Shall I?

Shall I start this again? I asked myself loads of times over the last year. By ‘this’, I mean this thing that you are reading now. This blog. Whoever *you* are. So I suppose the question has now been answered because here it is.

This time last year was a flurry of activity. Girl-child had just reached the point of being really engaged and motivated to make stuff. To create. So we got messy and covered in glitter and went out collecting things that we could stick either together, or glitter all over. It felt wonderful. Quiet, gentle hours spent at the kitchen table together, creating.

And then came Christmas, and the flood, and multiple house moves and here we are one year later. Also, I got busy again. Like I was in the beginning, when D was a baby. This time, not nappies, purees and breastfeeding though. This time I volunteered, and in doing so, I entered into a commitment that is at once stimulating, rewarding, frustrating, time consuming and more responsibility than I ever thought possible for an unpaid role for parents. So I suppose I’ve concluded after a couple of months of feeling stressed, that I am missing an outlet. So in the absence of loads of time to get stuck into a visual project, the easiest and most flexible thing to do for me, is string words together. Again.

Already the pages of my private journal have started to fill up again after a very long period of nothingness. Because I missed having the little details of life to look back on, and becauseI miss this sense of untangling and perspective that comes from writing down my worries. In fact, I have been having some therapy again recently, which always helps with the untangling. Sometimes, as I leave the session, feeling lighter and surprised at my own realisations, I wonder if I shouldn’t just carve out one hour per week to scribble and save myself the money (not that I worry about that – it is money well spent) Carving out time is easier said than done. There are distractions outside of the four walls of the therapy room and reasons to let myself down, which don’t apply when I know somebody is waiting for me to turn up.

Showing up for myself is hard.

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Writing Unravelled.

I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Diaries started when I was only about 7 years of age, when my Aunty and Uncle included a tiny blue diary in my Christmas stocking. I wrote what I’d had for tea and that I’d played out on my bike. There wasn’t much room in the diary, or my imagination or my vocabulary at that stage, I’m sure you will appreciate.

Fast forward to age 11 and I used my birthday book token to buy The Judy Blume Diary. I loved Judy Blume. (We all loved Judy. She was the Fairy Godmother that got us all through puberty, but that whole thing with the sanitary towel belt in “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” had me really confused and concerned. Thank God for the powers of self-adhesion.) I digress. This was a diary that came with illustrations, and suggested ‘fun activities’ such as listing your top five whatevers. In hindsight it was really annoying, but the point is, I was 11 or 12 and god, the whole world is so enticing and terrifying at that age, so I wrote it all down. Alongside my musings about whatever boy I fancied, or other worldly dramas, I coloured in the illustrations. It makes my heart ache to think of my little self – traumatised by the Helter-Skelter that is puberty, but still colouring-in like a little girl. Sadly, I read it back when I was in my (far more mature) early twenties, and it made me cringe so much, I threw it away in a massive declutter spree. I have never ever discarded any personal writing or letters ever since. I would LOVE to read that book again.

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In a deservingly cruel twist of fate, I now read back my twenty-two year old “journals” (diaries are for kids, right?) and still cringe. I cringe at how pretentious I was with my language, and my still adolescent drama’s, drunken scribblings and I laugh at myself. Yes, twenty-two year old me, I am laughing AT you. And it serves you right for throwing away your poor little 11 year old self’s diary. (I’m not even sure about the grammar of that sentence, but twenty-two year old me needs telling.)

After Judy Blume, I think I left the whole thing alone for a few years, and during GCSE English, I wrote some cracking stories that Mr. H loved. There was one about three characters called Vera, Chuck and Dave who were smugglers on a Belgian trawler. They drank too much John Smiths and fell asleep under a tree, dreaming that the Mekons from Dan Dare had come to invade Earth. Then they woke up to discover that it was true. Or something. It was ace. I stole my characters, obviously, and I was heavily influenced by sixties music and the comedy of the nineties: Lee and Herrings fist of fun, The Mary Whitehouse experience. I think Mr H mainly like the part about the beer….

