Not a goodbye, more of a bye-bye-bye-bye.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

My Mum never says bye to me. Years ago she said it's because she thinks 'goodbye' is too final. 'See you!' feels like a less loaded term. Or something along those lines.

Sometimes she says 'bye' but she says it super quick, almost like she's avoiding a jinx. So it's not 'bye', it's 'byebyebyebye'. Subsequently I do it back.

My daughter now says this, if she's pretending to be on the phone. 'Haha, yeah. Okay. Love you. Bye bye bye bye bye!'

I'm waffling on because I'm avoiding the subject here. Can you tell?

***

I started this blog pre-kids, when I was a nursery nurse, full-time. I was much more involved with church life, helping out at youth and Sunday School, and so on. Life was busy but happy. 

And I was tired.

I remember waking up in the mornings and bursting into tears because I was just so tired. I had no reason to be - I was in my early twenties (sigh), newly married, carefree, not many responsibilities. I was just exhausted. 

I went to see a doctor, for blood tests, but nothing was wrong.

I was just exhausted. For no reason at all.

I mean, maybe it was God's way of training me in preparation for the babies, particularly Baby Boy, who was one of the worst sleepers I have ever known. But it was frustrating me. Also, I'd lost a lot of my kind of new-Christian-fire. I was becoming one of those people that turned up to do all my church duties but didn't allow myself room to think about God in between.

So I started the blog. It was a way of making myself accountable to my closest friends. It was to be a space for me to reflect on my faith. (In case you were wondering, it was named after a chapter in one of my favourite ever books, Lisa Bevere's Lioness Arising). And then it grew, naturally, and changed, as I went on, and I discovered I still liked to write quite a lot, and as we had children, and my role completely changed. And the blog has been there this whole time - through sleepless nights and stressful times and a faith crisis and many happy moments, and I've met nice people through it and had my confidence boosted because of it.

But the time has come, I feel. I keep sitting down to write posts but I've hit a wall with it.

***

I've hit a wall, for sure. And I want to talk more in depth about my faith, which is what I originally started it for. I want to talk more about feminism, which I have discovered more about since beginning the blog. I still want to write about motherhood, of course, which I will do, especially on The Motherload. And I feel like the back history of posts here is too big and unwieldy to truly start afresh. I've also wanted to start using WordPress for a while.

So I'll be blogging over at my new website, which is here. I'll be switching all my social media over to reflect that on Friday, so if you follow me already, you won't have to do anything. I'll keep paying for the domain space here, because it means a lot to me, and I like to look back on it. 

To be honest, it always amazes me that anyone takes the time to read this (seriously - people say 'oh, I read your blog' and for a moment I feel totally bewildered. Every time), and I'm probably coming across as really self-indulgent here, but I wanted to say goodbye to this particular blog, and thank it for everything.

So there we go.

Bye-bye-bye-bye-bye.

On nearly giving up

Saturday, 7 October 2017

It's been a long time!

I've been enjoying a little blogging hiatus that's gone on for longer than I expected. I've become a bit … I don't know what the word is. Not bored. Uninspired? Something like that. I've lost the fire that had me tapping into my laptop late into the evening when I should have been catching up on sleep.

And I don't know what the solution is to that. I thought about starting afresh with a new blog and a blank slate but that feels a bit daunting to me. It also involves a lot of time spent on social media, which I'm trying to step away from a bit. In fact, over the summer I seriously considered coming off of Facebook altogether (and Twitter. Not Instagram though. I'd have to have my phone melted down or something before I give that up). In fact, I thought maybe I'd just stop having a presence online altogether. No blogging, nothing. I thought it might help me feel a bit more clear headed just to step away from the noise.

But I miss writing. I miss having that outlet, a space to process things. I write in my journal but it's not quite the same, because I'm usually exhausted and my entries are either me ranting about something or quickly noting down something cute or funny the kids have done.

Speaking of them!

The other reason I've slowed down on blogging, and writing in general, is because I'm just enjoying being with them. I never have time to blog in the day, even when Jellybean is at preschool, because the baby is not-so-baby-ish anymore and spends his day trying to figure out how he can get up to the most mischief while my back is turned. So between trying to keep him in one piece and trying to pry information from my daughter about what happened at preschool, I'm occupied.

And when they go to bed? Sometimes I sit with my feet up and play Final Fantasy 15 until my eyes go blurry. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I do the ironing and watch Mad Men. Sometimes I go to bed because I'm so tired.

