The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

Archive for the category “Family Life”

It’s been three weeks

It’s been three weeks since I was driving and singing along to the radio when I got the call. Today I’m driving back from the gym. Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ is playing. It’s a tune I love. My boys love it too. When it comes on at home, we crank up the volume and break out in a happy dance. But I am alone now. I do not have to put up a happy front for the children. I cannot clap along. Because I’m not happy. Yes, I do feel like a room without a roof. But it is raining and I am getting drenched in grief and loss as the rain mingles with my tears. The room is flooding with memories of when he was here. He was just here. I know that happiness is the truth but it is not my truth right now. I want to be happy but I am not. I cannot be. This loss is too huge, too painful to be lifted by the lyrics of an upbeat song.

It’s been three weeks. My older son points out that people are no longer coming to visit. Not like the steady stream we had when we first heard the news. I nod and agree with him. I want to tell him that that’s the way life works. It goes on. I want to say that though people care, life must carry on. That even though this was a monumental shift in our paradigm, it was just a momentary blip in that of our friends, interrupting their lives albeit ever so briefly. I want to tell him that even though they may not be physically present, we are in their thoughts and prayers. But I don’t. It is too much to burden a 7-year old with. My decision proves right when our conversation segues into sharing memories about Granddad. He and his brother talk about how Granddad was so funny, how he laughed and made them laugh. I am sad but I smile. I am glad that in spite of the fact that he is gone, they have happy memories of their grandfather.

It’s been three weeks. I am forgetful and absent-minded, apathetic and lethargic. I forgot to attend my appointment with the dentist. I forgot to take my younger son to the dentist. I forgot to change the calendar page from January to February. It is like I am frozen in time. As if I cannot move beyond those heart-stopping minutes three weeks ago.

It’s been three weeks. And It’s been hard. I have tried to carry on because that’s what he would have wanted. But it’s been hard. Sometimes I am able to function normally because in doing so, I’m almost able to convince myself that it didn’t happen. That the pain I feel in my chest is imaginary. Other times, everything in me bucks at normal because life isn’t normal and I want everything to stop and acknowledge that it isn’t.

It’s been three weeks since I decided to go back home. My other home. The one I grew up in. I think of my trip and I begin to get excited. I look forward to getting together with the whole family. To being in the same room as all my sisters. To the raucous laughter as we regale and remind each other with and of tales of our escapades. To catching up on news of everyone and what they have been up to since we’ve been apart.

But then I remember why I am making the trip. And grief shoos the excitement out of my soul. I am going back home because my daddy died. I am going back home but I won’t be seeing my dad. And that hurts. Badly.

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All in a day’s life: Lost and found

It is a fairly innocuous start to the day. The overcast sky promises rain and the wind causes a slight chill but I ignore them. Instead I choose to put my trust in the meteorologists’ forecast for sunshine and dress myself and my boys in shorts and light t-shirts. Hours later, my choice is vindicated as the sun comes out in all its brilliance.

The drive is smooth. Metal and tar maintain a healthy respect for each other, both playing their part and working in perfect harmony as cars drive along miles of motorway. The satellite navigation system, determined to guide me via the fastest route, keeps advising an alternative route. After resisting for several junctions and staying my course, I allow myself be seduced by its mellifluous tones and turn off the motorway. When I see the ‘Road Ahead Closed’ sign, I am reminded how I have become so dependent on computers. I sigh and make a U-turn, the 10 miles I thought I would shave off our travel time have actually doubled making the journey even longer. The boys start to fret. Is their day at the theme park over before it has even started? I reassure them that it is ok. I will retrace my steps and get us back on track.

I breathe a sigh of relief as I pull into the car park. This SatNav will not be the death of me. Laden with bags of nourishment, enough to feed three large families for a few days, we walk towards the entrance. A mule would be hard pressed to carry as much as we are lugging around but I will not be caught out by the exploitative over-priced food at such places. I am already regretting packing so much, perhaps I went a bit overboard.  But there is no time for self-recrimination, what’s done is done and I get on with it. We meet up with friends. The load is distributed around, though not evenly, I don’t complain. I am just thankful for a bit of help carrying those bags which have become increasingly heavier with each step.

