More days of happy: Celebrating Thomas

Being mindful of being the best Auntie I can be:

Living back in my childhood home while I heal and recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, one of the things I am most grateful for is being able to spend time with my young nephews.

They are such a joy to be around.

And I am grateful for how they are both a constant reminder to live fully in the present moment.

When I spend time with each one of the little munchkins, I make sure that I fully engage with him, giving him my full attention. I believe this to be one of the most important gifts you can give a child. Well actually, I think it’s one of the most important gifts you can give anyone. But anyway…

The bite-size chunks of time I spend with them – before I get too tired and have to go and rest – is really precious, and has become an essential part of my healing journey.

They make me smile, they make me laugh, they make my heart melt, and they make my heart sing.

Today is my Thomas’ 4th birthday. (It took some convincing for him to be happy with turning four, as he really wanted to be five, but we all convinced him that being four is the BEST).

His mummy and daddy took the day off work to take him and his older brother to a farm park for a day of hardcore play. And we were invited round later for birthday dinner and cake, as the little birthday boy clutched his Teddy and fought to keep his eyes open. Bless him.

I’d made him a special birthday card, a photo collage in the shape of a number four filled with memories of the last year.

Thomas' 4th birthday card

Pressie wise, I’d bought him the Stick Man book and DVD. Over Christmas, I’d recorded the BBC adaptation of this adorable story about a happy-go-lucky Stick Man who tries to find his way back to his family in the treehouse, having many adventures along the way.

Thomas absolutely loves it and we look out for Stick Man whenever we go on a soul stroll by the brook. I wrote a little story about our own adventure and stuck it inside the book.

Stick Man story
On the days my parents look after Thomas, we have moments of such fun and I deeply treasure the bond we’ve formed.

He has a beautiful caring side too. Yesterday as I was resting in bed, he came in to see me. He said he wanted to make me feel better and so climbed into my bed and snuggled up to me, wrapping both arms around me: it worked.

Later, he discovered emoticons on my iPhone and when my phone ‘died’, he said he’d go to the phone shop in his “super fast shoes” to buy me a new one. He even got his money box out and headed to the front door. I managed to stop him and we spent the next half hour happily playing imaginary phone shop (if only I really could buy the new iPhone for 14p 🙂 ).

There’s so many precious moments to treasure with both my nephews, and I hope they’ll be many many more.

Happy 4th Birthday Sweet Thomas


Day 73: Yahtzee!

Being mindful while playing Farm Yatzy with Callum and the family:

As I’m still struggling with my energy levels, I’ve been trying to take today easy knowing we have a full-on afternoon with the boys and our evening family dinner.

As I was resting in my bedroom, the first little munchkin appeared wanting to play. I managed to coax him into snuggling up and watching ‘Paw Petrol’, the most my energy levels could manage. A little later, munchkin number 2 came in and the three of us watched the heroic puppies save the day over and over. Perfect. And the longest I’ve seen them sitting nice and quietly for quite a while!

Later, after our family dinner, Callum asked if we could all play Farm Yatzy, the game I’d bought him for his birthday. Although I needed to rest, how could I resist?

Yahtzee has been a firm family favourite in our house for years and years. It’s our go-to game at Christmas-time and on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

For the uninitiated, it’s a “seductive game of luck and strategy” and players have three rolls of the dice to rack up points in 12 scoring categories, including the elusive Yahtzee – rolling five of the same number.

It’s seriously addictive and oodles of fun.

Hearing through a friend about Yahtzee for kids, I searched and searched and finally found ‘Farm Yatzy’. I honestly don’t know why they spell it differently, but it took me ages to find it!. Anyway, it has farmyard animals instead of numbers and a slightly easier scoring system.


And Callum absolutely loves it.

Especially as the first time we played, he scored two Yahtzee’s in one game which is incredibly rare. And it makes my heart so happy that now, every time he’s comes to our house, he wants to play it. Again. And again.

It’s wonderful and so much better than him being attached to his device playing computer games.

So, after dinner tonight we all sat down to play a couple of games, including his mummy and daddy.  It was priceless to see the joy on Callum’s face.

It was brilliant for all of us to enjoy this family fun time together, rather than all disperse to our different corners of the house, which usually includes the boys running around noisily getting up to all kinds of mischief!

After a couple of games – which I’d come second and then first, just saying (as I’m usually much further down the leader board) ☺️ – I wearily climbed the stairs with a huge big smile on my face and knew it was worth using up every last ounce of my energy.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while playing Farm Yatzy with Callum and the family.

