Tag Archives: #magicmoments

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

egg-cellent easter

It was Easter Sunday yesterday and we had a very egg-citing day (sorry, couldn’t resist).

easter collage

Although my five-year-old had concerns that the Easter Bunny would be eaten by my parents’ new puppy, thankfully no such catastrophe occurred and all chocolate eggs were safely delivered! We then had an Easter-egg hunt, decorated eggs (do you recognise the fictional character that my seven-year-old made his into – above?) and had a lovely family lunch. The boys also had great fun smashing the big chocolate egg (pictured above, both before and during the smashing) which we all enjoyed stuffing our faces with afterwards. The sun even came out and allowed us to sit outside WITHOUT COATS ON!

My two year old loved it all and spent a lot of time saying things like, “Locklit! (chocolate) My locklit! I want it, a locklit!” Yes, I’m afraid his usual good manners were entirely lost in the face of such temptation but who can blame him really? I’m afraid we all may have overindulged a bit. Today I’m in recovery – I will be eating nothing but carrots ;)

I hope you all had a very Happy Easter too!

P.S We’re taking Easter off from #WhatImWriting so there will be no link-up tomorrow – I’ve barely written a thing in the Easter holidays anyway, so have nothing to report!

Little Hearts, Big Love

two!

My littlest guy turned two this weekend. TWO – how on earth did that happen?! Is it me or does it feel like the more kids you have, the faster they age? I’m pretty sure he was only born last week but somehow two years have gone by!

2nd cakeMuch of the last week has been taken up with preparations for the big day. My older two boys made him lots of cards and presents, drew him pictures and generally got really excited about the idea of a party.

My seven-year old has helped me lots with the preparation, coming to choose food and party bag presents with me and spending hours making buns and the cake. He announced on one shopping trip: “It’s lots of work getting ready for a birthday isn’t it? Did you know that? I never knew that before but now I do!” and then on the morning of the birthday, “Today is going to be a lot of work isn’t it Mummy? I really think you’re going to need my support!” Love him.

The day went without a hitch… oh, ok I was up to my elbows in icing, still frantically sticking Peppa Pig toppers to the buns as the guests were arriving and my son was hoovering (did I ever tell you he rocks?) so we weren’t completely on top of the organisation but hey, the birthday boy had a great time. I’m not sure he really knew what it was all about but he was thrilled by the cake, shouting “Canoo, hot!” at the candles and he loved opening all the presents.

It was lovely to see our friends too – we met while pregnant with our firstborns so have been through nearly eight years of parenting side by side and all our kids have pretty much grown up together. The twelve of them made a lot of noise rushing around the house but they were all very happy and the grownups even managed a bit of a chat over the ruckus!

Once songs had been sung, food had been devoured and little feet had danced their socks off, the guests left and our three boys collapsed, exhausted on the sofa for a big cuddle. They almost went to sleep that way – like a heap of contented puppies – before we’d even got them upstairs.

When they were finally all in bed and we had poured ourselves celebratory glasses of wine we heard our (newly) two year old’s little voice over the monitor singing himself to sleep. Guess what he was singing?

“Hatta doofay to you, hatta doofay to you… ”

A sure sign he’d had a ‘happy birthday’ I reckon.

Little Hearts, Big Love


what makes you happy?

happy badge

I’ve been tagged by Chrissie in this lovely meme about happiness. Right now I’m sitting on the sofa drinking a beer as the sun sets so it seems a good time to answer the questions:

Who makes you happy?

