Our Trip to Center Parcs

Firstly thank you for all your lovely comments on my last post, and those who reached out to us separately. It’s a cliché but you definitely learn who is in your corner at times like this.

This is a very delayed post but it’s nice to reminisce about our trip. Xav is always insanely busy in Q4, culminating in a frantic week 52 as everything has to be signed off by 31/12 (it’s why we can’t travel at Christmas). There’s then a lull before all the queries come in mid January, so it was a good time to take a week off for Xav. Added bonus was that Xav could take that week as parental leave, the last opportunity to do so before Hugo turned six months (Guernsey has different rules).

In order to get sunshine in January, you have to fly quite far and spend a lot of money. We decided we wanted low key and easy, so decided to get the ferry to Poole, have a overnight stay there then head to Center Parcs Longleat for a week. Not too much driving, and easy to do. Ha! Firstly, the ferries were cancelled due to bad weather, so thanks to our travel insurance who offered a zero excess adverse weather policy for £32, we booked flights to Bristol, extra luggage and a car. I then had a fun day of trying to pack all our stuff into three bags- babies don’t travel light and because Hugo is on special formula one suitcase was simply full of tins of Neocate. The journey was straightforward, Hugo is great on the plane and it was a treat for me to have an extra pair of hands compared to my normal flying solo with Hugo. We were upgraded to a swanky SUV which I loved driving, and it felt great to drive faster than 35mph.

Being a seasoned CP visitor, and someone who spent many a night feed googling ‘CP with a baby’; we headed to Frome to shop in Asda. Bearing in mind in Guernsey we only have Waitrose as a big supermarket, Asda and its cheapness was a huge luxury. We then headed off to CP and joined the massive queue, we had planned to be early and had even booked early arrival bit with one flight a day to Bristol our hands were tied.

After a trip or two around the one way system, we found our lodge in the Pine area. We had a two bed lodge which was perfect for us, one double and a twin where we put Hugo, and whoever was on night duty could sleep in a bed next to him.

One of the main attractions of CP for me was the pool. It was Hugo’s first time swimming and he loved it! Our first trip was aborted as someone had pooed in the pool, resulting in the entire pool being closed for cleaning and a massive queue to go back in; but after that we had no hiccups and would take Hugo mid morning. CP offer two sessions a week purely for the under 3s, but it clashed with Hugo’s nap time, and honestly during the week it was mainly preschoolers anyway. Hugo absolutely adored the pool, and alternated between his rubber ring (world’s most expensive ring bought in the CP shop) and swimming in our arms. We became adept at a changing routine, and since Hugo would often conk out after swimming, Xav and I would get a Starbucks or lunch after.

We’re lucky in Guernsey that babies are welcomed everywhere, but one lovely thing about CP is how family friendly it is. We took him to restaurants, Starbucks, the sports bar and there was always a highchair, baby food and changing facilities nearby. It made us feel relaxed which is what a holiday is all about. A few people told me how they hate CP and it was their idea of hell. I appreciate that it’s not exotic and it’s definitely a bubble of middle class, chain restaurant Britain; but with a baby sometimes you want easy and familiar!

We didn’t do many activities, but I did yoga and Pilates (both good) and went to the gym (very basic) and Xav took. Hugo to Baby Sensory. Hugo also did a session in the crèche, Xav and I had intended to do the high wire zipline but by that point it was clear that something was wrong with my hands, so we went to the medical centre so I could be prescribed painkillers by a local GP then grabbed lunch. We then had to go back to ASDA to get my drugs, and I was supremely grateful for the safeness of CP and it’s onsite medical centre.

Our week passed really quickly and we all enjoyed it. There were a few quirks- notably we pre-ordered fire logs but they didn’t supply matches! But one call customer services and matches were duly delivered to our lodge. On our final night we had an Indian takeaway which was yummy, and made up for our thwarted attempt to eat at the curry house, apparently the half empty restaurant was fully booked! I think that’s my biggest criticism of CP, many things have to be pre-booked which removes the spontaneity of a holiday. Equally, it’s nice to have a bit of structure.

Our journey back was straightforward, and it was a relatively stress free first family holiday. I’d definitely go back to CP again as I think the older Hugo is the more he’ll get from it, and a term time break starts from £379 which is very reasonable for what you get. School holidays on the other hand….!

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Mothers Week

My lovely Mum came to visit us in Guernsey this week, and it was fantastic to see her as always. Hugo’s little face lit up when Nana was there to collect him on Monday afternoon, and he was spoilt with attention by her for the next few days- what else are grandparents for?

Mum and I had a great few days together. We went to a Pilates class, had a pamper at the OGH Spa (my nails are still immaculate), did lots of walking and even managed a sunny trip to the beach!

