Sunday, 24 February 2019

Arriving

How I love arriving for the first time in a new holiday venue. It's probably why we so often go for touring type holidays, where you arrive in a new location every couple of days. This week, we're staying in the same place all week, enjoying the ease of hiring a self catering cottage in deepest darkest Somerset.
I love the suspense of finding the right location and following the ominous directions provided by the lettings company. The excitement of managing the key lock combination and turning the key to open your temporary front door. The adventure of exploring and choosing rooms and peering into hidden cupboards and secret cubbyholes. The satisfaction of meticulously unpacking into unfamiliar wardrobes and lining up your personal possessions on shelves in a room which will become home for the next 7 days. The curiosity of browsing the guest information, discovering facts about the area and planning days out and adventures to be had. And finally the relief of pouring the first holiday drink, curling up on the oversized armchair in front of the log burner, surrounded by antiques and local art work and anticipating a week of relaxation, exploration and nature stretching out in front of you.



Tonight we arrived in the dark and I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and see the house, the garden and the village in daylight. It will be like arriving all over again. Although I can laugh now, following instructions that say 'follow the stream and keep the chapel on your left. Turn right when you see the sign for Wick Cottage. Head down the gravel track with the ducks on your right', was not particularly helpful in the pitch black, especially with the kids in the back of the car asking incessantly 'Where is the cottage?' And let's not mention the half of a mile I had to reverse down the tiny country lane, because I came across a lorry, without being able to see a thing. Did I mention I was sole driver this time round and that I hate driving in the dark?! Phew, We're here now and the barn conversion is gorgeous, peaceful and beautifully decorated. I'd highly recommend a visit.... here's the link...…


Monday, 18 February 2019

Brain Dump


Honesty…… I've been really stressed lately. Totally overwhelmed by case loads at work, mentally taking on far too much of the trauma and crisis that the families I support exude. On top of that December, January and February for us are months of celebrating multiple birthdays, copious amounts of forced social interaction, organising parties and excessive present buying. Our children have been vying from overexcited to totally worn out and exploding in tantrums, way more than you'd expect at their age. I've been eating and drinking in a way that's left me feeling fat, tired and unhealthy, falling into a spiral of regret and self- loathing.  As much as I believe in being outside as much as possible throughout the winter and not allowing the colder weather to get in the way, our busyness every weekend and the early dark evenings just haven't allowed me to get the fresh air and nature therapy that I crave and need.

In all of this busyness, stress and negative thought patterns, I've forgotten what I need in my life to ignite joy and peace. I need to write…..whether it's private journaling, sharing my thoughts on life and sharing adventures on my blog, texting with a friend or creative story telling….writing inspires me and gives me purpose. I need to exercise……I recently re-joined the gym as it gives me motivation and accountability to know it's paid for. However with lack of time and illness, it just hasn't happened. I've hardly been on the yoga mat, but I know if I do my inner peace will be restored, if only for a moment. I need peace……I like my own company and sitting here now, alone in our holiday cottage (because I chose to forego a trip to the local car museum) I'm remembering how these moments of peace and calm nourish me in a world of demands from life and children. Usually I'd add fun and loving moments with family and friends to this list, but I've had tonnes of that these past 3 months. Lovely as it's been, I need a balance and my intention for the coming months is to nurture my health, to be inspired by writing and kickstart the blog before the summer adventures begin. Across the Merry Miles is  back…….. !!!!

Fresh air








The countryside is soooo noisy!!  We really are in the back of beyond here on the Somerset/Dorset border. (I'm not actually sure where we are, I'm that laid back this weekend that I'm just going with the flow.) We walked for a couple of hours this afternoon and only saw maybe half a dozen cars the whole time. At one point, I saw and heard a train passing in the distance, but other than that the noise was purely natural. I took a moment to stop, listen, breathe and take in the surroundings. There was a flock of crows or rooks in some trees in the distant who were clearly busy preparing for the spring, chattering, squealing, squabbling and nest building. There were fields and fields of wandering sheep, so dopey and oblivious to anything but the grass to graze and actions of their fieldmates, should they choose to copy. The wind was howling through the trees and hedges and filled our ears and lungs with fresh countryside air and manure based whiffs. There were many other birds singing their songs, who I had no way of naming or identifying ,but their melodies filled the undisturbed air so loudly. There was a  gentle chatter and murmur of occasional conversation and observations made by family members who were equally as comfortable to walk in companionable silence. Our boots beat on the muddy and grass lined country lane, occasionally splashing in a puddle, but rhythmically pounding as we strolled along. Other than that, the walk was silent and peaceful! Not an artificial, mechanical or computerised sound to be heard.

