Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Talking About The Bad Things That Happen

It's not easy to make sense of some of the things happening in the world right now. And by right now, I mean always. There is always something horrible and upsetting in the news. From equality to violence to terrorism, there is always something that is painful, upsetting or scary to read about it. I don't usually share those news stories with Ebony. She's too little, really, to make sense of a lot of those news. I can't make sense of them myself. I didn't tell her about the Westminster attack a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have known what to say. 

I talk to her about upsetting news stories sometimes. Not because they are in the news, but because they get stuck in my head and I feel it is my job to educate her. I have spoken to her about famine, about inequality, about climate change. I talk to her about the issues I feel are important and which I feel we have even just a little bit of power to do something about. I can talk to her about climate change because I can teach her things to do that can reduce her impact on the planet. I can talk to her about inequality because I want her to grow up and see for herself that things aren't fair and that we need to force change. But how can I tell her about horrible things we can't control? 

"Oh fucking hell, there's been a blast in Manchester." Those were the words out of Laurie's mouth at about quarter to eight this morning as we were all sitting in bed. Ebony was playing with her sister, but she paused when he said it.

"What's a blast?" She said to me. I guess I should be thankful she didn't ask what fucking meant and that she instead focused on the word blast. I shot Laurie an angry glare before realising that, actually, I would have to tell her about it this time. Kids at school would know about it, they would be talking about it in the playground. We don't live far from Manchester, it was possible that someone from her school could have been there last night. 

I answered her question. I told her that a blast was another way of saying a bomb had gone off, that somebody had let a bomb off to hurt people and the police were trying to work out why. She had questions, of course. She wanted to know if we knew anybody that lived there, if people had been hurt, if children had been hurt. She wanted to know who did it. She wanted to know why. I couldn't answer that one, but I did my best, explaining that sometimes people want to hurt other people. 

We got dressed, we read her school reading books and we sat down to eat breakfast. Then she brought it up again. She said people would probably be feeling sad about it today. That even if they didn't know the people who got hurt they would still feel sad because it was a sad thing to happen and it's not nice when people get hurt. And that even if the person who did it got hurt that was still sad because nobody ever deserved to be hurt. And then we cleaned our teeth, we put our shoes on and we walked to school. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

7 Family Kitchen Essentials

‘Family kitchen’ is just a polite way of saying ‘messy kitchen’, or is it in my house, anyway. There are always letters from school cluttering up the side, abandoned hair bobbles and clips (the few that actually return home) on the breakfast bar and dirty cups and plates that have been dumped on the worktop. It is a lived in kitchen. Like, really lived in. Sometimes, it’s clean and sparkly and lovely but most of the time, it’s lived in. I thought I would write a post sharing some of the things I consider to be family kitchen essentials. They’re the things I think make life easier or prettier in a family kitchen. I’ve left out the obvious like wooden wine racks to store All The Wine you need to devour at bedtime.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

5 Ways To Encourage A Love Of Space

The idea of space is somewhat terrifying, nothing makes me feel more insignificant than looking up at a star full of skies and realising just how small I am. I am scared of the deepness of the sea, but space is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s just so big. Too big. So big I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But, I want to encourage Ebony to enjoy science and so I’ve been thinking of ways we can learn more about space together. I don’t want her to be one of the many girls who, by the time they leave primary school, have already given up all hope of ever conquering maths or science. I don’t want her to be limited by her gender. I don’t want her to conform to society’s view that science is for boys.

So, I have been plotting ways to get her enthralled in science. She loves learning about how the human body works, she’s fascinated by animals and she really likes ‘making potions’ (these are, almost always, 99% my fancy conditioner). Here are a few of the ways I am, or wish I was, trying to get her into space (har har har):

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Broken Bed

Every so often, something happens which reaffirms to me that I am not exactly killing it at this whole adulting thing. It might be the frantic search for matching school socks approximately five minutes after we need to leave the house every morning (even writing this won't motivate me to seek out socks in advance of tomorrow's pre-school panic) or the fact that we sometimes have to go and buy ingredients for dinner at dinner time because I forgot to organise it in advance. 

Some days, I get the big one off to school on time, whisk the little one home for a nap and then have a productive two hours writing away on my laptop and other days I can't find my hairbrush. Being the adult and being expected to keep family life running smoothly isn't easy and sometimes I find myself failing. 

