move your body

I have started exercising again. Moving my body. I do it a lot, to be fair. But then life gets stressful and movement takes a back seat.

But moving your body brings life to your capillaries.

Life to your fingertips.

Your hips.

Your sadness.

You can be sad, but when you move, your sadness sort of dances. The wobbling self pity fountain stays away. Dry eyes, smile lips.

I cycle down the Great Shilling Way. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? I like to think it is. It’s the path old soldiers during the First World War took. On their way somewhere. There are metal figurines of these men in their oval helmets, carrying rifles. Iron-wrought poppies. Fields to the right (or left, depending which way you’re coming), and the main road on the right.

Or left.

The Great Shilling Way.

So I cycle. I also own some weights and I use those at home with a resistance band I bought years ago on Amazon.

I go to the gym. I lift heavy weights. I can squat 40kg now, and can leg press 100kg. I’ve always had super strong legs, probably why I enjoy cycling so much.

Red face. Red capillaries. Strong legs to squat down and pick things up whilst carrying my heavy 12kg baby.

Happy mood, movement, energy levels soaring. Tired muscles, but the kind of tired where you can feel the strength quietly building.

I hope this movement spree lasts longer than the last one.

Moving my body is fantastic for my mood.

Image Credit

8 Years

Today, after the kids were in bed, I asked my husband to make me a mug of green tea.

He did, and as he brought it to me, I glanced at my watch. 18th of January.

‘Hey,’ I said, taking the tea from him, ‘We’ve been married 8 years today.’

‘No way! Really? That’s today?’

‘Yup,’ I said, taking a sip.

‘Wow.’

‘I know right, feels like we are newly married.’

He snorted as he sat down with his own tea, ‘Yeah, sure.’

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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.

Some Questions I Had Today

What causes the sensation of an itch?

Do actors ever feel silly doing what they do?

If we should stop the production of soy to save the planet, why are vegan alternative meats full of soy?

Why was JK Rowling excluded from the Harry Potter reunion?

And finally; Whose idea was it to drop that atomic bomb on Hiroshima? And then Nagasaki?

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?

Diary

I think writing is incredibly important. I have been writing since I was about 11 years old.

It started with a story I wrote based on a literacy assignment my father set for me. The story was about a little girl who got stuck in a lift (elevator), and how she managed to escape by finding a hatch and sliding down the ropes, and exiting onto some crisp white snow through a hatch at the bottom of the shaft. I can’t remember the details – there were many – but I remember the catharsis of writing that story. You see, I had a crippling fear of lifts. I was so afraid we would get stuck and that thought was a roadblock in my mind. As an adult I am still scared… and as an adult with two young children who has to use lifts often because of having a pram… whooooooosh. Every lift journey I think about all the possible things that could go wrong and how I would deal with it… all while smiling jovially at my kids like my heart isn’t about to thrust itself right out of my chest.

After that lift story, I began to write. I found scraps of paper at first and wrote my thoughts. Then at school as an end-of-semester gift, my teacher gave me a notebook. A flimsy little affair with shiny blue flowers on the covers and paper thin enough to look (and feel!!) like tracing paper… but I treasured it and wrote in it religiously for a month… until the paper ran out. The entries are so childish now, when I read them back sixteen years later, but to me they held a glorious feeling on their pages. I had just discovered Lord of the Rings, you see, and we had got out hands on the video tapes of the movies. My mum’s friend had recorded the movies that played on the TV that afternoon while we were all at school. My pages were filled with that stomach-churning eleven year old excitement .. that excitement that you rarely feel as an adult. Why is life so exciting to an eleven year old?

Anyway. Since then I always kept a diary. Sometimes I would have breaks from journalling… if life got too exciting or I was doing something nefarious… but for the most part, I recorded my thoughts and ideas and feelings most days.

Fast forward to today, and I now have a yearly diary. A page per day entry. Mainly to record important events or feelings or experiences… but as a mother of two young children, my entries have lapsed. I haven’t recorded anything in the entire month of November. This is certainly not because I don’t want to. I desperately want to. I think of things I want to write down and tell myself I will, later, later, soon.. but when later comes my brain doesn’t have any capacity to do it. It’s like treacle in there. It’s mind-bogglingly hard to take care of two small children every single day. Nothing much to look forward to and just the daily guilt of feeling you aren’t doing enough or being enough for them. And are they learning enough and adequately? And do they have good opportunities? And am I giving them those good opportunities? And why can’t they do things other kids their age can? And and and and… and so journalling takes a backseat.

But it’s good to journal. It’s good to write. It’s catharsis. Like crying. Reliving the day, the thought, the emotion, and really feeling it before letting it go.

Do you journal?

My Brother… Cooking

My brother takes the flour out. Bits of flour dust sail behind the paper bag as he brings it the counter.

He shakes the saucepan on the hob. It’s filled with caramelised onions. Sliced peppers. Sliced beef. He throws in some stock. It splashes over the edge and creates a symphony in the pot. Swirling, whirling. Drops of sauce on the sleek and shiny stainless steel cooker. A bit of half cooked meat on the counter, where it has lain there after flying out the pot during some aggressive stirring.

He slaps the dough on the counter. Kneads away. Somehow a glob of dough lands on the edge of the sink behind him. On the cupboard handle. On the edge of his shoe.

