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Random thoughts!

I’ve looked at the blank screen, thinking about what to write for weeks now. I’ve picked it up and put it down more times than I can count but I’m on a mission to try and finish it today. Is there a reason why I want to write it today? No not really, apart from writing things down helps to set them straight in my head and that is always a good thing!

There are so many feelings, emotions and experiences that have happened since I last wrote anything and quite honestly I’m not sure where to begin. Every day holds new adventure. Some good, some bad and some truly incredible but all happen surrounded by wonderful people. Friends, family and people we meet along the way who will either become friends or will be part of our lives for a season. They come into our lives to teach us something or to bring something to our lives that God intends and maybe for us to do the same. Most of the experiences that have happened over the last few months are linked in some way to the last post I wrote about being happy. The theory that in a whole lot of situations you can choose to see the positive. To find the happy spark in any moment and use it to make yourself, and others, smile. This theory has of course been tested (and I’m sure will continue to be, daily) but I still stand by it. It’s good to look back sometimes to see how far we’ve come but I’ve kinda come to the conclusion that there is no point in getting bogged down in thinking about it as there is too much good stuff going on that gets missed if you’re looking behind you. I have to use the past to give myself the strength to keep going forward, to put it firmly behind me, to keep reaching for the next adventure and create yet more amazing memories for myself and my 3 wonderfully amazing children.

I often wonder as I write these posts if people do indeed want to hear all the ramblings about my life and to be honest I’ve come to the conclusion that this is actually what this blog was for. It’s not like I’m forcing people to read. This blog is and always has been a way of clarifying my thinking about being a single parent and the joys and challenges that that brings, with the hope that somehow, somewhere, it helps someone else to find their own path. Was being a single parent my choice…. No, not by any means, but that is the position I’ve found myself in and it’s something that, although a struggle, brings unending joys to my world every day. I’ve always said, and I stand by it to this day, I feel that if this blog and my rambling thoughts about doing things alone can help even one person to realise they are not the only ones in a daily struggle between doing what’s right for everyone and just kinda wanting to shut the bathroom door and pray it’s a bad joke, that if it helps them realise that what they’re feeling is completely normal then it’s been worth it putting my thoughts down.

I’m not by any means saying it’s only single parents that reach great highs and huge lows, that it’s only single parents who reach the point where they just feel like running away (for 5 minutes peace behind a locked bathroom door after making sure everyone is safe, fed, happy and have had a wee usually!). I know many of my friends who have wonderful husbands feel it too. It’s one of the joys of being a mother I suppose. That feeling that wherever you go or whatever you do, you are at the mercy of small people who at any given moment will yell “I’ve done a poo” or “what’s for tea?”, will have licked the dog, spilt juice all over the carpet or have done something else that requires your attention, all of which usually just at the point when the kettle has boiled or you finally decide to eat something. I completely adore my kids and would do absolutely anything for them at any point of the day or night (I’m a lot more grumpy at night though) but being on call 24hrs a day can get very very draining. I used to feel it when R was at home and working away too, but nothing prepares you for that actual feeling of having to do it alone. There are a few friends of mine who’s husbands are away all week or are in the services so they do do an awful lot of the parenting on their own and kind of understand where that feeling is coming from and until R actually left I was one of that group. We would hardly see him during the week. He’d leave for work before we got up and would either be away overnight or not back till after the kids went to bed or even after I went to bed. It felt like single parenting…. Until I actually was a single parent.

The difference now is that there is no one coming home, even in the future. The future stretches out in front of me and it’s just me…. I am the one responsible for everything. I am the one with the sole responsibility of keeping my 3 beautiful children safe and alive! There is no one I can hand over to when it all gets too much, there is no one who is gonna share the load. It’s me, me and oh me! Don’t get me wrong, I have truly amazing friends and family who would step in to give me some space at any point, and I know that, but that’s not the same thing. Even when my children are physically with someone else I still have no one to share that emotional load with. No one to share both the joys and the worries with.

Don’t think I’m slating all parents who are not living at home, I’m not. Some are fantastic and still share that load with their ex partners, still co-parent very successfully and want nothing more to be an active part of their children’s lives. But in my case he’s rubbish…and I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s ok.

Someone sent me a quote once on Facebook that said ‘you can’t move on to a new chapter if you keep re-reading the previous one’ and that is very very true, but for some single parents me included, that is really difficult to achieve. The thing with break ups is that you hurt for a while and then begin to move on. If you’ve got children together though that’s a whole different ball game. You are involved in each other’s lives whether you like it or not. If you’re lucky you can find balance in the new way of working but if I’m completely honest I would like nothing more than to never see or hear from R again. The hurt he has caused is beyond words and even nearly 4 years on I struggle to actually articulate the many things he made me feel. If he was a good father and him being around was having a positive impact on the children it would be somehow easier to deal with but he’s not. He is a disruptive presence in all our lives but for the moment it is what it is and we make the best of it.

One of my very best friends did a fantastic preach one Sunday morning on ‘forgiveness’. As I sat and listened to her speaking after what can only be described as one of R’s more ‘spectacular’ parenting moments, I realised that I’m not angry with him anymore. I have indeed forgiven him for the world of hurt, pain and abuse he put me through. My marriage was emotionally abusive (there i said it) and it’s taken me a very very long time to admit it. The thing with emotional abuse is that it’s a grey area. Unlike physical abuse you can’t see it. It is something that is very hard to explain to people and personally I spent a very very long time convinced that the way R made me feel wasn’t real, that it was all in my head and because of that I became a shell of the person I had been when we met. R has a way of making sure people see what he wants them to see. The committed father, the loving husband and so many other things are all roles he can portray at the drop of a hat depending on the situation. He is controlling, manipulating and damaging but whatever happens is NEVER his fault. I never ever saw the control when I lived with it and even knowing all that, writing this today I feel like I am in some way ‘making it up’. Even knowing what I know it would be so easy for me to ‘explain away’ the behaviour and to make excuses for the fact the two sides of his personality never really meet in the middle. I know I’m not imagining it because finally other people are seeing it and speaking out and if anything I’m underplaying what he’s actually capable of. I spent so so many years feeling like it was all in my head, that I was a not worth spending time with, that to actually come to terms with the fact isn’t the case takes time.

