The Sweetest Life has been a little sleepy this past week because in reality I have been hurdling the days. I’ve been existing thanks to coffee and some very supportive words and ways from my lovely friends and family. The past week has been a blur of emotion and now that I have made it through to Saturday, where I am sat in the work office writing this (and Sunday evening where I am finishing this at home), with quiet around me and space to breathe and think… I can truly reflect upon the chaos. The chaos which makes me smile, fully.

I came in to this week nervous, agitated, anxious and tense. On Wednesday and Thursday, Noah sat his SATs and because I’m his mama, his biggest support…and biggest fan, I gave my positivity, confidence and every good thought I had, to him. I just wanted him to smile this week and feel good about himself. I didn’t want him to feel tested, challenged and doubtful of what he can or cannot do, will or will not become. I know that he is only seven (almost!) and others around me were saying that ‘it didn’t matter’ but in my opinion, no good can come of comparison and grading, against their peers or even worse, to an average. In no situation would I ever want to hear, ‘Noah did well, he is average!’ – what does that even mean and what message does that send to our children? How does that send a positive message in the way they should see themselves…or their worth going forward in to their futures? Anyway, He did it. We managed to get through it with smiles on our faces…and we have decided that the results are not important. As Noah’s parents, obviously we will know how he did but he does not need to. It isn’t something that needs to be on his radar… and suddenly, we all feel much happier about it.

I had been incredibly nervous about Thursday all week on a more personal note too. I had been invited to a photo shoot, in connection with Lucy Diamond’s book ‘The Secrets Of Happiness’. I was to make my way in to London for 11.30am where I would meet three of the other Channel Mums (Did you know that I am a Channel Mum?) and we would have our hair and make-up done ready for the shoot. London is a big deal for me. Well actually, travelling anywhere out of my safety zone is. And, meeting new people has always made me nervous because I can be quite shy. Thursday made me feel like I was really pushing myself… and there was something about that which I really liked. I honestly had the best day, it felt so surreal and even now, a couple of days later, I feel like I have to pinch myself to make sure it was real. I had so much fun and I laughed so much with the others. I came away from the day with achy cheeks and a tired stomach as a result.

A Weird And Wonderful week

I did take a few snippets of footage from the day which you can watch (for free) by clicking HERE. I can’t wait to tell Noah and Ellenah about this when they are old enough to care at all. I can’t wait to show them the little video that I made of my day. I can’t wait for them to think that sometimes I can be a little bit cool.

And as if Thursday wasn’t busy enough, after the amazing time that I had in London, I came back home, dumped my bag and headed straight back out to watch Noah be invested at Beavers. He had to say a promise and then he was given some badges. a certificate and a scarf…It was all very official and very cute.

I also had to decide about ‘The Sleepover’ and whether or not to let him go. It hasn’t been an easy decision but… I signed the consent form to say that he will be there. Parenting can be such a constant battle. It can be relentless. It is hard to find the right balance between giving enough freedom to help raise independent people and the desperate, maternal urge to keep them safe. And trust??? It’s really f*cking hard to trust anyone with your favourite people who aren’t in your official trust circle. Well it is for me anyway!

BUT…before I talk myself out of my decision, I think that Noah will be absolutely fine and I think he will have the greatest time. And I can’t wait for him to tell me about it because I am old enough to care. And I wish he was able to make a video about it because I would watch it over and over and even if I had to pay for it, it would be money well spent. And he doesn’t have to hope that I will think he is cool one day because I am well aware of it, so aware of it… He is awesome and whether I like it or not, he is growing up. I’m not going to be the one to hold him back.

Friday was easier, apart from taking Ellenah for her leavers photographs at pre-school. I feel like I was the only mama waiting who desperately wanted to cry. It all feels very real now! The process is winding down and soon she will be turning the page towards her next chapter in life- starting school. It makes my heart feel very strange. The photographer was trying to make Ellenah laugh or at least smile with a soft Iggle Piggle doll… It was quite an uncomfortable situation! Els was looking at her like ‘This is not funny!’ and in the group photograph, she needed the toilet so I can only begin to imagine what the proof will come back like… but, I will buy it anyway. She will never be a leaver of pre-school again after all and as much as I find all of this change hard, I want to remember every little thing about it. I want to remember her, what she looked like and how we both felt. It’s bittersweet.

