Swan reveal

 

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Pretty beautiful hey? It was Y’s choice and its just so like him to choose something so unexpected. He adores it and that is what matters.  I am also really happy with how it turned out.

Another busy week winding up. The days just fly by. I know I always say the same but here is how our week currently looks.

0730 wake up, get ready

0845 leave for school

0900 kids to school/ I go to work

1400 collect kids

1420 lunch at home

If B is working they stay in til 4pm and have lunch at school. If he isn’t then we all meet at home for lunch and I go back til 5pm. Sometimes I take lunch and don’t come home.

1500-1700 homework and downtime (some tv but mainly drawing/similar)

1730 activities.. these are

Monday – O football/ Y climbing

Tuesday- Y football/ N plays at football pitch with friends

Wednesday- as above but flipped, O football/ Y plays

Thursday- as Tuesday

Friday – swimming – them classes, me laps.

Then as soon as we get home between 1845/1915 it’s food, showers, stories, bed.

In between the above B and I try to shoehorn in our own exercise. I take an extremely circuitous route to work to lengthen the less-than-10-min-stroll to a 40min walk through the countryside at least 3 times a week, and I do my 30min BBG circuit on tuesday and thursdays while Y has football because O is old enough to play there unsupervised. On these days I get home from work, change my clothes, set up the stuff I need for the circuits, rush them to the football pitch, rush home, jump about like a loon for 30mins, stretch, shower, change and rush back to get them.

B is extremely active, he trains for long trail runs so he has two x 2 hour training sessions twice a week in the evenings plus one long bike ride and two runs (1 x 1hr and 1 x 2-3hr).  All up it leaves sadly little sofa time which is a real sore point for this repressed couch potato.

It’s taken me many many years to allow myself this time for my own exercise. It’s a REAL issue for many mothers, and I still do not know why we find it so hard to give ourselves time and freedom to do what we want to do for ourselves. B has always been adamant about needing his own time.  When O was born he played in a band and would rehearse 3 or 4 times a week.  I am not going to lie, I used to resent it a lot. I never stopped him and I tried to be supportive and not to complain but I definitely felt it. But, and thus is important. It was only because I was envious  I was well aware of that even as it was happening; I have always felt that he had the right idea. That we are absolutely entitled to our own time and space. I just put a million barriers in my own path to make it harder, even impossible, for me to do the same and I know I am not alone.  If I had a baby all over again I would probably be the same.  There is something about those mutually dependant years when they are so small that you can justify the time you need for essential separation like work. But time for yourself is like an indulgent luxury and gets relegated to back of the line.  But we all know how important it is! What is our deal? Why do we make it so hard on ourselves? The people that steadfastly insist on looking after their little corner of space and time for themselves have the right idea and everyone else knows it.  Well, we all get there eventually, I guess and so I am finally doing it. And it’s great!

I wish I could say the results of all the exercise are stunning but at 39 the sad truth is that I can’t acheive the same results in 12 weeks that a 21 year old can.  For all that 40 is the new 20 or 30 or whatever, some things we just can’t fight. This week I finally had confirmation that I am post menopausal. The very first dose of Xeloda in July 2015 stopped my periods in their tracks and I have never had one again. Of course for the longest time this was seen as ‘normal’, a standard side effect, “it will come back”.. but an endocrinologist finally did some blood tests and confirmed what the hot flushes told me long ago.  Apparently this isn’t a common side effect of the treatment I had, so I am just one of the lucky ones! Ha.   Let me stress.. I knew this, I in no way expected them to say anything different, but actually hearing it did hit me. Not right there, but as I walked back to the car, her words about not needing to bother with birth control anymore, not even ‘in case’, ringing in my ears, I felt tears pushing up behind my eyes, stinging as I tried to hold them in.  It’s so silly. I have my two boys and although I always kind of hoped for a third, B was so adamantly against  I knew without a doubt that it would never happen.  And I don’t miss periods AT ALL.  I can’t explain why, then, it made me feel so sad.  Maybe its because this actually makes me feel more ‘different’ from my peers than the cancer did.  But it’s fine. I’m fine. Not having periods is a definite bonus and the hot flushes aren’t that big a deal. It’s a small price to pay, when all’s said and done.

