Wednesday, 17 September 2014

It's not about the icecream

Being a parent is crazy hard work. A lot of the time, I am planning ahead - dinner, dishes, laundry, sweep this and tidy that, take him there, her here, rush rush rush, collapse on the sofa, wake up with a jerk, collect people from school, start it all again tomorrow.

There are moments of clarity, when through my haze of here and now, I see my children for who they are and I understand the way they see the world. Not through my eyes, the eyes of an adult who has a myriad of responsibilities with a list so long it doesn't fit in her head before coming out the other side.

A few days ago, we came home from church and gave the children ice cream. My seven year old started sobbing  because the type of ice cream she wanted was all gone. She had to make do with an ice cream sandwich, not a cone.

But she wasn't upset over the ice cream, not really. Earlier that day, she had been complimented by several adults about her behaviour. She is a rule-follower, a people pleaser. She smooths the rough patches of social interaction and wants life to be enjoyable for everyone around her, even at the cost of her own comfort. This is hard work. So when she and I were lavished with these compliments, I had a feeling that she was probably worn out from her efforts that afternoon.

She wasn't really able to cope with disappointment at that moment. The missing cone was just too much. But it was more than that - the ice cream cone represented not only what she couldn't have, but that someone else got to it first. Other people enjoyed the ice cream cones without her, they ate them before she could. It wasn't fair! Here she was, trying so hard to be "good", and what did she get for her efforts? A lousy ice cream sandwich!

I think we can all recognise this feeling. We still have a good life, there isn't any major disaster or tragedy to speak of, but the ice cream sandwich just isn't what we wanted. It isn't the same as a cone. It's okay to feel disappointment or even sorrow over what we're missing.

This little girl was in tears, and instead of me losing sight of what was important to her, and focusing on what was important to me (dinner prep, baby care, sitting down for once!) I looked into her eyes and talked her through it. I made time to connect with her and helped her name her feelings.

And wouldn't you know it - she calmed down and was her happy, bubbly self for the rest of the day.

I often have to remind myself that I have two choices when my children are upset. I can take the time to connect with them, to hear their words and work through their feelings, or I can railroad over them and demand silence or "good" behaviour. Either way takes time before the child calms down. But with the first choice, I will have strengthened our relationship and topped up their emotional bank account. The second choice depletes their stores and slightly fractures our relationship. It's just not worth it.

That's not to say that I am perfect at this parenting gig. In all honesty, the mere fact that this incident sticks out in my mind so much is probably proof that I don't use this method often enough. I have six children living in this house and my brain is fizzing while I rock in the corner on some days. But I think I get it right pretty frequently. We went to the park yesterday afternoon instead of staying at home, which meant no time for me to make dinner. We had fish and chips instead. Would it have been healthier for me to make a meal? Yes! But it was worth it to spend time with the children outdoors and just "be" together. I don't regret it for a moment.

Friday, 18 July 2014

a writing exercise

Last week, my 11 year old daughter and I did a fun writing exercise. We gave ourselves 10 minutes to write a short story and then swapped to read each other's work. I haven't written any fiction in a long time, so it was a challenge. I loved how the story unfolded as I went along, and when I stopped trying to think of ideas, they just flowed out of my pen without effort.

This is what I wrote.

Once upon a time, there was an old woman. She was a happy person; kind and generous with friends and strangers alike. One rainy afternoon, just as she settled down in front of the fire with a steaming cup of cocoa, a loud knock pounded on the door. Startled, she spilled her drink on the floor. "Drat!" she muttered, as she shuffled to answer the door.
Standing on the mat, soaked to the bone, was a bedraggled dog. Its poor face clearly asked her to come in, as it slightly shivered at the door.
"Oh, you poor thing!" the old woman exclaimed. She grabbed a towel as quickly as she could manage and ushered the dog indoors. It happily settled in front of the fire and was soon contentedly licking up a dish of warm milk and bread.
The old woman was saddened to think of someone abandoning this animal on such a wet day. "Don't worry, little one," she whispered as she stroked its head, "I'll look out for you."
Soon the dog - Brandy was the name she gave him - was settled into the house and the old woman couldn't believe she ever managed without him. She always exclaimed over his manners and helpfulness - for who ever saw a dog that wiped its feet before entering, or could make a delicious cup of tea, exactly as she liked it? It was astonishing.
Time passed. Winter turned to Spring, then Summer. The old woman began shuffling about more and more slowly. Her garden grew neglected, weeds choking the vegetable plot. She always had a smile or kindly word for all she met, but she didn't get out much. Brandy helped her more every day.
Without her even noticing, Brandy started looking more and more like a man in a fur coat, rather than a dog on all fours. As winter crept in, the old woman grew sleepy. She barely got out of bed these days. Brandy took care of her every need - now as a fully realised human. A Prince, in fact. Cursed with animal form for selfish behaviour, he was required to show unconditional love before the curse was broken.
As the old woman sighed her last breath, the Prince stroked her hand and cried.

