Holidays, books and decluttering (What I’m into – August 2018)

August is the Month of Flop for me.

In July I’m all motivated for how this summer will actually be heaps more productive than last year’s – but then August comes and goes, and basically we’ve had a lot of fun, broken up a lot of family arguments, found we’ve rarely had a moment to sit down (yet feel strangely refreshed), and are very very glad that the new term is just around the corner.

So forgive me if I don’t fill all the usual categories this month – we’ve been too busy just doing August.

Books

I really enjoyed The Gardener’s Daughter – a brilliant YA mystery by K.A. Hitchins. You can read my review here, so I won’t say any more about it. But congrats to Jenni who won the giveaway!

I’m half-way through The Father’s Kiss (Tracy Williamson), which comes out this Friday, but I’ve been fortunate to get an advance copy as part of Tracy’s launch group, so I’ll be sharing my honest thoughts with you once I’m finished.

So far, though, I’m really enjoying the mix of theology, personal testimony, and prophetic insights. Much food for thought, and I’m excited about the many people who could start to be healed from past wounds as they read and absorb this book’s truths.

Have I intrigued you?! Look out for the giveaway, later this month!

My articles

Image credit: Pixabay

Curious to discover more about my first Hello Fresh experience? Thought you would be. Take a nosey at my comments on Eating, Cooking and Writing for the More than Writers blog.

Home for Good published the first of two articles I’d written on Suffering and Adoption – this one, Looking Suffering in the Eye. Part two to follow soon!

And, as already mentioned, I reviewed The Gardener’s Daughter right here on the blog!

IRL (In Real Life, for the uninitiated. Yeah, I know I’m cool.)

The Horniman Museum
  • Two lovely holidays – one to London (where we didn’t actually step foot in central London once but still had an amazing time!) – and one to the South Coast. Great weather we’ve been having, eh? Even when it’s cooled down, it’s still been about 59 times as good as most British summers.
  • One week of sick bug – Monkey and Meerkat both struck down 😦 Fortunately, this was the last week of the hols, when we were all due a bit of down time anyway!
  • Two lots of family and one lot of friends to stay – the joy of becoming other people’s Holidays!
  • Week 1 of a decluttering plan complete – I hope to blog about this in the future, because I absolutely love it! I received it as part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle back in April, and it’s an absolute godsend! A very easy to follow 20-week plan for decluttering your whole house – and it ACTUALLY SEEMS TO WORK.

The Future

August may not have held much in the way of trying new books, food, music or plays – but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, partly about this blog and my writing in general. Since this ‘What I’m Into’ has been shorter than most, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on what I’ve come up with for the next few months:

  • Rather than attempting two blog posts a week, I’m aiming for one blog post, plus one email (sent on a Friday evening). I’d like to stay in touch with you better!
  • If you don’t receive these emails, please sign up here! It’s not the same as following the blog (where you get an email whenever I publish something new.) These emails are personally written by me, and contain links to other things I’ve written, not just on this blog. When the time comes, it will also be one of the ways I publicise my books, and offer freebies/giveaways/competitions – so please sign up!
  • I’m going to continue to work on my Pinterest account, so please connect with me there if you’re on Pinterest too! If you’re able to share the odd article of mine, I’d be so grateful.
  • Now’s the time for me to investigate ‘proper’ websites for this blog – don’t worry, you won’t be losing Desertmum, but at some point we’ll be moving to a more professional looking site, so that I’m all set up for professional writing.
  • I have two books (one for adults, one for children) in the pipeline, and really hope to be able to share the details with you before too long. Both are finished, but one in particular needs a bit of a push with the publisher, and this term I intend to give it just that!
  • There’ll be a lot of book giveaways this term! I’m just reading SOOOO many good books right now, and excited to be working with a variety of publishers who are keen to offer me books to give to you lovely lot 🙂 The best way of catching them all is to sign up for my mailing list – so what are you waiting for?!

