Thursday, 11 December 2014

The thrill of hope!...

Pockets of Hope...

I sat down yesterday and finally began to assemble the Advent Calendar Id printed off Belle and Boo.
Its pretty cute!.. I mean.. take a look at it!!

There are 25 bags to print, each with its own utterly sweet image and then you glue it into a little bag which you fill with whatever you fancy.

Okay, so granted I was 11 days late, or so, on this one. But I had already purchased the chocolate window pre made ones back in November. We dutifully opened those on Dec 1st after a couple of weeks of patient waiting on the kids part. Somehow, come a week or so into it, those windows got emptied one morning. It wasnt the act itself that cracked me up, but the guilty confession that followed when first, daughter, woke me up and showed me all the windows, 'lights on' and glistening back at me their empty wee plastic inner.

I laughed. My laughter beguiled the time waiting for test results.. the quiet fears I held that I had developed gestational diabetes with this pregnancy.. just like I had when I was pregnant with my firstborn. And what that meant, for me, for baby and how the weeks to come would look like.

Finally, this week I got my first results back. Yup, high.
And I had a choice to make with my emotions.

I sat in the car a few moments and collected my thoughts and asked myself some questions about how I might respond that day. Admist all the other demands, I had now to fit in more blood tests, a scan, specialist appointments and decisions on whats best for baby.. right on Christmas. Add that to no sugar in the diet and careful calculating of what Im eating, exercise, wrapping up homeschooling.. oh and 4 precious bundles who need me functioning.
Dont even get me started on the post partum fears and complications and the expressing off colostrum 4 times a day so as to prepare baby for a healthy start on life.

There was just one thing that day - I couldnt lose it. Not right then. Not in that moment. I needed to delve into a place of peace that required me to do that which goes above my human logic: Grab from the moment, the peace, the hope, the confidence, the belief that God really does work ALL things for good... in a Christian sense, rip open the advent window of faith that was mine, for just today. And not just today, but tomorrow too, and the days after that.

So as I went about that afternoon, functioning somewhat normally, I told my fears again and again "God really does work all things for good, dont you worry!".

Instead of dwelling on the fears, the expected appointments and how they will dominate life, I planned life around those things. I might have just been tempted to put treats in the sweet Belle and Boo bags.. but instead each one holds a neat family activity each day, just to celebrate life together, before baby arrives: tenpin bowling, movies, swimming, picnics, parks, light trail, crafts, just to name a few.

Suddenly theyre more than just sweet advent bags to me, but a reminder of how God wants us to face life. Not with dread, or worry about whats in store. But the hope that REGARDLESS of whats going on in our circumstances, Gods grace, love and hope is more than enough. That He has a joy and promise for us each day, that is sufficient to our needs. That He is working good, even when we cant see it.

Monday, 20 October 2014

For I know..

Ive been meditating this week on Jeremiah 29:11.. "For I know the thoughts I think towards you says the Lord, thoughts of peace.."

I went to the park yesterday with the kids. One we hardly visit. I took my journal and while they ran, explored and played, I sat on the park bench and pondered the verse Id been meditating on that week. 1 John 14:20 "... and I will reveal myself".

The sun shone down on my back, warming my soul and I quietly marvelled at how the big lingering cloud of grey held back. For a while I glanced over my shoulder and considered how much time we'd have before it hit... and after a while, I stopped looking. It was as if something held it back.

So we went home, an hour or so later, my soul richer.

Today was a full day, busy, and I could feel my body telling me it was tired. The verse Id chosen for meditating this week is Jeremiah 29:11. Its one of those verses where you just kinda think is pretty Christian cliche. But I wanted to allow it to seep into my soul afresh.

Come 4pm I looked at the mess around me. Homeschooling tasks to wrap up, dinner to prep, toys to pop away, tired kids to organize and a thought popped into my mind "why not go back to that park?". I reasoned it away.. no time.. and then Tim came to me "mum, can I earn some money?"... and there was that prompting again "why not go back to the park and then when you get home, get his help to cook dinner?".
I didnt argue with it twice.

We got down to the park and there I spotted it. My journal. Sitting untouched, unharmed, on the park bench where I had unknowingly left it the day before. I hadnt yet missed it...

but God knew...

Suddenly Jeremiah 29:11 came to life "For I know the thoughts I think towards you Fleur".

Have you ever stopped and considered why it doesnt simply say "I think towards you, says the Lord". Why add "For I know the thoughts"?...

Gods thinking towards us is not accidental. That 'knowing' is an intimate knowing. A purposeful, intentional investment of love, time and energy. Not only that, but He purposefully thinks towards us PEACE. His heart towards us is the calm, rested, balanced, healthy, unharried, quiet stillness, in everything we face.

I considered again my journal. I hadnt even known it was missing yet, but God knew and as I considered why He'd even bother to prompt and direct my afternoon to a second visit to a park the Words came to mind "I've got you covered".

He does have us covered, in EVERY situation we face...

That relationship that seems too complicated?
That health problem that wont go away?
That car issue that needs your attention?
That decision that your wondering how to make?
That conversation that you know you need to have? ......

He's there whispering "Peace. Ive got you covered."

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Family Devotions..


Psalm 1 tells us "And on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water".

Can I ask you a personal question? Does your life, does the life of your family, reflect that of a flourishing tree?
That is not a far fetched ideal or a task too hard for anyone. Its a promise God has given us, a joy that is ours to know. Yet I get how hard it is to maintain the discipline.

Our home library shelf boasts all manner of childrens Bibles and Ive invested in some terrific Kids Devotionals too. I own numerous womens devotionals And while theyve been great, its easy to give way to inconsistency.

So one of the ways in which we have worked to keep the Word consistently central to our lives, is to simplify.

Each day we choose the corresponding chapter of Proverbs to match the day of the month. Out of that, I pick one verse to study together with the kids and look at.
Often I read it and then ask them what they think it means, or how it relates to them. It never ceases to be interesting how they will relate scripture to their own lives and things they see around them.
God blesses His Word! And so Ive been amazed how many illustrations and precious nuggets have sprung to mind to share with the kids as we read and meditate on that verse.

Here's a glimpse of how it looks for us..

Yesterday the kids and I were meditating on Proverbs 16:20 "Those who listen to instruction will prosper". We talked about how we can thrive in anything we undertake when we remain teachable and are willing to obey those over us, or to receive counsel from someone even if we think we know better. Of course the kids were able to relate that to being obedient to Dad and Mum.. and I shared how as a grown woman, I can do that with those around me. We looked at the next part of the verse "those who trust in the Lord will be joyful". It raised a neat topic.. we NEVER have a reason not to be joyful if were trusting and obeying God, no matter how impossible the situation seems. We can ALWAYS obey God without question and know He has our best in mind. They discussed that in the light of how we respond to issues around us and I used it to be honest about where Ive failed to exhibit joy in some of the difficulties Ive faced. I shared how Ive learnt to accept the unchangeables issues that come along, and how I can release them into Gods hands knowing Ive done everything.. and that God is a God who relishes the impossible.
And yes, you bet I found it challenging :)

After talking it over, I print the verse out and have the kids write it down in a scrapbook and then illustrate it whatever way they like. The illustrations are often my favourite part as the kids will liken a proverb to an interest, or to something real for them. Its such a great insight into your kids hearts!!

I dont rush them, sometimes this whole process can take an hour. They have decorated the cover of their scrapbooks up with photos of themselves and weve laminated them and we keep them as absolute treasures. It takes time.. but here is the neat part.. God LOVES it when we meditate and learn from His Word and He is faithful to His Word to let it yield a harvest. Sometimes we dont see that fruit straight away.. but take note.. and watch for it.

In the evenings, Sam often reads to the kids out of a story Bible while I clean up the kitchen and get ready for the evening. Sam has a gas lamp that he takes into their room, turns out the lights and lets the room come to life with that camp style feeling of stories around the lantern. The kids LOVE it.
Truth is, I love it. Every now and then I will sneak in and listen and go away so challenged.

Last night Sam was reading to the kids about the first miracle Jesus ever did, turning water into wine at the wedding. Sam stopped to add some details that made the kids grin such as "you know, Jesus didnt turn the water into $6.99 Countdown on special bottles.. he turned in into something expensive". I laughed when I thought that over and then he said something that hit me at the core.. "Mary told the servants, 'do whatever he tells you'". There it was again! Obedience without question. I reminded the kids of the verse this morning and how when we obey, God can do the impossible. And so our hearts burst!

After reading we prayed together for the people in our lives who lack, and we prayed for the amazing and impossible.. restored eyesight, healed spines, new skin and restored relationships... and of course our precious wee boy within.

After kissing the kids goodnight, I lay on my bed and allowed my heart to reflect upon those servants. I wondered how their lives had been forever changed as they watched Jesus turn plain water into wine, because they obeyed. Did they ever forget? Did they ever see life's impossibilities the same? I pondered how Jesus could have placed thousands of dollars in the servants hands instead, and sent them for the local winery.. that would have been great. But He chose to make His first miracle a representation of what was to come.. His life poured out. Expensive. Miraculous.

