places in my (doubt-filled, cynical) heart. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, I just wanted to mention it and use it as an excuse for my lack of blogging. Wow, wow, and thrice wow. 

And I'll see you soon. :)

Kids Activity: Story Stones

Sunday, 13 September 2015


I've been wanting to make these for aaaaaaaaages. I think I pinned them when Jellybean was about six months old! The basic idea of story stones is that they help with children's language development and communication. Essentially: they are stones with things painted on them.

I guess you could use other things for this kind of activity. Squares of card with pictures printed on would probably be easier. But there's something so nice about the stones, maybe because they're more permanent - less likely to get broken/bent/chewed/drawn on.

Anyway, the idea behind these is to help children to tell stories - a really basic foundation, learning that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Through these stories, you can talk about all sorts of things: moral issues, problem solving, how to complete basic day-to-day activities.

I see these as a parent-led thing. I like to sit down with Jellybean and introduce them as a quiet activity for the two of us. Usually I let her play with them afterwards on her own and it's cute to watch her repeating the stories I just made up for her.

I put them in a little box too. There's something about boxes and bags that toddlers really like (okay. Not just toddlers). I think it's the element of mystery ;)


Sometimes we pull out the stones one at a time, sometimes we dump them all out onto the floor and look at them all at once.


Even just from a viewpoint of practising words, it is good. Jellybean knows lots of words but sometimes only Chris and I can understand her. So I can get her to practice them!


It turns out I am rubbish at making up stories on the spot so my stories have mostly been about various animals getting on and off the bus, or getting stuck up a tree and having to rescue each other. Jellybean got them straight away though. It was quite cute watching her mimic the stories afterwards. 'Tank oo, dog, helping me stuck up a tree!' 'You're welcome!' (and then apparently they have to kiss. She added that bit herself. Unsure as to whether or not that is a good sign).


I am one of these people that are vaguely creative/crafty but a bit rubbish at drawing/painting. There are a few stones that I've had to paint over and start again (you should have seen my attempt at an egg. I think Chris actually laughed at it. To be fair it was ridiculous). I used acrylic paints, which I got from Amazon, similar to these ones. I will probably use these for crafty things in the future so I felt it was justified ;)


I painted a few of these whilst watching telly one evening and then the rest I painted with Chris and Ellie on a rainy day. I gave her a few stones to paint on (using her own very washable paint, obvs. I ruined a jumper in the making of these stones because I dipped my sleeve in acrylics. Turns out, it doesn't come out. EVER.) and then I got on with painting them. Chris ended up joining in and he is annoyingly good at painting. We did some vehicles, insects, a dog and a cat, and some everyday objects, as well as some concepts, like night time and rainy. Chris painted some faces to represent different emotions and I did some autumn ones (pumpkin, hedgehog, squirrel, pinecone that looked like something from a horror film and got chucked in the bin) The problem is when you start, you think of more and more things to paint. 

I find it very relaxing. Like grown-up colouring books but a bit weirder. ;)

I've seen other ways of making these stones: using pictures cut out of magazines, stuck on and then covered in PVA glue (does anyone else hear Neil Buchanan's voice when they read the words 'PVA glue'?!) which is probably an easier way to do it.

I've also seen them used for other things: letters to spell out words, numbers, making funny faces. I've even seen a Nativity story set (WHICH I AM SO GOING TO DO. Only I might use the picture/glue combo for that. If I can't competently paint an egg I might have problems painting a wise man).


Story Stones. FTW.

Anyway. Gotta go and paint more of them ;)

***

Here are a few links to give you more ideas:

Paint on the Ceiling has some lovely painted ones.

Happy Hooligans makes them with cut out pictures and glue.

These are cute: Gruffalo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar story stones


You can also buy them on Etsy if you have money but no time or painting skills. Camping themed set/story stone starter set/outer space set

I think they would make a cute Christmas present for a little one. Bought or home made!

Do you like the idea of these? Have you made/used them before? Comments appreciated as always :)

The Bad Days

Thursday, 10 September 2015


I wrote a while back about this subject, and while part of me doesn't really want to think about it any more than I have to, part of me knows I need to.

