It Takes a Village


'Oh, you're a single mum? How do you do it all?!

Um, I don't.

It takes a whole darn village.'

I’ve always wanted to write about the single aspect of this parenting gig of mine, and when the blog comes up in conversation people will often ask me if I intend to post about it – whether that be for advice or juicy gossip, who knows? But every time I've tried to gather my thoughts and opinions into something coherent and readable, I find that my words fail me - Every. Single. Time.

I'd love to talk about single parenting without it needing to be a big drama about how I'm a benefits scrounger, or without glorifying it with a tacky blog post called '10 Single Mum Secrets to Successful Single Parenting' (I'm not promising I'm not going to write something like that, I love a good straight-to-the-point list of potentially useless information as much as the next person). But I also don't want to disregard the hardships or the individuality of each and every story, and I don't want to pretend that when I was a little girl I dreamed of being a single parent. Now, do you see why my words have been so incoherent? SO MANY CONFLICTING THOUGHTS.

You know the delay that most people have between thinking something and saying something? The delay that gives your thought time to go through a filtering process before it makes it to the next round and out of your mouth? Yeah, I don't have that. Can I get an amen for the delete button on laptops?! Where's the delete button for my mouth, am I right?! Anyway, when Reuben was born I used to snap very quickly at anyone who would even mention the phrase 'single mum' to me. I'd jump so far down their throat I could tell you what they had for breakfast that morning. I was so desperate for it not to become my sob story. And I guess I've avoided writing about it (publicly. Y'all should see my journal if you want some tragic Hello Magazine material) because I thought if I didn't give the subject any attention or I didn't refer to the single part of my parenting, then it would become normal and people would eventually begin to think that I'm just a mum, not a single mum. (And whilst we're on this, I'm not just a mum either - my identity is found in Jesus, not motherhood. But we'll save that rant for another time, eh?).

I mean, in most ways, my experience is pretty similar to every other mother. We all have to keep these mini-humans alive and when we're working or just taking a break then we're thinking about keeping them alive and wondering how many times they've pood today. The obvious difference is that I don't have another parent around to share the burden with. And sometimes I long for someone to share the love, joy, stress, and tears I shed over Reuben. I wouldn't be human if I didn't! But most of the time, I don't. And that's probably not the juicy details or self-help post that some hoped for.

And now I'm 500 words deep in a post talking about how I didn't want to talk about single parenting... and you're probably thinking this is one of those waffles I should have kept to myself. But I suppose my change of heart in wanting to get some thoughts down is because while I’m aware that single parenting is very common these days, there's still stigma and perceptions. And as much as avoiding the topic works for me, it doesn't help anyone else see that it's not the end of the world! And avoiding the topic certainly doesn't help the other single parents who, if they're anything like me, just want know that they're not crazy (even though all parents just want to know that). And without going into reb-rant mode, it still hurts my heart when people imply that it's the worst thing that could happen to you. And it really hearts my heart that women are aborting babies because they don't want to be a single parent (sorry, that got really intense really fast).

Sooooooo... here's the good part. If I was going to write that tacky blog post I mentioned earlier, the one 'survival tip' that I'd stand by is that it really does take a village to raise a child. Wherever that saying originated from, they had this whole parenting malarky down to a tee. I think all of us parents - single, not single, or somewhere in between, have all felt totally isolated and lonely at some point... or on a daily basis. Our individualistic culture has made independence and self-sufficiency the reigning goal of our Western Culture. So while we're not meant to parent alone, we often feel like we should be able to do it alone. Everything in us (or maybe it's just me) wants to say, 'I've got this. I'm independent and I don't need you'.

But what if we put pride aside and admitted that we need community? What if we went further than the polite chats at the school gates, the short passing comments under family photos on facebook, the 'play dates' organised 4 weeks in advance because we're really only arranging them for the kids?

What if we reach out from behind our lonely front doors and got to know our neighbours, ask our friends over when the house is messy and the kids are crazy, involve them in every part of our lives, ask each other how we're really doing, begin to do life together and parent together - admitting places where we genuinely struggle and asking for advice from one another instead of fearing judgement? What if we began to carry the parenting burdens together?

When Reuben was brand new I lived with my parents and it was very much a team effort. My fellow 'teen mum' friends and I used to spend endless days together, sleeping over and sharing the feeding and cooking. We were open about how clueless we were and we felt comfortable enough to be open with each other about difficult it is. But when I moved to Belfast for uni I thought that it was about time I started to 'get it together' and it became harder and harder to admit when I needed people. Which is pretty much all the time FYI. It's still one of my biggest struggles! I've been blessed to be surrounded by people who aren't afraid to tell me when I'm being prideful and when I'm isolating myself. Despite my pride, because of my circumstances it has seemed natural to welcome others in, to be vulnerable, to love having an unconventional family, to be eager to welcome more in, and to do every part of life together - the uni work, the grocery shopping, the dinners, the bed times, the toddler days out, the toddlerless nights out, the 'lets have quality time together' moments, and the 'I've just ran out of petrol on the Ormeau Road please save me' moments.

