Fraught

Things have felt fraught these last few days. I find myself crabby and uninspired. It feels as if I don’t want to be here. 

I want some solitude and fresh air. Neither are seemingly possible. 

My temper flares, the gnarled hands of claustrophobia tightening around my throat. And all I can do is keep pushing through it, reminding myself that everything I do is a choice. 

Today, I’m choosing to be softer. A little less angular. A little less hard. A little less caught up with all the things I ‘should’ be doing.

Today I merely plan to love my kids and go easy on myself. 

Isle of Wight

We’ve been in the Isle of Wight this last week. 

It’s been amazing.

6 a.m. rolls around and I slip on my shoes to take Muttley down to the beach. We watch the sun rise over the ocean, the lights  of waiting ships twinkling softly in the watery light. The beach is empty and it’s a beautiful way to start the day. 

The boys join me one day and spend time dipping in the rockpools while the tide is out. By lunchtime there is no sign of the rocks beneath the water so instead they skim stones on the water and find stones with holes in for me to make jewellery. 

I could list all the things we did this week, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’ll briefly mention that we spent time with one of my most favourite people. We visited beach after beach, eating chips and ice cream. We found crabs on the shoreline. After getting soaked in the rain we slip into pyjamas and dry off in front of the fire. Mostly, we just enjoyed being a family. 

I sit looking through the photos of another batch of memories, pleased that we’re blessed enough to be able to come here time and time again. 

It takes us 8 hours to get home in a car filled with soggy laundry, half a beach worth of sand and bags of shells.

I miss the ocean already. 

Muttley

I took Muttley out tonight, to my favourite place. It’s a place I don’t share with anyone. I never take friends or mention it to anyone – it’s mine. 

Mile upon mile of fields in the middle of nowhere. A beautiful stone church with fallen gravestones and numerous famous ghost stories. A lake over which the sun sets with such grace it makes you stop a while. 

I park up, loosen my hair from its tight plait and shrug on my jacket. Muttley steps into his harness and then waits patiently as I climb over the first wooden stile into a field full of wildflowers. 

The path climbs steadily upwards and the higher I get, the more ferociously the wind blows through my loose hair. Tears gather at the corners of my eyes, the way they always do when I’m walking into the wind. 

Miles pass me by, and I circle back onto the road where we parked. The sun is beginning to set, the day disappearing into darkness with each step I take. 

It’s blissful. It’s silent. It’s the solitude I’ve so desperately needed these last few days. 

Rosliston Forestry Centre

I was desperate to get out this morning, in some bizarre attempt to convince myself that the weather wasn’t that bad. It was. We packed up soup and shiny red apples before grabbing rain jackets and piling into the car. 

The journey to Rosliston is usually pretty scenic. Today I found myself stuck on a long and winding road with approximately two hundred cyclists – none of which had an ounce of courtesy and left no space for cars to pass them. Riding three/four abreast in clusters of up to twenty, these Lycra-clad, numbered numpties held no regard for the Highway Code and left me part shaking with nerves and part ready to commit murder.

But I digress.

Finally arriving at Rosliston, we find the play area blissfully deserted, which is a good start to calm my mind of the urge to bludgeon a cyclist or two to an early death. 

We attempt to follow the Science Trail but somehow or another we end up heading in the wrong direction. We followed the blue arrows which we (wrongly) assumed correlated to the path marked in blue on the map. 

Am I digressing again? 

We find a Science Trail board and I try to explain how a sundial works. Instead I confuse myself – not helped by a complete lack of sunshine and 3 boys asking a thousand questions all at once. 

The following quote, or something similar, is generally attributed to Einstein, so we’ll stick with that:

And thus, I realised that I’m a little clueless. This is a science trail for children. The board asks, what would be different about a sundial at the North Pole? 

Um…….. 

So I think maybe we’ll educate me on sundials and in due course I might be able to explain it to a six year old. 

We carry on with the science trail until a board asks us to cross a little suspension bridge – which would have been grand had it not been roped off with ten tonne of orange plastic netting. 

Another board tells us to follow the track to the hammock, to which the boys respond with excitement – except there is no hammock, only two posts and an abundance of nettles where the hammock should be. 

We stopped in the den to see if we could spot any wildlife, but really unhelpfully, all the bird feeders were empty and one bird table knocked over. As a measly consolation prize my eldest exclaims ‘I can hear a pigeon!’ which he proceeds to frighten the life out of by jumping out of the den screeching ‘there he is, mum!’ 

My youngest spills his soup all over the floor, requiring a clean up of epic proportions. Once the soup was cleared, I had to sacrifice my own soup to appease a teary-eyed soul with a grumbling belly. 

On a brighter note, the den is beautifully decorated with painted animals. 

And maybe it’s nice here. Maybe I’m just grumpy today. Maybe there’s too many things wrong that I’d usually overlook. But I didn’t enjoy this trip. When the boys suggested we head back to the car I wholeheartedly agreed, still muttering under my breath about cyclists and sundials and science trails.

We drive home to a fraught afternoon where my mood doesn’t improve and I put the boys to bed early in an attempt to regain a few snippets of sanity. 

We managed a few moments of fun this afternoon making giant bubbles, but then the rain and wind that had temporarily settled decided to return with alarming ferocity. We called it a day.

Now I sit drinking tea, feeling sorry for myself, for a bad day of my own making. 

More tea. Bath. Mindless T.V. with a tired husband. Early night. 

