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Summer Holidays Week 4: I Love My Meds

Holidays are for ice cream

Holidays are for ice cream

Day 27 of the summer holidays: I love my meds!

I know that makes me sound like some kind of drug addict, but it isn’t like that at all. This time last year I was climbing the walls.

This is a quote from my August 17th blog post: “Three weeks and I’m ready to do pretty much anything other than listen to twelve hours of squabbling for another three weeks.”

I am still as exhausted as I was last year, but it’s a different type of tired. It’s ‘I swam quarter of a mile at the pool yesterday’ tired. It’s ‘we did four day trips this week and I didn’t cry once, but I walked about twenty miles’ tired.

It isn’t just the meds of course. My children are a year older. They can be left alone more often, so I can read, or shower, or mow the lawn. They still squabble but I can move out of earshot, so I’m not ‘switched on’ all the time.

I also planned this holiday to within an inch of its life. I didn’t have one day where I woke up not having a plan for the day, even if the plan was, ‘Go away and play, Mummy is reading this morning!’

Son gave up his dummies for a skateboard

Son gave up his dummies for a skateboard

I always wanted the children to have the summers I did – unsupervised, unscheduled, running in a pack of kids and climbing trees. But they can’t. There is no pack here – just a busy road. There are no trees – only a climbing frame they use every day. So I take them places where they can pretend – where there are trees to climb and open spaces to fly a kite.

The biggest difference, though, aside from the meds (or actually probably as a direct result of taking them and making the dark dog of self-loathing and self-doubt shut up) is that I opted to put my own mask on before helping others. I made time for me. I booked a holiday camp for my daughter, left my son in nursery for a few days. I fought the guilt.

I thought, as a stay at home parent, I had to be there 100% for the children, putting them before myself. That’s what reading too much Mumsnet and media does for you.

It’s rubbish. ‘Happy Mummy, Happy Baby,’ that’s what I said when I had a sneaky of glass of wine when I was pregnant. Before PND ate away my sanity. Last summer I gave up writing, reading, being me. Silly girl. All it did was destroy me.

Becoming a knight at Warwick Castle

Becoming a knight at Warwick Castle

This year I took a few days to write. I’ve read dozens of books – treating myself to the kindle versions so I can read on my phone or tablet in the odd quiet moment. Yes I’m that parent at the park reading on her phone. Judge me if you like. Bovvered?

I paid someone to do my ironing, because it’s been too hot and I’m tired. I didn’t get four A Levels and two degrees to spend my life ironing. If I ever sell a book to a publisher, I’ll never iron again. Does that make me a terrible housewife? Probably. Not bovvered.

I stay in bed reading in the morning, while the kids watch a movie and eat dry cereal. I don’t think we’ve managed two of our five a day this holidays, and that’s only raisins and fruit juice. Bovvered? (A little bit – but I’m feeding their brains with trips to museums and castles. Summers are for ice cream and easy dinners.)

It isn’t all perfect. Nothing ever is. We’re all a bit snappy, and I’m whining as much as the kids. I’ve let them have too many toys and now they want to buy stuff all the time. We could all benefit from some healthy food and a bit more sleep. The dog is as eager for September as anyone, because we’re either out all day or the kids are super-huggy.

Bad parent, you think? Bovvered?

Bad parent, you think? Bovvered?

But we’re coping.

My son gave up his dummies and is dealing with it brilliantly, and so am I. Last year you would have had to prise those plastic tantruming-ending wonder-soothers out of my cold dead hands.

Two and a half weeks to go until school starts and I’m doing fine. It’s all scheduled, we know what’s what. There’s a bit of food in the fridge and a smidgeon of energy in my tank.

Summer holidays? Past me the sertraline and Bring It On.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Depression, Kids Days Out, My story, Parenting

 

Wishing I Were Holly Webb and Busy Making Books

The Amazing Holly Webb

The Amazing Holly Webb

It’s Day 19 of the holidays and I’m still hanging on – just!

I’ve used up all my childcare days – the last one asleep on the sofa – but I have a plan for the final stretch. Next week we have day trips every day!

In the mean time I’m busy writing, when I’m not reading every marvelous book written by the amazing Holly Webb (and weeping slightly into my coffee).

I have to remind myself that she has written 100 books over eleven years, because my works pale in comparison. And it’s certainly true that her earlier books were not the masterpieces that her latest are.

