Category Archives: Soul Food And Sanity Savers

My walls, my rules (+ art print GIVEAWAY!)

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You will never find me on a home improvement blog. I have no colour sense, and no idea how to ‘style’ corners (whatever that means). But you will have to prise my wall art out of my cold, dead fingers.

Everything on our walls is meaningful to us, and it makes even our sad old magnolia paint – of which there is rather a lot – feel cosier. Our living room doesn’t ever get much light thanks to the row of oak trees just outside, so we’ve filled the room with soft greys, old wooden furniture, far too many blankets, and a jewel-coloured Van Gogh. When I saw that Van Gogh in the flesh, in a museum in Paris, on one of the best trips we’ve ever taken together, I cried. I think about that every time I see it.

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Then there’s the couple of old maps reminding us of places we’ve been and would like to go; a fantastic Sherlock portrait that induces a pleasant Benedict Cumberbatch meditation every time I sneak over to turn up the thermostat; a David Hockney I carried back from the Tate Modern for our downstairs loo (The Splash: something that often, regrettably, happens in there); the mother-and-baby painting that used to sit in our dining room when I was a child and reminds me now of all the mothers who’ve made me; and of course the ‘Courage, dear heart’ print hanging over our bed. I need to read that one about twelve times a day.

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None of it’s particularly styled. But it all means something, and I love that. It makes me feel at home.

SO. Imagine how delighted I was when my sister-in-law Bryony Dick got in touch to say she’d hand-lettered a quote from this very blog. Something…I wrote…up there…on a wall…*hyperventilating*. You can find Bryony’s Etsy shop here – including a limited run of this hand-lettered print – but I have one RIGHT HERE to give away to one of you lovely lot! All you have to do is enter below, using your Facebook account or your email. I hope it might make you feel like all of your days have the potential for something marvellous.

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(Bryony also has a Zazzle shop, in which my absolute favourite has to be the Wives of Henry VIII badges. What a PERFECT OPENING to explain to a hapless stranger why Anne of Cleves is my all-time fave.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Seven little things that have made my life better in 2016

 

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I’ve been spending my nights mostly not asleep this week. I’ve had a couple of imagine-all-the-horrible-ways-you-could-lose-your-children sessions (MOTHERHOOD, THE BEST) and then last night, somewhat more prosaically, I spent hours seized up with fear about not having put the bin out.

I dunno what’s causing it. It’s new to me. Brains are great, sometimes.

Anyway, today – having woken up too early, too tired, too cross over nothing – I have been practising self-care. I went for a run this morning, though I hate it as much as I ever did, because even I know that endorphins are a thing. Then a hot shower. Then clothes as close to pyjamas as I could wangle. Then I put on makeup carefully and with both hands while T watched Cars. Then Heinz tomato soup and a buttered crumpet. Then I took the damn nap.

This evening I feel a little more like myself, thanks to all those little things. So in that spirit, I thought of seven other little things that have been making my life better so far this year, and wrote them down. None of them are putting the bin out on time, though I managed that too, eventually.

 

1. A laundry basket with two compartments, no, seriously:

We saw this little beauty in TK Maxx on a day in which we were decidedly not in the market for items larger than our youngest child – we’d come on the train; we were about to head off for a cheeky Nando’s – but we couldn’t say no to this. A laundry bin with two compartments is essentially self-sorting, and you don’t even need a robot. Do you know how much time I save not tossing urine-sodden underpants and ancient sweaty lycra into white and dark piles? I could eat a bacon sandwich in that time. And I have.

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2. Not weighing myself anymore:

At certain times in my life this pestilential thing has been necessary – when I had weight to lose, for example, and needed to track it. Other than that, though: why. Ever. Why. I have spent so many years tailoring my feelings to that unfeeling box on the ground. Weight fluctuates daily for many reasons: how much water you’ve drunk; what kind of exercise you do; the details of your loo expeditions; if your hormones are up, down or have run off to sea. Your body changes as you do, because you are mysterious and expansive and full of hidden depths. If you’re making effort to treat it well, why bother sticking it on a scale like a slab of meat? I have decided to end the tyranny of the weight box, and I LOVE it.

