26 Feb 2015

Unacceptable Mummy Behaviour - Top 10 Misdemeanours...

Toddlers, always known for their rational and reasonable requests do, on the odd occasion make Miranda Priestly, the nightmare boss from The Devil Wears Prada look like a sensitive and reasonable person. This week, Baby45 (or Toddler45 I should probably start calling him) has definitely tried to put me on time out several times and confiscated my phone. Here's his list of my worst mummy misdemeanours this week.....

1) Being unable to un-mix or otherwise extract the milk out of his milk-sodden weetabix so that it would go back to its dry state. This caused a bedtime meltdown of about 3.7 on the Richter scale from slight wobble  to HOLYSHITTHENEIGHBOURSARECALLINGTHEPOLICE-the-screaming-is-that-loud. So, although my behaviour was clearly NOT ACCEPTABLE, Toddler45 felt he responded in a reasonable manner by not poking my eyes out with our camping spork.

2) Refusing to buy croissants ("cwoissants mumma") at 5;45pm in the evening and making a 30 minute detour which would totally fuck up bedtime. I see where he was going with this one - chocolate, pastry *and* an extended bedtime. Again, a relatively light response at say 5.6 on the scale in which he wailed all the way home from nursery with the odd pause to pout pathetically at any passersby.

3) Not putting the hair he'd just asked me to remove, back in his mouth.Just WHAT THE WHAT THE WHAT? Toddler logic is beyond me. To be fair, there was no associated meltdown but he did give a very resigned (can toddlers be passive-aggressive?) sigh. Oh dear.....

4) Rudely insisting that he not exercise his independence by refusing to hold my hand when crossing any and all roads, which instead often involves me dragging him across by his arm/holding him kicking and screaming, pushing the buggy one handed, whilst he turns deep puce from screaming "I. Do. It. Myself" (is this the toddler motto btw....along with, be totally batshit crazy at all times) Every single sodding road crossing now evokes a tantrum scoring around 8.9 in which I struggle not to lose all my shit also (figuratively and literally).

5) Getting his VERY CLEAR instructions wrong. This happened on numerous occasions this week eg; request for milk, milk provided "I NOT WANT MILKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK (you stupid cow)* I WANT JUICE". Juice given. "WHERE MY MILK WAHHHHHHHHHH" etc ad infinitum. This crime is so easy to commit because basically everyt ime I give him something he has requested, in the split second between those two events occurring he changes his mind. Several times. And we appear to be in an alternate universe in which multiple options apply. 

6) Not putting his soaking wet shoes back on. And instead also replacing soaking wet trousers and socks with clean dry ones. This is an extreme example of unreasonable mummy behaviour. Tantrum at the 'people walking past wonder WTF are you doing to your child you evil woman' level (also known as FUCK I NEED A STIFF drink). Also, it's not ideal to have to crouch down to wrestle with said toddler to do all this, in a knee length skirt and fishnet hold ups. Just saying. 

7) Requesting that he travel somewhere by buggy. Yes, buggy, not dragged behind wild horses across flaming coals. It is totally unacceptable to expect him to travel to/from anywhere we need to get to in a hurry, by buggy. Obviously. And when we do have time for him to stroll, examine mud, trees, leaves (and every MOFO stone) *then* he wants "Mummy carry meeee, mummy cuggle!" *pout pout*.  If I do attempt to put him in the buggy he does that weird trick that all toddlers have where they SIMULTANEOUSLY go completely boneless and rigid and slither out of the buggy making you look like a complete fucking chump. WTAF is up with that. Its like wrestling an octopus. With dodgy buggy strap clips.

8) Insisting on trousers being worn outside of the house. No, darling toddler45, you cannot go to nursery in  your pajama top, a nappy and two odd socks. And your glasses. Just, no........Aside from them calling social services on me, it's good practice to get used to leaving the house with clothes on. But again, it's all very unreasonable of me and I need to be put in my place with a good screechy wail and then a go-slow on getting ready.....

9) Not opening the already open curtains. Again what? WHAT? Just...*sigh* This involved a full, screaming, drooly meltdown. To be fair it was bedtime and frankly anything goes at this point (points 1 and 2 on this list happened then) But really, are you that tired that you've forgotten what open and closed mean? I can't even actually remember what I did to assuage his royal highness. But there was less drool at the end, I remember that.

10) Not snipping/gluing/colouring/crafting appropriately. Yes, really. Sometimes I wonder if he has his own pinterest board of projects and my inept attempts at crafting with him are totally fucking it up. Whatever, it's still infuriating if I use THE WRONG SCISSORS or glue in the wrong place or you know, insist that we STICK SOMETHING TO THE FUCKING GLUE instead of just smearing it everywhere and then......leaving it to dry. Oh my good god. Clearly I know nothing about art. I made Toddler45 a goldfish this week on one of our "crafting" sessions. He thinks it's a cat. I'm not sure if I should be worried about him or me.

Bonus Misdemeanor
Having the nerve to sing along to All About That Bass, when he's trying to listen. "NO! You not sing mummy!" He mumbles along to himself "No TWEBLE!!!!"

Talking to someone more compliant than Mummy....
So there you go, my bum is firmly on the naughty step in this house. Frankly, I'm glad to have a minute's peace! Anyone else joining me on time out?

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

*Obviously I am joking, he didn't call me a stupid cow. But the tone was there!

PS This post is on the following linkys....

Post Comment Love
Little Hearts, Big Love

24 Feb 2015

Looking Ahead/A Personal Pep Talk

Dear Future-Me,

This is a tricky letter to write because when I was younger I never expected to get this far, never expected to live past 30, so I hadn't thought about life after that and what it would look like. I didn't plan on achieving anything. But contrary to how I felt as a teenager, I'm somewhere I hadn't planned for - so how do I imagine beyond that.

So then, what do I want to say to future me? Why am I bothering other than as a way of filling blog space in this daily blog post challenge? I guess maybe I'm a bit superstitious of the power of the written word. That once it's down on paper, it's more likely to come true because you're more likely to make it so because you're more accountable to it. Why can't I just come out and say it? I want to finish my book and ideally get it published. 

