Choosing your reaction

Yesterday, something very upsetting and frightening happened to me. It really left an impact on me and I spent a lot of yesterday feeling anxious and afraid, as did two of my boys. It stopped me from sleeping as it continued to play on my mind. I thought of many scenarios and many outcomes to it, most of them not very nice. But somewhere in the early hours of this morning I decided that I had a choice. I could continue letting the negative thoughts affect me and make me more ill. Or I could choose to let them go and focus on the positive things. Today, I’m choosing to look at the positives. We are a step closer to a long-term dream. We are part of a strong and faithful family unit. We have good, honest and caring friends. We’ve found a loving, caring and supportive Church family. We have so much to be thankful for and to be humbled by and I am choosing to focus on that today. I hope each and every one of you has a positive and blessed Monday xx20171008_130339

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Building each other up

Are there days where anyone else just feels like they are failing? At parenthood? At life in general? You feel like you are working so hard and trying your best and yet it still isn’t good enough? You work hard to build yourself up, to build up those around you and to get everything done, just for someone to make a mean comment that brings it all crashing down? Sometimes, there are days when doing the most basic of tasks is all that you can cope with. To you, it has been a successful day if you have managed to simply get up, get dressed, get everyone else organised and out on their adventures. If everyone is where they are meant to be and they are all happy, then you’ve done well. But to everyone else, you look like a failure still. They are happy to point out all your failings, point by point, just to make sure you know how much you are failing. Why do people do this to one another? Why do we expend energy on bringing others down? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we focused our energy on building each other up? Sharing an encouraging word, offering a helping hand, or, in some cases, simply keeping our negative thoughts to ourselves. Having recently taken the step of going back to Church, I am trying hard to focus on the qualities that we should be striving for. We were made in Christ’s image, to show our love for Him through our actions to others. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all walked this path. Helping those in need. Supporting one another. Putting others first. Being thankful for what we have and serving others in love. It is not an easy path and we are human after all. None of us are perfect. But wouldn’t it be nice if we tried harder to be kinder to one another? I am trying hard not to let the comments of others affect my outlook, but it is hard. Since suffering with anxiety, I am far more sensitive than the younger me. I lack the confidence I had in my teens. My confidence is knocked easily. I find people so hard to deal with sometimes. Thankfully my husband is the opposite of me, full of confidence and tough as nails – he doesn’t let anyone else’s opinion of him bother him. I admire that about him so much. Even when others spend their time making fun or generally not being very nice to him, he simply smiles and carries on. I wish I could be like that once more. I hope my boys will grow up with that confidence and that inner strength to not let others make them feel bad about themselves. We hope our boys will grow up with the qualities we want to see in all – kindness and compassion and a humble heart. In fact, we were talking on the way to school today about these things and I was warmed to hear their declarations of willingness – to help those in need, to share their lunch, to play with someone who may be feeling sad or lonely. I want to nurture those qualities – these are the stepping stones to a kinder world, grounded in a desire to follow God and build each other up.

What are your experiences of this? Do you see a lot of kindness in those around you? Do you have the confidence to ignore the negative things? I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

The simple things

This weekend has been lovely for no big reason but simply for enjoying the simple things. Yesterday we had a lazy start to the morning before heading to town for a walk to buy some freshly made Welsh cakes followed by a trip to visit family to share our cakes. We then spent a lovely few hours at a friends house where the boys had a wonderful time playing with their friends and I got a chance to have a lovely chat with my oldest friend! Hubby had help from a lovely friend to move things and we ended the day with a trip to look at Christmas decorations (more of that another time). Today we completed school tasks, made a start of Christmas lists and spent the rest of the morning on scooters at the park. We even managed to play some ball, where my husband got to see my awesome basketball skills (his exact words, “you played netball didn’t you?”). We were then fortunate enough to have Sunday lunch cooked for us by wonderful family – we thoroughly enjoyed the food and the company! We ended the day with a trip to the seaside. We had intended to go for a long walk, but instead, the boys began collecting sticks floating in the sea and turned them into a floor tree (see pics). As always in these spontaneous trips, someone ended up falling in the sea and soaking themselves, leading to a car ride dressed in just a coat!!  I usually don’t put so many details into a post, but I wanted to show what I mean by simple things. We didn’t spend a lot of money. We didn’t go anywhere extravagant or out of the ordinary. Yet we’ve had a brilliant, fun and happy weekend. We’ve enjoyed food and family and friends and local outdoor places. The boys have made decisions about what they want to do and have played happily together. Sometimes we need nothing more than each other and fresh air.

