Thursday, 18 October 2018

A Trip Around the World // Ava's 7th Birthday Party



It's only two months too late, but as I shared on my blog a few weeks ago, life since the start of term has been one huge whirlwind. Sometimes it feels exciting and adventuresome, other times I feel like I'm just about able to keep my head afloat.

Life I guess.

But I didn't want to power on through with a new term of extremely sporadic blog posts without recording Ava's 7th birthday party, which she masterminded herself, and which was possibly one of my favourite's (and the least prep) that we've ever thrown together.


While we were away, she decided that she wanted to take her friends on a trip around the world...Ava has always been our geographer. She pores over maps and infographics about the world, and loves fact-finding and exploring. It seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our adventurous seven year old.

So here's what we did!


The Arrival - Making Passports
This was a super simple and really fun activity we did as everyone arrived - decorating and filling in their own passports - no trip around the world is possible without one! We had stickers and stamps, and then luggage labels too, that all the children decorated and attached to their rucksacks.

Then we were ready for our adventure to begin!



The Journey Begins...

The next hour and a half was spent travelling the seven continents of the world, by way of train, plane, boat and ice-breaker, picking up passport stamps at every border and stopping off to experience a snapshot of each continent. I was fairly involved with getting children settled in, and playing train conductor, air stewardess and ship's captain, so failed to capture any photographs at all of our first two stops (mothering fail!!) so you'll have to use your imaginations! But here's what we did! At each continent, we played traditional music and did an activity or game which had something to do with the continent in which we found ourselves. The games and activities were a joint collaboration between Ava and myself, and much of the masterminding for the details was developed by her!

ASIA
Chinese Whispers - I had laid a traditional Chinese tea out; low-lying table, red lanterns and chinese symbols dotted around. The children sat around the table and a very comical rendition of Chinese Whispers ensued. It's always interesting trying to involve a 3-year-old in these kind of games!

AUSTRALIA
Removing Plastic Waste from the Great Barrier Reef
One thing the children and I have been talking a lot about recently is our impact on the environment, and the damage that we are doing with our reckless attitude to waste. I thought it was a good opportunity to show the children how beautiful parts of our world are being destroyed by human carelessness, and so the garden became our ocean, and was spread with waste pulled out of our recycling boxes! It looked like a tip! The children were split into two teams, and we ran the game as a relay race. Each time they ran, they were allowed to remove one piece of waste from the ocean and take it to the recycling boxes at the shore. They would keep going until all the rubbish was removed, and then we would count the waste to see who had been most successful! The kids had great fun!

ANTARTICA
Rescuing Animals from the Ice
Our next stop was the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station in Antartica. The children were led to a space, surrounded by noises that wouldn't have felt out of place in a science lab. They were told that due to Global Warming, unexpected weather conditions had meant that some animals had become trapped in ice, and needed to be rescued. Some children took this very seriously, being very careful not to "hurt" or "prod" their animals in the process!

When they were asked at the end of the party what they had enjoyed most, the Amundsen-Scott Station was a very popular answer!


This penguin was particularly carefully excavated!



AFRICA
Spotting Endangered Species on Safari
We have had a growing collection of Schleich animals, and over the past few years, have always requested single animals as good present suggestions for the children, and so when it came to our safari trip, I pulled out our animals and (with the help of another friends vast animals collection) we pulled them together and hid the animals around the garden. The children were given the job of finding one animal each and bringing it back to safety, extra points were offered to some more endangered species who might be trickier to find!

SOUTH AMERICA
Hut Building in Macchu Picchu
We headed to ancient Peru for our South American Venture, a quick flight from our African safari, and the children were led into the lounge where, surrounded by pictures of the real Macchu Picchu, the children were all given a box, a pair of scissors and some tape!


Their brief was simple - to create the best hut they could, and at the end we would build them all together to create our own Macchu Picchu! The best presented hut would win, but they only had 10 minutes to complete their challenge!



