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My Dad

When I was very small, my dad’s side of the bed was furthest from the door, but if I had a nightmare, I would creep around to his side to climb in. I don’t know if it was because he was so tired from a physical job, or a softer touch than mum, or what, but he always let me in. He was my safe space.

When I was a bit bigger, (and health and safety wasn’t an issue like it is now) he would sometimes take us in turns to work with him. He’s a carpenter, so we’d be on building sites and in houses making things. One stretch, probably a summer holidays, I went with him a few days in a row. There was a kind site manager who would bring around jam doughnuts at lunchtime, and we’d eat them and get sugary faces. We’d sit together where we (he) had been working, with packed lunches and the very special treat that was the doughnuts. I don’t know who that kind manager was – we just called him the Jammy Dodger man.

When I was 8, he baptised me at the church I attended until I left home, and where they still attend now. The water wasn’t particularly warm and my dress was damp from a friend’s baptism the day before, but he held me tightly and I was safe.
Around the same age, my mum liked to have figurines on the mantelpiece. One day, I knocked one down and the head cracked off. I told Dad, and he found glue and we fixed it together. She noticed immediately of course, and I still got into trouble, but I clearly remember him not being angry and calmly helping me.

When I was 11 I was due to take entrance exams for secondary schools. Dad was the one to take me, and I had two in one day. He dropped me into the first one, and waited. I came out afterwards stressed and incredibly worried about the next one. We got in the car and he gently asked me if I was ready for the next one. I wasn’t, and so he let me skip it. We went to the shop instead and he bought me treats for doing the first one, and the other one was never mentioned again.

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When I was a teenager, things were classically more tense, but Dad (and Mum) were always happy to join in the fun. He taught me basic car maintenance, very basic carpentry, and when he was building the extension to our house, he taught me how to lay bricks. There’s a good-sized section of wall that I built, and somewhere behind the stuff in the garage there are bricks with our names on, though they might have faded by now.

During that same building project, I tripped and fell, gashing a leg. I was 14 or 15, and Dad scooped me up and carried me inside, like I was 3 and had fallen off my bike. I remember crying with my head against his shoulder, Mum had a quick look and we went off to hospital. Nothing was broken but I have a sizeable scar. I don’t really remember the fall or the pain specifically, I just remember Dad gently carrying me in.

When I was 16 and started dating boys, he did not seem to be a fan. He took time not to come across too much of an I-Will-Kill-You dad, but I knew he could (and would) bring it out if I needed him to!

When I was almost 20, he took me to that same church, and walked me down the aisle. I remember sitting in the car on the way there and talking, he had packed chocolate and bottles of water, and gave me last-minute tips and so much love I’m surprised it didn’t leak out of the windows. He also organised my own personal Secret Service for when I arrived – some of my friends in dark suits and glasses with earpieces – who opened the car for me and gave me a good laugh in a nervous moment. We didn’t link arms (my dress was too big and poofy!), we held hands instead as he gave me away.

Since then he has never been more than a phone call away and is my go to when I need to fix something, or jump-start the car and can’t remember how to attach the cables, and he calls me at least every Sunday night to catch up. He is the most wonderful Grampa to my boys and their cousins, He helped teach me to drive twice, once at 17 and once again at 27. He gives me directions for driving even if I say the Sat Nav will get me there. He will tell me jokes he’s been sent or about funny videos he sees on Facebook. He still tells me about his work, and I still find it interesting. He tells me the goings on at their church and will make people say hello to me if they’re at his house when I call.

He is still me hero, my rescuer, my safe space.

Dad, I love you forever. Happy Father’s Day!

Your Tomboy,

Tink x

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Five

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This monkey is FIVE. Mr B the third, the last of my babies, full blown 5 years old, full time at school. It has snuck up on me this year, there has been a lot going on, and suddenly, birthday season was upon us again.

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(I know dude, I did that face too.)

He’s hilarious, and a whirlwind, mad and wonderful and difficult all at once. He’s finally enjoying reading – slowly, carefully, with minimal patience, but enjoying it! He flies into everything, resulting in bumps and bruises (and most recently 3 VERY bashed teeth) and he gets up and carries on. He loves movies and popcorn, hot chocolate (once we convinced him to try it) and biscuits. IMG_2872[1]Almost as much as he loves vegetables in general, and broccoli in particular. He will always eat his veggies, and will happily help his brothers if they think they can get away with it. He loves school, and dinosaurs, and Lego, and anything that makes him the same as his big brothers.IMG_5621

He’s a carbon copy of Ethan. They have the same smile, the same face. It’s like an action replay of Ethan, five years later. Except they are not so alike in personality – Ethan is careful and gentle and thinks a lot, Henry is boistrous and rough and tumble and thinks afterwards. They get on like a house on fire though, most of the time, and they both get on well with Sam (again, most of the time. Hey, siblings. it’s never 100%.)

