TUESDAY'S 10: 10 Simple Pleasures


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To tie in with the article I posted yesterday about perfect parenting moments and enjoying the little things in life, I was inspired to put together a quick list of 10 of my favourite simple pleasures. The everyday or occasional things that bring the most meaning, joy and calm to my life when I remember to factor them in. I could list a whole lot more, but here are 10 for now:

  1. The sound and sight of my children's laughter
  2. Long, quiet walks along the beach
  3. Pretty, colourful flowers - in my home or anywhere outside
  4. Having great friends round for dinner
  5. A nice cup of tea and a good book or great movie
  6. Lying on the grass on a sunny day, watching the clouds
  7. Snuggly storytime - priceless quality time
  8. Writing - snail mail, my diary, blog articles...
  9. Switching off and being totally unavailable
  10. Creating something - baking, crafting, sewing, up cycling...

What are some of your favourite simple pleasures? What things bring you the most joy?

Happy Tuesday,

Love Holly x 

Perfect Parenting Moments


Perfect parenting moments... 

Those times when you feel your purpose is crystal clear, when your heart almost bursts... Like you're the only person in the world for the job and you're succeeding at it... That you're needed, wanted, appreciated, loved. 

They don't happen every day but when they do, it makes all the rest worthwhile. All the trials and tribulations of the occasionally monotonous day to day life, the frustration, anger, impatience and exasperation, all those sleepless nights over the years... They suddenly pale into insignificance when you are right there in the moment, as the only person your child needs. 

It could be rolling around on the floor together laughing, singing a silly song, reading a story and actively engaging in a stimulating conversation, going for a walk in the rain, being there for cuddles when they are ill or in pain or simply watching them BE

Our children can and should love many people - family, friends, teachers, neighbours. It is part of our job as parents to support and encourage these relationships, but sometimes only Mummy will do and that is quite a heartwarming, empowering feeling. 

There are many mornings when I wake up with both girls cuddled in bed with me and I feel like crying happy tears. For that brief, precious period of time before we have to get up and start our day, I am occasionally so overcome with parenting joy that I could die happy there and then β€“ obviously I don't really want to (and sadly it can pass very quickly) but that's how perfect the moment seems! 

Some days, I have to remind myself to stop and just watch them... Sit quietly, breathe and take in the wonder of these children we've created. They are so full of life!  Simply bursting with joyful energy, wide-eyed wonder and untarnished enthusiasm for the world. They truly are the best thing in my life.  

Lucy woke up last night in tears suffering from growing pains in her knees. I had them for years as a child so could fully empathize with the agonizing pain. I gave her medicine, cuddled her on the sofa, read her a story and rubbed her knees... She said I had magic hands because I made her better! Who was I to argue that it was paracetamol not parental touch that did the trick? I was happy to have provided some maternal magic and quietly relished the compliment. Mummy is a superhero!  

I had a similar surge of parenting pride when we went to visit Arabella's new school the other day. After leaving she said: "Mummy, do I really have to be happy on my first day?" I told her it was ok to feel however she wanted. She could be scared, sad, worried, nervous or excited if she felt like it... I would be there for her at the end of the day regardless of how it went.  

I love love LOVE those precious, perfect parenting moments. They are a reminder of what motherhood is all about! There is so much negativity out there and so many articles circulate about the struggles, strains and downside of parenthoodBut not enough gets said about the overwhelming joy and sense of purpose that also comes with the job! By searching for the small, special moments and recognising them when they come along, you become more aware and they happen more often... Try it, it's true!

Not only do these moments provide huge personal satisfaction, but they are also extremely beneficial to your children. They build up their self-esteem, increase their sense of being loved and add to the happy childhood memories they'll carry with them into adulthood... Everybody wins. As long as these moments outweigh any disastrous ones, I have faith that they'll grow up as happy, well-adjusted, well-rounded individuals. (And hopefully won't need therapy one day!) 

I am so grateful for the joy of being a mother and for my beautiful family. Every single night Lucy holds on to me so tight, begging me to stay with her forever, smiling up at me with the biggest sunshine eyes and grin I can't resist - and I try not to cry as I remind myself these days are limited. Similarly, Arabella still bursts into fits of tears if one of us leaves the house without giving her "kiss-cuddles"... They are growing up so fast and soon the day will come when they're too cool for cuddles outside school, they prefer to read to themselves, turn out their own lights and just shout goodnight from the end of the hall...  

