31 May 2014

changing your mind is a sign of growth - or something

I took some time reading some of my archive recently (no no please don't, come back here one minute!) and, yeah. Eight years is a long time, huh? I recently heard something that totally applies: "If you don't believe something now which ten years ago you would have considered heresy, you're not growing." I rather agree. (Exceptions made for those of you who were perfect to start with, obviously. ;) ) One thing in particular made me feel a little sad. It really brought back to me how stressful I found life with Jenna when she was around three or four years old - how much conflict there was and how much pressure I felt to Get it All Right All the Time. How much I wanted to parent perfectly (and demonstrate it by perfecting this daughter of mine).

How long it took me to really truly accept that children are PEOPLE, not products.

I'm not going to share any "before pictures" but they're all still there, publicly accessible and transparent. The tag "discipline" yields a mess of thorns, and the odd rose. But here is the year I started to feel confident, and make choices that honoured my children as fully human. It makes almost a progression - rules to principles. Even as I wrote this post explaining how to "do" gentle discipline, I was starting to leave behind thoughts about how to get kids to do what I wanted in favour of thoughts about how to simply live together. Later, I actually started to let go as I recognised coercion for what it was doing to our relationships.

And now? Well, I expend more energy in trying to find ways to cooperate and connect. I work more on me and less on other people. I change the circumstances where I can rather than the person, and see my children actually more easily accepting when the world simply will not accomodate their wishes anyway. I hold my own ideas more loosely, and recognise that my children are not me (nor are they mine to shape and control - only to advise, support, help, and protect).

I reckon I still have unpicking and unlearning to do. I still struggle with feeling like I'm not enough (or like it would be so much easier to not take into account the feelings and needs of all these other people I live with). Oh there are days that are just too hard - but lots of days when it flows easily, too. Leaving behind control in favour of love feels good. I've had two more four year olds since then, and few of the same power struggles.

Here's to the next six years of learning and growing, then!

28 May 2014

A list of things I have barely started:

I have a shiny new book which I have not made time to start. I enjoyed the previous two in the series, and still it sits here waiting for me to pick it up.
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And I am blatantly still *not* working on Jenna's Low Tide (though I have finally made more than a passing attempt at starting: look! One Whole Pattern Repeat!)...

I am utterly failing to plan meals or fun activities. If we are still having adventures, it is largely because I don't prevent them rather than because I'm doing well at facilitating. And I am also not really making a start on tidying up (um, ever).
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If there is a prize for PMT related crying, not complaining about listening to Christmas carols on repeat in May, wondering when a difficult-feeling month becomes depression (again) and what to do about it, general complaints about being tired (whilst not doing anything about it at all), and answering bizarre questions, often at length (about Minecraft, politics, Literature, Star Trek, how to spell "incredible", where diamonds come from, and why Pluto isn't a planet)... I should probably win something. Is it acceptable to make our own parenting medals, do you think?

Right, that's it, I'm awarding myself the Survived This Month With Humour badge AND the Children Thriving Anyway badge.

22 May 2014

Spontaneous

Spontaneous adventures are, um, tricky with four small children. It isn't exactly easy to get us all out of the door, let alone carrying everything we need to spend long out of the house. When I think of our freedom of movement, I remember the days of one (or two) children with slight wistfulness!

After booking our train tickets, I set a very early alarm, packed the change bag with spare clothes, sunglasses, hats, snacks, drinks, and phone. A bag of swim gear - and waterproof coats just in case. Then persuaded the children to bed with promises of a surprise in the morning. So it began, at six in the morning, with me as nervous as can be!

These guys *love* surprises, so when we were dropped at the station they had no idea where we were going - or even that we were getting on a train. *so much squeeing*
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For over an hour I had excited children saying, "Train! Horse! Tree!" at everything we went past. Eventually, the train pulled in at Boston, and the children all shouted, "ASHLEIGH!" They had just, moments before, guessed that we were going to the sea and that Ash would be joining us ("are you *sure* you want me to tell you if your guess is right?" haha).

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The day itself was beautiful - warm, peaceful, fun, interesting. Rowan did some stomping when Talia was asleep on the towel she wanted. The sound of the sea and snuggles with my sweet baby, sand in her hair, time to read a book. Tiny blackbirds hopped almost onto Morgan's foot, and squabbled over any chips we dropped. Ash found a crab shell for us to examine. Morgan got a bit invested in walking the route she had planned, when everyone else wanted to go a different way. I got annoyed with them all bickering and threatened no ice-cream if they wouldn't just come to a bloody agreement (fail) but I did get a sweet apology later after I had calmed down and said that of course we would still get ice cream.

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Transferring sand from one spade to another was Talia's favourite game of the day!

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Talia crawled around some sculptures and got completely filthy (I had to wash her in the station toilets). Our train home was cancelled and we ended up buying cheap bread rolls and sausages for our tea.

