Sunday, 24 February 2013

A divine morning

She is Aphrodite, known as Venus by the Romans.  Famously known for being the goddess of love.  It was a Sunday morning in the British Museum, here to support our eldest daughter in her school topic of 'Ancient Greece'.  We walked around the collection of statues and pottery, she was surprisingly very interested, our five year old daughter was unsurprisingly not, the littl'un was happy as long as there was milk to be had.

The big girls ran off with their Daddy at one point, I sat on some stairs and breast fed the littl'un, in view of lots of museum visitors, a staff member and Aphrodite of course.  The museum visitors seemed not to notice, it's really not that interesting compared to some of the most precious antiquities of the ancient world and I was being very discreet, the (female) staff member gave me a small, acknowledging smile and Aphrodite, well she wasn't overly concerned with me or my baby.  She did nod my way though, and smile, her feminine curves gracefully outlined by her robes.
  "What's your name?" she enquired.
  "We are 'Mother and Child", I said, "only a temporary exhibit".
  "Oh", she casually responded, "they're not as interested in you as they are in me are they?" 
  "No", I admitted, "but sometimes the everyday is no less extraordinary despite its ordinariness; childbirth, breastfeeding, those two girls running around getting under the feet of irritable tourists, these are the special treasures of my world.  I am the goddess of my family, my husband is the hero, and our children are living breathing deities who have blessed us with their presence.  We're all a temporary exhibit", I explained, "just here for a while to experience some of that love you have at your disposal.  By the way, thanks, for all the love, it's really pretty amazing stuff, it just blows me away sometimes," as I glanced down at my baby still feeding, a veritable rosy-cheeked cherub.
"You're welcome", she replied with the subtlest of flicks of her golden hair and a glance at her nails,   
"you flesh and blood goddesses are so lucky, you don't have to stand here and be gawped at for all eternity."
"I know, I get to go home and look after my little ones and drink in their loveliness, I'll be off now Aphrodite, nice chatting to you", I hoisted the littl'un up on to my hip and went to find the others.  My moment in the world of the Ancients and the divine was over, I did get to go home and look after my little ones and drink in their loveliness and I would do it for all eternity.     

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


This February I am;
- Looking for signs of Spring and finding them, just peeping through.
- Enjoying the games being played, the pictures drawn and the spellings practiced on our new chalkboard in the kitchen, I think we should just cover the whole house in chalkboard paint.
- Thinking that we might eat more meat-free meals in the light of the whole horsemeat scandal, you can't go wrong with veggies.  Ratatouille, butternut risotto, poached eggs and vegetable rostis.  Not sure    my, "it's not a dinner without meat", husband will agree.
- Eagerly anticipating the half-term break, a rest from the school run, lots of time for my girls to play and a few nice activities planned as well, oh and the odd lie-in, which in our house means until 7am.
- Shivering in the cold, hibernating inside, dreaming of a sunny day when I can out to the greenhouse and get those vegetable seeds sown.
- Searching for something new and inspirational to read, any ideas anyone?  I get twitchy without a pile of books by my bed at the ready.
- Trying to muster the courage to write a book proposal, not sure I can, but I do know that writing this blog is good for me, makes me feel I get to do a little something for me, and then I can return to my family feeling a little bit more fulfilled.
- This February I am looking for signs of a more authentic and peaceful me and finding them, just peeping through.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The lessons of a messy children's bedroom.