NORTH AMERICA
Making Camp with the Native Americans
Last stop before heading back to Europe was to learn all about the Native American Indians and play some traditional games. My fabulous Dad put on his best Big Chief impression, and the kids had a whale of a time!



EUROPE
Pizza Making in an Italian Restaurant

This one was a huge hit! Tired and hungry after all their adventuring, the children were more than happy to make their own Pitta Pizzas!


Pitta Pizzas are always a hit in our house, and Ava's party was no exception - Pitta bread, pasata, red onion, cheese, peppers, black olives and pepperoni made happy kids, who then took their pizzas out into the garden for an al freso lunch, after which we celebrated our Ava with a Global Adventure Cake!


Such a fun cake to make! Don't look too closely, or you'll see allllllll the errors in my map cutting, but you'll get the idea! Either way, she was so pleased with it! And blew out her candles (when we eventually got them lit!) with full enthusiasm!

It was such a fun theme for a party - so different from anything we've done before, and the fact that Ava was so involved in the whole process made it all the more meaningful...

It was also one of the least prep parties we've ever thrown, because most of it was in the garden, and because recycling and cardboard boxes are always easier to organise that lavish decorations!

It's also a remarkably cheap was to travel around the world, in comparison with the real life alternative, and involves a lot less travel - I highly recommend!

As everyone left, Ava handed out little suitcases that we sourced on Amazon, and handed them out to her little friends - full to the brim with sweeties!

Everyone's ideal end to a party!


Tuesday, 25 September 2018

A Little Life Update // This Season We're In...



Life has been rushing by at breakneck speed... I don't think I've had such a long break from my blog since I first started writing back in 2011. Life with four small children is incredibly busy and the break has been gutting but absolutely necessary. I've had to swallow my pride and recognize with an uncomfortable amount of realism that I can't juggle all the balls at once. I feel sad that this little space has been neglected - it has been such a source of joy and is a little treasure trove of memories for us, and I feel particularly bad for my younger children that their day to day has not been documented in the same detail that my elder children have been...


And then my sensible head kicks in and reminds me that my children would much rather have me - present and engaged and involved, than a stressed out Mama recording a tonne of memories that she was only ever present at behind a camera lens.

These years are so sweet... Hectic? Yes! Chaotic? Yes! Full of feelings of frustration and failure and a daily dose of grace and forgiveness? Yes! More than ever I feel aware of my own limitations - more than ever aware of how small this window of childhood is - more than ever aware of how swiftly the years fly by... and so aware that children are all unique and different, and learning to parent each one of them is a journey of constant adjusting and shifting, recognizing need and tweaking things, depending on the Lord in prayer and seeking his wisdom for each moment of parenting.

It's hard, its a daily battle, its beautiful and broken and humbling and full of joy and hilarity and tears and crazy levels of chaos.

But it is so unbelievably worth it.

"In every moment when you are parenting, you are being parented. In every moment when you are called to give grace, you are being given grace. In every moment when you are rescuing and protecting your children, you are being rescued and protected. In every moment when you feel alone, you are anything but alone, because he goes wherever you go."
- Paul David Tripp -


Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Dear Jonas - you're off to Preschool!

         
 
Oh my Jonas! How are we here already?

Today is the day you start Nursery...

This morning you will pull on those grey joggers and that bottle green jumper and head off to preschool. You are so excited to go - to play with your friends, to wear your uniform - to be part of the big school posse! I literally cannot believe it's time for another one of my little people to fly the nest... Three of you all heading off to school together. Where do the years go?

                       

They literally fly!

We have had a glorious summer... You are the most wonderful little accompaniment. Full of fun and energy and such a little joker. You are double trouble with your baby brother, only yesterday I discovered the two of you standing guiltily in the downstairs toilet surrounded by reams of unrolled toilet roll. You are such good little buddies and he will miss you so much. 

