Category Archives: creative writing

Home Early – High Expectations

Today my children were all sent home early from school. Not because they had done anything wrong (phew!) but because of the weather. A snowstorm loomed and the school district issued early dismissal.

I squeezed all my chores into a two hour window, although my tennis workout had to be forfeited, and had big plans for my children’s early arrival from school. This is what I planned…

All homework was to be completed as soon as they got home. After that we would all take the dog for a long country walk(in the freezing cold). Arriving back at home we would bake cookies and then each child would complete half an hour of reading (not comicbooks but a proper intellectually stimulating novel or text book). Any children with outstanding school projects would dilligently work on them while I prepared dinner.  We would then eat together as the dog snoozed and the fire roared.

This is what has happened so far…

My kids arrived home and proceeded to chase each other around the house, yelling and shrieking. Their laughter soon turned to tears as one or other of them took a tumble or bump.

My younger son retreated into his bedroom to play with his Lego. My older son, after incessantly tormenting his younger sister, hooked up with a buddy online, also released early from school, and began creating some new world where characters buy and sell coal while defending themselves from attack (or at least that’s what it looks like to me).

My daughter decided to have a long, and much needed, bath. Afterwards I attempted to style her hair with hair products, which didn’t go so well. After a bit of a disagreement on hairstyle options, my daughter settled down to watch something funny on TV. I made a cup of tea, in which I dipped two Oreos and listened to my daughter chortling.

Eventually I took the dog down to the garden and collected the eggs from my rather bedraggled looking chickens. When I came back my younger son greeted me in a cowboy hat, riding an imaginary horse.

I’ve yet to make dinner so there’s still hope that we may all sit round the table but it could get fraught later because as far as I know no-one has done any homework!

I used to get frustrated when things didn’t go as planned but you know at the end of the day, it’s been a nice afternoon and I’m happy to say I have, at this moment, three calm, contended children.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a happier parent when I stop lamenting how often things don’t go as planned and instead, happily, take things as they come…

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A Walk In the Woods

Having lived in Texas for the past six years I must confess to having forgotten what chilly weather feels like. In the summer my family and I relocated to New Jersey. This is our first winter here and here’s what I’ve learned so far…

1) The trees make strange noises when they freeze.

2) To go outside with no gloves and hat is utter madness.

3) It’s hard to walk briskly when your thighs are numb with cold.

4) My adorable dog, Chloe, does not appear feel the cold and will happily walk in it for hours… my children however are not so keen.

5) It is incredibly exhilarating to walk in almost freezing temperatures and oddly fun to find one can no longer feel one’s chin!

We are expecting snow this week.I say: “Bring. It. On!”

 

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Am I qualified to be a parent?

Becoming a parent was one of the most overwhelming, life-changing things to happen to me. Surely it must be for most people? I’d like to meet the person who says parenting is a breeze. Really – so if that’s you, please get in touch!

As a new parent you transform, rather abruptly, from being an individual going about your own business, responsible for your own thoughts, actions and bodily functions, to a person intensely connected to someone else’s thoughts, actions and…bodily functions (not always pleasant)!

I will never forget the feeling of panic when my husband and I prepared to leave the hospital with our first son, a strapping 9lb infant with a red face. I remember fumbling with his babygrow and thinking: “Are they really going to let me walk of this place with this baby? How on earth do they know I’m qualified to take care of him?” I kept expecting someone in authority to walk in and hand me a sheet of paper: “You’ll need to pass this parenting test first.”  But no one came, there was no test apparently.  My husband and I gingerly drove home with a beautiful baby boy in the back-seat of the car.

From then on, the urge to protect my child from everything harmful was all-consuming. At first it was practical things like making sure he didn’t choke or bang his head. But as he got a bit older I wanted to protect him from emotional harm. Hoping he wasn’t picked on by the other children at nursery or making sure he wasn’t too upset when the lovable animal-elder died peacefully in a Disney movie. As a parent you want to make sure you’re there with a Band-aid or Kleenex right?

But the fact is we can’t protect our kids from the world, the good and the bad, they have to experience it all. Just like we did…and still do.

