Girl in chaos

Girl in chaos

This is my girl through and through. She lives in her own frenetically paced bubble. Yesterday when she jumped out of the car I just had to snap this pic – it’s so her.

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In the seven minute drive from school to home she managed to pull everything out of her bag and then scramble inside, barely keeping it all in check. But oh my, she’s gorgeous.

I’ve posted plenty about Nat (she has her own tag) – my firecracker. She doesn’t seem to live inside any set of rules, she battles and challenges me as a parent every single day. Her emotions ALL run to extreme levels  and she’s either on superfast or the total opposite. She loves completely, has a will that is stronger than no other I’ve met, is extremely affectionate (when the mood strikes her), and feels everything to the highest degree.

I love her, the beautiful girl underneath the whirlwind that is Natalie, and almost cant wait to see her grown up. She’s going to be amazing. But hey, don’t get me wrong, she IS amazing now too!

But for now, I’ll deal with picking her stuff up off the bathroom floor (and hallway and lounge and bedroom!), picking my battles with her, and making the most of every gorgeous mama-daughter moment we share.

Reintroduction: Family

Reintroduction: Family

I don’t for a second believe that family is only those we are tied to through shared genetics. I grew up with a step-father who is my dad in every way (aside from the obvious biological difference). So I knew from a young age what real family is.

As far as my immediate – husband and children – family goes, there is no higher priority for me. Thankfully my Mr and I look at this from the same perspective. We dedicate time, thought and energy to ensuring that our beautiful blend has an amazing sense of love and security, and shared experiences/ adventures/ memories. Family.

I’ve been blessed with four amazing kids. I love them all. But only my daughter is genetically of me. How could I possibly say that my three step-sons are not my family, just because we don’t share genetics? I can’t.

I love them, I’m proud of them, they frustrate the heck out of me … and vice versa no doubt! As I said to them when their dad and I were engaged, I want to be the “mum-type-person” in their lives as much or as little as they will have me (their mum passed away years earlier from Cancer). I’m lucky that they let me be their mum-person in almost every way. We ARE family.

I experienced a big change in my own family dynamics after my mum passed away. We sure did have to do a reshuffle in the way we think and operate. It wasn’t all smooth, in fact some of the lowest lows for me were related to this transition, but we’re over the bumps now. I’m proud of how we’ve overcome. Not proud of my part in it at the low points but on the other hand,  emotions were running sooooooo high, and … well, I don’t need to revisit it now. We’re good and that makes me happy.

Those bumpy months did show me just how important some people are my life. Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, is worth breaking those special relationships. Those months also illustrated for me the importance of the ‘mum’ role. I think it gave me a bit of a kick to really intentionally be the wife and mum I want for my nearest and dearest.

There’s so much more to write about family but really, I think when I say that my roles as mother, wife, and daughter have become really key in who I am and how I face every day, then I’ve nailed the key points.

|||||This post was prefaced by: Let Me Reintroduce Myself, which you can read here.

 

Happy birthday baby

Why I love gifts #abbiesbabble (1)I love birthdays.

Actually, I love gifts. Buying gifts, wrapping gifts, giving gifts. I absolutely adore watching people open gifts that I’ve given … although it also makes me nervous as heck. I always want to make the right choice. Give a gift, no matter how small, that makes someone really happy, makes them feel like I see them, and have thought about what they would actually like.

Today is my husband’s birthday.

It was a bit of a weird one on the gift front.

I gave him a renovator tool. Don’t get me wrong, this is something he really (really really really) wanted. In fact it was on my list of possible gifts LAST year. Yep, he’s wanted one for a while. So it was definitely a happy gift. But as we’re mid-renovation, I gave it to him earlier in the week. No gift wrapping, no surprise (he had to be with me to make sure I bought the right thing!).

Gifts aside, it’s been such a lovely day. Yep I do love family birthdays. We make a point, especially when it’s Richard or myself, to spend the day as Harris6. We also have a student staying with us from Vietnam so today we were Harris7.

Abbie with an NH-90
I never get sick of visiting these!!!

After church (where I ended up stuffing flour into balloons in kids church, not just a little bit scary for a celiac!) we headed out for lunch. We tried Vietnamese with the guidance of our lovely new friend. And it was super good. Then we headed out to the Airforce base for a swim (despite it being 13 degrees outside!) and a look at the helicopters. I NEVER get sick of seeing them, they are so cool. Back home for dinner and to watch the Smurfs2 movie as a family.

I love days like this. Yep, I love birthdays.

My Richard (not really a Sir!)
My Richard (not really a Sir!)

Our Sundays often roll like this, without the meal out though ($!). I am so blessed to be married to this amazing man. We are so on the same page when it comes to prioritising family time. We both had 20 other things we easily could have done today – but family first. Just one of his many amazing traits.

Happy birthday baby x

Grumpy celiac feeling better

The other day I drafted a post titled Grumpy Celiac. I’m glad I didn’t publish as it was pretty wretched! To be fair, I was miserable. But this week, while acknowledging that it’s not all roses, I’m back to being positive and in action mode.

Last week I was feeling like, well, like I did before I was diagnosed Celiac. I was so disheartened as I had been doing SO WELL … until that point it seems. I was, and still am, back to aching hands and feet, sore tummy that often sends me running to the bathroom, migraine and exhaustion. It has all got to making me grumpy.

I’m a real ‘if you’re going to do it, do it 100% and get it right‘ kind of a girl. With pretty much everything in life. So failing upsets me. Especially when I’ve been working so hard to get this all right. I’m most grumpy because I just don’t know what’s going on. I am so careful about what I eat, how I prepare my food and I am confident that (except for the contaminated GF Dominos pizza last month, gggrrrrrr) there hasn’t been any gluten sent into my poor body, to set off this storm.

But I’m obviously getting something wrong.

On the bright side (there is always a bright side!), I realise how far I had come, now that I seem to have gone back to the beginning again. Can’t believe how long I accepted feeling like this as ‘normal’ 🙂

This week I’m pushing forward, sticking to the right foods and even investigating going paleo. It makes sense to eat only fresh, whole foods. Hard to get that wrong.

