Tuesday, January 31

Step by Step

There are many milestones in our lives ... lots when you are little and have so much to learn. Naomi has just reached another one over the weekend. 

Ever since she was about 4 weeks old her preference has been to push up and stand and she's always on the move in some way shape or form (except when she's asleep when she it as still as anything!). So it's been no surprise to us that for the last month or so she's been toddling along with her walker very confidently.

In the last few weeks she keeps pushing herself up to standing and this weekend, at only a few days over the 9 month mark, decided she would take a step or two all on her own!

It was exciting and a little sad all at the same time. A few steps might not seem like much but when they're your first, they're pretty special! We had guessed that this might happen while Mark was away and not be able to be part of the milestone. So it was made even more special when 5 minutes after she took her first couple of steps, Mark Skyped and was able to watch her take three in a row.

The wonders of modern technology! Once upon a time (not all that long ago!) missionaries would travel 6 months to their destination and then the letter back to family to say they had arrived would take another 6 months. Imagine ... it would take one year after sending your loved ones on their adventure before you got news that they had got there safely.

We're privileged to be able to video chat with family on a regular basis ... so it's not like we're on the other side of the world. It also means the girls have the chance to be really familiar with grandparents and uncles and aunties, even though we live nowhere near them. During this time while Mark's been away it's been extra special to be able to see him and all he's up to ... and for him to be part of the excitement back here as well!

Saturday, January 28

Big Girls Seat

At the beginning of this year we realised that both our girlies were bursting out of their car seats! The timing was perfect as Naomi needed to move into Abigail's at the same time as Abigail was just getting too big for hers. The scary thing is they both now look so 'grown-up' when you look at them in the back of the car! What happened to my babies?

Some friends who are missionaries in Papua New Guinea visited us in the UK about 5 years ago with their two young children. Having grown up in a culture with no seatbelt/child restraint laws, they found it a real challenge to be strapped in and not to climb out of their seats and all over the vehicle.

We were very aware again when purchasing this new seat that safety guidelines differ throughout the world and we will need to use our seats in more than one country. We found that the UK seem to set the clearest and the strictest guidelines and so chose to follow those to cover all bases. It's definitely worth taking that into consideration when working and moving internationally ... as kiddy car seats not cheap and you don't want to have to buy more than you need!

Something else we've found helpful is that a friend gave us their son's old car seats which they weren't able to sell on and didn't want to just dump in a landfill. They are in the two sizes that the girls are now and we have left them in the UK with the grandparents so that every time we travel to and from England at least, we don't have the added extra car seats to negotiate around airports on top of all the luggage and two children! Very useful!

Abigail loves her new 'big girls seat' as she gets to use the 'big girls strap' ... and the baby car seat has once again been relegated to storage. We have two happy girls in the back of the car ... which makes for one happy mummy and after all, that's what's most important!

Thursday, January 26

Running Late

I am not a fan being late for anything ... however important or unimportant that something is! 

In fact I'd rather be 10 minutes early for most things ... probably because I'm naturally quite conscientious, want to be dedicated to something I commit to and wouldn't want to let someone down. Having said that, I'm unlikely to be one of the first at a party as that awkward getting going part can often be too uncomfortable! So basically a total contradiction!

Recently a friend of mine in Australia shared a blog entry from the Firebrand Talent website which I found quite amusing! No, you are not ‘running late’, you are rude and selfish. When I first read it I thought it was a really extreme perspective but after I let some of the details sink in I came to see a lot of it made perfect sense!

When I got married, both me and Mark found it funny that when we got ready to go somewhere it would take me four times as long as him! Something that we adjusted our schedules to accommodate pretty quickly! Although Mark isn't as bothered to be as punctual as me!

Then the girls came along and even though we always aim to leave the house at least half an hour before we actually need to, we still arrive places up to half an hour later than planned! Sometimes it really frustrates me because I naturally want to be reliable and when I promise I'm going to be somewhere I'll be there when I say I will. (Did that sentence just make sense?!) At other times I feel completely justified in being a little late, especially with two little ones.

