Tuesday, 22 October 2013


I've just got home from giving a Halloween-themed assembly.  No, I wasn't dressed as a witch or a pumpkin - I took in a bag of things that produce light and talked about how almost every culture throughout time has had a celebration involving light around this time of year.  Some of the children were able to work out why that might be, and then we talked about Jesus saying "I am the light of the world".

In the many and varied discussions going on in the Book of Face at the moment, I have mentioned that last year we went meet-and-treating, giving out heart-shaped biscuits and little messages to the trick-or-treaters we bumped into in the village.  Some people have asked me for a copy of what the messages actually said; I can't find the originals anywhere, but I do remember the gist of them, so I thought I'd rewrite two alternatives in case people find them helpful this year.  The first is for giving out heart-shaped biscuits or sweets, the second is for the healthy alternative of electric candles, glo-sticks or torches.

Nobody really knows where the festival of Halloween originated.  The name comes from All Hallow's Eve, marking a time in the Christian church when we remember saints and loved ones who have died, but the traditions that take place come from much earlier pre-Christian times.  In fact if you look at almost any culture in any time, you'll find that as the nights get longer, a festival takes place with traditions intended to ward off darkness and evil.  It's humanity's way of dealing with darkness, death and the things that frighten us as we go into the long winter.
In our family, we like to use Halloween to remember that as Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ has already dealt with darkness and death by dying and rising again.  In the Bible it says that "Perfect love casts out all fear" (1 John 4:18) so this year, we're giving out heart-shaped sweets to remind us that when we know we are loved by Jesus, there's no need to fear the darkness.
We hope you enjoy the treats, and have a safe and fun Halloween!

Nobody really knows where the festival of Halloween originated.  The name comes from All Hallow's Eve, marking a time in the Christian church when we remember saints and loved ones who have died, but the traditions that take place come from much earlier pre-Christian times.  In fact if you look at almost any culture in any time, you'll find that as the nights get longer, a festival takes place which involves light, intended to ward off darkness and evil.  That's where Jack-O-Lanterns come from, for example.  It's humanity's way of dealing with darkness, death and the things that frighten us as we go into the long winter.
In our family, we remember at Halloween that Jesus said "I am the light of the world".  He has already conquered darkness and death by dying and rising again.  This year, we're giving out Glo-sticks/torches to light your way and to remind you that Jesus has beaten the darkness!
We hope you enjoy your treats, and have a safe and fun Halloween!

I hope someone finds these helpful - and at least I'll now be able to find them again next year!

Friday, 30 August 2013


Jeremy is currently very fond of throwing things.  In fact, I'm a little bit worried that I might have given birth to a ball player of some kind.  Of course that would be far too stereotypical for my liking - not to mention the fact that I wouldn't know what to do with him - but the child just loves anything spherical.  He points at lampshades, no smoking signs and the Firefox icon on the computer screen and chirrups, "Baw!  Baw!  Baw!" until we are squirming from all the cute.

A less desirable side effect of all this is his dearly held belief that everything bounces.  His plate, beaker and spoon end up on the floor at the end of every meal, leading to an inordinate amount of cleaning to be done at the end of every day - it's almost as if he was weaning all over again.  And tonight, the habit could easily have landed us in A&E.

Abi had done what I would term an emergency nappy.  The kind where scooping her up and dealing with it takes priority over wondering what her brother is up to.  I was just washing her hands in the basin of the downstairs toilet when Jeremy appeared at the doorway clutching a glass jar.  In the time it took for me to gasp and reprimand myself for not clearing away the painting we'd been doing, he lobbed it at the floor with an unearthly chortle and it shattered into zillions of tiny glistening shards.

Abi and I were stranded on an island consisting of the little toddler step, and the glassy sea around us was nothing like the one in Revelation.  On the other shore, and about to take a step towards us, was Jeremy.  That's six bare feet and an awful lot of broken glass.

Without moving my feet, I leaned forward, scooped up Jeremy, tucked him under one arm and Abi under the other, and did a sort of striding leap, aiming for the carpet beyond the doorway.  I missed.  I landed on a needle of glass that went straight into the ball of my foot, at which I took off again and dropped the children in a heap in the middle of the hallway carpet.

When I was explaining all this to TheRev later on, he said thoughtfully, "I would have just scooted the step along, and used it as a stepping-stone to get to into the hall".  Yes, of course you would, because you still have a brain.  My children have taken my brain hostage, and they won't give it back.  I'm not sure what the ransom price is, but I suspect it's something in the region of twenty more years hobbling about picking up shards of glass after bedtime.

Monday, 1 July 2013


TheRev: Do you think Abi would like a Y,O,G,H,U,R,T?

Me: I don't know.  Abi, would you like a Y,O,G,H,U,R,T?

Abi: Yes please!

Me: (suspiciously) Do you know what a Y,O,G,H,U,R,T is?

Abi: A blue one?

