Monday, 12 November 2012

repeated pattern...

I was admitted to hospital last Thursday - initially for suspected appendicitis but once tests and scans had been done, it looks as though I am back on the trail of the ever elusive cure/relief/treatment for endometriosis that has plagued me since my early teens.
So I'm currently on sick leave, drugged up with pain relief and waiting for a consultant appointment at the hospital for some more indepth investigations. Hopefully out of that, a plan will emerge of how this might all be managed. It'll be very different to the treatment I had before my pregnancy with Matilda - then it was all about keeping me sane in the pain whilst not affecting my long term fertility. A little different now we have 2 little-ish people in our lives. But it's frustrating and depressing none the less, to be back in this place.
There are many blessings to have come from last week's events - which were very frightening and worrying indeed. Mostly I am just so grateful for Andy - for his faithfulness, love and care for me and for rushing back from France (where he was away with St Mellitus vicar factory) in superman style. It was such a relief to have him by my side as the Doctor rushed me to hospital. It also appears to be a blessing that Basildon hospital was full on Thursday morning and I ended up at Queen's in Romford as Queen's is a specialist centre for the treatment of endo and things have moved on quite a bit since my last surgery in 2005.
Can't promise that my blogging rate will improve a great deal - but this week might see a flurry of posts as I have a bit more time to myself in recuperating at home!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

getting back to normal...

So, I'm a week away from returning to work full time...21st June is D-Day and I've spent today in the company of some of the lovely full time youth-workers I'm fortunate enough to work with as well as doing some diary management with Bishop John's PA.
It's good to have these KIT (Keeping In Touch) days in the maternity leave policy cos it's certainly got my juices flowing a bit and made me feel quite a bit more excited about jumping back in again!
We'll be getting used to the new 'normal' over the next few weeks - gradually getting Isaac into childcare and settled with Mel, our child-minder. I'm going back full time but mainly working at home initially so that I can take time to process all that has gone on over the last 9 months. I know I have an inbox full of meeting minutes and bits and pieces to read and I also need to catch up with lots of people. I'll need to be putting in place of working smarter as well as harder - maximising my 37 hours a week, doing as much as possible Monday-Wednesday and also being strategic with what I say yes and no to.

I've also been getting my creative juices flowing with some writing projects - most notably having an article published on the Sophia Network Blog about my journey with post natal anxiety. I haven't referenced it much here; apart from a post back in January when I was in a particularly struggling place, it hasn't felt appropriate to chart it on regular occasions. But writing the article as a summary of where I've been and where I've got to was very helpful and I have been overwhelmed by the supportive comments and emails I've received since it was published.

I always knew that once we had celebrated the Thanksgiving for Isaac on 3rd June, it would feel like a countdown to 'back to work'. We had a brilliant weekend with family and friends who had travelled mammoth distances in some cases to be with us. It felt like a real culmination of 10 years of marriage, together with our 2 children and our special people all together in one room. The rain was a bummer but you can't have everything!
Andy is away this week in Sheffield for a Missional Communities conference at St Thomas' Sheffield ( and Matilda, Isaac and I are heading up there on Friday to join him and probably hundreds of others for The Order of Mission Global Gathering. Very excited about being with our covenant family and connecting in with all that God is doing and hearing from and meeting new people.

So, the new normal looks to be pretty exciting - hard work, busy but good and full of God!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

10 years and Tuddenham Mill

10 years - wow! How they have flown by! We were so young!

7 houses, 2 children, countless cars, many laughs, meals and tears. 10 fantastically fun years with my best friend...I feel very blessed to be able to live with him, have children with him and enjoy life together.
We had our anniversary night away last week, a bit of quality time just the two of us. Much appreciated and much needed. It was great to reflect back on all that has been - it's been quite a journey - and to give thanks for everything we've been through cos it's made us who we are today.
We enjoyed a fantastic meal at the Tuddenham Mill restaurant, cooked for us by Paul Foster who is currently featuring on the Great British Menu on BBC 1.
So, now for the next 10 years...who knows where that will take us but we're up for it! Better together!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday Mums

