Cake and Karate

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Karate Exam

Once again I have had a heap of blog post ideas floating around my head, but life keeps getting in the way of me writing them down.

Typing, housework, birthday cakes, after school club forms, karate exams, a new book idea.

So this is just a quick update to keep the blog plodding along!

I passed my first karate exam last Saturday, and my son passed his latest grade easily this time too. Despite feeling for my little girl who I think regretted choosing not to Grade with us, I was very proud of us both, particularly my son. Even without his sister, he walked in with head high and 100% focus and breezed an exam I was sure he would fail. His drawing of his exam shows how much it meant to him.

On the flip side I didn’t do so well on my first Proofreading paper. I got a B- which doesn’t sound too bad until you know that I need a straight B to pass. It turns out I edit too much. Ahem.

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Wobbly Cake

I made my son the requested Lego cake. It didn’t rise and was nowhere near the image my son picked out, but he liked it and it tastes great!

But oh my that lettering was far harder than it should be. Despite my many talents, manipulating fondant icing isn’t one of them!

I’m trying to make space for writing something new. Not that there is very much space at the moment between the school run, paid work, and party prep.

But I have an idea and that’s a start. I’ve challenged my husband to write something for the Chicken House competition (deadline December). Not sure if either of us will manage it, but the race is on.

Thankfully I’m at the ‘carrying an idea around in my mind and world building’ which is just as well. I don’t know if it’s the antibiotics (my ear infection came back and it’s definitely made me feel bleh – MTMcGuire I think you’re onto something!) or whether it’s an excited child getting out of bed at 5am yesterday, but I’m definitely a bit fuzzy. Writing a dystopian novel probably requires me to be a bit sharper.

In the meantime I’d better get back to typing and party prep. Who says SAHMs have it easy? ūüėÄ

Circles

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Lego Party Bags

I spent this morning cutting out circles.

There’s nothing like a monotonous task to make you reassess life. And there’s nothing like trying to cut out neat circles to make you feel like a failure. (Try it, it’s impossible.)

September is like January for me. It’s a time of new beginnings and resolutions. A mixture of hope and ache, looking forward and feeling lost. The mornings are chilly but the days are warm. The children go back to school, and I’m free. But free to do what?

It’s also a birthday month. I love doing prep for birthdays because it’s fun and creative and the sole purpose is to make someone else smile. I like doing things for other people.

I’m not so good at my own birthday. I want to feel special, but don’t like being the centre of attention. I want people to lavish me with gifts, but I hate waste and can be a horrible sulking six-year-old feeling sad and guilty in equal measure if I don’t like what I’ve been given.

Poor family.

And today, for the first time in a long time, I feel lonely. Crazy, huh? I’ve spent the last six weeks pining for five minutes to myself and now I feel vulnerable in the emptiness.

The first week of school was okay. There was so much to catch up on, and I was on the ball. I organised clubs and Brownies/Beavers uniform. I dug out football boots and ironed shirts. Filled out forms, wrote cheques, and monitored homework. I even got around to finishing and posting off my first proofreading assignment.

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Can you tell what it is yet?

But now the novelty and urgency has worn off. I still have birthday party prep to do – I’m dreaming about Lego cakes and spending my days making chocolate bricks and a Lego head pinata. But I’m trying to do it on a budget because I’ve had a spending splurge recently and no income to off-set the guilt.

I don’t even feel like knitting.

I think the gaping hole is meaning. Without the children at home, I don’t have an identity or a purpose (or an excuse). Without working on my books I’m not an author. But I’m also not a very good house-person or a very nice wife either. I don’t want to iron or paint my daughter’s room. I don’t want to do romantic things for my tenth wedding anniversary. I don’t really want to do anything.

Sigh.

My equivalent of the January blues, except it’s sunny outside so the weather doesn’t match my mood.

Maybe I should carry on writing, despite the metaphorical bruises from bashing my head against a closed door for six years. Perhaps you can be a writer without anyone actually reading what you write.

Maybe I just need a really good idea for a new children’s book.

Or maybe I should shut up, stop feeling sorry for myself, put it all down to deafness-caused-by-a-horrid-ear-infection and get on with things.

Answers on a postcard!

 

Breaking the Block

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Teacher

Blimey it’s been ages since I’ve written a blog post.

It’s not that I haven’t had things to say, or even occasionally five minutes alone to get my thoughts down. Well, actually, that bit’s not really¬†true. There has been time this summer to knit and garden and read, but mostly only activities that don’t require much higher brain function.

But now the children have been back at school a whole week (and oh my goodness doesn’t a school week fly by compared to a holiday week?!) I’m just about starting to think straight.

The only problem is, when it’s been this long since I wrote a blog post, I have no idea what to say.

Shall I talk about the weather? (muggy and humid, oscillating between autumn at 7am to high summer by midday.)

My writing? (Just submitted an entry for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition again. Same novel as last time but revamped. But mostly I’m in a writing funk entitled ‘what’s the point?’)

