Sunday, 29 July 2012

This week I am grateful for...

The great British Weather - a week of gorgeous sunshine for the start of the holidays meaning we can break from the routine and get out to parks, beaches and play dates with friends, plus gorgeous garden play whilst basking in the suns rays.

Time together.... my accident resulted in me giving up my career.  I threw myself into my role as mother and home maker far more than I would otherwise have been able to do as the main breadwinner.  I can now enjoy more special quality time with my family.  I struggled with this change in the early days but 5 years on can see huge advantages in this shift. 

I can spend each day with my children, being inventive, creative, playful.... tired (we're only human).

Early rises - my children have always been early risers.  They strive to wake up before Ben leaves the house for work at 5:30am each morning so they get to say 'goodbye'.  Hmmmm... on weekends they rise a touch later at around 6 but still. It's early.  But with a pale skinned red head it works well to get up and out before the midday sun!!  We were at Marine Lake in Weston for early morning paddling and volcano building.

Some slow hooky - having seen so much wonderful crochet in blogland, I've been so wanting to learn basic crochet.  Sunday was a day for me when my brain just couldn't get my legs to function.  They just didn't want to work.  Not unusual now, just need to respect it, pace myself and rest.  Gladly it was a Sunday so Ben could take the children off for some fun and I did rest.  I've found that resting without a purpose doesn't work for me as my mood gets low, so I searched YouTube and found a number of demonstrators who covered the granny square really slowly so I could gradually follow- what a source of inspiration and learning!  My first squares took shape?  Not sure but they're a start!

Completion of my Cath Kidston style chair makeover - a sneak peak!!  I just keep stroking them- I'm thrilled with how they turned out.  My heart skips a little each time they catch my eye.

The tooth fairy - two visits in as many days.  What excitement a wobbly tooth or two can bring.

The start of the London 2012 Olympics - something for the country to be proud of, inspired by and children to endeavour to reenact.

Snuggle time, enough said.

Small things are often the overlooked parts of our day.  They are the parts to be savoured and revelled in.  Remembered with a smile.  We take these moments in life for granted yet they are the foundations of memories that give us the warm glow; a feeling of wellbeing that material things can never match. I savour them, recognise them and let them bring happiness.  It is satisfaction in these things that have got me (and continue to get me) through life changing disability and debilitating pain.  All things seem possible when enveloped in our loved ones arms.  It is our attitude to these small things we can manage.  We choose our response to lifes challenges and indeed it's wonders. 

Live in the moment and savour the precious times... time passes, money is tight, pain and illness strikes so unfairly.  But God loves us and brings great joy if we can only manage to recognise it.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Waddesdon Manor

One of the main things we miss about living in Bucks (other than friends and family of course) is the endless wonder of Waddesdon Manor.  If you're not familiar with it, you can find more out about it here.  It is a wonderful National Trust property with remarkable open spaces and formal gardens.  It never disappoints and this visit was no exception.

They are currently housing a sculpture exhibition and you can get more information here.  There were endless photo opportunities, but the beautiful back drop of the Manor and some modern sculptures were hugely inspiring and my legs had a new lease of life as the adrenalin (combined with morphine) enabled me to investigate most of what was available to view!!

Modern art usually isn't my thing..... but so many of this collection were amazingly imaginative and awe inspiring.  My favourite by far was an enormous chandelier.  From a distance it looked like a wonderfully ornate crystal chandelier.

It is only on closer inspection that it is apparent that the "crystals" are actually acrylic people in gorgeous pastel shades in a variety of different poses all hanging / standing on each others shoulders.

I LoVED this piece of work.  It made us smile and even laugh that the crystals were little people!  Even the colours chosen were beautiful - simple, almost childish in their choice of palette but so gorgeous!! They were slightly stronger in colour towards the centre of the structure and the colour faded towards the edges.

I didn't note all the names of the sculptures... I just enjoyed them in the moment.  But this was my favourite for sure. I also love the LOVE sign against the formal partaire of the Manor!  I think that could be a permanent addition...

