gathering and tending (a work in progress)

Here we go, a few words about what I’m working on.  Grabbing them quickly and laying them down here before they whoosh off and desert me again!

Cup insta

I’m at the very beginning of creating something that’s straight from my heart and something I feel the world needs more of and it feels really good.  It’s about women.  In this case specifically mothers – gathering together in wild, wholehearted support of one another, in all our sameness and differences.

A place and a time to sit in the feminine energy of a gathering of mums, feel a hint of the ‘village’ we’re all missing and take care of our own needs for a while.

Because they are many, these needs of ours.

Us mums, we do so much.  We hold so much.  We fill all the cups of the little and big people we love.  And we leave filling our own to the end of the day or week or month, when we maybe squeeze in a little bit of self-care, making only a small dent, but often it’s all we can manage.

While within us there lie parts of ourselves waiting for some tending.  Our bodies want to rest or stretch or move and our minds want to be opened; without too much effort on our part ideally, because we’re TIRED.  Our creativity wants a fling out in the open.  Our soul craves something, anything really, to nourish us.

In our busy, exhausting and, yes, joyful days it feels a tiny bit selfish to think of our own needs.  We’re told subliminally all the time that we’re supposed to be superwoman. And maybe we already are in some ways.

But I know this…

Tending our own needs has a further reach than we realise. Our families reap what we sow. When we go back to them, having felt seen and heard and understood and having played with some ways of unravelling our minds and our tired shoulders and our bunched up creative urges, they see a mum recharged with a lighter step and a twinkle in her eye. And they LOVE that.

I know, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  It’s hard to step away, to leave them in order to honour my self, but I see the lovely shift reflected in their eyes when I walk back through the door.  Mummy is back.  She’s the same but different.  And everything is good.

tabletop fb profile

I’m going to begin offering some workshops and retreats for mums over the coming months.  To start with they’ll be in Kent, but I’ll later think about travelling them around a bit.  I used to run some, pre-children, and applying the motherhood filter has taken them into a whole new realm.  In my bones, I know that we’ve never needed stuff like this more.  No mum should feel competed with, unsupported, lonely, hemmed in or dog tired all the time.  I’m hoping that through these ‘days off’ I’m going to offer, through some online stuff I hope to create and a lot of tribe-building social-media-ing we can bring something supportive and nourishing to mums who want and need it.  Because mums need nurturing too.

Join me on Instagram with  #nurturethemothers,  a fledgling hashtag project celebrating our moments of self care, and register your interest for retreats, workshops and other things in the works at www.mothernurturemotherwild.co.uk

sunday (free-from) pancakes

  
This pic, straight from my insta, and the briefest, hastiest blog post before I forget the (surprisingly good) pancake recipe I made up this morning. I know they’re going to ask for them over and over so I can’t let this recipe go the way of so many forgotten inventions of days past!

Apple and Cinnamon, dairy-free, spelt and almond pancakes

180g spelt flour (I used the ‘white’ variety that isn’t really white but has less bits in)

70g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of sea or Himalayan salt

2 large eggs

1 apple, grated

Sprinkle of cinnamon to your taste (as in, I’ve no idea how much we put in because I left it to my 4 year old!)

We measured the dry ingredients in a wide-mouthed batter jug, the wet ingredients in another. Combined the two and blitzed with a stick blender – easily done by hand but we were HUNGRY – stirred in the apple and cinnamon and then just put two tablespoons-ish at a time in the oiled pan, flipping them when the bubbles rose and popping them in a low oven to keep warm.

If you’re totally dairy-free, coconut oil is your best bet I’d imagine. We often use that. But we tolerate butter fine and my hand reached for that this morning. Either way, I think they’re a winner. 

Happy Sunday!

