Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Christmas Story

I wrote this short 'read aloud' version of the Christmas story last year and we used it on Christmas Day with our boys to get them thinking...

Mary, Mary” the angel whispered. Mary looked around her and then fell backwards in fright.
Who are you?” She whimpered.
I am Gabriel and I have come from God's presence to you. I have brought you a message. You are going to have a baby. He will be the light of the world and his name will be Jesus.”
Eeerm, I'm sorry Gabriel, but I am a virgin. I'm not even married! This is not possible!” offered Mary.
The Holy Spirit will fill you, and you will become pregnant. Don't worry Mary, God has it all sorted out.”
And with that, Gabriel disappeared.
Mary rubbed her eyes and looked around her. Was that a dream or had it really happened? All she knew was that she was filled with joy, wonder, love and awe.

Close your eyes and imagine the scene.
The donkey brayed,
The cows pooed,
The goats watched curiously through the slits of their eyes.
Into this dirty, straw filled shed a baby was born.
His mother, frightened and with only her husband to help, pushed the baby out with a grunt and a scream and King Jesus, naked and covered in blood and dirt, cried his first cry.

Long awaited and long promised, the King had finally come. Was this King to enter a palace, with gold robes and a jewel encrusted throne? Was he given a baby-sized crown to fit his tiny head?
No, he was wrapped up in the cleanest scrap of material his mother could find and he was put to sleep in a feeding trough, with straw for a mattress.

His people had longed for him to come more than we long for presents. They had waited hundreds of years, sometimes wondering if their God was really going to fulfil his promise or not.

The first to visit this tiny baby were not important dignitaries, not the prime minister, not the richest in the country. The first to visit were the poorest of the poor – the shepherds. Despised by others, they had nothing to bring but themselves. Did Jesus want extravagant gifts? No, he wanted their hearts.
The shepherds knelt in the smelly shed and kissed the feet of their new King. They worshipped him and gave him their hearts. They were his first followers, the first Christians.

What do we have to bring to King Jesus? How much do we long for him to come and be our Saviour? How can we worship him? How can we show him we want to follow him, love him and give him our hearts?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Realistic Rest

We're all feeling it. "End of term-itis" mixed with the dark evenings and pitch black 'middle of the night' mornings produces feelings of weariness and fatigue. This term has been a long, drawn out one, and now the end is in sight we are all longing for it (even though, on the first day of the holidays I'll be wishing they were back at school). The boys are exhausted and we are having to wake them all up every morning (apart from weekends, when they are as sprightly as the duracell rabbit at 6:30am). They are swinging on a pendulum of extreme grumpiness to extreme hype and hysterical giggling. Even if they can carry on like this, I can't. I cannot bear the walking on eggshells and the screams and cries everytime I leave them on their own in a room together. We are ready for some time off.

It has got me thinking though. Reading the bible with the boys a few days ago, we came across the ten commandments. Oh yes, call me old fashioned, but actually they made alot of sense. To our detriment, our society has slowly and quietly pushed to the side the good things that God introduced, thinking in our 'wisdom' that we could do things better.

Instead, we have produced a culture which doesn't know how to rest. Of course, you can book into a spa for a day, or have a relaxing holiday once a year. By the time we reach that stage, we are always burnt out, exhausted and ready to crumple in a heap. This isn't real rest, this is desperate rest. God's idea was to put rest into our weekly diary, so that we don't actually reach the exhaustion stage. A whole day, each week, where we don't do any work? How can we realistically manage this in our 24 hour society with our children who need constant entertainment, our homes that need constant updating, our emails which require constant reading and our jobs which can take over time at home as well as time at work? I don't have any clever answers, I just know we need it.

Is it possible to have a whole day each week where we live simply? Although this was the historical day, Sundays are no longer sacred with shops closed and families together. Perhaps another day of the week is a better day. Church leaders often choose Mondays for their days of rest, scheduling church activities on Saturdays and forgetting that this is often the day of rest for people who work on weekdays. How do we say 'no' to such honourable activities without feeling that 'rest' is not a good enough excuse? The ideal lifestyle seems to be one that is as packed and busy as possible.

However, this was not God's intention. He wants us to rest. He wants us to schedule rest into our diaries. Not just a 'once in a while' occurance, but every week. He doesn't endorse burn out. He doesn't clap his hands in admiration when we have filled every moment of our diaries with 'good, healthy activities'. He wants us to enjoy guilt-free rest.

As I think about the new year, I am pondering how to put this into my diary. How, with three active boys, do I find a whole day each week in which to rest as a family? How can we make that day more simple? Do we eat more simply on that day? Can I manage not to do any jobs around the house? Will we play games together, go for walks in the country and relax together? For each family, this will look different. But I am becoming more firmly convinced of the necessity and as our lives become even more busy in the year ahead with our new business, we will need to make the time to rest a priority. After all, it's God's idea, not mine.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Friday Failures

Today has been one of those 'bad mother' days again. We all have them, sometimes more often than we would like! Here are some of my failures to make you giggle, sympathise or both....

1. I tried to be a good mother, I really did, and made Max an Egyptian Costume for his Egyptian Day today. Unfortunately, my excitement probably pushed him into wearing more than he would have liked, and he ended up crying because he thought he looked like a girl (it was the heavy eyeliner that did it). When he refused to get out of the car and into school, I bribed him with sweets.

2. On the first very cold day of the winter, Max (underneath the Egyptian costume, which was just a sheet) was wearing shorts and t shirt. I forgot to give him a hat or gloves. Jonah did not have his coat done up, and I don't even know what kind of coat / hat / glove combination Toby might have been wearing because I didn't see him leave for school. (I was too busy putting eyeliner on Max).

3. When I collected Jonah from Nursery, we came home and I strongly encouraged him to watch the television so I could sit down. Once he was bored of the television, he asked me of he could play Angry Birds on my phone (should a 4 year old even know that you can play Angry Birds on a phone?).
Jonah: (Polite voice) Can I play Angry Birds on your phone?
Me: (Heavy sigh, knowing that I am going to give in...) No, not today.
Jonah: (Rude voice, bordering on the edge of a tantrum, knowing that one more will push me over the brink of giving in) Can I play Angry Birds on your phone?
Me: (Even heavier sigh, knowing I have given in) Yes, ok.
I didn't even attempt a battle.

4. After playing Angry Birds for longer than he should have been, I found a cardboard box and attempted to drag myself into good mother mode by suggesting that he cut it up and make something with it. He was enamoured with that idea, but not with the fact that while he was trying to make Buzz Lightyear from a cardboard box, I was sitting in the other room checking facebook.

5. The Buzz Lightyear making went wrong and he asked me to help him. When I didn't help him straight away, he lay on the floor kicking his legs and screaming at me. Instead of calmly putting down the computer and helping him with Buzz's wings, I lay on the floor next to him and pretended to have a tantrum. It didn't help. He screamed louder, kicked harder and rolled further away from me.

6. To distract us both from eventual murder, I suggested we feed the chickens. Getting on our wellies ( Actually, I wore my wellies and he refused to wear his. Another battle I could not bring myself to fight), we tramped down to the end of the garden. Feeding the chickens could have been a lovely educational moment. It was, however, far too cold to attempt anything educational so we threw the food in and then I enticed him back indoors with the promise of watching Curious George.

7. I am about to collect Max from school. He will be walking home in shorts and a t shirt, on the coldest day of the winter so far.

Now, if that's not a list of bad mother crimes, I don't know what is!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Strikes, Pensions and Wildflowers.

Wow. What an interesting week this has been. Whilst half the population of the UK were fighting the injustices of the latest government cuts, the other half were worrying about their own futures. Mostly, I have refrained from unleashing my opinions about it all. However, I would like to throw one more, perhaps rather outlandish in today's culture, ingredient into the mix.

"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

In our society that is steeped in looking out for 'number one', we rely on ourselves and our flawed, human governments and societies instead of looking to the Number One for all our needs. My hope for this time in my life and for my future, pension or no pension, is in my God who can and will provide for all my needs. Instead of shouting out about the rights and wrongs of the current and increasing cuts, lets model to our children a faith in God that is unwavering and surpasses all the difficulties of financial instability. We know the One who will give us stability. This is a perfect opportunity for those of us who follow God to live a radically different lifestyle, and by doing so we will be instilling in our children one of the most important life lessons they will ever learn - dependence on the One who promises to not just provide for and sustain them but to do more than they could ask for or imagine.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

How to Organise the Un-organisable Child

My middle son, Max, actually does live on another planet. If you asked him about it, he would go into great detail about the culture, language, food and inhabitants of planet Flot. At 7 years old, he sometimes comes back to earth with a bump but usually his brain is on a far higher plane than whether he has remembered to put his jumper on the right way round or not. Not that we are supposed to compare our children, but he has come as somewhat of a shock to me having had Toby, my eldest son, who loves order and relishes activities such as classifying books. Toby's bedroom would pass the extreme regulations of a yelling Sergeant Major, Max's bedroom is an array of clutter.

And so before I can train him to do his own washing or cook the tea, I have to begin to teach him about order and organisation. Leaving home and fending for himself feels like a distant, almost impossible dream. However, slowly but surely we are getting there. I have had many failures so far in teaching him to be organised. Not only is he in a dream world, he is also very stubborn. The two qualities do not help each other out at all. Below I will outline some of my failures and some of my successes and if you have a delicious daydreamer of a child like mine, you can either try out some of the tips yourself or simply know that you are not alone in your frustrations.

