photo credit: Sean MacEntee via photopin cc

Anyone can learn to drive?

Have you ever cursed your luck as you travel slowly behind a learner driver? We all sympathise with them but no one wants to share the road with one.

We were out with friends last night and the conversation came around to learning to drive. The group of us all have eldest children who have been learning or have learned to drive in the past few years. New laws in Ireland state that you can sit a theory test once you are seventeen and then after twelve classes with an approved instructor you can sit your test.

We began to share our own learning experiences.

Three of the girls were sisters who grew up on a farm. They were part of a large family, and it would be no lie to say their parents attitude to driving wasphoto credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrjorgen/6051082342/">mrjorgen</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a> “relaxed”.  All were driving at sixteen. One of the girls was brought to a small parking area by her Dad and allowed to drive around it for a very short while. She managed to go forward and to turn but not a lot more, before the lesson was over. The following week she was to begin a summer job in a town about ten miles away. She got up that first morning and asked her mom who would bring her? Her mother looked a little taken aback and then said “Oh we thought you would take the car yourself”. My friend couldn’t believe her ears. Drive!  How? But then her sixteen year old mind went to work. She had a boyfriend who lived over ten miles away, if she could drive to work, she should be allowed to drive to see him also. So her mum gave her the keys told her to stay in second gear, and that was how she “learned” to drive.

Her older sister told us that she drove regularly from the age of sixteen, and where ever she had to go she was told to take her sister too, for company in the car. They remembered driving along the twisty narrow country roads where they lived, and every time a car passed or came up behind them they pulled over until it was gone. They also regularly drove to the local dance together.

These dances began about ten o clock. The girls would set off an hour early in order to ensure they would arrive and park before any other car.  The dance finished at twelve, but again they waited until every car had left before leaving the car park.  Both agreed they were an accident waiting to happen, but lady luck was on their side and they got through those years safely.

I am a car driver for many years, and if I say so myself I would consider myself quite a competent one.  Not only that but I have already on two occasions taught someone to drive.

My first “Client”, was my younger brother. I had been taught by my Dad a few years earlier, but my father was unwell with Motor Neurone disease, when my brother aged twenty was learning, so I agreed to help him.  It was definitely not my smartest decision.

Even though it was many years ago I can remember us having so many “moments”. There was the time we passed a cyclist and just about knocked him off his bike. As I roared “Why the hell did you go so close to him?”, my brother replied, “Feckin cyclists, I hate them, they shouldn’t be allowed on the road”.
As the lessons continued I can remember going on more challenging drives. One day we entered a small village with very narrow roads. My brother was a little freaked out and rammed on the brakes every time a car came against us, shouting  “Help”. I stayed calm and did my best to continue our lesson. I told him to take the next left  “BUT BE VERY CAREFUL ( forgive the capitals but I want you all to know I did warn him) as it is a ninety degree bend and the road very narrow”. Well, my brother is obviously deaf or stupid, because he took that narrow ninety degree corner way too fast. We crossed the road and almost mounted the pavement.  To this day I could pick the driver of the oncoming car out in a line out so close did we come. As our eyes met, my brother shouted and I roared. Thankfully we missed that oncoming car. For a while after we drove in silence for a short while before breaking our hearts laughing, imagining the wet seat under that poor driver. I know, it was neither a mature nor polite response to our near disaster, but very much in keeping with our sense of humour.

My second and may I say possibly last client was a member of my own family. For the sake of privacy I will not be overly descriptive, suffice to say onphoto credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanalita/2199923358/">the hanner</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>- one occasion we came within inches of a stop sign (which was not on the road).  As I took over the driving he gave out to me saying it was all my fault for not telling him to stop! On another day out we managed to stop cars approaching from three different directions because we “missed” the turn and found ourselves half on the road, half head first into a wall. Thankfully all the drivers gave me the “Aw look a real learner”.  However I think his finest moment came when we took a bend a” bit” fast and drove onto the other side of the road, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, while he covered his eyes! Scary enough but moments later we arrived at a roundabout, adrenaline still at max, and drove straight through a roundabout, miraculously missing all other cars, whilst my son roared and shouted, “I hate f*cking driving”, and I replied with feeling, “so do I!”.

