A post about loving motherhood

Saturday, 31 January 2015

I'm drawn to imperfection.

I admire it when people are, you know, real. For years I have been a puts-her-guard-up girl. I didn't want to show vulnerability or weakness, because it felt too painful and stressful to have people think I can't cope with stuff. Short girl complex, maybe?

But seriously, I really hate it when people underestimate me, so I don't tend to easily tell people when I'm struggling with something until it's at breaking point.

Recently though I have been trying to break that by being a bit more honest with people. Obviously in a way that protects me and my loved ones. I don't want to go sharing all my deepest stuff with everyone. Okay, I know I have a blog but, you know, I don't share everything. Then again, that has been one of the many unexpected benefits of doing this. Accepting vulnerability as a normal thing sometimes, and not a sign of weakness.

I like to be real. The people I really warm to are able to admit faults without worrying what other people think of them. The people I admire are able to accept that they're not good at everything, and that actually, sometimes even the things they are supposed to be good at are really flipping hard.

I'm self-deprecating. That is just my sense of humour. It extends to all areas of my life, including how I feel I'm doing raising our kid. Plus, I'm not going to lie and say that motherhood is easy, because it isn't. Raising a child is the most complex and yet most beautiful wonderful thing. But wow, sometimes it's really, really hard.

A lot of the time though, it is amazing.

Seriously, stunningly beautiful.

Sometimes I just want to dwell on it. To celebrate it.

Because the small things are huge to me.



My daughter knows the actions to 'wind the bobbin up'. She requests that I sing it by saying 'Pull, pull,' and clapping afterwards. She seems to learn a new word every day. She points to stuff and names it. 'Daddy ... Mama!' 'Owl ... birdy!'. I put her to bed and say 'Night, Jellybean!' and she says 'Nigh, Mama.' She knows some pretty awesome dance moves. She has a crazy sense of humour. Sometimes, she hides behind the rocking chair and then bursts out with a screech and cracks up laughing, because she thinks its hilarious. She doesn't smile at people she doesn't know very well and she takes a long time to warm up to people, but when you're in there, my goodness, she shows her love and affection like no-one else I know.

Funny, crazy, sweet, beautiful, clever. My lovely little daughter.

I am immensely proud of her.

I remember being pregnant and not knowing what kind of person was growing in my belly. I wondered all the time what she would be like. And she is just beyond anything I could have ever expected. She is just totally, irresistibly ... herself.

Sometimes it overwhelms me. The happiness. The love. It drowns out everything else.

Like today. I was hurrying, getting her dressed. I had just a strappy top on where I was kind of half ready myself. When I stood her up and pulled up her leggings, she suddenly grabbed me and kissed me, hard, on the shoulder, whilst squeezing my arms really tight in a fierce cuddle.

And then she blew a raspberry on me.

I burst out laughing, she burst out laughing, and she did it again. And it went on and on until she had enough and wandered off to play.

I thought: who am I, that I get to have moments like this?

Thankful, thankful, thankful to God every single day for her.

I am totally happy to dwell on the goodness in my life tonight. Sometimes, I need to just let my heart sing with it.



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3 Children and It

Children's book review: illustrations by Alison Jay

Monday, 26 January 2015

One of the things I think I'd like to do this year is blog a bit more about books. I enjoyed writing my Unputdownables 2014 post a lot, so I want to write a bit more about reading this year.

Anyway, I'm kicking off with children's books (I do read grown up books. Promise). Jellybean has a big collection of books, because, well, she's my child, and I have a book buying problem. I love reading with her, I love beautiful illustrations and cute little stories, I just ... love it. It's such a nice bonding time for me and her, when I'm not too busy doing other things, just to sit quietly with her and read a nice story.

However, she has favourites, and some of them are really random, and *whispers* really boring. Sometimes I try and steer her in the direction of a book we haven't read a thousand times before, but Jellybean is extremely decisive when it comes to what books she'd like to read. If she doesn't like it, we get a page in and she says 'Nope!', shuts it, and reaches for the next one.

Fortunately she likes Alison Jay. Which is preserving my sanity for a bit longer.


My lovely sister in law bought 'If Kisses Were Colours' for us for Christmas, because when she stopped to read it in the shop, it nearly made her cry (I'm sure she'll be thrilled that I told everyone that). It is written by Janet Lawler, and illustrated by Alison Jay, whose pictures are so beautiful that they make me want to cry too.



