Desertmum has moved…!

Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Excitingly, I now have a new home for Desertmum, which you can find here. Please pop across and keep me company while I wait for everyone else to turn up.

You could also, you know, add me to your bookmarks, share the new website with everyone you know and write the words ‘lucyrycroft.com’ in beautifully artistic brush-strokes across your bathroom mirror.

Just sayin’.

Lucy x

Dear World, My ‘adopted’ children are also my ‘own’ children. Please don’t differentiate.

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It’s National Adoption Week, which seemed like a good opportunity for a rant.

As you know, I tend to blog positively and (I hope) humorously about adoption, and its impact on our family. It’s not all roses, of course, and I’m honest about the struggles of raising four children, two of whom have early life trauma, but generally our life is good and we have much to be thankful for.

Please read the following, then, in the context of what you’ve just read. Our life is good. What I’m about to say is just a niggle, really, and it shouldn’t get to me – but, then again, it’s such a common faux pas, and one so easily fixed, that I’m surprised more people don’t realise the impact of what they’re saying.

The niggle is this: people I meet are usually very interested in our adoption story. “What made you want to adopt?” “Did you always want to adopt?” and so on. Very good questions. In fact, any question is a good question. I like questions. They encourage honesty and transparency, both of which I’m a huge fan of.

But then, on hearing that we have two older, birth children (take note, this is the correct phrase), I’m met with a response such as, “Oh, so you have two of your own as well – that’s lovely!”

Excuse me?

Of my own?

Does anyone realise how patronising that sounds? Not to mention how unsettling for my boys as they grow older and start to understand the full whack of what’s being suggested.

Are you really saying that, in some way, my adopted children are not as good, not as entitled, not as deserving of us as our birth children are?

Are you really saying that my adopted children aren’t really mine?

Are you really saying that there is some difference between how we would treat the four of them?

Are you possibly suggesting that our adopted children don’t really fit into our family? That once they hit 18, they’ll be fending for themselves?

Sure, I went through a lot to get my two birth children. There was the initial, er, act. And then nine months of the usual fatigue, nausea, increasing discomfort, pre-eclampsia, blah, blah, blah.

And then a few more days of the same because which Rycroft has ever turned up anywhere on time?

And then the labour. Urgh.

And then the feeding, the sleepless nights, the reflux, the weaning, the tummy that refuses to bounce back. OK, maybe this last one is more the fault of insane amounts of chocolate consumption rather than the kiddoes, but you get the picture.

These kids are my own kids, for sure. No one would doubt it. Legally, they are ours too – I can show you their birth certificates which bear my name.

But then again, I went through a lot to get my two adopted children also.

There were more than three years of discussing, praying, talking to adopters, attending events and meetings. And then a few frenzied nights of form filling, capturing every tiny detail of our lives in a seemingly infinite line of boxes: personal details, job information, financial situation, home safety audit, NSPCC safeguarding checks. You name it, we filled the form.

And then there were two months of intensive social worker meetings – a bit like free therapy (we rather enjoyed this, I won’t lie). We shared the story of our own family upbringings, how the two of us met and married, the relationship we have with our birth children, our working history, our views and values on disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, expectations of our children, and a whole range of other things.

By the end of this stage, our social worker knew more about us than our closest friends.

Oh, and four days of an adoption preparation course. Basically four days designed to put you off adopting.

Then the panel, maybe just 15 minutes or so, but a dozen faces, each one prompting us to defend why we really could parent two more children.

And then there was the waiting, the scrolling through child profiles, more waiting, the adoption event where I first caught a glimpse of their sweet faces, more waiting, the phone calls, the ‘what-ifs’, more waiting, the meetings, the plans, the starting-to-get-real moments, the decorating, more waiting, more forms, more meetings, more desperation to meet our own children.

And then they moved in and we had regular visits from the social worker, health visitor and independent reviewing officer. Things Which Had To Be Done. Forms Which Had To Be Filled.

Because, by heck, they don’t leave you to flounder with an adopted child like they do with a birth child.

And – finally – nearly a year later, the court visit, the words, the photos, the celebration, the joyous knowledge – and the bit of paper which legally proves – that these are our children. OUR OWN CHILDREN.