Me: A blue one?!  (She doesn't know her colours, so this could mean anything) What do you do with a Y,O,G,H,U,R,T?

Abi: I put it in a pot and I paint it on the wall!

Heaven knows what she thought I was talking about...then again, her assessment of what she would do with it is probably not all that far from reality!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Gospel according to Iggle Piggle

Over the last few weeks, Jeremy and Abigail have both become entranced by In the Night Garden on Cbeebies Bedtime Hour.  In fact, it seems to have sidled in to become part of our bedtime routine.  At first I thought it was utter rubbish and that I would go mad if I ever saw another episode, but the more I watch it, the more I see its hidden depths.  You know, if you put your tongue in your cheek and watch it very carefully indeed, In The Night Garden contains a wealth of mythology, theology and symbolism.  I'm sure I have yet to uncover many more layers of meaning, but here's a selection of just a few that I've noticed.

The Night Garden itself, of course, stands for heaven.  Although it has been somewhat clumsily aligned with folk religion in its representation as a place 'up there' in the stars, its various features becoming the constellations of the night sky, plenty of other clues give it a more Biblical grounding.  The mere fact that it is a garden, of course, recalls Eden; the white blossom that parts as we enter it stands for purity, and its inhabitants each take on their own symbolic role:

Iggle Piggle:  The only character who ever seems to enter and leave the garden, Iggle Piggle acts as the visionary or prophet, St John the Divine perhaps, allowing the viewer a peek of eternity.  In his boat, he recalls the ferryman Charon of Greek mythology, accompanying the soul across the dark waters of death to its eternal dwelling.  The red blanket he clutches, which covers him and from which he draws comfort, is an obvious allusion to the blood of Christ, covering sinful humanity to allow passage into the presence of God.

Upsy Daisy: She is the soul.  Traditionally female, she has attained salvation and now dances and sings for joy.  The bed which follows her around symbolises her perpetual state of blissful rest.

The Tombliboos: Although it is tempting to say that Tombliboos Un, Oo and Ee represent the Trinity, this would of course be heresy, as they are three distinct creatures.  I thought that their constant kissing might be a clue, leading me to Psalm 85 verse 10, but if they were Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace there would be four of them; so I think they must be Faith, Hope and Charity, a triad of virtues.  Why they keep losing their trousers is anybody's guess.

The Tittifers: The unique songs of these groups of birds join together in harmony at the end of each episode, calling the garden-dwellers to hear the Story once again.  They symbolise the many tribes and nations perfectly joining together as redeemed souls in harmony with the will of God.

The Pontypines and the Wottingers: Two diminutive families represent unsaved human beings.  Their daily efforts are made to look twittering, pointless and repetitive, recalling Ecclesiastes 1 which bemoans the fate of humanity: "Meaningless, meaningless...there is nothing new under the sun".  The sins of Mr and Mrs Pontypine are visited upon their eight identical children.

The Haa Hoos: May be angels, or may represent the presence of the Holy Spirit, as they are air-filled and gently benevolent.

The Pinky-Ponk and the Ninky-Nonk: two very different ways of getting into and around the garden, these transportations stand for different but equally valid  experiences of conversion, whether chasing and searching for the truth (Ninky-Nonk) or being gently lifted up and led by the spirit (Pinky-Ponk).

Finally, Makka Pakka stands for Christ.  The rocks that are his constant companions symbolise the stones with which he builds his church, as well as the ones which he refused to turn to bread in the wilderness, preferring to embrace his humanity and his task.  Makka Pakka's task is to wash the other garden-dwellers, symbolising forgiveness and baptism, with his special sponge and red soap, a reminder of the sponge of vinegar offered to Jesus on the cross.  This task also reminds us of the washing of the disciples' feet, when Jesus warned Peter, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me" (John 13:8)  He is the servant of all, smaller than all the rest, as it says in Philippians 2 verses 6 and 7: "He did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant..."  His servitude, though, calls others to humility, as all must bend down to have their faces washed.

So, brothers and sisters, next time that irritatingly catchy music goes '" and poor Derek Jacobi begins his narration, let us venture rejoicing, with open minds and hearts, into the Garden in the Night.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Current State of Play

It's been a while since I blogged here.  What with writing a book, keeping another blog, writing a guest blog and running about after two children, it can sometimes be a struggle to get back here!  However, here's a brief update on the current state of play:

Jeremy is walking, and he is at that stage of walking when he behaves like a wind-up toy whose legs move in a walking motion no matter what position he is in.  Pick him up, and his feet paddle in the air until they come back into contact with the ground.  Lie him down for a nappy change, and you get kicked in the face.  He throws himself into new challenges - literally - last week he had two black eyes from accidents involving a high chair and a toy box respectively.  Today he climbed down the stairs backwards (I was creeping down two stairs below with my arms out, terrified, but he made an elegant and swift descent without any need for catching).

