Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Its a snow plow. See?

I'm a 'stay at home Mum' this year. And before I go any further I need to add a qualifier or two.

1. We very rarely stay at home

2. I
COMPLETELY hate that title, but am at a loss to come up with anything better. Its loaded, its misleading, its patronizing, and devalues what actually happens during my day.

So... that said, due to my..um...current status I spend a fair amount of time with toys.
When J was born we were zealously committed to the developmental superiority of non-plastic, non noise making, imagination feeding toys. As you can imagine, 5 years, and an additional boy later we have let things slide a little. We steer clear of violent toys (guns in particular), computer game machines, and still noisy toys (for may sanity as much as theirs) and well, plastic junk. We feel like the boys have LOTS of toys, but in comparison to many we seem to be lacking.

At a recent play date a little boys asked Jamie '
is this all the toys you have?' and went on to wander around looking bored, despite poor J's best efforts to entertain.
This is a new thing for us (well, for me really) - the judgment of other children. It seems to happen on a fairy regular basis in the world of Kindergarten, where I can't go and protect (insert angst here). Why are you wearing that thing that's pink? I have better Lego's than you. I know more about x than you. My bike is faster. I've seen this, done this, have this, and its all better than you.

Its hard, you know? Hard to hear it, hard not to intervene all the time, to jump and protect, hard not to fall into competition, and hard to find the line between our values of less stuff, less consumption, outdoor natural play, and well, giving the kids some funky stuff, and some social capital. Somehow we manage it in a way that feels OK to us, and for the most part OK for the boys. We thrift things, in and out. We do say no. Big gifts are for birthdays and Christmas, and Jamie saves his own money for other things. And
sometimes they get a treat.

So.. all of this because here at Shutter Sisters they are asking for pictures of toys. To lighten the day. And I like to play.

So, here are some pics. I'd love to hear what you do about any of the above!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

walk with us.

I'm SO bad at keeping up with this.

ITS SPRING!!!! Did you hear me there, in Outer Mongolia?

I want to say just this: No snow suits.

NO SNOW SUITS! Did I mention that already? All winter I've wrestled 2 small people unwillingly into half a tone of down filled, fleeced, wool, thinsulated, hermetically sealed cocoons. 3 times a day. The end of all this deserves mentioning
at least twice.

( and I know, you people in Canada. There is
definitely one more snow storm coming. You've seen snow every month here since you were 7.. Blah Blah. I'm not listening...)

We like to get out and walk all year round. But its so much easier when its warm (er) out. There are birds, little signs of rebirth everywhere we look, and we can pop out for a half hour stroll with very little drama (see above..)

Enjoy coming with us on this one (and tell me about the places you welcome spring) ....

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

'Fake it 'till you make it' and other perky tales from the goofy world of PPD

I am not a young parent. I am not parenting alone. I am not a first time mother. I am educated, mostly middle class, I have a career, a home. I am a positive person. I am in control.

And absolutely
none of this matters.

I still experienced Postpartum Depression. The same that is diagnosed in over 10% if all new mothers. The same that in reality effects countless numbers more. Across all boundaries. Regardless of anything.
Its a strange community builder. 'Did you cry (yell, panic, feel hopeless...) uncontrollably today? Wow,
me too! and that's a great pair of shoes!'

One of the crazy things about PPD is that, while so many of us experience it, not one of us has an identical story, and through the very nature of the beast we are often completely isolated from each other.

Even as I work on this post I am unsure of telling my story. There is is this undertone, amongst those who haven't experienced depression, that 'happy happy joy joy' all the time will just fix it. But that's, frankly, crap. How else do we know that we are not lost unless someone else tells us they have been here before, with all its unspeakable awfulness, and survived?

For me PPD was a destructive cocktail of chemistry and situation. I can write about this now only because its gone. At the time I wouldn't have had the slightest clue how to explain what I was experiencing. In an odd way it was like swimming in a wild, crowded wave pool. You go under and all you can do is thrash around in the darkness, while you are pounded again and again by waves you don't see coming, people a blur all around you, just surviving from one second to the next, with no idea whats going on, whats happening to you. And then, without warning you surface. And all you can think about is wow. That was scary. I'm so glad its over now. And then another wave comes.

When I felt better I imagined it all gone, and that I didn't need to talk to anyone about it. And I never felt myself slipping aback under, until I came back up again. And so the cycle continued.

The pieces of the 'under' times (and that was the majority for 10 months) that I remember now are not pretty, and they still make me feel raw and vulnerable. Its been hard to forgive myself for all of that. What has helped has been the understanding that PPD, like other forms of depression is an
illness. Just as much as cancer, just as much as a broken leg, with symptoms beyond our control. We didn't ask for it, and we don't deserve it. But it will change.

One day I realized that I'd felt better for a week. And then it was 2. And now its a year. Now I can recognize a bad day amongst the better days.

I don't have a secret, no magic cure. What I think, maybe helped get me through is simply
'fake it till you make it'.

I know. Trite doesn't even begin to describe it. But its the best way I can think of to explain even the thinnest thread of a strategy I used to get through all this (and it has a catchy rhyme, so that's worth something, right?) I wish I had the sense, understanding, and support to just get the drugs and/or the therapy. But I didn't. 20/20 hindsight.
Despite the constant blur I knew, of course, that all was not well. And I was afraid that it was somehow damaging my son (did I mention the
paranoia??), so I pretended. I made myself pick him up. I made myself sing to him, I made myself speak love to him, and I made myself take photos of us together, placing myself firmly in his life. Even though I felt hollow.

Don't get me wrong here - I am a strong advocate of telling everyone who will listen how you are really feeling, and I regret the mask I wore with my friends and family. But my children (I also had a 3 year old) didn't need to know any more than they could already sense. I believe this 'practice' mothering helped me grow into actually doing it for real.