Going ‘back to work’ is mildly terrifying and we probably need to talk about it more

A bit of background: I’m a coach.  I ran my own business for 8 years or so, combining high level corporate coaching with personal coaching.  Heart-warming, cup-filling work which made a difference to people and earned me a good living.  I loved it in so many ways, but as my firstborn reminded me, loudly and clearly when he arrived, it wasn’t ALL of me. The way I wanted to mother him (gently, attached, consciously) didn’t sit as easily alongside the work as I’d imagined it would.  After almost 2 years of juggling work and family I chose to take a career break.  It was hard to shut down what I’d worked so hard on and I cried over it, but it was also so right for us then and I have never regretted it for even one second. Another son and 5 years later, we have all felt the benefit. I am changed because I allowed motherhood to change me – I’m pretty sure it was supposed to – and I’m happier and more whole than I’ve ever been.

Still, while it’s been the very best thing to have had a chunk of years to be all about mothering (and I’m so grateful this was even a possibility for us), it wasn’t intended to be a forever choice.  I always knew I’d journey back to work when it felt right and that call has been coming through.

So a journey back to work is on the cards, but, in fact, forwards rather than back.  Because there is no going back, I don’t believe. Not for me.  Intense experience changes us and while we can go back and put our old career back on like a suit, I’m not convinced that it always fits as well as it used to. At least, that’s how I’m feeling. And it’s ok to ask, ‘well, who am I these days and what do I give from where I stand now?’.

The answer has been a work in progress for a year or two. A hazy sense of knowing it wasn’t ‘this’ and it wasn’t ‘there’ but it might be ‘this’, perhaps with a bit of ‘that’. Foggy, unclear ideas and feelings; coded messages from my heart to my mind that took a while to decipher. But I’ve gone with it and I have an answer. I have a thing I’m going to do.

It’s not completely new – kind of an evolved version of what I did before combined with a heap of new stuff.  It has threads that speak to every piece of meaningful work I’ve ever done.  It’s a response to a wonder I’ve long held.  It’s for people I would gladly spend my life upholding because I believe in their awesomeness (it’s for Mums).

It feels important. It’s everything I want to do work-wise right now. And it’s really quite scary!

Because it’s big and we don’t talk about this ‘back to work’ stuff enough.

New work and starting a business is big in itself.  But restarting, reworking, relaunching, redesigning, re-entry into the world of work as a mum after a long time out – something that most of us do at some point in our journey – gosh, it’s HUGE. Add to the mix that it’s something you care deeply about and you still have your family to care for and… whoa!

Like much of motherhood, there’s this weird societal norm that says we should just get on with this big transition quietly and not make too much of a fuss.  Well, I’m not sure I’m buying that.  We need to talk about this.  We need to honour the uniqueness of the part of the mothering journey where we begin to move away ever so slightly.  And we need to hold a space for each other while we navigate it. If it’s exciting or terrifying, if it’s exhausting and messy – we need the space to say that it is. Hearing it makes people realise their own fears are normal and maybe stops them burying their thing before it’s grown wings.

And so, in the manner of a slightly wired friend who left her filter at home, I’m just going to do an emotional download on the subject. I know a few mums – in real life and on Insta – who are in the process of getting back to work at the same time as me and it might help them to read it. If nothing else it’ll quieten my head down and free me to get on!

All the scary things about restarting my career/business


I’m starting from zero. Again.
Standing at the beginning of something fresh and new is great in so many ways.  And it’s also hugely daunting. Having stood here before, at the beginning of creating something, I know how much work it’s going to take. Working for myself was by far the most rewarding way I found of working, but it was also the most demanding.  The first time around I had no concept of what was ahead.  I wonder if it would have scared me off?  This time I need to take the leap knowing all about what I’ll need to put in.  The thought gives me butterflies.  Have I got it in me a second time around?

Where the heck do I find all the time?
I mutter this often.  When I’ve written an epic list which’ll take me ten times the available window I have to work that day, I feel massively overwhelmed.  There’s a lesson in allowing the rest of life to dictate the pace.  There are only so many hours in a day or week when my little loves don’t need me. Sometimes those hours are all that are available.  I’m learning to just go with them.  Balancing the odd late-night working with early nights the rest of the week. Calling in some daddy-daycare when it’s possible.  I try to tell myself it’ll take as long as it takes and that has to be ok.  Pre-children timeframes were very different, but these are the ones I have now so I’ll work with them.

