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Construction Site Cake

A Construction Site Birthday Party (Somebody Turned Four)

This weekend, Little Man turned four. In many ways it is impossible for me to believe that four years have flown by so fast since we first met him. But it seems even more surprising that he has only been with us for four years – he is such an integral part of our lives that I cannot quite believe there was a time when he wasn’t with us!

Birthday Boy

He is an absolute joy, and I feel blessed every day that we get to be his parents. It isn’t always easy (in fact it is often very challenging and exhausting beyond measure), but there is joy in every single day with him. He is so kind, considerate and inquisitive, and his enthusiasm for exploring the world around him is so infectious that I find myself marvelling in the wonder of things I would normally have found so mundane. Such is the pleasure of having a young child.

Take, for instance, his birthday party… when I asked him a few months back what he wanted for his birthday, he thought for a moment before requesting a construction site party. He has continued to tell me this over the past few weeks and became more and more excited as the big day came ever closer. This is the first year he has really understood what birthdays were about, and it is so exciting to enjoy this with him. So, of course, we were more than happy to oblige and make his wish come true.

Construction Site Cake

We had just a few friends over, and kept it reasonably simple (I do not have the time nor energy for planning anything fancy!) but it was actually quite a nice theme to do this with. Empty boxes became building blocks for towers, kitchen roll tubes taped to smaller boxes became makeshift hammers, and packaging paper screwed up into balls became boulders. Add in the mega blocks, some toy construction vehicles, hi vis vests (which, incidentally make a nice gift for the party-goers to take home with them) and a few construction site signs found on Pinterest and you’re pretty much set to go!

Traffic light jellies

My mum helped by making traffic light jellies (how awesome were they?) and I decorated the cake (shop bought cake and frosting for total ease) in a simple but pretty effective design and the rest was simple party food to feed the “busy builders”. Talking of which, we had “busy builder” lunchboxes (plastic tubs from Poundland, decorated using Sharpies) instead of the traditional loot bags, which were really quite fun to make.

Busy Builder Lunchboxes

All in all I think we pulled off the theme and it made me even more excited for all the years to come when we can get even more into his chosen theme with party games and much more. But right now we need to sleep… four year old birthday parties may be fun, but they sure are exhausting!

Birthday Evening

what others think of me really doesn't matter, as long as I am happy with what I know to be true of myself.

Finding Time to Find Peace

We all want peace, don’t we? By that I mean we want to feel at peace with ourselves and our lives rather than World Peace (although, I’m sure many of us would like that too!) We want to feel that quiet confidence in our lives, that the things we do are “just right” for us, that life is unfolding as it should, and that we are “on the right track”. At least, that is what I think of when I think of peace, a quiet knowing that life is okay, we’re okay, no matter what.

But as much as I strive for this sense of peace, I find it so difficult to catch hold of. It feels like something I am chasing, constantly, as I battle one difficulty after the next. And no matter how hard I try, that peace continues to elude me. Or at least it did, until recently…

Finding Time to Find PeaceThis past year has been a major learning curve for me, and despite making huge leaps forward in many ways, I have felt myself dragged down by circumstance and a fear of the way the world looks at me. I’ve put far more stock in what has happened to me, rather than focusing on what is happening inside of me. And that has led me to chasing after things that do not make me happy, but instead make me jealous and bitter.

I could look at the blessings in my life – my little family, my home, the food on our table – and instead of seeing them for what they truly are, I focused on what they weren’t. I didn’t have the larger family I had dreamed of. Our home was not a place of refuge, but rather a jumble of boxes and piles of “stuff” we had to sort through. And the food on our table was hard won, a constant battle to balance healthy-eating with budget living.

And no matter how hard I tried to see the blessings, I just couldn’t feel them. Gratitude isn’t something you can force yourself to feel. No matter how many ways I went about thinking about it, I just couldn’t get my heart to embrace it.

Until I realised what the problem was – I wasn’t giving myself time. I needed time to stop everything and just focus on being. I needed to step away from all the pressures that wore me down and take some time out to simply be. And I definitely needed to cut down on the amount of time I spent looking at other people’s lives and yearning for things that were never meant to be for me.

The internet and social media can be a wonderful thing. It has brought me a lot of peace lately, but it can also be a dangerous trap to fall into, if you’re not careful (or should I say “mindful”) in how you use it. Not only does it bombard you with “edited” images of other people’s lives (by that I mean most people tend to show more of the “good” in their lives than the bad, giving us a skewed impression of what a “good life” looks like), but it also feeds us with ideas of all the things we need to do to be happy.

We need to have a perfectly pristine home. The food we cook should be ever more adventurous. We should be doing everything to make our kids’ childhoods perfect for them. And we definitely need to be “seen” in a certain light by not only our close friends and family, but also friends of friends and even perfect strangers we have only just met.

The latter is a lesson I am learning gradually. I put far too much stock into how others see me, I have done so for many years, but it has been brought into a whole new light of late. It is only recently, through quiet meditation and taking time out, that I have realised just why I have been so bothered by events over the past year – I am worried about what others must think of me, rather than realising that what others think of me really doesn’t matter, as long as I am happy with what I know to be true of myself.

what others think of me really doesn't matter, as long as I am happy with what I know to be true of myself.

Which brings me back to the good in the internet and social media. You see, the internet has given me access to things I may never have found without it, especially when it comes to the more “unusual” areas of my life. Most recently this has included online kundalini yoga classes (via youtube) that have brought a real peace into my life. I’ve tried yoga before, attending my first classes with my dad in my late teens, but I’ve never felt so empowered by it.

TJ and I started practising with this video just last week, and already I can feel the difference. I felt it from the very first moment we tried it. It wasn’t even that I was doing anything different, simply that I have found something I really enjoy which makes me take half an hour out of my day that is just for me. The benefit of that alone is immense, but combining it with the energising power of kundalini yoga leaves me feeling far more at peace and in control than I ever have. And the reality is that I’m not in control at all, I am simply riding the waves rather than trying (hopelessly) to tame them. And the relief of that is wonderful.

Suddenly I am aware of self-damaging behaviours – comparing myself (and my life) to others, constantly craving for more (or to achieve the next big thing), and feeling the need to justify my life (and my decisions). Those behaviours haven’t just disappeared, they are still there, but I am no longer oblivious to their effect on my well-being and through recognising this I am able to create change. Because I make time for it.

If there’s one thing I have learnt recently, it’s that no matter what you do, no matter how much you learn and how far you go in life, there is one thing that will never fail to assist you and that’s time. In a society where we are obsessed with squeezing every last drop of life out of every single second, it can feel counter-intuitive to stop and simply be. I know, I’ve been driven by both fear and ambition for far too long. But I also know, now, that taking that time is the most beautiful gift we can ever give to ourselves.

In a society where we are obsessed with squeezing every last drop of life out of every single second, it can feel counter-intuitive to stop and simply be. I know, I've been driven by both fear and ambition for far too long. But I also know, now, that taking that time is the most beautiful gift we can ever give to ourselves.

Daisies

Nurturing Ourselves – The Importance of Looking After Ourselves in Times of Stress

I wrote earlier this week about how TJ and I support each other through our various health issues, and it really started me thinking. Whilst we are good at keeping each other going, no matter what, we are terrible at nurturing ourselves (physically and mentally).

I have known this for a long time, at some level, but it was showed to me very clearly Thursday afternoon when I visited a dietician for the very first time. After around 10 years of IBS-type symptoms, I’ve gradually discovered some major triggers, however recently it has felt like it doesn’t matter what I eat, I still get sick regularly. I’ve asked for help figuring this all out before, but never been referred, so it felt like a huge relief to finally see someone.

In reality however, the appointment simply reflected things I have always known – my diet is very limited and lacking spectacularly in various ways, which is having a direct impact on my energy levels. But more importantly, my biggest factor is most definitely stress rather than any particular food group, and therefore getting that under control is the key to eating better.

Nurturing Ourselves Importance of Self Care During Times of Stress

The problem is, how do you reduce your stress when life is throwing stressful situation after stressful situation your way? These past few years have been a constant stream of one new concern after another, and when I look back I can clearly see how the deterioration of my health directly corresponds to increasing levels of stress in my life.

The stress has come from three sources: a difficult work environment; TJ’s deteriorating health; and the financial implications of balancing the first two. Whilst I have made major changes to my work, reducing stress significantly, the impact that my previous job had still plays on my mind. I still have a fair amount of healing to do from that – there is no quick-fix to help recover from burnout, especially when your recovery included the stress of relocation and starting two new jobs.

And though we can make changes to our working life, the health issues we both face and the difficulty balancing a tight budget remain a source of real worry. It feels like we sometimes live life on a knife-edge, constantly ready to spring into battle at the first sign of trouble, meaning that the stress is there even when it isn’t!

When I look at all we have to cope with, I realise that it is no wonder I find myself with a pounding head, churning stomach, or abdominal cramps more days than not. It is also unsurprising that this then means I do not feel like eating, which in turn impacts on my energy levels. After a day at work, on my feet all day, I will often struggle to make more than a bowl of porridge for tea, having barely eaten at work as well. But eating like this only adds to the problem.

My appointment with the dietician may not have given me any answers I didn’t already really know, deep down. But it did make me realise how very much I have been neglecting my own well-being. I have been so busy caring for (and worrying about) others, both through work and at home, that I have forgotten to care for myself in a massive way. And that needs to change.

Which leads me to today. Today I am looking at how I can nurture myself. I have filled my kitchen cupboards with a variety of foods that will help me increase my protein intake, the aspect of my diet that was massively missing. And I am researching quick and easy meals we can make, as well as beginning to take vitamins to give that extra boost.

But this goes beyond the food I eat. It needs to include finding ways to deal with the stress in my life. The reality is that the stress is going to be there, no matter what, so rather than hoping for it to disappear, I need to find ways to relax amid the chaos. I started this earlier in the year with chanting, but I need more than the odd bit here and there… I need a daily routine of making time for myself, and for family.

TJ is with me on this – we are looking at ways to get out in nature, reduce our time glued to our phones or Netflix, and getting some quiet time in our day-to-day lives to reflect and recuperate. And I’ve decided to write about it here, on the blog, as a way of both holding myself accountable to actually doing this (rather than having the idea and never really doing anything about it) and seeing the impact it has on our lives.

It feels like a good time to do this, as we reach the end of Summer and feel Autumn fast approaching. I’ve always felt like September was a month of new beginnings, perhaps due to all those years when the new school term began at this time. And Autumn itself feels perfect for some self-reflection and nurturing as we surround ourselves with home comforts and close friends ready for the Winter months to come.

It’s always been my favourite season, and with Little Man’s birthday and our Wedding Anniversary added to Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas, it feels like a truly magical and celebratory time too. I want to be well enough to enjoy all of this, rather than simply surviving it like I did last year, and that means finally putting my health and well-being first.

