Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Surprises

We got more than we bargained for in our yuletide surprises this year when surviving Christmas took on completely new meaning. WE got through the day itself in one piece, despite almost exploding from overeating and almost imploding from the joy of seeing the girls faces after Santa’s sortie, we had a much more serious dapple with death the next day. Icy relations with the in-laws warmed dramatically when the icy roads nearly ended all relations. We drove up the Wicklow mountains for lunch and the girls entertained us (and everyone else) with a few renditions of Rudolf. …like one of those scenes in a film where everyone is happy and laughing, minutes before disaster strikes. The roads had become quite treacherous and as I cautiously drove down the mountain, I clung desperately to the steering wheel as if holding it tightly would somehow grip the wheels to the perilous path. With hubby ahead with his mum and aunt, I followed behind with the girls and grandpa. Suddenly we came to an empasse, cars approaching and all of us slowing to nearly stop as we passed each other. As hubby slowed, I braked and my first surprise happened. The car speeded up.
With an increasingly increasing speed, an icy downhill, and hubby’s bumper bouncing towards me I had about 3 seconds to make a decision. And this was surprise number two. In three seconds this is what I was able to think:
“Shit! I’m not going to stop. Here are my choices. I can keep going and hit hubby, and maybe push him off the mountian. I can avoid him to the left and head straight off the edge ourselves. I can veer right into the oncoming cars. Or I can pull hard left and drive into that handy 20foot pile of logged trees there. “
I opted for the latter. And so, three seconds later I had time to yell “we’re going to crash!” before we……. well, crashed. Head on into a very high, very solid, wall of wood. And here was surprise number three. It made a bloody big bang. I dread to think how loud a fast crash is. And here is surprise number four. We all survived, we all had a cry and then we all had a laugh about it. Isn’t the human spirit amazing? (OK, the car in banjexed but who cares?)
After a rather lacklustre table chat over Christmas, suddenly Boxing night was full of life, and laughter. And there was my final surprise. A brush with death brings a family to life. Not recommending it of course…. But still, I hugged my girls a little closer, and I laughed a little louder. And that was my best Christmas present of all…….. what was yours??[1]

[1] Christmas Surprises
29th Decemeber 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Letter to Santa

Christmas Eve. Its here at last. I can almost hear the distant “Ho Ho Ho” over the crinkling of wrapping paper as stockings are stocked and stuffed.

Have I been a good girl? Well, let’s see. According to the good behaviour rules that my children would recognise, lets take a look:
Saying please and thank you – yep.
Flush the toilet – yep.
Eat up my dinner – no problem
No biting anyone – yep.
Sharing my toys – yep.

Great – so now we’ve established I’m a good girl what can I ask from Santa?
I’m a simple girl, I don’t want (many) diamonds

Dear Santa,
1. Another hour in the day please. Just so I can read the mountain of books I have waiting for me.
2. A tape (see previous post!)
3. A computer that doesn’t freeze every ten minutes forcing me (against my will) to swear in front of my children.
4. A lever on my fridge (just like the one you push to get ice) that delivers home-made nutritious delicious kids food three times a day.
5. A Government scheme to pay work-at-home mums a decent wage so I can buy a pair of boots (or even a bra) without my husband knowing. Or without me having to ask.
6. An Orla Kiely bag. (It’s always on my lists)
7. Some sun. Just a little. I know we chose to live in Ireland but really, just a little?
8. A memory stick for my brain, so I can remember every single second of my girl’s childhood, especially this day.
9. A self-slapping machine that gives me a good whack whenever I forget how lucky I am, and start whining about stupid crap that is totally meaningless.
10. And finally Santa, if I may be so bold, can you arrange it so that next Christmas we have a third little stocking hanging on the mantelpiece?

Thanks Santa, and good luck tonight. I know what it feels like to have everyone expecting stuff from you, and not enough hours to deliver them in.

You can see from the picture that Daisy and Poppy have made you a cookie and some milk … and a carrot for Rudolf. It’s by the fire. Oh, and watch out for Smeagal my cat – he might get a fright when you land down the chimney. But a quick tickle under the chin should put him right. I won’t come down and see you, I’ll be upstairs with my girls, awake with anticipation of the day to come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Loving Christmas

Ah Christmas…..always loved it. All that glitter and glutton. All that ho ho ho and he he he. All those presents wrapped under the tree, all those presents hidden in the cupboard waiting to be stuffed into expectant stockings. Little eyes glittering brighter than the lights on the sweet smelling tree.

But, now, I have a new glorious reason to love Christmas…. It’s Monday morning and I’m lying in bed enjoying my cup of tea. I haven’t said ‘hurry up’ once. Not once! Normally by 7.12am I’ve said it 14 times. The kids hardly know which way to turn with no-one barking directions at them, so they run around in every direction, giddy with the freedom of a silent mummy.

Yes, my new reason for loving Christmas is the Christmas holidays. Three weeks of not having to start my day as a military major on speed. So as a little treat to myself, I’ve come up with a cunning plan to keep the calmness continuing into the new year.

I’m making a tape. The tape will run for an hour and a half and be played from 7am each morning, Monday to Friday. You see, we’ve been doing this routine every morning for over a year, yet every time I say “Clean your teeth”, or “get dressed” they look at me as if they’ve never been asked to do it before in their lives. So next year, it’s going to be different. At 7am I’ll press play and lie back with my cup of tea. I might even read the paper. And let the tape run: “Get, up, hurry up, downstairs, hurry up, eat up, hurry up, come on eat your porridge, hurry up, now drink your smoothie, hurry up, COME ON, hurry up, now upstairs quickly, hurry up, into the bathroom, hurry up, no the bathroom, hurry up, no out of the spare room, hurry up, stop jumping on the bed, hurry up, clean your teeth, hurry up, don’t forget those back ones, hurry up, now get dressed, hurry up, put your pyjamas under your pillow, hurry up, no not on the floor, giddy up, hurry up, no you can’t wear your tutu, hurry up, no you definitely can’t wear your swimming costume, hurry up, now come on, stay still while I brush your hair, hurry up, HURRY UP, now downstairs, hurry up, shoes on, hurry up, SHOES ON, hurry up, out of the playroom, hurry up, now put your coats on, hurry up, hats and scarves, hurry up, yes you have to wear the hat, its snowing, HURRY UP, HURRY UP, HURRY UUUUUUUUUUUPPPPPPPPP!”

Until then, I’ll be snuggling under the duvet for another half hour. The girls might even join me. Loving Christmas. What's your favourite thing about Christmas??

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Testing Times

I’ll never forget the shock and surprise when the first blue line changed my life forever. And the rollercoaster ride we embarked on, first with Daisy and then Poppy, was a journey like no other. But never did I think our journey would end here. In a waiting room getting ready for tests to try and answer the questions I have constantly whirling round my head: why have I lost three babies; will I have another? But no-one can tell us.

So this morning I found myself sitting in the clinic of a new hospital – I couldn’t face my old hospital having walked out there empty-bellied and empty-handed three times, the joyous memories of my two glorious girls there diminished. Pouring grains of rock salt into my raw wounds (my last miscarriage was only 5 weeks ago), two women sit in the clinic with me waiting for their newborn’s checkups, their post-baby bellies exulting their triumphs, while my flat stomach hosts only my grief. It doesn’t matter that I have two beautiful babies, they and any subsequent babies will never rub out the loss of my other three. All I have of two of them are the scans, and the sound of their heartbeats still thudding in the dark of the night as I lie awake, wondering.

I have nothing from the third. It was announced with a blue line on the day my previous pregnancy was due. But six weeks later it was gone. Like a new mother, I am intimate with the long lost hours of the night, sleepless as if my brain is expecting to be woken through the night, in denial that I have no baby to soothe. So instead I go and check on my girls, my glorious girls, and their sleeping smiles soothe me. Grief is the loneliest emotion. I cannot share it, I cannot explain it. It just is.

And suddenly I am lifted. A new doctor, and new face. She is kind and patient and authoritative and just what I need. We will have tests – antibodies, chromosomal, bloods, scans, but more importantly we have a plan. I’m not going into this alone. It may only be aspirin and hormones, but it feels as though I am doing something positive. It may lead to more heartbreak, but it may lead to a new wonderful life, and either way I’ll know we tried everything we could. It may be another rollercoaster, but I’m ready for the journey.

I promise to return to a more jolly festive fever soon…..

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Role Reversal

The girls may be responsible for most of my exhaustion (indirectly at least), but they also are my rainbow at the end of a crap day.

Yesterday I hit the wall. Up again most of the night with various coughs and complaints (and one lost Pinkie, Poppy’s can’t-sleep-without-toy) I could barely muster the energy to get out of bed. This has probably only happened about 3 times in my life. When daisy announced she was too sick to go to school, I jumped at the chance and jumped back under the duvet. Our usual morning military mania is up at 7, downstairs (me dressed) by half past, breakfast and cleared up by eight, dressed and teeth cleaned by twenty past, coats on and pram out by half past and walk to school in 25 minutes. Exactly. Instead this morning, the girls clambered into bed with milk and breadsticks (and a nice cuppa for me, thanks hubby) and we read stories for a while before breakfast. I cancelled everything. All my manic plans for school, Claphandies, dance class, visiting, shopping, and posting all postponed. I haven’t left the house. In truth, I actually couldn’t leave the house. I’m tired to my very bones. When hubby kindly offers me a night in the spare room so I can sleep, I feel like yelling “this is not a one-night’s sleep tiredness!” This is three miscarriages in a row, months of early pregnancy exhaustion, Christmas carryon, endless hospitality, chronic sleeplessness, and two lively girls who hang off me every second of the day and most of the night tiredness. I cook and bake and clean and shop and wrap and plan and wash and tidy and write and play and read and draw and paint Santas because if I stop the cog for one second, I might just fall apart in the vacuum. Every minute I am aware of the missing stockings that should be hanging on the mantelpiece.

