Waving Not Drowning

Hellooo! I can’t believe another month has blustered by in a swirl of dead leaves, and still I haven’t blogged. Rubbish. I feel like I’m strapped to a dinghy and I’m travelling down a grade five river, out of control with too much sensory input and not enough breath to scream.

Well, actually that’s all a bit melodramatic, but I’ve been gorging on Sky Arts painting programmes as better for my mental health than murder-mysteries, and the language is quite hyperbolic and addictive. They’re always looking for the bold and innovative and brave (the opposite of little guinea pig me, darting at shadows).

That said, I’m making decisions that will shape mine and my family’s future, so hyperbole is perhaps not misplaced. And actually it started with the art programmes. Having decided that my 42-year-old brain couldn’t handle learning C and Python, I was back to square one. I decided to brush up my Microsoft skills, since I find excel fun to use, and needed a backdrop to drown out noisy neighbours. So Sky Arts.

I watched Portrait Artist of the Year, Landscape Artist of the Year, and The Big Painting Challenge. And remembered how much I love art and how I should have done that instead of History. To cut a long story short I investigated all possibilities of doing A Level or Foundation Art, with a view to teaching, and realised it was too expensive.

But teaching has floated as an idea since forever. Dismissed because I don’t do people, and fifty-hour weeks trigger my anxiety. But so did the idea of going back into an office environment. What to do?

Suddenly I’d applied to observe lessons in a school (next week!), with a view to teaching English (obvious really), and now I’m on a crazy train of potentially starting Teacher Training next September. How did that happen? No idea.

Which is all good, except I’m still typing, invigilating, have an author event this Saturday, and a karate exam the following weekend. And Christmas, which any mum with school kids knows, is a full-time job for the next four weeks of carols, fetes and fun stuff (for them!)

Cue panic city.

So I had this crazy idea of increasing the dose of my marvellous anti-anxiety meds. Except I forgot the first week of change is hell. I feel sick, woozy, jittery and basically a little surreal. Idiot. I’m working on Friday and right now it’s a challenge to get out of bed at 5am to let the pup out. But I recently read this quote from the artist O’Keeffe (one of the class names at my kids’ school which are all named after artists) and I try to keep it in mind.

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

Bravery is my watchword right now. I entered the karate championships two weeks ago and not only did I win two trophies, I discovered I rather enjoy sparring, even if it means getting bopped in the face. For someone who can’t stand physical contact much of the time that’s a little bizarre, or maybe that’s what gives me the edge to defend myself. Who knew!

And the author event gives me the heebees but what is there to lose? And I might sell a few books. So teacher training could just be the next big adventure. As long as I get through the psychedelic weirdness of upping the meds. I’ll let you know!

Cake and Karate

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Karate Exam

Once again I have had a heap of blog post ideas floating around my head, but life keeps getting in the way of me writing them down.

Typing, housework, birthday cakes, after school club forms, karate exams, a new book idea.

So this is just a quick update to keep the blog plodding along!

I passed my first karate exam last Saturday, and my son passed his latest grade easily this time too. Despite feeling for my little girl who I think regretted choosing not to Grade with us, I was very proud of us both, particularly my son. Even without his sister, he walked in with head high and 100% focus and breezed an exam I was sure he would fail. His drawing of his exam shows how much it meant to him.

On the flip side I didn’t do so well on my first Proofreading paper. I got a B- which doesn’t sound too bad until you know that I need a straight B to pass. It turns out I edit too much. Ahem.

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Wobbly Cake

I made my son the requested Lego cake. It didn’t rise and was nowhere near the image my son picked out, but he liked it and it tastes great!

But oh my that lettering was far harder than it should be. Despite my many talents, manipulating fondant icing isn’t one of them!

I’m trying to make space for writing something new. Not that there is very much space at the moment between the school run, paid work, and party prep.

But I have an idea and that’s a start. I’ve challenged my husband to write something for the Chicken House competition (deadline December). Not sure if either of us will manage it, but the race is on.