With two more children to go, I think it is time to remove my name from the possible instructor list. I’m getting older and the mere thought of getting into the car again with an L driver is enough to bring on a panic attack.  However I may just fall short of telling them I’m terrified out of my mind, instead I’ll tell them that times have changed, and much and all as I’d love to teach them (cough, choke) with the new laws it is probably best that we pay for an instructor until they are more than able to drive.

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be the match

A conversation in silence.

“Hi, how are things?”, is how we greet each other, in an upbeat voice, as we deliver the mandatory kiss on the cheek.  “Any news?“, we continue. “No none at all, all good thanks”.  And then we pause…..

And in that moment, as silence takes hold, we communicate on a whole different level.

Looking at you I see the light behind your eyes is off, and the smile on your face is one that never travels to your heart. I understand that some days you are tired, as every conversation, including many with myself, is a brilliantly scripted Oscar winning performance. And I hurt for you and all that we do not say.

You do not say that every day you wake with a broken heart. That you feel sad, lonely and lost, shocked and bewildered. You do not say you wish for this sadness and hurt to end, this physical pain in your heart to go away. You do not say how difficult it is to face each day and night without him. You do not say how tortuous it is some days to just get by, to function. You do not rage and scream.

I know that there is much that you do not say.

© Copyright Chris Reynolds and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I too do not say many things. I do not say half often enough how amazing I think you are. How strong you are despite your pain. How in awe of you I am. I do not say, that while I never wish to know your pain, that for just a little while I’d like to be able to take it away. To allow you to breathe once more and live in the world you used to know. A world with your four children around you. I do not say, “Today I miss him too“. I do not say that  I cannot bear to see the boys on the soccer pitch playing as I drive by. I do not say how angry I am that this has happened to you my friend, to your family and to such a handsome, cheeky young boy.

There is so much we do not say in that moment together, but I hope you know, by not saying all of this, that I do not deny your grief nor lessen your pain. I am just reading your signals, and some days not saying anything seems to be exactly the right thing to say.

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I posted this earlier today, but by accident had the wrong date on it. I thought I’d corrected it before publishing but I don’t think I did, as only five people have seen it!  So to those of you who did read it already I’m not going mad, just checking if everyone else is just ignoring me!

© Copyright Chris Reynolds and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

be the match

The conversation within silence.

“Hi, how are things?”, is how we greet each other, in an upbeat voice, as we deliver the mandatory kiss on the cheek.  “Any news?“, we continue. “No none at all, all good thanks”.  And then we pause…..

And in that moment, as silence takes hold, we communicate on a whole different level.

Looking at you I see the light behind your eyes is off, and the smile on your face is one that never travels to your heart. I understand that some days you are tired, as every conversation, including many with myself, is a brilliantly scripted Oscar winning performance. And I hurt for you and all that we do not say.

You do not say that every day you wake with a broken heart. That you feel sad, lonely and lost, shocked and bewildered. You do not say you wish for this sadness and hurt to end, this physical pain in your heart to go away. You do not say how difficult it is to face each day and night without him. You do not say how tortuous it is some days to just get by, to function. You do not rage and scream.

I know that there is much that you do not say.

© Copyright Chris Reynolds and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I too do not say many things. I do not say half often enough how amazing I think you are. How strong you are despite your pain. How in awe of you I am. I do not say, that while I never wish to know your pain, that for just a little while I’d like to be able to take it away. To allow you to breathe once more and live in the world you used to know. A world with your four children around you. I do not say, “Today I miss him too“. I do not say that  I cannot bear to see the boys on the soccer pitch playing as I drive by. I do not say how angry I am that this has happened to you my friend, to your family and to such a handsome, cheeky young boy.

