How Many?

When I found out I was expecting Jessica, it was a big shock. We already had three children. We weren’t trying to conceive, in fact we were actively taking measures against conceiving! I hadn’t been feeling well for a few weeks. My cycle had been so irregular for about a year previous to this, that I didn’t take a pregnancy test. I’d done eight the month before, so it seemed pointless buying any more. I’d been getting sharp twinges in my abdomen and felt tired all the time. Kevin made me go to the doctor, where I explained how I’d been feeling. I stated quite firmly that there was no way I could be pregnant…

The very next day, whilst ironing our holiday clothes, I felt a sudden wave of nausea swoop over me. I couldn’t fathom where it had come from. I wasn’t hungry, nor had I eaten too much for lunch. As I sat down to alleviate the dizziness that had accompanied the queasy feeling, my mind wandered back to the previous weekend. My mother-in-law had been round for dinner, and we’d had a glass of wine each. I thought about how, although it was a nice wine, I really hadn’t enjoyed it much. I then thought about how my boobs had been tingly-sore, and how (had it been following a regular four week cycle) my period was late. Everything added up, but I just couldn’t be…could I?

I switched off the iron and bundled my kids into the car. We drove to the nearest pharmacy, where I bought yet another home pregnancy test. Ten minutes later we were back home, the kids were busy munching on biscuits, and I was sitting on the loo, staring in disbelief at the two pink lines that indicated the beginnings of Jessica.

It took about a week for it to sink in, although I think it only took a few days for Kevin. We were never anything but delighted, but it had just taken us by complete surprise. One of the biggest reasons it took me longer to get to grips with it was the thought of people’s reactions. When I was pregnant with Keira someone actually asked me “Do you two not own a TV?” People had been badgering me since she’d arrived with “How long until the next one?” and “Not thinking about number four yet?” Like I was nothing more than a baby machine, squeezing out as many as possible. Like it was anyone’s business but mine and Kevin’s! I steeled myself for the smug ” I knew you’d have another one!” and “So much for stopping at three!” comments that would undoubtedly be made. Then I exhaled and let it wash over me. If it made people feel better about themselves to make such comments, then that was up to them. Nobody was going to dull our joy.

Thankfully, most people seemed excited for us, although I still felt like we had to explain ourselves to some, as though we’d done something wrong! Since we’d given away all our baby things after Keira was finished with them, we had to start from scratch again. Family and friends were very generous though, giving us items that they no longer needed.

We decided not to find out the sex of the baby. We’d found out when having both Andrew and Keira, but didn’t when having Julia. We thought it would be lovely to have a surprise again, seeing as she really was a surprise! Of course we had the usual “What are you hoping for?” to which my answer was always “a baby.” It really didn’t matter to us either way. Why would it? We knew Andrew wanted a brother, so that it would even things up a bit. The girls wanted a sister…because it meant they would get bunk beds!

We had a boy’s name picked out quite early on, which made me wonder if we were indeed having a boy. We’d struggled with boys names for all three previous pregnancies, but had loads of girls names. This time round we couldn’t settle on any one girl’s name though. We didn’t tell anyone the names we had picked out, simply because we didn’t want anyone potentially ruining them for us, as had happened when we were expecting Keira.

It was exciting not knowing the sex of our baby. As we didn’t have space for a nursery, we didn’t need to bother with girly/boyish/gender neutral colour schemes. When it was time to go to the hospital we were both looking forward to the moment when we would find out whether we had a son or a daughter. When Julia was born, Kevin was first to see that she was a girl. He squeezed my arm and said excitedly “We have a daughter, we have a daughter!” It was such a beautiful moment. Not just it’s a girl but a daughter. He was the one to tell me when Jessica arrived too. As she was placed gently in my arms, I just looked at her and thought “Of course! Of course you’re a daughter! You couldn’t have been anyone else!” Although I’d been convinced for so long that we were having a boy, those thoughts just melted away. She was Jessica. We looked at her and knew that was her name.

