Friday, 27 July 2012

Chocolate Avalanche Cake

It's a tradition in our family for me and Andy to make the children the biggest, chocolatiest (is that a word?!), most outrageous cakes for their birthdays.  We figure, hey, you have one birthday a year, you're only a child for a short time, so what the heck - when it comes to birthday cakes - it has to be a whopper.

But Sam bowed out this year, opting for a shop bought Manchester United cake.  It was a hard journey taking that to the till and paying for it, my heart sinking with every step knowing that my 7 year old son had rejected family tradition.

But three weeks later, Eleanor rose to the challenge of requesting the family favourite.  It always starts with just me decorating it, but by the time it's finished the whole family is usually crowded around, adding a bit here and another bit there.  It's become a really fun family time and a tradition where the birthday child gets to decorate their cake before going to bed the night before their birthday - even in Eleanor's case when it was way past bedtime and the final malteser went on at 10.15pm.

It was named the avalanche cake because when you cut through to get a slice, the maltesers tumble down, so you have to position your plate right to catch them.  The slices are also too big to fit on a side plate - so totally over the top, so grotesquely indulgent, but like I said, it's only once a year.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Lonesome Riser

I've been so elated that school finished for the children on Friday that I got into a rather lovely mindset of relaxation and chilling at the weekend, knowing we didn't have to get them ready for school today.  Then it dawned on me that I was the only one who had to get up early all this week.  My elation has now deflated - and made worse in the knowledge that apparently on Saturday the weather won't be nice and sunny anymore.

Still, Andy's home with the kids this week so I'm hoping they make the most of the sun.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Spotty Birthday Beckons

Our house is a noisy house, a busy house and most of all a messy house.  A complete contrast to the house of my childhood.  The normal order of life doesn't quite make it through our front door most days and whilst it would drive the sanity of some through the window, Family Loizou have a tendency to thrive quite well on it. 

It has taken me many years to learn that most people don't visit your house to inspect it, and half the mess I see, they don't even notice.  I've always wanted my home to be a bustling, busy and happy one.  A home where people come in and feel at home flomping themselves on the sofa, chilling in the kitchen having a coffee or just coming and going.

The kids friends have mastered the art quite well.  Quite a few of our adult friends have too.

But there are days you have to put an embargo on house visits and today's eruption of chicken pox spots all over Sam's body have resulted in doorstep interrogations before anybody can enter.  I don't like it.  I don't like the odds of potentially telling somebody they can't come in.  So far we've been OK.  All who have entered have had the pox so this week, where every day we have friends over for tea, we're able to go ahead.  Sam's feeling quite chirpy, although a little itchy. He has a birthday coming up on Thursday which he'll be spending at home (this news was met with a resounding 'YES!!' when he was told).  We just need prayers that all his spots will be dried over before the start of Beaver Camp on Saturday, otherwise the little fella might have to miss out, which will be a rather sad end to an otherwise really great week for him.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Becoming tolerant of the intolerance

I've been dairy intolerant since I was a child.  I grew up knowing that if I drank a glass of milk I'd get stomach cramps and associated digestive problems.  (We won't go into detail here!)  My mother always commented to me that if I didn't get my calcium intake I'd end up with rickety bones, so I would have the odd milky coffee or cheese sandwich just to keep her worry at bay.  Over the years I became complacent about my symptoms and although I suffered I never made much of a deal about it and certainly never saw fit to share my experience and condition with those around me.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself managing a young baby with severe dairy intolerance, soya intolerance and adverse reaction to msg.  It was nothing short of a nightmare - endless trips to the doctors and endless cases of misdiagnosis.  It was a usual thing to get through a packet of nappies PER DAY.  Constant vomiting, failure to thrive and at the worst point, a test for Leukemia.  Fast forward two years and an eventual referral to a paediatric dietician confirmed my suspicions as I noticed he displayed symptoms within an hour of eating.  Seven years of a strict exclusion diet for him followed (during which child number 3 was born and displayed similar symptoms and was fortunately diagnosed and managed much earlier).  I went out of my way to make foods for them at home that were as close to the shop examples as possible.  Sourcing a health food shop miles away that stocked a safe ice-cream, making bread for sandwiches, swapping food parcels with an online friend in Texas who had things I needed in exchange for goods the UK had that her daughter needed.  It was worrying, exhausting and expensive.

