Another week, another reflection on it…

We’re over the hump of this half term. 3 weeks until a short breather before we head towards Christmas. It’s that point in the run where you wonder how you can really keep going until the end. It’s the hard breathing, legs aching kind of week. We’ve had the getting into the rhythm weeks and well, this one has just felt like a hard slog.

It’s been a week where the vast difference between husbandface’s days and mine seems all the more vast. We chatted on Tuesday night, he recounted his day of full on craziness. Teaching, meetings, sorting out fights, more meetings, presentations, dealing with tricky situations, trying to stay relentlessly positive in a world of moaning. He has a mental wonderful crazy job. I love that he has it but the contrast between his day and mine was amusingly stark as I gazed at the window and saw some Paw Patrol pictures that me and son1 had done. It seemed just too ridiculous. 

I know my job is vital and I know it’s not about comparisons. I know that Husbandface is my loudest cheerleader in this weird, small, hard to find the meaning life I live right now but it’s hard to engage well with understanding each other’s worlds. It’s hard not to demand him home exactly in time for dinner each night. It’s hard to learn how to love each other’s worlds. Thankfully he’s awesome and recognises my need to have 20 minutes or so not being touched by a small person in a day. Thankfully he gets stuck into life when he gets home and reassures me again and again of the value of being with the boys.

I still feel like we are helping each other in our different spheres but it requires digging deep beyond resentment and points scoring. It requires choosing to be interested and not counting who has worked harder in the day. It requires grace and forgiveness and sacrifice. I’m glad we have a big story that helps us see that this world runs on grace, forgiveness and sacrifice. It’s the life of love we were given by our maker, shown in Jesus and enabled on us by the Spirit. I am not alone in trying to love. 

That battle has been a massive thread of the week but so has the creeping darkness of loneliness. Along with the ‘what is the point of my days’ thoughts came the aching heart of wishing the void in me could be filled. I think the reality of changing friendships, church life altering and new potential friends on the horizon has left me unsettled. I keep looking to people to provide my certainty and security. It never works. Friendships evolve and change. People alone cannot provide my meaning and safety in this world. I always find the more I try and make them, the more slippery and unsure friendships can seem and loneliness hits hard. 

To try and understand my soul and remind myself I’m not alone in these thoughts I’ve headed back to Henri Nowen. His writings always reassure me that I’m not alone in my cravings for more and more affection and affirmation from the people around me. His writings, as well, always gently pull me back to the One who is my centre and whose love can fill the abyss in my heart. To the One from whose safety I can be free to love with freedom and without holding too tight. 

It’s been a weird old week with the edge of impatience and anger creeping into my voice with the kids. My emotions have affected how I’ve treated them far too much. Thankfully there is still grace for me. Thankfully we are at the end of the week again. Thankfully I’ve been able to notice and be aware of all these things and talk then through with my Maker. Thankfully the darkness hasn’t overwhelmed. 

I’ll leave you with some of the lovely Henri :

‘You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, ‘God loves me and God’s love is enough’. You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.’ 

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Thoughts from a kitchen 

We have this new kitchen. It’s sparkly and new and shiny. Really shiny. Leaving aside my rather large guilt complex about even having a new kitchen I’m learning lots from the experience. Right now it’s looking as good as it ever will do. The only way is downhill from here. As soon as it was finished on Sunday we stood in it and marvelled at the prettiness of it all. From now on in it’s set to decay. I have already washed food splash marks off the tiles and swept the floor. Use everyday will mean I miss bits and it will never be as clean as it was on Sunday again. It’s a funny thing to buy lots of shiny new stuff and realise it won’t get better. I guess it’s like that with everything new. Even now when I buy new clothes or shoes (a rare event..) I want to savour the newness, to not wear them for a while, to enjoy the perfection. My heart craves perfection and things looking just so, everything in the right place. I don’t think I’m alone. I think it’s because the whole of this decaying broken world is craving perfection. Maybe because we were made for a better world than this. Maybe. 

