Monday, 27 April 2015

My Happy List...

Last week the lovely Emma over at Life at the Littlewood (which is one of my favourite blogs and definitely worth checking out!) tagged me in one of the latest memes circulating the blogging world... "50 things that make me happy"...

So I set about compiling my own little happy list. The little loves that make my life that little bit smilier...

As William Morris once said...
"The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life"

OK... I think there's a lot more to true happiness than that (you can read about that here) but this little quote put a smile on my face. I definitely think there is something in it...

So here are fifty things that make me happy... what are yours?

1. Little girl giggles
2. The smell of freshly cut grass
3. Line dried linens
4. Chats with my Mum
5. Quality time pouring over my Bible
6. Wildflowers
7. Singing to my girls at bedtime every night
8. Date nights
9. Sharing a pot of tea with my hub
10. The smell of baking
11. Haribo sour mix
12. Decorating our home to the season
13. My Mum's homemade pizza
14. Exploring the world
15. Views over the Norwegian fjords
16. Drinking fresh air in deep
17. Daffodils
18. That penny drop moment when I'm teaching
19. Exploring National Trust places with my family and my camera
20. Catch-ups with friends
21. An early night with a good book
22. Little sewing projects
23. Beating our monthly budget!
24. Quiet afternoons at home with my girls
25. Blogging
26. Hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows
27. Handwritten snail mail
28. Proper Jemimi Puddleduck ducks - they're just so pretty!
29. Changing seasons
30. Laughing
31. That first gulp of water on a hot day
32. Homemade lemonade
33. Late night deep and meaningfuls
34. Blue skies and happy days
35. Beach days
36. Dave playing guitar for the girls
37. Looking through old photographs
38. Winning
39. Making lists
40. Sitting down with a cuppa after a productive day
41. Meeting new people
42. Seeing God work in people's lives
43. When you finally remember what you came into a room for
44. Taking off high heels at the end of a day
45. Children's imaginations
46. Bubble baths
47. Toast with butter melted in
48. Realising its Friday
49. Snuggling up on the sofa with a pile of blankets on a rainy day
50. Realising how utterly blessed I am, and thanking God for it.





Friday, 24 April 2015

Cousin Love. Big Decisions, Blue Skies and Happy Days: Little Loves Week 16

It's been a lovely little week... we had Dave's Mum over visiting from Norway, and so were a little more out and about than normal. But I think my favourite days she was here were the days picnic-ing in the garden with the paddling pool and a nice cold drink. I am a home-bird at the end of the day!

She headed back on Tuesday, and since then, we've been adjusting back to just being our little threesome again. With less than 6 weeks to go until D-day, we're making the most of these happy sunny hours before life gets a little crazy again. Amazing how such a little person can throw all your routines to the wind!

Anyway, here's our little week in a nutshell!

READ



Blogs... I've finally started using"Bloglovin" and I'm loving having all my favourites gathered in one place. The only problem is, I'm therefore not doing so well on my book front, and with only a week to go until the next #atozautors update, I'm planning on getting my nose stuck back into a real book this week... eeek! Here were some of my favourite posts from this week...

Are You a Proper Mum? - Suzanne @ 3childrenandit
Nine Years - Carie @ Space for the Butterflies
Five - Lucy @ Dear Beautiful


WATCHED


One of the advantages of having Bestemor to stay is that little girls get to hang out with their little cousin a bit more than normal. I have loved watching them with this little man. They adore him... Heidi sometimes a little too much... but its exciting to see how sweet they are with him, and look forward to their own new little sibling arriving soon enough!

HEARD
I've been listening to some Rend Collective this week. Just the perfect, background, chill out music. Not intrusive at all, but just makes you feel relaxed. I've been listening to their "Campfire" album which is really acoustic and chilled... been particularly loving this song...

MADE


Decisions. After all the heartache of last week and our School placement, we have decided not to appeal. We went on a bit of a journey over the weekend, and I now have complete peace about going ahead with our fourth choice... I'd even go so far as to say I'm a little bit excited about it! We've been talking openly with Ava about her new school (though obviously haven't drawn any attention to the fact that all her little friends are staying at her old school) and I'm thankful that she's young enough to not ask too many questions. She'll be fine... and we're trusting God with it all... he is faithful and he has a plan and a purpose in this, hard as it will be to leave all our lovely friends.

WORE



Oh! What does it matter what I wore?! I haven't seen my feet for weeks now, so really, as long as I'm dressed in something that covers me and my ever-expanding bump up, that's an achievement in itself. I won't deny I am SO excited about being able to get back into normal clothes again... I know it will be a while yet though!

