To Froth

I bought myself a milk frother. Actually in today’s language that isn’t quite true. I ordered myself one. It’s a little machine whisk, the handle of which contains a battery. The whisk part is a small circle of wire with a curly wire going all over it, and it vibrates or spins when you press the button on its handle.

You can froth milk, or cream, or in my case, a teaspoon of instant coffee and a teaspoon of sugar in a tablespoon of boiling water. Froth that right up until its thick and foamy and double the size of the liquid. Then add boiling water and a teensy splash of warmed milk and there you have something delicious.

Something like a cappuccino, but lighter, frothier, tastier and way cheaper. You can have it as many times a day as your jitters will allow.

Early in the morning before your kids wake up and drag you backwards through a hedge.

Late at night when they are asleep and you’re desperately typing away at your laptop keyboard trying to get this big project done.

In the afternoon, at 3pm precisely, when a wave of deep exhaustion slaps you on both cheeks and then parks its bottom on your eyelids. Heavy heavy, limbs like lead, but you sip from that sweet foam and you’re mildly awake again, setting about to finish off the rest of your day.

I don’t know what it is about life that feels so alien.

I want to write stories and describe things and delve into humanity’s mind, I want to talk to people and explore their minds and learn things and thoughts and opinions. But I find myself on the daily repeating a tedium that is almost set in stone. Written into my soul by the generations before me.

Duty? Law?

My grandmother and her paper thin skin and brown, wrinkly hands pop into my mind often.

I was having a conversation with my husband and mother in law about something to do with children growing up and leaving and I mentioned my grandmother and my husband said, out of the blue,

‘She was very lonely, your grandmother, wasn’t she?’

It felt like a punch in the gut. I thought about her, raising three children alone in London in the 70s, divorced and heartbroken, hardworking and efficient. She packed them all off to uni and waved goodbye as they got married and travelled across the globe and country, and there she resided in her big old Victorian house on a side street in South London.

And yes.

She was incredibly lonely.

My sweet, kind, warm, loving grandmother.

And she is no longer with us. In fact, on the 22nd of July it will have been 11 years since she passed away.

And when he said that a deep sadness rose up so suddenly that I could not control myself, so I got up to go to the kitchen under the pretext of clearing the dishes away.

‘Are you doing to cry?’ he asked me.

‘No,’ I said, as the tears gathered thick and fast in my eyes and threatened to spill out onto my cheeks. I shut the kitchen door behind me and began to wash the dishes to compose myself.

My son ran in a few moments later and his eyes were huge, ‘Mama are you sad?’ he said. He had interrupted his play to check on me.

I turned and smiled at him.

‘No sweetheart, I am not sad.’

He searched my face with his eyes for a few moments and then went back to his game, evidently appeased.

And I remembered searching my own mother’s face like he did. In fact, I still do. I search her voice and her eyes and the way her chin moves.

And I thought about how she too, would do the same to her mother. My grandmother.

I don’t know what all this means or how it relates to a milk frother and being overwhelmed.

Image Credit

Childhood Baby

I woke up from a horrific dream in which I was living my childhood life as an adult.

My childhood was amazing. There were cockroach infestations, terrible arguments between my parents, and I had a glass thrown at my head once.

By one of them.

But it was amazing.

How can I say this, after listing some of the most traumatic events? I felt loved, a lot of the time. Especially when I was younger. I loved my baby brothers, who are now ‘the boys’, and both tower over me.

I have a lot of good memories, and maybe it’s nostalgia speaking, but I was a happy child.

I do remember a lot of misery and depression, some of which seeps into my adult life, but I was so happy. I loved going to school, I loved my friends. We had so many gatherings and parties, my parents took us to lots of places and really did spend time with us, and enjoyed doing so when they were not stressed. I loved reading all the time and have such fond memories of being curled up behind sofas or under desks with a book. Books tucked behind my textbooks, and once, intently reading a book hidden inside my wardrobe with a torch.

So why was my dream so horrific, then?

