The man my kids are blessed to call Dad

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I’m not one for gushing.

But today I feel compelled to write a post honouring my husband, affectionately known on this blog as DesertDad. Perhaps it’s because he’s been away most of this week, and has therefore gone up in my estimation, or perhaps it’s because tomorrow is Fathers’ Day – although, to all intents and purposes, this day functions like any other Sunday in our household, as he’s not a fan of what he calls ‘commercial festivals’.

I don’t know.

But recently I read this (celebrating the real men in our lives), this (speaking life to our spouse), and then this (how to show him he’s a great dad), and was challenged that our marriage is so full of banter and sarcasm, that to say uplifting, honouring things about each other (certainly in public) does not come easily – and maybe I need to change that.

The problem, of course, is that this type of post is likely to sting for those who have a poor, or non-existent, relationship with their fathers – or those who, for whatever reason, are raising their kids without a father. Others of you, I know, mourn the fact that, although your kids do have a Dad, he doesn’t fulfil his role with any sense of commitment.

So I want to be honest. I want to tell you, straight-off, that my husband is not perfect. To illustrate this, I just wrote a paragraph of his character flaws – but thought better of it and deleted it. But please promise me you’ll read the following in the context of knowing he can’t possibly be superhuman – just in case what I’m about to write makes him sound made-up.

Agreed? Then we’re good to go.

For someone who, in another life, would have been perfectly content as a childless bachelor, DesertDad has grabbed parenthood by the horns, and is fully immersed in the parenting of each one of our children.

He does the practical stuff.

After long days at work, when he’d be justified in collapsing in front of the telly, he doesn’t shy away from the grotty jobs, but willingly feeds, bathes and clears up the toileting accidents of our offspring.

It makes me very happy that he’s been able to spend today at the Stag Do of an old friend, because most of his days off are entirely child-focused. There are loads of hobbies that he’d love to do, yet building relationships with his kids remains his priority.

He’s also proactive with housework. Perhaps we don’t have the same ideas about which jobs are the priority (and we definitely both see ‘mess’ differently), but if he sees something which needs doing, he does it without being asked.

He willingly takes charge of the kids so that I can do things which stretch my brain. Governor meetings, PTA commitments, church events – he readily switches roles so that I can have a break, even though it might mean him having to play catch-up at his work later on.

He does the emotional stuff.

He’s amazingly pastoral and non-judgmental – and this isn’t just me, people say it all the time. A friend once said to him, “I feel I could tell you anything, and you’d never be shocked”. Our kids will benefit from his empathy more and more as they grow up, but already he is a great listener to our kids, often picking up on stuff that I’ve missed, even though he spends a fraction of the time that I do with them.

Our church feels like a family, and I think this is partly because he leads it like he leads our nuclear family: with love, grace and gentle nurture. He teaches his ‘flock’ with passion and authority – whether it’s his flock at church, or his flock of kids at home. He sets boundaries and he disciplines with love.

He does the spiritual stuff.

He shares his faith with our kids, reads the Bible to them and explains aspects of theology. I do these things too, but I worry about the impact on children who’ve only had spiritual leadership from their mother, and it makes me so grateful to have a husband who acknowledges his role in bringing up our kids to love Jesus too.

He’s fiercely outspoken about aspects of secular culture that most of us Christians accept too readily. He questions the things people take for granted about their children and planning for their futures. He’s not irresponsible, but he’s prayerful and godly, and wants our children, above all, to cultivate their own relationship with Jesus, knowing that nothing else completely satisfies.

He does the awkward stuff.

Like parenting ‘someone else’s children’.

I know some men who wouldn’t consider adoption, even though their wives might be keen, but this one willingly gave up his right to have more biological kids, in order to become the father that our twins would otherwise not have. He’s every bit their father, and gives them the same love, kindness, security and boundaries that he gives our birth kids.

