Tuesday, August 30, 2011

She's a big girl now! - Starting school

For Delphine, Helen, Bree, Lydia... and us!
The time of starting school is here. For those of us who have chosen that path. Today it was Merrily's turn to start playschool. So many friends' children are starting school or playschool this week.

Days of jittery tummies and secret tears - for mamas and kiddies... and even daddys! Another crucial weaning has arrived. Perhaps we have been counting down the days. But now it's here. And we're not quite so sure. We mentally barter for another day, or week.

How can it have come to this? Our little baby, who we held in our arms a blink ago is here with an oversized rucksack on their backs. Containing a lunchbox made with care, full of their favourites, infused with love, as though each bite of peanut butter sandwich will communicate our love, our best wishes for our precious, brave child venturing out alone in this uncertain world.

There they are dressed and ready. Shiny shoes and a jumper a size too big. The front door echoes as we pull it closed. The queasiness rises. We clutch their hand, smooth their hair, sending up silent prayers.

When we get there, we attend to practical details - the location of pegs, toilets, familiar faces. we hover, and hover. Then move to go.

We steel ourselves. Take a breath. We know they'll love it. We know they'll be fine. We hope. They cling to our skirts, our hands, our hearts. We settle them again. Take our leave again. Decisive now.

This is the time we wish we were homeschoolers. Then there would be none of this.

Perhaps we peek in the window, or listen at the door. Perhaps there are tears. Theirs or ours.

The morning is a held breath. The minutes like hours. We fill them with distractions - at a cafe, the mamas gather and share their nervousness. Clutching phones just in case of a distress call. But silence remains. We don't know what to do with ourselves, with this new found time and breathing space. what silence the absence of a child creates.

We return to collect our precious charges. In a few weeks we will be rushing to be on time. Today we are early. Mama and dada racing each other to be the first to see the girl, to clutch her to us, to interrogate her teacher.

She runs out. Noticeably more grown up and sure of herself than the little girl we left there this morning. She knows the shape and size of her own courage. She had fun. We exhale together and share her joy.

And we'll do it all over again tomorrow.

Did your child start school, playschool or kindergarten this week? Or will they be starting this week? How was it for you? And for them? And homeschooling mamas how is it for you at this time of year?

Wanna read more on school?
This was on me making my mind up about school v home school - lots of great responses too!
And this was the very first post on the subject - this time last year when my son started big school.
This was about my son learning to write - and how school helps and hinders - what is writing for really?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Joy Pockets

A round up of this week's gratitudes...
joining in with the Friday Joy Pockets party over at Bohemian Twilight

The miracle of antibiotics
Snuggling up together  to watch sneaky TV way past bed time
Baking - eating it, doing it, watching it - LOVE it!
Revisioning our home - with a Zen space in EVERY room!
The baby washing up
Looking in my husband's eyes
Two replacement fish which "miraculously" appeared in our fish tank - much to our boy's delight!
The anticipation of starting playschool
My Thai cotton mermaid skirt
Bubble gum pink nails
An impromptu DIY haircut
A little boy caring for his sick mama
KNOWING I am loved

How has your week been, dear reader? Do share your joy pockets below, I love to hear them!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On being ill



And again.

So many bugs this year.

So much time given to sickness.

So much energy.

It feels doubly hard when your nights are broken. Your breastfeeding body is barely sustaining itself yet needs to sustain another too. When your children are ill and needing mama, but mama has nothing left to give. When all you need is rest to get better.

Illness is many things...

A pilgrimage to the dark silences of the soul
A teacher in our tolerance of pain and suffering
A reminder of our own biological nature and tender mortality
A much needed retreat in the world
And a pain in the ass!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Buried Treasure (1): Women's Sacred Circles

A new weekly slot here at Dreaming Aloud. Early blog posts which newer readers may have missed. I like to think of them as buried treasure!

This was the first of my Dreaming aloud columns, published in JUNO magazine, Spring 2009. An adapted version is also in the 2011 Earth Pathways Diary.

Welcome to the circle. Come in with your chatter, take off your coat. Find a place, slip off your shoes, wriggle your toes and tuck them under you. The candle on the centre table is lit. Its golden light softens the tired faces grouped around it. The brass singing bowl is sounded, its rich resonance dissipating into silence, leading us into the realm of stillness. We join hands and breathe together. In and out. This invisible trace leads us into ourselves. Conscious breath fills the room, sanctifying this simple lounge. Our separateness diminishes as a new energy enters the room tangibly changing the atmosphere: it is richer, heavier, more sombre. We settle deeper into stillness.

