Saturday, December 31

Party Poopers!

Tomorrow night is the last of 2011 and the following morning is not only a new day but a new year. 

I've just been reminiscing about a few of the highlights of this last year and looking forward to the adventures that will be coming in the next in our family blog. It's amazing how much we can fit into a short space of time ... and how quickly it passes.

While we don't celebrate the end of most days or welcome in the beginning of the next in quite the same fashion ... New Years Eve, from one year to the next, is a definite party waiting to happen.

When I was little, it was really exciting when I was allowed to stay up 'late' and see in the New Year with family. Then it became a night to party with friends. I've even welcomed in a couple new years on the beach, one in the Maldives on my honeymoon and then the following year wrapped in hats and scarves on the beach in the UK.

One thing I could never understand were those people (particularly parents) who didn't think it was so important to stay up and watch the clock strike midnight on that particular night of the year. After all why couldn't they make the effort at just once.

Now I'm a mummy myself ... let's just say the penny's dropped!! Now I'm thinking why on earth would I struggle to keep my eyes open for longer than they can physically stay there or forfeit an extra hour or two of sleep any night of the week, New Year or not!! It will still be January 1st at 8am in the following morning, I can give out hugs and kisses just as effectively then!

To me, welcoming in the New Year is synonymous with hearing Big Ben chiming in London. I have to admit the last couple of years we've celebrated New Year exactly when the bell has tolled ... which lucky for us has been at 7pm in the time zone we've been in! Obviously that doesn't work quite as well anywhere east of the UK, as you end up staying up a few hours later ... which I did when I welcomed in the millennium in Tanzania at 2am!

I realise that in a few years time the circle of life will complete it's revolution and our girls will be really excited to be allowed to stay up until midnight. Until then I'll wish you all the best in your celebrations ... but I'm going to be tucked up in bed far away in Lala Land when 2012 arrives in Ohio. I will of course be celebrating with friends at 7pm though! See you next year!

Thursday, December 29

The Chair with Special Powers

In our house there is a chair with special powers ... it never fails to deliver either! You may well be wondering what this chair and it's power is!

When Abigail was little we were recommended a Fisher Price Booster Seat for when we were out visiting friends. It was so useful that after we'd moved to America we even got one for us to use both in the States and in England. It is really sturdy, folds down to travel and fits any chair.

We love it so much that for Naomi we've used it in place of a high chair and have found that when we do put her in a usual high chair they have been a lot less supportive. I may be sounding like an advert for it ... but we honestly have no complaints whatsoever and if you're a travelling mum with little ones you'd be crazy not to have one with you!

You can imagine our surprise as a family when we discovered that since Naomi has been using it, it can do things that aren't listed on the box!! 

We always sit together for our evening meals and Naomi has been joining us in her chair and usually sits and plays and jabbers away with us! Without fail, just after we have sat down and put the food on the table and taken one or two mouthfuls, Naomi will very noisily fill her nappy ... usually several times. When we ate Christmas dinner with friends it happened three times within the first 10 minutes of the meal ... a special occasion calls for extra measures obviously!

We have tried reasoning with her that it is a chair for food and mealtimes and not a potty ... but at 8 months old she already has no interest in paying attention to the advice that we have to give! For now either myself or Mark will enjoy a lukewarm meal after cleaning her up and we wait to see how long this little routine will continue. 

One bonus later on may be that potty training could be a doddle ... if she can go 'on demand' already!!

Wednesday, December 28

Christmas Cake

I hope you've had a wonderful Christmas weekend. We certainly did! In fact we're enjoying a whole week of family time as the hangar is closed and Mark is home to 'play' with us all! Yesterday I was having technical difficulties with both the internet and Blogger ... so I am a day late ... but family fun-time and not stressing the little things was definitely more important!!

As I've mentioned before, we've been setting more and more of our own family traditions when it comes to Christmas as our little family grows. When we moved to America we thought the giant cupcake cake moulds looked really fun and full of potential and our first Christmas here we made an alternative Chocolate Christmas Tree Christmas Cake, instead of the more traditional British rich fruit cake.

In the two Christmas' that have followed we thought it was too fun not to do and this year Abigail had a lot of fun decorating it with her Daddy on Christmas Eve!

When it was Abigail's first birthday we realised that we didn't have a chocolate cake recipe ... so went hunting through some books and found a great easy rich delicious one that we have used for every birthday (and Christmas) cake ever since. So here it is ... enjoy!
  • 1 1/3 cups (200g) Self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup (50g) cocoa powder
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1/2t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (275g) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) water
  1. Sift flour and cocoa into a bowl
  2. Add remaining ingredients & beat on low until combined
  3. Increase speed until smooth & changed colour
  4. Spread into prepared pans
  5. Bake in moderate oven (350/180) til cooked
  6. Stand in pans 5-10 mins, then turn onto a wire rack to cool

Friday, December 23

Christmas or Xmas?!

