Monday, 28 November 2011

Such a good day

Saturday was one of those days where everything seems to go right.  It had threatened to be difficult, what with The Mister having to work all day at the National Engineering and Construction Recruitment Exhibition at the NEC, Big Grin under the weather and on antibiotics, and me usually using Saturdays to nap and catch up on sleep but obviously not able to if The Mister was out.  But Big Grin was loads better, and last thing Friday night I bought a Groupon deal that saw me, Little Feet and Big Grin heading to the NEC for the Good Food Show, at a fraction of the ticket price.

First thing, the girls had their usual dancing lessons, which as I haven't got round to learning to drive yet, is handily within walking distance.  Then we headed back home for a snack, which they ate while I sorted the washing, then back out for the 20 minute walk to the train station.  I have not been on a train from Coventry towards Brum on a Saturday for a very long time and hadn't bargained for the crowds.  I then prepared the girls for standing on the 20 minute journey, but no, we got two seats between the three of us, which still just about does.

We arrived at Birmingham International station and headed for Subway and a quick lunch, before heading into the NEC.  Very excitedly we had to use two long travelators to reach our destination, which the girls thought wonderful.  Alongside us and in front was a cleaner, pushing a huge trolley of rubbish.  I joked that we were going so fast we'd catch the cleaner up.  He must have heard as he looked at us then sped up.  What ensued was a good-natured race between us and him, with him gallantly slowing down when we got stuck behind a crowd, and us running round groups of people to get in front again.  We reached the end ahead of him, with him saying, "You won!"  What a good sport, and such a highlight of the day.

We knew that The Mister was in hall 11, and wondered if we could go and see him.  It was a free exhibition, but when we arrived you had to register.  Knowing full well I had no intention of making use of the show - engineering and construction not being my forte - I sidled up to one of the men on the door and asked if we could pop in to see their Dad, pointing to the two cuties in matching pink coats that I had holding on to each hand.  We were referred to a much younger guy, who ushered us over to someone else, when a lovely lady piped up, "Yes of course, no problem."  When I asked where we might find The Mister's company's stand, she escorted us there, only to find he wasn't there.  When I mentioned that he might have gone to have some lunch she then escorted us - chatting all the way - to the exhibitors' dining room, where we came across a rather surprised Mister!  What a lovely lady.  The Mister couldn't quite believe we'd blagged our way in without registering, but I did point out I had two rather cute kids with me to pave the way.

After saying goodbye to him, we headed for the Good Food Show.  I was rather keen to make use of the cloakroom facilities, as my huge winter coat and the girls' puffy pink coats are rather a handful to carry around, especially in a crowded exhibition when you're trying to keep track of two kids and you can't hold their hands as they're full of coats.  First one - full.  We were arriving rather late in the day.  Second one - full for coats, luggage only.  I approached the desk and could see the two men getting ready to turn me away, when I said, "If I stick these coats in bags, would you take them?"  They grinned and said of course they would.  I struggled with the two pink coats to stuff them into my rucksack, then they very kindly said they'd just hang my coat up for me, to save any more struggling.  And it only cost me the price of checking in two items instead of three.  Very pleased with that.

Then we entered the show.  The girls had never been to anything like it, and initially both really enjoyed tasting things and looking at all the stalls.  They managed to get loads of free stuff like stickers and sweets that I on my own obviously wouldn't have been given.  We bumped into people from church, and there was generally a very pleasant atmosphere.  At one stall the guy was selling all kinds of homeware goods, and was shouting out in market fashion.  I haggled on something I wanted to buy two of, and quick as a flash he agreed and had a sale.  Something else that makes me very happy - successful haggling!

We were sitting on the floor, Little Feet and Big Grin eating a sample of something or other, when a man called down to them, "Enjoying yourselves down there ladies?!"  Little Feet asked, "Who was that Mummy?"  I replied, "I think it's someone famous, off the telly."  Blank - from them.  They were not impressed.  Not only do we not have a television, but it seems that the whole concept of fame has so far passed them by.  What a lovely innocent way to be.  I'm sure it won't be long before they are lured by the glitter of fame and fortune, but on Saturday, it was a touching reminder that we are all just people, after all.  (It was Gregg Wallace, from MasterChef, by the way.  I looked him up.)

Big Grin was by now rather fed up and fractious, but as The Mister had finished his show early, he took her home on the train while Little Feet and I stayed a while longer.  Since she started school a year and a bit ago, I hardly ever get time with her on my own, but get loads of one-on-one time with Big Grin, so that was a bonus.  We went round tasting a few more treats then headed back along the travelators to the station, where we walked straight on to a train.  Although we didn't get seats, we did find a spot with plenty of room for Little Feet to sit on the floor, and then The Mister and Big Grin picked us up from Cov station in the car, so we didn't have to do the last walk home.  Just as well as Little Feet had been suspiciously quiet for a while.  Sure enough, that night she started with a high temperature and a cough and is off school today, but still it didn't diminish what was a lovely day.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Who's protecting you?

