The Middle Ages

Dear Reader, if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you will have seen the luscious red velvet cupcake I posted a few days ago, to mark my turning a year older. Not wiser, or funnier, just older. One year short of I-think-I-might-be-grown-up-now.

Being the research ninja I am, I thought looking into the mid-life information on the interwebs might give me some pointers as to how best to blow through this next stage of life. Boy, was that a bad idea! It’s all insomnia and dipping oestrogen levels and visceral fat around organs and reduced muscle mass and bone loss and depression. Seriously?!

How about joy – I’ve finally got my head together (somewhat!)? Joy that I can share my wisdom (stop snickering!) with my daughter. Joy that I have more in my bank account now, than in my twenties, to buy all the books and drink all the coffee. Joy that I can afford all the nice gel insoles to support my falling arches and depleted knee joints. I’ve still got about thirty years of several careers to try out. Or I could just keep doing what I do, because I do it well. I love being a mentor. I’ve found my rhythm. I’m excited that DD is old enough for us to travel together and enjoy these years before she heads off to live her life.

IMG_20170422_132637_755So while I’m sure my oestrogen levels are going to drop, and I’m going to get crankier, and my widening middle is more down to my age than garment manufacturers ganging up against me, I still think I’ve got more fun to look forward to than behind me.

Like more red velvet cake. Nom nom nom.

Shoes to conquer the world

Supposedly, Marilyn Monroe said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”

wp-image-1355870192jpg.jpgI’m inclined to agree with that. Up to about ten years ago, my shoes were vertiginous, multitudinous and splendorous. Seriously, I used to store most of them at work in a cupboard that was supposed to be dedicated to files (no guesses why my team was the first one to go paperless!).

But then my back started to give out. And then I tore my hip flexors twice. And then my spine started leaking fluid. And I wasn’t working in a fancy office any more, I was mostly working on a laptop from my fancy living room. So the fanciful shoes went, slowly but surely. They were replaced by many Converse variants (good for the school run), and wellies, and ankle boots with good arch support.

IMAG0987

Sole sisters (#mumjoke)

Approaching almost-forty, I don’t know if conquering the world is still on the menu (it sounds like a lot of work), but DD keeps ‘borrowing’ my shoes (permanently), which makes me think that perhaps it’s not the shoes, but the attitude with which you wear ’em.

 

Brain Dumping

The crazy in my life has been ramping up again. It goes in cycles and given my love of analytics, you think I’d have a chart or plan or something to prepare myself, but no, I just have lists. And lists of lists. And reminders that beep. And a brain that won’t quiet, so even when I’m sleeping, I’m doing things. Working through things. Making plans.

DD has been invited to dance with the degree level, pre-professional ballet dancers for the next 12 weeks, and then perform with them. It’s a huge deal. Ginormous. So of course she accepted. Which means she is now dancing 5 days a week and yours truly will be schlepping her across town. Tweak, adjust, diarise. Did I mention one of these days is Saturday? Who needs a life? I’m happy for her, so damn happy, but I’m so damn tired, too. And I only have one child. How do people do this with multiples?

The Brexit situation is still making me anxious, even though I know I’m not at risk. But how can I be quiet and smug when other dual citizenship families are? What kind of a person would that make me? So I tweet, and sign petitions, and find information, and share it. And stay emotionally involved, which is draining.

So here’s my challenge to myself today:

img_20160407_082421.jpg

#WhyIMarch Part 2

imag1784

We came. We roared. We cheered.

And we brought London to a standstill.

After rallying for hours in Trafalgar Square, I took away some action points from the march: to find someone I can nominate for the #AskHerToStand campaign (DD’s too young!), to find out if I can join the Women’s Equality Party as a non-voting resident, and figure out how best I can support Women’s Aid, an incredible charity supporting women and children escape and rebuild their lives after domestic abuse. My aim is to find a local section of the organisation, so I can volunteer time and effort, too, if needed.