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Knitted Cat

Birthdays? (My son’s is in September – with a Lego theme for his party this year – so invites and paper mache pinatas have been the order of the week. And I hit the big one starting with a 4 in a few weeks. We were going to go away, but now I’m thinking of sneaking off by myself for a spa day. Autumn is too busy for birthdays.)

Gardening? (I’ve shoveled more loads of sand and soil than I care to count this week, as we revamp the front garden and add a flower bed and a pond.)

Reading? (I’ve just finished the Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. Fast-paced, thought provoking.)

Knitting? Oh yes let’s talk about knitting.

I’ve had a creative summer. When I can’t write I must still create. It was Art in August two years ago and then loom bands and knitting.

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Zumba Doll

This year I’ve discovered Alan Dart knitting patterns. Oh my.

It all began with my son wanting a jester. Then my daughter wanted a cat. Then I decided to knit dolls for my son’s teachers. And a zumba doll for a good friend. And now I’m knitting a koala bear.

Creativity where you can see the progress and everyone thinks it’s cool and no one says ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’. No wait, they do say that. In that way knitting is like writing, and both is there for the taking if you’re prepared to put in the effort.

So anyway, that’s me.

Now I’ve got the boring update out of the way (in rather a hurry as I’ve just spotted it’s time to collect children) hopefully the next post will be a bit more interesting!

Still Alive

13686492_10154236711202211_93610658222495883_nI’m just beginning week three of the summer holidays and I’m still here. Just.

It’s not that I don’t love spending time at home with the children – I do.

We have a huge garden for them to play in, plenty of gadgets and toys to keep them entertained (not that you’d know it) and enough spare cash to have the odd day out.

It’s just….

I don’t do people. I like silence and stillness.

The children giggling, screaming and singing is as tiring as listening to the children squabble, bicker and fight. In some ways it’s worse. When they’re fighting I can yell, ‘Enough!’ every ten minutes, not that it does much good. When they’re loud because they’re loving life, I have to try and enjoy it and not feel how it’s stripping my skin away like a potato peeler.

But I’m learning.

I’m learning that the shattered exhaustion will go away after I get a few days (hours, minutes?) of silence.

I’m learning that if I take myself off to nap, they will eventually play a game together, and possibly even not fight for a whole ten minutes.

I’m learning that I can work while they’re at home (I’ve had some audio-typing to do) as long as I don’t mind it taking twice as long and sapping the last of my strength.

I’m learning that if I spell it out to them that they can have sweets as long as they’ve had two portions of fruit and veg they will actually listen to that, even if the ‘fruit’ is raisins and the ‘veg’ is baked beans.

I’m learning to lower my expectations of myself and to not try and create a Facebook-friendly life. Although I do post the odd set of photos, it’s usually with titles like ‘just to prove to my children they did have a fun day out’ and ‘trying to be a Pinterest mum’.

13895340_10154251767422211_7588253192972986606_nAnd we have had fun.

We’ve been to the farm and Anglesey Abbey, we’ve made giant bubbles and crystals and collages. We’ve done some study (to earn iPad games) and baked way too many cakes and cookies. We’ve had mini piano lessons and karate.

Oh yes, I decided I was a grown-up after all and it wasn’t for my daughter to tell me I couldn’t take part in something, so I started karate too. My goodness it’s harder than it looks!

Anyway, that’s about all the words I have in my cluttered head. I’m off to do some knitting whilst being an attentive audience to a piano composition and a drum solo (quite possibly at the same time) before dragging the kids to Waitrose for my much-needed daily caffeine intake.

Survival. With plenty of coffee and cake and a little bit of STFU.

 

June Journals #30 ~ Hope Glimmers

imageAfter my day of despair, I had a glimmer of hope yesterday, with two bits of good news.

Firstly, someone I know through Facebook was looking for an audio transcriber. I did the training for Take Note a while ago, but couldn’t fit their assignments into a school day. Who knew that work wouldn’t be a total waste?

It’s not exactly going to make me rich, but it was lovely to actually do some work, of real use to someone, and know that I was getting paid for it.

The second sparkle came from Twitter. In fact, now I think about it, it was a day of social media success. Turns out there can be a benefit to staring blankly at Facebook and Twitter all the time.

I discovered that The Knight Agency were running a pitch war on Twitter. That’s when you try to condense your 70,000 word novel into 140 characters (less the hashtag) and agents pick the ones they like. I’ve never been particularly good at it, but yesterday I was lucky.

I pitched Refuge at Riley Road (and a couple of others) and one of the agents clicked the heart. That gave me permission to send her the first three chapters.

It’s a teeny tiny flicker of light. The same agent favourited over a dozen novels just while I was watching, and probably many more. But it does at least mean my submission won’t go straight in the bin.

Oh, and it stopped raining long enough for my son to play cricket and get his certificate and medal. Hurrah.

To top it off, for the first time ever today, I don’t have to do the school run at home time. For the first time in three years (or as long as I can remember anyway) I can drop them off at 9am and not look at the clock again all day.

A proper working day and work to do – I almost feel like a normal person.

Post script.

