Friday, 26 October 2012

7 Quick Takes Odds and Ends

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)


It's been a bit of a surreal week so far. On Monday 3rdSister (aged 2) informed me that she had a 'little ball stuck up my nose.' I believed her, initially, but my cautious exploration made me think my fingernail was scraping on an inside bone of her nose (shudder), so I put it down to a snot bubble and shipped her off  to Gran's while I did my antenatal pool workout. Later on, when I was changing her nappy beneath a direct light, I found she was telling the truth after all - I managed to help her push out a small circular bead, thankfully with a hole through the centre, and got on with making dinner. On the one hand, I just put this down as one of those normal, everyday things a mother has to do; but on the other, I thank God for being on this and ensuring it didn't get any worse!


The reason she'd found the bead in the first place was because, now I've got my 16-weeks-pregnant mojo going on, we had a bit of a house-sorting weekend and the sofas in the lounge were re-arranged, thus revealing an assorted array of toys, tissues, tiny playthings and dust. We also extracted ALL of the toys that were in there for a big sort, so in my kitchen I am trying to box up dolls/doll clothes/cot, lego/wooden blocks, books in a bag, and so on. The lounge, however, is completely empty, and I find it weird. "You like mess, " my husband said. "No, I like a lived-in look, " I replied. "Mess," he reiterated.

 Mess (not even our house, either, and we made it messy.)


Since I wrote Take 1 above, coincidentally, a friend of 3rdSister's from church and Pram Service had to be taken to the Accident and Emergency department after lodging a kernel of SWEETCORN up her nose. Unlike my bead extraction, this required surgical implements and a lot of screaming at nurses. (The little girl's mum is a nurse. Uh-oh.) TOLD you it's a weird week.


During this second trimester I've been having seriously odd dreams. I know it's TMI, but some of them are emanating from some deeply-buried warped erotic subconscious. At the weekend, for example, Justin Bieber was begging me to sleep with him (and although I may enjoy his tunes, any other type of attraction to him just makes me go ewww!!) in real life. This isn't the weird thing, though (all the best pregnancy websites assure me these types of dreams are completely normal.) The weird thing is that I tweeted about the weird dream, and not long afterwards someone posted back that Justin Bieber was visiting my city soon and wanted to make a film with us both in it! (I can only guess what sort of film it would be based on my odd dream.) And then, mysteriously, the tweet disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived. Obviously, a case of silly spam and an efficient spam-removal service. But it made me feel like I was living in a parallel universe for a couple of hours, in which I imagined I was going to be walking the red carpet with The Bieber.


I'm frustrated today - a longtime friend who kept trying to make plans to visit when I was ill in my first trimester, cancelled on us today. In a way it's a relief not to be hosting, but I've spent the week focusing on some small details for the visit - ensuring fresh soup was delivered, a cake baked yesterday, and baking little cakes at 7.30am this morning. I even listened to the breadmaker kneading dough at 3.30am! I'm still planning to mop the floor though (after we've eaten lots of cake as a second breakfast), so at least domestically things are looking up, even if I feel exhausted because of an event that never happened!

Cake for breakfast


Another odd thing - I've recently realised how good 1stSister has become at lying. Not evil, bad lying, but lying nonetheless. She's been writing 'thank yous' from her eighth birthday. In fact she designed templates on the computer, which she then filled in with the gift that had received, and then wrote a little bit about it. About a book she had been gifted but wasn't bothered about (we're talking an 8 year old who's tackling Lord of the Rings, here), she wrote "I read it all the time!" and about a jewellry crafting kit which kind of fell apart when she tried to use it, she wrote "I've made lots of lovely things!" I find this a bit surreal - one the one hand, she's imitating socialised, adult behaviour, but on the other - they are complete untruths!


Finally - someone more superstitious than I would put the weird week down to the impending doom of Halloween. But we don't really 'do' Halloween in our family anymore, not even in a Fulwiler way (see pictures below which include FirstSister dressed as a ghost in a towel). Here in the UK, churches seem to be a lot more anti-Halloween, and I am an official church minister after all these days, and our church is throwing a 'Light Party' to celebrate all the good stuff in the world/Jesus, instead of trick or treating for charity, or something. To me, this misses the point a little bit, although we've attended previous Light Parties. I agree to an extent with Dan Lord's piece on why it's good to confront our evils in a fun-filled way. As a  social anthropologist, I'm convinced that mocking the nastiness in the world is a great way of helping confront it. But UK Halloween stuff seems to take elements of what happens in the USA and just render it a bit lame, really. Almost ALL of the costumes are based around witches, ghosts, skeletons etc - no happy pumpkins or glorious fancy dress. People moan about children wandering around the dark streets unaccompanied frightening the elderly. Most kids tend to make little effort - I remember one year a teenager in a black binliner growling 'trick or treat' and seeming offended by the sweets which we gave (I think most kids expect money). FirstSister gets to go to a Pumpkin Party at Brownies, mind you, and I've compromised by focusing on holy dead people (we're reading the wonderful Lion Book of Saints this month and next) and having a saint party with party food with bright colours, and a saint's treasure hunt that copies Kate Wicker's. Oops - I think this turned into a Halloween post! Have a good week everyone - and those of you in the USA, enjoy Halloween for us!

