And then it was over.

24 days of building excitement, craft activities done, nativity taken part in, gifts made, carols sung, copious amounts of food bought, stockings hung, and then, in a mere 24 hours, it had happened and was over, just like that. Such a strange phenomenon, advent, Christmas and all that goes with it.

Which is not to say that I (we) didn’t enjoy it. Quite the contrary. A most lovely and enjoyable time was had. But the joy was found in the company of good friends, of laughter, of remembering the birth of Jesus and of observing the kids slotting back into friendships despite the hundreds of miles between us. The comically wet, freezing and windy Boxing Day walk on Dartmoor will go down in history as well I think! In years to come, when we recall what an ace Christmas we had together, I doubt it’s success will be measured in the calibre of the presents or deliciousness of food eaten (though we might still be ribbing Matt for his insane ability to practically inhale cheese).
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I just find it so odd that all the build up reaches fever pitch and then ends so abruptly and leaves us on the 29th December wondering, what next? At Church yesterday I learnt how much of the nativity is fabricated. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem but not that they trekked on a donkey, that Jesus was laid in a manger but not that they were refused entry from several inns and ended up in a stable surrounded by animals, that wise men visited but not explicitly that there were three. The accounts in the gospels are direct and lacking on the picturesque details. We don’t even know when it all actually happened, the date was picked by the Church hundreds of years ago, possibly piggybacking off the preexisting festival of winter solstice. So much of the traditional story has been concocted and it leaves me pondering. (Much like Mary who pondered all that the shepherds told her about her son’s future between their first and second visit – Luke 2: 19).

I’ve ranted in the past at the rampant consumerism that accompanies Christmas these days, the extravagant competitive gift giving, the excessive consumption. When you add in a largely made up nativity (though granted, the most important detail of God coming to earth as a baby to secure our future salvation remains), it leaves me feeling a bit cynical about the whole period. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to turn into a scrooge next year and opt out of the season entirely (Dan and the kids wouldn’t let me even if I wanted to!) but I guess I just want to reiterate the point that maybe having a simpler, more meaningful Christmas is by far, the better option.

At the beginning of advent I wrote about wanting to be more outward facing and to try and practically help those less fortunate than me during this season. Unfortunately, my efforts didn’t get very far. We donated some presents and food to a local homeless charity (St Petrocks) and helped pack several family boxes for refugees in Syria with our home ed group but didn’t do anything else. I actually struggled to find local practical opportunities that weren’t limited by small folk, finances or were around the big day rather than committing to spending Christmas Day itself serving others (again, not something I’m opposed to but wasn’t possible this year with the final stages of pregnancy starting to limit me, friends staying and young children).

As we approach 2015 I’ve been thinking about volunteering locally (regularly, not just at Christmas) for a good cause but think I might have to wait a few years as the kids will need to be a bit older before they are helpful and not a hindrance and with tiny number 3 arriving very soon, I can’t really commot to doing anything by myself quite yet!

But I digress. Christmas 2014. Apologies if I’ve come across as negative today. I’m really not, honest! I feel blessed to have such good friends and family to spend time with, privileged that we can buy some yummy food and are in a position of being able to provide presents for the kids and am thankful that Sophia is already grasping the deeper meaning behind Christmas and didn’t get completely distracted by the abundance of parcels under the tree! I guess I just find it mad that even when I have intentionally tried to keep things low key, I still feel slightly knocked flat by the post Christmas come down. So, if you’re feeling the same, why not look forwards with me? Let’s not mope but be proactive in getting out in this gorgeous (albeit cold) wintry weather, in seeking out opportunities to spend time with people we love, to not get sucked into the post Christmas sales and more consumerism. Let’s get some perspective, yes Christmas was fun and yes, now it’s over but that shouldn’t spoil our enjoyment of the coming days and weeks. So here’s to a happy January and an amazing 2015 to all of us!

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Distance doesn't stop these kids loving on each other!

