Valley Fest 2016 – Our first festival as a family of five

The weekend of September 2nd to 4th, we’ll be donning our wellies and heading to beautiful Chew Valley in Somerset for Delilah’s first festival, Valley Fest. We won’t be camping since she’ll only be six weeks old but the valley is in such easy reach of Bristol that getting there and back each day will be just fine. I’d love to wake up to a view of the Chew Valley lake, though, so that may be a plan for another year.

Sundown

We are, of course, looking forward to the music and a look at the lineup confirms there’ll be plenty to make my folky heart exceedingly happy. With a good range of acts covering funk to ceilidh and three stages, the outdoor Lake Stage in the daytime, Tipi Valley in the night and the acoustic stage at Village Green, everyone’s covered. Certainly, we’re all well up for a jig in a field in some stunning countryside.

Balloons

Speaking of fields, for us a huge draw to Valley Fest is its commitment to organic produce and ethical farming. Not only does this mean excellent food is on the menu but messages about appreciating the land and valuing sustainable practices underpin the festival. The Communal Sunday Picnic features cooking stars of the South West and organic partners like Riverford offer us the chance to get intimately involved in the food’s behind the scenes, from farm tours to cooking workshops.

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As a small festival with lots on for kids, this looks like a great first for us. The Run Wild area promises storytelling, circus skills, craft sessions and lots more. With a baby change and nursing area, Delilah and I will be able to take it easy if it all gets a bit much.

If we all need somewhere quieter, we may well retreat to Village Green. Spa treatments, listening to speakers and discussions may be out for us this time around but we could take in the art installations and get involved in one of the art projects. For some serious chill time, we might hit the Film Field for a family film. It’s about time I introduced Talitha and Ophelia to Labyrinth.

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It’s also our anniversary weekend and with a six-week-old in tow, there’s no chance of a child-free celebration so this sounds like a brilliant way to celebrate instead. After all, two of us made the promises that started our family seven years ago, right here in the Somerset countryside.

Adult weekend tickets are £80, £40 for children under 16, plus booking fee. Under 6’s go free. A family weekend ticket with 2 adults and children is £200. Maybe see some of you there?

Valley Fest has given us tickets in exchange for coverage on my blog.


This Homeschooling Life – What July looked like

OK, so this update is a little overdue but since the big educational centrepiece of the month was the appearance of the girls’ new baby sister, I reckon I’m allowed to be late. I’m hoping to soon write about all my big reflections from our first year of “officially” home educating.

Talitha has a pretty even split of friends who go to school and who are home educated so she’s well accustomed to telling people that she’s “homeschooled” (“home educated” is too long to say, she tells me). She’s also excited about being in “Year 1” though it doesn’t really mean that much here as we move according to her abilities and interests, as well as the rhythms of family life. To her, it means she’s growing up. I’m so aware that she is. I am challenged by what it’s going to mean, keeping up with her this year.

That I mostly look forward to that reminds me that this is once again the right choice for our family. We have a lot happening this year that home educating fits well with. I’ll hopefully be able to share that soon too. For now, on to a little of what we got up to in the month of July (what I remember at the moment anyway!).

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Spotting nature
Like most young children, the girls are always fascinated with stopping to notice the small things. They’re always asking me what things are called and more often than I’d like, I don’t know the answer, so we take a picture and they look them up in our books at home or we have a look online.

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A week before Delilah was born we took a walk in Leigh Woods which I actually had to coax Talitha into by offering to print out a nature scavenger hunt. She loves having a list to tick! I gave Ophelia one too and they both had great fun finding different things in the forest, especially birds. We had some time just being quiet and listening carefully then talking about what we’d heard. The girls even got to build their first den.

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They’ve also done quite a lot of nature walking with Laurence, which saw Talitha start a nature journal and he took them to a nature spotting session with the RSPB at democratic community The Garden, in Bristol.

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Words and numbers
We actually haven’t done much in the way of formal work for a while as Laurence has been around more than usual and we’ve fallen out of routine. I was pretty tired and distracted towards the end of pregnancy and have been a wee bit, um, busy, since. But late July Talitha started bringing books to me and surprising me by reading them. They were books we’d laid aside weeks before because she was finding them too difficult.

Then I realised that she is almost constantly working on reading in moments alone. She’s also reading lots to Ophelia. She’s still in the process of figuring out that she can read quite a lot, which is interesting to see. Ophelia is now insisting on “reading self” by making up little stories to go with the pictures.

