chauffeur service update

Dear friends

It’s chauffeur night. Actually, it’s been a chauffeur day and right now is my break = 🙂 I read an article recently about how we feel most at rest when we are alone – I concur!

View from our longest road trip, Normandy, France

I am like many parents I’m sure where personal chauffeur for our children is part of the job description.   And let’s face it, we wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Our eldest daughter, Daur1, has recently labeled this time as older siblings road trip.  For me, it’s when I get to hear what’s really happening at college – X loves college because she can get high everyday!…  I know what weed smells like now!… I’m disappointed with Z, he tried ecstasy! Class A drug!.. The sniffer dogs were in college today.

I’m sure it’s not a complete den of iniquity but I’m glad the children are comfortable with opening up with at least one of their parents.  I tried not to get too concerned about the interest and exposure to illegal drugs! 

So, my chauffeur duties today have been: drop dear husband at train station before 7h; drop Daur2 close to school before 8h20 (so I can get myself to work for 9h meeting); pick up dear husband from station; wait and pick up Daur1 from station; take Son1, Daur1 & Daur2 to Stake Youth Seminary & Activity – older siblings road trip plus one (i.e. Daur2); and then drive back home. 

So, I’m looking forward to the drive home and hearing the news from stake youth. I am grateful that they enjoy being with their peers at church and I know I will look on these days, evenings, fondly… one day… maybe sooner rather than later since Son1 turns 18 years in the coming days 🙂

slow down…

Dear friends
I’m trying to slow down.  But since this post has taken a week to write and publish, you can see I’m not succeeding!! 
A couple of incidents have made me realise that I should take more time to smell flowers, so to speak.

I went to the women’s conference last Saturday when in one workshop, on entering, we were invited to select a name after reading:

Jesus is coming to your home in one hour. Who are you?

With little hesitation I selected Martha, deep down I know I’m not really Mary and I figured, in a self righteous manner, “most people will choose Mary and I’m different.”  As the workshop continued, and two women portrayed Martha and Mary with reference to scriptures from the Bible, I felt myself drawn into those times, and I could relate to Martha perfectly. I knew I would want everything to be perfect for my Visitor.  I do the same now, if His representatives visit, His missionaries, our home teachers, my visiting teachers, so how much more would I do it if He visited. Even though I would stop when the door knocked, I imagine my first words might be, “I’m sorry everything isn’t ready.” Rather than, “Welcome, I’m ready!”
During the workshop there were discussions on multi tasking, using time wisely, preparing, and I went to other workshops where following the Holy Ghost was encouraged. The overwhelming sense I had was to slow down, that was my message.

I returned home. On seeing the school uniforms not washed and my dear family in a rather relaxed state (my dear husband had taken the children to a science fair), I poured the laundry into a bag and announced I was going to the launderette and would pick up Son1 from work on the way back.  Dear husband intercepted my path with some words on knowing your limits and that he’d already assigned the uniforms to the children to wash by hand – “it’ll do them good!”  So, after assessing the children’s nutritional needs – we’re not hungry (owing to a big, late, lunch of hot dogs and chips which I caught the end of), we don’t need any food before bed – I took myself to bed!

This slowing down is not consistent and is certainly difficult.  This last week, I forgot my lunch once having made sure everyone had theirs, went to London for training (traveling to and from London during rush hour is never ‘slow’) and barely crossed anything off my work to do list.  I am trying hard not to run faster than I have strength and there have been some relaxing moments – treating myself to some catch up episodes of The Good Wife but I did fall asleep during those!!
I don’t really have a game plan, except to try keep a balance…. that may need more naps – I fell asleep after church this past Sunday 🙂 … it may mean simpler meals… and it definitely means involving and trusting the Lord with my priorities!

minority families…

Dear friends

Last week there was a policy announcement from church leadership. I wasn’t aware of it until Sunday, when after church meetings, Daur1 said it was mentioned in young women’s lesson and there is loads of comments on the Internet about it.  So, back home I looked up lds.org to see what it was about, for myself.

In my words, it’s that children of / within a same sex marriage couple can not be baptised until they are 18 years old. 

This seems perfectly reasonable to me – no point having a child baptised (we don’t believe in infant baptism, a child must be at least 8 years old) when their parents are in a situation which opposes those beliefs.  Regardless of how stable and how supportive those parents  may be of the child’s decision, at some point there will be conflict.  Either for the child or for one or both of the parents. And, I’m certain, for the child, it will be confusing at some point, even if eventually that child manages to mentally resolve it. I can refer to my own situation, which some of you may feel is not the same, but for me, it feels relevant.

