April has been a month of two halves. The Easter holidays couldn’t have arrived quickly enough after an intense fortnight of complete and utter chaos in the lead up to them. Work and school were overwhelmingly busy for each of us and there was some kind of event (sporting-, acting- or house-related) happening on almost every single night. We were all at the very ends of our emotional tethers and on our knees with physical exhaustion by the time the end of term finally came around.
I’d hoped with all my heart that the builders and decorators would have been in before the two-week break started, making our kitchen habitable (and usable) again after two whole months since the fire happened. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case – more setbacks meant that the work had to be rearranged for the end of the month instead *sad face*. Immensely frustrating of course, but ultimately beyond my control and so there was nothing I could do but accept that this was the way it was going to happen. Thankfully it does all now seem to be going to plan (sort-of…we’re still encountering a few glitches here and there). The contractors are downstairs as I type this and I’m beginning to see a tiny glimmer of progress.
Our annual and much-loved trip to Cornwall happened in the middle of all of this and it was so very welcome. We’d briefly considered cancelling it because of everything that was going on and I’m so glad we didn’t – it was exactly what we all needed. Ten whole days of being in our happy place, walking by the sea every day, playing on the beach, taking hundreds of photographs and spending time together as a family of five, reconnecting in all the ways we’d been needing. It’s definitely true what they say about Vitamin Sea being good for the soul.
Truthfully, it’s been deliberately choosing to focus on all the positive little things that have kept me going this month through all the stress. It’s a daily practice that makes so much difference, even if you don’t realise it at the time and it’s not until later, looking back, that you realise how much they all add up to make things feel better.
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout April…
Wonder: Way back at the start of the month I finished the exquisitely written ‘Wonder’: a heart-warming, uplifting, life-affirming story about a boy with a facial disfigurement. I loved the messages about kindness, acceptance and resilience and am most definitely going to watch the film now. I think I might need a pack of tissues at the ready though. It’s aimed at teens and young adults but honestly I think that my youngest daughter (age 9) would enjoy and understand it. A must-read (even if you’re mid-thirties, like me).
The Book Of Dust: Once we got down to Cornwall and I relaxed enough to be able to switch my brain off a bit, I managed to get started on ‘The Book Of Dust’ by Phillip Pullman – a complete contrast to ‘Wonder’. I first read the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy (‘Northern Lights’, ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’) at a particularly formative part of my life and they’ve stayed with me ever since. (Side note: I’m ridiculously excited to watch the new TV series that’s rumoured to be airing later this year!). I was thrilled to find out he was writing a series of prequels to the series and so far this first one is living up to expectations. I love the descriptive flow of the language Phillip Pullman uses, the way he introduces characters so intentionally, and the anticipation that gradually builds throughout the story. I’m only about a quarter of the way through so far (it’s definitely a book that needs to be concentrated on properly rather than dipped in and out of) and even though I think it’s going to take me a while to finish it, I’m savouring every sentence.
The Little Shop Of Horrors: Whereas Lola and Mimi regularly attend a variety of after-school and weekend clubs centred around singing, dancing, football and sports, since starting high school Ella hasn’t really wanted to join in with anything like that – I think the shift in the nature of the academics plus navigating the social side of things has been taking up all of her energy. However, she did bravely decide to audition to be in the school production of ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’ and was thrilled to be given a place in the chorus. Because it wasn’t a main character part the rehearsal schedule wasn’t too intense so she was able to manage it alongside her schoolwork. Plus it meant that she got to meet and talk to people she wouldn’t normally interact with.
I went to watch her on the opening night and thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance. I didn’t know the story at all so I went in completely open-minded and not knowing what to expect, which I think made it all the more engaging. Ella was nervous but she sang the songs with a big smile on her face and when I met her after the show finished she was absolutely beaming with pride. I’m hoping the little confidence boost will encourage her to try out a few more new things over the coming months.
Cornish sunsets: The great thing about where we stay every time we visit Cornwall is that just outside the back door in the kitchen (and also up on the brand new rooftop balcony) are ideal viewing spots for watching the sun go down. We enjoyed a couple of beautiful evening displays during the ten days we were there and no matter how many times I see a sunset, they always feels a little bit magical to me. I love sharing them with the girls and watching their expressions as the changing colours dance across the sky.
Parent’s Evening report: Back at the start of April I attended Ella’s very first Parent’s Evening since she started high school. It’s so very different from primary school – it felt a bit like what I imagine speed dating to be! We got to spend a quick 4 minutes with each of her teachers and, despite the limited time, I heard nothing but positive feedback from them all. Ella was glowing with pride by the end of the evening, as was I.