The enormous structure of a man changed in perception from different angles all around the garden.  He did have a rather large bottom - much to the delight of my littlies.

I did love this teapot

It was a wonderful work in metal with scroll type detail making up it's body, spout and handle! R said all the tea would spill out rather than come out the spout (she's pouring the tea out as per the nursery rhyme).  Although it was locked during our visit - the concept was like a garden room - and had a number of seats worked into the internal shape!!

The sun cast amazing shadows...

The last sculpture I took a fancy to was this chap - the metal one in the middle that is....

And what else to do on a cultural experience at an historical manor of enormous national value?

Why....roly polys of course - and LoTS of them!!

J9 x

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Here comes the sun...

The journey up the M5 took us to Buckinghamshire and to Grandma & Grandpa's house.  This holds magic in many ways for R & B but one, is that they have a magical garden and they have the opportunity to play in it.  It is a beautiful garden and the focus of many hours work, dedication and enjoyment. 

From the wilderness:

To the productive veg patch:

To a haven made for hide and seek:

It is known that the garden has fairies hiding amongst the undergrowth and colourful fish in the murky waters. 

It is on a scale that to a child seems perfect - not too large to feel intimidating and fearful but big enough to run and hide and feel space all around you with lots of hidy holes ideal for little people.

And with our trip across the width of England, the meeting of Uncles, Aunties and cousins is enthused over.  Running, laughing, playing - badminton, football, frisbe, skipping, roller skating, scooting, catch, bubbles - endless possibilities for joy.

The garden has been transformed over time from a stretch of grass to wonderful extravaganza of floral explosions

and pond with ginormous gunnera that seem like plants from another time. 

Non stop outdoor activity for 3 days.  Complete LuSHness...... and wonderful weather and food to boot.  A fabulous way to start the summer holidays.

Monday, 23 July 2012

On Cloud Nine....

On Friday, the most beautiful and awe inspiring natural wonder took place before our eyes. 

The sky (having been a variation of grey, black and all colours in between for what seems like MoNTHS) was wonderfully BLuE when we woke up on Friday morning.  We had a plan; the kids had an inset day and the hubby a day off and a bright blue sky certainly inspired motivation in my aching body when I needed to drag it from my wonderfully comfy bed!!

During our journey to Buckinghamshire - birth place to the hubby and home of his siblings and folks, the clouds performed a beautiful spectacle before our eyes.

Within 8 precise minutes the sky turned from clear blue, to a scattering of slight wisps of cloud decorating the skyline, to a collection of gorgeously defined, lumpy, billowing, white masses.

I have never seen such cloud formation in such a quick space of time and never so completely defined in a bulbous crop of gaseous 'cauliflower'. 

The pictures were taken through the windscreen on the way up the M5 and only give an impression of natures beauty.  They were taken during 8 joyous minutes of gasps and pointing, amidst cries of admiration and identification - lions, dragons, ice creams and angels were all spotted in the clouds taking shape.  I wonder how many people in the cars surrounding us were having similar conversations, each spotting different things within the clouds.  As the minutes went by, the clouds lost their definition and gradually crisp edges transformed into large, fluffy combined formations of grey.

But in those few minutes there was SuCH beauty.  Such simple pleasures.  The formation of memories and traditions sparked by the wonderful British climate.  Yes we moan about the weather. And my goodness this has been a WET year. 

But the beauty of those vessels that contain that weather...... the cloud can be a beautiful thing indeed.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pre Holiday Prep

Over the past month I've been focusing my efforts on giving our home a tardy 'spring clean'.  I'm not naturally a tidy person.  I don't mind clutter.  But since having my accident and recovering mentally and physically with my new abilities/ capabilities, I have come to realise that a bit more order would make a real difference to the quality of our family life. 

As a disabled mum, with a perfectionist personality type, it has been a huge adjustment and challenge to 'relearn' how to approach everyday tasks.  I've found some things that have proven invaluable.  They're often simple but practical things anyone can put in place meaning a little more organisation can prevent the mayhem before you leave the house with the kids and increase your little ones independence along the way.