Meanwhile, I do mental things like committing to a date and deciding I’m going to build my own website.
I don’t even know what to say about this.  It just seemed like the right thing to do!  Predictably it sparked a mass freak-out.  Luckily I have a husband who thinks I’m invincible and is great at pep talks, a web designer friend who made it seem easy and the dogged determination I see in my four year old.  So I guess we’ll just see how that pans out? (Help!)

Putting myself out there feels all kinds of vulnerable
There’s been a simplicity in being a full-time mum.  Not needing to put myself out there for anything much has been a luxury.  With no need to sell myself or anything else, I could just be myself. It’s been a healing place to sit.  Just me in the world.  No cloak around my shoulders. The work I’m creating comes from this place; from having been able to be my whole self without playing any corporate games.  And when I step out there to offer it up, it will be just me, in the world, offering something I care about.  That’s where the fear kicks in.  The vulnerability of putting myself out there with an open heart, no protection cloak, and allowing my self to be seen… oh wow, somebody give me a shot of courage please!

There will be sacrifices
I’ve had the luxury for a few years of never really having to say ‘no I can’t do that, dear child of mine, because I have to work’. And so beginning to say it has felt strange and uncomfortable.  The confused looks and the slight disappointment.  Ouch, it’s hurt a little bit.  I’m aware that to make space there’ll be times when I’m pulling away and while I don’t love the idea of that, I’m reminding myself of the other side. I’m raising two boys, after all, and it’s my job to show them a life well-lived.  While I want to be by their sides, holding all the hands and reading all the stories, I also want to show them how to follow a path that matters to you. I want to find a way to show them that family and work can coexist happily when you’re mindful of balance. That work isn’t really work when you do something you love. That it all gives more than it takes away, for everybody. And so, I’m trying to embrace the small sacrifices here and there and keep in mind what it’s giving us all too.

I sometimes have to remember why I’m doing it
The fears, the mum guilt, the vulnerability – on certain days when the wind is blowing in the right direction they swirl around and put me in a negative headspace. I end up questioning it all, wondering if I’ve got my priorities entirely wrong. Those are the days I have to dig deep and remember my why. My why is that this work calls to me. It allows me and others to be creative and grounded, supported and well-resourced. It’s wholly about the good it does. My inner critic can be loud and harsh and I’m getting used to quelling it’s fears. It isn’t about succeeding or failing, it isn’t about it or me, it’s about them. It’s about showing up with something good to offer those who want it and doing the work well.

 

And so you see, I can talk myself into it and I can talk myself out of it at any given moment.  That might go some way to explaining why I feel like a crazy person some days.  Given I’m attempting this alongside finishing off my Handwork course (a portfolio of 2 year’s work!) I very possibly am crazy!  What it comes down to though is: it is a bit scary, there isn’t enough time, I’m feeling pulled in all directions, but somehow I’ll make it work because I have to.  I’m a driven, creative woman, who also happens to be a mum, and I need to honour that.

*

I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I’m hatching here soon.  I don’t quite have the words yet, but they’re not far off.  And if you’re walking in similar shoes to me right now, beginning something exciting and scary which changes things at home, I see your inner crazy person and I raise you mine!  Comment if you feel like it and we’ll cheer each other on.

A slow, foraged and wild Mother’s Day

We’re usually really good at planning special days but there’s such a lot of life happening at the moment that we arrived yesterday at Mother’s Day morning with not a clue what we’d do with it.

I secretly love a completely empty day in which to follow where the mood takes us. They always turn out to be the best of days.

However, whose crazy idea was it to put the clocks forward on Mother’s Day? And why did I not remember this was happening until late on Saturday evening while sat around a table with a cocktail in my hand on an extremely rare night out with my lovely mum friends? We congratulated ourselves smugly on accidentally coinciding our long-intended-but-almost-impossible-to-arrange night off with Mother’s Day weekend. Yay us! Celebrate the mothers! And then somebody mentioned the clocks. Wide eyes as the realisation of late bedtime plus losing an hour to BST-madness dawned.