So future me, I hope you finished your book that this snippet is from. You edited it. And then you edited it again (as the song goes, "all kill their inspiration/and sing about their grief"). And then you submitted it to agents. I feel stupid wishing for any more than that. Damn, why is it so scary vocalising my dreams. I've written on this blog, over and over, that I want to write a book. So what am I waiting for?

I'm scared to call myself a writer sometimes. How do I earn this badge? I've been writing since I was a child. Stories and poetry as a teenager, as a young adult. And then I stopped. For about 10 years. I just didn't want to write, there was nothing to write, I wrote myself off. Then I started this blog - there are probably 100,000 words on here. And I completed Nanowrimo. I've started, at last count, 7 "novels" - written anywhere from 6,000 words to 50,000 words of them. I've guest blogged and given tonnes of blogging advice. At work I've written hours of copy, press releases and presentations. And mostly I've read my ass off. But in my eyes, I'm not a writer. I'm a wannabe. 

I think like climbing, I need to do it. Because this book isn't going away - the voices of the characters in my head aren't getting any quieter. Why do I need to write this book? It's a bit like why people climb Everest - because it's there. I can write this book, I just need to get it down on paper.

Writing is very simple really, you just have to get the words from your head, onto paper - and have them mean to your reader, exactly what they mean to you. So I'd better get on with it then.

Thank you and good night,

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS This post is a semi follow up to this post
PPS ICYMI here's the blog post on some of my favourite books.

22 Feb 2015

Hidden Treasures - My Top 10 Lesser Known Books

Lists of bloggers' Top 10 Favourite books are very common - I've done it for kids books but not adult (well aside from this and this). In this post I wanted to highlight some books and authors that I've really enjoyed but for various reasons aren't quite as well known. They're a mix of fiction genres, aside for one non fiction title, but I guess a common theme in them all is .... expect the unexpected....Here they are in no particular order:

City of Women - David Gilham

Fiction - Gilham turns the standard WW2 novel on its head with his lyrical, fast paced but tightly written debut novel set in Berlin in 1943. With most of the men at war, this casts a light on life for the women left behind - and one in particular. Tired of being bound to the morality of the time, Sigrid Schroder finds herself caught up in the war in an entirely different way.
Will I like it? If you like deftly plotted thrillers with an eye for period detail and a good anti-hero(ine) then yes. If you like WW2 fiction, this is a bit different. I think David Gilham is one to watch!
What else will I like? Alternative WW2 fiction is Sian Busby's neat thriller A Commonplace Killingset in London in 1946. There is also the gruelling and not-for-the-faint-hearted The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell.

Home - Julie Myerson

Non Fiction - the strapline for this book is "the story of everyone who ever lived in our house" but it is so much more than that. Myerson, a talented fiction author researched the history of everyone who ever lived in her South London terraced house and then created a unique and magical blend of fact and fiction in this book. It not only builds a picture of south London over the last 150 years, but also elaborates on what we mean by the words "home" and "house". 
Will I like it? This is one for anyone who has ever stood in a place and felt the `hum` of years past and people long gone, I was really spell-bound by this slow burn non fiction work. 
What else will I like? You should try her fiction. She has a luminous, magical prose - in the dreamy  but chilling Out of Breath and the rather more harrowing Something Might Happen.

Fairy Tale - Alice Thomas Ellis

Fiction. This does what it says on the tin. Ellis' ethereal writing is fantastic in this eerie short novel set in Wales. Eloise, our protagonist is desperate for a baby. With her husband not around much, after a visit from 4 strange men, Eloise returns from a walk with a baby.....and then things get a bit odd....
Will I Like It? I don't know is the honest answer. I've not met many people who've read this book, but those who have, have enjoyed it. It's not quite like anything else out there. It is truly a fairy story for adults and those fascinated by Changeling myths will love it.
What else will I like? If you like her style, then anything else by ATE. Also try Julie Myerson's Out of Breath as mentioned above.

Illumination Night - Alice Hoffman

Fiction. This is the most perfectly written book I've ever read. It may not be my favourite, but it is a masterpiece in how to write a compelling piece of fiction. Hoffman's style is similar to that of Ann Tyler but with a touch of magic. Telling the story of Jody, looking after her grandmother on Martha's Vineyard, this novel touches on isolation, first love, adolescence and the nature of our relationships. It packs a lot into its scant 208 pages.
Will I like it? If you like cinematic prose, american domesticity and characters that walk off the page and into your head then yes. Scenes from this book have stayed with me many years after my first reading. 
What else will I like? The River King is probably Hoffman's most beautiful novel, and she is most famous for Practical Magic but The Dovekeepers completely and utterly blew me away - Hoffman's style was made for this biblical tale of motherhood and love.

Engleby - Sebastian Faulks

Fiction. Think you know Sebastian Faulks? Think again. As much as I enjoyed his war fiction, Engleby  is his most underrated work of fiction. Imagine being inside the mind of a semi-sociopathic Adrian Mole  - Faulks brings us the story of Michael Engleby, besotted with another student at Cambridge...and what happens when she disappears. 
Will I like it? Touching on themes of masculinity, isolation and unrequited love - but also capturing perfectly the class divide of the time but with deft black humour, this is a great read.
What else will I like? Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect for its illustration of the class divide and again a male protagonist who is a little 'off'.

The Rapture - Liz Jensen

Fiction. This book is unique. I mean where else have you read about a psychopathic teenager who is able to predict the future and the coming of the end of the world? I know, it sounds crazy. But it's bloody brilliant - an apocalyptic tale that references environmental events, TV evangelists and physics - the last few pages of this novel are unlike anything else I've ever read!
Will I like it? Jensen's writing style is assertive and acerbic and her stories are masterfully told and gripping. You may not like it but you'll be compelled to get to the end dammit, to know who is telling the truth!
What else will I like? If you like her style after reading this, then you'll devour the rest of Jensen's work - famous for Louis Drax, but War Crimes for the Home is better IMO.

