Saturday, 27 March 2010

Woo-hoo! A break!

My typical days start as follows: wake up around 4.30am with leg cramps, doze fitfully with half an ear out for my 5 year old early riser, up by 6am at the latest. Let the kids chill for a bit (= usually TV) as I fit in a small yet crucial slice of spiritual time before going up to shower. Then, herd them through the getting dressed process, breakfast with all the family, clearing up after, sorting lunch/es, checking reading folder/s, cleaning teeth, and out the door by 8.15am. It's not quite an art form, but it pretty much runs itself.

And boy I am ready for 2 weeks respite!!!

2 weeks while the girls can just hang out together playing with their Barbies and Princess dolls, breakfasting in their pyjamas, picking out clothes instead of uniforms. 2 weeks when we don't rush. When we can just be. When we can say 'yes, let's play that game after breakfast.' We have plans, of course. And scans and dental and hair appointments. Visits from our family in the North-East (of England) and the Godfather from London. Playdates with friends and relations. Introducing the girls to their first first cousin Marcus (now 2 days old) when he gets home. A dance lesson here, a swimming lesson there. But we can SLOW THE PACE RIGHT DOWN....and look forward to celebrating Easter with gifts, chocolate, family, friends, and praise. We can really appreciate this last bit of Lenten time as we gear up for Holy Week. Count down to Hot Cross Buns and church activities on Good Friday. I'm excited about all of that.

But just for now, just this morning, I'm excited about having a break from the school run :-)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


OK, I'm going to try one of these!

Outside my window: Dark, and fully rainy. I don't think Daddy and Sophie will be walking to school tomorrow. March came in like a gentle lamb and is getting lionesque.

Thoughts: Lots of stuff on how our Church is, interregnum, and what is happening with the music groups. Lots of prayer on this one!

Thanksgiving: Just for the way God holds, no, folds my family into his arms and keeps watch over us.

Kitchen goings-on: Oh, my poor fennel, chicken & tomato ragout. Sophie only ate you because you latched onto the 3 plates of pasta she needed to eat after her half an hour swim. The rest of us, adults included, passed. Much like last week's Silver Spoon chicken casserole. Sorry, Italia.

Reading: Elizabeth David's Italian Food (yes, I know!). St Augustine is still to one side. The Love Dare. The Bible. Because I've been ill I've polished off Ghostwalk and The Little Stranger this week, which I think I'll review in tandem in a couple of days.

Listening: Radio 6 Music while it is still here. Songs of worship. The Aphex Twin last night falling asleep with my husband, like we used to.

Wearing: Pyjamas.

Around the house: Happy to be getting things sorted - new sink, boarding the loft, bunkbed for the existing 2 children. Itching with it actually (hormones!)

A Favourite Thing: The small things getting done. Cleaned. And put away :-) (Hormones....)

Pregnancy symptom of the month: CRAMPS

I'm almost 20 weeks (and if another person asks me whether or not we are going to try and find out whether we're having a boy or a girl at the DETAILED ANOMALY SCAN, I swear I will scream. Silently, inside, anyway.)

That's not my symptom though. Nor is the realisation that every time I get a 'new' symptom, I remember it from before, and wondered how I could forget the feeling.

Nope, it's CRAMP. How could I forget waking up in the middle of the night with agonising shooting pains in my legs? Ouch, ouch, ouch!

On the plus side, I've only got half the pregnancy to go. And I'm guest posting on the Baby Bunching website today. And later, Imogen & I are off to IKEA to check out sinks, bunkbeds, and the cafe :-) What's not to like? *tentatively flexes calves....*

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Imogen Louise

Imogen the newborn

Imogen nearly 4 years old!

She's pretty together, is Imogen; she doesn't dally, or dither. But, to be fair, I'm already comparing her against her older sister; she looks very much like Soph, but diverges from her greatly in terms of personality. Whether it's the 2nd child thing, the circumstances of her birth, or simply genetically her, it's easy to see Imogen as the things her elder sister isn't - naturally gregarious, happy to be glued to the TV for hours, hugely tactile, completely mischievous, boisterously boyish yet the first to be obsessed with pink and princesses.

Life has definitely been a lot more chilled since Imogen came along - she and her sibling have a close sisterly bond and like to play (and argue) on a daily basis. She lets Sophie's anger go over her head, demands cuddles at the most inappropriate times, and likes to use her dressing-gowns as sleep friends. She's an easy person to get along with (despite her early penchant for hitting.) I can't imagine a world without music for Imogen - she lives it and loves it, turning everything into a song, obsessing over showtunes, and (still!) repeating the songs from the school Christmas show 3 months ago.

