Tuesday, 28 April 2009


I have two friends who I consider the most valuable women on this planet. They've both listened to me rant on all day, going over and over the same old stuff. The good thing about e-mail is that they can't stuff a hankie in my mouth and muzzle me when I'm off on one. And having the ability to type 80+ wpm means they get my e-mails whammed at them like an Inter City express train!

But it's great when your friends love you and support you when you're being a bit of a snarky old bat. And it's equally great when they lovingly tell you in a diplomatic way to let it go, because really you're being daft and over-sensitive.

I feel better already.

But I'm still praying for my answer. Actually, maybe if I stopped snarking and ranting and listened a while, I might hear it.

Monday, 27 April 2009

An Old Fogey at 36!!

It's a good job I'm not having a bad day otherwise after reading Joshua's homework grid I might have felt compelled to stick my head in the oven.

"Write three problems involving old fashioned measurements."

Am I REALLY that old to consider yards, feet, inches, pounds and ounces as 'old fashioned'?

He'll be asking me if I've ever seen a woolly mammoth next.

The Simplicity of a Child's Expectation

I'm still thinking. I'm not actually thinking of anything profound or mind-blowing. Just rather contemplating how I'm going to write it, as I don't want to offend people. But in that, I want to be honest.

But, never mind that. My post for today is centred around a very simple statement Eleanor said this morning. She's now getting rather irate at Samuel's daily routine of waking up early and trotting into her bedroom to wake her up so they can either play together or watch television.

Sam likes company. He's not a child who likes to be on his own and Eleanor's his best friend in the entire world. He adores her, and similarly she adores him. But not at 5.45 each morning! She's now getting grotty each day when it's time for breakfast, becoming an incessant moaner when asked to wear a pair of socks she doesn't like, whinging on when she has to have her hair brushed, etc. etc. And while this tests my patience to the limit, as I'm also a crabby old wench in the mornings, I do sympathise with the fact that she's still tired and needs extra sleep.

So, this morning while she was wailing on, I'm ashamed to say I snapped at her and ranted, "Just what exactly do you expect me to do about it Eleanor? I can't stand guard at your door and stop him coming in, when I'm asleep too!"

Her answer was plain and put me to shame. She didn't look for obstacles and explanations. She didn't put things in the way and lay blame somewhere else. She simply stated, "If you can't do it, ask God to".

Point taken. I popped her on my knee and putting her little hands together we prayed a little prayer that a certain little somebody would sleep in tomorrow morning, just for a little bit longer. And we've made a pact that we'll repeat that little prayer sitting on my bed, her perched on my knee, until he does.

It's the first time she's prayed with me. It was a small prayer, but special. For a few moments, she shared my faith. To me that's huge.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I'm Thinking

I'm thinking a lot at the moment - about all sorts of things. I want to blog them, but they're lengthy and I'm processing both sides of the argument.

I may take a while.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Goofing About

Sam insisted on trying my glasses on tonight.

He fills me with more laughs and smiles than there are bubbles in a bottle of fizzy pop.

Car Snooker

Heading down the M4 to get to Jubilee Church on time for the kids event Pyramid Rock, we decided to make use of the rush hour traffic to our advantage and embarked on our favourite travelling game.

It's a simple game that even the youngest members of the family can join in with. All you have to do is remember the order that snooker balls are potted and find cars in that order.

Find 7 red cars in a row, then 1 yellow, 1 green, 1 brown, 1 blue, 1 pink and 1 black.

Sometimes when the elusive colours are nowhere to be seen, I relent and let them find a lorry with a cab that particular colour or maybe a trailer or something similar. Usually we get stuck on pink, but today we got through two rounds - our best result ever.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Blumenthal's Apprentice

Chef Loizou ready and raring to go.
Ingredients prepped, knives sharpened, chef's hat on and stove at the ready.

A bit of chopping here and a bit of chopping there. The panel of judges keeping a keen eye on proceedings.

