Omega Memories

I first came to England (13.5 years ago!) to undertake a 9 month residential course with Frontline Church called the Omega Team which was also partnered with YWAMs Operation Year / Discipleship Training School programme. It was an incredible year… difficult at times, but mostly loads and loads of fun and featuring several once in a lifetime experiences. Plus, it’s how I met Mr Mallon.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic this evening and found myself humming a little tune. Near the beginning of the year, our team met up with several other groups undertaking a similar course. We were told that we all had to come up with a creative way to introduce ourselves to the other teams. So we sat down and wrote this little song to the tune of YMCA. Sadly or impressively (take your pick), I can still remember all of the lyrics. I felt that this work of art ought to be preserved for posterity.

So here, I present to you The Omega Team 99/2000’s famous Omega Song…


Good evening, we welcome you to Frontline.
We’re the Omegas. Hope you have a good time.
At this conference for Operation Years
Good to be together here.

It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
Serving soup to the poor, we’ll even knock on your door.
We’ll do anything for the Lord.

Spekelands. It’s the house where we feast.
And there’s Sally, the bus we drive. She’s a beast.
Lots of cooking. It’s either raw or it’s burnt.
From mistakes life skills we have learnt.
Issues, they come up every day.
Mind blowing teaching; Too many notes in the way.
Lots of reading, and then discipleship too.
Getting to the roots, not just fruit.

It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
Perservering in prayer, smashing strongholds, oh yeah.
We’ll do anything for the Lord.

In week 4, we experienced DT.
No sleep, and running into the freezing sea.
And who, could forget that walk or the leaders who would not talk.
Breakdowns and mental torture too, not to mention all those soggy shoes.
All that hardwork. And what was it for, just a piece of pesky jigsaw.

It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
Freezing nights on Soupie, Edge kids say “Don’t touch me!”
We’ll do anything for the Lord.

Gareth, he’s our resident bongo boy.
Hannah, she always fills us with joy.
Ruth, she just loves to sing.
Dave’s a comedy king.
Sarah, she keeps fires at bay.
Helen, causes floods every day.
Ana, catches trains the wrong way.
Lauren’s from the USA.

It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
Dressing up as Flintstones, visit kids in their homes.
We’ll do anything for the Lord.

Rachel, she loves to play her guitar.
Susie, she’s our bright Brummie star.
Aileen, she’s our Geordie lass.
Claire amuses us.
Now the leaders, let us introduce them.
Debbie, Toni, DJ and Ben, and last, but clearly not the least
Sue keeps us in one piece.

It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
It’s fun to be an O-M-E-G-A
Growing more everyday in a PASSIONATE way!
We’ll do anything for the Lord….


Home Education

When people learn that we home educate, they display a range of reactions from “Is that legal?” to “What about socialization?” to “You must be incredibly patient. I could never do that.” It can be hard to know how to respond to people sometimes. Home education is incredibly different from classroom based, school education, but most people don’t really understand this. Most of us went to school and we are used to thinking that “education” is all about information and skills being transmitted to us in a specific way by trained professionals. It can be hard to break out of that box and see that learning is something we were made to do. It’s almost impossible to avoid learning from everything you do, every minute of your life. And home educators have the freedom to nourish this inbuilt desire to learn without following the model that is expedient for controlling 30 or so children in one room. You just have so much more flexibility with your own children, unconfined by time constraints and walls.

Home educating my kids is… a rewarding challenge, immensely difficult, loads of fun, a huge pain in the butt. This is all true. My answer would probably change depending on the moment in which I was responding. I don’t think that home educating is for everyone. You have to really want to do it as takes a lot of motivation to choose a lifestyle (and, yes, home educating is a life style decision – it cannot be confined to set hours and it affects your entire outlook on life) that is so very different from the norm. There are plenty of “perks” to home education – no school run, not tied to term times, clubs and lessons are easier to fit in, we don’t have to be early to bed, early to rise if we don’t want to be. But there is also the constant tension that arises from being different to most other families, the questions from perfect strangers when we’re out and about (which are sometimes fine and lovely, and sometimes harsh and accusatory), the doubts from friends and family members that can be very pressurising at times, not to mention the problems some HE families have with harassment from government officials who misunderstand their legal rights and obligations.

The highs and lows of the home educating parent’s life are myriad and personal. But here follows my own personal reasons for loving home ed and finding it an enormous challenge.


