Thursday, 24 December 2009


For years parents have always been encouraged to engage children with food.  Allow them to help prepare the food and they'll more likely eat it.  In most cases this is true, especially where cakes and biscuits are concerned.  With my children, the theory also tends to work with most main meals.

Today, the children helped prep the veg for dinner tomorrow.  They happily chopped carrots, topped and tailed French beans, peeled potatoes and parsnips, floretted the cauliflower and thoroughly enjoyed spending time together getting things ready.  

But, how come nobody in the world has mastered the art of convincing a child that the preparation of Brussels Sprouts will have them eating them willingly on Christmas Day?

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Life Without God

Imagine a moon without its shimmer.

A life without God is like a shimmerless moon.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Weekend Break

When your husband works in a hotel with a beautiful setting like this, you consider yourself extremely blessed that you can take advantage of the massive room reduction rate.

 Then you consider yourself doubly blessed because your very treasured friend offers to look after the children all weekend.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Unrequited Love

Joshua is approaching that tender age for boys.  The age where in front of his mates he's a real lad and girls are just starting to get a little bit interesting.  Not a lot, but a little.

He lost his first crush to another school.  The void in his little heart remaining vacant until 'The New Girl' arrived.  We'll call her Samantha.

'The New Girl' is American and Joshua's sweet on her.  So sweet that he confided in me he was going to ask her on a date.  But his timing had to be precise as she has been 'dating' another boy in the class.  We'll call him John.

John and Samantha have broken up at least six times now.  However, John has only managed to impress Samantha with a trip to McDonalds.  Joshua was going to go one better and suggest the movies, complete with popcorn and coke.  How could she resist?!

But it was with a heavy heart he came home and informed me that Samantha liked him - REALLY liked him, but was 'getting over her relationship break-up'.  So, Joshua's going to 'give her time' and then ask her again.

When you're ten years old, time is important and recovery takes 'time'.

So I presume he'll be asking her again on Friday then.  He needs to get in there quick before John gets in for a seventh attempt!!

Messing with my pictures

Why has blogger messed around with the picture settings?  I can't resize or reposition my pictures like I used to.

Big fat raspberry to Blogger for mucking around with it.

Strengthens my inner case for migrating the blog to my own website.  If only I knew how.....

Laugh along with Plass

I've tried three times to get into The Shack.  I gave up when God was based on Rusty Lee and the Holy Spirit was Willo the Wisp.  Sorely disappointed that a book so hammed up to be good was so wrong, wrong, wrong on many levels, which is a shame because the foreword is excellent.

So, I've returned to my favourite Christian author - the one and only Adrian Plass. 

At the moment I'm laughing my way through Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation.

When I've finished that, I'm going to re-read the two books that made me laugh until I cried. The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass and The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal.

At the moment I can't cope with anything heavy or intellectual.  My brain is on hiatus for a bit.

Chocolate miracles

I'm on form for Christmas this year.  Not only have I made the Christmas cakes, mincemeat for mince pies, bought some of the food, 99% of the children's presents, sorted out the Christmas cards for the school post-boxes for the children, made chocolate filled crackers for the tree but also the advent calendars for the children have been prepped and ready for over a month now.  Yeah!! Go me!

I'm particularly impressed with myself because usually each year I forget about the cloth pocketed advent calendars stored in the loft and usually end up in 'The store formerly known as Woolworths', buying some gaudy overpriced cardboard monstrosity with naff chocolates you wouldn't even feed to your dog.  This year I remembered the ones in the loft and bought M&S naff Christmas chocolates.  I don't have a dog, so the children are getting them instead.

The children are happy.

Eleanor's extremely happy.

So am I.

The arrival of her advent calendar has had a remarkably miraculous effect.  For the last two days instead of having to ask her at least six or seven times to do whatever it is she needs to do in the morning, like brush her hair, brush her teeth, get dressed for school, put lunch in bag, brush her hair, put lunch in bag, brush her teeth, get dressed, brush her hair......... she's been up, dressed, ready, brush in hand, breakfast eaten and stood waiting by her calendar.

The lure of one little chocolate has turned my daughter from the most disorganised child into a fine example of military readiness.

I'm enjoying it while it lasts because I know come New Year, it will all go pear-shaped and the stuck record of my monotonous repeated ramblings will be ringing in her ears again, Eleanor, get dressed, brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, brush your hair, brush your teeth, get dressed, pack your lunch.......

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Love in a box

Around this time each year I have a huge clear out of my children's bedrooms.  I go through old clothes to see if they still fit, put some in a charity bag, throw out broken toys and put battered books into the paper recycling.  Maddie's outgrown clothes go into Eleanor's side of the wardrobe, items Joshua hasn't worn out go in a box for Sam or get passed to friends.  DVDs and CDs they've matured from are given away and generally loads of clutter is binned.

I do it to create room for the new wave of presents that are coming next month. 

But, you see, a clean tidy room, that holds a lovely comfy bed with a soft warm pillow and cosy duvet upon which sit various cuddly toys and under which there are more toys, situated next to a set of drawers containing far more clothes than the need, makes me more than aware of just how rich my children are.

Not just in the material sense, but because of the great provision our God has given us as a family.  Andy and I are always panicking around this time of month whether our money will make it through to pay day and miraculously it does and miraculously we are constantly blessed with food, clothes and all the general trappings of having a pretty good life.  All because He loves us.