This is where we meet, on the first Sunday of every month. Although many of us meet at playgroup or for tea during the month, this is different. This is our space. Our sacred space in which we find ourselves once more. We start, like always, by speaking to the very simple question: “how are you really now?” In the stillness a small voice, which has been swamped by the busyness of daily mothering begins to emerge, haltingly, but with strength. How am I? How wonderful to be asked. Terrifying but wonderful. Can I speak to it, bring myself to this question with honesty? This is not a place for being “fine”. No one here is interested in “fine”. Here I can be confused, elated, barely scraping through. Here it is OK to inhabit a place of paradox or of not knowing. I start to speak, uncertain of where my words are headed. I surrender myself to them. Then, as I grab the thread more clearly I open my eyes and sweep them slowly around the room. Women who have become dear friends sit, their eyes focused and loving on me, as I unfold my soul before them. Not for approval, just to be witnessed, this tapestry of my life. The floor is mine, I cannot be interrupted. And it is such a wonderful feeling. Not to stop mid-sentence again and again to answer a child’s question or grab a cup of juice from being spilt or pre-empt a sibling slap. Just space to be me. Wonderful.

And though mothering takes up so much of me, teaches me so much, satisfies me, there is also so much of me that is nothing to do with my kids, which has no expression in play dough or picture books or cooking dinner. The part of me from pre-kids, which inhabits dreams and books and philosophy. The part of me which even my husband does not really know and which I only get glimpses of. This gets a chance to creep out from under the stone of daily life and emerge blinking into the sunlight of awareness, to be witnessed by this circle of women. And then when another stands to speak I get to practice what I am so weak at in daily life, yet need for my parenting: deep, non-judgemental, open-hearted listening. This is where I learn skills which I take back home to my family.

Women’s circles are as old as women themselves. At many times in history they have been outlawed, suspicious. At times they have held the names of quilting bees or sewing groups. We are not a great group of stitchers. Instead each month a different leader chooses a topic which stimulates our minds and titillates us: Creativity, Home, Books, Community, Spirituality… But this is not a discussion group either, though the final discussions can be juicy. Instead we speak from our deepest selves in the spirit of council sharing, a custom borrowed from Native American elders, and familiar to me from Quaker meetings. Waiting for the spirit to move us, then allowing it to meander us through the topic. As we hear our voices speaking we discover what we truly feel and believe. Often it surprises the speaker herself. The listeners’ heads nod in agreement, eyes well with tears of compassion. We sit in a circle and, as women, often we talk in circles. Women’s circles seem to be coming back, spreading like ripples through communities, sustaining the women who belong to them, their goodness spilling out into the families beyond.

We drift out into the hallway, asking after our children’s playmates, organising to meet up for coffee and playtime. We swap forgotten socks and disappear off into the night in time to fix supper for the family, or maybe, just perhaps, a little too late and so to be fed! I float into the house, transformed from the empty husk of a woman who left just a few hours before. I scoop up my children, delighting in their faces. “Mummy’s back” I announce, and I am. I really am.

The women’s group that I started in East Cork began in February 2008 and meets once a month, with a different leader, venue and topic each time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Layer Cake

Life for me as a mother is like a layer cake: I just can't jam it all in my mouth in one go. I can't savour its wholeness, the harmony of its completeness, the careful balance of the textures and flavours. I get all of one, and then all of another. I love it, I hate it. I want it forever, I can't bear another second...

I taste the tartness of tantrums, tiredness and despair at my lot. Red and raw as raspberry jam, the pips get stuck in my gums.

The rich oozing chocolate love of adoration hits me another moment. They are edibly good, my little cherubs. I shower them with kisses and thank the heavens for all my blessings.

And then there's lots of boring sponge - laundry, washing up, nagging them to get dressed, and brush their teeth, and lie down and go to sleep and don't hit your sister say sorry andwhatdoyouwantinyoursandwichtoday?

And then there's the smarties on top that you want to pick off and pop in your mouth, all at the same time - baby curls and toddler kisses and flowers picked from the garden just for you

And more fucking sponge. Who the hell likes sponge any way? Tidy the toys, sweep the floor, nag over homework, where's your shoes, Idon'tknowanddon'tcareifthereareanymatchingsocksrightnow- we're late- again!!!!!

And some bitter coffee gucky stuff- who makes these bloody cakes anyway? I don't like coffee icing, didn't order coffee icing, you can take these kids and give them to someone who cares because right now I am SO done with being a mother - oh sorry, coffee icicng, yes, yuck!