One of the great things we did during this trip was visit the Guernsey Museum on International Women’s Day as there was free entry related to an exhibition featuring 14 prominent Guernsey women. I knew two of the women personally, and we met a couple more at the exhibition. It was entitled the Yellow Chair Exhibition as each woman sat in a plastic yellow IKEA chair for the portrait. Hugo slept through the entire thing, I suspect he was tired after demolishing his second breakfast of egg and soldiers at Octopus.

Today is my first Mother’s Day; and I was given a lovely card by Hugo, although he snatched it off me again! Xav gave him a lot of help but Hugo did scribble all over the card. I don’t need a big present on Mother’s Day but the card is really special and I’ll really treasure it.

Being a Mum is incredibly hard, and no one can prepare you for how all consuming it can be. Every time I look at Hugo I burst with a mixture of love, pride and amazement; I feel blessed to be his Mum and grateful for all the joy he brings.

I’m also very lucky to have a fantastic Mum, she is there for me every moment and has been such a support to me and the boys throughout the last year (and way before that). She’s a great role model of a Mum and Grandmother, and I love her so much.

My Poor Neglected Blog

First and foremost, sorry for the radio silence. 2018 has been incredibly challenging so far but as I sit looking out at the beautiful sunny day here in St Peter Port, I’m hopeful that we are through the worst. Hugo is sat next to me fascinated by his toes and a squeaking donkey football which reminds me how lucky I am.

In short, I’ve been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease affecting the fluid in the joints. It’s not the same as osteoarthritis and there isn’t a cure. The things in my favour are that it was caught early, I’m sero-negative and my inflammation is low grade. The things slightly less in my favour are that I’m young to have this diagnosis, the average age is early 50s (which is when my Mum was diagnosed) and so there’s more to consider as an impact, especially in terms of if another pregnancy would be possible in the future.

In some ways it’s a relief to have a diagnosis, especially as PoTS is often a symptom of something else, but it’s also a lot to adjust to, especially as the medications I take have side effects.

I’m trying to be positive and I’m really grateful to Xav who has been incredible, he did every night shift for 7 weeks as I became ill, and became Hugo’s primary carer when I was too ill to look after him (the RA has affected my hands so I couldn’t hold him), all whilst having no family or friends here in Guernsey to help. Our family have also been really supportive, especially my Mum who is such a positive inspiration of how to make the most of life despite RA.

I’m now adjusting to my new life, and at times it’s frustrating because I feel well and make lots of plans, then wake up with sausage hands and have to cancel them all again! Hugo has also had to be put into full-time nursery. It’s broken my heart to be apart from him so much but Hugo loves nursery and it’s helped his development loads; he can now sit unaided, grab the tiniest and most dangerous things, and is desperately trying to crawl!

One area of exasperation is the silly things people say. I know it’s often well meant, but suggesting someone with an autoimmune disease ‘just’ chills out and they’ll feel better isn’t helpful! Similarly, proclamations about not being able to bear the idea of leaving your baby is insensitive, especially as many of my Mum friends are going back to work this month and are finding it tough enough. However, for every frustrating comment I’ve had far more lovely, kind ones; from my friends offering to take Hugo despite wrangling their own baby to friends texting me or my family to see how I am and offering useful information. I want you all to know how much it is appreciated.

Although snow is forecast in the Channel Islands (and the islands will ground to a halt) it really feels like Spring is on its way and there are lots of things to be positive for.

A Guernsey Christmas

Happy new year! I had hoped to post this in 2017 but the winter lergy that is doing the rounds delayed me. 

It was Hugo’s first Christmas, not that he had any clue! He’s been rocking some very cute Christmas outfits for the month of December, and I took him to meet Father Christmas, which he seemed to enjoy even if only for the beard grabbing! 
My family joined us for Christmas and flew in on the 23rd, slightly delayed by the weather and the general chaos that is Gatwick Airport the Saturday before Christmas. We went straight to The Kiln for brunch, then Mum, Dad and Rodie (Richard and Jodie for the unitiated) went to the St Pierre Park to check in. 

In the afternoon we had a photoshoot with Adorabubble. We’ve not had all the photos back yet but here’s a few. It was a great idea of Mum’s, having Hugo has really made me appreciate photos for the memories they inspire.  Everyone was tired from an early start so we all had an early night. 

Xav, Hugo and I went for brunch on Christmas Eve, our normal Sunday tradition, and my parents joined us for a coffee after walking into town. We headed to M&S to collect our turkey and other Christmas foodie bits, Hugo kindly donated his pram to transport the turkey home 😂

In the afternoon we went ice skating at Le Friquet garden centre, there’s no ice rink in Guernsey so it’s a very popular festive pop up. Mum and I stayed with Hugo whilst the others skated, but it’s a small rink so going around in a circle got dull pretty quickly. We wanted to get a coffee and snacks, but annoyingly the staff refused to serve us because they were closing in thirty minutes. I appreciate that on Christmas Eve the staff want to get home to their families, but it seems a bit unfair to sell tickets for a timeslot where you get hussled out before the timeslot is even up. It was then back to La Rochelle (our Guernsey house) for traditional Christmas Eve curry and watching Love Actually. 

