Power Ranger

I wrote nothing on the 28th August but I found this image that I took of Naoise. Today is 10th September and I am piecing together a jigsaw puzzle of work left aside overt the summer holidays. I am only finding time today to to this work now both boys are back at school. 

I wish I could be a power ranger mother, what would my powers be………

The ability to remain calm even when I am being tested to my limits. 

The power to reference the best parenting articles at a moments notice. 

The ability to get children to fall to sleep at a sensible time….

 

 

I am a real mother / I am a real artist.

8.16am

I wake, I roll over and admire a beautiful calm six year old boy soundly sleeping. I hear Patrick get out of the upper bunkbed. Whilst our friend is staying we are all attic dwellers, sharing sleep space with the children. It is cosy and snug, I like our attic existence. My friend has gone out for his morning drive. My neighbour walks up the street in his work jacket.

I wake, I roll over and wish I could go back to sleep, but instead I reach for my phone and I read the newspaper, squinting at the tiny text on the electronic screen. I place the duvet over Naoise to keep him warm. I read several articles in The Guardian. I read Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show  by Patrick Butler. I read the latest about migrants fleeing war torn countries and dying during their journeys. I read Keith Arnatt is proof that the art world doesn’t consider photography ‘real’ art. by Sean O’Hagan.

There is no milk. There is no bread. I walk up the road to the local shop. My friend “holds the fort” its easy the children are sleeping.

I walk up the road with Patrick and talk about the articles that I read. Its a beautiful morning the sun is shining. Patrick walks up the ramp to the train station. I walk home with my carrier bag of provisions.

Back at home I am met by my friend on the doorstep, he departs on his car ride. I am home alone with teenager and small boy. I haven’t any plans for today. Is it good to have a plan or is it good to let a day unfold?

I stared reading Naoise Matilda by Roald Dahl now that I have completed reading James and the Giant Peach. I am are trying to read lots of longer stories to Naoise over the summer break as I had got stuck on picture books.

I had got stuck.

I am a real mother/ I am a real artist.

Am I an artist ? Between these words and images and lack of images there is something. A disorganised something that might be art. I can only work in-between, snatch moments, hope that snatched moments become significant records. Significant records of daily mundane life that capture monumental moments of importance.

Naoise ran around the front room with a sanitary towel stuck to the underside of his jeans declaring I am mummy, I have my period. I am mummy, I have my period. Syd thought that this was mean and told him off. I said it was ok he was just playing. I said it was ok to have a bit of fun, to normalise periods.

Naoise turned away as I was changing a sanitary towel in the bathroom. Why are you turning away Naoise ? I asked. The blood is horrible, he said. I can see that it worries him. The blood is normal Naoise, its not horrible, but I can understand why you don’t like to look. I reply.

The buzzer sounds on the oven clock. I had wanted to write about so much more. I had wanted to write about feeling like a shadow as in the Keith Arnatt photograph, I was interested in the photographs that he took of notes that his wife wrote to him left around the house.

I feel like a shadow. Am I an Artist. Do I give this up, this life? How do I find a way to negotiate this lack. Lack of funds. Lack of feeling valued. Lack of time to do what it takes to make it work? Lack. What keeps me going? Is it worth carrying on or is it better to throw the towel in and become a consumer of art rather than a producer? Is it best just to muddle along and not decide and to let other factors to decide for me?

I am a real artist/ I am a real mother.

I wanted to write about the picnic in the woods with Naoise my friend and her children up on the hill. I wanted to write about playing pretend dinosaur school. I wanted to write about lying in the grass and feeling the sun on my face. I wanted to write about these idillic moments of childcare where you can escape into a fantasy world and believe it to be true. To play is to live.

I am a real artist / I am a real mother.

 

 

Caro

19.19pm

Went to meet my friends at the Yorkshire Scupture Park. We walked down and up the hill to the Longside gallery to admire the Antony Caro sculpture. My friend and me admired how the work had been made, discrete joins, clever seamless edges, beautiful combinations of steel and acrylic. I spoke of my love for his work from the 60’s and my friend spoke of how he returned to this body of work in his last years.

