TEAM HALO

Life with Harry, Lola and me

Without blowing my own trumpet, I’d like to think the I am kind, generous and thoughtful. So why is what I’m about to say making me feel so uncomfortable?

I don’t want to upset people. I don’t want you to think I don’t care about you nor your kids. I don’t want to sound like The Grinch but….ok here it is….I don’t want to exchange Christmas presents this year.

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The people around the tree are so much more important than the presents under it

I have wanted to say this to people for a long time but this year I’m just putting it out there!  It’s the result of what feels like a multi-pronged attack to my system. Boots have regurgitated the same old 3 for 2 offerings, just in marginally different packaging. I have seen the magical “elf on the shelf” on sale in pretty much every store going, in full view of the children. Plus I’ve not been moved by any of the Christmas Adverts this year. When I found out how much the Elton John Lewis advert is supposed to have cost, it didn’t make me feel Christmassy at all. It made me feel colder than the snow that I’ll wish for on Christmas Eve. Just an opinion but I would have felt far more receptive to the spirit of Christmas if I had sat in front of a black screen for 30 seconds with subtitles explaining there is no John Lewis ad this year as the money has gone to those who need it most. 

Christmas isn’t about what you buy. I don’t need presents to know I am loved and I know that you don’t need that either.  The support friends have given me during this difficult year has been the most priceless of gifts. The pointless exchange of goods to a similar value is bonkers. So why am I afraid to tell you this?

Don’t get me wrong, if I see a present which is original and is “perfect” for someone, and the budget allows, they I will get it. But that could be in the middle of March. It doesn’t have to be enforced upon us for “Christmas” and it doesn’t mean you have to buy me something back. That’s exchanging, not giving!

Often, kids can’t appreciate the gifts they receive on Christmas morning due to the assembly line of unwrapping which awaits them. I know this but I still feel pressure. Social media hasn’t helped. When I grew up there was the term “keeping up with the Joneses” which meant wanting to have all the possessions and social achievements that your neighbours do. But now, thanks to the Internet, the whole world is our neighbour. We get to see hundreds of photos of the insane and quite frankly vulgar mountain of presents under some people’s trees. How sad it must be for those children who are so gentle and kind but get so little, to think that Santa thought less of them than a spoilt little madam with a rich family.

My children will have enough presents under the tree. I’m spending what I can afford and buying them things they will love. It won’t be a huge pile. My children have everything they could wish for. They have unconditional love and the luxury of time with people who they adore and who adore them. When I look back at my Christmas Days growing up, I can’t remember the presents I received at all. What I can remember is the people around the dining table, and the gaping hole that was left on Christmas Days after we lost someone we loved. Make memories with those people instead. Spend money on doing something fun together and sharing experiences which will be remembered for years….not on 3 for 2 tat! Make new fun traditions which our kids and grandkids can continue long after we are gone.

Happiness isn’t a material acquisition and reciprocation shouldn’t be a competition but we are all guilty of it. I’m not religious but from now on December is going to be a memory making month rather than a retail festival. Unnecessary Christmas gift exchanges cost time and money and the majority of us are lacking in at least one of these commodities and for many of us both.

So instead of fighting your way through aisles to find something for me or for my kids…please save yourself the stress, time and money* I’m setting you free from it…and that is my gift to you. Instead, spend the time you would have otherwise spent with your family and friends. After all, that is the most precious gift of all.

*Unless it is a Range Rover 😉 – felt the need to lift the mood there! 

Lots of love x

I love the school holidays! I know I’m probably in the minority by saying that, but I just love making the most of my time with the kids. Since their Daddy and I separated, we have to make the most of the time we have together so yesterday was jam packed to the extreme!

First thing yesterday morning we headed to the BBC Studios in Newcastle for one of their interactive tours. It was absolutely fantastic. It was a children’s tour but I was as engaged as any of the kids. Tony, our tour guide, was hilarious and informative….I’d highly recommend it. We had tour of the TV and Radio studios as well as learning a few behind the scenes secrets! I may have had to have been pulled away from the news desk (my dream job) but security didn’t need to be called and I’m sure I’ll be going back again soon. I loved it!

 

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In the afternoon we were headed to a 4th birthday party but I’d promised the kids a trip to the new ice cream place on Chillingham Road, Cream Curls. They do this crazy, laborious ice cream making in front of you and you choose which bars of chocolate you want to mix it up with. Imagine an ice cream crepe…it’s hard to explain! Lola went for a Cadbury’s Creme Egg and Harry opted for cookies….until he saw Lola’s creme egg being chopped up on a skillet in front of him…then we had to change the order so they both had the same. Fascinating to watch, delicious ice cream and friendly staff. It wasn’t cheap but it was a nice treat for them and despite me thinking they could have easily shared one as they were big portions, I ended up with 2 empty tubs in the back of my car! Quite disappointing really as I was hoping to enjoy the leftovers! 

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All in all a fab day. Kids were asleep for 6.30pm after Lola actually asking to go to bed! Result! We read a story and next thing I remember was waking up next to them both an hour later…turns out I was as tired as the kids. It’s hard work having fun! 

