Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Chocolate Teapot Tales, Part One: "The Croasdale Girl Hold"

Shortly after 4thSister was born (and before I was slain by my second bout of postnatal anxiety-meets-depression), I hit upon the idea of writing a book for my girls. I never intended publishing it, even as an e-book - I just wanted them to be able to have a reference manual on babyhood and childhood that both gave them the opportunity to see what worked for me as a mother, and gave a sneak peek at them when they were little. (It would work whether I had departed this earth or not, you see.) I fully intended to title it Chocolate Teapot, though, because sometimes (mostly?!) that's what unsolicited advice is as good as. And then in the wee hours I heard the universe (maybe even God) speaking to me. I don't need to let the project I abandoned languish because it didn't take form as a book. I can post short excerpts on the blog and collate them later for the littles. And it may even benefit other parents. And so it begins!

Welcome to Part One of the Chocolate Teapot Tales - 

The 4Sisters Hold

As I hope to write about in some sort of general introduction one day, before I was a parent, I read a slew of books, magazine and internet advice about how to deal with a newborn. Some of it worked; most of it didn't.

Occasionally I would come across this type of gem - "but remember! a mother knows best. trust your instinct!" and think - this may be true, but what if I don't have instinct? And I know that my grandparents parented differently from my parents. And subsequent generations turned things on their heads. And when it came to things such as feeding, it turned out I didn't have instinct, and needed help.

So what I would say instead is - YOU NEED TO FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY. I will likely to say this in every post in the series. But it has got me through every time (even though I didn't have the confidence to practice it much with 1stSister, or even 2ndSister, but got more used to doing it as they kept coming.) And this is illustrated best with THE 4SISTERS HOLD.

By the time I got to 4thSister, I remembered from 3rdSister that this would work to placate a grizzly baby. Lest it sound too much like a football tackle, let me just say that over the years I found a perfect way that suited my babies to be soothed from the newborn stage. As a new mother, I had no idea that even once fed, babies may not be settled. Even if you are going to use a soother, they may not find it soothing. Even once they are happy with their nappy, they might fuss. And that whole thing about them falling asleep when they are tired - not in my book! Especially after a C-section, swaddling and snuggling your baby is a marathon in itself (although I will post on the swaddling controversy soon.) And imagine what this is like in a hospital ward when your milk hasn't come in, the midwives frown upon the soother you snuggled in yet your sweet girl is crying and can't settle! So - onto technique for THE 4SISTERS HOLD.

Quite simply, this revolves around placing baby near your beating heart. After all, this pulsing sound is something she* experienced in the uterus, and the shock of being away from it not to mention being born itself has been quite a deal for her, obviously. Sometimes just patting my babies gently on the back, in a pulse rhythm, when they were on their side in their cot helped soothe them. But the best way was, with me sitting or standing up, a vertical hold to my front left breastbone, baby's front lying against my chest, baby's head almost peeping over my shoulder, secured by the back of their legs, and using my right hand to gently pat baby. (Yes, sometimes this worked for getting wind up, too!)

Hold your baby at your chest. Allow her legs to rest naturally on either side of her body with her knees bent comfortably. If your baby tries to stand you may need to gently guide her legs to either side of her body.
Illustration of this type of hold
by a OneLoveBabyCarriers model 

This was especially useful for the first couple of days in hospital when I wasn't mobile due to a caesarean, and I could just yank the little 'un out of her cot and hoist her up onto my chest.

But I also have fond memories of my MotherInLaw volunteering to 'walk around with the baby a bit', where she would carry my children in a similar way. Which not only shows that this is a method with history, but that doing it with mobile probably helps, too. It also demonstrates why front slings work well, too (although I will post on the extreme lack of success I had with slings too)! People still tend to think that holding a baby in folded arms is helpful, but I wonder whether this is more to do with the rocking/jiggling motion that arms can make. (I also practised this, especially when a child was desperate to sleep, but it didn't always work the magic. Overtired babies of mine would hate the lying down position.) Again, another MotherInLaw tip - ask the mother of the baby you have been asked to hold, how the baby likes to be held.