We’ve agreed that Jessica is our last baby. Our four children are wonderful little human beings, but we’re pretty much at our limit. There’s no way we could squeeze any more in our house without doing some extension work! Plus I’m not sure my body could handle carrying another baby around for nine months! It was harder near the end of the fourth pregnancy. If money and space weren’t an issue, and if my body could stand the strain, it’s possible we may have decided to have another. You never know – what’s for you won’t go by you. After the shock of finding out about Jessica, nothing would surprise me now. If anyone else did come along, he/she would be as loved and as wanted as the rest.

And in case you’re wondering – the girls did indeed get their bunk beds!

Holiday highlights

Last week we got back from a lovely two-week holiday in the Scottish Highlands. We frequently holiday there, as my husband’s parents live there and often invite us to visit. The children see it as their second home and we always get the “we wish we lived here” exclamations when it’s close to leaving time. I know how they feel – I never want to leave either!

In the middle of nowhere, with the river flowing right outside, we couldn’t ask for a more beautiful location. You’d think it would be silent, with no-one around but the friendly elderly couple next door, but you’d be wrong! The bees buzz, crickets chirp and the river babbles endlessly. One of the loveliest sounds is the constant birdsong – so many different birds chattering, chirping and singing. At night the owl hoots nearby.

During our stay we saw the riverbank, garden and adjoining field teeming with wildlife. Toads, dragonflies, the aforementioned birds, ducks and deer with their babies, as well as buzzards, a weasel and even an elusive red squirrel! Nature was well and truly in its prime.

One of the advantages of having a place to stay, is that it acts as a jumping off point for day trips to the surrounding area.

My favourite place to visit is Ullapool, a port town on the North-Western coast. We’ve visited a few times now and I still gasp at the beauty of it as we drive over the hill and see Loch Broom leading out to the North Atlantic, framed by the stunning mountains.

Whilst there we went to The White Rabbit, a local junk/antique shop. We go in here every time we visit – Julia and I could quite easily spend hours trawling through the Aladdin’s cave of treasures. Last time we were there I came across a beautiful picture of a scene from The Snow Queen, which now hangs proudly on my living room wall. This time around Kevin spotted a basket of Harris Tweed yarn cones going for next-to-nothing, so I bought three to use in my weaving. It would have been rude not to!

A short hike into the hills, a trip to the Ullapool bookshop and an ice-cream cone on the pebbled beach completed our day. It’s what we’ve done every other time we’ve visited and I love that we’ll always have these memories.

One of our other favourite places is Dornoch, on the East coast. It’s a beautiful little town with an amazing beach: grassy sand dunes, seaweed, rocks and huge crashing waves. We took a picnic with us and settled in our spot for the afternoon. The children all had great fun frolicking in the sea and building sandcastles. Jessica kept running off towards the sea with her spade – I wonder if that big briny blue called to my little mermaid as it does to me. Andrew was in up to his waist and then fell in. Luckily I’d packed a change of clothes for them all!

Whilst Kevin and the children played with the frisbee, I took the opportunity to read up on sea magic and cast a spell. Interestingly, Dornoch is the site of the last legal witch-burning in Scotland. In the garden of the last house before you reach the beach there is a stone which marks the site, along with a plaque telling of the events which took place. It’s quite sad and it highlighted how lucky I am to live in a time and part of the world where I’m free to practise magick without being persecuted for it.

Our Highland holiday was the perfect setting for some magick. It was also a great place to practise our campfire-building skills. The children learned how to build and start a fire on our holiday last year. Since we are intending to go camping a lot, Kevin bought a ghillie kettle for us to cook with, so we thought we’d give it a try. It was brilliant! We ended up using it several times. Who knew that hot chocolate made in the middle of a field would taste so good!

We really enjoyed our holiday in the Highlands. Our day trips were great fun, but it was also lovely to slow down and just enjoy being together. We played games, read books, watched films, baked and did a LOT of drawing. I always find that my time up there helps me reevaluate the important things and makes it easier to let go of the trivia that can sometimes weigh us down in our everyday lives. As the river flows ceaselessly past, any worries or stresses are carried away with it, leaving only peace and happiness…and little faces with hot chocolate moustaches.