 

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SaturYAY

Finally we have a headboard for our bed! After a couple of years of uncomfortably stacking pillows between my back and the cold wall behind it at last I can sit up in bed in luxurious comfort.   Weekend mornings are the one time I demand to be left alone for an hour or so to have a cup of tea and just be free of orders/complaints/endless meandering stories that I never quite understand. It is a slice of time that has not been easy to carve out for myself and it is still very much a work in progress (as a small shadow darkens my door waving a picture for my consideration) but on the whole I think I am a pretty responsive, attentive, parent to two children who, in my opinion, rank fairly highly on the emotional/attention needs scale (is there such a thing? Maybe I score high on the need for my own space scale).  and now coming up fast on a decade of motherhood I am finally getting firmer about demanding my right to my own space and time. Even in the form of an hour to drink tea in peace, twice a week.

So the headboard.. you probably have one. Most competent grown ups do, I imagine. But our bedroom is the most forgotten, abandoned wasteland of the whole house.  We don’t even have curtains, or pictures on the wall. So this is a proud acheivement and now I am browsing etsy and pinterest like mad to find inspiration to finally get our room looking finished.  We made it ourself and it was super easy, no I don’t have any progress photos, it was that quick. Glue foam to wood, wrap batting around and staple it to the back of the wood.  Wrap fabric around and staple aswell. Hang it on the wall.  There is no reasonable excuse for why it took so long.

Reading 

Carrie´s War with my oldest. We have just started but the first chapter left us wanting more…

we are also about halfway through Trucker´sbut it hasn’t really sucked us in which is a bit disappointing because I LOVED the Discworld novels as a teenager and thought the Bromeliad Trilogy would be a great place to start.

Big hits with the 9 year old for reading to himself are the Wimpy Kid books, David Walliams, Futbolisimos and Big Nate.  Once he finds a book he likes he is an avid reader so I am constantly on the lookout for new suggestions.

My very-nearly-6 year-old still enjoys a massive range of his extensive library of books and hasn’t latched on to any style or series in particular.  We particularly like Jack and the Flum Flum Tree (and any and all Julia Donaldson books), Milo Armadillo, The Pirate Cruncher, The Pirates Next Door and The Jolly Postman (skipping the Big Bad Wolf page)among many others.  I am equal parts relieved and disappointed that he has not had the same passion for The Magic Faraway Tree series that O had though I think I could actually read them half asleep with my eyes shut, so there would be that advantage.

Eating

Last week B and I went to a work lunch and were served Pasta Puttanesca and we have made it a few times at home since where it has been heartily welcomed into the regular rotation of meals, though it is more than a little obvious that a dish containing  such unappealing components such as mushrooms and black olives is only accepted as a compromise in getting to eat a meal with such a naughty name (Cue hearty and repeated exclamations of Pasta PUTTAnesca throughout the meal)

Exercise

I am finishing week 11 of the BBG and feeling really pleased with myself. I did my first round in 2014/2015 (18 weeks to be exact) before I suddenly hit a wall.. only to be diagnosed with colon cancer a few weeks later.  It was somewhat gratifying in a bizarre and dark way to know that it wasn’t my advancing age and old bones and a decrepit pelvic floor that made me suddenly unable to continue where apparently hundreds had managed before me.  After a year of treatment and surgeries left me with no muscle and masses of cellulite dimpling my skinny yet flaccid thighs I finally marshalled my willpower and got back on the wagon.  I did the 4 week pre-bbg workout and then did week 1 to 6 of the BBG. After week 6 the workouts keep increasing in general mental-ness and I didn’t quite feel ready so I went back to week 1 and this time I felt fine to carry on through.  I do modify some moves, jump lunges feel like a one way street all the way to a sprained ankle or twisted knee so I do them static. And the ones where you do a burpee and leap onto a bench have been abandoned in the wake of a slew of bruises and scrapes.  But even with modifications it is still a hard workout that you can fit in just about anytime, anywhere. I plan to just keep doing 12 week loops until I get bored.  I don´t see a massive change on the outside but have definitely made leaps and bounds in strength and fitness and I am trying to keep that as my main goal.

Making

I am on the final straight with my swan for Y’s wall.  I have been plodding away with it since November, although not solidly, and like most projects has lost its sparkle a little as it turned into something to be finished though as i now start the finishing up and putting together I am again excited to see the finished product. Hope to update on this very soon.  If you like the look of these check out Vanessa Mooncie´s Animal Heads it was a present last christmas and I have made 2 fox heads (one as a gift and I loved him so much I made another for myself – he doesn´t look as boss-eyed in real life as he does here) and now the swan.  O has a request queued for the stag head and then I will DEFINITELY need a break from animal heads for a while.   I would not describe myself as anything more than a novice crochet-er so if you know the basic stitches and want a change from blankets I would absolutely recommend you give it a whirl.

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Back feathers. And a rock that we can’t seem to lose no matter what.
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Chest feathers

Thanks, July, you were a cracker..

