Tuesday, 6 December 2011

December Daily - Day Three and Day Four

This weekend was our Christmas with the Hodson side of the family...my sister goes to New York on 22nd December for 10 days so it's a bit different to normal when we all congregate in Surrey at some point in the festive season.
My sister Ellie, husband Ollie and Freddie arrived here mid morning on Saturday. I had been up and out at Tesco's by 6.30am which was a good move - well stocked shelves and tills were open which they aren't always when you shop at night. We weren't going for a big Christmas dinner - just a Mexican spread on Saturday night and Jamie Oliver's beef stew (from Jamie's Dinners) on Sunday lunchtime. So the shopping was minimal.
Chelsea were playing Newcastle - couldn't have planned it better if we'd tried! So the boys went off to the pub and a few pints and Ellie and I took the kids to Barleylands for a wander. They had a baby market running with cakes, Santa and face painting so that went down well!
Heading back home in time for another feed for Isaac and the arrival of my mum who got here just in time for Matilda's tea and all the kids being bathed and sorted for bed. Once that was done we could get on with the serious business of the evening - food, Secret Santa pressies and Lee Evans on DVD!

It was a great night, relaxed and fun, and a great start to the festive season! In fact, I thought we should pretend that one of us was going away for Christmas every year as an excuse to get the party started!!
Sunday was a busy one for Andy especially, after a week of late nights with essay writing, labyrinth prep and festivities last night. He headed off to church around 8.30am and the rest of us relaxed at home, walking into Shenfield later on for a coffee before returning home to have lunch by which time Andy was back too. We exchanged gifts for the kids - Matilda was very pleased with a Sylvanian families car and Meerkat family as well as a new dressing gown. Freddie was all kitted out for his trip to NYC with a snow suit and an etch a sketch to keep him occupied on the plane!

As always with Christmas, it was over too soon - but looking forward to hearing all about Ellie and Ollie and Freddie's travels in NYC and hoping they get some snow and get to ice skate at Rockerfeller!

Friday, 2 December 2011

December Daily - Day Two

My day started at 6am when Isaac woke for his feed...the little button is gradually dropping the night feed by sleeping longer after the dream feed at 11pm...normality is resuming!
Matilda had a non-uniform day at school today and instead of paying for the privilege, her class had to take in sweets for the school Christmas Bazaar next Saturday (tangent thought - why is it called a Bazaar at Christmas but a Fete or Fair in the Summer?)
Andy had been up late finishing his first essay for College and so we slightly slept in...but Matilda (and Andy) made it to school on time, dressed, washed and looking presentable! I, however, didn't get moving quite as quickly - we had a visitor, Heather which was lovely and after catching up with her, Andy wanted my help with preparation for the Labyrinth this weekend. So it was after 12 by the time I got dressed...
The afternoon has ticked by with the school pick up, Andy heading off to set up the Labyrinth and tea, bath and bed routine. Now that both children are in bed, I'm starting to get ready for our visitors this weekend. Clearing the spare room of Christmas stuff, gifts and what not, wrapping some gifts as we'll do an exchange on Saturday night and putting up a few decorations. We usually wait until after Matilda's birthday to do the big 'decorate' of the house but since this will be our Christmas weekend with my side of the family, I have hung a wreath, some fairy lights and we will get some candles going tomorrow evening.
I'm going to do some cooking prep, make some gingerbread and depending on what time Andy gets back later also head out to a 24 hour supermarket. Much easier than with the kids in tow!
Isaac has been almost laughing today - as expected, this is directed mostly at Matilda! She was sitting on the low windowsill in the lounge watching TV and swinging her legs and he let out a loud but very happy gurgle...it's coming!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

December Daily - Day One

In the nearly 10 years that we've been married, Andy and I have cultivated our own series of Advent traditions, which are almost more important than the Christmas traditions which are kinda like everyone else's.
Having an Advent Candle and an Advent Calendar with Bible passage or reflection as part of that time together.
Eating a meal together every night.
Giving thanks in different ways - sometimes through giving donations or sending special gifts to people or acts of service (Andy was Santy one year at my work Christmas 'do!)
Last year we added Andrew Peterson's 'Behold the Lamb' album to that list which I had discovered on my trip to Tennessee in September. It has been played a few times already!

When Matilda came along 5 years ago, those fluid traditions gained a different and clearer perspective and now with Isaac on the scene, we're excited to have this first Advent together as a family of 4.
Last year I attempted, with some success, to blog daily on what was happening, our reflections on the season and telling some of the funny and important stories of our day. You can read them starting here or click on advent or december daily labels to the right.

