parenting

Top Dad | Father’s Day 2014

He’s Dad to three daughters. He gives his all to connect with them individually. They each have very different personalities, that take a lot of skill and energy to work with! They demand his energy, time, humour and patience – and, most of the time (!), he wouldn’t have it any other way. He gets home from work and leaves his work-hat at the door. He’s so good at putting on his ‘Dad hat’ with a genuine heart and mind. If he does have to catch up on work he tries to wait till later at night… though his daughters can quite easily, between them, burn the candle at both ends! He needs his coffee and was very deserving of breakfast in bed on Father’s Day, 15 June, this year!

Happy Father's Day!

Miss 10 (nearly 11), his oldest daughter, is a fan of all things science-fiction and Minecraft. She’s not into sport much, but loves to dance and sing. She shares a love of music with her Daddy. She isn’t one for hugs and kisses. She’s hard to comfort when upset. The best tonic is laughter and a light-hearted distractive approach – which her Dad is the best at. She doesn’t seek out attention, but will withdraw to her room and independently entertain herself for hours and hours. Her two younger sisters are much more verbally and physically demanding of their Dad’s attention – so Dad has to make sure he schedules special one on one time with his oldest daughter. He’s so good at this. He’ll take her out to watch the latest movie or play a board game with her. Sometimes they fire up the Play Station and play ‘Sing Star’ together.

Happy Father's Day

Miss 8 and a half, the middle daughter, is very boisterous, doesn’t have a volume switch, is extremely physical and attention seeking. She has unstoppable energy that can be exhausting and draining at times – as well as uplifting and inspiring. She is constantly testing her body to see what she can physically achieve. She’ll be in the swimming pool, seeing how far she can swim underwater, doing headstands on her surf board, egging her Dad on for a game of tag or a session down the ‘batting cage’ or at the climbing wall. When she does sit down she’ll still fidget, or stand on her head whilst watching something on the TV. She likes history, reading and writing songs. She’s a deep thinker and often anxious about the world’s problems and how they affect us as a family, and her as an individual, this can cause some in-depth, impromptu, late night, conversations!

Miss 4 years and 4 months adores hugs and is very loveable. She is definitely a sensory seeker, like Miss 8. She will try all types of food, even spicy. She has a very easy going personality with an imaginative and creative mind. She loves to cuddle up with her Daddy and chitter, chatter away to him about what she’s been up to. She also loves to splash about with him in the swimming pool and be carried high on his shoulders. She’s still small enough for her Daddy to throw her in the air and give her ‘Daddy rides’. She giggles and laughs with a big heart and smile.

Miss 4

And then, there’s his wife! What a man to handle three unique daughters and still find some time to be attentive to his wife.

He’s a very caring, attentive and generous man and his daughters adore him (as do I) x

Let’s get physical! Keeping fit, & keeping up, with the children…

I’m on my feet most of the day, with three active children unschooling this year and a house to keep in order. It would be easy to flop at any given moment, instead of pushing on and seeking out more physical activity – but it’s true what ‘they’ say, ‘Exercise gives you energy’. Besides, I want to keep fit enough to keep up with my children – and take them on the amazing tramps of New Zealand’s National Parks that hubbie and I did in those ‘before children’ days. So, when they say, ‘Play tag Mum!’, ‘Come chase me!’, or invite me to head off on a roller blade session on the waterfront, I push any excuses to the back of my mind, and say, ‘Yes’. It’s almost like I’ve trained my tongue to say, ‘Yes’; regardless of whether my mind and body really wants to. Once the ‘Yes’ word is spoken out loud it’s like magic, there’s no going back.

Chasing Miss 8 on her rollerblades

And when it comes to exercising for myself, without the children joining in, it’s very much for my mental health, more than anything else (and perhaps a little guilt at the extra few wines I may have drunk in the past week and that chocolate cake that was begging to be finished and those left-over snacks…and, and, and…). So, when hubbie comes home from work, whilst the sun is still in the sky, and says, ‘Go on love, get your kit on and head out for a run!’, I say, ‘Yes’ (thinking, the wine can wait till later and will be even more deserved!).  I often time my jog to finish on a beach, close to sunset, where hubbie can bring any willing children down to meet me (usually it’s Miss recently turned 4 that keenly volunteers).

There’s nothing like young children to put an adult through their paces. She springs from one stretch into the next with the ease of a Royal Ballet dancer, instructing me with positive encouragement to, ‘Copy me Mummy!’.

I call her my personal trainer, as she has a look that’s hard to turn away from and such an infectious zest of positive energy. She’ll have me stretching, doing squats, jumping jacks and tree poses at random intervals throughout the day. She keeps me on my toes and frequently surprises me with impromptu workouts whilst I’m waiting for the coffee to brew in the morning, or the eggs to boil. In her mind every moment counts and there’s no excuse.