Maddie not quite certain about what's about to be served up!
Voila! Chalaier (pronounced chilayer, his own creation, owned and named by himself)
Joshua's very first own recipe main course meal.
And it was.
Well done Joshua!!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Hushing Him the Biblical Way

Andy and I have for many years, spent a lot of time together in the kitchen. Before the children arrived we would spend hours together baking and making, clearing up, and generally enjoying putting a few meals together. Some days we'd cook for hours making enough batches of everything to put in the freezer for those busy, 'can't be bothered to cook tonight' days. We both miss those days and are trying to rebuild them again, which is hard when you have four little people all wanting to help!

Throughout this we have often messed around hiding ingredients, putting away something when we know the other one is about to use it, washed up utensils and put them away, turning heat down on the stove, turning it up - all that kind of juvenile stuff.

So, today, whilst preparing a salad the pots of crispy toppings were out and twice Andy put a pot away. Twice I retrieved it from the larder. At this point I told him to leave them out as I was about to use them, only to realise after he told me, that the pot he put away was a new one and the old one was already open ready to be used. At this point I jokingly told him to shut up.

At which, Madeleine, who all through this has been watching her brother in his culinary quest, commented, 'Mummy, you shouldn't talk to Daddy like that. It doesn't say in the Bible that you can tell your husband to shut up'. Totally bemused by this I asked her what instructions she thought were in the Bible for a wife to use in this situation.

Her reply.

'You must tell him to be quiet'.

HA HA HA!!!!


After last night's discussion, Joshua went to sleep with ideas of culinary expertise at his fingertips, no doubt dreaming of the day he's awarded his first Michelin star.

This morning he woke up and told me in the car that he had to rethink his dish. At this point I was kind of hoping he'd realise that the brown sauce element might not work, which he did, only to replace it with worcester sauce. I liked his thinking as I don't have any HP in the house so it's one less item on the shopping list.

But his tweak to the menu was to ask me to buy some garnish, because in his own words, 'If I'm going to be taken seriously as a chef my food needs to look right. There's no point me cooking a dinner if it look a mess. Presentation is as important as the eating'.

He just gets better.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Budding Blumenthal

As you know, Joshua celebrated his tenth birthday last week. Each birthday seems to bring a new list of things he feels he's now old enough to handle and new deals are made with his father and myself regarding new 'skills' he is allowed to practice in the house.

Since he was four he has shown an extraordinary interest in food. He does have a hearty appetite, which is nothing short of a miracle after living six years with severe food intolerances, but thank God he is better and thank God that his interest in food has increased over the years rather than waned.

Joshua loves food. He loves eating it, he loves watching programmes about it and he loves the idea of handling it. He has recorded all the Heston Blumenthal feast series and kept them on the SKY+ and watches them again and again. He watches The Great British Menu, has been known to follow Masterchef and now and again I find him leafing through my Jamie Oliver book.

Today he asked me for 'a word'. This usually means he has something significant to either ask or report that requires my 100% attention and serious feedback.

He wants free reign to 'experiment' in the kitchen with ingredients of his choice. We discussed his reasons and at what times of the day he'd like to do this and the added responsibilities of handling equipment safely and maturely, as well as not wasting food as our budget is stretched to the limit as it is and food wastage is not on the agenda in this house.

So, we chatted and he assured me his intentions were serious and that he wanted to take a part in cooking dinners for the family. Whilst my heart soared at the prospect of me and his Dad having a night away from the cooker, I must admit there was a side order of panic wondering what the heck we'd be eating each night. Plus I do wonder whether the entire family will be sneaking down at midnight for nibbles not unlike the guy years ago in the R Whites Secret Lemonade Drinker adverts. Only we'd be the Secret Midnight Rumbly Tum Munchers tiptoeing to the larder in search of edible sustenance!

