The Germ Grinch

It is Christmas night. Late. And the day has been a riot from the moment when Mishal began throwing up at 3.30am. The rest of the day has been long - the usual mountains of wrapping paper, jolly music and cracker pulling, but add in there doling out hand sanitizer and medicine to half a dozen ailing folks who are clutching their tummies and groaning, multiple loads of washing and disinfecting toilets, buckets and floors. Now it is nearly midnight so this won't be a long post. Maddy is still being violently ill every half an hour and is a pale shivering shadow, and the others range from mild cramps to lying prostrate in great distress. Greg is sleeping downstairs in the girl's den so he can get up to them in the night and I have the bubba upstairs who hasn't actually thrown up during the day but whose molars are causing her no end of pain and distress. Sleep is a high commodity. So is humour. But tomorrow is another day. And will hopefully hold both. I am singing 'Silent Night' in faith!

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Cradled in Arms

Newborn delight. Longing has been born and beats within a heart. I drink up each love drop as I pore over perfect face. Arms gently press around this small warm comma. Downy hair velvet under lips. Satin skin. Whisper lashes. Contented breaths at total peace. Rosebud mouth. Translucent folded ears. Moon crescents on minature fingernails. Cashew nut feet curled in.
Love. Utterly, profoundly in love. Value and worth incomparable. Peace. The world fades beyond the sweetness cradled in arms. My child.


Jesus, my Saviour, borne out of the essence of this same author of life-love, was introduced to our humanity in such a way. His appearance was in the singular most precious wrapping of all time. It staggers me when I turn my heart to the cross, that this love - so beautiful - was sacrificed for me.
Discern a new reality, identify with the heart of Mary and Joseph, parents and partners in loving this new life first.
Let tears come that we are ourselves are the ones cradled in the arms of the Father and He drinks us in with the delight only a parent has. Our resting form is wholly dependant for nourishment and life and He is full to the brim with the provision of salvation.


The Miracle.

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Fruitcake and Family


Season's Greetings All!

I want to report that this place has been filled with nothing but giggles, carol melodies, spicy baking smells and lashings of Christmas joy and love.
And it is true.
What is also true is that we have had our fair share of scorched fruitcakes (not to mention the bottom of the cake tin falling out with contents onto floor as being transferred to oven),
soggy gingerbread cookies, mountains of linen to wash for guests arriving, tantrums (not just the kids :)) baby immunisations and mess. The baby is now walking. And falling over. The girls are feverishly counting down days and we have been busy sewing and wrapping and generally creating Christmas havoc.

Where ever you are in the world, our family and friends, we send you much love and hope the reflection on our Saviour's birth affords much warmth to your lives this season.

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Yielded

Ever eaten salad with a spoon?

Or sat amongst the boxes and set up a Christmas tree in all its finery before unpacking anything else because the reason for the season was more important to recognise than equipping the cutlery drawer?

Or given the kids Christmas mince pies for breakfast and toast and marshmallows for lunch?

Or been so physically fatigued at night that you actually can't sleep due to the ache in your legs?

The last few weeks and days have taken on a surreal quality. In my semi-suspension I am functioning methodically, going through the motions of packing and unpacking, making meals (albeit nutritionally shoddy ones), changing nappies and generally living in limbo. Without defining forms of routine and normality, my perception has softened to a hazy blur. My senses are peering through smeary glasses, slack muscles are protesting and creativity has dwindled to an ember but as I have been here before; and there is again a little intact part of me somewhere that registers all is well. Upheaval, temporary plans and make-shift systems notwithstanding, I am at peace.