I celebrate motherhood with passion, but I also know how it deepened my depression to think that everyone else was floating in a haze of mothering wonder, while I was feeling not a bit of it.

So to the moral of my story. Strength in numbers, baby. Share the hurt. We
will help you carry it. And maybe we can make you smile once in a while, until you can do it without pretending. Because it will happen.

This is my guest post over here today. Its a new initiative spearheaded by Meg Fahrenbach. Feel free to stop by and leave a comment.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Daily Dose of Encouragement

Just a quick note to say that I've got a shot up over here: Daily Dose of Encouragement which is part of this project, that I'm helping with a little, spearheaded by the wonderful and creative Meg Fahrenbach of Tea & Brie.

Stay tuned for a guest blog post from me on the You are Not Alone site. Yikes!!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009


I'm curious. What are your family practices for the whole Santa /Pere Noel / Father Christmas thing? I don't mean addressing the heart stopping question of the great mans existence (as if there is any question. sheesh.) but rather what percentage of the gift deluge does Santa bring to your house?

This has been a snag of contradiction I've unsuspectingly been caught on for more than one year now. And I never see it coming.

You see, in our house Father Christmas fills stocking for the children. Simple. That's the way it has always been, and I naively thought, was the way it just was. Oh, how innocently I skip toward the waiting jaws of 5 year old social networking.

'Mummy, Santa brings Billy LOADS of really big presents, not just in his stocking! How come he gets more than me??'


So I've asked around and found the following variations, just in J's class, in addition to our practice:

- Santa brings all Christmas gifts, regardless of expenses and sizes
- Parent (s) bring one smallish, meaningful gift, the rest from Santa
- A mix of 'under tree gifts' come from both family and Santa
- Santa fills stockings for adults and children alike
- Santa (or Pere Noel) brings gifts on Christmas eve, or even a day or two before.
- There is no Santa.

So what to do? Fess up about the imaginary nature of you-know-who? Not an option for us.
Change our gift giving practice? I don't think this is on the cards either. We are fairly committed to the idea that the boys know who is choosing and buying bigger / more meaningful gifts for them, and Santa only brings fun little novelty and useful items in their stocking. That said, I am open, as ever to your wisdom...

I mean, all this diversity is inevitable in a world that has at least 16 different names for the big man, and coutless stories from Folklore. And I am generally a big fan of this type of cultural variation, except when greeted by the incessent questioning of a very logical 5 year old.

So - in the spirit of being more prepared next year... what are your practices? What do you tell your children?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Riding the waves

The blog has been sadly neglected these past few months. In part because I'm simply unsure how to follow the last post. But here we are, and follow I will, with Enzo, Carlos and Isabelle in my heart.

Much, much transition of late. In fact we are now literally a world away.
After months (or was it years, or did it, in fact not end from the last time..?) of boxes, sorting, donating, bubble wrapping, packing taping (never, NEVER skimp here. Go for the good stuff. I promise that the bottoms of you boxes and your breakable kitchen dishes will thank you) we are back in Canada.

There are so many move stories to tell that I don't know where to start, and I've left it too late to re-live, so I'll give you the Coles Notes version and we can all move on..

The Plane Ride: A disaster flick of epic proportions, in two acts.
2 boys under 5. 1 parent. Half our lives in the luggage. 8 hour flight. 5 hour stop over in the middle of the night (I think. What time zone were we in..???). Seats in 3 separate rows assigned by airline.
You get the picture. I am now
that person. You know. The one you see in the boarding area and pray to god you are not sitting close to? Yup. That would be me.

My wonderful man, who we had been without for 4 long weeks, searched with all his heart and found us a house. In a moment of loving supportive gratitude I cried when I saw it and asked him if there was
any way possible we could still get out of the lease. I know. Not proud.

But we are moved in (a little) and it is growing on me more every day. The neighbourhood is lovely, the parks are fab, the space and light are great, and the kitchen, well, its there, and the fridge is nice. I can let go of my great new kitchen in far away England. For now.

I am feeling an odd mix of coming home, and feeling displaced. I greive the loss of what we have left deeply, but this will be the right place for us. As I write those words I know to be true they belie the queasy, nagging worry that comes to me with any time of uncertainty. I am working hard at keeping it hidden, or at least in it's small place. In the sunshine that has been constant since we came, the glassy depths of the lake, the friendships reconnected, the spinning, sliding, climbing joy of the new park and the hustle and bustle of just
life its not so hard. But......

So, we are tired, but smiling. Broken dishes and all.

And Jamie, my Jamie, has started school. But that's another post.

Leave a comment. go on.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Yesterday out extended family was so full of joy - 3 new babies this year. Today that family is incomplete.

Marti's brother and sister-in-law have lost their child. Baby Enzo Douglas was 13 days old.

This is not my story to tell, and I wont. Can't.

But, when a baby dies the whole world should stand still and grieve. This is my small witness.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Easter Fair at pre-school is a riot of energy, colour, polarised emotions; excitement, joy, silliness, frustration, over tiredness.... All focused in one small boy, for 2 1/2 hours. A total whirlwind...

Intensity is the name of the game right now. Emotions swinging from one extreme to another, never still, always at full volume, and me rising to the bait far more than I'd want.

We're all exhausted. The chronic condition of parenthood. Now the holidays begin.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Superman-Jamie-love-mary-poppins-chocolate-factory-Ivan-Settle and his faithful assistant Wonder Boy liberate the potatos.

What, your morning doesn't involve daily potato sorting, counting, recounting and scattering around the house, in preparation for the famous Mr Shark's Potato Spot Restaurant...?
Just me then...