There is so much we do not say in that moment together, but I hope you know, by not saying all of this, that I do not deny your grief nor lessen your pain. I am just reading your signals, and some days not saying anything seems to be exactly the right thing to say.

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© Copyright Chris Reynolds and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tonight’s the night!

Can you remember a time when if you heard that your heart would race?
Now you’re a parent of a toddler and it has a whole new meaning.

You haven’t had a nights sleep in eighteen months.
Memory, humor, disposition, judgement have all become seriously impaired.
Enough is enough.
Other people have managed it.
Tonight is the night your toddler is staying in its own bed all night!small__3383003810

All the books suggest that the key to your child sleeping is to,
1. Have a routine.
2. Give your toddler a bath.
3. Read them a story.
4.Put them into their cot and say goodnight.

You follow the advice.
Every point checked.
Bed time at last.
Simple!

Pity your toddler cant read.

Up until the moment he went into bed all was looking good.
You caught him yawning,
“Oh Joy, he’s definitely tired”.
However once he saw you retreat out that bedroom door up he jumps.
Eventually after a bit more,
coaxing, rocking, storytelling and another bottle,
he drops off.

Before you had children the only sleep deprivation you had experienced was self induced.
Even then you made up for it by sleeping round the clock the next day.
However your babies first birthday,
was also the anniversary of the last time you slept a full night.

I can remember a friend telling me about their neighbour.
They had a fourteen month old who woke every night.
The only solution was a bottle with blackcurrant cordial in it.
Nothing else worked.
One night they ran out of blackcurant.
In desperation they tried milk.
The mother handed over the bottle of milk to her expectant baby,
then crept quietly towards the door.
“Thump!”, the bottle of milk,
hit her on the back of the head!

My friends thought this was outrageous behavior.
A baby ruling the house like that.
And what damage were they doing to its teeth?
Two years later the same friends would drive around at night,
searching every shop,
for a particular brand of blackcurrant cordial,
for their own little girl!

During the day it’s easy to strengthen our resolve.
We understand we may have to let him cry.
We listen to all sorts of advice,
and then use the internet, hoping for different advice!

“Leave him cry”…
You worry, for how long?  Will this damage him?
“Stay with him but don’t pick him up”….
What a nightmare, you would be awake and out of bed!
“Don’t give him any bottle”….
So you have to listen to, “Please mama, ba ba!” being roared between sobs.

However, according to the experts,
the greatest sin of all,
is to take your toddler into bed with you!

Oh dear, this has been happening every night for months!
Well not tonight.
Tonight the bed is for you and your partner.
You will persevere.
You are determined.

The time arrives.
small__5049828942
Your toddler wakes.
You are firm.
You are determined.

Over an hour of mayhem passes,
during which you try to apply every piece of advice you received,
Eventually you are all crying or close to it!

At last one of you cracks.
Muttering about how ridiculous this is,
the tear soaked, sobbing child, is picked up out of his cot.
He instantly clings to you like he will never let you go.
Gasping for breath between sobs.

You return to your bed with your toddler.
He settles down between you,
Two minutes later he falls fast asleep.
As do you both!

Ah well there is always tomorrow night!

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******* There is a lot happening here at the moment so I have “lost” my blogging mojo for today. I thought some of you may enjoy this old post until I’m back.

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Thank God for Easter!

Today is Easter Sunday. “Easter” what does it really mean to you? As a non believer what does it mean to me?

My family are Catholic and I remember Easters of old. The “celebrations” began officially in our house in true Catholic style, with Good Friday. Don’t be fooled by the name, there is nothing “good” about it. A day we could not eat meat, and were allowed only one main meal and two smaller ones. There was no alcohol, and most shops and all pubs were closed. We attended church to “do the stations”. I remember it well as one of the most boring days of the year.

The next day was a big improvement because in our house Lent ended at 12 midday not midnight. Most of my friends disagreed, but I am sure they were just very jealous. At midday we would begin to break into the eggs and any other chocolate we could find.

