It’s the most ‘wonderful’ time of the year

Christmas is my absolute favourite. A small goth part of me wants to be all cool and claim that Halloween is my jam. But pretty coloured fairy lights, Bing Crosby, dedicated stationery and compulsory letter writing, a whole plethora of mythological figures, the sanctioned gluttony of the most delicious and decadent foods and the requirement to see and celebrate with all my friends and family.

Given free reign I would deck the halls with boughs of holly, have at least one Christmas tree in every single one of our rooms, of course there’s room for a wee tree in the bathroom and singlehandedly drain the national grid with the electricity requirements of bazillions of fairy lights.

One of the aspects of parenting I was most excited about was involving smalls in festivising. If toddler + glitter = carnage then bring it on. All the best dressed houses have glitter in the cracks between their floorboards. It’s fairy dust.

Christmas crafts, baking, trips to see the big man, carol singing, pantomime, sneaking into bedrooms to pop stockings at the end of their beads and basking in the glow of their joy as they rip into Christmas morning.

Only that isn’t actually anything like our festivities. Change and deviation from the routine must be minimised. Decorations must be contained to the living room and even then much lower key than I would like. Weeks of anticipation, build up and reminders that ALL IS NOT NORMAL will not be tolerated.

I understand. Life is unpredictable, confusing and hard to understand on the most boring and dull of days. Christmas is system overload for my eldest. It always has been.

As a tiny she was petrified of Santa. Not just wary but proper terror. The blood curdling screams she let out when Santa approached her at the supermarket silenced Sainsbury’s the Saturday before Christmas. I remain convinced people thought that at the very least she had lost a limb. She has never allowed us to put a stocking in her room. The thought of Santa coming into her room while she was sleeping took sleep completely off the table.

We now spread our Christmas over several days. Partially to minimise the impact. Partially so that we have plenty of time to deal with the inevitable meltdowns, dramas and crises.

This year we’ll do the meal, just the four of us, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. There will be presents, probably a walk on the beach and a tonne of chocolate consumption on Christmas Day. Boxing Day will be for R&R&R&R – Rest, Relaxation, Recuperation and Repair. Then on the 27th we’ll head down to my parents, hoping that at least one of my sisters and her brood will have already gone home because she can’t cope will all the family all at once.

It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting because this is the final hurdle. We’ve been deep in firefighting mode since the 2nd of December. School starts to change. There is talk of dances – nope not a chance, trips to the pantomime with the drama department – cue weeks of trauma about who she will sit next to on the bus, PE morphs into Scottish country dance classes – traumatic to most teenagers let alone the socially impaired and this is before people stop wearing what she expects them to – her fury at a teacher having the audacity to wear a Christmas jumper and pudding earrings could probably have helped me power a good few of those bazillion fairy lights.

Balancing her needs for home to be a sanctuary with my desire to mummify the house in tinsel is hard enough. Throw an excited, Santa daft 4 year old into the mix and things get, well interesting just isn’t quite right, I need a metaphor around nuclear fusion.

I’m running myself ragged trying to meet the needs of two girls so diametrically opposed that it should be funny. Only we can’t laugh. The eldest is horribly paranoid and will flip out believing that we are laughing at her. The little one is so excited that if we start laughing you know she is going to join in. I’m confident that she is going to prove that the scene in Mary Poppins where Dick Van Dyke has tea on the ceiling is possible. There is enough DIY to do around here without having to repaint the ceilings after scraping over excited children off them.

So while it will always be the most wonderful time of the year, please excuse me if I don’t look full of the joys of the season, I’m spent. But I absolutely mean it when I say that I hope you have a magically marvellous Christmas and that 2019 is happy and healthy.

Mummy Manifesting

It took us a while to become parents. Years of trying, fertility investigations, treatments and adoption. My girls are very, very wanted and It is no secret that becoming Mummy was and is massively important.