Thursday, 5 March 2009

For the Accountant....

Excitement at 6
2 inches of snow
until 9am
2 pairs of socks needed, so that
8 feet could walk together to pre-school
31 schools in South West Dorset closed
1 college.
hundreds of meetings cancelled, 1 that made my day
6 lorries jack-knifed on the A35
4 hours without power
1 great Granny
new jobs applied for
2 red 1 yellow 1 green 1 orange pepper made into fajitas
2 exhausted boys
carried up 21 stairs
1 reading of the annoying car story
4 photo's uploaded to Flickr
2 tired parents, sitting on the couch.

divided by 3 people that love him,
= 36

The number of years Marti celebrates tomorrow.

Happy Birthday my love.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Came across this video today. Really like the filming.... happy making..

Monday, 9 February 2009

'You're it.' or 'PRIZES, PRIZES, PRIZES!!!!'

I have been 'tagged'.

Not since that sinking feeling in primary school when some boy comes and whacks you on the back and you realise you are going to spend the next 15 minutes of your lunch break halfheartedly , self consciously running around after a bunch of, frankly
much faster kids has this happened to me.

I should note that this is a vastly more pleasurable experience. My cousin Shawna was interviewed via her blog a while ago, and has passed on some questions to me.

As I have noting else to do (nothing remotely like marking a
vast pile of student papers, for instance) I thought I'd indulge the ego and give it a go.

1. What sparked your interest in photography?

For those of you that haven't hopped on over to Monday yet I'm trying to sharpen my skills at something I have loved doing for a while now. I'm not where I want to be yet and am frustrated by the huge limitations of my little camera, but I like where I'm going.

I've been a snap shot girl for years, and have always loved photography as an art form, but never saw any scope for me through the lens of cheep 35m film camera's I had as a teenager. I've always felt creative but there is a huge disconnect for me between the
idea and the execution.
A slightly better camera and the instant-gratification-feeding introduction of digital changed my outlook. At first just lots more photo's, and from that a more selective eye. I mean, still
a lot of photos, most of which only see the inside of a virtual recycle bin, but enough that I like to keep the passion fulled.
Photography is fluid, and I can experiment until I get what I want, and cyclically, as with all process I'm almost at the point that I would like to work with film again.

I'm at this weird, cusp-y place right now between wanting to take things further, invest in a better camera, learn how to really use it, exhibit maybe, take some classes..... and not wanting it to all become a chore, and just
too complicated. Know what I mean?

All that to say that this was probably the first picture I took that someone else was so complimentary about that I thought 'hey.... maybe there's something to this....'

I'm doing a cool project at the moment called 'A Year of Mornings'. Its just that. A photo every morning for 365 days. It seemed like a good way to be more intentional, and to document this year of transition, and there is a group of others doing the same thing to help with the motivation... The set so far is here. The rest of my (small) Flikr set is here.

2. How did you choose your boys' names?

This is actually fairly embarrassing. There is a cheesy series of novels about Highland Scots (and also time travel) that sucked both Marti and I in at a time when cheese was just what we both needed. The male lead was Jamie. The name stuck long after the books were finished. Its really James, so he has the option of either as he grows up, but its always Jamie right now.

Noah presented a much bigger challenge. Have you ever had a sudden moment when you realise that you have
absolutely nothing in common with your spouse? Second child. Boy. No common ground to be had. My sister suggested the name and I instantly knew it was the one. M took some convincing but we got there in the end. I mean, Frederick??? god.

Both boys have second names for authors we admire, and that mean something in our lives. They are, respectively, Ivan and Thomas. Unfortunately I can't actually tell you who they're for right now, as I'm embroiled in a Face Book fueled challenge with a friend in Canada where she is trying to guess.
Go on. Give it a try.
There may even be a
real-life prize in it for the first person to get it right in the comments section here.
If no one is close I'll give hints next week :)

3. What is your favourite childhood memory?

I'm having a hard time with this one. I think I'm going to have to be annoyingly general.
I spent family holidays in France as a child with my parents and 2 younger sisters, and that has very fond associations for me. Sunny, warm, cafes, board games, swimming. Even the car journeys were fun. We used to sing along to 50 Children's Favourites, Joseph, and (gulp) 'Elaine Page Sings Andrew Lloyd Webber!!'

I'll think more on this one and get back to you...

4. What is your favourite memory from this past week?

Much easier. We just got back from a fairly uncharacteristic holiday, where we went to a woodlandy, outdoorsy holiday park and spent 4 days basically in the (amazing) pool.
The boys were like fish. Noah is naturally more fearless than his older brother, and he was just a ecstatic bundle of slippery water-baby flesh all week. Suddenly, however, out of over a year of trepidation, and clinging, shaking fear, Jamie 'got' swimming. There
were float vests involved, but nonetheless he was on his own in deep water, dunking his head, laughing, jumping, sliding, and just swimming.

5. If you could change one thing in your past, what would it be and why?

I try hard not to have regrets. I can't make this sounds anything but trite, but I really see all things as learning's that shape the direction of the paths I choose. That said I would really like the big, white wedding dress I couldn't afford, and was idealistically opposed to when I got married.... ;) I might have taken more interesting GCSE's too.... Oh and the green leg warmers in the 80's (although I stand by the stripy tights and Docs...)
I'm fairly self conscious and over analytical and can easily fall into the little, day to day 'could have done more/better/other..' I'm trying hard not to do this...

That was fun, and I need to share the joy. Volunteers to be tagged next?? Speak up, or I'll start choosing people....

Don't forget the prize y'all..

Friday, 23 January 2009

Love your mummy-tummy

I imagine this speaks to 85% of the Mum's I know. Certainly be me.

Enjoy this wonderful bit of film making from my friend Louise, in New Zealand.