In doing so, he leads by example. He shows our little family, our wider family, our friends and our church what it means to father the fatherless. What God’s priorities are when it comes to relationships. That a family which doesn’t reach out to others is poorer for it.

He is the father of my children, and they are so blessed to have him.

Read my first ever blog post – about Fathers’ Day 2012!

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Can you imagine having no father?

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I can’t imagine how it would feel to have no father.

I can imagine a remote father – detached, preoccupied, no space in his life for children. I can imagine his regret and guilt at having been talked into a family he never really wanted – or, perhaps, the absence of regret and guilt, as time starts to justify the distance that’s grown between him and his kids. I can imagine the loss, the sadness, the shut-down, the self-preservation of the children who long for his time and know they will never get it.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

I can imagine an absent father – living in a different town now, perhaps with a new wife, new life, new kids – remembering birthdays (or not), sharing a week together every summer, occasional weekends. I can imagine the awkwardness for a child struggling to fit into a different family every now-and-then, having to adapt behaviours and routines for different sets of parents.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

I can imagine a neglectful father – leaving everything to Mum, putting his own needs first, not noticing the children who require his help to regulate their emotions, because he can’t yet regulate his own. I can imagine the children who grow up thinking this is what family life is like: Mum raises the family, Dad does what he likes.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

I can imagine an abusive father – letting his anger control him, free-flowing with the insults, the lies, the manipulation, the fists. I can imagine – although it pains me to write it – a father who cannot control his lust, who does the unthinkable, who abuses the trust of those who have no one else to rely on.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

No father? Obviously, at some point, there must have been.

But was that a father? Or was that a few drops of bodily fluid, moving from one body to another? Two lucky sperm which made it, which kick-started two new lives, unbeknownst to the person who ejected them from their being?

And now, somewhere, that person walks free, unaware of the lives he has created. He may pass them in the street – or he may be living on the other side of the world – and we will never know. Was he old or young? Tall or short? Does he have other kids? A wife?

I can’t imagine – because the possibilities are infinite.

What was his ethnicity? Was he unemployed, or was he a CEO? Was it a romantic liaison, or a one-night stand? Did he pay?

Okay, so maybe I am imagining. But imagination usually starts with reality – and here, there is no reality to know of. No clues, no evidence, no memories and no one to ask. With endless possibilities of what this sperm-donor may have been like, I’ll likely never guess the real him.

And the kids – how will they respond? Not just knowing little, but knowing nothing. Future Fathers’ Days, when they’re old enough to understand. “Best dad” cards taking on a new meaning. Adolescence, and wondering whether emerging character traits come from him. DNA tests when they meet their future partners.

There wasn’t really a father. What might have turned into one was actually just a couple of seeds, fertilising a couple of eggs.

But God likes seeds. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Seeds planted in good soil will produce a healthy crop.

And a seed from a man can fertilise an egg, creating a life which God dreamed up many millennia before it happened.

You see, there is a Father after all. A Father who was intentional and loving from the start. A Father who wanted these children to be born into his world, to take their place in family life, to come into relationship with Him.

Yes, it matters that there is no earthly father. But no, it’s not the end of the story.

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The Mermaid Who Couldn’t – review and GIVEAWAY!!

Being removed from your biological family, at whatever age it happens, has life-changing impact. There will be negative emotions and responses which feel so intuitive, that the idea of ever shaking them off seems impossible.

The more resources which help children and parents to navigate these tricky emotions, the better! And so I was thrilled to find a copy of The Mermaid Who Couldn’t on my doormat recently.

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Image credit: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Written by adoptive parent Ali Redford, The Mermaid Who Couldn’t (illustrated by Kara Simpson) tells the story of Mariana, a mermaid neglected by her mother. Mariana is found and nurtured by a turtle, Muriel, and the book depicts Mariana’s journey from the deep, dark depths of the sea, up to the fresh air and light of the mermaids’ cove. This is a wonderful metaphor for vulnerable children to latch onto, offering hope and encouragement.

