Life: A New Parent’s Perspective

I know I know, its been a very long time since I wrote anything on this blog. Why you ask? Since I found out I was pregnant in December 2015, I have been too scared. Scared of what? There are so many pregnancy blogs out there, new mum blogs out there, but I couldn’t do it. To begin with, I was terrified of writing something on pregnancy and getting too excited in case anything went wrong. And then I had my little M, and I was too afraid of the depth of emotion to put anything into words. 6 months on, and I am coming to grips with the changes in me, our lifestyle and the future.  

 

Motherhood … well nothing anyone can tell you prepares you for it. I was incredibly lucky and apart from some heartburn had a relatively easy pregnancy. Yes, my feet ached at the end of the day and I experienced fatigue, but these were outweighed by the feeling of having your child move within you, respond to your touch or noise. It is an incredibly special episode in any woman’s life, and I felt so privileged to be able to experience it. However, it felt incredibly fragile at the same time, almost like holding a beautiful flower in your hand, that any touch may crush the petals and rob them of their beauty and perfection. People also don’t help – if you run for too long you might do damage, if you have too much caffeine, the wrong food, too much stress – you name it, people continually harbinger fear which I largely tried to ignore but I think your mothering and protective instincts already kick in. The pregnancy flew, not least because we were rushing to finish our ensuite bathroom in order to move back to our bedroom. DIY filled many late evenings, with Superdad rubbing my feet and back to ease the strain. What would I do differently looking back? I don’t think I would do much different. I would speak more to my unborn child, caress her and enjoy her, as I think in true Lianne style, we just got on and tried to do as many jobs as possible. I don’t regret that, nor the travel for work at 34/5 weeks, but I do regret the impatience with which my last 4 weeks were filled. I wish I could have been more patient but we were so desperately keen to meet our precious bean at that point.

 

6 months on, and our darling child is a joy. Her smiley presence can infect even the toughest London commuter, and she never ceases to amaze us. Of course we think she is the cutest, smartest, strongest child but I think this is (in part) the protective nature of parenting – of wanting the best for your child and thinking they are the best. 6 months in and I have experienced tiredness in ways I couldn’t have imagined (I was an 8-hour a night girl); but you know what? Sometimes I cave to the exhaustion, but most of the time I can carry on. I have been more emotional that ever before, but that too is not a bad thing, as it reminds me that my heart is being changed, softened and moulded into that of a mother. I have known love for both my spouse and my child in deeper quantities than I knew possible, coupled with relief at having his steadfastness at my side, joy to share this journey; gratefulness to be able to cry on his shoulder and defer to him when I am too tired. I have experienced joy in depths I couldn’t imagine when hearing her laugh, seeing her master a new trick or reach out to someone I love. It has given me a new appreciation and longing for family. A constant reminder that living abroad renders us alone in this journey for most of the time. We are fortunate to have my sister 3 hours away and my parents who visit at least once a year, but I have missed their presence whilst on maternity leave in both my life and my daughter’s life.

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So it has been a year of blessing. A healthy child, an easy pregnancy, a birth that conformed to my birth plan. A child that brings joy, and is showered in love, and a home that can support her. I feel our lives have been enriched by our poppet, and we look forward to this new adventure of parenthood.

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The Matriarch

Today the matriarch of my family passed away. I say the word matriarch, picturing a dominant female elephant cow protecting her herd, as that’s exactly who my grandmother was. When I think of my gran, the memories are not of recent years when dementia stripped her of her person, but rather of the memories I have as a child.

She always had a smile on her face, and always wore freshly applied lipstick. She was of the era where your husband came first and she continually reminded us to make ourselves look beautiful for them, told us to always apply fresh lipstick and perfume for their arrival home from work and to use your assets! She loved to laugh and was quick to show an interest in our lives as we matured  – she always wanted to see what clothing e had purchased in our time at university, who were we socializing with and what boys were we seeing.

