Tag Archives: Milestones

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety two

Dear Henry,

At some point in the last couple of months, your face has changed. I noticed it in your back-to-school photo, and when I catch your face in repose in my rear-view mirror. Your face is thinner, older. You feel taller. You’ve just had a birthday, and now you are six.

In your head, of course, you’re much older than that. You are happiest of all when I treat you like a tiny adult, and one of the hardest things for you to understand is that it’s not always right for me to do that. But I give you as much autonomy as I can. What a funny thing you are: fiercely dignified, incurably perfectionist, dryly hilarious. You’ve never jumped through anyone’s hoops or softened your answers to be more socially acceptable. You hardly say a word in front of people you don’t know, so perhaps your blazing defiance, your fiery refusal to respect anyone before they’ve earned it, goes under the radar. It doesn’t here, where I watch you with astonishment, (often) frustration and not a little envy. Forgive me: sometimes I wish you’d conform. But that’s more about me than you, and you’d never take advice so patently ridiculous anyway.

There is proper delight here at six: the way you spend ages laboriously typing out text messages to family members, with carefully considered emojis; the way you hide books under your pillow and think I don’t know that you read them after lights-out; the instructional notes I find around the house (‘Please DO NOT use these until September’. ‘This way for Lego Club in Henry and Teddy’s room’). There are just a few words leftover from toddlerhood that you still mispronounce, and I hold them to me like old treasures: the Doctor fighting ‘the Garlicks’ in Doctor Who, eating ‘yer-sagne’ for dinner, going to ‘mathletics’ club at lunchtime.

I ordered you a cheese salad sandwich at school once, and you came home disgusted – disgusted – that it was ‘cheese, and cucumber, and CABBAGE, Mummy’. (‘Do you mean lettuce?’ ‘Oh, yes, probably’.)

You are still a fact-hoarder, especially now you can read. You’ve been telling me things, delightedly, about the Romans and the ‘Innocent Egyptians’ now you’ve discovered my stash of Horrible Histories. I hope I never forget your face when you’ve told me something you think is particularly unbelievable: wide-eyed, grinning, you give me a thumbs up and say ‘yes, TRUE!’ like you’ve personally fact-checked it. I mean, you might have. I wouldn’t rule it out.

You also love: your bike, ‘Mareao Karts’ (your spelling, Daddy’s old GameCube version), sausage pie, Tintin books, your brother (unconsciously, essentially) and your sister (openly, wholeheartedly), dinosaurs and Lego and space.

Yesterday we were listening to that song American Pie, and you laughed to yourself and said ‘Yeah, if you want to know how to dance real slow, ask a sloth’.

I worry about you more than either of your siblings. You are my first, of course, the fresh canvas that bears all my scribbled-out mistakes. You’re quiet and you care desperately and I worry that you don’t make things easy for yourself. And perhaps you don’t. Perhaps that doesn’t matter anyway, and you can already see what I can’t: that being defiantly yourself is all you can do, whatever anyone else thinks, whatever the pressures might be, whatever, whatever, whatever.

Good heavens, I love you for it. And for everything else.

Your mother.

Don’t worry, mama: the first day of school makes you cry for a reason

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So anyway, that was the first week of school.

H went back on Monday. My social media feeds have been full of kids going to school for the first time (and the accompanying parental meltdowns). It brought back last September for me in a great, vivid wave; I could almost taste it: the fear and the excitement and the pining, almost. I saw a lot of mothers apologising or feeling embarrassed for getting so emotional – as I did too, last year. What is it about starting school that means so much to us? Perhaps it’s the first determined step in a long road that leads away from us? Or maybe it’s because we’re sending them deliberately, and for the first time, into an environment where they have the possibility of being hurt. In a lot of ways, it represents an ending for us as much as a beginning for them. I know I worried that I hadn’t done enough, been enough, tried hard enough, during that time when I’d been everything to him.

