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.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

As today marks the 10th anniversary of the chilling attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fatal hijacking of Flight 93, my thoughts like many others have turned to what I was doing when it happened. A day's unfolding etched indelibly on my mind. I wasn't born when either of the Kennedy brothers were assassinated or when John Lennon was shot. I don't remember Elvis dying as I was only five years old. I recall Aryton Senna's fatal crash quite vividly and that of Princess Diana and it's this recollection of 'celebrity' deaths that got me thinking about why we always seem to put an emphasis on remembering where we are when these things happen.

For 9/11, I was at work.  It was early afternoon and along with a colleague I was researching information for our latest publicity leaflet about one of the theatres of the Second World War.  Ironic that my work too centres around mindless global violence.  Engrossed in our reading the door suddenly burst open and our manager told us the World Trade Center had been hit by an aeroplane.  Like the rest of the world the thought of such a terrible accident happening shocked us and our thoughts immediately turned to the people in the building.  My later thoughts focusing on those poor souls in the aeroplanes didn't surface until quite some time later.

The building where I work has a top floor that is a social area.  We have a lounge area and TV and as the events unfolded, more and more colleagues came to watch the news.  As we all started to take in the possibility it was a terrorist attack and the first mumblings of Al Queda were mentioned, it was then with a chill running through me and a nausea in the pit of my stomach I saw that second plane hurtle through the air.  It seemed at first it would miss the building, but then that sickening turn and angle to deliberately impact the building - that's what stood out.  Even now, watching that plane fly in, I want to put my hand into the screen, wrap it around the plane and pull it out of the air so it doesn't crash. 

Nobody spoke, nobody gasped.  Some stared at the screen, some stared at the floor, some just stared at each other - total disbelief knowing that at that very moment, whilst we were standing safe in our workplace we were watching people die - people, who just like us had turned up for an ordinary day at work.  They weren't celebrities, world leaders or royalty.  Just men and women going about their business.  We saw bodies falling, people blown from the building by the blast, people running through the street in the huge cloud of dust, running for their lives - how many people succumbed to the suffocation of that blast one can only imagine.  I remember vividly the telephone call released of a man on the line to the fire department begging the firemen to find him as the room around him billowed with black smoke, then his scream .. the call abruptly ending because at that point, the building collapsed.

I'd like to think that things in this world will get better.  But globally I know they won't.  When the world cries out for hope and peace, my thoughts are that these words are futile, unless you have the certainty of believing there will come a day when there will be peace, when Jesus returns to the earth to restore His kingdom to that he intended when Garden of Eden was first created.  We can question why God allows these evil acts to happen and we can call on Him to intervene, but our expectation of Him just stepping in has to be realistic that if He is to step in, just where would we have Him stand?  Do we ask Him to wipe out all the terrorists currently plotting and scheming to commit atrocious acts, or do we go one step back in the chain and ask Him to take out all the people indoctrinating these men and women to become terrorists?  Do we then ask God to take out their children too, for fear they may become like their parents, and then the neighbours, as they must have been exposed to some kind of dangerous thinking along the way?  How do we categorise evil?  Surely anything that has an intention to harm another is a form of evil?  Do we ask God to take out house burglars - their actions are deliberate and wrong - and harmful to others?  Do we ask God to take out our own children as they fight with each other and then lie to get themselves out of trouble and lay the blame on each other?  Do we ask God to take out our spouses as they insult us during arguments and refuse to take any blame for their actions?  Either way we look at it, we as humans are harming each other every day, even the people we love and who claim to love us - should extremism be the only reason we call upon God to intervene?

So, whilst we lament a world full of scorn, terror and sorrow, we also rejoice and find comfort in God, who does care.  God, who has given us comfort that although these things will happen, His plan is righteous, just and perfect.  I'm yet to understand just how this all fits together, but I have faith that one day, when I stand before Him, I'll understand why men committed that act on that dreadful day ten years ago.

But until that day, my thoughts return to those poor people, some of whom probably just for a fleeting few seconds saw the planes head towards their office windows.  The passengers who knew seconds before, they were going to die. People in the lower floors hearing the deafening crash of the building above them collapsing and knowing they'd never make it out alive.  The 'jumpers'.  Families watching in horror as they knew their loved ones had gone - wives and husbands receiving mobile phone calls to say goodbye. Women carrying unborn children who would never meet their Daddy, toddlers and schoolchildren left at schools waiting for their Mummies to come pick them up, but never did.  Relatives waiting at airports for planes that never landed.

