Monday, 30 September 2013

Magic Moments - Exploring & Growing

I captured this moment while exploring the little stream at the bottom of our garden with Miss C.  I love the way the light has made her white hair into a halo!

And this moment was caught by Miss A playing with my camera in the car while we waited for Daddy at the supermarket. Such a cheeky little smile.

Both moments speak to me of the preciousness of these early days of life, exploring, learning, growing.  So often I speed from one thing to the next, hurrying us all around, and I forget to pause and treasure the moments like this.  I forget that my babies will not always be small and innocent like this.  It's lovely to have the photos to look back on, but I don't want to miss the moments as they come.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Capers in the Country Park

We were sad this morning.  Last night a good family friend in the village told us that she was moving - today.  Miss I was very tearful, and generally we were all a bit low, so I decided we needed to get out and enjoy ourselves.  The weather wasn't very promising, but we packed ourselves into the car and headed to Craig-Y-Nos Country Park.

It was exactly what we all needed.  Fresh air, a new place to explore - and ducks.

We took shelter from a shower as we arrived in the little cafe and had a reasonable lunch - the kids had hotdogs and I had a jacket potato (you can't go wrong with that, really, can you?)  Then it was outside to enjoy the fresh air.

It's not a very big park, really - it doesn't need to be, surrounded by the Brecon Beacons - just about the right size for little legs to run around without getting too tired.

We started by the Fishpond - although we saw no sign of fish, just lots of ducks and one swan.  The ducks followed us as we walked around the pond, obviously expecting us to have purchased some of the duck food they helpfully sell in the cafe.  Unfortunately for them we hadn't!

Then it was into the main park, where there are lots of interesting paths and wide open spaces to run up and down.  At one point the children wanted to know where the swings were, and I realised they had misunderstood when I said we were going to a Park.  Once they accepted this wasn't a 'play park', they happily embraced the excitement of exploring and racing.

After two hours the children were cheerfully tired and we headed back to the car where Miss C promptly fell asleep.  I am so grateful we have places like this to visit and glad we were able to enjoy an autumn day having so much fun when we had started it so sadly.

I'm linking with Country Kids over at Coombe Mill.  Click the link to see other fantastic exploits outdoors!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Health & House - #R2BC

Today I am definitely feeling cheerful...  That is reason enough to be cheerful in someways, since I have not 'felt' cheerful for a quite a while - Happy?  Yes, that.  Content?  Mostly.  Blessed?  Always.  Cheerful?  Not so much.

I think the main reason I am feeling cheerful is all my children are well today!  They are back at school and playgroup, and I have great hopes that perhaps next week we will actually complete the week without at least one of them being off sick.  This, I think is one of the times I am most aware of having 5 children.  You just get one of them well, and the next one is down with something.  Miss A said to me yesterday on her quarantine day at home after sickness, "You never get sick do you, mummy?"  And I am most grateful to say it is true, at least rarely.  I get sniffles, but never the flu.  I feel run down, but never get sick.  The one time I had a migraine and was temporarily unable to move it freaked my husband out so much he called an ambulance (not such a big deal in the FI, they didn't have anything else to do that night!).  Since I am so rarely ill myself, I'm afraid I have limited patience with nursing others, so it is a great joy to me when all my family are fit and healthy - in addition to just being pleased for them, of course!

My second reason for being cheerful is the great House Tidy has begun... again...  It's been put on hold due to the various illnesses - especially because of the extra washing and work that's been required.  The house will never be completely tidy, but I have great hopes that in the next weeks - yes weeks - I will be able to create some kind of order in our lives.  I have begun - with a little help from Miss A - and that makes me feel cheerful indeed.


 These two spaces - the back hall and the conservatory (children's playroom) are as far as we have got, but it's a start...!

What are your Reasons to be Cheerful today?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Settling and Singing...