Jeremy is also working on his communication by perfecting the classic point-and-squeak beloved of babies.  Except that Jeremy has made this ancient art his own by adding a stage.  It's now the point, squeak and leap.  He points, he squeaks and if you don't fetch whatever it is in under three seconds he leaps out of your arms in an attempt to get it himself by flying.  He can say a few 'words': 'Brrrrrm' for a car, 'duck' 'dada' and 'Aaaah-kuh!' which means Stowmarket (don't ask!)

Abi has suddenly become a preschooler.  She is tall and has a pair of shiny black shoes.  Her idiosyncrasies of language are just as delightful and nearly as incomprehensible as ever, but they are far more frequent and much more detailed.  When I do her hair: "Can I look in the mirror, so I can see how my pretty?"  When I ask her to do something: "No, I don't like to, I'm too busy."  When she sees something broken, shifted or altered in any way: "Oh! What's that happened?"  When she wants to show me something: "What my got?"  Her favourite thing at the moment is to give me presents.  She will wrap up anything in anything, hand it over saying "Look!  A present to you!" and then do a little dance while I open it.  The dance is an Abi trademark, and also happens whenever she is particularly happy, or knows she is about to get 'clocklick'.

Abi's memory for the spoken word or songs is phenomenal.  When she pipes up in the back of the car, you never know whether you're going to get an entire episode of Mr Tumble or all seventeen verses of The Wheels On The Bus (the daddies on the bus say 'Hello, I'm Daddy', apparently.)  Together we enjoy fitting new words into old structures to make endless verses of all her songs.  Her current favourite is The Animal Boogie.  Last week she composed her own song about a train and I had it stuck in my head for ages.

The best thing about the current state of play is that they finally play with each other.  Yes, it might be for only two minutes at a time, but real interaction is happening!  They are able to make each other giggle, and enjoy each others' company!  I live for those moments.  I hope this phase lasts for a while.

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Mummy Reports 6

I am now one year and five days old.  It's time I gave you my final assessment of how my Mummy is doing as a Mummy.

Availability: 5/10
Mummy is now totally chaseable.  I can crawl at extremely high speeds, and when I reach her, I can climb up her legs and hang from her knees with my super limpet skills.  She has quickly learned that there is no point in trying to divert me from doing this, and generally scoops me up by the third high-pitched scream (I got that trick from my big sister - thanks, Abi!)  
I still need to work on Mummy staying with me while I sleep.  She sits with me for the full two hours that it takes me to GET to sleep, but then I'm pretty sure she leaves.  Sometimes it takes her a full 30 seconds to get to my cot when I call her at 3am.  However, she's still letting me sleep in the big bed from then until morning, so she's not doing too badly.

Food: 4/10
I was going to give food a lower rating because of the number of things that Mummy still won't let me eat, but then I remembered that she baked me a chocolate fudge cake for my birthday, so I added an extra point.  She called it 'miracle cake' because it contained no egg, gluten or milk.  She ate a bit too much of it herself, though.  I mean, it wasn't HER birthday.

Physical Care: 3/10
Mummy is still covering me in yucky sticky ointments every night.  I put up with it because I think it stops the itching, but the new shampoo just has to stop.  I don't care what she thinks it achieves, it smells EVIL!  What if one of those nice ladies at church wants to smell my head again?  It'd knock her out cold in the aisle, and then Daddy would be out of a job, and THEN where would we be?

Environment: 9/10
Mummy gave me some cool stuff for my birthday, which was nice of her, as I already have so many toys.  My favourites are the toilet roll, the wine rack in the kitchen, and the shelves full of books that you can pull out to make towers all over the floor.  Oh, and my ball.  I love my ball.  If I can't find it, I throw other things, but none of them bounce quite as well.

Entertainment Value: 10/10
Mummy is still very funny.  At the moment she likes to pretend that she has mislaid my nose.  She keeps asking me to find it for her.  Odd.  I must meet up with another one year old and ask whether this is normal behaviour for mothers, or whether I should be worried.

All in all, Mummy hasn't done too badly.  She still has a little way to go, but I'm confident that she can learn.  I think I'll stick with her.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Spring Harvest

We went to Spring Harvest.  It was held in Butlin's, Skegness.  It wasn't warm.

Each member of the family experienced it rather differently.  TheRev is to Spring Harvest as Scrooge is to Christmas.  He enjoys bumping into people he knows (and there were some people there that we were deliberately bumping into, too, which was great) but he spends the remainder of the time on the sofa in the chalet, flicking apathetically through the programme planner and making little grunting, snorting noises.

To be absolutely fair to him, we both went down with some flu-like thing which the children were only just shaking off, and so spent most of the week feeling dreadful.  I blessed the fact that there was childcare.  I crawled to some seminars, wrote a poem, and through a feverish haze I experienced Abby Guinness's Word of the Wives monologues (marvellous) Footprints Theatre Company's Fishy Tales (great fun, though I missed a lot of it chasing a baby) Doug Horley (my hero of children's songwriting) and Adrian Plass, who still managed to get a laugh out of me even though I felt as if I was hearing his reading through hot cotton wool.  I also bought far too many books, and managed to conduct a meeting with One Way UK's director largely using sign language, as I had absolutely no voice.

