Easily one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How do you manage to entertain your kids and work from home?” This comes in a few variations but usually, it’s from other mums who also work from home or are dealing with toddlers who are sick and trying to catch up while working from home. I want to state this very cleary from the start, every child is different. What works for my kids may not work for yours but maybe you can adapt these ideas to suit your child’s personality. I hope this inspires you to come up with some creative solutions of your own and if you do please share them because I am always on the lookout for new ideas.
The nine activities that I use are:
1 – Activity Boxes
I have a number of activity boxes that are packed with different activities that the girls (2 and 3 years old) can do at the dining table while I work on the laptop. These are shoe boxes that I decorated or IKEA boxes with a lid. These are always my first port of call in an emergency. It’s much easier to occupy the girls at a dining table so I can work in the same space. These boxes are filled with:
Stamp Kits: Paper, ink pads and stamps. I got mine from This is Knit and Easons and I use them for both the girls’ entertainment and my bullet journal. They play away while I work and if it ends badly then everyone ends up in the shower.
Colouring kits: Pencils paper and sticker books are always a favourite.
Play-Doh Kits: or homemade playdough and old plastic chopping boards for them to use as a base.
The best part about these kits is that you can put whatever your child is interested in, in these boxes and pull them out when you need an extra half hour on the laptop.
2 – Lego / Wooden Blocks
I can’t believe how often my girls have just built towers over and over again. They play together and apart. They have a system, one builds and one tears it down and fixes the blocks all in a row but it works.
3 – Post It Box
I’m not sure where I found this one but oh boy has it saved me a few times. This is an old shoe box that I covered in wrapping paper and when I get junk mail I fold it and pop it in. Then, usually, my youngest will take the lid off and open all of the ‘mail’ while ‘reading’ it. She then tries to pop it all back in the envelopes and then posts it back in the box. As this became a favourite, I got a second box for her to post into as well.
4 – Dress Up / Make Believe
I know this seems a little crazy but depending on the girls’ mood, if I dress them up and give them wands or wings they love flying around the house. We use the hall as a flying/landing strip and the girls happily play together. I have music on the laptop that rotates and they have to change their play to suit the music.
5 – Empty Boxes
I cannot stress this enough, never ever throw out empty boxes until your kids have played with them. They can colour on them, play hide and seek and if big enough you can cut out windows and use as a playhouse. The box our Dyson hoover came in was gold for entertaining the kids. They just liked to crawl through it over and over again. Then they would fight as to who got to sit in it. I added plastic balls from the ball pool at one stage too and they loved it. The best thing is it just goes into recycling when they are board. For this reason I have started looking at cardboard toys as usually they get bored after a while so instead of having more toys stacking up in boxes in the playroom I can just recycle it instead.
6 – Beech Walk / Excercise
This may seem counterproductive as you want to sit and write but if your kids are full of beans and you need to sit and wok then it will go much better if you can wear them out first. I will take them for a beach walk and let them walk until they start moaning at me to go home. Then when I get back I have the activity boxes set up on the dining table or sometimes they just want a nap. Either way, I get my two hours to work so I’m happy.
The Aquadoodle was a gift for T’s birthday but my kids love it. It’s a giant mat with a pen that you fill with water and you just let them draw and scribble on the mat. We got a second pen when my second child wanted to start playing with it as they are rather impatient when so young. This was amazing when my girls were too young for crayons. It only works on the mat and you just dry the mat when they are done.
8 – Indoor Picnics
We have both indoor real and pretend picnics were the girls have to lay out the blanket and set places for them to sit. This is great for teaching them skills and for keeping them occupied. Usually, it starts as pretend and then ends up with them asking for sandwiches or fruit which is great because if they are eating them they are quiet.
9 – Movie Time
I put this last on my list as it really is my last resort but when I need quiet time for a phone call or I have something I need off my desk quickly I do use the TV as a babysitter. I pop their favourite movie on and I pop in earbuds and work away from the sofa. I can see what they are up to and I can work at the same time. The problem then is trying to turn off the TV once I’m finished. I don’t like them having too much screen time in a day so usually, this is for when they are quiet and in need of quiet time.
There is no magic formula, there are days when my kids are upset and in need of mommy and there is nothing I can do and work gets shoved into the hours when they are worn out and sleeping. I fit my work around what is needed at home though when my kids were smaller, I was doing both at the same time but they usually slept more or on could play on playmats. I hope this post inspired some creative ideas of your own.
As you all will have noticed I took a break for a week. I didn’t forgot about you, I took a break from everything and that includes my novel. I didn’t realise until this weekend just how exhausted I was. If you have been following the blog it’s fairly obvious as to why I was exhausted and I’m really only starting to feel a little better. I don’t mean I was tired, I mean exhausted. Every bone in my body ached, I couldn’t stand up without feeling dizzy on Monday and after the school run yesterday I just lay on the couch and read a book. Today though I solely want to focus on NaNoWriMo and it’s contribution to my exhaustion.
The Emotional Toll
In contrast to a lot of other writers I know taking part in NaNo, I’m writing a memoir. It’s a story only I can write but in doing so it forces me to deal with certain aspects of my life and is helping me to deal with loss. I am the type of person that needs a looming deadline in order to get anything down on a page. I need that little bit of stress to kickstart a productive streak. You would think that NaNo would be perfect; a word count with a deadline, that should be right up my street and I think it would have been if I wasn’t writing this particular story.
What I didn’t factor in, apart from the cottage renovations, was the emotional toll of writing about M. The memoir is obviously a story based in truth but edited into a story I want to tell. I hit emotional peaks and valleys in certain chapters and I never considered that having an actual physical effect on me. Add that on top of the renovations, toddlers, the blog and podcast on to the stress of the NaNo daily deadlines, I was completely worn out. The hardest thing for me wasn’t writers’ block, I had planned out my chapters anyway, it was dealing with a range of emotions and issues that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. I’m also surer now that this is a personal novel. I don’t think I ever want to share it with the world, it’s more of a journey for me to take.
I also wasn’t prepared for how stressed, frustrated and angry that I was for my time to be stolen away from NaNo and writing. This project meant so much to me personally, that having to deal with taking on more and more responsibility during the renovation made me more and more angry. I had been strategically careful about having November ready for me to write and to deal with grief that yet again I ended up taking on more and more and that time that I had worked so hard to create was gone. I realised that I was in exactly the same position that I was when she died, that my grief was again shoved aside to the needs of right now.
This particular novel was never about writing a bestseller or having something that I can market after November. It is about a personal journey. One of growth and realisation. That by going through the motions and putting M’s story down on paper, I would have to form cohesive thoughts on the process, thereby dealing with my own personal loss. Having that time whipped away and having to deal with issues that should have been a lot easier to deal with is infuriating and over the month of November, I realised that it has crossed the line from mild annoyance to anger.
Writing On Empty
It took a weekend with some friends to realise that I was writing on empty. I was trying to deal with the emotional effects of the project while completely worn out. The best thing that I could do was to take some downtime and that is exactly what I did. I brought my laptop of course but I spent time laughing, catching up and surrounded by wonderful people all taking care of one another. Each one of us in need of rest, relaxation, good food and encouragement.
I woke up the next morning early, crept downstairs, lit the stove and started writing and the words just flew on to the page. I was at a particularly difficult part of the story but I just wrote it out, then had coffee with a friend and an exhilarating walk on the beach before a fun journey home. By the time I got back to the cottage, I had my word count for the day and a few blog post ideas on topics that I want to talk about. I realised that it was ok to be exhausted and that I could lie on the couch and read for a day while watching the toddlers. I just said no to everything in order to fill my own energy stores up first before dealing with the chaos. It will still be there until I have the strength to do it.
And so I start writing again on Nov 22nd. I’m behind and I don’t care which is not like me at all. This was never about a target driven 50K and I think once I realised the entire meaning of this project, I let the pressure of NaNoWriMo go. My target from now until the end is to write my novel every day until it’s finished. If it’s having an emotional toll then I can put it aside and come back when I’m ready. NaNo has taught me so much that I am glad I took part in the process. I won’t cry if I don’t have my 50K because I will have my first draft on paper and I will have carved out time for me.
Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.
Hello, week three of NaNoWriMo! By now a lot of writers are over the halfway point of 25,000 words and have reached the point that I keep hearing is known as the saggy middle. As of 10 am this morning I have a word count of 17,935 which by no means suggest that I can’t finish this novel but November 30th. This week has been more of a race against time. Time to sit at the laptop, time to think and re-plan my chapters, time to think about moving the story along from point to point without losing the stream of things.
