Moments: November 2014

November is a funny month. Not in a funny ha-ha way – not enough ice lollies for that.

It’s not as busy as October, which includes a school holiday. Nor yet as hectic as December, for obvious reasons.

There is activity around the corner, but you can hide from it in November, for the most part, if you want to.

There are still plenty of moments, though. Here are a few.

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We’ve reached that point in the year when the leaves outside my window really shine.
There’s lots of rain, yes, but in the bright sky moments, the trees opposite are still in leaf.

It’s a brassy orange, really. Not a hair colour. Not as deep as many of the other leaves that are now just so much soggy underlay on the pavement.

Today, I set my timer, and sit with my cup of tea and look out at the leaves. The blue of the sky contrasts with the orange on the trees.

I remember a school art teacher telling us all about blue and orange working together, and me disbelieving him at the time. (I was eight, and not terribly artistic.)

I’m in agreement now. Add an occasional soar past from the pigeon formation team, and I’m really very happy.

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We have our first go at packing up the trampoline for the winter. It feels like a big job.

We are all out in the garden together. The kids go up and down on bikes for the most part, and Dan and I try to work out what attaches to what on the trampoline, what might go inside which bag.

We neglect a set of potatoes in grow bags for over a year, but here they are, producing a little crop. I smile at the automatic gasp with each new discovery, whatever the size, as Junior and Mini go to it, a bag apiece.

It’s a scramble, really, dealing with short attention spans, and other garden jobs.
I try to farm out raking the leaves to Junior.

That lasts all of twenty seconds, but when I offer the large garden fork to make holes in the black bin bag (think: future leaf mould), there is much more excitement.

Mini is particularly serious on clearing the potato bag, going and going with a tiny trowel. Part way through, there is a request to sit down, and I manage to find a small kneeler in the shed.

Potato hunting continues, and I can fill one bag of leaves; prune the peony; help with some poles for the trampoline.

The sky is dry, not quite bright. We are in one of those brief respites.

Later, there’s popcorn, and a board game. I think that I should offer these kind of rewards to myself for extra labours, not just to help the kids through the task.

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The evenings after teatime shift. We’re done with trampolining, scootering. It’s dark.

Instead, there is fighting over who gets to blow out the candle at the end of the meal – an extra token from me, to help us through these days when the curtains are drawn before we even sit down to eat.

Sometimes, we make it round the table all at the same time. The kids may be on supper, Dan still on tea, but we’re there, eating together, attempting to follow conversations round and round.

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The days shorten. The effort to get up in the mornings is clear. Both kids are sleeping beyond the point I have to get up.

I try some gentler ways to help them wake, but in their own time.

Partly opening the curtains. Leaving a door open, so the sound of me wrestling the dishwasher can offer a little encouragement to stir. Putting on a low light in a nearby room.

There are hats now, and gloves, and scarves to add to the morning routine.

There are experiments with mittens on strings, and more emails to the bus company to see if a missing item has turned up. (It hasn’t.)

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Welly socks are out in force. We have a welly routine now, and it is mostly going well.
As is jumping in puddles at any opportunity: coming home, going back for school pick up, on the way to sports class.

The bench in the school playground is often too wet to sit on. There’s more interest in coming straight home, not staying on and playing.

There still need to be snacks, though.

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There are questions; new observations. Numbers on gear sticks. Emergency buttons on the inside of bus doors.

I sit through another round of Minecraft explanations. Nodding and smiling is surprisingly low energy, and I can quite often cook at the same time.

We enter a season of babies: ones arrived, ones on the way. Friends, acquaintances, all are material for fuelling the toy buggy at home, back and forth, back and forth.

Sometimes, the stories overlap: buses and babies. ‘Under-five please..thankyou.’

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There are new books. Stories from British history: my new favourite read-aloud.

I get to dip back to the topics at other times; find atlases to identify Brittany, Cornwall, parts of Wales. I hunt out stories about King Arthur from the library; make promises about Irish folk tales.

There are old books made new. Mini and I go on the wondrous journey of discovering Timothy Pope, his telescope, and suspected sharks.

I even manage to pull out a book for myself now and then.

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Music makes a return to the evenings. We need the boost; the argument smoothing.

Junior listens to Blues Brothers tracks, and recognises that there is comedy and music combined. Mini hears soundtracks from musicals, and immediately starts twirling.

We do a big weekend drive; the kind that feel like car trips from my childhood. We watch the colours of the cats eyes on the road on our way back in the dark; we pass the miles by singing along.

Evening by evening, Mini’s song repertoire grows a little more. By day, these are mostly overwhelmed by the new set of songs issuing from nursery. Nativity season is coming.

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There are friends to see, and maybe cinema trips for the mums (whisper it).
There are Christmas plans, and the beginnings of lists.

