Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What would YOU do?

What would YOU do if your house was messy, your floor was dirty and your toddler was grumpy and driving you nuts?




This is what WE did:

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In other news, wish us luck, we've got students! (This the phrase commonly used in our area to say you're hosting exchange students. "We've got students!" Always kinda reminds me of "We've got nits!")We have now a total of 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and 6 people living in the house! Actually, it's not bad at all, I hardly get to see them. I'm practising being the mother of teenagers, i.e. they only come home to eat, hardly ever talk to you and almost never answer their mobile phones. Matilda is fascinated by them, and follows them around constantly jabbering in too-fast-and-clearly-incomprehensible-english (they usually look at her smiling vacantly. Awwww.) She is trying to win their favour by complimenting them every time she sees them; she comes up with things like "I love your bracelet!" and "I like your clothes, the're neat." (Seriously? Neat?!)

Really, appart from being a great conversation starter, having 6 people in the house is no trouble, since we're co-sleeping and have a bedroom usually sitting around empty. Matilda has moved to her own big girl bed now (at the moment located in our bedroom,) and will be transitioning to the bottom bunk in her own room as soon as the students are gone. She is also supposed to start school in September. She has her uniform (will have to post a picture) and she wants me to get her a "Numberjacks" lunch box. For the uninitiated, Numberjacks is a CBeebies cartoon with large doe-eyed numbers that live in a sofa (don't ask!) and has taught her various math-related things, including the concept of zero. (Matilda: "I want ZERO Philips touching my toys! Because Zero is the number for NOTHING!") Me, I'm grateful she didn't ask for Disney Princesses. If all of them pink-obsessed creatures at school break my Baby Cakes, I will get very cross indeed!

ADDENDUM: Before a lot of feathers get ruffled, I wanted to say that when in a group of children, you get a variety of preferences in colour, style, hobbies etc, THAT'S diversity... And I love that. When 99% of a group of children like exactly the same thing, to me it's not diversity, it's peer pressure. Now it might be colour, in a few years it might be brand of clothes, or the "right" music. That's what I don't like, especially if it becomes part of my child's self-image. Hey, I know we are not going to be able to completely avoid it, but I don't have to like it. And, to be serious for a moment, if Matilda were to go to school and add Disney Princesses to her list of things she likes, that would be absolutely fine by me. If she comes back from school liking Disney Princesses but stops enjoying her "Thomas the Tank Engine" pyjamas or toys (that she begged me for), or the Numberjacks, because they are "only for boys," I'm sorry if you disagree, but that would be a bad thing in my book.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Now THAT'S independence!

Here's what happened yesterday morning:

I was in the toilet, and the kids were in the lounge. Philip was obviously annoying Matilda. After a healthy amount of screaming, I could hear Matilda yelling "You have to go UPSTAIRS and THINK about what you DID! Go UPSTAIRS and THINK ABOUT IT!"

I got out of the toilet and found a very confused looking Philip sitting on the stairs, behind a closed baby-gate.

Me: "Matilda, how did your brother get there?"
Matilda: "I put him there."
Me: "How did you do that?!"
Matilda: "I closed the gate."

Yes, my almost 4 year old put my 2 year old in time out. Now if I can teach her how to cook, I can get some rest around here!

Cute faces:

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Monday, May 18, 2009

A Matter of Faith

My mum likes telling this story about me: When I was 3 years old, I stopped saying my bed-time prayer. She asked me why, and I explained that I was tired of talking and no one answering me. (I actually remember this, I used to make bargains with God to prove he was there, or that he was listening. "If you are there, when I wake up there will be a leaf on my blanket." That sort of stuff.) Obviously, there never was a leaf on my blanket, and I have been an agnostic ever since (for slightly more sophisticated reasons as the years went by!) Well, sort of...

Looking back now, I can see all the chips on my "Wall." Lots of bits of information or little encounters that were... interesting; but nothing more than that, never something more. I still couldn't do it. At the end of the day, it's a matter of Faith, and I just didn't have it. I looked inside and outside, and I just didn't see God, he didn't seem to be there. I had to be true to myself, I would not pretend about this, and I just didn't feel the presence of a God. Well, sort of...

Later on, big things started happening in my life. I got married, I had two children. I was content. So why did I keep feeling the need to do strange things? I had no sense of the existence of God, no Faith. But I was quickly and strongly getting a sense of a path ahead that I should follow; we were supposed to have a child with Down's Syndrome; and... a sense that everything would be alright if I did... a sense of faith in the path? Could it be the same thing?

According to Wikipedia, "Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. (...) As with "trust", faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes, and is also used for a belief characteristically held without proof."

There were many chips on the Wall by now; the bricks were starting to come off. But I was still fighting it.

October 2007: "I think religious people have it easy. They can say (and believe) that God is leading them down a certain path, and that they have to follow, and that when they do follow God's chosen plan for them everything will be ok as long as they have Faith.
I on the other hand have to settle for being crazy."


