Tuesday, 30 August 2016


I nipped out into the garden this morning to peg out a load of washing. I knew 15-month-old Rizzy was coming with me, and obliged when she brought me her shoes. For the past few weeks she's roamed around barefoot, but she wouldn't be dissuaded from her (very expensive but fitted so you've got to have them for your precious darling) new Start-Rite shiny shoes, so I buckled them up for her and out we went.

For once we've been enjoying a warm and sunny summer in Coventry, so our only level bit of lawn has perished under our 10 foot diameter paddling pool. It's meant that at any time I've had to know where Biscuit and Rizzy are, and that if they're in the garden, someone very responsible has had to keep their eyes on them. It also became apparent that the pool was too big for Biscuit and Rizzy, so I hastily found a plastic box for them. Over the summer a smaller, boat-shaped pool made an appearance, but Rizzy certainly prefers the box. In fact she loves it.

I was not an adventurous child, preferring my excitement to come via the medium of books, and I really didn't like being outdoors. Picnics were my idea of torture. This child couldn't be more different. Her preferred state of being is outside, the wetter and muddier the better. She seemingly has no fear, whilst simultaneously assessing the situation to work out how she can accomplish her goals in the most efficient way possible. And she's quick, so quick. I can't leave her out there with that water for a second, and even if I know exactly where she is and I have a pretty good idea as to the course of action she's planning, it's like I'm powerless to stop her.

I hope and pray that her adventurous spirit isn't quashed, and that I'll have the grace to accept the accompanying extra white hairs on my head.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Failed again

I failed again today. Several times. Little Feet (now 10) was so excited about the baking I promised her "first thing" (when will I learn?) that she WOKE ME UP when I was having a sneaky lie in as Rizzy had actually gone back to sleep. Let's just say I wasn't best pleased to see her. She gracefully let me be for a bit, but of course one by one they appeared by my bed, so I might as well have been gracious to Little Feet and kept my promise.

Then I failed again, attempting to discourage Bin Grin from helping her. I don't know what I was thinking. They wanted to cooperate. They did, despite me.

Then I shouted at them, when instead of piping 12 Viennese fingers out of the whole mixture, they piped 16 minute pencils and put them in the oven - leaving three quarters of the mixture in the piping bag - while I was preoccupied with the other two. Shrieking past the girls, I whipped them back out of the oven and moodily scraped it all back in the bowl, making them "Do it all again!"

I criticised their application of the chocolate on each end, making them feel inadequate.

And they tasted divine, so wonderful I didn't get a picture of them. We ate them too quickly. (Well Rizzy didn't; she gnawed the chocolate off then spread the remainder all over the patio. She still enjoyed it though.)

I did apologise. I told them how wrong I'd been, and that I was sorry. They extended such grace to me. I have to pray and trust that God heals the damage, because I can't. ("Take a plate and smash it on the floor. Now say sorry to it. Do you understand?") I have to pray that God changes, redeems, prunes this ugliness in me, soon. One day, I will have no spot or stain or blemish of sin. Yes, my sins are forgiven, but I long for the day I no longer choose to sin. Happy day indeed.

Grace is a gift we don't deserve. Little Feet's parting words to me at bedtime were, "Good night best Mummy in the world ever."

Friday, 26 August 2016

Idle threats?

I think The Mister was doing battle over brushing Biscuit's teeth and washing her face this evening. There was a lot of discussion coming from the bathroom. At one point she was singing menacingly, "I'll break your legs! I'll break your legs!" ( - at the big girls' request earlier we'd listened to Whip Nae Nae and Biscuit has slightly misheard the lyrics), and then she resorted to her favourite threat at the moment: "I'll put you in a care home!" She's three.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


"How's your summer going?"

Why has the ubiquitous, well-meant question about the passing of the last four and a half weeks been jabbing at me, accusing me, sewing tendrils of guilt around me? Is it the lack of the big 2 week static caravan holiday this year, friends' facebook posts highlighting what we're missing? Or even the relatively few 'outings' I've taken the 4 of them on compared to other summers? We've hardly even explored the locality as I'd envisaged. We haven't baked each week, crafted every day, played hours of board games. We've pottered around. But it can't be enough surely? I'm not giving them enough, taking them out enough, challenging them enough. I am not enough. There. That's it, isn't it? I don't measure up to the expectation. My expectation. Their expectations from previous summers. Everyone else's expectations. But daily I have prayed that God would redeem the time, that we'd do the things he wanted us to do, see the people he wanted us to see. I have struggled with not having A Plan, not realising that I don't necessarily have to. Most mornings haven't been rushed. The big 2 have got up when they wanted, having slept enough to be a bit more civil. They've often read their library books for hours before thundering down the stairs for breakfast. And that's OK. Actually, they haven't been that bored, and if they have, they've found a way to entertain themselves eventually. The truth is, I am not enough. I could have devised a jam-packed summer schedule that left us all still longing for more, because it wasn't right. Instead, this summer, we have rested, recharged, reinforced relationships that were, shall we say, strained. And I am continuing to learn that my God, El Shaddai, is The God Who is Enough. And you know what? The holiday calendar the girls created doesn't look that empty after all.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Impostor Syndrome

"Impostor Syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud"."

