Tag Archives: children

Soul searching in chicken pox quarantine

Today’s blog is coming at you from quarantine. At least one child is done with the dreaded pox, and another will likely follow. It was during the sermon at church on Sunday that I received a text from a friend confessing that her one year old had come out in spots, less than 24 hours since they had been at Jesse’s 3rd birthday party. It’s fair to say that I didn’t really listen to the sermon after discovering I had inadvertently hosted a chicken pox party and was therefore likely to be spending the following week in lock down with the kiddos. But then I think I got my grieving (mostly for the loss of my days off) done with on that day, so when it actually happened I had made peace with the outbreak. At least we didn’t have any super-fun plans this week. At least it’s not Christmas.

screenshot1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(If you’re an informed parent or medical practitioner thinking ‘my, that’s an incredibly short incubation period for chicken pox’, the same poxy children – including my own – were also together a week earlier when the dreaded virus was probably spread).

Obviously, I am only a day or two into the ordeal, and I may yet be clawing at the windows and trying to escape in the days to come (this would be especially irresponsible as Andy is away in Brussels). But so far we’re good. We watched a Christmas film, we had a lot of stories and cuddles. I didn’t even know what else we did, but we made it to bed time. And for a kid who is used to spending the winter feeling uncomfy and itchy, smothered in creams and dosed up with anti-histamines, chicken pox isn’t so very different from the norm. We’re ok, is what I’m getting at. Just stuck indoors a lot.

This isn’t the week or the blog I had in mind, but that’s how life goes with kiddos I guess.

What I meant to write about was that cliffhanger I left off with last time – what am I planning to do with the rest of my life? What great plans have I been hatching, nestled up here in Luton?

If I’m honest, the biggest question I’ve been wrestling with – not just these past months, but years – has really been about acting. I’ve spent more than 20 years of my life with a strong sense of vocation in that direction, and I’ve been bewildered as to what to do with that now. You know, seeing as I don’t have any actual paid acting work, nor much of a record of it. Do I cut loose, dream up a different life, get a bit more practical, call it a day, be grateful for all I have learnt and done, and how I have changed and grown along that path, but set out in a different direction? Or do I dig my heels in, divert all my energies in that direction and make something happen? (I’m a little fuzzy on the ‘how’).

I like clear decisions, I enjoy a bit of black and white. But the answer that I have reached in all my should searching is…neither. Instead I feel like I need to make sure I make some space for acting, or related creating. Just keep it alive, nurture it a little, and take away the pressure. I have a couple of ideas of things to make a start with – just tiny steps – and so I’m committing to making room each week (thanks largely to Andy) to show up and have a go. Maybe I’ll mainly blog in that time. Maybe I’ll sing, or write. Who knows?

And then I have also spent a lot of time in this past year thinking more broadly about my purpose. A year ago I went on retreat. Then I did most of an online course by Tsh Oxenreider which I found really helpful, about finding your life’s purpose. She talks in one of the sessions about how she always dreamt of being a writer, it was always her ambition and hope. And now she is one. But she doesn’t consider writing to be her life’s purpose – being a writer is a role she takes on in different seasons of her life to express her deeper purpose.  Roles are always temporary but our purpose is the underlying thread that stays the same. That was such a helpful lesson for me – recognising that being an actress is a role I sometimes take on rather than my core purpose. And when I’ve thought about what that purpose is, I land in the territory of ‘helping people feel things’ – you know, emotions. I like to find creative ways to help people connect with their own emotions.

There are a lot of ways to do that. Be a friend, a wife, a parent. Listen, sing, perform, write. (And a bazillion other ways). There’s no career plan for it. But I find myself drawn towards the world of mental and emotional health, and the many creative paths it opens up, and so I’m exploring how I might take that forward (answer: more training). And I have a part-time job, starting in the new year, working with a brilliant local charity that works with young people here in our town, but also serves heaps of other youth projects across the country.  So I’ll be getting to know some of the teenagers of Luton, and exploring how they feel about life, the universe and everything.

