Category Archives: Random Thoughts & Life Stories

America’s Most Playful Family?

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We have recently received some very exciting news.  Our family have been selected from over 700 applicants as one of 50 semi-finalists in America’s Most Playful Family Contest. To enter we were asked to answer a number of questions about our play, including why it is important and how we make time for play.

I strive very hard to make my children’s lives playful and to share the things we do with others, so to be chosen as a semi-finalist makes me very proud.

washing the car

As a semi-finalist we receive a video camera and have been asked to create a 90 second video sharing tips to encourage other families to be more playful and showing that play can happen anywhere.  I have a huge list of things that I would like to show and it will be a big challenge to my editing skills to fit everything into 90 seconds. Brevity isn’t always my strength, so it will be good for me to pin down the most important messages to share.

walking on ice

The videos will be posted on a You Tube channel, so families can get tips and ideas about play and will be judged by a panel.  You will be relieved to know that I won’t be asking for votes but it would be nice if you would view the video and tell us what you think (I’ll embed the link here once it goes live).

sand man

The winner gets to choose a community in their state that deserves a very special playground.  This will be a great way to learn about local worthy causes and  help disadvantaged kids. Of course there are prizes for us too but for me being chosen as a playful family is a great prize in itself.

goop

Do You Get Email in Heaven?

Hi Mum

It’s been 13 years since we lost you and I was just wondering if email had reached Heaven yet? I know you’ve never had an email address or the internet at home but I’m sure there are people there who could teach you.

I’m writing this on my blog. I don’t suppose you have any idea what that is? It’s a bit like a magazine or diary on the internet where I can write whatever I like and anyone can read it. If you get the internet up there check it out because you’ll see lots of pictures of your granddaughters. You have 5 grandchildren now, they are all amazing – you’d be so proud. I’m sad that you couldn’t be at our weddings and haven’t met the grandchildren you yearned for. I tell them how much they’d love you and how much fun they would have with you. If you can email, you could write some guest posts on the blog about all the things we never had chance to ask you. You could help us to identify garden plants and show us the essential things to do each season or teach us how to sew and crochet.

Things have changed a lot in 13 years. The world is a very different place. People carry mobile phones everywhere;  with phones you can take photos, check email, surf the internet, watch videos and listen to music. We can talk to our television, pause it and record more than one programme at once without needing a video player. You’d love this thing called Facebook, where you can find out what your friends are up to, chat to them or see photographs. Who knows, maybe you’re following us as we speak?

13 years is a long time, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. If email ever reaches you please send me your address, I miss our little gossips and natters. Wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that no matter how far away we go, we can always be there for our children when they need us? I hope you can see what we are up to and that we are happy and having fun.

I expect the network is far too busy but maybe one day….

Thinking of you always.

Rachel x

mum

Choir is Not for Geeks

When I was young, Musical Theatre was my life. While my friends spent their Saturday afternoons choosing lipstick in Woolworths, I was rehearsing for my next show. When my job sent me into a frenzy of boredom, the excitement of finding out which show we would do next and what part I would play  kept me going.  My husband and I met doing Musical Theatre together and we had a huge network of theatre friends. Now that family life has taken over those days are long gone but I miss it.

It took me a long time to realise that my voice didn’t always need to be the one that stood out in a group and that I could enjoy singing even if I wasn’t a soloist. Once I encountered the sheer pleasure of singing in a perfectly blended chorus, I realised what I had been missing. The end of Act One chorus from ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, the nuns Gaudeamus from ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Requiem for Evita’ all send shivers down my spine as I remember the moment I sang them on stage.

Even though singing was my hobby, I never sang at school.  The only avenue for singing at school was choir but choir was for geeks. My perception of choir was of singing ‘boring hymns’ probably because church was the only place I had encountered a choir.   As I grew older my perceptions changed but I still felt choir wasn’t my thing.

I tried to continue with theatre once I had children but the weekend rehearsals, complicated schedule of babysitters and the week of the show nearly killed me. So now I have broken the mould and joined a choir. Choir is so much simpler, I no longer have to stand at the back of the stage silently oohing and ahhing, I don’t have to learn dance moves (or sing in the wings with the old people because my dancing isn’t good enough),I don’t even have to learn the words because we carry our music with us.