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Adding, subtracting and counting in twos and tens are games of Talitha’s own making. Ophelia continues to count everything and the two can now decently play certain board games together with a bit of support.

Other than that, we’ve just done bits and pieces off the cuff as we get a pocket of time when the mood strikes, as with this Olympics print out from Twinkl.

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Chapter book of the month
We had to abandon The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in the end as Talitha was just finding it too scary. She kept worrying about what would happen when they eventually found Mr Tumnus and the white witch. So I figured that what happens to Aslan at the stone table might be a bit too much just now. Instead, she asked to read The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. She was so taken with The Magic Faraway Tree that her godfather and his family bought her its prequel for her birthday. She’s enjoying spotting familiar, well-loved characters as they’re introduced in the book.

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Gardening
With Laurence around and me needing a fair bit of space, the girls have spent a lot of time gardening. They harvested their potatoes from the Grow Your Own Potatoes scheme and have observed butterflies and bees taking in their wildflowers from a Kew Gardens’ educational project we started back in April. They’ve also done much else with him, planting, weeding, harvesting. This is an exciting time of year when the garden gives us almost all the vegetables we eat.

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Ballet and music
With the term ending, Talitha finished another year of ballet, complete with a big show. At her age, it really is just a bit of fun but she takes it quite seriously and never wants to miss a class. Having to get dressed up in different costumes and performed learned routines for a big audience was extremely exciting for her. She’s also finished her first term with Blackbird Early Years Music and is keen to keep going with that.

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I think things will continue to be easygoing over the next month as my hands are full of newborn, my mother is staying with us for the summer holidays and Laurence is away at least one day a week with work. By necessity, we will have to do some structured work as Talitha is actively requesting it, though. We will probably get back into routine at some point in the new “term” but with a new baby, I can’t say for sure what that will look like. There’s a lot of learning in rolling with that too, for all of us.

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Do you home educate? Please do consider linking up any post about something you’ve been up to below. All approaches welcome! x

Other posts in this series:

June
May
April
March
February
January
What I loved about our first “term” of home educating
November
October
September
This Homeschooling Life – the very beginning

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Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess, Polly and Laura. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



George Bedroom Makeover Challenge

The girls’ bedroom has changed a lot in the last few months. For a start, we decided to swap their room with the guest room which was slightly more spacious. We’ve also introduced a wardrobe (discovered by the side of the road – score!) and ditched their old chest of drawers for an easier-to-open to chest from the diningroom. All in all, it’s improved their room’s functionality but I do feel like an aesthetic makeover is due at some point.

With their input, I’ve put together a mood board of what their dream bedroom might include, using items from the George Kids Home range. Talitha wanted: “Dinosaurs! Blue and yellow because they’re my fravourite colours! Lots of fairy lights and maybe my own lamp?” Ophelia said: “Lots of amamals!”

Here’s what would make it to their dream George room. It comes up to a total of £376.

Kids Bedroom Makeover Challenge

These circus blackout curtains (£24), this kids bean bag (£20), this seahorse clock (£9), this purple and yellow lava lamp (£14), this zig zag print throw (£12), these bunk beds (£199), this blue desk and chair (£75), these owl string lights (£7) and this dinosaur cushion (£7).

This is my entry for the George at ASDA kids’ makeover challenge. Check out the hashtag #GeorgeousRoomChallenge on Twitter and Pinterest for more kids’ bedroom ideas.

This is a collaborative post


Delilah’s home birth story

Delilah was born on the morning of Monday 18th July, a week ago today. I wrote this birth story that night in the urge to debrief. I have gently edited it since.

I’d been having lots of little surges (the hypnobirthing term for contractions) from 36 weeks so I knew my body was gearing up to have my baby, whether that meant at 40 weeks or beyond. Either way, Delilah was extremely low down, grinding her head on my cervix and had been since week 38. I felt sure that whenever it happened, this labour would be my shortest. At just over six hours from first surge to finish, it was.

At 40+1, I felt lots of smaller surges throughout the day as I cleaned the bathroom and picked raspberries from the garden. Laurence and the girls had gone to church without me as I couldn’t face being asked about a due date that had now officially passed.

