Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

Keep. Your. Head. Still. November 26, 2014

Filed under: Depression,Elvie,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 12:26 pm

I knew having a daughter would be fun. I’d spent years looking forward to precious moments of female bonding. Misty-eyed vignettes of brushing hair, painting nails and side-by-side crafting.

Four years into mothering my girl, I’m filing those images in the folder marked ‘delusional’. For now, at least.

There is nail painting. Plenty of it. Almost every weekend. Unfortunately I’m not usually invited. Unless the pot is really hard to open. Apparently it’s much easier to varnish the floor / Joel’s entire arms / our crockery if I’m not in the same room.

Crafting is much the same. An endless barrage of requests. More glue. Different colour paper. The right size pompoms. Admittedly, we often craft side-by-side. Living the dream. But that’s only so she can steal my supplies when I’m not looking.

Nail varnish and crafts are basically just threats to our fragile peace treaty. Disguised as opportunities for quality time.

Hair brushing, on the other hand, is a live grenade. There’s no pretence there. None.

I have friends whose daughters wear their hair in elaborate plaited arrangements. With more hairbands than a branch of Claire’s accessories. I have literally no idea how they do it.

Just the sight of a hairbrush is enough to make Elvie run for the hills. So much so that her own brush has mysteriously disappeared, leaving us with sole option of the soft, entirely useless baby brushes. Which have no impact on the knots whatsoever. Just as she planned.

There are whole Youtube channels dedicated to cute hairstyles for little girls. Numerous pages on Pinterest. Full of french plaits, angel braids and other words that pass for curses in our kitchen on a school morning.

Nowhere is there a guide on what to do when your four year old styles her own hair, using what’s left of yesterday’s unbrushed, slept-in plait and refuses to let you touch it until it’s so late that the school gate’s about to close and you just give in.

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The basic rule appears to be ‘the more clips, the merrier. No matter where they are.’ I’ve not seen that on Instagram.

If I had a pound for every keep-your-head-still-for-goodness-sake-how-hard-can-it-be-to-just-stare-at-the-plug-socket-for-two-minutes I’ve shouted, our mortgage would have been paid off long ago. It’s exhausting.

Seriously. How hard can it be? Keep. your. head. still.

Simple.

Or not. Turns out it’s not just Elvie whose head is incapable of a pause, however brief. Turns out it’s tricky for me too.

This time of year is always hard for worriers. All the planning and the organising and the multitude of opportunities to fail. Throw in a few last-minute requests from school, a broken television and a building site in the lounge and getting through the day can feel impossible.

My brain just cannot let things go. No matter how many lists I write. Or how much planning I do. Yesterday I went to town to buy cranberries for bookgroup Thanksgiving. Having promised myself that I wouldn’t think about christmas again until we come out the other side of my birthday party.

And yet, there I was. In the pound store. Where they definitely don’t sell cranberries. Looking at festive table cloths and serviettes and crackers. And dishwasher tablets. Of course.

It’s unstoppable. My relentless, reckless, ridiculous brain.

Getting myself tangled up to the point of shutdown. Because there is too much to do and too much to make and too much to organise. And, most importantly, because so much of it is new.

I’ve never made a miniature top hat before. Or bread from scratch. Or grown up party food for an indeterminate number of people. Or, for that matter, anything involving fresh cranberries. It’s definitely a good week for adventure.

Problem is, I want to do it. All of it. This is what makes my soul come alive. Trying new things. Achieving something. Feeding people. Creating an atmosphere. Making pointless, beautiful things. Beauty for beauty’s sake. It’s so much fun.

Unless I’m racing through it. Thinking about everything else that needs doing before Saturday. And how I’ll probably mess it up anyway. Cursing the American measurement system. And dying on the inside when my daughter throws up in the night, requiring two days off school according to their sickness policy, despite it being entirely down to her stinking cold. Because now I won’t get anything done at all. And it’s not fair. And I probably should never have said I’d have a birthday party in the first place. And…

Keep. Your. Head. Still.

Just stop.

It’s actually impossible to be in more than one place at once. Believe me, I’ve tried.

