Word of the Week:

deja vu

Sorry if this is really two words and a bit of a cheat! This week as EJ turned 19 months, his behaviour has suddenly transformed somewhat – he has begun throwing things, hitting his brother over the head with his tippy cup/anything else to hand, dragging me about by the fingers and literally lobbing bits of chewed up food around the kitchen once he’s decided he doesn’t want any more.

I mentioned the fact that the Terrible Twos appear to have started early and my sister pointed out that this is why she always says the cutest age is 9-18 months. Almost immediately after those precious months the tantrums kick in and all the memories of early challenging behaviour in JJ have come flooding back (although, to be honest, JJ’s behaviour was challenging to me from birth onwards!).

On the other hand, he can still get away with most of it because who’s going to argue with this:

WP_000590

Still kinda cute after all…

The Reading Residence

My Happiness Project: To thine own self be true

to_thine_own_self_be_true

OK so this is it – after reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project I have been vaguely aware that when I am doing or thinking certain things I am not doing myself any favours. I think I finally have to acknowledge that starting my own ‘Happiness Project’ (and logging the journey on my blog) is the way forward. It will allow me to work out some key strategies and hopefully it will be a little bit insightful or inspiring to others too.

Today I was reading through some other bloggers’ posts and considering what it is I like about my favourite blogs and it occurred to me that I tend to have about four standard reactions to what I see/read:

  1.  OMG this woman is quite literally a domestic goddess – LET ME SWAP LIVES/BLOGS right NOW!
  2. This is beautiful work but I know that the person writing is not on the same wavelength as me and therefore I may never consider becoming a follower.
  3. I am feeling informed/engaged/entertained/tickled pink, this content has totally hit my wavelength and the person writing clearly doesn’t know how good they are.
  4. I am feeling entertained/tickled but so are about 10,000 other people and I don’t feel like I can engage because my voice is being drowned out by everyone else’s and how can we respect each other when you will never have time to engage with me?

Perhaps it could be said that the whole experience is a bit like dating…

I’m always comparing upwards and perhaps feeling that my blog is not good enough, not pretty enough, too wordy or some other such nonsense, and that my children are not doing worthy enough projects or coming out with cute enough ‘kiddisms’ but today I had a revelation worthy of Gretchen Rubin (who I shall forewith refer to as The Rubemeister) – I do what I do – which is write, in as engaging a manner as I can possibly manage whilst a 19 month old lobs bits of half chewed sandwich down my cleavage.

My home will never be up to show home standards, I will never crochet an elephant (errr, I’m not sure that is one of my goals actually), I will probably never figure out how to whip up a viral frenzy by riffing on my toddler’s toilet habits or start an Etsy business from home, or write a novel or win a MAD Blogging Award (or even get a nomination! Maybe I should ask – you don’t ask you don’t get…) But the Rubemeister is right – sometimes you have to just let go and accept that every single aspiration that ever pops into your head is not necessarily going to ‘take’. Its a grieving process the letting go – a bit like the day you put your favourite pet in a shoebox, buried it under the cherry tree and wrote a (bad) ode to the beautiful kinky tail never to be seen again (sob!) but at least its closure.

It’s also a chance to reassess what it is you actually do do well, what you are good at, the things that you can actually have a stab at as well as an acknowledgement that you actually quite like your higgledy piggledy bookshelves, colourful piles of toys, nutty little boys, organised chaos and eclectic knowledge of film and literature as well as a photographic memory for all 50 US states (don’t ask – seemed like a good idea at the time…)

All this letting go and embracing is actually quite liberating – I urge you to give it a try…oh and if you fancy it, nominate me for Mad Blogging Awards Best New Blog!

mad blog awards

Post Comment Love

The Happiness Project: A Review

Happiness ProjectAs I’ve mentioned before, I became aware of this book back in January and the idea of it was so appealing that I felt compelled to buy a copy at the first opportunity, duly gravitating toward the self help section of Waterstones.

The idea apparently came to the author, Gretchen Rubin, whilst sitting on a bus one day and for no particular reason. She makes no secret of the fact that she and her family are comfortably off New York City dwellers. She has two daughters – one of about 7 and a one-year-old (at the time of the book was written), a good career as a writer (having previously trained and worked in the legal profession), a loving husband, good family ties, and no major health issues or illnesses to contend with (other than her husband’s Hepatitis C which is more of a future worry than a present concern).

