If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

"Play is the highest form of research" Albert Einstein

I am not really into self help stuff but I have been following a Brene Brown (Of TED fame) ecourse with some of the mums from the playground, we meet once a week to work on a scrapbook of "heartwork", yeah I know how it sounds but I have to say we are having a great time, chatting, painting, sharing stories and discussing subjects such as creativity, vulnerability and life.  For one section we looked at play. How many of us as adults can say that we play just for the sake of playing, not many I suspect. The awesome Brene talked about Stuart Brown and his 7 properties of play, which are as follows........

Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake), Voluntary, Inherent attraction, Freedom from time, Diminished consciousness of self, Improvisational potential (“we aren't locked into a rigid way of doing things. We are open to serendipidy, to chance.”), Continuation desire [it makes you want to do more of it]"

For me these translate into Just because, Because I want to, Because I love it, It takes as long as it takes, I don't care what other people think, Go where it takes you and I want to do it again and again. We then had to think about what we would like to do, but it had to fulfill the criteria of the 7 properties of play. Not so easy, as mums we all automatically related our choices to what our children would like to do. One mum even shared her experience of trying to write down a few ideas before our session, she struggled to find ideas until her 6 year old daughter stopped by to ask what she was doing and once she understood she wanted to do her own list. No deliberation, no thought just idea after idea, handstands, hide and seek, drawing mustaches on faces in a magazine,  dancing and so on. We must all have been like this little girl but somewhere along the line responsibility steps in and many of us lose the ability to just be and just enjoy.  I have to say this was a bit of an eye opener for me and I decided there and then to just go with life and follow the path it takes me, enjoying time with my family and friends and not worrying about what people think, after all those that love me, love me for who I am.

My brother and his 2 children have being staying for a few days and ignoring the weather forecast of wet and windy day, we risked a trip to the beach where the sun shone, and ok the wind blew. We scrambled across the rocks, the children chased me with seaweed and stuffed handfuls of it in my hood (I have a little bit of a rather pathetic phobia to seaweed) we hunted out crabs, shells, anemones and fossils. The children climbed into a cave full of huge dinosaurian teeth and then raced along the cliff tops screaming and laughing. 

As we headed back to the cars for our fantastic picnics of wraps, sandwiches, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, chocolate coated flapjacks and that delightful coffee and walnut cake (care of  a Waitrose's recipe card)  we were met by a hill full of daisies just beckoning to be rolled down and so we did, me included! It was fantastic, amazing, exhilarating and very dizzying. I had to lie still for a few minutes cloud gazing to reclaim my centre of gravity. And whilst I lay there I thought to myself there is a lot to be said for his play stuff, so next time we are in the town gardens with the huge tree I am going to climb it an I may just try the mud slide in the secret garden!!!

BTW: Number 2 on the National Trusts, Things to do before you are a 11&3/4 is to roll down a really big hill!!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Star gazing

I love those nights when the sky is clear and as the dark blankets the earth, out come the bright flickerings of the stars. More often than not I only catch them if I have been out and return home late. As I either walk up the hill or climb out of the car I can't help but be drawn to them. We live at the top of a hill just on the edge of a city and so on those clear nights we can easily make out the constellations.  A couple of years ago we visited a local planetarium and learnt how to look for the constellations in the skies above us. We can now pick out Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Orion's Belt, Hercules, and the Seven Sisters. There is something truly magical about a starry night,  all our dreams seem to be held amongst the stars, if only we could just reach up and touch them.

Child 4 received another gift yesterday, from a couple of amazing mums in the playground. They have had a star in the Andromeda system named after him. The idea itself was magical but to show how they just "get " me, one said, as I opened the tin containing all the information " you can share this in your next letter to his birth parents." How amazing, child 4's birth mum will be able to look into the sky whenever she wishes and look for his shining light. Wherever we are in the world we all sit beneath the same sky, the same sun, moon and stars and we wish for so many of the same things. Love, happiness, family, friends and peace.  I have always encouraged my children to reach for the stars, perhaps I should also remind them that no matter where they go they will still be able to look up into the skies and look at the same moon and stars that I watch until they come home.