Of course 'time' and 'being late' is quite a western concept. Living in Tanzania for two years made me realise that as long as you get to somewhere you promised to be a some point ... probably on the day you said you would be there, then that's great! In fact, there is no understanding of being 'on time'. 

This was something that took getting used to and while it may sound not too bad think about the implications. For example, you cook a meal which is ready and waiting for several hours and totally ruined by the time your guests arrive or you race around trying to make sure you and your family get out of the house and into the car to get somewhere and then the people you're meeting don't show til a lot later in the day and find it unusual that you were there so much earlier than them!

The cultural differences of time are just one of the many that as a family we'll need to take time to adjust to whichever country we live in as we move around the world. We'll have to fight any natural tendencies to feel put out when it doesn't work out as we'll expect from our own background and try hard to understand what within specific cultures the 'norm' protocol is!

Wednesday, January 25

Paper Chain Countdown

While the cat's away, the mice will play!

This weekend I've had time to reflect on what it would be like to be a single mum! While we had lots of fun, got most of the practical stuff done and are all still smiling ... it's been hard work! You just push through, find enthusiasm from the depths of somewhere you didn't know existed and thank God that he's walking every step with you!

It was only four days and while I could have done it a lot longer am pleased that I won't need to!! Especially as Naomi was still a bit sick ... clearing up stuff from either end, all over clothes and carpet, keeping her happy and making sure Abigail wasn't missing out was interesting at times!!

Having said that, Abigail has been a total superstar ... stepping up when I've needed help and being very thoughtful to both me and Naomi ... even more than normal. She also seems to be totally OK with the fact that Mark's away so far too.

We tried to prepare her as much as we could before hand explaining that Daddy was going on an aeroplane far away to help some people fix another plane, which she thought was really good. We also have a children's world map in the girls bedroom so we showed her where Mark was flying from and to. Over the weekend she would randomly ask 'Where is Daddy now?' ... so we would go to the map and find out. She was very excited to see that now daddy has arrived where the big red bird is!

The day before Mark left we had fun making a paper-chain with one link for every day that he was away. Every morning he's away we take one link off so that each day the chain gets gradually shorter until he's back home. It's something I think I first heard of when we were studying at All Nations, a visual way for little people to understand the passing of time while their loved one is away ... because 3 and a half weeks means nothing to Abigail right now. I was reminded of it again here as it's something that several of the MMS families do too when the dad's are away on rapid response. To be honest it's been helpful for me too!!

Abigail has really entered into it. She loved making it ... any chance to use scissors and glue and she's happy! We made one before Christmas to add to our holiday decorations adding sparkly stickers to each link that time ... super cheap and super easy with paper from the dollar store. A great way to spend some creative time, brighten up a corner of the room ... and this time with a practical purpose too!

Friday, January 20

Going Solo

This morning before the clock struck 6, in other words TOO early, I said goodbye to Mark.

He is taking part in a rapid response trip to Papua New Guinea, (four flights and 48 hours journey away) with Jim (left) and Andy (centre) below. They are going to help JAARS repair the undercarriage of a King Air which got damaged during a bad landing.

We knew this was part of the MMS training ... taking part in at least one rapid response trip somewhere in the world and was definitely one of the sacrifices we knew we'd have to make, even if it wasn't something would choose to do. As you may remember back in December I wrote about My Gentle Giant and how since we first met in September 2005, we've only ever spent a week apart. It will be weird not having my best friend at my side in the day-to-day stuff for a little while.

It's going to be a huge learning curve for all of us ... for Mark being away and for us still functioning with a huge gaping hole that he would normally fill. We know that for some families this is the 'norm' but it's not usually for us. I'm just really proud that he has the skills in which to be useful in this situation and that he's using them to help out.

I'm sure there will be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster along the way ... but right now I'm focusing of having fun with the girlies (and my sister who arrives to keep us company on Monday!) and counting down the days til February 12th, when Mark should be safely home with us again having been a blessing in Papua New Guinea!