What does Christmas mean to you?! Is it family time and feasting, presents and Father Christmas, trees and decorations or Mary and Joseph welcoming the Saviour of the world into their arms?

I find it interesting at this time of the year that many Christians get a 'bee-in-their-bonnet' about the shorthand of the word Christmas as Xmas ... supposedly taking Christ out of the whole celebration. Over the last couple of years there have even been many Facebook statuses urging people to put the Christ back in Christmas.

When we were at All Nations I got the chance to study a little New Testament Greek, something I really enjoyed (yes, that sentence does sound sad ... even to me!) Even having done that it didn't click in my head until I read a children's book last Christmas that actually the X in Xmas stands for something very significant.

The History of Christmas website explains it really well ... so I won't try and put it in my own words ...
Xmas is an abbreviation for Christmas. It is derived from the word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, transliterated as Christos, which is Greek for Christ. Greek is the language in which the whole New Testament was written.
Originally, Xmas was an abbreviation where the X represents the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name. However, because of the modern interpretations of the letter X, many people are unaware of this and assume that this abbreviation is meant to drop Christ from Christmas.
So, there you have it, instead of taking Christ out of Christmas ... it's actually putting him in, almost in a more authentic way!!! For us as a family, Jesus is most certainly the main focus of our celebrations. However we definitely enjoy all the extra trappings that now get incorporated with this time of year as well. 

This year will be our first Christmas as a family of four and we're slowly laying our family traditions that will continue and evolve in the years to come. I hope and pray that you have time to remember where this whole holiday originated while you're busy celebrating this weekend. 

As a family, we wish you a Happy Christmas ...

Wednesday, December 21

All I want for Christmas ...

Ever heard that song 'All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth'?

In our household right now, all we want for Christmas are Naomi's front teeth. Or in fact, any of her teeth!! For the last few weeks sudden fits of rage overcome her and wailing, she grabs her mouth unconsolable until it all calms down again! 

While she has no teeth to show for it ... yet, she's certainly having a much harder time teething than her big sister did. As any parent can sympathise, it's been no fun watching our little one go through it without really being able to do all that much.

Teething sucks for everyone concerned. I've never quite understood why God designed it to be that way! Our babies are so little they don't get what's going on and won't remember either and they can just make it quite miserable for everyone else.

While we wait for Naomi's new arrivals there are a few things we've been doing to help her out! Here in the States there is Orajel to rub on her gums and make them go numb for a bit. Back in the UK we always used teething granules ... no drugs, just homeopathic soothing and calming, giving relief! 

It makes me laugh that they are little sachets of white powder ... which sounds dodgy!! The first few times it was a struggle to convince either girly that they were a good idea. Once Abigail got used to them, the minute she saw the sachets she would smile, giggle and open her mouth wide, ready and waiting. Thankfully Naomi is no different!

We picked up some spare packs when we were last back in the UK and I expect once we get through these they will be on our wishlist when visitors travel out to stay with us!

We look forward to this teething time coming to an end ... but for now we take one day at a time and hope that Father Christmas might bring Naomi some teeth so her gums can have a break for a while!!

Tuesday, December 20

Hitting the Bottle

Naomi will be 8 months old this week ... time really does fly by! As I did with Abigail, I made the decision to nurse her for the first 6 months and then reclaim my body back again!

First time round it was all really straight forward ... in fact so much was textbook with Abigail that we knew we'd have our work cut out for us if we had any more children. From the pregnancy onwards almost everything has been different second time around! 

Convincing Naomi that should would like to drink milk from a bottle, whether mine or formula, has definitely been a battle of the wills. Initially she seemed to be doing quite well but with having lots of visitors I didn't take time to pursue it. BIG mistake!!

I tried to reintroduce the bottle from time to time but not very enthusiastically, so when she was about five and half months old she was SO not interested and could not be convinced at all. When we were in the UK I was too sick to even produce much milk so I felt sure she'd take up the offer of something better. But no!

Unfortunately with every feed since she was born I've had some weird hormone stuff going on, so they haven't been particularly pleasant for me. I was really looking forward to giving it all up so was a little disappointed that Naomi was having none of it! Abigail never had a problem with a bottle or switching to formula ... in fact I was a little bit insulted that she didn't seem to notice!

These last two weeks I have been a 'mummy-on-a-different-kind-of-mission' ... one of my Christmas wishes was to regain my freedom and 'hand-over' to the bottle. As we reach the 8 month mark I wanted to have it sorted once and for all.

It fills me with the deepest joy inside to report that in the last few days Naomi has not only accepted the bottle but takes it and feeds it herself ... we're already up to half the feeds with formula and it makes me want to dance. 

