Friday, 11 November 2011

Remember remember.

Long time, no post! Time to pick up my brain, dust it off and start posting again I think!

It's been a few months of not a lot and yet so much going on. Our duckling's two and a half now and she's so much fun. It certainly has its challenges but who can resist a tiny voice piping up with 'E-I-E-I-OOOOOO!!!!!!'  at random while we're walking down the street?

My biggest personal challenge is the near loss of the nap. The Nap has become such an issue in my mind that it's developed a personality and I'm considering giving it a permanent capital letter. Or sobbing gently into a glass of gin. I simply hadn't realised how much I'd come to rely on the hour (sometimes hour and a bit!) of time all to myself. Oh the beauty of going to the loo 'All by self!', or doing the dishes in fifteen minutes instead of fifty, or even sitting in gorgeous peace with a cup of tea and catching up with facebook!  These days I maybe convince her to nap twice a week if I'm lucky.  She can't quite make it till bedtime either though. This means by the time poor Mr. Purpleduck comes home she's inconsolably tired and far too grumpy to appreciate the daddy she's missed all day. 

We've had a bunch of 'firsts' that aren't exactly firsts but firsts that she's been big enough to join in with and appreciate, possibly even remember. The two most recent are, of course, bonfire night and hallowe'en.

Bonfire night was pretty fantastic. We met up with friends and went along to a spot near the beach to watch our council run fireworks display from a slight distance. Lovely. We had a great view, less noise and smoke and a much smaller crowd. The display was great. Duckling informed me she liked the 'pop' ones and not the 'bang' ones. We got back late and she was so tired but the next ay she talked about being out in the dark and the 'pop' and 'bang' fireworks like a huge adventure we'd all been on together.

Hallowe'en was fun too. She's a bit young for guising (trick or treating in Scotland), but we went to a party our lovely upstairs neighbour was having. Duckling dressed as a pumpkin in a yellow tutu our friend V made her and had a wonderful time (and so did I!).

Joining in was brilliant this year, and she's old enough to listen when her mother tells her about WHY we do these things as a culture now which makes it even better. So we recited 'Remember remember the 5th of November' and talked about Guy Fawkes and even touched on the Catholic/Protestant divide and conspiracy theories surrounding the whole event (though that was to remind myself to be honest. She was more interested in the rhyme than the possibility that some protestants may or may not have set up Fawkes). And we talked about why people dress up for Hallowe'en and why the costumes are 'scary' themed. I'm looking forward to expanding these talks a bit each year and seeing which bits she takes on board and which bits are waffling for my own benefit!

Today is Armistice day. I recited some war poetry for her and we looked at poppies but honestly at the moment fireworks and pumpkin costumes are real to her. War and death aren't. She empathises if I explain war in terms of people being hurt and sad but she's far too young to grasp the true horror of it yet. I'm finding it hard to find an age appropriate way to explain.

Far easier to explain why we burn an effigy of a man who live hundreds of years ago.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Pottermore! Squee! Discussing geekery, Potter and pacifism.

Oh my! Have you all seen this? J.K Rowling has announced what  Pottermore is all about! There have been glimpses and rumours and it's all been very exciting. There's basically going to be a whole interactive experience, with loads of new information and detail about the Potter world. People who use the site will get sorted into houses and will follow the stories from the books but with MORE and DIFFERENT stuff!

Excited Potter geek Duck.
*ahem* Excuse me.

So guess what I'll be doing in some of my 'spare' time from October - or if I'm insanely lucky earlier! (A million people will get to use the site from July, I suppose to test it out, check it all works, find bugs and start creating community).

Poor Duckling will be hearing even more about Harry Potter than usual! We listen to the audio books a great deal. Stephen Fry has a wonderful reading voice.  They're wonderful for listening to while we do dull chores or fun crafts. Mr. P and I love his interpretation of the characters and plot. Duckling recognised Mr. Fry's voice from earlier than I'd care to admit (I listened a lot during pregnancy too). We've only had the first 2 films on in the background while she's awake since she started taking notice of the TV though, as the later ones are a bit scary for a baby or toddler.

You might have got a tiny hint that I love the books. The films are great too, but it's the books that I love more.  I hope I'm around when the next generation make their version of the films though - I'd like to see how they interpret the books and what they make of having all the information the film makers and actors didn't have this time.

I'm not sure there is a Quaker view of Harry Potter (I'm not sure there's ONE Quaker view on any given topic actually!) but I think the books have a great deal to offer the Quaker child, and to the Quaker parent discussing them with their children. Who am I kidding? I think they offer a great deal to adults too! Reading fiction and the use of story is an important part of being human. It helps us to name and face our fears, to define the characteristics of heroes and villains, to understand ourselves through empathising with characters and plots.