I walked up the stairs at one point and caught my breath. I felt the baby had slipped down even further. The shape of my bump had noticeably changed. I felt sure it would happen today or tonight but also knew that could be wishful thinking so didn’t entertain it too much. Laurence had got used to me musing that each night could be the night.

I was usually high spirits that day, feeling more energetic than I had in the entire pregnancy. So I did lots of rushing about while my in-laws and my mum were over, not thinking that the energy might be needed later.

Suddenly, that evening, I got extremely emotional and stressed about a lot of different, unrelated things. All of them were real issues but none warranted the explosion that took place. I ended up turning off my phone, sipping a glass of prosecco and sticking on Chalet Girl while chatting on the sofa with Laurence about all sorts. I do think that’s the only way to watch that film, by the way, especially if you’re with someone who actually snowboards. It was the best “date night” we’d had in a long time. I felt insanely connected to him and felt sure that this was all leading somewhere soon.

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Sure enough, at 1:30, after about an hour’s sleep, I heard something pop so jumped up and ran to the toilet, where waters gushed out of me. It wasn’t enough to be the full waters and didn’t continue to leak but I reckoned something as happening. As soon as I got back into bed, proper, intense surges started.

I got up and went downstairs, thinking I’d hang out on my birth ball for a bit before waking Laurence up but discomfort was building quickly and a look at the clock said surges were about five minutes apart. I woke him up and told him we needed to get the pool ready. I actually had to tell him a few times. I’m not sure he sensed my urgency.

Once he was up, though, he snapped into action, covering our living room in builder’s plastic, shower curtains, towels and incontinence pads. He inflated and filled the pool, getting the temperature and level right and set my hypnobirthing tracks to play. Between surges, I tidied a few toys that had been left around, mixed ylang ylang and frankincense in the essential oil diffuser, lit a few candles and tuned in to the tracks. I constantly felt the need to rock and sway. When a surge came, kneeling felt most effective. It made it super intense but it just felt so right.

I went up to the loo, feeling like I needed to poo but after having a quick succession of surges there, I knew what I was really feeling was her head. I considered spending time in the shower and on the loo like I had with Ophelia but it felt like I might as well get in the pool. I asked Laurence what he thought and he reckoned I might as well. The pool felt gloriously comforting. I instantly relaxed. My surges slowed but they became increasingly effective. I could actually feel the baby move further down with each one as I breathed into it and visualised the sunrise, floating, bubbles and hot air balloons.

By this time, Laurence had called the midwives. We had a disagreement over it as having them too soon was a real fear of mine. In both my previous labours, everything slowed as soon as someone different entered the situation. I worried about this so much last time that I didn’t let him call until quite late. The midwives had got lost on the way and arrived when I’d already started pushing! So I told him he could decide when it was right to call and I think the fact that I’d been hanging off him during surges, squatting was probably pretty convincing!

In retrospect, my body was getting my baby into position for birth. Still, before I agreed it was time to call, I suggested we go lie for a bit in bed and cuddle through some surges. The minute I got into bed, I leapt up, went back downstairs and declared that I didn’t know what I’d been thinking – of course I was in active labour. There was no way I could have lain there.

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I stripped off my tunic and knickers and got in the pool. Getting naked always seems a big sign for me that things are happening. I kept my eyes closed when each midwife arrived to give Laurence time to explain that I was hypnobirthing, trying to stay in the zone. But things slowed right down and lost intensity. Worse yet, the first midwife, though lovely and gentle, was a bit too chatty. She kept making small talk and asking me questions that took me out of my primal brain and lose my concentration. She insisted on sitting next to the pool, watching me. The second also sat in the room and I felt increasingly irritated with their presence.

Laurence had asked them to be in the dining room, to keep monitoring to a minimum and not to talk to me. In the end, the monitoring was fine (despite continuing to talk to me unnecessarily, though my birth plan made it clear I wanted it done silently and quickly) as I was convinced throughout that everything would be fine, which luckily it was. Delilah and I were both find throughout.

My plan stated that I didn’t want internal examinations and I didn’t want one offered unless it was deemed absolutely necessary. That she offered me one made me desperate to give birth because I felt they were watching the clock. Aloud I just said no but in my head, I said, “I know this baby is coming and we know all is fine. A number won’t change that.”

On one hand, all of this made me feel a little annoyed that we’d called them so soon. They were following protocol but this was my body, my baby and my home. I had already been through all my plans with my community midwife and she’d felt everything I suggested made sense.