So this year, I wanted the children to appreciate just how much they have. 

After explaining to them that millions of children around the world wouldn't actually have a Christmas like them, I asked whether they wanted to do a shoebox.  I asked them how they would feel if on Christmas morning they only had a shoebox to open.  What would they want to find in there? What would make them really happy?  So, armed with the list of gift ideas suggested, the children were determined to put in items they knew a child their age would enjoy.  They didn't automatically choose rubbish or just chuck something in the basket because it was cheap.  They took time and care to select things.  Eleanor sniffed soaps to see which one smelt the nicest.  Maddie chose the cutest little beanie toys she could find.  Joshua made efforts to find a writing pad that wasn't girlie and a beanie toy that wasn't cute, but slightly boyish.  Samuel didn't come shopping but he did express an insistence that sweets should be included.

I'm proud of them.  Not once did they ask for anything for themselves and not once did they moan it wasn't fair that somebody else was getting something and not them. 

Our only sadness was that it was restricted to a shoebox.  But mulling this over I was struck with a thought.  Do you recall years ago your parents would put all the family photographs in a shoebox?  Their cherished and most precious memories all packed up in a little cardboard box.

And this is exactly the vessel that's been chosen to light up a child's life next month.

It's wonderful the love you can pack in a box.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


I work in a job where I deal with many different people throughout the day - usually by telephone as the staff I'm responsible for work overseas. It's a daily occurrence to ring my colleagues in India, to e-mail the office in Nairobi, send some money to the man in Sri Lanka and make sure the man in Iran orders his new uniform each winter. In Israel the staff are a mixture of Arab Christians, Muslims, modern men and the odd Bedouin. They're a varied group and we get along well. But dealing with them has so much complexity attached. In Israel we can only locally employ a Christian Arab on our administrative staff. If we employ a Jew, the Muslim staff will not be happy and they will not deal directly with them. In Jakarta if we employ Christians they are in danger. In India the managers speak and write fluent English, but some of the gardeners are illiterate. It's not unusual for us to send translated documents to them that have to be read out and to then receive their acknowledgement of receipt back in the form of a fingerprint.

In Northern India, a very tribal and at times hostile environment, the managers are much more in tune with modern thinking. To them I'm Karen. In the south the Regional Manager is quite westernised and to him I'm Karen too. To the other managers my salutations range from Respected Madam to Mrs Karen. Similarly, I respect their salutation preferences and they range from first name basis to being addressed as Mr ....x.... Again, in Northern India, tribal dominance is incredibly important. In the areas we operate the powerful Angami tribe are influential in all areas of business. Anyone employed in the region must belong to this tribe or one approved and on good relations with them, such as the Lotha tribe. All men who work there must have Naga citizenship. If we advertise outside their region such as Delhi, Kolkata, Madras or Kirkee, we must state they should have a Nagaland work permit - to omit this would be foolish and ignorant on our part. It is their culture and their heritage and we have to respect that.

In Japan our manager is learning English. It's a standing joke in the office that when he calls he addresses our colleague Hilary as 'Hairy'. But in our laughter we respect the fact that his English is far superior to our Japanese. Sometimes on the phone it's great to hear him and Hairy laughing over some of the items he's written on his accounts.

In Cannakale our manager is a French guy. We've never quite worked out why he applied to work there - but he's loving it. The staff have welcomed him with open arms and he's making welcome changes to the way they work. We have a Welshman in Israel overseeing Arabs, Christians and Muslims. Last year I retired our man in Singapore who returned to his native home in Malaysia.

In Nairobi, our office administrator has had to take days off work due to local riots along the main road she takes to the office. I ring her occasionally, just to see how she's doing. Sometimes, again due to language barrier we can spend quite a while sorting out accounts as we can't always understand each other. In Gaza we keep a special eye on our men out there when hostilities rise up. At times we've had to pay them salaries months in advance due to blocks on currencies imposed by the government. Last year we sighed sighs of relief when the bomb that landed in the cemetery didn't harm anyone. We marvelled at the humanity of their neighbouring colleagues in Israel who clubbed together to buy sweets for the children and supplies for their colleagues and arranged for the Defence Attaché to take stuff across the border for them as they knew times were hard. Their nations were at war - they weren't.

With my job I feel very privileged. I feel honoured to be able to participate in the lives of so many people across the world who experience different faiths, whose skins are all different colours, who speak various languages (some of them four or five even!) Some who can read and write, some who can't. Some who are single and some who have ten or more children. Some who live in relative luxury, others who report to us that their mud hut home has been washed away in the monsoon. We have staff who are young and fit and others who are getting elderly and not so fit.

In the office we have two men in wheelchairs. One who has never walked - one who has succumbed to the ravages of MS. They're not treated any differently. When the non-smoking ban was introduced, one of them had to wheel himself outside in the cold and rain just like his walking colleagues - he didn't expect to be treated any differently. But in this, we're still mindful that when the lift only has room for one more, he gets to go in it and us lazy lot have to take the stairs.

I remember a few years back at work going on a Diversity course and the woman running it had wild hair with streaks of purple running through it. Dressed like a warlock and really rather zany. Imagine somebody like that running a course encouraging everyone to accept each other and engage with one another when the directorship is made up of over 400 combined years of civil servitude that has generated from the origins of a military set up!

