Thursday, 15 March 2018

Our Elias Boy // Eleven Months Old

Eleven months?! Can it really be true? This time last year, I was in and out of hospital... wondering how long we could make this baby hang on in there. It was a scary time, but there was a peace throughout. The promise that the Lord had laid upon my heart,...

"Do not be afraid... wait and see what the Lord will do"

It was during this final month, as I whiled away long hours in hospital, that I increasingly felt the conviction that this baby was to be a boy, and that we were to name him "Elias" - "The Lord is God". I've never shared a lot about the still small voice that spoke to me through that time... perhaps wary of wanting to seem "overspiritual", but in a time that could have been anxiety-ridden, and in which there were very real fears about the potential risks of delivery of this particularly difficult pregnancy, I felt nothing but peace and a genuine deep-seated joy throughout. I actually look back on that time with a fond thankfulness. It was precious and beautiful, and the Lord showed us so much mercy throughout it. I whiled away hours reading Scripture, journalling, praying over my growing family, reading aloud my children's bedtime story on an audio app, so that Dave could play it back to them as they lay, tucked up in bed, every evening. I wrote a lot. I thought a lot. I spent precious time with dear friends and family who tirelessly visited. I had daily little visitors who delighted in exploring Mama's temporary "home", I prayed thankfulness for a husband who incredibly kept the ship afloat, caring for our children, and for me, like no-one else could.

I am so thankful for the Lord's goodness through that season.

And yet here we are, eleven months on, and this is the gift we have. He was indeed a little boy. And he was to be called Elias, just as that sense of prompting had required. And in his birth, and in his delivery and every day since, he has been a constant reminder that the "the Lord is God". Our sovereign, generous Father, who loves to give good gifts to his children, and whole upholds and strengthens in the valleys.

Elias, you have brought so much joy to our lives... you are a most precious gift, a diamond etched out of the hard rock of suffering. I will forever be grateful to the Lord for sparing both of us on that bright Saturday eleven months ago, when things could have gone so differently.

You are our roly-poly, mischief maker. You are exploring sound now - constantly calling for "mama", and occasionally repeating back other words too. You purse your lips and huff and puff through that little scrunched up face - you love to oooh, and aah and have the most delicious little cackle. You roll your way around a room proving there is no need for crawling, though you are half way there with a slightly lop-sided commando-crawl at present. You sit confidently, and have started attempting to pull yourself up to standing, those strong little legs still a little wobbly. I used to worry that you might be behind because you came so early, but you are proving my worry to be in vain!

We are so proud of every little achievement... you have come such along way, and your Mama finds it hard to conceive that in one short month we will be celebrating a full year. It has been the most wonderful, joy-filled year with you Li-Li... we thank God for the gift that you are, and our heartfelt prayer is that one day you will know the Saviour who has kept us both so well... the Saviour who loves you more than we ever could.

The Saviour to gave himself up for you. 

We love you little Li-Li.

Happy eleven months

Mama x

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Pyjama Party Time // Heidi's 5th Birthday

Our Heidi's vivid imagination, her eye for detail, and a very clear-cut opinion on what she likes and dislikes has always made party planning for our youngest daughter a bit of an adventure. Her requests last year, which included live butterflies welcoming the guests and a real-life fairy emerging from her cake as she cut it, were sadly not realised, and as the month of March approached, I braced myself for more creative challenges... so you can imagine my surprise, and relief, when our four-year-old announced,

"I'd like a pyjama party please... I'd like a bed cake... and I'd like to play pass the parcel!"

Now that's do-able!

And so I got to planning Heidi's pyjama party. No sleepover, just fun, food and a lot of four- and five-year-olds dressed up in their pyjamas!

The Food

I kept things very simple, and themed everything to the slumber party theme...
* Sandwiches (you gotta have sandwiches!)
* Marshmallow Pillows
* Teddybear Crisps (Pom Bears)
* Popcorn (no pyjama party is complete without it!)
* Night Sky Grape Kebabs
* Watermelon Stars

Needless to say, the table was cleared!

