Waking up in Cornwall – a life update

I was reorganising the playroom the other day (because when am I not reorganising that room as if I’ll one day walk in and magically find there isn’t too much stuff in there) and I had a bit of an epiphany. I wasn’t holding a baby. There wasn’t a baby calling for my attention. She wasn’t even in the same room, off instead with her sisters in the adjoining living room, genuinely trying to join in with whatever game they were playing.

I know it’s been like this for a while. They make a lot of space for her and I’m not even sure she’s aware that at fifteen months old, she’s a good few sizes smaller than they are. But I don’t know. Filling a bin liner of stuff-we-are-so-not-keeping-why-did-we-even-bring-it-with-us-in-the-move, I recognised a clarity of mind that’s been absent for some time. I feel like I’m waking up from a two-year stretch of dysfunctional sleep in which my dreams have mainly consisted of trying to wake myself up or trying to lift my eyes to see something above me and finding my lids an obstacle. It feels like freedom.

Nine months on from our move to Cornwall, a settling the length of a pregnancy, I’m waking up somewhere new, somewhere I’d never imagined being. My life looks so different here. My children are considerably older. It’s becoming a stretch to call Delilah a baby. She has only to start walking and I’ll have to admit what she already knows that she is a child. Ophelia is suddenly, at three and a half, full of conversation, reasoning and astonishingly well-expressed opinions. Talitha is on to chapter books and bigger questions and showing me how to do stuff. Six feels like such a different phase but then I’ll always feel that way about the eldest, I guess.

But it’s not just about the kids. Something has shifted for me outside of that. Perhaps the physical space is impacting the landscape of my mind. I do believe in that sort of thing. I am spending so much more time outdoors than I ever have in my life and there must be some effect specific to being confronted by so much beauty so frequently. I am amazed that I get to exist here right now.

There’s also something in the practicalities of how our life has changed. I’ve had to make more of an effort to grow a social network. Concern for the kids has been a powerful motivator in that regard. Coming to terms with that has been such a freeing thing, to know that I just have to go for it so I’m just going to go for it. Recently, I recognised that I experienced a huge loss of confidence when I moved countries eleven years ago and I’m really only starting to recover some of that now, through this process.

At the same time, I still harbour a lot of fears around taking these wonderful connections that I’m making with people and going further with them. Yet I know that caution is double edged and while not making myself vulnerable, not opening up might spare me rejection, it also prevents me from going as deeply as I want to go with people and anyone who already knows me well knows I am always longing to go so, so deep. So, yeah, that’s something that’s going to take time but it’s also something that doesn’t happen on its own.

Waking up from the baby haze means starting to ask a lot of questions again about what my life is going to look like, about where I’m going to invest my love and energy. I feel the need to create, to reach out there, to be a part of something bigger again.

Inevitably, my thoughts also turn to God. I don’t shy away from talking about faith here on this blog but it is difficult sometimes to know how to frame it when mostly my mind is full of questions and my heart is hungry. I know others who say they’ve found great sustenance in God in times of overwhelm like the baby rearing years and cross country uprooting. That’s not me.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve not had time to process a lot of things that have happened over the past few years and that I haven’t had the clarity to contemplate. I’ve felt sometimes like I’m walking into spiritual experiences broken, with doubts and disappointments that should not be named for fear of what others might think. This is no way to live so I won’t do it anymore. I am hopeful that God’s hand still holds me when I feel uncertain about being touched. I don’t know what the journey looks like from here but I am so open.

I suppose this post is a bit of a chatty one, attempting to start throwing my thoughts out there again with some regularity, even if it means at times laying myself uncomfortably bare.


How do we smash gender stereotypes for our girl family?

“Three girls! Poor dad!” Thanks, you’ve just told my children their dad wishes at least one of them were a boy. He doesn’t.
“You have your hands full. Are they all…?” My eldest has started answering this one, “Yes, we’re all girls.”
“Are you going to keep trying for a boy?” I guess the assumption here is that that’s what we were doing the second or third time. I’m always tempted to respond asking for advice on how to do that. I mean, is there a specific position for conceiving boys?

Truly, I know that this is meant as friendly conversation. I almost said “polite” but it isn’t that. Certainly not to my children. It’s the usual everyday childism that casually ignores children’s feelings while speaking about them, in front of them. It’s not unique to being “a girl family” as Talitha has dubbed us. Mothers of boys are familiar with it too.