But I like it.

Despite being hard work (because they are), I'm really enjoying being Just a Mum. I think I've settled into the groove of Mum-ish-ness. And yes, ideally I want to start working again soon, but the baby stage is flying by at a terrifying pace and so I've been clinging onto it desperately. I'm trying to cram in as many raspberries-on-tummies as possible. Every little goofy, dribbly grin of adoration my son gives me, every hilarious thing my daughter says. I'm trying to just … soak in it.

I've also finally stopped worrying about what people think about me not working. Being concerned with other people's opinions is exhausting and completely pointless. I'm finding immense value in being slaves to our tiny humans ;) it's kind of freeing, actually. Admittedly, some evenings I actually want to cry with relief when my husband gets home so I can go and hide in the bathroom for ten minutes of actual peace and quiet, but still.

But sitting down tonight, to write, feels good. I don't know what the future holds for the blog. Maybe I'll relaunch one day. Maybe not. For now, this is good. Life is good, and I am grateful.

Usborne Book Review: Late Night at the Zoo

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


How was your summer?

I've got back-to-school feelings today, mostly because we're settling my daughter into a routine with preschool, and now I'm finding myself doing things like laying out little outfits the night before, and making sure her bag is sorted, and helping her find her peg at pre-school. This time next year I will be waving her off into primary school and I'm genuinely not sure how this has happened so fast.

I've got another book review for you today: Late Night at the Zoo, an Usborne Very First Reading book.

The Very First Reading series has been developed with literary specialists, and designed for adults and children to read together. It has brilliant rhythm and colourful pictures, which means Jellybean is occupied despite not being old enough to read it herself yet.





As well as a fun story, the book contains puzzles at the end, which help to see how much of the story the child understood, as well as word games, like 'find the opposite word', extending the opportunity to learn.

It also has guidance notes, which explains the spelling patterns introduced in the book, and ideas about good times to read and what to do if your child gets stuck.

If you have a child who is beginning to learn to read, I really recommend the Usborne Very First Reading Books. You can see the range on Sarah Keller's page here.

I received this book from Sarah Keeler, independent Usborne book seller in exchange for an honest review. If you are interested in purchasing this or any other Usborne books, check out her page. Also, be sure to check out her VIP group, where she runs competitions and holds special offers on lots of lovely books. Thanks Sarah! :)

A hiatus?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Hey!

So, we're coming up to the end of July, so really, only a few months away from my 5-year-blogging anniversary (!) and I'm writing to say I'm taking a break.


Mostly this is due to a number of things: wanting to spend more time with my husband in the evenings, as those moments have been scarce since the baby arrived. Wanting to spend time reading the giant stack of books that I bought with my birthday money. Wanting to take the pressure off so I don't feel guilty all the time about not blogging. Wanting to finish off some stuff I've started around the house.

But, to be totally honest: there's things about blogging I don't enjoy so much. Firstly, the self-advertising side of things. I don't like the idea that I am rubbing my blog into people's faces all the time (LOOK AT WHAT I DID!) but that is the nature of the beast, really. If I want people to read it I have to advertise it. But I find it tiring at times, and occasionally I need to take a break from it.

Secondly, I find the constant upkeep of social media annoying sometimes. For example, I really like Instagram - I like taking pictures and editing them and finding interesting new accounts to follow. I like that. But when it becomes like a job, my gosh, it is not as much fun. I feel constantly guilty for not keeping up with it, because I know that's what successful bloggers do - people seem to be on social media all the time. And it's not that I don't have time for that, it's just that sometimes I don't want to be doing that. And at the moment, this blog is just for me: for fun. It's not as though my livelihood depends on it. I want to keep it that way (as in, fun). Which also involves occasionally stepping away.

I mean, how can I possibly keep up with successful bloggers? These people are posting at least three times a week. Some of them post daily. They are posting on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter several times a day. They are constantly interacting with other bloggers. I just can't keep up with that.

I'm not moaning (because what a ridiculous thing to moan about!) I'm just explaining why I need a breather. I'm stuck in a rut right now, creatively, and I don't really know which direction I want to take. I need a few weeks to have a good think about it. I want to write things that are good and meaningful and that connect with people, ultimately. I don't want to write stuff that just fills space.

I'm aware of how pretentious I sound.

