Jane Austen

Almost missed my train reading these Jane Austen Facts and Figures on The Guardian site:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2017/jul/18/jane-austens-facts-and-figures-in-charts?CMP=fb_gu

Like most others on the platform my head was down and I was not taking any notice of what was going on in the world outside of my phones. Now that I have a seat, I can rifle through my bag for my book! (The hugely interesting and thought provoking Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari).

An Old Favourite

Whenever I get into a book funk and lose my reading mojo, I like to go back to an old favourite. Sometimes it happens as I’ve struggled to get through a new book and I read more slowly (I really loathe not finishing a book. Making the conscious decision to not finish a book has happened twice that I can remember in the history of my adult reading – Casual Vacancy JK Rowling and Fifty Shades EL James (Cue gasp!). And yes, I am aware the first is on the list for this year, and the second was on the list last year I believe!).

Sometimes it happens if I just don’t have enough time to get through any reasonable chunks of a book so struggle to immerse myself in it.

Sometimes, let’s face it, I’m so tired and there is just another episode of House of Cards that I simply must watch (Yes, I am partial to a little TV when time permits!)

Most recently it happened because I went on a Dymocks spree and purchased quite a few self-improvement books. Having finished one, I just didn’t feel like bettering myself in quick succession, so I returned to an old favourite.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) (No. 23 on the list)

This is the book I can safely start anywhere I like and be immersed instantly. I’ve lost count of the number of re-reads as a result of the ease of escaping into the world of the Bennetts.

It is much more than a story about girls marrying well to secure their future, support their sisters and live a happy life (as their father’s fortune is entailed away from them). It has so many big themes of feminism, independence, changes in social propriety, the implications of quick judgements and ignorance.

However it is not the serious themes that draw me back. It is the fact that, every time I read this, I find myself either giggling out loud, or swooning in my seat. Either at the ridiculousness of the circumstances the girls often find themselves in and the individual quirky characteristics of the sisters (and Mrs Bennett, who provide comic relief in her lack of self-awareness and crudeness in all conversations in particular).

Or the incredibly romantic phrases from Mr Darcy (even though he is at great pains to appear disinterested at all times!) His entire demeanour is to convince that he is indifferent to those who court his affections however he falls in the most monumental of ways, for Lizzie (despite earlier in the book affirming her to be rather ‘plain’) (Sorry for the spoiler alert here, but if you haven’t read this and don’t know the story, then stop reading this and go get a copy!!).

Despite being set in such a different time, some of the most memorable lines (like the below), still ring true:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice

The entire language that she uses in the book, in fact, is romantic. She uses words you would almost never hear in every day conversation today. In fact (since I’m going to be honest), most of them I didn’t even know what they meant. So in reading this, I learn, feel smarter and expand my vocab in the process! Words like felicitous, caprice, and affectation just to name a few. Modern English seems so rushed compared with the amount of time Austen spends on conversation. It’s romantic, relaxing and provides a suitable haven to escape into to remind myself why I love reading.

 

 

Some Things Do Change

Recently I’ve found there are quite a few ‘normal’ tasks that have been drastically altered as I’ve transitioned from being a stay at home Mum to a working Mum. Things that should be simple and uncomplicated are, quite simply, not.

I know my experiences specifically are not unique so I thought I would share a few with you so we can all know we are not alone !

Stay at Home Mum – showering before going out = optional. Our shower is right next to V2s room. Keeping her asleep was always more important.

Working Mum – obviously this one has had to change.  Showering is first order in the morning but it usually takes place with an audience of 3. V1, V2 and the puppy. And by first order I mean after both kids have breakfasted (cereal and toast, often with a dessert of eggs), after I’ve tidied up the monumental mess that V2 produces while eating (hey, at least she feeds herself!), and after both kids are dressed (my better half usually dresses V1 so this saves at least 4 mins of back and forth trades, ultimatum and downright yelling to get the job done). Various toys decorate the bathroom floor and as a result of the risks of having 2 fully clothed wet children, showers are capped at 2 minutes, max. Which brings me to my next point…

Hair washing

Stay at Home Mum – since showering was a luxury that usually happened once my better half was home and on duty, I always washed my hair to take full advantage of having a long, and very hot shower (since a lot of the time I have the kids in there with me, showers are not so enjoyably lukewarm).