Calling them our ‘own’ children does not diminish the place of their birth family. It does not wish away a story which, however sad, is a key part of who they are. We still have indirect contact with birth relatives, and will continue to do so, maybe one day turning that into direct contact, if our boys are keen.

No. Calling them ‘our own children’ gives them the total security of knowing they are totally loved, totally wanted, totally right in our family. They are not outsiders, they belong – and everything we have is theirs. There is nothing we give our birth children – in time, love, sacrifice or money – that we do not also give our adopted children.

I’d argue that the journey towards our adopted children becoming our children was longer, busier and more intense than that which we made when we embarked upon birth children. Wouldn’t you agree?

In that case, can we all be a little more careful in the language we use?

If you’ve appreciated this post, why not join the Desertmum community for weekly emails about adoption, parenting, faith and – let’s face it – whatever bandwagon I’ve jumped on for that week?

You may also enjoy:

A Really Incredible Feast – rhyming picture book for kids – review and GIVEAWAY!

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I was so delighted recently to discover this lovely book for young-ish children.

Granted, I don’t have a lot of time to research Christian books for kids, but the ones we have do vary in quality. (Actually, it’s probably less variable than it once was, as I’ve chucked the awful ones!)

Sometimes it feels like our children have all these beautiful books, with lovely illustrations and poetic language – and then the Christian books which sit on their shelves are some kind of second-best, low-budget option.

While I know full well that Christian publishers do have smaller budgets, and a smaller audience, I do think that there are ways of getting round these obstacles to produce beautiful books – and Scripture Union has certainly achieved this with ‘A Really Incredible Feast’.

20180920_210459-978138081When I first opened the envelope, I was impressed by the book’s size, look and feel. It’s hardback – always a great start, as it just feels so weighty and lovely! – and the illustrations are bold and striking. Fabulous!

It’s also incredible value for money, retailing at just 4.99 for a hardback book with six long-ish Jesus stories included. This makes it affordable and accessible for many – and SU should be applauded, again, for creating such a low price point.

Johanna Baldwin’s poems are really lovely, and make for an engaging story. There are six stories from the life of Jesus, including calming the storm, feeding the 5,000, and healing a blind man. I love the way she brings these all to life with fun language, without resorting to ‘extra’ details or digressions which aren’t in the original Bible story.

Bible references are given for each story, in case you want to look it up and read it to your child, but actually Baldwin’s poems don’t really leave out much. Still, it’s worth noting as it can be good to help your child make the connection between a picture book and the Bible.

The blurb states that this book is suitable for 5s-8s. I read it to my brood of 8-6-3-3, and, unsurprisingly, it was my 6 year old who took to it the most.

My *slight* quibble is that there are rather a lot of verses on each page – which makes for great value for money, of course, but wouldn’t perhaps engage a pre-schooler who needed more scene changes for that amount of words. I guess that’s why the age range doesn’t include under 5s.

However, the illustrations – I felt – were more geared to younger children. As such, Mister (8) didn’t engage so much in the book. He listened, and he didn’t dislike it at all, but as he’s at the stage of reading smaller ‘novel’ sized books, with more text and fewer pictures, I can’t see a situation where I would sit down and read this solely to him.

If you know a 5/6 year old, or mature 4 year old, this book would be excellent for them. The hardback cover, great illustrations and fun rhyming language make it a brilliant (and inexpensive gift) for a birthday, Christmas, or baptism/dedication.

And – of course – I’m not ending the review on that note… The author, Johanna Baldwin, has kindly offered a FREE copy to a Desertmum reader!

To enter, simply join my mailing list here – or, if you have already done that, simply leave a comment on this post. That’s it! Simples.

I’ll pick a winner (using my trusty random number generator) this Sunday, 23rd September, at 9pm BST. I’m happy to post internationally, so if you’re not based in the UK, don’t let that stop you!

If you enjoyed this, you may like to read:

* Diary of a (Trying to be Holy) Mum – book review

* The Mermaid Who Couldn’t – book review

* Nits and the sacrifices of parenting

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LIVE James Taylor! LIVE Hairspray! LIVE nits! (What I’m into – July 2018)

Welcome to my monthly round-up! If you weren’t already aware, I share plenty of this stuff through the month on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Do check them out if you haven’t already – oh, and don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list if you’re not already on there…I promise not to spam you!

