Harvest Festival 2016

The Harvest Festival is one of my favourite school events of the academic year. I love the build up, of listening to the children singing and practising their songs over and over. I love it when they ask to teach them to me, to practice their lines, their part in such a beautiful assembly. An assembly with such an important message, about giving and thinking of others.

The Harvest Festival takes me back to my childhood. It takes me back to the church school that I attended for my primary education. I can remember how grand and special our church felt, how small it made me feel as I sat their with my bright, blonde hair, having donated a couple of tins of soup, some baked beans and some rice. I was right about the church, years later, Matt and I were married there.

I remember singing the lovely songs about crops, God, giving to others and looking after each other. I remember the warmth in my heart. I remember feeling kind, happy to have helped and like it just made sense to pull together, so that everyone feels like they are cared about.

I remember passing the baton of my youth to Noah a few years ago. He started school and it all became his turn. The Harvest Festival was the first event I went to after I lost my first child to education. I can recall the way that my eyes welled up when I saw him walk in with his class. My little boy who smiled his biggest one for me. His little legs shuffled along to make enough room for everyone and I wanted to scoop him up in my arms and hold on to him in disbelief that this would be his life now. His face locked on to me in the crowd and he sang so beautifully, with such care.

I remember saying to him once (about Harvest, about life) that if we had nothing in the world to offer someone in need, absolutely nothing of value… we always had kindness. I hope that he remembers that still. I hope that he is learning something from these songs. Like I did. I hope that they both do…

Of course, this year I lost my second child to education. It was Ellenah’s first Harvest Festival. Honestly, If I ever manage to forget her singing ‘You Can Pick A little Bean, It’s Harvest Time You Know…’ I will be very surprised!

Again, I saw her walk in with her class and shuffle along to make enough room on the stage. She searched for my face in the crowd, found me and locked her eyes and pretty, little smile on to me. It wouldn’t have been hard, I was standing up, in the second to back row, waving vigorously until we found each other.

I felt the familiar sting of tears and my cheeks were mildly twitching to prevent me from full on sobbing on the mama next to me’s shoulder because my daughter is just so lovely.

And then she started to sing and sign the cutest actions with her arms. She looked so happy, so pleased to sing in front of everyone. I think my heart grew a little more, if that’s even possible.

Unfortunately, I only managed to see one performance from her and never did manage to see her singing the song about picking a little bean. The different classes were rotated on and off the stage and unfortunately, my short little beauty was behind a bunch of older, taller kids. The most I could see was the top of her head. It was quite sad. It made me feel flat all day, a tiny bit upset, selfishly.

Harvest Festival was tiered between classes and stages so Noah’s group was small. It was full of song and I had managed to move into a seat closer, to see him sing at the front. It was wonderful. His class managed to rewrite and perform ‘I Will Survive’ relevant to Harvest and it was really good, It completely picked me up.  And just because he is a little bigger and things like this have become more normal, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get the prickle of emotion behind my eyes anymore. I absolutely do. I think that I always will!

Today’s Harvest Festival might not have been completely perfect but you know, the whole reason that it is so special, so necessary, is because life isn’t. Sometimes the world and the people in it need a little help from their friends and today, my favourite people in the world helped make a little difference.

This makes me happy!

With Love,

Ria x

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All schools have that smell, don’t they? They all have a school hall, that you know the children think is huge. The school hall that when the children get older, will feel so small to them. They will wonder how they found the space for p.e. lessons, in their little gym shorts and plimsolls. They will wonder how the tables fit in. The tables where they ate lunch with their friends. Made memories. Grew too quickly.

Last night, Matt and I sat in the school hall of our children’s primary school for parents evening. As we waited, we looked through our two beautiful children’s work and I looked around, imagining them here. Feeling thankful for the place that takes good care of them, brings out the best in them and knows them when I am not around.

I started to feel a little nervous, as I always do. I played out the things that the teachers might say in my mind. Usually I’m not one to think the worst, especially about my little humans. Parents evening has always made me feel a little unsteady though. The unknowing, the hope that I’m doing enough, the smidgen of self-doubt that creeps in when I’m faced with the person that gets to spend so much time with my child all day… It all gives me sweaty palms and wobbly legs. And it makes me smile even more, so that the teacher doesn’t sense fear.