There is a flip side to this though. As I returned from my run tonight I gazed into our kitchen window and saw a blank canvas. Sure, it looks like a pretty show kitchen right now, but that shiny, almost soulless, perfection isn’t really what I long for above all else. It needs our photos of friends and family back on the wall. It needs our calendar pinned up and the quotes that remind me of reality each morning back in places my eyes brush over. 

It’s a kitchen that will see our boys grow over time. I long for chats over tea and cake, for boys sitting on counters whilst we cook for years to come. I long for friends and family to bump into us here, to be fed and nourished from the oven and fridge and our lives. I long for the imperfections to come because they mean we have lived, loved, laughed and wept in it. I long for the Spirit to fill it with wonder, reality and hope and I long for more depth than shiny surfaces could ever bring. 

There you go. There’s lots you can learn from new kitchens apparently. And yes, the kettle is on, do come on over for a chat. 

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Processing the week…

It’s been a weird week here on the ranch. We are in the process of having a new kitchen being put in, an awesome gift which is making me very happy. Our kitchen has bugged me since we moved and it is delightful to see it moving from chaos to order, from a place of dirt that never seemed to shift to clean lines and a layout that makes sense. Next week the hideous dirty carpet will be replaced with flooring that also makes more sense in a place where we eat and the kids play. Again, my head will be clearer without a hundred times a day thinking, ‘I hate this stupid carpet that looks dirty again 2 seconds after I vacuum.’ (Yes I spend too much time in my house…)

It is good to order the place I spend most of my time. It has, however, led to an interesting week of being out of the house lots. I and the boys have found the chaos of the house disconcerting and tiring. I’ve been feeling a bit ill which hasn’t helped either. Through it all we’ve coped. I’ve been a shouty mess a few times but the boys have been remarkably resilient in the face of it. We’ve enjoyed the hospitality of friends massively and are very grateful for them. Son1 has settled down since last weeks madness, nursery continues to go well and he’s remembering some good choices again. Son2 is really only truly happy when his beloved brother is around but we’ve coped when on our own together and had some fun (when he forgot to be a clingon monster). The late September sun has been our friend and parks have saved the day when we’ve struggled to know what to do. 

This blogpost would have been very different had I written it a few days ago but after spending lots of time in the sun with the boys today I’ve got that Friday feeling and am grateful that Husbandface will be around in the mess over the next couple of days. I am grateful for friends feeding us tonight and another one babysitting to enable that. I am full of sunny day endorphins. 

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Week 2 in the world of us. 

Reflecting on the week just gone seems to be good for my soul somehow so here we go again. We are in week 2 of term life and the idyllic world of last week seems a lifetime ago. This week has been much more bumpy, only to be expected as son1 started his new preschool and we all attempted a week of our new routine. Add in preparing the house for a new kitchen and a youngest whose insane development once more finds him only able to sleep with a hand on my face and you have conditions for stormy weather upon our ship. 

Son1 is very excited about his new nursery, he wishes he could be there more. I’m kind of glad he isn’t but also very happy he is settling in well. He seems to have made a couple of friends and the workers there are lovely. I think it’s going to be a good thing in our lives. Obviously though it’s a new thing and new things tend to send our boy into a head mash. He forgot all the awesome routines he got so good at over the summer. I felt like we were back at square one in the getting dressed fight, the tidying up joys and the bedtime procrastination and fussing. Argh. Truth is, he is tired and coping with big change. I’m also trying to deal with the change in our weeks and the loss of our church community. It’s been a big week for my emotions too.

Sometimes we’ve got it right. I’ve cancelled things and planned in good contact time with him. Sometimes we’ve got it wrong. Tuesday bedtime and this afternoon bringing the return of the shouty frustrated lady. A source of sadness for the boys and shame and guilt for me. I’ve been trying to remember I have One who forgives me and that I have many times of good fun with the boys alongside the shouty madness. It’s hard and I’m trying to leave each episode behind and remember to love and connect rather than run and shout. So hard. So worth it when I remember to be kind and cuddle and leave the washing up for another time. At times like this I need the fruit of the Spirit so desperately. Kindness, gentleness, love, self control, goodness, peace, patience and joy are what I long to treat my boys with. 

