Friday, March 30, 2007

"And the Award for the Most Patient Mother..." DOESN'T Go to Me!

If awards were being handed out for mothers, I would not get "most patient". Motherhood has definitely taught me a plethora of things about myself, one of which being that I'm not patient. I thought I was patient before. As a public school teacher, who had 25 first-graders at a time, I wasn't usually rattled by much, but my own three can rattle me plenty! I've found that usually my lack of patience is in direct proportion to the lack of control I'm feeling at the moment. Yes, another thing that motherhood has taught me is that I am a total control freak! When my children don't behave as I wish them to, when they don't do things exactly like I would, when they aren't thankful at the appropriate times, or when they use bad manners, I get impatient because I want them to do what I want. It seems that, truth be told, I want little "Jonis" running around (Actually, the thought of that makes my skin crawl! But you wouldn't know it from my attitude and actions.). But it seems that God has other plans for my children: to grow unique individuals created and called to do things for Him. And I get to be a part of that process. What a privliege!

A verse that's been helping me with this issue lately is from Phillipians 1:3, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." Paul is writing to his beloved church in Phillipi and the love he expresses for them in this one verse alone just blows me away. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. Every remembrance.

Now, I don't know about you, but as a mom, that verse hits me square between the eyes with con-vic-tion! Because, quite honestly, I don't give thanks upon every remembrance of my children. Sometimes, my thoughts are like this one that I had just this afternoon on the bus,
"That child is driving me crazy. Why is she so loud? Everyone is staring at us. She makes me want to crawl under the seats she is so embarrasing!"

Instead of thanking my God upon every remembrance of my sweet middle one, I was complaining to Him about the way He'd made her. So, this verse has shown me that most of the time, instead of thanking God when I think of my children, I complain to Him about them. And that's humbling. Because I love them so much I would stand in front of a bus for them! And because I think so often that I forget that they are children. They learn from living and from doing and from experiencing and from mistakes.

As a result of thinking a lot on this verse, what I'm trying to do instead of this complaint-running-rhetoric in my head is something quite the opposite. Now, granted today, you saw that I completely failed! But now when I am frustrated, (or truth be told, about to become unglued), with one of them, I am trying to stop to say thank you to God: Thanking Him for giving them to me, thanking Him for the unique way He made them; thanking Him that through them, He is sanctifying me; thanking them for their personalities that remind me to be childlike and not so serious (read: controlling) all the time. Might I just tell you that this thankful attitude is making me a more cheerful, compassionate, and thankful (duh!) mama. I'm smiling more at my children. I'm laughing more with them. I'm trying hard to let them be the little people God made them to be. I'm allowing them to be children, and not expecting perfect little grown-ups in tiny bodies.

Are you fed up with your children and finding yourself complaining more than thanking God? Try to replace those negative thoughts with thoughts of thanksgiving to God for them (be specific) and I'll bet you'll become a more cheerful mama too!

"The unthankful heart discovers no mercies. But let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." --Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Distracted Mothers

"Time on earth is finite. The days of childhood are numbered. Distracted mothers are a curse to their children." --Elizabeth Foss

As I mentioned in this post, I am trying to abide more with my children during my time here. Not that I really have a choice, because right now, I am with them 24/7, as they say. But really I wouldn't have it any other way. Here are some of the things in retrospect that I realize I have been missing by not being fully present when they are around.

How my boy smiles at me first thing when he wakes up and says, ""Mornin', Mama!"

That my middle sweetheart is a real physical touch girl, always wanting her hugs.

Swinging my baby on a swing in the park to her heart's content.

These things and so many more I am having my eyes opened to on a daily basis. All because I'm trying to really see, hear, and feel the moments that I'm living in with them. I can't tell you when was the last time that I pushed my baby on a swing and enjoyed it. To me, it's always seemed that pushing the child who can't swing herself is just what you do until they learn to do it alone. Usually, at home, instead of wanting to push my littlest one in her swing, I would want to "watch" my children play while I read a magazine or read a book, while enjoying a soda from the chair parked beside the play gym. Yep, that's the honest truth about things. Instead now I am watching her face, those "David Letterman-esque" teeth smiling at me gleefully, and her hair blowing like cornsilk in the wind. I'm listening to her giggle and say "Wheeeee!" I'm thinking about the gift of noticing her in all her God-made glory. And I'm not missing my magazine-and-soda sittin'-in-my-chair time at all.

I loved the above quote by Elizabeth Foss when I found it at my friend Marybeth's blog. Foss is the author of the book, "Real Learning", which I kept reading great reviews about and stashed in my luggage to London. She also keeps a thoughtful homeschooling blog here. As soon as I read the above quote, I couldn't get it out of my head. How exactly could a distracted mother be a curse to her children? And in thinking much about this quote for the past few weeks, I think the curse comes in doing exactly what I'm talking about not noticing and not attending to her children. I'd like to go a bit further than Mrs. Foss and say that distracted mothers are also a curse to themselves. Because they don't know what they are missing out on. You know how I know this don't you? Been there. Done that.

Today, we went to Battersea Park Children's Zoo. It was a fun little place, a delight for children really. It's very accomodating for children with small animals, a petting area, and great little descriptions for each animal. There's also a great play area and a quaint cafe. But here's what I noticed at Battersea. Lots of little people there with their mummies. Their distracted mummies. At one point, as I looked around me, the majority of mothers that I saw were on their cell phones while their children looked at the animals, or played on the swings, or tried to get their attention. I don't judge any of these mothers. I am one of those mothers, for heaven's sake. How many times have I typed away on my keyboard while one of my children asked me to play a game, or for a glass of water, or my all-time favorite, to wipe their little bottom? But, after really reflecting on this quote for the past weeks, I guess the distraction stood out to me, and I mourned for these mothers. And I mourned for myself, thinking about all the little moments that I've missed because I, too, have been distracted. Or sometimes, even worse, (confession time here) just "doing my time" until Daddy got home and I could escape.