Over 90% of the food stocks in shops ten years ago were not suitable for my children to eat and food manufacturers were not required, as they are today, to label allergens. It was all done by reading labels, researching the ingredients and finding out what E number to avoid.  It was alarming to find that the UK were still allowing additives to their foods that the American government and many European governments, in particular Switzerland, Sweden and Germany had banned.  Food that was rarely labelled 'dairy free', in fact wasn't - it was just lactose free - the sugar in the milk, not the protein.  I spent many a night up until the early hours either reading or cooking to make sure I protected my children as much as I could.  Invitations to parties would consisnt of me ringing the mother, not only to ask what the child wanted for a present, but also to check out the party food menu, so I could recreate a safe replica on a party plate for the children to enjoy so they didn't miss out. 

Being a hereditary condition, it is a major contributory factor to two of my children having to deal with it.  They've pretty much outgrown their intolerances, but if they overload, they know it.  So you'd think that with my own experience, that of my two children and the increase of my own symptoms over the last two years I'd have realised what was creeping back up on me again.

So, about two years of trips to the doctor to find out why I'm putting on weight and not losing it despite diet and exercise, why I'm constantly wiped out and tired, why I have digestive problem and returning dark rings under my eyes, it dawned on me that the intolerance has returned. A quick blood test to check and bingo, zero tolerance of the stuff.  My diet is now being revised - I'm fortunately able to do this without a referral to a nutritionist or dietician as I'm experienced with it, but it hasn't stopped me doing my research to make sure the chemical food names for milk proteins haven't changed.  It's a minefield - milk is in pretty much 70% or more of the food in the shops.  Lactose is obvious and labelled well, but milk protein is the hidden demon. Did you know that milk protein is added to potatoes to make them taste like smoky bacon?  Did you know that milk is injected into meat to make it easeir to slice?  Did you know that milk is added to soya alternatives to bulk out the protein as the soya itself is far too concentrated?  So, if you're dairy intolerant and turn to a soya alternative, you're likely to experience the same symptoms.  Did you know that anything labelled 'flavouring' is likely to be made from whey protein, which is milk?  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We're so used to just picking up food and consuming it - we're not aware of the ridiculous amount of additives that are added to flavour our food and the misleading part is that they're all either scientifically named in such a way we have no clue or they're called 'natural flavouring'. Without knowing their derivative source, we really have no clue what we're pumping into our bodies.  The return of my symptoms has reawakened the call in me to seriously readdress what I'm feeding myself and my family.  50% of my family suffer and I'm responsible for the majority of what they eat.

So, for the next few weeks, the household shopping will be replacing many items and much closer attention will be paid to milk, soya and even msg (a signicant addition to food that caused my elder son as an infant to be excessively aggressive) and is now believed to be a significant contributor to primary serious liver disease.

Next time you pick up a jar of sauce from your larder or eat a bag of crisps, have a look at the label.  You'll be surprised (and maybe a bit horrified), to see what the manufacturers have added to it to make it so 'tasty'.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Drummer on the motorway

My evening plans last night were scuppered when I turned east-bound onto the M4 only to hit an enormous queue of stationary traffic.  The fact the west-bound carriageway was empty didn't bode well and considering some people had already got out of their cars and started wandering around, I realised we were in for a very long wait.  I hit the traffic at 4.30pm and after speaking with other drivers were told the carriageway would open at 5.15pm.  That didn't seem so bad - until we found out that was the other side and that they hadn't cleared the accident our side yet.  Two accidents, same motorway, both directions.  Our side was due to open at the earliest, 8.30pm.

Amidst the gloom, the concern that people were seriously hurt and general banter amongst the crowd, about four cars back I heard lots of laughing and before I knew it, some guy had got out part of his drum kit, hopped it over the crash barrier into the middle of the abandoned motorway, set up and started playing. 

