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Fun in the sun

There’s nothing more satisfying than spending some time having fun with your family. Being a mother of many is by no means easy. There are times when just getting out the door is difficult. What is a simple trip to the supermarket is 5 minutes just to get into the car. Then of course all the drama when we are actually in there. We do everything as a family. Not always by choice, by need. On a daily basis. It’s most often not pleasurable. But last weekend we spent a bit of time enjoying the sun as a family.

I have to admit, I hate play parks. I hate going to a play park and sitting there getting cold. I get irritated going around the climbing frame helping the little ones climb up. I am quietly pleased by having the older ones there to help. That makes me sound terrible. But I know some of you will say the same. I’ve been going to play parks for more than 10 years, I think I’m allowed to hate them.

The weekend brought some May sunshine. No wind and a nice warm day. Avoiding they play park it was a perfect day for the horses. We now have two horses. My mare and God’s gift pony, also known as Domino. The little pony has been backed before but not ridden much. He hasn’t been ridden since coming to me so we thought we would give it a shot.

Lewis on Domino
Lewis looking proud of his pony

Now to give you a good impression, Dom is wide. Rather wide. He’s currently chubby. He was fat and I suspect he will again be fat. He seems to gain weight from air alone. He’s a lot like a cartoon pony. Spends a considerable amount of time being crazy. By crazy I mean a bit blonde. Random rearing and squealing. Rolling as you try to lead him in from the field. Throwing buckets at us. Trying to eat clothing. Not in the slightest bit malicious, just general oddness.

 So, with the adjustable saddle in hand we tacked up and decided to go for it. My mother being a worrier, was ready to lay an egg at the prospect of her precious little grandchildren riding on this crazy pony. What if he decides to roll while someone is on? She was terrified. I was more concerned about my saddle if he did! Anyway, to prevent the egg laying I would get on and give it a try first. He’s just a little lad. But none the less I would get on. He was very good and well-mannered enough. A few pony club kicks and he got the idea that I was in fact, not just sitting there as a decoration. He was responsive and the brakes were semi working. All was good.

Lead rope attached and Granda in the lead, we rode out. The children taking turns. More stopping and swapping than actual going. I think Domino was more impressed with the grass snacks along the tack at the change-over points, than the actual riding. He was well mannered and did a fantastic job. The kids were very happy indeed.

Scott on Domino
Scott with Domino and me trying to stop Arwen snacking!

 

Cameron however decided he couldn’t possibly walk any further. He had to lay down on the ground. But when I asked if he wanted to ride up on Arwen with me, he jumped up quickly, feeling suddenly much better! He was not in the slightest bit worried about being on top of a nearing 16hh TBx. Yee Haa Arwen, lets run. Maybe not! Arwen was as usual perfectly behaved when ridden. She’s not so perfect on the ground. But when she’s ridden she’s such a lovely mare. Cameron loved her. She even got a kiss from him.

Riding horses back image (2)
A favourite picture on mine, Cameron hiding up in front of me

It was a beautiful day and we all had fun. I think it may have taken us double the time it would usually take me but it was well worth it. Bikes, dogs, horses and children. A recipe for fun and laughter. Much better than any play park!

Sarah x

 

Living and Growing!

 

Being a parent means teaching your child about life. Answering their questions and guiding them into the right choices. But sometimes those questions can lead into more questions. Then even more questions.

 

At school this week the older boys have been getting varying degrees of sex education. From the proper name’s onwards. It started with Stuart. He came out of school with a peculiar expression, stating that today they had done a bit of living and growing. I suddenly remembered the email from school pre-warning of the upcoming teachings. That’s good, what was it like? His expression said it all. Emm, about proper names of the girl’s and boy’s bits. It’s a little disturbing!