Thankfully I’m at the ‘carrying an idea around in my mind and world building’ which is just as well. I don’t know if it’s the antibiotics (my ear infection came back and it’s definitely made me feel bleh – MTMcGuire I think you’re onto something!) or whether it’s an excited child getting out of bed at 5am yesterday, but I’m definitely a bit fuzzy. Writing a dystopian novel probably requires me to be a bit sharper.

In the meantime I’d better get back to typing and party prep. Who says SAHMs have it easy? ūüėÄ

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 #19 ~ Striving to Grow

Well, they passed.

Despite my daughter’s tears starting before we left home, and increasing to sobs of ‘I’m NOT doing it’ as we stood outside the exam room, she did her exam and passed easily.

Not so easily for my son. He passed too, but I suspect only because Sensei was being kind. Actually, kind is the wrong word. Apparently he ‘yelled’ at my son for getting his kata turns all wrong (which he did, and totally deserved being told off, because he refused to practice).

Unfortunately, my daughter came out even more terrified of Sensei¬†and even more determined not to take another karate exam ever. I suspect she’ll calm down, but it didn’t help that I’d portrayed him as a nice bloke for two weeks to calm her fears.

Anyhoo. They passed. And now it’s decision time.

I watched the next belt exams today, and I think they’ll get through those fine too, with some practice. But I’m not exactly sure why they should.

Photo3820The more I think about it, the more I think it must be hard for karate to be a passion at this age. It’s a bit like learning times tables and spelling¬†all the time.

Because the exams are every four months, a large chunk of their lesson time is spent on revising for exams. And even up to the higher belts, it’s all a matter of remembering punch combinations and kata routines.

There’s no particular skill.

Now I’m probably going to be shot down in flames for that statement. Let me quickly clarify that I wanted to do karate with the kids (they wouldn’t let me – too embarrassed) and I’d still love to do it. There’s a thrill in feeling the muscles perform a perfect punch or getting my leg up into a kick. But I saw quickly that I wouldn’t have the memory for it.

Too much of school is about remembering stuff, rather than learning, enjoying, being excited. Growing, stretching, expanding. And karate feels a bit like that.

If I can just wander off at a tangent…

I was following the kids across the park the other day after school, carrying all their bags, listening to them squabble, wondering what it was all about. You know, life.

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Beech Tree

There’s a huge beech tree in the park. It’s gorgeous, with it’s red/black leaves and majestic sweeping branches. I looked at it and wondered where I was going wrong. Why couldn’t I be a tree. Just be.

And then I had a mini-epiphany. A tree doesn’t just exist. It grows. It strives. Its sole aim in life is to get stronger, taller, better, and to pass that on to its offspring.

Grow.

That’s the point. The point in life is to grow. If something isn’t making us grow – as a person, as a family member, physically or emotionally, then we probably shouldn’t be doing it.

I watched my children playing this afternoon. My son sparring with the mini boxing gloves I bought him. My daughter cartwheeling along the wooden ‘beam’ we made her, over and over and over again until she landed one on the wood. They were growing. Their skills improving. And the joy in their achievements was palpable.

I think my daughter’s right. I think she’ll grow more as a person doing gymnastics and dance; grow more confidence in herself and her body doing the thing she loves, than she will at karate.

My son still has a lot to gain from martial arts. The discipline, the listening, the learning to control his muscles and his temper. But is karate the right one for him? I’m not sure. I wish there was a Kendo class nearby. He gets his passion from football. Perhaps what he still has to learn from karate is humility. He didn’t think he’d fail today, and didn’t seem all that bothered when he nearly did. Sometimes I admire his self-belief, and sometimes I can see it landing him in hot water.

And me? I still have a lot to learn about this parenting and being an adult lark. Never mind growing, I’m still trying to grow up.

 

June Journals #18 ~ Exam Day

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Karate Kids

Today it’s my children’s karate exam. I said back on day 5 of my June Journals that I didn’t know how I was going to get my daughter to do the exam when she was adamant she wasn’t.