A Company of Liars - Karen Maitland

Fiction. I couldn't have a list without historical fiction and Maitland's Company of Liars was gripping reading. A tale of a group of misfits fleeing the plague, unaware that a much greater danger is within them, this tale, cliche as it may be, had shivers running up my spine. It's also great for shedding light on the a period of history not much loved by novelists but Maitland has a great eye for period detail and brought the 1300s to life for me.
Will I like it? If you like a magical plot that builds suspense to a masterful climax (!) then yes. It's not the fastest of books but the turns of phrase and descriptions are very entertaining.
What else will I like? Maitland's other novels are good reads but none quite manage the perfection of Liars -  The Owl Killers is worth a try. Also in a simillar vein is the Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin which has a more engaging protagonist.

The Way The Crow Flies - Ann-Marie MacDonald

Fiction. This is a big, long book. But it is beautifully paced and a novel in the traditional sense of the word. It's not for everyone but MacDonald's fluid, light style casts everything and everyone in her novel into a dreamy golden haze - which makes her tale of murder and morality sent in Canada during the Cold War all the more mesmerizing. 
Will I like it? If you're a fan of the great American (Canadian...) novel, then yes. For fans of true Americana such as Of Mice and Men and To Kill A Mockingbird. Although the story is very different, the perception of the world through a child's eyes will mean you enjoy this novel.
What else will I like? As above really. It's a bit of a tricky one. Maybe Ann Tyler for the dreamy quality of writing. Post war Americana I'm not expert on sadly. Any recommends for me? 

Season of the Witch - Natasha Mostert

Fiction. I'm not a fan of the paranormal and although I like a dash of magic in my fiction, I like it rooted in the domestic and familiar. This book is none of those but I really, really enjoyed it! I was intrigued by premise of 'remote viewing' and then, much like Gabriel in the book, I was bewitched by Monk House and its gothically seductive inhabitants. It is bonkers and the ending could have done with tighter editing, but this was a great, entertaining thriller.
Will I like it? If you like the paranormal, mysticism, richly evocative writing and an intriguing love triangle yes. This is not the best written book on this list but it was a fun ride. It is also award winning, so it's not just me.
What else will I like? Not quite in the same vein but if you're a fan of paranormal gothic thrillers then you may enjoy Joanne Harris (Chocolat) 's little known first novel Sleep Pale Sister and also the spellbinding Her Fearful Symmetry from Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveller's Wife).

Ladder of Years - Ann Tyler

Fiction. The tale of an ordinary woman, simply getting up and walking away from her family on a busy American beach - and then setting up a new life, I adore this tale of identity and domesticity. What it means to wear the labels mother and wife and their places in society - then and now. Can we ever truly shake them off? Or are they in us in the marrow of our bones? Ann Tyler is renowned as a very skilled author indeed.
Will I like it? If you've ever wondered what it would be like to simply up and leave, then this book does it for you. It'll make you think and wonder and value yourself and your family. And it'll make you smile.
What else will I like? Anything else by Tyler for that small-town American feel, that thoughtfulness and humour. Also worth trying Elizabeth Berg - although her writing is slightly 'sweeter' and Alice Hoffman as above. 

Phew, that was a long post! I'd love to hear your lesser known faves, so please let me know in the comments below. And if I've persuaded you to read any of the above, I want to know what you think. Don't forget you can hit me up on twitter  - @stupidgirl45

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS Sorry for the crappy formatting on this, blogger was playing up....

20 Feb 2015

A letter to my teenage self

*Warning, this post may have triggers around thoughts of suicide and self-harm*

Dear Stupidgirl45,

I see you, aged 15, sitting on your bed, wondering if you'll always be this lonely, unable to imagine a life past school, a life as an adult. Feeling invisible, as if you might just dissolve and no one would even notice. I see you doubting whether you are likeable, or clever, or pretty. Wondering if popularity is all that matters. Itching to be accepted but wanting to be different. 

I see you wishing you had the guts to kill yourself. Contemplating pills or razor blades. Researching the correct way to cut, wondering if you could swallow *that* many tablets. But not wanting your family to find you and also, the humiliation of the possibility of failure. Of people knowing that you were so useless, you couldn't even kill yourself properly. Feeling like you lack the guts to try, not knowing that your instinct for survival is stronger than you think.

I see you cry, I feel your pain, I watch scars from cutting heal up as if it never happened. I know you wonder, is this really it?  can I ever hope for more? will i always be on the outside looking in? and finding it hard to believe that the lives you read about in books really happen to people. I know you think you're worthless and ugly, of no value or importance, that it terrifies you to speak to people - to strangers, to order a drink in a shop.

I see you, I hear you and I know you. I am you and clichéd as it sounds, I promise it gets better, You will learn to apply liquid eye liner. You will grow boobs. And one day, to the right people, to the people that matter you will be really very incredibly important to them. But mostly one day you will have some confidence and some shreds of self-esteem. You will survive this, this nuclear landscape that your social life is now. You will not be a pariah forever, and things that matter now - about being a homogeneous clone - will drop away. 

The things that make you different now, that make you value yourself so little, will become what makes you distinctive - apart but apart on your own terms. You'll learn, again a cliché, that being different is good - and that it takes strength to be different, to strike out on your own and form your own identity and thoughts. And not give a fuck.

You won't die, you won't dissolve and you won't give up. You didn't give up on life back then and now you treasure it so you don't give up on what matters now - relationships, passions, work. You fight, and it might make you tough but you're soft where it counts, not just round the middle but inside where it matters. You might be building up those walls now, but in time, for the right people, you can take them right back down again.

So don't give up, don't despair. Life is out there and when you've finished surviving, you're going to be grabbing it with both hands and hugging it to your scarred heart. Winged eye liner, boobs and all.

Thank you and good night,

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS This post was inspired by this very touching (and much cheerier) post by @jumprunscrap about her dreams for her daughter. It's very good reading.

