Seize the moment!

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Friends were round this morning, and we were lamenting the lack of snow. None last year, and none this year either, really.

I was wrong.

Just now, we had a heck of a hailstorm. Then I hear M shout from downstairs (S and I were upstairs, stretching hands out a window to feel the hail), ‘IT’S SNOW!’ And it was. Snow. Real snow.

We ran downstairs, flung open the door. M dashed out in crocs and a t shirt, bare bum flashing the world as he yelled a barbarian yell and ran. ‘Look, when I run, it makes the snow go faster!’ He continued yelling and running, while S was leaning forward to touch the show, tilting her head to the sky. ‘I can’t believe it!’ she said.

It only snowed fifteen minutes. We were out there, in pyjamas (or not, as the case may be!), the whole time. Catching snow on our tongues, marvelling at the thick flakes. Whirling and twirling and just being happy.

When we came in, I thought, wow. For all the moments I worry I’m not as good of a mom as I can be, there are these other moments. No hesitating, no preparation (and thank goodness, if we’d stopped to get ‘properly’ dressed we’d have missed it!), no worry about anything. Just standing in the snow with my kids, arms wide open, and appreciating what feels like a small miracle on this simple Thursday afternoon.

Thunderstorm at the end of summer.

It’s after bath time, and he creeps into my room, silent and steady. He notices a flash outside the window, so we both sit up. He leans in, excited body and quickened breath. ‘This is awesome!’ he stage whispers, the sky filling with bright flashes of light.

He sister and mummy come in, stay awhile, then leave. He looks at me.

‘It’s just me and my Mama,’ he says. ‘This is awesome.’

Not sure if he means me or the lightening, which he says he’s never seen before, I ask, ‘Do you want to come outside with me and watch it from there?’ His eye widen. He nods.

We slink down the stairs; I wrap him in a big orange sarong, I fling a green one around my waist. We sit on the front step. Rain drips down the magnolia tree, the sky steadily performs, and then we hear the first rumble of thunder. I put my arm around him, I catch glimpses of his joyful face in the inky darkness, we look for streaks of lightening.

I tell him about how you can tell how close the storm is. Wait for the lightning, then count until you hear thunder. We whisper about the fighter jet we saw that goes faster than the speed of light, and I think about how his childhood is doing the same thing. But not tonight.

Tonight our bodies are dry, but our feet get wet if we stretch them out. We say hello to the thunder, the lightning; we sit out here so silently among the gradual increase of rumbles and rolling sound.

I didn’t have to say yes tonight, because it was my idea. He thought it was amazing to watch lightning through a window. I showed him what it was like to watch lightning under the sky.

This was our night.

And it was awesome.

Why, yes, I may just be that hippy parent YOUR parents warned you about.

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And so there we were, trooping through the woods. Running from the ringwraiths, climbing trees, finding stuff to stick to art pictures. Making fake campfires, pond dipping, seeing our first tadpoles.

Laughing with friends, eating, sometimes fighting. Stick swords flashing through the air, children balancing on small wooden platforms almost as tall as they are, learning to leap from post to post.

We wandered to the river. My two ended up nude, except for their sturdy little adventure sandals. Jumping and balancing, making rock towers, wading up the river to see what happens around the bend.

I marveled at their easy, unselfconscious frolicking. Their sun dappled skin changing from creamy white to the soft green of reflected leaves. Ripples and patterns dancing across bare legs, water droplets rolling down strong legs and soft skin.

Playing naked along the riverbanks, sliding down muddy hills with bare bums. Friends making up quirky rules to even quirkier games involving sunshine, clouds, and standing on rocks.

This is the marvel of childhood. Trees to water to food to play. Repeat as necessary, repeat all day long, run free and climb logs and expand.

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Making a life…one empty yogurt pot at a time.

One of the phrases we are hearing all the time from S goes a little something like this:

You know how we have cool ideas and then make them? Can we do that?

Today she said ‘crafty things’ and I initially thought she said ‘trashy things,’ which made me laugh because it is so apt. So much of what we make is made from ‘trash.’ Empty salsa jars, bottle tops, cardboard boxes.

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Owl fabric pencil topper, chequers board for bottle top pieces, a cool tree, R2D2.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the mom who suggests we make huge, awesome stuff every day. No. Most of what we do is led by an interest one or both of the kids have, a specific request, or S’s recent daily requests to make stuff. And I’m pretty good at it. With some mutual creative thinking and hunting round the house for materials, we can usually make whatever we can think of.

Suzy takes it to the next level. She’s helped the kids make Angry Birds Star Wars spaceships from tinfoil, a huge dinosaur island habitat from paper mâché, and a puppet theatre and puppets from cardboard and popsicle sticks.

I suspect that S will be the sort of parent (if she wants kids, anyway!) who makes elaborate and beautiful things often. She’s got the great combo of being an ideas woman and having follow through. M is similar, though he builds things most often in minecraft or Lego! We are constantly making toys that are made to suit (blue life size light sabres, anyone?). They tend to get played with as much, if not more, as the non-homemade stuff.

Recently S made a cardboard airplane hanger and a junk art plane for her RAF bear. M has made a few combine harvesters to chase after Lightning McQueen. These toys are fun because they turn out to be exactly made for purpose, but also because we get to make them.

So much of our life is making – toys, crafts. Making recipes, making sandcastles, making friends.

Making memories.

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Some of our endless collection of homemade Angry Birds, a magnetic fishing game, a toilet roll marble run, a minecraft diving board.

Sometimes it’s as simple as just showing up.

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Early yesterday morning, my daughter said, ‘Hey, I feel like flying our kite. We should do that!’

I will be the first person to admit that sometimes it isn’t so easy to follow your child’s inclinations. I was unshowered, we didn’t really have time to go to a park, it looked cold outside, I had no idea where the kite was.

But I’ve already written about how I think embodying ‘YES’ to a child is one of the most important things I can do. (And I recommend you check that post out , because it felt so important to me when I created it….) And that ‘yes’ is what I strive to hit.

Besides, the whole kite thing sounded kind of fun.

Aaaaannd…..surely there was no harm just doing it in our street? We live in a very quiet cul de sac. I half heartedly looked for the kite for about an hour, taking frequent little breaks to tell the kind people on twitter that no, I still hadn’t found the missing kite. I even tweeted a picture of the dreaded cupboard under the stairs.

But as soon as I really committed to finding the kite, it appeared. And in a place I was sure I’d already looked twice.

We went out, leaving the front door open as M just wanted to stay inside. S was almost dancing in anticipation, and she was off. Cheeks rosy in the wind, gleeful instructions telling me she could just run along the pavement, experimenting with string length and gusts of wind.

One elderly neighbour watched us from her window, clapping and laughing. Another neighbour bumped into us and said a rather amazed, ‘WHAT are you doing?’ before grinning and wishing us luck. Still another stopped her fitness fast walking to watch us and cheer us on. It felt like a whole community adventure.

I felt free and wild and empowered. People were waving at each other and shaking their heads (in a good natured way!) when I whooped with joy louder than my little daughter (who is so big and powerful) when the wind caught the kite and raised it up. Even better when she declared she could power the kite by running, excited and joyful, exclaiming, ‘It went even further that time!’

She powered us all. She made us all feel happier on a very grey morning. She had an odd idea and ran with it, and I was lucky enough to have decided to go along with her.

She is going to go further and further. She can make ideas soar, bring people together, and most importantly, remind me that the most important thing I can do is show up when I can. Support her ideas, help her realise them, enjoy it right alongside her.

And as she carried the kite back to the house, she looked up at me and said, ‘This was so fun.’ Those four words erased an hour of kite hunting, of wind strung cheeks, of my sore body from chasing the kite when it went astray.

I showed up, I was present, and boy….did I have fun.

Creative communities of women.

I made (correction: am making) a list of 100 things I want to do this year. Some big, some small, some silly, some far fetched.

One of the far fetched ones was to find a circle, a community to safely explore myself/others/life on a more philosophical, spiritual, creative level. A place to learn, a place to grow. It’s been something I’ve wanted for awhile, but didn’t have any idea how to go about it.

Most people see me as exceptionally confident. I suppose, to a certain extent, that is true…especially the older I get. That being said, I’m not confident enough to rock up to a moot, random meetup, etc on my own. I feel more confident staying home and watching social documentaries about grown men who love My Little Ponies (have you seen Bronies? I found it surprisingly touching!).

A few weeks after writing this down as a goal for the year – in a few forms – wanting a training circle, wanting to find teachers/mentors, wanting to create more, wanting to help form a supportive community – I was sent a Facebook invite to a select, small group of women. I’d met none in person before, but had been FB friends with one for awhile (who I ‘met’ on a pagan parenting group….again, a place I had wanted to go many times but had never done so). I felt privileged to have been invited, and even more so when I read the posts and saw the images these women shared.

Truly creative, caring, intuitive, generous, beautiful women. And so when one of them suggested an actual meet up, I surprised myself by saying yes. Enthusiastically.

Last night was the meet. Five of us gathered in a warm, safe space to eat cakes, get to know each other, and share information you wouldn’t normally share with strangers (outside of a therapeutic space, anyway!) It felt surprisingly easy. It was good to laugh. It was good to voice thoughts that had been swirling in my head for weeks, it was powerful to hear others voice thoughts I agreed so strongly with. The fragile threads of trust were already being spun, and I just felt so grateful.

Grateful I was asked to join, grateful I said yes. Sometimes all you have to do is say yes, to live the yes and just show up, to give something new a chance and see what happens. I can’t wait till next month, when perhaps the creating will shift from verbal to physical. I suspect having a place to bring my heavy manuscripts will be powerful – even if they just sit in my bag and soak up the healing, supportive, creative, powerful energies of potential.

Just say yes – and then watch what happens.

‘Yes’ is the most powerful message you can give to your children. Some things are direct requests.

Can we sleep outside?

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Can we go see that horse?

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Can we play Twister before bed?

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Sometimes your child makes a decision to try something that is new, or seems interesting or worthwhile. You don’t need to say anything, then. You just stand back and watch….and sometimes, you fetch whatever they need to help complete their scheme.

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‘Yes’ really means:

You are capable of making good decisions.

You can choose things based on what you find exciting or are curious about.

I trust you.

Sometimes it is a small yes. Sure, we can make cookies. We can pick up endless sticks and rocks while we walk. We can opt to skip going to gymnastics to stay home and all watch a movie together in my bed.

Often it’s bigger – and means having to stand back while they assess risk, solve problems, or get incredibly messy.

We are lucky in that we have lots of time. Nothing is so pressing that we cannot explore things along the way. We have lots of space to just be, to choose what to do as we go along. So that makes things easier for us, but not impossible for people with busier schedules, or school, or …well, whatever, really.

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So try it. When your child asks to do something, or just goes ahead and does it – and your natural inclination is to say no or hurry them along – just pause. Do you have five minutes to let them do this thing? Are they safe? Then say yes.

Have that wild dance party in the kitchen. Watch them collect fifty conkers and spend ages ‘washing’ them in a stream. Laugh to yourself as they wear costumes out of the house.

And this is the most important part: look at their face. Really pay attention to those moments when a child is learning about joy, about passion, about curiosity.

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