Beautiful Heart

Beautiful Heart

My daughter is without doubt, the biggest challenge of my life so far. I love her dearly – each and every part of her that makes her … well, … her. But boy oh boy is my intelligent, highly emotional, stroppy, strong-willed girl a challenge to every bit of patience that I have.

She was the dream baby, healthy from the outset, slept through the nights from eight weeks old, and met all her milestones, many ahead of time. Because it was just her and I from when she was only weeks old, she quickly became mummy’s best little friend.

She was so compliant … until she wasn’t.

I don’t know what changed, but about the time she turned four, my little lady found her will. Her VERY STRONG will. Four years later, we’re still trying to find that compliant heart I know is there. But I have to be honest, compliance isn’t the most important thing to me.

Love, respect, honesty, integrity, being a great friend, humility, reverence, generosity. These are important, in a child and in the amazing adult I know she will become.

This doesn’t win me a lot of fans. I’m probably the mum that you hear repeating herself over and over in the supermarket and just want to shake while you yell ‘woman your child is a brat’. I get that. But I don’t care what anyone else thinks anymore. Yes, I have learnt a LOT about tolerance too!

She does have a strong will, but I see an amazing will that can take her far. Stubborn yes, tenacious too. Quick to question yes, an open heart and mind to learn too. Emotional yes, a big heart too. Stroppy yes, hmmmm, not sure I can find an upside to that 😉

I know God has an amazing plan for her life and I don’t want to break her spirit. I know that if I focus only on behaviour of instant compliance, we’ll only be frustrated – I don’t want her to be a robot, she has so much more to offer than that. Besides I also know I’m never going to achieve that. Don’t get me wrong, she still has to respect authority and rules, we just have to go about things a slightly different way. I will let some things slide that you might not, but in the big picture, it’s small stuff on the Natalie scale.

So lately, seeing a few glimpses of the amazing heart I know is in there, makes me more joyful than the words I write can possibly convey.

Over the weekend I received an email from another parent thanking me for raising Natalie to be the good friend she is. HALLELUJAH! I’m not happy for the praise of my parenting (ok, truth, it feels good), I’m really happy that my gorgeous girl is being an amazing friend. Standing steadfastly on the side of her friend who is being bullied, instead of straying to the side of the bully who is relentlessly trying to break them apart.

My girl was bullied for a long time last year, that’s why she’s at the school she’s at now. We’ve spent many hours pondering friendships and talking about being a good friend. I’m so grateful that her bad experience has come to good in that she can help her friend now. Generally in her new school she’s chosen to surround herself with beautiful girls and when the going gets tough, she stands strong beside them. That’s the kind of friend I want her to be. I’m happy.

I’m also happy that yesterday she got angry at me. Because I wouldn’t stop the car and drive back around the intersection – for a third time. Hmmm, ok, I’ll back up. Yesterday there was a man cleaning car windows at the traffic lights. This isn’t a common occurrence where we live so my ever-inquisitive daughter needed to know why. When I saw his pack on the side of the road I explained there was a good chance the man didn’t have a job, maybe he didn’t even have a place to live, so he was trying to earn money. Well, she was ready to jump out of the car then and there and hand over my wallet! She made me drive around the block and back to hand him some money. I did turn around, I couldn’t quash that sort of thinking, but we didn’t catch a red light so I had to keep driving past a second time.

Boy oh boy did my little lady get stroppy and let me have it (verbally).

So we’re not all the way there. Well actually we’re not even part of the way there. But she’s showing that she’s hearing me, the love, the words, the lessons … they’re getting in. I know they’re going to pay off in the adult she becomes.

Isn’t that really what we all want as parents?

Making memories

Making memories

Yesterday someone pointed something out to me. Something really important.

Something that I thought was a slightly funny but inconsequential moment, was actually potentially significant.

Bear with me…

Yesterday on the school run I had fractious kids – I blame Monday! I was pre-coffee and not really up for the noise levels that six kids, mostly boys, can produce (I also pick up another family en route to one of our schools). Drastic action was required.

“Right you lot, if you don’t tone it down, I’m going to blast this truck with opera music. Don’t think I won’t do it…”

Hmmmm, still really noisy. Right then.

And suddenly I had six kids pretending to be opera singers – full voice, full comedy act. I will never hear You Raise Me Up in quite the same way again! We laughed all the rest of the way and everyone jumped out of the car at their various schools in good spirits.

