Saturday, 29 December 2012

The greatest love of all

Happiness is: daughter-designed flip-flops 

I'm going to let you into a secret; I'm not very good at being good to myself. Never have been. I often read about mums who are - or at least try to be. They're on a constant quest to find that elusive thing often called me-time. These are the mums who prioritise making appointments for facials and manicures or aim, every so often, to get an hour away from the kids with a book, or go for a run or a yoga class, or to the cinema, or to cook themselves a really tasty meal, with vegetables and everything. All of the above appeal to me - but I just don't have the gene, or was never nurtured perhaps, to cultivate that drive to please myself, to do something for myself - to like myself, enough to be kind to myself. It doesn't come naturally to me.

Thank goodness then for my children who just happen to be the perfect excuse for not pursuing the me-time dream. If it weren't for them I might actually have that opportunity which, pre-children, I confess I unhappily experienced. When I had time to answer the 'what should I do to make myself feel happy' question, I was rarely able to do so. I was much better, and indeed happier, looking away from all that. Before becoming a mum, I made myself very busy with big things instead - my career, and studying for my Masters degree, for example. With hindsight, these things did ultimately bring me happiness - but this was not in any way the intention - that would've been being way too nice to myself.

Now that I have children, rather than feeling guilty for wanting yet not having me-time, I am discovering that the pursuit of happiness is actually much easier once removed - through them. I am amazed and delighted to witness how readily my children think of things to do to be happy. Of course, at six and seven years of age playing is their go-to activity. I have always loved how children just naturally play, and now thanks to them, I have an excuse to join in - either organising play-prompts for them, or playing along with them. And as they get older, their idea of what to play is beginning to have lots more in common with things that I consider to be - dare I say it -  potential me-time activities like reading, drawing, sewing, dancing, yoga, making, cooking, playing tennis and bike riding. I'm getting to do some lovely things that I would never be nice enough to do for myself. And I'm getting to do them with my children. It feels great.

I don't think I'll ever be a natural at being good to myself, but I desperately want my children to think I am. I want them to know that it's important for them always to be good to themselves; to like themselves, and to always find things to do - things that make them happy - especially as they become teenagers. I recently saw this great visual by Lupytha Hermin which I'm putting here to remind me that learning to love yourself really is the greatest love of all. It will, at the very least, give you a fighting chance in the lifelong pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

An alternative Advent adventure

Every day of December we have a little Advent adventure. My children take it in turns to find out what it's to be by opening one of the little drawers in our Advent tree (above). Last year I captured each activity with a photograph, and posted them all here. This was incredibly difficult, what with there being so little light in December; I haven't been nearly so ambitious this year. But yesterday's adventure is worth posting about because it was rather special. Born out of necessity, I simply tweaked it to become more of a treat, and we had a wonderful evening as a result.

I'd had a text the day before saying that my son's glasses were ready for collection. It's only been in the past month that we've come to realise that he needs them; when he excitedly told me that he'd spotted a horse across the Green and it was clear to me that it was actually two people carrying their Christmas tree home, I made him an optician's appointment. They confirmed that he is indeed short-sighted.

So I wrote in their Advent tree drawer:

Collect Buddy's glasses and test them out in the pub opposite the optician's.

On paper, I know this doesn't sound too festive - but the optician's was decked with decorations of the season, and they gave Bud a little Christmas present along with fitting him with his new specs. Bud had fun trying on some alternative eye-wear too:

 And here he is in his actual prescription glasses.

Then we hopped over to the wonderfully old-fashioned, open-fired, wood-panelled Rose and Crown for drinks, nuts and a hand of cards. We sat right next to their enormous Christmas tree and Bud, proudly wearing his new glasses, couldn't help but tell us about the things he could see, and to read out the text he could spot around the pub. And to top it all, he beat us at a highly competitive game of Knock-out Whist. Here he is shaking hands with me after the match; a most gracious winner. Now, not only does he behave like a gentlemen, he looks like one too. Advent adventures don't get much better than that.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A festive packed lunch

It's my children's school Christmas Dinner today, and while my son has been looking forward to it for weeks, my daughter is what you might call roast dinner averse; try as we might, we can never persuade her to sign up for it. As well as the traditional turkey and roast potatoes and so on, the children also get a Christmas cracker to accompany the meal. My challenge was to give my daughter her usual packed lunch with a festive feel, so she wouldn't feel too left out. 

Here's what I assembled:

  • favourite-filling sandwiches - cut into Christmas tree shapes with a cookie cutter
  • bundles of carrot and bread-sticks - tied with golden ribbon
  • a home-made mince pie - with a sprinkling of snowy icing sugar on top
  • a chocolate coin
  • a mixture of white chocolate chunks and dried cranberries
  • a satsuma

I hope she enjoys her alternative festive fare.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Christmas play-box for festive imaginative play

When she discovered the Christmas play-box I'd put together, my daughter literally squealed with delight. She promised she would wait till tomorrow morning - she has even set her alarm-clock so she has time before school - but as you can see, she couldn't resist trying out a few of the goodies before bedtime.

Both my children love imaginative play, and while we have the props and costumes, toys and equipment for most scenarios (or approximations - enough to fire the imagination anyway), I thought they might enjoy their play a little more festive during the next few weeks.

Both my husband and I have acquired various props and Christmassy-stuff through our comedy and storytelling work; things that would otherwise simply languish in storage between shows, so it was easy-peasy to pull this little lot together. Of course you can make up a Christmas play-box with whatever you have to hand that's safe and suitable for the age of your children. In our box we have:

  • ready-wrapped prop presents
  • a selection of knitted stockings
  • two sets of reindeer antlers
  • a Santa hat, wig and glasses
  • a few plastic baubles
  • salt dough decorations (made by the children last Christmas)
  • tinsel
  • a few (very cheap) crackers
  • extra cracker jokes
  • a small artificial Christmas tree (slightly too big for the box)

My children love to rehearse and put on shows of favourite stories (especially when friends are round to play) - so I'm sure we'll have a dramatic reading or two, from our Christmas and winter books below, using the box's bounty of all things festive .

Or they may well just play Christmas. I'm not going to be able to resist being a fly-on-the-wall if they do; finding out what they really think goes on during this time of year might be quite amusing. I just hope it won't include any stressful shouting or tipsy tantrums.