Eleanor and Sam thought this was fantastic - not only were they allowed to walk on the motorway, but also cross the barrier to watch him play.  Quite a crowd formed and even a dog joined the audience too!

Before long the motorway the other side opened and traffic resumed, leaving us to sit tight for another hour.  In that time, having seen the children, two adults from different vehicles approached me and offered a Yorkie bar, Pringles, orange juice and a can of coke for the children to share as they were worried they would having nothing to eat or drink the whole while.  They really were very kind.  But before long, blue lights flashed behind us, and the police turned us around.  I've never had to do that before and it felt very wierd to drive along the hard shoulder the wrong way before being diverted off through crash barriers onto another carriageway.

So, the evening plans changed, but an experience, quite oddly, I enjoyed.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Last night, Joshua brought home the option pathway recommended by his school which will lead to the best possible outcome for GCSE success.  It took me back to 1986 when I took my GCSE options.  I still vividly recall how my academic year across the country were the first to take the transition from GCEs and CSEs to plain GCSEs. The doubts and criticisms that they would be easy, worry that coursework would be abused and undertaken by relatives and friends and that the exams would be soft.  Concern that employers would not take them seriously and that within a decade the educational establishments would realise their error and revert back to the old system, leaving me and thousands of others with seemingly useless qualifications.  How wrong they were.

Looking through Joshua's option paths I found myself longing to be back at school.  I envied him slightly that he's now starting the point in life where his choices become important.  Reading through the subject summaries I found myself excited at the content of some of the courses, and at times got rather carried away trying to convince him how interesting and exciting some subjects were, which inevitably turned out to be the subjects he's really not interested in!  Looking at the History content, he liked the course, but did not relish the idea of writing long essays, the same for the compulsory English Literature.  I was baffled. Strange boy!  How could he possibly find essay writing a chore?  I still remember walking into my A'level English Literature exam literally champing at the bit to get started on the four essays I had to write in three hours - was I mad?  Probably.

I'm thrilled he's being forced to do a language.  Seems cruel, I know, but I have the benefit of parental hindsight.  My bitterness at not being allowed to do languages because apparently getting 91% in German and 27% in French supposedly meant I didn't have a grasp of languages, so because I failed French I wasn't allowed to take the  German GCSE I so passionately wanted to do.  To this day it still baffles and angers me.  I'm glad that Joshua has to learn a second language - it's a skill he'll be grateful for one day.  To my delight he favours German.  He's getting the chance I never had.

In sciences he prefers physics and chemistry.  I was a biology fan.  He likes Maths and all things technical.  I liked all things creative.

But what I really like is that he has sat with me, talked with me and discussed his feelings about subjects, what he loves, what he hates, where his strengths are, where his weaknesses are, his doubts, his fears, his worries and his concern at getting halfway through courses and being disillusioned.  I'm finding it a privilege that he is sharing all this with me and not just ticking random boxes or picking subjects that he's comfortable with or naturally gifted at in an attempt to get the decision making done and out of the way.  He's impressed me with how mature he's being about it all.  He has a few weeks to choose, so now I'm stepping back for a few days to let him work out his own routes.  I'll be there to support him, to advise him and where necessary to push him, but ultimately, the choices are his.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Dib Dib Dib

Following last week's exciting moment where Sam became a real Beaver Scout after his investiture, which involved receiving his woggle, badges and learning to shake hands as a lefty, he proudly came home from school earlier in the week with a notification from that as it was World Thinking Day on the 22nd, he was allowed to wear his Beaver uniform to school. 

He has waited with excited anticipation for me to sew the badges onto his sweater for a few days now, but last night because I was only halfway through putting them on when it became bedtime, I had to promise him I would absolutely,without fail, ensure they were sewn on ready for the morning.  His excitement and reliance on me to carry out my promise struck me.  He's just a little dude, no real worries and no concerns about life, according to me, an adult.  Important things to him are being allowed to play on the monkey bars at school, being allowed to watch a DVD in Mum and Dad's bed before bedtime and making sure badges are sewn on a jumper in time to display them at school.  The funny thing is, none of them are achievement badges or skills badges, just the Scout logo, and the district, county and colony badge - but they were still important to him and my promise was clung to.

