Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bullet Point Year!

Well, part two of last year's post never happened. Despite taking a whole different approach to home-educating the chids these days, life just seems to rush past. This blog has missed significant birthdays and events and I'm sad about that. If anyone follows me on Flickr, you might also realise how horribly behind I am with my photos too! I just never seem to find the time, but it isn't helped by having a study at the top of the house where it's not only cold in winter, but also a dark room all year round. It just has one tiny window and one tiny wall-light. It's not really somewhere I like to be, other than to sleep because I feel so cut off up there. BUT that's where the big computer is and that's where 'work' happens, so avoiding being there means I also don't get so much done as I might! I have decided now that I cannot even begin to fill you in on everything that's happened since September last year (which was where my last blog got up to really), so without pictures (although I may add them later) I am going to bullet-point the year and start again from now. Then maybe I might feel like this blog is worth keeping going. I know so many of my blogger friends of ages have ceased to blog for one reason and another, but for me this is a good record of our lives. It's the only diary I keep and I really hate that it is so out-of-date. I am so thankful for the photographs I take that also serve to help me remember all that I might have otherwise forgotten, but so many of the 'snippets' of life are lost in one-off snapshots on my phone. They do pop-up up every now and then and bring a smile though, so that's nice πŸ˜ƒ

If you don't want to read everything here do feel free to skip forward to the present, but I am recording this for MY benefit, possibly more than for my readers πŸ˜‰


End of September & October 2016;

  • Big move to Liverpool (see last post)
  • Unpack the house and spend some time settling in, exploring the city and that kind of thing
  • Girls start courses at colleges in Crewe & Nantwich (planning to commute and see for a year). Abbie will stay at a friend's house two nights a week to make it less arduous, and means she can continue her ballet for another year :D It also means she gets to see all her friends in Nantwich because she is there the right night to go to the youth group. I'm happy that the transition is made gentler for her by all of this. Phoebe is only in college one day a week, so the travelling is not such an issue for her.
  • Joel starts college in Liverpool and doesn't like it much to begin with, but thinks there are more opportunities here.
  • Boys make a bunch of friends on the park and spend a LOT of time playing football, especially after school's out each day.
  • Try out a new gym for Caleb, but he decides not to continue 😞and to find a new sport instead. 
  • Paul is inducted as Pastor and it's lovely to have so many friends with us for the evening :D
  • Joel turns 18!

  • I have a weekend back in Nantwich at a Pastor's Wives Retreat, which is refreshing and lovely! I land myself a reputation as a techno-wizz and end up setting up a Facebook group for us all to keep in touch πŸ˜‰
  • My amazing niece gets baptised, in Birmingham :D
  • Have a clothes sale at church (to raise money for setting up a new toddler group), at which I have to say goodbye to almost all my little children's clothes. We fill the room with clothes! It is hard for me to watch them go, but good in it's own way.
  • Caleb and Phoebe have a rock-climbing try out
  • Ellie is supposed to have a dance trial, but ends up not going
  • Boys start going to Mini-Soccer on a Saturday and enjoy it.
  • Joel has his first paid Gig with some college friends. They've formed a band called 'Food for Zeus' and are REALLY good!!
  • Ellie turns 13!

  • Nothing majorly significant or exciting happens.
  • Lots of prep for Christmas - especially now Paul is the boss!!
  • Chip turned 6. We organised a rock-climbing party for him and bunch of his friends (and siblings) - but he wouldn't climb!! He said he enjoyed it though. Funny little thing!
  • Christmas - Just us - the first time in many years! The church bless us with a MASHOOSIVE hamper of goodies, someone else blesses us with 3 joints of meat and other goodies - and some money. What was looking like a scant Christmas is suddenly very much more abundant. God is VERY good to us :D
  • Boxing Day spent with family again - this year in a community hall in Hinkley, where Paul's sister works. It's lovely and we have a great day :D
  • Over New Year my Mum and Nan come to stay and we open our home to the neighbours and church family for a party - but everyone is gone home before midnight, which feels rather odd! We are used to parties where everyone outstays their welcome πŸ˜‰!

