Category Archives: Random Thoughts & Life Stories

World Poetry Day – Musings on Poetry and Some to Share

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There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks amongst mummy bloggers  as to whether or not we would be prepared to share poetry that we had written as teenagers.  The general concensus was ‘no way, it is far too personal and embarrassing’.  When I joined the discussion, I had just found my book of poetry from my teenage years and started to read it.  I agree that much of it is very naive, about love and loss of love and the desperate nature of teenage romances.  However, some of it is about other issues.  It shows the common beliefs that you hold when you are young , a sense of injustice and the hope that you will change the world some day.    I wrote lots of poetry as a teenager , helping to frame my thoughts and work through issues.  As an adult I write them less frequently, usually when I am unhappy and still find it therapeutic.

I’ve decided to be brave and share a poem that I wrote when I was 16 years old – this was written in the mid/late 80’s when there was lots of scaremongering about nuclear war – remember the dramas about what would happen if a nuclear bomb exploded? It’s unedited and uses the punctuation that I chose when writing it.

The End of the World

Screeching! Wailing! Shouting! Screaming!

People run to take cover where they cannot be saved.

Heart jumping, legs quaking, head  pounding,

I watch the sky for the beginning of my fate.

Then it comes, with no noise, people silent,

As we watch the air explode into smoke

See the world turning purple, red and yellow,

I feel sick, on my tears I could choke.

  

Bring my hands to my eyes and bury my head

To protect me from the great blinding light.

What’s happening? Help me! I can’t see!

Am I dead? Is this Heaven? Help me out!

Crumbling world all around me, dying people

But it’s all brought about by greedy men.

It’s the innocent , God fairing children

That are punished and have said their last Amen.

 

In my last few moments I remember a land

Full of green, much love and content.

See the earth slip away – not just my life

But a place, far too late to repent.

Dust fills my lungs and I crumble to the ground,

And though I am weak and my brain is concussed,

I still know how appropriate those funeral words are

of Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust.

 

I asked my 6 year old daughter to write something for me to share on my blog.  She loves poetry and often chooses a book of poetry as her bedtime story.  My husband taught her to recite ‘ Custard the Dragon’ by Ogden Nash, it was lovely to watch them doing this together and I’m sure it has helped with her expressive reading .  She used to add in her own bit when Custard cried for his nice safe cage – she would add in a deep ,whiny voice ‘Boo-hoo I want a safe cage’.  I think my 2 year old will follow in her footsteps.  She often chooses singing books at bedtime which include a mixture of song and rhyme.  Learning poetry by heart is such a valuable skill for young children.  It covers so many things that are important for becoming competent readers, awareness of rhythm and rhyme, use of alliteration, memory and the use of expression to convey meaning.  And of course it is fun.

Here are my daughter’s poems

Elephant

Elephant, Elephant

Wrinkly and Grey

I’m going home in case you

Step on me on the way.

Treasures

I love jewels on the walls

Crowns and diamonds all at the piemans

Money, money it’s so funny

Garnets and rubies at St Cuby’s

Turning 40 Part 2 – Is Eeyore in his 40’s?…. and more thoughts about Eeyore.

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I picked up a book in my doctor’s surgery , ‘Forty-fied – How to be a Fortysomething’ by Malcolm Burgess.

I loved this quote

Eeyore is probably 40, seeing that his stuffing is falling out, he’s terminally depressed and surrounded by annoying energetic younger things who know that the only way to cheer him up is to give him a nice jam jar with a burst balloon for his birthday, about which he is expected to be sadly euphoric

I don’t feel like my stuffing is falling out but after having 3 kids,  I look at pictures of myself when I turned 30 and compare it to the tired woman with grey roots, developing wrinkles and a post baby tummy and wonder if we are the same person.  I love the stuff about presents which are also discussed elsewhere in the book.  I keep getting asked what I would like for my birthday but I don’t really want or need anything.  I’d quite like a boob job but at £5,000 that’s a bit above most budgets, permanent hair removal,  decent hair cut, a trip somewhere?  I’m doing quite well with presents from my husband, I have a spa day, haircut and photo shoot and tickets to see Rufus Wainwright and my neighbour has bought me tickets for the ballet – so I’m far from Eeyore’s realm.

