The World's Worst Summer Bucket List

6/11/2017

IT'S SUMMMEEEERRRRRRRRR!! Can you believe it?! *Cries tears of joy*

His face epitomises my feels.
Okay, I know I've been screaming that for the last month or so but there's been lots of the 'It's Summer' realisation moments. There was the end of my assignments, the end of my exams (I only had one but if I make it plural then it makes me sound better), and then the end of my friends' exams (they actually had plural exams), and then there was that day the sun came out and we went to the beach (pictured below is the appropriately summery looking photograph) and then the end of creche for Reuben last Friday. But let's be honest, it's not really official until I write a blog post to celebrate. Because writing a blog post means that I'm more awake than I've been in 9 months, I actually get to have hobbies and I can string a sentence together that is something other than 'These verses in Revelation fit into the theme of pseudo-divine', or 'What time's coffee?' or 'I hate Theology'. 


For the record, I don't really hate Theology but my exam was a train wreck. An absolute train wreck. So finishing 2nd year has been bitter-sweet - 98% sweet but there's that 2% of me that wants to take all of my books and stack them up so that the beginning letters are an anagram that spells 'Theology Sucks', and then light them on fire outside the college with enough petrol to make a point but not enough to hurt anyone. 

I mean, my lecturer did say, 'Don't try and guess what's coming up on the exam and only learn 2 topics'... So obviously I tried to guess what was coming up on the exam and only learned 2 topics. Aaaaaaaaaaand... my topics didn't come up. I spent 10 minutes of the exam in the toilet having an elongated pee and chill, and then 20 minutes of the exam trying to figure out who will babysit Reuben when I have to repeat it. So I only have myself to blame really, but I'm mostly too deep in bliss-mode to think about it anymore, or at least until results are out anyway. I'm more than a little ecstatic right now. It's been ropey but here I am, out the other end, 2 thirds of the way through my degree, 40 bottles of dry shampoo and 11 packets of pro plus later. God is good, can I get an amen to that?! 

As my time off with Reuben begins, our little family of two has even more reason to celebrate because Reubs got a place in Nursery. FINALLY. 

I know, I know. If you're not a parent then I know what you're thinking. Actually, if you're not a parent in Belfast or the surrounding area, or to be more specific, if you're a parent in Magherafelt where I grew up or the equivalent country-ish small-town kind of place, then I definitely know what you're thinking... 'Chill out Reb, he didn't get into Harvard. It's Nursery School'. But let me tell ya, this has been a massive learning curve for my wee ignorant brain and applying for Nursery School is a flipping competitive and stressful process! (It's so stressful I said 'flipping'). 

Of course, I am who I am and I made the whole thing a lot harder than it needed to be because I messed up the application. Back in April when I saw all the posts on Instagram and Facebook of parents announcing that their 'Babies are all grown up' and are officially going to Nursery in September, I walked home to get my letter, thinking to myself, 'What is the big deal about kids going to Nursery? It's so tragic how parents lose sleep over this'. 

And then Reuben didn't get in. And I lost sleep for 2 months. Partly, because I'm ridiculous and partly because I had let him down. The further away nurseries weren't going to work because I had couldn't get him there and make it to class in time. So I became that parent. You know, the parent ringing the Nursery every week to see if anyone had dropped out of their place and the parent turning up at the school who 'just happened to be walking past'. I even had the Education Board on speed dial and got a letter from SSA telling the school how I'm a poor, benefits scrounger (not really but I did get a letter explaining my conundrum). 

It was too little too late and I had to settle with the decision that Reubs would just go back to creche full time and stay in the toddler room while his friends were at Nursery. That was reasonable until the last week of creche when they all got certificates saying where they were all moving on to next and Reuben's was blank. Being the psycho mother that I've become, I sobbed to the guy working in Costa. He asked if I wanted one shot or two, and looked up to see the tears and snot violently running down my puffy face. Stunned, he asked if I was okay and I word vomitted all over him, 'NO MY SON DIDN'T GET INTO NURSERY AND ITS ALL MY FAULT AND I CAN NEVER DO ANYTHING RIGHT AND I HAD HIM WHEN I WAS YOUNG SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT IM DOING AND I ALWAYS LET HIM DOWN AND IF I HAD A HUSBAND THEN HE WOULD KNOW WHAT TO DO AND I CAN'T MAKE ALL THESE ADULT DECISIONS ANYMORE AND I JUST CAN'T DO THIS LIFE BECAUSE THERE'S TOO MUCH PRESSURE AND IM SO USELESS'. He replied, '...two shots, then?' 

