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“Dear Parent…”

“Dear parent of a gravely ill child,

Or a perfectly healthy little one.

This letter is for you.

And you.

You worry about their fate.

You want the best for them, of course you do.

Your love is deep and wide and reached to the very heart of God.

If only love was enough…

You trust your God to protect them out of harm’s way.

No matter what your God is.

Whether it is Allah or Buddha or Yahveh.

Or karma.

Or the Virgin Mary.

Or Mother Earth.

We all need to trust in something bigger than ourselves.

I trust in God.

I trusted in God with my baby boy.

I am sure parents of any denomination, faith, affiliation, belief or lack of will tell you all the same thing: they trusted too.

They trusted in the universe to do what our most innate instinct tells us it is the right thing.

The innocent, the pure, the beautiful.

The vulnerable.

They certainly will be spared the pain.

They will certainly be protected from the worst.

And we did the praying. And the believing.

And the positive thinking.

And the good deeds.

And the giving.

And the pouring of ourselves.

In the hope

In the hope that nothing bad will touch our most loved ones.

But let me tell you something.

And I know you don’t want to hear it.

You will probably scream at the screen as you read this.

You will call me names.

Profane.

Shameless.

Godless.

But this is the truth.

The truth we lived.

The truth we live.

A whole silent community of us.

Of any denomination, belief, religion or lack of.

THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.

THERE IS NO MANIPULATION OF THE ALMIGHTY.

THERE IS NO SAVING POWERS IN OUR ACTS.

If God or Allah or Buddha or Mother Nature,

No matter what you believe in,

If He decided your child’s time is up.

There is nothing you can do to delay it or change it.

So, hear me out.

Love your children now.

Do what you can with them and for them now.

Lavish your attention, your care, your time on creating memories.

Happy memories.

Indulge them.

Spoil them.

Cherish them.

Because we, the parents from the bereaved club, the club no-one wants to ever be part of.

We can all testify and say.

There are no guarantees.

The time is now.

To love.

To foolishly, wholeheartedly and lavishly love your children.”

Love,

A MUM LIVING IN THE NOW.

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50 Shades of Grey (Movie Review by Hubby)

Last weekend, the debate was on, shall we go and see it as a couple or not. I resisted the invitation, hubby was very keen on watching it but the reviews were appalling. So we stayed in and watched “The Vow”, much more appropriate a story for Valentine’s weekend.

onesheetWe had watched it before, when it came out but Alex couldn’t remember much of it and it made for a very rare night in as a couple and led to very interesting conversations in the morning.

If you haven’t watched it, I would encourage you to. It is based on a true story and it leaves one feeling hopeful for the future, in spite of trauma and apparently insurmountable obstacles. Love wins, even when it needs to take a new shape and form and start afresh.

On the other hand, I am so glad we didn’t go to watch 50 Shades of Grey together that evening.

50 ShadesI am so glad I didn’t cave in to the pressure to “act cool” as a couple and go and fill our minds and souls with filth.

Cause filth it was, according to hubby’s account this morning.

Here is his view on it, bullet point by bullet point:

1. It is “the most overrated movie” he has ever heard of and watched, which shouldn’t have made it onto the screens.

2. It cannot be classified as an +18,as the sex scenes are not very suggestive. So if you were planning to get all steamy watching other people having sex, don’t bother. His words!

3. “It is not about sexual abuse only”. It is about one human being abusing another very naive and trusting human being without any remorse and heart.

4. Very interesting, as it comes from a bloke’s point of view, the movie opens the discussion about child abuse, as it is revealed that Christian Gray had been used by an older woman from the age of 15 for sexual gratification.

5. “There is nothing romantic about the movie.” The guy treats sex like a cold business, has Ana sign a contract about delivering sex to him under circumstances he chooses only and treats her as an object, not as a partner.

6. The movie ends abruptly, with Ana realising she cannot save Christian from his deviant behaviour. There can’t be redemption, anyway, given the facts the relationship is based on from the start.

Hubby was very disappointed but I am grateful he shared his insight with me.

Have you read the books or watched the movie?

What have you thought?