I want to talk a little about depression and anxiety. I know this feels like a worrying thing to talk about publicly, but that pushes me on to talk about it even more: there shouldn't be a stigma about it, not really. There are people I admire who have struggled with, say, postnatal depression, and have declared it for what it is and have refused to pretend it doesn't exist.

I think that's really brave.

So here is where I am:

I mostly feel fine. Better than I was a few months ago. And then, suddenly, out of the blue, it hits me. I realise I am treading on the waters of anxiety, of panic, of a total lack of hope, and it feels unfathomably deep.

It wants to paralyse me; to climb from my chest up into my throat and stop me, mid-moment, mid-life. My instinct is to curl up in a ball until it goes away.

I don't, obviously. I can't. When I feel like I really can't face getting on with it, I think of the people around me (more than I realised) who suffer from depression or anxiety or panic attacks, and how they face up to their fears and grit their teeth and plow through it. So I do it too. I am thankful again for being home with Jellybean, even though that comes with its own challenges. Obviously I don't want her to be affected by how I feel. I plaster on a smile and pick myself up and we carry on.

I keep carrying on, usually, until Jellybean goes to bed and the sun is setting and I realise I've been paddling so hard all day that I haven't got any energy left. I am utterly spent. It feels like a choice, on days like that. Who will get the tired, lifeless me? My husband or my daughter? Usually it's my husband and he is always okay with that, because he understands. But I don't like having to make that choice.

I'm afraid of this new stage to come, this unknown we are going into, that circumstances have forced us into. I want to be the kind of mama that leaps into a new start with a smile, but I'm not that, at least not now. I am the kind of mama that crawls towards the next stage, stopping for breaks, sighing heavily, and longing for the place I came from.

So, I'm trying to call this for what it is. Shining a light on this strange new thing, inspecting it. Analysing it. Sometimes, when I'm far away from it, I come to the conclusion that it's just a stage, that it is a thing that is happening to me, but it doesn't define me. It doesn't mean everything. But when I feel at my lowest, it feels like everything. I lose my perception of how things are because I am in the midst of it and it feels huge, an unbeatable monster rising against a tiny wisp of a girl.

I don't blame you right now if you're wanting to say 'Listen, some people have real problems.' I do understand that. In fact, I dwell on that a lot (especially recently). But I think life is difficult for everyone in different ways. I don't, and haven't ever, believed that as a Christian I am exempt from that, that believing in God means walking around in a blessed, comfortable bubble. For whatever reason, this is what I'm walking through right now, and, of course, it's not what I asked for. I think this is not what I imagined I'd be dealing with. This is not the way things were supposed to go. 

Which I guess, is how everyone thinks when things take a turn for the unexpected. I never thought I'd be dealing with depression - it is unlike me. I always find a way to pick myself up and get over it. I feel immensely frustrated with myself that I can't do that, that I find myself physically and mentally blocked at every turn.

And then I think, there is so much suffering in the world, even just amongst the people I know and love, and my heart feels heavy with the weight of it.

Tonight, I sat down for the first time in a while on my own, lit some candles, and read this.

'The Lord upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.' - Psalm 145:14

I trust that. I am bowed down. My picking up might not come immediately, but it will.

All I can do is shine a light on the darkness. Call it for what it is. Trust that God is bigger than it, than me, than everything I know. And while I wait for the storm to pass, I photograph and write about beautiful moments, and I gather them close to myself, like treasure. I catalogue things to thank God for. I read in my Jonah study book, 'it's all about posture'. I don't understand how I feel, but I can maintain a posture of thankfulness. Even when it's hard.

Life is beautiful and there are small things that help me stay afloat.





There are things like an unexpected cuddle from your toddler, and her curly frizzy bed hair. A squeeze of the hand that you really need, but didn't have to ask for. A sentence that you read that makes something deep in your heart click, a mutual understanding between writer and reader, falling into place.



A flicker of candlelight and the crinkle of a thin page.

They are things that I hold close, like talismans against the darkness, and I join the ranks of people around me that I love and respect that have felt the same way, and I keep pushing on.
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