Wednesday, 29 May 2013

My Camping Lessons

Reflecting on our weekend of camping, these are some of the things I learnt. (Other, more important ones, will follow in another blog.)

1. Spaghetti is not a great camping food. Not only does it take ages to eat, and therefore becomes cold quickly, but it is also very messy when you can't reach the table properly.

2. Night-time in the month of May is extremely cold. Shivering in my sleeping bag with my six layers of clothes on, I did not sleep at all for the first night.

3. Jonah talks in his sleep, a lot.

4. You can never have too many cakes. The fresh air just requires them.

5. Anti-bacterial hand gel does not make little hands look clean.

6. If they are deep enough, you can actually skim stones in puddles.

7. Teenagers do not care about the weather, be it freezing cold or soaking wet. Even if they have the correct clothing, they will not wear it.

8. Unzipping a tent first thing in the morning to clear blue skies and warmth is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

9. Listening to conversations in other tents proves extremely interesting.

10. The sound of rain on the tent when you are inside, snug and warm, is a comforting sound. Having to get out of bed and face said rain, is not comforting.

11. If I tie my hair back well enough, I can actually get away without brushing it properly for days.

12. Wellies are my footwear heroes. I could not live without them.

What a fabulous weekend we have had. More thoughts to follow when I have had time to process them properly. First of all, I need a good night's sleep in a warm, soft bed.

Friday, 24 May 2013

A snapshot of my week

I spent a long time whistling with Max. We whistled tunes. We tried to hum in tune and whistle at the same time (impossible, we decided). We worked out whether high notes or low notes were easiest to whistle (I thought low, Max thought high). We whistled whilst breathing in.

I overheard Jonah giggling in bed, and then saying to himself "Wow, did you hear that? What a fart!"

I checked my Twitter feed hundreds of times to make sure that there had been no bombs or other nasty things in Paris.

I lost several times in Uno. Jonah is the Uno champion in our family. I don't quite know how he does it, but he's really very good. I think he uses his cuteness to charm us into letting him win.

I enjoyed spending time with a poorly Max (I know, I'm a terrible mother, but I actually quite like them when they are poorly) and we played games, made up songs and ate spaghetti hoops. The spaghetti hoops actually brought on a spontaneous hug from Max, so they might become a more regular fixture in my weekly food shop.

Toby phoned me and didn't tell me the things I wanted to know, like whether he was eating enough fruit and having enough sleep. Instead he told me that he had bought three cap guns and a penknife (I'm pretty sure that's not allowed), that he had taken photographs of Parisian graffiti for Max and that he had been on a scary roller coaster six times.

Just for a short while our evenings were ours again. With Toby away and Max in bed early because of his germs, we had an extra few hours in the evenings. Very strange.

Jonah wondered if he would lose his voice if his wobbly tooth fell out. I wished so very much it was true.

I was amazed, yet again, at just how much we need to take for a camping trip, and at just how brilliant my husband is at pulling it all together and packing it in the car. I honestly would not be able to fit that much stuff in one car. He really is an expert.

I eavesdropped on Max giving Jonah tips to trick me into carrying his school bags home from school for him. And I realised that these tricks actually work.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Martha v Mary

"Come and sit with me a while,"
I sigh to myself, thinking of all the things I had to accomplish that day.
"Just come." He called. "Come and sit."
How can I just sit? Does he not realise that there are so many jobs to get done?
"Sit. Wait. Enjoy." He called again.
Enjoy? How can I enjoy sitting still when my mind is racing with to do lists?
Ha! Chance would be a fine thing! Rest? With my life? I'm lucky if I get chance to sit down through a whole mealtime!
"Just come and listen to me. Hear my voice."
Can't I do that whilst I'm cleaning the toilet? Why do I need to sit down for that?
"Be refreshed."
Well, it does feel like I'm running on empty. But there are so many things to do. How would I fit it all in if I just sat there?
"In my strength. Not yours."
How will I concentrate on your words though, when my brain is buzzing with so much 'stuff'?
"Know my truth. It will set you free. All you need to do is BE, not DO. I will give you all you need for the 'doing'."
So, I sit. I sit at His feet. I drink in His presence, His words of love and His refreshing. How did I think I could do it all on my own anyway? What kind of superwoman did I think I was? In the stillness, I am given all I need. He is my portion. He is all I need. He is enough for me. I fill up on Him until I am ready for my list again.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Letting Go. Again.

When the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, finally agrees to go on an adventure with him, Gandalf looks at him and says "Home is now behind you. The world is ahead."

From the moment our children are placed into our arms, we have to let them go. Each step is a difficult one and feels as though a part of our heart is being ripped out. But it's the right thing to do. Home, that safe and secure place where they are loved and accepted, eventually needs to be left behind so that they can experience the thrill of adventure and discover who and where they are going to be. Our arms, however, find it hard to let go.