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Then Mum died. All I could find was an old exercise book. I ripped out the used pages and just started writing letters to her, telling her how I was feeling, asking her questions. I’d write down all my fears, frustrations, joys. Sometimes I’d write so urgently, and for so long, that my hand cramped up and I struggle now to decipher what I wrote. As long as I could write, I was never alone, and I would never go mad from grief. Writing was and still is catharsis.

Unbeknownst to my conscious brain, writing was happening in other parts of my life too. During my final year at Liverpool University, as part of a communications module, I had to write a piece intended for The New Scientist on a topic of my choice. I submitted 300 words about a new treatment for erectile dysfunction. My professor pulled me into her office and interrogated me – where had I plagiarised it from? This was in 1998, the internet was still in it’s infancy and plagiarism hadn’t even crossed my mind as a tool to aid my frankly, pitiful grades. She awarded me 75% and gave me the very strong impression that she was keeping an eye on me. She did not believe that a borderline 2:2 student was capable of that. Later, in my ‘mature’ studies for Physiotherapy, I enjoyed the part where all my research was done, and I could ‘craft’ the essay.

While travelling, I continued to keep journals, and enjoyed rewriting theses into entertaining emails for family and friends. I had a brief spell attending a night class in creative writing, in the hope that I could challenge my writing a bit more and stretch my personal experiences and imagination into stories. But the poet teacher told me my hard grafted homework poem was archaic, and pulled it apart ruthlessly. I never went back. I later ran into a man who had also been in the class. He remembered a line from my poem, and told me that everyone left after that because she gradually bullied them all away.

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In the last few years I have written less frequently. The reason is, because I’m happier now. ‘Happy’ is a big word and the complexity of why a person feels happy is not for this post, but in essence, I have love in my life. So I found whenever I sat down to write, I’d feel a bit stuck. I had no need to offload anymore, because everything is just fine. But I missed writing. I missed the quiet contemplation. I missed the way my racing thoughts would unravel onto the page, forming orderly reasoning. I missed the sense of relaxation and time lost. I missed getting to the end of another notebook and going out to choose a new one. I missed choosing a short poem to write on the first page – a poem that chimed with how I felt at that time in my life. So starting this blog was in part a way to rediscover that.

Lately though, you will have noticed that there are fewer words and more pictures. I just don’t seem to be able to discipline myself enough to write the kind of blog posts that I’d like, despite having so many ideas! I made a semi-conscious decision that I wanted to write more informative posts, rather than every single one being “Here’s what we did today…!” As it happens, those type of posts take longer to construct, because the topics I’d like to write about, I’d also like to make sure they are well researched and with useful links in them. That part takes time, and I’m quite out of the habit of conducting research, so I lose track of all the bitty bits of research I have managed to do! So the drafts are all sitting there with random sentences all over the place, and that makes me feel unsettled and demotivated. I don’t have a plan how to deal with that yet. Should I do another Blog Every Day challenge? Should I try and start a series on a topic that interests me? Should I join in with one of the many linkies out there?

Why did you start writing? Where has it taken you? How do you make the time to write?

Does anybody have a spare hour they can lend me?

This post is about naps and time. Yeah. It’s deep. So, how do parents who are caring for children find time for the stuff they want to or need to do? I’m not even working at the moment, and I struggle to see where the hours go some days. Am I being unrealistic? My friend works 3 days a week and has 3 children under 6 and still finds time to get her hair done regularly and go running. Seriously – what am I doing wrong? Most Mums will recognise that time and naps, and therefore parental sanity are all cosmically linked. Einstein missed a trick – space and time? Nah, it’s naps and time. Professor Brian Cox – get on it please. Thanks.

