Sundays

The boys are outside at 6.30 a.m. They weave around the garden on their bikes after eating breakfast on the patio. We go to a church coffee morning with some of my favourite people. Long dresses and loose hair. Big jumpers. Croissants and black coffee. 

Returning home I flick the oven on. I peel potatoes with a rhythm that is so familiar these days. I make cheese sauce and it reminds me of my father, as it always does. The patience with which he taught me to make it over and over again until I finally mastered it.

An hour of Reading Eggs with the boys. A robin and a wren sit on the garden wall side by side in quiet company. Muttley sleeps in front of the fridge and he is, as always, in the way. 

I watch my youngest tumble off his bike, still learning the art of balance after taking off his stabilisers. My middle boy helps him up, enveloping him in an enormous cuddle.

My phone buzzes softly on the kitchen worktop with another message. I leave it. It will still be there tomorrow. My middle boy brings me notes with clumsily sounded-out words. 

We sit and eat together, plates piled high. Everyone loves a roast dinner. 

Bath time – which is no longer all three boys in the bath together, but separate showers for growing boys who want their independence and space. I no longer have to get their pyjamas ready for them. I no longer need to wrap them up in towels. I no longer need to scrub their dirty faces. It’s bittersweet, this transition into boyhood. We tuck ourselves into my eldest’s bed to read together, the way we do every night. I try to enjoy it as much as possible, before they outgrow it and tell me they can read themselves. 

Birds chirrup as the evening lazily rolls on. The grey sky splits for mere moments into pink and yellow; so fragile it looks to be painted with watercolours. Then grey consumes the heavens once more as the light fades from yet another day. 

The simplicity of Sunday makes it my favourite day. 

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July

It’s July and the half way point of the year has passed me by. The longest day of the year came and went and just like that the days are getting shorter again. I sit outside each evening soaking up the last few hours of the day as I sip scalding green tea.

These last few weeks have seen me take a breather from friendships. I’ve made more time to spend with just us, this little family of five that brings me so much joy. 

We’ve been camping with friends. The boys got caught up in the excitement of finally buying sleeping bags and cooking over a camp stove. A beautiful play area. An enormous tub of popcorn. Early mornings sitting on damp grass in pyjamas. And somehow, the lazy afternoon that followed, with takeaway food and watching James and the Giant Peach was just as enjoyable as the camping itself. Sleepy boys worn out from too much excitement and a late night.

Today brought pond dipping at a favourite haunt. Disposable BBQ’s with pakoras and sausages, houmous, peppers, cucumber and cous cous. Skinny dipping. The simple pleasures of small boys.

The boys paddle in the garden. They spend hours trying to master the monkey-bars. We eat outside every chance we get. The scent of sun cream lingers long after cool showers at the end of the day. Fresh pyjamas and clean, line dried sheets. 

It’s summer. And my goodness, does it feel good. 

Raw

I’ve struggled with this past week; for no other reason than I lost interest in documenting the minutiae of my days. 

I have three beautiful boys, and one of the promises I made to myself when they were born was that I didn’t want to waste time on my phone. 

I have too many friends that try to get the perfect photo. ‘Look this way! Smile! Say cheese!’ I don’t want to be that person. I have a couple of photos in frames on the bookshelf, and they’re beautiful photos. But I don’t like them. They were given to us as gifts. They weren’t nice days. They might be good photos, but the memories behind them are strained. 

Instead I prefer the frame of the boys holding a hen each, sheer delight on their faces, brotherly love evident in the closeness of their blond heads touching. Or my middle boy running towards the camera out of the sea – the smile on his face so genuine it makes me smile myself every time I catch sight of it on the way down the stairs. Or the one of two of them in garish plastic rainsuits pretending to have been grabbed by the hand of a sculpted wooden giant in some local woods. 

Documenting every day spent outside is fruitless. We’re outside all day every day, to the point where I often look at the sofa and question how many days it has been since I last sat on it. I’m pretty sure Muttley spends more (prohibited) time on the sofa than I do. I didn’t start this blog with the intention of writing, ‘today we went….and then…..because….and she said…..’ 

I love to write. I write because it pains me not to. It leaves me empty; my mind chaotic and jumbled. Yet 30 Days Wild left me feeling like I was writing for everyone else but me. What am I trying to prove? That I know how beneficial being outdoors is? That I need to justify my compulsion to be outdoors? That I need to prove I can write for 30 days straight? That I’m a good/fun mum? 

