End of an Era…

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I’m back to work today, which sounds a bit odd as between my ‘maternity leave’ of Jan to June, I have; helped set up & run auditions for a Summer tour, worked on said Summer tour, assisted in rehearsals for said Summer tour, continued the admin for our family company, fulfilled secretarial duties for the Stage Combat organisation I work for, and had various meetings for my return to work! Taking care of two children under two is a full time job in itself so it’s not exactly been the quietest of maternity leaves! 
However, a lot of the above roles I can do at 3.30am while feeding the baby, or at least keep on top of on my phone while I see Justin pop up on every kids show ever made (seriously…it’s not like there’s a shortage of actors!). I will now have an additional 15-25 hours that are slightly more structured, hours I will have to work personal things around rather than being able to do them when most convenient. 

Most of all it seems like the end of an era. My husband and I decided to have a small age gap between our children so that I took time off over one bigger stage rather than interrupting work twice. It meant that we’d ‘allotted’ ourselves a few years for ‘having babies’! We were lucky that it worked out as planned, I know that for thousands of couples it’s not the case. And it’s been a really hard few years. Really hard. We underestimated and we were pretty prepared! We had no idea my epilepsy would come back, we had no idea my kidneys would get so close to failing completely and the sleepless nights combined with our hectic lifestyle meant that we were burning the candle at both ends and then lighting matches aimed at the middle as well! We’ve worked out that in total, we spent over £600 on hospital car park fees within a 4 month period (one of our more depressing maths sessions..!) and I spent a total of 40 days in hospital. It has been, without a doubt, the hardest time of our lives. We have cried together, laughed together, and at times we thought we were going to be mourning together. But between December 2013 and June 2016, our main focus has been beginning our family and dealing with all that came with it. And on July 1st 2014, and then again on March 19th 2016, we had two of the happiest days of our lives when we welcomed our two beautiful baby girls into the world.

Holly is only three months old, but the act of going back to work makes it feel like the end of that particular section of our lives. It will not by any means that life will be easy from here on it, on the contrary, we now have two young kids!! And then they’ll grow and become teenagers! And then they’ll be adults and we’ll have to hope we did the best job we could so they can go off and have lives of their own *gulp* excuse me while I swallow back tears! 

I can so clearly remember a conversation with my husband in December 2014 when we were staying at his Mum and Dads house because we didn’t have our own place, and we had NO idea what it meant to be parents. We were sat on the bottom bunk (seriously, we really did not have our crap together) and we were looking down at this blotch that looked like a weather report (that we were assured was our soon to be child!) eyes wide. We held each other’s hand and said ‘let’s do this’! And it genuinely feels as if we’re still gripping each other’s hand tight and that after today, we’ve come to the end of that stage. The brand new/creating life/meeting a new member of the family stage. I wouldn’t want to go back in time, I’m excited for the times to come. But I do envy those who have those times still to experience. To those thinking of embarking on it, know this, there is NO perfect time, it will be the hardest and most emotional time of your life and you will question yourself at least twenty times a day. The only thing you can be sure of is that you don’t know what you’re doing, and I suspect never will again!

If I sound dramatic it’s because it is, a dramatic, traumatic, emotional and ridiculous time. That time for us continues but today we poke our head above the barricade. We return fully to the life we had before children but with two tiny humans in tow. 

Until both my children are at school, our plan is that I will not work at my main job full time. Truth is, with everything else I have on, I don’t have enough hours in the day to go full time anyway. But my main role is no longer ‘new Mum’. It’s exciting, but sad. It’s terrifying, but rewarding. I left behind part of the real world in December 2013, and I’m now heading back to it! Every Mum feels the same. Even stay at home Mums experience that ‘coming up for air’ moment when you get glimpses of life before delving head first into have a child. 

I’ve had some lovely messages, and even some cards from people, mainly other Mums who get that it’s a big deal for me. My husband and I have a bottle of red wine with our names on it ready for this evening (although as he had emergency dental work this afternoon, probably just the half glass of red will suffice for him!!). 

We’re going to toast me going back to work, but more importantly we’re going to toast those two young people in their late twenties, holding hands on that bunk bed who made it. We sit here almost three years later in our own house, which we love, with two healthy, happy children…still not with our crap together but at least now we understand that’s how it works!! I’d love to be able to go back in time and give those two people a cuddle, a quick wink and a ‘you’re going to do fine!’ But I can’t, but I CAN give the same to anyone about to embark on the same journey, or thinking about it, or finding themselves on that path without necessarily meaning to head that way. Even if you’re doing it alone, with a partner or with an entire village worth of people helping, you’ll get through amazingly in a way only you could.