Getting Dressed
Although at 7, Max is perfectly capable of dressing himself (and miraculously manages to at weekends), on a bleary eyed school morning this is a difficult task. I have long given up expecting him to find his own clothes from his drawers. Instead, we get his clothes out for the next day the night before and in the morning I pass them to him piece by piece until he has them all on. Sometimes I wonder if he really should have been born into a different era and have his own personal Valet, but I carry on with my task because it gets us out of the door in time for school.

Remembering to Bring Everything Home From School
I have finally had some success with this recently. I set him a challenge (he relishes a challenge) and he exceeded my expectations. After spending the first 2 months of last term sending him back into the classroom to collect his reading book, coat, lunch, letters etc etc, I told him that if he remembered everything every day for a week I would let him stay up later on Friday night. He managed to remember, and even though the challenge has passed, he is still mostly managing to remember.

Remembering to Change His Reading Book
This, along with remembering to give letters to the teacher, hand in homework and anything else he has to do in school without me, has been a tricky one. If I am not there to remind him, he has to do it all himself. I have started to remind him several times on the way to school and not only say it myself, but ask him to repeat what I have said. Here is a typical conversation we might have:

Me: "Max, you've got 2 things to remember today, do you think you can do it?"
Max: "Of course! What are they?"
Me: "You need to change your reading book and you need to give the slip about the trip to the teacher."
Max: "Ok."
Me: "So, what do you need to do?"
Max "I need to change my reading book and I need to give the slip about the trip to the teacher."

This has varying results depending on his mood, but I have found it to be the most helpful so far.

Jobs Around the House
I have to admit that I have avoided these until recently. The battle was just far too great. Unfortunately Toby (rightly) complained that he had loads of jobs and Max didn't have any so I was caught out. We sat all three boys down and had a 'family talk' about all the jobs that need doing in our house, and how mostly I do them all. We talked about working together as a team to get those things done and then we discussed appropriate jobs for each child. We discussed the consequences of not doing those jobs and amazingly, they all seemed to be quite happy to help. Obviously each child is different, but these are the jobs Max is expected to do:
Put his clothes away in his drawers after they have been washed (often they are found scrumpled up into a drawer or he steps on them blindly on his way to bed).
Take it in turns (with Toby) to clear the table and load the dishwasher after tea.
After school, empty his lunchbox and put it by the sink.
Put his dirty washing in the washing basket.
Tidy and hoover his bedroom (ha ha ha ha, need I say more?!)
Mostly, he does them. Often, he needs a gentle reminder. Sometimes, he doesn't do them at all.

More than anything else, the most important factor in teaching him to be more organised has been to praise his efforts, even when they haven't been quite up to my standards. Instead of laughing at his lovely little ways of keeping his head high up in the clouds (although it is something that I love about him very much), I have begun to tell him that he is becoming an organised person. I have praised him for remembering to clean his teeth without being asked. I have told him what a great job he has done of emptying his lunch box every day of the week. I have celebrated with him when he has looked which way round his trousers go on instead of just pulling them on whichever way they arrive in his hand. I have given him a new label of 'organised' and he has risen to it. He has even, dare I say it, enjoyed his organisation on occasion.

So, don't despair. If your child is otherworldly (and you will know what I mean if they are), there is hope. Even if our children will always remain half on our planet and half off, we can still train them to be practical and to organise themselves. I hope.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Loving your Daughters-in-Law (before you've even met them)

I have 3 boys. No girls, just boys. My home is littered with plastic soldiers, drumkits, lego and dinosaurs. We have no Disney Princess dvd's but a plethora of Star Wars, X Men, Peter Pan and (my personal favourite) Inspector Gadget. Camo clothes cover my radiators and (the perfect phrase coined by the mother in Outnumbered) a wee tsunami covers my bathroom floor. We don't eat pretty pink cupcakes, but pies, meat and hearty stews are the fare in our family. We 'ooh' and 'aah' at the cars on Top Gear, but Strictly Come Dancing cannot be tolerated. Burps and worse are part of our mealtime conversations and armpit farts (and even knee, elbow and other body part farts) have to be limited to only a few minutes per day or nothing else would be accomplished.

But one day, my time will come and I will (hopefully) have some daughters-in-law. Ever one to imagine the future, I look forward to the day that I will not be the only girl in the house. Sometimes, desperately clawing onto my female identity, I feel like an honorary boy. I also look forward to presenting my boys to the world, ready for their lives without the supervision of a mother (no 'Young, Dumb and Living off Mum' in our family). Unfortunately they will not wake up suddenly willing and able to look after themselves and others. There is no point waiting for them to be ready - all they time they are being served by a loving Mother who will pick up their dirty pants from the floor, they will not be ready. No, they need training.

And this is where I have my daughers-in-law in mind. I married a man who could cook, clean and iron. (I can barely bring myself to admit that actually he is better than me at it). When I hear other women moaning about their husbands, I am extremely grateful to my mother-in-law for teaching him those basic skills. It has meant that we have shared the load and when I have had small babies, or been ill, he has been able to keep the house running smoothly.

To get myself off to a head start with the relationship with my daughters-in-law, I need to get training my boys. It occurred to me that if they can use all their new fangled electronic devices, then why can they not work the washing machine? If they can organise themselves at school (ok, not all of them can - some of them need training in that too, and I have one of those!), why can they not organise themselves at home? If they can follow a timetable, why can they not follow a recipe? If they love working as a team to accomplish a goal, why not train them to work as a family team to achieve a house than runs well?

Training them to cook, clean and do their washing teaches them so much more than just how to do the job. It teaches them about teamwork; it teaches them about discipline and getting on with the job even when you don't feel like it; it helps them to appreciate what others do for them; it gives them organisational skills and teaches them responsibility; it teaches them about consequences (yes, really, if Toby forgets to wash his school uniform, I will not be doing it for him).

The temptation is to do it all ourselves because it is just so much quicker, easier and avoids the inevitable battle. And oh, how I know that tempation - especially with one certain, eccentric, highly disorganised middle son. We must look ahead though. If we always give in to this temptation (and sometimes I certainly do!) we will produce sons who not only do not know how to do anything for themselves, but expect others to do it for them. Instead of offering to make a cup of tea, they will plonk themselves on the sofa and holler for you to make one for them. Dirty pants and socks will litter the floor because you have always picked them up and washed them. We will produce heart-warming meals that they will gulp down and rush off to their next important activity, leaving the table cluttered with dishes for us to clear. We will not be giving away our sons as men in marriage, ready to cherish, protect and love their wives, we will be passing on children for someone else to look after.

We need to love our future daughter-in-laws by training our boys. You never know, my training might work and one day my bathroom floor might be dry.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Upside Down World

In our blame-ridden, compensation-driven culture, it is hard to teach our children (and even ourselves) to take responsibility for their own actions. This week our family have been thinking about this very wise saying:

"Do for other people the same things you want them to do for you."

It is, of course, more fun if you say it in a Yoda voice but the original version was by Jesus.

So often we are all too quick to point out other people's faults. "He hit me first!", is the usual cry in my house. Always willing to overlook our own part in the proceedings, we concentrate on what others are doing. We pick at their misconduct and sometimes even exploit it for our own good. This saying, however, turns all of that upside down.

First and foremost, our responsiblity is to ensure we are living right, whether that is starting a fight (and oh, how many of those are started in my house each day) or ensuring we are showing kindness to those who we might not feel naturally inclined to show kindness to. It should be our concern how we are behaving. Instead of poking our nose into other people's business, we might do better if we took a good long sniff of ourselves, and then be prepared to make the changes necessary.

If we all lived by this saying, just this saying, our world would be turned upside down too. Kindness, generosity and love might actually prevail over selfishness and pride. No longer would there be silly health and safety laws about children not being allowed to jump in leaves or skid on the ice in the school playground (just in case parents take court action). Poverty would be eased as riches were shared around. My boys might actually go one whole day without fighting (a major feat).

Is this possible in our egocentric culture? Can we really take responsibilty for ourselves? Or has our culture just gone too far away from this now?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Good Mother

Standards have seriously dropped around here. Half term began with good intentions on my part - limited screen time, board games and other family activities to enjoy, autumn walks, biscuit making....... Perhaps I set my sights too high, but by Wednesday those intentions were all but forgotten and survival was my only goal.

Having a nasty cold that has set it's hindering heaviness into my head and face, I have struggled to be the 'good mother' that I had planned to be. My whole body aches with the need to go to bed, and yet I have 3 energetic boys who need me. And so, the elusive 'good mother' has to wait again to come out of hiding.

Screen time limitations have been more than relaxed. Food has been consumed outside of mealtimes and even snack times - or perhaps they are just prolonged snack times. Yes, that is a far better way to think about it. Knowing that I would be completely ignored, I feebly suggested playing a board game whilst watching them racing around the house, yelling at the tops of their voices and wielding coathangers, tennis rackets, light sabres and other weaponry at each other. I gave in when they asked to go to the Yellow M for tea, and even went to the supermarket afterwards to buy them sweets (bribery for sitting down and watching a film) on a day that was not sweetie day.

