Thursday, 30 December 2010

Goals, and why I don't set them.

I am married to a man who loves goals. Thrives on them. He loves making his little (or long) lists and tick boxes, and now Toby is the same.

I, however, am quite the opposite. I hate new years resolutions, and I hate the fact that people make goals at this time of year., motivated by guilt. So, here are my reasons why I don't set any new years resolutions.

  1. They are often motivated by guilt, and produce guilt when not achieved.
  2. I do not know anyone (but am happy to be proved wrong) who has achieved all the goals they have set in any particular year.
  3. They can create legalism instead of grace-filled living.
  4. Most things that we might set as our goals are unachievable in a specific time frame, and should be aimed for during the whole of our lives and not just one year - for example healthy eating.
  5. I do not like lists.
  6. I do not like tickboxes.
  7. If you have to set goals, why not do it in March or October? Why now?
  8. I do not like hearing 'motivational' people talk about how you need to aim for something or you will hit the target of nothing.
  9. I am a realist.

I am not against change. I am not anti-improvement. I understand the need for accountability and for consistently aiming to be more like Jesus. I just do not like goals and new years resolutions.

There we go! I've said it now! I will not say it again, or is that a goal?!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Snow Trapped Day Ideas

The snow continues.

Last night we realised that we had spent 4 days waiting for something to happen, instead of making it happen ourselves. We were frustrated that we had not achieved anything we'd had planned for the holidays, and hadn't had any time in between refereeing to even finish a conversation.

So, ever the survivalist (and I don't think even Bear Grylls himself would survive days on end imprisoned in a house with my boys), Jared made a plan.

Today, while Jared has de-cluttered the junk room, sorry, utility room, I have attempted to keep the boys entertained. It took supreme effort of the will when all I really wanted to do is curl up with my Jodi Picoult book in front of a fire, but I gathered together all my wits and went into battle. I thought I would share some of the ideas here...... Please feel free to add to my list - I know there are alot of mothers driven to desperate measures in creativity out there!

  • Jigsaw puzzle (harder with a toddler, but keeps them going for a while)
  • Make biscuits - if you have more than one child wanting to 'help', you can make the dough yourself, sit them at the table and give them a 'splodge' of it to make their own designs. We made the nativity scene (sort of).
  • Make a room dark, make a dark den inside it and collect together all the torches in the house. Make up stories inside the den - scary stories are really good if you tell them while holding the torch under your chin, shining up into your face.
  • Get the children to make reward charts for each other and be responsible for looking out for good things and rewarding their sibllings.
  • Play games - you know, the good old fashioned ones before xboxes and wiis were invented.
  • Send them off to make up a play / dance / news report / song and film them performing it.
  • Collect icicles, and smash them up. It is fun actually being allowed to throw something so it smashes.
  • Make snowflakes (but beware of all the snipped white paper that will end up on your floor).
  • Snowball fights always go down well, but I hate them (make a very important note to NEVER throw a snowball at me please), so Jared does that with them. All boys v Dad - they can't help but join in.

There are lots of Christmas craft / making activities available on the internet, but if your children are anything like mine, they will not want to sit for hours on end making things. Mine have to have spurts of energy releasing activities interspersed with the sitting down, creative times.

Come on Mums (and Dads), take a deep breath and wade into the boggy, murky waters of entertaining the children. Even if you don't feel like it, it's so much easier than sorting out fight after fight after fight after fight after fight. Then, when 4pm arrives and you need to get started on the tea, you won't feel one ounce of guilt in turning on the TV and letting them blob in front of it.

Please feel free to add your ideas..... Mothers of the snow-ridden world, we need to unite!

Sunday, 19 December 2010


Snow. Snow on snow on snow. It looks magical, spreading its white glow across towns and countrysides, creating the illusion of purity.

Purity, however, is far from the thoughts of my boys who are cooped up the week before Christmas when their hyperactivity levels are at their highest. We cannot drive our car - we tried yesterday and had to be pushed back up the hill by two angelic men (well, Max thought they were angels anyway).

We have taken them out to play in the snow, built igloos, been sledging, trudged our way to the shops and had snowball fights but they still seem to have more energy than a duracell rabbit. Wearing them out seems an impossible dream. They are stuck together, doing what they do best - fighting. Unable to see their friends, they are irritating each other (and me). Each time they go outside, they come back indoors with dripping coats, hats, gloves, clothes and wellies, which are dropped in a pile all ready for me to pick up and spread across radiators.

I may sound bah humbug-esque, but I hope this snow doesn't last too long. It looks beautiful, but if I have to pick up another icy, wet glove from the floor or sort out another fight after Toby has thrown a snowball in Max's face (again), then I will be forced to get out my hairdryer and melt all the inconvenient white stuff myself.

On the plus side (and my glass is usually half empty, so it will be a squeeze for me to think of the positives), life becomes simple. We cannot make long trips, we see our friends who live nearby and we don't have to rush from one place to the next. Anyone else think of any positives? Help me out here.....

Friday, 17 December 2010

Outdoors Unlocked

Some of you will already know that my very own Bear Grylls of a husband is attempting to set up his own business promoting, teaching and training Forest School and Bushcraft skills to anyone and everyone, but particularly in schools. Today he has an interview with some people who very kindly give out money to worthwhile causes.

The trouble is, we have to convince them that it is worthwhile.

If I am honest, when he first began with his business idea I didn't think alot of it. I am married to a dreamer, who is constantly conjuring up new ideas, businesses and ways to save the world. I have heard so many of them that now I tend to ignore as much as possible, knowing that they will never come to fruition.

However, as I have helped him write funding applications and listened to his passion I have realised that this idea might actually become a reality. This isn't a business plan that will make us money, this is a business plan that will improve society. Children who have been shunned by traditional academia will have their confidence restored. Families who only spend time together when sitting in front of a screen will explore the outdoors together. Businesses who want to build teams can go back to basics with fire lighting and shelter building. Boys will be able to climb trees and scrape their knees again without being frowned upon. Girls will be able to make 'fairy dens' and collect flowers to press (I know, girls like climbing trees too... but most boys do not like building fairy dens and pressing flowers). Families will be able to forage for food for their dinner, make a fire and cook it. People, including children (sharp intake of breath required for all health and safety activists), will learn how to use axes, knives and hammers safely. The outdoors will be opened up again. The doors will be unlocked.

If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I find the traditional education system difficult. Jared's venture will enable us as a family to make a difference to that. My heart weeps when I hear 9, 10 and 11 year old boys talking about how they are 'no good' at reading and writing. I want to scream and shout when I read articles that report their surprise in the fact that boys lag behind girls substantially in schools. I see a great injustice in our system and I want to be part of the change, even if my part is small.

We want to open the doors and pave the way to the great, marvellous, exciting, inspiring outdoors and make it a way of life for people who have never even considered the opportunities and adventures that can be had out there. Is it worthwhile? I think so.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Bad Mother Day

The conversation I had with Jonah whilst wiping his bottom this afternoon sums up the whole day:

Me: "Sorry, I haven't been a very good Mummy today Jonah."
Jonah: "No, but Daddy is."

Today has been 'one of those days'. How do we diagnose a 'bad mother day'? What are the signs and symptoms you would discover if you googled it?

1. Instead of making an adventure and experience of going to Tescos, I openly bribed Jonah to behave himself.

2. When he rolled around the floor in Tescos, I carried him instead of standing my ground and making him walk.

3. Driving home from Tescos, I went the long route so that he would fall asleep in the car, knowing that I would pay for it at bedtime but desperate for a few minutes peace.

4. When we arrived home, having woken him up, I put on a dvd and tried to make out that sitting on the sofa quietly was an exciting activity.

