Category Archives: Dad

Jam tomorrow or ‘jamas today?

I am not sure I should give you this whole post today.

But in the interests of getting straight to the point, and also as I may well forget to, here it is. I’m pondering Deferred Gratification again today.

My children are increasingly keen to have their material needs and wants met, and know exactly who to ask for satisfaction. I am repeatedly amazed at my son’s confident trust in expecting a pleasing result, or his tenacity in alarming responses should less preferential alternatives be suggested. What keeps me going is knowing that his sister (who still checks in frequently with requests) is now able to accept a refusal more often than not should the request go beyond the egg/fish category. It is ok to be firm, fellow-parents. It is appropriate to say No to children at times, even when the price is right. My daughter Lily recently explained to Joe that we couldn’t get something because it was ‘too much money’ which wasn’t true, but was also happy for me to correct her. Am I a mean parent? Not at all; I recently had to forego a large proportion of my comfort Pop Tarts in the interests of making mealtimes a happy experience for all concerned. Who wants their children to grow up not knowing what things cost or where they come from? Joe asked me this evening if chocolate came from paint. Nice thinking. Perhaps we should be writing some kind of letter to Cadbury’s…

Ah, but all this talk of confectionery, and no Jam.


I was at mum and dad’s recently, discussing the perfect state of jam. Dad and I agreed that the pleasure derived from starting a new jar of jam was far greater than the scale of the thing, especially when you consider going back to it the second time. Second day jam? Not  special. But then dad pointed out that finishing a jar, knowing you have made space in the cupboard, and also anticipating a new jar to start the next day – that really is something special. Jam indeed tomorrow. And jam today, so doubly happy. The best experience of jam could well be finishing the jar.


Tomorrow I don’t know if I’ll have jam.

Tomorrow I would ordinarily be running a toddler group and racing around with my control-freak head on. We usually get around 40 children a week, and there is a lot that happens to make the group work. Tomorrow marks the first session I won’t be there for a while, ‘signed off’ for a sabbatical half-term. I will have to make other plans to keep Joe amused. We can’t stay in pyjamas all day. Actually, we could, but it would not befit the school run or hanging out the washing.

Tomorrow I’ll miss the people, the activity and the joy of seeing my little boy running around in church playing and having fun. But I am not sure that tomorrow or any tomorrows in the near future I would be capable of what is required of me: meeting people and not panicking, staying in a room full of noise, remembering the details, watching a number of activities, training, leading, guiding, opening up ideas. I will post more about what is happening to me soon – maybe tomorrow. For now, this jam jar is right out of jam. But finishing the jar is sometimes really the better part of the whole experience.


Who knows what’s in the cupboard for tomorrow?


Game boys and girls

The kids are sick. This is not modern youth speak indicating their coefficient of cool; they are actually sick. Joe is ‘nose runny again’ and taking out shares in his parents’ bedroom by night and Lily has been off school for a week and working on her amateur dramatics skills at every opportunity with her parents. In my opinion she still has a long way to go. Nothing big, exciting or clever in the illness department. They will recover and all will be well again. And in the meantime I am grateful for being able to grab a few hours today to make progress in a number of important areas as my parents have bravely stepped in.

I have not been able to interest the children in crafts or other messy activities and would not want to while both have the attention span of a goldfish in a forgettery. Parking children in front of a TV (short programmes only) or allowing them to play educational games on the CBeebies website has been particularly successful, but not the ideal situation. They are not in a useful state for helping with chores, sadly.


So I raided my brain and realised that there were some other ideas. Back to Old School play.

My sister – the one who makes films – recently let me have her old Game Boy. Wow – that brought back a few 90s memories. I was so jealous of the kids who had these when I was younger. It was a very long ferry trip for the German exchange as one of the few 13 year olds not to have one. But they are good for heuristic technological play, as it turns out. My son can now play ‘Stack the Shapes into a Really Interesting Tower’ which – at Level Zero – buys me enough time to put a load of washing on. And his sister can practice her Being A Teacher and Telling Him All She Knows about technology from a previous generation. Because she loves history so much. And also how to make it start again.




I expect it won’t be long before he is better than me, but I will not be publishing evidence of that, clearly. Then there’s the game of What Ancient Objects Can We Find In The House Which Can Be Used For Creating Music?

This is what Joe came up with when I found him amusing himself the other morning:


He doesn’t really have an invisible left hand, that’s just his rhythm-copying. Educational? I should think so: international drums, music and history lessons all without trying too hard. I guess it goes to show you can always benefit from having a few things in the house that you don’t mind being hit by a two-year-old. Especially if they are not people.