Thank you

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A bag of wishes

For the religious celebrations in our household such as Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation we ask our guests to donate to a specific charity rather than buy gifts if they wish too.  For us it's about the celebration not the gifts, our children have everything they really need. Anyway  you only need one bible, one rosary and one prayer book. The children choose their charities so child 1 chose a children's hospice and child 2 chose the shark trust when they made their First Holy Communion. For child 4's baptism we chose an adoption charity. Of course some people still wish to buy a gift so we had a beautiful rose tree to go with the two cherry and the apple tree the older children received at their baptism. There is something so appropriate about planting trees for baptisms, roots to feed and nurture so that the flowers and fruit blossom abundantly. He also received some beautiful books and toys. But for me the most inspired was a little jewellery bag and inside was

An eraser             - to rub away all your worries
A candle.              - to brighten your day
A piece of string.  - to tie things together when everything is falling apart
A penny.               - so that you will never be broke
A tickling feather - to help you smile
Angel wings.       - to know that you will always be loved and looked after.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A baptism

Yesterday, we baptised child 4. It was a huge occasion, a chance for family, friends, work colleagues and our community, some of whom had travelled a long way to join us, to formally accept him into our fold.  The priest did a grand job, knowing child 4 quite well he just "kept calm and carried on." Child 4 ran up and down the aisles saying his hellos, sat on the pews with his friends but when it was the oil and water anointing parts he happily took part. His 6 godparents watching over him, my sisters two boys, my husband friend, child 1 and the two lovely ladies who were our referees for the adoption process. (6 I hear you shriek, well we need all the help we can get)
Some of the cutest moments were, his rendition of Happy Birthday when he saw his baptism candle lit, then watching him trying to blow it out. The church was full of all ages from the 2year old upto quite possibly the 90 year old with every conceivable age in between, so it was a chaotic and noisy affair, but I truly believe that you could feel the love and joy seep into every corner of the building.

This wonderful chaos ensued afterwards when we headed off to the afternoon tea party. We had hired an old rundown tithe barn for the event because it offered the space needed for the humungeous number of guests invited, should it rain but also because the barn was situated next to a park, perfect for all the children who joined in the celebration.  My mum, child 1 the Godmothers and I had decorated the crumbling walls with miles of brightly coloured bunting, tables and chairs were set out with old tin cans wrapped in ribbon and filled with the bright yellow trumpets of spring daffodils, the buffet tables were swathed in green table clothes edged in more bunting. Beautiful

Sandwiches were quickly devoured and the cakes were sliced and set out. The cakes were the piece de resistance, my mum, the Godmothers and I  had baked a cake frenzy, coffee and walnut, chocolate, white chocolate, blueberry, batten burg, lemon drizzle, ginger, carrot, triple rose and raspberry Victoria, cup cakes and meringues to name a few. This airy (a polite way of saying cold and draughty) old barn was full of noise, laughter, banter and joy. For child 4 it was another new experience but another way of showing him how wonderful life can be. To give just a little bit of time,  to stop and make friends with people of all ages and all walks of life, to help out with an event or just the routine running a of a community, to smile and say hi to a newcomer is enough to end up with a life full of people who want to be in your life, to enjoy the ups and downs with you and to offer you a smile or word of support just when you need it.

All our children have grown in a environment surrounded by strong family values, watched friendships grow, falter and some that have lasted the test of time and will probably see us into old age and a community that steps in to help when it is needed. They will have learned to help someone in need, to celebrate a happy event with unabandoned joy and to know there is a safe place to go when things go wrong. Perfect.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Number 1 - Climb a tree

Have you ever climbed a tree, especially a tree in the English sunshine? Pulling yourself up onto its lowest branches like a child climbing into his mothers arms. Then finding your balance, no matter how tenuously, so that you can reach the next one. Finding a strong handhold, feeling the roughened bark against your hands as you use your feet to push yourself up to the next one and so on and so on until you have clamboured up to the highest point you can and through the dappled sunshine you can survey your Kingdom far below. What an achievement. Working your way to the top of a climbing frame feels good but, to climb a tree is a completely different experience. Trees grow in their own erratic way, not providing easy smooth handholds or evenly spaced footholds. You, the climber have to work out the best and safest route  to your lookout point. What a fantastic way to learn about spacial awareness and coordination, children learn how to develop their attention spans (a lot of concentration and problem solving is required in the art of tree exploring) and being outside hopefully with friends and family who can encourage and share ideas builds strong relationships, self esteem and confidence. 