I have however forgiven him for the past and I now have to continue to forgive him for the stuff that is happening now so we can find a way of doing the best for the children we bought into the world together. My self worth is another matter and that is a daily work in progress and a blog post all of its own!

The way R treats me doesn’t really get under my skin now compared to even 6mths ago as I’ve come a very long way. He is what he is and unfortunately for both him and for us he is never ever gonna chance. What does irritate me to the point of ranting like a crazy person and often to the point of tears (oh how I hate being so flipping emotional sometimes) is the way he continues to treat the children. Over the last few months the children and I have caught up with, met for the first time and spent time with so many wonderful people, all of whom have see my kids for the beautiful people God has made them to be. Yes they are typical kids. They fight, they throw tantrums, they wake me at 5.45 singing show tunes ‘quietly’, but what frustrates me more than anything in this world is that their own father continually fails to see the good in them. He fails to see them for who they are.

Over the last few months I’ve done a whole heap of thinking about this topic. Some thoughts prompted by things that have happened, some prompted by conversations with friends and family and some just randomly popping into my head while doing laundry or one of the other endless ‘mummy tasks’ that seem to take up my day. The conclusion I have come to from all this ‘thinking’ is that while R’s attitude to the children will always drive me to ranting and at times, tears, it’s ok. It’s ok for me to feel what I feel because that is how God made me and who I am. I am ridiculously emotional and I do wear my heart on my sleeve but it goes into making me the person that I am and the person my friends and family love.

Whatever I feel towards R and his relationship with the kids comes from a place of not understanding. I will NEVER understand why he doesn’t want to spend as much time as he can with the fantastic people we created. I will never understand how he can walk away from his family without a backward glance because I am not and never will be built like that. In the end it’s him who is missing out. The laughter, love and joy that now surrounds our messy unorganised house is incredible and I wouldn’t swap a minute of what we have for anything. I choose to find the happiness in all the little moments and I will try my hardest to teach my children to do the same. Yes their interactions with their father and other people hurts them at times but I know they know they are loved by so many people and I know they know how much I love them. Because of that fact those little hurts other people or their father cause are just that…. Little hurts, and I will forever work to make sure they stay that way.

Overall though life is fabulous. I wouldn’t change a second of it…. We’re happy. That’s what matters ūüôā

Happiness

Happiness is a choice.

This is a statement that, believe me has been put to the test in the last couple of weeks but it is so unbelievably true. I have so so much to be thankful for and so many unbelievable blessings in my life but every so often something happens that throws that happy world into chaos. The decision we have to make as humans is whether or not we let that ‘something’ control our feelings or whether we take control back. Yes I’m very aware it’s a lot easier to write than do and sounds so much easier than it actually is, but in essence, most of the time it is our decision as to whether we look for the good in a situation, however small, or concentrate on the negative.

Sometimes that choice is taken away by illness (as I know only too well) and it makes me so cross when I hear people say “I’m really depressed” when they are in fact just having a bad day. Depression is an illness and a really really horrible one at that. It is an illness that claims lives but is underestimated, its impact undervalued and it’s belittled by the view of many people who think you can indeed just snap out of it. Depression is a monster of a disease and one I would never underestimate but a lot of the time in our daily lives we’re just having a hard time and we actually just need to choose to rise about the rubbish and choose to be happy. This has been a lesson that has taken me a very long time to learn and for me surviving what life throws (or more often than not what R throws) is about giving it to God and trusting Him to sort it, because quite frankly there was no way i could deal with half of what life throws at me without Him!

I’ve known for a long time now that R has little or no real interest in the children beyond gathering the information he needs to make it look to the outside world like he knows what’s going on with his own children. The negatives flow very easily from that. It’s very very easy to get caught up in what he did that upset them, what he shows no interest in or what he fails to do, but over the last few weeks I’ve decided to let it go. I can’t change him, he’s never gonna be any more than he is and to be honest I can, hand on heart, say I can see a time when he walks away completely. This can’t affect what we do as a little unit or how we live our lives and I’m honestly sick of thinking about him and feeling all screwed up when he’s involved in anything. I’m sure this is a realisation I will battle with for a long time and it will take more than writing it down for it to actually become a reality but I really feel that starting 2016 the way we have, we’ve turned a corner. I have no idea what this new path is or where it will lead but I know the children and I walk it with God on our side as well as some truly amazing friends and family, so we’ll get through…. Whatever.

The reasons for this new found determination that he’s not gonna control us anymore are extensive but mainly because I saw very clearly over Christmas the control issues he has. The little ‘insignificant’ moments that no one thinks twice about that add up to the screwed up internal worry I used to live with and can now identify so clearly. I’m beginning to see the same reactions in my boys and there is no way on earth I want them to grow up feeling the same way I did for so many years. R is plausible. So unbelievably clever in the little things he does to control that you find yourself questioning your reactions and how you feel about situations, wondering if it is all in your imagination. He’s still able to manipulate my feelings now after over 3 years apart and a whole heap of counselling and that is not something I will let happen to my children! One example of this are the new tablets the boys had for Christmas. They had been set up in his name not theirs, with parental control passwords I was not given even though they are with me 13 nights out of 14 (until I drove him bonkers for two weeks asking and he finally gave in), and the kids were told if they downloaded any apps he would know. These little things in themselves aren’t an issue but knowing him as I do and watching the children’s reactions to the situation, I knew these were the same control issues that plagued our marriage. The subtle little comments delivered in such a way that they are designed to make you aware of everything you do. That isn’t something I want my children to live with.

There were many other moments I could bore you with to explain why I got to this point but as I’m sure many of my lovely friends and family would say, it’s been a LONG time coming!!

