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Writing for fun 1 February 2019

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I was scared. The darkness was frightening, impenetrable. The chicken coop, normally familiar, loomed and creaked. The wind tore at the walls, rattling the window panes.

The lightning had struck nearby and the ensuing thunder was louder than any sound I had ever heard. It was deep, growling, long. Menacing. The sole lightbulb suspended from the ceiling had gone out.

Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the dark and the impenetrable thickness gave way to forms around the room, the hay bales, the sacks of feed, the little ramps and chicken nests. I could make out the shapes of the chickens, huddling together on a raised bar along the back wall, turned away. They were seeking warmth and comfort from each other.

I had never stayed at grandmas farm before, and quite enjoyed the little chores around the place like picking strawberries and feeding the animals. I had come to the chicken coop with scraps from dinner, then got distracted as ten year olds do, looking for eggs in the hay, watching the chickens. They had been acting strange, probably feeling the storm coming in a way urban humans no longer can. I hadn’t noticed the rains’ increased intensity, lost in my day dreams and chatter with the chooks.

I’ve always been a dreamer, time slips away unaccounted for.

I opened the door to the drifts of rain and whipping wind, and saw the power was also out at the farm house. Through the kitchen windows, I could see several lit candles but not the shapes of my family.

Mum and uncle John stepped outside and scurried across the farm yard towards the barn, each with an umbrella, leaning into the wind. I called out, but I could barely hear my own voice over the wind howling and the cracks of thunder. The old oak trees lining the driveway and the farm yard were groaning, swaying dangerously. The rain pelted down.

I stayed put, and waited for the storm to pass. The chickens continued to huddle, but their stoic patience provided me with a sense of calm reassurance.

This storm would pass.

When I finally made it back to the house, mum and John were relieved, and grandma didn’t admit to feelings, but fussed over me and peeled mandarins for me after my ‘big adventure’ as she called it. Uncle John showed how when you squeeze mandarin peel next to an open candle flame, it made ‘mini-fireworks’, crackling and spitting.

Mum bundled me off to bed thinking I’d had enough excitement that day, and I probably didn’t need to also burn the house down. She carried a candle for light and let me go to bed without my pyjamas for a change. I guess we probably wouldn’t have found them in the suitcase in the dark anyway.

As she kissed my forehead goodnight, I drifted off into a sleep filled with round, feathery chickens huddling. I was never scared of storms again.

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Practice 14 September 2018

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I’m practicing my writing sometimes, little vignettes that don’t mean anything and don’t necessarily go anywhere. Here’s an example.

I knew I shouldn’t, I really did not need the calories, and the slight chance of a migraine in the morning. I had been flat out all week – actually, make that all month, and I was standing in the little kitchenette at work, waiting for the lights on the coffee machine to stop flashing so I could make my first coffee of the day. I knew there was a distinct possibility I would be back for a number more as the hours dragged on, it was shaping up to being one of those days. I had stepped back from the machine to stand with my back in the sun – it was slowly starting to get warmer after quite a nasty winter, and the light flowing in through the window behind me was warm and yellow and cheery. I didn’t quite match the feeling of the light, but I appreciated it for trying.

I had been rounding my back to the warmth like a cat, trying to practice ‘mindfulness’ (all the rage at the moment and supposedly good for stressful moments) where I would breathe in deeply through my nose for four counts, feeling my lungs fill and open, then breathe out in a slow and purposeful way through my mouth. I had opened one eye mid-breath to check the little flashing lights when the colourful wrapping had caught my eye.

Large, joyful Lindor balls were sitting on the counter. A little yellow post-it note was declaring in all caps:

“FEEL FREE TO HAVE SOME!!” followed by a smiley-face.

It might as well have been screaming “EAT ME, EAT ME NOW!!”

Before I knew it, I had picked up a red one, and I was unwrapping it, watching the perfectly delicious brown chocolate underneath unfurl in my hand. And I knew full well in that moment if I had one, I would have more. And chocolate is a migraine trigger for me. So not only was I eating calories I did not want or need, but I would most likely have to call in sick tomorrow and stay at home with the curtains drawn, like a teenager after their very first BNS ball.

