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.