When Nature is Good for the Soul.

When Nature is Good for the Soul.

good for the soul 1

“And into the forrest I go to lose my mind
and find my soul”

On Sunday, I went for a country run, with my 8 year old daughter accompanying me on her bike. A quiet presence.
I love to have her with me as she is such a wonderful and silent companion. There is immense beauty in having someone you love close by – right beside you, without words.
I find it extremely comforting and assuring.
To be at rest with a dearly loved one, feels like a gift.
After my run we decided to cool down in the woods.
Our favourite walk, which loops right back to our barn and meanders through thick and lush woodlands, is called The Bluebell Trail. It is utterly stunning in the spring/summer seasons, with the most gorgeous meadows full of wildflowers, spilling over rocks and winding their way around tree trunks.
Green and verdant tree canopies arch their bulk and frame over rocky paths, creating an almost magical and still environment.

“And it’s in these moments of quiet and slow that I find my own pace again. I am reminded that busy doesn’t mean better.
I am assured that my steps need to be a little slower and less urgent”. 

Baby birds chirp loudly from their high nests, their parents busy at work, flitting to and fro their tree-top homes, with fat grubs and long worms hanging from their beaks.
Petite deer, with sweet little white dots on their backs, quietly and sure-footed peek from behind bushy shrubs. Ever so gentle and timid.

The ground is cool and soft underfoot. And the smell! A mixture of wild garlic shoots, cow parsley, delicate bluebells and sweet primroses.
This space feels like heaven to me. I catch my breath here and the buzzing world all around me is placed temporarily on mute.

good for the soul 3

“Just 15-20 minutes two or three times a week, can reap enormous benefits”. 

And it’s in these moments of quiet and slow that I find my own pace again. I am reminded that busy doesn’t mean better.
I am assured that my steps need to be a little slower and less urgent. I remember that I cannot control everything and everyone.
And I become more aware of how small a cog I really am, amongst a much bigger and faster wheel.
It is my responsibility to slow my life, as well as my soul down. Because nobody else will do that for me.
They are too busy focussing on keeping all of their own balls up in the air.

“It feels as though nature is giving me a gift.
Completely free, no-strings attached.
A buffer to the outside world and momentary pause in my frequently tired brain.”

good for the soul 4
In that instant – I feel calm wash over me like a soothing, aqua-blue wave, in perfect sync with it’s environment before it crashes onto the sand floor, sending up frothy white spray.
It feels as though nature is giving me a gift. Completely free, no-strings attached. A buffer to the outside world and a momentary pause in my frequently tired brain.

Did you know that a simple walk in nature can benefit your health in a huge way?
You don’t have to organise a gruelling hike or be outside for hours.
Just 15-20 minutes two or three times a week, can reap enormous benefits.
Here are a few health benefits to keep in mind next time you are feeling a bit blah. Hopefully it will encourage you to put your trainers on and hit the road for a boost of nature-goodness:

1. My absolute favourite! It boosts creativity.

By simply stepping outside, walking the dog or to the school gate to collect the children, you can improve your cognitive function and creative thinking skills. Plus the fresh air, I am sure, has a little bit of magic in it, as it makes me instantly breathe deeper, slower and calmer.

2. You can improve your overall health.

Being immersed in nature is crazy good for the immune system, helping to prevent sickness and other illnesses. Our bodies turn from “fight or flight” mode, which we often feel whilst cooped up inside doing chores or working. Being outside allows our system’s to relax.

Taking time in nature is tremendously important during cold & flu season, even though it often feels like a bit of a chore when it is cold outside! However it is SO worth it.
Has anybody ever come inside from a brisk winter walk and not had rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes and a huge smile on their face?

3. Lower cortisol levels.

When you are physically outside, walking on the earth, you can’t but help feel a connection to nature. Experts have named this ‘Grounding’ as it provides relieved tension with muscle soreness or headaches, which can promote a sense of calmness and yes as some studies show – even lessen cortisol levels (which cause stress).

4. Reduced inflammation.

Nature can even help your body to fight inflammation. Our bodies naturally become inflamed following certain aspects of life such as stress, poor diet, not enough sleep, etc. And extreme inflammation can lead to autoimmune disorders or even depression.
Being surrounded by nature instantly quietens the mind, allowing your body’s inflammation to organically settle a bit. Basically, there is no easier and cheaper way to increase your health than by opening your front door.

5. Enhanced sense of wellbeing.

In other words, a better mood!

When I was a child and being a bit grumpy or fighting with my older brother, my parents would often say “go outside and chase the monkeys from your back”.
I never understood why they thought I had monkeys on my back, but in effect they meant, go and run off your irritability and come back a bit happier!
And guess what? It actually worked. Often they would find my brother and I immersed in a pretend game of something outside and all of the previous grievances forgotten.
It’s truly hard to be grumpy when you’re surrounded by flowers, trickling water, or green trees.

Studies have shown that people living closer to or more in touch with nature have lower anxiety levels in general, which makes sense. Less traffic, more trees. Less waiting, more living.
And don’t despair if you live in a big city, as regular mini breaks amongst nature is still extremely beneficial. It just takes a little more organising ahead.