It is, however, just about possible to do one thing at a time. To make a slightly-shabby miniature top hat out of a recycled space ship costume and some fabric scraps. To enjoy whole moments of the process. Despite the constant audience of small children. To only cut your finger once.

It’s possible to scale down your plans and rein yourself in. And to try not to be too disappointed. It’s possible to believe your party will be worth having even if it doesn’t look like an exact replica of a vintage big top.

It’s possible to cross things off your lists without having done them. And not miss them too much.

It’s possible to decide that sleep is more valuable than hand-painted circus signs. It really, truly is.

It’s possible that your friends will love you anyway.

It’s possible that there’s no point doing any of your wonderful plans if you’re too stressed to enjoy them.

It’s possible to keep your head still. If only for a minute. A minute, it turns out, is better than nothing.

Now, who’s going to tell Elvie?

 

Courage in the in-between. November 7, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 10:03 am

Everyone is writing about courage at the moment. Maybe it’s the fallout from the inevitable half-term trauma. Or perhaps it’s the fact that the temperature dropped twenty degrees overnight and we’re all aware that it’s going to be a long cold winter. Whatever the reason, it’s got me thinking.

(Incidentally, of all the recent courage-related writings, my absolute favourite is Glennon’s description of the day she met Cheez-It-Haymitch-Window-Lady. Seriously, check out Momastery. I absolutely dare you to be the same person afterwards.)

We’ve had our fair share of courage recently. In the small things, admittedly. Courage, nonetheless.

On Wednesday Elvie was brave enough to sit in the ‘magic chair’ all by herself for her dental checkup. Without

screaming, or crying. Or any drama at all. And she was brave enough to insist that the slightly-embarrassed dentist examine Purple Bear first, so that she knew exactly what that magic chair would entail.

Joel is getting more courageous by the day. Or crazier. One or the other. Either way he’s now brave enough to jump off tables, sofas and walls. Both feet first, always. And, occasionally he’s brave enough to look down, judge the distance and reach out for my hand to keep him safe. Personally, I prefer those times. I sweat a lot less.

I think about courage a lot. In terms of the children, and in terms of myself. There are plenty of opportunities to be brave in the long slow process of coming-to-terms-with-depression. Some days it feels like I deserve a medal for getting out of bed. Apparently that’s not an Olympic sport yet. I’m working on it.

I have, for the longest time, judged courage in terms of action. Being brave enough to say yes, or brave enough to say no. Sitting in the dentists chair, or reaching out a hand for help. Getting out of bed in the morning. Acts of wild and beautiful bravery, right there.

 

A few weeks ago I made one of the bravest decisions of my life. And, after hours of frantic writing, editing and rewriting, I sent off a book proposal to a publishing company. For this book. Based on this blog. Right here.

The moment of pressing ‘send’ was fifty per cent courage and fifty per cent blind optimism. I held my mug of tea until my hands stopped shaking, and congratulated myself on having fulfilled my bravery quota until early 2015 at least.

Somewhere in the midst of the email conversation with the editor that followed, and the endless delays to the publishers meeting date that are prolonging the agony of not-knowing-what’s-going-on I realised that big gestures and key moments are not the measure of courage. Not for me, anyway.

For me, the bravery is in the waiting. In the quiet and the dull and the mundane. The space between the big moments.

My courage is most tested though the discussions in my head. Through the constant-checking-of-my-emails and having to keep going even when there’s no response. In daring to believe that I’ll actually be able to write a book, if they say yes. In daring to believe that I’ll still be a worthwhile human being if they say no.

It takes less courage to submit a proposal than it does to tell your friends about it, and risk them knowing if it all goes wrong. As evidenced by how few of my own friends have been kept in the loop. I’ve used up all my bravery by not sending desperate ‘have-you-forgotten-about-me-please-love-me’ follow up emails to the editor. There’s not been much left for everyday life.

I’ve asked for a bracelet for christmas. One that I found on Twitter. One that just says ‘courage.’ It’s really cute. And it helps fund clean water projects, so it’s basically an entirely selfless choice…

Image from www.mudlove.com

Image from http://www.mudlove.com

 

I won’t just wear it on the big days. The days when I host parties, or send life-changing emails, or go for medication reviews. I’ll wear it on all the days. Even the in-between days. When the bravery is in getting up, getting dressed and being honest with my friends. Or plaiting Elvie’s hair again. Or changing another nappy. Especially on those days.