And then I was feeling so nostalgic, and excited that Joe may be tall enough to visit Legoland this year, and enthralled to have discovered that I invited him to help me rebuild my Best Christmas Present Ever. Released in 1984, Lego Castle model 6080 is quite something. By this point Lily was back on the computer games, and I don’t blame her. What used to take an afternoon of sorting and building took three or four sessions with Joseph, much of which was spent explaining how to place things symmetrically and not to hurt your fingers or mix the wrong lego trousers and tops. Fashion, history, technology, maths… who needs school? I even had to get out two pairs of tweezers to rescue the lego string and had to substitute half a dozen pieces of highly hooverable shape from other sets of more interesting colour. This is proper lego. This lego actually weighs a serious amount. It smells of the mid 1980s. It makes me happy deep inside. All this was lost on Joe, who thinks it is a glorified drawbridge (it is a wonderfully glorified drawbridge in fact). It turns out several other female friends had the same set when they were younger. So perhaps I should shift the Lego Friends and pursue a more historical and adventurous agenda with Lily. When she gets off the computer, that is.


Changes of seed

My mini-orchard is growing! I am so excited I have upgraded them to Premium seating and am even remembering to offer them a drink several times a week.


The middle pot is still winning. However, I am loathe to prick them out in case I kill them all in the process; their roots may prove to be too close so we’ll have to wait and see whether they survive in the long run. If you know anything about this, do leave me a message. I am already aware we are unlikely to get edible apples, but as a green experiment it is fascinating for me and occasionally the rest of the family too.

Joseph enjoys helping me find new things for the guinea pigs (hay in this weather, particularly) and I’m sure it was my dad’s influence on him that led to this happening today:


Apologies for the poor photo quality (especially to my cousin Pete, whose blog here explains how to do it much better). I will need to keep it clean and well seeded, but after some very fat pigeons took all the seed I left out on the ground this morning while numerous smaller wild birds skittered around fruitlessly I decided enough was enough. I’m not even sure what the pink thing is, but Joe found it and hopefully our local passarines will like it. Berry and bug flavour. Yum.

Just in time too, for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on 26-27th January. By then I intend to have learnt a few more names of birds. Perhaps I should use twitter to update you as I go. I do have a twitter account which now feeds here, but don’t tweet that often yet. Here is the sheet to use if you are interested (it links to the actual one):


Birds not shown actual size

One generation shall praise Your works to another – Part II

So here is the second of the three-parter.

Yesterday I mentioned the first point in a sermon we heard on Sunday about what the next generation needs: Wisdom and Knowledge. As an educator I agree. Our children need to learn How to Live more than they need to learn How to Make a Living. Else what is to stop them rioting, joining gangs or believing all they have to achieve in life is a record deal?

Secondly then, we heard that the next generation needs to learn Character as a moral compass. Learning to do the right thing, especially in tough situations. The Telegraph today suggests that women have a better tuned moral compass than men, and that those in their early sixties are at the peak of their intellectual and moral powers. The old and wise officially have something to teach us. Didn’t we know that already?

Who were the wise people in your life?

I remember my grandad as an old and wise man. He wasn’t always old, but he happened to be by the time I met him. Life had taught him a lot and his character had been finely tuned. What passed down to me from him, primarily through my father, were values of hard work, faith, dry humour and attention to spelling. Even though I didn’t spend much time with him, I had huge respect for him. I am certain Grandad learnt his moral compass from growing up in the environment he did. He wrote many things down in his memoirs, and I am grateful today to be able to read his story. I personally think everyone should write memoirs. Not everyone is ready to learn others’ wisdom (or even life experiences) in the time frame they have to talk with them and there is so much good we can pass on to our families through our stories by recording it.

An important turning point in my Grandad’s life was when he became a Christian as a teenager, thanks to wisdom worked out by a young doctor, family and older lads around him who showed that the Christian life was not only normal but desirable. After this Grandad felt a lot of peace and the Bible began to make sense to him. He was attending a church called Latchett Hall, whose history one can see online now.

Grandad grew in character and learned maturity through responsibility. He fought in the war, married and had four sons, worked hard to support his family and tried live his faith by example. He was solid. He was someone I am proud of and proud to be associated with.

And now my brother, his grandson, is coming to the end of his time training in mission and is about to start employment at the same site, working with Youth For Christ in Epping Forest. One generation impacting on another. My brother coming back to the place Grandad grew in faith and invested in young people. Through much effort by others around him, primarily our parents and the youth leaders at the church we grew up in, much has been invested in my brother. He has grown in knowledge, wisdom and character. He has resisted, and would be the first to admit it, but he is solid too. I am proud of him and proud that he can re-invest in Epping Forest and in training up new generations there in the way they should go.

I will not ever never forget you Beaky

I have this little daughter Lily. She is small and very funny. Lily has an imaginary dog called Beaky that no one else can see. She drew a picture of him here:

[Owing to errors in a previous post, I now cannot remember whether Beaky features to the right of the tiger, or on the right hand side of the tiger. I suspect Beaky is the one on the left.]

