Thursday, January 27, 2011

It was only a cosy toes

It was only a cosy-toes. One I forgot I had, to be honest.
It's pink (what other colour could it be?) and it went on her buggy - the one my aunt keeps in her house when she minds her.

This morning my aunt gave it back to me. Cara is too tall for it now, she said. Maybe I knew someone else who could make use of it?

I looked at it and then at the toddler, with her hair in braids, her mini Uggs on and her trademark smile and a part of my heart just broke.

She's gorgeous. She's lovely and sweet and funny. Last night before bed we listened to Matt Cardle sing 'Just the Way You Are' and I sang it to her while she stroked my face.

I love her. My heart actually aches with the love I feel for her. I crept into her room late last night and just stroked her face, her fine, brown hair damp with sweat against her cheek, her gorgeous toddler hands peeping out over the top of her duvet. I stood there and I told her I loved her.

I love the wee lady she is becoming. I love her cheeky personality. I love how when I look at her I see nothing but love and trust staring back at me.
She's gorgeous. And I don't just say that because I'm her mammy - she is actually a stunningly beautiful child. People still stop me in the street to tell me that and I swell with pride.

When I saw her wee red patent shoes sitting on our bathroom floor later again I felt something in me shift. My child. My daughter. My baby. A Chara. My friend.

I feel as if I have just woken up.

But when the cosy-toes was handed back to me and I realised that almost two years of her life have already passed and that I have missed so much of it my heart snapped. And I had to hold back the tears.

My darling, precious, gorgeous baby girl. I will try harder.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The dentist and other phobias

There are two things in the world which fill me with a fear so deep that I actually get palpitations at the very thought.

Steve Martin gives me the heebies
Those two things are

A) Fish (of any description, live or dead.)

B) The dentist.

Now when it comes to the fish, I can rationalise my fear. When I was a toddler I apparantly choked on a fishbone, had to be rushed to Altnagelvin hosptial in Derry and have said fishbone removed by a plier type device while turning a fetching shade of blue. My mother, in a fit of nervous hysteria laughed the whole time. Is it any wonder I'm traumatised.

The dentist? Well that's a little bit trickier. I never used to be afraid of the dentist. I went every six months. I had teeth extracted for orthodontic work. Had fillings and all manner of treatment and then one day, when I was about 17, I woke up petrified of ever having to got the dentist again.

Two root canals later (one through a bad filling and one after a falling flat on my face incident) my fear was cemented.

Neither were pleasant experiences.

But, and I haven't admitted this before... part of my fear of the dentist stems from Steve Martin's portrayal of the sadistic dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. There's no need, simply no need for anyone to portray a dentist like that. Especially not with us deliciate dental-phobic people out there just waiting to be traumatised.

I went to the dentist yesterday and it was neither big nor clever. My dentist was lovely. I'll put that on the record but fairies could have flown into my mouth and kissed my teeth better and I still would have had a panic attack at the very thought.

The only thing is this world which would be worse to me than a visit to the dentist would be a visit to the dentist while having one of those freaky fish pedicure efforts.

Stay on target....

98,500 words written.
A few loose ends to tie up.
A re-read and some padding out of previous scenes, a little bit of character building here and there.

And it shall be done.

And I shall be getting very drunk, which may be irresponsible to admit to, but its the truth. So there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Organised mum? Not by chance!

My younger sister and I are very different people - in every respect.

While she has a scientific kind of brain which looks for the logic in everything I like to see things on a more creative level. She’ll explain to her three children the actual real reason for things like rain or snow or rainbows. I’ll go for making something up which amuses us all no end but probably leaves the children more confused than ever.

She likes to cook - actually she loves to cook. She even manages to be quite successful at it. Me? I’m a heater-upper. Pasta and sauce? Yep. Mashed potatoes and one of those ready-to-roast joints? Sure thing. But look for some kind of fancy Thai noodle kind of braised or sauteed type of thing? You’d be better off calling over to our Emma’s.

She’s a stay-at-home mammy to her three children - is there for the school pick up, can do activities with her youngest two. She breastfeeds. She does baby-led-weaning. She has lost five and a half stone in a year on WeightWatchers.

Me? I work full time. My aunt does the school pick up and Cara, who is farmed out every morning, has taken to calling her Mimi - only because she knows it would break my heart if she went the whole hog and called her mammy.