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Our Small has never been particularly consistent with sleep. Luckily I ditched any attempts to ‘train’ her a long time ago (but still not soon enough…), so accepting that she’s not going to be one of ‘those’ babies has made it a lot easier to cope with. Lately, she has slept well at night, going down at about 6.30, waking twice – first between around 2am and 4am, and again between around 4 am and 6am. I still breastfeed her at those times, so this makes it easy to settle her and we all stay calm. We co-sleeps from the second waking until around 7am. It works for us. For now.

Daytime naps though, have remained inconsistent. She had a short phase of having 45 minutes in the morning and then another 45 minutes in the afternoon. It was Divine. I either rested, did my own thing for a short time, or got some jobs done. Since about 6 weeks ago though, naps have totally changed again. She no longer wants to nap in her cot, and will only fall asleep in the car or pram. Couple this with her increasing agility and inquisitiveness (climbing, falling, rearranging the kitchen drawer contents, and trying the same with the cupboards. Hello heavy pots and dangerous chemicals…) and it all leads to me not getting much done at all! She’s clearly tired, but can’t settle in her room because she’s excited about everything and then gets upset that I’ve left her on her own *sad face*. So I know she still needs that nap time, and certainly if she hasn’t slept and we get to about 3pm – it’s meltdown time and those two hours until tea time are tough dude.

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I think it’s safe to say the toddler years have begun and I’m working on trying not to say “No” 764 times a day! Now that its impossible to tidy and sort things when she’s awake, and napping means leaving the house, the only time to try and whizz round is after she’s gone to bed and before Mister gets home. I’m really feeling the lack of ‘me time’ right now, and all those resolutions I made earlier in the week, seem totally impossible if I’m honest. I could let up on the chores, but when things get messy and there are piles of stuff everywhere and the bathroom is DRRTY, I find that just adds to my feeling… bleugh! This here blog is my most realistic outlet at the moment, as I can pretty much draft something immediately, without any hassle of setting out sewing machines or changing into gym gear only to have to down tools and go and get her from the cot. I’m mainly adding iPhone photo’s at the moment, but getting my DSLR camera into a more grab-able location might help with at least one of the resolutions.

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Overall, I think modifying my outlook on the resolutions might help too. If I think about my time management skills (something I was never very good at in the workplace either), then some of the other goals will fall into position.

Luckily, following a few nights of regular wakings, last night she slept from 6.30pm until 4.30 and then stayed in her cot until 7am! Here’s hoping we have a similar scenario tonight!

Living Arrows 1/52 & 2/52

As part of my New Years Resolution to get back in touch with my DSLR, I am linking up with I Heart Snapping’s Living Arrows 52 project. The reason I like this 52 project so much for my blog, is that it doesn’t have to be a photograph of the small, but it can be a photo of something which indirectly represents something about her or about childhood.

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Your First Birthday and already you are running, climbing, chattering. Your joyful smile stretches all the way from the back of your head and lights up every room, every person, and you give it so freely. Happy Birthday sweetie x

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Only a week on, and your agility has developed so much already. You clamber and climb and tumble all over the living room with total abandon, and watching you play with this box, I can already see your imagination at work. I can’t wait for you to start talking and tell me all about your adventures.

I took these photo’s on my iPhone and edited them using VSCOcam.

2014 Things.

I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions – I tend to think every day is a chance to change, to start again. I also think January is just about the worst month to start anything remotely virtuous like exercise or ditching any unhealthy habits. Dark nights need dark pursuits ( not vampire slaying or anything – I’m thinking hearty brown stews and chocolate pudding by candle light…) But there is something about the onset of a new year, or writing that date for the first time, or opening a new calendar, that makes you acutely aware that a clean slate lies ahead, a seemingly endless expanse of new opportunities. So here’s what I’d like to do this year.

Re-aquaint myself with my camera – Taking photographs is something that I’ve always loved, and when I bought my first DSLR a few years ago, my pictures got better and better. With the advent of iPhones, instagram etc. the need for lugging about my big camera (along with all the baby paraphernalia) It’s fallen by the wayside. I’d like to try and get to grips with it again, maybe my linking up with a 52 project or Living Arrows as a way to motivate me and inspire me.

