The Easter weekend

We had a really good Easter weekend, everything considered.  It was definitely difficult at times, but the celebrations of Easter Sunday outweighed the sadder moments.  The day was a virtual gathering of our extended family over six households which were all isolating.  Usually four of those households gather physically in my house. The day was planned around our usual Easter morning church attendance and the usual lunchtime Easter feast.  

Neither of those two points in the day were usual of course, Mass happened via YouTube in our sitting room. The lunch was only for four instead of the usual thirteen. But they happened as always and were very good.  

The day was further punctuated by planned zoom conversations with everyone joining in.  The first was a coffee (ok so I was on Bucks Fizz) greeting fairly early in the day, it was lovely to see all the children early on and see their excitement and just generally to all come together on what is always a family celebration. 

The following calls got down to the serious business of egg hunting, fiercely-fought Easter themed competitions.  It was hilarious.  For me anyway.  I spent the calls quietly sipping coffee (and more Bucks Fizz) watching over-excited younger children or slightly reluctant teens on cameras and feeling lots of sympathy for their exhausted parents.

The egg hunts were brilliant.  My brother set up a proper one with each family hunting for eggs which had been hidden in places that corresponded with clues coming from hundreds of miles away – magic.  There was a very good egg hunt with the camera operated by the oldest cousins who were well able to gently guide the younger eyes to the eggs.  It must be noted that the older eyes of the grandparents got very excited at egg hunting too.  The funniest egg hunt involved younger cousins operating cameras – their parents were very brave to let their phones be used.  The camera operators moved very fast and a bit randomly, but almost all the eggs were collected as they were yelled at by family members.  I am not sure we really got to see all the eggs, but they all ended up in a bucket as intended.  Expcept for one which was rather close to a hen named Bill and the young camera operators declared themselves far too scared of Bill to retrieve the egg.

There were competitions in many different categories. The best Easter joke – most of which were of the surreal nature that young children seem to favour and which I generally find hilarious anyway.  The best bunny hopping and the most chocolatey face, both involved video and photo entries as well as live inspection of hopping abilities.  There was much egg decorating, with so much creativity on show.

At the end of the day I felt like we had really spent the day together, five zoom calls had been tiring that is for sure and hugely chaotic at times.  But a usual Easter Sunday together is tiring and chaotic, but that does not make it any less brilliant.  Looking back on the day now it really does feel like we had a great day together, good memories were made.  Chicks were born during the day in the hen-keeping household which was a lovely thing to see happen.

And there were demands for us all to regroup on the Monday morning to check in with each other again, which I am taking as confirmation that we all had a good time.  

I hope your Easter was as fun as it could be.

Delicious moments

At times I am loving this lockdown. There are times of sheer joy and I am relishing them.

The other evening there was a short time that could have been from a family in the 70s.  All four of us were in the sitting room, just there.  No TV was on, there was no specific reason for being there we had just gathered in our own sitting room because each of us wanted to hang out.  We sat and chatted, not about anything in particular, just chatted. I am not sure it’s ever happened before, I hope it happens again.

We eat lunch together every single day.  We have never had a holiday longer than two weeks, so this is a record now as we’ve all been here for longer than that (although I have just checked and it’s only two and a half weeks since we’ve all been home).

We laugh every single day.  Without fail.  My offspring are hilarious, I rarely have time to appreciate their humour, some of it is irritatingly silly, but generally they are masters of wisecracks and comic timing.  I get to relish that.

My dog is loving having us all at home.  He is very poorly (that is far from delicious, it’s awful) and may not survive the rest of the lockdown.  He is being very cuddly, we suspect because he feels a bit rough at times.  He comes and asks for cuddles quite frequently during the day.  It is wonderful to be here and able to provide him with the comfort he needs.  Even when he is not in need of a hug, he is loving wandering from room to room and checking what the humans are up to. 

I can be in my space, my house and my garden every single day.  Ok so this is also a pain, obviously.  But you know what – I love my house and my garden. That may change, ask me again in two month’s time and I may have gone off it, but for now, my physical space is absolutely perfect for me.

I have time to do some of the creative stuff I rarely have time to do.  Pottering around with a sewing machine, with some lino cuts, calligraphy pens.  Nothing very serious, but fun to potter.  

I have time to stare at the moon, the sunsets, the birds singing in the garden.  I have time.  What a treat.

Punctuated by meals

I am not home-schooling children, my offspring are independent now. My days are very much easier than a lot of friends’ and colleagues’ who are facing an incredible juggling act of supervising school work and doing their own jobs at the same time.

The rhythm of my day is simple.  Work takes up a lot of the day at the moment, it is an incredibly full and stressful week for me at work, coronavirus notwithstanding.  My biggest challenge this week is making sure I rest enough and have enough of a break from the job to not go nuts.  I know next week will look different.  In fact, tomorrow could look different, I am learning fast that our lives are changing quickly and it’s incredibly difficult to predict what the world will look like in whatever phase comes next.  

