Oh my baby boy... how has this day come around already?!
This year has been such a joy with you - our happy and bubbly baby boy. You have made fourth-time motherhood dangerously delightful, and its perhaps a blessing in disguise that your delivery was so difficult and complex! It is mad to think how scary this day was last year - how on numerous occasions, both my, and your lives were on the line. I am forever grateful to the Lord for sparing your jolly little soul, you bring such a richness to our family life, and I honestly can't even remember what life was like without you!
The word that comes to me when I think of you is joy. Even through the hard uncertainties of my pregnancy with you, the Lord was so gracious and granted me such peace and joy, that those long weeks in hospital in the run up to your arrival are actually very precious in my memory. Amazing how the Lord often recycles trials to bring us gain. How it is in the hardship that he draws especially near and shows his faithfulness and love for us.
And you have filled our lives with bubbly, vivacious, wriggly joy ever since!
This week you have pulled your self up to standing in your cot, you are jabbering away, waving and saying "ha det!" (Norwegian for "bye"). This month you have also mastered the art of speedy commando crawling. You can get anywhere in seconds, and your favourite things to play with are Jonas' Schleich animals and any type of cable you can get your hands on! Someone needs to keep an eye on you! You have a gorgeous sense of humour... you find your siblings truly funny and reward them appropriately with your beaming smile! They literally adore you, though I think Heidi is particularly smitten. Yesterday morning she welled up at the prospect of you turning one...
"But I don't want our baby to grow up!"
You are truly a delight, Elias, with a zest for life that inspires me. You find joy in the little things, and my prayer is that will always continue. But more than that, my prayer is that you will grow up to be a young man who delights in the gospel, who lives in the light of all that Christ has done for you...
Today Papa and I will dedicate ourselves at church to bringing you up to know the good news about Jesus. Our prayer will always be that you will walk through life with the Lord, but we know this decision is one we cannot make for you. Only you can commit your life to Him.
And so we will seek to teach you the old, familiar stories, explain the delightful truths of the gospel. seek to model what it looks like to follow Jesus in the day to day. And pray for you, entrusting you into the care of the one who so carefully brought you to us, through all the challenges.
I will forever be thankful for April 15th, 2017. Because on that day you were brought to us. In many ways it was a day that started full of horror, but out of the darkness came the most beautiful gift. You. We loved you completely then, but we love you even more now.
With every year that passes, with every new set of chubby little hands which gather round that Easter breakfast table, the tradition we have established here grows more precious. It is far from perfect. Little hands stuffing mini eggs into mouths before we have given thanks, littlest voices demanding porridge, and a Mama who actually only managed to sit down at the table half way through the breakfast... But still, this Easter morning tradition is one of my absolute favourites. For starters, we do it in celebration of the greatest day in history. When Jesus, buried cold in a borrowed tomb, was found alive! When eternal life became a certain promise. When life changed forever.
There is something of that anticipation and excitement as we gather year by year around this second hand, battered table, laden with hot cross buns and chocolate eggs and resurrection gardens...
Somehow the establishment of a celebration at breakfast time has always seemed appropriate to me. After all, it was early in the morning that the women discovered the body was gone, and excited little faces reflect the indescribable amazement of the realisation that the Saviour was alive!
We read the Easter story twice - once in picture book form, once straight from the bible. Accessible to all, and repetition is the key to understanding!
The tone is celebratory! As the story is recounted, we want the children to understand that this celebration outweighs anything else in our calendar. Even better than Christmas!
The symbols from the resurrection eggs decorate the table, a visual opportunity for ordering events, retelling the story, asking questions....
And then there is the garden, so beautifully decorated on Thursday afternoon... By Saturday night it is browned, rotten and dead. The stone covers the tomb and the garden lays barren.
And yet on Sunday morning, the children discovery the garden has transformed, vibrant with colour, the stone rolled back and the tomb empty!
So many questions... Details noted, reflections made. Prayers prayed and discussions had. Clothes thrown on, make-up-less and surrounded by small children, this breakfast is my favourite of the year.
Church followed breakfast, then roast dinner at my parents and an Easter egg hunt with dear friends this afternoon. A jam-packed day, filled with far too much sugar, but it was joyous, and they understood why... And does anything matter other than that?
It was the perfect opportunity for a Me and Mine shot for March... even though technically it's April!
And even if not everyone was initially keen on the idea!
These photos are so precious to me... Me and Mine, at Easter.
I hope it was fabulous for you! What are your Easter traditions??
"Little ones graze on our emotions. They feed on the tone we set, the emotional climate we create"
- Kim John Payne -
These words have been ringing in my ears recently. Four kiddos can be intense...I find myself pulling out the apology a lot these days. There are definite pressure points of the day - the dash out the door for the school run, the early evening slot with tired and hungry kids... and in those moments, the emotional climate can be far from ideal. And the vast majority of the time, it is me who is the guilty party.
