Thursday, 28 February 2013

Believe beyond grief

When I lost my first baby, my little boy who was born sleeping, there was a lot of anger and questions... My whole being screamed "No!" and "Why?"
Here are my reflections on grief and faith, and acceptance. I don't pretend to want to give answers to anybody. These are just the answers I found for myself and that I have been wishing to share for a while.

One significant moment surrounding the loss of my first baby was a prayer meeting in our parish. The text was about Jesus's death and the words He cried to His Father "My God! Why have you abandoned me?" When I read this I burst into tears. It was so much like what I was feeling at the time.
I then rediscovered something that is at the core of my faith : we are free. We are free to make choices, the most important one being to believe in God or not. I think that God, as our Father, does exactly what fathers do : letting their children being their own persons, making their own choices and mistakes, willing them to be healthy and unhurt but not having the means to guarantee it. The difference of course is that God would have the means to keep us healthy and unhurt, but then we would have to believe in him, if only the very old or wicked died... And I don't believe that God  'sends' us trials or 'lets' things happen to us. I believe that he gives us Life, the whole of it, the good and bad, and things in Life sometimes just happen. And He knows, because His own Son came to this life and suffered so much, and died so young too.

Good things though, Graces, Blessings, I believe He gives to us. For me it was a shooting star, the first flight of swans I ever saw, a little owl perched on a gate in the early morning, clouds that looked like a baby, a particularly beautiful sunset, a kind word from a stranger, a new friend.

Even believing this doesn't make it any easier to accept that your baby dies... But for me, it brought acceptance, eventually. I often thought that my babies who were born sleeping were born somewhere else. They were not born to this life but to Life with God and in a way accepting this was like labour : painful and long but if I accepted the pain and offered it to God, it would at least be lived with more peace. That's what happened when I lost my second son, 6 years after his brother. I had already accepted, or maybe I reached acceptance just then,. and instead of being kicking and screaming inside I just waited until it passed.

My second daughter went through a phase of wondering about death and being scared. What I told her is that yes every body dies at some point, lots of people when they are really old, like her great grandmother who was 99 (!) but then in our family we believe in God and we believe that we live forever with Him and all the people we have loved and lost, including her two brothers, and her great grandmother, and her guinea pig Fluffy!

And this is quite important too for me, the promise, or the hope, of EternalLlife. It's so very big, Eternity, and our lives are so very small compared to it, whether we live 100 seconds or a hundred years...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Little train cupcakes

This week DS is potty training. To be honest I was starting to despair that it would ever happen!

It had been constantly delayed : The birth of his baby sister, a bad gastro enteritis that lasted more than 4 weeks and meant constant diarrhea, plus subsequent concern that he might be dairy intolerant, and just plain, complete and utter lack of interest on his side!

But having now reached the age of four, the start of school looming not far ahead and his key worker having flagged that she couldn't move his targets while he was still in nappies... We thought it was time.

And we've been pulling all the stops to motivate him. So today it's the Little Train cupcakes. It's not exactly as I saw it in my mind... I forgot to buy icing sugar when I was shopping so I had to use what I had at home, Demerara sugar, so the grass had a bit of a... tinge! The shop didn't have any liquorice laces and I had to do the tracks in strawberry ones... But still, DS liked it!

For the cupcakes I used :
6 oz flour
6 oz sugar (a mix of white and demarara as I ran out of white!)
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 drop vanilla essence
6 oz margarine

For the butter icing :
8 oz Icing (or so it should have been) sugar
3 oz butter

The train and tender are made of millionaire shortbread and liquorice all sorts.

Monday, 25 February 2013

More baking! - Monday Club

Looking after four children is fine, honestly. Until the youngest one gets poorly... And then it's mayhem!!!

DB started having a high temperature the Tuesday of half term. Luckily DH had that day off so it was ok. The day after DD2 was off to a friend's house for a sleepover so that was fine too.

It's on the day of the biscuits, Friday, that all hell broke loose... DB was really grumpy, feverish and tired in the morning and the other three were getting bored and needed attention. Endless siblings fights ensued and I got more and more frustrated as neither of them was listening to me and I couldn't do anything, sitting on the sofa, trying to allow DB to have some sleep.

So I felt it was no small achievement to take this picture: table clean, biscuit dough whipped up and shared, flour sprinkled, oven warming up. All between lunchtime and DB's appointment at the Doctor's, at which point one of my lovely neighbours was coming to look after the older three and have her share of biscuits, while I would for once be thankful for the doctor's appointment being half an hour late!