The Activities

As the children arrived, we had a couple of craft activities on the go. I had sourced some plain pillowcases super cheap from Argos, and then got these fabric crayons from Baker Ross which were utterly fabulous! And so much less risky/messy than sharpies or fabric pens! The children all had fun designing their own pillowcases!

I had then also found these door hangers, and got letter and star stickers so that all the children could decorate their own bedroom door hanger to take home with them!

Their crafts were then put in the children's party bags with a bag of sweeties, and they were ready to go!

The Outfits

Kiddos turning up in pyjamas and onesies, dressing gowns and oversized slippers. It was super cute, and the smiles on their faces were infectious! Heidi was in her element!

And these two girls have been very best friends since their first day of school three years ago. Still inseperable!

The Games
We of course had to have the much requested "Pass the Parcel", but other sleep themed games? No problem!

* Pass the Parcel
* Bedtime Relay Race  - each team had items to collect to get their teddy ready for bed (see pic above!)
* Pyjama Pairs Hunt - I had hidden pyjama tops and bottoms around the downstairs, the children simply had to find matching pairs!

I had a couple of other games tucked up my sleeve (Sleeping Lions and Musical Sleepyheads!) but in the end we gave the children some free play time in the garden! Perhaps the sugar high led to some much needed energy burning  - thirteen children in the house is only manageable for so long!

The Cake

Heidi had been very specific about wanting a bed cake, and in the end it was actually super simple! Let's be honest, my cake making skills are fine, but I am not a perfectionist, or patient... and so something quick and easy is always the order of the day. I simply baked a large square victoria sponge cake, cut it in half and doubled it up (with jam in the middle of course) and then iced over some sheets and bedding and used Jonas' farmyard fences as the bedhead!

Job done!

We had a very happy Heidi... it was a full on afternoon, and Dave and I were shattered the the end of it, but our little girl headed to bed full of all the excitement of the day... and a few tears. Poor girly slammed her finger in the front door waving goodbye to her guests -  thankfully a little bit of present opening came to the rescue, and her finger was fine with a little diluted lavender oil and a good old plaster!

Life with littles, hey? It's never without its drama!


Other themed parties here!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

This Tiny Tribe // Siblings in March

Ahhh... March. You have felt so welcome. The first snow of the year, but also the first signs of springtime rearing their little green heads. Our back doors have been opened wide for the first time in months, and the children have begun to explore the perimeters of the garden once again. I want us to be as much outdoors as possible this year.

The Siblings project is becoming an increasing challenge for me... gone are the days of two children where I could happily snap them absorbed in something, without their even being aware of it. Four children are hard to capture unawares. Increasingly I notice they tend to pair off... in any combination... or the big three are off adventuring in the great outdoors while Elias sits in the comfort of the indoors and looks on. It won't be long before he's mobile (he's semi-commando crawling now) and then my comfortable little spot will be over.

Yet, much as I want my littlest man to stay little, I am also eager for him to be old enough to join the gang. I have noticed that three so close together can be a tricky dynamic. Somehow, when Elias is thrown into the mix, a happy order is restored and the squabbling seems to diffuse. He is such a jolly little soul, that his sunny disposition, combined with his ability to turn a three-dynamic into a comfortable four, seems to create a happy peace in family function once again.

For my little bookworms, it seemed appropriate to share our World Book Day photos for our Siblings Project this month... Ava is now an avid reader, forever with her head in a book (her mother's daughter!) and completely drawn into whichever literary world she is currently devouring. Her taste is so similar to my own it has been wonderful to introduce her to some of my heroines - the March sisters have stolen her imagination, and her heart, and my biggest little lady was determined that Jo March was the character she would become this year! She is bookish and determined, just like her alter ego... but this girly possesses a gentleness that will never quite make her the brash Jo March that she so admires!

For Heidi, the decision was easy... she wanted to be Heidi! Complete with goat and basket of Alpen goodies, she laid her costume out ready the night before, and proceeded to throw up in the night. So no school for our Heidi, but it didn't prevent her from getting into the spirit of things and dressing up nonetheless. In many ways, our Heidi is just like her Swiss counterpart - adventurous, yet loves the comfort of home, loyal and lively. She fits her name to perfection.

