June Journals #4 ~ Farm Calm


King of the Dens

Yesterday we spent the day with friends of ours at a local farm (West Lodge Rural Centre). We haven’t been to that one for a while, as it’s a bit further out, and I’d forgotten how nice it was. To the extent that I bought an annual pass.

To me, spending the day there is like giving the kids the childhood I had, without the risk or judgement.

The kids spent the day riding the barrel train and the ponies, feeding the ducks and goats, making dens and friends, and cuddling the bunnies.

They even got to watch a sheep lose its winter coat. Not sure I’d be that impressed if it were me. It was freezing!

Despite the weather feeling more like March than June, it was a fab day out.


Don’t eat the bag…

It’s weird watching the kids from a distance as they get scratched by tree branches or squabble over ride-on tractors. I try so hard not to be a helicopter parent, but I am one by nature.

At the same time I’m a bit lazy. The two work okay together now they’re older. I watch them constantly, but from a distance, preferably with a book and a cuppa, and I only intervene when I foresee blood or scarring.

And it’s great to see them make friends. My daughter had an impromptu gym class with a young girl she befriended, and they practised handstands and cartwheels on the grass for ages, while her big sister built dens with the boys.

Ah the boys.

That’s the only fly in the ointment of a fab day out.


Soooooo Cute

My friend has two boys and, while my daughter is just as capable of doing everything they do – with bells on – she doesn’t love the rough play. So she does end up feeling left out.

How do you parent it? She’s been taught to be careful with her baby brother, and also knows her brother gets yelled at for being too rough. But when they’re with a family that’s all boys – where they’re used to bundling and wrestling – where do you draw the line?

I have no idea, and it ended in a few tears and dramatic exits. It wouldn’t be a normal day without them, I guess, but it took the gloss off.

Seven is such a touchy age.

And it didn’t help when we all fell in love with the cute baby bunnies in the cuddle corner. I had rabbits and guinea pigs when I was younger, and love them so much. But hutch pets don’t really fit with our lifestyle, so the answer to ‘pleeeeease can we?’ was still no!

Mean Mummy.


June Journals #3 ~ Inattentive Works Too


Working on Cartwheels

Yesterday I learned that, while my children thrive on attention, it’s by no means bad to ignore them now and then. Actually I knew that already, but yesterday proved my point.

If I’m in a grump, my kids quite often stop squabbling and unite in a common cause against me. And if I persist in telling them (politely at first, then ‘go away!’) to let me have a bit of me time, they do go and find something to do eventually.

We went to the gym again in the morning, after I did my Week 2 Couch to 5k run across muddy fields. My daughter mastered the handstand while I dutifully fulfilled my role as ‘watch this!’ Mummy. But we were all definitely more tired.

I took them to the charity shop to buy them a toy and myself some peace. Oh my, that backfired. The first toy was broken and the replacement (a microphone, I know, I’m crazy) wouldn’t work with our computer. My ‘me’ time turned out to be an hour fighting with technology while the children came in every five minutes to ask, ‘have you fixed it yet?’

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Just Hangin’

In the end I resorted to the favourite, ‘we’ll get Daddy to sort it.’

I hate using that phrase, because it reinforces the gender stereotype that women are rubbish with technology. I can do technology, what I lack is patience. Anyway, I decided it just needed to go back to the shop, and I ordered a decent one off Amazon. I might not be very good at patience, but I’m really really good with a credit card.

The nap was harder. I had to sleep. I don’t sleep well at night at this time of year because Hubbie gets hayfever, and often I catch up during the day. But I couldn’t sleep through son’s movie because I actually enjoyed it (Puss in Boots) so I sent them off after, for ‘half an hour’ and then we’d go swimming. They came back every twenty minutes, pestering me for a swim, but I was resolute (i.e. exhausted). When I did finally wake up an hour later, swimming was the last thing I felt like doing. But I had promised…

Actually it was lovely. The water was fresh and my patience non-existent, but it was just the three of us, which made it easier. The children are less annoying without an audience. When Grandpa and Daddy are there, they fight for attention. But once they’d figured out I was all done being ‘watch me’ Mummy, and after I confiscated the Lilo, they just got on with it. I swam for an hour. It was bliss. My mum’s pool is only a few metres long, but big enough to actually do lengths. Boy can I feel that today!

It all went wrong as my son started doing lengths (can’t remember if it’s the first time he’s swum unaided. Bad Mummy), and my daughter felt left out. But, hurrah, Grandpa arrived, and all was saved.