Affiliate disclaimer: affiliate links are used in this post. Click through, like what you see, make a purchase – and I receive a few pence at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s marvellous What I’m Into series! Give her blog a whirl…last month I discovered that GBBO is being shown in the States, and that Leigh is a huge fan!

snow, stevie wonder and nineteenth-century murders (what i’m into – february 2018)

Books3D-COVER-WITH-DEVICE-cropped-267x300 (1).pngThis month, I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful, evocative, thought-provoking and affirming Forever Loved: Eve’s Story – it’s a wonderful book, and the great news for you is that my giveaway is STILL OPEN! Click here to read the review and enter (you have till 11pm Friday night).

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For my Book Club, I’ve been enjoying – albeit rather slowly – The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. It tells the horrific true story of the murder of a young child in 1860, a case which shocked the country and inspired the crime writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. The timing was interesting: detectives had only been around for a few years, and there were high levels of fascination with the mysterious methods they used – they were treated rather like celebrities. Kate Summerscale tells the story with her own perceptive observations throughout, combining the newspaper articles, letters and other evidence of the day with modern hindsight.

I’m not finding it easy to skim, so it’s taking me a while and I haven’t finished yet, but I totally intend to complete it, especially as March’s book is one I’ve already read!

20180301_144151[1]And I’m still going with the above holy trinity of interesting books – I read the top one daily, the middle one weekly, and the bottom one monthly. More on that here.

Food

Sad news: I’ve given up chocolate for Lent. It was a necessary thing to cut out of my diet. When you can’t get past the 10am mark without reaching for Something, then that Something has to go. Quite honestly, if I were drinking as much alcohol as I was eating chocolate, my kids would be taken away from me.

Actually, it hasn’t been as hard as I imagined. I’ve even manage to make a double batch of brownies this week and not eaten so much as a crumb! I feel the ‘all or nothing’ approach works for me – I wouldn’t have been able to reduce my intake, but cutting it out altogether has actually been OK. And yes, I’ve substituted with crisps and other bits, but I’m loosening the grip chocolate has on me, ridiculous though that sounds.

And, of course, I’m fully intending to return to chocolate on Easter Sunday – although hopefully in better proportions!

Music

It was my BIRTHDAY this month! Which, even as an adult, is quite exciting. A schoolfriend and I have a tradition going back probably 20 years at least, where we always buy each other CDs for birthdays. The world has become increasingly digital around us, but we still insist on CDs. This year, he got me three fabulous Stevie Wonder albums, so I’m enjoying those in the car with the kids, who got to know Sir Duke, If and Believe through taking part in Young Voices recently.

Articles

Quite a bit of interesting stuff this month:

Rachel Held Evans has helped many voice their questions but embracing doubt is not healthy  As a follower of Held Evans and others in the same camp, I really appreciated this article, which articulated some of what I feel when I read the writings of (particularly American) progressive evangelicals. As the author, Annie Carter, writes, “It’s easy to critique, criticise and mock and put the Church to rights. It’s not easy to lead the flock, or to be a faithful follower of Christ.”

I appreciated Hadley Freeman’s thoughts on what to say (or not) when a friend loses a child.

This short poem, Good Bones, was one I’d never come across before, but in the light of the recent school shootings, found particularly moving.

My missionary friend Suzy, back in the UK for a few months, compared life here with life in rural Ethiopia – worth a read.

Fiona Lloyd, whose debut novel has just been released (and which I hope to read and review on here very soon), wrote this fabulous piece for The Baptist Times on why Every Sunday is Mothering Sunday.

And, just because he writes so well, I thought Jay Rayner’s rant on people who complain about the price of meals in restaurants was classic.

On the blog

I reviewed TWO books this month, both with giveaways. If you missed the first (Sexuality, Faith and the Art of Conversation), have a read now. If you missed the second (Forever Loved: Eve’s Story), click on the link and enter the giveaway as it’s open till Friday 11pm!

I shared what my first month of ‘being a writer‘ had been like, and wrote some thoughts on Fasting – is it just about a flatter stomach??

 

Elsewhere, my first piece of writing was published! A promotional piece, advertising the Beer & Pizza Festival at my friend’s marvellous bistro. No credit for the title – I’m rubbish at puns.

Stage and screen

Still catching up with stuff we recorded over Christmas (aren’t we old-fashioned?). On that note, we need a new TV so if any of you wonderful readers can shed light on whether we should go for an all-singing, all-dancing model, or something basic into which we can plug everything we need, please share.