Just in case you might be thinking that this sounds like an overly-simplistic message for such a book to portray, let me reassure you that the journey from dark to light is never portrayed as straightforward. When Mariana first surfaces from the sea, for example, she feels totally useless, as she can’t sing beautifully like the other mermaids – so she dives back down to where she was. She is sad and angry that she hasn’t been able to ‘survive’ in the light – but doesn’t know how to make things better.

Even towards the end of the book, when Mariana is in a much better place, there comes the line: “But if she feels low, as she sometimes still does, Muriel is ALWAYS close enough to remind her to look up at the sky…and sing her own sweet, mighty song”.

Mariana’s background, whilst it hasn’t been loving or nurturing, is not dismissed – instead, she is encouraged to sing “her own sweet, mighty song”. This validation of her experience reassures both parents and child that, however damaged a child may be, he/she is a unique individual, with a very special contribution to make to society.

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Image credit: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The Mermaid Who Couldn’t uses a lot of helpful emotion words – useless, scared, sad, angry – to encourage the reader to voice their feelings. I liked this very much – small children struggle to understand, let alone articulate, what they’re feeling, so putting this language into their vocabulary, via a character who has experienced a similar background, can only be a good thing.

And – this sounds obvious, but I’ll say it anyway – the fact that the story centres around a mermaid, i.e. a mythical creature, makes the whole thing rather more detached from reality and, therefore, much more approachable for a vulnerable child. Anything resembling real life more closely might just be a little too uncomfortable.

This said, there are a few phrases or sentences which might be distressing to some children. I don’t believe they should have been excluded, as they may start important conversations for the children who read them – but of course every child is different, and some are more sensitive to language than others.

I really loved the bold illustrations, and found some of the facial expressions in particular very moving, subtly depicting the different emotions Mariana feels throughout her journey. But a couple of my friends weren’t sure about them – I guess it’s all pretty subjective, and certainly not a reason not to buy the book!

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Image credit: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

I recommend The Mermaid Who Couldn’t wholeheartedly – it’s a great book to have on the shelf. Whilst aimed at children who are adopted or fostered, it could be successfully used with birth children whose families were preparing to adopt or foster. It would also be a fantastic addition to any school library.

The author and illustrator have clearly intended this book to be aimed predominantly at girls, as they’ve previously released a ‘boys’ version: The Boy who Built a Wall Around Himself. It’s definitely helpful for children to be able to see themselves in the story, but in the interests of gender equality I like to read my children books containing heroes of both genders – so I read this with my 3 year old adopted boys, as well as my 6 year old birth daughter, and it was appreciated by all.

As the book is aimed at ages 4-9, I was not expecting my 3 year olds to start long, deep, meaningful conversations with me after reading this book, but I trust that as we keep it on our bookshelf and return to it regularly over the next few years, the conversations will start to unfold. Any resource which makes this easier is a godsend.

Now – onto the fun part – Jessica Kingsley Publishers have kindly sent me a giveaway copy, so to be in with a chance of winning, simply sign up to my newsletter – or, if you’ve already done so, leave a comment below. This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Katherine H who won!

And, if you haven’t already, why not read my review of The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting? It’s another brilliantly helpful JKP publication.

You may also like to check out my Adoption Pinterest board for more blogs and articles I’ve written on all aspects of adoption.

A couple of disclaimers: I was given a free copy to review, but all views are my own, and I never recommend anything I wouldn’t buy myself. Affiliate links are used in this email – if you click through and make a purchase, I make a small commission at no cost to yourself. Thanks for your support!

How do I use herbs and essential oils to improve my family’s quality of life?

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Last Autumn, Missy requested a ‘lip-balm making party’ for her 6th birthday. I’d never made a cosmetic product in my life, but a Google search provided a simple-enough recipe, and I began ordering the ingredients. Missy chose the flavours herself, opting for lavender and lemongrass.