Working Mum – somewhat surprisingly this has reversed. Hair washing when working requires a blow dry. Time I don’t have (and V2 is remarkably unenthused about the hoise and concept of heat blowing around the place – she actually cries in front of blow heaters bizarrely – and since I can’t venture into the bathroom alone, this is a challenge!) So we are experimenting with pushing the boundaries of hair washing, and creative styling (I’m saving money on styling products as the natural oils are doing the trick!) Before you all panic and recoil in disgust, I manage to wash it about every 3 days (when compared with daily washes pre kids, it’s a stark contrast, but all in all, not that bad!)

Exercise

Stay at Home Mum – I did a marathon at the end of my year at home with V1. At the end of my year at home with V1 and V2 I was managing a twice weekly 5k run.

Working Mum – initially thus declined to be a once weekly 5k run. And by once weekly in this instance, I mean once a week, every 3rd week. Now I’ve managed to push it back up to twice weekly (for a whole 2 consecutive weeks!) and supplemented cardio with a few other exercises:

  • Toddler kettle bell swings – V1 is almost 20kgs now so these are exhausting.
  • Weighted squats and lunges (v2 serving the purpose of my weight). Since she’s an active little thing this make these exercises rather dynamic! 
  • Running on the spot. If it’s good enough for the wiggles, it’s good enough for me. This is usually accompanied by kids soundtracks  (Moana, Shakira, Taylor Swift and Frozen) and includes intensive jumping (this is how V1 dances). This also includes mixing it up with the aeroplane chase (exactly as it sounds, we are aeroplanes chasing each other up and down the house). 
  • The V2 upright row into overhead press. She loves the slide but can’t climb the ladder. So from ground to overhead height she is lifted repeatedly. 
  • The weighted chore walk. All Mums do this one on a daily basis. The cook, clean, eat, shop, and hang washing out while holding their V2. My right bicep looks great. My left one needs some work – we all have a favoured side! 

In light of all this exercise, that brings me to the next drastic area of change.

Eating

Stay at Home Mum – I managed to consume regular meals and supplement this with kids leftovers as snacks. Mac and cheese, peanut butter toast, home made veggies muffins and my favourite – chicken and veggie sausage rolls. Since we always cook dinners and plan for leftovers there was always a yummy reheatable meal in the fridge.

Working Mum – I seem to spend all my spare time cooking.  I slow cook two dinners on my days off and cook different dinners so the slow cooked meals keep for work days.  I have lunch leftovers each day but somehow the proportion of eating is not relative to cooking. My kids have huge appetites now, and we have a dog. Bye bye leftovers for Mummy. In fact, as Nanny and Poppy discovered on the weekend just gone, both children will literally eat the food off your plate before you’ve even had a look in. Since showering has moved up the roster, eating in the morning has moved down. Coffee is a staple. By the time I get to work, it’s usually lunch time before I’m reminded that I’ve yet to manage breakfast!

Toileting (no I don’t mean in the traditional English sense of getting ready for dinner).

Stay at Home Mum – the door is always open – not in the sense of please join me, the more the merrier but rather in the sense of, if I closed it everyone woild fall into the bathroom as soon as I opened it because of them leaning and banging on it while in there (as a result of the open door policy, sadly more often than not I have an audience).

Working Mum – no change (at home – (there you go – a constant !)) At work – peace (When I can afford the time away from my desk to actually go).

I wouldn’t change any of it and my kids are worth a little sacrifice (ok ok maybe I would like to enjoy an extra run, an extra meal, and an extra hairwash and blow-dry each week, and to go to the toilet at home with the door locked!).

A Different Skill Set – The Sleeping Beauty Car Extraction

Ever since becoming a mother, I have learned to value different skills. It’s currently the Year End review and goal setting time at my office which has led me to think about my different skills.

The skill of keeping one’s children awake while travelling 3kms home from Little Kickers, after skipping the first nap, is invaluable. I must admit I am still honing this skill. So in the interim I have developed a back-up skill and have included instructions herewith for those who are interested in further developing and broadening their skill set.