Anyway, I'm waffling now. I've got a book review scheduled for next week which will go up as normal. I also plan to blog for the Motherload during this time. Plus, I'll probably pop up on Instagram/Facebook every now and again. So I won't be totally silent ;) You can see my Motherload posts here, if you're interested.

Other than that ...

See you all in September!

Pursuing Peace: Quick quick slow

Friday, 7 July 2017

(Just as a warning, I'm going to be peppering this post with some of the best Leslie Knope quotes I can find, not because they necessarily match up with what I'm talking about, but because I love her. Not in any way sorry.)

This quote really sums up my whole blog.

I'm proud of you

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A short post to say this: my daughter is growing up.

Without going into too much detail for the sake of her privacy: something has clicked over the past few weeks and she seems happier, very contented, and very ...

Brave.

Things that used to scare her no longer do. She's pushed herself a little bit, gone beyond her comfort zone, and found that it is okay there. That in fact, she can thrive there.

Who knows why children develop the way that they do? It seems to happen in waves. Everything is normal and then suddenly, one day, they've overcome a hurdle that they've been faltering at for months.


24 things I have learnt from watching Pretty Little Liars

Friday, 30 June 2017

WARNING! THIS POST KIND OF RUINS THE END OF PRETTY LITTLE LIARS! DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT THE ENDING RUINED!

*Clears throat*

That's right: I watched ALL SEVEN SEASONS of Pretty Little Liars.

Pictured: my face after the finale

On heatwaves, gratitude, and not blogging

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Hey! So I've been away for a little while. I've been piling the pressure on myself to do/be everything to everyone at the moment, on very little sleep, and it culminated in a couple of TN attacks, which was nice, so I figured something had to slide.

Something did slide: blogging. And writing in general.

But I'm back! Kind of. I mean the heatwave put me off doing anything. I don't know about you but everyday things take about ten times longer during a heatwave. Plus, every surface of my house seems to be covered in a fine layer of grime and stickiness. I'm presuming it's a combo of ice lollies on tap and bare feet padding around the house. We're weaning the baby too which means everything is covered in little splodges of baby porridge. (BTW baby porridge = stronger than cement. DO NOT LET THAT STUFF DRY.) I am on constant clean-up mode but nothing is ever actually clean.


Wipe-clean Dinosaur Activity Book & first steps towards writing!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how much small children have ahead of them. They will learn to read and write, opening up a whole new world of communication. They will learn how gravity works, how to add numbers together. They will learn how to turn ingredients into a meal, how to play sports, how to ride a bike, how to swim. They will learn how relationships work, how to express themselves clearly, how to manage their own emotions.

My daughter is constantly learning. Her brain is like a sponge. She watches me closely to see how I do things, and then tries to do them herself. Even if she's not quite there yet. Recently she's become a bit preoccupied with writing: shopping lists, birthday cards, party invitations, names of family members and friends.

Of course, it's all scribbles and lines. But she gets the concept of writing. That she can make marks, and those marks mean things.



Let's not talk about the election

Thursday, 1 June 2017

I wrote an impassioned post about why you should vote in this next election (BECAUSE YOU SHOULD VOTE, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, JUST GO AND VOTE, WOMEN DIDN'T HURL THEMSELVES UNDER HORSES FOR NOTHING) (sorry, some of that post seems to have escaped into this one) but I deleted it.

Because I'm just finding it all incredibly depressing.

I posted a thing on Facebook about young people not voting and how over-65's vote and therefore they are the main age group for deciding the future of the country, but I think it came across as slightly ageist (even though I didn't see it that way, but I am a bit of an idiot really) and then I ended up deleting it because I felt bad.


A little blog update! Partnering with LionsHome

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Good morning!

I've been missing for a couple of weeks - mostly due to sleep deprivation, and frankly, that's a whole blog post in itself - but mostly because of the perpetual juggle of two small children and general life 'stuff.' (Essentially the baby has decided he no longer wants to sleep during my prime blogging hours - 5am and 7-8pm. Gah.)

Anyway, I'll hopefully be back on schedule with a full post on Thursday, but I've got something to tell you first!

My blog is now in partnership with LionsHome Blog Network! LionsHome is a website that aims to inspire people to create a beautiful home, in the form of inspiring articles and a helpful shopping platform, where you can filter through items from a large number of companies to find the perfect 'thing' you are looking for. They also have a bloggers network on a variety of interesting topics including lifestyle and motherhood, which is where I come in!