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3. Housework + audiobooks:

Imagine being in the bottom half of a giant egg-timer, like Jasmine at the end of Aladdin, only instead of sand tumbling ceaselessly onto your head, it’s toys. And dirty plates. And biscuit crumbs. That’s basically what it’s like keeping house with small children. Now imagine if you did all your washing up with Stephen Fry sat on the counter, talking to you about Harry Potter. Much better, eh? I never do any housework without an audiobook. The HP cycle is my old reliable, though it’s a bit disconcerting when I go straight from the end of Book 7 to the beginning of Book 1, and shriek HARRY YOU ARE MARKED FOR SLAUGHTER STOP WORRYING ABOUT HOMEWORK in the middle of the laundry. I have a couple of my favourite novels on audio too; and the BBC Radio app, especially the drama section, especially during Agatha Christie season (!!!), is a cave of wonders.

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4. A proper weekly planner app:

Do you know how long I have been searching for a week-to-view planner app? My whole life. I just want to know whether to schedule something for Monday or Thursday without having to flick through seven screens. It’s not like it’s the holy grail. Finally, this month I found one. It’s called Weekly Planner, helpfully, so perhaps I just wasn’t looking hard enough. Guys. My productivity has been OFF THE CHARTS. I also use a thumbs up emoji to tick stuff off, so it’s like a Roman Emperor decided to let me live because of my unstoppable efficiency, ten times a day.

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5. A store-cupboard, thirty-minute crumble recipe:

Sometimes you need crumble and custard very much indeed, but you don’t have crumble topping, or enough apples, or the time and leisure to take the skin off your knuckles coring them. This is a problem I have frequently, and never more so than in January. Recently I hit on the idea of tinned fruit crumble, because it takes no time at all to cook and you can keep in the ingredients for emergencies. You can have it on the table half an hour after your initial hankering if you have a food mixer, I kid ye not. Here you go:

  • put one tin each of peaches, pears and mangoes into a dish
  • whizz up 150g flour, 50g sugar and 100g cold butter in a food mixer/processor (or your hands are fine; it just takes a bit longer)
  • put crumble mixture over fruit in dish
  • bake for 20 mins in a hot oven (220 ish)

I hope you always use twice as much custard as crumble, because this is the route to happiness.

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6. The 10pm alarm clock:

Let me say for the sake of honesty that I am awful at this one, but when I do it I feel so much better. I am a terrible, terrible fiddler in the evenings, and can spend literally hours soaking in the experience of looking at Twitter without being jumped on. But late nights make me feel gross in the morning, and not taking the time to wind down properly also takes its toll. So I have a recurring 10pm alarm, with the idea that when it goes off, I stop whatever I’m doing and go upstairs. I can have my own bedtime routine for half an hour, and then go to sleep at a decent time, properly switched off. It’s a blooming miracle.

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7. Trying to get better at things:

You know what always makes me feel more satisfied, more hopeful? No, not Netflix (YES NETFLIX). Making progress. Some kind of progress, in something. Much of the labour I perform is manual, repetitive, quickly undone, and though I know it’s not, it can feel pointless and stagnating. I need to feel like I’m making progress. Last year I tried hard to read more and to let the boys see me reading – both for my own enjoyment/sanity, and so I could show them that reading is a thing I do for pleasure. This year I want to carry on with that, and I’ve started baking new things more regularly, and trying to practice the piano a little more. By which I mean, a little more than the none I was doing before. It’s totally doable.

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What are your little sanity-savers so far this year?

 

Two time-stoppers

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I am walking to school. Pushing the pushchair with two hefty toddlers in it, wellies mud-streaked, balancing H’s scooter over the top with a spare finger, sweaty enough to make me feel like this is exercise. It’s one of my favourite things to do. The light is grey as steel, but the woods look good in anything.

