Happy 6th Anniversary to Mara

Our family has been enjoying a little celebration this evening as it was six years ago today we adopted our cat, Mara. As she was an adult when we adopted her, we know almost nothing about her life before she came to live with us, we don’t know when her birthday is or even her age, but I always like to mark the anniversary.

My husband and I had just returned from our honeymoon when we decided to ask our then landlord for permission to add a pet to our household. Both having grown up with cats, there was never really any doubt what animal we’d choose, and as I’d only had rescue cats (some quite literally rescued from a sack abandoned on a building site) I was determined to give a cat a second chance to have a safe and loving home. As it happened, Mara’s previous owner had just passed away and she’d only been in the rehoming centre for a week, but she was so happy when we brought her home and every bit as eager to bond with us as we were to get to know her. It feels like we’ve been through a lot together in the last six years, we’ve moved out of our little rented flat and into our own house, Mara’s survived cancer and our daughter’s birth to mention just a few of the biggest changes, but Mara’s adjusted to everything without any fuss, seemingly content as long as we’re all together.

I often feel very lucky that we found Mara before anyone else claimed her, she’s always been the most affectionate, gentle and playful companion, who follows us around the house curious to see what we’re doing, keeps me company when I’m working from home (often waltzing across the screen while I’m on videocalls), snaffling for scraps at dinnertime and loves to snuggle up while I’m reading in the evening before curling up at the bottom of our bed to sleep every night. Yet I also realise how lucky Mara was that we adopted her as we found the cancerous lump on her tail so early that none of the vets who treated her had seen one at that stage before, and we’ve always been quick to notice and react when she seems out of sorts. I’m relieved that Mara appears to be back to her normal, happy and hungry self after her mystery illness a few months ago.

This evening has been spent at home spoiling Mara with treats, and appreciating all the love, affection and fun she’s brought to our family. Have a lovely week. X

Summer into Autumn

Summer into Autumn

The sun seems to be rising a little later and setting a little earlier every day, and though the weather is still mild most days, there’s a chill creeping into the mornings and evenings as summer slips into autumn.

This summer has been a memorable one for us full of family adventures from trips to the beach, zoo and aquarium, as well as local toddler sensory classes (full of themed activities and songs), and a summer block of wheelie tots, where our daughter got to try balance bikes, skateboards and scooters which were such a hit that we bought her a scooter soon after. Apart from daytrips and toddler groups, the rest of our time together is usually spent at the local parks or pottering around at home filling our days with nursery rhymes, scribbling with crayons, building blocks, lots of rough and tumble play, or letting her help me with some housework like loading the washing machine, watering the plants, refilling the bird feeder or feeding our cat, Mara.

Our little girl is so curious and adventurous, she’s on-the-go from the moment she wakes up until bedtime, and I wouldn’t have her any other way. She started talking in July, her first proper word was “cracker” (her favourite snack), quickly followed by cat, car, shoes, bubble, bee, more and no, and she’s been adding words to her vocabularly every day.

Mara-cat gave us quite a scare a few months ago when she suddenly became ill with a fever – and we still don’t know what caused it – but she seems to have recovered and is back to her usual cuddly, playful self. During the heatwave, she spent most of her days alternating between sunbathing and trying to cool down, but now that the temperatures have dropped again, she’s been back to snuggling up with me in the evenings, which is always one of the highlights of my day.

Though this has been a good one, summer is my least favourite season, it’s as often hot, humid and wet as it is warm and sunny with blue skies, and I’m already looking forward to the transient beauty of autumn and the cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

A Glimpse Under the Sea at the Aquarium

I suspect the rest of the U.K. is watching the Euro 2020 final, while I’m enjoying a bit of a peace and quiet at the end of a busy weekend and tapping out a quick post about our recent family excursions to the SeaLife Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores now that lockdown and travel restrictions have finally ended in Scotland.