"We think you should blog," said a few friends.
"What about?" I asked both flattered and a trifle alarmed.
"Being a mum. Having four kids. You always seem so organised. We like hearing your stories and advice."

No pressure or anything. And I'd sort of forgotten I'd tried blogging and got bored with it a few years ago. Anyway, never mind the notion that I don't really have anything of import to say (we'll see I suppose), I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the pedestal I'm teetering on. Any minute now I'm going to be found out. It's messy. It's loud. It's not always happy. I do not know what I'm doing. Most of the time I have no answers, no strategies. My goals lie abandoned along the way. My eyes dart left to right. Anyone else here feel like they don't belong, like it must be a mistake that they've been entrusted with moulding these precious young ones? The panic rises. Then, I look up and calm down.

Psalm 121 (NIV)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip –
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you –
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm –
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and for evermore.

So, I don't need to worry. Things will go wrong, but God's right there. It's not about me. I needn't feel an impostor if I realise I can't do it on my own anyway; I'm not designed to try to be a mother to four girls on my own. And Isaiah 40:11 says of God:

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."

We can be pretty hard on ourselves at times, but that's far from what God has in mind. He gently leads us. We just have to follow. 

The Hopkins 6 on Holiday. The Untold Story. Or, Why I'm Not That Wonderful.

This is what I wrote on Facebook on 13 April during a rather taxing holiday. I'd been posting regularly about it, trying to make the best of it. (Yes I forgot I was on blogger and wrote it as a Facebook note.)

The Hopkins 6 on Holiday. The Untold Story. Or, Why I'm Not That Wonderful.
If you followed the ins and outs of our recent holiday (thank you) there's a whole parallel story that coexists with and even underpins our adventures. I can no longer keep the untold story, er, untold as some of you are thinking we're some kind of uber family or I'm an amazing person, which tempting as it might be to pat myself on the back in supercilious smugness whilst boosting my ego with the likes, it just won't wash. The events of that week, my family, me: we're part of a much greater story, a very minor subplot in a story so ancient it goes back to Before Time.

But first, why aren't I amazing? Well I am of course. We all are. Yes, even you. Really. Each of us is gloriously created in God's image, reflecting all that is good, pure, exhilarating yet also each of us is looking over our shoulders, banished from Eden, so very far from perfect. Who hasn't been disappointed with themselves? Disgusted with themselves? We can't just shake it off. It doesn't work like that. Of course we can bury it, push it down and down until we hardly hear it, but it's there. Me? Amongst other awful things, my natural bent is to moan, complain, think I'm hard done by, think the world owes me. Things go wrong? I'm a victim. Why me? Why my family? It's not fair.

Then enter centre stage, where he should be in this story, Jesus. He wrote the story, is the story. All our stories are subplots that only make sense if we know the Full Story, the True Story. In the beginning. He was there. Jesus. A love story. Then: betrayal. Action and adventure, indeed, choose your own adventure. Destiny calling. (Make of that what you will. Happy to discuss free will vs predestination in a PM! ) The back story leading up to him and the Greatest Story Ever Told and the author bursting into the scene itself, the 4th Wall broken and Jesus as the leading man, but in no way best actor for it was no act, no imitation. The real-est, most true story ever. Then skipping forward a bit, moving on some 2000 odd years and oh! It's me, alone, not good enough, my natural bent choosing misery and insecurity. Until I noticed his hand that had been held out all along and I took it and he pulled me up from the pit and I followed him, clean now, my spirit lighter. Free. Jesus.

And so began the changing. If I at all have a positive outlook on life it is as a direct result of my relationship with Jesus and him changing me to be more like him. I can't take the credit. My new nature is not completely installed yet as my old self returning to old habits causes it to buffer, but over time and with prayer the percentage bar goes in the right direction.

So you see, it's not me, it's him. Plus, my family hasn't got it all together either. Remember, Facebook is a filter. I only put on my timeline what I want on my timeline. My family is dysfunctional at times. Relationships fractured. The Mister taken for granted because I'm not thankful. Parenting found wanting. Children behaving so hideously we almost came home 4 days early from our holiday. No joke. No exaggeration. Desperate prayers from The Mister and I outside the car while they were strapped in the car, and this before the shambolic beginning of our stay on the last holiday park. No I didn't put that on Facebook. I filtered it. It's not perfect because we're not perfect. But there is grace.

