In January 2019 we had a pair of four-year-olds, a pair of two-year-olds and a squishy baby who had just turned two months old. We lived in a rented three-bedroom house in a London suburb and it felt far too small for us, but we were aware that we would find it hard to rent as a family with only one partner working and many, many children. We began to look into the possibility of home ownership and spent hours (days!) of our lives researching possible locations. I posted on the Life After London facebook group asking for experiences of moving to Margate, and a woman named Sofia responded to suggest that we considered Folkestone instead. She invited us to join her WhatsApp group for families who had moved to Folkestone from London to gain more insight into what that might be like for us, and after a few days of talking to people about their seaside lives, we booked train tickets and a hotel for a Folkestone stay that weekend. We visited Steep Street coffee house, the beach and the coastal park and decided that we HAD to make Folkestone our home.
Febuary and March were mostly spent arranging our financial ducks, getting an agreement in principle and house-hunting.
In April, we were gazumped after having an offer accepted on a house. We were devastated and took a little time to ‘lick our wounds’ before jumping back on the house-hunting horse. We enjoyed an overnight stay in Brighton and met my friend Maxine for a family photoshoot as part of a brand collaboration with Alex and Alexa. At the end of April, Kirsty’s tonsilitis turned into an abscess – a quinsy – and resulted in an emergency hospital admission for a few days to get it sorted.
May brought with it a first tooth for baby Vita. It also brought a house viewing that lead to a bidding war and, to our utter astonishment, our lovely vendors chose us. We couldn’t believe that we were actually going to own a home of our own – particularly one that ticked so many of our boxes.
In June we lost our wonderful dog, dear old Josephine. She had cancer and as her tumour grew she seemed to find the children more intimidating, so my in-laws kindly made space for her on their sofa (she was so, so loved by all of us). One day, my mum-in-law texted Kirsty to say that Josephine’s tumour was bleeding and she was worried, so I picked her up that night and brought her home to us. As much as I hoped for a miracle, I knew that she wouldn’t be coming home from the vet. The next day, we went on a little walk through the meadow. We lay in the sun and I sobbed into her fur and told her how much I loved her and how privileged I felt to be her person. She ate disgusting M&S sliced roast chicken from my hand and, when we were ready, we walked together to the vet – who confirmed that there was nothing to be done. I asked for her to be sedated first, as I couldn’t bear for her to be frightened, and she slipped away gently and easily in my arms.
A few weeks later, we were fortune to enjoy a family holiday at Center Parcs. It was a ‘payment in kind’ for some advertorial work that I had done with them and there was no obligation to share the trip so I haven’t done so yet, but it was wonderful – I was able to take my mum and my sister and we had our first extended-family holiday since I was about ten years old.
July brought an advertorial trip to Haven, which I wrote about on the blog. It was genuinely one of the best family minibreaks we’ve ever had and if finances allow, we’ll absolutely book another Haven trip. We felt so lucky to have two incredible minibreaks last summer; we’re not the kind of family that can afford to travel abroad generally, but we didn’t feel that we had missed out at all.
That said, the highlight of the whole summer was attending Pride and meeting the children’s genetic half-sister and her mum. It was utterly surreal to meet this little girl and, although there is so much of her mother in her too, to find physical features and personality traits that she shares with my own children.
Embla and Olympia turned three at the very end of July but, poor things, we didn’t tell them as we were due to move house two days later!
On August 1st we were already en route to our new home in Folkestone when we got the call to say that our house purchase had completed! We celebrated with a sandwich on the train (us) and pains au chocolat (the children) and sat in happy disbelieving silence (us) whilst the children bounced in their seats with excitement. When we arrived, we couldn’t get the door open and I had a complete meltdown which the estate agent was very kind about!
We spent the remainder of August unpacking, exploring and finalising the children’s school and nursery places – it was all VERY lastminutedotcom but everything worked out in the end. One of my favourite moments from August was harvesting the rhubarb from the garden to make a pie; the children helped, and we were so happy to experiment with baking and share the finished product.
In September the children dispersed to their various educational establishments! We were much more nervous than them, and thankfully they took to school and nursery like ducklings to water and are so happy there. The boys and I joined a local horse riding club and have spent half of our weekends at the stables ever since!
October brought the boys’ fifth birthday – and the girls’ third, as we hadn’t managed to get round to celebrating. They blew out candles well before sunrise and ate cake for breakfast and all four had presents to open.
It also brought a second win for me in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards – in the Photography category. Documenting our ‘modern love story’ has brought me so much joy over the years and it was lovely to win this category again and to represent families like mine in these mainstream blogging awards.
In November, Vita turned one. We had intended for our final Frozen Embryo Transfer to take place just after her birthday but as she was still reliant on breastfeeding for comfort and we would have had to wean her first, we decided to postpone it until 2020.
December gave us Christmas, theatre trips and Frozen 2. It gave us a trip to meet Santa on the steam rail, vegan Yorkshire puddings that – if you squinted – really rose, it gave us an impromptu dunk in the sea as the sun disappeared into the water.
2020 will – we hope – bring more adventure and fun, more learning and growth. The boys will transition into Year One and the girls into Reception at their school, Vita will turn two and we hope this year to be able to proceed with our final Frozen Embryo Transfer with a view to welcoming our sixth and last baby into the family. We would like to continue to explore our new home and will share any excellent new discoveries on the blog for your consideration as well.
In terms of social media and our online lives, my primary focus has always been the documentation of our ‘modern love story’ as a two-mum family of our much-loved small children. That will never change. We hope to continue to have the privilege of working with brands that align with our family values and that offer our children opportunities that we wouldn’t be able to provide for them otherwise and we are grateful for your support as we do so. Thank you for all of your kindness toward me and my family in 2019, your conversation, kind words and reality checks – all of which are enormously appreciated. They say that it takes a village to raise a family and you are an important part of mine. Thank you.