Ohhhh Yeahhh La La La La…Syd is practising his guitar. Naoise is in the shower.

Is this project crumbling apart or is it only now becoming interesting. Now that I have the kids full time. Now school is out for summer. How do I find time to feed this baby? Here are some words, munch them up. Don’t make a mess and s….p….i….l

l

them

on         the

ground

wipe them up. …………….start again.

I have spent the day trying to improve the children’s behavouir, only the threat of no TV and no internet seems to work.

Syd loves the robin fledglings and has filled a plastic tray full of oat cake crumbs and placed it on the doorstep along with a plastic container full of water. I caught him with a camera trying to capture the birds in action. He says he wants to pick them up. I have talked to him about why this would be a bad idea. They are wild birds. Syd says he wants to domesticate them. They do seem very friendly and tame. I wonder how long it will last. The birds breasts are getting more and more red by the day.

We sat in the James Turrell Deer Shelter at YSP……..so beautiful, so calm…Syd wanted to look in at the sky light….thankfully he gave up after I told him not to scale the wall. Teenagers really don’t think, they just act, they don’t assess risk, they just want to do stupid crazy dangerous things. What to do?

Thump….shower gel landing in the bath.

The other one is out. I am in rocking it up at home. I need a break, I really do, I am so envious of those who get grandparent help. How I wish I had grandparents who helped with childcare. Just a day, I just wish for a day of peace. A day in the studio just drawing or writing or painting or dreaming or thinking or dreaming up a plan……

The leaves are starting to look tired on the trees….the heather is beautiful….but it all seems that summer is reaching a rapid stop…..is this summer, do I look beyond too soon…probably. My stomach aches from period pains or maybe overconsumption of gooseberry cake.

Another pack a picnic day tomorrow. Shouldn’t complain, I don’t have to juggle childcare and care and housework and guilt no yet…….things will change this might be my last great summer with the kids, and as much as I struggle I try and relish the opportunity to relax with them, to have adventures even if they do drive me TOTALLY CRAZY with all their energy and their conflicts and unwillingness to help and tow the line. This mother is ready to burst with rage to want to do something other than care and create happy days for others.

FIFTEEN minutes gone. Must get Naoise out the shower before he turns into a wrinkled plum. Routine. Routine. Will my day ever end ? (don’t moan, don’t moan) I have to, I have to moan a little.

Sleep routines

9.39am

Naoise is still wanting to sleep, this is understandable seeing as he won’t actually fall to sleep until ten in the evening. I or we have never been able to break this cycle, sure he is a little earlier to settle when he is back at school, but no as far as I can remember Naosie has been a night owl and a daytime snoozer. Last night I was confronted by unwanted advice and judgemental comments about Naoise not going to sleep soon enough. I am not going to change this routine in one night and no one had any practical suggestions as to how this might happen or working together with me to make a change. I just felt blamed. I bit my lip. I bit my lip.

I am not too worried about it, its the summer, routines slip, school does not dictate my days. I am not going to make many changes right now, I have too much on. Whilst the others go to work and to play I am left holding the fort, feeding the washing machine, catering, hoovering the rug, maintaining. Maintenance takes up all my time.

Syd has gone out for another bike ride. He had a magical ride yesterday evening and saw two badgers.

The fledgling blundered into the front room. I think it flew out again. I worry when they come inside. I don’t want them to get stuck in the house or get stressed. I have swung the kitchen window open, just incase its hiding in a corner. I cannot hear any wings, I think its ok.

The washing machine chunders. I have got to the bottom of the laundry pile, just the hand wash items left. Hand washing is always left till I feel I have extra energy.

The sunflowers have completed filtered, the yellow petals of each head hang limp over the edge of the green jug.

My head hurts, I bought some cheap cans of cider, its a self induced headache. There isn’t any more alcohol left in the house so at least I cannot indulge anymore. I have been watching my weight creep back up. I need to loose another four to five pounds to be back where I was in the middle of July before departing for Cornwall. Each day I chalk up my weight on the blackboard. I am not very disciplined. Keeping a track is the only way to stop me pushing sweet things, fatty things, too much of everything into my mouth. I am not hungry, I am eating to forget, eating to calm, eating to dispense of negative emotions.