We must never give up on God.  We must never give up on each other.  With prayer and forgiveness we have the power to make some parts of the world a better place.  The part of the world where we live, where we interact daily.  We have the power to love the people around us, not to let bad feeling fester - to share in joys and heartbreaks and to support each other when in need.  Let's remember not to let 9/11 hold us back.  Let's look forward to a day when evil WILL be conquered.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Marriage - Revising and Refreshing

In all walks of life you will meet experts.  Experts on finance, HR, marketing, building, athletics, decorating ... you name it, there is probably a qualification somewhere that covers some aspect of it.  But nowhere, is there an expert on every aspect of marriage.  It's easy to become incredibly complacent about how you conduct your life alongside the person you have devoted yourself to and it's easy to become caught up in the mechanics of day to day life, living alongside each other, but not with each other.  
Show me a married couple who insist their marriage is perfect and I'll show you either two liars, two very disillusioned people who haven't quite realised they're married or two people whose lives are so far apart, the chasm between them has become so normal, they don't see the abnormality of it.  Marriage is hard work.  At times it is heartbreaking, lonely and confusing, but mostly you wonder how you'd ever live without that person and the rewards of sharing your life with them are immense. 

So many people now enter marriage flippantly, blinded by the notion that it's akin to their career path.  If they get fed up with a job or it doesn't pay the rate they want, they move on.  If the spouse gets a bit boring and the responsibilities become monotonous, they move on.  For some that do stay the course they think by the time they've clocked up a decade together, they've got the whole thing nailed.  I'm sometimes cynical like this as I've clocked up 14 years of marriage and find myself at times thinking I'm a bit of a guru when it comes to certain problems and how to deal with them. There are many challenges within marriage I can confidently expertly advise on because I've experienced them and there are some challenges I know nothing about because I haven't.  Having gone through some very challenging moments, I can see things from the same platform as the poacher turned gamekeeper, but even my advice has the danger of becoming flawed because of the complacency of time and familiarity.  At other times I can be the best person to speak to and my advice can be well received and heeded.  But as I said, nobody is an expert on every aspect of marriage.

So, how do you deal with this?  How do you keep your marriage alive and fun?  How do you still love that person the way you did on your wedding day?  How do you learn to love them more?  How do you live as one, yet remain as two individuals?  How do you get through problems? How do you forgive?  How do you move on and how do you look back and choose to reflect on the good times and not throw up the bad ones?  How many of us married couples really take time to evaluate our marriages and treasure them for what they are and what the years have given us?  Do we really stop and think about what our marriage means to us?

Having gone through a separation and reconciliation, I can say that I have evaluated my marriage.  Andy and I both had to evaluate it.  We had to look at what God had given us and what we were doing a mighty fine job of destroying.  We had to stop and think where we stood before God and before each other and we had to look at very uncomfortable situations we were finding ourselves in.  We learned that the best support for us were couples in solid relationships or people in no relationship.  People with faltering marriages of their own proved toxic to our efforts to rebuild ours, so we had to distance ourselves.  We found some couples with seemingly healthy marriages took sides with one or the other and that created wounds and distrust, moreso because we asked them not to.  Because of this, rebuilding our marriage broke friendships as we found some people actually enjoyed taking sides and creating tensions between us - it staggered me particularly how two faced people were.  We had to sever previous friendships which was heartbreaking, but necessary.  The rebuilding of those friendships will hopefully return one day, but in order to save what was precious, sacrifices had to be made at the time.

Going back to the basics of anything in life is a good thing.  It's refreshing to remind ourselves why we made a certain choice, why we chose to be where we are or why God chose to put us where we are.  It's healthy to go back and repoint the bricks upon which we've built our lives, to rediscover the simple pleasures and attractions that have led us to where we are now.

