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Sunday Scavenger Hunt

   

Wellies on, folks. Fetch clipboards and pens. Pack a bag with chocolate buttons to bribe them with half way round when they lose interest. Plan a route and make up your list of things you’re likely to see in your little space of the world (it’s a good feeling to get home with all the boxes ticked) and have a big pile of cake or the equivalent waiting back home to reward your grubby, small adventurers with.

Kai knows our neighbourhood pretty well so drew us a map of where he thought we should go. Getting him to draw his own version of our ‘treasure list’ helped to give him a mental map of the things we were looking for so he stood a better chance of remembering them on our way round (it also killed some time while I had a shower. Ha.)

We decided on a BONUS sheet too – good to add to if you reach a bit of the walk where you treasure items are a little unforthcoming. Ours was leaves of different colours, with spaces to stick down leaves of each colour as we spotted them (pack sellotape).

Next time I want to do a sounds list. Get them to listen for bird song, dogs barking, a car horn, the wind whooshing, wet branches dripping. I’d have liked to have had a list of a few more wildcards too – writing down the most interesting thing we saw that had been thrown away, writing down an unexpected sound we heard, or a word we saw written down. (*steers Kai past our urban graffitti*).

It was a beautiful morning for us. I hope you have as much fun as we did.

    

One hour, and one VERY illusive bug later (turns out bugs do NOT like damp November days) … RESULT.

Happy treasure hunting.

(NB. Not Hitler’s dog. FOUR DOGS. Four ticks. Yikes)


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Yo Ho Ho

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that the last couple of weekends I’ve been transforming Kai’s bedroom into a pirate den for his 4th birthday. My sweet boy has been such a star this year. I know I talk about him endlessly, but there’s a reason for it. He’s had to battle through his speech disorder, absolutely shining in  his preschool class regardless, and cope with a mum who’s not been that well at all. I’ve watched him learn to write his name, ride a scooter like a pro, do forward rolls, jump almost as high as the moon, and make his first best friends. Every single day he’s made me smile with his extraordinary HIM. His thoughts and questions and stories and imaginative play absolutely fill up my world. He is my companion through my wakings and sleepings and all the bits in between, my strength and my hope and my endless bewildering and exhausting and delightful joy.

So I thought he deserved something a bit special.

Happy Birthday funny fella.

Pirate boat den! The middle section of fabric pulls down to cover the whole bed.

The black cave entrance is blackboard paint for drawing on spooky eyes, spiders and pirates. Arrr.

Pirate dressing-up station.

His beloved castle has a new play base with moat. And a new shark to patrol it. You’d never guess I made that curtain too short and had to improvise, would you? Ahem.

Bunting very kindly made by @100707

eBay find!

Many thanks to my mum and step-mum for helping with the wallpapering and the fiddly bits of DIY. And all you lot for putting up with the endless pirate tweets. Thanks so much for all your birthday wishes this morning, you lovely people xx

 


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(the required pose for this photo cost me two jellybabies)


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On Growth

I love watching my son grow. Love it. It’s my most favourite thing about this whole motherhood business. I’m not one of those mums that mourn every birthday or move up in clothes size, wishing he’d stay little, god no.  At nearly four, I have a boy that can now write his own name, do forward rolls and LOTS of different types of jumping, ride a bike with stabilisers, get himself dressed and take himself off to the loo all by himself – all things he couldn’t do a year ago and which I delight in. Kai is fascinated by his own growth too. He likes to talk a lot at the moment about ‘when he was a baby’ and show me all his big boy tricks, and mealtimes are often punctuated with him jumping down to go stand by the door frame in kitchen, where we have been marking his height over the last few months, just to see if that extra piece of broccoli made him grow a bit more. It almost feels that visible when kids are this little, doesn’t it? Just over the one night he spends at his Dad’s each week, it often seems like he’s grown up a bit more.

It’s my own growth I have less confidence in, can perceive less easily. I wish adulthood came with a door frame too,  somewhere to run to just to check. I would be able to see some measure of the things I’d learnt from or developed in and have that same sense of achievement that Kai does. What worries me is that, if I did, I’d barely see any growth at all.

Sure, in the bigger picture sense I can see huge changes. I am an entirely different person with an entirely different life compared to ten years ago, of course I am. It’s the shorter term change and growth, the last couple of years, say, that I lose sight of, and, from time to time, massively lose confidence in – just like I’m doing now. I am doing better, I know I am. I’m stronger – I don’t cry so much and I don’t give up half so easily. I have much more of a persistent determination than I used to. But everything else seems so STUCK.

Maybe it’s my obsession with stories, and with being a good storyteller. I want to be a good story. I want the pages of this blog, the life that my tweets chart, I want them to tell a tale that people want to read. And stories revolve around forward motion, don’t they? They revolve around growth. That’s what people want to read about. I want to wow you with stories of bravery and hardships overcome, of endless achievements as I plough forward fearlessly, the kind of life that I seem to see in so many other people who I admire. And I get embarrassed that I can’t, that I’m still stuck talking about the same old crap, finding myself making the same old excuses. I get scared people will get bored. That’s why I hide when I hit a rough patch, and there’s a fair few of those lately. Why my blog is dying a death and I find Twitter harder and harder. I don’t LIKE this story and I don’t like telling it.

