To my Darling Boys

Each year I write a letter to you both, talking about what we have done during the past year and all the things that I want to tell you.  It has been really tough writing this one, as your dearest Grandma was found dead by Uncle C on Christmas Day.  I know that you were scared of Mummy's screaming and tears, but you both were really good boys and went to Nana and Grandads and have been a tower of strength to be in the last week or so.

You have both been so lucky to have spent time with your Grandma, who loved you so much and really enjoyed her two boys.  She will always love you and be proud of you no matter what.

It has been a busy and exciting year for both you boys.  Mini you started full time school this September and have settled in like a dream.  Your teacher told Mummy and Daddy you where such a happy little boys, who was a joy to have in the classroom and that you are a wonderful and talented reader.  You really enjoy spending time reading with Mrs H and your favorite place in the classroom is the construction area.

School has been a big transition for you this year Maxi, Year one has had its up and downs and we are all learning that you need to be challenged and have been moved in to an advanced mathematics and literacy group with the year 5 children.  You do more like being board and so want to learn.  You are full of questions.

You are both still really enjoying going to swimming lessons and have so much fun in the water, in fact you would stay in as long as possible.  It makes me happy that you both love swimming as much as mummy even in the ice cold North Sea, which is why we bought you wet suits again and even using them your lips sometimes turn blue!

You also both go to football on a Saturday.  Maxi you have moved on to Saturday Club and relish the challenge that games with the older boys bring and are really looking forward to being allowed in a team after your birthday in March.  It is also wonderful seeing how you often stay and help with the tots, that Mini plays with.  Mini is much happier when there is a larger group of children at the tots and your being with him is a real boost.  Mini Daddy said you are a great dribble and when you put your mind to it you are a fab footballer.

We have seen some fantastic things this year as a family and been on some super trips.  Mini you especially loved our time in London and are still fascinated by Big Ben and the workings of parliament and Westminster, whilst Maxi I think that the London Eye was your favorite part of the trip, followed by your trip to the Natural History Museum.

We have been to Butlins at Bognor and you both agreed that the water park was wonderful.  We have also had some great trips to Legoland, Thomasland, Flamingoland and Drayton Manner and you both enjoy going on all the rides and seeing the animals.  We even celebrated Mini's birthday with The Wiggles!

As a family we have made great use of our English Heritage pass and been to lots of local attractions including Whitby Abbey, Bishop Auckland Castle and many, many more.  We always pack and picnic and you boys have so much fun exploring and playing hide and seek together.  We went on an Easter Egg hunt at Ormesby hall and  you both had a go at washing clothes in the old fashions laundry.

We have spend wonderful weekends at our hidden place on the moors, paddling in the beck, playing football, picnicking and flying the kites, but most of all enjoying each others company.

Our beloved cat Mr Smudge died and you were both so amazing about this, insisting that Daddy buried him and in some ways I do feel that this has meant that you both understand a little more about the fact that Grandma isn't coming back.

You have both been very understanding of the times I have had to go into hospital and have come with me for numerous blood tests and visits.

All in all 2010 has been a great year, yes it has had its challenges for all of us, but together we have managed them and we are all growing and developing as a family.  I for one know for certain how proud I am to be your Mummy and I am looking forward to next year and all that it brings.

So thank you boys, for lighting up my life.  I love you both.

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And the beat goes on

I would love to think that my mothers life was so precious that time stood still or even blurred in to the slow motion that you get in films, where every second lasted more than a minute.  I would like to say that we are mourning her in the old fashioned way, but with two boys aged four and five and Christmas things have had to carry on with some semblance or normality.  Not that I haven't grieved, I have and still am and will be for a long time yet.  I am sad in front of the boys and they both know it is OK to be sad too and that Mummy and Daddy are missing Grandma and we are happy to talk about her or explain things as best we can.

 

The boys had Christmas lunch with my MIL and FIL, but insisted on coming home for Christmas Dinner on the evening, so we had the works and set a place for mum.  We have also been saying a prayer for her each evening too. We spent a quiet boxing day at home, playing playmobil Dragons and Knights and cuddling in front of the television. We also went to the Social Clubs annual Christmas children's party (although I spent most of it in the house with my brother), the boys had a whale of a time with their cousin (who we fear is channeling mum and is currently known as Mini Marge, due to her headstrongness and temper) and danced the night away. We also made sure that we had a get together on Wednesday at my house (which was planned for mums), in fact I went and collected the steaks she had bought for the event and I had far too many Irish coffees with baileys, but it was so nice to spend time with my brother and his family. But how are we?  I am not sure, we are coping as a unit, but it is hard.  For one I think I am still in shock.  I need to start organising things and get the funeral sorted.  The boys are missing Gran, but we are talking about it.  Maxi has started to have nightmares, so we are dealing with that.  I have ordered the books suggested from Amazon and am looking forward to them coming. We have also received some chinese lanterns that we are going to launch after the funeral, to which both the boys want to come (although I am not keen on having them come to the cemetery).  We are meeting with the funeral director on Monday, but are aware that there is likely to be at least a two week wait for a funeral. I am so glad I have the boys and my darling husband to keep me strong.  I do hope you all had a good Christmas and have a blessed New Year.
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RIP Margaret Elizabeth – my mum