Take Ebony's bed, for example. Ebony finally got her own room when we moved into this house. She was two and a half years old when we finally transitioned her out of our room (although could somebody let her know this because she doesn't seem to have taken the hint very well). We decorated her room. We painted the walls white, we dug out brightly coloued toys to add a splash of colour and my parents bought her a bed. We didn't go for solid oak bedroom furniture which, in hindsight, perhaps we should have. Instead, we chose a white wooden bed, simple, pretty, perfect. It looked beautiful in her bedroom (bedroom tour here). Or it did until it got broken. 

You see, the problem with young children is that they love to jump on the bed. On all beds. They jump high and far and with enthusiasm. No matter how many times I asked her not to jump on the bed, I would still hear the familiar creak of the springs giving way under her weight as she leapt around the room. Three weeks ago, she had a friend to play. They went upstairs, as they often do, keen to explore the toys hidden upstairs. I was making dinner in the kitchen, the baby balanced in the crook of my arm whilst I cut vegetables one-handed, so I didn't hear the bouncing of the springs. I didn't hear the telltale creak of the floorboards under the bed or the almighty snap when the bed collapsed under the weight of two excited little girls drunk on the freedom of a playdate. 

The next morning, Laurie noticed that her bed was a little more diagonal than it used to be. A snapped slat and some broken screws seemed to be to blame. My dad came round, the man who can fix absolutely anything (just ask Ebony - 'you can try, mummy, but when it doesn't work, we can ask papa and he will fix it') with a bit of wood glue and a few spare screws. The two of them disappeared upstairs to fix the bed and appeared triumphant an hour later. It was fixed apart from the slat. That was all we needed to do, replace the slat. That was three weeks ago. Ebony is upstairs now fast asleep on her mattress on the floor because we haven't replaced the slat. Laurie tried, he claims, but Homebase didn't have the right part. I haven't even done that. If I think back to my own childhood, there is no way my dad would have left me sleeping on the floor for three weeks. He would have replaced that slat straight away, he probably had a garage full of spare slats just in case such a problem ever arose. But poor Ebony, with me and Laurie for parents, she has to sleep on the floor. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Motherhood Is

Motherhood is all-encompassing. Five years ago, it washed over me like a tide, dragging me under and pinning me down on the ocean floor as I fought for air to fill my lungs while powerful waves broke over me. Every so often, I summon the strength to swim up to the surface and catch my breath, I fill my lungs with the oxygen I once took for granted but which now feels special as though my very being depends on it, only to be dragged back down to the sandy floor as the next wave crashes over my head. It is exhausting, to tread water in a stormy sea, gulping huge breaths of air into my lungs and not knowing when I might be able to breathe again, so consumed by my battle with and against the ocean that all sense of who I am is lost.

Motherhood is relentless. Even when my bones ache from exhaustion and my brain is filled with nothing more than a dense fog of tiredness, I still rise in the night without hesitation to take care of my children. They come first, their hunger or nightmares or clammy limbs reaching out for a cuddle always take precedence over my desperate need for sleep. I cannot sleep, I have accepted that, not yet, maybe in a few years, but for now, the tiredness is as much a part of me as my left arm. It is always there and, as a result, I have stopped noticing it a lot of the time, but sometimes, as I stare into the bathroom mirror and look at the pink eyes staring back at me, and the dark circles under them and the age lines creeping out at the corners, it comes rushing back to me so powerfully that I fear I will keel over and be unable to get up.

Motherhood is chaotic. It is the desperate juggling act of trying to look after the basic needs of my family whilst also finding the time to write, to invoice, to do admin, to wash laundry and pair socks and cook dinners and shop so that the cupboards aren't bare. It is the endless chore of picking up toys, of cleaning teeth, of remembering birthdays, of making sure everybody is eating well. It is the constant worry that I'm not doing enough, of trying to improve, to be better, to mother in a way that will protect them in the future, it is the late night ordering of parenting books from Amazon and knowing that they will sit gathering dust beside my bed until I finally find the time and energy to read them and, by that point, that it could be too late, that I may already have done everything wrong.

Motherhood is like a kettle boiling, that shrill whistle sounding loudly in my ear while I try to gather my thoughts and think about what to do next, my insides hot whilst frustration bubbles beneath the surface. Motherhood is getting things wrong and making mistakes and wishing I had been better. It is sitting down in the evenings and letting the day wash over me, thinking about where I went wrong and what I should have done instead, it is the never-ending conversation with Laurie about who we are as parents and who we want to be. It is knowing that finding the time for that conversation isn't always easy but that it is always important, that if we stop thinking about it, if we fall into habit and parent without analysis, then we aren't doing it right. There is always room for improvement, there are always apologies to be made and bonds to be strengthened, even when there isn't time because life is in the way.