I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt qualified to be a parent. It’s a constant learning curve. But to be fair the moment you think you know it all about parenting you’re probably on dodgy ground. Every stage of my children’s lives is a new one, for every one in the family because no two children are the same. Even their births were all completely different; an early indication for us that they were all going to be unique! My children change as the years go on but so do I, so does my husband. Family life is full of variables; the moment you think you’ve nailed it, some other challenge comes along.

There are no answers. There is no parenting manual. Yes there are a lot of parenting books but it’s remiss to think they hold the answer. They can offer guidance certainly and after all isn’t that what we should be offering to our children? We’re not supposed to give them all the answers, we can’t possibly know them anyway. We can only offer them what we learned from our own experience. Are children are inviduals; they may need to take a completely different path, they may need to make completely different choices. Sometimes, as parents and as individuals, we have to hold up our hands and admit we made a mistake or that we just don’t know.

Healthy children aren’t raised by know-it-alls.

They’re raised by parents who are honest, tolerant and have intergity. (Most of the time anyway…after all nobody’s perfect!)

Or at least that’s what I think…but what do you think? Maybe you think that there’s too much tolerance going on in the parenting world, maybe you feel children are given too many choices or that too much honesty is a bad thing for our children today? All comments are welcome because, as I said, I’m still on the learning curve…

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The after-school rollercoaster!

Oh the joys of extra-curricular activities! Anyone else with kids feel like they’re rushing around like a headless chicken after school making sure their beloved off-spring get to their Yoga-For-Tots or Young Chefs class on time? It’s craziness! I’m trying to keep our after-school commitments under a tight rein but if you’re not careful, before you know it, your kid’s calendar looks much like that of an A-list celeb!

At the moment my kids play tennis, my son fences and my daughter takes a drama class. It’s enough to fill up the week and make me just a tad stressed at times! If I’m honest I’d rather just let them hang out at home, doing their homework and picking their nose but unfortunately parents are under a lot of pressure to enrich their children’s lives with sport and crafts these days.

There is a pletherer of after-school activities available, so whatever your child is interested in, chances are you can find a class for it. When you turn up at these places, the classes are usually well attended but I find myself wondering how many of the students would rather be kicking a ball around on their back yard, or pootling about on their bikes. And I have to wonder do they really need to be doing Chess Club and Fine Arts?

The other day, I took my son to his regular fencing class. Usually I enjoy a trip to Costco during his lesson, but last night, in an effort to resist the lure of a jumbo pack of kitchen towels, I decided to hang around and read a book. There were a few other parents there, some on their phones, some tapping way on Ipads and the others were watching. No hang on, they weren’t just watching, what they were actually doing was coaching their kids, yelling out instructions from the back of the room. Every time there was a water break these parents would go over and say things like: “You’re lifting your front foot to high” or “you’re not moving quickly enough.” As if it weren’t enough for their children to be taking guidance from the fencing coach, you know the person actually qualified to instruct in the method of fencing, they also had to endure negative criticism from their parents.

Then I felt uncomfortable wearing my Judging Hat because I’m sure I’ve done the exact same thing. I know I am sometimes the parent muttering at the back of the room. And I couldn’t help wondering, why don’t we just leave the kids alone to get it in their own time? Have we lost all faith in our childrens’ ability to grasp a new skill without parental badgering from the sidelines?

Growing up, my main interest was drama. I used to go down on the bus every Satruday and would spend three hours happily prancing around pretending to be a tree or working on a my solo pieces. My parents never came. Even when I practiced at home, my parents didn’t usually listen to me or give me instruction. When I ask my Mum about this and she usually says something along the lines of: “Well we just trusted you to get on with it!” Or “I had things to do!”

And I did…I just got on with it. I didn’t feel unloved or uncared for. I could always go to my parents for help but they certainly weren’t breathing down my neck. The result of this approach was that every time I did take part in a drama competition or my school exams, I was doing so as an invidual. I always knew my achievements, and my mistakes, were my own. As they should be.