Compare some of the early animal stories novels (think The Rescued Puppy) and they’re closer to what I am writing now than the gripping stories and characters of the Emily Feather books, or the Maisie Hitchins ones, or the Lily series. (As an aside I’m waiting for the library to open so I can get book 3! And the Rose series, which I probably should have read first.)

But it does worry me that she used to work as an editor for Scholastic Children’s Books. She had an ‘in’ (even if she did leave her first book on someone’s desk with a note attached, because she was embarrassed.)

My Favourite Cover Ever!

My Favourite Cover Ever!

I’m trying to find the in. I guess that’s the hardest part of being a writer, particularly for children’s books. I can self-publish my adult novels, and at least get some feedback. But I don’t see the point in self-publishing children’s books. You need an awesome illustrator (which I can’t afford) and a way in to book shops. My daughter does read on her kindle, but I think the books need to be in schools and libraries to be a success.

In the mean time I am having fun publishing my books on Smashwords, just so I can send copies to people. I do love designing covers! And there is a motivation seeing a book in a publishable format. There’s a danger too, though. A feeling that a book is finished as soon as it’s been turned into a .mobi file!

My strategy is to write as many children’s books as I can, so if I do find an agent I can say, ‘ta da! Look, multiple four-book series, all ready to go.’ Of course, if they hate my style, that’s a whole heap of editing! But I always say you can’t edit an empty page.

The books I’ve been writing this holiday are about boats and ponies. I really like my characters, Will and Jessica. Will (Willow Irvine) is a tom boy who lives on a narrow boat, but longs for a normal life. I’ve sent a copy to someone I know who actually lives on a canal boat, so I’m nervously waiting to hear if it’s any good! *Chews fingers*.

I adore my Will on the Water cover – I did the canal boat myself pretty much from scratch, and actually forked out for a decent font, rather than sticking with the basic ones on offer in Adobe. A £10 investment in the three images for this and the Moon Pony book cover felt like money well spent.

My First Pony Novel

My First Pony Novel

Jessica, the protagonist in my Moon Pony stories, is a nine-year-old girl who doesn’t like ponies.

I saw a cover on a pre-made cover site of a pony in the sea and my daughter loved it. So I decided to write a pony story. But I don’t know that much about horses and I’m certain you get caught out pretty quickly by those who do! Having a character who hates horses gave me an out.

The cover is not quite right – I couldn’t afford the pre-made one, so I did my own as usual. But ‘cutting out’ a pony frolicking in snow pushed my adobe skills to their limit. In the end I used one of the kids’ doodle programs to add stars!

So, anyway, that’s what I’m up to right now. I’m working on Will on the Water book 2 and Moon Pony book 2 (titles pending!). As usual, I’d love Beta Readers, so if any of them take your fancy, message me and I’ll send you a copy – with the usual caveat that these are early drafts!

And if you’re looking for a great but easy read this holiday, something you can focus on while the kids are driving you crazy, check out Holly Webb.

I’m off now – the library is open!

 

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Sixteen Insights from Children’s Books, with Apologies to the Bobbseys

Sixteen Insights from Children’s Books, with Apologies to the Bobbseys

Amanda Martin:

I love this post. Maybe we only reflect on the lessons when we’re older!

Originally posted on momocular:

I loved my grandparents’ house for many reasons. Crafts, Boggle games, the pond, the swings, strawberry plants, the cookie jar (thoughtfully located in a lower cupboard, accessible to even the youngest child), croquet, the purple tandem bike, and, of course, Grandpa and Grandma. I also loved the book stash. Grandma was both the church librarian and a school librarian, and, as such, inherited custody of the cast-off books. Although most had achieved their “withdrawn” status by becoming almost too tattered to read, they were still readable as long as one kept track of the molted pages. Walter the Lazy Mouse, Pippi Longstocking, the book about the bunnies and the weasel (I forgot the title): I loved them all.

Well, almost all. Love doesn’t describe my opinion of the elderly copies of The Bobbsey Twins. These books held enough of my interest for me to scan them…

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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Parenting

 

Summer Holidays Week 1

Planning the Hell out of this Holiday!

Planning the Hell out of this Holiday!

It’s Day Six of the Summer Holidays and we’re all still here.

I have a plan and I’m sticking to it. It helps that I had Friday alone to write – that’s part of this year’s survival plan.

I can’t give up writing for the summer, much as I want to be that kind of parent: Last year I didn’t write properly again until January.

This is how the holidays are panning out so far:

Homemade Messenger Bag and Purse

Homemade Messenger Bag and Purse

Day 1:

Son at nursery, so daughter requested that we spend a day doing sewing on the machine.