We have yoga mats and a deck of cards with yoga poses within reach in the living room – it’s not yoga like you’d expect in a dedicated class, there’s rarely much deep breathing relaxation at the end – at least not without Mummy being climbed on – and the sequence of poses is random, but nevertheless it makes us all feel better to spend five, ten or thirty minutes (if I’m lucky) stretching and breathing.

Then there’s the more fast paced kind of exercise, when we take a few bats and balls to a park or head out for some roller blading along the waterfront in Santa Barbara. At the playground I am asked to have a go on the monkey bars and try a few chin ups… let’s just say I need to practice! There’s opportunities in any day to exercise and keep fit – it’s just down to being open to it and getting involved. The more I say, ‘Yes’ to my children, the better I feel – and the more we all end up exercising! Just got to keep on going, and going, and going… (surely it must be wine o’clock time by now?!). xx

Waterfront fun with my daughters in Santa Barbara

Away to the Peak District & pause for thought | Part 3

Every since I became a parent I felt grateful; grateful because as a couple we could afford for me to stay at home and be with our children in their early childhood. I have loved it, appreciated it, immersed myself in their world and learned so much from it. On the flip side – I’ve followed my husband’s career – wherever it’s taken us. From England, to New Zealand, from New Zealand to California, USA, and now – who knows? Giving up a paid career, meant saying ‘Yes’ to wherever my husband’s career took us. I lost the right to say, ‘I need to stay here, this is where my work is.’ I have, on the whole, been happy to go where the river has taken me, but this latest journey to live in California, and my recent visit to my birth country, of England, has given me time for reflection.

Peak District

A big part of me would love to return to my home of England. I would love to live in Hampshire, near my parents (and be there for them in their later years), or maybe the Peak District, near my sister. It was a highlight of my short, four-day visit, to travel up to see her. It had been two years since we were last together – when she visited my family and I in Wellington, New Zealand. I was so delighted to finally see her home in the Peak District and catch up with her fantastic partner – who I hadn’t seen in some six years!

My sister at home in the Peak District

We rendezvoused in Bakewell, meeting up for lunch, before driving on to her home in the Peak District. My dear Mum and Dad were with me. They’d stopped the previous night at ‘The Grove’ in Hertfordshire with me – where I’d attended the amazing wedding of an old friend from University days. I was very well looked after (and they kept me so busy that there was little time for me to be anxious about how my caring hubbie was faring back in California – looking after our three daughters). It felt amazing to be reunited with my sister, along with our parents. It was like the old days; just the four of us. I felt so light and energised to be there as a daughter and a sister, without the added responsibility of motherhood.

Wintery weather in Bakewell

We wondered the streets of Bakewell at leisure, without needing to meet the demands of three children in tow. We ate a relaxed lunch and took our time to choose a Bakewell Pie to take back to my sister’s house for pudding.

Bakewell

I have always loved England. I love the history, the landscapes, the people and above all my family. Just recently, with all the crazy floods and storms, they’ve unearthed footprints dating back over 800,000 years – the oldest evidence of humans, outside of Africa! I  love that the UK has the ‘right to roam’. The land, as far as the eye can see, is accessible to the body. Those ancient rights of way are still in place and beg to be explored, in all seasons, just like people have done for hundreds of thousands of years.

I’ve never been a begrudging British expat, wishing away my life in England. I’ve always been partly homesick for it and nostalgic. I never cared a damn about the weather when I was there (apart from January and February – the dark months – I definitely need light – not warmth – but light!). I was brought up to wrap up warm and embrace the elements. To make the most of a sunny day. I fondly remember the feeling of a walk in the cold and returning to my home, or the pub, with cold, pink cheeks, feeling tingling and alive. There is nothing like ‘real weather’ to make a person feel alive! In fact, after six months of living in Southern California – with mostly blue sky and sunshine every day – I was absolutely ecstatic to see clouds, rain, even a flurry of snow on the drive from Bakewell to my sister’s house. I hung out the window of my sister’s car with my camera, trying to capture an approaching snow cloud, loving the feel of my face being chilled by the cold air whizzing past!

Driving through real weather in the Peak District

When we arrived at my sister’s house we snuggled in for a lovely catch up, dinner and a slide show; of my sister’s recent trip to Colorado with her partner, Mike Hutton (who is an incredible outdoor photographer and it was such a delight to see his incredible photographs of Utah, USA). After hearing about their trip we plugged in my Dad’s camera and shared their recent trip to see us and their granddaughters in California. So great to catch up, properly, in person.