I had every intention of regularly updating this blog through the summer, chronicling these long hot days and planning things to keep the boredom away but so far the summer is flying past and I have barely had time to pop on and keep up with blogs I follow, much less post anything of substance.  Work is not incredibly busy but I am full time until the end of October so busy or not I am in the office, putting in the time.  H also works a lot in the summer and when he has a job on he is out from dawn until after the kids go to bed.  We all notice his absence hugely, I am sure I have mentioned this more than once but he really does keep everything going, always.  The three of us alone, we cope for about 5 days and then after that it all slowly starts crumbling.  I find it so hard to keep up with the house and the kids and work on my own and it really stresses me out.  Seeing as more than ever this year one of our main aims is to keep life as stress free as possible he is trying to keep the jobs short but it is not always possible – when you are freelance and working in a seasonal industry you need to grab the work while it is going.  Having said all that, we are having a blast.  I think we are.  The kids are at home when H has no work on but they have had a couple of weeks of summer school (more like day camp than school).  Loads of their friends go, they play games, swim and seem to have a load of fun at the time BUT although they went last year and had a blast this year they have been more reluctant.  Maybe  because it was a bit old hat, maybe it just wasn’t as fun, but they moaned and moaned each morning as if we were sending them off to a 9-5 job rather than splash and play fun.  Actually I think at least partly they have just been really tired and like any sane person were not really feeling like happy clappy jumpy excitement at 0900 in the morning.  I feel you kids, I feel you.  BUT life is real. We need to work, you need to go to childcare, your life could be a million times worse.  I know more than a few kids who spend their summer being looked after in stuffy apartments by elderly grandparents.  In contrast kids, is it really so bad? IS IT?Let’s reflect, and consider:

*quick note:  The fact that it has taken me several hours just to download, rotate, rename and edit the photos from the last month or so should give an idea of how much we have been up to.  And that I evidently take FAR too many photos, obviously.

There was a lot going on in July.  Apart from various excursions around our home island and outings with friends we had several trips away.  One of my sisters lives in Singapore; luckily she gets work trips back at least once a year and we went to visit them the Christmas before last so we haven’t gone too long without seeing each other but when she lived in London we saw each other every few months and I never, EVER, stop missing her. So with 2 weekends free between her work obligations I made a very un-‘me’  decision to go to London to see her, just the two of us, for a couple of nights.

 

Yeah, ok, the pics are fairly unremarkable.  In my defense I was far too busy walking and chatting and hanging out to take too many pictures.  And I already have more pictures of London than anyone really needs.  But you get the idea. I was there.  It’s London, you know what it looks like.  No cute snaps of photogenic kids this time so, moving on…

The following weekend I went back with the kids to see my parents, also in the UK, and to catch my sister again on her last weekend before she went home.  The timing of my sister’s trip landed quite fabulously on my mum’s 60something birthday so we organised it so she could have all 3 of her girls, and 2 of her grandkids, with her to celebrate.  It was so special; the last time we were all together was 2014, so although it was a little extravagant to have 2 trips to London 2 weekends in a row, I TOTALLY justified it to myself.  And anyone who would listen long enough.   Repeatedly.

We got back from the visit to my parents a day or two before one of my very best friends arrived with her family to stay with us for the week.  The weekend after they left was H’s 40th birthday which we celebrated with family and friends on the beach until late.  It was absolutely perfect, he didn’t stop smiling all night..

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and then – I sprang a surprise holiday on H and the boys – we left for the north of spain the wednesday after the party.  He was very surprised, as were the kids.  I was more than a little proud of myself for sorting it all AND sitting on the secret for weeks and weeks.  For years we have talked about travelling around our home country more but usually all of our holiday time and budget is taken up visiting family and friends in the UK.  Yet there is so much we want to see and we really, more than ever, want to start making little spaces in time for the four of us to get out and explore together, just us.  Summer is brutally hot here and a perfect time to visit the much cooler, greener north.  Last year we celebrated 10 years of marriage and we always thought we would do something special to celebrate.  As it turned out I had to do chemo and radiotherapy instead.  Them’s the breaks.  But now I am fine! and H was turning 40! The stars were aligned.  It was absolutely fabulous and worth it a million times over.  I think this will deserve its own post.. watch this space.

And in the little moments in between all the other madness:

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sudsy
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water play for the kids.  our village is amazing.
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foam party..
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hair cuts!

