One Pink Toothbrush

Welcome to One Pink Toothbrush, where I will be posting moments from my days as a mum and as a wife. Funny moments, messy moments, thoughtful moments, teary moments.... and hopefully using each moment to see what God might be saying.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Another Blue Toothbrush

Previous OneBluetoothbrush(Matt Hosier)

Just to clarify, I'm not pregnant as the title may suggest. But rather I've asked another dad of daughters to comment on life as One Blue Toothbrush. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Matt Simmonds.

Hello I’m not Emma, I’m Matt. Surprise. I have three daughters, ranging from 5 years old to 18 months. A few weeks back my eldest daughter opened our front door and proclaimed to a neighbour of ours that mummy couldn’t answer the door as she was changing the sheets because ‘daddy had an accident in the bed’. Since then lurid rumours have been spreading so I’d like to use the worldwide platform that Emma’s blog gives me to clearly state that this did NOT happen.
I can’t find even the most tenuous link to connect the above story to the following article Emma asked me to pen but ho-hum, I trust it got your attention.
I guess what it does give is a small window into the world of family Simmonds. We like to have fun, laughter and lots of it. Games of Rugby are frequent (I always win), shouting competitions are an occasional pastime (I win those too) and dancing competitions get the blood flowing on rainy afternoons (I don’t need to tell you who wins those). Having kids doesn’t have to be a chore, a fight or a battle.
As well as fun we major on themes like kindness, compassion, generosity, quick forgiveness, obedience etc. Oft quoted phrases include cheesy lines like ‘Simmonds Girls Share’ & ‘Guests Get Best’.

Much of our parenting rationale is influenced by something God spoke to us whilst Jo was pregnant with our third daughter about our daughter’s middle names; Grace, Rose & Joy. There was no deliberate intention in any of their names other than Grace being my mothers name, however we felt God say that these middle names would reflect each of the girls characters. That’s shaped our parenting and our prayers.
We’re also convinced it’s crucial that girls know the love of their dad, lack of space in this article precludes me from properly elaborating on ‘the why’. Although I will say briefly, that for girls in particular to be secure in my love isn’t the end goal, not really. Actually I want them to be secure in the love of God, but knowing the love of an earthly father will go a long way to helping them recognise love from their heavenly father.
Now, to be straight with you folks, I’m not the most tactile chap but I’ve deliberately put that to one side (with 3 girls that wasn’t difficult). My girls get kisses, cuddles, bundles, and tickles in abundance. I ensure my speech isn’t inhibited either; encouragement and affectionate language are so vital and I hope are dished from my lips in abundance.

One thing I didn’t tell you about the story at the beginning is that I discovered later that the UNTRUE comment was actually planted in my daughter’s fertile mind by my dear wife. Thanks love. Despite this deception Jo (my wife) and I work very much as a team. We’re now outnumbered so we have to work as a team. Parenting is very much like riding a tandem bike, you can’t go in differing directions and if you try, you’ll just fall over, together.

Friday, 27 May 2011

What's on Your Finger?

Yesterday I took a bag of vegetables to my friend's house. I knew I had people coming for dinner, and I wouldn't have proper time to chop the veg and prep for dinner after the school run. So after a few cups of coffee, lunch with four mums and seven kids, a tadpole disaster, a few discipline opportunities and a brief but honest chat, I headed off to the school run with the same bag of vegetables, unchopped. And my afternoon went something like this...

Pick up two boys from school.
Carry two sleeping boys and a bag of vegetables into the house.
Send oldest two to get out of their uniform.
Put a DVD on.
Make four drinks and four snacks. 
Start chopping vegetables. (Skip peeling)
Put thirty sausages under the grill.
Chop more vegetables.
Sort out a 'disagreement' between two boys.
Check sausages.
Say "Wait a minute" to the youngest calling me.
Start to turn sausages.
Say "Wait a minute" to the youngest calling me.
Wonder what is on youngest's fingers.
Smell youngest's fingers.
Gag on the smell of poo.
Shove sausages back under the grill.
Repeatedly say "Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything."
Grab wet wipes.
Wet wipe the youngest.
Antibacterialise youngest's fingers.
Strip the youngest.
Throw clothes near washing machine.
Change a nappy on kitchen floor.
Throw nappy in outside bin.
Antibacterialise my fingers.
Smell slightly burning sausages.
Say "No" to boys asking for raw carrots and apples.
Realise it's the only way to get fruit & veg in them tonight... 
Change "no to carrots and apples" to "Yes to carrots and apples".
Hand out four carrots.
Turn grill down.
Text someone to bring two chairs and milk tonight.
Chop some vegetables.
Fry some vegetables, with youngest on hip.
Hand out more carrots.
Put dummy in youngest's mouth.
Text the husband to ask for Estimated Time of Arrival.
Add half an hour to the husband's Estimated Time of Arrival.
Open some plum tomatoes.
Vaguely read recipe.
Tell youngest "Hot hot hot" as I move each sausage to the plates by hand.
Stop youngest drinking Antibacterial gel.
Take a photo of the table.
Quote to myself,
"You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways."
(Psalm 139v2-3)
Feel encouraged by the fact that God is watching me and my day.
Feel encouraged that He is familiar with all my ways.
Hand out four plates of sausages.
Think the plates look a bit empty.
Remember they've had carrots and apples.
Butter some bread and give them chocolate biscuits.
Find a Bonus Feature on the DVD to keep them occupied for a few more minutes.
Throw vegetables, sausages and other stuff in a big pan and stick it in the oven.
Stop the youngest from playing with the clothes by the washing machine.
Praise the Lord for the sound of keys in the door.
Kiss the husband.
Notice him scan the kitchen and not react.
Start to clear the table.
Thank the husband for his help.
Clean two toilets.
Put four little people to bed.
Set the table.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Heart of the Matter