I think that parents now are more insecure about their children than my parents generation (I include myself here). We push our kids at school, we push them at sport outside of school, we expect them to be accomplished public speakers. But by heaping the pressure on and holding their hands the whole time, we in fact disinfranchise our kids because we stop them from become true individuals. We sap out the enterpise and creativity from their souls because we send them the message that they can’t so it on their own and that there’s no place for failure.
It’s good to have hopes for your kids obviously, it’s natural to want them to do well but doesn’t it feel like we’re rushing them along? So much so, we’re not leaving them room for error. Shouldn’t we have more faith in their ablity to work it out themselves? To embrace their mistakes? We trying so hard to protect them from failing without realising that we are in turn depriving them of a vital life lesson. We need to ask ourselves why we are enrolling our kids into all these extra-curricular activites? Who is it for? What is it for? Shouldn’t we be teaching them that it’s ok sometimes to get up and have a go, and not win a trophy?

Now it’s the beginning of a New Year, a chance to re-evaluate. I’m in the process of assessing my own kids extra-cirruclar activities. At the moment they seem to be enjoying it and I’m coping with being a taxi to get them to various places. I drop off and pick up. I’m making an effort to be supportive without getting over-involved. For now, I feel I have it under control but to be fair that’s probably because my youngest son has yet to get sucked into the after-school mayhem.

Although I’m proud to say that he is rather good at picking his nose…and that’s without any guidance for me of course! 😉

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A Blogtastic New Year!

Oh so good to be back on the blogosphere! My last post was in April 2012 just before a massive relocation took my family and I to New Jersey. Much as I planned to continue writing, tweeting and all that good stuff, I found I just couldn’t do it. I like to think I’m a multi-tasker but the reality was, that settling my family into a new home, new schools and new area was completely all-consuming. In the end I stopped trying to squeeze it all in and put my personal writing goals on hold.

But now we’re at the beginning of a New Year and it’s impossible to resist the lure of New Year’s Resolutions. Not that I’m making any. I mean the last time I made an official New Year’s resolutions list it consisted of something like: 1) Get fit 2) Get good grades and 3) Get a boyfriend.  So yeah it was a long time ago! 

However,now in the lull after Christmas and before the onslaught of Everything Spring, I am catching my breath, taking stock and planning ahead.

2012 whizzed by and shall hearby be known as The Year of Admin; it was all about change of address stickers, making new friends, organising and reorganising cupboards. But 2013 will The Year of Action, The Year of Not-Putting-Things-Off, The Year of Personal Fullfillment! Oh and also the year of watching as many Oscar nominated movies as possible (hmm… must keep looking for a good babysitter!)

What I like about these sorts of resolutions is that they are suitably vague yet vaguely inspiring.  And also sort of fail-proof; after all if I manage to keep the house stocked up on loo roll all year who’s to say that’s not personally fullfilling?  No-one has to know I set a personal goal of completing my second novel by March. (Eek! Did I just say that out loud?)

Or if I take my car for an oil change well before the warning light flashes isn’t that in fact an indication that I am not putting things off? You see where I’m going with this… I think the key is to keep your expectations (and everybody else’s) low.

So come on…what were your New Year’s Resolutions? It’s a safe place and no one will judge you…I promise!

 

 

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Filed under Chick Lit, creative writing, life journey, life lessons, living abroad, motherhood, parenting, relocation, self discovery, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Stay-At-Home Mom Confession: I Want A Job!

I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom for twelve years. When I read that sentence back it absolutely shocks me to the core because it was never my plan. Before I had children, before I met my husband, I had always believed that it was important for a woman to keep working alongside starting a family. I had a theory that working part-time was ideal because that way a mother was keeping her own identity while also being there to nurture her children. To add to this the children would benefit from socializing with others. 

So when I became pregnant with my first child, I made plans to redirect my career. I managed to secure a part-time job and began scouting around child-care options in London (pricey but essential). Then everything changed: my husband got a job transfer to Belgium and before I knew it, we were moving house to live in another country and all of a sudden…I no longer had a job.

Six years in Belgium were spent settling in and having another child. We were speaking another language and adapting to a new community. These, I believed, were good reasons not to go back to work and I became a full-time Mom. 

Then we moved to the States. And until recently, when we got the illusive Green Card, I couldn’t work because my visa wouldn’t allow it.  I was officially just “a spouse.” We had another child.

