7 quick takes #5 - in which voting makes my head hurt but I fix it with sweets and films

Friday, 23 May 2014

1.

So as you might have guessed from yesterday's post, we've had a busy week, but a good one. Our friends are visiting from Florida with an adorable baby they have acquired since the last time we saw them ;), and it's been nice to see them, eat crazy American food and betroth our children.

2.

Do you ever wonder when you became a grown up? Today we played with gloop and Baby B got so stuck in that it was one of those situations where I could choose: use about fifty wetwipes to clean her, or plonk her straight in the bath (after carrying her up the stairs at arms length like she's a bomb about to go off). Obviously the bath won out. Later I put her splashmat in the sink and filled it with water and then was suddenly hit with a really strong memory of my mother's hands in a washing up bowl, putting something in to soak, and it hit me that Baby might one day have a memory of me doing this very same thing. I realised I spent most of my time this morning:
  • cleaning up
  • saying things like 'You cant fling yourself off the sofa' or 'No, remote controls/coasters/Mummy's face wipes are not for eating' or 'Well you should have slept earlier if you're tired'
  • checking the results of yesterday's elections
The feeling of being An Adult suddenly overwhelmed me.

When did this happen? When did I start being a grown up?

 I felt the need to counteract this by eating watermelon flavoured Oreos. It helped a little.

Phew. That was a close one.

3.

What in the heck has happened to the weather? One day it was nice enough to be reading books outside:


And now it is like this:

Rain. Rain.


More rain.

I quite like this snuggly-in-the-house weather ... 

In October. Not in May.

*Grump*

4.

Speaking of first world problems, we've been trying to arrange a cinema trip to see Godzilla for quite a while now with varying degrees of anxiety. My husband is extremely mildly excited about seeing it, and we did the first 'leave the baby for a few hours' test a couple of weeks ago, and it worked really well. So tomorrow, we're leaving Baby B with the grandparents and going to the cinema for the first time since she has been born. The last time I went to the cinema was when I was heavily pregnant and I was trying to cram in as many movies as possible before the baby arrived. The Worlds End, Alpha Papa and Ferris Bueller's Day Off all within a few weeks. It was great. (I wasn't time travelling, by the way. Vue were showing the odd 80's movie. It was weirdly awesome to see a film so familiar from my childhood on a big screen).

Anyway, what was I talking about? The cinema. We're going. Tomorrow. On a double date. Yay! I just wonder how many times I will be able to get away with sneakily checking my phone for updates on the baby without the cinema staff wondering if I'm up to something.

Which leads me onto:

5.



Yes, those are sweets. Yes, they are in a food bag. Why? Because nobody in their right mind buys Pick n Mix at the cinema (I learnt this the hard way when I accidentally spent more than my ticket on sweets at the Odeon) and as far as I'm aware sneaking in sweets from home is a common and not arrestable offence.

However our budget wasn't really swinging to Candy King either so I went for the ol' 3-for-a-pound job at Morrisons. And I've put them all into one bag because I listen to Kermode and Mayo on Radio 5 Live, which has a well established Wittertainment Code of Conduct for cinema-going, and I now feel horrendously guilty for my past rustling-sweet-packet sins. My theory was less packets = less rustling.

But really, putting all these sweets into a bag with a sense of satisfaction that only comes from being obsessively organised just reconfirmed that I am turning into my mother. ;)

That's not a bad thing, by the way. My Mum is awesome.
6.

I voted yesterday. I didn't really want to. If I'm honest, I don't a) really understand what the elections are about and b) don't really like any of the parties in the running, but all morning there was this righteous little voice in my head saying 'But women died for you to be able to do this, did you know that? They DIED. And you still don't want to vote?' so I trudged off with Baby to the church down the road and the minute I got into the building my brain departed from my head and I completely forgot not only who I was going to vote for, but how I actually vote in the first place.

'Er, I've got my card thingy,' I said nervously to the panel of people waiting to direct the eager crowd to the stations. Except there was no eager crowd, it was just me, and my voice echoed annoyingly around and around the room.

Luckily the ladies were very forgiving of my stupidness and I wandered over to a booth and immediately started to panic. I had intended to vote strategically because I sure as heck knew who I didn't want to win. But what was the best party to vote for? I forgot. I briefly considered drawing a rude and insulting picture involving Michael Gove but decided against it, crossed a box, and left.

I have to admit feeling a little thrill of pride as I left the building. Look at me voting! And caring! No-one knew that I had no idea what I was doing. As far as I know, no-one knows what they're doing.

7.

To finalise this post, let me reassure you that I am definitely not a grown up at heart.

