Our Story Our Song Day 21 – Day 26 – Settling In

Tuesday 2 March – Sunday 5 March

20170305_081801 20170305_121909 20170305_124836 20170302_085328The next few days were spent establishing some sort of routine and settling in a bit after almost a month on the road. Our 4 older children moved into our tent while the younger 2 and ourselves moved into our friend’s bush lapa. What a luxury this off road caravan is! We had our own fridge, freezer and gas stove! Our stay in the bush lapa was certainly one that we would recommend to others! Garden living took sometime to get used to but we soon managed to settle our normal routines into a very different setting.

One real joy and blessing of homeschooling is that the children can easily adapt to a new – very different – environment and just pick up with life from where we left off. I had a good smile though when after breakfast they all asked to please be excused from the mat!

It is however a beautiful thing to see what we read Charlotte Mason tell us about year ago being played out now. We read how she insisted it was very important to work on one habit at a time and to lay down firm rails into a child’s life so that these habits would be established throughout life. So we began. Teaching them to make their beds, fold washing, be kind, talk nicely, ask to be excused, how to sweep, how to wipe a table, to complete their work, read their bibles, pray every morning and so on and so on. So often I felt we were wasting our time and effort. Yet I hear my heavenly father utter the same words – “train up a child in the way he shall go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yet here in a different time and space I am watching with awe as my children are actually doing these things on their own.

My heart sang

With us not all sleeping in the same space and there being so many garden and friend distractions we have found it difficult settling in and have family bible times. This was really concerning me and then we started chatting in the car and the children all began to tell me what they had read that morning on their own. Yay. My heart sang. Yes family bible time is so important and still a corner stone in our family. Yet here I’m seeing that I no longer need to hold their hands so tightly and be responsible for their spiritual growth. Those years of encouraging them to read on their own and valuing that in our home has now allowed them to begin to walk their spiritual growth with God themselves. And they don’t need to wait for me to bring them water to drink… they know how to go to the father on their own!

Divine provision

On Wednesday we realised that our car brakes had been making a funny noise. So Neil took the car in to sort those out and we found that they needed to be repaired immediately (eeekkk R1500 cash suddenly required) but we knew we had to have it done. The next hour Neil gets a call with someone wanting to give us R1000! How amazing is this God that we serve! Not having the car for a day was a blessing in itself as it meant we could all settle down and just gather ourselves.

We took time to visit the Castle – which we had been learning about in history, as well as the water front.20170303_114918
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We went for a Saturday morning walk along St James beach with friends and then spent the day on Fish Hoek beach. I honestly didn’t realise how much we love being at the beach!

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We visited a church on Sunday and had a picnic in Tokai forest with my cousin in the forest on Sunday afternoon before being treated with a roast for supper back at “home.”

A somewhat busy but yet calmer week in that we had a base to come back to each day. I must say that I’m constantly loving the how going on a trip such as this, and emerging yourselves into people’s everyday lives has really deepened and strengthened relationships and friendships – within our own family and with people we didn’t know that well before –  in such a forever way.

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The Odd Sock Fallacy

So I have tried to ensure that all 7 of our children not only have socks – without any holes – but that they actually have socks that match. So often I’ve been tempted to grab two pinkish socks and declare them a pair. But yet even in this I know the truth – that if anyone were to have a close look, they would see… odd socks.

socksWe don’t just have a few odd socks lying around, we have an odd sock box!  Oh I have tried it all. I have even tried pinning the socks together in the wash. This not only resulted in me spending my precious time now untangling pins from socks but we now had holes in the socks too.

Yet something keep welling up within – what will others think if they see that my kids socks don’t match? Will they not begin to question what else has unraveled within our home?

Odd socks today and rebellious teenagers tomorrow!

I have however just realised, that in the busyness of our present reality my diligence in the sock department has somewhat slacked in the last while. And to my horror I noticed one of my children at a church meeting with odd socks! But not just odd socks as in two blue socks that weren’t quite the same.

No these were odd socks!

As in one was maroon and the other white with some cartoon character upon it. I must have looked like a fish staring at her feet but when I finally yanked my stare away – oh my – I noticed that the 16 year old next to her also had on odd socks! Slowly the reality, the truth of the situation sank in. She was wearing odd socks and yet their home was not falling apart and these teenagers are some of the most awesome people I know.

It was as if scales had fallen from my eyes.