  • The start of 2017 is about as stressful as it could possibly be. My Nan had not been very well really over New Year, and on going home she gets worse almost overnight. She is admitted to hospital with impaction and severe dehydration. She is in hospital for almost 10 days. She loses loads of weight and we really think we were going to lose her. She is more or less refusing to eat, but eventually we begin to be able to get her to eat a bit more. When she is discharged, having resolved the impaction, she has a pressure sore, is painfully thin, still eating very little and has almost no energy to do anything. A care package is put in place for her and we get Complan prescribed for her, to try and increase her calorie intake. Miraculously, she slowly comes back to us. She regains almost a stone and has been well ever since - until recently (Nov 2017), but more on that in a bit.
  • At church we start our Toddler Group - Seedlings. One Mum comes the first week and three the next. We see slow but steady growth over the year and have a good number of regulars now :D. It's still a small group, but there seems to be a culture of putting children into Nursery very young and many get full-time vouchered places from the age of 3. So, I am not terribly surprised we aren't bursting at the seams. But it's a nice group and we all enjoy it :D
  • I begin to take on a more admin for Paul, including building a website and more of a web-presence on Facebook and the like. 
  • Joel breaks up with his girlfriend 😞

  • Nan on the mend now, so my Mum goes home (eventually). 
  • Spend a weekend in Malvern for a 'Transition Training' weekend, which is lovely, gives us a short break and also the chance to catch up with Helen & Geoff, some old-friends of ours who live there. Geoff was one of Paul's lecturers at college and Helen and I became very good friends. We hadn't seen them for a few years and we got to spend the evening with them :D
  • Abbie turns 16 and Phoebe 15. 
  • The Dunnes pay us a visit (miss them so much) and Jack fixes our sash window in the dining room!
  • The Pearces (cousins) visit too and we have a lovely few days with them. 

  • Abbie decides that next academic year she would rather study in Liverpool, so we go to an open evening at City of Liverpool College to look at the Bakery Btec there. She is fairly convinced she'll make the change.
  • I take Ellie, DD, Stitch and Chip to a Schools Performance at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. They are all enthralled and Ellie decides she would really like to learn to play the violin! Definitely one to do again :D
  • Take the same four + Abbie & Phoebe to an 'Endangered Animals' workshop at the Maritime Museum (where they also have a Customs and Excise section called 'Seized'). They enjoy it - and so do I! 
  • We go to Watoto Choir concert in Liverpool and arrive late because Paul got the time wrong!!
  • We have our first 'Family Film Night' at church, which is well attended and a hit with everyone who comes :D

  • We take a lovely Spring walk around Calderstones Park, the chids do lots of tree climbing and Chip learns to ride his bike - at last :D
  • Next day we go to the beach at RedRocks beach on the Wirral and have a fabulous afternoon and evening with a fish and chips supper on the beach (in the rain). :D
  • Take chids to a Viking Village day over at Birkenhead Priory. It's FREEZING but generally they enjoy the outing. Paul suggests getting the re-enactors to put on a whole day for us and to use the church. I take the details.
  • I finish a blanket I have been crocheting for ages and Chip claims it as his!
  • We run our first Children's Holiday Club at church (Adventure Cruise) and it goes down incredibly well. There's a great team that run it and everyone has a lot of fun. 
  • I start playing Crown Green Bowls with Linda and Dot's team. Apparently I'm not that bad at it and it's quite fun.
  • My Mum comes up to stay again for a bit. 
  • Ellie has a violin group-taster session (on a borrowed violin). She enjoys it, but the group is a bit too young for her. I need to find another solution - and a violin!
  • Take most of the family to a 'Rock Pools' workshop at The World Museum. It's interesting, but not a lot of new-to-us stuff. 

  • Jake turns 20 and gets a job!
  • Stitch turns 10.
  • We take a family walk up to The Dream (in St Helen's)
  • Paul and I have a night out at The Liverpool Philharmonic; "Sound Like Shakespeare." It's lovely :D
  • Go to Elim Leader's Conference in Harrogate and take Jake and Joel with us as young leaders. We have a wonderful three days. So inspiring and uplifting, encouraging and motivating :D
  • We spend a lovely weekend in Nantwich at Bren & Michelle's 20th WA celebrations. 
  • Phoebe, Chip and myself spend the weekend in Meltham at J&J's OTP Party in the Field. As always a great weekend with friends.
  • The kids play late on the park now that the nights are staying light later. 