Then a new start in the morning with these beautiful boys of mine. 

Week in the Life: Home Ed.

The seasons are turning and the evenings bring a chill that sweeps across the last few hours of the day. It’s time to start drawing the curtains again, and the days are tumbling quickly into autumn. Amongst the rainy days we celebrate two birthdays this week and enjoy a relaxed fancy dress party with friends. As I sit drinking tea I send messages inviting people to our annual bonfire party. It’s that time of year. 

We recreate the classic science experiment everyone can remember doing as a kid: carnations in coloured water. 

The littlest fella helps to make a wholemeal loaf topped with salt and pepper. The boys and I spend the afternoon devouring the entire loaf, dunking slices straight into a pan full of homemade soup, feral and undignified as we fail to even pour soup into bowls – instead we stand at the stove, huddled around a hot pan as if we haven’t eaten for days.

On a wet afternoon I introduce the boys to Shakespeare. I’m reading The Winter’s Tale at the moment and when I saw a sticker book all about Shakespeare I had to get it.  It introduces the reader to London in the 1600’s and explains plays and playwrights and The Globe. It goes on to explore Shakespeare’s early life, and then gives a brief synopsis of his most famous plays. On each page you can create your own scene with the stickers provided. It’s magical. 

We spend time in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies. They’ve been asking me for weeks to make them and it was good to just say yes for a change. 

Getting out in the garden, the boys help me to harvest the potatoes. We fill an enormous plant pot with them which was later dragged into the kitchen ready for scrubbing the first few for dinner: potato wedges and lentil chilli. A simple dinner that’s fast becoming a firm favourite.

The boys spend time working their way through some Horrible Science experiment kits, given to us by the dearest of friends. They shriek with delight, firing rockets into the air with Daddy – oblivious to the rain hammering down around them – as the rocket hits the roof before rolling back down. Over and over again. 

In the meantime, my living room windowsill is littered with science experiments in various stages of completion. I briefly wonder what the milkman thinks every time he places the bottles under the window – dyed carnations, a half built Lego battleship, a cardboard tree growing multi-coloured crystals, a rock in a yoghurt pot, crystals growing in a bright pink bottle….. 

And the plans for a Saturday afternoon? The new issue of Whizz Pop Bang arrived yesterday so we intend to snuggle on the sofa to read it together. We’re going to check our growing crystals and make rosemary cheddar scones. 

Simple weekends trying to get over snotty noses and aching limbs. 

Snippets: reading the best ever book on volcanoes, discussing acid rain, diamond mines, counting backwards, Reading Eggs and practising their spellings, getting more confident typing on a keyboard, learning about mass and density, capillary action, writing letters to their favourite people, Lego creations, building boats, helping Daddy finish rebuilding a retaining wall, looking at the Great Fire of London, introducing timelines, Samuel Pepys, amplifying sound/sound waves, reading about how sat-navs work, planning a trip to Yorkshire for some camping and fossil hunting. 

Irony in September 

The days are noticeably shorter. I wake in the mornings, well before six, and it’s no longer light. The darkness clings with languid grace, and I look forward to the darker months ahead. 

I sit downstairs with the boys, the day dawning around us, and from where I sit on the sofa I have a perfect view of the sunrise. Morning after morning I get to watch the sky rip open in front of me. It’s beautiful. 

The mornings are cooler, too. As I slip out of bed I grab a jumper, but it does nothing to stop the goosebumps that appear as I let Muttley out into the garden. 

I’m counting blessings and looking forward to the cooler months. I’ve completely given up Facebook. Logged out and deleted off my phone. It’s bliss. I’m so tired of people complaining. Every day someone is offended by something someone has said. It’s no wonder that we live in a culture where people don’t even bother to acknowledge one another – you can’t say anything without someone complaining how insensitive you are. And the stupid thing? Sometimes we’re just trying to be nice. Sometimes people are just attempting to make a connection, to start a conversation, however misguided. 

How about we all get secure in who we are and stop getting our knickers in a twist because other people view life differently to us? How about we accept that people are generally good and that not many people deliberately set out to annoy you with their mindless chitchat? 

I’m so tired of it all. The thing is, all this complaining just makes me think it’s easier to say nothing, that maybe silence is the only thing that is sure not to offend. But then silence is met with, have I done something wrong? 

And the answer is, no, I’m just tired of trying my hardest only to be told I’m insensitive. I’m tired of people expecting so much from me and offering nothing in return. I’m tired of going out of my way for people over and over and to still be told, often indirectly, that it’s not enough. 

I don’t ask for much in life. I like the simple things: family, good friends, hot tea, fresh air. I say prayers to a god I don’t believe in every single day – giving thanks for a husband who willingly works so hard for us, for our house, my car. I try my best to be good, to make life that little bit easier for everyone else. And sometimes, I just want to scream, what about ME? 

I want to shake people and say, don’t you understand that you are not the only person for whom life is hard?

And then I laugh, rolling in the irony of writing a post complaining about people complaining. 

I run a bath, ignoring everything that needs doing – the laundry, the hoovering, the kitchen. The boys have had the best day at an amazing party we didn’t pay a penny for. All they wanted was our time. My husband is downstairs updating my sat-nav so I don’t have to do it. I can hear him clearing the dishes in the sink. He’s waiting for the shopping to be delivered: food for a fancy-dress party tomorrow. The same party people are going out of their way to come to, to spend time with us as a family. 

And I go back to counting my blessings, because life is good.

Life. Is. Good.