No two munchkins are alike ... and being a mummy (or a daddy) requires perseverance often beyond what we ever think we're going to manage ... but we do!! Some battles are worth fighting ... and this was definitely one of those!

Friday, December 16

My Gentle Giant

Five years ago today I married my best friend and I'm still madly in love with him. I still don't feel grown-up enough to have a husband, let alone two beautiful daughters too!!

We have crammed so much into the last five years, including moving twice (once internationally), applying to do mission with MAF UK, having the girls (one in the UK, one in the States) and already being three years into our eleven year commitment with MAF ... to name just a few.

It sounds cheesy but I'm more in love with my hubby now than I was on that day five years ago ... which I didn't think was possible at the time! I may have waited almost 30 years to find him but now life without him is really not an option! The longest time we've spent apart since we first met on September 24th 2005 was a week ... after just a month of dating, on a prearranged holiday, otherwise we've seen each other every day but one since then! 

The whole of that previous paragraph would have sounded way too soppy to me 10 years ago ... now I find myself writing it ... doh!! That's what love does to you I suppose. Every year on our anniversary I write Mark a letter ... not because I need to but because I want to. I tell him everything he means to me that I may or may not remember to do in the daily routines of life. I mention things that have happened in the past year that have made us grow closer and closer together and how proud I am of him and all he's doing (especially now with his training at MMS). It's something I intend to do all throughout our lives together as it gives me a chance to reflect and really appreciate how much he means to me and gives him a chance to know exactly how much I love him. Definitely a family tradition worth keeping!

I consider myself a very lucky girl to have such a thoughtful, gentle giant by my side for all the adventures that we've had so far and all that are still yet to come.

Wednesday, December 14

The Christmas Fairy

The build up to Christmas this year is really the first time that Abigail has really understood all that is going on. Last year she thought things were fun and different but this year she gets the whole decorations, Father Christmas and Baby Jesus thing and is loving the daily countdown. Only 11 more sleeps to go!

It has been really fun to share the nativity story with her this year and for her to understand a bit more about who Mary and Joseph are and that Jesus came to earth as a baby (all the more understandable having had our own little baby earlier this year too!). We found a great sticker story book last year, The Very First Christmas by Juliet David, which we saved until she could appreciate it ... which is now! A couple of times a week during December we have been reading one of the stories together and have had fun sticking the stickers too.

Abigail has been really excited to read it each time, there is plenty of repetition in the book, in order to include lots of stickers for the main characters and this has helped reinforce both the different characters and parts of the story. And of course we keep rereading it all over and over again as she loves books!

It has amused me a lot that Abigail renamed Joseph, Jove-ess for our story but even more amusing than that, she is totally adamant that Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were told about the baby Jesus by a fairy!! Not quite sure what the angel Gabriel would have thought about it but for this year, in the Beckwith household at least, the Good News that a Saviour was born in Bethlehem was brought to mankind by a very angelic fairy!

Monday, December 12

'Tis the Season for ...

Everyone has their own traditions when it comes to the holiday season. It differs from family to family as much as it does from country to country. We're quite a young family and so are still working out which traditions will become part of our Christmas. The more we move around the world, the more we expect our traditions will evolve too which is quite exciting!

During our first December here in the States we soon realised that Mince Pies weren't the usual Christmas treat that they are back in the UK. Both Mark and I really like them and I figured that as they're not here and they're not going to be in a lot of places that we will live, I needed to find a good recipe. 

It seems that making them from scratch has already become one of our family Christmas traditions ... one that Abigail has enjoyed helping with and I'm sure Naomi will too in time! Below is the yummy recipe we use (the mincemeat and pastry are made separately) but first for those who aren't so familiar with mince pies, here is a short history too! 

The tradition of spiced mince pies goes back centuries but the name ‘mincemeat’ refers to the filling, which up until the Victorian era would have contained actual meat along with the spices and fruit. The only remnants of the meat in today’s mince pies is the inclusion of suet in the filling. Folklore tells us that mince pies are Father Christmas’ favourite nibble and that one or two should be left next to the chimney along with a glass of sherry – and a carrot for Rudolf, or course!

Quick mincemeat recipe …

Makes 1.125kg (enough for 3 x 375g jars) – make this a month or so in advance so that it develops a good depth of flavour.

In a bowl, mix together 110g sultanas, 170g each raisins and currants, 170g grated bramley apples, 100g suet, 200g soft brown sugar, 100g finely chopped mixed peel, 65g blanched and chopped almonds, ½ Tbsp mixed spice, the zest and juice of 1 orange, and a large splash of brandy.

Wash some clean jars in warm soapy water, rinse and dry in a low oven. Spoon the mincemeat into the sterilised jars and seal – they’ll keep for 12 months.

