Lazy Day and Lego: 2013 365 Challenge #61

Lego: Lots of Adult Patience Required

Lego: Lots of Adult Patience Required

Had a lazy day at home today. I’m still struggling with awful insomnia, averaging 2-3 hours’ sleep a night. I’m taking St John’s Wort so hoping that will kick in soon and let me sleep.

Husband had work and DIY to do so I had planned to take the children into town (I have new paintings to drop at Art in the Heart) but Aaron was in full stomping NO territory and it just didn’t happen. I didn’t actually manage to get him dressed until 10.30am and then I forgot to make sure he was ‘pointing down’ in his nappy so had to change his entire outfit an hour later when he peed all over it at the lunch table.

The only thing I managed to do all day was pull together a 50-page partial manuscript to send to an agent who had requested it (for Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes ironically) and I only managed that by sitting the kids in front of the TV for an hour and ignoring shouts of “come sit with me Mummy.”

I feel like this is a good opportunity to reset the balance and fess up. In case anyone thinks I’m some kind of super-mum because my kids do craft and baking and go to the Farm and the Zoo: I only do those things to survive. I get bored if I can’t do something creative from time to time (hence painting and craft), I go crazy if I’m stuck in the house with them for more than two hours together (hence Zoo/Farm) and some days the only way not to yell is to be out in public where I’m likely to try harder to keep my mouth shut! Sometimes my kids beg to spend the day at home and I just can’t. I look at the clock and see twelve LONG hours until bedtime. Driving to the supermarket uses an hour up just in the car there and back. A trip to the Farm eats into three or four, maybe even five if they sleep on the way home.

From Here You Can Almost See The Sea - the picture I'm meant to be taking to the Gallery

From Here You Can Almost See The Sea – the picture I’m meant to be taking to the Gallery

Today, though, I was too tired to even drive. I lay in the paddling pool with them and read stories. I sat on the sofa with them for two hours after lunch while Aaron fell asleep watching Peppa Pig and Amber played on the iPad. I managed to crawl off the sofa and build Lego with Amber while Aaron slept some more (I never normally let him sleep for more than an hour as it makes bedtime hard, but today he slept for 2-3 hours). So, no super-mummy in this house! Just a normal SAHM getting on and getting by.

I went to bed last night without even starting my post. I think the insomnia might be partially due to using my creative brain from 8pm to midnight and then expecting it just to switch off. Also I’ve been working hard at Twitter and my mind flashes like a strobe light with all the snippets of information. Time to take a step back and let the brain rest.

Even so, I wrote two pages of notes just as I lay down in bed last night as I had the next post floating in my brain. Typical, as normally I have no idea what is going to happen to Claire next. I guess leaving her hanging off a cliff as it were does help the creative flow! Kids had me up every two hours between them so actually I needn’t have worried about setting myself up for a good night’s sleep! Thankfully it’s Saturday (hurrah!) and they’re watching TV with Daddy this morning so I can play catch up.

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The Skoda closed in around Claire like a coffin. She looked out across the damp, grey Castlefield car park and wondered how far she could run before he caught her. This has gone from Miss Marple to bloomin Diagnose Murder. Her brain screamed Get out of the car before you’re next. Her body remained stubbornly glued to the plastic seat, all control over her muscles gone. Josh sat mute and still, the echo from his words still reverberating round them.

Claire inhaled slowly, filling her lungs with the scent of smoke and fear. It calmed the racing thoughts and brought her logic to the fore. Killed a child. Not murdered a child. An accident. Maybe he ran a child over or something. It doesn’t make him a bad person.

She wanted to ask but was afraid to hear the answers. She forced her head to turn and face him and the sight of his slumped body, of the tears dribbling down his stubbled cheek, drove everything but sympathy from her mind.

“Tell me.”

The words made them both jump; her voice sounded impossibly loud in the silence.

Josh began to speak, slowly at first, then faster and faster as the pent-up words rushed forth like a burst riverbank.

“It was a patient. A child. The same age as my eldest. The young children are the hardest. They’re so accepting of their fate. So cheerful. Uncrushable.” He paused as if trying to decide where to start. “I missed something. I should have ordered a test and I didn’t. I was cocky, I was sure. My Registrar overruled me and ordered the test but it was too late.”

