Well the summer has past and I haven’t blogged about one of our most significant events. Rebekah hit 18 in July. Not quite sure how my first born got that old, it doesn’t seem very long ago at all since she was like this.

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Or even being a naughty as she clearly was here:

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There is a saying I have come across recently – The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short – and this definitely sums up how I feel just now. The baby years seemed endless and then the childhood seemed like we had all the time in the world to do the things we wanted. Then suddenly she wanted to do some exams and our carefree existence was suddenly taken up with past papers, exam boards and timetables. The last couple of years she has been working, volunteering and back to learning as she goes (as well as a few small diverse level 3 courses). Now she is 18, passed her driving test and is off to the big city to uni.

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I would have quite liked to have frozen time in the last year – it has been fantastic, no one doing exams, everyone at home but busy doing the things they were interested in. Now we have all change, Rebekah going, Ruth doing A levels at college and Jonathan starting on the (I)GCSE train, a very different year. But I have relished having one last year of some of the joys of home education of when they were small without so many of the stresses of little children.

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Writing about the passage of time of my family I feel quite emotional, but when people ask me if I’m upset Rebekah is going I honestly say no. This is very much the right time and the right thing for her to be doing, it is the natural way of things. She is ready to go and it feels right for her. I am slightly jealous of her though – I’d love the chance to do uni again right now! I’m sure I will have a cry when we finally leave her but I don’t feel like that now (some of you may remind me of this later if I fall apart as some of you are predicting)!

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We had a number of different birthday celebrations for her and I’ll post about them later

I learnt a number of things, about myself and generally, when I broke my arm. I know it was a while ago but the thing is still hurting and some of the issues are still on my mind.

1. I quite liked the excuse to sit around at home for 6 weeks without being able to rush about the place unless there was someone to chauffeur me about.

2. I’m quite capable of feeling very sorry for myself!

3. I clearly value being able to crochet and use my walking poles – one early morning, about a week after my cast had come off and I still couldn’t do much, Martin found me in tears as I somewhat hysterically cried “What if I can never crochet or use my poles again?”

4. Big Things Matter.

5. Little Things Matter Too.

6. It takes a ridiculously long time to recover from a broken arm when you are middle aged!

7. My family are lovely.

8. It is surprising how much I actually do – there was definitely a lot more stress in the house as everyone tried to take up the slack and my lot are all very helpful and skilled anyway. Actually it was quite pleasing for me to realise that they needed me more than we all realised – sometimes I think I don’t do very much!

9. I could still play cards – although not demons.

10.If you really want to you can overcome the sweltering heat and the scramble down to the beach that you struggle with even with two arms and still attend the cardboard boat regatta!

 

11. I am quite contrary – usually I am ambivalent about swimming in the sea – this year I was desperate too – although that could have had something to do with the sweltering weather – which leads on to…

12. I love air-conditioning – my happiest day was when we spent the afternoon in the cinema in the air-con – I really didn’t want to go home. I also got Martin to drive a long way home from Chale so I could maximise the time when I felt cool rather than sweaty and sticky and itchy!

13. Having good friends and family really does make all the difference!

I was definitely feeling a bit sorry for myself and unloved when I broke my arm. I was surprised at just how vulnerable I felt. I spend a lot of time doing things, to be suddenly unable to even bake a cake, crochet square, walk with my poles made me feel very strange – these were things that made me who I am – who was I without them? I also found that stress levels rose dramatically in the house. Someone had to cook all the meals, do all the washing, all the washing up, all the cleaning. There was another adult and 2 nearly adults and a big sized child in the house so we could clearly cope but it was hard and everyone took turns having a “moment”. Because we were coping and we were so much better off than many people (lots of capable people in the house) I didn’t feel like I needed help and could ask for it, but I definitely appreciated help.

These were a few of the things that really mattered to me, were appreciated by me and that I’m thankful for (I’m sure there were more but I can’t remember them at this distance) :

One friend gave me a card, a bar of chocolate and a bottle of local apple juice. I felt really touched; this gesture made me feel loved and thought about and like someone realised I needed cheering up.

My sister sent me a lovely package of all sorts of useful and indulgent items as well as coming over to help out.

Friends gave me lifts.

Friends took Jonathan to events.

I had a few meals and some bread rolls given to me.

One friend brought me some food over and then washed up the stuff that was lurking around.

