Muuuuuuummmmyyyyyy!!!

Ah my name being called. Again. And again. And again. And not just being called, but in a high pitch whine or am angry shout. I remember when I was pregnant, I was looking forward to my own little one who would call me mummy. The first time each of my boys called for me by name, it melted my heart. It was special. It still is. But some days, I’d like to change my name!!! It appears that the older my boys get, the more they disagree on things – and it ends up with me being summoned to sort the situation out. This is all well and good – except if I haven’t seen what has happened (how dare I leave the room to make dinner/get a drink/use the toilet!). The problem with me dealing with situations without having seen the  is that I never quite know “exactly” what happened. I usually have 3 slightly different versions of the same event. And I’m sure that each of them genuinely believes their version is the right one. From their perspective, what they are saying is exactly how it happened. When they were younger, I tried to get to the bottom of it and find a right and wrong. However, more and more these days, I find this simply isn’t possible all of the time, so we are having to come up with new solutions. I try now to get the boys to work out their difference between them if possible. Some of these issues are so small (someone sitting in their chair, which isn’t actually their chair, just the one they want) that I don’t feel it needs adult interference, especially between the 6yo and 8yo. However, 3 boys close in age often presents problems as they generally act first and think later. They are all bundles of energy and they all have a strong sense of right and wrong – even if it’s only from their perspective. My husband and I are often talking of ways to change their interactions with each other and our interactions with them, but it’s not always easy! Some days, I wonder what on earth we are doing wrong. Some days, I’m more forgiving of myself and realise, it’s a phase. Some days, I can rationalise it all and deal with it. Other days, I separate them as best I can and then do something I know calms them – we get outdoors in the big wide world, go explore and gain some perspective!

How about you? Do your little ones bicker? Do they work problems out for themselves or do you intervene? I’d love to hear other people’s experiences!

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January blues

I’m not sure I can call them the January blues, but I am feeling sad at the impending end to the Christmas holidays. Christmas is a magical time of year and is filled with anticipation and excitement and, mostly, cheerfulness. The bitter cold of January and the lack of a big event to look forward to can certainly make it seem like a bleak month. However, despite my sadness that my boys return to school in a couple of days, I am focusing on the things I can do to make this month better. I’ve made several new year’s resolutions, which I’ve made a start on, but several of which need time that I simply do not have with the boys home. So I am going to use the school day to make these things happen. We are still trying to sell our old home so am keen to get stuck into the follow ups for that as well as begin the exciting task of looking for a new home. Anyone who has followed my Instagram account or read previous blog posts will know that I am on a weight loss journey, started this time last year. Due to illness and various factors, this was put on a back burner for me at the end of 2017, so I’m now ready to face the music and get back to making positive life changes. I’m also intending to get back to my daily walks, something that I haven’t achieved consistently over the holidays, despite being constantly on the go.

I’d love to hear how everyone else is coping with January! Are we glad to have a fresh start? Sad the holidays are ending? Glad to get back to routine?

2018

So, it’s another new year. A brand new start. I have been looking back at previous resolutions and came across one from 2012. It said I wanted to lose 3 stone that year. It didn’t happen. However, during 2017, I did lose that and a little more, totalling 51.5lb. I can only imagine what I was imagining when I wrote that resolution and how amazing I thought I would feel on achieving such a loss. In reality, I haven’t felt that way. I’ve actually been quite tough on myself and haven’t felt the positivity I would expect. But I’ve come to realise that it’s OK. I’ve achieved a lot I’m simply just not at my end goal yet. But my resolution for this year is to reach that goal. I’m also setting smaller goals, such as drinking more water and reaching my 10,000 steps every day. Whilst I planned last year to have a thankfulness jar, it never made an appearance, but I’m determined to make it happen this year. I also intend to spend a little time each day with a journal – something I did through my teens and early adulthood but that I’ve neglected since having my boys. But I value writing as a way of dealing with thoughts and feelings and events. I process a lot through the act of writing – and sometimes it just has to be good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. Another goal I’m aiming for is to finally catch up with my newsletters that I write for my boys. With my youngest starting full time school last September, I expected to catch up immediately. However, with several factors playing a role, it never happened, but this year, I have 365 opportunities to make it happen and I’m going to take them. There are so many other things I want to attempt this year, but I won’t bore you with them all. But I’m determined to make this year count. Focusing on the positive is my way through this new year after a difficult end to 2017. 2017 has left scars and sad memories, but with a young family around, it’s all about focusing on the positive and that’s my mission for 2018.

