getting ready…

Hooray!! The tree is up and decorated, and its looking beautiful. Our usual Sunday tea in the sitting room this week was accompanied by fairy lights, chocolate cake from friends and a roaring fire as the wind blew outside around the house. Idyllic if it hadn’t also been the most likely cause of absolutely full on behaviour that needed my undivided attention to navigate the many unexpected dangers (well OK some are so expected now they’re a given) of sitting together to eat and simply be together!

One of my gorgeous quirky little ones was just desperate to take it all in… which involved trying to crawl around the bottom of the tree not quite realising how much bigger she was than the space; collecting tree needles and posting them ‘carefully’ through the baubles’ hanging loops; climbing up onto everyone’s lap when they least expected it… and enjoying it so much the climbing carried on beyond laps, up, over, off, on again & round; taking a bit of all the food on offer just to get stressed out by it having touched something else, of being slightly different, or not quite right… and only nibbling a few things, and revisiting the feeling of joy & release that came from throwing the odd bits she didn’t want; enthusiastically dancing taking all the available space and more, and dragging me in to partner… and rounding it all up with trust games that I didn’t at first know were about to begin! Add into all that joy and hilarity the bumps, knocks, invaded space (of course my other gorgeous quirky ones needed everything toned down and were craving personal space!), worries over food, the hot drinks, the fire, the mess, the unstoppable, untameable energy, relentless noise, and of course the constant vigilance for whatever was coming next and it wasn’t the most restful tea!!

In all the preparations for Christmas there is often this mixed up bundle of explosive energy, anticipation and joy, and for us as a family it is more often than not accompanied by heightened awareness of sensory issues, and anxiety. None of that has stopped us looking forward to it all. I love catching up with family, we don’t live really close to each other so having some time to spend together is really special. It is satisfying to find time to fill the freezer with cook ahead goodies, and to choose, make, buy & wrap presents. We love the wonderful services we get to be involved in planning and leading at Christmas time (though sometimes I do find myself wanting just a few more hours in the day!) And quite a lot of the time we are involved in those as a whole family in some way which adds to the specialness (& logistics) of them. There are also the rather beautiful school services and plays, and the sleepless nights and challenging behaviour that come with them!

All said and done I am sitting here tonight (all are asleep at this moment so it’s quiet) knowing there is such a lot still to do to get ready…

Practically I am keen to get some sensory distractions at the ready (which would have helped I suspect on Sunday) so I can channel energy, and soothe frayed and jangled nerves… These all look like they could come together fairly easy & be useful – as well as lovely…

I have also got to get organised making the planned events clear and visible so we can count down to them and see the order they will come in. For now day by day is fine but once they break up from school I am imagining that I will find it useful to have a more detailed plan on view (including visual prompts) as the loss of the more predictable school day will increase anxieties. I came across these resources at ‘positively autism’ so I think I will make use of them and adapt them to suit us:

I’m also of course continuing to try and remain especially conscious of our desire to welcome God’s presence into the heart of it all.

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this is Mary – drawn by me, to practice a character for  book, coloured in beautifully by T.

Our advent candle and readings are intermittent but there – for which I am very thankful. And we have a strangely delightful extra layer to the liturgy brought by T – a little drawing of Mary that she has done and then tucked in with the readings is now being hidden before the meal & looked for with great excitement before we read (quite often with the jingle ‘where is Mary, where is Mary’ (Frere Jacques tune) being sung too) – I would love some suggestions as to the theological significance of this ritual, however I’m pleased T had an idea to bring, and that there is joy in the sharing!

don’t panic…advent is here

So, it’s Dec 1st!

We’re being brave again – I have chosen, printed out & laminated some advent readings. There’s a candle on the kitchen table ready to welcome us & remind us God is in the midst. I have a twig tree (v last min but feel rather pleased with myself for having it ready before tea!) to hang our readings on when we have done them…

All that’s left is the desperate need to remind myself to take it easy – one day at a time – don’t panic, any day we manage to do the reading together is great, any day during advent this feels stress free & enjoyable is a blessing, and any day its simply out of the question IS OK!!!

