Friday, 23 December 2011

When it's Christmas....

This week we have started our Christmas celebrations with a ride on a 'sleigh' (as pictured above), with friends and neighbours over for drinks, a ride on a steam rain to see Santa, there have been Christmas movies, books and songs, oh and we've cracked open the extremely large tin of chocolates because it's just not Christmas without such indulgences.  There is still lots of present wrapping to be done and a ham and a chocolate log to prepare but the best of all is yet to come when we spend the Christmas weekend with family we haven't seen in a little while.

I have tried not to plan or expect too much from Christmas, just enjoying some quiet time at home with my girls and husband is enough (with the very large tin of chocolates).  I do so want Christmas to be special for my children though, these are the Christmases they will hopefully look back on fondly, I want them to remember a peaceful and happy time, not a Christmas with a frazzled out mother who has given herself too much to do. We do toil so that we can see the smiles on others' faces, especially those of our children, we do put pressure on ourselves to make it as perfect as possible.  For now though, I'm feeling pretty relaxed about Christmas, the planning is done, the presents are bought.  Perhaps it's my pregnancy that has slowed me down, I certainly do not have the energy to whizz around as I normally would and it's such a gift.  Today I sat and read Christmas stories with my littlest one instead of rushing around baking or crafting, today we went to a coffee shop and chatted instead of frantically running around the shops, last night we read a children's version of 'A Christmas Carol' by candlelight when I should have been getting those presents wrapped.  I'm taking it easy this Christmas as a gift to myself, I hope you do too.  Merry Christmas to you and to those you love.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

On Solstice Eve

The winter solstice is tomorrow.  Explaining this to my daughters at the breakfast table was rather tricky, the bit about the earth tilting on its axis is not something easy for two little ones to understand.  I did explain to them though that it is the return of the light.  Lighter mornings, lighter evenings and with it the eventual return of the warmth.  This is indeed something to celebrate and to acknowledge, it would have been even more so in years gone by, before electric light and central heating.  Such things we take for granted these days.  I did think about years gone by last night when my daughters, who were particularly tired after a very early start that morning, snuggled up in bed with me after their bath and we lit candles and read a story each.  The warmth and beauty of the candlelight was so nourishing and peaceful and I thought about how people in the past must have had this every night.  This calmness, no harsh electric light, no blaring TV, just the peaceful flicker of the flame.

Again the natural world is completely oblivious to stories of financial doom or a return to a Great Depression, the natural world just continues in its seasonal cycle.  I find such reassurance in the fact that winter is definitely here, the light will start to return tomorrow and our hemisphere will start to feel the warmth on its face once more.  There is comfort to be found in the natural world if we look for it.

For now, as I sit here in the dark, with a list of things I would like to achieve today swirling around in my head, it feels peaceful.  The darkness of the early morning, the lights of our Christmas tree, the sun starting to rise and light up the sky, such beautiful things to be acknowledged because I have taken a minute do so.  Try it, turn off the lights, morning or night, wander around the house, light a few candles, listen to the silence all around you.  It will seep in to your soul and nourish you like a good tonic.  Enjoy the darkness while its here and then we can look forward to the return of the light tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas celebrations

Today we are welcoming friends in to our home for a little Christmassy 'end of term' celebration.  There will be mince pies, chocolate reindeer and copious amounts of tea and chat.  There will also be numerous children storming around the house in varying degrees of excitement.  Later in the week we will welcome our neighbours in to our home for some food and mulled wine, again there will be lots of chat and lots of children.  On Christmas Eve my big sister will welcome my family and our parents in to her home for the Christmas weekend where again there will be lots of food, wine, laughter and togetherness. This is it isn't it?  This is Christmas.

Yes I have been worried about making our budget stretch to cover the presents I wanted to buy and the activities I have planned, yes I lay in bed many mornings thinking about the toys I would be buying my girls, yes I still have lots to do.  These gatherings with friends and family are just so special though and are to be savoured.  What if I had no-one to spend Christmas with, as many people do?  I am so grateful that I have all of these people with whom I want to sit and drink and chat and wish a Merry Christmas.  Today my husband finishes work for the Christmas period, I finished last week and my girls finish school and nursery.  Now, we can all start to slow down, especially in the mornings, now we can plan that gingerbread house my daughters so want to make, now  I can have five minutes with my husband and say 'Hi, how have you been?' (He works such long hours).  Now we can enjoy these gatherings with friends and family and revel in the Christmas celebrations.  I hope you are looking forward to them as much as I am.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Looking back

Looking back at some old video footage, as I like to do when it's one of my baby's birthdays, there is such a mixture of feelings.  How sweet to see my six year old as a cute little two year old, still calling me Mama in her little baby voice.  How sweet to see my four year old as a newborn baby, tiny little hands and tiny little feet.  How bittersweet to note how the years are passing so quickly, too quickly.  How to cope with this?  With gratitude.  A lesson I am still learning, an art I am still trying to practice.  Not to feel sad that my girls are growing up, but to be grateful that I have these girls in my life at all.