And we’ll see where all of that takes me.

All thoughts and comments welcome – and I’d love to know what you’ve found most helpful in the process of working out what to do with your life?

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Life with two kiddos

We have reached the first milestone of the little lady’s life – six weeks – so I figured it was a good moment to take a breath and write something about how life is going.

IMG_5400

Newsflash: We’re still alive! And miracuously we are more than just surviving. I am enjoying life. When I thought ahead to life with two kids, to my days being full of nappies and toys and playgroups and naps, and my nights being broken, I was more than a little afraid. I was bracing myself for a struggle. I had all kinds of tactics and mantras ready to get myself through. But I forgot the bit about a gorgeous new human being joining our family and all the joy that would bring. Somehow I hadn’t anticipated the flood of love for these two tiny people that would carry me (and us) through. (I don’t think it’s just the hormones). I am crazily grateful for my incredible, kind, resourceful husband and our amazing kids.

IMG_5335

Ok, our house is in permanent toy chaos (the laundry chaos ebbs and flows), but I feel calmer, so much calmer than last time, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It helps that our life is already structured around caring for a small person and so the shift in our family routine doesn’t feel so enormous. Then there’s the fact that Jubilee was born fairly healthy and has had no major health scares since. Feeding was tough at the start, but we’ve emerged into a place of calm and stability, and it’s nothing like the emotionally traumatic experience we had first time round. Sure, sleep is broken, but I know it’s not forever, and right now we can cope with it (she says, ignoring the horror stories that surround her from friends with slightly older babies…). Without the background of grief and fear and emotional exhaustion, I’ve felt able to enjoy these past few weeks, and enjoy this beautiful, irresistable new baby, much more than last time. And that has been an indescribable relief and gift.

Another part of the puzzle is the incredible tide of practical help we’ve had from the people of Luton. We’ve been here just three months, but a group of local friends organised a food rota for us that meant we were still getting dinners brought to us every other night, a month after Jubilee was born! (and you know, there were some pretty amazing meals too – one night we had rabbit stew!!). We are taking ALL the help we can get right now and not feeling at all guilty (actually Andy is better at that last part than me). Our friends (some of them old, some of them new) have come and cleaned our house, brought fresh flowers, filled our fridge and freezer with good food, put together furniture, done DIY, organised our kitchen cupboads, plumbed in our washing machine, brought homemade salted caramel and oreo cheesecake, had us round for dinner, chauffeured us to and from the hospital, soothed our sick and overwrought  toddler to sleep in his hospital cot when we were wrecked, done our grocery shopping, gone out on emergency shopping trips for nipple guards and breast pads, babysat Jesse while we escaped for some downtime, built train tracks with him whilst we napped upstairs, installed waterproof roofing on our garden cabin, and kept us sane. And I’ve probably forgotten plenty other things. Seriously, we have been so well loved and cared for, it’s hard to even imagine the state we’d be in without this amazing crew.

IMG_5317

I know it’s early days, but they are good early days and I’m grateful. This season has shot me right back into living one day at a time, and my planning horizons have shrunk back to about a 36 hour limit. So I’m not worrying about next week (actually I’m rejoicing as my in-laws are arriving) or next month, I’m just thinking about the night and the next day, and I reckon they’ll be just fine. As Elise Blaha Cripe, another blogger and new mother of two wrote recently:

I know that this is all just phases. I know these phases are so extremely short. I know that there is magic coming tomorrow and the day after that. More importantly, I know that TODAY is magic.

Before we had Jubilee, I had friends tell me that things would be much easier the second time around, and others tell me that the hardest transition ever is going from one to two kids. Six weeks in, the first of those predictions feels most accurate, so whatever else is coming I am thanking the cosmos (well, more specifically I am THANKING GOD) for these past weeks and our beautiful kiddos.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Going on holiday with other people (and their children)

IMG_4339

We’re just back from two weeks of holiday (that’s the excuse for the latest radio silence) and I have two blogs for you about our adventures. The second one will cover our second week when it was just team Flan, and our reflections on holidaying in the UK as a young family. But we’re starting with group holidaying.

