Thursday, 4 March 2021

Dear Heidi - you're 8!

Happy Birthday Heidi girl!

Our creative, exuberant, home-loving girl is eight! Of all of our children, you were the one I thought would get away without a "lockdown" birthday, but I was wrong! Hard to believe your seventh birthday Narnia party was one of the last things we did before things got serious with Covid last year!

And yet here we are, a full year later. And this year it has been a joy to get to spend more time with you. You are passionate and enthusiastic and have grown up so much this year. Getting to teach you and learn alongside all of you this year has been so fascinating for me, and seeing your creative streak grow and develop has been so much fun. 

One of my favourite things to watch this past year has been your love of baking. From asking if you could help me make cookies last year, to full blown self-invented "Strawberry Cheesecake Cake" this year, you have pushed yourself and explored your creativity. Mostly successfully (no one makes melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies like you do), sometimes with questionable results (the cupcakes you decided to adapt the recipe on and play with adding milk to the equation, resulting in hollow cakes!)... you have loved this little hobby and its been a joy to see the joy it brings you as you get covered in flour and fish another egg shell out of the mixture! I will never get tired of coming downstairs in the morning to find a tray of cookies or a cake tin ready to go in the oven!

You've thrown yourself into every homeschool project we've done with FULL enthusiasm... and you work hard to present your work beautifully and artistically. Your homeschool folder is a work of art, and I can't wait to see you poring over it one day in the future with kids around your ankles (maybe in that South American orphanage for street kids you're planning!) telling them what life was like in lockdown. You have thrived in our home nest, and I know you would rather things stayed exactly as they are - school restarting is not your first choice... and yet I know you'll go in courageously, and though you may not admit it, love all the fun projects and seeing your fabulous friends and teachers again.

Heidi you have taught me so much in eight years... we have walked the hardest paths together, but you are also the one who pushes our family to the peaks of joy. You are hilariously funny, and your joy bubbles over infectiously... we are so very thankful every day that the Lord spared you all those years ago, and we never take for granted your heart-on-sleeve, fun and feisty, heart and soul of our home character.

I'm grateful that even when you get upset and frustrated, or when you make a mistake, you quickly show genuine empathy and repentance. That is such a gift, Heidi, and one that I hope you will always have. To be quick to ask for forgiveness is something that most people find incredibly difficult, and I love seeing the tender-hearted way you recognise when mistakes have been made and seek to make them right. I love seeing the Lord working in your heart, and I pray your love for him will continue to grow as you grow, and that you will know the precious assurance of how loved you are by him, how beautiful you are in his sight and how his forgiveness extends beyond anything we could ever imagine.

We love you our Heidi girl... 

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Mama and Papa


Thursday, 29 October 2020

Dear Elias - off to Preschool!

Oh my boy... my baby boy! (I know you would deny that's what you are, but I'm afraid that's what you'll always be to me!)

It's perhaps testimony to the busyness of life right now that it's taken me until half term to write this post... as usual I'm playing catch up on my blog, but I couldn't let this milestone go without writing a little something for it!

Six weeks ago, you stepped through those nursery doors for the first time - without so much as a look or a wave back! You were SO ready for nursery, and school is so familiar to you, that as far as you were concerned, the fact that the big kids went back after 6 months at home it meant it was time for you to go too. You have always been a confident and sociable little man, easily making friends and getting up to mischief, and this experience was no different... you have settled in super quickly, have a little crew of buddies around you and are charming the socks off your teachers too.

For your bigger siblings, the last year before preschool was always filled with one on one time with me; lots of playdates and playgroups, coffees and homedays. Your last year looked somewhat different... when your big siblings were sent home from school in March, not to return for a full six months due to Corona Virus, you revelled in the company. I sometimes feel bad that you missed out on some of that 1 to 1 time, but then I watch your bonds with your siblings, how much you delighted in having Jonas at home, and I know really I have nothing to worry about. Nursery is currently only mornings, and we still have our fun-day Mondays when you stay home with me which I love.

I am cherishing every minute of this year, of having a little bit of special time just with you before you fully join your big siblings in the big wide world of school. I love how chatty you are, I love that you are so friendly and so inquisitive. You are our little whirlwind - always active, always physical, always lively and always into everything... but you are also incredibly affectionate and warm, always wonderfully complimentary of those you love and eager to please. 

You are a much loved littlest member of our family, and your big siblings were thrilled to have you join them at school.