There has, of course, been controversy about the Potter books. Jack Chick (Of 'chick tracts' fame) had a character in a tract declare in 2002 "the Potter books open a doorway that will put untold millions of kids into hell", and of course there was the section of the Christian Right trying to get the books banned for encouraging witchcraft and unethical living despite not having read them.

I ... Don't think they know the God I know. I'm no sure I want to be introduced to that God to be honest. The one I know actually likes people for a start, and certainly won't send children to hell for enjoying the imagination He gave them.

I disagree anyway. As a Christian and as a Quaker I find the books have a positive message. Sure, the books set up and follow the progress of a war, but in the meantime they provide examples of altruism, generosity, humour, the fight for equality, love as a powerful force, the importance of friendship and so many other messages I want my daughter to hear as she grows up and into her adult life. They are part of a tradition of stories that help us to confront difficult subjects in a safe manner. Reading or listening helps us to think about our moral viewpoint and also to process our difficult experiences.

The wizard war itself is potentially problematical as a pacifist reader of course, but even there we see characters struggling with their desire for peace  and to not have anyone hurt, and their understanding of what seems inevitable if that peace is to be achieved.  Harry's friends, family and community do not choose to be at war.  Rather they find themselves in a set of circumstances in which confrontation is inevitable and they must chose between standing up for what they believe is right and allowing the most evil wizard of all time to gain power over not only magical folk but muggles too.  War is not glorified. The consequences of a 'civil' war are dealt with in the text, showing families divided (Percy Weasley for instance - though he came round in the end like a Good Egg. The Potters ripped apart by death, the Longbottoms by torture), families torn in their loyalties (I thought the Malfoys were so well written in book 7 - all bets were off when they needed to find each other, and having deserted their posts they were unsure where to sit in the aftermath celebration) and of course destruction and grief that reaches through the pages and tears at your heart.

Quakers are not all pacifists of course, though most find something that speaks to them in the peace testimony. I find this quote from F&P useful;

Conscientious objection is not a total repudiation of force; it is a refusal to surrender moral responsibility for one's action.

Kenneth C Barnes, 1987

I know that many Friends during WW2 struggled with whether to join up or be a conscientious objector (many of course joined the Friends Ambulance Service or the Red Cross).I think it can be argued that the Potter books show similar internal struggles and a clear message - war is wasteful (The countless lives lost in both wizarding wars) war devastates (the image of the Weasleys holding each other up in their grief while Harry is so shocked and guilty he cannot bring himself to join them), war is cruel and pointless (Snape, poor Snape, murdered mercilessly and for the reasons that turn out to be futile). War is hardest on the innocent (Colin Creevey, countless 'unnamed but no less regretted muggles' as Potterwatch in Deathly Hallows puts it).

"Not many people will be challenged to a fight at the office, but many Quaker teenagers have to defend daily a peace testimony which they may not yet have worked through for themselves." Hugh Pyper, 1986, from F&P 22;68.

These are not pacifist books. They are filled with conflict. Just as war poetry and fiction from WWI and II helped me to form my own interpretation of the peace testimony and understand the realities of war inasfar as a civilian who's never lived through such a thing can, the depictions of the subject in Harry Potter's world present the possibility for a Young Friend of safely exploring the topic emotionally and intellectually.

War is just one of the many hard issues that Rowling attends to in the Potter books. I might have to write about a few more some time. I've enjoyed this post!  Books are one of the key tools at a parent and child team's disposal while they're exploring the world and all its many issues together. While Duckling's a bit small to appreciate the scale of these particular books right now I hope she does find them thought provoking and above all entertaining.


- Anelli, Melissa (2008) Harry a history. Pocket Books, New York. (The website is great btw).

- Britain Yearly Meeting (1994) .Quaker Faith & Practice Retrieved 23rd June 2011.
- Chick, Jack T.. "The Nervous Witch". Chick Publications. Retrieved 23rd June 2011.

 - Rowling, J.K (2007),  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Bloomsbury, London.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


This morning started out Rotten with a capital 'Rrrrrr'! (Do feel free to roll that 'R' in your head on my behalf - I've never been able to and I'd like to!) Duckling and I didn't get enough sleep (We both have sore throats and sniffles. We were awake a bit after 5 and several times in the night) and we spent the first part of the morning grumping at each other.
Eventually she looked at me during a nappy change and said 'Me sad!' 'No you're not!' I snapped then realised what I'd said. How lovely, telling my 2 year old how she feels instead of listening! I mentally shook myself and asked 'Why are you sad, sweetie?' 'Mummy' she replied, dejectedly. Urgh! My heart sank and might have broken just a little bit.

