Tuesday, May 31, 2011

thick shadows hover

the ground darkens
with the smell of rain
thick shadows hover
returning home

Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Go read this!

My most lovely and talented friend of tree shadow moon has just had a piece published in Litro.  It's wonderful.  Go read it!

Congrats Na!!! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

365 Complete!

Today I finished my year long photography project, the 365 project.  Here are a few collages comprising photos from each month.

I think it's the first time in my life that I've seen a project through from beginning to end over such a long period of time.  I guess a celebration is in order...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Kelly rubbed her arms faster. It worked. Within seconds, his green fleece jacket was wrapped around her shoulders, his warmth settling instantly on her skin. She shivered.

“Still cold?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Thank you,” she said. She knew it pleased him, even though he was stamping his feet, rubbing his hands together. “I didn’t think it would be so cold,” she said. “That sun’s weaker than it looks.”

He frowned. “The sun is never weak. Only people are.”

Kelly’s heart sank. “Of course,” she muttered.

She scrabbled round her mind for something to say, to get back on course. “It’s just, my faith. It hasn’t been so strong lately.”

He turned to her, his eyes warm again. “That’s why we’re here. There’s nothing like being in nature to feel the immensity of His Love. This was a good idea Kelly.” He squeezed her arm and she wished away the images that came up whenever Todd said the word Love. Her mind did as she wished, gave her an image of barbequed sausages instead. She laughed. She could feel Todd’s eyes on her. “I think I just connected to the joy of the Holy Spirit!”

“Really?” Todd asked. She nodded.

Todd raised his palms to the sky. “Praise Jesus!” he shouted, as he punched the air. The hem of his shirt rode up, revealing skin.

“Praise God!” Kelly yelled.

She closed her eyes and sent off a prayer. That shirt’s coming off, whether you like it or not. 

(250 words)

(Prompt from showmeyourlits.com)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conversations with Jake

Jake asks me what's wrong and I tell him I have a headache.

He says, "Do you want some musics?  Shall I get some musics for you, so you can dance?"  He runs to the computer and somehow manages to open Spotify.  We select some music and he starts dancing and I start dancing and hey presto, I feel better.


Jake tries to switch on a torch.  It doesn't work.

"Mummy, it doesn't work.  Can you fix it?"

"The batteries have run out Jake, we need to get new ones."


"The batteries have run out."

"Oh.  Why doesn't it come home?"


When Paul gets home from work...

"Daddy, do you see your friends at work?"

"Well, no, Daddy doesn't really have friends at work."

"You have friends here.  You have Jake and you have Mummy.  You can see us and talk to us."


At bedtime the other night, Jake told us he loved us for the very first time. 

"I like you Daddy.  I love you."

"Awwwwww.  I love you too Jake."

"I love you too.  I love you Daddy.  I love you Mummy.  I love you, I love you, I love you very much, I love you."

And then a few seconds later he said, "I like to have a drink."

Oh and did you notice, he said it to Paul first!!!!  There were tears (on my part) and I actually said, "But I gave birth to you and suckled you for 13 months!" 

To which Jake replied, "suckle me". 


Over dinner...

Jake: Look Daddy, my dolly doesn't have hair.

Paul: That's right.  She's had an operation.

Me: She's had an operation??

Paul: Yeah.

Me: What, like brain surgery?

Paul: Uh huh.

Me: And it hasn't grown back?

Paul: Nope.


The door buzzer goes and I let in a man to read our electric meter.  He's in and out the door in 30 seconds.  After he goes Jake says, "Has he gone?  Good.  I didn't like him."


Paul: What are we gonna do for Jake's third birthday?

Me: Check ourselves into rehab?


After a long day, Paul collapses onto the sofa.

Paul: When's he gonna start looking after us?

Me: When we're collecting our pensions?

At which point Jake enters the room with a mop and bucket.

Jake: I cleaning the floor.

Me: There you go, he is looking after us.  He even tried to do the washing up earlier.

Paul: I mean bringing us icecream and things.

Me: Would you like some icecream bringing in?

Paul: Oooh yes please, a mix of the icecream and the sorbet.

Paul puts some music on and starts telling me about Sufjan Stevens' latest gig. 

"Apparently it had great reviews.  Like a mix between a weird cult and a circus sideshow and Jesus Christ Superstar with wacky costumes and naked people doing yoga."

"Naked people doing yoga?"

"Yeah, apparently he had a weird background where he grew up in some sort of Amish commune and people did naked yoga."

"Amish naked yoga?"


"Are you sure about that, cos you don't normally hear Amish and naked yoga in the same sentence."

Shrug.  All the while, Jake is busy standing on a stool, holding up a mop, trying to reach the cobwebs.  Still cleaning.  I go fetch icecream and sorbet.