So that’s where I am and I’m excited for this journey ahead. I do hope you enjoy coming along with me.

Living with Chronic Illness – How We Support Each Other

It’s no secret around here that TJ and I have (more than) our fair share of health troubles. Between TJ’s Small Fibre Neuropathy and my combination of Endometriosis, Hypermobility and IBS, life can be challenging to say the least.

It would be hard enough if just one of us were struggling, but when we’re both sick it makes it very difficult to support each other through our darker days. And yet, support each other we do… and we do it well!

Living with Chronic Illness-How We Support Each Other

Some of this comes from the fact that we both know exactly what it is like to feel exhausted the entire time, to have our energy zapped by constant pain (and other symptoms), and to feel that life is entirely unfair at times, regardless of whether this is just our perception or we really are facing discrimination due to our illness.

But the rest of it simply comes from the fact that we love and care about each other, leading us to find ways through the tough times even when it feels completely hopeless.

The past few weeks have been particularly troubling for us, as TJ has had to come off yet another medication due to side effects that are simply unacceptable long-term. He is doing much better now he is off the medication, but it does mean we’re in even more uncertain waters in regards to management of his pain and the extra health issues the medication caused.

And amid all of this, my health has taken a drastic turn for the worse, with more bad days than good (I’m talking 3 day migraines, crippling nausea, indescribable exhaustion). Simply surviving has become a challenge, and at times like this it is more important than ever that TJ and I come together to support each other, rather than falling prey to the misery that chronic illness can bring.

But what does this actually mean? What is it that we do that makes such a difference to how we survive these challenges and even find joy in the midst of them? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and here’s what I’ve realised…

We talk. A lot. It sounds simple, doesn’t it, but it really does make all the difference. It doesn’t matter what we talk about, the most mundane conversations can lead to some really interesting insights into what is going on inside the other’s mind. I’m very open and honest and blurt out what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling without any prompting most of the time, but TJ finds it more difficult to express these things. When we make time for each other in this way, it all becomes easier.

I’ll admit that I find it rather annoying when he hassles me to get ready for bed as he’s tired, only to begin telling me all sorts of things once the light is turned out and I’m about to drift off to sleep, but those talks we have before sleep are often some of the most telling! And that’s another way that we support each other – we give each other time. No matter how tired we may be, how inconvenient the timing is, or how many jobs need doing, we make that time for the other person when it’s needed.

Heightened emotions mean that outbursts can come at the most inopportune and unexpected moments, especially if we’ve been holding them in all day to get through everything else we needed to. Knowing that the other person offers safety in which we can let go and show how fragile we’re really feeling makes a massive difference. We both understand what it’s like to lose it, and so we give each other grace for those moments when we’re acting irrationally or taking it out on the other person, when they are the person who least deserves our wrath.

We make compromises. Big ones. When you’re chronically ill, you have to learn to know and accept your own limitations. It means that so many of the things you always thought you could have are no longer attainable without having a serious impact on your health and well-being. If you know anyone with a chronic illness, chances are you’ve heard of The Spoon Theory. TJ and I are well versed in this, and we both know that right now in our lives we are over extending ourselves massively simply to get by day to day… we have to work to make ends meet, we have to find the energy to put food on the table, and we need to provide a safe and happy environment for Little Man. By the end of all that we are usually beat… but we still want more.

This is where we find that it is important to know which compromises we can live with and which we can’t. We can live with a certain amount of pain, but we cannot push ourselves so far beyond our limits that we become unable to function. That financial security we crave is nowhere near as important as being well enough to enjoy what we do have. The higher paid job is not worth the added stress that impacts on our lives. And the larger family we’d have loved is not possible when we are both so ill. We get that. All of it. So we focus on what is most important to us – family, health, and happiness.

We work together to find new ways of surviving this crazy life of ours – we research our options and make changes accordingly. When I tell TJ that I want to try changing my diet to check for yet another food trigger, he does not question it but supports my decision. And when he tells me he wants to try exercising in a different way, I say “let’s do it”. When you’re chronically ill, you’ll try anything to find a better balance in your life and avoid triggers, even when you know that your latest idea may not work at all. Having someone support you in this rather than dismissing it from the start can make all the difference.

And finally, when all else fails, we care for each other. When, despite our best efforts, we are struck down with such severe symptoms that we simply cannot do more than sit in bed and cry, we allow this to happen. We allow each other to scream, shout, and cry about the injustice of it all, how we’re feeling utterly defeated, and that things will never, ever get any better. We’ve learnt, through the years, that sometimes there isn’t an answer, that sometimes we cannot fix it for the other person, and that despite the heartache that brings us both, we have to accept it.

And so we cry with them, allowing the grief to surface, safe in the knowledge that together we can get through it. None of this takes away the pain, but it does make it far easier to bear. It’s a dance that we have learnt together and will continue to follow and adjust throughout our lives. Living with chronic illness is tough, supporting someone with a chronic illness even tougher at times, but together you can get through it.

Tell me, how do you support your loved ones when ill? And what support do you find helpful when you’re sick?

Doorway

When One Door Closes…

…stop banging on it!

The past couple of weeks, I have been dealing with some really huge emotions. I’ve gone from being positive and excited about our new life (new home, new jobs etc) to utterly miserable about the things that we simply cannot do.

It started with sickness stopping us doing something as simple as a day trip to the beach (reminding me of how often our health keeps us from doing “normal” things) and continued with a really bad month with my Endometriosis (just in time for the ten year anniversary of my diagnosis) that made it even more obvious how much my health issues have prevented me from doing.

And then it was just a slippery slope (made worse by hormones, of course) into remembering how much I had looked forward to having and raising kids, only to have to stop after “just the one“. I cannot tell you just how much my heart and soul yearned for things to be different, for another baby to be in our future, for our “baby days” not to be over. So when the Endometriosis kicked off and made me realise that not only could I not have another child, I was also struggling to do all the things I desperately wanted to do with the family we already have, it all just got a bit too much.

Of course, it all became immeasurably easier once the hormones started to settle down (!) but there was still a sadness underneath it all that wouldn’t go away. Until yesterday…

I was busy looking up quotations to send in a little book to a friend who is going through a tough time of her own right now, and I came across this:

When One Door Closes... Reflections on Life

I can only describe my reaction to this as a kick in the gut. Within those two short sentences I found so much truth that it hit me right to my core. I realised that I had been desperately banging on closed doors, like a woman possessed, for far too long. And it was time to walk away…

When I look back on my life, particularly the past few years, I can see many moments in which I chose to keep fighting a losing battle. I chose to invest far too much of my precious (and limited) energy on trying to make something happen that I knew, deep in my heart, wasn’t right. I’m not saying that what I wanted was wrong, just that it wasn’t my journey to take. And whilst saying goodbye to our dreams is very often the hardest thing we can imagine, sometimes it is the best thing we can do.

I’ve known this, at some level, for a long time. I know that I have touched upon it, more and more over the years, each time coming closer to accepting it as one of life’s great lessons. I know this, because I can look back on my blog and see what I was thinking 3 months ago, a year ago, even five years ago. This is one of my favourite things about blogging – it gives you a tangible record of where you were at each point in your life, how you were feeling, and what you were thinking at those times.

When I look back over old posts, I can see recurring themes that crop up time and again. I see acceptance – accepting my limits, accepting the realities of life, and accepting myself. I see understanding – understanding the journey I’m on, the lessons I am learning, and how this impacts on how I live my life. And I see purpose – what I feel like I’m here to do, and how I achieve that.

However, I also see myself making the same mistakes, over and over again. I realise that this time last year I understood that it’s okay when life doesn’t turn out as planned, yet I still continue to try and make everything fit into an old ideal for my life. I see that at the beginning of this year I fully embraced living a life of “surrender” in which I allowed life to unfold as it did, without desperately trying to “fix” it, and yet I find myself forgetting how to do this. And I see that, yet again, I have been trying to ignore my body’s signals that something isn’t right and I need to make a change…

I have an appointment with my GP next Tuesday to discuss moving forward with dealing with the Endometriosis. It may well involve seeing a consultant to fight for something I have been thinking about for several years now but so terrified of pushing for. It certainly means walking away from a closed door. And in many ways, that scares the hell out of me, because once I walk away, there’s no turning back.

But the reality is that this door has been closed to me for a very long time. I’ve been banging on a closed door, holding myself in limbo, waiting for someone to find a way to unlock it and let me through. Even though that will never happen.

So today, I wanted to share with you the message that is carefully working its way into my heart and helping me to move forward… When one door closes, stop banging on it! Trust that whatever is behind it is not meant for you. 

Insneezia - insomnia like effects of hayfever infographic

Insneezia – Insomnia-like Effects of Hayfever

Have you heard of Insneezia? No? Well, neither had I until a couple of weeks ago when I received an email with lots of information about it from Boots UK.

At first, I thought it sounded gimmicky, however the stats that they provided about the loss of sleep due to hayfever symptoms and the knock-on effects of this really caught my eye.

Insneezia - insomnia like effects of hayfever infographic

Isn’t that interesting? It actually inspired me enough to try my hand at making my very first infographic – pretty cool, huh?

But what really caught my eye was the knock-on effects that a bad night’s sleep can cause. TJ and I both find that we become immensely tired during the summer months, and we’ve never really understood why.

Neither of us have what we’d typically consider hayfever symptoms (itchy eyes and a runny nose) but we do both clearly suffer from it. We get sore throats, headaches, painful sinuses, and sometimes just feel like we have a cold the entire length of the summer – it must be hayfever, right?

So it’s no wonder we struggle to get a good night’s sleep and feel extra tired (and crabby) the following day! Insneezia may have sounded like a gimmicky name when I first saw it, but I can totally relate to all the symptoms.

Which is why we were super excited to try Boots’ new Nasal Barrier Spray, to see if it might give us a bit of a break from such irritating symptoms. Antihistamines alone didn’t seem to be cutting it, so why not give it a try?

I was a little bit concerned, before it arrived, as to whether I’d be able to use it. I’ve suffered badly from rebound congestion in the past and didn’t want this new barrier spray to set this off. I needn’t have worried, however, as the Nasal Barrier Spray is actually a very gentle powder, which simply creates a barrier against pollen (and other airbourne allergens).

It is made of a mixture of cellulose and peppermint, which is a very pleasant scent to spray up your nose! It feels so refreshing and it’s really quite amusing when you happen to sneeze half an hour later and get yet another whiff of peppermint!

That’s not to say that the spray itself makes you sneeze, it’s actually really easy and gentle to use. You simply clear your nose, and then apply one spray to each nostril. It is advised that you do this at least 3 times daily, to maintain the best possible protection, however you can use it as often as needed.

The spray is suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children over the age of 18 months, so it really is a great addition to your family’s medicine cabinet. Little Man is 3 and a half, and he has had no problem using the spray and even finds it all rather amusing.

