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.

Tuesday, November 8

Sludgy Bananas

Sitting at my mum's, my eye spotted some brown and sludgy bananas in the fruit bowl! As you can imagine we've been a little preoccupied the last week or so since my Nan passed away ... so things like that have been a bit overlooked. 

Having said that, often at home, especially in the hot and and humid summer months the bananas in our fruit bowl get very ripe, very quickly. This was a 'problem' I remember coming across when I lived in Tanzania too. When I was there, I was aware that I didn't want to waste food especially when surrounded by people who had very little. So another one of the teachers came to my rescue with a great banana muffin recipe ... which was so yummy that I had been known to let my bananas go sludgy on occasion just so that I could make them! This is why I referred to the brown bananas as a 'problem' ... the outcome was always definitely worth it!

That was 10 years ago ... and it wasn't until we lived in Ohio and I was looking for fun and easy recipes to make with Abigail that I looked it up again. The first batch tasted nice but were a little rubbery (!!!!) and I realised that a key ingredient was missing ... every girls best friend ... chocolate! So although the original recipe was good, me and Abigail definitely recommend the new and improved version with the 'optional' chocolate! (As you can see we've roped my husband into making them on occasion too.)

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do (they taste best warm, 5 mins after they've come out of the oven) ... and may you never see another sludgy banana go to waste again! ;o)

  • 2 or 3 large bananas 
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2t salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups SR flour
  • 1/2 cup choc chips (optional)
  1. Mash bananas in a large bowl
  2. Add sugar & beaten egg - mix
  3. Add melted butter and dry ingredients
  4. Mix together (no electric mixer required!)
  5. Spoon into cupcake/muffin cases & place in muffin tray (makes about 12) or into a 9" cake tin & cut to size when cooked and cooled.
  6. Bake 25 mins at 190/375/GM 5 or until browned
The bananas can be frozen once they've gone sludgy ... if you don't have the rest of the ingredients in the house right when you need them to make the muffins.

Saturday, November 5

More about MMS Aviation

This year while we're visiting our supporting churches, instead of talking a lot about who we are or giving a lot of information about MAF UK, both of which we've shared about in the last few visits, we decided to share more about MMS Aviation which is a lot less well known. (When I say 'we' ... I do most of the the admin stuff, newsletters, presentations etc ... so with my hubby's permission, 'I' decided it would be a good idea!!)

MMS is totally unique. It maintains and repairs mission aircraft while training future mission aircraft engineers ... or 'maintenance mechanics' as they call them. MMS's mission statement which encapsulates it's essence is ... 

'Preparing People and Planes for Worldwide Mission Service'

All the staff at MMS, admin staff, trainers and apprentices are working on faith support. This means that they are not paid any wages but are supported entirely by individuals and churches. As a result, when work is done on a mission aircraft, MMS doesn't need to charge them any labour costs. In 2010 alone, staff at MMS worked on 31 missionary aircraft from 15 different ministries and invested over 11,000 maintenance hours ... saving mission aviation approximately $450,000 (£300,000) in labour expenses. I'm really proud that my hubby is able to be part of that!

Since 1975, when MMS started in a garage, it has grown unimaginably. They are now in 3 hangars and 74 apprentices have completed service, 64 of whom have served or are still serving in ministry around the world. The staff of MMS have served 96 different mission aviation organisations, performing over 475 major aircraft repairs and modifications.

MMS also sends maintenance teams on Rapid Response around the world to meet emergency needs, to places such as Florida, Haiti, Gabon. Since 1980, MMS have sent out 128 teams with more planned in the pipeline.

We are really pleased that MAF UK have secured an effective partnership with MMS to allow individuals and families like us to begin our mission journey with this hands-on training. It means that my husband, who is already an aircraft design engineer, can work on mission aircraft while training for his A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) Licence.

The training is three years, unbelievably we're already two thirds through this ... and then we've agreed to a further 8 years (two 4 year terms) on project with MAF UK. Although Mark will be certified then, I'm sure the learning process will continue daily.

Thursday, November 3

Stamp of Approval

Yesterday was our third and final trip to the American Embassy in the centre of London. We're committed to three years in Ohio and have annual visas that need to be renewed back 'home'.

It was an exciting day for Abigail as for the last 6 months, she has been looking forward to going into London, riding a train and seeing the 'red decker buses', as she calls them. Whenever we've watched movies like 'Flushed Away' or 'The Great Muppet Caper', Abigail has been jumping up and down, pointing at the screen saying 'That's London, I'm going to London'!

Each trip to the Embassy has got progressively quicker for us and it seems to be more organised too ... either that or we now know exactly what to expect. The first year we waited three hours, the second year, two and yesterday we were in and out in just one hour! 

I suspect this speedy experience was partly due to it being a renewal and partly because when you take a little person in with you, they will write 'baby' on your form and then fast-track you through. It made me consider loaning Naomi out to other applicants to speed up the process for them as well ... earning some spending money at the same time! She could go in with anyone as being an American citizen doesn't need an appointment like the rest of the family.

As the visit to the Embassy is a fairly mundane experience, I found a few things to have a chuckle about in the process. In particular, the 'Please ensure your mobile phone is switched off' sign at the interview window. This only sounds slightly ridiculous until you know that no mobile phones are actually allowed in the building and you and your belongings are scanned as you go through security in the entry building on arrival to ensure that!

Each year I have also found it really amusing that the American Embassy does not accept American Express when paying for courier delivery of the passports that they process with visas. If there was anywhere in London that you would expect to be able to use it, it would be there ... but apparently not!

Once again, we got our stamp of approval and are good to return to the States ... only God knows which country's visa we will need to apply for next year!

Tuesday, November 1

A Taste of Home

I'm sitting on the sofa at my mum's house tucking into some milk chocolate digestive biscuits ... delicious!! If you're not a Brit, you may not even know what I'm talking about. These, as with many other things would perhaps not be on my shopping list ordinarily but knowing that if I don't eat them in the next few weeks, it will be another year until I can have them again makes them extra special!!

We've spent two years in the States and both years when we have returned to the UK to renew our visas, our first 'meal' has been a bacon sandwich ... real bacon that is 80% meat not 80% fat like the streaky stuff in America!

We've also have a little mental wish list of things that we want to eat while we're home ... anything from real cheese (not the plastic rubbery textured stuff in Walmart!), to fish fingers, to Chinese takeaway and much more!! (Where we live in the States the local Chinese Buffet consists of some Chinese food but also macaroni and cheese, pizza, frogs legs ... seems crazy to us!)

Last year when we were home, we had a week's break down in Cornwall and enjoyed Cornish pasty's and cream tea's ... more than once. As we're only at the start of our time in the UK we still have a lot more yumminess to come this year!

When we'd been back for 24 hours we took a trip to the supermarket ... a real treat to see familiar products and packets on the shelves. Although this time round there was an element of culture shock. 

The supermarket was completely jam-packed and a nightmare to negotiate ... something we're not used to anymore in small town America ... and both my husband and I looked at each other feeling totally overwhelmed which made us appreciate how much we've acclimatised to our new 'home' surroundings.

The longer we live somewhere new, the longer the local food become the 'norm' ... the more things we have to miss (and ask for in care packages) the next time we move to a different country!