  • I am with my children ALL THE TIME. 

    I am an introvert. I need time on my own, all by myself. This, however, is an exceptionally rare commodity in my life. I get one hour a week sitting outside the door of the gym where Pippi has gymnastics. That’s about it, unless I choose to stay up very late after everyone (even Mr Mallon) has gone to sleep so that I can revel in aloneness. Since time alone is in short supply, I’ve had to find other ways to meet my need to not be constantly engaged with the small people in order to preserve my sanity. For about an hour most afternoons, I ignore the children. They will watch tv or play. I will intervene if it seems like someone is going to get hurt. But other than that, I ignore them and do something for me… usual surfing the interweb and drinking a cup of tea. I look at Mr Mallon’s two-hour a day commute with longing and envy. So what if he spends it on a bus crowded with smelly strangers… it’s still two hours a day that he doesn’t have to interact with other people. 

  • Balancing the needs and demands of three very different people. 

    This is actually something that has only recently become difficult. There are only 18 months between Betsy and Pippi. Pippi has always been more advanced with her motor skills than Betsy. This has meant that they can happily do most things together. And up until now The Boy has always just been a tag along. Sitting and listening if a story or activity interests him, and happily going off for some private game if not. But just recently there has been a shift. As Betsy has become an independent reader, she is less inclined to sit and listen to me read. She wants to be hiding away in her bedroom reading to herself. Pippi, being of a totally competitive nature, is struggling with the fact that Betsy can read and she can’t yet (or not very well). They are even diverging in the sort of books they enjoy reading. And The Boy has all of a sudden developed to a point where he needs some work of his own. His own books that are on his level. He’s even showing an interest in learning maths and reading (neither of the girls were at all interested at his age). So it seems that suddenly, I have a lot more to juggle.  I guess that’s just how it goes, but it’s certainly taking some adjustment.

  • Probably my biggest struggle, has been reconciling my own ambitions and plans for our home educating lifestyle with the desires, needs and personalities of my kids. 

    Betsy’s private nature and strong will have meant that as we embarked on our home educating adventure, things did not go exactly to my plans. I had visions of an idyllic, Charlotte Mason inspired education. With mornings filled with read alouds, math and writing practice and narrations by Betsy. But if Betsy thinks you want her to do something, she will dig in her heels and utterly refuse to do it. Betsy WILL NOT narrate back to me a summary of what we have read. In fact, Betsy seems to believe that the information contained in her head is her private property and she does not willingly share it on anyone’s terms but her own. This quickly scuppered my plans for how we would conduct our home education. Instead, I have had to sail out into the uncertain waters of autonomous education. Autonomous education is based on the theory that we were designed to learn and will naturally do just that if left to our own devices in an atmosphere full of stimulating materials and opportunities. I find it quite easy to believe the method works when I read about it in a book, but it does very much go against the grain of traditional school-based education and the societal pressures of our day. So for me, educating Betsy has been a daily exercise of trusting that this will all work out ok in the end, and hoping that I’m not ruining her forever. The fact that she has become a fluent reader with no formal teaching from me, encourages me that maybe this thing really will work. And hopefully along the way, she will flourish from being allowed to be exactly who she is and developing in her own time even if that doesn’t fit the rigid guidelines suggested by the powers that be.


  • Watching my kids build strong relationships with each other. 

    My kids get along really well. They have to as we are always together. Don’t get me wrong; they also fight quite a lot of the time. And I do sometimes wonder if we could all do with a break from each other sometimes. But for the most part, they really love each other and they play together wonderfully. Wanting my kids to have a really strong foundation of friendship with one another is one of my main reasons for wanting to home educate them. Friends come and go throughout our lives, but  no matter how far away from them you end up living, your siblings are always a part of your life. 

  • Knowing that my kids can learn free from external pressures and expectations. 

    We are all unique individuals who grow and develop at our own pace. For the most part, we accept this when it comes to babies. Some people get their first teeth at 3 months, some at 18 months. There is  a wide range of times when babies learn to crawl, walk and talk. Most parents understand this and don’t freak out if their baby develops at a slightly different pace from their peers. But once kids reach school age, we seem to expect them to all follow the same developmental time scale for skills like reading and writing. Also, schools have to measure students progress. There is no easy way to do this so we resort to testing and placing kids on a scale which judges children with earlier readiness for learning certain skills as “better” or “smarter”. I love that in our home, my kids don’t have to keep up with a time scale dictated by averages. They can learn and develop at their own pace. They are free to pursue topics and skills that interest them. And they don’t have to perform in order to prove that someone is doing their job well. 