On the face of it, it seems odd, perhaps a little self indulgent, to launch such a project when she appears to have no great need and no real obstacles to overcome, other than her own nature, but she addresses this criticism early on, explaining that it was really an exercise in being more grateful, being less snappy with loved ones, more contented with what she has in life, and she argues that “contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues and citizens”.

From this perhaps I would re-name the book “The Self-Improvement Project”, but packaging under the heading ‘happiness’ certainly hooks you in as a potential devotee because, lets face it, who doesn’t strive for happiness throughout their life? There’s certainly nothing new about that, as Rubin is well aware, quoting everyone from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Johnson.

Rubin is one of those very earnest, highly educated, intellectual Americans – a high achiever, a resolution maker and at the same time full of self doubt and constantly evaluating and criticising her own nature (which I guess is justified in the context of this book). You get the feeling that she found it harder to lighten up and get silly with her children than to plough through several ‘memoirs of catastrophe’ – by that meaning biographies written by people diagnosed with terminal cancer and the like (an exercise in learning to view life with serenity and appreciate the joy of being alive and healthy).

I’m still not convinced that everything she does in the way of prostrating herself – for example her week of ‘extreme nice’ during which she allows her husband to get away with leaving all the hard work to her and never complaining – are not just an exercise in door-mattery (I admit I just made that word up but you get my meaning!).

But despite this criticism and taking on board the author’s earnest tone and the fact that several of her ‘revelations’ are things which struck me years ago and just common sense really (for example really listening to other peoples stories, humouring, not interrupting, encouraging and affirming are as much of a gift to others as any material offering, and the fact that giving of yourself, both time, money and spiritual support, will make you as happy as the person you are helping) I did take away a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas from this book. I am very mindful right now of her mantra ‘the days are long but the years are short’ with regards enjoying and appreciating my own adorable small children, and I am looking forward to de-cluttering my life somewhat and to reading “A Landing on the Sun” by Michael Frayn which is apparently a must-read on the subject of happiness (and anyway I love Frayn!).

I also took her advice on ‘spending out’ last week when I bought my new camera – sometimes, if you buy exactly the right thing, money can buy happiness and in the case of my camera, I know this will allow me to capture many happy memories, particularly while my children are so small, and it is also the potential start of a new hobby.

Trying new hobbies, joining social groups, identifying and owning the things which interest and intrigue you (the author herself starts up a Children’s Literature Reading Group despite agonising over the seeming lack of intellectual cast to the pursuit), all these things, as well as making resolutions and sticking with them, are goals and aspirations which I will take away with me from reading this book.

I may be a very different person to Rubin but she herself acknowledges that no two people will have the same happiness project, and, despite her desire to be unique she has to acknowledge that she has tapped into, not only the zeitgeist, but the zeitgeist of every generation in seizing upon the fundamental human desire for happiness.

I’ll leave you with two of my favourite TED talks on aspects of happiness and how to achieve it.

How to Buy Happiness
Mindfulness

The Theme Game week 8: Holiday!

Last summer I read a lot of comments by friends on Facebook who had been on amazing holidays and it got me thinking about both the things I am looking forward to about the future with older children and also nostalgia for some of the amazing holidays of my own childhood.

Boulangerie

We went to Iceland (to visit Icelandic friends who owned a chocolate factory!), Corfu, Portugal, Spain (to visit my paternal grandparents who lived out there), as well as a couple of staycations to Cornwall (where my dad drew an enormous naked lady in the sand [we looked down on it from the cliffs above]) and Pembrokeshire in Wales. However one of the most memorable and evocative holidays of my childhood was a trip to the South of France when I was 11 for a canal boat meander down the Canal du Midi from Narbonne to Carcassone.

This holiday began at Teddington station in South West London – my hometown. We went on holiday by train! This in and of itself was pretty blooming exciting, particularly because the second leg of the journey involved taking the overnight sleeper train from Calais down to Narbonne. Kudos to my parents (and their friends – another family we holidayed with) for even dreaming up such an awesome adventure for their children!

