Thursday, 22 February 2018

Move slower, search for the things that fall between the cracks.

I enjoyed making these a couple of weeks ago. I was going to attempt a collage a day but somehow I always end up distracted, lose my way or simply life takes over. However, I am committing to getting stuff off my phone and stored into this space as somehow it makes it real then. Again, there's something about the immediacy of 'Stories' on Instagram that allows me to be more spontaneous, I'm able to hit a button and not overthink a little bit of doodling. Oh, for spontaneity and not overthinking, everyday, forever and ever. And ever. 

Monday, 19 February 2018

Scraps and notes and scribbles - journalling stories.

So, nearly two weeks ago it was my older sister's birthday. In my usual fashion, I had a birthday card sat on my bedside table for her but never actually got round to sending it to her on time. This meant that the night before her birthday, I pulled out the family heirloom photo albums and took some shots of the photos in bad lighting, late at night in order to send a makeshift card that would, hopefully, make her smile and distract her from how disorganised and rubbish I am as a little sister. Now, I am no photographer, I say this not to be self deprecatory but because it's just not a strength and so something like 'Stories' on Instagram totally appeals to my love of the simple, my love of low fi. It allows me to feel like I'm scrap booking or journalling without having to find scissors and glue or a bunch of different coloured pens with different thicknesses of nib (which is sometimes a tall order). So these are the results. I know the framing is off and the size is odd but I like that it was quick and I didn't get bogged down in the whole 'why are everyone else's photos on IG so amazing and mine are ALWAYS blurred' and more importantly, it took me back to the good old days of daily journalling with pictures, words, photographs and found images etc which is where my heart lies.

Last week-end we took my mum out for breakfast and a catch up as we hadn't seen her for two weeks and she'd returned from visiting my sister in Nottingham. We found a place in Knowle that sold pancakes which was perfect for the boys on the rainiest of rainy saturday mornings. This picture, even though my husband and mum are not pictured in it, reminds me of the car journey. For some reason, my mum likes to direct my husband in the car even though she doesn't drive and despite my husband trying to quietly reassure her that he doesn't need the guidance. It makes for a little tension that also makes me want to laugh out loud, kinda. I have never mentioned it to anyone and so feel a little naughty mentioning it here but hey, this is real life with all the nuances and complexities of family and it's one of the advantages of having so few people following the blog now. I can say a lot more than I might have at one time because I'm aware so few are reading it which is both empowering and isolating. I feel a little sad that my very neglected blog now has a very, very limited audience. Mostly a biproduct of choosing not to use Facebook which is where I used to post links to the blog. I'm not keen to re-engage with Facebook but it does present a dilemma because I do want others to read what I write. Any ideas? Food for thought.

We've found a new hipster(ish) cafe that we like a lot in town. We love Digbeth in Birmingham and the cafe is actually in the Custard Factory which is a creative hub for Birmingham's makers and shakers. My husband gets his art work framed by a great framer based there, buys his spray paints from the graf shop there and gets frustrated that the great jeans in the skate shop never do his size. I've had lovely bespoke necklaces bought for me from indie stores based there and there's a great feel to the place. We like to park up locally in Digbeth and have a good walk around, looking for new graf and new eateries as things tend to close and other things re-open in their place pretty frequently. 

My eldest boy has really got into making music more recently, using samples and Garage Band. We had loads of fun the other day when he asked me to record a vocal for the chorus of his track. It felt a little bit special that he acknowledged something that he knows I love to do and that I don't do nearly enough of, he's sensitive and a sweetheart in that way. I loved collaborating with him. We still do battle over his guitar practice, he plays classical. He's far exceeded any capability of mine or his fathers as far as playing a traditional instrument,  particularly as he reads music, something which neither of us can do and which I for one would love to be able to do. I keep reminding him that the lectures from me to practice, come from knowing that the future will only bring more commitments and time constraints, so please, please please do this hard stuff now and not later - said all parents and previous generations everywhere! My twelve and a half year old is changing by the day. This new phase is moving so quickly and I can hear the jubilant chorus and testing cries of all those that have gone before, I see my errors and parenting fails and there are the highs and joys and trials and feeling ways, the feeling so, so many ways about stuff all at once. One of the reasons I stopped blogging was because so much of what I talked about was my children and I wondered if it was fair to air so much about their lives here, although I always check with them before posting content that relates to them. Somehow though, I feel compelled to come back to that, to document this next chapter because I know I certainly won't remember it all. For today it feels ok and so for now perhaps that's what's right. These things too change daily and by the minute. Feels good to write and talk and say and lay it all out. It makes more sense of it all.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Ilam - Sunshine on a Rainy Day