What is your favourite way to spend your holiday?

Thank You and Hello!

I realised the other day that I now have over 50 followers! I don’t quite know how that happened, but I’m so pleased and thankful that you’ve all taken time out of your lives to have a read at my musings. I’m thinking that if I ever get to 100 followers, I may do a wee giveaway of sorts – possibly something that fits in with my whole eco-warrior self!

A while back I wrote a post called Bright Blogging Days, where I outlined my plans for how my blog was going to look. It started off well, but life got in the way and my writing fell by the wayside. I’m taking back control though, so expect more regular posts from me – on anything and everything!

I also realised that although I talk about my life and family a lot, I haven’t actually said much about us as individuals and how we fit together.

So here goes!

I’m Mags, a SAHM to 4 children, and I’m currently exploring my witchy side. I love to see the beauty in nature, as well as observe how people act towards one another. I’m happiest pottering around at home or in my garden, although I won’t say no to a night at the karaoke, especially if cocktails are involved! My family are everything to me, and although I’m fairly laidback, I’d willingly fight anyone who threatened their happiness!

My husband is Kevin, and he’s the cleverest person I know! He’s a lecturer and researcher in the Aerospace department at a well-established university. He also does a lot of outreach in his role as a STEM ambassador. Patient and mild-mannered, he’s a brilliant role-model for our children, and he does his utmost to make sure we’re all happy. He started us on our eco journey before we were married, and has been the brains behind a lot of the positive changes we’ve made. We’ll be celebrating 12 years of marriage at the end of this month!

Andrew is our oldest child, and our only boy. At 9-and-a-half, he is intent on becoming a marine biologist – a famous one at that! His dream is to swim with sharks, and he’ll happily talk for hours on the subject, his brain soaking up and retaining any fact he reads. He reads anything he comes across, including Shakespeare (the children’s versions) and Dickens (the original versions.) My little man is also a whizz with Lego, and can build anything he thinks up, with only his imagination as his guide. He’s quiet and patient – a virtue needed with 3 sisters raiding his room on a daily basis! When he finds something funny, his infectious giggles can send a ripple of laughter through a room in seconds.

7-and-a-half-year-old Julia is our oldest daughter. I’d describe her as a free spirit with a built-in risk assessment feature! Out of all of my children she’s the most interested in my witchy explorations. She’s started collecting crystals and stones, determined to find out as much as she can about them. She’s extremely tactile, and will generally use her hands to look at something. She has her own ideas about fashion and hobbies, and it’s my aim to encourage her to believe in herself more. She can be quiet, but is very observant about her surroundings – about people in particular. She can be a bit of a worrier, but she also has a knack for calming people down with a simple cuddle, or by slipping her small hand into yours.

Keira is our 5-and-a-half-year-old whirlwind! She literally bounces around from the minute she wakes up until the minute she goes to bed. Her cheeky smile lights up her whole face, and she moves through the day singing, and living in her own little rainbows-and-unicorns world! She is also scarily clever! She could write at the age of 3, and exceeded expectations in all areas on her first school report card. She loves being a big sister, and spends a lot of time teaching her baby sister how to make funny faces.

Jessica is the baby. At 16 months, she’s developing her own wee personality. She’s finding her place in our family, and will quite happily “join in” with the conversation at the dinner table. She loves to play, which usually involves chewing on her toys and then hiding them in my wellies!

Family time is important to Kevin and I, and we make sure that we create time for talking about the serious issues with our children, as well as playing games, reading stories, or simply being available for a cuddle. Our children are great kids – they are loving, empathetic, and understand what fairness looks like. They are often complimented on their behaviour and manners when we’re out, and I have no problem taking part of the credit for that! They also bicker, annoy each other, and somehow manage to smear toothpaste on the loo when brushing their teeth! They make our family what it is though – toothpaste-smeared loo and all!

