Tag Archives: family

the ups and downs of the week that was

It’s been a busy week this week – I’ve barely blogged at all. It’s been one of those periods where I’ve done lots and gained plenty of inspiration for posts, but for one reason or another the posts don’t get written. But as it’s a Sunday night and I still have (just) enough energy to wave my fingers in the direction of computer keys in a way that may result in words, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of the most memorable parts of the week:

My boys - a moment of brotherly love on a walk.

My boys – a moment of brotherly love on a walk.

  • Along with lots of other parents and carers, I went in to school to do some cooking with my six-year-old and his class. We made a variety of different things, the kids loved having us there and it’s such a positive thing to get parents/carers engaged with school and learning I think. I do wonder how often the school will be able to hold sessions like this in the future though, given the government’s focus on children being able to give the proper description to grammatical utterances and deduce complicated mathematics from lengthy stories. There’s a ranty blog post about ridiculous educational standards and the potential impact on children’s self-esteem building up in me…
  • I was witness to a horrible bullying incident and ended up – along with another parent – comforting a young boy and talking to all his friends about how the bully had been treating him. So I saw both a horrible display of lack of empathy (from the bully) and a touching display of empathetic concern from a group of boys. It’s stayed with me (the poor kid was so upset) and I’ll be taking further action to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • I went to my Grandma’s eighty-seventh birthday party. She’s increasingly frail these days so we were all thrilled that she was able to come to what was quite a large family meal in a lovely hotel. There was much talking and laughing over delicious food and wine but the moment that affected me most during the whole evening was a little look I caught between my Grandma and my ninety-two-year-old Grandpa. It was just after my Grandma had said a little ‘thank you’ speech about how happy she was to see us all there, and the look… it was a look of such love. Of long lasting ‘I’ve loved you through the decades and look what we’ve created together’ love. I was quite bowled over. They’ve been married for sixty-six years. Being with the same person for years and years isn’t always easy – I think we all go through our highs and lows – but that look said it all. That’s love, that.
  • I got to spend some time with my brothers. I love my brothers. There is definitely a post I need to write about how having brothers helps me be a mum to boys.

Lots more happened but I’ll leave it at that as I want to watch some telly (from one screen to another, yes I know, it’ll rot my brain!)

Hope you’ve had good weeks!

a letter to my youngest son on his third birthday

My gorgeous boy,

You are my third child, my youngest son and most definitely my last baby.

You have two big brothers and, when I was pregnant with you, many people speculated about your gender. Some couldn’t seem to help but make assumptions about what we’d want and about what would be ‘ideal’. There seems to be a notion out there that it is best for families to have children of both genders, you see, so this time round a girl would be perfect, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. You see, YOU, my lovely boy, have always been the perfect third child for this family. Before you were born I used to hope for a ‘laid back’ baby – one of those ones that sits around smiling and isn’t bothered by anything much. I didn’t seriously think I’d get a baby like that though… not really, I mean, how could I be that lucky?!

joanne mcneil photography maddy bennett 2013-6338

The five of us on a rainy walk. Photo by Joanne McNeil Photography

But from the moment you made you entrance into the world (after nine days of stop/start labour – see, you’d already decided to take things slow!) you were so chilled-out I could hardly believe it. The moment of your birth was by far the calmest of the three I’ve experienced (let’s just say I don’t give birth easily!) You didn’t even cry. You were immediately placed in my arms and just gazed up at me with a rather serious, inscrutable expression. I cried. You pooed copiously. We laughed. All was well.

When you came home, your brothers fell in love with you immediately, and as soon as you were capable of anything other than gazing inscrutably, it was clear you loved them too. To this day your big brother claims “you gave me your first smile” and I think he might be right. You fitted in to our family like a jigsaw piece – once missing, now found. Absolutely that calm, happy baby I’d hoped for. Ok, sleep was an issue (for two and a half years… ) but during daylight hours you were Mr Laid-back, takes-it-in-his-stride, ‘I’ll just lie here and watch everyone, and bestow smiles and gurgles’.

brotherly love change

Your big brother wrote this for you when you were a baby. Translation “X’s cute, best of all he always smiles, he’s the best baby brother in the world. Specially he loves all of us.”