I suspect that this hold works best when the midwife-encouraged 'skin on skin' contact occurs - i.e. when both you and baby are chest naked. Google 'shoulder hold' 'snuggle hold', 'cuddle hold', 'chest on chest' or 'tummy on tummy' and you'll find others recommend this type of hold for other reasons too. (Before I started this post I knew I didn't invent this type of hold, but neither did I know it had so many names!) I do remember this promoting bonding and being a lovely and wonderful experience. But again, not necessarily possible if you are in hospital. Or dashing around looking after several other children.

FabDad with 3rdSister, August 2010
Similarly, it will work for fathers, skin on skin
or otherwise, as will the pacing around the floor trying to settle the baby in the wee hours while mum gets an hour or two of sleep. Your older children can try it too (with supervision if you feel it is necessary). Just make sure baby isn't hungry or she may start 'rooting' for the nearest nipple as source of food...

Speaking of which, I'll insert a disclaimer here to say that I don't advise falling asleep yourself with your baby like this. I've done it and lived to tell the tale, but health professionals in 2015 don't advocate falling asleep holding your baby, let alone in a hold like this one. I've been told this in the hospital and baby was returned to her cot by a midwife only to refuse to settle and keep everyone awake. But current advice is not to do this and although co-sleeping isn't advocated by midwives and health visitors either, if you are going to do this anyway there are health service guidelines published on the subject.

Similarly, although as I remember baby tends to do this anyway, some online information on this 'Snuggle Hold' method advises that you ensure baby's head is turned slightly to the side so that they can breathe, so perhaps I should mention it too!

Regrettably I don't have any photographs of me holding my littles like this, possibly because I used it at times when I was trying to comfort them at naptime. I do remember that my learning curve on this evolved, because I had no clue what I was doing with 1stSister who, in retrospect, was incredibly tactile but probably didn't benefit much from this hold because I thought that every time she cried she needed breastfeeding, so soothed her that way initially. And it wasn't until 4thSister that I knew what I was doing - well, with this one hold at least!

For other early 21st century advice on holding a baby, try these links: - promotes the Snuggle Hold but also includes other ways like the cradle hold - a video demonstration

There is also plenty of information out there on how carrying a baby like this or this way in a sling is proven to be better than laying them flat or putting them in a stroller. I'll explore this further when I blog about our attempts with a sling. Just like the advice that promotes the snuggle hold, though, please make sure you don't worry if what someone else says is best doesn't work for you. You and baby will find your own way. And always remember - some advice is as much use as a chocolate teapot!

*I will no doubt use the pronoun she a lot, because I have four girls. Please note this isn't some eway to disappear the male sex from the lexicon. It's just the way I'm going to write.

Friday, 25 September 2015

7 Quick Takes: The Not about the Pope Edition


I'm loving all the Pope coverage from my favourite Catholic bloggers. But I'm here in the UK and, trying to get myself well post-op and with a chest infection, it's all about the food with me. Starting with, HOW GRATEFUL WAS I that our curate visited to pray with me and administer home communion?! (OK so while this is a religious take I can't keep completely quiet about the Papal Visit - I am absolutely stoked that Pope Francis drew attention to one of my heroines, Dorothy Day, and served food to the homeless instead of dining out with the political bigwigs.)

Hopefully with enough vinegar...

Amongst foodies and the world in general there seems to be a pickling craze going on. Even when I was pregnant I wasn't that bothered about pickles, although I do love gherkins on burgers. (The ones you get at our local Thai restaurant are to die for, too.)  But I found myself spontaneously making a jar of brightly coloured beetroot in red wine vinegar. Why, you ask? Let me replay the following dinner conversation.

