I haven't blogged so much recently. That's partly because for the last few weeks, things have actually been a little better, and I haven't felt the need to come and rant at you all about how challenging life is.
We've made a few little changes...
We now have guinea pigs. We'd thought some time ago about a dog, but we were all quite adamant we wanted a rescue dog. However Dollop's age is a problem and we just couldn't find a rescue dog (despite looking for months) that would be suitable for our family.
Dollop's empathy is developing, as we hear her talking to Bo about how hard it is to come out of the hutch for cuddles when she's been so comfortable inside, and how difficult it is when you're young and scared, her gentle reassurances are mature and heartwarming to hear.
So instead we have 2 baby guinea pigs. April is Mini's and Bo is Dollop's. We've had them for 3 weeks now and so far the novelty hasn't worn off. The children like helping to clean them out, love to handle them, and sit outside talking to them, listening to them 'wheek' and watching them popcorn around their hutch.
Mini's kindness and gentle touch are improving, as he sits outside the hutch talking to April, or runs around the garden seeking out the juiciest dandelion leaves. He loves the responsibility of filling up the water bottle each day, and cutting up fresh food for them.
We kept super busy over Easter. Instead of my normal timetabled spreadsheeted plan, I made a tick list of activities and stuck it on the backdoor. The rules were that we had to agree on what happened each day, and we didn't expect to tick everything off. The children and I chose one or more each day TOGETHER, instead of me planning it all. Except for a couple that were actual organised events, we chose according to the weather and what we all fancied. This worked well and gave both children a sense of achievement when we ticked something off. It could have gone wrong of course - there were opportunities for disagreements, disappointment if we failed to complete what we'd set out to do, but actually it didn't go wrong - phew! And it meant we got some things in - clothes shopping and haircuts - that they didn't really want to do, but wanted to get ticked off ;-) (In case you wondered, we
had 'Eat cake for dinner', 'Design your perfect bedroom', 'Do a photographic scavenger hunt', 'Make snack necklaces', 'Go to the theatre', 'See The Muppets' and much more!)
We've stopped stressing over bedtime. Routine is good for children - of course it is. Mini thrives on chaos, which in turn makes him more chaotic, so routine is vital in our house. But bedtime is a battle that we can't have anymore. Dollop goes to bed first - usually between 6.30 and 7pm. Most of the time Mini is in bed by 8pm, sometimes a bit later. Yes it's late for a 7 year old, yes is takes up some of the evening when the NC and I like to chill and relax. But ultimately Mini needs this time with us, and if we try to get him to bed earlier it turns into a screaming, stressed warzone around here, and ends up with him going up and down until 10pm, leaving him an overtired little wotsit the next day. Remember pick your battles, it's taken us a while to back down on this battle, but I'm glad we have.
We've spent loads of time together. That's with and without the NC - I'm really making more of an effort to just be with the kids, instead of tidying/cooking/cleaning etc. And we're making a point of going out or doing something together at the weekends - we're missing family again who we're not seeing as much off, but our own little family is benefitting from this strong togetherness.
Mini is maturing at a great rate in fact. He seems to be more secure at the moment, and is just enjoying being 7. He loves Beavers, he's developing an interest in football, he's had guitar lessons at school, he likes the freedom of playing in the garden, we can trust him to play in the garden (without decapitating the flowers, climbing on the shed, throwing stones at the neighbour's greenhouse or vaulting the fences), and with all of this comes increased affection for me, a more helpful child, and one who is more accepting of praise.
So that's where we are right now. It feels pretty good. I'm going to enjoy it as long as I can...