Books

OK, don’t judge me, but this month I have mainly been reading about sex.

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Before you judge (ha! I knew you were going to!), let me tell you just how great this book is. Sheila Wray Gregoire, the author, starts with the principle that, despite our culture telling us that the way to sexual fulfilment is to have multiple partners, the best sex is actually found in monogamous relationships, where two people have committed to each other for life.

That’s not the end of the story, though, is it? We all know that we live in a fallen world, and marriages aren’t always brilliant. So what I love about A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex is that the author deals head-on with many of the problems that married couples might be dealing with, which could adversely affect their sex life: pornography, health problems, affairs, sexual activity before marriage, lack of friendship/socialising outside of the bedroom, and plenty more.

The author is very, VERY blunt in this book – and that’s actually what I really appreciated! Yes, she’s writing from a Biblical perspective, but she has none of the shame/taboo/embarrassment which, sadly, often arises from the church’s teaching on sex. She calls things for what they are, and encourages all of us to work on three sides of our sexual relationships: the physical side, the friendship side, and the spiritual side, with plenty of practical tips along the way.

She’s written this mainly for an engaged/newly married audience (it would be a great pressie if you knew of a Christian girl getting married this summer), but I think she covers so much ground that it is useful reading at any stage of a marriage.

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Serving Without Sinking is an absolutely fab book to read if you’re feeling, or have ever felt, burnt out by Christian service. It’s full of grace and wise words, and helped me to realign my priorities and rethink why I’m doing what I’m doing. Find out more in this short video clip.

I’ve also been enjoying several of my downloads from the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle (which, I’m pleased to announce, will be on sale again in November – hurrah!). A few which have stood out for me: Choose Rest (a really great online course in Biblical self-care), Clutter: Sorted (a helpful and practical guide to decluttering), and DD and I are working through the 15 Minute Marriage Makeover (a short task to do each evening for a month, although realistically it will probably take us three…).

Food

Barbecue season continued, although we ran out of steam a little after the World Cup, it has to be said.

It was our anniversary, and DD and I visited The Ivy, which opened in York last year. We were generously gifted a voucher for Christmas, so finally got round to using it!

The food was good, although we were quite surprised how ‘non-foody’ it was! We were expecting fine dining, and were presented with food which you might find on a gastropub menu. I tried to choose the most quirky items on the menu: a crispy duck salad for starters, followed by a monkfish and prawn Keralan curry, with a delicious chocolate bomb (and hot butterscotch sauce to melt it) for dessert.

It certainly didn’t disappoint in quality, but as folk who like more surprise and innovation when they eat out, we probably wouldn’t return.

Music

We went to see James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt and – oh my goodness – it was one of my top five gigs ever! OK, so we were around 30 years younger than most of the audience, but I argue that these are the BEST sorts of gigs, because all the best songwriters are from the 1970s anyway!

Raitt has an incredible voice, and expert guitar skills, and I pondered how I might switch Missy’s allegiance over from Little Mix. It seems to me that a 70-year-old, fully-clothed woman who knows how to ROCK is a much stronger feminist influence for my daughter than four pitch-corrected young ladies who can barely put together one outfit between the four of them.

(Sorry, no offence, LM – your songs are catchy – but you’re not exactly the Bangles.)

James Taylor – well, what can I say? WOW. He’s still got it – the voice, the guitar, the humour – and he played ALL my favourite songs. You’ve got a friend, Something in the way she moves, Fire and rain, Carolina in my mind…they were all there.

AND I nearly died when he performed Carole King’s ‘Up on the Roof’, as this is actually her song, on which he duetted with her a few years ago, so I wasn’t expecting that he’d do it without her. But he did! And it was all kinds of spine-shiveringly fantastic!

(I shared the YouTube clip of their duet a little while back, but it’s so good that here it is again!)

ŪTaylor’s band were F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. – all 11 of them! They couldn’t have complemented his songs any better – when you have a Brazilian samba percussionist, an incredible violinist and some stonkin’ brass players augmenting an already fabulous keys/guitars/drums outfit, could life actually get any better?

All ready for the gig!

