We're slowly working out a new routine in this new life of ours. There are moments when it's a fairly steep learning curve, with 3 generations in a home that's not quite big enough yet, but in general and on a day to day basis, it's all starting to fall in to place.
The biggest and possibly only thing I miss from our previous home is my kitchen. Anyone that's read this blog for a while will know how much I loved my last kitchen. It was where Jim and I spent most of our time, and it allowed us all to come together without getting on top of eachother.
When our house was in the Ikea Family Live Magazine, I was asked what my favourite piece of furniture was in our home, and the answer was my kitchen table. It allowed us all to eat together, play together and create together. We only ever socialised in our kitchen around that table and many of my happiest memories in Leeds were right there - the last Christmas dinner we had with my mum, breakfast with my brother and his family, Sunday get togethers with friends, our Halloween parties - all of it right there in our kitchen.
At the moment we don't have much of a kitchen. When we moved in the only thing that actually defined the room as a kitchen was the butler sink, set under the window, lower than normal, with a rotten wooden draining board (and a million spiders).
At not much more than 2.5 metres squared, the kitchen is a far cry from our previous one, with absolutely no possibility of having even a reduced size table in it. Obviously we bought it aware that it was never going to work for us, even more so now that we're a 3 generational household, so our plan is to build an extension across the back of the house, to include a new kitchen, a living room for my Dad and (if we can finagle it) a studio for me. But in the meantime and probably for the next 6 months at least, we're making the best of what we've got.
The one thing that the kitchen has that allows it to work for us until I get my new one, is the fact that there are two original pantries, providing lots of much needed storage space while allowing us to forgo the kitchen cabinets that would only make the room look even smaller.
The fact that the kitchen is temporary has meant that we don't want to be spending a lot of money on it, but that doesn't mean that we don't want it to look good. The main improvement we've made so far is to install a 3m long, solid oak worktop, with a matching 3m piece below it, to create even more storage space. We've also installed a fairly huge dual fuel cooker, working on the assumption that if we can cook an entire Christmas meal in one go, using all 3 ovens and all 7 burners, the lack of actual space won't be as noticeable.
There's still a long way to go (painting, tiling, more shelving) and we're still getting used to the fact that our fridge and washing machine are out the back door, in the utility room, but although I do still miss my old kitchen (I've just looked back at some photo's while writing this and there's now a slight lump in my throat) I've still found myself starting to love this little temporary one.
After school yesterday Lily and I spent a very happy hour or two at the beach, drawing and skimming stones while watching the sun slowly slip behind the horizon. I'm not sure how many more chances we'll get at the beach (in a t shirt!) this year, but we're going to take every opportunity that we can.
We've had the most beautiful weather over the last few days. Which has meant that it's been the perfect time for my brother to experience the Island for the first time since he was a child.
The combination of the glorious autumnal colours, with so much warmth and light has been wonderful. Then throw in the fact that I have been able to share our new home with one of the most important people in my life, and it's led to a wonderful, wonderful weekend.
As well as having my brother visiting, we also threw our first hallowe'en party since losing mum. Up until she died, we had a party every year, and loved it. But losing mum in the middle of October, put an end to that and we just haven't had the heart to have another one.
But moving here and starting a fresh has given all of us a new lease of life, so when the girls asked if we could finally have another hallowe'en party and if they could invite everyone from both their school years, we thought what the hell!
In Leeds we only had a tiny backyard and it was noticeable if we had even an extra couple of children in the house, but here we are blessed with a good sized garden, full of trees and places to play, which meant that we had over 25 children, and we didn't even notice! It was amazing. As was the fact that all of the kids were great fun and as well as being respectful and engaged. We had two hours of apple bobbing, mummy wrapping (toilet roll everywhere!!) pumpkin pinatas, hide and seek and running around, all in the glorious sunshine (thank goodness because we would have been screwed if it rained!).
On Saturday evening the village held their annual pumpkin carving competition, (which we'll definitely enter next year), with pumpkin soup and toffee apples.
It's been a great weekend. I've loved showing my brother just how stunning the Island is, and I've loved seeing him enjoy it so much. He goes back to Berlin today, but will be back at Christmas, where he can look forward to the village Christmas Tree competition and other christmassy village delights.
The girls are back to school today and Jim has started his new job on the mainland, so I guess it's all about getting in to a real routine from now on.
It turned out that the incredible sunset on Saturday evening lived up to it's "red sky at night, sailors delight" promise, because we woke up yesterday to a beautifully warm and sunny day.
(Jim in particular loves seeing the girls playing in their trees, in their garden).
I was supposed to spend the day finishing the tiling in our bathroom and painting Lily's bedroom. But when we saw how sunny and warm it was we decided to head to the Botanical Gardens instead.
The first time we visited the gardens we bought the yearly family membership, so we can choose to just pop there for lunch (the restaurant is very good indeed) or have a wander around the beautiful gardens whenever we want.
The Gardens aren't huge, but they are full of colour all year round and I love that they actively encourage you to leave the path and tramp through the undergrowth and run on the grass.