How was your weekend? Did you do anything special or have you had a quieter time like us? I’d love to hear all about your time!

Collecting

Does anyone else have children (or partner) who likes to collect things? I have 4 (3 children and 1 hubby). Darling hubby likes to collect mugs. And pens. And key rings. Whilst the latter 2 are small (and the pens always useful), his obsession with mugs is a little more problematic – especially when 5 people live in a small space. He likes quirky mugs, one example being we have a wonderful “mad hatter” mug – not very practical as it isn’t stackable and cost a pretty penny. My eldest son collects cuddly toys, from dinky, key ring size ones all the way to giant, adult size ones! His obsession with them is already well ingrained and shows no sign of abating. And there’s no “passing on” ones bought, for example, 2 years ago – he remembers each and every one of them and has formed significantly attachments to each of them! The middle child is more loosely a collector – he doesn’t collect specific objects, he merely collects what I call trinkets. Anything could take his fancy – a little notepad, a tiny box, little gems, a keyring size figure. It has to be said, however, that his at least take very little room and he doesn’t form long standing bonds with his, so as his collection evolvedms, it is possible to remove earlier pieces! My final collector is my almost 4yo. His item of choice is….. stones. Yep, random stones, picked up from anywhere and everywhere. You only have to walk from the house to the car for him to find several stones to treasure. It doesn’t matter their size or colour (or cleanliness). As far as he is concerned, all stones are there to be collected. I am, however, supremely grateful that his collection is super small – because 5 minutes after finding and collecting the all imported stone, he puts it down and forgets about it. Silver lining to everything right?! 20170831_113507

The night before nerves

I get these. Badly. Watching my child struggle with anxiety over going to back to school is heartbreaking. I wish I could take his place. His fears well up and consume him and it literally breaks my heart. I tell him it’ll all be OK. I tell him he has to go. Then I sit and wonder whether that’s even true. Does he really have to go? Is he really better off in someone else’s care than mine? Do I not teach him enough during our time together? Then I look at his brothers who are the opposite. Who have been looking forward to the new term and went to bed excited for tomorrow. They thrive in the school environment, playing with friends learning in different ways. My heart aches in a different way – they don’t need me quite so much. They’re all so different. Even though they are siblings, they’ve all had different life experiences already. They view the world differently. One of my boys thrives on social interaction, loves connecting with people, new and familiar. One is just as happy in his own company as he is with others and will adapt to either environment quite easily. And one is so scared, so lost in social situations with new people, and often with familiar people too. There are reasons for this, but it really doesn’t matter when they are clinging to you and wanting you to keep them safe. I’ve considered home schooling and right now, on the cusp of a new term, the idea of keeping them with me is so appealing. But would it actually be help? Or would I be encouraging the fear? I’m not sure either way, but for all those parents out there with children who are afraid, I’m with you. I empathise completely. For all those little ones starting a new term, or a new school, or school in general, I’m praying for you. Thinking of all of you.

Woohoo summer holidays!

I absolutely love school holidays and the long summer ones are almost my favourite (can’t beat Christmas!). I love the nature of something different everyday and not being tied to a schedule. No pack lunches organise or uniforms to prep. No homework to fuss over or clubs to ferry the children too. Simply taking each day as it comes and enjoying down time.