But I digress. On this course we discussed issues such as race, religion, gender, sexuality, tattoos, body piercing etc and we were shown a series of images. From these images we had to say whether we thought the person was nice, friendly, warm, hostile, criminal etc. Then the images were enlarged to show the whole picture. The one that stuck with me most was a picture of a fierce, huge bald man with tattoos all over him looking menacingly at the camera. To me he looked like a naked Hell's Angel. On panning the picture out he was cradling a newborn baby in his arms. How wrong was I?!

At church we're just entering a series on Diversity. I missed the first one but I'm looking forward to the rest. I'll be honest when I first heard what the series was - I sighed and thought, oh for goodness sake, it's rammed down our throats by the media, we're constantly told to be pc about this and that, I'm faced with thinking about it every day at work, the children have it stuffed in their faces about fairness, bullying, don't pack nuts in lunch items - I don't need five weeks of this.

But I do.

It's not right for me to be complacent about it just because I work in an environment where it's normal to deal with different people. I shouldn't look for a cosy escape outside the office. I worship in a church that has all manner of people and each one, created by God, LOVED by God and cherished by Him. Is it too much to ask that I stand in line with my black friends, take time to talk to the blind couple as they can't seek me out, to stand in front of my deaf friend so she can read my lips, to rejoice in the numerous multi-cultural marriages? I love it when my white English friend turns up to church wearing a Ghanian outfit, sharing the cultural dress of his wife. I adore seeing the little girl in church with Down's Syndrome eagerly tottering her way to creche along with all her other knee high friends, holding her Daddy's hand all the way. Then I feel bad that I haven't even bothered to find out her name.

It's fantastic. So I stand humbled now and a little ashamed that I had a grumble and I look forward to hearing more about how I can be open to change, to grow in my love for people different to me, to break down my barriers of ignorance and be a part of a united church just as Jesus intended it to be.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

School stuff

Maddie is learning about the Aztecs this half term. Last night she came home with the dreadful homework grid, but she was elated. On it was a task to make something with chocolate.

14 cook books later, Maddie found her recipe.
Chocolate terrine. I've never known a kid so keen to do homework.

Eleanor on the other hand, was elated for another reason. Today the children in her year are having a pyjama day. The idea of hauling herself out of bed and not bothering to get dressed was pure joy for her. But it wasn't until we'd packed her dressing gown and slippers, put on her coat and shoes and were heading out the door that she announced chuckling her little heart out that, 'Oh Mummy, I've forgotten my knickers - hope my jammy bottoms don't fall down!!'

A quick pack of the missing pants and we hot-tailed it to school breakfast club so she could change.

Joshua however, grunted when I asked what his topic was this term. 'Dunno, but my new teacher is nice'.

So, day one of the new half term is over.
How long till Christmas?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Pint sized devotions

I popped into Quench yesterday during my lunch break. I love it in there. Ever since it was taken over and the art shop at the front entrance was 'relocated', it is evident from the front window it's a Christian bookshop.

And so it should be evident. If John Lewis, Waitrose, Monsoon and all the other retail outlets can stick a huge great big sign above their door, why can't a Christian Bookshop? And changing the name from St. Andrew's Bookshop to Quench was a smart move too. More modern and 'with it'.

Anyway, I digress. My initial purpose was to buy myself my next round of study guides. Bought with a renewed vigor and intent to actually knuckle down and do them. Finding time for daily devotions is hard for me, I get distracted, side-tracked, bogged down with day to day life and before I know it, it's 11.00pm and I'm done in. Andy wants to study with me too, so my dilemma was then at a fork in the road - do I buy just one study for us to do together, or two, one for me to do solitary as it's MY time with God as well. I opted for the latter.

Then I felt the children needed something, so into the basket goes Discover and Jesus and Me. Thinking they could share copies I only bought one of each. I got home and there was moaning, so out today to buy more. I was tempted to photocopy them, but I was prodded with the copyright conscience.

I desperately want my children to get into the habit of reading their Bibles and enjoying them, but I know they also need me there to guide them. With working, having the house to run, meals to cook ......... and homework assignments to assist with, I'm getting stretched thinner and thinner and I fear my elastic band is about to break. But this is important, so please pray for me that I find the time and patience to sit with them and help them with this.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Random Thoughts

Just wondering.

1. Why do mothers always suck their child's dummy when it's dropped on the floor, stick it back in the child's mouth and then go home and sterilise the bottles?

2. If you live in Poland you're a Pole, so if you live in Holland, why aren't you a Hole?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Baking Days

When you're stuck at work, totally bogged under with accounts, feeling a bit cheesed off at having to work a few long days during half term, it's nice to get pictures e-mailed of what the children have been doing.

Today, they're home with Andy. It's not often he gets a day alone with them, so time together, having fun, is the order of the day.

Fun today = baking.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Forgotten Summer Photos

I remembered today that I said a while back I'd post pictures of our family holiday. We went to Weymouth for a week with our very special friends Michelle, Katie, Ben and Michaela.

We took numerous photos, but this is just a selection of the ones we took at the beach.

This was on Carnival Day. A beach front spectacle, starting with the plane and wing-walker.

Crabbing, which we'd never done before, but the children loved doing. Each little crab had his own name but was lovingly returned to the sea.

The air-sea rescue demonstration.

My beautiful daughter, Madeleine.

My other beautiful daughter, Eleanor. The day was just too much for her and she actually fell asleep like this. I had just enough time to take the photo before she toppled sideways!

