Mirrors of Me

Deep in conversation with my 7 year old, my attention was suddenly diverted to my ever busy 2 year old.  She was suddenly unusually quiet and standing dead still.  Oh my how  we laughed.  She was standing between my 7 year old and I with her arms crossed imitating the exact posture of her big sister. What an amazing teaching opportunity arose for me to demonstrate to my older daughter that little people will copy us whether we like it or not.

Recently I have been hearing more and more stories of children displaying behaviour which includes the children using sarcasm or humour but the underlying message results in them becoming really mean to others, not only to their peers but to their parents as well. Yes there are many times when the root of this behavioue is obvious.  The child has been bullied or is working through a difficult period in live such as a divorce or death in the family.  Yet there are times when parents and teachers are left baffled, pondering where this attitude – that often comes across as cute in a 3 year old but as something very unpleasant in a 10 year old – could possibly have arrived from?

I will never forget when as a new mom I was deeply concerned about my 7 month old son.  He had just cut his first two teeth and he kept biting his lip. With these tiny munchers he managed to cut his lip quite badly. The clinic sister adviced what cream to use but we were at a loss how to stop this habit he had formed. A few weeks later, whilst driving to work, I looked into the rearview mirror and what did I see? I was biting my bottom lip!  Oh my, without knowing it the stess of Mommyhood had been kept well under tap and yet it was leaking out in this new habit and our baby boy was copying it!

If we begin dig down into the archives of  our memories and dust off the cobwebs, looking back at the life of a child. You will recall that when only a few weeks old, your baby mimiced a tongue being stuck out. By a few months they would copy sounds that you made. They smile when you smile and clap as you clap. Your child will learn to speak the language you speak, dress how you dress and will usually participate in the religion and social activities such as sport or music that their family values.

Again and again I have heard of a child who is adopted or lives with a step parent  be told how much they look like this parent. The reality is that they often don’t look any thing alike instead, the child so closely mimics the adult’s mannerisms that it actually presents itself as the parent and child looking a like. Humour, vocabulary, a gait, attitude to work and all other behaviours are not born with but instead learnt from those around us. The way we walk and talk was not chosen but rather picked up over years and years of subconsciously immitating those around us.

Looking back at our sweet, little person who is developing this nasty streak that has baffeled parents and teachers alike. Could the cure lie not in psychology or medication but instead a good look at who they are spending time with? It may well be other children – often older than themselves – books they are reading, computer games they are playing or movies they are watching. Or it may even be coming from home.  Most of us consider our homes and especially ourselves as being no threat to our precious little people.  Yet as I learnt with our baby boy, they are watching us all the time. Often we mean no harm and yet a simple expression of our stress, a reaction to a car driving too slowly or the irritation with the morning routine, is infact instilling within our children attitudes and habits for life. They don’t understand or appreciate that we are in a stressful situation or that our sarcasm is simply a form of humour.

So as difficult and as unpleasant as it is, when our children begin displaying distasteful behaviours, attitudes, reactions or mannerisms – before we start pointing fingers let us take the time to look at ourselves and see if infact a few adjustments in our attitudes or habits need to be honed. They see and hear all that we do and as much as I tell my children to do as I say and not as I do, they just keep copying me!

AAAAHHH – My Ears Hurt

A quiet moment snapped between the craziness of life. A moment of pure uninterrupted thought. A moment, a mere spell of seconds or maybe an hour – until Mom is once again on call. Who would have ever thought of the pure blissful joy of meagre silence, of a consecutive string of orderly thought, being a sanctuary of sanity?  Silence – coherent and my mind fully attentive upon the task at hand I can breathe, once again finding a glimpse of myself!

Before becoming Mom, I had known the stress and strain facing a parent. The sleepless nights, homework, paying more to dine out, as well as being responsible for another person. Never however had I realised that my biggest parenting hurdle was going to be the many little voices in my head. The voice needing some milk, the one telling me they need the loo, the voice arguing over a toy, the voice wanting to know where they left their jacket. So often….. aaaahhhhh…. STOP! My ears – they hurt.

