Friday, 29 January 2016

Hanging Out with Little People

I am back home having hung out with my little niece in Oxford, and then my little nephew in London. They are both growing up so fast, and it made me feel very warm and fuzzy to be watching them develop, and to know that I am part of their lives. I feel so blessed!

Here are some of the photos of me hanging out with my nephew:

Here we are. For some reason, both my niece and nephew love my camera strap, so they stop looking at the camera and stare at the strap instead!

There's my little nephew, enjoying his chair. He's very happy in this pic, look at his happy little face.

Aww, here he is, rattling something or other. He looks like he's trying to show me something. He is a very thoughtful baby.

And here's the little fella, unsure about this independent sitting up malarkey. Shortly after this photo he folded in half, forwards. Aww, such a little cutie! I'm sure the next time we meet, he'll be sitting with confidence!

It was great to see my sister and brother-in-law in London. They're both super busy, and I guess that bringing a small person into the world really does literally rock your entire being to the core. I'm beginning to realise that even though there are important things to be doing with the completely dependent little person, we have to remember to take a moment out for ourselves whenever we can. This is the same in play too. When we are at our delivering our workshops for Pop-Up, Morgan always uses the example of the oxygen mask on the plane - you have to put your mask on before you put anyone else's on. We have to first have enough time at play to truly support the play of children. I can see this ringing true for being a parent. To be of the most use to your little person, we have to do what we can to be the best person we can be too, and that occasionally means we have to take a short break. We can respond to their needs better then. I hope that in going to visit my sister and sister-in-law, I can help out with my niece and nephew more and then give them a chance to be human adults again. Even if it's just a moment, I'm guessing it's feels like relief. I don't know for sure, but I'm going to try and give them a break whenever I can anyway.

I had a lovely time seeing everyone over the last few days. I think I'll have to organise another trip in March! We'll have to see! Hoorah for my little niece and nephew, and hoorah for my new parent siblings - you're doing a wonderful job! :)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A Day of Smiles

I'm down in Oxford right now to hang out with my brother and my sister-in-law and of course my lovely little niece! When I arrived yesterday, she had completely forgotten about my last visit so she really didn't like me for the whole evening. This morning however, I woke up to a super happy little girl - at 5:30am. Ah well, it was totally worth it! I ended up with a whole day of smiles from this tiny little girl and it was awesome. Here are some photos:

Here we are at 5:30am. I was super sleepy but this little person wanted to play! She gave me three very drooly kisses just after this.

Here we are, auntie/niece selfie! :)

This is an awesome photo of my niece and her mum. Such a happy photo!

And here is an attempt at "standing" - there was a lot of leaning,

My little niece spent all day smiling for me, reminding me just how much of a blessing little people are in our lives. I see my parents becoming instantly younger and more joyful simply just being in the same room with my niece and nephew. Children are such wonderful little beings, with such great personalities just waiting to burst out from their little selves. I'm so excited to hear their voices and look forward to being part their playful adventures.

I've got another morning with this little one and then I'm going to see my little nephew! Yay! :) This is a wonderful treat after working super hard on my PhD. Now I feel happy and warm inside. Aww.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Onwards to Year Four

Three years ago, I started a PhD. I'd signed up for a part time doctoral study in play at Leeds Beckett University which, at the time I thought I was a little mad for choosing. Yesterday, I was cleared to start my 4th year. I think I'm just embracing the madness now.

They said good things - I sorta let the feeling wash over me for a bit, not wanting to really believe that they were being positive. I've not been told I've done well in my studies for far too long, but these two old bearded dudes were saying that I was doing well. So I must have been. I'm now exactly half way through my PhD, and if all goes well, I graduate (again) in 2018. Three years ago, that seemed to be a lifetime away. Three years on, it still feels like someone's putting my brain through the grey matter version of the Krypton Factor, and that end goal is still ridiculously out of reach.

Taking that first breath of fresh air after a stressful 14 minutes in a small room, I relaxed a little and headed over to see my friend Nadia who's up north for a little while. We decided to wander round the shops and then grab some fish and chips to celebrate completing another year at uni. Here are some pics:

This is Drakes - a really yummy chippy in Bradford. I loved the stained glass windows (must be a nightmare to clean) and the shop front layout.