On the other, I realised they might not realise how far along I was so I tuned further into my instincts. When one suggested I go use the loo since I wasn’t managing to wee in a jug, I ended up hiding out in the bathroom where things became fast and furious again.

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When I returned to the pool, I found it really difficult to relax into the surges and let them do their work. I kept pushing myself against Laurence and raising myself out of the water. I realised I was getting pushy but my muscles all felt tense. I was getting tired and impatient.

That’s when I asked for gas and air. The first item on my plan was that I didn’t want to be offered pain relief. Having practised hypnobirthing, I do not think of labour as pain but as work. Laurence had accidentally passed on to me that it was being offered just when the midwife arrived (before they’d gone through my plan) and from then, the idea of it was stuck in my head though I kept trying to ignore it.

The sensation of fighting the surges made me think I needed something to override my conscious brain so I could let the muscles work. I agonised over it because gas and air with my first labour (an induction) had taken me out of the room, out of the experience. I couldn’t even get into an upright position to push, I was so out of it. I blamed it as one of the factors that made bonding with my first baby difficult. But I felt sure that I could control it this time and hoped I would stop if it was overwhelming me or that Laurence would help me see that I needed to.

So I discussed it with the first midwife. She warned that her supply was limited. I decided to go for it and make do if we ran out but I really didn’t think it would be much longer. Unhelpfully, the second midwife said, “So I guess we’re throwing away the birth plan.” That totally pissed me off and made me determined to get this over with. What a disempowering thing to say! Laurence replied, “Only this part.”

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When I started taking it, I found myself stopping before the surges were finished so I didn’t dull the whole sensation. I also found (and was a little disappointed!) that it didn’t offer as much relief I’d expected – I should have remembered this from five years ago. I was too far along for that. I still felt the surges but the entonox helped me to go with them instead of fighting against them. I wasn’t trying to push myself out of the water with each surge but could instead breathe.

We never did decide what we’d do with the girls. It seemed for a while that it might all happen with them asleep. But when 5am approached, we started discussing what to do because Ophelia would likely be up at 6.30 and I needed Laurence too much for him to be able to attend to her. We also knew that with an hour’s sleep and hours of labour there was no way we wanted to be looking after them that day! So he called his father who came to pick them up. While they sorted car seats, I held the first midwife’s hand through my surges. By now I was finding her encouragement to breathe slowly very helpful.

The first midwife suggested I get out of the pool for a bit and I decided I’d stay out. For some reason, I’ve felt throughout this pregnancy that I wouldn’t give birth in water. In fact, I asked Laurence to set up an area in the playroom because I felt it might happen there. At her suggestion, I sat on my birth bill for a bit. Moving around on it, everything quickened. She suggested I sit on a chair. I decided to kneel and hold on to it instead. It was the position that had felt the most right throughout the labour. It felt like the way this baby was going to be born.

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At this point, I was breathing in the entonox but only half breathing, half growling it out. She told me to save the energy I was spending making noise. But I knew I didn’t want the gas and air anymore. She must have sensed this because she said, “You can just push if you like.” My body had been pushing but I needed to just go with it.

I stopped using the entonox, started breathing down through my nose as best I could while growling and to my surprise, the hypnobirthing image of ripples came to me. In three minutes and two massive pushes, Delilah slipped out into the midwife’s hands and she was handed to me. It was 7.50am. I’d planned to catch her myself as I had Ophelia but I actually couldn’t have done it as I wasn’t in the zone or position.

Instantly, I was overwhelmed by how much she looked like Ophelia and how surprised I was that she was really here. A real baby. When the cord stopped pulsating, the midwife cut the cord and despite uncertainty about using the cord tie I’d crocheted instead of a hospital clamp, she went with with it in the end.

I’d had stuff in my plan about delaying baby checks and letting us be quietly together but I think the gas and air had made me little more “let’s get on with this” and less “rush of love” than I’d been with Ophelia. But I also think it may have helped speed things along by helping me to relax and keep my focus.

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The placenta took almost an hour to come and we were all getting impatient. With Talitha I’d had the syntometrine injection so it came away quickly. With Ophelia, breastfeeding and standing had made it slip out easily. I ended up accepting the offer of having my bladder catheterised, which didn’t make much difference.