My sister, her beloved, and my parents, in her home, in the Peak District

It was such a fantastic evening that I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking. Thinking about how different my life would be if I hadn’t ended up living so far away from my dearest sister, Mum and Dad. I followed the man I’d met at University. I followed his career. I followed him to a beautiful country, New Zealand, that seriously captured my heart.

Looking back, now, it was the classic want of ‘youth’ – for something ‘else’.

So, I married the man I knew, followed his career path, had his children and have, seriously, loved it all. But, I have wondered, over the years,  in those moments of the overwhelming responsibility of parenting, whether it was the right choice: Especially seeing my dear sister, for the first time in two years, with the love of her life, in the home they share, in the Peak District, England.

Peak District

Isn’t this normal? Surely there’s plenty of forty year olds (or nearly forty year olds – yes, it’s THAT year for me) that ask this? I am probably just having one of those ‘mid-life’ moments. There’s too much questioning, analysis and pondering. It’s not at all healthy and, if I’m honest, everything right now in my immediate focus is just fine.

I am lucky to have a husband that’s used to my questioning, analytical nature. I have always been open and honest with him. I do believe that an open relationship, where both partners feel confident to voice everything they think and feel, makes for a lasting relationship. My husband is loving, attentive, caring and wonderful. He is an amazing husband, father and friend. We live life well and do, seriously, have much affection and love for one another. He has walked back and forth, past me, whilst I write this post, and I haven’t felt the need to close the lid on my lap-top. He knows, and trusts, that my ramblings are part of my nature. He lets me be. He loves me, all the same. God, I am a lucky woman! He lets me head out for a run when he knows I need it most. He picks up the phone when I call him. He answers. He’s there. He meets me on the beach, with our youngest. He is always there, whenever he can be, whilst supporting his family in a successful career. He is always there. Writing this post makes me see this all so clearly… and that’s why he lets me write, lets me question, lets me be – open, honest, real.

My husband. My Miss 3. My love.

On that note I shall finish up this questioning post of my own future. I share this, because I can. I have a husband I do deeply love. I am so, so fortunate that he married me knowing I was a looney! He knew I was crazy when we met. He lives with my craziness. We are, together, a unit, and have three crazy, yet wonderful, lively, energetic, inspiring children.

It’s normal to question. It’s normal to wonder, ‘What might have been’. It’s normal to want to stay in touch with people that have touched our lives in the past. We are all living this live, in some kind of ‘oneness’. Let’s be kind to one another. We are never really, ever, ‘grown-up’. We are all just trying to figure out life, the best we can, and let’s be kind to one another and spread the love the best our hearts see fit!

I have a husband who listens, who tries, with all his genuine heart and soul to understand. In the words of the trolls from the latest Disney movie ‘Frozen’, he truly is, ‘a fixer upper’ when it comes to life.

I started writing this post after too many wines, and have since edited it – but the words I’ve left out felt good to write at the time. After those wines I had a good cry and my dear husband hugged me, listened to me, answered my questions, made suggestions that sound right, and understood me. I am so grateful for him. Yes, I have followed him for eleven years. I have given up a career of my own. I have been, above all else, a mother. I have given my heart and soul to my children. I have tried, in all those years, to be supportive, caring, attentive and ‘sexy’ to my husband. I have worked to keep our love and relationship alive. I have had moments of self-doubt and wondered, ‘What if…’, but I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right man.

I love that he ‘let me go’ on a solo trip to the UK. He was amazing, as I knew in my heart he would be, with our three daughters, for the six days and four night’s I was away. It was the first time, in over ten years, I’d been away on my own.

He knew there would be a need for me to process the trip away in my own time, to decompress and put it all in perspective. I love him for his understanding.

Lots of love, Sarah xx (with special thanks to my husband for understanding me and standing by me in all my ramblings!) x

The final part of my trip I’ll write about in due course. The last day we travelled back from the Peak District to Hampshire, enjoying the scenery and finished up with a delightful evening watching ‘Giselle’, the ballet, at a cinema theatre in Camberley, screened live from the Royal Opera House in London.

Read ‘Part 1′ of my trip here: ‘LA to UK for 4 days, sans children. A once in a decade trip!

Read ‘Part 2’ here: An English wedding and a reunion of old friends

It’s the little moments of parenting that make it worthwhile

When you get out of the habit of writing about the little slices of life, that make it worth living, it’s hard to know where to start. Everything I write, which means so much to me, will be trivial to others; but I share it all the same, as I’ve learned that there’s a wonderful community ‘out there’ of parents that make sharing worthwhile.

