I can’t remember a day recently that was so chilled and tranquil for me as Wednesday was. The sun was shining, I had on my shades and trainers, only a cardigan, and I met up with some friends (and their’s) for a walk and wander around some localish RHS Gardens. With Spring in the air and nature coming alive again, it was just a lovely day and opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while, have some jokes, and enjoy the outdoors and fresh air!

It has been a long time since I went anywhere like this just because and to enjoy it for me more than the kids, or rather have an opportunity to enjoy it for me without the madness of rowdy kids!

For the last few years I have hunted for places where the kids can be outside in beautiful surroundings; to just play, picnic, explore and chase nature! RHS Harlow Carr was always one of these favourite spots we went to in the spring and summer (along with some national trust places too) and memories of walks there flooded my mind as I entered again this week. It seemed like 2 minutes ago I was there with Megan last year hunting for Easter bunnies and now she is in school (sob)! This time it obviously felt different; quieter and more chilled and a feeling of tranquillity filled my soul (especially as I solo’d it back to the car in the afternoon) and it made for the lovely time I had.

There seemed to be more opportunities to look and appreciate the daffodils, babbling beck and sun beams through the trees. I noticed a little robin hopping about on the branches and signs of a new season all around me. My whole mind was in the moment as oppose to looking around to see what mischief they were up to and it felt a little foreign, but refreshing too. It felt great to realise that I like to walk around gardens and woods too and that I like to do this for me – outside of mummy duties to give them a childhood. It got me thinking about how I can have these ordinary moments for me and don’t need my little crew of kids with me to visit our favourite spots, but I can push (or carry) Alice and do this for me too (if I can get passed the emotions of nostalgia).

It was also nice to chat with other mum’s in a similar stage of life and for them to talk about Poppy too in an easy/non awkward way – those moments are always appreciated and make her feel more present and my loss validated and me a little less weird!

I realise now, or maybe am accepting that I am in a new chapter now that my oldest kids are in full time school and just have a little content baby who is happy to go with the flow and is no trouble at all. I often am reminded I should have a toddler too and think sometimes that stops me from seeing those with toddlers more often, but I don’t and this is my life now. I haven’t been out a whole lot with Alice aside from the odd park walk with a couple of friends or shopping and the occasional baby group – its all kind of random and sporadic. But Wednesday reminded me how good it is to get out with people and laugh and chat. How good it is to go to places like this that I enjoy just for me and just because.

It won’t be long before we are back in the stage of seeking places for fun and daily adventures with an inquisitive tot in tow, but for now I can and should make the most of having a baby that goes with the flow and take her along to places that will bring me a sense of joy and contentment too, places that fill my soul with joy and a sense of tranquillity (gardens, forests, beaches). I need to make more plans for opportunities to chat and laugh and I need to be less of a hermit… How nice it is to have moments of peace and feel the sun on your skin – opportunities to “smell the flowers” and appreciate the changes and beauty in nature.


 

The Ordinary Moments
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As I cuddled Alice close this week I began to think of how many days worth of cuddles I have lost over the last 2 and half years with Poppy. Then I moved onto smiles, milestones and life generally with her in it. Nathan and I have spoken a lot about how hard it is some days to wrap our minds around the idea that we should have a 2.5 year old with us too, and it all feels weird and sad that we don’t. Its hard to not know her and hard that we don’t know what she would be like! I struggle with that some days, the fact I have a child I know nothing about and can do nothing for. I do forever wonder who she would have looked or being like and what my life would be like having my whole brood with me now. I guess its been a while since I had such an obvious reminder or thoughts like this, but I am good at suppressing them too. They are always there under the surface and sometimes I just feel a need to have to think about it all and wonder. It connects me to her and I feel like I have to remember or I worry I will forget.

I know that these thoughts and reflection have a lot to do with doing my SANDS befriender training last weekend. Everything has been on my mind a lot more as I did expect it to be, and it has left me not only feeling good about how far I have come in my journey of loss, but also with a lot of reflective thoughts and realisation of how many emotions and thoughts I still have to make sense of surrounding having a stillborn baby! This stage of parenting after loss has been and is getting more and more fun, and most days are a lot easier in some ways…yet it has also held a lot of moments to bring reflection on Poppy too and make me want to squeeze and protect Alice even more.

At 7 months I am still feeding her myself, which has really surprised me. I don’t know really know why I am when I always said only 6 months, but its working well so I am just getting on with it. I do find it tiring and know some days she really plays on it to get bonus feeds, but out of ease and convenience (especially first thing on a morning and when we are on the go) its fine and I am glad I am keeping on with it. I think also it makes me feel useful. There wasn’t anything I could do for Poppy, but here with Alice I can literally sustain her life, stop her tears and comfort her and that brings me a great deal of joy that I never imagined would come from breastfeeding. I do love to look at her little cheeky face, and have her close to me, and yet at night when shes screaming its the last thing I want to be doing – I find it such a roller coaster and test of endurance some days but overall its still working for us both.

We also had a few words this week (Alice and I), as she seemed to be lacking somewhat in her ability to sit up unaided. I was aware she was coming up to 7 months (today) and realised that with her being the baby, she is used to being carried around or held by everyone and anyone. Whilst she loves this, it has most definitely created a sense of reliance on others doing all the work, and as such sees no reason why she needs to try to move anywhere or sit up. There is no indication that she will be crawling anytime soon, but with that little chat we had, and with a little perseverance, distraction, a few wobbles and face plants, she finally seems to be getting the hang of sitting. So yes, I think at this point in her life we can just about tick off the “sitting up” milestone!

Sleeping has been shocking this weekend with us being away, but leading up to that I really felt we had turned a corner.  Ethan and Megs were sleeping trough by this age and so I have been struggling with the fact she isn’t and wondering what is different. She seems to think that 1am/2am/4am/5am are party times and as a result of night after night of minimum sleep with me still feeding her too in the mix, I have been exhausted and at my whits end! I’ve wondered if she would ever master sleeping well?? But its safe to say we have some hope. For about a week we have managed 7ish pm – 6am most nights which has been brilliant and I have felt way more refreshed and life more manageable. I hope that this is a sign of things to come.

She is still in our room and whilst that can be annoying and not help on the sleep front, I am not ready to move her out at fear of something happening! At 7 months she well and truly knows how to play us and the way she grins at us each morning, she knows she has scored well with sharing our room!

Finally we took her swimming! A very late “milestone” in comparison to the others, and another indication of my hibernating nature with her through the winter. But last Friday we went to the coast and finally took the plunge! She looked so cute and Ethan and Megs LOVED it! They splashed her and we dunked her. She laid in the water, splashed and kicked in the water, and she loved every second of it. It was all very adorable to hear her squeals of excitement and she managed to stick it out for almost an hour! I realised what a great sport she is and how much she just loves anything with her family.

Alice loves to be in the middle of us all and to have the kids playing with her and making her laugh. She loves hugs and kisses galore and has this wonderful way of staring into your eyes as she stretches out and touches your face, she will then smile and it melts your heart. We feel blessed that she is ours everytime she smiles and we cuddle her. I am so thankful everyday for this baby in my life, she hasn’t made me all better or stopped me from thinking of what I lost with her sister, what she has done is filled my heart with love and joy and helped me see colour in the world again, and I cannot kiss or thank her enough for that gift!

 

The Ordinary Moments
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At this time of year I spend a lot of time reflecting on my year ahead goals and bucket lists, and specifically from those, my “Wanderlust list”! Time is taken, meticulously planning out how many trips we could possibly squeeze in to be able to tick off the places we are most itching to discover. We spend hours on Skyscanner, holiday websites, Air bnb etc just to get an idea of how much each place might be for the time of year we want to visit and then from there narrowing down what type of holiday we want and where will fulfil that.

Together we have long term goals to go to Asia, to do Euro rail and road trips across the states. There are also places on my Bucket list that are there because of recommendation or inspiration from another’s trip, or generally because of a film I have seen (Berlin, New York, Croatia, Iceland, Romania, Greek Islands, Malta…). And then there are places that have always hovered near the top, they are place that have been on it for many years, and adventures I want to take because of the feelings that awoke with in me in my youth when I heard or learnt about them. These ones are very special to me, I guess more so than the other places, because they are dreams I have had from a pretty young age.

