Tag Archives: Family

A poem for my children: You’re always everywhere

 always everywhereYou’re my painted nail, sparkly and bright
With childish varnish that peels and curls
You’re the school bells ringing when I drop you at school
And you rush to the other blue-checked girls

You’re the plastic knife and fork and melamine plate
The chocolate buttons and hidden sweets
Which you sometimes remember, with a doe-eyed smile
And list the reasons you deserve some treats

And you, my youngest, you’re the tractor book
The plastic digger that sits on the chair
You’re the paddling pool, the bucket and spade
The tiny shoes, the panda bear

You’re the dried apricots, the strawberry jam
The crackers and the rice cakes (pleeease)
You’re the big chair, not high chair anymore
The plum tomatoes, the special cheese

You’re both the sofa without your shoes
The shared rainbow rug at the end of the day
The swings in tandem, the sprinkly hose
The squeals of laughter as you play

You’re the cartoon pen, the star-shaped rubber
You’re the family picture, neatly drawn
You’re both a part of me and us
You’ve been firmly there since the day you were born.

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Wow 2015 and hello 2016

Hello 2016Judging by my Instagram feed, it looks like I’m not the only one seeing in the New Year with a glass of Shloer and a boxset. Last year I was pregnant and tired, this year I’m the parent of a baby and a pre-schooler and still tired!

Even if I don’t make it to the full 12 bongs of Big Ben, it’s been a pretty amazing year this year and we have a lot to be thankful for. There’s also been a lot of change and there’s a lot more to come. My top five moments from 2015? Probably these:

  1. The birth of baby D on 15th April. Simply amazing (if a little fast!) and Scrip becoming a fantastic big sister
  2. Our family holiday to France in August. Fun, family and more than a dash of good red wine
  3. Handing in my notice from my job this November. Liberating and terrifying in equal measure
  4. My husband getting a new job in Bristol after what seemed like endless interviews this December. The start of a new era
  5. Our first Christmas as a family of four. Truly magical

And what I’m most looking forward to in 2016?

  1. Moving into a proper house with a garden and bigger rooms for Scrip and baby D
  2. Scrip’s first day at her new nursery and then, *sniff*, new school next September
  3. Going it alone with work. Eek
  4. Family and friends visiting us when we move (please come soon!)

I hope you have a truly lovely night tonight and an even better 2016. Cheers.

Guest post: Holiday thoughts from home

Holiday thoughtsAfter a lovely family holiday where I actually managed to read a book (an actual book!) my dad sent through some of his thoughts. Here’s a Granddad-eye-view on our extended family holiday.

I am very lucky – or at least I think I am – as my family seem to want to spend some holiday time with my wife and me, and not just in Cornwall. Whether Scrip’s and D’s Dad feels the same I don’t know, but I think he does, or at least he is a very good actor!

We have all just returned from a holiday in France having made our respective ways there at different times by land, sea and air. No doubt growing older decreases tolerance and distance lends enchantment to our view of the past, but it did seem that nowadays a significant number of children on our ferry were left to their own rather annoying and noisy devices, whilst parents – especially fathers – sat glued to their iPads or iPhones. Fortunately, we could escape to the luxury of a daytime cabin, something my family were keen to point out that had never figured when we all travelled together.

Looking after children is a tiring and stressful job and I admire the way that Scrip’s and D’s parents have coped – albeit, as I am sure they would admit, with help and support from their aunts. There is no more important job than bringing up the next generation and I am full of sympathy for parents today who have so many pressures on them. Life was much simpler for my generation, although I shudder to look back at some of the things we did – driving in an open-top sports car with the baby tucked up in a carry cot behind our seats or travelling through France with three unbelted children playing school in the luggage space of an estate car.

Of course we had had concerns in those far off days but personal computers were still a thing of the future, so there was no online ‘information’ immediately available to worry you or to make you compare your children to the apparently perfect family; phones were fixed, and not hearing from family members, often for weeks on end, wasn’t a reason for concern.

This holiday meant we were able to see how Scrip was coming to terms with a new baby and this was fascinating. Clearly having been the centre of attention for 3 years, adjustment was bound to be necessary. Her physical expressions of sisterly love sometimes bordered on the over-enthusiastic and D’s feeding times coincided with extra attention-seeking but she was able to vocalise and play out her feelings both about D, as well as her recent entry to a nursery, with help from a French supermarket acquired ‘Sofia the First’ doll – once I’d learnt to say the name right! Sofia was obviously able and did to say things that might have been taboo for Scrip.