Stage and Screen

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I went to see Hairspray with some friends and totally loved it! Despite only recognising a couple of the songs, they were all really singable and catchy, and the choreography was brilliant. A totally fun show which anyone can enjoy, even if you don’t know anything about it in advance.

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Missy and I also went to see The Greatest Showman. Yeah, I know, we’re about 6 months behind everyone else, but cut us some slack – we spend our days managing chaos. What a brilliant film! Of course we knew most of the songs already (thank you YouTube and an obsessed 6 year old), and they’re great, but also the plot, the costumes, the acting, the dancing. Fabulous.

We saw it at the relaunch of our local community cinema which I’d never taken much notice of, but it was so lovely and I’m definitely going back! A bunch of film-mad volunteers have set this up, and it has such a lovely atmosphere. They even have an interval (with ice creams, yes), and a raffle – what’s not to love?! If you’re local, do check it out.

My articles

On the blog, I shared 5 reasons I’m grateful not to own a home and some thoughts on keeping children safe in a ‘public’ home like our Vicarage. I mused about whether end-of-term teacher gifts were compulsory, and reflected on how I’m changing my parenting to connect with my oldest son.

I also shared the first of what will be two or three posts, reflecting on the brilliant Living Out conference I attended in June.

I guest-blogged for To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the blog of Sheila Wray Gregoire, see ‘Books’ above) Ten Ways to Enjoy Awesome Vacations – Even with Young Kids. I am hugely grateful to Sheila for giving me these opportunities to blog on her site and reach a Canadian/American audience! She’s worked so hard for so many years to build her blogging/writing/speaking ministry, and yet she is so generous in sharing her space with not just me, but many aspiring writers.

Writing What the Church needs to Know about Single Adopters for Home for Good was an informative and humbling experience. Please read it – it has the seal of approval from the many single adopters who contributed. This really is what they want the Church to know!

And, for More than Writers, I blogged on How to Build a Blog Audience.

Other articles

In order to research my piece on single adopters, I found this Christian adopter’s Open Letter to her Church incredibly articulate and incisive.

This piece, on Sheila’s blog, about Vashti – upholding her as a strong feminist icon in the Bible – is just brilliant. It had crossed my mind before that Vashti had been unfairly treated, but I hadn’t given her much more thought to be honest, so I loved the way Sheila totally unpacked this.

My new favourite blog is Abby King, who posts a devotional every weekend. If I had to pick a favourite post, it would be When you’re full of doubt, this is what you need to know. Give her a whirl!

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*This stands for ‘In Real Life’, and I am so cool that I’ve only just realised it. I’ve decided to henceforth adopt it for this section of the ‘What I’m Into’ posts, and probably overuse it other blog posts. You’ve been warned.

* We had nits. Again. Urgh.

* PTA stuff stayed busy, with our end-of-term disco, plus three ‘Freeze Fridays’, where the lollies and ice creams we sold went down very well in July’s hot weather. We had a new committee member join us, and our Treasurer stepped down. Highs and lows, but looking forward to a new year with excitement! (I’m planning to blog about my PTA experiences soon – would this be of interest to anyone? If any of you are PTA people, please wave a flag in my direction – it would be great to know!)

* Mister went to camp for five days without us. In case you didn’t quite get the enormity of that: I am old enough to have a child who can go to camp for five days without us. This is HUGE. He had an amazing time, went abseiling and kayaking, made new friends, remembered to change his underwear most days, and didn’t want to come home. I, on the other hand, felt like a piece of me was missing for five days, and wept like I’d lost him in battle. Save me, Jesus.

This was my July (linking up with Leigh Kramer). How was yours?

Also…affiliate links. This post contains some. You know the score by now: click through and make a purchase, and I may earn a teensy bit of commission at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you!

three things to consider when making new year’s resolutions

For every single ounce of me that loves Christmas, I sometimes wonder whether I love New Year a little more.

I’ve been writing this blog for over five years, during which my output has gone up and down like a yo-yo – so it’s telling that, regardless of how much or little I’m writing generally, I’ve always felt compelled to write something in January to do with the new year stretched out before us.

Last year, I wrote with optimism that 2017 would be a year for more writing (it was – certainly more than 2016 – but 2018 will be even more prolific…). In 2016, I spoke of the guilt and failure that can surround New Year’s resolutions. In 2015, I vowed to spend more time reading and more time cooking. In 2014, I wrote about shedding the guilt, and, in 2013, about living a more celebratory life.