I wonder if I wasn't a single parent, would I realise how important it is to let others in and embrace 'the village'? I wonder if we all did this parenting thing as a community then maybe single parenting wouldn't even be a big deal? Maybe 'the single mum' wouldn't be an identity and there wouldn't be stigma? I mean, thanks to the village of people around me, these days I just use the 'single mum card' as an excuse to make my friends do the dishes and give me the last piece of cake.

P.S. Get ready for some village spam. We're always taking new members. 

Happy Mother's Day!


When I was young my siblings and I used to love making a big deal of my mum for Mother's Day. We'd make soggy toast for her to eat in bed and I'd spend the afternoon 'pampering her' by pulling her hair out with a brush. I'm not sure how my mum felt but we thought we were class. This year my dear mother is working and whilst she was out I stole a pot noodle from her cupboard... that's as exciting as it's going to get. (Until later this week when we're both free and both childless and will both stuff our faces with dessert.)

This mother's day morning I was not awakened by soggy toast but by a very lanky Reuben kicking me in the back and demanding his pink dummy because the white one he'd had in his mouth all night apparently wasn't the 'right' one... but he only had this sudden urge to tell me at 5 am. After I searched the whole house for the precious pink one and found it in the car outside, I returned to my cosy bed and told him to get back to sleep. 

2 minutes later he flung his arm across my face, with two of his fingers reaching up my nose to tell me he needed a glass of milk. And judging by the utter desperation in his voice he seemed to think the world was about to implode if he didn't have this glass of milk. After I trudged down the stairs again, tripping over my own feet and almost knocking myself out, I retrieved the milk and stood at my bedside offering the milk to his highness and begging for his approval so I could go back to sleep. He took one look at the glass, one look at me, and threw himself across the bed screaming, 'I DIDN'T WANT MILK, I WANTED WATER'. In my fragile, sleep-deprived state, I almost (ALMOST) thought, 'WELL I DIDN'T WANT KIDS UNTIL I WAS 40 BUT WE DONT ALWAYS GET WHAT WE WANT'... I very quickly rebuked that thought, got the water (from the tap in the bathroom - sorry Reubs), and finally went back into a deep slumber for another couple of hours. 

When I eventually woke up properly I asked Reuben to say 'Happy Mother's Day', to which he replied, 'I don't think so...' Kids know how to keep you humble, don't they? 

The shaky start aside, I still LOVE Mother's Day and celebrating all the awesome women I have the privilege of knowing. I've had the best weekend doing just that. But the last couple of days I've been thinking about all the mothers in our big unconventional family;

The women who have been there, done it, and are willing to lend me their wisdom-filled t-shirt. The women who have kids who tolerate my kid and we find sanity and solace in being 'mummy friends'. The women who don't have kids but have mothered Reuben as if he was their own. The women who don't have kids and continue to mother me as if I'm their own. The women who mother me every single day with their Jesus-centred friendship (and chocolate).

'Mothering' is much more powerful when we use it as a verb and mothering certainly takes on many shapes and forms. I had planned to buy cards for all the mothers in my life but when I thought about it I realised I'd be buying one for every woman I know. They have all mothered, loved, nurtured, encouraged, mentored, challenged, taught, and walked alongside me in their different ways. So here's to ALL women - who are uniquely gifted, continuously nurturing, and equally worthy of celebration... whether you've pushed a giant baby out of your cervix or not. Happy Mother's Day! 

The Honeymoon (mine & Reuben's - just to clarify)


I have my first class of semester two in a couple of hours and there isn't a single part of me that wants to go back to uni. There isn't 1% of me that has any kind of teeny-weeny mini desire to go back. Not even 0.0000000000000000001% of me. Not even 0.0000000000000000000... You get the picture. I'm reluctant.

I thought fish finger sandwhiches for breakfast would have us raring to go but unsurprisingly all it's left me with is nausea, bad breath, and nothing to cook for dinner later. Reuben has spent the morning swan diving from sofa to sofa and is unusually traumatised about going back to creche after two weeks off. I'm not quite sure if my heart can handle him say, 'Mummy I'll just come to uni with you instead' one more time. Obviously when I'm yet to get out of my minnie-mouse onesie, I'm yet to organise the 101 things I need to organise, and I'm yet to co-operate with the naked Reuben running round in a soiled nappy because we failed potty training...yet again, I can't help but reminisce about this time last week when we were exchanging Belfast for Ballycastle and escaping for a few days of chill-time.