#Paleo#freshisbest

I am holding back though. I’m a big fan of dairy food. I’d rather give up coffee and wine, than cheese and milk. So I’m reading up on the paleo way – I did buy a new cookbook and honestly, the recipes look amazing. Even if I don’t go all the way, and I don’t expect my family to (although I wish they would cut back on sugar and grains as I have), I can easily adopt a number of the paleo ways for myself.

Watch this space I guess, here’s to taking control of my health and my body once and for all!

If you blog about celiac or paleo can you please drop me a comment or ‘like’ this post so I can follow you. This is a journey to be sure.

Abbie x

Not the last bullying post (Part 2)

Yesterday I was going to post an update on Nat after her hideous time last year being bullied, and how bullying is out of our lives. Sadly, bullying is not out of our lives. So yesterday I posted an update on Nat (yay, it’s a happy story!) and now the stuff I’m not so happy to post. But it’s doing my head in so I need a rant…

Two of our sons are still at the school we chose to remove Natalie from. They are doing ok although I saw red (and white and pink and flashes of light, not good ones) when I found out that Nat’s bullies had been placed in my youngest son’s class!!! Thankfully it’s a mixed class and he’s the older year. So far, no drama, but I’m keeping a very close eye on things.

It appears however that other children are still suffering at the hands of bullies, and that some senior management are still unwilling to accept there is bullying at the school. Therefore blocking appropriate action. Recently I witnessed some terrible bullying behaviour on a sports field. Student to student from the same school, no immediate consequence.  I have contacted the school about that particular case, I can’t sit back, my blood boils and my heart breaks. It’s so unnecessary.

Image Background: Lonely Bear City Bench via photopin (license)
Image Background: Lonely Bear City Bench via photopin (license)

I hate that children are going through this stuff – it changes who they become. Bullies will always be bullies unless they are taught (and given consequences) otherwise. The children they hurt become lesser versions of their best selves until they are old enough to look back and realise it wasn’t about them – by which point the damage has been done.

In a further development, the lovely International student who has joined our family for a few months from Thailand, has been experiencing a hard time at the high school she is attending (different school). The students who have been assigned to buddy her have been swearing at her and name calling.

Again, I’m sad. I found myself apologising to our student and to her teacher over and over again that this happened to her. A visitor to our country, with limited English and this is what she gets?! That is not the Kiwi way let me tell you!

Hopefully now that everyone is well aware of what’s going on, including us, things will be firmly dealt with and our young lady can continue her learning in peace. She really is a sweet wee thing – very shy. And only 13 years old, very brave in my opinion to be away from her family and friends  in a country where she barely speaks the language.

I wish I had a magic wand and could take the part out of everyone that needs to be mean and vindictive. I hate bullying. I wish everyone hated bullying. I hate that the people I see at the receiving end are the ‘good’ ones.

There’s a real passion stirring in me over this.

I want to make a difference.

Somewhere. Somehow.

I just don’t know how.

Abbie x

True story

It was one of those if you don’t laugh, you cry moments at 3 o’clock this morning.

I heard PollyCat jump in the window and as soon as she ran into my room, I knew she’d brought me something. That meow, and psycho kitty dancing meant a cockroach, a bird, or a mouse. Oh yay, why does this have to happen when Richard is out of town?!

It does get better.

I jump out of bed, grab a shoe and bravely tell myself I can deal with whatever my darling puss has brought me. Light on. Mouse. Ok, it’s just a little one, I can do this. Then Polly swipes it out into the lounge. Hmmmmm, I could just shut the door and go back to sleep. Then Polly swipes it again and I hear a thump. Oh bother, I know exactly what’s happened, that little mouse has been swept down the stairs, and dropped into the entranceway.

That’s where the dog is.

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Image: Witzige Katzen-Bilder

Now in my house, Polly lives upstairs and Moe lives downstairs. Never the twain shall meet because the dog will quite probably eat the cat. Everyone knows the deal and thankfully, they stick to their own territory. But oh did Polly want to go and get her mouse. She cautiously ventured down three stairs, paused, looked at me, looked down the stairs where the mouse was, looked at me, looked at the mouse. I could almost hear her brain weighing up the risks.

“Your problem cat, you made this mess, I should be asleep, you deal with it” (yes, I was actually having a conversation with my cat in the middle of the night).

At this point I contemplated heading back to bed but a bigger part of me needed to know where the mouse had landed, and in what state. Besides, by this point, the dog was up and sniffing around. If he saw the cat or found the mouse, the whole house would be awake!

Shortly after, I had the dog deposited on a child’s bed, the cat on my bed and the poor mouse stunned but alive behind the blanket chest under the stairs. Well no animal would get it from there and I figured the first place it would run would be out the garage door. I needed to sleep so off I went to bed.

The mouse was gone this morning so all is well that ends well.

Except that I never did get back to sleep. I need another coffee…


Abbie x

Not the last bullying post (Part One)

Background: For those of you who weren’t with me last year, we had quite the saga with our youngest child, Nat, being bullied at school. Long story short, she’s now at a different school. If you want to read the back story, you can read Bullying Sucks, and Bullying Still Sucks.

Here I was, all ready publish a post titled The Last Bullying Post. But sadly I can’t, as apparently I have some more work to do with some more bullies. Hence the title of this post! Ggggrrrrrr.

Firstly, let’s get up-to-date with Nat’s story.

Last year, a horrid final two terms at school, concluded early in a fairly emotional head to head with the school principal who flat out denied that there was any bullying in his school. Hah, whatever! Immediately after that meeting I was on the phone to every school I knew anything good about. This was challenging and a bit disheartening as it was the final weeks of the school year and all schools with prescribed zones (most) had closed their ballots.

I persevered and needless to say, God opened the right doors.

Nat now attends a lovely school which was one of the top two on my favourites list.

Best news yet: I have got my daughter back!

This school, and the particular classroom she’s in, is a perfect fit for Nat. I see such a difference in the dynamics between the children, and between the children and the teachers at this school. It’s very easygoing with young vibrant staff.

