Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Hug in a Mug

I am enjoying yet another mug of hot tea on this chilly winter's day. I feel exhausted, suffering with ye olde winter blues and lack of sleep brought on by my daughter's teething, cold, and her general refusal to sleep a full night.

A cup of tea is the perfect tonic for such feelings.

This time a year ago, I couldn't even smell the stuff without my stomach attempting to do horrific somersaults, above the tiny person who was doing real somersaults inside me.

Morning sickness started when I was about 6 weeks pregnant, and from that moment on I couldn't even stare down a mug of tea, let alone drink it. The sickness finally abated at about 20 weeks but even then I still couldn't drink tea.

I missed it dreadfully, especially during the winter months when I wanted warming comfort. Cake and biscuits were nowhere near as enjoyable without a brew. I tried, on several occasions, to drink even just a small cup, but I couldn't manage it.

I began to fear that I would never be able to drink tea again. Me! Never drinking tea ever again. It was an unthinkable yet terrifying prospect.

After my daughter was born I was brought some refreshment. Water, toast, and...tea. Suddenly all those yucky feelings were gone and I was absolutely gasping for a cuppa, and I was able to drink every last drop. Even though it was a tepid NHS brew, it was just perfect.

I began making up for all those missed mugs over the past nine months. However, weeks went by where I never got a hot mug as I was so busy feeding my daughter or otherwise changing her nappy, winding her, cuddling her, taking her for walks, and then trying to catch up on sleep whenever she slept.

But the last few months I've sometimes been able to enjoy a hot, strong cup of builder's tea with a good helping of milk. Just what I need on a day like today. Lovely.

Professor Elemental raps about tea! Can't say I agree with him about Earl Grey, but we definitely share the same views on Assam and herbal teas!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Our Baby Girl

6 weeks old 
Our daughter was born in June almost two weeks past her due date. I had to be induced, and unfortunately for us my body did not react well to the induction. She was born extremely fast and in a somewhat traumatic fashion, something which I am waiting to receive post-birth counselling for.

Anyway, trauma aside, our beautiful daughter entered the world covered in her own poo but screaming her head off - the best sound parents can hear, knowing that those lungs are working at full pelt! We had the briefest of contact before she was rushed over to the paediatrician to be cleaned up while I received stitches, and then we had a long skin to skin cuddle and the first breastfeed.

Everything had been such a dramatic whirlwind that I almost didn't know what to think. The only feeling I strongly remember experiencing was that of total joy. Joy that my baby had survived the traumatic birth and that despite it she was doing brilliantly. Joy that she was finally in my arms after what had felt like a very long pregnancy. Joy that I could see us in her - straightaway we could see that she had my nose and my husband's ears. Just pure, unadulterated joy. Our God had blessed us so richly and seen us through so much.

After I was all cleaned up and had some much needed refreshment, I was able to sit back in the bed and take it all in as I cuddled my little girl. This was it. She was here. She was here and she needed me. I'd wanted this for so long and now it was reality. I was definitely overwhelmed. I looked at her tiny eyes looking at mine and I began falling in love, knowing with every fibre of my being that I would always want her, always want what is best for her, and would always be there for her.

Now she is almost seven months old and I cannot imagine life without her. She has brought so much joy to my husband and I, to her grandparents, her great grannies, her uncles and their other halves, and to many of our friends.

In Italy
She is a smiley, chatty, sociable baby who loves attention. When she is happy she is very happy and when she is grumpy you certainly know about it!

At the moment she is attempting to crawl, loves putting her feet in her mouth, saying "Dadadadadada!" on repeat (guess that means she always wants my husband for a nappy change then...), and defying sleep both during the day and at night as much as she possibly can.

She loves her baths and her swimming lessons. She loves toys with faces that she can babble at and all other toys as long as she can chew them. She loves other people, is fascinated by toddlers and other babies, and enjoys whacking people in the chops, grabbing their noses, or pulling their hair. She is also a pro at removing glasses, and almost threw my husband's designer pair in the Kennet & Avon Canal when we were on holiday there in September.

She has already been abroad at 11 weeks old, when we travelled to Italy for one of my best friend's weddings. So she has now travelled in cars, buses, trains and planes, and spent a week on a barge - not bad for someone who is still less than a year old!