Joshua digging a hole to bury himself in. The temptation at times just to give him a little shove.....!!

No visit to the beach is complete without ice-cream.

Sisters in the sand.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Channel Divide - Day 4

The chocolate theme carried on last night for Maddie, but this time with Andy. Hot chocolate fudge sauce cake with lashings of fresh cream, and for Eleanor a big chocolate muffin.

Yesterday the girls finally admitted to missing Joshua with Eleanor declaring she'd give him a big hug when he got back and Maddie echoing the sentiment. His last full day in France was yesterday and as I write, he'll have probably just arrived back in England after what looks to have been an absolutely fantastic trip. I know he'll be worn out, tired and hungry, but full of information about his time away. I can't wait for him to get back.

Here's yesterday's events.

Thursday 15th October 10.45pm

Today started off with a visit to Dieppe where we were immersed in the French language, identifying French shop signs, before going to a Creperie where we had to order, eat and pay for a delicious crepe (all in French of course!!)

We then had a quick lunch stop back at the Chateau before heading off to the Neufchatel cheese farm. We all learnt about the cheese making process (all in French!!) before having the opportunity to taste some freshly made cheese and buy some to bring home (let's hope that the coach doesn't smell too much on the way home!)

Our first evening activity was either fencing or the climbing wall which everyone enjoyed a lot.
Now onto dinner......yes, Thursday night is snails and frogs legs night! Needless to say, there was plenty left over after the tasting! We then had a main course of pasta bolognaise followed by a cheese plate and chocolate eclairs.

After dinner it was time to party on down at the disco! There were lots of impressive moves on the dance floor (which we have photographic evidence of!) and also some not quite impressive moves (again, photographic evidence available....!!)

We are going to miss the Chateau (and France!) when we leave tomorrow but we are also looking forward to coming home to see everyone.

We will be catching a slightly later Eurostar train tomorrow (to give us a bit longer at the market in the morning) and we estimate that we will arrive back at *********** at approximately 4pm.

See you tomorrow!! Au revoir!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Underwater Tricks

It wasn't until this morning that I realised Eleanor had no idea of the distance between us and Joshua at the moment as she posed this.

'Mummy, Joshua went to France on a train that goes under the sea. Did he hold his breath?'

I couldn't do anything else but hug her!

The Channel Divide - Day 3

Wednesday night was declared 'Hot Chocolate' night. I didn't realise until a friend pointed out to me that this week was Chocolate Week. Had I known that I'd have started this all on Monday and got maximum mileage out of the celebration!

So, supplies were gathered in for the ultimate hot chocolate sensation. Squirty cream, mini marshmallows, hundreds and thousands, chocolate chips and toffee sauce. This was going to be goooood!!!

Pour in the hot chocolate, load on the toppings, be careful not to let it topple!

A quick lick of the lips, wring of the hands and we're ready to dive in!


Meanwhile, across the Channel, Joshua had also been busy.....

Wednesday 14th October 8.50pm

Today we went to Rouen which involved lots of walking but also lots of exciting sightseeing! We explored and learnt about the Notre Dame Cathedral (not the Paris one!!), learnt the story of Joan of Arc and saw where she had been burnt at the stake, ate lunch in the park and went shopping!

When we got back to the Chateau, we had some free time. Some of us played football and made some French friends whilst others had some chill out time in the dorms (well maybe not quite so chilled out....!). Then it was time for our group activities which were either archery or climbing wall.

Food tonight was mixed cold vegetables to start followed by fish and rice. We then had a cheese plate and an apple pastry for dessert. Evening activity tonight is team tech which involves lots of thinking (oh dear!!!!!!).

We think the late nights and long days may be beginning to catch up with us, however we are determined to carry on having lots of fun and new adventures!!

The Channel Divide - Day 2

Eagerly logging on Tuesday night to find out what Joshua had been up to I was pleased to see the teachers had taken time out of their really busy day to update us Mums and Dads on what the children had been doing. Sounds like they're having a great time.
At this point I wasn't missing him too much. I knew he'd arrived safely and I knew he was having fun with his friends. I could relax.
Having one less at home does afford the opportunity to spend a little more time with the other children. This week, Maddie and I have declared that each evening we should have a girlie treat, of the chocolate variety, before she goes to bed.

Tonight was chocolate fondue night. I usually avoid doing this kind of messy stuff before bed, but with the cunning use of a tealight, metal pie dish and a peg, we mustered up our own mini-fondue and tucked into melted chocolate, maderia cake cubes, marshmallows and apple chunks.

We're going to introduce Joshua to this when he's back - he'd love it. And whilst we were enjoying this little luxury here's what he got up to on day 2.

Tuesday 13th October 9pm

Another busy day in France! Breakfast was at 7.45 this morning after what turned out to be a late night with 28 excited children deciding that they didn't actually want to go to sleep (quote 'we stopped talking at 3.20am....!!). We have had a great day out visiting the WW1 underground tunnels at Arras followed by walking through the German and Allied trenches at Vimy Ridge. We then went to a very impressive memorial monument, also at Vimy Ridge.

When we arrived back at the Chateau we headed straight down to the beach with some frisbees, giant jenga, a basketball and a rugby ball. These were surplus to requirements though as the children just wanted to build stone trenches!! At least they have been inspired!