It will be a while before you come back to the real world, that’s what becoming a parent does for you. And it will be unimaginably difficult at times. But you WILL be fine, you’ll do great and although it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, it absolutely IS all worth it! I’m at the end of my era, and I’ll be sad to see it go, I’ll cherish the memories and enjoy making a scrapbook with all the millions of our ‘behind the scenes’ photos that we’ve kept for ourselves. 

I’m back to work and best of all, not at all ready for what’s next! 

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Just. One. Book.

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My daughters will grow up very lucky to have access to a lot of education, cultural & educational resources. They will also be brought up to believe in action for others, kindness and compassion. Some books will soon be on their way.

Throwing Chanclas

Just. One. Book.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The…

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Optimistically Onwards…

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Holly is now 12 weeks old. She’s smiling and gurgling and growing and proving every day, that the strong little girl I fought with during the worst parts of a dangerous pregnancy, is the warrior I knew she was. 
She’s a very smiley little girl, although she suffers from more colic than Scarlett did. With sleep they’re now roughly on the same path; Holly does sleep through, for less time than her big sister but we still have to count ourselves as very lucky parents!

She had her eight week injections quite late last week and had more than our first born, they’ve now introduced a Meningitis vaccination, and her little legs both did swell up and she was unwell for a couple of days. Compared to the horrendous diseases they protect against though, it’s nothing really! 

Holly has two beautiful birthmarks, one on her hand and one on her back. Both will decrease as she grows and the one on her back we’ve been told might even disappear completely but it’s those individual irises that I always love about a persons looks. Those special things that make them them. I’ve always felt in the same way that scars narrate the journey we’ve been on so far. It’s why I’m proud of my csection scars, happy with the silvery remains of my pregnancy stretch marks, and there are marks that I’ve come to recognise and love on my husband. Scarlett has a couple of beautiful birthmarks too, one on her head in the same place I do. 

The girls get on well, Scarlett gets very excited when she gets to join in feeding baby Holly, and strokes her head when she cries. She’s not quite clear on the appropriate amount of force to use when dealing with a baby yet but she’s getting there! The initial show of jealousy has disappeared, ever since I was recovered enough to be able to pick Scarlett up again really. Since then, her super early wake ups and extra crazy tantrums have calmed down, which is a relief! 

We have a few important events coming up over the next few months that we’re looking forward to (only with slight trepidation on how well it will all go!);

– Scarlett turns 2 in less than a month.

– We’ll be having a joint baby naming ceremony before the end of the year.

– Holly will be going on her first holiday abroad to Malta in September which will also be our first plane trip with both children…!! 

Lots of exciting times up ahead, to be honest, I’m still so grateful to just have our healthy baby here with us safely. Now we’re back to our regular life, looking forward to the next year is sometimes quite overwhelming. Until the last few days I hadn’t blogged for a while and I think in truth I have been dealing with the aftermath of everything that went on at the beginning of the year. I still have nightmares about it all despite the memories being very hazy for me, and I often wonder how we came out of it so unscathed.

It’s my brother in laws 30th birthday party tomorrow night, the first big family event for us since Holly’s been born. It’s really nice not to have to be missing it, or be making preparations in case of a seizure, or wonder if we’ll make it through the day without having to go to the hospital or have Dr’s come to us. My main concern is what we’re all going to wear! 

It was a long road getting here but today I looked down at my precious little baby girl and I realised how lucky we’d been and what a fighter she is. I apologise for my recent absence comrades, our family of four continues our journey and we hope you are all doing well with your own ups and downs. Life with two under two is a blast, a ridiculous, emotional, difficult and rewarding blast; and now that truly harrowing time is behind us, we’re excitedly looking forward. Smiles at full, adventuring hats on, ONWARD! 

Pro’s Pretence…

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The ways in which my husband and I prove we are not ‘adult’ enough to have children (and yet we do, and they seem ok..).
1. We find it hysterical to brush each other’s teeth. Seriously, try it, hold your partners brush while they control yours and see if you can do it without laughing. You can? You think we’re ridiculous? Ah. Ok.

