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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Graduation Day

The course ends and I join the party tomorrow - I'll join up again in mid May so not to be a total fraud.  At the Children's Centre today creative kids was about fine motor skills, threading cheerios and pasta on to edible shoestrings. The brightest children ate the cheerios and shoes strings without wasting energy on trying to fit them together as a necklace. Edward persevered and did manage to thread the necklace - but he wanted and needed lots of help. I used good Webster Stratton praise and encouragement techniques which did pay off - not only that part of the session. His listening to me is improving - the second part of the session was to play "stop" "go" "come back" in the centre garden which all the children really enjoyed. Edward didn't stop on command when other children did but he noticed other children did and so the next time he did too and really enjoyed the game. When B who was leading called the children he went with the children but hung back from physical contact (other kids high fived or hugged her).  When I called him to come to me he just didn't. But as the game was ending he was getting it so we walked home together playing the game and by the time we reached the door he really enjoyed it and had cracked it.  I took the children out for cake after school and bought him a book. We celebrated how well he did with holding hands both then and going to get his sister after school and across the car park.  "Didn't let go hands Mummy" he said to me proudly. Both of us learnt something today.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Messy Life: a tangent

Ok . . . well house is coming together.  We've again passed references, we have again agreed terms, we are again expectant it will all work out.  Did I mention this is the second time we have got to this point in 3 weeks - the first time the Crown Estate withdrew permission to let the property.  On the plus side this house is very local so can still walk to school, library, brownies, shops, park and childrens centre.  On the down side the house backs onto a road where people walk back from the pub/town so we don't leave behind nighttime disturbances on summer evenings which have been such a nuisance here. At least we will be glad to move on when we do.

Recently I took the children to a messy church event - it was fantastic, but missed the idea of all age worship altogether, parents were given consent forms at the door and advised what time to collect their children, so it was in effect a single session holiday club - like Xsite but lower key and for younger children. Edward particularly enjoyed the freedom to worship and play as he chose and enjoyed enacting the Noah's Ark story with an ark playset.

The vision for Messy Church was familiar - make it easy and comfortable for families to come to church whether or not they have a church background, there is a structure and a format but its to enable not to constrict. I like it as a once a month session, but I like liturgy and sacrament too. I also felt like I have been here before its a new name for something all the churches I love have been doing for years.

Every church where I have felt happy has made people regard each other as family, the feeling of warmth and hospitality is expressed in sharing of time and energies but also in coffee and cake and food. The Seabrooks who now are at Taverham embodied this in the family service and their open house approach to bible studies 

Philip and Elizabeth Kettle were Pastors to Hitcham Free Church when I was a child, from a holiday club in 1982 where I became a Christian I discovered what a dynamic thing church could be. They encouraged discipleship by example and by opening their home and hearts to children and families - summer camps and a youth group in a caravan all showed such love. 

And I think of Bruce Nicole's Church in Camberley where even now despite the vast changes that have happened in that area and the number of people who have arrived since we left we still feel a sense of home.  Its no surprise to me that Messy Church occurs here or that the Church continues to grow because like all these churches it is grounded in love and led by people sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Finally I think of the place where my faith both in God and the possibility that other people could accept me took root, Hilfield Youth Camp, where I discovered that I was like Elijah in being oblivious to the surrounding of Angels in my life, and this was revealed to me through people who inspired me, who greeted me from day one not as a stranger but as a friend. This is what church should be.  Not perfection because that is only to be found  heaven, but messy, fun and welcoming with a reflective aspect that leads to real growth

All these wonderful experiences have shaped me, and its a shaping that isn't just from parenting, and one that reminds me how important it is to give your children places to explore their fellowship with God and with others outside the home.  My parents' best gift to me was to let me go to these events, camps and friday nights. Its a gift I want to give my children too - go to new places and find out who you are and who else  there is like you,  open your eyes to the fact that there are other children with values like yours and hopefully connect with God in a new way. Keep your brain switched on too, ask the questions you need to ask.

So where am I with parenting?  Failing! Life is messy like that. You can't crack it in a week. Praise is being rejected again, bribery/ tangible reward is not wanted because all Edward wants is to run free and not be in the buggy or holding hands no matter about the road. I persisted with him today which meant I looked like a real mean mummy - poor baby screaming in buggy was ignored until it was safe to let him down, with periodic options to comply he would not. Got to the park and free range he wanted to walk the wrong way, it all took so long! His sister missed out on play time because of his behaviour.

