The Days That I Like Best

We don’t have time for one more time,
We can’t stay for again.
Hurry up and find your shoes
Before I count to ten.

We don’t have time for one more swing,
We can’t stay for a slide.
Come on now, I’ve work to do,
We need to go inside.

We don’t have time for one more book,
We can’t stay for a rhyme.
Please don’t stand and argue;
I haven’t got the time.

We don’t have time for one more dance,
We can’t stay for a song.
Let me get your bag for you;
You’re taking far too long.

I listen to myself sometimes,
And try to understand.
Just when life got so busy;
This wasn’t what I planned.

We rush and hurry through the days,
Always far too stressed.
But the days that I make time for you,
Are the days that I like best.

Prose for Thought
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The Firsts You Miss

Watching a baby develop has got to be one of life’s greatest joys; being there for all of those incredible firsts. It’s simply magical.

But when you’re a parent sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on the firsts you miss.

As babies do, Pords has been going through an amazing period of development. She has been getting around for a little while now and trying to climb on everything, just like her brother used to do (still does!), but she has just recently started trying to take steps while holding on to furniture. She now waves at appropriate times (rather than just randomly). She has been trying to get the hang of clapping and has just mastered that too.

Every day she does something new. It’s just wonderful to watch.

My husband saw her stand up for the first time the other morning. He called me in excitedly and said: “Look, she’s standing!” I had been busy doing something else and so, quite dismissively, said “She’s been able to do that for ages!”

That same morning she waved goodbye to him as he left for work. He said: “Is that the first time she’s waved?” This time I was a little less curt about it but still had to say no. “I never get to see any of the firsts,” He said sadly.

The truth is, even as a mostly stay-at-home parent, I don’t get to see all of the firsts. I was at my parents house and my Dad said “She’s clapping!” I thought he just meant the awkward hit-and-miss clapping that she’s been doing for a little while. But later she crawled over and started clapping again like she had just seen a brilliant show. Of course, first applause deserves a hearty applause. She was probably clapping herself; she had surely earned it. But it wasn’t the first applause, it was the second. I’d missed the first.

For a moment I was sad, just as my husband had been. But then I thought about it. Maybe she’s been clapping for weeks. Practising in secret in her cot at night. Fact is, it doesn’t really matter. As she grows I’ll be there for fewer and fewer of her firsts. But I’ll still think she’s spectacular when she tries new things. I’ll still support her when she needs help to learn. I’ll still applaud when she gets it right.

I can still marvel and find happiness in every little thing she does.

When her Dad got home that night, I told him that he had in fact seen a first that day. He had witnessed the first time that she waved to her Daddy. And that was a very special first indeed.

Your Firsts

Happy Diaries
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Car Ride

I was in the car by myself on the weekend, which doesn’t happen very often these days. I caught myself pointing out a digger that I drove passed. Out loud. To no one in particular.

Then, when I got where I was going, I realised that I had also had the kids’ CD playing the whole time and had been singing along.

I think these are definite signs that I need to get out more.

It was was particularly amusing (horrifying) given a similar incident that had happened the week before that I had posted a poem about on Facebook.

Car ride

I find the psychology fascinating. When I get little glimpses of myself like this it makes me think that parenthood has completely rewired (melted) my brain. It’s amazing that I can ever hold an adult conversation at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day someone just comes clean with me and tells me that I’ve been speaking in Seussian rhyme for the last two years and everyone has assumed I’m mad.

It’s not all bad news of course. Having this sort of perspective is quite refreshing. It’s nice to pay attention to all the little details that a child would notice. When Pickles goes for a walk he literally does stop and smell the roses. He takes delight in lots of things that most adults would probably just walk straight passed.

I’m happy to encourage and nurture this quality in my children by helping them to notice things. I also think it’s a good thing if I stop and smell the roses even when Pickles isn’t there to lead by example.

But there is probably a time and a place for it. I probably don’t need to be noticing things out loud to myself in the car. Hopefully at some point my brain will be able to snap back.

If it ever it does though, I really hope that a little spark of that childish wonder remains.

 

A Bit Of Everything
Mummuddlingthrough
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Children’s Books: Respecting The Audience

Over the weekend I attended a festival for creators (or aspiring creators) of books for children and young adults.

There are so many things that I want to say about all the wonderful things that I heard over the weekend. It was heaven to be surrounded by people who live and breathe children’s books. If I ever take the plunge and try to write a children’s book myself, the things I learned this weekend will be invaluable.

What I want to focus on in this post is a theme that ran through many of the presentations given by the very talented speakers. It is something that I am very passionate about too.

Children need and deserve respect. Over and over again we heard that it is vital that creators of children’s books never underestimate their audience. Children are entitled to rich language and beautiful writing just as much as anyone else.