I think what does it for me about New Year is the fresh sense of perspective and optimism. I feel the same in September, at the start of the new school year. I wonder if it’s no coincidence that September and January fall right after August and December, which is when I get my proper breaks – an August summer holiday, and a December longer-than-usual stay with my hospitable in-laws. Both these times perk me up, give me a chance to reflect and think (as much as is possible with tiny people around), and get me excited to return to normal life with a bit more vigour.

It’s not hard to derive from this that I love making New Year’s resolutions. I love finding ways to become more organised, efficient, spiritual, healthy or whatever. But, this year, it struck me how easy it is to let our good intentions block our relationship with our Father God. Here are a few easy pitfalls I know I can fall into:

1. Resolutions can make us feel like we’re in control. Of course we love to feel like we have a handle on things, don’t we? It’s entirely natural to want to feel like we’re prepared for whatever life throws at us. But, sadly, life throws all sorts of things at us that no amount of January weight loss, healthy eating, housework regimes or devotional times can handle. I could name you four things that four of my friends suffered in the last couple of months of 2017 which could not have been predicted, or prevented through better planning or organisation. We don’t know what’s round the corner, and neither do our resolutions or the improved lives we might have as a result of them. Only God knows, and He is the one we need to allow to steer our lives.

It’s not wrong to make resolutions, as long as we hand over control to God. For example, a common resolution might be to lose weight, exercise more or eat more healthily. This is godly, insofar as there is a Biblical imperative to look after the bodies God has given us. But new diets and regimes can easily start to control us, competing for the throne that should belong to God. So perhaps we can alter our resolution:

Old resolution: “I will lose weight by joining [insert name of preferred slimming group!]

New resolution: “I will honour God with my body. This year I will pray for Him to help me love and accept my body, and to help me get it into good condition. I will join [slimming group/gym/whatever] but, however well or badly this goes, my priority will be to commit my body to God.”

2. Resolutions can make us feel superior.

One of my resolutions this year is to exercise more patience with my kids, particularly in the area of helping them to regulate their emotions by staying the calm, sensible one (trust me, this is not something which comes easily to this impatient, oft-tempestuous Desertmum). However ‘well’ I do at this, I will still never be a perfect parent, but I might go a couple of weeks, or – let’s push the boat out here – months, with increased patience, and that might in turn make me feel superior to a parent I witness yelling at their kid in the supermarket. A BIG FAT ‘NO’ TO THIS! We are called to humble ourselves and serve others. Does this sound like the definition of ‘superiority’ to you?

It’s not wrong to make resolutions, as long as we prioritise humility.

Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and of course we see bags of it in Jesus himself. It is clearly a good and godly thing for me to desire this gift, particularly in the area of parenting. But patience without love is useless! So I could adjust my resolution as follows:

Old resolution: “I will be more patient with my kids.”

New resolution: “I will ask God for His patience as I interact with my kids. I want to grow in His love – for my kids and for other people. I will remember how hard it is to be a parent, and will pray that God uses me to be a blessing, not a curse, to other parents. And when I fail at patience, I will take comfort in God’s forgiveness.”

3. Resolutions can make us feel more holy.

Many Christians like to start the New Year with a resolution linked to their Christian journey. Last year I resolved to read My Rock My Refuge, committing to daily Bible reading. Others might resolve to join a lively church, get involved with the church they’ve recently joined, start attending a house group, develop a structure of personal prayer, or read a discipleship book. The problem is that, if we focus too much on these ‘external’ habits of faith, we can forget the God who is our motivating factor.

It’s not wrong to make resolutions, as long as we acknowledge God’s love and acceptance of us, just as we are. 

These are all good and godly resolutions – God wants to draw even closer to us, and always has so much more to teach us, show us, and astound us with! So hats-off to you if you’ve made a resolution like this for 2018, and may God bless you as you draw closer to Him and seek to hear His voice more clearly in your life. But let’s keep, at the very forefront of our minds, the truth that God loves us just as we are. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us any more (or less). If we spend 2018 not going to church, reading the Bible or praying, He won’t love us any less, come New Year 2019.

