A Moment in Time

There are those moments – you know them – those ones that never seem to fade but are instead defining, enlightening – often annoying yet always life changing. They are not planned and yet they sever through the mist of the mundane bringing a ray of clarity.

One such moment happened about 11 years ago… I was a stay at home mom, living in a small flat, with no car, in the middle of a busy part of town daily trying to entertain a very demanding 1 year old. I had taken time to try set up different areas to keep him busy. A little splash pool on the veranda, a tiny slide in the lounge, books and toys in his room and a small table for art and drawing. In one corner he had a small chalk board. My moment of enlightenment happened after a busy morning of trying to juggle cleaning, entertaining him, preparing meals and so on…

To keep my boy busy I had given him some chalk soaked in water to draw on black paper. Suddenly everything was very quiet and I realised he had taken the wet chalk to his chalk board – now having been a teacher I was very aware of how difficult it can be to clean wet chalk off a board, especially red chalk! It was in this moment that I found myself say, “Don’t y

As I let the reality of the situation and my life sink in I realised that it was time to let go! Let go of my expectations for myself, my home and my children, time to let go of meeting others expectations, and instead create our own personal reality. A reality that worked for our family. ou dare use that chalk on that chalk board!” As the words flew out my mouth and he whirled around bewildered at this bizarre comment I could only begin to smile. What had I just said? Chalk was made for a chalk board and in reality what was a little wet chalk on a chalk board when other families were dealing with drug abuse and chronic illness?

Little did we know that this would set the foundation for what the future held. As after not falling pregnant for 3 years after our first son we went from 1 to 5 children in 2 years! Had I not learned to let go those 3 years before I would be a wreck today! So with a houseful of little people we now only have 4 rules:

1. No one gets hurt (this includes emotionally)

2. Nothing gets broken – you look after everyones things

3. You put away what you took out – before taking something else out

4. We work as a team

I have also set certain parameters for myself such as either we have certain tidy up times each day or we only going to tidy at 5pm. This gives me the freedom to give the children freedom to just be. Hubby and I have also realised that the reality of spending every evening together is something that will need to wait for retirement – so we have had to let go of our expectations in this area too. In the mean time we organise date evenings. We were often short on cash and couldn’t leave very little people with a sitter so we simply decided on a R30 budget and each take a turn once a week to organise a date at home once kids are in bed (we aim for 7pm.) This maybe as simple as hiring a movie, having dinner without the kids, buying a special pudding or playing a board game.

After 15 years of marriage and 7 children later I finally have a lady who comes and helps me clean and a dish washer. But up until now we made it through. Yes there were many tears, many months without luxuries such as cheese, many times we couldn’t join in as the time and money didn’t stretch that far and many days we wore creased clothes or stayed up very late washing a whole day’s dishes but as I learned to let go and as time went by I was able train my children to take control of their own personal domains, cook meals, fold washing etc. So today as I sit holding my 6th baby I know my 9 year old son can bath and dress my 2 year old, my 12 year old can hang the washing and do the dishes and my 7yr old twins can make an amazing salad and set the table. Had I panicked all those years ago I would have rushed out  back to work, only to fund creche and hired help and I would never have had time to train these beautiful children to work alongside their mama. And what fun we have working together!

Who would have though a little wet chalk, 11 years ago would have such a profound impact on the direction that one family would take.

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7 Kids – Are you Nuts?

Birthing your sixth child is not something one does regularly.  It’s not something to which many people can relate or something that people happily accept. It is rather something of an enigma, a point of discussion and debate. Something beyond our comfort realm that reaches into the corners of morality, ethics, philosophy and religion.

Realising I may yet again be pregnant was something that I would not, could not let take hold of my reality. The faintest suspicion was expelled to the furthest corners of my consciousness.  Honestly – who has 6 babies and in our case this in total amounts to 7 children!  Who does that sort of thing and why??

Well I can tell you this – not us!

