Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

It’s inevitable: a post about New Year’s Resolutions

31 December 2011: I stayed with friends, who were lovely and looked after me.  We watched the highlights of the year and I cried, remembering sharing so many of those events with Ex-Husband, and having no idea of what was going to happen. Remembering the optimism of my pregnancy, of planning labour and our new life with two children, and the joy of having Small Girl, and then the devastation of my life falling to bits.

31 December 2012: I didn’t write a Christmas newsletter because I just couldn’t bear to relive 2012 or find anything to say about it. But I read through my whole blog, since February, after a couple of commenters (thank you!) said they had, and I was amazed. I had completely forgotten about the Poo Incident. And, somehow, the broken leg. And I was amazed at just how funny I could be about some really awful things.  I think winter and the darkness (not the band, of course) and the run of birthdays and anniversaries and Christmas makes it hard for me.

But I’m really looking forward to 2013. I remain convinced that life *should* subscribe to some sort of narrative, so here’s mine: I’m going for something like The Hunger Games (very loosely.  Very very loosely).  2011: There’s a huge tragedy.  How will our heroine respond? 2012 was the year that I dealt with the crisis, grew through it, learned some valuable life lessons.  2013 will be the Year Of Glorious Triumph. Of course, there will have to be one last crisis where it looks like everything is going to fall apart, but I will come through it.  That’s what happens in novels.

So here’s what I’m planning to make happen in 2013: I am going to make my life work.  I am going to get rid of all the things which make life difficult. I am going to work out what I need to do to make life easier. I am going to reorganise my life until I am doing the things which matter to me: making my children happy, feeding them well, spending fun time with them. This year I have tried to do things to make my life better – next year I am going to make my family function because (a) I love my children and (b) the biggest stress for me is feeling like a shit parent, which happens more than I like.

And then I’m going to make a list of things I’d like to do which I haven’t yet tried.  I’m going to make a list of 12 things I’ve never done and then I’m going to do them.  So far my list includes ‘make a souffle’.  That’s it.  Your suggestions for a further 11 would be very welcome.

Happy New Year, and thank you for helping me to feel more awesome.

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Christmas was fun, I’m glad it’s done – now I can get back to being awesome

Well, that’s Christmas over.  I am so glad.

I had a good time.  I missed Big Girl and Small Girl.  As predicted, I cried in church.  I did do really well.  It was crying, but quiet crying.  Well, I thought so until the woman in the row in front went and got me some tissues.  Not so quiet then.  It was strange being back in the church we haven’t actually attended for a decade: a new minister, quite a few people I know, some people I thought I knew, lots of new people.  A lovely baby to meet, some catching up and the inevitable enquiry about where Ex-Husband was from someone who hadn’t heard that he’d left.

I did enjoy spending time with my family.  We all went to my middle sister’s house and, as an experiment, we went out to a pub for Christmas dinner.  It wasn’t like my mum’s but it was great not having to worry about cooking or washing up – very stress-free, which was what we wanted.  We opened presents, and I got to open them all by myself without any help.  I got a hefty feminist book, a funny feminist book, a sewing book, some socks, a sunflower plant kit, some socks, chocolate and a stair-basket.  I am yet to open my present from Big Girl and Small Girl, but apparently Big Girl chose it all by herself, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she thinks is exactly what I want…

And we played games, which led to arguing, which we quite enjoy.  We played poker and I discovered my mother is a bit of a hustler.  We drank.  I drank slightly more than I intended to (but not so much as to shock or entertain my parents) and therefore have a hangover today.  We also watched Dr Who.  I’ve watched it once before and now am possibly hooked.  We watched some Buffy, which confused me.  I slept a lot.

