Saturday, 16 April 2022

Happy 5th Birthday Elias!


Our Elias - 5 years old!

Our space-mad, Lego-loving, mini theologian, arms-and-legs everywhere enthusiast turned 5. It now feels official that we are out of the baby zone and into the realm of full blown kids. 

Poor Elias actually spent his birthday recovering from a bug the boys had as we travelled back from Wales on Thursday, so it turned out to be a low-key day with the family. Presents, birthday breakfast, the sharing of "what we love about Elias" around the table and a visit from the grandparents.

Then today we had his party... a little spaceman dream! Ever since we studied space in Lockdown 2, Elias has been fascinated by all things outer space - from his favourite planet "Mercury",  to his favourite spacemen Tim Peake and Neil Armstrong! He was very clear what he wanted and I was given clear and firm instructions that a "Space Party" was to be the celebration plan.

As the youngest of four, you've had to keep up with your bigger siblings. Homeschooling through two lockdowns meant you just took part in school with the others through your preschool years, and you've learnt to read insanely quickly (when I think of the sometimes painful hours I spent with the others!!) - sometimes I think I'm prone to forget how little you are, and perhaps expect more of you than I should. But when I see you tearing round the room as a spacerocket, or some other imaginary character, I realise you are still so little inside. I'm holding on to that a little bit longer. You're our last baby after all!

One of my favourite things about you is how fun you are. You are our little joker and always bring a smile to our faces. You are a good little play buddy to all your siblings. You'll throw yourself into any game with full enthusiasm, and I'll often find you in some crazy costume or other! I love seeing the different dynamics between you and each of your siblings. The way you look up to Ava (you actually told me the other day you didn't think Ava ever did anything wrong. She quickly corrected you, but it was telling of the way you admire your biggest sister!), I love the amazing creativity that explodes when you and Heidi get your heads together, and just the deep and fascinating bond between you and your brother - in many ways it strikes me as twinlike (though there are 21 months between you) - you can just read each other, and are super affectionate with each other, and fiercely protective!

And then there are your friends! What was so evident at the party was what a little social butterfly you are! You have lovely little friends, and you really enjoy being with them. They're a lovely bunch and its so sweet to see your little friendships developing so young. This little crew are wacky and fun and full of beans - just like you are!

We love you Elias... we love your light-hearted nature, but we also love your quite astounding ability to go deep for someone so young. Sometimes Papa and I catch each other's eye when you pray... it's incredible to me that one so little can understand so much truth with so much depth. Our prayer for you is that all that you store in that little head of yours will flow down to your heart... that you will be someone transformed by the Saviour to live with integrity and joy and an overflowing love and compassion for others. Our prayer is that the Lord will use all the gifts he's given you for His glory, your good, and the good of all of those who get to meet you.

We love you little Elias - and I'm sorry I forgot the candles... but I'm grateful that you forgive me nonetheless and were happy with our birthday wave!!

God bless you son,

Mama and Papa x

Friday, 4 March 2022

Happy 9th birthday our Heidi!

Dear Heidi,

Nine years old... our baby girl is definitely out of the little years now! It seems like a lifetime ago that they lifted you out, showed me your fuzzy dark head and shouted "It's a girl!"... the early days of your life were blissful. The newborn phase has always been super intense and emotional and hard... and yet somehow with you it felt easy. Perhaps the Lord allowed us that season of grace before the hard months that followed when you fell ill, but those first nine weeks were carefree and wonderful in every way.

At nine weeks things took a turn, we don't need that story now, but what we have seen in the nine years that have followed is how faithful and good God has been to us... and how that storyline has weaved itself into your own understanding of the world too. How the circumstances and trials that shaped your early years have given you a resilience and assurance that shape much of how you think and feel as an older child. It is wonderful to see how God uses the hard things to shape and transform and make beautiful... and we love seeing him working in you Heidi.

You have always been a performer... even in your toddler years you stole the show. You can belt out a tune, and have that charisma about you that just captures your audience. And you love it. When you step onto a stage your cautious nature around strangers and shy tendencies just fall away and you literally become the person you're playing. It's been thrilling to see the joy with which you head off to theatre academy every week and to find something that you are truly passionate about!

