Some days it feels amazing, other days it drives me insane.
Three months in and I have mixed emotions on my newly acquired hobby.
Five things that drive me mad about blogging.
1: That all-consuming moment when I have an idea just bursting to come out of my head but I have to sit at the dinner table, listening to my plumber husband telling me about how the pipe wouldn’t screw onto the o-ring and how it’s been a hell of a day. In my head I’m screaming “Shhhadd uuup! I don’t care. Eat faster. Go and take the dog down the road for a poo so I can scribble some notes down”. Though in reality, I have to sit there and say “Ahh, that’s nice, why didn’t you use your pipe twister?” Then smile. And wait. Like a pshyco.
2: Every area of your life becomes an opportunity for a blog post. The kids say something and I start muttering and chuckling to myself like a mad woman. Them, staring in disbelief and horror threatening, “you’d better not post that on FaceBook-I’m warning you” Me, scribbling furiously with my little but end of a pencil on the back of the shopping list, shaking like a hag possessed.
3: The stupid hours I’ve wasted on setting things up on my site, only to disappear again two days later. I think all blogs should be written on the back of supermarket receipts then thrown into the sky for someone to find. No stats. No header configuration. No ranky, wanky rating thingys.
No readers. Ok, good point.
I just don’t deal very well with anything techy. It drives me insane and makes me cry.
4: You start dreaming of a life where everything you have is sponsored and so therefore free. Free holidays, free wine, free carpets. Free anything I could write a post on convincing people how amazing the product was. The reality? Sending the kids to my mums for the weekend, getting sloshed on a bottle of cheap red wine, and putting my slippers on so I can’t feel the grit on the tiles in the kitchen.
5: Since I’ve started blogging my house is a shit tip.
Five things I love about blogging
1: It’s something just for me. Blogging is mine. All mine. For the past sixteen years, everything I have undertaken ties to my kids in some way. Singing lessons so I can use my diaphragm to scream at them without hurting my voice. Going to the gym in the mornings so I don’t have to listen to the same old crap about who’s turn it is to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Meditation. They think I’m a weird new age freak. Good. It keeps them out of my bedroom for at least half an hour.
2: I hadn’t realised what an amazing blogging community there is out there. I never believed for one minute that people, strangers, would be interested in reading my work. That other writers would take the time to connect with me and even comment on posts. If you’re a saddo like me with no friends (other than two teenagers who spend time with you through no choice of their own, and a bull mastiff dog with anxiety issues) it’s wonderful for your self-esteem.
3: You get to say stuff that you wouldn’t dare say in real life. Meet me face to face and all I tend to say ”Ahhh, that’s nice.” A lot. Although to be honest, you’ll probably never get to meet me in real life because I’m antisocial. I just stay at home with my dog. And cry a lot in the toilet.
4: You get to read fantastic posts from extremely talented writers. Before I started blogging I’d scan the National Geographic for five minutes in the toilet each morning. That’s if I was lucky. Usually, it meant reading the same page over and over since I always lost my place. Now, I have an array of well written and more often than not funny posts at my fingertips. Men and women who write about all the stuff I love, such as how hard it is to be a parent. It’s so refreshing to read about other things other than why the world is running out of water and what the green-eyed frog lives on in Mozambique.
5: I’d forgotten how much I love to write. I used to write letters to my friends when I was on holiday or when I went travelling. I’d write to my Grandma every week (admittedly in the hope that she’d cello tape a pound note to the inside of her next letter). It’s a creative outlet. I love how it makes me feel when I release all of that ‘stuff’ inside of me. I feel incredibly lighter after I’ve written things down and a bonus? I’m a really nice person for about three hours after I’ve published a post.
The last time I looked there were still 24 hours in a day. To my knowledge no-one has reduced it to nine. Yet talk to people and they all agree, time seems to be shrinking. It’s becoming rationed. No time for this, no time for that. I find myself struggling to find the time to be:
A competent teacher,
A kind and loving mother, who can be taken out in public.