Weakly, I watched them making their own lunches (and the mess that accompanied) - cheese sandwiches that would need several cows to replace the thick wedges of cheese that they attempted to squeeze into the bread. I did try to offer them fruit for pudding, but by that time, appetites satisfied, they were onto the next mess-making activity. Thankfully I managed to dissuade Toby from having a big bowl of ice cream for lunch, that would have been taking it one step too far.

I have paid them for paper aeroplanes they made 'for me' (after counting up all his 1p and 2p's Max discovered he had £4) and I have let them wander around the house with scissors in their hands, calling to them from my comfortable sofa to "carry the scissors properly". I have shouted at them to "STOP SHOUTING". I have answered their "Can shadows reflect the light?" type questions with "I don't know."

Is the 'good mother' really out there? Or is she just a slippery eel that is too hard to catch hold of? On occasion, I manage to catch her and feel as though I have achieved something but more often than not I fall short of her standards.

Oh well, maybe the good mother will return tomorrow. There is always hope.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Sometimes I am plagued with questions. Not the "Did you know that in Australia people have to walk on their heads?" type of questions or the "Why is poo brown?" questions. Not even the "Will I manage to get 2 loads of washing dry in one day?" questions. No, these are questions of a far more serious nature.

On occasion I am overcome with questions such as these:

How do we know we are doing the right thing with our boys?
Why do I think so differently to other parents?
Do I actually think differently to other parents, or am I just verbalising what other people are thinking?
Will our boys, one day, be well rounded citizens of society or are we going horribly wrong somewhere?

We do our best, but what if our best is not good enough? In a horrendously disconcerting way, we will never know whether we are doing the right thing or not, until we have finished the job. What if we are getting it all wrong?

Sometimes I look around me and wish that I could think the same as other people. Why can't I just be happy to fit in, put my head down and get on with things? Why, for example, do I have to be so incredibly opinionated about homework and schools in general? This morning, as Max was making a tomb for Tutenkhamun out of a frubes box, including separate compartments for his brain, lungs and other organs, I contemplated telling his teacher that we would not be making a board game about the Ancient Egyptians for homework because Max has already made this tomb. 'Child-led learning' is it's official title and I am big fan of it. Why do I have to even contemplate this when other people seem to just get on with the task they have been given without question. When I take my boys to a park, making myself comfortable on a bench with my book, I look at other parents hovering over their children on the climbing frames and even telling their children not to attempt certain equipment and I wonder if I am being an empowering parent or a neglectful, lazy parent. Should I, also, be ensuring their absolute safety or is it ok for them to fall and learn not to attempt that silly climb again?

This is not a pity party, and I am not looking for "Oh but you are a wonderful mother" responses. I am being honest. I don't like thinking differently. I wish I wasn't so opinionated. Or am I so different? I do not enjoy looking at other people parenting their children in a different way and wondering if we are doing the right thing. This isn't a scientific study in which we are testing the outcomes of different parenting techniques, this is the lives and futures of our boys and I desperately want to do the right thing. But we won't know the outcomes until it is too late, and that is one very scary thought.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Friday, oh Friday. This day has taken on different meanings over the last few years. Before we had children, Fridays were a day of celebration. The weekend had arrived and it was time to rest and have fun. As soon as Toby was born, weekends dissolved into the rest of the continuous, monotonous, sleep deprived, bleary eyed week. Weekends were no different to the rest of the week, and lie-ins were certainly a thing of the past. When the boys were slightly older and had started school, I used to dread the weekends and long for Monday mornings when the house would be peaceful and fight-free again.

More recently, weekends have become easier for us and although we are not quite at the lie-ins stage yet, the mornings are certainly more chilled than they used to be. When they are not telling tales, throwing balls in each other's faces, weeing in the garden (yes, really) or stealthily lifting the fence panels so they can retrieve their footballs from the neighbour's garden, the boys actually play fairly nicely together and even help us get on with jobs that we need to do. Weekends are no longer dreaded. So, Fridays can be celebrated again and 'end of half term' Fridays can be even more of an event.

Today was one such Friday. Throwing their bags, coats, shoes, PE kits and other paraphernalia on the floor by the front door, my boys headed straight outside to the back garden. Apart from the fact that they keep leaving the back door open and letting all the freezing cold air into the house, I love watching them shedding their layers of school expectations. They can just be themselves again. They stayed outside until teatime (apart from Toby who came in to cook the tea - another blog altogether, but a very interesting one). They ate their tea with their usual relish and gusto (we even managed a burp and fart-free dinner time tonight), cleared the table and went straight back outside again only coming in when it was too dark to see each other.

I love watching them relaxing in the way they know best. I love knowing that we have days of this to come. I love the fact that it is Friday and tomorrow we don't have to nag, cajole and bribe them to be out of the house early in the morning. I even dare to hope that one day we might have our lie-ins restored. On that day, Fridays will be even more exciting.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A Taste for Adventure

We are about to embark upon the biggest adventure our family has yet experienced. No, not even the scary jet boat ride we did last summer can compare to this one (although I did scream ALOT and shouted at the boys to hold on, much to their amusement).

In April next year, Jared's yearly salary will halve as he works part time in his current job and begins to build up Outdoors Unlocked, our exciting new enterprise. Staying in a comfortable, reliable (albeit stressful) job is not for us, as we really believe we are doing what our Father wants of us. Following God is not ever boring and it is about to become alot less so!

This is not just for Jared. This is for our whole family. Over the last few months, we have sat around the breakfast table together and prayed. Excitement has built as we have seen prayer after prayer answered,at exactly the right time. In the coming months, this will increase as we may have to ask God for sometimes literally our daily bread. If I am honest, part of me is terrified. Change, although it is here to stay, is never a comfortable, relaxing process. However, I know deep down that this is the right way for us to be heading and so part of me is extremely excited about the answers to prayer that we will see in the future. I step into this unknown with the deep trust that the All Knowing one is with me.

More than anything else, I want my boys to know that God will provide for them. He will always hear their prayers and he will always answer. He is faithful. I imagine situations where we may sit around the table, asking God for our next meal. How thrilling when it turns up on our doorstep! For a family who love adventure, this is certainly going to be one! Who knows where it will take us or what we will learn through it? I want the experience to deposit in my boys an unwavering faith in their God and a reliance on Him and not on themselves so that when they are men and fathers themselves they will be able to take new adventures for God with their families. I cannot think of anything else I would like to pass onto my children than this. May they always be ready to follow their God, whatever the cost and to trust in his infinite wisdom and faithfulness.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Disorderly Dinnertimes

After rushing around for the whole day, cleaning, picking up dirty odd socks, playing with duplo (not on my own) not to mention the 3 school runs I am doing each day now, I look forward to the evening family meal as a moment to sit down, enjoy civilised, peaceful conversation about everyone's days and be revitalised by good food and good company.

The disappointment sets in when I bellow my "tea is ready" shout and they all rush into the kitchen like a herd of wildebeasts. 'Washing' their hands consists arguing over who will 'wash' first and then showing their hands to the taps, arriving, breathless into the kitchen whilst wiping their damp hands on their dirty trousers.

Jonah and Max then sit at the table, arguing over who is going to receive their food first whilst Toby, in full parental mode, tells them that whoever sits the most quietly will have theirs first.

Plates deposited in front of ravenous boys, they tell tales on who has started before everyone has sat down. Our clearly impossible rule is that no-one can start until we are all ready. At the allotted time, they dig in, and I really mean dig. Hands are used as cutlery, food is scattered on the floor, drinks are spilled and appreciative farm-like noises are made.

Once everyone has had their first few satisfying mouthfuls, I begin to ask questions about the day. In an attempt at teaching social skills and how to listen and converse, I stupidly try to make everyone listen when someone talks. Jonah has other ideas and shouts over the conversation. Max then shouts louder to be heard. I then shout louder to make them all stop shouting. Eventually, once everyone has stopped the noise, we again attempt conversation. Today was a perfect example of our civilised conversation:

Me: "What did you do today, Max?"
Max: (looking at Toby with a cheeky smile) " I saw a naked man at school. (giggle, giggle, snigger, snigger)"
Toby: "A real one? (giggle)"
Max: "No, in a book and (splutter, cough, snigger) I saw his nuts and everything".
Toby: "(Guffaw)"
Jared: (attempting to regain control) "Jonah, what did you do at nursery?"
Jonah: (looking at his brothers for approval) "I just did 3 burps at the table (giggle)"
Max: "(Loud belch)"
Toby: "I am the medium toxic gas machine."

At this point, we gave up attempting conversation and began crowd control. Everything we said or did was turned into something for them to fall off their chairs with giggles.
Rapidly finishing off the meal, we dispatched them to their various jobs and then sent them outside to play football to run off their silliness.

Perhaps I am setting my sights too high each night. Perhaps I should just send them outside to eat their meals. Perhaps tv dinners are the way ahead. Or maybe one day, just one day, we might be able to have a whole meal without talking about body parts.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Dead birds and Feelings

"Mum! There is a pheasant eating a bloody bird in our garden!", the excited voice greeted me as I ventured downstairs this morning. During the night a cat (possibly ours) had butchered an innocent bird and left the feathers and entrails in our garden. By the time I looked out the window, the mystery 'pheasant' had vanished. The boys were so excited, it took all of my strength and will to prevent them from going outside at 7:30am to inspect the contents of the dead bird.