Master recipe for rich shortcrust pastry …

Makes 315g (enough for 12 mince pies)

Sift 170g plain flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Rub in 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, with your fingers until you have a crumble-like mixture. Stir in 1Tbsp caster sugar, then add 1 large free-range egg yolk and mix quickly with a palette knife. Add 1-2 Tbsp cold water, mixing with the knife until the mixture is drawn together into a dough. Press into a ball, then wrap in cling film and chill for at least 10 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface, then cut out 12 of each, circles for the bottom and whatever shape you want on top. Put together with a teaspoon or two of mincemeat filling and voila!

Cook on 180c/fan160c/350f/Gas 4 for 20-25 minutes until golden and piping hot. If you want to freeze them … make them up and then freeze uncooked until you want to eat them!

Friday, December 9

Daddy's Girls

Why is it so cool to be a Daddy's girl and totally not cool to be a Mummy's boy? Something I've never been able to work out ... but given that I have two daughters, not currently an issue in our house!

It seems that having little girls brings out the protective side in all parents ... especially the Dads (and rightly so ... our children are super precious and a gift for us to look after!). I know that some of my husbands 'mates' from childhood have all had little girls in that last 5 years or so. There have been lots of fun discussions about how when the girls get a bit older and head out with friends and more specifically with boys, that Mark & his friends would make an incredibly intimidating interview panel for any unsuspecting young man that comes their way! 

In fact, there has even been talk of purchasing shot guns!! Since living here in small town America, talk of purchasing a gun is really not as shocking an idea at all ... everyone has at least one at home ... it's totally a culture thing. It really wouldn't have the same impact for a young man out here if Mark suggested he was off to get one to protect his daughters. It would probably be assumed that he already had several and the young man in question will probably have grown up with them anyway!!

I had a chuckle to myself a couple of weeks ago, when I read some of President Obama's 2011 Holiday Letter and he talks about his own girls ...
'I'm also incredibly proud of the way the girls have handled the pressures that come with living in the White House. Whether it's their schoolwork, playing basketball, tennis and soccer, or just hanging out with friends, they're able to do all things kids their age normally do. It's hard to believe Malia's already a teenager. The first time I saw her dressed up to go to a Bat Mitzvah party, all I would think about was how happy I was that she'd be accompanied by large men with guns.'
It seems that protecting our precious girlies is universal ... just a shame that some of us don't have the 'large men with guns' option!!!

Thursday, December 8

Daddy Day-Care

A seasoned missionary mum who has spent many years in Peru shared with some of the apprentice wives here the most important thing she thought was useful before heading anywhere overseas. She said you need to make sure your priorities are in order and that you and your husband are on the same page. 

These are the priorities which she knows from experience are so important ...
  1. She said that your family is the single most important thing and you should always put them first. If you don't prioritise those closest to you, they will feel neglected, you will all suffer, be less effective & probably struggle to stay on the field.
  2. Secondly, you should prioritise the mission that you work for especially your fellow workers. In order for you to be the most effective team and example to those you are serving, you need to ensure you are working well with and encouraging your co-workers, towards the same goal. 
  3. Thirdly, and only once the first two are in place, are you ready to serve those your mission is there for. While they are equally important, without looking inward and putting your family and co-workers first you are never going to be as effective at looking outward and helping where the need is.
I love my girlies to bits ... but these last few days I have been really unwell and not been able to be the mummy I need to be for them. I have been SO grateful that here at MMS Aviation they are really understanding and let the guys put their families first, especially as most of us are so far from our family networks. It has meant that Mark has been able to stay at home and pick up my slack.

As a family we're very rarely sick for more than a day or two ... but on Saturday we will all have been officially sick for a whole month at varying degrees ... very frustrating!!! While I know that Mark would rather be in the hangar having some 'boy-time' ... he has been the perfect hubby and daddy looking after all three of his girlies in spite of not feeling 100% himself still! I am so lucky to have such a great guy by my side to be on this adventure with ... even during the 'sucky' stuff!

Tuesday, December 6


Someone once said ... 'Chocolate in the morning is what makes moms get through their day... I suspect that this could be universally applied to every woman on the planet! 

Our 3 year old daughter is a big fan already. In fact she didn't ever have any sweets (candy) or chocolate until her first birthday, when she had a chocolate birthday cake. Now there is no stopping her and she tells everyone 'I don't like sweets, just chocolate'!

One thing that we noticed soon after we moved to the States is that the chocolate here just doesn't cut it. We even did an unofficial test taste ourselves over the summer when my sister-in-law came to visit. As a result of that, I found several of my American friends asking for the opportunity to try out some of the Brit chocolate too. 