2. We see those memes that refers to stupid things that one parent does, the ‘irresponsible one’ and it applies to both of us. Where is our supervisory parent?! “Oh dear, did Daddy dress them today?” *awkward pause as I try and work out what’s wrong with a tutu, Spider-Man tshirt and wellies combo*

3. We both find it funny when Scarlett accidentally picks up on a swear word. So when in the car, and my husband gets road rage, we make the situation worse when we hear the angelic voice of our two year old shout out with glee, “thanks dickhead!”. We of course explain to her that it’s a bad word and that Daddy was naughty for saying it, but we can’t make eye contact with each other when doing so without giggling!

4. Neither of us ever successfully looked after a tamagotchi (although did anyone?!). 

5. If we fancy wearing a cape, we will do. If we want to play the PS4 while sitting in a fort, we will do. Although the kids are obviously always welcome to join in…as long as they know the password.

6. We often take on different personas when we go out together, could be as simple as ‘the day of the French accents’, or as elaborate as Liam and Nikki, the crime fighting team with a stray cat as their sidekick. I mean, we’re really tired a lot of the time and when it’s just the two of us (or sometimes secretly while we’re in a group of people..!) we really give in to the delirium!

7. We give the children nicknames based on random sounds, Ponk and Moop are two official titles that only we use. Some days that can be lengthened to Ponko Shmonko and Holly Wally Moop Boop, there is no limit and whatever we use, we will always somehow know which of the girls the other is referring to. Crazy understands crazy.

8. We stay up till 2am playing board games or watching a film or enjoying time together knowing full well we’ll be up by 6.30am. And like students do, every morning we swear that ‘TONIGHT we’ll have an early night’. Spoiler alert: we NEVER WILL!

9. We often make decisions based on ‘rock, paper, scissors’ or through some other childish competition; we both hate washing up – but he lost the staring competition fair and square so it’s HIS turn!

10. Neither of us really know what we’re doing as parents, we’re doing the best we can. Sometimes after a trying day, when we’ve tried something new to deal with bad behaviour, or the baby refuses to go down to sleep until midnight; we have a cuddle and sometimes even a little cry! When things go right we high five or give one another an actual pat on the back. But we muddle on through, like teenagers lost in the woods, we take on parenting together by holding each other’s hands and just going for what looks like the best direction!
You can never be ready for parenthood, and certainly other people give a much better impression of being fully fledged adults. My husband and I both have jobs where people need to rely on us being experts in our fields and THAT we’ve been trained for, THAT we know (most of the time) what we’re doing! And so in our personal lives, we try and give the impression that everything’s totally in hand. I think the truth is, no-one really has it in hand. Nobody really gets to a point where they’re totally confident or feel on top of life, because we’re all always adapting, changing and growing. Even an 80 year old is a novice at being 80, just as they think they’ve got the hang of it, that damn 81st birthday rolls around! So although our ridiculousness gives us away as not even being able to do an impression of knowing what we’re doing, I don’t think we’re truly alone in it. And we manage to keep a lot of the above to when it’s just the two of us, that’s when we can be the most unapologetically silly and goofy! 

And my suspicion is it’s the same for every other couple, we all know how to sit round a dinner table and act like we’re grown ups. Maybe we should be more free with the less adult things; maybe we should stand up on our chair at dinner and say, ‘fear not! I’m not really an adult either, I’m wearing Snoopy knickers and using cellotape because I don’t know how that breast tape bra stuff works! I couldn’t find shoe polish so I coloured the scuff mark in with felt tip, and despite being 31, I really want to blow bubbles in my drink with this straw, be free with me!!’ 

On second thoughts, I might be more amateur than most after all…

…and that kind of behaviour can get you asked to leave Zizzi’s…!

Maternal Mumblings…

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A few things I want to teach my daughters despite not managing myself all the time.
1. Other people’s opinions of you is none of your business. Not everyone will love you, and that’s ok; you can’t and don’t need to change their mind. Concentrate on those that know you and like you for who you are.

2. Break ups aren’t just for relationships. If a friendship is only bringing you negative things in your life, if they make you doubt yourself or jump through hoops to please them, it can be a toxic relationship. There are so many good people in this world without having to stick around the ones that make you feel bad about yourself.

3. But similarly, cherish those friends who support you, love you and raise you up. And make sure you treat others that way. Judging or bitching about others only makes you ugly, not the victim of your judgement or bitchiness.

4. You never know the secret battles other people are fighting, always choose to be kind.

5. Life won’t pause and give you time to fret and worry. If you have wronged someone, own up to it, apologise and try and make amends if necessary. If you haven’t done anything wrong, move on, if the other person or people can’t, you’re not really their issue. Don’t compromise yourself to appease others or make yourself small just so that others can feel bigger.

