Huggable Heroes

Huggable Heroes! A company that lovingly makes little teddies with pictures of loved ones who spend long periods of time away, who work away in the week, who travel a lot or who have lost someone. Basically anyone who misses someone, they have your back and are making big differences to these children’s lives.

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Opening The Deployment Thankfulness Jar

Opening The Deployment Thankfulness Jar!

The Deployment Thankfulness Jar was an idea I came up with before Daddy Big Feet’s Deployment. At the end of every week we would sit down, reflect on the week and write down one thing we were thankful for that week. Here we reveal a few of what those notes said and how this positivity jar helped us.

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The Five Stages of Deployment

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It is almost 8 weeks since Daddy Big Feet returned home from his 6 month Deployment. I wanted to write a post like this for a while but seasons like these are often better when allowed to marinate for a while.

The truth of the matter is, often people think that once our deployed loved ones return that all goes back to normal. This is not the case, in fact it can take weeks for normality to return. It is one full of ups and downs, happiness, arguments and readjustments. To make matters more complicated with lots of deployments in the forces, often families are moved soon after their loved ones return, as was the case with us. Daddy Feet returned and we moved about 3 weeks later. So here we are in a new county and location, new nursery and school for the Little Feet and it has taken some time generally to regain our balance.

If one were to break a deployment season down I would say it was one of FIVE stages. I write from a magnolia-walled truth, broken down into factual emotions of what we went through as a family with young Little Feet. Every deployment can differ depending on what life stage you are, my Five Stages looked different when we went through a 7 month deployment when we didn’t have Little Feet. This is where we were this time.

THE FIVE STAGES OF DEPLOYMENT


STAGE ONE: FINDING OUT A DEPLOYMENT IS HAPPENING

This is when your other half comes home (if you have an emotionally aware husband or wife!) and tells you they are being sent on deployment. Firstly, it is just being told that that produces an intake of breath. Then you wait for the ‘how long’ and the ‘how dangerous’. In that time, your stomach has dropped to your feet and your heart is in your mouth as you wait to hear the verdict. While your uniformed spouse is rattling off details, you are probably already working out what they’ll be missing in those months and wondering how you’ll all survive. Emotions can be erratic and can honestly range from unexpected malfunctions of tear ducts, to stoic silence, to hysterical laughter. Honestly, you can’t predict which one of those it will be until it is already happening.

STAGE TWO: THE BUILD UP TO THE DEPLOYMENT

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Visual: imagine a balloon being blown up very slowly. If you don’t stop blowing the sheer pressure of the air has no where to go… POP

This is one of the most unbearable parts that I have previously talked about. For your Little Feet they don’t really understand what is going on or the concept of one of their parents being away for a ‘long, long’ time. What they do understand and feel is the atmosphere that is building in the house they live in. As much as the Big Feet try and control themselves, it is really out of their hands. Emotions go from ‘I love yous’ and embraces that last forever, to uncontrollable bickering and arguments. Those being left behind desperately trying to organise themselves but are acutely aware of the panic bubbling away at their chests. Those that are going away are no better. If you have Little Feet, it is the physical and emotional pain of knowing how much they will miss in the next few months.

STAGE THREE: THE FIRST HALF OF THE DEPLOYMENT

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This part begins with physical pain. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it is the honest truth. I have talked about this in previous posts. As the adults we have to be strong for our Little Feet who are confused, whose sleep will be disturbed for weeks because of the unsettlement of Daddy or Mummy not being there. The tears. But mostly the pain. For the husband or wife left behind, those first few days stretch out like a desert with no end in sight. The pang in your chest feels like you are repeatedly getting your heart ripped out as it is ravaged by a pack of wild animals. It aches as if it is empty. And before you assume this is just me being melodramatic, I’ve had conversations with others who described this feeling unprompted. That ache thankfully subsides and becomes your companion for the duration. The pain becomes bearable as its taint reminds you that your family is incomplete.

STAGE FOUR: RNR AND THE SECOND HALF OF THE DEPLOYMENT

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Rest and Recuperation (RnR) is the magical wish come true and the magical curse realised. Again, I have talked about this before. The two week period of your loved ones coming home in the middle(ish) of their deployments (if 5 months or longer) are a gift and a curse. They are wonderful times to reconnect, but also to be on edge knowing the inevitable is happening again. The pressure of cherishing every last second weighs heavily on you and can feel like you can barely breathe.

If you have Little Feet, they may have only just gone back to sleeping properly and this excitement shakes it up and then disrupts it all over again when they leave. Older ones who now have a concept of how ‘long, long’ really is, realise that their parent is going to be gone for that same time again.

I mentioned tears in Stage Three, but these tears were just babbling brooks in comparison to the sheer force of the waterfalls that will occur in Stage Four. Or at least they did for us. Stage Four was hands down the worst stage of us in our 5 Stages of Deployment. Emotionally my eldest was broken. She became a shell of herself, not wanting to go to school, crying at school, anxious about being alone at any time, broken sleep with horrifying nightmares. It was the pits and painfully difficult to watch her go through that. My youngest’s sleep suffered the entire deployment that we ended up co-sleeping for half the night so that we both got some sleep.

STAGE FIVE: HOMECOMING AND LIFE READJUSTMENTS

He is home. Oh joyous day!

Well that is done and dusted right? HA. We all wish.

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Alas, no. No in Stage Five you can still feel the aftermath reverberations many weeks afterwards. The first week is exuberant but scattered with routine reminders of how things are done or how the children’s routines have changed. The irritation starts to show, you have spent the last half of the year having complete control of the house. How tidy it is, where everything has a place, you have your own routine, the kids have their routine, you have an evening routine. And all of that has been thrown up in the air. Suddenly, three people are sleeping in the bed and that no longer works, suddenly their is kit everywhere in piles of laundry, boots…oh so many boots! In a blink of an eye your military ordered house has become chaotic and crowded. Suddenly you realise you have to allow them back into your lives. This sounds ridiculous but honestly to survive you have had to create a rigid life just to get through the other side.

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Daddy Big Feet was home for a week before I went away for a much needed week of me time with my sister. This was preplanned and kept me going through those 6 months. I had never been away from my girls for that long but I was excited. It meant that Daddy had some proper Daddy-Daughter time and I had some switch off time. So off I went to Rome and I spent the time not being ‘Mummy’ but me, Grace. In that time, I thought of nothing other than what we would see that day, what we’d eat and what I’d wear (and thinking about the children, obviously!). I had no timings to catch, my sister pretty much did all the navigation and all the necessary tourist planning. We pounded the streets of Rome for 6 days and though my legs and feet were knackered, day by day I began to feel a like I was being put back together slowly. That week scattered the many hats I had taken to wearing and simplified the hat down to my own personal hat.

Stage Five has been one of realisations for myself. Emotionally I had nothing left. Physically my body was on its knees and mentally my fortifications were showing cracks in the highly built up walls I had created. To be truthful my body is still recovering and I’ve had some hard truths to come to terms with.

Two weeks after my return we moved house and it is here I write this blog. A week after moving my back went. I suffer from lower back pain sporadically but this was hands down the worst I have ever experienced. In the mornings I physically couldn’t get out of bed. The pain was excruciating when my spine realigned itself when I attempted to sit up. I was in tears every morning as it took me almost half an hour to go from flat to sitting and then standing with the help of Daddy Big Feet. I can thankfully say that I am no longer in that much pain thanks to acupuncture and a wonderful osteopath. Those two weeks were terrifying, I couldn’t do anything with the kids and I had almost all my family over for the Easter weekend, in a house that we had just about unpacked. I only mention this because it made me realise that I had still emotionally and mentally been going at it alone since Daddy Big Feet had returned. I had still been going full pelt ahead since he had returned. But I was in so much pain and I felt like my body was finally saying enough. He had to help me physically and emotionally. I am mostly forever thankfully it happened after he was home as I honestly don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t.

Life has slowed down again and like an onion I’m slowly peeling away. And guess what, we are finally getting back to the beginning in a beautiful circle.

Little Feet A is finally enjoying school again at her new school (it was a bumpy couple of weeks). Little Feet B seems to enjoy her new nursery and there haven’t been any tears. Both girls are finally starting to sleep better now they understand Daddy is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The house is finally coming together, Daddy Big Feet begins work in a couple of days and we are slowly falling back into life’s rhythms.

So for now we are back as a family of four and a fur ball, hopefully for a good few months, perhaps even for a couple of years, before the inevitable will happen again…

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Easter and the Egg

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One egg’s lower half transformed

And it’s upper half transmuted

And became the sky above.

From the yolk the sun was made.

Light of the day to shine above us;

From the white the moon was formed.

Light of the night to gleam above us:

All the coloured brighter bits

Rose to be the stars of heaven

And the darkest crumbs changed into

Clouds and cloudlets in the sky.

Kalevda, Song of Creation, Elia s Lönnrot, 1835

 

Eastertide and the egg.

Most Big Feet have an understanding that with the welcoming of Spring comes new life. Bulbs in the grass appearing, the snow and frost thawing. The appearance of bees and butterflies, crows filling and padding their nests with sticks and branches. Trees everywhere glitter with sprinklings of fresh green leaves sprouting and a slow tint of pinks, purples and white blossoms. The sudden urge to open ones windows, pull out furniture and clean corners that haven’t been touched in 6 months. Dogs beginning the long process of malting half their body weight in hair (…just ours then?!) There is new life and new beginnings as far as the eye can see. The air smells different and though it is still a little chilly, the rays of sun warm our faces with the promise of more to come.

A perfect union of the Egg & Easter/Spring don’t you think? This marriage is one that has been around in many cultures stretching back thousands of years across our planet. Stories past down through generation to generation of the age old narrative of creation being formed from an egg, one of rebirth and hope.

Ancient Egyptians, Greek, Oceanic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Northern Europe, Nordic, Hindu and Pagan cultures, just to name a few all hold some importance in the symbolism of an egg. Many cultures believed that Earth and our world was created from an egg. In ancient Egyptian texts, Re, a primeval deity was a ‘cosmic egg’ in which all things were created. Sanskrit texts talk of ‘Brahmanda’ and an ‘egg-shaped cosmos’. Greek Orphic mythology tells of the hermaphroditic deity Phanes being hatched from an orphic egg and creating all the other gods. This is echoed in Chinese mythology that was worked on by Taoist monks with another hermaphroditic deity in an egg which was spilt in two, creating Earth and sky. And lastly from my examples, Elias Lönnrot in 1835 began to write down all the Finnish folklore stories and created a poem or song about creation which is the one at the start of this post.

In Pagan Britain people used to eat and swap eggs as a ritual at their Spring equinox celebrations. This tradition was then continued on with the spread of Christianity. You may have played a version of the Easter Egg smashing game today in your own homes. This comes from a Christian Eastern European tradition where you colour your eggs and then try and crack them on another’s egg. A bit like the autumnal conker cracking game. The one with the unbroken egg shell symbolises Jesus’ resurrection. The person holding it says, ‘Christ is Risen’. The one whose egg is cracked - theirs symbolises the gates of hell being shattered as a result of the resurrection. They reply, ‘He is Risen indeed.’