Monday Club

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cake salé (savoury cake)

Savoury cake is something of a tradition in my family as my grandmother used to make it.
She had a bit of land, including half of a small hill at the back of her garden! When on holiday at her house, in Gers, we would pack a picnic with a cake salé, climb up the hill and have our picnic with a view onto Auch and its cathedral. Then my brother and I would go down the hill running a fast as we could!

Savoury cake is great for picnics, buffets or brunch or even high tea. And the recipe could not be simpler!

I basically always use the same recipe, just changing the 'filling'. There are as many different combinations possible as what takes your fancy!

For 6 :
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetal oil
about 8 oz grated cheese

Today I added olives and ham but you could do sundried tomatoes and black olives, mushrooms and garlic, pepper and chilli, figs and walnuts, pesto (even better home made) and pine nuts, etc.

If you can it's nice to leave it 24h before eating it (which I rarely manage!).

You can do a vegan version with a soya or other dairy free milk (although I find the rice one a bit too 'thin') and egg replacement powder (I like to add two tbsp of milk per spoon of egg replacement powder, rather than water).

You can also do a gluten free one with half cornflour and half rice flour.

Taking a picture was a bit tricky as 1) I forgot to check if the cake was cooked and it was still just a little bit gooey 2) DH decided to take it out of the tin, turned it over and shook until it came off, that is until the inside fell down in a mess... I put it all back in and finished cooking it but it would never be the same again...!


Silent Sunday - 24 February

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Snap Happy: Doodle

That's our wall, in the dining room, next to the door to the sitting room. DS had drawn on it a while ago, then DD1 wrote his name and age next to it !

I think new doodles have appeared since then so... We might as well wait until they all have grown our of it before painting over it!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Blue balloons - Photo of the Week

Last week end was DD2's birthday. To celebrate she was allowed to have two friends for a sleepover and the day after we all (me, DH, our four children and the two friends) went bowling and have lunch at Mc Donald's.

On the picture we had just crossed the road (these are the stairs to go onto the bridge above the road) to get to the bus stop. The surroundings were not particularly cheerful but I thought all the blue balloons were !
Yes we indeed went on the bus as our London Taxi was still in the garage, the mechanics trying to dry off the engine (another story!) so they could do the necessary repairs. And... we lost one of the buggy's wheels on the bus!! It must have got caught in the luggage rack when we got off and we only realised as the bus was going away. I have tried several times to call the station central office but apparently nothing was found...

Anyway, we still had a nice time, although it was harder work than doing the same thing for DD1 (she's 10, her sister 8). Such a difference of maturity within only two years! One of DD2's friends in particular was wearing DH's patience very thin, having a bit of an 'attitude'!

Fun memories ;)

I'm linking up with Louise LLoyd's Photo of the Week !

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Prayer for Matilda Mae

I wanted to share this link to pray for Matilda Mae and her family. I hope that anyone, religious or not, will feel they can use this link and pray in their own words. Your prayer will go to a young girl, Claire, remembered and prayed to in a small part of the South West of France, not because she did anything particular but because she was young and full of joy and had a very strong faith. She died from meningitis at 21. She wasn't a nun, she isn't a saint, just a girl...

Snap happy: Media


On the wall next to DD1's bed: an article from the local newspaper about the group of children from her school (including her!) who went to the O2 arena to sing in the Young Voices concert.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Snap Happy: Sleep

DS, poorly with chickenpox ("Chickenpox doesn't live on monkeys!"), fell asleep in front of the fire yesterday afternoon (on a mattress from his sister's birthday sleepover).

Monday, 18 February 2013

Baking - Monday club

I just love how DS is concentrating on breaking eggs to put into his cake mixture. He's really good too!

Funnily enough he doesn't actually like cakes, but since I've bought a doughnuts tin and we put some of the mixture in it he likes eating his 'cake doughnuts'! It's a nice thing to do while his older sisters are at school and they get fairy cakes for school pick up.

It's strange... I don't remember enjoying doing that as much with his older sisters... Maybe I have a more relaxed attitude to the mess ensuing and the edible state of the finished product. Maybe he listens more. Maybe the circumstances are more favourable (when DD1 was 4 her sister was 2 and wanting to join in and when DD2 was 4 I had a newborn).

