Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

“When thanksgiving hits a tipping point, it becomes thanksliving and catapults us straight into the will of Christ”  Ann Voskamp

Last weekend the sun came out and spring was in the air and I reclaimed my favourite seat in the conservatory,  and drank in the only view in our home where the surrounding houses don’t eyeball you.  I could feel petals unfurling somewhere deep within.

Richard was about to return home after 12 days away in the Congo.  And a lovely, long week of half-term holiday stretched ahead.

Today, a week later,  it is snowing and the temperature is doing a ‘sit-in’ on zero degrees.  The conservatory is a freezer once again. Yesterday we went for a walk in a forest and froze alongside the frozen pools of water. I got bone cold. Nevertheless I did experience the exhileration of the ‘green shoots’ of new friendships, as we walked with a group of  Mum’s-with-their-children.

Throughout, despite the wayward weather, I’ve been counting gifts.  I started counting three gifts a day at the start of 2013, a new years resolution.  Now it’s come to the point where by 11.00am the gifts are falling fast and furious.

Today’s Gifts:

Benjamin’s goodmorning sleepy hug.  Our bedroom is always his first port of call.  Today he enters with a lively “Bonjour”, in an attempt to shrug off the tendrils of sleep.  “Have you heard of Voodoo?” he asks.  “Voodoo, ‘you do’, voo means you’ in French”.  “Not spelt the same”,  my noncommittal sleepy response”.  Later I smile deep as I recall this.  Ahh my idiocentric son who keeps mining his mum’s heart, uncovering new seams of love.

Richard brings me a hot drink of water with ginger and almond nuts.  Don’t ask!  He started the day with a jog-about-the-block for the third time in a row.

Joanna decides to recreate her room, the furniture is moved about with the help of Dad, and now  visitors to her room  no longer have to wade through a swamp of discarded clothes.  She’s pleased with herself.

Two overipe bananas sit, waiting,  with eyebrows arched, on the kitchen counter. After a bit of a rummage through a variety of ‘worse-for-wear’ recipe books I finally find a banana muffin recipe that only needs two bananas, courtesy of Joannas after school cooking club.   It requires chocolate chips (we have cooking chocolate) instead of nuts (the cupboard only has almonds).  A green flag is waved for a bit of baking.

There are three small pots of primulas on the kitchen window sill.  Yellow, orange and purple.  No longer on deaths door.  All they needed was some water.

Richard helps clean the one long, narrow  diningroom and sittingroom.

Benjamin gets an e-mail from the first-friend-he-ever-made in the UK.  He goes to a different school now but he tells Benjamin he might be going to the same secondary school as Benjamin.

I forget to put the chocolate chips, so effeciently created by Joanna with the help of a plastic bag and rolling pin, in the muffin mix.   I have a mini tantrum in the kitchen stomping my feet up and down in quick succession. I imagine probably very like my two year old self was prevented from doing.   It’s my kitchen now, I’ll stomp my feet if I want to!   The baking has lost its bonhomie.   Do I scratch it from my list of gifts?

12 banana muffins and a thin banana loaf sit on my sideboard minus their chocolate chips.  My tummy rumbles.  It’s lent and I’ve given up sugar in all its many forms.  My echo of hunger  reminds me of the ‘tempo de forme’ (time of hunger) in rural Mozambique.  I remember the shock when I first heard a Mozambican refer to it as a matter of fact one January, as an aside almost.  Like the fact that for two months people are hungry, as their food stocks are running out, eaten by people, rats and weavels, and the harvest is not yet in, is just some kind of freak side-show, best ignored.

Perhaps this is the origin of Lent.  When people lived off the land, food reserves at this time of year, as winter drags on and spring fights valiantly to take center stage, would have been very low.  Best to offer this gnawing hunger as a gift of thanks for the greatest of all gifts.

I relook at the banana-without-the-chocolate-chip muffins with eyes that see. I’m humbled, palms open in thanksgiving.