For Abigail, the best thing about the entire week was the fact that there was a giant statue of Bob the Builder between our chalet and our breakfast.  New every morning was the sight of him, and each time he appeared on the horizon, she exclaimed with as much surprise and passion as every time before: "Look!  It Bob the Builder!"  Sometimes she also treated us to the theme tune.

Jeremy had a new shape sorter to keep him occupied in the chalet, and became adept at posting the shapes through the right slots.  He seemed to enjoy the nursery sessions, and the fact that everybody made a fuss of him when I carried him around in my long wrap.  He loved Doug Horley.  And he didn't sleep worth beans.

 A poorly Mummy takes two children to the All Age Celebration
Abigail meets the Compassion elephant (we sponsored a child almost exactly her age, and met Wes Stafford)

All in all, it was not Spring Harvest as we have previously known it, but it was a great family holiday.  Perhaps a tad overpriced considering how much - or rather, how little - we were actually able to get to.  I'd go again.  I doubt TheRev will let me, though!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Mummy Reports 5

My Mummy has now been my Mummy for nearly ten months.   It's time I updated my ratings of her performance as a Mummy.

Availability: 2/10
Mummy has actually started to LEAVE me in places.  As in, for SEVERAL HOURS.  Regularly.  On purpose.  With OTHER PEOPLE.
It's not that I actually mind when it happens.  Mostly, the other people are very nice and have decent toys.  It's the sheer AUDACITY of it that I object to.

Food: 4/10
Unbelievably, Mummy has started to cut things out of my diet.  Just when I thought she was getting somewhere, too.  I haven't tasted cheese for weeks, and the vegetable count is suspiciously high.

Physical Care: 2/10
Our bathroom is starting to look like an extension of the kitchen.  This is because Mummy keeps putting food in my bath.  First it was porridge oats, which made the water all slippy and milky.  Now she's dunking Rooibos tea-bags in there.  Despite this, she still won't let me drink the bathwater.  What's all that about?!

Environment: 8/10
I can stand up!  By myself, without holding on, look, no hands! 
It's a wobbly, short-lived stand, but still!  Everything looks different from up here.  The carpet looks slightly cleaner, and the table top looks slightly grubbier.  I like a bit of variation in my view.

Entertainment Value: 10/10
I've worked out a new way to wind Mummy up.  All I have to do is repeat a word or a sound that she says, and then never say it again.  The results are hilarious to watch.  "Jeremy!  Did you say duck?!  Say it again!  Duck!  Duck!  Duckduckduck! Duck?"  She goes on for hours.  She finds all the ducks in the house, pulls duck faces, makes duck noises - it's classic entertainment, really.  Tomorrow I'm going to say Penguin and see if I can make her waddle.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Sucky Saturday

In general, for a Rev's wife with children, Saturdays tend to suck.

It's not just because TheRev works at the weekend, though of course he does. Nor is it just because he works harder on a Saturday than most other days, preparing for Sunday.; though of course that is true too.  I can accept that a clergy family simply needs to get used to having Daddy home on a different day.

The thing that really makes Saturday so much more sucky than other days is it doesn't afford the same distractions that the other days do.  During the week, I can fill our time with toddler groups, meeting up with people, leaving at least one child at the childminder, errands, shopping and visiting local attractions.  On Saturdays, however, everybody else is having their family time, so there's no-one to go and see; no regular groups are on; shops and local attractions are crowded and sometimes doubly expensive.  So, while everybody else is having fun and relaxing, The Rev's Family tend to have a stay at home day, performing mundane tasks and failing to do any housework that actually shows. The children go mad from containment and over-exposure to their exhausted mother, while I attempt to prepare songs, puppet sketches, performance poetry and visual aids for Sunday, all the time entertaining and feeding the children and clearing up the mess that they are constantly creating.

(Of course, once children are at school, perhaps this is what Saturday is like for everybody?  Except that in plenty of other families, there are two parents, or at least an extra adult somewhere, freed from work and present to deal with the extra demands of the weekend.)

I have a bad cold at the moment too, so I had a feeling that today would turn out to be a train wreck before it even started.  However, there's a technique that I have learned as a parent that keeps me sane.  It's called perspective.

I could easily say that we did nothing and achieved nothing all day and that it was miserable, and from my perspective, that would be true.  After all, we began the day with four back-to-back episodes of Show Me Show Me and we never left the house.  But from the children's perspective, today wasn't so bad.

