A date with my 4 year old.

Last Friday, J said to me, “Do you want to go on a date with me, Mummy? You can have anything you want on the page!”

What else could a girl possibly say but, “J, I would absolutely love to!”

For 2 years now, as a family we have been having “Dates” with our kids. Up until last week it had always been initiated by either Ben or I. But last week, it was little J who took the lead. And it did make me think a little bit. J has never been one for affection. He’s not big on hugs or kisses or cuddles. But lately he has been. I think the whole being in to school thing until 2pm has been a bigger deal than I even thought. When he comes home he’ll ask me what I’ve been doing all day, what did I have for lunch….I guess when you have been used to having lunch with someone basically every single day for 4 and a half years it’s a bit strange not to!!

So, I think he has been missing me. Don’t get me wrong he LOVES school, absolutely loves it. And I don’t think he would admit it himself, but deep down I think he has been missing his auld ma ;)

Ben and I LOVE going on dates with each of the kids. It is a special time and something which we really cherish. It allows time to chat and laugh with just them and really give them all our attention.

J really treated this one a bit like a real life date, and from the way that he behaved he sure does have a great role model. At drop off at school, he asked me, “What are you going to wear on our date Mummy? Maybe a dress?” Then as he turned to wave goodbye he shouted, “Oh mum, make sure my shirt is ironed will you” ?! Bless him, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

That evening we both got ready, he put on his favourite shirt, got daddy to fix his hair. He gathered together some money and we were ready to go.

And I had THE. BEST. NIGHT.

Somewhere in this little guys future there is going to be one very lucky lady. He treated me like a true gentleman should.  He reminded to pick anything that I wanted from the page.  When the waiter showed us to our seats he said, “we’ll just have water for now and get something else later.” He kept the conversation flowing all through dinner, asking me was I ok, did I need to go to the toilet (?!) At the end he got out his money, “I’m just checking I have enough, daddy gave me 6 coins”.  But the most loveliest part of all, when we got back to the car, he gave me a little kiss on the cheek and said, “thank you for a lovely date mummy, I really love you lots like jelly tots”.

So my darling little J, this little post is for you. I pray that in the future you will find a girl who will treat you right. Who won’t take advantage of your gentle heart. For you are a keeper J.B. a real treasure. And I love you loads like frogs and toads!!!

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Picnics, pumpkins….pensive.

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This weekend saw the annual Pumpkin Fest at National Trust Castle Ward, and as always it lived up to all expectations and more! J and S remembered the day from last year and were really looking forward to it and little L was very excited about all the wonderful ‘pumptkins’. (I love toddler chat!)

After a bit of a rain filled week we were delighted to see some glorious Autumn sunshine on Saturday morning; with wellie boots and picnic packed we set off, ready to soak up some Autumnal goodness.

Now, we love our ‘wee’ Safira. I know it kinda screams, middle aged family wagon. But needs must. It has been brilliant for us in terms of double buggies (at one point 3 buggies!) in the back, loading up ALL the necessary bags with 3 toddlers in toe and now that we are all growing up a little bit, the boot still gets filled with wellie boots, picnic bags, coats, balls, bikes…..

Saturday it was filled with giggles and chats as we enjoyed a little family picnic. (The parking field was somewhat windy on Saturday morning!!)

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First up was Pumpkin Carving. We queued up to pick our pumpkins, set about scooping out all the insides, drawing on our faces and then handing them over to the lovely volunteers to cut them out! (With a little artistic licence!!) Our carver did an excellent job at creating something out of what was literally nothing :) The pen just did not want to ‘stick’ to one of our pumpkins…

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The rest of the day was spent walking around the rest of the event – crunching in leaves,splashing in muddy puddles, eating candy floss, creating pumpkin masks, playing with tractors, meeting some farm animals, drooling over tasty treats and oodles of sweetie delights.

LOVING the chance to dress up as Dominic the donkey (his fav Christmas tune!)

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No idea what they are looking at here!

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Taking great pride in colouring his pumpkin mask.