So today - December 1st. Our niece Ellie's 10th birthday first of all - can't believe she is 10! She was just a babe in arms when we got married...time has flown and she's a wonderful, clever, kind girl and a very talented gymnast - tipped for Olympics in the future!

The day started well as Isaac slept til 6am - he's gradually stretching the time he sleeps in the night and currently has a dream feed at 11pm and wakes for an early morning feed, sometime between 5.30 and 6.30am.
Matilda was very excited about the first pocket in her Advent Calendar - made for us in 2006 by my aunt when she was just born. Today she got a shiny chocolate coin and a tag saying 'Family prayers and thanks with candles'. That will be our activity over dinner this evening.

After Matilda had been taken to school and Andy had taken to his study, I got on with some preparations for Smith Lane Hodson Christmas weekend. My sister Ellie, husband Ollie and their son Freddie are going to New York this Christmas so we're all getting together at our house this weekend to exchange gifts and have some family time together with my parents too. It's a collective effort with us all bringing different elements of the meals so it should be fun.
Andy had a break from essay writing and came with me on a visit to our local butchers, just a short walk away, to get meat for the weekend and we enjoyed some fresh air with Isaac in the papoose on Andy's front.
Matilda had a play in the park after school with her friends Oscar and Alfie.
Pray and give thanks night with the Advent candle at the dinner table went well, with Matilda wanting to pray first and praying for children who don't have a nice school to go to or have enough food.
Tonight, I've been helping Andy with ideas and planning for an Advent Labyrinth he's setting up over the weekend while he has been squirrelled away Essay writing - something about Athanasius!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Isaac Thomas Andrew - the arrival!

He's here!
Isaac Thomas Andrew Smith, 6th October, 3.19pm weighing 6lb 4oz.

Surprisingly and significantly (see this post) arriving on his due date, 6th October, in a rather traumatic fashion, Isaac made his entrance! 10 days later as I begin writing this post, we're still recovering physically and mentally from everything accompanying his birth...which I'll summarise briefly here!