Its easy to fall in love with Gods Word when we stop and meditate upon the amazing revelations that can be ours to know.

















Monday, 13 October 2014

25 weeks

Hey baby boy!
Were somewhere around there.. 25 weeks! Im not rushing those weeks. I love every moment youre in. I stop mid sentence in conversations just to feel you kick and wriggle and dont hesitate to bare my belly for any willing hand that wants to feel you. And I love it.
The other morning I woke up and placed my hand on my stomach. In my dozey wake up mode, I could feel the perfect form of a wee leg sitting up top and I traced my hand gently along it, smiling. Does life get any better than this?
You add something to our family, kind of like a tickle. The anticipation and delight of you sets a sparkle of grins and giggles across our lives.

I guess one of my favourite aspects of this pregnancy is have prior wisdom. I find myself staring in the face of all the consumerism, must have outfits and baby gadgets and thinking "whatever was wrong with simple?". But its more than that. I puzzle that anyone would try to outdress the gorgeousness of newborn baby skin, fresh new lips, the sweetest smell this side of heaven and the most blissful feeling of delight.

I love what you add to our family in terms of preparation too. Not in the stuff sense, but the way lifes routines carve a way for you. Ive had to teach the boys to do more.. help with meal prep, pop away toys, clean up a mess that might be nothing of their own. Were all better for it. Ive also learnt to play more. I make myself stop and ignore time while having a game of Monopoly or Battleships. Who cares if it takes 2 hours? I get that these days go so quick and I want to treasure them.

Its made me a lot more playful. Perhaps caught between the tension of watching the older ones fast grow up, and also knowing that you will soon be here and babyland will strangely be thrust upon us once more. Ive found myself not caring if things arent perfect, or if I havent caught the moment on camera. Instead Im more inclined to stop and breathe in the moment for what it is... and love that its mine to know.

Sweet pea, thank you for all you add to our lives. Thank you for being you!!
The proudest mama ever.
xxx

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Kids Wardrobe Style Ideas..

I love tastefully dressed kids and I love quality clothing. With time, effort, trial and error Ive found some great strategies for creating stylish kids wardrobes that work in affordable ways.

* Know their colours/ sizes
This is a fun to do with them. Go visit the library and get out the colour style books.. then take them out and have them hold up colours against themselves to see what works. Boys are just as interested as girls in this. For fun, get fabric swatches and make a little wallet for them.. my hubby still has his from years ago and is confident in choosing garments that set his skin tone off

* Limit items
Hand me downs can be great, but Ive learnt first hand that your children will tend to rotate 3-4 favourite t'shirts at the most.. any more than that equals clutter and mess. I keep the kids wardrobe pretty stream lined and limit each season to; One best/ church outfit. 2 play outfits, 1 rough play/ art, 1 jacket, 1 nice jumper, 1 windbreaker and a pair of jeans or jean shorts (season depending)

* Get them to help choose
My boys love clothes shopping every bit as much as my daughter. I do most of mine online but I let them be part of the process as theyre far more likely to wear something that they helped choose

* Buy clothes for birthdays and Christmas
I love tucking Pj's in stockings and a nice t shirt for summer days. Theyre essentials but it makes it fun when its part of the present opening. I also love tucking in accessories.. underwaar, scarves, hats, togs, sunglasses, towels.. theyre all things a kid needs. I keep my eye out throughout the year for good sales and keep these things aside

* Have a colour theme for each season.
My daughters wardrobe this summer consists of blue/ yellow and melon. I often keep my eye on European colour trends to preempt whats likely to hit NZ shores and plan accordingly. Having a limited colour palette works because its FAR easier to co ordinate jackets, accessories, shoes etc. In winter it was one colour.. rose pink. It meant she could grab pretty much anything from her wardrobe and it was likely to match.
I also try to translate one colour across all the kids and make it work for a cohesive 'best' outfit. This summer its navy with yellow accents. This makes for a great deal more family photo opportunities (and yes, I co ordinate mine and hubbys to work too).

* Shop their wardrobes
Jeans cut off make great jean shorts. Boys shorts can work for girls too. A little re hemming, a bow or a lace pocket added, and a feminine style is born.

* Buy quality over quantity
We often shop online through Next, M&S or search French and European labels on Trade Me such as Petit Bateau, Monsoon, TU, Boden etc. Ive personally found the fit is much better on my slimline kids, but the quality is greater and the clothes last much longer. I also love Pumpkin Patch NZ because they will take back ill manufactored items and credit you. Ive taken back jackets that are 2 years old and theyve still honoured their word

* Let them sell off the things they grow out of
This serves two purposes; firstly they are inspired to take better care of their clothes, and secondly, they get the joy of spending money. I list them on Trade Me and let them take the photos and help present and price them fairly. The money they make isnt a huge amount, but often enough to purchase that longed for Lego set

* Care for what they have
Wash their clothes less and spot clean marks off, rather than wash the whole garment. It not only saves you washing, but gives items a longer life. Treat stains instantly. I cant recommend enough this amazing little stain soap bar my Mother in law introduced me to.. nary a stain has survived under its use. We have Vanish stain remover in NZ, but nothing is as good as this wee stick from the UK.. Vanish Stain Stick Bar. I know you can find it online for $12 on Fishpond





Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Story of You..

To my Little mannies #4. Tears fill my eyes to write that.
Because you are something of Gods gift to us, a gift we didnt plan in our 'longterm' sight. A reward for handing the pen over to God, and saying "Will you write the next chapter?"..

You see. From the moment Daddy and I married, we knew we'd have 4 kids. When Amy was born, we thought we were done. In my heart, there was an ache for more. But when youve spent 10 years preparing yourself for the inevitable finish, I imagine you expect the grief and ache. At least thats what I told myself.

Gods ways our different from ours.

The past 18 months, 2 years, have been something else. Daddy and I have gone through disappointment, pain, loss and being stripped. It might have been easy to simply write up lifes mantra there and then "Trust no one". It felt that way. But I believe God allows all these things for a reason, even the storms. And while the storm whirled around us, I found that instead of leaving me bitter, crushed and disillusioned, it instead peeled off layers of my heart. Yes, it hurt.
But the pain isnt the ending.

In the peeling off... I came face to face with a reality: The desire and knowing grew in me that our family was not complete. And as God is able, He also ministered that desire into Daddys heart... a trust, anticipation, of more. More of the heart of Jesus towards His plans and purposes. God gave us the scripture "I run in the path of your commands, for you shall enlarge my heart". Pain can often crush and harden the heart.. yet in Gods hands, pain can serve to do the very opposite, and open up a capacity thats beyond our 'norm'.

Shortly after, I dreamed I had a girl, and a boy. We did go on to conceive that precious daughter, who is now with Jesus in heaven. Although not even "scanned and identified".. her identity remains sealed up there. A treasure.
And then there was you.

You, I knew, were going to have the heart of a Daniel. I understood how all the stripping and storm, was preparation for you. And you, I know, are a reward. A joy. A gift entrusted.

It makes me weep.
Because I know you have a Daddy whose integrity has shone in the face of opposition - he has championed the way for you.
Because I know that the discernment God has gifted to us, enables us to raise you beyond our human weakness.
Because you are a new beginning.
Because I know God will take you into places of high influence, and that our hearts will be beat proudly.
Because I know you will be asked to stand, and that at times it will break our hearts too.
Because you bring a sense of joy and adventure into our lives.

Precious wee man, where we had placed a full stop, God has put a 'to be continued' and here on in, were all on this journey of unknowns together. Unknown to us, but known to Jesus.

Its so wonderful, amazing, delightful, to have you along for the ride.

We love you immensely.
xxxx

Saturday, 6 September 2014

For the love of the library..

Going to the library, is like for me, what coffee is to others. In fact, truth be told, I think its more. (Cause I have never been able to truly enjoy a coffee out that compares to the Nescafe Vanilla Latte sachets you make at home). And if Im going to have a drink out, its got to be something decent.. like Turkish Apple Tea, or a Feijoa smoothie, or something that hits the right notes.

Moving on.

Pop in my hands a decent book and a decent drink, and Im happy.

Here's some of my favourite reading:

Cookbooks -
Jaime Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Annabelle Langbein, Barefoot Contessa etc. Although I do love to eat a nice dessert, I actually love to cook mains and I really love a cookbook that tells a story, such as this beautiful one, 28 Days in Provence by Shannon Bennett.
The humour of travelling with kids, interwoven with using fresh market food and ingredients that are real. And the photography.. Id quite like to buy the book and rip it up and frame the images. It might make you want to move to the Provence region. Or plant a vegetable garden. Or visit the local market with new eyes.

Biographies -
I dont enjoy 'teaching' books. I know, there are some great ones and I have them on my shelves. Biographies however, I never tire of. An amazing story of someones life and their testimony sticks with me and encourages my soul.
Here's some of my favs;
Through Gates of Splendour by Elisabeth Elliot
The Heavenly Man
The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
Hudson Taylor
Vanya
His Perfect Faithfulness by Eric and Leslie Ludy
One of these, however, I have read over and over.. its impact far reaching in my life: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. This story is impacting beginning to end. Her simple family life in their humble abode in Holland, and the security of a gentle Fatherly presence, interrupted by the divine orchestration of her secret work during the Holocaust of World War 2, which had her, and her sister, sent to Ravensbruck. Ive been gripped with suspense everytime Ive read it and cried everytime too. And Ive read it about 5 times, maybe more.. it never gets boring.