The final nail in the coffin for me came after the children came back from their last visit. After not seeing or speaking to their father throughout the whole Christmas holidays I was expecting them to come back having had a fabulous time and having been spoilt rotten. Instead I was confronted by seriously unhappy and slightly shaken children who had had a weekend of ‘disagreements’ with their father. Obviously this made me slightly cross and my instinct was to call him and explode. Remembering my new found conviction that he wasn’t gonna control my emotions and reactions I sat on the information and just text him and told him we needed to talk. I was determined that he wasn’t gonna get under my skin and I stayed true to that decision. When he finally called me at 9.30pm the following evening we talked it all through and as expected he couldn’t see or acknowledge he’d done ANYTHING wrong? He had an justification for everything and his reasoning for calling our 7yr old a “horrible little boy” was “well I won’t have him treating me or his sister like that, he has to learn”! How I stayed calm I have no idea and I’m sure it was one of those moments where God had his arm round my shoulders and a hand over my mouth!! R is and always has been very quick to use the “I’ve never been much good at parenting” line and turning it round so that in some way it becomes my issue. This is another thing that has to stop and during that conversation I was very blunt with him about everything that he now had to step up and take responsibility for. I am absolutely convinced it will make no difference what so ever but I will continue to say it until one day it penetrates that thick skull of his!

That part of the conversation though was nothing different and I’m sure it’s a topic we will revisit on many an occasion over he next few years. During that conversation however we looked at some dates for the upcoming year and how things like holidays we both have booked impact access weekends (my holidays with the children, his obviously without). At the end of the discussion and aware that the time is now 10:45pm I just happened to say “any other dates while we’re here?” To which I got an answer that came so far out of left field it completely blindsided me. His “yes, J and I are getting married” was honestly the very last thing I expected.

The feelings and emotions that went through me in the next 48 hours were something I didn’t really expect and took me a while to process. I know I wouldn’t have this guy back if he was the last man on the planet and quiet frankly if the girlfriend is stupid enough to marry a guy she knows is a cheat then more fool her! I think the emotions than ran through me were all to do with that feeling of rejection again. He left me for her, he was sleeping with her while I was pregnant with our youngest (although he still won’t admit that) and now he’s making her a permanent feature in their lives, in all our lives, without a second thought about how that will impact anyone but himself. I honestly don’t know why I was surprised and I’m not sure I actually was deep down, but the thing that surprised me was that after a day of being quite emotional about it all I’m actually completely fine with it. I realised the day after this bombshell how far I’ve come since he first walked and since my battles with my own self worth and PND. I realised I could choose not to let him screw with my emotions and who I am. I realised I actually don’t care what he does as long as it doesn’t hurt the children and that is the crunch point. That Tuesday morning what was shown so clearly to me was just how many amazing friends I have here and that God really does put people in your path at the right time. From the depths of the rubbish came a clear picture of all the people in my life who are so special. The coffee with a friend just at the right moment, the text reactions of others, right down to popping in to fill the teachers in on what had happened. God proved to me that morning that we are surrounded by people who really genuinely care. Not just about the children but about me too. Mr 9’s teacher hit the nail on the head when she just quietly asked how I was and when the tears started she just gave me a hug and said “holding it together for the kids again?”…. She was spot on. It’s what I do, but this time that ‘holding it together’ was a brief one. A 24hr period where I battled with the feelings of rejection again before realising we are worth so much more than he has to offer, I’M worth so much more than he ever offered.

The choice I have made is that this little piece of news will not, under ANY circumstances cause us to be anything less than we deserve. Yes there are gonna be moments when certainly the children struggle as they try and deal with everything that is going on but the depth in which we let it impact our lives is our decision. The children currently want nothing to do with it and don’t want to go anywhere near the topic of the wedding and that is fine by me. I will take my lead from them and help them through in whatever way I can. If that means they go to the wedding then we will deal with that, if not we will deal with that too. We will take everything one step at a time while having as much fun as possible along the way. Yes they are getting married but actually the impact it has on our lives is minimal. He still only sees them once a fortnight, he’s still not really interested in their lives beyond gathering info to make him look good in front of his mother and you know what? That’s fine by us as life is pretty awesome!

Life developments and summer fun.

Trying to find a few minutes to put my thoughts on paper over the last few months has been a bit like cleaning the house while kids are at home, or cleaning your teeth while eating Oreos…. Impossible and slightly stupid to even try as it just gets frustrating! Finally though I have some time to sit and collect my thoughts so I figured I’d put them down on paper (or at least a computer screen).

It’s been a year of ups and downs and now we’ve come through the summer holidays again and started a new school year, I can reflect on the past year and on where I am now, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The big question is ‘Who exactly am I?’ I know that sounds a bit random but it’s more of a practical question…. Married name or Maiden name??? What exactly is your surname meant to be once everything is sorted? I actually don’t know at the moment….. It’s a question that I kinda figure will have a natural conclusion as time goes on.

The last few months have seen our divorce finalised and while it was something I instigated (even though it was the last thing in the entire world I wanted) and have been working for for what feels like forever, it hit me harder than I ever imagined it would. I knew it was coming and to see that piece of paper with a few words written on it was very difficult but what was harder was what led up to it. We’d been doing the paperwork for so long now that there were times I actually never thought it would end. The letters went backwards and forwards between the solicitors with R being difficult about this and then that, although he’d probably say it was me being stubborn that held it all up because I wasn’t gonna get pushed into agreeing things just to pacify him! There were certain points I just wanted to give him a really big shake and yell that it was him who walked out and had the affair causing us all to be in this mess in the first place and yet it was him attempting to throw his weight around about things he didn’t even want in the first place and holding up the process of us all moving on! Having reflected on it since I firmly believe it was about control. R would never admit it but he has a problem with the strong person I’ve become as I’m not controllable anymore. No longer can he do what he likes and not get any comeback as I will happily challenge him now on his behaviour toward both myself and the children. The divorce was the last bit of control he had over me and he dragged it out for as long as possible. Yes some of it was his solicitor (because they are special) but much of it was down to the fact that things were not getting signed or sent back with any urgency. Yes it was frustrating and I definitely had days when I just wanted to shout and scream at him to just get himself sorted, but looking back I believe that it was Gods way of getting me in the right place to deal with the flood of emotions that hit when things are finally final!