As always the speed of change in the children came as a surprise, both in the case of baby D, who looks increasingly as if he will play in the second row, and Scrip. Her co-ordination and ball skills, helped no doubt by attending Playball regularly, and her increasing command of the subtleties of language lulled me into subconsciously regarding her as older than she is and made the few occasions where tiredness and frustration led to tears seem deliberately contrived when, on reflection, it was clear that they were not and it was my understanding that was at fault.

Still who can blame me when in the middle of ‘playing’ table tennis pre-lunch Scrip paused, look thoughtful and said ‘Hang on, there is something in the sky that shouldn’t be there’. Indeed there was, a full pale moon – try explaining to a 3 year old why despite being always the moon can only be seen sometimes. No wonder I am tired.

A very pleasing feature of the holiday was the way in which Scrip took to French food both at home and in restaurants. Frites of course, pain chocolate and croissants, and crepes, both sweet and savoury, were polished off with gusto, albeit at different times! Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, when she comes to Cornwall we have to buy in extra olives. D meanwhile stayed on his diet of mother’s milk provided with scarce a disapproving glance from the French.

The best part of the holiday was the privilege of seeing things – not just the moon – through the un-jaundiced eyes of a child and thus being able to rediscover the wonders that surround us daily, especially deep in the French countryside.

The 5 rules of an extended family Christmas

Merry ChristmasThe Christmas pendulum has swung back to my family this year and so we’re in a windy but dry (and always beautiful) Cornwall for the week. Scrip and I drove down at the weekend with one of the Aunties (helped by hot chocolates, pastries and plenty of Christmas songs) and we picked up my husband from the train station today.

These are my favourite Christmases – lively, animated (with the odd disagreement thrown in), warm and fun. But I do sometimes find myself forgetting there are unwritten rules of an extended family Christmas, which have emerged over alternate Christmases for the last few years and particularly since having Scrip. I’ve noted them down so I won’t forget them next time:

  1. Remember the new routine – whilst I’ve been off trying to become a grown up, new regulations seem to have been brought in at my family home, and I’m still learning them. It’s always red top milk in tea – woe betide anyone who mixes it up with the green stuff – coats are banned from banisters and never, ever forgot to refill the water filter (cardinal sin).
  2. Limit the amount of washing you generate (and it’s best to hide the full extent of your children’s). It’s been a while (over 30 years) since little people were regular inhabitants here and although you’re very familiar with just how many items can get messy in a 24 hour period, your parents probably aren’t. Even if you’re washing it yourself, be discreet – note: asking how to use the tumble dryer for the fourth time is a dead give away that another load’s gone on.
  3. Adapt to the portion sizes – as a super-hungry 6-month pregnant person I could eat without limits at the moment and my husband has never had a problem tucking away seconds. But conversely, my parents seem to eat less and less. Learn to make the most of any pre-dinner snacks, enjoy a pudding and, if your tummy’s still rumbling, make a mental note of where the Christmas cheese is stored.
  4. Train your children up to get them used to Christmas lunch ahead of the big day – this applies more to my in-laws than my parents, to be fair (my mum and dad have brought up three fussy girls so they are just delighted when anything is eaten). Scrip eats well but she eats particularly well when no one’s monitoring. My MIL, however, takes an active interest in what’s been eaten and what’s not, and is a fan of ‘gentle’ encouragement (which goes down as well as a plate of peas with Scrip…). So we’ve had a few practice roasts with Scrip in the last month or so. She’s been eating gravy (good), sprouts (very good) and turkey (could do a lot better).
  5. Enjoy the rest if you can can – my family are particularly good at keeping Scrip constantly entertained (I could learn a thing or two here). In fact she’s gone out for a long walk with them as I type. It’s hard to switch down a gear, but as I think they’re enjoying it as much as she is, I’m going to try and take a few breaks with my feet up this Christmas: a glass of ginger beer in hand and my mum’s festive Good Housekeeping resting on my bump.

What are your family Christmas rules?