Day 67: Callum’s 7th birthday

Being mindful of being a good Auntie to Callum on his birthday, and beyond:

My mum always spoils us on our birthdays. My sister and I grew up feeling extra special on our birthdays as mum showered us with her love and kindness, and she still does.

And I still love being a birthday princess a few decades on 🙂

I also like to spoil my loved ones on their birthdays too.

Today is my nephew Callum’s 7th birthday and even though I’m unable to shower him with extravagant gifts, I can shower him with my love and attention, and try to be the best Auntie I can be.

We FaceTimed him this morning before school to sing Happy Birthday, and it was lovely to see him looking so happy and excited.

Later, after Mum had picked the birthday boy up from school, he excitedly tore open our pressies. I’d also made him a special birthday card, creating a number 7 filled with lots of photos of him. I was over the moon at his reaction when he first saw the card: “WOW” he exclaimed wide-eyed and open-mouthed. And I got another WOW when he turned over to see more photos of him I’d printed on the back. Bless.

Callum 7th birthday card

As the rest of the family arrived, we played a variety of games, being mindful to let the birthday boy choose which ones, and I even attempted a game of ping-pong with his new table tennis kit. He proudly showed us his main pressie, an amazing robot. The remote-controlled Robosapien dances, burps, does karate, kicks and speaks fluent caveman among other things. It was especially funny to see his younger brother Thomas dancing along.

Callum's robot

We ordered a Chinese meal as Callum adores Chicken Chow Mein and Prawn Toast. As we all went to sit at the table, I asked Callum where he wanted to sit: “Next to you” came his reply. Heart-melt moment. Then, as Thomas arrived, he had a tantrum as he wanted to sit next to me. So after a bit of shuffling, I was the proud Auntie sandwiched between my two munchkin nephews.

After dinner it was time to blow out the candles on his birthday cake: a fabulous Ninja Turtle cake with candles shaped in the number ‘7’.

Ninja Turle cake

Soon after, it was time for Auntie Helen to go home and rest up, as I was feeling exhausted and also still suffering with my cold symptoms.  I feel really happy that Callum has enjoyed his birthday celebrations and is looking forward to going bowling with some friends on Sunday.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful of being a good Auntie to Callum on his birthday, and beyond.

Day 54: Leaf rubbing fun

Being mindful by getting crafty with my nephews:

Today I bravely stepped into the unknown… craft time with both my young nephews, at the same time! As their mummy’s birthday is coming up, I thought it would be nice to make her birthday cards with them.

Trying to think of ideas that would engage their attention, I was inspired by photos of a dear friend leaf rubbing with her little girl. Aha I thought, the perfect idea to make craft time interactive and fun with my highly energetic nephews, and a great way to combine nature and art.

Ok, so here we go.

Step 1: Collecting leaves. Enlisting my mum as Chief Craft Assistant, we started off by taking a short stroll to find some fallen leaves. It was lovely to be outside with the boys and watch them joyfully running around looking for the “biggest leaves ever”. Needless to say, we all wandered home happily, little hands full of autumn leaves.

joyful nephews collecting leaves

So far so good.

Step 2: Leaf rubbing fun. Not having done this since childhood, I had a sneaky test-run earlier in the day and thought I’d make a batch of ready-made art in case the boys didn’t want to do it. But thankfully, I didn’t need to use them as they loved it. Callum carefully placed the leaves onto the paper and got stuck in using the rainbow of crayons. Thomas was mesmerised by what happened when he coloured on the plain sheet of paper on top of the leaves. “It’s magic” he excitedly shouted out, as the delicate shapes, textures and vein structure of the leaves came through brightly and vividly.

Callum placing leaves ready on paper

Doing really well so far.

Step 3: Drawing around hands. One of Thomas’ favourite things to do is drawing round his hands, so this was a doddle. Getting him to stop was not so easy! Callum enjoyed it too. The boys watched in wonder as Auntie Helen cut out their colourful paper hands and stuck them onto the front of the cards.

Step 4: Adding words. For three-year-old Thomas’ card, I put a crayon in his hands and guided him to write “Happy Birthday Mummy, love Thomas”. As we drew the kisses, he sweetly blew a kiss to each ’X’. He then insisted we draw around his hand again inside the card, and also around his favourite car – which I had to draw wheels. headlights, and ALL the artwork on the car, including “lots of stars” and the number 88.