So, I'm learning a lot on this little field trip that God has me on. And I'm purposing not to be a distracted mother. Not here. And not when I return. For the blessing to my children. And for the blessing to me. The days of their childhood are numbered and finite after all.

A Logical Boy

DD4, upon discovering her brother in the bathroom on the floor, playing a game: "Buddy, why are you playing your game in here?"

DS5, with his very obvious response: "Because if I have to go to the potty, it's right there."


Our Adventures on Public Transport and Where We've Been This Week

We've been extremely adventurous in our public transportation this week as opposed to last. We've even taken the tube. I wanted to see if I could do it or not. Turns out, I can, but it is difficult. The tube is not very accomodating to strollers, with lots of stairs and escalators at most stations. We've also taken several buses, including one route with a bus change. Now, this is a lot for a girl who usually puts the children in their carseats and takes off. We're definitely not used to public transportation!

The great thing about kids is that everything is an adventure to them. So, while public transportation my be a pain in the rear for me, my kids love riding on the double decker buses, swerving through London traffic in the taxis, and speeding through London on the tube. It seems we've also gotten more familiar with the routes and stops, at least in our little part of town here. I'm definitely getting to know this part of London better, which is a blessing, because in May we'll have several visitors who'll want to be shown around. Yay!

This week we've been to:

Regent's Park (fabulous park, with lots of flowers and many types of waterfowl)
Battersea Park Children's Zoo (wrote about it a few days back in the Distracted Mothers post)
and the Natural History Museum (Awesome! Loved the dino skeletons, and mammals exhibits.)

On a side note, I had heard from several folks who have lived in London, or visited for lengthy periods of time, about the lack of good service here. I've not experienced that too much yet. Although today, there was a very grumpy lady behind the information desk for children's backpacks at the NHM. The backpacks are for under 7's and are full of things to help them explore the museum from their perspective. I saw the backpacks all lined up, had heard of them through their website and knew they were free, and went to check one out. That's where grumpy lady came in. I inquired about checking out a backpack. Her response went something like this:

"Well, (eyeing my three young children), they are for young children. And they are hired out for 25 pounds."

I was confused, were my children, ages 5,4, and 2, not young enough? And 25 pounds? They were supposed to be free. After more inquiring of grumpy lady, I found out that the 25 pounds was merely a deposit. (Smart idea, deposits, especially since DD4 has already colored on our walls here, broken a glass, and gotten some kind of yucky stuff on one of the kitchen chairs, not to mention the DVD cordless earphones that she destroyed in our relocation rep's car a few weeks back. Yep! A deposit was definitely a good idea.) I got out out 25 pounds, cash. Grumpy lady's next response?

"Only credit cards, no cash!"

I had no credit card on me, so needless to say, we didn't get the backpack. Now, here's my question...why do they put grumpy ladies behind counters where they will be exposed to children and mommies who might be a tad bit stressed out to be at the museum with all of their little people in the first place? Why can't grumpy ladies be relegated to coat check or something? Ugh.

Now, this long, rambling, focus-less post is ending. That's been our week in a nutshell; transportation, parks, museums, grumpy ladies, and all.

A Multicultural Concern

DD4 at breakfast this morning, "Mommy, I don't want to speak Spanish when we get back!"

DS5 in a response of sympathy because apparently his language has changed: "Yeah, 'cause I speak English now."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can I Just Fuss a Little About My Washer?

I don't mean to sound negative, but my washer over here drives me crazy. Firstly, it is a washer/dryer combo, which until I moved to the UK, I had never even heard of. It is also the size of a large stock pot. That's literally as large as the drum gets. No kidding.

Now, I realize that I am spoiled at home. One of the things we splurged on when we built our current house was the Whirlpool front-loading washer and dryer. And I love those things! (Oh, how I know realize that I love those things!) They can fit boatloads of clothes into them. And in this family, it seems that we do produce boatloads of clothes. Now back to my current fits...wait until you hear this...three towels at a time! THREE!

The term washer/dryer combo is also a bit of a misnomer because dry it does not. Oh, I suppose it warms up the clothes a little, takes a little bit of the water out of them, but always, always the clothes are damp at the end of the dry cycle, and might I add, very wrinkly because the stinking drum is so small!

Now, let's dicuss the fact that I also do not know how to use this appliance well. Take today for example. I wanted to dry the clothes that I had put into the washer earlier this morning. I did not set my settings properly and the clothes started the complete wash cycle all over again.
How about one more aggravating thing? The washer/dryer cannot be opened until it is good and ready. I'm not sure when that is exactly, but if you want to check on the clothes, forget it! Not until the appliance is ready! The door actually locks you out.

Laundry just seems to be one of those little things that you take for granted in your home country. Rant over. Oh, and one more funny UK laundry note...our current letting agent told us upon explaining how to use the washer and dryer (which I obviously flunked that course!), that his own mum, to this day, handwashes everything with a washing board! Now that was an interesting thought! Seems she's not into these "new-fangled" washing machines.

What's Up With My Template?

Okay, I seriously have no idea what's happened to my blog template. I didn't get into my template to switch anything. Is anyone having problems with their template? Is it just a homeschoolblogger thing? If not, has this ever happened to you before? Could someone else have gotten into my template? Kind of like identity theft isn't Well, who do I report this too? Hmmm?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Church Today

Here's the church we're currently attending. Hubby has been working all weekend, so the children and I went to church without him this morning. At first, earlier this week, when I thought about this --going to church on the bus with all three children, and getting each of them into the service and then checked into children's church--the thought overwhelmed me, and I considered not going. But I am a chuch girl. I love the body of Christ. I know the church isn't perfect, but I delight in corporate worship, learning, and community. I also wondered if my children would want to go, or if they'd be afraid because it's not our home church. When I asked them, they wanted to go.