Do you know what cheers up rainy days?


Bubbles, baby!

Words, voices, noise

Thursday, 22 May 2014

I've always hated silence.

At some point during my teenage years, something changed in me, and I couldn't sleep without the TV on. I had a purple TV/video player for my thirteenth birthday, and I remember slotting in an old tape of Friends and rewinding it, knowing I'd be asleep before it finished. I'd wake up at some point in the early hours of the morning to a screen full of static, and if I was tired enough, I'd switch it off. If I was more awake, I'd rewind it and start it again.

I remember trying to cut back on it. But I couldn't go to sleep without it. And it wasn't like I was afraid of the dark, exactly. I was afraid of the silence. It wasn't to drown out particularly horrible thoughts either ( the most I usually worried about was homework and whether or not I could pull off blue eyeshadow*).

I just came to need it. My brain refused to switch off without it. I wasn't watching it, either, although I'm sure some subconcious part of me was absorbing it because I have a Friends quote for pretty much every situation life throws at me, and sometimes huge chunks of dialogue float around in my head, word-for-word perfect. In fact, it was scenes from Friends that I focused on in the beginning stages of labour. Is that weird? Anyway, I'm going off on a tangeant here.


Good times.

The point was I needed some sort of white noise. Some sort of activity for me to be able to relax.

I realise that this was really bad for me, and I've since read articles about how electronic devices should be banned from bedrooms because they interfere with healthy sleep. I know that. And yet it took years - and during that time, a bout of horrendeous insomnia that saw me awake every night until 3 or 4 in the morning - for me to switch off. Now I can't sleep with noise or lights, but sometimes I still find it hard to switch off.

And I still feel a little uncomfortable with silence.

Sometimes I wonder how it will be for children who are growing up now. In the midst of fast technology and a much faster pace. In a society that sometimes, to me, seems so harsh that it's almost (twistedly) dangerous to hold onto innocence for too long in case you are taken advantage of. In a world where more and more children are becoming addicted to the internet. In a world where 43% of children aged 9-13 have Facebook. Where toddlers are becoming so addicted to iPads they require therapy. There are studies being done on the effects of technology on childhood learning, development, and thought processes. The technology that we have on our hands might be amazing (as I've written about before) but it's also addictive. And the affects of all this bombardment on a young brain are still being discovered.

I wonder. I wonder if my need to fall asleep with electronics for a pretty big chunk of my later childhood has affected my need to have noise around me now. I wonder if the fact that I find it hard to focus on one thing for a long period of time is something to do with the increase of technology in my life. I wonder if my ability to flick from one thing to the next, to consume one fact after the other, to be able to sift through masses of information, discarding what I don't want to know and briefly absorbing what I do want to know, is actually hurting me.

Because rarely can I be still. Rarely can I look at something for a long period of time and just focus on it.

I walked our sleeping baby around the park yesterday while we waited for Daddy to be done at the dentist. It was a particularly beautiful park, not the one right by our house, and I was enjoying the huge leafy canopy of trees above me. I thought about how nice it would be to just sit and look at it for a while while the baby slept.

I think I managed to look at the trees for about three seconds before the thoughts began.

What will we eat for dinner? What will I cook for the baby? How will I catch up with my homework for Bible study tomorrow? (Sorry Paula). Whose birthdays are coming up? When will I be able to learn to drive? When will I be able to get some time to go out and sort out the garden? Or, more accurately, when will my Mum be able to come over and sort it out for me? What will we do for Chris for Father's day? Which charity shop will take all of our stuff? When will I hear back from the blimming tax office?

Etc. Etc. Etc. Boring everyday stuff and nonsense and I can't switch off from it.

I can't let go of it. Not for one minute.

This has been bothering me a lot recently. Psalm 131 says this:

'My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty.
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quietened my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.'

I like that thought. Of an older child, a child still young, but old enough not to need something every single moment of every day (Baby B's 'need' right now? To climb all over me and desperately reach to pull my hair). A child contented, safe, with the person that makes them feel safe and secure and loved, without a care, without a thought of anything else, just sitting. Being.

When was the last time I stopped and just appreciated the fact that I am alive? When was the last time I sat and felt it - breaths in and out, heart beating, body working. Alive. When was the last time I stopped to appreciate that?

When was the last time I stopped to think about what's happening around me? I took Baby B to the park the other day, very early in the morning, so early we could see school children taking a short cut and people walking their dogs before work. When we were done with the swings, done with a break for a drink of water, done with reading books on the bench, I lifted her up and asked her. What can she see? What can she hear?