As a young child, I remember fondly extended holidays at my grandparents home in St. Lucia, going to the beach most days, running free in the neighbourhood with all the other children, climbing trees, walking to the local supermarket to buy chewing gum or other treats. She used to take us off to the nearby complex where we could swim in the pool, and would ensure we were home by late afternoon so that she could catch her regular soaps – Bold and the Beautiful. I remember her sweet cupboard, that took up 2 whole cupboards in her kitchen and on our arrival we were ushered straight to it to choose out something we wanted. I remember her love of gardening, of being outdoors in the sunshine. Of swimming in the sea, of loving to have people around and visiting others. I remember early morning wake ups, playing double patience with coffee and Ouma rusks at her long dining room table, waiting for the rest of the world to wake.

In Rolling Hills I remember her Bridge club, and her prayers. She was a devout woman, with a Bible to hand and her prayer journal always in the spare room where she would go so as not to disturb my grandfather. She prayed fervently, and for all in our family. She remembered events and special occasions and could always be counted on to pop a phone-call to wish you luck.

Dotty loved to go clothes shopping and be out. she loved to hear all the ‘skinner’ and took such an active interest in her large family’s life. She has a left behind 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren with another on the way. Our Dotty-pot was an inspiration, to always be your best self and to always show off your smile no matter what. She looked on the bright side of life always and reminds me that family is the most important thing.

My heart is sad that we have lost her, but sadly I felt we lost her 5 years ago with the passing of my grandfather. It has been slowly creeping closer this day, but I know you are in heaven and at peace. You are reunited with the love of your life and that gives me solace. Rest in peace my darling Dotty. You will be forever loved and missed.

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My Dotty laughing, as she always loved to do

February springs new life

 
   

This is probably my most favorite of all seasons and times of year. The days are brighter and it’s a noticeable difference when you awake to watch the sunrise and can cycle in to work in the gentle rays of early morning sunshine. Flowers are blooming everywhere- crocuses are defiantly pushing up through lawns of grass, daffodils brightly shine their yellow faces along paths and borders. Snowdrops glisten among the daffodils in certain shady spots and the rhododendron are covered in buds, promising to explode into flower any day now. All along the streets blossoms line the treetops, and camellias are unfolding. New life seems everywhere and apparent and not more so than what I feel within. 
We are 16 weeks into the journey of being pregnant. One I have always wanted to make but didn’t quite expect to be as it has been. I have found it to be a very insular journey with little want to share with others. The changes are surreal and yet difficult to embrace. I have found it harder than I expected to deal with my changing body shape, especially as I have felt fat the last few weeks and it has challenged my mental control of myself, my eating, my portrayal of who I am to the world. Fears lurk within, will I ever go back to who I was? The body I was? It wasn’t perfect but seems so much slimmer tjan I am now. Bodily functions have changed and cause much laughter, embarrassment and frustration. No one talks of these things! Thankfully I have been able to keep exercising although less strenuously than I normally would do. Runs have been cut by half and taken as I feel, cycles are gentle, appreciating the scenery. Life has slowed down and yet this seems to be at odds with my nature of “so much to do, so little time”! It has been an evolution and I think one which I still need longer to fully embrace and accept. Thank goodness pregnancy is a nine month journey!!

  
We have also started the building of our ensuite bathroom which has been both challenging, exciting and terrifying! Base and ceiling plates have been laid to create our new walls and progress is slow but steady.
February abounds with birdsong and new life and in the Wood household new life and new creations are slowly being built. I love this time of year. 

  

2016… Finally getting into gear

I have always loved the new year and the opportunity to draw up lists of goals, dreams and refocus my life. However, this year was different. Not only was I on holiday in South Africa, with special family and friends, I was also recently pregnant, and found it very difficult to imagine what the year ahead held for me.  I was too afraid at that point to imagine it all too clearly in case things went wrong.