So this is a quick post to say hello to my newest bloggers network *waves* and to let you know I am still here, dealing with sticky floors and teething babies and playing Shopkins and what have you.

See you on Thursday!

Nailed it: counting the good stuff

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The whole point of this blog is that I try to be as honest as possible. I know that sounds a bit cliched, but then, who would admit to kind of ... image-managing their lives? Not many people. I do try to get a balance. I don't want to moan constantly, and I like capturing happy little family moments on Instagram. (I'm also quite careful in what I feel is appropriate to post about, but that could be a whole post in itself). But I like to keep it all in balance. The thought of selling my life as a kind of brand makes me feel a bit sick.

I'm also a bit hyperbolic and I like to poke fun at my weaknesses because for years, I couldn't do that. I've kind of gone the opposite way now. This combination means that sometimes people think I feel really rubbish about myself all the time. I don't. I feel rubbish about myself for a normal amount of time.

I had to have a little check though when a friend approached me, all gently and seriously (in the manner of someone approaching a startled deer) to tell me that she thought I was doing really well and I shouldn't put myself down so much.

I mean ... I think it was a case of crossed wires. And maybe a bit of exaggeration on my part. Most of the time I actually think I'm doing alright with life in general. 

Which brings me onto the point: 

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are, in fact, capable.

***

I remember a clear and shining moment in my pregnancy: my daughter was running around my feet demanding that I make up a story for her. Meanwhile, the baby was somersaulting around in a way that made me feel like a human washing machine, I was walking with an extreme limp due to PGP, and I was cooking a quite complex dinner involving a) vegetables and b) lentils that my daughter actually ate and enjoyed afterwards.

In that brief moment, I thought, 'I'm nailing this! I can do it!'

It's very important to appreciate these moments and do a quiet, probably inward celebration about them. Because life demands a lot of you, and it makes you feel like you can't keep up, and that everyone else is doing way better than you are at being an adult. We live in a world where people celebrate their successes quite publicly, which is fine, but it means that we forget that, most days, people are just quietly getting on with their lives - sometimes doing well, sometimes not so much.

We forget that we can just be normal, and boring, and that is good.

Normal and boring is what most people are when they're not posting on the internet.

But we can be good at normal and boring. We are good at normal and boring. So if you've gone off to your job again wondering what the point of it all is, or you're at home washing the third load of laundry for the day and feel a bit like banging your head against a wall at the never-ending-ness of Clothes Maintenance, here is my tip: just think about all the things you did well today.

I did it a lot while I was pregnant and feeling totally useless. Like:

Remember when you prepared dinner even though your leg felt like it was going to fall off? That was good.

Remember when you got your daughter ready for bed in between throwing up everything you ate in the last twenty four hours? That was quite impressive.

Remember that time you went to the hospital on short notice and had to get a taxi there and back, and therefore had to juggle your toddler, your unwieldy bump, the car seat, your maternity notes, a tube of wee, and a bag full of drinks and snacks and sticker books? That was good. (A bit manic, but good.)

Remember that one time you got to the bottom of the washing basket?

Remember when you were a good friend today even though it wasn't the most convenient moment for you?


So it is. Today's bad things include the fact that the house is a mess, I haven't got round to a) applying make-up b) doing my hair or c) shaving my legs (despite the fact that I have my legs out). I haven't put on any washing. I haven't hoovered in ages. I haven't finished tidying my daughter's bedroom (a frankly stupid and pointless task). I haven't phoned up about that important appointment (yet). My daughter is currently eating plain crackers for lunch and watching Peppa Pig on our portable DVD player as opposed to eating vegetables and doing some kind of educational task.

However ...

I did do a little bit of tidying.

I did manage to shower (!) and put on clothes that don't smell of baby drool.

I did sort out the old laptop to pass onto my Dad which made him very happy.

We may eat a healthy meal involving salmon for dinner.

So really, not bad.

Not bad at all!

Another thing I didn't get round to doing was taking a decent photo for this blog post ...

Linking up with:



Mummascribbles

3 Little Buttons

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com


Mummuddlingthrough

diaryofanimperfectmum


Running on empty

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Hello! Today is kind of a life update post:

It is 6.21am and I've been awake for an hour as the baby decided he was so awake that he wanted to wake the rest of the house with him. He is now snoring on me and I am too awake to go back to bed.

