Friday, 29 January 2010

The spice of life....

Thanks, husband, for mentioning Indian food to me last night, when I was already hungry following (a Greek) dinner. Now all I can think about is hot, huge naan bread, spiced chicken cooked on the tandoori grill and that tasty mint sauce. And because the 3 year old had nightmares (I'm blaming Disney) and woke me up intermittently between 11.30 and 3.30, it was all I could think about last night too. So, there had better be a curry house open when I want one today!

Note to self (too much information for others) - this will be the first Indian meal since you regurgitated a supermarket chicken tikka masala one late afternoon in early January.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Me and needles....

I honestly thank God for phlebotomists (translation: people specially trained to extract blood. Who are necessary for people with thin and elusive veins like myself.) Not only are they expert in their jobs, they recognise the sight of someone who has been traumatised (albeit slightly) by healthcare 'professionals' who seem to blame one when they can't get the 4 bottles of blood they need from a person. Today, I was offered coffee or cold water afterwards (I plumped for the latter) and allowed to sit in a chair for as long as I liked. These people are heroes. I applaud them.

On a sweeter (and tangier) note, I found 2 Bramley apples in the fridge and some blackberries and crumble mix in the freezer so I have actually concocted something tasty for about the first time in 2 months! The joy of it - the satisfaction found in cooking creativity. Looking forward to eating it later with lashings of Ambrosia custard. (FYI - Batchelors mushy peas and Ambrosia custard are owned by the same outfit; I should have taken out shares.)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Sunday, 24 January 2010

We give abundantly to you so that we may deserve a reward; yet which of us has anything that does not come from you?

What, then, is the God I worship? He can be none other but the Lord God himself, for who but the Lord is God? What other refuge can there be, except our God? You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you. You are the unseen power that brings decline upon the proud. You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing. You love your creatures, but with a gentle love. You treasure them but without apprehension. You grieve for wrong but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. You welcome all who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts. We give abundantly to you so that we may deserve a reward; yet which of us has anything that does not come from you? You repay us what we deserve, and yet you owe nothing to any. You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you! For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you.

Source: St Augustine 'Confessions' : Book 1, Chapter 4. Written AD 397-8. Penguin translation 1961.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Broken Society?

Part of me agrees with David Cameron, leader of the opposition. I've worked in Edlington, evaluating a police-run project to improve community safety in (particularly) deprived parts of South Yorkshire. Then, as now, these areas had high indices of social and economic deprivation. Yes, there are single-parent families, blended families, families blighted by the ruin of alcoholism, families stuck in a cycle of poor education. Parents who cannot, or will not, parent their children. Parents on state benefits or earning a low income, clueless as to how to feed their children healthily, let alone set an example of how to behave in society. I can see how a politician would label society or family life in regions like this as 'broken'.

But they haven't been undone by the last decade alone. South Yorkshire is a region latterly associated with tradition, family, a strong work ethic, fellowship and support. Whatever the influences of the 21st century, the breakdown in communities Cameron has observed doesn't have its roots there. What we see in South Yorkshire is something I see all around me in Nottinghamshire ex-mining communities. For much of the 20th century, England was reliant on the Yorkshire coalfields; the region also had a thriving steel industry. By the 1990s, thanks largely to Conservative party policies, local industry had run down and the pits had closed. Faced with high unemployment, loss of self-esteem and a lack of focus, community and family breakdown occurred; many adults turned to alcohol and drug abuse, unable to look after themselves, let alone their families. It's understandable how anti-social behaviour became rife.

Attempts have been made to regenerate the South Yorkshire area. The European Social Fund pours money in, there are lottery grants, community development grants. I've met good people, doing great work to restore, educate and promote the area. Communities are pulling together. But it's difficult to restore the hope in places like this. It's difficult to break the cycle. Although (I hope & pray) not everyone would inflict such terrible violence on others, I don't think that the general behaviours of the two boys in Edlington are isolated. The left-wing lays the blame at specific family circumstances and the failure of social services. I'm not sure I agree. Having observed, through work, families in various deprived parts of the country, I know that, as Cameron suggests, there are plenty of similar families who can't get it together and require intervention before the children's behaviour escalates to an unacceptable level.

