The Thaw…

IMG_4395“This is no thaw. This is spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan’s doing.”

Way back in January I compared life to that of the Alaskan tree frog. I think you’ll all agree that it might have stretched the joys of having a metaphor for life a bit too far. That aside, the point was that I felt very frozen, dead even. I knew spring would come, and summer eventually, and life would happen again but I was living in a very real death. My whole immediate environment was the two small people I look after all day and night. There was no glimmer of light through the canopy of trees around me (yeah we’re back to the glade metaphor, keep up will you?). Life had hemmed me in. I felt frozen out of friendships and of using vast portions of my brain and gifts.

(Well, I was overusing the bits of my brain that look after children- anyone who says being a stay at home mum is brain numbing is doing us all a disservice. Bits of the brain are numb but the time juggling, creative, inventive, training parts of the brain are alive and well but just very child focused…)

It was a fairly bleak picture. The only thing keeping me sane was the knowledge that it wasn’t the end picture. It was just a season. Winters are always followed by spring. Even really long seemingly never ending winters are. Even this winter we live in now will end when the final spring dawns and the joyful morning chorus will burst from our lungs as our Maker makes everything new for the last time.

I digress. 

I think the thaw is happening. I think it’s more than a thaw, I think it’s finally Spring.

Oh so slowly I can feel my limbs tingling again. I can feel the warm sunshine penetrating to the dark corners of my soul and I can feel life again. 

It crept up on me at Word Alive. We had a beautiful weekend with reminders of our Gods big fat crazy love for us, we felt the Spirit speak to our hearts, we repented, we cried out to our God for help and he heard. Jesus showed up and drenched our souls in living refreshing water. We had space away from our kids, we had time with friends chatting over life and sharing what God was up to in us all. We drank wine and we occasionally slept.

When we got home I felt like I’d actually had a holiday for the first time since son2 was born. I felt refreshed. We had another beautiful day in the holidays without the boys, chatting to friends, delighting in God’s work in their lives and enjoying a long lazy fish filled lunch remembering how to have conversations without small people needing our attention.

These breaks have done me good.

This is the end of the first week back in term life and I have enjoyed my boys all week. Sure, I’ve shouted and got grumpy at times but I’ve apologised and we’ve moved on. My failure to love well hasn’t defined our days. It has brought me back to my need of forgiveness and the wonder of it freely given to me.

Son2 is 6 months old now and we can manage more time apart from each other. He’s started eating and, although he still doesn’t sleep much, he’s easier during the days. Son1 is delightful and frustrating in equal measure but I’m starting to get that his frustrating side comes out most when I am unsettled and distracted. It’s a fascinating process watching him play off my moods. Somehow we have to learn how to deal with that, but knowing about it is a good start. I love chatting to him and seeing how he makes sense of this world.

This week I also started back in my role at church of looking after our small groups (all two of them) and leaders. I remembered my love of encouraging people to pay attention to God and my love of seeing him at work. It was a treat to feel like this wasn’t a burden but something that gave me life.

Today I went back to the crèche attached to our local swimming pool with both of them. It was the first time in 6 months. I had another sense of bumping into ghosts from the past. There was the me with Son1 at 6 months, scared and unsure of what to do. Today it felt so much more straightforward to drop them off, I knew what I was doing and I was confident they’d be ok for an hour or so whilst I swam.

It was another step in spring appearing. I swam and swam and found my thoughts again. My little writer who has been languishing at the back of my brain burst to the forefront of my mind with excitement and started to scribble. My body loved the rhythm it has known since I was 11. I felt like me. Whole and alive.

I still feel like me sitting in my car with both boys snoring away as I write and write. Spring is here. There is more space to think. Obviously the trees still surround me, horizons remain limited but clearing has taken place, I can glimpse the view beyond them, I can see how I can bring others into this space and paths lead out of my glade, ready for exploring every now and again.

This week Husbandface got offered a promotion, after a gruelling few days of interview he is now going to be an assistant Head (one step below a deputy head) at his school. For a brief moment I got jealous of his professional achievements, before delighting in them. But then I looked at my life and realised I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The core of our lives isn’t made up in our jobs or lack of job, my core isn’t resting on being a stay at home mum. Our core being rests on our belonging to the Maker of the world and being loved by him. That frees us to excel in the places he’s put us. Husbandface at school and me largely at home and beyond.  I support him in his work and he supports me in the varied mix of life I’m involved in, the boys, ministry stuff I do and friendships that I have. I like this life we have. I like being of worth and value just because I’m me. I like being loved so much that I can spill it abundant on my boys and those who I encounter each day.

So there you have it. The thaw is on. Spring is here. Being a pessimist I would like to point out that this might all change after another annoying night with the small one but for now it’s pretty darn good around these parts.

(see told you the little writer had a lot to scribble about…)

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Paying attention 49

Long drive meaning chances to talk to the husbandface and do less lugging the small ones around. Son2 not doing much crying. Lovely arrival at our friends house and feeling very at ease :) 

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Paying attention 48

Son1’s delight at the farm. Little lambs shivering in the wind. The beautifully warm sausage roll for lunch. Laughing with son1 all around Asda. 

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Paying attention 47

Sunny morning. Husbandface around. Friends laughing and chatting in the flat. Getting out in the evening for the first time since son2 was born. Eating burgers and drinking wine. 

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Life with the tiny people. 

