Dependence before Independence?

It’s 4am and the puppy just woke up. She’s crying and I know that a) she needs a wee and b) if I don’t go soon not only will I have extra laundry, but she will have woken up the kids.

That’s fine. Parenting is about getting up in the night. The problem is I also know I won’t make it back to bed. Because once she’s done her business, she won’t go back in her crate without protest. And by protest I mean yelping, crying and rattling at the gate until it sounds like armageddon.

We’re on dog two. We know the rules. Ignore them when they cry and they stop. And we did. A bit. She goes in her crate at bedtime without crying now. But the mornings are different.

Firstly, I’m not so great at 4am. I go from calm to banshee really quickly. When I threatened (in hyperbole I hasten to add) to drown or sell her, I knew it wasn’t working. That whine, man, it’s like a chainsaw to the nerves pre-dawn.

Secondly, I’m not the only one who becomes vile on too little sleep. A couple of weeks ago I left the puppy crying and took off to the outside room, where I couldn’t hear her. I slept beautifully for a couple more hours, but awoke to carnage. The whole house was up, poo everywhere, tempers frayed. It took days for husband and kids to recover.

It was the same when my youngest child was born. My eldest was a light sleeper then, and only 19 months old, so whenever the baby cried he was instantly hushed. I spent the next five years dealing with the consequences. Even now I wonder if I caused his separation anxiety by trying to protect the family’s sleep/sanity.

And there’s the rub. At 4am, when I’m taking one for the team, I’m also telling myself what a terrible parent/dog owner I am. Creating a needy, spoilt puppy whilst also creating a grumpy exhausted me.

My only salvation is something a therapist said to me once. I wasn’t there for parenting advice, but it was the only good thing about the whole experience, since they did more harm than good for the thing I was there for. Anyway, the advice was ‘Dependence before Independence’. A child has to learn to trust you before they can leave you. A child has to know you’ll be there no matter what.

That phrase has been our parenting mantra. For every 3am cuddle, for every event left early or extra five minutes spent saying goodbye. It helped me too, because nothing triggers my anxiety like having a screaming child dragged from my arms, no matter how well-intentioned. I’ve had stern words with teachers and left childcare institutions that insisted my child was crying ‘crocodile tears’. I believed in my mantra.

And it’s worked, with the kids. My timid frightened children are now pulling away, finding their wings, choosing to forge their own path, without being shoved. They go on camp and sleepovers and run happily into school without a backward glance. And my sanity has remained intact.

Time will tell if it holds true for puppies.

Pup Suspends Progress

So the kids are finally back at school after seven long weeks of wind phobia and too much screen time. A summer of painting for sanity has come to an end and I can start my next book.

Or so I thought.

But it isn’t lack of an idea that’s holding me back, nor the three-star ‘bit predictable’ review on The Family We Choose.

It’s a puppy.

Whose crazy idea was it to get another pet, when we already have four guinea pigs, a hamster and a 10-year-old labradoodle. Oh, yeah, mine. Ahem.

Coco Martin joined us on Saturday and she is a joy. And a menace. But most of all she’s a baby.

Oh my, I’d gratefully forgotten the endless bodily fluids and the interrupted sleep and the day revolving around play and naps and food.

Any attempt to work is quickly aborted. She fell asleep on my fast forward button as I was audio-typing, and cried in her pen through a twenty-minute audio test, as I look to earn back some of the fortune she has already cost.

Much as knitting and watching videos might sound great, I’m ready to use my brain again.

Never mind.

Writing will recommence soon. In the meantime, it’s lucky she’s cute!

June Journals #28 ~ Mummy is Broken

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Taken by my son

I’m a little bit broken this morning.  Physically and mentally.

I have knitter’s wrist (carpel tunnel, though mostly from ironing all day yesterday), runner’s knee (swollen and sore, actually from swimming), and mother’s head (child up in the night, not enough sleep)!

Mostly I’m broken from too many deep discussions this week.

I’ve reached the point where I’m only capable of reacting like a five-year-old: sticking my fingers in my ears and going, “Lalalalala I can’t hear you!”

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Boy’s Best Friend

And don’t even mention the football. I certainly won’t.

But there’s tennis, and the sun is shining. It isn’t raining – that in itself feels like a miracle.

And I spent a wakeful hour in the night looking for knitting patterns for a mermaid doll, for a friend of my daughter who is having an underwater-themed birthday party, so it’s not all bad. When my wrist is up to knitting again of course.

As it seemed appropriate this morning, I thought I’d share a little ditty I wrote a while ago, called A Mother’s Hymn (to the tune of Morning has Broken).