She has just started eating a bit of food. Her favourites so far are broccoli, carrot, banana, egg, and bread. She likes drinking water from her Doidy cup or just pouring it down her front. She enjoys catapulting spoonfuls of Weetabix or porridge around the room or in my direction.

She loves going to church and to mum & baby groups. She loves watching me sing nursery rhymes with actions, being tickled, and playing Peekaboo with her muslins. She loves going for walks either wrapped up against me in the sling or chilling out in her pram.

She doesn't like me leaving the room, things that are out of reach, or loud, sudden noises.

She is already such a wonderful little personality, prone to tantrums (if you can really call them that at this age), but always keen to play, dance, jump about, and chatter. She is exhausting yet amazing.

I look forward to the many adventures to come as we continue to get to know each other.
At the Sealife Centre, in awe of all the brightly coloured fish and other marine animals

Monday, 5 January 2015

I'm Back!

Yes, that's right. I am back after a whole year away. What can I say? I have no real excuses other than pregnancy related sickness and tiredness, moving house, and having a baby, all of which held me back when it came to writing of any kind, let alone updating my blog.

2014 was an amazing year for us. We bought a house, both of my brothers got engaged, my husband was promoted at work, and best of all we welcomed our precious daughter into the world.

There have been many ups and downs, highs and lows, throughout the year as there are always are, but I can't deny that 2014 really was fantastic as far as years go.

I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions but I've had so many things I've wanted to write and blog about that I am determined that 2015 will be a better year in that respect.

I have had a chance to think about what I want my blog to be. I want it to continue along the same vein it always has, sharing my adventures, philosophies, and my faith, perhaps with a little more structure (if you're lucky!) I will of course be blogging about my daughter too. Although I have no intention of making this a "mummy blog" there are a lot of things I would like to share and discuss about being a mother and the things that God is teaching me through motherhood, as well as how my life has changed. I am a mother but I am also a wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I have a job that I will be returning to. I still write fiction and yearn to write more. Above all, I still have my faith. So my blog will be much the same but also very different. And who knows? Perhaps 2015 will be my most disciplined blogging year yet. We shall see.

For now, may I wish any of you who may come across this post a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Welcome 2014!

Happy New Year everyone! I am sitting at home whilst the wind howls outside and the rain lashes against the windows. That has been our weather for the Christmas season. Dark and dismal. Thankfully it has not been a dark and dismal time.

First of all, I would like to apologise for my total lack of blogging over the last three months. I've had plenty to say but very little energy to say it. That, and sitting in front of the computer when you are constantly nauseous isn't as easy as you would think. However, I am not complaining, because it's all worth it.

I am pregnant again. Our baby is due in early June. The dating scan in November was definitely my highlight of 2013, to see our little baby wriggling around and waving away. To know that our baby was doing well and growing strong. We have since heard the heartbeat and for the past couple of weeks I have felt fleeting and exciting movements in my belly. We are so thankful to God for this amazing gift, and we pray each day that our baby will continue to grow strong and healthy.

2013 was not the greatest year. With the miscarriage, my husband's job rejections, and ongoing and ever increasing problems in our house, as well as difficulties being experienced by friends and family, it's been pretty difficult. I haven't always remained positive throughout it all but I never lost hope, and if nothing else 2013 has certainly been a year of hope.

There were highlights too, such as my brother-in-law's wedding in March, our holiday to Rome in June, my husband's graduation in July, becoming godparents in September, and me being awarded a permanent contract at work in November. There has always been really good stuff happening despite the bad, and sometimes it was easy to forget during the grief and the stress and the frustration. Even without those bigger things, there have always been family and friends, church, and projects to keep us occupied, involved, excited, and hopeful.

2014 is set to be an interesting year indeed. It will certainly be exciting, it will also be scary, and there is a lot that is unknown. We need to move house, my husband is still considering his career options in the field of scientific research, and above all we know a baby will change our lives forever. But is good and I remain hopeful. I have to acknowledge that I do worry and I do get scared, but I trust God and His goodness. Even when I don't feel like trusting Him any more because it hurts too much, that faith never dies, that flame never goes out. And that is why I look to 2014 with hope. Because of Him.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and I hope to blog more frequently again!

