The most magical moment!!

If you have read my blog recently you will know that we, (probably I) lost the youngest much loved “Blankie” in October half term and life in our household has not been the same since.

After the initial shock of driving five and a half hours back to Kent from Preston and realising Blankie wasn’t with us, the youngest seem to get over it relatively quickly.  My friend and I on the other hand were texting, calling and emailing anyone and everyone we had come into contact with.  My friend even went to the B&B to check the room herself – Nada.  No one had (or admitted to having) Blankie.  I have my suspicions that it was left in the back of a taxi, (maybe by me after too many gins) and the driver simply binned it, but who knows.

A week went by and whilst I was chatting to the youngest he asked when Blankie would be home.  Without thinking I flippantly said “Ah never buddy!  You’ve (probably I’ve) well and truly lost Blankie forever”…..  Oh dear, then the sobbing started, and the gin mummy guilt kicked in.

He couldn’t believe Blankie was actually gone, never to be seen again, ever.  Blankie had been his best friend since birth.  We had never gone anywhere without it, all our friends knew Blankie, our neighbours, our family, he was part of the fabric of our family (excuse the pun!), it was like losing a limb, or a loved family pet.

Weeks went by and the sobbing subsided, but every now and then he would come to me for a cuddle and to let me know he still really missed Blankie.  On the days he wasn’t showing sadness the eldest was quick to antagonise him….”You didn’t love Blankie at all!!”,  “You’ve not cried about him for ages, you’ve just forgotten him!”.  Cue tears from the youngest….and frustrated anger from me at the eldest for starting him off again.

I had to do something….

Blankie had been bought by my mum in Arizona, nine years earlier in Walmart.  In other words, there was no chance of buying a new one.  It was like trying to re-buy a t-shirt you’d bought your three yr old in Sainsburys nine years ago…

I took to Google just in case….scanning by image; Boys blue fleece blanket, boys fleece blanket, baby boy blue fleece blanket, Walmart plane blanket, boy vehicle blanket Walmart…… I tried every variation I could – Nothing….I looked for over an hour.

A few days later, re-energised, I had another quick look: Boys car, helicopter, plane, blue fleece Walmart blanket…..BINGO!!!

Got to love eBay !!

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It was Blankie! It was used, but it had to be to be realistic.  I bought it immediately and paid more for the postage than the actual blanket, but crikey it was worth it.

It took three and a half weeks to get Blankie in through the front door, and as soon as I opened it, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I secretly washed it in our washing powder, and then decided to hide it so Santa could be the hero on this occasion –  I thought it may be a nice touch, to keep the magic alive, especially for the eldest who is heavily suspicious of the old man’s realism.

It nearly killed me keeping it a secret.  Everything else faded into insignificance, I was like the little boy in the first John Lewis Christmas Advert.  I could not wait for Christmas morning for him to open it, and see his little face.

Then as the build up to Christmas intensified, we sadly and unexpectedly lost my mother-in-law.  The whole house was devastated so I explained about white feathers, and how now that “Nanny Fan” was in heaven, every time we saw a white feather, it was from her angel wings, and it meant she was with us.  The youngest loved this idea and for the next 3 days found them everywhere.  Every time he found one he would give it to his dad, or put it on his dad’s pillow to try to cheer him up….it was very special to watch.

So Christmas morning came, and the boys worked their way through Santa’s gifts.  Blankie was second to bottom in the sack, and with two remaining presents the youngest decided to stop for a while – AGH!!  It was killing me…..but for years I’d told the boys to pace themselves, it was now coming back to bite me!

Eventually he couldn’t wait any longer, and he started to open the special package.  I just managed to get my phone to it in time….phew!

I’ll warn you, there were tears….from both of us….short but sweet…Enjoy!

Sorry it was so short, but the boy needed a hug and the phone got dropped.  The best part for me, was a few hours later when he found a white feather attached to Blankie, and said “Mummy look, Nanny!! I bet she helped Santa find him and bring him home”

The most magical moment – my own little John Lewis Christmas advert! Gin mummy guilt gone…..

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When you least expect it….

It’s taken me two weeks to write this blog, because I’ve not really known how to express myself, or felt I should.  Which for those who know me, may seem surprising…..but this is both personal and restrictive, and not really mine to tell.

My last blog to you was all full of the joys of christmas drinking and gift wrapping, and then suddenly the atmosphere in the house changed, and we were really not expecting it….

I had gone out with my team for our Christmas party on the Wednesday night and when I got home the hubby told me his mum had once again been admitted to hospital. Neither of us thought much of it as this was her 4th visit this year, however the hubby suggested she may not be out for Christmas day, but would hopefully be out the next day.  This would give her at least one turkey dinner with us, something she’d been talking about for weeks.