It was less, this year, that feeling. But still there: he’s not the baby anymore, and watching him march into the big school building towards proper Maths and Stuff, tearfully clutching PE kit and book bag to his chest, was a bit of a killer. It was a big deal for him, but he did it, all week. I was proud of him, and so were his robots and superheroes (they are too manly and stiff-upper-lip to say so, of course, so they expressed it through the medium of doughnuts).

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I saw someone say online that the first day of school and the first time they learn to ride a bike are the same sort of milestone, the same sauntering off into independence while we hurt and hope behind them. As it happens, he learned how to ride a bike this week, too. GOOD TIMING, BUDDY.

We cycled to and from school for two days. He’s weirdly happy and confident about it – willing to try again when he messes up, improving astonishingly quickly, and asking for extra cycling sessions with Tim after dinner. I was surprised, but I think he’s just stumbled across his freebie: that thing you’re good at without having to try very hard. He’s found his Nimbus Two Thousand, basically. See also: me and eating cake. See not also: me and riding bikes (I crashed more than H did. T is heavy).

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Then T, who had two settling-in sessions at nursery towards the end of the week. I was totally blase about this one – he isn’t afraid of anything except invisible spiders, and definitely not rooms full of toys or new people. He had a blast, and was about as loud as one. And yet I STILL got ambushed by Feelings: if anyone knows how to look at your three-year-old stomping off in his miniature shiny black school shoes and too-large trousers without whimpering audibly, let me know. It didn’t happen here.

So now, a new frontier: T starts properly on Monday, and I’ll be without them both for two hours a day. I’ve been trying to think of useful things to do with that time – my first regular, unbargained- and unpaid-for time alone for some years – and so far all my brain’s come up with is naps.

Anything else, brain?

No?

I guess we’ll start there, then.

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One thousand, eight hundred and twenty-six

 

Dear Henry,

Today is your birthday, and you are five. You are asleep, finally, after an exciting day where you have made all the important decisions: bacon and waffles for breakfast, a trip to London to visit the ‘dinosaur museum’, hot dogs and milkshakes for lunch, episodes of Transformers Rescue Bots for an evening treat. At every pause in the day you have told me how happy you are. ‘Isn’t this the best day we’ve ever had?’ ‘Mummy, I’m having such a nice time’. ‘I wish we could do this day forever and ever!’ If I’d have known that this kind of loveliness would be the reward for year three, I’d have kept my chin up rather better than I did.

Because you are lovely, Hen, quite unexpectedly. I don’t mean that to sound like an insult – I mean that you are such a stubborn, inquisitive, emotional boy that you have often brushed your way through the world like a porcupine with all its quills out. Interested in everything, refusing to back down if you feel you’re in the right, never moving with the crowd for the sake of moving. Honestly, it can be (has been) frustrating having a child who is so resolutely not a people-pleaser. You are yourself, always. You mean everything sincerely. You will not perform. At school we had to find other motivations for you to try hard other than ‘your teacher will be pleased’, which left you unmoved, as much as you loved your teachers. We settled on something like ‘getting better at things makes me feel good’. These days I feel like this total, self-contained integrity will be one of your greatest strengths.

(I don’t want ’emotional’ to sound like an insult either: another one of your superpowers is that you can always articulate exactly what you’re feeling and sense what others are feeling too. That’s pretty rare, and very valuable.)

But then yes, in the past year – loveliness too. More calm, more logic. More space for your natural sense of humour to hold sway. You have let your brother keep one of your new birthday toys in his sticky fist all day, without complaint. The other day he fell over in the park, and I looked up to find you guiding him tenderly down the stairs towards me, so I could help him. (You also bicker A LOT; I mean, we’re not in Utopia here.) You are still obsessed with dinosaurs, bikes, books, sausage pie – but now you prefer showers to baths, hoodies to jumpers, cereal to porridge, and those vaguely hideous dinosaur trainers to basically everything else on the planet.