Several roller-coaster rides, lunch, snack and toilet breaks later, we are all spent. It has been fun; it is time to go home. But not before a quick stop at the shop to buy the swords I promised the boys.

Swords chosen, shields, not part of the original deal, have somehow wound their way into the shopping basket. I am about to protest but I am loath to be responsible for wiping off the looks of delight on their small faces. The shields stay.

“I need the toilet, Mummy. I’m bursting.”

“But just five minutes ago, you said you didn’t need the toilet.”

“I didn’t then, I do now.”

This is not the time for my spiel about ‘going to the toilet when I ask you to’. I hand his little brother over to my friend and then make a dash for the toilet. He is seven years old. He feels he is old enough to go to the Men’s toilet. I am not comfortable with that. I have heard and read about terrible things happening to children in toilets. I do not want my child to become one of those statistics. I know I cannot protect him forever but for now, it is the Ladies’ where I can go in with him. Today, there is a queue snaking out the door of the Ladies’. And he is desperate.

There is no queue at the Men’s. He is starting to hop from foot to foot as if he is playing hopscotch. I shelve my apprehension and send him to the Men’s. It is just a Number One, he will be in and out in no time. As he runs in, I go as close to the entrance as I possibly can without actually going in, ignoring the pointed looks of some of the men going in. While waiting, I whip my phone out of my pocket. I haven’t managed to catch up on social media all day. I tap the screen to get the phone out of sleep mode. It does not respond. My battery is dead. Shaking my head, I sigh at the fickleness of these newfangled phones designed to be all things to all men – but without the battery power to sustain all those functions.

I put the phone back in my pocket and begin to wonder why he is taking so long. I cannot go into the Men’s toilet to check up on him. This is why I prefer him going to the Ladies’. My heart skips a beat. I take a deep breath and caution myself not to panic. This is just a minor misunderstanding which will soon be cleared up. I move even closer to the door and call out his name. The loud humming of several hand dryers drowns out my calls. I yell even louder and listen out for a response. There is none. None except strange stares from men exiting the toilet. I stop a man going in with his kids and ask him to please look for my son. I tell him his name. And then I wait.

He comes out soon after to tell me that having checked all stalls, there is no sign of my child. Now, my heart beat really races. Blood rushes to my head and for a moment my vision blurs. I blink several times to clear my vision. Enough with propriety already! I walk in, hardly noticing the startled looks of men doing their business in urinals. When calling out his name a few more times yields no response, I could swear my heart drops to the bottom of my belly.

Exiting the toilet, my mind is churning. I remember that it was just a few days ago I had a chat with him and his brother about keeping safe. They had run off from me at a large supermarket. Yet again. When we got back in the car, I painstakingly explained to them about the many dangers of not staying close to me while out. I told them that not everyone has a good heart and some want to harm children. I told them about the little girl who had disappeared from her parents’ side at a similar supermarket; how they raised the alarm, how the staff looked everywhere in the store, how she was eventually found in the toilets, head shorn by her would-be kidnappers in order to disguise her appearance and take her out unnoticed.

My mind shifts back to the present. Is this now what is happening to me? The thoughts are so confusing, my head hurts. Where could he be? Is there a back door? Could someone have dragged him out through there? What do I do next? Alert the authorities? As the questions and different scenarios tumble around my head, I look around hoping to spy him in the sea of humans milling around. Instead all I see are eyes. Eyes of other parents, looking at me.