From the kitchen, over loud music...

Me: Paul?  Does Jake like the sorbet?

Paul: What?



Looks like Jake may have to start looking after us sooner than we thought.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Chris didn’t think anything of it. It was just what he did. Two hours a day, six days a week. He thought that was how everyone lived. Or should live. What else was there to do with time but fill it with purpose? Better than wasting it. “You’re very determined.” That’s what she threw at him. Just as he was pulling himself out of the water. Didn’t even introduce herself. He’d seen her before, sitting in the stands. But he’d never made the connection, that she was there for him. Why should he? She’d never smiled, never spoke. Just sat there, shirt untucked from her skirt, hair a mess, black leather jacket at her side.

“Hey, I’m talking to you. Have you got things in your ears? Like those plugs those synchronised swimmers put on their noses?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

But she put her fingers on her nose and pinched so he shook his head.

“It’s not determination,” he said. She stops, her fingers frozen on the bridge of her nose. “It’s practice.”

“Oh” she says and her voice comes out funny. She lets go of her nose and laughs.

“Did you happen to be counting?” he asks. “Was that the 10th or 11th?” The corners of her mouth settle back into seriousness. “Actually it was the 12th.”

As he walks past to get to the board, she says, “You want to watch that arch in your back.” He turns and sees a smile in her eyes.  (250 words)

(Prompt: determined, from oneword.com)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Travelling with 26 people...

...was easier than I expected.  Especially considering that almost half of that number were children under 10. 

On Saturday, a big bunch of us went to Brighton on a day trip.  It was pretty chilled out.  We didn't lose anyone, it didn't rain and grumpiness was at a minimum.  Toys were shared in good spirit, with all the boys (except Jake, who was the youngest there apart from a 7 month old baby) reverting to type and gathering in a group and shooting at each other at regular intervals throughout the day.  Jake wasn't quite old enough to be brainwashed by the arcade on the pier so we took a ride on the little Volks railway to the Marina and back, just for the heck of it.

However, it was somehow still exhausting.  I'm still recovering!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Yesterday, I can't do it, but today, I can!"

There's a playground near Jake's nursery.  We go there at least twice a week.  He loves the swings and the maze, but one thing he's found tricky for a long time is the slide there.  It's very high and part of a jungle gym thing that's actually designed for older children. You have to climb over a steeply curved metal bridge to get to the slide and it can get slippery.  The first few times he tried it, maybe a year ago, he got over the bridge by himself no problem.  Then he'd get to the slide, look down and decide he didn't want to go down it.  He did that a few times and then he went for a long period of simply ignoring it.  Then one day he decided to go down the slide.  He enjoyed it.  So he went to try it again and slipped while going up the bridge and then for some reason, went down the slide too fast and tumbled over when he reached the bottom.  It upset him and for a very long time, he wouldn't go back on it.  He'd go up the stairs and he'd even go over the bridge - always asking for my hand to help him - but he'd look at the slide and decide no. 

Yesterday, in the middle of playing chase with me, he ran over to the slide.  He got over the bridge without my help and then he went down the slide without tumbling over.  He was delighted.  He did it again.  And again and again and again.  At the top of the bridge the first time, he called to me, "Mummy!  Look!  I did it!  I went over the bridge by myself!!  Yesterday, I can't do it.  But today, I can!!"  I had tears in my eyes.

So many times, we'd watched smaller and younger children go up and down without any help, without any fear but I never made him feel like he had to do it.  I never pushed him.  I knew he'd get there when he was ready.  And he did.  And that sense of accomplishment he felt, well that was priceless.  He'll always have that feeling, knowing he was never pushed or coerced to get there.  It totally belongs to him.

Now, imagine I've just been talking about potty training.  Why shouldn't it the same?  Why must pressures be applied for children to reach certain milestones quicker than others?  Ok, some people might not think going down a big slide is a milestone, but for Jake it was a Big Deal.  And I was so happy that I didn't push him or make him feel like a scaredy cat or a lesser child for taking longer than other, perhaps younger children, to get there. 

A few weeks ago, the manager of the nursery Jake attends started putting pressure on us to start potty training him.  The reason is, once they are 3, they get moved out of toddler room to pre-school and in pre-school, they don't have the staff ratio to do potty training.  Jake is 2 years 9 months old.  We have started introducing him to the potty already, but it's been in stops and starts.  We've read books with him, we've asked him if he's wanted to use it and never pushed when he said no, which, despite a few successes early on, he has continued to do.

