Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lucky


There was a silent magic in the air today. The world held its breath as the sun turned its gentle smile on the earth and the morning was so still that I could hear the flowers unfurling from their buds.


It was a day for exploring and adventuring, it was a day for being outside. And so, with boxes of raisins in my pockets and a small boy by my side, we made our way to the castle.

We ran the length of the beautiful gardens, John rolled about on the grass and I marvelled at the beauty of reds, golds, whites, purples and pinks.

We felt the warm sun on our skin and then I sat in the dappled sunshine whilst my boy spent a long time on this:


Whenever anyone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them that I'm a full-time mummy, they always tell me I'm lucky.

But in truth, I rarely feel lucky. I feel bored, frustrated, content, busy, infuriated and overwhelmed with love several times a day; but rarely do I feel lucky.


But today, as I sat in the sunshine, in this most beaitiful place, with the most beautiful of boys, I was so aware of the rare privilege that it was to be here, doing this, on an ordinary Tuesday morning.

And even though there were still moments when I felt bored, frustrated, content, busy, infuriated and overwhelmed with love, I also felt lucky. Lucky beyond belief.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

An Exercise in Appreciation


The Sunday before Lent, the vicar spoke to us of a "poverty of appreciation." He talked of a nation that was rich in material possessions and poor in joyousness, and he spoke of a God who wishes us to be rich and happy and fulfilled.

As he spoke, I thought guiltily of the bleak February days that I have moaned about incessantly and the richness of life that I dismiss as monotony. And I decided that instead of spending forty days feeling miserable about missing chocolate, I'd spend this Lent noticing the goodness in life.

I would take care to appreciate the extraordinary beauty contained in everyday moments and, inspired by this beautiful site, I too would record three beautiful things every single day.

Most importantly, I'd take the time to give thanks.

Jesus said: "I have come that they might have life and have it to the full." One week into lent, my life feels richer and more blessed because of this simple practice of appreciation. I am one step closer towards the fullness of life that He promised.

(A link to my exercise in appreciation will remain in my sidebar throughout lent.)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Perfect Sunday




It was the most perfect Sunday. The sunlight cut through the cold air making the world shiver and shine, and colours that have hibernated all winter long came out to gleam and banish the memory of grey.

All along the canal side lambs-tails bobbed in the breeze and little clusters of snow-drops nodded their heads wisely at grass. Pale golden rushes whispered against a startling blue sky and beside them the canal wound its way through the countryside, deep and dark and grey.

And amongst it all a little boy in a bright orange life jacket ran and splashed and played. Oblivious to the cold in the foot that he dipped accidentally in the water but wide awake to the excitement of the day and fully alive to the energy in the air.

I chased him down the tow path. I hovered anxiously beside him as he examined the reeds at the water's edge. I watched him eat his picnic lunch with serious concentration. I helped him to scramble up and down the length of the boat and dip his little paddle in the water. I watched with an ache of joy as he paddled towards me with Daddy.

And I don't know what it was, but something about the beauty of those golden reeds, the glory of the sun, the hopefulness in the air and the happiness of my family left me quite overcome with joy.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Hop-Hop-Hop's Breakfast


Hop-Hop-Hop eats grapes. Hop-Hop-Hop eats banana. Hop-Hop-Hop eats apple and gets very wet drinking his water.

But Hop-Hop-Hop does not eat cereal. It is a well known fact that rabbits do not like cereal for breakfast.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Snowfall


Just when we thought that the winter would break into spring without the slightest sight of snow, we awoke to a dusting of white.

It wasn't snow of the prolific or picturesque variety - just a smattering of white that sat tentatively on branches and blades of grass and looked certain to melt at any moment.

But its beauty was so unexpected that I squealed like a child when I looked through the window, and when the sun broke through, making the grey world gleam, I couldn't eat my breakfast fast enough in my anticipation to wrap John up warmly and introduce him to the snow.

We watched him glower as it crunched beneath his wellies, we watched him grimace as he felt its coldness on his fingertips and we watched him grumble as he sat in it and found it impossible to get up.

We built the world's smallest snowman and watched his grumbles turn to giggles, and we walked around and around our garden watching our feet making tracks as we went.

And even though it wasn't the sort of snowfall that I've been secretly hoping for all winter and it was mostly melted by lunchtime, I was so very grateful for this little dusting of white, and so very pleased that we were able to end the holidays with a little smattering of magic.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Network


This half term James' family settled themselves into a holiday cottage just 20 minutes down the road and we spent a week with the Gordons.

It's been a strange and mixed-up sort of week. There have been busy all-together times full of feasting and chatter and there have been quiet times when I've found myself all alone, working hard in an empty house.

There have been high-days when we've donned our smart coats and driven out to enjoy ourselves in the fresh February air and there have been low-days when we've pulled on paint-splattered jumpers and come together in the dust of the upstairs room to build ourselves a bedroom.

There have been noisy times when people have come and gone busily throughout the day and there was even the longed for luxury of a quiet night out with my hubby.