But yes, it is meant to be friendly. So I respond with this in mind, telling my daughters when the stranger has passed that people are just surprised we have so many girls in our family.

Then I wonder how to inoculate them against the underpinning message that their gender is their most defining characteristic since it’s so often the first or only thing people choose to comment on.

By aggressively gendering children, we’ve created a society where we pay lip service to the idea that children can be anything they want to be while showing them something quite different. By and large, boys are expected to be tough, adventurous, capable and boisterous whereas girls are expected to be emotive, cautious, sociable and gentle. None of these characteristics are innately problematic. However, they’re also not innately gendered.

BBC Two recently aired the documentary “No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?” which convincingly ties the way we treat our children to the gender inequality they experience as adults. The show continually returns to brain scans of boys and girls which debunk the myth that we are neurologically different. Gender is socially constructed. It’s a good starting point if you’ve not given the issue much thought before. And it’s still interesting if it’s long been a concern.

As a parent of a six year old, I was shocked at the gendered views the programme’s seven year olds held about men and women, the opposite sex and themselves. Perhaps home educating has sheltered us from some of the gender stereotyping pervasive in institutions?

Our children see Laurence as involved in caring for the home as I am. He is as likely to change a nappy as I am when he’s around. They may have “girly” toys but most of their toys are gender neutral or even toys stereotypically considered “for boys”. Their dressing up box houses princess dresses alongside costumes for a builder, doctor, police officer and pirate amongst others. We aren’t precious about their clothes and spend most of our time outdoors, giving them lots of opportunity to get messy and encouraging them to take risks.

Yet we have still imparted clear, at times unhelpful, ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. In their minds, fathers go out to work and mothers stay at home to look after the children or at least work part time or from home. We try to communicate that this is a choice we’ve taken together for this period of family life but that it isn’t the way everyone does it.

Actually, we don’t consider it ideal ourselves. Laurence wants more time with the children. I’m hungry for more time to work as our kids get older. While a major life change where we both work and care for the children part time isn’t possible in the immediate future, we want to work at striking more of a balance in the present and to think about how we could change things more radically in the years to come.

I’ve also felt challenged recently to counter my learned helplessness. From hanging picture frames to mowing the lawn to figuring out what’s up with the dishwasher, I routinely leave DIY and maintenance jobs to Laurence. He is better at them (more practice, perhaps?) but what does my constant refrain “We’ll ask Daddy to do that later” say to our girls.

I hope that his involving them in these tasks helps to undo the effect of my shying away from attempting them. Talitha wielded a power drill to put our furniture together when we moved in. I’m not sure I’ve ever touched one. She knows how to put our tent up though I still don’t. They both love helping him build fires. But when things go wrong, they’re still quick to say, “Don’t worry. Daddy will do that.” My words in their mouths.

So I’m taking little steps. I learned to light the wood burner when we moved in. We take turns driving when going somewhere. This weekend I rowed our dinghy to the boat for the first time. I was terrible at it but I hope that they’ll see something in me working at difficult jobs rather than always leaving them to the person who’s more practised. I bought a wetsuit so that I can be the one to take them into the sea instead of making that a daddy thing.

We’ve been questioning what we’d do differently if they were boys. Would we be more inclined to take them out with a ball? Would Laurence involve them more in looking at rugby and cricket? Would we have the same standards in terms of grooming and manners? Would we value the same things? Would we talk to them the same way or talk about the same things? The conversation is ongoing.

From the positive pregnancy test, we start imagining the new baby, their gender a part of that. We’ve opted each time to know the sex at the twenty week scan. We even did a “gender reveal” video with Delilah (total heart melt looking back at that – how little they were!).

Yet, throughout my pregnancy with her, I felt uncomfortable about how important we made the fact that she was a girl. It doesn’t decide who she’s going to be. Being a “girl family” doesn’t decide who any of them are going to be.


How our third baby changed the way we home educate

Talitha takes books out into the garden on a sunny day. She’s reading about famous artists here.

When I was pregnant with Delilah, I fielded a lot of questions about how I’d cope with home educating then five year old Talitha when she was born. It’s amusing that they considered the new baby more disruptive to our set up than my wildly busy then two year old! How I’d respond depended on how well I knew the person asking and whether I felt energetic enough to explain that we weren’t in fact doing “school at home”, as they probably imagined. People asked out of interest and, to be honest, I also wondered how I’d cope, not just with homeschooling but with three children, in general.