We had a singing session with Nicky, my puppet, and all the musical instruments.  Abigail made lots of cups of tea in her kitchen.  Jeremy practised standing up by himself, even managing to stand and wave a flag at the same time.  Abigail did some of her Bob The Builder activity magazine and drew her very first person with arms and legs sticking out of the face.
(Just to be clear about this achievement, I drew the round shape under the helmet and she added eyes, mouth, hair, arms, legs and a chin.  She was very particular about the chin.)

We ran round and round the kitchen table for no apparent reason. We danced to loud music.  We built towers and knocked them over.  We tidied away all the toys in the playroom and then got them all out again.  We started to tidy the airing cupboard and got distracted by using old curtains as cloaks and wearing half a shape sorter ball as a crown and then trying to walk without the crown falling off.

My children are fun to be with.  Even though it was Saturday and the pre-child me would have crawled back under the duvet - today was an OK day.

All the same - I'm glad I have a week to recover before next Saturday.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Conversations with Abi

Abigail's stories are getting longer and longer.  Sometimes she tells them with a book in her hand, just as if she's reading, and sometimes she tells them at the dinner table as if it's conversation, but they generally all sound the same: an assortment of what she's heard during the day, including television, nursery rhyme and grown-up speak.  She's like a little tape recorder that turns itself on and off at random, and you never know when she will stop recording and hit play.  You also never know when she is recording, and she has an unnerving habit of doing an exact impression of me saying something like, "Goodness gracious me, look at all the mess in here!" six weeks after I actually said it, or coming out with words like 'watermelon' after hearing them once two months ago.

She scampers into my room in the morning, once Daddy can't restrain her any longer from disturbing my 'lie in' at 7:30am, pokes me in the eye and exclaims happily, "You wake upped!"  Then she clambers into bed and begins: "I'm Abi-gay-wuh.  Hello Abigaywuh, wouldjoo like to play with me, the lady said.  She play lots of toys, she say, and she want a cuddle up the stairs and down the slide and into the balls. I said atishoo atishoo I say, all flellover, in the balls, and we bounce on a trampoline and this is the way the baby say wah, wah, all day long, all fall OFF."

Good morning, Abi” I respond. What else can I say? I have absolutely no idea what she's talking about. It's tricky, because she could actually be relating something that happened yesterday at a playgroup while I wasn't there: in which case, this would be the first evidence that she has an awareness of sequence or narrative. It's entirely possible that she played with a lady in the ball pit, that she was helped up and down the slide and that they went on to sing nursery rhymes about falling down while bouncing on the trampoline and jumping into the ball pit. On the other hand, this lengthy speech could be a stream-of-consciousness style combination of nonsense and echolalia, and Abi might be just as clueless as I am about its meaning. I suspect that was true of this evening's offering, however much it sounded like a conversation:

Glory, glory, gloooory, God is there 'cause he is everywhere. Jesus is hungry he say.”
Jesus? He's hungry?”
Yes, Jesus want a cuddle and he eat a biscuit biscuit.”
Right. Jesus is eating a breakfast biscuit.”
God want a biscuit. The crocodile not want a biscuit biscuit.”
No, I don't expect crocodiles eat breakfast biscuits.”
There a spider coming.”
Is there? Do spiders eat biscuits?”

...and on, and on, and on. My replies are futile attempts to shed some light on what actually goes on inside her head, and to prevent myself from going completely crazy. As far as I can tell, the landscape of Abigail's mind looks like a sort of infantile painting by Salvador Dali, where all the eggs are Humpty Dumpty and everybody keeps giving each other cuddles.

No, wait. That's oddly familiar...

...I think I've just worked out why In the Night Garden is such a popular television show for toddlers...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Potty Training One

Disclaimer: Ok.  I promise you, this will be the only time that I talk about potty training on my blog.  It's a subject that no non-parent really wants to read about.  It's a prerequisite of every parenting blog, though, isn't it?  And it was mildly amusing.  Well, it was if you were there at the time.

We're not really potty training yet.  It's taken several months to persuade Abigail to sit on the wretched thing - it used to scare her.  Perhaps she thought it was going to swallow her, bottom first.  Anyway, she now sits on it and counts to 10, before and after her bath.  This does marvels for her counting ability,but so far not much for actually using the potty.

A couple of nights ago, TheRev had the foresight to get her on the potty just as she was starting to, ah, bear down.  So for the first time, something actually went into the potty that wasn't a book, a teddy or a stolen piece of my jewellery.  As a result, I did a little dance and song and fed her chocolate.  Apparently this conventional first-potty-success ceremony was a mistake.  This evening:

Me: Abi, ready to sit on the potty?

Abi: (sitting down) Chocolate.

Me: Oh.  Um, no, that's for when you do a poo on the potty.  Not just for sitting.

Abi: Chocolate?

Me: (Realising that we've never actually discussed this with her) No sweetie, you have to do a poo, like before, remember?  That's why I gave...

Abi: *grunting noises* No poo.  Chocolate?