Because most of the time, I can get through the big days on adrenaline. It’s the in-between days when I need courage. The everyday days. The waiting days.

Goodness knows there are plenty of them.

 

Red carpets. And toilet brushes. October 20, 2014

Filed under: Community,Family,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 1:44 pm

Yesterday Wes left for London in the morning. Off to work. Again. At the weekend. Again. To build something. Not even he knew what.

Thankfully, there were church services. One in the morning. And another in the afternoon. In different churches. Both with children’s groups. So that I could get twenty minutes respite from little hands and whinging voices and Joel’s cries of “I want my Mummy.” Whilst he’s sitting on my lap. Seriously. This is a thing now.

I actually felt pretty smug. Not only was I leaving the house. Twice. But I was walking. Outside. In the fresh air. Taking the children to groups that would aid their spiritual development. Getting something that resembled time-out for myself. Looking at leaves and rivers and geese, and embracing the changing seasons in a child-friendly manner. Mother of the year? Possibly.

And then.

Then my children did what they do best. Remind me who I really am. By wiping the smug right off my face.

The morning service was in a church that we don’t usually attend. Unless it’s for toddler group. After two years of Monday morning play and biscuits, Elvie and Joel see it as a second home. And fair game for their schemes.

To her immense credit, she almost got away with it. It was only the glint from under her sleeve whilst she did up her shoes that gave her away. A bracelet. Four strings of beads in various shades of pink and purple and blue. That she hadn’t been wearing that morning.

Apparently she’d ‘found it’ in Sunday club.

As a dutiful mother, I removed it from her arm and returned it to the kind woman who had inadvertently funded her jewellery habit. I apologised profusely and expressed my hopes that it would be reunited with its rightful owner. Sunday club lady looked more than a little bemused during the whole conversation.

Only when I eventually shut up talking did she tell me that actually, she’d given it to Elvie. In fact, Elvie had chosen it. As her present. For her birthday.

Ah.

Her birthday.

In August.

Can’t fault her cunning. That’s for sure.

It transpires, after some drawn-out post-event analysis, that she’d desperately wanted to look inside the Sunday club present box. So she pretended it was her birthday. Naturally.

They sang to her, and she told them all about her cake. She celebrated turning 4 all over again. And came home with a bracelet. Which they let her keep. Mostly because they couldn’t stop laughing long enough to take it away.

Clearly, my day as a parent could only get better. Until the post-afternoon-church-service tea break when Joel came running up, brandishing a dirty toilet brush like a sword. Followed by a couple of older girls shouting, “He’s been licking that!”

It was not my finest hour. Not my finest day.

You can only imagine my delight when Wes texted me that evening. As we ate our beans on toast. Whilst I watched Joel like a hawk for any signs of imminent vomiting.

Just a little text. To tell me that the mystery job had turned out to be building a stage for Brad Pitt’s ‘Fury’ premiere in Leicester Square. As evidenced by the photographs he showed me this morning.

Red carpets. Limousines. Bright lights.

Brad Pitt. Shia LeBeouf. Etc.

Soaking in the chilly glamour of a London-glitterati-in-October night. Whilst I dealt with a four year-old con artist and a toddler with decidedly bad taste in snacks.

Little treasures.

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Yes, I know that all this nonsense about celebrity is just smoke and mirrors. Yes, I understand that parenting is probably a more constructive use of time than months spent pretending to be a 1940’s tank driver. Yes, showbusiness is a very odd, superficial land. I don’t even want to watch the film.

But still. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous. A little bit. And the rest.

My only consolation is that Joel has a stomach of steel, and there was no faecal-matter-induced-vomiting. We’re totally winning.

I think.

In your face, Brad.

 

7 things we’ve learnt at school. October 13, 2014

Filed under: Elvie,Family,Parenting,School — hannahoakland @ 3:42 pm

Elvie has been at school for a month now. Crazy. It’s been one whole month since Joel butted into this otherwise classic ‘first day of school’ photo. Little monkey.