After the party, to use up leftover ingredients, we made more lip balms and other products for Christmas presents. We needed a few more flavours, so before long our essential oil collection looked pretty comprehensive.

Now – as I guess you’ll know if you’ve ever bought oils – these don’t come cheap. And, once the purpose is served, you’re still left with quite a lot in the bottle – so what do you do?

I’m aware that it’s possible to make a whole range of skincare products using oils. I’m also aware that you can use them in homemade cleaning products. Both of these have the capacity to reduce plastic consumption as well as lowering the number of chemicals we put on ourselves, our kids, and in our home. Sounds good so far.

The question is: where to start? You can Google individual recipes, of course, but who knows if they’re going to work or not? And how long is it going to take you to build up a decent collection of stuff that really works?

Cue the Ultimate Herbs & Essential Oils Bundle: a huge, diverse and useful digital library of e-Books and online courses carefully sourced and curated to give you ideas, recipes, tips and background information galore.

Ultimate Bundles is a Canadian company which scours the Internet, looking for the best digital resources on topics requested by customers. They then collate them all into an incredible ‘bundle’ and sell it for next-to-nothing – but only for a few days.

I came across them a couple of months ago when I bought their Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. It’s revolutionised my life, and I’m only a few books in! There were sections on parenting strategies, working from home (the Blog Boss course was SO helpful!), fashion and style tips for parents, budgeting, time management, self-care, home organisation and even faith. There were over 130 titles in all – and I paid the equivalent of about two or three books.

Anyway, you don’t want to hear about that (although I could ramble on for ages, it was such a brilliant buy) – you want to hear about what you get in this Herbs & Essential Oils bundle – right?!

Firstly, there’s a ‘Beauty’ section – seven fabulous e-Books written by people who know their stuff, going into detail on how you can make all sorts of different skincare and bath products.

I’m particularly keen on the ‘The Nerdy Farm Wife’s Natural Bath Bombs’ – I think I’ll be stashing this one away as a good idea for me and the kids to make for Christmas presents. And ‘Natural Body Care: Recipes that soothe the skin’ will be really interesting, as I have eczema and very sensitive skin.

Then there’s a section on Cooking, which includes a couple of helpful guides on cooking with herbs, spices and oils. I’m a huge fan of growing herbs, and we have a good selection in our garden, but I’m not so brilliant at finding ways to use all of them.

There’s also a section on Essential Oils – a 3-month membership to The Essential Oils Club, plus six e-books on all aspects of oils including recipes, safety considerations, benefits for families, and much more.

The other sections are on Herbs, Foraging, Natural Remedies, and For Your Home. DIY Holistic Cleaning: Safe and Natural Ways to Clean Your Home and Workplace sounds particularly intriguing – I’d love to learn more about how I can clean without chemicals. (When I do clean. Ahem.)

If you bought each resource individually, it would cost you $567.48 (roughly £426) – not to mention the time it would take you to source so much fabulously helpful material – but from May 30th to June 4th only, you can get them all in this fantastic bundle for $29.97 (roughly £22.52).

That’s the cost of about three actual books – but you’re getting 34 resources. Amazing! And there are 444 recipes across the bundle – can you imagine how much it would cost to buy this amount of inspiration? At least two, if not three or four, recipe books.

I’m not planning a hard sell here – that’s not my style – but I do like to share with you resources that I’ve found useful. The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle blew me away, which is why I’ve become an affiliate, bringing these packages to lots of my UK readers who won’t yet have come across this company.

If herbs and oils aren’t your thing, not to fear – there are plenty more bundles planned for the rest of this year: healthy living, photography, genius blogger’s, and healthy meal planning. I’ll be alerting you to each one, so that you won’t miss out on something you’re interested in.