Only the beginnings for now. Maybe there are still some more leaf piles to jump in.
They may be soggy, but there are wellies, and big boots, and thick socks to protect us.

Separately or together, we jump right in.

Game on: revisiting games

Some time back, I found myself writing about games. Winning, losing – definitely taking part.

Games seem bigger on the radar again. Junior is involved, but so is Mini. They have their different likes and dislikes.

Mini and I play different games quite a lot. It seems to work for us both.

I like the fact that games have start and end points; we know what the activity will be, how it will run. (These things don’t necessarily feature as simply in everyday family life.)

Mini likes the numbers; the together time. There is a fair amount of tolerance for losing; an interest in playing again, particularly when winning.

Bit by bit, we find some new games to play. We invent some variations on ones we already have.

Games are not just for the two of us. They seem to be something to invite other family members in on.

Adults and kids have different tolerances: for conversation, for gaps between meals, for the appropriate number of toys to dump in a room at a given time.

But they can came together over a game. A game can even (whisper it) allow someone else to do something, like nip off and hang up the washing. Or step into an empty room and breathe. Those kind of things.

So I’ll return to some games again. As a Senior Player, I get to direct as well as to take part.
I even get to stock the games box, and shake things up at times.

Ready for some more games? Eyes down.

What do you write when

This isn’t a scheduling question. It’s a content question.

What do you write when you want to write, but what sits in front of you is not for public airing?

You could argue that hasn’t stopped lots of people – in fact, there’d be precious little reality TV without it.

But reality TV is planned for entertainment. Which can also mean embarrassment, hurt, humiliation, and so on.

Those who know me well will tell you that I have a very low embarrassment threshold for others.

I walk out of TV comedies when they are too mocking. I avoid some sitcoms because they are just too cringy, just too keen on milking it.

So I think about what I write – because others will read it. I can’t control what they think, I don’t plan to, but I equally don’t plan to set up others that I write about.

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For a long time, I wrote about things, mostly. Places I’d been. Foods I was passionate about. Experiences. Moments.

Obviously those things didn’t happen completely in isolation – there were other people involved. I just wasn’t necessarily including them in what I wrote. All very first person.

Little by little, I have come to write more about others – particularly where they offer inspiration, a different perspective and so on.

Sometimes, that comes very easily. And sometimes, it leaves me with very little to write about, because what is in front of me is not what I want to go into a blog post.

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I am still trying to figure this one out. There was a long period of time where I didn’t write on the blog at all, because what occupied me was not for open sharing.

After a bit, I found a way to come back. I set myself little challenges for writing. I picked different subjects; I tried to write regularly.

It was good. I enjoyed it. Some of you were kind enough to read the posts. I kept going.

Sometimes life turns again, and you find yourself in a season where you are asking yourself once more: what do I write when…?

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I like a bit of chat about books, kids’ books especially, and I do that. Food is always a handy topic. You know the familiar suspects.

But sometimes, even for those, you need a clearer head to write. That’s harder right now.

I don’t have a fix for a clear head – other than books and TV for escape, and a certain determination to protect my free time.

But anyway. I don’t want to back off again; to find that lots of time has gone by without writing. It makes it harder to begin again.

And when writing is (often) a way of settling thoughts and feelings, I don’t want to lose that opportunity.

Even if I’m scrabbling for what to tell you.

===

I did make trifle. That counts, doesn’t it?

It was good, too.

Moments: October 2014

Having reminded myself not to worry about how often I write, I now feel ready for a bit of a Moments round-up.

Another month is whizzing by, and I feel the need to pin a few pieces of it down.

Fresh moments seem as plentiful as leaves on the tree. You think they’ll stay just fine, but turn around and they’re caught up in the wind, crunched under car tyres and the like.

It’s not that the quality of the experience goes – it’s just that I lose sight of them with the next set of leaves in front of me.

Time for a spot of autumnal nature table.

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We try a park-based playdate with a nursery friend. I smile at the two little things sitting there, essentially swapping the contents of their lunchboxes around, doing their very best sharing while also tearing through the calories.

It’s hard work, going to nursery.

We do a long overdue library trip. My back is sore. Mini is determined to use a toy buggy to take a friend along. I manage to find a working compromise, and the faithful friend rides on the top of some of the lighter books.

New foods join the table. Mini joins Junior in demanding porridge for supper. To add to the autumnal feel, there is even a sudden interest in mince and potatoes. I can only hope we might make it as far as stews when it really gets cold.

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Sickness decides to stalk us, and hasn’t let up yet.

We try to keep cheerful in different ways. A new sticker book to raise the invalid’s spirits. A made-up outing to the supermarket to occupy the one that’s well.