Ellenah

Parents Evening, October 2016

Our appointment with Ellenah’s teacher was first, at 6pm. Her teacher is sweet, bubbly and pretty wonderful. Honestly, she is everything that you could ever want from a reception class teacher. She told us that in just a few weeks she has seen Ellenah’s confidence grow so rapidly. She told us how focussed and creative she is and how popular she is in her class. She beamed about how polite our little girl is and how bright… It was just so reassuring to hear.

It’s no secret that when my darling girl started school, I found it difficult. I missed her terribly and still do. So, to hear that she is happy, doing well and fitting in beautifully as well as standing out for all of the things that make her so wonderful… It was just what I needed to hear,  just what I needed to know.

Noah

Parents Evening, October 2016

6.40pm- Time for our appointment with Noah’s teacher. Noah’s teacher who is just as lovely as Ellenah’s, albeit a lot more serious and to the point. I guess that is what comes with the jump to key stage two. She told us that Noah has settled in well into year three and that he is coping well with the higher expectations and workload. She told us that he reads and writes so well and her face was beaming as she spoke. She told us that he is confident in math and is absorbing the class project with such interest and effort. She told us that he is lovely, popular with his peers and a pleasure to teach.

Like most mothers, I am very proud but when it comes to Noah, it feels a little different. He was my first child, my son. He was my main learning curve in motherhood. The boy who I had to ‘wing it’ with. The boy who I hoped I was doing right by. The boy who would be in every single thought of mine. The one who I hoped I wasn’t failing. The one who I worried about because he had the slightly younger mama. The mama who judged herself all of the time. The mama who read parenting books at every opportunity. The mama who tried to be the best but almost always felt like she wasn’t. Wasn’t good enough. I know it isn’t much, it isn’t the be all and end all but to be told that your first child is doing well is a small validation that you are doing okay. You can be proud of you both. You can be happy in the knowledge that you managed to get some things right. And, you are actually the best person to raise him.

I walked out of parents evening feeling content, proud and like ‘The Sweetest Life’ kids are pretty darn awesome. I hugged them both, back at home and told them about all of the lovely things that their teachers have said about them. They smiled and felt pride from within themselves which was lovely, for their self esteem and because when someone notices how hard you are trying and how well you are doing, It’s nice to be told. It’s nice to know that people believe in you, people are in your corner, on your side… and that mama is proud of you.

With Love,

Ria x

 

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It isn’t an easy decision to make. To decide whether or not to extend your already lovely little family by one more. Some could call you crazy for even thinking about it when your children are seven and (almost) five years old. Some would think you were mad for wanting to go back to square one, to start all over again. Some would ask you why you would want to go back to the sleepless nights, dirty nappies and sore nipples. I understand that it doesn’t sound that glamorous and I would probably find it harder now, now I am a little older and a little more used to an easier way of life.

But it just doesn’t make sense to me to not have another little human in our family, to love. It isn’t for a number, an ideal goal… but because Matt and I love raising our children. We love watching them grow, change and become who they are meant to be. We love being a part of it, throwing ourselves in to it and cherishing it. We love being parents, a mother and a father. We love being a family. Our family unit is so very special to us, so unique. We could give another baby a loving family with two amazing siblings, a place in the world and open arms to always be there for them, whatever it is that they need.

We made the decision out of love to start trying for another baby, about five months ago.

I didn’t announce it or make a big deal out of it. I didn’t fancy the pressure. In the same way that I have never used an ovulation test. We have let nature take its course but as it goes, it isn’t our turn just yet. I understand that the best things are worth waiting for but waiting and trying is completely new territory for Matt and me. Noah and Ellenah were both our most lovely surprises… and I realise that I definitely took it for granted at the time. I absolutely did.

And lately, I have found myself isolated and upset with my body, just like so many other women in the same position as me. So I have turned to them and their journeys on YouTube and in the Blogoshere. I have found myself taking comfort in such a beautiful online community. I have found a place where myself and my headspace best belong right now.