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Cheeky Thief

We didn’t get home until 7pm, and dinner was a bit random. To be honest, feeding in general goes to pot in the holidays, with the shortfall made up for with daily vitamins!

But it was another nice day, even though I didn’t want to get up this morning. My son finally got me out of bed by pulling off the covers, and then jumping in my warm spot! Time for coffee.

This has been a prosaic post, sorry. A bit like our half term. I see pictures on FB of other kids in Spain, or at CenterParcs, or Peppa Pig world, and hide them from my two. Although perhaps I don’t need to. My daughter’s a bit bored, but my son is enjoying the time at home.

Getting him to school on Monday might be a challenge. But we’re off to a play farm with friends today, so plenty of time to worry about that later.

June Journals #2 – Simple Pleasures


Lunch at Tesco

I really enjoyed my day with the children yesterday, despite the rain (and, my goodness, it poured!)

After quickly baking some cookies for hubbie (because we forgot to buy birthday treats for his work. The cookies were horrible – I only had demerara sugar and it didn’t work at all – but hey I tried) the kids and I headed out to the Gym.

The Gym I take them to is a proper gymnastics club, but they have an open session for non members in the mornings. We used to go all the time before they started school but now we can only go in the holidays.

My daughter is a real gymnast in the making, but she refuses to have lessons. She is a free spirit and doesn’t like being told what to do. (I mean, at all!) So all the gymnastics she knows is from practice, watching YouTube and a program called Next Steps, and a few random bits my aged body can still just about do. (A handstand, a cartwheel, a round-off. Even when I went to gym classes aged 8 I wasn’t very good!)


Cartwheel Girl

When she isn’t doing a zillion cartwheels, she loves playing on the A-Symmetric bars. Or any bar. Or basically anything she can hang upside down on. It’s nice to go somewhere full of crash mats and things so I can relax and not fear for her head.

It was crazy busy at the gym, and they’d taken down the trampoline, but the children had fun. Now they’re older it’s easier in play centres. I can spend more time just watching and less time worrying (or trying to keep up.)

Afterwards we went to Tesco for lunch and to do the weekly shop. They chose Tesco over McDonald’s. Turns out taking them all the time when they were little wasn’t awful parenting after all (who knew!) as now they’re sick to death of Happy Meals. Not that Tesco sausage and chips is any healthier but at least we didn’t bring home more random plastic tat.

Just a normal sort of day, nothing special, with a cuddle on the sofa watching Aladdin followed by a couple of rounds of Draughts (Checkers) and Frustration with my boy, while my daughter watched dance programs on the iPad.

Nothing special, but oh so special.

My son kept saying, “I’ve had the best day, thank you so much for today.”

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Just Hanging

I complain about their lack of gratitude when we go toy shopping and they want just one more thing, or we go on an expensive day out and they want to spend more on souvenirs and ice cream. But a simple day, with a few quid at the gym, and a cheapie lunch, and they’re happy.

And of course I know why.

It’s hard for me that it’s my attention they really want. Because often it’s the thing I don’t have to give. As an introvert / HSP, I find spending time with people exhausting. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep. But now I can watch them run about, now I can tell them to be quiet in the supermarket, or send them off to look at clothes while I browse the dairy aisle, it isn’t so bad. Fun, almost. 🙂

I don’t need to look for positives for yesterday. It was all positive. I even found some flip-flops with arches for my poor fallen-arch feet. For when summer finally arrives. You know, if it ever does. Until then, I quite like the rain.



Modern Parenting: Lying by Omission

The Bear Diary

The Bear Diary

We had the joy of a visit from the class bear this weekend: my son had a karate competition and wanted Spencer to come.

But you can’t take photos at karate, so it makes filling the precious diary slightly challenging.

I finally pinned my son down to complete the diary this evening, but it’s fair to say it was mostly a Mummy effort.

And it’s all lies. Well, not lies, but hardly a true reflection of our weekend. This is what it should really say:

“On Friday night Aaron got cross because Mummy wouldn’t help him with his Lego. On the way home he whined about not being allowed a snack, even though he’d had two cakes at the school bake sale. He forgot all about Spencer, and the bear would have slept with the dog if Mummy hadn’t taken him upstairs.

Saturday was torrential rain, and football was cancelled, so Spencer lay forgotten in bed while Aaron watched six hours of TV. Spencer ate more piada at lunch than Aaron did.