And now I’m home.  My girls are back, and in bed.  I did have fun, which feels like an achievement.  And there’s a part of me which wishes I could carry on having that child-free fun – eating what I want without help and while hot; not dealing with tantrums; not having to spend hours each night trying to get my children into bed; leaving the house without a half-hour logistical challenge to get everyone into coats and shoes; having conversations with other adults; not refereeing constant battles over the toy buggy; sleeping all night; providing cynical commentary to ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’; not having to worry about where I put my hot drink; sitting and reading without interruption; not always having half an eye and half a brain on someone else. The transition for Big Girl and Small Girl coming back from their dad’s is really hard. They miss him and it’s a change and a disruption for them.  And it’s hard for me too. Not just to deal with two children crying for their daddy when they are with me, but also to transition from being able to do whatever I want to suddenly being thrown back into putting two small and demanding children first; dealing with all the challenges; dealing with two separate and conflicting sets of needs.

But slowly I find my stride, regain the rhythm, remember how this all works.  And Big Girl sits in my lap for a story and I hold her, and I can’t stop kissing her.  I keep touching her, as if I can’t quite believe she’s real; I want to reassure myself – and her – that she is back home with me, and that I am so, so glad.  (Small Girl is going through a phase of punching me in the face so, while I’m also delighted to see her, cuddling her is a bit more risky).

My plan for 2013 is to try to find ways to make this work better, this life, these transitions, for all three of us. I want to spend more time having fun with my children, making them feel secure and loved. I still really want to make sure we eat better. I have two boxes of papers I cleared off the worksurfaces and kitchen table four months ago which need sorting through.  I’d like to feel like our life is less chaos and more awesome. And now we’re past Christmas, I can try to make that happen.

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Christmas, like the rest of my life, is modelled on Peppa Pig

For a while I’ve been irritated by people counting down the number of days until an event by writing “x sleeps to go!” on Facebook, without really knowing why.  I thought it might just be me being too easily irritated.  And then I thought it might be because ‘sleep’ is a verb rather than a noun.  But you can ask if someone has had a good sleep, so it *can* be used as a noun.  Finally I worked it out, and went to my lovely Oxford English Dictionary to check.  It’s a mass, or non-count, noun – an object which can’t be counted, like water.  Now I feel better, and I hope it won’t irritate me any more.

I am a grammar pedant.  Please feel free to judge any mistakes I make extra harshly.  Look out, in particular, for the misuse of ‘fewer’ and ‘less’.  I have yet to find an example where it actually matters which one you use, so I use them interchangeably (I’d be interested in any examples of this; less interested in people trying to explain to me what the difference is. I do know – I just don’t think it matters).  You can also mock me for my overuse of ellipsis if you like.

Anyway, the point of this is…? Well, you’re all thinking ‘two sleeps until Christmas!’.  In this house, it’s just one.  Finally, both girls are in bed asleep and we’re waiting for Father Christmas to arrive.  As the girls are at their dad’s house for the whole of Christmas Day, I wrote to Father Christmas and asked him if he could make a special visit a night early to bring their presents.  So we’ve put out the mince pie and a glass of milk (Big Girl’s choice – I think it’s what Peppa Pig does), and an apple for the reindeer.  We’ve put stockings under the tree (Big Girl tells me this is where they go – I think this is also where Peppa Pig puts them). We’ve discussed how Father Christmas is going to get into the house as our fireplace is blocked up, and whether he’s likely to bring the reindeer in or take the apple out to the reindeer on the roof.  We also got out the lovely wooden nativity set, which Big Girl likes playing with and Small Girl likes taking to bits and throwing on the floor.  This may become a Christmas Eve tradition – we can talk about the Christmas story and it saves it taking up space on the mantelpiece (or floor…).

So hopefully tomorrow morning will be Christmas chaos, and then their dad is coming to pick them up at 1pm, after lunch.  I’ve forgotten to buy anything nice to eat for breakfast or lunch, so that might have to be introduced to the Christmas rituals next year.  And then I’m off to spend Christmas with my family.

I’m not really sure how this is going to go.  I am staying at my middle sister’s house.  This will be much easier without two small children.  We’re going out to a pub for Christmas dinner.  This will be easier without two small children.  I will get to open presents all by myself.  I’m planning on going on Christmas morning to the church that Ex-Husband and I went to together when I was a student, and where we got married, which I haven’t been back to since he left.  This may precipitate an hour of crying in a church service where not so many people know me any more.  Fortunately I have no shame about crying in public.  And then I plan to test the boundaries of how much it is acceptable to drink in front of your parents.  Again, easier and more acceptable without two children to look after the following morning.