So, while we were in the UK I stocked up and this weekend with Abigail's help, sorted it all out and let some of my American friends see what 'real' chocolate tastes like!! We find the US chocolate a lot more bitter and less creamy ... but we were yet to know how our friends would rate it!

Interestingly (and no offence to my American friends), it seems that the British taste palate is a lot more discerning when it comes to the delicacies of chocolate. For example where the Brits can taste the difference between similar bars, like KitKats which are just made with different chocolate (Hershey's in the US and Nestle in the UK) and a totally different taste experience, the Americans don't seem to notice.

One of the favourites of the afternoon was a Cadbury's Crunchie, honeycomb centre covered in chocolate. But Cadbury's Flake didn't rate very highly at all, with comments like 'they sucked out all the moisture to make the chocolate crumbly and now it's sucked all the moisture out of my tongue'!! 

I believe that in so many areas of life, what you grow up with and are most familiar with is what you favour ... and that goes for chocolate too. I was under no illusions that I would convert my American friends to British chocolate ... just give them a chance to try something new and different. If you live in a different culture, try having a chocolate tasting afternoon of your own ... it was so much fun!

Someone else once said 'If they don't have chocolate in heaven, I ain't going' ... I'm guessing then that there will be a whole variety of chocolate to suit all the international preferences!!

Friday, December 2

'Couch Surfing'

Couchsurfing was not a term I was familiar with until we moved to the States. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine. Her daughter was sharing a rented apartment in Atlanta and from time-to-time they had couchsurfers stop over for a night or two as they were passing through the city.

Couchsurfing is defined by Wikipedia as ...
 'a neologism referring to the practice of moving from one friend's house to another, sleeping in whatever spare space is available, floor or couch, generally staying a few days before moving on to the next house'

It seems that couchsurfing is an up and coming practice ... a way of staying somewhere without having to pay for expensive hotels, a way of experiencing the local culture firsthand, a new more adventurous way of travelling round the world. There is even a dedicated website for couchsurfing to enable all those involved to keep in touch etc.

While I am torn between thinking it would be both an exciting but also slightly dangerous way of travelling ... as you never quite know who you might end up with ... I am grateful that I have lots of friends strategically placed around the world who I could stay with instead!

The last few weeks my husband and I have been doing our own variation of couchsurfing which I am sure most parents have experienced more than once. As one or other of our girls have been sick continuously recently, we've been taking it in turns to sleep on the couch with whoever needs us while the other parent gets a good night sleep! In a two bedroomed house, the sofa is the next best thing to a bed!

This little bout of sickness started while we were in the UK ... so we've been busy comparing the comfort levels of different peoples sofas! We've had everything from an old saggy 2-seater, to a comfy reclining one. Ours rates somewhere in the middle as it was a second-hand one we bought from a previous family who were training with MMS Aviation ... not our first choice, but it does the job!

Yesterday I was chatting to Mark and we were commenting that neither of us can actually remember the last time we spent the whole night in bed together!! Sad but true! And it's not even because one of us is away, we've had an argument or something else like that! At the moment we're not sure when it will change either ... hopefully only a few more nights as everyone seems to be slowly getting better! If we're not quick enough in the morning to clear the sofa ... someone else decides to get cosy in our 'bed'!!

To all you 'real' couchsurfers out there ... enjoy the adventure. To all you parents who also have your own variation ... be encouraged, you're not alone and it won't last forever ... until the next time that is!!

Wednesday, November 30

Feeding Frenzy!

A couple of months ago ... the feeding frenzy began for munchkin number two! The photo below was taken during Naomi's first 'meal' ... baby rice!! As you can see she's looking amused and bemused by the whole experience!

Yet again is has been a slow process ... not helped by the fact that we had a month in the UK where feeding times and opportunities were not as regular as they would have been back home. Also the fact that she has been sick for the last couple of weeks and so not at all interested in eating as a result. I'm sure it won't be long before there'll be no stopping her though.

Abigail was quite slow at the beginning as well but you would never know that now. She is a really good eater with a healthy appetite and not too fussy, trying new stuff all the time, even if she decides it's not something she wants for the time being. 

The only thing she was fussy about was store-bought baby food ... she refused to eat it ... only the home cooked stuff was good enough for her! Definitely not something to complain about it although there were days when it might have been easier to just reach for a jar!

When Abigail was little, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Annabel Karmel ... and in particular a great cookbook for food from the first purees onwards, 'Feeding your Baby & Toddler'. For helpful tips on how to start and continue feeding, ideas of what to puree and good combinations, healthy snacks, food for fussy eaters, meal plans and a whole lot more.

While feeding little ones isn't really rocket science, on the days when I was tired and lacking inspiration, this bright and helpful book was the perfect solution for a first time mum. Now I'm really looking to getting it out again and trying some of the stuff I overlooked first time round!

