Monday, 13 January 2014

Hallowe'en / Bonfire Night

I got relatively caught up on “life blogging” only to lose track again. That’ll teach me. Anyway, I forgot to write about Hallowe’en, which is silly because it’s one of my favourite holidays, and in England we get to stretch the celebration all the way out to Bonfire Night (which should be on November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day, but is always stretched to the weekend following).

Right. Hallowe’en. Hallowe’en in England is not the big thing it is in North America. There seems to be some custom where you take the kids to the houses with the lit jack-o-lanterns if you want to guarantee candy. As I’m not really versed in this custom, and as the kids are too little to be allowed candy (yes, I’m that mean mum who tries to keep control over their sugar intake), we thought we’d give costumes & trick-or-treating a pass yet again. Yes, I long for the day when I can dress the children up in costumes, but it seemed more prudent to stay in and have our own celebration.

We did get Walter a little pumpkin to carve. It was one of those silly things where he won’t remember doing it and we didn’t use it, aside from lighting it on Hallowe’en, but it was good family fun anyway. Walter was interested in the whole process, he didn’t eat the pumpkin seeds, and he gave it many benevolent smiles from his highchair (the finished product being perched in the middle of our table).

lid on, lid off
On Hallowe’en Day we ended up having to make a trip to Cambridge, as David’s University Library card was expiring and, given his odd status as a non-student-non-alumnus (because he’s submitted his thesis but hasn’t graduated) it was necessary to speak to a Librarian in person about how best to renew his card. The kids & I went on an epic adventure to buy some shoes for Walter (and thanks to St Anthony found a super pair of Clarks for 50% off and Emily’s Christmas dress at Marks & Spencer for only £3 – trust me, it’s not that trivial to ask St Anthony for shoe finding help, as I’d been trying for months to find something Walter could walk in and we were getting desperate). On our way home we decided to drop into Fitzbillies and pick up Hallowe’en themed pastries for afternoon tea: a fairy cake for me and a fondant toad for David. Delicious.

the frog got a bit bashed on the journey back -- makes it look my Hallowe'eny
Supper was one of my special treats – Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good (bread, cream, bacon, & cheese). The pumpkin, being one of the mass market carving ones, was lacklustre but the filling was delicious. We also had Hobgoblin beers & a dish of Hallowe’en candy.

David suggested we watch a spooky movie, so we settled on The Skeleton Key. There’s always a big debate in this house when it’s time for scary movies. I’m a huge fan of vampires, but not really of other monsters. I don’t like watching movies, or reading books, that have a heavy dose of supernatural evil in them. David doesn’t like watching movies about serial killers/mass murderers, even though this is my favourite kind of horror/thriller movie. So to find a movie that manages to strike the right balance is a bit of a challenge. Skeleton Key ended up being a great choice. It had a supernatural element, but it was one that I could handle (it’s movies about demonic possession etc that I really can’t watch). It was cheesy but also managed to be creepy. I’m still going over the plot a few months later, because I thought that the story was interesting even if the movie wasn’t worth watching again.

Once Hallowe’en was over it was time for the English to break out the Guy Fawkes traditions. David’s viva was on November 5th, so we had no trouble scoring a box of fireworks to set off in honour of his pass. When we went to the park to light them, we were able to watch the fireworks from elsewhere in the city. Walter loved watching the beautiful explosions and it was a really fun little expedition.

Ely was having a big charity fundraiser fireworks display on November 9th. We’d planned to go, but when I looked online that day I discovered that they were charging £8 for a family entrance fee (in Cambridge it was always “by donation”), and we don’t have money for those kinds of extras, especially as the kids are too little to really care. It worked out just as well – we were able to watch the whole display from Walter’s bedroom window. The fireworks exploded over Ely Cathedral and it was just gorgeous. Walter perched on his windowsill and had a great time watching the event. I think we got a better view than if we’d gone to the park.

we were heading to a wedding after the fireworks, hence the suit

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

2013 in 13

After finally catching up I am, once again, woefully behind on blogging. I still need to post about Hallowe’en, and Christmas, and all that other stuff. But the kids are being normal kids, instead of those ones that baby experts seem to base their books off of (dolls, maybe?), so sleep is short around here and time is shorter and and and...