My dear parents were never married, and, as far as I can tell, never lived together. I don’t know why – I’ve never asked, and I probably never will.  My Dad has a wife and children and a home.  He visited my Mum and us once a week.  For the bulk of my childhood I said nothing more than “Hello Daddy” and “Goodbye Daddy” at the start and end of an uncomfortable 20 minute visit where he money to my Mum and pocket money to us.  I am the oldest of his children.  My younger brother is younger than my oldest half sister, so you can work that out!  My relationship with my dear Father deserves a post of it’s own, so back to the point of this post.

I was in the clear minority at school, not only for my skin colour, for growing up in a single parent family, for “having no Dad” as my peers described, and I felt that as a ‘stigma’.  I knew I was loved and was very matter of fact with friends that asked, “do you have a Dad?” Response “yes!! Everyone does. He just doesn’t live with us.”

By the time I reached my teens, although I knew what was right in terms of civic society – not hurting, stealing, killing, lying – when it came to what was right in terms of my own personal welfare, well, I was in a state of confusion, particularly in terms of relationships, questions like what is the real, true position, God’s point of view, on premarital sex?  I was in search of personal peace, personal answers, as I was becoming an adult. I never felt able to ask my mother since I was fully aware that she had all of us out of wedlock.  And although my mother was firm, provided a Christian upbringing (Mum not affiliated with any particular church though I went to a pentecostal Sunday school) and and told us not to ‘drink from the governor’s cup’ (or some strange phrase where the governor and his cup was an innuendo for sexual activities), it was a struggle, at least for me to reconcile this with her own actions.  (You may judge me as weak because of that).  Once I had the opportunity to learn more, I made a choice, to make and keep covenants with God, and I found peace. 

So, what am I saying? I’m saying when it comes to eternal matters, our choice matters.  And most of us, when we reach adulthood, will have the ability to choose things in this life.  And quite simply I believe that our Father is fair and that 18 years in any loving home where respect is taught for parents, with one, two, male, female, black, white, parents, is beneficial for our eternal welfare – family love can be learned and that is fundamental.  There will be time, and I feel, time to make and keep sacred covenants once we individually make that choice…

I’m probably not explaining this very well.  It may be difficult enough to grow up in a minority-type family, so why would our Father want to make it worse for his children in such a situation.  So I totally accept this policy statement as Father’s will.  And I fail to understand why others feel this shows intolerance or a degree of being unfair.  I expect the reason it wasn’t explicit before is because same sex marriage is a new situation.  Thankfully, revelation is always relevant and for the times in which we live.

a musical assignment

Dear friends

When I was around 8 or 9 years old, I really wanted to play the piano.  I was already learning the tenor horn at school but I absolutely became desperate to learn piano.  I received a small electronic organ for Christmas but I must have continued to pester my Mother, or my Mum decided that a child playing piano was a great thing, because on my 10th birthday I received piano lessons which my Mother continued to pay for for the next several years… I think until I moved away to university.  Sadly, we could never afford more than my two octave keyboard, and I was never that diligent in practising…
The first opportunity I had to live with a piano came several years later when I served as a missionary.  I was in Lancaster, Lancashire, and our house had a piano, and of course, a church song books.  The hymns were tricky but the children’s song book… So over the following couple of months, I spent time on our free day playing piano and became fairly competent at a few pieces. 
After my mission, I had a flat mate with an old piano who left it when moving out to make room for my dear husband.  We kept the piano for the first flat move but with children and subsequent moves it got left in a large unfurnished two bed with a moisture problem!
Several years and two more children later, we decided to put together some Christmas gift vouchers the children had received and buy a Yamaha keyboard – 5 octaves.  I recall Son1 was not too keen on a family keyboard taking the place of more wooden train tracks.  He still remembers that!
So here we are, Daur2 is learning piano, Son2 will hopefully start piano lessons at school this term, and I often have a nagging feeling that I’m not using my musical talent…
Flash forward to last Sunday and after church meetings the choir director is in the hall getting support and I hear her call out – I need someone to play piano.  In a moment of generosity I admit I can, enough to play the melody, in fact all four parts but not at the same time (I’ve never truly mastered playing more than one key with each hand!).  Then, out of nowhere, my dear mother states – oh yes, Vanessa can play, did piano lessons for years! And I’m thinking – please don’t big it up too much.  Sister Choir Director thrusts some sheet music into my hands and asks:

Can you play this?
With some practice!

I respond. And that’s it! I don’t even recognise the hymn – but it’s not like it’s in C major so that’s a plus, I think.  On telling my dear children on the way to the car, Daur1 asks, and when are you going to find time to practice that!?  Mmm… a good point me thinks!! This post has taken the best part of 3 days to write.