August 2008: "I, especially, felt a really strong sense of "destiny." I know it sounds corny. I'm not religious, and I can't explain it, so you'll just have to accept it."

Almost a year ago, last July, I was going to Greece to visit my family. At that point, I had surrendered to the "path." I was nervous; during this visit I was going to tell my family that we were going to adopt a child with Down's Syndrome. They would be upset. There would be no going back after I announced it. Were we really doing the right thing? In my hotel room there were no books or magazines, just a Gideon's Bible. I opened it at a random page, and my eyes fell on this: "Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you." (2 Samuel 7, if you're interested.)

Wham! Talk about working on the Wall with a Sledgehammer! I think that's about when I really started to give in to the fact that I was going to change what I had thought of as a fundamental part of my identity. Couldn't it be a coincidence? Of course it could. Absolutely, there's probably a solid statistical chance that I could open any random book and find something that seemed to fit my situation, there is no question about it. On top of that, there is probably any number of passages in the Bible that could be reasonably relevant to most things. But it didn't feel like a coincidence. And surely, if the lack of a feeling of the presence of God had kept me away from church all these years, then the arrival of a feeling of the presence of God was good reason to try going to church. Especially because, for the first time in my life, I actually felt like I wanted to.

It seemed clear to me that if I was going to continue being honest with myself, I had to at least try this religion lark. That feeling of a presence stayed with me for the next month, while I was mulling it all over; it felt like someone was there who knew what was happening, had read the novel already, and was patiently waiting for me to catch up (with a slightly amused smile, I always imagined.)

It took me a good few weeks to gather the courage to actually walk through the doors of a church. I was scared I wasn't going to like it, I would stop going and offend people; or that people would be pushy, and once I had set foot inside I would spend the next year running into them on the street and being asked if they would see me in Church on Sunday. And which church should I go to, anyway? I didn't want to go to the Greek Orthodox one, too many negative associations of being bored out of my wits as a child, and I just didn't find the style of worship attractive. In the end, my friend T. suggested that I just pick a church and go, and if I didn't like it I should go to a different one every week, until I found one I liked. So that's what we did: we picked the one closest to our house first, a large Baptist church. I seemed to remember that there is a lot of singing in Baptist churches, and I liked the idea of that.

That first Sunday we walked in feeling very nervous, and sat down in the first empty seats we saw. The Church was fairly full, and there were people of all ages there (not just old ladies with facial hair, check!) Then I looked around, and two rows behind us was a family with a little boy with Down's Syndrome. He was sitting there, very well behaved, and looking adorable. "How nice, if we stay in this Church we can meet other people with a child with DS every time we come!" We enjoyed the service, we liked the songs, the Pastor didn't say anything that we didn't agree with. (Just because I "caught religion" I wasn't going to sit there and hear that AIDS is God's punishment to homosexuals or whatever other fundie stuff you hear some times from some Christians. One strike and we were out.) We really did enjoy ourselves, both me and Peter, and the little boy with DS was a big dangling carrot too, I admit. We decided to give it until Christmas, and if we didn't like it by then, we would stop going.

I can only describe the next 4 months or so as "heady." That feeling of choosing to go down a road that "someone" already knew I was going to go down was constantly there. The sense of a benevolent presence didn't leave me for a long while (yes, this sounds horrifically corny. Get over it.) A year down the line, we go to Church every Sunday. (All you Greeks that knew me before, stop rolling on the floor with laughter. Thanks.) And get this: I never saw that little boy again. No one from the Church I've asked remembers any regulars with a Down's Syndrome child -they must have been one off visitors. Our Church holds two services every Sunday morning. There are seats upstairs and downstairs too. There are a lot of people there every time -but that one time, that boy with Down's Syndrome was sitting right there were I would see him. And so I went back.

Here is what I think: I finally got that leaf on my bed. I think that God knew I needed a big nudge. I needed a big clue. And I needed a strong feeling. Why on earth he couldn't have given it to me years earlier I don't know, and frankly, I don't care. So now that I'm a bona fide churchgoer, do I know something I didn't know before? Well, I know a few things, but nothing that would probably make a difference to anyone else if I told them. Certainly nothing that would have gotten me to Church had I known it 5 years ago. But I feel Something I didn't feel before, and that's what makes the difference.

One last thing: Do I think that you should go to church too? I spent the last year being too scared to tell the people I know that I was going to Church. (I told some of you, but not most.) I thought you'd think I was going to start preaching to you, or I'd stop telling dirty jokes, or I'd start judging everyone. I really have no intention of doing any of these things -but I want to be able to talk about what happens in all the parts of my life, not just the non-religious ones. And to answer my question, I think that if you don't want to go to Church, you shouldn't go. If you do want to go to Church, you should go. I just think that you should always have an open mind; and that is precisely what I always thought anyway.