AND LASTLY...


I saw this little quote engraved into a park bench when we were out on one of our adventures with Bestemor last week and I just wholeheartedly agreed with it... except that I would change the word "and" to "make"... don't you think blue skies just DO make happy days? Whatever is going on in life... the joys, the heartaches, the frustrations... blue skies do just somehow make it all much more bearable.

Who's with me?!

butwhymummywhy

 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Learning Love: Alphabet parking!

This is lady is seriously into her letters. Aside from sticker books and playing "Mums and Dads", her favourite thing in the whole world to do is play with letters. She has, since she was very small, been fascinated by scrabble letters, and has spent hours (literally) sorting the Bananagrams letters into piles! Currently, one of her favourite things to do is sit down with a good book and copy it out.

Yes, you did hear that right!

I haven't been one to push this. She will get plenty of letters and numbers at school next year, and while she loves letters, she's not that interested in reading words for herself yet... she'd still rather be read to, or simply make up her own stories, but now and again, its fun to encourage this little love of hers, and the other week, I discovered the perfect activity over on Pinterest to do just that!

A little game, involving discovering opening sounds of words, that had her hooked for well over an hour... and as promised, I said I'd share a little weekly activity we have been doing at home. One which is quick, easy, but is made of general household bits and bobs and involves only materials you would have lying about the house.


You need:
Paper
Pen
Sellotape
A toy car
Picture cards (flashcards/pairs cards? But they must not have the word written on!)

Skills developed
- Recognising opening sounds
- Letter recognition
- Sounding out

How to play...
First off, I stuck some sheets of paper together and drew a big car park with 26 spaces... One for every letter of the alphabet. I wrote each letter in its upper and lower case form in each of the spaces, then parked the car, and a huge pile of flashcards, at the entrance to the "Car Park".
When Ava arrived, she took the top card, read it out, and then sounded out the opening letter. She then drove her little car around the car park and parked it on the correct space. 
You could adapt this as the child develops more complex pre-literacy skills too, by identifying the last sound of the word, or by losing the cards altogether, and instead thinking up your own words beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

It was a really fun game: Ava played with it most of that afternoon, and has asked to play with it again a couple of times since... Educational, fun and colourful.. What more does a three-year-old want?!

Do you have any top tips for letter games??! Please leave them in the comments below!

Monday, 20 April 2015

When His way isn't my way....

It's been a journey this weekend. A journey of moving from the gut-wrenching disappointment of Thursday, through the disbelief, through the sadness about leaving our lovely friends, through the questions and the uncertainties.

It's only a School placement. But somehow its knocked me for six.

This wasn't the plan God. When I said I wanted you to have your way... what I really meant was "Can your way be my way please?"


And so it's meant a lot of soul-searching... a lot of questioning... and as always, the Lord has shown that his ways are not my ways, but that he has a bigger plan and a bigger purpose and is "bringing all things together for the good of those who love him"

On Friday morning, when I woke up, I was overwhelmed by a sense of fear and frustration... anger at the unfairness of it all... and just sadness. Sadness that Ava would have to leave her little posse of school friends, sadness that I will have to leave a lovely group of Mums at the school gate who have become real friends these past 8 months. And somehow pouring all that pent-up emotion out on the blog helped. And then I spent a long time pouring it all out at God. There are perks to waking up at 4.30am...

Could this really be God's plan?

And then things started happening. Too many coincidences. Too many little snippets of information filing through that slowly awoke me to the fact that perhaps God was moving a lot more pawns on his giant chess board than just ours.

That perhaps Ava being placed in this school was all part of his masterplan; that perhaps this school where I didn't want to be is exactly the place where He wants us to be.

And then I got a lovely message from one of my friends on the school gate... reading it broke my heart because I realised again how much I will miss that place, but also made me laugh out loud. She wrote "I too believe that nothing happens accidentally. A bit of me feels that although you didn't pray for the choice you were given... perhaps they were praying for you?"

OK God... I get the picture.

And then Sunday happened. And as I sat in church, it was as though our Pastor was talking straight at us...

"Has there been a time this week you have resented a situation you have been placed in, that it seems has worked out for everyone else?" Hmmm... try being the only member of the class to not get in?

"Has God answered a prayer you prayed, and yet you haven't thanked him because you didn't like the answer?" How about... God, please let Ava get in to the school that you can best use us as a family... oh no, wait God... that wasn't quite what I had in mind when I prayer that prayer...