Yes we can be a bit extreme… We try to eat organic food,  we don’t have a TV, we homeschool our children but so do lots of other people. But 7 children – um no!  I mean we discussed this at our pre-marriage sessions – “how many children… “I’m pretty sure that was thrown in there along next to working out a budget, which side of the bed you sleep on and how you going to choose where to spend Christmas. I’m not sure what we decided then but I do know the answer was not 7! We could have pushed 3. But 7 was never part of the reality,  the plan or what we imagined to be our life.  Yet here we are today holding the miracle of our 6th baby!

So why have another baby, why choose to wander along this path less traveled, why take on all this controversy when you can choose not to?

Well as I lie here looking at this 6th little baba…  reflecting upon the last 12 years…  What has been and what could have been…. all I hear wafting through my thoughts are the words of the old hymn writer, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long..’”

Having 6 babies doesn’t boil down to a debate at to whether this is the right or wrong way to live or if having a big family is a good or bad thing – instead it simply boils down to that this is Our Story, Our Song – our path that needs to lead to none other than simple daily praise of our Savior.

As with all stories and songs they have good parts and bad parts, pieces that flow in perfect harmony as well as discord and sadness. Parts are often clear, perfect and beautiful but other times they are murky and ugly. So why 6 babies? Honestly – I can’t give an answer -  instead all I can say is that this baby girl is an integral part of our story and song, which exists for no other purpose than to sing praise to our “Saviour all the day long.”

Gone is the head light terror that wrapped itself upon my soul at the realisation of yet another little person.  The fear of family and society,  the fear of finance, the fear of health and well being have all faded into simplistic, undiluted awe.  An awe beyond our wildest dreams.  An awe in which another little treasure has mysteriously found her way into this world.  A baby girl that brings with her our next chapter but also her own story and song.  One of which is still to be written but we have already seen the prelude to.  What an honour,  what a privilege to be apart of this tapestry that so often looks messy and incomplete. A jumble of confusion filled with dirty clothes and dishes,  left over toast, arguing children,  burnt supper and frazzled patents  -  and yet each of these threads are pulling together. The radiant happy yellow, the fear of red, trouble of brown, glow of pink rosiness – becoming intertwined, wrapped together,  creating one picture on one page in the story of our world, a page dedicated to our family,  our story and our song.  Stepping back only then does one see just how clearly, altogether the patterns intertwine into something that will sing the praise of our Savior all the day long.

So yes 7 children it is! Not planned but instead predestined by the master designer.  A plan bigger than ourselves,  stretched beyond our intentions or expectations, a plan marked out before our conception. So this may seem messy and unrehearsed. Filled with moments of hysterical laughter and blistered feet.  But walk with us as we live this story and song that is being written not by us by one who holds the script close to His heart, revealing to us only one scene at a time….

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Reaching Out

This morning began with a flurry of baking at 6am – just because this Mama ain’t so organised to have her cookies baked before ;) By 9am we were dashing up the highway and by 11:30 we were heading home with hearts full not only with having blessed others but knowing our gifts had been used to bless others.

Today our group of homeschoolers got together to partake in our annual “reaching out” to the elderly day. It is such a simple concept that as one old lady said to me as we walked out, it allowed her “to live again today!”

We simply make a time to go to an old age home and each child performs a simple item. It maybe a poem, song, dance, musical piece or anything they’d like to do. We then hand out little packets of biscuits that we bring along for each resident. So simple and yet so life giving to these people.

I was so proud of my little people for all they did:

Kadin played his violin 20141003_095811

Nate recited “Ozymandias”

Joy-Summer recited “Shall I Compare thee to a summers day”

Lily-Grace sang “Joyful Joyful” 20141003_100334 (please click on this link was just too sweet!!)

and all 5 of them sang “Little boxes”

No it was not perfect, yes they forgot words and went out of tune BUT that was just it! Today was NOT about us and how well we could pull off a show it was simply about blessing someone else by stepping out and sharing a little bit of what makes us who we are with those around us! The result being that not only were they blessed but every child came home feeling that bit more confident, proud that they were able to share a bit of themselves with someone else!

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Eternal Spring Flowers

Looking for  a fun, easy yet effective spring craft… I stumbled upon se7en’s cardboard spring flowers.

They were so simply and we had such fun making them.