And what grace we were shown that holiday, from a lovely time in St Andrews and with my friend Caroline Main to much nicer accommodation in Craig Tara and 2 extra nights. But there's more than that. It could be viewed as coincidence that, having booked Monday to Friday in Craig Tara, for no good reason we added on a trip to St Andrews the weekend before rather than the weekend after. Had we been going on to somewhere AFTER Craig Tara, we wouldn't have been able to extend our stay there. It could be viewed as just one of those things that I ran out of time before going away to schedule a grocery delivery for the day after our return, and it was just as well, as we stayed away 2 extra nights. It could be wishful thinking, a flight of fancy, that kept me awake a fair while once we'd moved accommodation, (praying, choosing to be thankful instead of moaning) planning to speak to the park manager in the morning to complain politely about what we'd been through, and that in my spirit I knew, just knew that if I asked for it we would be staying an extra night to make up for it. In my spirit it was a done deal. The Facebook status update already half formed. Then, the next morning, manager Charlene shaking her head and saying they were fully booked. Oh. I must have been wrong. But a refund for the night plus £50 vouchers isn't a failure, so don't be greedy. Be thankful. 2 hours later and we knew we were staying TWO extra nights not one. Double for our trouble. Then of course with The Mister and Biscuit goodness knows where admitted to the children's ward in hospital on the Thursday night, how glad we were not to be packing up and leaving the next morning. I choose to know these aren't coincidences, wishful thinking, just one of those things. It was all planned, written long ago into the story.

Why did God write in the tonsillitis, my baby suffering? I don't know and probably never will. Am I sad for Biscuit (and The Mister who barely slept and wielded the thermometer as if his life depended on it)? Of course. But maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't have written this otherwise, and then maybe you wouldn't have read this Untold Story. And you'd think the wrong person was Wonderful.

Pool Party - 12th August 2015 (yeah I'm rubbish at blogging...)

"Perhaps we could have a pool party." Early summer had arrived hot and balmy. The kids were still in school and I wondered aloud about a hypothetical summer holiday activity as we'd actually already got round to filling our mammoth 10 foot paddling pool. As anyone with kids knows, wondering aloud is a dangerous past time, and perhaps is an infuriatingly futile word. "Perhaps we could have a pool party."

There. I'd said it. For my nine-and-a-half-year-old and my nearly-eight-year-old that was as good as set in stone, and what I'd envisaged as a nice play date for them all was rapidly spiralling into a rather more grand and complicated affair. Mental gulp. I began reining them in amid thoughts of how I would - or wouldn't - manage. Although Rizzy at three months is not new anymore, it's still pretty full on given that nearly three-year-old Biscuit is challenging us with some creative attention-seeking behaviour.

I resolved however.

End of term came and the glorious summer weather went. Standing at the beginning of the six week holiday it didn't seem like a problem as we had loads of time. One wet and cold week passed. Then two. There were days and bits of days that felt like summer, and the paddling pool certainly got used. It got used by my loonies when it was only 16 degrees Celsius outside. Friends came and enjoyed it, but it wasn't the designated Pool Party, and there weren't enough friends for it to count. During Week Three Little Feet and Big Grin began to ask when it would be with more urgency. Weeks five and six would be spent away, so it had to happen by the end of Week Four. Every morning Biscuit began to ask, "Is it today?"

The upcoming weather wasn't brilliant, and I forecast bitter disappointment and recriminations. We'd been on plenty of trips here and there and met up with lots of lovely friends, but the lack of this Pool Party was beginning to cast a shadow. Friday evening end of Week Three I began to pray in earnest. By Saturday evening I began to feel a whisper. Wednesday. By Sunday morning I thought I should check out the forecast for the week (again). OK not much to differentiate between Tuesday and Wednesday but "Wednesday. Never mind about the forecast. Wednesday." Really? OK then.

"Girls, we're having the Pool Party on Wednesday. You can invite three friends each." They began listing; I began texting and Facebook messaging. Monday: chilly and dreary. Tuesday: weather improving but still not ideal. We weeded the garden and hit the pound shops. A great deal of the fun in having a party is the preparation. Without that it would have felt like merely having a few friends round. Wednesday: gloriously sunny and about 23 or 24 degrees C.

And what more is there to say? Twelve girls had fun for four hours. ("Are you sure you can cope with them for four hours? You're very brave... Be good for Emma, won't you?") There was the odd moment, the usual divide between the Splashers and the Non-Splashers, but the two-year-olds and the nearly-ten-year-olds and all in between enjoyed themselves. The other mums and grandmas that stayed pitched right in and it just happened. Rizzy obligingly had a nap for the trickiest part, the introductions and settling in, when one or two need suggestions for activities (Sandpit? Fishing game? Er, paddling pool?) and she wasn't too difficult the rest of the time.

The Mister came home from work to find me collapsed on the sofa watching Peppa Pig with Biscuit. "How did it go?"

"Good, thanks. Yeah. They all enjoyed themselves. But I wouldn't want to do it again next week."

The Mister,  remembering all the tidying up he'd been involved in: "Yes it's definitely a once-in-the-holidays thing."

"Oh dear don't institute it as an annual event!"

And the forecast for the remaining days before we go away? Wet.