We’ve been using the spray as a family for just over a week now, and I have to say it has been really quite effective. It took a few days for us to notice the difference, and it’s been hard to compare how our night-time sleep has been affected (more due to Little Man having a nightmare or two last week than hayfever related issues) but I have definitely noticed a distinct difference in how my head and sinuses feel.

I’d say, though, that the biggest change I noticed was when I forgot to take my antihistamine and the spray whilst working this weekend. Within a couple of days I have begun to suffer from a terrible headache, snotty nose, and disturbed sleep, so I shall certainly be getting back on track with them both this week.

If you’d like to try the Nasal Barrier Spray for yourself, you can do by shopping online or heading into your local Boots store. It is currently retailing at £8.99 per 800mg, which is roughly 200 sprays according to the website. Even better, it is currently part of a “buy one, get one half price” offer on selected hayfever and allergy relief, so you could stock up while that lasts.

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Disclaimer: I was provided a free sample of the Nasal Barrier Spray, along with details about Insneezia, in return for this review. However all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Rose

Ten Years with Endometriosis

Ten years ago, this month, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, and was told how “lucky” I was to be diagnosed at such a young age (I was 21). Whilst I appreciated the sentiment, I didn’t feel very lucky.

Ten Years with Endometriosis

I had been suffering from the most severe abdominal cramps ever since my periods first started in my early teens, and had spent several years dealing with a cycle that could be as short as 2-3 weeks at times. When you feel physically sick and are doubled over in pain during your period, having them come so frequently together (not to mention so unpredictably) can really make your life hell.

Getting a diagnosis didn’t really change anything, other than giving me a name for what I was dealing with. I’d like to say that getting the diagnosis meant that I would no longer have to deal with doctors and gynaecologists who didn’t believe how much it was affecting my life, but sadly that wasn’t always the case! But, still, I had a name for what was happening to me – at least I didn’t have to doubt myself any more…

The past ten years have been hard. I’ve tried pretty much every treatment option available to me, and have unfortunately reacted badly to most. My last appointment with a gynaecologist, at the beginning of this year, set out my options pretty clearly:

  1. Continue as I am, with the Mirena coil, and see how long I can cope with the symptoms
  2. Take Nafarelin, again, to try and keep symptoms at bay as long as possible
  3. Have another laparoscopy

Unfortunately, none of these are great. The Mirena, whilst stopping my periods, does not seem to stop the pain. And as I only came off my last 6 months’ of Nafarelin in February, it just feels too soon to try that again. As for surgery, well my last two laparoscopies were pretty extensive and left me feeling worse than before (my first one set off my IBS, and I ended up with an infection after the second). When I look at the length of relief I get from any of these options, it really does feel rather hopeless.

According to my gynaecologist (not that I ever see the same one twice!) the plan is to get me through to my 40s and then consider removing my ovaries. I’ve always known this was a possibility as my mum had a hysterectomy at 36 and my Grandma had one at 40 (yes, Endometriosis, like Hyperemesis, seems to run in my family!) The problem with this is that I am only 31… I can’t imagine getting through another 10 years like this.

This past week I have felt awful. Admittedly, I have had a virus that has totally floored me, but the worst part is that just as I was recovering from that I have been pulled back down by cramps, nausea, intense bloating, indigestion, the lot. I know it is the Endo, because the symptoms are so typical for me… I was super emotional last weekend in the run-up to it, my pelvis and tailbone have been killing me, and I’ve been dreaming about a combination of babies and ovary pain – you can’t get more hormonal than that!

And I realise that this month the symptoms are worse than last month. And last month the symptoms were worse than the month before. And suddenly I realise I am heading for yet another slide into the abyss that is Endo at its cruellest.

I’m lucky, in that I have support. My mum “gets it” and I have so many online friends who have walked this path before me (and with me). But still, it can feel so lonely sometimes. When your body keeps failing, keeps holding you back, keeps you from enjoying time with your family, keeps you from reaching your dreams, keeps you from living… well, that just plain sucks.

It’s no wonder I’ve been miserable this past week. I thought it was because I was sick. But really, it’s the reality of it all sinking in. It’s realising that, yes I had a virus, but nobody else in the family was so incredibly and completely wiped out by it and the only reason I was is because my body is already working overtime to deal with my crazy hormones and the pain that comes with them.

So now I have some thinking to do. What route do I take? Do I do nothing, or do I go down the medical route? Do I try the gynaecologist’s suggestion of taking Nafarelin constantly, to see if that helps, or is that a bit pointless? According to her, I can take it up to 2 years as long as I take HRT and then longer than 2 years if necessary, only I’d have to start having bone scans after that. But if I do that, how is that any different to having my ovaries removed? Surely pumping my body full of more chemicals just to avoid that surgery for a few more years is a bit mad?

But am I really ready to push for something more permanent? I think I may be getting there, as this week it has really hit me that we won’t be having any more babies (hence my love letter to myself about my journey towards motherhood). The only reason I can think of for those emotions hitting me so suddenly is that deep down, I know I have some big decisions to make. And whilst I know we decided long ago that another pregnancy isn’t an option for us, opting to take that away completely just seems so immense!

So, yeah… this month marks 10 years since I was first diagnosed with Endometriosis. Ten years of having a name for this condition that totally runs my life at times. Do I want to give it another ten years, or is it time to say “enough”?

Happy Father’s Day to the Two Dads in My Life

To My Dad

Happy Father's Day to my Dad

Where do I begin?

For the past 31 years, you have nurtured me, cared for me, protected me, guided me, encouraged me, lifted me up, and most of all you’ve loved me. As a child I took this for granted, but the older I get and the more stories I hear of people’s childhoods, the more I realise just how lucky I was to have such a stable home with such an amazing father.

Never once have I felt like you were distant, you’ve always been there. Even when I hit my teens and the Endometriosis began to rear it’s ugly head, you were there. It would have been so easy for you to leave it up to mum to help with my “women’s troubles” but you didn’t. I could see you didn’t always know what to do or how to help, but neither did she. That didn’t matter, you were still there. And that meant a lot.

And I’ll never forget that time in Ibiza, when I complained that Debbie wasn’t letting me dance with anyone on our night’s out. She told you it was to protect me, expecting you to fight her corner, but you didn’t. You stood there, washing the dishes from breakfast, and told us both that you knew you couldn’t protect us from everything, and that we would make mistakes no matter what you did. “In fact,” you said, “mistakes are a natural part of life”.

This didn’t mean that you didn’t care, far from it, but that you knew we were growing up and you couldn’t control what happened to us. Instead, you told us how you would always be there, ready to catch us when we fall and help us find our way back to our feet. It wouldn’t be easy, you said, especially when you could see the mistakes we were heading for, but you had accepted this.

I remember, even as a 16 year old, that this was important. I was impressed by your wisdom and hoped that when I had children of my own I would have that same strength and wisdom to follow in your footsteps. Only now that I am a mother am I truly beginning to realise just how wise and strong you are.

These days I see you playing with Little Man and the joy in your heart dances right across your face. It fills my heart with even more love for you, and I know that he will grow up knowing the same wonderful man I know, only he will call you Grandad. How very lucky he is.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

To My Husband

Happy Father's Day to my Husband

How do I begin?

My love for you grows each and every day, and I want you to know this first and foremost. I see you struggling with the guilt that eats away inside you as your illness grows day by day, guilt that you cannot be the husband and father that you so desperately want to be. And it breaks my heart that this feeling even exists, because you have nothing to be guilty about.

You are the most wonderful husband I could ever have asked for, and I hope that I never forget to tell you this. You understand me like nobody else ever has, because your heart is so very like mine. You know how much love lies within my heart for everybody, and you never even blink an eye when I bring people home for tea unexpectedly or ask if we can do something for someone you’ve never even met. You know this because that same kind of love lies within your own heart, it is what binds us together. Please know that the intensity of that flame grows brighter because of you, and you deserve every ounce of love I have for you.

And just as I couldn’t have asked for a better husband, our child also has the very best father I could ever have hoped for. You’ve seen my message above, you know how big those father-shaped shoes are to fill in my mind, and yet you do so beautifully. I always knew you’d make a great father, having seen you with your nieces right from the moment I first met you, but nothing could have prepared me for the intensity of parenthood and the incredible way you stepped straight into the role of dad, despite all the difficulties we have faced getting here.

Yesterday I stood on stage to read out a poem I wrote from Little Man’s perspective. It was all about you, and I hope that it helped at least one person in the audience. But more than that, I hope that it helped you to see how much respect I have for you as you face some of the most distressing symptoms. I stood up on that stage for you, because of you, for you inspire me every day. Thank you for being my husband and my best friend, I love you!

Happy Father’s Day, TJ!

Never Lose Hope

Never Lose Hope

Never lose hope - reflections on how much life can change in just six months

Six months ago, life at The Patch was significantly different to what it is like now. Looking back, I can barely believe how far we have come in just six short months, and it feels important to mark the transition in some way. After all, six months ago I could see no answer, so it’s empowering to remember that no matter how bad things may seem to get there is always hope.

You see, six months ago I was signed off work for a month, close to a breakdown due to work related stress. I had known for some time that I was no longer right for the role, but I just couldn’t seem to break away – my passion for the cause was too great. Stress built up until it reached the point where I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was consumed by it all. The day I sat trying to tell a doctor what was wrong through the floods of tears, only to hear “you’re not depressed, it’s your situation and you need to change that,” was the moment I began to accept this. It was, quite frankly, the first step in a huge transition that would shortly occur…

Five months ago, I returned to work and discovered I was facing redundancy. Had that happened prior to my talk with the doctor, I may well have fallen apart at this news. But instead, I had taken time out and found my peace. I had prayed for guidance, releasing the outcome to the Universe and had chosen the word “Surrender” as my focus for the year. I was ready to accept whatever came my way, rather than trying to “fix” things myself. I can’t actually explain to you how I did this, just that something had changed within my very being and for the first time I was ready to face the unknown with hope rather than fear.

Four months ago, I worked my last day in my old job and embraced the unknown fully. We had made many decisions during the previous month which we felt were leading us down a better path. We had found a house, closer to my parents, and I had decided to look for part-time work rather than chasing a full-time managerial role, so that I could provide better support for TJ and Little Man and pursue more freelance work using my writing and networking skills. And at first it all seemed to be falling into place. But then the landlord pulled the house off the market and I struggled to find a part-time admin role due to being “overqualified” and time continued to tick on with no work in sight

Three months ago, I attended yet another interview, this time sleep-deprived and nauseous from a sickness bug that had hit me the night before. It was a job we really thought I had a chance at, but once again the response was “you’re more of a manager than an administrator”. I finally began to feel my resolve wane and took to my sick bed, searching and applying for jobs outside of my usual search. And it was in this moment that I ultimately secured my current role.