It's not breaking any new ground or the beginnings of an epic tale, but it was kind of exciting to see what would come out next. If I was going to edit it, I would likely give the "old woman" an actual name, and turn the tale on its head a bit by making the dog prince into a princess. Or perhaps just an ordinary girl who got on the wrong side of a Faerie. The basic premise could do with plenty of tweaking to make the story more original and interesting.

I did like that it had a melancholy ending, however. Sometimes life is like that - good can come out of sad situations, but in order for the good to happen, you have to feel and experience the sadness.

In other news, I'm still tired all the time, but whingeing about it in my last blog post didn't actually accomplish anything. In some ways, it made me feel even more sorry for myself! So whatever. I'll just keep on. Only three more days until the summer break, and we can all lounge about in our jammies whenever we like! I think we all need to rest and recharge a bit.

Saturday, 12 July 2014


I'm afraid there's something wrong with me, that I'm getting too tired to function. I need two naps a day now, and that doesn't seem right?

I gave up our allotment, that we shared with a friend. They have five children, and so do we. When I explained to someone why I couldn't handle it anymore, I said "we have 10 kids between us" and it kind of hit me anew. That's a lot of children.

No wonder I'm tired. I have a nine month old baby who I love dearly but she really enjoys waking at dawn. Dawn in the summer means 4am, so that's not always easy.

I am not giving my all to my family, because I am tired. I am grumpy and short-tempered, I don't have the energy to cook, and cleaning? Well, if you can walk without crunching something underfoot, I call it a win.

They are healthy and happy, for the most part. But am I? I worry that I'm too tired, but then I remind myself that I don't go to bed before 11pm most days. Can anyone really function on five hours of broken sleep for months on end?

Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. Perhaps I need to take more naps.

I once read about how humans naturally had a segmented sleep cycle in the days before electricity. Everyone would go to bed at sundown, sleep for five hours or so, wake up for two hours, and sleep again for another three or four hours. They called it their "first" and "second" sleeps. It sounded amazing, so I tried it. I never saw my husband, since by the time I woke up from my first sleep, he was off to bed for the rest of the night. I then got anxious and struggled to get to bed for my second sleep, worrying that I wouldn't get enough rest before the children woke up.

Modern ways of sleeping fit better into our modern lives, funnily enough. But I still feel tired.

Am I anemic? Do I have a B12 deficiency? Why do I want a third nap, and still feel like I'm living in a fog of slow thoughts?

My children have started finishing my sentences for me. Am I really that difficult to chat with? Do their minds move so quickly that they can't even wait for the words to come out of my mouth? I think it might just be a bad habit, rather than an assessment of my state of mind. I hope so, at least.

I didn't take a nap today. I stayed up too late, my husband out of town and the tv viewing all to myself, while the baby slept and slept. She woke up at dawn, her usual happy self, while I grumble and try to go back to sleep with her pootling around on the floor.

It is 7pm and I feel leaden. My eyes blink slowly, my mouth slack. We had cereal for dinner, because it's hot and I just can't think of anything to cook. We have cupboards full of food; dried pasta, rice, beans, lentils. Sauces and tins, packets and jars. Plenty of ingredients, but if I chopped any vegetables tonight, I think I would regret it.

We had a good day, despite my tiredness. A morning at a soft play centre, with the older ones playing laser tag, coming home for lunch and a Doctor Who marathon. You really can't go very wrong with the tenth doctor. We take breaks for ice lollies and snacks. We finally took down our canvas tent (it was drying out, then got rained on twice, and was finally completely dry again) which was a wonderful acquisition that will make a great story to tell. Perhaps on a day when I'm not so tired.