What else had I perceived as being reality and yet there had been placed over my eyes a warped hue of untruth. I see people’s clothes, homes, cars, holidays and Facebook realities and somehow feel like I know them and are able to contain them within some kind of box and yet the truth is that I cannot define anyone by the colour of their socks.

So as I’m learning to be gentle upon myself and not place my expectations beyond my reality I’m beginning to have grace with those around me too. So please don’t judge my effectiveness as Mommy on my children’s sock co-ordination. In the bigger scheme of life I’m choosing to lay down this battle for sock perfection and instead be real.

No I don’t have everything under control, no I don’t rush out to buy new clothes when a hole is torn climbing a tree, not I can’t stay up every night darning socks and warn knees….

20150117_065840But I can love my children beyond their wildest dreams, pray with them and tuck them in at night, I can chase and tickle them and run around the garden catching falling leaves or stand in awe of a butterfly. I can honestly say that odd socks are no longer able to define me! Instead they are able to free me to see that there is in fact more to this crazy life than being perceived to be a perfect mom. Instead I want to be real and revel in the freedom of odd socks!

Creativity Feeds Off Life Experience

One of the most frustrating experiences, as an educator is when you are trying to encourage creativity and imagination and the children are simply not engaging with you. The first few times one goes home and relooks at the lesson plan. Was it too boring? Was it above their heads? Did I expect too much of them?

However when one stops and reworks the lesson, going through it step by step, scrutinising why the creativity simply did not flow one realises that the failure did not lie in the lesson planning but rather within the child’s life experience.

More times than not a child will be asked to describe something interesting that happened to them recently and their response is, “I did go to the mall.” On further prompting and questioning they may add, “We did eat there.” One can keep digging and ask them to explain what they heard, tasted, saw and such and so try to make more of the experience. However most have been there so often for so many weekends doing the same thing over and over that they cannot in fact remember anything very specific as it all merges into the rest of their weekend memories.

A teacher is able to take items to a classroom and ask a child to feel them and write about it or the class may visit a farm and record the experience. However this is very limiting and a child cannot rely on someone always providing a structured, scheduled experience from which they will gain their creativity juices.

As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that our children are exposed to a vast array of situations, places, people and experiences. As they interact with a variety of age groups and visit many places the child is absorbing and processing vast amounts of information. They are experiencing physically and emotionally all sorts of new feelings with which they are now able to connect their creativity.

Our time with our children is so precious and short that we need to specifically choose to partake in activities that will not only form lasting memories but ones that will ignite a passion and fire within their souls. As passion that will overflow into their creativity.

It is obviously much easier to spend our spare time with our children at the mall or letting the children play computer games all weekend. The reality however is that parenting is not easy and often we need to make a conscious choice to choose to do something we may not naturally be inclined to do. However when we choose to stomp through a forest on a rainy day or go catch tadpoles, take a trip to the old age home, play a soccer game in the back yard we are not only keeping our children busy but we are reaching their hearts. This is fundamental, not only in the building of our relationship with them but to connect their emotions and hearts to a world beyond themselves and their needs. As our children reach out and engage with the world, other places and other people they form emotional connections that light the creative spark within. Suddenly they find they do have an opinion, they do have story to tell and they want to contribute to the world of creativity.

So let’s all take up the challenge and ensure that at least once a week our children are made aware of something around them that causes them to question, makes them wonder, thrills them to the core or simply engages their senses in a new and invigorating way. In so doing we are priming our children to create.

 

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Everyday Mommying

When I was growing up and I spoke or thought about the future for some reason I assumed I’d have children but never thought of myself as a Mommy. For that reason I never gave much thought to what being a Mommy would entail. Many times being Mommy involves cuddling, reading books or discovering another natural beauty with our children.

On other days however  – or should I say on most days – it’s actually about food, clothes, cuts, tears, lost items, irritated siblings and stuff (everything from old toast to ballet tutus to my handbag contents) strewn from one end of the house to another. You feed the tribe, tidy the kitchen only to hear a little voice say, “Mom, what can I eat?” Once the kitchen is finally sorted you find that the teeth cleaning turned into washing the bath – and walls – with the toilet brush. An art activity results in the dining room table having glitter glued to it – on purpose or the paint brushes have all the bristles eaten off before they get to even start painting. Need I continue?