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Ten perfectly ticklesome toes, photographed in 2013.

Make time for myself. Many of my own personal ambitions and interests are on hold. There is always so much I want to do, and I become so paralysed by the decisions that I don’t do anything. I never realised before how much my ownership of time would alter once I became a mother, so I know that I’m still not going to be able to do anything, but I’m determined to do something. This will include  a regular craft activity and a regular exercise activity. It might not be the same thing every week / month, but the crucial thing is, that I will make a time for it in my week – and fill it with something. I have already brainstormed a list of small and bigger craft projects and I have tried to be realistic about what I can achieve.

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Getting my craft on baby!

Looking after myself – I’ve let myself go this year. I have a wardrobe full of clothes that I don’t wear because they are too impractical, or too small. My hair has only been cut once in 14 months and thanks to post-natal hair loss and regrowth, its looking pretty scary (hello strange monkey fringe). My friend had her hair cut and coloured today, and seriously, my reaction freaked me out. I was SO excited by it I felt giddy for an hour after I saw it, like some kind of MuncHAIRsons by proxy, if you will. IMAGINE what it would be like if I like my own hair-do?!! I’d explode. Obviously. I’m also a little bit averse to spending money on clothes – I’m never sure if they are going to work in my wardrobe, and also keenly aware of personal finance and ethics of cheap fashion. I think it has to start with an overhaul of my own wardrobe. Chucking out the things that don’t fit anymore, and working in the things that I just don’t wear.

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Exhibit A: Crimes against fashion

Live more thoughtfully. In circa 1988, I learned about the Ozone layer, and promptly educated our hapless but wonderful teacher, press-ganged the rest of my friends into making home sewn badges with matching posters, and went on to be awarded one of the first ever green Blue Peter badges. I also wanted to join Greenpeace, Save the Whales/Elephants/Tigers/Rainforests, as well as go to Africa and help the starving babies. I wanted a better world. I was a hippy in the making. I was a right activist, but it seemed to annoy some people, and I recall a feeling that being a “do-gooder” was not a good thing, and that it was much more important to “get real”. Man, how adults like to confuse the pure and optimistic hearts of children eh? Since then, I guess I convinced myself (or been convinced) that it’s okay to ignore my own impact on the environment, because I’d rather not pay a premium for ‘eco’  or ethical products (part of me does think they are a bit of a marketing invention).  I think the politics and economics of it are very complex, and I’m wary of seemingly hopping onto any ‘movement’ without really understanding it. So my first step with this is to educate myself and try and work out the fluffy floss from the er… pink syrup. Gotta love a candyfloss analogy, no?

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Red lippy is ALWAYS a good start.

Having read them back, I’m aware of how selfish they all seem. But 2013 was such a year of shifting roles and priorities. Becoming a Mum strips away so much bullshit from your life, and makes you hone in on the fundamentals.  My primary focus is very much my daughter, and our family unit and trying to make our home life happy and safe and healthy. For anybody who has not made that shift, that all sounds very easy, but it hasn’t been, and in trying to get it right, I put my own needs at the bottom of the pile. But 2014 is the time to try and bring them back up again. You can’t make anybody else happy until you have made yourself happy. (Just sayin’.)

p.s. You might have realised that there are not 2,014 items in this blog post. The title is a little grammatically ambiguous. Soz for any disappointment y’all.

Slovenly round-up post: Part 1

Eeek… Two weeks since my last post. Well, Christmas happened didn’t it?

Christmas Shopping. I curse thee. There are only two people that I truly LOVE buying gifts for, and another two that I like buying gifts for. The other people it is a pain – I’m not going to lie. It is the very opposite of Christmas spirit. If I don’t give them a gift – I feel mean spirited. If I buy a gift I feel like I have just ‘thrown money’ at it, satisfying only The Man, and contributing to the global crisis of consuming STUFF. If I make a gift (which I may not have time for, thereby adding to the chore of Christmas) I feel like a cheapskate. Either way, I’m doomed to feel like a horrid uncharitable scoundrel. Oh guilt, when will you forsake me?