Parenting books -
Seriously, we own at least 20 at first count: Ian Grant, Celia Lashlie, Steve Biddulph, Michael Pearl, Tedd Tripp.. Its not hard to pin a favourite as I have two. The first is about food and eating, Ive written about it before, "French Kids Eat Everything" by Karen Le Billon. I love it because its truly changed how we eat, and made our table a joy. But I return over and over to a book I bought in my teenage years, before said hubby and family were even on the scene: The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot. Its not a book of formula's but of the story of her childhood. There are so many beautiful ideas in there.

Family Reading -
Sam and I read to the children a lot. Sam has a whole library of Childrens Bibles and loves to go through them with the kids. I read to them the chapter novels.
Some hits in our home have been; The Barn Chronicles by Rosie Boom, Stuart Little by E.B White, Charlottes Web also by E.B White, YWAM Christian Heroes stories, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. Our favourite books this year have been Tumtum and Nutmeg adventures by Emily Bearn
These are just the sweetest little stories about some little mice and the fight against good and bad. The endings are always so endearing. I loved reading them, as much as the kids enjoyed hearing them. This book inspired many a miniature mouse room being built by the kids out of our recycling. It was so fun! NB: You will however, feel guilty about ever killing a little mouse again ;)


Childrens Reading -
As a child, my favourite ever book was called "Me and My Grandma". Truth is, it still is my favourite. Its out of print nowadays and when I got married, I could no longer find my one copy. I was gutted as I assumed in the process of my parents moving, it must have accidentally got thrown. However, last year we were sorting through a pile of music books, tucked into an old piano chair, up in my parents loft.. and out it fell. I was elated!
But seeing thats out of print, I guess its unfair to mention it. So here are some of the ones my kids request over and over: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Not a Box, Peter Rabbit, Find Me a Tiger, The Best Behaved Bear, The Best Nest, and the one that got read so many times the pages started to fall out? Monkey Puzzle.

Beside my Bed? -
I keep encouraging relaxing and creative books beside my bed.. things that help me unwind or refresh my soul. Right now it consists of Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. Im loving it. Especially that it makes me crave wood fired Pizza.
And this one by Eric and Leslie Ludy: Wrestling Prayer.
My bestie gave me this one for Christmas, among some precious others.. which I havent got to.. because this one keeps drawing me back in. Its meaty, inspiring.



Then theres Mollie Makes. I dont buy them, I borrow them from the library. Which is good because I actually havent made anything out of their magazines yet. Yet, I say. None the less, I love the inspiration and energy I have in the ten minutes before sleep hits where I stare at the embroidered cushions, or felted toys and think "wow, I am so going to make that"... before the coma hits.

And lastly, yet most importantly, my Bible, FaithGirlz backpack NIV. I love it! I got this small goodie from the Christian book shop, about 7 years ago, but its just been the best thing ever. Small enough to take anywhere. Its travelled with me miles.


I cant wait to read? -

I think every woman should read? -

What about you? What books do you love, recommend and are glad you own? xx

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Homeschooling a Preschooler

Amy is just turned four but she has been biting at the bit to start learning like her big brothers.

I didnt want to start her too early, ya know, more work for me and things like that. But it was proving more work to 'entertain' her with those 'activity box' ideas etc, (go ye Pinteresters), so we leapt. "We" being I did the planning, and Sam cheered me on telling me how great it is that our girl will be reading by four a half. No pressure or anything.


So here's what were using


Character:
This is first up on our day but we have this amazing little series by Agapeland called "Character Builders". A set of 16 episodes of animated stories about kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, patience, obedience, faith, honesty, responsibility, thankfulness, sharing, confidence, love, politeness, joy and peace. The old version can be found on you tube, but it isnt as good as the newer one. You can see the newer animation on you tube under Character Builders Trailor. I used to teach my kids in Sunday School from these.. and I still get teary eyed when I hear the song "peace". My boys have all watched these through several times over, so I dont make them watch them, but somehow they always can be found grouped around the screen and noting their favourite episodes and laughing at the same things that tickled them when they were Amys age. Character is timeless. So are these DVD's, I think. NB: Agapeland often has a voucher online, google it. They retail $69US from Agapelandmusic.com

Maths:
I found a neat starter book by Gold Stars called Starting Maths which comes with gold star stickers.. and what kid doesnt like stickers?! Its fairly basic and requires me to be on hand, but I like that.. its relationship building. There are many others in the series and I have a feeling we will be chowing through them over the next few months. c/o Book Depository $7.35. Free shipping worldwide.
When Im confident she has these under her belt, we will start No Nonsense Number Emergent activity sheets. I own the books to stage 2b, and love them because they fit NZ curriculum. They were a pricey investment at $44e, but worth it. From that we jump to Math U See.. but thats a couple of years away.

Reading:
It all starts with phonics and weve happily followed the Jolly Phonics programme for years with great success.
We use the Phonics Handbook (Book Depository $45.94) which has all the printable activity sheets and teacher suggestions. I also use the pupil workbooks 1-7 ($23 set) for ease of having all the work bound, and the sequence set out for me. We also use the Finger Phonics books in the series ($66 set) which are great, not least because they have these neat grooves in the pages where they can feel how to form the letters. I also have the DVD ($21) which backs up the learning at the end of each week. If you can, purchase the whole set.. otherwise start with the handbook alone. That will more than adequately suffice.

In addition to phonics, I read to Amy, a lot. Daily. We make weekly use of our mobile library (the library bus) that stops just down the road from us. We choose lots of picture books, as well as early readers. While Amy cant yet read those, she often sits beside my youngest son as we work through them.. and is becoming familiar with sounding out and patterns in reading. I try to keep an eye out internet wise, for great book recommendations and often put a hold on these so they are ready for us each week, on the mobile library. It costs .50c per hold.. but still cheaper than the parking and petrol, I justify.

Handwriting:
Im using Letterland Handwriting Practise 1 ($8.19 B.Dep) , and again, I sit beside her and remind her of her pencil grip and formation.. ie "letters always start at the top".

Spelling:
Were just working our way through the top 100 right now. Heh. I joke. Actually, when we have letter recognition at about %50, I will introduce the sight words. We often play sight word bingo (I got given it) with the kids so that helps. I'll introduce the plethora of sight word activity ideas soon enough. See pinterest for ideas here, be warned, you will need chocolate and coffee. Just sayin.

Science:
Mudpies to Magnets by Williams. Rockwell. Sherwood. Look no further. (B.Dep $17.79)
Theyre simple activities, and often I have one of the boys work through them with her, or I alter it slightly to fit what suits me. For example, todays sheet was on seed sorting.. but I wasnt in the mood for grouping seeds, so we planted tomato seeds instead. She thought that was way more fun anyway.

Art:
The worlds your oyster! I personally dont think anyone needs a resource book when there are just a world of ideas for art everyday found on the internet. We use activity books like the one in the picture, My Town, by Delphine Doreau (B.Dep $17.01) for special events like eating out, visiting somewhere special, and particularly for Amys love of things European following our trip to England/ Paris last year. I try to feature crafts around her interests and learning and were never stuck for ideas :)

I hope this list helps those who are wondering about homeschooling and where to start, or like me, trying to recall the best things to do with a preschooler when the older ones are well under way. Im glad this list will be here too in another 4 years when this bundle inside reaches the same stage and Im wondering again "how did I do it?" :)