We went to the knitting shop and bought three fat quarters (who knew material was soooo expensive!) and found an easy pattern online.

I have to do these activities early on in the holidays when my patience bucket is at its fullest.

Even so, I made the green purse by myself while my daughter did cartwheels. But she did help with the bag, including pressing it and gluing on the jewels.

Monopoly abandoned when crying started

Monopoly abandoned when crying started

Day 2:

Day started with Monopoly, followed by a trip to the Opticians (where daughter screamed the place down. Sigh), then to the sweetie shop and to a local garden centre to hear a friend play in the local festival.

A delicious lunch of pizza and ice cream followed, and I was feeling like a really good parent. Until we got home to pick up the swimming things and son and I fell out big style. I wouldn’t let him sit in the car without a t-shirt because I didn’t want the seat belt to cut him. He sulked and then asked if I was ready to apologise for being rude (or words to that effect).

Result: I exploded!

Ten minutes of screaming and ranting about ungrateful children etc etc. Sigh. We went swimming two hours later, but only so I could wear them out.

Day 3: Raining, but a good day because both children went to nursery!

Even though my daughter is too old now, the staff love her. My son’s keyworker was as excited as my daughter, and she invited her two daughters in to play too! A great day for all.

I wrote 8,000 words and still got the house ready for visiting rellies.

Day 4: Visiting rellies arrived overnight. I managed to stay awake until midnight to greet them. I also put a loaf on to cook at 7 a.m. and presented a breakfast suitable for Italians at 9 a.m. Then karate at 11 a.m. No idea what we did in the afternoon, slept probably. I still seem to be doing a lot of that this year!

Day 5: Invited my parents to lunch, so went for a run at 9 a.m. rather than cleaning the house. Bored of trying to keep the pigsty tidy already. Walked the dog and took kids to the supermarket to burn off some energy. It’s still raining. Cooked curry (dropped a whole jug of curry sauce all over the floor and DIDN’T CRY, despite taking my meds late on Friday. I did growl at the kids for spilling ink all over the table, but I’m only human.) and crumble and watched the kids pretend to be in a band. Slept from 4-6 p.m. Detecting a theme here…

Dog in her happy place

Dog in her happy place

Day 6: Pyjama Day planned, so I could do more writing. The dog got the hang of relaxing, and I slept curled up with her for an hour, but the children don’t really understand how it works.

Kept shooing them away, and we lasted until lunchtime, although the children ended up with me while I worked, so not sure how much I got done.

Quite proud of my latest story though – Moon Pony – and now just need to find someone to read it!

Pyjama Pancake Picnic in the Playroom

Pyjama Pancake Picnic in the Playroom

Lunch ended up being a pancake picnic in the playroom because I’ve given up trying to feed them healthy food already.

The fridge is empty and so is the fruitbowl. I’ve thrown away twice as much as they’ve eaten. I miss school meals when I didn’t have to know whether they ate or not.

We’re now heading off to the park because it’s finally stopped raining and I need to get us out the house. My son is running around in his waterproofs (which happen to be pink because he’s wearing his sister’s) yelling, “Super Pink! Super Pink!”

Only 38 more days to go. Not that I’m counting.

 

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Being an Introvert Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Parent

I love these gorgeous people

I love these gorgeous people

It’s that time of year again. In two days time the children will break up for the summer. Here in the UK the summer holidays are only six weeks long – you’d think that would be easy, compared to the months they get in other countries, right?

Not for me.

The anxiety started a few days ago. The fear, the broken sleep, the crankiness and racing heart.

Tiredness makes it worse, as does grumpy children, and the end of term creates both.

Summer shows, birthday parties, day trips, farewell gifts, celebration assemblies, things to sign, uniform to buy for next year, moving up days, heat and humidity, have all taken their toll.

The children are fighting non-stop and Hubbie and I are like bears woken early from hibernation.

I know the irony of writing this after my last post. Maybe the contentment makes it harder. Because contentment for me comes from routine and time alone. Knowing where I’m meant to be and what I should be doing, and periods without responsibility or conversation.

Ultimately the thing that makes it hardest is the view that dreading the summer somehow makes me a bad parent. I come across it all the time. Mostly from parents who work, who are glad to have some time with their offspring, or at least away from the office.

Most of my acquaintances have public-facing jobs, which I guess makes them more likely to be extroverts. They like being around people, they take energy from others. Introverts? Not so much. Even people we love spending time with use up our energy and it’s only replaced by periods of solitude. That’s hard to find with two small children and a needy dog in the house 24-7.