 

The children are with their daddy this weekend so I got to indulge in my love of royal weddings, spending several hours glued to the TV screen today. Royal weddings are brilliant…you don’t have to buy an outfit nor a gift and you get the best view of the happy couple whilst ogling beautiful people (David Beckham) in beautiful clothes (Amal Clooney) in a beautiful setting. Just beautiful.

Megan looked regally radiant. A natural beauty so in love with her Prince. He was equally besotted. Like most people of a certain age, I couldn’t help but compare this happy scene to that awful day when he had to walk through the crowds behind his mother’s coffin. She may have only been a present influence for a short number of years but I would imagine that everything about today would have been given the Diana seal of approval. Megan was also missing a parent and it makes me so grateful that both of mine were around on my wedding day. I may be getting divorced but I still look back on that day with fondness. All of the planning with mum and that moment where my dad saw me in my dress for the first time…it still makes me well up thinking about it. 

I watched the wedding today sat with the person in my life who champions me the most….my best friend. She also happens to be my mum.  We have such a special bond which I long to have with my children and I’m sure I will. We sat with our glasses of prosecco whilst watching the celebrities arrive, commenting on all of the happy people (and Victoria Beckham) and wishing we could have bagged an invite. 

Maybe it’s because of my current circumstances or maybe everybody felt it but there was someone who really stole the show for me today. For Will and Kate’s wedding, other than the couple themselves of course, the main focus of most people’s attention was Pippa! However today it was a certain Doria not a derriere that I was infatuated with. Megan’s mum, Doria Ragland, the only member of Megan’s family to be there. A world away from her “normal” life, this lady brought up her daughter on her own. Megan has described her as her rock and her best friend. Sounds familiar with both my mum and my daughter! I can relate to that…however imaging sitting directly opposite the Queen with no friends nor family around to give me a gentle squeeze of encouragement whilst bursting with maternal love and emotion….it’s overwhelming to say the least.

Before today I would have walked past Harry’s now mother-in-law in the street and not known how special she was. Not special as in a social status, but special in terms of how calm, gentle and composed she was under extraordinary circumstances. “Real” overshadowed “royal” for me today. As Charles, Camilla, Kate and the rest of Team Windsor looked at their orders of service (there are none on eBay yet by the way) during the nuptials, Doria was transfixed on her beautiful daughter. Her eyes were filled with love and pride and she couldn’t stop smiling. I can’t help but think that had Diana been there, she would have been doing exactly the same with Harry. 

When the newly married couple left St George’s Chapel, the gospel choir belted out “This little light of mine.” I’m not religious but I love this song. Strangely enough it was on the radio the other day and Lola and Harry joined in singing to the music. Although the lyrics aren’t extensive, they sum up what we do for our children…we want the world to see how amazing they are. The song couldn’t have been more apt for Doria and her daughter today. She has brought her daughter up on her own and raised her to be a confident, free spirit. That’s inspirational. Megan shone as bright as the Windsor sunshine with her rock right by her side. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

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Cucumber sandwiches (with the crusts) with scones and a cuppa!

What struck me today was the sense of unity. Of course the bond between Harry and Megan but not just that. It also made me reflect on the bond I have with my mum and my kids, the bond between Megan and her mum and the legacy which has been left as a result of the close bond between Harry and his mum. Today everyone appeared to get along, embrace differences and just be happy. In this day and age that’s surely worth celebrating. 

I’m slightly more cynical about happy ever afters these days but if today’s fairytale didn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling then you need to move to Arendelle!

There may have been a few funny looks between the congregation whilst Rev. Curry delivered his lively sermon but personally I think he hit the nail on the head. “There is power in love. Don’t underestimate it.” I never have and I never will and that’s what gives me hope for the future. Will today have changed the world forever? Sadly probably not, but it has given millions of people across the world a lot of hope and happiness and I will gladly raise a glass to that. Cheers!

I have the best friends in the world….FACT!

It’s just over a year since Team HALO moved into this house. It’s a rental property and in the most amazing location for nearby schools and town, so the fact that it had been lying empty for a long time and was immediately available indicates how much of a state it was in. It was filthy and hideous but the three of us were pretty desperate. We had shared a bed at my parents’ house for 2 months and although they saw it as an adventure, I was adamant that Lola would have stability as she started her last term of reception at school.  

Anyway, when I saw the house…..the only immediately available house in the area within budget, it was the first time I have ever publicly had to ask for help. I felt humiliated and defeated to have to ask people to take part in my very own DIY SOS but I swallowed a heap of pride and remembered who I was doing this for…the kids. Upon reflection, asking for help was one of best things I have ever done.

I remember staring at this haunted looking house which hadn’t seen any TLC for years. It’s strange because as horrendous as it was, it had a lovely feel to it when I looked around. The estate agent looked embarrassed as he showed me the dilapidated rooms and I swear that when I asked to arrange a second viewing he must have thought I was high! As crazy as it was, I could strangely see past the tea towels for blinds (I kid you not) and broken beds and truly believed we could make it a happy home. 