Motherhood is me. It is always there, even when my children are not. Become a mother rewired my brain and changed the way I see the world. It changed everything. It made the world smaller, it made my fears bigger and it threw my ribcage open and exposed my heart to the elements where it seems in constant danger of getting hurt. It is beautiful and powerful and vaster than any skyscraper. And, sometimes, it's nice to get away from it all. Sometimes, it's nice to escape from motherhood, just for a little bit. I need to walk away from real life, to throw myself back into the past, to meet friends and drink wine and talk about politics and forget about motherhood and all that it entails. That little break, that night away to a different city with different conversations and busy streets and new foods to try, gives me the chance to swim to the surface and take a big gulp of fresh air and remind myself who I am. I am a mother and that is the biggest part of my identity now while my children are little, but I'm also lots of other things and, when the waves break around me instead of over my head, it's nice to remember those things, to breathe them in and hold my breath, letting them rush through my veins, before I am dragged back under again.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Review: Hello Canvas HD Metal Prints

One of the things I love about having this blog is that it's pushed me to get more creative with my camera. Laurie had a pretty good camera but neither of us knew how to use it (Laurie says he does, but why are all his photos so blurry?) so it was wasted on us. This blog became the perfect place to capture my memories of motherhood when Ebony was a baby and I soon began to want decent photos to accompany my words. 

My photos still aren't perfect but they're so much better than they used to be and I love them. I love having gorgeous photos of the girls that I'll be able to look back on when I'm old and grey (now then). I rarely get around to printing the photos though, they just exist in digital form because I'm lazy and cheap and because I take so many photos that it would be truly ridiculous to print them all. I had a load printed when Ember was fresh from the womb because I didn't want to be one of those terrible parents that never gets around to putting photos of the second child up on the wall. I never got around to buying frames for them so they are still in a pile on my desk, so I am just like all the other parents. One day, I will go frame shopping. 

Hello Canvas got in touch to see if I'd like to try out one of their HD Metal wall prints and I couldn't quite get my head around what it was going to be. Would it look like metal? Would it be grainy? Heavy? Too metal? I didn't know what to expect but I decided to try it out. Laurie's family have their walls covered in photos of the girls so I figured another wouldn't do them any harm. I chose a photo of the girls together, it was taken on Ebony's fifth birthday and I really love it. It's so rare to get a photo where neither of them has food on their face so this is particularly special to me. 

The HD metal print arrived and it is gorgeous. It doesn't look like it's printed on metal, it just looks (from the front) like a high-quality gloss print. It's shiny and clear and bright. It doesn't look grainy at all. I was actually surprised by how much I loved it, I'm not really a lover of huge canvas prints because I think the photo quality is diminished when stretched across the canvas, but that isn't true of the HD metal print at all. I really loved how it looked and the in-laws were really pleased with it as well. 

We were sent the 16 x 20 inch HD metal canvas to review RRP £79. Prices for HD metal prints start from just £19 (currently £15 in the sale), take a look at the Hello Canvas website to see the full range. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

On Turning 31 And Not Knowing WTF I'm Doing

I'm 31 today. It's an age that would have sounded horrifically ancient to me in my youth but which now I can argue is still pretty damn young. I'm not old just yet. Is there ever an age where you accept that you have crossed over to the wrong side of young? I can't imagine reaching it. In many ways, I felt old as soon as Ebony was born. I was 25 years old but I felt ooold. My friends were still young; they were focusing on their careers and going on holiday and posting drunken photos to Facebook and I was breastfeeding and changing nappies and reading blogs about gentle parenting. Life changed. Just like that. 

Now my friends are catching up with me. Lots of them have settled down, some have had babies and sometimes we sit together and talk about how hard it is to be a parent. Being a parent isn't aging me anymore, but my age is. I've finally reached that point where I have to be careful of my references because younger people might not know who Harold and Madge from Neighbours are (imagine if you didn't know who Harold and Madge were?!). My sister told me yesterday that people born in 1999 are now legally old enough to drink, that blew my mind because, er, wasn't 1999 like five minutes ago? Is my love of 90s pop now really that outdated? 

I feel like 30 passed me by. I was pregnant and in the middle of all the decorating and my 30th birthday just kind of happened. There was a party, I was sober, it was as terrible as you would expect a sober birthday party to be. I wanted to think deep thoughts about growing older and reflect on the passing of my twenties but I was so damn pregnant and tired. It's hard to reflect on anything when you can't make it off the sofa without getting heartburn. 

