Books and my inner child

When I transferred from the School of Geography to the Medical School in Aberdeen, it was with a new plan in mind. It was to not be a Geography teacher, but instead to become a Community Education worker (as it was known at the time). I hoped to get my degree in Health Promotion, then do my postgraduate diploma after graduation.

So I didn’t look into any courses other than Community Learning and Development ones when I applied for graduate school last summer. It wasn’t until I met my roommate in Germany that I knew there was a Graduate course at Glasgow university on Children’s Literature and Literacy. I love hearing about the things my friend is studying, and am geeky enough to want to read her dissertation when it’s done!



As I’ve mentioned, a friend and I would like to write a book for children. Specifically we want to write books that will widen the breadth of knowledge and understanding of other cultures from a young age so children are not hearing a single story of stereotyped cultures. I saw my roommate post on facebook about a conference being organised by some of the Children’s Literature postgraduates at Glasgow, and discovered I could go. They graciously allowed me to come despite only being able to attend for one of the two days (I was gutted I couldn’t go to both) even though I was not a librarian, copy editor, illustrator or author (yet).



I got learn about editing, publishing, writing and designing books for children, how children can interpret and learn from picturebooks and discovered a couple of books I wasn’t aware of and now wish I had more book tokens! (Christmas?).

The first workshop was a children’s author called Jane Blatt and it was fascinating to learn about the research she has done on how babies and toddlers interact with books and how it inspired her book ‘Books Always Everywhere’. I hope Carrie, Kathy and Jenni know their babies may be getting some random gifts in the form of treasure baskets this Christmas! The book was published by Nosy Crow whose presentation I missed (it sounded like I really did miss out!)

I learned about editing from a lovely editor called Morven who recommended some great resources that I should probably use more often. I’m terrible when it comes to blogging for just writing and hitting publish without any proof reading whatsoever. Just so you know – I don’t do that with my university essay or with any work publications!

And then a librarian from Glasgow Life had brought all these books pictured above which we marked to what topics they could be used for to start discussion with children. Folks – for me this was like being in a sweetie shop. I love, love, love books for young children.

And then we heard more about the research being done on Picturebooks from some researchers at Glasgow University. This is where I discovered the most hilarious and thought provoking book called Mr Wuffles which is all about some aliens in a spaceship have a terrible experience with a cat, escape and meet a tribe of ants who have also had some problems with the same cat and how they find friendship through shared experiences and overcome language barriers.

The other books that were introduced to me by fellow attendees which I urge you to check out are The Arrival by Shaun Tan which tells the story of many immigrants with beautiful illustrations. And It’s A Book! by Lane Smith which is all about a tech savvy jackass donkey who has never seen a book before and has to have the concept of a book made with paper explained to him.

I’m hoping that next year I might get the chance to audit some of the MEd Children’s Literature courses so I can learn more. It’s definitely an area of life that I love and feel very passionate about. Something probably (ok, I know) my friends’ kids have picked up on. :)


Bedtime stories…

Me on the storytelling sofa (photo by Elastaboy on my camera)

Me on the storytelling sofa (photo by Elastaboy on my camera)

One of the things I’m missing most about my friends now living in Eyemouth is the fact I don’t get to see them as much anymore. My favourite thing when visiting the boys (Elastaboy & Mr Teapot) was reading with them. When my friends asked me if I’d be godmother and told me that I was going be allowed to be ‘Auntie’ to them, I was determined of three things.

1. To make sure I prayed for them and be real about my faith with them (please note my friends are Christians and I took vows as a godmother to pray for Elastaboy. I didn’t take vows for Mr Teapot, but I love him just the same and do the same for him vows or not!)

2. That they would be subjected to good music and the best Disney/Pixar movies

3. That I would encourage them to read.

I loved reading when I was a kid, and part of what made that fun was story tapes. Even though I could read the book myself, it was so much more fun to be read to and hear someone articulating the tone of the moment. My friends have filled the boys life with books which I love and from a very early age, being read to was part of Elastaboy’s pre-bedtime routine. I loved getting to babysit when I got to be part of that routine. Even during afternoons when the boys got a bit rowdy I’d get them to sit in the sofa and Elastaboy and later on Mr Teapot would pull a book off ‘their’ shelf in the living room and bring it over so we could read it together.

