Friday, 18 July 2014

a writing exercise

Last week, my 11 year old daughter and I did a fun writing exercise. We gave ourselves 10 minutes to write a short story and then swapped to read each other's work. I haven't written any fiction in a long time, so it was a challenge. I loved how the story unfolded as I went along, and when I stopped trying to think of ideas, they just flowed out of my pen without effort.

This is what I wrote.

Once upon a time, there was an old woman. She was a happy person; kind and generous with friends and strangers alike. One rainy afternoon, just as she settled down in front of the fire with a steaming cup of cocoa, a loud knock pounded on the door. Startled, she spilled her drink on the floor. "Drat!" she muttered, as she shuffled to answer the door.
Standing on the mat, soaked to the bone, was a bedraggled dog. Its poor face clearly asked her to come in, as it slightly shivered at the door.
"Oh, you poor thing!" the old woman exclaimed. She grabbed a towel as quickly as she could manage and ushered the dog indoors. It happily settled in front of the fire and was soon contentedly licking up a dish of warm milk and bread.
The old woman was saddened to think of someone abandoning this animal on such a wet day. "Don't worry, little one," she whispered as she stroked its head, "I'll look out for you."
Soon the dog - Brandy was the name she gave him - was settled into the house and the old woman couldn't believe she ever managed without him. She always exclaimed over his manners and helpfulness - for who ever saw a dog that wiped its feet before entering, or could make a delicious cup of tea, exactly as she liked it? It was astonishing.
Time passed. Winter turned to Spring, then Summer. The old woman began shuffling about more and more slowly. Her garden grew neglected, weeds choking the vegetable plot. She always had a smile or kindly word for all she met, but she didn't get out much. Brandy helped her more every day.
Without her even noticing, Brandy started looking more and more like a man in a fur coat, rather than a dog on all fours. As winter crept in, the old woman grew sleepy. She barely got out of bed these days. Brandy took care of her every need - now as a fully realised human. A Prince, in fact. Cursed with animal form for selfish behaviour, he was required to show unconditional love before the curse was broken.
As the old woman sighed her last breath, the Prince stroked her hand and cried.

It's not breaking any new ground or the beginnings of an epic tale, but it was kind of exciting to see what would come out next. If I was going to edit it, I would likely give the "old woman" an actual name, and turn the tale on its head a bit by making the dog prince into a princess. Or perhaps just an ordinary girl who got on the wrong side of a Faerie. The basic premise could do with plenty of tweaking to make the story more original and interesting.

I did like that it had a melancholy ending, however. Sometimes life is like that - good can come out of sad situations, but in order for the good to happen, you have to feel and experience the sadness.

In other news, I'm still tired all the time, but whingeing about it in my last blog post didn't actually accomplish anything. In some ways, it made me feel even more sorry for myself! So whatever. I'll just keep on. Only three more days until the summer break, and we can all lounge about in our jammies whenever we like! I think we all need to rest and recharge a bit.

Saturday, 12 July 2014


I'm afraid there's something wrong with me, that I'm getting too tired to function. I need two naps a day now, and that doesn't seem right?

I gave up our allotment, that we shared with a friend. They have five children, and so do we. When I explained to someone why I couldn't handle it anymore, I said "we have 10 kids between us" and it kind of hit me anew. That's a lot of children.

No wonder I'm tired. I have a nine month old baby who I love dearly but she really enjoys waking at dawn. Dawn in the summer means 4am, so that's not always easy.

I am not giving my all to my family, because I am tired. I am grumpy and short-tempered, I don't have the energy to cook, and cleaning? Well, if you can walk without crunching something underfoot, I call it a win.

They are healthy and happy, for the most part. But am I? I worry that I'm too tired, but then I remind myself that I don't go to bed before 11pm most days. Can anyone really function on five hours of broken sleep for months on end?

Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. Perhaps I need to take more naps.

I once read about how humans naturally had a segmented sleep cycle in the days before electricity. Everyone would go to bed at sundown, sleep for five hours or so, wake up for two hours, and sleep again for another three or four hours. They called it their "first" and "second" sleeps. It sounded amazing, so I tried it. I never saw my husband, since by the time I woke up from my first sleep, he was off to bed for the rest of the night. I then got anxious and struggled to get to bed for my second sleep, worrying that I wouldn't get enough rest before the children woke up.

Modern ways of sleeping fit better into our modern lives, funnily enough. But I still feel tired.

Am I anemic? Do I have a B12 deficiency? Why do I want a third nap, and still feel like I'm living in a fog of slow thoughts?

My children have started finishing my sentences for me. Am I really that difficult to chat with? Do their minds move so quickly that they can't even wait for the words to come out of my mouth? I think it might just be a bad habit, rather than an assessment of my state of mind. I hope so, at least.

I didn't take a nap today. I stayed up too late, my husband out of town and the tv viewing all to myself, while the baby slept and slept. She woke up at dawn, her usual happy self, while I grumble and try to go back to sleep with her pootling around on the floor.

It is 7pm and I feel leaden. My eyes blink slowly, my mouth slack. We had cereal for dinner, because it's hot and I just can't think of anything to cook. We have cupboards full of food; dried pasta, rice, beans, lentils. Sauces and tins, packets and jars. Plenty of ingredients, but if I chopped any vegetables tonight, I think I would regret it.

We had a good day, despite my tiredness. A morning at a soft play centre, with the older ones playing laser tag, coming home for lunch and a Doctor Who marathon. You really can't go very wrong with the tenth doctor. We take breaks for ice lollies and snacks. We finally took down our canvas tent (it was drying out, then got rained on twice, and was finally completely dry again) which was a wonderful acquisition that will make a great story to tell. Perhaps on a day when I'm not so tired.

My husband still isn't home. He went to pick up a car we bought, and has experienced an epic journey of false starts, possible money laundering, unexpected overnight stays, dodgy engines and a tour of the countryside. It sounds much more exciting than what it was, although I was pleased to hear that the takeaway order I placed for him was delivered successfully to his pit-stop at the park and ride next to the motorway. I ordered 4 bottles of water at 500 ml each. I think 2 litres of bottled water is overdoing it, really, but it is hot today and I was worried.

I haven't been eating right. When I'm tired, I don't want to put any effort or thought into meals and snacks, which results in my fall back option of quick-but-unhealthy. It's frustrating to get into this cycle, but I don't know how to break it. Perhaps if I spent a week of going to bed at 8pm. Somehow that doesn't seem very realistic.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, or just a flaky goofball, but I am glad my 4 year old is attending school in September. I'm too tired to do fun things with her anymore. Well, I take that back. We do go out, and have some fun, but I am only good for a couple of hours before I have to come home and collapse. At least when she starts school, the baby will still be taking naps (pleasepleaseplease) and I will get some rest without the guilt of not being engaged and "present" for my family.

What if there isn't any deficiency? What if exhaustion is my version of normal? I try not to worry, and remind myself that five children is a lot of kids. Maybe that's why I'm so tired.

The tent was up for a long time.