Something’s Gotta Give

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

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If January is blue, then February is probably dark-grey. Maybe even charcoal. And wet.

Tis the season of coughs, colds and sniffles. Braving the elements on the way to and from school has become the biggest part of our day. The kids absolutely love it – armed to the hilt with waterproofs, rubber-soled wellies and oversized umbrellas, they lean into the wind with glee. While my anxiety levels are never as low as they should be even on calm, sunny days, given the current weather conditions they are now entering the red.

What it takes to get out of the door! Judah is bundled into a cozy cocoon at the bottom half of the buggy. He usually protests strongly, a dummy is perfunctorily shoved in his mouth. Rain cover half over the buggy. Isaac and Evie do the coats, hats, scarves and gloves drill. (“Coats, hats, scarves and gloves! …Did you hear me? Coats, hats, scarves…yes, hats…and gloves, don’t forget the gloves! ….Come ON, Isaac! ….Coats, hats, scarves, gloves! ….Coat, Evie!” It’s a bit similar to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes except with less enthusiasm)

Finally, everyone is ready. Then I realise I don’t have my shoes on. Or my coat. I turn my back for a second. I come back to the buggy and find that Isaac has thrown his gloves across the room and Evie is pulling Judah’s hat off. “What are you doing?! Open the door! Let’s go!” We are about to cross the threshold. “Mommy mommy, I need a wee!” Sigh….

There are some good things about this weather – like now, when Isaac is home after a long week of school and busyness, and we are all snuggled up inside. I can hear some wrestling going on in the lounge, as well as Judah-smooching and the gentle pops and whizzes of computer games. Our house is cosy, warm and dry, while it looks positively awful outside. The contrast of grey, wet misery with the warm, bright, happiness indoors is very pleasing.

The whole of the UK is glued to the weather channel, as we watch evidence of severe flooding and flood warnings creeping closer and closer to London. The news teams are using phrases like “weather attack” and “military deployed to help” which makes it seem like we are battling a deadly foe. Which I suppose in some cases we are. There are countless pictures of cars and homes awash, and others with sandbags piled high. Here, even though we are very close to the Thames, things seem relatively unchanged, and the worst disruption to our day is the gale-force winds that seem perfectly timed to meet the school run.

While this time of year can be quite a challenge, as extra levels of mud and wet make extra laundry loads, and the constant coughs and colds drain energy and I feel like I am constantly trying to catch up with myself, seeing the scenes of disaster on the TV and in the newspapers make me very grateful that we are all safe and we are all together. I realise that Judah is already 6 and a half months (!) and I need to try and spend less time doing things FOR him, and AROUND him, and more time simply enjoying him.

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So, this last paragraph is dedicated to Judah:

Dear Judah, with your adorable bendy ears, your chubby cheeks, chubby legs and your funny little friar-monk hairdo…. You are so sweet, so precious and so cuddly. I love your shrieks that you make for no reason at all but to hear the sound of your own voice. I love the mmmmmm sounds that you make while you eat. I love the little foot stamp that happens when you are hungry, and the little bottom-bounce you do when you are angry. I love the way you laugh at Evie, and the way you giggle when Papa smooches your tummy. All of this will only be a blurry memory in just a few months, when you are onto the next exciting stage. I will probably get busy again tomorrow with laundry and chores and lists and pureeing food and washing dishes for you….but if something’s got to give I hope it’s not this – time to simply enjoy you.

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“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”                                                                                                 – William Blake

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Small Expectations

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It is the end of January, and I can’t help but take a sigh of relief. There is something about the weeks after Christmas and New Year, when winter really starts to set in and the days are short, wet and cold, that get me all in a muddle. And I think this year, I was hit with a double-whammy… The January Blues happened to coincide with my baby blues.

For some reason, every time I hit around the 4-5 month stage, I find myself feeling a little blue. Quite tired, stressed, a bit down and overwhelmed by it all. And I think, now that I seem to have come through the other side (some things you only see with the benefit of hindsight), I have finally realised why.

You see, the first 3 months of your baby are full of the newness, excitement, awe and wonder of it all…call it the honeymoon phase. Every day you marvel at this perfect little being that has come into your life, and the euphoria spills over into all other areas of life. Tantrums by older siblings fail to frustrate, because the idea that you get to be the one to shape and mould these little lives explodes your brain all over again. Cleaning, cooking and chores are re-infused with meaning, because you are providing clothing and shelter for these divine creatures.

