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?

Art in August #8 – Cheeky Turtle

My cutie turtle

My cutie turtle

I really wanted to do some ‘proper’ art today, watercolours or sketching or even colouring in, but I used all my energy taking the children swimming and then tidying up their mayhem from this morning. Hubbie said I should take a picture of the playroom and call it my installation art!

Instead I’ve fallen back on the old faithful and used the latest loomband pet. This was a tricky build because it needed a double loom but the spare I have is a cheap imitation one, so I had to hold it all together with one hand and loom with the other. Now daughter wants one too so I get to do it all again tomorrow, but with her ‘help’. Eek.

He’s my second favourite pet to date, after the dragon. We’re building up quite a zoo. My daughter wrote a book about them today (until we fell out when I gently pointed out that her bs and ds were back-to-front. Think I’ll have to leave teaching to the professionals!)

Is it September yet? I forgot to buy wine.

Loom Band Story

Loom Band Story

Outside the Pool

Outside the Pool

Monday and Looking For Meaning

Fun at the farm

Fun at the farm

Getting out of bed this morning felt like climbing Ben Nevis (a not particularly happy experience for me, nearly a decade ago, when attempting the three peak challenge.) I had a fantastic family weekend, with no where we had to be and not too much rain. I had a marvellous night out with the girls on Friday, actually feeling part of the conversion for possibly the first time. Then hubbie and I pottered around, got the chores done and had a Chinese with my parents on Saturday, and spent a lovely day taking the children to the farm and catching a 1965 London Bus to the local steam railway on Sunday.

But this morning life still seems so hard. I ache all over, despite spending a chunk of the weekend in bed. Partly my new addiction to the iPad game Angry Birds Go is to blame. Hubbie is addicted and the children now love it too, so in an altruistic spirit, I put it on my iPad and worked through some levels so the kids wouldn’t squabble over hubbie’s version.

And now I’m hooked. It’s my way of being able to watch Game of Thrones, another new addiction in our house, but much too full of sex, gore and brutality for me to watch without a metaphorical cushion to hide the screen when necessary. But the game involves steering by tilting the iPad and I think it’s to blame for my stiff shoulders and aching back. And I suspect Game of Thrones is responsible for my bad dreams!

Joking aside, I do find it hard to find meaning in life at the moment. I read a terrible, moving, post on the Belle Jar blog recently, When Getting Better Is No Longer An Option, where the author described a life battling depression and suicidal thoughts. I can relate, although my depression is being controlled through diet and medication. I don’t actively want to end my own life but these days the future is a void of emptiness without reason or purpose. I’ve reached the top of the mountain, the view is uninspiring, and I can’t see the point in all the pain of climbing back down.

Our ride

Our ride

One of the ways I’ve sought to feel connected to life is by supporting causes, particularly environmental ones, or through championing things on social media. I love signing online petitions and hearing they made a difference, or contributing to worthwhile charities. But sometimes you get it wrong.

I shared a post over the weekend that turns out to have been causing a man terrible trouble, including death threats. I didn’t think it through, I just shared and now I see it was irresponsible of me. A friend pointed out the consequences and I immediately deleted my shared post, but it’s left me feeling awful. The problem with social media is there’s always a deeper story, a bigger picture, and I don’t always take the time to find out what it is. And now my urge to crawl back under the duvet is greater than ever.

But I won’t. I will make packed lunches, get the children to school, go to the supermarket, try not to load Angry Birds Go. I will edit Class Act and walk the dog. I might take an hour to nap or watch Homes Under the Hammer. I will keep looking for a reason to get up every day, to keep climbing. But, oh my, it’s hard.

(Sorry for a less than cheery post for a Monday. But, maybe if you’re also having a bad day, you won’t feel so alone! I also forgot the packed lunch and had to do a 12 mile round-trip to take it in to school, because I was so busy writing, so there’s a lesson for me to focus on what’s important and quit moaning!)

Back To Work… I Hope

Partners in Fun

Partners in Fun

It’s 6.50am on Wednesday morning. Not just any Wednesday, but my first day without children in seventeen days. In two hours, after the chaos of the school run, dropping reluctant (and probably tearful) children at school and nursery, I can finally get back to my work in progress. And my mind is blank.

I’ve been reading like mad these last two weeks, to keep my writer’s brain active, in between trips to the park, scraping up sand and dishing out snacks. But still I can barely remember how to write, the ideas are all gone and I haven’t a clue what my WIP is about.

It doesn’t help that I have to give a progress report to my Doctor at 10am on how the medication is working. I think I can say ‘fine’, given that we’ve survived the holidays still smiling (more or less!)

Actually, the kids have been amazing. Thanks to two weeks of incredible weather (for England, especially in April), they’ve played together almost non stop, with few arguments. It has made me so proud to watch and listen to them co-operating and scheming. Maybe the long vacation won’t be so awful (provided it doesn’t rain all summer…)

And on a positive note, I re-read the first chapter of Class Act and was quietly impressed, if I’m allowed to say that of my own novel. I’m going to select an editor this week, which is exciting. There are only four and a half weeks until half term, when we’re away visiting rellies in Italy, so I need to crack on and find some inspiration from somewhere. Pass the coffee!

Wishing You a Good Friday

Meeting the Easter Bunny

Meeting the Easter Bunny

At last, Easter is here! Two weeks into the school vacation I feel like the bank holiday is the finish line and I’ve more or less survived. We still have five days before the children go back to school/nursery, but at least there are some family members around to share the small-child entertainment that has left me exhausted.

We have been blessed, though, this holiday, with gorgeous sunny days every day. The kids have been able to run free with me just providing conflict mediation, hugs, plasters, food, drinks, craft supplies, cautions, rules, reward stickers and the occasional trip out for variety. Yesterday we went to play on the new indoor equipment at our favourite Farm, followed by a visit to the Easter Bunny. It was a great day.

One thing I’ve noticed this holiday is that the children have remembered how to play together. With my daughter starting school last September, they seemed to separate, with the age difference much more noticeable. My daughter had less time for her brother, and they squabbled more than cooperated. It’s been wonderful (and terrifying) to see them back to conspiring against me. For example when they decided to empty the sandpit into the paddling pool and across the decking, then fill the sandpit with water from the hose, breaking about five family rules in the process. I didn’t care, I just prayed they wouldn’t draw my attention to it, leaving me no choice but to tell them off.

When my daughter did finally come in saying, “Look, Mummy!” all proud of the carnage, I actually said, “You’ve broken about five rules, which are they?” and after she’d sheepishly acknowledged them, I said, “no matter, I’ll pretend I didn’t see, so long as you tidy up.” Which of course they didn’t, but it took less time to sweep wet sand than it would have done telling them off and finding them something else to do!

Sand Carnage

Sand Carnage

Rules and consistency are all well and good, but sometimes you have to be flexible. It was also another classic case of different parenting priorities as, when I posted my dilemma to Facebook, expecting people to laugh (because of course I wouldn’t stop them playing nicely just because of a bit of mess) I had a range of responses leaving me feeling somewhere between a dragon for having rules in the first place and a lazy parent for choosing to ignore them!

Anyway, this was just a short note to say hello, I’m still alive, and wish you all a happy Easter weekend. The forecast here is actually for rain, making me feel bad for all the working people who have been looking forward to their four days of freedom. But hopefully they’ll stay in and read a book, as I have Dragon Wraiths on a freebie promotion all weekend. If by chance you haven’t read it, do go grab a copy! (I’m trying out a new GeoRiot link, which is meant to take you to the Amazon site for your country, so do tell me if it works/doesn’t work. And thank you to Sally Jenkins for the idea.)

TTFN.