Old resolution: “I will pray daily for the members of my house group by name.” (This is one of mine for 2018 – think I’ve managed it once so far!)

New resolution: “I will praise God for His love for me and for every one of my house group friends. I know that He has their backs, and sustains them from day to day. In the light of this, I will bring their names to Him daily, knowing how much He wants to do in all of our lives.”

God bless you as you consider the year ahead, and what He might be calling you to.

(I have one very exciting ‘resolution’, a sense of what God might be calling me to, which I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon!)

 

 

what i’m into – july

2017 seems to be whizzing by in such a whirlwind that I’m becoming very pleased for this chance to stop and reflect at the end of each month. When I can’t remember what I’ve done from one day to the next, it is encouraging to put it all down in a blog and realise that there have been lots of fun moments and memories along the way! If you write a blog, why don’t you join Leigh’s link up and share what you’ve been up to?

Books

I finally got round to reading JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You, which had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. OK, so Moyes’ stuff is basically chick-lit, and therefore not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s on the intelligent side of the genre, and this book is a perfect example, dealing with the grey area of assisted suicide. I was hooked. Moyes does her research, writes complex relationships very well, and includes wry observations about people and places. The three novels I’ve read so far by Moyes often involve characters from different classes/backgrounds who collide in unexpected circumstances – a theme which fascinates me.

Next I read A New Day, the latest by Emma Scrivener. I enjoyed – although that’s really not the right word – her first book, A New Name, which told of her battle with anorexia. A New Day moves onwards and outwards, broadening the discussion to include six ‘battle’ areas of mental health: hunger, anxiety, control, shame, anger and despair. Emma has first-hand experience of most of these, and the factual parts of the book are thorough and helpful. The spiritual guidance is excellent – neither brushing mental illness under the carpet, nor despairing of any hope whatsoever. The real test of the book is whether those suffering from a mental illness find it helpful – but certainly, as a friend of those who do, I found it a helpful and insightful guide. If someone else would like to give it a read and let me know I’d be very interested to hear your views!

Articles

I always love reading my friend Jo’s blog on MS, widowhood and single parenthood, and was over-the-moon to read her words on the Multiple Sclerosis website this month. She writes with such honesty and humour, and opens my eyes to the challenges of MS, bereavement and single parenthood.

Music

We celebrated 15 years of marriage by going to a Kate Rusby gig – our first. She was brilliant! Now we can’t stop singing Big Brave Bill, and are teaching it to our kids. If you can’t educate your Yorkshire-born kids by teaching them folk songs about superheroes who come from Barnsley, then what on earth can you do anymore? Have a listen, you’ll be hooked:

Stage and screen

Well of course, having read the book, I had to watch the film of Me Before You! It was good, with little changed from the book other than subplots which would have made the film impossibly long. The setting seemed just right. The casting – maybe not quite so great. But an enjoyable evening with a friend, and even a few tears shed at the end 🙂

I also got to watch Lion with my cousin and her daughter. What an incredible film! A young boy gets separated from his family in 1980s India, never finds them, and ends up being adopted by an Australian couple. As an adult, he vows to return to India and find his birth family. It’s a true story, one which blows your mind with how resilient, intuitive, empathetic and determined the human race can be. I managed to hold off the water works till the end but not quite sure how – as an adopter, I found the film particularly moving. If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays through this Sun July 30 at the Paramount.

And I was hugely thrilled to be able to catch the stage play of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, having read the book earlier this year! What an amazing stage show, put together with a lot of careful thought and design. The set, the props, the lights – I can’t give too much away, but it is very much worth seeing. It didn’t come to our town so I travelled a couple of hours to where it was showing (for a lovely evening out with my aunt-in-law) – and it was well worth the effort.

In other news…

* It was Sports Day. By some kind of bizarre star alignment, I won the parents’ obstacle race – and even made it into my daughter’s learning journal!

* I dragged the kids to THREE Summer Fairs this month so I could do ‘research’ and they could – well, get high on sugar. This makes our total up to five for this year and now I can steal everyone else’s ideas for our fair next year – mwahahahaha!

* My wonderful cousin-in-law came to stay, and we had a visit from some old friends, our surrogate parents from the time we were newly married. Always a joy to reconnect 🙂

* I went to London, Belfast and Liverpool this month – no wonder I’m a teensy tiny bit tired!