6. The right thing to do won’t always be easier, but it’s always the best option. Don’t take the easy road, and you’ll regret your actions less.

7. Forgive others, we’re all human. And forgive yourself too.

8. Live and love passionately and without apology, enthusiasm and passion are two wonderful qualities that will make your life shine. 

9. Don’t look at what other people think is ‘cool’ or ‘successful’, stay true to yourself, always follow your own path. Life’s too short to make decisions based on anyone else’s opinion.

10. You’ll fall in love and it will be wonderful, it will hurt, and it will change your life. Let yourself feel the good and the bad, every relationship will teach you something new, and it’s never worth loving in half measures. And don’t begrudge other people’s journeys that brought them to you. One day, the scars and marks in your heart from where you’ve been will match up with someone else’s and you’ll realise they fit together. 

My darling daughters you taught me to love and to live and I hope I can help you both be as happy as you possibly can be. You will fail at all of the above at times and it’s ok. We’re all doing our best in this ridiculous world. And one day I won’t be with you, but the best parts of me will always be within you. 

Captaining Chaos…

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We have lot of people in our life, and don’t mistake me, we love it. We have a very busy work life that bleeds and combines with our social life but that’s theatre. 
Someone asked us the other day whether it got too much sometimes; on an average week, around five days out of the seven we have people round, which usually involves us making food or at least clearing up a lot of stuff afterwards. In honesty? We love our life and we choose the chaos, something I know some people can’t understand because they prefer a more routines or less hectic day to day. And in the main, it doesn’t get too much. But sometimes, especially now we have two children, we do sometimes have to admit we’ve bitten off a bit more than is ideal. I think it’s a slight curse of the freelance worker, in the beginning, you become so accustomed to accepting every work offer and taking on everything you can; that when you become established and busy, the idea of turning down work makes your heart jump into your throat! And as the majority of our work is about people rather than money, if we’re unable to do a job or put our all into something, we really feel the pressure of letting the people involved down. 

Our two daughters are now our number one priority. So we’ve had to start looking at our schedule and saying, ‘do you know what, although we promised to try and fit in an evening to talk to this person about a documentary project, it can wait, and tonight we’re going to watch the Let It Go music video eight times, be there for Bathtime and then both take on characters in a made up bedtime story.’ Because those little things are the reasons we’re doing most of the work. We sometimes spend eight hours of a day in the car to be able to do a really important piece of work, but it’s so that we can then have that precious bedtime routine for the next four nights.

We also couldn’t do it without each other’s support, my husband needs my help with the administrative side of his work, to bounce ideas off and to assist him with various things; and similarly I need him for inspiration, motivation and as an overwhelming source of support. And the hectic social side that comes with it? The dinners, the games evenings and other extras that come with both our careers? It’s what makes it all worth it! Money isn’t our main drive, we’d always much rather work with people we work well with and enjoy spending time with, rather than go for the highest paid activities, for us that’s what gives us job satisfaction.

Saying all of that, our other big priority is time as husband and wife. Not Mum and Dad, not Colleagues, not Organisers, not Vice Chairman and Secretary. Each day we try and ensure some of the day is kept sacred as husband and wife. Recently (with a particularly hectic work schedule and accompanying social timetable) we realised that we hadn’t prioritised it enough. We were getting to bed near or past midnight, going straight to sleep and then starting back with the rest of our roles the next morning. Once we’d realised that our roles of husband and wife had started slipping down our list of priorities, we cancelled an evenings activity and went out for dinner. And then we came home, had a glass of wine and just sat on the sofa together. It was AMAZING! And then on nights we finished at 10/11pm, we stayed up an extra hour just to spend a bit of time together. It makes a huge difference. It means that when a houseful leave and we’re left with more mess, instead of getting uptight, we clear up with a smile. When Scarlett’s screaming at us because we won’t let her get her own way and baby Holly is crying for a feed, it’s not overwhelming. We can smile through the chaos, because the very core of that chaos is my husband and I, two people in love taking it all on together. And when the core is strong, you can deal with all the rest, it’s like the foundations of a house; as long as they’re in place, you can easily build extra rooms above. 

It’s not easy, sometimes it’s hard to separate those roles, and sometimes we forget those vital important parts because the other bits of life can pile up and distract you so easily! So although our schedule sounds like hell to some people and it can often be hard work, it works for us. The bottom line is, as long as our kids are being prioritised and our marriage is at its core, we will continue with this ridiculous chaotic production that we call life!