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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Announcing Baby No. 3!

I have just realised, and it was not intentional at all, that I haven't blogged for a while!!

The one thing that I have wanted to write about for so long, and what sparked my Reflection post - very much talking to myself as well as my readers - is that we are expecting baby No. 3!!

I am almost 15 weeks pregnant, and it was a bit of a surprise but we are happy to be expanding our family!

After having Erin and Lara so close, 14 months apart, I have to say I was mildly terrified to think we will be having another who will be 19 months younger than Lara. That means for 2 months we will have 3 children under 3!

We won't have a break between teething, and Erin will be starting Nursery part time when the baby is nearly 3 months, so the timing means we will just keep going! We have come to the conclusion that by doing it this way we will be doing the hard work all in one go and reap the benefits as they grow up close together.

We had been discussing whether to have another in the future (perhaps when Erin goes to school) and I had decided I would be disappointed if we made any decision that took away the option of having another in the future.

We had agreed to keep our options open for another couple of years just as I started to feel not quite myself. I was completely shattered which was the first "warning" sign. And I felt a bit queasy but nothing that stuck around for too long. After a week or so, I realised I couldn't remember when that time of the month was due and started to suspect! I kept it to myself, because I've been wrong before but after another couple of days I voiced my thoughts to Mr Strong. The next day I felt fine and decided I was being silly again. That night I had a dream about mouldy bread, and woke up feeling SO SO SO sick! The dream was very vivid and I put it down to that. Mr Strong later admitted that was the confirmation for him!! A couple of hours later, I decided to take a pregnancy test just to rule it out. HA! Within 30 seconds I had a big fat line showing a positive pregnancy test!

I have come to the conclusion that God stepped in, and that he wouldn't give us something we couldn't handle, and there was obviously a bigger picture. Despite feeling very daunted, I am excited to meet our new son or daughter, and excited for the future - the idea of having a big family is something I love, and I am looking forward to lots of great family times together.

Having had an Emergency C Section with Erin, and then an Elective C Section with Lara, we knew I would inevitably have another Elective C Section. We have had the scan, all is fine, we have seen the consultants and I am booked in. I won't go into the very long story, but it was a battle last pregnancy and I was worried throughout. I didn't have very nice consultants and it wasn't until I was nearing the end of pregnancy that we knew what was going on. So I'm really pleased everything is sorted so early on - Thank you God!

I am so pleased that God knows what he's doing and has everything planned out. And I am trusting in God that this will be a great pregnancy and birth. Already, I have had almost no sickness, and only really had some nausea and tiredness, which is tons better than my last two pregnancies - especially as I have two toddlers to look after!

Hope you are all having good weeks, I can't wait for the weekend! Friday tomorrow! And I am loving the weather we are having - it smells like holidays outside!

xxx

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Reflection

Where are you now? Sitting on your sofa, with a hot drink or perhaps having a quick break? Is the room quiet, do you have company, or are you avoiding the screaming children as they fight over another toy for a hundredth time this afternoon?

Are you calm? Are you sad? Are you holding onto something that you know you need to let go of but can't quite make it to that point?

I find myself sitting in peaceful silence, with just the noise of the water trickling in our aquarium. The soft sound of Erin's lullaby mobile as she drifts off to sleep. It's not very often that I find these moments.

If you'd have said to me 6 years ago, that I would be sitting here, as a wife and a mother, living in Norfolk and being married for nearly 4 years I probably would have laughed in disbelief. If you'd have told me that I gave up all my career prospects to start a family I would have told you that it was highly unlikely. If you'd have told me that I would be sat here, very thankful for all I have but still wondering where I was heading, I probably would have reeled off my 5-10 year plan and said I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve.

I sit here with, if I'm being completely transparent and honest, some regrets. I regret that I feel my life is on hold. I regret that I feel my day to day life is meandering through circumstances out of my control. I regret that I was so set on what I wanted to achieve that I missed the bigger picture.