Oh more sponge cake, my favourite!

And light fluffy vanilla icing - whipped like the white clouds that float lazily over the summer beach where we lay on our backs and listen to the timeless chatter of children's voices as they build castles in the sand, and solve the world's travel problems by aiming at Australia, straight through the centre of the earth. Those moments when time goes slow, and you have no timetable but your own, and you pinch yourself because these beautiful golden creatures are actually yours.

That. That is parenthood. In cake form.

Only at Dreaming Aloud!

Thursday, August 18, 2011




It stands for why do you do what you do?

What a great question! If you haven't discovered this website, then head right over to wdydwyd.com and check it out!

This world-wide community art project is inspiring, creative, illuminating, heartbreaking, simple, profound...

And you can join in too!

Me, why do I do what I do?

Make your own and link it up to the main site, or share it in words below...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What makes you sparkle? Guest Post on Moonlight Muse today

What makes you sparkle?

That's the question that jewelery designer Allurynn asks women as part of her wonderful 'Sparkling Goddess Series', over at Moonlight Muse.

So to find out what makes me sparkle visit Moonlight Muse  ...

And you, dear reader, what makes YOU sparkle?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Myriad ways of coping with blue days

When you feel like you're not yourself anymore.
Dried up, dead inside.
Tired and overwhelmed.
Despondent and blue.
When the voices in your head are raining hell on you.
Here's some suggestions of what to do
My self care 101...
(Do click through the links for more inspiration and soul balm)

Right where you are.
Stop and breathe.
Scream out loud or mutter under your breath.
Burst into tears. Yes even at the bank manager. Or your boss. Or on the bus.
It won't kill them!
And commit to self-care for as long as it takes.
It can all wait.
It can.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Moonlight blessings

Full moon, fill me full...
of love, of courage, of delight.
Full moon fill me full of luminous magical moon light.
Harvesting hopes, visioning dreams
The wise women circle and sway
Points of light around the world
Gathering herbs and dancing in rounds
To welcome a brighter day
United in intention for love, for life,
For healing, for peace and for joy
Joy in our hearts, in our bodies and homes
A brighter tomorrow for all
For our children, our lovers, our sisters and brothers, our fathers and mothers, 
All others, 
All as one.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Something for the weekend: cosmic bodies!

“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow”
– T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men

So things were kicking off in London - riots, looting, anger, destruction, which hit everyone who has any connection with the UK hard, and left everyone wondering why...

Part of it is social, part economic, part cultural and part is cosmic... check out this great post on why criminality begins in the womb, from a yoga teacher' perspective ...

Cosmic? Yup... If you're into astrology and 2012 at all, then you might appreciate this explanation for why everything feels so at sea at the moment, why old patterns are coming up, along with lots of mental sludge. Hey Allie gives an insight into the cosmic overview

The next 18 days are important with a capital I, and in ways I don’t think any of us can fully comprehend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Finding Form: a meditative guide to creating Random Acts of Beauty

I went into the woods, wanting to make something. And blanked. Fancy images from Andy Goldsworthy flashed before my eyes. But here I was, a mama, with a helpful nearly-three-year-old on foot and a fractious teething, just-turned-one-year-old in a buggy. And half an hour to spare before I had to collect my husband from the doctors. So it had to be quick, simple and I wanted it to be seasonal. Oh, and it's going to go on a blog... And my friend is coming down tomorrow to hunt for it...panic... stage fright...blank...

Breathe. Look around. Walk with your eyes open...

So I did. This is like beginner's mind in meditation. Always start again with beginner's mind: open to all possibilities, to the joy of everything.

And that's when I saw the catkins. Lots and lots of them. Little shaggy fairy lambs tails. In acid yellow, ochre and brown. I started to gather them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Random acts of beauty

Most have heard of the concept of random acts of kindness. It is a popular one. But, Oliver Burkeman in his book Help! (which I am really enjoying at the moment) reflects that random acts of kindness can often freak strangers out - our immediate response is suspicion and confusion, rather than gratitude! So I am not suggesting that here, rather a variation on that theme.

Our world can feel a little grey sometimes. A little too man-made. Our environment despoiled. We don't have time to be creative. We do not have big artistic ideas. We feel stuck.

But all around us are pockets of beauty, glory in miniature where nature flourishes. Wherever we live. We all have favourite place to walk, to re-energise, to get inspired: the beach, the woods, the moors, the river bank.

Random acts of beauty aim to take these places and enhance them through our own small acts of creativity.

Our spiral on the strand!