Dinner tonight was carrot salad for starters followed by pork meatloaf and beans. Dessert was a cheese plate and yoghurt and after all of that we even managed to save some room for Will's birthday cake!

The final activity for today is either archery or fencing. Hopefully bedtime tonight will be earlier than last night as we have a full day out tomorrow exploring Rouen!

The Channel Divide - Day 1

Joshua's in France this week and I'm missing him. But the pangs of separation are being dampered by the fact the teachers are putting a daily update on the school web page to keep parents informed of the day to day activities the children are undertaking. It will be great to see the pictures he has taken to accompany the round up of each day's events. I last saw him 8.30am Monday morning. By evening this is what he'd done.

Monday 12th October 9.30pm

We are here!! As you can probably tell from the delay in updating this page, we have had a very busy start to our trip! The journey went well with lots of excitement whilst travelling through the tunnel and even more excitement when we realised we had reached France (quote 'I love France now' and 'I can even smell France!')

We had a great stop off at Nausicaa Sea Centre, touching stingrays, seeing the sharks close up, watching the penguins being fed and laughing at the sealions playing!

The journey on to the Chateau seemed very long (quote 'are we there yet' and 'how long until we get there' over and over and over and over......!!)

We finally arrived at the Chateau at about 6.30pm and after the initial excitment of seeing the dorms and playing some field games it was dinner time. On the menu tonight was cheese pie for starter, sausage with cabbage and potato for the main course followed by yoghurt and fruit for dessert.

The final end to the day has been mini olympics in the sports hall.

Everyone is very tired but still excited and looking forward to what tomorrow may bring!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Long Weekend

Joshua has probably spent the longest weekend of his life these past two days. Because when you're 10 years old and going to France for a week with your schoolfriends, Monday morning can't come quick enough.

He's usually pretty good at playing it cool, but this one was too much for him to contain. Armed with the kit list on Saturday afternoon, the hints of packing prep were coming. Just checking certain shirts were in the drawer, sorting out an empty backpack to take for the day trips, trip to the shops for a new pair of trainers, making sure no washing was due to be done so the all important trendy stuff was clean and ready. Check, check, check.

By 5pm the desire to pack was getting too much. Could Dad just get the suitcase down now? Assured the suitcase would come down in good time, excitement then turned to attitude with huffy puffy blows of 'fine', grunting up from somewhere inside his body. The chimpanzee arms swinging by his side and the hunch of his back as the realisation that still at least another day was in waiting before departure.

By 7pm we relented. A very excited boy busy packing his case, checking off his list and counting his Euros.

Then the tummy problems started. 'Mummmm, I've got stomach ache'. 'It's because you're excited, it's perfectly normal, don't worry'. 'I'm NOT excited, babies get excited'. 'You're 10, going abroad for the first time with all your friends, trust me Joshua, you ARE excited and it's OK to be'. 'Oh, alright then.'

Saturday night, skulking off to bed - far too wound up to sleep. How on earth was I going to get him through two nights?! Sunday morning unable to contain himself, the decision to abandon rugby training was taken as his mind would not be on the game. The last thing I needed was the air ambulance arriving due to his lack of concentration, making him the 3rd player to be escorted off the field like this. Taking no chances, he asked to come to church with us instead - big result - YAY for that!!

Lunchtime - not hungry. Not excited apparently, just 'not hungry'. What to do with him in the afternoon? I know, we'll all go swimming - that will take his mind off it. Dinner time - FINALLY, he eats.

Bedtime - surprisingly he settled quite early. But three trips to the bathroom last night, an early wake, fully dressed and not interested in breakfast, shoes on by 7.30am, we set off with case in tow, wallet stuffed with various coins and notes, EHIC card ready, rice milk in a bag and off to school.

28 very excited 10 and 11 year olds departed at 8.30 this morning. It's a great bunch of kids going and he's going to have the time of his life. I'll see just how much when he gets back and develops the three disposable cameras he's taken.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Moving On Up

Joshua's tour of possible secondary school choices ended last night and finally he's made his selection and order of preference. Now all I have to do is fill in the forms and send them off.

It's been interesting watching him throughout his deliberations. Seeing him form opinions before he's even seen some schools, reasoning that certain schools are worth a visit for this reason, why this school seems good for that reason and why some schools are just a plain no-go in the first place.

Having been encouraged by his form teacher to sit the local grammar school exam, Joshua's first reaction was to completely balk at the idea and protest because everybody would think he was a geek if he went there. Until that is, he found out that three other boys in his year group at school were also being persuaded by their parents to sit the exam. All these boys being non-geeks in Joshua's opinion.

So, the visit to the school was arranged, with Joshua moaning fervently in the back of the car that the children would all be Tefal headed, goofy teethed mad professor types with middle partings and how his future as a normal kid was doomed. He wanted a school where he could hang out with his friends, come home on his bike and do just enough homework to get some good grades at GCSE. He has no intention of university because apparently nowhere offers a BA Chef's degree!

But the view was to be quashed when moving around the school he met and spoke to schoolmasters and current pupils who explained things to him, who engaged him in conversation, invited him to take part in experiments and went through puzzles with him. His utter joy at seeing the football posts relegated to the side of the field to see the older boys playing the only game worthy of a ball - his beloved rugby!

His assessment at the end - school choice number one - both because the criteria for entering grammar school is based on it being first choice on the council application and because, 'Actually, it looks really good Mum, and they don't all walk around with jam jar glasses holding their fingers in the air shouting Eureka!'