My latest treat for myself was signing up for the latest session of my online Soul Pursuit Group as they dwell on the season of Christ's birth. A part of my brain was shrieking that I could not possibly feel fulfilled or contribute from such shaky creative territory – with each and every artist's tool at my disposal buried in deep boxes in storage – however, I felt such a connection with the group last time that I couldn't miss it. The initial theme proposed for pontificating was entitled Barn Smells, which is quite the irony to consider really. From my abode on the opposite end of the accommodation spectrum, an apartment devoid of a single shred of grass, much less hay, the closest I have come to livestock (with the exception of our three grubby offspring) is the puppy behind glass at the pet shop. So as I have been lying awake at night I have been imagining a little of what it must have been like for Mary with the whole baby/donkey/stable thing. From my loose and wobbly perspective, these are the identifying factors that I have been able to make out, and from them have found fresh respect for the young woman who bore the Son of God. I am overwhelmed at attitude of her yielded heart despite the magnitude of her physical and emotional discomfort and dislocation.

She was in transit.

She had to leave the familiar behind her and hit the road of considerable personal inconvenience with Joseph on a journey that positioned her for her part in an immense destiny.

She would have been mighty uncomfortable. Hello? If anyone had tried to put me on a donkey when I was nine months pregnant, they would have suffered great abuse at suggesting I even attempt to rise to such heights. If by some small miracle I was able to be manoeuvred aboard a hairy undulating back, sitting upon it for hour after hour would certainly have induced labour, not to mention a mood most unbecoming for a lady.

She was unprepared. No little cot made up with a teddy propped in the corner. No night light. No frilly, freshly laundered nursery linens. No tiny little folded clothes. Nothing smelling of talcum powder, soap or roses.

I was quite staggered that this mother, equipped so generously by nature with the urge to nest and nurture, was removed from her comfort zone and placed in ungracious and rudimentary surroundings to deliver The King of Kings.

That her support system involved a young husband and some farm animals. There would have been no back-up plan, no 911 to call in-case things went wrong. No hot shower to soothe her aching body and certainly no soothing china cup of tea afterwards in her favourite armchair.

And that the little guy who deserved the best the globe could offer, sucked up his big first breath of air from a dusty animal's shelter. Straw, dung and earth were the elements on offer, grubby linen swaddling cloth and rough hewn wood.

I wonder what all this did to Mary. Her craving for a home, for the familiar and for security, never mind just a shred of comfort, did not influence the heart of God. He was happy to allow a girl caught in a momentous situation, to lose all the props of routine and normality in transit. He was okay with her labouring to birth in temporary and rustic surroundings because He had a plan that super ceded her every need and want.

He sheltered her and her faithful provider with a roof over their heads.

He allowed her the warmth of animals slumbering nearby.

He lit the dark sky with cosmic brilliance so she had light to see.

And I am pretty sure a sense of peace beyond the trappings of human routine, would have been her constant companion, along with wonder as she surveyed the marvellous blessing in her arms. I am certain that this feeling completely erased the unsettled-ness and the fact that the tangible tools of her motherhood trade were unavailable. Instead it seems to me as I read this story, that her quiet and determined approach led to the unfolding of the profound truth that the Messiah did not come in pomp for the rich and learned, but in meekness to all, and that it was her gracious attitude that enabled this event.

And to think I am irked by eating salad with a spoon. What a lady Mary was. What a journey she was sent on to change her perspective and give her a new grip on the handle of reality. And what a reminder it has been for me, puddling along in my uncertain land of plenty, to stop and yield with faith on the journey.

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At last we went to the Zoo that the girls have been talking about being able to go to for a year. They bounced and squeaked with glee the entire way round. Kenzie held the camera and took over one hundred photos. Yep, 125 to be exact. Like 7 of the cheetahs alone, which are her favourite animal at the moment. It took my laptop an hour to choke its way through downloading them! We all know what the exhibits look like, so here are some of our chickies :)




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Heart prints

There are tiny handprints stamped and smeared over the glass doors that lead to the balcony, but they may as well be printed on my heart. Each time I look up past my computer screen towards the view, I see their unspeakable sweetness. This littlest gift in her chubby, dimpled, happy approach makes the rest of us go weak at the knees.




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Woodenly...

