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.

Pressing the Parenting Buttons

Partners in Fun

Partners in Fun

Last week I took the children to Skegness to stay in a three-bed static caravan with my good friend and her two children (aged two and six). Despite starting the first day in pouring rain, with my daughter suffering her first tummy bug (north and south!) to boot, we had a fantastic week. The sun shone, the children played together brilliantly, the staff were friendly and, as it wasn’t yet in season, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

What interested me most was how much I learned about parenting from co-habiting with anther family for a few days. It made me understand why we can often be so judgemental about other people’s parenting techniques. It’s all about personality, or touch-points, or whatever you want to call it.

For example, my kids are flash-in-the-pan tantrum throwers. They shout and sob, sometimes for ages but usually for less than five minutes. They don’t have to get their way, but they do have to feel they’ve got their point across. I’m (mostly) okay with it because I’m exactly the same. A quick shout, some tears, and it’s over. As long as they’re using their words and I know what’s wrong, I can cope.

My friend, though, hates histrionics. Her kids are sulkers and she confessed that she is too. She’s happy that they’ll come out in their own time and at least they aren’t being noisy. She doesn’t mind if dinner gets eaten, as long as they don’t make a huge fuss. I hate sulking, though, because I take all the blame on me. If I don’t know why someone’s unhappy I get frustrated, want to fix it, or assume it’s all my fault.

Playing pirates

Playing pirates

So it was hard for us to share a space and parent in our own way. I’m sure I upset her when I snapped at her kid for covering my daughter’s best top in mud during one of his sulks, and she inadvertently made my daughter sad for saying she was making a fuss over a hurt ankle, when she’s used to getting sympathy.

No one is right and mostly we worked really well together. We had some great conversations late into the night. I loved holidaying with another adult who cooked and did dishes (unlike travelling with hubbie! Lol) Best of all, the children learned to cooperate and share a space together. They went to bed (albeit at 9pm) without a fuss. They remembered their manners and made new friends. And I learned to try and remember that what bugs me doesn’t necessarily bother someone else and vice versa. I’m not the world’s most tolerant person, but I’m trying!

Best of all, I learned to assess my parenting more objectively. Sulking is okay; sometimes kids need time to process and calm down. I also discovered that other parents aren’t judging you as often as you judge yourself. At one point I thought my friend was judging the fact that I let my son eat only rice for tea because I had no fight left to get veg in him. Afterwards she said she didn’t even notice!

Parenting: I make it harder than it needs to be! 🙂

All Quiet on the Blogging Front

Busy busy...

Busy busy…

This is just a quick note to explain my silence on the blog recently and to say that normal service will hopefully resume in a week or two.

This week I’ve been concentrating on drafting my children’s book (working title George and the Arch, but that will change!) I’m around a third through, at 22,000 words, and have realised that writing a first draft uses ALL my energy and inspiration.

My daughter’s school teacher pointed out that there are only 11 full weeks of school left before the summer vacation, which means I have that much time to get George ready for the Chicken House competition AND get Class Act ready to publish (I haven’t even sourced an editor yet). Argh!

The reason for my silence over the next two weeks (more specifically the next four days) is that the children are on their Easter Holidays. In four hours the children and I will drive to Skegness to stay in a static caravan for the week with my good friend and her two children. I’m terrified. Please God don’t let it rain!

I’m looking forward to it too, but the idea of four days in a small box with four kids aged 2-6 does fill me with fear! Ear plugs and wine at the ready! 😉 I don’t even know if there will be internet…

So, enjoy the peace and quiet and I’ll hopefully have some new things to write about when I get back! Wish me luck.

How Much Should You Entertain Your Children?

Picnic in the sun

Picnic in the sun

It’s the weekend. The sun is shining and it’s warm outside for the first time this year. The children are in shorts. Hubbie and I are not at fighting strength and the desire to spring clean house and garden are being decimated by an overwhelming need to curl up and read a book (me) or get back to stripping the engine in the garage (hubbie).