Mummy is broken, tired and yawning
Mummy is broken, shaken and stirred
Praise for the caffeine, Praise for the chocolate
Pass me some matchsticks, my vision is blurred

Mine is the long day, mine is the long night,
Tantrums and nightmares, cuddles and pee
Bring me the weekend, dream of a lie-in
One day when they’re older, and I can just be

Amanda Martin


Sleep: Before and After Children

Today's survival method

Today’s survival method

I had one of those nights last night. Actually, who am I kidding? This is what it’s like most nights.

In amidst the weird dreams and the random wakings of a small child I tried to remember as much of it as possible so I could write it down.

It went something like this.

9pm: Both children finally asleep.

10pm: Can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Time for bed.

10.15pm: Read for ten minutes but the words keep merging into bizarre sentences. Lights out.

12am: Husband comes to bed. Trips over something and smashes into the radiator. I’m awake now. But actually that’s okay because I was dreaming I was in the middle of the Syrian conflict. Damn you HONY for humanising it so I can imagine all the stories of the poor people trapped by war.

12.30am: Finally get back to sleep, although husband’s snoring sounds like a frenzied horse. Think about putting the ear plugs in, but my ears are sore from wearing them so much.

3am: Son gets up for a wee, leaves the bathroom light on and comes in to say he can’t sleep. Send him back to bed, but the bathroom light is shining like a searchlight onto my face.

3.15am: Find the energy to get up: son is out cold. Turn out the bathroom light, but the damage is done. I’m wide awake.

3.30am: My brain starts writing this blog post. It has a ‘blogging’ voice that takes over and all I can do is listen. I want it to shut up. Try the meditation breathing techniques I learned from this video, which I discovered through Helen Yendall’s blog post, but it’s not working.

3.45am: Husband’s snoring sounds like an asthmatic bear. It’s ruining my concentration on my own breathing. Meditation isn’t working anyway. The blogging voice won’t be quiet. I’d get up and write some notes but my body seems to be full of cement.

5am: Think I must have slept because son wakes me from a strange dream about being in a supermarket. He doesn’t ask this time, just crawls into bed. I’m too tired to send him away and, after my odd dream, a cuddle is nice.

6am: Son has been stroking my arms and hands for an hour. I feel like ants in running spikes are crawling all over my skin. I keep telling him to stop but I don’t have the energy to send him back to bed.

6.15am: Finally roll over so son can’t reach any bare skin. He finds my feet, which is the worst feeling in the world. I curl up in a ball and eventually he says, “can I have the iPad, Mummy?” Send him away to watch programmes.

6.45am: Daughter comes in to say she needs a poo.

6.50am: Wipe daughter’s bottom. Go back to bed.

7.15am: Son asks if he can go downstairs. I mutter something unintelligible and he goes away.

8am: Son yells that he’s finished. I go and wipe his bottom. Try going back to bed, but it’s too late, I’m up. The in-laws are coming for lunch and I have to tidy the house and make crumble. I feel like I’ve had twenty minutes sleep and half a bottle of vodka. The night seemed a hundred hours long.

I remember what it was like before children. It went something like this:

10pm: TV show is boring, go upstairs to read.

12am: Tear myself away from the book because I have work in the morning and need to sleep.

7am: Alarm goes off. Is it morning already?

Stepping Back From The Brink

Not giving up yet

Not quitting yet, although putting this MS to one side

My psychotherapist once told me I see everything in black and white. The world is either coming to an end or it’s fantastic – there’s nothing in between. Unfortunately, true as it is, she didn’t give me a way to tackle it.

I have become better at keeping perspective, finding the positive, crawling away from the pit of despair (with a little medicinal assistance). But when I’m sleep-deprived and premenstrual all bets are off, drugs or no drugs. Then, a day or so later, I look back and roll my eyes. Get a grip.

And so it is this morning. When I think about my point of nadir yesterday – triggered by thinking I can’t write – I realise what went wrong. I took someone’s judgement of my first ever children’s book – and an early draft at that – as an indictment against ALL my writing.

Who did I think I was? Did I really think I could work on a novel for a couple of months – in a new genre – and it be anything other than pants? Particularly a novel written for a reason, rather than because the story demanded to be captured. My other novels took months, often with a big gap between first and second draft. The characters lived with me and demanded a voice.

So, I’ve eaten a snickers and stopped being a Diva. I got my first short but charming comment on Class Act today (“A very engaging romance”) after offering it free for a few weeks to get reviews. Phew! And I’ve come up with a new plan to fill my time until the end of term. It’s a crazy plan, but it’ll keep me busy.