It’s nearly the middle of the weeks, four full days till next Sunday, and I’ve yet to touch the keyboard but I have done some air piano :). Maybe Sister Choir Director is planning on the hymn being sung a capella and only needs the melody played to learn the hymn… doesn’t everyone dream of doing a piano recital… I’ll update you on what happens…

outnumbered: days 8 to 10

Dear friends

I am writing this retrospectively, things got busy!

Day 8 – finished clearing out the garage, well, one big card board box left and the single wardrobe occupying the middle zone – we were all pleased with our efforts; my Mum offered to buy us dinner – so that was chicken and chips again – the defrosting meat was put in the fridge 😉  I missed Costco so a quick supermarket shop picking up baguette & melon for the church munch and mingle the next day.  The children asked but no, I haven’t told your father about taking up the hall carpet!

Day 9 – a bit of rain in the morning but we swung into the car park at church with 5 mins to go; inside the chapel was full of cooking smells!!  It was testimony meeting – we have a conference next week – and we filed into one of the back pews in front of a couple of elderly sisters, overhearing their comments on the testimonies shared… who’s he?…I can’t hear what she’s saying… Then our youth class where as we began I noticed one of the class members looking behind me, focused on the wall; within seconds the other class members were looking and one said, is that a really big… SPIDER! I turned to be faced with a large, but slow moving spider. I leapt across the room but amid cries of ‘kill it’, I did rescue it after we got a large bowl by throwing it outside.  Finally back home and I cooked – rice & chicken (yes, we love chicken), cheesy bread rolls, banana bread. Still nothing said about the hall carpet.

Day 10 – I track flight 652 during the day – my last check in places it north Africa having crossed the Sahara desert – 2 hours to touchdown.  A trip to the music store, three books bought, flute-piano-piano, one on order; I resist buying the latest easy Disney and flute Les Miserables.  Back home, I clean the kitchen floor; and all troops are mobilised into positive action.  Children are starting to get nervous about Dad’s reaction to no carpet in the hall. 
It’s raining, windy and cold, when my dear husband arrived back in town – I even turned the heating on for him!  Entering the house, the carpet, it’s great is his response – and I exchanged knowing glances with our children. 

I am grateful to have my dear husband back.  The last week or so has been a great learning time for us all. From Doctrine and Covenants section 122:

If thou art called to pass through tribulation… and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [my daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

outnumbered: days 6 to 7

Dear friends

Day 6 – Much to say about everything today. A refreshing start with a solo run – our eldest daughter has caught a cold from her sister who caught it from their dear father who began suffering days before travelling. Solo was fine – it was a beautiful, sunny morning – a time for thought and prayer.

Back home, after my shower, the children began to wake. Our eldest son has maths revision class in school today, leaving our eldest daughter to baby sit.  I could foresee the day – much Dragons (Cressida Cowell), DC comics films, some homework and cheesy tuna pasta for lunch.  But the younger two will be happy!!  I came back yesterday to find our youngest daughter with partially straightened hair – our eldest daughter having used my old tongs we found in the garage – and a burnt ear! That’s when they stopped 😉

A completely hectic day at work… 2 meetings plus site visit which came to 4 hours on site; engineers not attending when they’re meant to; explaining why lime (not cement) render was specified; an architect off sick with feasibility study due; work placement student in on Monday (fortunately I don’t have to look after them this time); and no proper lunch = I grabbed a cookie and a cereal bar – no bread to pack a sandwich = expecting to buy something more substantial but no time for that.

Fortunately, there was enough chicken sauce from last night for a second dinner of chicken and rice. I should have added vegetables to the rice as a variation!!  I must ensure we don’t appear malnourished when my dear husband arrives back home!

Day 7 – Dedicated but slack mum continues!  Brunch (cereal & toast), milkshakes while out, pizza and ice cream back home, hot chocolate and cheese on toast…; no need for me to wonder why there’s never any bread!  A few years back and I used to make our bread, rolls by hand, loaves in the breadmaker. But gradually I got out of the habit, the breadmaker broke, the children got older, we earned a little more so could afford to buy sliced bread. But I bought bread flour today so I might do some this weekend – it always tastes so good and we never ate so much – it must be healthier.