Life with a baby and a toddler is a bit mental. That’s an understatement and an overstatement. It’s wonderful and so deeply awful in so many ways that it’s easy to get the whole thing out of perspective.

I’ve been reading a couple of blogs recently that make the whole newborn thing seem so wonderful and appealing. Good writing can do that. I can stumble my way through some prose that touches on beautiful moments in the middle of the night where it’s just me and him and some soft small baby fingers wrapped about mine, where he rests in the crook of my arms and breathes deep and satisfied having fed in the grey darkness of the night.

See, what lovely scenes. And there is more. I can write of the wonder of waking next to big fat grins, to tiny feet padding around our flat, to voices asking for porridge and puzzles and just one more book. I can write of dancing in kitchens with small eyes joyful, of giant cuddles, of voices calling out for mummy.  I can write of the closeness of these times, the limited horizons, the beauty of being so focused on one thing in one place. I can write of the smell of my boys as they snuggle in close, as growing little bodies wrap themselves around mine, as we run through parks, as we laugh and giggle and tickle and bounce on beds. There is such beauty in this life together.

I could write of patient explaining again and again why we don’t hit, pull things off shelves or throw large objects across the room. Of sitting with the toddler in his big emotions and holding his body wracked with sobs as he figures out the crazy horrible reality that you can’t always get what you want. I could write of explaining, of wiping away tears, of quiet chats outside and moments when he seems to understand and calm and be at peace again.

(Scratching record noise)

But there is the flip side. Writing like that is not the whole story. Yes these things are here and this life is beautiful. But I could write another story to our nights and days. The endless feeding. The endless fucking feeding. The nights of weary despair wondering if the stupid baby will ever sleep alone, the desire to chuck it across the room because I have been touched too many times today. The frustration of finally getting him to sleep and then hearing a massive poo unleashed. The calculations as to how long until morning? Will he notice the poo? Will it wake him up in 30 min time just as I have got back to sleep?Shall I risk leaving him? Am I a bad person for leaving my baby in poo

I could write of the endless demands of the toddler, the constant ‘shall we watch TV?’, the worries about him turning into a sociopath as he wacks his brother around the head for the hundredth time that morning. I could write of the whining voice demanding porridge, tractor ted, hot chocolate and more. I could write of the fears that he’ll never eat more than pasta, the lack of patience as he pulls books from the shelves again and again. Hot anger spills from me too often in this season of life as time and again I am out of control. I cannot make them sleep or eat or do anything and I run too often to the banks of frustration, despair and anger.

I could write of my hatred of these small enclosed times, the fear of never having a friend again, the deep loneliness of a day with the children and no one else. The fear of being left behind, of not being able to hold a conversation again, the haze of sleep deprivation that makes me unable to listen to what’s going on around me. I could write about my desire for space, for time to write and envy of anyone who seems to be able to deal with tiny people and do more than just collapse at the end of the day.

Either story is true and not true at any point in the day or night. I flip regularly from one to the other, usually in the space of a few hours or minutes. I guess that’s the reality of life. It can be explained either way but there is more than just the wonder and there is more than just the hard despair. Both need expressing and noticing. Life with small children is both deeply awesome and deeply sucky at the same time and that’s ok.

Your correspondent, once more writing things that really only she needs to hear…

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Paying attention 41-46 (the catch up sessions…)

It’s been a funny old week. The black dog has been creeping around again and I’ve stalled in my thinking of things to be thankful for. I’ve been ill, my mind has been blank and it’s felt tiresome and false to come up with some token of good things in a world where there could be no good. That’s what the black dog does at his most effective, everything is dark and broken. I become trapped behind a glass screen, numb, unable to feel anything. My laptop broke and I didn’t really care that I hadn’t backed it up and potentially lost many precious photos and writings (thankfully some nice awkward geeks at the apple shop managed to fix it). It’s weird not even being able to feel stress. All I’ve been is numb and it has felt either trite or deeply pointless to dig up some nice thing to put a sticking plaster on the darkness.

Anyway, the black dog is shrinking, he doesn’t lurk for too long these days, and with some studious ignoring, recognition, love from the husbandface, having to keep going to help my boys survive and sunshine, I’m slowly thawing back to life.

In the midst of this crap week I managed to make yummy chocolate truffles at Tuesday Group, I read a whole book- Divergent was very satisfying in helping me stop thinking and wallow in some young adult dystopian joy. I had a well timed morning away from son1 and a very satisfying drive with son2 giggling insanely as I sang to him (music is so so good for the soul eh). I basked in some sunny park moments and had Mum cuddles at the end of the week.  We enjoyed Easter Brunch with friends remembering the reality of the coming week together. Best of all I led church this morning and felt that joy of the Spirit at work in me and the delight of reminding people of God’s love. A welcome break from all night feeding and a treat to be used again.

The Easter holidays have begun. Ahead lies two weeks of a break in the normal routine, time to share the parenting load and hopefully to attempt to snatch some moments with the husbandface away from the small ones. We have fun times ahead in the next two weeks and weirdly we may move house. It feels very good to not have Sunday night dread as I type. I think I’ll attempt another couple of weeks of this paying attention lark and then close it for now. There. Back on track.

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Paying attention 40

This might be a cop out, but the anticipation of making Chocolate Truffles at Tuesday Group is keeping me going right now (I’ve been off chocolate for a long time…).

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