Friday, 28 October 2011

New Moon

If truth be told - and it always shall, it's been a step backwards week here in terms of mindfulness.  But I am due on and so I am not at all surprised.  This time of the month ... moontime...I grew up hating it and the extra hassle it bought with it.  Then after I'd had my children I decided it should really be celebrated ... a monthly reminder of my bodies incredible power and birthing potential, a reminder of what sets us apart from menfolk, what makes us Women.

So it became my ritual to buy in a bottle of red wine and a couple of blocks of rich dark chocolate (iron replacement, honestly!).  I allowed myself time to be slacker round the house and to take afternoon naps with my babies.  I allowed my body some rest, kept ready meals in the freezer and looked after myself a little better.

The wine and chocolate ritual stopped as money got tight and sadly with it went the rest - the self care and the celebratory mentality.  Yesterday as I realised I was pedalling backwards through my mindfulness, I caught myself consciously dreading the prospect of it all and once again filling my head with all sorts of unhelpful negative cliches about women on their periods.

So, this month I once again embrace and celebrate my body's incredible power; I've been and bought myself a bottle of cheeky Merlot - even better that it was reduced from £10 to £5.  And I've bought myself a block of extra dark chocolate peppered with freeze dried raspberries, yum.  See - even the thought of it has me in higher spirits.  And I wonder, will these small acts of celebration, acts of self care, important acts of ritual be enough of an anchor to banish that sense of foreboding and with it perhaps some of that pre-menstrual crankiness?  In any case, I raise my glass to my body and to Womankind.  How important ritual is.

Good things are a-happening under this new moon.  Next week I start a new career!  After eight years of working in a media driven environment stressing over margin, analysis, overstocks, curves, spires and all those other shuddersome buzz words, I am finally going to be doing something for the community, giving something back, in service to others.  I'm going to work as a support worker for people who have Down Syndrome and other learning disabilities.  I'm excited, like I was when I left home and stepped out into the world of theatre at 17.  I'm enthusiastic and willing to take risks.  I'm not in the least bit panicky or anxious.  I am surprisingly relaxed, relieved in fact, it feels right. 

And how poignant then that my first day is the first day of the Celtic New Year.  So, out with the old and in with the new, I have no idea what this particular future holds but at least I have wriggled free of the net I was stuck in and my instincts are not warning me off, that much I know.

We are still hopelessly in love with Autumn.

loved the contrast of the browns and zesty yellows on the woodland floor. 

Samhain's so close now and we continue to make and bake and craft with pumpkins...

We printed with apples and paint.  And although the little star in the middle of the apple was too shy and would not be printed we turned them into this amazing pumpkin bunting first thing this morning!

     ... and we've been weaving woolly spiders webs.

I had never even carved a pumpkin until I was 16.  My Mothers upbringing was strictly Methodist and so I grew up being lead to believe that the secular Halloween was sinister and if we ignored it, it would go away - much like trick or treaters. The door was locked and never answered and never were we allowed to trick or treat ourselves.  As an adult realising my Celtic roots, I want my children to place as much importance on this time old festival as they would on the Winter Solstice or any secular celebrations. I hype it up for them but also for me and the child I was. 

The results are spooktacular!...

And you know me, any excuse for a good old romp through woodland with like minded friends in this still unbelievable late October sunshine and warmth ...

They commandeered this ship together and soon had fires crackling away cooking hot leaf soup!  I think you can see Gaia actually eating some!

So who needs softplay or even a climbing frame when nature provides all!

An ancient grain store, a girl and a ladybird...

The clones and a mandalorian warrior set up camp!

 She knew it was a rocking horse the instant she saw it.

Are these tree roots not the most perfect photo frame?

The New Moon brings with it half term ... having my boy at home has been wonderful, if a little challenging. I was warned their behaviour shifts as they start school and start to find feet in new hierarchies and I know he still feeds off my negative emotions when they surface, perhaps he has genuinly had PMT  this week too then.
But it can't all be bad, he has been giving me stars and special twigs as rewards for keeping calm and being lovely, or when I find much loved and long lost toys (of which there have been many this week, I think they must have made their way back through the Stargate that is undoubtedly located somewhere in our house!)