I love my kids. They amaze me, I look at them and am in disbelief that these three wonderful human beings are my children.  I’m not going to admit to your face (obviously that would be rude and tactless) but secretly I think, no I know, my children are the best in the world! 😉

But … I want a job. I still feel the way I did years ago when I was single and childless. In fact I believe it even more strongly. I meet women like me who are happy to be full-time mothers, they thrive on it and they are fullfilled.  And I’m jealous.  Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself feel that way. Somehow it’s not enough. And in the back of my mind I feel that it would be healthier for me and my children if I went back to work.

I don’t want to live through my children, I want to live alongside my children. (Almost thought I’d be struck down by lightening for saying that but no … I’m still here.)

Does that make me selfish? What do you think? Are you a stay-at-home Mom who yearns to go back to work? Or did you give up work so that you could be a full-time Mom?  Maybe you’re a working Mom who has to work and would prefer not to? Or a Mom who never considered giving up her career to have children?  

I would love to hear from you! 🙂

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TOMS GIVEWAY – it’s here people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A while ago I had the opportunity to take part in the TOMS Blog Giveaway which was FAB because I love TOMS!  They sent me two copies of TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie’s book Start Something That Matters and my job was simply to read and keep one copy, review it on my blog and then give one copy away.  It sounded simple and it was…and I should have done it already but for some reason, whatever reason, life got in the way!  However as the old adage goes: better late than never!  And quite frankly the message in Start Something That Matters can never get old or out of date. So here goes…

I’m an advocate of TOMS model. I was desperate to get hold of a pair of TOMS shoes the moment I found out about them.  Mycoskie had me at “one for one!” 🙂   This way of giving back really appealed to me. Practical not only because it helps those in need and puts shoes on feet but also because TOMS is a successful business which gives back to our economy and creates jobs. Additionally the shoes look great so it was win/win really!

Start Something that Matters is easy to read, perfect for a cozy Sunday afternoon, curled up on the couch with a mug of coffee. It’s also pretty good for dipping in and out if you’re stuck on a commuter train somewhere because Mycoskie’s positivity and enthusiasm come through quite clearly in his writing.  And it’s surprisingly addictive and this is where I think Start Something That Matters really has some clout because you can’t stop thinking about it. 

This book has the power to change the way you think about giving and change the way we are living!  The TOMS one for one approach frees individuals from the burden of financial giving, which in a time of economic stress is tough on everyone.  Instead the premise is this: what can you give back to society for FREE? What skills do you have that you can offer to others for FREE?  I love that idea! It’s not just about money, it’s about using your skills and so it seems more personal, more genuine – to me anyway.  

As I finished the book I knew I wanted to find a way to give back like this too.  Eventually it dawned on me that I could put my acting training to use (finally) and get involved in reading books for free. I found a fantastic organisation locally called the Reading Resource which does just that. Here’s their link: http://www.readingresource.org/   They are responsible for producing hundreds of audio books a year which cover just about every subject and style you can think of! I was thrilled to get involved and chuffed to bits to be giving back in a way that wasn’t just handing over my credit card details.

The importance of this book is not how original it’s message is. In fact it’s not original at all really, philanthropy in business has been around for a long time.  The importance of this book really is the timing: Start Something That Matters serves as necessary reminder.  We’re a society which is being consumed by social media, we can make friends, purchases and even give online. Blake Mycoskie puts the “human” back into “humanitarian.” Giving is personal again and I think that’s a good thing.

Even if this book was useless and badly written (which is isn’t) everyone should buy a copy if only for the fact that with every purchase of Start Something That Matters, a children’s book will be provided to First Book and given to a child in need in the United States. So every home should have a copy gracing their bookshelves, virtual or otherwise!

And I have a copy to give away to one lucky person! 🙂 All you have to do is tell me who said this: “One person can make a difference and every person should try”  (clue: assassinated US President – I’m making this easy for you guys!) and share one way that you think you could give back in the one for one spirit! I would LOVE to hear your ideas – hopefully we can all inspire each other! 🙂

To find a random winner, I will probably ask my four year old son to pick a number (unless I can work out how to do that electronic random picker thing) and then happily mail Start Something That Matters to anywhere in the world! Yes ANYWHERE! So come on everyone let’s do this! 🙂

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