  • It's beginning to look a lot like summer!
  • Caleb turns 12. He has a climbing party (just family) and this time Chip climbs and discovers he loves it. He's definitely found his brave since his birthday.
  • My birthday - but not much happens. We were going to go to The Lakes for the day, but for various reasons it couldn't happen. Instead we have a day on beach at New Brighton. It's a lovely day - and turns out to be our last beach day as a whole family for the entire summer. 
  • Rachel Jones comes to share and preach at our church and it's a fabulous day :D
  • We have a quiz night at church and it's great fun!
  • Abbie goes to ballet for the very last time πŸ˜”

  • I speak at Aglow. It's received well, but I don't think I am called to be a speaker!
  • My Mum comes over for a couple of days and we go out for the day to Farmer Teds, then over to Crosby Beach for fish and chips on the beach on the way home. A good fun day with not too much walking!
  • Second family film night goes down just as well and we decide to make it a bi-monthly thing, with other activities in between. 
  • DD & Stitch go to an Egyptian Workshop at TWM and I take Sol to a workshop next door in The Walker Gallery. The girls go to the library for a bit. Then we all meet up and spend the afternoon in The Walker Gallery doing a 'treasure trail' with some other Home-Edders (this time a Christian group). It's a lovely day and some of the children exchange contact details.
  • We are offered a free weekend away at a conference (CMJ) and it turns out to be a very refreshing weekend. All the children have a great time and make some lovely new friends - some of whom are also home-ed :D But the best bit is that Chip and Stitch both make personal decisions to become Christians :D
  • We spend 3 days taking part in 'Jesus Loves' outreach. It's a fabulous week, culminating in three young people from our church (amongst MANY others) getting baptised - one of whom is Caleb!

  • Abbie goes away for a whole week to New Day camp, with her BFF, and comes back buzzing! 
  • Meanwhile we have Terry and Judi, whose mission we went to in Kenya, here to speak at church. It's lovely to catch up with them, exchange news and renew friendships :D
  • We run our second children's holiday club (Adventure Cruise, part II) and it's equally good fun, with a few more attenders.
  • We set of on our family holidays to Cromer, via Cambridgeshire to collect a tent from the Haricots, this year minus one. Jake was working 😞 Our first incomplete-family holiday. All the same we had a lovely week and made the most of having Joel with us, in full knowledge that he too would soon be fledging home. 
  • We drive right across the country to Mid-Wales (such a long drive) for a Christian Retreat week at Cefn-Lea. Jake meets us there. Again it's a fabulous 5 days and we all have a great time. It's a bit of a bus-man's holiday for Paul and I because we are there with 20 others from our church and therefore in a pastoral role, but that doesn't stop us receiving some great teaching ourselves. It's also a lovely opportunity to catch-up with friends from Nantwich because many of them come too. The children & teenagers get to be with their friends and we barely see them all week, except when hunger comes calling. It's a highlight of our year really, and this year the teenagers especially seemed to make some made-to-last friendships :D
  • Then home to our final weekend of Joel being at home with us. We have a family afternoon walking around Red Squirrels (NT) in Formby, then over the sand dunes to the beach, where I and the girls can't resist the sea despite being completely unprepared to swim. We all go in fully clothed. I think it was the warmest beach day we had all summer and we were only there about an hour! 
  • Paul drove Joel down to Yeovil on the 31st, 
  • I can't go because I have to take Phoebe for her college interview and enrolment. She too has decided to study closer to home from September. 
  • Abbie also enrols in college here in Liverpool.

  • Both girls start at their new colleges and settle in quickly. Phoebe finds it a bit difficult to fit in at first but when she prays about it, God quickly answers and she settles better after that. Abbie seems to make a group of friends right from the off :D
  • Take 5 chids down to the docks for the day for the Pirate Festival. It's absolutely freezing down there, but we have a fun day. 
  • Take DD to climbing club and sign him up to the NICAS scheme with a plan to go more regularly now. He is VERY good. Phoebe has decided she doesn't really want to climb for a hobby.
  • We manage to get Ellie a violin on a loan-to-buy scheme from a local shop, and she gets started using free online tuition. She's loving it and making good progress so far.
  • My Nan celebrates 92 years of life!
  • Jake is offered promotion to a full-time position :D