The troubling incident led me to the differences between girls (or maybe just me) and my boys yet again. Why on earth is it exciting to see the bloody intestines of a bird spread about around our garden? How can they possibly want to inspect it straight after breakfast? Of course, I could transform it into an educational moment, but at that time of the morning I was not quite awake enough to fulfill my teaching role.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you will know that I am passionate about seeing our boys be free to be the boys they were made to be, accepting all their adventures, risk taking, superhero delusions and noise making capabilities. However, I was struck again this morning by the fact that there has to be a limit even to this. If we give them total freedom, they will not learn to be disciplined. We will create selfish children who only think of themselves, and not how their actions affect other people. We will also, dare I say it, not allow them to develop any of the more feminine traits.

Don't click on another tab yet. I am not advocating lip stick and glittery high school musical school bags. Nor am I suggesting that girls cannot have adventures and take risks (although I am not sure I know of many little girls with superhero delusions). However, I do see my role as the sole female in the house, and as the mother of 3 incredibly testosterone fuelled boys, as one of enabling them to learn about their emotions and to experience enjoyment of reading or art. Before anyone tells me that these are stereotypes, I know they are. I know that many grown men are sensitive and enjoy the quieter activities. I am not writing a blog about stereotypes, I am writing a blog about a mother's role to develop her sons.

From when my boys were very young, I have taught them about their emotions. We used to sit in front of the mirror making happy faces and sad faces. I have encouraged them to talk about how they feel. I have welcomed their outbursts of emotion, even the angry ones (although this is sometimes harder), because they give us an opportunity to learn. I work hard at passing on to them my love of reading and the written word. I point out beauty in nature and use words that boys might not necessarily use. I discuss with them how other people might feel in different situations. My job as their mother is to develop their emotions and help them to understand them. It is to foster in them a sensitivity towards others. This is more difficult with some boys than others. Toby, for example, is highly sensitive to other's feelings. Max, at the other extreme, probably wouldn't even notice if someone was in the same room as him nevermind thinking about what they might be feeling! I can only do my best with the boys I have been given.

Of course, when the boys come home from school they will go straight outside and inspect the, by then sun-cooked and rotted, dead bird. As much as I would like to, I cannot contain their excitement about it. By that time I might be able to rack my brains and transform it into a teaching moment, then at least I will feel it had some use. Their training in emotional development will continue until they are not in my care anymore. You never know, one day they might see a dead bird and manage to refrain from jumping up and down, finally able to contain the thrill within them.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Who's In Charge?

Forgive me for being controversial (is this becoming a habit?) but I have noticed a new trend which I am altogether not sure about. Unlike the latest Blackberry or newest colour of Birkenstocks, this trend, as far I can see, can have extremely damaging and lifelong consequences.

I am aware that this blog post will cause ripples, and for that I am prepared.

Seeping in from who knows where, I have begun to notice a trend in parenting that removes the parent's authority. Mothers of newborn babies are now told to 'let the baby lead'. The baby can decide when they will sleep (regardless of any sleep deprivation for the mother or the child) and when they will feed. The baby, in it's experienced wisdom, decides when they are ready for solid food, and which solid food in particular they are ready for. The baby decides how they will eat said food. Toddlers, naturally exploratative, are rightly encouraged to investigate their surroundings but are not reined in when necessary. The toddler, who still might not have decided that they are going to sleep at night, can make a choice about their food and drink. They can be in charge of their lives. Parents can just shrug their shoulders and smile at their little angel's cute antic.

Since when were children capable of making those decisions? How does a newborn know how to sleep unless it is trained? Of course, some perfect babies sleep from the beginning and it all seems to come naturally for them. For those that do not (and I include my 3 babies unfortunately in this category), they need to be trained. How does a toddler know which food will be good for him or her? How does a child learn to sit still and listen? How can we stop a toddler in the face of danger if they have not been taught to listen and obey their parents? (I understand this last one is a longer term process....)

I have noticed this bias weedling it's way into modern parenting, even since I have had my boys. I have noticed parents, unable or unwilling to control their toddler and pre-school children. I have met mothers with grey faces and exhausted eyes, having been told that when their baby is ready to sleep, he or she will. I have seen overweight children, because they only eat chips and 'chicken' nuggets. I have seen pre-school children unable to sit still and concentrate because they have never been taught to. I have seen older children bewildered at the choices presented to them and unable to make decisions. I have noticed a rise of conditions such as ADHD and ADD which, I know, are often genuine.

Of course, I am not advocating 'controlling' our children in a negative sense. I do not think parenting is a dictatorship. If you read any of my previous posts you will know how I love to see children set free to be themselves. However, 'letting the child lead' creates a relationship in which the parents do not have their God given authority any longer. Our job as parents is surely to teach and train our children. We are there to give them boundaries, which surely include the basic needs of sleep and food. When children have boundaries, they feel safe. Within those boundaries, they can then begin to be trained to make choices for themselves but ultimately, the parents are in charge.

I know we all make mistakes - I make them every day (today's was to give in to Jonah's request for more television...). I also know that no child fits the textbooks. Each child is different, but I sincerely believe that we were given our unique children so that we can train them in the way that is unique to them. Mums and Dads really do know best for their children, despite what the children like to think sometimes ("Yes, really, that broccolli is better for you than the sweeties"). Parents must be in charge, otherwise we are breeding a scarily powerful generation that does not recognise authority. The consequences of this? I shudder at the thought.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Highs and Lows of Back to School

Every week brings with it highs and lows, here are a few highs and lows from our first week back into routine....


On Thursday morning, I enjoyed a blissful morning of peace. Of course, there were seven week's worth of jobs to be done, but I was able to complete them without the 'help' of lots of other little hands (and voices). Actually, I did not complete them all. I almost completed them, and then, feeling the satisfaction of actually having done some cleaning I sat down, had a cup of tea and read my book.

Today, as Jonah came out of his second day in the nursery class with yet another stolen vegetable from their veg patch, I had a little giggle to myself. Yesterday he brought home a runner bean, today it was two tomatoes - one green and one red. Does he think they are just there for the taking? Perhaps he thinks they are part of the nursery experience. He does, however, look extremely cute in his little uniform. It almost makes him look respectable.

Over the week I have watched Toby growing in confidence and enjoying meeting new people. I have seen him take all of this on board by himself, without me there to guide him or even protect him. Of course, now he is in Middle School, he really does know everything. If we thought he knew everything before, we were wrong.

Max's first day brought a rare moment of organisation. These moments come so infrequently in his life, that they must be documented and cherished. He even asked me for a 'morning timetable' so that he knew what he needed to do each morning. After his first day back at school, he arrived home, took his shoes off and put them in the cupboard. He then hung up his bookbag (I am amazed he remembered to do that considering he probably only did it once for the whole of last year) on the hook, emptied out his lunchbox and put it next to the sink. I stood, mouth gaping, and foolishly thought he had turned over a new leaf. Today proved me wrong, of course, as he crawled home from school on his hands and knees (he was too tired to walk) and when he eventually made it through the front door, he lay in the middle of the floor for 10 minutes making loud donkey-type noises.


The tiredness and grump levels have, towards the end of the week, reached a record of new proportions. Having been well behaved in their new classrooms all week, they have to have somewhere to let their true feelings escape. Where better than at home and who better to punch than your brother? I have refereed many fights this week.

Having had the most relaxing (well, perhaps relaxing is not the best word) summer for ten years, the early mornings have come as quite a shock to my system. I could never understand other mums complaining about the early start. I did not realise that children were capable of sleeping later than 6:30am. Whilst Toby was up and dressed at that awful time on his first day at Middle School, the rest of us were somewhat slower to come round.

I have begun the 'Year of the School Run'. With Jonah in the nursery part time, I am now traipsing down to school and back again three times each day. I will soon know where each dog poo has been laid and where every crack in every pavement lies.

And so begins another term.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

New Starts

The holidays are over. We have just experienced the first summer holidays without a toddler or baby in tow and, as much as toddlers and babies are cute and everything, it was fantastic. We actually had lie-ins (until 7:45, but when you have spent years getting up between 5 and 6am, that really is a lie-in) and going out is so much easier without all the (un)necessary paraphernalia. I even managed not to yell at the boys (apart from the "lunch is ready" yelling and the "stop weeing up the garden shed" yelling) until week 6. This is most definitely progress. However, all good things (and tiring things and noisy things) come to an end. Today was my biggest boy's first day at Middle School. He spent his last evening of freedom subjecting us all to nerve-driven verbal diaorrhea and shed quite a few tears at bedtime when his mind was plagued with worries (although this is not to be admitted to now he is at Middle School). He was up and dressed at 6:30am, all ready for his new start! I waved him off this morning with a reassuring smile on my face and threatening tears brimming in my eyes. As I closed the door on him and let the tears fall, I felt again another painful snip of that umbilical chord and took a deep breath, knowing we are about to enter a whole new world with him. My littlest also begins his school journey this week as he joins the nursery class at our school. What they will make of him, I do not know. I heard a most excellent description of a deadly ant (on Deadly 60 for all those who also watch it!) which summed up my 4 year old perfectly. "He is fearless and has an attitude that is far too big for his size." Nursery staff, you have been warned! Will I feel tearful leaving him at nursery on Thursday? Not in the slightest. In fact, I may even be seen skipping home. What is my reaction as a mum to all these new beginnings? My reaction is to grieve what has passed, but also to celebrate what is to come. My boys are growing up and taking brave steps towards independence. I am right behind them, watching them totter, and will be there when they fall (which they will - but don't boys love a good injury to show off to their mates?) but I have to let them take these steps themselves. Next in the plan for independence is to teach my lovely, but eccentric, Max to be more organised ....... This may take some time ......