To be honest I’m actually not that depressed about turning 40 – it’s a turning point for me.  The end of my childbearing days hence a chance to get my figure , career and social life back on track.  Maybe not straight away (I still have 2 children under 5) but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope I’m not an Eeyore.  In Benjamin Hoff’s wonderful book ‘The Te of Piglet’ ( a follow up to the’ Tao of Pooh’), he describes the Eeyore effect.  Those in life who enjoy being unhappy, who are so obsessed with the bad things in life that the good things pass them by.  The most poignant part of his Eeyore discussion  is that of the Eeyore educators.  These try to force too much inappropriate information on children too soon, so that children get stuck.  An Eeyore educator’s answer to failing test results would be to send them to school earlier,  taking away their creativity and play .

Piglet

picked a large bunch and trotted along, smelling them, and feeling very happy, until he came to the place where Eeyore was.

‘Oh Eeyore’, began Piglet a little nervously, because Eeyore was busy.

Eeyore put out a paw and waved him away.

‘Tomorrow’ said Eeyore. ‘Or the next day’.

I think we all recognise this in our busy lives, how we often say ‘In a minute’ but for the child who lives in the moment, that moment becomes lost. Hopefully turning 40 doesn’t mean turning into Eeyore, but rather being a Piglet or a Pooh.  As Piglet says in the closing line of ‘The Te of Piglet’

For me, it also seems like a beginning.

Who touched your life when you were a child? – Michael Morpurgo’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture

I have finally managed to watch Michael Morpurgo’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture.  How refreshing to hear someone from outside of the world of Education recognising how undervalued the Early Years profession is.  The lack of financial reward and status means that many of the UK’s brightest individuals are discouraged from entering the Early Years profession.  Working with our youngest children is one of the most important occupations of all, as Morpurgo put it

‘a pound spent in the early years can save ten pounds later’

Thank goodness some of us care enough not to desert the profession.

The lecture also decried the target driven education system we have in this country.  When everything relies upon targets and league tables it is easy to forget about the individuality of each child and how their needs can be met.  Morpurgo explained how  in New Zealand children enter school on their 5th birthday, thus allowing teachers time to get to know each child individually , rather than having a class of 30 all arriving at once. Also in Finland, which comes 2nd in the OECD World Education rankings, children do not start school until they are 7 years old.   With an education system built on targets and children starting school at such a young age we are setting our children up for failure.  No wonder we  keep seeing headlines about how boys are failing to read.

Morpurgo argues that the most important part of a child’s education is building trusting relationships, focusing on the unique qualities of each child. When teachers and adults are passionate about a subject, be it reading, music, sport or science they enthuse children to enjoy those things too.  This reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson’s book ‘The Element’.  In this he talks about how each of us have something that we excel at , that we enjoy and is at the core of our very being.  Many of these things are discovered by perceptive and enthusiastic adults when we are children, others of us do not find our ‘element ‘ till much later in life, if at all.

There are a number of people who helped me to find a passion.  My mother read me books, took me to the library and showed me that books were special, instilling in me a love for reading.  The primary school teachers who first put me on the stage in school shows and sowed the seeds for a love of performing and my secondary school English teacher who recognised my talent for writing and called me her ‘shining star’ helped me to believe that I could.

It also made me think of another thought I had earlier in the day as I taught my eldest daughter to play clock patience.  I thought about all the things my grandfather taught me to do when I was young.  Not only clock patience, but how to make a paper hat and paper aeroplane, how to play pick up sticks and two little dickie birds with pieces of paper on your fingers – things that I hope I remember well enough to pass down.

Working in Early Years Education I am sure that we touch children’s lives in many ways, with the experiences we give them, through listening to them and sharing their worlds and understanding their needs.  In some ways it’s a bit sad that few of the children we teach will remember the influence we had on their lives, they wont cite us as someone who touched their life, but I’m pretty certain we did.

For a full transcript of the Dimbleby Lecture    http://www.michaelmorpurgo.com/news/read-michaels-dimbleby-lectur/

 

Turning 40

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As my 40th birthday approaches, my plans for celebrating it with all my friends in a large house together have been thwarted.  I had booked a beautiful manor house in Monmouthshire www.Treowen.co.uk , and was looking forward to partying in the huge rooms, playing their grand piano and celebrating with all my friends together.  However, a number of people have had to drop out (for valid reasons) and as it wouldn’t be quite what I had envisaged without them, I have decided to cancel.

So back to the drawing board – how should I spend my 40th birthday?  I have a lot to live up to since I spent my 30th birthday in Paris, was proposed to on the top of the Eiffel Tower, spent the day at the opera house and the evening listening to Mozart’s Requiem .

I asked the children this morning what I should do. My 6 year old suggested I go on holiday ‘ somewhere near here – maybe Wales …. or Japan?’  My 2 year old said ‘ eat biscuits’.  Hmm… Japan sounds good , but not quite in the budget.