Undoubtedly the Toy Story Trilogy rocks! What's not to love? A Space Ranger (now with Spanish mode) a Cowboy, fantastic story lines, humour, friendship, little green men, Barbie & Ken, plus heartfelt emotion. (Even the husband and his brother found the incinerator scene quite hard to watch!) We waited with anticipation for Toy Story 3 in our house. And it didn't fail to win our affection. I watched it on Christmas day, and bawled because I thought my boys were about to leave me to go to college! Then I realised I had about eleven years until that may start happening.

Now with all good kid's films, there is always a baddie. Boo...Hiss... Sid the boy next door, Stinky Pete the Prospector, and Emperor Zurg. But Toy Story 3 presents us with Lotso. Lotso is a soft cuddly bear who smells of strawberries, and comes across as very kind, gentle and caring. But no no no. Lotso is a mean, selfish bear. He was rejected and became a bitter and hard hearted 'not so cuddly bear'. There is a moment in the film, where Lotso has a chance to redeem himself. Woody helps the undeserving bear because he is in danger. But when he has a chance to help the others, he opts out and chooses to think only of himself. Boo...hiss...indeed!

I thought I'd use Lotso Bear's antics as an opportunity to teach the boys. So I asked them what they thought was wrong with Lotso. My eldest responded that he was nice on the outside, but inside his heart was selfish. We looked at Proverbs 27v19 "As in water reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man." The boys needed the verse explaining to them, so I spoke to them about how if we look in water, we can see what our face looks like. And so it is with our heart. If we look at what we say and do, it shows us what our heart is like. We looked at Lotso's heart, and talked about his actions and his words. Mark Driscoll puts it quite clearly "Your heart is the reflecting of your identity, of your essence, of your nature. It is a reflection of who you are." And Lotso's identity, essence and nature shows us that his heart is cold, mean and selfish. He had allowed his rejection to turn into bitterness and selfishness.

We also looked at Psalm 51v10
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And we asked God to do that for us. We asked Him to make our hearts good and clean, and that people would be able to know what our hearts looked like, by looking at our words and actions. My hope for when we train and discipline our boys, is that their hearts are changed which is reflected in their behviour and not the other way round.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Out of the mouths of babes

A wise old elder (not sure he'll enjoy being referred to as that) told me yesterday to look for what God may be saying to me, through what my children are saying and doing sometimes. So taken to the extreme, this of course could be quite amusing. I don't think God is telling me to believe in dragons. Neither is He pointing out to me that there is some great spiritual message in the building of a Lego spaceship. I don't think that God is saying He wants me to talk like Yoda. I also don't think He is telling me to use my 'spiritual scooter' today, or eat yoghurt with my hands or throw expensive things in the bin.

But what He may well be saying to me is to follow the example of my three year old, which is humbling. Today I heard him downstairs, building with Duplo while singing "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the sea(!) hear His voice...Come to the Father, through Jesus the Son" over and over again. He then came upstairs to me, where I told him that I had loved hearing his singing to Jesus. He asked me if he could help me to put the washing away, which he proceeded to do. Later when his dad was explaining to him, that God loves that he was serving his mummy. He replied "God loves me so much. He loves me when I'm good, He loves me when I'm naughty, He loves me all the time. I want to give Him all my money".

Wow, humbling indeed. So in short, through watching my son today and learning from his example, I am to;

Build whilst worshipping.
Worship before serving.
Know what God's love and grace looks like.
And give all I've got to Him.

Amen to that!