So climbing a tree was the first adventure for the year, the sun was shining, a packed lunch was stowed under the buggy and our clever zip up picnic blanket was hung over the handles.  Then child 2, 3, 4 and myself headed off to meet up with new friends at the local cathedral gardens. Child 1 is gallivanting around in NYC this week on a drama trip, the lucky, lucky girl.

Since child 4 has arrived we have been wholeheartedly accepted into a new social circle of families who have children his age. Of course they also have other children so meeting up is a community event, I think today involved 5 mums and 15 children, 12 of whom were boys. As you can imagine it was a very noisy affair. 

Our initial plan was to take part in some craft activities but they were full, so we headed into the gardens to complete the Easter trail and to play. These gardens are fantastic for all ages of children, there are banks to climb, fast flowing streams to play pooh sticks in, allotments to gaze over, wild flowers to go bug hunting in, trees are planted to make tunnels to stroll through, willow has been twisted to make a dragon sleeping under the green blossoming overhang of boughs. In the middle of the picnic area is a huge tree with boughs that sweep down to the ground, perfect for children to clamber upon and then if they are brave enough they can scramble up to the highest branches and gaze out over their newly found kingdom.....

Climb a tree is the number 1 activity in the National Trusts 50 things to do before you are 11 3/4s. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Roots and Wings

Child 1 and I left the house 90 minutes ago heading off on the 30 minute trip to her school where she boarded a coach which was the first leg of her trip to New York. The dark and silent morning disturbed by her quiet, excited chatter about everything she was going to see and do. I was struck by her youth, her inexperience, her innocence and the excitement of something new that I remember from my younger days. As we grow, we experience new things which become old things, some which create happy memories and others tainted by experiences that are not so good. All of these experiences are important as they are what mould us to be the people we are today, I guess that we shouldn't allow the bad to outweigh the good because that would  make us scared and jaded about life.
I hate goodbyes, always have done and as my emotions lie close to the surface I often shed a tear or lots. I am lucky that for the most part child 1 and I have a fantastic relationship and so I got a huge hug and kiss goodbye with an "I love you mum" as she boarded the coach with her friends, I shed a few tears as I waved her off and a fair few more in the car on the journey home.

I am excited and nervous for her, this is her first flight without us, her first really big trip without her family but, what an amazing place to visit. Of course I can't help but worry about her too, after all the media tends to share the scary, dangerous parts of any given place and New York is definitely not the safest of places to visit. But to not travel because of fear of the unknown is not what I want for myself, talk about any of my children, it's so important for them to go, to visit, to experience everything life has to offer them.

As I drove home the sky began to brighten and the trees stood silhouetted against the backdrop of what looked like a beautiful day arriving, we live in a valley and as I came across the hilltops bringing me home I could see the mists swirling below me like a lake. Spring is definitely on its way. Once home I headed into the garden to let the chickens out and no longer was there silence but a cacophony of birds chattering and calling. This made me think about the importance of us giving our children wings, encouraging them to go out into what is for the most part a wonderful world, to take the occasional risk and to enjoy living. After all home will always be here waiting for them, a place to share their experiences, to rest and recover and to prepare for the next adventure.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

We are family

When I returned to work, we worked it so that child 4 would only have to attend a pre school rather than a day nursery. We wanted him to attend the pre school on child 3's primary school grounds, this would mean that he would have continuity throughout his early years education. He would make friends that would stay with him from now until at least the end of his primary school education. Sending child 4 to a pre school means that he would be there between 9am and 3pm rather than 8am until 6pm but obviously someone would need to drop him off and collect him. My husband no longer works on a Monday and on Fridays he works from home so that he can drop off the two youngest children and my parents do the pick up.  For me this is fantastic, when the older three needed child care I would be dropping them off and picking them up at two different childcare providers, so it felt that I was perpetually running to and fro. The stress in dropping the children off and rushing onto work and then knowing that I needed to leave work by a specific time to enable me to collect them all before 6pm was crippling. I work in the banking sector and sometimes it is really hard to leave at 5.30pm.