I said I’d consider syntometrine as I might as well throw away the birth plan (the second midwife’s words were still with me). Laurence reminded me that I had had a lovely, straightforward, calm home birth, which absolutely was my plan. When the next surge came, with mind over matter I forcefully pushed the placenta out while the first midwife put pressure on my tummy. It was such a relief. And it was the first time I’d seen a placenta properly, this being our first daytime birth. It was fascinating but neither beautiful nor revolting. It just was.

Both midwives were extremely competent and I always felt that we were in safe hands. The first gushed about how well I’d done pushing Delilah out gently which made me feel really good. It had been a serious concern of mine as Ophelia had shot out like a cannonball and they couldn’t work out how serious my tear was, so I was transferred to hospital, which I was desperate to avoid. As it was, I tore again this time but it was straightforward and easily stitched upstairs on our bed, after which I snuggled into bed with my baby and Laurence. We stayed there for most of the rest of the day, getting up to have a shower and the just enjoying being in and out of sleep and feeding with newborn Delilah.

Delilah's home birth story

All in all, it was the easiest of our births and we kept noting how amazing it was to just be at home this time. I loved not eating hospital food for lunch and Laurence marvelled at being able to hang out with a baby this young. It was lovely having this time just the three of us to recover and enjoy getting acquainted before the older girls came home with Laurence’s parents and my mother at supper time, extremely excited to meet their new sister.

I think my take away from all of my births is that an experience doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Talitha’s ended up with induction and I found it traumatic in a lot of ways but looking back, I now mostly see the bits I am grateful for, like stopping to touch her hair. Ophelia’s carried the shadow of Group B Strep which I’d refused antibiotics for, choosing to birth at home. It ended with transfer to hospital and a two-night stay after the birth. But it was such a calm, utterly empowering birth. Delilah’s could have benefited from me knowing my midwife beforehand, unfortunately not currently possible on the NHS in Bristol. It would probably have been a good idea to have a doula this time. But, there were no concerns at any point and it all happened swiftly and relatively easily. I always felt safe in the midwives’ excellent care. And we got to do it all here, in our home!

She’s quietly joined our lives in a birth that really was just part of normal life. Sitting up in bed, cuddling her and breathing through after pains while I write this all down, I just can’t stop thanking God for these three children he has given me and for the man sleeping beside us who is absolutely the best birth partner I could have had.


Summer Crafts: CD Suncatchers #CollectiveBias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

I tried to get some bigger crafts and activities with kids in before the baby came and life inevitably slowed right down and got that bit more chaotic. As it turned out, we managed this windchime made of CD suncatchers literally just before the day Delilah was born.

As in, we started it on the due date, finished it on 40+1, I went into labour that night and she was born the next morning! I wrote the birth story that night so once I’ve reflected, talked it over with Laurence and edited it, I’ll share that here too.

cd suncatcher wind chimes - hobbycraft

Summer is all about making the most of the light. CDs are particularly effective for catching it and what I found was that their size allowed the girls to feel like they completing lots of little projects. So rather than getting bogged down in a large craft, they were keen to do another and another and another, which was particularly useful because we needed to do both sides for our chimes. It’s an ideal summer craft for families, really.

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First we went to our local Hobbycraft to get supplies. I’d forgot what fun it is in there and what good value everything is.

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I’ll need to make my way back there soon as I want to try tie-dyeing and Talitha wants to get some knitting things. Going there together meant the girls could help me choose what materials they wanted to use, giving them shared ownership of the project.

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Here’s what we used:
Music CDs for stripping
Blank DVD-Rs (blank CDs are fine too)
Dimensional fabric paint
Embroidery hoop
Indoor/Outdoor Multi-surface paint
Craft buttons
Embroidery thread
Permanent marker
PVA glue or hot glue
Glitter pony beads
Scissors

Here’s what we did:

We used a couple of bases in this craft. I stripped a some CDs by making a scratch and taking the labels off with tape so they’d be clear and fully let the light through. The others were actually DVD-Rs we had hanging about that are never going to get used. Though they weren’t clear, they are reflective so catch the light in a different way.

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We picked up dimensional fabric paint in Hobbycraft’s sewing section. Using a permanent marker, we drew mandala patterns on the CDs and traced the patterns with the fabric paint.

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I was really unsure about what Talitha would make of such a tricky medium but she got the hang of it in no time. We left the patterns to dry overnight then painted them the next day using indoor/outdoor multi-surface paint.

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Others, we painted directly without any outline.