5. Secretly, I had chocolate spread on toast for my lunch whilst he was watching said dvd.

6. Eventually I made him lunch, which I let him eat whilst walking around the house (standards have dropped extremely low at this point).

7. After lunch, I put the dvd back on for him.

8. When he was bored of the dvd, I bribed him with a chocolate bar to play quietly on his own for a while.

9. After we had picked up Toby and Max from school, I turned my music up loudly so as not to hear them fighting and throwing things around at each other.

10. When Max tried to explain to me about an art competition at school, I ummed and ahhed in what I thought were the right places, until he walked away saying "You're not even listening to me".

11. And now? There is screaming and loud banging coming from upstairs and I am sat here on the computer instead of making the arduous journey up the stairs to discover the carnage.

Anyone else have any 'bad mother day' symptoms? I challenge you to have worse ones than mine!

Sunday, 12 December 2010


I am writing amidst the chaos of helicopters being thrown at heads, backflips off bunkbeds and general tarzan-like behaviour (and that's just Jared...). Apologies if this doesn't make alot of sense, but amongst the bedlam I am trying to find calm.

I have a job. This has not quite sunk in yet, There are so many levels on which I would like to write about the fact that I have a job, and I expect they will pour forth eventually. The first is that I wish to categorically state that my principles on working whilst having small children have not changed. (And here comes the opinionated bit - look away now if you don't wish to see it). When small children are at home, they need their mummy (or daddy). In January, Jonah begins his 15 hours of free nursery sessions, and my job fits exactly in with these times and with school terms. I would not have a job that meant passing my children from pillar to post just so that I could work. This does not make any sense to me at all. Whilst I have had a 9 years full of nappies, yoghurt stains, mindless twittering (otherwise known as conversation), playing the same games over and over again, loneliness and other undesirable things, I would not give up my time with my boys when they were small for anything - certainly not for the money to have an extra car or nicer holiday. (And here I would like to state that I know some mummies have to work, and do not do it for extra luxuries. I do not judge you at all).

Whilst the last 9 years has been full of all those perhaps unpleasant parts, I have also had immense joy and satisfaction as I have been there to witness the first time they take their tentative steps across the room; I have always been there to kiss the sore bits when they have a bump (or a fight...); I am the one who ensures they eat healthily and I know what they eat and when. I have taught them to dress themselves, to clean their teeth, to put on their shoes and coat, to eat with a knife and fork, to use the toilet, to cross roads, to handle money, to switch on the tv (best thing I've ever taught them!) and to share and play with others. I have been there to see their first nativities, the first time they draw a proper face with eyes, nose and mouth, the first time they write their name. I have taught them their first words.

Would I have given this up to someone else? Absolutely not. There is no way I would let someone else have the joy of having my children. It is my job, my responsibility, my delight and my wonder to have.

My time of pre-schoolers at home is coming to a long, drawn out close now and so I start to find jobs that will fit in with having slightly older children. I will still be there for them, will continue to put them first and will not be drawn into the career / mum 'have it all' game. I have it all, and they're at home.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

It's Just A Phase

Poor little Jonah. Not only have we seen everything he throws at us before, but instead of getting flustered and panicking, we just catch it and smile at him.

His latest phase will be well known to all parents who have any children over the age of 2. The "I am not going to stay in bed because I have extremely important things to tell you which I will think of as soon as I get out of bed and see you" phase.

So far the conversations about the 'important things to tell us' have been along these lines...

Friday Night: Telltale footsteps heard upstairs 2 minutes after putting him to bed.
Me: "What's the matter Jonah?"
Jonah: "I need to tell you something."
Me: "What is it?"
Jonah: "We've got lots of stairs."
Me: "Yes, I know. Now go to bed and don't get out again."

Saturday Night: Telltale footsteps heard again.
Jared: "What's the matter Jonah?"
Jonah: "How much does my bobby (his muslin which he takes to bed) cost? Is it three pounds or is it six pounds?
Jared: "Three pounds. Now go to bed and don't get out again."

Sunday Night: Telltale footsteps...
Me: "What's the matter Jonah?"
Jonah: "I need a spoon in bed with me."
A spoon?! He NEEDS it in bed with him?!

He doesn't get the opportunity of being able to blind us with his wise words or his cute little pyjama clad body because we have seen it all before. He is so transparent that we can't help but enjoy a little smirk and a laugh to ourselves when he's not watching (when he is watching, we will of course have our sternest face on). However much he tries it on, we have an answer. He'll still try though. Because he's three, and that's what three year olds do.

Monday, 29 November 2010


Forgive my old lady-esque blog, but I cannot let this by without comment. I may well come across as old fashioned as the' tights, court shoe and winter coat bedecked lady' who sits on the deckchairs at the beach in summertime, but I cannot help but interject at this point in the year.


The clue is in the title. Yet it is so often missed. Oooh yes, we all love to listen to children singing carols (even if there is always one at the front picking their nose) but is that all we are going to do to acknowledge the truth. It is staring us in the face, and yet we conveniently ignore it by filling our need with other things. The latest gadgets, the presents for the kids, the turkey, the decorations, Father Christmas.

There is a reason for Christmas. I can hear you shouting at the screen now, and readying yourself to flick onto another window or turn me off altogether. Feel free, because what you are about to read might make you feel a little uncomfortable and if its comfort you want, turn away now.

Every year, we sing these words (from Hark the Herald Angels sing)

"Light and life to all he brings
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild, he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth."

There was, and still is, purpose to Christmas. Jesus was born, yes as a baby in a manger (although not as cute and clean as the cardmakers would have us believe), yes from the virgin Mary, yes the shepherds and wise men came to see him, but primarily he was born to die. He was a man on a mission. He was born to die so that we don't have to. He was born so that God, his Father in heaven, could painfully abandon him to suffering and death. He was born to take our punishment for our sin (ours means mine and yours, I'm not pretending not to have any!)by dying and then by beating death and rising again. Christmas has as much purpose as Easter. Christmas is about new life - yours and mine.

So, next time we're thinking about how to fit all our family into our house, or worrying about how much money will be on the credit card bill in January, just remember what it's all about. It is more important that we meet God, than whether we buy the 'right' toy for our child. It is more important to consider carefully the questions Christmas throws up for us, than whether our Christmas decorations are more garish than next door's. Don't look away, the truth is right there in front of you.

I warned you, it's not comfortable around here.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Round One

"I got there first."
"No, I did."
"I want to sit there."
"Well, I'm sitting there."
"Well you are a pooface then." (thump, spit)
"Well you are a bumhead." (kick, slap)
"Idiot fool" (harder thump)

Sound familiar? I hope it does and that I am not the only one who has children who fight over one tiny spot on the sofa when there are at least 5 other seating options in the room. Why do they do this? I know, I know, sibling rivalry is a normal and apparently acceptable part of family life. I just do not understand why it has to be. We have no favourites, there is no competition for who is the 'best', yet they still all compete for everything.

I'm sure it is not just boys who do this, I am sure (please, someone reassure me..)that girls also compete. But I do wonder if the testosterone in boys creates more of a need to win, even if it is just winning the right to hold the power wielding remote control. In an attempt to produce a more loving, caring atmosphere, I explained to my boys that the Bible teaches the last will be first and the first will be last. It backfired. They now fight and compete to be last.

Have mothers throughout all generations had fighting siblings or is it a relatively modern creation? Have mothers in history also despaired over the children ever being able to be in the same room together without the next war erupting? I remember some viscious fights with my sister (sorry Trude, but I'm sure you must have started it....) and yet now we are good friends, so I am filled with hope that one day my boys will be friends and brothers who look out for each other and stand shoulder to shoulder with each other.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Just when you think you are safe, that old enemy called Pride creeps up on again to stick his leg out in front of you and trip you up. Smack! You fall with a crash landing and realise what has happened, while Pride sniggers to himself and skitters away back into the shadows.