It’s not always been this free and easy. Most summer holidays since the boys started school, I have made plans. I’ve had a theme to get them to learn about (last year it was the seaside) and I’ve tried to have some structure to our days. I’ve made the boys read, write and complete some form of maths before letting them play or go out. Not this year. With my eldest about to start juniors and knowing his free time will be limited, I decided not to plan. To encourage reading and writing, but not to make it compulsory. My boys do well at school and enjoy learning so I decided to let them take the lead and to embrace what I’ve always believed – children learn through play and exploration.

Another I change I made this summer was around our summer scrap book. I buy one every summer with the intention of filling it with memories of our summer. I always intend to fill it with information about where we’ve been and what we’ve done, supported by drawings the boys have done during the holidays and adding photographs in to. The problem is, we’re so busy that I usually print photos at the end of the holidays and nothing every makes it into the scrap book. So again, I took a different approach. I bought the scrap book, explained the purpose of it to the boys and have left it out for them to add things to it as and when they want to. I’ve been surprised! It’s almost full without me having added anything. Of course I will add some photographs, but I love it. It is entirely their memories of summer and they have drawn pictures and written things about their summer, the things that have meant something to them. It makes it even more special and will be lovely to look back on.

I relaxed one other rule too – although admittedly not everyday. When it comes to technology, I can be quite tough – 20 minutes of the Ipad is the usual limit. However, I do acknowledge that they can be tools for learning too. So, instead of being so strict, I relaxed the rules a little. I allowed them free access to various screens during the day when we were at home (we go out a lot). What did I find? My eldest used the screens a lot – for a couple of days. But, with unlimited access, his desire to play it dwindled fairly quickly. Playing the same thing for a long time over a couple of days leads to it becoming boring. It wasn’t exciting anymore. My middle boy isn’t AA big fan of screens anyway, but he did play a little more frequently at the start of the summer – again it dwindled fairly quickly. However, he has used it as a tool in the last 2 days to learn to tell time – something he is picking up quickly! The youngest one loves a screen, just like his eldest brother, but following the others, his interest dwindled in 48 hours. I learnt something here that I should have already known. Having something freely available takes away the excitement. In our case, it has taken away the need for me to monitor screens all the time (except on long journeys when the 3 have to take turns!). I’m not sure this rule will stay relaxed during the school week, but it will definitely be around on the weekend and other school holidays.cropped-20161002_145652.jpg

We’ve spent a lot of time outdoors over the summer, even with the torrential rain we’ve endured! We’ve explored museums, parks, castles and beaches. We’ve visited jungle gyms and had a couple of mini breaks. We’ve met with friends and spent lots of time with family. We’ve been creative and had lots of fun in the garden. Some of our best days have involved nothing more than splashing in the paddling pool. I’ll be writing some individual blog posts in the near future about the places we have visited too. And even with no advanced planning, they’ve all still read plenty of books, written things and kept up with maths like times tables. I’ve learnt a lot this summer and more importantly, I’ve had a blast! I’m so sad to know my boys will be back to school in 48 hours, but before I can dwell on it, I have a little boy turning 8 in less than 24 hours! But more on that another time!

How has your summer been? Have you learnt anything new? I’d love to hear all about your summer!

 