After getting it all out at the poor unassuming barista, I made my peace with the whole thing and realised I'm an idiot and that I am not in control. God is. A couple of days later I got a random phone call from the Nursery offering Reuben a place and I am SO thankful. I realise that my blog didn't need to be graced with the ins and outs of the whole disastrous process, and it would have been enough to simply say that he is going to Nursery. But this is real, parenting life and the 'Why is this seemingly small task ridiculously harder than I expected?' moments are more common than I let on. This is one of the many lessons I want to remember - snotty, public breakdown not included. I never want to take his nursery or school/job/university place, whatever it may be, for granted. And most of all I never want to forget (but I 100% will learn this over and over) that it shouldn't take a stern word from a school secretary telling me, 'There's nothing you can do', for me to grasp that I am not the one in control. And thank goodness for that.

So, if you think I'm tragic for celebrating something as menial as Reubs going to Nursery School then you're going to absolutely hate my bucket list for the rest of the holidays, which is possibly the most boring bucket list to grace this planet and is probably more of a to-do list. But who doesn't love a good to-do list?! Here's what I'm most looking forward to. 

Read read read. (I told you it was a pretty low-standard bucket list. It's like a Home Bargains standard of bucket list - cheap but slightly valuable). The moment it hit me for the first time that uni had finished was during Reuben's nap time the day after my exam. I didn't have to spend my precious free time doing assignments, revising, or cleaning mold off the dirty dishes because I didn't have time to wash them again. Instead, I read a book, just because I could! First on the list is 'None Like Him' by Jen Wilkin and 'Hands Free Mama' by Rachel Stafford, which I started reading in 2015.

SLEEP. I don't need to say any more. If you see me, and I'm not sleeping, tell me to go home and sleep. 

Cuddle Reuben like a leech for 3 months. I have so much lost time to make up for. Recently I've been kind of thinking, but not really letting myself properly think it, that maybe I should have waited until Reuben was in Primary School before going to uni. It's been one of those, 'What if's' that really aren't worth any time thinking about but seem to torture you at 3 am. The more time studying takes up, the more time I spend thinking about how precious these years are and the more I become irrationally panicky that he will be my only child and the more time my uterus tells me that I need to spend every waking minute with him. Of course, in reality we'll have strangled each other 56432894176 times by the end of Summer and I'll be ringing every stay-at-home mama I know for sanity tips. 



REST. It's not the same as sleep, I promise. A girl can dream, but realistically it also won't look like a Netflix and bed binge. But that doesn't mean I can't take time to slow down and kill the caffeine addiction. I mean, I've been off for a few days and still had to make an emergency stop at McDonald's yesterday because I couldn't see straight through the caffeine migraine that I was enduring. I'm looking forward to the slow, 'mundane', and unspectacular days. The days where we stay in our jammies until lunchtime, only getting dressed to do the grocery shop, and passing time with endless games of trains, cars, and episodes of Paw Patrol. Those are the days I dream of on the mornings when I rush him into creche with the quickest peck on the cheek, or in the afternoons I leave the library to get yet another coffee and duck past him playing in the playground, or in the classes when I've inevitably zoned out and I spend 50 minutes thinking about how I lost my temper with him the evening before. In all of those moments, it's the mundane and un-maverick days I dream of - the days we're content to just be together. 



London. Ironically, after harping on about rest and reading and hating theology blah blah blah, we're actually going on a trip this Monday to the Summer School at London City Mission with a group from uni. LCM's goal is to share the good news of Jesus and the love of God with London's least reached - those living in poverty, those marginalised by their choices, situations or health issues, those from alienated cultural groups. They show this love and good news in all sorts of practical ways through their work with churches, community centres, schools, prisons, transitional housing and homeless ministries. My girl Deyna is going to be sharing the Reuben responsibilities and although I won't be able to go to all of the Summer School, the trip is an incredible opportunity and I am SO excited.