School choice number two has turned out to be the local catchment comprehensive. I am not qualified to comment as his father viewed this one with him, but having heard back from both of them that it is indeed pretty impressive, with an outstanding Ofsted, I have to back down from my original opinion of it being a cattle market due to the sheer volume of pupils on the roll. It has a proven record - I can't argue with that.

Number three is another local comprehensive that specialises in Computing and Maths, one which Joshua spent a maths day at earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed.

It's difficult knowing whether the choices we make for him are right. But I hang my head in shame knowing that his deliberations at the age of 10 were far more mature than mine at that age. I had a choice of the local comprehensive mixed school or the single sex one nearby. My sole reason for going to the mixed was because I didn't like the fact the headteacher at the girls school was so strict and the uniforms were ugly.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

When One Evening Poses a Lifestyle Dilemma

I have long battled with the ethics of Halloween and whether I should allow my children to partake in parties, dressing up and going house to house Trick or Treating. Primarily my Christian beliefs err me on the side of denying them this experience as it is clear that any dabbling with the occult in any form is forbidden by God. I get that. But my children aren't going out to curse the neighbour who doesn't give them a Curly Wurly.

I spoke briefly to my older two children last night and asked what they understood from Halloween. Their instant response was that it was a way to get lots of sweets and it was fun to dress up and knock on doors in the dark. They see it as a simple fun night out. I see no reason to go into the history of witches, wizards and demons and frighten the life out of them and subject them to knowledge of that 'festival', that is unnecessary for them to be aware of at the moment. It can be argued that children are to be taught the Bible in its entirety and I completely agree, but age appropriate. Just as I don't deem it suitable for my children to learn about the intracacies of witchcraft, neither do I deem it appropriate for them to learn about Soddom and Gomorrah. At the moment.

I've mentioned to other Christians that I've allowed my children to Trick or Treat and some have fallen silent on me and others have pulled their breath in through their teeth. Some have offered ideas on how they deal with Halloween and others have simply said they don't see the harm in one evening of fun. So reaction and guidance has been mixed. Some Christian parents think it's wrong, others tend to let the evening go by with minimum fuss.

So, my thoughts are further extended when I pursue my line of thinking into what I consider to be the bigger picture. As a Christian if I refuse my children permission to Trick or Treat, should I then extend the ban to all Harry Potter movies? Or maybe Star Wars is dodgy because of the portrayal of good verses evil? James Bond movies - a man licensed to kill, who shoots without remorse and beds a few women - not very Christian is it? Should my children be told that although CS Lewis was a Christian man and wrote symbollic novels, the fact he characterises a witch in them deems the TV adaptations unsuitable to watch. Should my children read The Screwtape Letters with portrayals of conversation from the Devil? Or is it OK, because CS Lewis was a Christian, so therefore exempt from the blanket ban?

Do I admit to my younger children the truth about Father Christmas? Do I reveal to them that it is wrong to lie about a fictional character they never see? After all, they've never physically seen Jesus or God, so will they believe His existence to be as transparent as that of Santa? Of course, there are no similiarities, but take away reason, logic and education and see it through the eyes of a child, where do you draw the line about what you tell your children? Should I reveal the truth about the tooth fairy, or is she OK to exist as a lie because she's harmless?

As a parent and an adult I have a responsbility to direct my children towards a Christian life. To mould them and encourage them to live a life that Jesus taught them to live. I have been given charge of their lives to direct them as close to Christ as I can for them to come to Him when the calling is theirs. I have a major impact in the formation of their thinking and opinons, but there are some areas I am not content to force opinons on them, when I feel reaction is blown out of all proportion. The simple act of dressing up for one night to increase the sweetie stash is not going to result in my children putting a ouija board on their Christmas list or requesting a seance at their next sleepover.

What I'm trying to say here is that as a parent I have to weigh up the pros and cons of every activity my children partake in, be it Halloween, watching a movie, reading books, opening presents labelled from Santa, putting teeth under their pillow etc. As their mother I have to consider whether I am constant in my role to them and whether I am picking and choosing the parts that suit me best, because the connotation behind the deception in some cases is deemed as harmless. So, I have to ask myself that if I ban Trick or Treating, then how far do I extend the coverage of limiting the essence of their childhood?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

What's In A Name?

I remember with each of my pregnancies thinking long and hard about the names I wanted to give my children. Andy and I had our reasons for certain names and reasons against them. Some names would lend themselves to be shortened to something that didn't flow right with the surname, or perhaps the initials turned out to be a rather unsuitable acronym.

Andy's one insistence was that the children did not share their initials as this would make the issue of post later in life very confusing. If letters were address to people with the same initials, who opened it first?

My insistence was that my children did not have names that reminded me negatively of people. So when choosing names I instantly dismissed some suggestions as the name would be associated with somebody I perhaps went to school with who was unpleasant, or was the name of a particularly difficult person I'd worked with in the past. I couldn't name my child the same as somebody that irked me. Family names were also ruled out as I'm not a fan of naming children after aunts or uncles or the like.

We also wanted names that could be shortened without sounding ridiculous and also names that were classic and ageless. No Britney's or Brad's for us.