I look up, and there’s a kite balancing on the topmost branch of the nearest tree. A kite, or a hawk? I never know. I wish I did. We see them quite often, wheeling far overhead, but I’ve never seen one perched before. This one sways gently on its spindly seat. So much bigger than I expected. A muscled, burly chest, layered with feathers. I’m overwhelmed by how solid it is, how heavy and powerful it looks, how its stillness communicates itself as terrifying, ferocious observation. I wouldn’t like to be a sparrow in the field below and feel that glare on my back.

I stop the pushchair and point up. ‘Look, can you see the bird?’ I want them to see it too, and I don’t want to move before it does. Then I don’t have to: it lets out a pure, cold, bird-of-prey cry, the kind I’ve heard on documentaries but never in front of me, never slicing through the air on top of my head, and peels off. Wings open smoothly as it falls and then it’s not falling anymore, but flying. It must have seen a sparrow.

I let out my breath, and push on.

 

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I have heaved all three of our shopping bags in from the car, and closed all the doors. It’s our doing-things day, the one where I wheedle T around two supermarkets and clean up the house after the weekend. I love restocking our empty fridge and cupboards, cramming the shelves with a week of fresh food. Planning and making our meals answers one of my deepest, most basic needs as a mother: I can feed them good things, I can keep them well, I can keep them loved. I think about this every Monday, stuffing onions into the fridge drawer.

‘Put music on?’ T asks.

‘Of course’, I say. ‘What would you like?’

I don’t really expect him to answer, but he screws up tiny nose and does: ‘Um…Starman’.

We’ve been hitting the Bowie back catalogue hard since he passed away. I suppose you pore over someone’s genius more when you know there’s no more to come. The boys are old enough to recognise them this time around. They love them, though they’re not as fierce about Life on Mars as I am.

I crank up the volume and the slightly discordant guitar riff jangles through the kitchen, then Bowie comes in for the first verse, that hard, spare voice lingering over the repeated ‘oh-oh-ohs’. T starts to dance, all shoulders and lunges. I join in, swirling my coat around us like a cloak. He grabs my hand and I spin us both round in lazy circles on the kitchen floor, waiting for the moment where the chorus kicks in with a rush and an octave leap.

I know this is something I’ll remember years later: this minute, this chubby hand and leaping toddler and soft late-morning light and Bowie loud in the air. I can feel it solidifying into memory in front of me, like our edges are turning sepia before we’re quite done with them. Possibly I’ll never listen to Starman again without being transported right back here. Swishing coat. Hand in the air. T’s laughter. And here comes the chorus: Star-maaaaaan, waiting in the sky.

He laughs. I laugh. I get out bread, grapes, cheese, and make us some lunch.

Just take the damn nap

My littlest goes to sleep with a fluffy cat and dog, one under each arm. And his Own Thomas train (I still don’t know which one this is), and a rubber killer whale, and usually a giant plastic crane, which he talks to for forty minutes before dropping off.

I don’t need such elaborate sleeping rituals. Over the last few weeks, whenever I’ve been home and free during his naptime, I’ve just crawled under a duvet and got my head down. All the way down. Sometimes with my boots still on. Always with a sense of righteous glee.

I haven’t had opportunity for daytime naps since T arrived and H stopped taking them. It’s been a long dry spell. And I used to avoid them out of guilt, mostly because I kept comparing my day to Tim’s. He doesn’t get a brief kip after his lunch (or does he? I used to schedule a sleep on the library desk at college. Set an alarm and everything). He’s not hiding in the kitchen with a sneaky brownie because his toddler won’t stop asking him to press the same two buttons over and over. He’s working hard, earning money. Cycling ludicrous distances. Generally acting like Superman, or at least a decent grown-up.

At some point I realised that was a bagful o’ nonsense. My day is hard. Do you know how much naked charisma I need to get two small children through a brief supermarket trip without either of them wandering off or breaking down? More than I’ve naturally got, I can tell you. It takes intense effort; every last cell of me focussed on distraction techniques, danger signs and Mary Poppins voices.