Your middle brother started school when you were six months old so you and I have spent a lot of quality time together these past three years. You’ve been such a good companion – happy to just be with me at home, ‘helping’ (?!) with the housework and always perfectly content to come along when I meet friends for coffee. In fact, once you got old enough, you even started requesting “We go for coffee?” as soon as we’d dropped your brothers off at school! “You wouldn’t even know he’s there!” is a comment I’ve heard about you in many a cafe as you sat calmly chewing some toast or playing with your toys.

Of course once you hit the terrible twos you got… an opinion on things. I don’t want to pretend you’ve been perfectly reasonable at all times. But then you’re a little person with big emotions, so stroppiness is bound to appear at some points. You’ve always impressed me with your ability to get over tantrums quickly and your insistence that “I’m not naughty, I’m happy!” has been enough to win me over in your difficult moments numerous times.

You’re such an imaginative boy and are able to entertain yourself for ages. Listening to you playing with your toys always brings a smile to my face. Toy cars for you aren’t just vehicles they’re little people with personalities who talk to each other. Last week I overheard a taxi and a london bus having a chat about “going to the shoppings” (one of your favourite pastimes) to buy “bread, crisps and chocolate mousse” – your cars clearly have good taste!

boys doing shape challenge

Your other favourite activities (aside from casting magic spells by yelling “I got a zebra!”) are doing jigsaws and drawing. It’s lovely to watch you and your brothers sitting side by side, concentrating on your art work. You mostly just scribble but have now begun to proudly put your pictures on the fridge yourself. You even managed to draw a picture of me the other day where I had a recognisable form. When I say ‘recognisable form’ I do of course mean I looked like a hammer with a moustache… but you’re getting there!

You are so loving, so sweet and so funny that your Dad and I can’t help ourselves but say “He’s so cute!” far too often. I know it’s ‘far too often’ because this morning you put some teddy-bear slippers on, admired your feet and said, beaming “Oh, I’m so cute!”. I should probably stop calling you that so obviously but, well, you just are!

Now you are three and I’m certain that three boys was exactly right for me and for all of us. I wouldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t be luckier than to have my three little guys and I’m so very glad you’re you.

Lots of love from your doting (and very sentimental but it is your birthday) mummy.

xxx

Little Hearts, Big LoveProse for Thought

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not reflecting on 2015… honest

It’s January, the first day of a new year and the traditional time to look back at the year gone by and make resolutions for the year ahead. I’ve read a lot of reflective posts from fellow bloggers these past few days and toyed with the idea of writing one of my own – almost felt I should write one in fact, as if it’s some kind of blogging law. After all, blogging is a kind of online diary so the task of writing some kind of summary should be so easy that, well, why wouldn’t you?

flooded flieds reflection

What’s stopped me (apart from a rather hectic diary and extremely dodgy broadband due to flooding) is feeling that, compared to others, I didn’t achieve enough last year. You see, I didn’t write an entire novel or find a publisher or an agent. I didn’t write for Huff Post, become Blog Of The Day on Mumsnet or be in the Tots100 index (honestly, I’m not even sure what that is!). Nor did I have a post go viral, gain masses of followers or have glittering associations with exciting brands. I didn’t travel the world, get a promotion at work, have a baby or, or, or… well, all sorts of things.

Which is all FINE, honestly it is. I’d probably explode if all that had happened in one year! But one of the perils of blogging is the almost irresistible urge to compare yourself to others and, while reading the posts of my lovely fellow bloggers was inspiring and heart-warming, I also found myself thinking:

Look at that! A whole book written and published! And this person’s just found an agent and that person’s written a whole novel in a month, and over here someone’s had a baby and still managed to blog nearly every day! They’re all AWESOME! How can I live up to that?!

You don’t have to ‘live up to that’ you fool! The more sensible side of me then counselled, It’s not a competition, you know.

Yes, I know that, but still, look – this person’s written enough poetry in a few months to fill a whole book, and that person’s got a massive promotion at work and…

Oh, SHHHH, didn’t I just say, IT’S NOT A COMPETITION!

Yes but..

Yes but nothing – look, all these things that people have achieved, they’ve managed through hard work, determination and being willing to put themselves out there, to take a few risks maybe…

But, I’ve been doing that too! I mean I worked my socks off on those three picture book manuscripts and I had them professionally edited and I sent them off to agents, and… and I went to my first blogging conference and a whole Writing Festival weekend which was totally out of my comfort zone…

Ah ha! See – you DID achieve some pretty cool things last year then!