We didn't attend church last week because it was windy and raining and we didn't want to have to wait at the bus stop with the children in the wind and rain. Well, I missed it. When I go even one week without that focused time, it hurts me spiritually. So, I thought, "I'm doing it." I needed to go. I had to go. I was parched for the Word today.

Boy, did God deliver again through HTB! The service was phenomenal. There is a great spirit during worship. Tim Hughes led worship today. One thing about this being a new church for us is I don't know a few of the songs, and then I want to remember them when I get home, but I never can. But most of the songs, I know, which makes me feel at home in this place that is so far away from home. And when I look around at worship, I'm amazed by God. I'm absolutely blown away by his great idea of gathering together believers. Here's matter where you are, who you know, or what the service is like, in a community of believers in Christ, even with no other commonalities, there is a singular commonality and that is Jesus Himself. I feel very alone here. But at church, with other like-minded people who worship the same God, I feel less alone, like somehow I'm in a place where people "get" me. Probably my favorite song we sung today was "I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)". My son and I had gotten into it before leaving for church this morning and my heart was broken by the way both of us had behaved. This song really reminded me of my need for God's grace and His willingness to give it.

The talk today was given by Nicky Gumbel, the vicar at HTB. I had never heard him speak before, but was looking forward to it because he was speaking on how to read the Old Testament. I love the Old Testament and was really curious about what he would say. The first bit of his talk focused on why Christians should read the Old Testament. His point? Because Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament (see Matt 5:17). Then, he spoke about how to read the Old Testament, making these three points: Get to know the Person, Enjoy the Promises, Live it out in Practice. He recommended a book, which I picked up at the end of the service called "Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament" by Christopher J. H. Wright.

He used some awesome scriptures from the Old Testament to show how Jesus is revealed in the New. For example, one that really struck me this morning, was the story of Moses striking the rock and water coming out of it. Then he turned to 1 Corinthians 10:4, where Jesus is called the Rock, who "accompanies" us. I've always thought of the striking of the rock story about sustenance, but seeing through this verse that He is a Rock that accompanies us really struck a chord with me. Remember? I'm lonely, after all. I suppose knowing that the Rock accompanies me makes me feel so much more confident and much less alone. I love it when a sermon makes you want to go home and dig right into the Bible yourself. This was the kind of sermon for me where I literally could not wait to get home and dig into it.

Gumbel also used some fabulous quotes. Here's a great one that he referenced from Saint Augustine of Hippo:

"The new is in the old concealed. The old is in the new revealed."

If you want to hear the whole talk for yourself, click on the link at the beginning of this post and you can download it. It's definitely worth a listen.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

A Long Post in Which Paddington Station, Krispy Kreme, Shopping in the UK, and the National Gallery are Discussed

We ventured out early this morning. We started with a short walk to Paddington Station (or Pabbingtom Station, as dd4 refers to it). We've been reading "Paddington Bear" by Michael Bond, so seeing the station was a highlight for my children. I had heard that there was a Krispy Kreme donut shop there, so we went for breakfast. Just an aside, I have an addiction to KK! On the way there, the streets were full of serious-faced people presumably heading to work. I get some funny looks from people around here -- the lady with the three little children always in tow. I'm sure most folks are wondering why my oldest two aren't in nursery school.

We ordered an assorted dozen at Krispy Kreme. Then the next part of eating out in England is always figuring out what to drink. In the States, we always get chocolate or strawberry milk with our donuts, which I didn't see, so I had to look carefully at which type of milk to get because they call 2% semi-skimmed here and skim milk is called skimmed. Not that much different, I realize, but add new packaging, etc. and it always takes me longer than the average English person who is waiting behind me to figure out what we're getting, or in this case drinking. Then, for me I ordered coffee. The very helpful gal behind the counter asked, "What kind of coffee?" WHAT? Just coffee! But then she kindly gave me a quick list of the types they offered such as latte, espresso, and lastly what she termed "filter coffee", which I assumed was what I considered just regular ol' joe. That's what I got.

As soon as we finished our yummy donuts, we went to look around Paddington Station a bit. There's a little mall area with a few shops, several places to eat, a Boots drugstore, and a few grocery stores -- Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's. We went into a beautiful women's clothing store --I know, what was I thinking?! --called Monsoon. Lovely, lovely, feminine clothes with a bit of glitz to them. I am feeling very, very duddy in my fashion here in London. Everything is so trendy. And most of the trends are things I wouldn't wear (large orange and brown circular print dress, for example) or would only flatter a 16 -year old, size 4 girl (skinny jeans!). So, I've been feeling really Midwestern and sticking-out-like-a-sore-thumb and super duddy and yucky and old. Not to mention the fact that I'm not sure exactly what was going on in my head when I packed for myself, but I seem to have brought my ugliest, most impractical clothes. Anyway, back to Monsoon. Now that was a store that I could find things that suit my style! I do hope to go back there sometime sans children. Did I mention that the sizes in the UK are two sizes higher than the US? Does that stink or what? So, if you wear a size 6 in the US (like say, what you wore before you had 3 children in 3 and a half years! ), you would wear a 10 in the UK. I think that is an evil, evil way of sizing, don't you agree?! Now, if you wear an even larger size (who would, really?), than you wear an even larger size here! UGH!