All of this while trying to finish the cottage, order fixtures and fittings and oh yeah, decorate every room. EVERY ROOM. I have learned that I do not like to decorate under pressure and if you have a picture of me, half asleep scrolling through Pinterest at 7 am with a coffee in hand, half dressed while sending images to my partner with the caption “just do this” you would be pretty bang on.
I managed to keep writing through the house chaos, yes we ARE still in one room but that will change as of this evening. I’m typing this post from our new office which is currently a shell but it has a desk (ok a gable end of a kitchen held up by two vintage bedside cabinets but it works) and painted walls so that’s something. At least nothing can distract from writing in here apart from a neighbour’s enthusiastic whistling floating through my open window and the birds daily antics. It has taught me to write as soon as I open my laptop and that outlining the night before what I plan to write in the morning is the fastest way to increase my word count and get my chapters written. This is mostly due to using a bullet journal so I definitely see me keeping a bujo just for creative writing projects.
Sprints and 4 the Words
The other amazing way that I have managed to write almost eighteen thousand words in only eight days of actual writing is down to word sprints on Twitter and the website 4 the Words. When I reached a difficult point in my novel I would log into 4 the words and write while battling monsters. The site was fun and somehow managed to keep me laughing even though what I’m writing about was difficult and brought tears to my eyes. It is a fantastic way to increase your word count and keep you grounded and laughing so I’m a definite fan and see myself using this long after NaNo is finished.
Is it Working?
In short yes, NaNoWriMo is working for me and it is forcing me to hold myself accountable to friends and other writers online. It’s taken a profession that is solitary and made it fun. I doubt very much if I would ever have written what I have if it wasn’t for the support of NaNo and my region. I have met some wonderful people (big shout out to Grace our ML and Ciara) who are supportive and full of advice and experience. Yes, there are days when I just can’t write due to life at the moment but here I am entering the third week with 13 chapters saved in various locations.
NaNo has taught me so many things from outlining, character development but mostly how to tackle a piece of work this big. I’m still not sure if this novel will be one that I want to share with the world or keep just for me but by going through the process, it has allowed me to realise that a novel really isn’t as daunting as I once thought. I have been sketching plans and ideas in my bullet journal for future plans too, usually at 3 am while being kicked in the side by a two-year-old. It made me realise how much I enjoy writing and the subtlety of language. I never considered myself a writer until last week when I sat back and looked at everything that I do and have achieved in the last year. I do at last consider myself a writer. Thank you NaNo for re-kindling my love of writing.
Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.
Hello, week two of NaNoWriMo! It has been an interesting week. We are all walking zombies, I really can’t describe it any other way. We are all still sleeping in one room so it has now been a week of sharing a room with my toddlers. I now have the FEAR that I will never get them out of my bedroom again. However, there is an end in sight and we are crawling slowly towards it thanks to the recent weather drop but this weekend should see us all in new bedrooms! Just save that celebatory glass of champagne until it actually happens.
Our second regional write in is this evening which is why I am writing this blog post instead of increasing my word count. I missed the first write in but I have joined in all the virtual write-in’s on YouTube and you can catch the replays here if you are interested. I have taken part in the NaNo word sprints on Twitter and they have really focused me on achieving my goal. I really do recommend that if you are in a slump and you can’t write to pop on to Twitter and take part or tag a fellow WriMo and have a word count battle. Having someone to hold you accountable is really key where you are in a funk. Which brings me nicely on to the next section:
Shut up and tell me about your writing already!
Ok today is day eight of NaNo and the word count to hit by the end of the day is 13336 and I am currently on 9,169 which means that I will finish on December 14th at my current rate. The whole reason for this was down to losing four consecutive days of writing time and every time I get into the flow of writing it gets broken because of a child or building work or well life pulling me away from the laptop. The words are flowing really quickly when I do get to write and yesterday I managed a word count of over 3K so I know that over the course of this week I can get back on track and just write it out.
One of the biggest problems for me was how to write the final image and it came to me while I was working on chapters five and six so I’m happy about that but the blues on week two is more about falling behind due to all the external circumstances that are out of my control. (Yes as I write this post my husband has just informed me that the floors are to be sanded this weekend ermmmm)
When I write, I am getting lost in the story but it’s hard to know if it’s because it is so personal or if it is actually good writing. I know in places that the entire chapter will need to be reworked in editing but by getting it down on paper, per say, the first draft is flying along but just not as fast as the WriMo’s who have actual time to sit and write in batches. I know that if I don’t get some uninterrupted sleep this will not be finished in November so cross your fingers for me.
Why? To those who are against NaNo and are saying that you can have 50K words at the end of the month but a terrible novel I say, well yes that’s true but NaNo is about giving yourself the possibility of achieving it with help of a supportive online community in your corner all routing for you. My target was to tell my story and to have a first draft in need of some serious editing because I would never carve out the time in my life to do it otherwise. Now I have people who are cheering me on and lending a hand when I’m stuck (writing prompt anyone: zombie dragon) and I’m doing something for me that matters. I can’t learn what my weakness is if I never try and I’m a person who needs a good hardnose deadline in order to achieve something. That person who never studied until the night before an exam and got a 1.1, that’s me. I need that clock counting down to zero to get my bum in gear and just do it. Don’t be against NaNo, there are a lot of young writers taking part in schools around the world. They are all learning how to write and some are surpassing myself at every level. I may not have an amazing novel by November 30th but I will have achieved something that I never have before in my entire life.
So, I am pushing towards the deadline and shaking off the blues. Who’s with me? In saying all of the above, how are your novels coming along?
Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.
It’s day two of NaNoWriMo and I’m currently on track which is a big surprise as the world has descended into chaos around me. Thank goodness I had an outline is all I can say because my writing time is crammed into a two-hour timeslot and it *has* to get done or I’ll fall behind. The renovations on the cottage are currently in full force with 3 people here and all of us poor souls crammed into two rooms and the rooms in an Irish cottage, ahem, well they are not the biggest.
So for those parents out there who follow me, yes that means that currently myself, my partner and both toddlers are all sleeping in one room and it’s a challenge but life is also full of reminders why we love being parents. Yes, okay, that’s soppy but the whole experience aside from the house being upended in one 24 hour period, is fun. I get to watch my kids help and adapt. I’ve watched T take care of K and help her carry things and feed her and teach her how to put her socks on. Yip, we are all about the toddlers helping to move their own things and say goodbye to their room too. I keep reminding them that we all get new bedrooms and an office/craft room out of this so it is worth it.
And Now For The Writing….
I thought with an outline and some test pages trying different points of view would be enough preparation for me to write what I wanted on the pages. I have decided that morning time is best for writing. I read my previous work before going to sleep and I get up an hour earlier, which in our current situation is pretty easy and I write before my partner leaves for work. So far this is working out pretty well.
I had no idea that NaNoWriMo had such a wonderful community that meet in person. I have a wonderful ML (Municipal Liason) called Grace who is a NaNo veteran and full of useful tips and advice. We had our first in-person meetup where I got to chat with other writers from my region and find out their experiences with NaNo and a little about what they are working on for November. One of the best pieces of advice I left with was to aim for 2000 words a day to make up for the days where life will inevitably get in the way and your fingers will never dust the keys of a laptop or find time with pen and paper.
My difficulties are reigning in my train of thought and keeping the chapters consistent. Letting them find their natural end without worrying about the word count. Expanding on the scenes of the outline for me because of the type of writing I’m doing is difficult without timelines going all over the place and I’m having a problem with confidence and wondering why on earth anyone would want to read what I’m writing.
I reminded myself that this November is about me and my personal goal and writing the story that I want to write. That by going through this process it will help me as a writer but also help me to pull together cohesive thoughts on the ‘M’ project. I can’t tell you how many times when I was joining in the live calls or working on the beat sheets that Hops & Claws kept popping back into my mind and I have a notebook filled with story ideas that all need writing and expanding. I had that feeling again, of being happy and doing something because I loved it. All I have to do at this moment in time is to write what I want to write and let go of the idea of it being a published piece. Only time will tell if it is something that I would like out in the world.
Unlike Hops & Claws which was written with the intention of release, this project is personal that I’m unsure that I want these thoughts read by others. I’m more tired than I have ever been as writing these pages are emotionally draining but there is so much that I don’t want to forget that I feel the only way I can do it justice is to write it out. I’ve already laughed and cried and I’m only on chapter 3 so who knows where it will go from here.
Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful WriMo.
I love this time of year, autumnal harvests and pulling out knitwear for cold snaps are some of my favourite things but it is Oíche Shamhna or Halloween that I have always loved most. I don’t know why because I never trick or treated as a child and I only had Halloween costumes really in college but I loved Halloween night.
Halloween was always a night I spent at home eating good food and looking for that ring in the Barmbrack, which for those who don’t know, is a fruit-filled loaf traditionally with a ring or coin inside. There were always different bowls of nuts about the place and of course, chocolate so maybe in hindsight, it was always about the food. It could also have been because it was the one weekend in the year that I got to keep my dog in my bedroom!
It’s funny how family traditions always start sometimes they are planned and sometimes you just fall into them. In my case, the latter was how the baking started and it is a tradition that I am following through with my girls though at their ages I’m baking cookies and buns opposed to a heavy fruit-laden cake game that might choke them!
We carved our pumpkins and had squeals of delight and disgust from the toddlers. We made pumpkin soup from the inside and toasted the seeds so I didn’t feel guilty for making a candle holder out of perfectly good food! We danced and the kids dressed up in costumes but most importantly we did it together as a family.
So as darkness falls tonight and you’re wrapped up tight, ask yourself if you are continuing your family traditions in the way that you want. Pull out a journal and make a list of wishes or dreams that you want from the year ahead and see what you can start doing tomorrow fora fresh month is fantastic for a fresh start!
For those who would love to know more about Celtic traditions for Oíche Shamhna pop on over here. I am off to keep up with my toddler wrangling but from all of us, we wish you a very Happy Halloween.
Oíche Shamhna shona daoibh go léir!
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It happens every October. I start to get run down, overwhelmed and I find myself tearing my hair out because calendars are full. I liken myself to a puppy chasing its tail; you never quite catch up and you can’t remember why you started doing something in the first place. You are just running around in circles crazily and tiring yourself out.
I like being busy but I draw the line at being busy for busy sake. This year I wanted to take a slower pace in my personal life. Grow our food, enjoy more family time and just be together as a young family. Once again it’s October and today is the 15th. That’s 15 days crammed packed with to-do lists, work and just being busy. I’m okay with being busy for an objective but not when there is no end goal in sight and with the shortening days, less outdoor time and the busy season truly kicking off with anything to do with wool, well I’ve been feeling rather thin.
The Slow Movement
With my crazy life, it’s no wonder the idea of a slow pace and whole food appeals to me. To be mindful and listen to my body and my inner self more. Your body and mind tell you when they are tired and at their limit for certain things but how often do you listen? I know I hear it but usually, I’m pushing to finish something and ignore it.
For those of you who are feeling what I am but a little lost, SLOW stands for Sustainable, Local, Organic and Whole and started with the Slow Food Movement but has grown to encompass Slow Living, Slow Cities, Slow Money and a few others. What this means to me is: seeking to do everything at the right speed but also savouring the time we spend doing things. I never really adopt anything fully, I find the parts that speak to me and go with them.
I know the ‘mother’ side of me wants to enjoy the time spent with my children without worrying about the constant mess they are making or how they have yet again destroyed the living room. I want to enjoy my days off with my family without listening to my mobile’s constant ‘ding’. Those days are few and far between so when we do get them I don’t want to be stuck behind a laptop or having to squeeze in work. I don’t want to hit 50 and wonder where the years with my children are gone.
When we moved to the cottage the first thing we did was to build the raised beds and start to grow our own food. Both of my kids have spent their baby and toddler days in the garden and then in the kitchen preparing food. That paints a nice picture, doesn’t it? But some of those days are incredibly frustrating, trying to plant or the toddlers harvesting something that isn’t ready or them screaming because they can’t stir the pot on the gas burner. The idea though, the one that by slowing down and sharing these skills with them will not only bring us together as a family but teach them about their footprints on this earth.
Without realising it the core values that we loved about moving here got swept up in being busy and it happened so quickly that it is terrifying. This week I turned off the push notifications on my phone, I choose when to pull down my email and I took 30 minutes each morning to read something before getting up and facing the day. I went back to my slow cooker prep and increased the amount of meat-free meals in our weekly menu. I sat back and looked at everything from work to this blog and podcast to my parenting time and worked out what was important to me.
I’m doing my best to remember those things that make us happy as a family and trying to balance it with the tasks that need to be done. I hate the feeling of chasing my tail and being busy for no reason. From now on expect more posts on how we introduce slow methods into our life because if you don’t help keep me on track I will be right back to chasing my tail before Christmas. Do you implement aspects of Slow Living in your life already? How do you do it? LEt me know in the comments below.
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I’ll be honest I struggled with whether I should write this post but between the daily post prompt being ‘Believe‘ and people asking about what I thought of the V by Very Blog Awards and I found it hard not to. This is a personal post and is very much about believing that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to, provided you can ignore the stress and self-doubt.
I would love to say that I entered in order to win but in my mind, I never thought I had a shot at the finals let alone a silver medal. I entered in order to take part in the process, see how it worked and also to have a bit of fun in the Irish Blogger’s Group on Facebook. I wanted to meet new people and have fun but as the blog progressed the more stressed I became. I have never entered on my own before, I have always been the support of someone else’s blog. So doing this on my own was unsettling but you never achieve anything if you are always comfortable right?
1. It’s Stressful – Blog Post Workflow
I won’t lie this was easily the most stressful thing I have done. In the beginning, I didn’t really think about it; I was nominated and I entered. The more I thought about it, the more I focussed on my technique, SEO, image optimization, relevant posts and the list goes on. I stopped looking at my blog as a place of refuge for me and more like a business and I’m not sure I enjoyed that. I blog because I like to write and I enjoy all of the new opportunities that have come my way from writing here and building my space. It’s quite different to sit back and realise that industry professionals are looking at your work and grading it. I am always looking at what can be improved on my site and I’m sure I’ll always want to change something but ultimately this was my place to relax and the awards shattered that for a month. However, if I was more relaxed and didn’t think about the awards process then it wouldn’t have affected me so much.
2. Let Go
One of the best takeaways from the whole process was just to let go. The awards are often down to judges preference and although you can improve the technical side of your blog sometimes judges just prefer things to be in a particular layout or they prefer a style of writing. If their tastes differ to yours then there is nothing you can do about that. If you are happy with your blog and the space that you built and it’s a hobby then why stress about it. Let the award come and go but enjoy your audience and the process of blogging. The awards are one night but your audience and online community are worth so much more than that.
This is double sided. From entering the awards I became aware of more bloggers than I had before. I have added a few to my reader and even though they aren’t in craft or slow living I enjoy what they write and I love their aesthetic. I believe you can always learn from your peers and by that, I don’t mean copy. I mean that your peers can inspire you to achieve greater things and push you and by taking part in the process and finding new blogs, it has helped to remind me why I blog in the first place.
The flip side of that is people finding me. I have a following of around 3K/month. This goes up and down but I’m not at the dizzying heights of blogdom. These awards allowed me to take part in the process without a public vote and be graded against just my content. This is fantastic for someone new and only a year into blogging. The awards also helped introduce my blog to others and to gain confidence in what I do. This was worth every stressful night.
4. Friends Old & New
One of the highlights for me was attending the awards with two close friends of mine. I got to hold their hands as our categories were called and share in their wins too. We normally wouldn’t have a reason to venture out into the world together and as we all live in different parts of the country we needed a reason for us all to be in one place at one time. Events like this are amazing for networking making new friends or even inspiring collaborations you never thought possible. I got to meet online friends in person and make new blogger friends on the night and find out more about their lives and how they blog. Sometimes blogging be isolating, having friends that you can bounce ideas off or help you when you feel down or when you really want to quit and you feel lost, those friends are invaluable.
5. Believe in Yourself.
I know, I know this makes me cringe because it is everywhere but it is true. The reason a blog stands out is because of its unique voice and that is you! Your taste, your style, your decisions, they all create something wonderful and unique to you. This blog is not my first, it is my second. I’m not new to the craft community but I am to the blogging community. I didn’t know that many bloggers when I started and new I’ve met bloggers from all over the world and I love what they do. Evey blog has it’s own twist on posts, style and community it’s a window into how that person thinks of craft and their community usually reflect that. So don’t second guess yourself, just start and learn along the way. If you try and get everything perfect you will never publish. Believe in yourself first and others will follow.
