Monday, 30 January 2012


The countdown began on January 1st.

3 months to go until Jared begins his part time job for Best Western (and his salary halves). Without anything else lined up (and no savings at all), the prospect felt daunting and as the grey, cold month of January wore on and we STILL had no answers and nothing substantial booked in I have to admit I started to wonder if we were doing the right thing. Having a cancellation from something that was a big opportunity was probably the lowest point of the month. Waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting was all we seemed to be doing. Why on earth had Jared given up his job to do this? My mind started racing with all the negative possibilities that we faced. The reality hit hard and I started to doubt everything that I held true.

Last week brought a turning point for us both. Unaware of what the other one was thinking, we both came to the same conclusion. There were still no answers, and still nothing for us to live on in April. Outwardly, nothing had changed. Inwardly though, everything was different. We suddenly realised that although we said we trusted God, when crunchtime came, our legs wobbled and our heads raced with anxious thoughts. Anxiety is not real trust. It was one of those "Ok, God, I think I get the message now" moments. Ever had one of those?

So, we put our family once again into God's hands. We put our future into his hands and we put our finances into his hands. As scary as it sounds, it actually is the safest place to put them. If only we would just realise this and stop trying to do it all ourselves!

This morning, as Jared was on his way to meet with Rock UK to discuss the possibilities of working part time for them, the boys and I sat around our breakfast table and prayed. We thanked God that he already knows our needs and we asked him for some answers today. We asked him to provide for us.

He did. Jared left his meeting amazed at God's provision. The gap that we were looking to fill so that we don't have to eat beans on toast every day (we've tried that and it stinks the house out) has now been filled. The timing was utterly perfect. Everything about it was perfect.

And the best bit? Without a doubt, telling the boys. Max's response was an astonished "Oh Mum, I love God so much. He's amazing. I love being a christian. If God can do this now for us, imagine what heaven will be like!"

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


No-one said being a parent was easy. They were right. In fact, it's more difficult than any other challenge we could take on in life. Or at least, that's how it feels at the moment.

Babies cry. Alot. (Well, mine did. Other people seemed to have perfect babies who only made tiny little whimpers whilst mine were bawling as loudly as a siren that attracts all the attention of those around it, especially those with disapproving faces.)

Toddlers scream to get their own way. Although it is named the 'terrible twos', in my experience it didn't start at two and certainly didn't end at 3 (or 4, or 5, or 34).

Siblings cry to get their fellow siblings into trouble. Or is it just my boys who collapse dramatically on the floor of the kitchen whilst screaming something about their brother? Perhaps that's where the footballers first develop their skills.....

Now we are in the 'pre-teen' phase, we are discovering yet more tears are afoot. I am baffled by the whole thing. Just as we fumbled our way through Toby's (our oldest boy) baby and toddler years, not really knowing if we were doing the right things or not, now it feels as though we are entering an emotional minefield in the pitch black. We don't know the way, we don't know when the explosions are going to happen and we certainly don't know how to stop them. There is no "Guide to Toby's mind" which would helpfully point us in the right direction (and away from the explosive parts) and really, we have no idea what we are doing!

It's different with Jonah, our youngest. He can't swing any tricks our way because we have seen them all before. We know how to distract him out of his silly little tantrums and we can see through his arguments and his dropping to the floor when he doesn't get his own way. We know which battles are worth fighting and which are just best left. We know what to do with him.

But Toby, he's the first and he gets the raw deal. We are trying everything out on him for the first time. We are always new parents when it comes to him. Every new stage is a mystery to us. A puzzle that must be worked out. I am perplexed when he suddenly wants to wear his trousers halfway down his bottom, revealing his boxer shorts, when only a year ago he was laughing at boys who did just that. I don't understand why he wants to keep secrets from me when he used to tell me everything. I am shocked when he argues with me and shouts at me. It feels like we are walking through thick fog, slowly feeling our way along. We make lots of mistakes on Toby. It's the sad truth about the first child. They are the ultimate guinea pig.