I apologised of course, and we started again and the day turned out ok. We did a bit of tidying, went for a puddle-splashing walk with our friends up the road, had nap and lunch and played and did a LOT of dancing.

Puddly days are so great! We put on her yellow wellies (yellow being her favourite colour) and we find little ones and big ones and yell 'splish splash splosh'  and are generally very silly.

My latest parenting freak out is nursery or the lack thereof since I'm an at home parent. I make sure she has time with other children of around her age at least a couple of times a week or more often (where possible), and we do lots of playing and reading and so on, but of course one cannot do anything as a parent without some kind of judgement from somewhere. Work and you get the nagging voice about putting your child's safety and socialisation in strangers' hands, stay at home and the nagging voice changes tack and insinuates your child doesn't get enough company and socialisation outside of you.

It will, of course, be fine. (Stop freaking out, woman! Bad quaker! No biscuit!) Kids are remarkably excellent and whether we send her to nursery full time now or keep her at home till the day she poddles into the primary school gates she will learn Stuff and be perfectly capable of making friends. This aside she's keen to learn so we're teaching her through playing as most parents (and care providers) do. I've borrowed a couple of books from Friend Up The Road that might give me a few ideas from the Montessori school of thought. A few of my American friends and one or two British ones are homeschooling their preschoolers so I might pick their brains a bit too. I'll report back with the more interesting things I find. Btw, some of the most useful websites and blogs for some of this stuff are the American Mormon mums (moms) blogs! Some of them seem to have a genius for creative educational fun things to do. I would LOVE to hear some of your favourite activities, methods and so on!

I don't want to push her too hard of course. My mum taught me to read at her age which seems scarily early now! I still can't do Maths very well though, so balance is maintained in the universe.

She's just wandered up to her Dad and I and offered us a 'noo noo tase' (little taste) of her pretend soup. :) I am loving the imaginative play. Cannot decide whether I love the little tea parties or the trips on flying carpets more. I think there's room for both.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal wedding, cake and tiaras.

There's an anecdote in a fantastic little book called "Laughter in Quaker grey" * that I love. (Readers should note that Quakers traditionally take of their hats for no one but God believing all men - and theoretically women- to be equal).

When George V and Queen Mary visited the cadbury chocolate factory works, George and Elizabeth Cabury showed them round. ... To show respect George Cadbury walked with his hat ff. Fearing that he may catch a cold the Queen reversed an earlier experience with royalty and said "Mr. Cadbury please put on thy hat." "Oh no, Thank you" he replied. "Please, Mr. Cadbury, " said the Queen, and aded playfully, "If you do not I shall ask the King to command you." Still George Cadbury hesitated. At that moment Elizabeth Cadbury  looked up and sai "George, put on thy hat." He did so at once."

Great story! Sessions goes on to give the second version, my favourite btw.

"...There is the same play about the hat, an the King is made to say,"You re the older man, if you will not put on your hat, I must take off mine," which he did. Just then Elizabeth Cadbury looked up, and said in her most regal manner, "George, put on thy hat." Both Georges, King and subject, promptly put on their hats. " 

Wonderful! (even if it probably might not have happened, possibly, maybe, as Sessions points out a little anxiously, lest his Quaker integrity be under suspicion!).  What a glorious demonstration of the struggle between being a British subject and all it entails with regard to the assumption that King and Queen are more important, higher on the social scale, and Quaker ideology and equality.

I went to a royal wedding party today, with Duckling and had this very struggle myself in deciding how to feel about it . In the end I decided it was all in a good cause - cake and good company-  and let myself feel however I actually felt! Which was happy. A little sentimental. Celebratory. Reminiscent of  my own wedding  and those of people I love. I look forward to more of this feeling of hope and love at a friend's wedding next month.

We had a great time today waving flags and eating cake and wearing tiaras (and wearing cake in a few cases - I'm looking at you, Duckling!) and discussing the wedding and the circumstances around it. It's a special one in lots of ways. The nation's watched prince William grow up and many people care deeply about him and his brother. The tragic loss of his mother made many of us feel for the prince today, when he must have missed her very much,  the engagement ring given to Kate more poignant and touching. Then there's Catherine Middleton herself. By no means from the 'lower classes' (let's not even try to pretend the class system isn't still an issue in the UK) she is, nonetheless, a commoner. Not royal. But today she married a prince. And she didn't promise to obey. (Yay!)