In those few seconds, I read the emotions they can barely hide in their eyes. Pity, empathy, censure, relief. As they clutch their own children, holding them close, their tactile gestures giving double assurance that their own offspring are safe, their eyes tell me that they feel my pain. They tell me they can appreciate what I must be going through, that they cannot tell me how sorry they are that this has happened to me. They don’t want to tell me that they are relieved it happened to me and not them, but their eyes cannot hide how they really feel. Finally, I see the censure, the unspoken questions. How could I have been so careless? Why didn’t I take him to the Ladies’? Why let him go into the Men’s on his own?

I want to tell them that I am not that parent. Not me. No. I am not that parent whose child goes missing. I want to tell them how many times I have read these kinds of stories and, like them, I too wondered what the parent was doing when their child went missing. I want to say to them that I too have asked how it was possible for a child to go missing under the watchful eye of its parent? I want to tell them that I always insist my boys go to the Ladies’ for precisely this reason. I want to tell them all of this. But I have bigger fish to fry. I cannot find my son.

I make my way to the Information booth to report him missing. I take out my phone to call my friend and let her know what is going on. The battery is still dead. My throat hurts from unshed tears. I want to scream about the injustice of this situation in which I find myself. I drink in deep breaths to keep myself from falling in a heap on the ground and wailing.

It suddenly occurs to me to check the shop first. He might have come out, slipped past me unnoticed and headed straight for the shop where his newly acquired sword and shield awaited him. I quickly change course and jog to the shop. The sight of him wielding his ‘weapons’ renders me immobile with gratitude. A silent prayer of thanksgiving escapes my lips just before I bear down on him. My relief and gratitude come out as a tirade, berating him for running off without me. Lips trembling, he apologises. Like a pin prick deflates a balloon, the apology dispels my anger. I pull him to me and envelope him in a hug. I tell him it is ok, Mummy was just worried he was missing that’s why she yelled. I remind him not to ever run off again, that it could prove dangerous.

Drained, physically and emotionally, we head for home. The boys doze off in the back and I mull over the day. My thoughts are drawn to how easily this day could have ended differently, how a different sequence of events could have brought about a tragedy of immense proportions. I think back to how I felt in those few minutes when I couldn’t find my son. How utterly helpless and small in the huge machine of life. I think of all the other emotions I experienced simultaneously; guilt, anger, frustration. I think how easily my family could have been devastated and how the trajectory of our lives could have been irretrievably altered. I think of all the families that have been in this situation, how it didn’t necessarily end up the way mind did. As I think, I experience a greater appreciation for the blessings I have been conferred with. Things could so easily have been different. So tragically different.

School’s out: A lie-in, a lie.

The last few weeks have dragged on languorously. Temperatures on migration from the tropics have made a brief stop in the UK. Sweltering hot days and muggy humid nights. Our cries for respite from an unending winter have been heard. But we are unsure whether to grumble or be grateful. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as none of it.

Holiday. A welcome break. No school runs. No early mornings. No more after-school activities. Days out and trips away. Expectations of fun and laughter.

Day 1. Hopes for a lie-in dashed by whispered questions, are we going out today?, can I play your Kindle Fire?, when are you coming downstairs, Mama? Hopes for a day out at the splash park dashed by overcast skies. The sun peeps through heavy clouds, shy, reticent and non-committal.

Yet the boundless resilience of childhood will not be put off. That unquenchable thirst for adventure. 20130725_143603The buoyancy of childlike imagination kicks in. A living room is turned into a movie theatre, complete with drawn blinds, sound effects and popcorn. A back garden becomes an enchanted forest and they, dragon-slaying knights. Shrieks of merriment rent the air.

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They call me Mummy

Throbbing feet. Languid, aching bones. I feel the start of a headache coming on. But I won’t stop until it’s all done. The cooking. The cleaning. The picking up and putting away of little clothes, shoes, toys and books. The laundry. And all the other chores that make the home appear to run seamlessly.

Wincing in pain, I reach into the medicine cupboard and pop two analgesics into my mouth. I’m exhausted beyond words. I long for my bed. Or even a sofa. And a stool to prop my feet up and take a load off. Downtime. I’m almost there. The light at the end of tunnel is getting brighter. Just a couple more chores.