I've got the guilt again.

The 'I'm-not-doing-enough' guilt.

I went to bed last night completely done in. It's been a long week with different issues cropping up, and the result is exhaustion (and mouth ulcers. Lovely lovely stress-induced mouth ulcers). I felt like my bones ached when I attempted to put the kids to bed.

And then somehow this happened:


That is me, hair scraped back, make-up-free, chapped-lipped, and far too tired to ensure the kids were asleep in their actual beds.

Some days are just like this: you feel like a hamster on a wheel, running the same circles all day and never actually getting anywhere. You start to get wrapped up in our own little microbubble of stress. The big picture feels really unclear. And when you go online, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook while the kids both snore incredibly loudly next to you, instead of relief you find masses of people that seem to be achieving every goal and doing All The Impressive Things and checking off everything on their list and generally being a much more productive and useful human being than you are.

So here's what I'm going to do over the next couple of days: I'm going to step away from the internet (after posting this, obviously). Instead, in my spare moments, I'm going to catch up on some reading. I'm going to attempt to tackle the laundry bomb that has gone off upstairs. I'm going to make my daughter tidy up her bedroom. And then I'm going to play and be silly with the kids. And then when Jellybean is next out, I'm going to get the baby to go to flipping sleep and then write all day long because I want to, not because I have bloggers guilt.

Okay?!

Okay.

That's it really. Just keeping it real, in case there's people out there like me who are not currently achieving all the things they want to, and can therefore relate ;)

I'll see you in a few days, hopefully!

Linking up with:


Mummascribbles

Pursuing Peace - The Fine Art of Breathing

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?

Like, this is too much. There's too much happening. I can't possibly do everything I need to do. I cant be everything I need to be. I can't cope with the bombardment of information and noise and ... stuff.

I get you. But before I start stripping back my own life, I thought it would be good to revisit the basic principle, of

stopping

and breathing.

***

Things aren't the way I want them to be in my house. There are a million jobs to be done. Upstairs usually looks like a bomb of stuff has gone off. The bedrooms need repainting. I keep tripping over things like the baby bath and piles of paperwork and toys. There's an inch-thick layer of dust on our bedroom windowsill and cobwebs on the ceiling. I can't remember the last time we actually made our bed in the mornings. We just kind of flop into it at the end of the day. I can never find things - like the nail clippers. Where the heck have they gone? Also I keep finding piles of random objects like coins and hair clips and play food in strange places (thanks, Jellybean).



The other night, it all got on top of me and I went to bed feeling defeated and exhausted.

***

I switch on my son's dream sheep (yes, that's a thing). A lullaby plays, along with the soft, muffled sound of a heartbeat. The baby feeds, eager from waiting a bit longer than he normally has to. The house has that quiet air of 'just before sleep' about it.


My daughter potters in holding a book entitled 'The Art of Hand Shadow Puppets.'

'Mum,' she says, 'Can I read you my exercise Bible?'

(Every book that contains information of some kind is, in Jellybean's mind, a Bible.)

(We'll get there.)

She clears her throat and makes a funny clicking noise with her tongue, as if she is about to impart Official Information. I think of what follows as her 'Hermione Granger' voice.

'Now, this book ...' (click) 'is about ... volcanoes. And Jesus.'

She takes me on a surreal and slightly disjointed journey through the properties of volcanoes.

The baby stops feeding, and pushes himself forward. I automatically stand him upright. (It's his favourite position. My arms hold him that way without thinking now. Is he going to become bow-legged? I hope not.) He looks around with such a wide-eyed look of happiness - and wakefulness - that I start laughing, and after a beat, he laughs as well.

I think, this is perfection. My messy room, my unmade bed, the piles of clothes on the floor waiting to be eBayed or donated, the dust settling on the surfaces. This is where perfection is. Our daughter with a smear of toothpaste on her cheek, wearing just her pyjama bottoms, book in hand. Our son in his babygrow, cackling with laughter, and Chris leaning against the wall looking at us, while I look back at him, and we communicate something without having to find words for it.

Sometimes the joy of it all takes us both by surprise.

Perfection in a messy bedroom in a terraced house on an ordinary street.

***

Bad times wait for all of us.

Bills will drop unexpectedly. Jobs might be lost. Our bodies start to break with time and circumstance and genetics. We hurt each other. We face grief in a multitude of ways. The world breaks around us. We continue the age-old struggle to relate to each other. We get tired. Life just ... piles up.