I would have totally forgotten this moment except for posting a smart comment about boys and opera music on my Facebook page. Then someone pointed this out to me:

We weren’t just making happy noise, we were making happy memories too.

Gosh that got me thinking.

How many other fleeting random or silly (or bad) moments am I dismissing that are actually becoming an important part of the memory bank that my children will look back on? I need to become more intentional about the now.

This is all part of a bigger change happening in me, it’s been coming for a while. I blogged about being present and needing to be happy with life in October/November last year. I have made some changes, both internally and in the way we go about life, that have made a huge difference, and now, it’s time to be even more intentional about chasing passion and happiness.

Hands Free MamaI’ve been reading a fantastic book called Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. I had it sitting on my bedside table for at least a year before it was the right time to pick it up, but when I finally did, it hit me hard between the eyes.

In short, Hands Free Mama introduces a life philosophy, it’s about simplicity, being present and grasping what really matters in life.

I haven’t related so much to a book in a long time – you can see by the state of it that I’ve thumbed through it more than just a few times! I will be reflecting more on my own Hands Free journey in future posts.

I think yesterday was a great example of grasping what really matters. That laughter and happiness on the way to school, that’s good memories in the memory bank.

It’s so important to create those moments, or even better, to have time in life to just let those moments happen…

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

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

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

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

 

Scripted Sunday: Youer than you

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes. I’ve done this today for my daughter who is having challenges at school with a bully. It’s hurting her self-esteem in a big way so we’re really trying to affirm at home that each one of our children is special, wonderful and amazing in their own way. And as the four kids are different, so are they different to every person they meet in the world. And this is ok.

Your than you

It’s always good for me to fall back to my handbook for life as well. The Bible. I love Psalm 139, especially the verse “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful (v14)”. How cool is that?!. Each one of us is unique. Our amazing Creator, took time to make every single of us different. In His eyes we are all special. Cherished. Loved. And as our girl struggles with self-esteem, we’re trying to help her find the things that make her unique that she can stand firm on. And to remind her that no matter what, she is loved and cherished by God and by many people. It’s just unfortunate the attacks of one girl have done so much damage.

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

 

Bullying sucks

I never thought that my daughter would be bullied. She’s feisty and confident. She’d stand up to someone twice her age and size … or so I thought. But I was wrong because at the moment another seven-year-old girl is making her life miserable. My Nat is being bullied.

From a mamma’s point of view, it’s terrible to see the effect this is having on my daughter.

Gone is the confident (over-confident even) girl, instead she tells me she is ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’ and ‘has no friends’. She cries every morning as we leave for school, telling me she’s sick and can’t go today. She has ulcers in her mouth and goes to the sick bay at school with sore tummy (classic stress signs in Nat). One of her teachers tells me she won’t take part in group work anymore. Yesterday she pretended she had forgotten her sunhat so she had to stay on the class veranda – being too scared to venture into the playground.

All of this because of the actions primarily, of one girl. It’s mostly words and manipulation. Girls can be M-E-A-N!

Bullying Sucks
photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc

There have been grumblings between Nat and this girl throughout the year but I didn’t take it too seriously. As I said, my girl is feisty, and girls will be girls. We talked about appropriate ways to act, making good choices in friendships, and ways to resolve conflict. I figured it would settle, which it did for a while. And then it came back in force.

I’m so grateful Nat has been honest with me about this from the start and praised her for talking to me about the hard stuff. But even though she’s willing to talk, it’s still so hard to help her to understand that it’s not her fault and there’s nothing she has done to deserve this, that the fault actually lies in the bully – in the midst of it, with her self-esteem at an all time low, she can’t see it.

I pray with her and for her, and we pray for the bully. We role play ways for her to get away from the bully. Her brothers at the same school know what’s going on and she does run to them (she’s never been more grateful for big brothers!). We’ve also come up with a list of ‘safe’ friends she know she can trust, but somehow, even they don’t feel safe to her at the moment. Yes I am in constant communication with her teacher and have a formal meeting tomorrow where I will be seeking practical solutions.

I’m amazed at the damage one small child can to do to another in such a short amount of time. I hate to think how horrific this is when it involves teenagers! I do worry about how this could shape her socially and will be advocating hard for her as she’s too terrified to speak up for herself. Nat wants to change schools but I don’t want to teach her to run away from her problems. We have six weeks until the end of the year and I know we can make it through then we have the summer holidays to heal. I will definitely seek reassurance from the school that the bully won’t be in the same class as Nat next year so she doesn’t have to stress about that all summer.