Two months ago, we relocated to my home town, safe in the knowledge that I now had a new job (and a few extra hours elsewhere which had resulted from a previously unsuccessful interview). It all seemed to be falling into place, finally. Until just 3 days before we moved when TJ had a major reaction to one of his new medications and it was terrifying! I cannot even put into words how truly awful that first night was, and how much fear we both carried around for several weeks afterwards. You don’t just experience something like that and move on, it stays with you a long time. For all the amazing changes about to happen in our life, it seemed we were to be reminded of just how fragile life can be…

One month ago I started my new job and I could not be happier. I am utterly exhausted thanks to relocating, working more hours than contracted, and working a second job, but it is all good. I go to work happy, I come home happy. I get to know that the work I am doing is, in some way, helping to fund vital research that helps save lives. And I get to meet customers, volunteers and people on work placements every day. Anyone who knows me well will know how much I enjoy meeting people! I get to be creative. I get to contact local companies about opportunities for the store. I am, quite simply, happy.

Alongside this, I have seen a massive increase in my stats for the blog. After almost 2 years of neglect, I am finally finding the chance to connect with the blogging community (both on their blogs and on social media) and the knock on effect is that my stats have increased significantly. I am no longer simply writing for myself. And that makes me happy, because blogging has always been about the community for me. Which is why I am so excited about going to BritMums Live this month and reading out this poem as part of the Bloggers’ Keynote.

But for all the changes that have happened in our lives, there have been two things that haven’t. The first is TJ’s health. We are still fighting for a better diagnosis and more support with treatment, this is an ongoing struggle and one we will continue to fight for as long as it takes. The second is TJ’s job. He has a further commute from our new home and that, along with other aspects, has taken its toll. I have often felt guilty about how much has changed for me professionally and how happy I am in my work, because it feels like I have left him behind in the trenches somehow.

So imagine our joy when yesterday he went for an interview, only to be offered the job there and then. No “we’ll be in touch”, no waiting for the phone to ring and hoping you did enough to secure the position. He went out there, showed what he can do, and secured a new job just like that. I couldn’t be any prouder than I am of him right now, and I hope that this is the boost his confidence needs to know how good he is at what he does.

Which brings me to today and the point of this post – six months ago I could never have imagined that we would be where we are today, both with new jobs, a new house, and a better life. We still have our battles, but we are stronger and happier than we have been in a very long time. We have found hope where we once only found despair. I wrote about this in February, when we were first starting to find our way out, and now we’re here I just want to rejoice.

Life is good… I want to remember this!

Border Plants

Getting to Grips with Our New Garden

Hasn’t the weather been truly gorgeous the past few days? Might summer finally be here? Little Man seems to think so, although even he was a little hesitant when asking me this afternoon if it really was summer!

But with the sun shining bright and hot, it really does feel like summer has finally arrived and that means I have an even greater yearning to be out in the garden as much as possible. But, like our new house, our new garden is still very much in disarray as life has been pretty crazy of late and it just hasn’t been high on the agenda.

The beginnings of a container garden

So this afternoon TJ and I decided that we really needed to get cracking and make a start on turning our new garden into a place of retreat and refuge. You might remember that I loved our old garden and I do miss it a little bit right at this moment in time. But this new outdoor space we have is actually much more promising than the old place ever was. It feels more enclosed, meaning Little Man can go and play whilst we sit and relax or work in the garden, and we won’t need to worry about him tripping up or getting into mischief as much.

The garden is a blank canvas

This isn’t really the best shot (TJ was busy hanging out the washing as you can’t really miss the chance to dry your laundry outside on a day like today, can you?) but it does help me to keep tabs on what we started with so I can see the progress we make over time with this space.

My dad has been really helpful in trying to rid us of all the weeds that have taken over the patio and soil areas of the garden. Until then, we’re planning on growing everything in containers and will decide next year whether to add extra soil to the very shallow areas of garden to grow veg there or just keep it simple with border plants in the ground and veg in the containers.

Border Plants

In the meantime we have a range of plants to brighten up the garden. Geraniums, the smell of which neither TJ nor I liked as children, bought because that exact same smell reminds us of childhood! Marigolds grown by one of my new colleagues, which I am so grateful for as I love the colour they bring to the garden. And a few others bits I now forget the names of (one day I will get better at plant names!)

Container Vegetable Gardening

And then there are these – the runner beans which desperately need planting into a bigger pot and given canes to grow up, and kale which again needs planting in a proper container as it isn’t really having much luck whilst we aren’t giving it the care and attention it deserves. We were given these from a friend when we moved in, so they are well overdue replanting. We were also given a courgette plant, which the snails in this garden have obliterated, and a butternut squash which the kids manage to tip out and lose. Maybe next year we’ll have more success with those!

Oh and there are the outdoor tomatoes that my dad gave us, currently protected from the snails by pellets. We have tons of them and I just don’t know how else to deter them from eating our plants, so if anyone has any ideas then please do share them with us…

Until then, I am looking forward to getting these all planted into bigger containers, cleaning up the table and chairs, and eating as many meals as we possibly can in the garden over the summer months. That’s what it’s all about, don’t you think?

Shadow Play

Intentional Living

Living Intentionally Quote

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like life is whizzing by and I am missing so much of it because I am so caught up in all the things I think I need to do. To be fair, some of those things are necessities – I do need to work in order to pay the bills, I need to cook in order to feed my family, and I need to do the laundry so that we have clothes to wear!! But sometimes I mix these necessities in with things that could wait, and that’s when I miss out on so much.

These past few weeks have really highlighted how very true this is. Life is incredibly crazy right now – we just moved house, I’ve just started two new jobs, Little Man is adapting to a new nursery, TJ is getting used to a longer commute each day, and we’re all adjusting to the fact I no longer work from home. Needless to say, life is just a little bit messy because of all the changes to our routine. We haven’t yet found our new rhythm and it has thrown us all off kilter.

But instead of giving myself some grace and putting the “to do” list on hold, I have found myself desperate to get through it. I see the boxes we still need to unpack, the cupboards that still need sorting, the pictures I want to get up on the wall, the plants that need planting, and it all just feels utterly overwhelming. Again, I come back to weeding out the things that could (and probably should) wait from those that actually need doing. I mean, we have everything we need to cook dinner, dress for work, and go about our daily business, surely the rest can wait!

And it can, of course it can. But when I’m stressed I find that I cling to things I think I can “achieve” (such as a more “perfect” house) rather than simply living intentionally. I focus more on the way things look than the way they feel. What does it matter if my house is a mess, if I am able to spend time with my family? Who cares if the bookcases are filled with clothes instead of books, when it means I have time to go out and enjoy the sunshine with my boys rather than emptying boxes and rearranging everything? By focusing on how unfinished my house is, how far from the ideal I want for it, I am missing out on the fact that we are here, we are together, and life is good.

So that’s what I am trying to do. It is hard, I feel bad about the state of my house, that it should be sorted by now. But though it is hard, it is so worth it. Sitting and watching tv whilst cuddling Little Man, rather than asking him to sit quietly whilst I unpack is a much better way of living, don’t you think?

Last year I wrote a post about looking for simple things in life, what I called Joy in the Everyday Moment, and I feel the need to do this again. I want to consciously and intentionally look for those little things which mean the most, to ensure I do not get pulled down by all the coulds and shoulds that I allow to overtake my life when I do not life with intention.

How about you? How do you live intentionally?

#GE2015 Where do we go from here- The Family Patch

Thoughts on the Election: Fear for the Future and a Passion for Change

Along with so many others, I watched the election results this week in stunned disbelief. Never in my worst nightmare did I ever imagine the Conservatives would win a majority, which again seems to be a common reaction to the news. In the weeks leading up to the election, I had spoken to many people and heard just as many opposing views and, along with the debates, this had given me the strong impression that we were heading for another hung parliament. How did we go from that, to this?

#GE2015 Where do we go from here- The Family Patch

I know that many people feel that there is very little difference between the parties, and therefore there was no real choice in this election. It is the very reason many non-voters give for choosing not to cast a vote this time. A few days before the election, I posted a link to this article along with the words, “I strongly believe that casting your vote is a big part of how we engender change, working with politics and politicians to focus light on the issues that matter most. It isn’t going to change overnight, but not voting is like accepting it “as is” and allowing it to go on unchallenged.” And I still do believe this… but our system is so flawed with its First Past The Post (FPTP) that it feels incredibly disheartening to realise how very little our voices are heard.

Somehow, as a nation, we have ended up with a majority Tory government, with more votes than they had last time, despite all that we have been through in the past five years. I can’t, of course, blame that completely on the FPTP system – people have clearly (and rightfully) cast their vote for the Conservative Party. But in many ways that makes me lose faith in where we’re heading as a society – do we really value the lives of others so little that we’re happy to ignore the fact that under the previous Tory government the rich got richer and the poor got poorer? Austerity measures were the worst thing to happen to our economy, and yet so many people believe the Tory Party rhetoric that they need time to finish what they started! But when you begin to really look at what we’ve voted for, it makes for an extremely depressing read.

Let me tell you something – as a family we will be hit hardest by the Tory Party plans. We’ve already suffered under the previous Tory government, but it will be even worse this time around. In the past year alone we have seen: our tax credits cut so much that we could not afford the childcare we needed, leaving me in a very stressful and unpleasant situation in my previous place of employment; my inability to claim JSA despite being made redundant, due to having not paid enough NI Contributions during the two years I stayed home with Little Man and returned to work in a part-time capacity only; and an increasingly difficult battle to receive the medical care and support TJ needs for a debilitating condition due to lack of funds in the NHS.

As a family with a disabled father, a young child, and a mother who has chosen to put her career on hold (consciously choosing a lower level and therefore lower paid role) in order to meet the immediate needs of her family, we are going to be hit the hardest by the coming government’s plans. We will struggle to make ends meet, and fight an even harder battle to receive the care we need from an NHS that is crumbling into ruins, no matter what the Tories say. Far from the “benefits scroungers” that they would have you believe are the cause of the problems, we will battle on regardless with almost minimal support from the government.

TJ will continue to work as hard as he can, despite being so sick that he had to miss 40 days of work last year due to being unable to even get out of bed. The days he works are days filled with immense pain, clouded by a fog of mental confusion caused by his medications and side effects nobody would wish on their worst enemy. He will do so, because we cannot afford for him to even consider reducing his hours. And I will continue to work fewer hours so that I can balance childcare, caring for my husband, and providing for my family in a way that doesn’t kill me. But more than that, we will rely on family and friends more than ever before, and we will fight for change.

Because whilst we will be hit hard, we are still incredibly blessed. We have a roof over our head and food on our table – some people are not so lucky. How crazy is that? How can I even be sitting here, in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, mentioning food poverty and homelessness? It isn’t right!!