I just wish I hadn’t involved the editor in my should I/shouldn’t I dramatics. I doubt she’ll ever work with me again, and she was really very good. I’m trying to remind myself of the phrase What someone else thinks of you is none of your business.

Hmmm. That one might need some work.

Sleep Deprived Stress-Bunny: 2013 365 Challenge #281

Working hard

Working hard

My 350th post today! I like it when the milestone figures come around, it makes it easier to prise the eyes open and write some words!

Like yesterday’s post, today’s is likely to be on the short side. On top of the cold I’m fighting off, I had physio on my knee this morning. Physio always leaves me limp as a dishrag, and that’s without it being rush rush to get there on time.

It was a bit of a squeeze to get to the appointment (it was actually hubbie’s but he’d double-booked himself), as I had to stop at a service station for quarter of an hour en-route from the school run so I could tidy up and publish the few words I wrote during breakfast!

I might have no core muscles. I might tick all the physio’s danger categories of Sleep-Deprived, Sensitive to Temperature, Stress Bunny, Sedentary Lifestyle and Perfectionist (he said, try as he might, he couldn’t think of an alternative word beginning with S for that last one! Maybe ‘Super Perfectionist’?). I might be knotted and tied up and a bit wonky, but I can at least stick to my daily blog deadline! 🙂

All I have to do now is think of something to write about. The little energy left to me today has been spent tidying and planning for my sister’s long awaited arrival. After over two and a half years, I’m finally going to be able to give her a hug tomorrow, as she and her family come to stay (not with us, thankfully! I think two children in the house might be enough for me). Luckily my parents’ house is close by, so we’ll hopefully see them loads. I just have to figure out how much to take my daughter out of school so she finds a balance between not missing out there or here. Tricky.

Anyway, no dazzling words for my 350th post since I started the blog last year. I’ll have to hope for some inspiration before tomorrow! For now I’m going to try and stop yawning long enough to catch up with Claire, and then I’m going to bed to secure a few hours’ sleep before little man has his first nightmare or his nappy leaks (despite being on our fourth different brand of nappy)!.

This is the sleep deprived stress bunny saying night night.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“You want me to do what?” Kim’s tired voice rose in agitation.

“Come to Cornwall with me. Just for a week or two, until Psych Liaison are off your case. It’ll be fun. The forecast is great, and Cornwall is meant to be beautiful.”

“Well it isn’t. I had a gig in Newquay once and it was horrible.” Kim folded her arms, reminding Claire strongly of Sky.

“That’s just one town. Milton Keynes is a boring town of concrete and roundabouts; you wouldn’t judge the whole of the Midlands on it, would you?”

Jeff caught Claire’s eye and signalled that he wanted a quiet word. Claire gave an imperceptible nod.

“Just think about it, okay? Now, would you like a cup of tea?”

Kim nodded, then sank her head back against the sofa. Although she’d seemed brighter once they’d reached her apartment, she’d soon slumped into despondency; drifting into a dark place beyond Claire’s reach.

In the kitchen, Jeff filled the kettle before turning to face Claire. “Don’t give up. She’s just being stubborn. Perhaps don’t mention the bit about the tent– Kim hates camping.”

Claire shivered, remembering Jeff’s attempts to get the friends to see sense before she went to New Zealand. Determined to carry the high ground, Claire lifted her chin and took Kim’s tea back into the lounge.

Kim lay with her eyes closed, but they flew open when Claire put the mug down with a clink. Claire happened to be watching her friend’s face, and saw the muscles tighten into the obstinate mask from earlier. She didn’t know whether to be irritated or amused by the wilfulness of her friend’s reaction.

Determined not to rise to the bait, Claire perched on the sofa and said in a bright voice, “So, am I to have a travelling companion? We never managed the girly holiday when we were younger – maybe this is our opportunity?”

Kim remained silent and Claire searched her brain for a way through the wall. “You can help me keep up with the blog, if you like? As I’ll be working for Conor this time, I might struggle to write something every day. Fancy trying your hand as a blogger?”

A flicker of interest passed across the pale face and for a moment Kim looked less unhappy. Then it was gone.

“Isn’t there a theatre in the cliffs, down at the bottom of Cornwall? I’m sure we could try and get tickets to a play – all paid-for research of course. Give us something to work towards?”

At last Kim turned to face her friend, and the tension dropped from her face.

“Alright, enough already, I’ll come. It’s not like I have so many other options.”

It wasn’t exactly a grateful acceptance speech, but Claire didn’t mind.

“Fabulous. I do just have one favour to ask, if you are coming.”

A wary look crept across Kim’s face.

“What’s that?”

Claire smiled.

“Can we take your car?”