Me: (Abandoning all plans and principles) Or a wee?  I'll give you chocolate for a wee too.

Abi: I finished.  Chocolate?

Me: But there still isn't actually anything in the potty, darling.  Do you want your nappy back on?

Abi: No. Chocolate.

Me: (At this point I am mentally scrabbling through the kitchen cupboard to work out whether I have anything that even slightly resembles chocolate, and drawing a blank, because shopping day is tomorrow) have to do a poo first. Or a wee.

Abi: (sitting back down, sweetly) Go and find some chocolate to me, and I do a wee.

(She didn't)

Marvellous. Pretty much her first use of a conditional clause, and it's to bribe Mummy for chocolate.  What an excellent job I'm doing of this whole parenting thing.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Mummy Reports 4

My Mummy has now been my Mummy for eight and a something-I've-lost-count months.  It's time I updated my ratings of her performance as a Mummy.

Availability: 9/10
I've done it!  I can crawl!  I can chase Mummy!  Although now that I can go wherever I want to go, chasing Mummy suddenly seems less interesting to me.  Do you know what's just on the other side of Mummy and Daddy's bedroom door?  THE STAIRS!  Who knew those were right there?!  They look like a fun place to play.  Sadly, my attempts to get to them have been repeatedly thwarted by Mummy scooping me up and replacing me on the bedroom side of the door.  The same goes for all the dusty grey stuff in the fireplace, the pretty colourful beads that my sister dropped all over the floor, yesterday's breakfast underneath my highchair...Yes, in fact I think I would prefer Mummy to be somewhat less available at the moment...
Food: 5/10
Mummy continues to have no imagination when it comes to food.  She should let me do the cooking.

Physical Care: 3/10
Mummy, that nasty sticky cream does not stop my neck itching.  Please stop slathering it all over me and use magic instead.  Also, I have had cereal in my left eyebrow all morning, have you noticed?

Environment: 10/10
Just loving how my world is full of ledges, shelves, handles and other peoples' legs that I can pull myself to standing on and use to get around.  Every new surface that I attain has something different on it as a sort of prize, like this really fascinating pointy shiny poky thing...hey, give that back!

Entertainment Value: 10/10
Do you know how to play peepo?  You pull a towel over your head, and everything goes black and Mummy disappears.  Then you drop the towel, and Mummy's THERE AGAIN and she says hello!  Funniest thing EVER.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Holiday of the Mother of God and of Thunder

Nunc Dimittis

No more weathering this storm
No more battling the storm
Clouded sky clears on a world washed white
At the end of my life, the beginning's in sight.

My life's boat is still on the waves
My boat rests on the still waves
My heart stops on the still water.

My heart stops still on the water
My saviour appears on the water
My saviour comes over the water

No more sailing through this storm
No more battling the storm
Rainbow appears on a world washed white
For a life just beginning, the end is in sight

For a life there's beginning
A saviour in sight

Slow Cooker Poetry

Sometimes, writing a poem is exactly like cooking with a slow cooker.

I wanted to write a poem for Candlemas, which falls on the 2nd of February and will be celebrated on Sunday.  I already knew the story: Luke 2: 22-40, in which Christ is presented at the temple and prophesied over by Simeon and Anna, including the Nunc Dimittis prayer (Lord, now let your servant depart in peace) which I associate mainly with evening services in Christ's College chapel, and a certain Taize chant.  Simeon goes off to die, joyfully and peacefully, while Mary is left pondering her newborn son's death, and the idea that a sword will pierce her own heart too.

So much for meat, a main ingredient, tasty but familiar and rather boring by itself.

I thought I would do some more research, so I turned to good old Wikipedia (correct 70% of the time since 2001) where I found the following ingredients:
  • Candlemas has to do with purity: the Virgin was being purified 40 days after giving birth.
  • It is also associated with pre-Christian customs such as jumping through fire in order to be purified before conceiving.
  • In Poland, it is called (loosely translated) "The Holiday of the Mother of God and of Thunder".
  • Traditionally, candles were blessed in churches and given out to families, who used them to put lights in their windows during storms.
  • The Gospel reading set for this Sunday if Candlemas is not being celebrated is the calming of the storm.
  • Candlemas is traditionally the last day of the cold winter, but only if it rains on that day.  If it's sunny, winter will go on for another six weeks.
Having written all those ingredients down, and stirred them for a while, I poured two more stories into the mix: Jesus walking on the water, and Noah's Ark.  I wanted to include Moses in the Bullrushes as well, but there was no room in the pot.

Then I switched the slow cooker on, and left it for a while.  Sure enough, when I came back to it, there was a poem: each ingredient had shared its flavour with the rest, and found a common language to unite the whole.

The only problem with slow cooker poetry is that sometimes I worry that the ingredients have all become so mushy and indistinguishable that nobody will be able to work out what any of them are or where they came from.

Perhaps it has to do with how long I leave it in the pot?