Wednesday, January 18

Shrinking Wish List

This time next week my little sister will be here with us in Ohio fromm the UK. She arrives on Monday and is coming to keep the Beckwith girlies company and help out while Mark is off on a rapid response trip.

We have been really lucky since we moved to America as we've had lots of visitors from the UK ... in fact this will make the thirteenth visit in the two and half years we've lived here! (With at least two more in the pipeline!) It's always nice to be able to show friends and family a little bit of our life out here.

Another perk of having visitors from 'home' is that they can bring us some Brit goodies that we've been missing both food and other stuff. Our visitors in the first year we were here had a much longer 'wish list' to find space for in their suitcases and some were more willing couriers than others! But that list has been slowly shrinking ... this time round there are only a couple of requests.

Is our shrinking list because the more we've acclimatised to the culture here, the less we miss about home? Because we've found alternatives? Or because the longer we've been here the more home comforts we've been able to source online or within a two hour drive? Honestly ... it's a mixture of all three!

Take for instance this time last year ... I walked into our local Walmart and saw advertisements for Kellogg's all new cereal ... Crunchy Nut Cornflakes! It made me laugh that it was 'new', seeing as it's been my favourite cereal for years in the UK and there was a huge sigh of relief from all future visitors ... as a box of Crunchy Nut Cereal takes up a lot suitcase space!

The longer you live in the country the more you get to know both what you will miss, what you can live without and how you can eventually get hold of those things you can't. These lists will be completely different whichever country you live in and from person to person too, as everyone's preferences are unique!

Many of my Brit friends will stock up on Marmite, Tea and Chocolate before moving overseas ... these seem to be the essentials. For Korean friends in England, a good supply of Kimchi is a necessity and my Australian friends won't leave their homeland without taking a jar of Vegemite! These are just a few that I've come across in the last couple of years alone.

What was interesting the last time we were in England was that there were certain things from America I missed while we were home ... so when we move on from here I'll be pulling in favours from people all over the world when I want a treat! For the time being I'm looking forward to a new supply of Sellotape and Udon Noodles when my sister arrives. Yes, totally random items I know!!!

Monday, January 16

Time for ...?

How do you use your time?

Last week I was chatting with someone new to our town, who asked 'What do you do with yourself during the week?'. You have to understand that while we live in a lovely little town, with a slower pace of life ... there really isn't all that much going on ... and yet I find myself on the go all day everyday!

Part of that is down to being a mum and running a house. While some people would argue that that's easy and there should be time to so much else as well ... just try it for a few weeks non-stop! I know all you stay-at-home mum's (and dad's) out there are nodding your heads in agreement! And the effort to just 'pop' out and run some errands can become a mammoth undertaking.

The question did make me wonder though ... just how do I spend my time? Yesterday at church we were talking about living for and making the best of every moment, as well as how we use our time. Leaving me to reflect on it even more!!

When we moved to America in September 2009 we had a clean slate with which to choose how to use our time and gifts and while our schedule looked pretty clear at the beginning, you can be sure it soon filled up with the day-to-day necessities as well as other commitments.

I read an article recently that said, in America parents spend an average of 25 minutes quality time with their children a day. Really? Is that it? Only 25 minutes. Even on days when I'm like a whirlwind racing around trying to get a few jobs done my two girls get more of my time than that. Something that reassures me on the busy days and I try hard to make sure it's way more than that on a normal day. Of all the investments I make in my life, one of the most important one's is time and effort with my daughters.

Sometimes I catch myself feeling guilty when I'm rolling on the floor giggling with them, dancing around the living room, making play-doh cakes, having tea parties or one of the other seemingly 'useless' pastimes, especially when there is a never-ending to-do list lurking nearby. The feeling lasts maybe 5, maybe 10 seconds and then I realise just how lucky I am to be enjoying this time and that it is a totally justifiable use of my day!

Everybody seems to use the expression 'I'm so busy' more and more. Yesterday we were challenged to take a week and write down everything we do to see exactly where our time is spent. I think I would be a little reluctant to see just how much time is 'wasted' or not used constructively for myself, my family and for God.

