One thing to change a day…

This morning I woke from a broken night with interruptions from 2 children needing help or comfort, and a headache that has not gone away all day.

I did my usual phone check breaking all the rules about checking technology first thing. And not sleeping with it next to one’s bed. I DO put it on aeroplane mode all night but still use it as a clock.

Reading this one thing changed my day. Reminded me of the intention I try to live with daily – but on days like today it’s easy to lose. To drift – and to be the exact opposite of the way I want to be.

All of our choices of having less to live more – can still make way for over use of devices, and different distractions. The circumstances of my morning – with a visit from the owner of our current (new, temporary, and very lovely) home – meant that we had a lot of jobs and needed to keep the place tidy while I cleaned a few extra things. Wasn’t looking good.

Then this:

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A reminder of one of my favourite goals. To prioritise relationship and connection, to put people before things, and commitments. And today – put my children before my coping mechanisms – coffee, screens, hiding away and letting them do projects and play without much effort or connection from me. Honesty alert.

So: with Matthew going out early, leaving me with the breakfast shift as well as the clean up operation – I took the opportunity to embrace the day, get decisively out of bed without the second cup of coffee and be a presence as well as present.

I was intentional about sharing with my children the joy they bring to me  and how much of a gift from God they are. I let them know by connection, that I’ve “got this” and today they have ME in it even though I didn’t feel good. They have had a brilliant day (so have I), we enjoyed good simple food and then a surprise gift from God at lunch time in the form of anonymous generosity from a church member. Right where I’ve decided we shouldn’t buy 2 tins of beans to make lunch ‘easy’ and instead made a healthy family favourite that all enjoyed so much they got spoons to scrape the last drops of cauliflower sauce from their dishes.

I have allowed myself to be interrupted, even now, just before this sentence was written. That was an easy one. Helping miss 7 with a word. But an hour ago I put down a book I had just sat down to read for some quiet time by myself… and on hearing miss 3’s story of the sadness of giving away some cake she now regretted… suggested we made cocoa-zucchini muffins together. Invited Mr 11 and the 2 of them under my guidance just made an impromptu dessert for a day where it appears,  we are eating cake twice.

I chose to fill their cups and I chose joy in the moment. I know that today would have played out very differently if I hadn’t.

Even more space: full house tour

So it’s a long time since I wrote anything. There are many reasons for that, mostly busyness, priorities, and surviving a year with a health scare in it.

These pictures have been waiting to happen so now I am doing the full house tour.

This is our kitchen. And dining room. And school space. It’s the lightest place in the house after we replaced dark worn out furniture with the lightest and brightest we could find. And afford.

Next the living room. Probably the least favourite room in the house but we have done the best we can with it.


Our bedroom is on the first floor but before I get there, here’s the laundry I have to work with:


And linen for a family of 8:


Not beautiful but not out of control. 

Our room and the girls’ rooms are on the first floor.


Sadly I have to keep my sewing stuff in our room.
There are 3 girls sharing here:


Their clothes are super under control. Handmedowns are all kept organised in boxes for size and season as well as out of season clothes. I have just culled and prepared for the summer now.


The book case usually needs work but it shows we use it! All the toys have a place. Daily.

The boys have the top floor. 3 share this room and it’s probably the most challenging in the house because of the differing uses and lack of work space. They do spill out into the study, which is just on the landing outside their door. It is mainly used for music lessons.


So there we go. Our most challenging house ever, with only this for storage space:


And that for a backyard. The silver boxes contain beach things and cricket gear.

It’s all in the numbers: even more cool 

   
 Today Littlest turns 2. This finally means my children’s ages are 2,4,6,8,10 and 12. So fantastic! We have been waiting for these cool numbers almost since she was born when we had a beautiful photo taken with their ages on it. 

In 3 months time my eldest son turns 13 and then the beautiful numbers will be gone so we need to enjoy it until then! 

We have had the most wonderful 2 years as we became a family of 8. We are richly blessed. I can’t imagine life any other way and the past 12 years have taught me so so much. I’ll take the rude “no TV” comments and the unimaginative “are they all yours?” any day of the week. We are even more and loving it. 

Village school.

When school is working how I want it to work, we have days like today. 

One of my children today commented that it was like an old fashioned school. All grades in one room. This is my inspiration for school and learning together actually, and it has many benefits.