 

Holding back my laughter I said that we could talk about it when we got to the stable. On the way there, with the other boys in the car, he would describe how things were and the names. Being all boys they weren’t in the least concerned about knowing what a penis was. But the description for the girls was met with much more concern. “Did you know Scott, that a girl’s bits are called a bajina.” I snorted with laugher, as did our Steven who is 2 years older. After sorting out the naming issues I explained to Scott, who is only 7, that its where the babies come out.

 

On arrival at the stable the conversation moved swiftly on to the farm. So, do cows and sheep have vaginas? Yes, they do. I explained that when I have my arm inside the sheep to get the lambs out that my arm is inside the sheep’s vagina. Laughter erupted from Stuart and Steven. Scott was horrified. That’s disgusting Mum. So, when Dad has his whole arm inside the cow, it’s in the vagina? That’s right. Wow, cows have big vaginas! By this point I had tears streaming down my face with laughter.

 

Mum? Yes Scott? So, when you had us, did the doctors have their arm inside your vagina? Oh dear, it’s all gotten a little out of hand! After explaining that humans most definitely don’t get their babies pulled out by the arms and there are no doctors putting their arms inside vaginas, the colour retuned to Scott’s face. We ended the conversations by explaining that animals and babes are born slightly differently. That the animals come out feet first and babies come out head first. I’m sure we may have opened a can of worms.

 

I think society may have taught children too much already. I certainly think children are subjected to more than they were 30 years ago. I don’t remember thinking any of this at their age. But my Mum may tell a different story. I don’t think it’s possible to shelter them from everything. In fact, I think that would be wrong. It’s great that schools are on the ball and teaching our children what they need to know. They have a tried and tested method that’s open and easy going.

 

I got plenty questions this time round and I am sure there will be more over the weeks. I might be lucky in that I can relate it back to a farm animal. Making it easy for the younger ones to understand. I know they are younger but they will talk to each other, I can’t stop that. I just need to be more prepared than I was. Especially since Steven announced that they were watching a video about the S word. It’s going to get worse!

Sarah x

 

Embracing Kondo

As a mother of many I feel I spend a great deal of time tidying up. More time that I would like. I travel though my house tidying as I go. I have a reasonably large house and by the time I get back to where I have started, someone has undone all my work. An ongoing battle. A battle with stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

Those of you who know me well will know that I have a weakness for Pinterest. Yes ok, I love it. I admit. While I have spent lots of time tidying I have also spent lots of time looking for better storage ideas and quicker tidying methods. You know what? It doesn’t work. No matter how good a tidier you are, you will never get on top of the stuff. I am a good tidier. I’m proud of my tiding. But it doesn’t get any better. I don’t want to spend my life cleaning and organising. I want to enjoy my life and my children. Many will now say; your children are only children once. Ignore the mess. But I can’t. It makes me mentally distressed. I cannot sit in a mess and feel free. There is no freedom in clutter.

The other day I stumbled across Marie Kondo. I have seen her folding techniques before and have heard of her being this minimalist guru but never really considered it. Seeing some before and after pictures of an avid readers house I decided to investigate further. ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up’ her extremely successful book. On reading the article and many more it linked to, I concluded that this girl was a little crazy. I mean come on, thanking my discarded objects for being in my life. Just a tad strange. But, since some upcoming changes may lead to a house move, I decided to give it a try. I will not move to a new house and bring all this clutter!Marie Kondo

The Konmari strategy. By following Feng Shui principles and abandoning the traditional organising tactics, she has created a onetime method. You need never repeat the extensive purge. Tidying thereafter should be quick and stress free. The basic principles are simple. Follow the plan, by the rules, and you will be clutter free. Simple. Although, she does say this could take anything from a few days to 6 months. I don’t have 6 months and I’m pretty sure I can’t do it in a few days!

 

The action plan:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Paper work
  • Miscellaneous
  • Sentimental items

She believes by following her order you will find it easier to purge. I can see why she suggests sentimental items last. By that point, you should be well seasoned and have felt much freedom from purging, that you have the power to tackle the hardest last. Or it could be starting with the biggest burden first. I know myself and all my children have far too much clothes.