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But, even more importantly, your expectations are SMALL. “Yay, we got out of the house, all clothed and fed (for the most part).” “Yay, we made it to the shops and back without anyone getting lost or fatally hurt.” “Yay, I managed to make lunch, breastfeed and get a load of laundry in.” “Yay, for five minutes everyone has been QUIET.”

Then, as you slowly get the hang of things, adjusting to the new family size, different routines and figuring out what time you need to get up in the mornings to have five minutes in the shower, you get braver and bolder, and your expectations increase. No longer is it enough to just get everyone fed and clothed and then to bask in the joy of your little brood. NO, now you need to get the floor swept as well, and all the breakfast dishes in the sink BEFORE leaving the house.

No longer is it enough to enjoy the fact that everyone is busying themselves quietly with books or puzzles or toys for five minutes. NO, now you need to make sure that you get an interesting art project in at least once a week, and good heavens but Evie needs more tights and Isaac really could do with a haircut.

Stress mounts imperceptibly, and before I know it my to-do lists are running off the page. Also, with the better sleep and longer evenings comes the feeling that I really ought to be taking on more responsibilities outside of my little home. I itch for something different, something bigger…something more ‘impactful’, I feel.

So I take on more mentoring roles at church, I become more involved in the school PTA, I volunteer to bake, I volunteer to help decorate Santa’s Grotto (side rant – is there anything more lame than Santa’s Grottos?? Even the one at Westfield failed to impress). I go crazy with the calendar, inviting all sorts of people round for tea, for dinner, for lunch. I cut myself less slack around the house; one healthy meal a day is no longer enough, dust on the coffee table seems to indicate personal weakness of character and organisation.

Before I know it, I am too busy, tired and stressed. I end up feeling incredibly frustrated with Judah for needing to be fed right at the moment I am trying to make a call. I end up barking at Isaac and Evie to hurry up and get their coats on because we’re running late because I felt I absolutely must make the beds before we leave. The penny drops, and I realise I have it all backwards.

It reminds me of Dickens’ devastating book Great Expectations, where a young boy called Pip is ruined of enjoying his life as a humble forge apprentice by the promise of a great increase in his fortunes, and the tantalising lure of a life and a love far above his current expectations. He is set up for a crushing disappointment by the cruel and haunted (and slightly insane) Miss Havisham, who intends him to feel the pain of her own heartbreak and disillusionment by not delivering all she has promised, and marrying off her beautiful daughter to another man. All is resolved in the end, but the lesson is clear: be happy and grateful for what you have – you can never have it back once it’s gone.

So now, having taken a few steps back, (and realising that I still have a very little baby for crying out loud – 6 months today, actually!) I am committed to smaller expectations. Smaller expectations that make sure the important things of life are what really matter. Time to exclaim at pretty reflections in the puddles on the way to school. Time for smooches and wrestle-cuddles, no matter how busy and hectic the day is. Time for impromptu tea-parties. Yes, it is lovely to be able to invite more friends over for dinner, and yes, I do like having all the washing done at the end of the day. But not at the expense of enjoying my little brood.

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The things that are seen are temporary;
The things that are unseen are eternal.

Deck The Halls

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It’s that time of year…. Lights everywhere, laughing children, a myriad of Christmas decorations (some tasteful, some less so), a sense of magic and mystery in the air. Everyone seems happy to see you – I get a chocolate with my latte at the local coffee shop, the ill-fated customer services assistants at the till wearing Santa-hats are all smiles (they are obviously delighted with the rise in sales) and even the grumpy Laundromat owner whose good cheer usually could curdle milk wishes me a “happy Christmas”. Everyone is full of “peace and goodwill to all mankind”.

Everyone that is, except the mothers. You look at these haggard, frantic poor souls desperately trying to tick off the to-do lists, buggy’s creaking under the weight of presents and bags and last-minute errands and decorations and Christmas cards, trying to remember what day the school Christmas lunch is, which old uncle and aunt has been forgotten off the Christmas card list and whether they have got enough spices for the mulled wine. They smile when they see you, but their eyes look slightly mad and there is a nervous tick in their necks. What they’re really saying is, “Somebody, please! Kill Santa and rescue me from this madness!” Or perhaps it’s just me.