Some 2013 Highlights - the Colosseum, zebras at Port Lympne Wildlife Park, wigs in the pub on my birthday,
snowdrops at Strumpshaw Fen, fire buckets at the Bluebell Railway, flowers in the local park gardens,
snow at Lewes Casle, Dover Castle, 80s party!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Looking Back

It was my birthday the other day, and I wrote this for it but didn't get the chance to post on the day. 

Celebrating this year - wigs in the pub!
I've always been one of those people who never really placed much store by my birthday, at least not since my eleventh when my grandma died the day before. When that happened my birthday suddenly seemed insignificant and not worth making too much of a fuss about, something which has correlated with a downward spiral in esteem issues. When I saw this on Robin's blog and decided to write my own, I realised that looking back at my birthdays specifically was a useful tool for marking the past few years because each time I could see lessons I'd learnt and ways in which I'd changed and grown as a person.

Ten Years Ago
It was my 19th birthday. That evening I had a group of friends from college over for a party in the garden. It was just before we all went off to university or gap years. I was really happy. Secondary school had been a truly awful five years, and my two years at sixth form college, particularly the last year, had shown me that I was capable, that I was talented, and that I could make real, solid friendships with people who loved me for me. Of the guest who attended one is now my husband and four remain my closest friends.

Eight Years Ago
It was my 21st birthday. I was at home from uni for the summer holidays so I celebrated with my immediate family. It was good for me to spend quality time with them, as since living away at university my sojourns home were becoming less and less frequent.

I was excited about returning to halls for my third year, having had a rather stressful year living out with friends, and this time having a room in the main university building, a beautiful Victorian chateau. I was also eager to do get started on my dissertation and do well in my final year. I was certainly very hopeful for the future.

Five Years Ago
It was my 24th birthday. It was also my first official date with my husband. We had been living in the same house for 9 months with two of our best friends. His feelings hadn't changed since five years previously but mine had. Slowly, after a growing friendship and a lot of soul-searching, him becoming a Christian, and me learning to accept that I could be loved so much by a man, I realised my feelings towards him had radically changed. The date was exciting but nerve-wracking for us both. At this moment in time we were keeping our relationship secret from everyone else, even our housemates. As we both worked in London we met after work and went to a little restaurant. He presented me with a single rose and a beautiful bracelet. When we got home we spun a little story, that we'd both been out with colleagues and joined each other on the same train home. I disappeared to my room for a bit and when I came downstairs and they all surprised me with an amazing birthday cake – a chocolate cheesecake which my future husband had stayed up late the night before to make! It was definitely one of my best birthdays ever.

I was very happy, as the past year had been quite difficult with a lot of ups and downs. It had been very emotionally charged as I fought with my changing feelings, along with worries about my future career, and combating loneliness as I got used to all my girlfriends living further away than ever. Thankfully my year of being 24 turned out to be one of the most joyful of my life after that.

Three Years Ago
It was my 26th birthday. It was my first birthday as a married woman. My husband and I went to Standen, a National Trust property for the day. The sky was a gorgeous blue and the leaves on the trees were just starting to change colour. I think the season was changing for us too. We were happy newly-weds and life was good. We'd just started youth work at church and were becoming even more actively involved but this birthday also marked the beginning to a very tough year for us both, particularly for me emotionally as I was about to endure the worst year of my working life so far.

Two Years Ago
It was my 27th birthday. And I was barely able to stop myself skipping as the end was in sight for my last day working for the council after what had been an extremely difficult and demoralising time. I was starting a new adventure, where I would be working part-time for one of the emergency services and then spending two days a week at home to focus on my writing. I was full of hope and couldn't wait to get started.
We'd also moved to a better house during the past year where we enjoying looking after the garden. Life was busy and full, just how we like it.

Last Year
It was my 28th birthday. I was still working for the same organisation but had just moved to the main office and been given a full-time role. It was a hard step to take as it meant I would have to spend less time than I wanted on my writing, but it was better to do it than have no income from me.

I had learnt a lot about myself during my year working part-time, my discipline (or lack thereof) and how I need to work on that, but it also made me more sure than ever that writing is my greatest passion and I just need to go for it, instead of consistently blocking my path with self-esteem hurdles and other commitments. A tough but good lesson that I am still learning.