The Hen Egg, 1885, Fabergé

The Hen Egg, 1885, Fabergé

Fast forward to the 19th century and in 1875, John Cadbury created the dark chocolate egg. The tradition that still holds fast over a century later!

In 1885 Karl Gustavovich Fabergé a Russian jeweller was commissioned by Emperor Alexander III to create an Easter Egg that was to contain a piece of jewellery as a present to his wife. And so the legacy of the egg and Easter continued.

However you celebrate Easter, whether secular or religious, eggs will no doubt be a part of your weekend and month as shop shelves are already heaving with the weight of chocolate eggs everywhere.

To celebrate Easter and the Egg we have shared some of our own egg related posts and a couple of additional ones at the end by other bloggers. Enjoy!

  1. Dinosaur Eggs

    edible stem play

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2. Wax crayon resist

material exploration

Using the wax crayon resist theory, make egg decorations!

Using the wax crayon resist theory, make egg decorations!

3. O, Easter Tree

salt dough egg ornaments

2. The Family Throw Down

outdoor family fun

3. Eggy play dough

sensory material exploration

4. Felt Easter Egg Matching

fine motor skill and preschool learning

5. Tissue Paper Staining Eggs

material exploration

6. Natural Dying Easter eggs, by Delish.com

eco craft

I am dying to try this one. I’ve bought a load of wooden eggs that we will be dying this week. We can’t wait to show you the results. We use food colouring a lot in our crafts so it’s going to be fun to try using natural ingredients to see how the colours stain.

7. How to make Easy and Fun Tissue Paper Eggs, by Fireflies + Mudpies

material exploration

Reflections of an (almost) post-deployment Forces Wife

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Our deployment is coming to an end and I can’t help but look back and do some reflecting on successes, failings and realisations. I am sure the thought that will cross many of your minds will be, ‘well that went quick.’ This is a common phrase that is often bandied about. I know this because I’ve said it before to those left at home during a deployment. It’s because when you are not directly in the thick of it, it does seem like it flies by. For the ones left at home it is a blur of time, one that feels like you’re simultaneously both in an eye of a hurricane and standing still.

Daddy Big Feet left at the beginning of October 2018. But he was away even before then on a month long work trip overseas, so he missed Little Feet A’s first day of school, pumpkin season and then halloween, Little Feet B’s 2nd birthday, Bonfire night, we missed his birthday, the build up to Christmas and Little Feet A’s first nativity play (she was Mary). And that was just the things he missed at end of 2018. When you start to run through all the events that came and went, all the tears and all the laughter it’s only then you acknowledge the time lost. Little Feet B was saying single words when he left, she now can speak in full sentences.

In hindsight, I am actually grateful at the timing of the deployment. It being at the end of the year meant there were so many days and events to look forward to. Being someone who always like to do crafts with the Little Feet, Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. So we had loads of fun activities we did, bonfire night, trick or treating, birthdays, nativities. As a result, the Little Feet’s tears subsided fairly quickly. On top of that I was very busy with my own work and so evenings and any spare moments I had were at computer or at our craft table.

Alas, it has been the second side of this deployment, after Daddy Feet’s RnR which has been the real kicker. I have spoken about the double edged sword of the two week break that deployed personnel are given if they are away for 5 months +. It is wonderful off course, but it is also deeply unsettling for all involved, especially for Little Feet. This is our first deployment with Little Feet and as a result it has been all new territory. For us the second half has been filled to the brim with oceans of tears, sleepless nights scattered with nightmares and for me a whole lot of emotional eating with glugs of gin and wine thrown in for good measure.

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  1. Having no kids during a deployment is deeply lonely, but doing a deployment with two young children is mentally, emotionally and physically shattering.

At the start of this deployment I knew it would be interesting to compare the deployments that we have gone through as a couple. The first one happened soon after we got married. I was pregnant and we had our dog Pongo, but no children yet. Daddy Big Feet went out as a squadron so there were many wives and girlfriends left behind. This was great for camaraderie, however I had no kids at the time where most others did and though the wives made sure to include those without kids, it was still isolating. Those 6 months were some of the loneliest months I have ever experienced, especially as we were miles away from family and friends.

This time round though I have found it lonely, I haven’t been short of conversation as my Little Feet barely stop talking. Rather this time it has been truly exhausting in every sense. The early mornings and late nights, walking the fur ball, planning ahead so not to be caught out, my own work, homework, swimming lessons etc. Having said that, the first half of this deployment I was full pelt ahead, I had all the energy even without much sleep. The second half of this deployment however I have found I have been on my knees.

Deployments in whatever life situation you are in are rubbish. Period.

2. Unexpected side effects of stress

I have always been affected by stress. As a teenager I used to get migraines in the aftermath of stressful and emotional periods. These thankfully subsided the older I got, however as time went on this was replaced by stress moving internally to externally - to my scalp that is. It’s a running family joke that you can tell how stressed I am by the amount of dandruff you can see.

As it happens the older I get the more my body reacts to stress, now stress is inextricably linked with my skin and the gradual emergence of eczema which I never previously had. In the last 6 months my body has just been falling apart. As a result I have had to really be disciplined with making time for my own self-care, which has not been easy and I’m the first to admit I’ve fallen short regularly. I’m not great at putting myself first. The majority of this eczema came out on my hands which as a parent is extremely difficult as you are washing your hands multiple times during the day, then bath time, washing up and it was during winter so I had to go everywhere with my gloves as the cold just made it worse.

Stress can emerge in very different ways for different people. Watch for them and make sure to monitor them, they aren’t always physical.

3. Comfort eating

In the last 5 months, I have had to admit to myself that I am and probably always have been a secret comfort eater. Whereas many wives I know end up losing weight and seemingly eat much better when their husbands are away, I am the opposite. With no time to go to the gym and having to work in the evenings, exercise bar doing school, nursery runs and dog walks are non-existent.

Op-healthy starts again when Daddy Big Feet returns.

4. Having your own work or hobby during a deployment is essential

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Having a sense of purpose and something you can throw yourself into just for you is vital. It keeps your mind occupied and gives you something to focus on. My work has been my life saver this deployment.

Make plans, create goals, keep busy.

5. That going T-total on a 6 month deployment was a laughable idea (ask any forces wife)

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Our last deployment I was pregnant and so was completely T-total for the entire 7 months. This time round I had planned to do the same. Two weeks into this deployment I realised this was a hysterically hilarious decision and reached for the Gin. I have not at any point regretted this decision! Some days knowing I had a G&T or glass of wine waiting for me after the Little Feet were in bed kept me going like you wouldn’t imagine.

Alcohol in moderation takes the edge off. Any more then moderation is a BIG mistake when there’s only you to get up in the morning.

6. That throwing some house rules out the Window is ok

As a family, we are quite strict in some aspects of our Little Feet’s lives. We eat together at the table and not in front of the TV, the Little Feet aren’t allowed to watch tv in the morning during week days but are on the weekends, the tv doesn’t go on in the afternoon until at least 4pm and no televisions upstairs.

Some of these were thrown out of the window this deployment and I have no regret in doing so. We got a tv for our room upstairs so that on the weekends, I could doze while the Little Feet watched TV safe in the confines of our bedroom and they were allowed breakfast upstairs those days too. Films during evening meals happened on a Sunday night - a night where I didn’t have to fight with them to eat their food. Sweets too. I have used more sweets as bribery then I have ever done, in particular for luring Little Feet A out to walk Pongo our dog at the weekends. Something that has always been a battle with her. Give her a lollipop though and she’ll happily skip around the fields with not so much as a frown on her face.

Compromise is essential.

7. Putting certain things ‘down’ during a deployment

Spinning plates above your head like a circus act can often be how we feel during a deployment. Desperately trying to keep everything spinning perfectly so life can continue as it normally does. If you manage this during a deployment you are a bit of a legend in my book, but for most some of those plates do end up hitting the ground and shattering at some point or many points. Putting some things ‘down’ for a season can be important. Where as I would have liked to have posted more on this blog over the last three months it has taken a hit. The last three months have been really tough and unfortunately it was this space that I had to put down.

Seasons come and go, sometimes you have to let go of something for a while.

8. Co-sleeping

An emotive topic. One that everyone has an opinion about, especially those without children. Sorry to those who are reading that that applies too. I was one of those people. I was THE best parent when I had no Little Feet. I regularly used to compare my dog to other people’s children and was adamant that I would not raise a fussy eater. Let’s be honest, we are all like that. By the way, I now have a fussy eater and find it annoying when people compare their dogs to children!

Now, I don’t think we would say have ever properly co-slept. Little Feet A regularly came into our bed from about 4am until Little Feet B came along. She was an awful sleeper (thankfully she barely stirs now) and she just loved the comfort of sleeping in our bed. If she didn’t come into our bed, that would be her, up for the day at 4am. It was a no brainer.

Little Feet B as a baby and young toddler just couldn’t sleep in our bed, she just would never settle, she’d flail about like an octopus trying to dance with a starfish and no one got any sleep.

Then Daddy Big Feet went on deployment her need for comfort at night went through the roof. She spent the first month of his deployment having to sleep on my chest when she woke up at night, just like she did when she was a newborn. As time went on and I tried to break this habit, I realised I was exhausted, fractious and it was affecting my parenting. Not able to let her scream as she shares a room with her sister and spending hours sat on the floor in their room at night, I was mentally and physically exhausted. So, I went into survival mode. She goes to sleep in their room and anywhere between 23:30-1:-00 she comes into bed. I don’t even bother trying to get her back into her bed. You know why? Because in minutes she is fast asleep in our bed for the rest of the night. Breaking that habit is future Grace’s problem. For now, we survived and you know what? It has been nice to have company in bed.

Do what works for you and your family. Your children need a Mummy or Daddy that can function properly. Outside opinions on that are well and truly not welcome.

9. Knowing that it will be an emotional time is not the same as seeing it happen in real time

This seems like an obvious statement. I knew emotionally it was going to be a rollercoaster ride, but boy did it throw us up to outer space and then let us free fall all the way back down to Earth. To those who are adrenaline junkies and think that sounds kind of fun, remember the part when you enter the Earth’s atmosphere and then turn into a gravitational fireball? Not so fun.

The first half of the deployment we had the expected emotions, the second half caught me unprepared. Basically I got cocky. The amount of emotions Little Feet A had after RnR when her Daddy went back and the form it presented itself in took me by surprise and we are still seeing the effects of the aftermath even now.

Lesson: Don’t let your guard down and assume just because your Little Feet are fine for some of the deployment that they will be for the whole of it.

10. It is surprisingly easy to end up blocking out your spouse by just trying to just get through to the other side alive

This has been an important reflection and lesson for me. Our spouses are working almost every day when they are away and when they are done they go back to a soulless bedroom with only electronic contact and letters to the ones they love. It is really hard to be left at home, but it is also really awful for those on deployment too. It’s hard for them not to be jealous when we are having fun and hard for them when we are down and going through hard times without them. The pressure of having to be enthusiastic and talkative over the phone for 6 months is extremely draining. This goes the other way as well. Being low, down and negative down the phone for weeks at a time is not helpful to either side. I have been painfully guilty of this since January and it was something that has to be addressed.

Be mindful of your spouse and the emotions you are both feeling. It is hard for both sides.