Saturday saw a whirlwind of sorting from hubbie, in response to a plea from me that the lounge had disappeared under weeks of accumulated detrius. I do cleaning, he does sorting, that’s our skill set and division of labour. I was still feeling sick and disorientated from the tablets and the kids were slightly flummoxed by having a whole weekend without children’s parties to go to.

Grandpa came round to put the world to rights and help tinker with the engine. The children were told to shush, go play and mostly they did. But promises were made that today would involve more games and attention. Then Grandad called late to say he’d pop in for coffee in the morning. So Sunday started with a frenzy of cleaning (as he comes less often I make more effort to maintain the illusion that his son married a clean and tidy person. My stepdad knows this is a lie – my mum won’t even come round anymore because the clutter in our house drives her bonkers.)

By 10am this morning (his anticipated arrival time) we’d cleaned and hoovered and found the house under the filth and clutter. The children assisted by cleaning dust with wet wipes. But still, they reminded us continuously about the request for attention and games. Grandad spent half his time looking at the stripped engine and the rest imparting typos to me that he found in Two-Hundred Steps Home. When he left at 12 o’clock the children had been left to bounce on the trampoline and play in the playhouse. They were quite happy, but still asking for games.

Playing with the hose

Playing with the hose

Hubbie finally managed a game of chess with our daughter while I baked cookies with our son. I then played dominos with them both for twenty minutes. But that was the extent of our attention, as I went off to iron school clothes (and ended up writing this post!) and hubbie mowed the lawn.

They’ve been happily (mostly) playing with the hose and trampoline for the last hour (hurrah for early spring sunshine!), but I still feel a bit concerned.

After all my reading on The Five Love Languages, I suspect that Quality Time is important to both of them. But they do also need to learn to play by themselves. Weekends can’t always be children’s parties and trips to the farm. I at least get time during the week to myself but hubbie needs downtime at the weekend. I used to take them to lots of places when I had them both at home, because they’re easier to manage at the zoo or the park than in the house, but I worry that they had so much fun and mummy time it is why they both cry when being left at school and nursery.

They’re not neglected children, but parental attention can be pretty thin at times. They have each other and are expected to find solace in that. And mostly they used to do that. But more and more, since my daughter started school, they’ve been demanding adult attention at home. Assuming I had the patience to offer it, is it still wise? I don’t remember our parents doing much in the way of entertaining us as kids. We were taught to ride bikes and taken to gym classes, but we also played with our dolls and books and colouring. We sat in the car eating crisps while they went to the pub to play darts, or while they did the supermarket shop.

Parenting these days is all about quality time and enjoying every moment, but what if we’re raising kids that don’t know how to be and play by themselves? What if school becomes harder and harder because being with mummy and daddy is such fun? But what if they need my attention to thrive? It’s a pickle. I’m beginning to understand why people take their kids to ballet and football at the weekend. Wear them out and pay someone else to entertain them. We’re not quite there yet, we enjoy our relaxed weekends too much, but it might happen soon.

In the mean time hubbie is explaining rugby to them both while I cook tea. Somehow it’s only 4pm. Is it bed time yet?

Half Term: Not For the Faint-Hearted

Decorating people at the library

Decorating people at the library

Phew. Last solo day of the school holidays survived. Half term is not for the faint-hearted. I think I’m going to have to build up some serious stamina before the long vacation in the summer, otherwise I won’t make it out alive.

It’s not like I didn’t have help today: a cuppa in bed from my lovely husband, after a night awake with the coughing son; a 9am drop off for the youngest at nursery (so civilised, especially with zero traffic); a trip to the cafe for a promised treat of cake; then craft at the library saw me through to 11am.

A quick dog walk / bike ride to the park, followed by a sandwich and an early collection of the little man, and we were on the way to friend’s house by 1pm.

Look what I made!