  "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying,
 "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said,
 "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
 you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
                                                                                         Matthew 18v1-4

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Obey Straight Away

This morning I read from my son's Good News Bible because my own bible is sitting on the back seat of my friend's car. Someone had offered to have the baby for a couple of hours so that I could go and get some 'head space', drink tea, and read. (A complete blessing, which felt like I had enjoyed a week's restful beach holiday, rather than just a couple of child free hours, sitting down, drinking tea!) So with my son's Good News Bible open, I found his scrawled writing on a blank page which said "I love God and the bible". Such a wonderful statement to read.

I found myself reading Proverbs 3v5 and was struck by the simplicity of the words.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know."
Never rely on what I think I know....Mmm this stuck with me, perhaps because I totally rely on what I think I know. I rely on my own thoughts about myself and about God and about others. I rely on my feelings and what I think I know about God's character, and how He views me. I rely on what I think I know about people in my life too.

I found myself feeling quite challenged by this little verse which I had read so many times before in my own bible. And I started to see that when I do rely on what I think I know, it usually ends up pretty fruitless.
When I rely on what I think I know about God, I can come up with all sorts of wrong thinking about trying to earn His love and acceptance. Rather than dwelling in the truth of His lavish gift of love, and accepting what His son's death meant for me.
When I rely on what I think I know about myself, I can quickly end up swimming in my own pride, thinking how great I am. Or likewise I can start drowning with thoughts of how bad I am, and can't possibly be loved.
When I rely on what I think I know about others, I can end up making judgements about them or comparing myself to them.
Relying on what I think I know is fruitless. It does not bring any life. It brings worry, doubt, fear, judgement, and insecurity. It is disobedient to not trust in the Lord. It is sinful to rely on what I think I know!

Verse 2 says, "My teaching will give you a long and prosperous life." Well, that quite simply sounds fruitful and brings life. And a prosperous, long life at that! We say to our kids all the time "When do we obey?" and with joyful hearts they are meant to reply "Straight away!" Yet I have read this verse before and I have not obeyed straight away, nor have I obeyed with a joyful heart. Relying on what I think I know, brings death. Obedience and trust of God's word, however simple the verse, brings a long and prosperous life.

Lord, please help me to obey you straight away.

Friday, 13 May 2011

One Blue Toothbrush

Although many aspects of raising boys and girls are the same, I do not feel able to comment on the aspect of raising pink ones. I was shocked enough to discover that my friend takes over half an hour sorting her girls' hair in the morning. Whereas, unless my boys have got nits, I barely even touch their hair! So I asked a few men who have daughters to comment on their world. A view from 'One Blue toothbrush' as it were. So ladies and gentlemen, I give you Matt Hosier.

I live in a house of women. One wife. Four daughters. Even our dog (which we got before we had kids) was female. Sadly she went to doggy heaven last year, but I now have two boy dogs, so the Y chromosome is fighting back. We used to do three kinds of clothes wash: lights, darks, and pinks. But now the girls are older pink is no longer the colour of choice – God is gracious. We don’t have one blue toothbrush and five pink – we have a rainbow collection of oral healthcare products.

It is funny how often people give me a pitying look when I tell them I have four daughters. The comments are now predictable: “Just wait till the hormones kick in; I hope you’re saving for all those weddings.” But here’s the thing – I was never disappointed when another daughter was born rather than a son, and I’m not worried about what the future might bring. So when those predictable comments come, I either just smile and move on, or say, “Yes, I’m a very blessed man.”

Simply at the practical level I feel the odds are stacked in my favour. Look at it this way – who’s going to look after you when you get old? All things being equal, it’s the daughter of the house who takes on the care of her aged parents at the point that becomes necessary. I’ve got four options there. I’m going to be well looked after!

But more than any scheming about nursing cover in my old age, having daughters is simply a wonderful gift. Grace and I get to raise four young women and defy all the doom mongers who think that a scary prospect. We get to teach our daughters what it means to be godly women – women who are strong and sassy, but also charming and winsome. Our ambition is to produce women who weak or corrupt or sleazy men find too hot to handle. But women who know how to respect and follow men who are worthy of them. We do this with Jesus as our model. Read the gospels and it is pretty clear that Jesus was never intimidated by a woman, or intimidating towards them. We want our girls to follow him, and to be able to recognise other men who reflect him.

I love my girls. They are quite simply amazing. They are amazingly different, but also very recognizably members of the family. And this is one of the great challenges and opportunities of parenting – recognizing and cultivating the God-given gifts and personalities of each, while also recognizing the great extent to which all of them inevitably mirror what they see in their parents. In both cases, Grace and I want them to see Jesus – in their own distinct personalities to display the glory of God, and in their family resemblance to find something worthy of Christ.

Girls rock! And I’m the luckiest dog alive.