So Andy and I have booked ourselves on The Marriage Course.  Seven sessions covering various aspects of marriage and how to build on them.  You may well think that after nearly 16 years together and over 14 years of them being married, we'd have run out of things to talk about or build on.  But that's why.  We don't want to become flippant, stale and stagnated in our marriage.  We don't want the newlyweds thinking we're a pair of past it old timers whose marriage consists of bringing up children and working.  We have so much more than that together.  We've weathered many storms throughout our marriage and we've also seen many rainbows, but the fundamental foundation for me and Andy is that our marriage stays strong, alive and God centred.  We're really looking forward to it and to having many more fantastic years together.  We know it won't always be perfect, but we will always remember that God made our marriage and remains in the centre of it.  Taking time out once a week to rediscover parts of our relationship that could so easily be lost, to pick up where things have become stale and just to spend time alone talking about the two of us and not the kids, finances, shopping and 99 other things will be fun, thought provoking and essential.

So, whether you've been married one year or 25 years, never be afraid to look back at the basics.  Don't get caught up in thinking that because you tell each other you love each other every day and you text or message one another or you get through a day without an argument, that you have nothing more to give or receive.  You do.  You both do. 

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Party To Make Up For Parties

Maddie has missed out on many birthday parties, purely because her birthday lies in the summer holidays.  Sharing the same day as her I remember from my childhood, all my friends having parties, sleepovers and fun days, but when it came to my birthday nobody was around, mainly because they were away on family holidays or my family was away on holiday.  I got used to having quiet birthdays, but despite this my Mum and Dad always made sure I had a good day, making a fuss of me and getting me nice presents.

Maddie mentioned last year that she hadn't really had a proper party for her birthday.  Over the years she's been very gracious about this, has never moaned or complained and never asked for anything the others had.  She's seen them have laser quest parties, bowling parties, sports parties, swimming evenings, pizza building parties, gym parties, indoor activity parties, discos,  .....  but Maddie's days were quiet, like mine had been.  So, this year, for her 11th birthday, we decided to have a party to make up for parties, inviting the friends she felt closest too and the friends she wanted to get to know better in the future.

The only obstacle that faced us, was it being in the holidays, friends being on holiday and this year, herself being away at a Church camp on her birthday.  So her celebrations have spanned nearly two weeks!  A few presents opened before she went away, a cake and shoebox stuffed with small goodies smuggled to camp in her leader's car as a surprise for her birthday morning and a party and sleepover the weekend after.

Maddie has the most fabulous group of friends.  Sadly, not all of them could make it, but she had a great crowd at her Water Walkerz party last night. As well as asking her older brother at the last minute if he'd like to come and bring a friend, which meant a quick phone call to another friend, the group was made up of a neighbour, Brownies pal, school friends and church friends.  Girls who had never met each other before, but who got together to have a great 2 hours of fun, water zorbing, sliding the chutes, playing volleyball with the lifeguard and munching on the poolside buffet.  They even did a fantastic job of singing Happy Birthday to Maddie so loud, they drowned out the sound system!

Four friends came home afterwards, two went home at 10.30pm and the other two stayed over for the night, finally drifting off to sleep some time after 3.30 this morning.  Filled up with pizza and midnight munchies, the girls still managed to fit in a breakfast of sausage, eggs and bacon.  It was a real shame to have to send everybody home, but Maddie has had a great time.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Judgements of the Unqualified

I usually don't blog about the lives of celebrities. I may catch the odd headline on the news, but beyond that my interest fades.  I've never been a buyer of OK, Hello or whatever the latest hot pick on the newstand is.  I'm simply not interested in what their duvet cover looks like or what dress they're wearing whilst sidling up to the fridge in their fifty thousand pound kitchens.  I try to avoid the speculation about who's having affairs and who's been photographed slumped in a drunken stupor in the back of a limo in the early hours, or who's had a tantrum at the nightclub bouncer because they're not A-list enough to get in the club in the first place to end up in a drunken stupor.  But over the years, as I've got older, it's become more and more impossible to watch the news without all this being thown in front of me.  Tragedy, violence, humiliation and despair sadly attract the journalists and the more depraved the story, the quicker it hits the headlines.

And this brings me to Amy Winehouse, who this afternoon, tragically secured her place amongst the members of the macabre '27 Club'.  A young woman noticed in her teens, with a raw unusual quality to her voice - a sound so distinctive amongst her peers, that set her apart, accelerated her ability to grab the heights of fame and elevated her to the sycophantic attentions of those who saw the opportunity to exploit what should have been nurtured and protected.