Today was one of these “normal” Mommy days. It was hard and I’m not proud to say that when the kitchen floor was flooded, everyone had wet their last dry tracksuit pants in the rain, I had tripped over yet another dress up item, someone asked for food and then I was faced with a toilet incident I wasn’t a very nice Mommy. BUT thank you God for the TV and especially for the creation of the movie Heffalump! Needless to say it was watched twice!

I realised that as long as I had this cozy picture of what the day could have been: sitting snuggling with books in front of the fire everything went from bad to worse. I hate using the TV to babysit but today that was good Mommying. I had to take stock of my capacity, where the day was heading and what I was becoming. Yes I did contemplate trying to sit down and read to everyone but they were all irritating each other and I knew it would just agitate. So I stopped trying to strive toward the fantastical and managed to eventually literally live minute by minute.

So even though I gave little thought to being Mommy when I was growing up – the pictures I had conjured didn’t look anything like today did but I got through it and at bedtime my almost 9yr old boy called me back 3 times saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong but I just need to hug you some more.” Hmmm – maybe he too had a hard day but I was too busy with the clutter to notice?

Finding Spring

I’ll never forget spring 2010.

Evey year, as a family, we hold a spring celebration on 1 September. The spring of 2010 posed a huge problem, there were no signs of spring anywhere. Not a flower bloomed and not a new shoot showed. How does one celebrate something that does not exist? Well spring of 2010 found us talking to the tree, telling them it wa time to wake up now and we hung to the promise of what was to come. And oh the rejoicing when spring did find its way into our homes. This year has been entirely different in that our garden had been bursting with colour and life since August and so we felt our spring celebration to be a bit late but we still used the time to thank God for the beauty he chose to surround us with.

These two contrasting springs have spoken to me very deeply as a mother, wife and woman. At times life is hard, it’s dry we always seem to be fighting against the stream and we see no beauty in our daily chores or what we spend our days doing. Sometimes money is tight, relationships are strained, children seem impossible or work is all-consuming. At these times we are hardly likely to see spring bursting around us! I have however learned that at these times we need to look into these dry branches of our existence and whisper hope and expectation. Beneath every wintered tree lies a green branch busy storing energy and life so that at the perfect moment it not only gives out a little blush of green, no it burst forth in colour and life. So in these hard times we need to cling to the hope that lies below the surface.

In the same manner other times in our life are so filled with blessing, happiness and wellness tat we are actually at the risk o not noticing or appreciating the spring surrounding us. It’s in these times that we need to ensure we don’t take the “little things” in life for granted, but to instead stop and be thankful.

So on a personal note from our dry winter f 2011 God has provided us with a wonderful new home, my husband has been offered an awesome job 5 minutes from our new house and we have been placed within a new church family. Out of the dry branches has sprung forth life and life abundantly

Winter 2011

The last three months have been probably some of the most difficult months we’ve lived through. (Hence the reason for the lack of blogs.) Winter not only invaded our garden but our hearts and minds too.

During this time we felt a certainty that it was time for us to move from our out-of-town country home to a small suburb our closest city. So in May we began packing. By June we’d found a home and on 1 July we were booked for the big move! At this time I was overwhelmed with kids birthdays, boxes, meals and general chaos. In our 11 and a half years of marriage this would be our 10th move so I thought I had it all pretty taped. Granted we hadn’t moved in the last 5 years and we had gone from 1 to 5 children in this time – but still I thought it would be a breeze.

On the day of the move besides the fact that we still had boxes to pack and children to sort out my husband was called in by his office and retrenched!

Let’s back track here. Reason 1 for our move: to save petrol on travelling to his work – which he now doesn’t have! Reason 2 for our move: We’ve calculated that on his salary we can just afford to cover the cost of the new house and the old one till it is sold or rented out – he now has no salary! At this point we had truly stepped into the winter of not only 2011 but the winter of our lives.

How we got through July? I can only say it was by God’s grace. I must however digress here to share with you an amazing story of God’s grace and provision. The day after my hubby was retrenched he went online to pay his accounts and noticed that there was too much money in his account. On investigation he noticed that Oxford – for whom he’d written a text-book 5 years previously, had just paid him the equivalent of half a month’s salary! Hmmm, why now, five years later? Was God keeping that money for the exact day and time we would really need it? Wow this retrenchment was maybe not an accident, maybe God had something to do with it. So funny we humans are, just like the Israelites who were taken out of Egypt we forget so soon that God is involved – even if we don’t like it, want it or care. Even so the month of July was an emotionally, spiritually and physically a very challenging time.