I wish this was a blog post about all the exciting adventures we had, or a '101 things to do in Ballycastle' kind of thing. But Ballycastle really has nothing to do and even if it did, this would still be a blog post about us not leaving the house for 48 hours and eating our body weight in fish and chips (maybe that's where the fish finger craving came from?).

After I finished exams at the start of January, the first thing I did (after I apologised to Reuben for my revision-mode-stressy-horrible-attitude) was check out Air BnB for something cheap and cheerful around the North Coast. I ended up finding the cutest little apartment overlooking the sea with everything we needed/could have dreamed of.

We spent the first 48 hours in the house, pretending we lived there and only leaving for chips and walks on the beach. We had no wifi or signal so there was no distractions. And I refused to cook or clean so much to Reuben's delight, he had my undivided attention. He should probably always have my undivided attention but only parents with hypothetical children actually believe that's possible.

Our beautiful time together was spent playing endless games of snap - Paw Patrol version, watching Disney movies, blasting out the Lion King soundtrack whilst watching boats come in and out of the harbour (majestic, I know), drinking hot chocolate and coffee, building the tallest lego towers, and chatting from morning until night. By that I mean, Reuben chatted...a lot. And I listened...a lot.

I don't think any photo has ever challenged my self esteem as much as this one - with the bed hair, the stress-acne, and the delirious 'I woke up 5 mins ago & have no desire to build lego' puffy eyes. But at the time Reubs grabbed the camera and gushed, 'Mum let me take a photo of you with your big tower- I'm so proud of you' - so I secretly love this photo more than any perfectly posed photo.

When Reuben eventually went to bed I had the chance to read, spend time with God, watch a WHOLE film on my own for the first time in forever without falling asleep, and I even started crocheting some scarves. I know right, who am I?! On the last day we used the early check-out time as an excuse to go out for breakfast and one last walk on the beach.

We took the scenic route home, getting lost multiple times, exploring multiple forests, and then sitting in traffic for 3 hours in Belfast because the westlink was closed. I mean, it was so jammed I had time to put the handbrake on, get out of the car, and get snacks for Reuben from the boot. Unfortunately, he ended up napping for most of the wait and didn't go to bed until 2am that night - you win some, you lose some, eh? (I lose a lot). Apart from that, and apart from Reuben flooding the bathroom at the stunning apartment, as far as honeymoons go (it felt like a honeymoon, okay?), it was very wonderful.

Not to rain on my own parade but the honeymoon certainly ended as soon as we hit Belfast. The next day I woke up to find Reuben sitting on the kitchen bench watching the contents of my bin blow around the yard after it blew over during the night. Somewhere underneath was the washing that I forgot to bring in 5 days beforehand. So I spent the morning wading through dirty nappies and rotten food, picking out my underwear, towels, and pillowcases.

As I tried to get back to some form of normality, Reuben wasn't impressed that he no longer had my undivided attention. And despite my mum coming to visit that day, his temper tantrums sky-rocketed, climaxing with a showdown in Costa's toilets. I have a pretty nasty bite mark for a war wound and as for Reuben... well... let's just say I won that particular battle. The 2am bedtime for us both probably didn't help matters, but that evening I just couldn't do anything right in the eyes of that 3 year old monster.

So with a mixture of feeling overwhelmed about semester two, exhaustion from the night before/the last 3 years, stress about Reuben's behaviour, feeling weary from discipline battles, worries about other stuff going on with friends, nerves about a meeting I was supposed to be speaking at the next day, and anxiety about mum life in general - I ended up having a meltdown with my friend Sara. It was completely irrational, but completely inevitable. Thankfully she's not just a friend, she's a sister. So when I text her crying about having nothing to wear the next day, she arrived at my house with multiple clothes - but she knew it wasn't about the clothes.

Going away is all very well and good, but sometimes it makes coming back to reality that little bit harder. I didn't mean for this blogpost to take such a depressing turn - oops (just be thankful you aren't getting all this word-vomit in person like poor Sara). Thankfully it wasn't long before I got over the meltdown, and after some rants, crazy tears, time alone staring at a wall, and most importantly time with Jesus, I felt kind of ready for a new day.

And on that note, I now have class in less than a couple of hours and I really need to get a move on. Sure, I'm approx. one irrational-cry away from retiring and moving into an apartment at the North Coast. (That would be great wouldn't it? If anyone needed me they could just go to Reuben who'd definitely be working in a coffee shop in Belfast to fund my new life by the sea where I'd spend my time crocheting scarves, collecting rocks, and watching romantic comedies). But until then, instead of running to the North Coast I think I'll run to Jesus... and I'll get my butt to class.

Unfortunately I couldn't pretend he wasn't mine because... you know...
the matching cardigans.



Does anyone else hate the 'photos you might like' section on instagram? Mine is usually absolutely filled with mothers, babies, mothers and babies, and people who know a mother or a baby. (And the odd father for good measure, of course). Instagram, I get it. I like babies. I like them a lot. And I like looking at photos of them a lot. Is that what you wanted me to say? Are you happy now?

