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Celebrating Nan (2)

Goodbye Nan

Yesterday evening my Nan passed away, after months of being very poorly. We didn’t expect her to make Christmas, so it has been a very long journey.
 
I’ve spent several weeks thinking about how cruel the end of life can be, as your body slowly and painfully shuts down. So when my mum called to tell me she had finally passed last night, my reaction was one of relief, not grief.
 
I went downstairs so I could spend a few minutes alone thinking of her, telling her how I loved her and would miss her, but that I was glad she had finally moved out of the pain and would be reunited with her husband and sister. Immediately I was overwhelmed by a sense of absolute joy, and I just knew it was from her – she faced her biggest fear (death) and is now at peace.
Celebrating Nan
With my Nan and my uncle on our wedding day.
I had been feeling guilty that I hadn’t been able to visit her since November. I’ve been so sick that it just wasn’t possible, but even knowing that I still worried that I would regret not getting to see her one last time.
But last night I knew that it didn’t matter. She is finally home and at peace. And as my mum said, it’s better to remember her as she was, rather than the battle she faced at the end.
 
So today I am remembering the feisty woman that my Nan was. Highly opinionated, and often sharp with her words, but fiercely protective of those she loved. She knew her own mind and wasn’t afraid to voice it, and you couldn’t tell her anything if she didn’t want to hear it! I guess we know where my stubborn streak comes from…
More than anything, that’s what I’ll remember about my Nan. She wasn’t the stereotypical, cuddly grandmother whose house you ran to when your parents were driving you up the wall. She certainly wasn’t the first person I thought of when I had a problem that I needed to share. But she was a strong woman, who survived many challenging times and experiences through her life, with the grit and determination that she held onto right to the bitter end.
Celebrating Nan (2)
I have no doubt this laughter was caused by something rude or rather inappropriate!

She walked on the edge sometimes, and more often than not the things she said were the least politically correct you could get! I think there have been times when we’ve all looked at each other with an expression of, “did she really just say that?” in our eyes, which makes me chuckle now.

But more than that, I’ll remember the cheeky side to her, the times when she laughed so hard she cried. Like the time my cousins told her that sex education these days involved putting a condom on a carrot, and she hadn’t quite believed them so asked me and my sister if it was true. Oh my word, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone laugh as hard as she did that day!

That is the Nan I’ll remember. The lady who was stubborn as hell, and lived life the way she wanted to. She would have been 87 tomorrow, and though I am sad to know that we’ll never see her (in this life) again, I am glad for all these memories.

Goodbye, Nan… I love you.

My Daddy is Poorly – a poem about family life and chronic illness

Living with chronic illness is hard on all members of the family.

For TJ it means living with awful pain day in and day out, with new symptoms developing whilst we wait for even more tests and referrals. And for me it means watching the man I love reduced to a shadow of his former self, unable to do anything but stand by in support.

But for Little Man it is simply confusing… he knows daddy is poorly and sad, but he doesn’t quite know what to do about it. He is only 3, after all, how can he possibly understand what is going on?

So, with this on my mind this morning, I decided to write something for him. As with most of my poems, once I got started the words began to flow right out of me and I was able to read it to both TJ and Little Man over breakfast.

It made both TJ and myself rather emotional and Little Man listened intently. And I realised it was something that needed to be shared – after all, how many other families may feel exactly like we do?

TJ gave me his blessing to share it (I always check before I post anything personal on here) and so here it is:

My daddy is poorly

My daddy is poorly
he hurts every day,
he has lots of medicine
to take pain away.

Sometimes he’s unhappy,
sometimes he is sad,
sometimes he’s frustrated
and sometimes he’s mad.

He tells me he’s okay,
that things are alright.
He plays with me each day,
reads books every night.

But I know he’s hurting
and that makes me sad,
I can’t make him better
and that makes me mad.

Sometimes I am naughty,
sometimes I will cry,
sometimes I get angry
and sometimes I sigh.

And then daddy hugs me
and holds me so tight,
he kisses me gently
and says we’re alright.

My daddy is poorly,
he hurts everyday,
but when we’re together
it all goes away

Nurturing Faith in the Family

As you may have noticed, I think quite a lot about faith and how that relates to our lives as individuals and as a family. I don't write about it anywhere near as often as I think about it, but it does crop up from time to time.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately, as I've been trying to get my head and heart around certain things and I have been reading quite a bit too (whenever I've had the time). I've been wondering how to nurture faith in our family, especially in terms of introducing the idea of faith to Little Man and encouraging him to explore it in his own way.