Even today, as I watched Toby fall off his scooter and roll across the skatepark, I had to stop myself running to his aid. I ran across the park, ready to comfort him, until Jared shouted at me to stop. Stop?! My boy is hurt! It took all my self control to stand still and watch him pick himself up, dust himself off and walk, coolly, off the skatepark.

"I had to stop myself coming to help you Tobes." I moaned at him.
"Well I'm glad you did!" He retorted. Rightly so, he had no idea of the inner battle that raged within me. He only thought of how embarrassing it would be if I had continued running and reached him, in full view of all the pant-showing cool young men who frequent the skatepark.

This week my boy is going to Paris, without me. Without my arms to hug him at night and stroke his hair. Without my eyes to find his lost shoe. Without my common sense to stop him doing something silly like leaning over the side of the ferry to look for dolphins. Without my ears to listen when he wants to talk.

But I have to let go. In fact, the most loving thing I can do is to let go. Smothering him with 'love' actually traps him and doesn't allow him to be all he was created to be.

So, again, I unwrap my arms from him. I tell him he is going to have an adventure. I am excited for him. I listen to him telling me how he is going to play 'bogies' on the Eiffel Tower (I'd rather not know those sorts of details). I help him pack. I stop myself hugging him every time he is anywhere near me. I control my tongue when I want to remind him, yet again, to 'make sure you stay with your group'. I pray for him, privately, and entrust him into the safe arms of his Father in heaven (far safer than my arms, I remind myself). I remember that it is only a week and that one day it will be forever.

And I save my tears for when he is gone. For when home is behind him and the only the world is ahead.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Having an extremely (and scarily) organised first son, I have realised that my second not-so-organised son has been sent to keep me humble.

Oh how I could gloat about the independence and responsibility. Incredibly, I actually thought it was down to my wonderful parenting. I must have been a great mother. Until I had Max. And then reality hit me over the head with a large mallet in the form of a child.

Here is an excerpt of a conversation I had with Max, aged 9, this morning.

Me: Time to get dressed, Max.
Max: Uh?
Me: I said, it's time to get dressed.
Max: Oh.

I left him to it for a few minutes before returning to find him in his pants.

Me: Max, you wore those pants yesterday. You can't wear them again today.
Max: No, I wore my hulk pants yesterday.
Me: No, you wore those because I remember seeing you dancing in them last night.
Max: Oh, ok. But I didn't wear them in the night so it'll be ok to wear them again today.
Me: No, it isn't ok. You can't wear pants for two days.
Max: Oh. Why?

Sometimes I do wonder if he is related at all to his older brother who does his own washing and finds satisfaction in tidying his bedroom. And sometimes I sigh to myself and wonder if there is any point in trying to create organisation to a disorganised, but lovely, mind. And often I remember what a good mother I used to be, before.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


This morning I took my hop-along to the fracture clinic. Having fallen off his scooter 10 days ago and been in a plaster cast for six days (yes, I know, don't make me re-live that bad mother moment), we were hoping to hear some news on how long he might be recuperating for. His long-awaited school trip to Paris is in two weeks time so concerns were high.

We had prayed for Toby at the weekend and during this week. We laid hands on him and prayed, asking God to speed up the healing process so that he could go to Paris.

After waiting for two hours (I'm not entirely sure why they bother giving appointment times) we saw a Doctor who showed us the X-ray. He pointed out where it was broken (metatarsal bone for those of you interested). He then took the cast off and had a feel of Toby's foot.

"Tell me when it hurts", he said as he prodded Toby's foot. Toby was silent. "Does this hurt?" the Doctor asked.
"How about this?"
"Ok, why don't you stand up and have a walk around."
Toby stood up and, for the first time in 6 days he walked on his foot.
"Where do you feel the pain when you walk?"
"I don't!" replied Toby!

The Doctor looked baffled as Toby sat back down. He looked from the X-day, showing the broken bone, to Toby's foot.

"Well, it is healing up remarkably quickly!" he said.

I smiled to myself. I knew why.

So, Toby has a 'boot' on his foot to give him support, he can go to Paris in two weeks time, and he's been discharged from the hospital!

I'm happy for you to tell me this is coincidence, but I believe Someone far greater has been at work here.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mother's Heart

Having a broken foot has meant that my extremely independent 11 year old has had to rely on me again. Mostly these days, he doesn't need me to help him with mundane tasks such as getting dressed, having a shower, getting ready for school etc. He's very organised and he just gets on with it himself.

But coming home from the hospital with a cast on his leg and crutches last Saturday meant that he needed me again in a way that I'd forgotten about. Suddenly I was caring for three boys who needed my help, instead of two. I had to open doors for him, help him have a shower, find his clothes for him and even help him go up and down the stairs. It was a strange throwback for me and I spent the weekend fussing over him and trying not to do things he could do for himself. As the week has passed, he has become more confident and needed me less and less.

But on Tuesday when he went back to school, I was still in the 'fussing' mode and having spent the weekend watching over him and looking after him, I suddenly had to let him go again.