I’m just so frustrated at being so helpless. I want to yell at the perpetrator and tell her what she is doing to my child. I want my confident happy girl back.

Anyway, I just came here for a rant and I guess I’ve achieved that.

If you have experience with any of this, particularity with young children (Nat is seven) and can offer advice, please please please do leave a comment or email me as I’d love to hear anything that could help my girl!

abbiesbabble [at] gmail [dot] com

Thank you 🙂

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.

 

 

Work? Optional!

Daily Prompt: If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

Well this is a prompt I can really relate to. In fact it is an ongoing discussion between my husband and I right now.

Classroom
photo credit: rosipaw via photopin cc

To set the scene, I work in a high school. I manage the Withdrawal Room which is basically time out for the kids sent out of class for a single period, or kids further down the discipline chain who need to be here for a full day. I’m not a teacher, I’m a supervisor. I definitely get to meet some of the more colourful personalities in the school. And I love it.

I work Monday to Friday, 9.00am-1.30pm and I have school holidays off. This is great to balance the needs of my family – they need taxiing around to their various after school activities and as we live across town from their school that’s also a 45 minute round trip. This means I get about 30 minutes between finishing my paid job and taking up my ‘Mum’ job (which generally keeps me active until about 8.00pm). On weekends we have sport, church, youth groups etc. so sometimes it feels like the weekends are busier than the week days in terms of running around.

So how is this relevant to the daily prompt?

Well, my job is on a contract that ends at the end of the school year (December). I’ve been asked to come back and take it on again next year. Part of me wants to, I enjoy the kids I work with (seriously) and the money makes our bank balance a little more elastic.

But I’m exhausted. I have so little energy. There is never any time to take for myself. My husband works night shift every other week so he disappears while I’m out picking up the kids from school – that week we don’t see him aside from breakfast. The house is ‘kinda’ clean and tidy and while I’ve learnt to lower my standards, it is only getting the bare minimum attention. I’m constantly battling that washing pile, there is plenty more I could do around the house, and we’re eating takeaways on a weekly basis which I don’t love. Basically I’m not able to give anything 100%. Yesterday I had to decline helping one of my chosen charities with their annual appeal as I would be at work when they needed me.This makes me sad as I like to help out where I can.

The Kidlets
These little people need (and deserve) a fully functioning, happy and energized Mama bear

So my husband and I have agreed that we’ll take the hit financially to better balance our lifestyles. We’ve prayed on this. I’ve asked my boss if they’ll consider me job sharing and cutting down to three days a week. I’m pretty sure that’s not a realistic option for the school but it’s worth asking the question right?! If the answer is no, I won’t renew my contract.  We’ll step out in faith and believe that something else will come along. We’ll make the financial sacrifices to allow a better quality of life for everyone (when the mama bear is happier, the rest of the bear family are much more settled!). This will allow me to have more energy for the kids, run the house how I like it, to have time to myself to relax and exercise (essential to good state of body and mind), and my husband and I to spend time together before he starts night shifts allowing us to be more than just ships passing in the night.

We both recognise that there are plenty of families who balance two full-time jobs with raising a family. Some out of financial need some out of financial want. I am feeling so blessed right now that Richard and I are on the same page and he supports me so fully even though it does mean sacrifices for us all.

If money honestly was not an issue, I would do my Masters/PHD part-time which would still allow me to balance my family needs with my own needs. I love to study, I’m such a geek! Who knows, perhaps I’ll take on the study option at some point anyway.

 

WOULD THE REAL ME PLEASE STAND UP

WOULD THE REAL ME PLEASE STAND UP

I haven’t been posting so much the last couple of weeks. I don’t know what to say. Which is VERY unusual for me. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write, it’s that there’s just so much.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I’m in a real transitory place – accepting a new life in a blended family (it will be two years in December so not so ‘new’ really) and working out where and how I fit. Thing is, I spent so much time making sure everyone else in the family was ok, I didn’t work on me. And I got lost. So very lost.

So now I’m at a point where I really have to spend some time working out who I am. It’s going to be a process.  I’ve got a lot of thinking to do and have no doubt it will appear in future posts. I’ve never been scared to write about what’s deeply personal and close to my heart!