There's something so therapeutic about a ramble in the countryside over stiles, through muddy puddles, past farms and animals, around seemingly never ending curving lanes and amongst the sounds of nature. To be surrounded by reminders of the tiny part that our lives take up in the grand scheme of space and history can be immensely humbling. Pull on your walking boots and get outside… Now!

Hayne's Motor Museum, Somerset

A blog review by the girl...…. 

https://www.haynesmotormuseum.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAzKnjBRDPARIsAKxfTRAeTwj8CgqAotKZJWpUO58XWiMkLVHi9UC1XzrvAIWmwi5Bwx6C8FAaAoRCEALw_wcB

Today  we went to the motor museum. My favourite  car was  the Dusenberg, it is very big and shiny and it was metallic blue. Grandma's, Noah's ,Pops' and Daddy's favourite cars are Aston Marten ,a yellow lotus and Jaguars. We also went to the café  and we had lunch. The car museum was fun and very interesting. There were lots of cars there which were really cool because they were all different colours and different makes.

There is a games room where you can play some arcade race car games. You can see what it feels like to go 100miles an hour, but watch out you might fall over the cliff. I came 2nd place in the game and it was only £1 a go.

There was a collection of about 50 red cars altogether, which was very interesting because you could see all the different colours of red. 

You can even sit on one of the motorbikes and look through some of the car windows. But we wish there was a car that you can actually get inside or look under the bonnet. I learnt that one of the fastest cars could go up to 650mph, which would be amazing, we didn't see it at the museum though .

There was a café which had a big range of food and I ate egg and cress sandwiches. In the gift shop, Grandma bought me an emu beanie boo to add to my collection. Noah got a wood craft construction kit of a F40 GT and he's finished making it already.


Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Girl's project to raise money for the RSPA



I've spoken before about my little 'eco-warrior' 9 year old who truly believes, and will argue vehemently, that animals deserve the same rights and respect as humans. She reads the RSPCA children's magazine from cover to cover and has sent them letters and pictures several times. She is also obsessed with the CBBC programme 'Pets Factor', which is a documentary programme about vets. I can totally see her spending her teens volunteering at the local animal shelter and I have no doubt that she will somehow end up changing the world for animals in the future. She seems to attract animals, like some kind of Dr Dolittle character and we can't walk more than a few hundred yards before another wagging tailed dog will come up for a sniff and stroke. 

Without any prompts or suggestions, she decided a few weeks ago that she would like to make some Christmas decorations and sell them at the school Christmas fayre to raise some funds for the RSPCA. 




Now as passionate as she is about animals, there are times when she can be really quite shy about talking to adults in particular. However, this project has meant that she had to ask the head teacher and PTA for permission, which thank goodness they agreed to. 
She then started designing a variety of decorations using bits and bobs around the house and pinched all the random pinecones that we had hanging about. It was quickly clear that we would need to find some more resources, so off to the woods we went. 


We often visit Micheldever Woods near Winchester, Hampshire, as it's a nostalgic memory jogger of my husband's Grandmother who loved it there. It's stunning when the bluebells are out and I would highly recommend a visit in March. It is also the site of an iron age farm, so there's a little history to learn if you like, whilst you mosey about in the trees.







Once we'd collected a good stash of pinecones, beech nuts and yew branches, lugged them around our walk and finally got them home, she got to work on creating all sorts of reindeers, angels and mini wreaths. There was only a couple of burnt fingers from the glue gun and arguments over whether the Boy could help or not. 




On the day of the Christmas Fayre, I've never been more proud of the way she displayed her wares independently, greeted customers, took money and worked out the change and pennies. She made a total of £30 selling pinecones, and beech nuts stuck with pompoms and googlie eyes that we had hanging around the craft cupboard. The cookies also sold well, especially when her class friends wandered around the school selling them directly from the tray. Watching her glow with the praise she got from her teachers and the other parents made it all worthwhile. 









The next step in the project is to visit our local RSPA shelter to deliver the money and visit the animals. Her teacher has asked if she'd like to share her project and the final amount that she raised with the school in 'sharing assembly', but she isn't quite sure whether she wants to stand up in front of everybody yet. 