This week – good grief, why am I saying “this week”, when I mean two days so far?  Anyway, so far this week, in the whole two days of the working week which have honestly felt like four days… the routine has been to go out and walk the dog and have a short run fairly early in the morning.  On Monday there was another walk straight after work, obviously that was a short-lived routine as the instruction to go out only once a day was issued that evening.  So, for now, it’s a morning walk only.  Meal times are important in the day and at the moment we are all gathering from our different rooms and projects and eating together for all three meals.  It’s an odd feeling, last experienced on holiday last August I think, even Christmas holidays don’t see everyone gathering for every meal every day.

But the meals and the coffee breaks are feeling like an important framework for the days. So far anyway.

I am very grateful that the family enjoy being together and that the sense of humour is very high, every meal time involves laughter which is lovely and very much needed.

Nesting in the house

I wrote yesterday about the urge to clear up the garden.  Needless to say, the nesting instinct did not stop there.  By the end of Saturday, I was physically exhausted because I could not stop myself clearing and tidying and rearranging the whole house. It was not just an instinctive thing, it was the practicality of fitting another adult in the house, one who has not lived here fully for a couple of years at that. 

There is no doubt that the uni student is grateful he has a home to come to, that he was able to decide quickly that he wanted to come home and that his parents were happy and able to collect him.  We were able to be so last minute, simply because he is living at university merely miles from our home. 

The logistics are not all that simple though, we never did get around to extending the tiny bedroom that the now not tiny human occupies when he is here.  And in a couple of years living away from home, the belongings have extended beyond the capacity of his genuinely small room.

That combined with the fact that we now have four adults living in one house and there is still work being done and courses being studied, conference calls are happening all over the house, all through the day.

After a fair amount of furniture shifting we have created four work stations in four different rooms and most of them have a door and some privacy.  

It was another exercise that helped us appreciate what we do have.  We have enough space for us to live comfortably for the foreseeable future.  And there is always something refreshing about moving furniture around and seeing rooms in a new way.  Maybe we’ll be doing this every month or so?

Ending a project well

As I get older it becomes more apparent that there are rarely moments of true success.  Success comes in small incremental moments, which often pass by uncelebrated.  I do try to write down small successes at the very least, but I mostly do not remember to do so.  This week I hit the deadline I wrote about last week.  I have no idea of the project is a success, but I have finished everything I can do to make it succeed and it was hard work.

My family took me out to dinner to celebrate the deadline being met and all the hard work I have put in.  Not celebrating the success of my piece of work – it may still fail, it is dependent on others now, not me.  In the same way as an exam result depends on the grade boundaries as much as the effort you put in, or a job interview depends on who else is being interviewed and what the employer wants, as much as my performance.  All of these things require lots of preparation, effort and a good amount of stress.  Yet we often only celebrate if all the other elements come together and we have a visible sign of success – a new job, the top grade etc.

My lovely family decided not to wait for the others to decide on my success and instead took me out for fizz and pizza to mark the end of a stressful time and welcome me back into a calmer phase of life.  I am so grateful they organised it and held me to it.  Left to my own devices I would have slunk to a sofa and an evening of non-stop TV.  But their kindness and cleverness truly did mark an end to the stress and yesterday felt like a new start and I felt fresher and more enthusiastic than I would have thought possible at the end of Tuesday.  I am giving lots of gold stars and loads of gratitude to the family team for pizza and fizz and a great evening out.

Counting the blessings after the curveball

I have half attempted blogging over the last few weeks, but have not managed to complete one; I had forgotten the cathartic benefits of writing stuff down and putting it “out there”. Today I need the catharsis.

Yesterday was one of those days that come out of the blue and knock you for six.  Thursday had been lovely, starting with a family run and ending with dinner with a friend and her group of friends who are very delightful and interesting and strong women.

Then it went downhill fast with the offspring waking with a very high fever.   Something made my maternal flags go up, so I sought medical advice.  All of a sudden we were on the way to A&E with a case of suspected sepsis or meningitis.  Neither were happening thank God. It was a long morning of tests and waiting for results, but the end result was that we were given the all clear for those nasties and sent home with a stash of antibiotics.

It was a shocking reminder that life can be fragile, things go wrong quickly and in a moment life changes forever.  Yesterday ended well, with offspring feeling better and the whole family at home.  Nevertheless the Mama-brain has spent many hours with the what-ifs, and processing the fact that I had forgotten about meningitis being a thing for teens, that I had started to think that those scary days of watching little ones be very poorly were behind me.  The scary days just involve someone much taller than me, but they’re no less scary it turns out.

I went to bed thankful for our NHS, for the friends that stayed by me via text all day, for the support of family, for having jobs that enable us to switch to a family focus with no notice (or in my case to work part-time). And most of all, that the offspring is getting better and those nasty illnesses were not a reality I am living with today.