The nature of my life means the issues don’t really change, I guess that’s the thing. And without constantly reminding everyone, I think the people looking in on your life forget why. “She’s still struggling?”, they must wonder. Jeez.

Chronic illness is called chronic for a reason – it doesn’t go away. And you don’t really get ‘good’ at it. You don’t ‘beat’ it, in some glorious conclusion to a chapter where everyone stops to applaud. You get better at managing it, yes, but it doesn’t really get easier to deal with, day in, day out. And so I tend to avoid talking about it. It’s boring. I’ve said before how little I like being THAT person, whose health is the stick they use to define them, repeatedly bashing the rest of the world round the head with it.

And single motherhood doesn’t really change, either. Or, at least, it hasn’t for me yet. I’m beginning to like the term ‘lone parent’ to describe the way it feels. It makes me feel like a wolf, both weary and fierce. Nearly two years on and I’m still mourning a lot of stuff. Pretty soon the time I will have been on my own as a parent will overtake the amount of time I spent trying to do it with someone else, and not very well at that. The loss of that, and the realisation of how difficult and complicated (and unlikely) it is that I’ll manage to find that much longed-for sense of parental partnership with someone else weighs very heavily still.

 The physical grind of every day doesn’t really change. I still walk miles every day. I still get up with the dawn as my boy tends to. I still spend long weeks when company with another adult can be counted in minutes and hours, not days. I still have to fight to carve out some time for myself, to try and develop the things I’m good at in the hope that I can make a better future for us both,  juggling childcare, and financial worries, and low energy, and the strict pacing  restrictions I have to place on myself to stop my health deteriorating. I still struggle with friendships and people and confidence and all the other introvert stuff.

Christ, this is turning into a bit of pity party, isn’t it. And see, SEE, that’s why I hate talking about it so much. Because I’m afraid, my dear readers, you lot who I try and share my story with, I’m afraid that my imaginary door frame is going to continue to not show much growth in all those areas.

I don’t know what to do. Do I just need to try harder, somehow? People are always quick to point out how much themselves and other people have to cope with, and they’re right. Is my lack of growth my own fault?

Or do I sod the big stuff, accept I’m where I am and stop making excuses for it?

I try and take comfort in the fact that those things aren’t all I am, not by a long shot. I’m still that girl that people seem to like, that makes people laugh by accident and, when I can, fills the world up with silly words and the beautiful things I try and make. I can’t tell some grand story of overcoming difficulties at the moment, but I can still tell stories of the daft things in my head, or the little things I notice, or the things I knit and draw. But on the really hard weeks, like this one, I get so buried beneath the other stuff it gets harder and harder to remember, and harder to make that more entertaining  and brave part of myself heard. Nothing like pain to make you lose your sense of humour. The day I can make that funny will be a glorious one indeed.

So that’s where I am, and that’s why I’m quiet. And if this story is getting too repetitive and boring, I get it, I do, and I don’t really mind if you give up on me – I sometimes wish I could. I can’t promise you any grand achievements or revelations or that I will stop telling you I’m tired.

I will keep trying though.


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Me and the boy are starting to settle into a new winter routine. Busy mornings at pre-school for him, and study for me, and then home early afternoon to crash. Afternoons spent kicking leaves are becoming slightly less fun, more soggy than crunchy, aside from the odd bright day, with temperatures dropping and more rain and dark  coming quicker and gloomier.

But the truth is, although I’m missing more time outside, I’m loving our afternoons. Curtains get closed early and our sofa is now a permanent nest with cushions and blankets. Kai is usually content to play on whatever adventure he’s dreamed up that day, and I knit, or clean, or work a little and we chat our lovely secret, in-joke chat and make each other laugh and fend off the grumps with snacks and painting and other indoory things. There’s definitely a touch of hibernation-mode kicking in – even I’m going to bed earlier. There’s something about winter, inbuilt in us, that breeds sitting, and hunkering down, and, oh and stories. Yes. It is definitely a time for books, too.

The people from the new Tesco Magazine Kids’ Book Club got in touch lately to tell me about their new site and share news, specifically, of the Kids’ Book Club videos that they’re starting to preview. On them, a  host of famous celebs such as Alison Steadman, Caroline Quentin, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, read aloud some of the best new kids’ books, accompanied by the books’ gorgeous illustrations. The first videos are up now, with lots more planned, and cover the whole spectrum of toddler, pre-school and primary-aged children, from picture books, right up to chapter books for older kids. As well as videos and reviews, the site shares news of new books, exclusive author content and parents’ resources. Honestly, it’s brilliant. And I’m not usually quick to endorse things.


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You give him a bowl of giant, toddler-sized Hama beads and a dinosaur pegboard and while he does this…

Dinosaur Monkey & Heart My First Hama Beads Kit (Maxi) from craftmerrily.co.uk


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