Thursday, 30 April 2009

17 Again

My parents-in-law visited this week and this is my pass for an afternoon out. I indulged myself with a bag of pop-corn and a fun film at the cinema. Zac Efron is very easy on the eye and it felt good to have some time out!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Head Over Heels

For the last eleven weeks, I have been taking a Creative Writing course with the Open University and I am about to submit my final assignment: a fifteen hundred word story. On Friday, I e-mailed my story to a friend to ask for some feedback. She is a published author and so I was eager to hear what she had to say. She was extremely helpful, offering both encouraging compliments and concrete suggestions as to what I could improve. Furthermore, she let me know about a Creative Writing course titled Head Over Heels that she will be teaching at my local University in a few weeks time. It runs over four consecutive evenings and will cover not only ideas and writing but also publishing and agents. I found out about this course on Sunday morning and the Early Bird discount booking ended on Sunday evening. With my husband's encouragement I signed up and am now eagerly awaiting the start. It seems a huge amount of money to have spent on myself and my wispy dream of writing. Perhaps I will be lucky and sell a few pieces and make my money back, perhaps not. Perhaps I will discover that I have passion and talent, perhaps I will become 'a writer' and find fulfillment and income along that path. What it has revealed to me is that I am afraid of taking this risk, afraid of wasting the money and the time. I am afraid of sticking my neck out and trying something at which I might fail. My prayer is that I might expand my vision of who I am and what I could be, of who God made me to be and all that He means me to become.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Half-way point

My littlest child, my precious baby girl, is six today! It feels like a significant point in my life. Ten years ago, I was seven months pregnant with my first child: I had no idea about motherhood, or home education. From when I got married I had always worked and earned and I was used to being independent. In ten years time, my youngest will be sixteen and my eldest approaching twenty. I am not naive enough to think that my mothering journey will be even close to being over: my eldest is adamant that he will live with us always (although my middle son intends to travel the world in a camper-van before settling in Spain to be near the oranges.) However, I can see that my life will be very different. I will be able to leave them unsupervised, I will be able to go for a run in the day, or arrange a day-time appointment, I will have more time to pursue my own dreams, perhaps even get a paid job again.
Ten years ago, I could not have imagined the person I have grown to be and I am excited to see where the next ten will lead me.

Meanwhile, some celebration pictures:
We had a day out at Hampton Court Palace (back in 1543). We dreamt up a stew,

and admired the fire. The 'fire-man' was kind enough to give it a stir and produce and impressive display of sparkles. This fire is just a token. On some weekends they cook Tudor style and the fire reaches a stupendous 1,000 degrees Centigrade. In Tudor times, one ton of oak would have been consumed per fire, per day.
They are still celebrating Henry and Catherine Parr's wedding, so we went to help Catherine and her sister chose the wedding gown. Some of it, of course, needed modelling: And King Henry himself was kind enough to pose for a photo with the birthday girl!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Ice Skating

We have just got back from ice-skating and I was, I have to admit, crabby. I am not very good at skating although I am competent enough to go around the rink without falling over. My children are not very good and I don't know how to help them. I know what I do and I can see what other, much better, skaters are doing, and I know that some of what my children are doing they shouldn't be, but I just can't see how to put this all together and explain it in a way that improves their skating. So I feel frustrated and I get crabby. When they stop for a rest or 'walk' on the ice, chewing up the surface behind them, I find myself nagging and telling them off for not trying. There are all sorts of issues going on for me. I am embarrassed that the other kids are skating better than mine (although, of course, I know that they may have been skating for years) and I am disappointed that none of the other Home Ed kids talk to mine and the other Home Ed mums sit at the side or in the coffee shop together and I feel left out (although, of course, I am aware that they have been going for years and know each other really well) and I am frustrated that I can't skate as well as the figure skater practising to music and I don't know how to improve and even if I did I can't skate on my own because I'm too busy helping my children.
And yet I am aware of the contradictions. I have trusted my children to learn pretty much everything else and they have done. It took years of swimming but they all cracked it in their own way in their own time. They are all courageously giving it a go, falling over and getting back up and on with it without tears or tantrums. Having the opportunity to spend this time with my children, sharing this experience with them, having fun together, holidng their hands is a huge privilege. And in taking the time to reflect on this and put my feelings into words, I am seeing this afternoon in a new light and I am looking forward to our next trip to the ice-rink!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Kew in the Sun

Kew Gardens is a beautiful place. My Dad came up to visit us and we spent the day enjoying the sunshine and outdoors.
We climbed 18m to walk among the tree-tops:
And met a peacock when we came back down.
We rode on the land-train, fed the ducks, saw a chocolate tree and had tea and cake! Knowledge of the English weather tells me that this is not the start of a non-stop Summer, but on days like today, I cannot imagine the rain and cold. It is just lovely to be out: not learning anything in particular, but being in contact with plants and birds and feeling alive.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Moments from my day

Things change. First, there was chaos, babies, doing whatever, whenever and just hoping it was enough. The years when I could argue that my eldest wouldn't be in school yet, or wouldn't be full-time, or wouldn't have started school at this age if his birthday was a different time of year. Then I read 'A Mother's Rule of Life' and devised a schedule and, finally, got some housework done! The children happily played from nine until ten every morning. In fact, they seemed to resent me imposing on their free time. So I didn't. That was my chore, meal-preparation and computer time. As life went on it became my blog time. But before Easter I noticed that it had changed. Instead of enjoying a golden hour of peace, I was more and more frequently interrupted. It took me a while to cotton on, but I have now realised that this is time that they need me, they want something to happen. So I've changed again. Chores are completed quickly and we get on with the day's activities. I blog later in the day. Or I forget, like yesterday!
When I remember, like now, I have the opportunity to reflect on the day's happenings. Today, a montage of snapshots:
The congregation sang 'Happy Birthday' to my six-on-Monday daughter at the mid-week morning service.
Two of my children went for personal prayer at the end of communion. I see this as a good thing: a personal and meaningful faith in my little ones.
We nailed the locations of the last few Mystery Classes in Journey North and began planning the menu for our Journey North tea party.
We read a chapter of 'The Hobbit' and one of 'Our Island Story' while sitting in the garden in the sun.
I snuck in an extra half-hour's gardening, (the weather forecast for the weekend isn't looking too good.) My son found a worm and we watched it do a poo on his hand, twice. This was worthy of calling his sister over for a look. Then we built it a wormery and now it is living in my cupboard.
Life, Home Education. Fun.

