An Advent Pause

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Who are the angels in your life? That where placed in your life to be rays of sunshine. The yes people, the empathisers, the givers and carers, the ones that go above and beyond the call of duty. Sometime's they come in the shape of a friend, a mentor, a stranger and sometimes they come in the shape of a family member.

This particular advent I can’t help but consider the people in my life that make it better. The ones that keep me going in a strained season. What better time of year to think about the LIGHT in your life. Those who shine in the dark places of people’s lives.

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We are in our 8th week of separation from Daddy Big Feet who is on deployment overseas. We are in the flow of our own separate routines, each helping the days pass quickly where possible. After a time span like this the physical pain of being separated from your loved one dulls, it is not so constantly draining. The continual hole in your chest that you feel in the days just after departure start to scar over. It isn’t quite so raw. The missing never fully dissipates but you learn to live with it, it becomes your companion and friend. It becomes easier.

Routine makes the weekdays fly quickly and our weekend routine is different so to help separate the two sides of the week. For example, the Little Feet are allowed to watch TV in the morning when they wake up. We have a little TV in our room and this means, I can doze while I know they are safe in my room, eyes fixed to the screen.

It’s true there isn’t as much laughter in the house but frequent Skype sessions, though difficult with bad reception, help the girls try and stay connected with their Daddy. It isn’t always smooth sailing with many bad timed phone calls, tired wailing and fights of who will press the hang up button. However I continue to be eternally grateful to be living in 21st century where we are in the position to even have those moments, to live in an age where we can engage and see the faces of family that are across the world.

Our Thankfulness Jar is slowly filling up.

Our Thankfulness Jar is slowly filling up.

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Back to angels… I am very lucky to have many wonderful aunts who check in on me. In the UK, I have one Aunt and if there ever was an angel that was human, it is her. As a child she used to meet us at the airport with sticks of gum and we used to climb into her bed at dawn when she came to stay. Over the years we have laughed until our ribs hurt, we have cried together and we have had some of the most deep meaningful chats I’ve ever had. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know and I know a lot of people with big hearts. In the last two months she has sent numerous surprises in the post for myself and the girls, above and beyond what she needed too. I receive weekly ‘touch-base’ emails that require no reply, but are sent for me to know she is thinking of us. This week I received her Christmas card and she quoted The Duke of Cambridge who recently visited an RAF airbase in Cyprus with the Duchess of Cambridge.

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Reading this made me unexpectedly teary. You see for separated families, this time of year is tough. With a vital piece of families missing, it can be a difficult and strained time, not just for those at home but for those on deployment too. But we are some of the lucky ones. By way of a small miracle, Daddy Big Feet’s RnR* just has happened to land right over Christmas. Not only that, it has landed almost entirely over Little Feet A’s school Christmas holidays. He arrives literally just before Christmas day and leaves the last weekend before she goes back to school. I could not have wished for anything else for Christmas. Little Feet A has asked me weekly, what I would like for Christmas and all I have said is, ‘Daddy coming home’. I have had the tune, ‘[He’ll] be home for Christmas,’ singing in my head on a daily basis. The song having new meaning to it.

So if you know any forces families who have loved ones away over this festive period. Give them a thought and consider doing something for them this Christmas, even if it is as simple as sending them a card and saying that you are thinking of them. It will mean the world to them.

During this time of year, where sometimes it is easy to only think about the next party, the next outfit, the next present to buy, the list of food shopping to do, I ask you to take a moment. Look up from all those plans and appreciate those around you. The people who give you life and laughter when you are with them or away from them, the people that lift you up, the people that have your back no matter what, your ride or dies. Whether they be blood or chosen family tell them this Christmas that you love them, that you appreciate them and that your world would not be the same without them. Because really, these people are the best presents of all.

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Happy Advent Rainbow Tree-ers

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*Rest and Relaxation. If you go on deployment which is 5 months + they receive 2 weeks off where they can come back to see their family.