For a look at life from another 'dad of daughters' perspective Another Blue Toothbrush

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

From Boys to Men

I was recently at a wedding and at the entrance to the bride, I saw a little girl in awe of the pretty dresses, and a little boy looking around trying to work out how and where the sound was coming from. It reminded me again of those wonderful differences God has created. My boys play games that I never played as a little girl. I don't remember trying to imitate being Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker like my brother did. I remember writing to The Queen and pressing flowers!  I remember having two dolls, one called Hannah and one called Soo Soo. And Hannah and Soo Soo never blew stuff up or killed alien dinosaurs. Their cots were not space ships and their bottles weren't laser guns.

Playing, for my boys isn't just rough adventure play for the sake of it. My nephews building a tree house and making weapons isn't just to keep them busy. It is helping them to be the men they're going to grow into one day. They need to have a go and take risks. They need to 'live to fight another day' and go on rescue missions. They need to know how to do things. They need to conquer and fight for what they believe in. They need to battle on like a Jedi would, or conquer like David did. And according to John Eldredge's "The Way of the Wild Heart", they need someone telling them that they can achieve it. They need to be told that they can do it. They need to know they are loved and secure in order to take risks. But they need to be spurred on and challenged by the right source in their life. I know fully that my role as mum is important, valued, and needed in their lives but I also know that they need to be taught most of this stuff by a man in their life. A man who has got vision and purpose for their life.

For me, I know that I am blessed to have a husband who is very serious about teaching our boys well; challenging them, teaching them, and encouraging them in line with God's word. I can't even imagine how hard it is for single mums to parent alone. Some of my friends are single mums, and they didn't all choose to raise their kids alone. They didn't ask to be both mum and dad to their children, but they find themselves in this situation. A friend of mine who is single handedly raising her kids, said to me that she never quite realised how much her son needs a good godly man in his life, in order for him to become a good godly man. She knows there is stuff her son goes through that she, as a woman and as his mum, has no idea how to handle properly. She can't teach him or understand him in some ways. So she makes an effort to ask the men she knows and respects to spend time with him, to be an example for him to copy, to encourage him and listen to him. I admire her for doing this.

Boys need men to love them, teach them, show them, help them, guide them, be 'for them', encourage them and be a humble example to them. Girls of course need this too. (And they will feature tomorrow.) The greatest man our children will ever know is Jesus. I want my boys to follow His loving, sacrificial, powerful, strong example.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."
                                                 Psalm 127v3-5

Monday, 9 May 2011

Frogs and Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails

As a mum to four boys, I am having to get used to the fact that girls and boys are very different indeed. Today I took my son for a wee, and there was bright blue cleaning product around the bowl. My son took it as his mission to wee in just the right way that would totally clear all of the cleaning product away in a circular motion. This is something I have never done. This is a 'boy thing'. I'm coming to appreciate that bottom burps can sometimes actually be quite funny! I'm getting used to nakedness being hilarious and any vague willy or bottom revealing also being a source of great amusement. I'm seeing the skill it takes to hold a spider by one leg and catch a slow worm and keep it in a bucket on the kitchen side for a day or two.

I'm also coming to experience how physical the little blue ones are. I am often so tired at the end of the day, and I realise it is because I have been climbed over and jumped on. Everything they do involves a climb, a run, a roll or a flying kick rather than just a walk. Everything is there to be conquered whether its a tree, a large rock or a river. When I feel tired I take them to a park, so they can use actual climbing equipment to climb on. I now count bruises and scrapes on little knees and say "that's a good one" after showing the initial mummy tenderness after a fall. I watch them being pirates, aliens, space rangers, Jedi knights and superheroes on a daily basis. I hear them being the least secret, secret agents. I watch them act out Daniel in the lion's den, and fight to be chosen as Joshua as they conquer Jericho. They want the role of David as they sling a stone into Goliath's head and cut it off! I don't fully understand why wrestling is fun and why pain is something they 'man up' to and get on with. But I accept and love that boys are different!

I might not always understand what they're doing or why they're doing it. But I do appreciate our differences. I love how God made us different. I love that I get to appreciate why God made them how they are, and why God made me to be me. He made us to complement one another within different roles. He made us different to bring Him glory, and to reveal the different characteristics that He has. His tenderness and mercy. His power and strength. His compassion and gentleness. His boldness and steadfastness. I know it's not 'male' characteristics and 'female' characteristics and we don't all fit into a stereotypical mold of what a boy is like and what a girl is like. But it is good to appreciate the diverse creativity that God has made. I know that I don't need to change to be like them, and I know that I don't need to try and make the boys more like me. I can accept and praise God for our differences.

"So God created man in his own image,
      in the image of God he created him;
  male and female he created them."
                               Genesis 1v27