Almost as if the Instagram people, whoever they are, had heard a similiar rant in my head this morning, tonight the 'photos you might like' section looks completely different. It's filled with all kinds of '2017 - I'm ready for you' posts, new years resolutions, pictures of cutesy 2017 diaries, healthy food recipes, pictures of freshly organised cupboards, and pictures of living rooms without Christmas decorations... You know, because there's now an unwritten rule that as well as the good old 'TREE IS UP' photo, you also need a perfectly morbid 'TREE IS DOWN' photo. So here I am, an hour later, drowning in to-do lists and feeling unbelievably pressured to climb out of the baked camembert that I've been knee-deep in for about a week. And it sucks.

But I have a plan. Unfortunately, I'm just never going to be the '2017 - I'm ready for you' person that I long to be. I mean, I'm still not ready for 2013 so the odds are not in my favour. So I decided I should either post a picture on Instagram of my baked camembert and write about how great it is that Christmas will continue as long as the cheese continues i.e. forever... OR I should look back on 2016 whilst it's still fresh in my ever-withering memory and write about the good times, the memorable times, and my favourite times.

This year my university motto gradually became 'I'm just trying to get through this day' (inspiring, I know) so I have no desire to start planning for a whole year ahead just yet. Or at least until I've finished my cheese. Here's a few of my 2016 highlights, of which there might be 16. Because that seems to be how this blogging thing works - 16 Highlights of 2016, I guess. In chronological order, not in order of how much I loved them. Okay I'm starting now, I promise.

- New Years Eve 2015
I don't remember being as sentimental this time last year but I do remember doing some things and realising some things that are now worth being sentimental about. A group of us went to the North Coast for dinner and a bonfire on the beach, followed by a 5 hour long breakfast the next morning. I'm pretty sure we talked about absolute nonsense for 3/4 of the time due to sleep deprivation, but the 1/4 before that was pretty wonderful. There's been plenty of beach bonfires and stupidly-long meals since then, but we all look back on NYE 2015 as the night we wondered how the heck we'd found these amazing people and simultaneously questioned how we deserved them either.

- Closer's 'Best Blogger Mum' Nomination
I know that it's no refelection of my actual mothering skills, and I know that it probably wasn't worth crying over in the library, and to this day I do not know how the editor at Closer even found my blog (never mind put it in the final with all of my favourite bloggers who have actual jobs and have written actual books and have children who are actually disciplined), but that competition gave me the opportunity to write for Closer online and that will be one of the highlights of my life loooooong after 2016. And not just because I got paid for it. Although that is a massive highlight.

For a loooooong time after the competition, anytime someone asked me about it, I'd very casually and humbly reply, 'Yeah it's lovely, I have a guest column with them now'. But inside my head I'd be screaming and dancing and singing 'Take a Look at me Now' by Phil Collins (Westlife version obviously), because it really was the most exciting thing to ever happen me... Apart from knowing Jesus. And having Reuben. And going to university. And... Okay... it's definitely up there with the most exciting things. When I'm old and grey and very done with the internet, I'll probably refer to it as my glory days when I'm talking to my great-great-great-grand-children. FYI I'm still super thankful to all the people who voted for Maverick Mum, even if it was a pity vote or a pressurised 'I'm terrified of Rebecca so I'll do as she says' vote, it still means a whole lot.

- Reuben's Dedication
I know Northern Irish people have baby christenings left, right, and centre so they can celebrate a baby's birth with a big party. But when I was the new teen-mum I hated Christians and I hated God so we certainly weren't going to do anything that would involve me going to a church/chapel/whatever, which I also hated. Not even for a party. But in 2015 after a long and stubborn journey, I couldn't run from God any longer and I became a Christian, beginning a new life with Jesus. So I was very excited about dedicating Reuben to Him! It was a beautiful day as my blood-family, adopted-family, and church-family came together at my church and promised to raise Reuben with the hope that he will one day know and love God too. Sometimes I look back and laugh because Reuben looks so old in the photos and it's totally not what I expected a 'normal dedication' to look like. But I've since realised that nothing about life with Jesus is what I expected it to look like, anyway. Thankfully. Because the new teen-mum had it all wrong.

- My Fixers Campaign
As nauseating as it was to watch the video we made, we got to be on TV in 2016 and that's worth remembering. I'm sure I'll cringe less as the years go on, or at least that's what I'm telling myself. What's more worth remembering though, is all the other young mums I had the opportunity of meeting. That was worth the nausea and excessive cringeing. 