Huge congratulations to both Carol and Evin on their wins and also a big thank you to Evin for allowing me to steal her photos from the night for this blog post.
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This week I have been keeping track of my creativity and I realised a few things. That I’m much more creative first thing in the morning and then again when everyone else has gone to bed. I noticed that a lot of the stress that I feel during the day is actually self-induced by expecting too much of myself every day. I started to schedule in time for myself to read. This can be either blog posts or books but it cannot be social media. Social media, although I love it, drags you into the infinite scroll and I found myself doing more and more of that scrolling and less and less of actual reading.
Anxiety is the Handmaiden of Creativity
During my constant search for new blogs, I came across this quote by T.S. Eliot and although I remember when I first heard it, I had forgotten it. It’s true that the busier I get the more anxious I become and the less creative I seem to be. I fall into easier, proven content and push myself less and less. I know we all need different speeds at times but I don’t ever want to reach for my creativity and find that I lost my unique thought process because I have been too stressed or anxious.
Creativity Takes Courage
There have only been a few times when I have been really anxious about posting a particular piece. This is usually around a photo challenge as I feel I have a lot more to learn about photography and I doubt my skills. When it comes to written blog posts or Instagram posts, the posts that make me anxious are the ones that are truly personal. Where I have given it my all and though I want to share it with the world, I also want to hide it away and protect it from disapproval. I do find though that those posts, the ones with my unique voice and eye, those are the ones that really do well. I’ve found a wonderful group that help, support and advise on how to make something better rather than criticism and tearing a piece down. Yes, it still takes courage to let it out into the world initially but knowing that a core support group is there helps to build up that courage and just let go.
Creativity & Self-Doubt
Creativity and self-doubt go hand in hand for me. When I doubt I have the skills to achieve something I’m less creative about doing it and end up producing something mundane. Sometimes it’s ok to be ‘good enough’ and I don’t need to be a hundred percent all the time even though I would love to. I’m never sure where the self-doubt comes from but it’s there and the more tired and run down I am, the more I doubt myself. It’s a vicious circle. Now that I know I do this it’s much easier to ignore that niggling feeling and go and eat something or knit and come back to whatever I was working on a little later.
The blog awards this year have been incredibly stressful for me. I have constantly been looking at my blog, writing and images and trying to figure out if I can make them better and like a lot of people I am my own worst critic. When I started I was developing my eye and although I am still doing that, I can say that I can frame an image better than I could before. I can write with purpose when I have to and I still allow myself to ramble on my blog.
The awards made me wake up and notice those other amazing blogs in Ireland. Their consistency, their content, their branding and I fell into the direct comparison which in reality is a little silly across genres. What works for one niche may nosedive in another. Right before the awards I was proud of just how far I had come in twelve months but during them, I became really insecure and the further along the process the blog went the more stressed I became. I realised that although I had built my blog to my own personal taste, it was being judged on how well I ran it and obviously then ‘work’ me kicked in and all I could see was the negative. I became anxious about my post topics and images and second guessing myself. I also had an uneasy feeling that the blog was being judged partly on my personality which made me look more and more at my content. You can guess that this stalled my creativity but then something wonderful came from it all.
I realised in order to stand back and be negative about my blog it told me that I can distance myself from a project. My skills have developed and over time I have become settled in what I want the Notebook to be which is something I have struggled with in the past. From being scared and stressed and entering anyway, the blog awards process made me a better blogger and also opened up a wonderful world of Irish bloggers in genres that I would never have looked into before.
It also wasn’t just the blog awards that made me feel this way. I take part in the Instachat by Sara Tasker (MeandOrla) and at the end of the chat we all join the Insta-train and share our grids and get to know some new online friends. This is wonderful and the group is highly supportive but I realised after the third chat that I didn’t like sharing my grid as I felt it was terrible in comparison to those who were posting. That I had so much to learn and achieve that I couldn’t/shouldn’t post. I did force myself too and I have some lovely new friends through there but again prior to the chats, I was feeling good about how far I had come to feeling terrible about how messy and unstyled it was.
The point of this post is to remind both you and me that we all battle our own demons. That the voice inside is both good and bad and that we need to listen to it in a more balanced way. Appearances are almost always deceiving and creativity shouldn’t come with a price. Give yourself room to breathe and de-stress and have the courage to post the work that you’re unsure about. Although the last month has been incredibly stressful for me, I am better person because I took part in the things that made me anxious or scared. The trick is to do it in a way where you can still be your creative self and find your unique path to the content you want to create. I’m sure that I can’t be the only person who has felt this way but for now I know what I need to do to move forward and be a better, creative me.
Best of luck to everyone taking part in the awards this year. I’m so glad to meet such wonderful new bloggers and be part of a wonderful group. I won’t be here on Friday so I will see you all next week.
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Over on Instagram every now and then you will see posts that contain my planner. In reality, I actually have three planners and of course, use Trello and Google Calendar as well. I have lost count of the number of times people ask me how I manage and the answer is planners and help. When Carol Feller posted that she was stocking the Strickplaner by Martina Behm for 2018, there was a little girl in me who just couldn’t say no. Carol very kindly sent me a journal to try out which leads me to this post.
Over the last ten years, I have met lots of crafters who also use journals and swear by them. For example, there is Diane from The Dublin Knit Collective who is an avid Bullet journal fan and has managed to convert quite the number of Dublin knitters into giving it a try. I use a Filofax and a planner from Paperchase because I can design and print out my inserts to do exactly what I need them to do. I have been using one section as a knitting planner so I was more than a little excited to give the Strickplanner a try.
When I opened it my first thought was how much it reminded me of my First Communion prayer book as a child which may sound a little crazy but hey my mind is a beautiful thing and it is probably an Irish primary school throwback. The planner is white with two different ribbon page markers and beautifully embossed cover. When you open the planner I was met with the phrase ‘More Time To Knit’ and although sceptical that it could find me more time to knit, I’m a pretty easy going kind of gal so I kept reading.
I’ll get straight to the point, this one planner does the job of two of my own planners and is less than half the size. The idea is simple: first, you plan, then you create and at the end of the week, you find time to relax and reflect on how the week went and what you learned for the upcoming one. If you have never used a planner before this is a perfect introduction and you can use it just for craft and stash organisation. With any planner though, you get out what you put into using the planner. For me, it’s about remembering about the stash I bought ten years ago or keeping on top of gifts, then work and then the kids. I love the quality of the paper and just how much is crammed into this tiny book.
The planner has a step by step guide on how to use it effectively along with yearly life goals, yearly reflection, quarterly overview and tracker. It has tables of measurements & conversions, needle sizes in mm and US, a ruler a section on yarn purchases to help organise your stash, wish lists, squared pages for knitting patterns and dot pages for mind maps. This planner is going to live on my desk beside my laptop where it’s going to help me work through my wip mountain and gain control of my stash, stop impulse yarn purchases (ok well it will try) and also remind me to find those five minutes to think about tomorrow’s tasks.
I’m excited for 2018 to give this a try. I really want to be more organised now that my kids are a bit older and I have more time for me. If you have never used a journal before this is a perfect introduction into getting into the mindset of finding time for you to reflect and work on time management but what I love about this planner is the size and how much is covered by one journal. If you would like to hear from the lady herself, Martina has a flick through tutorial video here where she takes an in-depth look at the planner:
If you want to pick one up here in Ireland, Carol has some on her website Stolenstitches.com. I hope I have inspired you to try using a journal and as always, Happy Knitting!
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I really can’t believe it, I mean where has the time gone? It’s very hard to believe that it’s twelve months since the Cottage Notebook was born. People say never listen to that voice in your head at 3 am but I am so glad that I did because it quite literally changed my life. The funny thing is I think my life became more chaotic! There are so many ways in which to approach today’s Birthday post from the ’10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging/Podcasting’ to ‘Tips for Starting a Blog’ but this post is going to take a slower more personal pace.
I sat down many times to write this post and it wasn’t easy. There are so many things that have happened in these last 12 months all because I stopped making excuses and just started to write and record. This online creative space is mine, it’s my space to write, share, enthuse about craft and have a giggle at my gardening attempts but what you all probably don’t realise is just how much of a lifeline this space has been for me personally.