I feel knackered just thinking we did all of that! It has been such a busy month but so full of family and friends and laughter and joy and love.  We spent a lot of money doing it all, not particularly money we have to spare.  Usually I am very sensible and cautious and all those other adjectives that can also be translated as BORING but which help us to stay on the straight and narrow and (mortgage aside) largely debt free.   It can be stressful juggling our accounts especially with the very unpredictable nature of H’s work and the total lack of work for at least 3 months of the year.  So I don’t spend money on big things very lightly.  But one of the things my experience of the last year (tl;dr: cancer) has taught me.. (and YES personally I feel it has taught me a shitload; not a universally popular opinion but it is mine and is genuinely how I feel) is the impermanence of things.  Not like I didn’t know it before.  But now that concept is really REAL to me.   I am hyper aware of the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Maybe that fades over time, but in a way I kind of hope not.  Because I truly think it is a blessing to actually really feel like all we have is the here and now.  Of course I plan and hope and dream for a long future.  But I want to live NOW.  The old me probably would have decided to do only one of those trips to the UK.  But my sister lives so far away, I see her so little, in the scheme of things what is a few hundred quid to spend a weekend alone together?   My parents won’t be here forever, what cost is it really to let them have all three of their daughters together for a day or two?  I don’t think we can remotely understand how nice it is for my parents to have us three all in the same place.  Even being a parent I can only imagine the silence and emptiness when my kids eventually leave home and the joy to see them when they return.  And even then it is only something I can imagine in relation to my own kids, I find it hard to actually connect that with how my parents feel about me.  But they do.  My mum cries for days after we leave, and this birthday, as it turned out, she needed the lift more than ever because our darling sweet cat, Sonny, died, only a few days before we arrived.  He was originally our cat but for various reasons totally irrelevant to this story he moved in with them about 2.5 years ago.  And they loved and adored that cat like a little prodigal son.  It was, is, really sad.  And I am so so glad we were there to scatter his ashes and hug her tight.

So now we are in August and the summer is halfway through.  In another 5 weeks the kids are back at school.  I am not sure we have ever had a summer go so fast.  So far it is everything I hoped for.  At some point there will probably be a post about this dammed heat and how hideous it is and how LONG the summer is and WHEN WILL IT END WILL THESE KIDS EVER GO BACK TO SCHOOL?! But for now I am flying high on the bliss that was July.  It truly rocked.

to sign off,a harpist’s song from 1400bc that I saw when we were in the British Museum in London. So apt.

“Follow your heart as long as you live!

Put myrrh on your head.

Dress in fine linen,

Anoint yourself with oils fit for a god,

Heap up your joys,

Let your heart not sink!

Follow your heart and your happiness,

Do your things on earth as your heart commands!

When there comes to you that day of mourning,

the weary hearted (Osiris) hearts not their mourning.

Wailing saves no man from the pit!

Make holiday, Do not weary of it!

And finally.  To my darling Sonny.  You were an absolute legend and a total weirdo.  We all adored you and you will have a place in our heart forever, you should have grown very much older, we all feel cheated that you went so soon.

(no he didn’t die from being massively overweight, he slimmed down rather a lot after his ‘troubled time’ – ssh lets not talk of it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Summer holidays are go!

Finally! The summer holidays are underway. The endless ‘fin de curso’ (end of term) meals and parties and presents and celebrations finally done. They seem to last all of June and makes it one of the most expensive months of the year.  I could have just started the month by standing outside the school with my wallet open, full of notes, and told everyone to help themselves amd the effect would have been the same.  Every day there was something to pay for: a present for this teacher and that coach, last minute birthday parties being squeezed in before everyone scatters, meals with this group and that, tickets to a ‘concert’ where my youngest and his friends showed off the tumbles they had learnt. Okay that was quite cute but I am still sceptical that a formal show in the village theatre was really necessary and suspect our payments for a 15 minute demo of manic dancing and tumbling to insane techno music mainly served to reduce the cost for the overwhelming majority of older kids who had a 1.5 hour show after us. Call me cynical.  I prefer bitter. 

