Monday, 13 April 2015

'Change always comes bearing gifts'

I was in Waitrose last week and a woman rushed in in front of me. She was wearing a smart, beautifully tailored suit and clutching her BlackBerry in one hand and expensive purse in the other. She was clearly in a world of her own as she dashed to the lunch fridge, grabbed the first sandwich that she could reach and dashed towards the till.

It was like looking at myself two years ago. I recognised the air of frustration with the other shoppers,  who were just in her way. I recognised the perfectly applied make up which almost disguised the tense set of her jaw. I recognised the faraway frown that meant she was either mentally going over notes from her last meeting or preparing for the next one, which she was going to be late for if these slowpokes didn't move out of the way.

I couldn't help but smile as I realised with a start just how much my life has changed in the past couple of years. For a brief moment I felt a pang of regret as I thought back to my well paid job, my beautiful, brand new car and the sense of importance that all that responsibility had brought. And then I felt silly because what could be more important than the responsibility of raising a child? And who in the world is more important to a child than it's mother?

Becoming a mother has changed pretty much every aspect of my life. My body is certainly not what it used to be, that's for sure. It has soft bits which are still unfamiliar to me and I feel it has let me down so much since I became pregnant. My hormones are a law unto themselves. I long for more time to do what I want to do, rather than what I need to do, but wasn't that always the case? Friends have fallen by the wayside. Priorities have shifted. I even think differently now.

But in amongst these losses and unwelcome gains came the most amazing gift. My wonderful, amazing son. When I was pregnant I dreamed that I had a gorgeous little blue-eyed, curly headed, rosy cheeked boy and look what I got. He's truly perfect in every way. I love his sweetness, I love that he knows his own mind and I love his cautious nature. He has made my life complete and I want to give him everything I can - the best childhood he could wish for, a safe, secure home and all the love in the world.

I remember friends from my past who had babies and changed beyond all recognition, drifting out of my life and into a world of nappies, toddler groups and teething. I remember how I missed them. How after the first couple of times it happened, I caught on to the way of it and expected it the third time. It's inevitable. I do believe that friendships can survive motherhood - if both friends have children it's just a natural evolution of their relationship. But if one remains childless then they just don't appreciate the seismic shift that children bring. And let's be honest, it's hard to be as interested in someone else's child as they are.

When my sister had a baby we drifted apart for a few years. We still spoke of course and still saw each other but our lives were so different that we had little in common and our deep and meaningful conversations weren't quite as deep and meaningful anymore. She always had a baby with her, with his inherent demands and I never had her full attention anymore. She didn't have time to really listen to me and I had little interest in her new life. I didn't even really like children if I'm honest, so this intruder was just inconvenient.

But when we decided to start a family and when I found out I was pregnant I instinctively drew closer to her again. She understood what it's like to be pregnant, she knew how I felt and what I was worried about. She was a brilliant birth partner and she helped me so much in those early days - bringing me new nappies when we realised the ones I'd bought were three sizes too big, lending me her bath to ease my aching post-natal body because we still didn't have ours plumbed in. I've lost count of how many times I've sought her advice on all things baby-related. I feel like we're on an equal footing again now and we understand each other perfectly. I'll be forever grateful to her for her kindness and generosity since Forrest came along and for bearing with me during those couple of years of distance, for not taking it personally and for accepting me as I am. I'm not an easy person at the best of times and I understand now how it feels when someone you are close to doesn't get on board for the biggest, scariest ride of your life. It's disappointing and it hurts.

I know that I've become what I once despised - a baby bore. That's ok, I can laugh about it but I can't change it because that's who I am right now. All those things that people tell you - you don't know real love until you look into your child's eyes, life will never be the same - they're all true. I'm just not the same person I used to be. I used to feel sorry for women like me and think that their lives were small and meaningless, but now I feel sorry for the women who are like I used to be. Who don't know about the extraordinary, unprecedented kind of love you feel for your child, the strength of the bond that forms during pregnancy and grows inexorably with every passing day as you watch your baby grow into a little boy.  