I was full of self-loathing as I placed the round ball in my mouth, feeling for the little indent on one side and the little protrusion on the other with my tongue as it dissolved. It melted over my tongue and down my gullet. In for a penny, in for a pound, and I soon had five differently coloured wrappers on the counter, chocolates devoured.

The little lights had stopped flashing, so I pressed the button next to the ‘macchiato’ setting, and watched my cup fill with deep dark, smoking coffee and milk. I quickly gathered up the wrappers, disgusted with my lack of self-control, and stuffed them into my pocket so no one would see them. I tried to rearrange the remaining chocolates to look more plentiful, but eventually had to resort to grabbing a smaller bowl. I transferred the post-it and placed the bigger bowl back in the cupboard.

I grabbed my cup of coffee and headed back to my desk, wondering if I was going to make it all the way through the day. I really did not have time for this, what on earth had I been thinking eating those chocolates? I don’t even like Lindor.

Different children 2 August 2018

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I knew my children would be different. You know that as a parent, in theory at least. And then they come out, these marvellously, intricate, perfect little human beings with personalities bigger than themselves. And then you just can’t reconcile the fact that they are the same genetic make up, the same womb, the same environment, yet so incredibly different.

My eldest is caring, he likes to cuddle (always has), is inquisitive and will currently not take no for an answer (he’s also a toddler).

It took him forever to start talking, but he could easily communicate through grunts, noises and pointing. Now he’s found his words, and the only time there is not a story on his lips is when he’s asleep and I’m not even certain he might not be sleep talking. He has always been measured, cautious, if not a little clumsy.

He had blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile that can melt anyone’s heart. He hates me touching his hair, and won’t have it brushed, washed or cut. I have had to cut knots and dreadlocks out of his hair while he sleeps to keep it manageable. He hates water in his face.

My youngest is loud, rambunctious, with no fear. She will take a while to do something for the first time, but then she does it well – like crawling. She was just off one day. I assume she will be the same with walking. She climbs and gets in the water, head under, no drama. She’s my water baby, crying if I won’t let her get in the shower with me (because she is fully clothed).

She only cuddles on her terms, so I can count on one hand the times she has tucked her little head into my chest. I savoir those times even more when they happen. She’s fiercely independent, won’t want me to help her with anything.

She had brown, curly hair, which I can wash and brush as much as I like but which is always unruly. She, of course, pulls clips and hair bands out as soon as they are in. She’s got spunk.

The best thing about them both is their love for each other. They play together and adore each other and light up when they are reunited at the end of the day.

They are different those two and they are teaching me so much about life. But they are both great little humans and I can’t wait to see them grow up together.

Norwegian strawberries 13 July 2018

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My baby smells like strawberries.

I normally hate it when she doesn’t smell like herself – I dislike baby products and even strong smelling washing detergent.

She normally smells sweet after a bath. Or salty when she’s had a sleep. Sweaty, delicious, milky baby.

But right now, she smells like strawberries and I’m loving it. She had handfuls at dinner time, and apart from a quick wet towel over her hands and cheeks, we didn’t have a bath.

And Norwegian strawberries are the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Not particularly large, but sweet, ripe, gooey and dark red. Juicy, too. And a bit sticky.

So the baby was covered in gooey smelly strawberry juice, smiling in a joker-a-la-Heath-Ledger kind of way. Only adorable.

She ate so many I thought she might get a tummy ache. But now she’s asleep and snuggled in for the night, and I’m loving that her whole being exudes the most wonderful, sweet, strawberry smell.

Sleep tight my strawberry girl.

Norway 11 July 2018

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I am back in Norway for the first time in years, and it is an oddly visceral experience.