As Mary Davis is quoted as saying –

“A walk in nature, walks the soul back home”

And for me, that feeling of being walked back home towards a peaceful place, is therapy wrapped in green with a side of fresh air.

good for the soul 6

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When Friendship Is Hard Work.

friendship hard work history

When Friendship Is Hard Work.

Why everyone needs a history friend….

My mama has dear friends whom she is in regular contact with, from her pre-school days. That’s over 60 years of friendships. She and her pals have all shared the lives of their children, marriage, divorce, death, mid-life crises and everything in between.  And their connection is as strong as it’s ever been.
They don’t rely on social media to connect, they will pick up the phone and have an actual conversation, or hop on a train, bus or plane to see each other in person. I truly believe it is this face-to-face interaction that has enabled these friendships to grow, change with the seasons and still flourish.

In this day of transient lives and on-line socialising (of which I partake in as well), sometimes it’s easier to write a text message or shoot off a comment on Facebook, than actually looking at someone’s face and conversing.  I think we all want to show our best sides and this has never been more appealing than in the era of Instagram grid highlights and tweets of happy moments. Even if those moments are only a few minutes long in a day.

But here is the thing about history – it means something. It’s so very special when you have it, like a rare gem.
New pals are wonderful and exciting and they can expose you to a whole new world of knowledge and wonder.
Old friends hold treasures in jars of clay that have weight and depth, that you cannot measure all in one sitting.

Sharing stories of “do you remember when?” or reminiscing about events and people. Catching up on the present, dreaming of the future, it’s like gold.
Hold onto that gold and don’t just chase the most current and shiniest new kid on the block.

History friend 1
Because your history friend knows you in a way that your new pal doesn’t.

Your history friend will call you out when you are behaving badly and set your feet upon sturdy ground. They know when you are lying or being cagey – because they know you. They are well-acquainted with your heart.

And whilst your new friend will revel in the shape of your hands, your old friend will know the exact imprint by heart. The curve of your palm and the rough edges that are still being refined.

Your new pal and you will be in the first lovely flush of connection and no doubt stroke your ego and hang off every word you speak. They will agree with everything you say and nod at all the right places.
Your history friend will not. And sometimes that can seem like hard work. As though the connection is stale and not worth the effort – the nitty gritty of friendship. You may tire of their ways, as they will yours, and the grass seems so much more appealing and greener with the newer model.

My advice? Do not run to the one who tells you what you want to hear.
Stick with your history friend who builds into your heart, as well as your soul. Allow them space to breathe and permit them much grace to trip and fall. But be the hand that is always available to welcome them back, into the fold of your heart and continued friendship.

I read an article recently by The Pool, written by Viv Groskop.  She explains that since they launched the ‘Dear Viv’ podcast (aka old-fashioned agony aunt), at The Pool just three years ago, they have literally received hundreds of emails and letters each week.  And the one subject that comes up all the time, the topic that is constantly a subject to be addressed, is friendships.
Often the most asked questions are “what is wrong with me?” and “why has this suddenly gone wrong?”

History Friend 2
And whilst I don’t have any easy answers for those friendship questions myself, I do believe that many friendships formed quickly and intensely, aren’t always the ones that last the distance.
We have all had those friends who want to spend every minute of every day with us. And those who will message us numerous times in a 24 hour period to check-in. Sometimes these connections can be stifling, albeit lovely at first, they can stale very quickly. And when that friendship breaks down, over a misunderstanding or a cross word, that can leave a stain on one’s heart. A hurt soul.
Oftentimes it is then that we realise those history friends are the ones that we can rely on and always return to.

I have a dear best friend who lives in Australia. We often say to each other that we are so fortunate to have met and formed such a strong bond. We have adapted to the changes in our lives, parented small children, supported each other through numerous heartbreaking life events, built a business together, laughed until our sides ached, and survived a long-distance connection across the world. We have argued and disagreed and cried and forgiven. Again and again.
We are each other’s greatest cheerleaders, fiercest advocates and true sisters in Christ. I will forever be grateful for her input into my life and her commitment to our friendship, as I am to her. I miss her every single day and long to be able to pop over for a cup of tea in my jammies and devour a block of chocolate together. And I love her with all my heart.

That said however, this friendship is one built on doing the tough yards. Of having those uncomfortable conversations, sitting in moments of silence when we are both unsure and confused about the other’s feelings or emotions. It’s still work on both sides of the ocean for us and remains a deep commitment. However, the rewards, my word, the rewards, are rich, as we both give each other portion after portion of grace and love amidst our own brokenness.
Best friends come with the privileged title of walking, not just in the sunshine, but also the valley.

These connections, these deeply moving friendships, are the keepers. And in this day of transient people and transient friends – your keeper friends are all the more precious for sticking by you.

Because you aren’t so lovely all the time either.

History Friend 3

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When Your Kid’s Are Worth The Fallout

When Your Kid’s Are Worth The Fallout

I read a quote today which made me think about the journey of parenting.

It says, “I don’t spend much time and emotional energy training my dogs.  Why?  Because honestly, I don’t care that much.  I like them, but they’re dogs.  I will spend endless time and emotional energy training my kids though, because I do care that much. They’re my kids!”

Now for those who are total animal-lovers, please don’t shoot me.  I love our pets as much as the next person.  But if I had to decide between my fur-babies and my children, of course I choose my children.

