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!


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

June Journals #29 ~ Drowning in Doubt


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.


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


June Journals #27 ~ Onwards and Upwards. Eventually



It’s taken me a few weeks¬†of randomly searching google, but I’ve finally discovered that the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition Winner has been announced – back on 6th June!

The competition rules said notification by 1st July, but I’ve been checking for ages. Nothing. You’d think there’d be an announcement or something.

Eventually, yesterday, I found an article on LBA Literary Agents‘ website – from 8th June – announcing the winner as Margaret Morton Kirk, author of the Scottish crime novel,¬†Shadow Man.

Well done!

I have no sour grapes. I knew winning, or even getting shortlisted, was hugely unlikely. But I’m a tad irritated at how hard it was to find the results.

That’s the bit I hate about competitions – the waiting. I could have spent June working on Refuge at Riley Road, getting it out there either as a self-published novel or to agents, instead of farting about feeling lost and listless. Or I could have wallowed and baked cakes. Oh wait, I sort of did that anyway!

Never mind. I have an answer finally, that’s the main thing.

Back to writing.

June Journals #26 ~ Karate Conundrum

I have a karate conundrum. Another one. Actually, two.

My children received their yellow belts today, but my son is still sad because he feels he didn’t deserve to pass. We chatted to his instructor – told him about Sensei grabbing his arm and shouting at him – and the instructor brushed us off.

I’m not really surprised. I would expect a club like that to protect its own. And having only witnessed the incident from halfway across a hall, I don’t have all the facts. Although there is a bruise on my son’s arm, that could be from anything! He’s five.

But there’s no doubt my son struggles to concentrate in karate lessons. He’s naturally curious, and there is a lot going on in a hall of 20-30 children, from red to black belt, all doing different moves (or even the same moves but at different speeds and in different styles). He gets distracted.

I wanted to drag him out of class today. His mind just wasn’t there and he kept making mistakes, and for the first time I could see the mistakes were upsetting him. But if ever there is someone who might benefit from the discipline of martial arts it’s him.

I could back off as a parent, stop watching the lessons and exams, let him make his own way and succeed and fail on his own merits. I know that’s what the instructor would like me to do. The instructor is lovely and he’s not very old, but martial arts are uber¬†traditional, and I suspect the new touchy-feely parenting doesn’t always fit with that.

The alternative is that I start karate. There’s a beginner’s group starting next Saturday. I have this dilemma every few months.

I’ve wanted to do karate¬†from the beginning, although the more I watch the lessons and exams and see what the adults especially have to do (and the ribbing they have to put up with) I’m far less keen.

Besides, Sensei terrifies me too.

And it costs an arm and a leg (the commercial nature of the club, the frequency and cost of the exams, is another sore point. The last four exams have all been practically identical.)

But the main reason is that my children don’t like me doing karate. I read on a martial arts blog¬†that. “All children want to do is immitate their parents, to be just like them.”

Not mine.

Well, okay, when it comes to watching TV, playing Jurassic Park, or eating cake, they’re more than happy to follow my lead. Swearing? Check. Being messy and disorganised? Check. But karate? No.

I could persuade my son – he’s much more keen to spend time with me and be like me. My daughter, not so much. And I don’t want to get in her way, I love the independence she gets from karate, and from being able to do something I can’t.

I’ve tried to learn at home, but it’s hard. I can just about do all their current belt stuff, but not with great conviction, and I’m reaching the point where I can’t learn from watching the videos.

So once more I dither: help one child and alienate the other, or try and be a supportive parent on the sidelines and admit that I’m not cut out to be black-belt material anyway. I suspect the latter.

I managed twenty minutes of running today (with a walk break in the middle) and covered over 4.5km. It’s not the same as being able to kick an assailant in the head, but at least I might be able to run away…ūüėČ


June Journals #25 ~ The Day After

EUI don’t¬†really want to¬†talk any more about the EU Referendum, but I’m going to anyway, because I can’t think of anything else.

I feel like I’ve been going through the grief cycle: shock, anger, helplessness, bargaining and acceptance.

I read an article in the Guardian online that helped a tiny bit. It compared the result to a workers’¬†revolt, following years of austerity and being marginalised and disenfranchised by an uncaring government (I’m paraphrasing).

I can buy that.

I don’t personally think leaving the EU is the right response, but I can understand that those with nothing to lose will fear the consequences less. And I’m enough of a leftie liberal to quite like the idea of shaking up a settled and self-satisfied elite.

I can also understand why people voted who hadn’t voted for twenty years. Because this time their vote mattered. With our system of voting in a new government, it’s hard to make a difference (or can seem that way). But a yes/no vote? Every vote counted.

Anyway. It’s done.

The hardest part is taking the world’s criticism. We’ve always been quick to criticise others. Laughing at Trump supporters and being angry at those who support gun rights.

Now it’s our turn to be the cause of shock and ridicule. And the world hasn’t held its punches.

As someone who connects to people all over the world, through my blog and other social media, I’m seeing some awful things being said.

We deserve all of it.

volkswagen-158463_1280All of us. Not just those who voted to leave, but those who voted in a Tory government, those who didn’t fight harder for an opposition to be proud of, those who thought only of their¬†own and didn’t worry about anyone else. Those who let the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

We got our just desserts.

The world feels broken and I’m not seeing anyone I trust to fix it. Not here, not across the pond, not in Europe. Not in this generation. Maybe in the next. Millennials, sorry we fucked it up for you, please help us fix it.

I’ve studied history. I know where this goes next. And if we wait long enough, live long enough, survive long enough, perhaps we’ll reach a new swinging sixties of love and peace.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take thirty years. I can’t wait that long.