Friday, October 31, 2008

Parenting Cry for Help!

It has been a while since I’ve written about parenting struggles, but here I am again. I feel like every day is a war, filled with small skirmishes over anything and everything. Not every single request is met with “No!” but a significant portion are. I don’t know if it’s because the kids have been so long without routine and chores, or what. I’ve bought a book called “Parenting with Love and Logic” which I hope will help me understand how to improve, but I haven’t had time to read it yet!

People in my Oxford church who hear that I’m homeschooling look at me like I’m crazy, and they say that they’d never be able to get their kids to do anything they said. I’m no different from them. Unfortunately I often resort to threats. But I don’t think that the answer is to send my kids to school and avoid the root issues. I’ve seen families function with peace, respect, obedience, and helpfulness. I’ve seen it with my own eyes! So I know my family can be different from the way we currently are.

And then during the good times, it’s so sweet and wonderful that I want to treasure the moments forever. I truly do love my kids and love being home with them. I just need the proportion to increase more in favor of good times!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So thankful...

The past six months have been challenging in many ways. For the first time, I experienced being the sole breadwinner, as well as living with family for an extended amount of time. Also for the first time, I moved across the world still not knowing where I'd actually live when I got there. Normal life has been challenging as the kids seem to fight a lot and complain a lot, and I struggle with my usual tendencies toward anger.

BUT -- I am so thankful!

I'm thankful that when Steve was unemployed, I had work that I enjoyed. I even liked getting away from the kids for a while.

I'm thankful that living with Steve's parents was a positive experience. I loved sharing housework and getting to know them better. Those days will be treasured for years.

I'm thankful that ever since the minute we arrived in England, God has been caring for us through dear Christians, Peter and Gwyneth Leaver, as well as others in our church. We didn't know each other previously, but now they feel like family! The Leavers drove us from Heathrow to their home in Oxford, housed us for two+ weeks, housed my mom for 1+ week, drove me to Asda (a big store) so I could buy a bunch of start-up things for our new house, put up with my loud kids, shared the cooking with us, and now are going to help us move in to our own place.

I'm thankful that my kids have been as flexible as they have been, though I often forget what turmoil they must feel from having moved so much in the past month. I'm thankful for their smiles, their laughter as they chat privately together, their creative drawings, their zest for life as they dance in the autumn leaves or shout excitedly because we're riding a bus.

I'm thankful that tomorrow we're moving in, and that my mom has been here to help watch the kids while I've been doing business. I've loved her company and will miss her when she leaves in a few days.

And last but not least, I am overwhelmingly thankful for the sweet way God is encouraging us through friends and family who are praying for us and giving us gifts to help with our high costs. I have felt so blanketed in love, when I've heard that friends in VA miss us and pray for us, or that friends elsewhere are sending us sacrificial checks.

Thank you, God, for your very many blessings...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Glimpsing Narnia, Sort Of--A Post By Steve

Passing by Magdalen College on my way home today, I spied a face that seemed vaguely familiar. As I trudged along in the drizzling rain, my brain labored over who it could be--it's not like we've lived here so long that I would know that many faces.

And then it dawned on me. She looked strikingly like Anna Popplewell, the English actress that plays Susan Pevensie in the latest Chronicles of Narnia movies. Surely it wasn't she. Yet she could have been the spitting image...

At dinner tonight, I mentioned my experience to our friend Peter Leaver, whom we've been staying with the past couple weeks. Oh yes, he said, she's living locally. Which sent me to Wikipedia, and the discovery that Anna is studying English at ... yes, Magdalen College.

Normally, I could care less about celebrity spottings. But when an actress in one of your favorite children's books-turned-movies turns up outside the college that Narnia's creator taught in, well, that's worth a post, don't you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Home!

We're 99% sure we have a home now! We're due to move in next Tuesday so I'll write again then to verify that it really happens!

We found a place that is in a nice walking distance from Steve's college and a cheap grocery store, but is also a few blocks from a new Islamic college and has horse pastures just over the fence from our back yard. I know this will help the kids not feel so homesick, as they'd grown very accustomed to wide open spaces and even cows nearby. It's only 2 bedrooms, and feels pretty small, but it's in fairly good condition, is a decent price (compared to everything else!), and is adequately furnished.

Four days more 'til we're on our own. Yay!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Still No Housing...