I haven't posted properly for days - the words in my head just evaporated into silence. My heart zippered itself tightly into a numb tent of disbelief and I am still feeling surreal. Alot of it possibly has to do with the fact that we are living in limbo, albeit in the lap of luxury, a spacious city apartment but without familiar home comforts like toys and games with which to pass daylight hours. The girls have been scratchy and flammable with each other; their new heights of bickering lead me to unzip my tent, poke out my head and growl fiercely before retreating back into the dim still place. This time is stretching them and they are relearning about sharing, empathy and not taking their blessings for granted. A few days after we arrived, they bravely joined the kids' church and were cast in the Christmas production which they will enjoy I believe. We were proud of them for taking new steps and not letting fear dominate their choices. At this stage not one of us is indulging in backwards looking - it would unleash a torrent of emotion, so we cautiously walk out further over the newly formed crust of life in this new place. When there is something good we discover, we celebrate it with enthusiasm and when things are sad, we blink hard and swallow and release our disappointment.
As far as hunting for a house went, we had a list as long as your arm of essential requirements - and by that I mean essential. Like rent being affordable and pets being allowed and enough bedrooms, and a reasonable commute into the city and please God, a garden. Each time I walked around our old garden in the last few months of living there, I petitioned God for a little treed nook just like this one I was leaving. On Saturday we spent 4 hours driving around and exploring the surrounding suburbs about the city and were feeling a little flat that the areas we could afford were so far out of the city, and looked so small and poky with dull square fenced in yards. We arrived back at the apartment and looked online again at available homes to rent, and both chewed our lips thoughfully as we look at a house we had seen many times online but in a totally different area to what we were thinking. We decided on impulse to call the agent despite it being nearly 6pm on a weekend. He said he was on his way to the house that very moment and could meet us there in 15 minutes. We ran to the car! The house is just over the harbour bridge and took about 10 minutes to get to from the inner city, which was a pleasant surprise. We overshot the number though, as it was smack on an intersection, like...ON. We turned around and found ourselves driving down a steep driveway down past several houses to a clearing at the foot of the drive. Nestled among the leaves was the house and once we had got over the shock of the steep descent to the house, we wandered over to find the agent. He was showing another group through so waved us off to explore the garden. It was just like the one I had left behind. Same size. Same lawn with bordering shrubs and trees. Room for the trampoline and a little path winding off into the native forest beyond the boundary with plenty of scope for the imagination and great fodder for my little explorers. I could hear doves and no traffic. We stood at the bottom of the garden and looked back towards the house - how could we convince the agent we were the people for this rental? But when we were shown through my heart sank - it was so dated and my taste in interiors gagged. The peachy carpets, the pink bath, the stained glass accents with autumnal brown flowers and birds and the overuse of my pet hate...pine, all flew in the face of my minimal urban style. The kitchen is one big wooden assault on the senses. I can do wood...if it is white or stained a very dark brown. Not garish timber orange. I folded my arms. No way. I cannot live in this hideous house - give me old fashioned villas any day, or retro vintage, or just plain neutrals, anything really, except PINE. Shudder. I pictured homeschooling amongst hanging baskets and bunches of dried flowers, wearing a long cotton skirt and roman sandals and making rustic patchwork quilts while I wait for my bread to rise. The following two days, my pride and dreams for a home that said AMY wrestled and writhed in a slow death. Finally on Monday morning we rang the agent and told him we would take the house. He had held it for us, giving us first option despite being offered a cash deposit sight unseen by another family. We knew it was for us. We move in at the end of the month. Please address all mail to the Orange Box and the Lady Whose Interior Dreams Have Died. God's sense of humour is profound. He found us a place that ticked all our boxes. All our needs. He didn't need to pamper my selfish indulgence in creating a haven space that inspires me. I thought He did. He says I can find my inspiration in Him. In nature. In my beautiful new garden and the birdsong. Not the knotty ceilings and tangerine-stained cabinets. In Him. Any ideas for decorating a timber rental in a contemporary fashion please feel free to leave comments of inspiration :)

The water fun photos were taken by Greg yesterday when he took the girls for a short walk after dinner to the fountain close to the apartment. I took the park and pond shots in a beautiful domain directly below our new house. In the shot of the three girls in the wooden lookout, our house is somewhere in the background.