A lot of people are opposed to the royal family. I struggle with the idea that they're more important than other people, but I think they do more good for the economy than bad, and they seem to try to do much good these days with their influence. There were protests in places, but more commonly people were brought together today. Strangers camped out on the streets together, cheered together and enjoyed themselves together.  The atmosphere has been lovely. Up here in sunny-ish Scotland there were balloons on lots of houses and people on their way to parties as we made our way. People spoke on the street and worked together in the way the British do when there's either a huge celebration or a huge catastrophe.

I still don't think that anyone at that wedding is worth more than anyone sat in the sitting room of my friend's flat in Edinburgh this morning, but it was wonderful to see so many happy people celebrating together, two families joining (and several of them clearly enjoying each other's company), and two young people obviously very much in love starting the next part of their lives together.

* "Laughter in Quaker grey" 1952, Ebor press, York, unfortunately out of print but well worth a read. Some of the humour's not entirely funny, but some is, and its earnestness and debating over whether it's seemly to make a humerous book of Quaker history at all, alongside its little details of British Quaker life make it a fascinating read. I was going to post a link to amazon but Abebooks might have more copies at a better price to be honest.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it! Those who don't - Whoo, it's spring! New life abounds, there are chocolate eggs (and cheap chocolate day tomorrow!) and life is good!

Children's Meeting today was lovely. Last time we had 2 children, today we had 8. I must have looked like the Easter Bunny caught in the headlights because a couple of lovely Friends offered to be extra bodies. We talked about the Easter story, several offering up different aspects, and a young Friend shared the Greek spring/seasons myth which was lovely! I didn't get a chance to talk about hares/Easter Bunny and rebirth and how hares became a pagan symbol of fertility because they can conceive while still pregnant.  Oh well, next year!
Then we all went to the park. It was fantastic.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Spring forward.

Whose great idea was this clocks going forward thing!  Waking up at half 6 and just knowing that this time last week it was half past 5 is an annual hatred of mine. 

Nearly a month since I updated! I am sorry. It's been a busy month but that's no excuse. Really I've had lots of ideas going round my mind but no coherent post. So have an incoherent one instead! So much more fun. Who needs coherency on a wet Wednesday afternoon anyway?

Since I last updated there have been some truly awful events. Earthquakes in New Zealand, a tsunami and really devastating set of earthquake and aftershocks in Japan. On a smaller scale two acquaintances of ours have had sadness I cannot bear to imagine - one lost her husband and the other lost their baby son during the second trimester. My heart goes out to everyone affected by all of these tragedies, and I've held so many people in the light, and will continue to do so.

Duckling won't remember any of these events. The thing that will stay with her, however, is any behaviours and tools we demonstrate for coping with grief, disaster and tragedy.  I don't know that there's a right or wrong way to handle these things so long as you DO address them. We talk about things that happen and what people can and can't do to help, and we try to be open with our own emotional responses.  So far I think her understanding of charity is that it's GREAT fun to put things in the bags to go to the Shelter shop! We'll connect that to its impact on people a bit more solidly later on I think.

I've openly cried in front of her many times. It used to scare her when she was littler but I am always careful to explain that mummy is sad but it's not her fault and give her an explanation she can at least nearly understand. Now she's not scared of mummy showing an emotional, human side, and she's developing her compassionate side. She will cuddle me and blow me kisses ('disses') and make me little cups of air flavoured tea in her toy kitchen (Good British child!). She is still scared when Mr. P or I get ill, but that's understandable.

On the other side of this I'm trying  to be mindful of her feelings too It's SO easy to dismiss toddler melodrama but it matters so much to her! Getting to her level and empathising makes a huge difference to her being able to work out her own difficult emotions. And sometimes, like her mum, she just wants everyone to go away and give her space while she processes stuff, so we've implemented the 'come find me when you want a cuddle' system. She stomps and so on then when she's exhausted that need she comes to be reassured I love her after all that.

Not that it's all doom and gloom in the purpleduck house these days! The sun has been out and we've done fun things in the garden, played in the park, done fun things, met friends (though not all the ones we' like to catch up with, yet!) and been very silly together! It's amazing what you'll do to hear an addictive toddler giggle!  We had great fun painting cards in the garden for some of Duckling's special people, last week. We ended up painting her toes for the fun of it and making stompy footprints.