No. I need to be a mother to my children – my children that say ‘why are you taking another photo, mama!’ Exactly! Why am I taking another photo instead of actually just enjoying this fleeting time with the gorgeous boys I’ve been blessed with? They’re worth so much more than the streams of conciousness I scrawl in the early mornings with the day dawning around me. 

It’s summer, and summer is made for rising with the sun. It’s for being braless and fantastically dishevelled (in a bohemian rather than the-great-unwashed way, obviously). It’s for soaking up the sun, endless hours outside, relaxed schedules on schoolwork and house-cleaning. A glass of St. Emillion with the last of the day’s light washing over your upturned face. 

It’s not about feeling tied to something that was meant to be fun. 

And I’m OK with that.

Day 20 – Fruit Garlands (30 Days Wild)

Our garden is full of birds right now. The wood pigeons that lumber so clumsily and serenade me every morning, without fail. The dunnocks that dance so daintily, splashing in the boys’ paddling pool as we watch from the window. The blackbirds that sing on an evening; a song that never fails to remind me of my childhood. 

This morning we walked to Aldi with the sole purpose of buying fruit for the birds. The boys each chose some fruit: apples, grapes and blueberries. 

Returning home, we sliced the apples and then I turfed them out onto the patio with a plastic craft needle and a length of wool. With the utmost concentration, the boys threaded each piece of fruit onto the wool creating an epic fruit garland for our feathered friends. 

Once finished, we tied it up to the fence panels and spent the afternoon watching the birds thieving from our rainbow garland. We sat by the window finishing James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and getting lost in his magical story-telling.

Such a simple activity, but one that entertained the children for a long time. 

Day 19 – Silence (30 Days Wild) 

The boys met with friends at the splash pad this morning. This evening brought Beavers, their second week. 

Amidst the commotion of our days, together we slice peppers and onions for dinner. My eldest boy carefully measures out oregano and thyme, the concentration on his face mounting as he counts up the half-teaspoons in his head. He crushes garlic and pours in tomatoes. It’s a joy to watch him help without me even needing to ask. My middle boys grates cheese, with as much ending up being eaten as he manages to get in the dish. 

We eat together outside, the sun still beating down. The boys give me a running commentary on life. ‘Look, a shield bug!’, ‘Mum, did you see the squirrel?’, ‘what will we make with all these raspberries?’

After returning home from Beavers, the boys are full of stories of what they did, the other boys they made friends with and, ‘how many days ’til we can go again, Mum?’

My husband and I sit in the garden, the boys sleeping soundly upstairs. We share wine and chocolate, revelling in the day coming to a close around us. Silence is golden, so they say. And it is. The dog pants at my feet, his head seeking my fingers for a scratch behind the ears. He is glad the day is cooling down. I pick yet more raspberries to freeze. They’ve gone crazy this year. 

Despite how busy the days are, there’s a rhythm to them that leaves me content. I wouldn’t change these days for anything. 

Days 17/18 – Family (30 Days Wild)

I chose not to post this weekend. Not because we haven’t been getting outside, but because we were spending time with family and it was good to just put my phone down for a couple of days.

Saturday some new friends came over for an alfresco dinner and to help finish the shed base. The boys helped with loading up the cement mixer and then adding water. They dutifully filled the wheelbarrows over and over, weaving precariously down the side of the house with them once full. They were splashed with cement and didn’t have a care in the world. 

We sat with ice cold lemonades enjoying the sun, dipping dusty feet in the paddling pool. The boys ate burgers with fast melting cheese, spiced cous cous, falafels and houmous. Their lips were stained with the juice from freshly sliced beetroot. My youngest crunched on wedges of yellow pepper. 

Sunday the boys rose early, as they always do. Within moments the patio doors are flung wide open and they disappear outside. We are serenaded by the gentle clucking of the hens, the soft gurgle they make so effortlessly as they scratch in the dirt. The boys eat cereal in the deck chairs we didn’t put away the night before and I join them with strong black coffee. The sky is bright and clear, heralding the arrival of another beautiful day. The wrens sit with chests puffed out singing their song. 

It’s Fathers Day and the boys are covered in felt pen after having drawn endless pictures on cards for Daddy. He ambles down the stairs, pyjama clad and aching from yesterday’s work, and the boys throw themselves at him full of love. 

The day was spent with family, those precious times with folk you just don’t see enough of. Time and distance between you. Soaking up the sun. Laughter. 

Now Monday rolls round. 7.30 a.m. and already the boys are in the paddling pool, doors and windows wide open. The dog seeks the shadows under the patio table as the temperature rises steadily. 

It’s going to be a good day.