When we first moved to Wales we started going to the local Toddler Group, Miss A, Miss C and I - Mr M was there too, but enjoying the sounds of play from within the womb, so to speak.  Miss A, a cheerful and confident child most of the time, joined in loudly and joyously with all the activities - painting, story time and especially singing.  Miss C, only about 14 months when we started, was a bit more reticent and spent most of the time on my knee.

Then Miss A went to full days at Nursery after Easter, and it was just Miss C and I - oh, and Mr M who had made his gracious appearance just before the holidays.  It's funny how having a new baby makes you view the older children different - and makes them view themselves differently too - and I think this was compounded by Miss A no longer being with us in the days for me to compare Miss C to.  Suddenly Miss C blossomed into the child who joined in with everything.  I let her do the painting, she went and played by herself with the toys, enjoyed snack and story time and sat down on the mat for singing time.

Slowly but surely she became a confident little girl rather than my carefully protected baby.  She's been joining in pretty well with most things, but although she would join in the actions on the songs and loved ring-a-ring-o-roses, I hadn't heard her little voice - she seemed too absorbed by watching the play leader or the other children.

When the new school term started, Miss C started playgroup.  I had been concerned that - being my most clingy child (or perhaps me clinging onto her) - she would find it upsetting to be left at playgroup without me.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The first morning she cried while I walked out of the door, but as soon as I was outside I could hear she had stopped.  Any nursery teacher will tell you this is usually what happens - although it can take a few minutes for the child to settle.  Since that first day, Miss C goes to playgroup with great excitement, settles down to her play-dough and waves me goodbye with a grin not a tear.

Yesterday, back at our Toddler Group - which happens to be in the same setting as her playgroup - I saw what I consider to be the final stamp of her approval of playgroup.  She was singing.  All of the songs.  And not just singing, but doing all the actions and turning occasionally to encourage me to do them too, as if she was showing me what she had learnt when I wasn't there.

I am no longer anxious as I take her to playgroup.  I know that she loves it, I know it was the right decision, and now I can enjoy some precious time with just Mr M at home...  And when he's asleep, I can enjoy some precious time just for me!

I'm linking this post with Ethan's Escapades: Small Steps Amazing Achievements.  Click the link below to read about some other Amazing Achievements.

Ethans Escapades

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

There's a stream at the bottom of my garden...

It's a magical adventure, into the undergrowth, down the slippery overgrown steps.  We don't have very far to go, we don't even need the car.  It's just at the bottom of the garden, you see, our mysterious little world.  Our very own stream, our very own beam.  It doesn't matter if we get wet, we won't get cold yet.  With towels and a fire waiting inside the adventure is waiting, lets step outside...

Just Miss C and I today - the others are at school, and baby M is fast asleep in his cot.  So, here we go exploring, in our very own back garden.  Down to the little bridge, carefully stepping across the water.

"Mummy it's too heavy," says Miss C.  I think she might mean too scary or too high - she's standing on the bridge alone, but mummy is close at hand.

We cross the bridge, it's time for a paddle.  Whoops, I forgot to tuck Miss C's trousers in.  Never mind, they're just a little bit wet, and maybe a little bit muddy.

She splashes and paddles, and I'm standing ready - with a camera in one hand and the other hand to catch her if she slips.

The water is beautifully clear today.  It's a shame it's the wrong season for baby fish.

Down the little path, pushing through the overgrown bushes, it really is a little wilderness.  The ground is thick with brown leaves already, although the trees are still a glorious spectrum of green.

The sunlight is gently dappling through the leaves of the trees far above.  I still can't believe this is our little place and no one else may come here.

A secret place ready for childish imagination or quiet solitude.

"Mummy, Me go in the water..?"  She's getting brave now, my little Miss C.  She wants to throw stones, and splash her hands in the water.

She wants to explore further and enjoy this lovely Autumn Day.  So we wander along the stream until we come to our neighbours fence.

Then it's time to make our way back to the house again to see if Mr M has woken up yet, maybe have a little snack, and then get ready to collect the others from school.