In the last few months I have made more of a loose schedule of what we get up to ... partly because with having two munchkins there are things that HAVE to be done and partly because I want to be free to enjoy the time I have with the girls, both individually and together (or very occasionally off doing my own thing) knowing that there is an allotted slot later to get 'stuff' done. 

Nobody's perfect but spending a little time thinking about it has at least made me more aware again and challenged me to drop a few of the more futile time fillers in my life and be more constructive with what we get up to.

Saturday, January 14

An Ode to Coke

There is a running battle in our house ... Coke or Diet Coke!! 

I am a full-fat girl but my hubby goes for the 'yucky' stuff. A fact that has confused many a waiter and waitress as they automatically assume the girls drink the diet one ... leaving us giggling, doing a quick swap or gagging if we haven't realised. We're very protective over our favoured choice!

I haven't always been so loyal to the 'real thing'. When I worked in Tanzania back in 1999, I was a Diet Coke drinker and very disappointed when I found that Coke of the diet variety was unknown where I lived. When I left in 2001, it was finally available (at a price) ... but by then I was a convert and have never looked back. When something is perfect, why tweak it in any way at all! 

I used to have a habit of drinking the equivalent of four cans a day ... but a few years back I cut it down to just one! If I'm in a restaurant and on ordering am told 'We only hold Pepsi products, is that OK' ... I'm the awkward customer who says no changes her order. Why waste my one drink allowance on anything but the best!

It will be interesting to see what preference the girls will choose but as Abigail still only drinks water (her choice!) and Naomi, milk ... only time will tell! As you can see I'm beginning the brain washing in my favour early!!

Over the last few years I've learned some interesting Coke trivia. 
  • Coca-Cola's advertising helped shaped the modern day image of Father Christmas in 1931 according to Coke Lore
  • The first ever coupon was thanks to Coca-Cola
  • A truck transporting Coke weighs several tons more than one of Diet Coke ... I don't have a link to that or an exact figure ... but apparently it's true and it's all to do with the weight of the sugar!
All those Christmas images and money-saving coupons we use today (and in America coupons are used A LOT ... and have regularly saved us quite a bit!!!) are thanks to what I have renamed the Elixir of Life!! 

Some may view Coke as an international corporation working on world domination ... which they are!! I have no problem with that, as long as I get my one a day fix!!

Thursday, January 12

Back on the Menu

About 10 years ago I cut out a recipe I wanted to try from a magazine ... about 5 years ago I got around to making it! (There is an endless supply of magazine recipes still waiting in the wings to be tried and tested in my kitchen!)

Chicken, sweet potato and coconut curry became a fast favourite of ours for adults and kids alike (it's mild enough for everyone). When we moved to Ohio, finding korma paste was a little more difficult ... so our lovely friends & family have been bringing out these two person packs from the UK which are the perfect size for this meal. One day soon I will perfect a homemade korma paste, so I don't have to wait for shipments!!

The only downside of this delicious dinner recently, has been the unfortunate after effects the following day ... in Naomi's nappy! Over the last 8 months we've only eaten it once or twice because any kind of curry's or even meals with onions while I've been nursing Naomi, have had to be off the menu! I was really excited at the end of December when she was 100% on the bottle and the 'forbidden foods' could once again be part of my repertoire again! 

There is an unwritten rule in my life that I only try out a new recipe on the family and never when we're entertaining ... just in case! For some reason I took a gamble the first time I tried out this recipe and thankfully it was a hit. In fact, every time without fail that I've cooked this for friends I'm asked for the recipe! It really is that yummy and makes approx enough for 2 adults and 2 children!