Let’s clear the air

Back in December, at the end of a very emotionally taxing month, I decided to purge my Facebook “friend” list.

I had at that time 500 people on my list and I decided to remove EVERYBODY who:

1. In the five months since July had not mentioned Georgie’s passing. Not even remotely. Not even indirectly, by “liking” any of my boy’s pictures. Nada.

2. In the five months since our lives were shattered had lurked in the shadows of Facebook, like spectators or emotional voyeurs, never approaching me personally or virtually but satisfying their need of sensationalism from afar.

So I removed 150 “friends.”

Last week, on top of feeling crap with the flu, having hubby dismantle precious memories in a moment of rage and feeling totally numb emotionally, I had to deal with two outbursts regarding my Facebook list purge.

And I was reminded, once again, why I chose NOT to have those people in my life and why I will stick to my decision.

When it is all about you, about how difficult you must have found it approaching us with your good news, while we were going through the hell of chemo with our sweet boy, yeah, you need to stay the hell away. Forever.

And when you have just noticed that you have been removed from the list, two months on, and you come huffing for an explanation, yeah, I am sorry but you are better where you are.

Guys(and gals) this has been the worst year of our lives by far. And I need to protect our family and our hearts of emotional voyeurs and people whose number one preoccupation is their own self.

I don’t have the energy to deal with you.

And I do not want to have you in my life, lurking on the outskirts, judging my outbursts, raging over my lack of propriety.

Until you have been in my shoes and felt the pain I feel, you will never understand.

So, yeah, stay clear of me and my pain, in your land of ponies and fairytale endings.

I am past that bullshit.

I live in the land of pain and crass reality.

An invisible fence, made out of shards of memories and “will never be” and “should have been” separate us now.

Stay the hell away, in the land of the easily-offended and the self-justified!

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Supporting Northern Ireland small businesses: Flavour First

As I said in my previous post, I feel Northern Ireland is my country of heart and I would do anything in my power to see it doing well.

Buying local is one of the easiest and yet the most efficient ways to support the local economy.

So I was thrilled when, at the end of January, we were asked to review Flavour First, a small local farm based in Donaghadee and delivering veg, fruit and salad boxes in counties Down and Antrim.

We were sent loads of yummy eggs of which we made very good use, as you know, Emma and I can eat eggs in every prepared form and for every meal :-).

10895323_1557998324439094_1906701309_nWe were asked to include them into a Romanian recipe, if possible.

In Romania, we use eggs for simply everything. From scrambled eggs for breakfast to deviled eggs for special holidays to coating schnitzels at dinner time. Not to mention all kinds of sweet and  savoury recipes!

So, we used ours in everything and tonight, we used the last ones for pancakes and crepes. Emma asked for both :-)!

Flavour First sells their free range dozen at £2.80 and if you love good eggs as much as we do in this home, I would wholeheartedly recommend them!

Disclaimer: we were sent four boxes of eggs to review. No monetary payment was made for the purpose of this review. The views expressed in this post are truthful and our own.

Supporting Northern Ireland small businesses: the BubbleBum

I have been living in Northern Ireland since 2007 and I have come to consider this little welcoming and green country my own.

I feel privileged to have been approached and asked to write blog reviews for two small businesses in Northern Ireland recently. I will introduce the first to you tonight.

When the brilliant mind behind the BubbleBum (I know, genius name, right?) asked us if we loved to road test one, we nearly jumped for joy!

_MG_5352The concept is simple yet innovative: this is one light weight car booster seat, suitable for children aged between 4-11 years (15-36kgs) and to be used in conjunction with a 3 point adult seat belt. You can easily inflate and use the BubbleBum almost everywhere: in a taxi, in a childminder’s car, on holidays or at the back of a small car like mine.

The inflatable booster seat folds up neatly when not in use and comes complete with a carry bag. A shoulder positioning strap is also provided so that your child can sit safely in their BubbleBum booster seat and have the safety belt secured across their body/shoulder.

We put it straight to use the same day we got it as Emma had some of her little friends over and the BubbleBum was almost fought over after the school run :-).

