Sunday, 30 January 2011

Daybooking* in the month of January

Wow, I haven't Daybooked for ages! Is it really January 2011? Am I no longer waking twice-nightly to feed an infant? Am I really getting out and about some evenings?

Outside my window:
I don't know; the curtains are closed. I'm trying not to face the day yet. I took part in a concert last night, then chatted to my husband, then had a broken few hours sleep with a teething baby and a wakeful 6 year old. Hence trying to immerse myself online and be in denial about the world outside my window!

That my whole body, to my eyes, feels absolutely hurt by tiredness, and that going to receive the Eucharist today may restore me spiritually, but I am not looking forward to shepherding the girls through everything at Church, which always drains me physically. I am already snappish and a little sad, and in desperate need of grace.

Thanksgiving: For music, its therapeutic powers, its bringing people together, and just the amazing sounds it makes that can reduce me to tears!

Kitchen goings-on: Not a great deal. Due to various delivery issues over the Christmas season, we cancelled the veg-box, and any cooking I'm doing is more related to the fact we have started baby Rebecca on solids. Last night was frozen pizza, and no one is cooking today either as we are off on an outing with the first picnic of 2011. I didn't get around to baking a cake for the concert last night, and I have promised my 6 year old a stem ginger cake but I don't know when it will materialise.

Reading: Thoroughly enjoying re-reading the Beezus and Ramona books with my 6 year old. I loved these when I was young. My Bible reading plan for the evening has gone to pot, but I am writing an assignment on the Sermon on the Mount, so reading some interesting New Testament study books in my 'spare' time.

The TV is telling the girls a story. I know that life will improve once I decide I have to throw myself into the day rather than sitting at the laptop, but I'm not ready to take that plunge just yet.

Wearing: Pyjamas and robe and big comfy slippers.

Around the house: Now I have two girls in school, and only the baby at home, I'm getting a bit more on top of the house, or the laundry, at least. It's only just ticking over though, really, but that just had to be good enough. Baby still naps in the kitchen in her buggy during the daytime, so the 2 hrs I have free at that point is rarely spent doing noisy kitchen jobs :-)

A Favourite Thing: Singing. Rehearsals for last night's concert only started at the beginning of January, but the fact that we were doing excerpts from Les Miserables did it for me. My friend played Schindler's List on her violin, another sang The Way You Look Tonight, and these were enough to get me emotional! So happy to be able to return to performing when the baby is so small. I love to sing!

*with thanks to Peggy.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Blessed are the children

OK, no one is allowed to argue with this one - children are blessings.

I may not be as open to life as the Catholic bloggers I follow, but I think I've sussed out why I am much more at home spending time online learning about them, their families, their philosophies and their faith.

They see each child as a blessing.

I grew up in a household which I perceive lacked spirituality, and focused more on the lives of the two adults who established it, than any bigger picture. My parents were never concerned about having kids or not, but after I arrived, they knew they didn't want anymore. Children were tricky; they required a whole lot of attention, and if my mother had another, she thought my father would leave. (As it was, dealing with us both seemed to prove a trial for her, especially when our opinions clashed). Around the age of two, I was packed off on holiday with my grandparents and great aunt, so my Dad could recover from his vasectomy peacefully and in less pain.

I didn't enjoy being the only one. Dad didn't like the noisiness and messiness of children - still doesn't. My mother and I spent a lot of time together, but I feel she still treats me like the child I once was, and we have never psychologically moved out of the very small, nuclear family unit that we once were.

So this has perhaps coloured my viewpoint on children. Interestingly, I never gave much thought to having them myself until I met my husband. When it took us years to conceive, I suddenly became more desperate and tried to understand God's plan for us. I didn't desire a larger family; I just wanted a baby.

When a daughter arrived, I was delighted. But it was a steep learning curve. Life was now impossible to plan. Thankfully the gifts of patience, flexibility, humility and spontaneity were bestowed upon me. I learned to put my perfectionism and control issues aside.