My perception has changed about the people too. Recently we went on a weekend choir retreat – a large group of women in one house, singing, eating, drinking and getting to know one another.  I was quite excited about making new friends but being in new company isn’t my strength, so was also a little nervous.  The choir is very diverse, there is a huge mix of ages, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds but without exception each member sees choir as their ‘thing’, their chance to be themselves for one evening a week. Fuelled with the euphoria of a whole day of singing, ocean views, relaxing in hot tubs and a few glasses of wine, we began to get to know one another.  There is something extraordinarily powerful about getting people together in one place away from their ordinary lives. I used to feel it on my annual blogging conference weekends in London, the connection with like-minded people and the sense of relief that we all have the same insecurities.

I felt a connection with every woman on the retreat, many of whom were very different to me. It made me wonder about judging people by appearances; often people who we perceive to be ‘not our type’ based on appearance, become our closest friends.  The openness  of the choir members was refreshing and sent me home with the feeling that it is ok to be imperfect. All of the women talked of their very different and complicated lives and for a brief moment we were able to leave them behind.

In the modern world there is an immense amount of pressure to be perfect. When everyone admits that they are not it’s like you’ve been set free. Nobody is a perfect, wife, mother, career woman, friend, cook, housekeeper or icon of beauty and on the whole nobody expects you to be either. The pressure to be flawless comes from within.

I returned from the retreat with a new perspective, with a belief that it is okay to be flawed, we are all flawed, people like me for who I am and I like them more because of, not in spite of their imperfections.

An Apology of Sorts.

This post is an apology of sorts.

When I started this blog I wanted to share my ideas and knowledge of early education but I also used it as a way of expressing the realities of life with 3 young children.

As I browse through my more recent material, you could be excused for believing that I have an idyllic life. The sun is always shining, my kids roam around outdoors all day, I come up with amazing things to do with the kids, I take them out to interesting places, they are creative, funny, clever and well-behaved, we bake, pick fresh produce and make fresh juices………

I find many inspirational articles from other blogs but for all the thought-provoking stuff I read, there are also a proportion that make me feel inadequate. I hope I’m not turning into one of them.

The amazingly organised Reggio inspired playrooms put me to shame. My boxes are neatly labelled, everything has its place but I am by nature a messy person so there always seems to be something that doesn’t quite fit or is not put away properly (if it is put away at all ).

Some positive parenting blogs show everyone acknowledging their child’s feelings, talking in a calm whisper and never using the word ‘don’t’. It’s great in theory but I sometimes need to read stories of people whose kids are too loud or women who are struggling to make it through each day.

The reality is:

  •  When I’m trying to sort out paying a bill, finish a spreadsheet  or manage a booking and the kids keep nagging me for food over and over – I shout.
  •   When I’m almost at the end of my task and one of them knocks something over, needs help on the toilet or they start arguing with each other I get exasperated.
  • At the end of the day when I’ve just about used up all my resources and they are still running around challenging every instruction, I speak to them in a frustrated tone.
  • When I’m trying to keep a train of thought in my head for more than 5 seconds and they have asked me yet another question – I discourage their inquiring minds.
  • When I’ve stayed up late and I just can’t seem to get going in the morning I allow them to sit and watch television for a lot more than the recommended 30 minutes.
  • When I rush them around from place to place and they stop to admire a stick, a bee or a flower, I tell them to hurry up.
  • When I feed them pasta and pesto for the 3rd time that week because I’m not organised enough to prepare food in advance.
  • When my eldest wants to read me a chapter of Harry Potter, I’ve always got something more important to do.

So, if you feel inadequate when you look at the things we do, remember they are just a snap shot and really I am just like you.

If I’ve burst your bubble and you’d really like to think I’m perfect that’s okay too, the things we do are real, but who can be perfect for 24 hours a day?

Two Mother’s Days: One for Remembrance and One for Me

vase of daffodilsI never really enjoy Mother’s Day, for me it is a day of sadness mixed with guilt. If I don’t have a good time I’m not recognising the love of my own children and denying them a day of spoiling me and making me happy.

I lost my mother before I had children so Mother’s Day has always been  bittersweet. This year for the first time I had the opportunity to change that. Mother’s Day in the US is not until May, so on Sunday (Mother’s  Day in the UK) I was able to remember Mum without feeling guilty that I wasn’t getting into the spirit of the day for my own kids.

I wasn’t able to visit Mum’s grave with flowers but it was fine to be sad and reflective.

In fact my children now appreciate that Mother’s Day is tough. My husband and the girls brought me breakfast in bed, with a vase of daffodils from the garden. They went out shopping and came back with proper Cornish pasties for lunch and my favourite sweets in a Welsh mug. It was really lovely to feel that they had bought them to say, we know it’s a tough day but we love you and want to make it better. I could even spend the day cleaning the house because it made me feel better.

