31 Days of Grief: Give

I am back to my grief posts. I should have finished them in October but grief, exhaustion and the disruption of a week in Greece got in the way.

Carly Marie’s prompt for day 19 of the grieving journal was an encouragement to give a bit of us to others in the moments we feel at our lowest.

I have started a new habit with Georgie’s passing. I have taken to giving joyfully and meaningfully, randomly and spontaneously. I can’t wait for the conditions to be right. I can’t wait for our finances to be perfect. I can’t wait. Full stop.

I feel this urge to bless, whenever and in whatever way I can.

My bank account may have suffered a bashing and will take a little while to recover but I do not care. I am not greedy or wasteful. I use money for the sole purpose of giving joy to others, with any opportunity that is presented to me.

My bank account will recover. Money comes and goes. But opportunities don’t.

I know that full well.

I am so glad for every single toy and baby grow I was able to get Georgie. He enjoyed the stimulation and the comfort they brought.

And in his absence, I enjoy now giving to friends and strangers and family. Giving of me. And out of my pocket.

Because I do not know how long I have here. I do not know if tomorrow I will still be standing.

I feel compelled to do what I can, when I can.

I treasure every moment.

All because of a blue eyed baby boy who made me understand life on earth is more perishable sometimes than tinned food.

I do not want to be told of me “she was survived by a bank account” but  that “she gave out of everything she had, unconditionally.”

1236316_10152282958066512_2797188240144417435_n

Deck the house with boughs of colour…

I love observing the passing of the seasons and I love dressing my home to reflect the changes in nature. I believe every house-proud woman does, wouldn’t you agree?
I believe we were created to vibrate in tone with our surroundings and we are influenced by what the eye sees and the heart feels.

Our house is always reflecting the outdoors and the season we are in. It is a very tangible way of teaching Emma to respect the nature, to understand the changes and to treasure and learn to recreate in her turn a sense of homeliness and comfort.

This autumn, even with Georgie missing from our midst and with my heart bleeding continuously and constantly for him, I consciously made the decision to follow through with our traditions and deck the house in autumn décor. For Emma’s sake, for a sense of security that comes from routines and constants in our lives but also from a very deep need within myself to surround myself with living and beautiful things.

Autumn collageWe also try to celebrate the best the season has to offer, so we would bake and go to shows and stay in touch with what is in season also in a culinary and artistic sense.

The pictures below were taken last year of our living room, our Christmas plants and decorations, our home-decorated gingerbread house and the Cinderella pantomime we enjoyed close to Christmas.

PicMonkey Collage-December 2013

Now that Christmas is fast approaching, I will be looking into decking the house again. If money was no object, I would love to be able to redecorate the whole house in Christmassy, vibrant colours.

Our living room could actually do with a new coffee table, which I would choose from the coffee table range at Cookes Furniture. I would probably go for the storage coffee table, classy yet practical when you have small children and loads of small Lego bits and dolly shoes that need stored away safely (read, be put out of sight.)

We also desperately need a new sofa and it has been on my wishing list forever. It became obvious we needed one when the midwife who came to visit us after Georgie was born nearly took off with a portion of it…I have my eyes on a corner one from Harveys, it would be perfect for movie nights and for cuddling up as a family. I truly hope hubby Santa reads this and grants my wish this Christmas!

If our kitchen/sitting room was a lot bigger that it actually is now, I would choose one of the gorgeous burgundy (and very much in fashion now) comfy fabric armchairs from Marks and Spencer as well. To have somewhere for Santa to sit his weary self and enjoy his mince pies when he visits, of course!

Furniture CollageNow, what are the things you will be doing yourselves to dress the house for the festive season and if money was no object, what would you change about your furniture?

On the fourth day of Christmas…

“On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”

Another year has nearly gone by and I am sure that most of us have created beautiful memories with our loved ones that we will  cherish and would love to have close or present as seasonal gifts to our families, in the form of calendars, photo albums or personalised phone or iPad cases.

We have taken thousands of photos since January. I am so glad a dear friend of ours suggested we took photos and videos of Georgie once he was diagnosed. I will treasure the advice and every single picture we have of our beautiful boy forever.

Once Georgie passed away, we have created many, many beautiful photographic memories and have adorned the house with his gorgeous little face. They are wonderful reminders of his beautiful character and presence and the time we were allowed with him. I cannot imagine not having these bitter sweet gifts that we can go back to and remember Georgie by.

imageThe lovely people at FotoInsight have a wonderful surprise for my blog readers and would like to offer one of you, lucky lot, £50 worth of vouchers on their site. They understand too well our need as human beings to visualise love and I am too glad to be able to partnership with them in offering you the opportunity to immortalise your memories and transform them into either (canvas) prints, calendars, photo books or posters. My favourite items on their site are the personalised photo cushions, the glass block photos and the personalised iPhone cases.