  • Steps in the kitchen.  I gave this plain set from IKEA a quick makeover and they 'live' in our kitchen:

These steps have enormous use in our house.  The kids simply drag them across the floor and it enables my children to wash hands, get drinks of water, reach snacks independently resulting in less ups and downs for me which would increase my pain levels and means I can put my energy into more quality activities with them.

  • Accessible art & craft materials.  My children have been in a constant creative whirl for at least 3 years and when I was immobile completely organising a craft area for them was essential in facilitating this.  Drawers with paper, scissors, markers, glue and other such materials are at a height the children can access at will.  Apparently, having paper and pens available at whim develops childrens imagination too.

  • A Basket in the Car Boot!  I try to keep a stock of items in a basket in the boot.  It can be a 'go to' supply rather than carrying things in handbags, resulting in less time to get out the door.  With a bit of maintenance every now and then your boot basket can enable you to be prepared for any spontaneous away from home (indoor or outdoor) activity with minimal stress of packing, tearing round the house finding 'stuff' and wasting the sunshine before hand!!  Items might include a box of snacks, sunscreen, towel, drinks in cartons, wellies, buckets & spades, balls, sun hats, spare clothing, picnic rug etc.  I have to pace myself due to pain levels on physical activity so this is a real win for me - very simple but worth putting in place for any busy mum!

  • Cooking in batches.  It's very important to me as a mother to feed my children healthy home cooked food whenever I can.  Sometimes it is just not physically possible for me to do this and I've had to chose quality time with my kids over healthy food.  To prevent myself being overly harsh on myself for failing to meet my own standards as a mum, I've found an alternative.  Again, it's simple but can make such a difference at the difficult end of the day for me when children are hungry and demanding and my own pain levels are peaking and the last thing I need to is stand over an oven cooking!!  So when I do cook, I cook on a larger scale than normal and portion up the remainder and pop in the freezer.  We did this as mothers when weaning using ice cube trays - I just do it on a larger scale in containers!  Then, when I'm on a high pain day, or when I know I'm going to struggle physically and won't have the energy to cook from scratch, I can pull these out the freezer and all are happy!!  Meals like cottage pie, lasagne, spagetti bolognese work especially well.

  • Organising toy storage - to help encourage the children to tidy their own toys away.  Everything has it's home meaning the house stays relatively tidy and those endless calls of "Muuumm! Where's my ......" and the associated ransacking of the house in the hunt for said toy are minimised.  They still happen..... just less frequently.

  • Planning our day - this can sometimes be a bit tedious if you're a spontaneous type but I've found it a useful tool to help with the sense of 'control' over tasks within a day.  This doesn't have to be too regimental and can be a fully democratic family process but it does enable you to limit screen time (and the associated guilt as a mother) and balance indoor and outdoor play - and rest!!

  • Setting expectations - this is very much linked to planning the day.  I have to be honest with my children and express whether I'm able to do the park, woods, etc today or whether today is a den building day at home for example.  Being honest from the start prevents unrealistic expectations of yourself and from your children. We spend a lot of time at home and can be fairly creative in what we do so it doesn't get boring.  As a family we class adventure parks / soft play as a treat rather than an everyday activity - something to be looked forward to or a reward for something.

  • Creating a Summer List - full family involvement in coming up with ideas of what anybody might like to do at some point over the summer holidays!!  Activities on our list include: having coffee and cake in a cafe, picnics in the park, specific craft ideas, going to the garden centre and camping in the garden.  Everyone can put in ideas and it can help you each morning on a wet or dry day to decide what to do - just tick it off the list!!  This link goes into this in such better detail - as a planner I love the detail but you can use as much of this approach that works for your family (or not!) How to - Summer Fun Focused Plan!! or a more fun and certainly more pretty idea is here.  We did the latter last year and the children have asked to do it again this summer!
So organising, maintaining, replenishing and creating these things have been busying me this week.  Practical things that help me prepare for two wonderful balls of energy needing exercise, stimulation and love for 6 weeks!!  It's not the answer, but it does relieve some stress during those manic days!  If anyone has any tips that help you manage the school holidays, guilt free and relatively frugally, please do leave a comment and share!