Speaking of Sam, he and Henry are alternately thick as thieves and mortal enemies. They are usually in whatever pickle is happening together (either allies or enemies), and probably 50% of the time when we go to bed we find either this, sometimes the pair of them in one of their beds. Or once, they swindled their grandparents and we came home and they were all asleep in Ethan’s room. My favourite memories with my sisters are silly things like this, I love seeing it in the boys.

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He loves animals, any kind. He’s gentle with them in a way that, watching him in his normal interactions, you might not think possible. Even with that crazy look in his eyes! He dances, and sings, and laughs. He’s excited by small things, a sweet produced from a pocket, discovering children’s magazines for sale, a volcano made of mashed potato and gravy. He’s delighted by any gift he’s given, from the hot wheels set to the headphones just like his brother, to the super cheap knock-off lego dinosaurs that he can mix and match the legs for.IMG_5626So chocolate stufffed donut tower cakes, madness, whirlwinds, bruises and bumped teeth and all, We love you crazy monkey.  Happy Birthday, Five.

With Love, Mummy x

P.S. We are constantly telling him he’s not a baby anymore, but secretly, he always will be. I mean, look at this face. IMG_1941[1]

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Ten

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Ten. My wonderful, kind, lovely, maddening, firstie is ten. How can it be that we’ve been at this whole mother-son thing for a decade?

My darling boy, let us see what Ten years makes.

Ten is Football. This one was a surprise, you are tall, and coordination doesn’t exactly come naturally, and you tend to gravitate towards tech. But you love football and football practise, and you work hard at it. Your first present request this year was goalie gloves (which we got for you), a football (which arrived in the mail, addressed to you, from Grandma and Grampa. Very exciting), and a football shirt (Thank you Grandma and Grandad).

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Ten is Technology. Your favourite at school is computing and coding. I don’t understand a word of it (I have fallen behind you already), but you do, and every parents evening we are told that you excel at it and help others. It scares me a little, because I am not ready for this pre-teeny interest in tech and computers and the internet and all the stuff that that entails (but oh gosh do I have to stay ahead on this one).

Ten is Silliness. Ten is you learning the boundaries of how much silly is fun and how much silly will drive me crazy. You walk the line, alternately frustrating and hilarious in spades. You pun with the best of them, you’re quick at it too, quick to laugh, even at yourself, but you’re (mostly, you’re only a human ten year old boy) careful not to make fun at someone else’s expense. Which brings us to…

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Ten is Kind and Gentle. Oh my goodness, do you know how to be kind. You are the first to check if someone is ok, particularly when I shout ouch (regularly. Your lack of coordination is clearly inherited), and you are always first to try and distract an upset younger brother. You held that chick for Henry when he wasn’t ready, and kept trying to help him. You tell me you love me, randomly and often, and also not randomly. You see when I am getting frustrated, and you tell me then. You see when I am tired, and you tell me again. You wont hug me at school anymore (I understand) but at home you do, and you ask for them. I love it, and I love you for it.

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Ten is Bacon Sandwiches for birthday breakfast, thanks to your Dad. I was panicking about my exam (and mornings are not my strong point), so we sat together quietly at the table, eating our bacon sandwiches, me with ketchup and you with barbeque sauce (to you bbq sauce is life) and I thought, HOW are you ten? how have you become so much, when I made you from scratch what feels like not so long ago? And we smiled at each other, finished our breakfast, and carried on the day.

Ten is also a donut stack cake, again courtesy of your Dad, as mishaps meant I was in A&E with Henry (he’s fine), but you understood, and ate donuts, and stayed up a little late, and planned your birthday sleepover.

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So Happy Birthday Mr Ten, you clever, funny, wonderful, kind boy. You will always be my firstie, no matter how big you get. We must be doing something right.

I love you,

Mummy x

 

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Mother’s Day 2018

My Mother is an amazing woman. Yes, everyone says it on Mother’s day, so let me give you some truth – Mum and I have had an extreme rollercoaster of emotions to get to me knowing what a boss she is. I got a lot of my qualities (good and, er, less good) from her – her love of music, punny jokes, water in general and the beach in particular. A determination devolving into stubbornness. A need to prove myself. Above all else, a fierce love for ‘my people’.