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A month that’s seen more than it’s fair share of hairbrush related tantrums, 9am sighs of relief and reading folders full of pilfered stationary.

It’s been quite the adjustment. Elvie is learning a lot. As are we all. And so, flush with the spirit of continued, lifelong education, I thought I’d share my findings.

You, my friends, are welcome.

1. Hairslides are communal.

At nursery it was a miracle if Elvie ever wore a hairslide at all. Now she wears them everyday, due to a cunning combination of peer pressure, Frozen bribery (see 2.) and the ever-present threat of nits. She even brings them home. (The hairslides, not the nits. So far.)

On any given day, there is only a 50% correlation between the hairslides she starts the day with and the ones that come home. Which are normally newer ones. Shinier ones. ‘Donated’. Apparently. By any number of friends. Who, presumably, have the ones she started off with.

Honestly, I don’t mind all that much. Mostly because it feels like we’re winning. It’s the mum who keeps buying the sparkly butterfly clips that I feel sorry for.

2. The Elsa plait.

My outlook on hairstyling has always been somewhat relaxed. Meaning that Elvie usually looks like this.

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Apparently that’s not uniform-compatible. Although it’s very cute.

Needless to say, the sudden requirement for sensible, actually-brushed hair did not go down well. With anyone. Especially not at 8am. We had screams, and shouts and possibly even a few punches. All over a stupid ponytail.

I was losing the will to live. Fast.

Until – my masterstroke. The ‘Elsa’ plait. Which consists of dragging her hair into a braid on one side of her head, and securing it with as many rogue hairclips as possible. In the vaguest of nods to the Ice Queen herself. It worked. And it still works. To the extent that Elvie walks into school every morning wondering if her friends will recognise her, or if they’ll think Elsa has “really come to our class.”

It’s the simple things.

3. Mean Girls start young.

Elvie is 4. Only just. Already the girls are mean. Every day brings a different child who isn’t speaking to her anymore. Or another run-in with the main culprit, one of the older girls in the class who “won’t be my friend unless we’re wearing the same thing.”

Nobody should have to watch their baby girl pulling her polo shirt down over her skirt so that “perhaps she won’t see the bow.”

I knew this would happen. Goodness knows I’ve been on the rough end of it enough times myself. I just didn’t expect it to start so early. At least she’s talking. We’re having plenty of chats about what makes a good friend. And why we don’t need to play with the nasties.

Urrrgggghhh. Thankfully she has lots of little boy-friends as well. For balance. And mud throwing. That’s more like it.

4. Timetables are a test. For parents.

Honestly. That early in the morning I’m lucky if I remember to take both children out of the door. Let alone bring some tinned food for the harvest festival. Or a water bottle. Or the sight words we were supposed to look at last night.

PE kit on a Wednesday. Unless it’s the alternate Wednesday, when they’re cooking. Wellies on a Thursday. For school in the woods. Raincoats. Warm coats. Weather appropriate socks.

Name labels in everything. School dinners booked before 9am. Parents evening slips to be returned. Assemblies to attend.

There’s probably an app to deal with all of this. But I bet you can’t get it on a Windows phone.

5. The marital status of your teacher is important.

At least, it is to Elvie.

Who marched up to her teacher, hands on hips, and asked “So, is there a Mr Hook?” Leaving me to profusely apologise for my four-year-old-Jane-Austen-matriarch.

Thankfully the actually-not-married-yet teacher thought it was hilarious. At least, that’s what she said.

6. School rules are easily misinterpreted.

For the first week of school, Elvie came home every day with eyes aglow, telling tales of the creative corner. Where she could find paper, pens, glue, scissors and all sorts of wonders. Available for her to use at any time. Whenever she liked. All under the banner of ‘please help yourself.’

Which is nothing short of heaven for my girl. Who has everything rationed at home. Partly for the sake of the trees. And partly to avoid too many incidents like this.

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Seriously. Those arms.

It took me an entire week of siphoning lollipop sticks, reams of paper, glue pots and exercise books out of her reading folder to realise that the banner should perhaps be rewritten. To say ‘please help yourself, while you’re at school, to things you’re actually going to use in lesson time. If you want to use it at home, buy it.’

