Pregnancy is very often seen as a time of delight, of celebrations, of looking forward and revelling in the fact that you are about to bring a little life in to this world. Family and friends are thrilled, and all the talk around you is of good things to come.
But…..what if you just aren’t feeling quite so upbeat? What if, despite the fact that this was either what you wanted, or a welcome surprise, you just feel, well, out of sorts? Maybe a bit down? A feeling of flatness? Or of worry? Or guilt?
I have been there. Despite being over the moon about being pregnant, I have experienced the kind of moods that did not seem to fit with the very exciting thing that was happening inside my body.
The kind of moods that make it difficult to give my children the patience that they deserve.
The kind of moods that make me want to hide away at home when I am usually such a social creature.
The kind of moods that mean my husband does not know exactly who this wife is that he comes home to every night.
I do love writing these posts as it can be so easy to just keep rushing forward through life without ever really looking around and taking the time to appreciate the moments in life that are happening RIGHT NOW and deserve a little of our attention.
However, I do think it these monthly updates could do with a bit of a catchier name – every time I write the title I decide I’m going to come up with something better and so far, nothing. I shall keep thinking, because reflections and plans is waaaay too much of a mouthful I reckon.
So March. March was a biggie, mostly because we had two major family events – Theo’s birthday (the big 2) and my nerve wracking twelve week scan.
Theo’s birthday first. My gorgeous gorgeous laid back sweet boy. I know everyone says this about their children getting older, but I can’t ACTUALLY believe he is two. How on earth did those years fly past so quickly?! I am both terrified by the speed of passing time and proud to see how he has grown and developed, and how his character is really shining through.
We had decided for various reasons to keep this birthday low key – we don’t really do parties until the party requests start (copping out big time I know, but we’ve had no complaints yet!). However, we do think it is important to mark the day and make it super special in lots of little ways.
Big brother Archie was very much involved in the planning and after Theo had chosen the birthday theme of ‘green’ away we went to do some ordering. Luckily, Party Pieces has a section where you can order by colour (handy) which made it much easier to handle our first joint internet shopping session!!
I basically gave Archie free rein to order what he liked (within a budget, obvy), so the result was a cacophony of greens, not all of which coordinated but both boys were super happy and at this age I reckon that’s all that matters!
We had birthday pancakes for breakfast and then set off to take the bikes to Grange over Sands promenade – one of very few easy flat areas round these parts. Amazingly the sun shone, the air was warm and we were able to eat lunch outside at the lovely café on the prom which was just ace. After what feels like a lifetime of rain round here it was perfect timing for the sun to show its face!
The birthday boy and his daddy xx
Two days later was the scan. I was, needless to say, slightly terrified due to my miscarriages last year, and I had had a bit of a word with myself to prepare me incase we didn’t see what we were hoping for on the screen.
Happily, the radiographer found the little heartbeat immediately, and it was almost straight away that we could see the baby’s little arms, legs, spine and head. It was busy busy, moving around all the time, and we got a good long look at it doing its thing in there. Honestly, relief doesn’t even cover it, we were so so delighted and excited to see our baby for the first time.
We know at this point that things still could go wrong, that a twelve week scan doesn’t mean that everything will go to plan, but this is further than we’ve ever got since Theo was born so we are choosing to embrace the happiness that it is bringing and not let ourselves use too much energy worrying about what might happen. After all, what will be will be and right now it is lovely to enjoy the fact that things are ok.
Also in March, we had a fab Mother’s Day trip to Wray Castle (I seriously love this place) where they were holding a Children’s Book Festival. We were lucky enough to get tickets to the author event for Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam (have you read it? If you’ve got little kids, you DEFINITELY should). I’ll put a blog post up about the author event as it deserves some attention, it was BRILLIANT! And Wray Castle was as awesome as ever – if you’ve never been and you get a chance to come to the lake District with children I would recommend it – its National Trust and designed completely with children in mind. Like I said, more in another post as I could go on ALL DAY about the place.
All ready for the Shifty McGifty author event!
Also worth a mention – we sneaked in a very beautiful Sunday morning in the sun at Fell Foot Park, on the shore of Lake Windermere. This place was really badly flooded in December and is almost up and running again, and it was so so nice to see it with the sun shining. The adventure playground is brilliant, and we can’t wait for the warmer weather when we can take our big dinghy down and go out for some adventures on the lake.
Some local photobombing going on here!
Lastly, Easter. After all the excitement early on in March, I suppose it was almost inevitable that the boys would pick something up, and they were really quite poorly in the week before Easter. So our weekend was very quiet, but luckily the Easter bunny remembered to pop by and left a little egg hunt in the house which went down a storm.
Now, looking ahead and making plans – April is set to be fairly quiet but this is no bad thing after such a busy March. Time to breathe, relax and enjoy being at home a little bit more.
We are off to Liverpool with friends later in the month for one of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s family events. I am so so excited about this but I have no idea how the boys will react – Archie loves live music so I’m hoping it will go down well but I hope Theo isn’t too overwhelmed, he is really quite little still.