It seems to just hit me right in the soppy-new-mother spot. It's just ... it's just so sweet. A cute, simple story about a mother's love for her baby, but told in such a sweet way, with beautiful, fantastical images to pour over.


'Counting' is a simple book about numbers, so not much of a story. However, Jay has set this book in a world of fairy tales and it is just so FLIPPING LOVELY.



It feels a bit like stepping into a vivid dream set in fairy tale land. It's full of angry bears and scary wolves and magic beans and pretty princesses and giant sweets and frog princes. So what could have been another boring book about counting becomes something much, much more interesting. Plus, there is so much to look at in the illustrations, it keeps me amused even on the fiftieth re-read. Some of the illustrations have references to the next or previous page, too -  a frog prince from page 5 leaping across the duck pond in page 6, for instance. Which is also cute.

We got 'Counting' from the library and it is definitely well-loved. I can see us renewing this one before we take it back.


So if you're looking for beautiful, sweet board books for small children that are lovely to look at as an adult, too, I'd recommend these!

Counting and If Kisses Were Colours are published by Templar Publishing.

Insomnia Sucks: a post about rest and relaxation

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Do you know what? I'm flipping tired.

Out of the past seven or so nights, I have had one decent nights' sleep. My old friend insomnia has arrived back in my life. Night after night I have stared at the ceiling, mentally wired but so physically exhausted that I don't want to get up.

It sounds silly when I write it down but I find insomnia really stressful. I feel on edge the moment I get into bed, because I'm afraid of another bad night, and as the hours start ticking by I start to feel panic rising up like a physical thing in my throat. My heart starts racing, my mouth goes dry. And my brain? My brain works overtime.

I think all night long. I think of the mundane and the happy and the heart-wrenchingly sad. I think about the endless amount of things I have to do around the house. I think of all the things we need to do to book our holiday. I think about the blog posts I'd like to write. I think of the dreams that I have for the future. I think of church stuff, I think of life stuff, I think about people I love. I worry about money. I stress about time. And then I get The Fear, which I have spoken about before, and I am still amazed at how strong it is when I'm tired: I think of all the things that I could do wrong for my daughter, all the ways that I feel I am not measuring up as a parent, and then all the ways that the world could hurt or endanger her.

Sometimes I just lay there crying. Because I've thought of something sad that isn't actually happening.

That is what lack of sleep does to me.

Last night, I awoke in the night once and that was it, there was no going back to sleep. It took an hour of trying not to think too much and then one-and-a-half Adam and Joe podcasts to get me to go back to sleep, and then what felt like five minutes later, I heard Jellybean calling 'Mama!' through the monitor. 6am. Time to get up.

When I'm tired, I'm grumpy. I don't deal with things very well. I'm also clumsy. To the point where, after Jellybean nodded off on me earlier, I managed to drop my phone on the floor where it seemed to explode upon contact (that's how loud the bang was) and then immediately tripped over one of her toys. (It was the dog, in case you're interested).

Basically, when I'm that tired, I don't function at 100%. I'm getting through the day - I might even enjoy it - but I'm not giving my all to it.

Sometimes life is like that.

Sometimes life ticks along and everything is good, and I am happy, but I am also just a bit 'bleh'. Don't get me wrong - I adore my loved ones and I love being a stay at home Mum right now. Everything in that respect is good. The 'bleh' comes more from a lack of taking care of myself.

I've been really hard on myself recently. I didn't realise until I was talking to Chris about it last night, but it is true. I've been so uncompromising in wanting to make myself better that I'm a) tiring myself out and b) not giving glory to God in the process.

I'm basically wanting the very best from myself without actually taking any time for myself.

I don't mean physical rest, or little treats, or anything like that. I don't need a trip to the spa or whatever. Luckily, working with children gave me a fairly realistic (but definitely not comprehensive!) idea of what it means to be a parent. Essentially, it means little to no time to yourself. Chris and I get this. Time to rest is precious: therefore, it needs to be used well.

That's the key.

The key is to fill my spare time - including spare thought time - with good things. (I have a lot of this: although my hands are often busy in the daytime, my head is sometimes a nice blank canvas. Especially when Jellybean wants me to read Peppa Pig Dinosaur Park for the 1000th time. I know that baby off by heart.) I've realised that resting is about more than just my head on a pillow, or sinking into a bath, although I love those things too. What I need is nourishment.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in Ordinary Life Stuff - our routines, our chores, our things to do - that I start to forget what I'm passionate about. It reminds me a bit of when I was working as a nursery nurse. Sometimes I'd start to feel a bit dry and uninspired in my job, and then we'd go on a training conference or something, and I'd start to remember why I loved it in the first place and I'd go on to try new things.