Anxiety

Such a small word, but it holds so much. How do you explain anxiety to someone who has never experienced it? Anxiety is completely debilitating. As a confident teen and young adult, I had no idea what anxiety really meant. Having read psychology at university, I understood the mechanics of anxiety. But it is nothing compared to to real life experience of it. And to see a child suffer with anxiety is, if possible, even worse. Full blown anxiety didn’t hit me until around 15 months ago, but I now struggle with it a lot. I do my best not to show it, but some days, it overwhelms me. I worry about everything. Constantly. I’m never relaxed. I’m never at ease. There’s always something occupying my mind. And it’s so exhausting. I can talk about it sometimes to one or two people, but talking about it never relieves the anxiety. I know it must be so hard for others to understand it completely, especially those who have never experienced it. As a person I have changed so much in recent years. I’m not the same confident person I was. I’ve lost parts of me that would be so useful these days. Some people enjoy reminding me of the things I’ve lost, in a joking, supposedly light hearted way. It’s not funny to me though. I’m already anxious about those things. I’m anxious about being anxious. I judge myself more harshly than anyone else could. I second guess every decision. I don’t really need others pointing out all my flaws or making fun of them. Some days, I don’t want to leave the house, but I force myself to. Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed. But I do. The reason I push myself each day is for my family. I’m needed – even on those days where I don’t feel useful. My boys do need me. And I may not be the best mother in the world, or the most patient, or the most energetic, but I do my best. I want to be with my boys. I want to be the best parent I can. And I try. Every day. I make wrong decisions. I’m hard on myself. I don’t always have the answers. I don’t always react the most positive way. I don’t always get things right. I’m not the parent I always aimed to be. But I’m doing the best I can. My boys are not always perfectly behaved – they’re just kids and they are dealing with an imperfect mother and an imperfect life. But we do our best. One of my boys suffers from anxiety too, something that has affected him for a couple of years. And when he’s anxious, he’s not his best self either. My husband and I understand and accept that. Some family and friends accept it. Other people don’t. They make snap judgements about his immediate behaviour without putting it into context. It’s caused all sorts of problems for him and us. But he’ll survive because we love him and we are there for him. Having struggled with it myself, I am the first to explain his behaviour. Because I know he’s not a “bad” or “naughty” child. He’s simply struggling to deal with these big, anxious feelings. I know that feeling. It’s isolating. It’s tiring. It’s heartbreaking. Why am I sharing this? I don’t really know. But hopefully, it’ll help someone else know they’re not alone. Perhaps it’ll help others to broaden their minds when dealing with others. Maybe it won’t do either of these things, but at least I tried.

Storing memories

OK so I know the title sounds a little strange, but I like to store my memories. I don’t mean storing in my long term memory (although obviously I do that too!) I’m talking more about the physical materials that help with my memories. Ever since my eldest was small, we have bought postcards of all the places we visit – beaches, museums, theme parks, towns etc. At the start, I filled each postcard up with information – the day we went, who was there, what the weather was like, how much the post card cost, what we did, the child’s favourite part of the trip. I wrote a postcard for each child,for each place. This was easy to complete with 1 child. It was manageable with 2 (just). But now, with 3, I find myself buying 3 postcards for every place – and that’s it. I have a bag of postcards. Now here’s my problem – I can’t remembered which child chose which card and I can’t always remember the weather. Or the cost. Some of these cards are 2 years old. I don’t always remember what the boys told me was their favourite bit – and there’s no way they’ll remember now! Similarly, I have a pile of scrapbooks, half started, photos printed but still in the packs, all with good intentions but never the time to see them through. And it makes me sad. I love these kinds of memories. I’d love to have them from my childhood. I love to look back on one’s I have completed and enjoy the moments again. So I am determined that once the boys are back in school, I’m going to start setting aside time each day to work on these projects. They might not mean much to the boys now, but I’m hoping that one day they’ll find them a lovely way of remember their childhood.

Do you keep any sentimental memory books or scrap books? How do you find time to fit it all in? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Almost there…