Memorable parts of this holiday included watching my mum operating the lock gates – particularly the Fonseranne Staircase Lock near Beziers -; falling into the fonserannes staircase lockwater and nearly getting crushed by the boat (whilst wearing my sister’s tracksuit – much to her consternation!); waking up moored up in a beautiful bucolic setting near a small village and going off with the other kids to the nearest boulangerie to order fresh baguettes and pain chocolat (unheard of in England in the early 80s!); and walking the old city walls of magical Carcassonne.

It is my dearest desire to be able to relive this holiday one day with my own children. I’d also like to take them skiing. And to Disneyland. Hmmm… better start saving up now eh?!

Linking up with The Theme Game as organised by Jocelyn at The Reading Residence and Iona at Red Peffer.

The Reading Residence

Fun at The Polka Theatre

Polka Theatre

I’ve spoken before about the wonderful Polka Children’s Theatre in Wimbledon – a place which has existed for many moons and brought happiness to many children (myself included!). My mum and dad have always been big theatre goers and my mum is very happy to organise trips for my boys (well, just JJ so far – the Polka do ‘baby-friendly’ shows too but it is nice to save the experience until they are old enough to both enjoy and remember the day!). I also have a love of theatre and I think these special trips as a child helped to instil that in me.

This weekend Mum had booked tickets for JJ to see the Polka’s updated version of Little Red Riding Hood. When asked if he wanted to watch it with Mummy or Grandma, he chose Grandma – which is only right as she planned and organised the whole thing!

The beautiful thing about the the Polka is that the foyer and outside space are a wonderful place to take a small child even without a theatre booking so myself and EJ came along for the ride. Wimbledon is about 20 minutes away from my parents’ house by train which adds all the more to the experience as JJ adores trains and train journeys!

Fortunately the show itself was only 50 minutes long and it was a dry, occasionally sunny day, so EJ wanted to spend lots of time playing about in the outdoor playzone. There is a ball run which kept him entertained for a long time (between bouts of dunking one of the balls in the little fountain or running joyously down and through the big wooden dragon there).

Indoors there are several rocking horses, a book corner, a colouring corner and a dressing up corner, as well as a lovely cafe where the seating booths masquerade as the carriages of a train. Look up and you can see the back end of a recently launched rocket above your head, or take a walk down the corridor under a sea of paper birds and twinkly white and purple fairy lights.

I rarely get to spend such a consistent period of time alone playing with EJ so this was a wonderful opportunity and a really magic moment.

Linking up to Magic Moments at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

Loving my new camera!

Yes, that’s right, my new camera arrived in the post today which was very exciting and I’ve been playing around taking a few pictures with it today. Here are some of my first attempts:

I’ve only really had a chance to play with perspectives and subject matter so far – not settings – and the auto modes allow you to take stunning pictures including picking up and focusing on all faces in the frame, and then all smiles too! It also has a continuous mode, a panoramic mode which allows you to move the camera across a vista at a set speed and then sews the shots together for you (haven’t tried this yet), an aperture mode which allows you to either choose a blurred background or no blurring at all and shutter mode which gives you the option of capturing a moving image completely still or with an element of movement to the final image.

I’m guessing that none of this is particularly unusual with either DSLR cameras or good modern day cameras in general but for me, its a bit of an exciting revelation and I can’t wait to start learning and playing around some more with all these fun options!

Watch this space!!

Word of the Week:

shemozzle

 

Well, firstly, what’s not to like about the word shemozzle? This is another one, like ‘soppy date’ that I seem to remember my Mum using a lot when I was a kid. I always thought it meant a re-shuffling as in ‘shemozzling things around’. Now I look it up, it strictly means a bit of a muddle or a state of confusion. Either way, it feels like there has been a bit of shemozzling going on in the past couple of weeks because of the hubster having to drop days of childcare due to both training at work and work-related dealings with the Surrey floods. Now this week, with half term, JJ has been off on the day when my Mum usually drops him off and she had her hands full with the two of them come ‘Grandma Day’. My annual leave year runs from April to April so I have pretty much exhausted my available time off and the kids have been packed off to our childminder either as a duo or just JJ on his own.
Poor things don’t really know whether they’re coming or going and I wonder if this has left them feeling a bit unsettled and whether it has anything to do with EJ’s slightly broken nights, lots of little wakings and tears on and off throughout the night of late.