If you have recently joined the conversation you may want to look at the post ‘in the midst’ (https://clearlynurturing.wordpress.com/…/08/25/in-the-midst/)to see where my stresses are coming from… I still feel quite unable to believe that since we moved two years ago we have been (just about) sitting together to eat tea, and this has made it possible to try to mark advent together as a family. I went all out the first Christmas here (yes a bit giddy by the dramatic change & the possibilities it gave us) and planned my dream Jesse Tree… it was hard work, stressful, disappointing, crazy logistically, and beautiful all at the same time! Last Christmas we found a shorter version and tried again… and managed a few days throughout advent.

This year we are trying something different, perhaps more straightforward (here’s hoping), shorter, more succinct – and I am determined that I will not panic and fall into despair & discouragement when there are days (which there will be) we simply cannot even do that! After all it’s pretty close to a miracle that we are eating together every day in the first place, amazing to have an opportunity to create family moments to draw close to God together in our home.2015-12-01 19.56.24

What are you doing as a family during advent this year?

I’ll keep you posted on our progress, would love to hear about yours…

Celebration!

‘Listen, crunchy leaves!! That means its birthday time!’ -T.

All three oFeatured imagef our children’s birthdays fall in autumn, we are past half way mark now for parties! One still to go, but this afternoon there is time for a pause. I’m tired! Celebrations are tiring in out house, even if they go incredibly well – which so far this year they have. Quite apart from the party logistics of planning, sandwich making, balloon blowing, cleaning & then cleaning again afterwards, there is the anticipation of it, the enjoying it, the being with friends and family, all of the above are tiring for us – we needed those visual timetables, and lots of repeated reassurances.

Wouldn’t want to miss it though, a birthday is a reminder to celebrate (& yes I do quite often need reminders) – a punctuation mark in the year, to prompt me to stop and think, and recognise the blessings another year has brought. In our family life pauses are hard come by!! To get this little writing moment I have my youngest in the bath in the middle of the afternoon so I am only being verbally climbed all over rather than literally being a climbing frame at the same time as writing! Once I do find a pause to think in I realise again just how much blessing God pours into our lives year on year. Standing still and looking at my children one year older, taller, more grown up, more independent, more faith-filled, gives me such a lot to celebrate. God’s loving faithfulness surrounds them closer than our prayers over them.

For your loving-kindness is great beyond measure, high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches the skies. (Psalm 108:4)

(love this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx5i8XgDZjA)

This year our second party was planned and led by B & a friend. They started planning just before the summer holidays, deciding their theme – Teddy Bear’s picnic – and then gradually since then putting together ideas for games, food, party bags, designing invitations and then the day before making the birthday cake together.

teddy bear cake

It has been exciting to watch B taking her time carefully organising and planning (if you were a fly on the wall when we are supporting homework you would know this isn’t always easy or stress free). It all came together wonderfully, and as T’s friends arrived the party got underway it was calm (yes I know!), organised, fun, tasty – a real success. She led games with confidence, giving clear instructions – after years of leading children’s parties I know that’s not easy – and choosing winners wisely having thought through a plan for prizes beforehand. As you can tell I was so very proud. And when support was needed getting the food made and to the table on time, we had our lists and times, and A stepped up to help make sandwiches and make sure drinks were poured. It definitely made me realise how much growing has been going on in just this last year, good and supportive friendships have been made, confidence is being nurtured, and talents and gifts are being used for others. So encouraging. Some of that has been intentional on our part, making it a priority to encourage gifts and talents, most of it is sheer unexpected gift from God – the people and opportunities he puts in our way that nurture.

So we have one more birthday (and party) to go this autumn, I am glad of the opportunity to be reminded – there is so much to celebrate, so much to thank God for. I can trust that God is at work in my family life, in the everyday, the niggles, the frustrations, the tiredness, the difficulties, the anxieties – God is at work, and he wants us to grow, more truly ourselves, more like Him! (and I need to hold onto that… next for me today is supporting half term homework, the geography project!!)

2 Cor 3v18

Oh no, not again! Epilogue

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So, apparently this makes us twins! Bright orange, she did mine, I did hers.

Just thought I’d update you on the ending of the school week. The day after the mini disaster, or dreadful mummy moment, T & I had a good chat as we got ready in the morning. It was decided it was definitely about time we had some girly time, and we made a plan for a sleepover (she hears big sister talking about such things!!) with all the essentials – cookies, a film & pj’s.