We have plans to visit the seaside to see family, it feels like a while since we’ve set foot on a beach so I can’t WAIT to get back to the sea. We are hoping for ice cream weather so thinking positive about more sunshine!
Also, we find out this month which school our biggest boy will be going to. ITS ALL TOO SOON!!!! I am excited for him but also PLEASE SLOW DOWN TIME!!!
Lastly, I may or may not have spent the last couple of nights browsing last minute holidays……we had said that perhaps this year we would hold off on the holidays and concentrate on the new baby and the search for our project house……but the rainy weather and the lure of sunshine is very strong at the moment…….
Enjoy April everyone!!
We spent a glorious family holiday in The Algarve to celebrate my husband’s BIG birthday (I’m totally sure he won’t mind me sharing that) and were lucky enough to stay in two places; the first being a week with friends. Here is a little look at that first week in Tavira.
Last year was pretty travel heavy, what with my New Year’s Resolution to Just Do Stuff and Paul turning 40. We visited some new places, but decided that in honour of the BIG birthday, we would revisit some old favourites, to allow for opportunities to reflect on holidays past and to see these places with a new perspective, with two littles in tow.
High on the list, and the place for the actual birthday celebrations, was the Algarve. We have been here many times, mainly thanks to our dear dear friends Katie and Mike. Katie first introduced me to Vilamoura back in the day when we were students, when a group of us girls actually received our degree results in 2002 from a payphone in the old town*, followed by a cheeky cocktail or two by the marina.
* Can you even imagine that happening today? And it doesn’t even feel like that long ago. Sigh.
Our heart has never strayed far from The Algarve, and it was almost inevitable we would head there to celebrate Paul’s (big) birthday with our dear friends, only this time with children! How times have changed….Anyhow, we booked this fabulous villa with Jacaranda Holidays who were brilliant.
We chose Tavira as we wanted somewhere a little quieter, away from a lot of the hustle and bustle and business of the Algarve in August. Tavira is a small town in the east of the Algarve, and is one of the less well known destinations, particularly with British tourists.
Only one thing niggled me – the dates we could all get together meant we weren’t going to be over there for Paul’s actual birthday. It would be lovely to celebrate early, but even better if we could be away somewhere for the actual day. So, in true Me style, I sneakily booked an extra four days away for us, in Lagos, where we had had so much fun in our twenties.
Here is the Tavira part of our holiday, where we stayed for a week.
Our villa was AMAZING. I had been slightly concerned about our two families sharing one villa, and how we would avoid getting under each others feet over a whole week, but I needn’t have worried. It was huge! Enough room for each family to have a floor each and then a massive living space, which was a beautiful kitchen/dining/living room.
We spent most of our time in the beautiful gardens, which were rich in colour and scent and surrounded the house. Citrus and fig trees meant we could eat freshly picked fruit still warm from the August sun, it was just divine. And if we weren’t in the gardens, we were in the pool.
A barbecue and a roof terrace meant that after the children were asleep we could cook and eat outside, then watch the sun set over the countryside with the obligatory Superbock and Mateus Rose (yep, for reals. Every night. We are that much of a Portugal cliché). These evenings were perfect for delicious food, good company and long overdue catch ups. It is worth noting here that our monitor (we took our video monitor) worked in every area of the gardens, so we could relax knowing that our children were perfectly ok.
We spent much of our time at Barril Beach which is in the middle of Ilhe de Tavira. The journey to the actual beach is a bit of an adventure, especially for kids, as after parking the car you access the beach by walking over a floating pontoon, where if you are lucky you can see all kinds of wildlife in the water and surrounding banks.
Then after this, the BIG DEAL (well at least in my family) – a miniature train ride!! Tickets are purchased at the small station from a VERY friendly train inspector and as there are two trains working to run to and from the beach the wait is never more than about ten minutes for the next one.
The train is great fun, but if you don’t fancy it there is a foot path that runs alongside the railway so you can walk (or run, if you are so inclined) to the beach. Or, if you are extra crazy, you can race alongside the train while your kids wave from the luxury of the shaded seats. One of us may or may not have done this at least once on our holiday (and it DEFINITELY wasn’t me!).
On arrival at the beach, the resort is very well equipped with shops and a variety of cafes and restaurants, and public easy to access bathroom facilities. The shops have EVERYTHING you may well have forgotten, so no need to stress without that beach towel/sunhat/bucket and spade. It was once a thriving tuna harbour, but all the buildings are now used for resort purposes and the only thing to mark it’s previous industry is the huge ‘anchor graveyard’ which you can look out for when crossing the deck to the beach.
And then, the beach. We went in August, so the peak of all peak times, and we always found a lovely spot. It really is a MASSIVE beach, and if you walk a little way left or right there is plenty of open space.
We decided against hiring sun loungers, as these are way back on the beach (in a small area too, so not too intrusive looking) in favour of setting up camp right near the sea so our littles could enjoy the water easily.
And enjoy it they did!! Well for us, Archie at 3 had the time of his life, running in and out of the waves, jumping around and generally loving every second of it! Theo, at 1 was much more cautious, and I think it took him a few days to work up the courage to try a paddle. He, however was more than happy to spend hours digging and filling up the bucket again and again and again.