FabDad: Yeah, that beetroot doesn't have enough vinegar on for my taste.
Me: ENOUGH vinegar?
FabDad: Yeah, I like it more vinegary than that.
ME: Well, the beetroot didn't have ANY vinegar on, because it was deliberately served fresh, like a side vegetable dish, not out of a pickle jar.
FabDad: Oh, that's why I didn't like it. Can you make it with vinegar next time?

(Aren't I a great wife sometimes ? Because next time - the picture is the proof - I did!)


Funnily enough, I have been escaping overt dinnertime criticism lately because we're trying to get our family meals in order following my enforced bedrest. I returned to find the girls seemingly feral and unable to keep quiet when I was trying to talk or listen to another person. (My husband says they were always like that, I just forgot.) Now, to enable us to enjoy our food and time together, we allow them to go to their room once they have finished eating and put their plate in the dishwasher, and said "thank you for making my (lovely/delicious) dinner"! I am also cultivating an attitude of gratitude by suggesting when my husband should say "This is a lovely/delicious/mouthwatering dinner you have made, here, wife" when he doesn't do it spontaneously or makes a comment about the lack of vinegar in beetroot.


The first recipe I want to rave about is Deliciously Ella's Gluten, Dairy and Sugar Porridge. Honestly, I generally find porridge quite yucky, unfilling and tasteless, but she soaks the oats in boiling water and then heats them through with added almond milk and serves with berries. Obviously I found it tasted better having the berries separately and pouring a little maple syrup on my porridge, but for those of you who don't want to have sugar in any form, stick with the berries!


And then, having tardily just cottoned on to the zeitgeisty food bloggers who write for UK Vogue, I made Hemsley & Hemsley's Ginger & Miso Broth which I am convinced has wondrous healing powers for body and brain! SO tasty and uplifting, especially on an Autumnal UK day.

Bad photo of lush broth
Random photo of raw ginger root


The basic chicken stock (or bone broth as they call it) that I used for that soup and will henceforth be using in ALL soups I make from scratch sat on the stove all day and all night before my husband remembered to turn it off, but still didn't reach the requisite 12 hours simmering. Nevertheless, cooking the leftover chicken carcass and neck for such a long time resulted in a beautiful broth with definite mineral and calcium content. Hemsley and Hemsley say this is also good for the complexion and cellulite so I will let you know if any transformations occur!


And finally, tying in with the piece I wrote yesterday about not needing to be perfect because, you know, JESUS - yes, I did cook an organic roast chicken this week. Go me! Then I made bone broth out of the carcass. I served chicken with carrots batons, celery sticks, olives, tomatoes, red peppers, beetroot (ahem!) and a green salad, along with oven-baked french fries. But yesterday - I made a chicken pasta bake using a jar of bought sauce, for ease and quickness. Tonight, it's processed curry with white rice and two types of naan. And the other night I ate, almost in its entirety (and it would have been the whole of it if two other people hadn't made me give them some) one of these:

Image result for terry's chocolate orange
It's not Terry's, it's mine!

Join Kelly and all the other bloggers who have stuff to tell us about the Pope rather than what they ate this week at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Keeping up with the world's standards

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made - 
Luke's Gospel, Chapter 10, Verse 40.

The BBC drew my attention to the following article today - a Netmums (yes Netmums, not the controversial Mumsnet!) piece on how breaking one's back aspiring for parenting perfection is making life difficult for many parents out there.

Coupled with the fact that the Mary/Martha post I read this week wasn't much about the Mary & Martha story from the gospels like I hoped it would be (although it did contain lots of beautiful American craft for the home), my poor dear brain started thinking about parenting in terms of Mary, Martha and Jesus.

