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!!