Adventure Days. These are the exact opposite of the chill days I mentioned earlier, but I still love them just as much. Anyone who knows me will know that I'm very passionate about my date days with Reuben - we date hard. And it's not because I'm a total romantic and want to replace a boyfriend with my son (I probably have issues but I'm not that bad). I just love setting aside special time to spend with him, just the two of us. Otherwise a busy week has gone by and everyone has been fed, no one is dead, and the to-do list has been completed...but poor Reuben has had to fight for my attention in the midst of the busyness. Even though I convince myself otherwise, the drive on the way to Tescos with me singing/screeching the Moana soundtrack to keep him from kicking my chair really doesn't count. Partly because I'm thinking of all the groceries I need to buy, figuring out what I can afford to buy, and I sometimes forget that my son is in the back seat. But mostly because we are both hating every moment. And if I'm honest with you, there have been lots of times when I've been selfish and dragged Reubs along to meet up people when it wasn't a necessity, purely because I didn't have the energy to deal with him on my own. I'm sure it isn't that way for everyone, but my multitasking skills are mediocre at best so I love having date days where I can forget about everything else and focus on my little ball of craziness.



Treats. I'm going to treat myself and I'm not going to be ashamed about it. The boys don't know this but they're going to take Reuben out of my sight and I'm going to get my hair done, do my nails, and probably clean out my ears because the girls informed me this week that this is something people actually do. And it's never exactly been high up on my list of priorities, but I've a new theory that the reason I talk so loud is because I'm actually half-death. The tone of this blog really has reached an all-new low. 

- Move house. Goodbye, Donegal Road! This is a biggy on the Summer Bucket List, I'm both super excited and super apprehensive about the change. One minute, I just want to move RIGHT NOW and get going and the next minute, I just want to go back to being in Primary School when the biggest change to cope with would be when mum gave me Tuna sandwiches instead of ham (that actually was a difficult change to adjust to). We're moving out of Belfast and I'm hoping that it's going to be a long-term thing, but who knows? (Because I'm not in control, right?). The reason this bucket list is so boring is probably because I need to save for adult stuff like furniture, but it also means many trips to Ikea so life is wonderful.

- Livewire. So as y'all know, I am a Christian and I 100% love Jesus. But for the typical Northern Irish twenty-something Christian, Summer doesn't usually look like going on Park-Crawls (like Pub-Crawls but with play parks? No? Okay then) with their 3 year old offspring. A lot of my friends spend their whole Summers showing the love of God at various kids camps or volunteering in different charities/ministries, or as I write this two of my friends are making plans for their trip to Kenya to work alongside charities and individuals out there. BUT this year I'm branching out from beneath the clutches of Paw Patrol and I'm going to be a leader at Livewire during New Horizon, an event for people aged 15-18 to help them follow Jesus. If you think you'd be interested in going then hit me up please! 

I'll probably add to this as Summer goes on, but I can assure you it won't get much more exciting than cleaning forgotten body parts and organising my photo albums into date order. But I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Date Night

5/21/2017


On Friday night, with warm milk in one hand and Calpol in the other, I BEGGED my son to go to sleep. With my eyes twitching, in a moment of sheer desperation, I stupidly went one step further and promised that we'd go on an adventure the next day. Of course he slept like a log the rest of the night, probably only rolling over every so often to whisper the word 'adventure' and cuddle the stick he found on the roadside 2 weeks ago that seems to come everywhere with us now and would no doubt come on the adventure too.

The next morning Reubs appeared at my bedside naked, wearing only his ridiculous baseball cap and sporting his backpack filled with dinosaurs, cars, and a plastic cucumber incase he got peckish. But as well intentioned as I was, and as much as I really wanted to see the massive grin on Reuben's face as we adventured (for all he knew the adventure would be to Asda bless him), I'd had the exhausting week from exam hell and I wanted to see the inside of my bedcovers so much more. I'd hoped that he'd forget my promise and settle for a movie day, but quicker than I could say '5 more minutes please mummy feels like death', he bellowed in my ear, 'CAN WE GO ON OUR ADVENTURE NOW?'.

We passed the morning/postponed the adventure by making breakfast, playing the 'you throw the football and I'll catch it from the sofa' game and heading on the traditional Saturday morning walk down the picturesque Donegal Road to the shop for freshly baked cookies (they're most definitely not freshly baked but it makes for a better blog post and we like them crispy anyway). And by some beautiful miracle, by 1 pm we'd both fallen asleep at either end of the sofa (if you've tried my sofa then you can imagine how glorious this was - and if you haven't then just take my word for it or come over for a cuppa).