If I can’t have my children with me for Christmas, I might as well make the most of it, right?  Including the sleep.

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The world is ending? Really? Ok, if you say so…

The world is due to end tomorrow, according to some sort of Mayan prophecy.  Or at least, that’s what Facebook tells me, and I have no reason to doubt Facebook.  Except that I think it’s quite unlikely the world is going to end.  And apparently the Mayan prophecy really just predicts the end of an era.  Perhaps a bit like throwing away one calendar on 31 December and putting up a new one?

In addition, tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. Here in the UK, anyway.  I hate the darkness of winter.  It makes me miserable. And tired.  It feels like there is no day, no time, nothing but darkness and coldness and rain.  Forever, until I die.

So I’ve decided: it may be a coincidence, but tomorrow for me is marking the start of a new (Mayan) epoch and a new (lighter) future.  I am moving out of the darkness into the light.  I’m going to start choosing to be positive again.

I am by nature a little bit sarcastic, humorously critical and self-deprecating (and I’m always willing to deprecate others if I think I’ll get away with it).  There’s something about endless positivity, unceasing optimism and too many exclamation marks which makes me want to kick people.  And I’m not sure that will ever really change.  Sometimes positive psychology feels like it leaves no room for legitimate grieving.  And I don’t want to let go of the joy of watching a really sad film and crying at it. I don’t want to suppress negative emotions or pretend I’m ok when I’m not.  But I think I can, mostly, choose to be happy or choose to be miserable. It doesn’t really feel like a very difficult decision.  Bring it on, Mayans, I’m going for a happiness epoch!

(Well, until around September, when I will be plunged into SAD-driven misery for a few more months…)

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Leaping, staggering, from one tiny island to the next

Today is Big Girl’s 3rd birthday. However, as she is at her dad’s house all day, we celebrated on Saturday. She opened her presents, we took her new scooter (or ‘scooper’ as she pronounces it) to the park so she could ‘scoop’ (for about 5 minutes, insisting on going uphill) and had lunch in the park cafe (I don’t know why I maintain this belief, against all evidence, that taking my children out to eat will be fun for anyone. It isn’t). And then we rushed home to get ready for her party.

Fortunately, all the adults coming to the party were good friends, rather than just parents of Big Girl’s friends. And I knew they would help. And I know they don’t judge me. However, I do still have a little bit of pride. So I made a mental list of everything that still needed doing, and then did them in order of the things I would least like people to see or help with. Am I happy to ask my friends to make sandwiches? Yes I am. Do I really want them to see the bag of dirty nappies waiting to be put in the wheelie bin which contains more nappies than could reasonably be amassed in a day? Not really.

We had a fun party, even if it was a bit chaotic. I was very proud of Big Girl when she congratulated the winner of pass-the-parcel: “Well done, Marc!”. She is three and already she’s a better loser than her mother.

So today I have been without my Big Girl. Saturday felt like her birthday, but it’s been hard being apart from her, and from Little Girl. I am finding this time of year difficult. Last Christmas I was in crisis, trying to survive, trying to cope with two very small children, and there was no time to think, and I felt like a hero just for getting through the day without crying. This year this feels more like my life, and I have got better at it, and yet I am still grieving. My children are not with me for Christmas. It’s just one more shitty thing in a whole year of shittiness. I am still grieving. Some days it is a challenge to bother to eat or get out of bed, let alone be awesome. My children are a driving force, making me do things, requiring care and love and happiness. When they are absent, it’s hard to find a reason for much of anything. The fact that they are gone is a recurring reminder that Ex-Husband left me, that the life I expected has gone, that I have lost the joy of loving and being loved.