As a result, Nat is happy and sparky again, her behaviour at home has improved SO much, she’s eating and sleeping well again, looking forward to school each morning and best of all, making friends. Within four weeks she was already invited to play dates and birthday parties. It seems that where ever we go these days, there’s a new little person running over to us with a big ‘hi Nat’. The park, concerts, visiting random people, sport for her brothers. Yep, where ever we go! Thank you Jesus.

I am just so glad I followed my instincts.

So Nat is on the up. But it seems I’m not done with bullies for now. As this post has gotten pretty long, I thought I’d better make a Part Two which I’ll post tomorrow…

Abbie x

Where I write

I always imagine other bloggers/writers/people working from home sitting in very glamorous home offices with all their modern conveniences around them. True?

Although not glamorous, or even an office, I thought I’d share my space anyway. It’s just a corner of a room – a corner of the upstairs lounge I share with a TV, xbox, cheerleading practice mat and a mountain of lego. None-the-less it’s a corner I’m very happy with!

Up until very recently I’ve been blogging from the couch but I decided to claim a part of the house for myself. The upstairs desk had become a bit of a dead zone – a dumping ground (yes, guilty) for all the ‘we’re not sure what to do with it’ items.

Now it’s mine. I did a massive de-clutter and very cheaply made it as girlie as I could … to dissuade my husband and three sons from using it – maybe that’s my way of marking my territory!

It’s a sunny spot, with a lovely view over the neighbourhood rooftops and now that I’m the only one who uses it, it’s always tidy. My very busy diary (command central for our home) has it’s own spot, I have special mementos around me, my chargers are permanently plugged in (so not being ‘borrowed’ constantly) and things are always where I expect them to be. What more can a girl ask for? Blessed I am.

I’m still mostly inspired when I’m out walking or doing something completely away from the computer (my trusty notebook is never far away) but it’s so nice to come back to this gorgeous space and get it all down on screen.

Where do you write from?

My office space

Abbie x

Our technology take down

Have you ever noticed you were watching something on TV that you weren’t really interested in … but there wasn’t anything else on? Or you get to bed only to think you’ll just check your Facebook page … one … more … time? Or get sick of the kids fighting over who has had a longer turn on the computer and who is going next?

Yeah we’ve all been there. Haven’t we?

Too much technology
photo credit: 128/365 C via photopin (license)

These were all happening at our place which we noticed all the more clearly over the summer holidays – while we were away from home and didn’t have all of our technology with us. There was a lovely calm without the screens and lot more walking, talking, bikeriding and card gaming happening. We as parents loved it, and the kids seemed really happy too.

So we came back from holiday deciding to get out of our screen rut and take control. And it’s been great. The new rules for our kids are that they may only have one hour per day on screens. Any screens – ipod’s, computer games, xbox, tv. I used to be good at monitoring their computer time but they’d just go straight to another screen when that was up! Now the rules cover everything. There are two exclusions – homework doesn’t count, you have to do what you have to do there; and listening to music doesn’t count as screen time (in our family that’s a chill out space that a lot of us actually need).

To be honest, the TV barely goes on any more. When it does, it’s almost annoying. We are all a lot more productive (I know I get a lot more done in the evenings, especially when my husband is working night shift) and the kids are gradually finding ways to entertain themselves that don’t involve screens.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally get the irony of typing this post as I sit at my laptop … while my ipad is playing music beside me! But the point of our family technology take down has not been to ban technology, it’s to ban the hold technology had over our lives and the amount of time we all spent staring at screens.

I have no doubt we’ll relax the one hour restriction during the winter – the kids all play a lot of sport so are active, and sometimes on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon you just need to sit down and watch a DVD. Fair call 🙂 But so far, I love how this is working for our family. Not saying we’d ever go without technology completely (oh no no no) but getting a little perspective has been super healthy for us all. Well I think so, but I’m confident the teens won’t agree with me there!

How do you manage technology times and turns in your home? We’ve tried white boards, timers, earning time credits and all sorts. Simple black and white time seems to be the easiest way to go. You can click here to see the rules we place around our technology.

Abbie x

Full moon madness (nothing spooky here!)

Yesterday my good friend text me to remind me there’s a full moon on Friday. That’s two days from now. She always gets in touch early in the week to warn me it’s coming up.

Why? Yeah fair question. Do I have some strange moonlight dance ritual I need to fulfil each month? Oh no. So no.

So why the heads up?

Full Moon
photo credit: Under-a-Full-Moon via photopin (license)

Because on a full moon two things happen in our house (same in my friend’s house).

My daughter struggles to hold onto her good behaviour. Seriously, she’s only eight but it’s like she is full of raging hormones. For a couple of days she will cry at the drop of a hat and her behaviour can be super challenging (keeping in mind this is not the easiest child to raise in ‘normal’ times).

To exacerbate this, neither her nor I sleep well when the moon is full. Ah ha, yep, you got it. That means while we’re dealing with her behaviour, we’re both exhausted.

Tonight, I confess, there were meltdowns. She just wound up and up and up and up and then we both exploded. Then I realised part of the reason is probably the lunar phase (ever wonder where the word lunacy came from?!), then I felt bad for not cutting her some slack, and she feels bad for making me feel bad and, oh it’s just messy.

Yeah, not one of our best nights. Sigh.

Anyone else out there deal with anything like this? Sleep issues, behaviour or mood changes around the full moon?

Abbie x

Why I’m exercising regularly

I found a quote from the always radiant Kate Hudson in Mindfood magazine last year which sums up beautifully for me, why I’m back exercising.

Fitness is not about vanity

With my recent diagnosis of Celiac Disease I’ve been prompted to not take my body for granted. So three mornings a week I’m back to pounding the pavement (walking). Which I love. I head down the river path, the parks, or the streets. Sometimes just me, me and God, me and my headphones, me and the dog, or I head out with friends. Variety is good isn’t it?!

I’m totally in this to be physically and mentally strong. I’ve spent so long being sick that I’d started to accept an inferior quality of life. It’s past time for a mental shift, and now that there’s a way forward, and there’s hope for my constantly flagging energy levels (among other things), I’m keen to get the old me back. My gluten free diet seems to be on track, I’m sleeping well and a bit of good fast walking is for my energy levels, overall health, and my soul.