Thomas writing in mummy's card

For six-year-old Callum’s card, he wanted to write the words himself. He asked me to write them out on a separate piece of paper so he could copy. When I asked what he wanted to write, he earnestly replied: “You are the best mummy.”  Heart-melt moment. He also added: ”Happy Birthday Mummy, love Callum” and “Hope you have a nice day”. He then covered the inside of the card with lots of big kisses. It was extra heart-melty as Callum usually isn’t that interested in crafts, so it was special to see him putting so much care and attention into his writing.

Callum carefullly writing in mummy's card

And we have success!

birthday cards

We agreed to keep it a big secret and give their cards to mummy after dinner. During dinner, Callum whispered to me when were we going to give his card to mummy; he was so excited to give mummy his card, bless him.

Step 5: Presenting their creations.  Carrying their artwork into the room hidden behind their little backs, they proudly gave mummy their handmade birthday cards. It was such a sweet moment and my sister seemed touched and promised to treasure them.

This crafty session with the boys turned out to be the BEST fun, not only for them but for me too. (And worth having to spend tomorrow in bed to recover!). It is one of my most favourite and most treasured times with my little nephews.

I also loved hearing that on their walk home later, as they passed the place where we’d picked the leaves, Thomas asked his daddy if they could stop and pick some more leaves… awwwww!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful by getting crafty with my nephews.

Day 45: Turbo Thomas Time

Being grateful for turbo Thomas time:

I. Am. Exhausted.

But, very happy.

Due to the recent family holidays, today was the first time we’ve looked after my three-year-old nephew in four weeks.

And I’d forgotten what a tornado Thomas can be.

He’s just started going to nursery in the mornings, so we now only have him from noon, with his older brother Callum arriving after school at 3:30pm.

After an hour or so inside with his Granddad, Thomas came out to join me in the garden, and it was time for some serious fun.

In the short space of around 45 minutes we covered: chalk art on the patio; hopscotch – going up to 28 under Thomas’ strict instructions, we’d have gone much further if the garage door hadn’t got in the way; blowing and catching bubbles; chasing his own shadow; and running fast around and around and around in circles with me chanting ‘Go Thomas!”.


I was thankful for a short break while he devoured one of my healthy ice creams (made with banana, strawberry, milk and love).

I was left feeling completely wiped out, but I loved every single minute of it.

I know I need to pace myself better next week, as I was too wiped out to play with Callum but thankfully I did manage some quiet reading time with him.

I adore these precious moments with my nephews, and make sure I give myself over to them during play time. I’m always conscious about being completely present with them (see Day 22 for more on this). I wholeheartedly believe it’s the biggest gift I can give them and I know they appreciate it as much as I do.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for turbo playtime with Thomas.



Day 22: Child’s play

Being mindful while playing with my nephews:

Today we have my two young nephews here. Ages three and six. All day long.

While I absolutely love playing with the little munchkins, I’m usually wiped out after half an hour or so and have to go and rest. So I try to make every second I spend with them count.

The eldest Callum is really into doing mazes at the moment. I’d printed a few off for him so we could sit together and have some quiet, creative time.

Of course, little Thomas wanted to get in on the action and climbed onto my lap. And while Callum got stuck into helping the dragon find his egg, Thomas scribbled on a dot-to-dot.

It was a precious half hour spent.

I always try to make sure I am fully present when I am with them. That I am Mindful Auntie Helen instead of Distracted Auntie Helen. I listen to what they have to say and I devote my whole attention to them and what they want to do.

I truly think one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your full attention, adults and children alike. Especially when we live in a society that is very much attached to our smart phones and bombarded with distractions from every direction.

I sense that the boys appreciate it too. So much so, that later in the day Callum excitedly burst into my room to tell me what they’d just got up to in the park, and Thomas declared me his best friend when his mummy came to collect him.

Heart melt moments.

My nephews are also my inspiring teachers. They live and play wholeheartedly in the present moment.

Like when Thomas hears music, he leaps up to dance around with unabashed freedom. Or a minute after crying uncontrollably, he is playing happily, all previous upset forgotten.

And like when Callum wants me to play with him, he means now, not “in a bit”.  Or when he plays his computer games, he completely disappears into that moment.

Unlike adults, children don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, and this is one of the biggest lessons I am learning on my recovery journey.

It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes about living in the present moment:

“What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.
― A.A. Milne

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while playing with my nephews.