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Glimpses of the New


Goodbye Wellington...


Views from apartment


Maddy playing her flip ball game in our foyer

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The bite of the last embrace

What bittersweet days. In my mum's words, it was like being pulled in the tension of waiting for a huge wave to crash. You sit there mutely, knowing it is coming but powerless to stop the drag on your heart as time stretches into impending impact. Knowing the grief will hit all of us hard but in a way perhaps the sheer relief of the waiting to be hit will present itself and we can get on with the job to kicking up to the surface and finding our bearings through the churning water.
We are perched on the edge of the future and I am sitting in the dark before dawn overlooking the lights on the downtown buildings of our new city. I am not in the habit of looking back but to avoid posting about leaving would leave out a huge chunk and the process of disconnecting from our community and life is a normal one that I doubt we will be able to avoid in the future.
The goodbye-bites ate me away over the days to the point that when we had no one else to leave, I literally felt hollow. Seeing the girls choking up and sobbing in their friend's embraces is something no mother really enjoys witnessing, and there were many many tears shed. Maddy was obviously intensely affected - saying goodbye is her undoing it seems. She is particularly sensitive and the agony of emotion was acute to her, heightened by her natural lack of tolerance to anything disliked. She said at one point "Mummy, it is just too sad to be true" while tears coursed down her cheeks. I could see what she meant. Kenzie has a sturdiness to her character but this faltered at the end and when it came to leaving school for the last time, and farewelling her best friend and spending the last moments with my mum, she got caught in the storm. There was a lot of stuff to be done, and without help I could not have achieved what was needed and between Mum having the girls and my bff's busy hands at work, the job was at last complete and I drove out of our home for the last time so grateful for my support structure. I am also deeply thankful to have been able to live in my sheltered clearing in the trees, my simple little home that was never locked, the gift of incredible friendships I have shared there, the cups of tea in the sun on the couch, my baby growing through her first year - from waving newborn tiny fists to crawling with laughter over the lawn, my girls swinging under the cherry blossoms and running down the driveway, the birdsong, the space to heal and dream and paint. My brain drummed the tattoo "I don't want to go, I don't want to go" all the while my arms were wrapped in the last embrace and my legs woodenly walked me to the car, the waves and blown kisses amongst the new batch of fresh tears, the tattoo tapped on. Along my familiar streets and further away from the memories, tap tap tap and the tears just streamed. For an hour. I felt like a wrinkled and shrunk balloon by the time we reached the hotel we were staying at for the night. I lay on the alien bed when Greg took the girls off for a walk, and wrapped myself up in unfamiliar bedclothes, sinking into the silence to try to comprehend the magnitude and reality. I am still numb and my limbs still obey the dull orders sent from my head, but the spark is too wet to strike and I am too waterlogged to fly right now so for the time being am just existing while I wait. To feel alive again.