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Pregnancy Diary: 32 weeks

Today I am 32 weeks and 3 days pregnant.
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Baby is now apparently 42cm long and his or her skin will be getting less wrinkly as they will be putting on a third to half of their birth weight in the next seven weeks..what a fatty! ūüėČ According to the baby centre update for this week I’m likely to put on around 450g a week from this point on. Must make sure am continuing to eat healthily I think if I’m going to be after some extra calories (though maybe I’ll wait until afer Christmas to start in earnest!)

Apologies for missing the 31 weeks update. A combination of having already blogged about my jaunt to the labour ward, Sophia’s birthday and then going to Dan’s parents for a long weekend meant that I didn’t think it was necessary and didn’t really have time!

We had a lovely time away; spending time with the Durdin contingent is always fun and this time was no different. Isaac was especially sad to leave them behind as we left this morning. We mostly just relaxed, pottered around the house, did crafts and games with the kids then yesterday headed to Horsell Common to see where the aliens landed before going on to Woking to visit the metal alien and the big man in red. Both of these attractions were met with excitement but I think the aliens might have slightly won out for Isaac! (For those wondering, I’m referring to War of the Worlds as H G Wells based his famous book in the area).

My acid reflux has been much better the last few days. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been avoiding foods that set it off or because the baby has moved down slightly but either way, it’s been more manageable. Bit sad at the prospect of a Christmas with minimal mince pies and chocolates though! My SPD however has flared up as I haven’t lifted weights since Tuesday. I’m hoping a session tonight and then a warm bath will get me back on track and keep it at bay once more.

Other than that, bump and I are both well and had no more oddness since our scare the other week which is ace and I’m hoping it’ll stay that way now until February!

Five.

My wonderfully weird, beautiful, caring, funny live wire¬†of a little girl is five. Five. Madness. How can it be possible for her to go from this…

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to this…

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in what seems to be no time at all?!

I know I have probably said it every year but five seems to be a real milestone; halfway to ten, officially school age, properly and absolutely without a doubt out of the early ‘kinder’ years and into the bulk of real childhood. And man do we know it!

This little lady surprises me every day, with her humour, her insight, her questions, her thoughtfulness, her thirst for learning, her¬†determination¬†and her incredible memory at retaining information. Every day is simultaneously a challenge and a joy with her. She’s a real spark and rockets from extreme happiness to extreme woe in the blink of an eye but then recovers in a nanosecond. She can sometimes come across as being in her own head¬†but deep down is one of the most caring children I know, she can’t bear for anyone she loves to be unhappy or hurt.

She is still absolutely sure without a doubt that she will be a chef when she ‘grows up’ and has ramped up her helping me in the kitchen this week after being inspired by some cooking related gifts she received at her party. On Sunday I was amazed at her quickness to pick up skills when she peeled a kilo of spuds in no time at all! Along with her obsession with cooking she loves to create; she loves to sew, is desperate to learn to knit and eager to try her hand at any craft on offer. She’s a bookworm in the making, always picking up new words, trying new books and writing a lot during her games. Yesterday she covered the house in post it notes with the word ‘stop’ on them. Apparently they were a health and safety measure but I’m still not quite sure I got it!

Just like me, she is an absolute chatterbox and doesn’t stop talking from the moment she wakes to the moment her head hits the pillow at night. Sometimes I can get frustrated with this but a) I have no justification in doing so as I do the same to everyone around me (!) and b) it’s great that she loves to communicate so thoroughly with those around her.

I know every parent would say this about their own child but she really is one of a kind, an absolutely amazing, fantastic, surprising and gorgeous daughter, a real pleasure to be around.

So Happy Birthday ¬†Sophia, hope you’ve had a great day. We love you!
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Pregnancy Diary: 30 weeks

Today I am 30 weeks and 4 days pregnant.
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Baby is apparently now 39cm long, can probably see what’s going on in the uterus around it and has eyelashes and eyebrows. If I remember correctly, most critical development has taken place and the emphasis for the last 10 weeks is on weight gain.