Our small local Meeting met in OUR home town instead of the next one over last weekend, in our search for new premises. It worked really well, but not everyone made it. I hope more people can manage next time. The space was small but nice. there's a little space for the children's Meeting and a small but bigger room for the adult Meeting. We're near the beach and a good park for the kids when the weather's ok. The littles  joined the bigs for the last 5 minutes as usual - though Duckling missed her daddy part way through and wandered solemnly into Adult Meeting, gave him a big cuddle then silently came back to Children's Meeting. Sounds like perfectly good Ministry to me!  The feeling of the building is nice - cosy and welcoming.  I hope we carry on our Meeting there after the 3 month experiment we've agreed to. Though saying that I do love meeting at our F/friends' house  too. But this feels right to me.

I've volunteered to do children's Meeting next time. It's on Easter Sunday. On the one hand maybe that's an easy theme, on the other hand I can't help thinking that the 'every day is holy' thing is leading me to branch out from there, maybe do something different, or talk about spring and new life and why the church as a whole adopted this time of year, maybe have some short stories from other cultures' spring traditions.  Or we can colour in Easter egg pictures, paint eggs or ice Easter biscuits. Or ice a simnel cake. :) Ooo, or make rice crispy cake nests with chocolate eggs! Mmm, chocolate...

Friday, 4 March 2011

"Please make mythical button creatures while I am away."

This quote was so great I had to use it, with thanks to creekgal57 who coined it in a comment!

Comments! There are comments! It's so unbelievably good to know I'm writing not just into a void but as part of an ongoing conversation between folks online making their own way through this parenting and/or Quaking stuff! Thank you so much, all of you! There's some really reassuring points and interesting ideas in those comments and I really enjoyed reading them all.

Some of the comments talked about being the only child in a Meeting Vs. seeking a larger Meeting for the child/ren to have a same age community and I want to think about how we balance that today.  We might be cheating on this front with Duckling. We're attending a variety of Meetings at the moment and we gain something from each of them, though it's possible we do lose out on the feeling of having a 'home' Meeting. We go to the big central Meeting, which is wonderfully large at a level I had only experienced at gatherings before I moved to Scotland. We were married there. It's active and buzzing and exciting. We also attend a small Meeting that's been running a little over a year on the outskirts of the city, currently in a Friend's home, though we're experimenting soon with a new location. This one's important to me as it feels like my own Meeting at 'home' when I was growing up. Thirdly we have an even smaller gathering that isn't exactly a Meeting as such but is a few of us getting together for a little silence together once a month-ish with tea. This is important to me as Duckling's welcome to play with us or around us or sleep or join in the silence (Ha!) as she wishes. And I get to join in the worship as to date Duckling's only managed a few minutes without either me or Mr. Purpleduck being with her at Meeting - we usually hang out together in children's meeting or creche, depending on the Meeting.

I grew up in a small Meeting in Wotton-under-Edge. There were a few of us kids when we were little but as people got older, moved away, drifted away and so on it was often the case that I was the youngest, followed by my mum. We did go to other Meetings too and experienced different atmospheres and ways of doing things, which was great - Nailsworth is particularly gorgeous by the way, if you're ever in Gloucestershire! So I did go to children's Meeting sometimes, and very often I didn't. I can't say I was GOOD at silence but I would play quietly or read and listen to any ministry (I remember pleading with God for someone to SAY SOMETHING when I was maybe eleven and no one had ministered for weeks).

Last weekend in our small Meeting (number 2 in my list) we were talking about how the potential move might impact us as a Meeting and someone suggested that the space available may not be suitable for the children. Honestly we just won't know until we try it, but I did contribute that having grown up in a variety of meetings, some with better small-quaker provisions than others, it just didn't matter what our space was like, to us. It mattered that we felt included and valued as part of the Meeting and part of its life It mattered that our thoughts - and even occasional ministries- were taken as seriously as the adults'. If we had a room, great, but I've 'Met' in corridors, in small draughty rooms, in an old disused cinema (which we loved!), on stairways, in fields and of course wherever the adults happened to be. It mattered more that we were meeting, not the location - though the outdoor ones will always be special to me. What rankled was being set apart or treated as 'lesser' because of our age.

When Meeting talks about the children's meeting as if it were a separate entity - which is easy to slip into -  I'm always reminded that it was the children who kept the Meetings going way back in the society's history when the adults were being imprisoned for not conforming. The image of those children, all those centuries ago, solemnly attending their Meetings and keeping the spirit of the society alive when it would have been easier and less scary to stay at home is always with me when I'm hanging out with Duckling in the creche or the children's room. This is part of the story of our way of life, and part of her heritage. She matters, whichever Meeting we're at and whatever approach it takes to the smaller attenders. I hope, like me, she'll gain something from attending a variety. I know she contributes already.

Time will tell I suppose!