I am so so utterly tired from the last two weeks. I was frantically sewing on buttons for Isaac’s Christmas school play, helping him sign 30 Christmas cards for all his classmates, making and decorating Christmas cards for our friends and family, baking, shopping, planning, etcetera etcetera ad infinitum. I thought I was doing better than last year, when I really was such a Grinch I didn’t even feel like having a Christmas tree. But I seem to have swung totally the other way, and now I feel like the best part of Christmas is going to be the day after. They should have a national day called “National Mother’s Day Specifically For Mums Recovering From Christmas”, when all the mums strung out on wrapping paper, endless ribbon and turkey stuffing can go to a quiet place and rock to and fro.

All was redeemed this morning, however. There was a beautiful moment, when we were all sitting in the school hall watching the kids sing Christmas carols. They started on Away in A Manger, and immediately the tears welled up. Not because I was remembering the scratchy Mary-costume made out of old curtains that my mom made for me when I was little, but because finally, I felt that the true meaning of Christmas was being communicated. It isn’t about the lights, or the chocolates, or the cards, or even the presents…it’s about a King being born into the world. And he was born in a simple stable, with straw and cows and sheep…. not with a whole lot of grandeur and pomp, or even much planning on Mary’s part.

So, I am hanging up my Santa hat and leaving all the planning be (for now). I want to enjoy Christmas for what it’s really about – celebrating something wonderful and special with the people who I love. And yes, there will be lights, and yes there will be chocolate. But, hopefully, there will not be stress. Thank God for Christmas. What a special, magical, time of year it is indeed.

Why I’ll Never Be A Ballet Dancer

snowflakes

Evie and I are watching Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker”, admiring the pretty dancing and soaking in the glorious music. The costumes are gorgeous, the dancers beautiful (even the men – why, Oh Why do they make those tights so tight?!!) and the scenery is just magical. My favourite part is always when the Christmas tree grows big up out of the floor. I can tell Evie likes it too.

Two DVD’s arrived in the post a few weeks ago, courtesy of Granny Fee in South Africa, one of which was “The Nutcracker” and other was “You Can Be a Ballet Dancer”. As a result, all Evie has wanted to watch in the past two weeks has been little girls in poofy tutus and very tight hairbuns tripping daintily across the dance floor. It is very cute. I always thought that I would love for my children to learn how to be little ballerinas.

Back in Sub A (Year One in the UK), I took ballet classes in an old church hall along with most of my school mates. We learned how to point our toes, put our feet in the different positions, and hold onto the bar. We learned how to be fairies and how to hold up our arms nicely. Once I tried to be a monkey instead of an angel during improvisation and got told off (personally I think it was very creative to try and hang off the bar by my feet!) I was the only one in the class to get a “C” instead of an “A”, and all I can remember about the exam is my teacher frowning at my feet, and the fact that my pudding-bowl-shaped haircut wouldn’t fit nicely into a bun (thanks, Mom!)

Ballet is beautiful, pretty and ethereal, but it is also rather stifling, and, I have finally realised (with some level of relief), that it is not my favourite kind of dancing, nor one that I necessarily want to enforce upon my children. I can remember my drama teacher at University (a very regal personality of epic fleshly proportions) showing us two clips of different cultures’ standards of beauty in dance.

The first was a line of dainty, graceful, pale-skinned ballet dancers floating across the stage (looking rather anaemic), and the second was of a crowd of large, sweating Zulu women, ululating and taking it in turns to throw their legs high into the air and stamp them down on the ground, massive thighs and breasts quivering, and shrieking with laughter if one of them lost their balance and fell. The difference between the two was quite breath-taking.

Royal Zulu Reed Dance

Thinking about these two extremes takes me back to one of the most life-changing and dramatic times in my life.

I am standing in front of the mirror in the hospital toilet, looking at myself for the first time since having given birth to Isaac. Weak and shaky, my head is still swimming with the enormity of what I have just been through. My body is sore, swollen, broken and a bit messy, not anything you would ever see in a magazine or on a billboard. But I am in awe. It hits me forcibly, what an awe-inspiring, breath-taking, divine work of art I am beholding. This body, this beautiful, beautiful, body, has done something so spectacular and so mind-blowing I can hardly believe it. It has produced life – the most beautiful, perfect little life I have ever seen.