Ironically it was R who told me that everything was over. He called about something and to be honest I forget what that something was, but at the end of the conversation he just said, like he was talking about the weather, that he’d heard from his solicitor and the decree absolute was in. It hit me like a brick…. Stood in the kitchen, multi tasking as usual so I was emptying the dishwasher, the voice of the man I had promised to spend my life with was casually telling me our marriage was officially over. Well I lost it. I can’t even put into words the flood of emotions that swept through me at that moment. I very calmly told him that it was never something I wanted, that it was something he had caused and that I hoped he was not only proud of who he was but that he was happy with the mess he had created by not being able to stick to any commitment he ever makes. Once I put the phone down I just cried…. Luckily I was alone in the house as the boys were at school and Miss 3 was at nursery so I could have my breakdown, pick myself up and carry on with life, having put all the emotions back in their little box to be dealt with at a time when I actually had a moment to process them.

That was the Friday and that Sunday he was having the children. 9am he appeared in my house and because of the situation with the girlfriend (they’d split briefly at this point) he was using my house to see the children. I left very quickly that morning as i just couldn’t be in the same place as him. People expect you to have dealt with all the emotions after nearly 3 years but it’s rubbish. You watch TV or read books etc and relationships come and go and the characters just seem to move onto the next one without any of the emotional fall out. In reality that just isn’t the case, or it wasn’t for me. There are always complicated emotions to work through, both good and bad, and those emotions change over time but they can still come back to bite you when you least expect it. It doesn’t mean you’re not happy with life as it is or that you would go back to what it was before, but sometimes things happen that just make you remember. To be honest a lot of what I miss isn’t what we actually had but what I thought we had. I’m beginning to learn the difference and the more he lets the children down and the more he lies openly to me and to them I’m realising he isn’t the man I thought he was. I’m seeing how easy the lies fall from his lips without a second thought as if it’s the most natural thing in the world and it just confirms in my head that moving on without him is absolutely the right thing for me.

I went though a real time of wondering if this blog was something I wanted to continue writing. Do people really want to hear about me journey? I found myself wondering if I was just writing it for writing it’s sake and there is also a big big part of me that hates talking about myself. This thought was put to bed when I went into New Wine on the Thursday of the first week. We were all set to camp for a week the following week but on discovering Arianna Walker, the executive director of Mercy Ministries UK, was only speaking on that particular evening, myself and a friend decided to head in for the evening (one of the joys of living only up the road). Yet again my mum stepped in to help and having left the kids all happy with Nonna, off I went for an evening of worship and teaching. I find God uses a lot of people and different moments to point me in the right direction but He has used Arianna Walker to help me on my journey through this mine field of single parenthood and forgiveness every time I’ve heard her speak and this time was no different. There was so much in her talk that evening but the one thing that struck me was when she said we “go through and then we help through”. While talking she used the story of her experience doing tough muddier and the fact that at the end of each obstacle there was someone with there hand out for her to take. The fact was that it was expected that you got helped through and then you turned around and helped the person behind you. As she talked I found myself very much thinking about how that applies to my daily life. We all go through so much stuff, big and small. Maybe we have a responsibility to ourselves and the people around us to make ourselves a little bit vulnerable and share our stories and our experiences…. During that talk I felt God very clearly tell me to carry on writing this blog. I may feel at times that I’m just waffling on about myself and my children and the journey we are on but I have no idea who is really reading this and who, if anyone, this is helping. If you are reading this and going through something similar I just want to extend a hand and say it will get better. Things are tough but time does heal and there is always sunshine at the end of the storm….

Our week at New wine was incredible. R came and helped put the tent up, partly because it was his weekend to have the children and they only wanted to see him on the Saturday because they wanted to be on site for the beginning of the New Wine adventure and not after everything had started like they were last year and partly because I told him in no uncertain terms that we bought the tent as a family and due to his decision not to be part of the family I was unable to put it up on my own so I needed his help. He didn’t complain and actually did it in really good grace. I do wonder what he thought though as he left his family on a campsite, in a tent we chose together, to have a holiday he was in no way a part of, with people who are a huge part of our lives and not his…. Surely he has to feel something in that situation?!?! Or maybe not….

The week was just brilliant. A week of wonderful friends, fun and lots of God. It’s a week we all get so much from each year and I have a feeling it is a holiday we will be having for many many years to come.

The biggest achievement for me this summer though has to be actually getting on a plane without my children and having some time for me. At the beginning of the summer holidays R had the children for an extra 2 nights so giving me Saturday to Tuesday to do something fun that was just for myself. I’d like to say he offered and that he was finally showing signs of wanting to spend extra time with the kids but in truth I told him straight out I needed a break and wasn’t coming back till the Tuesday so he just needed to deal with it. My plan was to head to the coast and spend some time in Weymouth were I grew up. As I left on that Saturday morning I just wasn’t excited about it so by the time I got there I had come up with a different plan. I did a u-turn in my parents drive and as they weren’t there I booked tickets to fly and see them in Spain. This for me was HUGE as to quote my best friend, I only do spontaneous if I can plan it a week in advance. But I did it. I came home, repacked my bag, grabbed my passport, did a few bits and pieces and headed to the airport. I thought I’d hate it, being that far away from them but in all honesty it was the most fantastic 36hrs I’ve had in a long time. Yes I missed them like crazy but I’d have missed them if I’d been in the UK. This way I got some real sun, some real rest and although only short it felt like a million years. Just that short burst of time absolutely for me did me more good than I could have ever imagined and gave me the confidence to believe that although things go wrong and the kids get emotional (and they did) everyone survives. I firmly believe I was a better mummy for the rest of the summer holidays because of that few days.

We’ve had an amazing summer this year full of wonderful friends and family, making some truly spectacular memories. The thing that makes me sad is that R doesn’t seem to want that. He doesn’t seem in the slightest bit bothered about creating memories with his own children and up until about 24hrs ago that really bothered me. I have spent quite a lot of time in the last 2 weeks pondering why R isn’t desperate to call them and find out how the first few days back at school have been or what they’ve been up too and I’ve finally come to the conclusion it is just because he can’t put anyone before himself. I have also come to the conclusion that we are not and probably never will be co-parenting. As much as I want him to step up and parent our children he’s not going to. From now on I’m not gonna expect it…. Let’s be honest he babysits for 28hrs a fortnight and now I have accepted it for what it is I will no longer have expectations higher than that and therefore not get as frustrated!

Here’s to a new school year and another year of exciting adventures and building memories ūüôā

Wow has it been that long?!?