Once upon a time I lived on my own, in a tiny little flat in London, fairly happy, lots of friends and a good job.  I always knew I wanted a family and then one day along came a man with whom I fell in love.  So began the story of our family.  Three children later, my days are quite different now.  Each morning there are so many tasks to be done just to get us all out of the door on time for school.  When I return from the school drop-off, it's just me and the littl'un.  I have a coffee while I feed her, we then make our way around the house clearing up after the tornado that passed through at 7.30 that morning.
  This is a picture of my two eldest girl's room.  This is it on a good day, I really would be too embarrassed to show it on a really bad day when the carpet is no longer visible.  When I come in to this room in the morning I feel utter despair.  The beds are unmade, there are toys and books everywhere to be seen.  Pyjamas, toothbrushes, hairbrushes strewn around from the morning rush. I straighten everything up, smooth out the duvets, put books back on the shelves, cuddly animals back in the basket.  And I will do it all again tomorrow. I'm no martyr, it's just the reality of being a Mum.  Doing the same things day after day, meals, laundry, cleaning, diplomatic relations and lots of picking stuff up off the floor.
  I do realise, however, that this is just all part of the territory.  My children love their toys, they play endlessly with these horses, barbies and baby dolls.  They read those magazines and the books.  They really inhabit this room and the rest of the house.  Their physical presence is truly felt.  When I come in to this room after I have left them at school for the day these objects lie inanimate,  without the spirit and imagination of my daughters to animate them.  I think I should try not to feel despair when I enter this room in future, but gratitude that they are here, my girls are here and they are happy, they are boisterous, they are filled with the joy of a childhood in which they get to play with their toys, flick through  their magazines, making a mess as they do.  This is not to say that I don't get cross with them when they do make a real mess, I do.  There are often tears when I insist that they clean this mess up.  In quieter moments though, I do enjoy discovering the little scenes they have set up with dolls, animals and wooden blocks.  I do feel grateful that I have these girls in my life at all.  That I am not still in that tiny little flat in London, on my own, wondering what it would be like to be a mother.  This is what it is like.  A messy house, a tired body, little free time; the price to be paid for having three beautiful children.  There are lessons to be learned everywhere, even in a messy children's bedroom.

Monday, 11 February 2013

These are books, my darling.

These are books, my darling.  You can taste it if you like, turn it around, open it up and shut it again with a loud bang.  You can pat it, drop it, scratch it, open it up to enjoy the colours and the shapes.  Inside these books you will find stories to fire your imagination, characters who will become your friends and words that will become your words.  We will share lots of these books together, cuddling close while we do.  You will ask me what words mean, I will ask you what do you think they mean.  You may ask me to read the same book again and again and I will, for you, I will.  We have lots to look forward to, you and I.  We will buy some books, borrow some books, make some books.  Just like your sisters before you.  (I have some experience in these matters).  In moments of boredom, tiredness, sadness I will reach for a book and we will escape in to it together.  For me, it is the most wonderful thing I can introduce you to, the world of books and stories.  They have been great companions and teachers to me and I'm sure they will to you too.  You will have your own relationship with books, your own tastes and preferences, just share them with me will you?

For now though, you are just getting used to the taste, the feel, the shape of books.  You take your time. I'm here when you're ready for a story.  I have lots of suggestions of stories you might like.  You're a lucky little girl, you have a Mummy, Daddy and sisters all eager to read to you and a house with lots of books.   Elmer, Kipper, Wibbly Pig, Wobble Bear, are all ready to meet you too, to say hi and welcome you in to their colourful world.  These are books, my darling, I hope you like them as much as I do.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

An alternative 'To Do' list

My normal 'to do' list for a day would include the usual things like, call the dentist, pick up dry cleaning, buy milk and bread, order a birthday present, etc.  The standard kind of stuff.  Last night I was just about to write a to do list for today, so that I could empty my mind before I go to sleep, otherwise I can't go to sleep.  It occurred to me though, what about a different kind of 'To Do' list?  What if I made a list of some of the things that are really important to me?  What if I gave these things a focus for today instead of the more mundane tasks?

So here goes, an alternative 'To Do' list;

- Sit down with that first cup of tea of the morning and taste it
- Inhale the sweet scent of my baby
- Kiss my husband and tell him I'm proud of him
- Check my e-mail only once today
- Give my girls my time and my love, the best gifts of all
- Go out in to the garden and see what it's been up to all winter
- Enjoy the feel of running my hands through freshly washed hair
- Listen to the responses when I ask people questions
- Read, read, read
- Forgive myself for not being perfect
- Give thanks for everything

What would be on yours?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Life is beautiful