Yesterday afternoon, after I’d picked up H from school, taken them both to Sainsbury’s with T wailing in the back, got them out of the car and into the trolley, bought precisely two items, strapped them both back in the car, opened their bananas, driven all the way back home, got them back out of the car again, emptied the car of our assembled rubbish including discarded banana pieces, shooed them back in the house and taken off shoes and coats, I tried to set the dishwasher going and it broke. I attempted to google the error code, praying it wasn’t something expensive. Meanwhile, H was having an intense personal meltdown, because the brownie I’d started to make wasn’t for him.

My every minute is like that. Every single minute, except for that MAYBE hour and a half where T naps after lunch. Yours is too, I bet, or something similar. Honestly, why would you not get extra sleep if you possibly could? Your kid could stop napping ANY DAY NOW.

In September mine will be in nursery for five half-days a week, and though I think I’ll be getting more done when the day’s bisected by four school runs instead of two, HA HA HA is how that’s going to turn out.

In ten years’ time I’ll be back in an office, probably, watching some guy across the way eat his cheese and pickle sandwich and dribble bits onto his keyboard, and I’ll pretend to be enjoying a rice cake and dump seven sugars in my cheap hot chocolate and wish to high heaven that I could put my head down for ten lousy minutes.

Will you regret, even for a second, taking those daytime naps while you had them? I will not regret it for a second.

Not a second.

If there’s a brief, shining interlude in your life where you’re alone enough to lie down under a duvet with your boots on, luxuriate in your excellent fortune and take it. TAKE IT.

Just take the damn nap.

Just so not sorry

Just so not sorry

Something to bake: raspberry and hazelnut flapjack bars

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I bake for lots of reasons. Because I need to bring refreshments somewhere. Because I need to supply our cupboards more conveniently with emergency cake. And for comfort, of course, always for comfort. In a week in which David Bowie and Alan Rickman have both passed on unexpectedly, plus that avalanche earlier in the week and the shootings and explosions that seem to be business as usual, it feels like comfort is in short supply.

Baking doesn’t fix anything, of course, not really. But I think that any good thing adds to your personal stock of good things, and that the world could always use more cake and more kindness.

This afternoon, then, I baked the BBC Good Food’s raspberry and pine nut bars (recipe when you follow the link). They’re buttery flapjacks made squishier and more exciting by fresh raspberries in the middle and chopped nuts on top. I didn’t have pine nuts so used some leftover hazelnuts. It worked fine. Our kitchen is a little warmer and we’re a little happier, which is what Thursday needed to feel a little warmer and happier too.

Start with flour, porridge oats and softened butter, and mix it all up by hand. The recipe said you should end up with coarse crumbs, and mine looked more like oaty frogspawn. It’s all fine.

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Put about two-thirds of the mixture at bottom of a 9″ square pan, and scatter raspberries on top. The raspberries don’t cover the whole thing, so I might chop or crush them a little next time. But you might prefer to keep them whole.

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Then the rest of the oaty mixture goes on top, filling in the gaps. Press down, gently, and bake for 35-40 mins. I found baking them at the shorter end of that time scale was better: they will seem too squishy when you first get them out, but cut them into bars immediately and then let them cool in the tin, and they’ll harden just enough to keep together and be delicious.

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Eat with a little clotted cream, if you like to live decadently. I always do.

How to make someone feel better about anything (for Grandpa, 1928-2015)

It was..somewhere in 2007, or 2008? I was intensely vulnerable, cramped, unsettled, unhappy. Nowhere near my best self, and painfully aware of it. Something small had happened to make me feel all of those things more acutely.

I sat in my mother-in-law’s car, shivering, with a knot in my stomach. On Grandpa’s driveway (Tim’s Grandpa, not mine, though I’d mentally adopted them both as my own some months before, and hadn’t told them). Grandpa Tom came out and opened the door. He took my hand in his – a firm, warm grip – and looked me very steadily in the eye.

‘You are one of us now’, he said. ‘Don’t you forget it.