Whatever the topic, each bundle will be filled with quality resources, designed to make your life easier, more interesting and enjoyable. And, unlike ordering paper books, you’re not waiting for a chance to get to the bookshop, or for an online order to be dispatched.

The Herbs & Essential Oils bundle is available from this Wednesday (May 30th) until June 4th only. To purchase it, simply click here anytime between those dates (I’ll remind you next week, but wanted to give you a bit of time to think about it).

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I make a commission at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you for your support.

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The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting – review and GIVEAWAY!!!

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I’m hugely excited this week to be sharing an absolutely brilliant book with you. The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting (Sarah Naish) was released a few weeks ago, and I have to tell you that it’s already revolutionising my parenting.

Wait…rewind a few steps…what’s therapeutic parenting?

It’s a style of parenting favoured by many adoptive or fostering parents – but with numerous benefits to birth parents too. Some may think it sounds a bit wishy-washy, as if you’re allowing your children to run amok with no boundaries, but the reality is pretty much the opposite.

Therapeutic parenting provides very clear and consistent boundaries for children (particularly important if these have been lacking in their early childhood), but it looks beyond the immediate, presenting behaviour to see the emotions being expressed and what they tell us about what a child might be struggling with.

Children who have not been loved, nurtured and cared for in the first few years of life may well have difficulties in responding to people or situations, due to brain pathways not developing as they should. These difficulties can include: little understanding of cause-and-effect (the consequences of their actions), an overactive stress response, and struggles with daily transitions, to name but a few.

Sounds complicated!

It is! And that’s where The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting comes in. The first part of the book gives a really helpful and practical guide to therapeutic parenting – what it is, why it’s necessary for vulnerable children, how it works in practice. And this is compacted into 70 odd pages.

It might sound like a lot, but whole books have been written on this subject – so Sarah Naish’s helpful analysis is very concise and readable, broken down into several chapters.

OK – but that all sounds a bit theoretical.

That’s where part two comes in! The bulk of this book is given over to its title – an ‘A-Z’ of over sixty behaviours commonly presented by children, with clear bullet-pointed lists of what the behaviour looks like, why it might be happening, strategies you can use during and after the incident, and preventative strategies you can put in place to reduce, or eliminate, the behaviour in the future.

Pretty much everything you can think of is included, from shouting to sleep issues, disorganisation to dummies, hypochondria to homework. We adopted our boys over two years ago and I’ll be honest with you: the first two years were simply about keeping head above water. Now that I’m out of the initial haze, I’ve had time to read more deeply and widely about trauma, attachment and parenting.

But in those early days? This book would have been SO HELPFUL. You can literally just look up the behaviour your child is struggling with, read a couple of pages, and be armed with so many ideas for how to prevent and deal with it.

For example, two issues we’re constantly up against in our household are aggression and controlling behaviour. Both of these are included in this book, and both of the articles gave me strategies I could start using straight away, with further ideas to think about long-term.

If you’re in the early days of adoption or fostering, with little time to read lengthy and technical books, but need something quick which will actually help you, this is the one. Quite simply, this is THE most practical and helpful book on parenting that I’ve seen!

Sounds good! What a shame only adoptive and fostering families can make use of it.

Did I say that?! Whilst therapeutic parenting is a fabulous (and, in my opinion, the only workable) way to parent vulnerable children, the approach does no harm to other children – and, in fact, will usually help them too!

Many birth children will have suffered trauma in their early lives too (a complicated birth, bereavement of someone close to them, an absent parent or parental relationship breakdown, etc.), and may well be presenting the behaviours listed in this book.

And, even for children who have led un-traumatised lives, these behaviours will sound familiar! I have two birth children who fall into this category, but they still present difficult behaviours, and I know that many of the strategies Sarah Naish outlines in this book will really help them (and me) too.

So this book is good for all parents – great! But who is this Sarah Naish woman? Bet she doesn’t actually have any kids, right?