We also got pressed into paying for a ‘meal’  in the park afterward.  Allegedly hamburgers. In reality pathetic looking little patties on a plain bun. What? No lettuce or tomato? Ha! Not.  even. cheese.  Parents are  walking targets.  Anything related to our children and we just shell it out.  God I am so bitter. Am I tight? I really don’t think so. You sell me a service ie a kids gym group. I pay for said service.  I pay. I use. It is a business transaction. Why do I have to buy you a present for selling me the service I used? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.   I pay. Don’t worry, I pay and for form teachers happily and willing. But for the rest I have yet to be convinced. I  want to resist, stand up for my principals, but I find especially here it is very hard to go against the grain. People don’t as a rule complain about this kind of thing. If it is done you do it.  When the burger plan was underway I suggested to our friends that we bail and book the nearby pizza place instead. You would have thought I was suggesting an actual military coup rather than suggesting an alternative friday night plan.  My husband actually told them to ignore me in this really apologetic tone.  Yes, he is still alive. I am used to it. It only grates the tiniest bit. In the darkest most bitter part of my heart haha. Well they were all eating their words as they stared at the sad excuse for a meal they had been conned into (I ate beforehand,rebellious interloper that I am, in full anticipation of the shit show it turned out to be) and HELL YEAH I was absolutely smug about it. 

Rant over. I feel better. Moving on. 

We celebrated the first day of the holidays with a quick trip to  a beautiful rocky beach about an hour away.  I love rocky beaches. Sand is my mortal enemy and with rocks everything just feels cleaner.  Yes, less comfortable, but as I am not much of a sun worshiper I can take the tradeoff.  We haven’t been to many since having the boys, I would rather deal with sand than wobbly toddlers climbing rocks but this year feels like the year we can finally explore more far flung beaches where they can clamber and explore rock pools and find crabs and overcome nerves to jump off rocks into the sea. So that is what we did.   And it was perfectly perfect.  

I have been easing myself into work slowly. In all honesty I could work full time, full on, if I had to. But I don’t have to. Work is unseasonably quiet and by about 2pm I find myself at a bit of a loss. As I work a 5 minute bike ride from home I have been going home for lunch and, more often than not, staying the rest of the afternoon, working from there as and when needed. And its been really nice.  To just enjoy these early summer days before august comes and brings with it too much heat and general apathy that sees the kids lying in sweaty piles on the living room floor moaning no more swimming.  The other day it rained and we were all relieved for the excuse to just hang out at home and do very little.  

I am finding it hard to find the time to post regularly. In amongst the moaning and glorious summer fun. Which is annoying because the main point of this exercise is to share bits of me and our life for our future selves. Or for my kids if my future self is, in the future, a past self. Ifyouknowhwatimean and i think you do. Wink.  Yet the main reason I don’t have time is because I am with my kids.  The irony of sacrificing actual time with my actual children in order to lose myself trying to convey some fake-idyllic version of my life with my perfect family is not lost on me. Hence I do not blog when with my kids. And when I am not working I am always with my kids. Except yoga! (More on that later) and friends! And LIFE!  But really. With the lighter nights and fun packed days the kids are in bed around 2130/2200 which leaves me about an hour lying motionless on the sofa unable to engage in anything that isn’t me. On a sofa. Watching the telly.  This post has been sat in drafts for days and days. I have had to change ‘this week’ to ‘last week’ to ‘recently…’ Until I can’t take it anymore. I am sat in the dark with you both asleep beside me and dammit if I won’t get this finished tonight!

So. Kids. Lights of my life, dearest souls, givers and receivers of the greatest love there is. I hope to record here snippets of our life. Parts of me. But know that they can only ever be the tiniest glimpses. We are having so much fun. I can’t record it all. I am not a natural diarist but it is happening and we are living it every day. You will just have to believe me. Our days are full of the good the bad and the ugly; kisses and hugs, shouts and tantrums, I love yous and tongues sticking out and you don’t love me and I SO SO DO. Mummy you are the best.  Mum you suck (I am. I do).  Swimming pool and football and frisbee on the beach. Hold my shoulders I will swim out a bit further. Stand on my shoulders and I will be your springboard.  Late nights with friends, late nights with cousins. 

Its not all here, not even the half of it, but I can tell you real life is full on and I love it all, every second. And so do you. You are loved, adored, happy. We all are. 

An Ode…

Sunlight, bird call, wake me up at crack of dawn

School day, can’t wake, can’t speak only yawn

A short ode to the marvel of sleeping late on school morning Hahaha what an inspired poet! It is a weekly miracle. This ability to wake early, happy and cheery, full of the endless possibilities of weekend followed surely and swiftly by the grumpy monday morning would-be lie-in.  

How different Mondays are since having kids. I adore my children (kids I really do, more than life itself) and love the time we spend together. But BUT. After the intensive family-time weekend I go to work on Monday full of my own endless possibilities of cups of tea in silence. Time to check mails or catch up on errands that were too boring to drag the kids on. A quick coffee with friends and colleagues. Chat that isn’t interrupted a million times to feed, water, wipe, calm, comfort and referee. Time to be me, not mummy. 