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The span of my arms

It is 3.30. Not the good 3.30, the bad one. The sitting in the cold dark in front of a glowing screen with a head full of leaking ideas instead of being tucked up in my bed kind of 3.30. My thoughts are bouncing out like imaginary corkscrews, whirling away in a firework display of popping energy and although I am craving a mental corner of solitude to curl up and sleep in, there doesn't appear to be one. The baby has just come down with a cold...my poor girl, it is not a good time to feel unwell and I simply cannot just sit with her like she needs me to, she crawls around after me, and each time I pause, she tries to climb up my leg. All night she has erupted in loud cries, as she falls asleep and then can't breathe through her blocked nose - bad timing.
So, where am I at? Well. The floor of my headspace is a tangled mess of stuff. A plethora of lists, jobs and activities scattered and wound through a sea of crumpled emotions that are sharp underfoot. I am focused one moment, vague the next. Motivated for a while, then heavy limbed. Matter of fact about everything and then over reactive and unable to stop the tears.
I am intrigued by the fact that my mental capacity has to absorb both the realities of essential jobs and silly ones. It is like a colourful mosaic. Each tiny block nestled and and jostling for position in my brain is at odds with the piece next to it. Really Important information and tasks jut up against would-be-nice-to-dos and the lack of simple thought-hierarchy transfixes me. I put it like this on my facebook status - contemplating matters supremely disproportional in priority. Making cake and slice for Greg to take to his farewell and gingerbread men for the girls to take to their last day at school (60 of them...) used up as much planning and hands-on time as packing and sorting our lives into a compact enough state to move. I am tying up loose ends when I can and get a good feeling each time I close an account or move information to a new address (not that we have one...) and everything else that doesn't make it to the satisfaction to being a tied up loose end, falls into the heap of Stuff. There has not been the space to plan for our future, what we will DO, where we will GO, how we will survive the stormy transition of next week. I am living as far as the end of my nose, and the span of my arms.
There have been farewells and goodbyes all round - they are the bite of leaving and pile on top of each other in layers. The two big girls are doing a good job of being brave. Maddy is bleak and scared - she experienced an intense sobbing episode after the last day at church and it all came out - her outrage and sadness and the it's just not fair kind of sorrow and the tears spilled and her little chest heaved and her hands wrung as she processed the beginning of parting from a happy little life. Kenzie took a little longer to crack, but a few hours later she rested her blonde head on my chest and suddenly began to weep brokenly and loudly. Such a grieving these two are doing and despite both attempting to be philosophical, the sadness is acute and there are times all four of us have to breathe through it. I am bewildered still at the why myself. I have this surreal feeling, like it can't be true and then I feel my wet cheeks and I know it is, and try to find some arsenal in my coping mechanism to handle this appropriately but can't. I am in over my head and feel in dark completely. But I have peace as well, in this painful place there is a sense that despite the pull, we will not be deformed but transformed. I understand I do not have to live out tomorrow - just today is enough for now. And can I exalt despite the chaos and uproar? Yes, I can choose to, and the knowledge that I am never alone is here with me.

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I talked to my one of my friends about the season of spring and how we should post some photos. She has done hers and so here are two of mine. This first one is the Maddy tree, mentioned before as it lives in my garden and flowers on Maddy's birthday. Its blossom drifts around my feet and speckles the lawn with pink confetti.

The other tree is my favourite tree in Waikanae. Not sure why, but for 12 springs, whenever I drive past, my heart does a little ahhhhh. Each and every time. It is something about the shape of the tree - how short the trunk but how extravagant the foliage. It reminds me of a wedding dress; a fairytale; a cherry wood trunk to lean on while reading in the spring afternoon sunshine and eating an apple as bees drone in and out of the blossoms. I will miss both of these petal clad giants. Yes it sounds like madness - but I am a tree-girl at heart.



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Last week...

...has been all about Miss Seven's birthday party,


making her a puppy cake, (if you can't have the real thing, order one to eat)


watching the latest feats of gymnastic brilliance on the trampoline

having to keep taking this girl out there too because she now knows how much fun it is

hunting through boxes to find decorations for Christmas dress up day at school for these two
sorting this little pile with this tiny helper who decided to get stuck in without me

working madly to get this baby finished and delivered - yay, the clients loved it

and preparing to say goodbye to these besties


My days are shifting up a gear and the activity is starting to beat a faster pattern in the quiet place of the last few months. I am consciously shepherding my thoughts back to the list and when the emotion comes, I let it wash over me and then pick hope off the shelf again and put it back on. A hope and a trust in the belief that the future holds good things ahead for us. And back into the list making I go.

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7 is a good number

You are seven, Maddison Grace!