That said, our labradoodle, Queenie, is very loved and cherished, as I have spoken about here.  She just doesn’t receive the same sort of attention as the children do.  And here she is to show you how much a part of the family she is, basking in the sunshine at our family picnic!

The other day, my four children had been happily playing outside in the sunshine, bouncing on the trampoline.  I was sewing at the kitchen table and noticed that three of them slinked into the room, whispering to each other, obviously sharing some sort of secret, shifty move.
I instantly became suspicious and asked them what they were up to?
The answer was predictably, “nothing!”
I also noticed that their sister, Olive, had been left outside and immediately smelt a very stinky rat.  So I enquired as to why they had abandoned her?
Their answer was, “it’s just a joke and she won’t mind”.
Literally two seconds later, Olive, being the whirlwind that she is, flew inside crying and sobbed that her siblings had abandoned her and she had been waiting for them to return.

In essence, she felt rejected, and I, was cross and disappointed at the others.

Herein lies the dilemma that all parents face.  I had a choice to ignore their behaviour, putting it down to silly and childish games and preferring instead to smooth the situation over and give Olive a hug.
Or, I could butt heads with the children over it.

We all know that diligent parenting will bring conflict.  It’s messy, inconvenient and time-consuming, and honestly, some days it’s so tempting to avoid it at all costs.  Certainly there are some hills that are not worth dying on, but many are worth the battle, which deal with matters of the heart.

I love my children so much, that temporary uncomfortableness is worth these lessons of the heart.
And I want my children to know that I will engage with them, correct them and train them, when I am tired, and I will challenge their behaviour, when I truly don’t feel like it and would rather ignore their actions.
Because I am not their best friend, I am their mother and loving beyond measure is hard work.  I know that giving into the small things, will only lead to bigger problems further down the track – and a lot more heartache.

Even though our incident appeared to be a small issue, I knew it was a key training moment.
In terms of being respectful to their sister who was left outside and truthful to me when I asked them what was going on. There were a few issues at play that really needed to be dealt with and nipped in the bud.

Teaching respect to small children leads to having respectful tweens, teens and adults.  In our family, this is a total no-brainer.  I not only want to have lovely offspring in my home, I want them to be lovely in your home too.

Basically, I love my children enough to bump heads with them
And even though it’s so much easier to be the fun parent, the one who plays and laughs and doesn’t cause her children to feel upset or uncomfortable as a result of their actions, being that other parent takes effort.
Discipling is hard work and I would rather not do it, but daily I choose to be the parent who temporarily falls out with her children and set some rules.

According to Parenting.com “rules reassure kids, because no matter how often children act as if they want to be in control, having too much power is frightening.  They intuitively know that they need an adult to be in charge, and they count on their parents to guide their behaviour”.
In other words, children who have firm boundaries feel more secure than those who don’t really know where the fence lies, how long that fence is and where the gate locks.  It means that they are constantly testing the waters to see how far they can dip their toe in, which causes stress on their hearts and can be a nightmare for parents.

I promise my children that although there are so many times that I long to let things slide, I won’t.  I just won’t.
Because I care too much for their hearts and their futures, not to tighten and maintain that fence daily.  I love them beyond measure and can’t bear to think of them feeling insecure daily, dipping their toes in to see how deep that water is.

The fence is there and so am I.

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52 Things Your Mother Never Told You.

52 things

52 Things Your Mother Never Told You

Have you ever stopped and thought “why did my mother not tell me this?”.  I certainly have.
It was the day after our first child was born and I had to get up to use the toilet, located at the far end of a very long hospital corridor.
And the thing is, I couldn’t walk and could barely manage a wobble.  It felt as though all of my insides had been squeezed and then poked back into my body, all bruised and swollen.

Nobody told me that would happen, or that it would take weeks to be able to sit without ice.

I also was never enlightened to the fact that when a baby projectile vomits, it looks like a sheet of liquid and surprisingly can reach the other side of the room.  I guess that’s why they use the word projectile!

Or that I would feel so tired in those early weeks with a newborn, that I literally lost the capacity to form words and I would cry when I saw my bed because I was so desperate to be in it.

So in the spirit of learning by mistakes, here are some that you may recognise for yourself.  And if it happens to be all 52, you are in good company!