The Fact Frame & a New Season

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Last week marked the start of a new season in The Rainbow Tree house. I am now a Mummy of a school girl. Little Feet A has started Reception, which in the UK is the first year of Primary School.  For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook you may have seen the post I put up the night before her first day. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me, as I know it is for any other Mummy or Daddy out there whose Little Feet are starting school. 

Feeling all the feels tonight. Relief, guilt at my relief, sad as well as happy, hopes that she won't grow up too fast, my own mortality in not feeling old enough to be a Mummy of a school girl, nerves that she'll be nervous, nerves that I'll be nervous, that I'll cry, that she cries, worries that she makes friends, worries that she makes the right friends, that friends will except her and her light just the way she is and no one is mean. And pride. Pride that I've kept her alive this long (no really) and that I was chosen to be her Mummy. Being a parent is the best but hardest job in the world. Your parents tell you that but that doesn't really have any clarity until you have your own. Told you. All the feels.

Feeling all the feels tonight. Relief, guilt at my relief, sad as well as happy, hopes that she won't grow up too fast, my own mortality in not feeling old enough to be a Mummy of a school girl, nerves that she'll be nervous, nerves that I'll be nervous, that I'll cry, that she cries, worries that she makes friends, worries that she makes the right friends, that friends will except her and her light just the way she is and no one is mean. And pride. Pride that I've kept her alive this long (no really) and that I was chosen to be her Mummy. Being a parent is the best but hardest job in the world. Your parents tell you that but that doesn't really have any clarity until you have your own. Told you. All the feels.

As it turns out I haven't had much to be worried about. Throughout the whole process there have been no tears and she has genuinely been excited for school every morning. After all my angst and preparation for getting her used to the idea of going to school, I feel like I can pat myself on my back and say that I am relieved the transition was smooth and uneventful. She is one of the youngest in her year so there is always the worry that emotionally your child may be behind the rest. However, time and time again she has shown me how emotionally mature she is and I know that - she's got this. 

I really wanted to document her first day of school with something crafty...obviously. So I came up with this Fact Frame. After posting it on Facebook, I had three separate friends say they were going to pinch the idea for when their littlies start school next year so I figured perhaps some others may be interested too. I got the idea after her nursery photos came home in borders and I combined it with some American Pinterest posts of Little Feet holding up signs on their first days of Kindergarten.

When she finishes school she will be a completely different person, in fact she will be a completely different person by the end of this year. For me this is kind of a melancholy thought. I love her spirit right now, the way her mind is always questioning but most of all her imagination. With that in mind I wanted to remember the things she loved when she was 4 years old, starting school. 

How to:

I just used some cardboard, grey spray paint and Sharpie pens, all of these things we had in the house. During our evening meal on the Sunday before school I asked a bunch of questions. And then after she was asleep quickly created this. Some of the questions I asked  were:

-What her favourite colour is?

- What her favourite animals is?

-What she wants to be when she grows up? 

And a bunch of other things too. The ones that I included were my absolute favourites. I adore that she said, 'ALL the colours in the rainbow' and that she thinks unicorns are real animals. God have mercy on me and my reaction when I find out who finally decides to destroy this innocence. I have no doubt it will be during her first year of school. Kids are mean like that. 

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There was a beautiful moment walking home from school with her when I started to film her waking from the back. She looked so grown up I could hardly believe it and was I feeling a little emotional. All of a sudden she spots a tree and says, 'Mummy, the fairies live there' and goes on for a few minutes about them. I'm not sure I could have loved anyone more then I did her in that moment. She may have been in school uniform, but she still has that innocence a while longer.  

A few months ago, she asked if she could be a 'Spaceman'. I said, 'SURE'! You'll have to work really hard at school though.' She paused, thought for a few seconds and responded, 'YOU can't have worked hard at school then Mummy.' HAHAHA. I meeeeeean! Burn. 

Why am I telling you all this? 