Yet - they are at least partly victims of the Conservative party's legacy. So what on earth does David Cameron think he can do to save them that others haven't?

Friday, 22 January 2010

Oh, mushy pea, mushy pea


First of all, I'm not even sure if they have 'mushy peas' in the US. Here, in the Midlands of England, they are part of our staple diet. No, that's not true. They are currently part of my staple diet as a crazy, craving 1st trimester lady. Most people have them rarely. With fried fish and chips from the chippy. With faggots (a type of burger made with offal, I think. I've never had the stomach to try them.) At the local fair in October, soused in mint sauce made with malt vinegar.

If I could (and if my bowels could withstand it) I would currently eat them every day.

My first pregnancy, I craved (sweet) mincemeat scooped out of the jar - the sort we have in our sweet mince Christmas pies.

My second pregnancy, I craved - and ate, not too many I hope! - McDonalds hamburgers. Mainly that sweet combination of ketchup, pickle and mustard over bread and beef (and I used to be vegan in my teens.)

This pregnancy - well, put it this way, in the oven I have cooking battered haddock (I won't eat the batter), oven chips (less than 10% fat), and have ready to go half a tin of mushy peas and a slice of wholemeal bread with light spread. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my meal of choice. It's wrong. I know it. But at least I'm no longer sniffing Playdough or scoffing licorice allsorts.

For those who don't know, these are processed marrowfat (?!) peas, that one of our politicians thought resembled guacamole (I don't know where he gets his guacamole.)

Pity me, and weep.

Sophie Beth


Sophie, at 4 days old


Sophie, 5 years later

It's funny - because I'm pregnant with my third child, our family has been talking about what life was like when the girls were in my uterus (yes, that's how they describe it, we're that sort of family!) Today this led my five year old to pretend to be tunneling down my vagina, pulled by the surgeon's forceps, before 'whooshing!' back up and being delivered by a C-section. I'm glad she visualises it so positively - I wouldn't want to put her off childbirth or anything.

Then again, it's not funny - because I still remember that traumatic time like it was yesterday. I remember being so excited and desperate to get baby out (at 41 weeks) and disappointed when the 'natural' birth didn't happen, breastfeeding didn't come easily and she didn't nap by my side like Dr Sears said. But mainly I remember this being who smelled of sweet biscuits. Who we didn't name for a few days, and then called Sophie Elizabeth, or Sophie Beth. We often call her Sophie Bonkers now, because she's definitely cut from a unique cloth. She's a thinker, an artist and very physically active. She has a sophisticated palate for a 5 year old. She has such a big heart, is kind and good at sharing, and hardly ever hits back. The way she looks at the world is an education to us all.

So, mainly, I don't think about how she came out. I think about who she is, and how she is already making her mark on the world, and how we can help her fulfil her potential as the person she was created to be. Despite the impatience & frustration I experience in parenting on a daily basis, I mainly just try to love her; imagine what it is like to be her; and try and help her understand the crazy world around her, from her unique point of view.

As for me and my family.....


Well. I've studied social science for ten years of my life, qualified and worked in the field, but since having my first child in October 2004 I've pretty much been a stay at home mother (despite earning enough in one year to pay £3000 off the mortgage, something I just remembered.) This has been wonderful for me, and, I believe, for the family as a whole. (My husband is a self-employed computer programmer & we agreed on this division of labour together - he's also handy around the house and hands-on with the kids, which has been especially useful in my first trimester!)

We don't have a big house, and we mainly go on camping holidays; our main expenditure is probably on cooking ingredients (I kid you not); but it works for the moment. Although many of the conversations I have are about child-rearing, I've met plenty of mothers through baby groups and Church with whom I talk (often online!) about anything and everything - I feel happily stimulated and I make sure I have time for me.

Sophie (aged 5) just started school and Imogen (aged 3) is in pre-school 12 hours per week (which is probably why we thought it was time to have another one!) I also help with our Church's Pram Service for under 5-s, once a fortnight, do some amateur singing, and am enrolled on a Christian theology course. A lot of my time is spent preparing food and keeping house, which are actually things I love doing. Over time, I hope to move from ministering to my family to wider Christian ministry, but I firmly believe that these things are in God's hands. Watch this space....