Parenting and raising these little people takes us by surprise. The surprise of our greatest difficulties and strains – the least of which we would have considered and the surprise of the joy discovered in learning to tie a shoelace or noticing a flower in the breeze. Or the pure bliss of silence.

A silence that feeds one deep into the spirit, a silence that warms the soul and draws one out, empowers one to look up and see the warm rays once again. The silence that equips one to breath long and deep, long and deep…. raising one back to your former self. Equipping and enabling one to once again rise up and take up the baton of Mom.

The solitude clears the fog, washes clear the perspective. It enables one to once again hear through the clutter of the needs and wants to the pure, undiluted, “I love yous.”

So Mom when all the little voices are briefly silent, for that brief fleeting moment, grasp the silent reprieve – drink deep, breath deep – fill your Being. Then once again the voices bombard but in them you are able to hear. Hear with clarity not only the need and want but the truth. “I need YOU, I want YOU. You are my all. I love you Mom.”

Madgwick Life May – June 2015

I can’t believe how the year is running past and that our little Riley is now 5 months old! She is such a delight to us all. She just smiles and smiles – sometimes so much that she starts to cry!

This last month has been a busy yet fun one. In prep for our pending Kruger trip we have been learning about SA history – a great deal of which I had never been taught or knew about so I think I have been left more educated than the children and quite shattered by our heritage! Non the less a dear friend offered to make our girls these Voortrekker bonnets.  They have been a great hit and were even worn to church and the shops a few times.

A great feat this month has been Lily-Grace and Nate both finally becoming competent on their bikes. This has made riding to soccer and ballet so much more fun and a great deal less stressful for me. I think it’s finally time for me to dust off my bike now too so that I can ride with them.

For 12 years I have wanted to haven an awesome sandpit for the children and finally it is completed. Well we have had it for a while but the children kept filling it with water to make a pool during summer but it finally has sand in it! What an amazing asset this has been.  I wondered the other night busy how dark it would need to get before the girls realised that they should in fact come in. Well they never even seemed to notice until the bats were out and it was getting really cold!

A few Saturdays ago I was working on the balcony when suddenly all was quiet and I saw the little guys lying on the lawn, with their umbrellas reading and I realised that for the first time since September last year we had finally finished moving and building and that we can now just be! Being more relaxed at home I have asked Kadin to take in the other 3 children as his music students.  They working through the piano wizard programme and he is sing a great job. He has also begun giving some violin lessons. I still stand in awe at his musical ability and easily he understands and can teach it all.

The Children have also finally all really settled in our new home. A highlight has been having rabbits, pigeons and chickens to play with and love.


 And Maisy! Well she keeps us on our toes from morning till night there just is never a dull moment when this 2yr old going on 7 is in the room – or should I say especially when she’s off quietly somewhere out of sight! Lily-Grace has also become our in house hairdresser and Amber-Mai loves all the extra attention she is given having her hair styled!

 This month seems to have flown by and yet it has been the first time in a long time that we have finally felt really settled and have really enjoyed just being.

 

 

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 you dare use that chalk on that chalk board!” As the words flew out my mouth, 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?

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.

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.

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….

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!

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.

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.

 

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.

A Mere Breath, A Moment, Breath

To hear the whisper of his voice brush the corners of my soul…

 To Know the One who created the depths of the universe

 cares and loves me enough to guide my every step along life’s way.

 To see the breadth and depth of colour.

 My breath catches – it’s hard to breath.

 Sunlight’s dawn caught upon a misty spider web.

Spider's Web

 My children’s eyes.

 Water: cascading, spilling, splashing upon the ancient rocks.

English: Waterfall

 A single feather. Held, between my mortal fingers.

Feather In Hand

The wonder of a world beneath the silent waves.

 The trust of innocence.

 The firm grasp of a baby fist.

 Autumn leaves – dying beauty…

Autumn Leaves begin to fall-052

 The marvel, the wonder, reaching beyond…

 Transending mind and body – Drenching the soul.

 Erupting beyond the physical – embracing the eternal.

 For every breath…

 -all birthed – and held – within a mere moment –

just breathe…

I am thankful!

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