I have mostly been feeling pretty tired and worn out this last week. I don’t think it’s all pregnancy related though, I’ve been going to bed too late, Isaac has been waking a lot and I’ve been a bit stressed about Christmas/Sophia’s party which I think is taking a physical toll. Acid reflux is getting worse, I’m almost at the chugging gaviscon from the bottle stage!!

But I don’t mean to come across negatively so something positive… my SPD has been much much better, almost non existent in the last few weeks. I think this is due to continuing my weight training. I’ve been lifting three times a week still and I think it’s keeping my core and muscles strong enough to battle the SPD which is great. I haven’t had to do the self referral for physio and I don’t see any reason why I won’t be able to continue lifting until much nearer the due date so hopefully it’ll continue that way!

Trying to wind down

We finished our 12 week Harvest Time curriculum the week before last. The end came at just the perfect time¬†as we’ve all reached a point where I think we are ready for a break. In all honesty, we’ve been winding down for the last few weeks and during December we’ve done a lot less structured work at the table than in the months previously. But such is the way with the ebb and flow of life and I’m grateful that we can respond to how we’re feeling without any heavy expectations or guilt over what wasn’t achieved that perhaps could have been. With that in mind, when I found out Dan had to be away for four nights this week just gone I asked Ma if I could spend a couple of nights at theirs in Dartmouth and was very grateful when she said yes!

So a lovely few days were spent at their house, doing puzzles, going to playgroup, making Christmas gingerbread and reading books. This was exactly what we needed especially as both the kids were recovering from colds and I’ve been starting to feel very weary lately. I especially enjoyed the warm log fire in the evenings and being looked after a bit as Mum, Dad and Julia entertained the kids!
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Unfortunately, my sense of calm was short lived as I ended up spending 4 hours at the labour ward on Thursday. I woke in the morning feeling pretty rough and then my bump became rock hard and painful all over whilst I was ridiculously breathless. I started to experience what felt like contractions and upon calling, was asked to go into the labour ward to be checked out. Long story short, all tests and checks seemed to indicate that baby was fine and that I wasn’t going into labour although they weren’t sure what had caused the symptoms. I got sent home with strict instructions to go back if necessary and to get as much rest as possible. It was a bit of an unsettling afternoon and I’ve been ultra alert to the baby moving and how my bump is feeling since then as I swear neither of the others were quite this active or caused me so much discomfort!

Mostly though, I was and am still so grateful to be living in Topsham and to have such good friends just around the corner. The lovely Fabrianne came and looked after the kids immediately and Laurie was a star and accompanied me to the hospital, keeping me calm and distracted from my thoughts! I kept thinking how much harder the afternoon would have been if we were still living in the middle of nowhere at the Barn.

As mentioned, my final advice was to rest. I chuckled slightly at this as we were in the midst of getting ready for Sophia’s 5th birthday party when my brief trip to the hospital happened. I cut a few corners but did end up baking late into the night on both Thursday and Friday evening. I think it was all worth it though as yesterday we successfully threw a lovely chef themed fifth birthday party at a hall down the road from us for our gorgeous girl. We had our hands full with 18 kids (and 2 babies!) but our friends were amazing at pitching in to help (especially Fab again!) and I think a good time was had by all.

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Now that the party is over, I am looking forward to relaxing, taking it easy and gently enjoy the rest of advent. We’re off to the Pennywell Nativity on Wednesday for Sophia’s actual birthday then to Surrey for a long weekend celebrating Christmas with Dan’s parents before heading home to have Christmas with the ever lovely Jo, Matt and their girls (cheese, boardgames and lots of good, lazy company awaits)!

I’ve also made a decision regarding our home education schedule that should make life a little easier in the run up to the arrival of bump (will share in another post) and generally am feeling very relaxed, very happy and very festive! I hope any readers out there are feeling similarly chilled and looking forward to Christmas, however you celebrate it. I’m sure I’ll post again before Christmas but just in case I don’t, a very Merry Christmas to you all from the Durdin clan in Topsham!
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