 The only downside to using a pre school is that they aren't open throughout the holidays so the old child care juggling act raises its head. We are really lucky that my parents can help out and actually they love spending time with the children. They have always helped out when they could and this has built a wonderful relationship with each child, children can't have enough family love and support and grandparents can offer something different and special that parents can't. Life always seems quieter, calmer and slower when at my parents.

This week child 4 spent a morning with his Randad, they ate biscuits and chocolate mini rolls and played with one of those vintage Russian dolls, you know the ones where half a dozen dolls in differing sizes fit inside one another. I don't know who had the best time but both told me excitedly about their time together when I came home from work.

The benefit in having older children is that they can help out and yesterday child 1 collected child 4 from Randads and then met up with a friend and the two of them took him out in his buggy for the afternoon. I assumed that they would be out for a couple of hours but because they were having such an amazing time they stayed out all afternoon visiting the village green and then the farm to see the cows.

Our child 4 is surrounded by people that want to spend time with him, it maybe that he is lucky to have us but how lucky are we to have him?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A celebration for a family of six

Today was our moment in court, we along with all the children, my parents and my aunt headed off to   Magistrates court to meet with the presiding judge and collect the official paperwork. We met our social worker at the council offices then strolled over to the court. For such a serious event it felt really weird as child 4 wanted to look at the huge carp and goldfish that swam around in the mini moat that encircles the offices and child 3 turned cartwheels on the green. The court is housed in a huge imposing building with stone steps and pillars marking the entrance. To enter you have to pass through security very similar to that at the airport. Bags are checked, pockets emptied and everyone has to walk through the metal screening system. Once inside we were escorted quickly and quietly through the waiting area and up some stairs, thankfully avoiding the Vicky Pollard look a likes.

According to the judge, a man who sits in family court and deals with some of the child neglect horror stories on a day to day basis, these celebration hearings change the whole feel of the court for the day. This is one of the people who deals with the legalities of removing children from the birth parents and agreeing the adoption orders to allow the children to be placed for adoption. So for him and all those that work in the court a celebration hearing is a happy ending. It's a reason to smile when they leave work for the day. The judge was great he knew us all by name and spoke directly to each and everyone of us, congratulating us on our new family.

Then that was it. Done! No red carpets, fanfare, brass band or cheering crowds just us and a judge. It was almost anti - climatic. All those months of training, talking, form filling, social worker visits, health and safety checks, panel sittings and matching sessions and then a 10 minute session in a court room and child 4 was officially ours. I guess that because he was ours before we met him, this official  meeting was just a tick box affair. But it does mean we can shout our news from the rooftops. "WE ARE A FAMILY OF SIX!!!" A very happy family of six

Monday, 7 April 2014

A party the Italian way

On Sunday night we were invited to a 40th birthday party, the theme being something beginning with A or as you want. The party started early 5.30pm so that families could join in with the celebrations. This was child 4's first foray into the local family party tradition, my mum had offered to babysit but I thought that he was ready and boy was he. DJ dad was DJing and he had headed off with child 2 or Aragorn as he was that night to set up at 4pm. Child 1 painted a white stripe across her nose added some ribbons and beads to her hair for an Adam Ant look, child 3 carefully dressed herself into a beautiful blue dress, winter boots and a white woollen wrap, once her hair had been plaited into two pigtails and a white stripe added we had ourselves a beautiful princess Anna from Frozen. Child 4 was snuggled into his alligator onesie and I back combed the top of my hair, added what can only be described as an oven scourer under it, leaving the rest loose, a red and black flower, thick black eyeliner, half a dozen fake tattooes a short black skirt, a black vest, lacy tights and heels and I had transformed myself into an older version of Amy Winehouse. What an entrance we made to an amazing  array of characters. There were airline pilots, stewardesses, secret agents, a very scary looking Andre Aggassi, Annie Oakleigh, Audrey Hepburn, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie's Angels and a variety of angels, Ant and Dec, loads of aliens and army staff, even anarchists and Australia. The birthday girl was a stunning Aphrodite and her husband was an archbishop - fantastic!