Thankfully I am far from alone in feeling this way. My absolute horror that, as a nation, we voted in a Tory government that cares so little about the most vulnerable in society, has been reduced significantly over the past 24 hours as I have read the reactions of others across the UK. Let’s start with the fact that, despite getting a majority vote, the Tories received a significantly smaller percentage of the votes than the losing party in previous elections! Again we come back to the flawed FPTP system, and the fact that:

“In real terms, this means that Cameron’s Tories won the support of only around 24 per cent of all those who could have voted. The ‘none of the above’ party of non-voters totalled 34 per cent, finishing a close second this time. Millions of those who did vote will feel no more represented than those who did not, notably the almost five million UKIP voters who ended up with one MP between them.” – Did the Tories really win? 

This gives me hope, more than anything else, that we are not alone in feeling so utterly disappointed in the result of this election. Our electoral system is far from representative and therefore millions of people throughout the country feel just as passionate about creating change. But how do we do this? How do we engender change when our voices are vastly unheard, at least when it comes to politics?

I think Russell Brand says it pretty well in his recent video calling for us to live with compassion.

“One thing I know for certain is there’s going to be no shortness of meanness… we’ve got to find new ways of being compassionate and new ways of making change.” – Russell Brand

Compassion is something we can all strive to live by. It comes in so many guises and every single act of compassion, no matter how small, can all add up to a far greater life for us all. It could be as simple as stopping for a few extra minutes to talk to an elderly neighbour who may cherish those few moments of friendship with you, or buying an extra bag of tea during your weekly food shop to donate to the food bank. Or it could be as dedicated as volunteering for a local cause or speaking out about injustice on a local, national or even global scale. Whatever form compassion takes for you, know that it will make a difference.

The last thing we want or need right now is for the news of the past few days to throw us all into a state of apathy or a belief in hopelessness and helplessness. We can create change, indeed we must create change, it’s just we have to find new ways of doing this.

And on that note, I wish to leave you with a song by one of my favourite artists, Damh The Bard, entitled “The Sons and Daughters of Robin Hood”. Damh wrote this following the 2010 election and shared it again in light of the results from the 2015 election. The chorus line has been running through my mind since last night and I invite you to join me in singing along and finding your own way to make that change.

“If you thought that we would do nothing, You’ve misunderstood! For we are the Sons and Daughters, of Robin Hood!”

Beltane Altar White Spring Glastonbury 2012

Beltane Blessings

Beltane Altar White Spring Glastonbury 2012

Happy Beltane Everyone!

This past week has been one of many new beginnings for us as a family (a new home, a new nursery for Little Man, and two new jobs for me) and is the culmination of many months of preparation and waiting. It’s hard to believe that all of this was set into motion right back at the beginning of the year and is only just really coming to fruition, but I find it immeasurably satisfying to see how perfect the timing is.

Beltane is a celebration of union, of all the different parts coming together, and of the fruits of our labours beginning to come to us. It is a time of renewal, of new growth, and of preparation for the blessings yet to occur. We see this in nature, as the Wheel of the Year turns, and yet this year I also see it so very clearly in our own personal circumstances. And it feels good.

We had been hoping to make it to Glastonbury to celebrate Beltane this year, as it is 3 years since we were there with our dear friend for Little Man’s blessing. But I have to say that postponing our trip until later in the year so that we could move home and start a brand new chapter in our lives is more than worth it!

Today is a special day in particular – we hand over the keys to our old house, just as I begin my new job. How’s that for a new beginning? Having surrendered to whatever life may bring at the beginning of this year, it feels so special that life has brought us through the incredible uncertainty we faced at the beginning of this year and provided us with a beautiful fresh start at this glorious time of year.

It shouldn’t surprise me that I feel so connected to this particular time of year – after all my birthday falls in the same week as Beltane and we’ve chosen it as a special moment in our year before (for Little Man’s blessing). But what does surprise me is how much is happening this year in particular, and just how many things are really blossoming in our lives right now.

It’s not just the new house and new job either… they are external changes, but I can feel my heart changing too. Things that have remained hidden, or crushed, over the past few years are beginning to resurface and I find myself excited about embracing them once more. Like embracing spirituality, connecting with others, and celebrating these special moments in time.

And the more I open myself up to the possibilities, the more opportunities and encouragement I find. And Beltane is one such opportunity. We now live in an area where is is easier for us to connect with like-minded communities to explore our faith. We also have easier access to nature, parks, and our own little garden space with room for a veg plot! Celebrating the seasons and embracing their gifts is quite literally right on our doorstep, and we are determined to make the most of it.

For now, though, we will begin by creating our own little Beltane Fire to welcome us into our new home, and give thanks for the blessings that have already come to us. And the rest will all fall into place…

Ten of the Best YouTube Channels as chosen by our three year old

Top Ten YouTube Channels (as chosen by our 3 year old)

In 2013 we decided to cancel our cable subscription and TV licence, as we found we just weren’t really watching live TV any more and most of what we watched was on demand or via alternative means (such as our favourite series on DVD).

It took a little bit of adjusting to, but we’ve found some great benefits to this, including being more intentional about what we watch and finding some fantastic new sources of entertainment. One of those has to be YouTube channels.

We’ve talked about one of those already, when we shared our love of Cosmic Kids with you. However our saved channels list grows every month and, as many of those are for Little Man to watch, I thought it might be helpful to share some of his favourites with you in case your own children fancy watching some videos online.

Ten of the Best YouTube Channels as chosen by our three year old

Little Man is a dab hand at using YouTube on the tab, and has made his way to all sorts of kids’ programmes with very little input from us. We obviously watch what he is choosing and make sure it is appropriate (you particularly have to keep an eye on the adverts at times), but we love the freedom he has to choose videos he is interested in. Perhaps this would not be the case if he wasn’t so obsessed with educational videos (!!) but as his favourites include shapes, numbers, and the alphabet, I’m not going to complain.

So, without further ado, here are ten of Little Man’s favourite YouTube channels…

1. KidsTV 123

KidsTV 123 was one of the first dedicated kids’ channels we found. There is an absolute wealth of videos on the channel, covering a wide range of topics such as numbers, letters, shapes, measurements, space, the world, and so much more. The songs are simple and easy to sing along to (although be warned that they do tend to get stuck in your head for days on end).

2. TuTiTu

Every time I hear the music for TuTiTu I am thrown back in time to last summer when it was Little Man’s absolute favourite thing to watch – that music seemed to haunt me even in my sleep! And yet, despite the fact the music was irritating at the time, I was outraged when they updated it slightly this year. I guess my feelings for TuTiTu are deeper than I realised… I think it has that kind of effect – go check it out.

 

3. Have Fun Teaching

Have Fun Teaching has to be one of my absolute favourite YouTube channels for kids. The music is far from the plinky-plonky stuff that seems to drown out most things aimed at young children. The content of the videos seems to be aimed at slightly older children, to be fair, but Little Man loves them and hearing him rap along with the Shape Song is just too adorable for words…

4. StoryBots

StoryBots is a relatively new discovery of ours, but it has become a firm favourite for all of us. Their alphabet songs are amazingly cool, and TJ and I find ourselves singing them at random points in the day. TJ’s favourite it the X song, so I’ll share that one here, but the whole alphabet is well worth a watch!

 

5. The Kids Picture Show

I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with The Kids Picture Show. The videos are really quite extensive and Little Man loves them, but since he has started watching them he enjoys trying to pronounce words in the way they are spoken on the video, which leads to him dropping the “t” in words like “letter”. That being said, he now recognises many more fruit and vegetables and is obsessed with asking what kind of train we’ve just spotted going past on the tracks or the exact type of vehicles that pass us by on our way home from nursery. For a boy who wants to know everything, this channel is a dream come true.

 

6. ABC Kid TV

ABC Kid TV is one of those channels with songs which can easily drive the parents nuts, but they do have lovely long videos which can keep the kids entertained while you cook dinner! Little Man loves the letter and shape collections.

7. Little Baby Bum

Little Baby Bum has an extensive collection of nursery rhymes and action songs that Little Man loves joining in with. They also have karaoke versions of the songs, which is pretty darn cool, don’t you think?

8. Kids TV

Kids TV has a series with Bob, The Train, who Little Man really loves to watch. I mean, what’s not to love – he’s a train, he learns about letters and shapes and numbers, he’s just so cool!

9. Oh My Genius

Oh My Genius has a series of videos that are very similar to TuTiTu, with a character known as Uchi Uchi who flies around and drops little bits and pieces which add up to create everyday items we know. Despite finding it after TuTiTu, Little Man once told me that he preferred Uchi Uchi to TuTiTu… I felt like this was a little bit of a betrayal to poor TuTiTu, our first love, but I think that’s just me!

 

10. Sing Mit Mir

I couldn’t end this list without including at least one of the foreign language channels Little Man enjoys. To be honest, he actually watches an awful lot of Russian language videos and I probably should have included one of those channels instead. However, I think that this channel is much more accessible and helpful for those who, like us, are trying to introduce a foreign language into everyday family life.

Sing Mit Mir have a lovely selection of German kids songs, all beautifully illustrated. Each one has the lyrics included so that you can sing along, and ultimately learn them so that you can sing them at any time. Our favourite is alle meine Entchen, which we sing as we pass the ducks on the way home from nursery.

FlashSticks German Beginner Pack

FlashSticks Review – Language Learning Resources for the Whole Family

You may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about Language Learning Resources, in which I shared how my love of languages has led to years of study and how I wished to introduce foreign languages to Little Man from a young age.

In that post, I mentioned FlashSticks as a potential language learning resource, however we had yet to try them out. Luckily, the team at FlashSticks are just as passionate about language learning as I am (in fact that are more passionate than I am by far!) and were more than happy to send us a beginner German pack to try as a family.

FlashSticks German Beginner Pack

For those of you who haven’t heard about FlashSticks, they are colour coded sets of post-it notes which you can stick around the house (or anywhere else, for that matter) and learn new words in your target language through a combination of exposure (seeing them regularly) and context (seeing a word next to the item it relates to).

We’ve been using our FlashSticks for the past few weeks and you may have seen photos cropping up on our Twitter and Instagram feeds. I decided that the easiest way for us to give you a proper idea of how we’ve been getting on would be to create a video… except I forgot that three year olds don’t generally take direction for videos and mostly do their own thing! So Little Man and I had a rather interesting afternoon putting together a review for you and after several takes and a fair amount of editing, we managed to come up with this. Enjoy…

As you can see, we’ve been having a fair amount of fun sticking our FlashSticks everywhere (some are in context, like the numbers and the chair, others are completely random depending on where Little Man chose to stick them!)

We still have a long way to go in our language learning journey, but the FlashSticks have certainly helped get us started and given Little Man an interest in learning more, and that is the most exciting part for me.