And so as I lay in bed this morning, my eyes leaden and laden with exhaustion, I suddenly felt a little butterfly on my cheek. I opened one eye to find Poppy stroking my hair, smiling and whispering “There there mummy, it’ll be ok”. And she kissed me again. She then hugged me and stretched over to get my brush and began brushing my hair. I closed my eyes, the love from her overwhelming me, until I felt something soft being nestled under my arm. My other eye opened to see her giving me Pinky to cuddle. Her Pinkie. The most precious thing in her life. Then Daisy got her medical kit and checked me over – my reflexes, my ears, my tongue and finally she listened to my heart. I’m not sure what my heart told her, but she seemed very clear about what I needed.
“Mummy, you are very sick, and you need 20 years in bed with us.”
I think she might be right.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Overwhelmed and underperforming

I feel a bit of a cheat. My last blog obviously gave the impression I was some sort of smiling Stepford wife, happily baking and whipping up a trifle whilst knocking the oven door shut with my hip, loaf cooking and emitting Nigella warm and cosy smells into the kitchen, while the children play happily at my feet, all Walton-like and wholesome.

Yes, indeed, our house has turned into a hotel for the foreseeable future. And yes, I am prone to the odd bit of home baking. Last week I even skinned a salmon (won’t be doing that again). Waltons, however, we are not. There are no sweet serenades at the end of the evening, as we sing Goodnight to each other through the walls. “Goodnight Johnboy” is now a rather a high pitched “GO TO BED” as I collapse onto the sofa to write the 150 Christmas cards I’ve just made on the computer. Yesterday I actually (really, actually) thought I was going to have a heart attack as I raced from a meeting with Poppy under one arm (try trying to look like a professional with your toddler in tow because the childminder you have for a whole 3 hours a week cancelled), and her lunch under the other as I had to feed her in the car on the way to pick up Daisy who I was late for and had to call another mother to hold onto her for me till I got there, so that I could put Poppy to sleep as soon as we got home, so I could make the mince pies for the freezer, so I could get Poppy up and Daisy and I out to the shopping centre to get all the stuff I need for this weekend’s visitors, and back in time to give them their tea so I could get the presents wrapped and the lists done for four days of Xmas meals around Christmas so I could order the turkey and ham today and get the cards printed so I could write them today so I can post them tomorrow (50 done, 100 to go), so I could change the sheets because my mum was down last night and my father-in-law is over tomorrow and we only have one set, and then Daisy wet the bed last night at 3am and I had to get up and change it and so I had to get the waterproof sheet dried to go back on the bed tonight, and shit, I haven’t hovered, but I might have time tomorrow after I’ve dropped Daisy to school and taken Poppy to ClapHandies and walked home and made the dessert for dinner before getting Daisy up and taking her to dance class at 4.30pm on a Friday afternoon at the other end of town but she likes it and all her old friends are there from our old house so we go there instead of the one down the road with no friends and then get back about 6.30pm and try and feed, bath and TV them before 7pm, when I am supposed to then get my novel out and get inspired and write for 3 hours, but usually only manage the sofa and a box of Black Magic. Did i mention I shout a lot?

Can someone please tell me why I can’t make life easier for myself? Why can’t I just go to the bloody shops and buy a packet of biscuits? Why can I not relax and enjoy the moment? Today, I took my mum and the two girls to the National Concert Hall to watch the Snowman, while the orchestra play the score live and a choir sings. It was stunning and beautiful and special. And I almost didn’t enjoy it because I was so stressed about the fact Poppy didn’t sleep in the car on the way, and my well-planned, well-ordered day was at risk of falling apart. Thankfully at one point, I rested my head on my mum’s shoulder as Daisy sat mesmerised holding my hand, and Poppy nestled into my chest and I took a deep breath. It was a good moment. Why can’t I take more deep breaths? Is it just me? I don’t think so…. Why are we so pulled apart from every day living? Why is motherhood so hard? When am I going to be able to take a deep breath, and when oh when did it all get so bloody complicated? Even the girls are finding Christmas too much! I think all I want from Santa is a day off.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feast or Famine

There are several advantages of not having family living nearby…… no over-enthusiastic visiting from mums and mother-in-laws; no loosing your husband to Saturday DIY sessions at the grandparent’s house; no Sunday lunch obligations; no cousin babysitting. Of course the disadvantage list is longer with no free babysitting taking the top three spots. Actually, the top five.

Somehow when our families were settling down everyone had a philosophy of “pick a country, any country” and therefore ended up flung around Ireland and Britain like children playing hide and seek in a large house. Our kids don’t have a single relation living in their own country – grandparents in Northern Ireland, Vietnam and England, cousins in Scotland and Brighton. In our family, we don’t have get-togethers, we have invasions. Take this Christmas – our first in our new house. “Come see us” we offered excitedly in our drunken champagne exuberance of actually owning a family home. And so this Christmas our family festivities are a bit like the proverbial bus – we don’t see them for months, and then they all arrive together.

This weekend my parents drove down from Belfast and my brother’s family flew in from Scotland. And it all sort of whizzed past me in a blur of noise – 6 adults and 5 children shouting, screaming, laughing, pushing, shoving, eating drinking, talking, and eating and drinking some more. And suddenly as quickly as they all arrived, they’ve all gone, leaving the house shell-shocked and me wondering if it actually all happened. The Christmas tree is about the only thing left standing, and even it looks pretty dazed.

Last weekend it was my husband’s brother and all his kids. Next weekend it’s his dad. Christmas is his mum, step-dad and Aunt and at New Year we have 18 (yes… count them with me – 8 adults and 10 children including us) for three days. I feel like I’m on some sort of entertainment rollercoaster where life has become a cycle of shopping, cleaning and changing beds followed by a manic three days of not seeing my own children while up to my eyeballs in whatever breakfast, lunch and dinner I’m trying to conjure up to feed the masses, following by the shopping, cleaning and changing beds again.

Hubby and I have a dream of someday opening a small but quaint B&B by the sea… I’m beginning to loose my enthusiasm. Anyway, must dash… got the beds to change..……

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Movie Star Syndrome

The last couple of days I’ve felt like a movie star. OK, I regularly feel like a movie star…. Matt Damon, Ryan Gossling, Matt Damon… but I mean it differently this time. This time I felt like two movie stars… sadly though, neither was exactly glamorous.

On Sunday, I was Mary Poppins. Without the flying umbrella. It rained, it poured and as the Old Man snored off his hangover, I hung out with the girls, making pancakes, singing carols and even making curtains for their playroom. Then, as the thunder rolled, we pulled the curtains at 2pm (how gorgeously winter), lit the fire (how gorgeously Christmassy), cuddled up on the sofa (how gorgeously gorgeous) with a large bowl of sweets, and watched Happy Feet. A perfect day…. (rounded off rather deliciously once the kids were in bed with a bottle of wine and a double dose of X-Factor…)

Yesterday however, I turned into Cruella de Ville. With a chirpy smile on my face to lull them into a false sense of security I took them to the local hospital for their Swine Flu Jab. As we queued and filled in forms, they danced and laughed and played – oblivious to the outraged screams of pain coming from the other room. Pale faced parents carried red faced children back through our room, but my girls danced away, blissfully happy in the trust they have that I will never cause them harm. I did try to explain, but there’s a fine line between a warning and scaring the beejaysus out of them.

So they led us into the room and behind the curtain. And now I had to make a choice. Who was going to go first? Who would be braver? I opted for little Poppy to have the blissful ignorance, judging I could rationalise better with Daisy. As the needle plunged into her podgy thigh, she screamed, her shocked eyes wide and accusing. No-one was laughing now. Especially Daisy. She now knew what was coming, and she was intent on going. She made a run for it but I managed to pull her out from under the table, desperately trying to ignore her wretched cries “Please mummy, don’t let her hurt me! I don’t want a hole in my leg!” I soothed her with (false, let’s face it) words of comfort but it still took me and another nurse to hold her down while the second took the plunge.

In fairness they recovered as soon as soon as two lollipops made an appearance, but as we sat in the recovery room (I have no doubt this is in fact for the parents to have time to get their legs to stop shaking rather than to see if the children have a reaction) Daisy looked quite determined, hands on hip, stamping of foot. “I am never coming back here again!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her she would be… round two is in three weeks. Oh joy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Those shoes

In answer to another of Josie’s excellent blog prompts at her Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak, here is my answer to “Find a picture of a shoe that best sums up your personality” (of course, I’m late and the workshop is over – maybe I should have put up a running shoe since all I seem to do is run from one thing to another?!).

So here is my wedding shoe. Look at this shoe – shiny, glittery, impractical and glamorous. Just like me. Then. Look at that ankle – slim and waxed. Look at those toes – trimmed, manicured, and painted. Look at that heel – soft.

And even though I no longer have those ankles, those toes, those heels, I do have those shoes. And that makes up for a lot. The ankles may have thickened and be less poised due to permanent flat-shoe-pram-pushing action; the toes may be chipped, unclipped and hairy; the heels may be hardened from carrying two toddlers, 14 bags, an assortment of nappies, half eaten apples, 11 mini boxes of raisons, spare pants (Daisy’s not mine I hasten to add) and a small bottle of bubbles for what seems like 12 hours a day, I still have the shoes, which still gleam and shine and glitz. They are still impractical but I love them. Occasionally when I carry another load of washing up the stairs I stop, pick up the dusty box, lift the lid and gentle pull apart the tissue paper, the sparkle lighting up my face like a treasure trove of gold. They are my Gina shoes. I’m allowed to be proud, since they are the only pair of shoes I am ever likely to own that have their unique brand name….. unlike all my others from M&S and Next that share their name with a shop that also sells, pants, socks, thermal underwear and those fuzzy nightdresses that very very old ladies wear.

They nearly cost more than my dress but I threw caution (and Euro) to the wind as if I knew they would be my last act of irresponsible, decadent frivolity. And although now I can barely walk the length of the kitchen in them, they danced for me for five hours on my wedding day.