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For yet others, we stuck buttons on with PVA glue. This worked fine for mine but I should have encouraged the kids to put more glue on theirs as we needed to restick. An alternative would be to use hot glue as the result is immediate and it gives you more options in terms of where you put your finished piece.

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We decorated both sides and once everything was dry, I threaded the CDs with embroidery thread and tied them on to the embroidery hoop at varying lengths, adding glitter pony beads at the top of each CD. I also added a couple of lengths of thread to create a handle for the hoop to hang. Now it’s up in our livingroom making everything extra cheerful.

cd suncatcher wind chimes craft - hobbycraft

What do you think? Also, do you have any summer crafts in the pipeline? Anything super easy but effective I might attempt with my big girls with a newborn in tow?


Maternity shoot with Annie Crossman Photography

Last year, we did a family photo shoot with Annie Crossman, a Bristol family photographer and friend. I’d booked the shoot as a birthday present to myself – a way to celebrate our family with one-year-old Ophelia in it.

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We then considered our family complete, not expecting to have any more children. Three weeks ago, Annie beautifully documented for us in a maternity photo shoot at Clevedon sea front how our plans can change.

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I didn’t do a maternity shoot with either of my first two babies so it feels extra special to anticipate this baby with one. It’s exciting to share it with you the day before our due date.

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Although this has probably been my easiest pregnancy from a physical point of view, even taking exhaustion into account, it’s psychologically been my most challenging.

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There have been two older children to consider, a lot of change happening in our lives outside of this pregnancy and it’s actually taken a long time to wrap my head around the idea of having a third and doing the newborn thing again. She has always been wanted. Without reservation. But it took me a few months to move on from feeling daunted.

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It’s easy to get impatient in the final weeks of a pregnancy. I won’t pretend that I haven’t. Every night I go to bed wondering if surges will wake me as they did with Ophelia. Then I wake up in the morning, disappointed and annoyed.

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Nine months has been long enough for us to feel as ready as we’re ever going to be, to long now to meet this whole other person who’s going to join our family.

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As before, the photo shoot experience with Annie was great fun. She has a real way with children and our two warmed to her with the camera right away, which (perhaps surprisingly, considering how photographed they are!) isn’t always the case. She even got them checking out some bits we’d got for the baby, including this jumper which each of our newborns has worn and which was Laurence’s originally.

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For me, this maternity shoot wasn’t just about celebrating this pregnancy for us grown ups but it was a way to involve the children in the anticipation. It was as much about focusing on them as sisters as it was on the bump.

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And for us, it was a chance to slow down and reflect on this growing family of ours and this life that we are building together that we are so grateful to share. We are mindful that we need to work to good care of all we’ve been given.

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This time I won’t make any grand declarations about our family being complete. It’s seriously unlikely that we will ever announce another pregnancy but life keeps reminding us that it is fluid and open, resistant to inflexible plans.

maternity shoot

Do check out Annie Crossman’s website and Facebook page and follow @anniecrossmanphotography on Instagram.

PS: Since a few people have asked, the girls’ tunics are from Mini Boden, a Christmas present from their grandmum.


How to prepare children for a new baby

I’m 39 weeks pregnant tomorrow and the children are keenly aware that the baby is coming soon. On the whole, I’ve worried less about what this transition would mean for them than I did when I was pregnant with Ophelia. Back then, I wondered if Talitha would feel displaced and was genuinely concerned about being able to give them both what they needed. Now I know that a certain shortfall is inevitable and I’ve seen how much my children have benefited from having each other.

Adding a third brings its own questions. How will my now middle child react to no longer being the youngest? Will I inadvertently expect more independence and responsibility of my eldest than she’s ready for? Will our home be totally chaotic? Yet, I’m safe in the confidence that I really will love them all, we will muddle through and that these three sisters are already invaluable to each other.

I’m by no means an expert in preparing children to meet a new baby but I thought I’d share a bit of what we’ve done. I’d love to hear your ideas too.

how to prepare children for a new baby-2 This is 2.5-year-old Talitha and I’m struggling to believe she was this ever this little!

Show them their own baby pictures
When we were expecting Ophelia, I had a toddler-sized photo book of Talitha’s baby pictures made so she could see the highlights of her first year and get into the idea of having a baby around. She absolutely loved it and still enjoys looking at it. I haven’t made one for Ophelia (must get on that!) but we’ve been looking at lots of her baby pictures on the computer and in a family photo book we got made the year she was born.