Why I Started Blogging
It’s not a secret that I didn’t adjust to being a stay at home parent well and really, in all honesty, who does? In one moment you go from being a single being with bodily autonomy to being at a tiny humans beck and call. I’m a mum who breastfed and there are days when either little K or little T wouldn’t get off me and I found those days tough. I found that closeness hard and among all the other things that new parents have to deal with, you also need to figure out how to survive at home. For me, I loved my pre-baby life. I loved my job, the customers, getting up having a shower and leaving the house every day. I loved my peaceful days off but I also love my kids and so began that adjustment period.
I guess it takes losing something to realise why you valued it in the first place. When I had baby number two, it was so clear what I needed in order to be the best mum I could be. I needed something for myself. Something I could nurture and grow, learn new skills and find a sort of balance between my need to be a parent in a way that aligns with my values and my wanting to work and to feel like I am still contributing and developing my sense of self. That I had skills beyond babywearing, cleaning, feeding and soothing. I had no idea where this would all lead, I just needed to know that my years in higher education weren’t a complete waste and that I could still be part of the creative world that I loved.
So on September 16th, 2016 the journey into blogging and podcasting started and you can read just how the first 6 months went here. There are things that worked and things that didn’t but the one thing this space has been, was and still is my lifeline. When I’m a sleep-deprived zombie mess, I write. When my kids are being terrors and I close the bathroom door and cry for a bit, I come back and I write. When I grieve, I write. All of those posts don’t get shared but the ones that I have the courage to post, do. The one thing that has held constant through this year is this: that this space can be anything I want or need it to be and that ladies and gentlemen is the one thing that got me through every single really tough moment in the last year. I had given myself a space in which to breathe and be myself.
This blog was never about amassing a huge following but I’m so glad that you all found me and helped me through the tough times and celebrated with me on the successes. The blog was about holding me together and boy did you all do a fantastic job of supporting me and helping me find my feet and what I love. I went from typing alone to writing with a purpose. From recording in my spare room to recording in my ‘office’ with professionals in this industry that I love and admire. From being a stay at home parent to being a VA and freelance writer and social media consultant. The thing is I had amassed all of these skills I just had no confidence in using them and without the support of this wonderful community I wouldn’t be where I am now and that is a happy mum who is comfortable at parenting and working from home but don’t get me wrong the struggle for that balance is ongoing.
At its heart, this is a Thank You post from me to you. Thank you for joining me on this crazy journey and allowing me to share, vent and cry when I needed to. Thank you for the support and guidance and most of all nudging me in the right direction when I get lost. I know I have achieved a lot in the last year even though at times I feel lost, I never dreamed I would be published in a magazine, be a podcast guest, work with such amazingly talented artists, be able to take photographs for my blog/Instagram and also be paid to take photos. To top it all off is this year’s V by Very Blog Awards. I guess to some people blog awards don’t mean a lot, but to me as this blog has quite literally been my third child, it means the world to me to be up there as a finalist among such amazingly talented writers and bloggers such as Evin OK,Where Wishes Come From, Pieces by Aideen and Professional Stitch Ripper. Go check these guys out they are wonderful and all in their own unique way. I really can’t wait to see where year 2 takes us all. I love sharing interviews with you all and I love introducing new people into craft or slow living but most of all I love the yarn!
To celebrate the blog’s birthday Laura from Ellie & Ada has dyed a special colourway for me called Garnet and you can find it in her shop here. I am also running a birthday giveaway on Instagram next week so keep an eye out for that and you could win one of Laura’s skeins along with some very special items. So, you can support us by purchasing a skein and enjoying Laura’s beautiful dye work. This is a sock base (75% Merino and 25% nylon) so it’s perfect for that winter sock project you have been eyeing up for you. Isn’t she gorgeous:
come, click, buy 😉
And so I leave you guys with a song that you can Dance it out to, don’t read into it too much because my memories from this last year are AMAZING, it’s just what I’m bopping away to right this second:
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Last week we finally had some time off as a family. Like many young families, we don’t get to do this often and with two toddlers, well, you can imagine already being worn out before you pack and start making sure everyone has everything they need. The weather, in case you missed the news, was fairly dramatic which lead to some amazing beach photos during some fast moving fog. So, although we couldn’t play outside for very long, I did get to make use of the fog and keep the toddlers entertained.
Holidays are supposed to be about rest and recharging our internal batteries but not if you take them with two smallies in tow or so I thought. I’m always surprised how seemingly mundane situations teach me something either about myself or my kids. I was terrified of all of us sleeping in one, albeit, bigger hotel room. We don’t sleep that much as it is so the thought of being in a hotel room with our kids for 4 days with no one sleeping or one toddler keeping everyone awake, didn’t really excite me. It turned out I was wrong on all accounts but it did lead myself and my husband to discuss the expectations that we have as parents. Not the expectations of our children but the ones that are put upon parents or we put upon ourselves.
I’m not really sure when the expectations started. Was it during pregnancy? Birth? Or did it start before then? I’m don’t know when they started to creep in but those expectations that start rearing their ugly head almost as soon as you find out that you are pregnant, the ones that imply that as a parent you suddenly know everything. As if magically at that instance of birth you are filled with a wealth of knowledge. Erm, well I can tell you that the magic fairy was on leave the day I became a mother and that magical ability never came my way.
As a child, we think that our parents know everything. If we have a pain they can take it away, if we have a need or a want they can fulfil it. Being on the other end of that spectrum is somewhat terrifying. That realisation that we are all just fumbling along and trying to make it work. Each family trying to maintain a balance and do what is right for them. That there is no magic playbook and yet I somehow imagined in my naivety that we would be amazing parents. We are good parents, amazing isn’t a word on our spectrum. The toddler years are like firefighting. You try to hold it together as best you can and the days when it all goes to pot, well just let it and bring out your knitting.
“I am still so naïve; I know pretty much what I like and dislike; but please, don’t ask me who I am. A passionate, fragmentary girl, maybe?”
We came around to talking about parenting and I wondered how we could be parents and raise two children when both of us are still very much trying to figure out life, who we are and where we fit. How can we guide or nurture our children in social situations when there are times we both fail at this spectacularly. That as parents we now have to look after ourselves and our children without quite knowing how to do either and to top it all off we have to try and do it while sleep deprived zombies.
We came to the realisation that there are days that we will fail and I imagine they will be spectacular failures but on the flipside, there are days we will be fantastic parents. Days when our kids are laughing, playing and everyone is happy and their needs are met. There will be those magic days where for once everything is exactly as it should be. But those days, they wouldn’t be so sweet without the epic failures, the tantrums, the night terrors, the leaps, the constant whines of “I’m hungry” and “Mommy/Daddy” and the family favourite question of “Why on EARTH is there banana on EVERYTHING?”
The key to keeping me back from the precipice is either baby wearing or downtime. Peace and quiet to sleep or read or reflect or just be completely silly. I hope you find that time for you, a parent or not each person deserves that time to be alone to get to know themselves a little better. I’m happiest when I get to dream, write, create, knit or take beach walk alone and failing that babywearing while doing any of those things usually helps me to feel like I have had a break.
Today, I want you to do something kind for yourself and then tell me what it is in the comments.
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This post started over on Instagram as an answer to the Makelight 365 prompt “Path”. I realised as I typed, that what I wanted to say needed more than an Instagram caption. Following your own path is difficult especially for those of us who are scared of the unknown. Some of us have families that help us to forge our own way into the world with confidence and a deep surety of our place in the world. I was never that person.
For me, finding my own path has been difficult. I want to do many things but should I do them is usually the question that requires the answer. These last 11 months have taught me many things about myself, some of which I don’t like very much but they have helped me craft my online place in the world. To grow, I have needed to learn many different skills and wear many different hats and usually more than one in a ten minute period. Do not get me wrong I have loved every minute of it.
When I started this blog, I was still using stock images but now this site is filled with images that are mine. I don’t need to be a photographer, I just needed to be happy with what I could create with the camera I had. I needed to develop my own eye, my own style and to be confident about what I can and can’t do. I use Instagram as my image playground. It has become my inspiration, where I set my challenges and interact with the growing community. There are a few accounts at the moment that I follow for their creativity. It’s ok to be inspired by pieces but let them be that, be the inspiration for you to grow, adapt and create something for yourself. Let the world see you through your own eyes and I bet that view is something wonderful to behold. I stopped caring about follower counts, I had a rough target for my first year and I hit my 1K but I realised that in order to create great content and to have fun while doing it, I needed to be free to seek, play and create my own ideas.
When is it that we lose our sense of wonder at the unknown?