Negative pregnancy tests are hard to get over. You know the ones? When you felt so sure! You were certain that this was your month. And then it wasn’t…again.

I know that five months isn’t very long in the grand scheme of things. I know that I must sound impatient and dramatic but I can only feel what I feel. I think all of us in this situation are important. We all want to love a child, or another one in my case, at the end of the day. All of us and the different stages of our journeys matter. We are all in this thing together, this guessing game, this waiting business.

And with that in mind, I wouldn’t feel right about keeping my positivity to myself. It wouldn’t be nice of me to keep it to myself when it has helped me so very much. So in the video below, I introduce myself to the TTC community, with such precious common ground, a smile and some positive thoughts and suggestions to make this time a little happier. I want to help in some way. Please let me know if I do. Even if it is just a smile in the corner of your mouth or a slightly happier heart?

As I said, I have taken such comfort from other people in the past few months. I would love for you to share this part of motherhood and my life with me. It would mean so much to know that you will come back to this space and to see you subscribe over on YouTube Channel. You can do that by clicking here. It’s nice to have people around right now x

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Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

To my sweet little Ellenah,

Did you know that once upon a time, the thought of having a little girl absolutely terrified me? In a time when so much comes down to who we are on the outside… and comparison (the thief of joy) plagues so many. It’s a scary time to be a girl or a woman, let alone to raise one.

It was hard enough when I was younger. People made comments about what I looked like, all of the time. I would return home from school on the daily and try to think of ways that I could make my legs shorter, ways to looks shorter…to blend in with the other girls my age. I would stare at my face in the mirror, for what felt like hours. Sometimes I would stare at it for so long that it would eventually distort my reflection and then I would walk away, happy. It was my way of hiding from myself. I did this because I was not happy with my outside and at the time, to me… that was what mattered the most.

I felt that because my outside didn’t please others, somehow it made who I was on the inside lesser, unimportant, less worthy.

I was wrong!

I was wrong about that and I was wrong to be scared of raising a little girl.

I was wrong about me because regardless of how I felt about myself back then, I always tried to be kinder than I felt. I always tried to treat people how I wanted others to treat me. I always tried to prevent others from feeling how I did. In that time, bit by bit… I learned about the things that actually matter.

Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

I learned that your heart should be the most attractive thing about you and like any muscle, the more you use it in the right way, the stronger it will become. In life, if you are using your heart to say kind things to people (and of course, to yourself!), if you are using it to treat everyone as the equal, important humans that they are, to accept people for everything that they are, to love and to forgive, even when that feels hard… Your beautiful heart beams from within and becomes everything that you need, to be ‘beautiful’ on the outside.

And this is what I try and show you, every day.

Being beautiful, being perfect…These are not aspirations. Perfection isn’t real and beauty is skin deep. These goals are a waste of time, energy and nothing good can come from trying to be them.

If you were to ask me, when I feel most beautiful, my answer would be this…

It’s early in the morning, as the sun beams through the bedroom window. I hear the door squeak as it opens and you appear. Your big, blue eyes are heavy and your soft, tiny hand is crunched in to a ball, trying to rub the sleepiness away. Your dainty little footsteps pad along the floor and then from the side of my bed, you roll over me. You snuggle beneath the duvet and rest your head in my arms. And, your eyes meet mine in this secret moment between a mother and her daughter, before the world wakes up… I feel beautiful. I feel beautiful because as you cup your hand on my cheek and stroke my fresh but slightly ageing face, the look in your eyes reminds me that I am loved by you, no matter what. Despite the fine lines that appear when I smile and laugh, despite my messy hair, despite any of the things that mean that I am not perfect. You don’t care about those things… You see me and they don’t matter to you.

Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

I feel beautiful because the ability to love from within, gave me your dad, gave me your brother and it gave me you.

I so desperately hope that you are the kind of girl who isn’t defined by what make-up you put on, how shiny your hair is, how much you weigh…who you appear to be.

I hope that in the future, any body shaming, mean words, comments designed to make you feel bad or doubt yourself, do not land. I hope they fall, like water off of a ducks back.