A rather impromptu conversation at the school gates with a school mum friend who I met through work (you following?!) has led to a rather exciting new Bible/prayer/discussion group meeting each week. I met Lisa through a training course I led a couple of years ago and it's been lovely to have her round the corner and her kids at the same school since we moved here. Obviously, she's known a lot of the mums at the school gate for a few years now as she has children in the older classes and many of them know of her infectious faith and her connection with the local church next to our house.
Anyway, a text message Lisa received from one of her friends asking for prayer led to a suggestion that meeting to pray, talk, ask questions and learn more about God would be a good idea that was greeted with massive enthusiasm! We started last Friday, just 90 minutes before the school pick up and there were 12 women there! There are 4 or 5 of us who are connected to a local church, all different ones too which is brilliant! But many of the others in the group are not sure what they believe or are being asked questions by their kids which they can't, as yet, answer. Such a variety of journeys and stories...
In that first week, we talked about whether we would call ourselves Christians, shared a bit of our stories and agreed that we would start reading Mark's Gospel and discussing things that came up as well as praying for one another.
It's really very exciting - God is already working and I get to join in. Such a privilege to get beyond the superficial conversations at the school gate that are so fleeting and be able to really deepen our relationships with one another. It's confirmation again for me that our move here was not random or last minute but that God knew what He was doing.
Please pray for us!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Jubilee Cushion class - Beautiful Things with Claire Mackaness

As you'll know, I do enjoy a few crafty activities! Mostly paper craft in recent years as I've discovered the joys of recording family life and crazy kids through photos and journalling.

Recently I was invited (through the amazing connection of Twitter) to try some new crafting with Claire Mackaness of Beautiful Things who lives just down the road from me. She offered me a place on her Jubilee Cushion making class last week...if I blogged about it! So here I am.

Let me say first that I am a right clumsy clot when it comes to gadgets and machinery. I've used a sewing machine at primary school (broke it..) and have dabbled with one at some recent scrapbooking crops but usually someone rescued me so I didn't completely bodge up my layout. But sewing, properly, on fabric with a machine which I might break or blow up....I was a bit nervous!

But I needn't have worried! Claire welcomed me into her home like an old friend and I met Ann and Leandra my fellow crafters. Being in Claire's home for the class was very relaxed and a lot of fun - complete with a cuppa in a Cath Kidston mug and a table with a gorgeous Kidston oil cloth - so I knew I was going to enjoy this! Claire gave really helpful and reassuring instructions on how easy the cushion was going to be to make and she was right. 

I had a shaky and wobbly start with my stitching - using the sewing machine was a bit like getting to know a clutch on a new or unfamiliar car - but with a few tips from Claire and being able to watch the other ladies skills, I soon got over my nerves and was in the 'zone'!!

We had great chatter as we worked - I love meeting new people and hearing about their lives and a class with 3 students and 1 teacher was a great place to do that.

Gradually, we measured out our cushion covers, back and front; pressed them; stitched the various layers of ribbon on (a technique called ribbon appliqué; then finished it off by tacking together back and front and stuffing (this took some effort) the cushion inner inside. And voila!!

What an achievement! Really proud of myself...a new skill, great fun and a beautiful item to take home. Claire and the other students were so patient with me and I was thrilled to have made such a beautiful cushion in just 3 hours!

I can't wait to go back to another of Claire's classes and recommend them to you if you live anywhere in Essex. She can turn her hand to so many things (she is teaching a fabric flowers class this morning for example!) and will do one to one sessions as well as group classes in your own venue. I'm already thinking of investing in a sewing machine and havng Claire show me the ropes!
 In my line of work, I can imagine that youth groups would really get a lot out of a few hours with Claire and her creativity... @clairemackaness on Twitter

Sunday, 5 February 2012

4 months in...

Tomorrow is Isaac's 4 month birthday...
I haven't made it to church today because of the snow...and as I've pottered around at home, feeding Button, chatting to Bean, tidying and such like...I've been thinking about how far we've come.
I've blogged before about how things didn't quite turn out as we expected (here) with the birth and the early days and while there is an unquencable joy now that Isaac is here and we feel complete as a family, it has definitely taken it's toll, physically, emotionally, spiritually. 
Being poorly over the last few weeks has given me lots of time at home...good in one sense, unhelpful too. I have a positive attitude to my days sometimes, usually at the end of a day I feel I've 'wasted', but often by the next morning I get taken over with the magnitude of the difficulties of getting out the house, looking presentable and so convince myself to do nothing, stay in, hibernate. Unhealthy yes, avoidable yes - but can I bothered to fight that feeling? At the moment, no I can't. 
Isaac takes a lot out of me - he feeds 'aggressively', usually emptying me in 10-15 minutes and he feeds 7 times a day. He sleeps though, naps in the day usually morning and afternoon and that is such a blessing. We've just started dropping the dream feed at 10.30pm to see if he can go through from 7-7 and he's managed it, almost! He's such a chilled out baby, full of smiles and 'almost' laughing - I'm very lucky but I do think that the initial (and to some extent, ongoing) concerns about his weight have dented my confidence and ramped up the protective urges so that I'd rather stick with the safe and the comfortable.
As an Extrovert (ESFJ to be precise) it's intrigued me that I have so easily moved into a very introverted place where people actually tire me out. I have very rarely had that before and it's a bit upsetting. I know much of that is down to hormones and the huge rate of change we have experienced over the past few months...but it's none the less weird. I've been to a couple of baby groups in the last few weeks, but mostly they seem to have mums with only 1 child and so there's a different feel to the conversation. New, first time mums are anxious, understandably and I find it rubbing off on me. The upshot is that I haven't found going to those groups enjoyable so far. I am sure that will change but until it does I'm not going to force myself into that situation when I do have other people who are established friends, some with babies, some not and with whom I am much more relaxed. 
The question for me, and I know for others who are watching out for me is "how long is it OK to go on feeling low"? Post Natal depression is a factor to looks so different in each person and I am wise to it..I know that I could do so much more to help myself, but I'm choosing not to, at the moment. We had a great day out in London last week to see my new boss Bishop consecrated but it exhausted me. A recent blip in relationship with some close friends has forced me to recognise that I don't currently have access to 100% of my emotional resources...and so incidents or unexpected issues knock me down much quicker than they used to. My juggling capacity is diminished and yet I know it will return. 