  1. If you knock on a door and it doesn’t open, try another one and keep going – until one opens before you even get there.
  2. Preheat the oven before baking a cake. It matters!
  3. Put sunscreen on your child during an overcast day.  Don’t let the hiding sun fool you.
  4. Buying a puppy on a whim because your kids beg you to – usually ends in disaster.  Puppies poop and wee in the house for a solid six months (pardon the pun).
  5. Wear a mask when flying.  Aeroplanes are germ infested petri-dishes.
  6. If you are flying with kids – good luck.
  7. Don’t miss the opportunity to travel. Often and in far-flung places.
  8. Don’t become bitter.  Ever.  It’s a slippery slope to becoming one of those shrivelled, grey nasty people who ooze contempt.  Plus it makes you ugly.
  9. Smile always. Laugh often. Hug your loves for at least 60 seconds each day.
  10. Hold your kid’s hands when in public.  Losing a child whilst shopping is one of the most traumatic experiences a parent can ever face.
  11. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t compare yourself to others.  Repeat as often as needed.  Daily.
  12. The grass is never greener on the other side.  Never.
  13. Take risks because you never know what is just around the corner – even if you can’t see it.
  14. Don’t shy away from difficult situations – they are the mortar that builds a house and make it strong.  Strength comes through adversity.
  15. When and if you become a parent, remember that your spouse was, and always will be, your first love.
  16. Don’t let your marriage go stale.  Invest in quality time together, even if it means hiding in a cupboard together so the kids don’t find you, drinking wine.
  17. Remember your kids are with you for a short time and your spouse forever.  Make your marriage a keeper.
  18. When the days are long – picture what your life will look like in ten years time.  Nothing stays the same.
  19. Teenage boys smell.  Invest in deodorant.
  20. Teenage girls will cry.  A lot. Be patient – at least once a month.  You were once that teenager.
  21. Embrace different cultures and don’t be pig-headed about your nationality being superior.
  22. Be prepared for storms to follow rainbows. The good news is, it’s generally a constant cycle of life  – so hang in there with the tough times.
  23. Relax – life is way too short to sweat the small stuff.
  24. Don’t give your kids too many choices. Remember they are little people and you are the adult.
  25. Don’t keep company with people who make you feel bad.  Toxic friends will pull you down.
  26. Don’t gossip.  It’s an unattractive trait.  No matter how tempting it may be to slander someone in the moment.  It always makes your heart feel black.
  27. Living a simple life is totally ok.  More than ok.  It’s paradise once you just let go
  28. Don’t chase money.  It’s like water and slips through your hands quicker than you can grasp it.
  29. Be content in the moment and stop striving for better.  Better is today.
  30. Don’t let your kids whine.  They will turn into obnoxious adults.
  31. If you allow your kids to answer you back, you are welcoming disrespect into your lives.  Guard your heart and theirs.
  32. Hamsters bite.  Get a rabbit instead.  Or a fish.  They don’t live very long.
  33. Invest in your kid’s hearts and not the stuff they want.
  34. Too many after-school activities can cause your kids to become exhausted. Protect their childhood.
  35. Let your kids play! Climb trees, skin their knees, ride bikes.  Fresh air is a child’s best friend.
  36. If your kids are bored – give them a high five and watch what happens.
  37. Competition with others makes your teeth grow fangs.  Think about it.  Fangs will repel people.
  38. Be content with what you have.
  39. Don’t over-analyse risks.  You won’t leave the house.
  40. Be kind.  Always.  To everyone.  One day that kindness will return to you tenfold.
  41. Having a small group of  ‘keeper friends’ is better than a gang of many, who make you feel lonely.
  42. You are your children’s greatest teachers.  Don’t underestimate the impact you have on their lives forever.
  43. Be still for at least 10 minutes a day.  Switch off and watch your heart rejuvenate.
  44. One day your kid’s will grow out of wetting the bed.  Grown adults don’t wet themselves, unless they are post-natal women and in that case, you may need to invest in Teena.
  45. Some days you will smash the world like a boss.  Other days you will put your keys in the fridge.
  46. Be happy.  It drives people crazy.
  47. Silence is the best reply to a fool.
  48. Don’t worry about the amount of vegetables your kids don’t eat – one day they will be steaming asparagus and eating raw broccoli.
  49. Surround yourself with people who get you.
  50. Know that you are a limited edition.  Love your soul.
  51. You may find you have nothing in common with people who wash, dry and put all their laundry away in the same day.  This is ok.  Welcome to the club of reality with kids.
  52. Dance in the rain.  It’s life-changing.

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Miscarriage – When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops – Part Two

miscarriage pt 2

Guest Post – Emily O’Malley
Miscarriage – When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops – Part Two – Angel Babies

Angel Babies

Dear sweet reader,

When my soul sister Catherine asked how I would feel if she wrote a blog post about miscarriage and if I would like to add my story, I jumped at the opportunity.  Yet now as I sit here at 12:45am, having a glass of milk after re-settling my eldest, my story suddenly feels overwhelming.  You see I should be unable to balance my laptop as I do right now, as I should have a 7 month baby bump.  But alas, all I have is post-baby belly.

My story is a common one.  According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage – most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant.  About 15-25% of recognised pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. Doctors will quite happily tell you this as they go about the seemingly routine process of telling you that you are pregnant no more.
Some doctors may even refer to it as a ‘natural abortion.’   The amount of times when doctors have asked me how many abortions I have had, just astounds me.  Somewhere along the road these medical practitioners have lost compassion for women in their care. 

My most recent miscarriage was in November 2017.
We had finished our family and had all birth control methods in place.  I just happened to be in the 0.3% of women who fell pregnant on our particular birth control.  As you can imagine it was a H U G E shock to my husband and myself.  But we started to get our heads around it after a couple of days.  We talked logistics of where we would place this baby in our home, we laughed about the fact that we had just finished selling the last of the baby clothes and equipment, and we marvelled at the fact I fell pregnant, despite all birth control measures being in place.

But then the moment came….. it was a moment that had happened three times prior.  I wasn’t shocked, I took a deep breath…. And I flushed that blood soaked piece of toilet paper away.  I called my husband to come home from work so I could go to the hospital.  I felt calm…yet sick.  I got in the car and drove to the Emergency Department, calling a friend along the way, who insisted on coming and being with me, despite my claims that I was “fine” (and I am ever so grateful she did come!)