And you talk. Constantly, hungrily, melodramatically. You pick up words and facts from obscure places and bring them out later, much to our surprise. One day you appear in the doorway holding your arm and screeching ‘Teddy! You did that on real big purpose!’ Or when I’m trying to convince you to wear a winter hat: ‘I’ll never be with you if you force me to wear things. YOU FORCER’. The next day you’re refusing to go to bed until we’ve read the encyclopaedia page on the Industrial Revolution (‘Ohhh. I’ve been thinking about that.’ ‘You’ve been thinking about…the Industrial Revolution?’ ‘Yes! All the time!’) and correctly identifying, after an internal rummage, a duck-billed platypus in the Natural History Museum (‘How did you know that?’ *shrug* ‘Oh, I dust picked it up somewhere.’).

Anyway, on you go. Back to school in September, and no longer the baby. Buying a bike tomorrow with your birthday money, with no stabilisers. I exclaim twice a minute how big you are – this must get annoying – but really, Hen, I’m not sad about it. You child of my heart; you beloved, vulnerable, fiercely defiant boy. You are growing into yourself all the time. And you’re making, oh, such a wonderful job of it. I am so proud. I look at you sometimes and I can barely breathe for it.

Happy fifth, with much love.

Your mother.

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September. July.

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September. July.

It’s done. It’s all done. There I am, waiting at the school gate for the last time in his first year, next to women I have come to love. And here he comes in a queue of friends, crumpled book bag slung over his shoulder, shirt filthy and untucked, skinny legs tanned in the shorts he insisted on wearing every day in summer term.

We have had anxieties aplenty since September – weeks where he cried every morning at the school gate and raged every evening at home, where I worried about him getting dressed for PE and whether he had anyone to play with. Mostly he has grown. Always a fact-hoarder, he came home every day fizzing with them – ‘Mummy, did you know that cabbages have heads?’ ‘Mummy, did you know that a butterfly would drink your blood because there’s so much sugar in it?’ He is ploughing through reading books and counting to one hundred. He has done Sports Day, costume days, assemblies, school trips on coaches, and has sung his little heart out as a pirate in an end-of-term play.

On the way home from the performance, he asked me – wonder in his voice – whether I knew that he was quite good at singing, actually? His teachers have done that for him, this boy who daren’t draw attention to himself in a crowd: they’ve told him he can raise his voice.

I wonder if every year will be like this, whether I will be as grateful and as awed by his teachers as I have been so far, whether he will continue to make leaps that are beyond anything I have envisioned for him. His first year at school hasn’t been about me at all, but I’ve got something from it all the same: the understanding that he is far more capable than my fears have allowed me to believe; the dawning realisation, breathtaking and lovely, that he has higher, and further, and further still to go.

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Hello to all that (on first days at school)

September 15

This is it. Don’t get scared now.

I was going to write about sending H off to school as though it were an ending. In lots of ways, it is to me. Our longest, toughest (? maybe?) shift together is done. No more nappies, night feeds, rhyme times at the library. No more chopping grapes in half to better wheedle them into his mouth, or convincing him into the shopping trolley seat. No more making the universe he lives in, and bashing my brains out over getting it right. Did I only have him to myself for four years? It seems longer than that, and shorter. It seems like everything we’ve known so far is changing, because it is.

But as we sit over celebratory Happy Meals and chocolate milkshakes – because after all, you have a first ever day at school only once – it feels much more like a beginning.

Hello exercise books and HB pencils, magic E and book bags. Hello to PE on the apparatus, recorder lessons, and scarecrow tag in the playground.

Hello to libraries, and more books, more stories and more worlds to discover than you ever thought existed.

Hello to the Romans and the Tudors and the blasted Industrial Revolution.

Hello to beloved and crappy teachers, and beloved and crappy friends. To make ups and break ups. To being tested and passing, or failing, and learning things about yourself in the failure.

A beginning then, and a hopeful, thrilling one at that. I can’t keep him to myself when he has all this waiting in the wings.

