Almost Forty

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Tomorrow, I will be forty years old. I thought for sure by the time I got to this ripe old age, I would feel more grown up but maybe that’s the big secret that no child knows: there is no one moment when you feel like you have it all together.

I wrote my list of 39 things that I wanted to do but I did not dare to tempt fate by including the one thing I really wanted – another baby. Now Austin is most definitely here (and being kind enough to remind me every night at about 3am), the rest of my list feels a bit insignificant (although it was a lot of fun doing it).

Instead of making a list of 40 things I want to do, I will be recording 40 things that make me happy in the next year. I don’t feel like charge myself with a list of challenges but instead want to take the opportunity to be mindful of all the great things in my life and ensure that I don’t take any of them for granted.

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So my first thing that makes me happy? It’s my beautiful Pashley bike – my birthday gift from Rich. I am beyond grateful for this gorgeous creation and I can’t wait for Evelina to learn how to rider her bike so that we can go for some bike rides together as a family. It is also a wonderfully freeing feeling to whizz along on a bike on my own – I do so crave a slice of time which is just mine and going out on my bike will be just perfect.

For the Love of Pod

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A medium I have been enjoying a lot lately is the podcast. I have subscribed to quite a few of late and I find it is a really informative and entertaining format which suits my mobile lifestyle (i.e. I am always on the move round the house or in the car or walking around the nature reserve with the pram!). These are my current favourites:

  1. Adam Buxton Podcast – Adam Buxton is a very funny and likeable man and his ‘rabble chats’ (as he calls them) are great – he has had a lot of interesting people come on to shoot the breeze.
  2. This American Life – the show that spawned the more famous Serial, This American Life, hosted by Ira Glass (NPR), falls into the informative and interesting category rather than the belly-laugh one. I am currently listening to the latest podcast which deals with how to talk to children about difficult subjects (sex, racism and death).
  3. Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder – a true crime podcast in the vein of Serial which is going through the botched investigation of a brutal murder 29 years ago of a Private Investigator in London. It’s early on – just episode 2 – but I’m hooked. Since watching Interview with a Murderer the other day, I seem to be on a true crime tip at the moment.
  4.  Body on the Moor – another investigative piece from Radio 4 this time. A body was found poisoned in the Peak District. This takes us through the mysterious circumstances.
  5. Gilmore Guys – a hugely popular podcasst within the Gilmore Girls fanbase (and beyond) and is probably in some small part responsible for the reunion shows being made of the Gilmore Girls for Netflix right now (and due to be shown later this year or early next). I really enjoyed a lot of these episodes but I am struggling with their treatment of the much maligned Season 7 (post-creator Amy Sherman Palladino’s departure) and their episodes are running into the 3 hours now and a wise woman once comments, ain’t nobody got time for that. My favourite episodes are the ones with the extremely irreverent Jason Mantzoukas who makes me cry with laughter.
  6. Elise Gets Crafty – I really enjoy most of these although it is another podcast where I pick and choose the ones I listen to. I love hearing about productivity, crafting, blogging, writing but am less interesting in setting up craft businesses etc. I have followed her blog / Instagram for years.
  7. WTF with Marc Maron Podcast – this is a very popular podcast which I have only just started listening too but if it’s good enough for Obama, then I want to give it a go!
  8. Becoming Wise – short but sweet, this podcast ‘is an inquiry into the mystery and art of living.’ Deep stuff but makes me feel more wholesome.
  9. Stuff You Should Know – I dip in and out of this as the subject matter interests me (I listened to the one on survival cannibalism but skipped how bonsai works… you get the drift).
  10. Dear Hank and John – dubious advice from one of my favourite authors, John Green,  and his brother AKA the Vlogbrothers.

Do you listen to podcasts / have any recommendations?

Currently

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For someone who is usually only too happy to share her thoughts and feelings, it always catches me off-guard when I realise I have been bottling things up. I can always tell when I am feeling stressed because it shows in my face. Not in my expression. In my actual face. For a few days now, I’ve been plagued with itchy eyes (rampant hay fever I think) which has made the skin around my eye red and inflamed. I have eczema around my mouth and a nasty cold sore has just cleared up (I managed to ward off two other cold sore attempts with Zovirax).

To have all these things at once is enough to make you feel pretty low but it also made me stop and think. Am I really coping as well as I appear (to myself and to others)? I think the hospital appointments for Austin (nothing serious but anything that is not ‘normal’ is worrisome) combined with Rich being away as well as my sudden need to DO ALL THE THINGS while I am ‘off’ on maternity seems to have taken their toll. In addition, I have just been negotiating my new part-time hours (and perhaps even the mere thought of teaching is stressful enough to bring on one of those cold-sore attempts?).