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Headstrong and stubborn, I was by all accounts a difficult child who went on to be a fairly horrendous teenager for a while there. Mum and I had some intense times. We had difficulty understanding each other, which was slightly ridiculous as the answer was clearly in that we were so alike. Here’s the thing though – I always knew she loved me. I knew that she was in my corner, ready to fight for me in any way necessary. She would take down any opponent however she could, and here’s a story of when I really realised it.

When I was 15, I was having a particularly awful time at school dealing with some people who, for whatever reasons, did not like me. One day I snapped, lied to the office staff about an appointment, walked out of school and went home. Mum was working at the time, and wasn’t due to be home for hours. I planned to wait it out, hide away from the world for the day, and start again tomorrow. I didn’t have to tell her I played hooky. It wasn’t the first time (oops, sorry mum, pretty sure you didn’t know that), and I’d dust myself off and could try again. Except I didn’t, and I couldn’t. As I walked in the door to our house I found I had reached the end of my rope, and I needed someone to take over. The remarkable part is that, as I picked up the phone and dialed her office number, I wasn’t even slightly afraid. I needed my mother, and I knew that she would be there for me. Trouble would be coming, but I knew it wouldn’t be from her (or Dad, I might add).

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I told her everything, through sobs, and after a little comfort, she immediately got on the phone to the school and read them the riot act. Side note: Having been on the receiving end of said riot act, I can confirm that it is formidable and kind of like that feeling you get when you open a hot oven or get off a plane in a hot country. You will be blasted.

She sorted everything out, and less than two weeks later I would be attending a different school, who had previously refused me entry but suddenly catchment areas were no longer an issue, and I was in. She had done it all for me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone about it, no one (other than a few key staff members) at the old or new schools knew the reason I’d be moving, I would be able to tell my own version of the story and become myself however I pleased. Now, this part of the story is wonderful. The happy ending, but it’s not the only part. The next morning was a school day. I had hoped I’d be allowed to stay home, for a day at least, to avoid the situation,  the people, and the pain. That is not what happened, school move arrangements were still being put in place and I needed to attend where I was until they were. I was gently told to get up, to get dressed and ready. I did, with the occasional tears of worry and fear sliding down my cheeks. I would not be allowed to skip out, that was not the way the world works. I had been given a pass on my afternoon of truancy, that had been my time to wallow and now I would have to fortify and get on with it.

As we got ready to leave, she slipped a token into my hand. It was a small red wooden heart. She told me that she would be thinking of me, and that she loved me, and that when it got hard (when, not if – smart woman), I could put my hand in my pocket, hold that heart, and know that she loved me. I made it through those last 10 days or so, knowing the unstoppable force behind me. More importantly, she taught me that I could get up and carry on. That I could go back to a horrific situation, take charge of my part of it, hold my head up, and move on. It was not as bad as I’d thought, and I think had I not gone, my first few days at my new school would have been more difficult. After all, how hard can a new school be when you’ve spent the last 10 days facing the people who ridiculed you to the point of running away?

Going that day was difficult, but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I learned how hard it must have been for her, knowing that I was scared and encouraging me to do it anyway. She never let it show, but I bet that day was just as hard for her as it was for me.

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I watched Wonder Woman last night and there’s a line where Hippolyta says to Antiope, “You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, ten times harder. Until she is better than even you.” My Mum is Hippolyta. Not only does she command a horde of warrior women (I’m one of 6 sisters), but yes, she pushes us. She trained us hard, she helped make us who we are, and continues to help us whenever and however she can.(Does this make me Wonder Woman? I’m good with that.)

We get along far better than we used to, and she is one of my biggest supporters. After each of the boys were born she came to stay and help me adjust. When I decided to go back to school she was excited and supportive, and regularly asks how my work is going. I can confide in her, and she gives me kind advice and love without judgement, and the tellings-off are much fewer, farther between, gentler and (mostly) necessary 😉 And when it gets late and we’re together, the laughter is loud, long, and usually hard enough to bring on tears.ma

Yes. My mum is amazing. Formidable, wonderful, warrior woman queen.

So Mum,

typed from my fat fingers and said from my chickenlips (in jokes for another day) but most of all from my heart,

I love you x

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Happy 4th Birthday Sam

Sorry! We’ve had internet trouble with switching providers, and before that I had a serious case of writer’s block. In October Sam turned 4 and was as insane as ever.

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For his birthday her got numerous trains and train related items, and was incredibly happy about it. For his actual birthday he didn’t have cake, he had a birthday stack of doughnuts.

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He was very impressed, as was I, because I was already doing two cakes. Those are Sainsbury’s lower fat doughnuts, and they are delicious. not too greasy and very light!

Cake number one was for his family birthday dinner at Grandma and Grandad’s, and he requested Olaf.