Oh and did I mention, in the crazy busy of life, it feels amazing to take an hour in daylight hours to do something that totally benefits me!

Abbie x

When 1 + 1 = 8

Earlier this month we went to one of the most beautiful weddings I think I have ever attended. The setting was gorgeous, outdoors under well established trees in a beautiful garden. We sat on hay bails covered with white taffeta as the sun dimpled through the trees. The groom was handsome, the bride was stunning. So were their children. And I don’t think a single person there could deny that God was in ‘the house’. Oh yes, these two are meant to be together.

As much as the setting was gorgeous, for me, my heart-strings were really pulled on a deeper level. I could so relate with this couple. A widower who tragically lost his wife far too young, leaving him to raise their four children. And a young woman raising her twin boys alone. The joining of this gorgeous couple didn’t just bring together a husband and wife, but a big beautifully blended family.

The best man (the groom’s teenage son) spoke of the order his new stepmother would likely bring to the house…as only a woman can! The father of the groom was overwhelmed with joy when he could talk of his son’s renewed happiness after some really awful times. He also reminded the bride that she was inheriting two sets of in-laws with her new husband’s, late-wife’s family as well.

Oh yes, Richard and I could so relate! I’m just so excited for this new Mr&Mrs. It’s not an ‘everyday’ beginning to a marriage but it’s one I have lived. And continue to live. It’s not an easy beginning to a marriage but are any of the beginnings really easy, if we’re honest? Besides, there are also some really cool aspects that I pray work as well in their life, as they have in ours. The growing bonds between step-siblings, the very extended family, the maturity and experience brought to the marriage from the outset.

These are gifts.

the secret to happy marriage #goodadvice #instablogging #abbiesbabbleSomething I took away from the Pastor’s message was a little nugget of wisdom gleaned from a couple who had been married for 65 years. When asked what their secret to a successful marriage was, they said “we come from a time when, if something broke, we fixed it”. Isn’t that beautiful?! Words to live by I think, I’m getting a bit fed up with this ‘disposable life’ that seems to be so fashionable now. But that’s a whole different blog post…

 

CC Image background It’s All About Love by Candida.Performa via Flickr
abbie123

Where to start?! New adventures for a new year!

#newyear #blankpageYou know I’ve been away so long, I almost don’t know where to start. There’s so much busting to get out of me here that when I start writing, I can’t be sure I’ll be able to stop. Could be a long night!

OK, let’s just start with where we are.

So it’s February. Already! I know right … how did that happen so fast? We spent most of December and January on summer holiday, travelling around the country visiting family and friends, and camping at the beach. It’s been blissful. I will post more about our holidays separately. I took a LOT of photos so should (fingers crossed) have some decent photos to share too (in the meantime there are quite a few on Instagram).

The kids have all been back at school for at least a week now. Our eldest second year high school (quick to settle, happy and excited about his year), middle boys back to their primary school (same old) and youngest started a new school after our bullying challenges last year. Happy to report she’s a different child. Excited to go to school, happy and chatty at the end of the day, making new friends and settling in well. Phew. Hang on, that was understated … PHEW!!!!!

Tomorrow we have a student from Vietnam joining us for a few months. He’s older than our kids so will be interesting to see how he settles. It does mean I now have four schools on my daily run but I’m up for it. I love setting up the room for guests and wondering what they will be like and how we will all get on. It’s a little scary but a lot exciting. It’s so good for our kids (and we grown ups) to share our home and to learn about the wider world.

Something I’ve become really focused on is spending time diving into God’s word. Deeply. I can honestly say that I haven’t been so drawn to my bible in my adult life – and the more I study, the more I want to study. I’m being pulled into a closer relationship with my Lord daily which is so exciting and terrifying. Terrifying because I know he has plans for my life and I know I have to surrender to them. Whatever they are. I’m such a control freak and just learning to let go. It’s beautiful scary. Does that make sense?!

I spent last week getting the house up to speed after a lot of inattention. I’m not working out of the house this year (at this stage) so it’s wonderful to have the time to really get things in order … and to stay on top of things. I’ve already been signed up to work at Swimming Sports next week and to manage one hockey fundraiser so my days will not be empty. I love being able to get more involved with the kids’ school and extracurricular stuff, not just be the tired taxi driver. I’m also going to be contributing over at another blog but I’ll introduce them to you when I’ve officially been introduced over there 🙂

And the really good news, I now know why I have been walking through life fighting feeling like a tired, forgetful, cranky zombie! Last month I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Which came as a real shock, but since then quite a few ‘ah-ha’ moments. No medication required, I can fix this myself, by taking gluten out of my diet. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds but I’m off to a good start. I will definitely be writing more about this, it is kind of a big deal in terms of lifestyle adjustment and is taking a bit to get my brain around. But ultimately I’m looking at this as a positive thing.

So, there’s a quick catch up on Abbie. I have a notebook I’ve been carrying around full of notes for blog posts so there will be much more babble. And now the kids are settled back at school hopefully I can make it back here a few times a week.

Ax

It’s been so long it’s a new year!

Hello hello hello my lovely blog world. Happy New Year!!!