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I’m sorry if anyone knows that wee family in the background! Only just noticed them in the pic!

Comedy (classic!) moment.

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A little reminder that they’re still my babies xxx

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The llama is pretty funny to look at!

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Lets get a picture of you all on the tree stump………ok then, lets not!

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At many times throughout the day I found myself coming over all pensive and reflective and a wee tad emotional.  The years really do go by so quickly. All of a sudden, I’m no longer packing a changing bag that weighs a ton, I’m no longer watching the clock in anticipation of the next feed or time for a snack, I’m no longer pushing around 4 stone in a buggy (!) The 3 of them are running around after each other, chasing each other, shouting at each other to, “come and see this” and giggling with one another at the goats fighting and the silly llama, (at least I think that’s what it was!)  It brings a really big smile to my face and a warmth to my heart to watch them. I hope they’ll always be best buddies. That they will always look out for each other, share jokes and laughs with each other. And hey, I even hope they’ll always gang up on Mummy when they want a candy floss!

We had a really super wee day at Pumpkin Fest, thanks so much to all who organised it! See ya next year ;)

Did someone say 73 sleeps??

I LOVE Christmas! Love it. I count down the days in sleeps, starting on 1st October. I love the food, the (hope of!) snow, Santa, the presents, the tree, the lights, the reindeer, the snowmen, the robins, ALL the decorations actually! I love the turkey and ham and stuffing, I love Christmas Eve and all the excitement and wonder of that, and I love Christmas Eve even more, now that I have kids. I love waking up on Christmas day and getting together with all the family and wearing the paper crowns from the crackers, watching Queenie at 3pm, eating basically ALL day. I just love it all. Every bit of it.

I love all the planning and preparations – the buying of the presents, shopping for Santa, making the ‘big dinner timetable’!! I love filling the house with the smell of cinnamon, having a dangerous amount of candles burning, decorations hanging in dangerous fire hazard type places. I love picking out the wrapping paper and bows. Filling the stockings. Making gingerbread, shortbread and eating my weight in Celebrations and Miniature Heros and Roses and Quality Street.

And a few years ago I fell in love with it all even more.

I had just finished teaching P1 and the next day boarded a flight to Uganda to spend the holidays with some of the street children and boys who were now living in the homes that we had built in the summer. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really that excited about going and ‘missing Christmas’. But I knew it was something that I was meant to do. I left a sack of presents with my family to open on Christmas day, gutted to know they’d all be together, having craic without me.

It’s hard to put into words just how amazing the 2 weeks turned out to be. I was reminded of the real joy of the season. I was reminded of the love that it brings and symbolises. I learnt again the excitement of receiving and giving a gift, I learnt the importance of sharing meals and time with those that we love. It is hard to write about the trip without welling up and longing to be back in those very moments. It is hard to write about that trip in a way that does both the country and the people justice. I learnt so much about what it means to truly celebrate Christmas. And yes, there is that well known, dare I say it, clichéd phrase, “The reason for the season” and while I whole heartedly agree that we must never loose sight of that. Spending Christmas in Uganda taught me to fully embrace the season and all that it means.  I know I’m talking in riddles, probs not making much sense. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, for we all know, they can say a 1000 words…..

Our first proper full day in Uganda was Christmas Eve, we were to spend Christmas day with around 400 kids, so it was last minute Christmas shopping like I have never experienced before. Different team members were given different items that they had to source, buy and wrap in time for the next morning! It was like starring in ‘Challenge Anneka’! Am I totally showing my age there?! But it really was….check me out with my 400 bags of sweeties :)

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Along with sweeties and toys we also bought the children some much needed basic school supplies.

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On Christmas eve night we went to Kampala Pentecostal church. And that service was AMAZING. There were tears. Amazing. No half hearted dressing gowns and tea towels, (although truth be told there’s something very sweet about that too!) this was a full blown event! I would have paid good money to go. Amazing. I have never been able to sing carols the same way again. There is just something about Africans and music and singing, isn’t there?! It is at this point I wish I could put up the videos!

