A moment to cherish.

IMG_1144Our daughter has not been with us for very long and my first conversation with her happened unexpectedly on Christmas Day.
It had been a great day with all the usual shenanigans; the 5:30am 4 year old alarm clock, the frenzy of present un wrapping and seeing my son finally pedal a bicycle; I genuinely thought it couldn’t get any better. So when my daughter woke up unexpectedly about 9pm, I just decided to lie down with her, reflect on the day and soothe her through her teething discomfort. She is still getting to know us, so when she picked up the edge of a sheet and put it over her head and we started playing peep o I was in awe. This is such a great milestone for her and she gave me this gift when I least expected it. I realise that miracles happen all the time, we just need to take the time to allow them to happen, but this last Christmas is one I will always remember and cherish with all my heart.

We Are Family Blog 2015 in review!

Here it is! Everything you ever wanted to know about the blog in 2015!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I Feel Left Out

20140826_170439It’s the first time I really haven’t been able to figure out a way to give her what she yearns for and needs.
She came home from school a bit quiet and sad and when probed about why, just kept saying “I don’t want to tell you, I don’t want to tell you”.
Eventually it tumbled out of her that she wants a sister.
I assumed it was because of Anna and Elsa who she loves with a passion but no.. it was more real than that. Several of her cousins and friends have new little siblings and the phrase that she kept coming back to was “I feel left out.”
I felt heartbroken for her.
How do you tell a child desperate for siblings that she actually has four of them but she can’t see and touch and play with them?
I tried to explain that if there were more children at home, she would get less time with me, and that we are lucky we get to play and snuggle so much together but it didn’t convince her and it was a wake up call for me.
There are some things I just can’t fix or sort out for her, even though I desperately want to.  I also need to work out a way to start talking more about her  absent siblings in a way that won’t make all this worse.
She has great friends and lots of cousins to play with and is generally a very happy little bunny; but it hurts that I can’t provide this one thing for her.

Twelve blogs of Christmas #12: Twelve Christmas moments I won’t forget in a hurry.

DSC_4361My uncle’s thoughtful present to our daughter. A set of eight children’s CDs containing no less than 134 plinkety plonkety songs, performed on what sounds like a Bontempi organ and sung in the shrillest voice imaginable. I cannot get them out of my head or CD player.

An extra special gift for me (The giver shall remain nameless..) A top, sized 18 – 20 (I am a 12) with additional information reading “EXTRA LARGE” in case I was in any doubt.

A special doggy treat. Catching a friend’s dog weeing into one of our old fashioned radiators, right into all those little bends and twists of the immoveable metal cave nooks and crannies.

 The joy of the chase. Misplacing my mobile phone and trying to listen out for it’s vibration over the din of Justin’s House Christmas panto, and a loop of 134 plinkety plonkety children’s songs; all the while kneeling onto thousands of tiny little sharp pine needles stuck in the rug and and holding the sofa up to peek under there.

Our Daughter’s Joy. Watching our daughter try out her bike for the very first time and her expression of sheer concentration and wonder.

Boxing Day. Having guests cancel Boxing day visit due to sudden unforeseen circumstances, and getting to spend the entire day together as a family on the sofa, playing games and watching films with a fire lit. – Perfect.

Being able to fully realise how blessed and lucky I am. Sometimes I can’t access these feelings. This year I felt so much joy.

missing people. Thinking about two dear friends who sadly didn’t make it to see Christmas this year, then thinking of the same friends’ families and loved ones, and how hard this time of year will have been for them.

Missing more people. Seeing my husband really miss his father (as he always does at this time of year) and feeling helpless.

Miracles. Being present to see my dad finally get up and join us for a couple of hours at Christmas, after spending 5 days practically comatose in bed recovering from radio therapy.

My new red handbag – best Christmas present. Ever.

Cooking my first Christmas lunch ever. Turkey with all the trimmings, pigs in blankets etc, Christmas pudding  and it was for 14 people. It was much easier than I thought.

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #11: Memories of Christmases Past

Image 2I can only recall one Christmas from my childhood. I was 6 years old and I was beaming with the holiday spirit. I don’t remember much else up to the age of 15. People tell me stories, but they might as well be telling me about someone else’s life. Because of this, I sometimes feel that I never had a childhood. All I know is that I cannot recall two thirds of my life. I have learned to be okay with this fact and once in a while, when I really dig deep, I find another distant memory that I can add to my odd collection. This is comforting, because then I know that it’s all in there somewhere and bit by bit I’m discovering my life.