- Turning 21
Birthdays aren't my forté. They really aren't my forté. I have a terrible habit of ruining the one day of the year I really shouldn't ruin. Taking this into consideration, and given how much my life had changed in the last 9 months (thank you Jesus), I didn't know what to expect at all. The last few years had went something like this (and I had no desire to have a repeat):

17 - Got too drunk and somehow woke up in Premier Inn but arrived home just in time to give my mum her mothers day card, acting like nothing had happened. Also lost purse and memory.
18 - Got pregnant. Enough said.
19 - Had first night away from new baby. Spent most of it showing people baby photos. FYI it's a good way to scare guys away.
20 - Celebrated not being a teen mum anymore. Got too drunk and fell through my friends shower door and it shattered into smithereens. Still had a smashing time. (It's taken a year to bring myself to make that joke).

So there was a bit of pressure on 21. The terrible birthday streak had to finish at some point. Was 21 going to deliver? Well, it clearly coped with pressure a lot better than I do because I can honestly say I had the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER. I don't know why I never saw how great birthdays could be. I mean, I got to celebrate with cake, family, friends who are basically family, Reuben who is more than family, coffee, trampolines, lots of Italian food, and God.

- Amsterdam
When Reuben looks back on this (or should I say if he looks back on this- because I won't blame him if he's too mortified to even glance at it), he may find it controversial that Amsterdam was my favourite holiday with him (so far). And not because we had a super-cultural-bucket-list-ticking experience. We had quite the opposite. I didn't even see the Anne Frank's house, for goodness sake.

But we climbed up the steps of every house on every canal. We climbed on every bike. And we visited every park. Even the terrible ones, with little weed dens.

And by 'we', I mean 'Reuben'. I merely chased after him, doing what he told me to do. If that meant talking to the rock he pretended was a dog, then I talked to the rock. If that meant knocking on the door of a stranger's house because that's where we were going to catch the 'bad guy', then I knocked on the door (thankfully they weren't home). And if that meant sitting on a motorbike and setting off the alarm, then I sat on the motorbike... and ran away pretty swiftly. It was kind of like when other parents talk about 'baby-lead weaning' - when they let the child decide what they want to eat as they progress away from drinking milk 24/7. But instead of 'baby-lead weaning', I guess it could be called 'toddler-lead travel'. Not because I'm a really creative earth-mother, but because I stupidly left the pram in the hotel and I couldn't be bothered fighting with that strong will of his when we were on holiday. But my memory of Amsterdam will always be of the laughs we had - we had FUN. Oh, and the pancakes. Always the pancakes.

- Making it to the end of first year
I know I'm really pushing it here but I may never make it to the end of final year so I'm clinging on to every small milestone and highlight I can get my hands on. Last week I got a good mark in one assignment and I nearly popped open the champagne and moved to Ibiza. But getting to the end of first year really was a highlight. First year was crazy with the move out of my parents' house, the move to Belfast, the new college, the new course, the new people, the new creche, the new kids, the new EVERYTHING. I kept telling myself and my always-worried mother that first year was just a trial run and if it didn't work out, I'd move back home. But after the last exam of the year, and after the longest nap I've had since my pre-Reuben days, I was able to confirm that it had been the right decision. University and 'the new EVERYTHING' had been the right decision. Maybe it was the over-ambitious and stupid decision, but still the right one. And God has had us through it all.

- Monaghan with the Houstons. And Nikki. And Jack. And Andy. And whoever else.
Summer was hard. I'll not go there. But I'll tell you where I would go in a heartbeat - back to staying with my favourite family in Monaghan. (N.B. They don't actually live in Monaghan. They live in Rathcoole. Which is much better). There's no such thing as having 'too many people' in Phil and Jenny's home - and more importantly, in their hearts. There's always room for more. When we returned to Belfast, mealtimes with just Reuben and I seemed eerily quiet after spending the best part of two wonderful weeks with sometimes 7+ people. I lost count after a while. But the friendships didn't stay in Monaghan and I'll remember 2016 as the year we became a part of the Houston family. Well, maybe it was the year we gradually stalked them until they had no choice but to let us join them... Either way, I'm super thankful.

- Capernwray
I can't write about my 2016 highlights without mentioning the One Parent Family Week at Capernwray Hall in England. When I first heard about this week, I'm ashamed to say I was a little annoyed. And I got a little ranty. WHY DO WE NEED A WEEK OF OUR OWN?! WE ARE THE SAME AS ANY OTHER FAMILY! I refused to believe that single parent families had to have a separate week from the other non-single-parent families, but that's probably because I'm usually too stubborn to admit that I can't always do it on my own. I'm working on it.
So after winding my neck in, I decided to give it a chance. I didn't know what to expect but I certainly didn't expect that I would learn so much. Not just from the bible teaching but from those around me. Sure, Reuben made it almost impossible to have a solid conversation with anyone because he was making landslides and jumping off stairs every 2 minutes, but the other mums understood. They got it. And I couldn't help but be incredibly humbled and inspired by each parent I met and each story I heard, even if we never got to finish the story because the kids were killing each other. I came away emotionally exhausted but incredibly refreshed, and so aware that nothing is too broken for Jesus.