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I thought of all the years of self-loathing and dieting, all the years of moaning and complaining and the mental beatings I would give myself for not being thin enough, smooth enough, small enough, fit enough. I am so sorry, I mouth, you are so beautiful, so strong and so miraculous. It felt something like that beautiful Christmas morning must have been, when the angels sang Noel and the shepherds marvelled. I realised that I would never see my body the same way again.

Now, a few years and two more children later, a level of respect and deep appreciation for my body has remained with me. I no longer lament that I am not a graceful, lithe ballet-dancer-type. I rejoice that I am strong, and fertile, and that my babies grow big and fat and healthy. Surely there is no greater thing. I remember coming back to the ballet class one year after a fateful, chocolate-laden Christmas with my overly-generous Grandparents. My teacher arched her eyebrows, “My, but you got fat!

While I have no desire to be massively overweight or unhealthy, my perspective on what is beautiful will never be the same. And while I can admire and respect those dedicated, talented dancers at the Royal Ballet, you can be sure that I will encourage my children to choose a dance that is perhaps more true to life – something that is exuberant and joyous and full of strength and passion (perhaps the Flamenco would be a good place to start). Or at least something a little more free and frivolous – like tap-dancing or hip-hop for instance. Failing that, we will resort to the tunes on Simon’s phone, while Isaac jives and shimmies around the lounge shouting, “Look Mama, my body is full of silly games!”

Our bodies are so beautiful, gifts from God, the creator of life. I wish we always gave them the respect, love and admiration they deserve, whether slim, graceful, large or vibrant. They nourish life and are full of miracles every day.

Who Do You Think You Are?

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This week I was asked to write a guest post for a friend’s blog. Here’s a little taster:

[It’s a favourite game around our dinner table. It started with Simon teasing one of the kids that he couldn’t remember who he was. This sort of thing usually results in wild protestations and many mutinous moans and groans, and this occasion was no different.
“I’m Isaac,” proclaims Simon.
Isaac protests, “No! You’re Papa!”
“I’m Evie?”
“No!”
“I’m Judah?”
“No!!” (This was accompanied with a frustrated little fist-pump) “No, Papa! You’re Papa!”
“No, that’s Papa,” (Simon points at me).
“Arrrghhh! Pa-pa!”

Simon cracks up laughing. Suddenly the penny drops, and Isaac’s face breaks into a grin. He says, slowly, trying it out, “No, that’s not papa, that’s Isaac.” (Pointing at me.)
Simon asks, “Then who are you?”
Isaac thinks. “I’m…I’m…Mama!” (This seems a little too overwhelming) “No – no, I’m Evie.”
Evie screams, “Noooooo!!”
We all have a good laugh.

It’s amazing how intrigued the children are by this game of pretence and false identity. It messes with their heads in the most delightfully transparent way. We frequently play this at mealtimes, and now even Evie joins in. It’s a very important question, to a little person, “Who am I?” Or perhaps, just as importantly, “Who am I not?”….]

For the full article go to: Who Do You Think You Are? at the sisterhoodstickynotes.wordpress.com website.

Keeping the Love Tank Full

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“I love you, Mama. You are my best friend.” It’s a sign that all is well with Isaac’s soul. We are walking home after a lovely sunny day out and about, and his hand slips into my pocket (both mine are engaged with pushing the pram.) I agree with his sentiment; life feels good. It’s a crisp autumn day, with not a breath of wind, and the sun feels warm and toasty on our faces. Evie is placated and dozy after being allowed to sit in the pram, and Judah is asleep.

I treasure these moments during the half-term holiday, when I have all three of my children with me and we have the leisure to do as we please. No school runs, no deadlines to meet, no uniforms to clean or book bags to think about.

Too often I bump into people on the street or at the children’s centre, and they roll their eyes saying, “How’s the half-term going?” as if to say, “How’s your root canal?” or “How’s your involuntary week of slave labour?” I always smile and say, “We’re having great fun!” or “I love half-term!” And they respond, “Oh, right…” (awkward pause)… “Good for you!” I guess I’m lucky I don’t have to worry about the pressures of an office job, or how having my kids at home all day for a week will inconvenience my busy schedule.