Thursday, 21 August 2014

Eating out with Kids

Over the next few weeks I thought Id write some tips on some of the things Im often asked. For many people, having kids means the ends of order and life out. Knowing I intended to homeschool, I really began to consider what were the things I were willing and wanting to give up, after all, I knew 'me time' was not going to be a regular option. With a busy self employed husband and the demands of schedules/ routines and lots to juggle, I began to consider what ways I could still create pockets of fun and creativity in our lives. For me, one of those was being able to take my kids to a nice restaurant or to a friends home, without fear of it turning into a chaotic event. While we have certainly had some moments that felt that way.. over time we have developed and learnt some strategies to make eating out pleasant. These days, its a joy to go to a restaurant and hear them complement our children on their manners and demeanour. Here are some things weve learnt along the way: Firstly, start at home: Make a point of having practise sessions once in a while, around the comfort of your own table. Put some rules in place that reflect the qualities you hope they will take with them elsewhere. For us these are: * We only eat sitting at the table (no walking around, standing up, or eating in front of tv, in the lounge etc) * When were finished, we dont jump down. We make a point of making them stay and just be for a while, talking, or sometimes listening to us talk. The 'host' or (mum) gives the cue that its clear up time, when she gets up from the table * Serve Dad/ guest first. * No kiddy options. Dont dumb down meals, remove spices or flavours in the assumption that theyre too 'adult'. My kids are not adverse to curry, thai, mexican, soup or weird beans that appear in dishes. Theyve developed a love affair with Camembert, appreciate the salty taste of Feta, and know that most dishes can be enjoyed without a generous serving of tomato sauce. * No toys/ books at the table. How many times do you see a child in a highchair with a prop in hand (usually food covered) to serve as a distraction while food goes everywhere? As they age, it becomes a diecast car, or a lego creation. Worse still, an iphone. Did you know you can eat without taking a photo of every meal out that you have? Most kids, by example, wont know that ;) * Have lots of wipes/ wash cloths ready and ensure all hands and faces are washed when leaving the table. When you take them out: * Dont automatically hit the fast food. Our kids know that good food takes time, thats its actually good to wait politely for a meal. If its taken a long time, order a bread starter, or something little. * Dont take them 'full'. I know it makes it cheaper, but you were also have a bored child/ren on your hand who are no longer hungry, and worse still, ready to play. If necessary, fill them up a little when you get home, rather than prior * Ask for what you know works. Dont use these trips out as a time to introduce new food for your children.. at least not as a main. Its wiser to order something for yourself, and have them trial a little off your plate, than get quietly cross that they wont eat the 'good decent meal' under their nose. * Relax! Your stress will pass onto them. Create calm by being calm yourself. Scan the table for glasses too near the edge of the table, clutter or items that will go crash. * Seat children properly and enforce that this is not the place to get down, wander around and stretch your legs. The restaurant owners and other visitors will thank you for that. Remember, it might be cute to you to have a child with sauce/ pumpkin/ smeared over their face, but not necessarily so to others. Be respectful and take a large pad of disposible wipes with you to keep faces and fingers clean. * Take a little bag for each child with some colouring pencils and colouring books/ stickers. Amy has a wee backpack we bought a couple of years ago that is a favourite. In it, we currently have this little activity book: These little activity books can be picked up relatively cheap on Book Depository, and we make a point of only letting them come out on meals out, plane trips and special outings where long periods of quiet might be useful. Dont forget the slightly older ones too.. My ten year old boy takes a book to read these days, or a pad to do of his own drawing, whereas I still use colouring books for my 7 and 8yr old, such as this: * Have them always thank the waitress and chef where possible. I whisper in their ear to remind them to do so when service comes around. When you get home. * Praise good character, wherever you can. It reinforces all the hard work and lets your kids know what a pleasure it is to take them out!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Parenting..

If you ask my kids what its like to be a Cahill, Im sure you will hear a full, honest and fluid account of life inside our home: Noisy, fun, crazy, hard work, creative, busy and so on. Sam and I love being parents. We really do. Every evening we flop on the bed together, usually exhausted, and our conversation generally turns to something sweet or funny one of them said. Yet inspite of the joy, there has been a journey on the way. Its on that journey where we have set posts in the ground, that have made all the difference. I think of the scripture; "The boundaries lines have fallen for me in pleasant places" (Psalm 16). We flourish where we stick to Gods best for our lives. I cant claim the wisdom for those precious posts. Each one is an accummulation of great resources, Godly grandparents, wise counsel and a great deal of prayer. But the posts are worthy of mention! A Higher Purpose. We are not raising our kids to be 'good kids'. You wont hear ours rattling off memorized scripture to impress, or performing hymns to guests, nor will you find our homeschool walls plastered with academic achievement. Proverbs 16 warns us that pride goes before destruction, yet as parents, we often impose on our kids the very thing that sets them up for failure: trying to please and impress man. Were big on teaching our kids about Godly character, but at the foundation of it all is this... for WHOM?! We constantly remind our children that through their lives, they reflect the character of Jesus and that unless it all stems from, and leads back to, a devotion for Him, its in vain. As For Me and My House. Life is full of opportunities to talk about truth and pray together. Sam and I have found value in making our children a precious part of hard times, decisions, and ministry opportunities. We dont shield and shy them away from the (age appropriate) challenges that cross our paths.. be that relationally, financially or spiritually. We usually talk about the problem and what God says in His Word, and how we apply that in our situation. Its been precious to be able to impart not just truth, but the application of it to our lives, and we pray they are learning to do the same. To that end, we dont place high value on peer relationships. We recognize its great for the kids to have friends, but we believe its important to win and earn the greatest influence in your childs life and to be mindful how peer relationships can compete with that influence. We are intentional about what influences we encourage in their lives and to find and seek out the "heroes" in our generation who can spur them on. On that note... some of their greatest heroes are their grandparents and Uncles. My Dad in particular is amazing with our boys, he has taught them skills to last a lifetime, and his gentle loving manner makes him one of the greatest heroes out. Look For Whats Going on in the Heart If were coming across a repetitive behaviour pattern in our children, be that fighting with each other, defiance or moodiness, weve learnt to look for whats going on inside. Correcting behaviour is important, but if its ongoing, its a cue, youre missing something... and it takes time and discipline to hone in one what that something is. My experiences has been that whats underneath it, is often a brokenness, a hurt, a wound that needs attention. Weve found it takes time and effort to build a rapport where open and honest questions can be asked that peel off layers and reveal whats going on in the heart. Be Watchful My mum recently made a comment to me that I loved.. she said that in every house, there is usually one child who is the barometer of pressure. I know thats true in our home! One of our sons behaviour can be often an accurate gauge as to what tensions exist for his mummy :). External influences and pressures have often the biggest distraction in parenting, rather than the internal ones, and we try to keep alert for them. For us - we dont have tv and are strict on DVD's and media that we allow through, yet, we have to be equally as watchful for the subtle pressures that creep in. Things such as the dynamics a visiting neighbour may bring, phone calls, texts, emails, relational complications, Church pressures, ministry opportunities.. for me, even researching parenting or reading a Treasures magazine can be a hinderence, cause of anxiety and a distraction. Those things come in so many shapes and sizes but we often come back to this question: "How is this affecting my parenting?". If its coming at a cost, we take that as a cue, that a boundary needs to be put in place. And put it in place! Because if you dont.. someeone else will for you.. and it will be miles from where you wanted it to be!! You Are Your Own Family For the first years of our parenting life we went with the traditional alternating of families at Christmas time. But we began to notice a pattern. I inevitably got sick, either right on, or after, Christmas. The stress of planning, preparing, meeting expectations (often my own) and trying to have a merry old time, was just plain taxing. On Sams side alone, there are 14, soon to be 15, cousins, just between 3 siblings. Legendary effort and we love them all. Yet its unrealistic to put us all under one roof and imagine that even as Christians, were all going to beat the same drum and have the same expectations. One year, Sam and I met with a counsellor and discussed the tensions that existed and decided we would set a new rule for our family: We do what we know is best for us. We decided to take each year as it comes, weigh up the blessing of being all together, versus what we actually need as a family. We adopted a great mantra "I love you but, this is whats best for us". There have been a couple of years we actually have celebrated Christmas alone, or consecutively with my side of the family, simply because their nearer. The thing that stands out to me, is that without the confines of obligations and rules unwritten, we actually feel more free to love and enjoy family and to make opportunity to be together when we can. Have Fun Its a given right?! But its not always 'natural'. Sam is probably the most playful fun loving Daddy I know. I kid you not when I say that nearly every night, he comes home and engages the kids in some game/ activity/ challenge which involves lots of laughter. He loves to do it. As a homeschooling mum, who manages the home, and needs order, I have to be more intentional about the 'fun'. I learnt off Rosie Boom a great rule: "Do the work, then play". We have a schedule we work through daily on our school stuff, and the kids live for the afternoons where its all wrapped up and out comes the art, sewing, bike rides, clay, craft, lego, library trips, ice cream adventures and field trips. These fun times refresh all of us. For a long time weve been purposeful to make meal time special too. Every night, out come candles and we make the dinner table a place to fellowship. Just the other day, I bought a set of bright coloured plates and bowls from Stevens, on sale. It melted me when we lay the table and Nate exclaimed "Mum, I love these plates, theyre so HAPPY". A worthy investment to creating memories and conversation that I pray will last forever.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The art of quiet rest..