‘You’re ours now, and we’re not leaving.’

He really meant it. I believed it. I can’t think of a better indication of the kind of man he was.

I’ve always hoped I’ll be able to do the same for someone else, someday.

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Why I won’t be wishing you the ‘best year ever’ in 2016

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via westcoastmama.net

Happy new year! (Yes I know it’s too late to say that, but I’m still asking people about their Christmas, because my small talk regularly wins awards.)

It is the new year, but I won’t be wishing you the best year ever. And it’s not because I don’t like you, because I do. Very much. Look how lovely you are.

It’s just that I don’t think it’s helpful. I’m already so seduced by new beginnings, I tend to think that a fresh start means everything will be different and better, all the time. And I don’t think it’s just me. The First of January! I think, putting in mental capital letters and exclamation marks. Farewell to my weaknesses and crappy circumstances! Hello to a shiny new life! 

I find it incredibly touching actually, this human willingness to try harder, to be better, that comes about at the beginning of a new year. But. A couple of weeks later I’m stuck in the middle of January, knowing that after that comes February, truly the wrinkled old backside of the natural year if ever there was one, and the flowers still aren’t out and Spring still isn’t here and it will be cold forever and ever, amen.

So I am disappointed. I abandon my grand plans for change. Life carries on very much as it did before.

I am not saying that deciding to change is a bad thing. No, it is the best thing. But life doesn’t turn into one great upward spiral towards the sun just because we’ve turned into the new year. Or, in fact, because any big change has come about. If I expect that it will, I’m going to be disheartened.

Life is like the British weather.

One sunny morning followed by one blustery afternoon followed by one wet evening followed by a night so clear you can see galaxies of stars, pinpricked against the heavens.

One breathless, beautiful moment after insanely difficult moment after moment of unbearable grief after moment of transcendent joy.

Darlings, you do not need a Best Year Ever, you need to be happy. And you need to change for the better in a way that you decide. And happiness (and change too) comes in tiny portions, one after the other. Interleaved with sadness, boredom, weakness, fear, and every other emotion we cram into our expansive selves.

You are too miraculously complex to boil down to A Good Year, or even A Good Day. There is a universe in every day you spend breathing. Some days – some weeks, or months – will just feel awful. If you’re there now, I’m so sorry. I hope you have people around you to lift you, and that you know you have my sisterhood and sympathy too.

But I know this: life is like the weather, and you will come into a sunny morning again soon. There will be light and warmth on your skin. It will make you feel hopeful for sunny mornings to come.

So let’s not wish in years. Let’s wish in minutes.

To you brand-new mothers, I wish you a minute where your sore boobs and sleep deprivation quiet down in the face of your baby’s breath against your skin.

To you women who juggle work and babies and far too many other things, I wish you a minute where you realise what a significant role model you are for your children, and how badly the world needs more kids raised by mothers who Get Stuff Done.

To you mothers of toddlers, I wish you a minute of calm with a chubby, sticky cheek held against yours. I wish you an enthusiastic reception of a dinner that would normally be rejected. I wish you a quiet night.

To you women and mothers alone, I wish you minutes of powerful friendship with people as strong and brilliant as you are. I wish you minutes of weakness where you accept that you don’t have to be brilliant all the time, and embrace yourself anyway.

I wish you a minute where you realise how perfectly acceptable you are. I wish you sisterhood. I wish you self-love and self-motivation, in lots and lots of minutes.

Let’s do this together.

 

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2015, in bits and pieces

I had a professor once, at university, who sat us down at the beginning of our module – the two of us, in the study we’d had to go through three quads and two staircases to find – and gave us a reading list of books and articles he’d written himself. And that was, like, it.

Here’s a list of my wisdom; please study it in your spare time.

It was one of the most Oxford things that ever happened to me.

Anyway, I must’ve learned something from good old Professor B, because I’m about to do sort of the same thing.