Me and my rock x
Me and my rock x

I have been so super busy since school finished for the summer on 12 December but I have constantly missed the world of blog. I’ve been away from home (still am) and traveling without a laptop which has forced some serious down time. What can I say, much as I miss blogging, having the persistent online distraction taken away from me has been great. Loads of time spent with the family, I’ve already read a few books and taken a lot (seriously, a LOT) of naps! Still doing lots of writing, my journal has taken a hammering 🙂

In the last four weeks, including the last week before school finished, a lot has happened. I only have a short time on a borrowed computer so here’s some highlights as a reminder of posts I want to write/things I want to reflect on in the new year…

  • We’d been struggling with bullying at Nat’s school, I removed her from school 10 days before the end of the year. After a meeting with the school Principal, who completely denied a problem (don’t get me started!), Nat has been enrolled in a new school for 2015. I’ll reflect more on this later as I think it’s something a lot of parents, unfortunately, go through.
  • RoadtrippingWe’ve already traveled over 1,000km this holidays. We have plans for around another 1,700km yet. Much of it with our caravan. That’s a lot of travel in a pretty small country. Good thing our family loves road trips huh?!
  • We had a lovely weekend mid-December to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday and an early Christmas for that side of our family. These people are so special and I’m so honored to be adopted into their family. Being Aunty Abbie to 10 nieces and nephews is just fabulous! Technically they’re not my in-laws, they are my husband’s in-laws (his late wife’s family) but they have wholeheartedly opened their arms, hearts and lives to me, and I love them all to pieces. AMAZING people.
  • I’ve had a REALLY bumpy lead up to the holiday period, this being the first Christmas and New Year since my Mum died. And still raw as we come to the first anniversary of her passing in a couple of weeks. A lot of reflection and I know that a lot of people will be experiencing similar things. I didn’t expect the grief bug to bite me again so hard, but that was probably just naive (or really hopeful!). Still standing, and still moving forward though 🙂
  • I wrote about feeling strong late in November. I feel like I’ve been pulled through a storm backwards since then, but as a new year dawned this morning, those feelings remained. 2014 has been pretty brutal and a year I’ll never forget. Now I’m looking into 2015 knowing it will be different. There is hope. There is always hope, and I’m going to fight hard to stop smothering mine. My focus is on my faith for my strength. A lot to look back on from 2014 and move forward with in 2015, watch this space.

I hope you’ve all had a lovely, blessed holiday period. I look forward to catching up on blogs in February. I haven’t given up on blogging, despite the long absence, I’m just living the summer in the real world with my family. I will be back!

InstagramIn the meantime, I’m a very regular Instagrammer so head on over to my page @abbiesbabble if you want to see what we’re up to.

 

AbbiesBabble

Bullying still sucks

Regular readers of Abbie’s Babble might be aware of our struggles this year with bullying (my seven-year old daughter has been bullied over the last few months).

Unfortunately, things have hit an all-time low and I felt forced to remove my girl from school for the rest of the year (our school year finishes in 10 days for the summer). The last week of the year is fun, and she is missing out. Her bullies and their families carry on happy and regardless.

My heart is hurting and heavy.

I’m sad for my girl who has gone through so much she didn’t need to go through – it should have been stopped. I’m hurt that the school has obviously decided we’re wrong and chosen to stop acting – actually worse than not acting, Nat is feeling let down even by staff now. The other children have told lies, denying everything, and staff are consistently taking their side.

I have seen this other girl who is causing the most grief at the moment and she can’t even make eye contact with me any more (she used to come to my home). I don’t believe for a second that she has a clear conscience.

Nat has been told she can no longer go to her safe place the school sick bay. Sometimes she goes there at lunchtime as it’s safe, sometimes she genuinely needs time out as she does get a sore tummy from stress. I’ve been so worried about her health I’ve had her at the Dr with full blood screens taken to rule anything else out – looks like good old stress.

I don’t understand why my daughter is a target. I don’t understand why the school isn’t stepping up. I don’t know what to do from here on in. I feel physically ill today.

I just want my confident sparky happy girl back. Yes even the girl who will answer me back, ask incessant questions and push me to the extreme with her need to do things her own way. I miss that girl now.

I AM grateful for friends and family supporting us and providing advice. And I know there will be answers/lessons that will come from this.

Dog walking
This is much better than getting a hard time at school!

In the meantime, this pic shows how we spent out morning. Nat commented to me as we started walking “Oh well, at least I know I won’t get bullied today, Moe is just a dog”.

I wonder what it will take to get over this. I wonder how it will resolve.

************

Update: I wrote the above yesterday, our first day at home. Today I’m feeling a lot calmer, still sad that this has happened but I also feel more confident in doing the right thing for my family. I wrote recently how I was feeling so much stronger these days after a few years of high emotion and grief. I think this is a perfect example. I’m already bouncing into action.

I’ve made an appointment with the school principal for next week, I will go in ready and strong (pray for me to be discerning in my words please!). I will advocate for my daughter and, as I believe the school needs to change their stance on bullying, I might just need to be the change-maker. Well, to get that ball rolling anyway. For the next little boy or girl, so they don’t have to endure any time like Nat has the last few months.

I’ve also been public about this with my friends on Facebook. To start with I thought I shouldn’t, like it would be bad for the school. But I’ve always maintained, as with my blog, I live openly. I don’t have anything to hide. We haven’t actually done anything wrong here! The support from friends and family across the country has opened my eyes to the amazing network I do have around me. Sometimes on my lonely days I do forget that. I’m feeling very blessed in that respect. Good comes from bad. 

I’ll keep you posted…

AbbiesBabble

When being yourself equals trouble

Over the weekend I had a great chat with my daughter, quite possibly, the best so far. We had a two-hour road trip and we talked. And we talked.

The. whole. time.

I can’t speak for Nat, but for me, that was so good for my soul. I feel like we totally connected and were both able to say a lot of things that we really needed to. And that perhaps, in the heat of other moments, we haven’t been hearing from each other properly.

We have had a challenging year (two), Nat has faced more than I think a seven-year old should have to face. But that’s life isn’t it? On this trip everything was right, she opened up and we had a huge heart to heart. The details of which I won’t reveal because she asked me not to tell anyone. But she did raise a fair point that got me thinking…

What should we teach our children to do, when our right thing to do, will potentially get them in trouble?

This is a matter of personality – being true to who we are, not pretending for the sake of someone else.

photo credit: Lauren Beck cc
photo credit: Lauren Beck cc

I always tell my children to be true to who they are. To not change their actions, thoughts or personalities because of what someone else has said about them, or thinks of them.

What is the right thing to do though, when this makes them stand out and possibly draws negative attention? My gut says just be you, be who you are, you are beautiful from the inside out, fearfully and wonderfully made, you are smart, you are unique. And I know that as she blossoms into a young woman, the things that make Nat, Nat, will take her great places. But the mama part of me that doesn’t want to see her hurt, almost wants to say, just tone it down.