Merry Christmas, thank you so much for reading this year and I hope you all have a happy and peaceful day.

GUEST POST: Late Fragments – advance parenting

IMG_0015-0.JPGMy sister has given me space for a guest blog. I won’t use it to rhapsodise about being Scrip’s aunty (I’d like to save that for a future post), but to highlight another blog, which has now also become a book, Late Fragments, available to pre-order here.

It’s a blog by an old friend of mine, Kate Gross, who writes about being a mum, amongst other things, but also about ‘advance mothering’ – that is, preparing her five-year-old twin boys for a future without her. Kate needs to do this because she’s in the final stages of advanced cancer, and she won’t be with her family for much longer.

I knew Kate when we both worked in Brussels more than 10 years ago. After that we drifted apart, as people do, but I sometimes heard her news from mutual friends or acquaintances. It was an absolutely dreadful shock to learn of her diagnosis a couple of years ago, and a lovely surprise to discover her blog. I knew Kate before she had her children (in fact before she met her husband), but through her writing I have got to know her again as a mother.

I sincerely hope no-one reading this is in a similar situation to Kate or her family. And I don’t recommend her blog to make you realise how lucky you are, nor to remind you that the little annoyances of life don’t really matter, nor to prompt you to hug your own little ones that bit tighter when you put them to bed tonight. I recommend it because, through my tears, I have found Kate’s writing beautiful, wise, and life-affirming, and I hope you will too.

Natural family photography

Baby legs Baby in the air Bump shootI was out for dinner on Friday (a rare treat) with friends I first met over 10 years ago at my first job in advertising. One of them is now a rather talented wedding and family photographer – Jonny MP – and we were talking about kids’ shoots being his favourite.

He took some lovely photos of our wedding when he was just starting out, did a bump shoot for us in Richmond Park and also took some pictures of Scrip at 9 months when we gave friends a kids’ shoot as their son’s first birthday present and managed to have some of our own done, too. With two children himself and a naturally friendly nature, every shoot has been a lot of fun.

I recommended him to some parents just a couple of weeks ago. Jonny has a very natural style and is fantastic at making everyone feel at ease, instantly, so getting the best out of you. We have so many of his photos around our home (I use one in my profile picture) and we’ll treasure them forever. And I’m sure when the new little one arrives we’ll be organising another family shoot.

Here are just a few of mine, and plenty more examples.

New father

Guest post: Absorbing small wonders

Daddy and toddler at the seaI had a surprise email from my husband last week with a guest post on. He’d typed it and sent it to me on the train coming home from work, and it was lovely. As my laptop has travelled to France with us and as we’re enjoying some lovely family time with Scrip, I thought it was apt for this week. I hope it won’t be the last one.

Just as it is for any toddler, going to the park is a mainstay of Scrip’s day.

But when I took Scrip for her usual round on the swings last Sunday, something struck me: the almost complete Continue reading

Guest Post from Grandy: bear-hunts, bamboo thickets and Giant Bolster

Scrip and Grandy cuddleMy dad, AKA Grandy, (who was undoubtedly the hit of the holiday for Scrip) wrote a few words after our recent stay in Cornwall. They made me cry (in a good way). Thank you Grandy and you are always welcome to come and see us in the Big Smoke, chickens allowing.

Just for the record now they have all gone back: IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SEE MY FAMILY.

In the far west one gets used to isolation; that and age have combined to produce post-visit exhaustion syndrome. My mind doesn’t recognise my body’s insistence that I’m a 70 plus OAP. For that I’m glad, otherwise I would not have  been catching Scrip time after time to stop her falling into the pond as she Continue reading

Making the most of a long weekend

ImageNow I don’t work on Mondays, bank holidays aren’t really as eagerly anticipated for me – it’s not an extra day any longer. But it is really nice to be able to share Mondays with my husband and to go away somewhere all together (also it means I don’t have to hand over work on a Friday and approach Tuesday with trepidation).

This long weekend was spent with my in-laws in Kent and was a really nice break – not having to worry about driving back on Sunday makes a nice change. We saw Scrip’s cousin and her Aunty and Uncle, spent a lovely morning in Sissinghurst, enjoyed a roast (although she still won’t touch roast potatoes, however much we try and convince her they’re just like chips) and even went to a village fair.