For the first time ever (since having a kiddo) we went on holiday with other people who weren’t related to us. Which was something of an experiment, and so I thought I’d tell you how it went, what was brilliant and whether we’re now converts to a new way of holidaying.

Since we got married we’ve really only holidayed on our own. Regular life tends to be relentlessly sociable and busy and so we have always tried to protect our downtime together and keep it quiet, But then once we had Jesse we realised that parental solidarity and sharing the load (especially around 5.45am) were hugely appealing, plus who doesn’t want playmates on hand to entertain your child? (I had visions of one brave dad entertaining all the kids simultaneously while the rest of us supped wine on the veranda).

There were 11 of us, all in, and we stayed in one big beautiful house in Port Isaac, on the north coast of Cornwall. Mercifully we were able to go outside of school holiday season (how does anyone afford holidays at peak time?), and sharing a house rental (and food bill) across three families made the whole thing way more affordable.

Here we all are. Except Matt who took the photo,

 

Our highlights of the week included sitting on the shore on Friday night listening to the Fishermen’s Friends sing sea shanties (they’re pretty famous).

We had a pretty good view

We had a pretty good view

Long afternoons on Polzeath beach watching the kiddos dart in and out of rock pools.

(and stop for crackers)

(and stop for crackers)

The ferry from Rock to Padstow, where Jesse joyfully demolished Andy’s ice-cream (bought at Rick Stein’s deli – the boy has classy tastes).

IMG_4396

IMG_4410

And for what it’s worth, here are the lessons learnt from the great adventure:

1.Choose your companions well. I had a definite head-start here in that the whole thing was basically orchestrated by my two best buddies and myself, and we knew we liked each other. Two of us had lived together pre-marriage, and we’d certainly holidayed together before in our single days. It’s definitely easier to be with your favourite people rather than your partner’s favourite people, although I’m pretty sure the boys all like each other too…Or if not, they did brave faces well. So I guess really really making sure that you’re both down with the plan is pretty crucial before committing.

2. Don’t do everything together. Every family had different routines or habits. Our little man was up around 6am, and one of the other families wasn’t usually ready to hit the road much before noon (they did have triple the number of children). So we devised our own adventures, sometime meeting up on the beach later in the day, sometimes just for dinner. Getting a large group of people to agree a shared plan each day is way too much effort. A mixture of family time and group time worked great for us.

3. Snacks are really important. For all ages.

4. Pick a great location. We came up trumps here, and not just because we accidentally ended up in fictional Port Wenn where Doc Marten is set (if that means nothing to you, join the club. We were completely ignorant on arrival). We scored a beautiful big house (through friends of friends), where we had enough space not to need to kill each other, with incredible views, but which was also right on the doorstep of a beautiful village. Children of any age could set out on foot (with responsible adults…) and adventure down to the harbour or the cliff top or just the winding village streets. Beautiful sandy beaches were only a brief drive away, and there were loads of gorgeous pubs and restaurants for meals out.

5. Make the most of people power. Each couple had a great date night out, and we happily babysat for one another. Andy and I had an amazing seafood dinner, despite the fact that that he doesn’t really like seafood.

FullSizeRender-5

It was a brilliant week and has got me thinking that I’d love to do more shared holidays. (Share the cooking! Share the cost! Share the wine! Eat other people’s snacks!) I have so many happy memories of family holidays growing up, but we never really went with other families, and I think it’s such a great thing for kids. Saying that, I can imagine scenarios where it might be a nightmare. If we went on holiday with people who liked to be really tidy we would probably drive them bananas. Or if our kids were all really different ages and weren’t interested in hanging out or doing the same kinds of things. Or if you just didn’t like the people so much. Parenting is a pretty intense thing to be doing around people who wind you up, whereas genuine parental solidarity – I can’t get enough of it.

Do any of you have good or bad experiences of group holidays?

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather