Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Hills are alive...

Just got back from a walk up Clent Hills. It's one of my most favourite places to be in the world, and I've been going there since before I can remember. It's a 5 minute drive from my parent's house, or a 20-25 minute (hard) up-hill run to the car park and a further 5 minute (easier) uphill run to the top. Needless to say I didn't run it today in my present condition! Growing up, I was blessed to have a fantastic view of the hills from my bedroom window, and placed my desk in front of the window so I could look out regularly when doing homework and study.

Walking up today, the clouds were low, so rather than the usual amazing views looking out past field upon field towards the Malvern Hills in the distance, there was an atmospheric, quiet bleakness, but stunning all the same. The leaves on the trees are all changing colour, and it's extremely mild T-shirt weather despite being nearly November. The only noise you can hear is the wind rustling through the trees, and the occasional chatter of walkers that you pass. 2 dogs have just been let off their leads and are playfully chasing each other, round and round the benches.

There's a bench at the top of the easy-access path that I always stop to sit on, and in my opinion has the best views although it's not quite at the highest point of the hills. I've spent many a time sitting alone on this bench contemplating life. The peak is behind you, and there's 180 degree views of countryside. It's here that I feel particularly close to God, as I admire his creation and can hear him whispering love through the wind in the trees. Today up there I'm reminded of the Delirious song 'My Soul Sings':

Open my eyes and see
The wonderful mystery of love
Falling in to you
I'm drawn to the gravity of love, love, love

We're standing still
In a moment of eternity
Where worlds collide
And I feel the breath of heaven over me

My soul sings, my soul sings
My soul sings, how I love you
My soul sings, my soul sings
My soul sings, how I love you

I have many memories of being up Clent. As a child, I played tree-tig in a little copse, with siblings and friends; and used to climb an old tree stump which is now completely gone; Matt and I played tracking. I helped dedicate a shelter with the Brownies. I've done Duke of Edinburgh walks. I've had picnics, I've laughed, I've made decisions about my future, I've walked, I've taken the mountain bike up there, I've run... I've run alot! I've seen season upon season come and go up there. I've seen the New Year in many a time from the top, including the Millenium, and Luke and I had our wedding reception there 3 years ago.

Walking up there today, 35 weeks pregnant it occurred to me that probably the next time I'm up there will be a new chapter for me and the family. Next time I'm up there, I'll probably have a little baby in tow too!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Last day at work tomorrow

Last day at work tomorrow. Mixed feelings, will miss the social side of work, but looking forward to doing lots of 'me time' things before the little one arrives. I've made a list. Doubt I'll get bored (as some people say I will). I never get bored. As my Grandma says: 'Only boring people get bored'. Arrival of little one is all feeling very real and close, not long to wait now...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Antenatal classes

This week I've had 3 antenatal classes to attend! It's handy that it's just a 10 minute walk up to Princess Anne Hospital.

Monday evening was our first parentcraft class, where we met 13 other couples who are all due around the same time as us. In the 2 hours we were there, we learnt all about the normal process of labour. At the start, the midwife asked if anyone was planning a homebirth, and I was the only one who put my hand up. The midwife was abit disappointed and said she hoped to convert a few more by the end. She did advise that we make up a hospital bag beforehand just in case (well - 3 actually, one for the actual labour, one for the recovery, and one for the baby), and said some people find its helpful having these bags at a homebirth anyway because everything is then all in one place. The midwives apparently love going to homebirths, where they can take their shoes off and drink lots of cups of tea. Throughout the class, the midwife played with a doll, prodding and poking it, doubt we'll be doing that with baby Strickland when it arrives.

Wednesday was the breast feeding class, which took place in the daytime and so I was abit apprehensive at having to go along on my own. But there were 5 women there and only one had come along with her other half. It was actually really informative and good to meet the breast feeding counsellor, who offered to do a homevisit if I have any problems as I'm hopefully having a homebirth and so wont have the postnatal support in hospital with breastfeeding. We practised the techniques of breastfeeding techniques with fake babies, that were surprisingly heavy (probably made to be the weight of a newborn), and fake wool boobs, that somebody must've kindly knitted up especially!

Finally, Thursday evening was the waterbirth workshop that Luke and I went to. Again, we learnt alot there. We watched a video, which was a little squeemish but not too bad, and had a visit to the birth pools on the labour ward. They were much smaller than what I was expecting, just big bath tubs really. Just being on the labour ward put me off even more of having a hospital birth. It confirmed our ideas of having a home waterbirth, and I dont think the logistics of it should be too difficult. It helps that we have laminate flooring downstairs that we can cover with lots of cheap showercurtains, and also that our loo and bathroom our downstairs too (one of the only perks of them being downstairs! - its a real hassle needing the loo so often in the night at the moment) We'll need these for filling and emptying the pool. When I'm in labour I shouldnt need to go upstairs at all.

So, this week I've pretty much finished packing my hospital bags, just in case, as advised by the midwife. Hoping Baby Strickland stays happy and healthy, and stays put for another 3.5 weeks, at which point I'll be 'full-term' and allowed to have a homebirth. When the time comes, we can set the pool up, dim the lights, light some candles and the wood burner in the living room, play some relaxing music, and watch endless Friends episodes. The kitchen will be right to hand and we'll have everything we'll need around us. In my opinion, a much pleasanter idea than a hospital birth, although as the saying goes: 'Hope for the best, prepare for the worst...'