Love Your Belleh!!

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year top 10..

Its list time again people...

The 'end of 2008 top 10 list' is here. This isn't a top 10 of the whole year, but rather of things I like, well, now. See how good I'm getting about living in the moment?? ;)

That said, I can't bring myself to post something as 'fluffy' as this is about to be right now without bearing some small witness to those who are loosing children, partners, parents, lives and hope in Palestine. That's all. To put just a small piece of me aside for that this new year.

Here's the rest...

1. Central Heating. Forced Air or radiator. Not fussy. We have neither, and I've been cold for a week. whine, whine, whine.

2. This recipe for Dinner Beans. I am a big fan of any food you can eat with/in a tortilla, and these beans, with rice and/or home baked tortilla chips is unapologeticly simple. Which I also like in food.
2. b. Smoked Paprika. Introduced through the beans recipe. Smells like woodsmoke, and adds an exquisitely subtle depth and bite to food. All food in fact, at the moment.

3. Junk shop plates. I can see how this would sound a little, well, dubious at first, but revamping our dinnerware collection with funky, eclectic junk shop finds has been much fun, and makes the eating of the above even
more enjoyable.
I mean, whats not to love?? Vintage style, reusing and recycling and 25p a piece. (See how I turned the potential for 'old, dirty and cheep' into something creative and bohemian sounding...?)

4. My new brown hair. This has been a
big move for me away from trying to reclaim the real blond of my (ahem) younger days. I'm mildly annoyed with the whole process of dying, and redying, and roots showing and all, but the outcome is worth it. Its been a simply way for me to feel a little more, well, put together as things like haircuts and new clothes have gone by the wayside as we try and save money (or maybe just pay the bills...)

5. Noah's jumping. Totally hilarious and so, so sweet. Knees bent "da" (the word for most things, but with a particular
inflection) huge grin, followed by a sort of abandoned, wiggling, falling motion. The sheer proportions of his body far to unbalanced to actually get off the ground in any way. I could really just eat that kid up.

6. My blog route. There are lots of great web sites that I rely on for a variety information. God, my 'favourites' list is several miles long. But its the blogs that are the bread and butter. Regular
Several evenings each week I can be found taking a little tour of some of the talented and wonderful people who keep me thinking and inspired:
people putting themselves out there.
  • My friend Martyn. Suitably cynical and astute commentary on current media foci. Funny, quirky and informative
  • 'We're-all-in-this-together' type parenting but so much more blogs, Blankie Chronicles,GiggiGoofer, Mo Mommy, Catherine Newman, Lil' bit Squishy. These women keep me going.
  • Emily X. Blog of Planned Parenthood workers in the US. Real reminders of why I am pro-choice, and why the US policy of Abstinence Only sex ed is ludicrous and obtuse.
  • Inspiration in spades via Shutter Sisters. Funky, talented and unpretentious women photographers.
  • Rebecca Walker at 'On Art and Politics' offers a feminist, left wing take on American Politics that I more often than not appreciate.
7. Jamie's wonderful Pre-School, in fact all providers of great early years care and education. Hugely under paid, under recognised, highly skilled and dedicated. Research repeatedly tells us that high quality early years care has significant benefits for all young children, particularly those at risk or from conditions of poverty and under education. I'll spare you the rest of my well rehearsed rant about how the devaluation of those who care for our youngest it is one of societies greatest failings. But really.

8. Vintage mirrors. I have 5 in my house. I have no love affair with mirrors generally , but these have real art deco, 1930's style, simplicity, purity mixed with such a sense of permanence and class. mmmm.

9. The Tincleton Christmas Tree Farm. We slogged through the mud, navigated the chickens ('duck!') and cut our own this year. I can't believe we haven't done this before. Sustainable farming practice, no carbon evils with shipping from overseas ( I realise that this will sound, well as insane as it is to people in Canada), no inflated prices, and such a fun family experience. As I waxed lyrical about how we should always do this when we are in Canada Marti added 'or we could just stop and cut one from the side of the highway'. Always the romantic.

4.1.09 Post Script: I've been sitting on this post for a week now, and I'm still stuck on 9. I'm gonna go ahead and put it up anyway.

What would your number one things right now be? Inspire me...

Monday, 29 December 2008

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Writers Block

Opportunities to post have been a little thin on the ground lately. Often times its the lack of just that; time, but also a wanting for content inspiration that isn't completely 'did you see what my sweety kid did today..??'

Actually that's not it at all.

not a lack of content, but a total landslide of things to write about that I buried under immovable loads of indecision. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I'm the worst person ever to be out to dinner with due to my total lack of ability to choose a meal from a menu. This is that times a gazillion.

The blocks in this case come in three forms.

One: The
'the-issue-I-really-really-want-to-write-about-feels-so-big-that-I-need-to-be-in-just-the-right-space-to-even-contemplate-beginning' block.
This is a tricky one. Its akin, in a way, to starting a family. The perpetual 'I will wait until....' problem of the never quite perfect time. When I started this blog it was, in part to give me a forum to write about my experience with post pardum depression. Haven't done that yet. Hum...
I'd better wait until I'm.......

Two: The
'ok-if-I-don't-write-about-that-then-at-least-I-should-write-about-something-meaningful-not-just-the-ho-hum' block. See here..
I also often need a 'prop' to get me inspired to write here. A quote, an experience, a story. I guess life has been moving along in a busy but oddly normal way. Go figure.