And although now it is my girls that bring me my daily dose of sparkle, every so often I run upstairs to slip into something more uncomfortable and wear them to dinner with my husband… they raise me up, and not just with their 6 inch heel. And so to use that old wedding wisdom, when I wear these shoes…. From the past I borrow, and cannot feel blue, because when I feel old, they make me feel new.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Great Expectations

There are many reasons I love Dickens – his word wizardry aside. Who could not love a writer who gave me this perfect antidote in my hour of need when I weigh up washing my dirty laundry in another spin cycle, versus airing my dirty laundry on another blog cycle. “Mrs Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself.” Bah Humbug says I, clearly cleanliness is highly overrated. We’ve all been in houses like that and it’s no place for a child.

But still, just to keep us in a technically clean and safe environment I used to clean the house constantly. Not constantly clean the house you understand – of course I ate and shopped and played with the girls. But in between that, I cleaned the house constantly because sadly time never stands still. Not even for a millisecond, so the moment I have finished hovering, I see a speck newly gleaming on the carpet, magically morphing before my very eyes from a clean spot to a now dirty spot. As soon as I’ve tidied up, the girls empty a container of farm animals and playdo on the kitchen floor. As soon as the laundry basket is empty, a rancid pair of socks appear. So the constant flow of housework constantly needs doing. When people look at my girls and say “Oh you must have your hands full,” little do they know that yes, they are full – of washing, ironing, shopping, food going into the fridge, food coming out of the fridge, nappies, toys, hairbands, pants, socks, dolls clothes, dolls dummies, dolls prams, dolls, window cleaner, cooker cleaner, toilet cleaner, dishcloths, drying cloths, face cloths….

So, what has happened to make me a dirty minx? I got a cleaner. Yep, now someone else has their hands full and I get to be hands on with my girls, and (let’s be honest) my computer. So is my house sparkling like my merry eyes? Is it hell. It’s a pit. A den of dereliction. A heap of hairy carpets, and piles of pants. Do I have a bad cleaner? No, not at all. She’s great – she even puts my washing machine on! I’ve never been so pampered. The problem? She comes once every two weeks. So the first Tuesday of the month, I come home from the school run and step into a palace, gleaming and sparkling and shiny. But the next Tuesday a funny thing happens. The gleam has dulled down, the sparkle has fizzled out and the shine has been replaced by stains. But can I step up to the (dirty) mark? No. I have a cleaner, and as such seem to have been struck down by a complete (and constant) inability to do any cleaning myself. It gets to Wednesday and I think… the upstairs needs hovered, but sure its only 6 days before the cleaner comes. The toilets are a bit grubby, but hey, I have a cleaner. They can wait. I’ve gone from wearing a dishcloth as an accessory to someone with beautiful hands.

So like everything in this world, be careful what your great expectations are. I wanted my house cleaned so we got a cleaner. It’s never been dirtier. Or worse still, I have a cleaner, but I still have to clean. As the great man said, Bah Humbug.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One day....

In answer to Josie’s fantastic blog prompts in her Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak, here are my thoughts on my dreams for ‘one day…’

One day, I’d like to fulfil my dream of having a menagerie of weird and wonderful animals lounging around in my little backyard pet rescue. Chickens, goats, dogs, cats, donkeys and seals (yes, I know, but for some odd reason I’ve always wanted a pet seal). But then if I had that, how would I go on holiday? Better not.

One day, I’d like to be someone famous and glamorous – maybe an Oscar winning actress heading off to the awards having had my hair, and body and clothes ‘done’ by the experts with George Clooney on my arm (I usually have this dream while carrying the washing up stairs, or the ironing downstairs, and jump in fright when I see the wild woman of the west staring back in the mirror). But then would I want that crushing media exposure? And isn’t George Clooney gay? Better not.

One day, I’d like to have a squillion euro so I could lounge around the Med in my yacht while the nannies feed the kids with the food made by my chef, while my masseuse rubs my shoulders on the bed newly straightened by my maid. But then, if I had all this, what would I do for a treat? Better not.

One day, I’d like to wake up and have no washing, ironing, folding, cleaning, cooking, shopping. Actually, I’d quite like that another day too. Better not think about that too much.

One day I’d like to wake up and roll over and kiss a gorgeous guy and know he loves me. Then I’d like to go into the bedroom next door and get kissed and cuddled by two gorgeous girls who call me mum. Then I’d like to call my mum on the phone and know all my family are alive and happy. Then I’d like to open my laptop and immerse myself in my blogging world and see how all my internet friends are doing, knowing this mothering writing lark is hard but I’m not alone. One day I’d like to write for a living – a blogging life, a writing life, a full and frantic family life, with a cat, 3 fish and two chickens on the way.

Oh wait, that’s today!

One day I’m going to stop moaning and wishing my life away, and enjoy what I have, when I have it. Maybe I’ll start today…… no more ‘one days’. That said, one day
I’ll get round to doing another of Josie’s prompts…. Thanks Josie!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm cracking Christmas

There are times when my outer children reach in and grab my inner child by the hand and pull her out to dance around the house. But at Christmas, my inner child steps out all by herself, grabs everyone by the hand and takes no prisoners.

I know, I know, it’s only November. Mid-November at that. But I’m one of those really annoying people who love Christmas so much, I start shopping in September. I can’t help myself..... I just love being Santa’s little helper. I normally hate shopping. I’d rather be naked than bustle busily in crowded shops at sale time. But Christmas? Bring it on! If there is a website on gifts, I’ve surfed it. If there is a catalogue, I’ve flicked it. If there’s a shop, I’ve browsed it.... although this year I’ve added arts and crafts websites to my list in an attempt to make some presents and cut back on costs.

I’m actually giddy with girlie glee at the prospect of decorating the new house and seeing my girls shine in the glow of the fairy lights. And it seems my Festive Fever is catching.... Daisy and Poppy have been wearing their Santa dresses since August! So to kick off the jolly season, and get us all in the mood, here are my top ten reasons why Christmas is cracking....

1. It fuels my fury for colour coded charts and love of lists. With presents to buy, family to entertain, a house to decorate I am in UBER List Mode…. a state of near delirium. My fridge is a veritable rainbow of charts, and I’m showing great self-restraint by not producing the glitter highlighter pens until December.
2. I have a rather worrying penchant for tacky decorations – we have more singing snowmen, laughing Santa’s and glowing Rudolfs than Hamley’s toy store... Ho Ho Ho.
3. It’s an excuse to go shopping, even if the stuff isn’t for me. And let’s be realistic, prams weren’t really designed with children in mind... sure walking is better for them anyway. Prams are the ultimate bag carrier.
4. I get to eat the Christmas Tree shaped cookie that the girls and I make on Christmas Eve for Santa, reluctantly leaving one solitary chocolate chip on the plate to show how hungry he was.
5. I get to drink a very nice bottle of red, in front of the fire with hubby on Christmas eve as we wrap presents and stuff stockings.
6. It’s the only time of year I can realistically get away with wearing something sparkly and not look like mutton dressed as lamb.
7. I get to add another wine choice to my evening splurge.... white, red, rose and mulled... oh the decisions.
8. Eating. Lots. Of. Chocolate. I do this all year anyway, but now I can do it guilt-free.
9. We are allowed to forget the limited TV rule, and curl up on the sofa in front of the fire and watch the Snowman with the girls.
10. Watching their faces on Christmas morning when they realise that Santa really has come down the chimney and left them presents.

Christmas will be a little leaner this year, but that’s ok...because the best parts of Christmas are priceless.

May I be the first to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Accepting acceptance

For someone who rushes everywhere at warp speed – I’ve even been known to eat my breakfast and clean my teeth at the same time - I realised recently I’m actually a bit slow. Daisy starts school next year but it’s somehow taken me 4 years and 30 days to really come to terms with the fact that I’ve become a mum. Like I said, a bit slow.

Despite my kaleidoscope of colour coded charts, my litany of lists, and my plethora of plans, I actually didn’t see the wood for the trees – or to be more specific, the news for the nappies. I’m a mum. A walking, talking, baking, cooking, smiling, yelling, singing, driving, bum wiping, work-at-home mum. I fought a good fight, but I finally surrender… and of course, wonder why I bothered to fight at all.

One of my favourite authors, Alice Walker, wrote a disturbing but incredible book called Possessing the Secret of Joy. All the way through the story, the main character ponders the assertion that black people possess the secret of joy. At the end of the book, in heart-stopping drama, she is finally given the answer. Resistance is the secret of joy. And maybe subconsciously I adopted that because I did a pretty good job of resisting my maternal mantel – and despite never being happier, never complained more.

But I realise now, for me at least, that my secret of joy is not resistance. My secret of joy is acceptance. I like this life. Accept it. I thrive in this life. Accept it. Damn it, I think I’m even good at it. Accept it.

And the reason all this has come into my thoughts was reading so many of my fellow mummy bloggers and the recent chat about why we write our blogs. I write mine to use my brain other than for calculating the salt content in Barney crisps; to capture moments in time because said brain is like a sieve; to remind myself in the future how I felt; to remind myself now how I feel. Because writing is like therapy… and like all good therapy it takes a while to work through the crap and see the smiling baby shining down at you all the time. So writing has helped me accept the change that children brought to me. And finally I write because I very much like my blogging mummy friends….. and accepting that I’m not the only one enjoying this gig – but struggling with the washing, cooking, cleaning, time suction and other ranting that we share with each other…. Among many other things.

So here is to acceptance. And accepting friendship in cyberspace. In particular I’d like to thank a few fellow fighters who have helped me work through the therapy!

Hot Cross Mum
Sleep is for the weak

Who’s the mummy
Musings in Mayhem
Re-writing motherhood

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A little something for my hubby

Do you know the best thing about life? It goes on.

But best of all, it goes on with you.