Mama and More

18 Feb 2015

Shouting Into The Void

As I promised, another snippet of fiction tonight, after last night's post. I don't know why I'm posting this here. I'm pretty sure this is the female equivalent of Adrian Mole's `Lo, The Flat Hills of My Homeland`. But anyway, here's some more drivel for you. Someone's already told me I'm perfect today, my day can only get worse.


The road spread out before us like a big grey vein, I want to lie down on it and snort the lines up into the back of my head and out of my eyes like one huge trip. The sea goes past on one side and the cliff face on the other. The sun is bright across the windscreen and the music is loud and I feel alive like I haven’t for so long. I’ve done it, I’ve run away.

The past recedes behind me, swallowed up in miles of tarmac, a physical distance between those who love me and those who I love. I am caught in the middle in some extreme battle of wills and desire and fire like a light spearing down inside of me. I am caught and thrashing on the bait hook of my freedom. It catches in my belly and I smile and gasp with the pleasure in pain.

A finger on my arm and goose bumps track up to my neck and down the nerve ending in my back and my skin crawls towards my passenger. Repulsion and compulsion together, magnetic poles never together never apart.

I’ll confess, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m an unreliable narrator in my own life. I don’t know what I believe or what’s the truth, what I want or really feel. I’m fickle and skittish with feet of clay. Resistant to change but fighting the cage of domesticity around me, a gilded cage trapping me in my own lies. My duplicity astounds me and I am spinning, spun out on my own lies and deceit. The suitcase I packed, innocent in the boot, my bag in the footwell next to me.

And now here we are, the car parked in some alley way, following a man up a crumbling flight of stone steps. The smell of beer and piss and drains and fat made solid around us as we head towards a bar, a bed, some silence for the voices in my head.


Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

17 Feb 2015

And now for something completely different

As I'm struggling to blog every night because frankly, my life isn't that interesting, I thought I'd do the writing equivalent of strip naked. I'd post some of my fiction writing. One piece tonight, one tomorrow (if I still feel this brave) and then you can tell me which piece I should continue with. I wrote the below in about 15 minutes a couple of weeks ago.


A First Brilliant Sight of Snow

I stop the car and, as the engine cuts out I realise that we are not alone - Silence surrounds us and coats us, it is absolute, an entity in itself. The earth we know is shut up and put away into a cupboard. This, the first and final sight of snow is heart-breaking in its beauty.

The flakes fold us into their crystalline embrace, confetti on our faces and in our hair. Genie looks up, blinks away the whiteness on his lashes, licks the flakes from his freckled nose. The trees are laden down, branches almost touching the ground so heavy are they. The lake itself is brilliantine, framed by white – trees, bulrushes, grassy banks – all gone under a smooth blanket of snow.

My face is wet, at first I think – I know – it to be snowflakes, of course. But then I realise it’s tears, falling out of my eyes like pearls, my body reacting before my mind can even take in the scene in front of me. Genie, out of the car, out of the train, the bus and the airplane, is frozen to the spot with the magic before us.

I put my arm tight around him, as close as I am permitted. But instead of pulling away, bashful, for once he nestles in close, head under my armpit, mittened hand around my waist. He looks at me and I look at him. He smiles at me, a smile I've not seen for a very long time. Not a smile of resignation, or acceptance, or mollification – sad though it is that a 7 year old knows how to do this. No, this is a smile of sheer pleasure.

I know he can’t wait any longer and I remove his arm from around my waist. I kneel down so I am face to face with him – and distracted by this, I manage to ram a fluffy fistful of snow down the back of his coat. He shrieks with laughter.

“Go on then, lie down!”
“You too, you too mum, you promised”

We fling ourselves onto the ground, arms and legs outstretched in a strange parody of a seizure. Back and forth we move our limbs. Leaping to our feet, to avoid ruining the outlines, Genie looks down at our snow angels and smirks.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

Prose for Thought

16 Feb 2015

Dealing with Decisions - aka daily parenting stresses

Over the last few weeks, as I've been blogging regularly, one topic keeps coming up - parenting. And even though I swore to myself when I had Baby45 I would not become a "mummy blogger", it does seem central to my writing on here. I think it's hard to avoid though because parenting is pretty much central to my existence right now. 

To be honest, day to day most parents juggle with a multitude of decisions. Eg: At some pre-dawn hour 
"What time are we being woken? Is Beebies on yet? Do we have the current favourite breakfast cereal? Is lunch packed? Are there clean clothes for today's activities?"
And then later on in the day...
"Were there any vegetables in that? Do chips count as 1 of 5 a day? Which cup is the right cup (not the BLUE one the OTHER BLUE one...)?  Is it naptime yet? Can I have that pee I've needed for the last four hours?"
Frankly by the time we reach bedtime, the endless negotiations required to enable parents to have an evening in peace and a full night's sleep, rival skills only otherwise possessed by key members of the UN. Hence, I have ended up writing about parenting at lot.

Recently for example, I have had to consider all of the following before planning the day ahead of us.....
  • Trying to watch less Cbeebies. After an attack of mummy guilts (It's frying his brain, he watches too much, other people with JUDGE YOU) Beebies is now "broken" in this house between 9am and 5pm on the days I don't work. Unless there is an emergency (FYI hangovers count as an emergency).
  • Half term which means it will be bedlam everywhere, but Baby45 will still need to go out for a run (like a dog, really). And other people's children can be really annoying. I know you're not supposed to say that - because I'm pretty sure Baby45 is annoying to other people - but there is only so much screeching from my own child I can take, let alone someone else's. But as I said, you can't stay at home because TODDLERS but also...
  • Ill Husbando. It's not man-flu, it's actual flu. I had to purchase some of those lurid coloured max strength capsules and an expectorant (yes, that's as delightful as that sounds). Also had to keep Baby45 from pestering OH every 10 mins "Daddy POORLY, Daddy need CALPOL" *hurls toddler self at OH* "Daddy CUGGLE" prod prod poke poke ad infinitum. I'm pretty sure the last thing you need when you're ill is an overly concerned toddler.
To recap, it's cold and rainy. We can't stay in because ill husband, we can't go out because other people. What to do?  Well I put on my big girl pants and wo-manned up.....we did messy play. Words that strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere and why we thank god for nursery/preschool/playgroup/any parent that allows messy play.