With our new kitchen arriving today our world is mostly in boxes, the boys don’t know where their toys are, we are all confused when our environment is so turned upside down. Tractor Ted is soothing us all right now. I have run out of creative energy to engage both boys well. Tractor Ted has it in bucket loads. 

It’s been an up and down week. I’ve loved getting out drumming again and rejoining that community. I’ve loved hanging with my boys in the last of the hot summer days. I loved son1’s Lego creativity and the many many new words coming from son2’s mouth. I’ve loved not needing to fill all the gaps in our week with people and I’ve loved seeing how much Husbandface is settling into his job again. Change is hard and I need to remember that my world has changed this term. Oh to be gentle on myself as well as the weirdos in my care. 

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Drum drum drumming…

fullsizerender4 years ago I wrote this lovely piece about having to give up my uber amazing African Drum group to have a baby.  In it I had high hopes of heading back to the drum class that had been the most stable consistent thing about my life in Brighton and Hove to that day. Things, however,  didn’t turn out that well, son1 never liked to be left from the precious boob for that long in the early evenings and, by the time he was weaned off it, I was pregnant again and in no state to go drumming or even attempt to be conscious past 6pm in the evening.  Son2 came along and now we needed two people for bedtime (son1 still needing parental reassurance to drift off into the land of nod). Drumming seemed like a thing of the past. A piece of me that never quite made it back into life once the bomb of having babies had gone off.

This summer we’ve had a shift in circumstances, the boys now share a bedroom and only need one parent sitting by them saying shhhh (or something a bit firmer..) every now and again. This means that I could skip out of the house tonight, drive down into Brighton, walk up the stairs to the room where the magic happens and get my hands into action on a drum again. Happy sigh. Some of the people that were around when I left are still around, the excellent Fern still teaches us and laughs with us as we wrap our brains around African rhythms. Rather weirdly I realised I’ve been to this class on and off for 10 years now. 10 years.  My hands knew what to do. My brain released the rhythms it had been storing for the last 4 years into my arms and the sheer joy of making amazing music, with no head space to think about anything else, burst out again.

I am now far too hyped up to think about sleeping and may pay for this adrenaline rush tomorrow. But for now, I am so glad to have the space and time to do something I love and thought I wouldn’t get to do again. Drumming is such a part of the thing that makes up me. I love big fat rhythms. I love doing something I’m ok at and having to try hard to get it right. I love that there is no space in my brain for thinking when I’m part of a rhythm. I love that drumming spans across my life, from teenage years when I bravely put my name down for drum classes at school, to being in a dodgy 6th form band, to bongo playing in church, to playing with friends and doing some gigs with the excellent Binface, to playing bongos on training conferences with UCCF, to African Drum classes. Tonight I felt linked up to my past, in a way that is rare these days, and oh so glad to be where I am now in life. I feel entirely different to the slightly scared 20 something who rocked up to these classes 10 years ago but I am glad that somethings stay the same.

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Slightly random thoughts from our first week back into term life…

Picking Blackberries

We are half way through the first week back into term life, post epic sharing parenting times for the last 8 weeks. It’s a weird transition. For 8 weeks we’ve been in it together, sharing the joys and frustrations of the small people, tagging each other in and out of naps and time on our own. We’ve had time to rethink some of our parenting (helped by the, so far, very helpful Calmer, Easier, Happier parenting book) We’ve helped each other learn new skills and practise together. I know we are in a very privileged position that this happens every year (with the addition of bonus times throughout the year).

It is however somewhat jarring to return to 5 days a week being the main parent with the small goons. Husbandface gets about an hour morning and evening with the small ones, time that is usually full of getting ready to go to work or struggling to stay awake post returning from work. Again I’m glad the boys do at least get this time. I am so grateful to him for leaving school to get home in time to hang with us before bedtime.