When did it become so terrifying to explore your own path? When did our sense of wonder become fear? Is it because it’s an unconventional way to earn an income? Well kid, the times, they are a changing. Sitting where we are now, during another technological revolution, nothing is as it has been. People want to work to live not live to work. I want to raise my kids but I also want to have a career for myself. I don’t want to be a housewife but I can’t leave my kids to allow me to work a normal 9 to 5 and so this leads me to where I am today. I’m not the only person in the world who craves more control over their everyday life and we are nothing if we aren’t creative.
I was told once that following my own path would let me get to know myself in ways I didn’t understand yet and I remember thinking how very profound but only time had the answer to that. It’s true in that by allowing myself to be free with my choices in both the professional and personal sides to myself, I have found a balance for right now. No, it’s not perfect, there are days where nothing comes together and everyone is grumpy, tired and crying constantly for food or coffee but then there are the days where I am on fire. You know the ones I mean, those days when you hit a personal goal or do a particular piece of work better than you thought you could; on those days I go to bed smiling.
So why not follow your own path? Not on it yet, that’s ok but what changes can you make to take a step in your own direction? I don’t mean pack up your job and hand in your notice, I mean what small step can you make to start your own path. I won’t lie it is terrifying but you can do it because all you need to do is believe in yourself and keep trying until you make it happen. Yes, it’s hard but isn’t everything in life that is worth doing a struggle?
Today I’m going to be a lion and do another thing that scares me. What about you?
It really is hard to believe it’s August, it’s lashing rain and the wind is blowing wild around the cottage. How have you been? Are you well? Did you get to enjoy summer yet? It’s been a while since I asked. I’ve made a cuppa and stolen some time to write a quick post to you so I can keep in touch and find out what’s happening with you.
Did I tell you August is going to be my break month? No, really I am stepping back from a lot of things. It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey but I need some time for me but that’s ok right? You won’t miss my voice too much. I have some friends to chat with you on the podcast and possibly on the blog too and their voices are important to me so be nice while I’m gone.
A Slower Pace
It’s ok I’m not abandoning you, I’ll be here but just less of me. We have plans to build a DIY Greenhouse and we need to see what we can achieve in a month. The roof and insulation on our rooms need to be done and while all this is going on I need to take a slower pace to everything online. I need to explore, to see things through different eyes and lenses so I can share that with you. Like I keep asking all of my guests, “where does your inspiration come from?” I need to find that answer for myself because I’m pretty worn out right now.
I’ll pop back with some Knit Chat and the podcast is back, did you notice? It was tough to turn the microphone back on and I like to talk a LOT so believe me when I say it was tough. July was really a hard month here so August needs to be gentle. I didn’t quite know what to say anymore. I didn’t want to record just anything or inane chatter and my projects are stalled so rather than record I chose to stay silent. I do have some lovely guests to share with you but we never got a chance to record because I got sick. So I need to recharge batteries and reset timelines before we embark on another journey together.
I realised I don’t like life to be too perfect.
Since we are here together, let me ask you what you would like to see more of? Before you say Dyer interviews or Designers, yes I am still doing those and more written ones too. I have sent out a few and as they come back I will send out more but I need to respect that these people are busy too. It’s their summer and although they would be delighted to meet you, they are juggling lots too. So, be patient on that front and you will be rewarded I promise.
Would you like to see more personal posts? More creative posts? Would you like to see some gallery posts of my attempts at Instagram images? As I typed I have just taken a deep breath and exhaled. It’s no secret that I have been working on my image skills. Trying to develop my eye of what I like or see as interesting. As you focus on one area the others fall to the side as there is only so much time in the week to create. July is probably the month where I had the most fun with the camera and also where I pushed myself and did my first video and my first Instagram Live. From this came my new avatar, lots of fun on IG and I got to replace stock images with my own images here in my online home. I realised I don’t like life to be too perfect.
That’s a strong statement to make but I don’t. It’s not from a place of jealousy of not being able to take amazing IG images. I wish I could but I’m getting better every day. The more practice I get the more comfortable I am with using a camera. Plus those images aren’t my style. It’s not that I love mess, it’s just I have learned to live with it. I don’t live in a staged home so the point of my IG is to share whats important or meaningful to me. I like to have fun with yarn images and gifs and to create something fun to look at as much as it is to write. I stopped posting and only posted once a day and chose my favourite image and it’s created a gallery that makes me smile when I see it. I go on photo-walks with my girls and we have dress up and playtime. There is laughter, fun and being honest there are some tears too like when T stubbed her toe or K stole T’s flowers or They had to take off their tutus to go to bed.
This is the main reason to take a slower pace this August. These monkeys are here for just these 4 weeks before school starts. I thought I would be glad to see them go but I love hearing them play and laugh and I will miss that. So I’m going to soak up as much fun as I can before our routines become the school routine of September. What are you trying to achieve before school starts?
Keep safe until we chat again. My tea is cold and my monkeys are awake and trying to empty my project bag so I have to go save the sleeves.
Those quiet mornings that start at dawn where the promise of a great day begins. You know those ones where the birds are singing and sunlight is filtering through the curtains? Those ones that follow with your child’s laughter breaking through the birdsong, not crying or fighting or screaming because someone took their toy but just laughter. Those mornings are the ones that I cherish and they are all far to few and far between.
The differences between myself in my twenties and my thirties are vast, it is the same as comparing a rose just blooming to one which is just bare roots. In my twenties, I was permanently full of energy and I wanted to explore the world. I walked the Wicklow Way, climbed mountains, toured Europe and visited America to name a few. I wanted to experience life, to find out what I liked all while working on a chosen career path.
It’s funny how we change and adapt as we grow. In my thirties, I love and cherish my settled life. These mornings like this morning when we are all at home, no one has to rush off to work or appointments. Those mornings where we have breakfast in bed, cuddles and TV followed by feeding the birds and waking up the animals, that’s if my toddlers didn’t get there first; where I can hold my partner’s hand and drink hot coffee and listen to my girls laughing and playing together. I want nothing else. I am completely happy.
This is so rare that I know as soon as my eyes open that it’s one of those mornings. Usually, it follows a full nights sleep for everyone and almost always it’s a Sunday after the manic insanity of Saturdays. This morning started out just like this and it was magical. The cottage is still in renovation mode and it’s still driving me crazy but I just didn’t care today. Yesterday I was sick and I just had a home couch and Netflix day with my littlest. We laughed and played, we slept and we watched TV. I drank in her clean, freshly bathed smell from her hair when I cuddled her on the couch. I normally cram in far too many things while my children sleep but yesterday I was forced to lie with her and I had forgotten how much I loved it. The way she holds my fingers or pats my leg. The way she dreamily wakes up to check I’m there and instantly falls back asleep.
This transition from pre-adult to adult even though it’s marked by age and happened through experience. I realised as I chatted to my partner over coffee, still all tucked up in bed we have both achieved so much prior to meeting each other that when we met we could grow together. I am a very headstrong independent person. So much so that when I get lost or confused especially around a career choice or something for myself it actually scares me. I’m normally target or goal driven and I love ticking off those markers to make those dreams closer to a reality.
This is why those quiet mornings are so unsettling. As much as I love them it’s unsettling to be quiet, calm and happy all at once. Like I’m waiting for the phone to ring with bad news or to whisk one of us away. That by allowing myself to fully commit to these mornings and enjoy them completely that they won’t exist or will disappear in an instant. I guess this is part of my transition from twenty to thirty. Before I always lived in the moment. I barely made plans that were longer than a few months or a year at most. Now I have plans that are years in the making that I’m fully committed to and sometimes I don’t recognise the person that I am.
This morning made both of us reflect on how we got here, to this place, to this moment. We laughed at our other options that we had of travel, work etc. Had we taken any of those other roads we wouldn’t be here. Our family wouldn’t be here and I certainly wouldn’t be writing to you. I would probably still be in science of some kind or in a different country and the scary thought is my partner could be in a different country or as a horrible thought no longer alive. Both of us made very small choices that led to here but we became so busy that we barely get family time or holidays. There is always a sacrifice and that is usually family time.