Until then though, I will collect as many kisses and cuddles as I can, read stories till I'm hoarse, sing silly songs, run along the beach and spend as many hours as I can just watching them play and explore. It is these little things that make up a lifetime.

I wish all of you parents out there at least one perfect moment each day. Watch your kids, dance in the rain, read a whole pile of books at once, build a den, stay for that extra bedtime cuddle, kiss them endlessly... They will thank you for it with love!

Happy Parenting, 

Love Holly x 

Question: What perfect parenting moments have you experienced lately? What are your favourite things about being a parent? 

 

 

TUESDAY'S 10: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage


I can hardly believe we are celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary! It makes me feel quite old looking back at how young, glowing, full of life and filled with hope we seemed that happy day on Hamilton Island... It has been quite a ride and here are just some of the lessons I've learned along the way:

1. Trying to change a man is a waste of time.

It is true what they say. You may be able to improve a man's style, expand his interests and educate him on all things you, but you cannot change who he is, what he loves and how or why he does things. I spent years and years fighting a losing sock battle: they would go into the wash inside out and although I kept reminding Mr P, I convinced myself I was filling them with love as I turned them out right and paired them.... 6 years, 2 daughters and mountains of tiny laundry later I threw in the towel and it makes no difference at all to him. He is perfectly happy to just have a basket filled with inside out, unpaired socks that he can find and pair as required. Ah well, lesson learned!

2. Communication is key for success.

On our wedding day my very wise stepmother, who couldn't be with us on the day, sent a very poignant letter for us to read together that we have kept to this day. It was all about communication, remembering to talk to each other through any hardships and being considerate of the other person's feelings and opinion. We have struggled through some very difficult times and talking doesn't always come easy, but by eventually communicating properly with each other we made it through. 

3. Home really is where the heart is.

In the ten years we've been married we have lived in 10 homes across three continents. Even before then we'd moved around a lot and both led a fairly nomadic existence. This can leave you feeling a little lost, lonely, displaced and like you don't really belong anywhere. But we have come to realise that it doesn't actually matter what house we are living in and where we are in the world... As long as we are together - first as a couple and now as a little family - then wherever we happen to find ourselves is home.  

4. 'Happily Ever After' is a myth.

As little girls do, I grew up believing in fairytales and happily ever afters. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in life and in marriage is that this is a complete myth. Life isn't a fairytale, the story doesn't end once you get married, you don't close the book, smile, sigh and drift off into blissful rosy foreverness to the tune of an upbeat love song. Quite the contrary, a wedding is only just the beginning. I always used to wonder what happened after the 'happily ever after' and it has been eye opening indeed. Marriage can be beautiful and wonderful but it is also extremely hard work, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, daily chores and constant compromises. Living happily after the 'Happily Ever After' takes patience and a lot of hard work, but you just create your own fairytale as you go along. 

5. Good sons make great husbands and fabulous fathers.

This has been something I have witnessed not only in my own husband but in numerous friends' husbands too. Guys that have a great relationship with their own mothers, that are close to her, caring, thoughtful and appreciative are the ones that not only make loving husbands but also wonderful fathers. Kudos to all of the wonderful women out there that raised such amazing sons and taught them valuable things about kindness, gentleness and treating women with love & respect, as well as vital household skills like cooking and ironing. I thank you, I salute you, I hope that all mothers raising boys nowadays will pass on these vital skills for the next generation of husbands and fathers.    

6. The little things are what make life beautiful.

Broke doesn't have to mean broken and penniless doesn't have to mean poor. When all seems lost and hopeless it is the little things that bring you through, remind you why to smile, fill you with a richness no money can buy and make life beautiful. Even through the good times, it is the small daily acts of kindness and simple joys that are the most meaningful. A smile, a song, a thoughtful note, a good laugh, flowers picked from the garden, a walk by the water, playing cards in the rain... It is the little things that all add up to a beautiful life.

