The Hiatus

There has been a hiatus in my writing, the pause button has been forced on for the last few months. I really wanted to write, ideas for posts would flit through my mind, but l just couldn’t. Instead, most evenings, l have sat huddled under a fleecy blanket staring blankly at the wall/the television/the Husband, desperately trying not to throw up and counting the moments until l could go to bed.

You may be forgiven for thinking that l have been struck down by a terrible tropical parasite, and that is partly true. I am, in fact, with child again. Which is obviously wonderful and very exciting news, just a bit of a ….. surprise. I have always scorned those women who are somehow shocked to discover they are pregnant, wondering how the physical signs could possibly be ignored or mistaken for anything else. My karma came in the form of the Husband pointing out that my ‘car sickness’ and cravings for anything McDonald related (l usually avoid those golden arches like the plague) was perhaps the sign l should be peeing on a stick. Humble pie humbly (ish) eaten.

For some women, the first few months is full of happiness, excitment and an overall blooming contentment. Not me. I cling on to dear life just willing the time to pass until l can look at a plate of food without wondering how long it will reside in my stomach. My head is full of cotton wool, every limb feels heavy, my temper is short, my skin is spotty, my hair dry. l feel bloated, lethargic and generally hate the world. Kate Middleton l am not.

Thankfully, time has passed and the hormonal fog appears to be clearing. I don’t have to try and hold my stomach in anymore, or try and dispose of my alcoholic drinks in more and more creative ways, nor try and justify my frequent bathroom stops as a ‘persistent bladder infection’. I am, in fact, starting to feel pregnantly normal again. Just in time to have a breakdown about the fact that none of my clothes fit anymore.

IMG_6548

How l learnt to spend money.

I have known my husband for nine years. We have been acquaintances, friends, best friends, flatmates, boyfriend/girlfriend, exes, and, for better and worse, are now married and parents. Our relationship has taught me a lot: a dinner of sweets is not considered a healthy diet; how to cook an omelette with success; the joys of Biffy Clyro; that Pirate Metal is possibly the worst type of music; a love of ale and roast lamb; that bread knives should not be used for anything but bread; the relative merits of a Playstation versus an X-Box; how to lose without throwing a tantrum. Okay, l am still learning that last one.

A bigger lesson l have learnt, however, is how to spend money. Our differing attitudes to finances were clear when we first went grocery shopping together. I headed straight for the bargain bin (my Dad used to buy most of our food from this ‘almost out of date’ shelf – hence a lot of ‘Supper Surprise’) whilst The Husband would be in the ‘Organic Best’ section. This divide was echoed in most things – l would buy a bargain pair of hiking boots while he would spend enormous (to me) amounts of money on a high end pair. But then l would end up with wet feet and blisters whilst his feet were toasty warm and pain free. It has taken a few years, and l still struggle with ‘spend guilt’ but l now understand the wisdom of investing in “good kit” as my stepfather calls it.

Nowhere is this more clear than on my dressing table. A couple of weeks after giving birth, when The Husband had gone back to work and my Mum had returned back to the UK, l was desperate to get out of the house. I popped The Boy into the sling and hopped in a taxi to the nearest shopping mall. Whilst wandering around, bleary eyed, l was asked by one of the make-up assistants if l wanted a make-over. Well, milk-stained, rumpled, sleepless wreck that l was, l just plonked myself on the stool and let her do her worst. After about 20 minutes she showed me my reflection. I had expected to see some hideously over-made up face resembling a drag queen. Instead l looked human again. Like a much improved version of my current self. Well, that had me sold. My credit card was handed over and l have never looked back.

IMG_6225

The contents of my make-up bag.

Nine months on, wearing make-up on a daily basis, the only thing l have had to re-buy is the mascara. It seems that investing once and investing wisely is the way forward. And while l may never be frivolous with money, l have certainly learnt how to spend a little more.

A Life Less Lived

Like a lot of teachers l tend to mark my life in the number of weeks before the next break. 6 weeks to go before Christmas. 2 weeks to go before half term. 4 weeks to go before the end of the year. It is the same with a child – always looking for the next development, the next tooth, the crawling, the walking. Before you know it a year has passed.

But yesterday l was brought up short, quite literally.