Mum with Maxi (16 March 2005)

Margaret Elizabeth

26 September 1943 to 24/25 December 2010

Tragically my brother found my mum dead on Christmas morning.  It appears she died not long after talking to me on Christmas Eve at 9.45pm.  She was making a cup of tea in the kitchen to take to bed with her. Dearest Mum I wish I could gather my thoughts together enough to provide the words I need to say how much I am missing you already. My heart is breaking at the thought of never speaking to you again, but I am so glad our last words were I love you and our last conversation filled with the anticipation of Christmas. But more painful than my loss is the knowledge that my boys and niece have lost the most wonderful Gran in the whole wide world. Now I am both you and Dad's echo and you live on in your children and wonderful grandchildren. We love you mum and we always will.

Mum with Mini (25/06/2006)

From a practical perspective, we will not have any idea what has or will happen until at least Wednesday.  I would really welcome some ideas on how to help the children through this, as we have told them both that Grandma's heart stopped working and she has died, so they will not be seeing her again.  We also told then that Mummy and Daddy are sad and we have and will be crying, but it is OK to be sad and that they can ask any questions at all.

 

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So why all the traditions?

I guess people may wonder why I am such a big fan of traditions and why we have so many as a family?

This is hard to write, but I think putting in down in writing may lay aside some old worries and ghosts of times past.

I worry that this time next year or the year after that I may not be here with my wonderful family.  I know that may sound trite, but it isn't.  Yes I don't have any cancer now, but even after all the precautions I have taken, I am still at more of a risk than most people of dying of a cancer related to by BRCA 1 spelling mistake in my genes. So I thought it would be a good thing to have our own traditions, to help hold on to the precious memories for MadDad and the boys.  Something that in the years to come they can think about and might evoke a thought about a special time.  Like the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg in the Christmas Pudding could make them think of our Stir it up Sundays or remembering where a particular tree ornament came from. I hope they grow up to understand that advent is all about family, not the chocolates from the calender and cherish that the fun and togetherness we had reading the Christmas story each meal time.  I long for them to have advent activities with their children and tell them that where they originated from, for them to walk and look at the Christmas lights with their own family too. I have traditions that are carried down from my parents, the first footing that we do on New Years Eve, when some one with  go out the back door and walk round to the front and be the first person in the front door.  With them they carry  a  coin, bread, salt and a piece of coal to represent prosperity, food, flavour and warmth.  This takes the emphasis of staying awake till midnight until the morning and then we always have a special breakfast of home made pancakes. We also have traditions that we have created to make our life easier like the Christmas Eve Elves, who bring things to keep the boys occupied too. So there you have it.  I love traditions as they reinforce the memories.  They might not remember a specific time, but over years the times will melt and blur in to one and the tradition will hold true and hopefully when they think back they will realise that as with everything I do for them I do it with love.
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Baked gifts given with love

 

Each year we make Mini Christmas cakes for loved ones and special friends.  I do try and make them all edible and as the boys are getting older, I have two special helpers (which can leave finger marks in the icing like above).

 

I like to think that these cakes are baked and fashion with the love that we feel for the people we give them too.  We also gave them to the teachers and teaching assistants at the school, as yes I am angry at the school receptionists, but the teachers are wonderful people, who I entrust my most precious people too.

 

These two are for my mum and her best friend (who is like another Gran to the boys).  I still have our cake and the cake for my FIL to make and bake, so wish me luck.  Mini is still unwell and we had a foot or snow yesterday! I also have all the wrapping to do for the big day too! What do you have left to do for Christmas?
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Love

Love for me is the man who stands beside be everyday. The man who has been there for me through some really tough times. He has given me injections, changed dressings and nursed to back to health. He is a great provider and wonderful listener. Together we have created two boys with the most amazing potential. I hope that we will grow old together. Thank you for being my partner on this journey called life. I love you.
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Christmas traditions – Christmas Eve

I blogged last year about our Christmas traditions, about creating memories and making our own traditions as a family.  Including a little of mine and MadDads best Christmas's and sprinkling some new things, some things that are unique to us and to our life.  I want these tradition to cement the boys memories of their Christmas's past and lead them happily in to their Christmas's of their future. We have our advent stocking activities each day, which is wonderful and we also make sure that we have done all the shopping, wrapping and running around by Christmas Eve and we make a big day of it.

 

The Christmas Eve Elves visit on the morning of the 24th, they leave a bag for each of us and it includes:
  • New Pajamas (you need to look good in the photographs on Christmas morning)
  • A book to read or colour
  • DVD's
  • Some chocolate!
MadDad takes the day off and we listen to Christmas music and prepare the vegetables, we watch Christmas movies and eat popcorn whilst stringing it up to put round the Christmas tree and we sprinkle reindeer food on the drive.  We leave  a mince pie and milk for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolf (I made a special plate last year just for this). We also hang up our special key for Father Christmas to get in to the house, as the boys worried that we don't have a chimney for him.