I dreamt I was in my childhood home, around the people of my childhood (family, friends), and my baby had gone missing. But I was for some reason supposed to suppress this information. I didn’t know where she was, but we all knew she was no more, and her little sweet voice went ‘mama, mama, mama’ in my head, just how she does in real life. Eventually as the dream progressed I could no longer contain my pain and began to wail in sorrow. The kind of wail where you just cannot help yourself. You lose all sense of anything and give into the hurt.

At that precise moment, my eyes flew open, and it was 6am.

Staggering out of bed, eyes barely open, still nursing that terrible, searing pain, I stumbled into my babies’ room, and there she was in her cot.

Snoring away.

Little fists curled slightly on the mattress.

Long eyelashes dusting the soft roundness of her cheeks.

She has been so tough this past week. Clingy, moany baby. ‘Mama, mama, mama’ all the time, tugging on my legs to be picked up, not sure what she wants.

But today I feel reminded to be so incredibly grateful for her, and am looking at it in a different light. Oh, let the baby be clingy. She needs you!

I have just finished typing this and can hear her little voice, thick with sleep, saying ‘mama’.

So off I go to squeeze her!

To be blessed.

Ahh. Hello. Little blog of mine.

It’s been a while. Two months, I think.

March promised me so much on her blossom scented breath but you know, April has proved to be more frilly and flowery than my favourite month. No showers, just sunshine. Pink blossom in powder puffs adorning trees and soft sweet apple blossom scattering itself through my window like dainty fairies. Love love love.

I did not write the things I intended to write. I barely treaded water, to be honest.

I caught the coronavirus, I travelled with my kids, I worked until I fell asleep at my keyboard – not once but several times – and I watched things while I folded laundry or tidied toys or folded laundry or washed dishes. Or folded laundry. Bloody hate folding laundry but when I think that I catch myself by the arm. I say, ‘Dear, dear dear dear. Don’t you forget the blessing of clothes to cover your back and a washing machine in which to wash them. So help me God.’

I added the ‘so help me God’ because people in books say that and it sounds like a strict admonishment.

My son started nursery for the first time in both our lives. I cried tears after I left him and there was a hole in my heart and a sad emptiness in my home – he is only gone 5 hours a day but it feels eternal. Two days a week only, and he loves it. He asks to go to school on days we don’t go, and he doesn’t want to leave when I go to pick him up. A great sign, right? I hope so. I do hope so.

I watched Bridgerton, yes I did, and I enjoyed the frivolity of it all. I did indeed. I watched Wild Wild Country and I marvelled at people’s hope and search for the truth, even if it ends in futility. We are so good for hoping, aren’t we. Us humans.

I read a wonderful book called ‘Talking to Strangers’ and it’s all about how we perceive others, and it touches on the wrongs in the systems that run the countries where most violence, crime and racism occur. The author seems to think it boils down to how we approach and talk to strangers. How we cannot decipher each other at all, how the truths we grew up believing about others, were in fact not truths at all. Fascinating stuff.

I read another book called ‘Beauty Sick’, and how the obsession with appearance is a disease in Western society. I really resonated with that. I believe most women would. When I discussed it with my husband he had a different opinion and it infuriated me and turned me into a little spitfire. He told me he didn’t want to talk to me anymore as I was being rude.

I went to think about it for a bit and decided he was correct, and I didn’t need to lash out at him because his opinion was .. INCORRECT. I should have just listened and pointed out the discrepancies in his arguments. Glaringly obvious to me but he is of a different ilk. Cut. Tribe.

He is, as Aunty Caroline would say, he is a ‘Man.’ Capital ‘M’. That’s all there is to say on the matter.

Now that you’re grown.

You have to be in a kind of mood for writing, and for working out, and for doing anything remotely productive and worthwhile.

That’s what I used to think.

Now I know you have to show up, even when you don’t feel like it.

Show up every single time your child cries in the night, and they will have a healthy attachment with you.

Show up every session at the gym, or move your body every day, even when you don’t feel like it, and your cardiovascular health will excel.

Show up everyday and write, if you want to be a writer.