And after that, I let myself just exist. I let myself go on to autopilot… I let myself sleep well on Friday night, knowing the next day was going to be simple. Exactly what I needed to regain some strength. Exactly what I needed to regain everything that I had given away this week – positivity, confidence and good thoughts. Exactly what I needed for everything to make sense once again. And now it does!

With Love,

Ria x

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Katie Fay's Bridal Shower

This afternoon, Ellenah and I walked to pre-school together. The sun was warm, radiant and beautiful as it shone over the gorgeous pink blossoms which are standing strong in the transition between seasons. We held hands and talked about life through her eyes. Her doll with the purple hair who she calls ‘Love Heart’ was poorly today and she had spent the morning nursing her better and sharing her strawberries with her. I was asked to check on her as soon as I returned home. I was asked to hug her and make sure that she wasn’t hungry or thirsty. Of course, I agreed! What mother wouldn’t play along with such a pretty little game and one that brings out such a sweet side to her littlest child? She hasn’t always played like this. In fact, her imagination and ability to dive in to role play or the make believe, well…this is new territory.

As we walked, I couldn’t help but compare Ellenah to the blossoms that we shimmied past.

In my bag were the documents that would confirm her place at school in September. In my bag were the documents that identified me as her mother and Ellenah as my child… because her having the same hair as I once did, the same love to dance, the same stubbornness or the same smile wasn’t enough proof. In my bag was my signature which officially decided her next steps, next chapter… her path. And once I had handed her over to her lovely key workers to join in with ‘Rising Fives’ (school preparation)… I would walk the few steps to her future school reception and enrol her into the system, in to her school career.

It was a quick process, we made small talk about over subscriptions and what I will do without any children to run around after throughout the school day… and I could feel a surge of emotion burn my chest. I could feel how badly I wanted to cry. I could feel how badly I didn’t want to think about it or face my reality. I could feel how badly I wanted to change my mind and be selfish. I could feel how badly I craved a little more time.

Anyway, back to the blossom and my little girl. Just like the beautiful flowers that pop up when we least expect them, I hoped that Ellenah would do the same. She has always been beautiful but for a long while I had worried about her readiness to face school with the other children her age. Her interest in anything learning wasn’t where the parenting books thought it ‘should be’ I suppose. I feared that she would be behind and she would struggle. Her speech was delayed…which was no problem to me, I knew that (just like her brother) she would get it when she was ready. And suddenly, out of nowhere she did. Much like the blossom, Ellenah popped up out of nowhere and astounded us all with just how much she knew, how much she was keeping in, holding back and just how ready she is.

And quite sadly, like the pink blanket of surprise around us right now, this time will pass and I will have to send her to school in September… And It will be exactly what she is ready for. She will have her hair in two braids on her first day, pleats in her skirt, sensible shoes, a book bag and her lunch box. She will smile nervously while her big, blue eyes will be wide with excitement…and she will wave me goodbye at her classroom door. I will cry once she has gone. I know this because I could cry right now. I will feel like a little more of me is missing. And…my little heart will ache for a while.

And…over the years I will remember this day, the blossom and my little girl. As she grows and continues to surprise me with all that she does, all that she is and all that she grows to be.

Blossom And My Little Girl

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On Thursday, it was Miss Ellenah’s 4th Birthday. It was an emotional day for me. Four just feels so much bigger than being three years old. Four year olds like to say ‘But, I am four!’ a lot while they pout and put their hands on their hips. I’m waiting for a finger wiggle from my ‘Miss Sassy Pants’ over here in the next few days. Seriously, I’m waiting for her to start singing ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T’ to me if I so much as dare ask her to eat her carrots. Ellenah has suddenly become so much more independent, just in the last couple of days. It’s amazing to watch but bittersweet.

Ellenah from Maria Noell

I already miss her needing me so much. I wasn’t ready for her to be four. My youngest child is growing up just too quickly for me now. As if by magic she understands reasoning just that little bit more and she is a proper little girl, her face has changed and everything. She is still beautiful but she is losing the ‘baby girl-ness’ about her. She doesn’t like it so much when I call her ‘Baby Girl’ anymore either. She is rising up to her new age and I feel like I’m gripping her by the toe just to keep her from floating off too soon. Honestly I miss her already.