I have not always been okay with my lack of memory; it used to create an unsettling lack of self. I didn’t know who I was, because I didn’t have the tools to deal with all the bad things in my childhood. And in my respected, academic family it was preferred to sweep it under the carpet and uphold the illusion of a well-functioning family. But Christmas was a glistening sham, where we could pretend that alcoholism and violence were strangers to us. Therefore I packed all the bad, but also the good, memories away. And I lost myself in the process. I spent my teenage years trying to piece a person together. Not on a blank slate, but on a weird, dark, wobbly slate that I couldn’t read or understand. It was like starting from scratch, but having to build a hopefully stable person on unstable ground.

At the age of 20, I finally went to my first therapist to deal with the dark wobbly thing that followed me around. It was like living above an abyss that I was afraid I would fall into. I had found some peace with my missing memory, but still struggle with the consequences. However, now I was confronted with questions to which I didn’t have any answers. I had no idea who I was or where I came from and it was terrifying to let someone onto this secret. But it was also very hard to explain. How could I know so little about my own life?

Now I have created a mess of a collage from stories and pictures and unearthed memories. I build myself and my life every day and I create new memories that I try my hardest to hold onto. Mostly I rely on feelings. I may not remember the details, but I remember the feelings from the other Christmases.

And for now that’s good enough.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #10: The most wonderful time of the year.

ImageThis is tough time of year for some people. Adverts telling us we need to buy this or that for our loved ones; tinsel and Christmas decorations adorn every nook and cranny; Christmas songs stream relentlessly through pipes in every shop and down the high street, telling us it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And for most of us, it might well be, once you factor out the stress of it all.

But for some, it’s a tough time. It’s the anniversary of my Dad’s death; my uncle died a week ago; my sister is spending Christmas in hospital.

These are not things that impact only me; my wife knows and understands how this time of year has become somewhat difficult for me, but it’s hard on her especially when a few years ago I would have been jumping around with excitement in the run-up to Christmas and now she might feel that she has to top up the excitement quotient for both of us. Don’t get me wrong – there is excitement, particularly for our daughter, but it’s been tempered for me somewhat by the coincidence of circumstances.

But if I think about what this time of year actually means to me, underneath all the glitz and shimmer and food and drink and merriment, it’s about sparing a thought, or doing a deed, for those who struggle with the gaiety of Christmas, who are harbouring sadness or grief, who are putting a happy face on loneliness, depression, heartache or day-to-day struggles, and reminding myself of the blessings in my life. It’s about truly being with the ones I love, even if not all of them can be there. It’s about relishing those moments when I see joy on other people’s faces and allowing that joy to banish all other feelings. It’s about remembering the happy times with loved ones no longer with us and the warmth and comfort those memories bring; it’s about being in the moment and embracing the joy of this special holiday.

Oh yes; and it’s about getting that Ferrari my daughter said she would buy me with the change in her money jar. It’s the thought that counts.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #9: 1 plus 3 makes 4 this Christmas.

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Christmas has been different this year.

The decorations are up, the cake and turkey were cooked and eaten but something else happened.
It was months in the limbo stage; all the usual social services blurb and all the red tape, and now suddenly she’s here in time for the celebrations. Our beautiful daughter!

This is our second time around and most of it feels old hat.

We are familiar with all the upheaval and the feeling of being emotionally dishevelled, but this time we had an added element to consider – our beloved son.

We have been amazed by his reaction to all of this. He is 4 but blimey! – it feels like he could be 24!

He has taken all of this on board and has shown courage, compassion and an immediate beautiful love towards his new sibling. It’s like watching a beautiful masterpiece being painted, watching him shape his enthusiasm, outline and profile his brotherly reactions and eagerness to embrace and cuddle his future. A future that he will now get to share with someone else.

I am awestruck at how willing he is to accept this baby so unconditionally. We were both apprehensive of course and I definitely was nervous about where I was going to find the same equal, immeasurable quantity of love I hold for my son; how was I going to double up? But it came in a heartbeat. Flowing and pushing its way up out into a smile that my wife lovingly calls my ‘giddy as a kipper’ smile.

In the meantime we have been waiting, preparing, fixing things, stair-gating, baby-proofing, John Lewis buying, the Christmas shopping’s prepared and wrapped early; yes, we were ready for her arrival.

Our daughter came home for good with us a couple of weeks ago. We are exhausted already and I have a pile of ironing taller than me to get through. The dishwasher is on twice daily and the washing machine is on a permanent spin cycle. Oh, and on top of that – I almost forgot – my son also asked me to make a cake; a green cake with an elephant on for our celebration  as a family of 4. December really is magic this year. I best crack on!