And while we mourn the loss of our unborn children, it is our two very present children who make us smile, despite ourselves. We’re still coming to terms with my new official medical identity – multiple miscarrier – and that means a new road of tests and scans and lots of questions and few answers. And I know I’m probably not the easiest of people to live with right now….. as someone who loves a colour coded chart more than life itself, I’m finding it hard to breath in these un(coloured) chartered waters, where the future we dreamed of is so uncertain, in terms of babies at least. What is certain though, and what keeps my head above water is that Daisy’s beauty takes my breath away in a completely different way, and Poppy’s mischief makes me smile, even in my sleep. And that you are here with me, always.

And so yesterday I took a deep breath, and we celebrated all that we do have. Our 5th wedding anniversary was the perfect way to look back and see the good, despite the bad. Amid our cocktail sipping, we wondered how so much has happened in such a short period of time. Five years – five pregnancies, five new wrinkles, five big rows, five job changes between us, and about 50,000 nappies. But also too many laughs to count, too many adventures to number. But the best number by far was our two daughters – two beautiful, funny, heart-stopping, breath-sucking, life-affirming daughters. And one story that still makes me giggle - you proudly putting up a curtain against our front door to keep the draft out. Which it did… unfortunately it also kept everything else out too as you nailed the curtain rod actually across the front door so we couldn’t open it. I love you despite your DIY skills, not because of them.

In five years, we’ve had more highs and lows than we ever expected. I suppose they don’t call this a rollercoaster ride for nothing. And as life goes on, so does the ride, and as I take your hand my lovely, I know as long as you are with me, I’ll be holding on tight and looking forward to every moment. Just as I was back then when, in the first flush of romance, I knew there was no-one I would ever want to jump into this adventure with but you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How did I become that woman?

For someone who never wanted the traditional family life, I sure as hell pursued it with a passion. In my youth, I craved excitement, not commitment; I sought travel, not stability; I choose freedom, not responsibility. But then I met someone who made my world turn on its axis – someone who was following all these paths too it has to be said – and somehow together we wanted something different. Something more.

And so, before I really knew what was happening, I became a wife, and a mother and – still shaking my head in disbelief – a stay at home mum. I went from travelling to Iraq to witness the impact of the oil-for-food programme on children with UNICEF, to travelling to the toilet to witness the impact of date and banana smoothie on my children. And although it took me time to adapt, despite the shock, it actually felt like coming home. It felt right.

So how suddenly has my life become so wrong? Two days ago I lost my 5th baby, my third miscarriage. How did I go from the person who had two glorious girls, just like that, without really thinking, blinking or winking an eye. And then the next page turned in my book of life but this chapter feels like it’s been ripped out of another book and doesn’t belong to me. It doesn’t feel right.

How can I go from happy new mum to two toddlers to woman with 3 miscarriages in 18 months? How did I go from mad mum with two glorious girls to devastated woman with three terrible tragedies? I’ve now had more miscarriages than children and I have no idea how that happened. How did this happen? Why did this happen? How have I become this person? Why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why? I am writing this because my anger has consumed my grief. I have cried so much for my last two losses (cruelly, my last baby was due this week) and now, to be devastated and disappointed again is too much. How can I turn back the page to the woman who had it all and no fear about having another baby? I don’t want to be this woman who is scared, and unsure, and lost, and bereft, and desperate, and disappointed, and shocked. For someone who never wanted the traditional life, I now need it more than anything in the world – I desperately need a happy ending.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

broken bones and unbroken habits

Poor Poppy. After all that wrenching and wailing, it now seems her elbow was broken after all (well, it certainly was after all that wrenching and wailing). When the pain persisted, we took her back to A&E where a tiny fracture was diagnosed. Everything about Poppy is tiny, so why should her injuries be any different? So now she’s sporting a rather fetching (tiny) red cast – she chose red to match her shiny (tiny) red shoes. And so proud is she of her colour co-ordination, she only wants to wear the cast and the shoes. Which is a tad impractical in November.

And as Daisy then went through Poppy’s drawers pointing out all the red clothes that she has to wear for the next three weeks, I realised that they have come down with a severe case of Fashion Faux-pas Fever. You see, I’m a matchmaker of Monica-esque proportions. I match my socks with my bra. I match my bra with my pants. I match my scarf with my gloves. It would be inconceivable for me to wear a blue bra under a red top. I actually wouldn’t be able to leave the bedroom. I’m no clothes champion I hasten to add. The words Alana, trendy and is have probably never been said together in a sentence. I’m more grounded than heeled. But, I can only wear brown boots with a brown coat, or black boots with black jeans. Black and brown shall never meet on me. I know it’s an illness. In the midst of a medley of things that matter, what they eat, how we’ll school them, recession cut-backs, and the multitude of decisions I make every day to keep us all alive and thriving, I allow myself this frivolous fashion foible, this trivial tasking of colour coding clothes, this – lets face it – shallow luxury. I may look 108, haven’t slept properly in years, have 2 inch roots, but damn it, my bra matches my socks.

It’s genetic of course. Just like her arthritis and bad eyesight, I’ve inherited my mother’s “don’t miss-match” mania. And so it seems I’ve passed it on to my girls. Even a broken arm can’t break the colour code. Bless them. Secretly though I was delighted Poppy chose the red cast. It goes with her red shoes, and red coat. How on earth could we have left the house with a colour-clashing cast??

I know, I know, I need to get out more. …. But only if my shoes and coat match.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Love Hurts

So today I felt that parental pain like no other – pain worse than my own, the pain of watching your child suffer. It’s pretty depressing when your child ends up being more heroic than you…

There we were, monkeying around at the zoo, having a whale of a time, when Bang! A wobble, a topple and a thud, and our day tumbled upside down. I knew the minute she hit the floor that Poppy was hurt. Badly hurt. The cry was pitched just that octave above normal, her eyes wide with shock rather than that wide-through-the-crying-look while trying to assess if I was watching enough and needed to upscale the wailing. There was no faking this time.

As I ran with her to the First Aid booth, I knew her arm was broken and the first thing I screamed at the nurse (I’ve given up trying to pretend I’m calm in a crisis) was, “Painkillers! Give her some pain killers!” Naturally enough she did no such thing. But all that time… all those ticking moments that she examined, assessed, asked questions, wrote down details, my child screamed. And while I answered and nodded and gave out my telephone number, I screamed too, inside. “Just take the pain away! TAKE IT AWAY!”

But all I could do was hold her, knowing there would be no pain relief while we waited for the ambulance, no pain relief as we rode to the hospital and no pain relief until she had been poked and prodded by a doctor. A whole horrible, hideous half hour of pain. And it made me want to actually vomit, knowing I couldn’t take it away. But worse was still to come. The X-ray showed it wasn’t broken. Instead, her elbow had popped out of its socket. Turn away now if you are squeamish. I had too. Yes, the doctor took my little 2 year old baby’s twisted arm, pulled it out and wrenched it around until he got it back into position. Poppy hit the roof, and I hit the floor. Hubby had to carry both of us out of the hospital.

Poppy and I spent the afternoon under a blanket on the sofa, recovering. She’s finally asleep now, plied with as much medicine as I can legally give her. I’m not sure I’ll sleep though, no amount of medicine can take away the sickness in my stomach. One painful afternoon and I’m drained. So this is a tribute, a hug, a tip of my cap, a salute to the brave, incredible strong parents who have to do this on a daily basis. To parents whose children are ill and have long term pain. I do not know how you do it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who's a good mother anyway?

Well, not me for starters. So here I am writing a magazine article about good parenting, and as I read through the many emails and blog replies to my survey (thank you everyone by the way), I nod in agreement as people place patience, quality time, sense of humour, creativity and flexibility as the ‘super’ ingredients in the melting pot of parenting. I even tap myself on the back for ticking a couple of the boxes.

And then this morning happened. Trying to get two toddlers up, fed, dressed and out the door by 8.30 is hard enough at the best of times. Add to the chaos, Daisy’s Halloween parade and torrential rain and I was just a smidgen stressed. I hurried them, they harried me. There should be a law against having to face-paint a witch (“with sparkly bits mummy!” ) before it’s actually light outside. By the time we were ready to plunge into the thunderous downpour I was cackling menacingly like the witch I’d just painted on her face. Crackling in an evil, hoarse, shouting, impatient, bad-mother sort of way. I even had a couple of moments as a fully screeching banshee.

Daisy wouldn’t wear the leggings under her witch’s outfit and my patience flew out the window on a broomstick, leaving me in the midst of a foot-stamping tantrum. I yelled to the point where she cried. I even slammed a door. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see ‘slamming doors’ on the list of good parenting ideals.

And I realised that maybe the first rule of being a good parent is that there should only be one child in the relationship? We kissed and made up and she was a bright ray of sunshine again before I could even say Abracadabra. But as my little witch (“I’m a good witch mummy”) skipped into school, this bad witch flew home on her broomstick with a sour taste in her mouth… the bitter bile of guilt.

And as I sit down to write my article on what makes a good parent, I realise it’s a lot easier to write about it….. and a lot harder to do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Calling all Parents

A bit like death and taxes being the certainty with life, you can rest assured there are two things we can rely on in motherhood - endless nappies and endless guilt-tripping. The pressure of parenting is palpable - from the magazines we read (who needs to see some celeb emerging with newborn in size 6 skinny jeans, I ask you???) to the school gates where we congregate (often the most bloody of battlegrounds) - we are bombarded with images and examples of how we are supposed to be. But are they realistic?

I'm writng an article for an Irish parenting magazine on the difference between society's perception of a 'super mum' and how we, the actually parents, think.

As part of my little survey , can I be so bold as to ask ye super / semi-super / not super at all parents your thoughts?

  • If you could list three things that make a good parent, what would they be?
  • Is there one area of parenting you feel intimidated in by other parents / magazines (spending time, parties, fashion, academic results, etc)
  • How do you think the media portray 'good' parents?
  • What 'celebrities' are portrayed as good parents and why?
  • In a rating on 1-10 how would you rate the following in terms of importance (as taken from a widely read magazine) - being a size 8 2 months after birth, child in matching Louis Vuitton accessories, spending quality time with your child...
  • Should we feel guilty for wanting to escape occassionally?

thank you, thank you, thank you.. any other comments very welcome.... one word answers can suffice although any ranting essays are welcome too....

will post up finished article soon. thank you...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My 3 year olds last kiss

Last night my three year old girl – the light that has lit my world since the day she was born – kissed me good night for the last time. It was sad and beautiful.

