Thursday, 31 January 2013

Under The Hammer

The tailgate lifted for the last time; the shuttered metal door sliding down into place.  As the engine of the anonymous white van spluttered to life, twelve years worth of selected belongings pulled away from the kerb, destined for the local auction house. I momentarily allowed myself to mourn the possessions I had decided to let go of; the dining table and chairs we’d sat around until the early hours of the morning having drank too much wine and eaten too much food; the matching console sideboard that at time of purchase, had epitomised 'sleek design chic';  the gothic lamp that seemed to fit so perfectly in our first flat and the oddity of a mirror that seemed to reflect straight lines as wonky.  After taking a short moment to look back at the happy memories associated with items from life gone by, I shut the front door and refocussed myself on the task in hand. De cluttering at speed.

When the gavel hits the rostrum at the auction house next week, it won’t be the only hammer coming down on life as we know it.  Finally, after two years of planning, work will begin at Faulty Towers.  Foundations will be dug, scaffolding will be erected.  Builders will take up residence in what was once my home, spilling tea and leaving a trail of biscuit crumbs in between demolishing walls, lifting floors and pulling down ceilings. 

Getting to this point has been harder than I imagined. The project has morphed from a small toadstool to a giant mushroom of a build. Two years have been spent designing, redesigning, seeking planning permission, conservation area permission, consulting with structural engineers, party wall surveyors and building inspectors, as well as driving our architect slightly crazy.  Although we still have the mountain to climb, I already feel a sense of relief; that after so long in the planning, we’re moving on, that finally we’re going to stop procrastinating planning and start doing.

Since EB’s birth, I’ve watched no TV, I’ve read no books, I’ve spent considerably less time writing. That’s not just because I’ve had a baby. Every evening for the past two months, post dinner, Husband and I have sat at the kitchen table, working through builders tenders, looking at spreadsheets, cutting the budget this way and that, then meeting with the architect at 9pm at night once we’ve put two children to bed and hastily wolfed down some dinner.  It’s been a head muddling, stressful blur at times. But the end of this phase is now in sight, leading us as innocent idealists, to the start of the next.   On Monday next week everything will change; we’ll hand our house over to our builder for the next 10 months; putting our trust and our life’s savings on the line in the hope that we can realise our 'Grand Design'.

EB and I have left no stone unturned in this past couple of weeks in our search for a temporary abode. We’ve braved storms, snow and unwelcoming dogs in our quest. At times I considered a caravan in the back garden might become our only option, but finally we’ve found somewhere to live.  It might be a bit of a squash and a squeeze, hence the de-cluttering exercise, but, at the same time, it’s rather nice to think we’re letting go of superfluous stuff too. Perhaps we will learn something about ourselves in the next 10 months.  It will certainly be more about us than the things around us. How much does a family of four really need?
As I continue my mammoth purge this week and look at Pip’s mountain of toys, I’m continually struck by how little time he spends playing with them.  Role playing, making cakes, reading books, drawing, painting, playing on the computer/ watching TV, playing in the garden or at the swings - these are actually the things he does, and enjoys doing most, especially in the company of Mummy and Daddy.  When you streamline life back to it’s bare necessities, it seems you don’t really need that much.

I’m realistic that the next 10 months are going to be a roller coaster experience.  That at times we’ll be buoyed by the progress we see and at other times may resemble stressed, grey husks of our former selves, when the enormity of the task before us seems too much.  We’re in it up to our necks now, there’s no turning back.  All we can do is hold on to our hard hats and try to enjoy the ride.

If you are interested in our project, I plan to publish regular updates here. You can also follow me on Pin Interest to see where I’m getting my inspiration.

Have you managed a renovation project? All words of advice or wisdom greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Balancing Act

It’s a balancing act, this motherhood lark. Some are able to walk the tightrope with accomplished poise, never falling off.  Others have the fine finesse of a trapeze artist, swinging gracefully from one situation to another; any fumbling disguised or forgotten in a triumphant final flourish. My mothering possesses neither of these qualities. In fact, the only thing it has in common with either of them is that right now, is it feels like a bit of a circus.