After the little time we spent looking at the shops and tearing things from the baby's little grubby grasp before we left each one (Did I mention that she grabbed something unbeknownst to me in the shop at the British Museum the other day? So, not only is she a macabre child who is obsessed with mummies, but she's also a little clepto-in-training as well. We returned the item, by the way.), we headed out to catch the 23 bus to Trafalgar Square. That's right people...silly little adventurous me was going to attempt public transportation alone with three children. And silly little adventurous me was going to attempt taking the children to the National Gallery and exposing them to great classic works of art by the masters. Stop laughing! This could work, right?

The first bus 23 that made it to the stop was very crowded, and there was another one right behind it, so we waited and got on the less crowded bus. And, yeah! We did it! And there were two seats together for the older two, plus room in the buggy (stroller) area for baby and me. The bus trip was fine, just your usual kinds of squabbles between the two olders. They are starting to get more used to our little part of London. They recognize certain stores, such as Hamley's and areas, such as Piccadilly Circus. They were excited to be getting off at Trafalgar Square. The book that I had brought home for the children after my initial trip here, called "Katie in London", has been very helpful in getting them excited about Trafalgar and Piccadilly and other touristy sights here. If you are planning a trip here, definitely invest in this book. Amazon stocks it, I think.

We got to the National Gallery about ten minutes before it opened and it was cold and windy waiting for those doors to open. When they did, we went straight to the information counter and picked up a children's trail, which right now happens to be looking for angels in various works throughout the museum. Then we asked a few more questions and were off to the Art Action Zone computer room. It is such a great place! At the Art Action Zone, you can look through the collections in the gallery online. Then you can print out your own specialized tour map. They have tours already planned, or you can make up your own. Tours are organized by artist, theme, time period, subject, etc. And there are also some great tours for children like cats, monsters, and creepy crawlies, where the children are to find the paintings included which all have cats in them, for example. We chose a post-impressionism tour because I had been in the Manet to Picasso exhibit before and also because I had brought home an art cube with some of the paintings we were going to see. I hoped the familiarity might keep them interested and make them excited.

I told the children that we were going on a treasure hunt and we printed out our map with prints included and headed out as detectives in search of Bathers at Asnieres by Seurat , Sunflowers by Van Gogh, A Vase of Flowers by Gaugin, Avenue at Chantilly by Cezanne, and The Painter's Father by Cezanne. We found them all quite quickly. The favorite was probably Bathers because of it's size. DD4 got bored quickly. She was not really impressed and remembering what I had told her earlier about the fact that she was doing something that none of her friends probably had. Early on, she was ready to go!

Since the first tour was done so quickly, we went back to the Art Action Zone and decided to take one more tour, this time with some images of Jesus. We found two to look for, printed out our guide, and headed up to the second floor where the works could be found. My son became very excited about finding the paintings on this tour and predictably, dd4 and now even dd2 were fussy, complaining, and ready to go. But all of this changed as we entered the wings where Jesus as a subject in the paintings was more common. DD4 became so excited to see anything where Jesus was depicted. She was particularly drawn to this painting and wanted to linger there. The child who wanted to go home 15 minutes into our first tour was now begging to stay behind and tarry at this piece where Jesus was on his way to Calvary, with Mary mourning behind him and Saint Veronica kneeling beside him wiping his brow. When I inquired as to why she liked this one so much, she said, "Because that lady in the red is helping Jesus."

You know the scripture where Jesus says to his disciples, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such is the kingdom of heaven"? Today, I felt like I was experiencing the reality of that verse. I love that my little girl was drawn to the pictures depicting Jesus more than that of the Impressionists. I am in awe of her noticing Veronica and am touched by her concern about Jesus. I was struck by the fact that my little girl, who doesn't concentrate on any one thing for more than about 3 seconds, lingered there --looking, thinking, wondering at Jesus. I hope that today never slips from my mind. I want to remember my children's first experience with great art. I want to remember my son's excitement at the scavenger hunt. And I always want to remember the great concern that my little girl had for Jesus upon seeing "The Way to Calvary" by Jacopo Bassano.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Currently Reading, Listening To, Meditating Upon

Since I've been so remiss in updating my "Current Reading" section of my sidebar, I thought I'd update you here.

Currently Reading:
"Trusting God" by Jerry Bridges
"The Constant Princess" by Phillippa Gregory
"Learning to Pray Through the Psalms" by James Sire

Currently Listening To:
"A Grateful People" by Watermark
"Scripture Rock"
"Oh, Happy Day" and "Everything" by Tim Hughes
"Valley of Vision" by Sovereign Grace Music

Currently Meditating On/Studying:
Phillipians 1
Greek word for bondservant --Doulos

Kids Are Currently Reading:
"Armor" (Usborne)
"Knights" (Usborne)
"Paddington Bear" by Michael Bond

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Post in Which I Explain Why I Willingly Spent 41 Pounds Even Though the Museum Was Free

Taxi fare to the British Museum: Ten Pounds (around 20 dollars)

Entry to British Museum: Free

Lunch at British Museum: Thirteen Pounds (around 26 dollars)

Little Goodies at the British Museum Children's Gift Shop: Six Pounds (around 12 dollars)

Taxi fare home from the British Museum: Twelve Pounds (about 24 dollars)

Not having to take public transportation with three little children all by myself: PRICELESS!

Funnies From My Middle One

Today upon hearing the funny pounding sound that the washer was making, dd4 says in her very secret-agenty type of voice, "Shhhh, guys! Someone is hamm-ing! Do you hear dat?!" I think she meant hammering.

And later today, after hearing me explain that God is just so different than us that we can't even imagine Him in human terms, she chimes in with, "Yeah, like He always is wearing the SAME CLOTHES!"

