Walking with Children

I’m a big advocate of communication with children (as in talking and listening) being one of the most effective ways of keeping a good relationship going, building trust, getting to know one another, guiding and advising them and just staying close to one another throughout their whole young life.

Image credit
Image credit

I find one of the single most easy times to get your kids to open up and talk to you, to ask  you questions, to listen to you is when you are walking with them. When you get them outside no matter the weather, no matter their age (we have things like microfibre and waterproof shades for prams and umbrellas now) and you take them away from technology and interference, leave phones in pockets or at home if it’s safe to do so and just go for a walk you are onto a winner. Walk anywhere, it’s free, around your neighbourhood or a nicer neighbourhood if yours isn’t too nice, along a beach if you’re lucky enough to live near one or to be able to drive to one easily, around a woods, a park, a community garden… anywhere where there are few modern day interruptions. Walking at night is especially relaxing.

I used to walk my kids to school and back rather than drive them so that we always had that daily opportunity to talk and for me to listen and even now when one of them is grown and the other in mid teens we still walk regularly and they open up to me in ways they just don’t normally, we talk about everything and anything and it’s not only fun and bonding for us but it lets me into their world and into their mind and their heart, I find out what their passions and joys are, I find out about their friends and their jobs or school, I find out about their ambitions, their fears… it all tumbles out during a walk.

What’s more you can go a long time without a walk (we went about 2 years) and it’s easy to bring back as a feature of your life together, it doesn’t have to happen daily. Weekly or even monthly is good. Also of course there is the added benefit for you and the kid/s of it being healthy easy exercise, of getting some fresh air into your lungs and to relax and destress away from everything for ten minutes, half an  hour or several hours it doesn’t matter.

We should all walk more and if we can do it with people we want to always be close to even better.

If you’re looking to start to lose weight and exercise more and build stronger relationships start with adding a short walk into your life and by drinking more water. Two top tips which are easy to do and which you will thank yourself that you did one day.

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Just when you thought…

I had some devastating news on Boxing Day which threw everything I thought I knew into chaos. I can only describe it as hearing that someone who I love wholeheartedly had suddenly died. I described my feelings as very similar to the day my dad died… way too similar. Ebbs and flows of all consuming sorrow. Unanswerable questions swirling around my mind. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Betrayal. Hurt. Inadequacy. Frustration. Helplessness. It was all there all of the big guns of grief were aimed right at me and were firing all barrells.

I’m working through it and making sense of it and am in a far better place and have been resilient in not letting it get the better of me. One day I’ll write about it and the things I’m learning and we’re learning as a little family but the one thing which I had to share now was how for the first time in my life I have not turned to food to comfort me and get me through. Strangely enough my initial instinctive craving as the bombshell dropped into my blissful world of happiness and twinkling fairy lights was for a cigarette and I’ve not smoked for hundreds of years nor wanted to. Had there been a pack on the table I would have found it very difficult not to have lit one up. Thankfully there wasn’t.

I foolishly wondered a few weeks ago, how I would cope with really bad news and because I asked I guess I received and although I would rather not have been tested, I’m glad I have been.

I’ve leaned on my partner and kids for my strength and for the first time ever I realised that people work much better as support when you are weak than a pile of cookies and cake ever did.

If nothing else I’m glad for that change in myself and glad that this awful news has showed me that it is OK to trust in other people and to lean on them and   share your burden. I truly have come a long way. I couldn’t have coped with this a year ago. It was right I found out now even though I feel bad that for years I have been oblivious.

Anyway …where was I? Oh yeah still enjoying Christmas regardless. The we’re happy and doing good meter is on 90% and that’s enough for me.

End of an era

Not sure why I didn’t post this before. My pre-Christmas musings on life…non weight related.

So my last teaching and marking has been done last week. My keys and ID are handed over, my classroom is no longer mine and my space in the staff room has been cleared ready for its new occupant.

I was sad to leave, not the job or the colleagues but the kids. I love teaching and I’m good at it but I had to think of teaching in a different way, where I and the student have more control over outcomes and objectives than government bodies and managers. My new venture will be successful and I will get to teach in a much more humanistic manner, which suits me. It’s just a shame that the people who I teach will not need inspiration as much as the kids I used to teach did and I feel in some sense that I’ve let them down, not just the ones I was currently teaching but others to come but I had to do what was right for myself ultimately and my days of sticking at a job out of loyalty to anyone else and feeling myself sink into a bog of misery, frustration and stress are over.

I’ve made the right decision. My new business has already started to take shape and I can’t wait to give it my undivided attention. I’ve felt a little bad that Nick has been holding things together for me, he’s loved it but it was my ‘baby’ and I feel like I gave birth and then handed it straight over to a nanny. I had done all of the prep for its arrival though and it made the nanny’s life easier but even so… it wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t a bad thing, I just didn’t expect to have customers and clients so soon in the numbers they came and so that was a little bit of an underestimation of the market on my part. But anyway after Christmas break I am 100% at the helm and now that I have effectively set up two new businesses I need to be at that helm more than ever.

I couldn’t help it, I had two ideas and couldn’t make my mind up which to choose and then while getting the one I went with into shape I was offered opportunities relevant to my other choice too and so I did definitely bite off more than I could chew at that point with still having a job and other things going on in my life.

So now it’s time for the chill out over Christmas. My daughter arrives tomorrow so I’m hugely looking forward to that. Most of my prep for the festivities is done and I think I’m just at the point where I have to check the schedule to make sure I can fit in all of the visits I’ve arranged, both to other people and of other people to me and we’re good to go.