Our friends have slightly older children, and the sea was just perfect for them, they spent their time swimming and testing out their water skills, they went in much deeper than I did!!
As for the adults, it was a real treat every day for one of us to do the coffee run, and enjoy coffees, pastries and (occasionally) a glance at a magazine here and there.
We generally left each day before the midday sun hit its peak (it really was CRAZY hot some days) and either went back to the villa for lunch or ate lunch under cover at one of the restaurants at the beach. A couple of the restaurants have small play areas for kids in the shade which helped massively when faced with very hot weather and very hungry children!
Tavira itself is a beautiful little town and really quite different from some of the more obviously touristy resorts along The Algarve. While much of the region is very popular with British holiday makers and the resorts have catered to this, Tavira appears to have made very few changes for the sake of the British tourist, and this I like very much.
Sidenote: I also love some of the other, much more ‘touristy’ towns, like the brash, unapologetic Vilamoura and the slightly bohemian Lagos; they all offer something different. It is just really nice to find yet another different place along the coast.
Tavira town centre is small and easy to negotiate, with some lovely cafes and restaurants lining the beautiful mosaic cobbled streets. One of our favourites is Aqua Sul where they managed to make pasta and pesto one of the most delicious meals I have ever tasted!
Elsewhere, the Chuch of Santa Maria de Castello with its beautiful clock tower is worth a visit, and the 7 arched medieval bridge is a major feature of Tavira. If the heat is bearable (not midday in August but pretty much any other time), it is well worth a wander round this pretty little town, to soak up the beautiful architecture, with beautiful doorways and windows on every street.
So that was our Tavira holiday. Amazing villa, a glorious beach and a lovely little town. Whats not to love?
So after lying low on social media and on here for quite a while, I am delighted to reveal that I am expecting baby number 3! The scan was a couple of days ago, and I was so over the moon to see a wriggling, moving, waving little babba in there.
This is a rainbow baby for us, after two miscarriages last year which laid me low for quite some time. So as you can imagine the weeks before the scan were filled with anxiety and worry – they felt like the longest few weeks in the world! And the relief at seeing what should be on the screen, actually on there is really hard to describe.
Currently I continue to feel rough, luckily no actual sickness but plenty of nausea and dizziness, lovely!! My main symptom however, is fatigue – proper, all consuming, haven’t got a chance of fighting it fatigue. Bedtimes have been ridiculously early and if I even sit down to read the boys a story in the afternoon I just can’t stay awake, whatever I try! This was just how I felt when pregnant with the boys and I can’t remember when it passed, I’m hoping its soon!
This fatigue has also meant the blog has taken a back seat for a couple of months, as my evenings have been non-existent. This has been frustrating at times but acceptance is key – this won’t last forever and I’m just so very happy to be in this position after the last year that I’m just going with it.
So there we are! Thirteen weeks pregnant and delighted. Expect a pregnancy element to the blog as I (hopefully) continue along this path – I reckon this will be our last baby so documenting the journey will be fabulous.
Now, I only say Lytham St Annes as that’s how people tend to have heard of this place, but really I am talking about St Annes on Sea in this post, which is its own little town with its own attractions. Lytham is a different town (and one of my faves) which is further down the Fylde Coast, and there is plenty of time to come to that another day. For now, St Annes it is.
I first fell in love with this place because of the beach. Dog walking means that you experience weather like nobody else really does, you can stumble upon the most glorious weather first thing in the morning or find yourself gazing at a beautiful sunset when taking them out for their final walk of the day.
This beach was where all of this happened and more. And every single time I felt better for being out there, no matter what the weather. The huge tides mean that often there are miles of sandy beach, and in winter you often have this to yourself. It is simply beautiful.
We took the boys there last week, and struck it lucky with the weather, it was freezing cold, but beautifully sunny. Not a day to sit and play, but a day for running wild, making footprints and finding shells, climbing sea walls and writing our names in the sand. PERFECT for two energetic little ones.
The pier is a gem. It is a gorgeous Victorian pier, and has been preserved beautifully, it looks stunning from the outside. On the inside, however, life gets a little more crazy. There are arcade machines and rides galore, and while the noise and bright lights are brilliant for lots of children, it can be a little overwhelming for little ones. If you are with someone who you know isn’t too good with over stimulation, I would advise caution.
Once through the arcade chaos however, the walk along the open pier is BRILLIANT. Our boys went crazy, running up and down again and again and again. The views of the Irish Sea are stunning, especially on a bright and sunny day, and it is well worth a visit.
Now, as for where to eat, there are plenty of choices in St Annes. An old favourite of ours is Tiggis which has been a family favourite for years and years (I highly recommend the calamari).
This time, we decided to try something completely different, and chose (on pleading requests from our eldest, backed up by our youngest once he realised what was going on) Carriages Café, which is an ACTUAL TRAIN you can sit inside and eat!!! Seriously, how to score brownie points with your children.