I was shocked at my emotional reaction to this. Letting go of our children is never easy but pushing them out of the door when you know they might struggle and will have to work out difficult things on their own is even harder. Who was going to open the doors for him? What if he fell over and couldn't get up? How would he cope with the stairs in the school? I had so many questions but as I said my goodbyes, I tried my hardest not show him the enormous lump in my throat.

My heart was heavy all day as I used all the self control I could muster to prevent myself from phoning the school to see how he was doing. I couldn't quite believe I was being so ridiculous.

And so another 'letting go' lesson is learnt in this Mother's heart. We try our best to prepare them for all that they will meet in life, but we can never fully prepare them. There will be a day when they have to make a difficult decision without us. Hard times will come for them when doors close in their faces and there is nobody there to open it again for them. Letting go is so very painful, but so necessary. I am so grateful that whilst I let go, Toby's Father in heaven never does. I can't hold him in my arms forever but he will always be in his Father's arms. He will have tough times, but with each difficulty he will learn a new aspect of God's faithfulness and goodness towards him.

May my Mother's heart be one that doesn't cling on tightly but sets my children free to go to whatever it is that awaits them, trusting in the faithfulness of their Father in heaven and joyfully watching their adventures.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bad Mother Week

Here it is. The terrible confessions of a bad mother.

Last Monday evening, Toby and Max were playing on their scooters in the garden when a crying Toby came hopping inside.

"Mum! I've really hurt my foot."

"Ok," I replied, barely looking up at him, "have a sit down and a rest for a bit." And I left it at that.

The next morning he was still hobbling around the house and as he left for school I felt a small twinge of concern, but nothing more. He walked to school and home again, phoning me on the way home to tell me it might take him a little longer than normal to walk home because his foot was hurting. I let him take his time. Wednesday was the same.

Thursday arrived and not only did he go to school and take part in PE, he also had athletics club after school in which he ran in races, and then he walked from school to the swimming pool for his swimming lesson. By the time I picked him up at 5:30pm, he was dragging his foot behind him as he walked. My concern grew, but he was adamant that he could carry on as normal.

Friday's activities were the usual walk to school and a trip to the park afterwards followed by tea and racing around outside playing nerf wars at his friend's house. I picked him up at 7pm after a long day playing outside on his sore foot. By this time, his foot resembled a club foot as he turned it inwards and dragged it behind him to try to prevent the pain during walking.

Saturday morning (after he had scootered to the prayer meeting and back) we finally decided to get it checked out. It hadn't improved so we thought it would be best to be on the safe side. He said it wasn't really hurting as much, but as we walked into A&E I did whisper an instruction to hop quietly in his ear, just so I wouldn't look like a neurotic mother.

When the X Ray came back and the Dr told us it was broken, I was more than surprised. I felt absolutely terrible. My boy had been walking, running, swimming and scootering on a broken foot all week. My eyes filled with tears as I looked at him in apology.

He, of course, sees it differently. Apparently it is far more manly to be able to say you've run a race with a broken foot. At the moment, he is rather pleased with his crutches, his cast and the attention it gives him.

But as for me, I am still emotionally recovering from my Bad Mother Week. This one will go down in family history and perhaps, one day a long way away from now, I might be able to laugh about it.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

"Dear Mr Gove" - A chip off the old block...

Today's Guest Blog is written by Toby. I couldn't resist sharing it, and you will understand why when you've read it! He had a piece of persuasive writing to do for school, and they wrote a mock letter to Michael Gove. Enjoy!

Dear Mr Gove,

I am writing to argue against your ludicrous proposal to decrease school holidays. After considering both sides, I have many strong reasons to inform you of.

Firstly, you would say that decreasing the school holidays would increase learning and education, however I disagree. It would increase tiredness which can decrease productivity and tiredness is scientifically proven to make you ill so no-one would be at school anyway. Are you really helping education?

Surely you would agree that decreasing school holidays will cause strike from both teachers and children. Numerous people have complained. Are you blind? I'm sure that you know that strike from teachers will cause less education and pupils will also strike.

Although you state that many countries already use this system, Christine Blower from the union of teachers states "Teachers and pupils already spend longer hours in the classroom than most countries," therefore we do not need to make the change.

Many argue that some of the best schools in the UK have already adapted to this, however St John's Middle School has outstanding ofsted being one of the UK's best schools and has the normal hours. This clearly shows that the hours are fine.

Many say that it will be beneficial for parents who would have more time on their hands, however I strongly disagree. Have you ever heard of family time? 95% of parents enjoy spending time with their children over the holidays, otherwise why would they have children?

To conclude, I wholeheartedly hope that you consider my proposal and urgently change your mind. Is this for you or for the children?

Yours sincerely

Toby M Hodgson

Funny eh? Oh and watch this space for a Bad Mother Blog of the worst kind..... Once I can emotionally recover from today's antics I will blog about them....