Delilah turned one last week, neatly coinciding with the end of the school year. While we don’t really observe term dates, I took it as a marker of the time we’ve survived and in which we’ve even thrived. Looking back on this crazy year, my approach to home education has developed and changed in ways I couldn’t have expected.

I started the year holding tightly to the idea of structure. I had lists and plans, things I put together mostly with the children and while I never forced Talitha to do anything, I was very much the driving force in getting them done. I strongly encouraged her to do the things I thought she should be doing and found it difficult to let go emotionally when this inevitably became a battle of wills. It was frustrating for both of us.

A friend had suggested that in the new baby haze, I might want to consider unschooling, following the child’s lead and allowing her to learn through living, rather than keeping any rigid plans. Since my plans were pretty relaxed, I felt we could keep to a discernible schedule regardless and so I didn’t take the advice much to heart.

But. I’d forgot what having a newborn was like. I’d forgot what having a newborn who woke a lot in the night was like. I’d forgot what juggling the needs of a newborn and a two and a half year old was like, never mind throwing in the five year old who, though independent and rather helpful, still had needs too.

And I didn’t factor in that our lives would be majorly disrupted by Laurence staying over in Cornwall for part of every week or by going back and forth to Cornwall to house hunt or by the trip to Thailand. And I certainly could not have appreciated how thrown we would be, picking up our lives and moving from one part of the country to another.

A lot more than “just” a new baby made this a chaotic year. I think that’s why I clung for control. I felt so overwhelmed.

I began to be at war with myself, feeling we needed to keep to this arbitrary schedule and beating myself up because I couldn’t make it work for us. And I really wasn’t even attempting to sit us around a table with workbooks and a white board, honest.

Finally, I began to face up to the fact that I needed to work with things as they were and learn to live well in the present rather than daydream about what I’d do when we weren’t working around naps or when I had more sleep or when my three year old was more independent or even when my baby was a three year old (talk about wishing your life away!).

I totally appreciate that for some people, coping with disruption means holding onto more routine but for me, I needed to think smaller than that and seek to change myself rather than impose my will on my family – something I hadn’t even realised I was doing.

So, I got down to basics. What was really important in a day? What was the minimum I could leave on that list of things to do. Just as when Talitha was a baby I had to learn that there were seasons where I’d only get one or two household tasks done, I needed to pare the home education to-do list back too.

I arrived at “read books to them” and “get outdoors”. That’s all I was aiming to offer in a day. Anything else was an extra and the girls could autonomously find plenty to fill their time. Sometimes time outdoors would just mean a picnic in our garden, others it would be running about on a rainy winter beach. Sometimes it didn’t happen at all. I had to learn to be at peace with that too.


Above, Talitha decided to fill a calendar with important dates and both were using prompt cards to write and draw in their journals

I channelled my limited energy into making the various spaces we’ve been in as accessible as possible so the kids can create, explore and play without needing too much input from me when I might be stuck under a baby. I still view this as my primary responsibility in home educating – creating an environment that is child friendly and not overwhelming.

As the year went on, I began to relax more and more because I could see that they really were learning. After a couple of months of refusing to read aloud, Talitha was suddenly absorbed in chapter books, understanding what she was reading. She even started reading aloud again with a fluency that no one trained her into. Ophelia’s numeracy and dexterity took huge leaps. Both love books, are full of questions and are always making or experimenting. We haven’t done much crafting together this year but I’m often finding their creations, surprised by the thought that’s gone into it and what it says about what they’ve been exploring.

I began to appreciate learning where it was happening. Talitha might write a letter to a friend or a to-do list or invitations to her teddies, inviting them to a party. They might count for fun or try to logically work something out or play games and put together puzzles. Sometimes they get workbooks out for fun. Every day they’re making connections between experiences and conversations, things we’ve read or seen in a video and answers they’ve been collecting along the way.

Out of curiosity, I had a look at the national curriculum for Year One. Many things we’ve covered by accident or Talitha’s discovered through things she’s doing anyway. Other things I figure she’ll get to when and if she needs them. We’ve delved into yet others that aren’t on the curriculum, mostly guided by their interests though I do also throw things in the way.


Baking is so often a great basis for both learning and reconnecting

I’m not totally sure what this means for the year ahead. I suspect we will, bit by bit, bring in a little more gentle routine to make sure we’re making the time for the things everybody wants to do. But I’m more aware of the need to keep taking the temperature of our family and working out where we’re at.