My husband still isn't home. He went to pick up a car we bought, and has experienced an epic journey of false starts, possible money laundering, unexpected overnight stays, dodgy engines and a tour of the countryside. It sounds much more exciting than what it was, although I was pleased to hear that the takeaway order I placed for him was delivered successfully to his pit-stop at the park and ride next to the motorway. I ordered 4 bottles of water at 500 ml each. I think 2 litres of bottled water is overdoing it, really, but it is hot today and I was worried.

I haven't been eating right. When I'm tired, I don't want to put any effort or thought into meals and snacks, which results in my fall back option of quick-but-unhealthy. It's frustrating to get into this cycle, but I don't know how to break it. Perhaps if I spent a week of going to bed at 8pm. Somehow that doesn't seem very realistic.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, or just a flaky goofball, but I am glad my 4 year old is attending school in September. I'm too tired to do fun things with her anymore. Well, I take that back. We do go out, and have some fun, but I am only good for a couple of hours before I have to come home and collapse. At least when she starts school, the baby will still be taking naps (pleasepleaseplease) and I will get some rest without the guilt of not being engaged and "present" for my family.

What if there isn't any deficiency? What if exhaustion is my version of normal? I try not to worry, and remind myself that five children is a lot of kids. Maybe that's why I'm so tired.

The tent was up for a long time.

Friday, 20 June 2014

this is what I believe.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is pretty plugged into the internet, it has been hard to miss the slew of blog posts, major news outlet articles, and general chatter on social media about the controversial Ordain Women movement.

For those of you who don't know, there is an organised group of (mostly) women who feel that the Church needs to extend Priesthood authority to women as well as men. At this time, only men are conferred the responsibility to perform sacred ordinances in God's name, through His power and authority, namely the Priesthood. Hopefully that makes sense to the non-initiated.

There are many reasons why Ordain Women feels that the Priesthood should be extended to female members of the LDS church. I haven't read up on all of it, but from what I've seen, I think one of the main reasons stems from painful interactions with men who feel that a little bit of authority to administrate gives them a lot of power to dominate others. In short, abuse can and does happen when there is an imbalance of power, whether it is in a parent-child relationship, an abusive marriage, a work setting, or an ecclesiastical relationship. We are all imperfect beings living in a fallen and imperfect world. We all do things that we shouldn't.

While I understand a few of the underpinning ideas behind Ordain Women, I don't feel the need to support them. Their concerns, their pain, their world view, is not the same as mine. Their stories aren't the same as mine. And that's okay with me. I do not feel threatened by their agitation and don't really feel the need to rail against their leader, who is rumoured to be facing church sanctions and possible excommunication.

Here is what I believe. I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ as set out in the New Testament is the same in structure and content as the gospel preached in the Mormon church. The structure of prophets, apostles, priests etc, is the same. The ordinances of baptism, the sacrament, temple worship; all the same. I believe that Jesus Christ structured His church in this way, and I am a grateful recipient of these saving ordinances.

I don't feel good or happy about the Ordain Women bashing that I see online. It hurts me to see the almost gleeful, self-righteous back-patting that's going on. Aren't we all imperfect? Don't we all have the need for the Atonement, the need to repent?

I think that we as a people, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are closer to the ancient Israelites than we'd like to admit. We study the Bible and the Book of Mormon, stories of people who stoned their prophets and twisted the words of God to their own ends, and we say "How could they do that? They have the prophet right there! He just came down from the mountain, he just saw God face to face! They saw an angel for themselves! How could they do that?!" And then we busy ourselves with measuring hemlines and only take the sacrament with our right hands -- and I wonder. I wonder if we are all to blame. I wonder, if we would just be anxiously engaged in a good cause, in serving, in loving, if we invite the less fortunate to our tables, if we focus on that beam sticking out of our own eyes, well. I think everything else would sort itself out. I think life for everyone would be much better.

Are Mormons Christian? Do we serve, do we love, do we bless other people's lives? Or are we too busy pointing our fingers at people not living as we would live, who interpret the world through a different lens, who choose a different path (or have one forced upon them?), who should be our brothers and sisters in Christ?

It is easy to be deceived. It is easy to get confused, to get puffed up and to feel "safe" in our choices.

I believe that this furor over Ordain Women should end. I believe that the decision over excommunication or not should be left to those in charge, and we, who really have no horse in this race, should remember that we covenanted to lift each other's burdens and love each other. Regardless of that other person's choices, or whether those burdens were "deserved."