A calm and not too frantic wife
A good friend who doesn’t blog about her besties.
A dog poo picker upper.
The scrubber of all things dirty.
The sergeant major of all orders and jobs.
The taxi driver (an unpaid one)
These past few months have found me particularly time starved. Probably due to both kids being at Mary Poppins rehearsals which opens in July, Brian getting busy at work, and me, trying to do everything and be everywhere.
We all need more time.
A tired and haggard mummy is not a nice mummy.
No one likes a mummy who doesn’t say nice things, do they?
No, they don’t.
Over the past few weeks, I have taken action. Waging my war against the time thief, and because sharing is caring, I’m revealing my secret tips. They’ve saved me time. They will save you time too.
Batch the washing.It seemed to be that my washing machine was on the go every day, if not twice. The time gobbler. It suddenly dawned on me that all of us have enough clothes, socks, and tea towels, to last us at least week or so. Why not do two massive piles of washing two days a week (I’m working up to one) instead of the piddly bits and pieces every day? Bingo. Nobody has gone without a pair of undies, I haven’t had to resort to drying the glasses with the corner of my shirt and apart from Mondays and Thursdays I don’t have to think about that time-consuming chore anymore.
Buy the same wine for the week. (If you don’t drink wine just skip this point and then write to me later and tell me why not.) My weekly grocery shop sees me standing at the wine section of the supermarket, doing the same thing every week. I look to the top shelf. No, too expensive, I look at the bottom shelf- for cooking maybe but I’m not that desperate, yet. To the middle then. Yes, but which one in the middle? The one that doesn’t go over $14. The one that you always sodding buy. If you find a wine that fits the bill, get a load of the stuff. That way you can be in and out of the wine section in three minutes. In France, you’ll gladly order ‘the house red’ with your meal. What’s the difference? Stick it in a carafe and ooh la la, job done.
Make up a selection of sandwich fillings that will keep in the fridge for a few days. Just because my kids are homeschooled, it doesn’t mean that I’m spared the time-consuming decision of “what can we have for lunch?” A little tip from a former cafe owner. Mix together some tuna mayonnaise, egg and salad cream, grated cheese or whatever you like on a sarnie, stick them into some tubs, put in the fridge. Simple and quick.
Make double dinners and freeze. I recently started to enjoy the benefits of not having to cook on a Tuesday night, by putting this into practice. Lasagne, Cottage Pie, mash, curry, (no low carb diets for me). Peel a few extra spuds, throw in an extra pack of mince, and you’ve made double. Portion up and freeze. I promise, come Tuesday night, you’ll thank me for it.
Write a list of five things you want to achieve in the day. I’ve started doing this and I love it. The rule is, it can’t be more than five tasks and four of them must be small. As in, ‘phone the vets about the dogs sore ear’, small. The big one must be achievable. Don’t go and write ‘sort out my wardrobe’ if you know that you’re only going to have half an hour between swimming lessons and karate training. Be realistic. Perhaps try, ‘throw all my old knickers away’ (not until you’ve bought new ones though). When you’ve ticked those five things off, relax…you’re done. And don’t you dare add a couple more things to that list.
Choose your outfit the night before. You may have to ignore the looks from your other half on this one. My husband lays in bed, peering over his book, eyeing me with suspicion. Praying that I haven’t developed OCD. I choose my outfit along with knickers and bra the night before and lay them out on the bedroom chair ready for the next day. It saves me a massive amount of time and effort in the morning. It also reminds me of when I had to wear school uniform and so makes me feel young. An added bonus not to be sniffed at.
Sometimes, the most obvious answers to our problems are those which we ignore. Most of us believe that the solution to the lack of time can only be solved by employing big changes. Quit your job, Move to the city where there’s public transport. Get rid of the dog. Get rid of the kids. Tempting.
It’s not true. Small changes add up. Put all of those small and seemingly insignificant changes together, and you’ll notice a major difference.