The other day I caught myself mid rant. Miserable. Exhausted. Thoroughly fed up with the whole thing. I am not the mother I envisaged. Admittedly that lentil weaving, floaty skirted, zen mama maybe is a little unachieveable given my personality. But even so this short tempered, screeching, she devil is way too far in the other direction.

I do not want. No that isn’t strong enough. I completely reject the knackered, shouty, stressed mother I have become.  I spent years putting heart and soul into becoming a Mother. It was not for this.

I love being Mummy. I adore the house being filled with their laughter, sticky finger prints, plastic tat booby trapping every floor, socks of varying sizes all missing a buddy and all the apples in the fruit bowl missing just one bite. This is the life I dreamt of. This is precisely what I signed up for.

I’m going to be a lot more conscious of the mother I want to be.

Using a quiet and calm voice. The fact that this is way more terrifying when a small knows that they have done wrong is definitely a bonus.

Actively seeking out time with and activities with my girls. Spending time with them is a pleasure, a joy and a privilege.

Refusing to engage in moaning, bitching or embracing the negativity. We create the life we focus on. Yes there is always room for improvement. By concentrating on the good, the joy that they bring me and the smiles this becomes the story.

I am manifesting that zen mama. Although I’m still at a loss as to how you weave a lentil…

 

 

Kindness

I sailed through my early life blissfully ignorant of the power of kindness. I was lucky. Unscathed by life. Of course, life has a funny way of catching up and boy did it catch me.

Infertility, a gruelling and unnecessarily cruel adoption process and the complete life overhaul that becoming a parent brings left me a broken shell of my former self. Depression followed and I was left lonely, anxious and with my confidence in tatters.

G’s unfailing love and support was hugely important. But on the horribly bleak days it was often the kindness of complete strangers which lit my way.

The wonderful man who brought back the purse I dropped out of the buggy. He brought it to my house, with all the money still in it and wouldn’t even let me say thank you properly.

The wee lady who told me what a smashing job I was doing as my toddler screamed herself blue with rage in Tesco.

The scotrail employee who refused point blank to follow procedure and charge me a full days parking for a lost ticket. He said that I looked like I needed a break. Some days the Mum bun in unwashed hair, under eye luggage and obvious got dressed in the dark uniform will be your friend.

The mothercare staff who understood that a lost teddy was an emergency and pulled apart their stock room to find an out of stock bear. Then stayed after the store had closed while I drove like an eejit to meet them in the car park. My now teenage child is blissfully unaware that Teddy is actually Teddy II.

None of these acts are particularly grand gestures. None has taken people massively out of their way. Each also took place a decade, maybe more, ago. Yet the memory of each is fresh and clear. These small acts were/are massively important to me. Each shaped and defined the person I strive to be.

My main wish. My oft repeated rant is ‘Why can’t it just be kinder?’ Of course the it changes with the situation.

Why can’t the adoption process truly put the needs of the child above all else. Treat the child with kindness and it does.

Why can’t the school’s handling of bullying be less victim blaming and more restorative? Treat all involved with kindness and it does.

Why does getting help and support involve prostrating ourselves at the feet of the worthy and being left to feel weighed, measured and found wanting? Treat applicants with kindness and this stops.

Most problems I encounter are at least diminished in the face of kindness. Genuine empathy and treating people the way I would like to be treated. It’s a revolutionary act. I’m calmer. More forgiving, Open to the truth that most people are innately good, but distracted. Happier, it is uplifting and beautiful to see the good, to be positive and to hope beyond hope that maybe one of my small acts is the beacon in someone else’s day. That maybe something I do will still be clear and fresh in the recipients mind years later.

This is why I’m taking part in Proper Post’s 5 Days of Kind Challenge Whilst it is absolutely something I endeavour to do 365 days of the year a wee shake up and following some fun prompts can’t be a bad thing. Who knows where it will lead. If you fancy joining the revolution it isn’t too late. Sign up here

When love just isn’t enough

My eldest daughter has complex additional needs. Her diagnosis is far from clear cut and includes a couple of conflicting conditions, which aggravate, mask and exasperate each other. Getting her help is never going to be a magic pill which miraculously transforms her into the girl she normally manages to pretend to be.