RHAWKE

The sublime Mem Fox ran a workshop in which she talked about sometimes being asked to change a word in her manuscripts because an editor thinks that a child audience will be unfamiliar with it. Mem said: “That’s exactly the point!” If a child comes across a new word in a book, they are then able to learn that word and it will become part of their vocabulary.

If children are never exposed to new language, their vocabulary will not expand.

Mem Fox

Not only is it important not to limit the language that children are reading, but it is also important not to be too restrictive about the themes that are introduced to children through their reading.

While you need to of course be mindful of when and how you are introducing certain topics to your child, children don’t exist in a bubble and picture books can be a fantastic way of explaining some of the darker realities about the world.

After the terror attacks that flooded our media recently, I posted some images on social media from one of the most beautiful picture books I own: We Are All Born Free by Amnesty International. At the time I said that picture books are a perfect way of talking to your children about difficult topics that may have been raised in something they have seen or heard.

Another perfect example of this, is a new picture book called One Step At A Time. Sally Heinrich and Anna Solding (Midnight Sun), the illustrator and publisher of the book, were panelists at the festival. The book is authored by Jane Jolly.

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As with many of the other guests, Sally and Anna spoke of the need to have respect for children. Anna said she is interested in publishing books that stand out from those that you might usually find on the shelves.

The book is about a baby elephant who is badly injured when she steps on a landmine. Her best friend, a little boy called Luk, is by her side throughout her entire recovery. In the end, the elephant is fitted with a prosthesis and Luk leads her one step at a time out of the enclosure. A definite tear-jerker!

While it tackles serious themes that will open further discussion, ultimately the story is one of love, friendship, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Therefore, children have familiar relatable themes that ground this book in their own experience.

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This is picture book is aimed at an older audience than the books that I usually look at. I wouldn’t be reading it to my two year old. Although having said that, he has enjoyed looking at Sally Heinrich’s absolutely exquisite pictures. Rather than reading the text, we have been telling our own stories about the elephant and his friend.

For older children, this book is beautifully written, illustrated, and designed. It respects children enough to introduce weighty issues, while remaining enjoyable to read.

A book that is able to teach and inspire as it entertains is a treasure indeed.


 

There were many wonderful points to take home from my weekend of learning. The thing that impressed me the most was the commitment of all of the creators to respecting children.

Something that we should all remember to do.

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Alice in Wonderland

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It’s been a while since I posted a book review on here, but I had a prompt this week to write about a book that has had a huge impact on me.

Generally when people ask me in grown up conversation what my favourite book is, or to name one that has had a big impact on me, I respond with something by Tolstoy, or Murakami, or Allende, or Garcia Marquez, or Kafka, or Vonnegut, or Austen, or whatever happens to be on my book stand at the time. And it’s true, I adore these authors.

If I were to think about it a bit more and be honest, I would say the books that have had the biggest overall impact on my life have been by Dahl and Blyton, and even before that, by Dr Seuss and Mem Fox, Pamela Allen and Lynley Dodd.

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The books that were read to me as a child had a huge impact in my developing an interest in reading and learning. In the grand circle of life, these same books now fill my days again as I read them to my own children.

One book that may be intended for children but which I have come back to time and time again throughout my life, and that has had a huge impact on me, has been Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Alice in Wonderland is hilariously funny and terribly sad. It’s a rollicking adventure and an intense study on human nature. I have read it countless times and each time I find something new in it. I consider it to be a more effective self-help book than most that you would find in the designated section at the book store.

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This book helped to foster my love not just of literature, but of poetry and of nonsense. Together, I consider these three things to be cornerstones of my personality and outlook on life.

At key junctures in my life, the words of Lewis Carroll have also helped me to shrug off stress and to keep meandering on. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, if you keep at it you’ll end up somewhere!

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If I had to take one book with me to a desert island this would be it. It really is like a whole series of books in one anyway. It is an absolute treasure trove.

If you haven’t read it, stop what you’re doing! Go directly to the library and find it, and read it immediately! Your life will be the richer for it.

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What book has had the greatest impact on you?

 

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Bubbles

On Tuesdays, baby Pords and I get special mummy/daughter bonding time at baby music class. It’s quite late in the afternoon and by the end she is usually starting to get quite tired.

Today, was no exception. She was so enthusiastic at the beginning of class. Laughing and “singing” and exploring all of the wonderful instruments. She was interacting with the other babies and having fun. She particularly loved the dance portion of proceedings – always a special favourite. Then she started getting a bit over it. We were both looking at the clock.

But then, just before the end of class, our music teacher pulled out some bubbles. Pords’ mood immediately changed. She was absolutely delighted as she watched them float around. She chased after them, tried to catch them, and just sat and watched.