But in these mornings, I remember why I made all of my life’s choices and my life although far from perfect, is right where I want it to be. Can you say that? If you can’t, what is the one change that you can make to turn it into the life you want it to? Do you have these mornings too? Can you tell me your secret love or just what they mean to you? Don’t get me wrong I would love for many different things to have happened, winning the lotto would be amazing for one but on these mornings I know there is nothing I would give up or swap out. That little head bumping mine to say ” ‘orning ” followed by a head pat or rolling over to freshly made coffee or a cuddle from someone you love in a warm safe place. But as always the mornings give way to midday, my toddlers get tired and cranky and there is yet another dirty bum to change, hunger to quench and an argument over toys to sort out. No matter how hard you try to keep that feeling of being complete and happy, time moves on and those feelings and self-surety are lost in those mornings. That’s why this post is an ode to them of sorts because I feel like if I don’t treasure them and immortalise them in writing, that the next time I stop to reflect on one of those mornings it might be too late to cherish any one of these things that makes me truly happy.
This week has slowly been getting worse. It started out fantastic with my daughters birthday and went from bad (site deletion) to worse (mums aren’t allowed to be sick you know that right?) So I thought I could share a snippet of my daughters birthday with all of you and you never know it might inspire you.
Monday for us was the day of The Great Elf Hunt. My kids are infatuated with Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom and when it comes to playtime here at the cottage they usually want to play in the garden and look for faeries and elves. So for T’s birthday, we went on a trip to Malahide Castle to hunt for elves in the woods. This place is magical it has beautiful woodland, a fantastic playground, BBQ area, butterfly garden, tea rooms and well everything you could want with the added luxury of a castle on the grounds too. In short a little girls dream.
I would love to say we are great parents and have all our ducks in a row but with everything going on with work, events, renovations etc. we were stuck for a present for T. I bounced back and forth with ideas but couldn’t settle on one and we always have a family day for birthdays as the kids are so little at the moment and what they really love is time together with us playing and going on adventures. So off we went, a family of four equipped with rain gear because we live in Ireland and oodles of curiosity and excitement.
I was not the best on Monday I was tired, sick and doing my best to be happy when all I really wanted to do was crawl under some covers and just sleep. I sucked it up and at times not well but that’s when my Husband took over with the magic of storytelling and popping a coffee in my hand. I love being surprised by my husband and he never ceases to do just that in both good ways and bad but on Monday I saw him being a parent to a three-year-old and I was surprised.
He became a child again. He climbed hills, over logs all the while helping T get immersed in the story of the elves who lived in the woods. He got excited with her when I didn’t have the energy to do it. He played games, took photos and helped T climb a tree and when it came time to find the elves the trees were listening. At the exact moment he said “Listen can you hear them” she replied yes and the trees started raining pine cones. He picked one up and held it out for her to see. ”
“This” he said while kneeling in front of her “This is a magic pine cone.” As he turned it over in the light that filtered through the trees she tried to grasp it but he pulled it back. “T this is a present from the elves for being such a good human in the woods. You took care while looking for the elves and they have rewarded you with one wish. When you want to make your wish, just give the pine cone to mammy along with your wish and she will show you what to do”
T plucked the pine cone from her daddy’s hand with a look of pure joy on her face. She came running over to me to tell me what had happened because myself and her little sister couldn’t climb the ridge to where they stood. I asked her if she was ready to make a wish and she said no. At 3 I was sure she would have something she wanted but no she didn’t. She said she wanted to fly but didn’t want to use her wish on that. Phew because I have no idea how I would have made that work!
So we wandered on through the woods, playing, hunting for mushrooms, taking photos and generally just having fun being a family. As we turned to head on back to the butterfly house and private gardens, T grasps my hand and pulls me down to her level. “Mommy, I want to keep my wish. Here can you mind my pine cone” and she tries to pop it in my pocket. So that was it. This child had just been given the chance to choose anything she wanted but obviously, it was an important decision because she really needed to mull this over.
The next day she hunted out her pine cone from the buggy and brought it to me. She had been watching My Little Pony and I was ready, I knew this was the moment our little girl would ask for a pony. I was coming up reasons as to why the elves couldn’t give her a pony, where would we even put a pony! So, I steeled myself and got down to her level.
“Mommy, I want a scooter”
I was taken aback and I didn’t know what to do I was sure she was going to say pony. I didn’t move but she pulled out my hand and placed her pine cone in it. “I want the elves to build me a scooter in their workshop like Scootaloo.” So we went into the back garden, found our magic elf tree and popped the pine cone underneath. We told the elves and we left them a handmade elf wreath for their door and that was it.
That evening daddy the elves delivered a My Little Pony scooter to Taryn and the magic of the elves continues. She was so delighted she thanked the elves and mammy and daddy but she has slept holding her scooter since it joined us. I think we got off lightly but T couldn’t have been happier for her special day and I don’t think I could have either.
I learned a few things on Monday. My daughter at 3 is fearless with endless curiosity and imagination. The simplest things make her happy and I love this time with her. I also learned it’s ok to take a back seat in parenting and that it allows my husband to shine in ways he doesn’t get to midweek. More daddy daughter days o’ fun ahead I think because it’s Friday and all I can do is lounge on the couch and try to get better.
Yesterday I posted a tweet saying that I missed a blog from a professional writer. It’s true I do but he isn’t gone from the blogging world, he’s here and in fact now he has a following of over 100K a month and is doing incredibly well for himself. Why am I sad? Because his voice is gone. His funny, sincere voice, those blog posts with a quick wit that I used to churn through on a bad day when I would curl up on a couch with a cuppa, those posts are gone.
I dug around his new tutorial site and parts of him are still there but my reason for visiting is gone. I’m not a professional writer and sure I could learn a lot from his site but his posts don’t contain the humour or stories of his life anymore. The person he used to share with the world is gone. I can’t tell you how sad I was when I read his reason why. I like to write so I like to keep a blog. I know a lot of people blog for monetization and I can respect that. They blog to grow a following in order to sell something but I’m the type of reader that needs more.
I’ve been following the Yarn Harlot for years. I have a lot of respect for Stephanie and in a way, I feel like I know her even though I have never met her and I probably never will. When I want to curl up with a blog, hers is one of the first I go to. I want to catch up with her life, with those baby knits, I want to see her advent knits at Christmas, I want to know how her cycling is coming along and I like the humour and wit that’s shared along the way. I also like the way her house also seems to have been built by a team of drunken monkeys like mine.
Was I not the type of reader that you cared about?
So many blogs that I used to follow on a Sunday morning with my coffee have gone. I miss those voices and they mattered to me. When I was feeling down or lonely, they were there like an old friend I didn’t need to make excuses for not visiting. Many people stopped blogging when they got busier with social media or their life situation changed and they couldn’t devote the time anymore. Some people stopped because they lost their creativity for a little bit or lost their way but it’s the blogs that changed and became full of those instant tutorial posts and that really hurt. Was I not the type of reader that you cared about?
Why is it not ok to have a small dedicated following? The reader who wants to hear your voice? I’m planting my two feet firmly on the ground and saying I want more. Opening up the newspapers these days is grim, I like to read a good blog that isn’t trying to get me on their mailing list the second I hit the homepage. If you have tutorials on your site as well, good for you! Do those readers convert or are they fair-weather friends who pop in and take what they need and leave you?
If you are thinking “What would I know of blogging, your new etc”. This isn’t my first blog. I had a personal blog for years full of fluffy knits, bad writing and bad photos. I was in my 20’s, I had no children and free time. I liked it but I didn’t love it the way I do now. I get so much more from having a blog now. I get to talk to you and I have made some amazing friends since I started. I have had the zombie parent high five after a week of no sleep, I have gotten the “I love your blog” from people in person that I thought would never read a thing I wrote. This truly makes me happy right now and with it, I have a sort of peace from the insanity of my life.
Who do I blame?
Who do I blame for those blogs that I loved going dark? I blame myself and people like me who didn’t leave a comment or connect with the writer in some way. Did they know how much I loved their work? Probably not because I like to read and leave. I would read, have a chuckle, drink my coffee and leave. So I blame myself that they are gone. Maybe my comments would have made a difference. I took them for granted that they would always be there because they liked to write didn’t they? Consider my lesson learnt. I will comment in future. I promise. I will do my best to connect with those blogs that I read, I will step out of the shadows and be more active because your work matters to me and there are far too few left and I’m scared to loose you all.
A funny thing happened from a week of writing using prompts, this blog has started to feel a little more like home, like the comfortable place I wanted it to be. That place where I could practice my writing and share my thoughts and have tea with an old friend. It was always supposed to be a place to share my friends with the world but also to have a place to check in and compose my thoughts. A place to figure out my journey in written form. Writing long pieces on a daily basis has become the norm around here and although I won’t be keeping up that pace, let’s just enjoy this closeness while it’s here this week.