My internalisation of my negative feelings is not something I consciously do – I am always as surprised as anyone that I am feeling anything other than chipper. Discussing with my parents and it is a family trait which I have inherited from them both – I was never going to avoid it really, was I?

Part of the problem, too, is that I appear to have  only two speeds: dead slow and crazy fast, with no happy, ploddy medium in between. In the past month, I signed up for

  1.  #100daysoftrywriting for which I was going to get going with my writing and write every day and finish my book in record time. The reality – I have written more than I have for months but I have also spent most days just thinking about my writing and lamenting the fact that I am incapable of living an orderly, routine-based life;
  2. YA Buccaneers bootcamp – two months of writing (more non-writing in my case). See above.
  3. Ali Edwards’s course Storytelling with Project Life – this is something I have enjoyed and worked through properly. I have found it inspiring and useful for how I want to proceed with memory keeping and recording the stories of our lives. And it feels like writing so I feel slightly less guilty about 1 and 2.
  4. I participated in A Week in the Life (photos all taken but everything still needs to be printed and organised.
  5. An online course with Future Learn called Teaching Literacy through Film which will be really useful for when I return to work. It only started today and I have already spent an hour on it so I am confident that I will be able to work through this. It is helping me stay connected to teaching at this time when I feel so disconnected from things.
  6. Tsh Oxenreider’s Upstream Field Guide Course which is all about how to make your life more simple and less cluttered with materialism and stuff. Great in theory but I have barely had time to scratch the surface because of my cluttered life.
  7. Several other courses about making my life more efficient and orderly and intentional and blah blah blah. I haven’t even had chance to read the emails for these.

Making this list is therapeutic in itself; I can see how bonkers this list is given that my most important job isn’t even mentioned, namely nurturing Austin. And for the most part, that is going extremely well: he is thriving size-wise and development wise; he’s sleeping well at night; he seems happy and healthy. It’s just such a lot of work and perhaps I have been feeling some guilt about the fact that this ‘work’ is not all-consuming every second. Perhaps now I have some spare time, I am trying to fill it with all the things I wish I was doing term time when I’m teaching.

Maybe I am just trying to keep my brain ticking over because the wonderful nurturing of my gorgeous baby can be pretty mundane and monotonous at times (shh I know I am not meant to say this).

Anyway, I am taking this opportunity to say that I need to be a little kinder to myself.

Slow down a bit.

Keep it simple.

Keep going but plod – don’t crawl or sprint.

Focus on just one or two of the things in my list at a time – don’t try to do it all.

Be kind to myself.

A Week in the Life

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Yesterday was the first day of documenting the every day and ordinary which is A Week in the Life, run by Ali Edwards. Last year’s was in August and I managed to get my album finished on Sunday.

Watch my scrapbook slideshow here

A Week in the Life 2015 by Slidely Slideshow

I am now embarking on another week of documenting and I have realised I really love this project because most documenting that I manage to get done tends to be the special events or holidays etc. This allows me to look back and see how we were loving our normal lives. It will be great to see how these lives evolve year on year. Ali is all about championing our stories and reminding us that our storied matter.

Last year there was a heavy focus on photos with some journalling added. This year I won’t be using the kit produced by Ali but instead will be doing most of it digitally. I want to have more writing this year to show what was happening in the photos including favourite moments of each day and things the people around me have said. Today, I noticed Evelina saying to Austin ‘you’re my special boy’ and I am so used to her being sweet and loving, it could easily be forgotten. Now I will save these special words so that we can remember this exciting time in our lives as we adjust to having another member of the family in the house.

 

Getting going

Over 500 words! I am super thrilled to get some more written today. I am great at procrastinating and I really felt that the untidy state of my study was a superb excuse for not getting writing. I do still want to get my workspace in order but it is no longer a prerequisite for me to write. As Elise Joy says, you’ve got to Do the Work. Simple but so true. 

I’m taking part in #The100DaysProject

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In the early ours of yesterday morning, I was wide awake. Austin was sleeping (and has been brilliant this week at sleeping up to 8 hours at a time overnight) but my mind was turning and I couldn’t get to sleep.

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So while I was trawling through my usual online hangouts (Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin’) I found a blog post by Found Some Paper and realised that the 100 days would take me right up to the day before my 40th birthday.

I thought about what I would do – taking pictures of my kids for 100 days would be the easiest thing to do but this would not help me achieve any of my 39 Things, the most important for me being the first draft of my novel. Then I read this quotation from Julia Cameron:

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Oh my goodness, how that resonated with me. I think I had felt all of those things – that it was too late, too egotistical, too selfish and too silly for me to try to write.