So when I was asked next morning (after being jumped on and loved on and given the most beautiful hand-stitched and hand-crafted gifts by my little loves) how I wanted to spend the day, my first thought was: napping? Oh how they laughed. So I went for my forever back up: a walk in the wilds with our little adventurers, a flask of tea in my hand and the promise of cake at some point. Totally my kind of bliss.

Two highlights happened. We played (I laid down) on a fallen tree / crocodile / sea serpent / dragon for ages under a blissfully warm sun, soaking up all the vit D it could give us. We walked a familiar path back and remembered halfway along that it was rampant with wild garlic. And there it was, the very thing I wanted from the day but didn’t know it. Little hands gathering, happy chattering and the promise and the satisfaction of a delicious, part-foraged pesto for dinner.

Special days with elaborate plans can be so lovely, but it’s not always what we need and I’m happy to be able to show my little ones that we can find any number of simple ways to make our special people smile and know they’re loved. Our slow, joyful, wild day was just exactly right for this mama. And maybe we just started a new tradition. Mother’s Day foraging for the win!


Wild Garlic Pesto – a not very scientific recipe

A large wodge of wild garlic leaves – I’m going to guesstimate around 30-40 big leaves

100g Organic Medium or Mature Cheddar (grated)

85g Walnut pieces

Handful of fresh basil leaves

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan or sea salt

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

Wash your wild garlic leaves well and allow to drain. Pop them in the food processor with a really good slug of the oil, the walnuts and the salt. Switch it on and add more oil periodically to loosen as it becomes a paste. When almost fully combined add the grated cheese and whizz again. Transfer to a clean jar and pour a layer of the oil on top to help it keep for longer.


Hardcore pesto makers might prefer the authentic mortar and pestle method, but I can definitely say I am not one of them. Give me ease and speed and delicious pesto on the table within 5 minutes. I’ll find other things to be a hardcore purist about.

As far as I can tell, there’s not much this pesto isn’t good for. The boys always opt for pesto pasta and roasted veggies or cheese and pesto panini. Yesterday we had a thrown together Buddha bowl of quinoa, roasted carrot, beetroot and sweet potato, avocado, garlicky black beans (from this page), salad leaves and the pesto. So good, quite addictive and deeply satisfying that we’d foraged (part of) our dinner.

Signs of Spring 

Disclosure: I wrote this 3 weeks ago, got side-swiped by life and forgot I hadn’t posted it. Hey, it was the Spring Equinox just two days ago so we’re going to go with it being still relevant!

Everyday adventures are the stuff of life in our family. Though we live in a town at the moment, on any given day if we can swing it around school and work you’ll find us in the wild somewhere. Deepest countryside, wild beaches or enveloping woodland. Those are our playgrounds. Our boys need it like they need food and water.

Some days though, through tiredness or nursing lurgies, we find ourselves stuck in the rut of cosy indoorsiness, pjs still on, slowly driving each other a little mad while not finding quite the oomph to get ourselves out the door. We had a Sunday like this last week. It’s usually me who breaks the spell holding us unhappily inside when my cabin fever reaches critical point.

And so it was that weekend, that I suddenly freaked out, piled us all into a mismatch of warm stuff and clawed my way outside so I could start breathing again.

Having been cosied up all day, the boys were in a rare state of mind where they weren’t all that keen on the planned walk. Almost unheard of, but so it was that day. In fact, we could hardly persuade our youngest out of the car once we got to our starting point. Knowing that coaxing would only make him dig his heels in further, such is his way, I stood back and said ‘OK, I’ll just look around for some signs of Spring while you get ready to come out’. I had counted two – daffodils and crocuses – by the time he’d climbed out. Don’t you just love those moments when it works?

So off we went for our walk, spotting as we went. It was a sunny but cold day and the signs of early Spring were everywhere. My eldest was great at keeping count and spotted every teeny tiny sign, teaching his brother by pointing out the littlest details.

