Are houses just money pits?

I remember loving the film ‘The Money Pit’ – with Tom Hanks and Goldie Hawn as a young, enthusiastic couple gradually worn down by the realities of owning a home that they would ‘do up’. If you haven’t seen in then it’s a good way to waste a rainy Sunday afternoon – if you don’t have children, obvs, otherwise you’ll be watching something like Cars 2… Anyway, the gist is that the pair are met by a succession of mini house disasters which culminate in a giant hole in the middle of their home. Despite my depressing synopsis, it is actually funny. (Of course it is, Tom Hanks AND Goldie Hawn are in it!)

Why am I reminiscing about an 80s film that I haven’t seen for about ten years? Well, two weeks ago I finally got the keys to the new home I have bought for me and the boy and the dog. It’s not the first time my name has been on a mortgage… but it is the first time my name has appeared alone. I should be excited, but I’ve never felt so out of my depth. Actually, that’s a lie, the last time I felt this out of my depth was shortly after the birth of my son. But that’s another blog post.

Woah, that got serious quite quickly… where was I?!

Ah yes, since ‘the family home’ sold last summer, me and the boy and the dog have been residing with my parents. (My mother is not known for her patience and so to have put up with us all for eight months deserves a medal.) Following much daily lamentation about the lack of suitably affordable properties, a ‘for sale’ sign appeared in the house across the road. After a short debate about whether I should buy a house so close to my parents, who also take on a big chunk of the baby/dog sitting, I put in an offer and it was accepted (after the usual ridiculousness of each side – yes, I know I’m one half of this –  bartering until they feel they have a ‘bargain’).

And so the house is mine. It is not the ‘new build that will require no work whatsoever’ that I had envisaged eight months ago. The house needs a little bit of work – a new bathroom, replacement windows and doors, turfing of the back garden and a LOT of paint. To a seasoned DIYer, it wouldn’t look like much of a project at all. But, I’m no DIYer. I’m a procrastinator. Not a great combination. And as I’m living out of my parents’ spare bedroom while I sort the house, procrastination is not good.

In the past, DIY projects would invariably involve compromising with my ex over colour, price and style. Now it’s just me. And my son, who when asked what colour he would like his bedroom to be painted, replied; ‘Red, blue, green and yellow’. With a brown carpet thrown in for good measure. (I’m sure the more creative readers of this blog have already come up with a great idea for such a colour scheme…).

With very limited finance available, I’m stuck when it comes to making any kind of decision. Yup, ‘first world problems’ springs to mind. I’ve given more consideration to paint colours than I did when it came to choosing A Levels. More time deciding on the smallest, one-up-from-least-expensive bath than reading through the mortgage paperwork.

And, so far, every decision has been met with further expense. Either rectifying previous DIY endeavours by the former owners, or wanting something slightly different than what was there before. The latest being replacing laminate flooring with carpet… which apparently, isn’t quite as easy as laying a carpet over the wood…

Added to this has been the insurance – not just home insurance, but one for in case your water pipes leak, another in case you die before paying off the mortgage, and what if that fridge freezer you bought five minutes ago breaks? Or the sofa falls apart? Yup, you definitely need insurance for that too. (While I was actually offer insurance for the last two, I didn’t take up the offer…)

I thought it would be exciting to make decisions on my own, after more than a decade of living with someone else. But actually, it’s unsettling. I don’t regret the divorce. Just the ending of sharing a life with someone (as in another adult, not the boy!). Guess it’s time to put on the big girl pants and get on with it.

 

 

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Paddle your own canoe

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(yes, I know it’s a boat, but same difference…)

I think I’m having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment (first world problems, yeah?). Recently divorced after a ten year plus relationship and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t actually know myself at all.

It is Tinder to thank for this realisation – I know, I went on Tinder. Do you think a little less of me now? I was only on it for about five minutes before I realised what a bad idea it was – am hopeless at small talk in person, so what hope did I have of striking up a conversation with someone who had deemed me worthy of communication based on a photo? Yes, I’d also judged based on a photo – whatevs… (sidetrack – should that be ‘wevs’? Still learning cool, chilled, breezy speak. And yes, merely stating these three things means I am none of them…).

Where was I? Oh yes, Who Am I?