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Some things change, some don't....

  1. It's still nigh-on impossible to take blood from me without doing it for a living. Midwife couldn't, so I'm booked at the phlebotomists next week.
  2. There are no more midwife-led Aquanatal exercise classes at our local leisure centre, boo! How will I exercise? (this is a rhetorical question.)
  3. The amount of reading material they now give you for your pregnancy must have come from an entire tree.

Waste disposal

It just had to happen to me. When I am mainly done feeling nauseous until mid-afternoon. Picked my littlest up from pre-school this lunchtime - only to find a waste disposal truck emptying bins - smelly, smelly, smelly bins - next to my car. I could hardly get her strapped in her car seat quick enough. I coughed and retched, coughed and retched. I'm sure the poor workers thought I was over-reacting - but it's automatic, honest!

Did I mention?

The constant headaches, insomnia, nosebleeds. And the fact that the midwife literally wants my blood this afternoon, when getting it from my veins often proves troublesome and I have a tendency to feel faint.

On the plus side, how wonderful it is to enjoy my morning cup of tea again!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

And finally....

for today, I hope at least. I just wanted to clarify something. I mutter. I muse. I downright moan. But I find human life amazing. And I have it pretty easy. I've been blessed so much, so far, in life. Over in Haiti there is such profound destruction its difficult to fathom what people are feeling. I know this, and our family tries to do our little bit to help. So please don't, if you're reading, think the things I talk about matter in the larger scheme of things. They don't always matter that much to me, but I have the urge to get them out there. I'm entertained and informed by some of the thinkers & mothers I read on a weekly basis. This blog might not do that, but it won't be some long-term whinge-a-thon. The current phase is just hormones :-)

To cook, or not to cook


I love to cook. I'm not the world's best cook, but I love creating and tasting dishes, and feeding others. Prior to my most recent pregnancy, I took delivery of a big and expensive oven - which I have only used to cook oven chips and macaroni cheese. I have a butternut squash sat in the kitchen begging me to cook it in chicken stock to make a hearty winter soup. I have a spiced organic beef joint in the freezer to go in the slow cooker with Guinness. My stomach just turns thinking about prepping these things. Making the most basic of pasta dishes is an effort. Crushing 4 cloves of garlic for my signature carbonara dish would send me to the bucket. So I won't be blogging about food for a while, until these pesky hormones have settled down. But I wanted to acknowledge that I will be, should I get the time :-)

Pregnant and posting....

OK, there are lots of things about me. I have a Christian faith. Probably the best husband in the world. 2 wonderful daughters. An overactive brain. Fears. Doubts. Joys. And so on. But the defining thing for me at the moment, the thing that is driving me to blog, is...I'm pregnant.

This is a wonderful thing, I feel truly blessed to be able to bring another life in this world, another being to take care of. But mainly - I just feel sick. And tired. And want to mutter. About how I fall asleep hearing my husband read the girls bedtime stories. And then spend insomniac hours listening to nighttime radio before waking at 4.30am for the day. Waking wanting to eat as much bread, cheese, coleslaw, oven cooked fish and chips, & mushy peas as I can all morning. Before feeling nauseous and exhausted all afternoon...

I've done this before, of course. Twice. The first time, I woke up to morning sickness for the first time in a Scottish hotel on a business trip. I vomited noisily in the airport toilet before my flight home, feeling distraught that no one offered to help me. The second time, I was changing the fruity nappies of my (elder, then) 1 year old daughter during the vomit weeks. The third time, I can flake out on the sofa watching kids' TV with my youngest (now 3.5 yrs). But sadly I have to take the eldest to school and pick her up, deal with everyone seeing me looking rough and nauseous when I don't want to talk about pregnancy until another couple of weeks. Well, I obviously want to talk about it or I wouldn't be muttering here. But not to anyone who knows me - yet!!

The one thing that has boosted me in recent weeks has been booking 3 nights in the family suite in this old English windmill. Oh, and the knowledge that this too will pass.