20 January, 2016

THE SLOW LIFE



Since my children were tiny babies I have worked hard to keep our days slow and calm. This goes for both house days and days of social calls and errand running.

It's not about being anti-social and it doesn't mean living lonely.  I love community; we need community. It is about knowing your limits, and living well within them. It's about teaching my kids the importance of the now. The necessity of being still It's about patience and contentment and turning from self to service.

Slow living both reveals and preserves the richness of motherhood.

It's stopping to study the snail on the walk home from the grocery store, even in the cold, even when you have a dozen more errands to run. It's buying the homeless woman a hot meal when you're already running late.


It means when in my power, my calendar is never bursting with commitments. It means we often have quiet days at home-- painting, baking, building Lego-- more than once a week.
It means we have time to take that unexpected phone call, or FaceTime Mimi twice in two days, just to say we are thinking of her. It means the spontaneous house guest is welcome, not inconvenient.

It means instead of rushing out the door, there's time to teach my daughter how to tie her shoes and hold her sleeves when putting her coat on.
It's cooking more than 30-minute meals.
It means the spilled glass of milk feels a little less inconvenient.
Because whatever's happening in that moment-- that's where you are. It's where you should be. It's where I want to be.

It means whatever is going on, wherever we are headed, is not more important than whatever the current moment holds.




It's waiting for the next green light at the crosswalk. It's taking the time to take hands before crossing. It's crouching down to look your child in the face, to speak to him eye-to-eye.

This, to me, is one of the most freeing and peaceful things about motherhood: that this is how it can be. Dare I say should be?

It's stretching my patience and challenging me in real ways I can feel; I fight the urge every single day to shout hurry! To think, I don't have time for this or We have to move faster.

We were born into a world where we're told we should constantly be trying to get ahead and work the weekend and get out of the way, and hurry it up for goodness' sake.

It's a lie.

"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of ones 'own' or 'real' life. The truth is, of course, that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life-- the life God is sending them day by day." || CS Lewis




Here's my sale's pitch: if you're frazzled, frustrated, your patience seems to be wearing thin, evaluate: What are you doing? Are you doing too much? Where can you cut back? How can you slow motherhood down? I'm so thankful we have a tender Father that gently leads those that have young.


Raise a glass to motherhood, and have a happy Wednesday, mamas!

19 January, 2016

TEN THINGS



1. Louise's feed is, hands down, the most beautiful I've seen.

2. I still swoon over all Ace & Jig dresses.

3. Showed the children this video on cliff diving and now they all want to try!

4. David Bowie will not appear on the next £20 note, Bank of England says.

5. Have you read about the six-legged giants resurfacing after hiding away for 80 years?

6. Have you seen Shabby Apple dresses?!

7. An encouraging article for mothers with young children

8. I cannot wait to make this feta tapenade

9. . . .and this food-based antibiotic

10. I've been loving having Peace & Calming back in stock again. It's in my diffuser every day!

18 January, 2016

THE NATIONAL GALLERY




"But Mama, I can't see Nelson in any of the pictures of us." 

I know you can't, and my stomach formed a knot over it. Nelson remains a hero, especially in our home. We've got a kitten named after him (Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, to be precise), Peter's currently working on an oil on canvas painting of his victory at the Nile, and Sebastian will happily tell you his entire life story, start to finish.

A good photo with Nelson is good enough reason to go back.


Last week I took the littles to the National Gallery, a place none of us had ever been, but I was confident they would enjoy as we have to pull them out of nearly every museum we visit.

We spent an extra twenty minutes walking across every piazza in our path when we were in Florence just so the children could see the sculptures. It was then that I really realised they had their father's blood in them through and through.
When Katharina was 13 months we began noticing her startlingly in-key and on-point tone while singing, and I joked that she was certainly Peter's child.

But their appreciation for art is just something else! I am eternally grateful to my husband for sharing this love with our children.







Like most of the museums here, the National Gallery has Free Admission! You really can't beat the museums in the UK. They're truly stunning, most all of them have impressive collections, and all have free admission! It's especially great because it means you can make the day as long or short as you need without feeling like you've seen your ticket's worth.