I am amazed and so very proud that he is now recognising letters and groups of letters from which he is learning words. We had a word-bug hunt in my friend Lucy's garden on Wednesday and it was this that made me realise how quick to absorb information he is. I must, must, must make a set of word-bugs for myself. I want to take more of his education back into my hands and as my dear childminder said, see school as laying down the basics that I can build on.  In the whirlwind of school beginning I have felt like I completely relinquished that part of parenting, it felt like the teachers took charge of that aspect, perhaps that's my inexperienced perception as a first-timer but I realise now that although I am not a full time home educator I can still educate at home in my own holistic way.

So this morning we read through his school reading books at breakfast. I decided I'd try my own approach rather than following the guidelines and so we isolated words and went through each one letter by letter. Then we said each a little faster and a little faster still until he recognised the words rolling off his tongue. He loved it and after we had been through the book once he went straight back to the beginning and did it all again.

Gaia continues to find her place in her world and ours. I'm daughter she proudly says, you're mother. And with her brothers development for inspiration she wants to learn to read as well, pointing to letters telling me what they are(n't!) so she is keen for home education as well.

Some other things that have been warming my heart this week ...

Butterfly kissing Gaia's cheeks ... and the giggles that issue forth.

Cheeky cream cheese pumpkin bread

Cheeky Peruvian coconut kisses

 My little Witch in training...

Behold the pot of poison, now go forth and slay the baddies!

The deep clean has begun before the winter arrives; one room at a time, nice and slow.

Window shopping for a DSLR camera

Buying a gorgeous River Island winter coat from a charity shop for only £6!

My cats insistance that I shower him with love even though he is a total flea bag

Ladybird hotels!

Snuggling with my children as they each fall asleep at night.  Their grainy silhouettes in the sepia half light.  Tousling their hair between my fingers, feeling their gentle breath quicken then deepen.  Watching their eye lids becoming more leaden, waking up an hour later on the top bunk realising I fell asleep too!

So the New Moon brings promise and inspiration for putting down new roots and strengthening those that already exist.

Blessings and much love X

Thursday, 20 October 2011

As Is

'This Is The Life' Zander exclaimed on arriving in the Chalet by the sea this weekend. 

But imagine my annoyance as the first photo opportunity presented itself - their two playful impish shadows cast upon the wall as the sun rose over the not so distant sea -  and I discovered that though I was giving myself brownie points for remembering the charger for our camera and the camera itself, the memory card was still inside the computer at home after my last upload and this bleeding camera doesn't have internal memory.  Damn!  I felt a little panicky like I wouldn't be able to breathe if I couldn't take pictures and maybe if we'd been staying longer than four days I would have bought another card from the nearest proper town.  But the more rational me that I am glimpsing more often since starting this Mindfulness course thought it through a little more.  I subsequently decided to sit with it the way it was, to try and feel like there's no need to change the way things are, leave them As Is.  I still felt slightly itchy but I traded my photographs for the sense that maybe I'm really starting to get this mindfulness.  A good trade.

 ... these two exclusively small and insignificant words have become my permanent mantra.  Together they are so powerful. 

On looking deeper it turns out the itch that I had to scratch was a creative one, not the need to control the situation.  If I could not take photos I would have to find some other creative outlet and why not?  So the most basic drawing book and a pencil from the post office and plans for an indulgent block of thick watercolour paper and a tray of paints on our return, did the trick.  I sketched roughly as the children imped about

and I painted the seascape through a list of colours that I planned to apply to paper in watery swathes.
icy blue
sky blue
violet haze
moody Prussian blue
azure blue
frothy white
softest driftwood brown

forest green

We were blessed with yet another last hurrah of sunshine, relative warmth and clear blue skies.  Pure joy filled my heart to see the children running naked with beaming smiles in and out of the sea; jumping, splashing, toes sinking into the sand as the sea fairies took them temporarily, staggering back as the sea retreated back down the beach.  Even my boy who was terrified of the sea at first was totally immersed in it's elemental magic and begging for just a little more by the time we left.  And as little pink toes wiggled in and out of the fine ochre sand we ate warm chips whilst squinting at wind farms to the left and the right - barely visible on the horizon but most definitely there.  And we ate scones and tea over looking the very same sea, we played in parks, I meditated much and by night with the bairns in bed Cliff and I sat simply on the sofa nourishing our souls in books till our own bedtime.  Each new day we were greeted by a magnificent sunrise ... 'look at the sea light mummy' Zander said in amazement.

