Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Rhino and the Hedgehog...

Before we got married, many moons ago, Mr M and I attended some Marriage Preparation classes. Before we started them we rolled our eyes a bit, and dreaded the thought of Sunday afternoons spent with other uncomfortable couples in the Minister's front room. We were convinced we could learn nothing new about each other, that we had discussed everything thoroughly, that after 10 years together there was no stone unturned.

But, you know what? Even to this day I could not advocate them highly enough.
It was a bit uncomfortable in places, I'll give you that, but we also learnt three very important lessons.

In a row, you will either be a hedgehog (the prickly, withdrawn, silent treatment sort who holds a grudge forever and ever and ever) or a rhino (the door-slamming, shouty, quick-tempered sort who gets it out of their system and then never speaks of it again). I'm still not sure what the best combination is, only that Mr M is most definitely a rhino, and I am a hedgehog through and through. I think even acknowledging this helps us be aware how to tread carefully.
Sometimes it's just snorts and prickles flying everywhere.
There's a time and a place for a good argument.

In a similar vein to the whole animal metaphor, we also receive love differently. For some it's in little gifts and flowers and declarations of affection (not gonna' lie, this would be me given half the chance. Especially if The Love came wrapped in tissue paper, in a bag with the word Mulberry on the front.)
Others receive it practically; in help around the house, support with work and children, cups of tea and in fixing the washing machine when it leaks (ooh, but this is a good one too. I don't know one end of an electric drill from the other. Can I not have a bit of both??)
The way we give it, and the way we receive it can be very different. The magic is in knowing your other half well enough, to know how they'll feel appreciated most.

And the third little lesson came courtesy of a story that we were told.
An elderly couple who had been married for sixty years were asked what the key to their long, healthy union had been.  The husband answered that it had been time together, laughter, conversation and shared memories. And the wife? Well she answered that she kept a list of five annoying traits that her husband had. Traits that she would mentally excuse him of, all in the name of preserving their union.  If an occasion arose where an argument was brewing, she would simply think 'is that on the list?' and, if so, breathe deeply, smile sweetly and say no more about it. When the interviewer commented that that must have taken some commitment over the years, she answered 'Yes dear. There were many rows avoided. And I can't even remember what those five things were now. Every time we disagree, I just add it to the list.'

I'm not sure that I have the strength of character, or the patience to be as admirable as that lady, but the story has always stayed with me. I sometimes wonder has Mr M got that list for me. Is he ticking it off in his head when I don't stack the dishwasher right, or when I put food in the actual bin, rather than the food one. Or when I forget AGAIN that envelopes don't go in the recycling, but milk cartons do (to be fair, a lot of his niggles with me are kitchen related!)
If he is, then I'm thankful for it. For we are two very imperfect people. Those lists are looong.

But despite all that, this rhino and this hedgehog?
They're a pretty perfect match.

E x

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Spring Mumiform...

Spring has sprung - hooray!  The days are most definitely longer, and every now and then it does seem a bit brighter and milder (I say this with a degree of optimism as I look out at the rain-boo!)
How deeply I regret ever saying that I was (*whisper) too warm last Summer. Shame on me.

Anyhow, what is a mum to wear for this new season?
I've put together a little Spring Mumiform (see what I did there?) to see us women in our school running, ham sandwich making, extra curricular hanging arounding prime through to the warmer days of Summer. These items will repel (or at least camouflage) toothpaste, baked bean juice, and possibly even baby vomit if you choose your colours carefully. Take it from one who knows, people.

So here we go, with my top five essential items for Spring...

Try Zara Leather Shopper

Try Joules Gold Parka or ASOS High Shine Rain Mac

Now all we need is some blue sky, a little bit of sunshine, and we are good to go!

E x

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Monday, 14 April 2014

When I grow up I want to be...

From I was the tiniest of tinies my answer to this question was always the same.
A teacher.
This, of course, became mightily ironic when I actually did grow up and wanted to be everything but a teacher. I think my heart always truly lay in journalism. The sort of features writing that I read and loved in magazines. What an odd, happy twist of fate, that this is what I find myself doing now, albeit in a very 21st century way.
But teach I did, for twelve years, and for the most part, all joke on a side, I did enjoy my time doing it.