Tuesday, November 29

True Friends

One thing that is really important to me are the friendships I share with a few special ladies. The kind of friendship that has lasted a long time, through thick and thin and where you can pick up where you left off ... after a week, a month or even a year. That latter is a definite priority given that as a family we're moving all over the world. 

When we were recently in England we were able to spend some time with Rachel, one of those friends and her family. As you can see Abigail made a new best friend too ... in fact I have been best buddies with her mum since we were the same age as these two are now ... about thirty years! (A very scary thought!)

While having these strong friendships behind me ... I know how important it is to build new ones wherever we move to. Many people couldn't imagine leaving such good friends behind and while it is a sacrifice ... the important friendships can endure and become stronger as a result. Rachel even left her family behind last year and came to visit me out here in the States. We had some girly time like we haven't had since we were little ourselves.

Building the new friendships isn't always straight forward and easy but is definitely worth the effort. When you arrive somewhere new, everything is unfamiliar and so requires you to give more of yourself especially when trying to transition a family and can make you feel exhausted. Sometimes you feel like you're repeating a little spiel about yourself over and over again while you're getting to know new people. Some days you don't even want to bother.

But being intentional about finding new friends is the way to go ... find groups with similar minded people, those with the same hobbies or other mum's with children around the same age as your own. One great piece of advice I was once given was 'don't go looking for what you can find in a friend, go looking for how you can best be a friend to someone else' ... and be encouraged the friendships will follow!

I know when we leave the States and move onto our next assignment I am going to leave quite a few great friends behind ... people I didn't even know two years ago! Let's hope they will be happy to follow me round the world too!

Saturday, November 26

Being Thankful

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the States ... something that I had never fully understood or appreciated until I lived here in America. Even though I have shared in a few Thanksgiving meals back in the UK, quite a few years ago, I only learnt the history side of what it all meant and what was traditionally eaten but didn't get the true essence.

While we were recently back home in England a few people were asking about Thanksgiving as we had planned our flights so that we wouldn't miss celebrating it in America. We were able to explain that although there is a lot of hype about the food ... it is essentially a long weekend starting on the Wednesday evening, a chance to spend quality time with family and close friends and a time to reflect on what is important and all that we have to be thankful for since the previous year.

The food is similar to what the English would expect for a traditional Christmas meal ... Roast Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce etc ... although back in England we would swap the mashed potatoes for roasted ones, include sausages wrapped in bacon and more veggies not forgetting the brussel sprouts. The Thanksgiving meal is also a time when the Pumpkin Pie (and pumpkin dishes of other varieties!!) come out in full force too!

I have had the privilege of spending three Thanksgivings here in the States, each one very different. The first with 3 other families, the second with 10 other families (and huge amounts of food!) and this time, just us and another family with two small children, similar in age to our two girls. Each time it has been slightly different but always a chance to stop, spend quality time with special people and think about all that we're thankful for. Something that in the hustle and bustle of life in the UK we don't tend to do. 

As Naomi is officially American 'on paper' anyway, we have decided that we will try to incorporate some of the cultural experiences we have learnt here into our own family traditions. This is definitely one that we will be taking with us ... and probably tweaking a little to suit us better depending on where we are in the world.

I have loved the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what has happened in the last year and think about what I am thankful for. Here are just a couple of those (once you start, it is easy to go on forever ... try it!) ...
  • For the safe arrival of Naomi in April
  • For a well-timed and safe trip to the UK this last month
  • For the life of my Nan
  • For the continued support from family, friends and churches in the UK
  • For the chance to take our family overseas and work for MAF
  • For a home that we love

Thursday, November 24

There's No Place Like it

'Home is where your story begins'

We have a little sign on a book shelf with this written on it. 'Home' is such an important thing, it's where the building or house that you live in becomes something so much more.

Yesterday we arrived home after a very long day of travelling ... and a very long month that didn't go at all as we had planned. We did get to catch up with some of our friends which was great but with my Grandma dying and then a collection of viruses between us in our final week, which got worse rather than better before we were due to fly back, we were so pleased to arrive safely home last night! In fact, although totally and utterly exhausted (and no, that is not an exaggeration), there was a little smile in my heart and lightness in my spirit to know we'd finally made it home.

Our Home in America
After the first week of so of our trip Abigail kept saying 'I want to go home'. Everything was so up in the air, nothing familiar and no routine. Even I was thinking something similar and I didn't have the excuse of being 3 years old. Occasionally my response would be 'So do I sweetheart'!! A friend of mine complimented me when I was sharing what Abigail had been saying. She said that we'd obviously created a really great home atmosphere where Abigail felt secure and happy and that wanting to be there showed a strength in our parenting. A perspective I hadn't considered before but not one that got us back any quicker!