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My week with Marilyn was interesting, if it really happened like the film suggests. Having watched ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’, we were obliged to watch Whatever happened to Baby Jane, although I felt ‘endure’ might have been a better verb. I did enjoy Gone Girl, a psychological thriller depicting a man whose apathetic attitude towards his wife’s mysterious disappearance arouses suspicion.

In other news…

* We relished our second trip to William’s Den. If you’re local and have never been, do put it on your bucket list.

* After three years plus, I handed in my notice as a school governor. It’s been a great ride, but now is the right time to hand on to someone else. More coming in a future blog post…

* Over half term, we enjoyed a couple of days down in London, celebrating our eldest nephew’s baptism – as in, a proper baptism where he chose to get baptised, gave his testimony and got totally dunked! It was wonderful, totally glorifying to God and very particular to our nephew, his likes and interests – but I never expected to be blubbing all the way through. How can it have been fifteen years since we were in the same church, celebrating his dedication as a baby?

* We caught up with friends we hadn’t seen for nearly nine years, and another friend who we’re pretty sure we haven’t seen for nearly seven.

* We ate out at least six times…quite unusual for us…a combination of birthday fun and other occasions. Like London buses, you might say.

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Yo Sushi! My guilty pleasure birthday lunch.
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A non-chocolatey dessert at the All-You-Can-Eat place – a challenge, but not beyond me!
* The kids and I enjoyed making blueberry pancakes from the Gruffalo cookbook – very tasty.

 

* And, of course – SNOW!!!

 

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m Into‘ posts. What have you been into during February?

what i’m into – august 2017

Whilst August has been fairly whirlwind, it’s been a different kind of whirlwind to usual, and I’ve really noticed and appreciated the change in pace. Fewer meetings, deadlines and things to do outside keeping family and home happy and organised (ish). The busyness we have had has been almost entirely down to fun and relaxing things.

Besides, it’s now September, schools are back this week, and I feel the metaphorical parenting pat-on-the-back at yet another family summer survived, with relationships still intact and limbs all present and correct. High five anyone?

Books

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Only 23 years late, I’ve finally boarded the ship of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It’s fascinating, incredibly detailed about just about everything, and I’m loving the way each character and situation is meticulously described. I can’t say I’m finding it easy though – 70 odd chapters, and I’m only half way through, so I’ve decided to take my time over it and read other books on the side.

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And what better book to choose than 180 Seconds, which I was pretty sure would turn its own pages. I was right. Allison was adopted at 16. She carries with her the trauma of her past, finding it difficult to interact with others, let alone trust them. But inadvertently becoming part of a social psychology experiment in which eye contact is made with a stranger for three minutes starts to challenge her – can she break down the walls and begin to trust? I’ll say no more – never let me be accused of giving spoilers on this blog. But it’s one to read! (Side note: with all this increased reading, I’ve started to use my local library. It is BRILLIANT. I’ve ordered several books which they don’t have, and this one and another turned up within a fortnight. Hurrah for free books!)

Image result for glorious unionI mentioned here that I’d bought a few marriage books for the hubster and I to read together. We read the first this month – Glorious Union, a short book specifically for couples in ministry. As the introduction says, it’s not a book about marriage, nor about ministry, but a book looking at the specific relationship between the two. There are some practical exercises in the book, and doing these has opened up conversation beyond what the book itself says. We’re more grateful now for the privileges, and are starting to think about how to deal with the pressures, of him being a church leader. We’re not quite finished, but from what we’ve read so far, I’d really recommend this book for any couples where one or both are in full-time Christian ministry.

A Guide to AttachmentAnd I realised that, as an adoptive parent, I should probably know more about attachment than I do, so although I have some meatier books to attack when time allows, this month I read this handy little booklet, written by Mr Timpson – of Timpson Shoes! And yes, you buy it from his shops 🙂 It’s short, and therefore only skims the surface, but it’s a good introduction for anyone thinking about adoption/fostering, or supporting someone who is.

Food

IMG_20170822_172156[1]Is there a more glorious sight than this in August?! I’ve made blackberry gin and blackberry crumble, and have eaten a fair few when the kiddoes haven’t got there first.