We couldn't choose a top favourite gallery, but the Impressionists are always a favourite as we've been practicing painting like them at home. Katharina was disappointed that Monet's Poppies wasn't there, but I've promised her a trip to France where she can copy from it as long as she pleases. Monet still remains her favourite artist (for now at least!), and she came home and promptly copied the Water-Lily Pond.


Philippa studied Rousseau's Surprised! for so long that I couldn't control myself and bought her a print from the gift shop to hang above her bed. 

Sebastian was especially taken by the Renaissance galleries, with the dark shadows and action-packed scenes. We also loved how generally enormous the paintings were-- like a life-sized storybook.

I got chills staring at Monet's signature-- half a metre from us, a simple green rope the only thing separating us. He touched these paintings!


We'll definitely be returning soon, next time with our sketchbooks and pencils in hand!

13 January, 2016

WEDNESDAY

The children and I have been learning German together. While Sebastian will proudly announce, "Ich bin ein Junge", Katharina will sit for ages writing out terms. I'm happy I can now give my phone number in German, with some help from the littles. . .wait. ;)




December was unusually mild this year (so we're told), and just as we were getting comfortable with having it that way, temperatures went and plummeted and brought buckets full of rain with them. The daffodils are resilient though and remind us of warmer days to come.


They told me this morning, "You are the greatest mother!"
Philippa rocks her cashmere hat from Olivier Baby & Kids that I grabbed at The ShopUp. Also, the thighs.


I have only ever ironed Sebastian's shirts when he's had a wedding to walk in (that is okay, right?!), but this morning as I was ironing Peter's he brought his down and asked if I would do them also. His smile spread from ear-to-ear when I showed him his pressed white shirt. "It looks just like Papa's. I love it so much."


An evening visitor:


How Katharina keeps herself busy during quiet time when she can't sleep:


Forever and always, the highlight of the girls' week:


"If I were a puzzle. . ." -- Conversations while cooking dinner. I hope he always wants to be with me.


Happy Wednesday, guys!

We're making jacket potatoes with a buffet of toppings for dinner tonight. What are you cooking?

07 January, 2016

IT'S HARD



Today's a day where I shot a bit high for my to-do list after a successful, and if I'm honest, a bit inspiring, day yesterday.

Nine pretty big tasks out out of eleven. Incomplete.

I ran into the Cooperative yesterday to grab a loaf of bread. A bag of library books on my shoulder, three scooter-mounted children about me, and I couldn't shake the feeling of a woman's gaze. I made eye contact. "It's hard. It's hard for YOU." 

She repeated this over and over, head slowly shaking, her eyebrows raised to emphasise that it was me she was sympathising with. Such a sad and pitiful thought that a woman should suffer and be challenged through her work. Nonetheless, the work of rearing the next generation!



I'm not sure why. Because if you ask any person working in the corporate world who has climbed the ladder of success, they'll tell you it was hard work. I do know a few trust-fund babies for whom life and success have fallen into their laps, but that is not what I'm talking about.

For the greater part of us humans, we do have to work. Life takes work. 

There's effort and exhaustion, long hours; sweat and blood. But endurance.

Peter and I watched a couple episodes of Horatio Hornblower last night and I commented how being a sailor really required climbing a ladder to get to Horatio's place. He started as a young, pretty ignorant-- albeit able-- shipman. Even less, he was a mere sailor. 

Upgraded after various battles and lengthy experiences, he's currently Commander of the Hotspur. His cabin is less spacious but far superiorly adorned than my own home. Prior to this honour, he faced beatings and starvation and imprisonment and thievery. His shipmates hated him and rumoured about him and he fought, hard, for his name, for success, for honour. 



He worked for the prize.

And I'm pretty certain Cooperative Woman would have said well done, Horatio Hornblower!  She might praise her daughter who endured a decade of schooling to be the surgeon she is. She's most likely thankful for the hard work men like Hornblower face every day to ensure she can live safe and sound in her foggy London Town. 

Is that kind of hard ok? Why is it, and this-- this nitty gritty Kingdom building hard-- is not? Forget if you believe there's a Kingdom to build or not. Since when do we, should we, shy away from what is hard?



During The War, one of my best friend's relatives swam the Danube-- cold, dark, middle of the night.  He swam for freedom, to build a family, and a life for that family. He did this not once, but twice. The first time he was caught, returned to his home for running away as a minor, the second time he used what he had learned from the first time and made it to safety, worked to build himself a new life, and succeeded. 