I’m so glad that I no longer need to wrestle with my conscience on Mother’s Day and when US Mother’s Day comes, I’ll make sure it is a special, happy family day.

Happy St. David’s Day: My Recording of Llwyn Onn

As my final St. David’s Day post I thought I’d share my recording of the Welsh folk song Llwyn Onn. I have wanted to record acapella harmony singing for some time so, with a little patience, a book of folk songs and some free audio-recording software called Audacity, I managed to get my first attempt of singing with myself uploaded.

Some of the pictures are holiday snaps but most are lovely pictures of Wales I found on Flickr from The Ancient Brit.

Even more fitting is that this St. David’s Day is the funeral of a good friend of my dad’s who passed away recently, so you’ll note the little tribute at the end in memory of Derek Baker – rest in peace.

For a Lady that I Do not Know

There is a lady that I do not know,
She gazed at her sleeping baby
And found that life had left her.
Her soul released a desperate cry.

There is a lady that I do not know,
Her milky breasts are heavy and ache
As she searches for ways to explain
That their sister has gone.

There is a lady that I do not know
She’s planning her baby’s funeral
Deciding how best to say goodbye
Without a hug or a kiss.

I can’t write about what my children have played
Or how my life moves from day to day.
I can’t show you pictures of beautiful views
Or comment on the latest news.

There is a lady that I do not know
I can’t feel her pain or sorrow
But her life could easily be my life
And it haunts me.

For Jennie at Edspire a lady that I do not know.

What Would I Do Without My Kids? The 2 Sides of the Coin.

As I lifted my 2-year-old out of her cot to embark on the school run and she nuzzled sleepily into my neck, I held her firmly and asked myself ‘what would I do without my kids?’

When she greets me with an enthusiastic ‘mummy’ or smiles at me and laughs at the things I do that nobody else deems funny.

When I share stories with my girls and the 2 little ones curl up, one under each arm.

When I watch my eldest growing up into a wonderful young lady with a mind of her own, a caring nature and an amazing bond with her dad.

When I’m having a rest and my 4-year-old says ‘I’ll close the door mummy so no-one disturbs you’.

When I say to my 2-year-old ‘it’s time for nap now’ and she replies ‘ok mummy’

Each time I watch them growing into bright, funny, confident, beautiful girls I am proud and thankful. At those times what would I do without them?

On the other hand

When I’m rushing to get out the door and my 2-year-old decides she must put on her shoes herself.

When orders are being barked from all directions at the breakfast table but I haven’t yet even managed my first cup of coffee.

When I’m struggling around the supermarket with my 4-year-old clinging to the side of the trolley, blocking up the aisles and my 2-year-old crying because she can’t have a chocolate bar.

When my 4-year-old wets herself for the 4th time that day .

When all hell breaks loose in the car because my 8-year-old wants to sing along to ‘Don’t Like Mondays’ but my 4-year-old wants to be the only one who is allowed to sing.

When the chaos of mess and noise is just too much….  I  ask myself again, ‘What would I do without my kids?’

  • I’d travel and write.
  • I’d go running with my husband and meet him for lunch
  • I’d have a social life after 6pm
  • I’d get involved in theatre again and be able to rehearse 3 times a week.
  • I’d never be seen in McDonalds drinking coffee with my jumper inside out and a friend who didn’t even notice.

But…..

What would I really do without my kids?

Some days I’d struggle to get out of bed or venture out of the house and I’d cry every time I saw a family enjoying themselves.

They’ve pulled me through the toughest times, giving me purpose, hope and unconditional love.

Without them life would be grey.

I’d never be without them.

blowing bubbles

Feeling Appreciated in the Blogging World

I have been reading a post on Mari’s World entitled How Important is a Blogging Award?  Mari questions whether it is ok to feel a tad disappointed when you don’t reach the final of these awards and whether it is a reflection of your writing skill.  I took a slightly different take on it this year.  I would love to be shortlisted and achieve recognition for what I do but that isn’t my first consideration.

When last years  blogging awards came around I was fairly new to this game but this year there are a few blogs that I really think deserve recognition for their wonderful writing.  I have a particular favourite, Mammy Woo . She makes me laugh and she makes me cry and every post she has ever written makes me say ‘wow, what an amazing piece of writing’.  I hope one day she writes a novel because I know it will be read in a single sitting and leave me with a feeling of awe and inspiration. I nominated her because I think the world needs to know about this amazing writer.