We have now come to an agreement. I like having agreements with the children. It gives them a sense of ownership to their responsibilities and it's easier to hold them to things as they can be reminded that they agreed the deal. So, the deal is that he writes his recipe and method, lists his equipment and shows it to either myself or his Dad for prior approval before going ahead.

Tonight's offering involves peppers, onions, cinnamon, sage, syrup, deep fried carrot and potato strips, chicken stock, a bit of chicken, tomato ketchup, brown sauce and I think some sweet chill sauce. He'll be 'experimenting' tomorrow and has already decided it will be a resounding gastronomic success and that I should be prepared to put it in the recipe book if it works!

I love that boy!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Pinnata Easter Eggs

Balloons were used to make papier maché eggs.
They were filled with chocolate eggs, bunnies and lollies.

Then they were decorated.

And now they're drying, ready to be whacked open tomorrow after church.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Uncertainty of 'Probably'

I love this. I love the fact that even the atheists out there are still not 100% convinced by their own argument.

'Probably', doesn't cut it. They're still not sure are they? They're uncertain in their own faith.

'Probably' incites doubt. Doubt leads to questions, questions lead to answers, answers lead to learning, learning leads to truth.

Without realising it, they've invited people to question God's existence. Maybe people who've never given it a thought before. For that we need to thank them.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Easter Egg Hunt Advice for Single People

In the office today we've been discussing our Easter plans, or more precisely, our estimations of chocolate consumption in each household.

I win hands down - got four kids - nobody comes close!

However, I did come up with a cunning plan for those people who are single and feel they are missing out on the family festivities of Easter chocolate fun. So here goes.

On Saturday buy yourself a load of Easter eggs, big ones, small ones, whatever takes your fancy.

Then, at night, when it's dark, stand by your back door and throw them randomly into the garden - it's dark so you won't see where they land.

Sunday morning, head out into the garden and hunt for them. You'll be amazed at how great you feel finding your own supply of eggs.

So, single folks, there's no excuse, it's not just for kids you know!!

The Naff Ones Are Always The Best

I often get sent e-mail jokes or have stuff loaded to my Facebook page. I have no control over them being sent. Often they're smutty or have sexual connotations and whilst really I shouldn't laugh, I do find myself having a sneaky snigger now and then. (Which I know is not what I should be doing - but face it and admit it, we're all guilty).

But I do have the power to hit delete, which I'm finding I'm doing more and more these days.

However, it is refreshing when you get sent silly ones like this.

"The latest Chinese diet cookbook by Wai Yu Mun Ching".


Goodness Through Grief

There is something about this picture that captivates, haunts and mystifies me.

But it also uplifts me.

Here is a woman completely immersed in her grief, being private, yet globally public in her loss.

And through it she's reading the Bible. And whilst I rejoice in the comfort she's finding in those pages, I find it so sorrowful that people only turn to God in times of distress. How much better for people to turn to Him before life becomes sour, to find Him in times of joy and happiness.

I pray her devotion to the reading continues. I pray she finds peace at the loss of her daughter and I pray she finds the God in those pages real and alive, just as I do.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Ten Years Ago Today

Andy and I were given the most miraculous and precious gift.

Our first child, Joshua.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful, treasured, and very much loved little man.

Mum and Dad

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Fitting In

This is a long one. I'm on a journey.

There are a lot of things about me that friends don't know, colleagues don't know and even family don't know. Over the years I've revealed things about myself that I'm not proud of. I've behaved in ways that contradict what I believe and I've said hurtful things to people - at times deliberately as they've hurt me and at times without realising it. I've acted inappropriately, I've sworn and been deceitful. We all do it, but I've had my moments where I've really excelled myself and I'm not proud.

The past few months have been a minefield and it's taken me six months to evaluate my place on this planet. A year ago I was ready to leave it. I'd worked out the sum my husband would receive both in tax free benefit, yearly allowance and quota per child upon my death and I was pretty much at the point where I'd carry it through because I knew the financial strain we were in would be lifted. The thought of the impact on my children is the only thing that stopped me. I'd had enough of life. I was desperately unhappy and nobody noticed.