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this is what I believe.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Weird - it's all about perspective

So a book has recently come out in America by a certain female celebrity who is a vegan, attachment parenting, crunchy-as-anything type. Fair enough; anyone with enough money to self publish can put a book out these days. Her book is all about pregnancy and young baby raising, and she talks about several aspects of these topics, including Elimination Communication.

And the internet collectively scoffs at her, of course. It's kind of funny, because when an "outsider" as it were, describes something like EC it sounds so completely whackadoodle and bizarre, that you wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing.... "staring at her baby all day, waiting for a grimace to indicate an impending flood" or "using your entire house as a toilet".

All this pearl clutching and eye-rolling over something that is actually almost boringly mundane. About as boringly mundane as changing a nappy, actually.

My baby is seven months old and we have been communicating about her elimination needs since she was about three months old. I can't remember exactly, but it was definitely after the New Year when she stopped needing me to express milk and feed her via bottles. I started using cloth nappies then (before that point, when I was pumping 8xday and nursing and bottle feeding? Nope. Sorry world, for all the extra landfill nappies, but it just wasn't happening) and noticed that I just kinda knew when she was about to poop. I had toyed with the idea of trying EC when I was pregnant, and started "cueing" her when she was pooping in the nappy. (and then changing her immediately afterwards)

Cueing is when parents make a specific sound or say a specific word/phrase for the child to associate with elimination. Sometimes it's different for each one, or the same for both. It doesn't really matter; whatever works for the family.

I eventually started holding her over the potty when she went through a bout of tummy upset that gave her a rash. Even one less dirty nappy was a win, as far as clearing up her skin was concerned.

So that's how we started. Several months later, she has shown a marked preference for not sitting in her own faeces, funnily enough. She's not as particular about a wet nappy, but I think that's because even the cloth nappies are so good at wicking moisture away from her skin that she doesn't seem to notice all that much. She's damp, to be sure, but only slightly.

Here's what Elimination Communication is NOT:

  • No staring at the baby all day. All I had to do was pay a little more attention to her more obvious signals and everything else sort of slotted into place. She sits on the potty after naps, first thing in the morning, and when we come home from outings. It's the same as changing a nappy at those times, except sometimes that nappy is still dry.
  • No house-as-toilet. As described already, she is still in nappies. She's in cloth, which saves me a ton of money, and sometimes she's in the same nappy for five hours on the trot because I've managed to get her on the potty in time in between.
  • Not a lot of extra work. Really, for truth. What's the difference between putting a baby on the potty for a minute, quickly dabbing with toilet paper and putting the dry nappy back on again or completely undressing baby, wiping her down, putting a clean nappy on and disposing of the dirty one? As far as time and energy spent, I would say it is equal on both counts. Pretty much.
  • It's not all that weird, either. Many people hear stories from their grandparents that they potty trained their children at age one. I mean really, what more incentive did they need back then - no waterproof covers, horrid pins, and boiling nappies on the stove? Yeesh. Get those kids outta nappies asap, right?!

So what's a typical day like for me and the baby?

She's an early riser, so at 5-ish am (I try not to look at the clock because that way madness lies) she starts stirring and even when I try to feed her back to sleep she's having none of it. She gives me a certain look as if to say "I need a wee, hop to it momma". I roll out of bed and grab the potty. 99% of the time her night nappy is soaked, but once or twice it has been dry. Once she's on the potty she'll usually do a BIG wee, sometimes poo as well. Sorted. Wipe her down, put a dry nappy on, take her downstairs to play while I do my thing. 

Sometimes I'll manage to get her on the potty once or twice more before the school run. Usually not, though, which is fine because I'm really too busy getting everyone else ready to worry about pottying the baby. By 8am, she is tired and grumpy again, so I'll try to feed her. If she's agitated and won't settle into the feed, that usually means that she needs the potty again. She won't have milk if she has a full bladder or bowels. Once that's taken care of, we're off to school.

Throughout the day, I'll offer her the potty at various times if she seems out of sorts, or won't feed, or has just woken from a nap. I'm not always paying attention, or I'll think to myself, "must check her nappy" and will have missed the chance to get her on the potty. It's all good. She gets changed frequently and is usually happy to sit on the potty in front of the mirror in our room anyway. Sometimes, bless her heart, she even tries to push out a little dribble on the potty. 

By the time bedtime rolls around, she's often too tired and cranky to sit on the potty happily. She's recently been able to hold her bladder for surprisingly long stretches of time (3 hours the other night, crazy, considering she is on a liquid diet), and I think she's just working on this ability a bit more.