Rest is an art. To each of us in its ideal form it means something different.. lying on a beach, reading a book, drinking coffee, people watching, enjoying good company and good food... taking one day off from the grind. God knew we needed it. Still, its something Im not so good at: Treating Sundays as a day of rest. Yet in the past couple of months Ive been reminded: Life has rhythms and seasons, all God given. One of them was that he patterned for us that which is good for us. Taking a day where life doesn't revolve around doing. As a mother, that takes planning. Yet its something Im determined to make a part of our lives. I have not always been successful.. but were getting there! So here are some things I have found make that work: Getting the washing up to date. Obvious I know, but I cant relax when the laundry is begging my attention. Staying up a little later on Saturday night to get things dry, put things away, lay out the kids clothes for Church - simple but it helps create order. Meal Prep. The kitchen is pretty hard to avoid, unless youre eating out, and I still hold the dream to make Sunday lunches a time to invite people over. I hold the greater dream to be able to do that, spontaneously, and no fret about the state of the home! Last night I took the time, while making dinner, to pre-make a pizza base for lunch, cook a base for lemon meringue pie, and pull out the chicken thighs and spices to make moroccan chicken (slow cook - little prep). It means if there is the chance that we have pop in guests, I can know we have something on offer. But mostly it means I can spend more time being 'still' and less time pondering and preparing food.
No TV/ DVD's. We dont have tv, so were limited to DVD's. But knowing that Sundays that screen wont go on is lovely. Room Time. I dont make my kids strictly go to their rooms (mainly as they share rooms).. but I do ask them for an hour of quiet, uninterrupted play. They can draw, read, build lego, puzzles - whatever. As long as its on their own and without noise. That hour where the house is a peaceful lull is heaven. And I use that hour to do what refreshes me: lie down, read, make plans for my next creative project, or write, such as Im doing now. Hospitality. Being with others can just bring a joy and rest to life that refreshes the soul. It doesn't always have to equal stress, elaborate meals and rushing around in the kitchen. Why not plan a communal lunch: buns, coleslaw and a hot chicken. Or pop on a loaf of homemade bread and slice it up with simple spreads. Easier still, take advantage of the local park with its BBQ. We have one down the road thats free.. all the mess is the birds business, and its little effort to throw some sausages on the grill, butter some bread and bring a bottle of squeezy sauce. Forget the salad and picnic blankets and fussy utensils... serviettes are fine, take some plastic cups and use the water. Finally. Plan for success! As a family, were in a transition period right now, seeking God for what is next for our lives. It takes mental energy to talk about what it looks like and how we plan for it. This morning, we skipped Church and opted instead to take the kids to the local plant shop, where there is a cafe, and a park. We ordered a coffee for ourselves, sent the kids to play, and took the time and fresh air to list the pro's/ con's and our family dreams and intentions. After we'd listed those, we called the kids back to the table and talked with them about their part in it. They each had precious gems to share and we came away with some clear and exciting goals for the Cahill Clan.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Abuse in Church

I lay in bed the other night and quite randomnly, I remembered an incident from when I was a teenager. I used to do a paper run and there was a married man, much older than me, from our Church, whose house was near ours. He would always smile and be friendly. From time to time, he would be out biking, meandering around the streets while I just hapenned to be on my route. He would bike along with me for a bit, chatting, and although it struck me as a little odd.. I didnt give it much weight. Until one day he stopped outside a home he was building, in our subdivision, and invited me to look through it. I was hesitant and confused.. too young to understand, yet too old to ignore the misgivings I had. I agreed politely and rushed through the rooms, trying to ignore the hand on my back, the fact that no one else was there, the weirdness of his behaviour. I headed for the front door, got on my bike and carried on. Later that day I quit my paper run. At the time, I remember thinking how silly I felt for even feeling uneasy or wary of him. Yet with years, hindsight and wisdom, I was able to clearly identify the predatory nature of his actions and was grateful for my gut instincts to over-ride my politeness and desire of pocket money, with a need for safety. As I sat tonight, praying, I recognized a fire God has lit within me. You see, there are so many stories of abuse hapenning 'in church'.. no, not necessary inside its walls, but by members who you should trust, and the lack of talking, discussion and frankness is a breeding ground for danger. People who have a profile of being trustworthy, noteable, respected; who are in reality, undermining, attacking and damaging families, children and the innocent. And you bet, it grieves my heart, and sure grieves Gods. First of all, abuse isnt always of a sexual nature, as my story hints above. Sometimes its much more subtle than that.. and dangerous. Emotional and spiritual abuse is harder to pin, and often takes a mask of looking like religion. I fear that, more than anything, because its often the most ignored and disregarded. The church tends to excuse it under lines of 'grace, forgiveness, personality, preference'. So how can you keep you and your children safe? #1 Abuse is intentional and controlling. The feelings a victim has, are often paralyzing and silent. It seeks to build trust, isolation and loyalty and the most alarming thing, is that others around often cant see what is going on for you. Be wary of those who be-friend you fast and single you out. Especially those who have a 'ministry' profile of some sort and act that way. They will make you feel 'extra special' and that should be your first warning. #2 Note how much personal information is shared. Abusers tend to go very personal, very quickly. They will share things that are at a level that make you feel you are trusted and ask the same of you. #3 Dont be afraid to offend. I dont let my children go to other kids homes alone. They always go in pairs and stay in pairs. I wont let them shower or bath with others, and we dont do sleep overs. They know they can punch anyone in the face who touches any of their private areas and I wont growl. They know to not keep secrets from us, to never go into a room with someone alone. Im strict, and yes, Im sure Ive offended many a friend whose rules arent as strict as ours, and who dont understand. I dont care. Id rather an offended friend than a messed up child. Right now, Sam and I are our childrens voices and we take that job seriously. #4 If you feel unsafe, say so. The Bible says that the fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God leads to life. Fear often leaves us silent.. so SPEAK UP! To an authority, leader or someone you trust. If they ignore you, go to a trained counsellor outside your circumstances but within your community. An even more daring move: Call the offender into a meeting with someone professionally trained and outside the situation. Chances are, they wont agree to it, but that alone is telling enough. If someone has nothing to hide, there is no reason to fear talking. Refusing to talk, is again, control, and you dont have to sit under that. #5 Trust your instincts. A couple of years ago I walked through an issue which left me traumatized, only I didnt know it! At the time I felt upset, however, my body started doing strange things. I developed a thumb fasciculation (twitch) and I would wake in the night literally shaking all over. I tried to ignore it, but finally one night in womans homegroup, I broke. I felt like a mess as I tried to gather my overwrought self into some state of normal and my dear homegroup leader made a wonderful suggestion: Go to a chiropractor. The thing is, at the chiropractor, he, being a Christian, quickly identified that I was carrying tension in my back, and over breathing from stress, and the combined effect was causing my thumb to twitch. He didnt cure it straight away, but it lead to the next best decision... I booked into a counsellor. He listened to what had hapenned for me, and my body symptoms and on the spot announced: Your traumatized and what you are experiencing is normal! We spent some time working that through and I learnt something HUGELY profound.. to trust my instincts. Each of us has a God given ability to sense right and wrong, and when we ignore that, it causes us stress. Some stress is good, but that kind of stress is damaging. Im still learning it, but I give a lot more weight to my instinct and discernment these days. Its usually right because its God given. The thing is, instinct cant always be explained and rationalized so dont try. Make a personal decision that although you cant give reasons, youre going to listen to the cautions you have and trust them. #6 Get wisdom. Often were so 'in' the situation we cant see clearly. When youre in an abusive situation, its often very confusing and heart breaking. Your own emotions can make it difficult to separate yourself from the issue. Ive read stories lately of woman who have gone through some horrendous abusive situations by Christian men.. and yet in it, they cant see the truth of how unloving the behaviour is. Or if they can, they dont know how to get out of it. God is our advocate, our very best friend and our hiding place. He is wise to provide a way through and out of the storm! Yes, He is there in the prison with us.. but many of us forget that those prison bars are wide apart and we can step right through, right over, and beyond the issues which others place on us. Fear of the future is often what holds us back from the courageous step of moving forward. Were afraid.. is there life beyond the prison bars? Is it more of the same? Will we be further ostracized and alienated?. Yes the world is full of more of the same.. but you wont ever be the same. Your experience doesnt have to break you, God can use it to make you an advocate for someone else who is sitting silent in a prison. But unless you step out, how will you reach others who feel like you feel? Unless you take a step of courage, how will you know that even in darkness, God holds you. He will NEVER let you go.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Letters to my number 6