Easter reflections part 2

The pathos of Holy Week inevitably leads to the absolute joy of Easter Sunday, at the least within the church services. Taken together the services are a safe way to travel through a whole gamut of emotions and have a really happy ending.

Our Easter was certainly joyous and happy. It was a Saturday of catching up with dear family who we rarely see, cousins were reunited and took up where they left off. News was exchanged and the most delicious giant profiteroles stuffed with ice cream were eaten. Other delicious things were eaten, but the profiteroles were seriously amazing.

Easter Sunday was a joyous church occasion followed by a sumptuous Easter brunch. I am not sure I have ever cooked brunch on Easter Sunday before, but I loved it. Brunch is a great meal to be able to create a sense of abundance and it always feels like a treat.

There was of course chocolate, wine, and coffee – all of which had been fasted from by various members of the family. There was the extended family, more cousins joyfully gathering. The day had an underlying retro Wii Sports competition happening, along with Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating, dog walks and frisbee playing in the park. And a lot of sun cream thanks to the amazing weather.

All in all a long and joyous day of family and feasting and being very aware of all the many blessings that surround us.

Birthday joy

Yesterday was my birthday.  I love my birthday.  It is a day to relish and do the out of the ordinary.  It’s  day to take stock of life and enjoy what is good. 

I always take a day off work on my birthday (a hangover from when I worked somewhere that offered that as a benefit), yesterday was no different.  

My day was filled with a birthday plethora of family and friends, some in person, most via brilliant cards (very funny ones this year!) and kind texts and Facebook messages.  It always fills me with amazement and a lot of thankfulness at the huge group of friends I have built over my nearly five decades of life and the steady growth in the family.

It’s been a busy few months and planning the day was a casualty of having too much on my plate over the past few weeks.  So friends and family stepped in and planned for me.  My birthday involved breakfast out with my husband, a run, some downtime, outdoor swimming and jacuzzi and a relaxed lunch, dinner with family.  I ate my favourite foods and drank excellent wine.  

None of yesterday would have felt special without the people involved.  I felt loved and cherished and that feels good.  Thank you everyone.

Energetic resting

“I hope you have a quiet weekend planned” in an email from a close colleague late last week evoked a firm declaration that my weekend, and the few days annual leave I have taken, are indeed quiet.  They need to be, I am recovering from an injury and a hectic few weeks at work.

Swiftly following the declaration was the plan for the weekend. It involves visiting three siblings and their combined six children, my parents in law, as well as two sets of very close family friends, all in a 250mile round car trip.

I wasn’t lying though, this is resting.  I love heading back to where I grew up and catching up with people I love seeing, but whom daily life rarely gives me a window to see.  Seeing so many people on one trip is especially brilliant.

We are staying with various delightful hosts who are feeding me and handing me drinks on a regular basis. The walks are frequent, but gentle and in brilliant autumn sunshine on the beach or around castles.  I live a long way from the beach and although I live close to a castle it really is not as stunning as those in Pembrokeshire.

The nieces and nephews are energetic and delightful, they’re all adoring of the auntie they rarely see and are mainly entertained by their teenage cousins.

Apart from chatting and catching up with everyone, there is plenty of time for sewing the cross stitch I have had lingering in the background for years, reading a chapter of a book and even a much-needed nap.  I have had time to catch up on some blogs I read, listen to podcasts and even smarten up this blog too.

All in all, an energising few days of intentional rest, made possible by being in a different environment surrounded by family.  Perfect. Not a perfect way to rest for everyone admittedly, but this extrovert traveller loves it.



Odd family time

I am trying to write this whilst also having a conversation with two members of my family and dealing with a dog who is insisting on being cuddled over the top of the laptop.  The teen has just read the first line and has just jokingly accused me of prioritising screen time over him.  I have suggested he head towards the shower as he is supposed to be.  All fairly normal family chaos.

We have, as the children have got older, settled into a lovely morning routine.  We all wake up and prepare for the day in our own way. Not all of us want large amounts of social interaction over breakfast.

But we eventually gather for a walk, which each of us does our best to prioritise.  And it is that walk that is the key.  We know that whatever else we do in the morning, we will get to hang out with each other at some point very soon.

This has always been true, the walk to school was always the time for us to chat and sort out problems and listen to the news from school, or the latest obsession in the minds of a small child.

It still took me decades to work out that this is our happy time though.  My one slight regret is that I did not realise years earlier that we all really enjoy the bustle of the mornings.  We all like the noise of a house getting ready for the day.  We’re not always cheerful, but somehow it’s at least understandable, and therefore acceptable, to be grumpy or stressed in the morning, so those moods don’t affect others quite so much.  It took me years and years though to let go of a vision of bright sunny mornings filled with cheerful humans.

I am pleased we have all reached the point of enjoying mornings though.  It makes life much easier.  Not much quieter or calmer, but I can’t have everything.

sunset man summer lake
 Mornings are absolutely nothing like this at all.   Photo by Kristin Vogt on