One thing I knew is that there is no way the children were sleeping here until it had been gutted. I needed to call in the troops for assistance. I went on to Facebook, plucked up the courage and posted a message asking anyone who was free that weekend to come and help. They would be rewarded with tea, biscuits and a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing they were helping someone in need. To say I was overwhelmed at the response is an understatement. I was expecting a couple of half-hearted responses but if I had accepted every offer of help then I think we could have renovated the entire estate never mind one house. You really do find out who your friends are….people I’ve know since childhood and people who I’d only met in the previous year offering a helping hand. It was such a humbling experience and I’ll always be eternally grateful to everyone who offered to help out that weekend. When Lola and Harry arrived they had no idea of the blood, sweat and tears which had gone into this 48 hour makeover and that’s just how I wanted it!

One year on and yesterday we were lucky with the weather and celebrated Harry’s 4th birthday with a little party in the garden. A few of the people who helped last year were here. The children were playing with their friends, laughing and running around in their own little wonderland. It was one of the best days I have ever had as Team HALO. We were surrounded by love, laughter and happiness. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter where we live, renting or owning, home really is where the heart is and our hearts are most definitely in this little corner of paradise. It might never be ours on paper, but it is home and when we open our doors and welcome people in to our magical world, they become part of the happiness. 

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Looking on at what we’ve achieved with the love and help of these people made me proud and emotional yesterday. I don’t have any brothers nor sisters but I am part of a close family of friends who I couldn’t live without. Ross, Chandler, Monica and the rest of them have nothing on us. 

So after a rollercoaster of a week, I’m ending it with happy kids asleep in bed, full of memories and cake….lots of cake. Who could ask for anything more?

I should be used to this right now.  Since we separated over a year ago, Lola and Harry spend 2 nights a week with their daddy. I should therefore be used to an empty, quiet house sometimes. Tonight, however, the silence is deafening. 

Four years ago right now I was in labour, about to give birth to the most beautiful little boy in the world. I was in agony. That said, I would swap that pain in an instant for the pain I have felt  tonight. This pain can’t be fixed by an epidural nor pethidine. This is full on heartache…an indescribable anguish which will only be fixed when I am reunited with my missing pieces tomorrow.  

I’ve spent the past couple of hours wrapping his birthday presents, decorating the house with banners and balloons and pretty much doing everything I can so that he has a day to remember tomorrow. I haven’t made any plans for the daytime…it’s his choice all the way. I can pretty much guarantee that a trip to the park and copious amounts of ice-cream will be part of the schedule though. 

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Presents and balloons all ready and waiting – all that’s missing is the birthday boy

I get him back at 8.30am. I’m going to get up at 6am, have a shower, decorate his cake and make sure everything is perfect for him walking through the door. When I wake up at 6am the anguish will have undoubtedly transformed into excitement and I’ll be counting down the minutes until I get to give my gorgeous boy a birthday kiss and cuddle. By tomorrow afternoon I will be even more excited when I go to collect my gorgeous Lola from school and Team HALO (HArry and LOla) are back together again. 

It sucks that I won’t wake up with my boy on his birthday. It sucks that I won’t hear his excited little voice as he wakes up and tells the world he is four. I don’t want sympathy…I’m just saying it sucks! But when you separate, you have to learn that what you want doesn’t matter anymore. Everything has to be done based on what is best for the children. Becoming a parent makes you pretty selfless but becoming a single parent takes it to a whole new level. I offered Harry’s daddy to have the kids tonight so he could wake up with him on his birthday…me sitting here alone tonight is my choice and for the benefit of the children. 

It saddens me that life isn’t as it was 4 years ago when, as a couple, we were elated to have a son to complete our family. But that isn’t my life anymore and after over a year of adjustment, I am getting used to a new kind of normal. When I’m part of Team HALO, I experience the highest of highs. We have the best times, laugh uncontrollably, sing loudly and badly, dance until we are dizzy and make memories. By contrast, I also experience the lowest of lows in their absence. I am getting used to this though…I fill my time doing fun things and spending it with lovely people. It doesn’t often hurt like it has done tonight, and as with everything, this time will pass. 

Divorce is bloody hard. It leaves you feeling like a shell of the person you once were…that’s my experience anyway. Somedays, my glass is overflowing, sometimes it’s half full, sometimes it’s half empty and on occasion I question if there is any water in my glass at all. Those times are getting fewer and fewer though and most days I am back to my irritatingly positive self.

In trying to turn everything in my life into a positive, I decided to start this blog in the hope that it will offer comfort, support, entertainment (on my good days) and even a little inspiration to those who are new to, struggling with or even sailing though separation and co-parenting. 

So I suppose there are a few strands to this blog….I’ll be writing stuff about Team HALO’s adventures but also writing about stuff I get up to when I don’t have the kids and rediscovering the person who isn’t just mummy! 

Here’s to a new chapter…thanks for getting on the rollercoaster with me! 

 

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