If you'd be interested in going next Summer, please message me. Or check it out here.

- Irish Blog Awards
SOMEHOW we made it to the final in the 'Best Blog Post' category!! We may not have lasted a minute in the parenting category (lol) but the awards party COMPLETELY made up for that. We chatted all night long, taking note of new blogs, fan-girling the ones I follow, and unashamedly taking photos of every single moment. I may have struggled to understand the southern accent most of the night, I may have cringed for my life at the circus acts, and I may not have won - but I had the ultimate girls night out with Indian food and champagne and goodie bags and roadtripping laughs and carefree/Reuben-free FUN. It was the most surreal and bizarre, yet wonderfully-special night and I don't know how these things happen to me but I never ever want to forget it. 

I've said it before but thanks again to;
Jayne - for fixing my face
Deyna and Sara - for dressing me and photographing me
Gareth - for babysitting Reuben in the midst of toilet training
My mum - for dealing with my many bra problems
Pamela - for sacrificing coffee time and steam ironing my dress at church and teaching me how to sit in it like a lady
Kayla - for the jewellery and makeup I stole from her bag whilst she was at work
Sophie - for convincing me to go to the party and joining me and giving me the joy of watching her attempt to drive to Dublin
Reuben - for shaving my legs
Anna - for shaving her legs in the car and making mine look better.

- Reuben turned 3
Reuben's birthday wasn't a highlight because it was anything out of the ordinary (I've already established birthdays aren't my forte), but because it brings me so much joy to celebrate him and his little life. Occasions like that where all of the people we love come together to celebrate Reuben always send my sentimentality meter through the roof. When that little surprise baby crash landed into my life, I worried that he would miss out because our family wasn't like other families. But at his birthdays I'm always reminded that Reubs is loved beyond measure, and God has provided him with everything he needs, and more. 

And in the end, it became quite a memorable celebration. I emphasised to everyone that it would be a low-key-chill-night and they could spend some time with Reuben after our day out. The emphasis was on 'low-key'. But after I accidentally spent £25 on balloons and had to prance through Belfast with 8 bags of inflated balloons, after I spent a considerable amount of money on a fabulous Dalmatian cake, and because nothing I ever do is low-key or subtle anyway, we ended up having a party after all. 

Of course, I couldn't begin to cover all the special days, the smaller but significant moments, and the conversations that all make up the highlights of this year. And I'm very aware I've listed about 10 or 11 (not quite 16) events that have happened in the last 365 days. But inbetween, there have been very normal and not-always-easy-days that are far from the mushy sentimental memories that are listed on posts like this. It's been a good one, but if I reaalllyyyyy have to think ahead, my hope is that I'll also see the good in the normal and not-always-easy-days. I hope I'll see God in the normal days. Because He is always good. Always. 

Happy New Year from Reb and Reubs xx

THREE - Dear Reuben


Dear Reuben,


First of all, I know last year I promised that I wouldn't write one one of these dweeby birthday letters every year because we both know I'm cooler than that. But I'm not.

And I know I also said that your second year was especially worthy of a letter. But it wasn't. Every year is worthy of a letter.

And I'm also aware that you're probably much older than 3 if you can read this, and you're probably cringing at me. Please know that a tiny part of me is cringing along with you, BUT most of me is extra sleep deprived, extra sensitive, and extra in love with you because it's your birthday and birthdays are sentimental. SO just bear with me, be gracious, and humour me in my rambles.

Where do I begin? Well, this year was the beginning of the I love you's, the compassionate-saliva-filled kisses, the demanding back-tickling, the constant smell of pee, the imaginative 'run from the monster' games, the simple-yet-amazing Jesus conversations, the sudden love for books, the even more sudden and surprising love for singing, the constant chatter, the engulfing love of planes, and last but certainly not least the year you became the best dish-washer I know.

I think most people who know you right now will agree that the biggest and most noticeable change this year is that you are actually enjoyable to be around. I mean, it's not that you weren't enjoyable before, you were always enjoyable - but now you are your own little person and you interact in your own little way. You can form full sentences, ask questions, answer questions, express all kinds of emotions, remember things you shouldn't remember, repeat things you shouldn't repeat, and give orders...constantly. In fact, you don't just give orders, you shout orders. Son, you are a bellower. I am so sorry that you inherited such volume but hey, at least your presence is always known. Just yesterday you arrived at church, bounced into a group conversation, and announced, 'I'm heeereeee'. Subtlety is not your forte, but I like it. I may be biased but you are incredibly endearing, especially when I watch you absolutely at ease in a group of people trying to make them laugh.