Last night I took part in the Instachat over on Twitter. As usual, I was late and scrolling through the questions and answers trying to keep up. I came across a tweet that was about community and how Instagram had helped a single mum of twin girls. It got me thinking and I remembered that my escapism was this blog and the surrounding social media. That by writing and talking with all of you that, that is how I kept an element of sanity in my life during those early days of baby and toddler insanity. That image above is about as real as it gets here on a tough day. I haven’t brushed my hair, I have managed to get dressed but I haven’t made it off the couch.
I keep reminding myself that those sleepless nights and pyjama days that blur from days into weeks, you know those ones where you feel like you could actually loose your mind and you feel like you never come up for air; those were the ones that changed my life and not just because I was now a mother but because it forced me to create something for me. By constantly giving to other people you get burnt out so fast and those baby hormones, well they are just dagnammit evil. How on earth are you supposed to function as a human when you are crying into your cereal because you used the blue cup instead of a mug for coffee?
Do you know yourself?
There are so many thoughts that go through your mind when you are going to have a baby but they never really prepare you for actually having, holding and then raising one. I never really thought that even at 0 months old they would teach me things about myself, I mean, I have been with myself for 30 plus years, I should know myself right? Turns out that I didn’t know myself as well as I thought and as I read that tweet I wanted to run over and hug this mum and make her tea and tell her the world will come right again.
They will *eventually* sleep. They won’t need you in the same way they do when they are brand new. At almost 3, T is strong, determined, willful and only needs me to provide food, shelter and the odd magic kiss to make the owie go away. I can’t take any credit, she came into the world that way. That need, that smothering, clinging need she had is gone and in its place is the need for me to guide her and set boundaries and explain the answers to her never-ending cycle of questions.
I’m not a parent blogger but these little insights into my thoughts can sometimes help you, you know who you are, to get through the day. I remember reading a paragraph once from a lifestyle blog, that in my opinion, was the most ridiculous thing I had ever read. I one hundred percent disagreed with everything, from how they thought kids should be dressed and how they should meet the world. That an emphasis at a certain young age should be on styling and not on growing up and having fun. I remember feeling sorry for that child, it would never get dirty and play in old clothes, make mud pies and just have fun. By reading this piece it taught me what I did value and what I wanted to teach my kids. In my disagreement, I found another piece of the puzzle of who I was even if I was still sobbing into my mug of coffee because of those dang hormones.
It’s ok to be lost. Your children will grow, you will go through things you never thought possible. Life is a journey and you can’t be the same at the end as you are at the beginning. At least, I don’t think you can. In those early days, if you get through a 24 hour period and everyone is ok, they may be dirty, in need of a nappy change and you are wondering why you ever bought a bed in the first place; if you make it through you are winning. Never compare yourself to others, no two babies are the same, no one knows what the most difficult parts of your day are, only you know this and whatever you need to do to see the day through it shouldn’t be judged by others*. Parenthood is hard and yes it often feels like we are alone, let me assure you, you are not. The madness will end and it will be replaced by another parent trial but there is a whole community out there, just like you. The stay at home parent, struggling to get through the day and we will be there to hold your hand when you need it.
I’ll be back tomorrow with an interview from an independent yarn dyer so for my craft and creativity readers, come back and have a read with a cuppa.
*I’m not condoning drinking or anything else that can actually cause harm to the kids here.
Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring against you and I’m having one of those weeks where I’m being pulled along with gentle nods here and there that I’m right where I should be. It’s an odd feeling because usually, I feel like life is a never ending battle to get it to do what I want it to. It’s funny that today’s prompt should be Local because this week that is all I am talking about.
This week I am curating the Smallholders Ireland account over on Twitter and I’m taking this amazing opportunity to talk about growing your own food and how we manage to do that here at the cottage. I will be chatting about my previous life as a Chemist and how that has affected our water choices here and how important it is to introduce your kids to the garden and why shopping local is more than just a trendy phrase.
The Great Potato Hunt
If you have been following along on our adventure so far you know that my sanity comes from getting the kids out and in the garden and this weekend was the beginning of my favourite season; the season of The Great Potato Hunt!! Every Saturday we turn over a bag of potatoes we have growing and the girls hunt for potatoes in the soil with their hands. They each have their own baskets and it’s a race, OK a rather unfair race to see who gets the most.
When we have nothing to harvest we try to shop local with as little plastic as possible. We use reusable containers for the butcher, we use Tesco home delivery when we really have to and we buy directly from local producers at markets.By doing this we try to make our footprints smaller on our planet and we try to support the local economy and producers so that they can continue what they love to do. I’m a firm believer in community because who doesn’t need a bigger family right?
For me, the word local is much bigger than it’s combination of five letters. It encompasses community, the environment, skillsets, businesses, food and the future. I haven’t even touched on my other big love of local yarns etc. I have to believe that even though we are just four people that our choices can make a difference both locally and to the environment and to others otherwise the overwhelming thought that it is all hopeless is just too much to bear. The choice to build a world for us and our girls that we want to live in has to be worth it and when our girls are older that they will appreciate our efforts. They will have memories of eating warm fresh peas directly from the plant, they will know what homegrown salad and veggies taste like but also the skills to grow them if they need to in the future. I want to believe that these choices and making a difference now can change the future and that it’s not already written. I’ll meet you back here in a decade and then again in two decades and I’ll let you know how it’s going.
I follow a few writing prompts and usually, they inspire a post that I hold on to but on rare occasions like a previous prompt from WordPress, I get to urge to write immediately. Usually, it’s something that has been on my mind and the prompt just draws it out. I have spoken previously about my intentions for this blog about finding my voice online and my niche but I have been very firm that this is a place to write, for me to express myself creatively and to stay in touch with old friends.
I posted a version of the image above on Instagram and like so many other images on that platform, it gives a brief glimpse of a person’s life, a snapshot of moments. The illusion that all is right with the world and as you scroll you can get lost in that beauty. Do not be fooled, these images are curated and edited and I only wish I could look as fantastic as some of the parent bloggers out there. My own feed is something that I have never been comfortable with. I wanted my children in there because it reminds me of them when I’m working but I also didn’t want their life in photos for the world to watch them grow.
What has happened is the illusion of a life, one of perfect balance between motherhood, freelancing from home and a bountiful garden. Is it wrong of me to shatter that? My life is far, far from perfect. Just like ever other parent out there, I do my best to balance the needs of my family with those of my own. I only recently decided what I want my Instagram feed to be. I wanted to pull back from the need to post because I’m told I have to in order to grow my following but to post because I want to.
Instagram is an art, to take images and showcase them to a viewer in an enticing way. It can also be just about sharing images with friends and keeping in touch but for me, I need there to be a reason to post that isn’t about blog growth or statistics. If I don’t enjoy doing something it is immediately apparent that I am doing it because I have to. Recently I started using Instagram for reflection, to house all of my thoughts along with sharing images that I thought I had learnt something valuable and fun while taking them. Guess what, the community responded.
Because I wasn’t pitching my blog posts or podcast or just posting random images my profile has seen more growth and organic interaction than ever before. You can see exactly the point where I changed my mind and decided what I wanted that platform to be for me. It will be based in real life but curated to form an illusion of a picture perfect life here in the cottage. It will be moments of our lives but what you won’t see are the tired toddler tantrums, the 3 am feedings, the day where I couldn’t even find the time to get dressed out of my PJ bottoms because I don’t want to remember those days. I want to remember the ones where we played in the sun, where my toddlers helped me style photoshoots, where my garden was blooming at it’s best and I found the time for a peaceful coffee or to knit a few stitches.
If I can’t hold on to those perfect moments then it makes those tough parenting days even harder. I’m comfortable with building the illusion of my perfect life, it will pick me up on the days when all I want to do is give up and sit on the bathroom floor and cry. I will be able to see my garden as it should be in full bloom when it’s raining and the winter chill is setting in and all I can see are bare patches that need work. In my life, I need to wear so many hats as a mother, a wife, an employee, a business woman, a writer, a creative to name a few so I have to have somewhere to draw strength from and if that needs to be an illusion of my constant perfect life than I am comfortable with that. After all nothing is perfect, those moments are fleeting so grab them with both hands and hold on tight because around the corner is another moment akin to a toddler tantrum.
I’m Nadia a freelance writer, blogger, podcaster and VA.
Sharing stories on craft, gardening and lifestyle.
Coming to you from a yarn filled desk at the back of a 100-year-old cottage by the sea.
Always fueled by coffee, so grab a cup and come join me.