Monday, 29 August 2011

Posh Eyebrows

What is it about boys that is so unsavoury? Why are girls made of all things nice and boys made of horrid, yucky things? More importantly, why does our society actually believe that old wives tale?

Having been camping for a week in a field where my boys could swing like monkeys on rope and tyre swings, play on a 'lost island', climb trees, make as much noise as they liked and play with fire, today I took them to a National Trust house and gardens. Perhaps it was not the best planning since my boys had turned feral on our camping holiday, but I was in desperate need of something to do with them.

Sitting in the play area of the middle classes, I watched my boys climbing on the parts that were not meant to be clambered on and pushing each other on the swings so high that they fell out of them. They had alot of fun. I loved watching them look out for each other, take turns on the swings, chase each other and teach each other how to reach the higher bits.

Others in the play area, however, did not see the positives. I noticed anxious mothers steering their (ridiculously clothed in long dresses) pretty little girls away from my boys. ("Let's move away from those naughty boys"). I saw the worried looks on the faces of other parents when Max climbed right onto the top of the roof of the climbing frame. With their tweezered eyebrows raised, they looked my way silently pleading with me to tell him to climb back down again. Instead I gave him the thumbs up and told him he was a great climber.

Why are we so health and safety conscious that children are not allowed to take risks anymore? If my boys were genuinely doing something dangerous, I would stop them. However, they also need to learn about risk taking. What kind of men are we growing if we do not allow our boys to adventures and grow in their bravery?

Unfortunately for us, the eyebrows will continue to be raised when we venture into civilisation. My boys are not rude to others, they do not hurt other people, they do not swear or throw litter, they are simply boisterous, noisy, adventurous boys who love living. This, I will encourage until the day they reach manhood and beyond.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Mummy Dates

As you might have realised by now, we have no girls in our house other than me. How, then, will my boys learn to become gentlemen if they have no-one to practice on? How will they know that girls don't actually like to do armpit farts (well, some do) or want to play wrestling (again, some do)? Who will teach them those good old fashioned gentlemanly manners that are so prized and make a girl feel so special? I know that these days with the rise and success of feminism (all you feminists out there, please don't jump down my throat, I know it probably isn't as successful as you'd like it to be but it has certainly succeeded in squashing down young men) gentlemanly manners are sometimes scoffed at, but I also know that secretly even if not in public, most girls like to have a door opened for them. So, with no girls in the house other than me, I am the one to be practiced on.

With this in mind, we decided to arrange for the boys to take me out on a 'date'. Today was Max's first date with me. Jared spent a bit of time with him beforehand, explaining how to treat a lady and what the etiquette should be. Having been told that the boy should always do the asking, he crept into the kitchen at lunchtime and handed me an invitation. "To Mum, Plees will you come on a deat with me. Mum, thanks for doing all your jobs." Of course, I replied yes.

He decided to take me to KFC (a truly romantic destination - I did not tell him that this would NOT be the place to take future young ladies). He told me that he wanted me to wear a dress, and that he would also wear his best clothes. Just before we left, I changed into a dress and he changed into his Man Utd t-shirt! As we were leaving, he shyly presented me with a box of chocolates and a smile and off we went!

On the drive, my usually rather self-centred little boy (as most 7 year old boys are) began to ask me questions. "What is your favourite thing to wear?" "How old were you when you learnt to ride a bike?" "When did you learn to walk?" I could see Jared's training had certainly been taken on board. Arriving at our destination, he opened the door for me and asked me what I wanted to eat. He ordered the food, paid for it, carried the tray to the (dirty, but he didn't notice) table, set it down and pulled out my chair for me. I was impressed.

Finishing our meal, he removed and emptied the tray, pulled out my chair again and led me to the car (which, of course, I had to drive). I was very impressed with his 'ladies first' attitude and felt very special and looked after.

It had all gone swimmingly, until on our drive home he asked me if I wanted to play burp tennis.
"Burp tennis isn't really a game you ask ladies to play with you, Max. Ladies don't really like burp tennis."
"Well, our friend does, in fact, she taught it to me." (Friend, you know who you are!)
I did not really have an answer for this, so I changed tack.
"Well, I don't and I can't burp like you can."
Unfortunately this also backfired on me as he proceeded to give me a demonstration on how to burp.

Finally, we arrived home. He got out of the car before me and came round to my side to open the door. As soon as he'd done that, he ran off to play football with the others.

A successful first date, I feel. Next up is Toby. Part of our training is to teach our boys how to respect women. Despite the modern trend for metrosexual men, we want ours to be real men who love women the way they are supposed to be loved and cherished. Gentleman are hard to find in today's world. I married one. I want my daughters in law to marry one too.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tomatoes, Tears and Victories

Yesterday will be circled in my calendar for two small, but important, parenting victories.

Last week was football club week. Unbeknown to the boys, they are learning far more than football when they attend these clubs. Whilst the competition is extreme and exciting, the coaches also look out for good teamwork, good attitude, obedience and co-operation. Encouragement of others in the team is prized. At the end of the week, Toby won the award for sportsmanship. Although he was not the most skilled of football players, he was a boost to his team and he even overcame the disappointment of defeat by applauding others. For those of you who don't know, Toby is highly competitive. He is not the type to lie back and allow someone else to win.

Watching him collect his prize, my mind wandered back to Toby at age 4 and 5. I remembered the hours I spent with him playing games. The temptation to just 'let him win' so that he wouldn't be upset was great, but I resisted it and we had many games where the playing cards, or dice, were thrown down on the floor as he stomped, tears flowing, out of the room in defeat. He hated losing. I began to teach him to stay in the room, shake my hand and say well done to the winner. This felt like rubbing salt into his raw wounds of failure, but I knew that I had to teach him to be a good loser. I explained to him how it felt to not be congratulated. I told him that how he played the game was more important than who won. It was painful and there were many tears.

Yesterday, as he picked up his award, I knew I could tick that one off his list of preparation for life. He is ready to face competition and be beaten. He realises that character is more important than winning (although winning is, of course, still preferable!).

My second small victory almost caused me to leap around the room in excitement. Unfortunately I had to play it down. Tomatoes and Jonah have not mixed well. For two years, I have been putting a small amount of tomato on his plate at meal times (not every meal time, just the meals that have included the dreaded fruit). For two years, Jonah has methodically removed the tomato and put it on the table next to his plate. I have not made a big deal of it, I have just continued to put it on his plate. I have always refused to give different foods to different children. We all have the same thing on our plates. Yesterday, out of the blue, he said "I'm going to try this tomato, today". My mouth almost dropped onto the floor in shock. I held myself together and tried not to watch him as he tentatively put it in his mouth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tomato chewed up and swallowed. "Mmmmm," he said, "I like tomatoes now!" Toby and Max gave him a cheer and we continued with the rest of our meal. I, however, had that wonderful feeling of winning a small victory. It warmed me from the inside and it took all my self control to keep it inside instead of dancing around the room singing "I won the tomato battle, I won the tomato battle!"

Bringing up children is full of these small triumphs. Small, but far reaching. Did I ever believe, in all those months of Toby tearfully shaking my hand and saying 'well done', that he would win a prize for it one day? Definitely not. I had almost given up on the tomato battle too. We have to persevere even when it looks bleak. The triumphs are not for our own benefit (although it does feel good), they are for the benefit of our children, their future families and their lives ahead.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


The answer is far more deep rooted than politics or economics. Our country has turned it's back on God. Children are no longer taught the basic morals found in the Bible. Conscience no longer exists. This is not new. The following excerpt was written 2000 years ago.

"Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too."

What is the answer? Not only do we need to acknowledge God, we need to fear and follow Him.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


As I wake up this morning to yet more images of destruction on my screen, my heart is grieved. Yes, for the people who have lost their businesses and livelihoods. Yes, for the communities who have lost their souls. Mostly though, I ache for those young men and women who have caused this horrific, rampant devastation. I know that not many will agree with me, and most will feel anger towards them.

I live with 3 small boys who often struggle with anger. Sometimes, in their anger, they throw things, break things and smash things. Sometimes, I see their eyes flash and they lose their tempers. Sometimes they take out their anger, which usually has it's roots in something totally unrelated, on other people or possessions. It is a scary moment when the anger almost takes control and gives them a strength they did not have before. We teach our boys that this is not the way to deal with anger. Anger is an emotion which needs to be recognised and then learnt how to control. One of my boys has struggled with this in particular, and I know that had we not spent years training him (with many more to come) and praying for him, he might one day have used his anger for wrong in the future.

Reading the BBC website, there was a quote from a Conservative MP, Peter Luff, who said "There is no single explanation for this anarchy but the rioters are likely to be products of failed families - bored, selfish, unloved young men." Whatever you think of politics, or of Mr Luff himself, this rings true and breaks my heart.