My children were bottle fed, and spoon fed jars of baby food (organic baby food, mind. I had to assuage my guilt somehow). I have lost a stone in just under a year at WeightWatchers.

There are nights when I make it home just in time to kiss the baby goodnight before she goes to bed.

As I said, we are exceptionally, very different people. Last week while I was musing that there is much of her life which I am envious of (not least the weight loss) she replied that she admired how organised I was and how she admired my ability to get things done. (We’ll not mention the fifth novel which isn’t quite finished yet).

I replied that I’m not at all organised - not by any grand design or choice anyway.

I’m a working mammy, I told her. If I don’t show some level of organisation the whole world (well, our family dynamic) would fall apart. Organisation is not a skill or an achievement to be admired - in my line of work it’s an absolute bloody necessity. Working mammies have no choice in the matter.

Forget the Boy Scouts, the real motto ‘Be Prepared’ belongs to us working mums. Uniforms and baby clothes must be laid out the night before. Homework must be completed to a high standard. Lunches must be packed or dinner money wallets filled. Adequate supplies of fruit must be bought so as to never, ever even contemplate breaking the school’s strict “nothing but fruit for break” policy.

PE uniforms must never be forgotten under pain of death. Afterschool activities must be A) Plentiful, B) Attended on time and C) Accompanied with requisite purchases of the correct folders/ sports kit/ accessories which must always be clean and ready at a moment’s notice. Working mammies must never, ever run out of the three essentials in life A) Milk, B) Bread and C) nappies. (C is only applicable if you have a baby or toddler, naturally).

We must also have perfected the “calm and in control” smile as we haul our reluctant offspring through the school gates and deposit them in their classroom while mentally trying to work out just how late you are now running for work without showing even one ounce of panic.

We don’t do any of this to be smug. We don’t do any of this to win any parenting awards.

We do this because we absolutely have to or else everyone will point the finger of blame simply at the fact that we work - and are therefore lesser mammies because of it - and not just at any inherent general fecklessness.

We can just imagine the shaking of heads of teachers and others mammies if our children arrived at school poorly shod and with *gasp* a Tracker bar or some other such abomination in their school bags for breaks. “She works,” we imagine them whispering before turning to look at our poor, neglected children with a sympathetic tilt of their heads. “The critter,” they mutter.

Or at least we think they do - because as well as being queens of enforced organisation we are also queens of carrying the guilt factor around in our overpacked bags (loaded with something for every eventuality - mine currently has a school tie, a toy mobile phone, a nappy and some calpol loaded into it).

We can’t afford to let things slide.

We have to master of all tasks. We have to keep things moving at all costs.

And sometimes - just sometimes - what we’d really love to do is to sit on the floor, play with our children, experiment with our cooking and tell the whole world that really we’re just about keeping all those balls up in the air.

So dear sister, I can assure you I’m not all that organised really.

Like many other working mammies, I just put on a good show.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Random Conversations with the Boy

Joseph, like butter wouldn't melt...
Joseph's homework on Wednesday seemed simple enough.

We had to fill in the missing words - and the topic was winter.

So, for example, we had "In winter the weather is very _ _ _ _"

Duly, we filled in c .o. l.d

We were going great guns on the rest of the homework til we reached the sentence

"Old people don't like the cold _ _ _ _ _ _ _ "

Now, I knew the word was weather. And up until this point Joseph had been getting the fact that he was supposed to fill in just one word on each line. But, oh no... now he decided to be more creative.

"Old people don't like the cold," he wrote "it kills them".

He had a point.

Sssh! I really wanted a girl....

The world of the celebrity gossip mongers has gone into overdrive this week with the news that Victoria Beckham is expecting her fourth baby.

The Beckhams, who have three boys already, are expecting bambino number four in the summer.

Already chat forums and Facebook status updates the world over have declared their delight for the Beckham family and the hope is that Victoria finally gets the baby girl she has always longed for.

Even though she is clearly devoted to and besotted with her three sons Posh has often spoken about her desire for a daughter and it is one that I can understand. Before I had my little girl I felt as if there was a part of me not yet complete. Such a view is controversial and there are many out there who would beat their chests and shout that every child is a blessing and you should always be grateful for what you are given.

To an extent they are right. I would not swap my boy for the world - and if the stork had delivered a second blue bundle two years ago instead of my pink one I would have loved that baby with every fibre of my being.