Being at home, not feeling myself and all that has also been a real challenge to my faith too...we're embarking on a life which is going to see us moving from church to church over the next few years and although I know we will make friends, connect with people, grow in community, meet with People of Peace it's a very daunting prospect. For now, I believe God is speaking to me about establishing a strong family of faith, growing in prayer and worship in our own home and using our home as a space to welcome others and forge friendships in an 'extended family'. It's been a challenge up until now because of me not feeling up to regular hospitality...and frustratingly, the snow today has forced us to cancel a lunch with another family from church. 
For us, the Order of Mission is very important in keeping connected, vulnerable, accountable and safe as we walk this journey in full time Christian ministry, with a role and expectations. To be connected to a Covenant Community who share the same Rule of Life, language and missional focus is a reality check in times when things are scrambled and don't make sense. 
The Order of Mission is a place of challenge and I'm really grateful to those in that community who, even in my slightly fragile state at the moment, seek to help us through accountability and those tough questions. 
So, 4 months in, lots has changed and I feel I am being moulded and reformed into quite a new creation - again! As a full time mummy, I get such a kick from the smallest things; when I was working it always seemed to be about bigger, better, more successful. But the mundaneness of being focused solely at home is starting to push my buttons in an unhelpful way and I'm praying for strength to gather myself together and face each day with renewed vision. 
Isaiah 40:31 from the Message is the foundation I am standing on:
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, 
   or, whine, Israel, saying,
"God has lost track of me. 
   He doesn't care what happens to me"?
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts. 
   He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. 
   And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired, 
   gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out, 
   young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. 
   They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired, 
   they walk and don't lag behind. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

January Baking Days

Have had a couple of opportunities this week to do some baking - always very therapeutic and enjoyable. Initially I needed to do something with a couple of age old bananas which were past their best (Andy won't eat bananas with ANY brown on them!). I found a recipe which I had obviously printed off the internet at some stage, omitting the title and it was only when I was looking for another favourite recipe that I came across it, read it through and realised it might be what I was looking for - something different to the usual Banana bread!

So I gave it a go:

Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins
275g plain flour
50g oats
1tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
75g light brown sugar
2 bananas
115g crunchy peanut butter
50g butter melted
250ml milk

Method: Preheat oven to 190/Gas 5
Fill a muffin tray with 12 paper cases
Mix flour, oats and baking powder in medium bowl and set aside.
In another bigger bowl, whisk eggs then stir in sugar, mashed bananas, peanut butter and melted butter.
Add milk and stir to combine.
Gently fold in dry ingredients - do not over mix.
Spoon mixture into muffin cases and make for 18-25 minutes until the tops are golden and spring back when gently touched.
Cool on a wire rack.

Review: These are quite a good breakfast muffin - they are not very sweet. You could add more sugar I think if you wanted. I did a dessertspoon of mixture in each case, followed by a teaspoon of Nutella (!) followed by another dessertspoon of batter to cover - tasty! I have also had one split in to with some extra Nutella sandwiched in! Naughty but lovely!

Second recipe I have made today - as I have some new school gate friends coming for a cuppa in the afternoon tomorrow. This is a recipe from Fellowship Afloat, where we lead our summer kids camp and they are the Kings (and Queens) of epic tray bakes. I chose this purely because I have everything needed for it in the cupboard and fridge so very cost effective!