These young men are unloved, untrained, undervalued, under parented. They do not know their place in society. They are angry. No-one has taught them how to control their anger and direct it for good. No-one has given them confidence in themselves. They do not know the potential they have. They have not been loved for who they are, and encouraged to change for the better. Nobody has taught them respect for property or people. No-one has taught them to obey those in authority. They have not been loved and do not know how to love. They are selfish because they have had to be to survive. Nobody has shown them how to be real men, not the macho image of a man that is in the media, but men who know how to love, how to respect, how to treat women with courtesy, how to lead others, how to have courage in the face of adversity, how to fight for the right things. These young men are lacking all that they need for the foundation of their lives.

I am not in any way condoning their behaviour and of course, they need to meet the consequences head on, but to me this is a product of our times. We have elevated the status of young women, and in the process we have squashed young men down so much that we now have a generation of almost feral, angry men who are ready to fight back. How do we respond? I don't claim to have all the answers. Loving the unlovely seems the right response to me. As hard as it may be, these boys need us.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Holidays aren't what they used to be.....

....they're better!

I NEVER EVER thought it would happen. Small children plus holidays always felt like doing the same things just in a different place, without all the usual creature comforts. It was often more stressful than being at home, and we had several holidays when the boys were small where we just gave up and came home!

This year, all that has changed. No longer in the 'small children' family age bracket, we have discovered that holidays can actually be just that - a holiday! People used to tell me it would get better - I never believed them. I just thought they had perfect children. However, we have just returned from a week away with our very imperfect children to discover that we have had fun, been refreshed, relaxed and even, dare I say it, we've had sleep! Apart from the first night, when Jonah woke up several times asking to go outside (we were camping, or rather 'glamping'); and the second night when Jared forgot to put a bedtime nappy on Jonah and he woke in the night with a wet bed (you can imagine the whispered arguments we had over that one at 2am), we actually slept. We even had lie ins (8am - yes, that really is a lie in for us!) and when they did wake up, they lay quietly in bed reading or playing on ds's until we told them it was time to get up. If you know my boys, you will know that's a miracle.

Instead of chasing around after toddlers all day, making sure they don't go in stranger's tents and help themselves to their food, I sat by the fire and read my book. Two books in fact (which is a record for me on a family holiday - usually the books are frustratingly taken home again unread). The boys played football, rode their bikes, played in the stream, made new friends and had their own adventures.

When we went out, we didn't have to take pushchairs, nappy bags, potties or any other paraphernalia. We just explored, played and had adventures that we would never have been able to have with small children. Instead of resenting it, I actually enjoyed myself (apart from the terrifying speed boat ride during which I screamed for most of the hour long trip while the boys laughed at me).

So all of you who have small children - be full of hope. Your holidays will one day be proper holidays. If it can happen to me, with my imperfect family, it can certainly happen to you.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Things To Fight About

The summer holidays have finally dawned their long awaited, but soon to be hated, heads. Three tired boys who desperately needed to some off have argued and fought their way through this first week so far. Crazily, I have created a rule about screen time (which can change at my discretion) although when I explained this rule to Toby he declared that I had "ruined his holidays". Wow. I didn't realise that the enjoyment of holidays entirely depended on the amount of screen time, but it clearly does to a 9 year old.

Here is a list of things that have been fought about so far in our house this week. I am more than certain it will be added to throughout the holidays.

Having a door open
Having a door closed
Sitting in a certain spot on the sofa
Stealing a toy snake
Whipping with a toy snake
Cleaning teeth first (after no-one actually wanted to clean them)
Kicking a football over the fence
Using a whistle (I am so grateful to my friend, you know who you are, for providing this whistle in a party bag.)
Calling each other rude names
1 boy being left out of a game while the other 2 are apparently best of friends (for 5 minutes.)
A smaller boy invading the biggest boy's 'private space'
Which televison channel to watch
Which wii game to play
Who is going to have the controlling wii-mote

Sound familiar?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

This Letting Go Business

When our boys were babies, we dedicated them to God. Although this might mean different things to different parents, in my mind I was giving them to God, for Him to do with as He chose. Whilst I took it seriously and was careful to make sure I meant what I was promising, I didn't find it especially emotional. Actually, I thought I had this 'letting go' business all wrapped up. Little did I know....

Almost 10 years on, having spent all that time wiping noses, playing tickle monster, reading stories, making penguins out of play dough and carrying a pack of baby wipes in my bag wherever I go, I have built a relationship with my boys which is deep rooted, precious and painful all at the same time. The 'letting go' business has changed somewhat.

Tomorrow, my biggest boy leaves his First School and prepares himself for Middle School. Walking to school without me, making friends with people I don't know, meeting unknown teachers and beginning his long journey into young manhood. At the same time, my littlest boy leaves his playgroup of 2 years to begin the nursery at school. This marks the end of an era for me, and the beginning of another one. As I prepare for tomorrow's events I reflect back, look ahead, and wonder. Have I done enough for Toby? Did I do all I was supposed to do before he reached the 'all knowing' age of 10? What will the next few years bring? How will he develop?

As I watch their sleeping faces tonight, I feel that pull on me to hold on to this moment. Why must Jonah's lovely little feet turn into smelly teenage boy feet? Why must Max one day sleep in a normal bed instead of in a sleeping bag on the floor under his desk? Will Toby's sleeping face one day not look like his baby sleeping face? Will Jonah one day not snuggle up to little doggie? I want to bottle the moment and keep it forever.

One day, my house will be clean. There will not be sticks, marbles, bouncy balls and odd pieces of lego littering the floor. I will not have a toilet that smells of wee. I will not find telltale crumbs on the kitchen worktop where someone has had a sneaky snack. I will not have to have my ears blasted by the tv when I turn it on because the last person had the volume so loud. I will not have a pile of muddy wellies by the front door. It will be quiet. I will only have 2 meals to cook. My washing basket will not be overflowing.

This letting go business has to happen piece by piece, moment by moment and stage by stage. I am about to begin another stage. They don't tell you in antenatal classes about the pain of letting your children go. There is no pain relief offered. It is just another part of motherhood.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Toothpaste Massacre

Mr Nobody strikes again.

Somehow, the toothpaste has been liberally smeared all over the bathroom floor, walls, the bath, the sink and the toilet. Apart from the waste of toothpaste (which I have to admit, does REALLY annoy me), it takes alot of clearing up.

Jared called together all the suspects and pointed to the crime scene.

"Who smeared this toothpaste everywhere?"

Looking at him with their most innocent faces, all three denied any knowledge. Toby was quickly eliminated from the enquiries - he is the most sensible and had not been anywhere near the scene so far that morning.

Max was the one who had discovered the incident. He was the one who alerted us to it's presence (which he certainly would not have done if he was the culprit). He was also eliminated.

So, Jonah was the last available suspect.

"Who put this toothpaste everywhere?", Jared asked him.

"I thought it was Max, but it wasn't." Jonah replied, in a quiet voice. He knew he'd been rumbled, but it's always best to try and see if you can get someone else into trouble at the same time - especially if they are your big brother.

"Who was it?"

In a desperate attempt to say the right thing without getting into trouble, he used the old favourite, "I think it was me, but it was on accident."

On accident? How can you accidently squeeze the toothpaste all over the bathroom and up the walls? How can you climb into the bath and coat it in toothpaste, by accident?!

Poor Jonah doesn't even realise we can see through his tricks. He was given a cloth and had to clean up the crime scene. I am, unsurprisingly, off to buy more toothpaste today.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Cake Baking Revelations

I had a small revelation the other day whilst attempting to bake some cakes instead of buying them.

Carefully arranging the boys in front of the television, I snuck out of the lounge and into the kitchen in the desperate hope that they would not follow me and want to help. Unfortunately, Jonah's ever watchful eyes did follow me and he was soon behind me carrying the little stool (This stool is the bain of my life. Why on earth would you want to buy a toddler a stool to help them reach the very things you don't want them to reach?). He placed it squarely in MY space in the corner of the kitchen, climbed onto it and asked "Can I help?"

At this, my shoulders sagged and a deep sigh escaped. I really wanted to make the cakes quickly. I did not want to have to spend extravagant amounts of time and patience explaining anything or cleaning up the scattered flour afterwards. It certainly was a dilemma.

"You can't help me because I want to do it really quickly, but you can watch", I replied. Much to my relief, he seemed to accept this and settled himself on his stool ready to watch the action. I collected together all the ingredients, the mixing bowl and the electric whisk and got started.

Then, the chatter began.

"Those eggs look like bird's eggs." I couldn't believe it. All I wanted was to make the cakes, not turn it into some educational moment and here he was, trying his hardest to coax me into being educational. I refused to be drawn in.
In my most non committal voice, I answered "That's because they are."
He persevered. "Well, where are they from then?"
I persevered too. "Tescos"
He tried a different tack. "How many eggs are there? Let's count them."
I couldn't even bring myself to acknowledge the counting ability. "There are 3."
"Is that flour?"
"Where is the flour from?"
"Where is the sugar from?"
"Where is the butter from?"
"Oooh, chocolate powder! Where is that from?"

Poor, poor Jonah. No long chats about chickens laying eggs. No explanations about wheat and flour. No disucssions about butter coming from milk which comes from cows. It was the perfect opportunity for teaching but I just wanted to make the cakes as quickly as I could. I was not in the mood to be drawn into any discussion. In my perceived kindness, I had agreed to him watching me, but talking about it was not part of the contract.