Here we are with our fish and chips with a side of mushy peas, curry, sausage and tea. And yes, that is bread for compiling one of my favourites - a chip butty! Nom nom nom.

It was awesome to hang out with Nadia. I've know her since I was 12 and it's been such a great friendship. She's lovely to be around, and even though she moved down to Oxford years ago, it doesn't really feel like we spent any time apart. I'm feel so blessed to have her around, especially in the next few months. I'm looking forward to many more years of hanging out to come!

Thanks for celebrating the end of my third year and beginning of my fourth year with me Nadia. May there be many more yummy meals to come! :) Hoorah for another year of studies down, and another about to begin. I don't think I'm ready, but bring it on anyway!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Snow Dinosaur 2016

Last night, after seeing a big day with Hannah and Nina, I decided that I would go out one more time to play in the snow. It was an interesting exercise in restraint yesterday. As you all know, I love snow, and it just so happened that the first snow fall of the year coincided with Hannah and Nina's arrival. As a play advocating adult, I consciously decided to be as excited as the girls and only do what they asked me to do with our day: I would serve as the playworker. I wanted to be there for their play, rather than my (very much desired) own snow play. I think the girls really enjoyed themselves, and I also loved the conversations we had as we explored the space in the snow in semi-darkness.

When they had gone, it was my time to play, who cared if it was 11pm? By setting aside my own time to play, I don't need to satisfy my own play needs when children are in my care. I can just be fully engaged with whatever they're doing instead of meeting my own needs. I'm so glad that I got the chance to play in the snow, building a sculpture that I've been planning for months. Say hello to my snow dinosaur, the little brother to this one and this one:

This little dinosaur was only about... 3 foot high? Much smaller than my previous dinosaurs but he has so much more character! This was his pic from this morning, after a night of frost.

This is a photo of my snow dinosaur freshly done last night. He has a better face than snow dinosaurs of the past. He's so regal in this pic.

I went to bed happy and completely satisfied with a day's worth of play. It was snowing, I was snuggled up in bed, knowing that I had supported play as best I could for two little people, and also taken care of my own playful needs. What an awesome day.

And shhh, don't tell anyone that I always secretly hope for snow.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

"You're my friend" - Reflections from a day with Hannah and Nina

The first few flakes of snow fell as I packed my work away, ready for the arrival of Hannah and Nina today. I knew that there was going to be a lot of questions today - about the snow, about the recent floods and about life in general as I spent the day with them. I braced myself for the harder questions that would ask today - they are getting bigger, and their thoughts more complex.

We first went to the river. We've been here before but since the floods on Boxing Day, the space had changed. Dancing around, just like the snowflakes, Hannah and Nina went on the river walk with me. We skated along ice, and walked in the shallows of the river looking for treasures. Nina's right welly sprung a leak, Hannah's gloves got all confused. We even investigated flood debris and got stuck briefly in mud. It was a fun little adventure.

Here we are, wrapped up warm with our colourful hats.

We came home and had some hot cocoa before spending some time with loose parts. We went small scale this time, with only one small tin of interesting things, but they found delight in even those small objects which kept them focused for a good hour.

None of those things in that tub were of much value, but that in itself is the valuable thing - here are some things that you can use how you please. What will you do?

Before long, we were called to eat. We had another "pun choi" a Chinese feast which we also had on Christmas Day. It was incredibly yummy and we came away with happy tummies.

Nom nom nom time.

But the food didn't stop there. Hannah and Nina wanted then to make cake, so with their help, we made some chocolate cupcakes to share with everyone. They asked me why I knew how to bake the cakes and how I did it so fast. I told them that I'd been baking cakes for a lot longer than they had, and when they were big enough, they too would be super fast at mixing. Then they would be able to teach other people of their age. And Hannah pipes up:
"Yes, then we can teach our friends, if we have any"
"I'm sure you'll have plenty of friends" I said
"You're my friend, Suzanna".
"I'm your friend?"
"Yes you are" she said, nodding and smiling.
 
Here are Hannah and Nina, getting ready to eat their chocolate cupcakes.