It's the same principle for my life now.

I need to be inspired.

I need to remember what I'm passionate about. Raising my child, yes, but raising her well. Yes. I'm passionate about having a healthy marriage. I'm passionate about equal rights for women and societal pressure and about teaching young girls to be media savvy. I'm passionate about reading and writing and I am inspired by blog posts and books. I'm passionate about the Bible studies I do and how much the word of God has to teach me. I'm passionate about the power of music and its importance in our house.

Passion for life is something to be cultivated.

To me, enjoying the gifts that God has given me is a really good way to remind myself of the Giver.

To go through life dull and bored is not doing His precious gifts justice.

To go through life uninspired to make a difference is neglecting the strengths that God has bestowed.

I don't expect to change the world. I don't expect to be a shiny happy Christian who never has any problems. I don't expect to always be 100% on fire and ready to go.

I do expect to be thankful and to be aware of how blessed I am and to give God my all.

Which is not a lot to give, but it seems to be enough for Him.

The thing is, everyone is inspired by different things, and that is good. For some people, sitting down to write an essay-length blog post is about as relaxing as I would find a page full of equations to solve. I get that. I also get that I am allowed to be tired sometimes. And that, yes, sometimes I need to extend a little grace to myself.

But I am determined to cultivate the things that inspire me. I am determined to fill our house with music and laughter and fill pages with words and to deliberately read and discuss things that make my heart set ablaze again for the issues that God has given me to do something about.


Trying to concentrate whilst extremely tired is kind of tricky though.

I am determined to make my down time count. I am determined to give my heart and head nourishment when I rest.

Maybe then I can start sleeping at night ;) who knows? I've tried everything else. In fact, if anyone has a good cure for insomnia that they know of, please let me know...

And here's a fair warning for you: I'm in writing mode right now. I'm trying to stretch myself creatively by working a bit harder. Expect many more posts to come. If not, please ask me where I am and shame me into actually doing it. ;)

Blog plans and sensory play

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bit of self-absorbed waffle coming up!

I appear to be emerging from a post-Christmas lull into proper writing again. I've got lots of ideas in my head, and a lot of them revolve around making time for creativity as an adult, and also encouraging creative expression in children. I'm taking these posts quite seriously though, which essentially means a lot of re-reading, sighing, and deleting stuff. But they are on their way.

While we're on the topic of taking things seriously, I have some Stuff That I Have to Deal With (doesn't everyone?) but I am totally determined to not allow myself to sink back into old habits and thought patterns this year. In times of stress, loneliness, or worry, I slip right back into the groove of the worst bits of me, and frankly, I'm not that person any more. I don't need an emotional crutch in the form of old habits. So that's been on my mind a lot. I've been trying to deal with things head on as opposed to avoiding or burying them. Which I will write about properly soon. But to be honest, I've been avoiding properly writing because then I'd have to confront it sooner. Does that make sense? 

Also, I've been putting a lot of blogging time into redesigning the layout, screaming at my laptop and being totally confused by HTML. So there's that.

***

Also, I am joining in with 31 Days of Sensory Play, hosted by Emma of Adventures of Adam! Unfortunately I didn't join in until a week or so into January, so we haven't done all of it, but essentially it is a challenge to enjoy some kind of sensory play with your child, every day for a month. It's nice, because it's becoming quite a focused time of our day to spend time together, and actually, doing stuff like this was a huge part of why I wanted to stay home with her anyway. I like to see her learning, exploring the world, and discovering new things. It seems to be helping her language development, too, which is an unexpected side effect. She's learnt a few new words this week, related to the sensory things we've been doing. Which is cool.

If you, like me, need ideas for stuff to do with children, whether they are yours or children you look after, I'd suggest popping over to the blog for some inspiration. Some of the stuff we might not be able to do, but most of it is quite easy to do with stuff you have lying around at home.

I might do an end-of-the-month post about this :)

Anyway ... that's my waffle for the weekend. Hope you have a good one!

Mummy Mondays - the life and times of our fake pet dog

Monday, 12 January 2015

I have to get something off my chest.

We have a few toy dogs in this house. This is because Jellybean is obsessed with them. 'Doggy' was her third word. She enjoys shouting it at the top of her voice whenever we walk past one.

But there are two dogs at home who are her absolute favourites. One of them is Snowy.