I know life has been kinda mad this year so far because I’ve been living it, but when I looked at the date I last updated I couldn’t quite believe it! So so much has happened both good and bad that it’s actually quite challenging to know where to start and what to share!

My biggest challenge has been Miss 2 (who is now Miss 3). Miss 3 has had issues with her tummy etc for a long long time but it had been steadily getting worse over the weeks and months leading up to her birthday in January. Trips back and forth to the doctors, blood test, urine tests, every other test you can think of all revealed nothing, so the conclusion was some kind of acid reflux and she was put on gaviscon and away we went. Well nothing changed. I was still sharing my bed with her at least 4 times a week and spending so many hours rubbing her tummy and heating our ‘hot penguin’ in the microwave, trying to help with her discomfort. It was heartbreaking and if I’m honest there were times I wondered if I was ever gonna get another full nights sleep or actually feel like a human being again!

It all came to a head the week of her birthday. We had a little party for her on the Saturday before her birthday and everyone had so much fun. Friends gathered to celebrate, I’d made the cake (frozen themed obviously) and we had all the foods she loved. Sausages, cheese, sandwiches, quiche, pizza etc etc. Once everyone had gone and we were calming down, Miss 3 complained of tummy ache, as she did after everything she ate but as it was now part of daily life I thought nothing of it and after rubbing her tummy I went back to clearing up. We had friends staying so Miss 3 was in bed with me anyway and she was really not well over night. When she woke up in the morning she was sick. Only the once and had no other symptoms so we all packed up and pottered off the church. Miss 3 sat on my knee for the whole service and slept, even during the kids worship! She didn’t move. Didn’t go to her group. She just sat cuddled into my chest. She was as white as a sheet and holding her tummy. Once we got home We fed her what we could (which was yoghurt) and just made sure we had a quiet day. But obviously I was getting slightly worried, as was the friend who was here but I just figured she’d picked up a bug and she’d be fine…. How wrong was I!

By the Monday my little girl was really really sick. So once I had done the Monday mums bible study (through which Miss 3 lay on the church coffee shop floor and didn’t move) I took her round to the doctors. 2 hours later I was sat in the children’s ward of the hospital while they tried to work out what was wrong with my daughter. Once things settled down and we were left a bit more to ourselves, for me the internal battle started. Do I or do I not let her father know what was going on? The part of me that is a rational human being knew I had too but there was such a big part of me (the grumpy, sleep deprived, hurt bit) that just thought he’s not interested in her day to day life, he didn’t want her in the first place so I will deal with this on my own and not tell him! But I did text and he briefly came through and called to see what the situation was. The love and concern though was seriously lacking. I may as well have been discussing a business contract or meeting agenda rather than our sick daughter! I couldn’t help comparing the reactions I was getting from friends all around the world who I’d asked to pray, to the reaction I got from her own father! For once though it didn’t hurt as I’d expected nothing less, so I just shrugged it off, answered the people who love my daughter, here and around the world, and went back to cuddling the poorly lump that was snuggled on my lap. It was a very long day but I will forever be grateful to the wonderful friends who stepped in to look after the boys without a second thought and the friends who kept me going on both Twitter and text. You’re endless love, prayers and your presence in all our lives is a daily blessing and one I thank God for.

Thankfully we didn’t have to stay overnight as spending her actual birthday in hospital would have been a bit sad. After loads of tests, discussions, different doctors etc it was decided that it may be a diary allergy and the advice we left the hospital with was to cut dairy from her diet completely for a month and then introduce a small amount and see what happened. Apparently that is the best way to establish a dairy allergy / intolerance. So that’s what we did…. And we haven’t looked back! It did mean she couldn’t eat her own birthday cake but Within 2 weeks she was a different child. She was sleeping, eating better and putting on weight. She was laughing more and although still complained of the odd tummy ache she was a happy little girl who was beginning to enjoy eating! When I did reintroduce the dairy it took such a small amount to set her back that I took her straight back off it again! Since then she’s been seen at Bristol Children’s hospital and diagnosed with IBS as well so is on medication. Since starting the IBS medication coupled with being on a completely dairy free diet we have had no tummy aches. We still get the odd broken night but that is more to do with her waking herself up shouting at her brothers in her sleep!

The journey was a long one but it could have been a whole heap longer and throughout the whole thing we were surrounded by the love and prayers of people who care about us and that made a huge difference, especially to me. Unlike when I was fighting for Mr 7 (Mr 6 had a birthday) and his ears, this time I knew I was the only parent who was gonna do anything so embraced the challenge and found my support from God, my family and friends rather than believing that support should have come from her father! He has done what he needs to do when it comes to Miss 3 and her new diet, and to quote him he’ll “tow the line” but he never asks, never checks in to see how she’s doing or follows up after any doctors appointments. I have come to the conclusion this is how it’s gonna be for the rest of their lives. He will do what he is required to do but nothing more. Unfortunately for him by doing that he misses out on experiencing the truly funny, wonderful children we have created in all their glory. He sees a small snapshot in the 28hrs a fortnight he has them to whatever level he is actually investing in them. The rest of it he is completely unaware of.

The other challenge that has been plodding on for what feels like forever is the divorce process. I knew right from the beginning this process would be tough as it goes against everything I believe in and everything I believe marriage stands for. When I first started the paperwork I still believed wholeheartedly that we would work it out but over the last 2 years God has given me a real peace with the decision I made to start this process and draw a line under my marriage. This decision has been compounded by R’s behaviour over the whole thing. From returning the paperwork regarding the children by return of post (which really really hurt) to drawing out the financial ‘discussions’ for over 16 months! Everything about the way he has dealt with this whole process has made me realise how good he is at keeping the truth hidden and acting like everything is completely normal and happy. I can have discussions with my solicitor about issues his side is bringing up that could destroy¬†the settled nature of my little family but yet he’ll turn up, say all the right things and act like the perfect father all the while trying to put clauses in place that could take away the children’s home. He gets under my skin. I think he always will do as I just keep asking how much of my marriage was a front like the one he’s showing me now! He is so unbelievably convincing even with me. I find myself questioning what I know is fact because he seems so plausible. I KNOW what he’s capable of and he still manages it!! We will get there in the end and hopefully the end is in sight but I didn’t expect the end to hurt as much as it is. I don’t want to stay married to him and there is no piece of me that can even imagine going back to the life we had but every so often, for maybe a moment, I will see a glimpse of the man I married, the man I fell in love with and those are the moments that hurt. In all honesty for 99.9% of the time I hardly recognise him as the man he was. Whatever is going on in his heart is making him hard and not a very pleasant person to be around. The children sense it too. They love him because he’s their father but get confused by the lack of feelings they are shown.