You continue to be a devoted friend to your big sister... the two of you as thick as thieves. You know, of course, how to push each others buttons and at times you need your space, but you still disappear into your own world daily and share everything with each other. I really hope it always stays that way. You are also the favourite playmate of your little brothers... no one else takes them into such crazy imaginative worlds. They can wind you up at times, but they also think you're utterly awesome!

Tonight we celebrated your birthday with a "Musical Theatre Party"... your little friends trooped home with us after school for a theatre quiz, pizza making and movie night (Sing 2!) You have such a lovely group of friends, and I love watching you interacting and just having a blast with your little crew!

And so now you're nine... the last year of single digits, and to me it feels like the last year of being truly a child as we hurtle towards the tween and teen years. I am savouring every moment... truly. I love your effervescent nature, your passion for everything that captures your imagination, your loyalty to your friends and family and even you're being "dramatisch" (as you like to say!) Somehow it feels like you're really growing up now, learning who you are and its a joy to find you daily pouring over your Bible in the morning. You challenge me with your consistency and commitment to getting in the Word, and my prayer for you is that as you enter this next phase, you will find your hope, roots and identity firmly placed in the Lord Jesus. There is no surer or more steadfast place to me.

Happy birthday our Heidi! We love you so very, very much!

Mama and Papa xx

Friday, 5 November 2021

Redeeming Advent // A Review + A Giveaway!

** Giveaway winner has been announced over on Instagram. @jolarcs please contact me to claim your prize! Huge thanks to everyone who took part! ***

Since January, I've been working my way through the books of the Bible chronologically with a group of friends from church. It's been incredibly helpful to see the context of each narrative, to understand the bigger picture - and to have some accountability along the way! Right now, we're diving into 1 Kings, and it's fascinating to see Jesus shining through the pages of Old Testament Scripture. I have loved digging into some of the Old Testament narratives and getting to know him better in books some might not even expect to find him!

I am a bit of a traditionalist though - when it comes to December, I like to have my nose in the Christmas Story!

For the past few years, I've enjoyed an advent devotional... a little book of daily readings to help me get my head in the right space in the run up to Christmas. It can be such an overwhelming season - gifts to buy, events to attend, guests to host... more than any other season of the year, more than any other month, December has the potential to send my brain into a crazy frenzy of overdrive, and my quiet times with the Lord into oblivion.

And so when my lovely blogger friend, Lucy, asked me to review her advent devotional book, and offered a copy for me to giveaway - I knew I had to say yes!

And I'm so glad I did!

Lucy's book - "Redeeming Advent" is short, snappy and accessible without loosing any of the depth you would hope for it. The book is divided into 24 Advent readings, and into four main themes of redemption - redeeming our homes, redeeming our Christmas, redeeming our hearts and redeeming our communities. Each chapter takes less that 5 minutes to read, and is fun and accessible in style. But don't be fooled into thinking that Lucy's engaging writing style means the chapters aren't deeply challenging (the chapter on hospitality alone had me wriggling in my seat!)

Lucy doesn't shy away from big themes - and she isn't afraid to ask tough questions! Each reading culminates with a couple of application questions (warning - they won't let you sit comfortably!) and a prayer to conclude... I've enjoyed sampling the first few chapters this week and am now putting on the brakes so I can properly enjoy it through the advent season. I'm excited to explore the theme of Redemption as we head towards Christmas.

You can grab a copy of Redeeming Advent for £7.95 from Amazon (disclaimer - if you use this link above, I'll get an affiliate thank you from Amazon! I'm grateful for all the support to run this space!) and from a number of Christian book stores - or you can grab it from Lucy herself over on her blog The Hope Filled Family

Lucy also has very kindly given me a copy of the book to give away to one of YOU! So to be in with a chance of winning this, all you need to do is comment below and let me know how YOU like to prepare for the Christmas season!