One day Lily said ‘Beaky died on his birthday’ and we asked how. ‘Beaky had a party and he died and now I have a new dog called Chadderly’.

‘Chadderly?’ we asked. ‘Chadderly? As in Chudleigh?’

‘No’ explained Lily, ‘Chadderly, from the London Advent Calendar‘.

‘Chudleigh from the London Advent Calendar?’

‘Yes. Chadderly.’

This did not make enough sense to us, so we asked about Chadderly. What did he look like?

‘Chadderly is the colour when you mix your ice cream.’

‘Do you mean when you mix chocolate and vanilla?’


Lily then had to tell Beaky and Chadderly off for jumping on the furniture, despite neither of them existing and one having apparently passed away, which brought that conversation to an end.

The next time we visited Grandma and Grandad’s house Lily wanted to see Chadderly on their London Advent Calendar. It is not putting it too strongly to say that Lily is obsessed with the London Advent Calendar. She can tell you what most of the dates do and every day of the month she reminds you of the equivalent last December. The London Eye is the 3rd. The Restaurant with the scary silhouettes is on the 5th and therefore will be ok to watch when she is 5. Big Ben is on the 1st. The Three Boats Come Sailing In is on the 6th. There are a number of others, as you might imagine. Lily makes up songs about it. She talks about the animals. She tells stories about them. She has decided that her teddy Archie will go to the St Paul’s Cathedral school and church (17th). She looks forward to going to Grandma and Grandad’s house mainly to play with their London Advent Calendar.

Here she was at Christmas getting a big fix, in my absence.

Except there was a problem.

You see, Chudleigh (ahem, Chadderly), looks like this:

I don’t know when you last mixed chocolate and vanilla ice cream, but I recommend it. It does not, however, come out black.

The Real dog Lily had in mind was this one:

This is Bertie. So, goodbye Chadderly and goodbye Beaky. We will not ever never forget you. And welcome to the madhouse Bertie from the London Advent Calendar.


Try saying stretchy neck.

Then try saying it with a NZ twang: stritchy nick. Now faster. Szczecinek. That’s it. Well done. You can pronounce a town in Poland. Well, according to my esteemed father this is how to say it.  And what is the point of this?

My brother, his wife and children are living in Szczecinek for a month, and you can find out why here.


This is how it works.

I have no idea how it works.

With 2 tiles to go dad is 181 points ahead of me and close to beating my all time high score. On his first game. Did I mention his first ever turn on Scrabble was a bingo? Or that bingo is an anagram of boing? (BOING: rebound, making a noise, BINGO: gambling game in which numbers are called out and covered by the players on their individual cards).

I will beat him next time. Or perhaps the time after. (AFTER: at a later time).

I feel like I count again. Here are some ways in which God has enabled me to start looking up and beyond the abyss. After several days avoiding society at home I found that we were needed at a children’s birthday party. Explaining that we couldn’t go would have been pathetic and unfair to Lily, so we went. All four of us. In the end she had her face painted and I chatted with people about some useful topics.

Straight after this I went to a friend’s wedding, because I could not have forgiven myself for missing it. Roger is the most lovely, humble, funny church secretary you could ever hope to meet. He was widowed a few years ago and has grown up children, who are equally lovely, humble and funny. Roger married Gillian who is also a church secretary (at a different church) and a truly wonderful lady. The church was packed (two churchfuls plus extra family, friends, colleagues). It made for amazing singing and a joyful and loud service. I went without my husband and children but felt truly part of something special and that God was loving me through the event, as well as blessing many others. I am so excited for Roger and Gillian. The wedding was a good chance to see some folk who’d moved away or who I hadn’t seen for a while, which also lifted my spirits.

On my walk home I walked part of the way with an elderly lady who invited me to see the garden she’d been working on. Experience has taught me never to refuse these kinds of invitations; they cheer the elderly up enormously and you don’t have to say too much if they can’t hear you. She was lovely and even though I had to look her up in the church book at home (it is a large congregation), I was pleased to have met her and chatted about hollyhocks and moss on the lawn. I learnt when the street was built and that she used to be able to see right through to the ring road from her kitchen. I do hope I cheered her up.

So I had hoped to avoid people and I found my day full of people. All of whom taught me useful things about humility and my value to others.

Today I wasn’t sure if I could manage church, but I went along as we had agreed to go straight on afterwards to mum and dad’s. And what a service. God has been trying to get through to us about stepping out of the boat multiple times in recent years. Again the sermon, by a visiting speaker, was on Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water.

Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.

It is less of an abyss, more of an atoll. I still ache, but the aching is part of the healing, and tomorrow I get back to responsibility and reality. (REALITY: state of things as they are).

And in reality, I believe that I count. And am counted.

I have no idea how it works.