For many years I was intolerant of drug users and alcoholics.  To an extent I still am, but ignorance by innocence is somewhat excusable, ignorance by dogmatic arrogant choice isn't and as I've experienced more and more of life and modern pressures, my intolerance to these people has softened.  I will never accept that people have no choice when it comes to drink and drugs, unless they're physically forced.  Nobody MAKES them carry on drinking to oblivion and nobody forces them to snort up powders or shoot toxic liquids into their veins.  It is a choice, but the strength of character to walk away from this is sadly lacking in those people, like Amy, who are flung into a life of money and glamour when they're far too young and immature to handle it.  Furthermore, having the discerning ability to see through the murky intentions of vulturous advisers who are set on exploiting young talent in the guise of a support network is nigh on impossible.  Especially when the very trappings of success are promising a future where everything landing in your hands is considered a reward for talent.  And those trappings, for Amy, enabled her sadly to lend those hands to her own fate.

So my reaction to her death is not one of surprise, but immense sadness and anger.  Anger that the Press saw fit to make a mockery of her troubles, to document her struggling to perform, to deliberately set about catching her during some of the most undignified and despairing moments of her life.  The 100m distance ban on all media near her or her friends came too late and in reality was a sneer though the viewfinder of the modern age zoom lens.   My immense sadness at a unique young woman who was really given no chance to turn her life around without every step she took being scrutinised.  Each visit to rehab dismissively mocked by the tabloids, a father who resorted to speaking to the press in an apparent desperation to 'reach out' to her.

Disbelief at people, who even after she's died, seem to think they have the qualification and authorisation to determine that her death was deserved.  Because, obviously, they have such great experience of having associated with people like her, they are so well placed to quantify those statements.  People who say 'life is what you make it'.  These people clearly having absolutely no pressures in their lives, no disappointments, and sat on the pedestals of their self inflated egos.

I would challenge these people to confirm whether they have the same disgusting abusive attitude towards obese people.  After all, eating beyond the body's calorific need is surely self abuse - but an illness that many people struggle with and need support and understanding to cope and live with, not taunts and sneers of disgust.  Do they have the same attitude towards people in debt, who spend beyond their means because the lure of goods in shops are just too tempting?  Or what about people who just can't keep up with the cost of life - are they failures in the eyes of those simply because life is too tough for a season in their lives?

I feel incredibly sorry for Amy and my heart reaches out to her family and friends.  Those people close to her who have had to watch the woman they love and care for, slowly ebb her life away.  A woman they could appreciate and love for her immense talent and for who she was to them and it is my hope and prayer that in her death, she is afforded a moderate amount of dignity and her family are allowed to grieve without the voyeuristic vultures of the media and public performing their own moral autopsy on her.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Splash Of Memories

Us parents have to constantly judge whether it's right to become stressed about something when teaching our kids.  Some days things bother us more than others.  Some days we worry too much about what other people are thinking or saying.  Some days we don't realise that when we say 'no', it's not because it does our kids any harm, but more because we can't be bothered dealing with the things that follow.

So, occasionally, I dig out these photos below and remind myself that some days I can just say 'yes'.  Like this day in July 2007 when coming home on the last day of the school term, the local area flooded.  We were faced with this and the only choice we had was to go through it and get extremely wet, or trudge the long way round.  Maddie and Joshua had a schoolfriend coming home for tea and after much begging on their part, followed by a quick mobile call to their friend's Mum, the go-ahead was given for them to dive in and 'swim' in the field on the way home.  

They had such fantastic fun coming home that day.  Admittedly, had it been the day before, they would have probably had to walk the long way round. But occasionally us parents need to chill, to stand back and just let our kids be kids and let them do those mad little things, that ordinarily we'd never dream of letting them do. 

So, if you're a parent, let go once in a while, let the kids do something a little wacky - as long as they're safe, no offence is caused to other people and nothing gets damaged, ask yourself where the harm is?  If there isn't any, give them those precious moments to dive in and swim.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Happy Exhaustion

Andy and I have four happy exhausted children today.  The younger two are in bed after having an absolute blast of a day at the South Reading Churches Fun Day, followed by a first birthday party for a dear little boy in our church.  And for Sam an extended day involving a much longed for trip to Toys R Us early this evening to spend birthday money.

The older two are collapsed on the sofa vegging in front of the television having enjoyed a great day out in the fresh air just being kids and enjoying a bit of freedom and independence.  They're about to head up the wooden hill.