When the nursery asked me about this, I told them I didn't think he was ready but we could give it a try.  It didn't go well.  After being settled and happy at the nursery for a long time, Jake suddenly had the biggest, angriest tantrums I've ever seen him have.  Even after they stopped and we told him we weren't going to make him use the potty, he has continued to feel upset about going to nursery.  Today was the first day in about 2 weeks that he hasn't cried when I dropped him off.

When Paul & I tried to talk to the nursery manager about it, and about what would happen if he wasn't potty trained by their cut-off point, she became very defensive and kept telling us that it would be for Jake's own good to start potty training him properly now, because otherwise, he'd be "delayed in his development."  Even though it is quite normal and not at all bizarre to find 3 year olds (especially boys) who are not yet fully potty trained.  She didn't even want to hear that possibly Jake's experiences around constipation / hospitalisation / being poked and prodded and examined by countless strangers might be contributing to his feelings about potty training.  Luckily, not all nurseries take this inflexible approach.  But it's been an upsetting experience, not least because I feel anxious about the process myself.  But I'm not willing to push my anxieties onto Jake.

I'm doing an Eastern Therapeutic Writing e-course at the moment.  This week, one of the exercises is to write about an experience that is still unfolding, the outcome of which is unknown.  We were asked to make two columns - one listing all the things that are known about the experience and the other, the things that are unknown.  I decided to do this about Jake's potty training.  In doing this, I realised something about Jake.  Some things he picks up really quickly - anything to do with language for example.  And using the computer.  And reading people's moods.  But physical things have always taken him longer.  He didn't start walking till he was 16 months old.  He didn't really cruise.  He just crawled loads and stood up, and then, when he was ready, took his first steps.  He didn't really go through a shaky toddly stage where he walked with us holding his hands.  He pretty much mastered walking within a couple of weeks.  He's also always been cautious about physical things - from climbing stairs to going on slides.  And now, potty training.  His temperament seems to be that he'll test things out a bit and then bide his time until he feels confident. 

Reflecting on all this, I realised that I've been thinking that soon, I'd be able to stop worrying so much about Jake.  That potty training would be his next big milestone and then starting school and then things would be easier and I'd worry less.  Now I see it isn't the case.  Now I see that being a parent really is "to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." (quoting Elizabeth Stone) 

Even when he's older, we're probably going to come across all sorts of people and institutions that'll try to make him fit into their way of doing things.  Sometimes, they may have a good reason for it.  Other times, they may not.  How are we going to deal with it?  How is Jake?

At the playground today, I heard a father with his son.  The boy was older than Jake, probably over 4 years old.  The whole time they were there, the father didn't stop telling the boy off.  Everything he did was wrong - he was running too fast, he shouldn't have pushed ahead of his little sister, because he was older, he had to be more careful, more responsible, he was holding his sister wrong, he should help his sister down the slide, he should let his sister go down the slide by herself.  When the child tried to disagree or speak up for himself, the father said, "Even if you think you have a very very good reason for doing something, don't do it.  Listen to me instead.  My reason is usually better."  Even if you believe that, and even if in many cases, it may be true - is drilling that into the kid's head really going to help him?  How is he going to learn from his own mistakes?  How is he going to learn to trust himself? 

Some people might think I'm overthinking things, overanalysing, making them more difficult than they need to be, or that I'm taking the soft approach to parenting, and mollycoddling Jake.  But we can cause so much harm by acting without thinking, even if we have the best intentions.  Do we even understand where our motivations come from, our need to do things in a certain way?  Do we understand why we sometimes need people to do things the way we want them to, rather than letting them be themselves?

This has now become long and rambly.  I'm not even sure how to end it nice and neatly.  So I'll just leave it there. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Adequate napkins.  This is the measure of integrity for my mother. And by adequate, she means the very best. Not cheap paper squares imprinted with blue swirls. Just feel that, too shiny, they won’t absorb. They’ll be useless in the face of her fried pork-bread triangles. So go back out he must. I feel sorry for him, but I remember the hours I spent on the roof, watching over the drying bread triangles, shooing away the birds and I don’t like the feeling I get, of his thoughtlessness. There is already no time to send him out for a proper table cloth. She has already come to terms with the sheet. It wasn’t an elasticated one, thank god for small mercies. Once she ironed out the creases, it could pass. But shiny paper squares? Pah! 4-ply or not!

He’s late getting back, too late for the cream-coloured linens. Someone has opened the 4-ply monstrosities he’d left on the side table and they are spreading fast among the crowd. The pork-bread triangles are a hit, but when they leave, all she remembers are the greasy chins and fingers and the places she will have to wipe down again in the morning.  (200 words)

(Prompt: integrity, from oneword.com)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Look, he's alright...

