Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Birthday Boy...

My Benjamin is 3 !! Wow. Doesn't time fly?!
Here are a few pictures to celebrate, and to see in another year...

I love you, Benji B. You are such a strong little character, and I am so grateful for your life. You bring me so much joy, and every achievement makes my heart glow. I am so aware that God's hand is on you, and that He is watching over you. I know that you will grow to be a man after His own heart, and I am praying so every single day. And this is His promise to you, darling little boy:

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over [Benjamin] will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

You are loved beyond compare, and oh so special. May the Lord bless you, and watch over you in this 4th year of life...

Monday, 28 April 2008

My Life in a Nutshell - April

March 31
Rachel is back.(9:11am)
Rachel wants to live a more simple, more holy life...(2:13pm )
April 1
Rachel is feeling crummy. But is loving the slightly warmer spring weather...(6:45pm)
April 2
Rachel has almost got the flu. And is no longer going to France for the holidays (10:15pm)
April 3
Rachel has been awake since 5 am this morning...and still full of yukky cold. Wonder what today will bring?(6:56am)
Rachel is excited about the fire engines!!(7:08pm)
April 4
Rachel is eating yummy homemade cottage pie except the Taste the Difference beef mince being full of grisstly bits isn't so yummy.(6:55pm)
April 5
Rachel is feeling alive today.(8:30am)Rachel has just had a 2-hour nap. Hmmmmmm....(3:43pm )Rachel has heartburn. Hideous, evil, yukky heartburn. Eeeeek...(10:27pm )
April 6
Rachel woke up to a snow storm and 5 inches of snow this morning!! Now we've seen it all...(8:58am)
Rachel reckons it might well snow again in the night... That would be a lot of fun!!(8:44pm )
April 7
Rachel took herself to casualty in the middle of the night with heartburn like you wouldn't believe...(9:16am)
Rachel is sooooo tired! But it's been a good day, all things considered.(6:32pm )
April 8
Rachel is glad Ben is at nursery for the day.(1:53pm)
Rachel is amazed that Sam emptied the whole dishwasher all by himself - with a little encouragement obviously... Praising a child works wonders on their self esteem :) (4:26pm)
Rachel enjoyed band practice tonight, even 'how great thou art'...(10:42pm)
April 9
Rachel doesn't want to speak too soon, but the holidays seem to be going well so far!(2:07pm)
Rachel is nervous about Mark going to Albania...(11:09pm)
April 10
Rachel loves watching her boys play together!(5:23pm)
Rachel is praying for Mark, Brucey and Steve as they fly out to Athens tonight...And also that the fire engines make it out of the customs compound.(10:51pm )
April 11
Rachel is in trouble...(12:51pm)
Rachel is going to treat herself to a night out at the cinema :-) (5:26pm)
Rachel is pretty much done.(11:33pm )
April 12
Rachel is having a chill out day and the kids are being wonderful!!(11:27am)
Rachel is eating salmon for the 2nd night in a row... yum yum yuuum!!(6:36pm )
Rachel is missing her Mark but kinda liking the space... Is that bad??(7:33pm)
April 13
Rachel really REALLY enjoyed singing tonight, and reckons she didn't sound too bad :) (10:12pm)
April 14
Rachel wonders what this week will bring...And is drawing closer to God :) About time!! (8:09am)
Rachel cannot believe it's raining again. And is just sick to death of this rubbish, cold weather. It's about time we got some decent sunshine for a change!! (1:19pm )
Rachel has decided that she doesn't love Charley B enough to warrant a trip halfway up the M40 at 6 in the morning to see him off on his new trip :( Nice thought tho. (7:38pm )
April 15
Rachel really needs to get up now, and get ready for step :@) Can't wait!!! (8:04am)
Rachel is tired after step and a long walk with Sam and Tom...Ecstatic to hear Mark's voice on the phone too!!!(1:07pm)
Rachel is now tired full-stop. And looking forward to some yummy take-away with Cas :) (6:43pm)
Rachel can't believe Sam is still awake :O ! (10:43pm)
April 16
Rachel had a great time at Finkley Down and is now eagerly awaiting her hubby's return!! (5:20pm)
Rachel is delighted that Mark and the gang are home from Albania safe and sound, if completely exhausted...(10:39pm)
April 17
Rachel thinks Mark may have 'fallen in love' with Albania...(8:42am)
Rachel has been making cake.(5:40pm)
April 18
Rachel is enjoying looking at all the piccies of the boys' trip to Albania, and thinks she might upload some herself - on Mark's behalf obviously...(9:51am)
Rachel is flatulent.(8:20pm)
April 19
Rachel is happy :o).(8:51am)
April 21
Rachel feels pregnant...but isn't. Pants, it must be a bug :(.(9:13am)
Rachel would llike to clarify: she really DOESN'T want to be pregnant. And REALLY isn't...Phew!!(1:56pm)
Rachel is having cake and tea.(2:59pm)
Rachel is starving. Blasted PMT! Would even eat brocolli if there was some available...(6:22pm)
Rachel wonders if she can be bothered to go to the gym...(6:55pm)
Rachel enjoyed the gym but feels a little shaky now.(8:24pm)