I feel under pressure. I need to be looking for work, but its not really possible when I have another full time job to do. This is the full-time job, this caring, undervalued job. A job that even I struggle to value, this mum job. This mum job that I have to justify. I need to write down what it is I do.

I organise. I clean. Beep beep says the washing machine. I manage. I cook. I cuddle. I sort out conflicts. I provide others with time so that they may do what they want to do may that be an activity or paid work. Now the oven buzzer tells to stop, to shut up, beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep.

Start of the week

10.30am

Its hard to even carve out fifteen minutes to write. The house is full. My head is full. My heart is full. All my family back in the nest. How I adore my beautiful teenage son. He is two inches taller than me now. He will grow taller, stronger, how amazing it is to see him metamorphose into a young man.

Naoise watching Ninjago. Syd in the shower. My friend out in his car, he likes to drive his car.

My period has arrived to surprise me again. I hate my periods. I hate PMT. I hate excessive bleeding. I just feel bloated and sore and have cramps and would rather not have them. They take up so much emotional and physical energy. Sleepless nights, anxiety, inability to think logically. My periods are very heavy, I am not moaning unnecessarily, yes all women have periods, but if you have fibroids then they can be truly horrific. I wish I had a more positive experience of them. I wish I felt cleansed. I look forward to the two weeks of no period pain and no pmt and then we are back to square one again. My periods seem to be closer and closer together, following a three week as opposed to a four week cycle. I try to track them but I can never really pre-empt when the next one may be. At least I don’t have to do anything particularly physical today. I didnt sleep much last night.

Naoise keeps kicking over the little white stool and fidgeting.

The washing machine is taking off in the kitchen.

The robins have eaten their oatcakes. One robin sits right on the doorstep to ask for its breakfast. We think that there are three fledglings but its difficult to distinguish one from another. I would need to tag each with a different colour to enable me to know who is who.

My friend has returned. This needs to end. I cannot write when there are adults and children to care for.

I have fought for these few moments of thought. I washed the kitchen floor, did the washing up, sorted out clean clothes, put clean clothes away, I have made breakfast in bed for the children, got Naoise dressed and up.

Breath. Breath. Rest a while. Pause. Stop……for a moment…until the next space of thinking time arrives.

Syd returns day

8.52am

I haven’t heard from Syd for many days perhaps five. FIVE days of no communication. He will be fine and anyhow he is back today so why does this non-communication make me feel so anxious ? I am fretting about how he is going to be when he comes home. Its strange to see pictures of his other life on Facebook. We are so separated from the other life. This containing of one and another, father and mother. Child. He is in the middle. It must be hard. We muddle along with this strained organisation of contact time. Syd grows and he is lovely so maybe not too much harm is done.

Parents fuck you up.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

Philip Larkin

The sun is shining the sun glistens in the late summer green of the trees. No breeze. Clear and clam. Patrick has managed to get out for a bike ride. I am still home. I had thought about slipping out for a walk, but I am left tending the nest as usual. I am tired. I am tired. I woke up far too early, just before seven. I read the newspaper. I read the latest articles about our hero Jeremy Corbyn. I think all will be fine, the future has hope. He brings hope with passion.

naoiseinthebath23rdaugust

 

I scour the local council jobs I see nothing. Nothing jumps out and says you can do this, I look further a field but there is nothing. All I see is obstacles in the way. Barriers. I have given up on hoping for anything art related. Art is in a dire situation. I have tried it as a profession and either I have failed it or it has failed me. I can stick at the fail or find something else. I cannot continue to scrabble around just surviving. I owe it to my children to try and find a job so at least our lives can move forward. So at least I can make some decisions, fix the hole in the plaster, buy some new knickers, provide.