We simply had to outline on cardboard with a permanent market, paint in the spaces,

Cut them out and stick a kebab stick on the back.

And voila we had a beautiful bunch of happy flowers!

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Being Mom – at Home

1am this morning was not what I expected 1am to look like. It began with Amber-Mai crying and before long she began throwing up – again, and again and again – every 15 min or half hour for the rest of the night. During which time Nate joined her in their midnight adventure. Dozing in and out of broken sleep I was dreading the first rays of dawn…

The day did however unfold in the most gentle way. Em rushed off to write an exam and Kadin had to go to a 2 hour violin rehearsal, Amber-Mai fell asleep and Nate lay relaxing on the couch.

Nate not up to doing anything today.

Poor girl – not even a clean sheet left for her to sleep on.

So suddenly I, Mom of 6, found myself alone with the twins. Interestingly they had decided to pretend they were going to school for the day and were needing a snack for their lunch boxes. So we grabbed the moment and the 3 of us quickly cooked up a storm! What a special time it was cooking alongside these special girls – with no interruptions! We made the most delicious fudge-choc biscuits and they designed their own colourful treats.

While we measured and mixed I managed to squeeze in an impromptu “lesson” on how to work out half and quarter cups. They were fascinated that 2 halves really filled the 1 cup and that 2 quarters made a half etc… We then mixed only red, yellow and blue dough before I had to rush out to fetch Kadin and they were left to create orange, purple and green dough. Hmm, suppose that counts for art ;)

The twins then had the most delightful picnic outside in the fresh spring sun – with their “school” lunch boxes – while I dashed around sorting lunch and other children needing me again.

Nate looking for something to do sat reading a whole reader and listened to Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery – before he fell asleep too. The day was spent juggling medicine, dry toast, meals and snacks for my healthy kids, saving cookies from the hot oven, rushing to extra-murals, checking temps and yet the day was one of the most peaceful we have encountered in ages. We did so many things we never get around to doing – the boy even played a board game together this afternoon.

Maybe it was because all else – outside the home – had to fade away and I was forced to focused purely on the immediate needs of my family.

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Finding Spring

This winter has been an exceptionally hard one. It has been bitterly cold – at least for this one Mama it has been – so many long dark days. I am sure the sun did shine many more times than I saw but it was not a fun few months. Having grown up in a lush green suburb that never really felt winter, living now in a place shaded only in brown and dusty yellow, split by streaks for fire burned black, winter bites the depths of my soul. Finding joy in winter is something I need to daily dig really deep to discover!

So spring has been so anticipated, I’ve longed for the longer warm days, to once again walk bare foot upon soft green shaded grass, to watch ducklings scoot across the pond as the weavers noisily build their cozy nests. To be greeted each morning my the sparrows chatter and each evening by the sweet fragrance of jasmine.

The 1 September – the day we use to celebrate the unofficial start of spring – is greatly anticipated in our home. The table is laid beautifully, flowers are collected and then we sit down to sweet fellowship and delicious food. Strangely, as much as spring was anticipated this year, I never really saw it coming. Having gone to bed far too late the night before and then woken far too early by a little person on this special morning, I was already not in the mood for Monday long before dawn! As the fog of sleep lifted slightly I realised it was 1 September and instead of the exuberant enthusiasm I felt only the cold of winter dig into my morning soul. No blissful joy that usually wraps this day only the thought of yet another thing to have to pull off! Yet, in true Mom sense, I rose to the occasion and began to look cheery and bright, yet my heart still clung to the darkest of winter’s days. I helped dash around the garden gathering flowers and quickly bake fresh scones, yet my heart was far from the enthusiasm of the new life represented on this day.

Eventually the candles were lit and we were all seated around the table, heads silently bowed in prayer. It was then that Peace arrived. Silently it invaded the corners of my soul. The flowers, the sweet smell of fresh scones, the warm smiles, homely laughter, candles flickering sure, strong and white…. The next half hour was spent reading poetry as well as many funny attempts of trying to remember spring poems from years gone by. Time stood still as we simply stopped to celebrate life.