Just thought I'd post some evidence that Jake has not been damaged by our botched attempts at hairdressing.  Look, here he is, running, being a normal kid. 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

"It's nobody's fault"

So this week, I've been:

a) having voracious sweet cravings - giant chocolate eclairs every day would have been nice.  I had to make do with marshmallows and chocolate.  Poor me.

b) taking everything very very personally.  I can't decide if it's because sometimes, my PMT isn't very noticeable, and other times, it makes me feel like I've ripped my heart out of my chest and started wearing it strapped to my back instead, OR whether it's because, due to the effects of the counselling and the mindfulness and the meditating I'm allowing myself to feel more.  For most of Thursday, it was a struggle, but I tried to let it be.  I only tipped over late in the day, when tiredness hit.  I lay down and closed my eyes and even though I could just have been tired, even Jake sensed something and he said, "Mummy, are you not happy?"  I said, "I'm just very tired honey."  And he said, "But are you not happy as well?"  He's such an astute child.  He offered me a cuddle and things were better, until today when I bit Paul's head off.

So what I've learned is this.  When it feels painful to simply feel what comes up and be mindful of it, I veer off into familiar, entrenched habits - like blaming other people, or feeling sorry for myself or believing that I am personally bearing the entire world's suffering on my shoulders because no one else cares.  So, yeah, self-righteous self-delusion.  I'd like to be kind to myself when I catch myself doing this.  But I find it hard.  It's hard to let go of those habits, those illusions.  Because the need to be RIGHT and BETTER than everyone takes over and stamps on everything else.  Which makes it harder to step down, step back and see things as they are.  Which takes me to...

c) This week, I've also been making my child look like Hitler.  You see, I thought it would be fun to give Jake a side-parting while I was trimming his hair.  I was totally confident that I would be able to do it.  Never mind that I've never trained as a hairdresser or even googled "how to give your child a parting without making him look weird" or even watched a real hairdresser cut a child's hair.  Soooooo.....when Paul saw my handiwork, he set about putting it right.

Here are some things you probably don't want to hear when your parents are cutting your hair:

Oh crap.
(SIGH)  I'm so sorry.
We might have to use the shaver on him.
How long does it take for hair to grow out?
Well if only you'd sat still...(yes, two year old, how dare you flinch and duck while we wield scissors in your direction with furrowed brows and tuts of confusion)

And one thing you don't ever expect your two year old to say: please don't shave me!

Post-Hitler parting, take 1
(or Auditions for Psycho, The Toddler Years?)

What he looks like now.
(Was your Mommy drunk when she did that to you?
No, both Mommy & Daddy were.)

Still.  Jake doesn't care what he looks like and it's nice to see more of his face.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Joanie's plan for the alumni reunion was this: stand near the creampuffs (that she herself would be bringing) and stuff as many in her mouth as possible if anyone approached her and asked if she was married, what she did for a living or how many brats she’d produced in the last 20 years.  It was possible of course that no one would recognise her.  When she’d gotten Ryan’s varsity jacket out of the attic, it ripped when she tried to force it over her shoulders and left her smelling of mothballs and dust. 

She could take her Mom’s advice and not go at all but that would be losing without even trying and that was just pathetic.  The least she could do was aim for maximum spatterage. 

She’d talk with her mouth full of green food coloured cream filled puffs then cough at carefully judged intervals, at close range.  Discretely at first, but then, as the night wore on, more violently, ending with the coup de grace of spitting out half a dozen chewed puffs (she’d been practising and could easily tuck that number away in one cheek in preparation) onto a napkin square perched daintily on her hand. 

(200 words)

(Prompt: alumni, from oneword.com)

Fiction Project flashes

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I'd start posting my stories here, the ones I wrote for the Fiction Project.  These are very short flashes, 350 words or under, and were written around the theme of Jackets, Blankets and Sheets. 

I find it easier to write if I have some rules and restrictions so I decided I would write 24 stories (each one to begin with each letter from Jackets, Blankets, Sheets - including the commas), and that each one would not only mention a J, B or S but would also be written around a prompt chosen at random.

In some cases, there is mention of a towel or a sleeping bag instead of a J, B or S.  And in some cases, I didn't choose a prompt. 

I'll be posting one of these stories a week.  Thank you in advance for reading.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Exploring non-violence with toddlers

A red wind-up ladybird walks across the floor.
A toddler enters, toy drill in hand.
Toddler aims and shoots.

"I shoot the ladybird Mummy."
"But he was just walking along, being a ladybird, why did you shoot him?"
"He didn't like me."

We don't buy Jake toy guns, he isn't exposed to violent video games or images and he's had a lot of positive interaction with ladybirds of late. And yet...

I guess this is why toddlers aren't allowed to go into politics, though it seems a few of them have managed to slip through the net.