I consider myself to be a Unitarian and as I wrote in this post, "The Unitarians believe you should actively seek your own experience and understanding of the Divine". But how do I do this with Little Man whilst he is so young? At this age they want clear and specific answers, not ones that ask them to consider deep thoughts they are unable to really comprehend right now. 

But even more confusing is how do I explain to him that I read the Bible but that I interpret it in the way that I feel guided to inside my own heart which doesn't always tally up with the more typical interpretations? It makes using a devotional very challenging and so we haven't got any of those.

So I was really happy to find and read the book "What God Wants" by Neale Donald Walsch and find that it talked very deeply about what he calls "Separation Theology" (the theology that we are separate from God and one another and that there must be one true religion) and went into detail about how he feels a theology of Unity would work. After all, this is what Unitarian thinking is all about. 

The following two quotations are ones that I want to keep in my mind and heart as I work on nurturing faith within myself and Little Man, and I hope you don't mind me sharing them. 

About Religion

"There is only one God. Whatever we think God is, most of the major religions of the world would agree: there is only One of That […] From "There is only one God" to "There is only One Thing at all" is a small shift. It's not a rejection of doctrine, but an enlargement. It's not an abandonment of traditional religious teaching, but an expansion […] This is not about rejecting religion. It is, in fact, about reinvigorating it, enlivening it, refreshing it." (Chapter 18)

About Scripture

"Humans will understand that God's words are found in all of the world's Holy Scriptures, and that no scripture is more authoritative, more complete, more accurate, or more authentic than any other, but that each contains great wisdom and each leads to a greater understanding of The Only Truth There Is" (Chapter 23)

These two verses speak to me so much and make me feel so much more at peace with how I approach the Bible and other sacred texts in a way that has previously been described by many as a "pick and mix" approach without much substance.

But nothing could be further from the truth, as I am constantly exploring God and my relationship with him. This is currently now being explored through another book I found at our local library, this time a Christian one, "What the Bible Really Teaches" by Keith Ward. 

Although I have found the beginning of this book rather hard going, it is in fact helping me to explore things in ever more detail and depth and I do believe that even though a book may be hard to read, that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it!

The reason I find it so hard is that actually the author is rather forceful in his "challenge" to fundamentalist thinking and beliefs and though I completely agree with an awful lot of the points he makes, I don't appreciate the style and force behind his words. It was a fundamentalist style of Christianity that pushed me away and so it is good to read a book that focuses on it, but even so it could have been toned down (in my mind, at least).

That being said, I am enjoying reading his "six principles of biblical interpretation". These include:

The Principle of Contextualisation

"We cannot read a biblical passage as though it has just fallen out of the sky and was addressed to us personally. We have to try and see who wrote it, when, why and for whom".
"What the Bible really teaches  is usually not very clear, and it is often widely misunderstood. In other words, what the Bible really teaches is not one thing, clearly stated, which it is faithless to doubt or deny" 

and

The Principle of Comprehensiveness

"In reading any passage of the Bible, we must consider all relevant biblical material, and not take passages in isolaton and out of context".

These both make me want to explore the Bible in much more detail than I have in the past and work out what it meant to the people at the time and what it means to me now. 

Essentially, these two books have made me feel more at ease with sharing parts of the Bible to introduce Little Man to God and faith and that it is okay to do this and share my own thoughts on what it all means, even if that isn't the mainstream intepretation. I was so worried that I might introduce something to Little Man and then him come across it again at school or something and find himself in a difficult situation if what I have shared with him is different to what is shared with him by another. 

But isn't that the point? Faith is personal, I have always maintained that, and yet I worry so much about getting it wrong when trying to explain this to Little Man. I need to let go of some of that worry and trust that he will find his own way in his own time. 

Thanks for letting me share this part of my heart with you today. I know that some of you may be very firm in your faith and the way you are raising your children and may find this slightly perplexing. Others of you may have no faith or be quite sincere atheists and may think I am mad for worrying so much about it. Either way, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts in the comment (as long as they are respectful and polite, of course!) 

We’re Getting There…

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I thought it was about time that I wrote a follow-up to the post I wrote a few weeks back about our decision to never have any more babies of our own

When I wrote that post I knew it was the right decision but I was going through some major emotions in reaction to it. 

But slowly and surely something is happening deep inside that I cannot quite explain. I am beginning to truly accept the decision and am feeling far less pain around the whole thing.

I didn't really understand how far I had come though until we recently went to a couple of conferences. On the Thursday I saw some beautiful babies at the PSS annual conference. Then on the Friday I got to meet and hug our nephew for the first time, before heading off to BritMums Live where there were rather more bumps and babes in arms. And surprisingly this overload of babies didn't break my heart!