The soundtrack of Ice-Age softly danced in the background and every so often we'd both deliriously open our eyes, squint at one another across the sofa, and either pull the blanket off the other or roll over and go back to sleep. Eventually, I began to wake up and thought to myself, 'This sleep has been way too good, way too satisfying, and way too long' and realised to my horror, that is was five o'clock. FIVE FLIPPING O'CLOCK! (I know the exact timings because I left the oven on the whole time - please don't kill me, Mum). I shook Reuben awake, part of me terrified that he was genuinely unconscious/dead but he popped straight up in his seat and exclaimed, 'Are we going on our adventure after our nap?!'...and I realised the only thing I needed to be terrified of was the prospect of Reubs bouncing off the walls the rest of the evening.

The glorious view from my end of the sofa.
Claustrophobia setting in, I informed him we were going on a date and he needed to ditch the baseball cap to impress me, to which he replied, 'I love my hat more than anything, Mum'. Thanks, son. We headed to Camile, the only place apart from McDonald's where I can guarantee Reuben will scrape his plate clean. I know, I know. It's a Thai restaurant and I know Reuben is a 3 year old who usually lives on a diet of fish fingers, and I know it's utterly ridiculous that he loves it but whatever they put in their kids crispy chilli chicken (probably crushed up paw patrol dogs or something), Reubs goes crazy for it and that's okay with me - a girl's gotta be wined and dined by someone!


Apart from his constant shouting so every other table could hear our conversation about noodle-worms (he inherited my lack of indoor voice), his wails of terror when I blew the candle out to stop him from setting his hair on fire, and his 5 and a half trips to the toilet, we had a pretty great dinner. He poured my coke for me and asked the table beside us if they wanted some, he excitedly told me what he'd gotten up to with Edward at creche all week, he told me my lips looked like crayon, and before we ate he prayed, 'Thank you God that we are going on an adventure and thank you for Mummy and Reuben and thank you for chicken. Amen'. I absolutely inhaled the Pad Thai (as I write this I've just inhaled the leftovers too and I absolutely love myself for leaving some - honestly, if it was biblical I would marry Pad Thai) and for the last half an hour I shoveled rice into Reuben's mouth every time he took a breath from talking about playing football with James and Jack at youth club and retelling the full bedtime story Hazel had read to him the night before (whilst completely disregarding any story I've ever read to him but I'm not bitter).

























Of course, wining and dining (drinking coke and slurping noodles) isn't exactly a 3-year-old's idea of adventure so we headed to Crawfordsburn for a foresty/beachy walk and my heart is still soaring at the sight of a wild Reuben in his natural habitat, galavanting down hills and rolling around in sand like a stray, untrained dog. We silently eyed up and challenged the teenage couple next to us at skimming stones and then un-silently ruined their cute, coupley moment as I screamed at Reuben for splashing me with freezing, disease-filled lough-water. If ever there was a moment when I felt like a very old, dweeby, and uncool mum then that was it. I felt like defending myself against their distasteful glares and screaming, 'I'm sorry. I'm only 22. I promise I don't mean to ruin your fun and romantic moments!!!'.

I started to notice a storm a-brewing (it wasn't actually a storm but again, it makes a better blog post, doesn't it?) so I edged myself closer to the embankment, whilst Reuben edged himself closer to the sea again. I stood watching him for a while (being too lazy to walk back to get him) and wondering what was going on in his little head and thanking God for the crazy-amazing child he entrusted me with - for better or for worse. Sure, I was right about the rain and we got drenched, probably because we had to stop half way for Reubs to pee in a bush and I had to co-operate with him on where he aimed (we haven't done the peeing-outside-thing very much), but he certainly got his adventure, picking up a brand new stick on the way.


After a very soggy dash around Tesco's, we ended date night with smores and more cuddles back on the beloved sofa (with a lot less sleeping this time).



























N.B. Before anyone calls the NSPCC, do not fear - I very quickly realised that this was a very inefficient methodology (you know it's exam season when you use words like methodology) for making indoor-smores and I ended up sticking them on a dish in the oven. But if you can't go all out on date night then when can you?!

It Takes a Village

4/09/2017

'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!

3/26/2017


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)

1/30/2017


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.

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


2016

1/01/2017

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.

Family. 
- 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.

http://lifestyle.one/closer/family-money/family/closer-mum-year-awards-2016-blogger-nominees/

http://lifestyle.one/tags/maverick-mum/

- 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

12/19/2016

Dear Reuben,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOU WONDERFUL LITTLE BALL OF  ABSOLUTE CRAZINESS!! I'm so excited to celebrate 3 years of you!

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