I guess… yes?

No question about it… didn’t you write at least one blog post every single week of the year? AND didn’t Louise from ‘Little Hearts, Big Love’ include your blog as one of her top ten of 2015?

She did! It was totally unexpected and REALLY made me smile!

And haven’t you written masses of limericks? Weren’t you (and aren’t you still) an editor for BritMums? Didn’t you read and recommend fantastic books? Don’t you you run a linky that has built up a lovely community around it… in fact you even arranged real life meet up for that linky didn’t you?

Yes – it was fab! Our #WhatImWriting community is SO wonderful and inspiring.

Agreed! And then there’s that other work you do…

Well yes, though I’m not sure I’ve really achieved that much there…

I think you’ll find a quick look at your inbox will reveal an awful lot appreciative emails.

Yes, ok, I guess I have been of some value there too.

Absolutely you’ve been of value! Besides which, I know that one of the things you value most is your friends and this has been a wonderful year for friendship too hasn’t it?

It really has yes, you’ve got me there.

And, AND, you have three young kids! Three young kids who are clothed and fed and happy!

That’s very true…

And I know you’re thinking ‘but I could have been a better parent and I wish I never shouted’ but pah, no one’s perfect and your boys are loved. That’s the most important thing. They’re loved and happy. Trust me, you’re doing fine.

Ok, you win, I…

Wait, one more thing! it was your twenty-first anniversary with your husband just before christmas wasn’t it? That’s worth celebrating!

Oh yes, and we certainly did celebrate! I get it, I get it… thanks sensible side, you’ve made me see sense, I’ve achieved plenty this year and it doesn’t matter that it’s not exciting things like book publications, career advances and meeting celebrities (oh wait, I did do that), it’s the little things. I’ve kept chugging along, taking little risks and putting lots of time and energy into relationships which is what matter most. Now I come to think of it – 2015 was a pretty awesome year.

Totally! So… are you going to write that reflective, summary post now?

What, the one where I look back over 2015 and include links to lots of other blog posts?

That’s the one.

Nah, I can’t really be bothered. ;)

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And then the fun began...

a winter’s tale

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our twenty-first anniversary. We’re still only in our thirties so those of you with a mathematical bent will have already realised that means we got together in our teens!

lovebirds 1996

The two of us back in 1996

That day was a pretty magical one in my memory. It was the last day of Christmas term (yes, we were still at school – that’s how young we were!) and we were supposed to be going into town after school with a mutual friend of ours. At the last minute this friend suddenly couldn’t come (I’ve always wondered if it was a deliberate act on her part, to finally get us to admit our feelings for each other), so the two of us were unexpectedly on our own.

We walked into town side by side, shared a coke in a (rather crappy) cafe and wandered around amidst the pretty lights and festive sparkles, laughing and chatting about nothing in particular while each trying to pluck up the courage to say something more meaningful. The hours slipped by far too fast, and we soon had to walk back to school so he could catch the last bus home. It was dark by then and bitingly cold. The thrill of anticipation in the air between us outshone even the twinkling lights in the trees that lined our path. Finally, as we drew close to the school gates, my husband-to-be took the plunge – he told me I was beautiful and that he loved me. We kissed under the street lamps, and that was that. Our history was made.

Ten years later we got married and another eleven further down the track we have three gorgeous boys, a home and a lovely life together. It hasn’t all been plain sailing – we’ve certainly had our share of arguments over the years and we’ve had to put a lot of work into keeping our relationship healthy and strong. But it’s been totally worth it.

Yesterday I dug out some old photos of us. The one above is from a holiday in France that we went on with friends in 1996. I showed it to my sons last night and my eight-year-old said, incredulously, “Is that… Daddy?!!!! He was so good looking! No wonder you carried on kissing him, Mummy, he was one cool dude!

My husband put the photo on Facebook and one of his friends commented, “Is that the summer you destroyed the Horcruxes?” – a reference which implied he looked liked Harry Potter. This thrilled my son even more! Of course the photo was taken before Harry Potter was even published so he got there with the round glasses and the floppy fringe before Harry did. Just sayin’.