7. Kindness is always the answer.

When times get tough, which they undoubtedly do on occasion in marriage, I have learned that getting angry and fighting things out aren't always the best way. Sure, occasionally things just come to a head and that may seem like the only way to deal with it, but by trying to remember kindness - both towards the other person as well as yourself - it puts things in a better perspective and makes solving problems and moving forwards a lot easier. With kindness comes patience, which is a skill that takes practice, but together these make for a much more harmonious life. 

8. Sometimes an 'I love you' comes disguised as something else.

Men aren't mindreaders. And as I mentioned above, you can't change them. They are practical, logical and don't possess our multi-tasking, emotional brains. Some just aren't good at shopping, have no idea when it comes to choosing gifts and may not always demonstrate their love in obviously romantic ways like coming home with bunches of flowers or buying the perfect birthday present. (That's what sisters, best friends and clever shop assistants are there for!) But sometimes an "I Love You" comes in the practical form of a full tank of gas before you set out on a long drive, a Sunday morning lie in, an article saved from a magazine that made them think of you or a wheelchair to push you around on a day out when you are struggling on crutches... Recognise them, appreciate them and be happy that you are truly loved. 

9. Cultivate independence but also grow great couple friends. 

As a married couple it is so easy in the beginning to fall into the habit of feeling like you have to do everything together. You get dragged along to things you're not really interested in, make each other sit through movies the other won't really enjoy and are each other's safety net for everything. However, cultivating a sense of independence and growing meaningful friendships is vital for longterm happiness. We are inherently different species, we enjoy different things and our brains just work differently... Women need female friends and men need male friends so we should encourage each other to occasionally spend time with other likeminded people. Additionally, making great couple friends that you both get along with is one of the best things you can do. These often lifelong friendships are invaluable and will become a part of your married life, will provide you with years worth of good times and fond memories and will be the 'adopted family' you choose for yourselves.   

10. Life is an adventure that is unfolding exactly as it should.

Finally, I have learned that too much planning, too much worrying and too rigidly focusing on 'the perfect picture' is fruitless as life simply doesn't work that way. Things change, life happens and if something isn't right you have the power to change direction. Our married life has been one big giant adventure, filled with all kinds of trials and tribulations that have come together to make up ten years of our lives. There is no end destination in sight and who knows what is around the corner?! We have to have faith that things are unfolding exactly as they should, that we are creating our own destiny and that we make our own luck. It is the journey that is worth living and enjoying... And love simply makes the ride worthwhile!  

Love Holly x

QUESTION: What lessons has married life taught you? What advice can you share for living happily after 'Happily Ever After'? 

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Spread the Love


Spread the Love... You'll get it right back!

My first day that I spent propped up on the sofa with my broken knee, I was lucky enough to have several visitors stop by. One of them was my dear friend Nicola. It was actually her birthday and although I'd had to cancel going for lunch to celebrate her special day and hadn't even been able to wrap her present yet, she still came by bearing gifts for me instead. What a great friend! She brought a lovely little box of Rumi wisdom cards in a wooden stand for me to look at whilst I was incapacitated, in the hopes that they would inspire insightful writings and keep my mindset positive. 

The very first one I picked out was this one pictured, which made me smile and got me thinking... That is exactly my mission, to spread love and joy wherever possible, to touch people's hearts and make even the smallest difference. As I wrote, when I was figuring out what Loveliness meant to me, part of it is about being a kind & thoughtful person, thinking of others and helping without needing to be asked. It is so easy to just rush about our daily business jetting from one thing to another, thinking only of ourselves and those we are responsible for, simply getting through our packed schedule one day at a time, only to wake up the next day to do it all over again... But occasionally it is ok to pause, look around, smell the flowers, reach out to someone and spread some love. It may not change the world, but I think if we are all a little more thoughtful towards others, perform random acts of kindness and offer help where it is needed, then at least this world will be a lovelier place to live in.

I have now spent two weeks being housebound and instead of feeling frustrated or getting bored, my self-confidence and faith have soared that I am indeed pursuing the right path. I have experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the amount of people that have offered their help, been to visit, brought us meals, come bearing thoughtful treats or just stopped in to cheer me up and make me a cup of tea. Immense gratitude also for my dear friends and family around the world who obviously can't visit but have kept me occupied by sending messages, emails and cards. I've not had any time yet to feel bored! The amount of love that has come pouring back through our door in these past two weeks has been thoroughly moving and almost unbelievable. I cannot thank everybody enough for all of the love and kindness, it really has meant so very much to me and our little family. THANK YOU!!