So, yes Tinder helped me establish that I had no direction, no real interests and no clue as to what I wanted out of life/my next relationship/dinner that night. The limited conversations I had with men centred around them asking me what I liked to do (um, given the nature of this particular app, am now not sure if these weren’t actually life/recreational questions but more of enquiries of a ‘spicy’ nature…)

Having a pretty much full time job and a small child kind of help distract from these important questions. (Dinner being the most important, obvs.. I’m doing it again…)

Back to ‘The Canoe’. Have you heard the phrase ‘Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe’? I only heard it recently – but it had one of those lightbulb moment effects.

Looking back over my adult life so far, I think once I was in a long term relationship I sort of coasted. Compromise meant, a lot of the time, not doing the things I wanted to do and instead trying to accommodate someone else’s interests. I wanted to share experiences with my partner, not do things in isolation. So I didn’t do much at all.

(That’s not really a pop at my ex, by the way – this is squarely on me. We didn’t have many shared interests – warning sign anyone?! But, that shouldn’t have stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do.)

By putting all my focus on my relationship, I forgot about learning and growing for myself. And appreciating that life isn’t about looking for what will happen next, but what is happening in the here and now. I didn’t paddle my own canoe, I just wanted to be carried along with someone else’s.

In true Bridget Jones generation fashion I have turned to books for inspiration (although the books are no longer on the shelf, but on my Kindle). Yup, when once I would have scoffed at ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’, I’m now gaining some well-timed and much needed motivation. I’d recommend it. But if you want less ‘self help’ guide and more ‘kick ass advice’, go for Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things – advice on love and life from someone who’s been there’. She’s wise, that Cheryl.

Will I go back to learning the guitar? Learn a language? How to do electrics and stuff? Who knows for the moment. But I’m enjoying learning the things that I didn’t know I didn’t know about. (have to read that one carefully!!)

As the quote by Emerson goes: “Life is a journey, not the destination.”

 

 

The Olympic legacy – you want it? Earn it.

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We’ve had a  good Olympics, Britain, haven’t we?

For someone who has very little sporting ability (aside from a pretty mean ‘swagger’ at the weekly Clubbercise class), I’ve been gripped by the talents of Laura Trott, Jade Jones, Helen Glover (well she is from Cornwall), Heather Stanning, Becky James and Amy Tinkler, to name but a few. Yep, go us women! Ok, well done to the men too!

Obvs I was ‘in to’ London 2012 – from the Olympic Torch winding its way along Cornish roads to that opening ceremony, I just remember feeling so proud. In the games makers, in the athletes, in the crowds who cheered everyone on. And then we had the Paralympics too and people who had overcome adversity put us all to shame by being generally bloody amazing. Times were good.

Of course, the legacy from 2012 was about encouraging people to get into sport and becoming Olympians of the future. Would love to comment on whether or not this worked, but my focus since London was to have a baby and, having had said baby in 2014, wallow in self pity over what I used to do with my spare time. (Have just realised that Jessica Ennis-Hill not only had a baby in the same time, but also went on to win a silver at the Heptathlon last weekend. Whatevs…)

So, what do we take from Rio 2016? Having watched many an exhausted athlete interviewed on the finish line as the reality of their medal win sinks in, the overwhelming message has been just how hard they worked for it. Yes, they are supported by trainers and a host of people behind the scenes, but that didn’t all just magically appear on the proclamation of ‘I’m going to be an Olympian’.

Today, more than ever, we hear the positive messages on the theme of being able to do anything you put your mind to. Facebook and Instagram threads are awash with life affirming pictures with positive phrases (like the one in this post that took me five minutes to put together. I have no idea who Beverly Sills is, or if she actually said what she said. But I like it.) Today, more than ever, we can discover what we want to do, find out how to do it – and be supported by a wealth of positivity to give us that gentle nudge in the right direction.

So, let’s dig out our vision boards, feel the fear and do it anyway, get off our arses and do what we say we’re going to do. Wanting it is part of the battle, but it’s the preparation, the action, the bloody-minded dedication, that turns the dream into a reality.

 

 

Has my diet consigned my child to a future of poor health?

Is anyone else slightly depressed at this week’s story about how dietary choices in pregnancy can influence the health of your child in later life? And if you’re struggling with morning sickness or just general food aversion, do you now feel even worse about not being able to face anything vaguely healthy?

It’s now two years since I was pregnant with E, but I can still remember days upon days where all I ate was toast or crackers (broken up by the occasional frequent dirty burger. Not actual ‘dirty’ burger. The drive-through variety. Golden arches. Oh, you know what I mean).