CHRISTMAS DAY!!! Xav, Hugo and I exchanged gifts, which didn’t take long as we were meanies and didn’t buy Hugo anything. I made him a Christmas stocking to match ours, and he had a jumparoo in November so buying more seemed pointless. Mum and Dad arrived for Christmas cuddles with Hugo, then we set off for a walk whilst Rodie chilled out and watched the turkey. Luckily for us, The Slaughterhouse was open on Christmas Day so as the heavens opened we sheltered for a coffee. 

My Dad worked his normal Christmas dinner magic and we sat down to our feast at 4pm, we like to eat Christmas dinner late. Hugo joined us and munched on a carrot and broccoli, it’s amazing to think that next Christmas he will be eating the meal with us! Some of us then settled in to watch The Holiday and others hid in the second living room, for family get togethers having two living areas is invaluable to give everyone the space/ quiet that we need. 

Boxing Day started sunny but cold and we all headed to Cobo Bay for the annual Boxing Day swim. Only Xav and Dad were brave enough to get in the water, and Hugo was not a fan of the cold so we left as soon as the boys were out of the water. After a coffee at the St Pierre Park, it was back to ours to watch the football, before our late lunch at Octopus. The food was delicious as always and the glass of Bordeaux was a dream! By then, the weather has completely changed as it does in Guernsey and it was stormy and dramatic! Luckily my family’s flight departed safely. 

It was a fantastic Christmas, and it was great to be out and about each day but also not insisting that everyone is together 24/7. I don’t think Hugo or I could hope for a more perfect first Christmas. 

Advent

I can’t believe it’s Christmas Eve, and it’s very different to last year! My little bundle of joy has been enjoying an advent of Christmas outfits but really, has not a clue what’s going on. 

A few years ago, Mum very kindly treated me to a liberty advent calendar. Rs so beautiful and I loved it- Mum, my aunt Hazel and my friend Diana also had it and we loved comparing gifts- the Diptyque candle was my favourite. Since then, there’s so many amazing beauty advent calendars to choose from, but Mum and I decided to create our own.

We will the calendar with 25 gifts and they are really varied, not just beauty. It suits us both as I’m lucky enough to have boxes of beauty samples, and it’s a really personal advent calendar. I start preparing for it almost a year in advance as I like to collect gifts throughout the year when inspiration strikes. Last year the first item I bought was a beautiful packet of screen wipes- the sort of thing one doesn’t buy themselves but is such a joy to use. 

Mum has created an amazing calendar for me this year, although both of us miscounted so we ended up with 27 gifts each 🙈 one week was all related to a sewing project: a canvas bag, pom poms, embroidery thread, ribbons, embellishments. It was such a creative idea of Mum I’m definitely going to steal it for next year. 

What would you like to see in an advent calendar? 

Hugo at the Aquarium

Yesterday we had an impromptu family outing to the Guernsey Aquarium. Admittedly, Guernsey’s Aquarium is hardly world famous BUT it is the only one in a world war two tunnel. Also, Hugo has quite a short attention span but he loves staring at the fish tanks; and I like comedy photos so it was a good match all around. 
Enjoy! 

“You must sit around watching TV all day”

If a new mother had a penny for every time that was said 😉

I can only speak for me, but if I spent the day staying indoors watching TV I’d feel very lonely and down. Of course it’s nice to have a chill out hour or afternoon but Xav can always tell if I’ve been out and about by my mood that evening. I try to get out of the house at least once a day, and we are very lucky to live so close to town so it’s easy to pop Hugo in the sling and go a cafe. 

On Monday mornings we have Baby Sensory, or baby overstimulation as I call it. Hugo quite likes it and just falls asleep if it’s too much but some of his playmates get overstimulated and start crying halfway through, to be honest I can relate! It’s a fun class and gives me great ideas for play ideas at home. We also get some great photo opportunities 😂

On Tuesdays we have a weekly tea & cake date with the other Mums from our antenatal class. Not everyone goes each week but it’s been great for me to discover some new places and know that a catch up is in the diary. 
Wednesday is Mum & Baby Yoga with Anita, our antenatal class leader. Hugo adores this class! He was the youngest and struggled to stay awake for the whole class but now absolutely loves playing with the yoga balls, ribbons and giving me a work out during baby press ups! 

We’ve recently finished BabyCalm on a Thursday morning, again run by Anita. It’s a fourth trimester class, covering massage, parenting theory, a safe place to discuss worries and cover topics like sleep and weaning. I’d highly recommend it as a first postnatal class. 