I am so grateful to have home educated this year. I’m relieved not to have had to do the school run with a baby and with a preschooler who has her own ideas about transitions. I also love that the girls have all had masses of time together. The older two gain a lot from being around a baby and learning that we slow down and adapt in times of great change.

Check out what we get up to day-to-day over on Instagram, especially in my stories.


Ten things to consider when camping with younger children

We finally managed our first camping trip as a family of five. We were meant to go to a festival when Delilah was six weeks old but Laurence got ill and that just proved one obstacle too many. Then our first trip this year got turned into a picnic since the forecast for the rest of the weekend was dire. So the older girls were desperate for a night under canvas. A couple of weeks ago, we made it to Bude. I’d booked a cute little eco campsite and we were keen to try out a different part of Cornwall.

Talitha was almost three when we first took her camping. It’s since become a mainstay of our family spring, summer and even autumn now. We’ve gone camping with a younger baby as well as while I was pregnant. Our kids are now 6 years old, 3 years old and 11 months old and having done a recent camp, I’ve collated a few things to consider when camping with younger children, should you decide to go for it this year.

A change is as good as a rest
Let’s face it, there are a lot of things about family camping that are not restful. I don’t know whether we’ll ever reach a point where getting ready to go for a weekend doesn’t feel like a total mission.

I also find sleeping with a baby in a tent a bit of a tricky one because I tend to get stuck in one position then need to shift her to the other side of me so I can get into another one. The logistics are trickier dealing with layers and sleeping bags. It’s totally doable but it probably explains the massive bags under my eyes in the YouTube video at the end of this post.

Still, we find as the kids get older that the change of place and pace offers us adults some decent chill time. Even their just running around the field on this last trip, darting in and out of the tent and pretending the sleeping bags were the ocean allowed us time to sit, chat and even read. Better yet if you get to sit somewhere with a view. And there are so many little things that are suddenly less work more play when camping like cooking over a fire or the kids washing the dishes in a tub on the ground.

So while we may not have come home having had a lot of sleep, and we may well have brought more work home in the form of laundry and unpacking, we were refreshed in other ways. I can only see this becoming more fun as we go along, especially as the kids become more and more free range.

Get and stay prepared

Make the idea of going less daunting by working with a camping list and keeping some of the stuff in a ready-to-grab box if you can.

The right kit can make all the difference
Just as there’s no such thing as bad weather only improper clothing, the kit makes a serious difference when camping too. It was a real game changer buying a tent that we could reasonably stand up in and compartmentalise our stuff around.

More recently, Millets sent us four sleeping bags, an overdue upgrade. The girls are lounging about in a couple of them in the photos above. We went for two VANGO Harmony single sleeping bags thinking that they would be spacious enough for Delilah to cosleep with me, which they just about are. We also asked for two VANGO Nitestar 250 sleeping bags because they’re more performance bags which we thought would grow with the girls as they take on their own outdoor pursuits in the future. Both bags are soft, breathable and a great temperature for spring and summer camping, certainly. The harmony feels a bit luxurious even. We’re looking forward to taking them on the boat for our first overnight stay this weekend.

Millets also sent us a fun camping care package as part of their #homefromhome campaign with everything from mobile phone charger to lantern to waterproofing spray to tent repair kit to cup holder. Some things we either hadn’t known they carried or hadn’t known were a thing! They may not have all been bare bones essentials but a few extras can take little stresses you weren’t aware were there out of the picture. It gave a glimpse of the broad scope of their camping range.

Throw out the routine
Every time we go camping we get into a debate about whether we should be encouraging bedtime or let the kids take the lead. Laurence is always for the latter and always proven right about it too. With the excitement, noise and light, the kids are never ready to go to bed at the normal time, however worried I might be about how tired they’ll be the next day, as they don’t lie in either.

And yes, they’re more tired, but it all tends to work itself out in the end, either by them taking themselves off to bed a little earlier the following night, opting for an afternoon nap or, hey, just being a bit tired, which isn’t the end of the world after all. I reckon late nights and all sharing the sleep space are key parts of the memories we’re making.

Let camping be the main event
I made a bit of a mistake with this latest trip by choosing to camp in Bude, an hour and a half away from where we live near Falmouth. It meant that I felt like I had to justify the journey by planning to see things. As it turned out, we would have all preferred to have just hung out around the campground, maybe venturing out on just one day, rather than both. As usual, slow and simple makes for a happier time with younger kids.