Friday arrived, cookies were somehow in the oven whilst cooking tea (an easy crowd pleaser… It has been a long week!) and so straight after tea we got our pj’s on, and took cookies up, and drinks, and sat cross legged on T’s bed. She chose something to watch, we painted nails, ate cookies, chatted & giggled. After one episode of the programme T says, turn it off now Mummy, it’s time for the next bit of the sleepover, what’s that I asked – well going to sleep of course!

As she sleepily carried on chatting she yawned, I like girly time, she said, we should have girly sleepovers lots more Mummy!

It made me smile as I tiptoed out to spend bedtime time with A, & B. I asked myself if the girly sleepover idea was inspired by the mini disaster experience? Would I have so readily agreed & entered in on a different week?

I hope I would, would you?

one little, 2 little, 3 little ladybirds…

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One of the wonderful things about where we live is ladybirds! There is a sycamore tree at the bottom of the road which they seem to love, and a bench next to it at the bus stop covered in lichen which has become a favourite winter hotel for hibernating. This month they are beginning to collect again on their bench, and so walks are becoming punctuated by ladybird spotting and spot counting! Each time we stop and look – and touch! – we see new colours, new numbers of spots, different cosy hiding places in the lichen and joins of the bench. Something so very ordinary to glance at as you walk by is actually a mini ladybird world to be examined and explored.

This year we have been able to observe them as they have come out of hibernation, and very excitingly we have found that the plum tree in our garden has been chosen as the perfect place for the larvae to make their cocoons – so we had the chance to see a couple emerge all wobbly and sit in the sunshine falling on of work surface in the kitchen as we prepared plums for jams and the freezer – one little yellow one with no spots at first, but which seemed to get definition in the sunlight. Amazing! And now it’s autumn again and they are finding winter homes on the lovely bench – how do the new ones know? Is it like birds just knowing where and when to migrate I wonder?

I love being drawn into my children’s wonder, and letting them lead me on these expeditions to explore new worlds hidden in plain sight, tucked into corners camouflaged by ordinariness. It is one of the many gifts that come with Aspergers – attention to detail, and intense focus on something that interests. For both my girls nature is one of those things, and time together sharing this interest is wonderful – OK it can be hard work too, finding out which insects live in the soil where I’ve only just planted something can be a little disheartening, sometimes you do find carrots growing in the oddest places when they have taken an interest in helping, and it is definitely easier one to one than it is with both! – nevertheless wonderful and very precious.

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Whether it’s ladybirds, frogs, watching a spider wrapping up a fly to save for later, giggling at the way Guinea pigs eat grass like we slurp noodles, keeping up with butterflies, measuring worms, being amazed at the shiny-ness of beetles or the brilliant camouflage of shield bugs, chicken whispering, discovering mice in the compost bin, singing to encourage baby plants, tasting freshly picked blackberries, or digging for treasure (potatoes to pottery), tucking seeds into their little beds, wondering how colour ‘works’, and what is sky?, learning to recognise the uniqueness of each of our robins, and distinctly different bird songs, being delighted by feathers, fluffy seeds and slimy seaweed or finding the silky softness of rose petals irresistible – they teach me to commit to the moment and show me the wonder of God’s quirky, gorgeous, intricately playful creation. In a real sense I know they are teaching me, and in those moments leading me to, a deeper understanding of God’s delight in his creation – and in us.

They are not restrained by social etiquette or the expectations of society about what an age appropriate response would be, in the way many of us are; age does not stop the necessity of splashing in puddles or keeping ladybirds as pets in a little house for a day or so.

psalm 104 v 24They seem to simply be in touch with a God instilled instinct to enjoy His creation, and to revel in its often unexpected visual beauty – and the beauty of its intricacy, and its intimate connections that hold it all together. They show me how nature is something to be nurtured and something that nurtures me. In becoming lost in the wonder and delight of it with them I sense that I experience, and perhaps have a glimpse of sharing, something of God’s heart; God’s own creative, playful, tender and protective delight in all He has made.

So how can I carry on learning from my children?

  • put down the gardening tools more readily perhaps to go and share their wonder…
  • carry on finding new ways to create opportunities for shared experiences in nature…
  • encourage them to put into words (or drawings) what they see and wonder at so it can be shared!
  • have been wondering about whether there is scope for sharing drawings like these, and our words of praise for Creator God in geocache so they can be found and perhaps inspire others??

What have you found to be ways of continuing to learn from your children?

In what ways do they reveal more of God’s heart to you at the moment?