11. It’s ok, not to be ok

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You don’t have to be positive all the time, that is exhausting and unrealistic. Sometimes we need that time to batten down the hatches and hibernate in the confines of our house and mind. But we just need to be careful not to set up camp there, light a fire and start roasting marshmallows over it. The longer you stay down there, the harder it is to pull yourself out of that watering hole.

Have your time and then get up and try really hard to snap out of it. Try look forward to little things in your day. Even if it is a hot cup of coffee on your own.

12. It’s ok to say no and prioritise your family over other people’s feelings in order to survive a difficult season

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Seasons like these are hard. You can’t do it all and if you find yourself doing it all you generally are looking at sometime in the near future crashing and finding life too overwhelming. It will eventually come to a head, I talk from experience. Knowing your limits and those of your children in order to keep a steady routine will mean a more smooth sailing deployment. That means if you’ve been out all day and someone asks if your kids want to come round for a playdate and you know that your child will have a meltdown at the end of the day because of it, to say sorry but no. If they really care about your situation then they’ll understand. Or when you’ve had visitors every weekend for a month that you have to say no to someone who wants to come visit.

Put the welfare of your family unit first. Preservation for survival. Most people will understand and if they don’t well perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to that friendship or acquaintance.

13. Faith is everything

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Some people find solace and strength of mind in exercise, some in friends and family, painting, cooking, going out drinking, watching tv or having a bath. For me, it is some of those things too, but ultimately my faith in a power and God greater then anything here on Earth gives me weight to the anchor that keeps me grounded in a life often swept with uncertainty.

Find where your anchor is and make sure you give it the time and attention it needs. Soul reviving for your frame of mind.

14. I am stronger and more resilient with every passing deployment and posting

When I first got married and moved to our first posting I was a completely different person to who I am now. In order to survive the life we live I have had to pull up my boot straps, thicken my skin, know when to battle and when to fall back, when to put myself out there and when not to, to be stronger of mind, stronger of trust and continue to be open to friendships wherever we go.

These are all still works in progress and will continue to grow and evolve.

Practise makes perfect…?! Maybe…

15. You know who your real friends are During a deployment

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When you go through a deployment, it becomes very clear, very quickly who your real friends are. They are the ones who check up on you, who send you post, who ask about your kids, ring you, text you, who come visit you and let you cry if you need to. Who will drink with you, eat junk food with you, look after your kids, wash up or cook for you. Cherish those ones, they have your back.

True friendship is like oxygen and an energy drink that is life giving and energising.

16. Though it was ten times harder then a deployment without kids, it was equally ten times BETTER

A sentence of paradoxes. We finish back where we started. It was tougher it’s true. I shouted more than I would have liked to, I was stricter more then I would have liked, there were more tears than I would have liked and more sorry’s from every party than I can count.

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The talking doubled with Little Feet B going from singular words to full sentences which was equal amounts of tiring as beautiful. With it came bickering but also more playing, more tantrums but also more sister hugs. In a single day those girls have the ability to drive me up Everest and back again more times then the Duracell bunny running with no where to go. There were days when I thought I couldn’t possible listen to another round of ‘Let it Go’ or ‘Do you want to build a snowman’. There were days where I thought I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do another day on my own with them. But when all is said and done, we have laughed and loved hard these few months too. It’s true we’ve fallen out so many times, but I’ve also fallen for these girls harder then ever. That’s what hard times do, they help you assess your life. Assess what is important and what isn’t. Assess how strong you are and what your weaknesses are.

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Conclusion

This life is not for everyone, it is truly wearying at times and can be very lonely. If you cannot adapt and evolve to the situation you find yourself in you will not survive with your wits or more importantly your mental health. The longer I am a forces wife the more I understand the sense of weight that is entwined with. There are military wives who have been doing this a really long time and they are some of the wisest women I know. Being a part of this life is hard and will regularly push you to your limits. Fearing you can’t go on but trudging on regardless. Like muscles that need tearing apart in rigorous exercise in order to be put together stronger, forces wives wear this struggle and experience as a medal of pride. Not only because of how hard our husbands work and the sacrifice they have to make from being away from their families for so long, but because we know as a collective what we do matters and that forces wives are some of the most resilient and constantly evolving ones around.

We learn. We adapt. We conquer. We survive.

And I think I have proven I have done just that.

Thanks for listening, for all the private messages I received over the course of the last 6 months. You’ll never know how much they have meant.

Here is to the the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter and wider. Here is to the next season, whatever that may involve. We’re ready for you. Let the next adventure begin.

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Hobbycraft Half Terms!

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February half term is fast approaching and so has the snow. It is bitterly cold outside and most of us once the novelty of the white, fluffy stuff has subsided will want to hibernate inside wherever possible. Half term and hibernation… hmm that could go either way, especially if you aren’t prepared, which I have had my fair share of being less then wanting in the imagination front. That won’t be happening again!

In the run up to half terms or holidays I start to peruse craft shops online (we live in the middle of nowhere Sigh). I suppose actually this is probably more safe purse wise then if I were to actually enter a craft establishment. This can be beautifully illustrated in a recent event of taking part in an evenings lampshade making course with some other ladies. Once completing the evening some were buying some extra kits to take home. After saying I would absolutely not be buying any thing else, I ended up coming home with two additional kits. I get awful craft envy…

Anyway, I digress. We have put together some Hobbycraft items that we have our eyes on for the February half term and we thought that some may catch the eyes of some of you lovely readers. There is a real variety of items from really cool STEM activity packs, to crafting packs to easy books that your Little Feet can take away to have some ‘quiet time’. Win!

Weird Science Sensory Slime Kit, RRP £5

Galt Rainbow Lab, RRP £12

Make it real Terrarium Jewellery, RRP£6

Junior Paint by numbers mermaid, rrp£5

Kids easel and paint bundle, rrp £25

Love Colour-in canvas, rrp £4.50

make it real woven wall hanging, rrp £15

Draw 50 Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals, rrp £5.99

Slime Making Bundle, rrp £13

Crayola Unicreatures Colour Wonder, rrp £7

The Usborne Book of Drawing Doodling and Colouring animals, Flowers, Patterns, and other things, rrp £9.99

Vertical Funky Studio, rrp £7.50

3D Wooden Unicorn Head Puzzle, rrp £4.50

My Living World Bug Safari Kit, rrp £10

Create Your Own Crystals Science Set, rrp £15

Colour In Cardboard Rocket Playhouse 88cm, rrp £17

My Living World Worm Kit, rrp £15

My Living World Pocket Microscope Kit, rrp £12

Giant Box of Craft 1000 Pieces. rrp £5

Technokit Stunt Buggy, rrp £5

Disclaimer: This post is affiliate linked, this in no way means if you click through and buy any items attached that you pay more. It simply means that I get a little commission which helps me continue to run this blog!

Code goes live on 7th Feb

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8 children's books that teach kindness and self-love

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This is a hard post to write. I didn't know whether to even write about it, but I think it’s an important one. Since Daddy Big Feet went back after Christmas RnR, Little Feet A has struggled. A lot. It started with nightmares - horrific ones. Then something happened at school and hysterical tears followed. Then we have had weeks of tears before school, tears during school, tears after school. We have had clinginess at home, needing more love affirmations, more cuddles, more deep conversations and more regular nought to ten tantrums.

I understand that the underlying problem is that she is missing her Daddy terribly, but as a result her confidence has plummeted dramatically. Her need for me to be with her all the time is a clear indication of this. Suddenly school which was used to adore has become scary, the days too long for missing me and the playground terrifying. Where once she used to thrive, it has become a place of unease. Being for the most part fine in the close confines of her classroom setting, she fixates on the playground.

After much gentle talks with her over the last weeks, I began to see that she was beginning to realise that we are all different. Or at least she was struggling to make sense of it. My Little Feet A thrives in smaller contexts. Since school started I’ve noticed that where people call her name on the way to school, she doesn’t know what to do with that attention. She likes having a small group of friends and becomes overwhelmed if the group gets bigger. It throws her comfort zone out of whack. And lastly, she seems to have noticed that she wants to do different things than play ‘My Little Pony’ all the time in the playground.

I became apparent after talking to her over some days that she had developed a fear of asking her friends if they wanted to play her games because one of them had said they didn’t want to play them on a couple of days on the trot. I asked her what she likes to do in the playground she said ‘exercise’. Which made me inwardly laugh out loud as she is so her father’s daughter. Whose main dream from having kids is waiting for the day he can go for runs with them. Genuinely!

Little Feet A is 4 years old and I naively thought that I’d be having a discussion about friends, friend dynamics and individuality when she was a bit older. But you see, she is very like me as well. She FEELS. She feels ALL the feels. She is so in touch with her own emotions and those of others. She’s an empath. We feed off people’s energy, and can quickly sense something is off. We have a deep empathy to people’s emotions.

It has been a tough old few weeks. Emotionally very draining. So I have done what our Little Rainbow Tree Unit always does when we need to underline a topic and find some escapism.

We create and we read.

Oh and eat cake…

So we made a DIY Dollhouse where the whole process took about a week. Then I moved on to books. Books about the meaning of kindness, the difference between unkindness and kindness and most importantly about self-love. About how we are all different, how that is ok. How being all the same would be so boring. How she was made perfectly, put on this planet to be her, no one else. Sometimes using someone else’s words when you are tripping over your own or are eager to emphasis your point I find is the most effective.

It’s been a really humbling experience. She’s cried, I’ve cried, we’ve cried together. We’ve had discussions about what courage is. She’s been a scared bear cub and I have been a fierce protective mama bear. But being protective doesn’t mean hiding them away for ever and wrapping them up in cotton wool. It means equipping them with the tools to go out into the world without you and be ok, however painful that is for you to watch. And trust me, it’s painful.

I am glad to say that this week things have been getting a little better. Yesterday she proudly told me that she didn’t cried at school. I was so proud of her and I told her just that. She knows it’s ok to cry and today she did just that when I dropped her off at school. Those emotions are there for a reason. But letting her know that I’m proud of her for not crying and letting her know that continuing to carry on and trying her best and talking about her feelings with me? That. That is courageous. If we are all honest with ourselves life is all about being courageous.

So, here are some books that have helped us. I hope a couple of them speak to you and your Little Feet too.

  1. You Are Special, by Max Lucado

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Oh this book. I have so much love for this book. When I first had Little Feet A, I got given this by another forces wife. I’d never heard of it before but it holds a special place in my heart. There was a town filled with wooden people called Wemmicks. They were made by a carpenter called Eli and he lived in his workshop on the hill overlooking their town. Eli made each Wemmick different, there were no two the same. Each Wemmick liked to hand out Stars or Dot stickers. Stars were given if a Wemmick looked very beautiful, said something funny or could do something brilliant. Whereas Dots were given out if you perhaps weren’t so pretty, had chips in your wood, said something silly or fell over.

The story follows the Wemmick Punchinello who was always covered in lots of Dots. He was always falling over or saying something silly. "He deserves lots of dots, the wooden people would agree with one another. He's not a good wooden person. After a while, Punchinello believed them. I'm not a good Wemmick, he would say." One day he met a Wemmick called Lucia, she didn’t have any Stars or Dots and any that got put on her just simply fell straight off. After talking to her she said he should go see Eli on top of the hill. So he did. During their chat he says, "Who are they to give star or dots? They're Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn't matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special." Toward the end of their conversation Eli says to Punchinello, ‘Remember, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.’