Some of the things that make Natty who she is, can get her into trouble. She’s feisty, outspoken, strong-willed, quick to question and confident to tell anyone (including adults … actually, especially adults) exactly what’s going on/how she feels/what she thinks. (This is why I was so surprised that she was bullied).

I’ve always treated Nat a bit grown up I guess, it was just the two of us for so long. In her formative years she also had my parents so very involved in her care – she has always been more comfortable with adults and developed a huge vocabulary at an early age. I know she considers adults, my friends, among her friends. She doesn’t see a big difference between them and her.

Nat has become a lot more sensitive this year because of, well, everything really, but especially school and the bullying. Because of this she is already worrying about the next year at school because she knows that a new teacher won’t know her and her ways. So she’ll probably be seen as the trouble kid. When really, she’s just very honest and extremely inquisitive. She understands the teacher-student relationship and the respect she is required to show in school. But she’s still Nat.

I don’t want to tell her to tone it down, to not ask questions and to not offer opinions. That is who she is and that is how she learns. I also don’t want her labelled (again) as trouble. I don’t really know what to do with this one. But I do need to think of something as it’s obviously bothering Nat and she’s going to need a strategy to feel good about starting the new school year in February.

My gut says stay true. I know this is right. I teach it over and over, I know it’s wrong to stray from that now. But my mama heart still says don’t get hurt.

What would you say to your child?

AbbiesBabble

 

To my strong-willed, passionate, very loved, almost-8-year-old daughter

Dear Nat

You have had a rough time lately and I want to encourage you. I want to tell you that you are amazing. I want you to know that even though we do most definitely have our challenges, we are going to work it out. I want to tell you (again and forever) just how loved and special you are to me.

Baby girl in your short life you’ve dealt with a lot. I say that carefully, because I know a lot of other kids have dealt with a lot too. Some of their things bigger. But you know what, in your life, you have dealt with a lot of big loss and change among other things, and I don’t want to take away from that. Nor do I want those things to define who you become in a bad way.

Yes your dad left you, pretty much at birth. I know what it is to be abandoned by your father, not so young, but I understand. I know that it makes it hard for you to trust people, especially Richard. It’s like a part of you, even though you don’t want it, is waiting for him to reject you like your father did. And I know that’s why you are so hot and cold with him. But my darling, you can trust him. He is learning to be your dad as much as you are learning to be his daughter. Please know I chose very carefully, he IS a wonderful husband and father and when you are ready, you will see that. He loves you. He makes mistakes, we all do, but he loves you. He is also sent from God. Harris6 is a family that is meant to be together and nothing will separate us. But know that I understand how you feel, it took me many years to accept my step-father too and you know that I now look at Pop-Pop as my only dad. Hang in there and trust. Trust me, trust Richard but most of all trust God’s plan for our family.

You live your life with so much passion – your emotions are so clearly on the very outside, you feel EVERYTHING so intensely. Good and bad. You are also a VERY strong-willed young lady. More than me and more than your Gee. That’s big, because you know that my mum and I are very strong ladies! These are not bad things. They can be good things if you are willing to learn about them. They definitely challenge me as your mum because at the moment, you want to question and defy pretty much everything I say and ask of you. Some days I feel like I’ve spent the day fighting a battle with you and that’s hard. I have always taught you obedience. How many times do you hear me say ‘obey straight away’? But I’m learning. I’m learning that it’s not your nature. That you need to know the reasons why, that you need to know what’s coming up, that I need to roll with it a little more and the less I fight your fighting back, the more we can get done. I’m trying baby. Every single day I’m trying to be the best mum I can – you hear me pray every night for God to guide me as your parent to help you be the best you can be, and I mean that from the bottom of my big toe.

Even on the days where your yelling and screaming and crying pushes me to the edge of crying myself, I never stop loving you. I never will bubba. I will love you to the end of the world and back. Sometimes I think your behaviour is purely to test this. Especially when I tell you I love you and you say ‘but how can you when I’ve been so naughty’. You will always get the same answer from me. “I will always love you. I might not like your behaviour but I will always love you. Nothing you can do will push me away or make me stop loving you. Same as God”. You don’t need to fear rejection from me baby. I will never do that to you.

Your strong will and passion will see you go far in life. I believe you have leadership inside of you. When you were dedicated Pastor Jack saw and prayed amazing things over your life. NEVER forget that. Sometimes, in the moment, when your emotions are running on super drive, remember that God is always working on us, always teaching us. He didn’t plant these amazing things in you to not use you for greatness in some way. And I will be your biggest cheerleader all the way.

Your Gee was also one of your biggest cheerleaders. One of her biggest sadnesses when she got really sick was that she wasn’t going to see you grow up. Wasn’t going to see you finish school, university, have a family of your own. She loved you so much and I know you loved her too. You are so lucky to have had such a special bond with a grandparent. I know you miss her crazy much, I do too. And that’s okay. You never have to stop missing her. Just know that you always carry her in your heart and she’s watching you from heaven cheering you on in everything you choose to do. Pop Pop is still here and he loves you as much as Gee did. I know it’s hard when he lives in a different town but you still get to see him and we’ll make sure you still get your special weekends with him.

You see beautiful girl, you are loved. So very loved.

Keep living a big life my girl. I think you are learning about friendships now and understanding what it is that makes a good friend. I hope for you to be a good friend and to make good choices about the people in your life. Choose people who make you the best version of you – and do that for them too. Don’t change who you are because of what someone else says or does. Don’t try to be anything other than yourself: an amazing kind and caring person who throws their whole heart into life. You don’t have to be the best at anything. You have to live a happy life and be willing to work hard. Let God direct your path, remain teachable.

Every night before I go to bed I come into your room. I switch your lamp off and kiss your cheek. And in that moment Natty, anything bad we said or did that day has disappeared. My heart grows with a wave of love for you. Together, we can work through anything. I love you so much I can’t even explain. You’ll understand one day.

Be strong, be you.

Blessings

Mummy x

Your than you

AbbiesBabble

Just put the screen down

Social MediaI’m really starting to annoy myself.