The café was warm and welcoming, which was just what we wanted after our bracing walk on the beach. The staff were super friendly even though it was clearly nearly the end of their day. The menu is VERY basic and traditional café food, and as we were so late it was limited even further, although this didn’t bother us as we only wanted a light meal/snack.
We ordered toasted sandwiches, chips and hot chocolates, very old school but just what was wanted in the weather, and it was all delicious. The boys were enthralled that we were eating in a train and spent their time looking around at all the fixtures and fittings, which were delightfully retro.
At the end of the day we changed the boys into their pjs in the back of the funbus (more on the funbus in an upcoming post) and set off for home. St Annes is about an hour from us so the hope was that they would fall asleep and we could pop them straight into bed, and it (amazingly) worked!
Seriously, St Annes is a brilliant day out and the plan is to return in the summer to see what more it has to offer. If it is anything like as good as it is in the winter, I’ll be more than happy.
We made it!!! Here we are at the start of February and I could not be more delighted! As winter draws in I always feel a little bit excited, all the cosy evenings, twinkly lights and festive celebrations. But after Christmas and New Year comes the loooooong month of January, with all the darkness and coldness that comes with it, and I find it a bit of a slog.
This year I learned my lesson from previous years, and remembered to plan quite a few different things in to try to help the weeks move a little more easily. And this was DEFINITELY the way to go – I am super proud of myself for being so organised and self-helpy!
This month I have said goodbye to the one and only cousin I have that I know, Joanna, who is jetting off this week to start a new life in Canada. After a couple of seasons out there where she worked as a ski instructor, Joanna took the plunge and applied for residency after meeting the love of her life, and late last year the amazing news came through that it had been granted!!
After you are awarded residency you only have a limited time to then move there, so flights were booked, items sorted and this week she flies with one (MAHOOSIVE) bag and a pair of skis to set up a new life in Whistler.
We have a VERY small family, with me and Joanna being the only ones in ‘our’ generation (even though I am, ahem, perhaps a little over 10 years older) and I will miss my partner in crime. When our grandma tries to feed us food until we explode, when our mums have waaaay too much wine together and when family is being, well, just family like, I could always count on a glance between us and we would just get it.
However, on the positive side, I now have a cousin in Whistler – woooohoooo!!!! I can see some serious plans being made for visiting in the not too distant future, just watch this space……
Betty’s in Harrogate is the usual place for a meet up with my uni friends, and we try and do this once a year. Its a bit of a trek for most of us but as we are all scattered everywhere, anywhere will be and as this place is just GORGEOUS, well it might as well be there!
There are five of us girls who used to live together and its pretty rare at the moment for us all to get together, the days of hen doos and weddings are a few years behind us and the baby years are upon us, and timing is always an issue. So this time there were three of us, and we were so excited to see each other we chatted (and giggled – inappropriately as ever) non-stop, so much so that all of us forgot to take a single photo!
I love these ladies so much, I can’t believe how long we have known each other, it feels like only two minutes ago that we were all sharing a house in Newcastle and getting ready to go out on a Friday night (well, afternoon) or stressing about assignments together. And here we are now, all mummies, all doing our thing but still in touch, because the best friendships are definitely worth the effort.
Emotional times this month, as the schools application deadline was upon us. I can’t actually believe it is time for us to be doing this, and that in September I won’t be seeing Archie for the majority of most weekdays.
I am so, so grateful that I have been able to stay at home with him since he was born, and I am determined to make the most of these days before school starts. He goes to nursery a few mornings a week but we have a couple of days where I have both boys home all day, and these are the days to make plans for. Now, if these storms would let up so I can actually get on with my plans please.
Speaking of the storms, we have TRIED to get outside as much as usual this month, but some stormy days have defeated us and we have spent those snuggled indoors with hot chocolates and films. Very much magic in their own way, but I find the indoor days much trickier overall and so much prefer when we can even get twenty minutes of fresh air.
Also this month, it snowed!! It snowed one evening, leaving a magic carpet of white to be discovered in the morning. It wasn’t loads, but enough for a snowman and a sledge around the streets, and when you’re little that is just perfect. I would like to order more of the snow and less of the driving rain and battering winds please!
Finally, of course there was our day out to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You can read all about this here but in summary, the day was magic. Hopefully the first of many live shows and events I can take these boys to, and I promise they won’t ALL be musicals!
Now, looking to February. It feels a real achievement to have just got here after the long slog of January!! I have become obsessed at looking at the sunrise and sunset times every day, and I’m just waiting for sunrise to happen earlier than 8:00am – it WILL be this month! (I’m also waiting for the sun to ACTUALLY rise here in The Lakes, but I’m optimistic for this month!)
Firstly, that night out with my husband – first cancelled due to illness and then due to snow!! It WILL happen this month, it will!
I’ve also got a very exciting weekend with one of my oldest friends in London – we both have two little boys and we’re both looking forward to some frivolous time away! We are so excited that we actually don’t know what to do with our time when we’re there, we are staying very centrally (near Trafalgar Square) so if anyone has any eating/drinking/shopping/anything suggestions then please feel free to help us out. Its all a bit dizzying – so much choice and so little time!