The place was full of all ages, toddlers ran about, the 10 - 14s were outside playing man hunt the older teens chatting and later in the evening dancing, their parents caught up with old friends, laughed drank and danced, the grandparents chatted and watched, enjoying the noise and activity surrounding them. As a family we cover many of the eras under the 50 age group. As parents we caught up with old friends,  child 1 was off with her friends, all looking really grown up, child 2 was outside running around with all his mates, child 3 was dancing with her friends and child 4 was having the time of his life. We needed to keep an eagle eye on him mind as he wanted to be outside playing man hunt and would take any lapse of  concentration on his mothers part as an opportunity to make a run for it. Fortunately, he and his antics are well known and in the way of community life if I couldn't get there fast enough someone would scoop him up are waylay him until I got there.

It was the speeches that made me feel quite honoured to have been invited, this was 3 generations of family, family that oozed love and happiness. They shared how blessed they were with everyone there and that is something I carry with me now. Our whole community is full of families such as this, families that work together creating an environment perfect for children to grow in, perfect for mothers and fathers to thrive in and when it is your turn to maybe start taking a back seat it's a perfect place to spend the autumn of your years, watching what you have been part of creating, offering words of wisdom when required (experience is the best teacher of all) or just a lap and arms to hold a sleeping child as a party hits it's peak. I have never been one to worry about my age, it's something I have no control over and I do try to live and enjoy what I have today. I truly hope that I will see my children reach 40, there is no reason to think I won't, and that I will have a chance to celebrate with them and their children. I am lucky enough to know that as I grow older and hopefully wiser I do so surrounded by love, children and god willing lots and lots of grandchildren.

Thanks to the beautiful Aphrodite for he invite x

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mothers Day

I love Mother's Day, I love the homemade cards and presents and the breakfast after a lie in.  This year I am even more blessed as number 4 has arrived and is now legally ours. He made me a hand printed card with To my mummy written inside.  Mother's Day is not about gifts, I am more than happy with my handmade basket filled with little chocolates or hand written cheques promising me some hoovering, cleaning the bathroom and an hours worth of ironing, a box of matchmakers and a good book and I am a very happy mummy. For me it's the time with my children and my parents after all I have a mum too and of course my husband. This year we all went to my mums, she cooked roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower cheese and carrots and I brought steamed ginger pudding and chocolate raspberry brownies for dessert. We drank fizz and ate too much. We watched the 3 younger children play in the garden, child 3 was performing circus tricks and the two boys played wrestling and rolling down the slope. After lunch out came the game Rummicub, child 2 favourite board game.

Did you know Mothering Sunday was originally a time when people returned to the church, in which they were baptized or where they attended services when they were children. This meant that families were reunited as adults returned to the towns and villages where they grew up. In time, it became customary for young people who were working as servants in large houses, to be given a holiday on Mothering Sunday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took a gift of food or hand-me-down clothing from their employers to her. In turn, this moved towards the modern holiday, on which people still visit and take gifts to their mothers.

Nowadays, Mothers Day should encompass all adult women, grand mothers, aunts, sisters, god mothers, teachers and role models. We all have the opportunity to make a positive impact on our children's lives. All children boys and girls need strong women in their lives, these women don't need to be celebrities, what about the people you meet in everyday life that inspire you to do something. This inspiration could be to read a novel, to write a poem, to be articulate enough to debate an issue, to help in a soup kitchen or to take part in a new sport.  My children have all been inspired or supported by some amazing women in their lives. Child 1 is exceeding all expectations in English following a year with an amazing English teacher. Not only have her grades improved but she is desperate to learn and understand all she can, she has won a poetry competition and is about to be published for her poem The Great and Powerful Sea later this year. Child 2 loves science and his teacher encourages him to fulfil his dreams. Child 3 chose to learn gymnastics after watching the female gymnasts in 2012 Olympics and child 4 is yet to find his. The two older children helped prepare Christmas dinner at a local church for the homeless on Christmas Eve, they and their friends peeled all the veg under the watchful eye of a wonderful woman who provides a food bank for those in need. Then what about Nanna who offers her quiet words of wisdom when they need someone to talk too, the Aunt who tells them why they should help mum more or just those who live in the local community leading by example in the way they help other people or give up their free time to become school governors, PTFA member and PPC members. All these women should be celebrated on Mother's Day because they all help our children achieve their potential.