She watched me blow more and more. She looked at me, then at the bubbles, then back at me. What is this delightful witchcraft?

Bubbles are magic like that. I hope that as she grows and her days become less filled with bubbles, she is able to recall that feeling of contentment that just sitting and staring at bubbles now brings her.
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Bubbles

Colour winks in sunlight
Transfixing little eyes.
Everything seems magical
When bubbles fill the skies.

Perfect rainbow spheres,
Bouncing here and there.
Glinting dappled colours,
Dancing through the air.

Time escapes with bubbles,
Floats off far away.
Troubles seem to disappear
When bubbles are at play.

Then as from a dream,
Suddenly you’re woken
With tiny, soundless pops,
The bubbles’ spell is broken.

But though it’s disappointing
When the bubble fun is through,
You can try and find the rainbow
That lives on inside you.

For you see, bubbles are fragile
They can only stay awhile.
But if you take joy in their beauty
They’ll sparkle through your smile.

Prose for Thought
Mummuddlingthrough
Happy Diaries
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Questions and Demands

What’s that Mummy?
You always want to know.
And why Mummy, why?
Why is it so?

Who’s that Mummy?
She’s got grapes as well!
Do you think she’ll be my friend?
Hey! What’s that funny smell?

Can we go now Mummy?
And can I drive the car?
And can I take this snail with me?
It’s my favourite snail, by far!

Can I have that Mummy?
And maybe that one too!
And if I can have all of these
I’ll give this one to you.

What shall we do now Mummy?
Can we go outside?
Can you play a game with me?
You count, while I hide!

What’s for dinner Mummy?
Can I have a treat?
What is that you’re making?
I need something to eat!

Finally I find a seat,
And take your little hands.
Can you slow down, baby,
With your questions and demands?

I’m exhausted sweetheart,
Please cut your mum some slack.
The only answer that I want
Is when does Dad get back!?

http://www.reflectionsfromme.comLittle Hearts, Big Love
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Suddenly

Even though Pickles is still only two, just recently he seems suddenly much more grown up. I think that this is probably a phenomenon that lots of parents experience, and that might be experienced over and over as you watch your child grow. Every now and then your child is suddenly bigger.

It can come as a bit of a shock when you are with your child every day. When you are constantly watching with them, teaching them, and playing and interacting with them. Sometimes you watch them trying to master something over a number of days and weeks. You are right their for the journey and the triumph and share in it all. But sometimes it just seems like overnight they suddenly have a new perspective on something, or a new skill, or their pants are suddenly miles too short!

I wrote a poem about this experience. It’s intention is to capture the melancholy, but also the wonder. Watching a child grow and learn and develop is an absolute privilege and I am constantly in awe of the new things that my children can do every day, of their strength and bravery as they push the limits and try new things, and of their delightful little personalities as they emerge.

 

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Suddenly you’re older
And your eyes are older too.
There’s that old familiar twinkle,
But the watchfulness is new.

Suddenly you’re taller
And I’m struggling to recall,
The last time that I held you
When you were still Very Small.

Suddenly you’re braver
And you think it’s oh so grand,
To stroll along the avenue
Without your mummy’s hand.

Suddenly you’re stronger
And I guess I should have known,
That there would come  a day
When you could do so much alone.

Suddenly I’m older
And my eyes are older too.
And as I’ve watched you grow
I’ve grown immensely proud of you.

Prose for Thought
A Bit Of Everything
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Affirmations from children’s books

This week, the Friday Reflections series prompted writers to share their favourite affirmations.

It should come as no surprise that mine are affirmations from children’s books. Children’s books give us some truly wonderful words to live by. I think these quotes rival others found on inspirational posters. What do you think?


 

I love this first one because it reminds me that I have the power to change course in my life if I so choose. I can always be readjusting my sail to steer for happiness and fulfilment. The ability to recognise and act on this is something I seek out in others. It is also something I would like to pass on to my children. I don’t want them ever to feel stuck, or be in a position where they live only for the weekend, or wish parts of their lives away.

BRAINS AND FEET

I probably place too much credence in this next one, as I definitely spend more time cultivating happy thoughts than on my personal appearance. Even so, I love it!

dahl

I think everyone could use reminding of this next one every now and again.

POOH

Different people might use different words, but I think if you believe in yourself and you find that little spark of magic, anything is possible.

Pan

The last one is about the importance and value of friendship. Being a friend is indeed one of the most positive impacts you can have in someone’s life. Even if you are not the cleverest, or the most creative, or the most beautiful one on the farm, if you can be a friend that is a tremendous thing, and you should be celebrated for it.

You have been my friend.

So they are five of my favourite affirmations. What do you think? Can you think of other affirmations from children’s books?

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