This morning I hugged my four year old for the first time, and it felt fantastic. It seems like only yesterday I held my breath as I held her in my arms, so awestruck was I at her very existence. Yet in other ways, four years seems like a lifetime, my lifetime before her forgotten, like a murky dream I can’t quite remember.

Only four years of my forty, yet it feels like the other way round. Like all I learnt before would fit into four years, and all I have learnt since into 36. I’ve grown up as much as her, and at times it felt her rising star has shone more brightly in direct relation to my dulling down.

And yet… there are more times her light has shone a beam on me, highlighting a side of me I like better - a kinder, wiser, loving, caring me.

So tonight I will kiss my four year old goodnight for the first time, and see a better me reflected back in the glint in her eyes. We made each other it seems…. So happy birthday to me too….the better me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Disaster days are often the best...

I just had one of “those” days. This one was so bad, it started the night before and kept on going. Having had two weeks of broken sleep, hubby finally returned from his various trips and I scuttled off to the spare room for a good nights’ rest. Sod’s law dictated though, that as soon as I snuggled under the duvet, Poppy’s croupy cough crescendoed and I ended up bringing her in with me, thus my sleep-filled night was a snot fuelled fright, and s’not a lot of sleep was had. It was 5am and I was ready for my bed.

We pulled back the morning curtains and searched for the sky, but the sun had put her hat on and marched off to another continent. It rained, it poured and the heavens snored thunderously. And being Dublin - where let’s face it, the rain reigns - no-one can cope and everyone and their dog got into their cars (including me!) and it took twice as long to drive as it normally does to walk, so we were late. But before the road rage there was an epic temper tantrum. Screaming and shouting and stamping of feet (that was me), wailing and crying and screeching (that was Daisy) and by 8.30 I was ready for the hills.

We finally got to playschool and Daisy continued her recent phase of not wanting to stay. Poppy on the other hand cries because she wants to go and doesn’t understand she is too young. So I have Poppy in my arms screaming and holding onto Daisy, who is being restrained in her teacher’s arms, screaming and crying and holding onto Poppy. We tear them apart (my heart along with them) and we finally get the right one to stay and the right one to go. It’s 9.30 and I’m ready for a gin.

I decide to head for Ikea to take half the shopping back from the last visit (I think it’s their marketing magic – you go for one thing, buy 20, take half back, but when you are there buy 10 more things, but end up having to take five back and the cycle continues until you are 90 and can no longer drive, but that’s another blog for another day.) Because it’s raining, it takes me an hour and when we get there (Poppy now trying to get herself out of the car seat in protest) I discover it doesn’t open until 11. I have to pick Daisy up at 12 so I literally turn around and head back to school. It’s 10.30 and I’m ready for retirement.

When we get home, I can’t even give them their usual half hour TV (my crucial half hour switch off) because in the midst of our respective tantrums this morning, I threatened Daisy with no TV today and now have to carry it out. It’s only mid-day and I’m ready for a breakdown.

With the mood inside as dark as the skies outside, I decide to abandon all plans to cook, and clean and write. When the pieces aren’t falling into place, sometimes we just need to figure out the puzzle, so I sat down on the floor with my girls and a jigsaw. We ended up doing 21. Yes, 21!

And with each one completed our smiles got a little wider and our moods a little lighter. We talked and laughed and eventually our bad moods lifted. I’ve run myself ragged over the last two weeks trying to do fun things, go to new places (art gallery a DISASTER), and I realised an important thing today. Like the proverbial Christmas present, kids often just want the box. In this case, me. At the end of our jigsaw marathon, I asked Poppy if she was tired. “No. I’m ‘appy”. It’s the end of the day, and I’m ready for that gin, but now, it’s in that “Phew, what a good day” sort of way.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lice are Nice

No, really, they are. I’ve decided not to get hysterical about the hopping, crawling creepies that have festooned themselves in our household hair (my husband’s rather bald head notwithstanding). Instead, I’m going to rack it up as one of those ‘oh the joys of motherhood’ things and focus on the positive. Yes, like I tell my daughters, if you look hard enough, you’ll find the good in everything. (I so much prefer ‘do as a say, not what I do’ but hey ho, here goes)… the positive points of our family infestation.

1. We now all have really clean hair. Seriously, this stuff actually KILLS things..
2. The lice comb finally got out the three month old tangle in Daisy’s hair (it wasn’t really screaming, it was more wild whimpering on her part…)
3. I now feel like a ‘real mother’ with proper child-rearing experiences
4. It is preparing us for other such cringy creatures (“Just wait till they get worms!” my sister-in-law laughed helpfully)

Dear God, is there no end to the disgusting digressions our children take us on? As a little aside while I strain my brain for more lice positives… here’s my top 5 grim gross-outs:
1. lice (despite being nice, honestly… see above and below)
2. worms (even the anticipation of them is enough to make me wretch)
3. poo – everywhere, always, and inescapable. In nappies, on the floor, in the pants. It really is shit.
3. Vomit – on me. Everytime.
4. Snot – 6 months of the year. The height of horror when Daisy wiped her green goo away with my new Boden skirt. Actually wiped her snot on my skirt…

Anyway, I return rather hurridly to my positive points. Now where was I? Oh yes, number 6.

6. The shared experience brought us closer as a family (ok, nobody else would hang out with us…)
7. I can now advice other naïve mothers on what to look for, what to buy, and how to hide away
8. Our hair is really clean… oh, I said that already. But it really is VERY clean..
9. Even lice are nature’s wonderful creatures and must be loved. Even if that means loving killing them.
10. Oh Sod it. I can’t do it! Lice are NOT NICE! They are horrible, harrowing, creepy, dirty, nasty creepy creatures and I have exterminated them!!

Now bring on those worms.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's a Number's Game

Here was my day:

Number of miles walked taking Daisy to school – 6
Number of shopping bags carried home from supermarket – 3 (one a rucksack on back, two in pram squashed behind a crying Poppy)
Number of cottage pies I made? – 8 (2 large, 6 small)
Number of vegetables chopped for above Cottage Pie – 4 carrots, 2 onions, 4 courgettes
Number of buns made (for play date tomorrow) – 12 (with a strawberry on top)
Number of rooms hoovered – 11
Number of corners cut – 23
Number of toilets cleaned – 3 (plus one bath and 2 showers)
Number of trousers ruined by toilet bleach – 1
Number of items arrived from Boden (Hip hip Hooray) – 1
Number of nappies changed – 6 (3 of which would be biologically referred to as rancid)
Number of loads of washing – 2 (including emergency load at 4am after Poppy puked over everything in a 3 foot radius)
Number of emails sent – 5
Number of proposals sent – 1 (number of times checked for spelling – 17)
Number of items not ironed in basket – 63
Number of phonecalls made / taken – 5 (this includes 3 (yes, three) from my mother)
Number of apple pies made – 1 (didn’t want to but had to use last of apples from garden)
Number of rows knitted – 8 (had to watch Land Before Time with girls as they were scared)
Number of ‘I love you’s’ said – 5
Number of jigsaws assisted with – 4
Number of times I shouted at my girls to go to sleep while I wrote this – 5 (not sure if the last one would be classified as a shout or a scream)
Number of blogs written – 1
Number of Gin & Tonics I plan to have now – who’s counting?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Killer Food

I’m lucky to be alive. Really. I’ve had so many death-defying experiences in my life, it’s a wonder I’m here at all……. Or so you’d think if you spent time with my mum. The funny thing is, I don’t actually remember these calamitous childhood horrors, and I don’t appear to be traumatised by my early dances with death. But to hear my mum hover (yes, she hovers so intensely you can actually hear a soft hum) over my children, it would seem that life is one long list of dastardly death traps just waiting to happen.

It all began when Daisy was about two weeks old. I’d (so stupidly, obviously) placed her Moses Basket downstairs close to the table, where, lurking ominously a few inches away was ….. the Murderous Melon. Now being a new mother and all, I had never heard of killer fruit, and for all my voracious reading of baby bibles had never come across this phenomenon. So there I was, gazing goo goo at my little wonder, when I was scared out of my skin by the shrieks of my mother.
“What are you putting her there for? Move her away! Move her away!”
As I frantically looked around for the man-eating tiger, all I could see was the fruit bowl.
“There, there!” she yelled as she pointed towards the (very innocent-looking, it has to be said) fruit bowl.
“What??????” I screamed, fearing some exotic South American tarantula was somehow crawling towards my baby from the depths of the pears.
“There. There… the melon! It might roll off the fruit bowl and fall on her head!”
And thus the legend of the Murderous Melon began.

Over the last couple of years, the Most Wanted List has included the Dangerous Door (dangerous because it opens, you understand), the Terrible Tricycle, and the Sly Step to name but a few. As for letting them out of my sight in a shop…. my mum practically ties Daisy’s top to her handbag. My favourite however, has to be the Killer Crust. One day I’d cut the girls a slice of crusty loaf and pulled off the round hard edge to give them the soft bread in the middle. Daisy, ever the girlie, placed the semi-circle of crust around her neck as a necklace.
“No, No Daisy, don’t do that! It might strangle you!”
“It’s a piece of bloody bread mum!” I shrieked in exacerbation. “Relax!”
How on earth did I grow up to be such a well-adjusted (ahem..) adult – surely if this was my mum, I must have been cocooned in a cotton wool straight-jacket? But I wasn’t. I remember going off to play with my friends in the old deserted railway track and turning up back home when I got hungry. I must have played with dangerous doors and sat next to murderous melons with no ill affect. So why has my mum become scared of my daughters’ shadows?

