Category Archives: Family

The Prompt – Time

The Prompt for this week is a topic and it is:

I wish I had more time…

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This is going to be a hard post to write because when I first read this weeks Prompt my mind jumped straight to my beloved Mother-in-Law and the last time I spoke to her.

 

 

She had been in the hospice for a while, the operations, chemo and radiotherapy had ceased and the cancer was ravaging her body.

Her hair, once black, glossy and wavy with red undertones that would gleam in the sun was now short, spiky and patchy.
Her skin, which used to be a flawless almost olive in shade now hung translucent from her shrinking frame.

 

We knew the end was near but were all in denial as we tried to protect ourselves from the inevitable pain and then eventually the day came when we were told it was time to say goodbye.

 

She saw us all in groups; her children, her grandchildren, her siblings.
So I stood at the bottom of her bed with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

“I thought I had more time”, she said
“I thought I had time to take the grandchildren to the seaside, to sit outside a beach hut and watch them play,
I didn’t think it would end like this”.

 

She didn’t say it in a self pitying way, it was simply a statement.

 

It wasn’t meant to be this way.

 

She was so brave and so calm while I was a wreck.

I could’ve, should’ve been stronger for her

I managed to tell her, between sobs, that I loved her and how grateful I was for everything she did for us.
I am glad I had a chance to tell her.

 

But she should have had more time.

 

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What’s the story? – Last year

 

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It is a year ago today that my Sister, Brother-in-law, Niece and Nephew flew over to visit us here in Canada.

 

I never expected anyone to visit us here, I hope they would of course, but transatlantic air travel is expensive so I didn’t expect it.  When we were chatting on Skype in January last year and they mentioned booking flights to come over I had to restrain myself from getting too excited incase it didn’t happen but it was only a few hours later that my Brother-In-Law text me to say the flights were booked.

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We had an amazing 2 weeks together and I am so glad they came over to see us.  I loved showing them Toronto, taking them to watch a lacrosse game and to visit one of my favourite places, Niagara Falls.

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Niagara Falls in particular was a very special time for me, I remember studying it during my geography A level at school and adding it to a mental list of places around the world I wanted to visit.  My first visit there in 2007 was such an amazing experience for me and being able to share that experience with my Sister, Brother-in-law, Niece and Nephew a few years later was incredibly special, especially as I now live so close to it.

 

So today I am reminiscing on the fantastic time we had last year, and instead of getting sad because I miss them I am going to be grateful that they came over.


Magic Moments – Thirteen

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My youngest Son has just turned 13…13 I can’t quite believe it?! We are no longer a household of 2 adults and 2 kids we are now 3 adults and one teenager. WOW!

Luckily this isn’t the first time I’ve been through the teenage years with a Son so I am completely prepared, although Eldest Son breezed through them and youngest son is a completely different kettle of fish!

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He was born very quickly on an extremely foggy February morning after a very difficult 8 and ½ month pregnancy.  Hubbie was away working and fortunately I had my Dad nearby to take me to the hospital.  Complications meant he arrived a couple of weeks early and hubbie missed the birth itself but I was so relieved the baby arrived safe and sound I really didn’t care.   I guess my views on childbirth are a bit old fashioned but I really didn’t mind if Hubbie was there or not second time around. I was away with the fairies after large amounts of gas & air and I wouldn’t have known if Queen Elizabeth II herself had wandered through the labour room!

Youngest Son soon began to show his happy, smiley personality and was too cheeky for his own good!

 

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He has always had a very cheeky sense of humour and loves a photobomb…or two!

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and has never shied away from the camera

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He is bright and witty and adores his friends and his family

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and is growing into a truly wonderful young man.

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Magic Moments – Commencement

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What is commencement you may ask…? Like many things it is something that everyone knows about except the expats. There is one really annoying thing about moving to a new culture and that is when everyone knows what something is and totally assumes you know about it too because it is such a basic part of life.  Take harvest festival, for example, as a Brit it is something you did every year in school so when your kids come home from school asking for donations you just know you need to get a shoe box, hunt through the cupboards for a few tins of food and send them off with said child back to school. Why would you think for a minute that would need an explanation?  So can you imagine the confusion if you had never even heard of the term Harvest Festival…?

When we got a message about ‘Commencement’ we were baffled, we had no idea what it was, what it meant and what we have to do.  On Friday night we found out what it was all about.