For most parents it isn't much of a milestone but I am also quite excited that this year you started loving all the best hot beverages - tea, hot chocolate, and even coffee (when my back is turned). Something tells me that you are probably a product of your environment, but it makes you the perfect company for going on something that I like to call 'Reuben Dates'. Personally, I think they are the best thing to come out of this year of your life. Who doesn't want to date a 3 year old, beverage-loving, chatterbox? Just after your birthday last year, we went on our first date to the North Coast. You talked complete gibberish over hot chocolate and sandwhiches, followed by a ridiculously baltic run on the beach. Today we went on a date in Belfast and you talked about cars, planes, chipmunks, creche, and family, over hot chocolate and sandwhiches, followed by a ridiculously baltic run through the park. This year you definitely implemented some of our own family traditions.

It's also amazing that this time last year we were teaching you to say certain people's names, and now you have your own friendships with those people. Although, for while you only knew everyone by their cars or their dogs but to be honest that was just a really great party trick.

Oh, and you've still got that passion for dogs. 101 Dalmatians is still the foundation on which you begin your day, but this year you have ventured deeper into the world of Disney and there is a new favourite every week. The latest's have been The Lion King, The Jungle Book, and Peter Pan. I used to dream of 'movie days' and now you would declare every day a 'movie day' if I gave you half the chance. Ofcourse, within 5 minutes of the 'we need to get to creche and uni' argument, you are counting down the minutes until you can see Edward, Amelia, and Victoria.

I can't write this birthday letter without mentioning how darn adventurous you've gotten in the last 12 months. I always think that you are completely normal until we go to the park with another kid and I realise that you are either crazy-brave or I am crazy-neglectful. It's probably a mixture of both.

This week you got a birthday card from Charlotte at Capernwray where we went to the One Parent Family Week. And on it she wrote that you were the most adventurous 2 year old boy she has ever met. And by that I think she meant that she is probably still having nightmares of you rolling down steep hills, running on stoney ground and through wet fields without shoes for a week straight, sliding down stairs with goggles over your eyes, and playing football with the older boys because the toddlers weren't dangerous enough. At this point in our relationship I have low-grade anxiety from watching you do your 'boy' thing, but this year I have been made very aware and very thankful for all the men that God has placed in your life to encourage you to do those crazy things. I hope you know that Manga (Granda), John, Jason, Jayden, Jack, G, Phil, Mark and the rest of the Liberty lads are ALL routing for you and will always be ready to listen to you, let you climb the tallest tree, or give you a stern word for not listening to anything I say. Ofcourse, by the time you read this you will be an angel-son who is perfect in every way.

If you're not an angel-son, I hope you know that I love you anyway. And more importantly, I hope you know that Jesus loves you more than I ever could. We will always fail but his grace abounds.

I am excited for the year ahead and I already can't wait to write your next birthday letter. Please know that your massive family loves you. I am SO proud of you. And God is always good.

Have fun, play hard, stay sweet.

Mummy xx

An Autumn Saturday


If you've set foot on Elmwood Avenue in the last few weeks then you'll know that the walk to uni in the mornings is quite glorious. Well, by that I mean the weather is glorious. The walk itself is far from glorious. I don't know about the rest of y'all but I always leave the house wearing a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and 2 tops (and looking fabulous might I add). But after stopping 10 times on route to firstly, rebuke Reuben for something and secondly, remove every single layer of clothing, I arrive to class looking like an overheating mess because I spent the whole journey sweatin' and regrettin'. Nonetheless, I love Autumn.

You can say I'm over-sentimental but when I started to notice the leaves falling in September I made a mental note to savour it. Mostly because when I look back at this time last year I don't even remember Autumn or anything that happened during that time. I just remember the first few months of uni being horribly-hectic and overwhelmingly-new, and when the seasons started to change I probably thought to myself, 'Oh great, there's something else that's changed. I'll just add it to the list of everything else that's new'.

Thankfully the 'overwhelmingly-new' part has subsided, even if the 'horribly-hectic' part has definitely stuck around. I always tell myself I'll make sure to blog about the big days so I can look back on them in years to come. But after having my 'I don't remember a darn thing about last year' revelation, I wish I'd blogged about the small, mundane days too... like leaves falling, and Reuben getting his hand stuck in the wheel of the pram because he was bending down to look at said-leaves. So that's what this random little update is - a short blogpost about our very mundane, but very memorable Autumn Saturday.

Half of the reason our day is worthy of a blogpost is because it's the first Saturday in a long time that I've put my foot down and declared an 'I'm not doing a smidge of work and I'm going to chill' day. I naively went to bed last night thinking there would be no early morning, no rush, no noise, no getting dressed, no moving in general... And I'd love to say our morning began well with Reubs waking up excited for football and me waking up exciting for scrambled eggs after football, but Reuben didn't get the memo. He never does. 