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Blackberry gin!
Missy spontaneously decided to make blackberry milkshake too…

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The kids also decided to set up a blackberry shop…although very reasonably priced 😉

IMG_20170813_162949[1]A holiday to Jersey gave me my first experience of Jersey black butter – amazing stuff. Like jam and chutney all rolled into one. I’ve had it on toast for breakfast, and with pate for a snack – I know it would be great with cheese too. Mmmmm. We also took advantage of the fresh local seafood – oysters and lobster for me at Bistro Rosa. YUM! And enjoyed plenty of Jersey dairy products 🙂

 

Music

If you’ve ever wondered what Katy Perry’s ‘Roar‘ would sound like when being warbled at a high decibel by a 5 year old and two 2 year olds – and I know you must have done at some point – feel free to drop by our house. I have had this experience daily throughout August.

Stage and screen

The Tiger

I promise you I don’t always go to the theatre as much as I have done this year, but when we saw that The Tiger who came to tea was coming to town, we had to book some tickets! It was lovely, looked just like the book, and where the story had been extended, it fitted just perfectly. The boys loved it (aged 7, 2, 2) – interestingly the 5 year old was not as enamoured.

We took advantage of having Netflix in our holiday home to watch Philomena, every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped. You’ll need your tissues at the ready as it’s poignant and hopeful – but with humour throughout. And Judi Dench is fantastic, as always. There’s something about her that totally makes me forget Dame Judi whenever she’s in role – she’s utterly convincing, and I love her!

We’re still going with Twin Peaks – me hoping beyond hope for some kind of ‘conclusion’, but starting to realise it probably won’t come (we’re three episodes away from the end, still meeting new characters and new situations), and made a virgin voyage into The IT Crowd, which felt like all the best bits from Father Ted and Black Books rolled into one.

Articles

Lots of interesting things this month. I loved this minister’s beautiful tribute to his wife. The Rt Rev Philip North’s words about how many clergy are glued to middle-class areas was both challenging and relevant for us as we navigate a mixed parish with an awful lot of poverty. On a related topic, this older article by Grayson Perry on why taste is so intrinsically woven into what ‘class’ we are or perceive ourselves to be was fascinating and absolutely spot-on.

This article, highlighting some recent research on screen time for children, is lengthy but informative. (Of course I still use the TV as a babysitter pretty much every day, but it’s nice to know what the ideal is, should I ever wish to turn into Hyper-Organic-Super-Mum.)

And my friend Jo, as always, challenged me on letting go of anger, rather than letting it define our futures.

In other news…

We went to Jersey! I think I said that. And then we went to Shropshire! Equally wonderful.

We’ve had lovely friends to stay this month, and some wonderful catch-ups with local friends too. I love the space that the summer holidays give for more extended playdates and catch-ups.

We saw a hedgehog.

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And we started potty training! I can hardly believe this. I thought I’d be buying the boys their school shoes before their pants – but, no, it seems that choosing their own potties was the catalyst for showing me how ready they are to have a go. I’ll spare you too many of the gory details, but must share this photo – which, to me, sums it up: my new dress having been spray-weed. Only boys can get that angle right.

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Now there’s a shot you won’t see in a Boden catalogue.

Linking up, as always, with Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m Into‘ series. Do check out the other posts, and let me know what you’ve been up to in August!

what i’m into – may 2017

Once again, I feel like a fraud writing a ‘What I’m into’, when I’ve blogged approximately zero else this month. But at least there has been movement…a post I’ve been drafting for the last couple of months (yes, really) is soon to hit this site! Watch out for it soon.

I have, however, been enjoying life away from the computer screen:

Books

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I mentioned Hunter S. Thompson’s Better than Sex last month. It did take me all month to finish, and Desert Dad thought I was crazy (“Why do you keep reading that when it’s such hard work?”) but what can I say? I’m a starter-finisher and can’t help myself. In a nutshell? Thompson created ‘Gonzo journalism’, where fiction and non-fiction are weaved seamlessly together in a haze of alcohol and, sometimes, recreational drugs. The book is about the 1992 Clinton campaign, with crazed anecdotes thrown in – some of which (I guess) were real, some of which were exaggerated, and some of which might have been totally fabricated for all I know. But his style is quite endearing really. I’m not sure I’ll be reading any more by him – the experience wasn’t unpleasant, but I’m just not that into politics. Or swearing.