Someone asked me recently if I’d prefer it if he just walked away and I have to say, for me, it would be easier but not for the children. I have worked REALLY hard over the last however many years, even before R walked, to make sure they have as much of a relationship with their father as he wants and I will continue to do that. In the end my children are surrounded by family and friends who love them. They know they have a God who loves them and will be with them always but there is nothing that can replace, or should replace, a relationship with their own father. What that relationship will look like is not my responsibility but I will do everything within my power to ensure that they have something, until either R walks away or the children are old enough to make their own decisions. My only prayer is that I can surround them with enough love to overcome any negative parenting they experience and to conquer the many hurts that I’m sure will come their way at the hands of their father and his side of the family, all be it unintentionally.

Christmas and all related thoughts

The thing with Christmas when you have school age children is that it starts somewhere around the middle of November at the point the lines come home for the Christmas production. Having been guilty of it while I was teaching I can’t really complain because when you’re in teacher mode you think in hall time slots and rehearsal time not in terms of ‘the children are getting excited about Christmas and its only November’. Anyone who knows me well enough though will tell you I adore Christmas.¬†It is officially my favourite time of the year outside of the summer holidays,¬†but not for the last couple of years and this year bought a whole host of difficult conversations and moments when I just wanted to shield my boys, especially Mr8, from more of the dawning realisation as to where they are in the list of things that are important to their father.

Much conversation happened about who was coming to which of the performances and which family were making the trip up to watch them this year (again my parents came through and I am and always will be eternally grateful) but the conversation between the boys that broke my heart was one where the reasons Daddy wouldn’t make it to the productions were discussed. Apparently he had told the boys he had ‘important meetings on both days’ so was unable to be there, which on the surface¬†is completely understandable and a completely valid reason, but what hurt was when Mr8 caught my eye in the rear view mirror¬†(these conversations always seem to take place in the car) and said “but between us we have 6 performances don’t we Mummy”. It was at that point, looking in the mirror, I could see the hurt in his eyes and feel just how he felt.¬†It is so hard not to tell them how much of their lives Daddy has missed already, even when he was at home, because work always came first. Its so hard not to tell them exactly what I think to the constant list of excuses as to why he is taking more and more of a back seat in their lives. But instead I smile through gritted teeth and continue to ‘justify’ his lack of attendance and continue to facilitate the ever dwindling relationship R has which his children, because as a mother, that’s what you do and I still can’t quite get my head around how the man I married could care so little about his own children.

The weekend before Christmas we had our crib service at church in the¬†afternoon¬†rather than the morning, which is the usual service time. The children were thrilled as it was a Daddy weekend because R readily agreed to drop them back early they could be part of the nativity. What I didn’t expect to hear myself say when we were making the arrangements¬†was “you’re very welcome to stay if you like”, and what I expected even less was¬†for him to¬†agree. Mum says God works in mysterious ways and¬†I’m sure its part of some bigger plan but I have to say, having him there was not my idea of fun or how I wanted to start the Christmas holidays. Lots of people who know the situation asked me after the service how I was and quite honestly I felt like I’d been kicked in the guts. After the service R and I stood in the car park having changed the kids stuff over between cars and for some reason he gave me a hug. Not a quick hug, but a proper heartfelt hug and although it felt good it also hurt more than I can even put into words. The feeling of being held by the one man I’d loved more than anything and who has hurt me more than anyone in the whole world, is something I can’t express. Feelings of warmth, confusion, pain and a certain amount of longing flooded my system all at once as we stood there in the car park. As quickly as the moment started, it ended again but after everything I had realised during the service and in the hours before, that moment hurt.. Really hurt. Instead of sharing those feelings however, I just answered the questions people asked by making a joke… “I managed not to burn him with the candles so that’s got to be a bonus”… And just laughed it off. Being strong even when inside I felt no strength left.

The realisation I came to during that service and in the couple of hours beforehand (and it is something I am still kind of working through) was that much of my life with R was spent making sure he was ok and not actually talking to the¬†people I wanted to talk to or actually being the person I naturally am. What I observed that afternoon and how I responded to the situation actually made me go back and have a look at the sort of relationship we had had and who I had become within my marriage. R makes no effort with people. New people and friends alike. It wasn’t always like that but watching him try and move within a situation I am very very happy in, a situation filled with friends of mine and friends that had been ours, made me realise that if we are still together I wouldn’t be in the loving church family I¬†am now in or be in any way the person I am becoming. I would be still spending every social occasion talking to him as he stood on the outside looking uncomfortable and as if he really didn’t want to be there.

We have had many moments over the last 2 years where plans have been changed at the last minute, R has been late to collect the¬†children more times than he’s been on time and things that we have discussed about the welfare of the children have been completely ignored but it wasn’t until that Sunday I realised one thing, the reason all the issues have come about and why he does whatever suits him is because he has absolutely no respect for me as a person and hasn’t done for a very very long time. In his eyes my one function in life is to be there for the children and in doing that enable him to live the life he wants to. While he was at home that meant working every hour God sent (or at least that’s what he told me) and spending weekends doing things around the house but never actually giving me a break or even really engaging with the children at more than a¬†superficial level. If I was to suggest I needed a break I would get a standard answer of ‘well I don’t get one either’. He never respected how hard it is to be at home with the children 24/7 and was utterly convinced I was at home doing nothing (his words not mine) so in the end I gave up asking and just got on with life. What I wanted out of life was not important then and certainly isn’t now and the whole idea that I might actually have a life outside of the house and the children is something I don’t even think he has comprehended. Mum and I discussed this over Christmas and came to the conclusion that in all honesty I stopped being important in his eyes when I gave up work to raise our children. Without physical leaving the house for work and bringing in a wage, I lost all value in his eyes and that showed in the way he treated me. Not in public and he is very clever at telling people what a fantastic job do with the children, but quietly his lack of respect for me and and value of what I was doing at home sucked my own self respect and self worth until there was very little left.

