A few weeks ago Megan came home from school excited to tell me about a concert they were practising for at their new school which we now know to be called “little big sing”. It took her a while to give the deets, and to be honest initially I wasn’t 100% sure whether she has misunderstood something or made it up (which happens a lot in Megan’s world). Over a day or so we mostly understood, and Ethan confirmed they were indeed practising a number of pieces for a concert of some description!

We became even more excited when they said they would be singing at the Bridlington Spa (hello theatre performance!) and yesterday my mum and I had the pleasure of going along to see them.

It wasn’t anything like what we had thought … all of us were expecting to see their school on stage singing and dancing, and they too thought that’s what they were doing. In actual fact there was a live band and music director on stage leading about 10 different schools (made up of key stage 1) in a “big sing” of songs they had all independently being learning. It was so random and funny!

We sat on the balcony and cheered and laughed whilst the little voices rose up sounding absolutely gorgeous. We watched them wiggle, twirl, clap and beam. We tapped our toes and waved along, and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of music and positivity.

For the last couple of weeks we have thoroughly enjoyed being serenaded with duets from Ethan and Megan at home and out and about at train stations and parks – It has been great. I love to hear my kids sing and see them dancing, and I love to have music in our lives and let go together. I love the ordinary moments of feeling joy and free, unified by musical beats!

Little big sing wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was a breath of fresh air from everyday life to be in a hall with live musicians and the joyful spirits of kids filling the air. What a wonderful way to spend a Monday afternoon. Roll on next year and let’s make this a tradition and ordinary moment of Summer!

The Ordinary Moments
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I sit and hold Alice on my chest like I do every other day as she nestles down to go off to sleep. I love these quiet moments in the evening when all is still and I have time to just reflect. The world and its problems have been weighing heavily upon me for a few weeks now and I wonder if there is something I can do to help when so many are suffering. I am very much aware of how scary a thought it is to be raising children in a world with so many problems, but as I look down on her, my precious 2 month baby, my thoughts race away to the future anyway like they do with each of my children periodically; who will they be, what will they do and become in life? Nothing is guaranteed and if they are anything like me they will change their minds a hundred times and then never do any of the things they imagined. But one things for certain which I always feel overwhelmed by and that is how blessed we are to live in a place where they can pretty much be who they want to. A land and part of the world where we enjoy free education and numerous pathways to achieve what we want in life. I haven’t felt that immense gratitude much in my life until becoming a school mum and then that appreciation for what my kids can have has increased, and more so over the last 2 weeks it really has hit home and I feel different, I feel so grateful and I also feel like I want to do more…

It began 2 weeks ago when as a family we were so incredibly uplifted and touched by a performance from “The Singing Children Of Africa”. What started off as a family night out for a cultural experience, turned into a moment that touched my heart, made me very much aware of lives comparisons for them and my own children and a moment that made me want to do more. Their presence and singing was so touching to us that we have seen them twice again since and loved every second, with Megan dancing in the aisles and singing along and me moving at the back whilst trying to calm Alice. Their music is so feel good and their love for life is infectious. And then you hear their stories and are blown away by their determination and courage. I guess most would look upon them and say, but what have they to be happy about when they come from such poverty?! Why sing and dance and smile even when life has dealt you what it has?

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But whilst these kids come from a small village in Kenya, with no material means, living in conditions we only see on TV, they have been taken by the good people at Educate the kids and given an opportunity for Education and a meal each day…some for a home and security via their orphanage and others a career through their teacher training programme. They have been given a future, hope and dreams. Each one has their own story from loosing parents to being too poor for state education. Parents abandoning them and loosing siblings too. Others walk 3 or 4 miles a day to school each morning and some are raised by people too sick to do anything. But one thing they all have in common is this love for life, a smile on their face and desire to learn. The things we moan about and take for granted without even realising it are the things that bring them the greatest joy.