Ellenah from Maria Noell

It was quite sudden really. That feeling on the night before her birthday, that one day… rightly or wrongly, she will be making decisions on her own. Making the call about how she wants to live her own life. Making the mistakes that go with such great responsibility. Mistakes that I can’t protect her from. My need to wrap her in cotton wool will no doubt be brushed off with a hair flick and grab of her bag while she lives for the weekends and drinks too much cheap wine with her friends. Just like I did. Just like we all did probably.

It may sound like I’m getting ahead of myself, which is obviously true. That’s years away. The poor thing hasn’t even started school yet and I’m obsessing over the teenage in to early adult years. It just hit me that she is a real person with this incredible mind and unstoppable will. And, it got me thinking, hoping and wishing. All for her to always share her life with me, no matter the stage, no matter the phase, no matter how much she thinks I won’t like what she has decided upon, no matter how much she wants to cry, no matter how scared and especially when she is so happy she could fly, so proud of herself, so excited for what is to come… Damn it, I want her to ask me one day what shoes go best, what bag she should take… what lipstick she should wear to prom. I want her to talk to me always. She has to know that I will always care. She has to know that I will always love her. Boy trouble, friend trouble… life trouble. I want her to know that I am hers… Her mama… on her side… no matter what…forever.

Ellenah from Maria Noell

Her birthday was beautiful. It saw her take part in her first nativity play (she was a black sheep!) and even though it was the first time ever, I had to share her with pre-school events, I got to put out a little tea party for her, buy balloons and birthday bunting and celebrate with her that night. She blew out the candles on her birthday cake… and as her face lit up in the light from the little flames, I couldn’t help but feel so very lucky to have her, my sweet little diva who radiates light…and love for all.

With Love,

Ria

xoxo

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Dear Ellenah,

I’m not starting this letter to you at all well. You my darling are turning four tomorrow and before I have even managed the start of this letter, I already have a tear on my cheek. I can’t believe how quickly this day has come around. You have been waiting for this day… one that in your eyes, will make you ‘big, big, big!’

I know it is selfish but, I don’t want you to be ‘big, big, big!’… I have truly cherished you this size, the size you are right now… with your bright, blonde hair and blue eyes. You look like an angel and despite the fact that can have an extremely quick temper, sharp wit and stong mind… You really are truly sweet. So fresh and so pure. I love you when you’re this big and I know that people say, ‘the older your children get, the more you fall in love with them!’… that just can’t be possible. My heart will practically pop if I try and squeeze any more love for you in.

If I could pause this moment, this ‘you’ for a tiny while longer, I really would. Just to get more hugs, kisses, songs and love from you…’when you were three’.

Ellenah from Maria Noell

We have been through so much together this year and we have become closer and closer. I have watched you change so much in front of my eyes and that is such a beautiful transition to be a part of. Last year was a big deal because you were reaching milestones…and some were questioned. We were unsure if you were colour blind and your speech wasn’t where some people thought it should be. For these reasons, you were frustrated often and it made you sad sometimes.  This year, you have really come in to your own. You live life in plenty of colour, ones that you certainly recognise and now, you talk well. Some would say maybe too much and too often, haha. Not me though, I love to listen to you tell me little stories, involve me in your games and sing to me. When you sing to me, that is just the best.

I have been so blessed to have the pleasure of seeing all of the wonderful things you can and do, do every single day. You make me so very proud of you. A few days ago, I watched you copy the words on your christmas list with such care and attention to detail and it blew my mind. The simple things that you do every day…they really are such big things to me. Things I won’t forget.

I can hear Daddy getting you ready for bed right now. He has just said, ‘Ellenah, when you wake up in the morning, you are going to be four years old!’… It’s a tough one to hear. You are growing further away from being my baby girl and in to a little girl who knows right from wrong and you are one step closer to realising just how incredible you are. I have just had my last cuddle with you as my three year old daughter and it was like a stab to the heart. I cradled you in my arms and you reached your hand up to stroke my cheek…just like when you were a tiny baby in my arms. We looked at each other and I started to cry one more time. I don’t for one second think that you understood why but you stuck out your tiny, soft little finger and wiped my tears away anyway… and you smiled at me. And, because I’m an emotional mess right now… all I can bring myself to think in my heart and out loud is this….