After they’d climbed amongst their favourite fallen tree roots, swung on the big rope swing and discovered a new one, we made our way out of the woods having found over 30 signs of Spring. Amazing! I’d underestimated that one. Some were shoots so tiny we couldn’t identify them and therefore could’ve been counting twice on occasion. No matter. It was the act of noticing more than the number. There was no notebook to hand and honestly I think it was all the better for it. Just slowing down to look closely, fostering an awareness of all that is awakening, soaking up the newness and the promise. Simple on the one hand, but yet another way that grounding ourselves deep in the season’s can give our children a strong sense of belonging in the world.


  
  

Off the top of my head, some of our spottings… daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, primroses, cyclamens, hellebores, periwinkles, apple tree buds, leaf buds of all kinds, catkins, bluebell shoots and many other new shoots, lambs, birdsong, camellia, early azaleas and a distinctly new smell in the air.

I loved that they embraced it as the day’s mission, noticing things that even I hadn’t, involving such focus at times that nobody mentioned tired legs or hungry tummies; in fact, we were all surprised to find ourselves back at the car.

In the past week since then the boys have continued spotting things and they greeted the Spring stories that came out this weekend with glee.

Such a big change from Winter stories to Spring ones. The contrast of white snowy scenes and fresh rolling greenness. A lovely shift. They’ve been dipping into this season’s story basket a lot.

I usually find more lurking around the house on our many bookshelves as the weeks go by, but here’s a round-up of whats in our basket so far.

In the Spring Story Basket:

Ferdie’s Springtime Blossom – by Julia Rawlinson & Tiphanie Beeke – the seasonal stories about this little fox are firm favourites and this one is especially sweet because he confuses blossom with snow. Perfect for the turn of the season.

Brambly Hedge Spring Story – by Jill Barkelm – hours and hours I could gaze at the intricate drawings in these books. This one features a Springtime birthday which fits in nicely with N’s March birthday.

Pelle’s New Suit – by Elsa Beskow – a forever favourite around here. The beauty of the illustrations matched perfectly with a heartwarming story of a boy, his lamb and how the gift of wool passes through many hands and becomes a new suit. So much for little ones to learn from this one.

The Rabbit Who Found Easterby Charlotte Zolotow – I’m not going to lie, this one has the power to make me quite emotional! Gorgeous illustrations and such rich language and far-reaching message. I could read this endlessly. And I do, if asked!

The Golden Egg – by A J Wood – sweet book for little ones with rhyming verses, shiny Easter eggs behind flaps, colour exploration and cute wildlife. Our boys still like a flick through of this even now and it helps that the last line claims ‘Easter eggs of chocolate are the best’.

The Spring Rabbit – by Joyce Dunbar -a lovely seasonal story but also great for children awaiting a sibling. We love a good bunny story around here.

Little Baa – by Kim Lewis – another sweet one just right for this time of year, with the added bonus that it explores the losing and finding of the mummy sheep. We took it out of the library last year and after the fourth renewal it became clear that we might need our own copy!

The Tiny Seed – by Eric Carle – a story for any season perhaps but it finds its way into our seasonal basket in the Spring being the time of planting seeds and watching seedlings grow. We love the journey it’s goes on and it always sparks great conversations with R, our eldest.

When Will It Be Spring? – by Catherine Walters – this one tends to stay in there for the first part of Spring, while Winter is still fresh in our minds. We completely love the last page where the Bears have emerged from hibernation into a beautiful world if Spring.

Milly Molly Mandy Spring – by Joyce Lankester Brisley – chapter books are very much the thing for R lately; he loves the rhythm of the nightly instalment. I love that they’ve gathered these sweet nostalgic stories of the simple joys of childhood into seasonal anthologies. The boys just love them.

 
That’s all for now. If I find more I’ll attempt to update the list.  Meanwhile, though I truly don’t need the book-shopping compulsion that will follow your responses, I’m going to ask the all-important question anyway – What’s in your Spring story collection? Which are your children’s favourites?   *covers eyes and tries to forget PayPal login*

tend – my year of self-care so far


This year, after years and years of pretty much flogging myself and wearing my poor body into the ground – from a heady and unhealthy combination of drive and martyrdom – I made a promise to myself. No more expecting more out than I put in. No more putting everything first before my own needs. No more perceiving self-care as selfish where I’m concerned but wholly necessary and important for everyone else. No ‘too busy’ or ‘no time’. No more ‘later’. No more ‘when the boys need me a little less’. No more of that.