April 22
Rachel has had a lovely day but now it's back into 'mummy' mode. It's not that bad. Honest!(5:18pm)
Rachel is feeling fairly sleepy. Which is a good thing. Might even go to bed.(11:55pm)
April 23
Rachel is worried about what effect Body Pump is having on her body...only time will tell. Ouch!!(11:29am)
Rachel is wearing a pair of lime green crocs with no socks on!! Spring is here!!!!(4:04pm)
April 24
Rachel had a nap earlier and feels rubbish!(5:02pm)
Rachel is trying to ignore Ben.(5:37pm)
Rachel has had enough of being mummy today.(5:54pm)
Rachel has got to go to Sainsbury's to buy philadelphia. There goes my restful evening...(8:15pm)
April 26
Rachel thought Ben's party was a great success!! And is grateful for her amazing garden, amazing friends, and glorious weather...(2:51pm)
Rachel is feeling yummy.(2:17pm)
Rachel is wondering whether to hide her belly button.(12:32pm)
Rachel is feeding Ben cucumber... horrid stuff that.(12:55pm)
Rachel is tired, hungry and smells of poo. Tom's poo. Eeeek...(5:30pm)
Rachel has been potty training Ben for nearly one week, and is proud of her boy :) (18:20pm)

Friday, 18 April 2008

Fire Engines to Albania (FETA)

As some of you know, Mark (AKA Mr Wibbs) went out to Saranda in Albania as part of team 2 of what has become known in our church as 'Mission FETA' ... He left Thursday 10th April and came home on Wednesday evening (16th) - to much rejoicing! Below - in red - is a brief description of the project (published as part of a recent newsletter for the Prostate Cancer Charity, of which one of the team members is Chief Executive...)

With help from the local Fire and Rescue Service and local businesses in the area, two fire appliances have been bought and will be driven by a team of five from Reading Vineyard Church the 1,200 miles to Saranda in Albania starting on 4th April. This follows a successful mission last year when church members drove a fully equipped ambulance to the Albanian town.

(This is a picture of the ambulance on a call while the team were out there!)

Once there, the team will spend time with local fire fighters training them to use the vehicles and kit. Youth worker and ex fire-fighter, Paul Lowe, organiser of the trip, said:

“I am currently undertaking a project to deliver two equipped fire engines to Sarande which is situated in the southern most tip of Albania. They currently have a poorly working water tanker and the fire fighters out there do everything. Should they be a part of the European Union the area of ground they currently cover would require a minimum of thirteen fire engines. I am a part-time youth worker for Reading Vineyard Church and currently studying for a BA honours degree in Youth and Community Work and Applied Theology. Prior to this I was a fire fighter for seven years. I became involved in supporting the people of Albania through my church and I am now coordinating numerous fundraising initiatives with the young people to raise funds to equip and deliver a fire engine. Recently we were able to purchase a second appliance and we are now looking to equip it. This is a standard UK Dennis fire engine and the first a 6x4 Range Rover fire appliance. The Saranda Fire Department has an old, donated fire truck that is, in reality, nothing more than a glorified red lorry with a small pump and some canvas hose. The brigade had no protective clothing until we donated some. The fire engines and equipment we are bringing now, will transform their ability to do their jobs properly.”

The journey to Albania will take about five days, passing through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria and Italy. Saranda is a town on the southernmost tip of Albania with a population of 35,100.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to help a very deprived community. Currently they have only one fire engine to cover a community of over 35,000 people. This will be helping the community in Albania.” (John Neate - Paul's father in law, also part of the FETA team)

Here are a couple of fairly representative shots of the training the guys were able to carry out during their time in Saranda.

I wanted to post about this because I was totally delighted that my Mark got to be part of something so exciting, practical, and 'kingdom-building' in its essence... He came back very energised and revitalised in his faith and sense of purpose, which is sometimes easy to lose in the hum-drum of daily existence.You can see more photographs of the trip here on Facebook.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Small Talk

According to this article, small talk is a useful skill to develop, as it supposedly makes you come across as a more open, friendly and approachable person.
I can see where they're coming from...

But I guess that would make me a closed, unfriendly and unapproachable person.
Because small talk irks me. I hate it. I despise it. And I'm rubbish at it!
To me small talk reeks of hypocrisy, politeness and lack of genuine interest in others.
Small talk is what you do when you really don't have a clue what else to really talk about, and when you meet someone you really don't want to be talking to but have to.
Small talk is talking for the sake of it, as an end in itself.
I find small talk contrived, false, painful and pointless. And also boring, frankly. As well as completely superficial.