I could allow myself to feel the weight of this quote - the burden... and allow it to pressure me into guilt-ridden parenting. I fail daily, and I always will, no matter how hard I "try", because impatience and selfishness too often get the better of me, and because sin is part and parcel of who I am. That's no excuse... but its a helpful dose of reality. No matter how much "positive" or "intentional" parenting I do (insert appropriate buzz word), I won't ever get it completely right. I will make mistakes. I will fail on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis from being the parent I always wanted to be.
Instead, I let the words mull, I pray, I forward plan and I recognise who I am. Who we are. I am a sinner. My kids are sinners. That could make for some pretty messy family dynamics.
Except for grace. Except for forgiveness. Except for daily reminders of my need for the Saviour, and daily refreshment of his promises to me. And in just the same way that my kids feed on my emotional "climate" I realise I am called to anchor my emotions to the unchanging Father who is steady whatever storm may come.
And if my emotions are stayed on him, then they're going to be a much firmer foundation for my kiddos.
So instead of being tossed around by the rollercoaster emotions pulled forth by entitled children and disobedient toddlers, interspersed by those many moments of joy and beauty of family life, I will lay my anchor firm in the rock that is Christ, trusting him to hold me firm.
And as he does that, I'll be a much better climate for my kids to feed on.
Eleven months?! Can it really be true? This time last year, I was in and out of hospital... wondering how long we could make this baby hang on in there. It was a scary time, but there was a peace throughout. The promise that the Lord had laid upon my heart,...
"Do not be afraid... wait and see what the Lord will do"
It was during this final month, as I whiled away long hours in hospital, that I increasingly felt the conviction that this baby was to be a boy, and that we were to name him "Elias" - "The Lord is God". I've never shared a lot about the still small voice that spoke to me through that time... perhaps wary of wanting to seem "overspiritual", but in a time that could have been anxiety-ridden, and in which there were very real fears about the potential risks of delivery of this particularly difficult pregnancy, I felt nothing but peace and a genuine deep-seated joy throughout. I actually look back on that time with a fond thankfulness. It was precious and beautiful, and the Lord showed us so much mercy throughout it. I whiled away hours reading Scripture, journalling, praying over my growing family, reading aloud my children's bedtime story on an audio app, so that Dave could play it back to them as they lay, tucked up in bed, every evening. I wrote a lot. I thought a lot. I spent precious time with dear friends and family who tirelessly visited. I had daily little visitors who delighted in exploring Mama's temporary "home", I prayed thankfulness for a husband who incredibly kept the ship afloat, caring for our children, and for me, like no-one else could.
I am so thankful for the Lord's goodness through that season.
And yet here we are, eleven months on, and this is the gift we have. He was indeed a little boy. And he was to be called Elias, just as that sense of prompting had required. And in his birth, and in his delivery and every day since, he has been a constant reminder that the "the Lord is God". Our sovereign, generous Father, who loves to give good gifts to his children, and whole upholds and strengthens in the valleys.
Elias, you have brought so much joy to our lives... you are a most precious gift, a diamond etched out of the hard rock of suffering. I will forever be grateful to the Lord for sparing both of us on that bright Saturday eleven months ago, when things could have gone so differently.
You are our roly-poly, mischief maker. You are exploring sound now - constantly calling for "mama", and occasionally repeating back other words too. You purse your lips and huff and puff through that little scrunched up face - you love to oooh, and aah and have the most delicious little cackle. You roll your way around a room proving there is no need for crawling, though you are half way there with a slightly lop-sided commando-crawl at present. You sit confidently, and have started attempting to pull yourself up to standing, those strong little legs still a little wobbly. I used to worry that you might be behind because you came so early, but you are proving my worry to be in vain!
We are so proud of every little achievement... you have come such along way, and your Mama finds it hard to conceive that in one short month we will be celebrating a full year. It has been the most wonderful, joy-filled year with you Li-Li... we thank God for the gift that you are, and our heartfelt prayer is that one day you will know the Saviour who has kept us both so well... the Saviour who loves you more than we ever could.
Our Heidi's vivid imagination, her eye for detail, and a very clear-cut opinion on what she likes and dislikes has always made party planning for our youngest daughter a bit of an adventure. Her requests last year, which included live butterflies welcoming the guests and a real-life fairy emerging from her cake as she cut it, were sadly not realised, and as the month of March approached, I braced myself for more creative challenges... so you can imagine my surprise, and relief, when our four-year-old announced,
"I'd like a pyjama party please... I'd like a bed cake... and I'd like to play pass the parcel!"
Now that's do-able!
And so I got to planning Heidi's pyjama party. No sleepover, just fun, food and a lot of four- and five-year-olds dressed up in their pyjamas!
I kept things very simple, and themed everything to the slumber party theme...
* Sandwiches (you gotta have sandwiches!)
* Marshmallow Pillows
* Teddybear Crisps (Pom Bears)
* Popcorn (no pyjama party is complete without it!)
* Night Sky Grape Kebabs
* Watermelon Stars
Needless to say, the table was cleared!
As the children arrived, we had a couple of craft activities on the go. I had sourced some plain pillowcases super cheap from Argos, and then got these fabric crayons from Baker Ross which were utterly fabulous! And so much less risky/messy than sharpies or fabric pens! The children all had fun designing their own pillowcases!