  • Learning and exploring the world alongside my kids.

    I love learning. According to one of those personality type test thingys, “Learner” is one of my key strengths. So it naturally appeals to me to learn along with my kids. You definitely don’t need to know all the answers in order to home educate your children, but you do need to be able to take their questions seriously and respond by seeking out the answers together. I love reading and discovering new worlds with my little people. There is nothing better than being all snuggled up on the couch together following the adventures of Dorothy and her friends in Oz or learning about the Vikings. I like to think that I set a good example to my kids of how we should always be learning as they observe my reading habits or see me sitting with my Welsh flashcards in the afternoon. When it comes down to it, this is why I home educate my kids. It seems such a shame to send them off and let someone else teach them about the world when we can have so much fun learning together. It’s an opportunity that, for me, is too good to pass up.

Ten on Tuesday

Well, here we are… Tuesday again. And I’m back with ten random and possibly mildly interesting (or not) things to tell you about my life.

1.  A new cooker has been purchased and installed chez Mallon, although not without a great deal of angst and difficulty. If you are friends with me on Facebook or Twitter, you are perhaps already bored with the saga. Suffice it to say, the oven (which we meticulously measured for before its arrival) did not fit into its allocated space. The marvellous Mr Mallon, however, managed to take apart nearly an entire wall of our kitchen and sort it out. We now have a lovely, new and working oven. We will be consuming only foods cooked in said oven for the next week!  Hooray! And we now await delivery of a new dishwasher… the most life transforming of all major appliances in my mind.

2. Yesterday the kids and I conducted our weekly grocery shopping trip. The Boy walked next to my trolley singing “Call Me Maybe” at the top of his voice the entire way around the shop. I have to admit that I found his enthusiasm for that particular song quite embarrassing. I try to expose my children to a wide range of music. If he was going to cause everyone we walked past to look at us and smile, he could have at least picked a song that would make me feel smug about his erudite musical tastes!

3. Over the weekend I read The Fault in Our Stars. It was amazingly good. It’s not the sort of book that I normally read (being firmly grounded in reality) but everywhere I turn people are talking about it. I’m not going to say too much about it here as I read it as part of a book club and we haven’t discussed it yet. But I will say… you should all run straight out and read it. It’s about two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group. It is not as depressing as it sounds, in fact, it is far funnier than I was expecting. It is also desperately sad. But very lovely. Seriously, go read it.

4. I also read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller this past weekend. Again, it was a fantastic read. I’ve had it on hold at the library since September when I’d heard several people saying good things about it. It was worth the wait. It tells the story of The Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, the companion of Achilles. I have never (as I realised when I started reading this book) read all of The Iliad, although I am familiar with many parts of the story. The sign of a good adaptation/retelling – as soon as I finished this book, I ran off to start reading the original. So again I say to you… go and read this book. (A small disclaimer… it is a homosexual love story. That might bother some of you, so I thought I should mention it!)

5. During my weekend reading a question came to me. Why do so many characters in books have green eyes? I have known only one person in my life that I can recall who had really green eyes. But so many book characters have green eyes… Harry Potter, Lily Potter, Percy Jackson, Howl Jenkins, Achilles, Erl King… these are just off the top of my head. And it’s usually guys with the green eyes. So what’s up with that, I ask you? Actually, people spend a lot more time noticing one another’s eye colour in books than in real life. Or maybe it’s just me; I don’t immediately check to see what colour people’s eyes are and could probably only give you a definite answer about the eye colour of a handful of people who I know. Authors, however, seem to think it is an essential detail that we must know about a character. Odd.

6. My friend Anna and I decided that a weekly feature of my Ten on Tuesday should be a little fact from her. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the fact that she gave me for this week. I think it had to do with vultures… maybe? But anyhow, Anna has started a blog too, Pop to the Green Man. It’s all about low impact living. Go check it out. And next week I will bring you the vulture fact (because I know you are dying to hear it) as well as another.