And so, yet again, I realise that I can't do this parenting thing on my own. I need my Father in Heaven. Wisdom is one thing I will be asking Him for alot in turbulent teenage years ahead. Wisdom and chocolate. They should do the trick nicely.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Books, books, books

Now this is more like it.

Collecting Max from school always instills in me a sense of trepidation. Is he going to run out, beaming and excited or is he going to stomp out, stroppy and in a foul mood? Rightly or wrongly, Max's moods often dictate the rest of our afternoon at home which is why today when he skipped out of the door, coat hanging down his back and lunchbag trailing across the playground, I breathed a sigh of relief. Today has been a good day.

And why had it been a good day? He was very quick to tell me. All the boys on his reading level had been snuck out of the classroom and taken to a special, secret location in which were hidden a basket of books. Books just for boys. No girls allowed.

Of course, this appeals to Max's "girls should not exist" nature (and yes, I am convinced this will change when the hormones begin to rage around his body, but for now it's really quite funny). Books that are only for boys? Books that girls cannot pollute? Books that cannot be contaminated by being in the vicinity of pink books about fairies and princesses? This is mightily impressive.

A big pat on the back for whoever thought up that idea. Boys, who so often struggle with reading and writing, will be hopefully motivated afresh to pick up one of those secret books and get reading.

It's not often I say this, but good job School.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Working From Home - Heaven or Hell?

Jared started working from home over the Christmas holidays.


I can phone through my lunch order so it is ready when I arrive home from work.
He can do odd jobs around the house in between phone calls, emails and other work-type activities.
He sees the reality of my days.
Sometimes he makes me a cup of tea.
In the school holidays I could lie in bed later because he didn't have to 'leave for work' until 9am.
He now understands how cold the house is during the daytimes.


When he tries to make a phone call, I have to attempt the impossible and keep the boys quiet.
He realises that I don't actually run around all day hoovering, washing, cleaning and being the perfect mother to my boys (sometimes I go on facebook or even, shock horror, read my book while Jonah watches the television).
When I have precious child free time in which I like to have the house to myself so I can blast my music, dance around the kitchen, bake cakes or other such indulgent activities, he is there, messing up my plans.
He actually does get under my feet - I tripped over his foot yesterday whilst trying to make the lunch.
The boys can't quite understand that he is at work, and so keep running to him to tell tales, ask questions or ask him to play with them.
When we first were married I never expected I would say this but I need some time away from him! Seeing him too much makes me annoyed with him. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder!
My computer keeps going offline because he has his work one going at full pelt.
When I have my times with God, which I do after the school run, I can't be as loud as I used to be.
He keeps trying to put the heating on.

So far the negatives are outweighing the positives. Can anyone reassure me that these are simply teething problems or do I have to get used to this forever?!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Consequences, consequences, consequences.....

I am a big believer in them.

For example, this morning as Toby was preparing to leave for school instead of wearing his warm winter coat, he put on a hoody over his school uniform.

Me: "Aren't you going to wear a coat today Tobes, it is January still?"
Toby: "No Mum, it's not cool to wear a coat. I'll be fine in this."
Me (swallowing all the words that have risen to the tip of my tongue about being silly, catching your death, what if it rains etc etc): "Ok, well at least wear a hat and some gloves and then you'll be lovely and warm." I thought this was a good compromise.
Toby: "I don't need a hat and gloves Mum! I've got a hood and pockets!"

Managing to refrain from lecturing him about dressing appropriately for the seasons, I kissed him goodbye and sent him on his way. Although if he does come home from school dripping wet because it has rained, or freezing cold, I will probably relish saying "I told you so".

Of course there are some battles that we have to have with our children - for example a 3 year old should hold your hand whilst crossing the road. But whenever I can, I give the decision making to the child and let them learn from the natural consequences. Some consequences are less desirable than others, and some children are so stubborn they won't even admit to you that they didn't like the consequences. Max refuses to put up his hood when it rains. I have so many other important battles with him, so this is one I am not going to have. When I tell him he will get wet and cold, instead of then putting up his hood he replies "I like being wet and cold". I am quite certain that he doesn't, but he certainly won't admit that to me!

