Sunday, 24 February 2013


No, I'm not losing mine. Not today, anyway. My boys have finally discovered how much fun can be had with the small glass balls. Not only that, but Jared and I have rediscovered all those old playground games that we spent hours playing whilst scratching around in the dirt. This has then been followed by remembering the language that came with the games of marbles.

Frenchies, cats eyes, spotted dicks, dobbers and steelies are names of different types of marbles we've giggled over the last few days. Playing keepsies or friendlies have been explained. (Keepsies are not a good idea, we have discovered, when you are playing against brothers). All the different games that were hidden away in our memories have come flooding back to us.

Lots of wholesome fun has been had by all (and this, of course, makes me feel like a great mum - they haven't even asked for a screen today!).

What are your marble memories? What names did you give to them?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Max's Guide to Making a Bug House

1. Get all the materials that you're gonna use ready.

2. Cut the materials to the right size of your bug house.

3. Start with the first layer of putting holes on the bottom of the bug house. Creatures like to live in holes and crawl inside.

4. Put a piece of wood on top of the first layer and add more holes on top.

5. Then you're finished!

6. Put it somewhere damp and dark because they like those places. If you've got a compost bin you can put it by that so they can eat the compost.

7. And the hardest bit of the whole journey - tidying up!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Pushing The Children Back Outside

We have finally reached those first few days in the year that bring hopeful sunshine. At last we can feel the warmth of the sun on our faces and our hair. We can venture outside without having to wear several layers. It brings smiles and everyone can breathe out again, knowing that spring is on it's way.

Our boys have spent the last 3 months hibernating on screens inside the stuffy house. Oh yes, we've been out on snowy / rainy / squelchy walks and adventures. But our garden has been sadly neglected and is lonely for the cries, shouts and energy of little boys. The boys have lost the 'habit' of playing in the garden. They've forgotten how to do it. Does this mean that we give up and let them continue to build pretend houses on minecraft? Or do we somehow have to overcome the barrier and coax them back outside?

Pretend buildings on minecraft need to turn into real play houses and shelters in the garden. It's time for Operation Get The Boys Back Outside. Catchy title, I know. How on earth do we climb over the mountainous obstacle of the lure of the screen and the forgotten ability to have imaginative fun outside instead?

The answer is not difficult. I don't have any magic to wave over my bleary eyed boys. I bribe them. It's as simple as that. I feel so strongly that they need to get back outside and have fun playing in the garden, that I offer rewards for doing it. Only at the beginning of the year though. Once they have remembered how much they enjoy playing out there and making up adventures, they don't need rewards. The reward is being outside. So every year, once we can open the doors and windows again, you will find me offering prizes for various outside activities.

This morning, the reward was a cake for pudding. Food always goes down well in my house. Once they had been outside for a few minutes, they began discovering centipedes, millipedes and frogs. I watched as the lure of the outside began to take hold again on their little bodies and curious brains. As the seasons change they will discover different things to do - gardening in the spring, water fun in the summer, football, nest building, treehouse building. It will all come in it's time.

So don't give up if, like my boys, your children have been hibernating for the winter. Now is the time to open the doors and push them back outside. Do it now and you won't regret it, I promise.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Are you a good enough mum?

Inspired by something I have read recently, and watching my fellow mum friends going through the age old problem of never feeling like we are doing a good enough job, I have decided to come up with some reasons why I am a good mum. Now, this may sound like I am blowing my own trumpet but it couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, I haven't even got a trumpet.

From the moment we discover we are pregnant, we also make the dreadful discovery that we are doing it all wrong. Pregnancy is fraught with danger. You can't eat anything or drink anything without wondering what effect it might have on your precious little growing bundle inside. Advice is thrown at you from all directions and you are left feeling under confident in your own gut instincts.

Then your precious child is born, and the confidence levels sink even lower. The Breastfeeding Brigade (and I have NOTHING against Breastfeeding. I do, however, have issues with people who tell exhausted and often demoralised bottle feeding mothers that they are giving their baby second best) begin to whittle away at you until you are in the grip of condemnation. We can't do anything right for our babies unless we follow the exact rules of 'Someone Else'. Someone Else has a different baby and a different family situation.

And so it goes on through the rest of motherhood. We are always doing something wrong. We let them watch a film that others would frown upon. We let them play out younger than other parents might. We don't feed them the right foods. We don't go to all the after school clubs. We have to go to work when they are poorly and need us. We miss their school play. We don't play with them enough. We get angry too easily. We shout too much. The list is utterly endless and seeks to destroy the relationship we have with our children.

So, I am making a stand. No more guilty motherhood. No more guilt trips from other well meaning professionals or even mothers. We need to accept that every family is different to ours. No more judging others- it's not our job. And no more comparing of ourselves to other mums. We're different families facing different situations. Let's do what is right for our family. And let's list some of the reasons we make a good mum.

I'll start. I'm a good mum because our family laughs a lot together.

Your turn.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

My little boy

There are some days when I really could burst with love for my boys and today it was my littlest boy's turn. Not for the whole day, of course. We had to go through the daily after school ritual of ordering me around like a Master orders his slave ("Mum, will you get me what I want?"..... Red rag to this mummy bull).

After this small daily blip though, we were off for swimming lessons. Normally I don't enjoy taking them for swimming lessons. The poolside is like a sauna and I spend half an hour pretending to watch all 3 boys in different swimming pools, giving them a thumbs up so they think I'm watching them all the time. Today, however, was different.