One personal change the pandemic has brought about is that I used to book events well in advance (I always like to have something to look forward to) but after so many cancelled events and travel restrictions, I’m trying to be more spontaneous, so when one rainy Saturday my husband saw there were tickets available for the SeaLife Aquarium, we decided to seize the day as it had been on our list of things to do for a while. It’s not fully open yet due to refurbishments and certain areas are still closed where social distancing isn’t possible but there was plenty to see and more than enough to keep us and our inquisitive, energetic toddler entertained from clownfish (“Hello Nemo!”) to piranhas and sharks. Even though it’s relatively close (a half hour drive for us), the SeaLife Aquarium is not somewhere we’ve visited before but we had a lovely time and would definitely return. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Nine Lives

I’d planned to share a post about some of our recent travels now that restrictions have been lifted, but sharing an update about our cat Mara instead. It’s been a stressful week in our household as Mara suddenly became unwell last weekend and had to spend a couple of nights at the vet’s while they tried to find the cause of her fever and bring her temperature back down to normal.

One of the benefits of keeping a house-cat is that we’re really familiar with all of Mara’s routines and we’re always able to tell when she goes off her food, starts becoming lethargic or anti-social – all clear sights that she’s feeling unwell – and we’re quick to react when something’s not right, which I’m pretty sure has saved her life on more than one occasion.

This is unfortunately her second mystery illness in less than twelve months. All the x-rays, scans, blood and urine tests have come back normal, which should be good news but doesn’t feel like it when we can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. The sad reality is that most of us will outlive our pets, and there are never any guarantees about how long they will live. My husband and I are both cat people, having grown up with them as family pets, but my husband had just one cat adopted as a kitten who passed away one month before her 22nd birthday, while my family had three rescued kittens who lived until two, four and sixteen years respectively. We always knew that adopting an adult cat meant that Mara might not be with us for very long, and yet she has been such a lovely companion that I feel so grateful for every moment we’ve spent together.

After a week of nursing her back to health, she seems to be recovering well, and the vet is happy with all her vitals. I don’t know how many of her nine lives Mara has left but I’m relieved and thankful that she’s still with us. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Chaos and Calm

Life has been fairly hectic over the last couple of months, I returned to work in March and it’s been quite an adjustment settling back into the routine, getting to grips with a new caseload, MS Teams, lateral flow tests and various other changes that happened while I was on maternity leave. It’s a challenging time to work in Health and Social Care but I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. My husband has recently changed jobs too, finding a position just ten minutes from home, but full of new opportunities and challenges.

Our daughter also started nursery in March and has settled in so well. It’s a relief given how isolated we were during her first year that she’s turned into such a curious, sociable and lively toddler. She’s had almost back to back colds, teething and most recently an ear infection (requiring a late night trip to the out of hours GP and antibiotics) since starting, but she’s a little whirlwind of energy that doesn’t let anything slow her down, and treats the whole world like her playground. We’ve been having lots of fun playing in the garden, visiting our recently re-opened library (closed since the first lockdown last year) and local parks, where dandelion clocks and splashing in puddles are almost as entertaining as swings, slides and tunnels.

Our other little girl, Mara, is also doing well, enjoying a couple of days of peace and quiet while the toddler is at nursery during the week. Mara’s actually been more playful in the last few weeks than she has been all winter, and while she’s not as energetic or acrobatic as she used to be, it’s reassuring to see her hunting and chasing her toys. Mara has slowed down as she’s aged, but she’s still the same affectionate, playful companion she was when we adopted her nearly six years ago.

Renovations have started on our home, we’re building a small extension to our kitchen and adding a downstairs bathroom. The changes are small as we don’t want to change the character of our home too much, but will make a big difference to our living space and daily routines. It does mean the temporary inconvenience of having a skip outside the house, a cement mixer and building materials in the back garden, as well as the fun of walking the plank whenever we leave or enter the house. It’s quite exciting to see ideas we’ve discussed since moving here 4 and a half years ago finally coming to fruition.

Between work, renovations and an adventurous toddler, our days have been full and busy, in contrast our evenings have been fairly calm, once our daughter goes to sleep, my husband and I usually have a quick tidy up around the house, before settling down to watch a little bit of TV, read books or sometimes do a Yoga session together with the DownDog app. We are unfortunately in the only part of Scotland still under travel and socialising restrictions, but we are looking forward to being able to travel further afield and visit loved ones again hopefully in the near future. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Sculpture Trail at Cairnhill Woods

Last week was a busy one for our family as I started my phased return back to work after almost 14 months off on maternity leave, and our 13 month old daughter had her taster sessions and first full day at nursery. It’s a big transition for all of us but one that I’m feeling positive about as our daughter will get to play and socialise with other toddlers during her three days at nursery, something she’s missed out on through national and local lockdowns over the last twelve months. I couldn’t be prouder or more relieved about how quickly she’s settled into nursery, and I’ve so enjoyed getting photos and little updates about her snacks, lunch, naps and activities through the day from the nursery staff, and she brought home her first stamped artwork for Mother’s Day much to my delight.