One of the great things about going to the Botanics is that you can combine it with a walk down to Steephill Cove.
The 25th of October and it was too warm to wear coats! The beach was pretty busy and because it has a couple of really nice cafe's, there were lots of people enjoying ice creams (Bella got a bubble gum flavoured one, which I thought was horrible) and italian coffee (no polystyrene cups of watery coffee at Steephill!).
The tide was out further than we've seen before, so it was perfect for rock pooling. You can't tell in these pictures but there were children running all over the rocks, screaming with delight everytime they found a crab and there were some huge ones to be found!
We had only intended to be out for a couple of hours, so that we could still do some work on the house, but it was so glorious that we figured it would be silly not to make the most of it, so ended up staying out all afternoon.
Steephill Cove is a very fitting and descriptive name. The only way to get to and from the cove is up some very steep paths, but it's so worth the climb. And the view from half way up is beautiful (I'm going to have to start coming up with new superlatives).
On the way home, we stopped at a viewing point on the cliffs, so that Lily and I could watch the sunset (Jim and Bella were being boring and stayed in the car).
I know I keep saying it, but the fact that this is all just there, on our doorstep for us to enjoy on the spur of the moment, really is incredible to me.
Of course, everything isn't perfect all of the time. We still have tears and the girls miss their friends in Leeds. And it is never lost on me that we would not be here if mum hadn't died and that's a pretty bloody big price to pay for all of this. But for me, dealing with the day to day tears and arguments and general annoyances is so much easier when I can look up and see all of this.
I promise that I'll get back to writing about more than just the Isle of Wight at some point. You never know, I may even sew again one day, but until then I just have to share more of this with you.
It's not often that we all stop what we're doing and rush outside, but tonight we did. It was so incredible that for a split second I honestly thought that the sky was on fire.
There are so many moments these days when I just stop and stand, in awe at where I live and just how stunning it all is. And I am grateful every single time.
Tonight I was standing in our porch cutting tiles for the bathroom wall, when I saw the reflection of the sunset in the tile cutter (I kid you not!).
You would think that Jim and I would run out of awe, and maybe we will one day (and let me lay down and die the day that happens!) but it hasn't happened yet. And for good reason. That last photo is taken from our garden gate, the first from our porch (and none have been taken using filters).
The view I used to have from my garden gate was very different indeed!
Lily has always struggled. She was such a difficult pregnancy, with injections every week to try and stop me from losing her, and scans every week to see if she was still alive. After 7 miscarriages I really didn't believe that she would survive, and sadly I really didn't enjoy a single moment of the pregnancy.
But from the second that she was born I loved her with every single miniscule part of my being. And I knew from day one that she was incredible and that my bond with her could never be broken.
But from day one she struggled. Born allergic to dairy and gluten, she screamed and cried until we found her a special formula to feed her. Then as soon as she started to try to communicate we realised there was something wrong and at 2 she was diagnosed with verbal dyspraxia and had to have speech therapy constantly until last year. At only three she had a terrible 6 month long episode that led to her seeing a psychiatrist and manifested itself with a self loathing that completely broke my heart.
When she started school she struggled even more. It was not a school that understood her (although she had one wonderful, amazing teacher who could completely see her for who she is) and she was glaringly different to all the children in her year. She has always loved to learn and has an amazing capacity and thirst for knowledge, but school made her feel isolated and different and just plain wrong. She hated going to school. She hated it so much that there were days when I had to carry her to the car in her pyjama's, just so that I could get Bella to school on time, and then drive home and fight to get her dressed, to drive her to school an hour late. She hated it so much that she would be crying before she even woke up in the mornings. I once turned up early for an assembly, and watched unseen, as Lily stood alone in the playground, for the whole of playtime. The next day I lied to school and said she had a dr's appointment and took her out of school for the whole of lunch time, purely so she didn't have to spend it alone.
When I made the decision to move away from Leeds, I knew that we had to go somewhere that would allow Lily to understand that she is truly wonderful. And when we brought her to the Island for the first time, I could see her visibly relax. I could see her breathe out, finally. And when we visited the school and learned that there were only 12 children in her entire year, and she talked to them all and wanted to start there and then, we knew we were doing the right thing.
3 weeks after we moved here, Lily and I went for a walk on the beach, and she literally marvelled at the beauty. As we walked along she looked at me and said " I can never imagine being angry here. Thank you for knowing that this would make me feel right". She said those exact words and I stood there and cried.
Since we've been here, Lily has discovered that she's not different, or unusual. She's discovered a class full of children that want to learn the way she does, and that feel the way she does. She has transformed from a child stood alone on the edge of the playground, to a child voted by her peers to be on the school council. She's transformed from a child desperately pretending to be the same as everyone else, to being a child that comes home almost every day with an invitation to go to a friends to play.
When I told her teacher that she struggled at her last school, she shook her head and said these words "Lily fits in so well here that I can not imagine the class without her".