Show up for yourself, and you will reap the benefits. Nobody else.

One of my favourite quotes is this:

Write a million words, the absolute best you can write – then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.

David Eddings

I have had to show up these past three years. I have had to show up for my kids, at the expense of myself. I have had to show up regardless of how I felt, how ill I was, whether I had brushed my teeth or not.

And because I have had to do that, I have had to take a good long look at any hours I had free, and fill them with things which made me a better person.

A stronger person.

A person I wanted to be.

I don’t know what this means except maybe that I am growing up.

6am thoughts

I look at a mountain and I ask, ‘Am I a people pleaser?’

Only the mountain is not in real life but in my memory. I would never look at a mountain in real life and have such a thought. Can you even control your thoughts? I saw some real life mountains this week and my heart was sucked out of my chest. I could breathe fine, but something strange clouded my mind.

Reading Jane Eyre reminds me of warm sweet tea and hot buttery toast. It reminds me of a square pattern pink carpet, faded by the blistering heat of the desert. It reminds me of hot days, curtains billowing in dusty wind, burning air on my cheeks as a rattly van full of sweaty children speeds along shiny wide roads. Breaking necks, lives hanging on edge.

I saw some mountains this week, and waterfalls cascading down them. Not as impressive as Niagara Falls – small trickles falling over rocks and mossy branches into lakes. Fresh air, cold noses, babies with red cheeks.

I took my babies to the Lake District – well actually my husband took us. He booked everything when I was away with the kids staying with my mother, and when I saw him again he said he’d missed us and he wanted to take us somewhere. My son loved his first ever holiday. He kept telling me he was having so much fun. He slept so well, as did his baby sister. Better than they do at home.

Am I a people pleaser? I ask the mountain in my memory.

What a beautiful mountain it was. Snow-capped, green and brown, sitting in the biting storms for centuries. People coming and going. Fashions changing – what does it care for fashion? – ages and wars and the slow, sweeping turn of the millennial tide.

And it sits there, holding the earth together.

I asked my aunt if I could come visit her and her ‘text tone’ scared me so I called her sister – my mother – and said I was nervous about her answer and my mother rolled her eyes at me.

Well, I didn’t see her do it but I know she did.

‘Why are you nervous?’

‘She sounds so cross, I don’t know what will please her, I asked her if she could do Friday as Saturday would be too hard for me and she strongly hinted that although she was free both days, she’d rather I come on Saturday.’

‘Ok then stay with her Friday night!’

‘I can’t ask her that!!!’

‘Why not!? She is your aunt!’

‘I know but…’

‘If L (my daughter) called you about staying with E (my sister), what would you say?’

‘I’d say you’re crazy, E loves you to pieces, of course she would want you to stay with her!’

‘Your aunt has such a soft spot for you’

‘But she sounded so angry!’

‘Yes CALL her then, nobody sounds how they mean to via text’

‘Ok ok ok’

‘Silly girl’

Sometimes you just need to call people.

that evasive slumber

Do you ever overeat when you’re tired? I do. Both my children were up all night last night and as a consequence I have eaten my bodyweight’s worth in snacks today without even realising.

When I finally collapsed in bed at 2am last ‘night’, I shut my eyes and succumbed to slumber. It was the most glorious feeling. Then that familiar cry. Only at night it’s twenty thousand times more irritating and has that unique power to make you feel furious.

But you fight it. For that precious sweet face. You scoop the chubby bundle of baby up and bring them into your own bed.

Then the pattering feet, and the croaky child voice, ‘Mama, mama, I’m scared.’

So you haul the other one into your bed too.

And try to succumb again to that glorious sleep. It’s there alright. Tantalising. Close. You feel it.

But your kids have other ideas. One of them is attempting to crawl in the bed because it is her newly found skill and she loves to do it. She is laughing as she tries to get her chubby legs up, chaos in the covers, pitch black room. And then the almost-3-year old is awake. Banging his feet on the headboard. Asking me to open my eyes. Telling me stories. Chatting to his baby sister, who chats right back.