It's easy to get carried away with the seemingly major important things in life and to forget the little things that really matter.  To Sam it REALLY mattered that these badges were on in time, so last night, after finishing the last badge I went quietly into his room to see if he was awake and he was - just about.  Holding the jumper up to his weary eyes I whispered to him that they were all done and ready for him to wear the next day.  A huge smile appeared, the eyes opened widely and I received the most enormous hug and kiss.

It was a special moment.  There's plenty of time left yet for him to worry about the things I consider big.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Valentines Day - Romantic or Ridiculous

With the passing of Valentine's Day yesterday I was again bemused by the plethora of differing attitudes and reactions one date in our calendar can invoke.  Many years ago, when I was very young, I was firmly in the camp that the day was purely set aside for the desperate separates of society clinging fast to the hope that somebody somewhere was soppy enough and dopey enough to waste money trying to convince them they were a good catch!  The card shop windows swamped with cute teddies and giant love hearts caused a shake of the head and a small laugh as men all over the town centre were rushing around with bunches of red roses under one arm, chocolates under another and a Clinton's carrier bag hanging off their fingers.  I often wondered how they'd stop the roses wilting in their offices for the next few hours and whether they'd get home in time to make it to the restaurant with the 'special' menu for the night at the bargain price of 50% more than the usual specials of the night - because that was romantic - apparently.

Then I got married.

And for the first few years I stood firm to my belief it was all a load of nonsense and got nothing.

Then I started to get the hump.

People started saying that you didn't need a special day to declare your love to the one you love, as you should do that every day.  Yes, you should.  You should tell the one you love that you love them.  It's not necessary to do it every day (some may disagree), but it should be regularly enough for them to be in no doubt that you do love them.  In this respect Andy far outranks me in that - he's the more sentimental of the two of us.  Having recently attended The Marriage Course, it was firmly established that Andy thrives on affirmation and words of love, I thrive on practical stuff - presents.  Does that make me shallow and a prime candidate for the lure of the Clinton card shop, Thornton's selection and Interflora roses - well, yes, apparently it does! 

I never thought I'd see the day I'd back down to admit it, but I now love Valentine's Day - to an extent.

Looking into the origins of Valentine's Day it seems the most common opinion is that Emperor Claudius II decided that marriage turned men into useless wimps, unable to man up to the requirements of war and thus outlawed that all young men should be banned from the banns.  Apparently young Valentine, who is rumoured to have been one of three men in history, but commonly believed to be a priest, continued in secret to marry young people, believing the institution of marriage to be firmly part of God's plan for humankind, thus opposing the beliefs and instructions of the Emperor, who at the time had a rather strong penchant for chopping the heads off the odd Christian or two. Legend has it that the Emperor took exception to this and imprisoned the priest and from there the rumours abound.  Some believe Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and before his execution wrote her a note declaring his love, signing it 'from your Valentine'. A hopeless romantic dying for the love of his love.  Others believe the Emperor actually rather liked him, until he tried to convert him to Christianity, at which point he incensed the Emperor who ordered his execution, thus martyring him - the date of death established in both cases as February 14th.  Others believe that February 14th was declared Valentine's Day as an alternative to the following day's pagan festival of Lupercalia, believed to increase the fertility of women who were flogged with the blood soaked hides of sacrificed goats - but from there I digress and leave you to your own research on that one.

So, Valentine's Day.  Romantic or Ridiculous?  A bit of both really.  But for me, the ridiculous is fast being overtaken by the romantic.  It can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be, but for one day of the year, to make an effort to do something for the one you love is surely not too much.  Which leads me to my earlier comment of loving Valentine's Day - to an extent.  Keep it fun, keep it within budget and keep it with someone truly special.

A tale of two Lukes

Do you ever get those days when you can leave something lying around for ages, then one day, somebody will make a random comment that sets you on a trail of research and discovery? 