In December so far there has been much to be grateful for;

- Erin's fourth birthday party, the happiness on her face as she was surrounded by her friends

- Time at home with Caitlin, nursing her back to health as she's fought off a very nasty ear and throat infection.  Holding her one night as she fell asleep in my arms as she did when she was a baby.  Knowing that when she is poorly she just wants her Mummy.

- Watching my girls play and squeal and giggle with their Grandma who came to visit.

- Their excitement each morning as they open their advent calendars.

- The fun they have in the bath together, splashing and jumping around, sharing the same sense of toilet humour, at times like this you can see just how close they are.

- Making Christmas cards with the girls and them listing all the friends they would like to give one to, they love their friends.

These video clips from the past are so precious, they remind me to get some more recent footage, to acknowledge the beauty of my girls right now, at this moment.  Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come but I do have right now and that is a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Christmas is here...

And so it begins.  The hiding of the presents already bought.  The lying in bed first thing in the morning thinking about the presents not yet bought.  The planning of the food.  The planning of the activities we'd like to do over the Christmas season, a good old Panto and a sleigh ride hopefully.  The Christmas cards, the christmas music and looking forward to some cheesy Christmas movies.  Christmas has begun in this house, the boxes of decorations are out of the attic and there's a pile of Christmas books for us to enjoy too.  The advent calendar we made has been started and the advent candle is lit each night at the dinner table.

I do like Christmas, more so now that I have a family of my own, these two little girls of mine are so excited about it and it's hard not to be caught up in that too.  Their letters have been sent to Santa and they talk eagerly about his visit and the food we will leave for him and Rudolph on Christmas Eve.  For me I'm looking forward to making some mince pies and the smell of those mince pies baking throughout the house.  I'm looking forward to the Christmas music they play on Classic FM at this time of year and the very peaceful, Christmassy feeling it leaves me with.  I'm also looking forward to the time we will have together, no work, no school, no nursery, the time we will have to enjoy Christmas food, the new toys and games Santa will bring, the lazy mornings we will have in our PJs watching Christmassy TV and reading Christmas books.

Christmas is here, there's so much to do, so much to plan, so many nice times to be had.  I will be teaching a lesson at school next week on the meaning of Christmas, it will be interesting to hear what the children have to say, for me its meaning can be religious or it can be more personal.  I think of it as a family festival, a festival during which we spoil our children and spoil ourselves with treats.  A festival during which we celebrate our family, that we have each other, that we have time for each other once all the craziness and busyness is done.  We sit together, with that peaceful music playing on the radio and the smells of baking coming from the oven, with the advent candle flickering and the lights on the Christmas tree glowing and we just enjoy the magical feeling of Christmas.  This is what I really want for Christmas, this warm and peaceful picture I have painted.

Friday, 2 December 2011

My baby is four

Tomorrow my baby Erin turns four.  I know, I know, she's four - she's not a baby.  I'm afraid I'm one of those mothers who struggles with her babies growing up.  I have been known to cry on their birthdays.  Pathetic yes, silly too.  It just feels like one minute you're changing their nappy and the next minute they're going places without you and being cheeky telling me to "Just stop it Mummy!" when I ask her for the tenth time to wash her hands before dinner.  I blinked and four years went by.  I know I'm not the only one to feel like this.  I am coming to the realisation that motherhood is about practising the art of letting go.

In the morning we will start the day with cards, balloons and presents.  A specially-requested breakfast of 'Daddy's pancakes'.  (They are very good, flavoured with sugar, cinnamon, lemon and maple syrup).  She'll then get dressed in her new outfit for the day and we'll head for her party which she is very excited about.  Erin has been discussing who is invited for months now, I was very glad to hear one night when she declared, "I love you Mummy, you can come to my party".  Thanks darling.

There will be the presents from the toy shop to open as well as a dolly I made for her.  It's taken me a long time to finish, but I'm so glad I did.  She may not even like it that much or play with it much either, I just really like giving her something that I made especially for her.  I can see it in my girls' faces that they do appreciate it when I make something for them, they understand on some level that I am giving them something made with my own hands, made just for them because I love them and want them to have something special.  I also really like the idea that later on in life they will have lots of items I have made for them over the years and hopefully they will treasure them.

Happy birthday my baby, today we will remember the day I met you for the first time and fell in love with you.  It was a wonderful day.  I didn't even know then how funny, cheeky, animated, playful, heartbreakingly-beautiful and loving you would be!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

'Rhythm of the Home' Winter edition

Today I have an article published on the very brilliant on-line magazine 'Rhythm of the Home'  The article is entitled 'Winter's Gifts' and can be found in the 'Connection' section of the magazine.  I would encourage you to stay and have a good look around at the other pieces in the magazine too, I certainly will.  At the start of every season when a new edition is published I eagerly scour the magazine, usually with a notebook handy, for words of seasonal inspiration, crafts and activities.  I just love this magazine so much and am so very grateful to be a part of it for the winter season.  Enjoy!