I'm so grateful, however, that we made the decision to keep you home one day a week. I know that time with your brother is a worthwhile investment, and I'm looking forward to all the Monday adventures were going to have this year! And no doubt there will be plenty of mischief for me to discover!

                                    

You have grown up so much over the summer... You're taller, you've thinned out, you're a little conversationalist and get dry humour. Gone is that round little baby with the white blond hair! It is truly mad to think how quickly the years go by!

Last night, as we got you ready for bed, the girls and I prayed for you. We sat round your little frame, sitting cross legged on your bed and we prayed. We prayed that you would grow strong and work hard, that you would be a good friend and develop godly character.., but most of all, that your school journey would be an opportunity for you to learn more of what it means to follow Jesus, and learn to follow his lead in the day to day.

I am so excited for you Jonas - for all you're going to learn and all the fun you're going to have with your little friends. I know you're ready for this, and so tomorrow, I'll swallow down the lump in my throat, plaster a big smile on and wave you off with a smile.

I'll miss you so much Jonas boy! Have LOTS of fun!

Ich hab dich so lieb!

Mama X 

                                     



Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Five Years On // An Update on Heidi's Heart



We walked familiar roads again today, boarded a train with our two little girls, one who had done
this journey countless times before, and one who, at the request of her sister, was being shown a world of hospital visits that she barely recalls from the intensity of Heidi's illness back in 2013.

It was a different kind of visit this time... we knew the time had probably come for us to move on. Kawasaki Disease will always be part of Heidi's story, always part of our story - her "non-uniform" arteries tell that tale, and there will always be the white noise of worry over how her heart is faring... I approached the appointment with a certain level of anxiety. How can a child who's heart has taken such a beating really ever be "discharged" - how can you go from annual echoes to nothing? I was nervous and went prepared to fight for further monitoring. Some comments made in our appointment last September made me wonder if they were preparing us to move on...


I need not have feared - God is faithful... has always been faithful. In the whole of this journey. In the missed diagnoses and the devastating echo results, in the glimmers of hope and the shadows of grief over a "former life" - a life that was carefree and innocent. He has upheld us and carried us and given us his promises throughout it all. He is at work. Even in the heartache and the agony... even in the questions and the doubts. He is good. He loves us. He loves our baby girl. He is bringing all things together for the good of those who love him.

And so we went through the usual routine - the weighing and measuring, the ECG, the Echo - and then the Doctor's feedback appointment. We were greeted warmly by a Doctor we had not met before. He took interest, spoke with Heidi, knew our case. I knew immediately we could trust him to hear out our concerns.

He shared the good news - The CT scan had revealed there was no clotting on the inner areas of her coronary arteries, and the arteries themselves on the inner part of her heart (which they have never looked at before) looked as though they had been untouched by the disease. Heidi's arteries on the external (which were hugely damaged by the disease 5 years ago) were looking better than ever - her right coronary artery was slightly prominent, but not concerning, and had he not known her history, he probably wouldn't have given it a second glance. The left coronaries looked normal.

Such joy those words brought.


And then the fear started prodding... she was much improved... she was coping without medication... would they discharge her?

I was met with utter reassurance. Our little girl will never be discharged. She will have a yearly ECG and Echo her whole life long. The Team will always be on the end of the phone. So much relief.

And yet it was time for us to be referred from the Consultant led Clinic to a Kawasaki Specialist Team. We are excited at this move... a team which know the specifics of life after Kawasaki Disease as we navigate what life looks like in the shadow of the illness. I had been nervous about the transfer, but in the light of the revelation that they will continue with the annual Echos, we see the referral as nothing but positive.

The Lord has been so good to us, and our sweet girl.

We are eternally thankful to him for the way he has upheld and guided, carried us and led us, provided for us and comforted us... in the darkest parts of the valley, and in the horizon of a hope-filled future where, it seems, we finally find ourselves.