Me and Andy?  A lovely cool refreshing beer each, feet up and DVD.

All's good in the house :-)

Monday, 20 June 2011


I adore this picture.  My son, Sam, is on the left. 

Two little boys holding hands waiting their turn on a fun game.  Two little hands that speak many words.  'You're my friend and we're in this together'.  When they're older, they won't be holding hands with each other, but I hope when they both become young men, they have the same attitude and conviction of heart that extends their hands to any friend that needs them.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Happy Dog

One large baked beef marrowbone presented to Toki this evening.  He was so excited he shook!  He's been in the garden for 20 minutes now munching on this and there's no sign of him wanting to come in.  This must be the equivalent of a five year old being given the biggest ice-cream ever!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Rundown Days

I often get people asking me how I cope with having four kids, house to run, church things, commuting to work, working outside the home, fitting in a social life, doing shopping, etc and sometimes the answer is quite simple.  I don't always cope.  I get days where I'm so utterly exhausted I don't know what to do with myself.  Sometimes it's not physical exhaustion, but mental meltdown from having to shuffle so much information, remember who has to be where and when, who needs what, what needs to be paid to whom, how much they want, when do they want it by, what form needs to be handed in, who needs what sports kit today, who's at after school club, who needs picking up, who's walking home, what's for dinner, what e-mails are more urgent, has that staff member got their pay rise, has the translation for this letter been received, has this manager got enough money to pay that contractor, what time is it in Kirkee so I can speak to a technical manager on tour about something, have I filled in the information on this database, have I returned medical certificates to regional offices because they're written in Arabic and I can't understand a word that's written, what time am I leaving work today, is there enough petrol in the car, do I have a babysitter for tonight, is the washing done, has the dog been walked, have the pets been fed, are the clothes on the kids bedroom floor there because they're dirty or are the kids too lazy to put them away, have I replied to that birthday invitation one of them brought home yesterday, have I read my Bible today, have I prayed today ........

Life.  Just plain ordinary busy hectic life.  But some days it gets too much and I wake up feeling totally overwhelmed.  Headaches start, I get short tempered and snarky with the people around me I love and they take the brunt of my vain attempts to do it all under my own strength, despite me having a wonderful husband who does so much to help and often tells me to stop worrying about things.  So, today I'm off work, because I'm feeling a bit grotty and run down.  But instead of vegging in front of the television I've decided to use some time to be a Mary, rather than a Martha and I'm already feeling a little uplifted.  I'll be blogging more on My Martha, My Mary over the next few days as I really feel that God has given me a good talking to over the last couple of weeks and I'm starting to find my balance.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Expectation and Fulfillment

Andy told me earlier this week he was going to a Desktop Virtualisation Seminar. To the IT geeks out there I presume this is something to get excited about. He loves all things tecchie. I'm pretty hopeless in that department and as long as something can be turned on, used and turned off again, I'm happy. I won't even begin to try and understand what this seminar is about. 

I had visions of him being stuck in a stuffy airless room, surrounded by technonerds all speaking in trainspotter voices, rapidly blinking as they manually downloaded the information to their brains.  I felt a bit sorry for him.

Until he sent these pictures to my e-mail account at work.  Venue:  Kensington Rooftop Gardens.  Complete with four flamingoes named Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks.  He hasn't mentioned the seminar at all, but he's enjoying the surroundings.  It's just a shame the sun isn't shining more for him as it looks a beautiful place.

When I was pondering my expectations of his day out of the office, my thoughts were brought to Hebrews 11v40.  When God's faithful people of the Old Testament stood firm in their hope and faith that He would fulfill his promises of something better, they lived in expectation that God would send their saviour.  In the New Testament Paul speaks to the Hebrew Christians exorting the fact that what they have received is the fulfilment of those promises in the form of Jesus Christ which is so much better than the unfilled covenant of their forefathers. 

So expectation of something good is one thing, but receiving it is quite another.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Grasping independence

My eldest son, Joshua, 12, is a smart kid.  Having gone online last week and wheeled and dealed his way around the Internet finding a mobile phone contract deal that would undercut the current ones I held for him and his sister, he managed to find a way of getting them both a brand new smart phone each that had all the gadgets they desired, for less than I was currently spending each month.  Having previously told him that an upgrade was out of the question as I was not prepared to spend more money, I found myself having to concede to his request as he quite rightly pointed out my fears were unfounded and that I'd actually make a saving.