I had that this morning.

I'm reading through the gospel of Luke and have taken to using some notes that are designed for both groups and individuals, which are entitled Luke, A New Hope.  Andy noticed them and asked if I realised that the Star Wars episode that introduces Luke Skywalker is also called A New Hope.  I had no idea, but it did make me wonder whether George Lucas had an upbringing based upon a Biblical faith and lo and behold I found out he had a strong Methodist upbringing.  Later in life he turned to heavily basing his Star Wars 'force' on  Eastern philosophies, eventually declaring himself a Buddhist Methodist.

Whether Luke, the gospel writer and Luke Skywalker were ever connected in George Lucas's mind, who knows?  But I found it rather intriguing.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Prayers From Pocket Sized People

Kids Church started up again today and I was so thrilled to be on rota for the first week.  I always find it harder coming on rota halfway through a topic as the momentum has already built up and for me it's like opening a book halfway through or flicking over to a good film an hour in.

The children at our church are a fabulous bunch.  They play well together, they listen well and they talk well - sometimes too well and it's hard to get them to be quiet.  But it's their openness, honesty and limitless spirit of exposure that impresses me each time I sit with them or have them surrounding me when I speak, hand out drinks, or whatever is needed at the time.

We have a tendency as adults to overlook children.  They are a significant part of God's church and we need to be mindful of their place, presence, giftings, encouragements and worries.  Today we introduced the topic of prayer and in particular, The Lord's Prayer.  When all the fun and games had ended we split the children into year clusters and I had an interesting conversation with three children from years 5 and 6.  Having filled in a Prayer Survey together we compared our results and I was impressed at how honest these children were and how incredibly open they were and at ease explaining why they'd answered questions a certain way.

But one comment saddened me. One boy said that often he felt God didn't answer his prayers or even at times listen to them because in his words, 'I'm just small and I think he misses me out sometimes because of that'. He seemed resigned to the fact that adults got more answers and got what they wanted from God because they stood out, they have all the right words, the terminology, can stand up longer and string a good dialogue together.  Adults had more need of answered prayer because their lives were more complicated, they needed more help with work, homes, running families and so on.  So I reminded him of David and Goliath.  How God had taken the puniest kid on the block, a shepherd who most likely had less meat on him than a scrag end of lamb, but who God saw enormous potential in.  I explained that if, like David, his heart was for God and his faith was big, the size of his body was not in the equation and that he could stand next to the biggest guy in church and still be as mighty before God.

I'm passionate about the children in our church. God willing they will be our future leaders, worship team, kids workers and evangelists. We need to build, encourage and show them that being pint sized doesn't mean being puny before God. I'm looking forward to being on rota this term and seeing them learn about how they can stand before God, bold, courageous and full of faith, knowing that He hears every little word they utter when they speak with Him.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Reindeer and Rejoicing

The children have been busy today - making sure the house is tidy for Santa's arrival, baking cakes to share with family members tomorrow, wrapping last minute presents and hiding them under the tree.

Christmas Eve here is fun.  As soon as it's dark we sprinkle the glittered oats out on the path, so the moonlight can catch it and Rudolph and friends can see the twinkling from afar.  When he gets a bit nearer to the house, Santa can see the Reindeer Runway that's lit on the path, so he knows where to make his landing.  We don't have a chimney so Santa can't land on our roof, so we make a nice runway to the front door instead, ready for his Christmas key to unlock the door and let himself in.  The key only works Christmas Eve and once the presents are delivered, it doesn't work again until next Christmas Eve.

Snacks and drinks are left just in case Santa and the reindeer are feeling peckish, stockings are hung on beds and last snuggles are had cosied up on the sofa before heading to bed.

Eleanor and Sam are hopefully on their way to sleep now, ready for an exciting day ahead.  The older two are still up, enjoying a few nibbles and trying to hide their excitement, which two hours ago, they both admitted was at 7/10 on the scale.  My friend Michaela is over, sharing Christmas Eve with us as she does most years and later me and her will head off to the parish church for Midnight Mass.