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Good question... apart from getting it off my chest and giving some solidarity to other Mummies feeling the same way, it means that I will be sharing more Preschool Toddler activities then I have been recently. With Little Feet A being at school all day, Little Feet B and I get to spend more solo time together and so I get to go back to the basics. We will be doing lots of sensory play, fine and gross motor skill practise and loads of fun and easy art together. Little Feet B will be 2 years old at the end of October so if you have any Little Feet around that age then keep an eye out. 

Fear not though, the Kids section will not get neglected! We will be sharing some seriously fun Autumn/ Fall activities for all ages in the weeks to come. I don't know about you guys but Autumn is coming in quick where we are and we aren't devastated about it! 

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April, the month of the military child

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The charity, Little Troopers, was founded by an ex-army solider, Louise Fetigan. Her husband still serves and they have a teenage daughter. In a post this week she flagged up that the month of April is the international month of the military child. I had no idea this existed and felt like I should do a post about it, what with it being so central to our life. 

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I ummed and ahhed about writing this post, whether people would be interested in it, offended, or roll their eyes at it. In the end I just decided to do it anyway. It is close to our heart as a family and very much central to our lives. We live it and breathe it. We are a military family.

Both myself and Daddy Big Feet had grandparents that served in the military. Daddy Big Feet is part of the Royal Air Force and as part of his job, he goes away sporadically for short as well as long periods of time. We call those long periods in our house, 'Long work'. This was our way of explaining to Little Feet A when she was little that Daddy wouldn't be here for 'lots of sleeps'. 

As children, you have no control over what your parents do for work. And so, whatever your parents do, becomes the norm of your life. If your parents are shift workers then children will be used to their parents working any hour of the day and routines adjust accordingly. If you are a military child, you will likely move more times then you can count, have had to make friends with more people then you have to count and will loathe the question, 'Where are you from?'. 

There are different types of deployment, some of which are overseas, often in dangerous locations, sometimes for months or a year at a time; others are within the UK, and these can vary in time and location. Both are hard, and come with their own challenges. 

As well as long periods of time not seeing or being able to talk to parents, children will often experience not seeing their parents throughout the week, because they may have to work very long hours or shifts. Leaving the house before wake up and returning long after bedtime. Not all jobs are like this of course, but it is not uncommon. Equally, some jobs mean they are working almost every weekend too. Bank holidays are not a given, most of them they are just another working day.  Alternatively, some families choose to settle in a certain place and they military parent works away from home, weekly commuting every week to live at their parent unit.

In the space of 6 years we have moved to four houses and have had three new geographic postings. During my pregnancy with Little Feet A, Daddy Big Feet was away for 7 months. We found out we were pregnant 24 hours before he left. Apart from a two week RnR where I had sprouted a bump, he missed the whole thing. When Little Feet A was about 4 months old we moved and he started an extremely busy and high intensity job which continued over to Little Feet B's birth. 

It does not get said enough, families of the military are in service too. We go through everything with the serving person, we see the extreme highs and extreme lows. We wear the medals our spouses, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons receive as badges of pride. We make sacrifices and regularly have no say in where we go.

You become hardened to moving, you learn ways that help the process both emotionally and mentally. Our children become resilient, because the have to be. They have friends all over the country and world and have lived in more places than most children will live in their entire lifetimes.  And that's ok: they are stronger for it, have seen more for it, experienced more for it, and know vocabulary that others may not have encountered. They are part of an exclusive club that will welcome them with open arms.

This is the month of the military child. They don't ask or want sympathy or pity, that is not what we are striving for. We don't think they are better then any other child who isn't a military one because they aren't.

So what are we saying by celebrating them?

We are saying thank you to every child AND person who ever was a military child. 

We are saying we appreciate you.

We are saying we have your back.

We are saying thank you for serving.

We are saying you will bring something different with your life experience to the table.

We are saying you will be a leader of tomorrow.

We are saying that you will come with tolerance, an ability to adapt quickly, make friends with anyone and have a worldly maturity that not everyone has had the opportunity to learn at your age. 

And why are we saying this?

Because you are a military child and you are seen.

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