At the weekend, I went down for a birthday party, and finally got to give the boys their Christmas presents (and Mr Teapot’s birthday presents). One of the books that I discovered while helping my friend Gavin find a present for his nephew a few years ago was Dinosaurs Love Underpants. As soon as I opened it and read it I was giggling and told Gavin on no uncertain terms that he HAD to buy this book for his nephew. I just couldn’t imagine a child (especially a little boy) not finding the story fun! As soon as Elastaboy was old enough I bought a copy for him, and then along came Aliens Love Underpants (E & Mr T’s favourite book apparently). In October I found out another one had been done with Pirates so I bought a copy to give to one of the boys for Christmas or birthday. When Mr Teapot opened it, Elastaboy exclaimed in regret ‘Awww! I’ve been wanting that book!‘ I love that he wanted a book! We explained that we were sure Mr Teapot would share the book with him – the best part of reading books is that it can be a shared experience…

It makes me sad when I hear of parents who don’t read with their children. Last summer on my Mum’s birthday we went for lunch and afterwards popped into Waterstone’s to browse the books (I do this a lot). I dragged her to the children’s section to show her a book I’d found during the Jubilee about the Queen’s royal knickers getting lost. Jokingly my Mum had sat on a seat in the kids section and asked me to read it to her (Do other people do this role reversal game with their parents?). My Mum was tutting and laughing at me putting on the dramatic posh voice as the discovery of the mix up between the picnic hamper and the Queen’s knickers hamper was made. Soon a little girl started watching us, and nervously edged closer and closer to me clearly wanting to join our reading. She looked up at me with big wide eyes and I smiled at her and carried on. When the story was finished I asked her if she’d like to see the book and she shyly nodded and at this point the Mum noticed me and I could tell was about to tell her not to bother me. I smiled at her Mum and said “I think she’d like to hear this story” and handed the little girl the book. The girl burst into a smile as her Mum asked “do you want to read it?” and climbed up next to her Mum to be read to.

That, and the fact that I still quite happily entertain children with imaginary tea and cakes, making stuffed toys ‘talk’, racing Jesus against a camper van across a kitchen floor and  all that joyful silliness I guess is why presenting CBeebies  is on my bucket list. My Mum’s actually suggested that I try and volunteer somehow to do a storytime for children in a library or bookshop. I’m quite tempted to do that (this is clearly why I fail to get jobs that pay me…I like having fun work way too much)!

What was your favourite book as a child, and are there any new favourites you’ve discovered recently?

My thoughts on…’Father Fiction’ by Donald Miller

Reading Father FictionI mentioned in my 2012 Review that my favourite book that I read last year was Father Fiction by Donald Miller.

Donald Miller is one of the few ‘Christian authors’ I can deal with reading, as he is both a gifted writer, has studied the craft of writing, and also doesn’t write tritely or with the supercilious arrogance of ‘this is what you should believe, and this is how you should live it out’. He makes me think. He writes with intelligence. And he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Over the years, I’ve had many recommendations of books I apparently ‘must’ read to help me with my ‘Daddy issues’ or ‘mother wounds’ (contemporary Christian women seem to be all about ‘mother wounds‘ and the ‘father’s heart‘ these days, and the language they use in their endless seminars on the topics does my head in to the point where I dread having to go to women’s conferences. Or faith based conferences in general). I’ve had a lot of pity about my upbringing being a poor child of divorce, and let’s face it a family history which is like something out of a soap opera. I did get told by a pastor once that the way I don’t cry all the time and seem totally at peace with it all is apparently because I still need healing. Thank you very much, but after 28 years I’ve kinda learned how to deal, and yes that evolves as the circumstances continue changing. Plus, you weren’t there for the 2 years I spent crying and screaming and swearing at God in church corridors asking him why I’d had so many crappy father figures placed in my life. I got counselling and gained perspective. And now I’ve worked hard at studying others to find better examples of parenting, marriage and fatherhood.

I’d spotted the book by Donald Miller and couldn’t afford to buy it at first, but then one night spied a copy on my friend’s bookshelf. Yes, that was the night Miss S and I ended up in a conversation about what I do for a living and why some kids grow up with out a Daddy.

In the introduction he writes…

This book is about the hard, shameful, embarrassing stuff you and I have to work through as an individual. It’s about me secretly admitting to you I needed a father, and how I felt like half a man until I dealt with those issues honestly. And if you let it, this book is an informal guide to pulling the rotted beams out of  from your foundation and replacing them with something you can build a life on.