We really need prayers that we'll find the right home soon! We viewed a place last week, and view two places tomorrow, but it just feels like nothing is going to work out. We've stayed with our retired friends for a week now and I can only imagine how frustrated they might be from the ruckus that my kids make! I want to relieve them by moving out as soon as possible, but I also don't want to panic and make a silly decision we have to live with for a year. It's difficult to say the least.

Ethan's finally adjusted to the time change, as have the rest of us. My mom also arrived two days ago, visiting us from Nigeria. It's wonderful to talk with her in person, hear her laugh, read stories aloud from Reader's Digest, and watch my kids get to know her again.

We sat on a bench in Christ Church meadows this afternoon, and I watched the golden light of the setting sun cast a glow on buildings and trees alike. I pointed it out to Naomi, remarking that what would normally be a boring brown tree looked made of gold instead. In the middle of a busy small city, the peaceful river walk and the rich green meadow brought me calm and peace. I remembered that God is a God of beauty, a creator God who loves us and wants what's best for us. Oh that I would trust him quietly instead of feeling such anxiety and doubt...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Travel Trials and Thanks

We had an interesting time trying to travel with nine large boxes/duffels, five carry-ons, five backpacks and one computer bag (and everyone wearing mulitple jackets!). Air India tried making us pay more money because some pieces were overweight, but when they saw us take items out (to lower the weight) instead of paying the money, I think they decided it wouldn't be worth their time to watch us do that to every single overweight bag.

Besides the stress of checking in, and knowing that they weren't happy about our amount of luggage, the hardest part was going through security!! We all had to take off our shoes and extra jackets. We had to break down our stroller, take out laptops, empty pockets, and get three children to go through the detector. Then we had to get ourselves together again afterwards. We were some of the last people at our gate!

Thankfully, though, we had an incredibly nice airline attendant help us when we got to the gate. She offered to check in as many items as we wanted, for no extra charge, so we got rid of our suitcases and some backpacks. Also thankfully, the flight was quite empty (which is surely why they were lenient at the gate) and we all got to lie down to sleep. Josiah and Ethan opted for the ground instead of the seats!!

We faced another struggle when we got to London, as we now had to transport all of our original stuff through the airport till we could meet up with our friends. We almost hired a porter service, but did it on our own in the end. Steve pushed/pulled two luggage carts overflowing with our stuff, I pushed a cart and pulled the stroller (also loaded down), and the kids pulled carry-on size suitcases on wheels. I wish I had a photo -- it was amazing!

Once our friends, the Leavers, met us, it was smooth sailing. They helped us to the carpark, and all our stuff fit fine in the mini-bus we'd rented. We're storing the majority of our things at the church, and appreciate the two rooms the Leavers are letting us have in their home. Now we just need to find our own place so we can settle in!

Same but Different

The minute we walked into the Leavers' home, here in Oxford, my kids found two bins of plastic animals set out in the kitchen for them. They immediately began setting up their zoo, and organising all the creatures. No difference from home!

Ethan, too, has enjoyed the cars and trucks that the Leavers have out for him, as well as the stuffed animals. All three kids were glad today was sunny (unlike yesterday which was rainy, windy and cold all day long) so we could go to a local playground as well as play in the back garden (yard) here at home.

But many things are different, too. Like...
Doing my laundry in the kitchen, in a front-loading machine that fascinates Ethan especially
Hanging up my clothes to dry in the kitchen
The sound of the telephone ringing
Using an electric food scale when I made chili tonight
Narrow, long houses
Narrow, long gardens
The shape of swings in the park (they have stiff, rectangular seats)
Cars parked half on the pavement, half on the street
The direction to look before you cross the road
The "walk" symbol on the traffic lights (a little green man walking)
Using a duvet instead of a top sheet and blanket
The location of the @ key on the computer!
Tea all the time
Chocolate spread on toast

All of these are familiar to me, as I've lived here before, so it's a nice feeling -- like I'm coming home. I'm thankful to not feel bewildered like I did when I moved to Scotland, but I'm not saying it's easy either! More on that another day...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We've Arrived!

We've finally arrived in Oxford and all pretty dead tired. Some friends of ours from Magdalen Road Church (the church Steve attended 10 years ago) met us at Heathrowe airport in London and are putting us up until we can move into more permanent accomodation. We're thankful for God's provision for us in this way, as we might otherwise have ended up on Oxford's streets! Please pray we can secure our own flat/home soon.

More to come later...