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A couple of kids’ books have gone down a storm in the Desert household this month. First up, Fantastically Great Women who changed the World. I discovered this a couple of months ago in an independent bookshop, and we really got into it this month, discovering the achievements of Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Frida Kahlo, Anne Frank, and many more. Mister (7) and Missy (5) loved the way the book is written – succinct chunks of really fascinating info – and the design is beautiful too. I’d recommend it for both boys and girls – and parents! I learnt loads!

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Second, Everything a Child should know about God is a beautifully illustrated systematic theology for kids. Again, my 7yo and 5yo love it – I would say it’s perfect for the 4-8 age group, but could be enjoyed by those younger and older. It does what it says on the tin – under several headings such as All about the Bible, Who God Is, Jesus comes to help us, and Why we go to Church. Desert Dad (fussy theologian) reckons it’s too basic, and doesn’t address the deep questions kids often have – but I reckon it’s a great solid basis for any child being raised in a Christian home, and well worth a fiver. And, besides, I’ve told DD he should meet the gap in the market and develop an apologetics book for kids, so watch this space…

Food

Friends, it was May. Far too late in the year to be continuing to put in any effort whatsoever to creating exciting meal plans. And, besides, the sun shone for at least five days this month, rendering me incapable of doing anything other than throwing some leftovers together or chucking some dead animal on the barbecue. That we did, though – another item ticked off the Summer Bucket List. UK summers (especially in the North) are so short that I often feel like if I haven’t cooked a BBQ, worn shorts, got the paddling pool out, been to the beach and drunk Pimm’s all in one day, I may well have missed my chance for another year.

Actually – what am I saying? This was the month that I made my own sourdough bread, a crazily lengthy process which should really have happened in the enthusiastic days of early January, when anything is possible – not May, when I’m jaded and exhausted. Paul Hollywood claims, enthusiastically, “Once you’ve made your own bread ‘starter’ and produced a few loaves using it, there’ll be no going back to supermarket bread.” Er, yes, except supermarket bread doesn’t involve a small amount of rancid-smelling nothingness sitting on your worktop for several days, demanding as much ‘feeding’ and ‘nurturing’ as a young child, followed by a bread-making process so lengthy it requires you to book childcare and, quite possibly, a haircut – just in case you don’t make it out the other side before your roots are halfway down your head and the split-ends are numerous. OK, I exaggerate, but artistic licence is my privilege and I’m going to use it.

The bread was tasty, though. And lasted about 15 minutes in the presence of my hub’s extended family, with whom I was sharing a house for the weekend. That bit was quick at least.

Needless to say, second-time round I attempted to use the bread machine to speed things up. This picture tells you all you need to know about that idea.

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I made a moussaka which was eaten enthusiastically by ALL SIX MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY, and also the only proper meal I took a picture of this month, so am inserting it here:

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(OK maybe I lie. Perhaps it was five members. Or four. I can’t remember. A majority, anyhow.)

Oh – and one day during May, I may have eaten a lunch which consisted entirely of breadsticks meant for the kiddoes with my absolutely favourite dip. There’s nothing like discovering that a favourite food needs to be used by <today’s date> to throw out my usually maverick attitude towards food safety. Mostly, I’m all “If it smells fine and looks fine and tastes fine, it’s fine” – but on discovering an unopened Onion and Garlic dip, which is the most delicious savoury item in the whole entire universe, I suddenly turned into “Ooh, well I MUST eat that, lest the hub or the kiddoes try it and get food poisoning…what sort of mother would I be to expose them to food one second past its use-by date?”

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That was a good day, and I have no regrets.

Articles

British food explained for Americans made me giggle out loud on several occasions – particularly funny if you know both food cultures.

I’m sure I read other stuff but nothing stands out. Probably just full of crazed Hunter S. Thompson lines to really absorb anything sensible.