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The following pictures are from Christmas day. To watch children have true gratitude for the smallest of things was truly humbling. Some of them were nervous as they peeked inside, some too scared to open it and just held their present for a long time, clutching it tightly. There were some who didn’t know what to do with it, who needed shown how to open it….

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We enjoyed a wonderfully simple, yet truly satisfying Christmas dinner…

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Full fat coke = Christmas, no?!

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We played party games and enjoyed their new toys with them….

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We took Christmas to the streets in it’s very simplest of forms…..

with a message of hope,

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some new clothes,

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and a small bite to eat.

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That Christmas was a Christmas that I will never forget. For me it taught me how to find joy, true joy in the most simple and ordinary of things, of how happiness is not determined by your circumstances it goes so much deeper than that. That Christmas I fell in love even more with the season, the reason for that season, and all that it means. And this Christmas it is my prayer that we all will find joy, true joy in the simple things. That we will find joy in the giving. Joy in being with people that we love. A joy that is not determined by our circumstances or material possessions, but a joy that goes so much deeper.

Joy in the ordinary, that can be extra-ordinary, if we chose to let it.

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I have entered this post into a little competition. You can find out the details here http://www.transun.co.uk/blogs/lapland-competition

Some things never change.

Growing up is a funny old thing isn’t it? Some things don’t bother you the way that they used to, some things that didn’t bother you before, now do, and then some things are still the same…things that bothered and niggled away when you were 8, 10, 15, 18 still bother and niggle away at you at 32 (almost 33!!).  And for me one of those things is confidence. Deep down I’m really not that confident a person. Sure, I can appear strong and assured on the outside, but inside I am nervous and shy and probably dying off about something!

And last Thursday evening I was reminded that that is my reality.

I had been invited along to the relaunch of Argento in Belfast. I love jewellery and I do love a wee bit of socialising, so I was looking forward to the evening. I headed off quite excited about seeing the new shop and picking out some pieces to add to my birthday and Christmas wish lists. And the new shop did not disappoint. It was/is really stunning. A gorgeous, spacious layout with so much jewellery to look at and drool over. If you are looking for a present for someone, I really would encourage you to pay a little visit, you are sure to pick up something – so many beautiful pieces to choose from.

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We were treated to lovely cocktails and macaroons and Argento very kindly gifted everyone who was there a piece of jewellery. But, I missed out. Why? Because I totally freaked out and left after the first 30minutes!! I know, what?? Why?? And to be honest I don’t really know. I don’t know whether I was completely overwhelmed at the situation – there was lots of press, local celebs, other, much ‘bigger’ bloggers there, everyone looked stunning, everyone seemed to know each other, and I just couldn’t cope.

I just felt so awkward and insecure and thinking, why am I here?! I have no right to be here. People are probably thinking the same thing, “why is she here?” I had zero confidence in myself and so I left.

And as I sat in Starbucks with my Pumpkin Spice latte ( every cloud…!) I thought to myself – Karen, you are a grown woman for goodness sake! But I couldn’t help it. Sometimes things just get the better of you and you just feel completely insignificant. Not as good as others around you. Not as pretty, successful, sociable, and the list could go on…..

I realised then that you know, like it or not, some things just never change. The little shy, timid girl, who hardly spoke when she was 5 is still in there today. And while I can tell myself to wise up, catch a grip, to not worry about what other people think. I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am. And I’m learning, still learning, to be ok with that.

It was then that I carried you.

As we say, ‘so long’ to September and ‘let’s be having ya’ to October I feel the need to sit down, relax, take a few deep breaths and let out a great big *sigh*. What a month it has been – with some highs and some, not lows, but some really tough moments.

We have had 3 members of the family in for surgery,

our 84 year old Granny fell and broke her hip and wrist trying to see Hugo Duncan! True story.

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I had a bit of work done myself! (this is all the photographic evidence there is for that!)

And our little S bear got some vents and his adenoids out.