Squeals of joy: The very best sound of all though was hearing the girls excited squeals of joy as they played in the sea. I LOVE hearing them shriek with delight as the shock of the cold waves hits their skin; giggling uncontrollably as they run away from the water chasing them up the beach, nervously holding onto their Dad’s strong hands and imploring him not to let them fall over.
The journey to Cornwall: Making the long trip down to Cornwall for our annual holiday at our happy place in Bude has become a bit of a ritual now. We all choose some CDs to sing along to, we play ‘yellow car no returns’ and ‘the number plate game’ and, because we set off at 6am to beat the traffic, if we’re lucky a couple of the girls sometimes have a small snooze on the way too. We usually arrive in Bude mid-to-late morning and go for a walk over the clifftops and down to the beach to stretch our legs and blow away the cobwebs after almost five hours in the car.
A fuss of my Mum: My Mum’s birthday is in April and this year was a rather important milestone for her. She and my Stepdad usually come down to Bude whilst we’re there as her sister (my aunt) lives in the town. We have a little tradition of going for a walk along the canal one afternoon and then out for a meal together in the evening. As it was such a significant birthday I really wanted to make sure I made a fuss of my beautiful Mum and so we booked a different, slightly more special restaurant for dinner (Elements, near Widemouth Bay) and we arrived early to decorate the table with a balloon and her presents. We had the loveliest evening – the food was delicious, the service was exceptional, the view was incredible and we all talked and laughed for ages. She loved her present too – a special ‘weekend away’ experience at one of her favourite hotels in a place they love to visit.
Memories: We made so many memories on our holiday. We did less than we normally do in terms of big day trips and excursions, opting instead to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were lucky enough to have over Easter weekend and actually relax a bit after the stresses of the last couple of months. We spent lots of time at the beach jumping over waves and playing cricket; we played crazy golf twice; we ate ice cream every single day; we hired a peddalo on the canal; and we walked daily along the cliff tops admiring the spectacular views that never get old. It was wonderful.
A big decision: Finally, we made the rather big decision to put our house on the market. We’ve been talking about it for years, wanting a bit more space now that the girls are growing up and knowing that our current house is not our ‘forever home’ – it was never intended to be. It was the first house we ever bought and we thought we’d be there for four or five years maximum before moving on. But then Lola arrived and jobs changed and finances were different and we didn’t think we could afford it, so we stayed put and the years rolled on by. We’ve now lived there for over a decade.
The fire in our kitchen back in February acted as a bit of a catalyst to make us decide once and for all to seriously look around for somewhere else and we found a property we absolutely fell in love with within a couple of weeks. Since then it’s been a mad rush to get our house ready to go on the market, especially with the kitchen still currently being an unfinished disaster-zone. But, we’ve managed it and now it’s a waiting game with our fingers crossed, hoping with everything we have that we sell quickly so we can put in an offer on the house we want. Any and all good vibes that you want to send our way would be greatly appreciated.
New rings: I love wandering around the shops in Bude and there were quite a few new ones that have opened up this year, all filled with beautiful things that I instantly coveted. My favourite shop by far though (and one that I always make a point of visiting) is Wildwood, a well-established ‘hippie’ shop that is positively overflowing with colourful dreamcatchers, candles, incense sticks, bespoke furniture and beautiful jewellery. I buy something from there every year without fail and this year was no exception.
I’ve been on the lookout for a new ring for ages and I managed to find two in Wildwood: a simple silver band with a tiny emerald stone (my birthstone) for my thumb and three delicately interlinked rings (also silver) to represent the three girls which I wear on the ring finger on my right hand. I absolutely love them – I don’t wear much jewellery at all so it has to be meaningful when I do.
A visit from friends: My best friend (who is the closest thing I have to a sister) lives in Southampton, so we don’t get to see her vey often. At the start of the month she was on a training course in Birmingham and once she finished for the day on the Friday she, her husband and their one year old daughter (my ‘niece’) came round for a flying visit. We chatted, played with the baby and ate pizza and it was wonderful. Time goes so quickly and their daughter is growing up so fast – every snatched moment matters.
Lanhydrock: We visited Lanhydrock whilst we were in Cornwall, and ticked another property off of our National Trust list. I’ve been wanting to visit for years and I’m so glad we went – the Victorian mansion house was very impressive (perfect for history-buff Ella) and the gardens were stunning. I’m now all the more determined to make it to some of the other National Trust places we want to go to this year. Roll on the summer sunshine!
I have a feeling that May is going to go very quickly and I’m excited for it as we have plenty of fun things planned (and I will finally have a fully working kitchen again, yay!). Plus it’s a super short half term at school – the girls will only be back for three and a half weeks before they’re off again and we can have more adventures together.
Joining in with Sincerely Anna and Little Loves.