We all know that old proverb (Proverbs 16 v 18) "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before stumbling" but how many of us are aware of when it actually happens?

I have been thinking recently about whether it is acceptable to be 'proud' of our children, or whether this will also cause us to trip up again. It is only natural that we celebrate our children's achievements with them, and encourage them along the way. It is fitting that we feel pleased for them when they pass a test at school, learn to tie their shoelaces or behave in a caring way for someone. Sometimes though, this can be taken too far and I have heard many parents (probably myself included) boasting about their child's capabilities or exceptional development. Did their child really potty train themselves at 6 months?! Is their daughter really taking her GCSE's at 7 years old?! We are left wondering....

Why do we do this boasting? Is it, in fact, that we are proud of our own parenting skills rather than our children? Or do we want to make ourselves look like perfect parents? And where does the 'trip' come?

My 'trip' is almost certainly in my children's behaviour. Their disobedience ("I'm not ever going to do what you say ever again"), disrespect ("Yes Mum, pooface, bumhead.") and perpetual fighting with one another, whilst wrong, serves as my constant humility-developer. One moment Max is praying beautiful prayers and making up his own angelic songs about God's love, the next he is kicking Jonah under the table. Toby can go to the men's prayer breakfast and pray for a whole hour with all the men, and then come home and cause havoc by fighting and arguing with his brothers. Jonah can share so kindly with other children at a toddler group and then, when asked to put on his coat, stick his tongue out at me and run in the opposite direction.

Of course, they are just children and we would expect them to still need to learn and grow in their obedience and the way they relate to one another. We would also expect them to have moments of goodness when they make the right choices. Is it wrong to be 'proud' of them in those moments? I don't think so. What is wrong is when we might think they are better than everyone else's children. They soon prove us differently when their behaviour changes and we curl into a embarrassed ball as they roll around the floor kicking and screaming as though the world is at an end.

What do we do with Pride, then? Be ready. Be aware. Be waiting for him. He is waiting to trip us up. He is sneaking around in the background, biding his time until he can pounce on us again. When we feel that inner glow about our children, let's make sure it is not going to come crashing down around us. Let's be diligent in encouraging our children, but realistic in making sure that our own shortcomings of pride don't cause us to have a tumble.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Breaking My Webs.

Having analysed the 'tweenage phenomenon' that has made it's surprise visit to our family recently, I have been pondering on the next 'letting go' phase of Toby's life.

All parenthood, from birth until leaving home, is 'letting go'. We cuddle our babies, until eventually they have to sleep on their own. We war through the 'terrible twos', sometimes not realising this is all part of the child's development into independence. We send our tiny little uniformed 5 year old to school, to spend the day with people we have never even met. We teach them to dress themselves, to put on their own shoes, to cross roads safely, to ride bikes, to fall in love (with someone that is not me?!) and eventually to drive (although this will be the job of my ever patient husband).

My current 'letting go' is on so many different levels with each son. Jonah is learning to put on his shoes and coat, and he goes off to playgroup to learn how to be confident without me there. Max is learning to cross roads and to organise himself without my hovering over him constantly (this is more of a challenge). Toby is 'playing out' with his friends. We do not always know where he is or what he is doing. He is safe within the strict boundaries we have given him, but he has to make decisions for himself and hopefully lean on the values and foundations that have been put into his life so far. What needs to be remembered throughout it all is that whilst I may let go of them, they need to be pointed towards their God who will not. I do not expect them to manage 'life' on their own. I do not expect them to be truly independent. We need to teach them to lean on God, who will not leave them. Our job as parents is not to simply relinquish responsibility and leave them hanging, it is to attach them to the strong rope who is their Father in Heaven. When this happens, whilst it will probably be painful, I hope that I will also find immense satisfaction, having completed by primary responsibility as a Mother.

I love this poem, by Evangeline Paterson, about the mixed up feelings of being a Mother:

A Wish for my Children

On this doorstep I stand,
year after year,
to watch you going

and think: May you not
skin you knees. May you
not catch your fingers
in car doors. May
your hearts not break.

May tide and weather
wait for your coming

and may you grow strong
to break
all webs of my weaving.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Tweenage Phenomenon

Unbeknown to me, two Americanisms have quietly crept into my title today. The first being the word 'phenomenon'. Is it just me, or does everyone else have to say it with an American accent too?

The second is far more complex in nature. The mystery of the 'tweenager'. Having never been a tweenager (they did not exist when I was younger, we were just normal children), it has arrived in our household as a surprising puzzle for us to figure out. ("Figure" also has to be said with an American accent, as in "Action Figyurs".) The tweenager is apparently aged between 9 and 12 and is not a child (the jury is still out on that one) and not a teenager (definitely not). As far as I can tell, the idea is an American one, born out of over-sentimental films such as High School Musical which encourage children to grow up sooner than they need and small girls to wear make up and raunchy clothing. (Can you feel another blog coming on?!)

Nevertheless, we suddenly have a 9 year old boy who slams doors, plays loud music (if JLS can be included within the remit of 'music'), envelops the house in clouds of Lynx and wants every gadget under the sun. He wants more freedom, he wants to go bed later and he expects us to follow his wishes. Like a toddler, he is learning how to be independent from us and pushing the boundaries constantly.

It may come as a surprise to you, but I have never been a 9 year old boy. I do not know how they think and view the world. Somehow we have to navigate Toby through this time of growth (for that is what it is) and still maintain our authority. He is not a teenager, but he would like to be. He is not old enough to do, say and watch the things that teenagers do, say and watch. However, he is also not a small child anymore and we need to treat him differently to the way we treat Max aged 6 and Jonah aged 3. We have to give him a measure of independence whilst making sure that he is within our realms of safety. Is it a fragile line to tread.

The other strange occurence that has accompanied this 'tweenagedom' is that Max and Jonah join in with this shift in the family. At 3 years old, Jonah prefers CBBC's Sarah Jane Adventures (Toby would NEVER have been allowed to watch that at 3, or even 6!) to anything that is on Cbeebies and sings the JLS songs word perfectly.

Perhaps after having 9 years of tweenage boys, they will not be such a mystery to us. We might even be able to put aside the cheesy High School Musical American images and actually enjoy these years!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Long Walk To Freedom

Yes... there are 4 more weeks to go of the Summer Holidays and the enticing thought of the freedom of September beckons.

Whilst we are in the middle of the long walk, I found this quote hugely encouraging and thought I would share it on here. The author is writing about the cost of investing in parenting versus the benefits. I could not write it more succinctly or cleverly, so am just going to copy it out. It's from "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp. (Excellent book - best I have read so far on parenting... and I've read alot).

"There is a simple way to look at the cost of deep, full-orbed communication. You must regard parenting as one of your most important tasks while you have children at home. This is your calling. You must raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. You cannot do so without investing yourself in a life of sensitive communication in which you help them understand life and God's world. There is nothing more important. You have only a brief season of life to invest yourself in this task. You have only one opportunity to do it. You cannot go back and do it over.

You live in a culture in which there are opportunities for you to do things unheard of in history. You are presented daily with the scores of option for investing your life's energies and creativity. There is more than you could ever do. You must, therefore, prioritize.

Parenting is your primary calling. Parenting will mean that you can't do all the things that you could otherwise do. It will affect your golf handicap. It may mean that your home does not look like a picture from 'Better Homes and Gardens'. It will impact your career and ascent on the corporate ladder. It will alter the kind of friendships you will be available to pursue. It will modify the amount of time you have for bowling, hunting, television, or how many books you are able to read. It will mean that you can't develop every interest that comes along. The costs are high.