I’ve decided it’s just one of the many funny foibles of grandparenting. Like taking twice as long to do everything, it’s just one of those annoying things - that bug us mums to the point of murderous intent - that we have to accept (along with all the free childcare and hugs). You see, I’m too close, too frenetic, too hassled, too frazzled, too preoccupied with the next ten minutes of tasks, I don’t have the luxury of languishing in worry about rolling melons and dangerous doors. My level of worry only extends to the main criminal characters – The Road, The Stranger, and The Dog Next Door. Maybe when I’m a step removed too – with all the love and little of the responsibility – I might just be afraid of the Murderous Melon too…... that is, if Daisy or Poppy haven’t thrown it at me first! Now there’s a thought that would make my mum laugh in satisfaction…. My melon demise. You can just read the headline now… “Grandmother felled by Murderous Melon…”
(PS. Sorry mum, you know I love you!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's good to talk...

A weekend of sleepless nights, high emotion, and hugs and happiness. Just another weekend with the girls…. Only this time it was my girl-friends

Four ragged mums decided it would be beneficial to all concerned (our kids most of all) that we step out of the fray for a couple of days and rejuvenate the batteries. That was the official line anyway. The less-tactful truth was we needed to escape the neediness of our daughters and sons, and embrace the solidarity of our sisters by putting on some sassy lippy and abdicating our responsibilities. Oh yes, and drinking copious amounts of Merlot. So off to Donegal we went, a four hour road trip suddenly an opportunity to talk rather than a challenge to survive; loud singing to Abba rather than the Wheels on the Bus; hang when we get there rather than beating the clock before the children implode.

Do I feel well-rested? Do I hell. I feel absolutely wrecked, and delirious with weary exhaustion. Do I feel better? Abso-bloody-lutely. We laughed, we cried, and sometimes we even cried laughing. We walked along a deserted beach, we ignored the kitchen and ate out every meal, we sunbathed (yes, we sunbathed. In Donegal. In September. In bikinies. Not a fleece in sight.) We confessed, we consoled, we provoked and we absorbed. But most of all, we talked. And talked, and talked and talked. And after all that copious amount of busty red wine was drunk? Oh then we really talked. And then some.

I haven’t stayed up to 4am without a baby in my arms for over 5 years! I missed my little girls of course, but I needed – for a little while at least – to be surrounded by these big girls, great, strong, vibrant women, of which it was life-saving to be reminded that I was one.

I’m as tired as I ever was in those endless weeks of nocturnal nurturing…. But I’m as happy too. Girls weekends are great – whatever the size those girls are. Now if only my hubby would agree to let me sneak off for a couple of days to recover…..

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to school

With much wailing, knashing of teeth and beating of breasts, the time has come to acknowledge that summer is finally over. School is starting and the depression has sunk in. I’m talking about me of course. Daisy is fine… my little ray of sunshine actually told me the sun was shining inside her tummy she was so happy. It was me that was wailing and knashing and beating. My long lovely summer of lazy mornings in bed (reading to the girls I hasten to add, lazy mornings in bed by myself are a long lost lament..), lazy breakfasts in our pyjamas, picnics in the park, playdates and playgrounds has drawn to a chilly conclusion, and this morning’s early alarm clock declared my rude awakening that autumn is here and routine has come home to roost.

But it seemed there was another reason I was in my reluctant to return to school mode… I trussed her up in her new clothes and with one final lingering hug I tried to reassure her about her new playschool. “Come ONNNNN mummy!” she yelled impatiently and she struggled from my strangling hold, “I want to go, I want to go, I’m starting a new school!!” I washed over the table top again, I had another toilet trip, I tried to put the washing out …. “Come onnnn” she said through gritted teeth as she hurried me out the door. She skipped down the road and I dragged me feet. “Come Onnnnnnn mummy, I want to meet all my new friends!” I hung my head in dread. I was beginning to realise that this wasn’t the way it was meant to be playing out. Wasn’t I meant to be the happy one? Wasn’t SHE meant to be dragging her feet?

I had to finally acknowledge that it wasn’t just my fear of her starting a new playschool – my chats over the summer to explain that she wasn’t going back to her old playschool because we’ve moved house obviously doing the trick because she didn’t have one millisecond of doubt about starting all over again with new friends. With a shock I realised it was MY reluctance at having to make new friends all over again. It’s ME that has to make new friends with all the parents, remembering their names, their children’s names, their children’s sibling’s names, their husbands (wives) names – not easy when I can currently barely remember my cat’s name! It’s ME that has to look like a good calming, responsible parent rather than the chaotic, holding-it-together-by-a whisker wreck I normally am so that they will trust me with their children. …… so that I can leave MY children with THEM! You see, if I don’t make friends, then I don’t get to arrange playdates with like-minded good-parents-in-disguise, I don’t get to watch my child flourish in fruitful friendships, I don’t get to build those essential “can you pick Daisy up for me, I’m stuck in town” relationships that make life bearable! She’ll be a looser with no friends and it’ll be my fault and she’ll blame me for ever, and never speak to me, and end up putting me in a home when I’m old and frail. Forget exam pressure - parental pressure is much worse! Anyway, can’t hang about writing this. Must have a bath, wash behind my ears and go to bed early. It’s a school night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wet, Windy and Wonderful...ish

So the final piece of the motherhood jigsaw has fallen into place – the last singleton pleasure usurped by the wishes of two tearaway toddlers. Gone are the lazed holidays by a sun-drenched beach…… now are the crazed holidays by a rain-drenched beach.

We are having a ‘staycation’ as the recession-minded media are calling them. And we’re not just holidaying in Ireland. Oh no… we’re braving the wilds of the most rugged island off the west coast of Ireland… there’s nothing between us and America but a few hostile weather fronts and the Atlantic Ocean. And don’t we know it. “It’ll be an adventure!” we thought. Mmm. We had to abandon the tent on the first night due to ‘adverse’ weather conditions… otherwise known as a bloody big storm. Now, securely sleeping in a rather more stable structure, our Achill Island adventure is rather more the Wild Wild West than Dora goes Exploring.

My beach body has been replaced by beached whale body as I comfort eat between rainstorms. Who needs sunburn when scorch marks from a blazing fire at night scar our shins just the same? Who needs expensive Spa facials when sandstorms and North Atlantic howling winds take two layers of skin off for free? Who needs cooling cocktail umbrellas when you can throw your inside-out umbrella in the bin and surrender to the elements? Trapped in a small (we’re calling it ‘bijou’) holiday cottage, rain pounding the windows in relentless laughter as we try and entertain two children who have yet to unwrap that “we’re on holiday, we’re meant to be relaxing” gene, hubby and I keep looking at each other with a look that can only mean one thing…. Next year we are so going abroad. To the sun. And a fun park. It’s really amazing how much one bedraggled eyebrow can say.

But then again, part of me is delighted with our little adventure. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Isn’t this what we experienced as children, and didn’t it make us, well, more robust? Achill has probably never been called balmy, so today we were probably barmy as we ran onto the deserted golden beach (the best thing about Ireland is the beaches, the worst thing about Ireland is its rarely warm enough to enjoy them) the second the sun scurried out from behind a cloud, as it eagerly shone on us before the next grey sky descended. We might have had 15 layers of clothes on, but that sun was shining so we were going to enjoy it! The girls ran up and down the beach like manic munchkins, danced with the waves and collected shells. Daisy hasn’t stopped singing and talking since we got here, running from one rock to another in boundless energetic excitement. I even braved the fiendishly cold Atlantic Ocean and went for a swim. It was cold yes, but it was exhilarating in a way I’ve barely felt since childhood. We explored the rock pools and threw clumps of soggy seaweed at each other, then we wrapped ourselves in towels, added another three layers of clothes and headed to the nearest pub for some fine Irish seafood – thick warm chowder swarming with prawns, fishcakes crammed with salmon and trout, scampi as fresh as the fish we just left in the rockpools. Stuffed to our gills, we rolled home, sand stuck in places sand is not meant to be, faces ruddy, and exhausted in that way only wild windy days can make you. The kids are asleep upstairs, sleepy smiles settled on their weather beaten faces. Hubby and I are cradling cups of warm wine by a smokey turf fire. Even the wind has mellowed. The sun may not be shining on our holiday, but the girls’ sunshine is making it a scorcher. That said…. Where’s the ClubMed brochure for next year?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arming them for life

Slightly bereft at having to chuck my much-used colour coded planning chart in the bin, I wave goodbye to my family. Left alone with my girls and a vacant diary, I feel the emptiness only a great time of love and laughter can leave in its wake. Every year, my mum and dad, my brother’s family, and me and mine all converge from our various corners of UK, Scotland and Ireland for a mass gathering of Kirk capers and quality extended family time. Of course, they’re not extended family to me, they are an extension of me, my family before I had a family.

This year they all came to me to be captivated by our new house and capitulated to my organisational orgy of planned activities (red), sightseeing (blue), culinary caterings (green), sleeping arrangements (purple) and picnic sandwich fillings (pink).

It was fabulous. For a week we all lived as maybe society originally intended – all together, sharing time and tasks. My girls loved showing their grandparents their new toys and dance moves, and I loved showing my parents our new furniture and surroundings. We picnicked, we walked, we beached, we parked, we playgrounded, we laughed, we talked and we ate. And then my brother arrived with his troupe and our family enlarged like a heart heaving with happiness. For three days, five kiddie cousins learned about each other. Friends enough not to be strangers, but strange enough to be exciting friends, they ran around the older generations like buzzing bees on a spring day. We all smiled at their energy, their imaginations, their spirit; new friends in our old family. And maybe I smiled most of all. I mentally added three more bullets to my children’s ammo belt of life. To watch my two girls absorbed in such intensity, besotted with six year old Ellie (who as an older girl is an object of pure adoration), while playfully joking with Tom and Alex, their twin boy cousins, for three days they were happily lost to me as they familiarised themselves with their family, courted their cousins, and built a bigger platform for their step off into life.