At any rate I am looking forward to normality returning in the next few weeks as the weather (pretty please) improves and school is back on!

And on the subject of ‘shemozzle’ – I’m quite keen to use some more of my favourite words in weeks to come – look out for ‘kerfuffle’, ‘discombobulate’ and ‘bamboozled’ 🙂

Linking up to Word of the Week over at The Reading Residence

The Reading Residence

Pink is for girls… (The Prompt Week 6)

Well it is, isn’t it? I wouldn’t dream of sending my boys out dressed in pink – it would just confuse everyone! Is that right? No of course not, but society says…

Should we challenge society? On this I ponder. The hubster is a bit of ‘man’s man’ and would shoot down the very suggestion of mixed gender roles – which is why I had to laugh when, one day whilst driving along with the boys in the back JJ suddenly said “I’m going to drive a pink taxi when I grow up” and then, without any sense of irony, “Daddy will be pleased won’t he?”

pink taxi

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to encourage my sons to paint their nails, wear my make up, etc. but when they grow up I will support their decision to do any of those things if that’s what they want and if they feel, like Eddie Izzard, that its part of who they are and if they aren’t prepared to let anyone else squelch that then good on ’em!

For me though, I fear the possibility of bullying when the school years are upon us. Whilst I desperately want to give a balanced view when my four year old asks me “Mummy, is pink for girls?” and often find myself trying to explain that pink mostly appeals to girls, but that no-one owns a colour, and anyone can choose to like whatever colour, accessory or toy that appeals to them – at the same time I don’t want them to be victims of those that have been told that boys who like pink are the lowest of the low.

I know I’m fighting a losing battle against society. Does this make me weak? Does this mean that I’m perpetuating gender stereotypes and when my boys grow up they wll expect the women in their lives to take responsibility for the full burden of childcare, housework and the entire planning and organisation of family life, the way it seems to be in the present day (obviously with some exceptions)?

I hope I can instill enough of a sense of respect, generosity of spirit, empathy and work ethic – both inside and outside the home – to ensure that there is a change for the better for (at least a very small proportion of) the next generation of mothers.

As for pink? Well I can see pink toys and clothes becoming less prevalent in favour of other, bright and neutral colours, but I’m afraid I can’t see a general acceptance of boys choosng traditionally  ‘girly’ things – not in my lifetime.

Linking up to The Prompt over at Mum Turned Mom.

mumturnedmom

Indecision and Procrastination….

…are my two big enemies in life. Take books for example. I love reading and I’m always striving for that ‘perfect’ read – a book which I can come away from at the end feeling uplifted, enriched, inspired and entertained. I’ll happily take a word of mouth (or blog!) recommendation not really knowing much else about a particular volume, but I often find myself compelled to pop on to Amazon and have a quick shuffle through the reviews. Inevitably I read some great reviews and my finger hovers over the ‘Buy now’ button, then in creeps a decidedly underwhelming three star rating and I’m all turned off again.

Procrastinating

Before having children I used to be a member of a book group and that was a great way of discovering some interesting and thought provoking reads without the need or indeed the reason, to vet the book chosen beforehand.

Of course this need to vet is also the case with products – even more so in fact. Anything electronic, any gadget and I’m desperate for the low down but nothing is ever good enough if even one person has rated it substandard (even if it is to their needs and in their opinion). *sigh*

I’m currently planning on buying a camera but I won’t tell you the make and model as I’m worried you will come back with further advice that will just confuse and confound me! As it is it took me the best part of three years to finally settle on a bicycle I was happy with and even now I have it I’m still a bit unsure if it has the right specifications…

Reading this recent post by Caroline at Becoming a Stay at Home Mum I am reminded of the chapter on procrastination from Time Management for Manic Mums. The author summarised a range of different types of procrastination and I now know that I’m the type who (unlike Caroline) puts projects off for fear that they will go wrong, or worse, be left started but unfinished due to either lack of time or motivation.

So, in the spirit of self improvement I have decided to use my blog as my motivation and tackle at least one thing from my To Do list every week. This week I will be paying for our TV licence renewal, my yearly road tax and finally buying that camera!