The Adoration of the Christ Child

The Adoration of the Christ Child
See if you can spot why I like this image

Everything in its Right Place

A blog about disability, life, parenting, and learning what it means to live well in this world.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Princess Turns Three!

Last week we had Agnes' third birthday party, which she requested be a "Princess and Fairy party" according to her favourite theme of late. We duly acquiesced, though we had to hold it a day early as Daddy flew out to New York early on Thursday morning, her actual birthday.

The real theme of the evening, I believe, was improv: we found whatever costumes we had to hand and enjoyed a bit of live theatre with each other as audience before party festivities began. The pirate and the skeleton wrestled, the princess did some dancing and admired the Queen's gloves, the tiger communicated his distaste at being drawn into this nonsense, the skeleton and the princess danced, the pirate ate the princess' arm, the tiger stripped back down to his underpants, and so on. And most of us, on review of the photographic evidence, forgot to wash our faces after dinner!

Agnes enjoyed her presents, most of which had something to do with doggies. She loved (and used today for hours) her Minnie Mouse easel, the same one she sadly discovered in my bedroom earlier that morning and cried for desperately all the way to school! But the real delight of the evening was her new "Cupcake" bicycle--she immediately had to tear off her princess dress and hop on. What better way to express delight and truly experience your new present than to do it naked of course?!

She had asked for a princess cake, and I found that Sainsbury's had just the thing sitting on their shelf, so saving me from hours of baking, cursing and failing. Bliss!

Happy birthday Agnes, with many more to come!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Lessons from the Playground

Every afternoon I go to pick our middle son Caleb up from his primary school in Aberdeen. It's just around the corner from our house, which makes it much easier all the many days I need to take his brother and sister along with me for the journey. Most days that it's not raining or blowing a gale, Caleb asks to stay and play with his friends. I usually try to say yes, and then it becomes a game of What will end the play session first...friends go home or mom freezes?? Usually the latter!

The other day Agnes was at nursery and Adam was content, so I just sat on the benches, trying not to freeze, and watched the boys play. They run around in circles, playing this game or that one--mainly tig-and-tag. I haven't quite figured out if they just need to burn off their energy, need to assert some position in the "wolf-pack" (as they are known), or need to establish some level of friendship that the classroom has sublimated for the previous six hours. Probably they don't know either. Probably all three at once.

What I do know, having watched them for a while now, is that there is a lot of work to be done in childhood, and during this time that the boys are playing they are also most certainly working. Let me illustrate a bit more clearly.

Some days it's entirely laughter that I hear, happy noises from children content to run about and be free. The games go off without incident, nobody trips and runs to mother or father with a sniffly nose. It's simple, but still not easy. The kids are running non-stop. I see jackets flung off, faces become red and sweaty, and now and again one will stop and pause, hands on knees, to catch their breath. Physical work, good and pure. But another level, they are developing skills of what I call, for lack of a better word, layering. They are physically moving with a game, whilst keeping an eye out for the others and planning strategies, sometimes in a group, sometimes on their own. They are watching to see who is doing what, and beginning to really suss out what sort of behaviours will move them up a level on the playing field. Like birds in flight, they seem to sense when to move together and when to separate, and this takes a lot of energy and an awareness of self and others that is emerging.

But then, when conflict strikes, they are learning how to negotiate, how to lead and follow, how to speak to others, how to resolve the conflict (for most of the time parents are involved in their own conversations) and most to listen. I've seen some major arguments erupt, and one or two of the kids step in to "manage" it. I've seen kids run off so angry they can't speak anymore, and the others coming together to figure out what to do. When an interaction or game goes so bad that two or more have fallen out, the others are left to decide how to react, and you can see on their faces the intense work of processing that is taking place. Will I take sides? Will I find a new game? Will I ask to go home? (maybe not...) Well then, will I help sort it out?

Every day Caleb comes home and tells of arguments, fall-outs, and kids that are calling names. Sometimes he is on the receiving end, and sometimes he is part of the team doing the dirty work. He is learning how it all feels, what sort of consequences come and how to deal with them. He is learning to stand on his own feet and make decisions--some good, some not so good--and most of all to learn that knowing why he made them is just as important if not more.

But I think what is most difficult, and potentially what throws some children off the rails for good, is that their safe spaces are changing and they have to learn how to realign themselves in this adult world to which they are stepping ever closer. I can no longer keep Caleb safe at all times, or control most aspects of his world, or solve his problems. He came running to me today with tears at an injustice done to him by his best friend, which was of course provoked by the injustice he first did to said friend. What could I do? A bit of comfort and comfort for the other boy who then came over. Some words that I hoped were calm and encouraging, and a joke about everyone "smelling the barn" and being tired and cranky at the end of the week. Nothing more, and they were friends again. But that was not my doing, it was their decision, weighed up in milliseconds about how they wanted to end their week and treat their friendship, about what matters and the importance of forgiveness that they have heard over and over again.

Processing, processing. If we think that it's only we adults who do the enormous work of processing difficult issues and straining our minds on so many different levels at once we are kidding ourselves. If, in turn, kids act "like kids" sometimes, I can see why: everyone needs a break now and again in their work day.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!

A very warm welcome to 2014 from the Brock family to you!

This has been a good year: not the best of years, but to be honest I don't know if I even have one of those or not! It certainly was a decent notch above 2011 and 2012, and that's all we can ask for around here.

I had a look back at some photos tonight to remind myself of the highlights upon which to reflect. These included several trips and events for my (Steph's) work, like visits to both Shetland and Orkney and various fun days across the Diocese. There were a couple of school events for both Caleb and Adam including Sports Day at the Sports Village (Caleb) and a 10th birthday party at Woodlands for Adam. Also noteworthy of course were Caleb and Agnes' birthday parties, and a visit (two in fact!) from Oma and Opa from California. Oh, and in June we got chickens!! Yes, three hens we call "the ladies", Tilda, Foxy and Ben (the hen). They are fun, they are productive, and so far have survived the weather and the neighbourhood fox so here's hoping for another year to come!

We had parties, we had walks and play sessions out back, we had some crazy weather that Adam and I tried our best to record. But the three most memorable events of 2013 had to be, in order of amaze-balls-ness:

Number 1...Adam finishing chemotherapy for his Leukaemia on 09 October 2013, after two years and four months of treatment. Needless to say we celebrated and ate our fair share of cake!

Adam taking centre stage at his celebration at St John's (our church in Aberdeen)

Number 2...our trip to Germany in August, the first family holiday in all of Agnes's life and our best one ever!      

Three smiling little faces, at the New Botanical Garden in Tubingen

And number 3...finishing the work on our house which has left us with space to entertain, to eat together, to run about, to lounge ''upstairs" and to look to a future which includes friends and family around often.

Opening Christmas presents, with a view to the kitchen.

And a few more recent photos to send out 2013 in style...

The family on Christmas Day in front of the tree at St John's

Post-Nippy Dipper in Aberdeen on Boxing Day, with stalwart friends and brave dipping colleagues Sarah, Joy and Helen

Family Boxing Day walk to our favourite hill overlooking skies and sunshine!!

All in all it's been good, and we look forward to a new year of increased health and a return to normal immune functioning for Adam, we look forward to a short trip during Brian's sabbatical this spring, we look forward to 3, and 8 and 11...all good years for children I'm told! And finally, we look forward to more time with friends, more energy to pursue the things for which we were created, and more laughter and love to share around as we are able.

I hope and pray the same for you and yours, and hope sincerely that 2014 brings us into contact with friends near and far. We now have space for you if you come to the great North East of Scotland!

Happy New Year to you all, and God's blessings on you and yours.