I still find it sad sometimes, but mostly I'm beginning to find the joy in our life as a family of 3. I'm not saying that maternal instinct won't kick in several years down the line and make me wish desperately that things were different for me healthwise, but right now I am happy. And right now is all we have. I get that now.

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Little Man is becoming the more joyous and amazing thing to ever have happened in our lives. He was always a beautiful blessing, but recently his little personality has grown so much that I think my heart melts a million times each day. 

He has this funny little grin that makes me want to squeal with delight every time I see it.

He has begun to snuggle in, even crawling across the room mid-play just to lay his head on our laps for a few seconds. And it makes me want to hug him and never let him go when he shows such affection.

He has even started trying to eat  *ahem* kiss us which is the most darling thing ever.

In the past 3 weeks he has cut no less than four more teeth, taking his total up to 6. He's also mastered crawling, standing up, cruising and is trying his hardest to walk with just one hand holding on to something so he has his other hand free.

He likes to "help" me with my chores these days, making them so much more fun (even if it does take three times as long!) 

And he sings along with me in his own beautiful little way. We love to sing in our house and it's wonderful to hear him practising changing the tone of his own voice. 

And compared to all that, everything else seems to fade away. Life isn't perfect. In fact we have several things that are rather stressful and challenging going on in our lives right now. But Little Man has brought a whole new focus for us and when I realised I was missing out on the absolute joy he brings us by worrying about the future and a family we may never have it was the easiest thing to let that go.

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This is my family… and it means the world to me. 

Beltane in Glastonbury (and some revelations)

Last week we celebrated Beltane in Glastonbury (my favourite place on earth) and it was truly magical.

Family 1

Photo courtesy of Nicole Fischer

We weren’t just there for the festivities, but it was jolly good to join in with the celebrations that happened around the Chalice Well area.

There was drumming (which Little Man loved) and dancing (which Little Man loved) and people dressed in all sorts of finery (which Little Man found fascinating). In fact it all made me rather emotional in a way I cannot quite describe, but let’s just say that seeing the procession coming past the Gardens made me well up with tears slightly as we joined the end of it.

We also had a blessing for Little Man (very small, just us and our friend Nicole) which I shall write about another time. It was very special for us.

But more than all of that, we came home with a renewed sense of passion for seeking out our own spirituality and being who we really want to be. TJ has actually never struggled with that as much as I have, but even he felt a difference being in a place that was so open and accepting.

I have held my beliefs very close to my heart for many years because I never knew where I fit in nor how others would respond. But I always knew I wanted any children I had to grow up knowing that whatever they felt to be true was okay. And suddenly I realised that unless I start living as if my own beliefs are okay to be shared he will never learn this.

Like so many things that have happened this year, it is the very fact that I no longer need to make changes for me but also for Little Man that I am able to take a leap of faith and try a different way of being. Things I have battled with for years suddenly seem to be falling into place as the changes necessary become so much easier to make. And it feels like the right time to start sharing these things on the blog too. Because, after all, this blog is first and foremost a place to record our lives as a family!

So instead of thinking about what I *should* post about, I’m going to start writing about things which mean something to me. Even if they are totally meaningless. And instead of worrying that I haven’t managed to post for a whole month, I’m just going to go with the flow. And instead of splitting my time between a mountain of projects and never feeling I have the chance to stop, I’m making my priorities and I’m going to try my hardest to stick to them.

A week in Glastonbury, without any internet and with a beautiful atmosphere around me, has made me realise what is important in my life.

I actually felt free without worrying whether I’d answered this person or checked up on that person, and though I still want to keep up with the lives of friends and family, I’m no longer going to stress about missing something once in a while.

And knowing I had only my family and the necessary things (like laundry) to deal with, made me a much happier and calmer (and more organised) person. TJ even mentioned he preferred this Amanda, the one who wasn’t constantly stuck to her computer or running from one thing to another. And I have to admit, I quite like her too!

So, Beltane in Glastonbury was a truly wonderful experience. But our holiday meant so much more to me. And I hope to share some of those things with you soon… but only when I have the time.

First Family Christmas!

Are you ready for a ton of gorgeous photos from our first Christmas as a family?

Here goes…

Good Day

We started the day in our pyjamas, and stayed in them the whole day!

We were all festive in our new red pyjamas. I had scotty dogs and spots on mine, TJ had Homer Simpson on his, and Little Man had a great fleecy number that he received from a very special friend.