Eli is off course meant to represent God and the Wemmicks humans. Whether you are an Atheist, Agnostic or Believer the message remains. No one has the right to bring you down, only you can allow that hurt to fester. This is a hard lesson, one that adults regularly struggle with. Let’s teach our children then that they are perfect, just the way you are. I don’t think there is better message to teach your Little Feet, do you?

2. The Night Dragon, by Naomi Howarth

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Maud is a dragon, but doesn’t fit in with all the other night dragons. They all breathe out smoky fire that covers the land in sooty grey clouds to help bring nightfall over the world. The other dragons leave Maud out and calls him names. Maud doesn’t even think he can fly let alone blow clouds. One day after one of the night dragon’s birthdays they all fall asleep and don’t wake up to bring nightfall. With encouragement from Mouse, Maud’s only friend, he takes courage and jumps off the cliff flapping his wings. He finds he can fly and not only that when he breathes fire the most stunning multicoloured smoke and clouds come from his nostrils. Maud and Mouse spend their days filling the Earth with the most beautiful sunsets. So next time you see a sunset scattered with rainbow hues, you’ll know who has been flying over you! A stunning book about friendship and encouragement.

3. The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig

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Teaching children kindness from a young age is so important. School and the playground can be so daunting for some children and I have talked to many teachers and teaching assistants who find it really painful watching scenarios play out in front of them. For younger school children it can often be words that can have a profound lasting affect on their confidence levels. This story is about Brian, the invisible boy. He feels like he is invisible because no other children include him in their games and conversations. That is until a new boy comes to school. Brian is the first to make him feel welcome and they team up and become friends. What a wonderful book that leads to some fantastic conversations about our actions and kindness.

Being a mother of forces children who move from school to school a lot, the book really pulls on my heart strings. Kindness costs nothing. If every parent were to make a conscious effort to actively talk about how kindness can change a situation I wonder what the world would be like in 10 years time.

4. The Sleepy Songbird, by Suzanne Barton

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This is a story about how, Peep a little bird hears the Dawn Chorus and is blown away how beautiful they all sound. Peep desperately wants to join their choir but for the life of him cannot wake up in time to sing with them. Every time he tries he ends up sleeping through the time to sing or is just too tired to join in. After much anguish Peep meets a Nightingale and quickly realises the reason he can’t be part of the Dawn Chorus is because he was meant to sing at dusk and not dawn! The sweet simplicity of this book teaches the beauty of being different and that there is much beauty in how we are made.

5. Dear Girl, by Amy Krous Rosenthal Paris Rosenthal

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Written by a mother-daughter duo this book is for anyone with a daughter or daughters. Heck, even sons! It encourages your girls to look in the mirror and say out loud what they like about their looks, it tells them it’s ok to be smart, it’s ok to be thoughtful and quiet, it’s ok to just want to cry and cry. It’s about raising strong and confident daughters who know their self-worth and knowing that above all else, they can come and tell their Mummy and Daddy anything.

6. I Am Enough, Grace Byers

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A book about differences. Simply written but effective, it is about race and most importantly, the beautiful symmetry of difference and similarity. We are all different, in colour, size, looks, intelligence, speech, but we are all human and therefore all equal. Great for teaching your Little Feet about diversity, especially if you live in an area where there isn’t much racial diversity.

7. Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall

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An extremely relevant book about identity and conforming to the stereotype. Red, is a crayon. The trouble is, he isn’t very could at being Red. However hard he tries, and he does try hard, he just can’t quite seem to be Red. Everyone has an opinion (don’t they always?!) on how he could try and be better, what might help him, if only he tried harder. One day Purple, asked him if he might draw a blue sea for her purple boat. Confused at her request, Purple encourages him to just try and what do you know he is actually Blue, not Red and he is actually very good at being Blue! This book is about being true to who you were made to be.

8. You’re Here For A Reason, by Nancy Tillman

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One for anyone who feels downtrodden and at the end of their tether. For those feeling painfully lonely, for mothers and fathers who feel the weight and struggle of parenthood, for children who feel like they aren’t good enough or that their bad moods are world ending. This book is beautifully illustrated with children and animals on every double page. At the beginning of the book a ball and a kite gets lost and blown away. Instead of showing the despair on the children’s faces they shown them how the ball brings happiness to people all over the world and how the ribbons on the kite do the same. The unintended ripples of kindness spread far and wide across the world. The moral of the story, it is ok to be down, but you are here for a reason, you belong and someone is relying on you. You would be so missed. The book ends with the greatest sentence of all - You are loved.

Onward.

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Happy New Year Rainbow Tree-ers! You may have noticed (or not!) we have been a little absent over the last two weeks. It was needed, to refill our tanks.

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Christmas and the time in between that and New Year has come and gone. It was one of real happiness and precious memories for the Rainbow Tree family. It was even more special this year as Daddy Big Feet was back from his deployment for his RnR. If you are deployed for 5 months or more you get a two week period to come back and see your family. By some small miracle his landed right over the Christmas holidays. Miracles do happen. 

Alas our time together is coming to an end and I feel that it is important to share the hard times as well as the good. I talk a lot about being strong during a deployment, especially for the Little Feet. It is equally important  to highlight that there are times when that strength ebbs away and impending storm clouds drift ever closer. The struggles before RnR I have touched on in previously posts, the period during RnR is what I will be talking about today and in time, the aftermath of a deployment.

An example of the struggles during this two week reunion can be the battle of allowing oneself to let your other half back into your unit. Being the person left at home, who runs the house, walks the dog, looks after the kids, cooks as well as works themselves, it can actually be very difficult to release those roles when their husband or wife return. I don’t mean this in a cruel way. For me it is the angst of trying not to get used to the help. Not to get too comfortable knowing it’ll be gone before you know it. Moving around a lot means most don’t have family close, so for most they do a deployment with not much help to speak of. If you are lucky you will have some solid neighbours that can help when it all gets too much.

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As I write this, Daddy Big Feet has one sleep left in our home until he has to go back on deployment. The run up period to the leaving again is very difficult. The spoken and unspoken strain becomes palpable and tensions begin to rise. However hard you try as the adults in the house to keep upbeat it is impossible for your Little Feet to not feel the heightened emotions. Whether you realise it or not. Little Feet A from about two days ago randomly began her own countdown until Daddy Big Feet leaves again. She recently asked him when he comes home again, ‘how many minutes he would be home for’. Heart wrenching stuff. We have had a really amazing week of adventure back at home after Christmas travels to family, but the last few days have been filled with Little Feet B’s tantrums and tears. With no apparent pain or illness, I would not be surprised if my mother’s instinct is correct. She has realised that Daddy is not here for much longer. We forget that she understands more than we realise. 

For the person who has to go back on deployment this can be a difficult time, especially if you have Little Feet. Little Feet can become limpets, needing to go everywhere their Big Feet go to reassure them. They may require Daddy Big Feet to put them to bed every night, get up with them every morning, just to have that extra time. During this time, the one going back on deployment’s mind will start to wander back into work mode and this can be testing for those at home who yearn for them to stay present for as long as possible. This has the potential to lead to arguments and in turn puts pressure on everyone to make the most of every.single.moment. Which as you can imagine is incredibly draining. For me, I am both introvert and extrovert, however if I am not able to have that introvert time of quiet I can become difficult to live with. With time being precious, it can make even myself needy, wanting to spend us much time together as a family. In process of denying myself my introvert time however, can make me irritable, snappy and anxious. Daddy Big Foot basically forced me out of the house yesterday to go have some me time which was needed. When my introvert levels are not being seen too I have found it generally surfaces with a sudden need to tidy and clean the house. Over time I have realised this is because it is the only control I have in my life sometimes.

Many forces wives, including myself have debated whether it would be easier if there wasn’t RnR. Off course, we would never actually exchange this time, we all know that. However, those left at home get into a routine and if you have children this two week period can be extremely difficult coming out on the other side. During RnR almost every day, both Little Feet make sure if Daddy is coming back if he pops the shop, walks the dog or even at times leaves the room. We would never trade this time, we have made some amazing memories and it is food for the soul to be able to reconnect our little pack. With those memories and times however comes an emotional price to pay.


For the first time since his return yesterday was the first day I began to feel the panic starting to bubble away in my sternum. As it bubbles away my mind begins a battle of wills. One side being helpless, hysterical woman that is not good enough to get through this by herself and the other that starts to completely shut down from any emotion, headstrong, determined to do everything by herself. This can lead to crying one moment and feeling no emotion the next. Today he disappeared upstairs saying it was time. I took this to mean that he was going to start packing. After about half an hour I go upstairs to see no lights on but the bathroom. I pop my head through the door to see him scrubbing the bathroom from top to bottom… because he knows I hate cleaning the bathroom. He wanted to do it before he left so I didn’t have to in the coming week. It was so unexpected and thoughtful it pushed me right over the edge and my eyeballs began to malfunction. Crying over a bathroom being cleaned, that’s the kind of madness of emotions I am talking about. 

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We have another 2.5 months to go of this deployment and I’m not going to lie, at this very moment that feels like a hell of a mountain to climb, especially in the bleak mid winter… Our Thankfulness Jar is half full and we continue to do that every Sunday. If you are a guest staying with us over a Sunday evening you are expected to participate.

So. I will give myself 48 hours of moping and expelling any tears that need to be spilt after he has left. But after that, I will continue to take one day at a time, one step in front of the other, holding both my girls up when they can’t hold themselves up and  I am sure before I know it we will be counting the days down until his return. For more then just many ‘minutes’ but hours, days, weeks and hopefully months. Until the next time that is!


Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings over the course of the last year. I have found it to be very cathartic. I hope it has been a space to enlighten those who forces life is a mystery and be a source of camaraderie to those who have been, are in, or will be in this season of life.

Every Snowflake Is Special

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In the UK, newsrooms have been reporting that this winter we will be covered in snow. As a Christmas surprise for you all The Rainbow Tree has something special to share.

About four years ago, around 6pm one evening Daddy Big Feet and I were tired and were giving Little Feet A a bath before bedtime. She would have been about 6 months old. Daddy Big Feet came home chuckling about a rude comment someone at work who had called someone a ‘special snowflake’. Though it was meant to be insulting (obviously) my imagination ran away with me a bit as I thought it would make a fab kids book…. As it turns out, this was not a particularly ingenuis idea as there are lots of children’s books, as I soon discovered, written about snowflakes! However, we both got a little carried away and within a couple of hours of bouncing sentences off each other we had come across this little ditty. We’re not saying it’s any good but it was a fun couple of mindless hours in the midst of surviving new parenthood in a haze of yawns and coffee!

And yes, before anyone comments, we do know that actually snowflakes aren’t all unique, but let’s just all pretend, for the sake of argument that they are! Anyway, we stumbled across this recently and thought it would be fun to share it with you all. And if we know any illustrators out there, let us know if you fancy throwing together a couple of fun images that can accompany it!