The bug is a strange one – enough to knock any of us for six, yet a few hours later, you’re able to be bouncing about, waiting for an outing. (At least, Junior and Mini are.)

We make our way off on holiday in the midst of it all. There are two bathrooms; extra sets of sheets. This is all very helpful when you need to clean up after the next bout of nausea.

I find my own way to rise above it all, doing the supermarket run several times over to find a place that sells chicken pieces so I can make chicken soup for the invalids.

The sun on the sea is dazzling. The fields are full of birds chasing after the plough. There are a few moments of peace, even in the midst of the task at hand, and I breathe them in.

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One of the cupboards at the cottage has a model Tracy Island. Junior is overcome with excitement, being the owner of a Thunderbirds box set.

Mini has other thoughts about what the swimming pool cover is actually for, but starts flying the models around just the same.

We make it to the beach a few times. The sand is particularly yellowy; more granular. Soon the bathtubs have a layer of sediment when we come back and wash off feet again.

I improve my skills of reversing over gravel in tight spaces. No one is allowed to sit in the car while I get it in and out of the drive. I try to avoid looking in the direction of the cottage; I am being vetted, just the same.

Meals keep changing depending on who is ill. We get through stacks and stacks of toast. Something safe for those delicate tummies. Somehow we still seem to bring back half the food I packed.

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There are other moments to add, I’m sure of it. If I close my eyes for a while, I may be able to bring the leaves back again, before they become just another covering for the ground.

It is October, and my boots crunch over the leaves, as I walk another round of nursery and school and everyday.

 

Little, and not all that often

October has seen me decide to reboot the blog before.

This time round, it’s probably looking like the reverse.

That’s OK. Blogs come and go, but they can also restart; have a hiatus while the writer is doing something else important, and many more variants.

I’m not doing daily writing discipline, this time round. Nor am I trying out a particular type of writing, or any of the other mini seasons I’ve done in the last year or two.

But I am here. Using words, thinking about them.

Not necessarily padding around writing posts in my head just now. To be truthful, more interested in Battenburg and box sets right now. (And it is the season of nights drawing in too.)

But I still want to bait the line with words every now and then; let them float out for a bit.

Sometimes they get a nibble from others, sometimes not. That’s become less important too, although it is nice to know when others like the bait.

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I write because I continue to read what others write. I appreciate finding just the right set of ideas to carry me through. I write to give something back.

I write to clear my head. I write to capture a particular set of moments that would otherwise disappear entirely. I write to work through emotions, at times, to find a more constructive response to circumstances.

I write because it’s fun to tap away at the keys; to feel the rhythm of the letters combining, the pattern of sentences flowing. There is a music to words that I become more aware of, year by year.

I write to connect with others. All those other individuals, sitting at home, thinking their thoughts. (I’m betting a reasonable proportion of those are parents, duty bound to stay home, but still wanting to ‘chat’ somehow.)

Sure, the Internet is full of thoughts, and we don’t want to read them all. That’s fine. But we are allowed to think them, and to add our tuppence worth.

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I write because it’s me. It doesn’t make me less me to be writing less regularly just now. But I write again to remind myself that this is one of the places where I feel most at home.

I write because there are natural and healthy limits to box sets and Battenburg, even when I’m tired and my mind and body tell me otherwise. Writing soothes a need for peace and quiet, for perspective – for escape, too – in a different way.

I write because I am an introvert, and sometimes I’m too tired to have the conversation for real, with people around.

(Or, equally, because I can get all the words out, in order, without interruptions, because Junior and Mini are in bed by the time the laptop comes out.)

I write because I become more and more convinced how much we need story; how much we rely on it. We can watch TV series, we can follow the sagas of stars in gossip mags (if we really want to), but all of it points back to story.

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Story is you and me walking along together, when I write the words and you read them, at whatever time that is. Story is you and me trying to make sense of life – mine, yours, the other lives entwined with our own.

Story is putting one foot up on a stone, and resting on our stick, and saying, ‘hey, I’ve been thinking about this, and…’ It’s making our sign to help others avoid a wrong direction as they follow on their road.

Story is recognising that we are all putting one foot in front of another, day after day, looking to make sense of what is happening to us and around us.

Story is making light of our darknesses (when we’d rather have a streetlamp handy to chase them away). Story is pointing right back at the ones who tell it even better; who help us ponder in a different way.

Story is our tiny details and the big vistas when life drops away in front of us, and we can’t imagine even being allowed to be where we are right now. But we are.

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Little and often is where I’d like to be. Little, and not that often, is where I actually am.

But I keep coming back to nibble on some words. To weave some more in my own story; to add some details where I’ve enjoyed another’s story.

And little by little, I hope to keep coming back.