I am going to be honest here, a Q&A was by no means on my radar, I am, after all, only fresh on the blogging scene and even though my instagram has been around for a while, I still have a small (albeit fiercely loyal) following. The thing is though, I get asked similar questions day in, day out. I find myself typing almost uniform responses late into the evenings and even if the questions aren’t identical, they follow some pretty similar themes; house, parenting, travel & wellbeing. I adore seeing that little red circle on my direct message inbox and interacting with each and every person that lives in my screen but in the interest of saving some time and having a bit of fun I decided now would be a good time to host a Q&A. I put it out there on Instagram and the questions came in thick and fast, so I am going to give it a shot. Many of the questions were the same and there are some definite themes going on so I have organised it as concisely as possible, I hope you enjoy.
How many children would you like to have or do you see Susanna being an only child?
This is, by far, my most frequently asked question and actually, my most frequently changing answer. Mark and I are real planners, I know it is incredibly boring but it keeps us motivated! Anyway, we wanted to enjoy being married before having kids and also make sure we had built enough savings to allow me to stay at home for as long as possible to be with our little ones (it’s just our preference, not for everyone)! So, we knew exactly when we wanted to start trying for a baby and when she came along we were so ready and so delighted for her arrival. Likewise, since having Susanna we agreed that we wanted to soak up every little bit of her for at least a couple of years before adding to the gang. I imagined that once she turned two we would be ready to start trying again but as it turns out I just haven’t reached that point yet and we are not putting any pressure on ourselves to get there. When the time is right I reckon we will know!
How would you describe your parenting style?
I guess we address parenting in the same way we address life in general; fairly laid back whilst being structured and intentional…does that make sense? We like to see the funny side to this journey and so generally we don’t sweat the small stuff but we also want to teach Susanna right from wrong and not let her get too big for her boots so we are strict about bed times, meal times, manners and we have some ideas on what is unacceptable behaviour. There are definite boundaries in place and we will not budge on them! We are hands on and definitely invest our time and energy into our daughter, which means that we are rarely away from her but that works for us and we don’t feel like we are missing out…quite the opposite in fact! We are completely learning as we go along and hoping that we are getting at least some of it right.
What about discipline? How do you manage those terrible two’s? How do you see how you discipline adapting as time goes on?
Thankfully, we have a fairly easy going child and so this isn’t a huge focus for us just yet but of course we do have boundaries and there are consequences for certain behaviours. At the moment we use ‘time out’ as a chance for Susanna to reset her behaviour and so far it is working really well. She gets two warnings and then on the third strike she goes into time out for one minute. After she has been in time out she gets a great big hug, an explanation for why she was there and then she says sorry before we get back to whatever we were doing. Once she has said sorry everything is forgotten about and we go about our usual business, I hope to continue that approach right through parenthood; no grudges, no huffing, do the crime do the time and then it’s done! As far as the terrible two’s go, we haven’t seen much ‘terrible’ just yet but of course she has her moments. When it comes to tantrums, I ignore them, when it comes to defiance, I am even more strong willed than she is so there are no negotiations.
Where did Susanna’s name come from?
I am actually asked this question SO much that I am planning on linking it in to another blog post. Long story short, Susanna(h) is my Mum’s name and I have loved it for as long as I can remember.
What are your top tips for new mums?
Gosh, being a new mum is such a minefield! With hormones running all over the place, sleep deprivation, an element of clueless-ness and everything else that comes along with that newborn fog I’m not sure that any one set of tips can answer all the questions or appease all the anxieties but I will give it a go. My single, largest piece of advice is do whatever you have to do to keep you and baby happy. People will be queuing up with advice and rules and opinions but each baby is so different you just have to do what is best for you. Take the pressure off yourself straight away, go with the flow and do it your way! Take the help as it comes along; if they offer, you lap it up! Sleep when baby is sleeping (I know everyone says that but it is a game changer) and forget the mess and housework for those few precious weeks. Babies cry, don’t panic! If you are breastfeeding invest in good breast pads (I recommend Tommee Tippee), Lanolin cream and always, always, have a pint of water ready for when baby latches on, I have never felt thirst like it!!
Do you have any advice for Christian mums raising toddlers in a crazy world filled with pressures and expectations?
This one really got me thinking. I am so early on in parenthood that I am not sure I am qualified to give much advice so instead I will just share what is working for me! I think the first thing to say on this is that we are often guilty of being the worst at pressuring ourselves and we need to cut that right out. We think we are being judged when more often than not, those who we think are judging are completely oblivious to our concerns, so my best advice would be chill out! I know that’s not very helpful so here is what I do; I often sit back and take stock of how our home is operating; is Susanna happy? Is she developing well? Is my marriage healthy? Is God still number one? More often than not, this little thought chain alone will show me where things are great and what bits need some work. Outside of that, the pressures of society are not very high up on my list. I don’t care what society says, my standards are set by God, I fully rely on his strength and therefore it is only acceptable that I adopt His standards. I don’t allow others to set my standards, I will not apologise for that, I may not always live up to the standard but I will keep pushing towards it and that’s what I will be trying to teach Susanna. We talk freely and openly about God in our home, we worship through the mundane tasks, we pray in praise and we pray in crisis and we pray in all the ordinary moments in between and Susanna is witnessing that as she grows up so it will hopefully be her normal!