Through it all, I have come to realise that being LOVELY is indeed exactly the way to be. We may not be rich, we may not be famous, we may not be changing the world (yet) but we have obviously done something right so far. By being who we are and striving to be thoughtful, good, kind people we have more love, joy and happiness in our lives than any money could buy. 

So I encourage you all to be kind, be thoughtful, share some joy and simply spread the love... 

Love Holly x

I Don't Like to Say "I Told You So".... But I Told You So


Sorry kids!

Sorry kids!

Confession: If any of you saw or indeed more likely heard a short blonde woman leaving school with an out of control, screaming, curly haired preschooler this afternoon, yes it was me - I apologise for the noise! I wasn't smiling, but I was holding my head high just getting on with the business of picking up my other daughter from school, trying not to make a scene (Lucy was taking care of that on her own) and instead heading out with as much grace as one possibly can whilst juggling school bags and an increasingly heavy sobbing child, just attempting to get through the gates and across the road.  I had no reason to pander to her emotions and no cause for hanging my head in shame - I wasn't the parent this time whose child had fallen off a bench and hurt herself while my back was turned. You know you've been there.

Today has been a classic day of I hate to say I told you so ... But I actually did tell you so! I know this is a phrase that is frowned upon amongst parenting experts and I use it very rarely, but it goes along with everything we are trying to work on with the girls this month. We have always talked a lot about values, behaviour and how to treat others and we use storybooks, kids movies and everyday events as points of reference and discussion. The wonderful Kindergarten that both our girls have attended has done a fantastic job at highlighting some very crucial values and Lucy has been learning the sign language signs for them, which she's been teaching us at home. So to expand on these (and after a slightly embarrassing behavioural incident with our number 1 daughter that clearly proved we'd missed a step somewhere) we decided that we would start discussing one value a month in ways they would understand, talking about what they meant, finding activities to practice these and examples of people demonstrating said value or behaviour in books or movies that are relevant to them. (Incidentally, this will be a monthly feature that I will expand upon at the end of each month to pass on anything we've learned!)

August is RESPECT month in the Potter household... Arabella came up with the idea of writing the word in capital letters on a sheet of paper on the fridge and every time they think of another thing that is a way of showing respect (or of something not to do), she writes it on. It has been slowly evolving and the list is growing. Not that we've had overnight success or anything but I feel that practice and perseverance will pay off! 

So this morning on the way to school we were talking about listening. Arabella said: "This is actually very confusing Mummy, I don't know why I listen to my teacher when she asks me to do something but I don't listen to you and Daddy at home." You think? She followed up with: "Maybe it's because I'm just always so busy doing stuff at home? I'll think about it for a while." I was slightly stumped at the way her analytical brain had suddenly kicked in and all I could say was: "Yes that's an exceptionally good idea, why don't you think about it for a while..." Then we arrived at school.

Next stop was Kindergarten where Lucy's discussion would begin... Now we've always had a rule that yes they can take a teddy in the car, but teddies need to stay in the car. We know from experience that these get lost, misplaced, forgotten or simply temporarily abandoned as Lucy's first favourite Lamby did - she spent a very cosy evening having a sleepover at our local department store until we staged a rescue mission the following morning to recover the mischievous sheep! This was after a fairly torturous bedtime routine and a very miserable night that unfortunately some new friends had to witness. She has also more recently lost her all time favourite bear, Fudge - many, many, many sad bedtimes! Anyway, just another parenting lesson you pick up along the way. Back to the story at hand...

This morning Lucy was in a debating mood and decided to push her luck - anyone who knows Lucy (apart from those that perhaps saw her for the first time this afternoon) will attest to the fact that she is a very happy & delightful little thing and like Puss in Boots from Shrek, she can turn on the big eyes and sweet smile better than anyone. So it didn't take long for me to give in to her proposition that she be allowed to carry her teddy "Jellybean" into Kindy and I'd then be able to bring him back out to the car with me. I know I know, I should have known better but I'm a particular sucker for her charms and cuddly ways. Off we went and when it was time to say goodbye, I told her to give Jellybean to me so that he could be safe in the car till I met her at school later. I reminded her that her carer would be picking her up, she'd be at her house for a couple of hours, in her car and then coming to school, so there were numerous points along the way at which Jellybean could go astray. She was having none of it and even a friendly discussion with one of her teachers about teddy being better off with me wouldn't persuade her. In an effort to prove her reliability she came up with the suggestion of putting him straight in her bag and not taking him out all day. I knew it would probably go wrong but sometimes you just have to let them learn their own lessons...