So I have taken the plunge and I am committing to writing or working on my writing in some way everyday for 100 days. Yesterday was Day 1 and I started by reading through all my notes on my novel from the character profiles I created to the outline.  If I can manage between 300 to 500 words a day, I will end up with a respectable sized draft and will certainly give me something to work with.

As per the guidelines, I am posting daily on Instagram with my progress under #the100dayproject and my own personal hashtag #100daysoftrywriting. Try Writing sounds so much less intimidating than Actual Writing!

This project was set up by Elle Luna – head over to Instagram to get involved. You are only one day late!

Baby Boy Quilt

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After much deliberation, I have finally made a decision about Austin’s quilt fabric and bought two Chic Neutrals layer cakes. I plan on making a relatively simple block quilt using Amy Ellis’s Talk of the Town quilt pattern as inspiration.

I will keep you posted but don’t be expecting any news any time soon! Who knows when I will get around to making this!!

Our First Family Trip as Four

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Over the Easter holiday break, we went away as a family of four for the first time. I had put off making the decision about whether or not to go since I wasn’t sure what kind of baby Austin was going to be and I am still not sure about this – people ask me “Is he a good baby?” and I have no clue how to answer. Against what criteria? He seems pretty good in that he rarely screams crying (immunisations day aside) and he is sleeping pretty well at night – for five to seven hours at a time which seems pretty good – but then he is also dependent on lots of cuddles to sleep during the day and is pretty good at the low-key whingy talk when he is not 100% happy. I think he’s good but he’s still a baby so…

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Anyway, back to the trip away, I was waiting to see if his congestion cleared up (it didn’t) or that he didn’t have any special care needs (thankfully, he doesn’t) before I committed to saying yes. The trip was being arranged by the NCT group which we joined for Evelina over five years ago. Back when I was pregnant the first time, we were blessed with the best NCT group and we have stayed pretty close since. Working full-time for the last couple of years has meant that I have not been able to see the mums (and the children) as much as I would like so I was particularly motivated to try to make the trip away to a large house in Herefordshire for three nights.

I am so glad we did!

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The house was large enough to comfortably accommodate all six families – 12 adults and 14 children in total – and there was plenty to do in the area to keep us all busy in the best possible way (easy mornings, busy afternoons, hectic but controlled tea-time and lots of great adult company). And if you are going to go away with a five-year old and a 8 week-old baby, I recommend doing it with so many willing helping and non-judgemental hands around! Evelina had a total ball with all the kids her age around and I had oodles of grown-up conversation. Rich could cut loose a bit with the dads and in the end, he had less sleep than me, I think.

I am so very grateful for those wonderful women – I am so lucky to have their friendship support and wisdom. It was only three nights but it felt like a real holiday and I can’t wait for next year!

Mama vs Teacher

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When I was preparing to leave to go on maternity leave just before Christmas, I had a lot of teaching colleagues make a lot of envious noises about how lucky I was to go for my ‘year off’. If I were doing any other job, I would have been incensed by the implication that having a baby – and maternity leave in general – is a doddle, a break, a holiday.  However, as a teacher, I found it hard to get annoyed.

I am now 7 weeks into being a mum for the second time and even with the night feeds and the long cluster feeding evening sessions that seem to last forever, I can still say that I am less tired and more emotionally balanced than I was when I was teaching. Instead of being constantly aware of all the ways I am failing (as a teacher, this is something I was always feeling), I feel like a success. I have a thriving baby that is proof of my success – he is still alive! He is smiling! He is feeding! He is sleeping (sometimes)! I did that. And people are telling me all the time what a great job I’m doing, how well I am looking, how brilliant I am at being a mum. Compared to how I feel as a teacher, my confidence is through the roof. My oh my, the power of positive feedback! Fancy that!

It has left me to reflect on how I was feeling as I stepped out of the classroom: relieved for the ‘break’, disillusioned, lacking confidence in my ability to teach and unvalued. Despite having a fantastic team around me – my department are just superb – I constantly felt like I was falling short of expectations.

However.

Now I am at home, spending large amounts of time sitting and thinking (breastfeeding is special but tedious too), I am feeling energised to get back into the classroom. I want to use the time I have to get on top of the new course content and exam specs. I want to take back some control by going back over the theories of teaching that were explored during my training (but then largely pushed out of mind in the whirr of the real-life teaching environment). I want to stop feeling like a failure and remember I have the ability to succeed.

I just have to get past Nicky Morgan’s speech which is still reverberating around my skull.