Once at the ED, I sat for several hours waiting to be processed and seen by the doctor.  And the bleeding slowed, thus my hope started to grow again.  However, when the doctor came and told me my HCG levels (pregnancy hormone) was not doubling as it should and he believed I was having a miscarriage, it felt all too real and very familiar.  Through tightly held lips and watery eyes, I said thank you and simply walked out of the room.

I held my game face on for a little bit…but then it started to crack.  And I sobbed.  Over the coming days and weeks I got so angry at God for allowing this to happen to me.  A baby we had never planned for, but loved SO deeply after such a short period of time, had been ripped away from us.  I think the worst part was having to continue on with life like everything was normal….but life wasn’t normal…and that baby will forever be on my mind and in my heart.

You see I’ve had four miscarriages.  Three of them were prior to having my eldest and then this last, most recent one.  My husband and I have been blessed with two beautiful earth babies.  The youngest one who is soon to turn five!  But my heart can’t help but long for our angel babies as well.  I once read a book about asking God to reveal the gender of your child, so that you can name them.
My husband and I did this and so we have Noah, Jesse, Lucy and most recently Rose, in heaven.

It has amazed me how many other women say they’ve had a miscarriage, when I start sharing my story with them.  Society tells us to keep quiet about miscarriage and has made it out to be an unspoken topic, but the more we talk and share, the more we can journey together and get rid of this stigma surrounding miscarriage.

I’m sad to say not a day goes by that I don’t think about my angel babies.
At times sweet reader, you won’t even realise you are thinking about your loss, until it hits you right in the face and you feel overwhelmed with grief and sorrow.  Or you may feel you’re ok, but then you see someone with a baby bump that would have been the same size as yours and it hits you.  All over again.

My message is simply this … mama you are not alone.  Let us band together as mothers…as women….and share our stories of joy and hope, as well as those of sorrow and pain.  We crave community and most of us are well aware of the concept ‘it takes a village to raise a family’ – so let us actually do that.  The conversations may feel difficult to initially start, but from a mama that’s been there….please go there.  Ask me how I feel, ask what you can pray about for me, refer to my angel babies by name.
And most of all….please love on me.

Because even though we might say we don’t blame ourselves for having a miscarriage.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

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Miscarriage – When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops – Part One

miscarriage pt 1

When Your Baby’s Heartbeat Stops
Part One

On behalf of all the mother’s who have been through the trauma
of miscarriage and have angel babies in heaven.
This is their story.

We all know the fear.
Every-time we go to the toilet, we pray that there won’t be a blood stain on the paper.  We pray like mad it will be clear.  And we wait and wait, until we can’t wait any longer.

We wake, early, its 5am and still pitch dark outside. But morning urine is stronger and maybe, just maybe there will be two lines.
Our legs shake, heck our hands shake and we pee on our fingers, as well as the stick.  We are so nervous and worry we haven’t done it correctly.  Will the test be a waste?
We tell ourselves not to worry.  There is a box of pregnancy sticks waiting for just this moment.  If this doesn’t work, we will try a fresh one.

Then we sit and wait.  We set the timer and tell ourselves not to look until the buzzer has gone off.  But impatience sets in and we take a peek.
We squint and check the picture on the box.  Could this be true?  Two lines?
There are two red lines!!!!  We are pregnant!!!!
We shriek and run into the bedroom, jumping on our husband’s sleeping form.
It has worked!  We made a baby.  We are having a baby!!

We try to hide the euphoric feelings that are buzzing around our body.  Calm down we say.  Can’t be good for the baby.
The baby!  There is a baby in there.
We place our hand over our stomach and shake our head.  What a miracle.  How we want to protect this tiny new life so very much.

Two weeks pass, the doctor has confirmed the pregnancy and done the bloods.  The HCG levels (pregnancy hormones) are a little lower than he would ideally like, but don’t lose heart, he says.

We go to work or look after other children, have coffee with friends, care for our families, all the while thinking and praying for our little bean to be safe.
We continually check for positive signs.  Are our breasts tender?  Has morning sickness kicked in?  We hope morning sickness will begin soon – a sign of strong hormones.  Do we have any cravings?
We can’t be sure.

Then one night a few weeks later, when we drag ourselves to the toilet for the hundredth time, we see it.
Bright red blood on our knickers.  And a whole lot of blood on the toilet paper.
In that instant our heart drops, right down to our feet.
We feel sick, we shake, we keep saying, “no, no, no, no, not again, please not again”.

We crawl back into bed, trying to ignore the ache in our pelvic area that rises to a painful crescendo, dipping and diving and taunting us within our bodies, of which we have no control.
We tell ourselves that if we can sleep, the blood may be gone by morning.  It could just be break-through bleeding.  It’s common.  It happens – heck some women bleed the whole way through their pregnancy.
We start to Google ‘bleeding when pregnant’ and choose to read only the positive outcomes.
This for now is enough. There is still hope.

We call work and tell them we can’t make it in, we organise a sitter for the kids, we don’t tell a soul or we tell everyone and ask them to pray.  For the life of our child.  The child that we love with an everlasting fierceness that pierces our soul.  We want this baby so very much.
We have waited for this baby for such a long time.