2015 didn’t feel like much of a banner year – a great one, definitely, but a bit of a nondescript twelve months. Until I looked at my Twitter timeline, and remembered that a) between the holidays and milestones, all sorts of little things happened, and b) I read some articles that were so fantastic and brilliant, it was pure joy to reread them, and c) I actually wrote some things I was pretty proud of too.

So here they are. 2015, in the tiny bits and pieces.

That January Feeling

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Will be sat on this sofa forever until I have melded with the fabric & they try to spatula me off & Tim is all ‘no this is the sofa she loved’

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Working thru Harry Potter audiobooks in instalments while houseworking. Book 5 might’s well have been called ‘That Time Harry Was A Jerk’.

I read and loved:

an article by Kate Gross’ mum, about her final moments on Christmas day (you should also read Kate Gross’ book, Late Fragments, which is one of the very best books I read this year).

this series called How Wizards Do Money (the financial management of Harry Potter characters), of which you should read every last scrap because it’s wonderful.

And I wrote:

A letter to the self I was before I had children, with some friendly advice (eat slower, have more schedule-free sex).

The February I took against Stephen Hawking in Awkward Fashion

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So we saw #TheTheoryofEverything last night. This morning I am spitting mad at Stephen Hawking, and by extension, all men. This is awkward.

I read and loved:

this beautiful post about all our possible imaginary children.

this gorgeously evocative article about the food story of a marriage.

this best everrrrr review of Fifty Shades.

The March I Turned Thirty and Discovered This Philip Larkin Poem

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In fact, may you be dull – / If that is what a skilled, / 

Vigilant, flexible, / Unemphasised, enthralled /

Catching of happiness is called.

***

3YO thinks that Nelly and Kelly song is about art.

Listen: ‘no matter what I do – ART – all I think about is you – ART’.

I read and loved:

this analogy you’ve probably seen by now, about how making tea is like consent (a swear-free version is here, if you want it).

this list of every Buffy argument made on the internet since 1998.

And I wrote:

a confessional piece about my inappropriate fiction crushes (PRINCE CASPIAN, HOLLA)

a mother’s day tribute to the women who made me

The April I was Diet-Shamed By Tesco

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Tesco: ‘we notice you have not bought these items you often buy’

Me: *looks* Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra YES ALRIGHT TESCO I FEEL ASHAMED

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We don’t need the heating on, that’s for sure’, he said, heading downstairs. ‘…we do though’, I whispered plaintively to the empty air. #scenesfromamarriage

I read and loved:

this magnificent grammar-geek article about the phrase ‘no, totally’.

And I wrote:

A piece finally admitting my angry mummy tendencies

A letter to my shy boy eldest

The May Where Antler-Pinterest Got a Bit Much

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Child has been saying he’s still hungry for an hour, but hasn’t had any better suggestions for what he wants than ‘invisible sandwich’.

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Hey guys, just got back from the future and they said that decorating with antlers when you’re not a cowboy or Gaston was a little weird, k?

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The particular shame when it’s your boy clutching a dog-eared chicken nugget he won’t throw away as he toddles round a village playground.

I swear every mother was in Boden and everyone threw shade like I’ve never seen.

Then the worst part, when I look at him five minutes later and the nugget is nowhere to be seen #whereisthenugget

I read and loved:

this beautiful short story, ‘Light’.

I Stole a Pen from Douglas Adams’ Grave – just lovely

And I wrote:

The funny old thing about time

The post that made me cry the most while writing it: Be brave

The June We Spent Mostly in Bed

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Flipping ravaged by this stomach bug. Just wept at the delicious prospect of a cola ice pop and wept again at the Hunger Games teaser.

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Almost-2YO just described a sneeze as a ‘burp splash’,which is easily the most satisfying thing that’ll happen today.