No more exhaustion. No more overachievement at the expense of my wellbeing. No more holding on to a lingering sinus infection for weeks on end because I can’t quite find a moment to work out how to get well. No more avoidance and no more excuses.

I will take care of you, I told myself.

If you’ve been reading along for a while you’ll know my word for the year was a complete reflection of that. Tend. I will tend to all of your needs, dear Self of mine, not just when I’ve tended to everybody else’s first and there’s a teeny bit of time left to look briefly at my own and not just the ones that are shouting the loudest.

It’s not any easy shift to make, particularly as a mother, when somebody always needs something and there always seems to be something on fire. I’ve been making headway – changing habits and breaking cycles – but it’s so easy when life gets busy to fall back into old ways. I thought an update now and then might help me keep track.

I wrote before about how early nights are rocking my world. Seriously so good for me. And yet, I’ve fallen off the sleep wagon a few times and had to scramble back up before it went without me. Then there’s nutrition (mostly good and going well, but tiredness kills it every time), exercise (non-existent still apart from chasing the boys and a tiny bit of yoga), rest (hmm?) and wellness. All tangled up together and all a work in progress.

Then there are the things than run deeper. The things you do to fill up your soul, to top up your vitality, the ways you channel your necessary creativity, how you feel connected to what feeds you, how you stay grounded. The things that seem to make the most difference, yet it’s not always easy to work out how to reach for them.

January was a good month to work on figuring this out. Far from being the usual fairly simple month with not too much going on, as January usually is, my husband was away a lot and I had (still have) far more on my plate than I usually would. The easy option would have been to park the whole ‘tending’ idea, but not wanting to break my promise so soon, it made me focus more. Through the busyiness, I paid attention.

We sometimes expect the answers to be earth-moving. They rarely are. No one thing is going to bring along a bucket full of extra time and energy. No one thing is enough soul-food to sustain us. What I’m finding is, it’s the little things that go a long way.

Simple things filling me up this month are: 

  • Reading books again – yes, actual books! Ones that go deep but make me feel light and set off all kinds of magic in my head. I’ve ploughed through The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (for the second time because last year’s tired brain forgot the lot!), Bach Flower Remedies for Children and now I’m halfway through If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie. I tried fiction but I just couldn’t get into anything. Too much I’m curious about and want to learn at the moment and that learning fills me up.
  • Listening to audio books while I’m cooking or doing chores – yep, if I can’t read, somebody else can read to me! Particularly good for when I have jobs left over from the day to do in the evening; washing up or folding laundry are way more interesting with an audio book on the go. At the moment, having loved Sue Monk Kidd’s writing, I’m listening to a book she wrote with her daughter called Travelling with Pomegranates. Also, podcasts – though I only have a few favourites at the moment. I’d love some suggestions.
  • Carving out time to get on top of my coursework – not an obvious one, but when something sits there not being attended to, as this has for months, it’s such an energy drain. After an inner tussle because I hate to miss weekend family time, I’m taking Saturday mornings to bash this out and it’s helped with residual stress levels massively.
  •  Taking steps forward on my journey back to work – oh how good it is to rediscover parts of yourself you’d sort of forgotten. Lots to say about this so I’ll save the detail for another time, when I’ve managed to wrap my words around it. But purpose is good for the soul. Particularly when it feels like work that’s coming from the heart.
  •  Adventuring at every opportunity – the easiest way to fill myself back up. My failsafe. I fall back on this time and again. Give me a wide open space somewhere in nature and the day, along with my energy levels, is transformed. Snowdrop hunts and coastal expeditions have been top of the list.
  •  Saying yes to things that take me out of the house, out of my comfort zone and out of my Self. There were a few things that came along this month that it might have been easier to say no to, but the yes was far more enriching and eye opening. Always grateful for that reminder.
  •  Simplifying as I go – Since we can’t make more time I’m all about questioning how I’m spending it. Simplifying meals, super-nourishing batch-cooking, decluttering, remembering our rhythms, giving the boys some small jobs to do now they’re more able. It’s all helping me claw back a few hours here and there for other things.
  • Gathering with women – the simplest and most nourishing of soul-food. My friend began a women’s circle a year or so ago and I now wonder how I ever lived without it. Deep and true feminine support is so very uplifting and empowering – we need a whole lot more of it in our lives and I now understand that it’s easier to find than we think it is. I’ve a post brewing about this that I’ll share very soon.