When we thought about having kids I imagined us doing it all together. It took until 4 months into son1’s life to process the reality that I was going to have to step up as the main carer in this relationship. I had to fight to own and delight in being a Mummy. 4 years later and right now (this can change on an hourly basis) I can say I really love this uber weird strange job. I love hanging out with the small ones. I love getting to see their growth and development. I love having fun with them. I enjoy less the constant reinforcement of how we do things, the battles over control and the times these reveal the darkness and impatience in my heart. I’m thankful that our lives are underpinned with insane grace and forgiveness as hourly I see my, and the boys, need for it.

Today we had a visit from son1’s new nursery. It was a lovely time where they got to know him better and he got to know them. It was lovely seeing him talk to them and get confident around them. I love the care taken to do the settling in well and the delight they showed in him and his brother. I sense and hope it will be a safe place for him to flourish and prepare for the world of school. I confess I’m looking forward to this next phase. I’m looking forward to getting involved in our community more through the nursery and school. (I’m also intrigued by the new challenges school life will bring and aware of potential difficulties. I don’t think school will solve things or be the worst thing ever. It will be what it is and we will work through the issues.) I’m looking forward to having more space to explore writing and a potential job in the future. But whatever the future holds I’m enjoying this last year of hanging out with son1 before his days are more full of school. I’m loving the strange privilege of bringing these boys up for now and the years ahead.

Mentally right now things are good. We seem to have come into a pool of light after the darkness of the first half of the year. My heart is once again soft to the existence of the Maker who forms our days, weeks and years. Stirring is happening within. Our house is being sorted internally with a new kitchen coming and the hideous carpet going. Husbandface is in a better place. I feel like we are releasing him to do his job well when he’s at work and not just wishing he was here all the time (ah the me of 3 years ago would have been horrified to learn that some days I’d have to wait until 5.30 or 6 until he came home.). It’s good to mark the change and see how life seems more manageable in this stage. It is good to embrace the days I’m alone with the boys and not just freak out that I have no friends. It is lovely to bask in September sun and notice the good. It is good to focus on the good in my boys, in encouraging them constantly and telling them what they are doing right (thanks helpful parenting book). It is good to know grace when I forget to do this and get frustrated and annoyed at them (let’s draw a veil over bedtime last night). Forgiveness is an awesome thing. It is good to find blackberries wherever we walk around our roads.

Your correspondent. Slightly rambling thoughts I needed to put down. You’re welcome.

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The by now traditional I love September post…

September.

The cusp of newness. Rhythms that have been built into me from school, university and student worker days, now embedded in our marriage as teaching terms define our years. 

September. 

The end of summer. The start of my favourite time of year. New stationary. Fitting back into routines. Forming new ones. The turn of the earth. The dying summer sun’s last heat and the colder evenings. The launch into autumn. Misty mornings. Crisp blue skies. Rainy Sunday afternoons. Winter dark and the bursting light of Christmas. 

September 

Feeling the affects of change. The holiday that didn’t feel like a holiday but yet we stand this week tired but refreshed. Tired in body but not in mind. Sorting and clearing our house in preparation for redeeming work in the kitchen and living room. Clearing space in our mind. Making it easier to channel hospitality. 

September. 

The hope and enjoyment of new things. A new role at work. A new nursery. A new church. A new rhythm. New time with the youngest. New adventures for the eldest. New clothes. New bike for the Husbandface. New things, not to be feared but embraced. 

September. 

The marker in the sand of having survived this far in a strange and disjointed year. The surprise of standing together arm in arm, delighted that we are still finding joy in one another. The gladness of having come through the mire and finding that our eyes still seek each other out in wonder. 

September. 

Saturday evening. Husbandface cooks amazing food. I sit with small children and watch them drift into sleep. Wine sits on the table and the rain falls steadily outside. 

September. 

Hope. 

At last. 

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