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘Little Adventures Challenge’ in partnership with Barny, the bear-shaped snack providing a little discovery in every bite. Find out more about Barny here

Monday, 23 September 2013

What shall I spend it on?

I was so chuffed when I won £100 from the Britmums #Spend 20K competition with my Living the Good Life post, but now I don't know what to spend it on.  If had been the 20k, that would have been a different matter, of course, I'd already done the hard work on that!

I have a Love2Shop card just sitting there, waiting.  It's nice to have it in this form, because it means it won't just disappear on nothing, but, having a fairly limited selection of high street shops near by, I'm struggling.  You see the trouble is, I'm just not used to spending money on myself - even when I was single with no kids.  I could just spend it on the family... but I quite fancy being a bit selfish.

So, what do you think?  Should I pop down to Homebase and get something useful like storage?  I love storage, in fact I'm fairly obsessive about it (which would surprise anyone who has ever seen the mess our house is pepetually in).  I like things to have a place to go and I don't like to put things away unless they are in that place - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.  What I really want right now is something to organise the shoes...  Maybe I could even make something - but although my dad was a carpenter, I'm a bit a bodger when it comes to woodwork.

Or, I could go to Debenhams (trying to think if there is one nearby) or one of the other clothing shops signed up to the scheme, and splash out on some new 'post-baby' clothes.  Mr M is six months old now, so I could treat myself to some non-breastfeeding clothes to wear in a couple of months.  I could buy a new posh frock if I had anywhere to wear it to.  This was the last posh frock I bought from Debenhams!  I've always loved their Debut range, although I don't think this was.  (And no I haven't been paid to say that...)

Then there are the theme parks.  Has anyone been to Thomas Land?  Would it be worth the extra money spent on fuel and accomodation to get there?  Possibly not.

Or £100 of nappies from Boots?  Or really expensive perfume? 

Or should I just keep the money in my purse until I find something I really want?

Decisions, decisions...  What do you think?

Magic Moments - Homework

I know what you're thinking.  How can homework be a Magic Moment?  In fact, just yesterday I was reading an article on the BBC News Website ( about how much stress homework brings into the average family.

I remember the struggle I had when we lived in the Falkland Islands to find space in the three hours between getting home from school and bedtime to help Miss I with her homework - particularly difficult when you're trying to look after a baby and two other younger children and cook dinner.

Since we've been in Wales, however, Miss I has not had homework - other than reading which she loves and spelling practice which I confess I didn't worry about after her teacher told me she was only given it so she didn't feel left out.  This year Miss I started Juniors, however, and last Monday she came bounding off the bus waving a piece of paper at me.

"Mummy, I've got Homework!"

The homework wasn't particularly complicated - write several 'expanded' sentances using a list of 'are' and 'air' words. She was ready and eager to begin, but we had a club that afternoon, so she couldn't do it that night.  The next morning she got up early, sat down at the breakfast table with her list and pencil and began to write her sentances - with the odd suggestion from me as I made everyone breakfast.

Friday my husband met the children off the bus, so it wasn't until she stepped through the door that she told me excitedly.

"Mummy, I've got more Homework!"

This time it was Maths.  Miss I loves Maths and always has.  I quite like Maths too, and I was looking forward to helping her with it.  Unfortunately for me, a quick glance told me she was not going to need my help.  We set up a little desk in her room so she could work in peace and I went back to the other children.  Five minutes later she appeared, clutching her paper.  All done.

Such a contrast to the tears and tantrums over homework we used to have.  No doubt they will return as the homework gets harder, but for now I'm going to enjoy and encourage my daughter's delight in having this new responsibility.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


I would say that in general my parenting style involves lots of love, lots of shouting, lots of bribery and the occassional threat.  Mostly we muddle through and it works well enough, and then occassionally I decide it's time for another bash at 'Incentives' - usually following a meltdown on my part.

