This morning was a weird one. And not just an overly-dramatic 'Reb and Reubs' kind of weird. I mean, there was that normal routine-level of weirdness. You know, with our expertly choreographed 'Pre-Porridge Dance' to Despacito and the inevitable squabbling over whether Reuben should dress himself or whether I should remain enslaved to him for the rest of my days, obviously only taking time off to buy new Paw Patrol stickers and stock up on chicken nuggets.

Anyway, having survived all of that and the mad dash to the car with our toothbrushes still in our mouths, I threw myself down in the driver's seat only to realise that it was, in fact, 7.30am and not 8.30am. And we'd been awake since 5.45am instead of 6.45am. And Reuben was going to get to watch several episodes of Paw Patrol instead of zero episodes of Paw Patrol. And I was going to drink 4 mugs of coffee instead of 2 mugs of coffee.

And I was going to give myself the, 'You are an idiot - get your life together' pep talk before 8am instead of before 9am.

But this wasn't the weirdness in my weird morning. Later on, once we eventually got going (obviously still running late because I am who I am) Reubs drifted in and out of sleep but woke up just in time to sit in traffic and watch other kids go into school on the Ormeau Road. I caught him in the mirror as his eyes widened and he took a second glance at a boy crossing the road in front of us;

"Mum! That boy's on his own!!" he comments provocatively. 

"Yeah, he's a bigger boy though. You're still way too young to walk to school on your own" I warn him. (In true overly-dramatic-mother-fashion, I imagine one minute he's walking to school on his own and the next he's married with 3 kids.)

"Yeah, he's so big he doesn't need his mummy and daddy".

"Well, he still needs them but he doesn't need them to walk him to school". 

"I don't need a daddy. I just need a mummy..." He pauses while I hold my breath, dying inside and praying for the right words to say. 

He continues, "...you're the mummy by the way".

And just like that, we both laugh at his clarification and he goes on to tell me that squirrels made out of lego aren't real, but that you can pretend they are real. And just like that, I realise I don't need to say anything at all. 

For the rest of the car journey, I sat in silence, feeling winded. In fact, for the rest of the day, I've felt like the breath has been knocked out of me. Just incase you're the last soul on earth who hasn't heard my latest drama, last Sunday morning I slipped coming out of our caravan, fell on my backside, and literally winded myself - I lay there like a flailing seal, silently screaming in agony. And today, I had a similiar pain, except today it was in my heart instead of my potentially fractured butt-bones.

Conversations like this one are coming up more frequently, always so innocently, but for sure more frequently. And I find it hard to articulate the weight they carry. I find it hard to articulate the weight of being solely responsible for another human being. I find it hard to articulate the weight of sorting out finances, the weight of choosing schools, the weight of figuring out how the heck disciplining should work, the weight of not knowing how the heck boys even work, the weight of always coming home to an empty house, the weight of watching him process that we are a family of 2. The weight that it's all on me; a ditsy 23-year old who can't read the time and can't go a week without injuring herself in some shape or form.

Today, as he simply announced, "I don't need a daddy. I just need a mummy" then went back to simple squirrel-chat, I didn't know what to say. But I really didn't need to say anything at all. Although he doesn't know it, he was right. While Reubs was designed to have a dad, because of God's grace he doesn't need one.

For Reuben, that grace looks like a heavenly father who loves him more than he could ever imagine. It looks like a big, unconventional family who would give anything for him. And it looks like amazing people who make sure he doesn't miss out on anything - including insane football skills (have you seen his left foot?!), nerf-gun wars, and muddy forest adventures.

For me, that grace looks like knowing I have Jesus, and so I am never alone. It means looking at the cross, where He gave up everything for me and knowing that if he did that, then He will give me what I need for today. It is knowing that Jesus will always be enough - in moments when I'm flat on my back because I'm clumsy, in hard conversations, in heavy times; in all times.

New House, New Chapter, New Reasons to be Ridiculously Sentimental


September 2015

24 Coolfin Street (chill out mum, it's safe - I'll have moved by the time I post this), it's been a good one but it's time to say goodbye.