I know God has plans for me, and for our family. And some of those are starting to move into view. I know that my silly 5-10 year plan, that I sometimes daydream about, really wasn't ever going to push me to my full potential, or challenge me the way my life does now. I also know, that as cliché as it sounds, life is not solely about the destination, but keeping your eyes on the goal and learning through the journey.

My reality right now is being a "home maker". I recently had to fill in a form, which asked for me to state my occupation. I turned to the lady requesting the form to be filled in and simply replied "Occupation? I don't know what to put? What I used to do? I don't have an occupation now!" "Home maker" she replied with a smile.

"Home maker", not "Housewife" or "Mother" or "Dogsbody" or even "PA to my Family". I could have put "Cinderpoppins" as I like to refer to myself as - Cinderella and Mary Poppins all rolled into one.

"Home" - by definition according to the Oxford Dictionary is a place of permanent residence. But further down the specific examples of how it can be used it says this:

"Home - a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates" (www.oxforddictionaries.com)

My occupation is to make a place where my family flourish, where they grow healthily, rapidly and successfully. Where something becomes so attractive it draws people to it. My life being on hold is a ridiculous statement when you consider the meaning of a home maker. That God has directed my life for this season to create, nurture and establish a home people are drawn to. To share life with, to share laughs with, and to share our love for God with.

No stage of our life is ever meaningless, and sometimes you have to look really hard to find the meaning, which you may or may not find. But what we can be sure of, is that EVERYTHING we do has purpose. Every decision we make leads us into something, and if we make those decisions with His wisdom at the forefront of our minds, then we can be sure we are stepping into something amazing.

Spring, seriously where are you!!??

So it's inevitable living in this country that we will have many miserable and overcast days, but seriously, where is Spring!!???

The beauty of British weather is that sometimes it can take just one day to switch seasons. We have been waiting for the day now, and we are almost half way through April with nothing in sight except a few daffodils!

I love Spring, it's warm and bright, and not too hot, and the air smells lovely! I am longing for the days when I want to be outside as much as possible, and able to take the girls for walks.

We moved to Norfolk in the Summer, and so by the time we had settled properly, we were entering Autumn. I can't wait to start exploring our new county in the nicer months, especially considering we have countryside surrounding us.

The estate we live on is new, and still being built. When we moved here our house way the only one completed on our street. We now have an almost complete street and they have recently laid the grass down on some of the properties - and it looks SO nice!

Let's hope we haven't got long to wait, and that by the time it arrives, we will have continues nice weather until Autumn!!!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Meal Planning and Bulk Cooking

Meal Planning... I know... Boring!! But trust me, for the 30 minutes it takes to plan a whole month, it is well worth it! I'm confident it has contributed to our reduced food bills and it's actually made life much easier.

I had a friend when I was at school who had parents that were about 10 years older than mine, and his mum meal planned rigidly. She always needed a good 24 hours notice MINIMUM if he was going to have someone staying for tea - she had no problem in people staying as long as she had lots of notice. I always thought I was glad my mum wasn't like that because she would happily let friends stay for tea and would adapt what she cooked depending on who was in the house. My mum usually decided what we'd have for tea about an hour before she started cooking, and it depended on what food we had in the house.

I also regularly thought "What if I don't fancy that meal on that day?!" There's no way I could plan for what I fancied a month in advance. I think that was our downfall when we were engaged and newly married, we tended to go and buy what we particularly wanted that night rather than use the food in the cupboards - not always but often. (And inevitably buy more things we'd see on offer that we didn't NEED to have.) I suppose it's the student mentality that we both had and although I've always been organised, I've become more so as our family has grown.

I have to say, I don't rigidly stick to what I plan - if we really don't want something, then I switch it with another nights. On the calendar we have 5 columns, the last one being "Meals" so I cross off each one as I've cooked it. That way I can keep track of what meals are "spare" or need to be cooked later on. It's more to limit what we have in the cupboards/freezer so we aren't spending more than necessary.