I read and loved:

A billion reasons why I hate the school run, by the incomparable Hurrah for Gin

And I wrote:

A runners’ creed, for those who hate it (I STILL HATE IT)

The July We Started to Go a Bit Mad

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That hot-day thing when you’re towelling dry and a giant moth flutters out on your vulnerable naked body all OH HI, I’M SHOWERING TOO #nope

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Boys banging walls and chanting a self-penned song entitled ‘Time to Wee’. All we need is a conch to go full on ‘Flies’. #summerholidays

I read and loved:

This raw, moving, dignified letter from the Huff Post Executive editor to her husband lost to suicide

And I wrote:

T’s now-you-are-two birthday letter

An indignant post about speaking up for your bad days, fellow women

The August that BAKE-OFF CAME BACK

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‘I want to get in there’
we all do Mary, we all do #GBBO

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Just said ‘scuse me, loves’ to a group of #readingfestival-goers in Tesco.
Them: deliberating about beer.
Me: trying to reach the nappies.

My old age is assured and only death remains ahead.

I read and loved:

This fantastic list for new parents from Steph Douglas

This installment of Ask Polly (I LOVE ASK POLLY) about being a ‘calm question mark’

And I wrote:

An impassioned post for World Breastfeeding Day about how motherhood is so much more than your milk

H’s now-you-are-four birthday letter, with much sobbing (the last one before school, argh)

Something I’d been thinking about for a while: how parenting a mini-me is so much harder than you’d think

The September That Was All About School

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So how much jogging on the spot would I need to do to eat a chocolate digestive? Asking for a friend. #caloriecounting #bleurgh

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Apple: WE JUST INVENTED THE PENCIL
everyone: apple, the pencil’s been around for…
Apple: IT’S GOT OUR NAME ON IT IT’S OURS NOW
Apple: what a great idea
Apple: well done apple

I read and loved:

this by Sali Hughes about when the cult of wellness becomes unhealthy (you should read anything by Sali Hughes)

And I wrote:

this nowhere-near-comprehensive list of all the inappropriate places H has peed

after experiencing the September Rages: dear boy, you can be unpretty here

that time a McDonald’s addict counted calories for a month and did not die

The October We Listened to Harry Potter a Lot

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Me: ‘it’s either a kite or a hawk.’
4YO: ‘I know! It’s a hawk-rocks’
Me: ‘a what?’
4YO: ‘a hawk-rux’
Me:’oh. No, he’s not a horcrux’

***

There are only three ways of using a car horn that don’t make you a jerk.

1. Hello, friend! [cheerful beep and wave]
2. Madam, I am here and you appear not to have seen me [short urgent beep and serious face]
3. Sir, the light has gone green and you have not noticed [polite beep, smile]

If you use the horn angrily, you are a jerk. If you lean on it for 3 seconds+, you are a jerk. If you do it while gesticulating furiously…
..you are a jerk. Like, people aren’t omniscient. They make mistakes. Cut the human race a bit of slack. (Seems to be mostly men, too)

I read and loved:

a gorgeously written article by Sophie Heawood about what it’s really like to be a single parent (you should also read everything Sophie Heawood writes. E v e r y t h i n g.)

an eye-opening post by my bloggy friend Amy, about washing away her day as a children’s nurse

this weep-inducing imagining of a Harry Potter where Hermione never did anyone’s homework for them

this happy-making article on how Nora Ephron made friends

And I wrote:

on marriage – ask for what you need; stand up for what you think

a letter to the brand-new mother of two – embrace the chaos, because it’s all going to be fine

The November T’s Favourite Song Became Hey Jude

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Imagine being this guy & remembering how you refused to clap to the recording of Hey Jude, even for a double fee.

CTc0EdWWcAAAoLo

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[thumbs down] = finding a bogey that’s not yours underneath your chin
[thumbs up] = it’s not a bogey, it’s a piece of porridge!
[thumbs down] = the porridge wasn’t yours either

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I have reached a level of hormonal stability where ‘God on High’ still makes me cry but ‘A Little Drop of Rain’ doesn’t, so good job uterus.