Spencer nearly missed the karate championships when Aaron was more interested in watching the end of his programme and hugging the dog goodbye. Aaron was first up at the competition and completely forgot his Kata. Aaron sulked because he didn’t win a trophy. Despite being super-brave and doing the group Kata, Aaron still didn’t win and did more sulking. Mummy lost her rag when he refused to get changed in the car.

Spencer had McDonalds for lunch. Mummy is desperately knitting a new scarf because his old one has been stretched to death being used as a karate belt.

Mummy printed the pictures, cut and stuck them and strong-armed Aaron into colouring a picture when he wanted to watch a fifth Power Rangers. Spencer will be glad to get back to school on Monday.”

Facebook, Blogging, and now the school bear’s diary: it’s all about how you spin the truth!


Home-painted tiger

Home-painted tiger

My son starts school this year. Except he hasn’t. Yet.

The school we selected for our children is awesome, but they do have this terribly long settling-in period for Reception children.

Even though my daughter went back last Thursday, my son won’t have his first session until tomorrow afternoon. Random sessions for the rest of this week, 9-12pm next week, 9-1pm the week after.

Only on 28th September will he start full time (which is only 9-3.10!)

I know he’s nearly five, and one of the eldest children, but seriously – his class mates are all friends from nursery, even the only-just-four ones. They’ve been used to childcare days – 10 hour days for some of them (including mine when they were little!) and often five days a week.

I understand that school is different, and my daughter was exhausted for most of Reception year. Also the year group share a smallish space and there are sixty kids starting. Introducing them all slowly allows the staff to get to know them better.

Face painting at Burghley

Face painting at Burghley

But it’s hard on the children who are more than ready. The ones whose siblings already go to school. My son starts every day with, ‘Am I going to school today?’ and then a sad little face when the answer is no.

As it turns out, he’s come down with a cold this morning, and so another day and a half at home watching TV is probably not a bad thing.

I got the face paints out this morning, because his sister had her face painted at Burghley Horse Trials yesterday, and he wanted his done. But almost as soon as I’d painted a tiger, he’d sneezed most of it off. (Is it bad that he’ll be starting school with black pirate eyebrows?! You can tell he’s second child.)

So, in the meantime, we wait. I wait until I can get the house straight again. The dog waits for a decent walk. My books wait for some love and attention. And my son waits to start school.



At least I’m getting a bit of work done while the poorly man watches TV. (And as he’s poorly I don’t need to feel so guilty about his amount of screen time!)

I decided to get paper copies of all my children’s books, so I can hand them out to friends for feedback. I formatted most of them during the holidays, while the kids were in childcare. The Seren Kitty series and Moon Pony arrived in the post last week – don’t they look cool!

All I have to do is finish the Will on The Water formatting and order a copy of that. It’s my favourite cover, so I can’t wait to see it in print.

Of course, printing them out is dangerous – it feels like ‘job done’ when it’s far from done. I can’t self-publish these books – I’d need an illustrator, and I can’t afford one of those. So I need to find an agent. I should be contacting agents, not playing publisher with front covers.

But it helps fill the waiting and make it all feel more real..! Until they’re really in print, I’ll just keep waiting…


Highlights of the Summer



I hope you liked my ‘I will survive’ summer holidays tribute. I used to sing that song all the time about a certain man in my life as a teenager – it seems fitting to rewrite it in reference to parenthood! Life is all one long battle.

So school is back tomorrow, for one child at least. The other starts part time next week. I survived the holidays – more than that, I genuinely enjoyed most of it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m exhausted. Ready to curl in a heap and sleep all day, ready to pee alone and read a book without interruption. But planning was definitely the way forward.

I’d take exhaustion over despair any day.

My awesome surfer girl

My awesome surfer girl

And highlights of my holidays? There are so many. We had an amazing family holiday in Norfolk last week, where every day was awesome (to paraphrase the Lego Movie).

We seal-watched at Blakeney and Sea Life, we swam in the sea at Wells and Mundesley, we saw dinosaurs and played the arcades.

My daughter learned to body board.

And before that? I almost taught the children to ride their bikes (rain stopped play on that one). They can both swim so much better. And my son is coping without his dummies.

Plus I got five of my six children’s books print-ready, so I can hand them out to Beta Readers.

It’s been a great summer. And, best of all, the holidays don’t frighten me so much anymore.

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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.

A Mental High-Five

Fun at the fountains

Fun at the fountains

I’m always talking about the trials of parenting and how much I struggle. So, today, I thought I’d share my little personal high-five.

We live near a place called Burghley House (as in Burghley Horse Trials or as featured in many a costume drama!)