In case this is all too holy for you, the REAL start of this was my husband and I trying to decide which child is going to get a bath next and when in this house. We decided it has to be the stinkiest with the muckiest nether regions. Granted, we are in a post-operative lull (I now have a throat and chest infection, despite coming on leaps and bounds without a gallbladder) and one parent is doing mostly everything. But it wasn't that long back that I had a bath schedule whereby each child took a slot - Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Friday or Wednesday and Saturday. (Extra points if you realised that the schedule was inspired by 1980s UK TV programming. I still think of them in my head as the Blue Peter, Grange Hill, or Young Person's Drama slots.) We were moving on from survival mode. What happened to that?!?!

And actually, I don't really mind. (I minded even less when I was whacked out on morphine, of course.) We have four kids now and although the regularity of bathtime, bedsheet changing, shoe cleaning, haircutting and nail clipping isn't as regular as most people's seems to be, I've made my peace with it.


Mainly with us, this is because of priorities. Every 6 months I make sure they go to the dentist for their check up. They have an annual appointment at the opticians. They have to do swimming lessons until they can swim lengths. They eat three reasonably well-balanced meals a day containing a reasonable balance of protein, fruit and veg and carbs and I like to produce home-baked and home-cooked food as much as possible. They clean their teeth before bed. My priorities.

Let's add in school's priorities. 20 minutes reading per evening, preferably supervised. Mathletics every week. Other homework. Clean uniform and PE kit. Coat or hat. Water bottles. School trip form and money. Charity donation. 'Fun' day fancy dress costume. Something for the bake sale. An entry for the colouring competition. A response to an assembly challenge. Class problems. Friend problems.


Oh, wait, there's more!

As (and we, like others I know, do this prayerfully, so as not to burn out our children and their joy) we do encourage our children to practise their talents and get exercise. Whether or not this should be 4 dance lessons a week for 2ndSister, plus a musical theatre class, a regular swim and visit to a park or an outdoor walk, it is, we made that decision. Did I mention, too, that because I enjoy hanging out with my husband, there is special time with him to schedule in, ringfence and enjoy?

And because I do listen to Jesus' requirements from me in my life, over and above general parenting, there are also my other priorities, of course. The church worship. The theological discussion. Sitting down to eat as a family. Thanking God for our food. Taking part in church council. Delivering young people's ministry. Trying out some preaching. Thinking about which desserts to make for our Chuch Harvest Supper.

Has your head exploded yet? Mine does, regularly. But we are a family with four children and we are doing our best. And my best is good enough. It's rarely as good enough as anyone else's 'middling'. It's often as good as most people's 'scraping the barrel'. But it's enough. Because there's a lot to do without striving to be perfect at it and add in extra stuff too (cough, Pinterest, cough.)

It clearly remains, however, a constant process of trying to catch up, always doing or thinking, in a 21st Century world. Despite my huge, unwavering faith, it's always easy to be distracted away from Jesus.

But I still don't think I'm really a Martha.

I believe the reason Martha couldn't sit down and listen at Jesus' feet because she wanted all the domestic stuff to be the best it could possibly be before she could rest in him. She couldn't let go. Not even for one afternoon. Because Mary wasn't helping, Martha played the martyr. She did over and above what was expected of her - domestically, at least.

Martha to me comes across as an ideal comparison to the harassed, must-do-it-all parent. Surrounded by the ideal of what things should be like, much of our humanness is Martha-esque. We strive for perfection. We compare ourselves to others. We stress that we are not good enough. We try and guilt trip others for not doing things our way. We take over when they don't do it our way, or don't do it all, whether because we think they are incompetent or because they are prioritising other things over what we perceive to be the most important thing in the world right now! But we aren't getting any respite. And we are slowly killing ourselves doing it.

Not that I'm suggesting we adopt a permanent Martha-state, dropping the domestic duties at every opportunity. (My other half would argue that's how I operate in general, I'm sure.) But in amongst the chaos of the workind and parenting week, when was the last time you took the chance to do any of the following?