They have asked my lovely readers, in order to be in for a chance to win, to like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and if you have a LinkedIn account, to pop by and say hello.

Once you have done that, just give me a little wave in a comment to let me know you have entered the giveaway.

The competition is open for UK residents only and will be running for a week. Just to give you plenty of time to order those memories in for Christmas. I will use a random number generator to pick a winner and I will announce the name via my Facebook page, so make sure you are a fan!

Good luck everyone and thank you, FotoInsight, for your generosity towards my readers and ourselves.

Disclaimer: I was offered vouchers in exchange for writing this post but the opinions expressed are all my own. And so is the joy of seeing one of my readers blessed with such a meaningful gift!

Silent Sunday

10816129_10152368187426512_1427484325_nSilent-Sunday

On the third day of Christmas…

“On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”

As you all know, this year has been the most horrendous we have had so far.

We went through a devastating leukeamia diagnosis with Georgie, months in the children’s hospital and then the most surreal and painful goodbyes from the boy we had come to treasure and love with all our hearts.

We have since attempted to find some balance. Not only us as grown-ups but also Emma, as a sibling, who has witnessed all these events and has been marked by them much deeper than we probably will ever comprehend.

She is not your typical five-year old anymore. She never was but now, even less so.

Emma has developed an eery insight on life and death and her own deep life philosophy, coping mechanisms and rationale, all unique and coming from the heart-wrenching and life-changing events she had to witness at such an early age.

What has helped enormously has been an open attitude, not only from us but from the hospital and the hospice staff. Emma is an inquisitive child and she has had loads of questions and a constant need for reassurance. I truly felt we were beautifully blessed with caring staff who were able to approach the subject of death, heaven and the afterlife sensitively yet openly and knowledgeably, adapting their responses to her age level yet always keeping the truth prevalent in their answers.

Another thing I observed Emma using in her need to process the facts and her own emotions has been play. Child-led therapy through play can work wonders if the right tools and supporting material are at hand.

We were very lucky to have been offered several books to review through the blog which found us at the right time and helped Emma enormously in processing the trauma of Georgie’s hospitalisation and afterwards, his passing.

When Georgie was still in the hospital, and we were still hoping in a cure and healing, we were sent one of the Monkey Wellbeing activity packs, the one in which Monkey visits the Emergency Department. It came spot on, just a week or so before the doctors approaches us with the scary (at that time) avenue of a possible bone marrow transplant for Georgie and the need of a blood test which was to establish if any of us, including Emma, would have been a possible donor.

tnEmma took to the Monkey puppet immediately and we were able to discuss in length through the safe intermediary of the story about needles, hospital visits and so on. It helped enormously, not only with the preparation for the blood test but also with her comprehension of the events and internalisation of the process. Monkey went to nursery with Emma those days and explained the facts to her friends and then helped through play after the hospital visit.

I would warmly recommend the activity packs and the use of the monkey puppet in explaining life-changing events (like going to the hospital, starting school or dealing with a debilitating illness, such as asthma) to a preschooler or a primary school child. The stories are there to explain the procedures and processes in detail and to make children comprehend them in context.

Once Georgie passed away, Emma became obsessed with playing doctors and nurses, to the exasperation of her playmates and school friends, whose life experiences had been so different to Emma’s.

At that point we were offered another precious helping hand, in the form of yet another couple of books to review, Fiona the Doctor and Richard the Vet. The latest in the What do the grown-ups do? series by Mairi McLellan, published on the 28th of October this year, these two books come highly appraised and recommended for children with analytical spirits and dispositions.

COVER FIONAAlthough the books come recommended for the target reader age group 5 to 10, I believe they would benefit the older childen who have the patience to listen about the detailed daily routine of a general practitioner or veterinary doctor.

Emma, at almost 5, adapted the information for her level and used daddy and willing (and at times, even reluctant) play dates to practice her doctoring skills and make sense of her shattered world. She discussed in detail the doctor’s routine she had been read about and assessed correctly the pressures that come with such a demanding job. In the end, and basing her judgement on both the information provided in the book and our experience in the hospice, Emma decided that she would rather train as a nurse in the hospice, to work “with little children like Georgie, mummy. Because sometimes doctors can’t make them better but nurses can look after them so well.” Bless her sweet soul…

Doc EmmaWith Christmas approaching and if struggling with inspiration for gift ideas for children with inquisitive spirits and aiming at working as actors, doctors, vets, fishermen or even filmmakers( Gordon the Wildlife Filmmaker will actually come out of the press in February 2015 so keep an eye for it), do visit Kids’ Educational Books  website for more information about the series and where to purchase the books.

Give a child the chance to learn and play and dream about the future, allow their imagination to run wild and build the foundation on which the future will be build. Because every reality begins with a game, a question and a childhood dream.