"This week, you may be faced with a choice... and you know what he wants you to do... will you choose his way? The way of wisdom? The way of blessing? Or will you choose your own path and follow what YOU want for your life?"

Oh man. I sat in stunned silence afterwards...

We spoke a little later. We have decided not to appeal. There have been too many little "coincidences" this weekend, many of which I cannot specifically state on the blog, but which have left me in no doubt that this is, it seems, exactly what God has planned for us.

And slowly, gradually, I'm starting to feel a little bit excited about that.

Because amidst the fear of starting all over again, the sadness at leaving precious friends, the uncertainty of what the future holds, there is peace and certainty in one thing.

We serve a God who is faithful, holds all this in his hands, and has called us, and our little Ava to this particular school.

So however scary it feels, I can say with increasing trust, there is no other school we would rather be in.

Because bang in the middle of God's will? That's right where we want to be...

Thank you again to all of you who have been so unbelievably supportive this weekend.... thank you for your comments, messages, texts, virtual hugs and general well-wishes. We thank God for each and every one of you.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Pregnancy dilemmas, Paddling Pools and Primary School Places: Our #littleloves this week

It's been a fabulous week... the weather turned a corner last weekend, and since then, we've been basking in the glorious spring sunshine (though on Wednesday it felt more like summer!) Our home suddenly feels so much bigger as the garden becomes our extra living space, and we've been daisy picking, Huette housekeeping and streetchalk drawing to our hearts content!

So here's our little week in a nutshell!

READ:
You'd think after having two girls that we'd have our boy's name sussed and be struggling for girls name inspiration... but in fact the opposite is true. Date night at 32 weeks pregnant involves spending half the evening throwing name possibilities backwards and forwards and still coming to no conclusion. If we have another girl, we're sorted, and we've shortlisted for boys... we're just struggling to make that final decision... gah! So this week I have been reading a lot of this book... I'm still none the wiser...


WATCHED:
Absolutely no television! The sun has been so fabulous, that I've simply been enjoying pottering about and watching our little ladies having a whale of a time (literally!) in the sunshine!


HEARD:
Lots and lots of giggling girliness. Apparently sunshine makes little girls even more giggly than they normally are.

MADE:
Paper petals galore. A lovely friend of mine is getting married at the beginning of May, and our fabulous friend Joanna is creating these incredible paper flower centrepieces. She's roped a few of us in to help out with some paper petal folding, so last night my Mother-in-Law and I spent the evening folding these petals... I would show you a picture of the finished product, but apparently we're keeping it all under wraps from the bride, so sorry folks, you'll just have to wait on that one.



I also baked The Hummingbird Bakery Banana Loaf and put a bit of a twist on it with some leftover Chocolate Buttons from the girls' Easter eggs... I'm not gonna lie. It was delicious!




WORE:
Oh dear! This one is getting harder and harder. It's getting increasingly impossible to not look elephantish as I hit 33 weeks yesterday... Just wearing whatever is comfortable/fits/looks semi-decent (delete as appropriate!)

AND LASTLY... Primary School placement...
Yesterday, when I opened that dreaded email, I'll be honest and say I wasn't really prepared for the answer we got. My heart sunk to my feet when I saw we hadn't got our first choice... but our fourth. A completely new school for Ava where she won't know anyone, leaving all her little friends, not the church schooling we had hoped for... We had prayed A LOT about this decision and had asked God to make it clear where she was meant to be by closing doors that were not right. He has done that. Still, I'll not deny I was gutted. But as the evening wore on, and I did a little more reading, and chatted everything through with Dave, I began to feel more at peace about the whole thing.
It is not what I would have chosen, but we are trusting in our Heavenly Father who has bigger plans and purposes than we can understand, and who knows and loves our little Ava even more than we do. She will thrive wherever she goes, but ultimately, I'm trusting she is in the best place for her, because that is where HE has placed her.
A tough evening, but we were reminded again that our God is good. Thank you to all of you who have been fabulous as we got our heads around this news...

And that, folks, is our little week in a nutshell.

Early morning School struggles...



It is 5am and I up. Not because of the pregnancy, not because I generally struggle to sleep, not because the girls disturbed in the night.

I'm up, in all honesty, because I'm feeling sad.

Yesterday did not go our way.

We did not get our first choice school. The School at which Ava has been at Nursery since September, the school at which all her little friends are at, the School with the Christian ethos and the lovely teachers, the School in which I feel we, as a family, have already invested so much.

We didn't get our second or third choice either. We got our fourth. A school which Dave hasn't even looked around... we just didn't think it would be necessary if I'm honest, naive as that seems. A school which doesn't have the greatest reputation. A school which seems so big to be sending our little summer-born only-just-four-year-old to. We live only a five minute walk from our local church school... based on the last three years intake, we would have got in easily every time.