Fridays are currently a free day for us, so Hugo and I often go for a walk or run errands. Usually Xav comes home for lunch which is a nice end to the week. 
We had been doing baby massage on a Saturday, the idea being that it would be nice for Xav to be able to do a class with him. I’m not sure I’ll bother again as one small baby and two parents is slight overkill; but Hugo LOVES massage! Takes after his Mum, as Xav cannot stand any form of massage. We also prefer to have our weekends free to do our own thing and be relaxed. 

From January, we are hoping to start baby swimming, and there’s a messy play class we might look into when Hugo is a bit older. This morning we met up with another Mum and Hugo experienced soft play for the first time, all the toddlers kept coming over to stroke him 😂

An Ode to Uncle Richard

Happy Saturday night! Here at the Samuels house we’re all in our pyjamas, watching strictly and I’m crocheting a giant granny square. I’m not sure what the aim is, but it’s rather addictive to keep growing it. Xav is out socialising like a more normal 30 something.

Uncle Richard is currently playing with Hugo and it makes me so happy to see them together. My parents are fantastic with Hugo, but there is something so special about seeing my twin and my son together. I don’t know many childless brothers who will get up at 5am before work to look after their nephew, and he doesn’t shy away from a dirty nappy. 

On our last visit, Hugo had been awake crying since midnight and by 5am I was at the end of my tether. Rich found us both crying and took Hugo to calm him down and give me a break. This week, I took Hugo into the kitchen to make the 6am bottle, only to find Rich already making it. 

There’s a lot of banter about being a #hugohog – someone who hogs the baby and doesn’t let anyone else have a cuddle, but Rich is a massive support to us and we are very lucky to have Uncle Richard! 

First Guerniversary

A year ago today Xav and I boarded the ferry to Guernsey to start our new adventure. We left Poole in the morning, having stocked up in Asda the night before on food, and three hours later we arrived in Guernsey at lunchtime. 
It’s been a complete whirlwind of a year and a lot has changed; I found out I was pregnant around six weeks after moving here and it was the good I needed as I was feeling very lonely and homesick at that point and I cried every time I got on the plane back to Guernsey on the Friday. It’s hard to move as an adult and Guernsey doesn’t have the same expat community as other overseas territories, which is both a good and bad thing. I still have times when I desperately miss London, and to an extent we are still settling in here- since I was unwell for the whole pregnancy we haven’t explored much, or been able to participate in activities to meet people as we intended. We’ve also bought our house since being here and it feels more like home as we can put our touch on it. I still miss London a lot but our life here is good, especially as new parents we appreciate so if what Guernsey offers. 

The view from Hugo’s room this morning.
To celebrate our Guerniversary, we went to Lihou, a small island off the west coast accessed at certain times by a causeway. We were blessed with beautiful weather and that completely made up for forgetting our sling, so Xav carried Hugo in his arms the entire time. Hugo was much admired by the other people there, including the island’s warden. There’s a house there which can be hired for a holiday and they charge a ‘robin hood’ scale so it’s cheap for youth groups and more for corporates. The entire island is off the grid and would be a unique place to stay. 



It was a very memorable way to celebrate our milestone and who knows what the next year holds. 

Baby Activities

Hugo is 11 weeks old today! He is holding his head up like a pro now, and I think that is due to our baby yoga classes; which inspires me to write about the activities we are up to. 

Luckily the lovely Mums I’ve met from my antenatal class are all on maternity leave at the moment, so it’s far less daunting having Xav go to work and being on my own with Hugo knowing that I have some adult company most days. After the upheaval of the past few weeks, it feels really nice to have a bit of a routine. 

On Mondays we are starting Baby Sensory class next week which I am excited about, especially as Hugo is much more alert now so I think he will enjoy it. Wednesdays are Mother and Baby Yoga with my antenatal class facilitator Anita. Hugo is the youngest baby and he loves watching the older babies in action. It’s a great mix of activity for both of us, we did a lot of squats yesterday and I can definitely feel it today! Hugo has been able to go more each week and I’ve been practicing some of the moves with him at home. 

Thursday morning is currently BabyCalm which a mix of postnatal development, baby massage and baby sensory. It’s a small group with seven Mums and it’s really cathartic to admit that we find some parts of motherhood challenging. Today’s topic was sleep which is a hot topic for us!

Aside from classes, we meet up with the other Mums and babies once or twice a week, although the weather hasn’t been in our favour to go for walks as much as we would like. Hugo and I are incredibly fortunate that Xav can come home for lunch, and in the afternoons we tend to try to nap (Hugo) and do chores (me). 

We don’t have the vast array of baby activities that London does, and I’m a little disappointed that there’s no Mum and Baby cinema, but there’s plenty of options to keep us amused for the moment!