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Ste comes to visit

This weekend Ste came to visit us. He arrived Friday evening, and after a pizza/garlic bread/ chips feast (carb overload) we watched Cloverfield, which Luke had borrowed from a colleague. It was ok, but a little pointless and not much storyline.

Saturday morning Luke and Ste went on a bike ride in the New Forest. I was sad to miss it, and would've loved to have joined them. I really miss both cycling and running at the moment, as I've said in a previous post. While they were gone I walked upto Sainsburys to buy some Cream of Tartar and yellow food colouring. You may be wondering why - both vital ingredients to making yellow play dough that I needed for sunday kids club this morning. So I got back and made a couple of batches of it.

Luke and Ste got back at lunch time and we made bacon sandwiches, then drove into Ocean Village Marina for coffee and cake at Harbour Lights cafe. We took a stroll around the marina and admired all the expensive boats.

When we got back, I prepared a roast dinner and we sat down for a game of Settlers of Catan ( we played the extended edition - Seafarers of Catan) and watched X factor.

This morning at church the play dough went down well - we made lions for the story of Daniel and the Lions. The kids were really attentive and it was a good session. Then we went for a quick hot chocolate in Borders before lunch at home. Just enough time for another game of Seafarers of Catan (the game is SO addictive!) before Ste left to drive back home.

Had a great weekend hanging out with Ste, and it took my mind off all-things-baby for a bit, which was quite nice really.

Friday, 9 October 2009

First week without dear Nelson

So last Friday was a sad day, we took Nelson back to the RSPCA to be re-homed. He hadn't been in the house for a good few months (apart from when we locked him in by special request from the neighbours one evening, which didn't go down well with Nelson). With winter on the way we couldn't have him living outside in the cold, as he usually gets a bit sniffley anyway let alone when he's living outside. Number 33 had said the other day that he had started sleeping in their shed. The last few days that he was with us he was still coming back once or twice a day for his food (eating on the front door step), and his fur felt really cold from being outside all night. So we know we've done the right thing, but we will both miss him very much.

Nelson was a cat who just loved our company. Whenever he saw us outside, he would come running over as fast as he could (with his long fur blowing behind him in the wind). Sometimes he'd be right up at the top of the road and as soon as he heard his name being called, the front door closing, or saw me or Luke he would come bounding down the road.

He also had a habit of appearing outside at inconvenient times, often just as I was about to walk up to work. Sometimes I wouldnt even notice until I heard a little 'Meow' at my ankle, when I was round the corner and half way down the next street and I would realise he'd followed me again. This would then involve me having to pick him up and carry him back to the house, and distract him with some food, before quickly running back up the road and round the corner before he saw me again. Sometimes I had to do this 3 times before I'd actually 'lose' him.

Nelson also liked to take a stroll to the shops with us - usually the 'living room' shop at the bottom of our road. He'd wait patiently outside for us and then walk back with us. Once he followed me all the way up to Co-Op (a 10 minute walk). He waited outside for me, but then was too tired to walk back, so I had to carry him home.

Nelson was never a lap cat, but would sit next to us, and always want to be in the same room as us. He loved a stroke on his head and back, and right from the first day we got him he would love to rub his cheeks on our hands or face and pick up the 'family' smell. He didn't have a loud purr, but he would purr quietly, and only really started meowing when we got Flo (probably for attention, which we always gave him whilst ignoring Flo because he was just so jealous). Nelson would 'paw' the tops of our sofa chairs when he was really happy - a kitten-like response.

Being a long-haired cat, Nelson left big clumps of his fur everywhere! He hated to be groomed, but did a really good job of keeping his fur matt-free himself. Apart from the time he got a slug stuck under his chin, which Luke had to deal with.

I'll always miss our dear Nelly, he was my favourite pet ever, and I'm absolutely devastated to have had to give him up. I just hope he finds a new owner who loves him as dearly as we did, and gives him the happy home he deserves.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Autumn has arrived

Autumn is most definately here! As I write this, I've just finished blanching and freezing the produce I've just picked from the allotment this afternoon - 5 cabbages and 35 sweetcorn (mostly baby corn that I'll use for stir frys). Luke dug up some more potatoes. This year we have LOADS of potatoes and 3 times as many onions, but our other crops dont seem to have done as well as last year. I think this is partly because we haven't devoted as much time to weeding, partly the weather, and partly the soil needing abit of nourishment.

At church this morning we had a harvest thanksgiving service. Mandy's beetroot and butternut squash are fantastic.

Other signs that autumn is here:
  • Chilly mornings before work
  • Beautiful shades of leaves on the trees
  • X factor and Strictly Come Dancing have begun
  • The nights are drawing in and it's dark by around 7pm

Last year one of my favourite things about autumn was going for a run on a saturday evening. I'd leave just as the sun was setting and do a 7km loop around the roads nearby. I love running in the dark. I'd get back in time to catch the end of 'Hole in the Wall', a really pointless programme and typical saturday night trashy tv, which I'd listen to in the background whilst cooking a roast. Then Luke and I would sit down with our big roast dinners, a glass of wine and watch strictly and x factor. I really miss my running! If I wasn't preggers I'd have started up this little ritual on Saturday evening already by now. But I have a few more weeks to wait yet...