Backing off/Leaning in: mid-life crisis?

2011-11-01 15.10.36Small child hurtles towards a fence;  I slow my steps, almost stopping dead as she – oh, no, she will!  Will she? Phew, she didn’t! – just misses the latest obstacle in her race through the world.  It turns out that I’m not the only one who does this:  DH also puts himself into counter-intuitive slo-mo when the children are careering towards a collision.

And recently, face with some big, tricky mid-life reality check issues, I’ve found myself backing off from my family relationships – already hearing the crunch of some big impacts up ahead.  I pulled up and I pulled back.  It’s understandable – big ipacts on a 10 year old-marriage with two children are going to hurt, so of course I’d want to protect myself.

But actually all it did was give me two problems:  the original Big Bad Mid-Life shiz and the behaving-like-an-emotional-zombie shiz.  I was brave, and I didn’t slow my steps.  I spoke up, I strode on and I faced up to some of the Big Bad stuff.  It wasn’t the easiest conversation to have, and we both may have cried a bit/a lot, and there was a day of painful uncertainty while we waited for another chance to talk.  But the impact seems to have passed us by this time, and we both know (again) how much of a  good thing we still have going on after 15 years together..

Whether I’ll be brave enough to catch up my little scootering terror as she whooshes past the next obstacle in her path, we’ll have to wait and see.  How about you – are you a leaner-in or a backer-off?  What helps you embrace your obstacles?

Snow brings me home

It started snowing last night – just enough to give us a fair covering this morning.  Both my girls were beyond excited at the prospect of school runs on the sledge.  We duly saddled up with sheepskin and my trusty wooden sledge and I pulled my little one up the hill.

When we made our triumphant entry to the preschool yard, I was struck as I often am by how much the snow disrupts people’s li2009-02-08 21.09.10ves: I sometimes feel like I’m the only mama who doesn’t dread our snowy February days!  I was deep in thought on the way home, thinking about why it must feel so disruptive to the many, many mamas and papas who have to drive their families to school before they themselves drive to work.

I guess gridlocked, slushy streets would be a hindrance to daily life.  And I guess the reason why we always seem to take the regular winter snows in our stride is because we’ve chosen to work and school our children withing walking distance of home.  It wasn’t always going to be so:  we had a place at a Steiner school an hour’s drive away, but decided that actually we all really valued being able to walk to and from school.  We didn’t want to depend on a car, we didn’t want to add that pressure to daily life.

There’s something about the psycho-geography of walking a school run regularly, of walking the route to market every other week, of knowing the three different shortcuts for three different moods.  It has embedded our family into the community giving us senses of place, season and community.  Yes, it would have been great to educate our girls at the school of our choice, but not at the price of that two hours of daily driving.  We’ve also had to make life good in a house that didn’t really work for us.  So sacrifices have been made, but they have been so worth it – there is strength in our daily walk to school, in being part of that local landscape even if only because when the snows come (as they do every year) we can enjoy the magical transformation of the world.  Go get some fun in the snow!


Mother’s Help

I love the serendipity of a good second-hand book stalls; for a few pounds I can pick up titles I have never heard of, and that I never even knew I wanted.  Last year’s stall at York Steiner school’s Spring Fair I picked up a beginner’s guide to Permaculture (girl buys book, girl reads book, girl falls in love) and a lovely little paperback called Mother’s Help:  For busy mothers and playgroup leaders.  It’s been my default bedtime reading for several months, and it’s been a joyful discovery.  Although it was published before I was born, each chapter has given me much to enrich my mothering.  Not surprising, given that: index

Mother’s Help started because, as a mother, I found that there were plenty of books around which gave ideas for things for children to make and do, but either they were too advanced for the age group I was interested in – the under-fives – or they gave such detailed instructions … that it was essential for an older person to be present all the time to help the child to follow them, step by step.  At the time I couldn’t find anything which gave ideas as to how small children could be kept happy and interested on their own”.

I found the chapters on crafty activities  – which I invariably make too complicated – and cooperative cooking invaluable, especially as my younger daughter is a keen kitchen helper.  She is now our family’s expert scrambled egg maker, with only a little help from me.

There’s a great chapter on story time, with an extensive list of story books for the very young child – I’m going to add these to my evernote list in case I should ever get time to browse in a second-hand bookshop!

It’s been very refreshing to find such a variety of simple, economical and common-sense ideas for everything from entertaining the sick child to party giving, and proves to me that there is great strength and resource in mothering’s unchanging nature.  Our young children are much the same as young children have ever been – they don’t need automatic rocking chairs, ipads or minute-by-minute entertainment. Mothers too are much the same as they gave ever been – sometimes stretched, sometimes stuck, sometimes over-thinking – we don’t need to overwork our children’s play, we don’t need to do everything for them. Perhaps the most we can do for our own sanity and their is find ways of playing that, like Mother’s Help, encourage children to discover the world for themselves.

knitting with forks

Having spent years pleading to be taught to knit, and after one too-much-too-soon teaching session, last year saw my older daughter finally get to myriad knitting forkgrips with her gorgeous knitting fork from Myriad.