 

Now we have passed the 12 week stage. We had a scan a week ago which proved it was not an imagining of my mind, and we saw with our own eyes a living, moving, heartbeating baby that was growing inside me. It was incredibly surreal and I finally feel able to reflect on last year and get into gear for this year. So although its late, I couldn’t help myself. As they say, old habits die hard…

 

Ten Things I am Grateful for in 2015:

1. Becoming a homeowner for the very first time

2. Learning and embracing DIY and watching our house come to life

3. Being partner to my husband for ten years in October 2015. What a journey this has been!

4. Developing my research skills and publishing my first 2 papers, and getting to speak at my first national conference.

5. Enjoying summer in the UK with a camping trip to Wales, sunsets on the beach and sneaky midweek picnics. It was great.

6. Being able to share in my sister’s life again now that she lives only 3 hours away in London

7. My Dad’s health and his fighting spirit – still going strong after radiotherapy and horrible side-effects.

8. Our family and friends in SA and in the UK, we are incredibly blessed and feel privileged to have so many special people in our lives.

9. Our health – we both had chance to do a bit more cycling last year, kept up the running (only small fry things) and enjoyed leading an active life. We are so fortunate to be healthy and have no serious illnesses, despite not juicing or banting!

10. Dreaming – I love the fact that hubby and I dream together, and that our dreams excite us.

 

2016.. we are getting ready for you!

Live simply. Dream big. Be grateful. Give love. Laugh lots Picture Quote #1

The Epicurian

We have finally found my husband’s title.

A disciple or student of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. A person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink.

Ah ha! My home is progressively becoming inundated with varying brews and foods in a variety of stages of progress.
Let me take you on a tour of our house…In the corner of our kitchen, we have kidney beans softening to be ready to eat or be mashed to use as a protein rich paste in wraps. In the other corner we have cooked sweetened ginger waiting to be dipped in chocolate and bottled.

In the conservatory, we have yesterday’s green fig preserve cooling (all 13 jars) and then the meat safe. The meat safe contains our first pancetta (which was amazing on Friday nights homemade pizza) as well as Guy’s Gloucester Old Spot ‘Parma’ ham which has just been removed from 5 kgs of salt.

 The salt is still in the conservatory.

We then move to our fridge where we have smoked bacon. We also have smoked garlic and smoked salt from Guys last smoking session.

If we move through to the dining room we have one corner with two batches of apple cider vinegar and one red wine vinegar fermenting away happily. They smell fantastic. In the other corner we have elderberry and blackberry wine bubbling away (which has since been bottled). And then we have upstairs in our bedroom a combination of blackberry, elderberry and apple cider wine on the go hoping to make it to the party on the 28 November.

My pharmacist husband doesn’t always follow the recipe but to date most of his creations have been flavor full and tasty. I look forward to enjoying these next delights!

Good friends are like stars… they sometimes surprise you with their beauty

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We have been blessed with good friends in our life. I was really scared to leave SA because of the amazing friendships we had made – I was terrified they would lose their “sparkle” and I suppose also scared I wouldn’t make friends of that calibre over here. Being in the UK has taught me so much about friendship. I am so grateful for this as although it has been hard, I have learnt that friendships grow, steadily and beautifully like a flower – the more sunshine and water you give it the better it does. By the same token, if you overwater it it will die (I think i did a lot of this growing up!) but just the right mix and it will thrive, and blossom. What you put in, and what you feed that relationship with, is often the key, but one of the most important factors is patience and consistency. Slowly but surely, we are building good friendships here in the UK. And the longer we are here, the more I know that these relationships are solid and good and dependable.

 

We had a weekend spending time with good friends – by good, I mean those friends you can be brutally honest and vulnerable with and know you’re safe. One of our really dear friends made a special trip to see us in Nottingham which meant the world to us. We only had 24 hours together, but it felt like we’d had a weekend away and a proper South African kuier (Afrikaans for good visit).  I was reminded of how some things never change, and good friendships are like that – you can pick up where you left off. Incredibly heart warming and simultaneously soul-tearing for us as we missed him and his beautiful family, weekends away and a lifestyle we had built in Cape Town. But we know when we return, we can share this together.