Suddenly Dad needed to get to work and school needed to be started and it was time to clear up and move along yet my soul had begun to thaw. In the busy blur of yet another Monday, school, extra murals, friends, dentists and new guinea pigs spring begun to take root.

So often we push through to create special memories and events for our children and yet today I discovered that the pushing through today was in fact for me. And as Mom finds spring she’ll lead the way for others to follow and how blessed I am to have a houseful of little people to walk down this path beside me, encouraging me to keep on.


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Grapefruit Lollies

Hmmm – as uninviting as they sound my children have made an awesome discovery! Grapefruit Lollies! Well actually they were at a friend on Monday who introduced them to the idea so naturally on Tuesday we had to spend the morning making them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea it to basically peel and cut grapefruit into thirds or quarters,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll it in as much sugar as Mom will give you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stick in a wooden stick, lay on a baking tray and freeze over night.

And voila you have grapefruit lollies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can imagine these going down really well on a hot summer day. Just how to store them till then. Will need to give that some thought!

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Parenting For Eternity

Someone recently posted a blog asking parents how they discipline, train and disciple their children. So many answers, so many opinions, so many philosophies – most totally contradicting one another – my head was swimming! So how do we know what is right? What are the chances of us doing a “good job” in raising children that not only “behave well” but children who choose to do what is right, even when they don’t feel like it, just because it is right. How do we raise children to think of and consider others before themselves? Children who have an undying, personal love for God, the earth and those around them, Children who are passionate and expressive, strong yet compassionate and gentle?

Honestly I don’t know!

But…

I know someone who does! Someone who not only knows all these answers but also knows each of my children personally. For this reason I do believe that the biggest, most important investment I made into parenting my children wasn’t buying the latest jungle gym or saving for a dream holiday but rather seeking my heavenly father for wisdom in raising the little people he has put into our care. Through the years He has gently guided, encouraged, rebuked and corrected our parenting and we have learned so many valuable lessons along the way.

So what I’ll share with you here are a few things we have found to be fundamental to parenting our children…

I remember, when our first child was a baby, hearing someone say that they did not allow fighting in their home. This took made me so a double take. Made me sit up an listen. Made me stop and consider all I knew about family, siblings and raising children. “Not allow it!?” As I processed this information I began to realise that as parents we are given our homes to “have dominion over”, to rule and reign. We have the right to determine the atmosphere, the attitudes, expectations and out play of bevaiour with this space we had been given dominion over. With this in mind we set out to determine what we wanted to have our family and home look like.We set high expectations for our children with regards to their bahaviour and attitudes toward one another. One of these is that our speech is to always be full of grace – love, forgiveness, patience and understanding.

Now setting the expectations and obtaining them were 2 separate things and in different seasons, for different children working towards them has meant different approaches. Ultimately when they are very little it meant removing them from a room, or sitting looking at a wall, till they could chose to talk nicely, chose to be kind or chose to change their attitude. As they became older and now knew the expectations we would ask them to “try again” when they used a harsh tone or were mean to someone else. This also often came hand in hand with role play and practicing how they will behave in a situation.

This set them up with a picture in their head of what was an appropriate response rather than just disciplining or punishing them for “being naughty” – leaving them with no idea on how to rectify their behaviour.

As the years have rolled by many situations have simply been spoken through. With the older children we have discussed how you respond when a friend leaves you out or says something hurtful. How to ensure a new child feels accepted in a group or that the boy who scores his own goal in soccer is not made to feel embarrassed. These discussions have once again set them up with an appropriate, loving response rather than leaving them to figure it out all on their own.

I remember hearing years later of another family who would not allow their children to entertain the idea of being a “teenager” due to the connotations, expectations and liberation this word presented but that they would rather become a “young adult” – an adult in training. This immediately changed the expected behavior and attitude of the child from one of reckless, selfishness to one of responsibility and maturity. With this in mind we started speaking of these things with our young children so that by the time they reach 13 they know what the expectation is of them. They look forward to being embraced into the “adult” world and their behaviour grows into this expectation.

God obviously also plays a vital role in all this as our children look to Him as their guide and as their personal relationship with him grows so does their desire to live in a way that honours him.