On the other hand, perhaps that is where the analogy breaks down...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Maybe it's because I had a baby near Christmas, and maybe it's simply to do with bringing up children, whenever their birthdays are: but there's a place that I go to in my imagination to ask unanswerable questions about first times.

I wonder about Jesus's firsts.

When Jesus first smiled, I wonder who he was looking at?  When he first crawled, what was he trying to reach? What was his first word, and did anybody other than his parents understand it?  When he drew his first face, whose did he say that it was?  (Abigail's was Thomas the Tank Engine.  So much for sentimentality.)

I wonder what Jesus's first taste of solid food was, and whether he liked it.  I wonder what it was that made GodOnEarth give his first laugh.  Which song was his first attempt at singing?  Who was there to witness his first steps?  Which earthly object was the very first one to be pointed out by God's pudgy human finger?

The thing that I love about all these questions is that they all have answers.  We will never know the answers, but because GodMadeMan existed in a physical time and place on this planet, the answers to those questions exist, too.

That's why asking those questions has the same effect on me as my first visit to Pompei did.  I was about fifteen.  I remember standing in an immaculate, almost complete building, surrounded by beautiful wall paintings, and being told that the building had been standing for about a hundred years before the volcano erupted in 70AD; which meant that it had been standing for thirty years before the birth of Christ.  It made me think, "It wasn't that long ago".  And, although the place had nothing archeologically to do with Jesus, it made me think, "It really happened.  He was really here."

That snapshot of memory returns whenever I hear the words, 'Emmanuel - God with us.'

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snow Day

Abigail's never been very sure about snow before, and this is the first year she's really participated.  Even so, it took several days of snow before she was willing to stay out in it, walk on it, and touch it.  

It may have been the fact that she was finally enjoying herself in the chilly white stuff, or it may have to do with the fact that, every night since before Christmas, she has drifted off to sleep listening to The Snowman on CD; but my suggestion of building a snowman was met with great enthusiasm from Abigail, who brought large armfuls of snow and patted them onto the mound.  She soon had the hang of it.

Then Mummy's imagination began to get a bit carried away.

 What's it going to be?
 "What's this stuff?  Snow, you say?  Doesn't taste of much.  Bit cold.  What are you doing, Mummy?  Is it dinner time yet?"

Snow me snow me...


This is not a conventional snowman, Mummy.  Not like the one in the film.

But I like it.

After that, I showed Abigail what a snow angel was and that was it, she didn't want to come indoors!  She plastered herself all over the remaining fresh snow, making oddly wingless snow angels.  The problem was that she was flapping her arms on the vertical plane in the air, rather than horizontally on the ground.  It was hilarious to watch.

When she finally came in, sopping wet, there was a log fire courtesy of TheRev's freshly chopped logs, and a chicken and leek pie courtesy of Sainsbury's frozen pastry.

Best day.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Isn't 'Ohrwurm' a great word?  It's German, and when I first learnt it, the Germans seemed to be the only people to have such a useful term for 'getting a tune stuck in your head'.  Recently, though, I've noticed the word 'earworm ' on Twitter and the like, so evidently we've adapted it.

Ohrwurm, I've discovered, is a real hazard of parenting.  Right now, Jeremy is sitting beside me playing with a toy which emits a highly irritating tinkly tune that gets stuck in the mind instantly.  Just when I've forgotten it - after days sometimes - one of the children finds the toy again.  There's another one in the bath, and several more on the toddler-friendly app that Abigail enjoys using on my phone.

And then there's television.  That's even worse, because if you're humming a theme tune, you're advertising the fact that you watch that particular programme to every other poor, blighted parent in the supermarket - and probably sending them home with the same ohrwurm!  And it's always the worst tunes, from the worst programmes, that are hummable.  Iggle Piggle's song from In The Night Garden is instantly catching, even though we only ever watch it by accident.  Timmy Time is another one, right down to the exact tone of the irritating 'baaah's.  Abigail seems to suffer from Ohrwurm too - she's already showing herself to be very musical, and quick to pick up tunes accurately, which is lovely -  but if there's anything more irritating than inadvertently humming "Once I caught a fish alive" in public, it's having a toddler telling you to hum it on repeat: "Mummy? Cos my bit my finger on it?  Mummy?  Sing that song!"

This is anther reason why Cbeebies' Show Me Show Me is currently in my good books. (Yes, Abigail is obsessed with Momo's Rainbow Song, but I can just about live with that one).  Many of the songs they use repeatedly are designed to be adaptable, so that each time they use them, the words are different and suited the theme of the day's show; and it's actually rather easy to do.  At least when I have one of those stuck in my head, I can be a bit creative with it.  Now when I'm cleaning the kitchen, I'm singing,

"Can you do it?  Sweep the floor,
Can you do it? Mop the floor,
Can you do it? Scrub the floor,
Abigail can do it, too!"