The sun is out, Hen. September’s calling. You’ll feel that golden, autumnal pull towards change all your life, probably.

Go out there and get it.

September. July.

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September. July.

Note the worn-through shoes, the yoghurt-stained jumper, the trousers that barely fit, and the general sense of a boy who has grown in every direction, more than I can fathom.

Yesterday H had his new school visit, and today he went back for a final week at nursery. I came home and had a big ole cry. I remember being a little sad and nervous when he started nursery back in September, but mostly it was exciting: he was ready for something new, and so was I.

In the months since then, he’s made friends, learned to hold a pen and write his name, tramped out to Forest School every Friday,  started going to the loo without my intervention, done projects on polar animals and Chinese New Year and fairy tales, dressed up as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, gone out for a day’s school trip on a coach, sung in school assemblies, thrown bean bags in Sports Day, grown ten times more ornery and twelve times more hilarious, and emptied that basket of cars and train tracks every. single. day.

His teachers know him, and love him. Which is not down to any specialness in him, particularly, but in them. I never got over that: the fact that he’s not theirs, and yet they care about him as though he were. It astonishes me. I love them for it, to a kind of embarrassing extent. And I suppose I don’t want to start all over again. While putting on a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, deep down I’m dreading it horribly.

This morning over breakfast, I had to break the news, when he asked, that I was already married to Daddy, so couldn’t marry him when he grew up. He burst into tears and sobbed, ‘I do not ever want to grow up and leave you!’ So I guess there’s something in the water this week.

On the whole, of course, he does want to grow up. Because that means getting bigger, understanding more, becoming a richer and more complex person. And I want that too. This has been a blazing wonder of a year for him, and I think the year to come will be another.

All the same, I am saying to myself what I said to him this morning, as I pulled him onto my lap (where he only just fits) and rubbed his little shaking back.

‘It’s alright. You’ll grow up and leave one day, and it will be a happy thing. But it’s not for a while. Not for a good long while.’

A letter for two

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Teddy,

Today is your birthday, and you are two. Your day is supposed to be over, actually, but you haven’t yet given up the good fight: I can still hear you bouncing and yelling in your room. Most of the street can. You have two volumes: the cracked little fake-sorrowful voice you put on for apologies, and Is That A Jet Engine, No It’s Just Teddy.

You are two, and these last two years have gone before I could blink. You are two, and it feels like you’ve been two forever. You’re a mixed little thing, my love: pure sunshine with a streak of steel through your middle. You are good-natured, big-hearted, puppyish; ready to make jokes in silly voices and then to laugh before anyone else does. You give hugs freely, without the asking. At heart you are happy, and want everyone else to be too. You are also single-minded, stubborn and intensely strong-willed. When you want something, you shout. If you don’t get it, you shout louder. The other day you asked to be picked up in order to more conveniently hit me in the face, and I was stern (‘we do NOT hit’ / ‘sowee mammy!’) but also reluctantly impressed.

You won’t get this till much later, maybe ever, but I’ll say it for myself: like most second-time parents, I wasn’t sure what my love for you would look like before I met you. When you love a child for the first time, it knocks you silly. You’re shaken to the foundations of yourself and built up again into something new. It’s hard to imagine it happening again, a second time, the same but also different. And then it does. You open up, again. Caverns with vaulted ceilings expand, and expand again. With love, and love, and love.

But Ted, this is what I’m trying to explain: you made it so easy. No one has ever met you and not loved you immediately. You are laughably lovable (that hair! those eyes! that ridiculous smile!). You arrived three weeks early, quickly, unexpectedly, and none of us had any idea of the happiness you’d add to our store.

Like grace. Given freely, without the asking. That’s how I think of you, really. And I’m so grateful.

…And you were a pain in the neck on the Tube today, and you drank two mango lassis one after the other, and you wanged a metal train into a poor gentleman’s ankle because I wouldn’t let you leap onto the platform at the wrong stop.