If you want to know more about FlashSticks you can find a ton of information on their website. In particular, you may find their app of real interest. It works by providing you with a native speaker pronouncing the word, so that you can hear exactly how it should sound. We haven’t actually tried it, I must be honest, because having spent years studying German and several months working in the country, I don’t feel the need to check how to pronounce basic words. My pronunciation isn’t perfect, but I do know what they should sound like, even if I can’t quite get it right myself. However were I learning a new language, I would most certainly be using the app.

In addition to all of this, you might also like to follow them on instagram and twitter, where they interact with others regularly and provide some fun ways to get involved via social media. It’s through interacting with them on twitter that I have found other language lovers to connect with, such as Lingotastic who are great fun to chat with and really supportive of introducing foreign languages to children.

As I said in the video, we love connecting with others who are on a similar journey to us, so if you are learning a foreign language, especially with your kids, then please do get in touch with us and let us know how you’re getting on!

Fancy trying FlashSticks for yourself? They are offering 10% off to any Family Patch followers who use the code THEFAMILYPATCH at checkout… Go on, have a go!!

Disclaimer: we were sent a pack of FlashSticks for free, however all our opinions are our own!

 

Baby Clothes

Embracing Duality – How Grief and Gratitude Can Go Hand in Hand

This past weekend has been such a wild mixture of emotions, I still feel like I am reeling a little bit. It’s probably unfair to say it is just this weekend that has been this way, because in reality the entire year has been full of magnificent highs and intense lows. But it all seems to have come to a head over the past few days.

Let’s start with Friday. I had been waiting all week to hear whether I had been successful in my latest interview. I had felt like the interview had gone well, and was more excited about this role than any of the others I had gone for. But even so, having been turned down three times before because of being “overqualified”, I wasn’t ready to celebrate yet. In fact, I had given up on hope that I would hear that week, and was focusing on the job at hand – i.e. packing!

Packing
Our house is full of boxes, bags and cleaning products right now!

Then, almost as soon as I stopped thinking about it, I received a call offering me the job. I start on Friday 1st May, less than a week after we relocate to our new house. The news of this job coming just 2 weeks after the news that we could finally set a moving date was pretty exciting. After months of uncertainty, of thinking we were getting somewhere and then being held back for one reason or another, we were finally on the move. Quite literally.

So that’s the magnificent high for this weekend. We’re just 2 weeks off our move, and I have a new job. And it is a job I just know I am going to love. I couldn’t be happier…

Only the process of packing up ready to move makes me face the reality that life is moving forwards for us. And in some ways that is hard, because it means letting go of the very last threads of a dream we once thought was our future.

When we first moved here, way back in 2010, we were yet to be married and we were childless. We weren’t even 100% sure I could have children, but we were hopeful. Hyperemesis was a complete unknown for us, and as for Small Fibre Neuropathy, well we couldn’t ever have foreseen that. I remember thinking that the second bedroom in this house was the perfect size for two children. I wanted two, at least, if not three or four kids if I was really honest with myself. And this seemed like the perfect home to begin that journey.

Kids' Bedroom
Plenty of space for two kids, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed that we have Little Man. We are incredibly blessed by him and I know that things could have turned out so differently. I completely see all the benefits of having an only child, especially now that TJ is sick. But it isn’t the dream that I held for so long.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t broody. I think it kicked in pretty early on, and by the time my mum became a childminder I knew I wanted children in my life. And despite being adamant throughout my entire pregnancy that I could never do that again, there was always the doubt that said, “you won’t be happy with just one child”. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am not happy, because I feel so incredibly lucky to have this beautiful bond with Little Man, but I do know that there will always be this part of me that grieves for the fact that we never got to expand our family.

And that grief was thrown in my face this weekend as I went up in the loft and brought down all of Little Man’s baby clothes. His 0-3 month clothes (which he outgrew in about a month – he was a big baby!) were stored in the carrycot to his pram (which he also outgrew incredibly quickly). I have yet to go through all the bags, but I believe we have clothes right up until the age of 1 year in there, and it reminds me so much of those beautiful early days. They were marred by breastfeeding issues, sleep deprivation, and depression, but they were also the most beautiful moments that finally made me the mother I had always dreamed of being.

Baby Clothes
Some of my favourites – I’m not sure how I’m going to part with these…

This dichotomy of emotions – joy and sadness, gratitude and grief – is what I am also feeling right now. I am overwhelmed by the thought of finally getting rid of items from those early days, items I stored away “just in case” we ever had another baby in our lives. And yet I am also relieved that those early days are long gone. No more will we face the crazy upheaval of newborn life, no more will we forget what a good night’s sleep feels like, and no more will we need to work our entire lives around the needs of one tiny (and amazing) person. And there’s a lot of relief in that…

When I think of moving to the new house, I feel a renewed sense of excitement. We’ll be able to do all the things we wanted to do when we moved to this house but were not able to do through time or financial constraints. I’ll finally be able to paint the welsh dresser, make a patchwork quilt, and generally make our house into a warm and inviting home. We’ll be able to have people over to stay because, although we will need to look after the needs of ourselves (and especially Little Man) first, we will not be stretched across too many needs and commitments.

crochet fingerless gloves
There will be time for a lot more of this as Little Man gets older…

My life will never again be the half-crazed rush of trying to juggle far too many balls, instead there will be family nearby, communities to explore, and a far better work/life balance. There will be time for quiet meditation, reflections on the beauty in our life, and rebuilding the core strength which gets us through the hard times. And for that I am truly grateful.

It doesn’t take away the sadness and grief for dreams that once were but will never be. I think that will always be a part of who I am. But instead of trying to be just one thing, I am trying to embrace the duality of these experiences and emotions and forge a new way forward which allows them both space in my heart. That maternal instinct, that so desperately wanted a larger family, can find a new way of providing love and support to others, and all because of the opportunities provided by fully accepting the gift of time and energy this new way of life is enabling.

Here’s to life, whatever it may bring!

********

I’m linking up again with Share The Joy over at Bod For Tea, as this post has brought me both joy in the memories and in the realisation of all we have together as a family!

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot Recipe

Meal Planning on a Budget – Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot Recipe

The other day I wrote about our Essential List for Meal Planning on a budget. I know that, at a glance, it can look quite sparse and so I wanted to share with you some of the meals we create with it.

I’m going to try and work out a rough cost for each meal, however costs will obviously vary depending on whether there are seasonal deals and also where you choose to shop. To give you a rough idea of our weekly spend, our last grocery shop cost us just under £32 and will provide us with lunches and dinners for around a week.

We managed this by shopping at Aldi and thinking ahead about what we might make to ensure we only bought as much as we needed, whilst also making sure we got as many meals out of each item as possible. I must hasten to add that £32 was just for fruit, veg, fish, bread etc as we already had cereals and milk left over from previous shops. We also have some things like pasta, quinoa, flour etc in the cupboard too. For me, meal planning on a budget is all about making the most of what we already have and buying only what is needed to complement that or replace store cupboard essentials . Perhaps our Store Cupboard Essentials another list to share on another day!

So with all that in mind, I think it is perhaps more helpful to work out the approximate cost of each meal we make to give you a better idea of how far your money can go.

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot

Ingredients

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot Ingredients

3 potatoes – 20p (£1 for a 2.5kg bag)
1 leek – 10p (29p for a pack of 3)
1 red pepper – 32p (95p for a pack of 3)
1 carrot – 7p (49p for a 1.2kg bag)
1 courgette – 46p (£1.39 for a pack of 3)
1 parsnip – 20p (59p for a 600g bag)
1/3 head of broccoli – 15p (44p per unit)
1/4 pack of mushrooms – 22p (89p per pack)
1/4 pack of green beans – 20p (79 per per pack)
1/4 pack of sugar snap peas – 21p (85p per pack)
1/2 pack of baby corn – 45p (89p per pack)
1 pack wheat-free gravy – 67p (bought from Sainsbury’s in 3 for £2 offer)

Total cost of meal – £3.25 (should serve up to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids).

Clearly you could have made a bigger saving by not using wheat-free gravy, but that’s one of the things we simply have to budget for as I cannot tolerate wheat. And of course you could cut the cost down further by swapping more expensive items such as fresh baby corn for frozen sweetcorn. But we’re enjoying the fact that this is still within our budget and allows us to eat a wide variety of fresh vegetables at each meal.

Fancy having a go?

Recipe

Preparation Time – approximately 15 mins
Cooking Time – 45 mins

1. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Place two trays in the oven with a small amount of oil (we used a teaspoon of coconut oil on each).

2. Dice the carrot and parsnip and slice the leek into medallions. Place these on the first tray and put them into the oven.

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot - Step 2

3. Slice the potatoes (skin on) into rounds of approx. 1cm thickness and lay flat on the second baking tray. Put these in the oven about 10 mins after putting the carrot, parsnip and leek in.

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot - Step 3

4. Chop up the rest of the veg into small, bite-sized pieces.

5. After the carrot, parsnip and leek have been in the oven for 30 mins, they should be soft and slightly browned on the outside. Take them out and transfer them into the casserole dish. Cover with foil and place in the bottom of the oven to keep warm.

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot - Step 5

 

6. Put the remaining veg onto the tray you have just cleared and place them in the oven for 15 – 20 mins. You will need to keep an eye on these and the potatoes near the end. If the potatoes start getting too crispy, cover with foil.

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot - Step 6

7. Make the gravy and add this to the casserole dish along with the rest of the veg. Layer the potatoes across the top and enjoy. As the potatoes have been roasted, there will be no need to put the casserole dish back in the oven to crisp up.

Roasted Vegetable Hot Pot - Step 7

leftover Bolognese with spelt crackers

Meal Planning on a Budget – Our Essential List

Since my redundancy earlier in the year, I have been spending more time consciously thinking about the food we eat. Initially this was for budget reasons only, but it has had a really positive effect on our health as well. You see, by making all our meals from scratch and eating leftovers for lunch, we are avoiding grabbing easy snacks (often processed foods) and instead we’re eating a wider variety of vegetables.

But variety doesn’t have to come at an additional cost. If, like me, you have previously tried to stock up on healthy options only to have them sit in your fridge or cupboard well beyond their better days, please don’t give up. I’ve been pleasantly surprised of late just how budget friendly stocking my fridge full of fresh vegetables can be!

vegetable mixes for easy dishes

We’ve been avoiding meat, for budget and health purposes, but are still keeping fish in our diet. We’ve also been looking at cutting out wheat completely in meals we all eat (TJ and Little Man still have bread etc) and reducing our dairy intake significantly (this is a tough one as we do eat a lot of cheese in our house!) But even with the additional cost of dairy free milk and yoghurts and a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables, our weekly shop has still dropped a massive amount in recent weeks.