Now. Stop reading this and go and put your knickers on the back of the chair. Not those ones… the elastic has gone in those… throw those ones away. And, cross number three off your list.
Do you have any tips on saving time that you could share with me? Let me know in the comments.
It’s Sunday, and I’m in the library. Alone. The reason for this being that I refused to play a game for two hours with my husband and children. The game in question?
The reason for this being that I refused to play a game for two hours with my husband and children. The game in question?
Frisbee Golf. I’ll say that again in case you didn’t quite get it. Frisbee. Golf.
That’s not to say I didn’t try to play. I did. I participated for about twenty minutes, running pathetically to catch the Frisbee. Getting annoyed when Tess lost one of the Frisbees in the river. Complaining loudly when I finally caught the annoying flying disk, that the hard plastic “hurt my hands.”
Twenty minutes I persevered before I stuck out my lip like the whinge bucket that I am and whined:
” why don’t you just drop me at the library?”
“What’s the matter with you? It’s fun!”
I’m putting the exclamation mark there because that’s how he said it to me. Brian, the perfect game playing dad. All fun and excitement. The very word. Fun. It makes me nervous.
“Yes Mummy, don’t be so boring. Why don’t you ever want to play games with us?”
Sod off Tween. Looking all lovely in your shorts and your high ponytail.
Making me feel like an old biddy.
Stop siding with Mr fun and look at my red raw knuckles. Look at the sweat under my arms because I insisted on bringing this granny fleece.
They gave in. I got driven to the library which conveniently is just five minutes drive away.
“Let’s just go back and play for a couple of hours by ourselves. We’ll pick Mummy up later.”
Let me tell you; this was not said in a sympathetic way. She practically kicked me out onto the pavement.
To be honest, deep down, I was secretly hoping that they would decide to abandon the idea of Frisbee golf, knowing that I wasn’t going to be joining them. But I kid you not; I swear I saw smoke coming from the wheels of the van they sped away so fast.
And so, here I sit. With a handful of smellies and three foreign students.
It’s a beautiful day, sun cracking the flags, and where am I? In a stifling library, attempting to write a blog. I’ve straightened my chair, three times. I’ve looked twice at the closed cafe in the corner. Sighing loudly and rolling my eyes dramatically at the inconvenience of not being able to get an overpriced cup of tea. I’m resisting the urge to pick up my phone and text them to see if Sonny has been smashed in the face with the Frisbee and needs his mum.
No. Don’t do that.
It will be good for the kids to spend time with their Dad. Without sourdough trailing behind them. My tweens words start to creep in. They ring in my ears. Ears that are now getting hot from other people’s breath.
“Why do you never play games with us?”
She’s right. I think back to when they were little. Those dreaded words that would turn me cold.
“Mummy, can you play a game with us?”
Oh, God. Oh no. No.
“Mummy’s just going to pull all the hundreds of sheets and pillowcases out of the airing cupboard and then pretend to put them all back in some sort of order. I know, why don’t you get your dollies and put them all to bed under this washed out dirty looking grey sheet and watch them until they wake up? That would be exciting wouldn’t it?!”
Or even worse. In the car.
“mummy, shall we play eye spy?”
Shit. We’re driving from Bath to Cornwall along the motorway. There’s only ever going to be T for tree or C for car.
“I know… Why don’t you two play ‘the first to speak’ game?!”
Clever, inventive, mummy.
No wonder these rich parents employ clowns and jugglers for their children’s birthdays. It’s not because they’re loaded. It’s because they don’t want to admit that they hate playing games with the little buggers.
It’s not just games that involve children that turn me sour. No. They’re bad enough, but, the thought of adults playing games together without children present? Well. That just takes the biscuit. Why would full grown mature adults, who, quite frankly should know better, want to play a bloody game? Have they never heard of wine? Or bed?