How do you keep your wee girl smiling and what is your biggest dream for her?
I can’t take any credit for my smiler, it is just completely her nature. She is a happy, bubbly little girl and all we do is guide and facilitate her adventure! As far as my biggest dream for her goes I’d say it’s a fairly standard one; I dream that she will grow to be confident in herself, in who and whose she is and that she loves and is loved in return. Everything else will fall into place!
How did you meet your husband? How long were you dating? How did you know he was the one?
I met Mark at school, I was almost 17 and he was nearly 18. It was the first time we had spoken despite walking the same corridors every single day. As a very last minute decision I decided to go on an SU weekend with my friend (I’m talking 30 minutes before the bus was leaving I decided to go!) and within a few hours I had completely fallen for this guy. Of course I played it cool for a couple of months but over that time we became such good friends and I knew it was only a matter of time before we made it official. I’d like to point out that he asked me out THREE times before I eventually said yes…not out of anything other than fear of ruining our friendship. Best decision of my life! We dated for eight years that were full of highs and lows, learning what we loved about each other but also what drove us crazy and how to handle the ups and downs before he got down on one knee and popped the question. I guess I knew early on that he was the one; he just completely complemented me whilst also pushing me way out of my comfort zone & helping me to become a much better version of myself, he is a super star and he is my lobster.
What do you do to keep the spark alight whilst also juggling parenting and busy lives?
We are busy! We need at least another five hours in the day to accomplish everything that we set out for ourselves and it is so easy to just float along and forget that you need to make time for each other. We have a reasonable amount of family time and are very intentional about having at least one day with Susanna in the week as a whole family but when it comes to our marriage that can be much trickier. Susanna goes to bed at 7.30pm but so often we are exhausted and just ready to zone out by that time so we have to very consciously make regular time for our marriage. We came up with the idea of taking it in turns to host a simple date night each week, this is most likely at home and in the evening. The host cooks and plans something that little bit more special than just sitting together watching TV. Of course we don’t manage this every single week but it has become something that we both look forward to and so we make every effort to keep our weekly home date nights.
Your husband seems to be home through the day, what does he do?
Mark’s work base is our home but he is out with clients a couple of days in the week too, it’s a great balance. I am incredibly proud of him because right out of school he decided to give business a go and he has made it such a success, he works incredibly hard and I am forever grateful for that. In a nut shell, he is an IT Consultant and takes care of small to medium businesses’ IT systems as well as web and graphic design. He is great at what he does!
How long did your house build take?
From the day we broke ground to the first night we slept in our home took almost exactly eight months. We had bought the site in January and the work stated in March so all in all it was a ten month process. Our contractor took all the stress out of self-build for us, he was amazing and managed to do damage control on every single element that could have slowed the process down.
What were your peak and pitfall moments in building?
Great question, I’ll start with pitfall first; the one that springs to mind is the day all our bathroom furniture arrived and most of it was the wrong size! It was a real hassle to get the items returned and we had to make a mad dash to another supplier to get sinks and units that would fit the space better.
The peak is really hard to choose, there are so many moments during a build that you just jump up and down in excitement but for me the ultimate highlight was the day that the staircase went in, oh my! I have a thing about staircases which I know is so weird but our stairs are literally my dream come true and when we drove up that evening and spotted them through the windows I was just on such a high.
Was Susanna born when you built your house?
No she was not, I was pregnant throughout the build and we moved in on the day she tuned three weeks old so it was an incredibly busy and exciting time. The house build was a great distraction over the pregnancy but also meant that it flew in. Moving in to our forever home with our wee bundle was just an incredible moment.
What are your goals for your home and garden? Is your house finished? Do you have any plans to make changes in the near future?
I’m not sure that a home is ever finished and ours is no different. When we moved in we had just five weeks to get the house ready for a great big family Christmas and so we very quickly made the house feel like a home but of course there were things to do beyond that. Over the past two years we have styled our home to our taste and we are continuing to make little changes here and there but nothing major. Our walls are still all brilliant white which the builders did for us; we haven’t painted anywhere except for one wall in Susana’s room as we are still letting cracks settle, so that will be on the agenda over the next year or so. As far as the garden goes it is a huge project! We have segregated off a play zone for Susanna, built a fire pit area and a decking. We have also planted hedges around the border and a couple of flower beds but there is still so much to do! I am hoping that this spring we will start adding colour and depth to the garden as well as deciding exactly how we want to use the space. Our long term goal is to dig the back corner of the garden out so that we can have a boat house and direct access to the river!
How would you describe your home style? What is your favourite feature in your home? Did you have a landscape gardener?