Claire felt her stomach twist and her breathing speed up. She forced herself to listen without comment.

“The parents were so…. nice. Accepting. They’re worse than the ones that rail and rant. They thanked me. Thanked me. For doing everything I could to save their child. But I didn’t. I failed them. I missed something.” He ran his hand through his hair and sighed loudly. “There’s this fear, when you’re a doctor. It keeps you awake at night. Did I do something wrong? Have I done everything I can? It’s good. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you focussed. But I’d lost the fear. We had a new baby at home and there wasn’t much sleep.”

How many kids has he got, Claire thought but pushed the irrelevance aside.

“I was trying to help Fiona, trying to be a good father. Sick kids just make me want to hold mine tightly and never let go. But I keep thinking, was my judgement impaired? The inquest cleared me but, in my heart, eating me up like the cancer that killed that child, I’m to blame.”

“But if they cleared you?”

Josh turned suddenly, his skin mottled and red. He leant towards her and shouted, the words raking at her like claws. “You don’t get it. I blame me. Every night I see that tiny face, those enormous eyes gazing into mine. The mother looking to me for answers, certain she would find them. And I failed them. I let their child die.” He slumped back into the car seat and dropped his head into his hands. His words were muffled. “I had to leave. I couldn’t look at my own children any more. I don’t deserve them.”

Emotions swam around Claire like darting fish. Gut-wrenching sympathy, confusion, panic at Josh’s outburst. Mostly she felt sorrow. Sadness for Josh and his pain. Distress for the family who lost their child. Grief at her own insignificant meaningless life. How could I ever stress about clients and deadlines, about Carl and getting sacked? It was all pointless. No one will die if I don’t do a good job.

She reached across and stroked the side of Josh’s hand, unable to find any words of comfort that wouldn’t sound paltry and pathetic. She wanted to tell him he would always be one of the good guys. That working to save lives, even if he didn’t always succeed, was a noble thing. That Fiona was lucky to have him for a husband and his children needed their Daddy back. Her throat remained closed and all she could do was send silent support.

She thought about Fiona, left with at least two children to care for, wondering where her husband was. Getting on a plane to fly half way round the world, just her and the children. And I worry about taking Sky in a hostel for a week. Honestly girl, you’re pitiful.

Claire dredged her mind for the right words. Her job was all about finding the right phrase but her brain remained blank. In the end there was only one thing to say.

“Let’s go get drunk.”

***

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Blue tummies, yellow bath: 2013 365 Challenge #54

Bath Paints: made with cornflour and food colouring

Bath Paints: made with cornflour and food colouring

Out of sheer desperation I came up with the idea of Bath Art today.

Aaron was refusing to exit the Peppa Pig rocket they have at our local supermarket (after being a complete star all during a weekly food shop and lunch at a busy supermarket: Who knew it was still half term in our local town?)

As I toyed with the idea of breaking my own rule and putting another £1 into the Peppa Pig toy (it is cool – the rocket spins and there are buttons to press which illuminate different planets on a map of the solar system) I began going through a list of other more appealing activities to tempt him home.

The conversation went something like this:

“Playdough?”

“No!”

“Painting?”

“No!”

“Football?”

“No!”

“Space-hoppering?”

“No!”

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?”

“No!”

Bath Art: An experiment (next time maybe I'll just use paint!)

Bath Art: An experiment (next time maybe I’ll just use paint!)

That was the point at which I knew I could ask “Chocolate Cake?” and he’d say “No!” because he’s going through that phase. One of the ones your brain erases, like childbirth, because otherwise you’d never do it twice.

Actually, when Amber went through her ‘Why? / No!’ phase (as I like to call it) Aaron was already six months old so it was too late to send him back. Now I have a why/no toddler and a sulky teenager four-year-old.

Joy.

So my beleaguered brain remembered something I’d read on a parenting blog somewhere about making paints and taking them in the bath. Genius. At the time I thought the woman was mad but I was all out of other ideas on four hours’ sleep.