The tears threaten as I write this. Our lives have been changed by this journey... we bare the marks, the emotional scars, the hard memories... and somehow find ourselves in this place where life continues... where suddenly hope seems possible and we can breath a little deeper once again. Somehow I feel I have a deeper and richer appreciation for the small things. Things I wondered if I would ever take delight in again during those dark hospital days.

And so we soldier on... and we continue to pray daily for the hearts of all our children... that whatever life throws at them, whatever battles they are scarred by along the way... their hearts will be steadfast, their feet secure on the rock that is Jesus.

He truly is the light in the darkness.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to each one of you who has walked this journey with us.

Please continue to remember our little Heids.


Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Dear Ava... You're Seven!


My Ava,

They don't lie when they say "the days are long, but the years are short". Those early days where it was just me and you seem a lifetime ago. I sometimes see mothers around and about with one kid in tow and feel a strange sense of longing and loss and thankfulness all at once. Having a large family means one on one time is scarce, but perhaps therefore more savoured... the days of mothering one little soul, of investing all my time and energy in just you, are a very, very distant memory. It was only nine short months really... nine months before we realised we had been gifted a second little soul to cherish, a little sister for you... and at the age of five, you already had three little siblings to mother and fuss about and care for. You truly were made to be a big sister.


Your Papa and I were talking about you the other day -  all of you actually - about the character traits we see growing in each of you, the gifts, the challenges, the joys... and for you we talked about how you have always been a people person, and how you have always taken a proactive interest in the interests of others. We love that about you... you don't enter a conversation with your own agenda... with a desire to talk about what you want to... you are, for seven years old, an incredibly patient and good listener (except when the TV is on!) and you are always so enthusiastic and positive about the interests of others. You loved your first football match with your Papa this summer - because you enjoy football, but also because you love him, and take an interest in what he loves. You created your own Essential Oils book - because you find them fascinating, but also because you took an interest in something I was interested in. I need to learn from you Ava girl... to take an interest in the interests of others, purely out of love for them.


You have also become a veracious reader. The speed at which you not only devour books, but are also able to discuss them, is unfathomable. I took eight decent sized chapter books away to Norway this summer for you (knowing you would be book hungry!), and we bought another en route... and it still wasn't enough. I literally LOVE sharing literature with you... because you love the classics, but also devour a good adventure book. This summer you have discovered Enid Blyton, and have now read no less than 17 of her books since May... madness! Together we've worked our way through the Little House series, classics like "Anne of Green Gables", "The Secret Garden", "The Railway Children", "Little Women" and we have just begun the first in the Harry Potter series. I'm so excited for all the books we have yet to discover together!

You are fascinated by the world - by cultures and people and geography. When I asked you what you would like to do for your birthday this year, you answered with complete conviction and sincerity; "I'd like a Global Adventure Party" - a trip around the world! You love information books about nature, about other countries, and you love a good atlas! You certainly didn't get the geographer gene from me!


You have an ever-increasing desire for independence. Your favourite memory from Norway this summer was without a doubt having the freedom to run up the lane to your Bestemor and Bestefar's house all by yourself. We didn't tell you but we watched you running up that hill, and when we lost sight of you panic called to check you'd arrived. It's hard, releasing independence. And yet I see how important it is to you, to feel trusted.

We are so very thankful for you Ava... for so many reasons - for the huge support and help you are to me around the home, for your generous nature and kind heart, for your willingness to drop everything for your siblings. You aren't perfect, of course, and you get frustrated with the childish games of the younger children sometimes, but I can always rely on you, and for that I'm truly grateful.

But most of all, I'm truly grateful for the work the Lord is doing in your heart - for the way you love to read his word, and the habit you've formed of reading scripture every morning. For your truthfulness and willingness to admit when you've done something wrong... for your desire to be more like the Saviour. Our prayer, as it has been since the day we found out I was carrying you, remains the same...

That you would know how how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Christ, and that you would be rooted and established in that love your whole life long...