As a parent I could have reacted two ways.  One is that I could have got angry that he continued to pursue something I'd originally said no to and punished him.  Or, as I chose, I could have held back and allowed him to rise to the challenge and make his own discoveries.

I'm glad I did.  With his perseverance and for being sensible, gathering the facts in, making sure the tariffs were correct, working out Internet bolt ons, researching through the current provider what his current text and talk usages were, he could compare differing offers and make an informed choice about which level of contract would suit him.  He wasn't greedy, he didn't demand extra applications and he even made sure he stayed with the same network so calls between family remained free of charge.

The money issue itself was not my main concern.  My children know we have limited budgets for some things, tight budgets for others, miracles in waiting for some things and variable budgets for others.  We've tried over the years to be honest with them about money and spending and to search for good deals, not to be tempted into impulse buying, not to be sucked into the latest craze and to analyse whether they'll really use something. So to see my son actively and quite naturally using these criteria for obtaining something he desired was wonderful to see.  It showed me he's growing up wisely, that he's thinking things through analytically before making decisions and it's confirming to me that he is listening to us when we try to advise him.  As a parent it's uplifting to see your child make wise decisions, not just because a yes or no option has been put before them, but because they've taken an idea and developed it.

There are times he does things for me because I don't understand how to use them, or he explains how something is made or how it works.  Usually with a big cheeky smile on his face and a roll of the eyes because my level of ability is at 'muppet' level.  There are a lot of times he's just the boy he is, but I'm confident that as he grows, and as time goes on, I'll have to let go a little more each time and allow him to take hold of opportunities.  This week it was just a mobile phone, but it won't be long before those choices become more complex and he'll be able to take life with both hands and get the best value out of it he can.

Oh, and their phones arrived yesterday.

Monday, 9 May 2011

What if ...?

So much of life is full of what ifs?  Usually coupled with regret and missed opportunity, leaving us swimming in a soup of disillusion and peering ahead with little hope for the supposedly great thing we missed.  I try not to have too many what ifs now.  Well, not backward, hopeless ones, but more forward thinking, opportunistic ones.  I suppose it could be viewed as risk taking rather than optimistic what iffing.  So, where's the harm in a little risk taking?  Does taking risks expose you as a flippant, nonchalant and spontaneous person with little regard for responsibility and consequence, or does it generate an inner core of you that expels great confidence, hope and trust in those things to come?

I often think about why people just don't believe in Jesus and His resurrection.  Look at all the cuckoo crazy stuff some people are passionate about.  Diversity awareness and acceptance of all modern quirks and idiosyncrasies are drummed into us, so why are people so cautious and sceptical about God, Jesus and all things in the Bible?  What are people REALLY afraid of?  I'd like to think the real reason they're hesitant or dismissive is that they have the little what ifs floating around their head.  What if people think I'm a loony believing in somebody that you can't see?  What if evolution is the source and destructive force of the Earth?  What's the point in me believing I'm going somewhere better if there's nowhere else?  What if I'm not good enough? What if I'm beyond saving?  What if I fail and muck things up?  What if my family disown me or my friends tease me?   So, here's my limited take on a sample of little, but obstructive what ifs that people have posed to me over the years when they've questioned my faith.

What if God really does exist?  What if we're so restricted in our intelligence that we simply just can't comprehend the notion of omnipresence?  When new species are found, we see them and accept they were always there, so why is the barrier of sight and proof so prevalent amongst us?  What makes some of us blind to Him, and what opens the eyes of others?

What if God really did create man and woman?  Scientists can now grow body parts from stem cells.  We know they can do it.  They can create a whole out of a part.  So what stops us believing that God created a whole man from the parts of the world He'd already created before that?  Who's to say that the vital components of a human being weren't already part of creation and that God just put them together?