Obviously, we also have the celebration of LOVE to look forward to on the 14th – I love me a bit of Valentines Day. Me and Paul learned many years ago that trying to go out on or around the day does not suit us, we are far too immature and spend all of our time trying to spot first daters instead of being romantic.
I do, however, believe that its nice to make a little bit of time to celebrate the love in your life. So there will be cards, maybe a little present, and I’ll be doing a few Valentine’s crafts and baking things with the boys to make sure we appreciate the love we’ve got going on.
And finally, Paul has a cheeky week off this month, hurrah! Long overdue as he can’t really take much time at Christmas. So its day trips aplenty, trying to either beat or embrace the weather, and some good quality time together. I’m looking forward to spending some time all wrapped up on a wintry beach, and also making the most of our local area.
I hope you all have a fabulous February, and that your plans make time for happiness,
Most of the time, since I became a mother, I have been almost permanently alarmed at the rate at which things fly by, the sheer speed at which my tiny babies grow and become stronger and bigger, and more independent. While the days don’t always fly by, the weeks, months and years certainly do and I have tried so very hard to hold onto moments and enjoy things as they happen, rather than looking forward too much.
The phrase ‘I can’t wait until he can…..’ has been banned from being said in our house, to ensure we don’t wish the time away.
Apart from one thing.
Since becoming a parent, I have been dreaming of taking my boys to a show. Any show really, as long as it involves music and dancing and some sort of spectacular fabulousness. I LOVE a musical and couldn’t wait to share this with my children.
Archie has loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for a while now; he has watched the film a few times and, apart from the odd wobble when the Child Catcher is on (we fast forward those parts!), it is something he wants to see again and again. He pretends his cars are Chitty, he makes up stories about flying cars and even his birthday cake in December was Chitty themed.
So when I saw that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was touring the UK right through 2016, I decided to risk getting us matinee tickets, even though – and here lay the risk – I’d never even taken him to the pantomime. Or any live show. So this was a BIG one to start with. Eeek!!
And last weekend, we did it. It was a full on mummy and son day as we had quite a drive, so we loaded the car up with snacks and audio books and set off. We hardly EVER get this time together and I think we were both so ready and excited for it.
I found our way there thanks to my ever helpful sat nav, I usually find Leeds quite tricky but the West Yorkshire Playhouse proved fairly easy to find. Once we had found the playhouse, I decided not to risk losing it again by disappearing off into town for lunch so we had lunch in the restaurant, which was SUPER busy but had loads and loads of choices, perfect for a filling lunch for children.
We then went into the theatre. I decided to go in a bit early to get Archie used to his surroundings and to explain what would happen, how it would go dark and the stage would light up, etc. He seemed a bit apprehensive but relaxed a little with all the people watching we were able to do! He was also VERY proud when the staff came round with a booster seat for him – I think he felt all special (and he could definitely see better, and cope with the flippy chairs a bit more easily).
Then the show started. And it was BRILLIANT!!!! Really, really funny and entertaining and fast paced. We were fairly near the front so we both had a great view and Archie loved all the bits he recognised, especially the songs and of course the CAR!! There were parts in the show that weren’t in the film; a couple of songs were new and I think this baffled him a bit, but they ended up being my favourite parts so there really was something for everyone.
The show was split into two parts, of 1hr 15m and 50m. The break was helpful for restless legs and loo breaks, but after the interval Archie actually seemed more restless. I reassured him this was the shorter section and he settled into it, but when the Child Catcher came on he told me he wanted to leave. Serious dilemma. I really didn’t want him to stay and be scared but I had heard that the Child Catcher part was really short so didn’t want him to leave if it was all going to be over in two minutes.
As it was, after I asked him why he wanted to leave and he told me, and I had reminded him that the Child Catcher wasn’t real, but we could go if he wanted, the character was disappearing off stage so Archie chose to stay. And then he was DELIGHTED he had stayed, as there is a samba dance party on stage which is BRILLIANT and he, along with everybody else, loved it. It is definitely a show for everyone, there were a lot of children in the audience but also a load of adults, and I imagine the evening audiences would be way more adult heavy.
After the classic happy ending and the final bows, we made our way through the crowds outside and set off to find some food. It is about a ten minute walk into town from the playhouse, perhaps a little more with weary four year old feet. Our old favourite Pizza Express appeared before our eyes so we went in for a quick pizza.
We were just looking through the programme and chatting about our favourite bits (him: when the car flew and when they sung ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, me: the song ‘Act English’ – amazing) when who should walk in but the actor who had played Baron Bomburst!! I didn’t really know what to do, as he caught me staring at him with the programme in hand, so I just smiled and was very grateful he was seated round a corner!!
The day was rounded off with a piggy back back to the car, where I popped Archie in his pyjamas ready for the journey home. I drove all the way home in the snow and the rain (with only Dermot on Radio 2 for company, heaven) only to find myself skidding backwards down the hill next to my road as it was just too snowy.
I managed to park, and now my final memory of that day is carrying a sleepy boy through silent white streets as the snow came down gently on us. It was a magical end to a magical day, our first theatre trip together and one I will never forget.