Music

This month has been dominated by my kids (Missy especially) discovering Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. We have reached That Stage. Because I’m so cool, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn some new chord sequences as I busked the songs the kids were bringing home, appreciating (in particular) the use of the supertonic and flattened leading note chords in ‘Roar‘ – sadly, I’m not even joking. Quote of the month was Missy announcing, “Wow, Katy Swift [sic] has done that song that’s in ‘Sing’!” I think ‘Katy’ would be thrilled to know that her hard work was being credited to a couple of animated pigs.

Stage and screen

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I’ve had to add the ‘stage’ part to this section this month, because I went to the theatre THREE TIMES!! We saw Stewart Lee, one of my favourite stand-ups. I can’t describe just how brilliant he is, so if you were expecting me to, then watch this instead – it’s total genius. We finally got to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company, after years of not getting round to it, and that was great too. I’m sure I’d have got a lot more of the references had I known more Shakespeare, but it’s so cleverly written that it’d be funny to someone who knew no Shakespeare plays whatsoever.

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Then, because sometimes you need some misery to balance out the fun, I went to see Jane Eyre with a couple of friends. Having read the book and seen various film/TV adaptations, I was interested to see how it would be staged, but it was phenomenal, with a live band on stage and original music which was neither of the period, nor jarring with it. The whole performance seemed to utilise modern theatre techniques without destroying the period and essence of the original. I loved it! It’s still got a fair few dates left on its tour, so click here if you’re interested – I highly recommend it.

Screen-wise, we’ve been glued to the new series of Twin Peaks, having devoured the original seasons a couple of years ago. I’m a girl who likes conclusions, so David Lynch’s bizarre twists and turns and subplots and sub-subplots shouldn’t really be my cup of tea, but I guess with every episode I’m holding out for an answer of some kind. And the ride is so good that I’m not even that bothered.

In other news…

I transformed our garage!

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Perhaps a small feat for many of you, but for me this has been a year-long dream. You read that right. Menial tasks have become something I can only dream of having the time to complete – so this makeover is something I’m immensely proud of. Mister and Missy helped me build the extra storage, and hopefully it means that the clutter-free space is now sustainable.

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As mentioned above, we enjoyed a gorgeous weekend away with the extended fam at a big old farmhouse with indoor pool and beautiful grounds. Clergy families rarely get a weekend away, usually having to save up Sundays-off for summer holidays, so this was a big treat for us all. The kiddoes had a wonderful time in the pool and being spoilt by their relatives, and Mister taught himself to swim in a morning!

I had a job interview – the first in 11 years! I didn’t get it – which I’m totally happy about – but, also, I didn’t make a tit of myself and, in fact, got some rather lovely feedback which made me smile and jump around a little bit. Turns out SAHMs aren’t totally de-skilled when they take a career break 🙂

I went to a bridal shower, and then the subsequent wedding, of some fab church friends. Weddings make me so happy, especially when the main players are so entirely brilliant together.

And, because it was sunny, I did All The Laundry (I have a thing about air-dried clothes), which inevitably meant not being able to keep up with the Putting Away. Piles like this started to appear all over the house.

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But we didn’t care because we were in the garden anyway 🙂

How was your May?

Linking up, as always, with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into series.

 

easter in the desert household

I’ve just been checking last year’s Easter blog, to make sure I don’t repeat myself or, worse, contradict . (But then again, that’s human nature, isn’t it? Embrace the contradictions!) The kiddoes and I have been having fun preparing for, and chatting about, Easter – so I thought I’d share some more ideas.

Firstly, Lent is a long time – especially for small children. So we’ve gone gently. We started with our Lent prayer tree, and this was pretty much all we did for the first few weeks. It’s been going well – the kids love pulling out a new photo each morning, and thinking about how we can pray for that particular friend. And our tree has come into bloom!

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I didn’t get our Easter play figures out until last week, figuring three weeks was more than enough time to be playing out the Easter story. Every day, the figures are in different formations and groupings, and I have no idea what is going on. For example, what is Jesus whispering to the Roman soldier here?

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And I love it that Jesus’ female friends are stopping to admire the photo of baby Missy – but am slightly confused as to why.

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But, then again, we’re talking about the household where you can be walking along the landing and spy a doll doing a handstand:

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Isn’t this the great thing about play, as opposed to just reading the facts? You can stop and wonder, and imagine what’s being said, or thought, or felt. You can ask ‘what if…?’ and you don’t have to get things right. It’s tempting to move our Easter figures back to their ‘right’ positions each night, but actually I’m letting the kids (primarily Mister) control this one.