Wrong! Sarah Naish has an incredibly inspiring background which involves a career in social work, followed by adopting five siblings, followed by her husband suffering from compassion fatigue and walking out, followed by a few years of single-handedly parenting these five damaged and wounded children. (Yep, you read that right. FIVE. On her own. Geez.)

She eventually got re-married (to an impossibly-awesome-sounding guy!), and her children are now grown up. Sarah now works with hundreds of families to support them in their parenting journeys, through the National Association of Therapeutic Parents, which she set up, and the Inspire Training Group, which delivers training on attachment issues. She’s written several books.

I think the girl probably knows what she’s talking about.

OK, you win. I’ll bet she’s a bit patronising, though, with all that experience.

No! That’s another fab thing about this book: it didn’t make me feel rubbish about my own (often inadequate) parenting. Sarah understands that we’re human, that we don’t always act as we’d like to. She’s a great believer in new starts, in picking ourselves up after something’s gone wrong, and having another go. I loved her forgiving and encouraging tone.

Sounds brilliant! How does one get hold of a copy?

There’s the traditional route: you click here and buy a copy.

Then there’s the non-traditional route: Jessica Kingsley Publishers are kindly offering a copy of this book to one lucky winner in a fabulous giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Trevor Nicholas who won!

For a brilliant adoption book aimed at children, I highly recommend The Mermaid who Couldn’t – read my review here.

And if it’s your first time here, why not check out my other Adoption posts?

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy to review by the very kind publishers, but my review represents my own views, which I was under no obligation to make more positive than they actually are. For those of you new to my blog, please rest assured that I only ever review stuff I love!

Another disclaimer, because I’m getting all bloggy and stuff: This blog post contains affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a teensy-weensy bit of commission at no extra cost to yourself. In fact, the link I’ve given you is the cheapest I’ve seen this book, so you’d be a fool not to use it…

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the day of demands (and the half-dead flowers which spoke more than any bouquet)

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Today’s sultry summer weather has reminded me of a similar day a few weeks ago.

It was a day of demands.

And, being the good British mum I am, I wanted to let my children experience the glories of summer in case the season decided not to greet us again until next year. Read: I got the paddling pool out.

It’s no mean feat, this. In my head, suffering with the amnesia which comes from not having done something for a whole year, it takes around 10 minutes to inflate and fill a paddling pool. The reality? Allow half a day.

So, by the time the big kids came back from school, all four were fired up and ready to go. The clothes came off, the swimsuits came on.

And the demands flowed like honey:

“Mum – can you put the slide in the paddling pool?”

“Can you get down my other swimsuit?”

“Can I have a drink?”

“I done wee-wee in my pants.”

“Can I have a snack?”

“Mum – can you help me with the slide?”

“Can you fill up my water gun?”

“I don’t like breadsticks.”

“Mum!! Monkey’s tipped water all over me and I’m soaked!”

“Meerkat’s fallen over and he’s crying.”

“Mum! There’s a nettle growing through the trampoline!”

(Silly me, thinking I might be able to hang out the washing while my children played contentedly.)

In the middle of the demands, though, came a small and almost-missed voice. See if you can spot it.

“Mum – can you fill up my water bottle?”

“I want more snack!”

“We’ve found some snails and we’ve called them Tilly and Billy and we’ve put them in my bed to live forever.”

“Mum – I want to get changed – where’s the towel?”

“I brought you some flowers Mummy.”

“Where my snack? Me hungry.”

“I need a poo!”

“Mummy help me – can’t get my swimsuit off.”

“Mum will you tell Monkey to stop hitting me?”

“I’ve put them by your bed, Mummy.”

By the time they all went to bed, I was exhausted. And yes, somehow, we’d managed to get some food into them, cleaned their teeth and got them safely to bed, but it had zapped all my energy, and I was lying comatose on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

Eventually, I dragged myself upstairs. Walking round the bed to get to my side, I was struck by a sight which made my eyes well up and a broad smile creep across my face.