Having last posted here just before due date, Andy and I headed off to St Peters Hospital on the morning of Wednesday 5th October for my 'due date' midwife appointment, albeit a day early so I could see my regular midwife who doesn't work on Thursdays. The little things that had been problematic during previous visits - bit of protein in my urine, mobility issues with SPD etc. were all much better. Blood pressure duly checked, I hopped onto the bed to have the bump measured and hear the heartbeat. We were expecting that Squid would have grown as he was head engaged fully at the last visit which would have given him more room for growing in the space under my ribs...but he hadn't. I was still measuring 36-37 cm/weeks which was some cause for concern. Next, the heartbeat...usually something which is a fairly perfunctory exercise "there it is, all good..." but this time Lynne the midwife was counting carefully as to how many beats she could hear per minute. Even my untrained ear could hear that the pattern was accelerating and decelerating. Cue slight (read major) worry on everyone's part...
It was decided that further monitoring was needed so we spent the rest of the morning at St Peter's on the fetal heart monitor which was also measuring my blood pressure and for any signs of early labour or contractions. By the time that was done, the heart rate was much better but they were still concerned about his size and lack of recent growth so I was sent up to Broomfield to be monitored there.
Further heart monitoring and some measuring later and the midwives at Broomfield seemed happy to send us home, although with instructions that when I went into labour I was to come to the labour ward, not St Peter's. I had already realised that my plan of having both children in the same hospital under similar circumstances was not going to happen but I was still disappointed. Just as we were getting ready to leave, the midwife popped her head in the door and said she had chatted to the consultant on duty and would we mind if they did a quick scan just to double check measurements as my bump had been measured differently between the 2 hospitals...sure, no problem we said...
The consultant measured Isaac's head circumference and thigh bone as indicating 34 weeks - well outside the bracket for risk which was obviously pretty concerning so we were immediately booked to have a more detailed scan in the Ultrasound department...2 hours later. So we waited, drank coffee, ate pineapple and Andy did some 'teach yourself New Testament Greek' in the downstairs cafe.
By this time, my mum had been summoned from Surrey. It was just as well as our scan wasn't booked until 4.45pm, so she drove straight over (absentmindedly hitting 90mph on the A3!), picked up Matilda from school and managed to negotiate Chelmsford town centre! Eventually, when we got in for the scan, Squid was measured as being 35 weeks, estimated weight 5lb 4 oz and his amniotic fluid was low...most of it apparently being in his bladder which, according to the sonographer "is the size of the Pacific Ocean"! The most amazing thing about that scan was that the lovely sonographer invited my mum and Matilda in to the room too, so we have a picture of Isaac just the day before he was born...and the memories from sharing that unique moment all together.
So on heading back to the Labour Unit with all that information, we knew we wouldn't be allowed to wait long before seeing our baby boy! The Consultant told us she wanted to get him out soon, his weight and heartrate were a cause for concern but she gave us the option of staying in and being induced that night or coming back in the morning. There was a dawning realisation that we could potentially be having a baby, not only on the due date which is so rare but also on the exact same due date we had had with our twin pregnancy. It felt like such an opportunity - to redeem the 6th October as a day for celebration and new life rather than always remembering it tinged with sadness. So we opted to come back the next morning. At this point, in a curtained cubicle, both Andy and I were able to acknowledge our worry and fear but the massive sense of God's hand on the situation - how awesome is His timing and knowledge of all things. wow!
Dinner at Frankie and Benny's for the 4 of us, putting Matilda to bed for the last time as our only child and a repack of the labour bag later, we went to bed and slept fitfully before taking Matilda to school and heading back to the hospital. My poor mum was left to kill time at home.
Back on the Labour Unit, I was monitored for an hour, examined (lovely!) and then given the induction tablets internally. 1 hour of monitoring on my back again and then I was allowed to walk around. Within 1 hour I was getting contractions, initially making me want to sit on the toilet and then getting stronger and stronger as I walked and perched in different positions. I sat on the birthing ball for another hour or so as the contractions increased, listening to my iPod (Rend Collective, One Hundred Hours and Aretha Franklin as I remember!) and apparently singing in between and being silent while the pain was at it's strongest!
I had some dihydrocodeine as pain relief after a while and then, quite suddenly, I had a pain in my back and bottom which was entirely different to any labour pain I had had up til then or with my previous labour. It obviously worried the midwives too from my reaction to it and I was put back on the bed to be hooked up to the monitors again. Squid's heartrate didn't seem to be coping with labour and because it was getting so intense, they wanted to see how far dilated I was...after another examination, they found I wasn't dilated at all and from this point, it all became a blur.
I was in massive pain, screaming and shouting and aware of a lot more people coming into the room and it being quite frantic. Andy was with me to my right and a huge, tall, Nigerian doctor appeared to my left after a while to tell me that I needed to go to theatre to have a caesarean section and did I understand that? I was whisked down to theatre straight away - as I hadn't had any pain relief until then I was put under general anaesthetic because I had no break in contractions.  This meant that Andy had to be outside, just watching through the window. Between me entering theatre (3.05pm, I looked at the clock!) and Isaac being born (3.19pm) it was all systems go and they didn't put me under for a good few minutes as they wanted to minimise the medication which might affect baby.
I didn't wake up until 5pm. I was in massive pain when I did and I remember hearing Andy talking to the doctors and nurses in recovery and telling them what had happened which filled in some of the gaps that I had missed. It took me a while to be able to speak and I had a mask on and various lines in my hands and arm. Back on the ward, they checked me out, gave me more pain relief and - hallelujah - tea and toast! We debated names for a bit, knowing that Matilda and my mum would be arriving for visiting hours from 7pm - we had promised Matilda that she would be the first to know so we had to make a decision!
So, I'm finishing writing this account on 29th November - a full 7 weeks nearly since this all happened!! I came out of hospital 2 days later, very sore and with a tiny baby and still in shock really. So grateful for all the staff at St Peter's and Broomfield who looked after me and for the health visitors and midwives who have taken care of us all since coming home.
As of this week, Isaac is 7lb 9oz and beginning to smile and make various noises. He's sleeping well at night, waking only once but he does feed a LOT in the day. He's still only little so he's being kept an eye on but he's gaining weight consistently which is the main thing. We've had loads of help - my mum, Andy's mum both staying for a week here and there and other friends bringing meals, having Matilda and running errands. As I have healed, I've got back into driving, walking much more and starting to get into a weekly and daily routine which works for us all. Life as 4 Smiths is pretty cool - we're looking forward to making memories with Baby Button and our Big Girl Bean this Christmas and charting further developments on this blog. Sorry for the silence of late, but I'm sure you'll let me off!

Monday, 3 October 2011

39 weeks plus 5 days...