I have not provided. I have sustained and nurtured and stayed the same. Six years the same. Time to move on. Can I. Can I. EIGHTEEN days left of the summer holidays. How long. How long. The sunflowers look happy in the green vase. We are running short of teabags. I hear my friend in the upstairs bedroom, I cannot get up, get to my clothes until he comes downstairs. I will wait. If he comes down stairs though this writing will stop. Its not just children that stop, that interrupt its partners and friends and situations.

The sun shines on the dinning chair. My mouth is full of marmite taste from the toast I ate at breakfast. Cars pass. How could I lie in bed on such a beautiful day.

Later, when Syd is home, maybe we will all walk up to the local pub and have a drink. I will feel much calmer when my eldest son is home. I have contained the anxiety. I wonder if all the panic attacks about the plastic stuck in my throat were more about the anxiety of him being away from home.

Stop analysing the past. The buzzer on the oven clock sounds the present. SOUNDS the now. SUNDAY. SUNDAY. SUNDAY=FUNDAY.

afterpickingpotatoesJPG

Another weekend

9.48am

Another weekend, but there seems little to differentiate the days. Naoise still sleeping but then he didn’t actually fall to sleep until 11pm, far, far, far too late, I know.

Two baby robins in the back yard this morning. I have become proficient at breaking up exactly the right size of oat cake crumb needed for them to pick up in their beaks and swallow. I am loving being their human surrogate mother. I am glad they are still here, as Syd is back tomorrow and I would like him to meet them. Its strange that they arrived just as he parted. They are no substitute for my eldest son but have been a comfort whilst he has been away.

SIXTEEN DAYS. Syd has been gone for sixteen days. The house will be a noisier place when he returns. There will be romping and squabbles and singing and loud guitar music. There will be teenage passion and angst and conversation. There will be competition for my affections from two children. There will be an emotional mountain to climb over, as whenever he returns from his fathers he is understandably sad to part company. He will be tired and after he has recovered there will be things that he wants and things that he wants to do. There will be the annual trip to buy school shoes and bags and pencil cases which always costs a fortune. I will have to try and grow a money tree to purchase the back to school items.

Just as the summer felt so long now it feels short. It is fading. It is wet and cold and feels like autumn is already taking hold. I look out of the window at the scaffold tower that has been erected at the end of a terrace up on the hill. I see a man climbing it.

My friend is staying for a few days, he drives a dark blue sports car that he parks out front. Its nice to have an older person around. Its good to have different company. Naoise is still asleep. I read this morning that Lauren Lavern now presents a late night woman hour, I must listen, it sounds good, it sounds better than the polite day time version.

This afternoon I take Naoise to a party, we made the card yesterday so just the present to wrap. I will be glad of some company whilst Patrick does some freelance work. Each day of perpetual childcare blends into the next. I am no twenty first century woman, juggling paid work with domestic work and childcare. I will be, one day this will change and then there will be the challenges of this “other” life.

I hear feet on the stairs. Must stop writing now.

Have I lost the mother in mother’s stories ?

9.27am

Miracle my boy child is still asleep. I creep and tip toe around the house. Sip coffee. No butter so white toast with jam, probably healthier anyhow. Have given up trying to loose the holiday pounds and have resorted to maintaining my weight that I chalk up on the kitchen blackboard each day. I have slipped into bad routines of comfort eating, snacking, a glass of wine here and there during the week. Its impossible to get out to exercise. I try to keep active and do different stuff with Naoise each day. We have had only one really lazy day of staying in.

I enjoyed having Naoise friends to play yesterday and was so glad of the good weather so that we could play in the park as opposed to the soft play centre. How I hate soft play centres, useful yet soul destroying. The children play so happily when outside. They splashed in the river, collected stones and objects that they found, and with these objects created a village settlement and two castles. The children chattered about mind craft  but physical town planning has got to be more exciting. Stones balanced onto each other to make houses, rugs of grass, a well, a blacksmiths, a bakers, small fires to warm the village square and even flowers. We made tiny bows and arrows from small sticks and grass.