I read and loved: 

My kid is a tiny pedant, and I’m not sorry (SO MUCH MY LIFE)

this life-changing article about how much cod The Rock eats daily

‘I did not know how loved we were’: one of Ella Risbridger’s wonderful articles about lipstick and cancer (read the rest also)

this article about snooping in a dead man’s house that just about knocked me over

And I wrote: 

How not to be a big fat parenting loser

Five messages to give your tiny introvert (both products of much head-bashing)

The December Everyone Came to Stay

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Happy I-Have-No-Idea-Whether-I-Brushed-My-Teeth- So-I’ll-Brush-Them-Again-So-As-Not-To-Gross-Out-The-Playgroup-Mums Friday!

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‘So. Eet is certain zat the murderer eez on ze train, and eez with us…right…NOW’

YEAH HE IS.

GET ‘IM POIROT #poirotontheradio

I read and loved: 

this lovely post by Radio 4’s Robin Ince (him of the Infinite Monkey Cage, and others) about performing after a loss

this old post which NEVER GETS OLD TO ME about how Peeta is Katniss’ Movie Girlfriend (we must talk about Mockingjay at some point, because Katniiiiiiiiiiss)

And I wrote: 

some things I wish I could say to my hairdresser

this melancholy little post about how Christmasses change and stay the same.

Actually I’ve awarded 2015 an upgrade: it was an excellent year. Here’s to whatever might come in 2016.

The Christmas life

Bring in a tree, a young Norwegian spruce,
Bring hyacinths that rooted in the cold,
Bring winter jasmine as its buds unfold:
Bring the Christmas life into this house.

Bring red and green and gold, bring things that shine,
Bring candlesticks and music, food and wine.
Bring in your memories of Christmas past,
Bring in your tears for all that you have lost.

Bring in the shepherd boy, the ox and ass,
Bring in the stillness of an icy night,
Bring in a birth, of hope and love and light;
Bring the Christmas life into this house.

Wendy Cope
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Almost there. H finished school this afternoon. We’ve done three airport runs out of four, and from tomorrow will be a massive group of twelve.

The tree is up. All the beds are filled. It’s going to be a good one.

Happy Christmas to you, lovely people. Wishing you peace, and slow mornings, and really giant pastries for breakfast, and so much love.

Things I wish I could say to my hairdresser

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I sound stupid, don’t I? I do, I sound stupid. I’m sorry. I’m just tired. Do I sound tired? Have I forgotten how to conduct a human conversation?

What’s an angled bob, and why are you so keen for me to have one? Or do I have one already? I’m not keeping up.

When I ask how long you’ve been a hairdresser, it’s not because I think you’re too young or incompetent or something. This is just what my small talk looks like.

When you paint my hair with the dye, why do you not paint the whole strand? What’s up with that last inch? Is that the bit you’re going to cut off?

I really like you, but could we not talk for a bit? It’s not you; you’re lovely. This is just the first three-hour block where no one has needed me to do anything for many months, and I don’t want to make noises with my mouth.

Do you come home, like, COVERED in hair? Like you’ve been wrestling with a giant dog six days a week?

If I asked you for another biscuit, would you bring me one without judgement or tell the other hairdressers about the greedy so-and-so in chair #3?

Are there people who can afford a cut and colour every EIGHT WEEKS? Are there? Because if I spent 100 quid on my hair every two months, you’d be dyeing my hair with our bread and milk and electricity. So I’m nodding and vaguely agreeing right now, but I’ll be back in six months. As per.

I don’t want you to feel bad about my excruciating-pain tangled-hair face. My hair tangles a lot. Brush harder, I can take it.

So, let’s delve into this toner business. Do I really need it, or are you upselling me? What the ruddy heck is a creamy blonde? Is this something I want, and if so why? Can hair have base notes? Because I thought that was wine?

When I went to the loo after the hair wash, and one of the straps on my gown got sort of caught inside my trousers afterwards, and when you took it off at the end it whipped out of my waistband and I jumped and said ‘ooh!’…was that as weird for you as it was for me? PS, it was only inside my trousers, not my pants. Is that better?

I know my extreme Englishness makes it sound like I’m putting on a brave face when I tell you I like it. But I do like it. Honest.

Can I have another biscuit before I go?

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