Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New Family Members

For Christmas this year, the Curate's sister and her husband bought me something very different. They arrived on Christmas Eve with a small pet carrier containing two baby rats! I had wondered why the Curate had bought 'me' a new cage for Lulu (our existing rat) as a Christmas present...

We put them into the new cage and after a minor tussle getting the distinctly nervous Lulu to leave her current cage, they were all safely gathered in the incredibly tall, toy-filled palace which they now call home. Dusty the tiniest rat is only 6 weeks old and had to be removed from her Mum swiftly after the mother ate some of her siblings and had a go at her. Cilla is quite a bit bigger at 7 weeks old and twice Dusty's size, she had a far more capable mother.

Lulu has taken to parenting quite well, although there is a small amount of squeaking from the cage when the children get too much for her, and nearly a week  in they both still try to suckle occasionally which Lulu understandably takes offence to!

Each time we have welcomed newbies we are reminded of our previous rat friends who have now gone to their eternal rest, and thank God for their company on this earth. I will share them with you now:
  • Ratfink - This was our first rat. We (and sadly the pet shop) thought she was a boy right until one Saturday morning when she gave birth to 12 little pink sausages! The babies were gorgeous but were returned to the pet shop when they were weaned except one who was the Curate's favourite.
  • Cinnamon - Ratfink's daughter was handled by us from weeks old and was always our tamest rat to handle and play with. She had a very beautiful face and was very 'un-rat like'. Both she and her mother eventually died from mammary lumps.
  • Sydney - He was our first male. A dumbo, with the most ginormous ears! He was big and chunky and introduced us to the differences between males and females - the main ones being wee and smell!
  • Benny - Was named after Benny the digger from Bob the Builder by our then 2 year old. He was a rescue from Pets at Home and sadly had been mishandled and was a little tetchy.
  • Molly and Lulu - Were also Pets at Home rescues both very skittish and when Molly died Lulu became very bitey. :-(
  • Cilla and Dusty - Our newest additions and cagemates/children for Lulu. So far, so good! 

Rats are lovely pets. They are clean, intelligent, awake during most of the day, and easy to handle. In order to get them easy to handle a person needs to be gentle and encourage them to trust. As Lulu had been so bitey I had lost my nerve handling her and things had got worse but the babies are teaching Lulu to trust me and so far she has been out of her cage and licked food from my hand! Progress.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past

At this time of year it seems natural to be in a reflective and contemplative frame of mind. To count one's blessings and give thanks for this Christmas and for all the Christmases we have once enjoyed.

I am reflecting today, this Christmas Eve, on a particular Christmas past. Not a childhood memory of Santa sacks, and Christmas jumpers and trips to my god mother an her mother's house on Boxing Day.

The memory that touches me most is Christmas 2006. We were living in the Midlands, and travelled after work on Christmas Eve, to my parent's house in Portsmouth. Following our marriage we had spent Christmas with our respective families on alternate years and 2006 was my parent's turn.

My Dad had been retired and in and out of hospital for over 2 years, and I was happy to get the chance to spend another Christmas with him, and with Mum and my brother and of course my darling husband.
We arrived in the early evening, my brother who was working/ living in London at the time arrived after us minus his bag (which he had left on the train). The presents were great but unimportant the food was fabulous as usual. Darling husband and I went out to Midnight Mass at the nearest church (which just happened to be the church where Dad had been priest-in-charge until illness retired him and we wished we hadn't really. You see the most important part of this Christmas celebration was to come.

In their tiny sitting room my Dad celebrated Communion on Christmas morning wearing the Gold stole which we had bought him for Christmas a few years before, and then we took Dad out in his wheelchair wrapped up against the biting winter sea breeze and walked along the seafront. Dad was desperate to get out in the fresh air, Mum took loads of persuasion, and it certainly was no mean feat pushing Dad in his manual wheelchair whilst pipe smoke billowed up from under his broad brimmed hat!

This evening at Midnight Mass, my husband will wear the gold stole, and I will thank God for that Christmas and all Christmas's past, for my Dad's life and the memory of his last Christmas with us, and for the coming of the Messiah that first Christmas and I may shed a little tear.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Lord in Your mercy...forgive our intercessions!

I am about to attempt my intercessions for the Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve, and have been pondering lay intercessions as a whole. Not that I am for one minute saying that clergy are the only ones capable of thoughtful, inspiring intercessions (I have heard some real shockers but probably because as my particular Curate points out "clergy intercessions are normally last minute or from a book!") nor that lay people cannot write deeply spiritual and God-inspired prayers.

My Dad got so tense about the general quality of intercessory prayer in one parish that he conducted a study day for all on the rota, I was one of the participants. Some folk remembered the tips he had given them, others didn't as is life. The reason I bring this up now is because it was on a Saturday morning, Dad's usual morning off, and the only time he ever got to do one of his most favourite things - lie in bed! He very nearly ended up missing it as he was still in bed when we got a 'phone call half an hour after it was due to start to ask if they had the correct morning! Oops.

The main thing I remember from that morning, 16 years ago, was when Dad reminded us all that we were leading the congregation in prayer BUT (and it is a big but) always to remember we are praying to God!

Sounds simple doesn't it? Sometimes when I am listening to intercessions and failing to connect with them it is because the person leading does not seem to be pointing us in the direction of God for a variety of reasons.

Some of the intercession habits that cause me to be less than prayerful in no particular order are:

Prayers which sound more like a sermon to the listener.

Prayers which are no more than a list of things for God to do something about or a news report which keeps the congregation informed should they have missed all other types of media!

It may be because of the tradition to which I belong but I feel unreasonably irked about people who use the name of Jesus over and over again in prayer. "Jesus we blah blah blah, Jesus you blah blah blah etc.

Horror of horrors, prayers which use themes and stick to them the whole way through. I am still traumatised by a Sea Sunday intercession about how "When the storms of darkness threaten to capsize the boat of our lives, may we be held by Your anchor." This storm/boat/anchor link was used all the way through.

and to finish prayers which are unreasonably long/short for the setting!

Lord in Your mercy may my prayers live up to this blog post!

A late thought: Don't underestimate the value of reflective silences! I love silence, it gives me time to form prayers in my own thoughts and to reflect on what has just been said. I think as Anglicans we can be afraid of silence. We must harness it!

Friday, 17 December 2010


This question was raised on a blog I read, and recommend to anyone with an interest in adoption.

I personally do not like the word 'normal' any more than 'abnormal' as a word to describe a human being or their life experiences. I prefer usual, as this is, in my opinion, what people mean when they use the word normal and I feel it is a much less loaded word.

So in terms of usual where does that leave adoptive families? Yes, adoption is an unusual situation, yes adoptive families are different, and yes, adoptive children will all have problems of varying severity related to the separation from their birth parent/s and their early life history.

However we are also families who adapt our parenting to suit our individual children, who see our children as the individual child they are and not just a label so that society can put them (and us) in a convenient box.

Those who discuss the 'normality' of adopted children or adoptive families, IMO are likely to be fishing for Daily Mail type information on our kids early history, and I for one do not share those details of my child's life with these people. It is his history, and as far as I am concerned it is his sense of what is normal which holds greatest importance to me.

Thanks be to God for my unusual family!