Still here and still waiting...feeling increasingly uncomfortable really with achy legs and needing the loo ALL THE TIME. But I'm not yet at my due date so can't complain!
Pregnancy is such a strange time when all the usual ways that you would read your body just go down the pan - some of the aches and pains and other weird things I have had going on recently would usually have had me super worried, downing pain relief and potentially seeing the doctors...but somehow that doesn't seem as necessary with pregnancy. You can blame pregnancy for lots of these symptoms, but also explain them away and it's amazing how resilient you become when otherwise I might have moaned and groaned (more than normal!) I am being a bit more grumpy that usual, slower moving definitely and getting to be tired from around 5pm onwards, regardless of how much sleep I've had the night before or during the day. It's all good practice!

If you are connected to me on Facebook, you might have noticed that we've had some name dilemmas...our initial shortlist of 3 was pretty set for a good few months and then we had a random, middle of the night conversation when all of the previous names were ditched and we started from scratch again, ending up with an even longer shortlist of 6!! We're down to 3 again now but I'm so uncertain of any of them - I just don't feel the love like I did with Matilda Grace in terms of loving the name. Hoping that Baby Squid will be obviously one name or the other on arrival!
Our new church here in Billericay threw me a baby shower last Friday which was really lovely - a chance to meet some more people and get to know others better. The evening began with drinks and some fellowship and sharing stories which was lovely - a wide age range was represented with some women there who have had 4 or 5 children who are now very much grown ups and we also had some children of the women present who heard those natural stories of relationships, love, marriage, pregnancy, babies and all that which is so much more real than what they'd get in school or with their peers. The group then prayed for me and for the safe deliver of baby and for all the arrangements with M to go to plan and for us to settle into life as a family of 4. And we followed up with yummy desserts which everyone had brought to share. A night to remember and wonderful to share the story of our marriage and miracle pregnancies with our new church family who are so excited for the new arrival in their midst!
So, we're excited to meet baby Squid anytime soon...will keep you posted!

Monday, 26 September 2011

some more foolproof recipes

Over the weekend, Andy was covering some more of my Youth Adviser work for me so was out all day Saturday. It's crazy to think that these dates for youth leader training (Equipping) and Growing Young Leaders (last Thursday) have been in the diary longer than I have been pregnant! But I'm very grateful to him (and Liz and Lucy too) for being willing and so enthusiastic to step in and keep things ticking over. I think they've enjoyed the experience?!

Anyhow, it meant that me and the Bean had a Saturday just the two of us which is quite a rare thing - and once we had got going over breakfast and some Cbeebies, she had her first dancing class of the new term. It's a class where they mix Ballet, Tap and Street Dance together which is right up her street and although she had a bit of an attack of the nerves just before going in, she had a brilliant time. The bonus for her is that the lessons are a full hour long which means she gets really 'in the zone' and also that the venue is literally opposite our house!

Once we'd got home and had some lunch we embarked on some baking - Damp Lemon Loaf Cake from Nigella's Domestic Goddess which I have made before (see this post)
I also took a risk and made Nigella's Fresh Gingerbread with lemon icing which is a stable part of our diet! (Good recipe and online review here) I say a risk because I was in the midst of making gingerbread when I eventually went into labour with the Bean, 12 days late! So it's always had a reputation in our household of being 'Matilda's gingerbread' and she gets a birthday cake of gingerbread every year! (for my pregnancy/maternity diary from nearly 5 years ago, you can check out my other blog here)
Half the gingerbread is now in the freezer for another occasion and half is - almost finished!

Yesterday, I also made a lovely Sunday dinner in the Crock Pot - a boneless pork shoulder joint with 2 onions, some italian seasoning and 2 cans of ginger beer chucked over - cooked for 6 hours and the juices reduced into a spicy and sweet gravy. Served with roast potatoes and green beans from my dad's garden. Again, half was eaten yesterday with the rest in the freezer for meals over the next few weeks. It was yummy - tender, sweet and sour in a way and so easy!

Pregnancy wise, I'm starting to get my head round potentially being pregnant for a good while yet - my due date is 10 days away and history dictates that I'll probably be late. I had wondered whether finishing work might get things moving as I stopped moving, but it hasn't happened yet! While it would be nice to be early or soon, there are no signs of anything happening as yet, apart from backache and just restlessness in the evenings but that is pretty normal. Baby Squid is measuring small (36 cm and I'm 38 weeks) - not in a concerning way but because it's head is now engaged it has a bit more room to grow and the midwives are hoping to see my bump size become a little more commensurate with my number of weeks by the time I see them next.
It gives us time to get a bit more idea of names...our initial shortlist has been scrapped, reinstated and rejigged quite a bit over the last few days and we have a shortlist now which isn't exactly inspiring me. I think I'm hoping for a name to smack me round the head, like Matilda Grace did but that hasn't come yet. So, baby Squid may be nameless apart from being a sea creature for a few days!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

one week in...