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Living to tell the story is hosting the 48th Friday’s Fave Five. Here’s mine:

  1. We have returned home after two months away and are packing up as we prepare to move to France at the end of August. So I was greatly relieved when the dearth of boxes came to an end on Monday with the arrival of second hand boxes of various sizes, by foot and car from various sources. Thanks to Isabella, Orlando and Richard.
  2. Joanna and Benjamin were desperate to return home after their long sojourn in U.K. and South Africa (plus a camping trip to Swaziland with Yayee, Papa, Aunty and Uncle, Joshua and David where Benjamin caught six fish, his first ever). Benjamin couldn’t wait to reunite with his best friend Michael, but Joanna’s best friend left back to the States,  just as we left on our travels. Then walking down the Marginal on Sunday we bumped into Caroline, a Zimbabwean I lost contact with, when her cell phone was stolen and she moved house. So I was able to invite Milagro her daughter to come for a playdate, and she has come every afternoon this week, and is coming for a sleep over tonight. Four happy children completely absorbed in their respective imaginary worlds, definitely a big motherhood reward.
  3. I heard from Akiko who has been trying to fall pregnant with her second child for a number of years and she’s pregnant! I can’t help wondering if it had anything to do with that raspberry leaf tea, which would make her the second friend to possibly benefit from that small piece of advice.   I suppose I’ll never really know.
  4. I’m leaving Quelimane, I’m leaving Quelimane and going to live on a small holding in France in a 17th Century farmhouse for a year.  After living in one of the poorest regions in the world for 12 years, we’re off to live within the vicinity of Paris!!!!   As awareness of this slowly sinks in I can’t help but feel like a 9 year old  just before Christmas.  Thank you oh my Father …
  5. As Richard and I face a completely new unfamiliar future, it’s great how we feel like we’re in this together.  As we search on the internet for a cheap, second hand, Left Hand Drive car or talk through the need  to grow loads of  cherry tomatoes,  as Joanna munches her way through yet another tomato.  The Proverb, ” two is better than one”  has been very apparent this week.



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You, yourself, you

Was I ever so beautiful,
bold and bouncy as you?
You who forced your way out
of my womb (not dropped-off
by the stork), determined
to be loved through and through.

I stare at you, seeing your
six year old sense of self
so sure, and strong and true.

I fervently pray I will never drop you,
though your love is heavy and my
hands, at times, are slippery.

The prompt at One Single Impression this week, thanks to Gautami Tripathy of Rooted , is Dropped.  Click here to go along for an interesting visit. This prompt reminded me of my theme song for myself and my family and my friends. Time after Time by Cindy Lopez – “If you fall, I will catch you, I will be there, time after time.”


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Our chicken laid it’s first egg today. We watched it clucking about as it chose the spot to drop it’s treasure. Joanna was delighted. She said it made her want to do science, “because eggs is science isn’t it!”. So I found her science activity book and told her to choose one. Benjamin jumping on his sisters bandwagon, was given his science activity book. Each book is accompanied by a DVD in which a rather fun teenager carries out each experiment with varying degrees of success. So at one point I sat on our sitting room carpet surrounded by two eager scientists, noticing a yellow butterfly flitting past a window and recognised the preciousness of the moment.

And I thought this could all be about to end.

I have applied for a full-time position based in the UK, where my children will attend school, looked after by their father who will complete  a PHD.  We are so closely knit in our current lifestyle.  Benjamin and Joanna tell me everything. Even how I scared them after a bad PMT inspired rant and rave.  When I apologise for scaring them, they forgive me so willingly.   I love being so in the loop of their lives because I can keep them safe, their sense of self intact.  When their minds fill with lies such as, “I’m dumb” I can counteract this by pointing out the truth.  “Learning to read is hard, it is a struggle, but that doesn’t mean you’re dumb.  It’s good to know how to persevere with something that is hard to do, because struggle is a big part of life.”  I fear that when I am away from them for a big part of the time, I will loose some of their trust and they will start to keep some of their experiences hidden from me.  Would this be a good thing or not?   Don’t they need my wisdom, the fact that I have been there and done that and know what potholes to avoid.  The fact that I have a greater grasp on what is true and what is false.  Or do they need the space to make their own distinctive way.  Are they old enough for that yet.