Yes, I guess that indeed is very different from a girl who likes to change her clothes about 6 times a day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Request From the Baby After Visiting the British Museum

"Un see mommies again, Mom?"

Translation: "Can we see the mummies again, Mom?"

I guess she liked them. Macabre little thing, isn't she?!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Facing Our Fears

"I did an unscientific survey and asked 150 women: 'Has life turned out the way you thought it would? Have you become the woman you wanted to be?' Every on of those 150 women said, "No, I am not the woman I wanted to become.'"

I can relate a lot to this quote by Angela Thomas, one of my favorite authors of non-fiction for Christian women. She goes on to say that usually it's fear or lack of confidence that is holding women back from being all that God wants them to be. And that they wish that they had not been afraid.

I've lived most of my life afraid. It started as a very young girl. In fact, I don't remember a time when I wasn't afraid. As a young girl, I was afraid my mother and step-father would get divorced. I was afraid that our house would catch on fire. I was afraid of my step-mother. I was afraid of children and teachers and being wrong and moving. But my fear of those things did not stop most of them from happening. My sweet mom's second marriage ended in divorce. My step-mother continued to mistreat me. My family moved many times. Our fears don't keep bad things from happening to us, they only prevent us from embracing true life, abundant life, life to the full (see John 15).

I heard someone say recently that being brave isn't about not being afraid. It's about being afraid, but going ahead and doing the hard thing anyway. What I am experiencing now: moving away from my family, friends, church home, the place I've known my entire life, and being in a foreign country is something that most people who know me would never think I would do. Because of my fears. But, yet, I am doing it. Why is that? Because my love for Jesus Christ compels me to embrace all that He has in mind for my life --a life to the full. You see, I am tired of living my life afraid. Of not embracing something because it might not work out as I planned. Or I might look silly. Or I might fail.

I don't think that David faced Goliath because he wanted to, or that he was brave in some super-human sort of way. I think that David chose courage because he too was compelled by his passionate love for Yahweh and His great name. When David heard what Goliath and the Philistines were saying about His God, a God who David knew quite personally, he took offense. And that offense gave David courage. In the same way, I need to become quite offended by fears that the enemy tries to put upon me. I need to remember that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phillipians 4:13).

And what I am coming to know is this: the more we face our fears, and do the hard thing that we think is impossible, the more courageous we become. Not because we think more of ourselves, but because we think more of our God. And all that He is doing through us. All because we got over our fears, embraced His plan, and lived our life as He willed. And that is life to the full.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Some Fun Little English Children's Programs We've Been Watching

Here are some of the children's shows we've been enjoying in England. (And yes, we've definitely been watching more t.v. than usual. I'm trying to give myself permission with that and not feel guilty!):

Peppa Pig (cute little pig character with a baby brother, a mum, and a dad)

Underground Ernie (about an London Underground worker and his talking trains)

Postman Pat (about a Royal Mail carrier)

Fireman Sam (about a fireman and his helpful adventures)

Numberjacks (a math show -- very educational and fun)

Nina and the Neurons (a scientist who does one little experiement per day with some kids)

All of the above, with the exception of Peppa, are on the BBC or CBeebies, their preschool station. Another thing we're enjoying are reruns of some of our favorite old Playhouse Disney shows, like Bear in the Blue House (DD2 loves it and everytime at the beginning says, "Ba mel me, Mommy!" Translation: "Bear smelled me mommy!"), PB and J Otter, and the House of Pooh. And you do remember that the little characters on most of the American shows are dubbed with little English accents, right? Cute! One show that baby is missing is Sesame Street. They have Play with Me Sesame, but not Elmo's World and the normal Sesame Street. Most their children's shows are 10 or 15 minutes long, not a full 20 or 30 minutes. (She says, trying to relieve more "mommy guilt"!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Day at the Park

The three kiddos and I ventured out to the park today --Hyde Park that is. It's about a fifteen or twenty minute walk. It's a nice, sunny day and is probably around 55 degrees. We found a Subway on our way (right across from Paddington Station) and grabbed some sandwiches, then we headed off to the park. We had a picnic under a tree, then went to play on a preschool-sized playground. The playground was perfect, because it was small in size and easy to see everyone, and had lots of little things that even the two year old could enjoy. Whereas the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Park is fabulous, but also very large, with several different areas, and lots of bigger equipment. For mommy-minus-daddy, who was resposible for everyone, it was easier and much safer to be on this small playground.

After the playground, we went to the fountains and the Serpentine and saw the water birds again, and lots of pigeons, which dd4 is fascinated by. I think she'd take some home for pets if she could! She's constantly chasing them around and saying, "Here, birdy! Here, birdy!" We saw some lovely swans in the fountains and on the serpentine.

We then walked home, which after all that playing, caused a little complaining, because the kids were tired and it is quite a long walk for little people, I'm sure. So, we played a little game that I made up called, "Can you make it to _____?", because my daughter said she could definitely not make it all the way home because those knees of hers were tired again. So I said, "Well, can you make it to the hanging flower basket there?" "Yes!" she said. And then we just kept on with the next little landmark we saw until we got all the way home. My son did have trouble spotting the post box because it was red and round and not blue and square like he was used to.

All in all, a "brilliant" day, as they like to say around here!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Abiding With My Children

One of the advantages of being with your children for hours and hours and days on end without any outside help from friends, family, or hired babysitters is that you actually get to spend time with them. I mean really with them.

God has really been showing me this week how little I actually abide with my children. I love that word...abide. It's a great Bible word (epimeno in the Greek). When I think of abiding, I think of living with, really being with, not just in the same space with, but listening to, learning from, and enjoying. In Biblical Greek, the term is a literal picture of remaining on, or tarrying, or staying at a place. It means to remain at or in the same place for a period of time.

