days like these

Yesterday I had one of those Days. There were no tantrums, no trips to A&E, no breakages of major appliances. It was just one of those Days.

I felt severely lacking in creative ideas. Joel spent the morning at pre-school, while Lois napped, so I had both kids awake and needing to be entertained from 12.30-7.00pm. Al was at work till late, so it was just me. We usually swim on Thursday afternoons, but the kids have had dodgy tummies so we cancelled. The weather was awful – no chance of a cycle ride or park trip. A bit of rain doesn’t frighten me or Joel, but with Lois not yet fully walking, it’s just a bit too tricky. If I hold her, I haven’t got hands free for Joel. If I carry her in the sling, she gets frustrated that she’s not able to move.

Before motherhood, I dreamt of a family utopia where afternoons would be filled with creative activity upon creative activity – baking, painting, glueing… Again, while Joel is keen for these things, Lois is at the ‘wrong’ age. Too old to sit in one place and watch, too young to participate. Likewise, Joel enjoys playing games and doing jigsaws, but we usually save these for Lois’ nap time, as small cardboard pieces and a one-year-old just don’t mix.

So the afternoon dragged. It wasn’t boring, it didn’t make me want to pack it all in, apply for teaching jobs and research childcare options. It just felt I was letting my kids down by not being able to come up with any interesting pursuit.

Now, before you feel sorry for me and write affirming messages of “Don’t give up!” “You can do this mothering thing!” and so on – please don’t worry. I don’t think I’m a terrible mother. I’m telling you this for two reasons. Firstly, I hope it connects with other mums who have days like this – to reassure and encourage you that we can’t all be exciting and creative all of the time.

The second reason is this. One of the things I did while Joel was at pre-school and Lois napped was read my Bible and pray. I’m shocking at spiritual discipline, so it had been a while, and I was pretty hopeful that God would realign my priorities, give me peace and generally sort things out. But the day was still a bit of a wash-out. My point is that we shouldn’t spend time with God in order to gain something instantly. We need to come to Him regularly and trust that He is working in our lives, however gradually. I can’t say that yesterday I experienced much of the peace, motivation or creativity I know God has in abundance for me. But it doesn’t matter. Firstly, God owes me nothing anyway. Secondly, I believe He wants to bless us with all these things and more – but it happens over time.

I would love it if there was some immediate connection every time I read the Bible. But, actually, I’m pleased there’s not. Because, conversely, that could suggest that God was not willing to connect with me in those times when I’m not reading His word. And that would mean that my relationship with God was actually one of legalism, and not one of grace.

I think when I have another one of those days, I’ll try and remember God’s continuing grace and His never-letting-go arms around me and my family.

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traditions for celebrations


I love birthdays! Any excuse for a party is fine by me. But birthdays and other occasions are more than just party moments. For me, they’re opportunities to celebrate life, whether remembering the blessings of the past year, or looking forward to the future. The material ‘trimmings’ of any of these events, as far as I’m concerned, should always reflect the spiritual, the emotional, the abstract – those feelings we can’t put into words.

As a mum, I have the very lovely privilege of being able to influence how my family celebrates occasions. I want my children to grow up with a sense of celebration and fun, knowing how blessed they are and who to thank. I love how different families have their own unique traditions, and we’re starting to create some of our own which will mark out how our family celebrates key moments.  So here are our traditions, in the context of Lois’ first birthday.

There is always cake, of course, a pretty standard tradition:

(Red velvet cake, for those of you who are interested in such things. Recipe here.) I like to bake cakes for my kids’ birthdays. Last year, when Joel’s second birthday was approaching and I was expecting Lois imminently, I made his cake in advance and froze it. A friend reminded me that supermarkets sold cakes – the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind! I think I mainly like to do it myself because I’m not yet very good at cakes, and I think that if I practise while my kids are too young to remember then by the time they care, I’ll be damn good.

There are always parties. Lois’ one was an afternoon tea last weekend – the sun shone, good friends came, and the scones were excellent, even if I do say so myself.

Then, on the day, there is measuring. It’s always fun to watch how much our kids have grown in the last year. (Note: Al and I don’t partake in this tradition anymore. Our height charts from year to year would look pretty dull.)