The next evening he went to see her, and then came home as normal.  He went to work Friday morning, and I settled into day one of the Christmas holidays with the boys.  Then I got the phone call, she hadn’t made it through the night, and I needed to tell him. He was still on the train on his way to work, it was the hardest call I had ever had to make.  He came home a ghost, and the Christmas vibe in our house dissipated at pace.

We told the boys, who were devastated, and gradually he told his remaining extended family members.  It was 22nd December, 3 sleeps till Santa, my boys had suddenly lost their adored Nanny, and my husband had lost his very dear mum…..

We got through Christmas, with as much joy as we could muster.  I needed to keep the balance right, always remembering, but also tastefully not ruining Christmas.  We toasted every drink to her, (my god there were lots!!) and on 25th ate the turkey she had bought for us all.  Her gifts from us were under the tree, as were her cards and cheques for the grandchildren.  I printed various photos for all the kids with their Nanny and framed them, finding an extra special one for the hubby.  Of course the youngest wore his best outfit, just for her.

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I personally felt her there with us every day.  She was a huge part of our family life, in particular on Sunday lunchtimes, when she would enjoy half a bottle of red and a good roast.  She’d sit watching us potter and chatter away about our lives, and this Christmas was no different.  To me anyway……the hubby is not there yet, nor do I expect him to be for some time.

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We’ve not yet had the death certificate, so have not been able to plan anything, just tried to keep spirits up.  We are immensely fortunate to have some amazing friends who have rallied around and distracted the hubby in particular, but I know this will take a while.

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So I’m really sorry for the delay in the blog, and I’m so sorry the first in 2018 is not the usual chirpy piece, but I would like you to take this as a reminder to hug those closest to you.  Give them a kiss before you say goodbye and remember to call them back.  You just never know if it’s the last time you’ll see or speak to them.

The last time I saw my lovely mother-in-law she was trying a jalapeno for the very first time, at 76yrs old!!  It was the tiniest piece and it blew her head off, oh how we laughed at her!!  It is a great last memory and great quality time, for me and all the kids, and I thank her for this.

I’ll be back with gusto next week, I promise, and if this past fortnight has taught me anything it’s to make the most of now, so expect  big things in 2018 – this is our year!!!  Love to all of you who have experienced similar pain this holiday, when you least expect it.  As I said to the family this Christmas, it’s your job now to “Make it count!”, don’t let them down.

Happy new year to you all!  I’m saving all the funnies till next time – I have plenty!  But for now this is dedicated to Rita….I love you ‘Reet’, you were a fabulous Nanny to my kids and an incredible mother-in-law, and I know I was the envy of many of the hubby’s friend’s wives – I got very, very lucky.

I hope you’re up there dancing a totally painless jig to a bit of Brendan Shine right now!!  Always in our hearts and at the end of our dining table drinking a vino….X

A great Christmas idea in theory!!

This time of year, for me, is all about wrapping gifts…..and trying to do it in secret.  I used to love wrapping as a teenager, full of the excitement of making the little I could afford look impressive.  Now, like packing, I dread it.  Trying to fit it in, remembering to keep santa’s paper different to mummy’s wrapping paper.  Making sure both boys have the same amount, not going overboard, but looking impressive enough on Christmas morning to retain the magic.

This year, (Friday in fact), my dear friend and neighbour and I decided to do it together over a few Christmas cocktails. As kind of a support network for wrapping Mums….! She arrived at mine (having walked across the road) with about 6 bags of goodies to wrap, and a box full of festive paper, tags and tassels.  As the boys were still awake, we put all her bags in the front room, and cracked on with a Christmas cocktail

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Two very large ones (each), and a bottle of prosecco later, the boys were put to bed.  We had a bit of dinner, grabbed a bottle of white and moved into the front room to tackle the wrapping….

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What a complete disaster!!  We were smashed….There was little piling, grouping or planning, no ribbons, or even labels.  The wrapped, un-named gifts were piling up, and the wine was still going down.  At one point panic set in and a massive, black, whiteboard marker came out to initial each package….Does santa do big Ns and Ts on his gifts?  I think he does now!!

We got there in the end, but I’ll be honest, I’ve not a clue what I have wrapped.  The boys gifts have definitely been mixed up and I’m sure they’ll be getting nanny’s bed socks, and daddy’s wallet…. There was unexplained blood all over the lounge carpet from a mysterious cut on my foot, and a few empty bottles….