Easter Sunday itself was a day when we wore new clothes, usually bought with warmer days of Summer in mind, so we froze. We continued to eat whatever eggs we had left. We always went to Mass, but even though I could feel this was a day of church celebration, it never really meant much to me.

Now I have children of my own, I have developed a real A la Carte Easter. A little bit of everything.
My four children are too old for the Easter Bunny, or so you might think. However despite them ranging in age from 22 to 12 they still insist we hide eggs. So the day began with a most competitive egg hunt, too competitive perhaps as my son got quite a nasty bang to the head. Next year in the interest of health and safety helmets will be provided!photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdgovpics/7038792759/">MDGovpics</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Afterwards we all went to Mass. As I have no belief I must admit I struggle with this one. Not in the way you might think though. I don’t actually mind going and sitting through Mass, but I do feel hypocritical. I feel I shouldn’t be there. I know I am welcome but I feel it is disrespectful of me to sit there and listen to the priest, when in my heart I am arguing all the way through. However I did go for two reasons. One, it means a lot to my husband for us all to go, and two my children I think still believe in God. I have no intention of bursting their bubble, as I have seen the comfort my friend has got from her faith since her young son died. Maybe in time my children will need such a comfort in their lives, I’d hate to be the one to have taken it from them. If they decide themselves that they no longer have faith well and good, but I’d prefer it to be their own choice not mine.

And so we all sat at Mass and then we headed home, for the mega dinner. Turkey and all the trimmings. Again I wondered why? Why do I make such a big deal of an event I have no allegiance to whatsoever.

As the dinner was cooking we decided to go to say hi to Dan. A quick trip to the graveyard seemed to be necessary. All this happiness and this beautiful day was wonderful, but I couldn’t let go and relax until I’d called by. Off we went with a few flowers from the garden. Even though I wanted to go, it really never does me any good. As I stand there and admire the beautiful views from his grave, I look at his photo on the cross over his grave. His handsome cheeky grin exactly captures the happy boy he was. I always feel a huge sense of his loss. We stayed but a moment, said “Happy Easter Dan”, and then moved on.

As we walked away I was struck by the enormity of what we were doing. We were walking away from the grave of a thirteen year old boy and following my daughter across the path. In her hand was a small bunch of daisys, her Easter present to young Ben, aged six, who was buried close by. Another little boy who would never grow up. How sickening was that.

Leaving the graveyard I couldn’t help the tears from falling. It was beyond sad. Two little boys who had left behind such a huge hole in the lives of all who knew them.

Yet now hours later writing this I know what Easter means to me. It mightn’t be the big church celebration it is meant to be but it is a celebration. It is a day we share as a family. A lighthearted day of fun, games, chocolate and eating together. It is one of those very special family times. A tradition my family will always remember. And a chance to be glad and appreciate all we’ve got.

So I say (perhaps a little tongue in cheek) Thank God for Easter!. :)

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One phone call, and life changes forever.

Last night I was in the best of moods. Holidays had begun. I had that Friday feeling and more, as I began a weeks holiday. Gathered in a friends house the atmosphere was party like, two families enjoying friendly banter. Life felt good.

Then the phone rang.

As I reached for it, for a moment I did what my mother always does, before even looking at my phone, I anticipated who it might be and predicted what the conversation would be about. I always ridicule my mother for doing this, but I am finding myself doing it more and more lately. “Oh it’s so and so about swimming, or a night out, or a friendly chat etc”, I thought to myself.

On the phone was a friend of mine, and I knew instantly by her tone she was not ringing for a friendly chat. As her mother in law has recently undergone surgery I immediately thought the serious tone was to relay the bad news that perhaps her health had deteriorated. I moved away from the fun and games of the gathering, into a quiet room, so I could match her tone without being noticed.