Part of the estate includes the Gardens of Surprise, which consists of a water garden and a sculpture garden. I used to take the kids a lot when it was hot, but it got harder as they wanted different things (one to stay with Mummy, one to explore).

Now they’re of an age that they can go and play together I decided, this summer, to get another family pass.

So today we went. The sun was beaming down, a gentle breeze keeping it cool. Perfect.

However, having made the decision to go, I realised – at 10am – that I didn’t have anything for a picnic. So (high-five no. 1) I quickly rustled up some Mary Berry scones (including a little jar of jam), some Paul Hollingwood blueberry muffins, and a pile of cheese sarnies.

I managed to locate swim gear, shoes, hats, and applied sun cream. I remembered water bottles, the porta-potty AND the picnic blanket. Lunch was yum (high-five no. 2)

I invited a friend and her family to meet us and they arrived mid afternoon. The kids had even more fun and we got to share the parenting load. The dads supervised a frisbee game and my friend and I got to chat.

Then, to top off this unprecedented parenting day of gloriousness, when we got home, I stared blankly at a fridge full of random leftovers and came up with a delicious ten-minute meal (spinach and beetroot salad with smoked fish and toasted cashew nuts). High-fives all round.

I didn’t remember to buy milk, and I’ve still got school uniform to iron, but you can’t win them all. Still, today it felt pretty close.

Half Term and Halloween

The closest I'll ever get to space

The closest I’ll ever get to space

I feel guilty that I’m not managing to blog regularly at the moment. With all the various things going on in my life, I don’t have many words. I have been pouring my creativity into other endeavours – knitting, playing the piano, photo editing and rearranging the furniture.

It’s also half term here in the UK and while ten days has been easier to manage than six weeks, I still find it drains me so that I just want to sleep. That’s been exacerbated by the clocks going back last weekend – our normally early rising kids have taken it to new extremes by getting up at 5 a.m. every day, and still not getting sleepy until 8 p.m. I wish I knew where they got their energy from. At least we have been blessed with some unseasonal gorgeous autumn weather.

So, in lieu of interesting words, here are some random family snaps to bore you instead! 🙂 Hopefully life will right itself sometime soon and normal service will resume.

First ever trick or treat adventure

First ever trick or treat adventure

Pumpkin Trail at Lyveden New Bield

Pumpkin Trail at Lyveden New Bield

Fishing in October

Fishing in October

Knitted brooches

Knitted brooches

Halloween cookies (made without cutters)

Halloween cookies (made without cutters)

Den building at West Lodge

Den building at West Lodge

Sand castles on halloween

Sand castles on halloween

Making potions in the garden

Making potions in the garden

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins at Sacrewell Farm

Directing a space launch

Directing a space launch

Pony ride on cracker

Pony ride on cracker

Autumn Already?

Smiley Son

Smiley Son

What happened to September? Someone stole it while I wasn’t paying attention. I can’t believe it’s October already (and nearly my birthday!) Despite the glorious warm and sunny days we’ve had recently, autumn is still in the air as we shiver our way to school in the morning, through rainbow coloured leaves and fallen conkers.

I love autumn, I think it’s my favourite time of year. Misty mornings, crisp afternoons, riotous colour everywhere and an excuse to wear jeans again.

My daughter has Harvest Festival today and I feel that I also want to celebrate the abundance and beauty around me. It’s been a year of ups and downs but, despite everything, we’re still muddling through, still smiling.

I’ve recently altered the time of day I take my meds and have realised just how much they give me. Returning to the twitchy, ranty insomniac for even a few days was enough to be grateful for the change. I might have become a little more dozy, a little more befuddled, since starting on SSRIs, but I’m definitely happier.

My challenge for this month is to concentrate on finding things to be happy about rather than things to worry me. Good enough parenting, good enough housework. I’m taking up piano again and knitting like a demon. I even enjoyed spending time with my son yesterday, as he took a break from being a whiny, greedy, annoying four-year-old and (briefly) became my little boy again.

October is also about getting Dragon Wraiths entered into the Times / Chicken House competition (the deadline is sneaking up fast. Thank goodness for my editor who has agreed to proofread it in a hurry). I’m almost convinced I shouldn’t waste my time and money, having had another half-dozen rejections on it in the summer. Almost, but not quite. Got to be in it to win it, isn’t that what they say? 🙂

Meanwhile, Finding Lucy is slowly taking shape and Baby Blues is doing well on the new Kindle Unlimited. I have no idea yet if that earns me any money, but it’s nice to see the numbers ticking over.

That’s life in the Martin household at the moment. What does autumn mean to you?