7. It is the time of year when Mr Mallon begins talking about tents. We own 6 tents (could be 7, I’ve lost track). I think this year he may actually not be coveting any more tents. He always has a couple “dream tents” on a list somewhere that he would snap up if he could. But we may have finally reached the stage where he agrees that we have a tent for every eventuality and should just get on with the business of camping instead of just lusting after gear. This year my goal is to go to Anglesey. This is not a lofty or ambitious goal, it’s only an hour and a half away for goodness sake! But I have never been, and I know that is utterly lovely. I’m thinking a plan is needed and I should do some research. Anyone know of any nice campsites in Anglesey? (Our standard of nice – lovely setting, toilets and showers, not too regimented. We’d probably even settle for something without toilets/showers if need be!)

8. I dusted my chest of drawers yesterday. This may not seem like news to you, but believe me, it’s pretty big news around here. I’m not sure I had ever dusted it since we moved into this house 2.5 years ago. Seriously, the top of the dresser was so bad that my earrings would get lost amidst the piles of dust! It’s now clean and organised. All jewellery has a home and large tumble weeds of dust are no longer roaming throughout my bedroom. It’s very pleasing.

9. The other day, I observed They Boy walk over to a Barbie and say, “Hey, sweet-cheeks.” I think we need to monitor the kids television viewing a bit more closely!

10. Betsy has started recommending books to me. I’m loving this! I am just the same. When I read a book that I love, I want everyone else to read it to, so that we can all talk about it endlessly.(What? You’ve already noticed that about me? I’m shocked!) Betsy seems to share this passion. So I will shortly be reading the first four Betsy-Tacy books at her request. I’m thinking it’s a good thing I enjoy children’s books…

What’s for Dinner?

Our oven has been broken for nearly a month. Hopefully, we will be getting a new one this weekend and there will be much rejoicing in the Mallon house… baking can once again occur, cookies will be made, the traditional Christmas dinner that we had to cancel will be eaten, all will be right with the world (and my diet will be well and truly scuppered!). But in the meantime, we have actually fared completely fine. The lack of an oven has been a very minor inconvenience. So what have we been eating all this time? Well, I’m glad you asked. I figure that I really like looking at other people’s meal plans and recipes and you may too. So here is a run down of the Mallon household’s favourite stove top meals that we have consumed over the past few weeks. I’ve included recipes for a couple much loved meals where I didn’t feel I would be breaching anybody’s copyright to share.

Spanish Pork*

I think I modified the recipe from one I found in an Asda magazine ages ago. It is marvellously easy.

  • 500g pork fillet
  • 200g chorizo
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 peppers, chopped
  • 1 tin of tomatoes (or box if you, like me, have begun to fear that the nasties released in the plastic lining of the tin are going to kill us all)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • half a chilli or a sprinkling of chilli flakes

Heat a pan and add the chorizo and onions. When the onions are soft, add the peppers and pork. When the pork is browned, add the tomatoes, paprika and chilli. Cover and simmer for half an hour. That’s it. Serve with rice or cous cous and a salad if you feel like it. I think the original recipe called for olives to be added part-way through the cooking, but we don’t like them so we don’t.

Potato Soup

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 7-8 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tin evaporated milk

Put the onion and potatoes in a pan and just cover with cold water. Stick on a lid and bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are soft (20 minutes-ish depending on how small you chopped them). Do not drain. Mash potatoes. You could blend it up in a food processor, but we like it a bit chunky and just mash with a potato masher. Add the tin of evaporated milk and lots of salt. That’s it, and it is the best potato soup I have ever had!

Spaghetti Bolognaise* (For you Americans, this is just spaghetti in a meat-based sauce.)

Taco Salad*


Macaroni and Cheese (I use the cheese sauce recipe from Cookus Interruptus. I love their website – loads of great recipes.)

Chicken Stew (I do a couple versions of this. One with lots of winter veg, tarragon and some creme fraiche and one from Jamie Oliver’s “Ministry of Food” Cookbook. I tend to add shredded cabbage and quinoa to his recipe).

Beef Stew (from Jamie again – we like this with dumplings, but need our oven back for them!)

Chicken Fajitas (another one from my Jamie book)

Sweet and Sour Pork (Jamie again)

Various curries (usually, again, from my beloved Jamie book)

Pasta Carbonara* (I use the recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “River Cottage Family” Cookbook)

Sausage and Bean Casserole (“River Cottage Family” recipe again.)

Tuna Quesadillas* 

So there you go. I thought it might be really difficult thinking up foods we could eat that didn’t require an oven, but it turns out we eat loads of stuff that is just cooked on the hob.