Li-Li... we pray for you that you will continue to be the little light that you are at school... shining out the joy and wonder of Jesus... welcoming all, bringing energy and enthusiasm to everything you do. I'm so excited to see you grow and mature over these school years, and praying the Lord will make you a little man after his own heart. That you're little testimony will always be exactly what your name means - "the Lord is God"

We love you Elias! And I'm always counting down to our next Monday!

Mama and Papa x

Monday, 24 August 2020

Staycation Summer: A Week in France!

When we asked this little man where he wanted to go if he could go anywhere in the world, his answer was quick and precise.

"Disneyland, Paris"

Of course, this may have been slightly influenced by the fact that we really did go to Disneyland, Paris last summer... but regardless... his mind was made up!

We broadened to France and spent two glorious days exploring our favourite French things - lavender and Disneyland!

So first to the Lavender Fields!
Having been there now, its absolutely crazy to me that we have lived within 20 minutes of such a gorgeous lavender farm and never been before! I think I had a slightly ridiculous concern about the children and the number of bees - and trust me, there were a lot! But the fact is the bees are so ridiculously over-excited about the lavender surrounding them, that they really couldn't care two hoots about the people!

This little lady was cautious at first, but very quickly became comfortable!
You could literally get lost in it!
We spent a gorgeous morning at the Lavender fields... walking up and down the rows (or running if you're my father or children!!), examining all the bees, trying lavender lemonade and lavender cupcakes (both of which were delicious by the way!) and grabbing some dry lavender from the shop! It was just a lovely, relaxed morning, in this beautiful place and it felt like quite a milestone. It was the first "day out" in a public place for us since March. It was lovely! 
We sniffed, and scurried and stared and crawled through the lavender fields. It was such a sensory experience - the light scent of lavender (we were surprised the air didn't smell stronger), the feeling of it running through your fingers, the sight of fields of lavender on each side!
It was just a fun morning absorbing nature in all its sensory wonder. The sight of the green and purple stretching out in vibrant beauty, the faint scent of lavender on the air, the happy buzzing of busy bees and the feel of those little seeds rubbing between your fingers.

If you never made a visit to lavender fields, I highly recommend you go!
For us, it was a particularly educational visit, because lavender has become part of our every day. As we have sought to transition to a more natural way of life over the past three years, lavender oil has become a staple in our home. We use it to promote rest and relaxation as the evening approaches, diffusing it in the children's bedrooms as they nod off and using it to calm fraught emotions. I love making up a natural face serum which contains lavender for its fabulous skin loving properties and we also carry it everywhere with us, using it to sooth sore knees and respond to bites and stings. It's such a versatile botanical... it was fun to see where it all stems from!

And get a family picture of course!
I'd be being dishonest though, if I pretended that everyone loved the experience for the entirety of the time we were there... life with three year olds, hey?!
Thankfully, he was quickly cheered up with a lavender cupcake and some lavender lemonade!

And then the next day we headed to "Disneyland"...

We had a wonderful time, enjoying virtual similutions of each of the children's favourite rides (thank you Youtube!) and then the children prepared their parade for us - complete with costumes, decorated floats (their bikes!) and doughnuts! It was fun! To round it off, we watched Toy Story (Elias' favourite!) with popcorn and all the trimmings.

It was a fun-filled end to our "trip to France" - 

Next up, we were off to Holland!!

Where would you go if you could "visit" anywhere while staycationing at home??

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Dear Ava - you're 9!


Our sweet Ava M,

How, oh how are you nine?! One year from double figures. Half way to adulthood. It feels like the years are flying away from me... that holding you in my arms and singing "Kleiner Schatz" while rocking you before I laid you down to sleep was only a moment ago! You were recalling yesterday the one memory you have from Nursery - when you were caught hiding under the table because you didn't want to do what you had been asked to. I never knew that before, and yet those days of meandering up to that little nursery class with your little friends feels like it was only yesterday.

And yet I feel SO incredibly privileged. In the midst of this worldwide pandemic that we find ourselves in, I feel like I've got to know YOU so much better over the past six months. I knew little mini you so very well, and though its been intense at times with all of you at home, it has been such a joy to get to know the more grown-up you so very well too - perhaps to a degree that I would never had the privilege of having had all this not happened.

You have always been my Miss Independent... ready to go off and adventure the world, but over lockdown I have seen how much you crave adult company. How much joy it brings you just to sit near me and chat away as I work. How good a friend you are and how helpful you have been with the younger children. I am so grateful for your caring and gentle nature, and though you absolutely know how to wind your younger siblings up something horrific (and somehow come off as the angelic, innocent party), you are a wonderful big sister to them, and it brings me joy to see them recognise that and appreciate it. 