Super mumI stand back and survey the works of my hands. I take in the clean kitchen, tidy living room, bedrooms with made beds and everything in its place. Finally. I’m done. Dear sofa, here I come. As I make to lower myself into the waiting arms of the sofa and the stool sends my feet a ‘come hither’ look, “Mummy, please can we go to the park?”

Two tiny voices. Two earnest facial expressions. Doe-eyed, hopeful, expectant, barely concealed anticipation. “Please, Mama, we really, really, really want to.” One with hands clasped, the other tugs on my skirt. “We’ll be good, we promise. Please.”

I look at my sofa. With longing. I turn to the boys. They look at me. With longing. My aching bones creak in protest. My throbbing feet feel like my heart has relocated from my rib cage and made its new home there. That onset of a headache is now a full-blown splitting one. Everything in me is kicking against considering this request, much less granting it. On the tip of my tongue are a thousand and one reasons to say no. I quash them.

“Ok but we won’t stay very long…” Their screams of joy drown out the rest of my words. ‘I’m tired’ doesn’t get heard much less acknowledged. They are already putting on their shoes and arming themselves with all the paraphernalia that make for a successful park outing. Footballs, frisbees and food. Now dancing at the front door, giggling in excitement, waiting to be let out.

I look at the sofa again. Its forlorn gaze meets mine. But it understands. I am a mum. And this is what mums do. Tired is nothing when you have children.

At the lakes

 

A new era

It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. School resumed today for the kids. Well, it resumed for WEO who’s in Year 2 now. His brother attended ‘big’ school for the first time.

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I say the end of an era because both boys have moved on from nursery school. So it’s the start of a new one with both of them now at primary school.

Seeing EDU dressed in his uniform this morning sent me looking through photographs of years gone by. As I went through the pictures, dormant memories of nappy-changing, sleepless nights and zombie-like days, crying babies and a host of others were brought to the fore.

I’m thankful that we got through all those days (and nights) in one piece. I’m thankful for the boys’ development and progress and I’m looking forward to the challenges and triumphs of this new era.

Life is constantly on the move, even when we think things aren’t moving, they are. Seasons come and seasons go. Summer, here in the UK, passed in a hodgepodge of heavy, flood-inducing downpours and glorious sunshine in a way that is quintessentially British.

Autumn will be upon us in a few weeks. The luscious green foliage will metamorphose into golden yellow, burgundy red and burnt orange. Redundant leaves, having outlasted their usefulness, will be evicted from deciduous trees. The landscape will be dotted with the gnarling, naked branches of oaks and birch. A few evergreens will remind us of what once was and what will be again.

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Soon dusk will make an early appearance, putting an end to the long bright days of summer and ushering in the cold winter chill. Once winter arrives, our thoughts will turn to Christmas, the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. And the cycle of life will continue.

Anyway, now the kids are back to school, I need to focus on my writing a lot more. I hope to be a lot more productive than I have been in the last six weeks.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and thanks for stopping by.

Second photo courtesy Wikipedia

 

The sun’s out

The sun which has been studiously avoiding the UK has finally showed up in all its glory. Even though it’s hot, hot, hot, I’m enjoying the sunshine while it’s here as God only knows how long (or short) it’ll be here for. It is also summer break for the boys. Six glorious weeks of thinking up ways and means to keep them engaged, entertained and out of mischief. Right now, they are out in the back garden, enjoying the endless delights the paddling pool presents. 

I promise to return to blogging once my brain cools down and my nerve endings can make sense of words and figure out how to string them together to make some sense. Right now, it’s all I can do to not combust from the UV rays.

Enjoy the sunshine and thanks for stopping by.