At this time of year, reflecting and planning seems to take on something bigger, where you aren’t just considering a couple of months, but a whole year just gone as well as one to come. A new year can mean reflecting on whole life goals, what has been achieved and what is still to aim for.
People often talk about that strange time between Christmas and New Year, where no one knows what day it is and life is a never ending conveyor belt of food, Christmas films and lazy days. It is at this point that many people make their new years resolutions, or goals, or anti-resolutions, as their thoughts turn to the days that follow all the celebrations.
But here, in this house, we have two birthdays in those in between days, which makes for even more celebrating and extra fun times, but it is always a slightly crazy week with no time for reflecting and definitely no chance to make plans.
So for me, this week after New Year, when EVERYTHING is closed (what IS all that about?) is my time to look back, enjoy the memories and then start to plan for the upcoming year. It means I ease myself into it gently rather than feeling Jan 1st is an absolute cut off, the time when everything MUST start.
Going over the whole of 2015 is really not realistic for one blog post, but it has been lovely having the space to think about everything we have done, and looking back at the pictures. I can’t believe quite how much we have done!
Some highlights have included all the things planned to celebrate Paul’s 40th, which included holidays to Portugal, France and Cornwall, and celebrating with friends back home, it was a very busy year! Also trips to London, Bath and St Anne’s meant that we became pros at travelling with two small children (and they became pros at travelling with us!).
We also moved house, and while I still miss the incredible views from our last house (photo below for old times sake), life is so much easier now with the little ones in our new house. This isn’t a permanent move, but we think we will be here for a couple of years so we are doing our best to make it like home.
Another highlight has been starting this blog, I am so pleased I finally took the plunge. I love making this record and am embracing the steep learning curve that I am on to make it work – and it is VERY steep!! Plans are afoot for developments and improvements this year so watch this space….
Lastly, and most personally, 2015 was the year when the very best of my friends came through for me. The second half of the year brought its own heartache for me and my close, true friends shone through. I have come through it feeling like the luckiest person in the world for the friends I have around me, and of course for my special three boys at home.
So, with that (slight cheesy but true) recap of the year, here are some December highlights….
December, December, you were a funny old month. Although special times were definitely had by me and mine, I feel I can’t mention December without mentioning the horrendous floods that hit us at the start of the month.
Where I live, in Cumbria, my town was one of the first to be flooded, and so I think this was part of the reason it was so unexpected. We are used to rain here, and lots of it. So when everyone realised just how bad things were this time, it was too late for many people to do a single thing about it.
We are lucky enough to live at the top of a massive hill, so were completely unaffected ourselves, but we have several friends whose houses are destroyed, with radiators and doors ripped off by the force of the water which was beyond what I had ever imagined we would see here. People with children, who were unable to spend Christmas at home, people with dogs who are unable to find anywhere to rent that will accept them, and people with illnesses that have been made worse by the whole ordeal. Such sadness and worry at what is meant to be a time of joy and celebration.
However, and this is important, two things have revealed themselves during this time.
Firstly, the resilience of people. After the initial shock and sadness, I know many people have adopted an attitude of ‘well it could be worse’. There is a sense of persective, that compared to many people in this world they are doing ok. Many have friends or relatives to stay with temporarily, many are insured and it is a waiting game for both that and for the houses to dry out, and many are being helped out by the kindness of friends and strangers…….
Which brings me to the second thing to have emerged from all of this. The absolute kindness of seemingly EVERYBODY. From the night it all first happened when people were stopping by the evacuation centre to drop off clothes and instead taking home families with them to stay, to the farmers with tractors (amongst others) who worked in hideous conditions to get people to safety, to the offers of free work by local tradespeople, to the offers of free furniture for flood victims, to the people who took their vans down and cleared peoples destroyed items without a second thought, and many many more besides. It has been overwhelming and heartwarming to see and I have been incredibly proud of this little town.
December for me personally was a busy, busy time. The build up to Christmas is my favourite time and this was no exception. A nativity (amazing) and several Christmas parties dominated the last week of term, and then we had our annual school friend meet up, where more and more babies appear every year! Chaos but happiness was the order of the day and it was so good to catch up with old friends, the ones that have known me forever and ever.
As is now tradition, we visited the local charity Christmas Tree Festival, where there are over 50 trees all decorated by different charities. You buy tokens on entry, and then put the tokens in the buckets of the trees you want to donate to. This was a MASSIVE hit with the boys, who were donating all over the place!
We took the boys for their first visit to the Chill Factore, where they met Father Christmas and had the chance to play in snow, seeing as it looked like we weren’t going to get a white Christmas this year. The boys were super excited as we waited to see the big man, but as ever you can’t plan for these things and as soon as we got in there both boys were desperate to get back out into the snow and play!! The official photo of us all was HILARIOUS it was so bad (we didn’t buy it), but once we were back out in the snow the boys were in heaven. This has made us even more tempted to book a ski/snow holiday but I think we will wait just one more year……..