I sit here, in the place that only saddos come to on a sunny Sunday, and contemplate why I hate games so much. It’s not as if we don’t have millions of games of which I could at least try and find a flicker of joy, We do. They’re crammed into what is supposed to be the printer cupboard (I know, posh aren’t we?) They spew out onto the floor every time I sneak open the door to get a piece of paper or the stapler. Annoying pieces of wooden rectangles mixing up with yellow counters and that little dog out of the monopoly or worse still, the saddle from Buckaroo. It just adds to my game hating anguish.
And I know what people will say,
“They won’t be around for long, and once they’re gone, you’d do anything to play games with them.”
No, I won’t.
I can’t see me sitting there, old and grey- well just older and no longer dying my hair- with the sudden urge to play Frisbee golf with my children. Anyway, they’d be about forty, and by then, they too will be middle aged and bitter like me.
I’m one of those people that others call, ’a bad sport’. I’m not in the slightest way competitive. Not like Mr Fun and my tween. I don’t care who gets the first frisbee in the net. It’s boring.
From what I gathered in my whole twenty minutes of participating, the only fun thing about playing golf frisbee is purposely throwing the frisbee away from the target and making someone else go and fetch it. This way, you get a few minutes respite, in which you can either, kick some grass, have a nose around at what other frisbee golf players are doing –usually nothing because they’re too busy being boring- or go and read the rules board. Again.
Way da minute though. Before I fall headfirst into the pit of parenting doom, pulling you down with me, I must remind myself, and my children (you’d better be reading this) of a couple of points.
Granted, I may not be the first to put my hand up for ‘Guess Who” (they’ve all got bloody beards and glasses, even the women.) But, let us not forget the “fun” things that I do play with you. You see, the best type of games are those that you don’t even know you’re playing. That’s the trick. These aren’t organised games my loves. These are the games of life my chickadees.
Here are a few forms of entertainment that only mummy can do. These are; ‘Mummy’s kind of games’
• I can sit for hours talking to you about a film (if it’s British), or documentary that we have just watched. I’m then able to turn that into a writing lesson without you even noticing what I’ve done. Tah Dah!
• How about when I took you to that shipwreck with a pen and paper, and you took turns in writing a line of poetry about it until we had that crazy, beautiful poem?
• Or the time I Blindfolded you both, putting your hands into the bag to feel raw livers and kidneys to enrich your lesson on the sense of touch. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that one. Now that I say it out loud, it makes me sound a bit freaky, and to be perfectly honest; I think it scared you for life)
• Getting us all in the car and chasing the sun for the best view of the eclipse. We drove for an hour pretending we were like that woman in Twister (well I did. You just wanted an ice-cream)
• And I absolutely loved taking you to that ancient woodland in the snow and pretending that we were in Narnia. (And yes Tess. I know. You started crying because I told you that your real parents were dead and that I was your new Mother from Witch kingdom, but come on, it was still a fantastic game)
So, there you have it. Each one of those ‘games’ gave me an enormous amount of pleasure, but not one contained a dice, or rules, or a Frisbee.
Apparently, it turns out that we are different. Game lovers and I.
Had I asked my game loving husband,
“Hey Bri, fancy walking two miles across the beach and writing a funny poem about that old ship?” he would probably have muttered something along the lines of,
“Ermm … I think Liverpool’s playing this afternoon and I’ve got to clean my van out. Then there’s the airing cupboard to sort…”
Aren’t we all, every single one of us different? Talented? Unique?
How boring to have the world full of people with similar personalities, with the same likes and dislikes. All wanting to play Frisbee golf. Or sit on slippery rocks with a wet bum, writing poetry.
I think it’s time to embrace those things that we are good at as parents, instead of focusing on those that we are not. Or those that we simply don’t enjoy. For me, its games, others feel bad about not liking cooking or exercise. But let’s stop giving ourselves such a bloody hard time because we can’t be the perfect everything. Love doing everything. Participate in everything. We’re good enough, more than good enough, and our unique strengths and talents add to societies bubbling concoction of beautiful and diverse personalities. Each of us able to offer something that another person can’t. If Hungry Hippos is your idea of fun, fantastic! If not, fantastic! (call me, now. We need to be friends).