 

The method:

  • Visualise life clutter free

She asks for more than just imaging your home free of clutter. Imagine your life clutter free. What would you do if you had more space and time. For me, an easier house to keep tidy would leave me time to spend with my family without feeling stressed about mess. For others, it may be space to have a crafting area or room for a new baby. Whatever that space may hold. It’s time to unlock it.

 

  • Keep only those things that spark joy

By this she means don’t keep anything which is not needed, for any reason other than your own enjoyment. If you love an item, no matter what it is, or what others think, keep it. Endorse your love and hold on to it. Anything else however, get rid of it. She believes that by being surrounded by love your inner peace is promoted.

 

  • Keep what is needed

Although she endorses keeping for joy she also states you must keep for need. I know you don’t really love your toilet cleaning supplies, but you do need them. You must keep them. Joy sparked or not. Same goes for paper work. My collection of cattle records and calving dates certainly don’t spark joy, dread maybe, but I do most definitely need them. She effectively establishes techniques to downscale need, be it with papers or supplies.

 

  • Guilt free purging

Don’t hold on to things just because you would feel guilty to part with them. If you have a necklace that cost a bit of money but you don’t really like it. What joy does this give you? What Joy does it give the necklace? Hidden in your jewellery box where no-one can see. Kept only from guilt, not love. Give it away and serve purpose to your life and that of another who will love the necklace. (I know it’s a bit mad but stay with me)

 

  • One day I might….. Will never come

You kept the torn footstool because one day when you get time you will recover it with new fabric. You kept a dress that you once loved because one day I might repair it or adjust it. Kondo says these ‘one days’ will never come. How many of you have something that you are going to fix one day and that one day has long since passed? I know I have. She describes these as weights to our happiness. The freedom we will feel when we let go of these expectations that we will never achieve.

 

  • Tidy like items all in one place

By pulling all your items of that kind to one place you can see the sheer volume of stuff you have. I know it might sound counterproductive to make more mess by dragging all your clothes to the floor in one room. But when you get them there you discover you have 6 black dresses that you only ever wear at funerals. Do you need 6? Did you even know you had 6? Chances are that it’s a no. You will find things you forgot you had. Unloved things. Things you most likely don’t even need. Taking up space. Making clutter.

 

  • Embrace the freedom and be thankful

This is where it gets a little out there. She recommends thanking your discarded item for touching your life. Thanks for the value it gave you and wish it well in its new life. Your possessions reflect your state of mind. Many items will serve to preserve the past or act as a fear for the future. The items that we hold on to as they are reminders of our past. Be it from happy or sad times. The ones we keep for fear of the future. What if we might need to know this. Kondo endorses living in the now and letting go of the past and leaving the future to worry about itself.

Konmari quote

I don’t know about you but I am fired up for going Kondo on my house and possessions. I’m not sure I can think like my items are alive and give them thanks. But I am looking forward to the freedom she describes. Imagine a life without clutter. Amazing!

I’ll keep you posted

Sarah x

The Easter story for me this year

 

Last weekend was Easter Sunday. A day for celebration. A signal of spring. The arrival of the Easter bunny and the rebirth of our king.

 

It means different things to different people. For some the morning will bring on the Easter Hunt with the Easter Bunny having hidden the eggs for the children to find. The making of the baskets and nests and lots of chocolate eating.

 

This year after a bit of homework, the kids asked me why a bunny? Admitting my ignorance, I decided to have a look. Investigation showed me that the Goddess of Spring, Eostre, was said to have a Hare as her companion. The hare is meant to symbolise fertility. Rabbits having many large litters makes it understandable. Over the years this Hare became an Easter Bunny. The bunny laying coloured eggs in nests the children had made. Originating mainly from Germany.

 

But for us, this year more than last it, was about the Church rather than the chocolate. I was asked to talk at the early morning riverside service about my experience this year with God in my life. How have I seen Jesus’ work? My first thought was that I see God’s work every day. We live in a farming life. Creation is God’s work. Life and birth. His work and creation. The animals and the plants. His new life. To me that’s God’s work. All around me. He made us all. He gave us life. I have always seen God’s work. I just never saw it as his work until recently.