This, and this only, is the reason why I am not able to home school my boys. Sometimes we have wonderful moments that are full of questions, answers, investigations, fun and excitement. My revelation, however, was that these moments only come when I allow them to and when I am in the mood for them. Sometimes, I am not in the mood. Sometimes, cakes just have to be baked without thinking.

Monday, 11 July 2011

How (not) to prepare for Home Visits

I have had a bit of a history with home visits from the school. It's always a good idea when you sign up for it. How great for the teachers to meet the child in their own home. How special it is for the child to have their teacher actually come to their house!

Signing up for it the first time round, I had Toby aged 3 and Max aged 1. When the day finally arrived for the teachers to cross over our threshold, we had been up for most of the night with our non-sleeping boys and the morning had not a pleasant one. I had totally forgotten they were coming and, when the doorbell rang at exactly 9am, none of us were dressed or had even cleaned our teeth! Morning breath, I decided in that split second, was even worse than wearing pyjamas in front of teachers so I dashed upstairs and cleaned my teeth before racing back down the stairs to answer the door with a sparkly smile. Needless to say, the house was not spotless and nor were the children. I apologised for our attire (or lack of it) and attempted to prove to them that I was not a slummy mummy. At least I knew I had clean teeth.

Second time around was in a new area, a new house and we had a new baby. Having only moved into our new house 4 weeks previously and with a 1 week old baby (baby Jonah), I was keen to make the transition to nursery an easy one for Max. The teachers arrived and settled themselves into our bare lounge (the boxes were yet to be unpacked - we'd been too busy having a baby). Out came the book all about the nursery for Max to chat about with the teachers. However, chat he did not. In fact, our chatterbox son had turned mute. The teacher tried question after question, but he would not talk. He didn't say hello when they arrived, or goodbye when they left. He did not say one word the whole time they were at our house. We had never ever heard him so quiet. I was sure that on their way back down the drive the teachers were making a mental profile of Max as a quiet, reserved, bordering on rude child...... I am equally sure that he totally shattered that image on his first day at nursery (except the rude bit).

So, would I actually be able to get it right today on our third time around? The allotted time was 9am. The adrenaline pumped through my body as I not only got the boys ready for school but also managed to hang out the washing, dust and hoover the downstairs of the house, hide the inappropriate toys (guns, dvd's) and casually display the appropriate ones (jigsaw puzzles, books), make sure that the house did not smell when they walked in (this is a little concern of mine) and ensure that Jonah was clean and ready for action. I even managed to get dressed and clean my teeth! When they arrived and walked into the lounge (with their shoes, on my newly hoovered floor), I don't think they even noticed the effort I had gone to. Did they notice the Outdoors Activities book I had casually placed on the arm of the chair? I don't think so. Did they see the way I had plumped up the cushions on the sofa (not normally done because the boys spend so much time upside down on the sofa that there is no point plumping up cushions)? I expect not. However, my little star boy managed to chat away the whole time to them, charming them with his smile and a little wrinkle of his nose. He certainly knows how to win people over. He could even write a new 21st century version of 'How to win friends and influence people'. Making me glow inside, he told them all about our vegetable patch (no slummy mummies here, thank you very much!). Third and final time around, I think our home visit was a success.

Now... he just has to continue to be charming for a whole year at nursery.... Hmmmm....

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Morning Humdrums

Does anyone else out there have mornings like mine? Sometimes I think I may as well just play a tape of myself saying the same things over and over again each morning.

It all began with Max, who is sensitive in the mornings anyway, crying because Jonah had screamed in his ear to wake him up. A good start, I thought to myself. He then slowly hauled himself out of bed and wanted me to dress him (at 7 years old?!).

Over breakfast, I tried to talk to them about the arguing that seems to be a constant at the moment. I gave up on the serious talk when I realised I was talking to myself. I then said "Eat your breakfast, Max" about 20 times before he actually remembered he was eating his breakfast and not making up silly songs with Jonah.

After breakfast, Toby went straight upstairs to clean his teeth and brush his hair. Or he would have gone straight upstairs if he hadn't been distracted on the way there by playing mario cart on the wii. This created an argument while Jonah proceeded to press the power button on the wii while Toby was trying to play his game, much to Toby's great distress. "If you had gone straight upstairs like I told you to, then this wouldn't have happened....", I lectured him, rather smugly it has to be said.

In between all this, Jonah had found 3 ping pong balls, which they all then decided they wanted. After a great deal of crying and fighting over whose ping pong ball was whose, I confiscated them. Now, when I envisaged having children all those years ago, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would have to confiscate ping pong balls. However, it seems it is possible to argue over anything. Even ping pong balls.

As we were leaving to go to school, Jonah asked if he could push his little pushchair. Knowing what this would mean, I told him that he could but that I wouldn't be carrying it for him when he gave up with it halfway there. "I won't!", he promised me. He carefully put in Little Doggie and George the pretend kitten (which is Max's) to push to school. Just as we'd got out of the door, Max decides he doesn't want Jonah to take George in case he gets lost. After a long and complicated negotiation, Max was able to let Jonah push George but if George gets lost, Jonah will buy him a new one (I, of course, kept my eye on George to make sure this wouldn't happen). As we rounded the corner from our house, Jonah sat down on the pavement and sighed a deep sigh. "I can't push it anymore", he moaned. Oh, how right mothers can be! Somehow I coaxed him to push it all the way down the road so that he could hide it behind a tree and collect it on the way home again. Unfortunately, it was still there.

When we arrived home, Jonah (who was going to playgroup in ten minutes time) asked to do painting. I said no. He then asked for food, to which I also said no. He then asked for a drink, which I made him but apparently did not put enough blackcurrant in so he refused to drink it. He then asked me for more food. I repeated myself again and said no. After all this, it was time for playgroup.

I made the mistake of mentioning that it might rain later. He decided he wanted to take his umbrella. Now, if I had a sweet little child who did not have any imagination, I would not mind him taking his umbrella. However, I do not. An umbrella can be transformed into all kinds of evil weaponry which can maim innocent bystanders. So, the umbrella request was also turned down. Of course, this meant that he had to sit on the floor for a few minutes continuing to ask for his umbrella, in vain hope that he might change my stubborn mind. I did not.

Finally, oh finally, he was delivered into the hands of the smiling playgroup staff.

Now, amidst a house littered with pyjama bottoms, blankets, marbles, lego men and dirty tissues that have been left for someone else to bin, I have a few hours of peace. Aaaaahhhhh.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Squeezing a round peg into a square hole....

.... That's what school is for my lovely Max. Existing in his own alternative universe, Max does not quite fit into the box that school tries to squeeze him into. He is funny, intelligent, curious, creative, inventive, logical (although his logic is often different to mine) and passionate.

School has always been something to tolerate and he has never quite fitted in to the system. Of course there have been aspects he has enjoyed, and like any child, aspects that he does just because 'that's what you do in school'. Now though, at 7 years old, he is discovering what the consequences are of not managing to fit the mold.

Last week his teacher called me over and explained to me that she is worried about him. Having had a really good term last term, in which she raved about him at parents evening, he is now not listening well and following her instructions. He wants to play with his friends and is messing about with the other boys instead of working hard. She asked me to 'have a word' with him. Now, I don't claim to be an expert, but don't most boys want to play with their friends instead of working? In fact, if I was a 7 year old boy, I would probably do the same thing!

I tried to 'have a word' with him. He was totally oblivious to his teacher's frustrations, thought he was working hard and explained that he finds it hard to listen when he's doing lots of thinking. His actual words were "If you tell me to stop thinking, then I can hear you."

The 'word' did not work and he continued to get into more trouble towards the end of the week. On Friday the teacher told me that if it didn't improve, he would have to spend some time with the headteacher this week. I felt that this was rather extreme and when I asked him about his behaviour he told me that he receives the blame and punishment for other people's misdemeanours. He said he had been trying really hard. Then, just to break my heart even more, he burst into tears and cried "I'm not a boy who does bad things Mummy, I'm not. They all think I am, but I'm not."

I am not under any illusions that I have a perfect child. I am fully aware of his tendencies towards bad behaviour. However, I am also aware of his sensitive nature and the fact that it does not take much for him to lose confidence in himself. All his hard work over this year (and he has worked incredibly hard and done amazingly well) now feels worthless if he thinks his teachers regard him as a 'bad boy'. Why would he say that unless he is given that impression from them?

It is always difficult when you have not been in the situation and seen what has really taken place. However, even if his behaviour has not been ideal (and I suspect that sometimes might be the case), his teacher's job is to motivate him and spur him on to better things not shrug her shoulders at me as though she is giving up on him. She is there to instill confidence, not take it away from him.

After school tonight we will see her and attempt to chat things through with her. I have told Max that he needs to apologise to her for his behaviour, but also to explain to her the things that he has told me. I am dreading it. And it makes me wonder if we will be doing this the whole of Max's school life. Why can't schools accept the child as they are, and teach them in the way that they learn best? Why is it that my child is the one who suffers because of a teacher who is having a stressful day?

I will fight for my boys. I will fight, not because I want to, but because I have to.


