Thursday, 29 November 2018

When You Hit the Wall // A Humbling

It's been some time now that I've been aware of the need for us to slow down. Life can only go at breakneck speed for so long before something runs off the tracks. But with four small children, a busy work/home schedule, church involvement and extra-curricular commitments, the inevitable was bound to happen at some point I suppose.

And this weekend, the brakes were drawn to a grinding halt.

Last week, Elias succumbed to chicken pox. I'd been, in some small measure, hopeful of their arrival this winter. After years of avoiding it for Heidi's sake, with her now off medication, I was keen for her to get it before she got too old. And to be brutally honest, I welcomed the break that chicken pox would bring. The necessity to hibernate at home with my little people and shut ourselves away for a little while... life had got a little too crazy and I wasn't quite sure where the off switch was...

And then Saturday happened. When your husband is the one ending up in a hospital bed, doped to the nines on morphine, you realise that somewhere along the line perspective and priorities have got skewed. That things have got out of whack, and that life is not meant to be lived in fire-fighter mode.

We are so grateful to God that he is recovering well, but trying to learn lessons. Slowing down. Listening to our bodies. Recognising our fragility and weakness... being humble enough to recognise our own limitations. Our bodies are wonderful gifts, and God has wired them to tell us when things get too much.

This weekend we got the memo.

And so I'm thankful for Advent... for chicken pox... for scary hospital trips... because each, in turn, force us to do what Dave and I seem to find so impossible to do. To say no. To stop. To dwell. And be. And savour this slow and sacred season together.

Will you join me in slowing down this advent? In spending time at the Saviour's feet. In being thankful for what matters and savouring the heart of Christmas?

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a]Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

Monday, 5 November 2018

By the Light of Beeswax // Homemade Scented Candles

For a couple of years now, we have gradually been making baby steps to a more toxin free home. It started with essential oils, then self-care products, and moved to cleaning products and gradually, bit by bit, I've been more intentional about what I allow into our home in terms of synthetic chemicals and fragrances (the research on this stuff is scary).

One of the early, heartbreaking, discoveries, was how bad scented candles are for us. Seriously. Go have a google... or don't, if you'd rather remain blissfully ignorant! Once I was informed, though, I just felt I couldn't return to my old favourites (excepting one wonderful American Soy Candle company I love who use Essential Oils to scent) and instead used my faithful diffuser to make our home smell fabulous.

But despite all that, I missed the Hygge of a good old candle.

And so, as the nights get darker, as autumn draws in, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and find a toxin free alternative that would keep our home "clean", but also would satisfy my insatiable need for a flickering flame...

Enter beeswax. It's natural, doesn't produce any nasty chemicals when burned, and has a light honey scent... its also actually surprisingly easy to do.

And so with my sidekick, Kaya, we spent a special morning, kid-free, candle-making to our hearts content!

And so I thought I'd share how SIMPLE these are... because, after all, Christmas is approaching - and doesn't everyone love a classy, handmade, beautiful, toxin-free gift on a budget?!

I do!

I re-cycled some old bought candle jars, but if you're not a storer like me (I just can't part with pretty and useful things, even if I have no current use for them!), Kilner jars are a great alternative (though a little more pricey than the free recycled alternative!)

I ordered beeswax beads/pellets from Amazon (easier to melt than larger chunks) and wicks and stickers (links below). The voice of experience now tells me that wick width is important if you don't want your candle to tunnel... I bought 25mm wicks but actually a slightly thicker wick would have prevented the tunneling... so do your research!

Then simply fill your jar to the very brim with beeswax, and then tip it into a pyrex container, and add a tablespoon of carrier oil (coconut oil works fab) - the carrier oil will help disperse your essential oils throughout the candle later, if you are wanting to add scent...

 Then put your pyrex bowl inside a saucepan of boiling water, and stir, stir, stir until the wax completely melts (it will turn into a pale golden liquid)...

In the meantime, stick your wicks into the bottom of your jars and hold in an upright position with two pegs...

Once your wax has completely melted down, pour it into the jars, being careful not to knock your wicks...

As soon as that's done, add your oil of choice - I used 20 drops of Christmas Spirit, and honestly? They smell incredible!!

Then just leave them in a safe place to set - try not to move them around or you won't get that lovely smooth top!

Christmas Spirit is a blend of Cinnamon, Orange and Black Spruce, and combined with the light honey scent of the wax, smells incredible... if you'd like to know where I source my essential oils, and are interested in finding out more, click here.

Yesterday morning, we sat round the breakfast table, our little yellow candle burning and flickering  and sending out the loveliest homely, autumnal smell and I just was so thankful to have my flickering, scented friends back in my life!

I also sat down and worked out the costs, and the large candles cost me around £6-7 each to make. £6-7 for a beautiful, toxin free, scented candle?? That's like less than a quarter of what you'd usually pay for one of these in the shops!!

AND you get the fun and satisfaction of having made it yourself!


Happy candle-making!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Welcome little Sadie!

That newborn smell. Those little snuffles. Those tiny fingers and tiny toes. That bleating cry. Those soft little cheeks and deep dark eyes.

So precious to experience this as an auntie for the first time.

To watch your sister become a mother.

To watch your children mesmerised again by the miracle of new life.

Welcome Sadie - we love you so much already, and we're so thankful to the Lord for the precious gift of new life!

... and the most besotted of all...

Monday, 29 October 2018

Summer Memories // Space + Reconnection

It's hard to believe that October half term has almost been and gone... that I'm still playing catch up on my blog because above all else, this spot will always be my memory store, and I don't want to miss a moment.

And so 2 months after we returned home, I finally wanted to share some memories from our summer in Norway. This year was particularly wonderful - extended time there, beautiful weather, and the children at an age where they are really starting to appreciate the outdoor lifestyle...

So many happy memories...

One of the words that really struck me this summer was connection. As a Mama to four littles, getting quality time with each one of the children has been difficult this past year, the needs of the younger boys sometimes dwarfing those of my independent girls. And yet Norway reminded me and showed me how deep these little souls go... how much there is still to unearth and input, and how making time with my girls, one on one, needed to be a priority.

We returned home to a shift in the bedtime routine and its been nothing but wonderful. Sometimes I find I need the headspace of the summer to have opportunity to see where things need to shift and change! Family life is forever evolving!

These kids drink in the outdoor life every summer... by the end of the summer term they are getting fractious, overtired and bickery with each other. And each year, without fail, Norway provides this wide open space where they can breathe again - breathe and reconnect and enjoy each other and this most stunning creation!

And eat their fair share of hot dogs...

So many happy memories from another wonderful summer. It is such a gift that we get to come back here year after year after year. It honestly is the most beautiful corner of the world - breathtaking in its beauty with fjords and mountains, fields and farms...

So thankful to the Lord for the gift of space and time with my family in this beautiful place!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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 -