Bubble_Bum_Booster_Seat_A_SS_1What did the girls think of it?(They ended up taking turns using it!):

1. That it has a funny name.

2. That it’s very comfortable.

3. That the Bubble Bum can easily be transported inside the house so they can play “safe dollies” with it too.

What did I think of it?

1. That it did all it said it would do: it was very easy to inflate and it didn’t take any unnecessary space at the back of my tiny Toyota Yaris.

2. Compared to the standard booster seats, the shoulder strap offers extra reassurance and safety, especially for a smaller child.

3. As a former childminder, I find it very practical to store and also easy to clean, in case of spillages or toilet accidents.

Here is a short video of how to install the shoulder strap correctly:

I am sorry for the lack of personal photos in this review. My car is only a three-door car and I found it impossible to take any good shots of Emma sitting on the Bubble Bum through the window.

The BubbleBum range retails at £29.99 and can be bought from Halfords, John Lewis, Tesco, Boots, Argos, Heatons, Kiddicare and Amazon.co.uk.

Disclaimer: we were sent the booster car seat to review. No monetary payment was made in exchange of this review. All opinions expressed are our own.

Baby blankets, memories and Dettol

With both Emma and Georgie I had a multitude of baby blankets.

I wanted my babies to feel warm and safe and cuddly.

To my babies, those blankies were my love, wrapped tight around them, keeping them comfy.

Emma still get new blankets, even now at 5. Her latest is a Frozen one, of course.

I can no longer do it for my Georgie. I can no longer wrap blankies and love around his little frame. I can no longer keep him safe and well.

But when I heard about the Dettol campaign, I knew I can do it for others babies and children who need help!

DBBD logoDettol is encouraging us all to donate baby blankets we no longer need to give a good start in life to babies in the UK whose mummies can’t afford them.

Not only that, they will go a step further and donate £1 per blankie donated to the Sparks charity, a children’s medical research charity.

If you have been following this blog, you know that fundraising for research childhood cancer has become a very dear subject to my heart.

Sparks is at the moment funding research for neuroblastoma and also another dozen of life-threatening conditions, like cystic fibrosis and congenital heart disease.

You see when I read that list? I don’t see names of diseases to cure.

I see the names of children who are suffering or have passed away from several of these conditions.

Would you please dig out the old baby blankets with me, mummies?

Would you send them on with your love, to wrap up new little ones and make them feel and nice and safe and also, give hope to so many other children already very loved and wanted here bu who need a cure from all those horrible conditions?

Donate-Blankets2_500x269I will let this picture of my Georgie, wrapped up in one of his precious wee blankets, have the last word:

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Seven months on as a bereaved parent

It has been seven months since Georgie died.

Seven long and extremely taxing months.

Taxing on our emotions, our mental health, our relationships, our bodies and souls.

Looking back, here are the ten things I have learned from the past seven months:

1. Grief is like a sneaky thief, it shows up uninvited and robs you of any remnant of joy and hope. There are no rules in the grieving game, grief doesn’t stick to any rules. It strikes whenever it pleases and the pain can last for weeks and weeks.

2. Grief affects EVERY aspect of your life. There is no area that has been left untouched by grief.

My body has been affected, I have put on weight because to me, food is a comfort now.

My mind has been severely affected, I have become very forgetful and I have trouble focusing on and staying on plan. My sleep patterns have been altered as well, there is hardly any night I don’t wake up to think and process what has happened to my baby.

My emotions have been majorly affected, I have experienced the vastest array of emotions you can imagine in a relatively short space of time. I have been depressed, lethargic, angry, desperate for an answer, relieved my baby doesn’t suffer anymore, jealous with other people’s happiness, guilty for having wished for this beautiful baby who ended up dying.

My relationships have transformed, changed or stopped existing. I have made new friends, people who have been through loss like us. I have lost many friends, even from the ones who were there in the days preceding and following Georgie’s death. My emotions became too intense, my questions too close to home and they chose the easy way out. I still grieve for losing not only my boy, but also friends and relatives who proved incapable of accepting the pain and the anger that followed Georgie’s death.