Amidst the mountains of washing, the brightly coloured trail of toys that frankly, I was too tired to put away the night before, and the cups and plates waiting to go into the as yet, unstacked dishwasher, I sometimes feel overwhelmed; that I can’t keep up.  My Big Top is a mess. Everyday life has become comedic, we lurch from one clown like skit to another. There are days when I feel that I am slowly losing my metaphorical marbles. One morning recently I picked up a jar of marmalade and tried to drink from it, thinking it was a cup of tea. That’s the level of madness that I’m at right now.

Millions of women have two children. Surely it can’t be that hard, can it? Sometimes it feels that way.  All I know is, after 8 weeks of waking every 2-3 hours each night, I can barely remember my own name let alone what to put on my shopping list.  This last week I’ve been house hunting, looking for a place to rent. During the course of a morning’s viewings I constantly had to check where EB was, that I’d picked up the car seat and put him back in the car and hadn’t left him sleeping in his Maxi Cosi in some uninhabited flat. My head felt so full of noise, I worried I'd have an 'out' moment and just forget him.

Sleep deprivation and general exhaustion are responsible for the fact my multitasking capabilities are off kilter at the moment; that the house looks a bit of a mess, that I’m slightly unorganised and that I certainly don’t look anywhere near the yummy mummy I’d like to be.  My mantra for 2013 was to treat myself kindly, so I keep telling myself that all that stuff doesn’t matter (right now). What I am finding hard though, and what does matter, is managing the dynamic between Pip and EB;  balancing my time with each of them and nurturing the relationship between them. That matters to me. A lot.

Pip loves being a big brother, he really does. He’s so proud of the new addition to our family.  He is very sweet with EB and very tactile - but alas, not very gentle.  Some days I fear that EB is in danger of becoming a human canon ball. Whoever invented the Baby Bjorn bouncy chair clearly didn’t design it with older brothers in mind. It’s OK, I tell myself, we just won’t use the chair when Pip’s around. Yet even a pat on the head from Pip seems to turn EB into a nodding dog.  Boom! Down comes a massive hand on to EB’s delicate crown.  ‘BE GENTLE’ I cry for the umpteenth time that day. I hate myself for it.  I know he’s only trying to be affectionate, but my pleas of gentleness seem to fall on deaf ears.  Big clown loves to play with little clown and sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. In the meantime, Mummy, the frazzled ringmaster, becomes increasingly stressed out.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to help Pip find the balance between showing affection and doing it gently. A number of weeks in now, I’m finding it increasingly hard to remain patient, to parent calmly and say;  ‘Well done, nice and gently, that’s right.’  It’s taking all my will power to resist the temptation to bark; ‘Do NOT do that to your brother. You’ll hurt him’.  If I reflect on it, it makes me sad. I don’t want to have to constantly be telling him off for not being gentle enough.  I don’t see malicious intent in his actions,  just the adoration of an over exuberant three year old, but managing it is turning out to be a full time job.
Inside my head I can hear the broken record of a mother with her needle stuck, continually repeating; ‘ Be Gentle’...'BE Gentle'...'BE GENTLE’.  I tell myself millions of babies have survived the rigorous demonstrative love of older siblings and it will be fine, but trying to balance protecting my youngest whilst not wanting to discourage my oldest from demonstrating his love seems so difficult. Who’d have thought that something so well meant would be a cause of stress? I’m hoping it’s just a phase, that it will pass soon. My new juggling act will certainly be much easier to perform if it does.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Lap Chat - On the Sofa with EB (6 weeks)

Look at you, holding your head up now, meerkat like, alert and checking out the world around you.  There’s such a lot to see, isn’t there?

What fabulous little legs you have. Those rolls of fat around your thighs are adorable. I love the contented roundness of you, of your barrel chest; the fact that even your bellybutton is rotund.

Your skin feels soft, smooth; completely unsullied and unscarred. A blank canvas of purity. There is nothing softer in the whole wide world. Mother nature is so clever. Man, with all his technology, cannot produce anything that comes close to the silken feel of your flawless skin.