  • 1 Tsp Sunflower oil
  • 2 Tsps (or more!) mild curry paste
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts - diced
  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes - peeled & diced
  • 4 Tsps red split lentils
  • 300ml or 1/2 pint chicken stock
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 175g/6oz frozen peas (or green beans)
  1. Heat oil in deep pan/wok - stir in curry paste (about 1 min)
  2. Add chicken, sweet potato & lentils ... coat in paste
  3. Pour in stock and coconut milk
  4. Bring to boil & simmer for 15 mins
  5. Tip in peas - bring back to the boil and simmer 4/5 mins
Can be served with rice/noodles/chapati/naan etc ... enjoy!!

Monday, January 9

Verbal Diarrhoea

This time last week Abigail was just recovering from a 24 sickness bug and I was it's unsuspecting recipient in a few hours time! Thankfully it was an instant 'get it and get rid of it' thing and Mark and Naomi were completely unaffected.

As a result of the bug and the recovery, Abigail was a little quieter than normal. At the beginning of last week she wasn't all that chatty. A fact that she totally made up for by the end of the week ... when we seriously had trouble stopping the talking!

She would read any book, making up all the words and going on and on about all kinds of random things. At bedtime we have taken to leaving her with a book now until she decides to go to sleep otherwise we will never escape from her bedroom! Then go back in later and tuck her in properly!

In the daytime, Abigail was running around the house picking things up, talking about them ... seeing something else talking about it ... cuddling Naomi, talking about her ... a true one woman monologue. She didn't even seem to draw a breath when saying 'and then' which is often the only link between sentences as the subject matter is usually totally unrelated!

It was highly amusing most of the time, just wondering what on earth she would come up with next. The diagnosis at the end of the week, totally different from the one at the beginning ... Verbal Diarrhoea!

If the spelling of diarrhoea confuses you, it is the British spelling and not the American one. As we've found with so many words since living in the States, spellings can differ, pronunciation can differ or words can be totally different from one 'language' to another.

I've mentioned before some of the differences when we go to the store/shop (delete as appropriate!) and the fact that the girls are growing up surrounded by both versions of English. I find myself using American English more and more ... it really is like learning a new language. 

Last week a friend of mine working in Turkey posted a link to the most amazing and extensive 'Glossary' of British English words and their American equivalents that I have seen to date. I'm still slowly making my way through the page ... but so far I can see just quite how much language learning I've had to do since we moved to America! Even if you just look at a couple of the words it's well worth a quick glance to see just how different the two languages are!!

Saturday, January 7

Home Help

I was recently asked 'What will you miss when as a missionary you go overseas and have to live on a reduced budget?' This person followed up their question with 'Obviously the butler will have to go!!'

Right now I have my own little 'home help' which isn't always as useful as it sounds! Yesterday when I said 'I need to clean the kitchen floor', Abigail was in the kitchen cupboard before I had a chance to finish my sentence getting out the Swiffer and was ready to go!

Today I brought the washing up from the basement and left it in the middle of the floor so I could put Naomi to bed before I tackled it. When I came back into the living room, Abigail was sat in the laundry basket with the clothes (clearly the most comfortable place for the task!) sorting it all out! No joke ... she made it very clear when I came in ... 'Mummy, this is your pile, this is Daddy's, this is Abi's and this one's Naomi's'. Admittedly they weren't folded, we'll leave that lesson for another day, but I'll take sorted for now!

It almost pains me when I'm cleaning the bathroom, in particular the toilet, to have to respond to her constant demands to do it 'all by mine own' ... with something along the lines of 'thank you but Mummy will do it this time'. Mummy would like nothing better than to hand over the cloth, put her feet up with a cup of tea and good book and leave her to it. How sad to realise that when she's old enough to get on with it her eagerness to help will probably be long gone!

One thing I was a little uncomfortable with when I first moved to Tanzania was that everyone had a house-'girl'. Someone to help out around the house with cleaning, washing, food preparation, cooking and maybe even some shopping. I couldn't even imagine why everyone would need one but protocol stated that we took one on at least once and week and anyway it cost next to nothing, even though I was paying double the going rate.

Looking back, I know that it wasn't long before I was won round to this cultural difference and fully embraced Maria, my wonderful house-'girl' who really looked out for me. Simple chores were harder and more time consuming. Laundry ... with no machine and shopping at the local market while enjoyable took longer leaving less time for household chores. While working at the school, teaching English and running some kids clubs, I would never have had time to sort out my little home at the time.