Through sharing I’ve met great, interesting, inspiring people. I’ve felt empowered to make changes and I’ve felt that reassurance of ‘Thank goodness I am not the only one’. It’s not until you are a parent, or spend a lot of time with children, that you can understand the complexities of trying to be the right role model, all the time. I never knew patience like I do now, after ten years of parenting. I can add tolerance, empathy, sympathy, an ear that listens (and sometimes requires ear plugs) and much more; that I’m too tired to think of (a normal condition of parenting) to the list.

I’ve learned, above all else, to try and take stock, every day – or at least once a week, of the little things that have made me happy, grateful, proud or loved. It’s all too easy to get hung up on the negatives (it’s a constant battle in my mind not to!), but writing a blog over the years – ‘Catching the Magic‘, and now here, has helped me to keep a positive focus (or at least stop me from sinking completely underneath the trail of mess that is childhood creativity and learning in full flow!). I often look back on all we’ve done and am so thankful that I found the energy to record all those little slices of positivity.

I gave up paid work to spend every moment with my children. I have loved living in the moment with them and have totally immersed myself in being in their worlds – but perhaps too much (indicative of the sneaky white hairs). I feel more and more, as my youngest reaches four, that though I still am occupied so much with the lives of my children, I need to once again take back a little of me. I’ve been happy, for years, to give and give, but now I feel the emptiness of not taking time to refill myself with the essence of what makes me a person. As my eldest turned ten I felt the need, more than ever, to be once again more of the ‘old me’; an independent woman that spent time working, volunteering, undertaking hobbies to further enhance my physical, mental and spiritual health. I need this change for me, but also to set an example to my ten year old, whilst also being there and constant for my youngest child and middle daughter, that’s recently turned eight.

Recently Updated416

Lately, I have really struggled to find any time to record the high moments of the week, or the desire, compulsion and motivation to do so. I nap when my youngest does, I sleep when my children sleep – they don’t hit the sack at night till around 10pm. I read a little, but that’s it. Writing, sadly, has left me. So, this post is the beginning of rectifying that. I doubt I’ll be as constant or diarise with such intensity. I don’t feel compelled to share the day to day moments as much as I used to – though it’s true that, on reflection, that’s what I enjoy looking back on. I don’t feel like spending hours putting photographs together in collages and tweaking them to edited perfection. But I do miss taking my camera and capturing a moment that might otherwise have missed.

Miss 10 rainbow looming

When I focus, with camera in hand, something else happens that changes my perception and depth of what my eyes naturally see. I feel immersed in a world of colour in a higher magnitude. I forget the washing, the piles of toys to sort and resort, the lunches to prepare and the dishes to wash. My perspective shifts when I practice being observant and my overall mental health is all the better for it.

Day to day happenings

This year, living away from our home in New Zealand, should – most would think – be all the more worth recording. But, with three children at home full time, and the pressure of making sure they are occupied, emotionally and physically well, happy and learning, is all consuming. The ‘big days out’ are photographed aplenty, but I don’t feel the need to write down every moment or blog about it – rather let the photographs speak for themselves. It’s the little moments, of every day, in the home, that are the ones I need to take stock of. The fairy gardens that our Miss 3 creates…

Alice's fairy garden

The progress she makes, with such delight, in her drawings…

Little moments of contented achievement in the home

It’s only now, with this momentary time of reflection (all be it with Miss 3 sat next to me, talking away, pulling my nose, giggling and asking if dinner is nearly ready) that I realise how much I need to make time to take stock (however interrupted it is). It is this time that makes me feel better about how I’m doing and how my children are faring. They have come to a new country for a year, leaving behind their beloved home, friends, hobbies and routines. They are all at home, after schools here in the USA seemed so different that thrusting them into a different system – just for a year – didn’t seem worth it. They are living and breathing life together, 24/7, and the way they have learned to get on and entertain themselves in a way that makes me so proud. The unity of our family feels stronger than ever (even if I feel a little frazzled around the edges at times!). We are doing okay.

Keep calm and carry on

It’s forcing myself to take stock that makes me feel more upbeat and helps me to pick up momentum in taking a positive outlook each week.

Miss 8 writing down her looming creations

I have felt so, so lost living in the USA, away from everything my children and I know. I have felt reflective of the past and full of questions about the future.

What I feel about my life and how I’d like to move forward is weighed upon, heavily, by the desires of my children and my husband. I must continue to think of my family and the best way forward for the whole, no matter how much my heart pines for something quite different in so many respects.

Taking stock of the little moments, that occur on any normal day, are what keep me sane and positive. I feel better for writing already. Time to ditch the laptop now and go ‘be in the moment’ with my family 🙂

Sarah x