And finally, (drum roll...) number three: The
'Occasionally-I-remember-that-talking-constantly-about-my-children-isn't-always-totally-fascinating-to-the-rest-of-the-world' block.
We all know it. We love our children, and these little people are truly amazing. Not only that but they totally consume most of our waking life (and believe me, the waking is more consuming in itself than I'd want...:)
Whilst writing about parenting is likely to remain the backbone of what I do here, as it is to remain the foremost influence in my life, I sometime need to remind myself that I have a wider identity, and I'm occasionally conscious that other people probably don't find my children and antics as a parent fascinating
all the time. Most, yes....

Along the same vein as wanting to check a little of the
incessantly writing about my own children, is writing about the angst that comes with parenting.

Writing about parenting my boys, in this defuse community of bloggers, addresses the fundamental truth that putting these parts of ourselves out there in their raw, messy, honest form is a step toward breaking the silence that sometimes exists amongst women when it comes to our imperfection as parents, and
its such a comfort to get the comments of solidarity in those moments that feel like you must be the very first one to experience these challenges.

That said it is also
so true for me that angst perpetuates angst.

Fellow blogger Erin introduced me to this word: omphaloskepsis. A little of this is absolutely has its place, but at some point we need to switch on the lights, finish the beer, turn off the Tori Amos and move on.

So here it is for today... Number 3, upheld in part. See? No angst.. :)

My children are so, so yummy I simply want to eat them up.

Our Christmas was filled with family, love, great toys, turkey, crackers, cold walks on the beach and very excited (and often over tired) children. Fun was had by all.
Now we are looking toward a new year of great adventure.

Love to all.

Friday, 7 November 2008

A whole lota nothin'

A warning before you get involved in the reading process here. This, despite all indications to the contrary, isn't actually a post....

I have just given this blog address to a friend (hello Wendy) and now feel obliged to make some sort of effort to.. well... write something. And, frankly, tonight effort is what it is. I've had two (count em' two) glasses of wine, its 11.15pm.. and, well that's enough these days. To compound this I've now read this back and feel completely old and pathetic. god.

So here it is (n't):

I'm trying out a photo blog. The idea is to post one picture a week that I like. To inject some intentionality and discipline into the process of building my skills, refining my style.

With that in mind the Blog is called 'Monday', for obvious reasons.

What I see now is that the flaw in this process is that I'm actually only meant to post on Monday. Thus there's not much up yet.

There is a first post, which was in fact made on a Tuesday, followed by three more posts (on Thursday and Friday respectively). See? Discipline.

Saturday, 18 October 2008


The evenings are drawing in, the weather getting colder and the fall type craft activities increasing (which isn't actually a stretch)

Jamie is not by nature a child who would choose sitting and creating art over almost anything else, and for the most part the run on the beach wins out with all of us.
However, this evening when I suggested we do some art with stickers he was uncharacteristically keen.

Results below....
kinesthetic, hands on learner meets maternal crafting impulse...

Learning styles,
kinesthetic and otherwise are on my mind at the moment. (Bet you didn't see that segway coming from like, a million miles away, did ya..?)(did you also notice that I look, like, 12 in the photo. yeesh.)

School registration deadlines are fast approaching here, and talk amongst my
pre-school parent friends is all catchment areas and class ratios.

I have been almost smug in my detachment from these conversations as we plan our big move back to Canada the summer before Jamie would be due to start school here.

I'm a sea of conflicting emotions about the move generally, but I had put the school issue in the boat of 'good reasons to move' and happily shoved off. In Canada Jamie will have another full year of half day, play based learning in Kindergarten. He will (we hope) attend an alternative school that mixes grades, and focuses strongly on community. All was good.

As will be clear to everyone who has ever read this blog before I have an almost pathological need to poke the sleeping dog, until it barks all night keeping me awake. And then bites my finger. I mentioned the smugness before to give you a little hint that there was maybe some burgeoning moment of over analytical parenting coming.

The crux of the issue is this; Jamie is an
unusual learner.

Even as I write this there is a little
catch of sadness. Its maybe the letting go of the deep hope for our beloveds to have a childhood with no problems, no hardship, just love and sunshine from everyone. The forming understanding that there may struggle, judgement and misunderstanding in a part of their lives that consumes 3/4 of their time, and anxiety on anxiety, where you are not is one of the most scary thoughts of parenting

J is a very bright boy, but lots of his ability is hidden behind a kid that just loves nothing more than to be.. well, a kid. He's physical, doesn't like to sit still to demonstrate his ability, and will jump through hoops when, and if, he deems it important.
He frequently immerses himself in intricate imaginative play, and forgets that others aren't in his head too. He is verbal, and logical and finds fun in wordplay and contradictions, and if you don't really listen carefully to what he's
actually saying sometimes comes across as a little too cheeky, but is genuinely surprised that others interpret him this way. He's sweet and sensitive, but also non-conformist and sometimes a little.. well.. impulsive.

I don't know if this makes sense to anyone other than me - as is often the case when describing our own children, but I can see the potential for Jamie to be just another 'could do better' - board with school.

I'm not as neurotic about this as it may seem (really...yet...). He's doing just fine going at his own pace, which of course at 4 is just how it should be, and his wonderful pre-school is good for him.
Its just that there are little things, foreshadowing, potential for things to be
less well in the future I think.

So I'm left with lingering questions that I'd welcome your wisdom on.

Do we just find a good school in our neighbourhood, stay involved and encourage Jamie to build the skills that allow him to fit in, but maybe be educated in an inevitably cookie cutter way...?

Private school - smaller classes, more tailored approach, ethically and financially sticky for us, but, well, it is our child's education..?

What about home schooling...?

Maybe we should stay here and have him go to school with his dear friends?
Its here that seeds of doubt about the move are sown. I'm in the middle of revisiting research on children and friendship to embed in the psychology courses I teach, and I am reminded of how vital they are. I know the findings, but again the lines between work and parenting blur. Its suddenly closer to home.