So Far This Year
I am now 29. What can I say? In many ways I was glad to see the back of being 28. It has been a true rollercoaster ride of joy and pain. When I miscarried in May it had a more profound and lasting impact than I had expected it to, and I am still struggling with it today. I am not without hope, but I have to acknowledge that grief is really hard. This mixed in with a number of other issues my husband and I have had to face has made for a very tough year indeed. We have learnt that God is most definitely our strength in our weakness.

There have also been some wonderful highlights to the year from big events such as my brother-in-law's wedding and our anniversary trip to Rome through to smaller happenings that shine light into the darkness whether that's a day out with my husband to afternoon tea with my family to meeting up with old friends to watching the sun set and hearing the swifts call and knowing that God is in all this and not letting go of me.

So, let's see what the last year of being in my twenties will bring!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Books, Glorious Books!

Having had a great night out with work colleagues to celebrate a special birthday for our head of department, I am now feeling a little fragile so when I stumbled across this on Kirsti and Emmy's blogs I thought it would be the perfect remedy. It's all about reading and books in ABC format!

Top shelf of the big bookcase in the living room
Author you've read the most books from
There are many. There's no one author who I've read several books by, but I've read all six of Jane Austen's, lots by Bill Bryson, Alison Weir, CS Lewis, JK Rowling, Sebastian Faulks, Philippa Gregory...

Best sequel ever
I'm not really sure, but I like the way that Sebastian Faulks' French trilogy - The Girl at the Lion D'Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray all link together. My favourite of the three is Birdsong.

Currently reading
In the process of deciding what to read next having just finished a book.

Drink of choice while reading
Definitely tea.

E-reader or physical book
Physical book. I sometimes borrow my husband's Kindle, but I love holding an actual book, even if I'm reading a long book that's really heavy to carry around in my bag to work, I'll tend to opt for that over the Kindle.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated at high school
Not being successful in the world of dating when I was at secondary school it would be more apt for me to say who I would have most likely had a crush on. Probably Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables - tall, dark and annoying at first but a great friend in the end.

Glad you gave this book a chance
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. My youngest brother got given the first three for his ninth birthday and seemed to love them, reading them over and over. The family friends who have given them to him went on about how great they were, but looking at the front covers I just thought they were kids books that I might have enjoyed when I was younger. One half-term when I was bored with GCSE coursework and fancied a break I picked up the first book thinking I could do with an easy read and anyway, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Well, the rest is history!

Hidden gem book
I would have to go for one from my childhood which is Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. It's about a girl called Charlotte who goes to boarding school and thanks to the bed she chooses in her dorm every other night she switches places with a girl from the past called Clare. I loved the concept and the story haunted me as well as inspired me as a kid. Apparently it also inspired The Cure who wrote a song about it. Maybe not that much of a hidden gem then but I have yet to find anyone else I know who has read it! Let me know if you have!

Important moment in your reading life
This will sound ridiculous but probably when I stopped reading out loud and began reading "in my head." I began to devour books a lot quicker after that.

Just finished
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir for the second time. Great book, well written and very well researched, not to mention heart-wrenching.

Kind of books you won't read
As others have said I'm not interested in stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey and erotica.

Longest book you've read
Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher. It is a pretty long story but I find it a joy to read. A good indulgence for long summer days.

Major book hangover because of:
Harry Potter. Each time I finished one I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next one and each year or years between felt too long. And then when I read the last one I found it difficult to accept that it was all over. I got so wrapped up in the world of magic and Hogwarts that I would think about each book for a long while after I'd read it. And I would also spend a lot of time wishing and hoping that I could one day write something as good.

Number of bookcases you own
Five, technically four that actually have books in as the fifth currently holds DVDs and files but we have plenty of books without a home that could do with living in that fifth bookcase so I might need to do some storage rearranging!

One book you've read multiple times
Too many! Most of my childhood favourites, and plenty of my adult favourites but I've probably reread Anne of Green Gables the most.

Preferred place to read
Although I can comfortably read in most places - the train to work, coffee shops, indoors and outside - my favourite place to read is one of the big armchairs at my parents' house, especially in winter when the log fire is burning.