Ive struggled to even begin this diary. Not because, sweet one, you are any less hoped for, dreamed of or amazing.. you are more so than ever before. But its hard. Acknowledging that I think you are there makes you 'known'. For now, you are just known to the Lord. And perhaps a little bit me, suggested to your dad and to everyone else.. I want to keep you hidden. I realise weeks on, that the hardest part of losing Poppy, was the sense that it was doomed for me, for her. Words people said, well meaning, but none the less.. like I was not fit enough, able enough, good enough, to carry her. I find myself sitting here asking the Lord a question "am I good enough to carry this one?". Its more of a challenge "go on, take it away, Im not going to bear it under my heart, than it wont hurt". For the first time I find myself offering a sacrifice that bewilders me. Fear, of that which I believe we should never fear. Fear of what can touch the secret places. Fear of finding that it depends upon me. That there is something I dont know, that everyone else does. A reason which Im unworthy... a reason I'll never know or put my finger on. Sweet one, Im sorry you have a bit of a mess of a mother right now. I want you to know, with all of my heart, you truly are a God born desire. I guess I need to allow God to let me look again upon the ashes and dare to believe that He can bring beauty out of them there. That He can bring you out of there. May God bless you and truly carry you in the palm of His able hands. 7th June. I think Im about 7 weeks now. I havent tested yet but my body sure is telling me that you are there. Rolling over in bed sometimes brings stabs of stretching inner tendons and this mornings attempt at routine went like this: Get up, put on make up, throw some clothes on, brush hair remark to self "hmm, not feeling so sick today?". Go to kitchen, avoid breathing, look at Sams marmalade toast and try and decide if it makes me hungry, or just queezy. Maybe both. Put on 2 pieces of Vogel toast because the Freya's thick slices are more than I can handle. Go to sink and find crockpot still full of the liquid from last nights dinner that I couldnt finish making, because it was too much for my senses. Gag. Go to toilet because the gag feels a bit more than a gag. Dry wretch into the toilet for the next ten minutes while the song line "its all coming back, its all coming back to me now" goes around in my head. Sam heads straight for the garage and I cant blame him. Vomit and Sam dont cope well together. I would have laughed were it not for being the one dry wretching. After a while he calls out "Im going now, bye guys". I want to ask him to rub my back and give me tender looks while me and the toilet get re-aquainted. But truth is, he and I both know, its a welcome affliction. Staring down the toilet bowl makes me beam with joy.. the short discomfort that will soon give way to kicks, wriggles, teeny little socks and a lifetime of dreams in this mothers heart of mine. Ive been praying for you. Often. The sense I have is that I have a joyful prophetic wee bundle of larger than life within me. You are wonderful. I love you to bits. xxx 8th June. Spending most of my time now either trying not to throw up, wishing I could close my eyes and sleep for the next 5 or so weeks.. theyre such welcome feelings. Today I got to hold baby Grace in Church. The feeling of a precious snuggling little poppet in my arms was divine. I found my heart aching for the day I will hold you. This afternoon I lay on the couch with a cookbook. Thats usually my favourite 'chill out' zone, but today it served a different purpose.. WHAT am I craving?? Langbein makes for great reading, but today all her pictures made my stomach roll... till finally I saw lemon meringue pie and then a thai sauce with limes and nailed it: citrus! Craved citrus with Amy too and asked myself why I didnt plant a lime and grapefruit tree back in those pregnancy days?? Oh yeah.. because we werent going to do this again. Do you know how wonderful it is that I get to do this again? You should see the kids faces when I talk about you. Amy likes to rub my belly and she keeps asking me when youre coming out. So today I worked out youre due about 25th January. Wonderful, just in time to enjoy summer days and fresh breezes and beautiful flowers. You already bring summer to my soul. God Bless you my little blueberry. xxx 9th. 1:30am. The dilemma of morning sickness. Am I hungry or is that nausea? Both. I know it's the middle of winter but I want so much to throw open the doors and let in fresh air.. The lingering smell of dinner is getting to me. Instead I think I might just stare down the toilet some more. 10th. Sweet bundle, I love placing my hand on my stomach and knowing you are there. Today I feel a lot brighter.. which makes up for the fact that I spent as much as I could of yesterday nauseous and lying on the couch. I woke early with your daddy and determined to have a bright face for today. Introducing: Dry Shampoo. That stuff is genius. I have so much to show you! :) Dads thinking ahead too.. he asked me this morning where we plan on feeding you, in your highchair... and on our expensive red rug ;) Cuteness, you have to know, that alone should be reason for you to know how VERY loved and wanted you are. That your dad was willing, no make that prayerful, for you to come into our lives... in this newly renovated home.. on our recently laid carpet.... let me just say: youre planned. And desired. More than any of these earthly things. More than all of his hard work could buy for us. That saying... would you mind, if you could, not being a spilly baby? Would be real helpful :) Just sayin. Love you blueberry. Immensely. xxxx 12th. I wish I were feeling sicker than I am. The past few days, I havent felt so sick. Sure Ive gagged. But I feel wrapped up in anxiety as to whether or not my hormones are sufficient for you. Today I cried. Im helpless. Helpless to do anything to keep you there. And the trauma of losing Poppy is coming back to me. I want to trust you to Jesus.. but I did that with Poppy and He took her home. This exercise of trust is so unbearable. I keep praying.. for a brief moment of today I felt sure that it was all going to be okay, that you are going to be fine. I want so much for God to confirm that.. I want, more than anything, just to enjoy YOU. 14th. "Be it unto me according to Your Word" Luke 1:38. Father, it was you who whispered across our hearts "Children are a blessing from the Lord". It was You who whispered this life into my womb. It is You and You alone who can bring all Your promises to pass. So I am putting aside today my earthly understanding, I want to receive YOUR promise. Your Word. Be it unto me according to Your Word. I rest my security there. 16th. Introducing again.. 4am. And the laying awake with "am I sick, or maybe just hungry?". Lie there and try not to wake hubby up.. give up, come downstairs, drink milk, eat biscuit. Helps some. Drink another glass of milk. Still feel bit yuck. Wish I hadnt drunk so much milk :) I must have done this all about 5 years ago with Amy. It seem so long ago! Glad to do it again with you. More than you know. Love you milky poppet, so much. xx 17th. The past 24 hours have given me reason to believe without doubt that I am very sick. And very pregnant. Tim is cooking dinner tonight, Cornish Pasties. Oh praise God for capabe ten year olds.. because Id quite like to just bury my head in pillows and pretend food doesnt exist. Except Ginger Beer. My new hero. Which isnt really a food but I am grateful for the stuff none the less. And grateful for you. x 18th. Right now your biggest brother is making pull apart pizza bread for lunch. Home ec was on his homeschool list. By the end of this first trimester, he's going to be fully qualified. I decided something in the wee hours of the night. I was suddenly hit with this wonderful thought "what if all my days carrying you, were marked in the verses of hope and truth I stored up in my heart for you and for me". So thats what Ive committed to. Excites me. On another note, your sister Amy tells me often that you are her baby. I get the honour of changing your nappies, she doesnt seem to be partial to that task. Funny that ;). Love you baby. x 23rd June. My favourite feeling right now.. feeling sick. Highlight of my pregnancy was today: Seeing YOU. On the screen. My little peanut. Looking so very plump, cute and deliciously well. You are 23.82mm crown to rump. So little, but so very big to us. You are exactly 9wks 1 day, perfectly accurate to what you should be. And you are due on 25th January 2015. I look forward to being a waddling whale this summer coming. Oh precious soul, I love you to bits. You are a gift! xxxx 30th June. Yesterday I was praying and I felt God speak to me about you. That you were a blessing and a reward, a gift that would give beyond the walls of our home. I wonder what purpose and call God has on your life? Yesterday in Church we prayed that you would know where you are and that your little heart would beat for joy to be in the presence of God. May you know Him even in this secret place. x 1st July. My stomach line is long passed and my pre pregnancy figure seems a distant memory. Already my body is growing and changing and I look pregnant. Your daddy loves it. I love it. Ive found myself dreaming of when you are here, what you will look like, smell like, feel like. Its so exciting :) 2nd July. I cried last night for Poppy. Tears that didnt make a lot of sense to me. Sometimes Im just reminded by your preciousness, of your sister, whose toes and nose I dont get to kiss for a long time. Strangely the tears also drew me closer to you. I love you. x 5th. it's 1:40am. Daddy is away hunting with Tim and I'm awake fighting the urge to throw up. Dad has had lemon water by the bed which has become one of my saving graces... I think I've downed 4 glasses just this evening. I have Amy here beside me, doing her best to stick to my side of the bed. I must have moved her over a handful of times already... To no avail, she likes to know I'm near. On that note, I think you're coming into the most a affectionate family out. You will never lack for snuggles and kisses. As you get older, there will always be someone willing to let you climb in their bed if you're cold or scared. I like that, this family knows to treasure one another. 11wks now and counting.. Already over a 1/4 way there :). I don't want to rush it, I just want to enjoy growing you x 21st July. 13 + 2 was. Today was heartbeat day. Dad happened to pop home right before we left and tagged along for the ride.. So we all got to hear your little heart together for the first time. I know that sound delighted me with the others, but with you, it was like the sound of heaven itself.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Clothed.

The Lord has been impressing upon me over and over lately a concept of being clothed. I like that. Clothed in Him. It sounds nice. It sounds lovely. Ah yes, that lovely radiant robe that He drapes upon me when I walk through the doors of Church and I suddenly feel amazing. Light. Free. Secure. Okay, but truth is. Sometimes Im left wondering how come Im walking around in something that feels more drab than fab. And why my insecurities seem to be on parade, instead of the confidence I have in Christ. I was talking to a dear friend in Church today about thanksgiving. She made a comment "A garment of thanksgiving is something we have to put on". Isaiah 61:3 Ugh. How real a truth!! We often forget that if we are to walk clothed in the righteousness of God, and under His beautiful radiant robe of royalty.. we must actually put it on. And that requires us first, to take something off. Our pride. Im going to get real here. You know that drab garment of shame that you wear for comfort, because someone falsely accused you, misused you and said all kinds of nasty things against you?? ..... You know why you hold onto it so tight? Because of your pride. Inside your screaming "I dont deserve this". Yet acknowledging the undeservedness, you somehow cant get rid of it. It seems to hang off you like a repulsive odor from which you cant smother enough talc or perfume to rid the stench. The truth is. How undeserved the treatment was, inside your pride cries out "Im worth more". The Word says this: Philippians 2:5 "You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.. he made himself nothing". NOTHING. Harsh words, criticism, pain, wrong treatment. They are inevitable. Yet you have a choice. You can run around like a mad nutter in self defence and hurt, unforgiveness and with a determination to right the wrongs, clear your name, give your side of the story..... OR You can stand before your foe, the Enemy, and say "you are right, I am NOTHING. I may not have been guilty of what you accuse me of, but I am guilty of so much more. Amy Carmichael has a quote that has profoundly changed my life.. "If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love." Condemnation is from the enemy of your soul. It is the most strategic attempt to have you rushing about and pouring all your energy into reminding yourself why you are worthy of so much more. Jesus has already paid the price for you. He already has ready for you a garment, a robe of righteousness that is UNDESERVED AND RADIANT in Him. Want it? Then choose to put it on. How? Take of your filthy garments of sin. Ephesians 4:20. Envy, pride, anger... Give thanks! 1 Thess 5:18 Know whose you are, not who you are Psalm 45:13-14. Dont buy into the fear that will try and cripple you into being who they think you are. It wont work to know who you are, or to 'find yourself' or even to just 'be yourself'. When you know you are child of God, a daughter of the King, when youve spent time at His feet, your behaviour will follow accordingly. It wont be contrived or performed, it will be an overflow. Rest in His faithfulness Deuteronomy 29:5. His garments never run out. Ever.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

If..