  • My husband. We’ve been together for twenty years come this December. Twenty years! We were teenage sweethearts. We met at school and have been together ever since. I wouldn’t call our relationship a fairy-tale but it’s fair to say I’d be lost without him. He’s my rock and he really makes me laugh. Plus of course he’s the father of:
  • My children. My three boys. There’s no one I love more. They’re a brilliant mixture of personalities – my seven-year-old is so sensitive and empathic, my five-year-old is hilarious, and the baby (he’s 18 months old but will always be a baby to me) is so laid-back and cute. Plus he can sing which is cool. Yes, they drive me mad, but the madness:happiness ratio is definitely in the right direction.
  • My family – parents, brothers, grandparents, wider family. They’re a lovely bunch and I’m sure the childhood they provided me with is the bedrock of the happiness I have now.
  • My friends. I’m definitely a ‘quality not quantity’ person but am lucky enough to have made some wonderful friends over the years, ones I truly love. My two oldest friends I’ve known since birth/toddlerhood and are more like sisters to me. Since having my first son I’ve made some lifelong friends and I shudder to think how I would have coped through the early years of motherhood without them!

What makes you happy?

  • Writing. It’s my escape, my ‘me time’, my opportunity to imagine and explore whole other lives and worlds. I love it.
  • Reading. It’s a combination of escapism and connection.
  • Good TV. I’ve got a bit of a thing for ‘Nordic Noir’ (especially The Bridge), my husband and I are currently working our way through box sets of Breaking Bad and I love sci fi. I have a special place in my heart for Star Trek TNG which I grew up with. Come to think of it, bad telly also makes me happy – bad films too: ‘Sharknado’ anyone?
  • Listening to Nat King Cole. The man had a voice like Christmas. Just hearing the opening bars of ‘Unforgettable’ makes me feel I’m sitting in an armchair before a roaring log fire, drinking mulled wine while snow falls softly outside. Which are, incidentally, also things that make me happy.
  • Sleep. I’m a parent. ’nuff said.

Where makes you happy?

  • A little village in the Swiss Alps called Wengen. The mountain range that surrounds it is stunningly beautiful. I first went there aged eight and have been back there six or seven times since. I haven’t been for six years and am desperate to go again! My Grandfather is Swiss so I always feel the mountains are calling to me (if that doesn’t sound too hopelessly romantic… which it does.)
  • Wide, open spaces. As in, the natural world. I live on the side of a hill in Northumberland. It’s not exactly the centre of civilisation and it’s not for everyone but it works for me. When I get stressed I only have to look out of the window at the fields and the trees (and the sheep) to feel things getting back into perspective.
  • My home. I’m a total homebody. It’s where my husband and kids are and my books and my computer, my music, telly and stash of sweets. Home is where my heart and my happiness lie.

I’m tagging fellow-writer Morgan at Shaking away the Cobwebs. Looking forward to reading your post Morgan!

the tale of the missing finger

“Did I ever tell you the story of how I lost my finger?”

As a child, these words from my grandfather would always make me prick up my ears. He hadn’t lost a whole finger, just the top section of one of them, but it was enough to add an air of mystery to him, and I – and  his other grandchildren – would listen with rapt attention to the tales he told.

My grandparents walking in the alps.

My grandparents walking in the alps – is some sort of finger-chopping drama about to unfold?

Because there wasn’t just one tale, there were many; each one with its own exciting highs and (finger) crushing lows. There was the one where, walking in the alps, he had saved a cable car of people from plunging to their doom by putting his finger into the mechanism, bringing it to a halt moments before it plunged its terrified occupants off a cliff. Another version involved him stopping a dam from bursting (which would have drowned a village full of children) by putting his finger in it, and having it bitten off by a passing shark. Other stories had him stopping a runaway train, encountering a toothy ghost in a haunted house, and inventing a new flavour of ice cream when his finger got caught in the mechanism of one that only produced vanilla (eurgh!)

Of course, we kids knew that not all of these stories could be true. In fact we guessed – even then – that none of them were and that the perils and heroics were purely for our benefit. But that didn’t matter and took nothing from the thrill of his stories, especially with a real missing bit of finger as a prop!

My grandfather’s tales are one of my favourite childhood memories, so when we visited my grandparents last weekend it was with genuine pleasure that I watched him (aged ninety-one) tell my boys ‘the tale of how I lost my finger’.  The sight of their awed expressions and hearing their excited giggles and gasps took me right back to my own childhood and I felt very lucky to be able to share in this moment between a great-grandfather and his great-grandsons.