Quote that inspires you from a book you've read
Oh man, I feel like I should something really profound here but don't know what to say. I can think of several and nothing good all at the same time. I'll have to get back to you! Inevitably it will be something said by Aslan or Dumbledore.

Reading regret
I've wasted time reading some trashy chick lit when I've wanted an easy read. The stories are often so similar that I usually ended up wondering why I bothered. I didn't enjoy Bridget Jones' Diary (love the films though), but I felt like I should have done because it's so popular. I generally avoid chick lit now as it just gets on my nerves.

Series you started and need to finish (all books are out in series)
None at the moment. Need to find a series to start I guess!

Three of your all time favourite books
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Harry Potter by JK Rowling - all of them

Unapologetic fan girl for
Harry Potter, Bill Bryson, Jane Austen

Very excited for this release more than all others
Honestly can't say. I feel unaware of new releases at this moment in time *feels ashamed*

Worst bookish habit
Curling the tops of the pages absent-mindedly whilst I read, and laying books face down while I go to make tea or whatever because I can't find my bookmark - all I can say is that my books look incredibly well loved!

X marks the spot - start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
The Last Battle by CS Lewis

Your latest book purchase
Lonely Planet's Italian phrasebook for our trip to Rome. Before that it was The Fault in our Stars by John Green and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth - there was an offer on books at Tesco when I was meant to be buying stationery or paper plates or something... That was a while ago, but as it is my birthday soon I will hopefully have some money to spend on some new reads!

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up way late)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I know that was some considerable time ago now but I have lost the stamina to stay up late reading in my old age.

Yeah, I know, Harry Potter was the answer to a lot of these questions. You could say I'm a fan...oh wait, I did say that...

Monday, 19 August 2013

Summer Distractions

Oh blog how I have missed thee... The honest truth is I want to write but I feel like I can't. I am busy, it is true, but I am also struggling and the two together tend to have a detrimental effect on my writing as a whole. If I'm going to let my writing slide then blogging is the format that drops off of the radar first.

This summer has been full of distractions, good and bad. The good has helped with the bad, and that is the stuff that I want to share right now. Behold, if you will, a look into my good summer distractions:

Urban Exploration
I've mentioned before that this is one my husband's favourite hobbies. He usually goes exploring with one of our friends as I'm a bit of a Hermione Granger about these things, but I decided to join them on a few adventures this summer. We went in search of three abandoned train tunnels on lines that were closed after the Beeching Axe in the 1960s, an old mill, and a nuclear bunker that wasn't quite accessible. It was fun, and on one of the days we went out the sky was darkening menacingly as a storm brewed, a highly effective atmosphere for sneaking around outside an abandoned building, and we got to see some pretty impressive fork lightning on the way home.

Fancy Dress
On average I probably attend one fancy dress party a year, but we've been to three this summer alone. The first was an 80s Night to raise money for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, the second a 'Music' themed party for a friend's 30th birthday, and the third a 90s Party (inspired by the 80s one, having decided that the 90s is just about credibly vintage) for another friend's birthday. Each night was great. The 80s party involved hilarious karaoke, the Music night threw up some brilliant costumes, and the 90s night had great costumes as well as a fab playlist, if I may say so myself as I put it together. There was a lot of nostalgia at that party aided by the consumption of Iced Gems and Party Rings!

 A Graduation
At the beginning of July we went to London for my husband's MSc graduation at the Royal Festival Hall. It meant an extremely early morning and extortionately priced train tickets. It was great to celebrate my husband's success. I am very proud of him.

Sometimes when I'm tired and when I'm low I get random bursts of energy where I enjoy messing around. For the most part this has involved my husband and I successfully creating amusing status updates on Facebook for a couple of our friends over and over again. It's provided quite a lot of giggling and much amusement. But leaping around abandoned tunnels, playing pranks on the youth and other youth leaders, and running around the park pretending to be goblins have all proven to be very silly yet welcome distractions.

And now autumn is not too far away, which means all of my family's birthdays to look forward to, a special christening, the changing colours of nature, and hopefully plenty of adventures. But first, I am happy to enjoy just a bit more summer!

There will be some more posts on Rome coming soon too!

Photos my own.