To be fair, it was the tamer side of messy play - cutting, sticking, playdoh, colouring. lots of Peppa Pig stickers.  And then most of it got chucked in the bin - and I did the ASDA order whilst Baby45 created sticky mayhem.  

We also went for a walk <I bribed Baby45 with the promise of chocolate croissants - he's so posh> and on the swings. And baked fairy cakes. And then clearly the god of tired parents everywhere was smiling on us because Baby45 had a 2 hour nap and a friend took pity on us and invited us round to trash her house play with her two children. 

On top of all that I achieved some chores (side note - is anyone else's house also a shit pit on Mondays? After the weekend that was?) For the first time ever, by 9am my kitchen and bathroom floors were hoovered and mopped. Yes, I don't know what came over me either. I did laundry. I made breakfast and lunch and cleared up straight away. I did laundry!

So by the end of the day, all I've thought about is Baby45 and also hopefully achieving other stuff just to keep our house running and not a complete disaster. Which is why apparently I can't blog about anything else and also, it's now 10pm and my brain is slowly beginning to dissolve into the muck in Mr Bloom's Compostarium.

Thank you and good night,

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS I know I didn't blog for the last couple of nights. It was Valentine's day and also, I watched Gone, Girl last night. Which is frickin amazing!

13 Feb 2015

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart

I had another post planned for tonight. I know "planned"! But that all went out of the window because Baby45's bedtime stuffed it all up. Why hello there 9pm, I have achieved nothing but ringing ears due to toddler sobbing. I'll have to write the post I planned another day when my brain is not mush.

I just wanted to write about why I find it so upsetting when Baby45 is so upset at bedtime. Don't get me wrong, when he's being a whingy little sod then I tend to just grit my teeth and get on with things. But when he's properly upset - like tonight, it's just very distressing. He's going through a period of being scared of the dark. When I go into his room, his little body is shaking with sobs, he clings to me like a tiny monkey "mummy ...I ....scared...of...dark..." His little face and the pillow are wet with tears. Tonight was the worst - paralysed with fear, he was just clutching his duvet, rigid with distress.

In the end it was simple enough to soothe him - the blind (!) was the cause of the terror. I reassured him that the blind was our friend, we liked the blind, it wasn't scary etc etc And also that tomorrow we would make some magic glitter spray to make all the scary things go away. He seemed satisfied with this and was happy to fall asleep listening to the Gruffalo on Jackanory Junior.

But whenever this happens, I find it really upsetting - and get quite panicky for sometime after. It's definitely influenced my parenting and my (lack of) sleep training. I just can't leave Baby45 to cry - not more than the grizzly whinging sort anyway. I have spent far more hours than I care to count sat on his bedroom floor next to his cot, shushing and patting and singing and hand holding and keeping him company until he feels safe and happy enough to fall asleep.

And lots of other times where I've just brought him into bed with me as we've gotten so much more sleep that way. Also, I know you're not supposed to admit this but sometime I quite like co-sleeping. Yes there are plenty of times I end up on 3ins of bed with monkey starfished out across the rest, but there are time where he wants to fall asleep cuddled in my arms, his soft cheek pressed up against mine "cuggle mummy, cuggle". And in the morning, always a warm snuggly cuddle and dribbly kisses. Until he yanks the duvet off me "UP MUMMY UP! WANT BEEBIES". Brrrrrrr!

I know that this approach isn't one that everyone likes, but that's not my point. It's more that the reason I'm funny like this about his sleep is much more about me. In all honesty I am terrified that Baby45 will inherit my anxiety and my depression. I also am really scared of the dark (still now in my almost-mid-thirties) and have terrible, vivid nightmares. When I was a teenager I went through a phase of having panic attacks when I tried to go to sleep. This went on for several years so I lost a lot of sleep then. And I also hate going to sleep home alone and often dream I am being attacked.

I'm not going to post the stuff about whether various methods of sleeping training can increase the risk of mental health problems, because lots of people sleep train for their own reasons. But given the history of mental health in my family, when Baby45 cries at bedtime or is scared, or wakes in the night crying, all of the above, plus that, comes back to haunt me. For him to feel a fraction of the terror and panic I felt when I was younger, or even now when I am scared or anxious is really soul-destroying for me and I would do anything to prevent it. Which is what I hope to combat by how I handle bedtimes and night wakings.

I know that he is his own person with his own behaviours and personality quirks and he's going to be how he's going to be - I have to be careful not to put my own stuff on him too much. But I hope that I'm getting it right for him with what I do to soothe him. Don't get me wrong, he goes through periods of self-settling and sleeping through (sometimes both at the same time!) and even sleeping past 7am - the sleep holy grail! But there are times when he doesn't. Oftentimes there's other reasons for this - he's ill or teething or there's been a routine change (coming back from holiday etc). I know one day he will sleep fine on his own without any help from me - and I just have to have faith I'm doing the right thing for him. I know there's lots who would say things about rods and backs, but I just ignore them. If Baby45 is happy and calm, then I am too. And that's all that matters.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

12 Feb 2015

The Mummy Wars

The Similac video has been doing the rounds on social media over the last couple of weeks. You know the one - tribes of mums, all tearing each other apart, only to bond at the last minute over a baby in danger. Here's a link if you haven't seen it.

This video makes me sad because it seems to prove so divisive - because it's a formula commercial. I know there's a lot out there about formula marketing and the legalities around it, so I'm not touching that one, that's not what this blog post is about. It's more about the mummy tribes and why the media always portray us as being at war. Is it true - are we always at each other's throats over decisions that have very little impact on each other's lives?

When you become a mum - when you're pregnant even (is that when you become a mum? I think so, sort of) - immediately there are hundreds of decisions thrust upon you - and every decision almost becomes a visible statement you seem to be making about yourself.  Never since puberty has brand allegiance seemed to mean so much to so many - unintentional though it may be. But how you feed, clothe, transport or enable your child to sleep has very little to do with other mums - it generally has little - if any - impact on their life. So why do the media insist on portraying mums in such a way - and how true is it?