Snowy has taken on the persona of a loyal, patient, long-suffering pet. He is the kind of dog (if he were, of course, real) that would sit at your feet when you're feeling poorly, or bring you slippers, or waits patiently for you by the front door when you go out. In fact, he sits patiently on the shelf in the living room for my daughter every day. Where she finds him, scoops him up, and gives him a big cuddle.

In turn, Jellybean is quite gentle with him. She gives him squishy cuddles with a sigh of 'Doggy.' She puts him in her highchair. She pops him on the sofa.


Apparently Snowy gets to wear Mummy's jewellery too.

On the flip side, we also have a toy dog equivalent of an annoying excitable puppy.

He is everywhere, at once. How?! How does this happen?! As soon as I saw him (he is a present from my parents for Jellybean's birthday) I should have known that a moving, noisy toy dog might become a bit annoying. But wow. Here are some of the places I have found him:



Seriously.

I trip over him a lot. He seems to have this ability not mentioned in the instruction manual where he knows when you're trying to get away from him and so swivels around and charges full pelt in your direction. Even Jellybean gets annoyed with him sometimes. I have to stop her from committing an act of toy violence while she's screaming 'DOGGY!' as he flashes his lights and circles round and round her stamping feet.

He sings too, you know. I know all the words. To EVERY. SONG. Sometimes I find myself wandering around the house singing cheerfully 'Stand up, sit down, jump around and lie down! I'm a puppy on the go ...'

Which is an attractive song to sing to people.

Also I accidentally taught Jellybean how to turn the music on said dog (you have to press the triangle button three times). Sometimes she does this over and over again. Literally - press triangle three times - manic burst of dancing - song ends - repeat x 1,000,000.

He is even more annoying than that episode of In the Night Garden where the Pontipines and the Wottingers keep bumping into each other. (Please leave a comment if you've seen this, because OH MY GOODNESS, how many squeaking noises can they cram into one episode?!)

I do have a soft spot for him. And yes, he has, in a strange way, become part of our home. Even, perhaps, part of our family. Both dogs sit with my daughter whatever she's doing:


(I swear this isn't staged - this is really how I find her. Wedged between the two of them. Who needs real pets?!)

Anyway, I really needed to write about this blimming dog, because this just happened:


Either I'm going crazy or the neighbours' kid has the exact same toy and I heard it through the walls. In which case, I am shortly about to go crazy.

Or the dog is playing tricks on me.

...

I'm off to check I'm not about to be attacked by a knife-wielding dog. BRB!

Jumping up and down in muddy puddles...!

Friday, 9 January 2015

I wish I was naturally the kind of person that leapt at any opportunity to go and play outside. Unfortunately ... I'm not. I am a happy-at-home-reading-whilst-warming-my-bum-on-the-radiator type of person. 

That is why I love the 'Outdoor kids' linky over at Coombe Mill, because such is my love for blogging (and linkys!) that I will drag myself outside in order to be able to join in.

Anyway, the following pictures didn't happen recently. I have been in an advanced state of hibernation for the past couple of weeks, due to be broken today with an Amazing Outdoor Activity, but unfortunately, I am poorly, and am warming my bum on the radiator whilst feeding my daughter handfuls of Cheerios.

But anyway ...

Puddles!

Jellybean is utterly obsessed with Peppa Pig. Completely. Nothing will cause her to stop whatever she's doing and come racing into the room faster than a) the promise of food or b) the Peppa Pig theme tune. 

So when we were out and about a while back and I said 'Look! Can you jump up and down?' and she looked at me blankly, all I had to say was '...like Peppa!' and she instantly got it.




Cue snorts of laughter, squeals, mud on the buggy, mud on my boots, mud on my jeans, mud on her wellies, mud caked into her sleeves (!) ...

Mud, basically.

It was a joy to clean up. ;) but still, the look of sheer excitement on her face at getting purposefully messy was worth it. And as soon as the weather clears up and I stop feeling like my throat has knives in it, we'll be back out there again, puddle hunting.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Mummy Mondays - My Top Tips for Productivity

Monday, 5 January 2015

It's almost time to go back to work/school/normal life. The twinkly lights and sparkly ornaments are being returned to the loft, the fake (or real, if you're more dedicated than us) pine needles are being swept up, parents are tearing apart the sofa cushions looking for newly acquired - and then promptly lost - Barbie shoes, or Aquadoodle pens (!) or ridiculously small bits of Minecraft Lego. There are only a couple of broken candy canes and a few miniature Bounty bars left in the sweetie bowl. Alarms are being set. Uniforms are being ironed (or panic washed and hung on the radiators). Lunches are being packed.