I'm looking forward to seeing what my little eco-warrior, animal activist comes up with next! 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

How to shake a bad day 'funk'


How to shake a bad day funk:
 Let me tell you about my day.....
-I woke up late
-I smashed a glass bottle of milk all over the kitchen floor, which made us later
-I had no time for breakfast or to make a packed lunch
-The back seat got stuck in the down position and I had 3 children to drive to school
-The children sang Christmas songs on the way to school
-There were two traffic jams on my 10 minute journey to work
-There were no spaces in the office car park
-I wasted an hour going on a failed visit for work, because the young person didn't turn up
-There were no parking spaces outside the bakery
-I smashed the screen on my newish phone on the bakery floor
-I burnt the fishfingers for tea 
-I got pomegranate juice on my baby pink wool jumper
I'm sure there is more that I can't remember. Today had the potential to be a total A****. But let's not whinge all evening...time to spin it on it's head. 
It's now 6pm and I'm still standing, in fact I've even had a couple of laughs. 
Do you know about Negative Automatic Thoughts? 
There is a spiral that we get into when we start believing our negative thoughts, so we feel bad, which means we act negatively, which causes more negative thoughts and so on...round and round we go. It can be showed as a triangle with ACTIONS, THOUGHTS and FEELINGS circling around, feeding into each other with no beginning or end. Let's use my bad day example: I wake up late and drop the milk (action). I think 'that is such a bad omen for the rest of the day' (thought) which makes me feel stressed and frustrated and then notice every little thing that goes wrong (feeling), so I strop about in a grump probably rushing and more things do go wrong, perpetuating the whole cycle again. Therapists use this model when giving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but you don't need to be a therapist to understand that by changing your thoughts about a situation, you will inadvertently alter your feelings and so on. We have to ask ourselves 'In this current situation, what can I change?' Or 'What personal power do I have right now?' Sometimes we have the power to change a situation and sometimes we can do certain actions to shift the cycle a bit, but a lot of the time the only thing we can change is our own thoughts.

So how do we change our thoughts in order to shift the whole mood and progress of the day? 

1.Challenge yourself:
Shift your thinking and challenge negative automatic thoughts by asking yourself  'What is the evidence that this is true?' Well yeah, quite a few annoying things happened today, but only a few of these were before 9am meaning when I first got into the funk it was only a disastrous hour not day. When I first missed the alarm and then dropped the milk, I automatically thought 'Oh no, here we go' and almost expected a bad day. In fact, when I look at the evidence, of how much went badly and how much went well, I bet I can find more good in the end. It's only when you expect awful things to happen, that they inevitably do because you're almost inviting them. Ask 'What alternative views are there?'- So the car parks were full, yeah and what's new?.....9 times out of 10 our office car park is full, why does that matter more today? When I walked into the office, after finishing my rant about the traffic and the milk, I announced (to myself more than anyone) that I was ready to shift my thinking and then I started looking for exceptions.

2. Look for exceptions-
Start looking for things that have gone right, instead of what hasn't. Perhaps notice and acknowledge that your favourite coffee is on offer or that the traffic light turned green just as you approached. You will have to actively look and seek out these little exceptions, as they won't come easily once your stuck in a funk. My attitude about the day flipped this morning when I spotted a packet of crumpets on the side and someone offered me the last of their butter- no time for breakfast issue solved-tick!
Remembering those crumpets takes me onto the next point.....

3. Wallow in some small pleasures-
A segment of chocolate orange, a feel good playlist, a bunch of flowers for your house, you get the picture. I believe the simpler and smaller, the better. In fact, I'm pretty sure the concept of enjoying small pleasures, could rival gratitude for the positive effect on our mental well-being.

4. Get some perspective
My work gives me insights into a lot of people's lives who are truly struggling, that's why we go and in and support them and their families. I see the effects of domestic abuse, substance misuse, parents who have had terrible childhoods of their own and poverty on a day to day basis. It's not all doom and gloom and I am grateful to witness and aid the changes, but there is something very humbling and grounding about seeing other people's less fortunate lives. But let's face it, you don't have to do my job to realise that there is ALWAYS somebody worse off than you. It may not feel like it at times, but there is. Be grateful for what you do have.