31. It's the age my mum was when she had me. It doesn't sound that old anymore. Growing older is just making me realise that nobody has a clue what they're doing. When you're young, you assume that everyone older than you has it together. You believe your parents know what they're doing. You think that one day it will just click and you'll know what you're doing, too. I'm starting to realise that that's not the case. Or not for me, anyway. I still don't have a clue what I'm doing. We're late for school most days (not late book late, but late nonetheless), I pretty much always overspend by the end of the month (sometimes by the middle) and I still find it really stressful dressing for formal occasions. 

I forget about homework, I do my work scarily close to the deadline and sometimes things just slip my mind. I can never find matching socks (unless they're Laurie's) in a morning, I stay up too late on school nights and the cupboard under the stairs is so full of crap that I have given up going in there. I am not adulting with finesse. I have no clue what I'm doing. Please tell me I'm not the only one. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

5 Things That Guarantee Me A Good Start To The Day

I'm not a morning person. I never have been. I have spent pretty much my whole life waking up tired and grumpy. There just isn't enough sleep in the day. It didn't matter for a few years when Ebony was little and we could spend lazy mornings slowly dragging ourselves out of bed, but she's in school now so I have to get up. We're rarely there on time, though that is actually down to Ebony's time management skills rather than my own. I can be up and dressed half an hour before we have to leave and Ebony will still make us late by misplacing her shoes or getting distracted by a game.

I'm not a big caffeine drinker so I don't rely on a mug-full of commercial coffee machines and gourmet Fairtrade coffee to get me through the day. I occasionally dabble in the whimsical world of the fruit teas, but that's about as exciting as it gets. And I rarely have time for a hot drink before the school run because I'm too busy trying not to shout at everybody (this takes a lot of effort). I usually have my breakfast when I get back dropping Ebony off at school. I have noticed that it's the little things that matter in the morning. Like, whoever it is that hides Ebony's school shoes every single morning, WHY?! But also, it's the little things that make me feel happy and set me up for a good day. Here are five of them:

1. Waking up before my alarm
There is nothing quite so terrible as being dragged out of a dream by a piercing alarm shrieking next to your head. There is no such thing as joy on a morning like that. If, however, I manage to wake up before my alarm, I feel like a million dollars (even though I've probably had less sleep, go figure). Anything pre-alarm feels like bonus time so it always puts me in a good mood to be awake to see that time of day (as long as it's like 20 minutes before and not two hours).

2. My FitBit
I love my Fitbit. I got it when Ember was born and it has changed my life. It records how much I sleep I get which is both wonderful and terrifying. Mostly, I get enough sleep but on the days I don't, it's depressing to see, in graph form, how many times I was woken up by my many children. Usually, the FitBit brings me good news and, even though I wake up feeling tired, I am soon convinced that I've had enough sleep. Seeing that I've had seven hours sleep instantly makes me feel less tired. It is genius. All new parents should have them.

3. Having the school uniform ready
I want to say I'm the kind of person who irons an entire week of uniform on the Sunday. I think I've managed it once. It was a good week. But I usually spend my Sunday evenings panic-washing the uniform and so it isn't ready to be ironed. Half the time I can't even find most of it. So, I'm not that person. Sometimes, I actually manage to iron her uniform the night before and hang it on her bedroom door. On those mornings, I don't have to run around trying to find matching socks or iron any polo shirts, so those mornings are the best. I should really prepare clothes the night before more often.

4. Looking human
Trying to look human is never easy, especially when you have a baby who can find danger in less than a second. I have to get up early so I can shower before Laurie leaves for work. Then I have to dry my hair whilst Ember shouts angrily at me in baby language (I don't know what she says but it looks a lot like 'pick me up, woman'). If I manage to straighten my hair, put on some mascara and wear a clean t-shirt, life feels good. If I catch sight of myself in the hall mirror on my way out and don't feel like crying, I know I'm going to have a good day.

5. Leaving the house on time
This one is hypothetical since such a miracle has never actually occurred, but I'm pretty sure leaving the house on time would make me feel amazing. I think I'd strut to school feeling like a mum boss (as in boss of being a mum, not the patronising term for a boss who happens to have children). I would walk up to those school gates and wish people a good morning. There would be on hell of a spring in my step. Probably. Not that I'll even actually find out.

What are your morning wins that set you up for a good day?

This is a collaborative post. 


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