1stSister & 2ndSister Halloween 2007

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Things I never knew...

My 8 year old has a WordPress blog. And an app for it on her iPod. "Surely," my husband said, "there will be a Blogger app for your phone."
"But I won't use it, will I", said I.
Maybe I will, maybe I won't.
But here is last Sunday's lamb roast, before and after, that I snapped on my phone :-)

Friday, 19 October 2012

I haven't got TIME to have more kids!

I didn't even think about posting Quick Takes at Conversion Diary today - I have a head cold and am too throughly sluggish to post anything 'quick' and 'snappish'. Instead, we have rambling and wittering, I suspect....possibly ranting...

BUT ANYWAY - one of the things Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary did bring to my attention today, was their family suddenly seeming over-scheduled with activities. I've written briefly about this before, in the context of having larger families. But today I'm inspired, if that's the correct word, by a comment a fellow school mum made to me yesterday:

"I haven't got TIME to have more kids!"

Now, let me make it clear, she didn't mean time for you-know-what or pregnancy or maternity leave. She went on to list the activities in which her children participate as a reason for not being able to contemplate a larger family. And although they, boy and girl, take part in less activities than mine (and the Fulwilers), it seems like things like football can take over an entire weekend or more.

Chess in Pyjamas. Optional fight afterwards.

And I have to say, I agree with her. I feel that I don't have time to have more kids either. But, we're going ahead anyway, because we think it's a wonderful thing to do. Strangely enough, we didn't really take into the account that throwing more children into an existing set of activities is a difficulty we should avoid. Which is quite possibly crazy, since my (self-employed) husband currently does two short days in order to pick up and take to swimming class, rather than me dragging my pregnant still-nauseous self and a pre-schooler to the poolside. Rather, we are choosing to embrace the challenges another child is certain to bring, regardless of the impact on activities and other factors.

Having the Worst Pregnancy Sickness I've Ever Experienced threw things into perspective this summer, for one thing, particularly on the return to school. I mentioned to my friend (a mother of four children aged 12, 8, 4 and 1 whose activities seem to require particularly intense micro-management due to their spacing) that as long as my children are fed, get to bed on time and bathe semi-regularly I'm not going to fixate on the details. Things that were once seen as very important to us as parents, like a tall girl needing to do ballet to enhance her coordination, confidence and posture, or a 6 year old not being able to attend an after-school club this time around, now simply don't have the priority that, I suspect, families with one or two children focus on.

Yet we do already heavily over-schedule - three dance classes for 2ndSister (ballet, tap and modern theatre), piano lessons on what used to be our free night, swimming and Brownies for 1stSister on the same evening. Yes, the activities ebb and flow, and sometimes (gasp!) they even get skipped, but fitting them in with homework, dinner and bath night remains a juggling act sometimes. And although we don't find the cost prohibitive, that's only through blessed circumstance. The lure of extra-curricular activities, for parents and children alike, not only means that we may feel we have the time to have more kids, but that we couldn't afford to support them in a contemporary lifestyle either.

Brownie girl

I'm aware that there area huge amount of things that larger families can do as entertainment, education and exercise - we no longer get out to roam around in nature as often as I'd like, for example. But because it's the norm to do at least one or two activities outside of school in the week, or at the weekend - often juggled with two parents in paid employment - I wouldn't want my children to miss out entirely. What would devastate me, however, is if their existing commitments were a prohibitive factor on how much 'extra' (a NEW LIFE!) we could take on. To me, personally, there's nothing more important. Obviously, it is crucial to me that my children don't spend all their time as a family, or indeed with their class at school, and of value that they participate in structured exercise and music time. Yet however many children we have, we'd try to ensure a healthy mix. Sometimes, something's got to give. But for us, not the possibility of a new pregnancy.

Although my children learn life skills from their activities, I see their natures developing via the simple activities they participate in at home. Spontaneously reading storybooks to a pre-schooler; doing dishwasher duty as a team; sharing movie night; playing a game of chess that ends up in an argument. Knowing when time is needed for oneself; helping sisters with outfits and makeup; making each other laugh; celebrating each other's achievements with a round of applause. Family time is precious, whether you have one child or more - I would suggest it be ring-fenced and nurtured, allowed to breathe between rushing harum-scarum betwixt pillar and post. Allowing them to be, allowing them to be bored, allowing them to imagine and create. If you feel another child would throw a carefully managed schedule into tailspin, does that mean there is already a lack of breathing space?