Lessons I wish my kids would learn – Life isn’t fair

As I sit here trying to write this post, my boys are fighting over whose turn it is to sit next to mummy. They always argue about who gets to sit next to me on the sofa. Now it would make everyone’s life, especially mine, a lot simpler if I sat in the middle of the three-seater sofa, thereby giving each of them space to sit on either side of me. But I much prefer to sit at the extreme left hence leaving ample room on my right for them to sit but no, they have to be right next to me, skin to skin.

To stop the constant bickering every time we have a sit-down moment, I have developed a turn-taking system. Each child sits next to me for a while, then they swap places. As you may well know, children interpret time completely differently from grown-ups. Everything is now, be it five minutes or five years. So even with our system, there are still arguments over how long the other person has been sitting next to mummy for. Some days I have the patience and presence of mind to ensure they each get an equal amount of time in their favourite sitting position, other days I just want to run and hide, that is when I’m not yelling at them to stop.

In time, they will learn that life isn’t always fair. They will come to find out that things don’t always work out the way we think they should. Even the wise King Solomon was baffled by this truth when he declared in Ecclesiastes 9:11 ‘I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.’

I just wish they would learn it sooner rather than later. Until then, I live in hope.

What lessons do you wish (your) children would learn?

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Happy anniversary, Babes.

It’s been 7 years since we were wed

7 years since our vows, we said

I’m pleased to say that through it all

We’ve had ourselves quite a ball.

We’ve had our fair share of stormy weather

But we’ve gone through all of it together

Our love has grown deeper and stronger

And our longsuffering, even longer.

As we take a look back at the last few years 

The highs, the lows, the laughter and the tears

I’m so thankful I got to spend them with you

And if I had to do it all again, I’d still say ‘I do’.

So to celebrate our 7th year of wedded bliss

I’ve made you up this love song play list

Listen to the lyrics as the singers do their thing

And hear my voice as though it were I who sing.

There’s one song for every year we’ve been married

Each one as different as those years varied

And every time you hear the word ‘Girl’

Please think ‘Boy’, give it a twirl! Smile

Happy anniversary, Mo Cushla, I love you.

Faith Evans I still (Please ignore the actual video. I couldn’t find anything else but really wanted you to listen to this song as it encapsulates everything you mean to me.
Kenny Lattimore For you
Endless love duet by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey
K-CI & Jojo All my life
Every time I close my eyes by Babyface
You’re still the one by Shania Twain
Journey’s After all these years

Out of the mouths of babes

If you ever want to know what you sound like, forget about recording yourself speak just listen to your children. It’s uncanny how their little brains process and store information but even scarier still is the way they quote you when you least expect it.

My boys are four and two years old and they crack me up. Sometimes I have to turn my face away from them to rearrange my features from a smile and school them into an appropriate telling-off face so they don’t think I’m joking.

EDU, the two-year old, sometimes tells me in an exasperated tone “Mum, you’re giving me a headache”! WEO, his older brother, is quite often heard sighing, “Lord, give me strength.”

Hearing them regurgitate mine and their father’s words every now and again reinforces a home truth to me. Children hardly ever do as you as say but will almost certainly say as you say and do as you do. It makes me realise how strong an influence I wield over them and how responsible I am for how they’ll turn out.

I appreciate that there are innumerable variables that will affect their behaviour however my role as primary care giver accounts for a large percentage of those variables. Since I can’t vouch for any of the variables out there or count on them to deliver the example I would like my boys to follow, the onus lies on me to be the best template of decorum and good behaviour.

I would like my boys to grow into courteous, respectful and respectable young men but if I don’t exhibit any of these traits, pigs might indeed fly. It’s not enough for me to want it, I must model the lifestyle I wish them to lead in my daily dealings with them, their father and everyone around me.

It is an onerous responsibility and definitely no walk in the park so here’s a little ditty I wrote to ask for some divine intervention.