It's not a big deal though. It is absolutely not a big deal. People move house all the time and I'm usually the one laughing when they get super sentimental. I've only been living here two years and I don't even own the furniture in the house so moving isn't really a life-changing task. I mean, I'm not mega-attached to it or anything. The living room roof leaks daily and under every rug, there's some sort of stain hiding away until inspection day. It doesn't have a garden or a spare bed for friends to sleep in, and our dining chairs are £5 plastic fold-ups from Ikea. The sofa smells like pee and when it doesn't smell like pee it smells like stale yoghurt. The police are on my street at least once a week and occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I think there's a drunk man on my sofa again (No really, true story. Sorry you found out about it like this dad. But aren't you happy I'm moving now?). The busy road outside never stops, it feels claustrophobic being so close to the centre of Belfast, you have to fight for your bin on Bin-Lorry-Day, and while you're at it you have to fight for a parking space outside your own house too.

So I repeat, moving house is not a big deal.

Except, I've been packing all day but I've spent more time sitting on my living room floor with a spinning head and a sore heart. And you know what? It's kind of a big deal.

24 Coolfin may not look like much but that leak in the living room roof usually starts when I jump into the bath with Reuben before bedtime and we get carried away with the water fights (FYI that's not what I told my landlord). The stains under the rugs are from the many liquid spills from a larger-than-life little boy who has no hand-eye coordination, or better yet, some stains are from a lazier-than-any-toddler-I've-met-in-my-life little boy who has taken a year to learn to use the toilet. What a journey that has been. That secluded intimate, back-alleyway has posed as a 'garden' for many football matches, many muddy-puddle-jumping competitions, and many after-dinner chats about our days because full days at University and Creche are far too long for a mother and son duo to be apart (despite how much I hated him in my last blog post).

The lack of spare bed, or any spare space for that matter, has lead to many sleepless late-night-chats on my living room floor, many friendships grounded in the early hours of the morning over cups of tea or 1 am giggles, and several attempts to get as many friends as possible into my bed... only to be kicked out again at 3am by Reuben who wants mummy cuddles. The £5 plastic fold-ups from Ikea have served many 'dinner parties', birthday parties, and the 'let's all go to Reb's house after Reuben's asleep' parties. They also served Reuben during his many attempts as an escape artist when he still needed to be secured in a booster seat to eat at the table, they've survived his many tantrums when sitting at the table to eat was out of the question, and they're just light enough for him to carry into the kitchen and stand up on the bench beside me to 'help' me with the cooking or washing the dishes.

The sofa may smell like pee/stale yoghurt and I may never get my deposit back but I can't help but laugh at how it's become a regular routine for visitors to check/sniff my sofa before they sit on it. And I often wonder why they still want to be in my company but they go on ahead and sit down anyway. The bin wars lead to the most surprising of conversations with neighbours and I've learned that Christmas cards and mince-pies are not the way to their hearts, but instead they favour a good old bit of healthy competition (and a council fine in my case). Being so close to Queens may have been claustrophobic but friends have become family and that's how we learned that it takes a village to raise a child.

If you wanted somewhere to settle down as a family and raise your kids, you'd probably swipe left if you saw 24 Coolfin on Tinder. I get it, it's hard to explain to a 3-year-old why there's a random drunk man on your sofa first thing in the morning when all you want is a bowl of Rice Krispies for breakfast. But this house was our first home as a family - a family of 2. And it's kind of a big deal to us.