  • gaze for a long time at a sunset
  • say YES to something unscheduled even though it means more mess/hassle in the household
  • engage in silly play with your spouse or child
  • bake a cake just because
  • draw something that's only good enough
  • go ahead with a craft idea that's not Pinterest worthy but is from the heart
  • take a walk in nature even though cakes for the PTA meeting won't get made
  • realise the Christmas cards won't get written this year, and that's OK
  • let the table get set wonky because your kid did it, without correcting her
  • realise that your spouse is resting because he needs to, not because he is lazy.

I really do think we need more Mary-ness in our lives.

And also, I mentioned that a lot of things that don't get done in our house seem to get done a lot more often at other people's. And this may generally be the case, whether it's due to perfectionist tendencies, a smaller family, or simply being better than I am in the domestic and parenting arena. But often, it's about perception. Possibly my favourite blog EVER, My Child I Love You, is a visual and narrative love letter by a mother to her family. I find it inspiring. The way that woman does so many things so well! It's an inspiration - but it's not a competition. It's an example - but it doesn't sit in judgement. I have never found myself drawn to compare our families, our parenting, the way we write, make dinner, do morning baths, get our children's hair combed and beautifully parted and make sure we exercise (OK there's maybe a little aspiration in there from me!). I just let myself be humbly and quietly guided by her, knowing that, as the food blogger Deliciously Ella wrote so eloquently this week, what we see on the internet doesn't tell the whole story of someone's life. Because do you know - there's no point me worrying that I can't keep up with the Kardashians, when it breaks my heart that someone I know out there is made to feel she's not good enough, because she doesn't do things as well as I do! I won't even mention the many things she does that I can't even contemplate trying to imagine I could do (ahem, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity on a regular basis.)

And Jesus doesn't do this. He doesn't make us feel that we are inadequate in our earthly tasks. When He asks us to serve him, He simply tells us to put Him first. We don't need to measure our achievements on a perfectionist scale. We don't need to compare our results to others. Yes, there are certain things that have to be done, but we can fool ourselves as to the importance of others. Are we regularly resting in Him? Does our prayer life feed what we do? Are we as spiritually full as we can be? Or are we being distracted by the incredibly demanding duties of parenting to the extent that become like Martha?

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” - Luke's Gospel, Chapter 10, Verses 41-2.

If you are struggling to be Mary-like in this season of your life, you may find inspiration in the following resources:

Lindsay's blog at My Child I Love You
Advice on finding your inner child and playing more with your offspring
The Happiness Project
Ann's blog at A Holy Experience
The Jennifer Fulwiler Life Pyramid

The book 'Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World'
The hilarious and heartfelt Five Kids is a Lot of Kids
(and maybe even the reminder I wrote to myself about how to Kickstart One's Prayer Life).

Friday, 18 September 2015

Seven Quick Takes: the Post-Op, Bedrest Edition


I had my gallbladder removed last week and in the subsequent days not being able to do much physically or mentally I had the opportunity to explore to the full what to do when boredom hits. Feeling redundant having withdrawn from my domestic and ministerial roles temporarily, I had no choice but to patiently wait until things returned to the new normal. And yes, I have the opportunity to move on from this stage, but I think the things I learned may apply to a longer period out of action.


The thing I am mostly thankful for is the radio. In the UK we are privilege to be able to access political, historical, arts and faith programmes via BBC Radio 4 but as I understand it there is a lot of talk radio around that can help pull a person out of a post-Netflix quagmire. Not that there aren't documentaries on Netflix, but I found looking at a TV screen helped maintain my jellified brain, whatever the programming. Quality radio engages the brain and helps you feel included in a community and/or society even when you can't get out of bed.


Food! I blogged about part of this yesterday, because just thinking about preparing food enlivens me even though it can be disheartening not to be able to leap up and fix a snack myself. But I realised early on in my recovery that I needed to shove as many nutrients in my body as possible to raise it out of its post-op lethargy. And I wasn't afraid to task my husband with this, rather waiting for him to feed me when he was hungry. Chopped apple and raisins took me back to preschool days. There was a fruit salad. My evening meals were a thousand times better than hospital food, prepared with love and brought up on a tray by one or two family members. I even ate banana, which I don't enjoy much, because someone prepared me a banana snack. And it helped my recovery.