I’m struggling to put it into words, it’s long forgotten memories, a deep knowledge of the place, laced with the beauty of this country. It’s the smells, sights, flavours. Even the flora and the fauna. I’m trying to explain, but my attempts are disjointed. Yet it perfectly describes my brain at the moment – skipping around, never fully settling on an idea or an experience. On to the next input.

I used to live in Norway for many years growing up, but left to study. I have been back since then, but only to visit friends and family. This time around, I am not catching up with many people and I am actually seeing a part of the country I haven’t been to before, holidaying. And that’s why it’s so different this time – my sojourn is conjuring up memories of summer holidays long forgotten.

Endless summer days away from school, swimming in the fjords, mosquitos, the smell of ocean, the deep green hues of deciduous trees making the most of short summers. Scabbed knees, the pain of standing on a bumble bee barefoot, clover in your hair, newly mowed grass.

My brain is flooded with memories, long forgotten but brought right into the forefront of my mind, ready to be touched, smelt, experienced. People I haven’t thought about in years pop up in my mind and I wonder how they are. The feeling of flying down a hill on a pink rickety bike, fast enough for your eyes to go misty with tears. The front wheel catching in a groove made from the rains the night before, sending you flying. The small bits of gravel stuck just under your skin on your knees.

There is a knowledge of the land, too – not my land, but through school excursions and teachings, it’s country I know the most intimately in the world. I know these trees and birds. I recognise the flecks of sparkles through the sea, fools gold, shimmering in the gentle waves. It’s familiar even though I’ve never been here before. The wild strawberries, fragrant almost perfume like, brought back glimpses of school camps in forests far away.

Laced through all of this is the presence of my brother. With me every day through those summers of yore, whether at home or on holidays in the mountains or at the beach. Schlepping through tidal pools looking for treasure, lying on our bellies on a jetty fishing for crabs with a broken mussel, gooey orange insides exposed and irresistible to a crab, a peg and some string. Sleeping in tents together, spending our pocket money unwisely. He is here as well, and although we are both grown up, there is a shared knowledge with him I will never have with anyone else.

My brother is the only person who has the same odd mish-mash of countries, languages, cultures, as me. It’s the most wonderful gift to have someone I’m so connected to and who understands my experience the way he does. We are different people and vastly so, but my visceral reliving of this Norwegian holiday wouldn’t have been complete without him.

Little girl 8 February 2018

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Putting away another size

My baby is growing fast

I‘ve made her wear these too long

Putting clothes away

Means time is slipping

From little baby to big girl

The tiny booties someone knitted

The little Christmas dress

All those things she never wore

The teeth she’s cutting

The nappies she’s outgrown

All mark the time marching on

The new things she’s learning

I hardly recognise her

She changes so much each day

But there she is my miracle

My perfect little girl

May the world be good

It is better for having you.

Irritable baby 17 December 2017

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The baby is irritable. One of those days.

She doesn’t want to be up or down, she’s hungry but doesn’t want boob.

She is tired but won’t sleep.

Wants to be with her mum, on her mum, attached to mum.

Mum is not allowed to sit or lie down, mum must stand up and bop her.

She doesn’t want to face inwards, she doesn’t want to face outward.

No toy is good enough.

She might be a lot of things. In need of emotional support. Teething. Tummy aches from recently going on solids. Tired from a bad night sleep. Too hot. Simply grumpy.

Mum tries everything under the sun and then cycles through those options again. Nothing works.

One of those days.

Mum knows it’s just a phase.

Then suddenly, after a catnap, baby looks up at mum and coos. Reaches out to grab mums face. It won’t last today, but mum savours these moments.

I do not trust you 14 November 2017

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The thought suddenly struck me.

I don’t trust you anymore.

As I was standing there, in front of the mirror, I finally admitted that to myself.

In fact, I don’t think I even know you anymore.

I admire you, yes, I’m even a little in awe of you. You bore me two healthy, bouncy, whopper children. I had known you could do that, in theory. But the actuality of it strikes me with awe.

I had spent many years of my life trying to prevent you from doing that, too. And then when we decided to try, you provided me with two gorgeous babies, exactly two years apart.