Three half-dead flowers lying on my bedside cabinet.

More precious than any fancy bouquet I’ve ever received were these three half-dead flowers, lying in their quiet generosity on my bedside table. A sign of unconditional love from my girl – that amidst my snapping and gradual loss of patience, she not only still loved me, but wanted to give me something to show it, even going to the trouble of carrying them upstairs for me, as if she knew that this small action was going to be something I wouldn’t get round to today.

And I don’t really know what else to say, except Love. Love love love love love. It’s borne in the moments of impatience and frustration, of tiredness and snapping, as much as it is in the giving and the celebrating, the laughter and the smiles.

If you’ve had a day of demands: never underestimate what you are investing in your kids each day through the miracle of your humanness. You don’t need to be perfect: you just need to be you.

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Log-fired pizzas, hands-free parenting and incredible acrobatics (watching, not doing) – What I’m into – April 2018

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Books

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The adjective for me reading Ian McEwan’s Solar would, I think, be ‘ploughing through’. In many ways it was an enjoyable read – he has an amazing ability to articulate such fine details in precise but creative ways, teaching me so much about working with words – but, with lots of talk about physics, plus a lead character whose infidelity and general self-centredness didn’t endear me to him, it felt a bit of a slog.

It was the book chosen for my fab Book Club this month, and I’m glad I got to read it, as I’d never have picked up this sort of novel otherwise. But I’m also glad I’m through it!

I was also disappointed by the ending…I somehow felt that if there was a spectacular showdown in the last few pages (which I really did feel the story was building up to) then I would have forgiven the slog. But the end was an anti-climax – almost as if McEwan had got distracted by something – a wasp flying into the room, maybe? – and had finished the book in a rush.

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This month I (and my housegroup) finished Kevin de Young’s The Hole in our Holiness. There were many great themes in this book of which I needed reminding – but the writing lacked nuance and sensitivity to those who might read the Bible slightly differently on issues, and the whole book seemed to sit in a frustrating no-man’s-land betweeen academic rigour and accessible discipleship. He used unnecessarily long or complicated language for the layman to understand – but also didn’t quite back up his points well enough, or make coherent enough arguments in places, for the book to be considered ‘academic’.

downloadI am still, however, really enjoying Hands-Free Mama. Its author, Rachel Macy Stafford, recommends reading one chapter per month for a year, which is what I’m doing, except that, with the length of time passing between each chapter, I was finding myself losing the train of thought.

I’ve now got a better solution: keeping the book in the loo and reading a page or two regularly! I usually hate reading books on the loo, as I can’t get into them before my bottom goes numb. But this book is written in short sections and anecdotes which add up to the same idea, so it’s really easy to dip into for short bursts.

Food

Well obviously I ate Too Much Chocolate. It was inevitable, really, after my Lenten fast. Since I have Zero Shame on this blog, you may as well know that I had the chocs lined up on my bedside table, ready to indulge first thing on Easter Sunday morning.

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Photo credit: Joy Photography

Besides that, my favourite York bistro launched its Pizza and Beer weekends, and I visited twice. If you’re a local, make sure you don’t miss out on these absolutely phenomenal log-fired pizzas, with crazy-awesome toppings. Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm, all through the summer.

Music

We got out our old Karine Polwart CD and have been enjoying her fresh, light, folksy sound – even 6-year-old Missy’s been converted to Karine’s beautiful voice and lyrical melodies. If you don’t know her, all I can say is that she’s PERFECT for summer drives. (Karine, not Missy. Missy will spend the entire journey moaning that she’s too warm, complaining about her head-rest and requesting snacks – not nearly as relaxing as Karine.)

Stage and screen

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Image credit: http://www.mettatheatre.co.uk

The older kids and I went to a stage production of The Little MermaidIt was breath-takingly beautiful: essentially a piece of musical theatre, with live ensemble integrated into the cast. But the most stunning and different aspect to it was the acrobatics – incredible circus-like feats which gave the impression of swimming through water. We were spellbound.