My love for these kids and this charity began with that simple first concert; a feel good evening of African music performed by some incredibly talented children, on tour to raise awareness and money…and on the surface it is just that. But when we opened our hearts and ears and listened and saw beyond the handmade beautiful traditional costumes and the fun they bring, when we looked beyond the drums and dancing we saw the people, the individual, the child. Children just like ours but born into different circumstances and human beings destined for a life that would kill us if it was the future of our children. Stories of girls having babies in early teens and dying from the conditions they are to labour in. Boys caught up in crime and all sorts or responsible for the financial care of a whole family, yet all of them saved by an education.  Something we are given freely, something we have at times begrudgingly done. So whilst I adore the music these kids have given (to the point of buying their CD and seeing them 3 times!) and loved the time as a family we have spent in these moments smiling, singing along, moving and dancing. I cannot hear their story and not be moved to help even just one, and so in memory of Poppy this year we have chosen to be sponsors and as a family to save another child from such an unknown future. For £11 a month we can give them a uniform, books, education and food. But more importantly we can help them to have a better future…we can give them dreams and hope. I cannot change the worlds problems but I can change the world for the one.

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 I truly love these moments in life when you find things that not only lift your soul, but truly inspire you too. Moments where you come away feeling great and yet determined to change and do more and be better. Feel good moments but thought provoking too… They are rather infrequent in life I guess, not the most ordinary thing, but woven into it to help us be better and do more; such a mix of emotions going on yet there is one thing for certain…you are never the same again. Iv’e had these moments when each of my children were born, at the odd film or theatre production or talk at church, they touch you deep into your heart and call for action and I thank the beautiful spirits of the Singing Children of Africa for giving these moments to our whole family over the last couple of weeks!

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This video does not do them justice, but to me its so poignant..enjoy! As always linking up with Katie @mummydaddyme for #ordinarymoments!

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I think that I, like most parents with school aged kids, have this week been the spectators of beautiful and varying performances of the Christmas story.  I always loved drama at school, from a young age I enjoyed being in school plays and performing and it fills me to bursting to see that Ethan too carries this interest and gets into it and that so very much made my week to see my oldest yet still so little boy up on stage, beaming and singing oh so loudly as a he performed with the rest of his reception class “A little Nativity”!
WP_20151210_09_35_19_ProFor the last few weeks we have enjoyed listening to Ethan as he has demonstrated and performed sections of this play that they were rehearsing for “all of the parents”… He loves to sing, he loves music and apparently now loves to dress up on a stage too. I was blown away by his confidence and pure delight as he sat there in the spotlight and almost perfectly sang all that he had practised.
IMG_1642As soon as I saw all of the little one in their costumes enter the hall, my heart filled up. It was such a lovely sight. And then came the moment for the opening song and I had to bite my bottom lip and clear my throat so as not to be an emotional wreck! Ethan was a shepherd along with 3 other boys, each with a sheep in between them. He told me he was a special shepherd because he noticed that he was the only one with a white furry waistcoat – I love that he bigged up his part!! Their play showed a very simple performance of the Nativity to a series of fun and lively songs, which you couldn’t help but clap along or tap your feet to. It was brilliant.
WP_20151210_09_35_17_ProThey did 2 performances and Grandma and Grandpa Smith came with me to one, and Daddy to the other. He was delighted to have his family there and I loved the odd little wave and thumbs up he sneakily did between songs in our direction… it was such a fun hour spent at his school and celebrating their hard work. How do 4 & 5 year olds remember the words and actions to so many songs? I am blown away! I often cannot believe we are already in the School years, but more so I cannot believe how much I adore and getting excited over all of these ordinary moments of Assemblies, fairs and now Nativities. Its an ordinary part of parenting I am very much loving!
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I believe that healing from the loss of a child is a very slow, even life long process. I recognise that it is something I will feel in my soul probably for the rest of my life, and whilst that is a hard realisation, it also means that I can not be so hard on myself if I suddenly become emotional or have a terribly painful day, because to erase the pain completely would mean to loose the memory of my daughter, and I would never wish for that! And so we learn to live with the niggling pain as best we can, for healing is in controlling the pain and having the courage to live a full life despite it, not erasing the pain completely.

My healing has been in small portions, a rocky journey where I have done things which have required the courage to step out of my safety net and then in return I have had glimpses of hope that as time goes on and life brings us new things/experiences, that things will be easier, things will be less intense and more joy will be restored to us. But Yes, courage is the key…without torturing yourself or sending your progress backwards, often healing comes in the moments and events when you take a step of courage to do something you would otherwise avoid because of what it means and reminds you of!
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It took me a lot of courage to recently welcome a pals new baby girl into the world, and whilst I was so very happy for them, seeing her wasn’t something I was immediately able to do, and I recognise that that is because she is the 1st baby girl so close to us since loosing Poppy! I just needed a bit of time and I needed to muster a lot of courage, but that’s really okay…its a first and I have leant that firsts take time! Whilst I do feel very happy for her family, and excited for them that she is here safe and looking so lovely, that she has made my friend a mother again, I know more time will be needed to feel completely at ease with it all as I still have a lot of moments of intense awkwardness around her and an inability to know how to act around such a little baby girl (I often feel like an alien)!