Everything in life tells us to protect ourselves. To hide ourselves in a bubble of possessions and insurance and image. To be distracted from injustice and the dark parts of the world. To stick our heads in the sand. 

And yet, bad things come. We cannot stop them.

The only thing we can do is use our lives wisely. To determine not to allow this overwhelming life noise to determine our choices. To stop and count our blessings. And love abundantly, not just people that look and behave like we do.

And once again, count our blessings. And breathe.



Print from the amazing Amanda Lewis aka Sketchy Muma. Go look at her beautiful work and have a little weep at the loveliness of it all.

***

I'll be talking a bit more practically next time about finding little moments of calm in a busy day ... and encouraging calm moments for children. Join me if you fancy the challenge!

Read more:



Linking up with:


Mummascribbles
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com
diaryofanimperfectmum
Mummy Times Two
Mummuddlingthrough

Twin Mummy and Daddy



Dangerous excursions down the stairs

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It is early evening, and I am pottering around upstairs before the bedtime rush, switching on lamps and removing some of the obstacles on the floor in the hallway. Jellybean is sitting at the top of the stairs humming to herself.

'I'm gonna go down on my bottom.'

'Okay, good.'

'I'm gonna go REALLY FAST.'

I stop with an armful of folded clothes. Jellybean has that look on her face that suggests she knows she's asked for something that she knows isn't allowed but she's pushing it regardless. She's ballsy that way.

'Er, no. Not really fast.'

She sighs. 'Okay.' She pauses. 'I just go a little bit fast-ish.'

As a parent I have certain pressure points. Things that make my heart skip a beat and make my feet feel a bit funny. Those things include, but are not limited, to:

  • Our stairs with the stupidly hard floor at the bottom
  • Small children eating whole grapes
  • A large dog running towards us at speed at the park
  • Monkey bars

It's not that I am totally against those things. I like grapes and stairs and dogs, and, well, I guess I'm not bothered either way about monkey bars. There's just something about those things and my kid that make me feel a little bit queasy. I can't hide it, either. As much as I'd like to be Laid Back Mum, I can't. I see a little kid running around with a grape in their mouth and inside my brain an alarm starts ringing and red lights start flashing. 'DANGER!'


Children need to take risks, otherwise they never learn to manage them. I get that. I read a good article recently about how we can inadvertently teach girls that it's cute to be scared. I vowed when I read it that I would bite back my 'be carefuls' more often. So when she makes an obstacle course and flings herself across it or leans right back on the big girl swing, I don't say 'be careful'. I just think it. I say 'wow, that looks like fun!' and hope for the best. The last thing I want is for my kids to feel too scared to attempt anything beyond their comfort zone, and the little things you reinforce time and time again, seemingly inconsequential, can add up to a message that I never intended to teach them. I never wanted to see myself in the role of 'Muu-uuum.' You know, the person that they roll their eyes at.

However. Some things are just out of bounds. I grew these people in my belly: I went through horrific pain to get them, and I spent (and am still spending!) their babyhoods trying to protect them, stopping them from sticking their fingers in the plug sockets and picking up chokeable objects, and so on.

The least they can do is allow me to be all paranoid about stairs and cut up their grapes for them. If necessary I will pull out the ultimate Mum card: 'Because I said so.'

They can consider it payment. ;)

Pursuing Peace

Thursday, 30 March 2017

I keep thinking about peace.

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.'


Even as a Christian, I find myself not feeling particularly peaceful. Don't get me wrong - there's a peace in me that doesn't fit with my anxious personality. When the bad things happen, there's part of me that knows that everything will be okay in the end. Not just okay, but good.

But the feeling of peace doesn't come easy. I keep wondering why.


I spent a lot of time last year getting angry over things I can't control. Over world events; over politics; over darkness and despair that seem to creep insidiously into our lives, dividing us where we were once united. I hate that. And I'm tired. I'm 28 and I'm tired, and not just because of the babies. I'm tired of getting sucked into this perpetual doom thing. I'm tired of that feeling of endless frustration where you see injustice happening and you just can't do anything about it.

I also notice around me that peaceful people are few and far between. We're all way more connected and open, but we're also immensely busy and stressed out. There must be a way to counter-balance this. It feels ridiculous - almost selfish. We have so much, and yet we spend so much time not appreciating it. (Or at least I do). Everything seems to be kind of fragmented and rushed. I get stressed, a lot. I seem unable at times to contemplate the bigger picture.