I long for the 1980s – children running free in packs away from the house, like I did. Even now, if we lived in a town or a cul-de-sac with other children, then maybe mine would disappear to a friend’s house for an hour or two without me having to arrange it.

Already the children have started the, “Can we…?” and “When will we…?” questions. For half term I scheduled every minute and we were all happier, but I want my children to be free. I want them to be bored. I understand the importance of benign neglect. But there are no trees to climb where I live, no woods to explore, without driving to get there. They’re not old enough to ride around outside on their bikes (even if they could) and I live on a main road.

So it’s trips to the zoo and park and play dates and picnics, refereeing arguments because child A wants to do one thing and child B another. Trying to give them the freedom of my childhood in a world that dictates I must ensure their safety. Trying to stop them being clingy while remembering the psychotherapist that told me ‘dependence before independence’.

And through it all there are those other parents. The ones who say, “I don’t understand why people have kids if they don’t want to spend time with them,” or, “I love hearing my children play and talking to them. I miss them so much when they’re at school.” Or the dreaded look. The one that says, “What a horrible person you are for not wanting to spend 42 days straight with your beautiful children.” Even my doctor questioned whether I actually loved my children.

Yes I love my kids. Sometimes I’m so proud of them I could burst, or my love for them is like a suffocating hug.

I am a good parent.

It’s taken me seven years of soul-searching to appreciate those facts. But I hate arguments, and my children are currently at ‘tantrum four’ and ‘stroppy/sulky six’.

I gave up writing for the whole summer last year, so I could be present and attentive and all those things, and then couldn’t write again until January.

For their sake and mine, I need time by myself, to write, to read, to breathe.

But being a present parent, a helicopter parent, an attachment parent, call it what you will, means my children want to be with me ALL THE TIME. My son sobs if I walk the dog. My daughter wants me to watch her cartwheels endlessly. I can’t pee by myself, even now.

So, judge if you must. I don’t care. Well, not much. The anxiety is with me all the time, your disapproval can be ignored. My son will still go to nursery some days this summer even though his friends have all finished. My daughter has drama camp and church camp. The holiday is planned and sorted and there are times I can be alone.

And I’m okay with that.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2015 in Parenting

 

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Radio Silence

Never-empty Ironing Basket

Never-empty Ironing Basket

I’m sorry for my crapness at keeping up with the blog. I was going to blame the hot weather, or the never-empty ironing basket, or Wimbledon, or my latest computer game obsession (Forge of Empires), or the great books I’ve read recently (Holly Webb is awesome), or the new blog, or the fact I’ve started running again. But the truth is I just don’t have much to say.

I know, it’s a shocker, right?

I seem to be at peace with myself and life, even with it being only six days to the start of the summer holidays. I’m eating well, sleeping okay (when it isn’t hot and humid!) and writing when I can.

There are things I’ve thought about sharing on here – great blog posts on parenting or recipes I’ve discovered or the new KDP Amazon pages-read reports – but I can’t help but feel I’ve said it all before.

And the stuff that gets me really riled these days is all political and I swore I wouldn’t get into politics on my blog. It’s for things mostly writing or parenting related, although I know I stray off topic from time to time!

Hopefully I’ll come up with something to share. Maybe bits of the novels I’m writing at the moment. I’ve started a new series – called Will on the Water – about a girl raised on a narrow boat. If anyone has any direct experience to share, that would really help my research!

I might also do Art in August again, too, just so the blog doesn’t wither and die in the long vacation! At least there will be less ironing to do when the children aren’t at school!

So please don’t give up on me yet. I’ll try harder I promise!

 

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A Plea for Child Readiness

Amanda Martin:

I couldn’t agree more.

Originally posted on Tales from the Penguin Room:

all families matter all families matter

The term “School Readiness” has always bothered me. As a preschool teacher, I am not just getting children ready for school or even for kindergarten. I am helping them learn to be life-long learners. I want them to enjoy school, of course. But I want them to enjoy the people they meet at school and enjoy the things they do after school just as much. I want each of them to be a well-rounded person who finds their own way of fitting in to the world and offering something to the communities they find themselves in.

A blog post of Teacher Tom’s http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2015/06/your-child-is-not-falling-behind.html

making a map

made me see another reason to dislike the phrase “school readiness.” It is often a euphemism for literacy; more specifically reading and writing. Too often I see programs focusing on “school readiness” put so much emphasis on reading and writing that they ignore speaking…

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Parenting

 
 
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