In all honestly, much like any situation with large numbers of women, things can get a little....unpleasant or judgmental. Breaking into mummy groups can seem harder and more complex than fraternity hazing traditions - and in some ways, it's a lot like school. BUT before I seem completely sexist and un-sisterly with my admission that shock horror, women can be bitchy and judgmental - if you have ANY large group of people, they're going to disagree on things and be judgmental. It's not gender specific. 

I think it boils down to the very personal nature of parenting and the decisions we make. Each one always seems fraught with risk - is this the very best option for our child? But no matter what you do, someone will be right there to tell you why it's wrong or why you're doing it wrong. This almost makes you more entrenched in your position, that what you've done is completely the right thing. And it is - for your child. Have no doubt about that, I firmly believe that parents know their child best and their decisions will be the best. No matter how things look on the outside. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing for other children.

I think this is at it's most incendiary when advice is sought. The difference between "try this, it worked for me, it might help" versus "do this, it works". If someone doesn't take your advice does that mean you're wrong or that your advice was rubbish? Obviously not - if it works for you, that's great - help  is help - and often times advice is great. But the way it's framed, to my mind, is key to why the media like to portray us all a vicious harpies, desperate to do down other parents' choices.

In some ways, I think those choices are used to shore up our identities - as I touched on above, the decisions we make in parenting can, on the surface, seem to say so much about us but do they really? Or is that we are looking for a new identity to fit with our new role, shape and position in society. One of the things I struggled with most in my depressive haze when Baby45 was tiny was my seeming loss of self. I couldn't identify with who I was prior to his birth anymore. The things I cared about, the places I went, the people  I saw, the responsibilities I had, the choices I made and how I looked had all changed. And I couldn't go back. I mourned for the person I was - and I hadn't really figured out who I was now I was a mother.

It's that label that you're given - mother - what does it mean? Do the connotations of mother fit with who I am now, can I identify with it? I don't know is the honest answer. At it's most basic, yes I am a mother because I have a child. But it took awhile for me to come to grips with what a Stupidgirl45 Mother was like. It's hard job forging your new identity and finding a new way of life. The last time most of us do this is in puberty when we play with our ideas of self and who we are and what that looks like. And then there are very few responsibilities attached to that - although the public levels of judgement are the same, if not worse, than when you become a mother.

So to come back to my original point - the divisive nature of the Similac commercial. The reason we are all so easily divided by opinion or commentary on (modern) motherhood, is because of the deeply sensitive nature of what it means to be a mother. The choices we make, the publicity of those decisions - our child on display in public, in cafes and playgroup and nurseries and of course, social media. So when those decisions are called into question, we naturally stick to those like us, to feel supported, to have confidence.

But really, aren't we all just winging it a bit. Doing the best job we can, at that moment in time, with the resources available to us. Sometimes it seems being a mum just means you're constantly risk assessing everything and making decisions based on current information. A little like Jack Bauer with a stroller (or a sling, yes). I think I've found it hard, when people haven't agreed with my parenting choices, or taken my advice. But now I know, it's not about me, or my child - it's about them and their child and doing the right thing for them. It's not a comment on how I parent or how good a parent I am, it's just a choice, at that time, in that moment.

When I look around me, at my friends, at mums I don't know, I am always so aware that I just don't know what they are going through right then. Are they running through dinner plans, shopping and bedtime schedules whilst they push someone on the swings whilst also texting someone? Are they worrying that the car seat is the exact right one? Are they lonely? Have they spoken to anyone else all day aside from their child and the Starbucks barista? It's impossible to know and so I assume all of the above and hope that maybe they might be a new friend for me, whilst I'm trying to figure this whole parenting thing out too.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

10 Feb 2015

Doing The Same Thing Over Again

The definition of insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting results. Sometimes, with this daily blogging task, I have wondered if there is actually any point. I guess it's natural I'd feel like that - it's day 10 and I'm almost half way there already, but also not near enough the finish line to see the tape. It's at this point that I often lose a bit of heart in new endeavours and projects. But I'm really, really bloody stubborn and hate giving up, even if things look a bit rocky (this is not always a good thing!)

It's not that I don't care about the project, despite it's seeming lack of end goal, it's that I'm tired. I know I say that a lot but it's true, I'm pretty much always tired by the time I sit down to write - it's rare that this happens before 10pm. By which time I've usually been up for 16hours.

I know it's good writing practice to write every day, but I feel like I'm churning out quantity over quality here and kind of dialling it in on occasion (here and here). Ideally you're supposed to do your writing practice in the morning - 3 pages (size unspecified, hello there tiny notepad...), whilst you're fresh and awake - that's never going to happen. 

Even if I sort the timing issue, I'm feeling that by writing every day, I'm a bit hit and miss with topics and quality of writing. I'm boring myself sometimes and I'm not even sure if I'm writing for an audience, writing to keep up with my month-long goal, or just exploring ideas - or a mix of all three. 

It's hard because I don't have as long as I want to let ideas percolate (several weeks) and I'm having to just (wo)man up and write the damn posts. Not every topic flows from my fingers and I like to use precise wording and sentence structure convey my point from my conscious to my readers' conscious. That's hard to do without time to think and process - and time to choose appropriate wording. 

But what I learned from doing Nanowrimo in 2010 was to just write and silence your inner critic. To keep writing and writing and writing - and even though 90% of it was crap, once you warmed up you'd get some decent sections of text to work with (that's if I ever get around to finishing and editing my 50k start of a novel). 

I need to buck up my ideas and stop trying to stick to my arbitrary rules of writing, to let myself be more creative and write more freely. Not for an audience but for me. I think the part of your brain governing creativity is like a muscle - the more you use it, the more neural pathways you grow and the stronger it gets - the more creative you become and I guess create something worthwhile.