Christmas itself was lovely. Christmas eve set the tone, although we missed our local ‘carols on the green’ as the boys were past it and had to go to bed!! My favourite time of the big day with kids is first thing, where they come in to the bedroom, stockings are opened and the magic begins. The magic continued downstairs, where they were amazed by the note Father Christmas had left for them and the piles of presents just for them. It was brilliant.
The boys opening their book (and chocolate coin, obviously) advent.
We also had Archie’s birthday, which as I didn’t fancy hosting or organising a party a few days after Christmas and on my birthday too, I completely outsourced to Pizza Express. This was the best. move. ever. We just turned up (10am, so no one else around to worry about), and although we helped a lot with our own children, they ran the whole thing and the kids were amazing!! They made and ate their own pizzas, and we finished with a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cake made by a local cakemaker (again, not attempting this myself). Perfect!
Despite one of my New Years Goals being to slow things down a little, I seem to be completely booked up for January!! The calendar is full of lovely things though so I am looking forward to heading into the new year full of plans as ever.
Lunch plans with far away friends are first on the calendar, along with a night out with my husband. Neither of these things happen very often at all, so I am very, VERY excited about this.
Plans with family involve saying goodbye to my cousin, and while I am very happy that she is leaving the country to do what she wants to do where she wants to do it (she is basically skiing in Whistler, seriously), I will be so sad to say goodbye to the only cousin I know. But, but, holidays!
I am also taking Archie for his very first visit to the theatre, and for me this is BEYOND exciting. I love the theatre, and we are going to see the stage version of his favourite film, so I hope he will love it too. It will be a proper Mummy and Son date, with a long-ish drive, the show, tea out and then the drive back just us two. I am so so so looking forward to spending the time together, and I have been prepping him on what to expect, the darkness, noise etc, so I’m hoping he will be ok and won’t want to leave after the first ten minutes!!
Seriously, for a ‘quiet’ month there is an awful lot going on, but a calendar full of plans like this makes me happy, so I’m ready for it.
And with that, Happy January, and Happy New Year!
As the dark month of November draws to a close and a twinkly-lit December descends on us, I am taking the opportunity to start my Reflections and Plans posts. It is a chance to look back, and think about each month as it passes; all too often I find the days whizz past in a bit of a blur and if I’m not careful I think whole years could pass by without me stopping to take a breath.
It is also a chance for planning – one of my favourite things. I love making plans; it is said that a good portion of the joy in something is in the anticipation, so I embrace that fully and throw myself into it! Turning the page on the calendar and looking ahead to all the things planned with my friends and family makes my heart happy, and documenting it on here seems like a pretty natural progression. So……
Oh, November, you have been so dark and grey here. My overwhelming thoughts about November are that it really hasn’t got light at all, and I have become a complete weather bore as I despair more and more at the ever-present rain! We have been on flood alert several times in my town, although I live at the top of a MASSIVE hill so I’ve managed to avoid the worst of it. I am ready to do the nursery run without getting completely soaked now though – bring on the snow!! However, we did have a few days where the weather outdid itself and we definitely made the most of it.
Also (and I promise this isn’t meant to be a doom and gloom post, honest) we have been hit hard by November bugs here. The boys mainly, who are only really starting to recover. We had to cancel a birthday party and a weekend meet up with my university friends and our families which was a real shame. This, along with the grotty weather, has meant a LOT of cosy afternoons on the sofa with a film, which has been lovely but we are all now ready to get outdoors asap!
But aside from the weather and the bugs, some loveliness has happened over the month. We made a visit to my Grandma’s house, where she spoiled us with food (amazing) and we managed to get outside – sweeping leaves, blowing bubbles and picking the very last tomato of the year in the greenhouse. Her garden is pretty fabulous and we love spending time there, whatever the weather. We came home with some child-sized outdoor brushes for the boys to use in our garden, and they have very much been put to good use!
I also had a lovely night out with some friends – people who I met when I was pregnant with Archie. We FINALLY have a decent cocktail bar here, so obviously we met there and then went on to a tapas(ish) restaurant (complete with sombreros and moustaches, yep, really) where they just brought us plate after plate. I haven’t been out much at all this year, so it was a real treat and a fab night.
Lastly, I took the boys to a 4th birthday party, one of Archie’s best friends. Her mum is one of my closest friends, and we met when we were both bursting our pregnant bumps out of our waterproofs on a dog walk! I can’t actually believe our little babies are turning four and starting school next year, I have no idea where that time has gone. I can’t think about it for too long or my heart might burst, time goes by so quickly.
Ah, December, how I love you so!!
Honestly, I LOVE December. I think that’s one of the reasons I find November so hard – I’m just too impatient for December to get here!!
Aside from Christmas, which I do tend to get completely overexcited about, we also have Archie’s birthday, my Dad’s birthday and my own so just a little bit going on! I have started making plans for Archie’s birthday, we’re doing a separate one for friends and then a little tea party for family, so I’m enjoying spending time finding little bits to pull it all together. He has requested a theme for the tea party so I’m working on it; thankfully its not an impossible one!