I found power in my own words of affirmation as I cured my boys boys recent fear of dogs.  A friendly border collie came to find out what we were about and Zander enquired as to the dogs keenness.  My quickness to say it was obviously because it liked him had throwing sticks over and over, which the dog was more than happy to return if he'd only throw them one more time!

Combers of the beach we were; retrieving bounties of shiny denim blue muscle shells to make mobiles from.  And soft, smooth drift wood which I've always believed to be lucky ... is it?  I don't know.  We had a natural history lesson as we found small crabs and various parts of much bigger recently deceased crabs.

We watched films and Cliff started to teach Zander to play chess.  We baked bread, pizza, crumbles & our final night's supper was the first roast of the season with all the trimmings - even vegetarian pigs in blankets!

Full of holiday spirit and the urge to playfully parent more I found it in me to play armies with my boy and realised I must honour his wish to play such games more often regardless of my own selfish preferences.  To see the pleasure on his face when I said yes was worth it through and through. 

So here I shamelessly plug my friends chalet that we stayed in: 
Easy to simply exist in and thoughtfully re fitted and decorated with a slight beach hut flavour.  I fell in love instantly and was practically begging Cliff to buy me one too!

Back home we continue to welcome autumn and it's myriad festivals.  Not only is Samhain round the corner but Diwali is too.  Though I am obviously not a Hindu I have long loved this festival for it's colour and light and as Hinduism is often described as a pagan religion and Diwali is roughly the same time as Samhain I like to combine where I can.  It brings another facet to autumn and the way we celebrate and it provides the opportunity to talk of other cultures with the children.  It also brings the excuse to make these moreish Indian sweets ...

And look what arrived in the post today ...

 yes vegan marshmallows! At last we can legitimately enjoy the luxury that is hot chocolate and marshmallows. They were extortionate so will be very special treats for festival days and birthdays me thinks. Or I will have to find a way to make them myself.

Today we've had pumpkin soup ...

And we made an autumnal rainmaker ...

With darker mornings candle lit breakfasts begin again ...

And I must squeeze as many late afternoon fires in as possible before the dark gobbles the late afternoon daylight up completely ...

Autumn also brings the excuse for me to play Jethro Tulls Heavy Horses on constant loop ... I am shamelessly in love with the whole album, it oozes autumn and ye olde english ways and is pure poetry. 

Gaia has taken on a motherly role to her dolls and bears recently; wrapping them in blankets, talking to them sweetly as she tucks them into her bed ... something we've not seen in our little tomboy too often before but something I will be sure to encourage now I know it's there. In fact she's inspired her big brother too ... look at them ....


I am very much trying to live more mindfully in more moments as I catch them through each day.  I try each time my children address me or vie for my attention to say to myself   this moment  ..... and this moment .... and this one too... and it is helping me a lot.  For that is all we have - many many moments and I'll be damned if I am going to miss anymore of them.  I am learning not to procrastinate over actions of the past or daydream over the future.  I am learning not to feed the insatiable desire to try and change the present for all it is not, I'm learning to sit with it and let it be as it is, AS IS.  And I am excited by this revelation.

And though I didn't catch a single holiday moment on camera, I have the negatives for all of them in my mind.

So my little ones, blessings on all your moments - catch them, feel them, then catch the next.  Love you the most, catch you tomorrow X

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Giving thanks for what's important

This week I have questioned endlessly; so many how's and why's and do I's? I question beliefs I've had for years, I question people I thought I knew, I question the hands of fate, I seriously question karma and am ready to out right reject it. I question human nature. I have addressed and questioned the sky; searched it for answers oh so many times.

And I've questioned myself and asked what's really important in my life?

I can tell you what ... it's the people that come home to me every night, the people that sit at my table and eat (or not!) the food I've cooked, the people that bring me precious stones from the childminders drive way, the man who makes me a cup of tea .... 24 hours after he offered it, the girl who knows damn well she'll get her own way despite what her mama says if she just tilts her head coyly to one side and gives it the puppy dog eyes just like her daddy. The boy who crawls in for snuggles first thing in the morning whilst it's still dark and tells me I'm the cutest Mama at school, the man who falls asleep on the sofa each night and pleads with me to make him his lunch after he returns sweaty and ripped from the gym each saturday ... each saturday I make a fuss about 'always having to do it' ... then 30 seconds later I slink back in asking 'how many eggs was it you wanted babe?'