I so desperately hope that you have the courage to stand up and be you, unapologetically. I so desperately hope that you stand up and fiercely protect your right to love yourself.

I hope you don’t spend your time trying to adjust yourself to fit in, change yourself to please the world. Be brave, have confidence in exactly who you are and you may just end up changing the world.

Forget fad diets, forget what the media portrays, forget the filters that make you look flawless. That is not real life.

Be kind to yourself…eat the foods that will look after you. Don’t punish yourself though… eat the cake.

Don’t hate your body sweetheart. You are so blessed to have it. Run as fast as you can, dance in the rain, skip when you are feeling happy, climb trees, hike through forests , breathe deeply and feel gratitude for each and every day that you get to have in this world.

Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

Of course, if it takes you a little time to become you, like it did me and you listen too much to those who try to bash you… I will always be here, loving you so hard, until you love yourself.

Because, you are a beautiful person Els. You are a sweet, kind-hearted soul. A diva…Yes! Fierce… Definitely! A force to be reckoned with… Absolutely! An absolute blessing to the world?

Ellenah, this big, wide world is incredibly and undoubtedly blessed to have you in it. Exactly as you are.

I love you!

– Mama x

 

 

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Teacher Envy

I saw her black, patent shoes first. One still flashes. The other, only does sometimes.

Her cheeky, little face peered around some legs and her eyes searched for mine in the crowd of open-armed mama’s. The mama’s waiting for their favourite, little humans to clamber bulkily out of the classroom door. Book bags and lunch boxes hooked over arms. Sweaters and cardigans scrunched up in to a ball in their sweaty palms.

Ellenah held onto her things tightly and stepped forward hesitantly. Her eyes were open wide and lips pressed together, in anticipation to find me.  She shuffled on her feet, eyes scouting the crowd.

And then our eyes met.

This has quickly become my favourite part of the day. Meeting my little people again, after hours apart…Hours of being by myself, keeping busy and trying not to miss them.

Anyway… Our eyes met again and within seconds, she was in my arms, smiling…happy.

Today she showed me a picture that she spent time drawing at school. It was a little, smiley girl and a taller one , with big hair and another happy face.

I had seen this picture a lot over the Summer. It was when Ellenah discovered her love of drawing pictures of us together. Pictures of us in the park, us in the sea, us when we went camping, us having a picnic… Us everywhere, together.

Except when I asked about this picture, I was told that it wasn’t me in it. It was Ellenah…and her teacher. Shall we call her ‘Miss Mum Replacement Wonderful’.

And… It was like taking a bullet.

I remember this feeling, when Noah started school. I know that I have worse to come. The whole ‘My Teacher Said…’ malarkey.

I hated it all then and I hate it now. I’m not in the slightest a jealous person by nature. I can usually find the happiness in most things. This though, it made my heart hurt a little. I felt ‘Teacher Envy’ rise up and burn my chest.

And, it’s crazy to admit it but the idea that Ellenah likes another woman more than she likes me, is horrid. The idea that she searches for her face throughout the day, for comfort… or anything. I can’t stand it.

I don’t want to feel this insecure.

I don’t want to feel sad that ‘Miss Wonderful’ gets to see how happy Ellenah is when she feels proud of herself. I don’t want her to see Ellenah’s beautiful face light up at story time. I don’t want her to be pulled in, as part of my girls’ games.

Of course, none of this is true either.

I want Ellenah to be so unbelievably happy at school. I want her to tell me lovely things about her day. I want her face to light up because Miss Wonderful gave her a sticker for tidying up, good listening… sharing and I want her to feel cared about while she is there. A home away from home… Almost.

So… I’ll have to hold on to the weight of her as she falls in to my arms at the end of the school day. And when it isn’t raining, we’ll walk as slowly as we can so that she can tell me and her big brother about her lovely teacher, her lovely day and her lovely moments away from us.

And we will share it all with her, every step of the way.

And I will be the best mama that I can be to her, always. Every second of the day.

We will love each other unconditionally.

Teacher Envy

So when I think about it, there is no competition, is there?

Everything is actually wonderful as it should be.

With Love, Ria x

P.S. Has this happened to you? How did it make you feel? x

 

 

 

 

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