So, I'm a week into maternity leave, almost - so far it's been a good few days! I'm appreciating the fact that my day is bookended by the school run, not that I'm always doing that role but I am up and about to help with the lunches, getting dressed and hair trauma! Having the Bean back around 3.15pm is a new experience for us as we've had childcare for 4 years which usually ran til 4.30pm but we have been able to put in some baking, colouring, arts and crafts, playtime, watching a movie and a visit to Barleylands in that new window of time which is great. It's almost a pocket of the day that I didn't know existed!
Andy has had his first 3 days at St Mellitus College, starting his ordination training; 1 Induction and 2 lecture days. He's embarking on learning Greek and has an initial module on Christian Theology to start him off. With his new iPad in tow he is enjoying the student life and the London buzz as well as the various church activities he'll be involved in - men's ministry, a new group for Dad's and Babies (very convenient) and a variety of youth work. He's enjoying being at home more in the day I think and it's certainly reassuring for me to have him around as we wait for Baby Squid's arrival.
I had my 38 week midwife visit today which felt like more of a trek than normal (30 minute drive from new house to St Peter's Hospital where I hope to deliver...) as I am much more uncomfortable driving now. Baby Squid's head is engaged and although baby is measuring a little smaller than expected, there is no cause for concern as there has been growth since 36 weeks and it's expected that the space left by the shifting of the head will get filled by growth over the next few weeks - oh joy! Not sure I have any more room! In theory anyway, head being engaged means we're looking at D-Day being any day now.
I finally packed my bag, baby's bag and M's bag for the big event yesterday - and did a little bit of extra shopping today to stock up on the lovely necessities for after birth (breast pads and maternity towels...) and some snacks and treats to keep me, and Andy, going!

Just finally, to add to the recipe bank, I made a dinner tonight using a fresh spinach and ricotta pasta pack which I just cooked as instructed. I then made a sauce with finely chopped spring onions, green beans and mushrooms plus pesto (2 teaspoons) a tablespoon of cottage cheese and some cream cheese. Very yummy, M ate all the vegetables and it was a good portion size for the 3 of us.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Made today in Smith Kitchens...

Korean Beef from this blogpost
This quantity is good for 2 people if you serve with just rice and small veg side. It could be stretched further with more red/yellow/green peppers added and with more sides like pak choi, asparagus or broccoli.

Turkey Meatloaf from this recipe
This recipe suggests using a big baking dish and forming the shape of the meatloaf within it. I think our mince is different to American ground meat and is a bit wetter so I used a 2lb loaf tin, well oiled and still put the tomatoes and onions over it. It fitted perfectly.

Also doing a Roast Chicken, with chipotle style crust which we'll have a bit of cold tomorrow and I'll shred and freeze the rest to have ready for Quesadillas, curries, salads etc. Then use the carcass to make some stock for soups and a Chilli/Bean/Chicken thing that I have in mind but need to find the recipe for.

House is smelling good and after doing a massive (£245 worth) shop this morning with 3 kids (only 1 was ours!), husband and bump in tow, I'm pretty pooped!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Maternity Leave - bulk cooking for 4!

I started maternity leave yesterday and despite everyone's suggestions at just resting, sleeping and putting my feet up...I'm on a bit of a mission! Planning some cooking sessions while I still have just about enough energy and thought I'd post some of my planned concoctions/recipes on here in case anyone wants to steal them or adapt them.
Obviously, there is nothing special about these recipes - they have no special qualities other than being easy to prepare, easy to freeze and yummy without much effort at the other end.

So, starting off with a family favourite - I call this American Lasagne, only because it was given to me while I was in Tennessee last year and it is a layered beef and pasta dish. Officially, the recipe is called Company Casserole:

 Winny Palmer's ( Arnold's wife)  Company Casserole
1lb lean ground beef mince
1-2 cans chopped tomatoes (I prefer to use 2)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 8oz. carton sour cream
1  "        "         cottage cheese
1 "       pkg. cream cheese softened
(all these can be low or nonfat)
1 bunch chopped spring onions
8oz bag egg noodles or tagliatelle
Brown ground beef. Add garlic powder & tomatoes, simmer for 20 min.
Mix cheeses and spring onions together.
Cook noodles/pasta in salted water as directed on box.
Assemble: pour 1/3rd meat & sauce on bottom of 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish, place 1/2 noodles next, then 1/2 cheeses , 1/3 meat sauce, last half of noodles and cheeses and meat sauce to cover.
Bake 375F 190 C Gas 5 degrees on a baking tray in case of overflow. 