I love stories in all their forms but there’s something about this passing of tales face-to-face between generations of family members that feels like storytelling at its purest. I hope that by sharing these stories with my sons we can continue this family tradition down the generations for many, many years to come.

And as for how my grandfather really lost his finger? I honestly have no idea… and that’s exactly how I like it.

kicking the demon and climbing the mountain

tryptich 5At the start of May I set myself the challenge of writing the first 20,000 words of my novel in the space of a month. It felt like quite a mountain to climb as, what with three kids, work and life in general, I don’t have much free time.

My previous attempts at writing a book had stalled at around the 8,000 word mark and left me feeling a bit disheartened. I was really starting to doubt myself. Maybe I was destined to grind to a halt around chapter four of any first draft? Did I really have the required focus to write a whole book? Let alone get through the endless, necessary redrafts? And anyway, who said what I wrote would be any good anyway?

Self-doubt can be quite a crippling thing. I’ve described mine before as an ugly, squelchy, belchy demon who sits nearby lobbing insults at me. He’s stopped me writing before and used to make it almost impossible for me to EVER let ANYONE see what I had written. Blogging has helped me deal with some of this; kind of like throwing an old sack over his head so he’s not quite as visible as before and his voice is a bit more muffled. But I can still hear him (especially when he shouts) and I know he’s still there.

But self-doubt demons are not the sort of creature who should be listened to and I decided that what would help me give him a hearty kick was to set myself a writing target. I know what I’m like; I hate to be beaten, so it was bound to be a good motivator and a good reason to ignore my writing-nemesis.

It was a busy month and I thought at times that I wouldn’t manage it… but…

I DID! A few days ago I reached chapter ten and 20,223 words! I got a massive feeling of achievement and awarded myself a large gin. Oh ok, I was already drinking the large gin as I wrote.

I know there’s such a long way to go before I have a book that’s even close to finished. The first 20,000 words of the first draft really only gets me to the lower, grassy slopes of the novel-writing mountain and nowhere near the snow-capped peaks… but it’s something. And actually, right now, it feels like a big something.

And what’s even better is I seem to have lost Mr Squelchy Belchy Somewhere along the way. Oh it’s not permanent; he’ll be back to shout insults (and quite probably bite me… did I tell you he has huge yellow teeth?) but for now he’s a little way back on the mountain trail. So before he catches me up (and before I mix any more metaphors) I’m going to publish this post and get back to my writing!

I’m linking up with Magic Moments over at The Olivers Madhouse because hitting my target really was a magic moment for me this week!


limerick challenge #6

Chickens

Chickens

We’re on to week six of of our #limerick challenge here in the bubble house! And the reason I say ‘our’ challenge instead of ‘my’ challenge is because it really does feel like a thing we do as a family. The original idea was that the boys would give me a theme and I would write a limerick about it, but with every passing week they are getting more keen to illustrate the limerick and their pictures are getting more detailed. My husband also likes to join in and it does help me to have someone to bounce ideas off (despite the macabre suggestions he tends to make!)

This week the boys wanted me to write about a chicken. They then wanted me to find images of chickens on the internet so that they could make their drawings as ‘accurate’ as possible (as you can see by my four-year-old’s drawing above. Ahem.) They decided between them who was going to do the ‘before’ picture (i.e the one that depicts the animal but doesn’t show you what is going to happen to it) and the ‘after’ picture (which illustrates the events of the limerick). My six-year-old was thrilled to be able to do the latter. If you know small boys then you’ll see why when you read it!

I must warn you, this week’s creation is rather revolting. My sons fell about laughing: it’s very childish!

 

There was an artistic young chicken

Who was awesome at cuttin’ and stickin’

When her glue was all gone

She still carried on

Using snot, ‘cos her nose needed pickin’

 

Chicken picking her nose and using the snot to glue a collage of a lion...