I am a lucky woman. You wouldn't guess it the way I go on sometimes, but I am, I realise that fully now.

In the face of tragedy I have found some clarity. It is clear that I am rich beyond measure in family, true friends and love. Once more and every day now in fact, I give thanks for all that I have.
This week we hold each other tighter, tight like when we first met. We hold each other in bed at night. We say I love you more - like when we first started saying it. I give in to the kids requests without such a battle, who cares if they already watched a movie today, watch another ... we live but once. I ignore the floor, the floor I haven't washed in .... you know what I don't even know when I last washed it it was that long ago ... there's time for that when the kids leave home.

I give thanks for the women in my life - the women from the church our playgroup is run at; for their kindness, their hugs, their support, prayers and thoughts. To my childminder for her endless generosity and a bolt hole to run to. To my sister for her , as always, wise words. To Katie, the mama in the playground I knew instantly I wated to be friends with who gave me a hug yesterday morning.

This week I have struggled; struggled to comprehend things that have happened, struggled to remain in the present, struggled with my Mindfullness homework ... I wondered how exactly does one keep a 'pleasant events' diary in a week beset with tragedy. My entry for friday read 'Sorry, absolutely nothing pleasant happened today, awful, horrible tragic day' and for the most part that was true. Then I thought harder, real hard, like searching for that lonely needle in a haystack. I reminded myself how I commited to this course and the home practice that goes with it, how good it is for me, so I searched for the somethings, the anythings that had made me feel good this week, pulled me through. And I started to remember; the things I'd clutched at desperatly when I thought my heart would totally shatter ....

thursday ... I stopped and watched the ripples of light on the water reflecting on the riverbed as I cycled home through meadows. I watched them mindfully for nearly half an hour 'change their size but never leave the stream ... not in a permanent sense' if I may paraphrase my hero Bowie.

friday ... those hugs, those long, strong, large bear like embraces from Cliff.

saturday ... feeling my boy falling exhaustedly fast asleep in my arms on the sofa, his weight changing, breathing changing, the peace written on his face.

sunday ... I bathed with Gaia, for nearly an hour, topping up the bath each time it got cold, my heart warming up a little each time she wriggled over my belly like a little fish.

monday ... remembering to embrace the season once again. Autumnal making and baking.

tell me, is there anything intrinsicly wrong with getting my two year old to help me make sloe gin by counting those berries of promise into the empty bottle? I didn't think so!

All these things, and these .....

... the seemingly smallest of things, have this week been the most important of all, the lightness in the dark. This is a good sturdy lesson to carry forwards, through all the good times as well as the bad, these little things are the most nutrient rich of all at lifes table.

Though I try and remain present for my little ones, there's a melancholy that still sits simmering on the back burner of the stove that is my heart and warm salty tears lurk on standby in the corners of my eyes. Cliff see's it, he calls me from work to check in. Mindfully, I have accepted that this is the way things are in this moment, I need not wish they were otherwise and this has given me the space to simultaneously live family life and the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that stirred with last weeks news.

We will take a long weekend away this weekend. We will take time; time to stop, time to breath, time to love, time to grieve, time to reconnect, time to hold, time to think, time to feel, time to be. That is all. We will let the sea winds rip right through our beings, give thanks for what we have as a family.

Blessings X

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Lightness & Dark

I cannot find the right place to start today.  I have many joyful things to report and I shall still, but yesterday our world was rocked by some tragic news that blew our way in the wind.  A loss in a family close to us.  It is second hand news so though my heart is burning to know particulars and hold these people oh so close and tight with love and light, all I can do is wait. 

I went into shock when I heard and I don't think I've ever experienced extreme shock before, but I did yesterday - trembling, shaking, unable to get whole words out of my mouth.  I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my being, I struggled to breathe properly and anger coursed through my veins, utter disbelief held me in it's grip, I wanted to scream so loudly, I wanted to punch something so hard. 

I thought I could hold it together, carry on at playgroup and have fun with my girl but I spoke to Cliff and as wise as he is he left work to scoop us up and take us home.  In hindsight and not at all surprisingly my girl honed in and sensed my grief, she was beside herself by the time Cliff arrived even though I kept reassuring her, through peppering of tears, she knew something was up with Mama. I forgot how sensitive their psyche's are, I forgot how deeply in tune with one another we are.