This is where we learned to stand on our own 4 feet and cement some routines, traditions, and memories of our own. When I nabbed this house 2 weeks before I started university and decided to ship my one-year-old to a new city, a new house, and a new creche, everything felt so uncertain. When I used to imagine myself at University, I didn't think my housemate would be a one-year-old. Before I got knocked up, or before I was a Christian for that matter, I thought I would spend every night of Freshers making questionable decisions in questionable clubs, and instead, I spent my evenings practicing my questionable bedtime routine and cleaning questionable substances off my carpet. But from the very first day in 24 Coolfin when I found myself sitting on my living room floor overwhelmed and crying because I'd broken the hoover, TV, and 3 cups in one day, until today when I once again found myself having a wee cry on my living room floor because packing is stressful and I have a Christmas tree up in September; through it all God has been so good. He has provided for us every step of the way and on my rental contract I may be a lone parent, but I'm certainly not alone. 

I hadn't planned on moving house until I'd finished university, I hadn't planned for my favourite family to be moving away, and I certainly hadn't planned on renting their house. (But then again I hadn't planned on making them my favourites and loving them quite so much anyway, so let's conclude that having a plan is overrated). Moving out of 24 Coolfin is a pretty big deal but our new home is already pretty darn special and it's a privilege to set up camp there. I'm so excited for this new chapter (mostly because our new house has a dishwasher) and I know that God will be as faithful as he has ever been (I mean come on, he's giving me a dishwasher). But for now, I'm off to sleep (or attempt to sleep with my spindly offspring and his flashing Christmas tree) because I'm exhausted from spending my last evening doing what we did best in this house  - chatting into the early hours of the morning on my stained sofa (where all the lifelong friends are made and something tells me this deepening friendship is no different)... In true 24 Coolfin Style, some might say. 

September 2017

Summer With a 3 Year Old - 5 Truths


As I sat on a chair in the doctor's surgery, one arm propped up on a pillow as the nurse prepared to take a blood sample, and one arm restraining my child in an almost-headlock anticipating yet another public tantrum, my eyes filled to the brim with hot tears (the stingy kind that you know are one-third anger, one-third hurt, and one-third ridiculous hormones). The nurse noticed and exclaimed, 'I'm so sorry, are you okay? You should have said you don't like needles'. As the tears spilled over onto my cheeks, I threw my head back and laughed in her face, 'Girl, this needle in my arm is enjoyable compared to the morning I've had'. She looked at Reuben who had now thrown himself down on the floor, completely unphased by the tears or the blood, and gave me a knowing nod, assuring me that she had been there. Incase you haven't noticed, or incase you're new here, 'Maverick Mum' is basically a record of every time I've cried to an unassuming member of the general public.

I'm a 22-year-old university student. And just like every other 22-year-old university student, I had high hopes for the Summer. Sure, I knew I wasn't going to be interrailing across Europe, drinking cocktails, raking in the Instagram likes with sunset photos, and flirting with guys named Pablo. But I did intend on making up for lost time with my beautiful, bonny 3-year-old boy whom I love dearly (N.B. read in a sarcastic tone), and from whom I have insane separation guilt when I'm on my 6th hour in McClay Library, injecting coffee through my eyeballs, slamming my head off a theology book, and trying to make conversation with the Erasmus student from Spain about my love for the paella at the Christmas Continental Market, purely because I'm 150% extroverted and need to talk to someone to get through the day.

And you might remember my posts during the first couple of weeks of Summer, ohhh the glorious honeymoon period that it was. I resembled the heart-eyed-emoji as I penned, 'On the mornings I rush Reuben 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 mins thinking about how I lost my temper with him the evening before... In all of those moments, these are the days I dream of - The ordinary and unspectacular days doing the grocery shop, making tea every hour on the hour, and filling time until the gas engineer comes and goes. These are the days I'm just happy because we're together'.

So, 'After 10 weeks have passed, how is the Summer going now?' I don't hear you ask but I'll answer anyway, well... I'M OVER IT.

I am totally, utterly, undeniably, 16749% OVER IT.

After the Nurse took what seemed like 10 pints of my blood, she gave me a hug and talked to me for half an hour. Or rather, I talked AT her. I told her how Reuben had been screaming orders at me from the moment I opened my eyes that morning, how I had spent 45 minutes disciplining him because he kicked me, how he has been continually pushing every boundary, how he freaks out every time my attention is on someone else, how the only time he is happy is when he's with other children, how I long for his bed time, how I'm more emotionally exhausted than I am at uni, and how I'm not even sure I like my own son anymore.