What Donald Miller does is look at aspects of life and character and talk about how a lack of a father meant that he didn’t learn certain lessons the same way (or at all) and how he had to learn them in different ways. He talked about some of the fears common amongst those who have grown up without fathers. And some of the attitudes and behaviours we might have learned because of how we’ve grown up without a male role model in our life.

I personally am very thankful to have grown up with a single mum. I’m proud that my Mum had the courage to leave a terrible marriage which was beyond repair and instill values and lessons in me that have helped me succeed in life. I’m certain that I’d be in a much worse place as an adult if she had made a different decision. However, there are things I missed out on as a result of being a ‘divorced kid’. Like being able to be part of organised activities or play with my friends at weekends. Being a latch key kid (which I think made me much more responsible and sensible from a young age. It could have gone the other way though). Not having a good example of relationship to live with (this could just as easily happen if you’re the child living parents who do not have a healthy marriage).

To be honest, though his writing is influenced by growing up without his Dad and what that instilled in him…I’d recommend this book even if you grew up with your Dad. Because no parent is likely to have given you a perfect example of how to live life. He talks about integrity, sexuality, dating, friendship, mentoring, authority, decision making, work ethic, education, belonging and forgiving our fathers.

Josh said, “You either get bitter or you get better”. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate; it belongs to you. 

There will always be a reason to feel sorry for ourselves. And sometimes it really is appropriate to grieve something terrible that has happened in our lives. But we also have to move on; we have to set ourselves free from the trap of self-pity.

As I read that, I wanted to jump for joy at a book that finally told me ‘yes, it is ok to move on!’ I’ve always felt like pastors wanted to hold me back and pity myself and my need for healing for all the insecurities I was left with growing up with such terrible examples of fatherhood (or none at all).

It’s a book I know I’m going to go back and flip through over and over again.

If you grew up with an absent father…I really commend it to you. :)

Throw these guns away…

Yesterday I watched the news in horror as yet another mass shooting took place in America. Immediately I felt like I was being sent back in time to March 1996. The day in school we sensed something was wrong, and I returned home to see the news and my Nana running to hug me…my shrieks as I realised that it was the school my friend and her sister went to, and phoning my Dad to check if he knew they were safe. That weekend my friend was pictured in the paper tears streaming as she laid down flowers outside her primary school.

When evening comes and light is fading
And your heart is heavy from the tears
Lift up your eyes and look to heaven
For 17 new stars have appeared
They shine their love down upon us
And the message of their love is clear
Lost familiar voices softly whispering in the wind
Pleading that this time we will hear

Throw these guns away
Throw these guns away
They’ve caused this world too much pain
Let our old friends play
In a safer day
Say the bairns of Dunblane
Throw these guns away
Throw these guns away
They’ve caused this world too much pain
Let the children play
Let the children play
For the bairns of Dunblane

We’re building the roads that the future travels
We can ensure that no other town must bear
More lost familiar voices softly whispering in the wind
Pleading that this time we will hear

Throw these guns away
Throw these guns away
They’ve caused this world too much pain
Let the children play
Let the children play
For the bairns of Dunblane

-Throw These Guns Away – Dunblane

A man angry at not being allowed to work with young people in the community walked into the school with an intent to kill every pupil and staff member inside during the morning assembly. He missed them by minutes, and forced his way into the gym instead.

Dead: 16 children, 1 teacher

Injured: 11 children, 1 teacher, 1 teaching assistant

Witness: 1 child – the only one who survived in the gym with no physical injuries

All the children were aged between 5-6 years old. All of them in the same class in their first year of primary (elementary) school. The town of Dunblane is a quiet, affluent one in the centre of Scotland. Not far from Edinburgh & Glasgow, but almost in the country. Not unlike how Newtown, CT has been described really.

The song above was a Christmas hit in 1996, sung by pupils of Dunblane Primary School – many of their siblings had been in the gym that day. That was THEIR message to the world in response to what had happened.

I can’t imagine the pain of loss that the community of Newtown are facing right now. The anger. The fear that comes when your safe space is invaded with such evil acts. My thoughts and prayers are so with the families of victims, the staff & pupils. With the man who lost his mother and brother. Who faced being arrested in public and hatred when they misidentified his brother as being him.The heroism shown by the staff, like the headteacher who is suspected to have switched on the intercom to alert the school to the danger before trying to tackle the gunman. Her twitter feed shows how much she loved the school and her role. The world lost a great educator that day. More than one. The children who were murdered in their classrooms. Not to mention the trauma of the children & staff that survived, who will remember Friday 14th December 2012 for the rest of their lives.