She then told me a friends son, aged 24, had died in an accident abroad. As I struggled to take in the news I heard her continue speaking. She gave details of what happened. How he fell while climbing. She spoke of the anxiety of his girlfriend and family when they couldn’t make contact. I listened as she talked of mountain rescue finding him, and yet all the while I was puzzled. What was she saying? He died! There was no room for hope. It’s over. I could not process the details of her conversation. Instead my mind traveled to his mother, and I thought of what it must have been like for her as she waited and worried overnight. The difficulty of organising a search team from so far away. Then, with chills, I imagined that moment when she got the phone call, that most heart breaking of phone calls.

His mother is one of the liveliest, funniest, kindest most wonderful people I know. I struggle to imagine or picture her sad. I find it so painful to know that this woman, who brightened the world with her infectious humour and mad capped ways, will now be changed forever. For as long as she lives, a part of her will be sad, a part of her will be forever missing her fine strong boy, her firstborn. I feel sick. I have an actual pain in my chest as I, for just a moment feel her pain, before I realise that what I feel can’t even come close to her pain.

Sixteen months ago I had never seen first hand, the grief of a parent when they lose a child. Now just over a year later, I have witnessed this four times. There was Deirdre aged 19. A stunning looking, very lively girl, who went to work and was in great form only to never return home, a victim of suddenphoto credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc adult death. Young Ben aged 6 years who died from the effects of a seizure. His very brave parents donating organs and giving life to others despite their own grief. My pal Daniel aged 13 years, whom you are all aware of, who died in November after a massive fight against infection post bone marrow transplant, and now my friends son.

Today as I come to terms with another tragedy I pause to think. Life is so short. Not one of us know the moment our fun and games will end with a phone call. Even though my heart is breaking for my friend at this most difficult of times, I am now more determined than ever to ensure I appreciate all that I have. In fact I want us to do more than appreciate it. I want my family to value how happy we are, to enjoy the little things, and to laugh loads. Because after all, I now understand fully, that the phone may ring for any of us at any time.

Live, Laugh, Love.

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Joanne O Riordan, A girl who knows no limits.

Can any of us imagine as we lie there watching our pregnant belly being scanned what it would be like to be told, “I’ll just get the consultant”. At that point you know all is not what it should be. There is something wrong. Life may never be the same again.

Today I took two of my children to see an amazing film. It is the story of a young girl from Cork, Ireland, who was born with Total Amelia, no limbs. She is one of only seven in the world documented with this condition.
During the film we saw an interview with her mother. She spoke so movingly of that moment when she was told her baby was to be born with just a body. As she struggled to come to terms with it, her husband wondered what a baby with no limbs would look like. A few weeks later after a cesarean section he found out, and thankfully bonded with her immediately.

The film showed extraordinary footage of a young Joanne “standing” on the kitchen table singing “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. Even so young it was obvious this was an exceptional girl.http://www.evoke.ie/no-limbs-no-limits-trailer-joanne-o-riordan-total-amelia/

Very shortly after she was born her parents took her to a paediatrician. Her mother described finding undressing Joanne difficult as she was not used to a new born with no limbs. They then lay her on the couch and the doctor came over and looked at her. Without laying a finger on her he said, “She’s like a rag doll”. Not understanding his remark her mother asked him what did he mean. “Well, he said, you know when you get a doll at Christmas and after a time an arm falls off, and then a leg falls off, you know what you would then do with it?”. Joanne’s shocked parents looked at him as he said, “You put it away”.
They then understood that he was telling them this child would count for nothing, and that in time they could put her in a home.

According to them both this was their spur. After they had wiped away their tears and dressed their little one, they decided that they would prove that man wrong.

I am not sure have they done so, or has it been the amazing young lady they gave birth to, who has done it herself. In her eighteen short years of life to date she has managed to, reverse government policy, addressed the United Nations in New York and she has spoken at numerous gatherings. She is also a columnist in an Irish newspaper, and is due to finish school this year.

As I watched this film today, produced and directed by her brother, I was at times overwhelmed. We watched as she achieved so much, yet struggled to hold a fork, and manage what we consider simple tasks. There was no mention throughout the film of what she could not do. Her positive attitude was contagious. On leaving the cinema I too believed the sky is the limit.