  • Joel has his first not-at-home birthday and turns 19. We miss him!
  • The big 5 go off to The Gathering (and see Joel & a lot of their 'national' friends there) for the weekend. They come back buzzing as always. This year a couple of other young people from our church go too.
  • I take the boys to a 'Reformation Day' party and then to a PJ Film Night at another local church (instead of celebrating Halloween) and they have a great time at both. 
  • We have a church 'games' night which is a blast and there are calls for another soon. :D
  • I start a monthly 'Family Bible Study' night at church, which also goes down really well. I hope it will grow, but I'm happy to do it even for just my own family. It's a bonus to share the time with others.
  • Sign Stitch up for Hoffmann Academy - online piano lessons and he is making real progress and enjoys the lessons. 

November (so far);
  • We have taken the children to the cinema twice during the 'Into Film' free films fortnight. Paul took them the first time to see Cars 3 and I took them to see Goodbye Christopher Robin (through which Abbie & I wept almost the whole film). 
  • I took Ellie and DD to meet up with some older HE kids one afternoon, whilst Stitch, Chip and I had a wander round the top floor of The Museum Of Liverpool. We didn't really finish looking round, but they found it interesting. 
  • Stitch and Chip are going regularly to a 'Multisports' activity for an hour each Wednesday. Most Wednesdays my friend picks them up and drops them home, which affords me the luxury of almost 2 hours peace - and was the reason I started this blog today (although it's taken me all day to write it and they have long since been home and requiring my attention).
  • Caleb has passed his Level 1 NICAS and is half way to completing Level 2 already. He can climb Grade 5+ climbs and can't wait to get on to higher Levels. He absolutely loves it and I think the coaches have spotted that he's a bit good!
  • My Nan has become increasingly unwell over the last month or so. To begin with she was having excessive diarrhoea, but being on permanent heavy laxatives I knew it was not a repeat of last years impaction episode  She then had two falls when going to the loo in the night (thankfully she was unhurt both times) and simultaneously she began eating less and less again and saying she had no appetite. I called the GP we agreed a slight change to her medication and to run some blood tests. Suffice to say the blood picture is not great and this Thursday I am taking her to have a conversation with the consultant at the hospital. I can't say too much just now, but I will when we have a clearer picture of what's going on with her. She is losing weight quickly though and becoming weaker again by the day.
  • On Monday Ellie turns 14 and we are in the run up to Christmas. I am certainly not ready for it all this year - mentally or in any other way. I actually wish I could run and hide until it's all over. To top all the stress of caring for my ailing Nan, shopping for Christmas (and two birthdays) for not only us, but my Mum and Nan too, and 3 boisterous boys who don't handle being shut up in the house so much, now that the dark nights have drawn in and playing out is not an option; I have also managed to hurt my back somehow and am on high doses of pain killers that make me feel a bit sick, dopey and dysfunctional. But it'll all come out in the wash I guess...
If anyone want to have a look at any pictures, the best way to link events to pictures is to look at my 'albums' view on Flickr. It's not quite up to date atm (only goes up to Day One of our Cromer holiday), but it will get there soon I hope. This is the first picture-less post I've done in a millennium, but needs must. Hopefully now I'm caught up, I can stay that way!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A YEAR in review - Part One - The Start of Something New...

So, how do you write a catch-up post that covers almost a whole year!?! Every time I've thought about getting around to writing a blog, or two, something seems to have got in the way - busyness, sickness, tiredness, or simply life, because around June life just took a crazy turn and things changed dramatically!

June arrived and with it two major life events; Firstly, the company that Paul was working for finally decided it was going to close down the site he was working in, making everyone there redundant by the end of August. We had sensed for a while that 'change' was afoot in our lives, and known that this was a possibility, so we had been exploring new ideas for ministry in our Nantwich church - little did we realise that this  'change' wasn't just going to mean a change in Paul's secular work life. Hot on the heals of the announcement of definite redundancy, came an invitation for Paul to become senior pastor of a church in Liverpool. We were a little take aback and initially we both thought we would turn it down - not really being city lovers - but we felt it would be wrong to do that without so much as testing the waters. So we took a little drive one evening at the end of June, to check out the area where we'd been told the house was and get a bit of a feel for whether we wanted to explore the possibility any further. 