Sometimes she wakes up around midnight, and I'll change her again. Very, very wet nappy. But by the time morning rolls around, she's managed to stay completely dry and the cycle starts again. 

So that's what Elimination Communication looks like. There's no coercing. If she doesn't want to sit on the potty, she arches her back and cries, so I don't force her. There wouldn't be much point! When she's clearly uncomfortable or desperate to pee, I put her on the potty and she does her thing. She's a happy baby and seems pretty content with our arrangement. 

Like I said before, the reality is a lot more boring than the sensationalised reporting on the internet would have people believe. But reality never got tons of clicks on a website or sold magazines, now did it.....

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I miss it

For nearly two years, we were a home educating family. The kids and I would trek off to various locations for different events and classes; gymnastics, chemistry, tours of Roman forts and museums, etc. At times, the "home" part of home educating did not apply! We were busy and it was exhausting but very, very fun. I loved having them at home all the time and watching them play together. I loved chatting with them, learning things as a group or one-on-one when the others were occupied with different things. They grew so close as siblings and fought less. It was wonderful.

We played, nearly all the time. Learning was through doing, seeing, feeling, experiencing. There wasn't much sitting down, unless they wanted to "play schools" or I was reading chapters from Winnie-the-Pooh. I was constantly packing lunches and picnic blankets, slathering sunscreen or scrounging around for wellies that fit their ever-growing feet. Some days we didn't bother to come home until after dinner time; if we were lucky, I had put the slow cooker on before we left.

I loved it. Really, truly, deep-within-my-soul loved it. But, in time, their needs changed. So I sucked it up, put my ego and self-image as a home educating momma aside and sent them to school. For another year and a bit, I had my eldest and my youngest at home. My eldest was against the very idea of school for a long time. She refused to even entertain the notion. So we carried on as best we could, with trips out and classes and fun things at home. It wasn't the same - we were tied to the school run, and the bustle of our days wasn't as interesting (for me). Eventually I got pregnant and was sick for several months. I then felt better, and took my eldest to Greece for a week. That was wonderful. I came back renewed and ready to do fun stuff as a family again. So we went to the beach for the day, and I injured myself in the process. Flat on my back again, we were housebound for several weeks (I had to be ever so careful not to re-injure my pelvis). Once the baby was born, I was at home almost all the time. A month later, we were left carless as my husband's offices changed location and he needed it to travel to work. Incrementally, over the space of a year or so, our world shrunk to where we could get by bus or walking, within the hours of 9am-3pm. It limited us severely and school became a viable option for her.

Last month, she started school again, after being home educated for over three years. She loves it very much. It was a bit difficult for her to get back into the routine at first, and making friends has been a slower process than she expected, but she is doing fantastically well. She attends a different school than the younger ones, so she has to walk there and back again on her own. It isn't far, and it's on a route that we walk regularly in the course of our days anyway, so she's fine. She enjoys a small class and a friendly teacher; in many ways the experiences she is enjoying at school are what we would have done at home or at home ed groups back when we were all together and had the car. Her maths lessons included baking cakes; her art lessons included flinging paint all over the room; her literacy lessons included writing stories; she has been watching chicks hatch from their shells recently and has been reading stories to the little ones in nursery. The best schools mimic home life and this has definitely been the case recently.

So I am happy for her. School is giving her what I simply cannot provide these days, and she is blossoming into a lovely young lady. She is more active and interested in new hobbies and ideas. It's great stuff.

I am at home with the little ones now, and our days are a bit slow, a bit simplified. We do things like read stories, colour, go for walks, and so on. I don't have deep conversations with my three year old about life, the universe, and everything, but it's pretty close sometimes! She's a wonderful companion. As I slowly come out of the newborn haze, and blink in the sunlight of spring, I can see a different world opening up to us. One with days spent close to home, a world that can only be reached by walking or riding the bus between the hours of 9am-3pm, and it will be just enough. It will satisfy my pre-schooler and baby, and I won't have to worry about balancing their small needs with a nearly-11-year-old's larger needs.

This has been the right choice. Home education was brilliant and beautiful and chaotic and messy, and I loved almost every moment of it. Truly, I did. School is the right choice for all of my school-aged children right now, for very different reasons for all of them. We are not a home educating family anymore.