But the courage needed for that, whilst a lot, wasn’t as major as the thing that required my courage to a greater degree just a month ago, when we read of the heartache and tragedy that a family friends baby had died during labour. Baby Faith was a healthy and beautiful little girl, but for some unknown reason was taken home before she was born…I remember the pain of this news when we had been somewhat prepared that it was a possibility, but to be expecting a healthy baby and to have them born sleeping is a complete tragedy!

This type of news is heartbreaking to anyone that hears of it, but when you have lived this nightmarish hell yourselves, you immediately return to the moment of silence and intense soul wrenching pain when you were told your own baby had no heart beat. To then hear of it happen to someone you know, and watch them weighed down by the all too familiar burden of baby loss, well the sadness is almost paralysing that someone else has had to hear those words too!

I wept for this mother, and whilst I barely knew her on a personal level like others in our family, I just wanted to be with her and help her, my heart understood and we had an instant connection! We messaged one another and in her pain and grief she also was a strength to me in my own stage of grief as we shared poems, pictures, quotes and understanding! I believe I was in some way a little guidance and comfort to her and was able to celebrate her gorgeous daughter despite the immense tragedy surrounding her birth, and whilst I hate the circumstances that created a friendship, I am grateful for her strength and words too as we stay connected on this difficult journey.

The following week, despite much anxiety, I felt the need to be at the funeral. A lot of people thought it was a bad idea, and others thought I was the key to what they needed? Either way it was what I wanted…I wanted to show that my support was not merely words and that she was not alone, that her feelings were indeed understood and that as I had been where she was a year ago, I knew too well how hard and unfair it all felt to be burying your baby only a week after their birth.

I was in awe of their courage to perform that service to their baby and for the duration of what was a lovely funeral (despite the circumstances) it was like being a spectator of our own funeral as I saw pink flowers, a white casket and the same music to bring her in to, but I was surprised that amidst it all I held it together, yes I shed tears but never sobbed as I watched. I think I have learn’t to suppress those intense emotions, until later and so I was able to support, to hug and then I left… I felt the weight of the day tremendously in the days following, but no where near as much as I know they would have. I recognised that though it was hard and felt so fresh for me too, I had come so far to be able offer some condolence to another bereaved mother. I was healing and to be able to do all of that meant I had made some progress in this seemingly never ending journey.
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Just 2 weeks later we found ourselves at the bedside of an elderly man from church that had recently passed away, and it surprised me how at ease I felt in that scenario. I felt strength to chat to his brother that wept, and to hold his hand. I then felt strength to help with funeral plans and I also felt strength to accept the invitation to sing at the funeral. I am not a great singer, but I do okay with hymns at church, and again I felt surprised by the peace I felt doing this not far from the coffin with some other ladies and then strangely found myself agreeing to a solo on one verse?!
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I know for a fact that even a few months ago a funeral of an adult, let alone a baby would have been way too hard, or to see a new baby girl or hold a baby boy, or buy baby gifts for friends and family would have all been too much. I still cry over these things at times as they trigger the pain of my loss, but that is natural and I am happy I am not bitter and do have the strength to be genuinely happy in person and celebrate others happiness and then to be a support in sadnesses too! But when I think or ever consider if I could stand near a coffin and sing ?? NO WAY that certainly would have always been out of the question!! But again I am grateful that with some time, with a change in my heart and with time on my side, I have found a strange ability to talk about it and be a strength to others in their moments of loss and not just to be able to celebrate with people their births and pregnancy’s which I thought would be the bigger challenge.

I have noticed that healing is evident by how you can share your story with less rawness, how you can support others that are at the start of this and how you can do things that perhaps a year ago (or even weeks ago) were just too hard. It is a step by step process where confidence in areas of life returns, anxieties over babies and baby things reduce, joy is restored and you begin to be courageous in areas that you once would have completely avoided. I for once, in a long time, have an increase of hope in the promise of sunshine after the storm, because I am gaining the courage to do things that heal!

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