So no, this is not a cheerful month. And it’s not easy. But still, even when things are awful, there are little islands of happiness – enough to jump from one to the next and just about make it. I have just been to see The Hobbit and walked out in a little bubble of Tolkien-inspired joy. Last night I went to a pub quiz and we won. I even knew some of the answers. Big Girl is SO excited about Christmas. Little Girl is delighting in her increasing vocabulary and mastery of light switches (“Dark!” “Light!” “Dark!” “Light!”). I made a dinosaur birthday cake. And I am surrounded by people who tell me that they love me, that they believe in me, remind me of how far I’ve come and encourage me to keep going.

And thankfully, this seems to be enough. Happy birthday, Big Girl!

 

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A story in which very little happens. Really. Almost nothing at all.

I should warn you, before we begin, that this story fails to deliver.  It is not as exciting as you might expect it to be.  Don’t think it’s going to be *that* interesting.

Expectations suitably lowered? Good…

I went out tonight, to see a couple of my friends performing a comedy sketch.  I was very excited – I love a good night out, and there was the prospect of cider, and I got my haircut so I looked vaguely presentable.  I was looking forward to seeing my friends, who are both very funny, being funny in public.

I did have, as expected, a great night out. And I met a boy.

(This, in case you haven’t guessed, is the part of the story which is not as exciting as you might think).

Literally, that’s it.  I met someone who my friends know.  He’s male.  I don’t know what his name is.  He seemed quite nice.  We chatted. I ascertained that he has done performance stuff in the past, but not recently.  He went home.  I got a bus.  That’s the end of the story.

I know.  It’s a pretty disappointing story.  Nothing happened, except I had a nice night out.  But I realised that maybe this is how you meet people.  You go out with people you know and you meet people you don’t know.  After my experience with Mr Huddersfield, talking to a man I don’t know and not being accused of being a power-crazed weirdo seems like a small success.

And it gives me just a little hope of future happiness, of possibility, a sense that one day my life might be different to how it is now.

I know, I’m very easily pleased.

 

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In case you are not bored of listening to me complain about my children’s sleep habits…

I think I’ve not posted about sleep in a while.  Rest assured, this is not because I’m getting any.  I just got bored of the sound of my own whining.  I try not to talk to new parents about sleep any more because I remember how I felt when, sleep-deprived with Big Girl, someone told me things got better around 4 months.  I’m not sure how I would have felt if someone told me their 18-month-old still didn’t really sleep.  Possibly I would have killed them as an act of mercy.

And tonight I did think I’d rather die than face another bedtime with my children.  It has been all kinds of painful recently. I have tried everything.  Well, nearly everything.  Small Girl won’t go to sleep.  Big Girl mucks about.  Small Girl gets out of bed. I put her back in.  She gets out again. I put her back in.  She stands up.  I lie her down.  She stands up. I lie her down.  She says “Again! Again!”.  I feel like crying.  She hits me in the face repeatedly. Big Girl asks for a drink.  I hiss “Don’t say that!” at her (as if ‘water’ is some kind of banned word in our house) and then, of course, Small Girl starts crying for a drink too. Big Girl does a poo.  Small Girl cries when I leave the room to change Big Girl’s nappy.  Small Girl does tire herself out crying.  She climbs back into bed and I pat her bottom.  She is drifting off to sleep.  Please God, let me finally be able to leave the room…

Inexplicably Small Girl sits up.  I plead with her to lie down and go back to sleep.  I really start crying. I feel bad for crying in front of Big Girl.  I leave the room and hide under my duvet for a few minutes.  I hear Big Girl and Small Girl playing.  They are laughing; I leave them to it.  Then Big Girl cries because Small Girl is pinching her.  I ask her if she is in bed, as if being in bed would somehow protect her from a pinchy toddler.  Is it wrong to suggest that your daughter is to blame for being pinched by her little sister because she’s not in bed? I think so.  I go back into the bedroom and tell them to get into bed.  Small Girl cries.  I go and hang some washing up.  I go back in, resume patting.  And finally, finally, at 10.30 pm, Small Girl goes to sleep.  So then Big Girl can also go to sleep.  And I can go to bed.

I love my bed.  And I love having Small Girl in it when she wakes up at 1.30 am.  I just don’t love the way she wakes me up throughout the night.  I love my children.  But this sleep thing is just not working.  So I called in the Health Visitors.