But I still miss it.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Five Things for Friday


Last week I ended up buying a smartphone. Believe it or not, it's the first smartphone I've ever owned. My husband is a techie guy (it's part of his job, but really, it's an essential part of his personality) but doesn't buy into the hype surrounding All The New Things. 

This means he knows how to sniff out a bargain. He settled on the Motorola Moto G as the best under-£200-phone on the market, with a top of the line screen and most up to date Android OS. And that's as techie as I'll ever get on this blog, because I really don't know what that previous sentence meant. I was just parroting my husband!

Anyway. Shiny things. It's fun, having a phone where I can touch the screen and make things go. It's like a grown-up's toy, isn't it? But after a few days, I kind of got bored. It's a phone; it makes calls and sends texts; that's all I really use it for.

Oh, except for the pictures. Now THAT'S fun....


As can be seen by the last picture there, my eldest officially needs glasses now. Both my husband and I wear glasses, so it would appear that our kids have no hope. Her eyes aren't bad (yet), but it was bugging her that she couldn't see the board at school or the numbers of hymns at church. 

She's super excited. She chose some bold, funky style glasses. Gotta love that kid's style. She's pretty awesome - at ten years old she is confident and proud of who she is. I seriously need to follow her example.

However, I have a feeling that she's going to find wearing glasses a bit more of a hassle than she thinks it will be. Hopefully they won't slip down her face or pinch her temples or anything. We'll see how it goes!


A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the baby seemed to have some tummy troubles. Lots of poo, the wrong colour, etc. She didn't seem particularly upset by it all, but I was getting tired of changing so many nappies. As an experiment, I thought I'd try a bit of elimination communication with her. It's an interesting way of baby raising - the parent (in this case, just me) keeps an eye out for any signals the baby sends out when she needs to void bladder/bowels. 

I even went an entire 24 hours without changing a single poopy nappy! Got 'em all in the potty all day long! That was fun. Now that her tummy has settled down, she doesn't poo as often, but she's starting to get used to me pottying her. She squirms around or cries when she needs a wee, or gets upset when I don't get to her in time and she's in a wet nappy. 

Sometimes I can't be bothered to strip her down and hold her over the potty, but then I feel guilty because she's clearly signalling the need to "go" and she's looking at me with a significant gleam in her eye, waiting for the potty. I know that sounds kind of crazy if you haven't done it, and believe me, this is my fifth baby and I've never thought in a million years that I would do this with a baby, but it really works. It's a real thing. She can wait long enough for me to undress her and pull the nappy off - she's rarely in the middle of a wee while doing this. 

The need to poop is a bit harder for me to gauge, especially since she doesn't do it as much anymore. Sometimes I miss and she goes in the nappy, sometimes she's just starting to go and I manage to get her on the potty for the rest. Oh well! I often don't wake up in time in the morning for her early morning ablutions so we get half in the nappy and half in the pot. But I'm cool with that. It's a learning process for the both of us, but I'm hopeful that we can encourage her to use the potty independently at a younger age. Maybe. That's not my main goal for now. Right now, I'm just focusing on the communication part and finding it pretty cool when I get it right.


So we're no longer a home educating family! It's totally weird, but I think it's the right choice right now. My two middle children started school in the Autumn term of 2012, but my eldest was adamantly against going back to school. For a while, this worked fine. We managed to get her to different home ed activities, we did things at home together, she worked independently and we had tutoring. It all started going downhill during the latter half of last year, when I was too tired in pregnancy and then had the baby. My husband's offices changed location which meant he could no longer use public transportation to get to work. We only have one car, so we were carless during the day. This wouldn't have been so bad - the bus into town is regular and easy to use - but with the baby having feeding problems in the early weeks, I was kept home because of pumping schedules and the need for transporting milk in bottles. It was just too much of a hassle. 

My attention on her education slipped considerably, and we finally decided that school was a better place for her to be right now. She started a couple of weeks ago and is enjoying it so far. She is attending a different school than the other children, so she has to make her own way there and walk home alone as well. This is exciting and fun for her, so that's good. She is finding it challenging in some ways, being back in a school setting, but overall it is a positive experience. I'm happy that she is happy - she is meeting new people, getting fresh perspectives on life, and isn't bored by the limited scope of our daily life with a baby and a three year old. 

I feel refreshed by the change as well; I feel like I can focus on more toddler/preschool activities for the three year old without worrying about boring the 10 year old. We can go to the local library singing time and have fun together, bake fairy cakes and do all those fun things that my older children have long outgrown. (well, to be fair, everyone else likes to bake, too, but they don't need much help anymore!)