Talk about the baby and listen to what they have to say
While looking at these pictures and just generally as it comes up, we talk about what a baby needs and what we can expect life with a new baby to be like. The girls have their own ideas about what the baby might be doing in my tummy and love talking to her. Now that she really is almost here, Talitha has abandoned calling her “Butterfly” in favour of her name. Ophelia is still calling her “the baby”.

Both of them have wanted to sit on our laps more and Ophelia has needed more holding generally. I remember at this stage in the pregnancy, Talitha started having nightmares and was super-glued to me during the day. They may not be able to articulate what they’re feeling about the change but I’m trying to listen in to what they’re telling me in other ways and to wordlessly reassure them that they still have a place as our babies.

how to prepare children for a new baby

Read books about pregnancy, birth and babies
I read Talitha the book There’s a House Inside my Mummy, which we both found helpful for explaining what was happening. I gave it away after Ophelia was born but she happened upon it in the toddler room at our church and was delighted by it. Mostly, we’ve been reading How You Were Born by Monica Calaf. It’s a beautiful home birth children’s book but the mother packs a suitcase in case she has to go to hospital (as I’ve done) and it’s just generally a positive image of birth. It’s filled with ideas I’d love my girls to grow up with, wherever they decide to be if they have babies later on.

Discuss names with them
We weren’t sure whether to do include them in the name choosing but discussions around a name inevitably happened while they were present and Talitha certainly had opinions. While we’ve made it clear that we will choose the name as she is our baby, just as we chose hers and Ophelia’s we’ve been open to what she thought about the names we suggested. In the end, there’s only one name she’s latched on to and, after a lot of deliberation, we all agreed that that was the one.

Watch birth videos
We don’t know yet whether the children will be present for the birth but we’re open to it as a possibility. The reality of home birth means that they could wind up being around anyway. So, to prepare them, we’ve looked at gentle birth videos, which they’ve really enjoyed. I showed Talitha these videos last time too and although I ended up wanting my in-laws to take her, which they did, it really helped her to connect my changing body with the idea of the baby she’d eventually meet.

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How to help kids prepare for a new baby-2
37 weeks pregnant-3

Belly painting
Art for children is often about exploration and celebration. I was keen to give them the opportunity to do that by painting my bump with facepaints. Last time, Laurence drew henna patterns on my bump but he didn’t fancy doing it this time and, as it turned out, it was more fun for the girls to paint me anyway. Each had a side.

Pack their bags with them if they’re staying somewhere
They knew that I’d packed a birth bag and a bag for the baby so I’d have everything in one place for the home birth but would also be prepared in case of a transfer. I know some people find it pessimistic to do this but it gave me peace of mind and I really valued having done it last time. It also means that the girls aren’t shocked if I do go to hospital.

The girls were excited to pack their own bags. They got their Trunki suitcases out and I helped them decide what to take in case they needed to go to someone’s house (we discussed the options as we have a few people on call), complete with new toothbrushes – a point for much excitement. I asked them whether they’d rather be here or at someone’s house and they both said, “Both!” so at least they’re open to every possibility too.

Let them help get the baby things ready
They’ve also been thrilled to check out all the tiny baby things. It melted me when they loaded the washing machine with baby clothes, oohing and aahing over how small and cute it all was. They don’t realise they’re still quite small and cute themselves.

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How to help kids prepare for a new baby-2-2

Make a present for the baby
I had in mind to get some ideas from Pinterest for baby toys they could make but we just didn’t get around to any of that. In the end, I grabbed a couple of plain items of baby clothing and some very old paints from our baby shower with Talitha (binned them after as they really don’t work well anymore) and they had a brilliant time painting them. It’s going to be hilarious dressing the baby in them!

Buy presents from the baby
Finally, this is not really “beforehand” preparing but it’s a nice way of introducing them all to each other. I’ve bought Ophelia a Grimms wooden rainbow as she’s rainbow obsessed and I think she’ll have a lot of fun with it and Talitha a Maxamorra hooded onesie because she’s been asking for a hooded onesie for ages. When Ophelia was born, I bought Talitha an IKEA wooden train set as a gift “from the baby” and she actually wasn’t that interested in it at all. She was much more taken with her new baby sister but I think it’s a sweet way of celebrating this new stage in family life.