And I stopped to think about it. Just for a moment. I told her what I could see. What I could hear. And I watched her looking around.

I hope I can teach her that. I hope I can teach her to take a moment to catch a breath. To pause. To take a break from noise and distractions and just be still.

I am currently flicking through 'Celebration of Discipline' by Richard Foster. It's one of those books that I like to read little bits of because there's so much wisdom packed into every chapter, and I don't want to skip over it or miss it. One of the chapters is called the Discipline of Solitude. It speaks about our fear of being alone, and how that draws us to people, but also draws us to noise and crowds and a constant stream of something. He explains the Biblical principle behind withdrawing from crowds and noise, that being alone can expose us more to God, and can also help us to be more sensitive, more compassionate, and more available for others. Then he takes you through some practical things you can do to get into this habit.

He says this:

'The first thing we can do is to take advantage of the 'little solitudes' that fill our day. Consider the solitude of those early morning moments in bed before the family awakens (bloggers note: obviously he's talking about a family that isn't awoken by a hungry baby at 6 every morning...heh). Think of the solitude of a morning cup of coffee before beginning the day. There is the solitude of bumper-to-bumper traffic during the rush hour ... find new joy and meaning in the walk from the subway to your apartment. Slip outside just before bed and taste the silent night.'

Yes, there are times. There are moments. There are pauses. I believe there can be breaks for everyone. For someone working 50 hours a week with long commutes. For a single mother working hard with multiple kids waiting to be fed, bathed and put to bed at the end of each day. For those that run their own businesses and never switch off from it, for those who are giving their heart and soul to the needy in their communities, for those multi-tasking to the extreme (right now I am writing this whilst scooping out the fleshy insides of a sweet potato and shovelling it into my expectant daughters' mouth, and immediately afterwards I will be taking the laptop into the kitchen to finish it whilst cooking pasta for us before we go out to see friends. Not the ideal way to do dinner times, but some days are just like this).

There are moments to just be quiet. To wriggle your toes and take a deep breath and just take in what's happening around you. I want to claim back the ability to do that. I don't want modern society to make me forget how to just be alive without having to process information and opinions and noises constantly.

So. Ironically, I've got to wrap this up because we're busy, but I'd like to know your thoughts. Is anyone else like me in their avoidance of silence and stillness? Do you think it's important to learn to sit and do nothing? Am I talking a load of nonsense? Comments are muchly appreciated :) and maybe I'll write more about this later.

* The answer, by the way, was no. I could not pull off blue eyeshadow.

weddings.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

I look at this picture every day.



It sits on our kitchen windowsill, in the same place, come rain or shine. Days that turn to weeks that turn to months that turn to years pass, and every day I'm at that sink at some point and I glance at that picture.

I look at it extra hard this morning and I remember that this time five years ago I was fixing my veil, adjusting my dress, staring nervously in the mirror with butterflies nearly up in my throat, never mind my stomach.

We were young. I hadn't even had my twenty first birthday yet, the birthday that typically signifies a definite end to childhood and teenage years and says hello to adulthood. And here I was about to walk down the aisle and make a permanent promise to spend the rest of my days with this man.

He won't want me to bang on about it because he'll be embarrassed and I don't usually share things like this with people, so I'll wrap it up now. We have learnt a lot in five years, through time passing and jobs changing and house moving and baby-having. I have learnt that a lot of the things people told us about marriage are true. For example, I've learnt that a marriage needs to be protected, to be worked on, if you want to stand a chance at eventually becoming really old, but still in love. This is true. I've learnt that when you live with someone and you're so close to them you end up conflicting sometimes and that can change both of you. Also true.

But I've learnt that I have changed. And that I, while definitely not perfect, am a much wiser, nicer and generally better person than I was five years ago, and a significantly huge part of that is down to you, the man in that photo with me.

That is true.

So thank you to my husband for the past five years, and for still being as funny, silly, sweet and strong as we were when we first met.

And I look forward to becoming wrinkly old people together. ;)

7 quick takes #4 - 7 things that make me excited for summer

Friday, 16 May 2014

1. New excuses to see chubby baby limbs.


2. Summer shoes unearthed from the wardrobe


3. Beautiful blooms from a beautiful friend.


4. Windmills


5. Early evening walks


6. Windows wide open


7. Maxi dresses (unearthed from the wardrobe!)


Enjoy the sunshine everyone!

7 quick takes #3 - Calamity Me

Friday, 9 May 2014

1.

I'm still ill! I have now spoken to five different doctors about this same problem, and I'm due to go in for a sixth time next week to get a re-diagnosis. This particular thing has triggered another thing (it literally is one thing after another at the moment) which has meant a week stuck inside all day, every day, and has meant that Baby B has enjoyed a lot more 'Daddy time' than normal.