I made the paints out of cornflour and food colouring. Don’t know why I didn’t just use poster paint except I’m not a big fan and I had no idea if it would stain the grout/bath/children. As it turns out, food colouring stains grout/bath/children too, although not permanently thankfully. A second bath of bubbles eventually washed off the blue tummies and mostly erased the yellow scum tidal mark. Got rid of all the hot water too but that was a small price to pay on a day when it was bitter outside and Mummy and Daddy had zero energy.

Bath Art 2: Aaron's End (please ignore filthy grout!)

Bath Art 2: Aaron’s Masterpiece

At least I managed to write half an installment while walking the dog this evening (before my fingers became too cold to tap-tap) so hopefully it won’t be too painful to write the rest when the kids are in bed. I will have to search for a possible continuity error though as I’ve been writing recently about Ruth as Claire’s ‘little’ sister but I think Claire’s the youngest.

NB I was right, Claire is meant to be the youngest, so have changed one word in an old post from ‘little’ to ‘poor’. The challenges of writing and publishing on a daily basis!

I’m sneaking five minutes now to write this bit while the kids watch Mike the Knight with Daddy. I can’t stand Mike the Knight. If he was my child I’d be horrified, although I guess he always comes good in the end.

Oh, it’s finished. Time to go…. Ah. Both kids want Mummy to put them to bed. It’s going to be one of those nights. TTFN.

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“Still sulking Claire? Aren’t you a bit old to be acting like a silly schoolgirl?”

Claire looked up at Josh and tried to make sense of the sounds coming out of his mouth. Sulking, school girl, Sky, Ruth, sister. The words marched through her consciousness without leaving a mark. She felt rather than saw Josh lean over and peer into her face.

“Have I really upset you? Is it because we soaked you at the lake today? You looked cute: like a little kitten who’d toppled into a bath.”

Claire looked at the phone cradled in her lap and tried to absorb what Josh was saying.

He sat next to her on the sofa and his voice washed around her like a warm wave. He talked into her silence but the words barely registered. Something about it being lonely on the road and that maybe running away was the wrong thing to have done.

 Run away. I’d like to do that. I’m sure Ruth would too.

“You can’t run away from cancer,” she said, her voice alien and weak.

“What?” Josh’s response was curt. The harsh tone surprised Claire, momentarily dragging her out of her bewilderment.

“What?” She echoed him without understanding.

“You said you can’t run away from cancer, what did you mean by that?”

She turned to face him and fell into the blackness of his eyes. Shaking off feelings she couldn’t process, Claire said quietly “My sister has a brain tumour. They’re operating in the morning. She needs me to look after her six-year-old daughter for a week or two at Easter while she has chemo. Is there anything else you need to know?”

Josh moved to the edge of the sofa, his face white. “Did she say whether it was primary or secondary? What part of the brain is it in?” His voice was clipped and business like. “Where is she being treated?”

“Addenbrookes,” Claire responded, finally hearing a question she could answer. “How do you know to ask all those things?” Claire had sat mute as her sister broke the news, her brain empty and cavernous.

“Oncology is – was – my specialism.” Josh spoke the words as if they pained him.

“What’s Onc-whatever you said?”

“Treatment of cancer.”

“You’re a doctor?”

“I was.”

Claire looked at Josh. He’s not much older than me. What gives? Part of Claire wanted to pursue the thought, but curiosity about Josh’s past was soon swamped by her present worries. She wished she could recall everything Ruth said on the phone so she could ask Josh what it all meant. As hard as she tried to remember her sister’s words only two sentences were chiseled into her memory. I need you to take Sky and It’s malignant, they’re going to operate tomorrow.

Josh and Claire sat together on the sofa, close but not touching. Around them the hostel bustled with chatter. Beth’s laugh echoed from behind them, where a raucous game of Trivial Pursuit was underway. Each lost in their own thoughts, the two almost-strangers sat in silence.

***

Puddle Jumping and Muddy Monsters: 2013 365 Challenge #48

New Olympic Sport - Long Puddle Jump

New Olympic Sport – Long Puddle Jump

The sun made a rare appearance today so, despite having zero energy left after a four-hour Farm visit yesterday, I took the kids to our local zoo while Daddy did DIY. Hamerton Zoo is one of the three or four places we have an annual pass to and it has been worth every penny. I thought the kids would lose interest but not only do different animals make an appearance each time we go the place also has something I hadn’t counted on. Puddles.