It’s currently on in Malvern till Saturday, then Windsor, then three weeks in London. I highly recommend getting some tickets if you’re within a stone’s throw of any of these places. The recommended age is 8+, but I took my 8yo and 6yo and they both loved it. The performance lasts just over an hour, so any child who can sit for that length of time would enjoy it I reckon. (Needless to say, you’d also enjoy it as an adult with no kids in tow!)

Films-wise, I enjoyed Kramer v. Kramer – an oldie I’d never got round to seeing. So much of the public gender debate covers discrimination against women, that it was refreshing – although painful – to watch an example of discrimination against a man. The story is fictional, but could have been real, very much reflecting the feeling at the time (and even now for some) that a man wasn’t as equipped as a women to raise a child. Needless to say, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep are incredible, as is Justin Henry, who plays their child – much of the film is pure dialogue, and requires these veritable talents to pull it off. Recommended if you haven’t seen!

About Time is the kind of film you’re still thinking about (and smiling at the memory of) the day after you watch it. Such an interesting premise, the idea that you can repeat moments over and over again, to get them ‘right’ – but, as with all time travel stories, there are complications and limitations. Learning how to balance this all out results in some heartwarming lessons – and, as you would expect from a Richard Curtis film, there are some stonkingly good lines throughout. I was laughing out loud one moment, and crying the next.

Finally – I enjoyed The Notebook, a touching drama about an ill-fated love affair between two teenagers in the 1940s. It avoids cliche by taking the perspective of the lady many years later, now suffering from dementia in a nursing home – and I love the way we’re left till soooooo near the end before discovering how the love story turned out.

Articles

Love is not a Feeling is so beautifully written, so wise and thought-provoking – and deserves to be read by everyone!

On the blog

child-817369_640I asked Why adopt when you can have birth children? and explained Why my son tore up his Mothers’ Day card. I also shared the highs and lows of my writing journey so far.

Elsewhere

I launched my career as a HuffPost blogger with a plea to stop talking about ‘working mums’ as if some of us laze around all day with nothing but Loose Women and a big bag of Haribo for company.

woman-1733881_640.jpgThe Association of Christian Writers (ACW) has a fabulous blog – most days of the month are covered, and all the contributors are writers (doh!) so the quality is really high. I recommend you take a look! I’ve recently bagged the 2nd-of-the-month slot, and April was my maiden voyage.

On the Home for Good website, you can catch my article What the Church needs to know about Trauma (actually, it’s what we all need to know about trauma, church-goers or not), and read the incredibly powerful story of Fran, who spent her childhood in a disfunctional family and her adolescence in foster care. It was a privilege to be able to interview Fran, understand her story and glean her wisdom.

And I was delighted to share some ideas for when you and your partner disagree on parenting issues over at the fabulous To Love Honor and Vacuum blog.

In other news…

* thank you to what is lovingly referred to as ‘Beauty Twitter’ for advising me that coconut oil removes make up. It really does! And is cheap as chips!

* I spent an inordinate amount of time this month sorting out GDPR for my mailing list, learning how to blog properly (after six years…who knew there was actually some skill to this blogging lark?), designing a few exciting graphics for forthcoming blog posts, and signing up for affiliate programs (see below).

Did I mention my mailing list?! If you’re not on it – get on it! The form won’t even take you a minute to fill in, and I’ll send you ‘Ten Tried-and-Tested Tips for Kids’ Parties’ as a thank you. (Or, rather, Mailchimp will. Because I worked out the automation feature. Yay me.)

* And, of course, I’d love to connect with you via Facebook or Twitter!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m Into’ series.

This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link and make a purchase, I will earn a small amount of commission, at no extra cost to yourself. I seriously only recommend stuff I like – I never lie just to earn commission!