Wraps the dough in clingfilm. Pushes it into the fridge. The egg tray falls out, and the only egg in it cracks on the floor.

‘ugh’

Old rag, smearing egg yolk on the floor. Kick the mop over. Pour a glass of water over the egg. Mop it up. Leave the mop leaning against the door.

‘You done with the mop?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Ok…’

I know that’ll stay there for a few days. Until some unwitting person wants to mop and will smell the unholy stench of raw egg rotting.

The dough is ready. He slams it on the counter. Takes the rolling pin out.

Rolls. Expertly.

Sheet of dough. In the greased baking dish. Blind baked, fork holes peeping up at the searing heat of the oven curling the air over it.

Pours the filling into the pie shell. Drapes the other dough sheet over the top. Fork pricks.

Milk wash…. he had broken the last egg, remember?

I sit on the sofa in the next room with a good view into the kitchen. The beef pie is in the oven. It smells incredible. He can’t see me. He sees flour all over his hoodie. So he shakes the edge of it, and a cloud of flour dust flies into the air. He claps his hands on his trousers. Rolls down his sleeves.

‘Food’s nearly ready,’ he tells us, gruffly, as he heads upstairs.

‘Thank you darling,’ my mother tells him. She coos at my baby, who is sitting happily on her lap.

And I think, that boy hasn’t changed a single bit since he was a chubby little boy messing up the kitchen in a well-meaning attempt to scramble eggs.

Is it annoying? Yes, so much so. Does his food taste good? Delicious. Do I clean up after him? Yup. Does he think he has cleaned up after himself? Yes. Does my telling him he hasn’t done it well enough work? Nope. Hasn’t worked for over twenty years. What makes you think it will work now?

Also. I am at my mum’s house. Somebody else is holding my baby and somebody else is cooking dinner. Am I about to regurgitate an old sibling fight about messy cooking?

Hell to the no!

Adobe stock image – as you can tell.

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?

Wonders

I’ve said this before, but I am addicted to Instagram.

I’ve gone on instagram ‘cleanses’ before.

Once for a month. Once for a week. Once for three months.

I always end up going back, though. There’s something about it. Mindless scrolling. Satisfaction… for what? I don’t post anything and I don’t get high off ‘likes’ (because there are no ‘likes’ because I am not posting anything!). I like to see the pages I follow for ‘inspiration’.

Homeschooling ideas, activities for my kids, cleaning inspiration, workout inspiration.

The thing is, though, the people who make this content also post a lot about their personal lives, so you’re subjected to that too.

And it’s just so much of it, so monotonous, so tedious.

Yet I still scroll.

There is a science behind it, why you keep scrolling even though you don’t want to. They’ve researched it thoroughly and have programmed their apps to hit your dopamine right on target.

So anyway. I deleted instagram again for a month, ending 25th August. During that time I read three books, bought and made a start on a planner (very colourful and I thoroughly enjoyed decorating it with stickers and whatnot), went out a lot with my babies, hosted family over for three weeks…

Not to say I wouldn’t have done those things if I had instagram on my phone readily available to me.. I WOULD have still hosted and gone out and read things…

I don’t really know how to describe it to you.

There is a word in arabic and it’s ‘ikti’aab’. It literally means depression. But in your bones. Deep exhaustion.

Not tired.

It’s like the monochrome videos everybody makes now. They’re all doing something with their fists, some kind of weird dance, and words pop up on the screen as they fist pump and wriggle around like worms on camera. It’s the same thing, just done by different people. Eagerly eyeing the like button. Faces filtered beyond recognition.

It felt weird opening instagram again after this hiatus.

It felt like peering into a world of narcissistic aliens, and they all harp on about not being narcissistic and being ‘real’ but their ‘real’ footage is scripted, because they look so perfect and are angling their cameras just so… just so their boobs are looking their best… just so their hair is at the perfect angle… just so their faces are tilted just right….

Being raw and vulnerable …

All the comments… ‘you’re so brave! you’re so strong! you’re so raw! omg!’

And I look out of that fakery into my reality and realise with a painful thump that this curated world I am peering into is an illusion.

I still feel shitty about myself though. My parenting. My ability to school my kids. What I feed them. What they wear. How our house looks.

And so. One of these days. I am deleting social media for good.

How (not) to Disappear

I was browsing through Goodreads when I came across a title called ‘How Not to Disappear’, about a road trip across the UK. It looked really interesting. Aunt with dementia, pregnant teen, family secrets.

So I went to get it as an ebook.

When I bought and downloaded it and began to read, I realised the book I was reading was not about a road trip. It was about a teen girl who witnessed a murder.

Huh?

It was based in the UK and so I carried on thinking, ok, maybe she will get pregnant later and travel across the UK with her aunt Gloria.

Only that never happened.

There was no aunt called Gloria.

And the description on the front of the book said ‘bestselling thriller’.

Is travelling across the UK supposed to be thrilling? If so can one teach me how to make it so because so far I’ve only ever had very mundane road trips!

Anyway, halfway through this thriller – and I was really beginning to thoroughly enjoy it – I checked the cover of the book and smacked my forehead.

It was called ‘How to Disappear’

Not ‘How NOT to disappear’.

Still, it’s a fantastic book and keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Have you ever read one book thinking you were reading another?