This morning Little Feet and the other children in Reception walked to a local theatre and had a very engaging tour, hosted by the theatrical parents of another child.  I was one of the mums privileged to be asked to help walk them there, and was provided with a high visibility waistcoat so I could stand in the road holding up the traffic, affording the kids safe passage across.  What I hadn't bargained for was that in the process of being a pseudo-lollipop lady (minus the stick), I would of course end up leaving the road after the last child, putting me at the back.  I would then have to manoeuvre myself very quickly past the long crocodile of children to the front of the queue in time for the next road.  And of course it was wheelie bin day, which meant performing a strange kind of slalom between bins, trees, meandering children and the ubiquitous dog poo.  I managed all right until I got chatting, forgot about the road ahead and had a very mad dash, streaking passed amused four and five-year-olds in my high-vis yellow.

While I stood in the middle of the road one of the teachers joked, "But who's protecting you?"  I missed an opportunity there as my slow wit only allowed me to chuckle.

Monday, 11 July 2011

You don't know what you've got till it's gone

For four or five years I've been meeting friends for coffee nearly every Monday morning, first with just Little Feet and then with Big Grin joining us too when she was born, and then without Little Feet as she went to Nursery and then school.  Over time the friends have changed too: people have come and gone and the numbers have waxed and waned.  The day we had a posse of 15 and had to push 3 tables together was a good day.  For the last 3 and a half years we've met in Ikea Coventry and availed ourselves of free tea and coffee thanks to their family card scheme.  We've learnt how to play the system, how to beat the queue if all you require is a few mugs and don't want to get stuck between the barriers, herded towards the 99p cooked breakfasts.

And then, all of a sudden, it was over.  Everyone except Big Grin and I had somewhere else to be, but it wasn't announced and celebrated.  We didn't have a Last Monday, clanking our Ikea mugs together toasting our lives and times.  There was just a realisation that we hadn't met for a couple of weeks and weren't likely to in the future except for exceptional circumstances.  And it was a bit sad.

Friday, 4 March 2011

No longer loved

Yesterday I overheard a snippet of a loud and fast-moving conversation as a group of young buggy-pushing mums passed me in the subway: "...and he said, 'I don't love you anymore,' and I was like..."

And that was all I heard. It might not have been about her. It might have been reported speech from another conversation with a party not present. But it made me sad, because someone somewhere is no longer loved.

Personally responsible?

On Tuesday we had a family trip to the dentist.  Big Grin (3) was as good as gold and opened her mouth and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience.  Little Feet (nearly 5) had already decided that morning she wasn't going to cooperate and flatly refused to open her mouth.  In her defence, she is slightly man-phobic, and being tactile isn't her thing, so it wasn't going to go well anyway.  The Mister and I were both lauded for our own teeth-brushing, and informed that we were in the dentist's top 2%, and according to him, he's picky.  He isn't too worried about not being able to see Little Feet's teeth as hopefully we'll be taking care of her teeth as well as our own.  When we got home I said to The Mister that I would feel personally responsible if either of the girls ever got tooth decay.  Somewhere along the line I wouldn't've been doing my job properly.

That got me thinking.  Would I feel the same if they got heart disease from leading a sedentry lifestyle?  Or dropped litter?  Or robbed a bank?  Or were mean to other kids at school?  Or turned their backs on God?  How far am I responsible for the choices they make in their lives?  This parenting lark is pretty heavy.  We pray; we follow the Bible's guidance; we try to impart the good stuff, to live the good stuff; we teach them to make good choices; but ultimately we leave them in God's hands.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sanctifying the Ordinary

"And what do you do?"

"I'm a wife and a mum."

But that isn't the full story!  I'm a child of God, loved and redeemed, and while that may not be enough for the 2011 UK mindset, it is for me.  As long as I don't listen to the seeds of doubt planted in my mind.  A couple of weeks ago I was doing the dangerous thing of navel-gazing and wondering what I'd achieved in my life, and what I should be doing with my life, especially when our youngest goes to school.  It wasn't entirely misguided: I do want to make sure I'm doing the things God wants me to do.  Then He spoke to me.  "Sanctify the ordinary."  Of course!  How could I forget?  I have heard it all before - that as I'm doing the laundry or washing dishes or kissing a bumped knee I should do it all for the glory of God, because it really matters to God.  But sanctifying it - setting it apart, making it holy, special, different - seems to bring it on to another level.  It's not just doing the chores without grumbling so God will be pleased; it's making it count eternally.

Yesterday we were so blessed to have a bride leave for her wedding from our house, using our home to get dressed in.  What can be more ordinary than two people coming together and getting married?  It happens all the time.  It's certainly not extraordinary.  And yet it is so special, and I was honoured to participate in sanctifying the ordinary simply by opening up the home God has given us, and by hosting the bride's father in our spare room too.  Such a small thing and such a big thing.