Prayer. On the one hand, this is a no-brainer, but on the other hand I have found it difficult to concentrate mentally and spiritually. Spending time in contemplative prayer or even following a short service in a book eluded me. Luckily I have the Northumbria Community's CD (check out their new prayer books!) on my iPhone and praying offices regularly during the day, however short, re-established some routine to both regular and prayer life. And can I just say that lying here, thinking of all the people I know, individually, in my family, congregation and wider community, asking God to hold them in his care at this time, was a darn sight easier than when I have my other commitments to attend to!


People. I shared news of my operation with quite a few people, which is a step up for me, used to keeping it private. And while I was sat here, fatigued, unable to deal with visitors but feeling isolated and lonely, it was a pleasure to receive cards, flowers and other messages from people who cared. Despite my tiredness, I could still text or message on Facebook. I didn't feel completely alone.

Playdoh fun


The Domestic Arena. Prior to my operation, I was organised. I rearranged the girls' wardrobes and walked my husband through where the clean clothes lived for each child. I reminded him of the laundry schedule (including bedsheets and towels) and planned dinners and ingredients for the first week, and then the next two weeks once I felt a little better. I mentioned things like playdoh craft as a good activity they hadn't done  for a while. I even drew up a plan of what the girls needed in their packed lunches as what is a relatively straightforward task can actually rely on a lot of variables! By the time I was able to, I could listen to music practice and encourage homework. I couldn't do much, but I did what I could to ensure things went smoothly.


Finally, I consciously and unconsciously practised an attitude of gratitude. It is easy to always want more and different when you are lying there incapable. At times I needed socks on, wanted my laptop and couldn't make it out of bed for fresh water. But I had to be patient and tolerant and lower my expectations as I knew my husband had 4 children, a house and a business to look after at the same time. I'm sure I was at least a little snappish but I tried to show how thankful I was for the small things. My other half has been a complete hero and attended to so many of my needs. Which means I am going to put up with extremely overgrown leg hair for the moment as I think asking him to shave them would be just a step too far!

Join Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for more Quick Takes to find out more about the lives, Catholic and otherwise, that inspire me to blog, parent, learn and live life well.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The body as a temple?

As I sit here recovering from having my gallbladder removed, I'm reminded of the duty I have to myself and my family to keep the body I was blessed with in the best condition I can. Which isn't easy because:

1) my parents were steeped in post-war dietary habits when I was young including bread and beef dripping, fried bacon with white bread smeared in lard from the frying pan, deep fried chipped potatoes and egg cooked in the same pan (did I mention had to have my gallbladder out?!)

Pure beef fat! Once used to fill hungry tummies as a last resort.

2) I like chocolate. And cheese. Especially cheese. Exploring a low fat diet over the past decade has not been simple. I lack willpower even when I know foods are harmful.

3) I am limited by the exercise I can do. I would love to go on long hikes but I don't have time, I can no longer swim comfortably due to pelvic problems, it's a hassle to get to the early morning aerobic class I can attend (see note above on willpower)

4) I'm human!

Nevertheless, I feel I owe it to my family, the congregation I minister to, the hospital I volunteer in and most of all myself to do my best on this one, keep moving as much as possible and eat (and drink!) healthily so that nothing is in the way of me doing my work here on this earth. A lot of it is about honouring God but I feel I owe it to myself too, to be kind to my body, to expose it to good nutrients (as well as a small amount of indulgence because I want to fully experience life). And luckily there are other people around to help me do that.