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2 of my little chicks have left my nest for a big chunk of the day,

and myself and another girl have started a new kids ministry in our church on a Sunday morning, which has been received in many different ways!!

Way back at the beginning of the year I wrote a post, “Immanuel“, (interestingly 2 of the 3 having surgery featured in this post too!) speaking of how God had been with us at that time. The post finishes with me reminding myself that no matter what we would face in the year ahead God would be with us, and how true this has been this September.

As I look back on all that has happened this month I’m amazed I’m still standing and with not ONE SINGLE panic attack in sight. Dare I say it, not even 1 heart palpitation! (I say that with both a bit of sarcasm and seriousness!! ) But I can only say that, because Immanuel, God was with me.

HE carried me.

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 So, so long September, you were a bit of a tough one on the old emotions, but we survived you and we are changed physically, spiritually, emotionally.

And as a family…we’re tighter than ever ;)

(I realise I look ROUGH as here, but it was less than a week after my op….that’s my excuse anyway!! )

He’ll be able to hear the grass grow now!

So, it finally happened. S got his operation. And what a day and build up to that day it was. But it is over now, we are out the other side and there are sighs of relief all round.

Was it as bad as I thought it was going to be? YES. Maybe worse if I’m honest. It was the whole putting him to sleep part that got me. It broke me. Totally broke me. I would say I’m a pretty strong person, I don’t cry that easily. I tend to keep a stiff upper lip. But yesterday that stiff upper lip was all a quiver.

I hadn’t slept very much the night before, and was awake from 3am just waiting for the alarm to go. S woke up VERY excited and shouting, “I’m getting my ears fixed today!” Bless him. He too was delighted that the day had finally arrived. As we travelled down in the car, the wee mite talked and talked and talked and I kinda sat in silence. Daddy had to sound excited about the Autumn trees and planes and buses and lorries and reassure S that Granny would still be at home when he was finished at the hopistal!

Now, I have to say I didn’t do an awful lot to ‘prepare’ S for going into hospital. We had read a lovely wee book about Topsy and Tim and their visit to hospital and S had picked out new pyjamas and a jigsaw for his visit. But other than that I hadn’t really talked about what was going to happen, other than to tell him that Dr. T was going to fix his ears so that they wouldn’t be sore anymore. I know people would maybe argue and say that this was wrong. But I felt it was the right thing to do for our wee S. I didn’t want him worrying about it  I didn’t want him to panic when he saw the ‘magic cream’ or the gas mask. I just hoped that he would feel secure enough with us with him on the day to just let things happen.

And he was BRILLIANT. He did everything the nurse and doctors asked him to do without any problems. It was a real answer to prayer and can only really be explained by God at work. The nurses couldn’t believe how relaxed and calm and co-operative he was for being so young.  He took his medicine, got his magic cream, put his wee thumb into the machine all with a smile on his face. And after each wee ‘thing’ he gave me a big thumbs up!

S was first on the list that day so we didn’t have long to wait when we arrived at the hospital. When it was his time I carried him up to the room while daddy waited. The anaesthetist was a lovely man, with such a gentle and calming demeanour. He was excellent with both S and me (!) and very quickly little S was ‘gone’ and I left him in the hands of the experts. And the tears came……

1 hour later my little brave, brave soldier was back with us. He was a little weepy and disorientated for the first hour. But after that he was back to his wonderful chirpy wee form, and claiming, “it’s very noisy in here mummy”. AMAZING. We were in a practically silent hospital ward, but I guess when you’ve only been hearing approx 30% of the world for so long, even someone walking past with a rattly old trolley can seem noisy!