3. Fresh air/ Exercise 
Go outside, breathe, breathe some more and then walk around. The weather locally to me today was horrific, we had wind, rain, storms and the sky outside was like dusk all day. But the cold air hitting my face and the huge lung of air I consumed helped my mood, I promise. This evening, after reflecting on my grumpiness, I realised that since leaving the gym in August and the dark evenings coming in this Autumn, I've hardly done any exercise at all. So I've joined the gym again and the 20 minutes on the cross trainer and rowing machine this evening reminded me how that  rush of feel good hormone feels when you raise your heart rate.

4. Have a success-
Tick something off of your to do list, look back at something you created in the past or start a job that you know you can do well and easily. The accomplished feeling you get when you finish it, will raise your self esteem and boost your happy hormone again. Remember that triangle from earlier? Thoughts-Feelings-actions.....? If you change your feelings about yourself and your ability to achieve, it will effect your next action (probably doing it again), which will affect your thoughts (I've managed to do that), which will in turn affect your feelings about yourself....etc.....etc....continue cycle. 

6.Have a laugh
I heard a teacher in a Secondary school lunchtime today tell an upset teenage girl to go and find her friends and have some fun. Although my initial feeling was 'What a condescending b***h', I have no idea of the girl's story so I can't really judge. However, that teacher kind of has a point. Humour is an awesome distraction for all sorts of situations, we talk about it in our parenting courses all the time.
I wrote earlier in my list of rants that one of the bad things that happened today was the kids singing Christmas songs. I feel bad now! Yes, the mood I was in, it was pretty damn annoying in November. The last thing I wanted to hear was jollity. But then the hilarious 'boy' changed the words to 'I saw Mummy killing Santa Claus' (I know- really?) , I acknowledged that with the mood I was in that was much more likely and we all laughed. It was a genuinely funny moment that lightened the mood no end. 

7. Rant and let go
I've left this until last, because I'm not sure it always helps. I've ranted about the broken milk bottle and broken phone screen pretty much all day and I'm still really cross about the phone at least. We love a good rant in our office though, sometimes the camaraderie of shared annoyance or the understanding ear of a friend is just what you need. Just as long as you don't dump it on the listener and just as importantly make sure that once it's out, in the words of Elsa- Let It Go!








Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Body Image and Parenting


BODY IMAGE AND PARENTING

I'm not only a parent who happens to love travelling, exploring and writing in a campervan, I also work as a Family Support Worker for my local authority. A few weeks ago, as part of my role, I attended a conference run by our local Child and Adolescence Mental Health Service, which focused on eating disorders and by proxy body image. 


Although the information which I gained about eating disorders for my job, was very useful, I couldn't help but take away a new mindset for my parenting. I'm parenting a 9 year old girl! In today's society and current climate for a million different reasons, that's a scary place to be. But what I took from today, is that our little people are watching us ALL OF THE TIME! They're watching us when we eat the 3rd chocolate brownie and when we berate ourselves for eating the 3rd brownie. They're listening, even if we think they're not, when we moan about how tight our jeans have become or when we make fake excuses about going to the pre-booked yoga class. 


We can complain as much as we like about social media, TV programmes, popstars etc and the influence they have on our little people's minds, but ultimately, it's their mums and dads that have the greatest influence. 

One of the guest speakers at the conference was a lady who you may have heard of called Harnaam Kaur, she's a social activist and motivational speaker who often visits schools as well. Harnaam had a lifetime of bullying due to her weight and facial hair caused by polycystic ovary syndrome. In the end she worked out for herself that the only person who can stop the effects of the bullying, solve her depression and bring happiness was herself. Harnam chose to forgive the bullies and chose to love her body and accept it for the way it is. If you ever get to hear Harnam speak, then I would recommend you do, or maybe just look her up on youtube.




We only get one body and without it, where would we be? As parents, our bodies have already done the most tremendous feat, just by making, growing and raising another being. Let's give our bodies a break, stop the hating, shaming and guilt. Let's give other people's bodies a break, stop judging, comparing and bitching. The tag line of the 'Everybody' campaign, which ran the conference was 'My body is brilliant because……."- Answer it now! In your head or in your journal, but in the comments below would be amazing!  I may be a little late in sharing the campaign and posting these thoughts, but ultimately they still matter regardless and I hope we can all take the thought away to just be a little kinder to ourselves.