“If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about the one who has disappointed me; if I say “Just what I expected,” if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.” ― Amy Carmichael, If. Sam and I were talking last night. Our conversation was on the tendency to grow old and disillusioned with man. In general. I have friends who I know find it near impossible to trust people. Ive heard more times than I dare count "I dont trust anyone" and I have had a huge number of people tell me increasingly, their despondency towards Church function and its emptiness. And I get it. So we asked ourselves a question... how do you come through 'alive'? How do you accept others, but not carry their 'junk?' How do you trust, but not go to your grave disappointed? How do you reach out, but not be trodden on? How do you believe all things, but not be made a fool? How do you hope all things, but not be left despondent? How do you love, and not walk in hatred? What if you dont want to be a doormat?.... So what is the answer???? John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease. What if you went to your grave: Treated as junk. Disappointed by others. Trodden all over. Believed to be a fool. Hated. And what if you found that Jesus was glorified in those things. That He was enough. That you were so consumed in His love, that nothing could quench your desire and boldness to live out love as He lived it. What if you chose the low road, so that others could climb higher. What if you chose to be a doormat, so that someone could have cleaner shoes for the journey. What if you were okay to be hated, so that someone could seek wholeness. What if your expectation of man was faith. All the time. What if love believed the best...... Choose to be the 'if' today.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Spontaneous Sam

Sam is my methodical organised thoughtful husband who comes with a streak which to me, is like the cherry on top.. his spontaneity. It was a surpise I discovered in marrying him and watching him grow into Fatherhood. I wondered how he would cope with the day to day mess and unpredictability of parenting. Just go into his garage and look at how its all set up, and you will get why I may have had a bit of hesitation into how he would adjust. Id be lying if I said there wasnt a small amount of adjustment.... by ME. Alas, it is I who found that little pieces of lego on the ground, diecast cars under loungesuites and unflushed toilets would grate on my patience. I lost count on the number of times Sam came home, stepped over toys and said "ah hun, dont worry about that!". In fact, pretty much the only thing that he cant stand is kids with sticky fingers on windows, walls and furniture. Hence to say we now have a pretty rigid rule of conduct in the food department. But back to spontaneity. Sam loves to do randomn things on the spot. Just for the fun of it. Our years of parenting, hence, have been filled with seasons and sunshine which, for our kids, are the norm. Yet to me, these moments have often been the reason to breathe, smile and treasure the now. On Mothers Day, it seems fitting to simply say, I think its these moments that have made motherhood so wonderful. Theyve been rides on the dolly cart, after dinner walks up to countdown in the dark in jackets and hats, drives over to the ships to sit and watch them being loaded, traipsing up to the quarry to go on adventures, walks to the sandy beach to throw shells and catch bait fish, sliding down the stairs, nerf dart challenges, trasma car races, evening trips to nanny and grandpas for a swim and a drink... I could just go on and on and on. Every season Sam has filled with fun, things he's not done once just to say "Arent I a good dad". Things not just done with half hearted enthusiasm. He loves it and will literally spend HOURS at it, no matter what. Last night was one of those moments. Id had a roast beef in the oven for the afternoon on slow cook. Id just pulled it out and left it to rest and was about to throw on the veges when Sam announced "come on, lets go out for tea". Experience has taught me not to rationalize these moments too much. The meat can be used on sandwhiches and cold for another night and the housework can wait, as can my need of a shower. We threw the kids into thick jackets, hats and scarves and bundled ourselves off in the car in search of a place to eat. I even purposefully left the camera behind. We eventually found a park down town and wandered to the busy local Pizza joint for some gourmet pizza and hot chips. Sitting there with him, looking at them, I found myself pausing to simply admire each of them and relish that they are the loveliest company I could ask for. I couldnt tell you for a second who else was in the restaurant, or what else was on the menu. Our hot chips were to die for, especially lashed in love. And best of all, I wasnt distracted by trying to take photos to capture the moment or prove its authenticity. We were all just wonderfully there. This morning when I woke up for Mothers Day, I was greeted with a son who had made me crackers, a crumpet and a licorice stick in a happy face, for breakfast. The next son gave me hot coffee and a more nutritious offering of peanut butter toast complete with vouchers for pampering to be redeemed at set times throughout the day. And my sweet gift loving son made me a beautiful card and presented me with a hyacinth plant. I smiled as I saw how Sams love of spontaneity had rubbed off on these precious wee men of ours. It caused me to ask... what is spontaneity? I think Sam has shown me that spontaneity is the gift you give of saying "let me give you joy, right now!"... and finding joy in the process yourself. Ive needed that gift much more than even I realised. I wonder how many around me need that gift a whole lot more to: the gift of joy, just because, just because youre worth celebrating life with. We could all do more of that couldnt we?!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tumtum & Nutmeg

I love things miniature. I love things good. I love things that make you want to create. I love little happy worlds and happy endings and Sylvanian Families. When I was little, we used to have a small box frame with little compartments that housed copper kettles and pots and eeny mini kitchen things and it pretty much sums up the things I love.
Find these things in a book and youve got me hanging! And... my boys love adventures, soldiers, fighting and heroes. Amy enjoys anything sweet and tiny. Sam loves a story that captures imagination and is full of good morals. Its rare to find a book to read as a family, that covers all the criteria. But the Tumtum and Nutmeg books tick all the boxes and have become a favourite in our household.
These books are akin to Beatrix Potter and the art of bringing animals to life with quirky character and believable plots. Two little mice, Tumtum and Nutmeg, who live in a cottage in the broom cupboard of the home of Arthur and Lucy. Two kids, who they loyally tend to, to make their lives better.. never being caught or seen. The stories are not infantile, yet simple enough to make sense. As the parent reader, Ive found myself chuckling and enjoying reading aloud, just as much as the Cahill kids enjoy to wriggle and listen. And most of all, I love that the stories are as simple as good and bad character, and morals that are easy to understand. A comfort which highlights a bone I have to pick with Disney over Frozen. Despite being a fan of both Olaf and Elsa's hairdo, Im still perplexed by how to explain to my children that the Queen who was born with an evil power, was a good queen and becomes a good person by an enstranged sister overcoming said evil power with an act of love. Tell me that its not complicated!! Anyhow! We all know the benefits of reading to kids. As a homeschool mum, and an (almost) trained teacher, I place reading to as *the* best thing you can do for your children in their education. But in the name of keeping it real, and not having you imagine four pint sized bundle of perfection sitting lined upon our couch, while I sit in my orderly home and read delightful stories of wee mice... Heres how we do it. I read most days, 2-3 chapters a day and we get through most books with speed. I think this helps keep the tension of a story going, creating anticipation, but not so stretched out that it becomes an agitation. Listening and sitting still is an art form, and we really do work on it, but for the most part, I have the kids grab a pencil and paper and draw while they listen. Their drawings will often be of something that captures them in the story and some of the masterpieces theyve created are going to make me rich oneday. Oneday. (maybe biased mum speaking). The most favourite aspect of Tumtum and Nutmeg, for me, is the scope for creativity and craft. The story talks about yoghurt containers used as dining tables and toy cars used for mice to travel about in.. suddenly the ideas flood in of all the possibilities of containers and everyday items that we use around the home, to be a miniature world of order and beauty. Weve got clay and made our own little wee mice and matching furniture. This lesson was equally good for discussions on scale, working in 3D as it was molding, firing and texture. These arent ours.. but inspiring none the less..
Then there is Maileg. Oh I swoon. A Danish company who designed a range of kids toys which really are adult toys marketed for parents who use children as an excuse to revisit childhood. The prices are a little, um, up there. Ive contemplated pretending I have the lifestyle of Duchess Kate and making a small collection of Maileg for my own satisfaction.. under the guise of 'for Amy', but Mr Husband would have a hard time believing it.. especially since Id likely be storing them in my closet with a "KIDS DONT TOUCH" sign. So instead I have my talented parents lined up for a little woodwork and sewing.. and in the interim, using an old milk carton to create a mousehouse, or an empty matchstick box (with a full and thorough firesafety message issued prior of course), to make a mice bed, is an exceptionally marvellous lesson on recycling!
Then there is the minature food options. Reading the stories are rather like eating a chocolate biscuit with a nice mug of warm milk on a rainy day. And that feel good feeling is captured all through the story with the mice's diet of pies and cakes and all things taintalisingly eaten everyday. If you are a mouse. Of course this isnt a book along the lines of Nourishing Traditions, so I wouldnt advocate that you use it as a basis for healthy eating. But then cockcroach pies keep the balance of appeal here. Instead, designing and creating mini food is the alternative. And who could resist this for an idea
Or you could follow up teaching healthy food with this book Ive ordered from Karen Le Billon, who wrote possibly one of my 'you must read' books: "French Kids Eat Everything"..
Not that Im suggesting you try cockroach pie, I should add. But perhaps you could dive off on parsnips and introduce them creatively using the book above. Lets not forget too, the art of hospitality. Putting on the kettle as force of habit, the moment your guests turn up.. which is something my best buddy does without a moment of hesitation, the moment you step foot in her door. In fact, she wont greet you without first filling it up and embracing you in a smile and a hug and before you know it there is a hot mug under your nose and a cheery "how are you?".. like I said... An art. And on that note of hospitality, there is a world of ideas: how to greet guests, menu planning, budget and respect and making people feel welcome. I could not go further than telling you that you HAVE to read "Shaping Of A Christian Family" by Elizabeth Elliot for all ideas on how to do hospitality well.. she quotes "There was always enough money for unpretentious hospitality...My parents saw the entertaining of God's people as a great privilege and blessing to the family...no matter what our economic condition...". If your up for more inspiration.. you could do any of these things:
Allllll that to say... buy the book. Book Depository has it for $22 for a hardback set of 3. Please go to my friends blog and order it from her affiliate link.. www.homemakingwithheart.com. I dare you not to get distracted on her blog. And both the book and her... Absolutely worth it. Have fun :)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