All through the night.

All through till morning.

And they do not tire. No siree. They hanker for breakfast and are little spitfires ready and gearing for their day of action. Playing, fighting, giggling, pulling things out of cupboards, sticking play dough in corners and smushing it into rugs, snotty noses from leftover colds.

I wish today I could say ‘Ahhhh it’s all so precious and worth it.’

Y’all.

I KNOW it is.

But I don’t feel it today.

I feel angry. Tired. Frustrated. Guilty. Bloated from all the sweet chilli thai rice crackers I have been eating to keep my bleary eyes awake. And the countless mugs of coffee I have downed today. That massive hot chocolate I had for lunch. My oh my. I fell asleep trying to put them to bed at 7:30pm BECAUSE HELLO, SHOULDN’T THEY BE TIRED AFTER THEIR NIGHT OF PARTYING?

No.

No they are not.

8:30pm came and went and it crept to 9… still wide and happily awake.

Bloody hell.

Some days parenting is a ride.

Today is that day.

Today I am bedraggled, a mess, and totally lost. I sit here writing this when I am supposed to be working but I am so tired from my sleepless night and my full-on day that I want to go to bed. But I am also terrified to go to bed because I know as soon as I give in to the glorious sleep that is beckoning to me.. I will be rudely yanked away again.

I know it.

News From Sebastapol. Charles West Cope (1811-1896). Oil On Canvas, 1875.

P.S. Look, I only write this to document. Not to complain. I love my babies with every fibre of my being. I would wrestle sleep to the ground if I thought their lives and health were in danger. I know one day I will sleep and sleep and sleep because they will be grown and off living their own lives and I will be sad and miss them. I KNOW this. However, I also know that in the moment, sometimes, it all gets a bit too much. You can feel frustrated and angry. You will also feel guilty for feeling frustrated and angry. Being a mother is so insane. It’s so mad. It’s so crazy. It’s so surreal and unbelievable and unfair and beautiful. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t catch the fleeting time, and yet you wish it all away. You can’t get enough, and you have way too much.

Love Letters #48

I truly think success is contentment, in whichever shape or form that takes.

For me contentment is dancing around my living room like a maniac making my ten month old bay girl laugh. She is a very smiley child. She has the most beautiful little dimples and she is forever making friends with anybody who so much as looks at her.

Contentment is wearing a tight red dress and red lipstick that I haven’t worn in nearly 3 years for a ‘date night’… in my living room. We ended up watching 15 minutes of a movie and then I was upstairs soothing a baby to sleep and he was upstairs cuddling a toddler who was afraid of ‘the bats’.

Contentment is taking my babies to the library on a Monday afternoon and choosing 8 books to take home. It’s stopping in a cafe amid the drizzly walk home and drinking a hot drink with my two year old boy. He is a wonder to behold. He is so human, with all his flaws and beautiful ways. A piece of art, I think, as he sips his warm milk and leaves a milk moustache on his upper lip, which he then proceeds to wipe away on his clean sleeve. My baby girl babbles away in the highchair, waving a croissant around and laughing at herself.

Contentment is making sliced pickled red onions and having them on a cracker with some cream cheese.

It’s tidying up the house.

It’s somebody popping round for a cup of tea.

It’s baby breath, and the warm sweet smell of a baby who has just woken up from their nap.

It’s a mother’s love, that trickles down the generations, and is felt decades and decades later, in hand-knitted cardigans and the echo of a voice telling me a smile makes the most plain face beautiful.

It’s feeling grateful for warmth at night.

It’s the catharsis of crying.

The ability to have hope that tomorrow will be better.

The gentle sigh, the pages of a book, the taste of tea, the sound of someone typing, the growl of hunger after a long day of physical and mental labour, the ache of loneliness, the prayer, the bright and numerous stars in an icy, black night sky.

What is contentment for you?

Slow Down

I watched a Youtube video on 15 minute dinners. Ways to cook dinner quick. Mad rush in the evenings to fit an entire life in. A life put on hold because of working during the daylight hours. Quick, quick, make dinner. Eat it. Hurry. So you can put the kids to bed. Or relax. Or do anything but cook and eat.