Just this weekend as I was sat on the train with some rare moments of peace, I found I was reflecting on a couple of them and talking about them, and as such was reminded about how much desire I have to see these places. This week I have teamed up with Thomson cruise to share with you some of my travel goals to help inspire you on this years travel plans, and so have chosen some of my old faves that I have been dreaming of since I was young(er).


Pompeii

I am 99% sure that I must have still been in Junior school when I learnt of the events of Pompeii so long ago. I distinctly remember the feelings I had of a strong desire to visit there and see it all with my own eyes. It was possibly my first experience of feeling passion about seeing historic places and events firsthand, and my first real emotion of wanderlust! It still seems a beautiful, tragic and incredible place to me, and this memory, along with those emotions linked to it are purely the reason I want to go to Pompeii. It would without a doubt fulfil the dreams of my younger self!

We would definitely do Air BnB here as there are some gorgeous Italian villas for like £50/£60/night and then pay for a tour once there.

Egypt

Egypt is another place that has been on the top spot since I was about 10. Again a school project about Ancient Egypt had me hooked on their history and I couldn’t wait to see it. I grew obsessed with films set in Egypt or about ancient Egypt, the British museum or anything generally featuring mummies, pyramids and hieroglyphics! Not to mention bible stories that feature this majestic land… I just LOVE it!

I have had my fair share of seeing historic things in our country about it, but nothing compares to seeing the great pyramids, the sphinx, red sea, the Niall and Mount Sinai in “real life”. This would be the trip of a lifetime seeing so many things but relaxing too in a lovely (safe) hotel and sunning it up! My only fear is that I have missed the window with travel warnings frequently being issued with this part of the world.

A cruise

One thing that not many people know about me is that I spent a period of my teen years in the cadets. I was a member of RAF section, however was seen on occasion also attending both Navy and Army camps too, all of which were rich with learning opportunities, being stretched to my limits, banter, fun and memories.

I remember on one of these naval camps (and whilst sleeping on a ship), officers would share their tales of life in the Navy, life aboard a ship and what seemed like adventures of cruising around the world. It reminded me of some of the stories my Grandad told us of his time in the Merchant navy, but more than this, it inspired me to make a mental note that one day I wanted to take a cruise. I wanted that adventure of being a board a ship and seeing beautiful parts of the world by sea, but I wanted it with the luxury of pools, entertainment, a bed as oppose a naval bunk and gorgeous food galore…I guess I wanted all the play without the work!  When we were in our 1st year of marriage I loved that Nathan too said this was one of his travel goals, and so we said that at 10 years married we would go on a cruise. This year will be 8 years and so that 10 year goal is fast approaching!

Poland/Auschwitz

I was 16 and sat in my GCSE modern world History class when we studied the holocaust. Its hard not to be moved by the events that played out in world war 2, especially when as teenager you discussing mass genocide.

I don’t know what it was about it, but again I felt that deep desire that I had to go…I had to see it with my own eyes and walk where they had taken their last steps. I had to see the stories of those individuals with my own eyes. I talk about this one a lot and have almost booked it many times in the last few years too, but the weather or timing never felt right for it. I feel like a couple of days would tick this one off, and flights through skyscanner and an Air Bnb or hotel via trivago would ensure it would be a very reasonable trip to take too. 

India

My very first friend in school was Indian and its a culture I have loved for a lot of years yet feel I know so little about too. The food obviously is big one here, along with climate and just their beautiful fabrics and music. It is somewhere I want to go to be educated and to see the vast ends of the spectrum with the slums and palaces!

There have been so many films that I have seen that have kept this dream alive! I wouldn’t even know where to start with this trip, but then I think it’s one that I feel like will be taken later in my life and I am okay with that.  