I took the expensive vitamins and put the guilty twinges about food choices to one side while I focussed on the fact that at least I wasn’t smoking, drinking or taking drugs.

But now the guilt has reared its ugly head again. You are what you eat and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that diet in pregnancy will impact in some way on the growing baby. Is the fact that my son appears to have had a permanent cold since January the fault of one too many takeaways, or more likely thanks to the little germ carriers at his nursery? Was the frequent waking during the night – which went on until he was 18 months! – because I had a couple of glasses of wine in the third trimester?

Am now wondering if in future years pregnant women eating a takeaway will be frowned upon the way they are now if smoking or drinking? I hope not – yes we know we need to eat well, but sometimes it’s the easiest bit to let slip when we’re trying not to fall asleep at work, preparing for the arrival of a newborn and building pelvic floors of steel.

Discovery of the day

Turns out I can no longer crouch down by the cot while hoping E drifts off to sleep. For while on my knees in a sort of half praying, half yoga child pose, I felt a tap on my bum. E, having pulled down the bumper and reached through the bars, was delighted by the discovery!

Isn’t it a wonder (week)?

Along with the phrases ‘this soon will pass’ and ‘he has to sleep sometime’ is one I have been using regularly of late (and usually said in an exasperated tone); ‘it’s a Wonder Week‘.

When I first heard of Wonder Weeks, I thought of them as having little more relevance on E’s behaviour than a horoscope would. In that if you look hard enough, you can fit the behaviour or event to what has been predicted. And if you look really hard then you might just be tempting fate enough to fulfil the prophecy.

Side note, sleep deprivation is now causing mild paranoia. Rational me says baby’s behaviour isn’t moulded by a parent thinking too much about a book’s predictions. But it has been a long week, so here we are.

And then one day while out pushing E in his pram ‘helping’ him to nap, I set foot in our local library for the first time since I was a teenager and, of course, headed to the baby section. Where else?! Google wasn’t giving me a satisfactory response to questions about my son’s sudden grumpiness, so perhaps the old fashioned route might do the trick.

As I scanned the books, one stood out. Mainly because it was large and had pretty writing on the cover. ‘The Wonder Weeks’, by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij, looks at how babies develop over the first 18 months of life and how this development impacts on their behaviour.

The theory goes that babies’ fussy and irritable periods can be predicted and are more likely to occur when they are going through a developmental leap. And for me, always looking for an excuse a reason why E is going through a particularly crappy sleep period and praying that I don’t have a grumpy child, the idea makes sense.

However, as his mood and sleep have become steady worse with the advent on each new leap, I am expecting E to be able to juggle while standing in his head by the time we see the light at the end of the tunnel of this latest one.

‘U ok, hon?’

Very soon people will stop asking me how things are going. For there only ever is one answer and even I am beginning to get bored of saying it.

I’m knackered. Exhausted. Don’t dare drive anywhere for fear of falling asleep at the wheel tired. I’m stuck in Groundhog Day delirium.

The night hallucinations have made a return and I’m regularly waking up in panic thinking that I’ve fallen asleep while E is feeding and have forgotten to put him back in his cot. Last night with the ‘bed pat down’ doing nothing to allay my fears, I turned on the light and conducted a thorough search of the bedroom. And then went into E’s room to make sure he was secure in bed. I’m sure I’m bordering on some sort of OCD.

E, on the other hand, is developing superhero tendencies which improve day by day. ‘No Sleep, No Solid Food’ man is successfully avoiding any attempts to thwart his mission to stay awake and on the boob.

I should have known the merest hint of improvement in sleeping habit would end in tears. After moving E into his own room we had about a week where he had three naps in his cot and woke twice at night. It was bliss and I started to feel like I was finally getting the hang of this motherhood thing. I wanted to shout ‘MY CHILD CAN SELF SOOTHE!’ from the rooftops.

But oh how the smug have fallen. A nice dose of a heavy cold, the advent of another Wonder Week (more on that another time) and teething have conspired against me. And a short break away put the final nail in the coffin of hope for chunks of more than two hours sleep at a time.

I’m feeling a bit sad that the sleep issue is overshadowing everything else that’s going on at the moment. E went swimming for the first time and loved it (I did not appreciate the logistics of getting dry again) and we went on our first family holiday with friends. But everything comes back to sleep and my lack of energy.

Next time anyone asks me how I am, I’m going to try to say something really positive. Just give me a minute to think about it…