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* A note on Belfast: it was child-free. It was awesome. Pretty much the most Grown-Up Thing I’ve ever done, as it involved taking a flight ON MY OWN, then hiring a car ON MY OWN. I stayed with my fab cousin and her family, drank far too much hot chocolate, and spent my days observing a Suzuki Early Childhood Education training course. I have been meaning to blog about this incredible method of music education for months and months now – wish me luck, and it may yet happen in the Autumn…

* The older kids and I went to Madame Tussaud’s which was so much fun!

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* We attended the christening for my newest goddaughter. Look at her cute little face. Isn’t she just wonderful?

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* The younger kids and I tried out a new-ish ceramic-painting cafe, Bish Bash Pot, with some friends. For a pair of boys who give me a total body workout every day with their running, ducking, climbing, crawling and jumping, they do have a good attention span for anything arty. They sat and painted for ages, then got to enjoy the soft play when they got bored. Their bowls turned out a treat, don’t you think? I reckon they could easily be in a modern ceramics exhibit!

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* I was part of a parent panel to interview for our new Headteacher. Whilst sad to see the old one go, we’re all buzzing about the new appointment and can’t wait for her to get started!

* In other school news, I helped with the school disco, held the FIRST EVER PTA committee meeting, and spent an afternoon barbecuing at Sports Day, gradually turning into a tomato, thanks to the lethal combination of BBQ flames and 26 degree weather. The attractive face of parent volunteering. But it’s all worth it: there was no PTA at our school until a few months ago, and setting one up remains the thing I am most proud of so far in 2017!

 

 

what i’m into – june

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Don’t pass out or anything, but in June I read three whole books. It was a doddle though, starting as I did with R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, one of the best things I’ve ever read, where the pages pretty much turn themselves. The book follows the first year at school of a 10-year-old boy with severe facial disfigurement. It is both uncomfortably thought-provoking and wonderfully feelgood at the same time. Read it!

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Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey was another page-turner. Covering infertility, loss, suffering and resurrection (d’oh – really?) in a hopeful, gentle way, I felt this book was a rare one which neither brushed suffering under the carpet, nor used it as an excuse for bitterness. That’s not to say the emotions are not real and raw – but the path that Sheridan and his wife Merryn travelled through the realisation of dreams never going to be fulfilled makes for compelling reading.

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Finally, Compared to Her (Sophie de Witt), one of the books recommended to me in 2015, my Year of Books. It’s a helpful book, which describes the problem of CCS (Compulsive Comparison Syndrome), something pretty much every woman suffers from, and guides us through carefully thought-out theology to lead more content lives. I would recommend it to other women, but….

….and here I’m going out on a limb, since all the reviews of this book seem to be 5*. I didn’t find it riveting. And, whilst I was asking myself whether a non-fiction Christian living book can be riveting, I was reminded that many of the best Christian books are exciting, inspiring and can’t be put down – even though they’re non-fiction. This was the case with both A Praying Life and Jesus Feminist which I read earlier this year. So I did feel like I was wading through this one a little. That’s not to say it’s not good, just that it didn’t light my fire. Having said that, in the few days since I finished it, I’ve found myself mulling over its subject plenty of times – so perhaps it will have a lasting impact after all.

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Not exactly in the same category of a book I’ve read from start to finish, but still deserving a mention, the kids and I have been enjoying The Artful Year by Jean Van’t Hul. June began in the middle of half-term, so I was searching for ways in which I could entertain my 7-5-2-2 brood all at once (not easy), and Jean’s process-oriented art (i.e. where the outcome isn’t specified, but the focus is on the making) really fit the bill, as each child can access the activity at their own level, producing something they’re proud of. We tried salt-and-watercolour pictures, bean art, masking-tape hopscotch, and various new homemade ice lolly combinations. And, although we didn’t follow her instructions for it, we opened a bag of air-drying clay which kept the 5-2-2 contingent happy for hours. (Well, enough time for me to make dinner anyway.)

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Making beautiful pictures with glue, salt and watercolours!
Food

June is elderflower season so, as always, I clambered out of my bathroom window, made it across the garage roof in one piece, picked as many fresh white elderflower heads as I could find, and made it back to the bathroom window without breaking a leg. The rest of the process is dead easy – in fact, the recipe’s on the blog here if you fancy having a go next June!