Monday, 20 April 2009

How old?

It is always an interesting moment when my husband walks through the door and one of my children shouts, "Guess what I did today!" What will they say? Which of the carefully planned educational experiences of the day will make it to the headline spot? All to often it will be something that I had nothing to do with or something that went badly wrong! Today, my middle son greeted his father with the news that he had made his first cup of tea and he was immensely proud of this achievement.
I had supervised carefully and given stark warnings of the consequences of accidents with boiling water. He was suitably cautious of the kettle, checking with me which bits were ok to touch, and treated the whole experience with due respect. Still, there is a voice in the back of my head saying, "Is it really ok for an eight-year-old to be handling scalding water? Would social services intervene if they knew?" I wish there was an answer, a manual I could turn to and find the list of appropriate ages for certain activities: cooking, using a pen-knife, walking to the library alone, owning a mobile phone, having pocket money, choosing whether to leave their coat behind on a cloudy day and so the list goes on. How am I supposed to know? There is no-one to ask and I just have to make my own decision. I guess sometimes I will be over-protective, sometimes I will take risks. I'm just learning along with them.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Attending a Royal Wedding

We travelled back in time yesterday to July 1543, the year Henry VIII married Catherine Parr, his sixth and last wife. We were fortunate enough to meet Catherine as she walked through the grounds of the palace and she was gracious enough to allow a photo:Later, my little girl was also selected to accompany Lady Catherine's sister, Lady Anne Herbert, as the bride made her way to meet the groom prior to their marriage.
It was a lot of fun!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Wisdom from Virginia

Yesterday, I came across this Virginia Woolf quote posted by Mrs G. at Derfward Manor:
There's no doubt in my mind, that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say
something in my own voice.
I am 37, which in my mind is nearly 40, in a good way. Being 40 does not worry or depress me although I do think I have a slightly unrealistic view that, at 40, I will finally be grown up and have most things sorted out and figured out who I really am. I do hope that my experience of reaching 40 will echo Virginia's.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Pretty in Green

Passing a local charity shop on Tuesday evening, I spotted this beautiful tea-set:

I have been known to dither over purchases from second-hand shops but this really caught my eye and I thought it would be perfect for poetry tea-times. So, Wednesday morning, when the shop was open, I made a special journey to buy it. It is proper bone china, and has no stamp to say it is microwave and dishwasher proof. The plates and saucers, (clearly from a different set originally) are Wedgewood.

Poetry tea-time is one of my favourite times of the week and Julie has just posted some encouraging thoughts on the study of poetry. It has taken me a while to get into the idea of reading fun kids' poetry and not worrying so much about Great Poets (my children are 9, 8 and 6!) and A.A. Milne is a firm favourite. In fact, I also bought (along with eight other books for a grand total of £2,50!) new copies of "Now We Are Six" and "When We Were Very Young" with colour pictures as the ones we were using were from my childhood and are beginning to fall to pieces. Now, all I need is to bake some cookies!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


I am a worrier. I don't like to think of myself like this and once, when I overheard myself being publicly described as being a worrier, I was outraged and indignant. However, it is true. For example, I worry about my children's clothes. Do they have enough? Do they fit ok?Are they clean enough? Do they have enough room to store their clothes? What will happen as my boys outgrow the one chest of drawers they share and need a wardrobe? There isn't enough space in their room for a new, large piece of furniture and there are no more rooms in our house for them to have separate bedrooms and we can't afford an extension or loft conversion and then ... Well, I'm not sure what the 'then' leads to, but it lurks in the back of my mind, black and scary and threatening. I also worry that this show a woeful lack of faith in God, a God I do believe to be loving, generous and gracious, the provider of my needs. I remind myself of Philippians 4 verse 6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God, but sometimes I'm not even sure what my requests are. A wardrobe? A bigger house? That everything will be ok? And I am reminded that the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. Like the weeds in my garden, these worries take root and flourish in empty spaces and I need to cultivate the good plants, the things I want to grow, those things that bring colour and fruit, and I need to dig out those weeds.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Not Quite Easter Day

Happy Easter!I meant to post yesterday. I even got as far as switching on the computer and finding a good photo on my 'phone. But there is never quite as long between breakfast and church as I imagine and, just as I was about to tell my daughter that, no, she couldn't wear a dress to the Easter Day service because I didn't have time to help her put on her tights, I remembered why I had taken a blogging break. So, I didn't post. And now it's Monday night. You can be sure that if I had fasted from chocolate, I would not have been so slow!
I truly thought that if I took some time out from blogging, I would be clearer in my own mind why I blog. I know that I worry if I don't blog every day: my husband faithfully reads it at work and would worry, my regular readers, faithful though few, might lose interest, my wider family might miss out on some entertaining activity we have enjoyed. But I have not found an answer. I have been waiting for the Easter break for a long time as an opportunity to slow down a little and figure some things out, but, two weeks after my husband's school holiday started, I am still wondering where each and every day goes.
One thing is becoming clearer: I need to get in touch with what I enjoy, and where God is at work, and be willing to let go of the rest.