 

But I was asked about how God worked in my life, personally, for me. This year, God gave me a pony. Those of you who have been following me will know about Domino. How a friend’s need and my need came together and answered my prayer. She needed a home for her pony and I needed a pony. God worked and gave us both an answer. An answer that brought tears to my eyes. Every little girl prays for a pony. I got one!

 

But back to Easter. This year I saw the celebration. The hugs and kisses and the joy at the rebirth. He is our Messiah. He came back for us. He washed our sins away. God gave us the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his only son an earthy birth and allowed for his suffering and sacrifice. All to save us. It also stopped all this clean animal sacrificing which to me is a personal bonus.

 

My readings of the Old Testament have highlighted a few questions about Easter to me. It highlights a lot if I am honest but let’s just stick to Easter just now! I can’t find the exact quote I am looking for, but in there somewhere it describes the human birth of Jesus. That made me think. His human birth? So, he was already alive? God gave his only son. He already had a son to give. For me that was a revelation. That he had a son. With instruction from my bible study leader, Janie if you are reading this – that’s you, I was lead back to the story of creation. There was nothing. God created the earth and so on. But no, look carefully. It depends what version you read, I personally have been using the message bible, but even in NIV we see that in Gen 1:26, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. There, let US make mankind in OUR image. That means there was more than just him. His son was there. There was always the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is something else I didn’t know!

 

I already discussed how he fulfilled the Palm Sunday prophesy. But he fulfilled so many more, right though the Easter story. The whole thing really. It was all about Jesus. His (and God’s) ultimate sacrifice. All for us. It’s an amazing story. One we all know. The sadness of Good Friday followed by the joy of Easter Sunday. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (I must feel sorry for her, she’s described as the other Mary, poor girl) discovering the empty tomb. Seeing the angel. Imagine that, seeing an Angel. An Angel of the lord came down from Heaven right there in front of their eyes. Frightening, but amazing.

 

It’s all pretty amazing. The whole Easter story. It’s almost better than Christmas. I have loved Easter this year. Last year I saw Easter as about Jesus and the Church. But this year I understood Jesus and the Church.

 

Happy Easter.

 

Sarah x

 

A little bit of reading

This Sunday took us to Palm Sunday. A special day in the church. Jesus riding on the donkey colt. The beginning of Holy Week. Only two years ago I had never heard of Holy Week. I had little experience of the church. Of a life with God in it. I didn’t know anything was missing. I never thought about anything other than just being alive. It never dawned on me to think why. I didn’t know any better.

Last year I found it all somewhat confusing. I struggled with the understanding. I found it a challenge just to be able to follow what was going on. I got the outline of the story. God made the world. We had Adam and Eve. There was Noah and the flood. Something about a guy named Moses who was brought up by a princess. A Joseph, with his technicolour dream coat. Then somehow it went along to Jesus being born. He grew up and then there was all the miracles. The paraplegic man coming through the roof. Feeding all these people with a few fish and loaves. Then people being angry with Jesus. In about here there was the last supper. Possibly he turned water into wine. Somewhere he did. Then he died on the cross, along with two other guys who I didn’t know. Then a few days later he was reborn. People were confused and there was happiness. Then he went to heaven to be with God. Seated at the right hand of the father, I remembered that bit. But mostly, I was confused!

So, this year when we came along the Church calendar I have been paying proper attention. I kind of missed out the Old Testament. It’s all a bit mad. (I’ve only just started reading it. Its proper exciting.) First there was the Christmas story, where all the children have fun and it’s all about Jesus being born. To us, this time, it was more than just Santa. Yeah, the kids looked forward to Santa coming. But they loved the nativity and the lead up to Christmas. Magical to a child.