Hahahahahahaha karma’s a bitch, yes? I wrote the above at 7.30am, and then spent the next hour trying to connect the computer to the internet. I ended in tears, screaming at the computer, the kids, the world. I can’t work without internet + computer.

And then my daughter said she felt sick. She’s gone to school, but I’m staring at my phone, waiting for ‘the call’ as I retype my post on the ipad.

That’ll teach me to share my wins! Still, at least there’s tennis, it isn’t currently raining, and the ipad is working.

Ending the month, as I started it, looking for the positive!

P.P.S

Fixed the computer, for now at least. Not just a pretty faceūüėÄ

June Journals #29 ~ Drowning in Doubt

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Testing Times

I’m glad this is my penultimate June Journals post. Writing every day has made me self aware again, in a way I had managed to hide¬†from for a while.

When your mind is a war zone, mindfulness isn’t the calm serenity it’s claimed to be.

And I’ve no doubt you’ll be glad to no longer have to endure my parenting existential angst.

Because at the moment I just can’t parent. I don’t know how.

My daughter seems so full of rage and sarcasm and disappointment, I don’t know how to parent it. I don’t know what it is she wants or needs from me.

Yesterday she insisted that 10 + (5×10) = 50. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to gently point out that it wasn’t quite right. When she got angry with me, I was on the verge of tears.

I can’t parent that.

This morning she came in at 6am in a rage because her hair bobble kept falling out when she did handstands against her bedroom wall.

I can’t parent that.

I heard her screaming like a fishwife at her brother and ordering him to do stuff. A knot formed in my stomach and I didn’t want to get out of bed, because I know I will make it worse. I’m frightened of her, of upsetting her or enduring her wrath.

I can’t parent that.

She’s angry at the weather for stopping her doing cartwheels, but the endless cartwheels just leave her frustrated and in tears, either because they don’t go right or because I won’t watch and applaud every single one.

I can’t parent that.

I watched Serena Williams falter in¬†a tennis match against an unranked opponent yesterday because of her doubt and self-recrimination. It’s destructive, and oh so hard to live with. I know, because that’s my daughter.

It’s like walking around on a floor of TNT and not knowing where the trigger is.¬†When I said that to my husband yesterday he smothered a laugh. Because it’s also like living with me.

And that’s the crux of it. I can’t parent her because she is me.

I remember once, when I was a teenager, my mum said, “You’ve inherited all my worst traits.”¬†I was crushed. I took it that there was nothing good in me.¬†Now I see if for what it was: my mother’s own self-doubt and insecurity.

I watch my daughter and see all the things I loathe about myself, stropping and stamping around, making everyone miserable. Needing praise but reacting badly to anything that can be taken as criticism.

I hate it in myself, so how can I parent it in someone else? Never mind the recriminations that it’s all my fault that she’s like that.

And that’s just behaviour. Don’t even get me started on my failings in other areas of stay-at-home-mumdom. Like that husband ran out of clean shirts, or that the kids eat nothing but sugar and fat, or that the house is a steaming pit of disgustingness while I sat and knitted and watched tennis all day yesterday.

Sigh.

This was meant to be a positive set of posts. I was going to put ‘can’t even get that right’ but self-pity is an indulgence.

Anyhoo. Let’s find a positive. I wrote to the council and helped get the roadworks put off to the summer holidays, so I can do the school run without screaming.

It’s not raining yet today, so my son might get to do some of his much-anticipated school trip.

My knee feels better and I can walk this morning.

I have food in the fridge, clothes in the cupboard, and money in my purse.

I have a daughter, a son, a husband, who love me despite my failings.

I am grateful. Truly.

June Journals #28 ~ Mummy is Broken

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Taken by my son

I’m a little bit broken this morning. ¬†Physically and mentally.

I have knitter’s wrist (carpel tunnel, though mostly¬†from ironing all day yesterday), runner’s knee (swollen and sore, actually from swimming), and mother’s head (child up in the night, not enough sleep)!

Mostly I’m broken from too many deep discussions this week.

I’ve reached the point where I’m only capable of reacting like a five-year-old: sticking my fingers in my ears and going, “Lalalalala I can’t hear you!”

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Boy’s Best Friend

And don’t even mention the football. I certainly won’t.

But there’s tennis, and the sun is shining. It isn’t raining – that in itself feels like a miracle.

And I spent a wakeful hour in the night looking for knitting patterns for a mermaid doll, for a friend of my daughter who is having an underwater-themed birthday party, so it’s not all bad. When my wrist is up to knitting again of course.

As it seemed appropriate this morning, I thought I’d share a little ditty I wrote a while ago, called A Mother’s Hymn (to the tune of Morning has Broken).

Mummy is broken, tired and yawning
Mummy is broken, shaken and stirred
Praise for the caffeine, Praise for the chocolate
Pass me some matchsticks, my vision is blurred

Mine is the long day, mine is the long night,
Tantrums and nightmares, cuddles and pee
Bring me the weekend, dream of a lie-in
One day when they’re older, and I can just be

Amanda Martin