We love you darling girl!

Happy 7th Birthday!

Mama and Papa xx


Friday, 13 July 2018

Life round ours...



Around this time of year, memories of Heidi’s illness often flood back. She’s begun to ask questions now. Her little five-year-old brain trying to fathom the depths of what happened to her, and our attempts to explain to her in a way that is appropriate for now. I often find  myself trawling through the old posts on my blog when she asks questions... it’s some kind of therapy I suppose, and I’m so thankful to have that living record for her when she’s ready. Much of it is still too raw and real for her now, but in time, it will be precious to be able to show her all the struggles and questions, heartaches and hopes that we had. And just how faithful the Lord was to us.

But reading through those posts also gives me a little nudge - I’m so thankful for this online space, and I miss it. I miss recording the silly little details, the mundane moments of our everyday, the scarecrow building, the laughs around the dinner table, the funny things the children say... Life does look somewhat different now - four children is somewhat more time consuming than two, school eats chunks out of our day, and we are just in the throws of busy family life.

But the ache to write, to record, to savour and store it all up remains.

So I’m not making any wild promises to be more present here... I’ve done that enough times and, well, life happened... but I will take the moments I can to share the details!

My girls are growing up - six and five and full of fun and energy. They remain the very best of friends, and chalk and cheese... one forever with her nose stuck in a book, one who belts out ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack in the garden at the top of her lungs! One who loves school and can’t get enough of it, and one who would much rather stay home with Mama and ‘do homeschool’. Yet they are like magnets and create the most amazing little imaginative worlds and I love watching them parading round the garden in role, with a little brother tagging along!

The boys are coming into their own, wicked senses of humour, forever collapsed in giggles and the biggest fans of bundling. They find each other absolutely hilarious and I’m loving watching this brotherly bond develop. There are of course a web of relationships between them all, but I’ll save that post for another day.

Mealtimes are chaotic, some children who devour everything in minutes, others who take constant encouragement, and are forever attempting to escape the table. Honestly! The number of times I’ll tell someone to sit up, or sit back down, or turn around... and I can’t remember the last time I actually sat through a whole meal without needing to get up for something. But I know it’ll happen one day, and when it does I’ll be reminiscing about these days and wishing them back!

Bedtime is a well oiled machine - I feed Elias while Dave gets Jonas to bed, then he’ll do a bible story and pray with the girls by which point I go through and we read. We’ve devoured almost the whole Little Women series this year and Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta series too (if you haven’t read them they are FABULOUS!) and we’re gearing up for something new! Recommendations in the comments!

And then we have our evenings... people often comment on our sanity at having four children under6 6 but guys, I tell you... it’s been the biggest blessing! Our daytimes are chaos and fun and full of energy  and laughter (and a fair bit of siblings bickering, and tears and tantrums and hair-pulling moments - but let’s not mention those! 😉) but by 8pm the kiddos are all in bed and peace ensues. It’s the little bit of headspace and touch-in time together that we need.

I’ve been trying to get to bed earlier too... I’m not going to claim it’s been overly successful, but attempting it means I’ve shaved the time back a bit... baby steps, right?! I feel SO much better for it. My body was starting to tell  me it had had enough of all the late nights and overwork and it’s amazing what sleep, water, whole food and a natural approach can do for your zest for life!

In one week we head back to Norway, we are itching to go, the children counting down the days.

Now a little voice calls me from downstairs, the school run nears and we have a jam packed day ahead.

I hope your Friday is a good one!

Xxx

Monday, 25 June 2018

A Trip To Neverland // Jonas' Peter Pan 3rd Birthday Party


The sun shone, little pirates and fairies and lost boys ran merrily around the garden, Wendy and Tink, baby Michael and our own little Peter Pan lost in all the excitement. Such a fun-filled morning celebrating our Jonas-boy with all his little friends around him!

And the Garden becoming our own little version of Neverland!