Birthdays wouldn’t be birthdays at Casa Rycroft without cake for breakfast:

And on this particular birthday, shortly after this picture was taken, we headed off to start a brand-new toddler group in the city centre. This doesn’t happen every birthday. That would be insane.

A homemade card is an important tradition. My Dad started this: each year, growing up, I would get a special hand-crafted card from him and Mum, something specially constructed to reflect who I was that year, often containing a funny poem, a clever word-play, or some amusing drawings. Sadly, some of these have been lost through the years, but I’ve kept the remainder, and they’re a great record of the different interests I had as I was growing up. I’m now doing the same for my own kids, and this was Lois’ card, reflecting her determination to climb/escape from/crawl into anything she chooses:

Those are our traditions – what are yours?

thank goodness for february 29th

Tomorrow, Lois is one. ONE? Already? How did that happen? When did I suddenly have two kids, the youngest of whom is a WHOLE YEAR OLD?

Today I’ve found myself massively grateful that this is a leap year. If it wasn’t for February 29th 2012, my little girl would have turned one today. As it is, I was treated to one extra day of her being my baby – delaying, by twenty-four precious hours, the agony of her ageing.

Of course I don’t wish her to stay a baby forever – I look forward to seeing her grow and develop and learn new things and find new interests. I look forward to books and homework and school traumas and boyfriends and shopping and friend fall-outs and baking and music. I look forward to her being interested in none of the above because she’s a real, God-knit human being, and not simply a product of my imagination. However Lois turns out, I’m looking forward to it.

But it’s agony because the last year has rushed past, and its moments won’t return. It’s pointless beating oneself up about missed opportunities, of course, but I hope that I’ve enjoyed and appreciated Lois’ first twelve months as much as I could have done.

Day 1: Lois looking particularly angry

To start with, Lois’ birth was one of the most relaxing moments of my life. It might have been the birthing pool, the Entonox or the deserted maternity ward at York Hospital, but I suspect what actually did it for me was a few hours away from my lovely-but-demanding toddler. Childcare always makes the world look a brighter place. The pool was nice too, of course: between contractions, I could have imagined I was in a hot tub in some luxury villa. Of course it also hurt a fair bit – Al will contest this post if I don’t mention the pain – but I’ll gloss over that for now. The human race might not survive if women who’d been through labour were honest about it.

Then, of course, there was the first smile. I still remember breathing a huge sigh of relief when that happened: “Oh, thank God, she LIKES me!” The few weeks prior to the smile suggested that our little girl was particularly angry about something – being born? Being a girl? Or was it us? Were we a disappointment to her? The parents she hoped she’d never have? But then came the smile. Phew.

There have been the landmark moments – learning to sit, crawl, climb out of her car seat – but also the moments which would be insignificant to anyone but me – the contented sucking, the sleepy head, the chuckling face, the arms stretching for a cuddle.

Tomorrow, Lois is one. She will not care, or fuss, or remember in years to come. But I care, and I will fuss, so that I will remember for years to come what my beautiful daughter was like on September 11th, 2012.

nostalgia bunting

For the second time in a row, I begin a blog post with an apology for absence. I’m sorry. Forget desert mum – this is a desert blog. A wide expanse of nothingness for weeks on end.

And now, of course, I’m going to try and defend myself. I’ve been away. Uh-huh. What do you expect – sympathy? And September’s a busy month, mainly because it contains both kids’ birthdays. Hmmm…you’re going to have to redeem yourself. And hence the smooth transition to the point of this blog post which is: nostalgia bunting.

Oh yes. I’ve googled it, and am pretty sure that no one else has nabbed the term yet, so here it is, a new bit of crafting terminology coined by moi. Nostalgia bunting. Boom.

To roll back a few months, I had the idea of creating birthday bunting for my children – something we could use year after year, something a bit timeless. I then thought of making it double-sided so we could use it throughout the year in their bedrooms. One side would say ‘happy birthday’ and the other side would be un-lettered. Simultaneously, I was wondering what to do with some of Lois’ old clothes which I’d deemed too stained to pass on to anyone else. Answer? Why, nostalgia bunting of course! I would make birthday/bedroom bunting out of Lois’ old clothes.