I'm still keeping a toe in the Home Ed community because we don't plan to send our 3 year old to reception this year. She's a summer baby so will barely be four by the time the government expects her to attend school full time. No thank you. We're going to send her to a local preschool as an alternative, probably just a couple of days a week and see how it goes. I'm taking her to home ed activities and events and just carrying on as always. She is looking forward to preschool quite a lot. 

We'll probably send her to school eventually; my 7 year old never went to reception and settled into year 1 very quickly. I'm sure the 3 year old will do the same.


I could blame my lack of consistent blogging on being busy with five children, which is often very true, but I think it's more down to lack of brain space. I just don't have anything particularly interesting to say, beyond a couple of paragraph's worth! I could blog about our parenting choices, but *yawn* everyone does that. I could blog about home education, but that part of my life is kind of finished right now. I could blog about crafting, but I don't really do that anymore these days....

To be honest, a lot of my free time in the evening is taken up with washing dishes/laundry, straightening up, and then passing an hour or two watching old episodes of Star Trek. We started with Voyager, and I'm just now finishing up The Next Generation. Next is all the TNG movies, then I'll start Deep Space Nine. I admit this makes me totally nerdy, but when the entire series is on Netflix, it's difficult to pass up the opportunity. These shows are mostly harmless, inane entertainment. I sometimes watch with the kids, too. 

I lead a glamorous life, I tell you.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Choosing to Forgive

Corrie ten Boom has long been honored as an exemplar of Christian faith in action. (In my mind, she is a true heroine, and someone I hope to emulate.) Arrested by the Nazis along with the rest of her family for hiding Jews in their Haarlem home during the Holocaust, she was imprisoned and eventually sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp along with her beloved sister, Betsie, who perished there just days before Corrie's own release on December 31, 1944. Inspired by Betsie's example of selfless love and forgiveness amid extreme cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a post-war home for other camp survivors trying to recover from the horrors they had escaped. She went on to travel widely as a missionary, preaching God's forgiveness and the need for reconciliation. Corrie's devout moral principles were tested when she came face to face with one of her former tormentors in 1947. The following description of that experience is excerpted from her 1971 autobiography, The Hiding Place.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. ...
And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. ...
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me.
"But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ..." his hand came out, ... "will you forgive me?"
And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." …

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.
The Lord said,
28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When we choose to forgive, we are handing our burden to God and receiving peace and rest in its place. Christ took upon Him ALL our pains and infirmities. If we allow him, he will make our burdens light.

Forgiveness is a choice.

Corrie ten Boom called it “an act of the will.” Choosing to forgive can be the hardest choice we have to make.

Forgiveness is letting go of blame, releasing great burdens, and moving ahead with our lives. It is not allowing harmful behaviour to continue, condoning a wrong, or forgetting what happened to us. Lewis B Smedes, a renowned Christian author, ethicist and theologian once said, “Forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

Without forgiveness, our future may look very bleak indeed. It can be bogged down by pain, sorrow, grief, and anger. James E Faust said, “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harbouring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

Forgiveness is a commandment.

The Lord promises us rest from our heavy burdens. Anger, resentment, guilt and bitterness are but some of the fruits of an unforgiving heart, and are incredibly heavy burdens to bear.

Let me tell you about a man. In this story, his name is Malcolm Tent, but perhaps you know someone just like him. When he was a boy, he started a rock collection. This was not a collection of beautiful or interesting stones; this was a collection of grudges. For every time a person was unkind or thoughtless to Malcolm Tent, he would find a rock and put it in his pocket. “I’ve got to remember how angry I am,” he would tell himself, “I don’t want to forget in the morning.”

Over the years, as his rock collection grew, his life became smaller. Rocks spilled out of his pockets as he walked. Rocks spilled out of his cupboards, shelves, and closets. He kept rocks in his coats, in his trousers, even in his bed! It was always so easy to notice someone being mean to him, and he vowed to never forget it.

Malcolm’s rock collection was the talk of the town, and one day a geology enthusiast asked to view his collection. This surprised Malcolm - nobody talked to him much anymore - but he agreed to a tour. Much to the geologist’s surprise, the rocks weren’t magnificent specimens of rare beauty, but ordinary pebbles and stones (some were even chunks of concrete). Malcolm Tent tried to explain why he chose these particular rocks for his collection, but found it difficult. Was this particular rock chosen for the time the taxi driver failed to pick him up? Or was it when he didn’t receive the correct change at the corner shop? Maybe it was the time when his paper was left in the rain….