The movie was called “No limbs, no Limits” which is  how Joanne views her life.  However my own personal favourite quote from her is “There is no such word as IMPOSSIBLE, as to me that reads I’M POSSIBLE.

If you ever get the opportunity to see this movie I urge you to watch it.
You can see a preview here. It is just over a minute long but it will live with you a lot longer.  Prepare to be inspired.

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Hey we’re not British we’re Irish.

Tonight I read something and it made me smile, because on reading it I knew it would have really got the Irish going. What did I read? I read this 20 best British and Irish novels of all time. Why you may wonder would that upset a nation, well when it was first printed it read “British novels” with no reference to “Irish novels”. Listed were James Joyce, Flann O Brien and John Banville, all very fine, famous, well known Irish writers.

Now there is nothing gets the Irish going faster than hearing of an Irishman being claimed by the British. It happens regularly and without fail it unites the nation.
Each year around the time of the Oscars, or BAFTAs we listen intently, waiting to take umbridge as our countrymen are “stolen”. The same is true during major sporting achievements, although this becomes a little more complicated as some of those who compete, such as Rory McIlroy in golf, come from northern Ireland, and declare themselves for Britain.

Despite our new polite and increasingly friendly relations between our two nations, including last weeks visit by our President to the British Queen, do not be fooled. Beneath the surface the Irish still have a “thing” against the British, most particularly the English. A rivalry and a will to beat them, and I have no doubt for some who live in England the feeling is mutual.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/martindo/10785821365/">M+MD</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Our modern relationship is complicated. We watch British television constantly, English is now our first language, many follow the young royals, British football teams, and many more move to Britain for work and are more than happy to stay there for many years or forever. Yet if the Irish team are competing in any sport, soccer, rugby, tiddly winks, whatever against England, the nation are as one in a giant Ireland v England moment.

So today when the Telegraph gave credit to three books placing them within the top twenty “British” novels of all time the country was suitably incensed. Old rivalries were relived and the country slipped into the old Us v Them mentality. How dare they?

Twitter went into meltdown and The Telegraph changed their title to read “20 best British and Irish novels of all time”.

That’s great all sorted you say. Wrong. Now the Irish want to know if it is the best British AND Irish novels how come they only chose three Irish novels?

You just can’t win against the Irish!

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Is talking about healthy food making us all fat?

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between my time as a child and the world my children live in, is the growing obsession with healthy eating and body image.

As a child my mother stayed at home, and luckily for us was a wonderful cook. Not only did she cook our dinner each day, but she also made dessert (sweet as we called it). To add to that she baked constantly, buns, apple tarts, breads, pavlova, and many other delights which we enjoyed greatly. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t allowed unlimited access to them, but I never remember being told they were fattening or unhealthy. They were something we enjoyed, guilt free.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dearbarbie/437294724/">dearbarbie</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

I now have four children and also stay at home. I am not the cook my mother was, but I do make a dinner every day. I have what you could describe as a very relaxed attitude to nutrition. From the time I had my first baby and she was such a very fussy eater, my mother reassured me not to fret that she wouldn’t starve herself and as long as she stayed healthy I should relax. I found it difficult but I took her advice and who would have thought it, that same child is now a very healthy twenty two year old with a very varied palate.

As subsequent children arrived I continued to pay little attention to diet. They are thankfully sickeningly healthy, but even though they were all reared the same, not all had the same love of food as the other. One in particular survived fourteen years on plain pasta, and as little meat as possible. No fruit of any sort and the only vegetable was tinned corn, (perhaps not the most organic of vegetables!) However, slowly over the past year, she has begun to vary her diet and will now eat curry, bolognaise, different soups, beef stroganof and numerous other “exotic” dinners.