I keep wanting to just ... strip things back. I want to pause. I want to have less, and appreciate more. I want to have a peaceful family life. I want to have a peaceful home (not necessarily a tidy one - but one that feels like sanctuary, especially to my children, when they start venturing out into the world and need somewhere calm to come back to). I want to have a calmer state of mind. I want to figure out what it means to be a peacemaker - to bring peace where it lacks.

I want my children to see what it means to stop, to have gratitude, to take in a deep breath, to behold, to seek to bring calm, to be centred in the midst of a storm.

Maybe pursuing peace in whatever way that looks like in real life is the only thing you can do in the midst of turbulence. Maybe it's a small act of rebellion in a world that encourages us to freak out when we read the headlines every day, a world that tells us to consume more things and buy more stuff and hoard, a world that pushes us to distraction, to bounce from one thing to another before we have a moment to think.


So ... over the next few months, I'm going to be blogging about this. Some of the things I'll be looking into include:

  • Having a more peaceful home life (and being a less shouty stressy parent)
  • Finding moments of peace in stupidly busy day
  • Letting go of things we don't need anymore
  • Buying less stuff
  • Dealing with brain bombardment
  • Being an active peacemaker

There might even be a sneaky video or two along the way if I can pluck up the courage ;) I'll also be talking about it a bit more on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, so if you're interested, follow me there!

Until next time ... shalom.

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Learning to read with Usborne Phonics Readers

My daughter is growing up.

She's becoming more and more interested in letters. 'What sound does THIS letter make?' 'What is 'S' for?' She knows the letters that spell her name, and she sees letter shapes in random objects. I love it. I love seeing her grow and change, something in her brain propelling her forward, some irresistible pull for knowledge causing her to seek answers, wanting to know how the world works and how she can understand it. She knows know that writing means something - that it has a function, to tell a story, to explain how things work.


It is a funny feeling, as a parent. Pride I suppose, like nothing else. I'm more proud of her than I am of anything I've ever achieved myself. Seeing her learning the very basic foundation of how language works is wonderful.

We have been sent some Usborne books to review by Sarah Keeler, and the book I want to talk about today is Fox on a Box. The Usborne Phonics Readers books have been created with a language expert, with the latest research of how to effectively teach reading in mind throughout. The idea is that children who are very new at reading can sound out words and gain confidence in their own ability to read.


We're not 'there' yet. We are a long way from being 'there'. Jellybean is an autumn baby, which means she won't be starting school until next year. Until then, I need to make sure that her own natural inclination towards learning isn't neglected - specifically in terms of recognising letters and numbers.

Right now, we use this book in the same way we use other books - to enjoy a good story. What I like about this book is that it doesn't explain everything that happens through words - there is enough of a 'gap' between the text and the pictures to enable a discussion about is happening. This is a good way of seeing how much Jellybean understands about how stories work.


She really enjoys the light-hearted story, and particularly enjoys the way the pages fold out to reveal more of the story. Each page has a little yellow duck hidden on it, too, which means there's plenty for her to enjoy before she gets to the stage of being able to read it herself.


If you are a parent looking to help support your child in their journey in learning to read, I definitely recommend the Phonics Readers books. There is also an explanation of what synthetic phonics are at the start of the book, which is really useful if you are unsure of how they work.

There's a wide range of stories to choose from, too, in case you are worried about having to read the same one fifty times in a row! You can view some of them on Sarah's website here.

Be sure to check out Sarah's VIP Facebook page, too, for special offers and competitions!


Read More:



Unputdownables 2016 - Toddler Edition!

The importance of bedtime stories, and a book review

Introducing Usborne Books + a sticker book review

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On Being Earnest

Thursday, 23 March 2017

When I was a teenager I had to answer the following question in front of everyone:

'What do you want to be when you leave school?'

And, my answer was this:

'Erm ... a writer.'

Someone sitting next to me said 'What, that's it? That's a bit boring, isn't it?'

'Mmmmbllbmbll.' I said. (I know. I'll give you a moment to cringe.)

Anyway, reality soon hit when I left college and realised a collection of incomplete story ideas on a Word document were not, in fact, enough to pay for our upcoming wedding (or, you know, enough for rent and food and Grown Up Things). Over the years I have occasionally considered actually going for it. Then I would do the research, and come to the conclusion that writing was a scary job for people who could handle all kinds of harsh criticism. I was as soft as a slush puppy, and would melt into nothingness if people were mean to me.