*The Mallon children are extraordinarily picky.  A night in which everyone eats what they are served is rare in our house, but these are the dishes which tend to please everyone.

Ten on Tuesday

1.  Mr Mallon and I finally managed to see The Hobbit on Sunday. We’ve been wanting to go ever since it came out, but organising babysitting proved to be trickier than we anticipated. But on Sunday, some lovely friends from church took our kids home with them and we set off for Middle Earth. I really loved it. I was a bit concerned because we saw it in HFR 3-D which I had heard not very good things about, but I am obviously not a film-y enough person for it to matter as I couldn’t really tell much difference from a regular film. I am, however, geeky enough that I really enjoyed all the extra bits from elsewhere in Tolkein that Peter Jackson added into the story. I’m also exceedingly glad that he kept in the dwarves’ songs that they sang at Bilbo’s house. I’m very much looking forward to the next instalment. It should include my two favourite bits of the book – Bilbo rescuing the dwarves from the spiders in Mirkwood and Bilbo’s riddling conversation with Smaug. Can’t wait to see Smaug properly!

2. I have been reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I mostly read fantasy, usually fantasy written for children or teenagers. So I recently decided I should stretch my wings a bit and read some grown up fiction, possibly in other genres. I wasn’t actually expecting to enjoy Mrs. Dalloway. I thought it would be a bit of a slog, probably mostly boring with a few mildly interesting bits. But it’s pretty short, so that seemed easy enough to deal with. Actually, I am loving it! It is very full of words (I know that all books are full of words, but this is very full of words in a different sort of way) and I have to slow my reading right down to take it all in, but I really enjoy the sort of stream-of-consciousness flitting about from one topic and character to the next. Who knew? I guess this is why it’s good to try new things. You never know when you’ll stumble across something new to love.

3. Betsy has just finished all the books we bought her for Christmas and was in need of some new stuff. So I went online and reserved her some library books that I thought she might enjoy – just like I do for myself. (In case you’re wondering they were: How to Train Your Dragon, a Fantastic Five book, the first book of The Spiderwick Chronicles, the first from A Series of Unfortunate Events and one of the Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence). She found this immensely exciting. I guess reserving specific books instead of just turning up and seeing what’s on the shelves is a very grown up sort of things to do in Betsy’s mind. Now we’ll just have to see what she reads. She has inherited my habit of keeping lots of books on the go at the same time, so it will take a few days to see what she ends up settling down with and actually finishing. This new world of Betsy being able to read whatever you put in front of her feels like strange, uncharted territory for us at the moment. I guess I’ll soon get used to vying with her over who gets to read what first. (I’ve got my eye on her Roman Mystery book – I’ve never read those and it looks fab.)

4. Last night we finally put away the last of our Christmas decorations. This has been the one thing that’s made me realise we no longer have very small children. In years past I’ve been more than ready to take the tree down on New Year’s Eve due to the stress of grabbing hands and fragile, sentimentally valuable glass things, but this year there has been almost no shouting about people keeping their hands off the Christmas tree and the ornaments. My babies are getting so grown up!

5. This week (hopefully) we will be getting a new cooker and a new dishwasher. The cooker has been broken for a month, and the dishwasher hasn’t worked properly for 3-4 months. I was hoping we would be able to just get them repaired, but it turns out they were a bit too broken for that. I’m thinking that life will seem an awful lot easier once the new appliances are installed and working!

6. I told my friend, Anna, that I started a blog and was trying to explain Ten on Tuesday to her. She’s not a very internet-y person (despite being a professional website builder and search engine optimiser), being far too busy with useful, real life tasks and hobbies. I don’t think she completely grasped the concept, but she wanted me to share a fact with you all. When you break down people’s overall energy consumption, 13% of an individual’s overall energy usage goes towards infrastructure like the energy it takes to build and maintain roads and stuff like that. Anna is an eco-warrior (her ultimate goal in life is to live in a yurt next to her forest garden, and she’s part of a group which is hoping to make Frodsham a Transition Town). She seems very concerned about this statistic. We should all be trying to live off grid with our own water source… that would make her happy.  🙂

7. I suggested to my lovely sister that my kids may like to receive sticker books for Christmas, and she obligingly bought them several. Now, I’m wondering what possessed me to make such a suggestion. Sticker books always sound like a great idea to me in theory, but they inevitably just mean that I find bits of sticker all over the house for weeks on end. It drives me completely nuts. They do seem to derive a great amount of pleasure from them, though.