This weekend I reached breaking point with my six year old.  Mr J was consistently refusing to do as he was asked, requiring an escalation of requests to shouts to threats (which includes putting a note on the wall to remind me he isn't to get any treats for the next day).  Eventually he did whatever it was I had wanted him to do, but I was exhausted and he was sullen.  There is a scary moment at these times when I realise I am loosing control.  If someone chooses not to do something, even despite punishment, what can you do to make them?

My solution is to wait until things are calm and we are not in confrontation and to talk to him (or whichever child is in conflict at the time).  And this is usually when I come up with my 'cunning plan'.  In my experience Incentives (based on star charts or coins in a jar etc.) do not work over long periods, but for adjusting attitudes and behaviour by making my children look at their actions in the short term - with the aim of longer term change - they can be wonderfully effective.

The Incentive this time is quite simple.  If the children do as they are asked the first time, they will get a star.  The one with the most stars (with a minimum required!) will get to choose a treat, which they will all enjoy (assuming minimum levels have been reached).  So far, with the occassional challenging moment (let's not talk about last night...) they have been doing really well, especially Mr J.  A gentle reminder that he is expected to do as he's told first time is enough to get him to get dressed, cross the road, put his coat on, give his sisters something back, stop kicking the ball indoors (you see I'm not unreasonable in my requests) and the house is much more tranquil for it.

This morning, off his own back, he decided to look after Miss I as we walked to the bus stop, even though normally he would be racing his other sisters, insisting on being first.  "Will I get a star for this, Mummy?" he asked when I praised him.  "Of course you will," said with a smile.  "You are being very grown up."  Thank goodness Miss I hadn't objected to him holding her hand like she would normally!

Ethans Escapades

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

I believe in you...

I've been thinking recently about moments in my life when I have thought I couldn't do something, when I thought that something was too difficult or too scary or just not me.  There is one key moment that comes to mind that is a kind of foundation stone in my life.

I travelled to New York on my own when I was in my early 20s.  It was the first time I had flown anywhere on my own.  Do I need to add that I was a reasonably naive and inexperienced 23 year old, although I had grown up in London?  I was going to meet up with a group of people during the UN Millennium Summit, but I arrived in Manhattan at the church building where I was staying to find no one there.

I'm not a particularly adventurous person at heart - although I suspect those who know me would probably say that I am - my adventures usually being more by chance than choice.  It was dark, I was alone in a strange city with a suitcase and no earthly idea of when anyone would arrive at the church.  I can still remember deciding to walk from Madison Square Gardens to the YMCA near the UN where I knew some of our group were staying.  So I walked, dragging my suitcase, through the streets of Manhattan.  When I think of it now, I can't imagine what I must have looked like, but I focused on looking confident and kept walking.  After about 10 minutes I decided that this was madness - surely I was asking for trouble just walking - so I got in a cab for the rest of the way.

I booked myself a room in the YMCA for that night, and asked the reception for the room number of  the others - who I had never met.  I left a note for them and then I went to my room, got into bed and started to cry and pray.  I had no idea what I was going to do, but at least for the moment I felt safe.  I hadn't allowed myself to think about how terrified I was to find myself in New York so totally on my own - and yet I didn't feel completely alone, even though I was afraid.  About an hour later I had a knock on the door.  It was the lady organising the group and I was so relieved I think I burst into tears on her right there.

After the summit I had arranged to stay a few extra days to look around New York after everyone else had gone.  Once again I found myself alone, sleeping on a church floor in the middle of Manhattan.  I hadn't realised everyone else would leave immediately.

On my first day alone I went shopping, only to find that my credit card wouldn't work.  In a panic I phoned home - what else do you do?  Of course, I sent my mum into a panic too.  She phoned the bank, she phoned the church, she did everything she could think of to do.  My dad said something very important though.  I can't remember exactly what he said, but the essence of what he said was: "You'll be okay, Nicky.  You always are.  You can do it."  Even now it makes tears come to my eyes to remember his confidence in me.  He trusted me.  He believed in me.  And it wasn't just my (earthly) Dad saying that to me.  It was my (heavenly) Father too.  He says "I trust you", He says, "I believe in you", He says "You can do it".  (Although he can cheat - He never leaves my side.)