Also some of the behaviour is resentment about moving house (he is definitely stressed by things being packed up) and an awareness he is too young to have really that his friend - his best friend in all the world apart from his sister - is moving away.  He does have another friend he talks of often, another dear friend's son who has passed on clothing to him with stripes and vehicles on and who also has a deep appreciation of trains, but since he was barely speaking when they last met it might come as a surprise to this little boy that his clothing is appreciated or that Edward has decided trains are wonderful following sharing his track at Christmas. When Edward saw a tractor on his next size up nappies instead of familiar Bob the Builder he asked if this friend had given him the nappy (clearly he assumes good taste in vehicles comes only from this source!) I really hope they play nicely when they meet again in the Summer.

Foolishly I told Aslana today that the best behaved child could have the biggest room in the new house . . . did I just give away the Master Bedroom??

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Things that did not come in the Post

1. Reader's Digests' Cheque for £125,000 - would be so handy about now.  Must surely be delayed. I   mean they keep promising it so it should arrive any day I am sure. May be the postman nabbed it??!

2. A list of houses to let.  In the old days when we registered with agents they'd be in touch by phone or letter weekly at least.  Now they just say - check the internet, can't you?

3. An apology from the landlord or any explanation as to why we are in this crisis

4. Chocolate or tea bags

5. The Birthday Card my sister did not post in January or February but promised she did intend to come March . . .

6.  A note from The Lord to indicate exactly what the plan is.  I am aware we have the Bible but its not so handy on the finer practical points of items such as "The Lord will Provide" in our experience it does tie in with Seek first the Kingdom (ie despite pressing needs arising in your life, consider needs of others ahead of your own) and also Trust - (eg about to give birth with nowhere to go?  Don't worry - there is a stable just around the corner - expect provision around about 6 hours before labour . . .)

7. Selflessness and patience. Really low on these about now. Especially when DH is finding fault with remaining options that I think would be good enough. Little one is poorly - I don't want to have anything to do but comfort him and see him well but time taken for this seems stolen from peace of mind about the move.

8.  An apology for the guilt that Dr Webster Stratton ladles on - if your child has any faults they are victims of your inabilities and incompetencies parents! If any qualities of which you are proud these are from correct implementation of the webster stratton method. There is good stuff in there, don't get me wrong but she's as warm as a cold fish and sees everything as a transaction - love and affection are deposits in a Child's piggy bank of self esteem, time outs are temporary withdrawals to gain control.  I think there are truths in what she has to say but the style of saying it really needs some work.  There is too much focus on achieving "correct behaviours" and too little on happiness and strength of relationship - building trust etc.  A warmer read with similar basic concepts about investing positives to produce happiness and self esteem is here

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Things in the post

1. A letter confirming references cleared.
2. Incredible Years Parenting Book by Dr /Ms??  Webster Stratton
3. A letter confirming Aslana has a place at the new school
4. A letter explaining that the Landlord has withdrawn the property  to which we were planning to move.
5. Junk mail promising a very stripy green lawn
6. Junk mail extolling the new dance phenomenon Zumba as a way for singles to meet.

Am thinking stripy and green lawn over rated as a way to enrich life.  Am relieved to finally understand what Zumba is - had been in my outer consciousness as something new.

When these new words arise its like an unfinished crossword in my brain turning over too much as to what significance it may have. No significance at all as it turns out except to make me feel grateful that I am not single and eager to be loved,  but surrounded by a loving family and not required to learn dance moves to earn their devotion.

Almost everything is as irrelevant as the junk mail when compared to the recent catastrophes in the world. Perspective is restored as to how priveleged I am to have my family together under one roof even if I don't own that roof and arbitrarily we can be asked to move to another - we'll still be together and that is a huge blessing. 

A few weeks from now I may need reminding of that point, but for now experiencing compassion for others over self pity. Am singing a lot of nonsense songs lately to the point that the children are now asking me to sing about anything that pops into their heads on demand.  "Sing Tiger song, Mummy" for example.  Maybe I do have to perform to impress them after all, but its easier than Zumba I should think!

Speaking of impressive performances now have no trouble with shoes or hand holding by the road - Edward I am so proud of you and thank you Dr Webster Stratton my interpretation of your suggestions and persistence are successful - though not perfectly implemented as per your method you did help me think about it.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Have ordered The Incredible Years on Amazon.

They should arrive any day. Meanwhile we have to live with the entirely believeable year. Edward has held hands by the road - the whole weekend and today when I reminded him there will be no magazine on friday if he does not. This is a bit "stick" I suppose, with "carrot" suspended a way off in the future for a little boy of not yet two. (minus brownie points for doubting Webster Stratton spproach)

I am also using proper praise technique now, it seems to have become just about acceptable to say "well done". He still relinquishes his hold the minute I say well done, but grabs on again when I remind him about the promised magazine. He is also enjoying reflective praise when I tell someone else how good he has been at holding hands or we remember it at a later point. Webster Stratton is very clear in her belief that delayed praise is better than no praise, but is not effective, but it does seem that for this child it is helpful. Also he cottons on to conversations now which is proving very interesting. Indirect praise to a third party very worthwhile with Edward for that reason.