The worst aspect of all of this is when it does all go wrong for them, and then they moan to me about it! Last week we were playing in the park which has a small stream running through it. Max and Jonah, appropriately attired in wellies, decided to play in the stream. I shouted my usual "When you get water in your wellies and up your trousers, you will be very cold" but of course they never believed it could happen to them. A few minutes later, Jonah clambered out of the stream, took off his welly, turned it upside down and out gushed all the water. Crying at me because he was wet and cold, he sat down on the path and refused to move. It's hard to take responsibility for your own actions, but at 4 years old he was learning this.

Hard as it is as a mum (especially and control freak like me!), allowing children to learn from the consequences is so important for them. We can't always be there to tell them what to do and part of our training and 'letting go' is to allow them to make mistakes. They learn how to make decisions, they learn about taking responsibility and most of all even if they try to, they can't blame their parents for their actions - and in our society of blame and passing the buck, this is a really important skill to learn.

So, I will wait for Toby to come home today, cold and bedraggled and I will try hard not to gloat over the fact that I was right (again).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

And the Parenting Winners are....

.....The parents whose children become child prodigies? The parents who manage to potty train their 1 year old? The Mother whose baby sleeps through the night at a week old? The parents of children who take their GCSE's at the age of ten? The Father who yells so loudly on the sidelines of the football pitch that his son has no option but to play to his best? The family who buy the most expensive presents for each other? The parents whose children have every screen possible and more? The Mother whose toddler eats every type of food put in front of them?

How ridiculous does this sound? And yet we all do it. We all, at some point in our parenting life, compare ourselves to other parents and join the Parenting Competition. I have some news for you....


It does not matter if your baby eats homemade butternut squash pureed into ice cubes or if she eats food from a jar bought in the supermarket. It does not matter if you breastfeed or bottlefeed (yes, I know this may offend some, but I was often offended by people remarking on my choice of feeding and adding to the guilt a new mother already feels). It does not matter if your baby walks at 10 months or 18 months and it certainly doesn't matter if you manage to miraculously potty train your son at 18 months or 3 1/2 years old. It doesn't matter if someone elses 8 year old can ride and bike and yours can't. It doesn't matter if your 4 year old son can't hold a pen properly, but your friend's 5 year old daughter spends all day colouring neatly in the lines. It doesn't matter if your child's classmate has piano lessons, swimming lessons, karate lessons, football club and drama club and your child just enjoys being at home. It doesn't matter if you cannot afford the all singing, all dancing birthday party for your child.

Today, during my blissful child-free trip to the library, I overheard two mothers of pre-school children talking. I was horrified to hear one of them make this careless remark: "I'm not being funny, but my children are alot more academic than yours". This is the culture of competition in which we bring up our children.

However, the reality is that there is no competition because all of our children are different. They are unique. Why do we beat ourselves up, reading silly books with ridiculous 'milestones' that tell us what our children should be doing, when our children have not read the book? They are their own unique person, created in love and made to be the perfect child they were meant to be. Don't hear what I am NOT saying. I love competition and know that it motivates children - especially boys - to work harder and push themselves further. The competition between parents though, is totally wrong and gives the impression that we are never pleased with our children's achievements because Billy in their class is always one step ahead.

Come on, let's give ourselves a break and stop comparing our children and our parenting. Let's climb off the unsteady ladder of 'parental achievement' and celebrate our children for who they were made to be. Let's be free to bring up our children in the way that is best for them and for our own families. Let's enjoy our children and give up the Parenting Competition that so damages family life. Anyone else want to join me?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A bus ride, caged animals and a twinkle

One of the highlights of my Christmas holidays was the positive remark from an elderly gentleman on a bus.

Let me set the scene....