I'll pop back on Tuesday to share the winner!

To enter the Giveaway!

- Comment on the post below or on the Instagram post with your favourite way to prepare for Christmas!

- Give me a follow over on Instagram @liferoundclarinas or over on my Facebook page

- Giveaway closes Monday 8th November at 6pm (GMT)

- Winner will be announced on Facebook/Instagram on Tuesday 9th November!

- UK Residents Only

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

3 Simple Sprays for the Autumn // Creating a Natural Home

One of the easiest switches we made when I began to become more aware of the kind of chemicals we were using in everyday life was to start making my own sprays. Essential Oil sprays are so easy to make, take zero skill and actually function much more effectively than their synthetic counterparts! They also happen to be completely free of respiratory triggers, skin irritants and hormone disruptors, so it was a no brainer really!

The basic recipe for a spray is super simple - witch hazel, essential oils and distilled water. You'll change up which essential oils you use, depending on what you're trying to create, but in short, this basic spray recipe has become the easiest replace for so many things - bathroom sprays, body sprays, room sprays, pillow sprays, linen sprays, bug sprays, detangler sprays, cleaning sprays and so much more!

So I thought I'd share the base recipe with you all, and then share three sprays that we particularly like to use in the autumn season!

Once you've grabbed a 50ml spray bottle (I usually choose amber glass as the spray will last longer if kept cool and dark), you can go ahead and add a splash of witch hazel. Witch hazel is a powerful plant with medicinal properties, but it also acts as a partial emulsifier (it is not as effective as something like vodka, but is effective enough for the purposes we are using in these sprays!) I usually add a tablespoon or so to my spray bottle before adding my oils. Once you've added your essential oils, you can just fill it to the top with distilled or cooled boiled water... and voila! You have a spray that is ready to go!

So how do you know which oils to use? And how much oil is needed?

Here are three of my FAVOURITE sprays to use throughout the autumn season!

Cosy Autumn Room Spray: 

There is something lovely about the scents of those baked spices in the autumn! Orange, Clove and Bergamot is one of my favourite blends in the diffuser in October and November, but even if you don't have a diffuser, a gorgeous Cosy Autumn Room spray is a simple make.

Once you've made it, simply spray it on your soft furnishings. Don't panic if you can smell the witch hazel dominating as you spray... once it hits those soft furnishings, the witch hazel scent will diminish and you'll be left with the lovely scent of autumn!

Glow Facial Toning Spray:

This is the season where our skin takes the biggest beating and can get super dry. Taking care of our body's biggest organ is crucial - and your face often takes the biggest weather hits. I love making all our skincare products, but this simple toning spray is a lovely addition to your nighttime skin routine, and frankincense, lavender and tea tree are all natural skin loving oils that will nourish and cleanse. Just make sure you choose alcohol free witch hazel for the gentlest approach! Just spray onto your face after cleansing and leave to dry in (then afterwards apply your gorgeous homemade glow serum - that'll be another blog post!)

Cleaning with essential oils was one of the simplest switches we made... and is one I will never go back on! There is so much peace of mind in cleaning around your children with homemade cleaners which truly work, are budget friendly and contain zero nasties! I love that I can do everything now with just one bottle! If you don't have Thieves Cleaner, you can switch it out for distilled white vinegar - though I warn you, it doesn't smell as nice (if you want hooked up with Thieves Household Cleaner - just shout - plant-based, toxin free, christmas scented concentrate cleaner that will last you a year and cost you 50p a bottle!) The added essential oils are unnecessary on the cleaning front, but add a nice autumnal twist (and clove has been shown to have amazing anti-bacterial properties) and a little clove and orange scent never went amiss!

As I said, there are so many other ways we use sprays around our home - but these three are my go to's in this season! Which one do you think you'd like to try first??

Monday, 1 November 2021

A Yearly Tradition // The Pumpkin Patch

It's an annual tradition, and one that we have enjoyed for many years now! The yearly trip to the pumpkin patch - complete with wellies, a lot of mud, a chaotic attempt at "THE" family picture (with a few outtakes for fun!), a few giggles, some tears, a bit of frustration and usually someone falling over (though I think we miraculously avoided that this year!)