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Every Snowflake Is Special

by Daddy and Mummy Big Feet

The Rainbow Tree

There’s no such thing as a normal snowflake, no matter what people say. 

Every snowflake is different, special in its very own way. 

Some snowflakes are bigger then others, wider, rounder or taller.

Some snowflakes are shorter then others, but we love them though they are smaller. 

Some snowflakes have glasses, some snowflakes have spots, some snowflakes are full of cold and end up covered in snots. 

A million billion snowflakes fall each second of the year,

enough to build a snowman for everyone far or near. 

Whether plate, column, star or lacy, needle, dendrite or cap,

snowflakes fall in lots of places, just look at that big old map. 

From Montreal, to Tokyo, Great Britain to Kazakhstan, Snowflakes come from around the world and make friends wherever they can. 

Every snowflake is special, but deep down they are all the same, so next you meet a new snowflake, remember to ask them their name. 


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 Doodle Box and Storybook Wings 10th year anniversary

The Royal Air Forces Association, Storybook Wings and a Military Spouse

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As I write this, I am sat outside my daughters room. I’ve been sat here for almost two hours as Little Feet B struggles to go back to sleep. I’d like to say this is an unusual occurrence but unfortunately in this season of our lives it is not. As you know The Rainbow Tree family is separated at the moment. Daddy Big Feet is currently deployed for 5 months overseas. We are coming up to 6 weeks in and disrupted sleep has not gotten any better. Little Feet B has struggled since her Daddy has left, but this struggle is mostly just at night. As a result she wakes up after a few hours and it is next to impossible to get her back to sleep unless she comes into bed in our room. I don’t really mind the co-sleeping part, it’s quite nice to have company in bed however, it has been creeping earlier and earlier and it has become a big problem, especially as I work in the evenings. This is taking it’s toil and is one of the side effects to children with deployed parents, or at least in our family it is. This isn’t a cry for help, I don’t require any advice, I am simply opening a little curtain into our lives giving you an idea of what it is like at this stage in our journey.

Deployments are tough it’s true, but we do get support and in this post I will be shedding some light on a little part of what The Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) does to help, specifically one of their initiatives called ‘Storybook Wings’, which every family can receive in times of deployment.

What does The Royal Air Forces Association (rafa) do?

Their statement mission is the following:

The Royal Air Forces Association is committed to providing confidential, professional and fair services to members of the wider RAF family from the youngest recruit to the oldest veteran and their families. Ongoing training and support for welfare volunteers and staff ensures services are consistent and of the highest possible standard. All will be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

There are many other areas that this charity help forces and ex-forces families with. A couple of examples being we receive a deployment pack before our loved ones are deployed and either vouchers to use for days out or being taken on days out with other families throughout the deployment.

In the deployment packs are activity books for children, a count down sheet, a re-usable weekly reward sheet, a book, some leaflets on how separation of parents can affect children and how the return on parents after long separation can affect family life too.

I cannot stress enough how all these things add to keeping the morale up of people left at home. Little Feet A loves ticking her reward sheet off everyday. If she gets a certain amount of ticks by the end of the week she gets a sweet or chocolate bar and every Saturday morning we cross off another week together.

Storybook Wings

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The Royal Air Forces Association runs an initiative called, Storybook Wings which has, to date supported approximately 2,300 children with parents not being at home, whether due to deployment or even just their parents working away from home during the week. Before your service dependent leaves on tour, they can sign up to record two books of their choice. These recordings are then taken away and sound effects are added on it them. They are then delivered to you so that your Little Feet can listen to their Mummy or Daddy read them a bedtime story. How wonderful is that?

Some books are better to read than others, especially ones where fun sound effects can be added. Ours turned up last week and Daddy Big Feet decided on two Julia Donaldson books, The Gruffalo and The Room On The Broom. This means that the Little Feet can curl up and have their Daddy read them a story even when he isn’t here.

You receive a digital recording as well as CDs. When receiving the CDs in the post, included are little bravery medals for each child, in fact I even got one! These recordings are so special. We sat with the books after the girls had eaten in then evening on the sofa, with the recording and also the books. Sitting there with the girls for those 10 minutes, was like a weight had been temporarily lifted, especially as Daddy Big Feet had recorded additional messages for each of the girls.

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10 years of RAFA - The DOodle Box

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The Royal Air Forces Association has been active for 10 years and in celebration of this they have brought out Doodle Boxes that can be coloured in by their Little Feet and/or Big Feet! Inside them there is a roll of paper to design a welcome home banner, a t-shirt that can be coloured in (with pens included), a card that can be coloured in and a wash kit bag that again, can be coloured in. About 3 or 4 weeks ago, when the Little Feet were eating their evening meal, the camp’s (where we live) Community Support Officer, a Flight Sergeant personally delivered this box to our door. We were the first family on our camp to have received one of these boxes.

Now there was no reason for the Flight Sergeant to bring that round himself, he is an incredibly busy person with a to do list longer than his arm. The act of personally coming to our house to hand it over, had such an affect to the mood in our house. I had had a particularly hard day and was really counting down the minutes until the girls went to bed. This random act of kindness lifted my spirits, I wasn’t expecting this box, I didn’t even know it was coming. We are a creative house, that’s no shock, Little Feet A has become so focused on drawing and colouring in the last month and we joke that she is very prolific in her endeavours. Some days she goes through pages and pages of colouring and drawings. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if she uses it as a source of escapism and a time to process what is happening. So to have an arty activity with arty activities delivered, for free to our door was like an angel had come a knocking.

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What will we do with ours?

Our Doodle box is going to become our deployment keepsake box. In it will live all the letters we will have sent each other over every deployment past, present and future. Currently somewhere in our garage there is a plastic storage box with all the ebluey’s that Daddy Big Feet and myself sent each other when he was in Afghanistan. It felt wrong to throw them away when he got back, like we were burning a part of our history and pretending it never happened. One day our Little Feet might read them and learn things we never told them. Little Feet A especially may like to read them as I was pregnant with her at the time.

Military wife turned small business owner

Being self-employed is new to me, but in a short space of time I have come across a huge gathering of other military spouses who have gone out on a limb, believed they could and started something for themselves. When I got handed this box, I knew immediately who had designed it. I asked two separate, ‘in the know’ people if my guess was right but they didn’t know. Dying to know if I was correct, I found her on my Instagram and direct messaged her. I had started to follow her a few months back and I felt certain it was her. My suspicions were correct! The Doodle Box was designed by Amy Nolan, who runs a small business called Ginger Rainbow .

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Though incredibly busy, the lovely Amy has VERY kindly taken the time to share with us how this project came about what her company does.

How the Doodle Box Project came about...

January 2017 RAF Benson, who had seen the colouring in pillowcases and cards asked if I could design a colouring in box that could be kept at home and coloured in along with putting together a small range of products such as the wash bag and banner and card. Together we decided on a theme and the products were designed.This project was completed and launched by RAF Benson last year and featured in envoy mag.

November 2017 - RAFA then approached me as they were interested in seeing If I could do a similar project , but to help celebrate  10 years of storybook wings. I then designed the theme for the products within the box as well as the outside and the Doodle box was launched in the summer this year 2018

A bit about Ginger Rainbow...

My first colouring in pillowcase was hand drawn for a customer on the base I was living at at the time as a gift for them to complete at home and then send out to their husband deployed. I then decided to get some (10)professionally screen printed to see if people would be interested in buying them. I did the supporting the unsung hero start up course and then have spent the last couple of years learning how to work for myself. I do a few different things now, but Ginger rainbow is one of the things I am most proud of, I now supply my products to a number of RAF stations who supply them in deployment packs to families with a serving person away from home. I  really believe that simple creative activity can be a force for connection and positivity. I get such lovely messages from families who use my products and always love to see the amazing artwork that happens on these pillowcases as a result.

I put a lot of love into my designs and I hope that the enjoyment experienced can help a little with the challenges of deployment.

So there you have it.

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From a fellow military spouse, I want to say thank you to Amy. Thank you for being brave enough to start up your own business, thank you pouring your heart into it and sharing your gifts. You have made a difference to so many families in their difficult deployment seasons. You have made a difference in our house. Creating is our fairy dust, it’s our escape, it’s our hobby, it’s our family time and you have given us something to cherish forever. I have sat with my eldest and together have coloured in that box many separate days, a few minutes here and there. Creativity is like food for our souls, it is a moment of quiet, a moment of stillness, it is a moment of adrenaline, it is a moment to listen to nothing but the beautiful white noise of felt tips on cardboard..

So thank you to the Royal Air Force Association, to Storybook Wings, to Amy Nolan and her company Ginger Rainbow and all those who tireless work for them and with them, who have to endure many emotionally charged humans during an emotionally charged time in their lives. Thank you to everyone who has donated, helped raise money for it’s cause, volunteered and in direct result helped those who need it.

We remember them...

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Today marks the day for a couple of things. Today as a family we start the day as the longest time the girls have gone without seeing their Daddy. They last saw him 3 weeks and 1 day ago.

It is also Remembrance Day, the anniversary of 100 years since the end of World War 1. Remembrance Day is important every year, but always a little more poignant when your other half is away on an overseas deployment. One can’t help buy think about all those wives who lost their husbands, all the children that lost their fathers, everyone that lost someone. In the UK, in November we wear poppies to remember those who died in battle in WW1.

Why wear a poppy? Where does it come from?

Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in spring of 1915 saw poppies growing on one of the fields that was battle scarred. These flowers are delicate but resilient and grew again amongst the warfare and after all other wildlife scattered and refused to grow in these places. These flowers inspired McCrae to write a poem called, ‘In Flanders Fields.’

Moina Michael, an American academic who was in turn inspired by this poem felt moved to start making poppies made from silk. They were then brought to England by a French woman Anna Guérin. In 1921, The Royal British Legion formed and ordered 9 million of these poppies to be sold on 11 November that year. They sold out almost immediately and raised a £106,000 in the first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’. This money went towards helping veterans of WW1 in regards to employment and housing. The next year a factory was set up by Major George Howson who employed disabled ex-servicemen.

In Scotland, approximately 5 million poppies are sold every year by Poppyscotland.

We've been talking a lot about Remembrance Day this year. Little Feet A is more aware of it’s relevance to her life. She sees people in uniform everyday and it is about remembering people in uniform. She has been really interested in it, what it means and why we wear them. She has been desperate for her own poppy and is super proud of wearing it.

I wanted to write a piece about some of the conversations that have been going on in our house over the last month. I am aware I have shared a lot on social media, but not on here so let me open a window into our The Rainbow Tree home life.

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In September, Daddy Big Feet was away for a 'long work' (3 weeks), before the epic of 5 month deployment. Little Feet and I had the following conversation:

Little Feet A turned to me and asked 'Superheroes only come when baddies need to be stopped right?' I replied, 'Sure, yes I guess that's right.' I paused and the next words that came out of my mouth surprised me. I hadn't rehearsed them in my head previously or ever connected the two.
I replied, 'but you realise that's why Daddy is away so much right?' She looked at me quizzically and waited for me to continue. 'Daddy is a superhero. When he goes away it's because he is helping all the other superheroes to stop the bad guys. His uniform is his superhero costume and his cape... well his cape is invisible.' Her jaw dropped as she pondered this for a moment and then thoughtfully responded, 'I'm going to ask Daddy more about this when we next talk'.