And I just don't know how to tell her. On a day when all her little friends will be excitedly talking about starting in Cherry Class in September, I have to break the news to her that she will not be going there. Or at least that we don't know where  she'll be going for definite yet. That we will trust God as a family to take her to the right school...

And I'm still trying to figure out how waiting lists and appealing figure into all of that.

I went to bed last night feeling more peaceful. Dave and I had chatted it through; perhaps this was for the best. We had prayed that God would send us where he wants us... and maybe this was it.  We had no grounds for appeal. We would simply go on the waiting list and see what happened, trusting him. I was sad, but honestly feeling at peace that waiting and watching was the best course of action.

Except that at 4.40am I sat up in bed, in the middle of my sleep with the sudden conviction that we did have grounds for appeal.

We are committed Christians. It won't come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog, that our faith is central to who we are as a family. For that reason, I trust that God has this utterly in his hands, and his purposes will come to pass.

Our grounds for appeal rest on the fact that despite all that, we were denied any right to a Church School placement within our town (despite their being two Church schools) due to their conflicting criteria...

Let me explain...

First Choice School...
We live five minutes from our local Church School. But this Church School has a clause which means that only certain Churches are considered in their bracket. This means that despite the fact that our Church is only 10 minutes from the School and we live only 5 minutes from the school, we are not considered as it is not part of their "group".

Second Choice School...
Accepts applications from any Church members in our town (our church included) but stipulates you can only apply for a church place if it is your nearest church school.

In other words, we are not considered for a Church place in the first school because we are not part of the right Church, we do not qualify for the second school because although we are part of the right Church, it is not our closest Church School.

Therefore at no point in the application process did we ever stand a chance of getting into a church school on anything other than distance.

Is it just me, or does that seem wrong?

I think the hardest thing about it all, is that the second choice school was so oversubscribed that a lot of people who live right over the other side of town have got church places at our School and therefore taken up all the spaces, because our School does not stipulate that it has to be the closest church school.

So now I face a dilemma. Do I simply accept and trust? Or is it possible that God has allowed this situation so that someone can challenge the seeming injustice for it for anyone who lives on our side of town but doesn't go to the right church...?

I don't know.

And that's the dilemma that has me up at 5am. Because I'm finding it hard to distinguish what the right thing to do is, and what is my protective, wanting what I think is best for my child nature kicking in.

So I'm up and praying. Watching the sun rise. Asking for peace. Asking for direction. Asking for God to continue to hold our little girl in his hands.

I'm so thankful that I know He does.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Big School...



Today is a big day in our house.

We are waiting for some news that could directly impact the next decade or so of our lives... or at least the lives of our littles...

Today we find out what primary school Ava will start in September.

My baby girl... still so little in so many ways... who loves to pretend that her scooter is a horse, who enjoys baking cakes and cooking endless cups of tea in her playhouse, whose favourite games are "Mummys and Daddys" and "Sleeping Beauty", who loves to please people and takes great delight in "writing her letters", is growing up. In September, she will spend as many hours of her day away from me than with me...

In so many, many ways, she is ready for this step. She loves school, she loves playing with her little friends, she is hungry to learn - letters, numbers, stories and songs. She comes home from Nursery School full of all that she has been up to - the games she played, the songs they sang, the items they pulled out of the "learning box". We have loved her Nursery School... we are hopeful she will get a place there, but the honest truth is, she may not...

I won't deny I will be sad if we have to move her next year.

And yet in the uncertainty, I do feel peace about it. We have been praying as we have made this decision, and as we await the outcome, not that she would get into our first choice school, but rather, that she would get into the school which will be best for her, and in which we can best serve God as a family. Where are the people God wants us to meet? Who are the little friends he wants her to make?

And in His sovereignty, there is peace. In knowing that though the outcome may not be what WE would choose, he has his plans and purposes.

Where does appealing, and where do waiting lists fit into that?

Well, if we don't get our first choice we will go on a waiting list... and we will trust that if that's where we're meant to be, she'll get that place. Her Nursery School is our local primary. In so many ways it is exactly what we would choose for her... it is nearby, she would be at school with her neighbours,  it upholds the faith that is so central to all we are as a family.

But we will also seek to accept that if that place does not become available before September, then God has other plans for us... for her. For our little girl.

I'd rather leave it in our Heavenly Father's hands.

For all of you out there awaiting big news today... we wish you all the best!

I'll keep you posted!