Needless to say, it dawned on Lucy that she'd left Jellybean behind just at the minute the bell rang and I don't know whether she was more upset by the fact that he was missing or the fact that indeed, sometimes, Mummy does know best! Perhaps amongst all the sobbing she was quietly thinking "Thank you Mummy for letting me learn my own lovely lesson!"

I reassured any concerned fellow parents that she was fine, that she was just having a bit of a learning experience and that it would all blow over. It wasn't the end of the world but I guarantee there won't be any arguments tomorrow about leaving her chosen teddy in the car. And perhaps, just perhaps the whole listening to parents thing might have sunk in a little bit... When we got home the first thing she did was ask Arabella to write on the chart "Respect our toys and things and don't lose them." Job done I'd say!

Have you been the mum at the school gates or supermarket checkout with the screaming child? I salute you for remaining calm and want to assure you that it indeed does happen to everybody at some point.

Happy Parenting,

Love Holly x

Hit & Miss... But It All Comes Out in the Wash


This morning has been anything but lovely. Lucy projectile vomited all over herself, me, the sofa, our fluffy rug, the living room carpet, kitchen floor, cabinets & even the dishwasher... It took her so much by surprise (she was lying down at the time, pretty shattered from being sick 2x in the night) that it went in her eyes and all through her hair! She was so upset about her face and all the mess, that I had to ensure her it was fine and I'd clean it all up after I'd got her changed. We got her new pjs on and settled her onto the other sofa with her Koala and a snuggly blanket and as I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees in puke stained pjs, I saw her eyelids getting heavier as she watched me clean. I wonder what thoughts, if any, were going through her head?  

As for me, once she drifted off I just had to sit for a minute, take it all in, breathe and decide where to start after scraping up one particularly large lot! It was like a flashback to the very first time that I realised how all consuming parenting is and the extent of my responsibilities as a mother...  
 
Arabella was about 8 months at the time. Simon was out at work, she'd had the biggest case of diarrhoea in her nappy and as I was trying to clean her up and change her on the changing mat on the floor, she whipped over and proceeded to scamper off giggling, as if leaving her slightly frazzled mother sitting in the middle of the floor whilst smearing poo all across the carpet was the most hilarious thing in the world. Granted we have joked about it since, but at the time I was severely unamused!! I rang Simon in distress - what I thought he could possibly do at the time I have no idea - and he was less sympathetic than I'd hoped, clearly only seeing the funny side that was so evident to his mischievous little offspring! "What do I do??" I said... "Well, you'll just have to clean it up!" he said with a not so subtle hint of amusement in his voice. It was at that moment I suddenly realised it was just me, no knight in shining armour riding in, no fairy godmother to wave her wand, and I would indeed just have to deal with it. It's never described in any Mummy manuals or fairy tales that this is occasionally what it will come to, but it was an eye opening lesson indeed! Perhaps I should share it with both of my sisters, one who's just had her first baby and the other who is about to pop out her first, but that just seems mean really and until you've experienced it firsthand, I guess you'd never fully understand... 
 
So anyway here I was, years later, back on my hands & knees scrubbing the carpets & cleaning the furniture, trying not to gag on the smell and trying not to cry - less about the mess and more about my poor little poppet who by now was asleep, completely exhausted, on the other sofa. And as anyone who's been in a similar situation knows, sick is like broken glass - it gets everywhere! Just when you think you've got it all, you spot some more much further away than you'd think it would travel.... And if you don't manage to spot it, you'll definitely smell it later! 
 