More recently we read about the raising of Lazarus. Now that’s where I started to think, you know this is all pretty amazing stuff. He wanted to let Lazarus die. Just so he could raise him. He was showing his worth. He is special. He did make miracles!

This Sunday being Palm Sunday, I read it with the children. He rode in on a donkey, which he had specifically asked his disciples to get, and people laid palm leaves and clothes for him to ride along. Alright, a little odd. So, I had a good look and realised that he did this to fulfil a prophesy. To show the people what he is the Messiah, he rode on the colt foal of a donkey. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He is the king. This is when he tells his disciples to start shouting. To hail him as the king, the Messiah. The coats and palm leaves laid before him as an act of worship. He was the one who they had been waiting for. He has come.

This is all a pretty amazing story. The more I read, the more I am intrigued. I want to know what happened next. I’ve started a bible study with an amazing woman, a minister, who is just so real I can ask her anything. Exactly what I need. I’m still learning all this. It’s still a bit odd and sometimes totally off the wall. But, if nothing else, I am enjoying the journey.

Sarah x

Practice Baby

This week a fellow mother of many, while telling how proud she was, described her first born as her practice baby. A touching sentiment that rang true to my ears. An effective analogy to the difficult learning curve in a first-time mother’s life. A time that no mother will ever forget. The tears and exhaustion being the most prominent in my memory. The hours spent with a baby at my breast hoping and praying that he may just fall asleep after this feed. In the hope that I may clear the destruction around me and even get to close my eyes for 10 minutes.

With my practice baby long behind me, I have become a mother of many. To string out a cliché, it really does get better. The next time you just don’t care quite so much. If you need to co-sleep its ok. Just so you get to sleep. If you need to go with baby lead weaning, not because it’s the latest thing, but because you don’t have time to make baby pulp. Then so be it. I baby lead my last three. That’s just life. A mother’s life. A stressed and exhausted mother’s life.

Lots of people ask me, how do you ever cope with five children. Well, sometimes I do wonder myself. I don’t have a trick or a fancy strategy. I just wing it. Day by day. Take one step at a time. I don’t have a routine. A farmer’s wife can’t have a routine. There is always some pressing task hidden around the next turn. But even as a mother. I don’t have a strict bedtime followed to the minute. I don’t have bath and bed strategy. My kids fall asleep in the car. They fall asleep on the floor. My littlest can pretty much fall asleep anywhere. Those of you who know him will laugh now in agreement. Your Grandmother is correct, they will sleep when they are tired.

I tried desperately to follow the rules with my first-born. I tried to make him eat and sleep at desired intervals. He wouldn’t do what the books told me he should do. There was always some super mum who would tell you her baby slept all night and was completely breast fed. She wears cloth nappies and has already planned weaning and potty training. Let’s get this straight, that mother lies. She may well have convinced herself that the imaginary life she leads in her own head is true. Don’t burst her bubble. Just smile and say that’s nice. No new mothers life is bed of roses. That bed of roses is riddled with many a thorn. You feel like you are alone. But really, you never alone. There are millions of other women, alone in the place as you are now. It is true. I know it doesn’t help. It won’t make you feel any better. But it is true.

I do say it gets better, and yes it does. The next baby isn’t nearly as difficult. But its will always be hard. My practice baby became my practice toddler. Then my practice pre-schooler, practice school boy and now my practice know it all, pre-teen. The practice bit doesn’t change. It is still new at the next stage. There is always a practice stage, no matter what. The second one round is just a little bit easier. But the last one is just dragged along for the ride. You calmly deal with the tantrum without blinking or caring what the disapproving bystander is thinking. You don’t care if they eat earth or sleep on the floor. You just carry on regardless. I may look chilled now but when this was happening 10 years ago I was holding back the tears.