This experience is giving me an opportunity to tarry with my children, to linger with them, to play with them, to listen to them, to really see them. Has my own life gotten so choked by the cares of this world, (see the parable of the sower in Mark 4), that I've neglected to really see my own children? I'm afraid the honest answer to that question is...yes. I have so many things that take my attention at home: extended family, friends, church, our home, my ministry responsibilities. Here, I literally have nothing to do except to take care of my family. And in a way, it's quite restful -- No phone calls to return, no stuff to dust and not much to put away (Our air shipment hasn't arrived yet.), no meetings, no outside obligations or parties to attend. Just time, sweet time, to tarry with with my children and my husband. At home, I don't tarry much. I flit from this thing to that thing, never really accomplishing much to be sure. But the duties, the obligations, force me to be the great All-American, multi-tasking mother. And a multi-tasker certainly doesn't linger!

Ever since it became clear that God was calling us to this part of His Earth, I felt that one of the things He might be wanting to teach me is contentment in my calling as a wife and a mom. I love being both, don't get me wrong. But I do struggle with desires and passions to be more, to do more, to make a huge impact in the Kingdom of God. And I sometimes believe the lie that I can't do that as a wife and a mom. How impacting is a woman who wipes down the same counters over and over again, who breaks up yet another argument between two quarrelsome preschoolers, who changes yet another diaper?

But what I'm doing right now, in really abiding with my children, I do believe that I can make an impact for God's kingdom. I can listen to them, and in that listening, they'll feel truly heard and loved. I can read to them and in that reading, they'll feel valued and learn. I can serve them, and in that service, I am "doing unto the least of these" and building into their hearts a desire to serve as well. I can see them, really see them, for the unique creation that God made each of them to be, and in that seeing and knowing, they'll feel acceptance, and yet hopefully be more aware of their need for His grace.

Is the kingdom of God being built in my little tiny London apartment? Right now, you couldn't convince me that it isn't. Because one day these little people will be impacting their worlds; one life, and maybe even one diaper change, at a time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

One Stressed-Out, Culture Shocked, Terrified Mommy

Life for us right now is extremely stressful. Daddy has been gone for 12 -13 hours per day. We're in a very small apartment. The three children and I are in a completely new environment with no friends, no family, no church home around. I can't lie to you. Today, I cried. (Those who read this blog that know me personally will not be shocked by this!)

My son, who is very curious, unlocked and opened the window. We're on the 9th floor and there are no screens on windows in the UK! I lost it. I mean completely lost it. What if he had fallen out that window?! The Eric Clapton song about his son that fell from a window came to mind. You know the one..."Tears in Heaven"?

And that's when the tears came. I couldn't hold them back anymore. When you're in such a new place, with new rules, and no friends, family, etc, and the appliances and grocery stores and even the windows are different, it can become overwhelming. In your home country, you're competent and prepared. In a foreign country, even in one where they speak English, you are not. And so I broke right open, right in front of my boy, with tears. All the frustrations of the last ten days came pouring out like water flooding when the dam gives way.

I find myself being so irritable with the children. I'm not used to spending this much solitary time with them, with such little help from their father. To be honest, when I get stressed to this point at home, I call my mom or a friend and ask them to babysit for a couple of hours while I go get my bearings at Starbucks or something. But here I. can't. do. that. I know that's not necessarily a bad thing. I had even thought it through before we got here. But thinking it through and living it are two very different beasts, aren't they?

So, culture shock and mommy-with-the-kids-all-the-time shock has set in. My mom sent me this scripture to encourage me today, "He will not leave you, nor forsake you," from Deuteronomy 31:6. Today, I really needed to be reminded of that...Jehovah Shammah...the LORD is there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Making Dinner

Well, tonight I'm officially making our first homecooked meal since we arrived. We've eaten out a lot, and when eating at home, it's generally been pizza or sandwiches. I finally found a market only a few blocks away that is more what I'm used to, instead of the Metro Tesco on the first floor here., which is really more like a quick-stop convenience store. This market ,Somerfields, has a butcher and fresh baked goods. There's also a large produce department and lots of aisles.

So, my hubby is craving a homecooked meal, and wouldn't you know it, the recipe cards and books are in the boxes that will not arrive until we're at our "permanent" residence. So, I could use my brain and go with something that I know by heart. But, lately, counting on my brain to remember details is not such a reliable idea! So, what to do? Then, I remembered my favorite website for recipes and meal planning -- (Sorry, I tried to do a link, but I can't get them work lately!) You do know about this site, don't you?

I used menus4moms a lot before we got this life-changing, schedule-altering, crazy idea to move overseas, (which would be before December). Until then, I was using this great website regularly, planning my meals, banking up frozen foods to help me prepare, and saving money with the great grocery lists they provide. Now, let me tell you that those frozen meals or frozen pre-prepared ingredients for meals came in so handy when we were going through craziness with Christmas and then the move here.

Alas, here with a freezer the size of, well, a small cooler, (no joke!) I can' t bank up many frozen things, but the recipes are going to come in handy for this recipe-less girl in a new country. Tonight I'm making the Cheddar Chicken Spaghetti from this week's Monday menu. And although I've never made it before, it looks yummy! Plus, bonus...I actually have the recipe, which is more than I can say for other recipes, including family favorites, right now! But we've been over that, haven't we?