Access to TV shows that we wouldn’t otherwise have had – I watched a ludicrous amount of TV during this time.

And one of the most lovely things was a friend who phoned up to ask if I wanted her to make a birthday cake for Rebekah – which I most certainly did.

I really learnt a lot from this. I often have grand plans about what I’d like to do for people that I don’t have time/money/energy to implement. I realised how much even a small thing was appreciated and that I could do with doing small things for people to show them love and support and actually get round to it rather than imagining the grand things I’d like to do and not actually getting round to them.

 

I was definitely feeling rather sorry for myself when I broke my arm. The children and Martin were coping but it was definitely stressful for them to pick up the jobs that I tend to do. I honestly think we were all surprised at what a difference it made to our lives – given that the kids help with housework and cook some of the time anyway there still seems to be an amazing amount of stuff that I do – maybe I’m not superfluous to requirements after all!

Within the midst of this stress my sister came down and spent a few days with us to help out.

This was amazing.

She gave Jonathan some much needed attention and some exercise:

Drove me to picnics:

Took Jonathan swimming in the sea – which he had been wanting someone to do with him for ages:

She brought dinners with her (thanks Jonathan!) (which were delicious and gave the girls a break from cooking later on) and cooked and washed up while she was here which was great – particularly for the girls who were sometimes feeling a bit fed up with the on going nature of the cooking, washing and washing up (Jonathan had managed to master the art of fish fingers and waffles though!).

Being willing to be here and to help with Jonathan, the house,the shopping, the garden etc. and to work tirelessly at it (I’m sure there were loads of other things but writing with a few months distance I can’t remember them all) was brilliant for me and as well as being practically wonderful also made me feel very very loved!

 

I’m still catching up on blogging so despite the fact we are half way through August I’m still blogging about June!

This year was the first year for ages that none of us was working at the Isle of Wight Festival some of us are usually volunteering for Gift To Nature, so this year we spent the whole time at church where we have our own fringe festival.

We do free tea, cake, hot dogs

  

 

and most importantly of all phone charging and free wi-fi.

  

We also do some entertainment of our own too.

  

  

  

We also gave out lots of God Loves Me wrist bands (we are sometimes known as the God Loves You church because of our sign outside that people can have their name added to) and had a graffiti wall.

  

  

I love festival weekend at church because to my mind it’s what we should be about – loving people without strings.

 For many people we are just a chance to get a freebie and that’s fine but for many we are more than that. For exhausted festival workers we can be a place they can have a chat and a cuppa away from work stress, for those who’ve had their hours cut we can be a place to moan about it and to get something free to eat and drink that they can now ill afford, we have dealt with distraught people who have lost tickets etc. and managed to print them off for them with little stress and no cost, we have provided a listening ear and a smile along with a cuppa and a chance to charge up a phone. We have been a home from home for people who have no church connection but have come back everyday of the festival because they felt welcomed and loved – and so much more.

Festival weekend is one of the reasons I love my church.

We had a really, really good Good Friday.

We started with an early (for us) morning and headed down to the church. Then we had an elicit exchange of dairy-free eggs and got ourselves sorted out for the Good Friday meditation we were taking.

We stole the script for the meditation based on the last words of Jesus from Kingdom Story

 

We ended with recording of the lovely Aled Jones (definitely getting middle aged, but he has such a lovely tone to his voice) singing Abide With Me (Martin’s favourite hymn) and this image that we took of the cross at St Benet’s Abbey on the Norfolk Broads.

Then we just had to hang about and prepare for being the final destination of the walk of witness, rearrange the chairs, butter some hot crossed buns, sort out the PA stuff, make some tea and coffee. But we had about 3 hours to do all this, Ruth took the little ones to the park, Rebekah and Jamie went for a coffee and we just pottled about in church, in quite an idle manner!

The walk of witness arrived, babies cried, songs were sung and lots of drinks and hot crossed buns were distributed.

Then we sat around for a long time with friends and coffee.

Next home.

Jonathan and I had cleared the area around the fire place and had made a cross from the sticks in the garden to put up.

 

I tidied up our cupboard surface with our Lent stuff on.

Jonathan updated our very behind lent lamb calendar

I put up the cross picture that I made.