Some folks like to take their sweet time whilst cooking. Slowly chop and onion. Feel the satisfaction of a sharp knife sliding through the crisp layers. The gentle sizzle of cut onions in a pan. The creaminess of sauce coating spaghetti.

Why is it always a mad rush?

Where is intentionality in living?

Why does life feels like a horrible race?

Even when not racing?

I bought a really lovely book called ‘Slow Down’. It’s full of little stories. The story of a snail making silvery trails across the garden. The story of a bee collecting nectar from dahlias, and pollinating an entire garden as it buzzes about drinking from it’s straw-like tongue.

Gorgeous little illustrations.

My son and I pored over the book today.

He is ‘scared of the big snail’.

You see, we were collecting snails in the garden yesterday. Well, no. I was weeding a border and I kept pulling snails out with the weeds so I lined them up for my toddler to collect. The snails were small and green, and fit nicely in the palm of his hand. I pulled out a larger brown snail, and he gazed at it in wonder. I watched his eyes flit from his line of little green snails, to the big brown one. Light up. Make to go put it at the front of his little snail army… but just then the snail decided to peek out and see what was going on. Two tentacles for eyes grew out of the shell and my son threw the snail in horror.

‘Don’t like that one, mama. Put it away.’

‘Okay lil chap. I’ll put it away’

So I tucked it away in the weeds again.

That night he kept waking up and saying he was scared of the big snail.

And the next morning as I was leafing through my ‘Slow Down’ book, he noticed the page on the snail and he was fascinated by it. We looked over every inch of that page. Every illustration. The snails looked exactly like the big scary snail we found in the garden, so we talked about that too. We talked about how it leaves a trail, and how it comes out when it rains and hides away when it’s sunny.

We ‘slowed down’.

And I just thought that was meaningful in some way, but don’t quite know how yet. I feel like I want to slow down more often.

Slow down in the kitchen.

Wash the dishes and enjoy it, maybe. Allow little hands to help me hang out laundry. Make a fifteen minute dinner, but observe my pasta. Relish in the gentle simmer of a tomato sauce. Ladle some soup into a bowl. Nice and clean ceramic, smooth hot liquid. Brush hair softly. Feel the locks in my fingers.

Why rush the kids to bed.

Go upstairs slowly. Listen to my boy telling me stories. Even ones where he says he wants to squish all the woodlice. Listen. Breathe.

In Time

I am very fat these days but like to think I am a soft cushion for my babies. None of those waist training things. I am also in the stage of life where I have no time for what my generation like to call ‘self care’.

Now if I were from another era, I would be going to the salon weekly to do my hair. I would have a manicure and a pedicure, and leave my children with the nanny. Maybe. Or family. If they lived closer. I would spend time on my wardrobe and have a select number of outfits which complement my hair and handbags. And shoes.

I would have all the time in the world to figure out how to wash the clothes properly in the machine so they don’t lose their softness and don’t develop nasty little balls on them. Or feel stiff when they should be slinky.

I would figure out how to utilise vinegar and soda crystals to ensure my oven was sparking, my sink smelled fresh and my washing machine was a happy little Larry.

As it stands, I find myself in a constant state of disrepair. I look like I have been dragged through a bush by my toes. My hair is a mess, my feet are so embarrassingly rough, my hands look dry and rough and …. not feminine and soft. My fingertips are all peeling. My nails are jagged and weird. My laundry gets done but always comes out wrong, even though I research the right way to do things. Sometimes they get left in the machine overnight because I am too exhausted to remember to hang them out and my husband is…. a forgetful annoying person.

No sooner do I clean than things get messy again.

And daily

Daily..

DAILY…

I find myself musing on the precious thing we call time.

Time and hours.

If I spend time working out I have to then spend time showering. If I want to look good I have to spend time doing things to my hair and skin and selecting a nice outfit and making sure my eyebrows are trimmed and my feet aren’t rough. All that takes time. Hours.