So I didn't ever do it.

In fact I stopped writing altogether for a couple of years. No journals, no nothing. Nothing, after a lifetime of always writing, right up to the stack of journals during my awkward pre-teen years (of which I tore out the pages and literally burned in my back garden in a moment of teenage drama). And I went from job to job to job without really settling on anything I liked, until I got into childcare, which I actually enjoyed. Then at some point, in a moment of deep stress, I began to write this blog.

Since then I haven't stopped. I write all the time. About 90% of it is no good, but for my mental health? It's amazing. Writing is like a brain massage to me. If I'm stressed, I write it down. It's like I'm smoothing out all the knots and tense places. I'm addicted to the point that I get a bit anxious and stressy if I can't find time to do it.

Twice now I've participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, more to see if I could do it than anything else. To my immense satisfaction I wrote a first draft of a novel last July, just over 50,000 words.

I even got to write 'the end'. For the first time ever.


And then people asked me about it. Suddenly I had to tell people about the story that I had grown from my own brain.

Honestly, I wasn't prepared for people actually asking me what I wrote. It turns out I frustrate people because I won't give details: I can't bring myself to tell people the genre or my main characters' name or anything. Why won't I give details?

Because part of me finds it cripplingly, painfully embarrassing that I put my all into something creative that might not be very good.

There you go. I said it. I'm a 'keep it light' person. I make breezy jokes at inappropriate times. To admit that I wanted to do something really, really badly and then did it is one thing: to have people actually know about the thing is another.

But you know what? That's crap. That is a rubbish part of myself that I don't like. Here's a life hint: don't be like me. Be earnest. The world is much better for people who whole-heartedly pour themselves into creative things and then share those things with the world.

In the meantime maybe I'll learn to let my guard down a bit more.

After I've finished the second draft. Obviously. I'm only willing to go so far.


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WHY ARE YOU CRYING? A 5pm lament

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but I think the government are in cahoots with the NHS (and parenting books) in order to keep the human race going.

Because they don't tell you what it's actually going to be like. They use words phrases like 'moderate stomach cramps' to describe labour. If you only ever read the information in Bounty packs or whatever, you'd be forgiven for thinking that having children is, at the most, mildly strenuous.

But what they say is not as telling as what they don't say. So, as much as I am also not one for scaring the life out of expectant parents (or people thinking about having a baby), I have to give you this bit of information:

The time period between 4.30pm and 6.30pm are going to be absolute hell for you, every single day, for the foreseeable future.

You're welcome!

Seriously. All my friends with kids say the same, and yet I managed not to hear about it until after we had them: the Witching Hour is a thing.

Something triggers inside small children - a complex biological/psychological reaction of some kind - and then they become completely and utterly miserable and just terrible to be around, from somewhere after 4pm, usually until bedtime.

Why? I cannot tell you. It is a mystery as old as time. Doesn't matter how well-rested they are, or what they have or haven't eaten. It begins in babyhood and lasts for, well, I hear right into primary school.

I find myself joggling Baby Boy around the living room, helplessly patting his bottom, while he cries, again, just at the point where I need to be serving up dinner and my toddler is going to explode from hunger-induced rage.

'Why is he crying?' I find myself asking, even though I know it is fruitless: there is no answer to this question.

'Mmmd?' Chris suggests.

'WHAT?' I can't hear him over the crying. He is standing about a foot away from me.

'WIND?' he yells.

Occasionally it is wind but mostly it's not. It's just what happens. Besides, my daughter is still like it at three - I can hardly blame wind for her grumpiness at this stage.

This is what life is like with small children. That is what they should prepare you for in antenatal classes: The Witching Hour. After the lecture on how to deal with a poo-covered baby and before the slideshow named Birth: It Really Is Disgusting.

Are you glad I don't run parenting classes? Maybe you should be. I'd end every session with a short speech though, the main message of which would be 'despite all the horrific physical pain they put you through and the heart-wrenching worry you feel about them and the bone-aching tiredness they will bring upon you, they will be so flipping cute that you will forgive them and they will remain the best thing that ever happened to you.'

You know. Just to soften the blow a little.


But don't worry too much! They're adorable (most of the time)

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