The Wonder of Sleep: 2013 365 Challenge #166

Walking the dog

Walking the dog

Life has been good recently.

With an extra half day of childcare to get on top of the housework, and lots of lovely feedback on my next book, I’ve been feeling unusual sensations: Confidence. Enjoyment.

The sun has been shining and it felt like summer in my heart, if not always outside the front door.

Then I started to struggle with sleep. And the school debate reared its head, so the sleep got worse. Now, for three nights in a row (at least, I’ve lost count) I’ve been woken every two hours, and everything’s gone to pot.

Spot the dog!

Spot the dog!

Last night I went to bed on a large glass of wine, hoping to sleep through. All it meant was the two-hour shifts of sleep left me groggy and unable to get up. I broke. Low and behold, my life reverted to what it was before. Crying before breakfast, shouting before morning snack. Unable to concentrate, unable to smile.

My family are amazing. Hubbie and kids were full of sympathy and cuddles. When I sobbed in Tesco because my Clubcard vouchers had expired, Amber said, “It’s alright Mummy,” before I’d even managed to apologise. I think maybe seeing the difference for themselves, seeing that it isn’t just words when I say, “Sorry, Mummy’s tired,” has made them take the tears and shouting less to heart.

Enjoying the evening sun

Enjoying the evening sun

Doesn’t stop them being little monkeys of course but you can’t expect miracles from preschoolers.

So now I’m yawning and stumbling my way round the field with the dog, trying to smile at the sun but really praying for bedtime and a night where my lovely family don’t take it in turns to wake me.

On the plus side, I didn’t cry when I got back to the car this afternoon, with two tired and cranky kids, to find a scribbled note under the wiper that said, “You have a flat tyre.” I didn’t shout at hubbie when I rang him and he said, “Oh yes, that went flat when I borrowed your car last week, just pump it up, it’ll be fine.”

There’s something to be proud of on the darkest of days. Night night.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“This isn’t a trek; this is just taking the bloody thing for a walk.” Claire looked up at the creature trying to eat her hat. “Cut it out!” The llama smirked at her down its long nose, and chewed insolently.

Claire caught sight of Maggie, her expression somewhere between amusement and disapproval. She held her finger to her lips and Claire looked round guiltily, realising there were children in earshot.

She tugged on the lead and the animal trotted on behind her, like the twisted off-spring of a dog and a giraffe.

The children laughed and giggled, as they walked the llamas along the country lane. At the front, a guide chatted about the local plant and animal life, although the children paid little attention. Maggie paused to let Claire catch up.

“Not what you were expecting?”

“Well, no. I went pony trekking in the New Forest. I was on the pony, not pulling it along behind me.”

“This is for the children, not you! They’re only 8 and 9 years old. Grooming and walking a llama is just their level. Plus we don’t have to worry about the health and safety paperwork if one of them were to fall off! Anyway, the fun comes later.” She threw a cheeky glance at Claire, who felt a heavy feeling in her stomach.

“Why did I let you talk me into this?”

“Because you were bored and wanted some company, some fun? Admit it, you’re having fun?”

Claire shook her head, her lip stuck out in a pout.

“Now you look like a nine-year-old.” The women laughed. “So, where to next, Claire?”

“Ironbridge Coalport, wherever that is.”

“Ah, that’s over in Shropshire. Lovely. Visit the Blist Hill Victorian Village, it will give you something different to write about on that website of yours. You can go for a ride in the horse and cart, if you’re tired of walking!”

With a nod, Claire tugged the lead of her llama and followed the giggling children back for lunch, wishing that Maggie could come with her to her next hostel. There was something infectious about the woman, something warm, that made her happy.


“Come on, Miss Carleton!”

Claire looked over her shoulder at the girl behind her and resisted the urge to swear. She gripped the rubber handles tightly in sweaty hands and willed her creaking knees to try harder. I will not lose to a nine-year old. She glanced over at the blonde-haired girl to her right, who was giggling so hard she didn’t hear the instruction to go.

Pulling hard on the handles, Claire bounced the space hopper along the grass towards the marker. Behind her she could hear her other team mates yelling and urging her on. Her thighs burned. I’m going to kill you, Maggie. She couldn’t see the woman, but she knew she was grinning, just as she had been when she volunteered Claire to take her place in the races.

I’ve seen her tramp along the road quicker than I could run. Playing the old-age card, so that I have to endure sack races and space hoppers: That’s just low. She scowled, but somewhere deep inside a sensation bubbled. Claire didn’t need to analyse it, she didn’t want to. Maggie would be too smug.

The feeling bubbled up higher, until the words were in her mind.

This is fun.