I feel that Mammywoo is the best of its kind and as such deserves recognition.  She didn’t ask me to vote or nominate, I did it out of admiration for her art. I hope that one day someone will feel passionate enough about my writing to nominate me.  Not because they know me or like me as a friend but that a stranger will be inspired to say that I stand out.  This may never happen but for me that is the best form of recognition.

Last night I had a night out with work colleagues of my husband’s that I hadn’t met before.  I was really touched when some of them came up to me saying that they read my blog and love it.  Comments such as ‘You really must get your wife to read Rachel’s blog’, ‘My wife really relates to the things you write about’ and ‘it reads really well and feels conversational and honest’ meant a great deal.  Blogging is sometimes a lonely pursuit and it is great to feel that people are reading and enjoying the things I write. Genuine appreciation is always a pleasant surprise and encourages me to keep sharing my thoughts and insecurities.

Thank you to all those who have said wonderful things about my writing.  Do awards really matter that much?  Not really, but if you like something spread the word.

 

Saying Goodbye to my Pink Nissan Figaro

pink nissan figaroLast night  after living in my garage for 18 months, my beautiful Nissan Figaro finally saw the light of day.  As I drove it onto the driveway I felt sad that I will soon be saying goodbye to this wonderful car and the memories it holds.

I haven’t driven it since the birth of my 3rd child, trying to manoeuvre 3 small children in a tiny 2 door car became too impractical. I now drive a car from the other extreme, a huge 7 seater Chrysler Grand Voyager, practical, luxurious but lacking the sentimentality and character of my beloved fig.

pink figaro rearThe Fig represents a life lost, as I smelt the leather and heard the familiar heavy clunk of the doors, I remembered the days when I went out to work, driving without children with the roof down in the sunshine.  Days when our then family of 3 would go out to the pub for lunch and watch as everyone stared at us, especially little girls).  My daughter was the envy of the town as she went out with mummy in her pink car.

Five years ago I was looking to replace my car and lots of discussion ensued. At the time we were trying for a second baby but after a few sad episodes it was uncertain whether this would actually happen.  My previous car was a cabriolet and I loved driving with the roof down in the summer so we looked at various cabriolets with boot space big enough for a buggy. Then one evening my husband asked what car I would choose if I could have any car.  This was easy, since seeing Figaros on the web I had fallen in love with their retro look and beautiful interior and the girly pink one was the one I coveted most.  Acknowledging that we shouldn’t put our lives on hold, my husband suggested I stop being practical and just go for what I really wanted.  I have to say I didn’t take much persuading.

pink figaro side viewFigaros are imported into the UK from Japan where a limited number were produced in the early 1990’s for Nissan’s anniversary year.  Mine was shipped to the UK and refurbished  to a wonderful standard by Algy’s Autos.  Pink isn’t an original colour but it was made to order with pink piping on the leather seats and pink interior.  My Figaro is a 1991 model  and comes with air conditioning, electric windows and cd player.

Figaros and Babies

Soon after collection, I fell pregnant with my 2nd daughter. It was a great pregnancy car because there is loads of space in the front, and being an automatic, with my short legs I don’t have to squash up to the wheel to reach the clutch.

figaro interiorThere was no way that I was going to trade in the Figaro for a bigger car, so I spent time researching buggies that would fit into the tiny boot.  After trying pretty much every buggy Mothercare stocked I found the Quinny Zapp fitted in the top boot (the one that holds the roof when the top is open) and the frame could be used with a Maxi Cosi car seat to use from birth.  From 6 months old the smallest Maclaren buggy, the Volo, fits in the tiny bottom boot allowing  babies to be driven with the roof down (if they can cope with the wind).

The car has 4 seats; the back seats are small and don’t have a lot of legroom but are big enough for children, car seats or short people like myself.  A rear facing stage one car seat fits comfortably in the front passenger seat but can also fit in the back with a bit of manoeuvering.

For  Sale

pink nissan figaroI love my Figaro but as we are moving overseas I am going to have to let it go.  She has 48750 miles on the clock, has always been kept in a garage and has been wax-oiled underneath. As a 1 litre turbo  automatic she is not for speed freaks but for style and fun she is difficult to beat.  She is selling for a price of £7,000 ono.

In the meantime I am going to get her back on the road and my girls and I are going to enjoy her for the short time we have left.