 

Commencement is a graduation ceremony held at the end of high school, it is basically a celebration of the graduate’s achievements as we send them off into the big wide world.  You see, unlike in the UK, if you don’t get the required grades and pass the required courses you don’t graduate from high school.

Needless to say we were incredibly proud of eldest son when he graduated high school and this commencement ceremony on Friday was extremely special to us. When you don’t have a shared background with people and common experiences, making friends becomes more difficult so we want the boys to have as many of those early experiences as possible to help them with the transition between countries.

 

Emigrating when he was just 16 was a tough thing for him, making new friends, spending two years at a completely different school with different expectations and where everything is unusual, being the new kid, with a strange accent at that difficult age is just a small amount of what he had to face… Thankfully he made the most of it, it was no mean fete and he didn’t just survive, he thrived.

As he stood there on Friday in his cap and gown to accept his High School Diploma, something so quintessentially North American, I had a huge lump in my throat and I was literally bursting with pride.  My little Essex boy taking part in a something I had only ever seen in the movies.

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Magic Moments – Surprise

I had the most amazing magic moment last Friday

I may not have mentioned before but I had ones of those ‘big birthdays’ coming up next weekend.  You know the one that means the imminent mid-life crisis is just around the corner.

Funnily enough I feel fine about turning forty. My kids are almost grown up at 19 and 12, we’ve run our own successful business for years, have travelled to some lovely parts of the world and have spent the past two years living here in Canada so it’s not like I’m wondering what I‘ve done with my life, I’ve been busy.  What I hadn’t realized was that I wasn’t looking forward to ‘the big day’ itself, mainly because my family and friends are over there in Blighty so it wouldn’t have been such a big day at all.  My birthday is just a reminder of the worst parts of expat life.

I woke up on Friday morning feeling weird, I don’t know why. I had a nervous tummy and felt strangely anxious.  I busied myself with the housework while keeping an eye on skype as I wanted to have a chat with my mum and dad.  I’d only spoken to them two days before but for some reason I felt I needed to speak to them.  All day long they remain persistently off line.  That was odd.  While I worked around the house my anxiety became worse and my brain began to work overtime, I began to realize that there was definitely something strange going on.  At about 3.30pm I couldn’t stand it anymore and called my sister.  I asked her if she knew where our parents were, ‘ Nooooo’ she replied innocently.  I told her how odd I was feeling and that I knew something just wasn’t right….

Twenty minutes later Hubbie got in from work, another odd thing, he was home early.  He called out, “Come and give me a hand with something in the truck will you?” I stomped down the stairs mumbling something about how I’m sure our big strong 6 ft tall 19 year old son could help instead.  As I walked out onto the driveway someone called me from behind and as I turned around to look, there were my parents standing beside me grinning from ear to ear!  They have flown in for 12 days to spend my big birthday with me.  Isn’t that just the best birthday surprise ever?

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What’s the story? – Fire Starter

Youngest son has always had a bit of an obsession with fire which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, my Dad is the same and he turned it into a long career as a firefighter. 🙂

 

We all love to camp so teaching the boys outdoor skills like tying knots and starting a fire has always been important to us.  We bought fire sticks so he could turn his interest into a useful skill and hubbie set about teaching him how to use it to start a fire when we were camping.  Attempt one was a bit of a disaster and ended abruptly when his frustration got the better of him.

So we were really surprised on our next trip when he got out the sticks, found some kindling and tried again.  This time his persistence paid off and he was so pleased with himself!

Nineteen

Eldest son has just turned 19. Where does the time go?

This was us 19 years ago, it’s one of those post labour photos when you are so off your head on Pethidine and gas that you are only vaguely aware that someone is pointing a camera at you and certainly don’t have the where with all to tell your husband to actually show the baby to the camera!  What strikes me so much about this photo is how incredibly young we look. I was 20 and hubbie was 22 and eldest son was about 45 minutes!


 

I’m pretty sure in this shot I was not only marveling at my son but wondering what on earth I was supposed to do next, quite frankly when it came to babies I didn’t know my a*se from my elbow.

 

He certainly kept us on our toes for the first few years

 and he wasn’t the easiest baby but in hindsight that would have been due to my lack of experience and confidence. He didn’t sleep much, was the fussiest eater I’ve ever known and was literally the king of toddler tantrums!

But here we are 19 years on and no only have we all survived the toddler years (although it was touch and go there for a while!) but we breezed through childhood, thrived in the tween years and with only a year left… the teens are looking good so far!