And despite the difficulties, we desired to gift our firstborn with a sibling. Luckily this was part of God's plan, too. Daughter1 was just past 18 months when Daughter2 was born. Having them this bunched together was extremely hard work. But, I never doubted the joys. Yet, I never expected to have another.

Whether or not people condone the way we have undertaken family planning, I truly believe our children have been born according to God's plan. Daughter3 arrived last August, four years after her nearest sister. She is a treasure and our family is enriched - and exhausted - beyond bounds. We aren't categorically ruling out having more, even though our current work and domestic situation would logically exclude it.

I don't move in Catholic circles in real life, but I spend a lot of time with fellow Christian women, and several of my friends also have larger families - by which I mean at least three children. But what I am beginning to encounter from people who do not know me or my faith - together with a surprise that I have three children, or surprise that I was open to getting pregnant again in the first place, rather than having a 'happy accident' - is utter shock that I would consider still more children; that I see God's hand in the form my family has taken. And if we go on to discuss the subject, coupled with this is their shock that I consider every child a blessing, rather than sheer hard work and something to deal with, rather than someone to love.

It saddens me that I live in a culture which fetishizes babyhood (yup, a post in progress) but doesn't value children. That thinks larger families exist to live off the welfare state or to cause trouble. That thinks it is enough trouble providing for one, let alone more. That doesn't understand that I can't necessarily chat on the way to the playground because my two school-aged girls are trying to get a word in edgeways with me, and I want to talk with them!

I want to displace the shocked looks from people's faces when they realise that not everyone is fulfilled by living in a small family unit, and that the chaos and sheer messiness of family life can be embraced rather than controlled. I want to reach out to the mothers I know of three, four, and five children and tell them that I understand - it is hard work, but it brings huge joys. I know we are oscillating here in the UK between inherited attitudes that children are 'seen and not heard', and the desire to bestow every material, intellectual and emotional advantage on our children, as long as they develop to their potential. But I wish it weren't so shocking to people to admit to being open to having more children. Yes, it hurts, yes, they challenge us, yes, they don't allow us to do everything we think we should be doing. Yes, being a woman is more than being a wife and mother for many of us. Yes, parenting is a very tough job which needs hard work. But what gifts children are!

Some of us don't feel it is our calling to be mothers, and I'm not saying everyone should be a parent. But I feel it should be everyone's calling to delight in children, to appreciate the human race, especially when they are learning life lessons and beginning to grow, physically, emotionally, spiritually. When we are across the way in France and Spain, our children are treated as people, rather than nuisances. They are treated as special, unique human beings rather than noisy little things who just should shut up so the adults can talk in peace. In my indigenous environment, I don't seem to meet many people who see each child as a gift and a blessing, rather than something to stymie our own lifestyles, drain our resources, grey our hair and tire us out. So thank God for the websites and blogs that I read, that value children oh so much. On some days, they help me more than they would every realise.

Blessed are the children.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Small Successes Vol 5


Today I'm joining Danielle Bean and the host of other women who post their small successes at Faith and Family Live. Just having a moment where I've made time for myself to sit and write is an achievement these days. There always seem to be so many other things to do around the house - dishes, laundry, mopping, vacuuming, eating lunch, preparing baby food and milk, sleep! - that although my husband may ask why don't I do all of the above before I get to writing, if I didn't give myself permission to sit and write in the midst of a little chaos, I would never write and all and, quite possibly, explode! So my first success today is:


I am giving myself the opportunity to take a lunch break, fix a healthy sandwich, have some quiet time while the baby naps, and take some time out from the world. This may be reading Mommy blogs, a fiction book, the Bible, looking up a new recipe, or practising my singing, but generally it is something to emotionally and spiritually enrich me, so I can be a more renewed person when it's time to interact with my family. (Well, that's the plan!)