I mean what is the point in asking someone 'how they are', 'what they do', 'where they live', 'what they got up to last week end', 'where they went on holiday last year'... just for the heck of it? ...Unless you really care?? Where do you then go from there? At what point do you stop smiling? And also: what's the likelihood that you'll 'put your foot in it' eventually, for example asking them if they've got kids when they've been on fertility treatment for the last 5 years with no sucess?!

See, when I find myself in a situation where small talk is necessary (-and expected), my mind wanders, I quickly lose my concentration, and my train of thought gets interrupted. I usually start wondering whether I should be looking that person in the eye, and if so, how long for; or whether I've got my arms crossed and what that says about my true level of interest in the person I'm talking to... I become insanely self-conscious, uncomfortable, and just end up going 'blank'. A bit like when you get stage fright.
And then there is the 'awkward silence'.
I hate awkward silences with a person I don't know very well.
Because it means you know you've both run out of things to say to each other, but you've no idea how to move on without losing face!

So next time you bump into me, PLEASE don't ask me 'how I am' unless you really want to know! Because I'll give you a real, honest, probably lengthy answer. And I'll ask you 'how you are', and I'll expect you to give me an equally real answer. I certainly won't say, "yeah I'm fine"... and then walk away.

Thomas is learning new skills...

Tom has learnt to do pretend farts.
Ha! Who taught him to do that I hear you ask??!?
Well, 2 guesses.
Yes, that's right...
Daddy would be my first guess too; Sam my second.

The only problem is that he knows this is funny and is SO milking it.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Last Minute Snowman

So we came back from church. It was about 5 pm before the kids (minus Ben, who was in the bath) had mustered enough energy - from an early supper - to have their daily 'garden-romp' ; except this was a romp with a difference! As you can well imagine, there was very little snow left by that time in the day. But this didn't seem to put Sam off, and he set about making a snowman with whatever snow he and Tom could gather. Here he is. He's quite a dude I think you'll agree... In fact we've christened him 'Snowdude'.
Sam got busy putting a few finishing touches to his creation... under Tom's watchful supervision
And that made Sam very happy indeed!!!
Meanwhile Thomas decided he'd get himself acquainted with Snowdude. I'd say he found him quite endearing, wouldn't you??
Clearly delighted about having made friends with Snowdude, Tom then proceeded to do a little jig:Whichever way you look at it, it was a fun afternoon...!

Generous Snow...

The last time I wrote about crazy weather was on July 20th, when pretty much the whole of our area was flooded. Well. It would seem today is another one of those days when things have been thrown out of kilter. While the last couple of days have been extremely spring-like in temperature and fragrance, we woke this morning to 5 inches of snow and the biggest snow-storm I have ever witnessed since I've lived here... Needless to say the boys are extatic!! And Mark now at last has an excuse for owning and driving a 4x4!
More pictures to follow, no doubt!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Early Morning Musings

I have been awake since about 5 this morning. Don't know why because I'm exhausted!! I have a really heavy cold at the moment. But I'm still wakeful :( Can't sleep anymore tonight. I've always been like this at springtime. Every year I seem to wake up really early when spring starts. I kind of like it, except it's tiring.
One good thing about this is that through my open window I can hear the dawn chorus. And it's amazing!!! God really does things well. He is ALL BEAUTY... Lord you are all beauty and I am so gratefully and passionately in love with You.

What is in my head today? Or is it still 'tonight'?? (Well. 2 out of 3 children are up so I guess it must be today. Although it still very much feels like tonight. Hmmmm. Does that even make sense??)

The whole "passport saga" (erm: long, long story) has left me feeling drained. As if I needed anything else to drain me. More drained then. Even more drained!! I'm not going to recount the whole story but basically the renewal for Tom's passport has been a nightmare. And we are supposed to leave for Mum and Dad's on Monday morning, but at the moment, unless a miracle happens, we're not going...

And so my prayer has been that if we're meant to go, that God will supernaturally fast-track the application so that the passport arrives on Saturday. Then we will most definitely go. Otherwise, we'll be here for the duration of the spring holidays. And it'll be fine. Really. I had thought going away was the right thing, but it would seem that after all... maybe it's not. Watch this space!

In other news, Sam was off school yesterday. And he's still off school today. Two more days to go before the end of term!!! How fast did that go?! I want him to make it to the end. He'll definitely be in tomorrow. What will the rest of today bring I wonder? I would like to go to Bodyvive this morning, even though I feel a little rough. I want to make the most of Ben going to creche while the other 2 are safely parked at school ;) Is that wrong??

Must stop here.
Pick up my Bible.
Put on my Armour, for another day...