We put off going to the toilet and the potential find of fresh blood.  We clench our legs together, willing that little seed to hang in there.
“Mummy is here. You are not alone little love.  You are so loved already.  So precious”.
We say this over and over like a chant.
We will all of our strength onto the baby.  Our hands don’t stop caressing our still-flat stomach.
“Please be ok baby.  Please be ok baby.  Please be ok baby”.
Over and over and over again.

Our name is called and we walk slowly into the radiographer’s dark room.  We lay down onto the crisp white paper, lining  the skinny bed with the squeaky rubber mattress.  We stare at the mattress.  Always the same colour.  Dark blue, like the ocean deep, matching the frightened blackness of our souls.

The nurse is so lovely and speaks very quietly and slowly.  We are asked to confirm the reason for the visit.
Yes it is bleeding we are experiencing.  Our voice is raspy and strained.  Our throats ache with the pressure of holding back the wall of emotions that threaten to explode.  Everywhere.
All over this tiny cubicle space and all over the people inhabiting it.  The dark corners of the room appear to sneer and beckon to us, a reminder that in a few short minutes, our whole world will shatter, all over again, just like before.

Again, very gently, we are told, this could be the start of our beloved baby miscarrying.  Our chin wobbles and our eyes fill with hot tears ready to spill any minute.
“Are we having any pain down below”?  Again, a nod, ever so slightly, “yes, yes we are”.
“Let’s have a little look at you and baby” she whispers.
The jelly will be cold we are told.
The screen is turned away from us.

There is silence.
The nurse’s face gives nothing away.  One minute, two minutes pass.
We don’t hear a thump, thump, thumpity-thump of a heartbeat. We think we may be sick.

Then our little bellies are wiped clean and we are asked to sit up when we are ready.
And it comes, the words we have been dreading ever since we fell pregnant,
“I am terribly sorry but it appears your baby has no heartbeat and the pregnancy is not viable.  The symptoms you are experiencing are consistent with a miscarriage”.
There are more words of condolence but we don’t hear them in the fog of grief, shock and overwhelming sadness.

The dam bursts and we sob and sob. Between gulps we manage to ask if it was anything we did wrong.
“Could it have been the sushi consumed whilst unaware of the pregnancy?  Or the glass of wine a few weeks ago”?

But her kind eyes says it all.
As many as 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
There is nothing that has made this happen.  It is an act of nature that baby just wasn’t ready for this world.
Empty words which feel so painful to hear.

Our bleak minds compute the fact that we could neither protect our baby or sustain life.  We are powerless in a way.
And that is the hardest pill to swallow.  This being outside of our control.  We feel so very broken.
But how we want this child!!!  So very much and it seems so unfair all at the same time.

This story literally describes millions and millions of women all over the world in this exact situation.  Miscarriage has been described as the silent grief.

These precious women warriors are unable to ever meet their children, the ones that were formed in their womb and grew as much as they possibly could.  And worst still, oftentimes there isn’t a solid reason as to why the miscarriage occurred.
It is an ending of confusion and grief, which is tragically all too common.
Empty comfort for those, whose pregnancies never have the opportunity to continue.


Here are a few things that can help a grieving mummy friend or yourself:

-1  Stop and acknowledge the existence of your child.

You have been a mother since your baby was conceived and the loss of your little one doesn’t make you any less of a mother.  It makes you a mother who grieves your child.  Have a thanksgiving service with close family.  Say a prayer, make a plaque and name your baby.  Say goodbye in a way that acknowledges life.

-2  Share with your trusted tribe that you are hurting. 

These need to be women you can cry with, who will sit with you whilst you talk (or not), ones who can hold you during your most difficult stages.
Part of the healing lies in fully comprehending the loss.

-3  Try not to alienate your partner because you were the one it happened to.

You are both parents and the loss is the same for mum and dad.  Even though your partner may be grieving in a different way than you, he is still grieving.  Give each other a double portion of grace and kindness and journey this painful path together.

-4  Take all the time you need to recover.

Don’t rush yourself back to normal.  If you need a period of time to reflect and heal, take it.  Believe me, you will be a much healthier and stronger person if you do give yourself some grace to work through the trauma of losing your child.
Seek professional help if you are struggling to let go.

-5  Take care of yourself.

Don’t allow grief to swallow you whole because it is so vile and will do so if you don’t try and build back into yourself.   Look after yourself with good food, have long soothing baths, read feel-good books, take walks outside, buy yourself a new outfit or some great shoes. Whatever it is that feeds back into your heart – go do it.  And do it often.  It will make an enormous difference to your healthy recovery.

-6  Lastly, expect for something to trigger the hurt and grief all over again.

It could be something quite innocent said to you by someone in passing, which hits right at the heart of your sorrow all over again.
Ride with it and tell someone what has happened.  Talk about it and before you know it, you will be back on your feet again.  You will find that these lows won’t occur quite so much and you can look back and recognise how far you have come in your grief and journey loss.

And finally, don’t lose hope because hope anchors the soul to keep believing for the one thing that you desire.  And absolutely, don’t give up.  Not on your body, nor your future little love.

‘Hope can feel a bit like a gentle breeze that ruffles your hair.
It is not always loud or courageous, swirling madly about your feet.

It is often swinging your legs out of bed in the morning and starting your day,
despite feeling so very sad and really quite unable.