Do you constantly find yourself checking for new activity on your blogs, tweetbooks, facetags, instapins and hashmails? 😉

I do.

I can hardly wander past my phone without checking the notifications some days. If I’m sitting “watching” the kids at sport, you’ll probably find me on my screen a lot.

Over at Pendulum World, Marla posted recently about being present with our kids, not letting our own things get in the way of really connecting with the little people in our lives. Because I’ve already been feeling frustrated with my behaviour, this really struck a chord with me.

Like Marla, I love the world of blogging. I do love to write and have found such freedom in expressing myself this way. I’ve also found joy in the community of bloggers (hey you guys!) and love to communicate on my blog and others. I link some social media with my blog (Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) but I also love to interact with my real world friends on Facebook.

That said, God has given me the amazing blessing and huge responsibility of raising four children within a wonderful marriage. To put all that ‘social media’ stuff before them is just plain wrong. For me. I do think God is really speaking into my heart at the moment and saying, put the screen down, look at your family, they need your attention. And I know He’s right. So I’m called to act.

I have to admit, I’ve tried to be more focused at sport this week. At volleyball I enjoyed actually following the game and encouraging the team. A few times Tom looked over and I was able to give him a thumbs up or word of praise and his big grin was well worth it. Same with Nat at swimming – as she swims past me and takes that one breath where I’m in her line of sight, I see her smile when I wave stupidly at her.

I will defend myself a little here. I do think I’m a good mum. I love my kids completely and my life is pretty well devoted to making sure everyone in my family has what they need, when they need it. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Lately though, I feel like I’ve dropped the ball a bit and maybe that is because my priorities are slipping just a little too far in the direction of what I want, instead of what I should be doing. This balance will be addressed with the changes we’re making in the new year – I’ll post about this in the next few weeks.

So here’s the deal: I’m really focusing on the time between school pickup and dinner. This is to connect with my children and my husband. When I’m out with the kids, my phone is not out (excluding photos, my phone is my camera). When we’re at hockey or swimming or volleyball or whatever, I’m watching them, not my screen. On the rare afternoon that we’re actually at home, I’m going to make a real effort to stay off screens completely in this time. Eeeek, I know I’m up for a challenge in this.

Anyone with me???

Raising Children

AbbiesBabble

 

Making Memories

While super-glue is one potential way to bond a family together, as parents, we firmly believe it’s our job to come up with ways to create a lasting bond between our brood. This is especially important in a blended family context.

As our family grows and they eventually leave home, we want the kids to want to come back home to visit. We want our children to be friends, we want their children to know each other. And of course we want to be involved in the lives of our grandchildren (when they come). I want to be cooking for a LOT of people at Christmas, birthdays and lots of days in between for decades ahead!!!

To just expect this to happen, I would suggest is naive. No, Richard and I are very intentional about spending time as a family now and building the foundations for a family who sticks together for the long haul. I’m talking about shared experiences that the six of us will remember for a lifetime. Fun family times, creating laughter and memories that we can lean on when the going gets tough.

We have the everyday things. We eat dinner together around the table every night – which ranges from some serious conversations to the absolutely ridiculous! We attend each others sporting events and prize-givings etc. We attend church as a family most weeks (although to be fair, the kids head off in the direction of their friends pretty much as soon as we arrive!). Sometimes we just pull the curtains and spend the afternoon watching movies and eating popcorn.

And here’s our new fun:

caravan

Yep, we are going to spend our summers camping and tramping. The camping in the caravan, instead of tenting, will give us so much more flexibility. We’ll be able to take impromptu trips when the weather looks good as this uber-organised mama will always have it packed ready to go. It’ll just be a case of grab a change of clothes and away we drive.

We’re all very excited about this phase of adventures and all the new beaches and bush areas we will be exploring together…

AbbiesBabble

 

On the happiness trail … why I quit my job

Last Monday I let my employer know I would not be accepting their offer to extend my contract to the end of 2015.

Happy Jumping
I’m so happy!
photo credit: Denis Messié cc

And it felt great!

Why would I give away a perfectly good job you may ask? A job that wasn’t unpleasant, that offered good hours allowing me to drop my kids to school and pick them up again at 3pm. Especially in these times when jobs can be hard to come by.

Because I am on a mission to find myself, and to create a truly happy life for myself and for my family. And because my mum told me to on my birthday.

Being out of the home five days a week, even if only while the kids were at school, has put too much pressure on me to be able to effectively run my home. I feel constantly stressed and tired, chasing my tail trying to get things done. This is not happy for me and definitely hasn’t allowed me to spend any time finding myself. My life is totally tied up in being ‘mum’. I am, as all mums are, more than just the mother to my children.

In August I wrote about needing to find myself, about feeling lost and not completely happy and needing to make changes but not knowing what they were. Well here’s one of the big changes, a big step in the direction of happy.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a whine. I know a lot of people have to work full-time out of home and full-time parent as well. I did that as a single parent myself. I’m simply working the life I have. If I sound ungrateful, I’m REALLY not. I’m just intentional about having the best possible version of my life (and that for my family as well).

I have an EXTREMELY supportive husband who recognizes all of this, he does see how hard I work and just for the record he’s awesome at helping out. I’m conscious though that his job is demanding and when he gets home I want him to be able to chill and spend time with the kids. And there are some things that a mum just has to do, that only a mum can see, and this particular mum has pretty high standards (self-confessed, I know it!) and sometimes I just have to do things to get them done right the way I like it 😉 Not to mention that it’s almost impossible to eek out a spare hour for myself, which I have learnt this year, is not a bad thing to want.

And the core of the issue is (pretty sure I’ve said this before), if the mama bear is happy, the family are happy. I have realised this year, as I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster, how much I influence the atmosphere of the home. That’s some scary power right there!

Happy Girls!
Happy!
photo credit: simpleinsomnia cc

So, as a husband and wife team, we have decided to take a financial hit, to receive a lot more time in our bank. I am going to study part-time (Graduate Diploma in Management Information Systems, I know, GEEK! I am SO excited) and have a lot more time to focus on my husband, my children, my home and myself.