I smiled because I always visualise a belt around their waists you see, an invisible belt of ammunition for building their confidence, their happiness and for self-defence as they battle their way through life’s little wars and woes. Their dad and I are the lazer guided missiles, keen and catastrophic in our ability to defend and protect, the foundation blocks on the platform they will leap from in time. Their grandparents, uncles and aunts are the hand grenades to be lobbed to devastating effect, their love providing building blocks for the girls on their first steps up in life. Their godparents, cousins and friends are the bullets, quick fired and sure, all stepping stones so they can reach as high as they can. The more ammo they have – the people who love them, and care about them, people to teach them and guide them, and play with them, the better armed they are for life.

So I smiled because the firepower of family is fierce. And in the next day or so, our family extends further still, as a new cousin is born. Another bullet on my girls’ ammo belts. Another person to love them and be loved.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Beauty is Pink Deep

Part of being a mum, especially a mum to two girls, is that I teach them not to see beauty as skin deep. It seems every time I open a newspaper I read another survey about how hard girls are finding it living up to the spectre of skinny vacant role models that bombard our once cultured lives. But despite my pontificating that their cleverness, their kindness, their lovingness, their imaginations are what also make them beautiful, it seems my nearly-four year old has other ideas…….beauty is in fact, merely pink deep.

The other day I dressed us all up to go off and meet my friends for lunch, and I said to them, “You both look so beautiful today” admiring their pretty dresses. Daisy looked at me and then, returning to her dolly, spoke to me without looking. “But you are not pretty mummy,” she said in a disappointed voice.

I stood back in mock horror, “But why, Daisy?”
She looked me up and down. Yes, my three year old daughter actually looked me up and down.
“Well, your shoes are pretty” she conceded, noting they had a sparkling stone on them.
“And your clip” she admitted, seeing the sparkle there too.
“And your necklace,” she supposed, being that any jewellery is good in her book.
“But mummy, your trousers are not pretty. They are trousers, and blue. They are not pink and not a dress and therefore they are not pretty. You are not pretty when you wear blue trousers.”

Well, you can’t argue with that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

who me?

As a mum, I’ve long got used to toothy grin trophies, hugs instead of handshakes and stinky bottoms instead of shiny booty. So imagine my hands-in-the-air-hoorays (picture Meryl Streep jumping on the bed to Dancing Queen and you have it about right) when I received a MEME award for my writing (not my 10 veg cottage pie, not my standing-up-nappy-change-in-20-seconds record, not my piñata making skills, but my grown up, life of my own, writing!) from fellow (and exceptionally good) ((well, she does have very good taste, don’t you think?)) blogger, Hot Cross Mum. To be recognised by my comrades-in-laptops is especially rewarding – a bit like a huge “I love you mummy” hug at the end of a long day from my girls for being their mum, except for something I do for myself. So thank you Hot Cross Mum… you made my week. In order to properly accept my award I have to do two things. I have to pass on the award to 7 of my favourite bloggers and I have to share 7 of my personality traits….

So without further ado, I present to you…. the 7 blogs I enjoy the most (not sure if I’m breaking the rules by including Hot Cross Mum because she nominated me, but it’s one of my favourites, so it’s staying!)
Hot Cross Mum
Her bad Mother
Musings in mayhem
Re-writing motherhood
Mothers who write
Creative Construction
Mommy writer

Phew – these blogs keep me inspired, encouraged and amused – three fairly essential talents.

So now for the hard part. 7 personality traits of mine…… should I be modest, or boastful? Fantastical or funny? Since I love reading and writing, I’m going to try and do this using my favourite books (thankfully Jackie Collin’s The Bitch is NOT one of my favourites…)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austin) – I can be bull-headed and determined, and have great pride (mostly internally combusting rather than externally extolling) in my wonderful hubby and two amazing girls…… making me rather prejudiced that they are the best in the world.
Colour Purple (Alice Walker) – I am rather partial to a colour-coded chart, my organisational obsession leading to lists upon lists, and colour coded charts to plan our every move. (If I said I was spontaneous too, would this complicate things?). Also my favourite line in the book is one of my life mottos – it’s hard to walk past the colour purple and not be thankful for life.
Four Letters of Love (Niall Williams) – I love writing, and letters and diaries (and blogs) have been my outlet all my life. And also there are four letters in my hubby’s nickname and I love loving him.
Bel Canto (Anne Pattchet) – this relates to my determination (after 15 years of trying) to master the art of song – in particular, how to play a guitar. I am determined, therefore I will succeed, it’s just that between child-rearing, novel writing, socialising, and life in general, it may take another 15 years.
House of Spirits (Isabel Allende) – I’m spirited – I’ll try anything once, and if I don’t like it, maybe twice…. I like fun and want our lives to be as full of it as possible. Put it another way, I have get-up-and-go…. if only I could get-up-and-go to the attic a bit more and finish my novel
Making Babies (Anne Enright) – something I never thought I’d do or enjoy but has become the best thing I do….. hopefully it’s not just because there are more names to organise on my colour-coded charts but that it is who and what I was meant to be (along with a award winning, guitar playing, skinny, novelist….. ah, I can dream.)
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) – not because I steal books, but because I am notoriously precious about mine and do not lend them to anyone unless they give me a gold watch and their house as security that I’ll get mine back. I can’t even use the library (although I think libraries are the best things ever invented) because I could never hand back a book I loved. It has to sit on my (creaking) bookshelves so I can touch it occasionally. Sad, I know, but true.

So there you go…. my best books and my personality traits in one. We mums are so good at multi-tasking…..

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer time and living is easy...

I feel like a child again. For the first time in years I have a lazy summer holiday ahead of me. Now, I feel like it’s reward for all the hard work. Now, I realise what it’s all about. Now, I remember why I gave up my job. Now, I understand I did the right thing. Now, I’m having fun.

Somehow in the blur of birth and the chaos of child-rearing I careered into seeing being a mum as a job, with hard long tedious repetitive hours, little appreciation and not much gratification. It seemed there were days that all I did was respond to the needs of others. And when my job was done, I was too tired to respond to my own needs and write. But suddenly the sun has appeared from behind the clouds (metaphorically I assure you, as the sun is definitely staying away this summer) and the summer holidays are upon me. School’s out for summer and I’m no longer a mum. I’m just a kid, hanging out with her friends. Because suddenly, that’s what my two girls have become. Suddenly, I don’t feel I have to do every single thing for them. Suddenly Daisy can dress herself and Poppy can make a pretty good attempt. Suddenly the possibility of no nappies is nearly upon me. Suddenly they can all talk and chatter and play together and I’m no longer the only person who can satisfy them. Suddenly I want to join in and it has all come together and despite the crappy weather (oh the joys of an Irish summer) it’s just me and the girls…. and girls just wanna have fun. While hubby still trundles the toiling treadmill (oh how I used to resent his ‘escape’ to the outside world), we live in a different world – a world of picnics and playdates, adventures and days out, lunches and high teas, breakfasts in the garden, lunch in the park, tea in Applejacks up the road. And while he still marches to the rules of work and wage, we dance to a different tune, our routine random and reckless. I dreaded Daisy finishing up at playschool for the summer, and now I dread her returning in September. My holiday will be over along with hers. Oh I still have colour coded schedules on the fridge (you can take the girl out of work but you cannot take the project manager out of the girl!), but now it is filled with new activities (red), lists of parks to picnic in (green), beaches to explore (yellow), daytrips to plan (blue)…. lazy mornings at home in the garden (sun permitting), or baking (rain insisting) not colour coded but as important as the rest.

And so once again, motherhood turns me on my head. For years now, I have resented my hubby’s ‘freedom’, planned Houdini escapes to capture some me time, organised our days in minute detail to save my sanity, dreamt of running away from the crushing neediness of my two adorable girls. And now? Now, I feel guilty when he goes to work, leaving us in bed to read stories, because suddenly there is nowhere else I’d be. Now, I hate having too many things in the diary because suddenly an unplanned day is a joy. Now, I can join in the fun and stop being the boss, because suddenly we are interacting and talking, and playing as friends. I read somewhere that time shapes with silent hands. Often I’ve resented that time, but now I give it freely because suddenly it seems we’ve all grown up, me most of all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Washing up a little nostalgia

I’m not a Luddite, although the fact that it took 6 weeks for us to figure out how to get the internet to work in our new house does suggest my husband and I are not blessed with technological prowess. I might not embrace every new fangled fascinations and I’m no social twitterer (where do people get the time??) but I do throw my arms around and hug all time-saving devices that make my life easier. I often think back to my mum’s time and wonder how on earth she coped with two young children, a job, and no microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, car, disposable nappies and all those other things I just take for granted.

So for a brief moment, when our dishwasher gave up the ghost and had a nervous breakdown, I almost joined it and had a small seizure at the terrifying thought of actually having to wash up after the 1473 meals a day I cook (ok, it’s actually about five but sometimes it does feel like it). But a strange thing has happened. Every time I go to ring the repair man, I hesitate and then find something else to do (washing up for instance).

I’ve noticed my husband and I are talking more. Now, instead of one of us rushing off to do something after dinner while the other silently, solitarily stacks the dishwasher, we have a conversation. A real one. He usually washes up and I stand beside him drying the dishes as he places them in the stupidly small, but very cool rack that is only there for ceremonial purposes (well, when you have a dishwasher, who needs one that is actually practical?). We sling banter at each other, and occasionally he flicks me with water, or I get a great flick of the drying cloth on his leg if I get my wrist action right. It’s been a long time you see, and I’m long out of practise. When I was growing up (with no dishwasher remember) clearing up after dinner was a family affair. Mum would wipe around the cooker, dad would put the condiments away, my brother would wash and I would dry. I remember some of the best conversations with my brother over the kitchen sink. And so it seems again. The death of the dishwasher is breathing new life into our washed out routine.