Those words are some of the best words I've ever heard.
Let me show you around our new home a little... It's going to be a work in progress for a long time, but it's so lovely that even while building work is going on it's still going to be possible to make it look nice.
Our front door is original (pretty much everything is), and has an incredible stone porch, with original wooden benches. I love that I can fill it with pumpkins this year!
This corner is not quite sitable in yet, but it will be. And I will spend time sitting in it, enjoying the view inside and out.
The view from my beautiful yellow reading chair. It's a view that makes me so happy.
The original style of the house is Arts and Crafts. It's not from that period, but the original (and until us, only) owner obviously felt an affinity with it, and managed to recreate many aspects of an Arts and Craft home, all of which are still here.
The staircase, which leads off the entrance hall with it's open brick fire, was one of the first things that sold the house to us. We're still trying to work out how and whether to have a stair runner, but the bare wood is beautiful (just a little loud when our not too light footed children run up and down them).
The sittingroom doesn't look like this now that all of our boxes have been delivered, but even on a grey day the light in here is incredible. It is far and away my favourite room in the house and I can not wait to experience every single season in it!
Like I said, there's going to be a lot of work to do, but this is most definitely our home and all 5 of us love it.
Three years ago today I woke up to a new life. It was not a life that I wanted or asked for. It was a life full of pain and grief. It was a life that scared me senseless. Three years ago today I woke up knowing, but not comprehending, that I would never see my Mum again.
The last three years have not been how I wanted my life to be. It has not been how I wanted my daughters lives to be. We have all been permanently scarred by what life has thrown at us and it has affected how we see the world and the people around us.
Almost two years ago I woke up knowing that this could not continue. That it all had to change. That my daughters, the most important people in my life and the only reason that I was still waking up in the morning, could not continue living the lives they were living. They deserved so much more. They deserved a school that cherished them and friends that loved them. They deserved to be able to explore and play and have fun, knowing that they were safe. They deserved to be surrounded by beauty and to know how important that beauty is. They deserved everything that I could possibly give them.
Three years ago today, I woke up knowing that everything had changed beyond repair.
Three years later I wake up in my new life.
I still hurt, I still grieve, and I still cry.
But our lives are now completely different.
Life here on the Isle of Wight is everything we had hoped for, and as much as we need. We can't change the last 3 years and we can't have Mum back. But we can change our future.
And we have.
Oh gosh, we're still here. I hadn't realised how long it's been. The last few months have flown by in a whirl of cleaning, packing, kitchen installing, bathroom installing, de-cluttering and painting. But it's still all on track and we're edging closer and closer to the big adventure.
One very important step happened last month, when we took the girls to the Island for the first time ever. Up until that point this had all felt a little like it was mine and Jim's big adventure, but suddenly it all became a lot more real, and just a bit more scary.
The weather was pretty terrible on the ferry over to the Island, with very choppy waters and high winds, so I was prepared for the girls not to immediately fall in love with their new home, but I needn't have worried at all. As soon as we drove off the ferry they both started cheering and shouting about how lovely it all was, even on a dull, wet day.
The first place we took them was to see the house that we're buying. They've only ever lived in one home, so I was nervous that they would be disappointed, especially as there's a lot of work to do on it before it really works for us. But again my fears were unnecessary because both girls loved everything about it.
I was kind of glad that the first day was overcast because it meant that the girls didn't think that everything on the Island is always perfect. The second day though really was the Island at it's best, with beautiful sunshine, beaches and countryside.
We started our second day with a visit to the girl's new school, which was another hit. It's absolutely tiny, particularly in comparison to their current one. Lily's year has a total of 12 children in it (13 when Lily starts!). And the fact that they can walk to school (through a churchyard) in 2 minutes flat is causing much excitement, not least from me, (my days of driving to and from school are well and truly numbered).
We only spent two days on the Island, but spent almost every minute of it exclaiming about the fact that this wasn't going to be a holiday, this was going to be our actual life. It still doesn't seem at all possible and the closer we get to it happening, the less I believe that we're going to do it.
One of the things that we love about the Island is how close everything is. Being able to decide on the spur of the moment to go to the beach for a swim, without having to then spend two hours in the car is incredible.
One of the things that I've struggled with in the last few years since losing Mum is the feeling that everything is flying by and that there's just not enough time for anything. Feeling the need to not waste time puts such a strain on everything. If we go to the beach now it's a big deal if the weather's not great or if we don't enjoy it, because it's an entire wasted day. But while we were on the Island I realised just how much that's going to change. The beach is 10 minutes away, so there isn't the pressure for the trip to be perfect. Which means that I'm so much more relaxed, and able to enjoy it all more. And that's the point of this move. To allow us all to relax a little more. And to allow us to do so much more.
Before we got the ferry back we went for a walk in a beautiful forest (because the ferry is only 25 minutes away and the forest is only 15 minutes away - see, time to do more!).
We didn't want to leave. And we can't wait until it's time to return for good. Which is hopefully in 3-4 weeks time!