 I am sorry for all the times I cursed and dreaded you. Failed to appreciate your own unique beauty. I love you, Monday.

Nine whole years

My darlin O

So now you are 9. NINE! Your last year of single digits. Every single year has seen so many changes as you grow and grow. From baby to toddler, from toddler to preschooler, preschooler to primary. And yet I never stop marvelling at the changes one single year can bring. How much you grow into yourself, develop interests or skills, become more you.  

The physical changes are really the least of them but they are still notable. You have of course grown taller and ever leaner.  It seems I am forever noticing your trousers are a bit tighter in the waist, shorter in the leg.  Who would have guessed that squidgey round little ball of a boy, all crinkles and dimples and soft round edges would be one of the slimmest in his class, all elbows and knees and hard sharp angles? Even that beautiful face, once so round I used to joke we could barely see the bones underneath is now slim and defined. Your eyes are always the same; gorgeous big blues framed with thick black lashes that go on for days and have the Mamas and Abuelas cooing over you wherever we go. Still. Always.  

You are a gorgeous kid but it pales in comparison to your lovely gentle soul. There is something different about you that I have never been able to put my finger on. There is a goodness, a very sweet innocence  that just pours out of you and is picked up by anyone around you. You are thoughtful and kind hearted, so eager to please, so keen to be liked.  You move through the world in a happy, dreamy, bubble, more or less oblivious to the world around you. This makes you, on the one hand, one of the clumsiest kids I know, and believe me I identify with you on this. Your ability to enter a room and somehow inadvertantly clout your brother on the head while spilling something is unsurpassed in this house. It also makes you oblivious to many of the uglier things in life. Everything in this world is amazing to you, it is all beautiful and wonderful. You rarely complain about anything. Quite the opposite; you have an infectious wonder about the world and a positivity that makes me smile for days. You are a great travel companion because you find beauty everywhere. Your friends come over and you run me ragged with requests for smoothies, or pancakes or some other home made treat. Not even food, maybe a craft we recently did together that you want to share. To you these everyday things are AMAZING and you want everyone to share in your enjoyment. The world through your eyes is a truly beautiful place and I wish it was easier to always share that view. 

You are bouncy, a real tigger, chatting a mile a minute, full of ideas, never still, always looking for what to do next. We have still never found your off button BUT this year an amazing thing has happened. You will suddenly go to your room to just hang out in peace and quiet (!), not often and not for long but it happens. Waking you in the morning is getting harder (you have always PINGED awake at about 7am) and that feels significant, a sign of pubescent years to come. This is a Great Thing because your endless energy is hard for us mere mortals to deal with. It can be hard to keep up and there were times it felt like you would never learn to enjoy a bit of quiet and peace (and give us some of the same!).   

You have become more independant. Not so long ago you  wouldn’t go upstairs alone, much less the garden. This year you have started walking to the football ground with friends, running to the shop at the end of the road to pick something up, the other day even going to the park alone. These are difficult milestones for most parents I would guess. We worry so much. But your courage has been hard won and I can’t bring myself to give you any cause to wobble by showing fear or worry at this point. I secretly call your Dad “should I let him go?” “Is it safe, will he be okay?” and so we loosen the cord a little more, giving you more freedom, anxiously waiting for you to come back safe, fighting the urge to sneak out and check on you. This are not small accomplishments. You worry a lot and it can paralyse you so these ‘small’ steps show how much you have grown in yourself, in your confidence.  

You have played football for 2 years now. All your friends play and more than anything, ever, you want to be where the action is. You asked to be goalie. It was a good choice. I know many people assume goalkeeping, in younger kids anyway, is for kids that don’t really want to play, run, do too much, but we thought it was very astute of you to pick that position. You can’t run very fast, by your own admission, and you get tired very easily.  You were never a kid that ran and ran like some kids do. It has always been a bit harder for you.  So goalie seemed a good choice. But it wasn’t a cop out, you never took that position to just stand there,  you gave it your all; you would dive for the ball with no fear at all, totally focussed and determined. Training 3 times a week plus a match at the weekend and you never asked to miss even one. And it is not an easy position. Your team have not had a good season and we try to make light that at least you and the other goalie get a good workout stopping goals. It is true. Without you two the losses would be greater and yet you still take the greatest part of the heat when matches are lost. It is hard as a parent to stand there and watch you on the pitch when it is not going well. You really have reached that age where we can no longer always rush in and comfort you or make it better. You have to stand there alone and make the best of it for yourself. One match went really wrong and you started crying in goal. You are not a kid that cries easily. My heart felt like it was tearing in two. It took everything I had to not run in, scoop you up and take you home, like I could have done, would have done only a couple of years ago. I had to just shout my support, tell you to keep your head up, keep going. We were both so proud of you. You were in a hard position but you stayed the course.  