I’ve never been able to work out the four-pin french knitting dollies that many of you will recognise (weird, I know) from your own childhoods so this two-pronged approach to french knitting is a relief. We ordered it with a ball of rainbow-dyed wool, which produces the most gorgeous patterns when knitted into chains.

As with everything we’ve bought from Myriad the knitting fork is well designed and pleasing to use; it’s so simple and must be virtually unbreakable. We’ve had fun exploring different ways of looping and knotting the yarn to produce different thicknesses of braid, and DD1 has gone off to school loaded up with friendship bracelets to share with her friends – a great way to reinforce the bonds for a child who finds it hard to get close to her peers!

Sticking it to the Back- to-school Blues

After all the hurly-burly of another holiday season, the house is quiet and still, and I’m on my own – I’ve looked forward to this and dreaded it in equal measure.  It’s been so long since I had some time to sit here and write, and so many of the things I’ve written in my head have been blown away by weeks of inertia.  I’m sure there used to be something that I did with my time, but feeding 60 mouths over the past two weeks has mind-wiped all my to-do lists!

Still, I remember well froleksvikm my too-long days writing up my thesis that there are days where one just has to sit down and put something down, however unsatisfactory may be the result.   So here it is.  The first words on the big blank page.

And now I’m off to prettify my littlest girl’s very boring chest of drawers: my last new discovery of 2014 was the joy of decoupage – can’t quite work out how it fits with my crunchier crafts, but it’s fun and it’s fast and it’s soooooo pretty.  This is pretty much what it looks like now, and like the rest of her room it’s all a bit uninspiring – sometimes hand-me-downs look to handed down, don’t they?  I’ve got lots of papers left from my eldest daughter’s party (note to self – not all 6/7 year olds can do glueing), and a big pot of glue, and I shall paste over my back-to-school blues.

That lady said my kids were wild and unruly!


I love that when the memory of other’s words are painful it can be for two clear, simple reasons – oh, how this speaks to my condition! I’d love to say I’ve found my own way of dealing with all those unpleasant encounters with the judgey-pants-wearing Ladies of a Certain Age who seem to take particular delight in mean-spirited interjections. I’m working on it still, and will keep Joanna’s thoughts in mind for the future!

Originally posted on :

This is what happened. I took my boys (4yo and 1yo) to the supermarket – very brave, I know. You already know how I feel about the supermarket, and our food/shopping ethics … And yet today I felt drawn there as an adventure. 4yo was superb, sitting in the trolley the whole time, rarely saying a word. 1yo was on foot, trotting backwards and forwards pointing his quirky little 1-finger point, waving, talking and charming. I grabbed them hot chicken winglets on the way in, dissapointed when I opened the box to find bright orange crumbed nuggets. Colours, additives, a big experience for any 1yo. Anyway he ate them up and got more and more excited and enthusiastic about running away from me.

I soon had a trolley full of nappy boxes, tinned tomatoes, pasta and frozen seafood, and both boys were out on floor to walk. Payment done, supermarket…

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Fitmums the choir – enjoyment and mastery in action!

fitmums the choir

I’m still rejoicing in the memories of this weekend’s inaugural Fitmums The Choir concert – after only 11 weeks of rehearsals Fitmums and Friends presented a concert of songs and music to a packed house of over 250.  From the first rehearsal it was clear that we had real spirit as a group of singers, just as we do in our regular running groups.  As the weeks went on, words were learnt and parts devised for the men, altos and sopranos – a challenge that the newbies more than met – and our sound got bigger and better.  With the support of our wonderful conductor and musical director, fitmums rehearsaland the patience of our talented accompanist we put together a varied half hour programme – not bad for a group with only a few experienced singers.

There was a starring role for our Fitmums Juniors – including my own DD1, who came to every rehearsal with me, learnt all the words before me and managed to stay on stage despite her dreadful nerves and chronic shyness.  The whole thing has been so positive for her – although I think she found the experience of performing a bit emotionally overwhelming.  And as is typical for her, any emotional intensity results in both shutting down (she won’t talk about it at all) and stressing out – she went home in tears, sobbing her heart out because I wasn’t going straight home with her and the rest of the family.

Just as with other things we’ve done together, I’m left feeling more than a little confused.  Was I right to encourage her to join in – it didn’t take much encouragement and I gave her easy ways out of it up to the last moment?  Are these intense experiences just too much? Will it ever get easier?  I suppose this is all a giant “is this normal” question, based on our years of trying to make her being-in-the-world a bit easier.

As part of this, we’ve been working through the strategies in “Coping with an Anxious or Depressed Child”, focusing particularly on Mastery and Enjoyment – doing things you’re good at and that you enjoy as a way of making yourself feel better.  Make sense, huh?

DD1 loves singing, loves doing things with me, and enjoys hanging out with Fitmums, so it seemed like a good idea at the time!  I guess we have to trust our instincts with this kind of thing.  It’s hard though, to encourage her to reach out to into the world, to “breathe out” and engage with life.

But I’m convinced that even if it is quite full-on for her to do things like this (let’s face it, it was a big ask for most of the grown-ups involved!) it’s only by being out in the world that she will ever come to enjoy it.  And being surrounded by a bunch of determined and supportive adults (who give their time, love and energy to the Fitmums community) has to be as good as any place to stand in the spotlight, feel the fear and sing out anyway!