One of the experiments didn’t work out because Joanna was her clumsy self.  She is such a fairy child and has a real sense of being a princess yet her large hands frequently drop or knock things over, much to her chagrin.  Richard and I ALWAYS make light of her frequent mishaps but I detect she is aware of them.   As usual I made light of the fact that the only four sugar cubes (sent with the science kit) for thousands of miles around in all directions had just been destroyed, rendering the science experiment null n void.   But later I slumped down on the bathroom floor behind the locked door and silently sobbed.  And ranted and raved to God, like the Psalmist asking: “Why is this so hard, for me?”

And I thought this could all be about to end.

Then Joanna and I went shopping.  Going the long way around to avoid the largest of the pot holes which are currently filled with water.  As we clang our way along the pot marked roads in my twin cab buckie without power-steering or air-conditioning,  with the sound of Joanna’s endless sweet chatter by my side, I realise how much I’ve grown.  I’ve shed so much petulance and entitlement, and I prefer my new more stretchy skin.

I start to sing, “hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back, no more, no more, no more, no more, hit the road Jack….”.   I experience deep peace and contentment and turn a grateful heart towards God, concluding my personal Psalm for this day.

This could all be about to end.

(Or my nick-name ain’t Jack.)

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The three words at Three Word Wednesdayare: burden, natural, ubiquitous. These three seem to have given me verbal diarrhea.

The Ubiquitous Three Words

Finding my ubiquitous children a burden, I send them out to play and come and see what 3WW has to say. My 8 yr old son, Benjamin, soon runs in declaring, eyes shining, “Hey mummy, can you come and see my snowman?” I dutifully follow his excited footsteps out of doors. He has made a natural looking snowman in the ubiquitous sand pit, with round sand buttons for eyes and nose and down it’s front. Full of enthusiasm he scrapes away a peep hole in the the ‘snowman’s’ head revealing the rock burdened by the sand. I am impressed and role-play what a natural mother would say. But I am burdened by whispers in my head saying, “is this really what you want to do all day?”.

My utterly natural daughter Joanna, unburdened by societies ubiquitous media demands of how a 6yr old ought to be, runs in breathless. And announces in a pitch belonging to a soccer match, “Mamma, Mamma the chickens have had a baby”. This forces a natural laugh from me. We only bought the chickens yesterday, two hens and one cockerel so naturally they can’t have reproduced quite yet. In this scenario it’s definitely the egg that comes before the chicken. I go out to see, feeling burdened by their ubiquitous need of me. It’s the neighbors chicken who, burdened by the absence of a cockerel in her neck of the wood, has sought out ours, quite naturally.

At lunch time we sit down around a table, a conventional four member family. I’m feeling burdened by anxiety as my ubiquitous emotions invade me. I ask Benjamin if he showed Daddy his snowman and discover that the snowman had been transformed during the course of the morning to a birds nest, mole hole, rabbit warren, badger set and finally a baby’s bed. Suddenly Joanna blurts out, “I love you Daddy, I love you Mama, I love you Benjamin”, as if unburdening herself of a ubiquitous feeling that for some reason is not naturally said. Benjamin’s response is to declare the fact that he loves everyone. He repeats this twice as if warming up, then finally responds to the love gauntlet laid down by his younger sister. Rapidly unburdening himself he also declares, “I love you Mummy, I love you Daddy, I love you Joanna”. Then with an extra special grin he adds, “And I love me.”

Too bad if I’m not a natural mother, safeguarding their happy childhood is something I have chosen to do. Too bad if I feel burdened, their ubiquitous love is my sweet reward.

Later I read scripture and am reminded that naturally I can’t do this in my own strength but there is a ubiquitous divinity who says, “”Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Mathew 11:28

And …

The ubiquitous heat
can be a burden
but it’s quite natural

Natural heat,
a ubiquitous burden
but it’s to be


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