A year ago I also visited the doctor because I thought I was a freak. I thought I wasn't functioning properly as a person, as a wife and as a mother. I thought I was going mad. I'd been signed off work for three weeks by my doctor after having a breakdown in the office and still I had no idea what was wrong with me. I was told I was normal. Well, normal sucked and normal hurt and normal was not what I wanted to be.

The longer I remained in this mental state the more people thought I was strong. They all marvelled at how I coped through our huge financial strain. They marvelled at how I kept a smile on my face and they marvelled at how I was such a great Mum to my children, while holding down a full time job and fitting in the other 101 things I tried to do. What they didn't see was the crumbling, frantic, impatient, worthless and completely destroyed woman who shut the front door each day.

And all through it I denied my Christian faith. For years I've turned my back on the one person who could have helped me through it all. For years I hid my beliefs away from my friends, my family and kept away from churches. Sure, I joined a few, but I never felt I really fitted in. Either I didn't feel right or the children didn't enjoy it and the minute too many questions were asked, I backed right away.

Trying to learn to cope alone makes you build walls around yourself. Big inpenetrable walls that nobody can break through. The more they hacked at the bricks, the more I piled the cement on in a desperate bid to keep them away. I now look back and see that some people were hacking because they wanted the gossip. They wanted the news to tell their friends. But some people were genuine with their hacking. They wanted to help. But depression brings on paranoia and with that, suspicion. Suspicion that people are trying to hack into your weaknesses, so the natural reaction is to repel them. Exposing your vulnerability magnifies your weaknesses and when you're not ready to back down and accept help for fear of being labelled incapable, it can have an extremely devastating effect on you and those around you. Especially the people who love and care for you.

Things went wrong at home. Terribly wrong and I did something I should never have done. I'm not going to go into detail here. I've said my sorries, I've repented, I've regretted and I've asked forgiveness and all I can do is hope that it's enough. All I can do is put a line under the hurt I caused and push away the hurt that was caused to me as I need to move on and build a stronger life for me and my family.

But I'm struggling. I'm struggling to be the wife, mother, friend and daughter I want to be. I'm struggling to have people understand that I'm Karen the Christian woman who as a young, tender 11 year old made a bold decision to trust in somebody the world has more fun ridiculing than trusting. I entered the Christian faith and made a vow to live by the example that Jesus set in the Bible. I followed this up by being baptised at the age of 14, in front of my mother, and the people I went to church with. My Dad refused to come and to this day remains a firm atheist.

But a few weeks ago a very good friend of mine sat me down and for an entire evening I cried and cried whilst pouring out my heart to her. She listened and gave me good advice but one comment struck me; the fact that I'd been trying to do it all myself and I needn't have had to put the strain on because there was somebody waiting desperately for me to ask Him for help. Now, I haven't prayed properly for years, but something clicked in me. The next day we went to a church that her pastor has recommended for me and that morning I walked in that door a weight lifted from my shoulders, my eyes were opened and I felt a huge surge of love, welcome and compassion. The vibrancy, friendliness and devotion were overwhelming. The welcome my daughters and I were given is nothing I had experienced before.

During the previous evening I had spoken to my friend that I felt like an overgrown garden. My head and heart felt completely overrun by choking, suffocating, deep rooted weeds. I explained how I felt that the surface weeds were easy to deal with, but as they grow so prolificly, I was expending all my energy pulling them up and never having the time to really dig out the stubborn ones, the ones with underground tubers creeping along unnoticed, doing more and more damage, depleting the earth of the nutrition and slowly killing the beautiful flowers that were planted there so tenderly years before.