Although I don't need to be gluten or dairy free I'm inspired by people like Amelia Freer and Deliciously Ella who help me pack protein, vitamins and minerals in my body and make it tasty too - breakfast pots with chia seeds, oats, yogurt and fruit are like a dessert in taste and so brilliant. Jamie Oliver's new book is on my Christmas list too; he is currently on a crusade for us to consume less refined sugar, which I find helps with not only my energy levels and my temperament!

Grab your copy of Everyday Super Food
Inspiring stuff

I have always found that feeding other people feeds me; I love the creative process of entertaining, in particular. Being able to see others enjoy wonderful food is a special gift. Hospitality is crucial for creating a space where people can comfortably develop relationships, learn new things and feel that they have had a blessing bestowed on them. Attending a church course where we were fed bread and soup illustrated mission in action so simply and effectively to me. Reading about the Thistle Stop Cafe in the Church Times this week reminded me how I important I think this type of behaviour is. There is plenty of other writing on this - I think in particular of my copy of Shauna Niequist's "Bread and Wine".

To go off on a tangent, it strikes me in the 21st century that although some people simply need a generic type of physical - as well as spiritual - sustenance, because they are hungry, we might need to practice food inclusivity for coeliacs, vegans, vegetarians, diabetics and others who need specific types of feeding. I remember reading that we may pat ourselves on the back for using fruit as a prop in children's ministry rather than candy, but this does not help if we have a diabetic kid in our midst. It's about meeting people where they are, in a way, showing them we care, and teaches us patience when it can seem difficult or that certain diets are awkward. St John's Church in Carrington, Nottingham has introduced gluten-free Holy Communion where it is necessary. I hope to bake a gluten-free apple or rhubarb crumble for our Harvest Supper - just in case! Ooh, how about a maple syrup and oat crumble - getting excited now! I miss being able to plan and make beautiful, tasty food which is also healthful:

Chia pots topped with peach, honey and vanilla
compote and sprinkled with seeds.
It's not long since my general anaesthetic and subsequent morphine haze so this post is all over the place, but I think my message is this - serving food feeds the stomach, the mind, and the soul. I strive to do this and hope I can encourage others to do so, whether they are culinary whizzes or not. And if cooking for large numbers in a home or faith setting feels intimidating, you only need something like Sarah Stancliffe's 'The Christian Aid Book of Simple Feasts: Cooking for a Crowd Through the Christian Year.'

Harvest Supper, here I come :-)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Seven Quick Takes: The Still Catching Up edition!

Except this week we are at Christy's blog because Kelly is busy sending out lots of messages asking us to look at her sexay photos (she said her site was hacked, or something) travelling!


I realise, woefully, that in my last Quick Takes I was so out of the loop that I didn't even use the current, competition-winning Quick Takes logo which is certainly not that new. At least I realised we are at Christy's this week. Hi, Christy!


I am also - spoiler alert - trying to get past the fact that I have only just learned the real understanding of the Biblical use of the phrase 'apple of my eye'. This phrase crops up in Shakespeare, and much earlier, but its use in the Bible is to translate a Hebrew phrase. Which doesn't so much mean apple, but "aperture at the centre of the eye", or pupil - so, to God, we are like the tiny reflected self we see in someone's pupil. I think. Except in Zechariah, where it means something else. Who knew? Obviously I'm relying on Wikipedia for my info, but when I conduct deep theological research, who knows, we may have a HIGHLY FASCINATING BLOG POST or even a sermon on our hands!


Yes, you read that correctly, SERMON. (You did read the previous take, didn't you?) I have now preached two sermons at my beloved home church as part of testing my vocation to ordained ministry in the Church of England. The last one was on the devil, despite sensible people trying to dissuade me from the topic, the one before that, I can't even remember, but I hope someone in the congregation does, vaguely, in the back of their mind. Again, there is much more about me testing my vocation to tell....too much to report here.


4thSister. Not yet able to sit still on trains or planes.