So there you have it – my beautiful little family. As in previous posts, I’ll be mentioning them a lot, so hopefully I’ve painted a picture of who we are and how we work!

Thanks for reading and sticking with me. Stay tuned for various musings, family antics, and lots more!

Possibilities

I’ve been quiet for the past month, but there’s been a lot going on! I can’t disclose all of it at the moment, but be assured it’s all positive.

First of all – my husband got a new job! It came out of the blue, and all happened very quickly. He’s been working at a university as a research associate for the past four years, playing about with planetary drills and robots! I’m playing it down, but he’s actually a super clever guy, and is always looking for ways to develop new technology. He has a PhD in robotics, although rarely uses his title.

That’s about to change, as recently he was advised to apply for a lecturing post that had suddenly opened up. These posts are few and far between, and usually only become available when someone either retires or relocates. He got the job, as I knew he would. This means that he now has a permanent position at the university, instead of having to apply for funding every year or so to keep his job. He’ll need to get used to people calling him Dr! It also means more stability for us, since I’m still doing the SAHM thing!

That could also change sooner than we expected! After toying with a few ideas, I had sort of made my mind up that I would go back to teaching when my littlest ray starts school. I was initially a bit apprehensive about this, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the classroom. The curriculum has changed, policies have changed, plus my referees have now retired, so references will be a problem.

I found a refresher course at a local university though, which helps teachers who have been out of the classroom with new policies, plus gives help and advice when it comes to applying for jobs. This eased my mind a bit, and I began to look forward to the thought of being in the classroom again.

Then I stumbled across something which threw me a bit of a curve ball: Forest School.

Forest School is where children can learn in an outdoor environment, usually woodland. They learn survival skills through different games, plus anything which is covered on a typical curriculum can be incorporated into their surroundings. They get fresh air, will learn about nature in a natural environment, plus have plenty of opportunity to run around and just be kids.

Forest Schools are run by Forest School practitioners, whose training includes outdoor safety and working with children. It sounded right up my street! I did a bit of digging on the entry requirements, and was over the moon to discover that one of them is a teaching qualification. It will be at least a year before I would consider doing the training, so I have plenty of time to make my mind up about whether or not it’s something I’ll pursue. At the moment I’m really excited at the thought of being able to work outdoors, yet still put my diploma to good use. I’ll also be able to take my littlest ray with me to work, as well as my older three during school holidays.

I love that life is full of possibilities. One decision can be the beginning of something wonderful. It can also have the opposite effect, which is why some decisions are very hard to make. You’ll never know whether they’ll pay off if you don’t take a risk once in a while though. My husband and I are currently in the process of making one of these decisions. It could either go horribly wrong, or be the best decision we ever make. I can’t say much else on the matter at the moment, as it’s a very personal consideration. I’ll disclose everything once we’ve reached a decision either way though. (I know you kind of hate me for leaving you hanging right now, but I completely understand. 😉)

Its good to have options, and we count ourselves very lucky, as some are not as fortunate to have choices in life. All we can do is live our lives in a way that makes us happy, without harming others. For us, this means the best possible life for our children, giving them the freedom to live their lives as they choose, and showing them the importance of looking after our planet.

Where will life take you today?

The Magick Within

In my post A Spiritual Life I talked about how I had stepped away from the religion that I had grown up with, and was getting a feel for what I believe to be a more natural approach to spirituality. I’m pleased to say that the more I research the pagan ways, the more I truly feel that it is a path I was meant to follow. In my childhood religion, the word pagan was synonymous with unspiritual – not quite evil, but certainly not something anyone would want to be associated with. What astounds me most about this, is the fact that every Christian holiday has its roots buried deep within the realms of the pagan festivities. Of course, this was done in order to make Christianity more palatable to the pagans, but in fact it has actually made it easier for me to go back to the old ways, as each Sabbat contains elements of the holidays that I was brought up with.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my Mum. She mentioned that my Grandad (her Dad) had been a pagan. He died when I was sixteen, although I hadn’t seen him since I was three. I was sad for all the conversations I couldn’t have with him on the subject of spirituality, as well as all the knowledge he would have passed on, but in a way I felt more connected to him, as if pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.