This post hasn't taken the form I thought it would.  I've gone with it though as it helps me to remember what works for us in practice and may help another mum in my situation.  I by no means have all the answers and am still finding my way in this 'new world'.  The main thing many of us need to be remember is to be kind to ourselves.  In the endless struggle to do the best we can for our children we can sometimes overlook our own well being - and what would happen to our children if we crash and burn?!  Hmmmm.... worthy of some thought and a great excuse to grab a coffee in a favourite cup and sit down with your favourite mag in the sunshine when you can. 

J9 x

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Sunny Sunday at Weston Sand Sculpture Festival

In early July we woke up early, spied the blue skies and scrambled out of the house in an eager mood primed ready for investigation.  We had agreed that the "very next sunny day" we would take a trip into Weston super Mare and visit the Sand Sculpture Festival  

It's become an annual trip for us since we moved to Somerset and depicts sculptures created from compacted sand by world acclaimed artists - and you can walk amongst them and even have a go on a small scale yourself. 

This year's theme is 'Fun and Games' and there were some really impressive sculptures - they've stood up to an enormous amount of wind and rain with astonishingly little signs of damage and they are amazing in their scale and detail.

I loved the cheeky clown with his tongue stuck out.  He wasn't a freaky clown - more endearing than chucky style!

B loved the guy on the motorbike. It was like real movement had been captured in the sculpture with the goggles and scarf blowing round his neck.

The roller coaster looked like it would be great fun - the little people in the coaster cars were even leaning back from the force of g force!!

R's favourite was an adorable HuGE teddy bear (the height of a large house) with building blocks around him highlighting the theme of the exhibition.

There were lots more elements to enjoy but in case anyone is off to visit, I really don't want to spoil the surprise here!!  Visiting the festival was a thoroughly enjoyable way to pass a morning.  R & B played castle building with empty paper cups and fashioning sculptures of their own, whilst the 'grown-ups' watched on with smiley faces, cradling hot coffee....myself looking gheko like, head turned to the sun, enjoying the warmth on my face - something simple to enjoy indeed.

 And my favourite sculpture?

Ah, Queenie.  Need I say more!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Billy Boys Birthday...

My little B turned 5 on Monday.  Five whole years since we celebrated his birth...

He brings such joy to this household. A rufty, tufty, blonde haired, blue eyed bundle of gorgeousness. 

And with each year passing brings the desire for Cake.

Birthday cakes are a cause of much excitement in this family.  It's a tradition started by my mum when I was a child.  We'd spend ages choosing the theme of the cake and it was anticipated just as much as the presents.  I so loved this simple pleasure that we've made it part of our birthday celebrations and the unveiling has turned into an eagerly anticipated event. It's great because we're not very materialistic and it helps us to shift the focus of a celebration for all to more than the gifts. After MuCH deliberation, he was sure this year he wanted a "Mario" cake.

Hmmmm.....We needed two cakes for this celebration.  One for the tea his buddies came for on Saturday and one for his actual birthday - and it would be devastating to disappoint!!

The first was a plain sponge with butter icing filling.  It's topped with hand mixed coloured icing - so goodness knows the colour range, but I tried to make it look like Mario is bursting through the cake.

The second was a chocolate sponge covered with milk chocolate, sprinkles, white chocolate stars and a regal icing Mario face (which was SO much easier than the first Mario model!)

The look of delight on their face is AlWays worth the effort.  We went to Wookey Hole with his best friends on Saturday (thank you TESCO voucher exchange) and had a fabulous day.  It was wonderful to see them run, gaze in awe at the caves (and King Kong) and enjoy the circus show.

And despite all this, topping the list of memories of the day for me was seeing his gorgeous look of delight when he saw his cakes.  Priceless.