We managed it, it eventually looked tidy again, and so once the gifts were safely hidden in the cupboard under the stairs, we went back to finish the wine…..and then I fell asleep, and my lovely friend had to let herself out – epic fail all around!

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It’s not all a complete car crash though…..The one gift I know I have wrapped is the winner of the best gift ever prize.  We lost the youngest’s “blankie” in Preston in October.  Pure and utter sadness hit the whole household (and many of our friends) when the news really hit home – Blankie had been bought in Arizona from Walmart by my mum, ten years ago, and had been the biggest part of our babies’ lives.  It was incredibly unlikely I would every be able to buy another.

I had chased up everyone I could think of to try to find the old one but nothing.  After MUCH searching, I did finally find an identical “blankie” on ebay. I ordered it from a random woman in America, cost me a fortune, but it arrived, and I know I wrapped it on Friday. I am just not sure which pile it ended up in!!

No one believes “Blankie” will ever be seen again, so I’m hoping this little package will rejuvenate the magic only Father Christmas can bring on Christmas morning….the rest is anyone’s guess!!

I’ll let you know how it goes…! It was a great idea in theory….and with a little tweaking will become an annual tradition!!

Nativity Nightmare!

It’s that week, again, you know the one that you long for all you.  The one you see your little cherubs playing some cute, expressive, singing nativity character.  You long for Mary or Joseph, of even a speaking part, but every year it ends in disappointment….

This year the youngest apparently ‘chose’ to be a shepherd.  He came home with a note explaining how I needed to find a long striped shirt and a tea towel, I have 3 weeks notice, sounds easy enough.  Sadly all the long shirts in our house drowned him and made him look more like Wee Willy Winkie, into the loft rummaging for the ‘clothes he’ll grow into’ bag.  Finally having located an old shirt of the eldest’s, I thought the tea towel bit would be a breeze… not so.

I suddenly realised how hic a state my tea towels were in.  Now, I’m not a messy person, a dirty person, I clean up frequently, but it appears the stained, ripped state of my (our) tea towels has bypassed my observations.  What must people think when they come around!! Not that I get them to dry up, but still!  Hoping there was a least one clean, stripy useable tea towelorrif

The environment to “Mindflick”, pig wrestle and fly…

This past week I travelled 3hrs north to a little place called Hathersage just outside of Sheffield. I worked with Dr Mark Bawden of Mindflick (www.mindflick.co.uk) wrestling pigs. I have referenced this in the past as I read the book this summer and have worked briefly with Mark before, but what happened Wednesday was incredible.

The day job as you know, can be exhausting and I often find the whole pace of life excessive; commuting daily, running a department, being a mum, wife…finding time for myself, but thought that this was just life, for now. Mark has shown me how wrong I was.

Mark met me at the little village station and two minutes later we were in the ‘Barn’. A converted farm, Mindflick’s hub was the top of the barn with huge windows showing off the Derbyshire hills.

The ‘office‘ itself was spectacular but simple. Three distinct areas, the main being a huge worn leather sofa, and two matching armchairs separated by a small but very stylish coffee table and of course that view.

To my left was a tall, long white table surrounded by white boards on the wall, and to my right was a long rustic dining table, a bench and some lovely Eames chairs, and just the one computer.

There were little references to pig wrestling everywhere; from the solid brass pig paperweight to the framed pig pictures drawn by Mark’s children.

The warmth of welcome and homely feel to this workplace blew me away. There was music gently playing in the background and a little coffee maker to feed my city-base caffeine requirements. The lack of technology was a dream.

Mark sat me down in a large leather chair with a hot coffee, hobnobs and a view of the rolling countryside hills and so we talked and then started to wrestle my pig.

There was nothing technologically advanced in what Mark did, just simple mind unravelling. We started with my perceived problem at work and ‘cleaned’ it. Needless to say the problem evolved into something entirely different by the end of the day, but this ‘different’ problem was one I could easily see how to solve. First rule of pig wrestling (see previous blogs for link) is never to resurrect the pig, so I’ll leave it there, but I’ll tell you honestly, the day was an eye opener for so many fabulous reasons.

The environment we worked in really stuck with me. My head felt completely clear and free, and my vision for the future energised. All the plans I had for my team, I could now clearly see happening, thinking outside the box, releasing the bungee cords that for 12 months had restrained my thinking.

I left Mark at 5:30pm and travelled the long way back down south. I got home late and crawled into bed. I then had the worst nights sleep ever….. Waking at 2am full of ideas, bursting with opportunities. I got up, scrawled as much as I could then tried to get back to sleep.

The next day I had planned to work from home, to be free of the office hum of computers, phones, and general noise. I couldn’t face the office after such a mind freeing day. I needed it to continue.