Mocha Traybake
10 oz margarine
8oz self raising flour (I used wholemeal SR)
8oz sugar
5oz oats
4oz drinking chocolate
3oz margarine
12oz icing sugar
1.5 tbsp coffee essence (made from 2tsp coffee granules and 3tbsp hot water)

Grease and line a shallow baking tray or roasting tray - it doesn't need to be very deep and the base doesn't really rise.
Melt margarine in microwave or in saucepan.
Mix rest of ingredients in large bowl.
Add melted margarine and mix well to a firm, dark moist crumb mixture.
Press into a greased tray and spread evenly to the edges, making sure the whole area is covered and pressed together.
Bake in oven on low shelf for 20 minutes.
Leave to cool.

For the Icing, melt the margarine and blend in coffee essence.
Stir in icing sugar and beat to a smooth shiny paste.
Spread quickly over cooled base with a wet knife until evenly spread to the edges.
Leave briefly to set and cut into squares using a wet knife to prevent icing sticking.

Review: This makes a great nibble with a cuppa but also good for after a nice meal with coffee. You can cut the squares big or small and it travels well cos the icing is not too sticky. Nice crunchy texture with the oats and very moreish!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

a busy, up and down January...

Anyone stumbling onto the blog in the last few weeks will see that my December Daily posts stalled on 8th December. I don't think I even had a chance to think about them after that date. Looking back, I realise that was probably when I started to lose a sense of reality a bit. The first snuffly cold of the winter (first since Isaac's arrival too) set in, leaving me streaming and struggling to feed Isaac and blow my nose simultaneously!
In amongst 5th birthday preparations and other big events like Christmas, I never really stopped from that point on which was not a good place to be...
However, Christmas and New Year were lovely - a good mix of busyness which is to be expected as a church employee and time at home with friends and family. We had visitors for Christmas Day and my parents stayed from 26-28th December and then we headed to Northumberland on 29th to see the Smith side.
The travelling, late nights and not enough fruit and veg all took it's toll unfortunately and after returning from being with family at New Year, I had a week where I gradually felt worse and worse - sore throat, crazy tiredness - and after 2 months of no problems at all,  breastfeeding suddenly became more difficult with a cracked nipple (oh. so. painful). I knew I was run down but it only felt like a bit of something rather than anything too serious.
Anyway, once the breastfeeding pain had been going on for a few days, I headed to an out of hours doctor one Saturday morning who prescribed various creams and medicine for me and Isaac, diagnosing thrush. He also suggested that he'd be prescribing bed rest if I didn't have another child at home because I obviously wasn't shifting a virus or something. When Isaac's paediatrician said the same thing at our hospital check up 2 days later, Andy put his foot down and forced me to solely sleep, feed myself and feed Isaac for the next 2 days. It certainly made a big difference to my capacity to be rational about life, which had been going a bit awry! It also helped big time with the quality of my milk and although I now (a week later) have ANOTHER cold, I am definitely a bit more myself.

Throughout all of this up and down time, Isaac has been doing really well. He's still a tiddler at only 10lbs at 14 weeks old, which is partly why the paed wanted me to focus on getting well as she thinks his weight will do a sudden leap at some point to catch up with his length! So, I need to be ready for that obviously! He still sleeps really well, 7-10pm and then dream feed through to 7am.

Matilda has had a run of colds and coughs and such like, never enough to be off school but enough to make her grumpy after school. I'm glad we don't have any after school stuff like swimming at the would be a running battle I think. She's been put into a stream at school for her literacy and numeracy for those who are more able or who need stretching so she also has a little more homework to do for that. Alongside her dancing school show on Sunday with a full afternoon of rehearsals the previous 2 weekends, it's been a busy January already.
Andy turned the big 3-1 last week, which kinda got lost in the bed rest and stuff...but he made his own birthday muffins which were delicious (better than I would have made anyway!) and got enough gift money to buy a bazouki which he's been looking at for a while! It's not yet arrived but I'm sure once it does we'll be losing him to his study/music room a bit more!
So it's back into some semblance of routine. Isaac usually has 2 big feeds first thing in the morning before school which then leads into a good morning nap so I can get up, dressed, ready and get some jobs done round the house. He has another nap after his lunch feed but is usually then awake for once Matilda comes home from school until bath time at 6pm. 3-6pm is a crazy time of the day but lovely cos we're usually all around at home and doing various bits and pieces. I'm trying to get to some baby groups locally but with being poorly it hasn't happened yet. It's a big thing - even someone as supposedly 'confident' as me finds it hard to walk in cold to a new group of people, even if we do have something significant in common. But I will try my hardest before the end of January to take the plunge, just for my own sanity!