We love you, Modger Moo!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Listen up. I'm a great believer in my own personal space. Hem me into a corner, and you'll know about it. Come up close to me and put your arm around me, and I'll wriggle out and/or tell you to desist. But those of you assuming that because I have new life inside me I am happy for you to come up and rub my middle? I can't seem to tell you in person - but BACK OFF!!!!!

For a start, most of you are actually touching my belly, which wasn't skinny even in my amphetamine-fuelled university days and, 2 C-sections later, has lost all will to be flat. Having something in my uterus has pushed the belly down, so that when all you freaky women (no men - yet) rush up and put your hand on me, you are just experiencing a lot of undefined muscle (and fat.)

As for the bump, the bump is mine!!! There aren't many of you that rush up to embrace my 2 daughters who live in the world without asking for a cuddle, so why invade MY body privacy AND that of my child in utero. When Baby is born, you won't try and grab him/her out of my arms without checking it's OK with me first. Nobody, but NOBODY whooshes up to me and grabs my breasts, not even in these new low cut maternity tops I'm sporting. It's simply not considered appropriate. But so many of you think the bump is theirs. So next time, ASK FOR PERMISSION.

And FYI, I'm likely to say NO.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Believing in the Old Testament

When I was in Sunday School & youth group @ Church, I was incredulous & questioning. Yet, no one turned round to me and said, “Well, perhaps we need to contextualise these books in the Bible for you.” Once I actually started studying theology from an academic perspective, I was amazed at how much dissent there is amongst the ranks, and how interpretive much of Christianity (fundamentalism aside) can be. Genesis as creation myth; Exodus as a retrospective rewriting of the beginnings of Judaism; and so on. (Wait until you get to the part where a bunch of men met together and ‘decided’ what was legimately God’s word, what was apocrypha, and what was left behind.)

To me, most of the Old Testament is about people trying to understand themselves, their world, and their God. The fact that things don’t ‘add up’, that there is stuff in there that transcends the rational and ask us to suspend our disbelief, next to whole chapters that can perhaps be ‘explained’ in terms of natural phenomenon rather than godly acts – these things don’t stop me believing in God and Jesus. Instead I see them as a whole canon of writing acknowledged as the word of the Lord, and I am thankful for being part of a religion at a time when I am actively encouraged to question and deconstruct Biblical texts.

Do I believe that Adam and Eve are real, or representative? Did a supreme being really create the world within a week? Do I really believe that Noah built an ark and populated it with only his family and two of every species? (By the way, check out Naamah’s story which highlights just one of the gaps!) In huge giants? Someone surviving after being swallowed by a sea creature and living in its stomach? How much does it matter? Not everything in there has to be believed in order to be a Christian. The Old Testament contains many positive life lessons. Kids love hearing its stories & they provide a great entry into faith. But their relationship with the Bible needs to be nurtured as they grow.

God transcends science and explanation. S/He encourages that we keep on questioning, whether we have faith or not. It is the responsibility of Christian teachers (and I don’t necessarily mean ministers here) to ensure that children and adults alike are allowed to challenge what they read, and make sense of their own understanding of what is within the Bible without being slapped down. Yes, people may suggest Christianity does this at its own convenience, defending what doesn’t make sense as ‘narrative’ while (arbitrarily, to some) defending selective aspects as (God’s) Truth. But in today’s post-structuralist, post-modern times, when belief in anything isn’t certain, subjectively getting the good that we can out of a library of ancient religious texts can’t be a bad thing if it means it changes our thoughts and actions for the better.

My 5 year old said yesterday that she believed Adam and Eve met as children and grew up together; they were there because God wanted some people to hang out with. She's familiar with the Old Testament, for better and for worse, and not just the traditional favourites (in last night's verses, Jael hammered a tent peg through Sisera's head; not a great image for a camping family.) Unlike I was, Sophie is encouraged to fit her own vision of the world alongside God's, and find her own unique place in it. And I think that's one of the things we need to do to change Christianity for the better.

I know you want to ask about where the New Testament stands in all this, particularly the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, & so on. I'll come back to you on that when I've finished researching & writing my 2000 word essay on the doctrine of the death of Christ (quite a timely one for Easter, don'tcha think?).....

Thursday, 4 March 2010

This Too Shall Pass: Potty Training - a Retrospective

It's not like I'm rid of it forever (we're expecting baby #3 in August), but potty training seems like a dim and distant memory...of a time filled with anxiety and stress; a time of struggle. I think that for Baby Bunchers, getting the elder child to pee in the potty or on the toilet needs its own rule book!