We played on the swings and the seesaw. I was on one end of the see saw the three boys on the other.

sylviaplathgraffitihebdenbridge21staugustboysfeetplaying21staugustsmallimage

Naoise still sleeps. I am vigilant, I keep thinking he will wake and I will have to sneak the computer away really quickly. I have banned screens during the day. They are only aloud in the evening after his dad gets home. Its an iffy day weather wise, all grey the threat of rain looming, the tress blowing in the wind. It feels as if the end of summer is near yet I haven’t even begun to touch it yet. I feel out of touch with nature. The robin gets bolder by the day. She waits in the yard for patrick to feed her early in the morning and I can hear her singing out side right now. Yesterday when the family support team from the sure start centre were visiting to tell me about a friendship group she came inside the kitchen again. Its really sad when she does this as she panics and bats her wings against the window in a desperate effort to escape. If her wings had the power they would break the glass with her panic.

Five minutes set on the buzzer, I forgot to set it to fifteen.

I watched an Horizon programme about neolithic man based upon new archaeological finds around Britain. It was amazing, especially a track of footprints preserved in a mud flat only made visible by a sping tide. I wonder whether Syd would like to see this, I would happily watch it again as it was packed with amazing information. I managed a short trip to the studio, I am having a panic about what work I am going to do come September there is some urgency as my studio rent has doubled. I cannot survive on the little bits of work that I created for myself I need a proper regular job. I spoke to the family support team and hopefully I will get a little help from someone. I need a good kick up the arse to get me to fill in forms, to be proactive to think I can do things and not make up a million excuses for not being able to. I need to find my will power, strength and confidence. Maybe the voluntary work that they mentioned will help.

I have been trying to be a good friend, I have looked after a dog, babysat for children, built a gate. I haven’t been totally thinking of me. I am trying to reach out to move beyond the domestic.

The buzzer on the oven has sounded

It was helpful to get to the studio last night, to look at a series of collages that I had made.  I need to return to this body of work.

Mum was meant to come over today to keep me company and then to babysit later on but she is unwell and has cancelled. She sounded dreadful on the phone. I understand.  I will see her before she disappears to her North of Scotland home once more. I was sad to miss her today her visit had kept my spirits up all week. Luckily I have been invited over to my friends for lunch so I cannot be too  sad about missing her. I am realising how much adult company keeps me happy, I need to move beyond this imaginary childcare world. Its an escape and a prison. I need to grow up, or at least make a step beyond. Step forward. Make a track. Make prints. Footsteps. A line. I need to stand up on my own two feet again and stop being dependent and lacking.

 

Ten minutes

10.05am

This will have to do, just about long enough to move words across a screen. To fill in this day. Its a nondescript day. I am looking after my friends children. I had planned a football match in the local park, but may have to go to the soft play centre instead. The house is a pickle. Tried to tame some of it. Hoovered the front room, picked up some plastic moved stuff from coffee table to dinning room table.

Womens

MUM MUM Naoise calls from the bathroom where he is having a shower. I help him out to open the lid of the shampoo bottle, I stay until he has washed out the suds as he hates it if the sting gets in his eyes.

Womens hour in the background. A discussion about A level results.

I am thinking of completely retraining. Its impossible to make my way as an artist. Its not working. If I retrain as a teacher then maybe things will settle better. Maybe I will be happier. Its never straight forward…never an easy path.

I don’t really know what to do, I just know that I have to do something to change my stuck place. I cannot carry on in this nothing. Nothing.

The oven buzzer sounds.

rockhousegrass20thsept riverrockvillage20thsept

 

Not so wild boar park

22.26pm

Escaped the house today. Needed to escape, especially after spending an entire day inside. Inside reading. A pyjama day.

Went to wild boar park. Played in the straw bales, held chicks, ate ice-cream, watched Naoise on the go-carts.

The day passed quickly. We were the last in the carpark.

This evening the sofa and Jurassic Park 2. Naoise loves dinosaurs. He covers his face at the gory bits.

Today felt less of a slog. I read all day yesterday. I completed one Michael Morporgo book and then read another cover to cover.

Writing at this time is no good. I am brain dead. Its dark.  Maybe its stopped raining. Syd is camping, I hope that the weather down south is good for him. I miss him lots. Heard a libertines song on the radio when I was driving the car. I pine for his return.