Chicken picking her nose and using the snot to glue a collage of a lion…


limerick challenge #2

image (6)

a crocodile surveying his freezer-food options

For this week’s limerick challenge my sons wanted me to write about a crocodile. I asked them if they could think up any rhymes and they came up with ‘flopodile’ and ‘pocodile’… so I moved swiftly over to my husband who suggested our croc find himself in the ‘dock on trial’. Although this was quite promising, the boys preferred the idea of the crocodile being in the supermarket. Right then.

After much flinging aside of ridiculous/wonderful rhymes (‘run a mile’, ‘mocking smile’ to name but a couple) we eventually came up with this:

 

There once was a crafty young crocodile

who’d sneak into Asda and wait a while

he’d lurk by the celery

devour people merrily

then, sated, would head to the pudding aisle.

 

Not a single mention of bottoms this week – the boys were a bit disappointed! They did draw me some lovely pictures of crocodiles to add to this post though. And they wrote about it all for our happy memories jar too!

 

a less murderous crocodile pushing his trolley round ASDA

a less murderous croc pushing his trolley round Asda

 

limerick challenge #1

an artist's interpretation of a hippo.

an artist’s (ok, my son’s) interpretation of a hippo.

Last weekend I spent Sunday lunchtime writing limericks with my husband and kids. We had a lot of fun coming up with silly rhymes and the boys enjoyed seeing how many times they could get ‘bum’ and ‘poo’ into any sentence! I posted our favourite ones here.

It was a challenge to come up with limericks based on suggestions from the kids (in fact limericks are quite difficult full stop, I think), so I ended up feeling my brain had been well exercised. I really enjoyed it though – we all did – so I’ve decided to set myself the weekly challenge of writing a limerick on a subject of my kids choosing.

I can’t promise they will all be great… in fact I CAN promise they WON’T be, but I’ll be posting them on a Monday. What better way to start the week than with a chuckle over ridiculous bad rhymes? (and – given I’m writing for my kids – quite possibly bottoms)?

So, without further ado, here is this week’s limerick:

 

There once was a daft hippopotamus

who phoned the police to report a loss

he said: “I appear

to have misplaced my rear,

for when I turn round I seem bottom-less”

 

See, bad rhymes and bottoms… you were warned…

 

baby love

mum and baby

I am besotted with my baby. There’s just no other way of putting it. He’s eleven months old now which seems to me to be a completely delicious age: he’s full of character but hasn’t started to assert himself and shout ‘no’ at me yet!

Of course, I love his older brothers just as much, and my feelings for them have grown into something more complex as they have developed. I think maternal love can only grow deeper as children get older and become more themselves.

But there’s something so primal about the way a mother loves a baby and which is reflected right back in the way a baby loves her. I’ve never spent more than a couple of hours away from my little one but when I greet him after any separation it’s still a thrill for both of us.

And he’s my last baby so I’ve been really making sure I make the most of our time together. Milestones this time round are bittersweet because I know they are the ‘last firsts’. That sounds a bit maudlin which is not how I mean it; I love seeing him develop. It’s just sometimes, especially after his bedtime feed when I’m alone with him in the near-darkness and he’s all warm and sleepy in my arms, I can’t help but wish I could freeze time somehow. To stay in that moment where life is as simple as the bond between us. That’s what inspired me to write this poem:

 

Beloved

You are warm in my arms
snuggled to my chest
soft hair tickling me
with every breath

My gaze caresses you
drinking you in
the curve of your brow
your flawless skin

Plump cheeks flushed
in the nightlight’s glow
pink lips tracing
a cupid’s bow

Your eyelashes fluttering
as dreams drift by
contentment caught
in a sleeping sigh

As I stroke your fingers,
brush your nose with a kiss
I ache at the thought
of losing moments like this

And wish I could capture
forever this time
when, tiny and perfect,
you are utterly mine.

I’m linking this up with Prose for Thought over at Verily Victoria Vocalises.