Anyway, that's my hearty endorsement for menus4moms. And my confession that I haven't been cooking. And my commitment to start again. McDonald's is getting old!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Incredible, Shrinking Apartment

Today was an interesting day. This is the first day that hubby went to work. The four of us were all alone in our little bitty apartment. And, boy, did it feel small today! I'm not brave enough just yet to use public transportation with all three by myself, so we're pretty much inside or walking down to our favorite new store, Woolworth's or perhaps frequenting a really healthy restaurant we found in London. Maybe you've heard of it? McDonalds? I must admit that the television has been on much too much today and we've eaten lots of McDonald's and I bribed my kids in Woolworth's with candy. I really broke all the responsible mom rules today, didn't I? On a funny note, my son loves watching the telly here because all his favorite US programs are dubbed over with little English accents.

My Bible Guy

Okay, I know I've been doing a lot of kid quotes lately, but this one from my son warmed my heart.

"Mom, I've been reading my whole Bible almost everyday because I've been learning a lot about the Lord (sounded more like Ward)."

When they say these sweet kinds of things I marvel at God's grace to a very ordinary and often somewhat grumpy mom like me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A New Friend

Upon questioning my middle dd if she made any friends at church today, she happily replied, "Yes! A girl named Angelina, but it wasn't the real Angelina, mom. You know, from Angelina Ballerina?" So guess her new friend is not a white mouse in a pink tutu, but I'm sure glad she met someone nice!

Raising Tattling to a Whole New Level

My two year old, who is quite wordy, whined at dinnertime, "Daddy, Coy (how she pronounces her sister's name) himme (hit me)!"

To which Daddy replied, "No she didn't. You told her to give you five and she did."

Yes, even the two year old has learned to tempt and tattle!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Great Sightseeing Day

Today was our best day here by far. It was truly beautiful outside -- around 60 degrees, sunny and no wind (which is great because the wind here really makes things cold!). Our kiddos are not used to walking as much as this city requires, so when we said we were going to go somewhere today, we were met with whines. So, we decided to let them choose where to go. My son chose Big Ben. Middle dd will choose next time!

So, we caught the 15 bus to Trafalgar Square (or "Afawgar Squire", as my middle dd says it). The children were excited to see the lions at Trafalgar, because we brought them home (from our original trip in January) a book called "Katie in London", in which the lions in Trafalgar Square come to life and take the children in the book on a tour of London. Middle dd did ask if the lions were alive before we got there! Anyway, they loved the lions, the fountain, and middle dd loved chasing the pigeons.

Then we headed down Whitehall to hopefully catch the changing of the horse guards. We were able to catch the 2 o'clock change, which was very cool. The children were enamored with the swords of the guards. I must say, the solemnity and regality of the horses and the guards are beautiful. Maybe I sound tourist-y, but I loved it. And those horses are huge!

We kept going down Whitehall until we came to 10 Downing Street -- residence of the Prime Minister, currently Tony Blair, of course. Not unexpectedly, it is strongly fortified and hardly able to be seen these days due to security, but it was still neat to see (well, what could be seen of it, anyway). Let me tell you there is a major security presence there and they are packing some heat!

We continued to head south and soon saw Big Ben towering above the other buildings in the distance. My son was so excited. I think it was really important for him to be able to choose today where we went, and it really paid off in the complaining department. He was very happy to have "brought us" there. Big Ben is massive, and oh-so-pretty. The parlaiment building was lovely as well.

Kiddos (and mom, who am I kidding?) were getting hungry by this time, so we went to Tesco to pick up sandwiches for a little picnic. While sitting across from Big Ben, a kind couple told me to put my camera closer to me for fear that it would get swiped. I'm really not used to that, so I appreciated the heads-up. Despite some rather annoying, thumping music from a group of three hare krishna's close by, the lunch was relaxing and fun.

We then headed over the Westminster Bridge, in hopes of riding the London Eye. The mall area outside the London Aquarium and the Eye were packed with people today, probably because of the lovely weather. As we approached the London Eye, and my son saw it's massive height, he decided we should wait to ride the London Eye until grandma comes over! Jubilee Gardens was right there on the South Bank and the atmosphere was so festive. There are some wonderful living statues that will perform or let you take their photos for pocket change, so we did that. The kids favorite one was a grown man dressed as a baby. Yes, it was a bit weird, but very amusing! We also enjoyed some ice cream on the lawn. I was soaking in the weather, the sights, and the family time.

We crossed back over the Thames, this time on a different bridge. I think it was the Hungerford Footbridge. Absolutely breathtaking! A dream come true for this little-traveled girl. Big Ben was in the background, the Thames underneath, and the London Eye was overhead. Wow! What a gorgeous photo opportunity. And you had better believe I got the camera out for that one! The baby, who is really in the "twos" with her behavior lately insisted on walking the bridge, which was fine, because hubby and I always figure tired kids at night are best! Getting off of the bridge was a bit of a problem, as no trolley/buggy path (handicapped accessible route) was available. That's a big problem in this city. Lots of hurling the stroller over one's shoulder, or bumping it down the stairs, or mommy in front lifting the foot rest while daddy picks up the umbrella handles and carries it down. That aspect of sightseeing with three little ones in this city is trying, but it's definitely not going to stop us.

We bought a few postcards to mail, went back to Trafalgar Square, and then caught the 23 bus back home. The children love riding the buses. Truly, when we ask them their favorite parts of the days past, often they say "the double-decker bus!" Easily amused, my children are. And I love that about them.

Tomorrow it's off to Holy Trinity Brompton for church. We're hoping things go well with the children here, as it's a church hubby and I felt quite comfortable in and drawn to on our first visit. I'll let you know how things go.


Hubby and I were flipping through the telly last night and saw that my favorite show is on here! That's right...we found American Idol! I couldn't believe it. And the cool thing is that it's on all in one night. So, last night we saw the guys, girls, and the results show. Well, actually, we didn't see the guys show, because we missed that part, but we could have if we'd known it was on.