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Unrelated to Christmas shopping but a bit of bopping to Mary got us through!

My handmade-thrifty-vintage-made-in-yorkshire cop-out. Once again, it didn’t happen. But I did make mince pies – something my Mum always did (along with the seasonal sausage rolls and melba toast, just in case “someone pops round”) It’s a simple tradition that I’m keen to keep up, especially now the little one will be a big part of Christmas. And I did buy some gifts from the local handmade fair. Okay, I’ll let myself off then…

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As for home made decorations. I saw a stall at the Christmas market selling strings of dried citrus fruits for £8 a pop. In my usual spendthrift manner, I cried “Eight pound?” in a high pitched manner, before chuckling at the suckers who were handing over their coinage for this cheapo delight. I bought me some fruit on the way home, got myself on Pinterest and set the oven to LOW. Despite the promising nature of the phot below, it was an epic FAIL! They went from oozing juices to burnt to a cinder and never quite achieved that dry, translucent glow. Two batches later I gave up. Kudos to yon market pedlar, I say.

 

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The small tree. The opposite to our usual LARGE tree that takes over the living room. For we have an 11 month old toddling child who likes to eat EVERYTHING.

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Walks. The little chicken stopped napping in her cot, but would instantly fall asleep in her snuggly snow suit in the buggy as soon as the wheels hit the pavement. Since I could not bear to walk anywhere near town after the 12th, we took quite a few long walks away from the crowds. It was the best thing of the month, (apart from the actual day of Christmas, which despite my bleating, I look forward to and LOVE every year). We got some fresh air, we avoided meltdown scenario, I scoped out the best greenery-foraging sites for next year. I also got some head space, and decided to not get stressed about all of the above mentioned Christmas-related nonsense. It’s just one day. And it was LOVELY.

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#BEDN How was it for you?

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Quack Quack Oops!

Yes, well, I clearly have not managed to blog every day in November, but I will still claim it as a success thank you very much. As a novice blogger, I am 100% certain that I would not have even posted the ones that I did manage to write, for fear of… what? I don’t even know. Just “The Fear” we all have – it stops us doing maybe just one or two things, or maybe for others, it stops them completely *sad face*. Well, IN YOUR FACE, FEAR!

I definitely would have posted more, too, had it not been for life getting in the way. In all, it’s been a tiring month with a poorly, teething baby at the start of the month, which then gave way to a baby who just wouldn’t settle when she woke at night. Nerves were frayed. Say no more.

It has also fired up my cogs a wee bit, got me thinking about doing things that might be interesting to write about and I have a list of draft post titles and half written jobbies, so it’s personal victory all round.

So, thank you #BEDN!

#BEDN York my hometown

I’m REALLY lucky. I live in a city that people visit on their holidays. I’m not from here, but I’ve been here 12 years. When I first moved here, I loved that had everything a city has to offer, but also a compact, cosy feel. You see familiar faces, you are not oppressed by loads of high rises, and your soul is mellowed by the green spaces and history that’s all around (of which I endlessly promise to learn more about!)

There are loads of sites and travel blogs where you can find out about the tourist trail, so here are my best places…

For tea and cakes: Me & Mrs Fisher, Lords Mayors Walk.

For picnics: Rowntrees Park, Southbank.

For ice cream: the Museum Gardens, Lendal.

For feeding baby / sheltering from the storm: York Explore Library, Lemdal; The Spurriergate Centre, Spurriergate.

For independent shopping and eating: Gillygate, Fossgate.

For top beer and stews: House of Trembling Madness, Stonegate.

For craft: Sunday Nest above Me&Mrs Fisher; Craft Basics, Gillygate.

For Walks: The city walls, along the river Ouse to the Millennium Bridge (take in Rowntrees Park en route – either for picnic or the brilliant Reading cafe run by the local library service.)

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