We had a couple of BBQs during the heatwave, and the garlic-chilli marinated prawns were a particular highlight. A visit from our London friends was a great excuse, if one is needed, to have lunch at Guy’s. I made this aromatic prawn and cashew curry from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals:

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I haven’t always got on with Jamie’s recipes, but think I’ve found my happy place in his 30 Minute Meals which are considerably less faffy than his other recipes.

And I remembered how much I loved pulled pork, so found a recipe and made it for dinner one night – it was a hit, and so super easy too. It’ll definitely become a staple on the Desert-house menu. As will gherkins. Yep, you read that right. Although I despise them, the pulled pork evening revealed that every one of my kids thinks gherkins are absolutely marvellous. Massive pot added to this week’s shopping list.

Oh, and how do you improve upon a millionaire’s shortbread? Replace the boring shortbread base with a chewy, oaty flapjack to produce MILLIONAIRE FLAPJACKS!

IMG_2482[1]These were so delish that, having made them for a school bake sale, I was ‘commissioned’ to produce them again for my friends’ wedding anniversary party! They’re from Martha Collison’s excellent book Twist, which I highly recommend, and are so good they deserve a second photo:

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Articles

This isn’t a political blog, so I’ve kept the General Election out of this round-up – suffice to say it happened, and I played my part. But I was sad, angry perhaps, at the media’s hounding of Tim Farron throughout the election campaign, and thought this blog from The Spectator summed it up rather well.

My friend Jo wrote an honest and moving post about celebrating Father’s Day with no Dad.

And this article, from the New York Times, reveals how we use language differently depending whether we’re speaking to a boy or a girl. It’s challenging and helpful.

Stage and screen

The ‘screen’ part of this can be easily summarised by saying that I’ve continued with the new Twin Peaks series, and it’s getting curiouser and curiouser each episode. Very gripping.

As for ‘stage’, two very different shows. I took Monkey and Meerkat to the theatre for the first time, to see the Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories. Superbly done, with great colour and visuals, but not so over-the-top that it overwhelmed them.

I then went with some friends to see Everything is Possible, a community theatre project written by a local scriptwriter, based on the true story of a York-based Suffragette. There are no words to describe the power and emotion of this play. It began outside York Minster, staged as if we were all taking part in a Women’s March. I was fighting back tears within the first few minutes, as the Suffragettes of 1912 gradually took over from the 21st century feminists, and were led away, kicking and shouting, by the police. The play continued in the theatre and was totally absorbing, with lots to think about. I was struck by how much change there’s been in 100 years – and yet how little in other ways. Back then, there was huge differentiation between rich and poor. A century on, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, we’re forced to ask whether our society is really much different.

On the blog

I FINALLY managed to publish the blog I’d been drafting and re-drafting for months – What we want for our kids: Gender equality. And I published a blog I’d written on the first birthday of our twins – before we’d met them.

In other news…

IMG_2486[1]I fixed a lawnmower. By myself. I tried to stay cool about it, but now feel the need to announce it to the world. So there: I fixed a lawnmower all by myself.

I organised our first-for-a-long-time school summer fair! It ate all my time! But it was awesome. So great to see such a lot of families and teachers coming together to celebrate each other’s culture and have fun. Even the rain couldn’t stop us – but next year surely we’ve earned the right to hold it outside.

My talented friend Lucy took some snazzy photos for the blog – maybe you’ve noticed the website/Facebook/Twitter looking a bit more glam this month! I’m not great at prancing around in fields, but she did a great job of putting me at my ease, and now fortunately I can rest on my design-laurels for a few years.

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I spent a good deal of time finishing off a couple of displays for our school Music room. Here’s one of them:

IMG_2510[1]My school governor responsibilities took me into school three times, to observe my link subjects of Music, PE and Spanish. Such a joy to see such dedicated, enthusiastic professionals sharing their talent with bright-eyed, engaged kids. Another reason why I love this school so much!

AND we had our lovely London friends come and visit, en route to their amazing backpacking venture around the States. They have a 7-5-2. RESPECT.

What about you? How was your June?

Linking up, as always, with Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m Into’ series. Check hers out here!