Did you march, too? How did it go? Where were you? Let me know in the comments!

#whyimarch #womensmarchlondon #womensmarch

 

#WhyIMarch

Today is the second anniversary of this blog. And once again, I’m astounded I’m still here. Still writing. Still ranting. Not as much as I thought I would be, but recently, that has been a conscious choice.

I’ve taken a step away from my social media feed, which is starting to sound dangerously like an echo chamber. 2016 was the year for fun and games with the memes and the GIFs and the snappy comebacks, but the reality is, today, 20 days into 2017, across the pond, a strong nation, a great nation, unleashes upon itself a man and his cohort who believe they have a legitimate right to infringe upon human rights and freedoms in a way that I never thought possible in my lifetime. Here, in the UK, the Prime Minister performs an interesting dance between adviser and dictator, careening through the extrication of the UK from the EU with no real visible plan, just the conviction that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

The real work of challenging these new realities is still to come. And it needs real talk and real action. I still don’t know how to engage with those who celebrate and support the politics of hate and fear and separation. I don’t know how I can understand or influence people so radically different to me in thought and belief. But I do know I can climb off the Pyramid of Hate.

whyimarchSo tomorrow, I march with DD. Because I have the glorious freedom to do so. Because I am not indifferent. Because I refuse to normalise wrong. Because silence never got us anywhere. Onwards and upwards!

#whyImarch #womensmarchlondon

Seeking Success

DD has been going through the rigmarole of senior school entrance tests. Each one tougher, more challenging. The beauty of living in London is all its opportunities. Including going up against the brightest and sharpest 10 and 11-year-olds the city has to offer. DD has two parents who never chose the path of least resistance, so why would she? She seems to be taking all this in her stride, but I honestly wonder, when does this end? To what end, all these tests? What life is she carving out for herself?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want my child to succeed. Succeed at being content. Healthy. With stable, supportive relationships. Enough money in the bank not to worry about paying the bills. Don’t we all want this for our children?

These lines by William Martin struck a particular chord with me:

Do not ask your children

to strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable,

but it is the way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder

and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting

tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry

when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure

in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.

The extraordinary will take care of itself.

What do you think?

Time to stop doing…

It’s October and we are nearly at the end of all our senior school visits. The last one is this evening and it now means we need to start applying. It has been a whirlwind the last few weeks and DD and I are starting to feel drained.

State school applications have to be in by the 31st. Private school registrations have November deadlines, with first round tests, then second round tests in early January, face-to-face interviews late January, and finally, the offers are made in February. State school offers come out 1st March. Hey all my peeps in the US of A, does this not sound like what we went through to get into university? So why do people in the UK think this is the way to send off 10-11 year olds to the next step of their education?

I spent last week assisting on her class excursions – they were doing a week away from school – and I was exhausted. However, since my daughter didn’t complain, I couldn’t. She kept up with all her extracurricular activities as well, but by Saturday afternoon, she was beat. So we took the rest of the weekend off. We do not have the time to get sick now, if we’re going to stay on schedule!

stopdoing

Having had another crazy start to the week, I’ve done the unthinkable and taken the day off. Well, as OFF as any mother ever does. I’m catching up on emails, Homeland, some reading and trying to keep all my crazy diseases in remission. I am pacing myself so that I can enjoy my time in France with BB later this month.

Today, I’m falling in to autumn, with its promise of jumpers, new boots, mulled drinks and stews (there’s one in the slow cooker). The smell of wood fires in the evenings. Toffee apples at Bonfire night. Knitting projects. Walking in crunchy leaves. I’ve got a full-blown case of the warm and fuzzies now. The niggling greyness is hovering at the edges of my vision, but for now, I’m going to smother it in pumpkin spice.

Back in the saddle again…

So DD is back to school and loving it. The last year of primary school is off to an auspicious start, and we’ve begun the whirlwind of school visits to choose senior schools next year.