45 min cooking time. let stand 10 min before serving.

This quantity has made enough for us 3 (2 adults and 1 child) to eat 2 days in a row - a massive portion on the first night and a good portion with salad on the second night! It is so good when it is left over for the next day. You can make this a day ahead and refrigerate, then bake it when you are ready to serve or it freezes well if you do the mince in advance and freeze in batches and then add the other elements when you're ready.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Huddles, Building a Discipling Culture and 3dm resources

As part of my job for the Chelmsford Diocese, I've had the privilege of gathering monthly with a bunch of amazing youth workers from across South East Essex for the last few years - mainly Anglican based but increasingly coming from other churches, organisations and charities. Called 'The Hub' we meet for mutual support, prayer, resourcing, training, input and much laughter, knowing we all come with the same passion for young people, mission and discipleship but from different contexts and backgrounds.

We've worked gradually through LifeShapes as a discipleship tool - for youthwork and for mission and for church leadership and it's been a really fruitful time. I've loved being able to share this Rule of Life with them and seeing people 'get it' and in turn seek God more and more for their journey and that of those they lead.

Yesterday, as it was my last 'Hub' before maternity leave, I decided to more formally introduce the concept of a Huddle - which is what we have been doing informally anyway! They just might not have known it! Huddles are a group of leaders who gather together specifically for ongoing support and accountability in the journey with Jesus. It's about developing Christ like character and leadership skills, being reflective and open and receiving and giving challenge. A Huddle leader helps those in the group process what God is saying to them and in turn release these leaders to be leaders themselves in their context.

Yesterday we used the material provided by 3dm on their website  which is great stuff and stimulated lots of discussion, prayer and unpacking for us all at the start of this new term.

Incidentally, yesterday 3dm released their e-book version of Building a Discipling Culture which is a brilliant resource book,  taking in all the stuff around LifeShapes and Huddles as well as applying that more widely to developing Missional Communities. There are 2 other books also released at the same time which represents the core content for building missional churches and communities, but the BDC book specifically is a second edition with almost 50% more content, focusing particularly on using Huddles.
I can't recommend it enough - as we begin our new ministry in Billericay it's our foundation of understanding of how Jesus drew people to himself and made disciples and it's what we should all be about. But it's practical too, easy to read, life changing and yet simple.
Get it here...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Big School

Baby Bean started at Infant School today - all in a bit of a rush in the end. Because our housing circumstances changed, we applied at a late date for the school behind our new house...a Church of England school with outstanding OFSTED report. We didn't hold out much hope to be honest so were still prepared to do the 6 mile round trip twice a day to take her to her original school in Billericay.
However, yesterday we got a phone call to say there was a place for her and she started today! If she had gone to the other school as planned, she wouldn't have started til Monday and would have done half days til 10th October! But she's straight in here, full days and she's loving it so far!

We're very proud of her - there has been a lot of change over the last few weeks, with more to come and she has taken it mostly in her stride. She was excited this morning, happy when she knew her teacher's name and came home having made a few friends, just not remembering all their names as yet! Highlights seemed to have been having to put her hand up when the register was called and also eating her lunch at a long bench in the school hall!
So, one milestone is reached and we watch and wait to see how this new life in education works out for her. For us, as long as she thrives and develops a love of learning, alongside her already well formed love of books, music and creativity, we'll be happy.
And this little girl becomes a big sister in just a few short weeks - wowzers!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

moving on and moving out...