Or when we're hunting for one of TheRev's dog collars:

"Guess where it's gone?  Daddy's collar,
Where has it gone?  Daddy's collar!
It's long and white
And he needs it in his shirt,
Guess if you can!"

Cooking takes on a somewhat sinister note:

"Guess what I'm making? It's boiling!
Guess what I'm cooking? In my pan!
They're round and brown
and they have little eyes,
Guess if you can!"

Of course, to an outside observer I still look like a complete lunatic, but that hasn't changed much since before I had children.  At least there's enough variation and mental exercise that my brain doesn't atrophy completely.  So Show Me Show Me is regular viewing; and if I end up with a persistent Ohrwurm of Momo's rainbow song in the supermarket?  Well, that's where being a ventriloquist can come in very handy...

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Mummy Reports 3

My Mummy has now been my Mummy for seven and a half and a bit months.  It's time I updated my ratings of her performance as a Mummy.

Availability: 5/10
Mummy is beginning to learn that it's no good trying to leave me anywhere by myself for very long; I can lean and reach things quite far away now, and if she wanders off, all I have to do is grab something small and bring it to my mouth and she races back again.  I am working on being able to crawl so that I can chase her, but by then I might have her so well trained that I won't need to.  She is spending quite a lot of money on wraps to carry me on her back, all in different pretty colours.  Although this is silly behaviour (I really don't mind what the thing looks like!) I encourage it because the more expensive the wrap, the longer she will have to use it in order to get away without a guilty conscience.  Her newest one should keep us going for at least another year.

Food: 8/10
At last, Mummy let me eat what she eats!  She gave me my first food about two months ago.  I can eat anything now, so long as it is not so small and pesky that I can't get hold of it.  I never realised that food could be so much fun!  Everybody else is so boring when it comes to eating!  I like to rub mine into my hair, see how much of it I can hide under my chin, drop pieces inside my babygrow to save for later (especially fun in those onesies with feet) and use it to paint the kitchen alternative colours.
I have to say, though, that Mummy does not quite reach full marks on this one, because I have noticed that what she serves has become quite samey.  I'm sure she has repeated several meals more than once, and she seems to show a dislike for anything sticky or brightly coloured.  Odd, because those foods would be the most fun to play with.

Physical Care: 3/10
I still have no clothes.  Sometimes Mummy leaves me in a sleepsuit all day - it's not dignified.  I've also spotted her putting me in outgrown stuff from my sister.  Someone needs to let her know that's not on.  I don't care if Abigail did wear a lot of blue; if it has puff sleeves, it's not for boys!

Environment: 7/10
We've been getting out and about a bit recently.  I like that - different things to look at. We visited Nanou and Papy, so I had a whole new house to explore.  Can't say they let me explore it much.  Can't say I agree with Nanou that knitting needles make bad teethers. For a while I thought Mummy had really got the hang of improving things at home, because she brought in an enormous tree and covered it in flashy lights, but then only a few weeks later she took it away again.  Odd.

Entertainment Value: 10/10
I live in a family of stand-up comedians, but Mummy is the funniest.  You should see her doing the Groovy Moves from Show Me Show Me when she thinks no-one's watching.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


Epiphany always reminds me of the story of Baboushka.  It's not just because the story centres around the journey of the Magi, but also because the end of the day of Epiphany has the atmosphere of Baboushka's own visit to the stable: she is the one who sees the aftermath.  She's too late.  The stable is empty, the special baby has fled to Egypt.  It's the atmosphere produced by a bare tree, decorations in boxes, white-looking walls where the cards used to hang.

In one of my favourite moments from Les Miserables (I must see that film before it leaves the cinemas!) Eponine sings passionately about the beauty of the starlit river as she walks beside it imagining herself with Marius.  A few lines later, she stops dreaming and sings "He is gone; the river's just a river."  So it is for Baboushka: he is gone, the stable's just a stable.  The animals have gone back to chewing the cud, the angels have flown, the star has moved on, and much as she might try to grasp some of the holiness of the place, Baboushka knows that she's missed out; and the innkeeper leans impatiently in the doorway, wondering whether his stable might become enough of a tourist attraction that he can start charging people to see it.

Without the glitter and excitement of Christmas, the house feels like just a house.  Every year I face the same challenge: how can I at once allow myself to go with the all-important waxing and waning of the seasons, fasting and feasting, celebrating and contemplating, while at the same time remembering that the person whose life I am following is everlasting and consistent?  How can a season-dweller worship an unchanging God?

Baboushka gets up and continues seeking the Christ Child (and the song that I've known since my childhood goes, "Baboushka, Oh Baboushka, you'll find him in your heart", but she never seems to listen.)  As for me, our family chalked our Epiphany blessings on both doorposts of our house today.  The house is not just a house after all: it's a place where children will grow, where friends will be found, where creativity will blossom (well, that's the hope!) and encounters with the living Christ will be had.

Happy new year!