   
We gathered around after maths and learned a new technique, drawing optical illusion artwork. It was a real success and was school exactly how I like it… Learning together regardless of age and each working at their own pace. There was much encouragement and persistence. As well as a surprising attention span and accuracy from my Littles.

   
 

To the lady in the greengrocer who bought my son a cucumber…

  

Here’s as about as artistic as I could get with what we did with it.

I’ve thought of that greengrocer trip so often since we came home from our errands that morning. 

It was so kind of you to offer to buy my son the cucumber he had asked me for after I said no. 

I thought it was very respectful of you to check with me first whether it was ok for you to buy it for him. It is because you were so friendly and respectful to me by doing that, that in the moments I turn it over in my mind I assure myself that you don’t think I am a terrible mother! I promise I wasn’t trying to teach him anything by saying no, and that my reason was simply as I gave to my son. We had already spent our food budget and there was no more grocery money till Thursday. (The only reason we were buying potatoes was that son number 2 was due to be cooking dinner with me that evening and shepherds pie needs potato. I broke my own rules and deviated from the menu plan on Friday and regretted it for the rest of the week). On another day you might find me spending nearer $50 in that shop, paying out of a shabby envelope in to which the grocery budget goes every Thursday.

I agree it’s so nice to hear children asking for fruit and vegetables. My kids ask for them all the time, especially this particular son! We eat a lot of them and we are hardly ever sick, according to our doctor. She notices that we don’t go and see her for illnesses very much, if at all. Our food budget is tight, and this is my exact dilemma. I can keep my family in good health by making a healthy smoothie every day. When we stop those, we start to notice our immunity dropping and a sniffle develops. Smoothie next day, sniffle disappears. The trouble is, that is half our food budget gone in just breakfast smoothies, if I make them all of the time. Since the doctor mentioned how healthy we are I have had an idea. Some of  the money I am putting aside in the health budget can become my health smoothie fund. It’s kind of a health insurance anyway.

So we got home from the shops and I made a gluten free pizza from scratch which went perfectly with the cucumber. My son was happy to share it. He was even happier I let him slice it by himself (hence the knife marks).  The pizza also includes a mock cheese sauce made from a bag of frozen cauliflower for the potato bake that used up all of my potatoes in the wrong meal. So despite being nearly the end of the ‘food week’ we ate really well that day.

In the past I have done similar to you. Paid for someone’s shopping because i wanted to show them that someone cares for them or because they asked me for money. I am in a mixed season now. Sometimes I can give, and other times I have to receive. This was one of those times. 

Thanks again… You blessed my son and he generously shared the cucumber with all of us and he enjoyed cutting it all up himself for lunch.

Even more real

About to turn 40, I am happy with how this year is turning out and what I have learned. I finally feel like I have a grip on most things (in a good way!) and I know who I am, where I am going, and what I am doing. For now… In this season until it changes again. 

Not everyone feels like this at 40, and maybe it’s not connected with age. But I have spoken to 2 other friends recently who felt like this…they linked it with age, with 40 being a great age. For want of any better ideas, I’m linking it too. Instead of feeling scared of the number (I’ve learned not to be scared of numbers 😉 ) I am going to embrace it. 

I have never been a fan of pretence, and I don’t mind being the boy in the story who shouts “the Emperor has got no clothes on!”. Everyone else finally felt relieved (and far less stupid) when he was brave enough (or something!) to say what everyone else was even too afraid to think. 

I see so many things ready to trap us as new parents (and not so new ones) into joining with the crowd pretending they can see this amazing new suit… And inside wondering if they are the only one who can’t see it. 

Classic example: group of first time mothers ( or not so first time mothers) talking about their babies’ sleep. 

Another example: same group of mothers gathering in one of their homes and going away thinking they are the only one who can’t even manage to get dressed before 11 (or at all) let alone clear and clean up, and bake before having friends over. Pinterest makes all these things worse if we have to look ‘Pinny’ as well as parent pur children, keep house. Make amazing date nights for our husbands,  and on it goes.  

I’ve had to change my expectations of myself, a high achiever in most things, as my family has grown. I am sad when I hear of friends trying to do all those things they think they should be doing, but instead are drawing on reserves not easily replenished (there’s no magic iron infusion for this one) and ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ is the biggest joke out. 