(Not my office but not far off!)

It was freezing outside, so I lit the log burner, donned my leggings, a baggy jumper and my slippers, poured a massive coffee, lit a Christmas candle and put on my new favourite chill out album…Islands by Ludovico Einaudi….. I had found peace. (If you want to sample it Islands by Einaudi)

I managed to sit, plan, explore and prepare for the ‘day-job’ moving into 2018, for virtually a whole day. My mind was racing with ideas and the lack of emails and instant messages popping up, meant I could really focus and let my energy fly…. you should try it.

If you’ve a problem you have tried everything to fix you need to wrestle it. By escaping the noise I achieved more in two days than I ever thought possible.

So this Christmas think about your environment, make sure it suits you and brings out the best in you, give yourself a setting and surrounding that makes you happy.

Finally, thank you Mark you are amazing!

Tips for the unconventional family Christmas…

Every year Christmas is more stressful, exciting, over-rated, expensive, commercial, magical, loving, celebratory, indulgent and exhausting, and I love it…so long as I am prepared and people keep happy.

Being a mum of two small boys and two older step-kids we’ve never had a conventional family Christmas. My own family are scattered across the world, so rarely spend it together. The hubby’s dad is no longer with us and his mum is in a home, so it’s us and the kids most of the time.

The first Christmas as a possible future step mum was quiet; his first without the very young children from his marriage, me without my party loving friends in the Caribbean. Both trying to make it special, but actually it was just odd. That was 15 years ago, I think we’ve almost nailed it now, so here are a few of my tips for any of you who may be divorced, step parenting, sharing your children or just for a little insight into keeping an unconventional Christmas normal….it’s not rocket science, and I’m not asking for a Nobel prize, this just works for us….

  • Respect each other. Relationships end for many reasons, but if you were in the wrong or made the choices, you don’t get first dabs over your children’s Christmas arrangements. It is just a single day of the year and you need to respect the person who didn’t want it all to end. At least in the beginning. If it was mutual that’s different, but either way do not stress, it is one day. We have never had my husband’s children on Christmas Day, but we have made it work…

  • Christmas can be any day. For the past 14 years we have held a second Christmas Day on Boxing Day. This is when we have my husband’s two over and we make it as close to Christmas Day as possible… yes even another turkey. It has worked wonders for us and takes all the pressure off sharing time with each parent. The kids (not such kids now) could wake up with their mum, spend all Christmas day and night there with her, then their Dad would collect them on boxing day morning. Bubbles out, turkey in…..bosh round two!!
  • Don’t replicate, ‘create’. Christmas with children will have had some sort of routine or tradition. Don’t force something that once was, when one or more people are missing from the equation. Make up your own, new traditions. If you are single now and couldn’t put tinsel up before, do it now (you’ll soon get over it!). Take the kids on a Santa steam train or to a Christmas market to buy a new ‘annual’ decoration. Take them to buy the tree. Include them in your Christmas regardless of what the other parent is doing.
  • Do not over indulge with guilt. Separations happen more and more these days. whether right or wrong shit happens and kids need to know shit will happen their whole life, you cannot change that. You can only change how they respond to it. There will be times they will miss the other parent and times you miss them, but don’t make up for it with gifts. Make up for it with time and explanation, trust and security and most of all positivity for the future. So long as Mum and Dad say it’ll be ok, it will…
  • Teach them to give. If you have time with them before Christmas, help them make something for the other parent. A photo book, mulled cider, rocky road, anything that they as children can make and hide for a John Lewis moment at their other home. As a single parent it’s tough to encourage your kids to give you something at Christmas but it is a valuable lesson they need to learn. Nothing big or expensive, but the effort and thought for others is what it should be about.
  • Talk about big gifts! If you are planning an iPad, mobile, Xbox , car delivery (!!) in the big man’s sack, speak to the other parent about it if you can. It would be great to share the cost or even just the ‘agreement’ to give, but mostly it can prevent getting into a bidding war over into giving the best gifts. This is not a competition you are raising children to be adults, make sure they are nice ones…
  • Be alone or don’t? If the plans work out that you are going to be alone on Christmas Day, think about whether you can handle that or not. If you can’t, ask someone if they fancy dinner out on Christmas Day, or simply tell them you’re alone, they will be sure to invite you. But if not pop into a soup kitchen and make the most of your free Christmas, do not sit at home alone crying! Crisis Christmas have amazing schemes you can help out with.
  • Do not show sadness. Never show the children you are sad or lonely when they are not around. They do not need to carry any guilt or worry about you, you’re a grown up handle it. Tell them you’ll miss them but you’ve got so much to do, the time will fly by and then you’ll see them again for some real fun. This ensures when they are with the other parent they relax and enjoy that time WITH the other parent, that is only fair.
  • Step-parents back off. You are an adult, Christmas is not for you when there are step-children involved. Let them have quality time with their parent, make the day magical for the right reasons and don’t get wrapped up in bickering, jealously or the fact no one helps in the kitchen.
  • Be kind. Even if there is tension and stress in the mix with separated or divorced families, I’ll repeat, it is ONE day. This day for whatever reason has become a fantasy, magical day for children, make sure you remember that and make how ever and, when ever they spend it with you memorable for the right reasons.