It turned out that the house wasn't in too bad a location :D We bought fish and chips in the local chippy, and I had my first experience of 'salt & pepper' chips - which were not at all what I expected, but very delicious! We walked around the neighbourhood, down to the church itself is (in a less affluent area) and up the main street of shops and stores; all the time taking in the 'scene'. 

When we talked we felt that, on the basis of our evening, it was not impossible to envisage our family living in Liverpool and we agreed that we would attend an interview. We knew the church was small and struggling a little - in need of some TLC, but the more we thought and prayed about it all, the more our hearts shifted and the more convinced we became that we would soon be moving away from our beautiful rural Wybunbury, into inner-city Liverpool; from our huge garden and open fields to play in, to no private garden at all, only a back alley and a city park for a front garden. For now we kept it from the children - certain that they would be devastated. We needed to be certain before we mentioned anything to them.

Over the next weeks God persistently dropped things into our hearts - together and individually. I had some 'stuff' to deal with around living in the city again - and God graciously gave my friend the wisdom to help me with that. We also received 'words' from our church family, from people who knew nothing at all about what we were carrying in our hearts, which really confirmed to us that this was our right path.

We had our interview in July at which Paul was immediately offered the post. Although we already knew we were going to say yes, we slept on it and let them know the next day that we would be coming. From then on we were committed and there was no turning back. Timing telling the children was difficult and we still didn't do so immediately. Keeping it quiet from them was REALLY hard too, but we had to handle things gently as we knew it would not only be our natural family who might be heart-broken, but our church family too. When a well-loved pastor - effectively someone who is like a father to so many people in the church - leaves, it really is painful to many people. 

And boy was my heart heavy - everything I did, every conversation I had, every place I walked, I wanted to treasure every moment - capture it and hold it tight - knowing there were not to be too many more like this in this place. We tried to live life normally, but I felt I was carrying so much 'goodbye' in my heart. 








When we finally did tell the children their responses were much as we anticipated. They had not suspected or guessed anything - it might have been easier if they had! We made it clear from the outset that Jake and Joel would be given the option to stay in Nantwich if they chose. They were both grown now, with their own life-paths to stake out. We would make sure they were provided for with accommodation etc... but the choice was theirs. Jake was immediately excited and super-keen to come with us, which we were not so surprised about really. He's been keen for a while to try city life. Joel was immediately sure he would stay in Nantwich - but by the time a week had passed, and he had had time to think and pray about it, he too felt that he would join us in the move and invest in our family vision. He had a lot to lose really, being part way through his college course, but we were really happy he was choosing to come with us :D. Abbie cried - a lot! She had the biggest and strongest friendship group in Nantwich and also the strongest attachment to our home I think - it was huge for her. Phoebe & Ellie (Lilo) were both up and down about it all. They could see the opportunities it presented them, but for them too it would mean leaving behind friends and activities that they loved (namely church, gym and dance). For DD it was HUGE - it meant him changing his gym! Leaving behind all his team-mates and his beloved coach. Not only that, but a couple of really good friends at church too. He was sad and angry for quite some time. He does not do change well. Stitch was pretty cool about it all - excited even. He was sad at the prospect of leaving his church friends, but figured he could make lots of new friends in a city! Chip, 5 at the time, was sad! Sad about leaving his only known home, sad about leaving all his lovely friends at church - he had quite a little troop of mates, but he loved all the grown up too, sad about leaving his 'girlfriend', sad about not having a garden, just sad. But he was 5 and I knew that as long as he had his family he would be OK in the long run. 

And so it was a summer of making memories - as many as we could before time ran out! We didn't take a holiday - we were too busy making moving plans, but in many ways that worked out OK - it gave us more time to make lots of Nantwich memories.








And then it came time for the 'last time's - and they were hard :(






And by the 23rd September we were setting up home in Liverpool...

Those last few weeks went so very fast & we packed so much in that we hardly had time to catch our breath. These pictures are only snippets, and miss out the two mini-holidays I took with some of the children; to Lake Bala (see albums below) with the church youth and to Cefn Lea with all but Jake. Paul stayed home both times, which was a bit of a shame.

Bala Camp ~ Day One

Bala Camp ~ Day Four (Llangollen)