Is Jamie's uniqueness just one drop in a ocean of unique children, and I should stop over analysing and just let it unfold as it does for
every other family... (its Ok, you can say it... I know ;)

Or is this serious and I
should go to greater lengths to address our choice it intentionally and careful....

Yikes. holy minefield batman.

And can I just remind you of this......

in case you think I take myself and my neurosis too seriously .:)

But really,
How was school for you? What would you have had your parents do differently? What do you do for your own children...?

Talk to me Goose.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Little Things

I've posted a new blog-let... '100 Little Things'

Its the blog-land equivalent of a speed date. According to bloggers more experienced than I its what you do to introduce yourself.

There's no denying that its a little, well
a lot egocentric, but as in all things of that nature it was quite fun to put together. Except that I only made it to 51 Little Things....Oh well.

Enjoy, and its really, really nice to meet you.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Nagging niggles

I just got my first negative blog comment. gulp.

Not here, but relating to a comment I made on another blog I love. I'm almost in tears. How totally sad am I? :)
Words are such a responsibility. I always struggle a little in trying to walk the line between being responsible for how I phrase my thoughts so that they have the meaning I intend, and not being able to control the interpretations of others.
Its amazing how easy it is to put yourself out there in blog-land, until your realise that actual people read what you write, and in the not-knowing of the actual you its easy to misinterpret your words. Its the fixer and maybe the control-freak in me that hates not being able to actually speak to the commenters and explain ad nauseum what I meant..

Really working on letting it go.

Do you notice that happens in parenting, or is it just me.... (see 'control freak..')? I sometimes feel the overwhelming need to explain away the totally normal behavior of my children. Rushing to attribute the tantrum to unusual tiredness, the lack of sharing to... whatever. Its a strange, and probably totally inaccurate feeling of being judged by other parents. That the behavior of my children might paint me as a bad Mum, or worse them as 'bad' children.
I mean, god. What do we do to ourselves??!

I need to remind my self about the perfection of my kids.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The view from here

Tomorrow my first born is 4 years old. I was feeling a little baby-birthday nostalgia yesterday evening, and as often happens when I visit other blogs I came across a post that resonated.

As it turns out this is a long winded way of saying I saw an idea that I liked and stole it. I need to step up here and admit that I can't actually remember where I read the original post as it wasn't one of my regular haunts. So not only am I stealing, I'm also not giving any accurate credit. Its basically plagiarism folks.

Nonetheless here it is...

To mark Jamie's transition from 3 to 4 I gave him our digital camera and asked him to take 10 photo's of things that were important and/or interesting to him.

Here are the results. The comments are in his own words.

Jamie's World.

This monument is the pump. There is a smaller and a big one. I took them both together. A wasp stung me by here the other day.

My grabber is useful for grabbing stuff sometimes when I pretend to be a rubbish collector.

This is an ancient tree. That means very old. Its so big and fat.

This is a conker. I found the outside of it in the park and stepped on it with my shoe and there was it!

Half a Tom-0saurus. He's my best friend. He's holding Roki. I had to take a picture because it was important.

Travis. He's my favourite toy in the world ever. Today. I like him.

This monster truck is my favourite car ever as well. But some days I like other things.

This is my cheese string. Its a brush. I strung it myself. I liked it so I took a picture.

Its flowers. They are nice colours. They are outside in the day, in town but they're not there now.

These beautiful necklaces are very pretty. They are outside in Dorchester.

This is a feather, maybe from a Peacock? (giggles). I found it by the hair dresser's wall. Mummy is holding it for me.

This is a dino. A Triceratops. I like the horns and the colour and the big stompy feet. I accidentally got some of the fence in.

Now check this out..

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Firstly. I'm really sorry. Not just the type of oops-I-bumped-your-arm-as-I-passed-you sorry, but the way we make Jamie look-the-person-in-the eye-and-say-it-with-feeling-and-then-say-something-you-appreciate-about-the-person sorry. (Sorry is kinda up there with 'thank you' in our house..) I've really slacked off on the blogging. I'll try and do better.

Let me just say, that by way of karmic justice I now have so much to say that I have absolutely no
clue where to start.

I have discovered a new term in the language of blogging. Its 'Twitter'. I suppose as in the type of breath-less constant way little birds pass information..?

The official Twitter web host defines it as the following:
"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"
Author and blogger Rebecca Walker says its about
"The fragment. The word" Its being used a lot in connecting like minded communities, and increasingly in the run up to the US Election.

So often in the life of parents ( well, me anyway) brief snapshots is all you get to exchange, and the only way to stay connected. But 'Twitter'? There is no time for small talk, ice breaking. Its fleeting and completely intense.
The tears you spill on the shoulder of another Mum , in the two minutes
as you run from pre-school to work, after the sleepless night. The connection, over simultaneous tantrums in the grocery store, that can put it all back into perspective, and save a tiny piece of ebbing sanity.

Oh the luxury of the life where you start a conversation with the lingering 'how are you? Oh fine. You? Not bad. Dreadful weather...' but rather, now, its increasingly calling across the park, the street, the pre-school doorway... 'hey! Noah's walking! Wow, that's so great - but a bit scary hey? We had to take Tom to the E.R, it seemed bad, but he's OK... Oh my gosh..." and the snatched hug and moment of eye contact that says all the rest.

I need to say here, before you worry that I am so rushed, stretched and flustered that I have no time for actual conversation that this is in fact one of the parts of motherhood that I love. It suits me, in lots of ways. I'm fairly intense, as are my children, and often my life. Never have friendships become so deep, so honest, so quickly. Never a few moments so life saving.

So, even with the complete inadequacy of the word Twitter to articulate this, here is mine...