How can you measure the cost against the benefits? I have spent time with broken parents. I have seen the drawn faces of parents who have known the heartbreak of seeing their children fleeing a home in which they had not been understood or engaged by their parents. I have also known the joy of hearing children who have been biblically engaged by their parents say, "Dad, I am amazed at how thoroughly I have been prepared for life. I will always be grateful for what you and Mom have given me." What price tag can a parent place on that? "

Need I say more?!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Growing Up

We have now entered the world of no naps in the daytime. Always dreaded and never convenient when it arrives, it is a rite of passage that every toddler and mother will pass through. Oh, how I miss my 1 1/2 hour daily time to myself! But enough wallowing..... and onto more practical matters.

Having spent more time with Jonah over the last 2 weeks, I have actually discovered that I have a real little person on my hands. No longer the uncontainable, climbing up every shelf, emptying every cupboard, killing all the fish tiny toddler; he is now able to converse (ok, that may be taking it too far - witter is probably more accurate), follow instructions (as long as he approves them first) and concentrate for longer on planned activities. Far from being the nightmare that I expected, I have actually enjoyed my time with him in the afternoons. I have remembered all those little things that 2 and 3 year olds enjoy doing, and surprise surprise, he enjoys them! We have made cakes, put together puzzle after puzzle after puzzle after puzzle, played with water and been strawberry picking to name but a few activities. I have yet to get the paints out of the cupboard - I'm not ready for that!

I have realised that my baby is growing up, and I should treat him as an almost 3 year old instead of the 18 month old that I still think of him as. We have given the dummy away to the baby birds (yes, I know, I know, but he doesn't know that after he'd thrown it out of the window I quickly collected it and threw it in the bin. I doubt he will end up in therapy because of it.) and he is suddenly joining in more with family activities. He's not the 'add on' child anymore but he fully participates in the things we do. He 'helps' with jobs around the house and sometimes his help is actually helpful.

The last thing to tick off the list is potty training..... I cannot bear the thought of it. "Train a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it" has not been too successful in the area of potty training and there has been alot of departing from where they should go. But my baby needs to grow up. (I really should stop calling him my baby, but I can't help it. He is so cute and winsome and cuddly and has lovely little bruise covered legs that poke out from the bottom of his shorts.)

Thursday, 10 June 2010


I am very blessed (I do find that word incredibly cheesy, but sometimes no other word will do. "Fortunate" isn't the truth, nor is "lucky", so "blessed" will have to suffice.) to have some incredible friends. Not only are they friends who I can have a good giggle with and be myself with, but they are friends who walk with me through every step of my journey in life.

A true friend is one who supports, sacrifices and tells the truth instead of paying lip service. Imagine going shopping with a friend who agrees with you and tells you that you look good in everything you try on. When you arrive home you try them on and your family laugh as you parade around the room giving a "fashion show" of your purchases (am I the only one who does this?). You discover that actually all your lumps and bumps are accentuated and really those skinny jeans were not your best ever buy. True friendship has to have honesty as it's hallmark. Consider this rather wise proverb:

"Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiplies kisses." Proverbs 27 v 5-6
We do not usually expect our friends to be the ones who wound us, but actually, if they don't speak the truth to us ("Yes, I did mistake your bum for the elephant's bum" might perhaps be taking it too far) we will never learn, grow or change. I am so grateful for friends who love me so much that they will be honest with me and pinpoint areas in my life that need a bit of extra work. Not only do they pinpoint those areas, but they then will stick with me as I work through them.
If you are my friend, and you fit this bill, thank you. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for walking with me. I am truly grateful.
Now, enough of the sentiment...... toilets need de-weeing, toys need putting away and tea needs to be cooked.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Mealtime Mantra

A very wise King, who had a good deal of children, once wrote:

"It is better to eat a dry crust of bread in peace than to have a feast where there is quarrelling."
Proverbs 17 v 1
Our lovely family mealtimes have recently transformed into a stage where the boys compete to be the funniest, say the rudest words, have the most food, have the ketchup / honey / brown sauce / mayonnaise first, be the loudest, talk the most, make the most mess or generally shout above others. Where we once had almost intelligent conversation at the table, we now have "Fartface" shouted from Jonah and uncontrollable giggles from Toby and Max. Where we once enjoyed learning about everyone's days at school and work, we now just hear the rude jokes they heard in the playground. Where we once listened politely to one another, we now just say the same things over and over:
"Use your knife and fork; don't lick the plate; mind you don't spill your drink; lean over the table; watch your sleeve in the sauce; that's enough ketchup....that's enough ketchup... THAT'S ENOUGH KETCHUP!; stop tapping the table; stop whistling; sit down on your bottom; don't put your hand in the yoghurt pot........ Does anyone else have these mealtime mantras or it is just our family who are growing up in a barn?
This weekend, thanks to some very very generous friends who are having all 3 of our boys, we are going away for a night to celebrate our anniversary. We will be able to have 2 whole meals in peace. Would I rather have a dry crust of bread in peace than a feast surrounded by quarrelling? Absolutely. Hopefully though Jared will take me somewhere where there will be more on the menu than dry crusts of bread.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Case of the Missing Underpants

Perhaps this is fuelled by my underlying laziness, but I strongly believe that a family should be a team. No one person should do all the household jobs to keep everything tickity-boo. Everyone needs to play their part in making the house and family run smoothly. Like every other family (or are we really the only ones?) we go through phases of doling out jobs to our boys and phases of just getting on with it because it isn't worth the tumultuous battle.

Recently we have been in a 'jobs' phase. I realised that Toby (#1 son) is super organised and actually relishes the prospect of cleaning or tidying. It is never a fight to get him to do a job and he carries it out with careful precision. I also realised that because he is like this and Max (#2 son) is the total opposite, we never ask Max to do anything. Asking Max to clear the table and load the dishwasher would be like asking a pig to clean up it's own pigsty. Instead of cleaning, the mess would be spread more thoroughly around the room and the dishwasher would be loaded up so that it doesn't shut. You may think I exaggerate...... you should see his bedroom.

However, this is no excuse for Max not to learn how to help around the house. In fact, it gives us even more reason to teach him. He needs to learn to think of others. He, more so than Toby, needs to learn about planning and organisation and doing a few small jobs will help him with this. I do not want my boys to leave home without learning how to run a house. I do not want them to have to rely on another woman to cook for them, do their washing and clean up after them. They need to learn responsibility.

To combat this I decided to give Max the job of laying the table and putting his own clothes away after I have washed and (occasionally) ironed them. I leave them in his bedroom on a Monday morning, and on Monday evenings he puts them all away. Toby has been doing this for about 3 years without any hiccups. In fact, I think Toby privately enjoys the putting away process. The first week, I showed Max how to do it. The next week, I watched while he did it. Since then, he has done it without complaining and seems to enjoy the responsibility. This week, he even put away Jonah's clothes too.

Therein lies the problem. In putting away Jonah's clothes, he seems to have confused the process. I now find Jonah's shorts in Max's pyjama drawer and Max's socks in Jonah's t-shirt drawer. Not only that, but Max's underpants seem to have totally disappeared. We have looked through every drawer, on every surface and under every bed but the pants are not there. This leaves us with a dilemma. Whilst we want to encourage Max's brave attempts at organisation, we do not want to keep sacrificing essential items of clothing each week to the bottomless wardrobe of lost clothes. Perhaps they are with the odd socks that seem to magically disappear out of the washing machine. Do I go out and buy him more pants, only to find the old ones on my return, or do I keep searching?

We will continue with the uphill endeavours to teach our boys these important things. Despite lost clothes; dusting that spreads the dust instead of wiping it up; hoovering that misses out enormous chunks of a room; table laying that gives us back to front cutlery and folded clothes that get squashed up and squeezed into drawers only to become creased again; we will press on with our arduous mission.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Frogs.... again...