I really hope that at some point this year I get to put a big massive tick next to at least one of these trips and satisfy that Wanderlust that has been there for so long! I just keep thinking life is too short to not start putting dreams into action and this is such a good time to be booking trips and holidays as there are some great deals about too…

What places have you visited because the youth in you desired it? Or where have you dreamt of for the last 20 (or so) years?

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This weekend I have been in Manchester to do my SANDS befriender training (which I will share with you more once I have digested it), and whilst it was nice to do something for myself, it felt really weird not being with Nathan and the kids over the weekend. In hindsight it couldn’t have come at a better time as it fell right at the start of half term, and with the weight of the subject for 2 solid days, I couldn’t be happier for a break from school this coming week and an opportunity to chill out with my little family. Six days (plus the weekends) of no school runs, mad dashes, clock watching and wondering where the uniforms are – blissful!

Instead I get to have them with me, I get hang out with my oldest 2 and we can look forward to lots of fun together. Mr Smith is also on annual leave and so we have loads of outings and adventures planned and I don’t know about the kids, but after spending 2 days away from them, and never quite getting back into school life after Christmas, I just feel like its going to be great fun and I actually can’t wait!

Term time is hard for me sometimes. Not always, just sometimes. For starters I am rubbish with the whole school run thing and getting there in good time, (most days its with 30 seconds to spare or as the gate is closing) but more so I have realised since both Ethan and Megan started school that Sometimes I really do miss my kids. Its seems funny sharing this, but then I guess parenting is a funny thing isn’t it? You spend your days tearing your hair out and trying to get little people to cooperate with you (or each other) and some days it reduces you to tears – Other days the brink of insanity. You look forward to bedtime like its Christmas, a shower like its a holiday, and you just hope for a day you can go to the toilet with out an audience. Most days are spent wishing for a moments peace, a dinner whilst its still hot and dressing on some level that is remotely stylish (but you would just accept snot free)! Its harder than any other “job” and a break is what you crave, yet when it comes, you realise how much you have grown to love the noisy mad life you lead.

For me, I mostly miss our outings and adventures – the busy days we enjoyed together exploring that only seem to come now in the holidays and occasional weekend. And whilst I do really like peace and quiet in my life, I do miss their chatter, their funny little characters, their outlook on life, and generally just their company. Of course I have days like every other parent where we are almost running to school (not always because we are late), so I can have a breather and a few moments of peace and quiet, but once that is over, once I have cleaned up and got the house in some order, or had an hour or 2 at the shops, I realise I miss them and the fun they bring to my life. I realise it all feels a little lonesome without my sidekicks.

I noticed this loads on our recent trip to Hamburg and discussed it at lengths with Mr Smith. Whilst I had been uber excited for a romantic city break together, and really needed it too, I found myself more anxious than normal about being away from the kids. I worried about all that could go wrong and stop us returning to them, and I generally missed sharing that experience with them. I learnt that we don’t have to go far away to have a break as a couple now (its just as lovely in a local hotel), and realised how much I truly love to have my kids travel with us and relish the adventure. I missed sharing the experience with them and seeing their faces at new sites and things. I missed the wonder, the questions and telling them stories…I just missed us being together as a family, doing something different and out of the ordinary, and missed kissing them goodnight. We both agreed that that’s okay, it wasn’t the same without them and in future we will all go!

Having kids was an easy choice for me, but not so easy in reality. I do find it a challenge, extremely tiring and some days I just want to write off. I know I could be less snappy, more attentive some days and more interactive too, but despite these things, I really do love motherhood, being a stay at home mum and being around the people that made me a mummy.

I don’t know if it is as my kids get older and become more aware that we aren’t there, or the fact one of our children died and I couldn’t stop that, and couldn’t bare that happening again. Perhaps its that missing of her so much and the pain of loss that has made me feel like I need to have all my others close. Or maybe its that we see so much horror in the news and I just can’t bear the thought of them being told mummy and daddy aren’t coming home because something happened …I just know that I miss being away from my kids for too long now and need to cuddle them tightly. I know that I feel most happy and content when we are all together, when my little chicks are close and safe in the nest and where I can show and tell them how much I adore and love them. I feel joy when they are where we can make memories together.

Life and its adventures are certainly richer when they are present.

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