Noah is indeed walking
Jamie turns 4 (!) next week, and we are holding our first birthday party, trying to be true to our
values of environmentalism, locality and simplicity, and well, make it all fun...
We've had a family holiday, survived two weeks of constant downpour.
We've had some not ideal weeks of summer as Jamie tests new emotions and boundaries and so do I. We have moved forward. We are happier and I'm truly a better parent than 2 months ago.
I went back to work at the end of August, only two days a week, and so far so good.

and god, so much more...

mud, beach, morning preschool, so much rain, broken down van, new brown hair, financial pinch, passed exams - both mine and Marti's, new friends, first birthday, so sleep deprived, US Politics, new places, baby chest infection, Jamie writes his name......

I'd love to ask your advice and thoughts on so much of it, but I can feel the depth of the hand on my shoulder and eye contact from here.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Just this......

Jamie just woke up (its almost midnight). Bad right? Nooooooo...

He woke up himself, came to the landing, with a dry bed, all because he needed to pee!

Oh happy day!!

Share my joy, people!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

I had planned to write a seasonal post , full of summer rituals and warmth.

Instead I'm curled up in my warmest PJ's and a sweater (at 9pm...) seriously contemplating turning the fire on.. My hair is almost dry from the walk to pre-school at 1pm and the windows of the house are steamy from the drying rain coats and boots.

July last year saw 88.4 mm of rain in this region - the wettest since 1978, and according to my shoes we are on target to get that in just one day this year. And the 94% humidity has left my hair looking like one enormous 80's back comb without the aid of hairspray (and the acid green leggings..).

What I'm left vaguely wondering is, if humidity is a measure of moisture in the air, how can pissing rain only be 94%??

On a brighter note I have just booked our camping for August. We are excited.

'Where are you going?' I hear you cry...

Wales. The wettest part of the United Kingdom. yeah.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


We are trying to find ways of building an intentional practice of gratitude into our lives. It sounds simple no? No. The root of the problem is that I simply don't have answers to some questions that seem fundamental to the question of how we are grateful.

Q1: I want the boys to be grateful for what they have, material, but mostly not, but I don't want them to feel afraid it could all be taken away, or to deny feeling 'unlucky' sometimes - does that make any sense?
Its wanting to avoid the 'you don't know how lucky you are sonny boy' type sentiment... and from that an idea that, as children the non-material (and some material) things they have, for which one would maybe want to be grateful, are actually fine for them to take for granted. Children should have love, a home, good food and friends, and not have to think about it, let alone feel that they need to earn it. These are Rights. Universal, undeniable.

Q2: I don't want to develop and 'us and them, haves and have nots' world view. Gratitude need not to be rooted in 'I'm so grateful that its not me, that I'm not as badly off as them' The things we are grateful for are not based in luck, nor a product of our own merit or innate goodness above other who are struggling.

Q3: My own spirituality dictates that I need something that avoids what Marti calls 'worm theology' i.e we are nothing, we owe it all to god, our lives out of ours, and into gods hands.... If this is your place of faith I respect that. Its just not mine.

Q4: I like building family ritual, but can't stand rote and cheesy sentiment..

See how not easy this is turning out to be? Just pick a bloody grace, say it before meals and spare us this excruciatingly fuzzy diatribe, I hear you beg. Its been a item on my 48/480 list for 6 months now so obviously it requires more of my attention (but not yours - feel free to bow out quietly now :) .

I said in last weeks post that I felt parenting was just a series of near misses. This much I know; I am deeply, profoundly grateful every day, and know that we live as we do by grace alone. Who's I'm not sure, but there it is.

As we bring these sweet children, full of joy and love into the world I struggle to keep at bay the fear, pain and sadness that seems to engulf so much of humanity. In the tiny of moments of silence between pre-school, groceries, questions, swings, train sets, e-mail, tidying up, bathing, feeding and.. well, life with smalls the desire, no, necessity to curl up in a ball around my children is almost insurmountable. That we have been give these lives, and these experiences of parenthood to hold in trust is nothing but grace.

I am grateful, and I want my children to know that the world is bigger, that we are linked to those in pain, that our privilege has had some cost, that people and places work to make our food... but without all the guilt mentioned above. Yeesh.

I read this week:

"I force myself to look at photographs of the grieving parents in China: it's a moral imperative, on the one hand, to bear witness to the pain of others; and it's a fear, on the other, that to turn away is an insult to grace." - Catherine Newman

This is what I believe.

Now how do I say it with my children, or should I at all???

Suggestions welcome.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Along the beach

One ticked off on the 48/480 list last weekend. A relatively easy one, but something that needed a little extra push to actually get done, and so worth the effort.

That is really the spirit of the list - the making intentional of the seemingly every day - things that tend to get overlooked.

This mini-adventure was walking the length of Studland Beach, part of the Dorset Coast Path that we have been walking in pieces since 2006. Its a beautiful stretch of protected and unspoiled sand and dunes, about 20 miles from where we live. The route took us through the nature reserve to the end of the stretch and back along the beach. The route was about 5 miles long, and Jamie walked for most of it.

We had a beautiful day.. Enjoy the pictures.

Marti and Jamie at the start of the walk

The dunes

Along the beach

Jamie in a hole :)

Noah's first time in the sea

Self portrait

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Better than Wednesday

Today I took the boys to the sculpture quarry to climb rocks, walk some more coast path and see funky public art.

And I didn't lose either of them.


Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Not so lost and helpless

When I phoned Marti to tell him about the moment I'm about to re-live here I asked him not to breath a word to anyone, mainly because it really makes me look like, well, a pretty bad parent.
I've obviously moved on a bit from the initial dramatic reaction because, not 7 hours later I'm re-telling it for all to read. Its one of those times in parenting when you can laugh within moments (well, OK 7 hours) because nothing bad actually did happen, despite all indications to the contrary.