Think natural graffiti. Guerrilla art. Making your mark in your local surroundings. Leaving little works of art behind you that others on their morning walk will happen across. Unexpected beauty and creativity. Little creations to lift the heart and spirits. To make people stop and wonder for a moment.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

These are the happy summer days of future memories. When the days were always sunny and we were free...
When life was a circus

And we were pirates... and painted our own flags

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The greatest show on earth...

The circ-lus, as my three-year-old calls it, is truly the greatest show on earth.

You can keep your operas and ballets and Shakespeare plays. Circus is where it's at for me. The smell of horse dung, dry ice, popcorn and saw dust. Powder pink wafts of candyfloss and ladies in spangled leotards. Human ability at its magical limits - a glittering goddess sweeping majestically thirty foot above your head, dangling from her neck from a silver rope. Mustachioed men standing on each others shoulders, five men up. No hands! Daring, bravery, beauty, courage, balance, strength, consummate skill and showmanship. Each man and woman playing many parts - acrobat, ticket sales person and fence erector in the space of half an hour.

For me circus is a metaphor for life. We see the archetypes of humanity - the clown, the beauty, the ring master, the construction worker, the high wire walker, the juggler who drops his balls and carries on, the aging animal tamer... all the roles we get to play in life contained in a big tent. I go, I sit on the edge of my seat. I thrill with amazement, and fear on the approach of the clowns. I laugh and cheer.  I always come out full of the potential of human ability. And aware that there is a darker dangerous side - the long hours, the unsavoury living conditions, the rootless moving from place to place, the morals of keeping animals in cages their whole lives, the use of low paid immigrant labour...

I have to admit that I have always wanted to join the circus. But instead I go to every one I can to enjoy the fantasy of make believe. Oh, the freedom of soaring above an open mouthed audience. The thrill of juggling fire. The team work of eight acrobats skipping on their hands...

I loved it as a child. As a young adult I went alone. And now I get to share my passion with my children, sharing each others delight in the magical world of circus. A soft haired child snuggling into me, cowering from the clowns and loving the elegance of the dancing horses and the beautiful woman on the trapeze.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Joy Pockets

our boy turning six
purple-painted toenails
Bird by Bird - who knew a book on writing technique could be so laugh out loud funny
Irish strawberries
sweaty sleeping baby curls
 a stupendous new issue of JUNO
a clear post-migraine head
horse-drawn rubbish collection - apparently they have it in Belgium!
an invitingly tidy dining room table
a new baby word: cack! (which means cat!)
the anticipation of mint chips being sent from the US by a new found blogging friend

Thanks to Mon at Bohemian Twilight for starting the Friday Joy Pocket trend
Do share your joy pockets with me below...
Wishing you a wonderful weekend

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Share the love: Shiny happy people!

Sometimes we just assume...

We just assume that everyone knows how much we love them...
That they know how much their work is appreciated...
That they are special...
That their simply being in the world matters...deeply.
The world is a better, happier, kinder, funnier place for their presence in it.
And for that you are grateful.

Nine times out of ten you'd be wrong! Most of us, most of the time are tuned in to the negative voices in our heads that we can't imagine that the rest of the world doesn't feel that way about us too.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit "blaahhh!" Why do I bother? Who cares if I write? There are a million writers and aspiring writers out there. The world does not need another. Who am I kidding? Who would publish my silly book any way? Creative rainbow whatever!

And then, in the law of threes that function in my life, I received three wonderful e mails, unbidden from the electronic Universe. Appreciating me and my work. From strangers I have made contact with through my writing. And it turned my day right around! It gave me a zap of energy not only to carry on, but carry on with a song in my heart, and to work on with a second book proposal into the small hours (to a second publisher, not a second book... yet!)

Thank you Grainne. Thank you Becky. Thank you Merry.

Love and appreciation right back at ya!

So my mission today is to share the love.

To do my bit to change the world, today and make it full of shiny, happy people!!!!

Join me, dear reader.  Share your love and appreciation with five people today... perhaps the woman serving you in the shop, the man cleaning your local park, your mother, your partner, your children, your favourite blogger, or even...revolutionary thought here... yourself. A real, genuine "THANK YOU" from the bottom of your heart. Put it in words. Speak it out. Write a letter. Send a text message. Share the love.

I've appreciated my mother, my husband, my group of parenting bloggers, some dear friends and the ladies who inspired this post...

Who will you appreciate?
Maybe you'd let us know here who you appreciate and why...And if you share the love on Facebook or online. Please share a link to this post, so more and more people can get involved sharing the love today!


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