The result is here:

I’m mainly pleased. I think the colours and patterns work nicely together, and it’s a good length. I’m pleased I managed to make it double-sided, although sewing the pieces together took a while as sewing machines don’t seem to like the type of fabric most kids’ clothes are made from.

Mainly I’m pleased because I finished a craft project :S

My only disappointment, and it was one I thought would happen, is that the letters don’t stand out enough. I think at some point in the future I’ll stitch round them in red embroidery thread, which will hopefully work better than the single-strand thread I used.

Want to make nostalgia bunting? Course you do! C’mon, make it THE crafting fad of 2012 and get my name up there with Kirstie Allsopp’s! Come ON!

Get some old clothes or other fabrics which mean something to you. Make sure you’re not still wearing them. Make a triangular template out of card. Use it to cut double the number of bunting flags you need. Arrange the flags, in their pairs, in an order which looks good.

If using lettering, cut out, free hand, and stitch to one of each ‘pair’ of bunting flags. I recommend using something thicker than single-strand thread. Put each pair of flags right-sides-together and sew together down the two sloping sides. Turn inside out – you should have a double-sided flag. Iron flat.

Get your bunting ribbon or whatever you’re using, fold in half lengthways and iron. Open it up and insert the top, ‘open’ edge of the first bunting flag. Sew together. Repeat for the remaining flags.

august

 

Talk about letting things slide, I’ve really let this blog slide over the past fortnight. In my defence, I’ve been having too much fun in real life to remember to blog about it. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

2012 seems to be the year of the wedding – we’re up to no.7 of 10 – but I never get bored of them! Last Saturday we headed down south for the wedding of my lovely friend Anna and the wonderful Ross. In his speech, Ross said Anna had the ability to make even the most mundane of tasks become fun and exciting. That’s certainly been my experience of Anna!

My beautiful god-daughter Esther was dedicated. A lovely service and great party afterwards, with yummy food cooked by my amazing friend Jen. I shamelessly stole ideas from Alice’s incredibly inspiring blog to make Bible story bags for Esther and her big brother Greg.

Of course we spent a good amount of time enjoying the Olympics – not live, unfortunately – but from the comfort of our own sofa. Excuse a moment of mild patriotism here, but didn’t we do well? I really didn’t think we had it in us. What an excellent show, from start to finish, and hats off to the amazing athletes who gave it all they had.

We took the kids to Yorkshire Wildlife Park. It was great! Lots of beautiful animals – a good reminder of God’s creativity, and that even when I’m out of ideas (see next paragraph), He has more than enough to supply. But mainly we just had a nice day 🙂

I’ve been getting excited about a new venture coming out of our church, Tuesday Tots. Three of us mums will be leading it, and have been spending a good amount of time thinking, planning and praying about it. Ideas are flowing and momentum is building towards our first session which, as it happens, falls on Lois’ first birthday. Marvellous!

Several friends and family have been to see us, most recently Auntie Sarah:

I went to see the York Mystery Plays. It was incredibly beautiful, moving, artistic, historic and powerful. If you’re a Yorkie and you haven’t been, book tickets now (and take a blanket).

I also managed to take a picture of Both Kids Looking Really Good In The Same Shot. Believe me, this is a twice-yearly experience and not something to be sniffed at. Usually, my attempts go something like this:

Or this:

But on this occasion, both kids moved into camera-view, stopped moving and started smiling in the same millisecond as that in which my camera registered the image. This was the result:

Add to this a meal out at our favourite restaurant, the most amazing email EVER from a friend, the chance to meet the new boyfriend of another friend, and even a bit of sun…well, what more could you ask for?!

My first two weeks in August. How did you spend yours?

 

yummy mummy, letting things slide

Recently I scanned one of those ‘what’s hot/what’s not’ columns at the front of a lifestyle magazine. Under ‘what’s not’ I was interested to read that ‘yummy mummies’ were on their way out, because they were more prone to depression than ‘working mums who let things slide’. Oh dear, I thought. I’m a stay-at-home mum who lets things slide. Where does that leave me? My house is one dusty, crumby, snot-filled backdrop for a toy-bomb which explodes daily – and I don’t even have a paid job I can blame.