So, I was rather astonished this morning when I mentioned to Sam that we were spending part of our day off tomorrow meeting an ex-work colleague for coffee. He asked me what her name as and when informed her name was Sue, he said, 'I like Sue, she's nice'. Sam's met Sue a couple of times in the office, but I know for sure he has no recollection of her, so I asked him what it was he liked about Sue. Instantly, without even thinking about it, he replied, 'When I go for coffee and a biscuit with Granddad, there is a Sue in the coffee shop and she's really nice. So, all Sues in coffee shops are nice. That's how I know'.

Already, at the age of four, he is associating names with his own memories and formed opinions of people. It's amazing to see the little idiosyncracies he is already displaying at such a young age and to see him using them to determine whether or not he is happy with a situation that is about to arise, or whether he is comfortable about meeting somebody.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Crazy Vet

Eleanor had a day home from school yesterday. Feeling very lethargic and unwell she managed to convince me that a day at home to rest and a recover was in order. I get days like that too. Not ill or unwell, but just drained and out of energy and in need of a day of nothing. I understood where she was coming from. She was hard to wake, tearful and lacking motivation to do anything, whereas usually she's up and bustling around, eager to get to school and see her friends.

But as soon as she's down, she's up again. Within 3 hours of being home, around lunchtime, she mustered up enough energy to eat her numberetti (spaghetti hoops made with numbers - I'm moving on from hoops as I deem numbers more fun). But not only was numberetti cheering Eleanor up, it turned out to be a great cure for Monkey.

Monkey is Sam's cuddly toy bought from Monkey World on holiday this year. I enquired as to why Monkey was on the table covered in toilet roll, only to discover that Eleanor was his vet and Sam, the very concerned owner, had brought him to her for an operation. Further investigations led to finding out that Monkey had suffered a very severe heart attack earlier that day and only had two hours to live. But no matter how critical Monkey's condition was, he was well enough to hold on to the last portion of his life, while vet and owner stopped for numberetti.

Toilet paper turned out to be bandages. At this point I'm trying so hard to stifle the laughter and show genuine concern for Monkey's plight only to nearly bust a gut holding in my giggles when the answer to my question, 'Why does Monkey have a hairband round his mouth?', was met with the very dry tutted response from Eleanor of, 'It will stop him screaming when I put the injection in'.

Monkey's op was successful. He went to bed last night with a headache. It think that's the least of his worries.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Down to Earth

I had this published in our staff magazine at work last year and thought I'd share....

Down To Earth

I often wonder as a child of the 1970s, whether I was born in the wrong decade as I increasingly find myself envying various aspects of the 1940s and 1950s way of life. Whilst I wouldn’t go anywhere near wishing I was able to demonstrate my aptitude at obtaining all the attributes of the perfect woman of that era I do feel a sympathetic leaning towards the more self-sufficient way of life they embraced.

But I fear that woman’s quest for perpetual emancipation and continual celebration of the sacrifice of our suffragette sisters has left me feeling a bit of an odd one out in this day of materialistic pleasure and ‘ready to go’ society.

You see, I simply enjoy ‘the old ways’ and trying to fit them in symbiotically with modern life … well, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was nigh on impossible.

But…. I’ve found it isn’t. I’ve found I can perform the juggling act of a full time job, having children and a home to look after and whilst doing this the modern way, I can still fit in the ‘grandmotherly’ skills, both for my own enjoyment and also to the benefit of my family.

My latest quest in this search for finding the Earth Mother in me and the bid to temporarily escape from the fast track of consumerism is the renting of my allotment plot. If you’d have asked me five years ago if I would consider such an idea I’d have laughed behind my pre-packed, styrofoamed, ripe’n’ready, perfectly rounded EU peaches. No! no! no! Why go to all that bother? Digging, weeding, sweating and spending time with doddery old pensioners when I can get it all at Sainsbury’s on a Friday night! No mud, no creepy crawlies, no constant fight against disease and blight – just perfect vegetables and fruit, off the shelf, whenever ‘I, The Consumer’ demand it.

But now, ‘I, The Consumer’ feel uncomfortable with that way of thinking. With an ever increasing demand on the planet’s resources, the need to recycle, reuse and minimise waste, I find myself becoming more and more ‘green’, as the months go by. ‘I, The Consumer’ who didn’t relish the thought of plodding in the mud actually enjoy donning my wellies and digging up the weeds. ‘I, The Consumer’, who thought allotments were social clubs for pensioners, thoroughly enjoy chatting to 83 year old Tony on plot 52 and middle-aged Emma on plot 50, as well as the mother of the boy in my daughter’s class at school and the other two families with children the same age as my own.

And the pure joy and achievement at pulling up a lettuce, knowing I beat the slugs to it, watching the leeks thicken at the stem as they stand like soldiers on parade, smelling the waft of onions from the ground as I hoe between the rows and seeing the flowers on the potatoes before they wither and ready themselves for harvest…. well, give me that feeling over queuing at Sainsbury’s on a Friday night, anytime.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Magic Porridge Pot of Questions

AKA - Sam.

We've been travelling in to my home town by train for a little while now as we're down to one car. I dreaded the inconvenience of having to leave the house an hour early to drop the girls at school club, trek onto the station, get two trains and then trek to work, but it's actually been a really fun time for me.

I get to spend a little time with Sam in the mornings this way and we talk more than we did when I drove in. Or rather he talks and I listen. Or rather he asks a million questions and I end up having to find quick fire satisfactory answers before the next inquisition comes.

Today's offering included (in the space of just 20 minutes).