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I really enjoyed making him actually. It’s not as easy as it looks though, carving the shapes from cake is crumbly! Also it looks like it’s going to look terrible right up until you get the arms, hair and eyebrows on.IMG_4865

His nose was my favourite part. Side note, if you need black icing, even if it’s a small amount, for the love of all that is sweet and delicious, buy black icing. I had a huge bag of white and thought nah, it’ll be fine, I’ve got gel colouring! It was not fine. It took forever to mix. It also dyed my hands grey. He’s lumpier than I hoped, but I think that could be remedied by either having thicker icing, or a layer of marzipan under it. We’re not huge fans of icing or marzipan though, so we skipped it.

For his birthday party he took some friends to Kirklees Light Railway, which was a big hit. They provide a hostess, food and a (stationary) party train carriage, the return train ride for 10 kids and 4 adults, and some games at the other end, so there’s minimal preparation for me! It was just under £100, though you can add on party bags. We chose to do our own though.

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The party carriage also has the drivers cabin in the end with lots of controls to fiddle with, and the boys all loved it.

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For the cake Sam decided he wanted to pick a shop cake this time, and after having several projects running recently I was more than happy with that!

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He even had his own birthday express train! There were other passengers, but he had a separate carriage. I can’t fault the service there either, they’re all fab and great with the kids.

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All in all, he had a lovely birthday and is growing up fast. He loves nursery school and has some firm friends, and he loves to play on the tablet, but mostly, he loves trains, singing, and dogs. He will sing anything and everything, and comes home from school happiest when they’ve done a new song. If there’s a dog on the street we have to stop and stroke him. On the same day as his party we also took him to a nearby dog show and he LOVED it. Almost as much as me!

Love you Sam, keep up your mental enthusiasm 🙂

Next time – Ethan’s first try at cosplay!

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September – We’re not weirdos.

I’m sorry, I’ve had a terrible case of writer’s block recently, along with getting back to school and routine, and a couple of real doozy tantrums from Sam, and I was NOT in the mood to write about them. To be honest I’m not particularly in the mood to share them now, but I’ll get to them at the end, along with a couple of things I did to cope.

First I took the children down to mum’s for a few days during which Henry and I went to Nanny’s funeral. For something with the word ‘fun’ in it, it sure does suck. We did however get to have some fun before and after, including the mega 4 hour drives there and back as I took Amy and her two with me to share petrol costs, so I got to learn about traumatic eye injuries and stuff. By the way, Amy is an A&E nurse Sister (I keep forgetting the promotion!) and also teaches lectures on the subject every now and then, we’re not just weirdos. I also got to see my sister Sheri over from New Zealand which is of course rare.

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Also not weirdos. Maybe.

We had the return to school, which both boys were excited for, though not especially photogenic!

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That’s better! They’ve settled in nicely and Ethan is enjoying being on school dinners this year. He’s enjoying seeing his friends again and as far as I can tell, enjoying lessons. The Headteacher took a lesson with him and mentioned to his uncle (who works at school) that he was very bright so that’s lovely to hear. Sam loves nursery, he’s got some new little friends already and we’ve even had two over for a play already. I was terrified it would be manic but they all played very nicely!

Then two days later, Ethan had his Orange Belt Grading at Tae Kwon Do. Unfortunately I had a brain fart and we were 20 minutes late as I thought it started at ten thirty, when in fact, it did not. They were very kind though and let him in anyway and he did brilliantly.

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For some reason I didn’t take a picture of him actually breaking the board, but he did it first time! That’s Tony with him, who he thinks is the bees knees. As an aside, the school is absolutely fantastic. All the teachers are great with the kids and they have such fun, but without too much messing about. It’s Ossett Martial Arts and though it feels expensive as you pay monthly, you can go up to 12 times a month and so it works out at less that £5 a session. You do pay extra for grading but that happens at the most every 3 months. It’s a family run business, Brian and Tony are a father-son team and Brian’s wife Jan runs the office. We love it, so if anyone nearby is interested, tell them we sent you 😉

Slightly deer-in-the-headlights here, but he was so excited. The belt is of course massive.

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That same afternoon (understanding my slight exhaustion yet?) Sam had a birthday party at Ponderosa in Heckmondwike. It was fab! We got the reptile talk party and Sam loved it.

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He was mesmerised by the snakes and bearded dragon, and had a lot of fun playing with his friends and riding a pony.

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He decided the party hat was a unicorn horn. Also not a weirdo.

The next week we headed over to Accrington to see my brother-in-law Matt, his wife Mel and their new baby Caleb, who was being blessed (just remembered, I still need to transcribe that!) at church.