One of the downsides of being a missionary is moving around every few years, often to different countries and cultures and then having to make it home. As a single girl 10 years ago, teaching in Tanzania, it was a lot easier ... all I had to think about was myself and adjusting things for me. Now it is different ... making wherever we live home for us as family and keeping things as familiar as possible for the girls, at the same time as embracing the new culture.

My husband and I don't want to be shipping all our worldly possessions from place to place and we don't want to be overly extravagant in the way we live and what we own. We do think it's important however to have little things that are familiar to us and the girls that make which ever houses we live in 'ours' for the time we are there. For every individual and family these things are going to be different ... but wherever you go they are must take things.

I used to think that the title 'homemaker' was almost a derogatory term. People can often mistake it for someone who sits at home doing whatever takes their fancy. Now, being a mother of two and moving our family from one place to the next, I see the importance of what a 'home maker' really is and what hard work it involves especially when you're fitting into new cultures, creating that safe place to come back to at the end of the day for the whole family. It requires time, thought and effort ... but now I'm proud to be a known as a 'homemaker' and think I do pretty good job of it too!

Friday, November 18

The Best Laid Plans

Whatever our best intentions ... things don't always work out as they should. Like writing this blog three times a week when me and all my family are suffering from some viral cold/stomach bug infection and can't function let alone keep up with any other commitments ... sorry, you'll notice I'm missing one this week, we're all still recovering!! Scheduling 'home' time ... is ... let's just say, not all that straight forward either!!

We are very lucky that with MAF UK we get to return back to England every year to visit friends and family, talk to churches, renew visas and raise support. During our time in Ohio, we get 2 weeks allocated and later on, when we're on project it will be 4 weeks. We appreciate that we're really lucky in this respect, as other friends with different mission agencies don't get that frequncy. Some don't get to travel home for several years or have to do a long stint each time. With MAF they need the expertise of the pilots and mechanics on the bases so would rather the staff take shorter breaks each year which works out well for our family ... especially the grandparents back in the UK!!

Last year we took an extra week's holiday in the middle of our time at home which worked perfectly ... a week of craziness ... a chance to totally relax and re-energize and have some fun together as a family at my in-laws holiday cottage by the seaside ... followed by another week of craziness.

This year was planned with our previous success in mind. We emailed friends and family several months in advance so we could get organised ... but even then it wasn't til we sent out our final almost packed itinerary that the majority of people contacted about meeting up ... it was a bit late by then ... but a lesson learned for another time!!

We're nearly at the end of our time in the UK now and I can honestly say that almost all of our trip hasn't gone as we arranged it ... from planning funerals to missed holidays to colds and stomach bugs ... it has been almost a month of learning how to adapt, be flexible and in true missionary fashion make the most of how each and every situation turns out. We've learnt more about each other as a family and how we all adjust (or not) and what our limits are ... something we need to know as we continue on our journey together all over the world. So I guess in that respect it has been a complete success!!

Monday, November 14

Admin Mummy

While we've been home these last few weeks, sharing with supporters what we've been up to with MAF UK and MMS Aviation, it is a given that Mark can talk about planes, repairs, study, exams but I often get asked the question 'So what do you do?'

Sometimes it feels like 'not a lot' ... and those of you with kid(s) know that days can come and days can go when all you seem to be doing is changing bottoms, washing clothes and feeding little munchkins from sunrise to sunset with very little to show for it. I am quite task orientated and love to see a 'to do' list with tasks ticked off ... so days without even a couple of things achieved certainly feel like a failure to me.

About 10 years ago when I spent a few months travelling round Australia and New Zealand I found a fridge magnet which said ...

'If you think you're too small to be effective you've never been in bed with a mosquito'

It always puts a smile on my face to read and gives me a little bit of comfort to know that whatever we do, whether big or small can have an effect on other people. Hopefully a more positive one that a mosquito though!

Part of being a missionary involves raising support and keeping family, friends, churches etc up to date with what you're up to. Mark loves the practical side of his work in the hangar but he'd be the first to admit that admin is definitely not his forte. I on the other hand thrive on it ... yes, some would think it's very sad but I love it, making us the perfect combination as a couple!

In my 'spare time' from being a mummy, I write the newsletters, keep our supporters lists up to date, send out cards, write the family blog and the presentations we do and much more. We know that it is SO important to have the prayer and financial support of all those people who are behind us, in order for us to be effective in what we're doing and we feel a responsibility to those who follow us to keep them as up to date as possible. We don't take that lightly at all and so we see our roles as equally important even though mine goes relatively unseen the majority of the time.

While the admin might sound like the mundane and boring part of the partnership ... I really enjoy it. Keeping in touch with people via the old fashioned snail mail is something I've always loved doing and we've had a lot people comment to us how grateful they are that we take the time to acknowledge them and their support fairly regularly too.