To be fair, I have gone slightly overboard this month, and bought about 4 joints of meat that were in Aldi's Easter offers, plus we did have left over in the freezer last month. I always plan every day, and as is usually the case, we get invited out to meals or if it's been a long week we treat ourselves to the Chip Shop so there's usually a few spare meals.

Now, what I have been doing the last few weeks is bulk cooking. The girls have been particularly trying recently, and I haven't felt 100% so have been trying to make life a little easier where I can. So if I'm cooking something I'll try and cook two meals at once. Today, I cooked 3, which will probably stretch to more like 4 days worth of meals as my Shepherd's Pie is quite big!!

I went out and bought some new plastic food containers (and sorted out the old ones so I had a top for every container!) and have then frozen meal portions for 2-3 of us. If it means I defrost a whole bag of chicken breasts, and then cook a curry, chicken in black bean sauce, and a sweet and sour, then everyone is a winner! I chop a whole load of onion and pepper, and each meal has the same veg in but a different sauce. All the chicken is cooked in the wok, and then divided between 3 saucepans to have the specifics added for that meal. It takes exactly the same time to make one meal as it does to make three this way.

Obviously that's an example where I haven't made my own sauce, but there are some things that just don't taste the same home made! It then means for 3 nights a week, all I've got to do is defrost the meal, and cook some rice, noodles or whatever with it and actually it makes a HUGE difference if I've had a stressful day.

It means we're not spending lots of money on fast food or takeaway, or even going to the supermarket again for something "quick" to eat - which again means you'll just add another few things into the basket/trolley that we're on your list.

It sounds boring, I know! But try it one week, even if you have time to cook everyday, it means you have more time to play with / tidy up after / put on and off the naughty step with your child (!!!) or catch up on a cup of tea and a piece of cake / book / TV program you recorded last week and still haven't got around to watching.

I'm all for making life easier where possible at the moment, because actually the constant and endless list of jobs to be done can really get you down. And I know for me, in this stage of my life, my list is NEVER going to be completed, my house is never going to be completely clean and spotless, my bedroom is going to be piled high with dry clean washing that I must get around to folding away... and most of all, the toys will still be all over the lounge floor because I've refused to tidy them for the 6th time that day. That's life! I have given up feeling guilty about it, and now accept that one day, I'll look back and think "How on earth did we manage!?"


Monday, 1 April 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Well we've had a busy but great Easter and it's not quite over yet. We had some friends from the Midlands stay with us, and on Good Friday went for a walk and had lunch with our growth group at church.

We have had such busy weekends recently, we've not really had time to stop. But it has been great to be doing things and spending quality time with our friends. After having the girls, each time it took a while to come out of the "baby bubble" and get back into the habit of having people over. Despite having days when I wish we had no plans, those days tend to be full of guilt of what cleaning etc I "MUST get done"! Which inevitably don't!lol!

I want to have a culture with our friends that they can just drop in, or even better just walk in our door shouting "Hi" and put the kettle on!Lol! I'm sure I've posted before about this culture seeming to have disappeared in our generation, but it's important to be in and out of each others homes and lives regularly to build community with each other.

We have been so thankful to have so many people come and visit us since moving to Norfolk, and we are continuing to see people more than when we lived there - as in quality time, not saying a quick "Hi, good week!?" at church or in the street.

I am very thankful this weekend particularly for all we have and all Jesus did for us in order to have the freedom and choice to live our lives, ultimately to live it for Him.

For me, Easter has always been a time for friends and family, much like Christmas but without copious amounts of food and presents. A time to share a meal, share some time, have some fun and remember that He did not have to die for us - but out of Love He chose to save us.

I am so looking forward to the weather improving as I'm sure most of us are! When time with friends can be longer, out in the fresh air, picnics on the beach, walks in the countryside, and most of all, the feeling of an easier life that summer seems to bring.

Whatever you are doing this Easter, have a good one, make time for others and enjoy the wonderful life that we have been given out of Love.