The little and often approach seems to make a lot of sense when it comes to holidays as well. When Paul’s work is busy, the time and energy he gives to it is off the scale. We both end up depleted and sometimes, unhelpfully, cross with each other. It’s the way of this particular flavour of self-employment and since it won’t change all that much, we’re working on changing our ways. Small, regular, inexpensive short breaks to recharge are supportive of our lifestyle in ways that one big annual family holiday just isn’t. So rounding off a month of crazy, we grabbed the few days he had clear in the diary during half term and headed to Wales.

We couldn’t have chosen better. This time our half term fell on a different week to some of the country, so we arrived at Fforest’s Manorafon site to find we had much of that and the surrounding area all to ourselves. Blissful to us, in our then tired states. We explored beautiful wild bays with dunes, caves and streams, sharing them with just the occasional dog-walker. Went on long rambles, had lazy long pub lunches and nightly soup and stories around the camp fire, under the stars. Adventured-out boys ready for bed, then evening couple-time, sometimes with our books, no wifi and an owl hooting as we drifted off to sleep. Oh my, it was exactly what we needed.

A few of my favourite pics…

 

  

  

  
  
  

Arriving home feeling refreshed and restored to myself, I got taken down instantly by a tummy bug. Yes, I really did. The very day we got home. Such is life sometimes! Almost as a reminder of ‘don’t imagine you’ll ever have this fully sorted’.  Ok, yep, I get it, re-fill the tank but it’ll always empty again.  It’s not a one time event.  More a daily choice. And as I keep on choosing it, so the self-care dance continues…

the Winter story basket

  
As I said on my last post, I’m deep into Winter this time around and, for once, not rushing it along. But I will admit to having begun turning my thoughts slightly towards Spring last week when the temperature warmed up. 

We added snowdrops to our nature table and I cast my eye over the bookshelves, remembering which Springtime books we have that will get switched into the seasonal story basket in a few weeks. So it must be my fault that the temperature has plummeted! Sorry guys. 

We’ve had a seasonal story basket for years now and it’s enjoyed some attention from our boys, but like many things it’s taken a while to root. It was always led by me and, while it was dipped into fairly often, (it slightly pained the Virgo in me that) the season’s books would quickly get mixed back in with the others and forgotten. I wondered if maybe it wasn’t for them. 

This Winter it’s been completely different. Rather than instigating the shift from Christmas books to wintry ones myself, my eldest took up the challenge. Dashing around the house, he snatched up everything snowy, frosty and cold he could find. He remembered lots but happily rediscovered several he’d forgotten, proudly presenting me with a pile when he was done.

He explained the whole process to his little brother. Why we were doing it. How to tell if a story was wintry or not. Pointing out his favourites. Lots of chatter and pouring over them. Such a joy to watch. And it reminded me, as they’ve reminded me so many times, that they take much more from our traditions than I’m able to see. While in the moment they might only seem mildly interested in something we do, their inner experience is all their own and runs deep.

It’s part of the wonder of a seven year old, that I get to see this more clearly. Having absorbed all of his seven years worth of experience, my darling eldest now lives all the things that he loves. His internal clock is finely tuned, as are most children’s, and he’ll ask about things that we’ve done in earlier years, often on the very day they happened. We get reminded of our rhythms by him, always right on time. Things we thought didn’t really stick come up in conversation and he’ll ask wistfully if we can do that thing again this year, ‘because I really loved that, mummy’. All the sown seeds are in there, tucked just under the surface and they’re  vibrating, rooting and sprouting just like the early Spring bulb shoots. So very lovely to watch. 