Take a few activities
In times past, we’ve just brought a few books and bubbles and called that that but a year on, I think we need to add to a few things to the list. Certainly if we were going any longer we might bring sketchbooks and pencils, a card game, a chapter book for Talitha, water pistols and maybe something active like a bat and ball.

Choose the right spot
OK so maybe Bude was a bit further than we needed to go, since we live in Cornwall and are surrounding by great outdoor spaces but I couldn’t recommend Cerenety eco campsite enough. The facilities were perfectly comfortable. The compost loos were extremely well kept, there were hot solar showers and we were encouraged to build fires.

They run a quirky caravan cafe, offering coffee and crepes for breakfast and take children around to see and feed their rescue animals mid-morning. The alpacas left a lasting impression on Talitha and Ophelia. There’s even a pond and a permaculture forest garden. The site is conveniently located for Bude but far enough away to feel a bit wild.

A big highlight was going over to Crackington Haven, pictured below. It is such a lovely little beach, perfect for chilling on while the kids play, build and paddle and there was an amazing surfer making good use of the waves too.

Less might well be more
I used to want to pack our entire house, feeling that the kids needed so many clothes, especially jumpers but they run wild, don’t care about the wet or cold and won’t let me dress them. Even when I pack what I think is too little, we never use it all!

Let your children rewild you
Camping used to reside firmly in the category of things I did for Laurence or the kids. I’ve often forced myself to be more outdoorsy or adventurous than I’d be inclined to be on my own.

Bit by bit, I feel things changing inside me. I get braver, more willing to try things, to trust myself, to stop worrying, to let go, to have fun.

I probably still wouldn’t go camping if it weren’t for my children but every time we go, I find I’m doing it a little more for me too. This time, I felt I could have stayed days beyond a weekend, even with the rain.

Capture the moment
There’s a fine line between missing the moment and gently documenting our experiences. I don’t always get it right. I try to take a few snaps and clips on my phone unobtrusively and hope I’m not distracting anyone, including myself. In future, it would be great to add sketching or even flower pressing to the mix. I’d love for the girls to look back and smile at the memories. They loved this video we made of our first camping trip with three children. Do take a look.



Thanks to Millets for the sleeping bags and camping care package


Ten things that happen when you’re tandem breastfeeding

Despite the universal-sounding title, this is just how it’s gone and is going for me, breastfeeding older and younger siblings at the same time. The first thing you learn when you start asking other tandem breastfeeding mothers about their experiences is that nothing is exactly the same for everyone. No one can predict how they’re going to feel or what they’re going to need to do. We can share ideas and offer solidarity but there’s no roadmap, no rulebook.

I tandem breastfed for sixteen months the first time around, until my eldest, Talitha, was four years old. Who knows how long we’ll get to this time but I’m now breastfeeding both three year old Ophelia and her nine month old baby sister, Delilah.

I know how crazy this sounds because, believe me, I never expected any of this. Until I met mothers who were tandem breastfeeding, I didn’t know it was possible. It’s not something I held up as an ideal or hoped to do, even when I fell pregnant the third time around. It just kind of happened. Each time, I had a toddler who still needed to be breastfed while also finding myself pregnant, which brings me to the first thing that happens when you’re tandem breastfeeding.

You discover it starts before the baby is even here.

The sore nipples. The disappearing milk. The sickness. The breastfeeding aversion. Already you are sharing yourself between the child at your breast and the one growing inside you. It happens sooner than you expect. Already they are in tandem.

It looks like it will happen. Like it won’t happen. Maybe it will happen.
I wrote a whole post about how I thought Talitha was weaning. I went through the range of emotions over this. She didn’t. And you know, I did it all again when it was Ophelia’s turn too. Except I really, really thought she’d wean in pregnancy. And I felt irrationally guilty because it felt too soon. But then she didn’t either!

You start to wrap your head around the possibility.

At some point, after wondering, “would we, wouldn’t we?”, it was evident that yes, this really was happening. I most likely was going to be breastfeeding my older and younger kids simultaneously. I borrowed and scoured the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing from Bristol La Leche League.

You have all. the. questions.
Is my nursing aversion normal? (Yup!) Will it go away when the new baby comes? (Certainly for the baby) Will I make enough milk? (All being straightforward, more demand = more production) Do I have to worry about the baby getting enough colostrum? (Nope! As long no issues on the baby’s side) Who feeds first? (Probably the baby but it doesn’t have to be a rule) What if one of them has a cold? (It’s good your milk’s going to get fighting it – they’re probably sharing the germs anyway) WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE? (Sorry, no one can help you there!)