‘I just love you so much Ellenah! From that first moment I set eyes on you, I have loved you and there has not been a day that goes past that my love for you has faltered in any way. You are my daughter and as each year goes by, I understand fully the impact that has on me. I have a best girl for life. I have a girl to protect and raise so that she will become a good woman someday. And, as much as that is a strange thought…because I can’t quite handle the fact that you are turning just four tomorrow. We have got some wonderful memories to make together, us girls. I have a daughter that I will one day pick a wedding dress with, talk over adventures with while staring at beautiful photographs that she has taken and I will see her achieve everything that she sets her mind to in life. Because Ellenah, my sweetheart… you are unstoppable!’

And when you are older, I will turn to you and say, ‘Ellenah, you always have been since you were a little girl!’ – I hope this year has taught you that much about yourself as it has taught me about you.

‘I hope you always see life the way that you do, through innocent eyes, hope and joy… and I insist that whenever you struggle to see yourself for whatever reason, you try and see ‘you’ through my eyes…because then you will always find love for yourself, belief in yourself and you will always be happy. And if all else fails, you will always have me, your mama…. and I will love you, believe in you and be happy with who you are inside, enough for the both of us’

I hope tomorrow is everything that you have been waiting for sweetpea. I hope your fourth birthday is as perfect as you are.

I love you so much, more than words could possibly describe,

from

Your Mama

xxx

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Today and like every Wednesday, Ellenah and I were able to steal forty minutes together. This was after we had taken Noah to school and just before we were due to take Ellenah to pre-school. Every Wednesday we will fill this time with trips to see the horses nearby, read stories from her book bag together on the church steps and when it’s dry, go for mini trips to the park. We have both grown to really appreciate this time together because it is exactly that. Time together. Away from distractions.

It is within these forty minute spells that Ellenah started to string together real sentences. She learned quickly to talk back to me. To engage me in conversation and the thought processes of an almost four year old girl. It has been most fascinating, rewarding and special.

It is in these forty minute spells that I get to hold her baby soft hands and we swing our arms as high as hers will reach because it makes her giggle and I really like to hear her laugh. I love to watch her face change and explode when she thinks something is funny. I love our time that we dedicate to being outside. It’s our time to be simple. It’s our time to dance together in the rays of sunshine that often scatter over the church field and grounds.

Today there was a moment, when I was taking a photograph of her in her incredibly cute winter hat. I recognised her face in these surroundings many years ago. I recalled her pale skin, expressive smile and bright blonde hair cut in to a bob. The girl I remember always had squashed strawberries stuck to her knees, dirt in her fingernails, knots in her flyaway hair and most probably a warm, soggy cheese and tomato sandwich in one hand and a bottle of warm orange squash in the other. That little girl had my name, Ria. That little girl was me.

Then, I grew up. I had a daughter of my own.

I had a daughter who fits in to these countryside views like a character in a scenic oil painting. A daughter who finds mud in the cleanest places, always manages to take the knees out of her jeans and who will rip out a hair bobble within seconds to release her fine, blonde hair to the wind. She goes nuts for a cheese sandwich and bloody loves orange squash.

My little girl takes me back in time every Wednesday, to the happiest parts of my childhood. We have been doing something so special for months and I didn’t even realise it until today. I’ve been taking her back in time with me. Sharing something great with only her.

Today we walked past the fields where my mum would fly through the rows of fruit and vegetables, weaving out and picking the good ones. In the wind and rain we were there. She worked hard while we sludged around the swampy fields, making camps and causing mischief . The smell of mixed up rain and mud is one of the best in the world, to me anyway. To this day, I can’t eat a runner bean after I ate one raw as a kid and it made me super sick. The most horrible thing I have ever done was daring someone to run up a sloppy manure pile knowing the mess he would get in at the top. For what it is worth, he dared me to eat the bean and my dare to him (the manure!), let’s face it…was better,right?

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Anyway… I don’t know why but I felt really emotional. I think it was because I felt reconnected to my past, grateful for the happy childhood memories, regardless of the fact that my childhood probably wasn’t the most average and overwhelmed…because Ellenah is so much like me and I have a chance to watch her love my favourite places and do what used to be my favourite things at her age. Watching her be so comfortable in who she is already.

Today mattered!

Lots Of Love

Ria

xoxo

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