Cant think of anything more to write.

Another day of childcare another day of unemployment

8.19am

I am so so relieved that I no longer believe, feel or imagine there to be a piece of plastic in my throat. The ENT appointment was pretty horrible. I had a small camera stuck down my neck into my throat, but the consequences of this procedure are so positive, as it told me for sure that there was nothing at all there. I am unstuck. There is no stuck. The sensation of imagined plastic in my throat had paralysed me for two weeks.

I hear the chirping of robins in the back yard. Pause. I unlock the back door and look out incase it is a hungry fledgling asking for oat cake crumbs. I have become quite attached to my little bird visitors. They are very brave and scamper around the table even when I am sat outside.

Sip tea.

Naoise is fast asleep, though there is no knowing how long he will stay asleep and exactly how long I will have with my own thoughts. It is always a race to get this done. The house has returned to a state of perpetual caos. I am low on energy, days and days of childcare drain me. I keep having to remind myself that this is temporary, school will begin again and the morning rush is just as draining as the constant being with child.

I should be applying for jobs but its too challenging when each day is dictated by child care and then my partner works freelance in the evening too. I scrape away at the small in-betweens to salvage something of life for myself. I struggle to see anyway out of the situation that I am in and resign to the fact that the summer holidays is not a time to be fighting for my autonomy, independence and financial freedom. Childcare and unemployment have to just be excepted for at least the next three weeks. The time will fly. I think that this is the midpoint. The midpoint of exhaustion.

Spoke to Syd last night he was sat on a bench on the coastal path in Norfolk near his campsite. It was good to speak to him and get a sense of where he was. He told me about flat seas and grainy beaches and of boredom. I told him that he wasn’t missing out on anything here in Todmorden. He told me he had collected stones for me from the beach. I look forward to holding them in my hands. He told me that there were kites and sea buzzards circling above.

Yesterday my friend helped me by looking after Naoise so that I could go to the ENT appointment and  in return I joyfully helped my friend to build a willow gate in her garden and to clean out her guinea pig cage. Later we went to the allotment, ate an ice-cream, cut the grass, dug up potatoes. Naoise made a mud pie home for a worm. Naoise swung on the swing and kicked his boots off. Naoise shouted and screamed NAGOOO NAGOOO NAGOOOO and his call reverberated around the cliffs above. Naoise swung in the hammock. Naoise tried to do everything to get my attention away from my friend. I loved having her company. These days are long. Naoise is great company but I need adult company too. I am mostly on my own with him.

There were blue tit fledglings playing on the plastic barrel of water.

Labour leadership election information booklet arrived yesterday, need to read and vote.

The oven buzzer sounds, incessant, calling me to stop this, to wash up bowls, to busy myself with domestic dull, I will make another cup of tea, calm myself, dream up something fun to do with Naoise. I need to get out even though its all overcast and dull and boring looking weather.

Naoise

8.30am

Naoise is lying asleep on the sofa. The sofa is collapsing. Breaking down. He smiles in his sleep, I wonder what is entertaining him in his dreams. He played with his friends yesterday but got distressed and upset, names were called and he got hurt. I am not sure what he did. Who knows the real truth of conflict between children, intervening often seems to make situations worse. His friends are kind and generous thankfully after much running away, crying and screaming he calmed down, came around and played happily. Poor thing, I felt so at a loss at how to help him negotiate the complexities of social situations. I find myself getting upset over the smallest of incidences, the most minor of discresions can cause me distress and make me unable to function. Perhaps he has caught the worst parts of my character.

I don’t feel great. I miss Syd. I feel like a constant failure, I am useless, I am behind, others do more, why can’t I manage too. I am stupid. I have no idea how I have come to be so harsh on myself, maybe lack of confidence. I haven’t been able to think of anything else apart from the stuck thing in my throat. I worry that if there is no stuck thing then I have made myself ill. I

Naoise wakes. I am hungry. Interupted: make porridge, abandon thoughts. Act.