Along with the pagan way of life, I have also been delving into witchcraft. Again, previously synonymous with evil and unspiritual, I have found it to be a very natural progression in the way I live my life. At first I was merely interested in herbal remedies for my family, but this interest graduated into exploring how invoking different deities can have an effect on these remedies. I’m currently exploring which spirits I most feel an affinity with, as it’s a very personal two-way relationship. I do have a particular interest in the Faeries, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are interested in me! In Catholicism people would graduate towards particular Angels or Saints, asking them to intercede for them and grant favours. Invoking spirits for favours/blessings is no different, although caution should be taken, as some spirits can be quite mischievous if they aren’t handled in the correct way. I’m finding Judika Illes’ book Encyclopedia of Spirits to be very detailed and informative.

Witchcraft is an umbrella term for so many different forms of magick. The Wiccan rede includes the phrase “harm none”, which I think is just good common sense, no matter what your beliefs are. I’m still researching most areas, finding which ones appeal to me the most. Botanicals and moon magick are up there, and I’m looking forward to the arrival of my first deck of tarot cards. I’ve been reading about different types of witch, and can confidently say that I’m likely to remain a solitary, walking my own path and not following any set tradition. Looking at the different profiles I’d say I flit between the Kitchen Witch and Hedge Witch depictions.

If you read my Feeling Bookish post, you’ll know the relationship I have with books. In this instance they are more of a friend than ever, as I truly believe that knowledge is power. I’ve read/am reading multiple books on the Sabbats and magick, cross-referencing everything to make sure I know what I’m doing. It was my birthday this month, and I was kindly gifted some new reading material, as well as some money – which I of course spent on books!

I believe we all have magick in us. Some are more in-tune to it than others, much in the same way some of us are great dancers and others have two left feet! I’m enjoying exploring the magick within, and already incorporating it into my everyday life. As I grow more confident in my practice, I’ll be sharing my experiences here. How will you explore your inner magick?

An Ostara Celebration

The Spring Equinox is upon us, bringing lengthening days and the hope of a fruitful growing season. Light and dark are equal, bringing balance for a fleeting moment, before the light triumphs. Seeds are sprouting tiny green shoots, trees are budding, and animals are emerging from their dens. The earth is warming up; nature’s incubator at the ready.

As with the other festivals on the Wheel of the Year, I wanted to mark the occasion. The wonderful thing about the pagan festivities is that they open themselves up to so many different ways of honouring them. I decided to keep it fairly simple, since I’m only starting out. I have my eye on some more involved rituals for future celebrations, but for now my priority is getting a feel for each Sabbat and identifying which facets work for me.

I focussed on some of the more well-known symbols of Ostara:

  • eggs and rabbits/hares for fertility
  • candles to welcome back the light
  • flowers as a representation of the warming earth and its bounty

Myself and my wee rays dyed some boiled eggs last night, then feasted on them for breakfast this morning. The children squealed with delight as I served them up – I foresee colourful breakfasts becoming a more regular affair!

As the children ate, I read to them from Wendy Pfeffer’s A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox. We learned how people celebrated the end of Winter thousands of years ago, and how different cultures had their own rituals – some of which still hold fast today!

We then set up a mini Ostara altar, using an empty egg carton for the main structure. We filled it with some of the colourful eggs, chocolate mini eggs, candles, and flowers. My littlest-middle helped me to collect some moss from the garden, and we added that too.

I also had the main display set up in the living room – flowers, more candles and chocolate eggs, a wooden rabbit (procured from my littlest ray’s toy box for the day), and my celebration ring (adorned with a bee, a ladybird, and a butterfly.)

When the children arrived home from school, we scampered into the garden, where we planted some seeds at the time the equinox occurred. (16:15) While doing so, we conducted a growing spell, summoning the elements to bestow on us a plentiful growing season.