Frog catching season has begun again in earnest. The hunter / gatherer instinct has kicked in, although thankfully we will not have to eat the catch. I know, for some, this may seem strange or even cruel, but actually this activity has unseen benefits for our boys. (And, from what Jared tells me, this is nowhere near as cruel as the things he used to do to frogs when he was younger.... Come on men, admit it, you all killed slugs with salt and burnt other insects with magnifying glasses in the sun...).

Frog Catching Reason #1
A selfish reason, yes, but they all go outside and they go for a long time!

Frog Catching Reason #2
For the whole time they are a-hunting, they do not argue. This means hours on end without silly squabbles and "I'm telling Muuuum". The reason for this is because they are all focused on the end product.

Frog Catching Reason #3
The teamwork they exhibit is second to none. I have never seen them work as a team in any other situation as they do when they are frog catching. They work together, they congratulate each other, they even , and this is your time to gasp, speak kind words to each other!

Frog Catching Reason #4
Believe it or not, they actually learn how to handle 'animals' (I know, for all you clever people, a frog is not actually an animal but for the purposes of this document....). They have to hold their catch gently (sometimes this is taking it too far for Max, but he does try) and they learn about the frog's habitat. They make little homes for them with water in so that they don't burn. I even caught Toby talking lovingly to one, but don't tell him I told you or his hard sought after macho image will be ruined.

Frog Catching Reason #5
It is fun, and boys enjoy it. There is nothing like a good hunt to get their adrenalin levels racing and when they have found one there is great rejoicing and excitement.

It is hard for me, as a girl and a mum, to actually let them do this, but I am now convinced of the benefits even if, when they present their finds to me, my insides churn and I cannot look upon the frog for too long without feeling rather queasy. It is in their nature to hunt and this helps them express it. Come on men, let me hear your frog (and other 'hunting') stories...

Thursday, 6 May 2010


My days have been so filled with mud, den-making, fires, filling hungry boy's stomachs, Electricity birthday parties (don't ask) and a busy-ness of life that I have not had alot of time to write recently. I have missed it. It does not even matter to me whether anyone reads my ramblings or not (go on... now is your opportunity to delete me from your list...), there is something in me that needs to write. I write to explore my own thoughts and feelings. I write to bring clarity to myself (as clear as the mud that Max rolled in after he had taken off all his clothes).

I have had a pensive morning. In between making mega-block houses for cows and dancing to The Wiggles, my brain continues to function on a different level. It churns over and over and, because I am busy creating Mr Potatohead's different faces, I cannot ever come to any proper conclusions to my thoughts until I can sit and write. I find it very hard to be in this situation when my brain is working overtime and yet my hands are tied to babywipes and runny noses.

Forgive me if I am making no sense. I am (yet again) deliberating my future and wondering what the next step will be once my littlest boy is at school. Whilst I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity, having been at home with my boys for 8 years, I am more than bored of doing the same things over and over and need to find a way of expressing myself in a different way. When I look at women who work, I am overwhelmed by the adult language they use and the confidence that oozes out of them. I feel child-like in comparison and if I was ever to go for a job interview up against anyone like that I would not stand a chance. After all, I may be an expert at nappy rash, toddler tantrums and feeding a family on a budget, but this just does not seem to transfer to the world of work.

What is the hope for mum's like me who stay at home to give these years of their lives to their children? Which politician in today's election is going to support a mum like me who chooses to stay at home? While other women are advancing their careers, we are cleaning up puke and teaching children how to put their shoes on. When, finally, it will be my turn to enter the world of work, what will I have to offer them?

I know this is deep, and possibly fairly melancholic. As I have said in previous posts I do not wish to offend anyone, especially working mothers, whatever your reason for working. I know that everyone makes their own choices and I am not intending to put any guilt trips on anyone! These are purely my own thoughts and ramblings which I needed to write down!

Aaaah, that's better. My mind is almost clear again now. Back to sorting out the laundry then.....

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I had a moment of revelation yesterday. It doesn't happen too often so when it does I have to make the most of it. The noise levels in our house and hideously high. We shout conversations from room to room, and often I have to shout to be heard above the bedlam. I am not (well, not often) shouting at them angrily, but because they make so much noise I shout to be heard.

You may think this is obvious (and lets be honest, it really is) but I realised that if I stopped shouting, the boys might stop shouting! I have been saying to them for weeks now "If you want to speak to me, don't shout me from another room but come and find me", only to discover that I am also guilty of that very act. Our house is extremely noisy and I am very grateful that we live next door to 2 deaf old ladies, but I still think we have room for improvement in the noise stakes.

If Supernanny came to my house she would be making me practice speaking quietly to my children. I am sure she would not approve of the 'fishwife's yell' that I have perfected over the last 8 years. Sometimes I stand at the back door bellowing their names, naively expecting that they will listen if I shout louder. Listen, they do not, and so I shout even louder. I have come to realise that I am inherently lazy (and this is probably obvious too) and actually what I should be doing is the simple task of putting on my shoes and walking the small distance to speak to them face to face.

So, this is my aim over the next few days. I will try to stop shouting, and I will try to bring some civilisation to my hullabaloo of a home.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Parent-Teacher Consultations

Parent's Evening. It fills me with dread. I know it is irrational, but it feels like an appraisal of my mothering skills (or lack of). This is what I expect them to say:

"Your son can't read because you don't do enough reading with him at home."
"Your son is so unbelievably disobedient."
"Your son cannot concentrate on anything."
"Your son is violent."

"Your son just does not listen."
.....the list is endless......

Perhaps this is because I have a vivid imagination, or perhaps it is based on behaviour that I deal with day in and day out at home, but I always expect the worst.

Usually my expectations are totally wrong and I leave the school with a sigh of relief and a spring in my step. My appraisal went well. Unfortunately there is no pay rise, but I have met all my targets. This time last year, however, I left the school in tears having been told that Toby would 'never be a writer'. I know I have written about this on here before so I won't bore you all with the sordid details again.

One year and a different teacher on, however, we hear a totally different story. Not only is Toby writing well now, but he is well exceeding his 'targets' for literacy. His actual handwriting has improved beyond belief and he is bursting with creativity and imagination. It took all my self control to stay sitting on the tiny plastic chair. I wanted to leap in the air (it is a good job I didn't, it would not have been a pretty sight) and I wanted to kiss the teacher. Somehow I managed to squeak out a thank you but that felt so inadequate for what he had achieved. It is his teaching that has inspired Toby and motivated him to learn and write. It is his style of teaching, noticeably different to others, that Toby has responded to. I am so grateful that I almost went beyond Parent - Teacher etiquette. Perhaps I will save that for the end of the year.

So my appraisal this term seemed to go well. So far they have not set the school on fire, pooed in the sinks of the girls toilets, been rude to the teachers, set off the fire alarm, strangled another child (that was last year...), made papier mache with spit and fired it at the back of the teacher's head or given anyone a chinese burn. I can breathe a sigh of relief until the next time.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The problem with blogs....

.... is that they can be totally misunderstood. Even if you make it as clear as a mountain spring, you will still be misunderstood. Blogs are read by people who do not know me, do not know how I react to life on a day to day basis, might not know my values or the lessons I have learnt in life. I welcome other people's opinions, even if they are different to my own, but what I find hard is when people judge the writer rather than the blog itself. As far as I know, this has not happened to me... yet!

Some writers will be wise enough to not worry about whether they are judged and misunderstood or not. I wish I could be like that. This blog often expresses my deep thoughts and emotions and if I were to be misconstrued or judged I would find that almost paralysing. Although I know this would be an over reaction, and it is far more important that I please my Father in Heaven, rather than His creation.