I am so so proud of my little boy who has just shown me a new level of maturity and courage today. He said sorry to her for his part in the 'messings about'. He explained how he was feeling. He spoke well and, although he got upset, he managed to get his point across. His teacher then understood that mostly he is 'nearby' the boys instead of the instigator of trouble and together we came up with a plan to help him remember to stay away from them.

An important life lesson learnt today for Max... maybe this is all worthwhile because it builds and strengthens his character.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Wanted: Fathers

"He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it" writes the American writer Clarence Budington Kelland.

It was 2:30am and I heard the telltale thud of footsteps heading towards our bedroom. The door banged open and in ran 3 year old Jonah - well trained to run straight round to Jared's side of the bed. "I'm scared", he cried. Without a word, Jared took him in his arms and snuggled him up into the bed. Within minutes, in his Father's safe, comforting arms, Jonah was quietly snoring. I smiled to myself as I watched them cuddled up, snoring together and thought how grateful I am that my boys have such an incredible Father. I couldn't let Father's Day pass without writing a blog on the importance of Fathers. Forgive me for being politically incorrect, but children need Fathers. They need them more than they need an X-box or playstation. They need their Dad more than they need a TV and DVD in their bedroom. They need their Dad more than they need expensive holidays abroad.

The role of the Father is so often downgraded. The Mother's role is clear. She was created to nurture, feed and care for her child; to administer magic kisses when they graze their knees; to sing soothing songs when the baby goes to sleep; to love even when they are being unlovely ( and we all know how hard that is!).

What, then, is the role of the Daddy? Does he just provide the sperm to make the little human? Is he truly no longer needed after 'the act'? Absolutely not. For different reasons, a Father is vital in the lives and development of both boys and girls.

My boys are privileged in today's fatherless society to benefit from the care of their exceptional Daddy. In his gentle and careful manner he leads them to take risks. He bundles and fights with them, teaching them when to stop. He is demonstrative in his love and affection for me (much to their disgust) which will one day stand them in good stead for their marriages. He shows emotion and teaches them how to handle their own. He takes the lead in their discipline. He shows them love by spending time with them, doing things that he might not actually want to be doing. By being passionate for his God, his boys follow suit.

As their Mother, I can never prepare my boys for manhood in the way that their Father can. Everything he says and does is watched and copied. It is an enormous responsibility (which young men who are 'sowing their seed' should be made aware of, but that is an entirely different blog) and one which men need to take more seriously. It is so exciting when we see men who are brave enough to accept the challenge of investing in the lives of their children. What an immense task, but how satisfying it must be to see the end product.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.

But not all day. Please. As much as we embrace most weather conditions, there are some days when I just do not want to get wet and cold. Today was one of those days. The rain cascaded continuously from the sky like a trapping torrent. Trapping, because it meant we were imprisoned indoors with 3 boys who really do climb the walls if they are not let out. Eventually, we decided to brave a trip to the cinema to see Kung Fu Panda 2.

Having loved the first film, the boys were more than excitable about seeing the second. That enthusiasm was made far worse by the fact that Jared had unwisely given them lucozade to drink (Why oh why oh why on a rainy day when we're stuck indoors with them, does he give them lucozade?!) and we had a bag full of sweets and popcorn that we snuck in to avoid paying the exhorbitant cinema prices.

The moment the film began (and the sweets were, by that point, all gobbled up already of course), Kung Fu Panda's Master Shifu fills the screen with his search for 'inner peace'. The rest of the film, with it's weak storyline but furious fighting scenes (which, lets face it, is the only reason the boys wanted to see it), continues the theme of discovering Kung Fu Panda's inner peace.

I felt the lie. I felt the sneaky, insidious lie that is whispered to children through these apparently harmless films. The trickery of it is there for all to see. They don't even try to cover their tracks anymore.

The lie is that we, as humans, can do anything we want to in our own strength and relying on our own abilities. As Master Shifu said to Kung Fu Panda, "If you are truly at peace, you can do anything." This crafty deceit is found in so many children's films, programmes and books now that it is impossible to avoid.

A person may find inner peace for themselves, but for how long? And can they truly 'do anything' once they have found it? Surely it would be better to find the true source of peace. A source that will never run dry and will give peace freely to those who ask. The propeht Isaiah way back in the Old Testament named Jesus as the 'Prince of peace'. He is the one in whom we find our peace. We cannot work it up ourselves. We do not have to sit on top of a sharp pole in silence for hours on end to find peace. We do not have to shave our heads, or walk over hot coals. We do not even have to attend church meetings or do good works. All we have to do is ask the Source. All we have to do is come to him in humility, admitting that actually we do not have all the answers and cannot do it all on our own. Only then, will we find true peace. Only then, will we be able to accomplish the things set out for us.

My job as a mum is not to always protect my boys from these lies, but to expose them for what they are. They will not go through life with their eyes closed, they need to be able to see what is there for themselves and have the wisdom to be able to make their own choices.

Returning home from the cinema and having sat still for 2 hours, after eating sweets and drinking lucozade, they were wound up to the eyeballs! At that point, I gave up, doled out the wellies and raincoats and shut them in the rainy garden to run off their energy. Thankfully, I think Jared may have learnt the Lucozade lesson now.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Will it ever happen?

There are occasions when I look at my boys and wonder if it will ever happen?
Will they ever realise that burp talking and armpit farting at the table is not actually that funny? Will they ever stop giggling at the words "boobies" and "willies" or will they just stifle their sniggers? Will they ever walk down the path instead of running? Will they one day walk past a pigeon without giving in to the temptation to run up to it roaring loudly (much to the disgust of the people standing right next to the pigeon)? Will they ever make it through an entire day without turning something into a weapon? Will they ever manage to eat food without dropping it all over their clothes and then wiping their dirty hands on their t-shirts? Will they ever be able to walk around a puddle instead of through it? Will they one day have mud-free clothes? Will my toilet ever last more than an hour without being wee'd on?

There are also occasions when I am struck by the incredible responsibility we have as their parents. Who else is going to teach them not to make that pigeon flap right in the old lady's face? Who else is going to teach them that they must snigger behind their hands instead of laughing out loud when there is something inappropriate that amuses them? Who is going to show them that, contrary to little boy's opinion, girls are actually quite good company and must be treated with respect?

Above all, who else is going to teach them to be young men who are passionate about their God and will follow him whatever the cost? Who is going to train them to be warriors? Who is going to teach them how to fight for others? Who is going to help equip them with the armour they need to fight with? Who is going to teach them how to do everything in love? Who will show them how to have courage? Who will be behind them, encouraging them on in their walk? Who can teach them to resist the sexual temptation that is so accepted these days that most don't even think of it as temptation? Who will show them how to be a good friend? How will they learn to obey unless they have been taught at home first? How will they learn to persevere even when things are tough? Who is going to teach them to work hard?

I am in awe of the opportunity that we have as parents to teach our children these things. We have a generation of young men growing up who have never had these things taught or modelled, who now lack confidence and do not know how to lead their families, provide for their families and love their wives and children. We cannot leave it up to someone else, or hope that 'eventually they might just get it'. We have been given these boys as a gift and as a responsibility. It is our job and we need to be intentional about it. If we don't teach them the right way, someone else will teach them the wrong way.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Friday Failures

Not only is it Friday, but it is also the last day of the half term holidays which means my standards have dropped horribly lower than before. I am glad though, that I can have failures. No smug mummying for me. Their project through the whole of their childhood (and possibly more, who knows?) is to increase my humility. How can I possibly be smug when even as babies they never followed what the textbooks said they were supposed to do and they have continued to baffle me daily? So, here are a few more of my Friday Failures for you to enjoy, and feel grateful that perhaps you rate higher than me in the Mum stakes!

Friday Failure #1

Rather than playing with the boys in the sunshine, I read my book and pretended to 'watch' them at the same time.

Friday Failure #2

I attempted to turn a trip to Morrisons to buy cat food into an exciting adventure by singing "We're following the leader" (from Peter Pan) loudly around the shop whilst all marching in a line, much to Toby's pre-teen embarrassment.

Friday Failure #3

Whilst at the checkout in Morrisons, my delightful 3 year old pointed to a lady of the more mature generation and said "Is she going to die soon?". Instead of trying to explain anything to him, I pretended I hadn't heard.

Friday Failure #4

After the trip to Morrisons, I tried to snatch a few minutes sitting down reading my book whilst the boys played in the garden. I noticed them running into the kitchen to collect alot of tissues, but, absorbed in a good storyline, I didn't take any notice. Until I smelt the smoke. Running outside, I discovered they had lit a roaring fire in the fire pit (without a match - their Father would be extremely proud) and were incredibly pleased with themselves. Boring old Mum that I am, I made them pour water all over it.

Friday Failure #5

The jam on their sandwiches at lunchtime was the 'fruit' section of the meal.

Friday Failure #6

I took them to a water play area in the blazing hot sunshine and forgot to put suncream on their lovely bodies.

Friday Failure #7

I have shouted today. Alot.

Friday Failure #8

Having five 4 week old kittens in the house is extremely distracting and I keep forgetting to play with the boys because "the kittens need socialisation". Of course, the boys don't.

Friday Failure #9

This week has generated so much dirty washing so in order to be more efficient and save energy today, I let Jonah stay in his smelly, wee patched pants rather than change him and create yet more washing for me.

Motherhood at it's best today then.