He has just started  the college years and an exciting new chapter in his life full of lectures, the student union bar and a new found freedom.

And people often ask me how I knew he was destined for a computer orientated career and I always reply, “I just had a feeling!”

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So Happy Birthday to our baby boy, we are very proud of you x

 

In the Arms of the Angels

 

7 years ago my mother-in-law lost her fight with Cancer at just 56 years old, I mention her briefly on here but have never really told the story because I felt that it wasn’t really my story to tell. However, it didn’t feel right letting the anniversary pass without talking about her and what she meant to me.

Hubbie and I had been together for over 6 months when he moved back into his mum’s house, she had been away on holiday and returned home unexpectedly in the middle of the night. She entered hubbies bedroom and I remember waking up to the sound of her screeching “oh my God my baby’s in bed with a woman!”.  Mortifyingly embarrassing just doesn’t seem to come close to how it felt to meet the woman I already knew would be my future mother-in-law in those circumstances!

Despite me being only 17 she realized immediately that our relationship was a serious one and she welcomed me into the family with open arms. I was expecting her to give me a hard time being with her eldest son but she never did and I felt like part of the family straight away. I guess that was just her nature she was open, honest, friendly and always willing to welcome anyone into her home.

What was immediately evident was what a remarkable woman she was and she amazed me with her life-juggling skills. Despite being a single parent to 6 kids aged between 20 and 3 and a hands on Nan to two grandsons she was still ambitious and soon embarked on a degree course at university. She took any work she could to feed the family and turned frugal living into an art form and if you were any where near the house at meal times you were fed whether you expected it or not, I will never know how she managed to do it all.

When I fell pregnant 3 years later and announced we were getting married she took it all in her stride and opened her doors to me, hubbie and the baby and welcomed us to live with her while we got on our feet. Eldest son was a difficult baby and she was there for me at all times of the day and night with guidance and advice, there was literally nothing about pregnancy, birth and babies that she didn’t know about or didn’t have an answer or advice for.

 

Showing off my eldest son to his Great Grandparents

My mother-in-law always had a sixth sense, she could tell if things weren’t right and had a remarkable instinct. She was away for the weekend when I went into labour with eldest son 10 days before my due date yet she knew, baring in mind this was before most people had mobile phones, (yes, I’m that old!) so she had no way of knowing for certain but she was having terrible stomach pains and demanded the person she was with took her home immediately so she could be with me! They were skeptical but she kept saying ‘I’m telling you she’s having that baby’ and I was.

Apart from her children her greatest achievement was obtaining her degree, four of her kids were still young and at home when she put herself through university.

 

She was kind and generous and would do anything for anyone often to her own detriment. She loved her family more than anything and was the first port of call for her aging parents as well. She never grumbled about any of that in fact she was usually at her happiest when she was surrounded by a big group of family members.

Mum -in-law holding youngest son on holiday in Center Parcs when he was 9 weeks old

When she was diagnosed with cancer she struggled to talk about it and I think most of that was because she didn’t want to burden us with it. She was always more worried about how it was all affecting her family than how it was affecting her. She would rarely ask anyone to do anything for her and we had to force her to accept our help. She was selfless to the very end.

She fought cancer with every ounce of strength she had and even when she was having chemo she rarely grumbled about how bad she felt.

It makes me sad that she never had the life she deserved, she struggled to make ends meet through almost all her adult life and never had a reliable partner to take care of her and grow old with. That was the very least she deserved.

I miss her. I miss her advice and the wise words she would share that came from her own difficult experiences. I miss sharing our new life with her, I know she would have just loved where we live and she would have been searching for deals on flights so she could visit as often as she could. I wish she could see how much the boys have grown and the amazing men they are turning into.

She was a truly inspirational woman who is loved and missed as much today as the day we lost her 7 years ago.

 

The Gallery – Back to School

Back to school means changes are afoot this week, as usual with an expat lifestyle you never have the chance to get stuck in a rut before things take another turn.

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Youngest son had a lesson in independence yesterday when he got his first door key and took the bus to school for the first time. He was nervous but faced this new experience like a true expat child with courage, bravery and a ‘go for it’ attitude.

Eldest Son had his first day at college yesterday and came back positively buzzing with excitement. He is finally on his way to achieving the career he has longed for since he was a small child.

So to us back to school is not so much ‘back to the old routine’ and more like new beginnings.