There was much more snow when it was time to go home, so we couldn't resist a final frolic in the winter wonderland. Hannah and I simply ran around in the snow, while Nina made a tiny snowman. It was lovely being semi darkness, feeling the snowflakes land on my face, and hearing the giggles of Hannah as she laughed at the snow.

As I waved goodbye, I looked up at the sky and decided that I'd go out again tonight. After I post this up, I'm going to get my warm clothes on and go outside again. Time to make me a nice snow sculpture.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Walking in the Woods

After 12 days of focusing all my mind to my PhD, I decided enough was enough. I needed a break, so I decided to go for a walk. I took my camera and my phone, jumped in my car with my wellies and visited a country park nearby. Eventhough it was cold, I went to clear my mind, readjust my brain and reconnect with the little things in life. Here are some photos:

It was a little muddy today. After the Boxing Day floods, the local areas haven't really recovered yet.

Here are some ducks, having quite a squabble actually.

This, I reckon, could be a piece of artwork - where water is smooth and glass like on one side, and frantic wildness on the other.

I found some extraordinary mushrooms today! That bottom one was huge!

Here are more mushrooms - these ones look really cheerful

And this. A water droplet hanging from holly. Probably another artsy language used here too. I just reckon is was a nice photo.

It felt great to be outside and not thinking about transcripts and essays and progression meetings and scary people who know more than me. Today, for a glorious 2 hours, there wasn't much I could do that was wrong, there wasn't any deadline, and there was no pressure to conform to any mold. No, today, I was able to be myself, to unwind and think only about me, about the natural world around me, and worry only about keeping my own wellies on my feet. It was lovely. I breathed for the first time in weeks, and I felt much better for it. 

I guess here's a reason why I advocate for play, for everyone! :)

Friday, 8 January 2016

A Postcard Map

So, I have restarted my postcard adventure for the year. I've send 8 postcards now so I think it's time to reveal my glorious new tracking device. Ladies and gentlemen, my project this year won't be tracked my photos, it will be tracked by miles! Here is a map showing where they have got to now - and if you click in it, you can see the live map!

It's a nice start, but this map should have lots of pins in it by the end of the year!

It will be lovely to see all the locations my postcards fly off to, and also to calculate those miles that I won't be travelling this year. I'm so glad that my postcards are having adventures because I have been been really boring and all I've done is worked until I've caused myself a small injury. :( My best of wishes of my little postal joys - let's see how widespread these happy little gems get! Hoorah!

If you'd like to get involved in my project and have concerns about this map, please bear in mind that I will only be putting you in the vague vicinity of your home town, and nowhere on your street or in your neighbourhood. :) So get in touch - it's just a bit of fun! :)

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Kittens and Goats and Cards and Rockets

I've been working pretty much solidly on my PhD since the last time I blogged. Working so much I appear to have hurt my wrist by typing. I've had to slow down a bit from the working stuff so today I took a little break to go and see my friends from college, for a few games and a good giggle.

First we played a game themed around Wallace and Gromit where we had to build a rocket! Here's mine!

Then we played a card game called Exploding Kittens which my lovely friend Ric got for me for Christmas! Here's my favourite card in the pack.

My time with my friends was short and sweet. We snacked, we laughed, we did impressions of exploding kittens... it was awesome. I came straight home to carry on type type typing but it was totally worth it for some good time with friends. More again soon I hope! Anyway, got to rest the hand overnight ready for more transcribing tomorrow! Gah! To the online TV! :)

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year, New Set of Postcards

It's a brand new year and due to the success of last year's 365 project, I have decided to do it all again this year! I have had so many lovely messages and reciprocated post, and a lovely Christmas present too as a result of my year of one-postcard-a-day. I really want to carry on sending smiles everywhere again, so I'm going to do another 365 postcards! :)

There will be a small twist this time round: I won't be travelling nearly as much in 2016 so I will be covering my miles with my post - a spectacular idea of my lovely friend Nancy. It was really difficult to photograph every one of my postcards last year, so I've decided give that a miss and just post up some data instead in the form of a map. :)

So in a few days time (when I've organised myself and come up with a map) I will be able to show my work. For now, here is today's postcard:


If you'd like to be a recipient of one of my postcards, then please get in touch! Let's see how many miles my post can travel this year! :)

Happy New Year, and happy new postcard time! :)