So, we are home minus some adenoids but having gained some vents. And without any exaggeration he is a different wee boy already. He is on cloud 9 and can hear everything. His ears aren’t sore anymore and I don’t think I’ve heard a “huh” since Tuesday night! He slept ALL night last night and is literally bouncing this morning :)

The staff at The Royal were just amazing yesterday with us. We couldn’t have asked for better.  If anyone is waiting on a similar operation for their child I hope that this reassure you a little. Yes, it will be difficult and you will find it all very emotional, but know that you do not go alone. God held me up yesterday and carried us all safe and secure in His huge strong arms. He took care of the big things and the little things, to S not asking for breakfast straight away when he woke (for the first time ever!!) to him not fighting or struggling with the gas to him sailing though the operation and recovery time.

Now, it is onwards and upwards for our wee S – he can hear the grass grow now ;)

Some pics from yesterday….

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As you can tell he was pretty excited going in!!

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A wee snuggle post operation.

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Then it was time for a bounce and a play sesh!

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What is it about NHS toast??!

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A happy boy and a VERY HAPPY, RELIEVED MUMMY!!!

An Autumn Fair

Today marks the start of Autumn. It has arrived here with a bit of a drizzly start – bleugh! I had definitely got used to the dry, sunny, warm spell that we had been having. We have been ticking things off our Autumn Bucket List, (be sure to check it out if you haven’t already ;) ) and really enjoying spending time together as we do so. Since J and S started school and pre school, life has definitely gone into 5th gear and so it is nice to take time to ‘do things’ as a little group of 5.

On Saturday we headed to Botanic gardens in Belfast for the Autumn Fair. We had a great wee day. It seems days out with the littles are getting a little bit easier, the bag that I need to bring is smaller, we aren’t watching the clock as much as we used to for naps and snacks, emotions don’t run just as high when we have to ‘move on to the next thing’! :)

There was lots to see and do at the fair, with things for all ages and interests. Like I said, the weather was beautiful and allowed us to enjoy a lovely picnic and appreciate the beautiful gardens in Botanic. We met my mum and dad when we were down there which was great. It’s always nice to have an extra pair of hands in the crowds. One of the highlights from the day for me was getting to see how J’s confidence has grown in the last wee while. Before he would have been a bit unsure of trying new things on his own and would have looked for my help or reassurance, but on Saturday he was keen to give things a go independently and really had a ball!

Come and have a nosey at our day…..

We decided to get the train down as we knew parking would be a bit of a nightmare! Plus, it always makes a day that little bit more of an adventure.

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First stop was a picnic and some interesting dance moves from my little rascally chops!

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As we were sitting enjoying the sun and some tasty delights from M&S, (they know how to make food, right?!) I heard the distant sound of my past – a bit of Crazy Frog!! Ha! There was a dance group for the kiddies to enjoy just around the corner. I was sure my 3 would come over all shy, especially J, but no – they were dead keen to get onto that grassy dance floor.

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Another big hit with J was this obstacle course. The first time the lady didn’t put the hard hat on him as his head was too small, this however meant J wanted to do it again…with the hat on. I was so surprised that he was willing to give it a go – it wasn’t a tiddly little obstacle course either, what with having to spin around a brush shaft 5 times and crawl through an army net…the boy did well :)

DSC_0260There were rides to be enjoyed and would you believe they were working…all working, we didn’t need Daddy’s special money, or come back another day when they were fixed. On Saturday ALL the rides were working ;)

AND FREE!!!!

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Now, when Granny and Granda are there, there’s bound to be treats! This was a highlight of the day – the giant candy floss, the length of their arms! The P1 teacher got told about our ‘day at the Autumn fair with the giant candy floss”….seems like the rest of the day was wasted! ;)

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For the adults there were fabulous fruit and vegetables and flowers to oooohhh and aaahhh over. And the teacher in me loved it for a little bit of extra language development for the 2 year old and phonic work for the 3 and 4 year old!!! You can take the girl out of teaching, but you can’t take teaching outta the girl….poor kids!    DSC_0351 DSC_0354 DSC_0355 DSC_0356 DSC_0360

My lovely husband grows Bonsai trees. He entered a few into the exhibition and came 1st and 3rd in some categories. Proud wifey.

Home we came on the train, with 3 tired little children, all wanting to snuggle with lovely memories made.

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