As we adjust to our new routines, I feel we’ve got a good balance between work, nursery and family time, and despite the lockdown we’re still enjoying little adventures together.

We recently took a wander around Cairnhill Woods for a change of scene from our local parks. Even on a cold, grey day with the trees still bare and the paths muddy, it was a pleasant place to explore and I was delighted to see so many signs of spring in the forest from frog spawn in the little pond to daffodils, crocuses and primroses lining the paths. The highlight of the trip though was finding all the wonderful wooden sculptures hidden around the forest, from toadstools and fairies to the Green Man and various animals, and as Cairnhill Woods is near Bearsden we also spotted lots of bear sculptures.

It was a short walk but one we all enjoyed, and somewhere I look forward to visiting again when it’ll be lush and green. Take care and have a lovely week. X

One ~ A Lockdown First Birthday

Last week we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday at home with balloons, decorations, music, lots of presents, and a few inches of snow courtesty of Storm Darcy.

Fair haired with grey-blue eyes like mine, but bearing a strong resemblance to her dad at the same age, she is part of me, part of my husband, and all of those that came before us, yet every day becoming more and more herself. Our daughter is strong-willed, curious and cuddly with such a cheerful, sunny disposition (most of the time!). It’s incredible to compare the difference between the tiny, squirming newborn who could barely lift her head a year ago and the boisterous infant now standing unsupported, so close to taking her first steps, and saying her first words (“mmmum” and “hiya Rara” ❤️).

I’ve tried to record her first year on the blog, noting significant milestones, and yet they’ve come so thick and fast from the first smiles and giggles to sitting up, rolling, crawling, standing and now crabwalking around the furniture, her first teeth and solid foods (she’s turned out to be quite the adventurous little epicurean whose favourite foods include enchiladas and paneer/tofu masala, as well as the more mundane cherry tomatoes, peas and fruit).

Along the way, there have been moments I’d rather forget too: a surreal and scary trip to A&E after she had a reaction to her first set of immunisations at six weeks old during the first lockdown, struggles with breastfeeding, getting to grips with her silent reflux and a suspected lactose intolerance.

In the absence of baby groups and playdates, I’ve been looking for ways to keep our inquisitive and lively daughter entertained at home, we’ve built a den filled with teddies in the corner between our couches, her old bath has been turned into a ballpit, we’ve created tunnels out of cardboard boxes, and her big present from us was a swing in the garden. We’ve spent happy hours building towers out of blocks for her to topple like a little Godzilla, bouncing around to her favourite songs with rattles and shakers, and chasing each other around the coffee table. There have been more walks than I can count, at least one every day whatever the weather, trying to make up for the fact that her world is so much smaller and more local than it should be. I do feel that my daughter and I have missed out in some ways, but I hope that she’s also benefitted from having both parents at home for her first full year.

My blog has always been a record of family life capturing the highs, lows and all the ordinary moments in between. In 2020 it felt even more important to document it all because it was such a strange year when life as we knew it was completely disrupted, but caring for our daughter kept us grounded in the present and reminded us just how fortunate we are.

Now approaching the end of my maternity leave, I’m full of nerves about returning to work and anxious about how our daughter will settle into childcare, but I hope we will find our way – or at least muddle through – just as we have together up to now. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Winter Solstice Thoughts

It’s been almost impossible to make plans this year, it seems like every time we’ve booked tickets to an event or tried to celebrate a birthday, someone has had to self-isolate or restrictions have increased, and Christmas has been no exception. It’s been quite a rush to get everything ready for Christmas with so much uncertainty hanging over us. In November, much later than I planned, I baked my husband a gluten-free Christmas cake, adapting the recipe from my mum’s scribbled in the margins and bound together by sticky tape BeRo cookbook. Donations have been made to the local food and toy banks. Most of our shopping has been done online this year. We’ve spent evenings at home popping and threading corn to hang on the tree, writing cards and wrapping presents.