I did make a rod for my own back with child #1, Sophie. I decided she needed to start pre-school at the age of 2 and a half & at the time, the rules required that she be 'dry'. Looking back (and I know mums that have their kids trained early on and the whole 'elimination communication' thing), Soph simply wasn't ready. But I waded in anyway, at 22 months. Armed with reward chart and treats. With a mop and bucket. With carpet shampoo. (And armed is a specific choice of word - it literally WAS a battle.)

And actually, Sophie was dry quite quickly. But the anxiety of never knowing when - or where! - I was going to find her creating puddles was like something I'd never experienced. It took me back to the newborn days, when I had no understanding of what I was meant to be doing, and just stressed about it. Having read somewhere that pull-ups sent mixed signals, I insisted she stayed in knickers despite our disasters. And we got there over a period of a few days - despite my attention being 'diverted' by child #2, Imogen, who was by now at 9 months old very mobile, and very accomplished at wandering into piles of wee! But I spent a lot of time out and about with both of them, and rarely found a cubicle large enough (or near enough!) for me to deal with this easily by myself.

This wasn't the end of it, of course. Sophie might be dry, but it was almost 3 months before she was able to poop regularly on the potty. And having, then as now, a very fruity diet, she used to soil herself liberally 3 times a day - mainly in her pants. I became an expert in cleaning her off with a baby in tow. (And sometimes in tears.)

The good news was - by the time it came to potty train child #2, I had learned lessons & was ready to wait until Imogen was at least 3 to tackle the issue. In fact, she herself 'told' me she was ready by persisting in taking her bottoms down and taking her nappy off wherever she happened to be! (She had previously 'told' us she was ready for a bed by climbing out of her high-sided cot.) And I used pull-ups this time, particularly if we were going out, which did not set us back one bit. Above all, I knew we would get there in the end and there was no need to stress about it.

And that's the only advice I can give, really. Yes, it's great if you can find someone to look after the baby while you focus on potty training the toddler. Washable car seat covers (and a homemade waterproof cushion) come in very handy. Having a portable potty & child toilet seat may be a must. But the main thing is - don't panic! This too shall pass.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Lent Report I

So, what are we learning, over a week into Lent?

Maybe a little, maybe a lot.

I must first say, we were on a short holiday last weekend (we figured this was only fair as the girls will be getting a new sibling rather than a summer holiday) so we have only just got into the swing of things. And Imogen (nearly 4) broke her collarbone on our return so subsequently got at least 48 hours of eating whatever she fancied. But I think the girls have felt the impact of living & eating simply - which to us as a family, means only fruit and yogurt for dessert (no ice cream or chunks of chocolate from Daddy), no cookies, no treats, no candy.

Except for Sundays.

Now, I realise that to understand the concept of denial you have to appreciate what you do have. And so on Sunday, we had a second breakfast of pastries, then later in the day, chocolate, cheesecake, chocolate cornflake crispies and so on. Which was a bit much. But they had been looking forward to their 'free pass' day all week - when I lamented that I fancied cheesecake during the week, my 5 year old put her foot down - "But Mummy, it's Lent! We're not having any treats in the week!" And after a cooked Sunday lunch, we did have a simple supper of butternut squash soup and bread, over which I literally wept that despite the day of sugary snacks, they appreciated simple home cooked fayre and even vocalised their enjoyment of it. ("This is delicious, Mum. Well, it's a bit delicious - it's not very delicious, but it's quite delicious.")

But I think what is hitting home most is the Christian Aid materials for kids. Even though it took a little fiddling with the formatting prior to printing, the simple messages are hitting home. Our 5 year old isn't the biggest fan of potatoes (no, not even McDonalds fries) and was amazed to learn about the boy whose family mainly ate potatoes for their meals as that was all they had. Similarly, that children don't get to play but instead have to work hard to earn money, is something we just don't talk about every day. Suddenly, unstacking the dishwasher and keep the house tidy is almost fun.

I haven't really got any profound words about the role of God in all this. We have been talking about all that Jesus gave up, and my older daughter at least sees the connection (based on previous years' experience of too much too moon, we haven't started reading the Easter picture books yet.) But I think on some level, an appreciation of how blessed our family is with the ability to work at something we enjoy, have more than enough money for our needs and enjoy things which others may never experience, is sinking in. We've recently bought a vehicle to accommodate our expanding brood. My youngest daughter actually asked today where we got the money to buy it. Which, given that if she had her way Daddy would play games with her constantly instead of working, gave rise to quite a timely chat....