This all sounds very doom and gloom but actually my realisations that Sunday were in fact the complete opposite. By taking that step back and seeing him for what he is and for what value he puts on me I was able to really come to a firm conclusion that if he can’t see me for who I am then the children and I are indeed better off without him in our lives. The 4 of us have a wonderful laughter filled life that wasn’t there before he left and I am 100% happier than I was 3 years ago. Our lives are so crammed full of people who love us for who we are and each day brings new blessings, even if some days I have to look harder for them than on others.

This is the first Christmas for a long time where I have truly enjoyed every minute of the holidays. Yes I was completely shattered and slightly fed up with being the only adult who sat with Miss2 each evening when she refused to sleep but I wouldn’t change it for the world. For the first time in 3 Christmases it didn’t hurt to watch my sisters and their husbands and to be honest I didn’t even think of R once throughout the whole day. The entire time we spent with my family was filled with love and the making of such wonderful memories. Walks on the beach, meeting friends and just spending time enjoying the people in our lives. For the first Christmas in a very long time I felt happy in my own skin. Yes there is a long way to go before I reach the weight I want to be and get back into the jeans I love that are stored in a box under my bed, but as I loose the weight during this year I’m doing it for me to feel better health wise, not to feel better about who I am as a person and that is huge!

I will never understand how R cannot want to see the children over Christmas or to even want to speak to them but that is something I have realised I can’t control. As much as I want him to be an active part of their lives, if he doesn’t want it then it’s not ever gonna happen. The most important thing is that my children know they are loved beyond words just the way they are and I am beginning to accept that too. It’s hard and a constant battle, as for so many years there were strings attached to the feelings that should have come naturally from R, but I will get there….

A thankful heart

It’s funny how sometimes it takes something quite ordinary to make you stop and contemplate the things around you. Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks ago for my American friends and I have to say, reading all their posts on both Twitter and Facebook about what they were Thankful for got me thinking….

I haven’t posted for quite a while as there has been so much going on for not only me but the people around me too. Having a child free weekend this weekend I was determined to put my thoughts down but as I sat last night to write, nothing came. There were so many things and so much emotion surrounding the last month, both good and bad I actually had no idea what I wanted to say. So instead I give myself the space and just relaxed. I know many of you reading won’t really get the sense of peace I felt when in that moment I just kinda figure God would point me in the right direction, that actually I didn’t need to worry about what I was gonna write because in the end if this blog is what I am meant to be writing I knew He would provide me with the words to say (or at least the confidence in the topic).

This is exactly what happened as I stood in church this morning.

I ALWAYS find the weekends hard when I haven’t got the children. The house is too quiet, the floor stays tidy (because if I pick things up they stay picked up) and I find it’s time for me and my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I have learnt to really value the time without the children and if I’m honest the time away from them makes me a better mother. The temptation though is to fill the time. To see loads of people and rush about doing all the jobs that are easier when I’m on my own but I have learnt I need time to stop and just be me. To discover what being ‘me’ looks like now after so long of being a wife and a mother and feeling like ‘me’ doesn’t matter. But there is always a children shaped hole in the house….

As I sat in church this morning I was reminded of the quote I read on Facebook this morning. Anyone who knows me well will know I love social media and the way in which it allows me to connect with my friends throughout the world. Although I know over Christmas it will drive my mother mad, I wouldn’t be without it. Anyway, the quote Mercy Ministries put on their Facebook page this morning got me thinking. It said “A negative mind will NEVER give you a positive life”. It really made me think about how I view my life and what a challenge it is to try and see the good in situations even when it feels like there can’t possibly be anything positive. If you had asked me 18 months ago, even a year ago if there was anything positive about my marriage ending I would have probably burst into tears and told you how nothing positive could ever come out of such a horrible experience, but now, I have to say with complete honesty, it was probably the best thing that could have happened. In a perfect world every marriage would work out and all problems would get talked about and people would be honest with each other but in my case I’m not sure R really knows how to be honest and open and even how to put other people before himself and his job. Looking back I can see that the children and I were never high on his list of priorities and as sad as it is, our house is happier, more relaxed and a nicer place to be because he is no longer part of it.

There are times, obviously, when I feel really down and honestly being a single parent is one of the loneliest things in the world but Gods challenge to me this morning was to look at the positives, even in the dark moments and with a thankful heart embrace the changes to my life. Once I started thinking about it I found the main difference to be that my house has become one with an open door. R didn’t really like people as he finds friendships very hard and because of the postnatal depression I had become quite closed off. Our house wasn’t welcoming. It was somewhere we lived and spent time but as much as I wanted an open door policy it just wasn’t the case. As I get stronger and happier in my own skin and really begin to love the life I’m creating, so I have found that my door has become more open. I read somewhere that an open heart and an open door brings people to share joy and that is exactly what I find happening. Friends are knocking on the door and just popping in for a cuppa, my Skype rings with friends from all over the world who just fancy a natter (usually while I’m cleaning the kitchen), Facebook sends a message alert, my email chimes and my twitter pings with messages from people I care about, even though we may not know each other very well (yet).

For a long time after R left, all I wanted to do was run away. To leave the city where we lived as a family and run back to the town where I grew up and the town in which my family still live. I needed that love and that support. I did run…. Most weekends for a long time, but I am so unbelievably thankful that I didn’t make the running a permanent thing. I’m thankful for the people who challenged my thoughts and asked if I was moving for the right reasons and for God and His strength in which I have grown into the person I am today. My journey through the last few years has felt much like the Footprints poem (if you don’t know it, it’s worth reading) and there have been times where I have felt, and still do feel,¬†completely alone and completely isolated but there have been other times when I have known without a shadow of a doubt that God was walking beside me and beside my children.

Through the last few years I have begun to find the person who was trapped inside. I am so unbelievably thankful to all the people who have aided me on my journey and continue to do so on a daily basis. Some who have been there from the beginning and some who have crossed my path during the walk. My family (who are my constants and something I am thankful for daily, even if I forget to tell them) and my friends. Old and new friends and those near and far, God has bought us together for a reason and I am thankful for you all.