The Sleeping Beauty Car Extraction

  • Step 1: Eject your toddler quietly and gently from the vehicle (this usually involves conceding to some unreasonable demand along the lines of a DVD, a milkshake or shamefully, a promise you will most likely not follow through with since you want them to have a nap – a chocolate (since we don’t have any in the house, this is a hard one to actually follow through with)).
  • Step 2: Once negotiations with toddler are concluded, open boot, remove bags quietly from the vehicle and close the boot without noise.
  • Step 3: Release the harness and lift the sleeping beauty onto your shoulder (the key to this step is NOT bumping her head on the door frame) (NB: As the child will need to remain in this position for the entirety of steps 4 thru 9, I cannot stress the importance of ensuring she is situated safely in a position requiring only one hand to hold her).
  • Step 4: Unlock and open the garage door (be sure to avoid any obstacles your toddler has left laying around on your path, including tractors, bulldozers, diggers, soccer balls, gym benches (ok that one was probably me from two days ago!) or his rubbish from the car).
  • Step 5: Close and lock garage door (for ease, this step can be omitted and repeated at a later, more convenient time).
  • Step 6: Arrange toddler into a quiet, yet entertained occupation that will maintain interest for at least 4 minutes, ideally 5 to be on the safe side.
  • Step 7: Close blinds in destination bedroom.
  • Step 8: Locate sleeping bag and decide if you will insert her into the bag in a flat or upright position. Lay sleeping bag onto change table if the former is selected.
  • Step 9: Gently lower the sleeping beauty onto the bag then suddenly notice she is still wearing two jackets.
  • Step 10: Decide if it’s worth the risk to remove them simultaneously or separately. In  my case, remove separately the outer jacket after unzipping.
  • Step 11: Remove the under layer jumper after unzipping (using the elbows down and sleeves of jacket up method.
  • Step 12: Realise that both jackets are now in between the sleeping beauty and the sleeping bag.
  • Step 13: Question your decision making skills, but find the courage to go on.
  • Step 14: Lift up the sleeping beauty back into the former over the shoulder one hand hold position and remove jackets from the table.
  • Step 15: Think better of your earlier decision and lift the bag onto the back of the little one, and hoist her legs into the bag (of course it’s a zip front bag, which places the zip between you and the sleeping beauty).
  • Step 16: Remember that her shoes have not been removed (curse that this is the one time they actually stayed on for the duration of the outing).
  • Step 17: Remove shoes (while saying a silent prayer of thanks to those who invented velcro)
  • Step 18: Don’t get ahead of yourself by thinking you’ve done it. The hardest part is yet to come.
  • Step 19: Lower sleeping beauty into the cot. Locate her sheepy and place on her hand should she grasp in her sleep. Locate the double zip and gentle close up the zip.
  • Step 20: Exit the room.
  • Step 21: Take a breath (You have of course been holding your breath since step 3 and by now are looking pretty blue in the face).
  • Step 22: Enjoy a leisurely afternoon of hot coffee, tea, chocolate, TV, books or whatever you like since you’ve just worked a miracle it stands to reason that you can of course work a miracle and complete all chores, and toddler management with the snap of your fingers too.

NB: Don’t, under any circumstance, attempt to complete Step 21 before Step 20. It is not advised.

It’s important to preface the above process by noting that it is all dependant on the 50/50 chance that your child will awaken as soon as the car is turned off. If she wakes, it’s all out the window and many more new skills come into play to commence the marathon afternoon session of no sleep (see instructions later to come entitled, The Beauty into the Beast Entertainment Schedule).

It is now 3 hrs past completing the above and the house is peaceful. These skills should never be underestimated. (Though I’m not sure I can include in my year-end self evaluation, no matter how tempting it is to do so!).

Friday Musings and Highlights

– No-one knows patience like that needed to help an almost 3-year old complete a jigsaw puzzle at 5.45am.
– Weet bix makes an excellent hair styling product.  (We are also currently experimenting with its application as a face product, hand moisturiser and laundry detergent with mixed results).
– Mean as it sounds, this week I learned there are not many things quite as funny (or loud) as a toddler tripping over a size 15 shoe in the doorway during his midnight pilgrimage to our room (I can laugh because it’s usually me tripping over the same shoe in my 3am pilgrimage to the bathroom – since pregnancy, 8 hours is just an insurmountable amount of time between toilet stops).
– This is what V1 created when I suggested he line up his trucks on our home day. The precision is alarming. It was almost a shame to pack them away when we had to get out the front door. 20170621_094132.jpg
– I suppose in order to protect his precise mind, it seems only sensible that his head be made with a concrete outer layer. At least that’s what it feels like when he headbutts me in the middle of the night. His targeting the bridge of my nose (broken as a teenager so very sensitive!) is as precise as his truck organisational skills. (Thankfully I haven’t needed to explain any black eyes as yet but it really is just a matter of time).
– Yesterday at the office I had Josh Groban’s Evermore (for the uninitiated – an original song written for the remake of Beauty and the Beast) in my head. It prompted a work colleague to share that they didnt like – nay, they hated – the movie. Their dislike perfectly contrasted my love for the movie and led to a scathing inner monologue of rebukes (I’m not crazy enough to voice them out loud! Although I did merely state they of course were mistaken and it was in fact close to being the best thing since sliced bread).