3Sisters Playdough time

I know parents who spend lots of time trying to discern God's will for them regarding children in today's world. Sometimes, just trying to get through the day with one child can make us feel ill-equipped to cope and the thought of pregnancy, labour and a newborn cause us to panic and postpone. Oftimes I feel a little like the Mayor of Whoville, trying to deal with the needs of all the Sisters at once. We know that what is right for one family isn't right for another. But, not wanting to have more children because you already have a pressured extra-curricular schedule, is a sentiment that saddens me.

Can't something be tweaked, adjusted....can't we strive to live in a less busy, cluttered world in order to raise new life?

Friday, 12 October 2012

7 Quick Takes: the Light at the End of the Tunnel!


As fast as we go through suffering, God reveals Himself with all the amazing aspects of life to light up our world. I'm not saying he wasn't there while I was feeling all whingy and whiny and ill, of course - just that His ultimate goodness often shines through just at those times when we need a positive. Following the 1st Trimester, for example, you get the 2nd Trimester - and although I have pelvic problems and still feel dicey once I get to the afternoon, I am so, SO far improved on how I felt three weeks ago that I literally could jump for joy!


One of the best things has been being able to re-connect with people. I literally didn't feel up to seeing anyone outside family during the past two months, which can be isolating and depressing, and I was literally scared to get back to the school run and make small talk! But I've even had people over (even though I'm still not on top of the cleaning) - close, holy women friends who completely embrace my new pregnancy and are supporting me through it. I mixed up the day I told one friend to come over, but when I texted her to find out where she was, she dropped everything and came over anyway. Another came bearing baked goods from Marks and of the hugest gifts of kindness!


Speaking of food....I think getting back into homecooked meals has made me feels tons better, now I can do it without feeling ill. I've only baked banana loaf and done bread in the breadmaker, but roasting a chicken, simmering the sauce for meatballs, making everyone's favourite squash soup, the colour of sunshine....we've even had venison in red wine sauce....all the meaning my life as a homemaker generates is almost instantly restored, even if the mopping isn't done. This God-given gift I have of crafting a meal together, creating flavours and wanting to gather the family around the table even if there is squabbling, is AMAZING. Not having it for two months was a hard cross to bear, but of course - it makes me appreciate it all the more.


Which reminds me, I am continuing to pray daily for those women suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidum, or continued pregnancy sickness past 14 weeks, those who cannot get what they want to eat during pregnancy, and those who cannot get what they NEED to eat. Now I am emerging from my own pit of doom, I am focus my energies on prayer and completely offer up my small problems when there are those genuinely suffering. (Not that my suffering wasn't real, but it was all-encompassing, I felt so wretched and alone.) What a joy to give genuine gratitude with a thankful heart!!! (Reminder: order those copies of 1,000 Gifts for the two people you think need it.)


As well as receiving guests, I've been getting out. My friend's father passed away this summer, when I was too occupied with vomiting to even manage a phonecall - her family have since moved house, and I was able to deliver a lovely gift to their new abode and stay and chat for a while. Another friend was commissioned as a Lay Minister this past weekend, and the scripture on the gift I had for her apparently had huge significance and was just one further sign of God's brightness, grace and tenacity through life's difficulties.


Both the friends I am grateful for the opportunity to visit are singing this Saturday in our local Ensemble's fundraising concert on behalf of the Tommy's charity (I am desperately missed the singing and fellowship but will join them again!). I didn't know much about Tommy's until it became a cause close to the heart of another of the group's members, but now it's another cause I regularly pray about.  Believe it or not, 3Sisters in, my husband and I were both diagnosed with fertility issues when we first trying to conceive a child, and can understand just a fraction of what people who want to be parents but can't are going through, and my hearts go out to those who have lost children through stillbirth and miscarriage. Tommy's can provide hope and healing for women and couples in this situation - donate if you can!


The final light of joy I wanted to mention here is the "online community" that have buoyed me up during pregnancy, particularly the women whose blogs I regularly read which affirm marriage and family. I am unable to find the words to convey the enormity of my thanks to Sarah Reinhard, currently on book tour promoting A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy. As the first reviewers have said, finding a pregnancy book with a Christian focus on pregnancy, which also empathises with the very real feelings of difficulty and despair we can encounter during pregnancy, is a rare encounter. Just knowing that other people struggle like I do provided a beacon of hope and helped lift me out of my first trimester doldrums.

Join Jen @ Conversion Diary and many others for this week's Quick Takes!