Yes, it would be a much longer sign. But it would halve their stationary budget.

7. Vanish* will save your life.

Or at least your sanity.

I have my suspicions that the school uniform industry is at least partly funded by the sales of laundry products. There is no other reason on earth that anyone would put a four year old in a white polo shirt and give them bolognese for lunch.

Unless it’s all part of a masterplan to reduce mothers to neurotic, paranoid wrecks who buy replacement clothing every week.

In which case, pink spraygun of power, I salute you. You and your stain-removing, mama-empowering skills.

Thank you. We are eternally grateful.

And only a little exhausted. Turns out school is tiring. Not just for the children.

Anyone for wine?

 

(*other stain removers are available. Whatever.)

 

Blood, sweat and tears. October 2, 2014

Filed under: Community,Depression,School — hannahoakland @ 12:49 pm

Parenting is hard work. Almost always. We’re all in agreement there.

I can handle hard work. Just about. I’ve learnt that I’ll pay for every single minute I dare to stay awake after 9pm. I’ve learnt that the toilet always stays open. And that nine times out of ten it hasn’t been flushed. I’ve learnt that sometimes, the price I pay for going upstairs to hide the Christmas presents is a toddler helping himself to the last Cornetto from the freezer.

Above all I’ve learnt that we don’t do clean. Ever.

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It’s ok. This much I can cope with. Most of the time.

But sometimes there are days that tip it over. Days when your husband is away, your friend suffers a desperate health crisis, your four year old puts your toddler in A & E, the buggy gets a flat tyre on the way home from your hospital and your phone has decided to stop receiving text messages. Just for fun.

Blood, sweat and tears. Literally. All in one afternoon.

Those are the evenings that I spend on the sofa, huddled in a blanket and clutching the ice cream tub as though my life depends on it. Those are the evenings when I wonder whether I’m getting it all wrong. Those are the evenings when I feel alone.

That’s when I miss the good old days. The ones I’m too young to actually remember. The ones where everyone’s kids played outside together all day and only came home at dinnertime. Where everyone lived next door to their mum and their aunty, and their gran.

Where there were always enough hands to deal with an emergency. Always enough wisdom to guide you through. Where mobile phones hadn’t even been invented.

Facebook isn’t quite the same.

Don’t get me wrong. I have amazing friends. Friends who drove us to the hospital. Friends who came round the next day with a spare inner tube to fix the buggy. Maybe even friends who texted me. Not that I’ll ever know. Stupid phone.

It’s just that most days I don’t feel wise enough by myself. I need people on hand to tell me what to do. I want answers. Good, solid, definitely-correct answers. To a million different questions.

When exactly should my four year old schoolgirl stop wearing pull-ups at night? And how much sleep will I lose because of it?

Is it ok that Joel hasn’t even thought about potty training? And that he knows the theme tune to almost every Cbeebies show going?

How much should they actually be eating? And does any of it really need to be vegetables?

It’s not that I want my entire family and friends on my street. Nice as that may be.

All I really want is confidence in my own decisions. Which may take some time. But there’s hope.

Last weekend was rotten. Too many doctors. Not enough functioning tyres. And a large period of time when I felt like I had no control over anything. It’s taken a while for me to recover. Unlike Joel, who was back to his usual self by the time we left the hospital. It’s easier to fix a dislocated elbow than you’d think.

It happened. These things do. Quite frequently, in our house. Five days later, I can look back and say actually, we did ok. We got to the hospital. We got home. We ate dinner. Even if it was beans on toast. Everyone went to bed in one piece. Nobody lost their temper.  No (lasting) harm done.

It was horrid. But we survived. Without an emotional breakdown. Or calling Wes home. That level of success, small as it is, would have been unthinkable even a year ago. We’re getting there.

Perhaps it’s only the blood-sweat-and-tears days that show us what we can do. That make the pull-ups and vegetables seem a little less important. Perhaps the only way to build my confidence is to bash my way through the hard days, over and over again.

With a bit of help from my friends.

Especially Ben and Jerry.

 

Playing on swings. Writing books. And other difficult tasks. September 17, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Depression,Elvie,Joel,Parenting,Survival Guide — hannahoakland @ 10:42 am

Earlier this month, Joel turned two.