I wouldn’t change you. How could you be anything but gloriously yourself?

I pinch myself when I think about how lucky I was to get you. Happy birthday, Edward bear.

Much love,

Your mother.

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The funny old thing about time

Time passes.

Everyone told me it would, but of course I didn’t believe them. How could I? The space inside a minute with a newborn seems so very long, because you’re awake nearly all the minutes there are. And there are some images from the brand-new days of my babies that I can still see with pin-sharp, painful clarity.

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The particular softness of miniature fingers curling around one of mine. Long, spindly fingers. Papery nails. Knuckles marked precisely with tiny lines. 

The toe-curling agony of latching, the way I would hold my breath and tense every muscle and let out a noise like a cow going into labour.

The look of focussed concentration on two-day-old H’s face as he tried to make both his eyes look the same way, at me. Realising I was the voice and the food and the smell that made everything better for him, and feeling shaken and profoundly moved by it at the same time. 

T wrapped up in a bloody towel on our bedroom floor, T’s black Wolverine hair soft underneath my chin, T quietening himself down to ‘Moon River’, no matter how badly I sang it. The wide-open sense of wonder that possessed me every time I looked at him: I can love you too, you are a person as well, this is all going to be fine.

The ragged sobbing and heavy despair, about five nights in, when I realised that there was no end to this tiredness, no point at which someone would say to me ‘alright, my love, you’ve done well, now you can sleep’. Because I would be woken up every two hours, day and night, for the rest of my natural life, which would not be long. (I had this minor breakdown both times.)

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See? I can close my eyes and be back there with no space in between. The ache and the heaviness, the ravenous midnight hunger, the intense needles of brand-new painful love, like shafts of bright sunlight on my face. The fear. The bottle steriliser. The babies. I can feel them, lighter than a sack of sugar in one arm, as I sprint up the stairs. There’s a sheepskin rug under my feet as I bend over the crib to put my hand on their rising and falling chest.

And then I open my eyes again to find two bright-haired boys, big and solid in Captain America t-shirts, scrapping over toys.

‘You can’t HAVE Ferdinand, he’s MINE and belongs to ME.’

‘Tetty TURN. MUMMY. HERRY TRAIN. TURN.’

For a second I honestly can’t work out how we got from there to here.

***

I’ve been thinking about this today because we went to meet up with a lovely blogging friend and her little boy. The last time we saw them both was two years ago. I brought two-year-old H and no pushchair, and was a little ambitious in anticipating how far he’d walk and how interested he’d be.

He kicked off, obviously. He was two; I had never had a two-year-old before; I had a tendency to expect more of him than he was able to give. It was lovely to see my friend and her gorgeous boy, but it was definitely one of those parenting days you keep locked in a vault. (Then I wrote about it for What to Expect, and made it all immeasurably worse.)

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Today I brought H and T to see them, and all three of the boys are much taller. I have come through two years of toddler-plus-baby, continually multitasking between them both, battle-hardened and -softened simultaneously. I am stricter about some things now (OF COURSE YOU ALWAYS BRING A PUSHCHAIR) and laxer about others (of course you can have another sausage roll!).

H, my heart, walked by the pushchair, asked before he went off somewhere, and sat long-legged and patient on the kerb waiting for the bus.

T ran off as many times as H did at his age, but hey, two-year-olds. They’re good at lots of things, but walking in a straight line isn’t one of them. That’s why you bring a pushchair. We had a wonderful day.

I have a lot of compassion, and some impatience, for the mother I was when I started. I hope I’m compassionate in the future about this version of me, too. Expecting more of an almost-four-year-old than he’s able to give. Still bending over their beds at night to put a hand on their chests and smooth down their hair.

Time passes, and I’m sorry, and I’m grateful. I didn’t believe them when they told me it would, but oh, I do now.