I also have to have my babies in clean nappies, clean outfits, and have them have a good sense of hygiene. That means hair and teeth brushed, nails clipped, feet clean, socks on, and all that shabang.

iI have to educate them and talk to them and read to them and teach them good life hacks and how to be healthy members of society. I have to take them out and expose them to things and give them experiences.

They must also be fed and not packet food. Broths and vegetables and wholesome grains. THAT TAKES TIME. I can no longer shove any old thing in the oven. I do that sometimes but I do feel guilty because I KNOW what is good for their growth.

So what is a priority?

I also have work to do and research for a literature review. I have to put in hours after the kids are asleep, and the house also needs cleaning? Mopping? Dusting? Fridge cleaned? Oven cleaned?

You see what i mean?

You can’t have a spick and span house, a well-groomed good looking persona, healthy, happy, clean kids and a steady job and good education all in one go.

Lord knows I try every single goddamn day.

THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY.

So I end up wearing the same uniform daily. T shirt, shorts, slippers. Hair back in a bun. Time for perfume? Maybe. Always a sports bra. I end up prioritising dressing my kids over myself. Feeding them healthy foods over myself. Educating them and taking them to places. Drinking coffee and coffee and coffee. Strong and black and in a huge mug. Only hygiene is brushing teeth and MAYBE hair. Washing face. Quick shower after they sleep. No creams anymore. No makeup anymore. No nice shoes and cute dresses.

I wish I could look like those mums. YOU know those mums? With the nice outfits and matchy matchy with their little girls. But I really don’t know how they do it? I wake up groggy and feeling like I haven’t slept enough (spoiler alert: I have not). I have to sort the babies out and feed them asap because if I don’t… they suffer and show me. Can’t put mascara on while they wail at me for their porridge.

I don’t know why I write this.

It’s just a reflection I guess.

Just some thoughts I am having about time and what to do with it.

Like right now I could be at the gym right? It’s 8:45pm and my babies have gone to sleep.

But here I sit writing this.

Priorities, ey?

You’re Horrible

‘You’re horrible,’ he said to me, leaning back on the sofa. I sat hunched on the table, angrily tapping on my laptop keys, fury racing towards him like daggers from my side eyeing.

‘No, you are.’

‘I haven’t seen you all day and all you do is be mean to me.’

‘Well I have been taking care of two babies all day and was so looking forward to going to the gym for an hour, MY TIME, but you choose to come home half an hour before it closes!’

‘So?’

‘SO, I am left rushing there, banging out a poor workout, and rushing back.’

‘Ok, at least you worked out?’

‘NO.’

‘Mean.’

‘Not mean. I wanted to take my time, walk there all psyched to go. I wanted to lift my weights slowly and with focus. I wanted to do some stair stepping and sweat to some tunes. But all I got to do was race there, dash in, quickly rush through my weight lifting routine, and rush out.’

‘Hmmph.’

‘And the music had stopped, the gym guy was waiting by the door, tapping on his phone, keys jangling.’

‘…’

‘And I rushed out, raced across the car park in the pitch black, jumped in, locked the doors sharpish and looked into my backseat.’

‘Why the backseat?’

‘Well you know in one of the X-Files episodes where that creepy guy with honey eyes – the one who eats people’s livers every thirty years – anyway, that guy was in the backseat when Mulder gets in his car.’

‘O…. kay?’

‘And I watched that as a child and it so terrified me that every time I get into a car, I have to look into the backseat to make sure nobody is waiting there to pounce on me.’

‘Alright, weirdo.’

‘Anyway and then I rush home. And there is mess everywhere. I was with the kids all day, bathed them alone, put them to bed alone, and I was hoping you would at least clear up the dinner things and tidy up, but it’s a pigsty. Literally. There’s dried baby food on the table.’

‘I’ve been at work all day.’

‘So have I?’

‘What, you were at home!’

And folks, I took my laptop upstairs, and here I sit, steam shooting out my ears.

Is this for real?