Yes, you heard right, I said practising my singing! I made it back to singing rehearsal - 2 hours per week on a school night, which is a big deal - and you cannot conceive of the joy I experienced. OK, so we are not doing church or even other classical numbers this concert, but coming together as a choir to sing excerpts from Les Miserables has been wonderful for me this month. Coupled with the fact that the group performs to fundraise for charity, makes me realise how much I have missed this.


Not sure of a third way I feel awesome this week amongst the post-pregnancy hormones - so I will celebrate the fact that I am raising three wilful, loud and hungry girls that I am managing to feed, clothe, bathe, read to and put to bed regularly. Alleluia!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Wordy Wednesday

Posted - just because I can. After two weeks of Christmas holidays, I can sit with a cup of tea while the baby sleeps because now I have TWO big girls at school! My little baby bunch (aged 4.5 yrs and 6 yrs) are now in consecutive school years and will see each other in the playground and lunch hall. (Hopefully they will treat each other more nicely than they do @ home.)

Don't expect many more posts, though - it's only today, because I'm all over the place, that I'm allowing myself the luxury of this moment, in a house which is still extremely Christmassy, in need of a good vacuum, mop, bed linen change, reorganise, tidy, purge, declutter, send everything to the charity shop or jumble sale (OK, this may be an extreme reaction to #2 daughter starting school, but this home is in need of a good sort out)....

...anyway the baby is about to wake :-)

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Let there be light!

Some days, like today, my understanding of scripture comes together. Most days, of course, my connection to scripture isn't there at all! My aim to read the entire Bible in a thematic way has been frequently interrupted by life events and small children in recent months, but I enjoy picking up the book when I get up in the morning. Still, it's the New Year and something different was on the cards. I have signed up for a new reading plan, that I can follow on Facebook, and access on the Bible Gateway website on my Blackberry wherever, whenever, and in the dark of our room where the baby sleeps if necessary - and it's already paying off and helping me further connect the dots.

I mainly forget to write stuff like this down, which is ridiculous, because it's so helpful in daily life, my theology studies, and in creating new conversational opportunities in a ten-year marriage ;-) I rarely blog the Biblical (especially not the Old Testament.) But as today is Epiphany Sunday, and I had my own epiphany of sorts about that star that the Magi followed, I'm shooting from the hip.

Genesis 1 tells us - God let there be light; he created light and dark. And as someone pointed out to me today, this was before the sun and the moon came about. We're not talking ordinary light here. We're talking goodness, glory, everything that is wondrous, glowing, illuminated, sparkling and joyous. Everything that counters evil. (Yes, he made the darkness too, which I have issues with, but there was light, a theme which resonates throughout the entire Bible.)

And resonate today it did. I managed to escape to an 8am Holy Communion service by myself. It was still pretty dark outside. And inside the church was wondrous. Not just the way it looked, the way it felt. The Advent wreath beautifully lit. Reflective light on the stained glass windows. The peace light from Bethlehem is still there. A small congregation, a spoken service, thoughts of the wise following that star.

The first reading - Isaiah 60. And there was that light again. (I'm quoting directly from Bible Gateway):

1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.
7 All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you,
the rams of Nebaioth will serve you;
they will be accepted as offerings on my altar,
and I will adorn my glorious temple.

Right back then, they were waiting for a prophet. Waiting for those guys on camels to come bearing gold and frankincense. Waiting for that light. The light that is also foretold in the protoevangelium (the first gospel), of Genesis. The light which is to be found in Bethlehem, as Micah 5 tells us:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clansb]">[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

I'm just a Bible geek, but I love it when things come together. It enhances my understanding of Christianity, and joins up the prophets, the beginning, and the New Testament.

It's a New Year, and I'd really like to see more light. More peace in the world. More tolerance and understanding. More healing of the broken. More fulfilling of the needy. Continuing, spreading, strengthening that light. That's what I am praying for today.