Seriously, stuff just gets deposited round my house and I know not how. I spend my days tidying and tidying, only to find that at the end of the day the house looks worse  – or, at best, the same as when we woke up. A friend recently told me how she feels most of her days are spent keeping mayhem at bay. Nothing really moves on from the start to end of the day, but nothing gets significantly worse. That’s a win.

Our bedroom, successfully illustrating my point. It’s always the last room to get attention!

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Much as I love the decision I’ve made to stay at home with my kids, it doesn’t come without sacrifice. The last thing I want to do in ten years’ time is look back and regret this period of my life. If I’m going to forego my career for a while, I don’t want to forego my children too.

And the truth is, some things have to slide. I just can’t spend proper time with the kids whilst also keeping up with all the housework. As part-and-parcel of Al’s job, we get a large house – a great perk, but totally overwhelming in terms of keeping it immaculate. There are enough times in the day when I have to say “Not now, Joel”, “In a minute…”, “I just have to do this first…” because of housework that needs to be done (preparing meals, loading/unloading dishwasher, laundry) that engaging in any additional hoovering, dusting and general cleaning would surely be at my children’s expense. Things I clean today will be dirty again tomorrow, whereas time I spend with my children today will reap huge benefits tomorrow. It is massively important to me that my children and I have a good, communicative relationship. If I don’t sow the seeds now – then when?

So, on the one hand, I’m riled by the assumption that it’s only (salaried) working mums who let things slide. But on the other hand I’m comforted by the suggestion that this more laissez-faire approach to life has its advantages. Whoever we are, mummies or not, setting overly-high expectations for ourselves is not likely to result in much peace.

Oh, and for the record – I dislike the term ‘yummy mummy’ in most contexts. If you think I spend my time shopping, lunching with friends and frequenting spas, while my husband earns mega-bucks and someone else cleans my house, then I have two words for you. Clergy wife.

The happy little monkeys. They don’t mind a bit of dirt.

father’s day

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I was pretty proud of myself for getting ahead on this. It was several weeks ago when I took Mister into the Beer Shop in town, allowed him to pick out some ales for his Dad and bought them on his behalf. (This is allowed, right? I figure since he’s 2, and not 15, and since we’re buying it for his father, and not for him and his mates, it’s OK. At least, I hope so. Still figuring out this parenting lark.) So, beer bought, we headed home and spent a bit of time creating a card for Desert Dad. Mister loves cutting and sticking at the moment, so it wasn’t difficult to persuade him to produce something. As I was getting things ready, doing the bits he couldn’t do, writing the card and so on, Mister was fiddling with an old egg box – drawing on it, glueing it, shaking a whole load of sparkly bits and bobs onto the glue. I didn’t take much notice to be honest. Whatever he was doing didn’t look very important or interesting, but it was keeping him occupied. I was pretty pleased with the card he’d produced and gave myself a metaphorical pat on the back. What a good mum I was. And that was that. Until yesterday morning.  Desert Dad headed downstairs to make a start on breakfast. “Hey Mister,” I whispered. “It’s Father’s Day, time to give Daddy his beer and that special card you made him.” I picked up the bag containing said beer and card, and we both danced down the stairs excitedly, Mister ahead of me. I assumed he would head to the kitchen, where Daddy was, so we could give him his present. No. Without a moment’s thought, he went into the dining room, where his egg box still sat from weeks ago. He grabbed it and ran into the kitchen “Here you go Daddy, this is for you!” I had forgotten but he had not. I was totally humbled and embarrassed and guilty. What right had I to interfere in Mister’s communication of love to his father? This was Mister’s special gift to his Dad. Not the beer – which could have come from any of his friends or family. Not the card – which was motivated by me. The egg box could only have come from Mister. And Mister could only have given that egg box. He can’t yet put into words what he feels for his Dad, but he can express it through sequins, glitter, glue and felt tip pens. I hope we can always keep Mister’s egg box as a sign that however weak or inadequate our gifts to God seem, if they come from our heart then they are a beautiful, fragrant sacrifice of worship.

But, realistically, it may get lost somewhere down the line, in which case here’s a picture so I never forget. 😉