We're in the midst of packing and sorting and clearing and causing our own brand of chaos...we move in 10 days to Billericay. Having had the boxes delivered on Monday evening, we've now had 2 very full days of packing, both here and at my office and we're a bit fed up and hot and bothered so I've retreated upstairs while Andy catches up on Smallville.
Although I say we move to Billericay, we'll actually be living in Hutton, in a rented property because our house purchase fell through in mid July. It was an incredibly frustrating time, considering we had got so far down the road and were almost at the point of exchanging contracts. But our vendors were not very honest with us and chose to only 'fess up that they hadn't anywhere to go on 11th July...by which time our hopes of finding another house to buy were pretty remote. It did feel as though things were all falling apart very quickly; we'd sold our house in April and everything had been progressing without a hitch since then. So we chose to still sell as our buyer was secure and ready to move and take a risk on finding a rental property...which initially meant we were going to be homeless as we couldn't afford anything!! But we've ended up with more space and a long term rental through my job which is a great blessing and we hope to be able to buy an investment flat or something similar (camper van?!) in due time.
It's been a pretty stressful time all in all - with some amazing glimpses of the hope that is before us. It's been challenging to focus all the time on WHY we are doing this and not just the stupidity, cost and sheer exhaustion of it!
The next few months hold some massive milestones - moving being the first one and one which will take a while to recover from probably! Next Andy and Matilda head to Greenbelt for a long weekend, just the two of them before they both start in education on 12th September and Matilda becomes our eldest child sometime in September/October!
Andy and Matilda will both 'go to school' on 12th - Matilda to infant school which she is VERY excited about. Andy on the other hand will be on a train to London, (South Kensington to be precise) to start at Vicar Factory at St Paul's Theological Centre - he'll be there every Monday in University terms, plus 7 weekends and 2 residential weeks each year. Another 3 days will be in placement at the church in Billericay where we will worship as a family and he'll have a day of private study too.
My maternity leave starts on 15th September and with all the busyness of Falcon Afloat last week, alongside a very busy July generally, I shall certainly be ready for it! At the moment I'm planning to be back at work in April 2012 but am going to be flexible with that and just enjoying being at home, doing the school run and being a Mummy 5 years after this all began with Matilda!

So hopefully, I might have more time for blogging but for August, you'll certainly have to bear with us and maybe we'll get back to more reflective and regular service in September. But then again, I may have my hands full!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Ordination journey continues...

We heard this week that Andy has been selected to begin training for ordained ministry after a successful National Selection Conference at the end of May. It's been a long journey - it was more than 10 years ago when he was first encouraged to consider that God might be calling him to this - so blame Fr Tim Jones if you so wish!! We've been exploring the call in different ways ever since.
It was 2 years ago when it really all became clear that now was the time to pursue it. After a family day out at Great Notley at the tail end of a back injury that I had suffered, we found some space and time to think during one of Matilda's naps and came to the conclusion, from different perspectives that the call was still 'live' and the time was now.
So after monthly meetings with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, a practice selection conference weekend at Audley End, interviews with Archdeacon and Vocations Advisers and lots of paperwork - as well as copious prayers, tears, stomach churnings and other associated nervous twitches, we finally got the call to say 'YES', 12 days after the selection conference had finished!

What now? Well, the house is sold in Maldon and we're moving to Billericay so Andy can easily get into London for training/lectures one day a week at St Paul's Theological Centre (part of St Mellitus College). We'll be based at Emmanuel Church, Billericay where Andy will serve as an ordinand on placement and learn the ropes for 3 days a week. Another day a week of study and some family time and his week is complete! He finishes at Plume School at the end of August and we hope to have moved in early August, giving enough time to get the house in order before my husband and daughter both start in education!!
Lots to do before then - the practical things of packing and clearing out and downsizing as well as the emotional elements of saying goodbye to friends and moving on from the youth group we started last year...we're not going far but we are moving into a very different way of life...
And then there's just the small matter of Baby Squid arriving sometime in late September/early October...so plenty to keep us busy!

you can follow us on twitter: @funkydoofamily or @bigblueandy
(maybe this is more Andy's style?!)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

all will be well and all will be well

and we are all well - despite the total silence for 3 months! Blimey!

There has been a reason - and one which we're only just able to go public with:

Just a little while after my last post on our membership of the Order of Mission we discovered we were pregnant again - and after last year's sadness have kept it quiet until the all important 12 (or in our case, 13) week scan. 
Added to that the waves of nausea, complete tiredness and inability to concentrate and screen time was something I kept to a bare minimum for work purposes!
But we are pregnant, everything is going well and we're starting think positive about this new arrival - currently named Baby Squid. (M was Little Prawn because of a description in a pregnancy book about what she looked like at 8 weeks when we found out she was coming, so we're continuing the seafood theme!)

Other events in the last 3 months:
Andy went skiing with 4 mates to France for his 30th birthday:

I went to Scarborough for a few days to catch up with friends and family:
I have been away a fair bit with work which has been interesting and exhausting in equal measure. Our house is on the market, with only 2 viewings so far. Andy has got through his sponsorship interview and is now confirmed on a selection conference (BAP) in May. Matilda has been assigned her school place in Maldon for September, even though we hope we'll be in Billericay by then...
We now have a group of 10 young people in our youth group each week which we run jointly with the URC and we hope to join with the Methodists too in the Autumn when we move on. 
Our nephew Freddie is now 8 months old:

and we're due another niece or nephew in August, courtesy of Ian (Andy's brother) and Ange in Scarborough:
We just got back from a weekend in Sherwood Forest with the RB's and are thinking about getting a camper van. We also booked our summer holiday to the Yorkshire Dales and M and Andy are going to Greenbelt at the end of August...so much fun is planned!