We then came in for dinner – mini quiches, followed by chocolate mini eggs for pudding…all in keeping with the egg symbolism.

After dinner, we all traipsed into the girls’ bedroom, where we had a lovely view of the sun setting before bedtime.

Here in Scotland, we had a beautiful day for our Ostara celebrations. It was an apt welcome to the growing season, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Happy Ostara to you all!

Writing the Next Chapter

As 2017 fades, we begin to think about all the possibilities that 2018 holds – continuing the Winter Solstice Festivities theme of letting go of the old and embracing the new.

One of my dearest friends used to say that she despised the New Year celebrations. The thought of having a big party to celebrate one day and making resolutions seemed pointless to her; it was just another day. I could see what she was getting at, to some extent. For many, it really is just an opportunity to drink as much as they can, whilst making the usual promises to lose weight/stop smoking/get fit – then abandoning said promises on day 3! 

For the most part though, I love the idea of a fresh start. The year stretching ahead like the crisp, blank page of a book, waiting for your next chapter to be written. You can write about anything you like! Will this be the year you finally take up scuba diving/get to know your neighbours/take that road trip? It can take whatever form you like – beautiful poetry, all flowery and romantic; an epic novel, full of detail; a haiku – simple, yet elegant.

There are some who like to be always moving forward, but it also does us well to look back. We can take note of what we were grateful for, any mistakes we made, as well as all the memories that we carved. 

I have so much to be grateful for over this past year. The highlight, of course, being the birth of my littlest ray – my beautiful little Jessica Rose. She was a surprise baby, but very much wanted and a delight to us all. Watching her grow and become her own little self has been a wonderful (if slightly sleep-deprived) adventure. I expect our next chapter will be full of whatever antics she gets up to in her 2nd year.

I also have my other wee rays to be thankful for. Littlest-middle, Keira, started school this year and is absolutely thriving. Her teacher described her as one of the strongest in her class, despite the fact that she is the youngest. She has been learning to cross-stitch this week and we’ve discovered that she’s a natural. I look forward to seeing what other knowledge and skills she acquires this next year. 

Biggest-middle has overcome her fear of water this year at her swimming lessons. When she first started, she would only get into the water once she was wearing her armbands, had a pool noodle wrapped around her waist, a float in one hand, and the other hand clutching desperately to her instructor! Risk assessment at its best! With the help of her brilliant instructor though, she gradually began to drop the flotation aids, one by one. She is now swimming confidently, without any aids, and her instructor has told her that she will soon be moving up a class (possibly after the next block!) We’re also looking at sending her to a local dramatic arts class, to further bring out her love of performing. The next year should see my amazing wee Julia’s confidence soar!

My biggest ray also did well at his swimming lessons this year. Andrew moved up to the next class and is thriving in the deeper water. Our intention is to send him to scuba diving lessons, as he seems pretty intent on pursuing a career in marine biology (although tomorrow he could be back to his aspiration of becoming a butler!) He is full of ambition, and absorbs facts on each one as he moves through life. I’m sure the next year will be no different!

My lovely husband, Kevin, is the glue that binds us all together. He works hard to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. After eleven and a half years of marriage, I still love him as much as ever, and I’m not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. I’m of the belief that if you love someone, say it. Some may feel it doesn’t need saying, but I really don’t get that. You shouldn’t say it because you need to, but because you want to. And I do – frequently!

We have lots of aspirations for this year, both as individuals, and as a team. We intend to grow more of our own food, as well as continue with our eco journey. There are lots of plans for family time, as well as new discoveries to be made. I’m looking forward to exploring my witchiness, and letting nature be my guide. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to just being me: mother, wife, Mags.

My pen is poised, ready to begin the next chapter, ready to write the next year as it unfolds. I’m ready to write the funny, exciting bits, as well as the more sombre moments. It’s important to include everything, since every moment, every word shapes who we are and who we will become. 

What will your 2018 chapter say?