1. There are two train tracks, so why can't the inside tracks of both of them hold a third train?
2. What are the pebbles for on the track?
3. How do you know what direction the tracks are going?
4. Are these people on the train your friends?
5. Why aren't we going to London?
6. Can trains fly?
7. If the train crashes, does a police train come up the other track with lights and sirens?

If you're ever in need of a good conversation, you can be sure Sam will provide plenty of topic material. If only I could jump inside that little head - just for a day.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Whirlwind of Summer

I must admit to opening up this site a few times over the Summer Holidays, only to close it down again as I've had no desire to post.

I've got masses of pictures of days on the beach, birthdays, crafts etc that the children have taken part in, but at the end of an exhausting day out with them, or an exhausting day in, the desire to post left me.

I felt a little guilty at one point for neglecting my site, but then that guilt turned to satisfaction as I realised that my time was spent with my children doing the fun stuff.

So, over the next few days I will post about what we got up to and load in some pictures. It will be a nice way for me to recap the six weeks the children have been home and to remind myself what a great little bunch of people I share my life with and the fun we can have together.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A Little Snark At Some Mothers

I'm in a snarky mood today. It doesn't happen often, but it's happening today.

My reason? Mainly because I'm fed up with my children constantly bickering with each other and thoughtless mothers and they're mindless comments.

However, as much as my children argue and bicker, I wish I had more time with them. It's not easy being a working mother having to rely on family to look after them during school holidays because I'm not a teacher with 13 weeks leave per year.

So, I'm also particularly annoyed at the constant stream of mothers banging on about how much of the holidays are left before they can shove their children back to school and I'm fed up with hearing how much they've had enough of having them around their homes clogging up their days.

Wake up ladies!! It's called Motherhood. You are in the very group of people who constantly criticise mothers like me who work and berate us for leaving our children throughout the day and opinionise about how we're not bringing our children up properly, leaving it to others etc. etc., but give you guys six weeks with your children home from school and you can't wait to pack them off again!!

So, next time you sit and criticise the mother rushing off in the morning from school run, or who turns up at 3.30pm in her suit looking stressed because she's had to fight traffic to get there, don't cast her a sneery glance and belittle her mothering abilities, just remember the holidays when you couldn't wait to get rid of your children. Your wish to rid yourself of them is by choice, my reason to be without them is for necessity.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Plight of the 'Gifted' Child

I'm a Facebook addict. I love the site and spend a fair amount of time chatting to friends, sorting out socials and generally just catching up with the lives of the friends I don't get to see often.

I resist joining groups on it though as most of them are totally pointless. But I have been skating on the rim of one for a few months now. Wondering whether to join or not. Primarily because I think the person who joined it has a bit of a beef about the fact his child has not been identified as 'Gifted' or 'Talented'.

I have a personality weakness. I'm opinionated. I've learned over the past few months to think long and hard before commenting on things. So, I've thought long and hard about responding to this group and today I felt it was right to post my views.

I don't know your thoughts on the whole 'Gifted and Talented' child phenomena that is sweeping modern education. I have a child on it. I'm proud of him. But equally if he wasn't on it, I wouldn't be too bothered and I doubt he would be either. He knows he's on it and never mentions it. I think therefore, it is more a problem for the parents. I'd be interested to know whether my views are relevant or whether I've missed the point. Do let me know. Feedback is always good.

So, here it is.

I think it's a shame that this group has been set up at all. As parents we should be encouraging our children and those of our friends and family to do the very best they can with the abilities they hold. It's not our job to criticise parents because they strive to achieve the best for their child.

In the UK parents do not succeed in getting their children put on the gifted and talented registers at school. It is a requirement of participating schools to select the top 5% achieving pupils within a certain area and to notify parents of that fact.

My son was selected for his maths ability. He was selected at Year 4 as he was working way ahead of his peers. He worked way ahead of the year group above him. Yes, he is VERY gifted at Maths. I make no apology to anybody for that. As such, he was noted and the placing on the register has merely led to him having opportunities to partake in mathematical activities at levels higher than those of his friends.

His friends don't resent him or shun him. He doesn't go around with an air of superiority either. He just happens to be better than them at Maths. Yes, I'm very proud of him. My daughter is working 3-4 years ahead with her writing and reading and yes, again I'm very proud. I'm not going to apologise for my children's achievements, but similarly I'm not going to parent them beyond their years. They are still children. They are encouraged to be just that, young people who enjoy the company of their peers, who still enjoy watching cartoons, to be children. It is possible to parent a gifted child and not have a rod stuck up your backside doing it. It would do parents of the so called non-gifted children to realise this and not think that every achievement of another child is an educational stab in the back.

We should embrace our children's strengths, enjoy their skills, note their talents and encourage them when they struggle or fail, whether they are 'gifted' or not.

Friday, 17 July 2009

It's great to hang out on the stairs

Sam is 4!!

It's a common theme for all parents to wonder where on earth the years have gone when celebrating their children's birthdays. But having Samuels' 4th birthday suddenly arriving it whacked me with the huge realisation that there really are no more babies in my house.

He's not even a toddler anymore. He's a little boy. Sometimes a naughty little boy. Sometimes a very good little boy. Sometimes a help and at other times a menace.

But in all he is, he was given to me to love and it's a gift I'll never forsake.

Eleanor and Sam make dinner

It seems the love of cooking is running in the family......

and it tasted delicious!!!