I was listening to a Women’s Hour podcast from Radio 4 as l ran last night. It was an interview with a lady whose daughter had passed away from colon cancer on Christmas Day. aged only 36 and leaving behind twin 5 year old boys and a husband. The story was so poignant that l had to walk as l wiped away the tears. I couldn’t ever imagine leaving my family behind, not seeing The Boy grow up. The thought of it makes my stomach twist.

Later, when l returned from my run, l had a phone-call with my Dad. My stepmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer and ovarian cancer in December, and is supposed to be mid-way through chemotherapy. I was expecting to hear how the last session went, but instead the phrase “palliative care until the end of her life” echoed through the room.

As l sank into a whirlwind of negative “What If” thoughts, berating myself for wishing my life away and not mentally recording each day for posterity, l was reminded of something someone said at my Granny’s funeral: Life is for Living. I realised, then, that the reason l count the days and weeks is because those are the times l spend making memories with the people l love the most, because l get excited about new adventures, because every day is full of new experiences and l look forward to that.

I just hope these is never a time when someone tells me that the days l count are numbered.

The Liebster Award

It has been one of those weeks. The penultimate week of a 19 week term, parent-teacher conferences, a school trip, last minute Christmas shopping, and a teething baby. Those top two teeth are evil l tell you. Thank goodness for chocolate advent calendars, mulled wine, Calpol and Bonjela (and that is just for me).

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 20.06.20

Then l was nominated for the Liebster Award by the lovely Nicole at Mariella & Me, which made the week a whole lot better. So thank you Nicole! Check out her blog at some point, she has the cutest little girl and does some great baking, and l thoroughly enjoy reading about her daily life.

Accepting the award means l undertake three tasks. Firstly, l need to answer some questions about myself, secondly l need to tell you eleven random facts about myself, and thirdly l need to nominate some other blogs that l like. Here we go…..

The Questions

1. If you could have something right now, tangible or not, what would it be?
It sounds a bit mercenary, but l would like to have enough money saved to buy a house. We are currently working our butts off to save enough, which is partly why we are living abroad. It would be nice not to have that pressure!

2. What are you most grateful for?
My husband and my boy. My family and friends. Basically, for having people around me who love me for who l am. Even though l have absolutely no common sense or spacial awareness and do things like pick piping hot plates up, walk into glass plate windows and drive cars into posts on a regular basis.

3. What is something you hate to talk about?
Hard question! Being a teacher means you usually have to talk about most things. But l really don’t like people describing their injuries to me. I used to think l would be a great nurse, but l feel physically sick if someone starts talking about their wounds.

4. What is your one biggest regret?
Letting my parents talk me out of pursuing a career in art when l was a teenager. I had some amazing adventures instead, but part of me does feel like l wasted a few years not doing what l was supposed to do.

5. What is your favourite book of all time?
I am going to cheat and have three (l love books, am married to an English Literature teacher, and the tables at our wedding were all named after our favourite books!). Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and Mr God, this is Anna by Sydney Hopkins. All brilliant stories, with unusual and intriguing characters.

6. If you could tell your 16 year old self something, anything, what would it be?
Stop fighting who you are! I went through a few turbulent years from age 16 onwards and desperately hated who l was, which made me massively insecure. It took me a long time to accept and like myself for who l was. Also, l would tell my 16 year old self that a shaved head is fine, but it will take forever to grow out and look hideous in the process.

7. Why do you blog? For who?
A good question. My husband blogs (really well, he is an incredible writer – find his stuff at Tastehitch) and suggested it as a way of recording all the little baking projects, photography, and other creative bits and pieces that l do in my limited spare time. Now l have started l really rather enjoy it. I just wish l had more time to invest in it…

8. What one thing about your house/living situation would you like to change?
See above – owning our own house! Especially one without termites/mosquitos/and the potential of harbouring king cobras. Oh, and living somewhere with seasons. Seriously, how can it be Christmas when the temperature is 32 degrees Celcius?

9. What is your favourite memory as a child?
There are many, but one of my favourites is being on summer holiday in cold, wet, North Wales and my mum dragging us on a long muddy hike. We reached a hidden lake just as the sun broke through the clouds and my mum stripped off her clothes and jumped in the icy water. The three of us kids followed suit (my Dad stood there looking holding the packed lunches  and staring at us in disbelief). To this day we still swim in the sea on Christmas morning.

10. What are three goals you have for 2015?
My first it to start a little Etsy shop selling some of my design work – this is so scary as l don’t think my work is very good, but people seem to like it so l am going to give it a go. My second is to improve my video taking and editing skills – l am trying to make family videos of every holiday, but l want them to be cool to watch too. My third is to start writing letters instead of sending emails to my friends. It takes the same amount of time, and who doesn’t love getting a letter in the post?