That said, of course it is absolutely great to find brilliant Christian books for kids, and over the years we’ve built up a little collection of Easter things which I’d love to tell you about – apologies that the recommendations are probably no good to you this year – I was intending to publish this blog post last week 😦 Sticker books are really popular with my kids, and are a great way of interacting with the story, as you can hunt for the right sticker while you tell the story – a great way of engaging little ones who can’t always sit still for a whole story! We like this one and this one and this one.

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This book is great, and a total bargain. (In fact, have you noticed how everything I’m recommending is a bargain? Yet what a priceless gift for our children, to teach them what happened at Easter! Much better than plastic tat and chocolate bunnies!) A few years ago, we bulk-bought this book and gave one to every family who came to a preschool Easter outreach event. We chose it for its careful wording and bright pictures – and I still use our copy with my kids now. This book was the one which moved Mister so much last Easter, the one which had a profound effect on him. Of course I’m recommending it here!

And guess what? The kids’ wonderful Aunty Carol sent them a surprise Easter gift last week. Two brilliant books – but Dave the donkey is the Easter story taken from the donkey’s perspective, and is already a hit with all of us! A really clever, and moving, way to tell the story.

For the first time, we’ve been watching The Miracle Maker. I’m late to the party on this, so I expect you’ve all already got it – but I just wanted to mention it in case you haven’t, because it is totally as amazing as everyone says it is. And, again, great to have a different sort of resource to use with our kids! (As a rough age guide, 4-year-old Mister loves it – 2-year-old Missy isn’t bothered. Not sure whether Mister would have been ready for it last year, but I think some kids would. So 3/4 upwards-ish?)

In addition to our prayer tree, Easter books and play figures, we have (of course!) been singing “Easter bells” – and Mister’s now trying to come up with his own verses! We’ve also just got out the resurrection eggs, with two weeks to go, using these to tell the story in a more interactive and memorable way. (Doubtless there are many different versions available – mine is a little different from the link I’ve given.) As we look at the different objects, and turn them over in our hands, it’s much more likely that we’ll remember the different aspects of the Easter story than if we just hear what happened. And, for the record, I don’t shy away from the gory aspects of the story (within reason). Mister, at 4, is very much into blood and guts – and because he doesn’t really understand the nature of violence and abuse yet, it actually works OK to tell him that the soldiers put nails through Jesus’ hands, or that Peter cut off the High Priest’s ear. Clearly you need to gauge this, depending on how sensitive your child is, and I would spare the really shocking details such as the whipping or the suffocating – but I don’t think we need shy away from the fact that Jesus suffered.

Last week we had friends round (from our Mums’ cell group), and did some fun Eastery things altogether. We made these yummy snacks:

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What a great idea! Obviously not mine…but you can find it here 🙂

We also made Easter gardens. I have great memories of making these as an older child, but with good preparation, and a bit of support, it seems that toddlers can do a pretty good job after all!

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This week, as our prayer tree ended on Sunday, the kids have an Easter basket to open each morning. In it, are some materials for making something that day which will help us remember the Easter story. On Monday, we made Easter cards – yesterday we made chocolate Easter egg nests (OK, so this is pushing the theme a little, but you try finding 6 Christian Easter crafts for preschoolers). Today we will be making empty bread tombs with Easter dips, and tomorrow hot cross buns (both from Bake through the Bible).

How do you and your family celebrate Easter?

holiday packing: my very favourite thing (not)

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If I didn’t need my holiday before, then I certainly need it once I’ve got half-way through the packing. It’s a flippin’ nightmare.

Packing is no hassle for Desert Dad. Wherever we’re going, and however long for, packing seems to take him just five minutes, and fit neatly into one rucksack. The possibility that he may have calculated how much underwear he’ll need by adding up the number of days we’re away and dividing it by two is neither here nor there. I don’t care anymore. Don’t care. There are enough cares in packing for me and the kids that I’m done worrying about what hubbie’s bringing (or not bringing).