Two years old. Already. Finally. It’s confusing. I think we all deserve medals.

To celebrate, we took both children to the park. Followed by pizza with the family. I know. There ain’t no party like a toddlers party.

In fairness, we took them to a good park. Full of wooden play equipment, natural building materials and opportunities for risk-taking. We even ate marshmallows. It was quite the treat.

Joel had a wonderful time. Running up hills and flinging himself down slides. Bouncing on the trampoline and greeting every new child with a shout of “Hello, friend.” He’s delicious.

Elvie was struggling. Partly because it wasn’t her birthday. So she wasn’t allowed to open the presents. Partly because it hadn’t been her idea to go to the park. And partly because, after the Great Bear Hunt of 2014, she hadn’t been allowed to take her special night-time teddy with her.

All in all, she was less than impressed. Which she made very clear. I would have heard her screams even if I’d stayed at home.

The swings were the final straw. I was pushing her, like the dutiful mother I am. Except that I was pushing her ‘too high’, or ‘too slowly’, or ‘too wonky.’ Continually. For about ten minutes. At which point, considering that I didn’t even want to  push her in the first place, I decided that I’d had enough abuse for one playtime and left her to it.

I muttered something about how she should try to use her legs, and sat down to imagine that I had, in fact, stayed at home and was curled up in bed with a cup of tea.

Oh, how she screamed.

Wes took Joel to play in a tunnel, and I was left with a human tantrum. Of nuclear proportions.

I had a lot of sweet, kind, empathetic smiles from other parents. Whilst I watched their children swinging. By themselves. Using their legs. On reflection, there probably would have been better times to point that out. Suffice to say, the screaming continued.

Eventually, something inside me broke. As it usually does. When I get beyond the point of anger and frustration and annoyance, and remember that actually, Elvie is my daughter. In every possible way.

That underneath the screaming is usually a fear that she can’t quite put her finger on yet. Like I said, she’s my daughter. In every possible way.

It took a long time. A lot of gasping, and snot, and false starts followed by more raging tears. But we got there in the end.

She was scared.

Not of the swings. But of the swinging. The new challenge. The risk.

Scared of getting it wrong.

My sweet four year old was so scared of not being able to swing properly that she had spent half an hour screaming at the top of her lungs. And come perilously close to spending the rest of the afternoon in the buggy.

My wild, crazy little girl. Who, when given the materials to make a bear-ear headband and an outfit for her teddy, created this.

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A tiara and a fairy skirt. For herself.

She’s never been one to play exactly by the rules. She’s an incredible negotiator already.

And yet.

She is driven by an insatiable urge for perfection. By a desperate fear of not being good enough. By the preference for self-sabotage over embarrassment.

Just like her mother.

We had a long chat that afternoon. Sitting on the grassy slope, looking at the swings. A chat about being brave. And taking risks. About right-or-wrong not being the most important issue. About trying. And learning. And making mistakes. And trying all over again.

She got on the swing. Eventually. All on her own. She tried to move herself. To use her legs. And when she couldn’t, I pushed her. This time, she didn’t whinge. So much.

We’ve had a lot of these conversations lately. Me and my girl. I’ve tried to praise her for trying. Rather than succeeding. To not jump on her if something goes wrong. To let her help. Even when it makes the process painfully, tooth-pullingly slow.

We’re working on it.

Which makes yesterday even more ironic. When, after a day of painting playhouses, reviewing and renewing prescriptions, and fraught school runs, I found myself weeping into a bowl of Phish Food. Because I wanted to write a book. But I couldn’t bring myself to start.

Because I’m scared. Scared of getting it wrong.

Because of my own insatiable urge for perfection and my own desperate fear of not being good enough. Because of the voices in my head that tell me I’m deluded. Because I’d almost rather end up sad and bitter than try and fail.

Almost.

Last night I heard my own words parrotted right back at me. Not by Elvie, thankfully. That would have been a bit too much. Besides, she would have wanted my ice cream.

By Wes. Who sat with me and hugged me, and told me in no uncertain terms to stop fannying around and get on with it.

So here I am. Procrastinating a little, admittedly.