You fumble with positions.
You see all these photos online of mothers peacefully breastfeeding their two together. I persevered a bit more with it with Talitha and Ophelia but it’s never really worked for me. I find the experience of breastfeeding two at literally the same time utterly overwhelming from a sensory point of view. It makes me want to throw things.

I saw a photo the other day of someone tandem breastfeeding on her side with her baby lying on top of her toddler. It looked so lovely. I might try that out of curiosity and because it would give all three of my kids the giggles but, realistically, we have a one at a time deal going here.

In the earliest days, I could never latch the baby well enough with the older one in the way or coach the older one on where to go without the baby slipping off so it was a no-go from that perspective too. I know breastfeeding together absolutely works for some but I’m not alone in finding it really tricky.

You hit a sweet spot.
The older one holds your breast to “feed the baby”. They hold hands while breastfeeding together. You reconnect after a difficult toddler day with a simple breastfeed. You find a way to get them both to sleep.

You hit a hard place.
Your older child finds it hard to share. Your nursing aversion, though not an issue with the baby, hasn’t gone away with your older nursling. You navigate impatience, theirs and yours.

I’ve had to insist that we reserve breastfeeding the older child to when I have another adult around, in case I need someone to hold the baby. This isn’t how it works for everyone but it’s something I find takes the pressure off the situation.

Sometimes it’s hilarious.

Breastfeeding has acquired a new dialogue these days. My older two sometimes give me a replay by laughingly pretending to breastfeed each other.
“OK, we’re going to need to stop now.”
“But I want MUH!”
“It has to be nice for both of us.”
They obviously find it amusing, which makes me feel better about needing to call the feed to an end most of the time.

Your younger baby gets possessive.

Delilah isn’t there yet but I remember Ophelia hit a stage where she was absolutely unwilling to share me with Talitha. She would try to pull Talitha off me if I was breastfeeding her and needed to be distracted.

People ask when you’re going to wean your younger baby

You smile to yourself. Little do they know…

All of a sudden it’s over.
In a sense, Talitha’s weaning was a long time coming. Well, obviously, it was as she was four years old but I mean she was gradually breastfeeding less and less frequently. And then that was it. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t known the last time was the last time. That was that.

I also didn’t know I’d one day do it again.

More blog posts on this topic:
Tandem breastfeeding – the early months
Things I’ve learned while breastfeeding through pregnancy
How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

Information on tandem breastfeeding:
Pregnant and breastfeeding? – an La Leche League Great Britain resource on breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem breastfeeding.


What I learned when we moved

You might have guessed by the blogging hiatus that we finally moved into our new house in Cornwall. It’s been two weeks, in fact. The general chaos and the lack of internet meant that I just about managed a few updates on Instagram.

Other than that, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in mystery boxes, plodding through that stage where the house looks worse before it gets better. Finally, it’s got better. We are starting to settle and from even before we got unpacking, this has felt like home.

There’ve been a few surprises in it all and I don’t just mean the literal rubbish we accidentally moved with (and yes we did).

For a start, I was caught off guard by my need to mourn Bristol the moment we left it. I believe now that this was a natural and necessary part of the moving process and I’m grateful that we got to do it while in temporary accommodation in stunningly placed Crantock.

I’ve been similarly amazed at the gusto with which I’ve thrown myself into life here so far and how genuinely excited I’ve been about it all. I’ve never driven this much or been this adventurous about where I’ve taken the children on my own (this might explain why I got the car stuck in deep sand in Porthtowan last week and had to literally be dug out by kind strangers!). For years I’ve been pretty pathetic when it comes to meeting new people, allowing others to take the initiative but it’s as if I’m being released by the decision to be more intentional.

Moving cross country with a family has made this the most pressured of our moves but, in a sense, it’s been easier than any other I’ve made. Maybe it’s down to being that bit older or that the kids give me a convenient way into meeting people or even just a deep peace about this being where we’re meant to be in this season of our lives.

We were forewarned that moving can affect children in unexpected ways but we still needed to remind ourselves and each other that this is why they were waking up, why they were having nightmares, why they were regressing to younger behaviours.

Reminders helped us to re-baby them, to try to be understanding, to find ways of reassuring them. Feeling stretched by being so long in an in-between place, far from where our eventual destination was, we kept needing to be reminded.