I get a few minutes into the whole packing debacle before realising that we don’t have any stuff. I mean, of course, this is ridiculous – we have far too much stuff. We just don’t have the right stuff.

At best, I am a cautious and frugal consumer – but this backfires on me when it’s time to go away. I’m staring at the disorganised mess of clothes, shouting at myself for the times I stood in Next contemplating whether or not Missy needed more than two pairs of pyjamas, or if Mister really should have sandals that fit him. WE HAVE NO STUFF! NO SANDALS! NO WET WEATHER GEAR! NO PICNIC APPARATUS!  

This year, however, I managed to remember in time, and have spent the last week or two madly rushing into whichever shops are en route to toddler groups and preschool, cramming a basket full of whatever looks vaguely holiday-related. What is that? No idea. What does it do? Clueless. It has a picture of a sun on it. Do I need it? Don’t care…Missy is screaming…grab, pay, out.

Then there is the issue of having to pack light. Sticking to the UK for our holidays seemed a good choice when the kids arrived: no long flights, no jet lag, no airport delays, no customs, no hassle. But, right now, I would gladly take on all of those disadvantages for a bit of predictable weather, where our packing would consist of clothes for one season only. Today, I’m cramming my already-full suitcase with big jumpers, sunhats, raincoats, sandals, wellies, swimwear.

And take shoes. When we booked our holiday, I was all like Oh it’s great, such a lovely area for walking, and we’re not so far from the beach, and there are loads of lovely towns to potter round. Wrong move, Rycroft. At the very least, I’m going to need five pairs of shoes: walking shoes for country walks, flip-flops for the beach, smart shoes for going out, normal shoes for, er, normal things, and sandals for normal things in warm weather.

And that’s the bare minimum.

It’s pretty much a full bag already. You say, in your annoyingly calm way, “You can buy things when you get there, shops still exist on holiday”, to which I reply “Yes, where we’re going I will be able to buy organic veg and locally-made biscuits and, perhaps, a pair of Hunter’s wellies, and that is it.” Spending a holiday tracking down a Tesco when you’re in the middle of nowhere, just because I didn’t know whether or not we’d need suncream, is not my idea of fun.

I mentioned sunhats. Missy does not do hats. Still, I feel I must act the responsible parent and pack one anyway, in the vain hope that she and hat might click this holiday. But – because she doesn’t wear hats – I have no idea whether the hat she didn’t wear last summer still fits. So, I do this simple test:

Thank the Lord she's a deep sleeper.
Thank the Lord she’s a deep sleeper.

Packing is a drag, no two ways about it. But I do it for a) the holiday at the end of it all, and b) the calm I’ll experience tomorrow morning as hubby packs the car. This is a division of labour which works very nicely in our household: I pack the stuff, and Desert Dad packs it into the boot.

When women have kids, hormones kick in. They produce milk, develop a protective instinct, start to nurture their newborns, get very good at laundry, that kind of thing. But when guys become dads, their hormones kick in too, with very different results.

I’m pretty sure that as Desert Dad was handed his newborn son for the first time, several algorithms for packing the car boot were already taking shape. It’s all dimensions and shapes and nooks and crannies, and whether boxes or bags are preferable, and what can you squeeze between the kids’ seats, and what do we need access to, and all that shebang.

It’s Man’s work, that’s for sure, and for the half hour it takes, I’m enormously relieved to leave it to him. From experience, it’s best to keep me and the kids well out of the way, for this is His Time: a few special moments, just him and our luggage.

This was our car at Christmas. We nearly had to leave the kids.
This was our car at Christmas. We nearly had to leave the kids.

And then – we’re off!

Except – no, wait – we’ve forgotten water (which we’ll never drink), keys (in the front door), and CDs. CDs!! Yes, we’re that old. It’s time to leave, but still we must deplete the bulging glove compartment of all its stock, and start again from scratch. We must! It’s time, apparently, to relive the glory days of Beth Orton, or to rediscover that nu-folk-acoustic-rock-metal album which was a birthday present from Groovy Rob. Whatever is chosen, you can reliably assume that, one hour into the journey, he’ll declare that it’s not suitable for driving, that you can’t hear it over the noise of the road, and he wishes he’d kept Dire Straits in after all.

Friends, I need a holiday. See you on the other side.

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