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The day before we collected him, we spent time with an old work colleague of my Hubby’s.  She was integral in the planning and decision making of moving here as she lives in the UK and works both in SA and in the UK. I had only met her on two or three previous occasions, but she had only been gracious, generous and embracing to me. I was so surprised that having that history with her (and my husband has years of experiences shared), gave me a knowledge that we had already connected on a deeper level than say someone you had met a few times. This made the time spent together so rich and heart warming, despite the fact that she didn’t know me that well (apart from what she reads here!).

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And then we were surprised when we popped into the local pub with our friend, and bumped into a bunch of our new friends (people we have known just over a year) through my running club (Beeston AC) and realised what special people we had met in our short time here, and what great friends they too are. They may not have years of history on us, but we can laugh with them and enjoy life with them, and for now thats really promising and great.

 

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And I realised in my chats with our SA friend, that most of our really good friends in SA, are still exactly that. We may not see them as often, but they are friends of our heart and soul, and we will always have them, no matter where in the world (or country) we are. It is a very reassuring thing to realise that friendship is so often what you put into relationships, and understanding that everyone has busy lives and full lives puts things into perspective. We are building up a global network of friends – from Chicago to Kamloops to Laos to Auckland to Hong Kong to Chile –  good friends of ours have scattered around the world. I miss them and their company, but know that whenever and wherever I see them next, things won’t have changed, and we can pick up where we left off.

And this reminds me that my life is not full yet – there is always room for more friends, and they are truly the essence of what makes a life beautiful.

 

Summer reflections…

As I write this, gentle rain falls on the windowpane whilst on the horizon, the sun is trying to make its last appearance before dusk properly sets in. And its not yet seven pm. The reminder that winter is creeping up on us has been evident in the past week with mornings as cold as 4 degrees, and crisp starry nights that make you want to snuggle into your partners arm.

This year my ever enterprising husband has made his first proscuttio as he ventures into the world of smoking, curing and preserving meats, following in the footsteps of his older brother. We have made sloe chutney with the remains of the sloe vodka berries, and a batch of blackberry and elderberry wine is bubbling away contentedly in our conservatory.

We have had a productive summer, with our first ever fig tree producing beautiful large purple figs to cater for breakfasts, mini snacks and delicious parma ham sandwiches. The alloment has produced beautiful cherry tomatoes, and enormous sunflowers to cheer our home. Yellow patty pans, gem squash, purple beans and runner beans , along with stripey beetroot have provided delicious meals to enjoy under the large leaves of our fig tree. Fresh juicy raspberries, strawberries, finger-staining blackberries, tart plums and mini apples have provided the substance of many a tart, breakfast bowl and dessert.

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Patty pans, a squash, some tomatoes and beans...

Patty pans, a squash, some tomatoes and beans…

Foraging raspberries on our way to a swimming spot...

Foraging raspberries on our way to a swimming spot…

Fresh figs from our tree

Fresh figs from our tree

When I think of our summer, I think of these beautiful delicacies that have spiced up our mealtimes (does it sound like I live for food?!). We have been fortunate enough to travel to the North West of Wales, where we had a few days retreat from the busy world, ventured to Southern Wales where we caught up with old friends, and then many a trip to London to see family and the Peak District to see friends. And so even as the longer eves set in, I cannot complain, for I feel spoilt by the life I live. Our house project is never ending, but moving along albeit slowly (read about it here) and we have the promise of many more productive days in the winter to come.

Beautiful Welsh sunsets...

Beautiful Welsh sunsets…

Good times with friends...

Good times with friends…

Breakfast under the fig tree

Breakfast under the fig tree

Fresh lobster and crab!!

Fresh lobster and crab!!

As the seasons start to change, I am always initially reluctant to say goodbye to summer, and then I remember that life must go on, and for future growth, winter must come. I am hopeful that although winter is coming, Hubby and I will find clarity on our life situation, and things will be more stable as we enter into the new year. Already I feel myself starting to “autumn clean” and take stock of what has come and what still needs to be done within this year. It feels good to reflect, and have the space in my head to create some order out of the pressured year that was.