That phrase, “I love you Mama, you are my best friend,” is one which presents itself at particular times in Isaac’s repertoire of amusing/heart-warming utterances. Usually after I have made him “egg and bread with mustard and ‘mato sauce”, or pesto pasta, garlic bread or hamburgers. Or letting him watch a couple of episodes of his favourite TV show, The Octonauts. Or even just giving him a good back scratch. It doesn’t take much to fill his little love tank.

I do think kids should come with a built-in fuel gauge that you could check – “Hmmm, meltdown occurring, let’s see – ah, yes, love tank light is on, it needs filling.” If the love tank is full, everything is happy, even a trip to the doctor to get routine immunisations.

As we walk across Duke’s Meadows, a lovely open space that allows the wind to blow more wildly and strongly than in our cosy little cul-de-sac, our eyes sting slightly from the breeze and our faces are feeling fresh. Isaac might be feeling sore, but his heart is happy.

I think about all the simple things that we enjoy together, and the moments that bring life and sunshine into my life in the middle of all the busyness and stress. Autumn leaves; trips to the park to feed the ducks; beautiful music (see previous post Rediscovering Tchaikovsky); a phone call from across the seas; a glass of wine cuddled up on the couch watching a movie with Simon; coffee with a friend.

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Isaac’s hand in my pocket is a good reminder to me to keep my own love-tank full.

Poop Goes the Weasel

The 5 rules of potty training are:

  1. Be patient.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Invest in a good set of marigolds! (refer to previous post Pimp Out Your Marigolds)

Welcome to the Bardone house of fun. It’s day number 7 of potty training, and while it is going considerably better than the last time (with Isaac it was like trying to teach an amoeba to write) it is still by far the hardest part of parenting for me.

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I thought about heading this post something like “Tough Girls Do Cry” or “Crying is OK if You Can Stop After Ten Minutes”, but then realised that perhaps nobody would want to read it. Yes, there have been tears, and yes, the marigolds have been put to good use. But, although it is intense, it has meant a whole lot of undivided attention for Miss Evie-pie, and I have to say we have grown closer over the last week.

Reading books on the potty, doing stickers and tattoos on the potty, waiting, waiting….Talking about going on the potty, eating sweeties on the potty, running in circles around the potty, potty books, potty sticker charts, potty wins, potty misses. Lots of cheers and clapping and jubilation for the wins. Lots of deep breaths and “ah, poor dear, don’t worry, next time” for the misses. Yes, it takes a lot of patience.

One has to let a lot go (everything that is not essential really), because, for a two-and-a-half-year-old, learning to go on the potty is a really big deal. Personally I can’t remember it (thank heaven!) but I can only imagine that suddenly losing that sense of a comfortable safety net is a bit unnerving. And, I have to keep reminding myself that this is not about me, it’s about her.

For example, 45 minutes spent waiting for a poo to come with her lying over my lap on the floor could be seen as a colossal waste of time, OR…a great excuse to have a little cuddle and stroke her hair, reassuring her that it’s all going to be OK. Or after sitting on the potty five times without success, one heads out the door, only to get around the corner and hear a forlorn little, “Sorry, Mommy!” One just can’t get too frustrated.

Not only is Evie being potty-trained, but teddy and dolly are giving it a go as well, often with impressive sound effects. And their little mama seems to be keeping things under control pretty well. So I figure, having a good cry once they’re all in bed, or calling a good friend from the other room to have a vent is permitted. As long as to my Evie-pie, when she sees me, she thinks I think she’s doing a great job.

Potty-training is not for the faint-hearted. But, like many hard and unpleasant things in life, it has to be done. And finally getting it mastered is extremely rewarding (not to mention easier on the wallet – think how much money we’ll save with no nappies!).

So, till then, the carpet remains rolled up under the coffee table, the washing machine keeps humming, and I try to keep it all together with silly songs and cups of tea. Hopefully we won’t still be here next week. (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming….)

A Little Silliness Goes A Long Way

Pompom Pom clown. SensationalSilliness.com, Clare Stace 0410331221

Ok, so it’s been one of those weeks. I locked us out of the house in the pouring rain; we’ve either been running late to school or so early that nobody else is in the playground and darn-it-I-could-have-brushed-my-hair-with-the-extra-5-minutes…we’ve had tantrums and meltdowns and mud everywhere and potty accidents and well, just about the whole spectrum of melodrama and histrionics available to two children under the age of five.