At church that morning, a very soft spoken elder lady got up, and spoke that she felt somebody in the church had been dealing with weeds and was trying to clear a garden. You could have punched me in the face, it hit me that hard. At that point I broke down completely and poured out months and months of hurt, frustration, bitterness, sorrow, hurt and pain. I had always doubted when people said that God could speak to them so directly, but I knew that message was from Him for me. I spoke to Brenda afterwards as I felt she should know that the words she was led to speak were not in vain, that He had led her to speak for me. I don't know if anybody else in the church that morning were doing their own bits of weeding, but I know I was and I know that message was for me. That was my turning point. I turned to my friend who by this point was hugging me rather tight and said, 'this is it, I've found the jigsaw where my pieces fit'. It all made sense.

As a background, I spent from ages 4 until 19 at a Brethren church. Women wore hats on their heads as the Bible commanded that a woman should keep her head covered. Women did not speak out loud at all, neither to worship, pray or preach as the Bible taught a women should remain silent in church. I was not allowed to take the bread and wine at communion until I had been fully baptised by immersion, just as John the Baptist had baptised Jesus. I attended a Sunday morning Bible class, went to Breaking of Bread after it ended and returned again in the evening for a ministry service and then went to the house of one of the elders in the evening for the youth group. The church was strict in its application of Biblical teaching, but within that strictness was a love unabounding.

However, through all this, strangers were accepted with caution. The cup was passed by them in meetings if it wasn't known for certain they were baptised believers. Women who turned up in trousers or hats were looked upon with disdain and as I grew older I began to question this. Clapping did not happen in services and goodness me, you kept your bum well and firmly on your seat. I think it was Adrian Plass in his hilarious books that once made the joke about Brethren churches having the option of 'hands down for coffee'.

Although I make these observations on that church, which is still a small but very close and devoted church today, I look back with fondness. I thank them profusely for my vast Biblical knowledge. I thank them at the age of 8 I was encouraged to learn the books of the Bible in order. My prize being my very first own King James version (had to be King James!!). To this day I can still reel them off in order without hesitation. I thank them for the opportunities to go to Scripture Union camps and to become a young leader on youth holidays. I thank them for giving me verses to learn each week so I could learn more and more about the God within those pages. I thank them for giving me an education that surpasses all academic subjects and gave me the understanding to have the answers to those who doubted and misquoted the Bible to suit their own purpose.

But what I gained in that respect I lost out on learning how to really open myself to the freer side of being a Christian. The ability to walk into a church and throw my hands up when I really feel God is talking to me. To clap my hands and shimmy a bit when the music moves me and to allow my children to run freely and express themselves when the drums are going and the electric guitars are twanging. To feel confident to stand in front of people and speak when I feel moved. I wanted to go to the front today to speak of my love for my favourite verse, but I couldn't do it. I felt I was doing something 'wrong', because my years of teaching had taught me to stay still, to be silent. I'm only just comfortable at the moment clapping my hands when the beat shifts it a notch and I watch with complete joy when I see women freely opening themselves up and coming to the front and sharing and I long for the day I feel led to do it myself without hesitation or caution.

But I've felt it these last five weeks. I've felt a freedom I've never known. I've realised that it doesn't matter what people think about my faith. It doesn't matter that I've never told them before, because I can tell them now and it doesn't matter if they think I'm a loon dancing at church and declaring a faith in a person they think doesn't exist, because I know He does. In my heart I KNOW IT.

So, I'm trying to turn my life back around. I'm trying to do the right thing and I'm trying to become the person that God wants me to be. I have one life on this earth and I intend to do my best now to get it right.

My favourite verse in the Bible is Revelation 21v4. It is the hope I have. It's what it's all about. I don't know where your beliefs lie or whether you have a faith in something else or where your strength in your future is held, but I know where mine is.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Sibling Love

Love is....

When you're 3 years old and Grandad takes you to Burger King and you save your ketchup sachets for your big 5 year old sister because she loves ketchup so much.

Love is....

Giving them to her at breakfast time and then offering to keep them safe in your pocket so she can have them with dinner later that day.