I know this conversation really struck a chord with her because she has talked about it lots since. In another Instagram post this week I shared a drawing she had made at school of poppies in a field. They have obviously been talking about it in class a bit. When she showed me it I said, ' Wow that's beautiful. Can you tell me about them, can you remember what they mean?' She said, 'yes Mummy, they are there so we can remember them.' 'Remember who *Little Feet A?' 'Remember all the superheroes that came before us and kept us safe from the baddies'.

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Yesterday she asked me, 'Are you a superhero Mummy?' I said 'No, I'm not.' She replied, 'Can Mummies not be superheroes?' I said, 'Of course they can! There are LOTS of superhero Mummies being superheroes right now.' She paused and thought about it. 'Can I be one now?' I replied, ‘You've got to train to be one. When you are big you can be one if you like.' She said, ‘I want to be a superhero just like Daddy.’ I smiled, 'I know Daddy will be super proud of whatever you do, but I know he would definitely love that.'

Talking to our Little Feet about Remembrance Day is tricky. For those who may say it's celebrating war this is untrue and in my opinion frankly disrespecting the lives that never made it back, the ones who made it back but were forever scarred in body and mind. The young soldiers, airmen and sailors who were basically still teenagers, the ones who made it back but had to grow up too fast and were forever changed in their view of the world.

I know that for me personally I want to protect my children from the world for as long as I can. They don't need to know about the specifics, the devastating and life altering numbers that died. They don’t need to know about the conditions they lived in or the weapons that were used. What they do need to know is that thousands of people died and worked tirelessly to look after the people at home. The ones who worked tirelessly to keep us safe, to allow us to live the lives we live right now and not only that, but to realise there are still superheroes that work tirelessly to continue to keep us safe.

I chose in a blink of an eye to compare these brave men and women as superheroes. Little Feet A is 4 years old. She can relate to superheroes. She plays superheroes and ninjas, princesses and knights. These are things she can relate to and sometimes it’s easier to explain in those terms.

Really at the end of the day, to us all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and officers, everyone that fought in any capacity and died for us or lived and suffered, they were all superheroes. They had a courage that still teaches us to this day to stand up for what we believe in. To be scared and still do? That, that is true courage. For that, they will always be remembered. For that we should always teach of the sacrifice and the freedom it has given us today.

We are a forces family, 3 weeks and a day into our 5 month deployment journey. One we are choosing to share with the everyone. One we hope to shed a little light on the myths of military life, the truths, the highs and the lows. The little things that help us get through these long periods of separation and the days that we want to highlight that are important to those who have had relatives in the military in the past and have them in the military today. For many it is a calling, but back then it was a necessity to fight for our freedom and many felt like their duty to do their part whether that was in the factories or on the front line or whether they didn’t have a choice.

Photo by  Stijn Swinnen  on  Unsplash

This year is is the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. So from us to the generation who fought in that horrifying war, we want to say thank you for your ultimate sacrifice. Though a hundred years have past know we still remember you, know your sacrifice still means something, know we are still teaching our children, know we are still wearing poppies and that in our household you are known as superheroes. Past superheroes and present superheroes that continue to inspire the next generation. Know that my 4 year old daughter wants to have courage like you, wants to be brave like you and wants to be just like all those superheroes still holding the flame for you today.  




25 things to do with your kids in Autumn

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October half term is almost upon us and is upon some already. It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so we thought we would help inspire you with a list of 15 fun things you can do. We hope that something will tickle your fancy - October is a great time to have a half term if you ask me!

  1. Go to a pumpkin patch (duh!)

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http://www.pyo.co.uk/pumpkins/ is a great website for locating somewhere near you.

2. Pumpkin Potions

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Check out our Pumpkin Potions for more information on how to take part in some serious Hubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble! It is a SUPER easy STEAM activity that will be sure to become an annual event.

3. Make Halloween Cookies

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For where to buy them, a review and what they turn out like click the image for more. They are seriously fun and will be a fab morning or afternoons activity for your Little Feet.

4. Go on an Autumn Leaf Identification scavenger hunt

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Go on an Autumn leaf identification hunt ! Print out a printable with a list of items to find on your walk. Click through the image for more.

5. Make Stick Spider Webs, Mother Natured

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Mother Natured is one of our favourite blogs that we follow. If you love being outdoors with your Little Feet then this is a treasure trove of ideas for you.

6. Go to the library and find some Autumn & Halloween themed book

Check out our 10 books to read in October on the blog.

7. Spooky Googley Eye Sensory Bags

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8. Watch a Halloween themed film

Let your Little Feet stay up late as a treat and watch a seasonal film.

Some suggestions:

Coraline, Harry Potter, Hotel Transylvania 1,2&3, Monsters Inc, Coco, Hocus Pocus, Ghostbusters. Use your parental discretion as to which ones you think are suitable for your Little and Little Big Feet.

9. Make hot chocolate sticks

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10. Donate food to a food bank


Talk to your Little Feet about giving and those less fortunate. Collect some food and take them to your local food bank. Talk to them about why it is good to give and be kind to others.

11. Make a pine cone feeder

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There are pinecones everywhere at the moment - make the most of them if you have them near. We have a similar post on The Rainbow Tree for bird feeders. If you don’t have any pinecones near you find our version HERE.

12. Pick sloes for ‘Mummy’s sloe gin’! 

I always use Jamie Oliver’s Sloe Gin recipe.

I always use Jamie Oliver’s Sloe Gin recipe.

We have had our first frost so ours are in the freezer after a morning of picking. Now where is that gin…

13. Help a hedgehog

Find out how to help a hedgehog this Autumn on the Wildlife Trust website. Click through to find out more.

14. Make a Autumn mantel display

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A non-mess option for pumpkin season. A little STEAM fun with nails and string. I’ve seen another blogger do it with rubber bands too.

16. Purchase a Craft Subscription for you Little Feet.

Discounts included in this post expire at the beginning of November, don’t miss out!

17. Stay in and have a Cozy afternoon in wooly socks, books and blankets

Photo by  Alex Geerts  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash

This is a fantastic art activity that I did with Little Feet A last year and was a real hit. It happily filled an hour and she loved spinning the salad spinner expectantly waiting to see what pattern the paint left. A real win for a large range of ages. We did some with just paper and others we stuck pressed leaves into the middle of them and spun them. When we removed the leaves it left a fab negative print of the leaf. Click through to learn more.

19. Air-blast An Alien

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An easy indoor art craft to kill 30 minutes to an hour depending on how old your Little Feet are. All you need is paint, paper, a dropper, pen and a straw. Click through to find out more.

20. Go to a bonfire night

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Find out more on Domestic Goddess.

Find out more on Domestic Goddess.

It’s conker season! If you have Little Feet you will very likely have conkers lying around your house that have been squirrelled away by Little Hands. Conker paint rolling is a great way to use them and create some art work for grandparents! Click through for more!

23. Create an Autumn Nut-Tree Display

Create a window or mantel piece display with your Little Feet. All you need is conkers and or acorns, an forestry oasis and toothpicks. Both of my Little Feet (23 months and 4 years old) really enjoyed doing this together. Why not buy a few different shapes for them to decorate? Click through for more.

24. Make Leaf bookmarks

Collect some beautiful Autumnal leaves, press them and make some crazy easy bookmarks. All you need is leaves, some heavy books, contact paper and scissors.

25. Create a Superhero Halloween Costume - Mask and Cape

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For how to make a Superhero mask that will last click through the photo. For how to make a superhero cape using material and fabric paint find the DIY Superhero Party! I contributed for Super Simple HERE .

10 Books to read with your kids this October

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  1. Funny Bones, Janet & Allan Ahlberg

If you were born in the 80s, then this will bring back some memories! My Little Feet are currently obsessed with this book. Little Feet B always runs to me shouting ‘Hip bone, hip bone!’ when she wants me to read it to her. It’s a classic!

2. Room on a Broom, Julia Donaldson

Any house that contains Little Feet is not complete with at least one Julia Donaldson book in it. We have most of her books and this one is a favourite. It teaches about kindness and friendship and you are left feeling warm and fuzzy by the end.

3. 10 Little Monsters, Mike Brownlow

If you haven’t already got one of the ‘Ten Little’ series by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty, you need to rectify that right now! Little Feet A basically learnt how to count backwards from 10-1 from these books. She still insists on doing the numbers whenever we read them. Ten Little Monsters, is another current seasonal favourite at The Rainbow Tree at the moment. We just adore all the illustrations in these books and know you will too.

4. Sweep, Louis Greig

This is a fab seasonal book which we have actually reviewed in our Review section recently. Find it here. It is about a book who just cannot let his anger go until he ends up dragging everyone around down with him. It is a fantastic teaching aid to Little Feet on the topic of anger and a great reminder to Big Feet too that our moods will affect our Little Feet as well.

5. Spot’s Harvest, Eric Hill


Spot! What child doesn’t like a spot book?! Though this isn’t one of the flap ones, I feel like sometimes that is no bad thing as it gives the Little Feet nothing to rip! This one is all about harvest time and everyone helping each other.

6. The Squirrels who squabbled, Rachel Bright and Jim Field

We LOVE these books. This one is about two squirrels, Cyril and Bruce. One who has spent all summer and autumn collecting his winter supplies and the other who has spent his time partying and eating all the food. They both want the last pinecone and they have a fight on their hands. It’s fun, the illustrations are fantastic, their is a moral behind the story and it rhymes!

7. Seasons come, seasons go Tree, Britta Teekentrump

We discovered this author recently and love this one. It is about seasons and the illustrations are colourful and vibrant. One of our favourite books about seasons.

8. Pattan’s Pumpkin: An Indian Flood Story, Chitra Soundar

I’ve recommended another of Chitra Soundar’s books in our Review section (read it here) and this is another unique story. Based on an India flood folklore story that the author found in a research paper, it is very reminiscent of Noahs Ark. In it a pumpkin, grows and grows and grows until it is bigger then all the animals. When a flood comes the pumpkin becomes a boat that saves the day. As well as being an adventure tale, it is a story about living at one with the nature around us.

9. The lost acorn, Nick Butterworth

I don’t know about you guys, but after I had Little Feet and stumbled across Nick Butterworth’s books again, it was like being transported back to my childhood. I love these books growing up and I am so chuffed that my girls love them too. Percy the park keeper lives on the park land and looks after everything in it. He spends his days gardening and looking after the animals. This one is a super cute one where he helps one of the squirrels remember where he has buried all his acorns.

10. Stumpkin, Lucy Ruth Cummins

A newly published book which is SO cute. It reminds me a little of The Christmas Eve Tree. It is about a pumpkin who has to watch all the other pumpkins being taken home by their new families. But all those pumpkins have stems and he only has a stump and no one seems to want one without a stem. Will it have a happy ending….? Buy it and find out! It is fab, sure to be an annual favourite.

 

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. This does not mean that if you link through and buy any of the books it will charge you any more. It just means I receive a little commission which goes toward the upkeep and running of this blog.