When Lily met Arkoudaki

Emma loves cuddlies. She has always loved them,her favourite is Hippo Hips, a big and soft “girl” hippo she had rescued from among the elephants on a wet day in Ikea. She also has two other very special teddies, to remind her of Georgie.

I wasn’t surprised when, on our flight from London to Zante two weeks ago, she asked me to buy her Lily, the easyJet mascot teddy. And I couldn’t say no. I didn’t want to say no. When you lose a child, it is hard to say no to your surviving one.

So we got Lily and took her with us on our Greek odyssey.

Lily proved the ideal travelling companion.

She was polite and pleasant yet quite daring in her culinary choices and insisted on trying the local sweets in Zante, as you can see for yourselves:

10469916_10152363963896512_1297923092181010068_nIn no time, she had been promoted to be Emma’s day cuddly (no-one can replace Hippo at night, sorry!) and the two of them became inseparable. She fitted perfectly into our family, quite literally. Here she is, taking Zante in from above, from the comfort of her Cath Kids carry on.

10636014_10152363963891512_5734526794568152519_nShe immersed herself completely into the Greek experience, there she is celebrating the National Day and waving the flag with the local crowds and taking notes in her tourist pad.

1004555_10152363963871512_8321110778588967536_nBut the best part of the trip was visiting Emma’s grandparents and being introduced to Arkoudaki, Alex’s old teddy(he must be around 40 in bear years but don’t let on to Lily, he doesn’t look a day older than 4). We can honestly say that it was love at first sight and the two of them now share a bed and a life in their new Irish home and we do hope they will live happily ever after together.

10723764_937159772979400_1721138779_nThis is our entry to the Gulliver and Lily easyJet photo contest. If we win the two plane tickets the company generously offers to its readers for taking their mascots on exotic trips, we will be taking our own puppet back to Greece to spend Easter with her grandparents and make more precious memories.

On the second day of Christmas…

“On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree”

This year, Emma is five so she understands much more of the world than in the years before and questions what she is being told much more thoroughly. It is in a way my “fault” as I have raised her in this way. I do not want her to become lazy and complacent in her thinking and acceptance of things as they are but always find her own answers to life and its dilemmas.
I have been considering carefully ways of how to make the anticipation of Christmas center not only on the Christmas day and the presents that it will bring but also on the possible life lessons I want her to learn at this age.
The Santa debate has been solved early for us as a family as we had both agreed as parents that we wanted her to “believe” in him. But as I have responded on a fellow mummy blogger’s post tonight,

” I am a Christian and yet Emma “believes” in Santa.
I have given it a lot of thought once Emma started to understand about these things and I decided to introduce him as God’s friend to her. Yeah, that’s right, Santa is God’s friend who gets sent by God to give her some presents at Christmas because of Jesus.
I want to achieve a number of things with this approach:
1. let my child be a child and, as you say, allow her imagination develop and thrive.
2. teach her that all good things come from God.
3. teach her to only accept presents when they are given with a reason. This will hopefully protect her in the future from predators and people who will want to take advantage of her. There is always a reason behind a gift: God’s at Christmas is because he is celebrating his son’s birthday.
I get annoyed with Christians and bigotry and the acceptance of “truths” fed in church without questioning. Is Santa a bad thing and the acronym of Satan, as I have heard Christians say?
Only if you let it be!”

So what will I do this year practically and differently?

I am very thrilled of two Christmas projects we will be running in parallel.

One will be creating a Jesse tree, inspired by Ann Voskamp’s new book, “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.” I am the very privileged owner of a copy(retailing at the moment on Amazon for £14.21), which arrived in the post only yesterday and will be using it with Emma as a daily conversation starter and also as Christmas craft and decoration inspiration.

61FMe05U7ZLAnn has kindly and generously provided on her Holy Experience website a whole section dedicated to the new book and printable material in the form of free colouring pages for the little ones, free kids’ Jesse tree ornaments and also a section which unlocks with a password provided in the book which contains ALL the paper cut decoration samples used for her Jesse tree. What a gift to unlock and enjoy in the run up to Christmas!

The other thing I will be using this Christmas with Emma is the famous Christmas elf on the shelf!

Elf on the shelf

I know that many households will be using their elf to keep the children’s behaviour in check in the run up to Christmas and but in this household we will be using her (oh yes, ours is a girl, of course!) to bring joy in the house every morning.

There are entire boards on Pinterest and an actual page dedicated to the elf, go and have a peep if you are intrigued!

I look forward to put on my creativity hat every evening once Emma will be in bed and come up with fun or silly ideas to make her smile in the morning.

How will I tie the two ideas together?

I will probably use the elf to deliver the letter from Santa we have waiting to be reviewed in a week or so :-) and then she will be making a daily appearance in December.

Letter from SantaWhat will be the special things you will be doing this December to create that delicious anticipation than only Christmas and the arrival of a new baby can bring about? Do tell me in a comment, I would love to hear from you!

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