My little boy beamed all through his lesson. Whenever he caught me watching him, he grinned a smile at me so wide that I wondered how his face didn't split in half. In fact, he was so busy beaming at me that he zig zagged across the pool, crashing into other children, because he was watching me instead of where he was going. Sometimes, before he made another (usually unsuccessful) splashy attempt to make his way across the pool, he would look in my direction first to check I was watching. He was so proud of himself. His cute little legs kicking out of the water just made me feel like kissing him all over. He wouldn't have appreciated that, though.

He won't have cute little legs one day, and even if he does he certainly won't want his mother telling him they are cute. So, I make the most of these moments while I can. Will he always be my little boy, even when he is taller than me?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Les Mis...

So, tonight was my first viewing of Les Mis.

I guess the clue is in the title and I shouldn't have expected a bundle of laughs. But what I didn't expect was the intensity of emotion and the tension of the drama. Yes, the truth of grace was evident and the power of love to overturn the forces of hatred was beautifully presented. The theme of our ultimate freedom being found in God's love and grace was powerful. The truth that justice is found in love was clear.


Call me uncultured or uncouth. Tell me I'm a romantic if you like. I didn't like the ending.

Throughout the whole film I felt trapped in a world I couldn't escape from. Had I been reading it in a book, I would have put it down and had a breather, but the enormous screen in front of me assaulted me and drew me in with images that were just too dreadful to imagine let alone watch. One devastating horror after another unfolded before my eyes. It was unbearably bleak.

And the ending? It was powerful, I'll admit, as Jean Valjean finally entered his new world of freedom and grace. But in my ending, Javer would not have died when he threw himself into the swirling waters. Washed up on a shore somewhere, pale and lifeless, he would have been discovered by Jean Valjean who would have rescued him, cared for him and breathed life back into him. Javer would then have seen the error of his ways and lived a life that accepted the grace he was shown. Jean Valjean need not have died when he did and could have watched Cosette and Marius be married and have children. He could have been a grandfather before the need for going Home.

Yes, it's cheesy, but it's how I can bear with the rest of the tragedy of the film. I'm pretty sure I'll be virtually flogged for such a transgression.....

The Morning After the Night Before

Having now attempted to sleep, but been kept awake by horrific images all night, I feel slightly better about the ending of the tragedy. I can see that Jean Valjean was vindicated and despite the fact that Javer died, I feel more at peace with it. My cosy little life does not witness such tragic scenes on a daily basis, but some lives do. And those are the lives that need freedom. To have those injustices forced in my face has opened my eyes once again to those around me who don't know the meaning of grace and have never been shown any.

I'm not sure I could watch it again, but it will definitely not be a forgotten film.

Go on... Have your say...

Friday, 8 February 2013

Fight the good fight?

It's the moment that every parent of school aged children dreads. The wagging finger and the call of "Can I have a quick word?"

Today the inevitable happened. All parents were lined up and ready to collect their offspring, and I am beckoned. Everyone looked around and about them in the hope that it won't be their turn. After the call today, a resigned father behind me stepped out and crossed the threshold. A collective sigh of relief went up from the parents in the line.

"No, sorry, it's not you!" Shouted the teacher. "It's Jonah's mum I need."

Laughter erupted from the waiting parents as the relieved dad returned to his place in the line, and I made the walk of shame to the teacher's door.

It seems my boy has been fighting. No surprises there then. He has been trained by his loving older brothers to protect and defend himself. Sometimes, he defends himself rather too energetically for comfort.

Apologising to the teacher, I talk to my little rotweiler disguised as an angelic blue eyed boy. The angel/rotweiler will not admit any responsbility. According to his version of the events, he did nothing while another boy strangled him and pushed him over. We all know him far too well to know that he would not stand there doing nothing during an attack. And anyway, unfortunately for him there were witnesses.

After a little chat, he apologises to his teacher for fighting and we move on from the whole sorry episode.

I don't like fighting. I don't like violence or aggression. We have always taught our boys not to enter into a fight, and if someone else tried to fight them then they need to 'say no and walk away'. It's been our non-fighting mantra for the last 11 years. (Well, maybe 9 years. Babies don't generally pick fights). But now I have an 11 year old boy entering a different world. A world where teachers might not see or intervene and I find that I am beginning to take a slightly different viewpoint. Maybe if someone is pushing you and strangling you, and there are no adults to help, it might not be possible to 'say no and walk away'. Maybe there are occasions when fighting back is acceptable. I'm still learning on this one. It's all new to me. The learning curve of parenthood has taken a sharp bend, yet again.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Screen Mania

We were very privileged to be given a family iPad for Christmas. It really is a wonderful invention and very useful too. However, it has brought with it a new battle for the screens.

Even before we get through the front door after school, they are arguing over who will have a turn on it first. And how long each person will have for their turn seems to be of utmost importance.

And I am not a screen fan. They have their uses, and I admit to using them for my own selfish peace and quiet, but I really don't like the screen addiction that seeps it's sneaky way into our family life. Games don't seem to have a recognisable finishing point, so there is always the "I just need to do this bit" excuse. And even if they do have a proper good old fashioned finish, there is always another level to complete to collect the gold coins. They just seem to call from afar, constantly. And my boys have ears to hear them.

This time of year is the hardest too. They haven't had a proper play in the garden for months and they are bored with everything in the house. I begin to worry that they will lose their love of the outdoors and become chained inside to screens forevermore. I fear that their imaginations will be lost in the world of Minecraft and they will never make up another game themselves again. I worry that my energetic bundles of joy will turn into staring, stationary zombies. I wonder if they have left their ability to play in the temple of Temple Run.

I feel like I am continually battling against the lure of the screen. Contrary to the boy's opinion of me, I am not anti-screen. I just want my creative, energetic boys back. There, I admitted it. I like their energy (sometimes). I have no idea how to retrieve my boys back from the pit of screen mania, but I will work on a plan and if anyone out there has any ideas then I'd love to hear them.