I especially love Christmas Eve as my children know the real reason they celebrate and amidst the excitement, rushing around and lunacy of this evening, I can end the day celebrating the real reason - Jesus.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.      Luke 2 15-20

Friday, 23 December 2011

Market Fun

Today I headed into the town where I work with 3 of the children, mainly to visit family and drop off presents and cards. It's amazing how just getting out into fresh air can really lift your spirits and today's trip to the fantastic fruit and veg market in the town centre offered the perfect opportunity for a bit of fun.

Samuel managed to find the most enormous potatoes and of course, we had to buy them.  I'm not sure how many chips we'll get out of these, or whether just one will cover a shepherd's pie, or even how many hours one would take to make a perfect jacket.  Either way, we had lots of giggles handing them over the lady at the market, especially as Sam struggled to hold them in his tiny hands!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Messing About On The River

I've had a lovely day today.  Most of the time when I book a day off work, it's to do housework or something else domestic, but this year I promised Sam and Eleanor I'd try to take more time off to spend with them on school trips.  This has meant working quite late some evenings to work up the flexi for the days off, but it's been worth it to just spend time with each of them.

There seems to be something really special about having your Mum come along on a school trip.  Eleanor thoroughly enjoyed having me come along and leading her group.

Today we visited the Henley River and Rowing Museum.  It was a beautiful day, great bunch of kids, river ride up and back through the lock and a visit to the Wind In The Willows exhibition.  The River Thames is stunning.  I realised today I need to take the kids to more places like this - we live by some beautiful river areas and locks.  As a kid I used to spend a lot of time at Boulters Lock in Maidenhead, where I grew up.  I would cycle to see my best friend in Cookham every week and we'd swim across the river there and I used to canoe at Hurley sometimes too.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Saturday, September 17, 2011 4:20 PM, EDT

I wish I had good news, the thing in her brain turned out to be a stroke. Her blood pressure never really recovered and she was suffering multiple organ problems. She fought the good fight but succumbed to her bodily failures this afternoon. 

She died surrounded by family and friends who were in attendance as she ascended. It seems that God has need of something that needs done!

I wish I could say that I was able to read to her all of your good thoughts and prayers but she wanted me to tell you that I read sone to her and she appreciated each and every one,

May the peace of the Lord be with you all.
These heartbreaking words were written by Heather's husband, Scott.  Heather was 42 years old and the mother to Abby 10, and Ellie 8, two adorable young girls who are far too young to lose their Mum.

I've never met Heather, but she was a friend.  A friend I made over ten years ago not long after I'd had Joshua.  I was considering returning to work and the ante-natal group I was with was very anti in a different way - anti mothers returning to work, and instead of showing me support and encouraging me with the extremely difficult situation I faced, I was made to feel like the worst mother on the planet.  I found a website called BabyCentre, looked on the working mums board to see if there were other mums like me who felt wretched about having to return to work, but they were few and far between - in fact the whole site was slow and rarely visited.  So I turned to the US 'Working Moms' board and boy, did I find a huge welcome there.  I also found Heather.

For many months a huge group of us would post about anything and everything to do with our lives as Mums.  We got through teething together, eating problems, sleep problems, returning to work issues, learning to budget and juggle childcare and doing all the things a mum does, plus a full time job.  You name it, we shared it.  We talked about our beliefs, our faiths, our dreams and hopes for our children.  We also compared birth stories, bemoaned our jelly bellies and discussed planning our next pregnancies.  I shared about Joshua's food intolerances (one of the Mums on there was also on the food allergy board and led me there for advice I would never have found in the UK).  We shared our joys at our babies developing, passing milestones, we shared sleepless nights, we bounced ideas off each other, we moaned at each other and we had a lot of laughs together.  After a while we started to receive nasty posts from very militant SAHMs who really didn't understand who we were or why we worked.  It became an unpleasant place for us to be.  Also, as a close group we found we were dominating the board, so one of the Mums decided to set up a separate board away from BabyCentre which was closed invitation only and I was overjoyed to see the e-mail inviting me - I was and remain the only British Mum on that board and I feel honoured and privileged to be part of such a wonderful group of caring, loving and considerate women.  Women who cover all walks of life, we have Mums in the field of law, engineering, forensics, accounting, admin and many more professions - all united by one common factor - we started off as mums who worked outside the home.  We are now a mixed group with some who have managed to beat financial pressure and debt and have stepped over the boundary and now stay home with their kids.  We were overjoyed for them when they managed this and the diversity of our group dynamic in this respect has made us even closer.