So no we don’t have all the answers and don’t always get things right. Yet we have learned, through God’s wisdom and guidance, that parenting is not about discipline but rather exception and then training, discipleship and mentoring a child into becoming all they were made to be.

 

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Coming Home

Nagging and Nagging. Deliberate disobedience! Fighting. Arguing. Nastiness. I could no longer recognise my home. As I escaped to do some shopping I found myself walking the aisles dreading going back home. What had happened? After 12 years how could everything so quickly have fallen apart? How could my sweet, helpful children be the same people as these back lashing, nasty creatures that had slipped into our life?

Pacing up and down the pasta aisle my fervent prayers we met with a still, honest answer. I had neglected Being Mom. As much as I didn’t want to hear the truth I chose to look into the cold eyes of reality and take stock of my heart and focus in life. As I pushed the trolley past the milk I realised that unless I “came home” not only physically but emotionally too I would be setting out to “tear down my house.”

It wasn’t as if I had neglected my children. I spent almost every hour of every day with them and yet – when I chose to see the truth – even in being with them I had been absent. We have had the awesome privilege of setting up a homeschool learning centre. This has been an amazing adventure that we as a family had embarked upon as a ministry and we stand in awe of how God has used it to affect so many people’s lives. My children loved coming to do school at the centre. They had so much fun playing with the other children and all the art and crafts, science experiments and great things we offer there. I was there with them all morning. So how could anything have really changed?

Yet how silently and quickly the downward spiral had descended upon us! The symptoms I was now desperately trying to escape from were in fact my children desperately crying out not just for their mom to be around be for her to be present and her heart to be beating alongside theirs.  As I slowed my trolley I knew the truth. Yes I had been physically present with them but my focus had been on the other children. Always pushing my own aside, telling them I’d help them later at home – a later which in fact never came. With us rushing out in the morning we no longer sat and savoured breakfast. The afternoons were a flurry of extra murals. By the evening I was prepping for the next day – time only for bath, supper and bed. No stories or snuggle time. Mom was stretched beyond and having so many people relying on her she let her own slip between her fingers.

In a haze I left the shop and silently began the journey home. My mind full of all that now needed to take place for me to once again return home. God in his love and grace speedily sent me two amazing facilitators to run with lessons at the facilitation centre. They have been such a blessing and have done such a marvelous job. With that I was able to quickly return home. Back to lengthy breakfasts, one on one reading and maths lessons with my weaker children, stories outside in the sun, cuddles when a knee or heart was sore. Healthy food once again began to appear on our table and within days all the nastiness disappeared. Yes, my children do still fight and they still don’t clean their rooms when asked but those things were always there. It’s the grating, antagonising and deliberate disobedience that has all vanished as a vapour that never was.

This Mommy has now learned the truth of Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” And by keeping God close by my side I do trust to keep walking in wisdom.

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Let’s Vote

Today was a special day here in South Africa – it was time to once again vote for the people we see fit to lead our nation.

20 years ago we stood before a land mark decision for South Africa to become a nation in which all are recognised, acknowledged and valued. The past 20 years have faced many challenges. There have been many amazing advances forward but still many disappointments and disillusionment have filled many, many lives. So today as we look upon yet once again a restless nation we all fell hopefully empowered to yet once again help make a difference in this beautiful land.

Our children have not missed the hype and excitement building up around them. Time spent in the car, at breakfast and dinner have been bristling with discussions about different parties, what makes a good president, how one votes and how having a seat in parliament works. Today we were able to take our children with us to vote, they were allowed to stand in the hall and watch how it all came together. Their excitement has been so tangible all day. So yes this vote of ours today may mark a change in South Africa’s history or it may not. It did however begin a shift my children’s minds and hearts toward their love for our land, their future right to vote, their voice in the country, their place as adult citizens and how they too have a responsibility to make a difference in the future of this amazing country.

This could not have been summed better than just after we voted Nate comes to us and says, “When I”m an adult I won’t be voting – because people will be voting for me!”

Nate’s own political party’s badge – Rainbow Nation Freedom

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