There were definitely some comedy moments. Elias' attempts at picking up a pumpkin almost as big as himself were noteworthy... he just about managed to stay upright!

And it wasn't just Elias who had to exercise some serious muscle power!

While the boys were busy putting everything into picking the perfect pumpkin... the girls were convinced they'd found it, with the usual dramatic flair!

Nothing new under the sun!

We left the pumpkin patch armed with our pumpkins, ready for a mosey round the Garden Centre and excited about the prospect of pumpkin soup and Pumpkin and chocolate chip muffins ahead! It's become a yearly tradition that we all enjoy, and I love our growing collection of pumpkin shots every year!!

Do you have a pumpkin patch near you??

Saturday, 30 October 2021

Tea time Theology // Teaching our kids their Heritage

Tuesday afternoon Teatime Theology continues to be a weekly tradition that we all look forward to. Bags are dumped at the door at the first sight of the teapot, as shoes are removed and excited voices run to gather around the table. This table has been the hub of so many of the precious memories in our home... a place of gathering and connection, of reconciliation and fellowship, of learning and teaching and discipling. Through the homeschool season, so much of our lives were centred around that table that our teatime tradition was dropped for a while, but with the return to school and a semblance of normality, our Tuesday afternoon tradition has resumed.

We have gone down many different routes over the past few years, from beginners Bible Doctrine, to delving into specific Biblical characters, to learning about some amazing Christians in history, to themes and topics like the Biblical Feasts. We approach daily bible reading with our kids book by book, reading through the Bible in its context, and so weekly Teatime Theology has enabled us to look at the themes of the Bible more systematically and really thrash out some of their questions. It's led to some really great, thought-provoking discussions and has given the kids room to explore questions in a safe space.

For the past few weeks we have been delving into the history of the reformation... understanding the course of events that threw Europe into such a radical and fast transformation in the 16th century, the ripple effects of which we still feel now. My history teachers taught me it was simple. Henry the VIII wanted his own way and so threw out the Catholic Church and set up his own. But that is so insanely over-simplified, and really was only the event that opened the floodgates for all that already had been brewing on mainland Europe to finally explode into reality in England.

Learning about imperfect humans, and complex historical narratives has brought us back time and time again to the simple truths - God is good, and so brilliantly sovereign that he can manoeuvre individuals, Kings,  governments and powers to fall into his perfect plans.

It's also given us a new appreciation for the preciousness of our Bibles, and how much it cost people to get it into our hands. 

Usually our gathered time consists of reading a short chunk of a book, accompanied by tea and cake, and then some kind of creative activity. The week photographed, we were learning all about Erasmus who produced a translation of the original greek Bible in 1516, and began the process of getting the Bible into the hands of everyday people, not just the religious powers. It was bold, and brave, and combined with the invention of the printing press, led to people all over Europe being able to access and understand the Bible for themselves for the first time. 

As people read the words of Jesus for themselves, religious rituals were replaced by real relationship with a God who had seemed so distant... it was truly revolutionary, in every sense of the word... 

The most precious thing about this time is the understanding that happens by osmosis. Sometimes you wonder if things are really going in... sometimes you wonder if the connections are being made. I'm being reminded that truths settling and spiritual "sight" are a work of the Spirit, and cannot by created no matter how engaging the activity! But then one of them will say something later in the day, or make an observation a few days later, or speak gospel truth over you the following week, and you realise it is going in, it is worth it. And actually, our call is simply to faithfulness, to "teaching our children in the way they should go" (Deuteronomy 6).  The rest is in the Lord's hands!

The gift this little tradition has been to our family cannot be over-estimated. I am forever grateful I stumbled across the concept a few years back! Intentionally teaching our children the truths of the gospel, the cost of their heritage is so important as they are bombarded by so many other messages throughout the day.

This little hour on a Tuesday afternoon has become a little haven for all of us... and I'm excited to see where the Lord takes us next!