3. Grief incapacitates you severely. I have been saying it, time and time again, the constant mental and emotional processing leaves very little energy for living.

I work for a few hours per day, I pick Emma up from school, I make dinner and I look after the house. I sometimes blog but I can’t do it everyday.

I actually need to rest after we get home from the school run. Emma and I, we take an hour to watch something on the iPad or just rest. It is important and I have learned the hard way to give myself permission to do it. If I push myself too hard, if I try to function as a “normal” person, I end up with migraines or bad colds.

4. Grief sharpens your senses. In the immediate months after Georgie died, I felt as if my heart had become an emotional radar. I could have sensed any sort of pain without people having to tell me much. Gracefully, that intensity of emotions has passed now but I still find myself incapable of reading a story and not “feeling” the emotions of the ones involved.

5. Grief changes with the passing of time. I remember feeling physically sick in the weeks after Georgie died every single time I would have caught the sight of a blue babygrow or a baby blankie resembling one of Georgie’s.

Now, seven months on, the pain isn’t as sharp. But it has been replaced by this deep, deep sadness that descends over me every time I am caught unaware by a thought or a sight that triggers memories.

6. You learn to navigate and manage your grief. I found the run up to Christmas and Georgie’s first birthday unbearably painful. I think it was mostly the anticipation of the emotionally high charged days. The fear of the emotional pain. The return of the pain and the fear and the anger.

But somehow, the run-ups have been worse than the days themselves.

I learned from the Christmas one and was more prepared for Georgie’s first birthday. We chose to stay away from people, shut down from Facebook and spent the afternoon remembering our sweet boy, visiting his memory stone in the hospice and just try and create a new normality for our smaller by one family.

7. Grief is an ever present foe you learn to live with

I remember the first time I laughed. Like really, belly laughed after Georgie died. I felt so very guilty.

But now, I have come to accept that pain and joy will forever coexist in my heart until the day I die.

I can laugh now. I can enjoy a meal. I can have a cuddle and a bedtime story with Emma without feeling totally bereft.

But I know that the joy and the laughter will always be followed by this shadow. By this sadness that descends with the silence. In the night. In my dreams.

They live side by side. Friends and enemies. Pain and joy, in the same heart.

8. Grief exacerbates your main personality traits

I have realised that grief makes us turn to coping mechanisms we are familiar and comfortable with.

When the pain is bad, Alex, whose main love language is physical touch, needs me to be there for him physically.

When the pain is bad, I, whose love language is shared time but also respecting one’s personal space, I need people to be there for me but I also need my quiet time and my space to recoup.

Alex’s coping mechanism has always been work. So obviously, he has been working out more than ever before since Georgie died and has been spending every single awake moment he has working.

My coping mechanism is lying low. Saving my energy. Pulling back physically and emotionally so that I can survive.

We haven’t been very good for each other in these seven months. One runs to and the other runs away. One needs reassurance, the other needs space.

But having talked to other couples who have been through grief, we understood this is normal and natural and part of being unique.

But it hasn’t saved on the emotional pain.

Of course it hasn’t.

9. Grief makes you into a new you

I look back at who I was before Georgie’s death and I don’t recognise myself.

To everybody else, I am the same shell but inside, I am someone else.

Totally different.

I have questioned everything I believed in, to the very bone.

I have tossed aside the beliefs that had been passed on but made no sense in the light of what has happened.

I do not care about many things now.

But I am much more secure in who I am.

In Whom I believe.

In what I want and can achieve in myself.

10. Grief puts everything into perspective

Do you know what were my biggest fears before I lost Georgie?

I used to be afraid I would die alone.

I used to be afraid I won’t make it to heaven.

I was afraid of dying as in the passing moment from this world into the next, not entirely sure of what it will be like.

I am not longer afraid.

I have contemplated death by cancer. Death alone. Death by road accident.

And I am no longer afraid of the possible  pain that would precede it.

As I know that beyond that threshold we will all have to pass, there will be a smiling boy waiting with open arms for his mama.

And there will be a Saviour ready to welcome me and say:

“This is where life actually starts. Welcome home!”

I