The deployment thankfulness jar

Life as a forces family

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For those of you who have been following for a while, you will know by now that The-Rainbow-Tree house is a forces family. Daddy Big Feet is in The Royal Air Force and we move every few years depending on where the Queen sends us. 

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Being a forces family has many pros as well as cons. Today I will be zeroing in on deployments. As a military wife and mummy I feel that is really important I raise these issues and try where I can be transparent about the life we live. People outside the military often know little about what the life is like, and I have had on occasions words such as ‘odd’ be thrown out. I feel this is due to misunderstanding and assumptions being made. It is my hope that this post will give, albeit a small insight, into one of its most challenging elements of being a forces family.

We found out last month (September) that Daddy Big Feet will be deployed from mid October this year (2018) to the end of March next year (2019). 5 months. This was fairly last minute and particularly difficult as he found out a couple of days before he was due to fly overseas for work. So he was away for the majority of September as well.

This will be the first time Little Feet A and B will experience him being away for an extended period of time. The last time he was away for 7 months I was pregnant with Little Feet A. As this was over 4 years ago he was due another deployment. This is just how military life works. The girls are used to him being away on what we call 'long work' for a couple of weeks at a time. Months however is a different matter.

Dealing with a deployment where you only have to worry about your own emotions is hard. Spousal loneliness is hugely prevalent and rarely ever talked about. This deployment however, will be the first time I will have the emotions of two small children to counter-balance too. This is my most daunting prospect. Things such as will I have enough energy for them and how can I be the Daddy as well as the Mummy over the course of 5 months are some of my biggest worries. My Little Feet adore their Daddy and play very ‘actively’ with him. They rough and tumble constantly and this has never been my thing, even growing up as a child. I am the inventive, craftsy parent… if you hadn’t guessed that already.

Perspective

Just to give some perspective, by the end of 2018 Daddy Big Feet will have accumulatively been away with work for 5 months. The majority of this will not have been deployments, but exercises and courses. This does not include the countless working weekends and overnight work meetings during the week he has attended. By the end of March 2019 he will already have been away 3 months, not counting all the time he will do away for the rest of the year.

Long deployments affect family dynamics from the moment they have been announced and long after they have happened. There is suddenly a need to cherish every single moment you have together and this can be a heavy weight to burden. It can immediately affect sleeping and behaviour patterns, enforce attention to certain house demands in preparation. Though any military spouse will tell you however much you prepare, the car, washing machine, shower, dryer, sink, child’s arm/leg will all break as soon as they walk out the house on deployment.

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Currently Little Feet B (24 months) is still suffering the repercussions of Daddy Big Feet having been away for three weeks in September. Any time he puts his uniform on and tries to leave the house she cries and it takes numerous times of telling her he will be back later for her to calm down. Her sleeping has still not recovered and I don’t really expect it to improve with the impending deployment. She spent the first two weeks in September of waking up in the middle of the night and refusing to settle anywhere other then sleeping on my chest - flashbacks to her newborn days. But who can blame her, she is talking more and more it’s true but she can’t yet really understand why Daddy is gone so long. If co-sleeping is the only way she can cope then who am I to stop it.

As always, the posts where I talk about our family life and circumstances are not intended to be to receive any sort of pity. Far from it. I love our family and am beyond proud of Daddy Big Feet, what he believes in and does. Long deployments are very hard for the people going away as well, especially once Little Feet enter the picture. I believe it is important to illuminate what forces life can be like and give credit to the families that live through it. Wives, husbands, children, girlfriends, grandparents, mothers, fathers and anyone that supports their loved ones from afar and keeps their families going at home while the serving member of their families are away for long periods of time deserve medals as well. The people in uniform cannot do what they do without a family behind them supporting them and loving them from afar. This is often hightlighted in speeches in military gatherings, but rarely talked about outside the forces. If they did not have this support, no one would remain in the military for long. 

Through Adversity 

Forces women, girlfriends, wives and mothers are some of the strongest, most resilient, steadfast and inspiring people I know. Through adversity they lift up their loved ones in uniform and trudge on. Each of the categories of woman mentioned have separate challenges through deployments, but for the sake of clarity and continuity, I'm going to focus on motherhood in deployment. 

A huge part of why this blog was created has to do with our identity as a forces family. All around the globe, wives or husbands sacrifice their careers so that their other halves in uniform may continue, for what many consider their calling in life. As a result those who follow evolve and adapt to survive. We become entrepreneurs. I know many women who have become small business owners, such as masseuses, barbers, hairdressers, writers, jewellery designers, app creators, property developers, photographers, artists or tutors, just to name a few. All so that they can continue a career and retain an identity, other then being a ‘military spouse’ through our transient lifestyle. For me I branched out to writing, freelancing and blogging. 

© Lasting Memories Photography by Lisa Marie

© Lasting Memories Photography by Lisa Marie

What now?

With this deployment lain out before us in the weeks and months to come, I feel daunted by the short winter days, the weekends after weekends of solo parenting, the nightly wake ups, the tears and tantrums, and the continuous fight against being tired. I do not doubt I can do it or have the strength to, I know I can. My world cannot stop turning just because I’d like it to and we cannot live our lives waiting for the future to come quicker. As a mother though, I will need to get inventive and one idea I have come up with is the

Deployment Thankfulness Jar.

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It is very easy to become negative when life throws you a curve ball. It is very easy to slip into a toxic cycle about fixating on the situation. It is very easy to wake up in the morning and wonder how you are going to get out of bed. It is very easy to wallow. There were days when I was heavily pregnant while Daddy Big Feet was away when the hours, days and weeks seemed to stretch out forever in front of me and I wondered how I would ever cope with the weeks and months ahead. We were posted in Scotland at the time and were a long way from any friends and family. It was a long slog and it was very lonely, even with the rest of the wives down the road. There were days when even if I was in a crowded room I would feel like I was completely alone. If I hadn't had my trusty furball to keep me company in the house it would have been even worse. In fact this was one reason we got our first furborn.

I did not have Little Feet at that time, and I think this perhaps was why I felt separate from the other wives who had Little Feet keeping them busy. It will be interesting for me to do some comparison this time round with how Little Feet change this deployment experience. I have two other humans to look after, a furball to walk and work to keep up with. YIKES.

The Deployment Thankfulness Jar is simple. We have bought a glass jar with a cork lid that we will display somewhere visible in the house. At the end of each week we are going to sit down together on Sunday and talk about the week we have just had. As we go through it we are going to write down one or two things we are thankful for that week. I may even do this for myself everyday in a diary. 

Alongside this, I am going to attempt to take a photo every single day of his deployment. 

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Reunions  

By the end of March that jar should be full to the rim. When Daddy Big Feet returns home we will sit down together and open them all up and read them. Then we will look at all the photos that we have taken over every single day of the deployment on a slide on TV.  This does two things, it will fill him in on things he has missed over the last 5 months and secondly, it will teach my Little Feet that we are powerful and that we can get through anything together in our tribe. That it is ok to get upset, it is ok to cry, it is ok to feel lonely, but that together we can also build each other up and that we can get through anything we put our minds to.

Positivity can change lives.

It is ok to feel sadness and talk about the ache inside yourself of missing a vital person in your tribe. In fact it is really important you do have those talks, give those hugs and see those tears, share those tears, eat those bars of chocolate and drink those bottles of wine and gin. Trust me, so many tears have already been spilt in our house over this impending deployment; new grey hair sprouted, stress related eczema and sleepless nights. But when we allow those feelings to overwhelm us (which can happen and HAS happened), this is not healthy and as a mother it is not helpful for my soul or my children’s. The Deployment Thankfulness Jar is my attempt to encourage both my children and my minds and thoughts to think in a positive fashion when the days begin to shorten and the winter months roll in. There is a beautiful symbol and shimmering silver lining in the distance with him returning at the end of March. It will be almost Spring…

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This deployment activity is just as important for me the mother, if not more really, as it is for the Little Feet. Everyone needs reminding of the things we are thankful for in our lives. Sometimes it is the simple things in life, from the swirling of leaves in the wind, to the smell of a burning fire, to the warmth of a heated blanket and the hug of a friend. Sometimes it is the big things, like FaceTiming Daddy Big Feet, or family visiting, going somewhere new, not walking the dog.

Nothing is too small, nothing is too big. All is valid, all should be heard. 

With the mention of FaceTime, I feel it is crucial to pause here to look back to yesteryears and the wives and children of those in the military in time past. Those who had to endure waving off their loved ones and knowing that they would have no contact with them or even if they would ever see them again. The lack of contact could have been days, months or years. My Grandad was in the Navy and was often sent away out to sea with no communication. I know that my Granny deeply struggled single parenting, so I know that she is looking down on me with knowing eyes.

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My heroes aren’t celebrities or royalty.

these women are my heroes. Your bravery knows know bounds, your strength inspiring and your sacrifice irreplaceable. I stand in awe of you and my respect for you is infinite.

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So I invite you to join us on this deployment journey. I hope that perhaps our Deployment Thankfulness Jar may inspire others who are in a season of deployment. Our journey will be long, it will be messy, there will be days when The Rainbow Tree house will be upside down and inside out, days and weeks where we might hunker down and hibernate. Through all of this though, I hope our honesty will help others in the same boat and will open a window for those who don’t know the challenges of being in the forces. It’s true, it is going to be a hard 5 months for us, but I am standing up in solidarity to all those others gone before us who have been, who are, who will be in the same position and saying, I am a Forces wife, I am a Forces Mummy with Forces children and this deployment will not defeat us. 

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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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Superhero-ing; Capes and Masks

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At the beginning of Summer I did a DIY Superhero Party post for Supersimpleonline.com . I regularly contribute to their website and I was asked to come up with a party craft. So DIY capes for a Superhero birthday party was born. As you can see from the photo it was miserable work and I hated every minute of it. HA!

To find out more about how to make the capes and what to buy to use on them click the embedded link above. 

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As part of this piece I created a Superhero Name Generator. It was a logical step if you ask me. Every superhero requires a name and sometimes making one up can be tricky. So this way it is out of your hands as it is made for you! You can find the generator at the end of the post on Super Simple so keep reading to the end of that post.

What is really cool about this is that the employees at Super Simple have gotten really involved and let their imaginations run away with them! In fact some of the animators created their own animations of their Superhero names. How cool is that? Moreover, they are doing a competition on Facebook! All you have to do is go on to the Super Simple Facebook group and keep an eye out for their competition today, follow their instructions and you get entered into a draw. The winner gets their OWN superhero animation created by the animator of their own Captain Monsterica! What an awesome prize that is! We'll be entering the Little Feet... oh who am I kidding, Daddy Big Feet and myself are both entering too! So keep an eye out for that! 

Below are some of my favourites that the animators at Super Simple created for their alter-ego superhero identities. 

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To match the capes we created some masks to go with them. You can find those through the link below. 

National Honey Bee Day- 5 Ways to celebrate

Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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2018 is the year that the spotlight was turned to the Bee species. David Attenborogh In June claimed that if you saw a tired looking bee, to simply mixture a solution of sugar and water. It captured the nation's imaginations and hundreds of pictures all over the country of people spoon feeding bees followed. A few days later it was claimed to be a hoax, but I don't know about anyone else, my garden has had a lot more visitors since having a little pond of solution for them.