So what to do?  Will I be whisked away somewhere romantic?  Could I do that study tour to Reggio Emilia I have always wanted to do?  Or shall I just treat it like a normal day and postpone the celebrations till a later date? 

Maybe I’ll just eat biscuits!

Storytelling and memory

This week is National Storytelling Week.  I was going to write about my experiences of story telling with young children.  However,something else that I have been talking about this week seems to relate very well to story telling.

I have been having a sort out of the endless ‘stuff’ we accumulate in our house. One part of that has been to thin out all the things we have stored that we never use  and  collate our photographs in one place.  During this process my husband found a box full of old letters, certificates and notebooks which contain memories that would otherwise be forgotten.  We looked at photos of years gone by and the way that we remember things.  I also had a conversation relating to memory with a neighbour who recently had a large family gathering.  She talked about how when they all got together and talked about past shared events, they each remembered it differently.

How much of our lives get lost because we don’t document it?  When we need to find evidence of how we felt, often we can only say, I don’t remember it like that but maybe that is how it was.  Sometimes I wish I had documented my life so that I could look back and say with confidence , that is what happened, this is how it happened and this is how I felt.

At times I have kept diaries, mostly during my teenage years. I was so embarrassed by my thoughts when I  came across them years later, that I threw them away but a part of me wishes I hadn’t.  I have kept diaries of my pregnancies and early days of the children because the children won’t remember those times. I hope that one day I will be here to answer their questions about it but maybe, like my own mother, I will be gone by the time those questions arise.  I kept a journal during my honeymoon, I don’t often read it but sometimes it’s comforting to look back on the best times in your life.

My point is that when we think of story telling we automatically think of fiction, but our lives are a story – often the most interesting stories come from real events.  What may seem irrelevant or waffly thoughts right now will someday mean something to our children and grandchildren.  My most treasured possession is a letter that my mother wrote when she was in hospital after having me.  My dad found it after she had died and it is my only account of how she felt to be a mother for the first time .  Stories don’t have to be about dragons and adventures, let’s not forget that our own stories matter too.  For National Storytelling week I will not tell a story but will try to begin to tell my story so that I don’t forget and will not be forgotten.

Parenting – the most difficult job in the world?

 

I am  a bit of a ‘netmums’ addict.   Today they launched their REAL Parenting campaign, recognising that we should all stop trying to be a ‘perfect’ parent and to relax and do the best we can in our own situation.

As all parents know , raising children is full of ups and downs.  There is nothing more wonderful than watching your child grow and acquire new skills, they make you proud in so many ways.  With all the joy and love that children give they also take from you a great deal.  They take your independence, sleep, money,time, energy, appearance to name but a few.  So why not be realistic and honest for a change – parenthood can be great but its also damned hard work and if we strive to be perfect parents won’t we always leave a little of ourselves behind?

My attitudes to parenting have changed a lot in the past 7 years.  When my eldest daughter was born I had high expectations of the type of parent I would be. We used real nappies, had home made  baby food and no sweets much before the age of 2, she was exclusively breast fed for 8 months and followed a strict routine.  As an early years teacher I was keen to involve her in lots of creative messy activities , it was rare that you would leave our dining table without bits of glitter stuck to your clothes and she only watched television if I sat with her and we talked about it together.

My 2nd child followed a slightly less strict routine, was weaned on finger food because she wasn’t interested in my healthy mush and developed a penchant for ice-cream.  She has therefore had sweet things from little after 6 months of age.  She watches television with her sister and ‘Charlie and Lola’ is the perfect vehicle for keeping her occupied when you want to get on with things. She is in disposable nappies by the age of 2 and rarely paints, glues or plays with dough and clay.

My 3rd wears a mix of disposable and real nappies, has been introduced to one formula feed a day by 3 months old, and has fallen into a pattern of co-sleeping.

With the first 2 children I didn’t return to work until they were almost 2 year old and was happy to stay at home. This time I’m really looking forward to going back into the adult world again and building a  life for myself.  Does this make me a worse mother?  I doubt it , surely a happy and fulfilled person will be best equipped to raise happy and fulfilled children.

My attitudes to parenting have changed , I feel a more relaxed parent (as much as one can be when juggling 3 small children) and have come to the conclusion that if you pressurize yourself too much about how you should behave as a parent , then somehow you lose a part of you. When all concept of who you were before has gone everything suffers, relationships break down, self esteem crumbles and you find yourself talking about the price of nappies and which level of spelling your child is on.

Give yourself a break, we are good parents, our kids will be fine if we instil in them basic values , love them and listen to them.  Don’t give up everything for them , look after yourself or what will be left of you when they are gone?