I have secretly prided myself on the fact that my children are not overly obsessed with calories or food. They are all normal weight and even though they enjoy sweets or treats they don’t seem to eat too many of them. Despite my own lack of fruit in my diet they, like their Dad, enjoy some every day. Yet today as my daughter had her head stuck in the fridge she turned to me and said, “Mum, you’re really a disgrace as a mother”. ( A bit harsh I thought!)”You have never taught us about healthy eating or encouraged us to eat fruit and vegetables”. ( I’d like to point out that this was spoken by the same child who ate plain pasta for fourteen years).

I looked at her as she began to eat fresh melon from the fridge, having just finished her chicken curry, and I said, “Do you think so, because I see someone who is never sick, with no weight issues, who eats as she pleases and enjoys what she eats? If you ask me I think not talking about it and eating everything in moderation would appear to be exactly the right way to parent”.

Her words have made me think though. Maybe there is far too much talking on this subject. We live in an age where so many foods are “bad”. It has got so complicated that even low fat food is now seen to be fattening, butter, which was a few years ago considered a shortcut to a heart attack, is now back on the “good” shelf, and the restriction on eggs has also been lifted. What are we to believe?

As an adult I struggle to ignore it all. It is in my face every day. A while ago there was a health drive in this country to alert everyone to the fact that we are a nation who are rapidly expanding in waist size. Free measuring tapes were kindly supplied and if you were over a certain waist size you were classed as overweight. I wear a UK size 10, yet as I sucked in, desperately pulling that tape towards the holy grail of thirty two inches, I nearly passed out. I put the tape away and cursed that last child. photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/4508825094/">quinn.anya</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Thankfully that stupid campaign ended. It had branded me overweight but if I am honest I choose to dismiss it as wrong. I continue to eat normal meals every day, and enjoy what treats I like in moderation every day. There are many foods I enjoy and can honestly say I am never guilty when I eat or afterwards. If in years to come my children can be as relaxed and guilt free around food as I am I will be happy.

Perhaps not talking about nutrition and healthy food was indeed the best policy.

photo credit: dearbarbie via photopin cc

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

photo credit: Nino.Modugno via photopin cc

photo credit: CLF via photopin cc

The first Summer without you.

The weather and time have changed and as if overnight we now live in a beautiful country of sunshine and long evenings.
As I step outside the air even seems to smell of Spring and the promise of Summer.
Could it be that we could possibly have another Summer of good weather? Two in a row?
On beautiful days such as today it is easy to believe it.

As I enjoy these early days of Easter holidays, two weeks uniform and school lunch free, I smile. Life is good.
All my family are home from college and the house is noisy and a mess.
Yet it is  this very scene of happiness that can sometimes tip me over.

It does so unexpectedly.
As I look at my fully occupied, noisy kitchen table, my mind drifts to a house not too far away,
to a kitchen table with one empty seat.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewf/69851941/">Stewf</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
A seat that can never be filled.

As I  look at my table I wonder what would it be like if one were missing?
I think of how much they all contribute to the family in their own way.
The smiley one, the chatty one, the sporty one and the lively one,
and how intensely I love them all,
no one child more than the other.
They are all a part of me, bound by unseen ties.
My children, forever my little ones.

As I take away their empty plates I pause for a moment at my kitchen window.
The sun is shining and the sky is a magnificent blue.
A beautiful day, and yet that somehow makes things worse not better.

I had got used to the dull days and grim weather of winter.
Those dark days fitted perfectly with my sadness.
A few tears falling on a miserable wet day was acceptable.
But somehow these beautiful sunny days have changed things.

We have become accustomed to missing Dan in the winter.
However now we are facing a different sadness.
We are facing the season of sunshine and holidays,
children playing outside and having fun.
Just as there is an empty seat at the table,
there is also amidst the laughter of those children playing outside one laugh less,
one voice in a heated row not heard, one player on the football team missing,
one passport less at the airport.
This is a new loss.

I have heard that grief must be experienced through each new season,
well look out because here comes Summer!

photo credit: Stewf via photopin cc