And I was okay.  I went to the bank - fortunately a global bank - and I discovered I could use my cash card in the cash machine.  I got the money I needed, and when my mum tracked me down at the church later that day I had everything sorted.  (It turned out the international connections had been down between banks that day!)  The next few days were not easy - particularly the evenings and nights - but I pushed myself to explore and to make the most of the time.  Those few days on my own in a strange city taught me to trust God in a way I never had before.  They also taught me to trust myself, not to allow fear to stop me doing something.

Now that I'm a parent I want to be like my Dad.  I want to give my children the gift of my trust.  I wonder how I can show my children that I believe in them - and yet still be there for them?  How can I give them that self-confidence - without expecting too much of them?  Will I ever have the strength to let them stand on their own feet in a situation and say "You'll be okay.  You can do it."  Well, of course I will - my Daddy believes in me.  And I am no more alone in this than I was all those years ago in New York.

I think I shall link this up with Reasons To Be Cheerful over at Mummy From The Heart today, because I am so grateful to have a Dad who believes in me...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

10 Things I love about Living... In Wales

In October we moved to Mid Wales and a little village on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.  Like many of the other places we have lived we are privileged to live where many people come for holidays.  All through the year - even during heavy snow - we have watched walkers, laden down with heavy backpacks, stride down our lane and I have often wondered what they have thought as they walked passed our house.  I decided, if it was me, I would have been thinking "I wonder what it's like to actually live in such a beautiful place", and that was where the idea for this little series came from.

So what do I love about living in Wales?

1. The Village Community.  I know that Wales in general is a very friendly place, but the village in which we live has got to be one of the most sociable in the country.  Coming from the tight knit community in the Falkland Islands this was a very pleasant surprise.  There is a village hall which is very well used, with film nights, craft club, gardening club and frequent special events.  There is also a book club and a Ladies' Group (like the WI).  We were fortunate to connect with one couple through some Christian friends, but even without that we were welcomed by neighbours as soon as we moved in.  There was, it seems, a fair amount of interest in our arrival within the village, and when we turned up to our first community event we were greeted incredibly warmly.  This weekend there was a party for some of our friends who are moving away from the village.  It was wonderful to see how many people made the effort to come to say goodbye to them - this is in part a tribute to them as people, but also a sign of the nature of the community.

2. Wood stoves and country kitchens.  This is not unique to Wales, but certainly is our first experience of living in a place where almost everyone you visit (including us) has a wood burning stove and a big kitchen with full size range cooker.  There is something very pleasant and hospitable about gathering around a fire or chatting in a country kitchen.  At Christmas the range cooker was fabulously useful, although the rest of the year we use only part of it.  The wood stove, on the other hand, is a real asset.  I grew up with an open fire and I just love the smell of it.  Hubby spends a great deal of time exercising his pyromania and if I put on a jumper or snuggle into a blanket of an evening, the glint will come into his eye and he will offer to put the fire on.  When we have the stove on all day he will boil water on it - for fun really, although he will produce boiled eggs if pressed.

3. The Beautiful Beacons.  As a Londoner, the countryside has always filled me with a certain amount of awe.  I love the wide variety of landscapes through out the British Isles, from the gentle hills and flat lands in the South to the Lakes and Peaks to the North.  The Brecon Beacons are high on my list of favourite places, and I often pause as I walk around the village and just truly thank God that he has brought us to this beautiful place to live.  There is a gentle and yet wild quality to the mountains around about that lifts me.  There is a silence that soothes me.  There is a richness that inspires me.  I think I may just have to take up photography.