The geologist thanked him for his time, and left. Malcolm Tent looked around at his piles of dusty, ordinary rocks scattered around his home. He suddenly saw them for what they were - cold, hard and unpleasant.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonishes us:

9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to aforgive one another; for he that bforgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will aforgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to bforgive all men.
Now, he didn’t say WHEN we need to forgive, but I imagine it is much easier to throw one rock away and forgive immediately, than it is to store them all up over a lifetime and try to change a habit of holding grudges that has been nurtured for many years. As Malcolm Tent discovered to his dismay, that could very well end up being a LOT of rocks.

There are no constraints placed on forgiveness. We are required to forgive as often as is necessary. When Peter asked the Lord how often one should forgive his trespasser, he may have been thinking of the law of his day that only required a person to forgive three times. The Lord, however, pointed out a better way:

21 ¶Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I aforgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until aseventy times seven.

Forgiveness brings freedom and peace.

Nursing a grudge by carefully stoking the fires of anger and hostility ultimately only harms the grudge holder. Perhaps this is why God has commanded us to forgive those who hurt us - those miserable feelings drive away the Spirit and pull us away from God’s presence.

President Gordon B Hinckley counseled: “If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. There will come into your heart a peace otherwise unattainable.”

Guy de Maupassant, the french writer, tells the story of a peasant named Hauchecome who came on market day to the village. While walking through the public square, his eye caught sight of a piece of string lying on the cobblestones. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. His actions were observed by the village harness maker, with whom he had previously had a dispute.

Later in the day the loss of a purse was reported. Hauchecome was arrested on the accusation of the harness maker. He was taken before the mayor, to whom he protested his innocence, showing the piece of string that he had picked up. But he was not believed and was laughed at.

The next day the purse was found, and Hauchecome was absolved of any wrongdoing. But, resentful of the indignity he had suffered because of a false accusation, he became embittered and would not let the matter die. Unwilling to forgive and forget, he thought and talked of little else. He neglected his farm. Everywhere he went, everyone he met had to be told of the injustice. By day and by night he brooded over it. Obsessed with his grievance, he became desperately ill and died. In the delirium of his death struggles, he repeatedly murmured, “A piece of string, a piece of string.”

Do you have your own version of a string in your pocket? Do I? It is worth examining ourselves and taking the time to root out any embittered feelings, lest we find ourselves following a similar path as Hauchecome.

Corrie ten Boom spoke of watching camp survivors in her rehabilitation home who withered away from the weight of bitterness and anger towards the perpetrators of the cruelty they had endured. Although the war was over and they had lived to be emancipated from the camps, these people were not truly free - bound with the chains that only forgiveness would loosen.

.I have found this to be true in my own life. I experienced hardship at the hands of my father; his emotional abuse created scars in my psyche that took years to work through. It has been difficult to find the strength to forgive him, but when I finally completed that step, I felt such peace. The helpless anger melted away and I was truly able to free myself from the binds that the abuse created. It was only when I recognised the need for the Saviour’s atonement in my journey towards forgiveness that I was able to truly forgive. His perfect love for me helped me to heal from my pain and recognise the good that has come from my past. I can safely say that I am grateful for all my experiences, because they have formed me into the person I am today.

Forgiveness is Godly Love.

Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts. President Hinckley, always so kind and wise, said “A spirit of forgiveness and attitude of love and compassion toward those who may have wronged us is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us has need of this spirit. The whole world has need of it. The Lord taught it. He exemplified it as none other has exemplified it.”

More wise words from Alexander Pope, the 18th century English poet, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ who said, “blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

44 But I say unto you, aLove your benemies, cbless them thatdcurse you, do egood to them that fhate you, and gpray for them which despitefully use you, and hpersecute you

We can find peace when we choose to forgive. The experience may not be as heart-wrenching and immediate as when Corrie ten Boom forgave her prison guard, but we are promised that it will be just as profound and life changing.

Lastly, do not forget to forgive yourself. Repent of your sins, apply the soothing balm of the Atonement to your aching heart. Then arise once more to a new day filled with hope and promise. Do not allow yourself to become attached to yesterday’s mistakes or let them define who you are. Seek for the peace that will surely come when you choose to forgive everyone.