Teenagers are brilliant, aren't they? A complex mix of hormones, suspect hygiene habits, and feral grunts. What chats we had!
Truly though, the joy in teaching English, aside from the thrilling gift of nouns, similes and the correct placement of the apostrophe, (which even as an adult still confuses me!) was the conversation. The chance to talk, and to listen. To find out about those twenty something children sat in front of you. (Mostly. There was always the odd classroom wanderer.)
When they felt like it, to get to know them.
I think most teachers will tell you that it isn't the bit in the classroom that provides the pressure in the job (vocation, more like). It is the endless paperwork, policies, strategies and planning, that sap you of any enthusiasm or energy to pour into making lessons engaging for those baby adults sitting in front of you.
Believe me, dealing with the personalities, the strops, the diagnosed behavioural issues and the un diagnosed attitude ones requires enough energy, and the patience and inner peace of a Tibetan monk. 

My job mostly brought me into contact with the SEN classes in each year group (that's Special Educational Needs for those uninitiated!) Challenging in themselves, but children that I developed a real heart for. I still feel, very passionately, that school should provide something for everyone. Look after the whole child. Some kids are just not made to be educated in the traditional sense. They can't be shoehorned behind a desk and expected to write a 600 word essay. Their brains don't work like that. Their talents in Art and Music and Drama and Sport, and Applying makeup and Talking their way out of an overdue homework should all be encouraged wholeheartedly because, well, the world is made up of all sorts isn't it? Everyone can find a place doing something.

I taught a pupil years ago who was a bit of a tricky customer. He was a hit with the girls, and had that swagger of being adored, the one that only teenage boys can muster. I tore my hair out on many's an occasion at his tardiness with homework, and uniform, and inability to take anything seriously in class. But you know what? That boy could talk. Give him a topic, put him in front of an audience and he lit up. Even without preparation (much to my dismay!) he aced every Speaking and Listening assessment we did. I told him he should become a car salesman. That he'd make his fortune. I often wonder if he did. 

Heartbreaking as it is, we live in a world now where the very best education doesn't always ensure you the very best job. The opportunities, at the moment anyway, seem fewer for our teenagers and twenty something's. Crazily, teachers and doctors and architects and engineers are finding themselves helplessly out of work, and disheartened children think the better, easier option is to just 'sign on' and claim all that the Government can offer. And in some cases, they're right.
It's just all back to front.

It will take minds much more forthright and wise than mine to work out what the solution to that problem will be. And a whole host of inspiring, dedicated education professionals to put it in practice. I wish them well, for it is a noble but oh so tricky fight. A bullet, a low punch that I feel I have dodged.
Not one forever gone from our door though.
'What do you want to be when you grow up?'
And my eldest little daughter replied
'A teacher'

E x

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Love the Little Things #11

Today at 12pm heralds the start of our school Easter holidays. In true Emma fashion, I've made far more plans than will actually fit into the days, and will suffer a mild breakdown should my diary go missing. Thrown into the mix is the little man's op next week - NOT a Little Thing that I am looking forward to. If you could send me good thoughts and Rescue Remedy, it would be much appreciated!
Anyhow, on to the week that was, and our little loves!
As always, I'm linked up with the beautiful butwhymummywhy (seriously, SO jealous of her new haircut!), and some other gorgeous ladies to chat about the little joys in the past week.