He transitioned really well last year from his Steiner Kindergarten to the lower school and is loving every day. I’ve truly never known a child so eager to get into his classroom each morning. But as well as the upright, confident, curious Class One child I see before me, I can still see the Kindergarten child who soaked up all the stories, songs and skills and forged a strong connection with the seasons. It’s all very much part of him. His little brother only has to sing the first few words of a song and he beams in recognition, asking ‘are you doing this one at circle time yet? And this one? You will soon! It’s an almost-Spring song!’. I see in him a deep wonder of the world and I hope that always stays with him.

All this to say that the seasonal story basket (possibly all of our family traditions?) is now firmly in the hands of my children. They’re compiling it, tending to it, reading from it, playing out the stories and showing it lots of love. 

It reminds me that these seasonal rhythms do a whole lot more than just make a corner of our home look pretty. They ground the boys and give them a sense of place in the year. A knowing of the present and a trust in what’s to come. I realise as I watch them, that it’s early mindfulness in action. And for two sweet boys growing up in an ever-shifting world this can only be a good thing.

We’ll begin the shift toward Spring stories in a few weeks, no doubt the boys will tell me when it’s time, and I’ll share what’s in our basket then. For now, since I’ve been asked about it before and I know it’s always great to find inspiration in a list (and it’s snowing outside as I type!), here’s a rundown of the Winter stories in our basket and a little about why we love them. 

In the Winter basket:

  

Brambly Hedge Winter Storyby Jill Barklem – this series is very much treasured around here. Such sweet stories and wonderfully delicate, detailed illustrations. This, with its ice palace and ‘Snow Ball’ (brilliant!), is very much loved. Such wonderful wording in this one too and I’ve often heard the boys repeating lines of it to themselves, helped by the audio version we sometimes listen to on journeys.

The Tomtenby Astrid Lindgren – there’s something about this mystical little Tomten and his care for the farm animals that makes my boys go quite dreamy! 

The Tomten and the Foxby Astrid Lindgren – equally loved this, with the thrilling addition of a hungry fox, but he gets nowhere with the old Tomten around taking care of things. 

The Story of the Snow Childrenby Sibylle von Olfers – like many books of magical journeys they’re entranced by this, with its snowy land and majestic scenes. I will admit that the Snowman waiters at the snowy feast slightly give me the creeps, but the boys love them so what do I know!

When will it be Spring?by Catherine Walters – a huge favourite for us! Alfie Bear is sure it’s time to stop hibernating and keeps waking his tired Mother Bear to check. This sparked a giggly game with my eldest when I was expecting his brother, where I was Mother Bear and got to lay down a lot. Best game ever for a tired pregnant mama! We adore the illustration on the last page when Spring does finally arrive.

Snow Dayby Ezra Jack Keats – a sweet and lovely story of exploring with our feet in the snow which captures our fascination with it so beautifully.

One Snowy Nightby Nick Butterworth – anything with woodland animals is a hit around here but when they’re piling into Percy the Park Keeper’s bed it’s even better!

One Snowy Night & One Winter’s Dayby M Christina Butler – two from the Little Hedgehog series which always have sweet stories of kindness and friendship with plenty of woodland friends.

Sylvester and the New Yearby Emmeline Pidgen – this tends to stick around after New Year for a while. They love the enchanting illustrations and that the new year is a child we are welcoming.

The Bear’s Winter Houseby John Yeoman – illustrated beautifully by Quentin Blake, this has been read a lot this year. The Bear’s friends are rather cheeky and take advantage of his hospitality, but he does get his sleep in the end. It delights my two.

Ollie’s Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow – snow, skis, Jack Frost, King Winter and Mrs Thaw. So much to love in here and they have always been so thoroughly captivated by her beautiful illustrations. 

  

We also love A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, (see pic at the top of this post) with its seasonal sections, swoon-worthy artwork from Mark Hearld and beautiful poems, all the year through. It’s earns itself a year-round spot in the basket and we particularly love it at the first turn of the season.

What are your children’s favourites for this time of year?  We love finding new ones to add to our collection!