Heather was also in this group - in fact, she still very much is.  Her overwhelming joyous and  vibrant personality will ensure she remains very alive on our board.  We've shared more than ten years of living her life with her online.  She has shared about her girls growing up, about her work, how much she loves her husband, church, her friends and just about anything we've randomly posted about.  She was a very clever woman, very in tune with people's feelings and able to just say the right things.  Her posts were hugely encouraging and at times so funny you'd have to read through a haze of tears through laughing so much.

Many of us have not met - some have - I'm yet to make it to a get-together - I am determined one day I will and Andy knows the importance of these ladies in my life.  Some people may find it weird and freaky to get close to somebody you've never met, but this is the thing about this group - we're real.  We are real women, real Mums, real wives and girlfriends.  We just live a long way from each other.  Ten years ago, a group like this was unheard of - we were very unique in how we operated and it's not without any surprise that Heather was in this group. I can't imagine what it would have been without her.  We loved her posts, we loved her wit and humour, we loved her words of encouragement and her ability to open up about herself and let us see just what wonderful woman she was.

We've seen triumphs on our board - we've celebrated when a friend has beaten breast cancer, we shared the anguish of one friend being diagnosed with Graves Disease, we've cried over miscarriages, we've fumed over absent fathers not doing their things for their kids, we are great friends with a Mum who has a child with mental health problems, we've smiled from ear to ear when a pregnancy has been announced and we've gone gooey over pictures of newborns, we've posted pics of our kids starting school.  We are a family - a very close family, so close in fact, that in the past we've had other women want to join our board as they know it's so supportive and we've had to reluctantly turn them away because it would rock the dynamics of just how strong we are as a unit.

But our unit has been struck by the biggest bolt of lighting yet.  Of all the challenges we have faced as a group and individually, nothing has been as immense as the battle Heather faced.  She complained of her back hurting as far back as April and posted regularly about how it was affecting her comfort at work, how she couldn't sleep, how it had sucked the fun out of summer for her, how she was getting all sorts of different treatments.  She was a fit woman, training for triathlons, working at a good job and enjoying the everyday normality of being a Mum to two beautiful girls, being Scott's wife and a much loved friend to the huge, huge group of people around her. 

Heather once mentioned how energetic her parents were and how she wished when she was their age, she had their energy for when her own girls had children of their own. When we discussed other things involving kids she said she had thought about how sometimes it's better not to tell some kids about bad stuff until it's about to happen, especially if they're the type to worry and fret.  It's a cruel irony now that she won't get to be energetic when her girls grow up and that her girls are now having to cope with the most horrific bad news a child can be given. A cruelty in their young lives they will never get used to.

Heather went into hospital two weeks ago due to her chronic back pain.  She posted to us that she was having tests done and would likely be in hospital for a few days.  She posted briefly on Facebook that she had 'pan can in liver'.  That's the last we heard from her.  We have kept in touch with Scott about her condition and we have cried bucket loads at hearing the doctors had confirmed she had pancreatic cancer which had spread to her liver. She never had time to digest the news and get her affairs in order.  She never even had time to start fighting the disease. We were stunned when just six days later we lost our beautiful friend.  Our vibrant, funny, nutty, triathlete Heather.  

Our prayers and thoughts are with Scott, Abby and Ellie and also Heather's Mum and Dad.  Heather had a huge real life support group and we know that the family will be well cared for.  Heather was a believer and through all the angst, pain and grief, the only consolations are that her pain was brief and that when it ended she was able to run straight into Jesus arms.