And and and, it makes sense to cover off 2013 in a picture post! Because I can look for pictures with one hand while feeding Emily with the other. So here we go, and if you like the idea you should join the link up.

2013 in 13 Pictures

I love this picture, mostly because it makes my mum look like a hobbit. Also because the back story is literally a back story – she was having all sorts of weird pains with her back and neck and could barely move, but it didn’t stop her from trying to finish the kitchen renovations. Anyway, that’s not why I picked this. I picked it because the hominess of it sums up all the wonderfulness that is just being at home with a loving family. Even if the circumstances that brought me home weren’t ideal, it was wonderful being able to spend so much time with my family:

This picture has been affectionately titled “Walter Needs a Visa”. The expression on his face pretty much sums up how I felt for most of last winter when I let myself dwell too much on the uncertainty facing our family. This is Walter’s visa picture, so it was taken when I at least knew where I was going, and that I had a job to go back to, and that we wouldn’t have to be away from David any longer. I knew the upcoming months would be difficult, but at least we’d be together:

This is Easter, 2013. Walter & I were both horrendously sick with the ‘flu and couldn’t make it to the Easter Vigil, which broke my heart. We were also still in transition, not yet settled, and everything still seemed dark and dreary. So I sang. I sang the Exultet to Walter, to welcome in Easter Morning, and as I sang the dark cloud lifted and broke and I felt as if there was hope again. And miraculously enough, that was the day our flu cleared up:

We moved to Ely, thus fulfilling my dream of living out in the English countryside. It’s been marvelous:

David & Walter at the Eel Festival. Why? Because it was one of the first outings we had once we got settled in. But more than that, because it’s my little boy back with his daddy, having the time of his life. Two months apart was way too long:

A bump! And at this point in time I was still hopeful that I would give birth “on time”. And I finally was looking pregnant. And the ultrasounds were looking good and the pregnancy was on track and it seemed that despite some worrying in the first trimester, Secunda was here to stay:

Ely Folk Festival, which kicked off the start of my maternity leave. This family loves folk music. Being able to take Walter to his first festival and experience it with him was amazing. It was one of the highlights of the year, especially because it was so nice to just be doing fun things as a family again:

Emily, less than two hours after birth. So thankful I had to be induced, because it kick started natural labour while I was at the hospital and I went from 4cm to Baby in about three hours, which would’ve been a nightmare if we’d been driving from Ely. And it was so nice to experience a normal birth and to have that special time where the three of us could get to know each other:

My mum came to visit, for a month, and although most of that month was a blur of me being super exhausted and grouchy and way too pregnant, it was still lovely. She got to spend so much time with Walter and that is really special, especially since she was the first person he saw when he crashed into the world the previous August:

Aside from Emily’s birth, this would have to be the highlight of the year – David completed & submitted his dissertation on time, and passed his viva, and very very soon I'll be able to sign myself "Dr & Mrs". I still cry when I think about the day we went, as a family, to submit his dissertation. To take all the blood, sweat, & tears, particularly of the last two years, and see that the sacrifices really did accomplish something... words fail:

I got my nose pierced, after wanting one since I was a teenager. And I finally feel as if I look like myself and as if one more key to understanding my personality is visible:
I turned thirty!

Being able to celebrate Christmas in England with my England Babies. It was special to have our own Christmas this year, to introduce them to our little traditions, and to enjoy watching them experience the holiday:

2013 was a hard year. But it wasn’t as hard as 2012 and it at least brought us forward instead of keeping us in a horrible limbo. I don’t know what to expect from 2014. I’m nervous about this next stage of life, with everything so uncertain and unsettled, so I am trying to take it one day at a time. But I think we're going to be ok.