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Isn’t he gorgeous?! I was sat behind them too so I got to steal him for many lovely snuggles. The boys were totally in love with him. Sam kept stroking his head and even Henry was ooh-ing at him. We’ll get to see them again in a couple of weeks which will be lovely, and I hear he is packing on the pounds, sounds familiar!

Then we headed back down to my parents again to bid them farewell on their mission. As there were lots of people we were in a hotel overnight and the boys found it very exciting.

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I was impressed actually, it was only a Travelodge, but we had a kingsize bed, two full size pull out single beds, and a cotbed for Henry, and still had enough room to walk around them. The bath was ridiculously small, but the shower was fine. We took our own breakfast snacks and all was fine, except for the people in the room above us clomping about at all hours. You can’t have everything I guess! I also managed to forget my favourite facial scrub and shower gel, along with a jug we’d borrowed from mum but c’est la vie.

We’ve now sent them off for 18 months to New Zealand to serve the Church, where they’ll be helping oversee the building of a new camp which will be opening fairly soon, so not a holiday by any means! That was pretty much the end of the busy weekends though, so now we’ve been tackling the weekdays.

Sam. Oh Sam. Why must we do this? So many tantrums. You’ll be four in less than a month, but we are still entrenched in toddlerhood, it would seem. I assume it’s escalated with the return to school and such, but they’ve turned extra mean. And at pick up time, where everyone is watching. I love you little oddball, but you really must stop punching me. and screeching. Please.

I am desperately trying to be kind about it. We can’t keep fighting each other, we’re too similar. I try not to shout, I promise I do. Now, please try to stop shouting no at me and running away, and hitting. Ta muchly.

I’ve found several posts over at HandsfreeMama helpful, particularly the one about yelling  and one about jumping to conclusions and blame, and most of all, the about page, where she talks about the distractions of life and trying to put them aside and be more in the moment with your children. It’s a little too saccharine for me sometimes, but the points she makes are all spot on.

So, I’m trying to be less distracted. I’m putting the phone, and the lists, and the computer, down more. It’s harder than I thought, but it’s worth it.

So we can be not-weirdos together.

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Summer 2014 – Part 2

We had a chance to return to the caravan in Pwllheli for our family holiday, and we had a mostly lovely time. We had a couple of lovely days where we could go to the beach and had a lovely time. Henry decided he does in fact like sand, and it is tasty.

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Apparently it’s a good topping on mini doughnuts.

The big boys loved it, lots of exploring and rock pools and swimming in the sea again, which was what I wanted.

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Mer-Sam! Getting him to keep his feet still was a task and a half. Little monkey kept wiggling them with his cheeky little face on every time I tried to cover them up!

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And Shark-boy Ethan, though the tail wasn’t ‘right’ according to him, he was fairly pleased in the end.

Towards the end of the week there was sickness, and exhaustion…

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Everyone had a day where they were Not Good. Henry got away with a quick episode and then fine, luckily right after we got out of the car next to an Asda so we popped in and bought him new clothes and it was done, rather than a delightful stench in the car. Sam had a full day, while I took Ethan to play mini golf, and Ethan had a day, where Rich took Sam off. Rich got a night and a morning of it, and I had day from the wee small hours onward. Not so great. On our last day though, we stopped off at the beach after we packed up and I went for a quick dip.

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After that Rich let Ethan steer the car on the almost-dead beach, and he LOVED it. Nice bit of Brown family tradition, as Rich was also allowed to ‘drive’ on this beach as a child.

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And so our holiday was concluded. A bit up and down, but the first part was lovely. We also drove through some absolutely stunning countryside on the way back too, when we decided to shun the dual carriageway. Wales is just so beautiful and green, we absolutely love it.

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Sadly while we were away, my beautiful Nanny died after having had a quite severe stroke a few days before. At 98 she had a pretty good innings but it was still a bigger shock to me than I was expecting. She was a wonderful woman, who despite not being my ‘real’ grandmother (she is my mum’s first husband’s mother), she always loved us. There was no question, she was our Nanny. She loved flowers and slowly took over Grandpa’s vegetable garden with them. She lived in London during the war and experienced the blitz twice before moving out to Oxford to temporary housing, that they shared with another family. She knitted toys for us, and had pictures all over of us and her other grand children and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and so on. She was in a nursing home for the last few years and being far away we didn’t see her nearly as much as I’d have liked, but I know she knew we loved her, just like I know she loved us.

So a mixed holiday really. Now we’re back and in routine and getting back to normal thankfully. Ethan and Sam are back at School and Nursery, and Ethan has taken his first Tae Kwon Do grading, so we’ll have more on that next time.

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