Jonas was the gingerbread man - and with a tendency to be found perpetually running, it seemed an appropriate character. Having boys after two girls has been so fascinating. There is an energy there that overlaps the two girls put together, and he needs to burn it off a few times a day in the great outdoors! He is delightfully sweet though, and yesterday he melted my Mama heart when he looked up at me with those big blue eyes and said, "Mama, you're my best friend." That boy knows just how to turn on the charm. His other favourite habit at the moment is to tag the word "botty" onto the end of any sentence he says... what is it with boys and toilet humour?!

Our Elias couldn't be left out, and so he was appropriately dressed in his bear outfit, and proceeded to be the cutest baby bear that ever was. They literally all adore him, and his eyes just light up when any of them pay him any attention. He is just so sociable and chatty and so bubbly at the moment, he has been the most delightful fourth baby; slotting in, easygoing and oh so charming.

They are a bubbly bunch who keep me on my toes... they are incredibly close, and with that come the highs and lows of sometimes hours of happy play, and other times where it seems there is constant bickering. They love each other fiercely, protectively, genuinely and not always gently, but they totally have each others backs and would really rather spend time in each others company than anyone elses. I wonder if that will change with time, but I hope there will always be a pull to home, to each other... the bond of siblings.

My tiny tribe; siblings in March.

The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Questions and Struggles

Sometimes I get hit by the fact I only get one run at parenting. There's no rewind and re-do option. Which makes each decision we make in the day to day feel epically significant.

Have we made the right choices for our children? Are they too busy? Are they not busy enough? Did I handle that discipline correctly? Have I spoilt them? Have I scarred them for life?

Much of my thought life is threatened by questions like these.

From the moment I knew I was carrying Ava, I realised I would never quite feel carefree again. Children are wonderful gifts, beautiful blessings. But at times the responsibility can feel enormous.

Yesterday I had a lot of those questions.

We had an epic meltdown from one of our children at bedtime last night... possibly the worst ever. Over something so silly and insignificant... when you're in the midst of it, its so hard to know where to extend grace, where to issue discipline... where to pour out unconditional forgiveness and where broken boundaries need consequences.

And I realise that as our children grow these questions are only going to get bigger.

I came downstairs feeling so flat. So ill-equipped. Like a failure.

And so I preached to myself.

I am not defined by my role as a mother... I am not valued according to my performance - success or fail... my children's lives are in the Father's hands... Jesus has covered my sin, and he offers to cover theirs too. There is always forgiveness where there is repentance. There are always open arms and a welcome home.

We finished last night by praying together, little blond heads tucked under my arms... and thanking God that his love is unconditional, that his grace is never-ending, that his plans and purposes are perfect. That tomorrow is a new day and his mercies are new every morning.

How grateful I am for those truths.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Dear Heidi... You're five!!

Our Heidi girl... today you turned five!

Five whole years since you somersaulted into our lives, five years since I first set eyes on those chubby little cheeks and that downy black hair, five years since I heard the words "it's a girl" and was so thrilled for Ava to have a little sister. You were the cutest, snuggliest little baby... and so unbelievably good. Slept through the night at 5 weeks old, were a little ray of sunshine bringing a smile wherever you went. I remember how much I loved those early weeks with you... our secondborn being such a gentle entry into parenting in comparison with the shellshock of our beautiful firstborn Ava!

Those first few weeks were bliss, and then at nine weeks you fell ill, and we started on a rollercoaster that has loomed in the background of these first five years. And yet you have been wonderfully accepting and always brave... check ups, echoes, blood tests, injections, cannulas and, most recently, that CT scan feel like they shouldn't play a role in the life of a little girl of five years old... and yet you have born it all beautifully, asking questions, seeking answers but always trusting. Us. But more importantly, the Saviour. There is no more wonderful a gift you could have given us, darling girl.