But I’ve looked up publishers. And literary agents. And submission guidelines. I’ve made a reading list. And, so far, stayed off Pinterest.

I am beyond terrified. If you try to talk to me about it, I might throw up on your feet. Sorry. In advance.

It will all be worth it in the end. I hope.

Either way, I’ve heard it’s the trying that counts.

Meet you at the swings?

 

Woohoo! Or, the day Elvie started school. September 10, 2014

Filed under: Adventures,Depression,Elvie,School — hannahoakland @ 1:53 pm

It’s here. Finally.

The big first day. Of actual, real-life school.

As I write this, Elvie is doing goodness-only-knows-what in her classroom, dressed in her delicious little uniform, surrounded by her friends.

Whilst Wes walks Joel around outside in the buggy, to try and calm the toddler tantrum that ensued when he wasn’t allowed to stay with her.

It’s been a long time coming. For me, anyway.

7 weeks of summer holiday. And 10 days fuming at everyone else’s “first day of school” pictures on Facebook. Seriously. What school in their right mind waits until the 10th of September to open?

We’ve done our very best to make it an occasion. And to conceal at least a little of our bare-faced joy.

She’s had little presents from family members. Special pens. Alphabet charts.

Last night she had a we’re-proud-of-you card, and a free-choice dinner. The opportunity to eat anything in the world, as a special treat. Whatever she wanted. Which, as it turned out, was chicken pie, baked beans and raw carrot. She’s easily pleased.

Today she was up bright and early, asking if it was morning yet? Could she put her uniform on already? Could she wear her special blue hairclips? What bags did she have to take? Could she decorate her water bottle?

Who knows? She’s not the only one that’s new to this.

Several hours, photos, changes of hairstyle and stretches of double-sided sticky tape later, and she was waiting again. This time, in the playground. In a cluster of old friends, new faces and parents trying to get their overexcited offspring to just-stand-still-for-one-picture-please. And the little girl who turned up a few days early for the start of nursery. Oops.

She was nervous, by her own admission. Holding my hand. Not wanting to run off and play just yet. Turns out she is human after all. If you ignore the green skin on her stomach where yesterday’s paint proved a little too stubborn to remove.

And then we went inside.

She is amazing. Just turned 4. In a brand new environment. Albeit one that the nursery staff have prepared her brilliantly for.

Her confidence blows me away.

We found her peg, her drawer, the box for her water bottle. She found her chair, her whiteboard to write her name on. Her own pen and rubber. And she was away. With an absolute gleam in her eye.

A few minutes later, having demonstrated the use of the rubber, I was dismissed, with the traditional “Goodbye, Mummy,” that I’ve come to expect on such occasions. And I watched from the doorway for a moment, as she sat in her chair. Her little blonde head bent over her board. Rubbing. Concentrating. Completely absorbed.

And I smiled. She’s going to be just fine.

As are we all.

This is a big change for everyone. The first day of the next seventeen years of our lives – if you count Joel’s schooling too. Which we probably should.

It’s a change of pace. A change of intensity. More bake sales, more parents evenings, more letters home and endless form-filling. A sabbatical for the Frozen soundtrack. And a gradual letting go of the total influence I’ve had over what she sees, or hears, or learns.

I’m not as scared of that as I thought I’d be. In fact, I’m mostly grateful. Grateful that she has somewhere, just round the corner, to spend her days. With an outdoor classroom in the woods. And a vegetable garden. Not to mention her friends, and the occasional deer.

I’m grateful that she’ll have hours of stimulation, every day. For her mind and her body. Grateful that she’ll have a way to satisfy her desperate thirst for knowledge. That doesn’t involve Google. Or our fridge door.

2014-08-11 09.29.20

I’m grateful that even as I write this, I can see her from my bedroom window. Speeding round the playground on a little yellow scooter. And hear the accompanying whoops.

Yes, she’s very young. Yes, she doesn’t always cope brilliantly with authority figures. Yes, she hasn’t tried the school dinners yet.

But, from where I’m sitting, this looks like the start of something beautiful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have twenty minutes, and an entire cup of still-hot tea before pick-up time.

Honestly. What’s not to love.

 

 

 
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