"One reason why we are so refreshed and uplifted by natural beauty is that we feel, even if obscurely, our connection with the great scheme of life on our planet and its deep imperatives"  (A.C.Grayling, 'Why Beauty Matters')

A hungry baby waiting patiently in her highchair.  Two big girls drawing and colouring at the kitchen table as my arms reached out like tentacles to make baby food, steam vegetables, pour milk, lay the table and wash dishes all at the same time. (It's a special superpower you develop when you become a mum)  And then I glanced up and saw this out of the window and everything had to come to a halt while I went to get my camera, exclaiming over my shoulder,  "Look how the sky has gone pink girls!"  And orange and blue and purple and yellow.  The sky looked like this for such a brief time, it had to be snapped quickly.  It had to be appreciated right now, this second!  The trees stood in shadow, highlighting the rainbow colours in the sky.  Then it was back inside, the moment had passed.  It was  beautiful.  It would have been beautiful if I had noticed it or not, but I did notice, I did look up from my 'getting dinner on the table' busyness.  I saw it.  I really saw it.    

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Blissful reading

With a sleeping baby on my lap, my two eldest daughters happily playing upstairs and a few hours to go before I had to get dinner ready, I stole a few precious moments of blissful reading.  I had raced through most of the book and now wanted to read the last few pages.  It is such a wonderful book,  it is a non-fiction account of the relationship between a mother and son after the diagnosis of the mother's pancreatic cancer and the subsequent book club they form, just the two of them, reading and discussing the books sitting in hospital whilst the mother was undergoing treatments.  I loved the story of the relationships in the book, the wisdom and kind nature of the author's mother and I just love a book about books and the joy of reading.  How poor my life would be without books, what a different person I would be, what a tidier house I would have with all that free time!

A book written honestly and from the heart, about real events and real people is just the kind of book I like.  Fiction can be great too, but this style has to be my favourite, I should write one sometime.  I finished the book, still with my sleeping angel on my lap, and reached for my laptop to write and thank the author for writing such a wonderful, moving book.  (I have only ever done that once before).  I received an e-mail thanking me for my e-mail, do I write and say thanks back?  This could get silly.    Read it, read it, read it, is all I can say.

 The baby woke up, my little reading time was over.  I had to put the book down, dry my eyes and get on with my various roles of cook, cleaner, laundry woman, peace keeper; but I resumed these roles a little bit wiser, a little bit more nourished, and a little bit more grateful for a life with good books, happy children and a beautiful sleeping baby.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Watching their creativity flow

"Everyday is loaded with creative potential"  (Danny Gregory, 'The Creative License')

I love it when a little something new in the house creates a new energy, a new source of fun.  Last week it was liquid chalk pens, which proved to be a really good purchase.  I opened the box and off they went, doodling and writing away all day on the windows and they're still coming back to it everyday, adding something new.  This weekend it was the addition of a chalkboard to the kitchen wall.  A small tin of blackboard paint and a little piece of wood for the chalk to sit on and again the girls got straight in to it.  We introduced them to the game 'Pictionary' and they haven't stopped playing it since.  We see lots of potential with the new chalkboard, messages left for one another, games, pictures,  spellings, times table practice and maybe a few inspirational words for Mummy, who likes to be reminded of the wonderful things she reads.

Our house is steadily being taken over by children's artwork, we may continue to cover every wall, but I love it.  I provide some new materials and give the girls the freedom and space to just do their thing.  I'm not so easygoing when it comes to other things, I like them to be in bed by a certain time, wash their hands before a meal, but when it comes to their creativity I really just want to sit back and watch it flow.  When I was training to be a teacher some years ago I came across the concept of a teacher being a 'facilitator' as opposed to being a fountain of knowledge, imparting that knowledge in to the students' brains which they would just soak up.  Learning and creativity doesn't work like that.  There are some things I teach my children, we're still working on shoelaces and telling the time.  There are also many things I don't want to teach my children, I want to be their facilitator, providing the resources and the environment in which they can learn, explore and discover things all by themselves.  This is my thinking behind these new materials in our home.  That and, quite simply, we had a really fun time.