Some of those things don't apply to me, but still, I know they are happening.

And I am cracking out blog post ideas like there's no tomorrow. After weeks of laying dormant, the writing part of my brain is bursting into life. I am tempted to burst into song:

This girl is on fiiiiiiiyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!

Anyway.

Here are my tips for being productive, when, like me, you are ordinarily the Least Productive Person On the Planet. Hopefully, with my guidance, you will go from this:


To this!


1. Pretend to be someone else

Put on a kind of internal disguise and simply act like one of those people that always have a clean, organized house/non-scruffy children/a fully ticked to-do list. 

Yes, they do exist. They are rare, but they exist. I've seen them.


Anyway, you can be that person too! Simply tell yourself: I am not lazy, or disorganized, or stressed. I am perfectly calm and capable and in control. Just like (insert name of person you secretly want to be here).

Fake it til you make it! 

2. Write a great big list

Writing lists always makes me feel more productive without actually having to do anything. It's an amazing psychological trick.

Make sure to put 'write list' at the top of your list, so you can immediately tick it off. Satisfying.

3. Block out everything else except for the thing you are doing right now

Except children if you have them, you should probably keep an ear out for them.

Sometimes I pull off doing several things at once: writing a blog post by saying it out loud to my daughter, making our lunch with one hand, switching on the washing machine with my foot, etc. (I'll let you think that's true and that I'm remarkably flexible). It is not often that this multitasking ends well. It usually ends with about five jobs started and not finished.

I remember years ago, as a young teenager, visiting friends of my parents. They were ridiculously loud. They seriously had the loudest kids I'd ever heard. Midway through the visit I hissed to my Mum (imagine this with serious teenage attitude) 'How do you put up with all this noise!?'

To which my Mum said cheerfully (and honestly): 'Oh, I just block it out, it's like I can't hear it anymore.'

!

I thought - and still do - that my Mum has magical powers.

Anyway, that's what I'm trying to learn to do. Prioritise important things, ignore the rest. I look at the washing pile (my nemesis) and say 'I can't see you!' so I don't get distracted from the more important thing I'm trying to do. Maybe if I keep ignoring the washing it will actually disappear

4. Get off Facebook

And blogs. And forums. And Twitter. And Instagram.

What you should do is put your phone somewhere really annoying and difficult to reach until you've finished doing whatever it is you're supposed to be doing. Then you can go and get it back, and reward your ten minutes of ironing with half an hour of social media.

Seriously though, I am approximately a million times more productive when I have no access to the internet, than when I have my phone in my pocket.

5. Make your bed

Get up in the mornings and make the beds. This might sound ridiculous to some of you but it totally works for me. On the days that I take the extra 60 seconds or so to make our beds in the morning, I feel so much more organized than the days that I don't. And feeling disorganized quickly slides into the I can't keep up with everything feeling and then into the Well the house is a tip so I might as well not do anything feeling.

Build small things into your routine. (I am writing this for men, too, in case someone out there thinks I'm horribly sexist. My husband does these things too. Mostly) I always use the window of my toddler eating lunch (takes way longer than I do to eat, mostly due to her apparent need to make as much mess as is humanly possible) to wash up her bottles and wipe down the kitchen counters. Our friends swear by putting a load of washing in the machine and setting it on a timer at night so it's finished by the time they get out of bed in the morning (this, to me, feels impressively organised).

Small things. They keep us ticking along.

***

So. It's 2015. Are you feeling organised? Do you have any actual tips to stop procrastination? Comments welcome as always!

2015!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

I feel the need for a lot of exclamation marks in my post today. Sorry in advance.

It's 2015! I turn 27 this year! Chris turns 30!!! It's only a year-and-a-bit to go until we have been together for - wait for it - TEN YEARS.

#old

I have started the year by making pancakes (productive) and laying on the floor, being held hostage by my book-obsessed child because I couldn't get back up again (er, kind of productive). The part of me that can cope with a busy day after very little sleep just doesn't seem to want to function today.


'Mummy, while you're here you may as well read me Penguin for the eleven millionth time.'

I will return to normal posting soon. After we have dealt with the kitchen. And the mountain of recycling. And the overflowing washing basket. And the Christmas decorations ...

Also, does anyone else have a junk food hangover? I am literally sick of nibbles. Our house is still pretty well-stocked with delicious, chocolatey things and I take one look at them and think '... I might just eat a stick of celery or something.'

Normal writing resumes on Monday. Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year! :)
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