I managed to find time to listen to the last instalment of the excellent Peoples Passiondrama on the iplayer. I read an article that said that religious broadcasting has almost disappeared around the Christian celebrations but I have to say that I have been very impressed with the variety, quantity and quality of the broadcasts relating to the passion on Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra during Holy Week.

 

We also have an Easter tree that Ruth went out to pilfer from the cycle path.

We had a leisurely afternoon spending some of it looking at Jonathan’s bouncing egg and making a lot of quiche for dinner (always a joint effort as Rebekah makes better pastry and I make a better filling) and rebekah also made a batch of truly delicious hot crossed buns.

We sat and ate a very very leisurely dinner, drank a yummy bottle of red wine (which we unfortunately now have to give a small share of to Rebekah) and sat and had a great lot of conversation ranging from theology, to holiday to moral dilemmas to parenting. The girls said some lovely things about us, but Martin said that Rebekah must have been under the influence of the wine!!!

We had a great day because there were lots of times to not be in a hurry, to sit and chat and take our time. It reminded me that we need to get back to being more idle and not to just rush and be busy all the time but to really slow down and appreciate the here and now, savour time with family and friends and time alone and with God.

 

Well Martin and I have been married 20 years (a couple of weeks ago – I’m behind with our blogging).

We exchanged some small gifts.

Martin was very organised and bought these lovely earrings and necklace from our friend June with her lovely Goddess Jewels some time in advance. However he wasn’t organised enough to remember to bring them home from work so I got them a little late in the day.

I presented him with handmade stuff. A card using left over bits of felt and a heat cushion I had been secretly knitting.

We had the usual sort of day – I was at work and Martin was working at home but then Martin cooked for me in the evening which was lovely. But he clearly didn’t want me taking photos of him while he was doing it!

We always talk about how our year has gone at our anniversary. Highlight and lowlights. This year we had many many good bits. Our Norfolk Broads holidays were fantastic, as was the liveability conference we went to and both added to our growing determination to change the pace of our lives, to slow down more and to enjoy each day.

Finally those of you who were in Wind in the Willows might remember one of the songs. Martin and I both had going round in our heads throughout our anniversary day:

“20 years, 20 years it’s a very long time

20 years, 20 years for this terrible crime”

Well after 20 years we are celebrating properly later in the year when martin and I will manage to get away by ourselves for a few days.

For the last few years our church has run a marriage MOT around Valentine’s day.

We were greeted by a glass of Bucks Fizz and a lovely meal. During the meal we were given a check list of things to talk about and rate how we were doing from 1-5 in areas of our lives such as: children, finances, romance, hopes and dreams, friends, time alone etc. We were encouraged to think about anything we would like to do about these areas.

We had a couple of short talks one from a couple who had been together for 25 years, talking about some early memories and what keeps them going through the ups and downs and what they appreciate about each other which is always lovely to hear.

The other talk was just a little idea, I liked the idea and have taken it on board.

The idea was to send texts to your loved one with “I love you because….”. Since then I have been sending martin annoying little texts with “I love you because you made me a nice cup of tea” etc. etc.

The reason I like this is because it makes me regularly think really positively about Martin and remind me how much I love him and what a lot I have to be grateful for. This tends to translate to me being nice to him rather than moaning at him which is good for the harmony levels in the house!

We finished off with pudding and coffee and a chance to chat with some other people as well as our lovely partners 🙂

we also had a chance to listen to What I Call Romance by Paul Bell which is one of my all time favourite songs. A couple of the lines in it make me want to cry every time I hear them!

Last Sunday (incidentally the first in Advent) Martin made me cry.

He had already volunteered to make his lovely Cajun chicken with slow cooked shallots, tomatoes, mushrooms and chips so we already all thought he was wonderful.

Then as we sat down for lunch he got out some bucks fizz and a piece of paper.

this was strange and we wondered what he was up to.

He read out a speech telling us all how much he appreciated us, how proud he was of how much effort the girls had put into their studies, how Jonathan was maturing etc.etc. and how he didn’t tell us that often enough and how today he was going to celebrate his wonderful family by telling them that and cooking up a storm for dinner.

And he made me cry.

I have a new favourite song just now – it’s by Paul Bell and called What I Call Romance. It also makes me cry as I think that we too “are making love to last a life time” in the same sort of everyday ongoing way that he is talking about.

We will have been married twenty years this year and I’m glad that Martin can still make me cry.