I largely blame the weather – after such a wonderful summer, looking out through a curtain of soggy grey wetness also makes me cranky and out-of-sorts.

One particularly low point this week was during a rather trying afternoon and I encouraged Evie to smear some cream cheese on a piece of toast to distract her. This usually takes about ten minutes or so, and she will happily smear away, without too much collateral damage.

After being engrossed for about five minutes she pronounced, “All done,” with a flourish of the knife (a blunt, child-friendly one). I took the plate from her and she sat down in the chair ready to be wheeled around to the table. Thinking to myself what an ultra-cool, fun mom I was, I made some racing-car noises and whipped the chair around. Unfortunately I was too zealous, and she fell right off the chair, legs in the air! Life was very sad for a while.

But soon she dried her tears and got up to eat her bread. She took a bite and started humming away, making the toast soar through the air like a plane. She took another bite and said, “Look mummy… car!” It did indeed look like a car. She giggled and took some more bites. “Look mummy… Doggie! Woof woof!” (Except when she says it, it sounds like “woop woop”) She promptly chomped his head off, with impressive sound effects. “Look mommy, I eat doggie,” with a wicked grin. We had a good laugh.

Evie demolishing her toast

Evie demolishing her toast

It always amazes me how quickly these little ones can get over a fall or a setback if there is fun and silliness to be had. It is a good reminder to keep a sense of humour and to be able to laugh at oneself – especially when it feels like everything is falling apart (and you could kick yourself because you can see your house keys right there through the window!)

 

I have been applying this method when we have meltdowns while walking on the way home from somewhere. When my knee-jerk reaction would be to bang heads together, I take a deep breath and start singing a silly song about “walking, walking, walking through the leaves, walking, walking under trees” or, to the tune of Merrily We Go Along: “I like Evie, I like Isaac, I like Judah, so very very much”. And before I realise it, we are holding hands and the little ones are singing along so very very sweetly, even managing a skip or two.

So when life is all going pear-shaped…. Go on, make up a silly song, or bite the head off your toast – I promise it really helps!

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Rediscovering Tchaikovsky

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I love music, I always have. But for some reason in the last couple of years I haven’t really been listening to much of it. Perhaps it is because life gets so busy and noisy at times that when the house is quiet I can’t bear to contaminate the silence. Or perhaps it is because my poor old laptop a) didn’t have a CD drive and b) used to take so long to buffer music from any website that most pieces sounded like Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” or as though the conductor ran out of steam every 15 seconds. Anyway, a magical thing happened recently – my mom came out to visit us with the arrival of Baby Judah, and got so frustrated trying to contact folks back home with my old laptop (which incidentally didn’t have a working keyboard either) that they bestowed a new laptop on us as a present before she left. Pretty spectacular, huh?! Well, long story short, I can now listen to as much music as I like.

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So I swan around the kitchen to the sounds of Mendelssohn and Chopin, Tim Hughes, Bach and The Beach Boys…oh, and Tchaikovsky.

I discovered (via my husband, Simon) a website called Grooveshark that lets you listen to music for free online, which is tolerable if you ignore the annoying advertisements that stream across it. And it was in my search for a particular piece of music that I stumbled upon Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto. The famous one.

Somehow I had never put that wonderful theme, which I had heard before, together with Tchaikovsky. I am hopelessly ignorant when it comes to anything beyond the classical basics, or things that I used to play at school or university. So it has been absolutely amazing to discover that so many of the beautiful pieces of music that I like are by Tchaikovsky. And Grooveshark is kind enough to list hundreds and hundreds of his compositions! I feel like a child again, discovering a whole world of something fantastic, something magical.

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I can remember dancing around the lounge as a little girl to some of these tunes, and listening to them again now while I have Evie-pie dancing around my legs brings some of the happiest feelings I’ve known. Rediscovering Tchaikovsky has reminded me of the beauty of surrounding yourself with things that you truly love, the joy of learning, and the magic of discovering whole new worlds of creative experience.

As a special treat, here’s a link to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1.  http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Piano+Concerto+No+1+Tchaikovsky/3sfd04?src=5                I hope you enjoy it!