By the time we finally got on a train, the children were exhausted, and decided to sit under the table. Lucky us, we had the most crotchetty rude conductor ever, who got aggressive when asked to back up his assertion that my children would die if they didn't sit upright in their seats (and threatened to put us off the train if I let them leave their seats for any reason when I again calmly asked him for statistics): I'd like to think the other passengers might have also complained about him, because they then had to put up with Rowan screaming for an hour when I wouldn't let her get down rather than risk him actually putting us off). Pony-distraction to the rescue (ish).

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When we got in I had a good cry on hubby, and then cuddled Roo to sleep (who had totally forgiven me, and chatted all evening about jumping in the sea and the little birds who ate Tali's dinner).

I'd do it all again in a heartbeat though. Well, maybe in a couple of months...




20 May 2014

More Sunshiny Ordinary Days

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Well, the weather has taken us outside for a lot of our time. I had a couple of days of illness, which I was relieved to find were not followed by any sick children! I've read a lot, and helped with Minecraft tech support, and done some baking with the kidlets. They have spent hours hanging off the swing frame and climbing the willow tree to admire a large colony of green caterpillars living up there.

I also managed to not procrastinate about spending money on myself this week (for once) and bought a decent summer dress for my friend's wedding. Yay! (Thank you Ashleigh for nagging me about it when she found I was worrying about what the children would wear and hadn't even thought about what *I* would wear!)

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Jenna and I have both had hormonal shouty (her) and weepy (me) episodes. Toddler person boosted my post-illness milk supply by ever-so-kindly keeping me up all night again (every time I think she is sleeping more, we have another few all-night feeds)! What else? Oh, Tibs also cut a chunk out of her fringe. Lighting fires and toasting marshmallows have joined the list of current obsessions. The chickens are now producing five eggs a day, and spending many a happy hour dust bathing.

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The same few precious, beautiful, new-every-morning blessings crop up on my gratitude list over and over. Family, friends, this beautiful crazy world, our health, so much freedom, time for creativity, food, laughter. The way the sleeping small imprints her blonde curls on my warm arm. The daily shout of "spider!" as they disturb a new specimen in the garden which I just *have* to go and see. Cups of tea. Sharing stories and ideas with the wonderful and inspiring people who live inside my computer (hi!). Colour. Light. Grace, every day, to try again and learn and live just a little more in love.

12 May 2014

Book Sharing: At The Seaside (National Trust)

I know, it's been a long while since I felt the need to do a book-sharing-Monday type post! :) I just totally love this sticker book, and wanted to share.
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It's a National Trust Shop find, considerably more expensive than I would usually consider worthwhile for a sticker book (which are used up crazy quickly when Rowan is in a stickering mood), but the illustration is just gorgeously stylish and at the same time simple and clean enough to actually identify the species mentioned.
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The stickers are just as lovely. It's very rare I see a sticker book I think is actually beautiful - easily nice enough to keep as a general reference/reading book.
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Loveliness! :)

11 May 2014

Seven Days at home (mostly)

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1. Minecraft, Hogwarts, and my goodness this child's hair has definitely turned browner over Winter
2. Morning
3. Creating mayhem
4. Beads
5. Baby dressed herself in hand-made!
6. A day off for me (hen party for a lovely friend)
7. Lunch by Jenna

9 May 2014

Holiday Adventuring

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We arrive to cold salty breezes and heavy mist, and a beautiful warm cottage with a cozy log fire.

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Ashleigh brings quilting with her, and we bring our usual chaos and noise (I can't think of many people who would cope with a week living with us as patiently)!
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We fit in every last museum and historic site we can manage, and explore them all with the same enthusiasm. I love how happily they welcome newness. I'm sure the nature and content of such adventures will change, in time, and I wonder if I will miss it - those future days when they perhaps say, "No thanks, mum, we'd rather stay in!"

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On one particularly grey day, we took a boat out to see the seals. In spite of the mist, it is magical. The two smallest ones fall asleep on the way back in to harbour, the fog like a grey curtain obscuring the sea wall until the last possible moment.
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The pool is the reason we come back to these same cottages over and over - free swimming means we swim every day, sometimes more than once. Rowan went from non-swimmer to confident widths of the pool without arm bands. Morgan went from beginner swimmer to confident lengths and competent diving.

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All of them have chance to ride, something we put off last time as Rowan's age meant the insurance wouldn't cover her. Jenna and Morgan are both astonishingly confident on horseback. We live on a council estate just outside a town centre. We rarely even *see* horses day to day. I am so grateful that their experiences and adventures are barely limited by our townie existance.

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But most of all, we come here for the sea.

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The English seaside is, I think, most lovely of all in shades of grey and palest yellow. When the sea is steely and wild, and the sky is still and heavy. It appeals to the poet in me.

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We go barefoot, and the sea is lukewarm and gentle in spite of how untamed and fierce it appears further out.

When the clouds race away, we have sudden seeping heat, and bluest blue skies. We build a sand castle as the tide turns and watch until the sea carries away every trace of it.

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Right at the end of the week, Rowan starts to say that she misses home and wants to come back and see her chickens. I feel like I could have stayed another week - in fact I'm rather missing swimming every day. But home is good, too. :)