I dropped round some photocopying at my Dad’s this evening – he is well enough and appreciated me attending the funeral of our cousin last week. He had dropped by in the middle of the week when I was at work with some paperwork to copy and met the children home, alone, in the garden trampolining and inside (our eldest son is 16 so there’s no babysitting issue). Dad then asked me, with a pitying look, this evening,  how I was coping.  With what,  I thought, so I said, what do you mean?  “How do you cope with the children, I mean, the little ones don’t speak.”  I laughed, Oh, they do, just a bit shy around some people.  I know they shouldn’t be around family but they are and you can’t force anyone,  they’ve got to choose.  I didn’t say that last sentence but as I left, I thought on how ‘coping’ sounds like I’m dealing with something final or long lasting, not temporary.  I know our children and they know me and their father; we love and understand each other and that intimacy in our family is something that only we understand.  I think that’s the same in most families.  I’ve never lived with my father,  I grew up with my mother; nothing is going to change that now and however much I love and care for my father,  I feel we will never have that closeness that I enjoy with my mother, and in some way, which I never intended, that has affected the grandfather/ grandchild relationship.

We watched Epic this evening:

many leaves, one tree

I like that phrase.  Some of us are simply far apart on those branches but we’re still there for each other 🙂

outnumbered: days 1 to 5

Dear friends

No, I haven’t abandoned you all.  I’m on my own. My husband has left for an overseas trip to visit family – my mother in law is well into her 90’s – so I’m alone with our four dear children, aged 7 to 16.  And, I’m weakening… It’s day 5 of 10 in my minority position…

Day 1 – dear husband had not even reached the airport, I’m persuaded to purchase not 1, not 2, but 3 DVDs.

Days 1-5 – with permission from his father, our youngest son has decided to sleep in our bed. I’ve been kicked in the night, moves constantly (OK, that’s an exaggeration) and I think he’s fallen out of bed twice; he constantly pushes the covers off, and I’m a covers woman; I’ve left the windows open in the (vain) hope that he finds it cold; it’s ridiculous how uncomfortable it is sleeping next to a 7 year old boy! And it’s a king size bed!!

Day 2 – a quiet one, the Sabbath; home made pizza & ice cream sundaes!

Day 3 – a bank holiday, so I was home; we began clearing out the garage. Why!? I hear you cry. Because these last 10 years in this house I’ve got the blame for the state of the garage – it being (apparently) full of my journals and memorabilia… And I’d promised my husband earlier this year. I can work better on my own. I made 3 trips to the city recycling centre/ household waste.  I’m determined to finish it on day 7 when I’m next off work. And our eldest daughter repainted the front fence – our side and our neighbour! Her next goal is the front porch – I need to buy her paint!

Day 4 – had to go round to Mum’s to help with shopping… via the ‘self absolutely everything’ store to pick up some paints for our youngest’s Titanic model project. Did I mention it’s school half term break?  We ate takeaway chicken and chips (fries to my US readers) and I was persuaded to watch ‘Inception’ – bought alongside the paints… – fourth DVD bought in as many days!

Day 5 – I took up the hall carpet. We’ve spoken about it many times so despite the dismay of our dear children, I feel I’m doing my husband a favour and speeding up the redecoration programme!  I cooked tonight – chicken and rice – in between ordering the children to clean up paint pots, the Titanic model is in an embryonic stage – painted pieces hung to dry, the four red and black funnels identifiable.  Our eldest son cooked lunch today – (chewy) burgers and chips was the description I received on arriving back from work. I learnt a DIY fact – stick a match into a hole where the screw has worked loose… Yeah! Our dining room door is back on it’s hinges!!!
I’m exhausted and ready for a run tomorrow morning. Bring on day 6!  This is a very apt verse – Alma 58 verses 10 to 11 – not that our children are my enemies but I am outnumbered!!

Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength…
Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls

reflections

Dear friends
It has been a busy few days getting ready for school starting – exams and tests this term.  I’ve spent time with our children – cutting hair, laughing, exercising and shopping. The following has been on my mind.

When I look in the mirror, I see my four children in front of me 🙂 Does that make sense?

When I was much younger, I saw a girl with desires and dreams – do I look like one of my grandmothers, I often wondered?  I remember this one time seeing much more, I was about 11 years old; I saw that what was me, was more than the body reflected in the mirror, there was something deeper inside, behind my eyes.  I admit this freaked me out somewhat and I started crying, not quite understanding what I was feeling; I was almost inconsolable as I cried I don’t want to die! !   Somehow, my dear mother calmed me and I went to school late that day.

As I’ve grown, I’ve come to learn and understand that we do have our own spirit and body – me, I’ve always been me, regardless of my physical body, it’s age or condition.  I suppose that’s why we feel younger (or older) than our physical age! 

But now when I look in the mirror, I see our eldest son, his pioneering spirit; our eldest daughter, her wit; our youngest daughter, her creativity; our youngest son, his passion 🙂 Plus all the physical similarities though everyone sees the children’s resemblance to their father. 

This fills me with peace and joy, knowing that we are a part of each other.  As we’re all part of our loved ones.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?