8. Birthday season is swiftly approaching here in the Mallon house. We have 3 birthdays in 3 weeks beginning at the end of January. There is me, then The Boy, then Pippi. Perhaps one day I will learn that I need to be super organised in the run up to birthday season, and that parties really need to be planned sooner rather than later. But it’s not a lesson I seem to have learned yet. Really must get on to the birthday party planning!

9. On Friday, the kids and I along with another American friend and her kids made a pilgrimage to one of the few Taco Bells in the UK. I guess this particular Taco Bell has been right there in Manchester, practically next door to our town for quite a while without my realising. I can’t say Taco Bell was ever a particular favourite of mine before I moved here, but it is super-cheap and therefore, I ate there pretty regularly. And as fast food is the number one, non-family related thing I miss from America, I had to go. So we made the epic journey into city centre Manchester (I despise driving in unfamiliar places especially when I’m not entirely sure how to get where I’m going) with a people carrier full of hungry children. Of course, the hungry children refused to eat the food I bought for them (since their default position is to reject anything new that is presented to them for eating).  But I enjoyed my little meal of nostalgia.

10. I have decided that thinking up things to talk about on the blog is not as easy as I expected. What do you guys like talking about and hearing about?

Meet the Mallons


I realise that probably most of the people who look at this blog already know us, but I thought I would go ahead with a few introductions for posterity’s sake and to avoid any confusion with the kids’ blog aliases.


Betsy – Age 7.5

I told the kids that I would be giving them nicknames for the blog and asked if they had any ideas. My oldest daughter picked the name Betsy after the main character in her favourite books, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. Reading is a pretty recently discovered passion of Betsy’s. She has entered the phase where she sits up late into the night reading in bed. Oddly, this is the only time the child will read. She informs me frequently that she doesn’t like reading in the day; reading is, in her mind, an intensely private activity. Betsy certainly has strong ideas about things, and as her peculiar reading habits demonstrate, these strong ideas often go somewhat against the flow of normality. She is certainly a unique individual!



Pippi – Age (nearly) 6

I picked Pippi’s alias. Although she lacks sticky-out, ginger plaits and striped stockings, I think this second daughter of mine shares many attributes with the incorrigible Pippi Longstocking. She is immensely strong, incredibly mischievous, very generous and she has a heart of gold. Pippi comes from the school that tells us there is no such thing as  problem, just challenges to be overcome and puzzles to solve. This attitude of tenacity and determination to get what you want at all costs is a truly positive quality and will benefit her a great deal throughout her life, I’m sure; but it sure as heck makes for some interesting parental challenges!



The Boy – Age (nearly) 4

When I asked the kids their opinions on their blog names, The Boy got rather distressed. He’s a pretty big fan of his real name (he usually refers to himself in third person these days) and has never liked being called anything else even for pretend games. But he was completely satisfied with being “The Boy”. The Boy is our resident bard. He’s always telling a story, singing a song or telling a story through song. At this point in time, the literary merit of these stories and songs is somewhat questionable, but we have high hopes for the future. The hero of most of The Boy’s stories is his best mate and imaginary friend Little Robot Jack. Little Robot Jack is a robot-cat-pirate. He has graced our family with his feline charms for several months now, and not an hour (quite seriously) goes by in the day without some mention of his adventures. His life has become so colourful that we decided to keep a list of his most interesting characteristics.

  • He is very tiny and enjoys rides in people’s pockets and making nests in people’s hair.
  • He has chocolate teeth.
  • He is very clumsy – often falling down the riggings and walking off his own plank.
  • He has 9 heads and the middle head breathes fire and cannot be killed (like the Hydra from Greek mythology).
  • He washes his clothes with fire.
  • He bakes by putting food in lava.
  • He can turn into any animal that he wants at will.
  • Calico Jack (Octonaut Quasi’s Grandfather) is his cousin.
  • His chief nemesis is a Pirate named Chaos.