So here’s my plan. I will get round to ringing the repair man one of these days, because let’s face it - nostalgia is one thing, but reality bites and my hands are beginning to suffer! But I think as my girls get older I might just have to pull the plug occasionally on the time-saving device so we can have some time-enhanced discussions as our busy lives take over.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mini-me bites back

The mirror can throw back some pretty ugly images – especially on a bad hair day. But the mirror of motherhood can throw back some pretty shocking reflections too - especially on a bad mother day.

I will never forget the first time I saw Daisy act out an imaginary scene. She was playing with her doll and I started to watch, entranced by my baby’s transformation into a little girl. My enchantment was short lived when I realised what she was doing. Dolly was firmly placed on the naughty step and being boldly admonished by her ‘mummy’. I was absolutely gutted! All my loving, all my attention, all my teaching and singing, all my playing and reading – and the one bloody thing she copies is me being horrible! Thankfully though as time went on, and especially after I had Poppy, she acted out lots of the good mummy stuff too. I thought all my stitches would come out one day when she tried to breastfeed her dolly!

But suddenly in a burst of déjà vu, she seems to be talking back to me – in MY language.
“I’m not happy with you mummy!” was sternly thrown at me last week. As I tried not to laugh and nod solemnly at my bad behaviour (I had insisted she not wear a dirty dress) I wondered how often I say that? (let’s face it, it’s not that nice).
“What do you say?” she asks me with a superior but very sweet raised eyebrow if I give her a hurried command while forgetting my manners.
“Please,” I say sheepishly. Ah yes, it’s all coming back to haunt me.

And poor Poppy. Not only does she seemingly get it from me, she now also gets it from her big (3 year old!) sister. I’m mesmerised when I hear Daisy talking to Poppy like a little mini-me. “Now Poppy, you really are a silly billy. What are you? A silly sausage. You are not allowed to draw on the walls. Poppy? That’s a one. That’s a two. If I get to three there’ll be no Dora later!” Dear god – the mirror can be harsh!

But then there are the other times, the moments when the mirror on wall says I’m the fairest of them all and I bask in a fleeting moment of positive feedback. “It’s alright darling, everything will be ok. I love you Poppy,” I hear her say in the dark of their shared bedroom when her sister cries. “You need a big sleepy sleepy Poppy, it’s a big day tomorrow.” And I lie in bed and smile a huge heart-bursting smile.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nature versus Nurture

I spend a lot of time trying to analyse my children’s quirks and mannerisms – a self-indulgent attempt to identify some chink in their DNA chain that came from me. Like a charm bracelet, they throw little gems of personality that dangle and dazzle, like flashes of silver lining in the cloud of nappies and toddler emotional outbursts. What chinks of charm have come from me? What jewels of high jinks came from my hubby? What treasure trove of theatrics come from our families? Like Daisy’s shy performance of an acorn growing into a sycamore, I reconstruct our family tree from their blossoming traits.

And while I can often place their quirky origins with a jubilant yelp of “Oh, she’s just like my mum!”, and “Oh, she gets that from you!” – every so often they laugh in my face and trump my house of cards with an ace of their own, a gem on the bracelet that is all their own. New additions to our family collection of traits, a new leaf on their own branch. And it makes me smile as I ponder the nature versus nurture thing. I was recently reminded that it also applies to me, but in a slightly different way. Where nature is all instinct, nurture is all learned, and sometimes you have to remember which is which.

Last week I got knocked off my mothering perch – one I had perilously climbed to sit high and safe in contentment and some satisfaction that I’d finally worked out how to do this gig with some semblance of sanity and success. For a little while I forgot how precarious that perch can be.

One night, Poppy went into melt-down and a few days later, I followed suit. She started crying hysterically when I put her down at night, to eventually fall off some hours later exhausted. Just as I would carry my weary self to bed, she would start again, rejuvenated for another few hours of screeching unless I was with her. After a week of this I was beside myself and no longer mother-in-charge. I shouted, I panicked, I lost my nerve. I tried various ways to stop her – soothing, ignoring, surrendering. No consistency, just chaos. No plan, just panic. No mothering, just madness. I read the books and begged my friends for advice, and they all told me different things. And so was I...

My heart was telling me she needed me and I should just be with her no matter if I never slept. My head (and all my friends) told me to be firm, and strong and don’t give in, we had to break this ‘habit’. Then one morning, her ‘habit’ broke out in spots all over her body. Poppy had chicken pox. She hadn’t been trying to ‘get her own way’, she had been sick. And so was I. Sick with guilt. That night I took her into bed with me and we all slept for the first time in over a week. She had needed me and I had ignored my instinct to respond the way I should. (Luckily she fell out of bed at one point which I wisely reminded her of the following night, so no issues of her demanding a repeat for eternity!).

And so I go back to basics…. Instinct is there for a reason. They are what they are – charming charms on their bracelet of life, some are given and some are grown – and I need to be what I need to be to make sure all their charms are the most precious they can be. I need to trust my nature, so I can nurture them effectively.

That said, its not abnormal for my instinct to tell me to run to the hills, so I’d better chuck in some common sense too!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fickle Fancies

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m fickle. Not only that, I’m shamelessly shallow and materialistic. I also think I’m a bit smug. It took a new mirror to reflect the real me….
Oh how I would mock those grasping celebrity types who looked so needy as they paraded themselves in OK magazine, their homely splendour spilling opulence onto every glossy non-recyclable page, their smug smiles trying to hide their delight at living in a larger house than my tiny little railway cottage, while the rest of us mere mortals tutted and toiled over loads of washing, panted and puffed over endless meals to be planned, bought, prepared and cleared up after, fretted and fussed over the non-existent time we have to pursue our ‘other work’ – be it writing or whatever.

Reading back over my previous but one blog about moving house, I saw how fickle I’ve become when after a week I realised I had not cast a single thought to my old house, not once. Not one swaying tree had disrupted my childish, fiendish delight at my new (spacious – there I go, smug again) home, where I can now officially swing a cat. I haven’t actually tried it yet, but to know I can is enough. Ok, it’s not actually that big, but compared to our previous doll’s house, it’s positively palatial.

We had bought our beautiful (little) cottage because it was quaint and full of character. Then we had kids. Quaint and character are about as useful to parents as a two seater car. So after much scrimping and saving, sacrificing and shameless standard-dropping, we bought a house – completely devoid of quaint character but bursting in super, sensational space. Beautiful things may come in small packages, but maternal merriment comes in a big open kitchen, large landings and enough rooms to loose your kids in. In our old house we could literally step from our bedroom into theirs without touching the 2 x 4 landing, so I actually cried tears of joy the first time I couldn’t find the girls after we moved!

So there you go. I left the sturdy swaying trees for the fickle smug satisfaction of a kitchen I can cook in without braining the children at my feet when I take a saucepan from the pot stand. Ok, so I still have all those loads of washing, but now there’s somewhere to hide it when I can’t be bothered. I still have an unfeasible amount of meals to manage, but now I can do so while watching the girls play in the garden and not in the vegetable cupboard. I still have no real time to write, but I see a spot in the attic room with my name on it where I can sit and muse over my meandering thoughts and hopefully the children will take so long to find me I might actually get something written down.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A grave matter...

Apologies for the radio silence – I went underground for a little while, burying myself away while I tried to come to terms with the loss of another baby.

Just days after seeing the heartbeat and recognising my child amid the black and white confusion of a scan , the little busy heart just stopped, leaving my own beating alone and lost.

From the moment I became pregnant with my first daughter, I have celebrated the wonder of my body, amazed at its ability to provide life-support, to be a host, a nurturing, building wondrous machine. But it never occurred to me that life has an opposite, that death is as real and present as life. And so it should be that my body that can hold life, should also hold death.

For a few weeks after our scan until I knew things had gone wrong, my body was a grave. My baby’s grave. And so it is. For two children I was a life-support and for two others I held their life but also their death within myself. I write this now, not because I want everyone to know, but because I cannot continue to write this blog as if nothing has happened. I have to acknowledge my baby, give it its history, before I carry on with my written amazement at my two beautiful girls.

For a while our hearts danced together, and like all the four hearts that have beat alongside mine, it changed my tune, and I now beat a rhythm that is better for its accompaniment, however short.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leaving Home

6am, lying in bed unable to sleep, the clock accompanying my vigil, ticking time with my hours of thoughts. We leave this house tomorrow, and somebody else’s life begins here.

How many nights have I lain awake in this room? Fatigue, hangover, pregnancy discomfort, babies crying, anxiety, restlessness? How many mornings have I looked out into the square, the trees that have kept watch all night, swaying hello to a new day. I know this house so intimately – you could say we rebuilt it – not a square inch did we not analyse, discuss, rebuild, paint, admire. Literally not one square inch.

I arrived in this house a single girl in love, full of dreams and ambition. Soon after, I walked through the front door in my wedding dress to embark on a new adventure. And back through that beleaguered old door I brought home my two babies, my greatest creations of all. This house is all they’ve known. It is their entire world. In this house I learned to be a new person – a wife and a mother…. and a writer.

I made this house, but it seems this house also made me.

These old thick walls have held the lives and loves of many families in its 160 year history, and so, while it has nurtured me through the most important years of my life, we are a mere chapter in its long life story. But maybe we have left our marks, little reminders that we were here. Our girls’ footprints in the cement, a beautiful garden my husband toiled to create, tearing down overgrown mayhem to plant seed by seed, tree by tree, a magnificent explosion of colour and organised chaos.

We will say goodbye, our whole marriage wrapped in these walls, and as we drive away tomorrow for the last time, the trees in the square, my protectors all these years, will sway their goodbye and we will all start over again. But I imagine a little of our spirit remains: a childish giggle of delight up the stairs; the heat of my upturned face to the sun as I sit in the garden seat; an occasional clatter from my endless hours in the kitchen as I came to grips with the monstrous monotony of cooking for kids; the tapping of my keyboard; the laughter from dinner parties round the table; whispers in the lounge from our talking, our laughing, our rowing, our crying, our loving and more of our laughing.

We loved this house and this house loved us. And on Saturday morning a new face will pull back the curtains at our bedroom window, and I hope she’ll smile as the trees sway hello to a new day.