Look what I made!

Then five hours of fun and mayhem and shared parenting (the best sort), with a bit of discussion about politics and schooling thrown in, and I just about managed to stay awake to drive us all home after tea, bath and pyjamas. (Barney helped: the strident tones of singing dinosaurs in the dark will do that).

I didn’t fare so well with hubbie’s Friday Night movie, with not even the charms of Vin Diesel (as the slightly creepy Riddick) having the ability to keep my eyes from closing (although I did enjoy his deep sexy voice for a few moments before the world of sofa sleep enveloped me).

Five days of full-time Mummy and I’m exhausted. I’d give my right arm (on loan for a bit at any rate) for half an hour of Homes Under the Hammer and a hot cup of tea. Well, that’s Monday’s lunch break organised, all being well.

Anyway, sorry for another short and uninspired post. I’m off to dream up survival tactics for the summer hols. Night night.

P.S. In an effort to get a few more reviews I will be offering promotions on my books in the next couple of weeks. Dragon Wraiths is free on Amazon (all sites) for the next 48 hours. Links below (for the main sites I sell on). Please share with anyone you think might enjoy as fast-paced fantasy read. Ta. 🙂

Dragon Wraiths on Amazon.com

Dragon Wraiths on Amazon.co.uk

Dragon Wraiths on Amazon.com.au

Dragon Wraiths on Amazon.ca

Dragon Wraiths and Daughter Days

Iron-on Crayon Art

Iron-on Crayon Art

Phew, how do teachers do it? I spent the day with my daughter today, as my son was in nursery. It’s the only whole day I have with her this half term so we crammed a lot in. Swimming for an hour followed by shopping for new school shoes (how do they get so trashed?!), new waterproofs (why do kids grow so fast?) and new school socks (how can five pairs vanish in as many months?)

Then the obligatory trip to McDonalds (yes, I know, parenting shame. I don’t care, sorry!) followed by more shopping to buy another four birthday gifts to see us through March’s parties. An unexpected extra expense of school has definitely been the birthday parties. Although at least we rarely have to make weekend plans!

You’d think my daughter might have been tired when we got home? Oh no. I barely drank a cup of tea before she was onto the next activity: iron-on crayons that she got for her birthday. I didn’t mind, actually, as I like clever non-messy craft. And I knew those t-shirts I bought for her nativity would come in handy. It took a while to explain the concept of colouring a back-to-front design so it would be the right way round when ironed onto the t-shirt, but I’m pleased with our shared efforts. And I didn’t even interfere that much! 😉

Not Bad (and no unsolicited help. Well, not much! :)

Not Bad (and no unsolicited help. Well, not much! 🙂

A break then? Nah. Then we wrapped up a bunch of gifts (with my fast-dimishing patience put severly to the test. Gift wrapping is one of those things that I find it REALLY hard to leave to her: largely because I foolishly fear being judged as a bad wrapper!) There was just time for a quick sandwich before we had to pick up my son.

The day wasn’t over, as we still had an hour at the library to get through. The kids now want to play board games and I just want to crawl into bed. It’s only 6.30pm. I already had huge respect for teachers but the idea of multiplying today by 25 is just horrific. Give me struggling with character arcs and plot holes any day!

Talking of which, I woke at 4.30am this morning in a cold sweat having dreamed I was being chased by dogs. It was a convincing dream and during the hour it took to calm down (until my daughter woke at 5.30am) I had some great ideas for a sequel to Dragon Wraiths.

I’ve wanted to write a sequel since I finished it, but had so many dilemmas about viewpoints and plot. I’m still pretty vague but I feel a tiny step closer, including deciding that it has to be told by Leah again (my preference was to have it multi-viewpointed from the perspective of the new wraiths. But it felt like trouble!) Now I just have to get Class Act finished! But first, sleep. I’m taking my two terrors to the Space Museum on my own tomorrow: something tells me I’m going to need all my energy!