In the comments I suggested a cunning plan of inviting Granddad to watch. It worked. Eventually.

To begin with, she cried and wailed when I said she had to do the exam because Granddad was coming. It felt like walking a tightrope. I hung in there through the tears and eventually we got to the bottom of her fear.

In the last exam, Sensei – the head of their particular club – came and ran through the bit of the exam my daughter finds hardest, the kata. It’s a sequence of moves (20 for hers) that have to be done in order. For the adults, it has to be done completely from memory, but the juniors have a ‘count’ and an indication of what comes next.

But Sensei was a little disappointed with their group and wasn’t afraid to show it. And if there’s one thing my daughter hates, it’s disapproval.

I’m afraid to admit (in case anyone who knows our karate club reads this!) that I put an image in my daughter’s head to ease her fear. An image of Sensei in a pink tutu and red heels – because for their last exam their examiner was a woman in high heels, who kicked butt doing the moves despite her footwear. And my daughter loves shoes!

I managed to get her laughing (rickety rope bridge across crocodile infested waters conquered!) and she admitted that she did really want to do the exam she was just scared.

That was a revelation for my husband and me. After the tears had passed, it seemed she wanted the push, she wanted to be made to do it: to have the decision taken from her. So, Miss Fanny P, you were right – sometimes you do have to shove them out their comfort zone.

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My NZ Skydive

It reminds me of when I did a tandem skydive in New Zealand. I’m terrified of heights and was palpitating long before we reached 15,000 ft. If I hadn’t been strapped to the front of a person who had every intention of jumping from that plane, whether I wanted to or not, I would never have done it.

I was only in the plane in the first place because I’d met an 80-year-old granny who’d done it the day before.

It was amazing. I couldn’t breathe by the time we came out of free-fall, and I wouldn’t do it ever again if you paid me millions of pounds (well, possibly then), but when I landed I felt like I could conquer the world.

Fear. It’s a funny thing.

Perhaps my daughter and I need to read ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.

June Journals #5 – Watch me, Mummy!

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Our Garden Gym

The sun came out yesterday. It was amazing. We went from March to June in an hour. I finally got the lawn mowed after my run, so my daughter was back to gymnastics in the garden.

Back to more, ‘Mummy, watch me, please!’

I love watching my daughter do her routines. It takes me back to my own childhood, when we put on plays and dance¬†routines and all sorts for our parents. A simple time. And it’s beautiful watching how far she has come, with just her own hard work.

But.

There’s always a but, isn’t there? I think parenting should be renamed, ‘But…’

The ‘but’ here is that my daughter also gets super frustrated when she can’t do the gymnastics she sees on YouTube. You know, those kids who’ve spent hours a week in classes since they were three.

Yesterday, we printed off the Proficiency Awards worksheets, so she can see how much she can already do. I (foolishly) thought it would improve her confidence, maybe even make her want to join a club.

No.

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Me & My Sis

My independent Aquarius refuses tuition. But… I’m at the end of what I can teach, both¬†through my ability to demonstrate (I never did bend well, and my wrists are beyond weak) and through my limited store of patience. A teacher I am not.

With karate, she will listen to her instructor a zillion times more than me (except when he says she’s ready for her next exam, but that’s a whole other problem). I think with gym classes she would flourish.

If she just had fun at home, it wouldn’t occur to me to put her in classes. I think kids do far too much scheduled activity. But just as we’ve reached the limit of what I can teach them in the pool, if she wants to improve – and she does – then a professional is required. Even pro athletes have a coach.

Not my daughter.

And it’s becoming a problem. How do you parent it? Like with the karate, what’s the best option? Do you make them do the exam, knowing they’ll be fine, or let them languish and get bored while their peers move on? Is it just for fun, or should it also be about putting in some effort, wanting to improve?

I have no idea.

All I know is that it was easy to, ‘Watch me, Mummy’ when it didn’t end in a dramatic exit. And that’s without the whole, ‘I wish I didn’t have a brother’.

There’s definitely no solution for that one!

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!