4. (a) The Quirky Local Shops.  I love the fact that our local town (12 miles away) has comparatively few high street chain shops.  From butchers to bookshops, clothes to children's shoes there are still many independent retailers that make it a much more interesting place to spend time.  On the other hand there is (b) Tesco & ASDA 16 miles, Co-op & Morrisons 12 miles.  To some this may seem a long way to travel to a supermarket.  For us, it is wonderfully close, compared to the 40 miles we travelled on a gravel road in the Falklands -  to be able to go to supermarkets and choose from a vast array of products is sometimes overwhelming.

5. Singing.  It may seem like a bit of a cliche, but it really is true - the Welsh are an incredibly musical people.  There are so many concerts in our little area we could easily go to one every fortnight.  The children's school concerts and assemblies are filled with so much singing that I wonder when they find the time to learn the songs.  Last Christmas there was Christmas Carol singing in the village hall - in addition to the Carol Service at the Church - and I was amazed by how many people were there and how enthusiastically everyone joined in. 

6. Chickens & Sheep.  Living in Wales has been the beginning of 'Living the Good Life' for us.  We have our little flock of Black Rock Hens - stars of many a Blog Post and photo.  I got a glimpse of my husband's true calling when we first got the chickens, as he was up at the crack of dawn to let them out of their coop, and often sat and talked to them in the evenings.  As the months have passed, the novelty has worn off somewhat, but the 'girls' are still a significant part of our family, more pets than livestock.  However, as I mentioned in my Living the Good Life post, they, along with visits to neighbouring farms to feed lambs and helping a friend with her horses, have created an ambition to become true Small Holders, that may eventually see us firmly settled in this area for good.

7. Dark Skies.  One of the wonderful things about the Brecon Beacons is the lack of light pollution.  In fact, this area has been designated a Dark Skies site, and has some of the best views of stars in the country (on a clear night, of course).  As someone who has always had a passion for Astronomy, I was delighted to live in the Falkland Islands with the glorious skyscapes, and I was very excited to discover that our new home had almost as good views of the more familiar north hemisphere night sky.

8. School bus.  As we live more than two miles from the children's school they are picked up by the school bus.  This is the joy of rural life.  At first I was a bit anxious about this, as I had always disliked the idea of small children travelling to school without their parents - probably influenced by American films.  However, it is both immensely practical (saving on fuel costs for us) and necessary (since until June I couldn't drive).  The children have been quite happy since their first day when they got on the bus to go to school.  It is a small bus that takes about a dozen children from our area to the school, and they enjoy the opportunity to spend a little bit longer with their friends.

9. Our House.  For the first time since we got married almost 9 years ago, we have our own house.  My husband had a house in Wiltshire when we married, but we never lived in it as he was working in London when I met him and we sold it when we moved to Gibraltar.  When we started looking for a house online while still in the Falklands I asked Hubby what did his dream house have.  His answer: a cellar.  My list was slightly longer: a decent sized garden, enough bedrooms for all of us, a good kitchen, large lounge and a room that wasn't our usual living space.  That very day this house appeared within our price range: 5 bedrooms, large kitchen (beautifully designed and spacious until I got my stuff in it) with cellar, lounge / dining, two bathrooms (going to be even more useful as the kids get older), a large rambling garden (with a stream!!).  I was in love.  When the time came to view the house, I thought at first it was too far from town, but even as I took the first steps through the front door, I knew it was our house.  Everything else would just have to be worked out - we were buying this house.

10. Mr M.  Our fifth (and definitely last) child was born here in Wales, completing the cycle of "New Home, New Baby".  We discovered I was pregnant while looking at houses in the area (a fortunate discovery that definitely influenced our choices).  It was a bit of a shock to say the least, but I am so delighted to have my little Welsh baby.  Once again I was unable to have my longed for 'water birth', since he scared us by seeming to have a problem with his kidneys (which was a false alarm) and then again by having a dropping heart rate due to a full knot in his cord (incredibly rare according to the doctor).  I am looking forward to seeing if he develops a Welsh accent, but I suppose that will depend on how long we stay here for.

This post is part of my series on where we have lived.  If you missed the others, click to see posts on The Falkland Islands and London