Well. The library has indeed made me feel very philosophical. I must come here more often on a Sunday. I’m going home a new woman. (God help them).
I can only hope that my children remember this.
Their mother may well have been a miserable cow when it came to frisbee golf. But she did a bloody good party trick with a pack of chicken livers.
I know you’re going to say no, but…”
There stands my 12-year-old. Trying to look as doey eyed as she did when she was seven but, with the tween years almost behind her, cuteness has taken second place to a determination. Omit the image of baby Bambi, and think the kangaroo out of Horton hears a who.
There. Now you get the picture.
“I know you’re going to say no, but…”
I didn’t hear the rest. I pretended to have urgent business to attend. The carrots were boiling over; I think I put the milk carton in the non-recycle bin or, I’d forgotten to put the bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge, and it was nearly ten past five.
I retreated to my office.
My life it seems is full of affirmations. Trumpeted to me regularly by those beautiful children of mine. Unfortunately, though, they’re not the affirmations that you wish to have written on your headstone. As much as I do all the mantras, have my little post-it notes on the fridge, listen to the soothing tones of my meditation app, as soon as I take the headphones off and step into the life that is mine, I am met by my two beauties. Reminding me that,“ hey. You. You don’t do this, you never do that AND you always say NO!”
When I was a kid-I, can’t believe I just said that, but, when I was a kid, and it wasn’t that long ago, Ok, Maggie was in power, but it wasn’t that far back, I didn’t hear the word “yes” that often. Apart from the times when I asked,
“so I have to do all the dusting, and the hoovering and Jamie only needs to put the cushions straight?”(middle child favouritism).
“What? You want me to walk 2 miles back down the same hill that I’ve just trudged up from school, to go and get you a pint of milk from the village shop because you can’t drive and are too lazy to go yourself? And by the way. I’m 9”. (and by the way, I didn’t tell her she was lazy)
Now. I don’t wish to be all- woe is me I had a horrid childhood, far from it. Walking up that hill with the milk sparked future creativity. Breaking up twigs and pretending they were ciggies was surely the beginning of my passion for drama. But, compared to the privileged life that my two lovelies have. Frig, yes. The two resemble chalk and cheese.
Even my idol who owned the local post office and corner shop, the one who was allowed to have a pie from the hot cabinet for her lunch, that one. Even she didn’t have what my children have, and in my eyes, she had everything. She even got a tin of condensed milk in her stocking for Christmas once. And she was allowed to eat it straight out of the tin.
Yet despite the fact that I didn’t get whatever I wanted, driven here, taken there, enrolled into the next best thing club. I was happy. Damn… sorry. That sounds so bloody cliched, but I was.
And I don’t think it did me any harm. To be told no more often than, yes. In fact, if anything, it made me a more determined, creative, productive and a more resilient human being. ( Apart from when I sit in the toilet crying because… well because it’s Tuesday.)
Let me reveal to you what I did when my I asked my parents for a pony and got a, “No”.
I know you’ll think I’m exaggerating when I tell you this, but it’s the truth.
When I was 9 we lived next door to a pig farm. After school each day, (’cause this was the 80s, and we didn’t have fencing, drama club, flute lessons or ballet class in the olden days) I would go to the farm. I’d spend at least an hour hosing down pig shite and then when the farmer went in for his tea; I’d try and ride one of the pigs.
That’s how desperate I was for a pony.
Trying to mount a pig. Now that’s determination. I’ve told my kids this story. They think I’m a chronic liar. I just look back and think… Wow. What a freak.
I’m still trying to work out which one I am. (The freak ) A twisted mother, or someone who believes that children don’t benefit from being spoiled. I’ll go with the latter, which is why I’ve tried with my kids to say no. Not just for the sake of it, but so that they may become creative and think of an alternative. (And so they too can be little pig riding weirdo’s like me).