We need to examine our hearts in this. When we read a blog, do we build up a picture of the writer in our heads that is totally incorrect? Is it our job to judge and condemn each other or should be leave that to the ultimate Judge who knows and tests our hearts? How then, in this light, should we read blogs? How do we guard our hearts against criticism or pride? How do we
make sure our heart is right before God? We need to "strive for peace with everyone" (Hebrews 12 v 14) which means working hard at it, even if we differ in opinion. We need to see past our own prejudices, defence mechanisms and pride. If we cannot do this, then perhaps we need to get before God and ask Him to help us change. He has commanded us to do these things, and He can give us the power to make it possible for us to do them.

Let's be more aware of the things in our lives we need to deal with, before daring to point any out to other people. It's not up to us, after all.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Best Boy Insults

Here is a list of the 'insults' that frequent our home. Why boys find these so amusing I will never understand, but amusing they find them. You may find a theme occurring. Feel free to add to my list the (harmless) insults that are thrown around your boy-full home.

Poo poo stinky face fat face
Poo poo alien head
Stink face
Booby face
You stink of poo
Wee wee head
Stinky poo poo head
Hog face
Bog face
Booby belly
Big fat belly head
Bottom belly
Fart face
Poopee pants
Stinky winky
Bogey mouth
Bogey brain
You've got a backside on your head
Butt head
Wee wee wonka head

When I read this list aloud to my boys they could not stand up for laughing. Are they really that funny? I will never know.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Green Grass

This blog is the opinion of the author and no offence is intended to anyone living differently to me..... but I have to be honest and real..... so here goes....

As a mum who has chosen to stay at home with my children, I go through different phases of being incredibly content to stay at home and watch my boys grow up, knowing that I am blessed to be in such a position and phases of being totally bored and desperate for some sanity and adult normality. As rewarding as it is, being at home with small children is often mind-numbing, repetitive, physically draining and demoralising.

Now, I know all the arguments for it and I know how precious it is, and how special it is to be able to be the main influence in my boy's lives but every now and again I am tempted to look at the green grass on the other side of the fence. That grass, to me, looks so fresh and inviting sometimes. To be able to leave the house in the mornings and not have to look at it all day; to not have to talk to any children about fossils, Curious George or Sarah Jane Adventures all day; to be able to eat my lunch without any food being thrown at me; to be in the car without having to listen to cheesy children's music; to be able to use my brain and my skills for something other than star charts; to have a salary where I can have money to actually buy my boys the things they want without feeling guilty; to be able to go guilt-free clothes shopping; to be a real person called by my real name instead of "mum". All these things seduce me.

Yet I know that I have made this choice, and to go back on it would be to go back on my principles. Feel free to disagree with me, but I think staying at home with small children is the more difficult road to walk and one that requires determination, patience, perseverance, endless energy and sacrificial love. How many other people would work such long, physically draining hours and not get paid for them? Only a mother. Now, I know that some women are not in the position where they have a choice in whether to work and I am not attacking anyone else's lifestyle, choices or necessities. I am simply saying how I am feeling and at this moment in time, I am tempted by the alluring, crisp grass on the other side.

Monday, 22 February 2010


Guns. The great debate. Should little boys be allowed to play with toy guns? I have to admit that when Toby was younger I was very anti-guns and tried extremely hard not to let him have any or play with any. Everything inside of me screamed out (and still does) that gun play was a violent game that was totally inappropriate for children to play.

"Don't they realise how devastating a real gun can be? Have they not watched the news recently and seen how evil people with guns can ravage a whole community?"

Of course they haven't! Why would they watch the news? Why would they know about such terrible violence?! Even if I tried to explain it to them, which I did sometimes, they still would not understand. They are playing a game. It is not real life. It is far from real life for them (hopefully).

I very quickly realised that the more I tried to protect my son from guns, the more he would want to play with them. Everything from a toy guitar to a chewed up piece of toast was transformed into a gun. He made them out of lego, sticks, crayons and even his own beautiful little angelic hands. It horrified me to see him playing out such terrible games, but I was fighting a losing battle.

I have not done a great deal of research on this, but I honestly do not think that gun play turns boys into violent men. If it did, there would be a lot more violent men out there today. More important factors in producing violent teenage boys and men are more likely to be the values they have been given as foundations in their lives, the way their Dad (or other significant men) has dealt with his own anger and the love and security they have received as children. I'm sure there are many more.

Boys have an inbuilt need for adventure, for 'the chase', for danger and for 'hunting' and if we don't let them express these when they are younger then perhaps when they are older, stronger and able to access more dangerous equipment they will begin to assert these needs in ways that are not games anymore.

What do you think? Let's have a poll. Should little boys be allowed to play with guns?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Why do little boys love to be with big boys? Are they learning how to be 'big'? This half term we have had the pleasure of visiting our Southern Element. Well, once we arrived it was pleasurable but as always, long journeys with 3 boys squished into the back of the car needing the toilet or another book / biscuit / sweet / drink are not even mildly enjoyable (torturous was the word that sprang to mind). "Muuuuuum, he hit me again", "Muuuuuum, he keeps leaning his head on me" or "Muuuuum, how much longer?" do not make for a pleasant afternoon drive.

The Southern Element consists of my brother, my sister in law, their beautiful daughter (and my one and only niece) and their 2 lovely sons. The oldest boy is now 13 and growing into manhood. (Yes, I know you are reading this.... but it's true!). He has always been by far the oldest grandson of our whole brood of 9 grandsons and 1 grand-daughter and is therefore admired and exalted to a position of hero by all the other boys in the family. He rises well to his challenge and takes on all the bundles that are thrown his way.

On this particular occasion Toby was overawed by his cousin's teenagehood. Not only did he have an X-Box in his own bedroom, but he also had amazingly cool music to listen to. Toby followed him around like a little lamb following it's shepherd, watching his every move, listening to the exact tone of voice he used and the exact phrases that came out of his mouth. How exciting must it have been to be Toby, standing in the shadow of his hero for a whole 24 hours!

Toby has come home with a whole new way of living, speaking, wearing clothes, playing and has made new requests of downloading 'good tunes' onto his mp3 player. He wants to be 13 and he wants to be 13 now. Thankfully, this will fade until the next time he sees his idol.

This has made me ponder about role models. Boys need them, and they need good ones. A Dad is, of course, the first port of call, but what if the Daddy is not there? Or if he does not show his son how to make good choices or how to control his anger? Even if the Dad is there, sometimes other men will need to help out and be mentors in different situations. Boys will always find someone to follow, to look up to and to teach them how to be a man. Our job as parents of boys is to find the right men for them to follow and to guide them towards those men. If we fail to recognise their absolute need for a male role model then we fail in our mission of bringing them up to be men. This is a vital part of our parenting and one which I hope we will be able to do as our boys grow up into their teen years and beyond.

Friday, 12 February 2010


My house resembles a campsite. Every room that I enter has a homemade tent set up in it, which I am not allowed to dismantle even though I have to squeeze onto the very edge of the sofa to sit down because the rest of it is part of the tent.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for creative and imaginative play but this is taking it to the extreme. Every single cushion, blanket, chair, chair cover, table and anything else that moves has been taken and put to tentmaking use including all the baskets of heavy toys so that they can weight the ends of the blankets. Once they have made the tents, they do not play in them as I would do. If it was me, I would make myself a nice comfortable bed inside the tent and perhaps have a fun snack in there, or read a book inside, or play 'camping' (actually, I wouldn't play camping, because I prefer only to endure camping once or twice a year). But it is not me making the tent, and so whatever suggestions I make as to how to play inside them are met with withering looks that suggest I really don't know what I am talking about.

Apparently the fun is in the building. So why can't they build with lego, which only takes up a small corner of the room? Why does it have to take over the whole house? And why can't I move it once it's built? There will always be some things that I just cannot understand.