I had then also found these door hangers, and got letter and star stickers so that all the children could decorate their own bedroom door hanger to take home with them!
Their crafts were then put in the children's party bags with a bag of sweeties, and they were ready to go!
Kiddos turning up in pyjamas and onesies, dressing gowns and oversized slippers. It was super cute, and the smiles on their faces were infectious! Heidi was in her element!
And these two girls have been very best friends since their first day of school three years ago. Still inseperable!
We of course had to have the much requested "Pass the Parcel", but other sleep themed games? No problem!
* Pass the Parcel
* Bedtime Relay Race - each team had items to collect to get their teddy ready for bed (see pic above!)
* Pyjama Pairs Hunt - I had hidden pyjama tops and bottoms around the downstairs, the children simply had to find matching pairs!
I had a couple of other games tucked up my sleeve (Sleeping Lions and Musical Sleepyheads!) but in the end we gave the children some free play time in the garden! Perhaps the sugar high led to some much needed energy burning - thirteen children in the house is only manageable for so long!
Heidi had been very specific about wanting a bed cake, and in the end it was actually super simple! Let's be honest, my cake making skills are fine, but I am not a perfectionist, or patient... and so something quick and easy is always the order of the day. I simply baked a large square victoria sponge cake, cut it in half and doubled it up (with jam in the middle of course) and then iced over some sheets and bedding and used Jonas' farmyard fences as the bedhead!
We had a very happy Heidi... it was a full on afternoon, and Dave and I were shattered the the end of it, but our little girl headed to bed full of all the excitement of the day... and a few tears. Poor girly slammed her finger in the front door waving goodbye to her guests - thankfully a little bit of present opening came to the rescue, and her finger was fine with a little diluted lavender oil and a good old plaster!
Life with littles, hey? It's never without its drama!
Ahhh... March. You have felt so welcome. The first snow of the year, but also the first signs of springtime rearing their little green heads. Our back doors have been opened wide for the first time in months, and the children have begun to explore the perimeters of the garden once again. I want us to be as much outdoors as possible this year.
The Siblings project is becoming an increasing challenge for me... gone are the days of two children where I could happily snap them absorbed in something, without their even being aware of it. Four children are hard to capture unawares. Increasingly I notice they tend to pair off... in any combination... or the big three are off adventuring in the great outdoors while Elias sits in the comfort of the indoors and looks on. It won't be long before he's mobile (he's semi-commando crawling now) and then my comfortable little spot will be over.
Yet, much as I want my littlest man to stay little, I am also eager for him to be old enough to join the gang. I have noticed that three so close together can be a tricky dynamic. Somehow, when Elias is thrown into the mix, a happy order is restored and the squabbling seems to diffuse. He is such a jolly little soul, that his sunny disposition, combined with his ability to turn a three-dynamic into a comfortable four, seems to create a happy peace in family function once again.
For my little bookworms, it seemed appropriate to share our World Book Day photos for our Siblings Project this month... Ava is now an avid reader, forever with her head in a book (her mother's daughter!) and completely drawn into whichever literary world she is currently devouring. Her taste is so similar to my own it has been wonderful to introduce her to some of my heroines - the March sisters have stolen her imagination, and her heart, and my biggest little lady was determined that Jo March was the character she would become this year! She is bookish and determined, just like her alter ego... but this girly possesses a gentleness that will never quite make her the brash Jo March that she so admires!
For Heidi, the decision was easy... she wanted to be Heidi! Complete with goat and basket of Alpen goodies, she laid her costume out ready the night before, and proceeded to throw up in the night. So no school for our Heidi, but it didn't prevent her from getting into the spirit of things and dressing up nonetheless. In many ways, our Heidi is just like her Swiss counterpart - adventurous, yet loves the comfort of home, loyal and lively. She fits her name to perfection.
Jonas was the gingerbread man - and with a tendency to be found perpetually running, it seemed an appropriate character. Having boys after two girls has been so fascinating. There is an energy there that overlaps the two girls put together, and he needs to burn it off a few times a day in the great outdoors! He is delightfully sweet though, and yesterday he melted my Mama heart when he looked up at me with those big blue eyes and said, "Mama, you're my best friend." That boy knows just how to turn on the charm. His other favourite habit at the moment is to tag the word "botty" onto the end of any sentence he says... what is it with boys and toilet humour?!
Our Elias couldn't be left out, and so he was appropriately dressed in his bear outfit, and proceeded to be the cutest baby bear that ever was. They literally all adore him, and his eyes just light up when any of them pay him any attention. He is just so sociable and chatty and so bubbly at the moment, he has been the most delightful fourth baby; slotting in, easygoing and oh so charming.
They are a bubbly bunch who keep me on my toes... they are incredibly close, and with that come the highs and lows of sometimes hours of happy play, and other times where it seems there is constant bickering. They love each other fiercely, protectively, genuinely and not always gently, but they totally have each others backs and would really rather spend time in each others company than anyone elses. I wonder if that will change with time, but I hope there will always be a pull to home, to each other... the bond of siblings.