Nick’s kids are coming to us for parts of Christmas. They are coming on Christmas Day, being dropped off by their mother on her way to a city just north of us to visit her friends and they are being collected later on the same day which is wonderful for everyone, we didn’t think it was going to happen. There had been some animosity spring back up between them but fortunately it has been resolved. I think it’s always tough when our lives change, Nick’s has changed too, he’s not in London as much as he was and so hasn’t been around as much to have the kids dropped off with him as he was. He has told the kids that if they want or need him to just call and he will be there but they are happy as things are and are doing their own thing and like the arrangement they’ve made with their dad. Unfortunately that arrangement doesn’t suit their mum and so that’s where the problems have arisen and I can understand her but at the same time I can understand him and I’m just glad that they have resolved things without it affecting our relationship. Dating a divorced parent has many issues…Maybe I’ll write about some of those next year. From both perspectives.

We’re going to spend a couple of days in London closer to with my kids too at Nick’s house and we’ve got some treats lined up for them all which should be fun. Nick asked his brood if they wanted to spend time alone with him but they said they like when we’re all together and so that’s good for us.

I’m just amazed at how different life is for me this year, it doesn’t stop astonishing me how far I’ve come and how different I am, in my head I’m in a much happier place, I truly didn’t realise how depressed I was and how much it was affecting everything in my life. The most noticeable difference is my energy, I am filled with it, bursting at the seams, I find it hard to stay still and am constantly on the go which is so much like the me of old. I thought that sprightly young thing had long gone but it appears she has had a revival. Hallelujah!

For everything which has happened, all of the lovely things which have come my way and made this massive change in me, for the people who inspire and support me and have patience with me, I’m so grateful. I feel blessed to have been opened up to the opportunities which have presented themselves and for the ability to see what was wrong with my life and remove or change it. I could never have made this progress alone, that was always my big mistake, I thought I could, but sometimes we have to accept that we do need people, we just do.

The Simple Things in Life

I was really busy the other night and my son asked me if I would mind singing for him while he practiced his accompaniment for the school choir. Each year they hold a beautifully atmospheric concert in a little old church, it’s always packed to bursting and just the most important event of Christmas for us all. We’re not church goers but we find it grounds us, it prepares us in the correct spirit for Christmas. It’s when Christmas begins for us.

This year of course is the first that my daughter will not be there. We have attended each year since she used to sing in it and so this is our 12th year. We’re going to miss her so much that night.

I didn’t really feel like singing and I didn’t really have time. But I had a look at the list of songs and was already decided that I would do it of course, as long as we got it over with quick. For the first time in a number of years, all of the songs were traditional carols and I realised that this task was going to call for my best soprano which was rather rusty. I asked for a few minutes to exercise the vocal chords and to glug some warm honey and my son said that while I did that he would set up some recording equipment so we could send a recording to his sister. Glad he thought of that.

We started with Oh Holy Night and knowing what a perfectionist he is when it comes to these things, knowing that a bum note would cause him intense pain (I think he gets his dramatics from me sometimes) I feared I’d never achieve the power required going into the chorus and manage to hit and hold the appropriate notes. He said that he would forgive me this time. He had set up some accompaniment on his iPad and opted to accompany me using an electric guitar played through his wonderful iRig (great invention). I’m not sure what he does but it sounded amazing.

He began to play into the recorded track and I began to sing. It was going well, I was sounding good. I felt that beautiful heart swelling that you get from singing those timeless epic tunes and all of the memories associated with them come flooding in from somewhere in the recesses of your mind. For me, memories of singing with dad, memories of listening to choirs as kids, memories of family Christmas as a child, smells of Christmas, memories of my children being tiny snuggled up with mama in blankets listening to carols and hymns while having Christmas stories read to them, the wonderment of Christmas Eve, all of those wonderful carol concerts I’ve participated in and watched the kids in, all that and more.

You sing and that stuff comes thick and fast, flowing from your brain into your heart and it swells. Somehow that swelling lifts your voice, you hit and hold those notes because that full to bursting feeling in your heart takes over the control of your voice and you hear yourself singing without conscious thought to what you are doing.

At that moment I glanced across at my son, I’d been looking at the words (memory is not as sharp as it was) and I’d felt him looking at me. He was sitting relaxed on his guitar stool, the instrument looks like a natural part of him now, he wasn’t bothering with following the music, he knew it by heart already. He was looking right at me, his dimpled cheeks glowing red (he has yet to grow a whisker thank the Lord, I can’t bear that baby soft skin to disappear just yet) and he had a big smile on his face and his eyes were glistening with tears. We held one another’s gaze for the rest of the song and when we’d finished he came over to me and hugged me tight. “Mummy, you’re a beautiful singer. Well done” he let me go and I looked at him, my own eyes filled with tears now. “You’re a beautiful musician” I said and we had another hug.

We finally finished singing and recording music for my daughter at 1am. Nothing else mattered as much as those songs and making that precious memory with my son. It struck me each time I sang and that familiar heart swell came, how this very moment would forever be one of those heart swelling moments for each of us when we sang, played or heard these songs again for the rest of our lives. Something shared uniquely between us and through the recording which my daughter was delighted with,  perhaps for her as well.

Sometimes we make life too complicated. Sometimes we neglect wholesome talents and skills while we’re busy chasing around other things.  The simple things really are priceless.

This moment inspired my post earlier on my Music Blog too where there are three versions of Oh Holy Night to choose from, I haven’t included mine, I’m not that brave. But as I prefer male voices (I know I know so anti feminist) here is a fourth version by two of the very finest male voices.