So there you have it; a love story that began one wintry day over two decades ago. A lot has changed since then; those young people have grown up and are now rather more weighed down by life’s responsibilities. We’ve both lost something of our youthful sparkle. But somewhere – and always – underneath it all, we’re still those teenagers in love.

Little Hearts, Big Love

halloween limerick

I’ve always enjoyed pumpkin carving – I used to do it as a child and loved that moment when the candles were lit, the lights went out and your artwork came to life!

My sons now love making them too. The first year we tried them we cut the classic grinning faces but then a couple of years ago I bought a pumpkin carving kit from the supermarket (it came with special little tools and a booklet of designs) and we’ve never looked back.

halloween pumpkins

I have to admit I love these ones and they look much more complicated than they actually were to make- the kits are so easy to use! My 8-year-old carved the witch one mostly by himself with only a little help, my 6-year-old made the grinning bat one (although he mostly did some rather over-zealous scraping out of innards rather than the actual cut out) and my toddler carved the spider himself. I didn’t help at all *ahem*. We had great fun doing it and we even made a rather tasty pumpkin soup afterwards, so I felt super-halloween-smug.

Limerick addict that I am, I then felt compelled to write a little something:

Pumpkins look great on a ledge
But ensure they’re away from the edge
Lest a nudge from a breeze
A cough or a sneeze
Turns your art into – SPLAT – roasted veg.

Happy Halloween!

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Lego wedding

I’m a big fan of Lego – I love the way it encourages creativity, concentration and imaginative play. My sons and I have whiled away many an hour happily sitting on the floor building, and I’m getting much better at sharing my blocks these days too.

I’ve got three boys and the older two have been getting Lego for birthday and christmas presents for years now so we’ve amassed quite a collection. We haven’t remotely kept all the various kits separate though and now have a messy box-load of the stuff which includes Ninjago (lots of ninjas, flying machines and fighty bits), Chima (weird claws, beaks and flames from what I can gather), City (houses, shops, beach-side diners) Hobbit (creatures and scenery), superhero (vehicles and set pieces) and even a sprinkling of Lego Friends (mostly pink). With all those to chose from, the boys come up with loads of different creations and i never know what they’re going to come up with next. The following is an example:

lego wedding

8yo son: “Look – we’ve made a lego wedding! Bride, husband, guests, person doing the wedding, singer…”
Me: “Great!… And who’s that over there?” (on the left)
8yo: “Oh, that’s just someone having his head chopped off for trying to kill the bride.”
 

Just your average wedding then…

There is, apparently, a proper Lego wedding set available but I bet it’s not a patch on this creation. I wonder what the dress code was?

Little Hearts, Big Love

the things they say #4

My toddler loves vehicles – really loves them. He waves at cars wherever we go, squeals with delight at trains and is forever pointing at aeroplanes. He even goes to bed every night clutching several toy cars (along with a silkie and an enormous fluffy teddy). I gave up trying to part him from them long ago. They may be hard and therefore not make the ideal bedtime companion, but he likes to run them along the bars of his cot and it seems to soothe him to sleep. (Well, that and singing “Let it Go” to himself!)

One of his favourite vehicles is a motorbike. We live up a hill and can often hear them in the distance. He always shouts “Ooooh! Zoombike!” delightedly at them and waves wildly regardless of whether they can see him or not.

His other great love is animals. He knows the names of loads because he’s always pointing them out in books and asking what they are. He was thrilled when his cereal this morning came in a box with a picture of penguins on it. “Ooooh! crunkins!” he exclaimed.

So I decided to combine two of his loves and draw him a picture. Not a very good picture I hasten to add (perhaps I should have asked my seven-year-old to draw one instead), but he appreciated it nonetheless:

penguins on a motorbike

crunkins on a zoombike…

 

Little Hearts, Big Love

quidditch limerick – limerick challenge #26

My oldest son has been obsessed with Harry Potter since last Christmas when we gave him the first book in the series. Since then he’s taken every opportunity to give whatever he does a Harry Potter theme. He writes stories about  him, draws pictures, makes potions, he’s built a whole Harry Potter world on Minecraft… he even has an uncanny ability to make all his homework about Harry Potter!