I should preface the story with a word that I kinda set my self up for whats to come because I really, truly trust Jamie (obviously to a sensible, nearly 4 year old level - or maybe not that sensible, you can be the judge..) and always have. He stops reliably at roads, waits for help, and is genuinely careful and aware.

That and the saga of the peeing. It always comes back to the peeing.

This is my confession...

By the time we had arrived at our local big grocery store this afternoon, J was in full whine mode about getting a comic, which for some honest to god valid reasons was just not going to happen. We were only stopping in for broccoli and club soda, so I suggested to Jamie that he might stay in the car with his book. Fine.

It had all the elements of a sensible, responsible mummy plan. I took Noah, left J in seat belt entertained, opened the windows a crack and locked the doors. (remember here this is small town southern England, not inner, or even outer city anywhere.)

I was 10 minutes getting the food, and on my way to pay when I spot a small, blond, stripey shirted boy heading down an isle away from me. I seriously took 5 full seconds for brain to catch up with eyes, and another 5 for me to restrain impulse for measured reaction.

The story that emerged from the hug is simple. Jamie needed to pee, it came too soon and he wanted to tell me. He undid his seat belt, unlocked the car door from the drivers side (take that child locks. ha.) and walked across the parking lot (thank goodness there weren't any actual roads..) and into the store to find me.

Jamie, you walked in the parking lot by you self?????? I was very careful Mummy. I stayed on the side away from the cars.


No one saw, or at least thought it strange enough to stop him (I think I'm glad for this, but that may be only because I saw him so quickly.)

The many possibilities for the unthinkable are not lost on me.

But here's the thing. I am actually a little, teeny bit proud. He thought it all through and took all the precautions he knew how to. So many little things conspired to make the outcome of this story good, but some of them came from my smart, sensible boy, and I'm impressed.

Of course he knows none of this, other that I was pleased he was sensible in the way he navigated the parking lot. What he knows is:

A) NEVER unlock the doors or get out of the car alone.

I see that I'm being simplistic here - as I write I can see hundreds of situations where this is in fact bad advice, but, well, I can't go there yet, and he's only 3. Its a fine line that all parents navigate every day between teaching caution and exposing a child to bad hypotheticals in the world that he can't understand.

B) If you are in a store and you can't find your grown-up, find a lady who works there, and say 'My name is Jamie Settle, and I've lost my Mummy'.
We do this drill style all the way home...

'My name is Jamie Ivan Thettle, I'm 3 and a half and I've lotht my Mummy' The details seem important.

This, it turns out is my most lingering fear of the day. What if I hadn't seen him, and he had been left wandering in that big store? what would I have felt if I had found the car empty? Would he have tried to go back to the car alone? Would he have been afraid? What if no one had found him. The other possibility, involving someone 'finding' him is too huge, and I can't give it space in my mind.

Jamie, in the meantime, is nonchalant about the whole thing. As he sees it he did a completely rational, sensible thing. No biggy. I try and instill that it was a bit of a big deal, not safe, and that it can't happen again. I can see the future teenager roll his eyes.

It seems to me that a lot of parenting is, in fact just a series of barely missed, sidestepped disasters. The Children are resilient through these trials, but we're old. I'm surprised we make it past their 5th birthday!

Lets try not to loose each other shall we?

Sure mummy.

Friday, 16 May 2008


I have just come across the following quote on parenting, mothering to be specific, and had a strange, split personality, somewhat uncharacteristic response to it. I'll let you read it and then try and make some sense of my reactions...

“[Mothers can] put their own lives and interests on hold as a sacrifice to their children. As noble as this seems, [it is] a sort of negligence: withholding who she is - the best part of herself - from our children.” Monte and Karen Swan

Intellectually, the point is well taken and holds some deep wisdom and truth. But here's the bit where intellect and 'gut' response part company.

Does it seem to you others who parent that sometimes there is just no getting it right?? Parenting, for me at least, is pretty full of second guessing and worrying about whether you are getting the part where you lead these tiny people into life even close to right. Its often all I can do to get through the day and keep all of this worry and even guilt from overtaking me. It horrendously immense and frightening and in my darker moments it threatens to consume me completely.

I know this sounds bleak and defeated but in actual fact its not at all.
When I talk to other wonderful mothers I find that below the surface, when we are brave and supported enough to give them voice, these feelings exist in so many of us. These truths of mothering don't stop us from feeling joy, having fun, parenting with depth, wisdom, integrity and calm. But some days not being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all takes all the reserves I have. This is a time that I am moving through. My feelings will shift and change as they have always done. This period of my life that is indeed focused around my children and me in my role as parent, is not putting 'me' on hold, but rather adding a building block, a dimension to my whole self.

And this is my point here. I have not lost my independence, my sense of self, my identity as a woman. It has only been made deeper, more dynamic by this as with every new experience. I am not consumed, I am enriched. I am not 'sacrificed' nor am I 'negligent'.

My intellect chimes in here with the argument that for some women raising children has meant that they stop pursuing goals they hold dear and subjugate themselves to the needs of others. Believe me I am the last person to use my soap box to say that this is the role and calling of motherhood. I would suggest however that its is not about the mothering, but rather about how we integrate children into our society and communities.

So here for me is the bottom line. Is the best counter critique to the problem of potentially loosing ourselves to the worry and strain of raising children to call us 'negligent' for allowing this to happen? I mean, god, what a word to use masquerading as support for mothers! To tell us to let go some of the worry and blame by, well, blaming?

Give us a break. However we do it we are doing our best. Not judgement slipped in under the auspices of tough love, but rather warm tea (or a stiff brandy), a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on and some laughter about this crazy journey that one way or another will make us the women we should be.