Granny, sleep and general news

October 19, 2015

My mom is here for three weeks! Hooray! She is so hands-on and enthusiastic with Megan and Jessica and they adore her. This is how Megan sleeps when Granny is in town:

Megan Sleeping

In fact, Granny sleeps the same way. The morning after she arrived, Megan woke at her usual 5h45. I fancied a lie in so I suggested she hop into Granny’s bed for a cuddle. I turned on the passage light and led Megan into my mom’s room. We sat on her bed and Megan bounced a little. No stirring, not a peep from under the blankets. ‘Granny! Are you awake? Granny!’ we whispered. Still nothing. My mom lay there like a rock, like the dead. So I took Megan out the room and decided Granny deserved the deep, coma-like rest as a reward for all the energy and love she pours into my children during the day.

Given that my mom is great to have around, it is surprising then that I forgot to fetch her from the airport. I didn’t actually forget. Her original itinerary said she was arriving on the Friday but she came in on the Thursday and no one informed me of the changes.

On Thursday morning, I realized she wasn’t online on Skype and still hadn’t replied to the SMS I sent her the night before. How odd. I texted my aunt to confirm my mom was ok and hadn’t slipped in the shower or been bound and gagged in her house. It turned out that her plane was on final approach into Geneva as I was sitting at the kitchen counter, perusing my Facebook newsfeed in my pyjamas.

to do listMom’s visits always help me get stuff done. I even write up a comprehensive to-do list which includes important tasks that fall by the wayside in my normal life, things such as ‘deep clean the oven’, ‘tidy basement’ and ‘prepare a stash of frozen meals’. The other day three year old Megan was fiddling with a piece of paper and I asked what she was doing. ‘I’m just checking my to-do list’, she replied.

Last week Alastair asked if I could book him at appointment at the GP because he wanted a full medical check up with blood tests and the works. I was horrified. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ I freaked out.

‘Well,’ he said. ‘I’m constantly tired. I don’t feel my usual self, like I’m always run down and exhausted.’

Mwahahahaha! Where do children get all their energy? They take it out of their parents. Al’s had a busy year at work with minimal truly relaxing vacation time so it is understandable that he is knackered. The thing is that little kids are demanding and exhausting and that’s just the way it is.

gothefucktosleepOur tiredness has been compounded by Jessica’s horrendous sleeping patterns. She refuses to lie in her cot and when she finds herself asleep in it, she springs vertical and bellows, her face all mouth and her skin a livid red. The nights are particularly gruelling, mainly because she awakens like clockwork at 10pm every night, just as Al and I are drifting into a deep and dreamless sleep. She goes for my breasts like a dog that’s offered a bone and then she refuses, like absolutely, adamantly, categorically point-blank refuses to go back into her cot. Al and I have started referring to the cross and wild Jessica of the night as ‘Chucky’. So when we hear the 10pm squawk from her bedroom, we say ‘Oh dear, here comes Chucky.’

I think the problem is that Jessica is a light and lonely sleeper. If we cough or sneeze it wakes her. If I turn on a light near her room, she springs up in the cot. I feel I should prepare for bed and brush my teeth using a miner’s lamp. Even the lightest, tiptoeing footsteps set her off and Al and I need to sink on to our tummies and leopard crawl in the vicinity of her room. The comedian Michael McIntyre said that parents tend to say ‘good luck’ to each other instead of ‘good night’ and I agree with that.

Apparently some kids have serious stamina in the crying department. I have a friend with three teenage children and she said her daughter, Hailey, used to rage and cry so much that they called her ‘Wailey Hailey’. I keep telling Al that this stage is just for a season. Another of my friends has children aged 4 and 6 and she said they sleep so soundly and deeply and she needs to light fireworks next to their heads to wake them in the mornings. Actually, I reckon Jessica is just lonely and likes to sleep with company. In the next few days I’m going to arrange a bigger bed in Megan’s room and the two can lie together. I know Jessica will be happier if she can be the inner spoon and feel a warm body of someone, even her sister, next to her.