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A manifesto for being an all-round good egg at thirty

You do not know how hard I had to work to post a photo of me from the side with all my wrinkles intact. It's for a good cause. *sob*

You do not know how hard I had to work to post a photo of me from the side with all my wrinkles intact. It’s for a good, being-more-self-accepting cause. *sob*

I’ve been thirty for a week and I’m not dead yet.

I jest. I’ve been gently bemoaning my age as this birthday has approached, but my heart hasn’t really been in it. The one small moment of panic I had in January, where I sobbed ‘I’M GOING TO BE THIRTY AND I DON’T KNOW IF I’M DOING ANYTHING WORTHWHILE’, felt like it came from the usual insecurities of having small children and no performance reviews, and from the idea that I was supposed to be having a breakdown and had a spare ten minutes to get it done. (Do you ever feel something because you think you ought to? I think I do.)

So far – and it’s early days – I feel like thirty has given me permission to be unapologetic about myself. I spent most of my teens and twenties trying to fit myself in boxes that weren’t for me, like almost every other person in their teens and twenties who aren’t Luna Lovegood. Wishing my body looked different, trying not to resent the pounds I put on in pregnancy, the bagginess, flatness, fullness that came afterwards. Or adapting myself to the company I was in: trying to seem less clever or more clever, less religious, more conservative, less bothered about things that bothered me a lot (and vice versa). Trying to adopt the right parenting philosophies so the mother tribes would let me in. Worrying that being shy made me boring.

That last might still be true. But in the past months I’ve been feeling more and more comfortable in my own skin. I’m a champion worrier so it’s a bit odd: will it last? Is it a temporary madness? I’d like it to stick around. So, it’s election season here in the UK, and I thought I’d get on the bandwagon. Here’s a manifesto of sorts: things I would like to aspire to, most especially when I’m frantic and insecure, now that I’ve hit my one-score-and-ten.

This party would like to remember that its body has had a crazy five years. Sometimes I watch the boys running around and want to yell ‘hey, look at them! This body made them! This one here!’ First there came the growing-and-birthing part, which I need to tell you was not an inconsiderable commitment. Now I spend all my time jogging next to balance bikes, lifting into car seats, avoiding kicking tantrum legs, gathering little bodies onto my lap and rubbing backs while they cry snot into my hair. It’s hard and joyous graft. I’ve come a long way in the last decade, and so has the body I’m in. I want to give it the credit it’s due, treat it well and then embrace it as it is.

This party would like to write, and not be embarrassed about writing. And actually get paid for writing more often, because then I would be living my BEST LIFE.

This party will own what it believes in. I am a Mormon, and a liberal, and a feminist. It can be tricky to be all three. But I love my faith with a passion and I believe in liberal ideologies with a passion and I get very exercised about women’s rights. And, you know, I just don’t feel like playing any of them down anymore. There’s a Mantel quote that I love, and I think I’m going to stick it up somewhere:

‘I cannot unbelieve what I believe. I cannot unlive my life’.

Hear flipping hear.

This party will remember that being sane is important, and hobbies help it to remain so. I have interests both high and low, and it feels like I’m always mentally apologising for one of them. Sometimes I want something that makes me think, and sometimes I want to sit still while my brain dribbles gently out of my ears. I want to exist, unabashed, in the intellectual space I have room for at the time, whether that’s reading a Booker prize winner or an Agatha Christie, listening to symphonies or Heart Radio, watching art documentaries or House.

This party would like to organise its life in such a way that it never needs to take toddlers into a supermarket again. Seriously, it’s a killer. I would like to strike Putting Off Doing The Online Shop Until There Is Literally No Food To Feed The Clamouring Children off my list of special talents, where it reigns supreme.

This party intends to honour its need for space and quiet, but not make this an excuse. I am an introvert, but I never want to use it as an excuse for being rude. The older I get, the more I think that there’s not much more important than fulfilling your obligations and being kind. Or rather, so many things get easier when you’re pulling your weight and being kind first. I want to be someone people talk to because they know I’ll listen. I want to look after the friendships that mean the most to me. I want to be gracious (isn’t that a lovely word? I feel like hugging it to my chest).