We had spent 2 days cooped up (and now I have chickens, I know the true meaning of the word 'cooped') at Grandma and Grandad's house. The boys were becoming as violent as battery hens needing escape. They had been filled with chocolate and sweets and had nowhere to run off their excessive energy. Caging them, fuelling them and attempting to maintain good behaviour was an impossibility. On top of all that we were sharing a room with a coughing, sleepless Jonah who had spent the morning howling. Jared had gone to work at a National Trust property for the day, leaving me to hold the very wobbly fort. I was tired, worn down and felt like the worst mother in the world.

Carless, I couldn't take them to run off steam in our usual countryside manner so I decided to take them on the bus to the nearest town and go to the big yellow M for lunch. Anywhere was better than being indoors again all day trying not to knock over Grandma's precious ornaments as the boys were physically climbing the walls....or so I thought....

A bus journey is a novelty for my boys so they were very excited. Clambering straight to the top of the double decker, they noisily exhibited their enthusiasm and plonked themselves right at the front. The bus quickly filled up with the usual village bus journey clientele. Thankfully oblivious to the disapproval, Max and Jonah continued in their noise. Toby, playing the embarrassed pre-teen older brother, stared out of the window sighing loudly and pretending he didn't know them (of course, he NEVER did anything of the sort when he was younger). Squirming in his frenzy, Jonah put his wet shoes on his seat.

I was so tired. I looked at him, not expecting obedience of any kind but knowing I had to address the wet shoes on seat scenario, and wearily requested him to take his shoes off the seat.

To my utter amazement, he just did it. I didn't even have to ask him twice. I, of course, pretended this was a regular occurence and just said "Well done" to him.

The elderly gentleman sitting behind Jonah looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "It's lovely to see children doing as they are told for a change."

My eyes welled up and I restrained myself from kssing him, throwing myself into his arms and sobbing on his shoulder or explaining to him that actually my boys were the most disobedient boys on the planet and listing to him all their misdemeanours. Instead I simply thanked him.

It made my week. I am usually the object of disapproving looks, tuts, quiet murmurings and even loud comments from (usually elderly women, but not always) people who have forgotten what life is like with energetic children so this was a moment to be treasured and celebrated. Perhaps, on the odd occasion, my training does work.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


It's not really in my nature, change. I like the comfortable, reassuring sameness of the known. Despite the fact that I endorse adventure for my family, my own nature is to shy away from it. It scares me and I hate the feeling of not knowing what is going to happen. I am a planner by nature, and spontaneity is to be avoided at all costs.

So, it is with enormous feelings of trepidation that I enter this new year. Jared has had the same job since we were married in 1999. Although it has not been the best job for family life, it has certainly not been the worst and it has definitely been a secure job in turbulent economic times. Yet this year, we give it all up to follow a dream that was sparked several years ago, with the kindling of ideas and support from others being slowly added along the way and then the breath of our God to fan the flames.

Of course, I have known this would come and we have been preparing for this time but the reality of it has hit me with full force this week. This next year is going to change our lives. Will it be for the better? In a family that enjoys risk taking, will this venture be one risk too far? Will we go for it, climbing to the top of the highest tree, without realising how to get down again? My optimistic, adventure-driven husband does not share my misgivings. He is focused, excited and ready for action. We make a good team. I think of the practicalities (as down to earth as making sure we have food to eat) and he dreams the dreams.

My battle is to continue to remind myself of the truth that our Father, who knows the unknown, is with us. Not only us he with us, he has already gone before us and knows what we need even before we do. This lesson, full of my uncertainties, of putting my trust in the only One who is certain will change our family.

And so, full of the realities of my fears about the coming year, I hold onto the One who is the Author of our lives and of our adventures. Change is going to happen. Change is not comfortable, will be painful and may be exhausting but there is no other road I want to travel. If this is the road for me, then I will walk it, not trusting in external 'securities' like a job or family, but in the One who will never let go of me despite the pain or the exhilaration of the journey.

Here goes.....