I have a vine growing on my window ledge. It’s a very vigorous vine. It grows quickly. It drinks lots of water and needs lots of light. If I care for it correctly it will grow beautiful flowers and bear fruit. I think of this vine as like my life and my family. Its growing. Very quickly it gets out of control, attaching its tendrils to the blinds. That’s me, losing control of my vine. But I take a step forward and rein her back in. Carefully I twist and weave the new growth back into the framework. That’s me taking control. The new growth is vigorous and easy to care for. But the older framework of the vine is harder to keep. The leaves fall easier. They struggle for light and try to compete against the new growth. But they are there together. Their tendrils hanging on to one another. Supporting and carrying the new leaves to light. Thriving. The vine is a passion flower. It has never yet blessed me with a flower never mind a fruit. But I’m still in practice. One day I will get it right. But right now, I’m still reining in the chaos.

Passion_Vine
I live in hope

 

Sarah x

Survival of the fittest

My view on our creation

Life is a funny thing. By life I don’t mean our lives. I mean life in general. Survival of the fittest. Natural selection. Our interference with the natural balance. How much we as humans, have shaped the earth. Our influence on so many things. On everything.

The thought came to me in the middle of a particularly tough lambing. I though, as I was covered in the unsightly, that nature would just not let this happen. I was pulling on a particularly large Texel lamb. A breed that left to its own devices would never have survived. Ewes would die in lambing or be damaged to the point of being unable to reproduce again. A classic man made creation. Lambs with huge heads and broad shoulders. Ewes with narrow pelvises. Not an extra inch of hand space. In this case, not even much lamb space. When I got to her she was already presenting with just a head. My heart sank at the sight. Not tonight, I’m already tired! After ‘a fair haul’ and a good splash of patience, the lamb came. None the worse for wear. A big lad. To my surprise, after the ordeal, he was up and stumbling around by the time I was ready to go. There was even another one in there, breech and smaller, but fine.

Blue Texel Lamb
My favourites, the Blue Texel lambs (aka Skeletor)

 

Lambs are surprisingly resilient creatures. Ok there is never 100% success. It’s an animal with a high mortality rate. But generally they carry multiples and at least one survives. The little guys just chug on and make it to the end. Even those whose mothers reject them, mostly make it. Commitment and patience brings the orphans thought. Most being fostered on to others who carried a single lamb. In my points of despair and frustration, many an old farmer will tell me, ‘don’t worry lass, sheep just die for no reason’. They really do. No explanation. Just die. Nature failed.

Now cattle, they just seem to be that bit more hardy. Most this year have calved alone. Little assistance required. Nature wins this time.

Some of the cows have been fiercely protective. The other day tagging calves, we saw nature kicking in. Some older cows know the routine, they watch from an acceptable distance. But some protective to the point of needing to move into an adjacent pen just to survive the tagging. That is nature. That is her protecting her calf from a predator. We are predators. The human holding her offspring, is to them, a threat to its survival. Just there, at that point nature is winning again.

But then again, we throw a spanner in the works. We put them into calf with these massive bulls. I mean massive. Some of these animals are a couple of ton. Broad shouldered and huge heads. They are magnificent animals. Some of true beauty. Some so large and powerful that they could easily kill a man. Some would. Although I’ve never myself experienced a truly aggressive Bull who would attack a man. I’ve been told many a story. But when you see them fight with each other, you see their true instinct. They push and shove with their huge heads against each other. I have seen a bull throw another in the air. I’ve watched as it just gets too much. I’m told they would fight to the death unless separated. There again, nature is winning. Survival of the fittest.

In the farming world, we have truly interfered with nature. We have selected for the best and most of the desired trait. We created the pedigree. A man-made creation against natures will. Humans have manipulated the planet. Many animals and birds remain untouched. We may have contributed to their extinction or rarity. But the wild ones are left (almost) to answer to nature. The domesticated ones are at our disposal. We changed and created them. God put us on his planet. He put all the living creatures there. I wonder what he thinks of our own creations.

Sometimes we have made it better. But sometimes we have made it worse. None the less our input has changed things. So, next time I sit there lambing in despair, I can blame the human race.

Sarah x