So how have we done it? Well, I keep my meal planning relatively loose by having a few recipe ideas in mind when I go shopping but enough flexibility to make the most of seasonal offers. And then I have my “Essentials List” which I know will help me make plenty of meals, even at short notice. This is what I would like to share with you today…

Our Essential List

  • Potatoes (for jackets and salads)
  • Carrots
  • Courgettes
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Baby Corn
  • Mange Tout
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes (fresh and tinned)
  • Tinned Beans
  • Gravy and/or Stock
  • Mayonnaise
  • Tinned fish, such as Tuna
  • Smokedfish, such as Mackeral
  • Eggs

The above ingredients make a variety of meals and are flexible enough to mix and match throughout the week. So, for instance, I always grate a few carrots and a courgette as a base for meals like Bolognese or a hot pot…

grated carrot and courgette base for Bolognese, hot pots and cottage pie

I find it makes a lovely, thick base that can sometimes seem to be lacking from meat free meals. I can then add a variety of other vegetables to it, depending on what I have available.

At the moment this is often baby corn, mange tout or sugar snaps peas. Whilst these may seem less than a budget choice, they are in fact a good option for additions to dishes. I find a pack of baby corn will easily do two meals, and the bags of mange tout and sugar snap peas can last 3 or 4 meals.

Likewise, a punnet of mushrooms will be good for a couple of dinners, and broccoli can go on for 3 or 4 meals too. All of these, in varying combinations, can make up a Bolognese, cottage pie or hot pot dish. And lightly steamed, make a delicious salad for lunch.

Talking of salads, I choose to make a salad base from avocado a lot of the time, as I struggle to digest raw vegetables and lettuce. It is certainly a far cheaper option than wheat free bread! But sometime,  if we have leftovers from the night before I will eat those with some Ryvita. TJ is equally as happy to take leftovers to work too.

leftover Bolognese with spelt crackers

Many of these meals need a sauce or gravy, so we always keep tins of tomatoes and beans in the cupboard. In fact I ran out of carrots for my Bolognese base the other day and substituted with a tin of baked beans and it worked out fun, if a little sweet to my taste!

You can mix it up by making the same Bolognese twice, only having it with pasta one day and jacket potatoes the next. Or you might like to add some spices and make a chilli to go with your spuds. It really is quite easy to make a few simple dishes go a long way!

And they don’t all have to take a lot of preparation and cooking time. One of our favourite meals at the moment is smoked mackerel with new potatoes and vegetables. 20 mins for the veg to cook, 5 mins to serve, and you’re done. Likewise with jacket potatoes, stick in the oven, make up some tuna mayo, and voila, a simply but filling meal.

smoked mackerel dinner

I’m not the most confident or creative cook, but I have really been enjoying helping our budget go further whilst feeding my family healthy and nutritious meals. I still have a lot to explore, like the noodles in our cupboard (stir fry, perhaps?) and the polenta bought on a whim (still no idea on that front!) And then there is the quinoa we could use in place of rice with a chilli, or mixed with veg for a tasty warm salad lunch. And, of course, I have yet to venture into the realm of breakfasts and puddings, but it’s a good start!

I’m going to be blogging more about our individual favourite wheat-free, vegetarian and budget meals, but for now I just wanted to share how we’ve started on this journey and what we have learnt so far.

Tell me, do you have an essential shopping list or go to recipes?

With Russian friends, celebrating Pancake Day

Language Learning Resources – For Those With A Love of Foreign Languages

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I miss learning foreign languages. Just ten years ago I was in Russia, studying for three months as a part of my degree. I had only recently returned from three months working in Germany. And I’d taken a trip to Italy the summer before, with another trip to Switzerland the summer before that. And yet now, I barely speak a word in another language.

With Russian friends, celebrating Pancake Day

Celebrating Pancake Day with some new friends… to this day I still have no idea what the big puppet was about! Note my Lokomotiv supporters’ hat, I still have that.

My love of languages developed pretty much as soon as I was introduced to them. I was lucky in the respect that my secondary school was big on languages. In my first year I learnt Latin and French, and then from my second year I added German into the mix (with Latin being something I took voluntarily in my lunch breaks for a couple of years). I decided to drop French after GCSE to focus on German, but always regretted that decision as I forgot it so quickly. Whilst studying for my A Levels I had the odd class in Italian and Chinese (the latter being the most complicated language I have ever tried to learn!) and then ended up taking Russian, from scratch, at University. I think it’s safe to say that I love languages!

But I never really developed the confidence to just go out and speak the language. Despite developing a really keen ear for languages, meaning that I could understand the vague gist of other languages spoken around me (Spanish, Swedish, Polish etc) based on languages I had studied with similar roots, I just never had the confidence to make much of this skill. And over time what little confidence I once had has dwindled spectacularly.

But I really want that to change. I always promised myself that I would introduce languages from a young age to any children I had, and I feel like I am not really making the most of this opportunity with Little Man. We read some books in German, and we sing some foreign songs, but other than that we don’t really use the language in our everyday lives. And if there is one thing I have learnt about languages is that the key is most definitely in using them regularly and within and everyday context.

Thankfully, with the explosion of resources available online, it is far easier to reach foreign language resources now than it ever was when I was studying. Almost every day I hear some foreign language being played by Little Man, who is a dab hand at finding new things to watch on YouTube – and he never bats an eyelid when the video he chooses is in another language, which makes me even more determined to follow his lead and just start having a go!

So with that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of the foreign language learning resources I have discovered online so far, in case you wish to have a go yourselves.

Books, Games and DVDs

The Bilingual Bookshop is an excellent UK based retailer of foreign language resources in multiple different languages. They currently have a massive sale on with 35% off using the code FB35 at the checkout.

Amazon have international sites where you can easily find books in a range of languages, direct from the country of origin. We’ve personally used the German site for books and resources. You can find a list of the different sites here.

Resources

I’ve heard about Flashsticks through various posts on social media, but have yet to give them a try myself. They are language learning post-it notes, using different colours to denote gender of words. I love the idea behind them (having cut out my own vocabularly words to stick around my house on many occasions!) because we are very visual creatures, and so these are bound to make language learning fun and easy.

YouTube is a goldmine for hearing languages spoken by natives. Let’s just think for a moment about all the bloggers and reviewers that we see on there, and then think about how many others are doing similar in their own native tongue! Little Man has stumbled upon some great kids’ reviewers in other languages and I love suddenly hearing Russian coming from the tab! But one of the things we have most loved about YouTube has been the channels made especially for children – one of our favourites is this Kinderlieder (German kids’ songs) channel.

 

I’m sure there are many more resources I have yet to find, but I hope that sharing these may have given you a few hints on where to begin if, like me, you want to include foreign languages into your everyday lives.

My Daddy is Poorly – a poem about family life and chronic illness

Living with chronic illness is hard on all members of the family.

For TJ it means living with awful pain day in and day out, with new symptoms developing whilst we wait for even more tests and referrals. And for me it means watching the man I love reduced to a shadow of his former self, unable to do anything but stand by in support.

But for Little Man it is simply confusing… he knows daddy is poorly and sad, but he doesn’t quite know what to do about it. He is only 3, after all, how can he possibly understand what is going on?

So, with this on my mind this morning, I decided to write something for him. As with most of my poems, once I got started the words began to flow right out of me and I was able to read it to both TJ and Little Man over breakfast.

It made both TJ and myself rather emotional and Little Man listened intently. And I realised it was something that needed to be shared – after all, how many other families may feel exactly like we do?

TJ gave me his blessing to share it (I always check before I post anything personal on here) and so here it is:

My daddy is poorly

My daddy is poorly
he hurts every day,
he has lots of medicine
to take pain away.

Sometimes he’s unhappy,
sometimes he is sad,
sometimes he’s frustrated
and sometimes he’s mad.

He tells me he’s okay,
that things are alright.
He plays with me each day,
reads books every night.

But I know he’s hurting
and that makes me sad,
I can’t make him better
and that makes me mad.

Sometimes I am naughty,
sometimes I will cry,
sometimes I get angry
and sometimes I sigh.

And then daddy hugs me
and holds me so tight,
he kisses me gently
and says we’re alright.

My daddy is poorly,
he hurts everyday,
but when we’re together
it all goes away

Foreign Language Reading with Children

World Book Day – Reading Books in a Foreign Language

Today is World Book Day and my social media feeds have been full of photos of children dressed up as characters from their favourite books. Little Man doesn’t go to nursery on a Thursday, so we haven’t taken part in this particular bit of fun this year. So I thought I would write about one of his favourite books right now…

Foreign Language Reading with Children

This is “Die kleine Maus und der Mond“. It is the German translation of the British book “Mouse and the Moon” by Christina Butler and illustrated by Tina MacNaughton. I cannot tell you how much I love this book for its beautiful story of friendship and most magical illustrations. However the fact that it is also a German translation makes me very happy, because it is a fantastic way of introducing a foreign language to Little Man.

The book itself was a gift from Little Man’s Godmother at his blessing. We had a very small and intimate blessing for Little Man, just us three and his Godmother, in the gardens at Chalice Well in Glastonbury. We do not see Little Man’s Godmother very often as she lives in Switzerland, but she shares my heart on so many things, and so she is the most perfect person to help us guide Little Man through his life.

She regularly sends him gifts for his birthday and Christmas, and often these are German books or DVDs, because she knows how much I wish to share my love of foreign languages with him. And we do enjoy looking through other German books too, however “die kleine Maus und der Mond” is his absolute favourite at the moment.Foreign Language Reading with Children

It isn’t even something we specifically promote at bedtime, Little Man has just fallen in love with the book and asks for it almost every night. He has been quite put out in the past when daddy or Grandma have been doing bedtime stories and have had to say he needs to choose another book. I think he finds it confusing that only mummy speaks another language – he knows some German words already and so I think he expects everyone else to know them too!

We’re working on this… I have printed out and laminated everyday words which we have stuck around the house so that daddy can learn some key words too. And daddy is more than happy to try and learn. But really what we need is for mummy to stop worrying about getting things “wrong” and just start talking more in German throughout the day, so that it becomes a normal part of our day.

Until then, however, I will enjoy reading this book every night and teaching Little Man what all the different words used in it mean.

Tell me, do you use another language in your home? Are you a bilingual family, or are you simply learning a new language yourself? How do you integrate it into family life?

Pick Daffodils to Bring Spring Colours into Your Home

Today I’m Grateful for New Beginnings

Today is a big day for me. It is the final goodbye to a particular part of my life, or rather the closing of a door that belongs to a world into which I once poured my heart and soul. It feels like there should be some feeling of loss for this, but there just isn’t.

The end of last year was my grieving period. It was a time when I knew, deep in my heart, that it wasn’t going to work out. It was a pretty desperate and terrifying time, realising that everything was about to change and not really knowing how that was going to pan out, and at the same time feeling like all the hard work and dedication meant nothing. It was, quite simply, a bleak moment in time.