Christmas plans are in full flow here too, we are hosting Christmas dinner and have all of Paul’s family coming over on the day. We have no idea how we are going to seat everybody so we’re putting our creative hats on to find a solution, it might just be a little bit cosy but then that’s Christmas isn’t it?
The main bit of planning is the food for the day, and for the whole festive period (birthdays included, they are VERY close to Christmas). We are very lucky as Paul works in food retail and so we have easy access to plenty of yummy food, the difficult part is choosing what will be on the menu! We love to try new foods but our families are a bit more traditional so we try to strike a balance to suit everyone.
I am also very lucky as Paul always cooks Christmas dinner and it always ends up being amazing, I just play a kind of supporting role and organise drinks, snacks and puddings. We are going to work hard this year to ensure that a LOT of the prep is done beforehand so that no one has to spend too long in the kitchen and away from the boys on the big day itself, they are at such a perfect age for the magic of Christmas to be so special and neither of us want to miss a thing.
We also have lots of traditions around Christmas day – I hadn’t actually realised how many but they are all part of what makes our Christmas really special, and I think they deserve a blog post all of their own so more to follow on this soon.
Before that though, we have lots happening. Christmas party season is well and truly upon us, and we have Christmas parties at various groups I attend with Theo over the next couple of weeks. We also have Archie’s first ever nativity soon, I am prepared to be in tears – I used to cry when I was a teacher and the children weren’t even my own so goodness only knows what state I’ll be in!
We also have a little cheeky visit to meet Father Christmas in actual real SNOW next week – I really can’t wait! We also might see if Archie wants to have a go on skis, we’ve been holding off and holding off but this will be a perfect opportunity and so we’ll see what happens. We have plans to take the boys skiing in a couple of years time, but we’re not sure when to start them with lessons as we don’t want to put them off, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
December also brings with it the lead up to the New Year, and this is one of my favourite times for reflecting on the past year and making goals for the next year. I like to make year long goals, and sometimes even bigger ones, looking at the direction I’d like my life to go in and what I would like to achieve. My brain is already starting to buzz with new ideas and plans for next year. I set aside time at some point between Christmas and New Year to write these down and discuss them with Paul, and it always leaves me feeling motivated, and full of optimism and enthusiasm for the year ahead.
As well as all this, there will be the usual flurry of crafts, decorating, baking, shopping and music, too much to mention really, making the month a chaotic and frenetic one but one which is one of my favourites. Lets go December!
This is the next post in the Happy Mondays series, which explores creating your own version of happy. Today’s post concentrates on using humour and enjoying yourself. Sounds pretty good to me!
Now, when I talk about using humour, I do NOT mean that you can never be happy if you aren’t a comedy genius. I know some of you are (I’m looking at you The Unmumsy Mum, Hurrah for Gin and Scarlett from Gogglebox) but for the rest of us mere mortals, worry not. And read on.
What has been really shown to help, and what the happiest people tend to do, is to use humour wherever they can to manage different situations in their lives. To try to find a reason to smile rather than not smile.
I remember saying in an interview that while I always take my work extremely seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously at all. I got the job. I think this is a really important distinction to make – we can choose to face things with humour even while taking any particular issue very seriously. And the happiest people do choose humour, even when faced with very real struggles.
We can apply this in all different areas of life – from the tiniest of annoyances to the big problems. Since reminding myself of this recently, I have faced a LOT of parenting situations with more humour, resulting in a happier outcome for all of us. I now always take a second to breathe, remind myself that the boys are very little, and ask myself if I am taking the situation too seriously. Occasionally the answer is no, if someone is about to get hurt or something is dangerous, but more often than not the answer is yes, I am, and I choose to look at the funny, silly side instead.
Just this simple act (although it doesn’t always feel that easy, depending on the situation and lack of sleep I’ve had) can change the outcome of the whole family’s day, especially mine. That’s the powerful influence that humour has.
But it can also apply to more serious issues too. Studies have found that the outcome of people diagnosed with cancer are improved if they laugh, and experience humour. This can come from both their own attitude and outlook on life, and from those around them. This amazing couple embrace this approach having found that when faced with cancer, “the only thing we can do to face another day is to laugh at ourselves, and share a laugh with others.” From this attitude, a successful fundraising website using hilarious and inspiring images of Bob in only his pink tutu in picturesque settings around the world was born (it really is worth a look). It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and from looking at this couple, this doesn’t seem too far fetched at all.
It is SO important that we all take time to do some things that we enjoy. It is a vital part of self care, and a huge influence on our personal happiness.
The things that we enjoy are so personal, it is important that you take time to really consider what it is YOU enjoy, and try to include them in your day or week. Or plan something for the month or year ahead, if it is a bigger/more expensive something.
This is where my love of planning comes into its own, I really believe that if we plan it, it will happen. Here is what I like to build into my life to make me happy…
So, grab a notepad, have a think and write down what really makes you happy. What you want to include in your life. Think about whether you are doing these things, or whether you are overlooking yourself and making no time for them. Then find your diary or calendar and BOOK SOMETHING IN!! However small, doing something you enjoy will bring a smile to your face, and isn’t that what we all want? Happy Monday!