 

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A Pause in Advent – Peace

n.
  1. The absence of war or other hostilities.
  2. An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities.
  3. Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations: living in peace with each other.
  4. Public security and order: was arrested for disturbing the peace.
  5. Inner contentment; serenity: peace of mind.
I hasve been trying hard this week to find peace in what is a very busy and hectic world at the moment.  I still dont have the conservatory roof fixed or a resolution with the insurance company on the electrical items, but we will get there.
I have spend every spare moment doing something, including baking cakes for school parties, attending carol services and helping mum with her shopping.
So when I had the chance to go to London on my own on Friday for the Philips UK Christmas Lunch, I jumped at it.  The thought of some child free time on the train really did seduce me.  The day didn't start all that well, Maxi had a school meltdown (he is bored again, due to the winding down of the term), then I got on the train, but my connecting train to London was cancelled, so I had to hop on to a bus to another station and then take a later train.  But I sat the whole way and read my book and just contemplated life and all in it.
I managed to get to the Soho Hotel in time for lunch and had a great time, catching up with some great bloggers and then realised the time, eek, I was going to miss my train home.  So off in a Taxi I dashed to Kings Cross, just to get to the platform as the train was leaving.   So I had a chat with a nice chap on the information desk and he said I could use my ticket on the first train after 6pm.  So I grabbed a nice cup of hot chocolate and my book and waited in peace for my train.  I managed to find a seat and we set off back to Darlington, but had to wait outside the station for nearly an hour (as the 5pm train had broke down), so I missed my connection and MadDad had to collect me from Darlington Station, which meant the boys didn't get to bed till past 10.
Saturday I also found some peace, for the first time in over 5 years, MadDad and I went shopping on our own.  My mum had the boys for three hours and we went and bought them Pj's for Christmas Eve and also my Birthday pressie (some slippers for tomorrow).  The shops were so quiet and we wandered around hand in hand, not having to wonder where our children were.  It was a blissful way to reconnect with each other.
What it made me realise was that you can find peace in even the busiest of places and that I am learning to find my inner peace as I get older and that I am also learning to enjoy my time on my own too.

I really would love some ornaments that have peace on them.  Betty at Mrs Yappy Dog sent me the most wonderful doves (one with joy on) as part of the handmade decoration swap, I just hope she is as pleased with mine as I am hers.   So sorry for the bad picture, but my camera was damaged in the snow fall and I wont get it back until after Christmas.
I hope that you have found peace this week, no matter how busy it has been.
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Since when is this acceptable?

The weather this week has been terrible, we still have snow despite the thaw and one of the issues the milder weather has brought has been the hazard of compacted snow with an extremely slippery surface.  In fact it is like walking on wet glass, well what I think walking on wet glass would feel. MadDad and other neighbours have been clearing driveways and the road during the snow regardless of the fact that many people seem to think that there is an issue over being sued if someone falls.  This does appear to be something of an urban legend and I have not been able to find a single instance of this happening.  Contrary to popular myth, it is fine for you to take action to clear your local pavements and pathways. The school on the other hand have only cleared one path into and out of the school and  not done any work on the pavements outside of the school.  On Thursday morning last week, I took both the boys to school and my neighbours girl and only having two hands, I could not hold all three children and Maxi slipped on the snow and ice, as did lots of children.  It was lethal.  Upon entering the building I tried to raise this issue with the receptionist, who at the best of times needs a personality transplant, but on this particular morning didn't even try to be polite.  I gave up and took the boys to their class. On my return I took the opportunity to speak to the head, who whilst wasn't as dismissive as the reception but did inform me that it was not on school property and, therefore, not their responsibility.  It struck me as this is far too common a response nowadays.  We are all quick to pass the buck.  I wasn't looking to apportion blame, just look for a solution that was suitable for all.  I was also informed if I had health and safety issues I should keep my children off school (oh and yes that would be an unauthorised absence).  I was furious, this is not the example I want to set to my children. I decided that I was not going to get anywhere and went to collect mum to come and see Maxi's nativity.  After the nativity the head came to see me and inform me that the council had been and gritted the paths.  So I took the opportunity to explain that the reception team were seriously lacking interpersonal skills and communications skills. I appreciate that I probably wouldn't have been the first person to complain and I am sure I wasn't the last, but it costs nothing to be polite.  I entrust the school with my most precious possessions, my children and am seriously considering other options at the moment. To make matters worse all the parents received a letter from school informing us that there has been abuse of the front line staff at the school.  This infuruated me and other parents, as the reception teams attitudes were immediatley defensive and unhelpful.
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Christmas Decoration Tour 2010

I adore Christmas and all that is brings, partly maybe due to being a Christmas baby (it is my birthday on 20 December).  So I love decorations and one of the great things about getting older is that I am no longer hung up on everything needing to be matching and co-ordinating.  In fact I am embracing my inner child and we have even gone for coloured lights on a white tree in the dinning room. I love the fact that we have been collecting decorations each year and adding to them, they carry so many memories, so much of our history as a family.  Yep I am a sentimental old woman! So let me take you on a tour of our Christmas Decorations this year.

 

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