11. What are you most proud of (aside from your kids!)?
Completing a half marathon in my fastest time ever, 7 months after having The Boy. It hurt. A lot. But it was the best feeling knowing that l had achieved a goal l set myself.

11 Random Facts About Myself
1.) I have a lazy right eye that doesn’t see a lot, so have a blindspot that means l cannot play badminton. At all.
2.) I once was a life model for students at the Royal College of Art in London.
3.) I have said ‘hello’ to Princes William and Harry when they were doing their Christmas shopping in Selfridges.
4.) I used to play rugby, and broke my ribs, two fingers, my nose (twice) and several toes in the process.
5.) I was born in a farmhouse (another story for another day!)
6.) There are two skills l would love to have – to be able to dance and sing. I can do neither well. Until l am drunk, then l think that l can do both awesomely.
7.) Once l sat up all night with a dead body, whilst living with a family in Japan.
8.) I went to Yemen about 15 years ago and had a guard who was armed with a kalashnikov. I got the best prices in the market.
9.) I can’t imagine a life without Post-It notes.
10.) Like most women, l love shoes. I own too many, including several pairs with ridiculously high heels that l wear once in a blue moon. And still l buy more.
11.) I gave birth to The Boy in the middle of a military coup. Which sounds much more dramatic than in actually was, but still, it’s a story to tell him when he is older!

Blogs I am nominating:

The Two Saving Sisters  –  I love shopping, but am also a fan of a bargain or two, so l love this blog for all it’s helpful tips!

Scrawling Consciousness – Great blog about the daily adventures of Little Man combined with down-to-earth experiences of being a parent.

Unsimple Life – Laugh out loud stories of being a Dad. Enough said.

Life in Japan with Toddlers – I am a little bit obsessed with Japan, so l love this blog. Rather than your usual tourist adventures, it gives insight into what life is truly like. With kids.

Girl Gone Expat – Amazing photography of an absolutely stunning landscape, with some great writing as well. Check it out.

JuJu’s secret Ingredient – Great recipes, a beautiful looking blog and again, great photography. I could look at this all day, but it makes me too hungry.

Please check out these blogs! They are great.

If l nominate you – here’s what you need to do:

Your job is to answer these questions in a blog post and spread the Lieb!

1. What do you like to blog about?
2. Describe your ideal day.
3. Are you excited about Christmas?
4. What would you spend a million pounds/dollars on?
5. What has been your worst disappointment in life?
6. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
7. What are the best five words to describe you?
8. Do you want to change anything about your life?
9. What is happiness to you?
10. What songs do you regularly listen to?
11. What and/or who inspires you?

Here are the rules of the Liebster Award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
  2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
  3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
  6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!).

Leaving the baby behind.

This may sound controversial, but sometimes leaving the baby behind is just brilliant.

Last weekend, for the first time in almost 7 months, l left The Boy behind. Intentionally, l might add, and at home in the capable hands of his daddy. It was a tearful moment as l waved goodbye from the window of the taxi, but by the time l had reached the airport (and had consumed a large Chai Tea Latte and a chocolate muffin) l was feeling better. In fact, excited about the prospect of a couple of days alone, exploring the temples of Siem Reap, a place that has been on my bucket list for years. I was not so excited, however, about the half marathon darkly looming on the horizon as well.

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender[1]

P1030633Angkor Wat

I had thought l would spend the weekend worrying about, and missing The Boy and The Husband. I did up to a point, but l also relished some alone time, space to think, to explore, to sleep, to spend time with friends. To just be.

P1030603P1030639P1030660P1030678

And the half marathon? I managed that too, in the fastest time since l began running 10 years ago. Which made me pretty damn proud of myself.

FullSizeRender[3]

Lining up at the start

Sweaty but still smiling

Sweaty but still smiling

Then l got to go home to my two favourite boys, and to be honest, their smiles and hugs as l walked (hobbled) through the door meant more to me than any medal.