It's a fiercely protective love that floors me every night when I sit in my chair in the nursery with Forrest, bathed and sweet-scented, when he nestles his head into the crook of my arm and gazes at me with his big, blue eyes until he falls asleep, long, dark lashes fanned across his perfectly rounded little cheeks.

I used to think 'for goodness sake. Doesn't she realise that there's more to life than her child?'

And now I think 'yes there is. Of course there is. But not much.'

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Countryside Lincs 2015

Last weekend, the lovely Marketing Team from the Lincolnshire Showground kindly invited us to visit Countryside Lincs - a day aimed at teaching children about food, farming and the countryside.

Needless to say, I didn't need asking twice. This kind of thing is right up my street!

We headed off to the Showground on a cold, rainy Sunday, praying that the howling wind and drizzle would ease off or that there would be plenty of indoor activities. Unfortunately, the weather was not kind so we headed straight for the indoor Food Zone to see some of the demonstrations. There was bread making, soup making, cheese making, sausage making and ice cream making on offer and the children seemed entranced. Unfortunately there wasn't any food to actually eat, so we set off again in search of lunch.

We found ourselves in the Farmyard Zone and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce Forrest to the animals. There was a donkey and her foal, some sheep, cattle, heavy horses and best of all, a lovely chap from the British Goat Society who let us meet his gorgeous baby goats! Just a couple of weeks old, they were so sweet and wonderfully friendly, even jumping up to lick his fingers as he chatted to us. Forrest gave them a good frown and refused to touch them but I was in my element! They were so soft and they all looked like they were smiling!

We managed to find some food and then headed back to the animals, where Forrest met some guinea pigs and rabbits (which he again refused to touch) and some days old chicks (which he'd have loved to touch but wasn't allowed - they were just too teeny) 

Next door were the Explore It Zone and Make It Zone, which had crafting and activities for all ages. There were exhibitors ranging from the Lincolnshire Wolds Countryside Service to the National Farmers Union and Lincolnshire Young Farmers and the activities ranged from planting seeds and learning to milk a cow to 'excavating' a skeleton in the Explore It Zone. In the Make It Zone children could try their hands at rag rug making, insect modelling and making a bug house. All of the crafts were free for the children to keep - I saw several parents trying to find someone to pay and being pleasantly surprised.

The outdoor activities included a parade of hounds, gundog demonstration and birds of prey flying demonstration as well as archery, tractor rides and displays of farriery, shooting and fly fishing.

The whole event was built around children and was done really well. All the children I saw seemed to be really enjoying themselves and there was a wide range of activities and things for them to see and do. There were child safety wristbands available at the entrance and plenty of hand washing stations dotted around the animal areas.

This was the first event of its kind and I really hope that it's repeated next year as it's such a fantastic idea. The only things that let the day down were the weather - which we should all be used to - and if I'm honest, the catering could have been better. This could have been our mistake though as I saw many families settled down with their own picnics in the barn. We'd been expecting lots of lovely local produce to choose from for lunch but were limited to a single snack van, which was a bit disappointing. 

The best thing about the day was seeing so many children bundled into padded, waterproof suits and allowed to just run about and have a good time, despite the rain. I know I'd have loved it as a child and when Forrest is old enough to really take part it will be the kind of family day out that's perfect for us. The exhibitors were all really keen to get the children involved and their enthusiasm was infectious.

Did any of you go to Countryside Lincs? Does it sound like the kind of thing you'd have enjoyed as a child?

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

March Round Up

home made mothers day card - mary berry cake fail - sunny kitchen
hot cross bun break - afternoon walk - summer wheels
forrest's favourite spot - more baking - my evening view

Here we are again, another month gone and another bunch of resolutions down the pan! I really don't know where the time goes, even though this month has seemed to drag a bit I've still managed to get nothing done. Well, nothing that I planned. Never mind, it's been a pretty good month anyway ...