Whatever it is, it's a time to enjoy!

I'm linking up with Sarah Miles' Monday Club

Friday, 15 February 2013

Snap happy: Money

My piggy bank. DD1 had bought it for me from our local charity shop on a trip there on her own, a girl on a  mission! Very handy when a bit of change is needed, snack or lunch money, the chocolate doughnut for DS after playgroup, an unmissable bargain in the charity shop!!!

Photo of the week: promises

 Although there was frost this morning the last two days have been beautifully sunny and a bit warmer. Days full of promises of Spring, light, warmth, life. You know, when the air smells differently ?
I wanted to post a photo that reflected this, so here is a tiny little bud on a branch !

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Bedtime story for an angel

A tribute to Matilda Mae.

I often shy away from reading blogs that tell a story of child loss. It touches a personal pain easily awaken again...

But for some reason I started reading Jennie's blog, Edspire, and the heartbreaking story of how her little girl, Matilda Mae, died in the night.

Once I started reading I could not stop. The thing is that Jennie writes with so much love for her baby girl that it makes very compelling reading.

I don't know Jennie. I didn't even know her blog but I haven't been able to stop thinking about her and her family. I have been reading her tweets as she went through reliving the tragedy, a week later, as she had to make plan for her baby's funeral. And I prayed and cried.

Today I would like to dedicate the following story to Matilda Mae. It's about the beauty all around us and it made me think of her.

The Hourglass

There once were two houses on a beach.

One of the houses was a small stone cottage, a fisherman cottage. An old man lived in it.

The other house was a big, modern bungalow. A business man owned it and spent his week-ends there.
That man was eaten up by envy. Each time he looked at the small fisherman cottage he saw the old man, looking out of his window and smiling. It was a smile full of joy and peace. And the business man would have given anything to smile like this.

One day the business man decided to go and see the old man who had the reputation of being wise and able to help people. That would be the first time in five years that the business man made contact with his neighbour.

So the business man walked up to the door of the stone cottage, hesitated, and knocked. The old man opened the door almost instantly, as if he had known that his neighbour was going to come and was waiting for him.

Without a word the old man stepped on the side and gestured for the business man to come in.

The younger man entered the little house. It was very bare and dark. He thought “Not much to smile about...”. Then, as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, the business man saw that most of the walls in the room were lined with shelves. And on the shelves were rows and rows of hourglasses. It was a bit strange but the strangest was that in all the hourglasses the sand was in the top part and... it wasn't running down.

“Ah, said the old man, I see that you are looking at my hourglasses. I make them myself, from driftwood I collect on the beach, the glass I make and blow, and sand that I collect on the beach too. Come, I'll show you!”

Then the old man led the business man to a small table with two chairs on either side. He silently invited his visitor to sit down. He went to the rows of hourglasses and carefully picked one. Then he came back to the table and placed the hourglass in front of the business man.

The business man looked at the still sand, transfixed. Gently, the old man took his hand and placed it on the top of the hourglass. The sand started to run down, faster and faster, until it was running so fast that it looked like a clear brown ribbon.

The old man said : “This sand running down, it's your life, escaping you. You must find Beauty and keep it.”

The business man snatched his hand away from the hourglass as if it was burning him. “Do you mean, he asked, that I'm going to die?
 - No, no ! Replied the old man, I didn't say that Life is leaving you but that Your life is escaping you.”

And without another word the old man stood, went to open the door and gestured for the business man to leave, giving him the hourglass as he crossed the threshold.

As he walked in a daze towards his house the business man shook himself free of the impression of the dark room, the shelves of hourglasses and the voice of the old man.
“The sand in an hourglass, he thought out loud, my life escaping me! Silly old fool!”

Back in his house he threw the hourglass on the sofa and went back to work on his computer. But when later on he looked at the hourglass, lying sideways on the sofa, he saw that the sand was still running...
Seeing the man who worked his garden for him, digging outside, he went to talk to him. “Could you hold that a moment for me?”
The gardener took the hourglass and the sand slowed down, slower and slower, until you could count each grain falling down.

The business man took the hourglass back and the sand went fast again. Then he started running towards the village. He was getting scared. He saw some young boys watching the fishing boats in the harbour.
“Hey! Would you hold that for me for a moment?”
The youngest of the boys held the hourglass and the sand slowed down, slower and slower, until it wasn't running down at all any more.

The business man went back to his house, the hourglass in his hands, the sand going fast again. He sat down, head in his hands and thought about what the old man had said. He stayed like that the whole night and though. In the morning he had found the solution.

He was going to buy a manor, something with character and charm. His bungalow was sleek and practical but not beautiful. Yes, a manor would be perfect!

So in the following days the business man went in all the estate agent's offices in the area and he quickly found what he was looking for. It was a small but perfectly proportioned mansion with lovely panelled rooms and moulded ceilings. He bought it.

The sand was still running fast.

The business man spent another night thinking... In the morning he had found the solution.

He was going to buy a work of art, a painting, something created to be beautiful. A house could be beautiful but it was still a house whether art...

So in the following days he went in every art gallery. In each of them he said “I want to see the most beautiful painting you have. No! I want to see a painting that is Beauty itself.”

Eventually he found a portrait. The subject was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, with eyes of a mysterious and haunting colour. He bought the portrait.

The sand was still running fast.

The business man, once again, spent the night thinking. In the morning he had found the solution.

He would find a woman as beautiful as the woman in the painting, and marry her. He could not buy beauty but if he married a truly beautiful woman... That was the answer.

So, using his many connections, he started going to every big party, premiere, opening, any social event where he knew the most beautiful women would be attending. It took him a bit longer this time! But he found her.... A woman who looked very much like the subject of the portrait. She had the same eyes, of a mysterious and haunting colour. He employed all his charm and money to woe her and asked her to marry him. She said yes and they got married.

The business man did not love her, yet, but he married her.

The sand was still running fast.

This time the business man dud not sit and think. He packed a bag and left. He travelled the world in a quest for every thing that was beautiful. He got some silk in China, diamonds in Africa, and even a panther, a black panther in India.

But the sand was still running fast...

In the end the business man came back to his house on the beach. He didn't know what to do any more.

The business man went down onto the beach and looked at the stone cottage. The old man was there, looking out of his window and smiling.

Suddenly the business man turned his head and looked, not at the old man, but at the same thing at which the old man was looking. And he saw... the sea.

The business man gasped and felt that, for a moment, he could not breath. What he saw was so... beautiful.

It wasn't a stormy sea with formidable waves. No, just gentle waves, lapping at the sand.

It wasn't a splendid sunset of extraordinary lights and colours but green and grey and blue, a mysterious and haunting colour that reminded him of his wife's eyes...

It was nice, really nice. The gentle breeze stroking his cheek, the taste of salt on his lips, the shushing noise of the waves.

The business man closed his eyes and mouthed “Thank you...”

When he opened his eyes he looked at the hourglass in his hands. The sand wasn't running any more. It was filling up the hourglass.

The business man put the hourglass in his pocket, and he smiled...

In this story I wanted to talk about the quintessence of beauty.
  Last week I found it in a mum's love for her baby and in her baby's life. And I believe that this mum holds the beauty of her daughter's life in her heart.

Snap happy: Smelly


The family pets, in need of a good mucking out! Smelly...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Snap Happy: Favourite Invention

My favourite invention has got to be hot water on tap. 
Being able to wash my hands with warm water, having a dishwasher and washing machine, the central heating, are things that give so much comfort to our modern lives! And I just love my hot shower in the morning. Especially as we got into a bit of a ritual with DB and DS. DB playing peek-a-boo while I shower and DS being an Octonaut, the sink his Ocean, standing on his little plastic step and splashing away with Kwazii and Peso :D

Monday Club : Sweet Dreams

DB is now 16 months, just between leaving babyhood and becoming a toddler, although she actually doesn't show that much inclination for walking! I just love that stage of duality, of baby cuddles and first words, first steps, flashes of her evolving personnality.

She still wants to be held a lot and doesn't like me leaving her but shows independance in wanting to climb the stairs hersef, rather than being carried, insisting on eating on her own, spoon and fork at hand (she's even quite good at using them) and drinking from an open cup. She very much plays on her status of being the family's baby where her brother and sisters are concerned but will very well defend herself if I am not around andalready shows signs of wanting to boss them around.
It's just fascinating and highly amusing to observe her.
And she's still very cuddly, ready to laugh and delightfully excited when Daddy comes home.

This picture of her just perfectly portrays this stage,  I think. She had fallen asleep while feeding and eating a lolly pop! Sweet dreams, litterally :)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Photo of the week: Piggy back ride

DS was quite little he fell in love with one of his big sisters' teddies, a green, brown and black cameo teddy. He loved it so much that I got him the same one. After all he didn't have a teddy at the time and I think that every child should own at least one teddy!
Since then a blue little dog has somewhat replaced Teddy in my son's affections. But the other day he had climbed in his big sister's bed and, seeing her bear, remembered his and took it to nursery school.That's when I got this shot of DS carrying his teddy on his shoulders, just like DH carries him on his shoulders.

Snap happy: kiss

Wedding kiss...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Snap happy: My Pride and Joy

I hesitated before choosing today's subject for my picture...

I thought first of our London taxi but at this exact moment it's unfortunately more of a pain in the backside than our pride and joy...  What seemed like an easy thing to fix is taking gargantuan proportions and the fact is that we haven't been able to drive anywhere for weeks now...

I thought of our Phil and Ted buggy. Acquired when it was a rarity 8 years ago it was my pride and joy, but it's really a bit of a has-been nowadays and well passed its prime.

So here is my violin... I bought it in my early twenties. I was then working as a 'correspondant' for the local rag, the cheapest life form of journalist there is (I must have started being paid the equivalent of 1.2 p a line!!). I had very little money but plenty of time and energy. I took to sea kayaking, theatre, story telling and, after nearly 20 years of piano, violin. I first rented my instrument, then bought it. It wasn't really for sale but the guy from the music shop, who was a true music passionate, refused to sell me the basic study instrument I could buy with my budget. Instead he offered me to buy my rental, this simple but in my eyes absolutely beautiful violin from the early 20th century.

I played it then, 3 our 4 years, passed two grades. Then I stopped, had loads of children, and now that my youngest is nearly 18 months I've decided to bring back to life my beautiful, silent for too long, violin and restore it to being my Pride and Joy...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Snap happy: Royalty

My son reading the story of George, The Smartest Giant in Town. George is very scruffy and wears old clothes but he gets a gold paper crown for his kindness :)

Ref. "The Smartest Giant in Town" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Snap happy: Bread

Today's theme seemed like the perfect occasion to try out a recipe for Pretzels that I had pinned on Pinterest.

They look good, don't they?! Shame that some of the baking parchment has stuck to the bottom...!!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Snap happy Britmums: dans la lune

"Etre dans la lune" means to have your head in the clouds but translates literally as To be in the moon.

I was going to make a pot of tea. I boiled the water, put the bag in, started to pour the boiling water and realised that this was what I had done...!


The picture doesn't do it justice (it's hung opposite of the top of a flight of stairs with no natural light!) but this is a lovely drawing of a fishing boat by moonlight.

I don't even know who's the artist. It's an heirloom from an old priest who was both our landlord and neighbour.
My mum used to bring him his meals when he got old. He was of a family of five I think and every one of them had either embraced church or monastic life!

It's only years later (I must have been 19 when he died) that I realised what a lovely and interesting man he was.
We shared his garden but he left us the sole use of it, including the old apple trees that grew such delicious fruits.
Once my brother and I broke a glass of his conservatory with a tennis ball but he didn't get at all cross.
He was a very gentle soul and never raised his voice.

I'm really glad I've got this drawing to remember him!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Photo of the week: Pancake!

When I was little pancakes were sometimes a treat for our 'goûter' at around 4 o'clock. Then we had tea at 8.30. But with our children we've adopted the 5 o'clock teatime so they don't have a big afternoon snack like we did.

In our house pancakes are a regular meal. We have them with ham and cheese, bacon, sausages, anything really. The little ones are generally quite quick to switch to jam and chocolate spread!
I once tried to make pancakes for a 'goûter', my children didn't understand at all and thought we were having an early tea!

Pancakes were also a popular stall at school and village fetes. I remember being in charge of such a stall in my school when I was maybe thirteen our fourteen. Fond memories!

Snap happy, 2nd February: Groundhog day

In France the 2nd of February is called Chandeleur and, like Shrove Tuesday, it's a pancake day! We'll have savoury pancakes and sweet pancakes.

The little ones like bacon or sausages in theirs. For DH and me I've prepared this colourful winter vegetables stir fry.

For sweets I like a simple butter and sugar but DD 1 and 2 have gone to the shops to get Nutella and butterscotch Angeldelight!

Friday, 1 February 2013