Our first visit scared the bee-jay-sus right outta me. Seriously. Husband’s words: “If I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have believed your re-telling.”

The school we visited was gigantic and soulless. Even the art rooms. It felt a little like Gattaca come to life. I had an almost irrepressible urge to pinch one of the teachers to check if they were human or identikit robots with humanoid characteristics. The Head Teacher did a sparkling rendition of “I’m so fabulous” for about 45 minutes, followed by “The School is Perfect” for about 15, and ended with “your child would be so lucky to come here”. He also told us the teachers put their families second, and were actively encouraged to do so for the benefit of the school. That children and staff “didn’t dare to challenge the Head”. Say what?!?! Husband, DD and I executed a daring escape halfway through the school tour.

How can I entrust my child to someone who doesn’t understand work-life balance? Who puts winning above all? Who will not see my child as an individual? Who will not allow her to challenge and question and thus discover on her own? If we didn’t have a clear idea what we were looking for when we started this process, we sure as heck know now what we DON’T want for DD. I have to believe that was the worst we’ll ever experience and the rest will be better, right? Otherwise it’s home-schooling all the way. EEEEEEK.

wp-image-1383089147jpg.jpg

On an upbeat note, the tropical weather has finally broken, and it’s starting to feel like sensommer (late summer for my non-Scandi readers) is sliding in to autumn. DD has settled on a steampunk theme for Halloween, so I am pinning costume ideas and scouring eBay for finds! Any suggestions and ideas are gratefully welcomed – send me pins on Pinterest if that’s easier.

I’m off to bake another batch of banana bread – they don’t last very long in this house now that I’ve meddled my way to a low-sugar, gluten-free version which is deliciously moist. Then I might move on to applesauce. I promise I won’t touch the pumpkins till October, but in the meantime, I am staving off my cravings with this candle.

Just a Little While Longer

sidebyside“Do you think you want to try walking to school by yourself now? Or walking home?”

“Why? Do you not want to pick me up any more? Are you busy?”

“No, darling, but we did talk about you wanting to be more independent. I’m just reminding you the option is on the table.”

“Is it inconvenient to come get me?”

“No, angel, not at all. I love walking with you and chatting with you. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day.”

“Me, too. So if you don’t mind, I mean, if it’s not a bother, let’s just keep doing this till I’m in Year 8.”

“OK, no problem.”

And that is my parenting win for this week. My daughter is not ashamed to be seen with me in public. At least twice a day. For the next two years. Boo-ya!

First Day of School!

So DD is back to school today. It’s her last year of primary school, and we enter into a whirlwind of school visits and testing to get her into senior school next year. I’m done screaming, “She’s 10, leave her alone!”, and hoping the UK miraculously invents middle school, because that’s not going to get me anywhere. I am more focused on reminding her to be herself, chill out, and remember that the right school for her will recognise her. She has a lot to offer and I hope that the testy-choosy people see that. My job is to get her through the next 5-6 months unscathed (OK, relatively whole).

IMG_20160820_082306Our holiday in France did a lot towards that end; we had a really good time with some rousing games of charades and Uno (Granny plays to win!), lots of swim/beach time and ziplining for DD, and lots of book & wine time for me. We did an insane amount of crossword puzzles, too, and spent many evenings discussing the news (sigh, yes, Trump). But all good things must end, and it was lovely to get back home to my super-sprung mattress and reliable WiFi.

The weather is tropical in London today, and we’re expecting warmer temperatures this week – I do love a bit of ‘sensommer’ – that’s late summer for the non-Scandi readers. But I did sneak in a pumpkin spice latte this morning and my Pinterest clothes boards are already filling up with chunky jumpers and boots. The slow cooker is waiting in the wings, DD is already working on Halloween costume ideas and I’m waiting for Wholefoods to list their Thanksgiving menu – can you tell we love autumn?

But for now, I need to sign off, and finish all my filing and shredding for August.

It’s good to be back – à bientôt!