I knew Summer would have its own difficulties - the lack of routine, time away from other children at creche, large amounts of time away from close friends who we usually do life with, budgeting money as we prepare to move house, preparing for change... But when Reuben turned three he also seemed to turn a corner with his behaviour, and it's been incredible to watch him grow into the little person who has fast become my best friend. I may not like him right now, but he did come out of my vagina and many parts of his personality can be accredited to my genes. I do love him (N.B. do not read in a sarcastic tone). Despite this, I've continually lost my patience, screamed the house down, let him win many battles and have shown anything but love. So with the many ups and downs of this parenting gig, I guess this 'down' is particularly hurting my heart because spending 10 weeks with his mum should be good for him, but instead, I seem to have created a monster. For the duration of Summer, I've done nothing other than 'be a mum', and it feels like I've failed.

Reuben starts Nursery in exactly 2 weeks from today and I know that as normality returns, this season will pass. I'll be back blogging about all the highlights, the date days, and the special conversations. And those are the moments my memory will cling onto. But for now, and for the sake of realness, if you ask me how Summer is going these are probably the main truths I'll give you;

1. I'm on a first name basis with the staff at Funky Monkeys.
We all have a local 'Soft Play' and it’s a dark, dark place where no parent ventures unless they want to be faced with toddler saliva on the walls and baby pile-ons at the bottom of the slide. Every 0.05 seconds there's a high pitched scream and you just drink your coffee and pray that it’s not your child. You look solemnly at the parents beside you and ask them, “How long have you been in?”, only to have them reply “2 hours with no signs of leaving”. You both give an exasperated sigh and sit dreaming of all those sunny days you took for granted - fresh air, wide open spaces, no claustrophobic stench coming from sweaty toddler socks. There are only so many trips you can make to the park in the rain without risking a bout of pneumonia and really, there are only so many Pinterest craft sessions you can re-create without having to visit Ulster Bank to take out a small loan to cover the cost of pipe cleaners and lollipop sticks, so Funky Monkeys it is. And forever it will be.

2. It's lonely. 
Only a mum of young children will know that you can simultaneously always have company, yet always feel alone. I don't think I've felt closer to my mum (other than when she watched me give birth) due to the many evenings I've phoned her to talk absolute crap just because I'm lonely and haven't heard an adults voice all day. I think my next blog post will be called, 'An Ode to the Stay-At-Home-Mum. You Are Amazing!'

3. Routine is boring but 'boring' is best. 
Every ounce of my being hates this truth but 3-year-olds, and admittedly 22-year-olds thrive with a routine. It's all fun and games to be adventurous and whimsical until you're eating fish fingers for dinner for the third night running and everyone is over-exhausted and hating each other. And by everyone, I mean Reuben and I. 

4. I've learned a lot about myself. And I didn't have to travel the world to do it. 
I could talk for hours about Reuben's many irrational showdowns but the truth is, this Summer has brought light to my shortcomings more than anything else. I've never been more aware of my weaknesses, my short temper, my selfishness, my pride, and my need for Jesus. 

5. God is still good. 
Being involved in Livewire at New Horizon has without a doubt been the highlight of my Summer. It was incredible to see how faithful God is. He doesn't just save us from our brokenness and then leave us there, but he continues to love us, challenge us, and transform our hearts for the rest of our lives. Following Jesus is the most exciting adventure! Yet, the same God who was with me and loved me at Livewire is the same God who is with me and loves me when I return to my reality with a crash and when I'm crying to a random nurse or battling Reuben on the naughty step for the 40th time today. He is the same God who is faithful and sustains me and gives me hope in the darkest moments. This Summer I've learned, and re-learned (and will keep re-learning) the truth that God is still good. Always. 

The World's Worst Summer Bucket List


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


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


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

Oh, 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 alone and 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 the western world. 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 get 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!