Since Naomi has been born I am still working out just how I fit the admin stuff into family life again so I've got a little behind ... so apologies to all, as I figure out how it works again! I will get there I promise! 

During this trip home I have been encouraged by so many people though who have thanked us for the updates and individual contact we have been able to have and quite a few people have commented on how much they enjoy our quarterly newsletters, the 'Beckwith Blurb' too. It puts a little smile on my face to know that however little my input may appear into the mission side of our lives, I really enjoy it and it actually doesn't go completely unnoticed either!

Friday, November 11

Getting Crafty

I'm quite a crafty person ... but have found that crafty stuff in general is quite limited in the UK and a little pricey. You really have to be dedicated to either hunt down somewhere to buy resources or have a large amount of disposable income in order to afford it. 

I was quite dedicated but didn't have a lot of extra cash ... so once I'd found some great shops, I was only able to touch and 'long for' the goodies ... and treat myself to a little something once in a blue moon!

Moving to small town America, I was really pleased to find that being crafty is second nature to a lot of people and it is really easy and relatively cheap to pursue a myriad of crafty pastimes ... be it, scrapbooking, knitting, flower arranging, mosaics, quilting, decoupage ... the list goes on. 

In fact, my husband gets a little concerned when my eyes open wide with enthusiasm every time I come within 5 miles of a prospective craft shop (especially when I have a money off coupon or two!) ... as he knows it will inevitably end up with a painstaking shop for him as I deliberate over what exactly it is I want to buy or what new skill I want to pursue.

Over the last few years, one thing I have often thought I would love to learn was quilting. Where we live in Ohio is just 20 minutes drive from Holmes County ... home to one of the biggest Amish population in the States ... and big quilters. So I figured it would be the perfect better time and place than to learn.

In town there is a quilting shop (recently relocated and renamed but still as good!) Mercantile on Main ... and so not long after we had arrived in Coshocton I went in and put my name down for a beginners quilting class. For more about that, see 'How to make an American Quilt'.

I was hooked from the get go ... and am now just disappointed that I don't have the spare time to do as much of it as I would like, with two little munckins using up all of my time and energy. Typical isn't it ... now I have the resources and it's more affordable ... I don't have the time!

A year after I took my class I completed my first quilt (see below) which I love and am very proud of. I didn't even use a pattern, it just evolved as I it went on. Already I have two more projects on the go and loads of ideas for more.

Being back in the UK at the moment, I've noticed that slowly and surely there are more crafty shops and opportunities popping up all over the place. It does still tend to be more expensive ... but at least it's becoming more available.

Thursday, November 10

A Heavenly Party

Yesterday family and friends got together to celebrate the life of my Nan ... 
Florence Rose Morris (3rd December 1922 - 28th October 2011)

We had two services of thanksgiving and many people, at both of those and in cards and messages since she died, have talked of what a wonderful lady and friend she was and how she had touched their lives. Many of these stories were new to us and we got to see and understand yet another side of what an amazing woman she was.

Although sad, as we will all miss Nan so much, yesterday was a time of happiness too, knowing that she is exactly where she wanted to be, with her Lord and Saviour. I told Abigail that Grammie was dancing and singing and having a party with Jesus. Abigail's response was that she wanted to go to the party too!

When we were sorting through some of Nan's things last week we found a very non-descript notebook with  some poems she had written. One was called 'My Testimony' and I had the privilege of reading it out at one of the services yesterday, ensuring that she had her say, right to the end ... very like her.

My Testimony by 'Ren' Morris

When I was young I knew you
I worshipped & adored
I longed to sing your praises
I loved you as my Lord

So many times I cried & said 
Why did they do it Lord? 
But there you hung - the price you paid 
I read it in your word

Then suddenly it all went wrong, 
I saw the shining lights 
Out there was life for living. 
For the good times I would long.

How sad to see the child He made 
Turn her back on Him 
To forget that form upon a cross 
And forget her heavenly King.

So many troubles, so many woes, 
Came crowding in on me, 
I knew something had to change 
But blind - I could not see.

One day a ray of light 
Shone through a cloudy sky 
As though a voice from heaven said 
“You left my side - Why?”

“Dear Lord” I said “Forgive me” 
My life has been a mess, 
Why did I try it my way 
But you loved me none the less.

I’m giving you my life back Lord 
Do with it as you will. 
I want to love & serve you Lord 
Of you I want my fill.

Now I know the shame I felt 
Without you I was lost, 
And you forgave & gave me life 
You didn’t count the cost.

Oh how I love you Jesus, 
You’re everything to me, 
You took my sins & willingly 
Hung upon that tree.

How I long for that day to come 
When from this life I flee 
And I will see you face to face 
And say “Thank you Lord” - from me.