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.

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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:

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“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.

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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:

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“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.

***

Baking and Body Art: 2013 365 Challenge #80

What happened to painting the paper?

What happened to painting the paper?

I made the mistake of thinking I could write my post with the kids around this morning. Yesterday’s post that is – so with a 10am deadline. They watched two hours of TV and I just about managed to write the top half. With much pleading and trying to watch them cut paper, scooter, sweep and bounce at the same time, I managed to write the 750 word installment by 10.45am.

Never again.

No matter how exhausted I am I have to make sure it’s written before bedtime if I know hubbie’s working the next day. Oh how I have taken him for granted these last three months!

Body Art

Body Art

Anyway today hasn’t really recovered. We’ve done cutting and sticking, scootering and bouncing, painting on paper, painting our hands, painting in the bath. Cleaning the bath. More TV. Story reading, cookie baking (much squabbling over who was in charge of the bowl) and teddy tea parties.

Now at 5pm I’m finally free to walk the dog and think for five minutes together without trying to decipher two simultaneous conversations. I’ve tried really hard not to tweet every ten minutes or check my email today but since we put the PC in the kitchen that’s been hard.

When I did switch the screen off and sit down to the teddies’ tea party the game lasted all of three minutes before they were off onto something new. So I tidied the playroom, loaded some laundry and took the cookies out the oven. Maybe they get their short attention span from me?

Temporary truce

Temporary truce

I’ve always been scattered in my approach to getting stuff done – it was on most appraisals when I worked for a living – and generally it used to be okay. What I lacked in efficiency I made up for in lists and long hours. In those days I had enough sleep to remember everything that needed to be done.Today I realised I haven’t done a piece of artwork for a friend that she needs next week! Damn that short-term memory loss caused by sleep deprivation!

These days my scattered approach leads to grumpy kids and half done chores all over the house!  I’d like to say I’ll change but I think maybe I’m just at the point where I’ll pay for the kids’ therapy instead.

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Claire stood behind the Skoda and fought the urge to weep. “It’s Monday: I can get a new phone today. I need to go to Sheffield. What arsehole parks like that?”

The hostel car park was the size of a postage stamp. Claire had been fortunate to arrive the night before just as someone was leaving. Now the Skoda was so tightly wedged in she had no hope of reversing out without damaging someone’s car. It was tempting.

Who would know? She looked up at the buildings all around. Someone’s bound to see, knowing my luck. So, do I go in and wake a bunch of backpackers to find out who is blocking me in or wait until everyone wakes? She inhaled and the morning air froze her nose and throat.

“I want my phone!”

She laughed as her childish shout startled some pecking pigeons. Slumping against the back of her car, Claire tried to decide what to do. Her brain still felt muffled, as if it was floating under water. The doctor had said it might take weeks for her to recover from her concussion.

I’m not sure I’ll notice when it’s healed. My mind seems permanently foggy these days. Think Claire, think.

And then it came to her. She remembered reading in the hostel notes that it was close to the train station. It seemed crazy taking the train when she had a car but it would be nice to leave the Skoda behind for a while and pretend to be a normal person again.

The walk improved Claire’s mood and she was almost smiling by the time her iPad told her she had arrived at the train station. She stared at the dirty-white temporary buildings and the single railway line.

Train station is a bit of an overstatement. Bugger. God knows when the next train will chug through here. They’re probably still run by steam.

As she thought the words she heard the unmistakeable sound of an approaching train. Stuffing her iPad into her bag she ran for the platform just as a two-carriage train pulled in with a whoosh of brakes. Claire tugged open the door to the nearest carriage and jumped on board. A dozen calmly-seated suits turned to stare as Claire tumbled into the carriage, red-faced and panting. She smiled automatically and slid into the nearest seat, eager to hide her rosy face.

With a jolt the train pulled away and Claire prayed it was actually heading for Sheffield and not Manchester. Please don’t let me end up there today. I’m bound to bump into someone I know and I look like something the cat threw up.

She pulled her fingers through her tangled hair, wishing she had taken time to shower and dress properly. There had been only one thought on her mind as she left the hostel and that was to get a new phone.

Outside the window trees and fields flew past, before they passed through Grindleford station and disappeared into a tunnel. Claire stared at her reflection in the dark window and wondered when she had stopped wearing make-up. I guess it doesn’t matter if we are headed for Manchester: I don’t suppose anyone would recognise me.

The train emerged from the tunnel into a grey landscape and her image vanished. A voice echoed down the train calling for tickets. Claire dug in her handbag for her purse, feeling her heart thudding against her ribs. I’ve never boarded a train without a ticket before. I hope he’ll let me buy one and not make a fuss. She felt the heat return to her cheeks and wondered if it would have been less stressful to wake a hostel full of people to ask someone to move their car.

Why is nothing every easy?

***

Waiting, Dragons, Tennis and Sleep

Wimbledon 2007 – photo by Kol Tregaskes on Flickr

Pictures of Love, my WIP, is out with beta readers. I’ve never had anyone but family or agents read my work before. The former have always loved it, the latter rejected it. So I wait with more than a small amount of trepidation.

To use the time well (hopefully) I have gone back to my Young Adult book, Dragon Wraiths, which I hope to enter in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition in September. I had put the idea on hold, because the rules state: Women who have had a novel published commercially, for any age group, in any country, are not eligible.

As I hope to self-publish Pictures of Love in August, I figured that meant I couldn’t enter. But I read the rules again, more closely, and it says Self-published manuscripts are eligible, so it’s game on.

Only now I’ve read the rules again I’ve spotted that the entry is 3000 words with no synopsis.

Eek.

The dragons don’t come in until Part Two, a third of the way through the book, and the weighty stuff about global warming etc comes in Part Three, (assuming I can research enough by the September deadline; it’s a new addition to the story).

How can I get enough plot into 3000 words to hook a reader, and still have character development, voice, YA themes and all that jazz, without a synopsis? I guess I have to finish the first draft and see how much time I have left before I worry about it.

That’s if I can stay awake.

Youngest child has had an ear infection, together with a lovely temperature of 39.2 for days, so sleep has been a rare commodity all round. Husband and I have been staggering about sighing I’m so tired; so much so that it’s my eldest child’s favourite excuse every time she has the screaming heebie-jeebies (by the way, I love that Word has that in its dictionary!).

“But mummy I’m just so tired, that’s why I lashed out and threw something at you.”

I have to bite my tongue on snapping back, “You slept for ten hours last night, I’ve barely had that this whole week!”

One of the by-products of sleep deprivation is that I, too, become a tiresome three-year-old.

As a result, my return to writing today, after two weeks without penning a word, as I wrestled with Lulu printing and e-book formatting (posts to come), only lasted until lunchtime. Then I had to admit defeat, close the laptop and turn on the tennis. I saw about three shots before I fell asleep.

Now I’m walking the dog, hoping the rain and soggy trousers will wake me up enough to finish my chapter before I collect the kids.

Or I might go nap in front of Murray.

This is WriterMummy saying night night.

 

P.S. Can’t sleep. Murray is making me too nervous. Come on Murray, hold your serve!