A friend at church today asked whether we feel like our nomadic life is behind us and that’s an astute description of where we’ve been not just for two months in Crantock but from the time we decided to move here when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Delilah. Feeling unsettled certainly has affected my parenting, sometimes in ways I wish it hadn’t.

Yet they have adapted so well, our five and three year olds. Talitha talks about old friends and was brilliantly excited about the birthday party we went back to Bristol for a couple of weekends ago. Already she’s making new friends here too.

Ophelia is also starting to play with other children and talk about them. She is starting to develop friendships. The friendship between the sisters has really kept them going through this time of unpacking and distracted parenting. Still, they’ve needed us and it’s been hard to get the balance right between trying to get stuff done so we can get back into a life rhythm and making sure that that pursuit doesn’t take over our lives. I won’t pretend I’ve even mostly got that right. Who knows, aye?

They’ve also been such a help to me with Delilah who is going through an extremely clingy phase. They’ll sit and play with her or show her books while I sit her down for the few moments she’ll tolerate it. Upside to the clinginess and Delilah not crawling yet – we’ve been able to sort a lot of the house out without worrying about her getting into all sorts.

Something that’s shocked me, though, and not in a good way, is how controlling I become when I feel out of control. I knew this about myself before but the stresses of this move have really thrown focus on it. There is such a burden on my heart to make sure I don’t take this out on my family. But I do. I’m working hard on it but I know it’s a process rather than something that can be quickly fixed. It’s going to take a lot of slowing down my responses to situations and continually reflecting and asking why I’m doing what I’m doing.

If anything, rediscovering this reminds me that I can’t do this without the help of the One who parents me so gently and isn’t at all controlling. I’m finding that moving out of the familiar is giving me fresh spiritual avenues with God appearing in places I did not expect.

We originally weren’t supposed to move until next month but the quick sale of our house in Bristol and the struggle of Laurence driving down to Falmouth every week sped the process up. With Spring now in the full swing and Easter on its way, we couldn’t have better timed warming into a new place.

I’ll do a house tour, room tours or something similar at some point but we’ve only just managed to clear the floors. Although maybe there’s something in sharing the mess so we all remember we have chaos in common?


When my second child turned three

Ophelia’s birthday was last Friday. Somehow she’s three?

Actually, it make sense that she’s three because the language explosion she’s gone through in the last few months has caught us off guard. I’ll admit I was starting to wonder whether we should get her hearing checked but now she’s coming out with memories that make me realise she’s understood lots more than she could communicate for a long time.

The third birthday is exciting because kids are starting to understand what a birthday is about and that they’re getting older.

I get doubly emotional at Ophelia’s birthdays because it’s not just “oh my, she’s growing so quickly!” but I have my older child Talitha for perspective on Ophelia’s age and no way was Talitha so little at three! Except she was.

Laurence’s parents came to stay for the birthday weekend and we went to the seal sanctuary in Gweek, which was such a treat. It sounds like they’re doing some pretty cool work there and you get lovely rural views of the Helston river, which is still a bit of a shock having come from living in a city.

Not having any of the right equipment and generally finding making wheat and dairy free cakes a bit of a mission, I bought a supermarket “free from” cake which Ophelia chose, along with a few sugar pirates to put on top. You know what? I think she was every bit as delighted with it as she would have been with an elaborate, handcrafted affair. Kids really don’t need much.

We took it to The Beach Hut overlooking Watergate Bay to round up the treat. The whole weekend turned into a celebration of her birthday, with one of her godparents coming to stay after her grandparents departed. It got me thinking about how important it is for children to have other adult figures in their lives, that wider family.

Having them is valuable for me too because after a long hard slog, finding myself struggling with motherhood, I got to see others having fun with my children and it reminded me that I could have fun with them too. In fact, the weekend gave me a series of highs which I’m treasuring up, hoping they’ll help carry me through for quite some time.

Age three seems like a move beyond the toddler-toddler stage. Seeing Talitha and Ophelia play, I know I have two children now. There have been a few times this week when I’ve thought, “Gosh, we really can just all hang out now.”

Lovely Ophelia, who dances all the time, who loves to shout and balance on things. So often so fearless, you surprise us every day. You make us laugh. You challenge us. You are sensitive. You are fiercely affectionate. You’ve perfected those cuddles. We are loving getting to know you, our wild three year old.