Homeless PrincessMegan is her usual rambunctious self. On Sunday evening I told her to dress for church so she put on four layers – two t-shirts and two dresses and then when she bent over to put on her wellies (it wasn’t raining), I noticed her bum crack and suggested she add some undies to the mix, please.

Her new thing when we go to the shops is to buy wrapping paper. She’s obsessed with wrapping paper. She carries the tube round the shop, waving it about like it’s a wand or swotting it at pillars like it’s a sword. When we get home she unravels it, walks over it a few times and then asks for sticky tape so she can wrap up her toys. Once that’s done, she needs the scissors to chop the paper up into a million pieces until it looks like shredded lettuce. Then we chuck the whole battered and torn lot into the paper recycling bin. Al says it is a waste of money but each roll costs about CHF4 which keeps her amused in the shops and then occupies her for a good 45 minutes at home. All that for CHF4 – a bargain if you ask me.

Megan angelThe other day we were in a queue to buy croissants and she shouted at the server, ‘Lady! Give me my croissant lady!’ Blimey. Where did she learn that? She recently instructed a friend who came over to ‘go home now’. Today, at a big park, Megan and her friend galloped off into the horizon while I sprinted behind her, red-faced and shrieking for her to listen and return to my heel.  When I eventually caught up to her, I was breathless, panicked and wild with exasperation and helplessness at her disobedience.

I find it fascinating how children push boundaries and are born with an innate mischievousness and wildness that must be channelled and tamed. I have many friends with fertility issues and I am endlessly grateful that I have children so I tend to observe them with wonder and awe, like they’re exotic birds.  Sometimes I forget they are also children in need of instruction. As I’ve said before, this discipline and obedience stuff is becoming one of the most hard core and challenging aspects of parenting.

That’s all our news, folks. Over and out.

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Finding your purpose and passion

October 1, 2015

photo (1) Remember I said that when Megan plays, she collects and then piles up random junk? This week she discovered a box in a cupboard and has been piling it up with odds and ends. She guards her hoard like a Rottweiler and I cannot touch it or clean it up. I never realized kids played like this. I wonder if all little girls do this? I know my niece does. Fascinating! I took a photo of her stash which contains various naked dolls, nappies, puzzle pieces, a towel, some clothes, some books, a shoe, a pouch of baby food and some underpants. Her piles always include undies.

I don’t write this blog for anyone but me. My thoughts often run around in my head like rats in a burning building so writing helps me maintain some control and structure up there. I also write this blog for my girls who will maybe enjoy reading about their younger selves one day.

I want to put in writing some life lessons I’ve learned so far. Hopefully Megan and Jessica will take heed and won’t reinvent the wheel.   Today I want to write about two concepts that fooled me and sent me on a wild goose chase throughout my twenties – finding my purpose and passion.

Purpose oneThe concepts of purpose and passion drive me insane. When I hear people say, ‘find your purpose’ or ask ‘what is your passion?’ I want to bop them over the head with a pickaxe.  I have the urge to fire gun shots in the air or smash metal dustbin lids against a wall.

Our unique, special purpose in life and discovering our passion for some sort of mentally orgasmic activity are the Golden Tickets, aren’t they? They are elusive, fleeting and sometimes downright impossible to pinpoint. The reason people spend so much time trying to find their purpose or passion is probably because they don’t have one.

Purpose and passion are sophisticated lies. We are told we all have a special purpose and some sort of passion so we embark on this treasure hunt trying to find the artist or photographer or dancer or writer or teacher or whatever it is that is apparently hidden deep within us.

chasing tailThe pursuit of our passion and purpose can put us under so much stress. The quest for them wrecked havoc over my career and robbed me of much joy for about eight years after I finished university. Throughout my 20’s I wrestled with my life like it was an out-of-control crocodile. I searched high and low for my purpose and passion and all I have to show for this great big scavenger hunt is a convoluted, non-linear, dog’s breakfast of a CV. The other day I asked Al whether anyone would ever hire me again and he said vaguely, ‘You never know. Maybe some day.’   If I ever need a decent (or any) job some day, I will have to sell potential recruiters with my riveting personality (!?) and then seriously spin my career path in an interview because my resume will do me no favours. Thanks purpose and passion.