You are a FEROCIOUS reader... I have seriously never met anyone - child or adult - who devours books like you do. You love to dive into another world - anything adventure, mystery, fantasy or classical and you are ALL over it. It's fun to chat books with you... to see you get absorbed in another world and face the same frustration I remember so vividly as a child of wishing so hard it was true. On more than one occasion, you and Heidi have been found checking the back of the boys wardrobe for any sign of a secret pathway to Narnia!

You are curious and intellectual. You love to study and understand things. Gradually I see you transitioning out of the world of imaginative play (though Heidi will keep you well and truly grounded in that camp for a little bit longer) and would rather have your nose in a book (fiction or non-fiction - it really doesn't matter!) or chatting away to your sister or your friends. You love a project - a theatre script you're working on, a new novel, a club for your friends and sister to be part of, a show for your siblings to act out. You're a natural leader, and a loyal friend, and you are so comfortable in your own skin. I love that about you.

One of the most precious things to me over the past couple of weeks has been every morning, as you've appeared in my room, armed with your bible and your little box of post-its and highlighters and set yourself up at my desk. I love watching you developing your own habits, and to see the Lord revealing His truth to you without Papa and my input. 

We pray on your 9th birthday, that as you enter another year, as school restarts and you step out of our home again, as you devour stories and invent new ideas... we pray that you would keep routed and grounded in the One who wrote the greatest story ever told. The One who invented and created all things, who is overseeing the narrative of a world that seems in chaos right now, but is nonetheless still working towards the conclusion He has prepared. The One who cares for you and loves you far more sacrificially than any of us could ever conceive of loving another... 

The One who has held you these nine years, and who we pray will go with you every step of every day you walk this earth until one day, we pray, you'll hear the words

"Welcome home, good and faithful servant"...

We love you Ava M - happy birthday sweet girl! We're so excited to celebrate you today!

Much love,

Mama and Papa xxx

Friday, 7 August 2020

Staycation Summer: The Plan (and a few memories from last summer!)

I've had this post in the drafts section of my brain for a while. My brain is full of blog post ideas that have never been written... the sad truth that writing has been forced onto the back burner of life for a season. I do miss the days of finishing up each evening with a daily post. Though at the time it resulted in a lot of late nights, I'm thankful for the record I have of my children's little years... and hope one day to be a little more regularly present here again!

Usually, you'd find us at this time of year fjordside... spending our days pottering round quaint Norwegian villages, and our evenings sitting on the veranda of the cottage, looking out at stunning mountain and fjord views and freaking out about the bat-birds (long story, but I will tell it to you one day!) 
We are incredible privileged that our summers are filled with beautiful memories - picking raspberries along the lane, freshly baked rolls from Bestemor, boat rides with the wind in your hair, children splashing in the icey fjords, stunning mountain views, precious family time, bunches of wildflowers and copious amounts of norwegian waffles. When we realised we weren't going to make it this year, I think its fair to say all of our hearts broke a little bit.
Good news is, I discovered bizarrely that I'd never actually shared our photos from last summer in Norway, so here's a little taster of our usual summer shenanigans, and after a little scroll you might understand why we were so sad not to be heading back for a Scandi summer this year!

We are, however, eternal optimists, and I am always, ALWAYS up for a challenge. So when we realised we weren't going to be travelling the world this summer (thank you Covid!), we decided as a family that the world better just travel to us. 

In our back garden.

A free, fun-filled, family "trip around the world" from the safety of our own home.
Each of us picked a destination... one place we would really like to visit together as a family. We decided we would spend a week "in" each country - exploring the culture, food, landscapes and history. It has turned out to be so much fun! And so I thought I'd share it with you!

Here were the pickings...

Elias (3 years) - France - well, he actually said Disneyland Paris, but we felt that wasn't broad enough!
Jonas (5 years) - Germany
Heidi (7 years) - Holland
Ava (8 years) - USA
Me (not giving the years away!) - Italy
Dave (Definitely not giving the years away!) - Scotland
We have had so much fun recreating these countries, being a bit creative and having a lot of fun along the way. We have been fairly free about it all too... we want to enjoy our holidays after all and not feel too tied down, so each "week" has actually consisted of 2-3 days of more intentional themed activity, and then a lot of down time at home too. Something we've learned to appreciate more over lockdown!