Yet here I stand, postpartum, and I don’t know you anymore. Despite the things we have been through together.

In my younger years I neglected you. Abused you even. Too much alcohol, too many sleepless nights, out dancing. Too sedentary. Too many calories. Not enough exercise.

You were beyond plump on several occasions. Crash diets, or emotional turmoil would bring me back to just plump.

In my late 20s, we found exercise. Steep learning curve. There were many set backs. But I pushed you, and you surprised me in what you could do. We did Tough Mudder together. A couple of duathlons. We learnt to swim together, and we did one triathlon. By no means an athlete, but we did that. Together.

Yet there you are, in the mirror. And I do not trust you.

The scar from the Caesarian from two years ago, fully healed. The hard, round breast that is full, the soft, slightly droopy breast that was recently emptied by the now softly snoring baby. The extra kilos I haven’t been able to shift after the second Bub. It’s all there.

You look familiar.

No stretch marks. Quick recovery from the births. A veritable milk factory.

Yet I don’t trust you.

I signed up for a mums and bubs Bootcamp this morning. I thought I would be excited. I got dressed in active wear, dug the old sports bra out of the cupboard. But I felt angry. Anxious.

I didn’t want to go.

This was not the usual lack of motivation.

I sabotaged my efforts all morning. Ate too much. Reached for the unhealthy options. Had Coca Cola for breakfast (I haven’t done that in the past decade, why today!?)

I did not want to go.

How could I go?

I don’t trust you anymore.

I don’t trust that you will be there for me. I don’t expect you to be as strong as you used to. But what if you straight up fail on me? I don’t know how you will respond.

The weak pelvic floor doesn’t help.

I have been doing Kegel exercises every day since the second birth. I thought I would feel more confident by now.

But I do not trust you.

There is still a very long journey ahead. One we must share.

Although I know I must learn to know you and trust you again, I do not know where to start.

While on holiday 18 September 2017

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The baby won’t sleep. 

She tosses and turns and she’s flailing like an octopus. I think she might be hungry so I offer her boob. She is not interested. 

A little fist finds my nose at speed. It doesn’t hurt, but I’m now wide awake. I try to remove blankets in case she’s hot. 

She’s not crying, but she’s clearly uncomfortable. Impressions of the day gone past might be racing through her mind. Trying to process, make sense of it all. 

I’m hot. I pop out for a drink and realise the bedroom is hot and stuffy. I leave the door open. She is still flailing. 

I offer boob again, declined again. This continues for an hour, her eyes wide open. I wonder how many extra arms and legs my baby has grown over night. 

It’s almost 3am. I could not be more awake. Baby rolls into me, burying her face in the smell of mum. Boob sounds good. She finally settles. Her eyes slowly slide shut. Her arms and legs come to a rest. Her breathing becomes soft and regular. She falls asleep. 

I’m wide awake. I try to sleep. 

Suddenly, a crash in the next room. The toddler wails. Did he fall out of bed? I can hear his dad pick him up. Big cuddles.

Sobbing and pointing. The word “there”. I can’t see, but I know he’s pointing to where it hurts and what hurt him. More reassuring words, gentle whispers from dad. 

I fight the urge to go hug my toddler. Dad is handling it, and baby is only just asleep. I love the gentle, sweet reassuring voice full of empathy in the next room. 

Sobbing stops. Silence descends again over the two rooms. Time to sleep. 

Suddenly, a tiny voice, clear as a bell. 

“Papa?”

“Yes, gorgeous?” Whispered 

“Night, night!” 

My heart melts. 

Sleep tight my gorgeous children. Sleep tight. Hopefully I can join you in the land of nod soon. 

Baby girl 13 July 2017

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The baby has drifted off blissfully

I’m exhausted and I should sleep

Yet I can’t help but lie here and watch her. 

Fleeting moments the world stands still. 

She stretches. 

I feel in awe of being allowed to be a mum. 

To be her mum.