Hope is whispering, “yes”, when you want to scream, “no”.
Hope is believing that the gentle breeze will be there tomorrow
and acknowledging its presence beside you.

And one day, when the sun shines warm on your face and you smile more than cry,
and that breeze caresses your face once again,
you will realise how far you have come in this difficult and beautiful thing we call life.

Hope is trusting all over again that life will begin and flourish once more’.
-C Irwin-©



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Hygge for All Seasons.

Hygge for All Seasons.

Throughout the past week we have had an unprecedented heat-wave in the UK.  Hitting a record high of 29C last Thursday, making it the warmest April day for nearly 70 years.

The surprising weather felt like a wonderful gift from nature, following the recent arctic conditions of the past few months.  Actually my brain took a few days to acclimatise, not to mention the fact that my legs and arms literally hadn’t absorbed a single ray of vitamin D for well over six months.
It was all a bit of a shock.
Plus, I had to shave my legs!  Six months of leg hair growth is impressive to say the least.

Like most of Britain, we headed outdoors.
Long walks in the sunshine, bike-riding through the countryside, a picnic in the garden, a few sausages thrown on the barbie.  It was heaven!

I predictably went a little overboard and packed away everybody’s winter wardrobe (when will I learn?), storing them in the attic in the hopes that they won’t be needed for another six months.Also, predictably, the weather has turned cold again.
My poor children are walking around freezing in cute cotton dresses, with only tiny spaghetti straps to cover their chilly shoulders.  And as I have also packed away their warm winter boots, their feet are turning a lovely shade of blue in rubber flip flops.
Never ones to be deterred for long, the kids have managed to squeeze their icy toes into the few remaining warm socks they own.  Socks and flip flops are quite the look I can tell you!
So is the long sleeved tops they found in the clothes dryer and duly placed under their cotton dresses for some warm padding.
I don’t think this bespoke bohemian look will be catching on anytime soon, thank goodness.

For me, practising the art of Hygge, seems more beneficial and cozy when the weather outside is cold and grey.
Visions of warm candle-light, thick, soft throw rugs, hands clasped around a hot drink, evoke a sense of cocooned harmony.  We all tend to hibernate over winter and what better way to do it than make our own abode cushioned in warm loveliness.

And when the sun comes out (and stays for a while), it is understandable that Hygge might take a bit of a back seat.

But that is where I have been wrong, as the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures takes on a whole new meaning in the summertime.  Of course, you can Hygge at any time of the year and
summer is the perfect season to copy the Scandinavian’s and get back in touch with mother nature.

Hygge 2
A Danish summer is very similar to a British summer.

We live in Norfolk and are blessed with beautiful big skies and lots of sunshine.  However, we are also the recipients of summer showers and drizzle, just like Denmark.Summer Hygge is an open invitation to enjoy the great outdoors.  Whether it’s a swim in the ocean, a relaxed picnic with pals or roasting marshmallows over an open fire, this is the season for making memories and enjoying the warmth.And it is all for free!
A day at the seaside, a glass of rose’ in the garden, a sunny patch on the grass with a book, doesn’t cost a penny, which is the sole reason it is so incredibly Hygge.
Hygge isn’t about money but all about the experience.
And of course, the Dane’s are fanatical bike riders!  In 2016, bikes outnumbered cars for the first time in Copenhagen, with thousands of people travelling on two wheels for commuting and leisure. Why not encourage the family to walk instead of drive to your local park or pub.  There is something so invigorating about being in the fresh air with your loves.Have you noticed that a huge proportion of Instagram photos are taken outside?  This is more than simply the light being better. It is because we are at our happiest when surrounded by nature.
A sweet fresh breeze, the sound of baby birds calling for their mama to feed them, hearing water twinkle in a sparkling stream.There is a sort of magic in the natural world.
It has been said that a child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.  A playful spirit, a curious mind with a world to explore.
I want more of that child-like joy and I believe it is to be found outside, just like the Dane’s have discovered.
And once you have had your incredible fill outside, why not bring it inside with some beautiful fresh flowers?  Apparently, having flowers in your home increases happiness, reduces depression and anxiety and can build positive emotions with friends and family. A separate study by Harvard University found the same results – increased compassion, feeling less negative, and more energy at work.
Who knew flowers packed such a medicinal and beneficial punch?
Or treat the family to a leisurely Swedish breakfast in the form of  Swedish Cinnamon Buns  – followed by a lunch of their famous smørrebrød (open sandwiches).
Remember, Hygge is the art form of creating intimacy in any given moment and nothing says comfort and togetherness more than baking and eating as a family.
Meik Wiking quotes in The Little Book of Hygge, that “Hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness” – and that means summer just as much as winter.