There is no black in heaven...

Last week, after I lost Poppy, God showed me a flash of a picture of her walking through a field. Not just any field,... one where the blades of grass are as delicate as running your hands through fur, where the wind paints gentle pictures in them, like a paintbrush through watercolour, where space is vast and mysterious and peaceful, yet never lonely, where home is the moment by moment enjoyment of all He has made. Poppy was wearing a white robe. Maybe a dress. It neither overwhelmed her or appeared heavy or cumbersome. It was elegant and fitting, and perhaps what caught my eye, was the red cord that sat around its edge. Symbolizing her belonging. Her status. Her price. I was telling Sam about this picture I had. I need to be straight here!.. this vision wasnt an hour long moment of peering into heaven.. this was like a flash of a dream, where what I saw burned across my mind. And one thing in particular: that red cord. Think of the most beautiful deep shade of crimson red you can here on earth. Think of this: if you were to paint it.. if you were to create that colour.. what would you use to create that depth? I was trying to explain this to my husband, trying to put into words what it looked like, or to what I could compare it, when the words came tumbling out of my mouth "its like the blood red that you can only create when you mix it with a shade of black, or a base of black... but in heaven, there is no black". I laughed even as I spoke it. Of course there is no black in heaven. Black is what we call the absence or absorption of light. In heaven, there is no void of light, anywhere. Every colour is deeper and richer and vibrant than all the colours on earth put together. There is nothing to compare. If thats just a brief foretaste of colour, what does it speak of the character of our God? 1 John 5 says "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all". There is nothing in Him that is untoward, rude, unkind, ungracious, impatient, disrespectful, bitter, unyielding, unsympathetic or self preserving. He is simply incapable of it. You will never find a hint of black in His depth, because His nature is the complete opposite. Lets go on... that verse continues to say this: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another" Want to know if youre lying to God, yourself and the world? Ask yourself this: Whom am I not in fellowship with? What have I done to make fellowship possible with that person? What have I held back from making that fellowship a reality? Oh its easy to presume to have done all we can... its easy to deceive ourselves that weve done enough. But light is a bridge. Light seeks your fellowman out and says "walk me over the bridge of your experience till I understand". Light says "nothing is too much for me to seek to be right with you, I will do whatever it takes". Light holds back no darkness, no animosity, no reserve of graciousness, or withholding of affection or care. Light never gives up. Light doesnt build walls, create excuses, or show dishonour.. It cant!... and if we are His, neither can we. John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Grief can be messy...

Grief is messy Ive found. It seems that little choice bears upon what a day will hold in the land of grief, or how I will feel about it. I want to carry on as normal, only a trip to the supermarket and finding myself in line with a mother with a newborn baby, was probably not a good moment. She looked tired, he looked blissfully peaceful. I wondered to myself; does she get what a treasure she has strapped onto her front?!!! I stacked my groceries next to hers and found myself wistfully admiring her ready made meals and baby items..... nappies, oh sweet nappies... before slapping myself "Fleur, get a grip!". With military precision I stacked my items in order, packed up the car, and sat for a moment at the wheel, breathing.. wishing I could close my eyes and go to sleep and wake up to find my emotions were all in order as I liked them. Who knew shopping could do that to you??? And then there was the trip to the library, because heaven knows, I plan on being the worlds most amazing mum to the precious four bundles I have. Especially now. So we went in search of DVD's and books and stared widely away from anything to do with babies. I resisted the temptation to duck down the aisle of explanations for miscarriage.. Im sure there is a row of books for that stuff, written by people pre disposed, like myself, to research, answers and logic. Instead I found the Christian reading and hunted for something.. anything... eyes glued to titles... searching for THE book that would calm my heart. No one had written "Im Sorry You Lost Poppy", so I settled on "The Sacred Romance". Nate whispered to me "are you looking for a book to help you stop crying all the time?". Um. What do you say to that? On the drive home, the kids were fighting and I could feel my emotions starting to unravel. I hadnt told Nate or Ben yet, the reason for their mess of a mummy.. so I quietly said to them "hey guys, the reason mummy has been sad is that there was a tiny little poppy seed sized baby growing in my tummy... and (tears), where she grows, well (sniff), started bleeding, and she is now home with Jesus. SO PLEASE stop fighting okay (more tears)". I caught Nates reflection in the rear vision mirror, he was sitting up so he could see my face and said "are you crying mum?". I am, I responded, Im just so super sad son. Their little faces looked momentarily regretful and comprehending. And for a fraction of a second I breathed a sigh of relief that they got it... Only a moment later Ben said "what hapenned to the baby?". Nate went on to explain that "mum got a cut where the baby grows, so now she is bleeding, and the baby is lost". I pulled into the drive way and pulled on the break and then Amy says "its okay mummy, the baby is not lost, we will find her". I cracked up laughing through the tears and pain. The whole comical messy scenario reinforced the point: grief is messy. The next day I had an appointment and dropped off the kids to mum. About to go, Amy said "you are coming back aye mummy?". I reassured her, I wouldnt be long and would absolutely come back for her, somewhat bewildered by the comment... only she then turned to Nana and said "you wont lose me aye Nana?". I couldnt help but giggle as I figured out what was going on for her... I mean, just the day before we'd gone to the library and mummy had 'lost' the baby. What baby, Amy didnt know, and tears seemed a rather lackadaisical response to just 'losing' her... heck, I mean, if its so easy to lose someone, and not really make an effort to go searching to find them, then anything is possible, right?!. As far as Amy is concerned, mum is prone to losing things right now.. keys, coins, earing backs, socks, lists.. and sometimes the odd baby. So best to keep your bases covered and ensure Nana is looking out for you. Poor girl :D Then there is the somewhat more icky side of what people do, and dont say, or do, or think, or write. Where flowers and cards and meals and the like would be fitting for the loss of a child, miscarriage exists in the messy realm. The ugliest moment of my grief was cooking dinner on the night of losing the baby, with nothing around me that tangibly spoke "so sorry". I went to phone Sam and tell "sweetheart, please would you buy me a bunch of flowers".. I mean, everyone keeps asking "tell us if you need anything". And right at that moment, I needed flowers. But the strange part of grief is that its rather like romance, asking for it, nullifies the act of it. I hung up the phone after dialling 3 numbers, perplexed, again, at how messy my heart has felt. What about the time of grief? Everything in my life at this point, has had somewhat of a predictability. A beginning, a middle, an end. Grief, I realise, doesnt work like that. It seems its a bit like obtaining a tattoo while being pinned to the chair. The picture might make a bit more sense, once its completed, and the pain lessens, but what if you never wanted the tattoo in the first place? I mean, for some, for a few, miscarriage is a relief. But for me, it was a tragedy. Messy. How do you make sense of the mess of grief? I think the answer is not to look at the mess, but to look at Jesus. Spring cleaning is wonderful fun, but winter still has to be gone through. I happen to like winter, and Im learning to be okay with it in my soul too. Its not pleasant at times, but Ive come to know, that snow shows his foot steps the clearest and his breath is visible in the icy cold air. The beauty of the mess is that He is so very near.