And even though I was dubious about the idea of a whole week with James' family on our doorstep, and even though my natural inclination is always to cry out fiercely for family time alone, this week has been good.

It's been good to have people to cook for; it's been good to have help with the ironing; it's been good to send John off, hand in hand with Grandma, and it's been good to watch his shy smile as he returns and tells me sleepily about the choo choo's; it's been good to watch cousins becoming friends and it's been good to watch uncles and aunts and grandparents all busy loving my boy.

Most of all it's been good to share our family with a network of people who care for us - to feel the ebb and flow of a family life that's bigger than just us three and to see how much simpler parenting can be when you're not doing it alone.

I love this place that we've settled in and I love the life that we've carved out for ourselves here. But it seems to me that parenting is meant to be done as part of a network and now that the Gordons have packed up their cars and returned to the North I can't help but feeling a little mournful for the rich tapestry of family life that we're missing by living too far from our families, and wishing, just a little, that I had someone just down the road who could lend me a hand with the ironing.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Undercurrents



She said: "We're probably just far too protective..."

She meant: "You should take better care of your child."

I wish I had the confidence not to worry about the undercurrents of criticism in other mothers' comments.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Two Bedtimes


It's 8pm - The floor is littered with toys and John is running naked through the house. Wet baby footprints mark the tiled floor and Duplo blocks scatter as he runs. He screams excitedly as he goes and I smile at the sight of his happiness but the act itself is an effort. Exhaustion has wrung me dry and I'm counting the minutes until bedtime.

With barely-controlled exasperation in my voice I call him down onto the towel, wrestle his wriggling little body into a nappy and then bend his limbs into soft pyjamas whilst he screams and chatters from the floor.

Then I'm hauling his bed-ready body onto my hip, his little arms clinging comfortingly around my neck, carrying him slowly up the stairs, gathering teddies from the four corners of the bedroom, lowering him down into his cot, kissing him goodnight, and leaving the room to the sound of his screams, wishing just as I do every single night that it didn't have to end this way.

And then it's done. I'm free. I walk back down the stairs in my bath-soaked trousers, and if I wasn't so exhausted I'd smile with relief as I collapsed onto the sofa amidst a sea of chaos.


It's 11pm and one by one, the machines are shutting down. First the laptops cease their endless whirring, then the TV is silenced and finally the lights are switched off one by one until the whole of the downstairs is asleep.

With a last glance at my watch I climb the stairs, knowing that it's time to go to bed and yet feeling less exhausted than I have done all day. For three lazy hours I've basked in the blissful balm of silence whilst nurturing my soul with good things. I'm refreshed; I'm restored; I miss my baby boy. 

At the top of the stairs I push open John's door, ever so slowly, and tiptoe into the darkness of his room. I peer at the silhouette of his his little bottom in the darkness, and then bend my head close to his to listen to his breathing. Very, very gently, I pull the duvet over his back and tuck it gently around his shoulders.

For a minute I pause, taking in the beauty of his silent, sleeping self and marvelling at the force of my love for him.

And then I go to bed, wishing just a little that he still slept beside me through the night, missing the vitality of his beautiful, simple smile, and hoping, desperately hoping that he will sleep in late in the morning.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Bread, Cheese, Christmas Tree!


Every morning, before Daddy leaves for work, he comes through to the breakfast table and gives John a kiss on his sleepy, milk-splattered cheek.

Every morning, before he can quite reach the door, John, who seems to think that Daddy spends the entire week at the supermarket, calls out "beh, chee, di-di-dee!" (bread, cheese, Christmas tree) as though these are the three essential things that he must not return home without.

And every morning James and I glance at one another and then smile fondly at John and feel a little pang of regret that we can't grant him one third of his one simple wish.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Itchy Feet


It's that time of year again. The monotonous bleakness of winter combined with the first tantalising promises of Spring have churned up the restlessness that's forever sleeping in my soul and my toes are itching for change.

Dreams of other lives are tormenting my present and ambitions that I thought I'd forgotten are raising their heads and looking me square in the eye.

I want to hear my feet clipping down foreign city streets; I want to wake up in new places and wonder what the day will have in store; I want to dance and run; I want to do wild and improbable things; I want to create something beautiful and important; I want to change the world.

But instead my days are spent walking behind my boy as he climbs the same set of steps over and over again, stooping to pick up dropped mittens and wriggling them onto his fists, listening to him saying "da-cho bye!" and responding with a cheery "bye!" every single time, making sure that I'm home by midday so that our peaceful afternoon routine will remain undisturbed, and tucking him up in bed with his rabbit and polar bear by eight.

And by the time he's asleep my body is so exhausted, my mind is so numb and my life is so firmly set at toddler pace that I have no idea how to pick up the pieces of my own ambitions and I decide that changing the world must wait.

I know that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens" and I remind myself over and over again that this is the season for picking up mittens and climbing staircases slowly, but there are days when this is enough and there are days when the itching in my toes makes climbing staircases slowly a very tedious business indeed.