Your eyes, like mill pools, are the deepest, darkest blue.  I can see myself reflected in them. They light up when you smile.   Your mouth contorts first; this way and that. You wriggle slightly, as if moving your body at the same time will help you coax it out. It’s strange, getting the hang of this smiling lark, isn’t it?  And then it comes, the circumzenithal arc across your face.  Your smile, a real smile.  Like an upside down rainbow, casting light all around.  It causes the shape of your eyes to change. No longer wide, open gazing eyes, now almond like. Crinkled at the corners. Smiling eyes.

Hey, I’m smiling now.  Your smile makes me smile.  In fact, I can’t stop smiling when you smile. I’ve smiled so much my cheeks are actually aching.  Is that funny?  Something seems to be amusing to you. Oh, you are adorable.  Have I told you that today?

Can you talk to me?  Go on, I know you want to. You’re trying so hard. If you keep trying, soon you’ll make a sound, I promise. Oh wow! You did it!  I love that cooing sound. You remind me of a little bird when you open your mouth and try to talk,  searching deep within for sweet, melodic notes.  What else can you tell me?  Tell me something else. I love the sound of your little voice. I promise I’ll treasure every sound, every word, even though I can’t quite decipher them all yet.

That’s a funny face; all screwed up. What’s wrong? You seemed so happy a minute ago.    Oh don’t cry, please don’t cry. We were having such a lovely chat. Mummy doesn’t know what’s wrong.

What’s that noise? A 21 gun canon salute?

Hold on; my lap feels warm.  And wet. 

Ah. Poo bombed. Again. I’m honoured. Really, I am.

You’re smiling now. Yes, I’m sure it is very funny.  Did you know that these are my best trousers?

I’ll let you off, for the second time (today).

It’s a good job I love you so much.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Looking Forward, Looking Back

I began 2012 with the hope that it would bring better fortune than it’s predecessor; 2011 had been a difficult year.  I approached cautiously, tip toeing gently, feeling my way,  with a silent but simple wish; let it be better. 

It was. SO much better.  Better than I could have dared to hope. 2012 was a wonderful year.  As the year drew to a close, Husband and I celebrated New Year's Eve at home with some close friends.  At midnight, EB, who had slept for the whole evening, was awake and in my arms, as we sang to Auld Lang Syne the emotion swelled forth within me.  The final much longed for piece of the jigsaw, a year ago previously only dreamt of, was now with us.  What a difference a year does make. 

At the start of this new year, there is no trepidation, no wariness.  I feel buoyant and positive.  I’m looking forward to walking bravely through the year’s calendar; through crisp white snow, hair frizzling spring showers, warming rays of sunshine and falling autumn leaves. I am looking forward to embracing each moment in the moment, not crystal ball gazing to the future, but living in the now and enjoying it.

This year, after two years in the planning, we will finally renovate our house and make it home.  This year Pip, my first born, will start school.  These two events on their own mean it will be a big year of change. Add into the mix the many other unknowns that are sure to cross our path and life is sure to be nothing less than exciting.

At the start of each new year I usually make resolutions. I’ve had varying degrees of success at keeping them, but truth be told, I let myself off the hook far too easily. This year I’ve decided not to make any. I’ve got my hands full adjusting to having a new baby and a major renovation project to manage. That’s enough. That’s not to say I don’t have lots of good intentions (curb the sugar habit) or aspirations (write out a proper plan for the novel I have half a plot for in my head), but, I’m not going to make them resolutions or hold myself to them. Given all the other things going on, I’d be putting unnecessary, needless pressure on myself, which won’t make me happy. This year I’ve decided I’m just going to ‘go with the flow’, treat myself kindly, do what I can when I can, and accept that sometimes, things can’t be done, and that’s ok.  If I get to the end of this year and we’re a happy family unit with a new (non leaky) roof over our heads, I’ll feel that I’ve done pretty well. Anything else will be a bonus.