Why am I writing this in my Mommymemo blog? Well just because we were walking through a desolate winter didn’t mean that I was no longer Mommy, no indeed I still had to meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of my children and husband. Parenting is often painted in this rosy glow – well this had nothing rosy about it. We are all humans and this was a season of quick tempers, little patience, rushed Bible stories and toast for almost every meal. It was also a season of quick forgiveness, many prayers and tears and lots of quick hugs and cuddles. You see our children need to know that we are real people – no, it is wrong to lash out and become angry with each other but sometimes we do and then it’s not about what we shouldn’t have done but rather what are we going to do about it. Do we forgive, stand together as a family and hold one another up?

Just like winter has stripped summer of all its glory so we were stripped to our cores but so too does winter hold the odd beauty of a sunrise or special touch such as snow we saw beauty in God’s faithfulness and provision and protection in such a desperate time of need.

Taking Forever Pictures

Today we attended Art in the Park. An event that gathers together the top artists in South Africa and they sell their art work in a park. As it’s autumn it’s the park is covered in leaves and it is a beautiful outing.

I always go home feeling inspired and uplifted. Today however I realised something else. I realised that the pictures that really pull at my heart are not the pictures painted by these wonderful artists. Instead it is the forever pictures painted within my mind. The pictures of my children playing in the leaves, my wonderful hubby reading Bible stories at bed time, my girls putting their dolls to bed and a family picnic at the dam.

So I didn’t come home with any paintings (which would have cost me a few thousand rands) instead I have a my own new personal gallery. It includes a picture of my son playing his violin beneath the autumn leaves and my 3 year olds grinning up at me squinting through their new sunglasses. All of which cost me nothing more than taking the time to notice.

Just a day in the life of Mommy

Rain falling

As I look around my kitchen this morning I shudder to what any stranger walking in would think. As I turn around I see play dough, orange skins, dirty dishes, workbooks, my laptop balanced on a corner flickering information on making paper from a mulberry tree – hmm interesting info but don’t think we’ll get to do that today… or ever… I see pencils and magnets scattering the floor, papers strewn across the kitchen table and three of our 5 little people scrambling on and under the table.

As I tune into the noise I hear “Mom I need an orange, Mom my sister has my crayon, Mom she drew on my page, Mom this mulberry paper is so cool, Mom I need  you to help me do this work….”  It’s raining outside – has been for the last 3 days and it’s predicted to rain for the next two. Suddenly I’m feeling overwhelmed and as the rain falls outside “I can’t do this” soaks through my skin.

Yesterday I was sick in bed so today everyone really needs me! We tried reading books earlier but the energy levels were through the roof. We’ve done some book work, we’ve done our maths and I’m not up to doing crafts today – I don’t feel like being Mommy right now! No, I’m not Super Mom. I’m just a mommy and right now I just want to escape!

Pitter,patter, splash it’s still raining. I look outside and see my seedlings I bought at the garden show desperate to be planted. Pitter, patter, splash a good Mommy would never let her kids get soaked in the rain! Pitter, patter, splash they would all need to stay inside safe and warm.

Changing from my warm clothes into shorts I grab my raincoat, not taking time to find shoes I dash out into the garden. As an after thought I yell back, “It’s wet out here no one is to follow me!” As I work the soil with rain pelting down my back, my feet and hands covered in fresh, wet soil I hear the cries and chaos resonating inside the house. I see a face poke out into the rain and quickly send them trotting back indoors. Out here I am free to reconnect with the earth, my thoughts, God and life.

As the last tomatoes and peppers are planted I know with satisfaction I have at least one job well done today. As the rain continues to pour onto these new seedlings they are receiving better nourishment than any tap water will ever give them. Cold and ready to return indoors I take one quick trip around the house to see my son’s new baby pigeons – that hatched while I was sick in bed yesterday. I’m just in time to see the mommy rearrange her feathers and an ugly chick wiggle his way back under her warm protection. So special.

Wet and now freezing yet rejuvenated and revitalised I can return to my orange peels and “Mom, Mom,Mom…” knowing that even if we spend the rest of the day watching movies I have at least got one job done well and I am content to just be Mommy and let the day go on as it pleases.

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