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.
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 21Birthdays 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.
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.
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