The chemical brothers blasting repetitive high pitched 303 sounds whilst my husband critiques other drivers driving skills or lack there of. Heater blasting to clear the fogged up windows of the car as we battle against the dreariest of grey, drizzly days. We are road trippin, we'll have a great time, we utter to ourselves whilst not entirely convinced. This is not helped by the spray from other cars, the least scenic route that we have opted for in quite some time in a bid to be less repetitive. But then, the roads quieten and so does the insanely irritating sound of the 303 that my husband is enjoying accompanying today's drive, which I endure since he is our driver. Then the road opens up and all feels well. One boy in the back of the car now fast asleep after consuming the whole family's snacks and having been chastised for his actions has now succumbed to rest. The older boy, headphones in, immersed in his own world, occasionally emerging to check in with the olds. He stirs to mention 'snowdrops!' and we gasp at the first sighting of spring. Spring, the hope of spring. We stop the car, to watch the sleet covering the peaks of rolling hills and suddenly all of the romance of the narrative of Catherine and Heathcliff surrounds us. A little further and Ilam appears, all ginger bread houses and windy roads and we hotfoot it in the sleet to seek comfort in the familiar spaces we've frequented as a family, often on grey days. Cream tea and hot jacket potatoes and memories from my husband of visits to England from his beloved Spain (where he spent his childhood) and the memories are not all fond, I might add. Coleslaw is all I need say. If you are not English, coleslaw is very confusing. Bellies full and hands and bodies warmed, we head out of the tearoom to explore Ilam hall grounds and the park and land nearby. We make up a story about 'The Curse of Ilam'. We walk in sleet and then snow, we muddy our clothes and argue a little. The youngest boy returns from the adventure with a mud spattered rucksack. The entire back of his coat covered in thick mud. His hiking boots completely caked in mud, dog mess and water. His hands and finger nails embedded with ... stuff. The words 'just stick to the path' uttered over and over again by some. Yet he, marvelled at the rushing river water, gushed at the falling snowflakes, was thrilled to play pooh sticks and gasped as we looked on at the snow covered peaks of hills. And there was that hat, the £2 hat, has been making him ever so, ever so happy, even if it does magically turn his curls into dried out dreadlocks. 'Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains  understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold.' The older boy falls asleep in the car on the way home for the first time in forever. It reminds me of his younger years, of just him and I. I think of some words that I read by a new mum of two recently, who shared how it hurt a little to share her time and heart with two children now. It reminds me of those early years that I haven't thought about for some time. They were golden. Time was slower then, a day could be just us in the garden looking at slugs and worms and beetles and ants. I think of this the following morning when I hear the older boys to his dad ... 'everything is such a rush' as I shout for us to hurry and head out of the house. 'I hear you, my love. I hear you.' Time to make time move slower again. So we dig out some home movies of our boys from yesteryear and we are overwhelmed and amused and excited with what we find, and as expected we recognise ourselves and the fact that very little changes in our character, we are much the same as our twelve month old selves. I cheer and perhaps swallow hard at those simple early days, cup full from the happiness that was that time and cup overflowing with the knowledge of how far our family of four have come. So, the sunless overcast skies of those grey, grey days are never wasted because they manage to cast some of my favourite shades. A road trip is always worth taking, even the rainy day, slightly edgy ones because you just don't know what it will stir from the recesses, whether it's magic or mayhem, it is really worth the risk. 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Colouring Outside the Lines

When I gave birth to my second son it was a different experience. From the moment he was placed on my chest, I could literally feel the difference in weight. His older brother had weighed in at nine pounds and three ounces and so that size of baby felt familiar to me. Yet when this second boy of mine arrived and was placed on my chest, I was so aware of how light he seemed, so very little, my little puppy dog curled up into a six pound and eight ounce ball. He immediately reminded me of my childhood dog 'Sindy' (a high honour) whom I had held on my chest in much the same way when she too was very young, whom I instantly fell in love with and who changed my life forever. Much like this second son of mine.

I have often said of this boy, that he is my 'out of the box thinker', never one to follow the crowd or to want to please the crowd even but neither a rebel nor an 'outsider' either but definitely 'Marmite', you love him or hate him! That may sound harsh but I mean it in the best possible sense, it is hugely reflective of his temperament. Some might call his 'energetic', 'hyper', 'spirited', 'fidgety' and really all of those descriptions apply and whilst I realise they could and do apply to any child, I am speaking specifically about him. 

I often find myself saying 'I don't worry about him, he's one of those people that will land on his feet, he'll be alright, his head is switched on, he's savvy and wonderful, creative and interesting, a great problem solver, practical and brilliant'. But I also know that as he's getting older there are some challenges to face,  ones that I remember mentioning here when he was younger when we first began to suspect he, like his father, was dyslexic or as the jargon goes ' had some 'learning difficulty'. I have also known that there is often a loss of confidence that follows as children grow older and become more aware of differences. I hoped that it wouldn't happen but I definitely have seen it emerging over the last twelve months. It is subtle but mean, it can be both brushed under the carpet and almost forgotten or can whimper loudly before burying itself with hardly a trace of the sadness. My mother heart breaks with it and wants to roar loudly, especially to protect my boy from those who should know better, from those that don't see him and all the potential, from those that just see a boy colouring outside the lines. 