This is our bee pond. I simply put a little clay pot plate on top of the soil in one of our climbing rose plants. I mixed a solution of sugar and water and left it. It is really important that you put a few items like stones in the water as tired bees may need somewhere to stand on to drink.

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We know now that bees are dying by the thousands and scientists are still trying to figure out why. But what we do know is that if they do become extinct the vegetable and fruit section in our supermarkets will decrease by half. We rely on their pollination badly. Without their pollination our fruit and veg would be smaller and the quality very poor.

Did you know that honey is the only food on Earth that has all the substances in it to sustain life. That is pretty special!

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Bee-History; some facts you didn't know (perhaps...?!)

  1. Every major religion on Earth regards honey as special or sacred. Bees in Pre-Cloumbian society for example, were regarded as divine keepers of the gods given honey.
  2. If honey is well contained it will NEVER spoil. The Ancient Egyptians used to include honey in their tombs to sustain them on their journey to the after life. In fact, in 2015 Archeologists found honey in a 3000 year old Egyptian tomb. And guess what? IT WAS EDIBLE! *booom - mind BLOWN*
  3. Pharaoh Pepy II used to cover a servant entirely with honey and get them to stand near him so insects would be drawn to the honeyed person and not him. 
  4. From records we know that the ancient Mayan Civilisation in South America used to harvest and cultivate honey from a stingless bee.
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Educating our Little Feet about the importance of bees is crucial, in fact I have become much more mindful myself.  Little Feet A isn't great with insects. In fact she really struggles to be near them without going into full meltdown mode. If she sees a bee or wasp near by she all but runs in the opposite direction kicking and screaming. So it has been my mission to explain to her how important they are to us. This is one reason why I decided to take both of my Little Feet to Yorkshire Lavender. Set on the top of Yorkshire's hills near York there are fields and fields of lavender and hundreds of bees FEASTING! She was nervous to begin with but eventually she got used to them. In fact it was actually Little B I had to keep an eye on as she kept trying to pick them up!

But WHY can't I pick them up...

But WHY can't I pick them up...

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Motherhood, Loss of Identity & Time Management

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Loss of Identity

Someone said to me recently, 'Oh wow Grace, you have some really cool earrings'. To the person who said it, they probably haven't given it a second thought since the moment it left their lips. But to me, it was the biggest sense of self I have had in years.

Before I had Little Feet, I knew who I was, what I was into and how I liked to dress. After two Little Feet, moving to four different houses, three different locations as a SAH (Stay At Home) military wife and Mummy I had lost all sense of who I was as an individual and obliterated any sort of identity I had created for myself. Not Mummy of two girls, not wife of Daddy Big Feet, but who I was personally.

I used to have an huge earring collection. I never left the house without dangly earrings, they were part of my identity and how I saw myself. So to have a sense of reclaiming that part of myself was good for my soul. You see, over the last couple of years I have been doing just that. I have slowly and I mean really slowly, been gathering parts of my identity back up again off the floor. To give you a visual, I sort of imagine it like all the moisture in the sky slowly being sucked back together to form a cloud. Well actually if I'm being brutally honest, anyone that really knows me, will know that I imagined it more like one of those Superheroes/characters from a Fantasy book that loses themselves into the atmosphere and air, dissipating/evaporating as it were.  Then with all their effort have to pull themselves back together again to create their form. You see why I originally went with the cloud example....

Comparison

Comparison is a dangerous game, in any context but, as especially as Mothers. Over the last four years since becoming a Mummy, I have often had the phrase, 'Stepford Wife' thrown at me or, 'is there anything you can't do? You are always so put together'. Now, I know most of these comments were not meant to insult me, but any comment like that CAN if you allow them to, have a slight sting to them. For both party. For the person who said them they are implying you are better then them and they are feeling inadequate and doubting their abilities. And for the person they are aimed at, well you have no idea what they might be thinking or feeling. I find these comments hysterical when they are aimed at me, as I spend a lot of my time feeling like a fraud. A fraud author, blogger, good mother, baker, you name it. I have felt like I have been judged for 4 years for being a stay at home mother (SAHM) and mainly by other women. Saying you are a SAHM immediately comes with assumptions. People immediately form an opinion of you without actually enquiring further. These are my own battles though and everyone has battles. It is very easy to judge a book by the cover and I'll be the first to put my hand up and say I'm guilty of doing that and not just to books. 

A girl of the 90s

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Being born into the 90s, girls in particular were taught that they could achieve anything they put their minds to. The world was their oyster and they could have EVERYTHING and anything they wanted. There is nothing wrong with teaching your children that as long as it doesn't become a heavy burden to carry. This burden may not even come from your parents but society, school and peers. Listen, I agree, women can have whatever they want if they put their minds to it, I teach my girls that too. However, I have been shocked at the judgement other women feel like they are entitled to give you if it doesn't align with their own opinions on what a woman should want. 

Womanhood, Wifehood, Motherhood, Life-hood.

 

I have spent a decade feeling inadequate in my contributions to my family. Being a military wife I made the choice to move with my husband wherever he was posted. We didn't want a life that was one of being 'married at the weekends'. This works for some people and I have no judgment on their choice, this was just ours at the time. This may very well change in the future, but for the time and right now that is our choice. However, this was not an easy choice for me. I had just begun my career in a prestigious auction house in London that I had worked hard to get into. Then after we married and got posted in Scotland I wasn't able to find anything in my field. So after a 8 months of trying to find work in the art world I stopped. I even stopped reading any Art articles for a couple of years and distanced myself from that world as it wasn't doing anything for my mental state. 

Now please don't misunderstand me. It was my choice to do everything I have done. I love being a SAHM. I wanted Little Feet at a young age if I was lucky enough to do so. My mother was a SAHM and as a child I always aspired to be one too. I knew if I was in the privileged enough position to be able to look after my babies at home myself then I would do it, however hard it was. What took me by surprise was the reaction from other women. I remember going to a dinner party once where the woman next to me basically berated me for being a stay at home mother and pretty much said 'shame on me'. Another woman. My shock has always stayed with me. Feminism misunderstood I feel. And no I'm not an expert, but surely it is about letting women choose what they want to do. Women supporting women is surely where it should start. Besides if any of these women had bothered to ask me they would have found out that actually, it wasn't enough to satisfy me, my brain wanted more. As it happens childcare fees in the UK are so expensive that if I had gone back to full time work, all my wage (an average UK wage) would have gone straight to childcare, at which point we would be paying someone else to raise my kids for no gain. 

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Time Management

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Since being pregnant and having my Little Feet I felt like I was still only going at 50% fulfilment. Don't get me wrong, my children are my world but I felt had more to give and achieve. My brain was literally crying out for an outlet, something to get stuck into. I missed the validation you received in an office environment. I needed validation outside being a mother and it is this combined with regaining my sense of identity that has brought me to this point in my life where I needed to think of time management if I wanted to have my cake and eat it.  

And so my book, 'Potty About Pots; arts and crafts for home and school' and this space, The Rainbow Tree was born. 

So how did I do it? This is a question I get asked a lot and someone approached me recently and said maybe other creatives and mothers would benefit from hearing how. So here it is. 

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I often get asked a lot how I have time to do everything I do. Let me first off say that everyone has different energy and achievement levels. I would say I am high functioning. By that I mean, I enjoy being busy and find I am much more productive if I am. However I procrastinate like a snail running to the local slug bop. My procrastination can last all day long if Im not busy. With that in mind I do have to be quite strict with myself. I have what my sister and I call a 'Series Addiction'. We don't use the word addiction lightly. It can be all consuming and hours may disappear. I can feel actual anger if Daddy Big Feet needs to go to bed on a cliff hanger and like a good series of books, I can feel empty and at a loss of what to do with myself at the end of a guilty binge. So with that in mind, I have had to curb this habit as I was literally wasting my life away. If Daddy Big Feet is away, which at the start of having Little Feet, he was a lot, the TV wouldn't even go on for most evenings. This helped my productivity hugely. 

We found out we were pregnant 24 hours before Daddy Big Feet was going away 'on tour' to Afghanistan. I had 7 months of boredom ahead of me with too much time to think. So, I decided to do a Teaching Assistant course to keep me busy and thought that it would come in useful in the years to come. During my time doing that my desire to be published resurfaced. I realised Art was being lost in Primary Schools and this seemed like madness to me. So, after months of indecision I finally settled on a topic of an Art educational arts and crafts book that could be used by anyone with contact to children. Though i did do some market research I didn't know if anyone would be interested in publishing it. I decided to write it anyway as it was something, 'for me'.

This process wasn't quick! From start of writing to publication it took almost 4 years! But I did a little work on it everyday with some weeks being more productive then others. When Little Feet A was born it got sidelined for a long time. Then when she started napping regularly and I was out of the haze of first time motherhood I slowly went back to it. This increased when she started going to nursery. Then I got pregnant with Little Feet B and I gave myself a deadline. I wanted to have my manuscript sent to publishers before she was born. Late nights were had, but I did it and it was an amazing feeling. 

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Over a year later, after it was released I had the opportunity to do some freelance blogging off the back of my book. This was totally unexpected and really the cherry on top of a fantastically euphoric time for me. So now I call myself a full time Mummy by day and a freelance blogger by night! I am lucky that these two roles mix quite well and often what I am blogging about I need to experiment on the Little Feet so sometimes they symbiotically mix. Don't get me wrong though, I have to be organised and I limit how many blogs I can do a month so that the kids aren't affected. I have a schedule of work that I keep to and have to preplan for everything I need for them. When the kids go to bed, I start working. My day begins again at 7pm. It is tiring BUT I love it. I get so much joy spreading and encouraging families with Little Feet to get involved with arts and crafts and I am rewarded by hearing the amount of traffic the blogs are getting. 

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Lastly, this isn't a one woman show. I have a husband that is and has always been very supportive. We eat with the Little Feet so I have the evening to work. If I have deadlines then he will do bath time, bed time and the washing up. If I need time to work one weekend he will take them out for a couple of hours. AND we make sure that I take 1-2 evenings off so that we don't become strangers under the same house, which can SO easily happen. 

My advice:

  1. Don't let your life be one of 'What ifs' and 'One days'. You will get knocked down, just get back up again and try again. This is so important for your Little Feet to see too. Make the 'one day', today. Don't know where to start? Just start anywhere, it doesn't have to be at the beginning, everything will fall into place and can be adjusted. 

  2. You want to achieve a project or realise a dream? Set yourself a target but allow life to get in the way. Don't be hard on yourself if you go past your target. It will happen, just keep plugging away at it. Be the tortoise and not the hare. Do a bit everyday/week, you will be surprised how quickly it will all mount up.

  3. Queen/King Procrastinator? Eliminate those weaknesses. If TV is yours, designate a night/ time to have that binge and don't turn it on any other night of the week/night. 

  4. Write a timetable. If you only have evenings to work, write a timetable of what you are working on each night at the beginning of each week. Then stick to it. If you miss a day, don't stress, just get back to it the next day. 

  5. And lastly, in the immortal words of Winnie The Pooh, 'You are braver then you believe, stronger then you seem and smarter then you think'. You are capable of anything you put your mind to.