Sarah, from BioGirl, sent us some of Henry’s clothes from his very first Christmas and so Little Man spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the sweetest outfits from his new friend Henry! Sarah has become a very close friend to me and knowing that she chose to send some of Henry’s precious clothes for Little Man when letting go of said clothes is hard means more than I can say. To understand just why it meant so much, have a read of her post here.

I do so hope that Little Man and Henry will grow to be internet buddies, just like their mamas! So, Henry, here is Little Man in the beautiful sleepsuit you sent for him to wear when Santa came.

So tired

It was so exciting that Little Man had to have a nap half way through opening his presents. But we soon got back on track and although slightly bemused by the whole affair (he is only 3 months old after all), he seemed to like this new toys…

Oscar and Daddy

a new rattle…

Oscar and Daddy 2

a musical mobile phone…

Oscar and Daddy 3

and several new books!

Little Man actually bought this book for his daddy for Christmas and poor daddy was so overwhelmed that it took him two days to get to the end of it!

Mummy received some books from daddy too and daddy got one from mummy, so as usual books were a big part of our gift giving. I get the feeling we’re going to need to rearrange the bookcases again!

TJ then decided to put the hat I had made for my sister on Little Man…

Oscar and Hat

He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first. But then he got used to it and decided he looked mighty handsome and he ought to make mummy take as many photos as possible before it was wrapped up and given to Aunty Debbie!

Oscar and Mummy

All in all we had a wonderful Christmas Day, our first as a family of three, and it wasn’t long before we were heading to bed with dreams of starting again the next day with my parents. I’ll post more photos of Boxing Day soon, but here is a sneak preview of how gorgeous my boy looked…

In My Shirt

Incidentally, since I am showing you the clothes Henry sent for Little Man I thought I might show you the awesomeness of the sweet boy wearing a dino hat I made for him. I completely forgot to share the photos when Sarah first posted them, but doesn’t Henry look so cool? If you’re interested in making a similar hat, I used the pattern found here, simplifying it to fit in with my time scale by leaving off the tail and spots, but I think it still looked great!

Halloween Fun

Halloween 2

Can you believe it is November already? 

I cannot say that this year has zoomed by because it hasn't. I spent the majority of January through to September feeling pretty darn miserable. But now that the pregnancy is over and my mind has pretty much blocked almost the entirety of my pregnancy experience it feels as if we were celebrating last year's Halloween just a few short months ago. It's like I have lost 9 whole months. Not that I'm complaining, this time of year (October to December) is my absolute favourite. But still, it's weird!

I also realise I have so much I want to get done before Christmas and so little time to do it that I really am going to have to prioritise. One such thing is sorting out this blog. I'll tell you more about that another day but it does make me realise how fast time is flying by and how much I want to do now my sweet boy is here with us.

But for now we're just enjoying having some fun. And that includes celebrating Halloween, which is always a big deal in our house as, for TJ, Halloween is as big a celebration as Christmas! In fact, Little Man had not one outfit, not even two, but three different Halloween outfits to wear! One was the skeleton you see above, which he wore when answering the door to the trick or treaters with his daddy. The second was a pumpkin outfit, which daddy took a photo of on his tab and which I must download to share with you all sometime. And the third was a sweet long-sleeved top with a cute picture of a mummy on (the Egyptian kind) which also had the words "I love my mummy" on. I'm not sure whether I actually took a photo of it or not. I probably did, but as I am switching between using my phone, the camera and the video camera to take photos and videos at every possible moment I'll  be darned if I can remember which one it is on!

Although I am cherishing every moment and do not want to wish the year away, I have to say that a part of me kept thinking "I cannot wait until next year" as Halloween will be even more exciting with a one year old toddling around in a cute little outfit. And it will be nice to have him sharing in the Halloween treats rather than trying to breastfeed him while eating my own lunch. I don't mind doing it, in fact I love breastfeeding my little man, but it seems such a shame when he is discreetly tucked away under my nursing cover when we have guests around. I'd much rather his grinning face shine out from the other side of the table while we were eating.

So that's that. Halloween is over for another year. Now starts the Christmas preparations. I'm going to need every second between now and Christmas as my little man takes up so much of my time (and rightly so) but it does mean that I need to get super organised to make sure everything is done on time this year and not finished in a mad panic on Christmas Eve as seems to be my pattern of late. 

TJ is off work this week so there is an extra pair of hands to hug the little dude, so I hope to get cracking on some of the Christmas prep as well as making the changes to and updating my blog with all the things I have wanted to write about but haven't found the time for. Because, let's be fair, I'd much rather be hugging my boy than typing on the laptop. Who wouldn't, when you get this sweet face to gaze at?

Sleepy