I know we are fortunate that we can make ends meet on my husband’s salary (it will be tight) and that he is willing to go on this journey with me. I do feel a little self-indulgent taking on study ‘because I want to’ but mostly I think that’s because I’m worried about what other people will think – and I know I need to get over that.

Besides mostly I’m excited. I love to study, I love that I’m going to be able to go on all the school trips, and for me, being able to calmly keep an organised-tidy home, is something I enjoy. It’s hard to explain, but if I have the time, it’s not a chore/stress, it’s a part of my role as wife/mother that I love and take great pride in.

NOW is the time to be happy, I’m not putting it off any longer.

Sign off

 

Me and my girl

This weekend Nat and I had an action packed weekend as we headed down to the city (Wellington for those of you who know NZ) to see a show. The show was The Sound of Music – I was super excited to introduce Nat to the story and the songs. I was about the same age as she is now when my Nan introduced me to the film, an enduring favourite.

Well, my little lady absolutely LOVED it. I’ve taken Nat to a range of live performances including ballet, ice shows, gala performance, outdoor concerts and heck, we’re blessed we can hear awesome live music every week at church, but this was her first musical theater. I have absolutely no doubt there will be more!

Once or twice a year I make a point of getting away with Nat for some one-on-one mother-daughter time. For the first five years of her life, it was the two of us against the world. We both enjoy these weekends, but since we blended with the boys, we actually really need them too. It’s been a big change.

We’re girly girls at heart and while we both love tramping and the outdoors, and do spend  ton of time with the boys’ at their sports, these times are where we do exactly what we want to do. We managed some crazy road trip singing, a bit of shopping, cafe outings and an enormous buffet breakfast, and treating ourselves to magazines and some down-time in our hotel room.

Nat’s major love language is quality time. I can manage this by devoting a decent chunk of time to her each evening as she goes to bed. Time to read, talk, pray, sing and just be the two of us. She craves that and boy do we hear about it if it doesn’t happen! I’m a quality time kind of girl too so I do understand.

These extended period of weekends, or days if we take them, really re-charge her – and what’s not to love about spending time with my mini-me?! Our relationship comes our stronger and I do hope these will be memories she’ll always treasure. I know I will.

It was bliss. For both of us.We’re already looking forward to the next trip … whenever, or where ever that will be.

What is your love language, or your child’s? Is your language compatible with your child’s? How do you manage that?

Sign off

Seeing my little people smile

By 9am this morning I had already seen my two littlest people with the biggest smiles on their faces. And I know that happy vibe that will stay with them today. Seeing them happy, that’s a great way for me to start a day for sure!

Natty

Nat asked me if I could write her a list of the things she needs to do in the morning. Nat is good at being the last one ready – because she is so easily distracted. The list seemed like a good idea so I did that then she looked up and laughed at me when she saw I had signed it ‘Mummy’. Apparently I’m very silly.

Soon after, Nat had done everything on her short list and was ready for school. In true mother-daughter style she took great satisfaction in ticking everything off. As I was half way up the stairs to get myself ready to face the world she stopped me.

‘Mama I’m ready and you haven’t even gone upstairs yet!’. She was somewhat incredulous. Sometimes I’m back down stairs and she’s still not ready.

‘Yep, you did awesome, wasn’t that a cool way to start the day, you rock Natty, and now you can play’.

She grinned. Oh did she grin! She had conquered something she really struggles with and she revelled in the praise. She was one proud seven-year old.

~~~~~~~~~

Sammy

Once we were at school Sam asked me to chat to his teacher about an email the teacher had sent me. Sam and his friend have had a photo they took in a digital art competition short-listed for the regional competition. Only the top five in their year made it this far so he’s a pretty chuffed young man.

While chatting to his teacher I saw the photo Sam has entered. I was blown away. It is fantastic. Honestly, I’m not a photographer but I’ve spent enough years around design studios to know good from bad. And I truly think his photo is GREAT.

I couldn’t shut up about how awesome it was to Sam (and his friend). And Sam’s cheeky little happy grin turned into a full face-swallowing smile – which we don’t always get to see. Sammy is very cautious and sensitive and I just know I NEED to find these moment with him to build up his confidence. And honestly, the photo is fab.

~~~~~~~~

Praise the good, oh praise it BIG, because those little people love and need to hear when they’re doing well. Believe me, I know how easy it is to pick on the wrong behaviours but let’s not forget to notice and acknowledge when they get it right.  I hate to think of the mornings I’ve yelled at kids who push the clock when we’re trying to get to school and work – leaving that grumpy-pants-mama’s voice in their ears and their hearts. This channels into their day and it affects who they become. No, no more. Let those praises be ringing in their ears, and in their hearts, all day.

 

 

SPRING HAS SPRUNG (YAY!)

Yesterday was the first official day of spring. 1 September. Yippee!

Spring is definitely one of my favourite seasons. Lambs, daffodils and blossoms.

And hope. I always think Spring has a real sense of hope, more so than any other season.

What’s not to love?!

On Sunday we hit the great outdoors and went for a good walk – 10km, at least the first third of that straight uphill. It was amazing. I was super proud of Nat (7) and Sam (8) who carried it off like pro’s. Okay well I might have used a few lollies to bribe them up the really steep parts, but seriously, they did awesome! And the views were more than worth it.

Can’t wait for summer and a lot more days like this…

 

IT’S AN INNIE THING

IT’S AN INNIE THING

I have hit THE WALL. Not literally, no car crashes or broken fists or anything like that. But that metaphorical wall has come up and hit me in the face. Again.

Before writing this I was sitting in my wardrobe staring at my shoes. For quite a while. Pretty much not having the physical or mental energy or desire to move. Even the thought of watching TV … yuck, too much. I have suffered from depression in the past and it’s kind of like a (really) mini episode. Depression is a big word which I never take lightly. I’m not undermining anyone who suffers mental illness. But I can relate, those feelings won’t ever be forgotten. This is definitely a fleeting feeling of those days.

In this case though, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a small wardrobe, it’s a walk in with a window, and shoes, well I do love shoes. So it’s not as drastic as it sounds.

Except maybe it is. Continue reading “IT’S AN INNIE THING”