So seven quick takes this week is probably going to be a bit ... er ... cobbled together. Because I have a rare pain-free, baby-sleeping window right now but I'm so drained from this week that I can't think properly ... hope you'll forgive me.

2.

I've just finished reading The Book Thief. It's funny, I just couldn't get into it to start with. It packs a pretty strong emotional punch, I suppose you could say. Stepping into the world of a poor, heartbroken girl taken into foster care in a tiny German village on the cusp of World War II doesn't exactly make for light reading. So it lingered on around 13% complete on my Kindle for weeks.

Then a lovely auntie of mine told us that she had just read the Book Thief and she loved it. Holed up in bed on Tuesday, helpless to do anything but lay quite still, I thought of her and decided to give it another go.

IT WAS SOOOOO WORTH IT.

The voice of Death as the narrator was quirky, but I thought it worked really well, and as with any good book, I became so emotionally attached to the characters that when I finished it, Baby B sleeping on my chest, I quietly laid down my Kindle and wept just a little bit (read: a lot), not just because of what happened in the story, but because I was sad that it was over.

3.

I've been forced to eat plain food over the past few days and I'm so bored of it. I've pretty much survived on crackers. Last night I made what I thought would be a healing, nourishing vegetable soup and it turned out to make me feel even worse.

So on the menu tonight: plain boiled white rice with plain chicken.

It does make me more grateful for the rich variety of food I normally eat, though. And it's got me craving, for some reason, sour gummy worms. :)

4.

I'm going to a wedding tomorrow! I love weddings. However Baby B has just realised that she can make shout really, really loudly if she concentrates hard enough (I mean take-a-deep-breath, ball-hands-into-fists-in-preparation kind of loud) and that, also, it's quite funny to blow spectacular and very dribbly raspberries when everyone else is being quiet. So that'll be interesting.

5.

It's our five year anniversary next weekend. Whaaat? I honestly don't know where that time has gone. Surely I'm owed some sort of jewel or precious object as a present by now? ;)

6.

I've just looked it up. Traditionally we should be buying presents for each other made from ... wood.

Not really sure what to make of that.

7.

I hope you all have a lovely, blessed weekend. :)

Check out other 7 Quick Takes posts by lots of awesome bloggers, started by Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary.

7 quick takes #2 - poorly times

Friday, 2 May 2014

1.

Going to kick off today with a kind of serious one. I've had a health issue since January now (nothing serious or particularly interesting!) but it's affecting my eating and sleeping now, which is a concern. I have been back and forth to the doctors a few times now, so prayers for this would be appreciated.

I'm feeling pretty drained most of the time. I know that sounds silly because I have a not-sleeping-well-at-all baby, but before I was coping with it quite well and could deal with one or two get-ups in the night. Now I feel like I have no energy. I'm distracted all the time and I can't concentrate on things and I just generally feel blah. I am, of course, very grateful for my fairly healthy working body, which makes me feel that I should be taking more responsibility for it - and I would quite like to have the normal energy levels of a twenty five year old.

So I'm keeping a food diary and getting more serious with exercise. (Mostly zumba-ing around the living room and jogging). The food diary is starting today and I'm fairly sure it will horrify me when I realise how awfully I eat/how emotionally attached I am to food. I've found some really good healthy-eating blogs with recipes that make eating more fruit and veg sound a bit more exciting, so hopefully it will make a difference.

2.

So on that note, here is today's healthy meal: beetroot and halloumi kebabs with gingery-garlicky-veggie rice. :)



3.

Moving on to a nicer topic, we had friends over last weekend on a particularly stormy, rainy day. I cooked my sticks (they were pretty tasty) in a stew, and it was nice. To have people coming and going in our house, sharing food and laughing (a lot) is exactly how I like a weekend to go down.

4.

I woke up at 4.30 this morning. I get a strange burst of energy when I haven't had any sleep. Unfortunately I don't concentrate very well when I'm tired so I'm worried this post is going to be rubbish. I must admit, in my pre-parent naivety, I presumed by eight months I might be having mostly full nights of sleep by now.

Ha.
5.

However, cheering me up in the middle of the night are these funny Amazon reviews, so it's not all bad.

6.

We've started a new bible study, on the life of David, which is really good so far. I've found it really interesting. Plus I'm a huge geek and I relish the sensation of opening a new study book whilst wielding my highlighter like a sword.

I probably take too many notes though.



7.

Chubby baby legs!


Just because.

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