As soon as it is warm enough to spend more than 5 minutes outside, I will be able to throw them in the garden and they can tent-make to their heart's delight. While it is still rather chilly on the , no I won't say it but you all know what I mean, I will have to put up with the sprawling encampments that dominate my home.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Stress Ball

Jared has been away for 2 nights and 2 days at his annual conference for work. They all dress up in DJ's and posh dresses, drink copious amounts of wine and eat ridiculously tiny portions of gourmet food whilst I, to make things easy, eat fish fingers and smiley faces, wear clothes covered in snot and dribble and barely have time to brush may hair. No, of course I'm not jealous........

Although I tried hard to be a 'good mother' during this time, I failed miserably. Instead of sorting out arguments and fights, I hid in another room hoping desperately that they might sort it out themselves. Funnily enough, they did not. When they came to find me with their tales of woe, I shrugged my shoulders and told them to stay away from each other. Eventually I pleaded with them to watch the television only to be accused of "trying to turn us into girls"! "How, exactly", I asked," does watching the television turn you into a girl?" There was no answer to this...... However, once they were finally ensconced in front of the screen, their cute and angelic little brother began to throw things at them, turn the television on and off, steal the remote controls and change the channels! I was fighting a losing battle so eventually put them to bed early and breathed a sigh of relief.

When Jared returned, he brought them their obligatory presents for 'being good' (although this is highly questionable this time). What were the presents? Stress balls. Stress balls for boys who, of course, carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Stress balls for boys who have to cope with living with a mother like me. Stress balls for boys who are forced to watch the television, thereby becoming more girl-like. I apologise for my cynicism. It is inexcusable. It must be so difficult being them!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Toilet Rant - Gruesome content.

What is it with boys and toilets that makes them totally incompatible? Is it because somehow needing to wee takes them back to their caveman roots where they didn't have to aim but could just let it flow freely into a bush or the dark recesses of a cave?

It makes no difference how often I clean the toilet, at the end of every evening there is wee all over the floor, the walls and the skirting board. Is it really so hard to aim into a hole? The worst offence is not lifting up the seat and weeing all over it, only to be discovered when I sit down to visit the facilities myself and feel the dreaded cold wet sensation.

We have tried various methods for training the flow. Cheerios to aim at. Ping pong balls to aim at. We even bought a pack of blue ping pong balls with a smiley face on them. Dying the toilet water blue so that it turns green when the wee hits it. We have also tried the usual methods of shouting, nagging, bribery etc etc. All of these to no avail.

Now we could try and make them sit down to wee, but really, is it ok for a boy sit down and wee? Isn't one of the benefits of being a boy the fact that you can stand up to wee, and therefore you can wee whenever and wherever you are? We have all seen the men on the motorway hard shoulders admiring the grass verges.

So my life of cleaning up wee continues. And continue it will until my boys have left home, unless someone out there can give me some hope that this will improve. Someone please give me some hope that, as they are standing in front of the toilet, they won't get distracted and suddenly turn round only to spray everything in their path. Someone out there, please give me some hope that my bathroom will not smell like the men's urinals for the rest of my life.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

It has struck me again recently that boys get such bad press, and really, sometimes they are just doing what boys do.

Boys are : Noisy
Sometimes boisterous
Full of energy
Sometimes heavy handed ("I only touched it, and it just came off in my hand.")
In need of a pecking order
Sometimes difficult to contain
Often focused

Does any of this make them 'naughty'? If it gets out of hand, then sometimes they can go too far (and I of all people know this!) but these attributes are not in and of themselves bad behaviour.

So, why is it that people would rather have a room full of little girls than a room full of little boys? Why do people, when finding out I have 3 boys, always make a comment about me having my hands full? Why is there a general feeling that little girls are lovely, kind, gentle and wonderful to be around and little boys must be avoided at all cost? Why do we expect them to be something that they are not? Why is a boy who cares for his friend and puts his arm around him called 'gay' by his other friends? Is it not at all possible that a boy can be loud and bouncy but gentle and caring all at the same time?

It upsets me that boys have this general reputation in our society as troublemakers, fighters, noise-makers, show offs and other negative attributes. How bad must it feel to be a boy who is growing up knowing that these are the things expected of boys. It grieves me that there is such a gloomy image for young boys to live up to. I so wish that our society was one that accepts boys for who they are, and trains them to be the men that they could be instead of dismissing them and writing them off at such a young age.

Boys who are noisy, full of energy, sometimes boisterous and focused on the right things can grow up into men who are charismatic, determined leaders who will lead people with love and wisdom. We need to have the right expectations of our boys, accept them as they are and train them so that they can use their exuberance for good things.

I apologise for the seriousness of this post, but it is something that I live with and battle with every day. I know that the way boys are treated today was not God's original plan when he made them. I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I needed to be honest and write down what was in my head!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Baa Baa

Every Tuesday morning I have the privilege of taking Jonah to Rhythm Time - a music class for toddlers where, under the pretence of benefiting our children, we sing and perform silly songs, play instruments and generally do ridiculous things usually while our children stare open mouthed at us, with dribble dripping down their chins.

The strangest part of the morning is the Rhythm Patterns section. This is so strange that it could easily make it onto a Louis Theroux Weird Weekend programme (except it is on a Tuesday). Sitting in a circle, the teacher (in this case my lovely big sister!) holds a microphone, which is not plugged into anything, and chants "baa baa" while we all repeat it back to her, clapping our hands on our thighs in time to the rhythm she is chanting. After this, the children each come into the middle of the circle while the teacher chooses one child at a time and says "baa baa" into the unplugged microphone. She then holds the microphone in front of the child's mouth, waiting for the child to repeat "baa baa" back to her. Usually, the toddler stares at her and dribbles all over the microphone. Sometimes, the child performs. Always, the children have a clap and run back to their adoring audience, sorry, mother.

It struck me this morning, whilst watching the faces of the mothers, that each mother is desperate for their child to perform. Even the mothers of the children who cannot speak seem to have some vain hope that suddenly their beautiful little angel will say the all important "baa baa". I wondered then, why we want our children to perform so well in front of others. Is it because we want them to look good, or because we want to look like fantastic parents?

When our 2 years olds (or 5 years olds in my case) have enormous tantrums in public are we embarrassed because we feel it somehow makes us look like terrible parents? It made me realise that I, even subconsciously, have these thoughts. Do I discipline my boys because I love them or because I want to look like a good mother? Even today, as we were walking out of the school gates surrounded by other parents, Jonah was sitting in the pushchair shouting "I HATE YOU!" and my first thought was "What will other people think? Will they think that's what I say to him at home?" It made me question my whole motivation for parenting.

Outwardly, I will say that I love the fact that my boys have so much energy, or are quirky or eccentric (one in particular!) yet when they display this behaviour in public I feel ashamed. This is wrong. It is also wrong that I care more about what other people think of them than how God thinks of them. Yes, we have to discipline and yes, we have to expect certain standards. But our children are not performing seals and it does not matter what any other children, parents or even teachers think of them, or us, if we are parenting them to love God, obey Him and us and are inputting the right values into them. Easy to say, and yet so so hard to do.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


At the risk of sounding like a full blown rant or an old lady, I need to explain a small incident that happened to me today. Having a child-free morning I decided to visit the library. I love libraries and I especially love to go without any children who will pull the books off the shelves, run around hiding between the bookshelves and talking loudly on purpose. It is a treat and one which I cherish beyond words. In fact, and I digress but it's worth it, the first time ( for 8 years) I went to the library child-free was recently and I actually wanted to just lie on the floor and breathe in the peace and the presence of all those delicious books. I didn't, but the temptation was great.

However, I need to get back to my point. The library car park in Bromsgrove has about 10 spaces and 2 disabled spaces. This is, of course, totally inadequate for the library which has many more than 10 book-lovers at a time visiting. The library is situated in the middle of the town, in which you have to pay fairly extortionate rates to park. Needless to say, lots of people use the library car park when they are in fact visiting the town. There are enormous signs all over the car park explaining that it is for library users only. Are you guessing what is going to come next?!