But as you know, and I guess there must be a fair few of you who agree with me on this, it’s not easy.
Its one of the hardest tasks in the world. Saying no to your kids. Especially when most of the time it would be easier just to say yes. And it’s not just the saying of no. But saying no and then sticking to it. Even when they sidle up to you on the couch after dinner, hoping that your brick wall decision might possibly have been softened by a few grape juices. Go away. The answer’s still no.
One of my favourite films is, ‘ For the boys’ with Clive Owen. A beautiful tale of a newly widowed Dad, raising his boys in Australia. When he finds himself struggling, he sticks a sign to his fridge. It says. “just say yes to everything’
But that’s Hollywood, and maybe if I was married to Clive Owen or I was Clive Owens, dead wife, then I would agree. But I’m not.
Instead I just try to keep my kids pretty grounded. Try to not give them a yes to every single request. And in their defence, they’re actually pretty good.
Ive had to battle not to cave into the pressure of saying yes, simply because if I don’t, I might be considered mean, or be seen as depriving my children of something that may give them acute satisfaction for all of about 17 minutes.
Ok. Wait. Contary to what you may be thinking, Im not the wicked witch of the west. My poor homeschooled children locked at home in their pyjamas with no friends, and the only thing the tight cow of a mother will spend money on is a dictionary, a pair of crocs (replicas, not the real thing) and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. They do alright. More than alright. Honest.
Although had you asked my daughter last night? No. My Little kangaroo would have said they never get anything. Nothing. Rien. Jack sh*t.
Alright Liz, don’t get excited.
Now, because it seems, I have far too much time on my hands, rather than doing the things I should be doing; teaching my children. Picking through the garden with a poo bag, I am writing this blog. To share with you a few of the ‘wants’ that I have received this past year from my teen and tween.
What follows are my somewhat artistic reasons as to why the answer was a definite…No.
• “Can I have a pony”.
This is a beauty. And one that I think every 12 year old girl must ask for. Remember the pig? I do. Vividly. Find a pony to exercise for free . Other than that stick a halter on Patrick, our pet sheep, and go for a canter ‘round the paddock.
• “Can I have $10 ? to get a snack while I’m waiting for you to come out of the supermarket with a glut of food that I will devour as soon as I get home”.
The reincarnated seagull that goes by the disguise of my 15 year old son. Get your pocket money out and go and buy your own chips. Even better, come into the supermarket with me and help to carry the shopping. Oh god no. On second thoughts… Just wait here and be hungry.
• “Can I dye my hair pink? Permanently”.
ER…No love. You can not dye your hair pink. We are not Stephanie from Lazy Town. We are homeschoolers, and its hard enough explaining to folks why you’re ‘not in school today?’ without saying “oh, and by the way. That pink hair? Its permanent.”
• “Can I get a motorbike?”.
No. I’ve witnessed what you’re like with the lawn mower. Pushing it like a mad man. Headphones in, laughing manically to your Ricky Gervais podcast. No. The scooter’s there, ride that. It may not be cool but its bloody zippy when you get that leg swinging.
• “Can I get Facebook?”
You’ve got that lip syncing app that keeps you in your bedroom with the hairbrush for hours already. You really don’t need to see dead cats, big lips and plates of spagetti bolognese. Anyway. If you get FB you’ll be able to read all the things I write about you…No.
• “Can I get these expensive trainers with the tick on them ?”.
You know, heres me. I can’t remember the last time I went and bought myself expensive stuff. The Elastic has gone in my knickers… and I can’t seem to find the time to go and buy new ones. Its sad. So, No. Wear the crocs I bought you last month. Until your feet stop growing at a rate of knots, the answer is, NO.
One day I will write a list of all the Yes things Ive agreed to. To make myself feel better.. Until then, I will persist in trying to keep my little darlings from resembling Harper and Brooklyn Beckham, although, lets face it. Riding a scooter in crocs with their mother tailing behind in knickers with no elastic. Theres not much chance of that is there? No Liz, No.