The First Noel

I am so excited that it is The Boy’s first Christmas. Really over-excited. So much so that the reality may be a bit of a disappointment. He will definitely love the wrapping paper and tree ornaments more than anything else, and his ideal present would be our cats in a box, so that he could ‘stroke’ (in reality grabbing fistfuls of fur and pulling their tails) them without chasing them into a corner first. I know deep down that presents will be a waste of time, and that l should demonstrate restraint, but my inner shopoholic can’t help it. Last night l hit the (internet) shops.I am sure l can hear my bank manager sobbing, luckily he lives over 1000 miles away. If you are interested, here is what he (The Boy, not the bank manager) will be getting for Christmas.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.11.24

I wish they did this in adult size, l have a Paddington Bear obsession.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.15.54

He has been crawling for all of 3 weeks and now wants to be walking. Shoes it is.

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.13.14

Just. So. Cute. Perfect for cold toes.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.11.45

Christmas Day outfit. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.18.37

I have been told quite specifically by The Husband that this is horrific and in no way am l allowed to buy it. Oppps.

I seem to have a mustard obsession at the moment. This is the fourth item l have bought in this colour recently.

Leggings were vetoed too. Duly ignored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.12.20

So our cats don’t live out their remaining lives in fear. Hopefully.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.12.02

The best Christmas book ever. Fact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time ever l have not bought myself a Christmas present. Well, not yet anyway. These are bookmarked, waiting for that inevitable evening when l am home alone with a glass or three of mulled wine. On reflection, I had better buy the bank manager something too….

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.24.04

*SWOON* I am a new addict to expensive make up. Look how pretty!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 20.19.56

This year’s Christmas jumper? Yum.

 

I wish it could be Christmas everyday

Christmas Day has always been one of my favourite days of year. I have spent most of my Christmases in the UK with my family, following much the same traditions as the year before. Wake up early, open stockings (at 37 l still get ridiculously excited about this), go for a swim in the sea (yes, the actual sea), warm up with a nip of brandy and a hot bath, change into Christmas outfits, eat dinner, open presents, play games and them one by one fall asleep in front in the television. Even with divorces, remarriages, partners, friends and the odd additional pet, most years remain comfortingly the same. Apart from the last four.

2010 – Myself and The Husband, then boyfriend, had been through a horrific breakup a couple of months earlier. He had moved to China. I was still very much an emotional mess. This Christmas l just remember being a black hole of tears with sad songs on repeat and, really, not much else.

2011 – Myself and The Husband, then boyfriend, had just got back together. However, my mum had been unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer a week before, and was due to have a lung removed two weeks after Christmas Day. It was a quiet and sombre day despite our best efforts. No-one swam. No-one really ate dinner. The atmosphere was pretty bleak.

2012 – Having just moved to Bangkok, myself and The Husband, then fiancee, decided that we would take the holiday we had talked of for years. We went to Japan. It was amazing, and we spent Christmas in Tokyo, one of my all time favourite cities. We woke up in a tiny hotel room, opened the few presents we had managed to squeeze into our backpacks, went for Christmas Dinner in a British Pub, took a walk in the park and watched ‘Cross of Iron’ (not my choice) on the laptop until we could Skype the family. We ate take-out sushi from the 7-Eleven for dinner with a can of Asahi from a vending machine. Probably the strangest non-Christmas/Christmas either of us have ever had.

2013 – I was almost 4 months pregnant, so myself and The Husband decided to stay put in Thailand. We had my brother and another good friend from China come and stay. We tried to create as traditional a Christmas as possible. We all had stockings to open in the morning, took a Christmas swim in our swimming pool (a tad warmer that the sea), drank Bucks fizz, then headed for a buffet lunch at one of the posh hotels in the city. Bloated (l blamed my bulge on the growing baby, not the mountains of Christmas pudding), we played games into the evening, when we all passed out on the sofa watching a film. It was perfect.

Fast forward to 2014. We are taking The Boy back to the UK for two weeks, to experience the Christmas I had when growing up. We have, however, already introduced him to the joys of decorating a tree, thinking he would love the twinkling lights and sparkly baubles. In truth, he prefers the plug socket underneath.

This decoration was promptly thrown up on.

This decoration was promptly thrown up on.

Not happy about the antlers. Or the selfie.

Not happy about the antlers. Or the selfie.

This is taking up valuable crawling space.

This is taking up valuable crawling space.

What do you expect me to do with this?

What do you expect me to do with this?

Okay, l got this.

Okay, l got this.

Rocking around the tree. Dad style.

Rocking around the tree. Dad style.

After the baby had gone to bed.

After the baby had gone to bed.

Advent Calendars tomorrow, yippee! Happy Advent one and all.