Here are some more Summer Hygge tips for you to enjoy:

–  Berry picking in the countryside.
–  Switch your bedding over into something lighter. 100% Egyptian white cotton sheets (although more pricey to purchase) are divine to sleep in, especially during hot summer nights with the window open.
–  Set up a day-bed or a rocking chair in an area that gets plenty of light and a cool breeze.
–  Invite some friends around for a barbecue, chimenea or a fire-pit. Think toasted marshmallows and an Aussie favourite, damper, which is a basic scone mix, fashioned on the end of a stick, roasted over the fire, dipped in butter and honey.
–  Look for pretty beach shells and when home, help the kids make a shell mobile to hang outside, so it twinkles and sings in the breeze.
–  Turn over some fresh dirt and plant some vegetable seeds.
–  Take the family to an outdoor concert or festival. There are loads of amazing places up and down the country.
–  Camp outside under the stars. Tell stories, play cards under the moon, be lulled to sleep by the sounds of wildlife and wake to the morning song of  birds.
–  Spring clean your house.  We all know the feeling of satisfaction when you have had a good clean-out and of course, the benefits of living clutter-free goes deeper than just the aesthetics.
Get the whole family involved and encourage them to sell the things they no longer want or need.  It’s a great incentive for little ones (and teenagers!).
It is therefore fitting to release our Seven Days of Hygge free e-book, whilst we are in-between seasons here in the UK.
For every day of the week, we have given you a snapshot of embracing the life of Hygge at home and sharing this with your loves.
In order to receive your copy, simply click the subscribe button in the right hand corner of the page.
We will need your email to send you the book, however, we promise not to spam you with endless annoying information!! Honestly, is there anything worse.
You could also be in the running to receive your very own copy of The Times bestseller ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ by Meik Wiking.
Three subscribers will be chosen at random on the 1st of June and we will announce the fortunate recipients via Instagram and Facebook, the same day.Wishing you a wonderfully Hygge Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter!
I so hope you enjoy your Hygge journey as much as we do and here’s to emanating the happiest country in the world!


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The Mummy Wars.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 6

The Mummy Wars.

The Mummy Wars, started for me, when our first child was born nearly 21 years ago.
I felt the pressure, almost instantly to keep up.
Within the Mother’s Groups that I reluctantly dragged myself along to, as strongly advised by my health nurse.
Because, “it was good for me to get out of the house and meet other mummies”.

holding arrows mummy wars blog 1
I found myself saturated in conversations of whose baby was on a schedule and whose was sleeping through the night.
How many wet nappies so and so had each day and what the normal colour of breastfed infant’s poo looked like.
Mine just cried a whole lot. Period.

And from that point on – the pressure never stopped. In fact, it increased. Along the lines of –

‘My Jonnie is sitting up without support and you should see how eager he is to crawl!! He is only three months!’

‘My Susie toilet-trained herself. Overnight – I just sat and watched in utter amazement’

‘Well, of course, my Peter is very advanced for a child his age. He can already count to 100 and given half a chance would be reading novels – but really thick ones. Except I can’t find any that are appropriate material for his age, so he is stuck with simple board books. And they are soooooo boring for him’

‘Natalie eats absolutely everything on her plate and especially loves vegetables! I just can’t give her enough. She devours it all’

‘Well, our Stuart, just last night pointed to his bedroom and actually asked me to put him to bed because he loves sleep SO MUCH’

And on and on and on….

I kid you not – these actual conversations (changing the names) are happening all over the western world. Right now.

I quickly learnt after my first, that childhood is not a race.
It’s a slow and individual amble.
Cherishing your child’s unique traits and quirks and definitely not comparing them to others.

holdingarrows blog mummy warsI am not bothered anymore if child x/y/z is reading before mine or can count to one thousand.
I want my children’s lives to be tailor-made to accommodate them.
To learn and develop at a pace that is perfect for them.
And to definitely know that earlier doesn’t mean better.

In fact, a new study entitled, The Gift of Time, School Starting Age and Mental Health, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school.

Some little ones are ready for school at an early age, but a lot aren’t.
Our twins were only 4 when they began to attend full-time school and only weeks prior to them starting, were still having day-time naps. They just weren’t ready and it showed through their behaviour and also their utter exhaustion at the end of the day.
It felt wrong and I wished I had been strong enough to take them out of school, earlier than I did, rather than waiting until midway throughout their first year of school.
I was afraid though. Of being judged by other mothers, worried that the playground mummy wars would start, pointedly telling me what a mistake it was and goodness me, how would my children socialise or even learn at home? Things like that.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 2We all want what is best for our children – that goes without saying.
For some, it’s early school, others it’s later.
Many will go to a public school and others, like ours, will be home schooled.
But whichever way you choose to educate your child, remember that their life isn’t a race to get through childhood as quickly as possible.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 3
One’s childhood can be an incredibly magical time, where imagination is fed through moments of sitting quietly and actually being bored!
Great riches are discovered when children have the time and space to think and just ‘be’.
Forts are built, stories are written of faraway lands and mystical creatures, daisy chains are inter-twined by little hands, whilst lying on the warm grass in the sunshine.
Mud pies are baked in outdoor kitchens and many, many hours are spent outside exploring the beauty and mystery that is nature.
Children create, plan and learn through play whilst slowing down enough to appreciate it all.

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The greatest compliment for me, will be to have my children reflect on their childhood as adults and want to emanate the same for their offspring.
Rich memories of happiness and freedom amongst days of all sorts of adventures.
Without the constraints of an adult, behind them, pushing and urging them forward in every extra-curricular activity under the sun, just so they can keep up with their peers.

holdingarrows mummy wars blog 5I think having it all, might also include resting.
A lot. In abundance.
Every single freeing day.
And I want to be fully present to enjoy it, right alongside them and as far away from The Mummy Wars as I can possibly get.





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