Good luck and I hope you manage a very merry unconventional Christmas!🎄🎄

A spa a day takes the noise away

Wow! I feel restored, refreshed, relaxed….why haven’t I understood the whole spa thing before?? This weekend was the much anticipated weekend away with my lovely girlfriends for their birthdays. We booked a night and a few treatments at The Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells, http://www.spahotel.co.uk.

We left our respective children with a variety of parents, grandparents and friends, swung by Sainsbury’s to pick up some bubbles and headed over there for an 11am start.

Getting totally lost on the way to Tunbridge Wells from Ashford, I could hear the husband in my head ‘telling me he told me so’ as the sat nav failed dramatically and repeatedly, where was his A3 paper road map when you needed it!

Thank god for iPhone maps, which got us there eventually albeit 7 mins past my first session!

Whisked quickly from stressful car ride to serene frankincense infused, darken room and I could feel the head noise disappearing instantly… A full body de-stress massage followed by a facial, I had died and gone to heaven.  It took a good 25 mins into the muscle crunching, back agony, with the blocked nose that comes with lying face down, for me to start to relax. Flipped over onto my back and the eyes started to get heavy….gone.

An hour an a half later, I was oiled, relaxed, calm, and I had another whole 24 hours ahead of me in this place without children, housework, day job…I even put the phone on silent.

A bit of a steam room moment before 10 mins in, a chatty young soul came in and didn’t stop yapping.  Bless him, after I had heard about his divorced parents, his 36 year old friends still living with their parents, him being kicked out of home at 16…..I had to leave…

Into the sauna, happily alone, until two men walked in.  They gave me very wary looks as they sat quite close, it was only when I left 5 mins later I realised I was in the male sauna…oh well I hope it spiced up their spa!

Bit of gym, swim, relaxation room and a very large gin….ahhh.

Why don’t I do this all the time? To be fair, it’s not cheap but bugger me I feel like I’ve had a week in the caribbean.

Up to the room for bubbles, nibbles, and a few more home administered treatments.

I checked in with the family back home – bloody Daddy Cool!! He’s only whisked them off to London, McDonalds for lunch, watched Paddington 2, Lego store then TGI Fridays….FFS!! There’s no homework, reading, or thank you cards when Daddy Cool is in charge….!

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However, parental jealousy aside, I pushed on.  Yesterday morning I woke relaxed and rejuvenated in my kingsize boutique bed all alone.  I popped to the gym for a gentle burn, a quick steam then out to Tunbridge Wells for a super brunch of Eggs Benedict – the sort you only have without children!

My gym view…

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My amazing breakfast….

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I told the hubby I’d be home by midday, but then changed my mind, relaxed, rejuvenated and having some quality time with one of my best friends, I realised I needed to make the most of the time I had…..anyway the hubby told me to stay away –  more time to be Daddy Cool!!

The decorations we going up around town, and the christmas spirit was starting to get under my skin.  I realised that honestly, I’m a better wife, parent, daughter, sister, friend and boss if I take time to re-energise.  It feels selfish to be away from the kids and ‘home’ for even one night of peace, but yesterday afternoon when I got home I actually I felt kinder, calmer and all round a nicer person.

So boys & men, out there, with Christmas around the corner I would love you to treat your wife or partner to one of my pebble pictures, but if not, buy her a night away at a spa  hotel – Groupon do some great vouchers check here…Spa Days!  Force her to find her head space, make her leave you to cope alone, encourage her to stop for just a day – it is worth every moment, and she’ll love you for it in the end.

The last time I did a proper spa day, it was with my beautiful friend Heidi before she died.  I didn’t have children at the time, it was 10 years ago and didn’t get the whole spa thing – Oh my, I do now!!

Yesterday the quality time away had ensured my head was clear enough to pop into an art gallery and choose my new must have…..

Stuart McAlpine Millar‘s Faded Memories….I’m totally smitten!!   (Crowd funding maybe!!)  https://www.castlegalleries.com/art/faded-memories

 

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