We cannot begin to tell you how fast the last 7 years has gone and still remember meeting you for the first time like it was yesterday, what a sweet (loud) baby you were!
You are feisty and petite,
sensitive and highly strung,
with petal soft skin and gold hair,
a love of the outdoors, sports and animals,
you cry when others cry,
don't like it when people laugh at you,
get irritated very quickly,
don't like eating foods that you are not your favourites,
you have learned not to suck your thumb in class
and are able to keep blankie in bed just for nights,
you love your teddies and being maternal,
you have learned this year not to bite your nails,
you are great at gymnastics and doing flips on the trampoline,
you get lots of bumps and bruises from moving everywhere really fast,
you won your first cross country this year - beating all the boys in your year,
you won the trophy for Coach's choice in soccer for having an excellent attitude, you are highly competitive, and very brave,
you are praying for a puppy,
you carry Felix the cat about like he is a soft toy and he lets you (he likes to sleep with you too), this year your favourite meal is sausages and mash with gravy,
your best colour is still pink,
you are very fashion conscious (you also have a shoe fettish),
you like to write stories,
you smell good, like strawberries,
you have bad dreams alot,
you sing really well,
you don't like butter or apple crumble,
you love jelly and iceblocks,
you have logic and common sense and are not easily frightened.
Your name means Gift from God and Strong Fighter.
You are both.
We love you Princess.




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Trying not to cry

Last week taught me that I am going to have to start carrying tissues everywhere I go. The emotion associated with our imminent move tends to leap out unexpectedly and it is distressing to be streaming and sniffing in odd places without appropriate Kleenex support. The tears are not selective - they come when I am driving, watching the kids, talking to a teacher at the school, chatting with someone in the church nursery - and it's proving to be quite the handicap. I tend to steel myself and operate in tight, shallow shuffles to avoid prodding the grief avalanche and the people I bump into round our small community must struggle to know what to make of me. I purse my lips and gaze into the middle distance when they begin their inevitable barrage of reasonable questions about when we leave etc. and breathe slowly through the rumble I can feel building in my heart until it dissipates and I am able to communicate without mascara patterns on my cheeks.

Today a song by Mercy Me caught me as I was driving along.

And I know that I can find You here
Cause You promised me You'll always be there
Times like these, it's hard to see
But somehow I have a peace,
You're near
And I pray that You will use my life
In whatever way Your name is glorified
Even if surrendering
Means leaving everything behind
My life has never been this clear
Now I know the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive
Until you know what you would die for

I try to analyse where I am at with the leaving process. I have busied myself with getting an art commission completed and before that our homeschooling exemption application took up all my brain space, so I have successfully avoiding having to face any of the realities of going. Maddy's birthday is on Thursday and that will gobble up my time this week but every day I try to knock one more thing off the to-do list, which feels like a never-ending ribbon of tasks. Some big things have been achieved in that we have found tenants for our home, or rather, they found us. And we have an apartment to rent for a few weeks while we house hunt up in Auckland that does not consist of ladders, stairs and balconies like the first one booked for us. But each and every square inch of our home has to be sifted through and prepared for packing (one pile for 6 weeks of storage, the other to come with us when we leave). It is dizzying. And so hard to grasp firmly because my emotions keep doing a big grief jig right when I need to be Martha Stewart and organise my socks off.

We had a restful two week school holiday (apart from a week of everyone being sick) and the kids have gone back to school today for their last 2 and a half weeks. Having them around all the time was great and tough at the same time. It made me wonder how to manage my sanity when we are homeschooling but reassured me at the same time, that if the changes I observed at the end of two weeks were anything to go by, that over time, we would all catch hold of the new rhythm and it will all go fine.


Making flower soup in the garden with our best friends

Thanks to my lovely blog friends who commented on my previous and frantic post - I felt reassured and optimistic after I had read their words, and am understanding increasingly that God uses our children to shape our hearts toward His own, tears notwithstanding. Very waterproof mascara would probably be a wise investment right about now.

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