And on an American Idol note, what in the world are people thinking?!? Haley over Sabrina?!? Sanjaya over Sundance?!? Come on people! Like Randy and Paula said last night, this is a singing competition! I can't decide yet who I want to win...either Lakisha or Melinda. Both seem very down to earth and humble. And both can sing their hearts out.

American Idol on Friday that's some major excitement from this side of the pond.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Things I'll Never Forget About the Past Few Days

We've started our adventure, arriving in London Monday at around noon (7 am Indiana time). I wanted to write a list of things from the past few days that I want to remember. Hopefully, you'll find some amusing. So, here goes...

The baby found a mouse at the Indianapolis Airport. We're sitting there waiting for the plane and eating a snack, when she starts crying uncontrollably and saying, "Mouse! Mouse! Mouse!" She was not a fan of the mouse! (Nor was mommy.) She was crying so much, that I started thinking the mouse had actually bitten her.

DS5 and DD4 had interesting and opposite reactions in the plane. They don't remember their last plane ride, so this was a "first" for them. My son was scared, wanting to hold daddy's hand, remarking upon our first landing in Chicago, "I never wanted to do this. This was NOT my choice. I did not think it was a good idea and now we're going to fall out of the plane!" My daughter on the other hand, who we sometimes refer to as danger girl, was laughing uncontrollably as the plane took off. She raised her legs up in the air and kept saying, very loudly I might add, "THIS IS SO FUN!"

We had to wait one hour in the plane in Indy. Thank goodness for portable dvd players. That one hour was truly the worst of the whole trans-Atlantic experience!

We shlepped three preschoolers, five jackets, five carry-ons, two laptops, a portable dvd player, a camera with an extra lens, and a camcorder across O'Hare and Heathrow. It seems that our gates in O'Hare were on extreme opposite ends. And were trying to catch our flight after the delay in Indy, so we were practically running! We had to use the oldest to push the youngest in the stroller!

There was a grumpy business traveler in front of my middle daughter on the 8 hour overseas flight. I guess he did not find her amusing. She is a bit loud, and kept kicking the back of his seat. He obviously has no children, or clearly does NOT remember what having preschoolers was like.

The children all slept for the most part on the overseas flight. Happy Feet was on, and they wanted to see it, but couldn't stay awake.

When we got to immigration in London, we were informed that our work visa didn't actually start until the next day. They weren't going to let us in! But a very kind immigration worker was very helpful and let us in without any incident. I'm not sure what we would have done!

Next, we went to the baggage claim. (After walking for what seemed miles at Heathrow. This airport is SO spread out!) We had to pick up our 9, yes 9 pieces of large luggage. It took two very skillfully packed sky trolleys to get them out of the airport. My oldest had to be responsible once again for pushing the stroller with the baby.

They hired a huge van to get all of our family and the huge amounts of luggage into central London. I didn't know there were such large vans in England! The driver was very nice and had that great droll English sense of humor.

As we were driving through London, my middle daughter looked over at me and said very emphatically, "But mom, I thought we were going to ENGLAND!" I guess London wasn't meeting up to her preconceived notions?!?

We were so thrilled to be able to get a serviced apartment in London, rather than a hotel. It was quite nice. It's on a busy street, so I'm a paranoid weirdo about the children! We live in a small town, remember?

The children had some serious jet lag issues the first night. We went to bed at 9:30 or so, which was 5:30 home time. It took them a while to get to sleep, and then they woke up again at around midnight and stayed up for a little "jet lag party" until 2 am. Ugh!

Our second day here was spent house hunting. We were gone for 12 hours! We saw at least 10 properties. Three of them seemed best to us, with one clearly the top choice. It was a stand alone house with FIVE bedrooms and American-sized appliances. The garden was charming and had a little swing for the children. Unfortunately, by the time we went back that afternoon to see it again, it had already been swiped up. I guess all that we heard about the lettings market in London was quite true! We're now in negotiations for another property in a charming part of London, full of families and internationals.

The children loved the "tube", or subway. My oldest was very interested in reading the map and my youngest loved counting the stops. We did the tube during rush hour on the way home, which was challenging, as well as "educational" for my children's "vocabulary" -- lots of swearing by one particular gal! More ugh!

Our relocation expert was lovely. We were in her van for most of the day. At our very last stop, the tire went flat and my dear hubby had to get out and change it! He definitely did not anticipate such a job that day! It seems she had run over a nail. She was very impressed and thankful for his handy skills, since no-one would have been able to help us for THREE hours.

We're trying to learn what the products are in our local Metro Tesco, which is located just under our apartment. Many things look familiar -- lots of American products! But some things look so different. There are also lots of new products to try. We had so delicious "egg mayonaise" (egg salad) and the children love a fruit drink called "Fruit Shoot". The local McDonald's (Yes, we've eaten there!) offeredf fish fingers as well as the chicken nuggets and burgers. We're also trying to figure out our VERY DIFFERENT appliances.

We went to Hyde Park yesterday. Watching the children's amazement at the waterfowl on the Serpentine and their delight at seeing the Peter Pan statue was truly priceless. We then ventured to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. The children ran, climbed, squealed, and discovered to their heart's delight. Afterward, we enjoyed ice cream and hot tea.

My middle daughter walked so much yesterday that she said towards the end of our journey, "I can't walk any more. My knees are too tired!"

I tried hard to remember after receiving 5 coins back yesterday, that indeed it was 7 pounds, as the clerk stated. Coins, to my American mind, are small change, and 5 of them are certainly not equal to 7 dollars, er, pounds...whatever!

Well, that's a recap of our time here, so far. Thanks to so many of you for your prayers. They've made our beginning days here truly "lovely", as they say in these parts.