We’ve enjoyed evening walks admiring all the Christmas decorations illuminating the neighbourhood, our 10-month-old daughter wide-eyed and fascinated, pointing at all the inflatable Santa’s, snowmen and penguins, lights cast over trees and hedges or outlining roofs and doors, as well as a multitude of twinkling reindeer, stars and candy canes.

After three weeks of zoom classes during our local lockdown, the little one and I were back at baby sensory in time for her Christmas party, which was a lovely way to end a stop-start year.

Christmas will be bittersweet for us personally as it will be the first without my nanna who passed away in February, but also our daughter’s first Christmas. We were already planning a smaller Christmas because of Coronavirus even before the latest restrictions were announced, and it’s not the first Christmas we’d imagined surrounded by family and friends, but we’ll try to fill it with as much love, peace and joy as we can.

Take care, and wishing everyone reading a very happy Christmas whatever your circumstances. X

Autumn Scenes

The colder months of the year are always a mix of tugging on boots and coats for walks outside, and cosy evenings at home in front of the fire. We’re back under lockdown again and confined to our local area, however, we’re fortunate to live within walking distance of two large parks. We’ve become regular visitors at both – enjoying the late flowering roses, the autumnal trees, feeding the ducks and swans, pushing our daughter on the swings, and even meeting friends and their little ones for playdates.

Now nine months old, our daughter is a little livewire, crawling, babbling, waving and clapping, growing, learning and just so curious about the world. In September, I started taking her to Baby Sensory classes where we sang, bounced, signed, played and shook rattles, albeit at a safe distance from the other parents and infants. The activities are not dissimilar from what we’ve been doing at home, but she was fascinated seeing other babies, bouncing with excitement, smiling and shouting to get their attention. Unfortunately, in-person classes have been suspended and moved online for the duration of the lockdown, but I hope we’ll be able to return in the not too distant future.

Halloween was quiet this year, the little one had a fancy dress party at Baby Sensory, I carved a pumpkin lantern for her at home, and once she was in bed, I had a Halloween quiz with friends over Zoom – that was as educational as it was fun.

We’ve started eating lunch and dinner together around the dining table, enjoying homemade macaroni cheese, comforting casseroles, spicy bean enchiladas and smoky chillis, with the odd takeaway to support our favourite restaurants. Our daughter has taken to baby-led-weaning with great enthusiasm, chubby hands grabbing fistfuls from her bowl and happily gumming and sooking almost everything we serve her, and even our cat Mara joins us in case anything tasty falls over the edge of the high chair.

The mood in my city has been somewhat subdued this week, the move to Tier 4 and a return to lockdown was not unexepected but leaves many of us facing a long, dark and potentially lonely winter. This has been such a strange year, so different from any other we’ve experienced, yet I’ve tried to make the most of it and embrace a simpler, slower way of life – and this autumn has been one of little joys, chasing butterflies around the garden, rambling family walks, splashing in puddles, playdates at the park and making happy memories together. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Happy Fifth Anniversary to Mara!

My little muse and constant companion

Just tapping out a quick post at the end of an unexpectedly hectic weekend to note that it was five years ago today that we adopted our cat, Mara. It feels like we’ve been through quite a lot together in a relatively short length of time from moving out of the little, rented flat we lived in when we adopted her to our own house, nursing her back to health after cancer and having her tail amputated – and again last month when she suddenly became unwell, to the arrival of our daughter earlier this year. Throughout everything, Mara has shown such resilience and courage, and her trust in us has never wavered. Mara really is a very special cat, and I’m so grateful to be able to spoil her a little bit more than normal today.

Unfortunately, Mara is still a bit unsure and scared about the battery-powered, revolving butterfly toy we bought her (she seems to prefer her feathery wand toys) but she was much more enthusiastic about the roast chicken we gave her as a special treat.

We’ve spent most of the weekend isolating at home after our 8-month-old daughter came down with what we suspected was just the common cold but as she had a cough we thought we’d better get tested, and her two bottom teeth decided to make their appearence this weekend as well. No sooner had we received the negative test result than my husband took himself off to bed to nurse his own cold. I’ve had my hands full this weekend, but nevertheless, very grateful to celebrate Mara’s fifth anniversary with us. Take care, and have a lovely week. X