I also realised I completely forgot to publish my post about how all caught up I was in a post-survival mode, and now we've had 6 weeks off for the summer and I'm all running about frustrated and overwhemed again. I am still celebrating that my 2 year old no longer pulls at my dress and screams for "Wheels on Bus!". My dress still gets pulled though.


Weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of many of us in the UK is the plight of refugees trying to escape diabolical circumstances. One of our newspapers, The Independent, posted the image of a young, dead, Syrian boy washed up on the seashore, and people have been shocked by this photo. I heard on late-night radio last night that the people who live in the area where the boy drowned are past being shocked, as this type of death is not an unusual occurrence for refugees trying to flee. A bit of a serious take this one, but please just pray about it if you would.


Nowhere near as important but nevertheless causing me consternation is the fact that the new school shoes we bought for 1stSister, who is still ten, did not fit, and they were the same size as mine (UK size 5 - which is average for a female, miniscule if you are a Jennifer Fulwiler), So now her feet are LARGER than mine, as well as being so narrow the customer service team on the shoe website I use told me it's a physical impossibility that her feet measure that long and that narrow.


Toothbrushes, I know you're in there!

To be fair, it's possible I didn't measure correctly, as there are many mistakes I carelessly make as I try to remain organised. I try not to get too fazed by them. Even when 3 electric toothbrushes get abandoned in our French holiday home. In this current back-to-school madness, I find myself frequently apologising for infractions and trying to bear the weight of all the things I have to do. Sometimes, like today, when saying Celtic Daily Prayer, a snippet of scripture with which I'm unfamiliar leaps out at me. So if, like me, it's a minor set of struggles or one of epic proportions, just remember, as 2 Timothy 2 reminded me today, that you don't need to worry about the boss having everything sorted out, because He's the big boss of everything, so neither do you need to worry about you yourself having everything sorted.

Next Steps

I'm not going to post trite metaphors here, but I read the Very Hungry Caterpillar enough times still to perceive this as a butterfly moment.

And not to devalue the vocation of motherhood and marriage, either....

But I feel like I'm currently flying after a very long crawl...a very long haul!

It wasn't long ago I was posting about how I still felt in survival mode with a toddler. I couldn't get anything done, even regular housework. There felt like no way forward, even though I had committed to going through the process to have my vocation to ordained ministry tested,  which took a lot of time and energy.

But somehow, in amongst ensuring I spent special time with all of the girls, especially 4thSister, and carved out rest time and work time and husband time, and no one suffered too badly....

I made it through!

I made it through the first stage of ordination testing, and after a new round of church hopping, which I aim to blog about, I'm on to the final interview.

I made it through life with a toddler holding onto my leg while I made hot dinners.

I turned around and suddenly this girl, in all likelihood the last girl, the last child, was in a big girl bed, and toilet trained, and I was passing the baby stuff on at last.

And it wasn't as bittersweet as I imagined.

I think whatever was ahead, it would feel like a new phase. Whatever came next would be me building up the kingdom, I would hope. It just happens, we think, for me, to be ordained ministry.

As the four sisters play together these school holidays, sometimes four, sometimes two, three in different combinations, I get this wonderful sibling thing, and embrace it. I sometimes wish there were more but it feels right that there are four, and I can go on mothering without feeling like I'm in the trenches forever. I'm forty, so I've pretty much accepted that this is the bend in the road; I hope if there were other plans, I'd be happy with those, too.

I feel that in the newborn times, and in the two-under-two times, and the how-can-I-cope times, I never saw this day coming, and it's quite a surprise. The girls have high-maintenance emotional needs (they are girls!!! and this) although they are very independent in practical terms. I have a little freedom to try a new rice salad recipe or read a book - or blog, even!

I'm not here to gloat, of course. It makes me realise that we do all survive young children, though, and I don't think I will ever forget the struggles, and I hope to NEVER tell anyone "enjoy while you're able/you're tired/you're at the end of your tether as this soon shall pass".