I want to be true and authentic. And I want to be happy. At the moment, there’s too much empty and lost, to be properly and consistently happy. But I do know that happy is within reach. And I do know:

I can’t do this alone. Continue reading “WOULD THE REAL ME PLEASE STAND UP”

LEARNING LESSONS … THE EASY WAY

Last week while I was folding washing after school I heard a crash from the kitchen. The crash followed by that momentary deafening silence, where you know that the culprit knows they have done something wrong. Then the panicked shouts and tears begin.

So what was that crash?

It was my daughter learning a lesson … the hard way.

This has me thinking. We are all given lessons on a daily basis I’m sure, often choosing to reject or just plain ignore them, carrying on without modifying whatever needed to be addressed. I know I’m guilty of that. Continue reading “LEARNING LESSONS … THE EASY WAY”

RANDOM RANT: GAMES NOT HELPING MATHS!

“Mama is one-five-oh-oh-oh bigger than two-two-oh-oh-oh?”

Girl on iPod
photo credit: Dennis Larson via photopin cc

A seemingly random question thrown from the backseat of the car set my brain into action and I need a place to vent. So hello! Continue reading “RANDOM RANT: GAMES NOT HELPING MATHS!”

MY MARVELOUS MR.

Let’s just get this said up front. I’m not writing this for brownie points. I mean everything I say (write).

I have one very truly amazing husband.

There are a lot of blog posts, and comments in general, about husbands who don’t do enough around the house, husbands who don’t spend enough time with kids and just downright negative blah blah blah.

I’d like to break that trend. Continue reading “MY MARVELOUS MR.”

TO INSULATE OR EXPOSE TO THE WORLD?

TO INSULATE OR EXPOSE TO THE WORLD?

Those of you who know me, or who follow my blog, will know I have no problem stating things as I see them. I’m a pretty very open person and you’ll pretty much always know where I stand on an issue. While blogging gives me time to think and articulate my thoughts (I’ve written about this before), when speaking, I may not be  as articulate. The thoughts are there, oh yes they are ALLLLLL there, and quite jumbled. While I know what I want to say, it doesn’t always come out quite right. So ummmmm, I might have put my foot in it with some people in the school community recently. Sigh.

Our three youngest children go to a Christian school. Part of the way schools work in New Zealand is that parents are consulted and able to feed back on the health curriculum – yep, all that puberty, boy/girl stuff. So there was a meeting last week. As a Christian school, we obviously take a biblical stance on, well, everything. When you’re talking about teaching 11-14 year old kids about puberty etc, it raises some pretty interesting/controversial issues. Continue reading “TO INSULATE OR EXPOSE TO THE WORLD?”

FOR MY CHILDREN

The other night while Nat was having one of her meltdowns (for lack of a better word) I REALLY felt the need to reassure her of my love. I KNOW she knows how much I love her, I’m pretty sure I say and show it daily in different ways. But sometimes I feel like she’s testing me, possibly even unaware she’s doing it, and I know she needs to know, as do all of my kidlets…

I love you to the end of eternity and back. My love for you is bigger than anything you ever say or do to me. Or anyone. Or anything. I will always be your safe place. No matter what, my love for you will never stop, will never shrink, it will only continue to grow.

How do you explain that to a child? Especially a child who is grieving and asks what will happen to her if something happens to me and the other significant adults in her life (this is on the back of my mum passing away earlier this year)? Sometimes I wonder if her meltdowns (THAT word again) are her pushing me away because she’s terrified at the moment.

It’s a big world for a little person.  Heck, it’s a big world for a big person.

I hope all four of our kids know I offer those words so truly with every part of my heart.

I love you to the end of eternity and back

INTEGRITY

Integrity

This term our three youngest will be focusing on the Core Value of Integrity at school. I think it can be defined in a lot of different ways and am really looking forward to our teatime round-the-table discussions as we get further into their learning. I would like to think I am a person of integrity in all aspects of my life so should have some wisdom to impart!

Let’s throw some words/ideas out there and see if the kids come back with the same things:

  • Honest / truthful
  • Strong sense of morality and ethics
  • Consistency in personal choices

 

WATCHING HER HEALING HURT

Waiting for answersLast night we had another gut wrenching evening with Nat. It came from nowhere, they always do, these intense waves of emotion that rise from nothing and in a moment consume her so completely. As a mama, I feel like my heart literally cracks each time I see her like that – my baby in physical and emotional turmoil struggling with such intense emotions that she can neither understand nor control. Continue reading “WATCHING HER HEALING HURT”