Hmm, not much else to report without going back eons...I'll try and be better in future but obviously, won't be promising anything too grand!!

M at rehearsel for her dance show...cute!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Flu, faffing and TOM

Apologies for the lack of posting. My December Daily rather fell off the perch with all the travelling and staying in different places over Christmas and then I got flu - only just back in circulation today...

This is the text of a post I've just done over on my other blog www.alisssmith.typepad.com about the events of this weekend...Happy New Year!

The Order of Mission

Saturday 8th January in the late afternoon, 5pm, St Mary's Walthamstow.
A bit of a milestone in the Smith Family journey.
For a couple of years now we've been exploring The Order of Mission - a new monastic movement of pioneering missional leaders in a variety of contexts, working in a dispersed way across the globe.  Sounds pretty exciting huh?
The process for us has involved being in a Huddle as an expression of accountability and as the place where the relationships and the Rule of the Order is caught, not taught. We've had an Exploration weekend where we've met with others on similar journeys and talked, prayed and reflected on whether this is the right step for us and our family. And on Saturday, along with the Ashtons and Jeanenne, we took Temporary Vows into the Order of Mission, joining with 420 other people across the world. It was a great day!
But why??
Andy and I have been together 10 years this year and for the entirety of our relationship, youthwork and church ministry of one kind or another has been at the centre. We've had our ups and downs and haven't always felt settled in church - some of that is just because youthwork is often on the margins. However, we have been saddened, knowing that we and our church families have often sold out to the comfortable ways and the religiosity rather than getting on with the call to make disciples. In the back of our minds through all that was the knowledge that Andy had a call to ordained ministry, but for a long while that wasn't a NOW call but a future call. 
When we moved to Essex 2006, we began relating with Andy Poultney and his wife Linsey through my work. They had been Temporary members of TOM for a number of years and we began to hear more about the Order and particularly LifeShapes which act as the Rule of Life of the members and are a great discipleship tool. They took Permanent Vows in 2010 and took on the leadership of the London Huddle of which we're a part and Andy P and I increasingly used the LifeShapes tools in our mentoring and training of youthworkers.
We started engaging with a Huddle in 2009 and I also attended Pilgrimage up in Sheffield which was the birthplace of TOM. In the summer of 2009 the previous call to Andy towards the priesthood became very much live and with that process of discernment taking off, we knew we needed to root ourselves in a place where we could honestly work through all the big decisions and to provide stability as we moved churches and contemplated further moves for Andy to train in the future. 
We acknowledge that we've often felt out of place in church - finding often that we're questioning and pushing at the boundaries which makes us appear mutinous and rebellious and sometimes just downright awkward! But in that, we love the Church, the Bride of Christ and want to see her become all she can be - transforming communities and offering hope and life in all it's fullness. TOM is an Anglican Order - with the Archbishop of York as one of the Guardians  and for us, it's important to be rooted in the established and the longevity of the Church of England while also being part of a new monastic movement. We're Anglicans but we're also Jesus followers first and foremost and TOM is Jesus focused not denomination focused.  TOM has allowed us space to come to terms with who we are and why we often feel frustrated, which stops us becoming divisive. 
LifeShapes provides a guide for referencing the way Jesus did things alongside our own life. We've particularly resonated with the SemiCircle in our marriage and putting it first and the Triangle as we've started a new house group and youth group in our current church. 
So, Saturday was a stake in the ground and as we take further new steps into Andy's ordination selection process and look at selling our house and moving in the future we're glad to be part of this wider family that will carry us through. 
Bob Hopkins spoke briefly at the Initiation and encouraged us to:
Do Nothing - out of vain conceit, value others above yourselves. Have an attitude like Christ Jesus.
Do Everything - without complaining, as children of God, blameless and pure and shine like stars as you hold out the word of life.
Clothe Ourselves - with humility, compassion, kindness...
(Pictures to follow...)
As a PS to the event above, after the service, we all headed to South Woodford for a pizza (30 of us!!) - parking in Waitrose car park where we were later locked in and so had to have an impromptu sleepover in East London! 11 of us stranded but all home safely by Sunday lunchtime!