At 7 am I gave him my phone to watch Fireman Sam. I can't tell you how long he watched it for but I can tell you that I eventually gave in and got up after he peed on me, my bed, and my phone... on purpose. And I'd love to say I took a super-cute photo of him at football in his little kit after he followed instructions and played nicely with his friends... But no. He didn't get that memo either. He didn't join in on any of the activities and he kicked a little boy in the face. So instead of a photo of super-cute Reuben, above is a photo of my super-cute boots and some crunchy leaves. I guess I could say this is a photo of me putting my foot down, but that didn't really work out for me, did it?
Not-surprisingly he konked out as soon as we got into the car. I headed for city centre and spent approx. 20 minutes battling in my mind whether to spend the nap-time productively browsing the shops for some much needed winter clothes for Reubs, ooooorrrrrrr to spend the nap-time resting, drinking a bowl of coffee, reading, praying, journalling, listening to music, staring out the window, staring at the wall, and drinking more coffee... As you can guess, I will owe Reuben an apology when he's still wearing shorts in Winter, but I have no regrets. 

Excuse the very professional photo above which can only be truthfully captioned, 'He could have potentially suffocated but I didn't want to move the coat and risk wakening him'. In fact, I got so carried away with the alone time that I didn't realise an hour had passed when Reubs woke up, very groggy and very confused. But not confused enough to forget that I'd bribed him with a Saturday treat probably about 2 years ago. 

So I sat for another hour listening to Reuben, with his hot-chocolate-and-cream-moustache, give a running commentary of every person who walked passed the window. I may not remember much about this time last year but I precisely remember not sitting in coffee shops with Reuben for more than 10 minutes. I also precisely remember having a lot of people around if we did brave a coffee shop, because that was easier than dealing with him on my own. So he just watched the world go by and I just watched him. Sure, I was anticipating the inevitable 'let's leave right now because sitting is absolutely not my thing' announcement, but I thanked God for how much we've both grown and I lapped up every moment of that coffee date for all it was worth. 

My whole incentive for braving the city centre on halloween weekend was to visit the 'leaf-pod' at City Hall, organised by the Northern Ireland National Trust. As usual we arrived a little/very late to the party, but that just meant we got the pod aaaaalllll to ourselves. We waded through the leaves and threw them about to our heart's content... Or at least until Reuben decided he can give it but he can't take it, and shouted at me for throwing too many. I didn't know that a 'leaf pod' was a thing, but after today I'm seriously considering investing in one. Just imagine- Reuben and I could take it in turns to use it. He could be locked inside it anytime his excess toys are giving me palpitations, or when he feels the urge to cover himself in yogurt...which is pretty much all the time. And I could be locked inside it anytime I need some personal space but still need to be a responsible parent and watch my child...who just so happened to almost steal a CD and 3 umbrellas from the Faith Mission shop today. 

We left with the cutest little gift bag which Reuben was very disappointed to realise was not for him. But to be fair I sat and watched/refereed him chasing pigeons for the rest for the afternoon so a gift bag is the least I deserve. 

After going full on 'Home Alone 2 pigeon-lady' I managed to persuade Reuben to come home for dinner and a movie night. He tucked into a delicious feast of chicken and garlic bread because I couldn't be bothered fighting with him, whilst I tucked into a not-so-delicious but healthier bowl of dhal curry because, well, I don't own a metabolism. This week I've been choosing the 'sit at the table until we're finished eating' battle and it's no surprise that tonight was the first night he sat until all of his food was gone. I asked him if he enjoyed his day and he replied, 'I played with the airplane at creche'. Either this kid is a big fan of his weekday routine, or I'm not the only one with a bad memory. 

Like all toddlers, Reuben watches the same movie for hours on end. At the minute it's The Jungle Book and Peter Pan, not forgetting his old faithful - 101 Dalmatians. But he seems to associate Disney Pixar's Cars with our special movie nights, and I secretly love it. The soundtrack never gets old and I'll take anything that isn't a spotty dog. Although to be fair, I'll take anything that allows me to sit on the sofa and have cuddles. We stay at my parents house some Saturday nights if there's something on at church or if I'm in desperate need of getting work done, but this weekend I was craving the alone time with Reubs. And it was all kinds of wonderful.

Recently things have been... how can I put this without sounding like a big moan... they've been the opposite of easy and carefree. I think uni took a big step up and then Reuben hopped on the bandwagon and took a massive step up too. Then my body took a step down because exhaustion is a real thing. But I'm learning more than I thought possible, and more than I can fit into a blogpost. And most of all I'm learning more than ever to lean on God for the supernatural strength to get through each day - one day at a time. It's messy, but it's exciting. And 'conventional' wouldn't suit me anyway. 

I hope you've all had a memorable Autumn Saturday too!?