Now I'm sitting for a few minutes contemplating what if anything to learn from this experience. I've got a bucket full of clothes soaking as the washing machine is already full of last nights sheets & teddies (ripped out of sleep at 1am to be covered in sick is a whole other parenting torture that newbies must discover in their own time!), wet carpets, a sleeping daughter on the sofa, hair that definitely needs washing and a sense that I'm sure I've missed a spot somewhere. Perhaps I should just breathe and be grateful for this miracle of life... We may not be a lovely sight today, but we have each other and I suppose at the end of the day that's the most important thing. Or perhaps I just remind myself that sometimes things get thrown at us in an attempt to unhinge us, but if we deal with them straight away, quietly, confidently and gracefully (well as graceful as possible with sick in your hair!), we can return to our path and get on with life. My pursuit continues...  

Happily hanging out to dry, blissfully unaware of the ordeal they've been through!

Happily hanging out to dry, blissfully unaware of the ordeal they've been through!

Note to self though: if you have an ill child, always, always, ALWAYS keep a bowl or bucket to hand! (And have plenty of towels, sheets, kitchen roll and wipes available.)  

Have you had a similarly eye opening motherhood moment? What has been your lowest parenting point and what wisdom, if any, could you share with the rest of us? 

Thanks, 

Love Holly x 
 
PS: The lesson I actually learned from this is that you can't always control your situation and what life throws at you, but you can control how you react, what you choose to do about it and how you let yourself feel about itIn other words, When life seems out of control, do something you can control! After I'd finally finished the clean up I made the beds, hung out the laundry, cleaned the bathroom, got myself washed & dressedput on some mascara, had a cup of tea, typed up this post then looked around and realised that everything seemed to have settled. It all came out in the wash and I knew tomorrow would be a whole new day. Once Lucy woke up she felt a bit better so we crafted a card for Daddy and then while she lay looking at books, I managed to bake some cookies to fill our tiny home with a sense of comfort (and help disguise the smell!) By completing small tasks, as menial and mundane as some of them may seem, I felt more in control and that small sense of accomplishment became the defining factor of my day instead of the sick-bomb that ruled most of the morning.  

I HATE SHOUTING!!


I hate shouting at my children. Actually hate it. Hate myself for doing it, hate that I was brought up being shouted at, hate that I've once again - despite all my efforts at remaining the calm, patient parent - failed to break the cycle and handle things better... My daughters are inherently so sweet, kind and loving (which are traits we've successfully managed to teach them), but how can I possibly hope to convince them that shouting isn't ok when I can't seem to stop myself from doing it? There's a quote that used to be stuck to my wall that said something like "If you don't want your children to see you do it, hear you say it, copy you & tell everyone else you did it, then don't do it!" Hmm, perhaps I need to stick it back on my wall.

I try to be calm, patient, kind and understanding of their inquisitive playful nature but occasionally they just push me to the edge. I give them a few minutes warning, then I ask them nicely, then I explain it's time to leave (or whatever) and ask again, then I tell them a bit more sternly but after 4 times of requesting they get dressed/put their shoes on/pack their bags/sit up at the table etc I just get exasperated. I know they are not purposefully trying to wind me up but nevertheless, they so often do. And then I shout, they get upset, I get upset and then hate myself a little more... The cycle continues! I actually caught sight of myself in the mirror one day shouting at them and even scared myself! I had morphed from the kind, loving, lovely mother that I try to be into the freaky dragon lady. Very unlovely indeed...

I stopped immediately, apologized to the girls, sat down, gave them a cuddle and tried to explain that Mummys sometimes just get so cross of asking and asking and asking and asking the same thing... And of course I told them that I didn't like shouting at them. To which my ever wise 6yr old said "It's ok Mummy, we still love you and we'll get our shoes on right now." Grrrr. You can read as many parenting books, magazines & articles as you like but nothing prepares you for the reality of how far your own children will actually push you to the edge. We are all human and I'm sure even my most zen, calm friends must crack occasionally in the privacy of their own homes - at least I comfort myself with the thought that they do.

I've been occasionally complimented by strangers for either having perfectly delightful children or on the flipside not being afraid to discipline them in public, but as much as I'm fine with being a strict, firm but fair parent, I say it again.... I hate shouting!

I do believe that as much as it is our duty and responsibility to teach our children the lessons they'll need to lead successful happy lives, we must also humbly accept the fact that some of our greatest lessons will come from our children. For me personally, patience is something I must work on daily... So girls, I thank you for the lesson, but for today it's back to school for me!!

What lessons are your children teaching you today? What are you struggling with or trying to master?

Love Holly x