For the grace to raise my child
To be gentle, meek and mild!
For the wisdom to guide him aright
To be bold and strong yet polite
For long-suffering and patience
In the face of an offence
For the capacity to endure
And at the same time reassure
For a sense of humour, the ability to laugh
Yet for misbehaviour, unafraid to wield the staff
For grace to be an example
Upon which he’ll never trample
For eyes that see what’s not shown
A mind to unravel what’s not known
For ears that hear the unspoken
And to deliver promises unbroken
To be fair, just and upright
Never fearing to be forthright
To be firm, consistent not uptight
Unashamed to admit my wrongs outright
Oh Lord please hear my prayer
For I am unaware
Of any other way to be all the above
Without your mercy and love.

Six years…and counting!

Six years ago yesterday, I woke up really early having gone to bed at 3.00am that morning (I’d been at the dressmaker’s waiting to pick up my wedding dress! Please don’t ask!). I was excited. It was my wedding day; a day I’d dreamed about for so long!

After attending, organising and being a bridesmaid at several other weddings, I was finally going to be the one who wore the wedding dress and walked down the aisle holding on to my father’s arm. It was me people were going to be looking at and whispering “what a beautiful/ugly bride she makes, what a lovely/hideous dress!” Hopefully in my case it would be the former!

The weather was beautiful, quite unlike the rainy episodes we’ve had this August. We were determined we would be on time, none of that ‘it’s traditional for the bride to be fashionably late’ malarkey. As a matter of fact, we got there so early, we had to drive around to pass the time while waiting for the minister to arrive.

The ceremony which took place at a church was very personal and there was lots of dancing and singing, then we had loads of photographs taken with friends and family.

We danced into the reception, ‘digging it in style’ to the live band singing and playing, flanked on both sides of the aisle by cheering friends and family. For our first dance, we had a trio of songs .

There was a lot of food and drink and once we’d gotten past the formalities of eating, speeches and cake-cutting, it was time for everyone to hit the dance floor. And our DJ certainly didn’t disappoint. We danced, shuffled and spun as the sounds of Old Skool music rent the air.

We had such a fun time that someone remarked to my Dad at the end of the evening, “the only problem is the party ended too soon!” ;o)

This all took place six years ago. In the intervening years, we have grown together melding our separate personalities to create a oneness whilst still maintaining our individuality. We have learnt (and are still in the process of learning) the fine art of compromise in marriage, how to disagree on an issue without attacking or demeaning one another. We’ve come to understand that different isn’t necessarily wrong, just different. We’ve become less selfish as we’ve tried to be considerate of each other in our everyday lives.

We’ve learnt that a good marriage doesn’t just happen; it takes effort on both our parts. We’ve come to appreciate our SWOTs  (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) as we work towards the common objective of “leaving father and mother and cleaving’ to each other.”

We’ve learnt that “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” Prov. 25:11. We’ve learnt that ‘there is a time for everything under the sun” including “a time to speak and a time to keep silent” Ecc. 3:1,7.

We’ve had two energetic, smart and handsome boys. We’re surrounded by a host of special people in the form of friends and family.We’ve been truly blessed.

Six years ago, as I walked down the aisle, just minutes away from formalising a lifetime union with Mo Cushla, I had no idea how the following years would play out. I couldn’t have asked for better. I am honoured and privileged to have an extraordinarily special man for a husband. A man who celebrates me, encourages me, hears me out, indulges me, provides for and protects me, laughs and cries with me, challenges and inspires me, makes me laugh and exasperates me. He’s become my best friend and soul mate, my health and fitness partner, my sounding board and my fellow brainstormer.

If I have painted a picture of the perfect marriage, I apologise as ours is by no means so. We just recognise that we are fallible beings totally incapable of doing it on our own so we’ve invited the One whose idea marriage was in the first place to help us along the way. We’re on this exciting journey together, we have no clue what lies ahead but we are confident that by God’s grace, we will continue to experience heaven on earth.

Some dear friends were thoughtful enough to wish us well on Facebook with the following songs.

Enjoy and tara for now.

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