I am going to be thinking more about this ‘real’ and writing about it. There are a number of lies we believe in both directions: do it all / do nothing. There’s an honest, sanity saving middle ground I seem to have finally stumbled on. It’s the way I am walking this year.  

 

Making kids feel special

I was collecting large family articles on Pinterest the other day. I did a search and came up with a wide range of blog posts, and for some reason many on how to make kids feel special in large families. I didn’t pin any. I may eventually read one or two, just to find out what the suggestions are and maybe what the negatives are supposed to be, for children blessed with 3 or more siblings. (What is large anyway?!)

Just now as I have been thinking about this I realise something. It is possible for children in any size family to lack in personal relationship or connection with their parents. Sharing our love with Even More children does not diminish its quality or depth. It’s not watered down by the time it reaches our younger children. Actually I feel as though I have had much more opportunity to step back and value my relationships with all of my children as individuals and seeing their differences and similarities in this way helps me to keep all of those relationships growing, and individual children valued exactly for who they are. 

I am making this up as I go along. By that I mean I don’t have a manual, a formula or step by step guide to follow in raising my children. Our style and practice has grown and developed since day 1. If we don’t grow or change in that time as parents, either we are actually absolutely perfect or…

We have an overview. To parent the way we feel God our father parents us. With love, kindness, grace, peace, patience, wisdom… to teach gently. We are constantly striving to those aims. Within that overview we do what we can to ensure our children are assured of their identity in Christ, our heavenly Father’s love for them, and their safety and love within our family. 

Here are some ways we honour our children as individuals, encourage them, fill their cup and enrich their relationships with us as well as build self worth: 

  1. Looking all the while for opportunities to love them in all 5 ‘love languages’: time, touch, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts. Gary Chapman’s book on this subject is worth reading for all kinds of reasons. 
  2. Special time with names on it! We have always called things special names. If you call it a thing kids love it. So ‘special mummy and Ben time’ ‘special daddy and girls time’, ‘mummy bush walks’ (also known as city shopping trips), all of those things and more. We can celebrate the most ordinary of family outings by making them into a thing. 
  3. Making sure we fill the cups of those who are struggling. We don’t punish and we don’t reward. And the child who is struggling may not seem worthy of special time. The reverse is true. They need it more.
  4. Encouraging all of the members of the family to gather around another who is struggling. Sometimes we call this a ‘Blessing Day’. Kids are right. One birthday a year just isn’t enough. Half year birthdays are a good time for this but we don’t have hard and fast rules – spontaneity works well for our family. 
  5. Letter writing. I write the children letters of encouragement. Sometimes to all of the bigger ones, sometimes in an exchange of letters to one of them. We love surprise letters. I have a glimpse of their little world when I read those. 
  6. Talking time. Our eldest in particular loves to come and talk to me when we have done bedtime. I have a practice of always being available then. He needs it and when the others are older they will too. We must listen now and have these practices in place. 
  7. Sleepovers. Especially since we started sleeping on the floor ourselves (still supposed to be temporary) having different children in for a sleepover on their mattress (or all of them!) has been a fun and often experience. Balancing our own quality time is still possible and the balance is fine. But the children find that so special, even moreso the older ones. Again… We are investing in the future by being available and having an open door now. 
  8. Publicly acknowledging and affirming. When our children have done something special or there is something to commend, we will tell the whole family as we are eating dinner, for example. So our whole family can celebrate and acknowledge that thing. We might also do this in conversations with others outside our family. This is in particular an important way for wives to acknowledge their husbands. I am taking that idea and extending it to my children. In particular the boys will benefit from this. 
  9. Responsibility. All of our children respond well to being given responsibility for real things. Things that make our family work. Like food. If they cook a meal for our family it is a wonderful achievement for them, and they hear everyone’s real appreciation as we eat. Today as we expressed joy and delight at Mr 10’s French Onion Soup at lunch time I realised how blessed they are learning to cook with that sort of appreciation and genuine delight over their resulting family meals. We respond genuinely to all of the resulting benefits to our family team from the very real contribution they make to our household. 
  10. Birthday Letters. Each child receives a birthday letter, celebrating their year and with words encouragement and affirmation. We are now also making birthday movies with clips of video, photos and special music as part of the birthday blessing. Everyone loves their special movie. 
    special playground time with littlest
     

I am sure there is more. But I see the numbers in our house as being in our favour. We have even more opportunity to bless and be blessed. We are all extravagantly blessed.