I have to admit I am looking forward to having that extra pair of hands around again when we move on from here ... especially with two little ones taking up so much of my time and rightly so! There is a chance we'll be returning to where I taught over 10 years ago and if so I'll be asking Maria if she has any time on her hands to be part of my family again (after all that's what she became). We're still in touch all these years later!

So, as far as 'giving up the butler' ... of all the sacrifices we have made to follow this path for the life of our family, that's not one I'll have to make!

Thursday, January 5

Knit Wit

Knitting has made such a comeback over recent years. It's now the up and coming pastime of the most fashionable celebrities ... as well as the faithful old grannies!

A few years ago I read and loved The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. Some of my friends have loved it and some weren't so sure but I really enjoyed it. I'm sure there's been talk of making it into a movie ... but I haven't heard anything recently. I do remember sobbing at one point in the book (without adding any spoilers) ... however I was heavily pregnant and hormonal at the time!

I remember as a little girl being taught to knit by both my Nan and Betty, the lady who lives next door to my mum. Now 95, Betty used to knit blanket after blanket to be sent overseas and was very patient with me and my feeble attempts at perfection for such a little person!

The shop where I learnt to quilt here in Coshocton (Mercantile on Main) also runs other classes including knitting. A chance to get together with others, meet new people and learn something new, just like in the book I'd read. So I thought why not take advantage and learn something else when I might be more of a receptive learner than when I was young!

My best friend came and visited us here in Ohio in June 2010. It just happened to be the same time as the knitting classes ... so we signed up together and had lots of fun! We just learnt the basic stitches and a few little techniques and knitted some little swatches to keep for reference.

At the end, the teacher told us that although we hadn't actually made anything, we now had the tools with which to do that and gave us the pattern for some easy baby hats. Always up for a challenge and a chance to use my new found skill, I set-to and knitted some hats ... these are my first attempts, not too bad eh? Worn by babies worldwide!!

Just before Christmas I had a brainwave that I would knit Naomi a scarf ... in anticipation of the freezing cold weather in the first couple of months of the year. There is no picture, as it is still a work in progress but having not done any knitting since before she was born I've been enjoying myself. Now just wishing I had more time to experiment!

Do I aspire to be able to knit like anyone ... honestly ... if I could knit as well as my Dad then I would be pleased with myself! Yes, you read that correctly, MY DAD!!! He is an awesome knitter, unlikely but awesome!

Monday, January 2


New Year's resolutions?! Not in my house! As someone said to me yesterday New's Year's resolutions are there just to keep you busy in the first week of January!

I like to have things organised (although looking at my house right now you'd be forgiven for thinking that wasn't the case!) ... so I have a habit of reviewing things on a regular basis throughout the year and setting myself 'To Do' lists or goals for the big things as well as the day to day stuff. I guess I do that instead of setting big resolutions at the beginning of January each year!

Even on our wedding day when Bob Hunt preached on John 15:9-17, he managed to include the fact that Mark was the tall surfing dude and I was very good at organising things. Who sounded like the more exciting person?! Over the last few years though I have found that actually it is a positive trait and not something to cringe over ... especially when running a home with two little munchkins on a tight budget!

Admittedly my 'To Do' lists seem to be never ending, as soon as something gets checked off it, a couple of others things have been added. But my brain is like a sieve, without my lists hardly anything would get done because I wouldn't remember what needed doing!

I'm not an 'anti-resolution' person either ... after all it's about committing to a plan of action. I have committed to follow the path God has for my life. When I married Mark, I committed to be the best wife I possibly could for the rest of our lives. When I had each of the girls, I committed to be the best mummy I could be to them both. I know these resolutions will last longer than the first week in January. 

So, in the meantime instead of a list of New Year's resolutions that probably won't last very long, for this new day and this new year here is something a friend shared on Facebook today and is how me and God are going to get started together!! ...