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.