So there you go… a brief glimpse of our little family. And I would also like you all to know that I worked out how to upload those pictures all by myself without any technical assistance from Mr Mallon. Go me – Eshet Chayil. 🙂

Eshet Chayil – Woman of Valor

So, I’ve been reading Rachel Held Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. It’s funny, interesting and thought-provoking. Wanting to understand what the Bible really says about women, Rachel set out to spend a year trying to live out all the Bible’s instructions to women as literally as possible. There are lots of comedy moments from this; she camped out in her front yard during her period, called her husband “master” and stood by the sign welcoming people to her town holding her own sign which said, “Dan is awesome” (because, you know, you’ve got to praise your husband at the city gates). But it also leads to a lot of deep thinking about the roles and expectations surrounding women in modern Christian culture.

One thing I’ve found very interesting, is that this book gives me a sort of nostalgic feeling for the religious environment in which I grew up. I guess I come from a pretty similar background to Rachel: a Southern, conservative, mainstream, evangelical church. (Though I think her church culture was probably more conservative than mine.) For twenty years of my life that was all I knew; the Christian community that I grew up in completely dictated my world view. Then I moved to England. You would have thought that leaving a charismatic, evangelical church in the United States to come to a charismatic, evangelical church in the UK wouldn’t involve too big a transition. But you would be wrong. I was very surprised to find that British Christians in many cases held very different views to American Christians. The doctrine and basic tenants of the faith were the same, but people’s stance on all sorts of side issues such as politics, drinking, standards of dress, standards of language, etc… were very, very different. These were issues that I had always believed were as black and white as doctrinal issues, however, living in a different culture opened my eyes to how very cultural many of our beliefs really are. We really are shaped by our culture to a huge extent.

One result of the cultural upheaval I experienced as an immigrant, is that I consider myself to be a pretty open-minded person when it comes to interpreting the Bible. I’m becoming ever more liberal as I grow older (is that the opposite of how it’s supposed to work?). There are certainly hard, fast truths that are indisputable. But outside of what’s summarised in, say, the Nicene Creed, there is a whole lot of grey. Fifteen years ago, I had some pretty strong opinions about those grey areas, and I may have been quite worried about the eternal destination of people whose opinions differed from my own. I thought the Bible was pretty clear cut and straightforward. But today, I think that each of us is on our own personal journey with God. There is room within our faith to ask questions, to struggle and to wrestle with the big issues that arise from a careful reading of the Bible, which I no longer believe is really very clear cut or straightforward. And as Christians we may not always come to the same conclusions about the many confusing, grey areas, but that’s perfectly ok.

I am enjoying A Year of Biblical Womanhood because Rachel Held Evans isn’t afraid to wrestle with these big issues too. She looks at and attempts to interpret the Bible in light of it’s historic and cultural context. And she doesn’t shy away from examining the dark, brutal and perplexing stories that we tend to gloss over in Sunday School.

The chapter that I’ve found most encouraging so far, takes a closer look at the “Wife of Noble Character” from Proverbs 31. I’m guessing most Christian women have read through this chapter at some point and come out feeling like they can never measure up to this mythical woman who seems to do it all. Mr Mallon and I often have a little giggle about the time that, feeling inspired to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman, I declared my intention to “rise before the dawn to provide him with food” as described in Proverbs 31:15. He never takes lunch to work, and has the unhealthy habit of eating nothing all day and then coming home and gorging. To stop this trend, I decided I would wake up early and pack him a lunch. I think I did this once, possibly twice although that’s probably wishful thinking. It’s safe to say that if Proverbs 31 were a tick list of things you must accomplish to be a good woman and wife, I would fail miserably. (Although, I do think that waking up several times a night to feed a hungry baby for a cumulative total of 4 years may now go some way towards ticking the “rise before the dawn to provide your family with food” box.)

However, Mrs. Evans comes to my rescue in this book. She discovers in her research that in the Jewish culture it is the men who memorise these verses in order to sing them to their wives at the Sabbath meal in front of the family to celebrate and honour her. Far from being a to do list for women, this poem is meant to be an unconditional celebration of all that wives and mothers and women in general do for their families. Eshet chayil – a woman of valor – is meant to be a blessing, not the curse that is often becomes when we use it to make ourselves feel that we can never measure up to an impossible standard. I think this is fabulous, and I’m planning to use this to celebrate with and encourage my friends whenever the opportunity presents itself. You wake up every hour in the night to feed your hungry baby – go you! Woman of valor! You cleaned away the poo that your toddler spread all over their cot and the bedroom walls – woman of valor! You made a scrummy cake – woman of valor! You just ran your first 10k – woman of valor!

I reckon we all need a bit more encouragement in our lives. Let’s remember to celebrate one another and our little, everyday victories.