Tonight on our walk home from the childminder, as he talked about his day he described some of his frustration and he we talked things through. I got on with making lunches for the next day, then cooked dinner and then whilst my husband cleared the kitchen and the eldest boy was in the shower, there was a window. This youngest boy was playing at the dinner table with his beloved lego, with characters he's been role playing with for days and I was suddenly hit by a wave of nostalgia thinking of the hours and hours I spent playing with various toys and characters with both of the boys over the years. Back in the days of full time mummying, when there was enough time and time had a different rhythm. 

So we played, not for a long time but for long enough for me to hear his deep belly laughs. Long enough for me to stroke his face and cup his chin with one hand and tell him how precious he is, long enough for me to get competitive and start to use language like 'I will destroy you with my laser carving weapon ha ha ha ha!!!'. Long enough to leave behind the debris of the day and to see him, in his full scribbly lined garb and it was great. Parenting is hard and wonderful and exhilarating and exhausting and all kinds of crazy brilliance and heartbreak, it's tough to get it right and to sustain getting it right and many days, I fail, miserably. However, tonight, it's one point to mama, for remembering to take photos to capture a moment, even when the broken ironing board is still up and there's washing on the radiator and mess in said pictures, for remembering that play is so important and can heal cuts that sometimes words fail to heal, and for remembering that a little distraction and a little love go a long, long way. I won't worry about this second son of mine, he'll be just fine, he'll colour and brighten up this world and I hope he never, ever, learns to colour inside the lines.

This post has been written with his permission ... kind of, although I may had said more that I intended to.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

There's never a good time to start from the middle.

It is a fact of life that it's hard work to do things that are good for us. It is an even harder fact to swallow to actually do things that are good for us consistently, no? Perhaps it's just me and I'm projecting although deep down, I suspect not. Journalling, keeping a diary, writing down memories, stories, snippets of conversations, to do lists, life dreams and goals, these are things that I have done for as long as I can remember. They are the things that keep me sane, that make my life feel balanced, an act that allows for the overspill of life to be filtered and channelled correctly, so that the sewage doesn't seep into everything else. I know this. This is an act that is good for me, it tends to my needs and yet, it's one that I stop and start, one that I abandon. 

In the times of abandon, I pretend that I have no need for her. This act, this ebb and flow of words, this rhythm of thinking and of telling, of collecting and storing of spoken word and actions, whispers and shouts of comings and goings, of memories and events, of correcting and of marking of occasions. All of it gets abandoned and I feel a pit in my stomach. With the passing of time, that pit grows and festers and begins to feel like a goading in my ribcage, it builds and builds albeit slowly, very very slowly. It is stealthy too, I hardly notice the robbery taking place until one day I open the safe and it is empty, so very empty. I am able in these times to convince myself that I have no need for the contents that once filled that safe, the contents that I had previously and so carefully gathered. Eventually though, I hanker for them, one by one, piece by piece. In those moments, I realise I have once again, lost it all. All of it. 

So I wait and ponder, wait and ponder, wait and ponder. Till the pondering turns to sulking, then over time to waiting until it trudges along at an abysmal pace and faces the door marked denial and surrender. I've waited here for some time not sure whether to open the door and head in to the party of dispute or whether to just turn around and knock on a different door and simply stop being so dramatic. 

The drama I can handle since I know it has a cosy home inside myself but the silence, the silence kills me. It makes me weak and afraid. The silence is not the same as the quiet, no. The silence is the ill kind, like when you have to keep quiet to avoid trouble, serious trouble. There is no trouble here, I finally hear her say. 'Listen for the quiet, it is safe now. I chased away the silence' she says. I breathe and listen and wait and ponder. And wait and ponder. And wait and ponder. Till the time comes and just like that it spills from me and it's just not as hard as I thought it would be all of those times. 

It is hard to do the things that nourish us, it is a discipline to commit to doing them regularly, consistently. It is a discipline to prioritise, to nurture and grow and spill and ponder. So sometimes I wait. I pause. And that's okay too but the silence, no. No more. She is banished. I cannot guarantee that it's for good but silence is banished for the time being and I am all ears for the quiet. All ears.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A Daytime Date