I pull into the car park, ready for my rare treat, only to find one space left which is just being taken by a man who really did not look like a library user. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and watched him climb out of his car, hoping that he would at least be going into the library. Unfortunately, he started walking in the opposite direction towards the town. I cannot sit and keep quiet about these injustices and wound down my window.

"'Scuse me" I called to him, "Are you not going into the library?"
"Nah," he replied, "I'm just nipping to the cash point."
Well, I thought, at least he is being honest.
"But you are only supposed to use this car park if you are going to library." I tried to speak as politely as I could.
"I'm only nipping to the cash point and then I'll be back." He didn't even look remotely sheepish at being caught out.
"Yes," I argued "But there are signs everywhere that say you can't park here if you're going into the town."
"I know, " he said, shrugging, (and this is the bit that shocked me) "But there are signs like that everywhere. I'm only nipping to the cash point." He started to walk off.
"I am waiting to go to the library!" I called after him, but he had gone, and he did not care.

I did not get my parking space and I gave up on my prized visit to the library.

What shocked me immensely about this man was that he either did not care that he was disobeying, or he had never been taught to obey authority in the first place. Is that not one of the biggest problems in our time? Children are not taught to obey and respect authority, so they grow up breaking rules left, right and centre. This man was in his 30's and I think even 30 years ago children were taught about obedience more than they are now. I wonder what it will be like when our teenagers and children have grown into adults. A whole generation of people who have not been taught obedience, who do not respect authority, who do not realise there are consequences for their actions, who are selfish and want their needs met immediately. I wonder what the world will be like then? We need to be intentional with our kids, however difficult it is (and having given birth to the worlds most stubborn and disobedient children, I know it is difficult!!) to teach them to obey. It is perhaps one of the most important life skills we can give them.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

More of it.

Here we are again with yet another Snow Day. I wonder if our country will ever get used to the idea that we might actually be able to function with snow on the ground. Last week, when the school re-opened, I tried that good old tactic of praising them for doing something good in the hope that they might not do something bad again. I emailed the headteacher and told them how grateful we were that the staff had made an effort to get into school and get it open. I gushed about how wonderful it was that the children could play outside in the snow with their friends. It didn't work. Today, as we woke up to yet another white blanket, the school closed. All you psychologists and parenting experts out there who say 'praise the good and ignore the bad' - it hasn't worked!!

So I am trying to have a Good Mother Day but failing terribly. With one child ill and in bed, one toddler who has to get his hands on everything, one child who only has to look at a room and it is messy and 2 nephews (because SOME people make it to work!) my task feels rather enormous. Having tried to do experiments, play games, draw and make and play in the snow this morning, I have now resorted to a DVD. I can justify it to myself though because it is 'Prince of Egypt' which is at least a Bible story!

As I look out of the window at the white flakes continuing to fall from the sky I do not have alot of hope for school opening tomorrow. I will have to instigate 'Mummy School' again and put up with the sighs and the huffing that accompanies it.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Act of Kindness Day (Best said in X Factor Announcement style)

What a fantastic idea, which I unfortunately did not think up! My big sister, who also has 2 boys, told me of this brainwave yesterday which we have decided to implement today. Act of Kindness Day which must be said in the X Factor voice will encourage inherently selfish children (which mine are) to think about other people.

How to do it:
Step 1: Everyone write down their name and put it in a hat. (You can also use this as sneaky writing practice for those who hate to write.)
Step 2: Everyone pick a name out of the hat. (Not their own.)
Step 3: Whoever's name you pick, you must do something kind for them that day.

What a great idea! So far we have giggled over saying "Act of Kindness Day" in funny voices over and over again, and we have picked names out of the hat. Max has decided to give me extra cuddles as his Act of Kindness. Toby has written little notes for Jared. Who knows how Jonah will decide to implement his Act of Kindness towards Max. Perhaps he will just try not to hit him and snatch things off him for the day..... but I doubt it somehow. I am not sure that an ego-centric 2 year old is quite able to join in such an activity.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Grrrrrrrr and Aaaaaaggggghhh

The title sums up exactly how I am feeling today. Having had my boys off school for 2 and a half weeks I sent them back in this morning with glee. The fighting, arguing and tale telling had become unbearable and they needed to be somewhere other than near me!

As we walked to school, however, the sky went ominously purple and then small balls of white fluff started falling from the sky. "It's snowing!" shouted the boys in excitement whilst I tried desperately to pretend it wasn't happening. By the time Jonah and I reached the warmth of home again it was snowing hard, and settling and an hour later the streets had transformed from grey old Charford to the beauty of a winter wonderland. The beauty was not long lasting though, because at 11am I had the text to say the school was closing. Wrapping ourselves up yet again, we traipsed back down to school to pick up 2 very excitable boys. Pushing a pushchair in the snow is no easy task, but pushing one with a screaming, cold, hungry and tired toddler in it is even worse. By the time we reached home (again) I was sweating and crotchety to say the least.

Throwing the boys in the garden, I attempted to be happy and enjoy the snow with them but that was not to be as Jonah continued to scream about having cold hands. I wonder when he will actually realise that if he wears his gloves instead of taking them off and throwing them on the floor, his hands might actually stay slightly warmer. We made a snowman and I gave them some water with food colouring in, to paint the snow, and that was my limit. I needed warmth, I needed sanity and I needed my 2 year old to have his lunch and go for a nap!

Having put him in bed, I have given the other 2 their lunches and done an hour of "snow experiments" with them before thankfully letting them watch the tv guilt free. Why couldn't it have snowed yesterday when Jared was off work? We could have all gone sledging and it would have been "Happy Families". The photo's would have made us look like we were one of those families who always have fun and never argue (do those families exist?)! As it is, they are stuck with a grumpy mum who really was looking forward to some child-free time today.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

I Resolve.

Excitement and gluttonous waste of Christmas is over. Don't get me wrong, it was lovely. We enjoyed our house being full of the people we love. Despite having what felt like billions of people here, we have actually had the most chilled school holidays in our family history with the 2 biggest boys waking up after 8am most days. This is unheard of in our house, and it has been good for them to sleep and rest (although I am not looking forward to the growth spurt that will inevitably follow).

Now that we have all eaten in excess and been far too slovenly, we all try to appease ourselves by making New Years Resolutions. I am married to someone who lives, dreams and makes constant lists of goals. Thankfully I think we just about managed to get away without having to do the "Family Goal Setting" time that he wanted to do on New Years Day, but he has talked with the boys and they have all come up with 4 goals for the year (this is a huge improvement on the 30 goals he usually has). I wonder if it is a boy thing, because they are all very excited about and motivated by these goals. Would boys be more inspired to do something if they have set a goal for it? Perhaps I am just cynical and it is a good thing to set goals. Those goal-lovers always quote the good old "If you aim for nothing, you reach nothing" quote and I do understand that, but still I struggle to set myself up with goals that I will ultimately fail in.

Or perhaps I aim too high. Maybe I should resolve to do things that are easier to achieve. I do have a vague idea of the things I want to do this year, but I wouldn't go as far as to say they are goals or resolutions. I am excited about this year. I want to make myself available to be used by my God, and I want to get to know Him more and love Him more. I want to be the best wife I can be by serving and loving my husband, and I want to inspire my boys to love God and His word and grow in their friendships with Him. But these are life 'goals', not just for this year. I won't suddenly at the end of the year decide not to do those things anymore!

Of course, the usual resolutions of losing weight, watching less TV, tidying the house more often and eating less chocolate will probably feature at some point but how many people do you know who set these goals year after year without ever achieving them? Exactly! What is the point?!