See this is the truly heartbreaking nature of it. If you were to meet my eldest daughter you would find her to be charming, personable and engaging. If you got to know her well you might think her a little socially awkward but these complex additional needs, well her mother is obviously neurotic.

Only I’m not. Ok, well not in this instance!

My darling, kind, funny daughter has two sides. A side that she shows to the outside world. A mask she can maintain when everything is calm, safe and predictable. Sadly, her conditions mean that very often the world to her is far from calm, safe and predictable. She lives is a heightened state of anxiety. A state she is completely unable to cope with.

In this state of anxiety the other side of my daughter makes our family life miserable. We call them meltdowns. Probably the easiest comparison is to a toddlers temper tantrums. But in a 12 year old and with a 12 year olds stamina. They can, and frequently do, last for days.

During these periods we all have to endure being screamed at, insulted, physically threatened and what is worse watch her treat people we love so horribly. It absolutely is emotional abuse in a pure and potent form. If she was my partner I would be packing up and running. But she’s my daughter.

This behaviour is functional. She is attempting to communicate her distress. I am massively sympathetic to that and on hand to help in anyway I can. But when she is in this state she is beyond reason. In this state she absolutely does not want to sit down calmly and tell me how a classmate’s perfectly innocent comment has left her confused, hurt and entering into a primal fight or flight adrenaline roller coaster.

No, in this state all she is capable of is trying to show me how she is felling by making me feel the same. I’d describe myself as pretty empathic, finding it incredibly easy to imagine how another might been. If she was able to articulate even a fraction of what she was experiencing I’d get there. But she isn’t able to identify, untangle and discuss her emotions in this way. She just doesn’t have the ability.

How she communicates is by inflicting pain. My girl who isn’t really able to understand that the sensation she is feeling is cold and can be fixed by putting on a jumper is an absolute master at finding a point of sensitivity and exploiting it, mercilessly.

I am used to screamed insults, my younger daughter will frequently play in the middle of what should send a less desensitised 4 year old crying to their Mummy, my husband normalising the physical interventions when he has to get in her way as she flies at me. Our family life is frequently a battle ground. And I am without a weapon.

I need to find a way to protect myself and those I love without wounding a confused and distressed wee girl.

39

It’s my 39th birthday today. I’ve scheduled this post in anticipation of being far too busy unwrapping Tatty Devine boxes and eating cake.

I love my birthday. I’m the eldest of four and as a kid my birthday was the one day it was all about me. I’ve not quite grown out of my prima donna tendencies and relish the opportunity for a day where I am Queen of the Universe. Sadly, g refuses to entertain any of my delusions of grandeur and I will not be reclining on the sofa with him popping peeled grapes into my mouth.

What I will be doing is marvelling at the fact I’m 39. Do you not need to be a grown up to be in the last year of your 30’s?

I’m ok with ageing. I know that I’m not meant to be. I should be raging against wrinkles, battling bingo wings and saddened by saggy bits. Societal daftness about my needing to look like I’ve been dooked in the fountain of youth hasn’t taken hold here.

I like that my forehead advertises how much I frown when I’m concentrating. The crinkles round my eyes show off that I smile, a lot. The lines from my nose to corners of my mouth well they frame my choochy cheeks. I’m constantly disappointed at how few grey hairs I actually have, I’m desperate for long silvery locks. Previous bleaching disasters mean that I am waiting for Mother Nature on this one.

All that said, 40 is a very big number. It appears to have got me thinking. I’m approaching it with positivity aware that I want to be fabulous at 40. So I wrote a list.

40 things to tick off before next November. Some daft, some heartfelt and a couple of biggies. I’m not going to share them here, mainly because I doubt that you are reading this to cure insomnia.

But rest assured. Not a single one of these 40 things involves expensive anti-wrinkle creams, intensive exercise regimes or in any way trying to erase the story my face can tell.