Anyone else feeling motivated this morning? Ready to make a change and try something new? Did anyone do something different last year that was successful? I’d love to hear all about it!20171231_145505

The meaning of Christmas

20171207_213701(0)It has taken a while to decide on a name for this blog post, as although as Christians we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, that’s not what this post is actually about. This is more about the meaning of kindness and goodwill. One of the key aspects of Christmas is thinking about others, about spreading cheer and peace. So I find some of the present “traditions” quite difficult to comprehend. It appears to me, and to others I have spent time talking to, that a lot of Christmas is used as a means of controlling children’s behaviour. It doesn’t sit right with me. I recently read a brilliant article that discusses this very topic and I couldn’t have agreed more. I have never used Christmas as a tool for my children. I teach them that they should behave because it is the right thing to do, not just at Christmas but the whole year round. I don’t agree with threatening them that Christmas will be cancelled or that santa won’t bring them toys. Why? Because it’s just not true. I would never stop my children from experiencing Christmas. To be fair, we don’t focus on gifts anyway. Our children are not given a huge pile of presents and neither do they get everything on their wish list. Thankfully, having grown up away from the focus of gifts, our children don’t ask for many things and they don’t have expectations of expensive gifts. But they do know that we will always celebrate Christmas. So we don’t say santa is watching and won’t bring them gifts. Which leads me on to a new trend this year of Santa cams. I cannot tell you how much this disturbs me – and my 8yo. After hearing about Santa cams, my eldest was worried – he thought it was creepy that someone was watching him at home when he was eating and dressing etc. We’ve since explained this isn’t true. That we do not have anything of the sort in our home. That santa isn’t someone to be afraid of. Children cannot be expected to be perfect all of the time. It’s unfair and unrealistic. As an adult, I am not perfect, so how can I expect my children’s behaviour to be perfect all of the time. The very fact we are humans prevents us from being perfect. That’s not to say we don’t try, but it is impossible to be perfect.

Another tradition that has sprung up in recent years with the aim of controlling behaviour leading up to Christmas is the elf on the shelf, the idea being that an elf comes to your home to sit on a shelf and watch your behaviour and report it to Santa. This tradition irks me for 2 reasons. The first is for similar reasons to the santa cam – children’s behaviour shouldn’t dictate whether or not Christmas happens and I don’t feel such an exciting thing should be used in a negative way. My second reason is more to do with the other half of this tradition – what the elf gets up to. Here, parents put the elf in various settings over night so children wake up to the elf doing something new. However, Google ideas for this and a lot of the situations tend to be on the “naughty side” – the elf hanging from the ceiling or making snow angels from a tipped over bag of flour. The reason I dislike this is because it is teaching the children bad ways to behave. The elf is meant to be there to ensure the child is behaving whilst the elf happily disobeys rules and performs acts that we would consider inappropriate for the children to do. It screams on hypocrisy to me.

Before everyone thinks that I am being Scrooge or the like, really I’m not. I love this time of year, I love the traditions and the excitement. So that’s what I focus on with my family. I am in no way saying other people are wrong for following these traditions or for doing what works for their family, I’m simply sharing my view and why I don’t follow these things. We do have elf – he is what we call an elf not on a shelf (I shared a post about this last December if you’d like to read it). Our elf comes to play – not to sit on a shelf and judge. Instead of having yet another thing the children can’t touch and setting them up for failure, our elf comes to experience Christmas with us. He also brings his friends Gingersnap the gingerbread man and Pip the penguin. They leave notes for the children and they do get up to things during the night or when the children are out – reading books, building blocks towers, playing with toys etc. Our boys love the magic of it – and so do we!

For us, Christmas is about the joy and excitement, enjoying time together and focusing on all the good things. Being kind to one another and sharing. Thinking of others. We look forward to the festivities together, we make lots of paperchains and do arts and crafts. We enjoy Christmas movies and winter walks. We like singing carols and learning the nativity all over again.  It is a special time, not one to be controlled or used as a threat. For us, it’s the only way.

What are your thoughts on the newer traditions? Do you like to use santa cams? Do you find they work for you? Do you use elf on the shelf the way it’s intended or do you have your own version? I’d love to hear all your experiences, whether you have similar views or completely different ones!

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

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!