Our search for an interim home to get us out from the curse of the landlord impatient to get his house back is coming to fruition. We have nothing signed and sealed but it looks promising. The house we have in mind is only advertised for 6 months but may be available longer. This should not matter too much though as we hope to buy before the end of the year, its just that it is far too pressured to do that now. All of which is not what anyone would recommend for children - 3 homes in one year is a bit much really. But these are my children and I have faith that they will bounce ok as long as they have stable family and emotional support. So it was important to find a school, a brownie pack, pre-school and church with potential to offer that and be static points while we transition between homes.

I visited Aslana's proposed new school today, and needed to since the application has to be in 4 weeks prior to her starting and the school receptionist was really lovely, warm and friendly and very proud of their school. The children were very focused in the older years and curious in the younger ones, with a reception age child actually engaging Edward in play. Sooo sweet.

The pre school children were really well behaved but not in a cowed way or anything. Talking with the manager of the pre school was a real joy - it is so wonderful to meet people who have a real sense of vocation and a vision for developing the talents of others in whatever walk of life they may be. I really felt that Edward would be given opportunities to flourish.  As the manager discussed their way of encouraging the children and marking their personal milestones, she talked about how parents, children and staff had "Wow" certificates which are displayed on the wall that list achievements as varied as "Staying dry through the night" and "Eating Spanish Food on holiday".  Edward was impressed by this "Wow Wow Wow" he said and pointed at the certificates - he was promptly given one for me to fill in at home.  When we went outside everything was ready for the children to come out and play and Edward immediately relaxed - he headed straight for the cars and road mat and made himself completely at home.

I also believe that being closer to nature even if short term is good for everyone, so I am greatly looking forward both to our moving to the countryside and feeling grateful to parents for our bowood season ticket which will enable us to have gracious surroundings not too far from our doorstep. Last year the Rhododendrons were amazing . but where we are moving too has lots of farmland and very close by a lovely place called Morgans Hill which is a rather special place for our family already as we love to wander and roam and you can do so freely here, just occasionally having to give way for horses or cows.

The school for Aslana is a bit more of a compromise for her year group is in with the year above, but the two do separate in the mornings for numeracy (where she needs some additional support) and literacy (where a bit of encouragement to conform to accepted spellings would not go amiss, but she is basically flying).  This means the larger group are together for Art, Geography, history, RE etc. Probably the right balance for her. There is a real sense of community at the school and with the pre-school.  The school has a nature area where they pond dip and there is a choir she can join. Happy daughter I expect. At the moment she is away with her class on  a local adventure.

I asked about the bullying policy - and the answer was a good one, and particularly the observation that if a school says no one there experiences bullying ever, that they must be lying. Bullying occasionally arises but its sorted out quickly and nobody pretends its not there or doesn't matter. There is also a worry box where you can post a note to the School's counsellor if you are upset or worried about anything. Something I think Aslana may like. She might also like having a designated quiet area where if you just want to play quietly, write your bestseller or read you can retreat. I think they might struggle to pull her out of it would be my only concern. 

The pre-school has as one of its staff a Rainbows leader, so finding out about the Brownie group that meets in the village should be fairly straight forward.  By the time I left the school and pre school it was nearly 11 - my visits to both had taken over an hour, but I felt very informed and reassured about moving my children there.  From there I went to Angie's house, Angie is kind of my boss - the creator of StoryBags see I have written some scripts for her (Psalm 23, Sower) and help out with some marketing stuff too. We went to Trowbridge so she could buy fabric for the bags (Easter has been getting a bit low, since that, unsurprisingly has had highest demand) and so I could deliver a donation of baby equipment to Vine for Pat. 

Vine for Pat is an amazing charity staffed by volunteers that is perpetually short on cash and abundantly blessed both with faith and God's provision. They support Pregnant and Abused Teenagers and help them get their lives on track, prevent homelessness and where pregnant provide counselling and support in preparing for parenthood. I was last there 3 years ago nearly when there was no heating (because there was no funding for heating) there was still a long way to go with dividing space in to rooms, plastering and wiring and just two or three rooms were actually recognisable as dining, kitchen or bedroom space.  They received lottery funding by winning the vote on The People's Millions and have been able to complete the refurbishment and open their doors.  Their first clients are being helped now. If you want to feel uplifted see regarding the work they do.

God is Good! He gets a million thumbs up from me!!