It is a hard process for both of us to let you find your own way through these challenges.  For you, because undoubtedly some things do feel like they are getting harder, like you are noticing for the first time the unfairnesses in life. For me,  because of course I still want to make it all ok with a cuddle but increasingly I am reminded that you are moving away from that now. It feels sometimes like we  have arrived at this line in the sand where you are you, on one side, and I am me in the other.There is no longer the overlap there was when you were small, when the hurts were simple and easily fixed. Where we were so entwined as to seem like two parts of the same person. My little shadow, always just a step behind me, holding onto the edge of my shirt to keep the connection physically real.  Always sat not next to me but practically on top of me, it felt at times like you wanted to climb back inside my skin, no closeness was close enough.  Now you often want to walk ahead of us the last little way into school.  Not for embarrassment but I think just to feel big, slowly test the feeling of seperateness. Any kisses have to be grabbed (with permission, of course!) before we reach a certain point on the journey where friends might see.  Cuddles are often clumsy affairs as you launch in with all the energy of a 3 year old but the grace of a newborn giraffe.  Pointy hurty joints and all. At a strange height which leaves me halfway between a lean and a crouch and not knowing where to put my arms and head. Yet you will hold my hand as we walk down the road and you still want to be tucked into bed and read a story. You are not above a cuddle on the sofa as we watch tv.   But you are standing on your own two feet like never before.  On your side of the line in the sand. Yourself, separate from me.  You look poised to take off, and off and off.  And it is harder than you can know not to hold onto the hem of your shirt, trail behind. That is my task. To breathe, and let go. Be here. On the sidelines cheering you on. 

Your football craze grows and grows – you are not just mad about playing football but also watching it, listening to it, talking about it, collecting football cards and head full of trivia. Where once you were practically glued to me and had barely a second glance for your Dad now you are his shadow, following him around bending his ear about the latest football news. I find myself wondering how to connect with you, what we can have in common. I knew this would come, it is only natural after all, but it doesn’t make it any easier.  We read a lot together and as I run you here or there I reassure myself that it is enough. It is okay just that I am here. I feel like the support artist, the behind the scenes assistant all dressed in black so as not to disturb the main show. Maybe you don’t notice now but – just know. Like planning the trip to see your football team, working out dates and buying game tickets and plane tickets and sorting hotel.  Writing the clues for the treasure hunt that would reveal the biggest present of your life so far. So you could go with your Dad.  How much I wanted to go just to spend 90minutes watching your enraptured face as you watched the match. But that wasn’t for me to share. It was a special trip for  you and your Dad. As it should be. But I am always, always, here.  Trying to smooth your way in anyway I can.  Watching and cheering you on. 

It really has been a year in which you have grown up in many ways. You are a lovely, lovely child and I am so happy you are mine. 

VHS, Mix Tapes and Dogs

It’s been something of a nostalgic week. My parents have been for a visit and, of course, having your parents stay with you can tend to cast you back to a certain time and place in a most disconcerting way at the best times.  On this occasion it was especially warranted because they brought with them old home videos, unedited VHS films with plenty of footage of unfocussed floors and ceilings and feet. We may film a lot of rubbish now but you watch 45minutes of a walk through the woods and you quickly realise little has changed, really.  The format, the length, yes, but our overall inability to judge what is worthy of recording? Not so much.

All the same they are precious, ceilings, feet and all. Where I have hours’ worth of two minute clips of my children, in amongst these few videos, for all their length, the passing shots of my sisters and I, my parents, are short and sweet. The camera pans past my Dad, standing tall and strong, with our beloved dog, gone over 10 years now, to focus on something in the distance and I find myself willing it back, wishing it had lingered a bit longer on those I really want to see . Wishing I hadn’t been such a stereotypical camera shy teen, ducking out of view or letting my curtain of hair swing down over my face.  That we had known to just focus on each of US a bit more. Realised that in 10 or 20 years we wouldn’t care about the rest of it.  About scenery or how beautiful the snow looked settled thick and deep on the floor of the woods, and it truly did.  How could I not know, it seems so obvious now, that I would just long to  see how we all were, together. In our family home, also gone too long ago now. The last place we were our family together. Before university and travelling and boyfriends who became husbands and babies who became children and new lives and new families and new homes.