  • The Adventures of a Potty mouthed mum 'The Ordinary Moments' - I absolutely love Sian's blog- It has such a beautiful, quirky design, and the more I read it, the more I think we are Sisters from another Mister. This post in particular really resonated with me. It's how I felt when I was a working mum, but also still how I feel at times, when the housework gets in the way, or when I feel the pressure to write blog posts or the shopping list. I think what Sian says is so true - motherhood is about reclaiming the ordinary moments, relishing in the tiny things, enjoying the small. Often that is what our kiddies remember the most! Definitely check out this, and all her other brilliant posts.
  • 3 children and It 'Is it time to bid a fond farewell to the bikini?' - This post perfectly sums up why I love reading blogs so much. Rarely in a magazine would you get a normal mum lamenting over the end of her bikini days! THIS is what we need to be reading girls! And whilst mine have been a distant memory for a fair few years now, I giggled when Suzanne described doing the 'big Next order' and then sending it all back. Don't we all do that??! A brilliant post, and blog, with the loveliest, loveliest writer.
  • An exciting e-mail - A while back I happened to read that Sanctuary Spa were on the lookout for a blogger to write a family lifestyle post for their website, each month for a year. I read the brief, and not thinking too much about it, entered a piece of writing. Last Thursday I received an e-mail to say that they had chosen me! I still can't really believe it, particularly when I looked at the calibre of some of the other 100+ entries. Amazing. Anyhow, beginning at the end of April, you can see the Little Wood crew featured on the Sanctuary Spa website in an exclusive post, just for them. I'd love it if you would pop over and read it each month too. I'll link it up here when the time comes. Your support and encouragement, as always, genuinely means such a lot. Truly it does.
  • War Horse - I wrote about this here, but it was just incredible. Adored it!
  • Davina's Sport Relief Challenge - we caught up with this during the week just, but, my goodness, how amazing was she?!
  • Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon 'The Trip to Italy' - We watched the first episode of this the other night, and it was actually hilarious. The conversations that these two have are too, too funny.
  • Banana and fudge scones - you can find my scone recipe here - just substitute the raspberry and white chocolate for chopped banana and fudge pieces. These were a bit of a whim make but they turned out to be such a hit. I'll definitely do this combination again!
  • Annie's Easter egg - Aww, Easter themed pre-school craft. Even I think I could have managed this one. The Christmas glitterfest? Not so much!
  • Our glad rags - for our child-free night out. It was lovely to put on actual heels, and spend an evening in something other than our pj's!

  • Spring yellow and Stripes - there is something about this time of year that makes me want to wear bright colours. I love this daffodil coloured Breton!
  • Caramel Macchiato's - I'm rediscovering these after a hiatus of Toffee Nut lattes and Honeycomb Hot Chocolates. They are acting as a gap-filler before the days of the Iced Frappucino begin. 'My Year in Coffee' - now there's a blog post idea ;)
  • Catch ups with lovely friends.
  • Meeting Stanley the puppy - my sister and her little family have recently got a new miniature Schnauzer puppy, and I took the kiddos over to meet him during the week. Oh my goodness, the cuteness!! Welcome to the family Stanners!

And that was our little week! If you have been on Easter break already, I hope that it has been a good one so far. For ours I'm praying for some sunshine, and a fast recovering little boy. Wish me luck!
E x


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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Word of the Week 10/4/14

Today I'm linked up with the ever-so-lovely Jocelyn at The Reading Residence for her Word of the Week.  Definitely head over and check out some of the other great blogs linking up!

And the word which best sums us up this week is:

On this occasion, and for one week only, I mean the pair of us, rather than the collective 'us'. 

We are very much a family of five. A little unit. Stuck together and joint-at-the-hip pretty much always. So much so that if Mr M ventures out with the kiddos alone, people will assume I must be ill, rather than just relishing half an hours peace in my pj's.
We have been this way since Eva. But before Eva there were just two in our little family. And every once in a while it's just so lovely to remember what that was like.

A time of hand holding and late night chatting.
A time to make each other laugh, and make plans, in equal measure.
A time to drink a little too much, and sleep a little too long.
A time to breathe, and look up, rather than down at the little hand in yours.
A time to enjoy warm food and conversation, and look each other in the eye.
A time for comfortable silences.
Just time.

Any guilt I feel now at those snatched moments together, is quickly quashed. For I know that before us and them, there was me and him.
This man, the Mr.  My other, better half.

And whilst I wouldn't wish for anything different than exactly what we've got.
Well, it's good sometimes to remember why we have it, isn't it?

E x

The Reading Residence

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Part Two...