But there was a part of me which always longed for a daughter and that part of me which occasionally feels completely overwhelmed with joy at the realisation that I have a gorgeous wee girl all of my own. (I am assured that may well change once she hits her teenage years... but for now I’ll enjoy it.)

Shallow as it may sound I will fully admit I love visiting the girls’ section of Next and chosing outfits with matching tights and hair accessories for Cara. When it comes to choosing shoes for her I’m in seventh heaven and when we can sit together occasionally in my bedroom and play dress up - with her pretending to plaster on my make up like a true pro I am at my happiest. When we played together with her Tiny Tears on Christmas day I was almost delirious with joy (that could have been the flu, right enough...)

Having a particularly close relationship with my own mammy, I look forward to seeing how our relationship will grow over the years and hope that, as her her names suggests, she will always be my friend as well as my daughter.

It’s not that I don’t feel overwhelming love for my son, but the love is different. As much as I adore him I do find it hard to get as enthused about buying tracksuit bottoms, hoodies and the latest football rigs as I do about tiny Uggs and stripey tights. We don’t have dress up sessions and he’s not a bit interested in baby dolls and play kitchens. I don’t know my Torres from my Gerrard and I’m useless at Mario Kart. He does however, give the best cuddles in the entire universe. He is so witty and funny that he lights up my life every day - and when it comes to offering a unique perspective on life the boy is the king.

I’d go as far as to say that if I was suddenly overrun with a bout of absolute insanity and decided to have another baby, I’d love a second son - and my life wouldn’t be complete without him either - but there is something about having a daughter which fulfils me like nothing else.

The gender of my children was so important to me that with both pregnancies I opted to find out what I was having before they were born. With the girl I went so far as to book a private gender scan while we were visiting family in England as I knew she would be my last baby and I wanted to time to get grips with things if I had been carrying a boy. I wanted the birth of my children, regardless of gender, to be experiences of joy where I wouldn’t have a secret hankering one way or the other for any outcome other than the safe arrival of my baby.

The moment I was told the gender of both my children will be indellibly inked in my heart forever. Both were moments of great joy - but hearing that our family would be completed at “one of each” was extra special.

Of course mammies of all boys will be shouting at their papers by now. Not everyone understands or experiences a fierce preference for one gender or another. I know, of course, there are women who would welcome a baby of whatever sex who cannot conceive and who must now be making voodoo dolls in my image. I know my words must infuriate and upset them. I know my feelings, also, are essentially very selfish.

Expressing a preference for one sex or the other is still very much a taboo subject. You almost get looked at as if you have horns on the top of your head if you answer the old, “What do you want?” questions with anything other than a tilt of the head, rub of the tummy and, “I don’t mind as long as it’s healthy”. I was once told I had committed a “sin before God” for finding out what I was having. I tend to think I was just being honest.

So if Victoria feels an ounce of what I felt about her pregnancy then of course I hope she gets her little girl - but most of all I hope she feels complete when her baby is placed in her arms. Regardless of gender there is no more magical moment than those first cuddles.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A 30 something crisis

I'm turning 35 year this.
Thirty Five.

I'll also be married ten years. My eldest child will turn 7. My "baby" will turn 2. By the end of the year I will be looking at a pre-school place for this child who, it feels anyway, was just laid on my chest all wrinkly and teeny tiny as a new born about three seconds ago.
I'll publish my fifth book this year too (if I get it finished).

And all this is leading me to have some sort of weird, freaky-outy mid-life crisis of sorts. I am more freaked out at turning 35 than I was at turning 30. It feels, well, properly grown up. When my mammy was 35, I was 16. She seemed like the most grown up woman in the world. She "looked" grown up. I fear that I now look like a proper grown up - with slightly wrinkly hands and more grey hair than I care to mention.

It's no coincidence my new book will be called 'The 30 Something Crisis Club' because - dear reader - I'm having a crisis. A crisis of confidence.

Realistically I'm more or less half way through my life. Am I where I wanted to be as a "proper" grown up? Nope. Can I believe that I'm still posting the same old blog posts about wanting/ needing to lose weight? Can I believe I'm still in what we thought was our starter home? (Damn recession, damn housing crash.... damn!) Can I believe that I don't find writing now so much easier than when I started? Can I believe that I'm not writing full time yet? Can I believe that I still run to my mammy in a crisis and expect her to make it all better (or at least get drunk with me so we don't care anymore). Can I believe that I'm still on anti-feckin-depressants?

You can guess what the answer is.