But now? Now I feel the promise of Spring, the beauty of life that has laid dormant, building up strength to burst forth into a bright new world. The biggest thing about today is not so much the goodbye, but the welcoming of a fresh start.

And the day came with the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom - Anais Nin

Life isn’t easy. We’ve just found out that the house we were supposed to be moving into has been taken off the market by the landlord, meaning we have to start a whole new search. And our meeting with the neurosurgeon yesterday brought up even more questions than it answered. And we can’t forget the fact that, as of tomorrow, I am essentially unemployed. That’s a lot of uncertainty facing us…

And yet right now, I feel more hopeful, more confident, and more secure than I have in a long, long time. All of these changes, whilst challenging (to say the least) are leading us into a new life. We are taking the chance to do things we haven’t dared do, despite considering them for some time. We’re moving closer to family, we’re looking at healthier working patterns, and we’re learning to cherish the simple things in life, which remain unchanged regardless of the craziness elsewhere in our lives.

I plan on taking the next week off. TJ has a 4 day weekend coming up and we need some time to simply be. Then there are other houses to view, and a visit to  Little Man’s new nursery. And most importantly of all, I have arranged to meet a potential employer for a role that I am most excited about. I have boxes to pack, people to meet, and places to go.

Far from being the end of the line, today is the start of a whole new beginning. And for that I am most grateful.

Poetry Corner – Yet Still We Stand…

Begin to Dance

It’s been a very, very long time since I sat down and wrote a poem. Years, maybe. Which is odd, really, when I consider how I used to scribble notes on anything and everything I could find whenever inspiration struck (paper napkins, anyone?)

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, more that my heart just hasn’t been in the right place to open up and feel what it needed to. I guess that denying emotions in order to try and survive is not only bad for our health, but also bad for our creativity!!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I don’t usually have any problems expressing myself, but poetry takes that expression to a whole new level. It seeks out the essence of life and gives it a life of its own. Poetry is so powerful and I have truly missed being a part of such a creative expression.

I used to say that if the first few lines didn’t just pop into my head with ease, there was no point in writing it down. That’s not to say that writing poetry doesn’t require thought and persistence to hone what you are trying to say into a poem that touches the heart of another, because it does! But if it doesn’t flow freely then I don’t think it is the right topic for you to be writing about in that moment. If you don’t feel it, how do you expect others to?

The poem I am sharing today came to me as I was making a drink in the kitchen. By the time I had made it to my notebook, the idea had changed form, but it was still there. As I wrote, it continued to change form and I didn’t really know where I was going with it. But it felt good to write, and I am really happy with the end result.

Yet Still We Stand

On the brink of destruction, the edge of despair
Dreams shattered and stolen, like nobody cares
Promises broken, in the blink of an eye
Leaving nothing but darkness: no light, no guide
And yet, still we stand.

The dreams of the past are but shadows once lost
We cling tight, out of fear, we question the cost
Battered and torn, we don’t know where to turn
Our hearts are left wanting, afraid they may burn
And yet, still we stand.

A moment in silence, together, alone
Our hearts thumping deeper, we’re shook to the bone
But out of that moment, a glimmer shakes free
The darkest of moments sometimes make us see
And so, we stand.

Broken and torn, there is nowhere to hide
Yet there’s nothing to hide from, that part of us died
A new way – a true way – of living is born
Out of the habits and masks we once wore
And now, we stand.

Rebuilding our hearts, remodelling our lives
Sometimes it’s like we can’t believe our own eyes
But out of the brink of destruction we came
Ready to embrace our lives once again
And we begin to dance…

 

Today’s post has been posted in the “Share the Joy” Linky hosted by Bod For Tea. I love this linky, if you haven’t found it already, take a look! I’m sharing this post, because rediscovering my love of poetry has really brought me a lot of joy this week!

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

Flowering Cherry

Moving Home: How Do You Relocate A Garden?

Moving is, apparently, one of the most stressful life events we can face. Along with changing jobs. So I guess it’s fair to say that there is a certain amount of stress in my life right now as I attempt to do both.

But it’s not just the “big” things that concern me, it’s the smaller things too. Like how on earth are we going to dig up and relocate some of the plants in our garden which we just cannot bear to leave behind?

You see, we have been in this house for over 4.5 years now, and in that time we have put a lot of time, energy and love into this garden. We have developed it and helped it flourish, and are happy to leave most of it for the next tenant to enjoy.

We’ve established a border where the grass simply did not grow well…

Evolution of Garden Border

 

And we’ve created a thriving herb garden from just a few original pots we brought with us…

Herb GardenWe’re leaving some really beautiful plants in this garden, and it’s a pleasure to do so because it makes the garden feel so alive in the summer!

Beautiful Blooms

But there are a few things that I am really, really hoping that we can take with us.

It doesn’t sound that difficult, does it, to move a few plants? And for the most part it won’t be. We can take some of the herbs in pots, and our strawberries are already in a big tub. I’m also assuming that the rhubarb (which was a wedding gift to us from a friend off his allotment) will also be reasonably simple to relocate.

But what about the trees?

We have three trees in our garden, all of which we have planted here.

Willow

There’s this beautiful willow, whose bare branches look just a elegant in the winter as they do in the summer when full of leaves. We rescued her from the back of a garden centre, looking worse for wear and like she may not survive. I love finding plants that need a little TLC and seeing them go on to bloom and grow, so I hate to think of leaving her here.

Flowering Cherry

Then there’s the flowering cherry. We planted this one when our neighbours cut down the gorgeous pear tree in their garden. It felt so bare with the overhanging branches gone, and so we decided to plant a new (much smaller) tree in its place.

This one we would leave behind quite happily, but there’s a part of me that thinks if we manage to relocate the other two trees then we may as well take this one too…

Unknown Tree

And then there’s this one. This is my baby.

I’m not even sure exactly what tree it is (my best guess is some kind of Plane?) You see, before we moved here we lived opposite an old village church, whose graveyard was filled with Yews, Holly and some of these trees. And one day, I found a tiny seedling growing right next to our front door.

I had to move it, there was no way it would have survived taking root so close to the house’s foundations. So I gently eased it out of the ground and placed it elsewhere in the garden. When we moved from there, I eased it out of the ground again and placed it in a pot. I had dreams of it being a tree that came with us to our “forever home” to grow with any children I might go on to have.

Well, it has certainly grown! It is now almost as tall as me, and I am a little concerned that its roots may be too deep for me to transport again.

So, what do you think? Have you ever relocated trees from one garden to another? Do you have any tips or advice for us? We’d really appreciate any thoughts you have!

 

Little Man Cosminoculars

Cosmic Kids – Fun and Free Yoga Videos

Today I really want to share a fantastic, free resource we have found for both entertaining and relaxing our highly energetic and inquisitive 3 year old! Welcome to Cosmic Kids

Cosmic Kids Logo

 

Cosmic Kids is “your place for yoga, stories and fun”. There are so many ways in which the team at Cosmic Kids are making yoga accessible and fun for kids (both at home and at school), but I want to tell you specifically about the yoga adventures on youtube.

Jaime Cosmic Kids Cosminoculars

All of the videos on youtube are completely free to view, and are an excellent way to get your kids interacting and learning whilst having fun and doing some yoga. Jaime (pictured above) takes you on a magical journey through a story, whilst integrating yoga postures throughout. So, for example, in their latest adventures (Star Wars Episode 4), downward facing dog becomes the posture for R2D2… this is one of Little Man’s favourites!

Little Man doing downward facing dog

Admittedly, Little Man doesn’t follow the entire adventure… he wanders off and does his own thing lots of times, but that’s okay! He’s having fun, exploring new ways of doing things, and comes back to join in with the adventure as and when a part of the story interests him. I love the freedom that the videos give us to let him take part without any kind of pressure to keep up with the story all the way through.

DSC_0309

This was certainly not part of the story today, but he had fun and it enabled him to test his strength and agility in his own time (rather than simply running around in a circle and making himself dizzy which is what he often does when he has excess energy to burn!)

No matter how often he gets distracted and goes to do his own thing, he always comes back to the story over and over again and loves trying to do what Jaime is doing. Sometimes that is just repeating a noise she has made or telling me what she is doing. Sometimes it is having a go at the posture, with a little help from mama. And sometimes he just gets it all by himself and gets a thrill from being able to follow along all on his own…

Little Man Cosmic Yoga Collage

As you can see, Little Man loves having a go and is more than happy to follow along with minimal input from mummy and daddy. That’s not to say that mummy and daddy aren’t invited to join in from time to time, and when we do join in it is just as much fun for us! But it is definitely something that even a 3 year old can manage to follow on their own.

And this, I think, is testament to how wonderfully inclusive the videos are. Jaime and the team at Cosmic Kids seem to totally understand how to get kids involved and using their imaginations and it’s so wonderful to find such a resource available so freely. Little Man adores using his “cosminoculars” at the beginning of adventures…

Little Man Cosminoculars

He also absolutely adores counting down from 3 to 1 and then saying “Namaste” at the beginning and end of an adventure. I wish I had a video of it, but alas my attempts at videoing him this morning didn’t go so well. However if you’d like to see some other kids in action, why not check out the Cosmic Kids’ Yoga Heroes video of other children enjoying the adventures just as much as Little Man does.

As you can see from that video, Cosmic Kids is enjoyed by children of all ages, and their families!! And it’s no wonder, really, when you consider the amazing quality these videos are. They are a fantastic introduction to yoga for children, and also a really good resource for learning mindfulness, something which I know that we as a family want to integrate into our lives more but are often at a loss of how to do so ourselves, let alone for a 3 year old!

Cosmic Kids don’t only produce adventures, you see. Oh no, they also have beautiful videos called “Zen Den” which are perfect for quietening things down and taking some time to reflect and rest. Little Man is more than happy to sit cross legged on the floor, especially as these are much shorter in length and involve enough visual and audio input to keep him concentrating on what is happening on the screen.

Little Man Cross Legged for Cosmic Kids Zen Den

I love his little version of sitting cross-legged, it makes my heart melt so much!

Ahem.

Back to the matter at hand!

Cosmic Kids have a wealth of resources available on their website, it’s not just about the youtube videos. There are posters and posture guides to download as well as class plans (did you know that children take part in Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures in schools? How awesome is that?) There are even a couple of DVDs you can buy, which help the team to cover the costs of producing the videos.

Honestly, I cannot tell you how much we love Cosmic Kids here at The Patch. We have been enjoying the Adventures since summer 2014 and yet I have only just discovered their Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as the instagram hashtag (#cosmickidsyoga), so I shall be exploring those later today.

Will you join me?

Disclaimer:

We are sharing how much we love Cosmic Kids purely because we love Cosmic Kids. We were not approached by anyone on the team, nor was any incentive given. I contacted Jaime this morning to request the use of their images, but that is the only contact we have had. We hope this honest review makes you even more interested in checking them out!