I can think of a myriad of examples-- training at the gym, tearing muscle over muscle to strengthen and build new muscle, by way of hard training. My own husband-- beating odds and obtaining a job in the financial sector with a degree in metaphysical philosophy. History itself is replete with examples.




Sure there are hard days-- we all have them. Days of retaking a failed exam. Days of corralling three scooters in the grocery store. Days of plunging into the Danube for the second time. 

So I guess here's what I'm saying: Cooperative Lady's comment isn't from left field. My job does requires hard work. But it's rewarding work. On a daily basis I get to see the fruit of repentance in my children's hearts. 

Yesterday my three-year-old came to me, tears rolling down her cheeks, and said, "Mama, I am so so sorry I yelled like that." I get to see their physical and mental growth, their social skills developing, their hearts changing.

And I would so regret my life, focusing on the hard of my tasks, rather than the reward. 

So let's press on, shall we? Let us not grow weary in doing good. Let's pursue a challenge and face it. Let's be inspired by the hardPress on, endure it, conquer it-- the day, the war, the test, the river.

05 January, 2016

TUESDAY



Hello! Happy 2016! How were your holidays? The entire season was so sweet for us and surprisingly full so we're feeling rejuvenated and eager for the fresh start of a fresh year.

Our holidays began with a pirate party at Peter's work where we wandered around the fifth floor in pirate attire, [adults] sipping mulled wine, [children] building treasure chests, being chased by Captain Hook and Mr Smee, and sitting on Father Christmas' knee.



Peter worked a half day Christmas Eve, which we were all suspicious was only because he needed an excuse to get into the City to finish start Christmas shopping. In the evening we ate Christmas cookies, had a big dinner, checked Google's Santa Tracker one last time, and put some bouncy littles down for an early bedtime.

Christmas was quiet and much needed with just our family, but we spent nearly five hours on FaceTime with our extended families in the States, which was bittersweet. Boxing Day we headed about two hours north for brunch with friends who have seven children and live in a spacious house in the fresh country air outside of London. It was a lovely break away with delicious food and great company.



For my birthday (following Boxing Day) Peter surprised me by having our dear friends from Scotland down for a few days. We had a second gigantic meal, cake & ice cream, wandered around Greenwich, and several up-too-late nights with them.

We joke one of the biggest mistakes we've made as a couple was getting married on New Year's Eve (aka Hogmanay) because of the struggle to find a babysitter. In past years we've done different creative things: anniversary dinner in, celebrated on a different night, and once, had the luxury of having my sister-in-law visiting over the holidays so were treated us to a few days/nights of childcare. This year friends kindly invited our three littles to their house for a hogmanay sleepover party complete with fondue and sword fights.

Peter and I had several cocktails (and pre-dinner chips, ha) at a pub in Soho before heading to our 9pm reservations at one of my favourite places to date, and one I had been wanting to take him to for over a year: St Moritz. You can't miss the place on Wardour Street, with a big Swiss flag hanging over the door. Upon arrival, take a deep breath and smell the place-- real, good, c h e e s e.



The ambiance couldn't be more perfect at this place: dimly lit, with red brick walls, aged cedar rafters, old red carpet. . . They serve authentic, stinky, imported Swiss cheese fondue, with baskets of diced bread, boiled new potatoes, or roasted veggies. Peter got an order of beef, which is served raw with 9 assorted dipping sauces and a pot of sizzling oil for frying it yourself.

You must try. Finish it all off with a pot of chocolate fondue and a shot of Schnapps. Book in advance, because they have about ten tables (all with such excellent service).

Peter was back to the office yesterday, and the littles and I have been regrouping, tidying, and agenda-planning. I'm especially savouring this time with them before they become school-age and everything seemingly changes. Last year it all seemed very far away but now it feels on our heels.



We're making Peter's mother's chicken curry tonight and enjoying a cosy afternoon & evening in. We've had the mildest of winters (literally-- in seventy years!) and I am in my glory!

Happy Tuesday, all! I'm not one for resolutions, but if I were, writing on this blog more would have been one of them. . . ;)

xx

(all photos by Rachel Clarke Photography, from when we lived in Scotland).