And I'm coming to terms with things. My childbearing days are over. Not through any menopause type situation but more because our family is complete and it would be insanity given the living hell that was my last pregnancy to even consider going there again.

In my rational brain, and even in a big part of my heart, I'm okay with that. But a part of me thinks I haven't pushed enough prams, or burped enough babies or cuddled enough newborns. Maybe, however, I could just get a job in a maternity ward and ask people to let me cuddle their newborns? I'll give them back... promise.

But as I look at packing away a highchair, folding away baby clothes and downgrading from the "big pram" to an altogether more usable buggy I can't help but feel a pang. (Slap me if it ever becomes more than a pang... I beg you).

And, to quote from my favourite ever film of all time '"When Harry Met Sally"...


That someday is getting closer and closer.

I considered making myself a list of things I must do before the big 3-5 arrives. When I was turning 30 I decided to write a book (check!), pass my driving test (check!) and lose weight (erm....)

I'd love to say "lose weight" again now but I've realised that talking about it just makes me feel like a bigger (in every sense) failure when it doesn't happen.

I have to write a book - am contractually obliged to do so.

And I'm already driving.

Maybe I'll start a rock band. Or get a big scary assed tattoo.

Then again I might just start drinking gin and allow myself to wallow further into the slide into middle-aged-ness.

As I said, I'm having a crisis.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

So this weekend

I pulled all the furniture out and hoovered under it.
I cleaned my kitchen windows.
I finally emptied my laundry hamper and washed all the clothes, dried them, folded them and put them away.
I cooked an inordinate amount of fresh, wholesome food for my family to turn their noses up at.
I tackled the stair basket which has become the dumping ground.
I went through our paper work, recycled what needed to be recycled, shredded what needed to be shredded and filed what needed to be filed.
I changed all the bed linen.
I cleaned even the darkest crevices of the bathroom.
I ironed our clothes for the week ahead.
I did our shopping.
I stayed within my WeightWatchers points.

I didn't write.

Avoidance therapy anyone?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Getting there...

Another thousand words done... can see the finish line.
Must. Not. Rush.

Must. Not. Give. Up. Either.

Must not drink loads of wine and eat loads of chocolate in a bid to try and promote creativity when I'm feeling stuck.

Must not get distracted by a McDreamy/McSteamy combo in the new series of Grey's Anatomy - or indeed with the new series of Criminal Minds or any TV for that matter.

Must try and put the Anna McPartlin book aside for a while.

Must try and avoid Facebook (those who know me will no doubt be laughing very loudly at that one).

Ah, the joy!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A lovely writerly moment

I went to WeightWatchers last night (Pro-points... now there's a scary prospect) and as I was sitting waiting for the talk to begin after the kind of scary weigh in a woman approached me.
I'm getting used now to being asked "Are you the girl that writes the books?" and while I still blush furiously I have learned to deal with it by thanking the person for being so nice, telling them I'm glad they liked what I had written and maybe, if I feel like pushing it, telling them when the next book will be out...
Last night floored me a little. The woman very kindly told me that last year, while her husband was going through Chemotherapy and while she was coming to terms with his eventual passing my books had "got her through".
I didn't know how to respond. I just said thank you, but that didn't seem enough especially when she stopped me and said "No, thank you."

It was a nice moment - bittersweet of course because obviously I'd much rather this lovely lady hadn't lost her husband - and it gave me the impetus to push myself a little bit closer to that finish line.

Monday, January 03, 2011

In the home stretch

With a significant effort over the last few days and a great deal of ignoring the telly/ books/ my children I am now in the final throws of book 5 - which feels like it has taken me the very longest of all my books ever and which feels a bit like the never ending story - except without a flying dragon and a princess with a stupid name.

Each book has taken a little bit more out of me - even the books I essentially love writing. With this one I decided to challenge myself further and write about some pretty serious stuff - all wrapped up in a lovely chick lit bow of course.

This has been tough. I have had to take my brain to dark places and the  try to get back before it decided it wanted to stay there. (My brain, for the record likes dark places. It gets comfy. Also as I am very suggestible, writing about bad things convinces me those bad things will happen. A shocking amount of unpleasant stuff I've written about in previous books has come true since with people around me...)

But I do see the finish line now ... and it's a lovely finish line. And then I'm absolutely going to take a month off before even starting to write book 6 and I'm going to enjoy sitting on my arse and watching garbage on TV and reading as many books not written by me as possible.
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