There's another 18 days of this month long blogging assignment left. In that I think I need to remind myself of this post on occasion and give myself permission to censor myself less. I know this is really going to be tedious to many people - someone blogging about trying to write more. 

But if my end goal is really to get to grips with the two lots of 6k words of books I've started and make a go of them, I need to think like a sports player. I need to train so that get better and stronger and achieve my dream. That might even mean posting some fiction on here. Who knows.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building 

9 Feb 2015

A Thousand Words for Love - 8 Things About Baby45

Today was a day that started badly but got a lot better. It seems that no matter how horrible it is when you compare yourself to others and find yourself lacking, it is nothing compared to the feeling when someone compares your child to others and finds them lacking. I got sucker punched right in the heart.

That was upsetting, but then, I took Baby45 to the playground and pushed him on the swings and his laughter made me smile so I thought fuck 'em. Anyway, here's 8 things about Baby45, the apple of my eye.

1. Thor - he gained this nickname after my OH got drunk with another dad at a party and decided thenceforth that Baby45 needed to be called Thor. If we have another child, we will call that child Loki*

2. Bass - it's All About That Bass in this house. Baby45 is utterly, COMPLETELY obsessed with this song and video. <deadpan> "Bout the bass mummy....NO t-weble". 

3. Metal - having said that, I played him Rage Against the Machine, Muse, Foo Fighters and Nirvana when he was a bump. He wrinkles his little nose up at Iggy Azalea's Fancy. I put on Manic's cover of Umbrella. Cue smiles and bopping.

4. Blue - he has the palest blue eyes I have ever seen. This is all the more special because they are recessive and brown eyes run in our family. But I gave birth to a little blondie whose indigo eyes just lightened and lightened. They have little flecks of silver in them.

5 Connecting - when Baby45 was born, I didn't get that instant bolt of love. I was more relieved that labour was over! But about 20 hours later, at 4am, when OH was asleep, I was awake. And in the clear plastic bassinet next to me, suddenly this little hand starfished against the side nearest me, as if Baby45 was reaching for me "I'm here mummy!!". And BOOM, smitten. Totally. <graituitous newborn pic>

6. Love - there may be 1000 words for love, but I think Baby45 has a thousand nicknames for love. Pickle, bumface, pudding, squishy, sausage, nuk-nuk, schnookums, babypie, munchkin, sausage, fishface, noo-noo....I could go on but you're all retching into your laptops.

7. Tests - when I found out I was pregnant, even though I knew it was a possibility, I was still surprised when the line came up on the test. And straight away I didn't feel alone any more, there were 2 of us. "Hello you," I said. And I put my hand on my flat tummy as if that tiny cluster of cells could feel it. But even from the start, in my head, he was this little person.

8. Bump - Baby45 had attitude from the time I could feel him moshing inside (or at least that's how he felt). He was so wriggly, I felt him from 12 weeks which is very early. At one point when the midwife was listening for his heartbeat with that wooden thing they used, he managed to kick it so hard, it hit her on the head. He also kicked someone next to me on the bus! He's not really changed much since he came out :)

That's all I could manage words-wise for tonight. I know it's not really been filters off per se, but that's where my head has been today - celebrating my boy. I also did 3 loads of laundry and made a casserole :)

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS That's a joke, obviously :)

The List

8 Feb 2015

No News Is Good News

So, I had thought of several different topics I wanted to blog about today. But I'm too tired. Boooooo. We've had a busy weekend and I've done a lot of chores. The laundry is done and put away, the spare room is clear and fit for purpose. All rooms are tidy, all toys away, all washing up done. I've not done any cooking though.

So I guess my #nofilter is that tonight, I'm too lazy/too tired to blog properly. But here's a picture of Baby45 to make up for it.

That's it for tonight, I'll be back tomorrow to continue my month of blogging under the topic of #nofilter. If you've missed what this is all about, here's my starter post. I'm also quite proud of yesterday's post and this one also on writing. And finally in #tbt sort of way, here's a post I wrote back in 2012 about my hopes for Baby45 when he was a bump.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

7 Feb 2015

Three Tantrums and and a Red Pen

I wanted to update on how I'm feeling after this postTo be clear, as I said in it, it was not a cry for help. I simply blogged how I was that day as part of my #nofilter series. And I'm okay, honest guv!

It was just a last straw day where lots of things I've been juggling, weren't juggle-able that day. I was tired and fed up and so I cried on the train home from work. Not massively and only for a few minutes. 

For me to have been a bit tearful when things got on top of me, is a huge achievement after years battling with depression and anxiety. I cried on the train instead of going home and persuading myself not to self harm (or just going ahead and doing it). 

I couldn't deal as well as normal with stuff because I had 10 hours sleep in 52 at one point this week due to toddler ill-health. And I had to go to work. And parent my (sick) toddler. And I'm not alone in this type of parenting experience. 

I think it's really important to be able to be honest about how shitty parenting is at times. As much as I utterly adore Baby45 more than anything else (especially sleep) I'm not going to paint a rose tinted version of parenthood because it's not always like that and it can put a lot of pressure on parents to ALWAYS BE SMILEY AND HAPPY.

It's hard work because to me it's a really important job. Everything you do has an affect on them. So if you're trying to do the best job you can and go to bed most nights fretting about how you fucked up today in some tiny capacity and hope to do better tomorrow, it's hard to love every minute. 

I'm sorry but I didn't love the tantrum today because I wouldn't let Baby45 have my (hard earned) piece of cake or because I thought he should wear trousers (it's 5 degrees out) or because I wouldn't let him push the buggy by himself next to a very busy road. 

I wasn't depriving him of these things on a whim (well, maybe the cake...) but because I have his best interests at heart (keeping warm, not being hit by a car...) But I still try to keep calm and attempt to help him deal with his emotions - and control mine inside as I'm the adult not the kid.

So you know, parenting can be tough. It sucks at times. That doesn't mean you love your child any less. It doesn't mean you don't want constantly to be better. It just means you're human. So if you too have had a tough day or week or month or you're just generally struggling a bit...take heart from the fact that most of the rest of us often are too. 