Early in the month we had to take Forrest to the hospital for blood tests. These blood tests were ordered in October but we've made numerous appointments and had to cancel them due to him being ill - he seems to be ill A LOT! We finally made it this month but despite being there over an hour and despite two nurses trying, Forrest was not giving up any blood whatsoever. Not a jot. There were six of us in that room, including a 'play therapist' (to help us distract him), Matt and I and three nurses and whilst Forrest lapped up the attention, it was a bit of a fail on the blood front. We've rebooked him for April and are keeping everything crossed that he's healthy and feeling generous ...

We fitted in a couple of visits to the park on our trips into town, Forrest likes feeding the ducks but his real love is the swings. So much so that he screams bloody murder when it's time to leave. We have definitely hit the stroppy toddler stage now and the little fella knows how to make his displeasure known! I try to distract him if I sense one coming and ignore him once he's underway but it can be extremely wearing. He hates having his nappy changed at the minute and that's something I just can't avoid!

Matt took a couple of days off work mid-month and suggested we take Forrest to The Deep, over the bridge in Hull. I thought this was a fabulous idea (and was rather miffed that I hadn't thought of it myself) but it turned out that I enjoyed it far more than Forrest did. I thought he'd be fascinated by the fish but in reality he enjoyed the soft play area and flirting with the group of old ladies we met far more! We also took him for his first Pizza Hut (he loved the stuffed crusts!) and his first Chinese meal (he loved crispy duck and fortune cookies and had a great time banging the table with a pair of chopsticks!) Not our finest hour culinarily speaking but a nice little treat.

I managed a couple of Forrest free days and spent them with my sister, we met in town for a coffee - well, I may have put away a full English whilst waiting for her to show up too - and a bit of light shopping. It was so good to spend time with her with no children around! Not that we don't adore them but as she succinctly put it 'I actually heard everything you said today!' It was so good that we arranged childcare and scheduled a trip to Meadowhall at Sheffield for the following week! That was a brilliant day, I spent some of my Advantage Card points on makeup, sniffed Jo Malone scents and bought new clothes for Forrest before chowing down on a delicious lunch. We've agreed to make sure we do it more often, it was a brilliant day.

I don't know if it's the change in seasons but I've not been sleeping brilliantly lately, I've found myself waking briefly a few times during the night and feeling a little zombie-like the next day. I've made a few changes - less screen time for and early nights - and I'm feeling so much better for it. I went to bed at half past eight one night last week and felt like a different person the next day! 

I still rely on my morning coffee to help me through the worst days though, so I was delighted when Lincolnshire Co-op sent me a bag of their new local coffee to try. It is a Fairtrade Arabica blend made by Stokes and was developed by canvassing customers' opinions on existing blends at last year's Lincolnshire Show. I love the idea of a company really listening to what its' customers want. The coffee is delicious, smooth and just the right strength for my taste. I drink a lot of tea and coffee so I've enjoyed sampling a new flavour and if you live in Lincolnshire I strongly recommend you seek it out at your local Co-op.

The final, bittersweet thing that happened in March is that we completed the sale of the cottage yesterday! After a lot of backwards and forwards over 'did you get planning permission for the extension?' and 'has the house got an electrical certificate?' and unbelievably 'how big is the extension?' (er, you're living in the house, why don't you tell us - and how about paying the rent while you're at it??) the money hit the bank yesterday and Matt waved goodbye to the little house he bought when he was just 21. It felt like the end of an era - we did so much work to that house and spent some wonderfully happy years there. We were sad to leave it and since we moved out we've both consciously taken a different route in and out of the village to avoid having to drive past it! But in the grand scheme of things it was the right thing to do and we've now got one less thing to worry about.

Oh wait, I lied. The very final, bittersweet thing that happened in March was that Forrest started using his big boy car seat. My baby is growing up, sniff!

How was your March?

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