I’ll admit that my reaction after the pain I felt for the kids and the parents of kids who lost their lives on Friday was one of anger, because I remember so vividly that song and it’s words that was heard on TV and radio constantly 16 years ago. My anger at seeing people advocating for the ‘right to bear arms’ knowing that pretty much every mass shooting has been enabled by legal guns brought straight to the surface. What do you use a gun for aside from attempting to kill? I really don’t understand why people would want to give people opportunity to own and use such deadly weapons. The knowledge that a group of families who lost their children 16 years ago hoped it would never happen again to anyone else and tried to warn them with their message and campaigning.

The road to recovery for Dunblane began with demolishing a gym and then discovering that the everything the man had done until he opened fire in the school (buying a gun, ammunition and practising at a shooting range) was all legal sickened and angered many. The Snowdrop campaign began, and within two years a total ban on the private ownership of handguns was put in Britain. We’ve never ever had another mass shooting since in Britain.

Similarly, after several mass shootings from 1984-1996 the Port Arthur massacre was the last straw Australia – they increased gun control. They’ve never had another mass shooting since either.

I hope that those who have the power to prevent this from ever happening again listen to the words of the children of Dunblane – they know better than most unfortunately.

“We can ensure that no other town must bear, more lost familiar voices softly whispering in the wind, pleading that this time we will hear: Throw these guns away…they’ve caused this world too much pain”

Today, I’m remembering the 17 killed in Dunblane. I’m thinking of the 27 killed in Newtown. I’m choosing not to use the names of the 2 men who committed these acts, because I’d rather their names not be remembered.

**Comments on this post are disabled. People are free to write their own thoughts on their own social media pages if they like**

Compassion Bloggers in Peru

My journey with Compassion began in August 2002. Yep – it’s been 10 years since I began sponsoring a boy in Ethiopia, who has grown into a young man who has just finished his education. Several blogging friends – namely Lindsey and Pete – have done Compassion blogging trips. Pete to India in 2009 and Lindsey to Guatemala in 2010. With all my heart I wanted to sponsor a ton more children when they went out to those countries…but I couldn’t at the time.

This year, I was finally able to, and I started sponsoring a boy in Indonesia.

Follow the Compassion Bloggers in Peru

Several times a year, Compassion bloggers go out to see some of the projects and meet families helped by the week of Compassion. It gives the charity transparency, is a huge encouragement for the projects and makes people human beings rather than just statistics or faces on a leaflet as these bloggers share the stories of real people.

Today Shaun, Angie, Jennifer, Kevin & Layla will be travelling to Peru to spend a week with folks working with Compassion there. By clicking on the widgets to the right – you can follow them as they post videos, photos and stories from their trip. You can also find out more about sponsoring a child in Peru through Compassion.

The beauty of letter writing

It’s been a strange week. Out of my routine, and I am most definitely a routine girl!

Today, I came home early after a client didn’t show up for their appointment. I have lots of time off to take before the end of year and I’m trying to make sure I take as much as I can before Sarah goes on holiday for 4 weeks later this month.

It gave me time to do something that has been on my to-do list for the last 2 weeks…write letters to my sponsored children in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Henok, is no longer a child. He is now 17 and a letter arrived this week telling me he had now finished school. In May he will be the same age I was when I started sponsoring him, and my prayer is that he’ll be able to bless someone the way I hope I’ve managed (along with people where he lives working with Compassion) to bless him and his family. Kinen I started sponsoring in April. I could not resist his mischievous grin, and I hate to think what trouble he’d get up to with my godson (who has an equally mischievous grin!). I got my first letter from him as well. He is just beginning school really, and apparently loves to sing. His dream is to work hard and become a pop star so he can be famous, earn money, help his parents and come visit me! :) He asked me a lot of questions about whether I liked singing, and did I sing? I’m grateful now for the pictures Claire Fleck has managed to snap of me at Powerpoint (I do my best to hide from her camera). I hate pictures of me singing, but at least I was able to e-mail him a picture to prove that yes – I like singing too!

I’ve finally worked out how to log into my account with compassion (going into I now realise they had copied my e-mail address incorrectly – explains why I’ve had some issues!!) so my plan is to be a lot better at writing more regularly to both of the boys.

Do you sponsor children through Compassion or World Vision? How often to you write to them? And what do you write about?

How to get kids to hate sport & ruin an Olympic legacy

The olympics have been awesome. It’s been great to see triumph, it’s been heart wrenching to watch the disappointment. We’ve seen rowers being dragged to their feet by Sir Steve, people competing on fractured bones, crashes, near misses and the joy of simply competing.

There are some that sadly, have forgotten what the Olympics are about. It’s not just about winning. It’s about  your work being rewarded with the honour of representing your country and competing alongside athletes from across the globe.

To quote one of my favourite films “If you aren’t enough without it [a gold medal], you’ll never be enough with it“.

As a graduate of health science, I’m all for getting kids active. I’ve really done my best to get people excited about the Olympics, encouraging my parenting friends to watch it with their kids. At Guides, we combined the Amelia’s Challenge badge with the ‘On Your Marks’ programme that Girlguiding created to tie in with London 2012. I’m hoping they’ve been watching (I did tell them they all had to know who Beth Tweddle was by the end of the summer) and I’m hoping they’ve been inspired by it.

And then I heard the disappointing and frustrating news today that our Prime Minister is backing compulsory competitive sports in the school curriculum.


For me it brought back memories of being forced to do certain sports at PE in school. I was terrible. It became that being good at team sports made you popular. It wasn’t about taking part. If you screwed up, your team moaned and shouted at you. Even if you did your best. It was humiliating and horrible. By the time high school came around, it turned into bullying and I used to skive school on days I had PE.

Here’s the flip side. Was I an inactive kid  because I was the one who got picked almost to last or preferred to sit and sunbathe on the sidelines that take part in a game of rounders or tennis?


I used to take part in dance classes – 2 a week going into high school. When we were getting ready for exams or a show, sometimes I might be dancing for 5 hours a day. I’d come home with a bag of sweaty leotards, feet blistered and cut and next day my muscles would hurt so bad in school.

I remember my friend Emily feeling ill one day in PE as our teacher made us run round the playing field. She looked white. I stopped to sit with her (our teacher wasn’t really doing anything to help her and I was concerned). He shouted at me and I’ve never forgotten the words “Get moving! This is probably the only exercise you’ll have done this week“.

Red rag to a teenage bull.

I lost no time in setting him straight. The PE teacher at least had nothing to respond with.

The problem with PE, was that you never got a chance to get good at anything. The sporty kids got held back by kids like me who had no talent (or desire) for whatever sport had been forced upon us.And it was mostly team sports. Basketball, hockey, rugby… and PE teachers didn’t necessarily know much about the sport they were teaching. I would have loved the opportunity to improve on my swimming. I had a good breaststroke – my leg stroke (?) was great. My arm stroke sucked (I have no upper body strength). We spent one day on breaststroke in the 4 years I did compulsory high school PE! 2 weeks later I was being made to play rugby without my glasses on. 4 weeks after that hockey.

It is not the way to get kids into sport.

I’m now going to quote Olympic champion, Shawn Johnson. In her book Winning Balance she talks about her work with a US congressman to get kids more active.

“In a traditional PE class, kids might be drilled in the fundamentals of volleyball one day and then lined up and ordered to do push ups the next. It’s an approach many kids hate. And if they dread physical activity at this age, they’re much less likely to be concerned about staying fit later on”

When Jessica Ennis was asked her opinion on plans to get sports more competitive for kids she said it was more important to make it fun, the competitive side should come much later.

I agree.

I also love the idea of what Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act bill is doing. The idea is that pupils are given choices about how to spend their PE time. It might be lifting weights, playing a team sport or doing a Dance game on the Nintendo Wii. Whatever they choose the pupils wear heart rate monitors and know what their individual target heart rate is. And once they’ve reached their target, they’ve met their goal for the day and after that they can do what they want. Those who are less fit, or perhaps overweight will reach their target more easily. Those who are aspiring sports stars will have to work harder. The programme gives small successes – and achievable goals to kids who usually feel inferior to the sporty kids.

The real goal“, Shawn Johnson writes “is to help kids discover that exercise is fun“.

In the USA there seems to be much more incentive for sport – sports schloarships, extra curricular sport with decent coaches who know that sport well. Perhaps that’s why they are top of the Olympic table.

And then, you’ve got to look at the sports we have a great legacy in. Cycling was not an option at school. Neither was gymnastics. Or canoeing. Or rowing. Or athletics (other than running 100m races). I was appalled at my PE teacher’s idea of “dance”. Maybe it’s time we think outside of the box. Maybe we let the kids pick a sport to be involved in, the same as they get to pick an instrument to learn to play in music if they want to. Maybe we join forces with local colleges, universities, sports clubs and other schools so that resources can be brought together to give kids opportunity to learn a sport properly and have fun doing it.

Because really…if you don’t love the sport, you’re never going to want to push through the bad times and injuries to keep going towards the chance of Olympic medals.

And Politicians…you might want to think about that.

If my godson met Heston Blumenthal…

…I don’t think it would be a good thing.

Here’s why…

On Friday, my friend Ruth was heading to do some promotion for Open Doors at a conference called CLAN Gathering in St Andrews. Since there was no gymnastics on Friday, I thought I’d drive her up and see what CLAN was like. It worked out well, as my friends were meant to be at a lunch for church leaders, but there wasn’t anyone to watch their two wee boys. Enter Auntie Laurie…equipped with baby wipes, blueberries, raspberries and chocolate buttons.*

After doing some races across the field, we sat and ate a bit tub full of blueberries and raspberries. Blueberries are Mr Teapot’s favourite, raspberries are mine. Apparently the blueberries had been much anticipated by Mr Teapot who I’m told spent the morning saying ‘Auntie Laurie!‘ and then ‘Auntie Laurie has blueberries‘. Elastatoddler declares that he doesn’t like chocolate he LOVES chocolate. “I’ve loved chocolate ever since I was 2” he says. “I think you might have liked it since before you were 2″ says Auntie Laurie.

An amusing moment came when my godson (Elastatoddler) picked out a raspberry and declared ‘WOW! This is a huge blueberry!!

No, that’s a raspberry‘ I explained. Pointing out the difference between the two berries.

I then told them about how they are full of something called antioxidants, and they help your body’s germ fighting system to battle nasty germs.**

So you won’t get sick?” asked Elastatoddler.


He paused to think on this.

So do strawberries have them?” he asked


And blueberries?


And blackberries?

Yes. All berries have them. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries”

He looked amazed by this revelation…

And do bumbleberries have them?!

I laughed. “I think you’ve just made that fruit up!”  and we all laughed.

But knowing that my godson is actually a FAN of insects (he and his Mum are not remotely creeped out by spiders and will pick them up in their hands…) I tried to imagine what a bumbleberry would look like. And I can only imagine that it is some kind of fruit-bumblebee hybrid.

Which is slightly disturbing.

And knowing what a smart cookie my godson is, he could well grow up to be some kind of genius that could create such a crazy fruit.

And that, my blog readers is why I don’t think it’s a good idea to introduce Heston Blumenthal to my godson.


*A fair few friends were already there. It was most amusing how many people saw me with the boys and either 1) didn’t recognise me because I was pushing a pram, walked past without saying hello then doubled backed later exclaiming ‘Oh! It IS you!’ or 2) thought that I’d been keeping the fact I had 2 children a secret.
**Yes. As a health scientist, I’m starting the health promotion education early in life. Don’t worry, I fulfilled my spiritual parenting too as we talked about God stuff as well!

The way to get better at something is to…

When kids are little, they think grown ups can do anything. There are things they can’t do or haven’t learned yet, and when we’re able to do things they can’t it might seem like we’re waaay more superhero like than we actually are.

It might be because we can drive a car to get somewhere exciting, or jump up so high we can touch the ceiling. The fact that we can draw a picture with incredible detail that you know exactly what it is without having to ask. You are the person that can quench their curiosity with answers to their questions and they might wow at your knowledge.

But of course children grow up, and eventually they learn that you’re just as flawed as everybody else and you’re not really a superhero after all.

My friend’s daughter looks up to me. When I realised that, I got a bit intimidated. After all, we already know that I can be a corruptive influence on the younger generation. ;) Whenever she was in church and I was singing in the worship band (often with her Daddy who plays drums and other grown up friends she knows) she always got excited. When she was little she’d do impressions of us all – she’d sing with her eyes shut – one arm raised in the air and declare that she was me. My response was a mixture of embarrassment (oh my – is that really what I look like when I’m singing?!), hilarity and pride. She made me a card on my 26th birthday that declared I was a rockstar. And I guess to her, it maybe looked that way. I mean I got to sing on a stage with a microphone with a band. That is COOL. To her, I was an amazing singer.

But the truth is, although I can sing, I’m not anything remotely close to amazing or rockstar like!

When we were on holiday last month, my friend and her daughter (and indeed everyone else on the beach that day who might have been watching) got to see me suck at something. I love gymnastics. But I can’t do it. My friend’s daughter like me, loves dance and other sports but isn’t brilliant at them yet. She’s still learning after all. At first she didn’t try the cartwheels with me. Until she saw that I couldn’t do it, and was having fun trying anyway. So together we tried to fling our bodies into the air attempting handstands and cartwheels. Again. And Again.

We didn’t succeed.

But we had fun trying.

You know, I was never able to sing in harmony. It took me ages to learn. At first I could only do it if I was provided with the notes I needed to sing over and over. When I began to sing in church, I stuck to the melody. Eventually I got the harmony if someone made it up for me. And then with practice and trying (and some awful bum notes in the process) I began to be able to harmonise. Our leader at Powerpoint now jokes with me because I don’t know the melodies to songs anymore – I’m so used to making my own harmonise version as we learn a new song! But when I was 19 I never thought I’d be able to do that. I had to keep practising. I had to ask others from help and teaching. I had to keep trying. I had to make myself vulnerable to making mistakes in the process.

As I came away that day, I reflected on the importance of that lesson. It’s the words that now stick on my head watching footage of World Champion (and now Olympic Champion with her teammates) Jordyn Wieber trying to do a gymnastics move in her living room and falling on her first attempt when she was a little kid. Her Mum is behind the camera as she goes for another attempt…‘The best way to get something done is to try again’

You want to get better at something? Are you being held back because you failed the first time and you don’t like not being the best at something on first go?

I’m with Rita Wieber on this one.

Try Again.

It really is the best way to live. :)

Friendships are worth more than chocolate & flowers

Chocolate and flowers seems to be the theme of this last week. My friend – a pastor in Zambia – wished me a Happy birthday and Lord’s blessing over me. But you know what I realised? I’m already blessed. It’s nice to get chocolate eggs and to come home to find a bunch of pretty flowers on your doorstep, but the friendships I have mean much, much more to me.

Saturday afternoon was a blessed time. Sure, it wasn’t so great that Mr Teapot threw up all over himself and the sofa just as his parents were leaving the house (though I am sincerely glad that it happened BEFORE they left…and I rather calmly went upstairs to get him a clean outfit while they disposed of the pukey things!!). But my favourite moments were sitting round the kitchen table eating apple talking about Easter and the days they were born and playing with Cars 2 play-dough. Elastatoddler sitting on my lap with his Spanish/French workbook from school and asking me to show him how to count in French and Spanish. (And me being seriously thankful we had a workbook. Because I’ve forgotten pretty much all my French and Spanish!!)

Perhaps the funniest part was while trying to put clean clothes on Mr Teapot and Elastatoddler appeared with a gift bag and card.

On the envelope it said ‘Laurie’.

He pointed to it and said “It says Laurie, but that’s really your second name“.

What’s my first name then?” I asked him

Auntie.” he replied quite matter of factly, looking at me like I was very silly for not knowing what my ‘first’ name is.

You’re Auntie Laurie. Auntie is your first name, and Laurie is your second name”  he told me.

And he is right. That’s why I don’t mind changing pooey nappies and wiping poopy bottoms. It’s why I feel proud when I’m told ‘Auntie Laurie I need the toilet‘ after the little accident that had happened earlier in the afternoon. It’s why I don’t get phased by them crying/shrieking when they don’t get their way (though a deep breath to remain calm and pray for one’s ears may sometimes be required). It’s why I have shoes covered in red and blue play dough. It’s why I smile when I see their joy at the simple fun of making someone ‘disappear’ by throwing a towel over them or when 2 brothers play together taking turns with their favourite toys (as opposed to fighting because they don’t want to share). It’s why I don’t leave until I know they are ok when they run and leap face first into a toy fire station and bust their lip and chin just as I’m about to leave the house with an ‘¡Adios Auntie Laurie!’

It’s also why I believe my parenting friends just may be superheroes for doing these things all day, every day for years and years.

Every time I spend time with these boys, I wonder what they’ll grow to be and do in the world, and I think how lucky I am that my friends let me be part of their lives and even trust me to take care of them (for a few hours at a time)!