The very kind people on instagram pointed out that our home is mostly Scandi style so I will go with that. I have a home tour blog post coming up soon with much more information but no we did not have a landscape gardener, my hubby has done everything himself…superman I tell ya!
Where is your favourite place you have ever been?
This is such a hard question because I love different places for different reasons but I guess my very favourite would have to be New England, you can read about our most recent road trip here and here. For a completely different style of holiday I adore Abu Dhabi, it is such a beautiful, clean & safe place. Also, our honeymoon in Riviera Maya, Mexico was honestly just paradise, I daydream of going back there some day!
Do you worry about flying with a toddler?
Surprisingly no! I adore travel and I absolutely love travelling with our daughter so no, I don’t worry about it. I wrote a post about the lessons we have learned from flying with Susanna over the past two years, you can catch up on it here.
I am looking for a great spot for our first holiday as a family of four so I wondered if you had somewhere not too far away that would suit a two year old and a six year old?
The first place that springs to mind is Park Albatros in Tuscany, Italy. We have been twice, our most recent trip was when Susanna was a year and a half. This is a ‘glamping’ holiday where you will be staying in a caravan but they are surprisingly luxurious and have their own decking and BBQ which is just amazing for families. There are a large number of pools and restaurants and a fantastic play park all on site so you don’t need to leave if you didn’t want to. The best feature is that the pools are completely suited to little ones; there is a large pool for swimming but at least three soft base shallow pools for kids to play in (or adults to sunbathe in) as well as some slides and fountains! It can get incredibly busy over the summer months but it’s a large enough park that it doesn’t feel too crowded.
What foundation do you use? Do you dye your hair? How do you style your hair?
I had a giggle at these questions because I would definitely not say I am someone to take hair & make up tips from. I use Lily Lolo mineral foundation in Warm Honey as my every day make up. I love how light it feels and it usually lasts all day. If I am going out I would use Channel VITALUMIÈRE as a base. I don’t dye my hair, this is my natural colour and as far as styling goes I literally do nothing! I wash my hair, dry the top so that it maintains some volume and then braid wet hair or else just leave it loose to dry naturally. That’s it…I am so lazy!
When did you become a Christian?
I was saved aged 12 at a summer camp but I would say I didn’t really find Jesus until my early 20’s. That may be a little confusing but I didn’t really discover what it meant to have a proper relationship with the Father until then and once I made that realisation it completely changed my life and my faith. I am still on a journey of learning and discovery and my main focus at the moment is learning to listen for His voice and being obedient to Him. I am also diving head first into Bible Study as it is something I have never really got into deeply before.
What are you really passionate about?
I guess I have a few key passions; first and foremost being my Faith. I think that once you taste life with Jesus you just never ever look back. It is a wild and crazy adventure and I am loving every minute. Aside from that I am hugely passionate about motherhood, it’s true what they say, it is the craziest hood you will ever go through but it is amazing! I love seeing women stepping into motherhood and I also love learning from those who have been in this gig for a while. It’s an incredible roller coaster of emotions and also has given me the most wonderful group of friends! Finally, I am seriously passionate about breaking down that mental health stigma, I wrote all about that here!
Where did your inspiration for @itsmytribe come from?
Honestly, I don’t really know! I have some issues with body image and have been trying to lose the last of my baby weight for two years now so I guess I needed to be held accountable. I asked (via the wonderful medium of Instagram) if people would like to follow my journey and it was a resounding YES. The idea just evolved as I became more passionate about building a community for women to support each other in whatever journey towards health they were on. Not everyone’s goals are weight loss; we have girls who want to sleep better, some who want to get fitter, others who need to make time for themselves and a plethora of other wonderful stories and circumstances. The community is growing and evolving and I am just enjoying seeing it develop.
How do you see your blog progressing? Do you ever think of venturing into YouTube?
The blog is a real work in progress, I feel like I am still finding my style and rhythm in the blogging world. I am really enjoying creating conversational posts, I kind of see the blog as an extension of my friendship circle; it’s just as though I am chatting with a friend when I write and I think I want to keep it that way. As far as YouTube goes it’s not something I have thought too much about, although I do love creating little videos and am slowly building up my skills in that area so who knows what could be next.
What’s the (five year) plan?
That is a great question and very timely as hubby and I approach our 30th birthdays we are almost at the end of our 25-30yo list. We have ticked everything off from that plan so now it’s time to make some new ones. Another baby will probably be on the cards within the next five years, lots more work on our garden and maybe another couple of destinations ticked off our travel bucket list. Aside from that we will mostly be trying to slow down and be more present. The past five years have gone by in the blink of an eye; we got married, built a house and had a baby! I am always excited to map out the goals with my hubby, so some evening soon we will crack open a bottle of wine and get some ideas together, watch this space!
Thank you so much to each of you who took time to ask questions, I am so sorry if your question didn’t make the cut but I promise it will be included in some future blog posts. As much as that made my brain work a little more than it’s used to, I really enjoyed reading your questions and thinking about my answers. Thank you for all your support and kindness over these first few months, you are a wonderful bunch!