You are a little ray of sunshine, Heidi girl. You have the cheekiest little grin, a deep belly laugh, and a wicked sense of humour. You are shy in public, and yet in private you are the loudest member of the household... you shine on stage, and are a born performer. Whether you are singing, dancing, or acting some part, you step into the role, and your whole little face lights up. You thrive on praise and words of affirmation, and you love nothing more than snuggling up on the sofa for our weekly "movie night" (complete with popcorn - ALWAYS requested by you!)

From the youngest age your creativity and decisiveness have shown you are a young lady who has a vision and determines to make it happen. I'll never forget your clear instructions for your fairy party last year - there were to be real butterflies at the entrance, and when you cut your cake, a real fairy was to fly out of it. Needless to say, I didn't manage either of those requests, but I must admit to some relief when you revealed that this year you were planning a pyjama party "with a bed cake, and pass the parcel"... definitely do-able!

I love watching your relationships with your siblings. Ava is your closest friend and ally. The two of you spend hours together playing Sylvanians, colouring picture after picture, or pouring over some book together. I honestly love watching your friendship, and hope so much that you will always be as close, and love each other as much as you do now.

You and Jonas are the mischief makers. You're chalk and cheese... either getting on like a house on fire and off on some adventure, or winding each other up like there's no tomorrow! But you are fiercely protective of each other and I love your little friendship growing too.

And then there's Elias. You adore that boy. And lets be honest, he adores you too. It has been so lovely to watch your maternal side blossom with your littlest brother. He reminds me so much of you as a baby in his character... jolly and sociable and easy to please, and the two of you are often found together. My evens.

Heidi, we thank God every day for the gift you are to our family. You are fiesty and fiery and full of fun, but also cautious, and sweet-natured, and happiest at home. We praise God for keeping your little heart safe through all the trials, but our greatest prayer remains, that you will give your little heart to the Saviour. The one who loves you so much more than we ever could. The one who has already proved himself so faithful, through the highs and the lows.

We love you darling girl.

Happy 5th birthday Schnuki

Mama xxx

Monday, 26 February 2018

Raising Grateful Kids // Thoughts for a Monday Morning

"Parents who want to raise grateful kids need to start by living grateful lives."
- Kristen Welch - Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World -

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Life on the tracks...

It's a well used metaphor, "the journey of life"... the idea that we are all travelling along, subject to the whims and winds of the road. Sometimes driving with cautious care, sometimes with relaxed enjoyment, sometimes with erratic recklessness and sometimes in lostness and confusion. It can feel a little scary... the uncertainty of not knowing what is ahead... of not knowing what is oncoming, of not trusting ourselves in the drivers seat, or of not trusting the other drivers around us.

Life can feel scary that way.

Last Wednesday, we took the kids on a trip on the Steam train for my Father-in-laws birthday. Steam trains are just like any other journey in many ways... the varying speed, the quiet chugging through glorious open countryside, the loud clatter through dark tunnels... they take you through all sorts of twists and turns, ups and downs, over bridges, through tunnels, high speed and slow motion.

And yet there's one significant difference when you're on a train.

You're on a track.

That means you have a destination, a direction, and an earthing.

And in many ways, as I've been reflecting, I've realised that is what journeying life as a christian is like. There are high days and low days, good days and bad days, days of flying through glorious freedom, and days of racketing through dark tunnels. And yet all the while, we have a destination, a direction, an earthing.

The ups and downs and ins and outs don't have to feel scary, because they are earthed in the sovereignty of God. Just like that train follows its tracks, we  can trust that life is following the tracks that God has laid out for us. And that brings an incredible peace and assurance when things feel a little rocky, or the tunnel feels neverending. The train won't de-rail. It might traverse through some pretty rough terrain, it might head underground for a while. But its held firm to those rails and won't leave them.

That assurance has been particularly precious to us in the past week or so. Knowing that we are held firm when old memories are stirred, and question marks hover again...

That we are never left to career off course... but always held tight, whatever the terrain, whoever the company, wherever we find ourselves.

Life on the tracks.