I had to call a few times and write a cross letter to get someone to come out. It’s tricky with Health Visitors.  They’re very busy, understaffed and in high demand.  They have to deal with child protection issues.  So you have to try to sound desperate enough that someone will come and see you, but not so desperate that they come and take your children away (don’t worry – I know they won’t come and take my children away.  It doesn’t actually stop me worrying about it though).  A lovely nursery nurse came to see me.  We talked about Small Girl’s sleep.  We talked about my family set-up. We talked about everything I’ve tried.  And then we talked about what we could try.

And here’s what I’m trying: separate bedtimes.  Big Girl can stay up a little bit later while I put Small Girl to bed.  And then put her back in bed.  And then back in bed again. And again. And again.  And then, eventually, when Small Girl goes to sleep, Big Girl can have some cuddles and some stories and her own quiet bedtime.  This seems like a good plan except it has taken two hours or so of returning Small Girl to her bed before she eventually succumbs to sleep – too long for Big Girl.

So I’m persevering, for a little while, and seeing if things improve, and hoping Small Girl, Big Girl and I can all survive.  It has to get better soon, surely?

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Getting back out there. Well, nearly.

Internet dating turns out to be much harder work than I thought.  In the spirit of ‘moving on’ and ‘drawing a line under my marriage’, I thought I’d have a go.  Not that I’m really ready to be in a relationship again, and there are a lot of things I like about being single, but I thought I’d try going online, having a look at who is out there, and go on a few dates.  Try something new, chat to some men, enjoy the fact that I can because I’m single.

It’s not that I think I’m all that, or that everyone should be falling over themselves to go out with me, but I’d assumed that, with an internet full of men wanting to go on dates with women, and me being a woman looking to go on dates with men, that would somehow result in , well, you know, dates. Nope.

I looked at a few profiles.  I ‘liked’ some people.  I sent a couple of messages.  Nothing.  I realised I’d been fooling myself when I claimed I really wasn’t bothered.  Of course I was.  Who likes being rejected by the internet in its entirety?  I mean, of course, it’s not me, it’s the profile they’re rejecting.  But it’s a profile that looks like me and has all the bits of me that I think are most attractive.  So yes, I was a bit disappointed.

And then I got a message.  From a man in Huddersfield.  We did a bit of back-and-forth messaging, which I am completely rubbish at.  I find small talk really hard.  I find chatting on email a challenge.  Chatting to someone I’ve never met on email about random stuff is not one of my strengths.  But I persevered.  He complained that I didn’t ask about him.  I tried harder.  He suggested that we speak on the phone.  I said I wasn’t comfortable with that (not only do I not do well chatting on email, I hate speaking on the phone).  He said he thought I would be fine.  I suggested that we just meet up.  We arranged a time and date.  I then asked for ideas for what we could do.  He said we could decide on the day.  I said I’d rather have slightly firmer plans than that, so I knew what we’d be doing, could tell someone where I was going, and so I could decide what to wear.  His reply was that actually he’d rather leave it as I was disturbing him, it was a bit weird and he thought I was on a power trip.  And he finished with “perhaps you need to get some help, sweetie”.

The thing that really irks me, apart from his weird rudeness, was that I wasn’t even that interested.  I didn’t think we had that much in common and his spelling and grammar were appalling, and he wasn’t that bothered about me feeling comfortable with how things were progressing, and he was into model railways.  I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and he dumped me!

But there are a few good things which came out of it.  Firstly, I didn’t have to go on a date with him.  Secondly, I possibly avoided being dismembered and having my body parts spread across Huddersfield.  And thirdly, it freed me up to go out with two friends from work and have the most fun I have had in a really long time.  We went to Stockport.  I wore a swishy skirt and looked fabulous.  We pub crawled.  I drank a Cheeky Vimto, a longstanding ambition which I intend to repeat.  We saw a drunk old man go into a kebab shop and demand to ‘try’ the food, with some chips, for no money, and get away with it. I may have fallen over once or twice and told them that I loved them both.  It was one of those nights.

Who needs internet dating when you have friends like Simon and Col?

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