The end is in sight! We are almost there. Of course I’m talking about the long awaited summer holidays! Yippee! This really is one of my absolute favourite times of the year (shared with Christmas and Easter holidays).  Already the pace in our house has changed. Already my focus has started to change. I’ve stopped worrying about homework and spelling and early bed time. Everyone is so tired by this point in the school year and we are all ready for the change in pace. No packed lunches. No school run. No uniforms. Instead just taking each day as it comes. Lots of time for arts and crafts and reading whatever books take our fancy. Singing, dressing up and painting. Exploring. Climbing. Creating. Imagining. Board games that we can take our time with. Lazy mornings in pj’s. Building dens and playing shop. It’s absolutely brilliant!! With hubby working most of the holidays, it’s just me and my boys. Usually I plan lot of activities for the holidays – play dates, themes, reading schemes, scrap book challenges etc. The children usually have to read, do some maths problems and spelling before we do anything else. But this year, I’ve decided to take a different approach to the holidays. We are going to relax. We are going to take each day as it comes. The boys read every night at bed time anyway and they do so many other things during their play that I’m not worried. A new approach feels positive. Learning and practising through play. I know the research says this is the best form of learning for young children and I agree. So I’m going to trust this approach! This has freed my mind for other things. This week I’m simply concentrating on getting exciting things ready – end of term fun bags and art and craft materials. None of this is to say I don’t have ideas. For example, I’m making frozen ice blocks with hidden treasures for the boys to investigate – but for them, it’s simply fun (even if it is science). But these sorts of things will be occasional and only if the boys want to do it. This summer, I’m going with the flow and I’m really looking forward to it!

How do you organise your summer? Do you plan daily activities or are you more spontaneous? I’d love to hear everyone’s ideas!

Weight loss journey – 6 months in

It was 6 months ago that I started my weight watchers journey and for the most part, it has been an incredible journey. My very first meeting was strange – I hadn’t intended to follow the plan, I was simply going along to help my friend with her new meeting. But then, I found myself following the plan any way. Having tried so many diets before, and seeing other people struggle with weight loss plans, I didn’t hold much hope. I have never been good at dieting and I love food, so I didn’t see myself sticking to the plan long term. Then before I knew it, the first week had flown by and I had managed to stick to the plan easily. I hadn’t been hungry and I was thrilled to lose 6.5lb that first week. What a confidence boost. Fortunately, I have continued to find the plan easy to stick to over the last 6 months, although I have had a couple of blips along the way – funnily enough, the 2 blips have coincided with the school holidays when my routine is thrown completely out of the window! The first time I experience a blip (and put on 0.5lb), I was so mean to myself. I called myself names, told myself I was fat and useless and that I lacked self control. I couldn’t see past it. I couldn’t acknowledge all the good weeks that had come before it. My self loathing was all consuming. The following week, I doubled my efforts and was back on track. So where am I going with this reflection? I am learning. 6 months in and I have learned some very important things. My weight loss is a journey. Whilst walking laps of the park (school pick up time!), this analogy came to me. Last year, during our family holiday to Cornwall, my husband and I took our three boys on a 5 mile walk (granted at the time we didn’t know how far it was!). During the course of the walk, we meandered from the path, our attention caught by something pretty or unusual or exciting (like a cow, or a flower or, in some cases, a particularly green bit of grass). These diversions meant that the journey took a little longer and didn’t always lead us the way we expected to go. But, we got to our destination in the end and on reflection, it was the diversions that we enjoyed the most and that filled us with joy and gave us special memories. We didn’t regret any of those diversions. I have found the same can be said for my weight loss journey. I know that I WILL get to goal. It won’t be the straight path that I first thought it would be, and it may take a little longer than I first thought, but I will get there. And the blips for me always come at a time when fun parts of life take over, when I am out of routine and am enjoying time with my family. When we have days out at the seaside and have ice cream or when we go to a family BBQ where I have no control over the menu or when we go out to celebrate a birthday. These are the little pockets of life that make it so special, so unique. And I have accepted that if it means my weight loss slows now and again during these times, then so be it. A lot of this is accompanied by a sudden increase in my activity levels – keeping three boys entertained leaves very little time for sitting still! I’ve let go of perfection and berating myself and stressing out the journey. I have decided to enjoy it and accept it for what it is – aiming to get better, healthier, stronger each day. And whilst I am on the journey, I will enjoy these little diversions, because it won’t be long until I find the right path again.