What if Eve was really tempted and really did eat of the fruit and there really was a serpent possessed by Satan?  If we're taking a risk on believing in God here and God is love, it stands that we have to accept the presence of an oppositional force - evil.  How is that evil represented?  If good and love are represented in the form of a being, then evil must be too.  We know that good and evil exist. Doesn't it stand to reason that at the first sight of something good, evil will try to find a way in?  We see Satan at the beginning of the Bible, he doesn't wait around before having a go.  In the same way now, Satan uses deceit and lies to deceive people into believing God isn't real.  Isn't it strange that Satan's existence itself is invisible, yet people are ready to believe someone can be possessed by Him, yet struggle to believe and accept that somebody can have the spirit of God living in them? 

What if God did part the Red Sea and lead his people out of slavery?  If God made the sea, then He surely has the power to rule its tides, motion and current.  If He can suspend Sun in space and orbit planets perfectly around it, then holding a bit of sea back is not too difficult.  We've seen the devastation of a tsunami.  We know the sea can draw back on itself and then surge.  So why is it hard to believe that God drew the sea back in order to save His people?

I could go on forever with my what ifs.  So really what I'm saying is to look closely at the reasons many people struggle to accept the presence and love of Christ and to delve into what's REALLY holding them back.  All too often there is an answer and one that's simpler than we thought.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

School Holidays

School holidays are a great time for catching up with special friends who still live nearby but who have moved to different schools.

They're a great time for finally getting rid of stabilisers and learning to ride on two wheels. 

Even if you do fall off sometimes.

They're a great time for taking the dog to the park.

And just enjoying time away from the day to day hectic run of life.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Further Thoughts On Giving

Further to my earlier thoughts here, about giving, I'm thrilled to see in the national papers today, many articles relating to general happiness of people in the UK and how it is sorely lacking, mainly due to our self obsessed culture.  Articles that are encouraging us to give a little more of ourselves to other people, either by attitude or action.  When we first think about 'giving', our minds and thoughts automatically turn to money and the fact we don't have enough to give away, or why should we give what's ours to others?  But giving is SO much more than that.

How much?:  Deuteronomy 16:17 - Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

Who to?:  Proverbs 3:27 - Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

Attitude?:  Deuteronomy 15:10 - Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Who needs to know?:  Matthew 6:3-4 - But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  (In other words, you don't need to brag about it).

For some months I have been acting on a scheme I found on a Christian website.  It's called the 10 Day Give and encourages us to not only consider others, but to make a conscious effort to actually act upon practically doing something to make that person's day better.  There is no need to be outwardly public with what you do, there is no need to restrict it to anything monetary, just the willingness to think outside your own busy life and act in a way to brighten up the day of somebody else.

The scheme was restricted to ten days, but I have tried over the past few months, to stop concerning myself with me and to start concerning myself with somebody else.

  • If you're a lady you could compliment another female co-worker if you like something she's wearing. (I mention ladies as this is not really a blokey thing)
  • If you're a Manager, take time to go up personally to thank somebody for the work they've done, don't send an impersonal e-mail and certainly don't take the credit for their work. 
  • Offer your neighbours a cup of tea and invite them in for a chat if you see them outside. 
  • Let the person behind with just a few items go before you at the checkout.
  • Bring cakes into work for your colleagues to share. 
  • Go out of your comfort zone.  Apologise to somebody if you know you've done them wrong, you know who to - even if time has worn away your courage and it means a little bit of egg on your face - you may find you get a better reception than you think. 
  • Contact an old friend if you've allowed distance and life to separate you both. 
  • If you're not comfortable with children, offer to babysit, you might find you enjoy it and the parents would appreciate the break. 
  • If you're healthy, find out where the next blood donor session is near you and get down there - it only takes 30 minutes. 

The possibilities to give are endless.  They cost  nothing and take up so little time, but can so very often be the difference between someone else having a good day or a bad day.  Isn't it great to know that you have the power and ability to put a smile on somebody's face?

Free Coffee?

Check the link below.  Watch the video and then imagine that woman is Jesus, handing out His love and forgiveness.  Then think about whether you've walked on by, either suspicious it's a trap, don't have time, allergic (in that it's likely to make you uncomfortable) or just simply ignored it.  Or, like some of the people, have you graciously accepted it, said thank you and walked away with your cup full?

Then, consider, if that were Jesus standing there, have you made Him happy by accepting, or made Him feel a little more miserable because your perception of his gift is warped?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


 12th APRIL 1997

St Mary's Church

followed by reception at
Bell House Hotel

That was the day I married the man who was to become my best friend, the man who I trust most above all others and the man I simple love and adore.