Some days ago, well actually weeks ago now, when it was still the Easter break is when it happened. It was a friday and we woke up to no children in the house as Grandma had taken them in for two nights, three days. We woke early wanting to make the most of the day and headed out just us two with Wiley blasting in the car on our drive to Leamington. Leamington, a town of old that we've frequented before sans children. We have also visited often with the children but we have a few favourite places to go when it's just us. Coffee, cake, slow walks and ambling, window shopping without the rush rush whispers and then shouts of busy wild things yelling for the days itinerary. Time to glance and then look at paintings, time to have conversations with people in commercial galleries and hear stories of paintings of chickens made as gifts for loved ones. Time. Just time. Time to find old record shops and search through vinyl, time to sift through 7 inch records digging for birthday treasure for a friend. Enough seconds and minutes to gather some of the memories of time spent like this from our early relationship days. Moments long enough to take me back to newlywed days spent drifting along the streets and side roads of our beloved Oxford, fingers and eyes locked and fixed on the journey, us, he and I, her and him, you and me. Opportunity to reflect a little on it all. This journey of ours. These little creatures that we created that continue to grow and unfurl and take over our household. I say this in the best kind of way, the kind of roots bursting out of the pot kind of way, brilliant healthy seedlings sprouting and ready to root in a greater, wider world. You feel precious of course, about these seedlings that you have nurtured tirelessly but you don't want to stunt their growth, they have to exposed to the elements, it's vital in order for them to reach their potential. Yet the growing pains are there, the dull aches, the heart break, the joy of seeing them winning,  of us winning, the pain of seeing their struggles and losses and of our struggles and losses, but mostly the breath, the exuberant life giving breath of life being lived. That is the picture that I took on this day that we spent together. It is stored and logged as one of those nothing much happening, easy like a sunday morning when it's not a sunday morning kind of days.  One of those, one day I'm gonna take you to eat Syrian food at that place nearby that we just never end up going to kinda days. We'll quote films, talk art and travel and when we grow old type of talk and it will feel so good kind of days, the ones that roll from morning to noon to night so effortlessly, so pleasurably that you keep checking your watch to see how much time has passed because you don't want it to end. You. Me. Me and you. Just us, all day long and round the clock. These are the days of our lives they say, well, I believe them. Let me not forget. In the day-to-day, of busyness and tiredness and budgets and letters and childcare planning and work and homework and guitar practice and ironing and not dusting, not ever remembering to dust and washing and hair washes and cooking and shopping and brushing of almost adolescent teeth and phonically and messages and birthdays and parties and weekend walks and adventures and all of it. In all of it, let me remember, just us and this day and days like this. The ones that roll from morning, to noon to night so effortlessly. Easy, easy like a sunday morning. Just us. Me. You. Me and you.

The Look by Siyuan Ren

Art by Siyuan Ren

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Week-Ends: Stow-on-the-Wold

We woke up to a crisp and snow dusted morning. Everything looked sparkly and pretty and familiar yet seen through rose tinted glasses. After a few weeks of threatening, my body surrendered to a cold and I'd spent the night tossing and turning and feeling bunged up. At 3am, awake and restless and fighting illness I read the beautiful words of Belle Augusta, suddenly my heart was filled with all sorts of magic, the kind she weaves with her love letters to New York. I fell back to sleep dreaming of adventure and with thoughts of truly embracing the natural beauty around me, as Belle does so wonderfully. So upon waking, in spite of not feeling my best, after a hard week of school and work I was determined to make the most of this hard earned precious time with my family. I nourished myself with superfoods, baked sweet potato, rocket, roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of sesame seed oil and a little grated cheese plus greek yoghurt with honey and coffee ... Real coffee from Kilimanjaro no less. I followed this with a deep, hot bath filled with the most delicious smelling bath oil, a gift from a friend, that immediately has you conjuring pictures of the Black Forest, mountains and evergreens and pines. I added my Bay & Rosemary candle, a christmas gift from my three boys, then, I lay. Making waves. Imagining myself swimming laps, closing my weary, tender eyes and allowing myself to daydream, sort of, as I drifted in and out of my parental role hearing the background noise of two active boys. The boys had already devoured pain au chocolat for breakfast, the ones that my husband had driven out to collect the night before in readiness for Saturday morning. I toasted the remaining ones for him alongside some mediterranean loaf and of course, added a real coffee for him too for a morning breakfast in bed. I searched my notes for my 'places we must visit' list and I found a few places and my husband chose one of them - Stow-on-the-Wold. She was all kinds of beautiful and just an hour away from home. The journey was gentle and lulling and The Cure kept us in a state of blissful melancholia if there is such a thing. We found perfect teahouses and independent stores and coffee shops and free parking and cake, very very good cake, orange and poppy seed and brownies, chocolate and coconut. We ate lunch in the middle of nowhere next to fields with a white covering and it was cold, so cold. Those boys of mine, all three, ate hot chicken drumsticks in the wilderness with the passion of resplendent kings of old feasting at a banquet. I, took myself back to the car and put my mittens with yellow pom poms on. Small pleasures. The week-ends are all about feeling all of the feels. Feasting on time, simplicity and togetherness. 

* Not the best photographs by any means but I promised myself I would blog this day