Any parent, with children of a certain age, will tell you that the greatest part of a child free trip is the lie-in.  The lie-in can be achieved anywhere. It is universal. Except at home of course, where 6.30am wake up calls and small children prising your eyelids open comes as standard.
So lie in we did. Until 9am. I woke up with a start, and that feeling that I should really be somewhere or doing something. I'm definitely going to need cognitive therapy when my children hit the teenage years and I can't get them OUT of bed!
Breakfast was divine. We had fruit and yoghurt and a cake stand full of pastries served to us, followed by our cooked choices. I went for my favourite; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and the Mr stayed true to form with the full Irish.
We decided to walk off our breakfast in St Stephen's Green, and do a little picture taking. The park was busy, and full of signs of Spring!

After a quick coffee, we packed up our bags and headed for a nosey round the shops. I made a couple of little purchases (you'll be able to check these out on my first post for Sanctuary Spa at the end of the month!) and we bought a little gift for each of the kiddos in The Disney Store on Grafton Street.

We avoided a downpour, and then managed to drink tea outside in the sun. All in the space of an hour. Only in Ireland!

And then it was home time.
They come and go quickly, these little snatches of time together. But I am so thankful for them. And for the amazing man I get to spend them with.

E x

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A little trip away...


In case you missed it (and if you did, that was a feat, cos' I rabbited on about it all last week), the hub and I hit Dublin this weekend for a little theatre trip and overnight stay. And it was all pretty amazing really!

After dropping off the kiddos, and collecting the obligatory en-route Starbucks, we chittered and chattered the whole way to our hotel. We love our children dearly but, my goodness, you wouldn't get a word in edgeways round ours most days. Mr M and I tend to bank anything past 'Can you stick milk on the shopping list' and 'Annie'sshatteredandhavinganotherhissyandwillonlyeatcheeseforhertea', for the twice yearly event when we get away on our own. You can imagine how much there is to squeeze in.

We opted to stay right in the centre of Dublin, in a boutique hotel called The Cliff Townhouse.  The building itself began life as a Georgian home, now transformed into a luxurious restaurant with accommodation. Each room is named after a different Irish writer, harking back to it's literary heritage. And, of course, being a bit of a literature geek, it pleased me no end that our room was named after James Joyce.

The rooms themselves were a little on the small side, although full of beautiful traditional features with sash windows, working shutters and cast iron fireplaces. But you absolutely could not fault the view - the most perfectly framed little snapshot of the trees and lake in St Stephen's Green - the very park that James Joyce himself called 'my green' (I learnt that from a statue - mightily cultured, me ;) )

We headed for a bite to eat, on recommendation of my mum and dad, to the basement bistro in Brown Thomas, Dublin's oldest, and most established department store (the Irish equivalent of Selfridges!) I opted for Roasted vegetable and Goat's cheese salad, and Mr M went for a Charcuterie sandwich. Neither disappointed, and my salad was totally Instagram worthy. (Incidentally, I feel that I can officially call myself a blogger now, as I have a) taken a picture of my food before I have touched it and b) flaunted it on social media. I'm fully initiated, hooray!)

After lunch we headed to the theatre to see the main event, and the reason for our visit. And I honestly can not describe how amazing War Horse was.
We had watched the film of this incredible story a while back (Spielberg adapted it for the big screen from a children's book written by Michael Morpurgo), but the stage version was just something else. From the set, to the performances, to the pyrotechnics - it was all just incredible. And those horses? I defy anyone to make it to the end without believing they were real.
Due to copyright laws I couldn't take any pictures during the show, but Google it to see what I mean. Suffice to say, by the end, the little grey haired man in front of me was dabbing at his eyes (bless him), and I think I even caught Mr M doing it too.
We loved it and would thoroughly, thoroughly recommend. 

After a quick change and spruce-up (and obligatory selfie!) we headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Not before a quick drink in The Aviator Bar though - a Pint of Guinness for him and a Raspberry Bellini for me. It was yum. (Isn't my turn of phrase just SO sophisticated?!)

Dinner was delicious - Prawn Tempura and then Cod for me, Caesar salad and Steak for him. Followed by a shared Pear tarte tatin - it was to die for. I'm still thinking about it.
Stuffed and sleepy we turned in for the night.
It was just the loveliest little day.

E x

Ready for part two? Check back tomorrow for the breakfast to end all breakfasts, a little Sunday stroll, and some shopping!  See you then poppets!