This party declares its interest in wearing more shirts and eating more doughnuts. I’m wearing a shirt today with dragonflies on it, and honestly, just looking at my cuffs is filling me with glee. You can’t buy that happiness (actually you can, in TK Maxx. It was a steal).

I love the chap I married, and I love the boys we made, and I love the house we live in. And I know a lot of quite amazing people I can glom onto and learn from. That seems like a pretty solid base to start your next decade. So, um, vote for being thirty? I have doughnuts.

You can also vote for your favourite ever age, in the comments below. Thus far, honestly? My vote would be this one.

Oh, were you wanting a photo that totally encapsulates my life at the moment? Here you go!

Perhaps you were wanting a photo that totally encapsulates my life at the moment. Et voilà, it appears.

Movin’ on out

Hello internet! Hello wider world! Hello, dear blog from which I have been absent a fortnight! I feel like I’m all rusty. Here, someone help me bend sideways.

We finally got connected yesterday and, let me tell you, if you ever want to feel the First Worldness of your problems, go without wifi for a couple of weeks. It actually hurt, but for heaven’s sake. It’s hardly cholera, is it? Even so, now we’re all wired up I feel like doing a celebratory dance. Brb, just Googling everything ever.

Let’s catch up, shall we? Photo iceberg ahead, cap’n.

The move. Ah, the move. The move that ended up being confirmed two days before, while Tim was in Scotland on a work trip. We’d started Caution Packing before he went, but I spent those two days sweeping everything into boxes AND running papers here and there AND lion-taming two boys, one of whom was teething molars like a baby shark. Reader, I survived. With the aid of excellent friends, plus two burgers and a pizza.

Moving house involves many feelings (see previous overly-emotional post for reference). You find yourself packing books in a box, and then thinking histrionically ‘my books have gone, so I don’t live here anymore. But still no confirmation of a new house. WHERE DO I LIVE?’ Drama, drama. I’ve toned it down several thousand notches now.

The actual move was hectic, but went smoothly. I was panicking about getting our old piano down the stairs, but with the help of several willing gentlemen, it came down in one piece. (We had so much help all day, and we were so grateful.) Once everything was packed, the boxes pile stretched from floor to ceiling, taking up our entire living room. Tim had the time of his LIFE (no sarcasm) working out the most mathematical way to fit it in the van. It was like a game of Tetris. He’s really very good at Tetris.

Once we’d taken the last thing downstairs, hoovered and swept and mopped and closed all the doors, and left the new owner some chocolate and drink, I just sat for a bit on the windowsill. It looked too small and it looked too big. I cried a bit. And then we drove away.

I felt funny here for the first couple of days – things everywhere, trying furniture in different configurations that didn’t quite work – but we’re settling well now. We have clothes, food and a working washing machine. The boys have been fantastic, getting excited about new parks and our little scrubby garden (to be continued).

We love being so close to Henry’s nursery, and surrounded by woodland on every side. This morning I took Teddy to explore one of the bridleways – wearing loafers, like an idiot – and apart from the loafers, it was wonderful. Living in close proximity to trees makes me happy. This is a distinctly hippyish thing to say, but it’s true. I can see our next ten years here. It looks nice.

On the downside, the water here is either harder or softer than we’re used to, and with that plus autumn gales and damp nursery runs, I haven’t yet managed to achieve anything on my head other than this.

This is a couple of steps down from bed-head, and it looks like this all the time. Sigh.

On Sunday I helped Sarah move into her new house (which is lovely), accidentally broke the car a bit on the way out, and drove back worried. I came in to find everything tidy, our art on the walls, Sunday sun falling onto the floor in every room, and Tim waiting in the quiet with the boys asleep. He said I hadn’t really broken the car. And it felt like coming home.

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