Thank you and good night,

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS. Despite all the drama, kids always do something to make it all utterly worth it. Here's a gem from this morning Chez 45...After an ominous silence OH walked into our study to find Baby45 wielding a red marker pen, scribbling away "I writing an email daddy". Passes over scribbled on business card "there go, sent!"

6 Feb 2015

On Writing - filters off

I'm discovering that it's hard to write every day. Especially after work or a day running around after a toddler. I'm really tired and the words just don't come so easily.

 Normally when I write up a blog post, it's been planned for awhile - mostly just in my head. I'll have had an idea or been inspired by something or intrigued by a concept. This will percolate in my head - I kind of brainstorm it internally  when I have a quiet moment, usually when I'm in the shower or on the train - or cooking. Lots of smaller ideas and thoughts kind of coalesce together to form a narrative. I then let this sit in my head some more until I've almost gotten all the words and everything I want to say in my head verbatim. Then I blog it. Often I go back and edit and re-write sections but mostly it comes out on the the computer straight from my head. With this every day writing, I don't have the chance to do that.

It's not so much that the ideas don't come - it's more the time to expand on them, to do that internal brainstorming to connect the ideas with smaller thoughts and musings - that just isn't happening. Sometimes it takes me months to get a blogpost together in my head - but then sometimes just days. It seems to me to be quite an ineffective way of writing regularly really, the need to stick to and expound on one subject. How do columnists and regular journalists do it?

I guess it's also because I like to stick to one concept or idea per post and let the narrative flow from there. I've never really skipped around to cover a couple (or more) unrelated topics in one place. Mostly I guess because I feel that blog posts should be short and so jumping around isn't great for a reader or a writer - it's hard to stop on a subject once you get started and for your audience it's maybe a bit of an anti climax - stopping before you really got started.

But maybe I'm doing my writing practice and my media (blogging) a disservice. By sticking to just one way of writing and one style am I limiting my growth as a writer (if I can call myself that). Is this daily blogging the opportunity to try new things and challenge and stretch myself more when I write?

When I decided to do this project, to try to write daily, I did it very much from the perspective of what interested me and not as a way to increase monthly page views. I think the #nofilter topic is interesting and if I pushed at things and put links in the right places, I could really work those up. But that wasn't what this is about. Writing purely for an audience and to feed my ego just isn't healthy and it's not a good idea to just get hung up on the stats. It makes me wary of not being able to happen on a hot topic that's got social media buzzing and also pathetically envious when someone else does. And I'm pretty sure those people whose blog posts suddenly get crazy views didn't write them to drive traffic, they wrote from the heart.

I need to focus on this month as an exercise that will grow my confidence and self belief as a writer to have the confidence to work on my novel more and stop procrastinating. I hope it will also help me to get better at writing on the hoof, on the fly and produce ideas faster. They don't have to be quality ideas but eventually, like monkeys, typewriters and shakespeare, one of those ideas is going to further my novel.

Oddly enough this blog post has actually gone against what I intended - to try to write on 2-3 shorter topics. Instead this has come straight out of my head unedited as a fairly steady narrative. So what that says about my writing I'm not sure. I guess I find it very hard to stray from the arbitrary writing rules my subconscious is adhering to.

For those of you wondering where the #nofilter moment is today - well this blog post literally is it. No filters, straight off the top of my head, this is what I'm thinking about right now at almost 10pm at night whilst I semi watch the opening Six Nations game. And I feel oddly soothed by having this massive braindump (fnar). I guess writing is more cathartic than I thought it was. Anyway, thats one week of blogging done. Which is cool.

Thank you and goodnight,

Stupidgirl has left the building

5 Feb 2015

End of Tether

So aside from the whole #nofilter thing referring to house/style/parenting and health, I think it also refers to attitude. And apparently one cannot always be upbeat. Despite being well set up for the day - lie in, snow, make up, nice outfit, toddler had minimal tantrums, trains on time, space in coffee shop and wifi, I was worried I wouldn't find something no filter worthy aside from a less-messy house.

Well I was wrong. My mood today, if it was a colour, would be a sort of Rothko-esque, muddy shades of brown fading into deepest dog turd. Not sure that's something you're ever likely to see hanging in the Tate. I wonder if Rothko ever did a brown series, imagine a series of poo shaded colour charts.

Anyway, I'm being deliberately evasive, because as ever I'm not loving talking about feeling pretty rubbish today. So here's a quick recap - I have depression, anxiety and I'm an ex-self harmer. Joyous isn't it. You can read more here on why I outed myself as having mental health issues. Scariest post I ever wrote, that one. Today my mood change surprised me. I'm not entirely sure what triggered it.

I guess lack of sleep was the biggest thing - I had 10 hours sleep between Monday morning and midnight wednesday. I feel like I haven't been the most patient mummy either despite sleeping with Baby45 in the bed both nights to help him sleep and sitting with him until he fell asleep at bedtime. And then there's other stuff going on, I won't elaborate, nothing major but just at a low level just grinds you down.

Everything just feels gray and bleugh and meh. Descriptive I know. But it's hard to describe. Also this is not a cry for help. This is just a bit of a day-in-the-life. I had a down day. Sometimes they're pretty shit. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes it leads into a full blown depressive episode. I don't know which this is but it's a #nofilters post about how I felt today.

So anyway I cried on the train home this even. But hey, I don't think anyone noticed, I totally styled it out by putting up my furry hood and looking like an overgrown emo. And I listened to Arcade Fire at full volume. I've not really done much this evening but seeing a friend and having a laugh has cheered me up.

I know this isn't the greatest blog post either - but I'm pleased I've blogged every day of February so far. I think I'm starting to see this as being like training in a sport. You have good days, amazing days, bad days and mediocre days - but as long as you still get your ass out there, that's the main thing. So if you're still out there reading, thanks for sticking with me on my off colour #nofilter day. I hope tomorrow is better.

Thank you and good night.

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS Trailer for the new Magic Mike movie here - this did cheer me up. You're welcome :P