Emotional Continence

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Obviously not literally, I like mad jewellery but that would be pushing even my boundaries. I’m trying to say that I’m not really capable of hiding what I’m feeling.

As the name of this blog suggests, I am the proud owner of an impressively witchy cackle. When I’m excited I squeak. I kid you not, like a slightly broken guinea pig and don’t be mucky I didn’t mean that kind of excited! If I’m passionate and enthusiastic about something I will be loud and hold on to all breakables I’m the terrifying combination of clumsy and a gesticulator. Confusingly if I’m angry, tired, hormonal, sad or especially happy I will cry. Good luck tying to figure out why I’m leaking.

I’m quite happy to ride a rollercoaster with my emotions, bouncing between extremes. Admittedly, given the amount of liquid eyeliner I wear the fact that I cry most days is a little inconvenient. Well it was until that review and welcoming Kat Von D into my make up bag. I’ve digressed.

I cry most days. I also laugh multiple times every day. I’m not depressed. I have been. I didn’t cry, or laugh, or really feel anything at all. For me depression is a numb, desolate place where even my emotions are muted. My normal is running the gauntlet of lots of powerful emotions and dealing with them openly and often loudly.

It seems to be the crying that causes people the most discomfort. People know how to respond when I’m cackling, are generally too worried about breakages when I’m enthusing and when I’m excited hilarity that a grown woman has just ‘squeed’ will follow. Tears have most people stumped. It’s horrible. A good cry is a magnificent thing. The palpable release of tension. A signpost for those people who care that you need them. But much more than all of this we need the tears to really feel the laughs.

Life is never going to be all about those belly clutching, ‘I think I might have just peed a bit’ laughs. In order to truly and better appreciate them there needs to be an opposite. The mascara ruining, multiple hankie, blotchy faced sob session.

I believe that in embracing the snotty sobbing we expand our range. Enabling us to reach headier heights of happiness. And if you need some suggestions here are just a few of the things that have made me greet.

  • When the cake I bought was pastry with cinnamon and not enriched dough and cinnamon.
  • Charity adverts.
  • G and the girls finding loads of fly agaric toadstools when I couldn’t go for a walk because of my stupid ankle.
  • If I think about Flash for too long. Flash was my cat, he had to be put down in 2015.
  • Bad haircut. Ok, several bad haircuts.
  • Part way through a massage.
  • During a stupid fight with g over a hedge.
  • Some nights when I tidy up my duvet dancing girls. Eternally grateful that we get to tidy up sleeping children.
  • Almost every book I read.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Sometimes I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something. The beautiful rainbow on an otherwise perfectly miserable day. Picking up my phone to call someone just as it begins to vibrate with them calling me. Those coincidences reassuring me that this is all part of some kind of grand design.

Other days I don’t need to wonder. The universe is crystal clear in her rallying cry, no decoding required.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a shout. Possibly even a banshee scream.

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I tend not to read non fiction. I’m all about the story, the more fantastical the better. So when I found myself in the library’s non-fiction aisles I was a bit unsure what I was doing. But I was drawn to the spine of Big Magic. When I saw the headline on the cover ‘Creative living beyond fear’ all the wee hairs on the back of my neck woke up.

I thought I’d read a couple of chapters to see what I made of it. I read 120 pages before stopping to feed my poor, starving children. Fed them and immediately went back to the book. Inhaling rather than reading.

I wrote notes, nodded and giggled throughout. Gilbert’s style is warm, conversational and never preaching or highbrow. To be told that I don’t need to conquer my fears is massively liberating. I can own being a scaredy cat. But I will no longer stagnate, frozen in fear.

What struck me the most about Big Magic was the infusion of joy. Gilbert does not pretend that creating is an easy option. She instead mounts a convincing and appealing case for it being a positive, happy and nourishing endeavour.

Ultimately, I would love to make a career from writing. That said, I don’t write with this in mind. I write because I need to create. I write because I always have. I write because I don’t know how not to.

The universe steering me towards a book that celebrates this right now. Well that’s Big Magic