 

My own little tag team

My mum always said as we were all growing up that if you have 3 or more children, someone is AWLAYS ill. That is certainly how it’s been for the last month or so. The children seem to have become a very efficient tag team that has been working to slowly destroy all ideas I have of sleeping, eating anything that involves using 2 hands or generally staying on top of the housework! The moment I realised how effective this had been was when I opened the boys reading records and discovered I have not actually listened to either of them read for over 3 weeks and for someone who usually does that every night, it’s not a good feeling!

It all started with Mr 6 and his ears about a month ago.

To give you a bit of background, Mr 6 suffers with glue ear. I’m sure many of you have heard of the condition and as a teacher I had certainly come across it during both my training and with pupils in my class, but I have to say I had been guilty of not feeling it was that serious.¬†That was until I had a child who suffered with it! Glue ear is a condition in which fluid builds up behind the ear drum and because it can’t go anywhere, it solidifies and creates a barrier that sound can not travel through. Some children who suffer with it have no problems with infection but others (like Mr 6) end up in a constant cycle of ear infections and ruptured ear drums. The main treatment for the condition is the insertion of grommets (little plastic tubes) into the ear drum that allow air to flow through and fluid to drain away. If there are no infection issues often hearing aids are fitted and it is believed children grow out of the condition by the age of about 6. (Ummmm or not!)

Mr 6 was completely non verbal until he was 2.5yrs old and during the time between when he first started wanting to communicate and when he had his operation at 2.5yrs, his only form of communication was the Makaton I had done with him as part of baby signing. I had taken Mr 8 to baby sing and sign classes when he was little and found it really helped with not only the language development but also the frustration levels, so naturally I did it again when Mr 6 came along, and Thank God I did. It became his only form of communication and as his need and vocabulary developed so did my signing skills!

Trying to get doctors to take my suspicions seriously was a challenge and even R at one point actually told me he thought I wanted something to be wrong with my little man, but I knew my son and I knew something was stopping him from talking. So many people tried to say it was because he had a big brother to talk for him but I spent every day with them and in my heart I knew there was something wrong. It took months of phone calls, doctors appointments, tests and consultants appointments (including a brain scan during which at 20 months he woke up alone in the scanner screaming and it had to be rescheduled) to get to a point where I was completely miserable. He passed hearing tests but had constant ear infections and still wasn’t talking. I’d get people glaring at us in supermarkets because he was screaming, but sad as it was, I used to see the facial expressions change to ones of pity once we started signing.

Finally a chance conversation with my lovely health visitor who had been a great support all the way through, was the breakthrough I’d been praying for. She asked if he’d been checked for tongue tie. I knew he had been as it’s one of the only things I do remember from my time in hospital with him, but she suggested it might be worth getting him checked again. She sent us over to the only doctor in our county that does tongue tie cuts. Although he was too old for her to do anything about it she agreed to see us and sure enough he had an 80% posterior tie that was stopping him being able to form any of the shapes required for speech, they had missed it when he was born. Add to that the fact we finally got a glue ear diagnoses and things started happening.

In August 2010 Mr 6 had an operation to cut his tongue tie and insert bilateral grommets and within 48 hours he was completely verbal! The relief was overwhelming as many of you know….

The only problem with grommets is that the body doesn’t like having them in and over a period of time the ear drum rejects them and they fall out. This starts up the cycle of ear infections and hearing loss until they are replaced. Over the last 4 years Mr 6 has had 3 sets fitted and has had more ear infections and ruptured ear drums than I can count once they fall out.

This is where we found ourselves a month ago. 3 weeks after his grommets ended up in my wallet rather than his ears (he likes to keep them to show people what they are) the ear infections started and he ended up with an ear drum perforation. So we are back into the endless ENT (ear, nose and throat) fight to get them to put grommets back in, but because he has had his recommended amount of 3 sets they really don’t want to put anymore in as they worry about the scaring to the ear drum. This means every time he complains of ear ache we have to trudge off to the doctors and get it noted on his record and once there is ‘significant trauma’ they will re look at the possibility of a 4th set!

So that was how my month of tag team children started! Once Mr 6 was on the mend it was the turn of Miss 2! Goodness only knows what’s been going on with her but she seems to have had one thing after another and obviously when your 2 and poorly the ONLY place you can sleep is on mummy’s head…. Not sharing a bed or even a pillow, but actually on my head! It’s a good thing she’s so sweet…. I have to say though the one thing that really made me smile, and probably shouldn’t have done, was when they came back from a weekend with their father and his girlfriend and I was informed that they had indeed stayed at the girlfriend’s house over night and Miss 2 had projectile vomited all over her nice new living room carpet!!!!! Hee hee ūüėČ

Obviously having had the other 2 poorly, Mr 8 had to join in and although his wasn’t anything particularly serious my sister and I have decided he has ‘man flu’ down to a fine art already and has well and truly perfected his ‘dying swan face’ as his aunt put it!

Reading this you would think it’s been all doom and gloom in our house for weeks but through it all the laughter has remained and so has the fun. Yes that fun is slightly different when someone is not 100% but i am firmly of the opinion that you can find fun and enjoyment in any situation as long as you look for it and don’t just look at the negative. I have 3 wonderful children of which I am Very very proud and that is what is important. I have to admit when I am completely sleep deprived and things get overwhelming, all I wanted to do was pick up the phone and shout at their father telling him that this wasn’t what I signed up for and we were meant to be doing this together, but in the end I have learnt he isn’t actually that interested and shouting wouldn’t achieve anything apart from raising my blood pressure. The thing that keeps me going and keeps me from curling up in a ball and crying when I’m running on caffeine and no sleep is the knowledge that when the children are older I will have provided them with ‘roots and wings’. They will have roots they are confident and secure in and the wings to fly in the direction that God has planned for them. (I love that expression… Thank you to a very talented writer for that and you know who you are xx).

We have had a lovely half term spending time with family and friends, exciting new projects beginning for me that I will share more about at another point, My beautiful friend was baptised and life is pretty good…. Can’t ask for much more than that.

God bless xx