Having a ‘Moment’

It’s been a while since my last post (which came at the end of a rough week). It seemed that life continued to dish things out in a similar thread and the combined stresses of things piled up in a monumental way, forcing a break in routine and, more importantly, an understanding of the need for an attitude change.

  • I had been away from work for the week with the injured V2 (you might remember she touched the element of the stove while I was holding her!) The stress and worry (and guilt!) about the burn were playing on my mind.
  • I had been trying to work remotely as much as possible during my days with her, to not fall behind while out of the office but no matter how much I did, the emails continued.
  • We had a hugely social weekend planned (a trip to the Opera, a night out, trip to the Heritage Steam Train Expo, an afternoon shopping exhibition and a family afternoon tea). While all were lovely and enjoyable they didn’t allow a lot of room for rest.

Ultimately, the build up of a very stressful few weeks where I’ve been racing around in every aspect of life (work, kids, marriage, and a social life) meant I had a ‘moment’ while trying to clean the house to make it spotless for the next round of entertaining which brought things to a very abrupt and noticeable halt. (My efforts to make the place perfectly clean actually led to me leaving a fairly noticeable not clean mark!)

Many Mums know these ‘moments’. Mine usually see me having somewhat of an outer body experience watching myself disappearing into a rabbit hole of overreaction. Usually, the ‘moment’ passes and we continue along our merry (and busy) way until the next one appears.

Unfortunately this ‘moment’ lingered and proved to be an awakening moment (or rather an awakening half day) for me. I won’t go into the background of what I discovered to be the problem, other than to say it of course was not the cleaning that was the problem. I will say that it was this moment that allowed me to see just how much pressure I had placed on myself since my return to work. I hadn’t really given a shred of thought or time to ensuring that I, personally, was managing our hugely busy lives – which I have no doubt is something many Mums do on a daily basis.

We soldier on through the mammoth list of tasks that are too multitudinous to list. We act as teacher, chef, cleaner, counsellor, chauffeur, friend and disciplinarian, amongst others, all before we’ve even headed to the office.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said the phrase, “if my kids are happy, I’m happy”. While I am of course happy when my kids are happy, this one tiny hiccup in the day and the resultant ‘moment’ made me see that a few things needed an adjustment to ensure that my happiness wasn’t just anchored around that of my kids.

My first step was to cut myself some slack so I took the week off work to have a rest, recover from the whirlwind of life that we have been living these past few months since returning to work and to take a hard look at what we can change to stop this ridiculous race to an unseen finish line.

Everything I have discovered is something someone has already suggested. Something I have read in a book and thought ‘that sounds great – maybe one day I’ll give it ago’. Something I’ve listened to someone else say they do and thought ‘it won’t work for me’. Until I could see the measurable impact of running at full speed 100% of the time, I couldn’t listen to the advice. (Funny how we often let our kids learn from doing – no matter how many times I tell V1 that if he rides his bike full speed into a wall, one of these days he might get hurt – it’s only the act of doing it, and the subsequent grazing of knuckles that lead to the change. In much the same vein, I have now been able to learn from experience).

I have committed to trying a few things. I say trying because I’ve spent 30+ years in my current ways, and they are pretty set so this is a gradual process. I’ve tasked myself to:

  • try to stop over scheduling every waking moment of our days.
  • try to utilise my urge to organise to my advantage. I’ve finally realised that being good at being organised means you are organised enough to have some downtime. When I tell people what we squeeze into the 2 weekdays I’m not in the office, I’m greeted by comments usually along the lines of ‘I’m exhausted just listening to it’.
  • try to let myself see that it is OK to not get something finished every once in a while, to need a bit more time to do something, and to ask for help from my team. These are all OK and a necessary part of returning to work part-time.
  • try to focus on having faith in the knowledge that I am a dedicated and honest Mum, wife, friend and worker and unreasonable expectations do not lead to success.
  • I will take time off when I need it, and I will enjoy it, not feel guilty about it, or spend the time planning how I can get more things done.