He asked me to write a Harry Potter limerick for him a while back – which I did – but, of course, one wasn’t enough. More recently he set me the challenge of writing one about quidditch – the sport that is played in all the HP books. Don’t ask me why, but somehow it felt like cheating not to have that word at the end of the first line and thus part of the rhyme.

Quidditch match  - by my seven-year-old

Quidditch match – by my seven-year-old

But what rhymes with ‘quidditch’? You might be thinking.

What indeed:

The secret to winning at quidditch

Is eating a lot of fresh spinach

It will give you great speed

And the skills that you need

To administer major ass-kickage.

 

Ok, I didn’t exactly nail it. Try reading it out loud after a few glasses of wine though and the rhymes start to sound almost reasonable. Promise.

My son drew the picture – I think it’s his best yet! He wasn’t so convinced by the limerick – he liked the spinach rhyme but I had to explain what ‘ass-kickage’ was, which took away from the impact. He did award me marks for ‘trying really hard’ though. :)

***

Since first publishing this post I ended up writing another quidditch limerick while engaged in a sort of ‘limerick-off’ (like a dance-off only involving emailed limericks rather than dancing!) with my uncle. I thought I’d share it here since it is even sillier than the first:

 

I once played the great sport of quidditch

With sea-creatures hailing from Redditch

The seals were sensational

The lobsters… crustaceanal

But all the fresh air made the squid itch.

 

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meet the family

Is it night time where you are? If so, look out of your window now… look up… see that glowing orb in the sky? That’s me that is.

… Well through my toddler’s eyes anyway. And ok it’s not the ACTUAL moon he mistakes for me it’s a particular picture of a rosy-cheeked crescent moon in one of his favourite books, but still, it’s not a bad thing to be compared to.

I am married to a snake though. In fact, according to my toddler we have rather an odd family set-up. In all the books we read to him, snakes are enthusiastically called “daddy snake!” and frogs are invariably named after his five-year-old brother. Meanwhile there’s a cat in ‘Slinky Malinki’ books (by Lynley Dodd) that he’s convinced is his seven-year-old brother. Then I’m the moon of course.

To give you a clearer idea, I’ve done a family portrait:

our animal family

Our family, in all our glory…

The funny thing is, I can see what he means. Of course he knows the animals (and celestial object) aren’t really us but he’s managed to pick up on something about each of us and see it in the pictures – the 5yo’s cheeky face, the 7yo’s slim physique, my rosy cheeks (and pointed nose) and his dad’s *whispers* increasingly hairless head…

If you’re wondering about the bee, I drew it to represent the toddler because it didn’t seem right to have a family picture without him in it. His brothers and I decided a smiley bee suited him – he’s little (both the youngest family member and small for his age) and gets on with things, just like bees do.

I’d better go, night is falling and there’s somewhere I should be…

Little Hearts, Big Love

limerick challenge #25 – tiger

At the weekend my sons asked me to write a limerick about a tiger. I foolishly thought it would be quite a straight-forward one to write but somehow, despite all the rhymes for ‘tiger’ I thought up, it was tough to make it into a limerick. The one I ended up with had several endings all of which my older son objected to as ‘too grisly’. This one might strike a chord for the modern-day mountaineer though…

 

There once was a plucky young tiger

Who scaled the north face of the Eiger

But her ‘look at me!’ tweet

To show off this feat

Wouldn’t send – drat! No service provider!

 

Tiger on the Eiger holding a smart phone. Helicopters are hovering above (I'd worried him with grizzly ending  you see so he was making sure the tiger got home safely.

Tiger on the Eiger holding a smart phone. Helicopters are hovering above (I’d worried him with grisly ending you see, so he was making sure the tiger got home safely).

And if you’re wondering about my alternative versions, I’ll throw this one in for free:

 

There once was a plucky young tiger

Who scaled the north face of the Eiger

Where she fell from the top

Landed SPLAT on her bot

And splattered her guts far and wide(er).

 

There was another one where she got eaten by vultures too!

The picture was drawn by my seven-year-old using some new pastels he’s got that are water-soluble, hence it looking a bit like a painting. He found it tough to get any detail with them but they were pretty fun to use – I had a go too!

I wonder if you can send a tweet from the top of the Eiger?
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