After the failed dog-walk yesterday, when little man fell in a puddle and cried all the way home, Daddy promised puddle-jumping today (I blame Peppa Pig) and puddle jumping is what they did. I often think that’s the main reason why they love going to the zoo. I could save myself an hour of driving and just fill the bath with mud, except I love seeing the animals. And there are no puddles like the ones created by a wide open space, poor drainage and major footfall.

Peppa Pig has a lot to answer for...

Peppa Pig has a lot to answer for…

It takes some effort to let the kids get as filthy as they did today. I don’t mind getting muddy if I’m wearing the right gear but I hate wearing waterproofs so my main aim is generally to stay away from the kids and watch from a distance when they’re top-to-top in slurry. I amuse myself by seeing the horrified look on other parents’ faces as their kids want to do what mine are doing. I feel a little bit guilty at the bad example mine set but not when I see someone bring their kid to the zoo in white trainers. I mean, really?

My job is to tell the kids to stay away from other people and occasionally to referee. I cheer from the sidelines with wetwipes and a change of clothes, although today nothing but a full bath the minute we got home would do. Today I amused myself trying to get action shots with Amber’s little camera.

My muddy monsters (picture does not do them justice!)

My muddy monsters (picture does not do them justice!)

It definitely feels like a parenting box ticked and it was a gorgeous sunny day to stand around supping flask-tea while they invented a new Olympic Sport – the Long Puddle Jump.

The chocolate cake in the coffee shop is pretty good too.

As I’ve already written one Claire post from scratch today (albeit a short one) I’m struggling for ideas and words. The combination of a glass of wine and three hours on my feet means I’m more fit for bed than creativity. Hmmm might be another short one today!

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Claire walked up to the building and felt the dark mood of the day soar away with the retreating birds. The structure in front of her reared magnificently, every inch a five-star hotel. The whitewashed walls stood proud behind an ornate veranda and when she turned to survey the view her gaze ran down verdant lawn, over woodland thicket and across rolling hills. The house nestled amidst a backdrop of trees: some still resplendent in their evergreen glory, some eagerly awaiting the dressmaker of spring.

Hitching the rucksack further up her shoulder Claire entered the building hoping the interior lived up to first impressions.

Inside, the late evening light poured in through a cupola above the main staircase. Craning her neck to take in the detail Claire decided it wouldn’t look out of place in a Hello Magazine spread extolling the extravagant pads of the rich and famous.

At last, some glamour.

Claire smiled and sighed, releasing the tension that had built up over the long long day. I can’t believe it was only a few hours ago that I was swinging through the trees like some poorly trained circus ape. She felt as if she might have aged a decade since the morning.

Claire followed directions to her private room: she had gone over her daily allowance to book it but, for once, it wasn’t because she wanted the privacy. After the rollercoaster day she would have welcomed the company of a dorm room but there hadn’t been any available. It seemed decadent to rattle round a three-bed room but, as her main intentions were food and sleep, it wasn’t like to be an issue for long.

The grandeur ebbed slightly as she entered the depths of the main house. Unlike some of the places she had stayed in thus far, this hostel seemed faded and in need of some love. At last she inserted the key and opened the door to her room.

“Blimey, what’s that awful smell?”

Claire looked round the room. It seemed okay, wooden bunks, great view. The odd lingering smell was indefinable. A quick spritz of perfume will soon mask that. She looked round again. Where’s the bathroom? Her expectations of an en-suite had been set by previous experience. I have a private room and I still have to go in hunt of the shower? Great. I guess this is more the hostelling I expected when I started. Carl would grin from ear to ear if he could see it.

Through the fading twilight Claire could make out a lake in the distance as she peered through the Georgian window. It’s going to have to wait until tomorrow. I’m too tired to see what delights Hawkshead has to offer. I’m not even sure I’m going to make it to the restaurant.

Slinging her rucksack in the corner Claire bounced on the beds to find the most comfortable one, lay down and was almost instantly asleep.

***