So much has happened. So much has changed. It almost hurts my heart.  Everyone always says how they might be 30,40,50 but they still feel the same inside. I don’t know that I do. In many ways I haven’t changed at all.  My voice and manner of speaking are identical. I don’t look so different though my face lost that roundness a long time ago and gained fine lines in its place and I finally ditched the fringe. But it doesn’t feel like yesterday. It feels like a very long time ago and the girl I see on the screen looks at once like me and also like someone else, someone I used to know really well but haven’t seen in a really long time.

***

I miss my dog. I don’t think of him so often anymore but seeing him on the video brought it all back.  God I loved him. I had moved abroad a year before he died then my parents sold the house and moved away so I never went back, never saw the lack of him in our home.  The empty space on the floor where he used to sprawl or the space on the sofa next to my mum that he claimed as his own. I don’t think I could really conceive he was gone.  A couple of years ago, many years since he died, I saw a dog of the same breed. He was an Irish Setter, and a beautiful one too. I don’t think this is entirely biased; his father was a prize winning show-dog and he had inherited the gorgeous gene for sure.  I had occasionally seen others about but they never looked quite the same. Too small, coat not shiny enough, too curly, too straight.  Then this particular day I was out with H walking around, doing nothing much, and I saw this dog sat by his owners.  I went up to them and asked if I could stroke him. Explained I had lost my dog and he reminded me of him. I crouched down to stroke him, he looked up at me, and I burst into very uncharacteristic public tears. In the middle of this busy shopping street all over this random couple having a quiet coffee.  They must have thought I was nuts, but when he looked up at me he looked just like mine and it broke my heart in such an unexpected way.

Many memories of home involve walking the dog. In the woods where he used to leap and jump, a flash of deep red coat flying through the trees. Up at the bmx track near the school with my friend where we were once flashed by a creep in a shellsuit (hilarious until we had to give a detailed account to police later. Teenage me NEARLY. DIED.), over the fields next to the house, down the rocky road, along the abandoned railway embankment.  Hours and hours of walking, with friends, with my mum, and very often alone, listening to my mix tape of 90s hits on my walkman. One of those NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC compilations that my mum gave me every Christmas.

Then yesterday I was making dinner, and listening to the radio. And I swear they were just playing a copy of the same mixtape.  Living where I live, with local radio as it is I would not be surprised if that is exactly what they were doing.  Sleeping Satellite, Walking in Memphis.  THE SCORPIONS (Winds of Change).  Don’t judge me. Teenage me was not cool.  Especially when it came to music. I liked The Beatles and Elvis, Elton John, David Bowie and Simon and Garfunkel, The Lemonheads, Nirvana and miscellaneous Pop Hits that any self respecting teenager during grunge era would have rejected outright. I liked what I liked.  The POINT IS it was weird, coming right at the time it did.  They played these songs one after the other and I was transported back to that house, that time, those walks with my dog.  A nostalgic week for sure.

***

I miss home. I wish it was there still. I think part of me thinks if it was things would be different now, we could have preserved more of the family we were.  But mainly I just miss having that place where all the memories are, I still remember how the hallway carpet felt as I lay on my stomach playing/ rewinding/ playing tapes trying to write the lyrics down.  How we all clattered down the stairs and used the pommel to swing around the turn at the end. And how our Dad used to HATE that we did that.  How we trailed our free hand up the wall as we went up and down the stairs, leaving grubby marks, something my kids now do and which drives me as crazy as it did my Dad way back when. The truth is my parents haven’t had a steady stable home base since they left and we all three grew up and away, scattered to the winds as they say.  So we are all rarely together, and whenever we are it is as often as not in a new, different place that means nothing to us beyond being where my parents live.  As grown up as I get I still find that hard.  I miss that house so much.

***

All of this prompted by this visit, those tapes. I compare the nature of the snippets I choose to record; usually H with the kids, and I guess in their turn maybe they will wish there was more of me. In that respect I haven’t changed at all. I am still the teenager ducking out of frame, looking down and mumbling self consciously. H laughs you would think the world was watching for how nervous I look.   No, the me you see on camera isn’t the real me. I am the person who records the moments,  takes the photos and videos and is now trying to edit and compile to make it all easily accessible to look back on.  It is one of the greatest tangible things I can gift them, these  records of our life together. Before they get big and leave home and go wherever life takes them and things change forever.  I hope that when they watch our videos or look at our photos that, although I may not make frequent appearances, i am there. I hope they understand they are seeing themselves as I see them. That the way the camera follows them, lingers on their face, captures their every move; that is me.  That is me seeing them and loving them and trying to capture a million moments I want to hold onto.  I am very much there, they are looking through my eyes.