Had I not started to practice mindfulness just weeks before I fear I would have taken to my bed in agony and anguish.  Mindfulness saved me and my family yesterday.  Though I desperately needed to feel, Cliff was there coaching me through, telling me to hold it together and gradually I realised that it is ok to have thoughts of this news enter my mind, only natural, I should not shut them out but I should not obsess and contort them, I need merely acknowledge them, reassure myself it is natural and ok, just be with them, then let them pass and move back to my present moment with my family.

I felt fragile though and needed to gather them all close to me - Zander, Gaia and Cliff and hold them tight, never let them go, this wild and precious life is just that, these people dear are to be treasured, family is sacred.  I give thanks for mine and our relative stability.

My night of sanctuary at the Buddhist centre set me up for a relatively undisturbed night.  Though I slept, which itself is blessed relief, my dreams were subtly infiltrated by the acute and thorny anguish of those souls who now suffer.  I woke up and immediately checked my phone, knowing my friend would not have contacted me, it may be weeks but I'll be here, gathering in strength day by day so that when the call comes I'm solid as a rock and can comfort, listen, hold and love.  Meanwhile I hold them all in my heart and deepest wishes of peace.

My house has been a happy one this week, my soul has been nourished...

.... by old friends returning.  There is something magical about friendships that you can just pick up exactly where you left off - even if it was years before.  These ladies are the salt of the earth and I wore a stupid grin all weekend after our sunny reunion .... could have been transported back ten years - Cambridge in the sunshine, drinking cider by the river, just a couple of poignant people missing, but the spirit still there. 

.... by the love my babies have for one another.  Every morning when we drop Zander at school Gaia will potter off as I hang Zander's coat on his peg and direct his lunch box to its shelf.  But earnestly Zander will look for her, put a big brotherly arm round her, drawing her a little closer and kiss her neatly on the head.  If he forgets, he comes back to find her before disappearing off into his classroom once more.

... by Sunday bake offs!  Gaia, always keen to don an apron and get stuck in with whatever I am doing and Zander who can now whisk eggs - marvelling at the gloopy consistency as it stretches from the whisk into the jug.  As it was Apple Day we threw wild pears into the mixture (ok, not apples but close enough and jolly tasty!)

... And despite common sense screaming NO! as they scrape the bowl out, the mixture having contained raw egg, I remind myself ... we all did it as kids right?  and we all survived right?  and wasn't it just the best bit about baking?  I told common sense to shut up and please ignore us for just a few moments and let them enjoy what is almost a birth right!

nourished by this moment ... finding my boy zen like and waiting patiently for pass the parcel to begin at the first of many parties we have had invites for since school started.  I think in time I'll let him choose which ones he wants to go to but I didn't want him to be left out so early on in the year as the whole class seemed to have been invited and it provided a good opportunity to socialise and firm bonds outside of the school gates.  It was a glorious afternoon, unseasonal heatwave, beautiful holistic surroundings.

... Zander I must appologise if you are checking these out in years to come. I once read that you shouldn't use pictures of your kids looking goofy. But ever frustrated by the delay I cannot banish from my camera and the fact that just moments before you were wearing the cheekiest cutest grin you ever did see, the goof happened and this is the moment I caught. And I love it, goof and all!
... nourished by seeing him hanging out with his class mates ... not surprisingly; with the girls!

I'm nourished by his promise to be polite for the rest of his life and though I will not hold him to this as he is only small, he means well and is doing well so far and it's music to my ears.

... by his helpful streak which continues 'You shouldn't do it all' he says as I clear the table of dinner things into the dishwasher, 'I could do it all for you'  But I'd rather it was a joint effort so we settled for team work and I love this.  I love having the kitchen clean straight after dinner, though I have an inkling the return of the sticker chart with the promise of comics for a certain number may have something to do with it.
I say that but the sticker chart returned when I realised how helpful he was becoming, now it truly is a reward chart and not, as it has been before, a bribe chart.  He tidies their bedroom every morning before school and doesn't complain when I request a hand with something here and there.  Gaia makes a habit of going into the chill out room first thing and clearing it of coffee cups and empty biscuit wrapprs.  I love this spontaneous awareness - something I've been trying to persuade Cliff can exist, be fostered, nurtured and grown in children from very early on.

I will enjoy it all whilst it lasts.  I will enjoy every moment I can this week.

Bright Blessings  X