Huge thanks to all of you who helped me out over on Instagram (@liferoundclarinas) with ideas for the different countries - we have utilised some of them, and will continue too as the remaining weeks unfold!!
For now, I'll leave you with a few Norwegian memories... and will post tomorrow with our French week! We had a lot of fun!

I'd love to know where you would choose to go!! What would be your Staycation destination of choice?? Let me know in the comments!!

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Dear Jonas - you're five!

Oh gorgeous Jonas!

Our sunshine boy - you are the best little friend to everybody... you are so easy-going and kind natured and fun to have around. You are sporty, and competitive, gentle and determined. Stubborn as anything, and super sociable! We love all of the different sides our of Jonas!

We love watching you interact with your sisters; you are very much accepted as one of the "big kids" now and they welcome you into all their games and latest interests. You are easygoing, imaginative and fun to have around, so make a pretty good play-fellow, and you won't be the bossy one. You'll happily appease and go with the flow, and won't put up too much of a fuss! They love the fact that you completely immerse yourself in whatever game they're playing.

With your brother, your relationship has honestly been so eye-opening for me. Boys. Honestly, its a whole new world for me... I liken them often to lion cubs that take great joy in physical play fighting, puppies that need a daily walk to burn off energy, and fun little whirlwinds of giggles. These two have SO much fun together, and I love their little friendship. They are simple and straightforward and high energy. Everything is full on, but its never complex. That may change with age, I guess, but I'm enjoying the exhaustion and simplicity of parenting a pair of brothers!

Despite the fact you are easy going - you are also incredibly determined. If you decide to do something, you'll do it. You decided early on in lockdown that you wanted to learn to ride your bike. No one was allowed to help you. I don't know how many times you fell off, cycling circles round our garden, brushed off your knees and got straight back on. This kid's got grit. And oh my goodness - the pride on your face when you finally got there! You love all sports, and are a team player. You're favourite thing is to kick a football around, or bounce your basketball, or whack a ball up the lawn with a golf club. As long as there's a ball involved, you're destined to love it!

One of the other sides of you we are loving at the moment is your creativity. You are actually insanely artistic and I'm loving watching this unfold... you are a perfectionist, which is proving interesting when your artistic attempts done quite match up with what's in your head, but it's all space for growth! You continue to wow us with your accuracy (I loved the little stick men runners in the picture below!)

It's not all sunshine and rainbows of course - you have an amazing ability to know exactly how to wind up your siblings, and take great delight in doing so! It's something we're working on!

This isn't exactly the 5th birthday we imagined for your Jonas... no party, no little friends around you, no big family celebration, but in classic Jonas style, you have taken it all in your stride and haven't let it bother you. I could learn a thing or two from you!

We are so grateful for our Jonas boy... for the gift that you are, and for the way that even in your little years, you are demonstrating so much strength of character... you have resilience and determination, but that is balanced with generosity and gentleness. I'm so excited to see the way the Lord grows you and uses you, and we pray on that in your young age you will learn to trust the Saviour that we owe everything to. We pray your childlike faith would put down deep routes, and grow strong and sturdy, resilient and determined just like you are, but with Christlike gentleness and generosity.

We love you Jonas and thank God so very much for you,

Happy 5th birthday sweet boy!

Mama and Papa xxx

Monday, 15 June 2020

Homeschool // A Journey in Self-Discovery!

I've been quiet on here recently, probably because like everyone else I've been simultaneously trying to keep my head above water in the busyness of daily life homeschooling four children, while attempting to process everything that has been going on on the world stage. This season has been unexpected, and while both exhausting and really, really hard at times, I am also eager to cling to the Lord's promise that he brings all things together for the good of those who love him. And in the midst of all of it, I have seen so many gifts of good... I really hope you have found some snippets of gold for yourself as well...

These are strange days, aren't they? And yet, three months in, I'm finding that lockdown life has become a safe space for us. It's certainly intense... its emotional... its incredibly hard at times, and I'm feeling large levels of struggle with the lack of personal space most days... but its also been littered with so many blessings that I wanted to record it. More for my own benefit than anyone else's, but somewhere along the way, this space has become my record keeper. I know we have had so many privileges in all this and they are not lost on me - the privilege of me working from home anyway in what I call the gaps and the naps, the privilege of a garden, the privilege of the children having each other, and the privilege of Dave being in a secure job that has needed to continue through all of this... I realise daily that our experience has been very different to many, and I truly don't take any of that for granted.

Most of all... I'm daily thankful for the privilege of hope, and the certain promise that my God holds all this craziness in his hands. He is working his purposes out, even if in the middle of the storm, we can't see them.