I don’t believe everyone has their own unique purpose. I don’t think each individual is destined to do something grand such as develop a cure for cancer or bring about world peace. Some people do, but most don’t. Purpose is simpler and a lot more accessible than we think.  I’ve concluded purpose is morely likely about something we should BE rather than something amazing that we should DO.

I absolutely believe there is purpose to our lives but we all have the same one – something along the lines of to love and be loved. I love Raymond Carver’s quote, ‘And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.’ Ask anyone on their deathbed what matters most and they will tell you that too.

Another problem with finding an overriding purpose for your life is it forces you to spend a lot of time in the future instead of in the here and now. You spend so much time future tripping that you forget to live in the grace and joy of a day. You don’t live once. You die once. You live every single day.

Purpose threeThe problem with passion and purpose is that they are inherently static and finite. I prefer Joy and Curiosity. Do you know what I have realized throughout this Happiness Jar exercise of 2015? A life well lived is a life well loved. Without fail, our happy moments have been relational. Alastair’s happy moment is often the greeting he receives from Megan and Jessica when he opens the front door after work. Mine is usually a special time shared with family or friends during the day. I rarely have a happy moment that does not involve people. I wish someone had told me when I was 18 that I should pursue my joy rather than my unique purpose. Joy is a lot easier to find. I would have wasted less time searching for something that wasn’t there, hoping to find fulfilment in the wrong workplaces and carrying around my dissatisfaction and bad attitude like it was toilet paper stuck on the end of my shoe.

purpose fiveThe world tells us that life is linear. We go from A to B to C. We should find our passion then study that and choose a career path based on that, all in your early twenties. Life is not like that. It is not linear and your passions can change. When I chose my career, I thought my purpose was to be a rich, high-flying corporate exec. I couldn’t talk the talk in the corporate world and I don’t suffer fools but dealt with it all in quiet, passive-aggressive misery. Then I thought my passion was training. So I studied further and got my honours in Industrial Psychology. I’ve run hundreds of training courses since I decided that was my passion and do you know what? It sucked. I don’t ever want to train another person on anything ever again. Oh dear. Do you now see my dilemma?

That’s why I love Elizabeth Gilbert. She is my favourite writer and I hang on her every utterance. She likes curiosity and not passion. This is what she said about passion in an interview:

I feel so sorry for every college student graduating who ever sat there sweltering under their graduation gowns while somebody at the podium told them to follow their passion. Passion is a really intimidating concept and really hard to find on a Wednesday morning. Passion can also burn hot and it can burn out. Passion’s greedy, in a way. It demands the full commitment from you, demands that you risk everything, that you throw every chip in the pot.

I feel like these are not very humane or accessible ideas for most people in everyday life. Yet curiosity is a generous instinct that just gives. What it gives you are clues. And the clues can be really random and really tiny and seemingly insignificant. But if you can get the humility and the faith to trust them, and to just turn your head a quarter of an inch and look a little bit closer every day at whatever might have caught your attention, no matter how nothing it may seem, then all that stuff is a clue on the great scavenger hunt of life.

It might lead you to your passion, or it might not. It might peter out and lead you nowhere, but you didn’t risk much. All you did was take an afternoon on a Saturday to look into something. It’s not like you sold your house and shaved your head and moved to Nepal.

Sheer brilliance. Man, I wish I had heard that when I was choosing my career.

Purpose twoSo if life is more about joy and curiosity than about purpose and passion, then what career should you choose? Long story and that’s for another blog post. A son of one of my friend’s is studying cartooning because, as she said, ‘he is really passionate about drawing.’ WTF. When I heard that, I searched for more dustbin lids. Drawing better be one hell of a burning passion to sustain him through a lifetime of poverty with that kind of career. I will say now that it is important to choose a career that pays you enough to live well. I didn’t enjoy being a CA but it helped us buy a lot of joy, such as the house I am sitting in now. Accountancy is not really my thing but I still don’t regret the career I chose.  I regret the attitude, naiveté and misconceptions with which I approached it because some idiot told me to find my burning passion and make it my job.