I have been so unbelievably thankful for the children's school... they have been absolutely incredible, both in providing helpful material, and supporting us as a family. I genuinely don't think I've ever appreciated their teachers more! We spent the first ten weeks of lockdown figuring out a rhythm with school. I attempted to be some kind of homeschool ninja and simultaneously juggle three curriculum with the work we were being sent, while also trying to amuse a preschooler. We managed by the skin of our teeth, and we had some fun along the way, but to be honest I just felt exhausted most of the time, and there were numerous pressure points throughout the day which were not great for family dynamics.

And then after May half term I just decided I would do homeschool as I would really do homeschool. Those of you who know me well, know that I have long toyed with the idea of pulling my kids out of school. The idea of being able to teach them together, having quality time with them, giving them more rounded opportunities and investing in a more creative curriculum than the National Curriculum currently allows for (our teachers do a wonderful job of keeping it as creative as they can) has long been an idea that has simmered in my mind.

I don't know what it was about May half term, but after discussing with Dave, we decided I would stop trying to cover three curriculum daily, and pull the kids together into one big project. We would learn together.

I can't tell you how much life its breathed into our homeschool experience.

Our days now have fallen into a steady rhythm... we begin the day in the Bible, and then memorization. We have been learning a verse a week to song, and I've been amazed how putting the verses to a simple tune has enabled even our youngest to memorize decent chunks of Scripture. I'm hoping that memorising truth in a time of uncertainty will help give them the building blocks for firm foundations through the storms of life. For the verses, I have the wonderful Jodi Mockabee to thank. We invested in her Africa curriculum (which is AMAZING value for money for 5 weeks worth of learning) and got the verses to song to go with it. For £15, it was money well spent!

After memory work, the children all separate off for maths and SPAG (spelling and grammar!) We are continuing to use the school-provided work for this. They are all at different levels and stages and the provision has been excellent. The girls are pretty capable of just getting on with their work, and this gives me some time to do some focussed work with Jonas (which Elias usually joins in with) - phonics is not comfortable territory for me and it has been a steep learning curve. But the three of us are learning together... though Elias doesn't know a single letter of the alphabet, he now recognises "oy" and when he sees it he chants "OY! A toy to enjoy!" which usually tickles Jonas and I! I love all the learning by osmosis that our littlest is doing.

Once maths and grammar are done, we begin our Africa project... we are looking at one country every day with a fairly broad stroke, but I have genuinely learnt so  much already! The tactile and creative approach to learning has been so good for all of us... and the quality of work has gone up a hundred fold. There is something about presenting your work in an artistic way that just breathes life into it. We've been using the Charlotte Mason method of Notebooking, and it has been SO much fun, and the children have been so eager to show Dave all the things they've done.

This week alone we watercoloured to our heart's content, made "Pap" (a traditional meal in many African countries), learnt about the Great Rift Valley and interviewed my cousin who is living in Cameroon. I'm truly thankful for all the fabulous resources from Jodi Mockabee and the ever wonderful Twinkl!

For me, its been a steep learning curve in accepting the freedom to do things a bit differently. I like to do things by the book. I have watched first hand how much work the teacher's are putting in to this (I'm married to one!) and I will admit to having a certain amount of guilt for moving away from what they are preparing.

But honestly? It's made for a much happier family life, a much calmer rhythm to our days and the children's teachers have been super-wonderful and supportive...

I think in the end, what I've discovered is that I am easily learning as much as the children, if not more. Not only on a curriculum level (I am loving studying a continent I've never looked at in great detail before, and a study which I hope will create a helpful backdrop for some work over the summer in response to the recently highlighted racism that I think its important to proactively respond to) but also on a personal level. This whole experience has been deeply impactful in terms of personal growth... in terms of understanding my children's individual needs and what makes them tick... in terms of understanding what I need to stay sane... in terms of what kind of learning works for us as a family, and what doesn't...

I'm hopeful that as we come out of this (oh how I long for the day to be able to hug my friends and family again!) we will look back on this time as precious... as an opportunity to slow down and stop in the midst of a hectic lifestyle and just be together. And learn. And grow.

That this won't be the "generation of lost learners" as one newspaper put it, but rather, a generation of children who learnt more than just academics...

I'd love to hear your experiences of homeschooling! Have the hard days outweighed the good days, or vice versa? What has worked for you? What have you learnt? I'm more convinced than ever that community is helpful for growing in this! Please do share your ideas and any helpful resources in the comments!

Claire x