Ups and Downs

The last week or so has been a mixed one. This time last week, Friday afternoon, I got a call from school asking me to pick Anna up because she wasn’t well. The poor baby was in such a state, with a headache so bad she couldn’t move without crying, a stratospherically high temperature, and so drowsy she was drifting in and out of sleep mid sentence. Being a mother and a worrier and a consumer of one too many public health campaigns I immediately thought ‘Meningitis!’ and rushed her off to the doctors. He agreed it could, possibly be viral meningitis, but was pretty confident it wasn’t the ultra-nasty bacterial one, and thought that most likely it was just one of those generic viruses kids come down with, and the only prescription was Calpol, fluids and rest.

We had a very bad night with poor Anna, and then, inevitably, her sister developed a high temperature the next day. That night they averaged a wake-up every two hours between them, and husband and I were like crazed jack-in-the-boxes jumping up and down to look after them. The following night Sophia got croup, which is so horrible for baby and parent. We finally got her sorted and to sleep at 2am, and of course Anna woke up in tears at 5.45am. Add the cumulative lack of sleep to days spent pretty much entirely in the house with two (understandably) grumpy and whingey children, and to be frank you get a grumpy and whingey mummy as well.

However, focussing on the positive, there have also been some lovely bits this week. Sophia is never normally still for more than a second, but being under the weather meant that she was willing to snuggle on my knee for two whole episodes of Charlie and Lola. My parents came down for a brief visit so I was able to have a proper catch up with them, and my dad drove us to our local Mothercare  and Early Learning Centre superstore, which also has a Costa, and after three days entirely in the house this trip felt pretty much as exciting as my first inter-rail round Europe!

By yesterday Anna was back at school and Sophia was well enough to leave with my MIL for a few hours, and so I had a fantastic writing session. #Book3 is about three quarters complete now, in draft form at least, and I’m really pleased with how it’s going. puddlesPlus, having that time away from the children to do something just for me recharges my batteries immeasurably, and yesterday afternoon I felt like Super Mum; booking appointments for both children at opticians and dentists, putting Sophia’s wellies on and taking her out to splash in the puddles, getting both of them to eat salmon, cauliflower and leeks for their tea (a cheesy sauce and some mashed potato can hide multitude of superfoods!), and then helping out a mum friend by picking her daughter up from after school club and looking after her for a while because she and her husband were unavoidably delayed.

I am slightly prone to getting despondent when things start going badly, and this week has been  good reminder that I should try and see the cup as half full more often, and realise that some things going pear-shaped doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else will do likewise.

muffinsHopefully this weekend will be more enjoyable than last – I’ve just kicked it off by making a batch of a friend’s favourite muffins for his birthday, and doubling the quantities so we get some too! The house smells warmly chocolatey and there is cake to be eaten, so we’re off to a good start!

My September Books

Is it just me, or has September been a very, very long month? I think it’s because it encompassed the tail-end of the school holidays, the back-to-school rush, a mini-heatwave complete with lovely day trip to the seaside which made it feel like we were back on holiday, and then this last week alone has lasted at least a month as I’ve been at home with poorly off-school seven year old and teething toddler whilst battling extreme PMT!

I also seem to have managed to read a lot more than usual as well, so my September book list is quite long (even though a couple are missing from the photo because I had to take them back to the library!).

september-books

Die Laughing, Gunpowder Plot, Heirs of the Body, The Case of the Murdered Muckraker, Mistletoe and Murder, The Black Ship, Sheer Folly by Carola Dunn

As last month, I have been racing through this detective series set in the 1920s. It was getting a slightly expensive Kindle habit, but luckily our local library has a good selection, so I’ve been able to feed my addiction. I’ve now read almost the entire series, which is probably just as well, because I’m reaching a stage where I’ve come across so many literary bodies in unexpected and theoretically innocent scenarios, that I’m starting to feel slightly surprised that my average day doesn’t encompass a murder or two. It might be time to take a little break from the crime, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my binge while it lasted.

The Girls by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is one of my absolute favourite authors, but I somehow missed this book when it was out new. I was thrilled to discover it in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago when I was searching out Rainbow Magic fairy books for my daughter (don’t ask; if you’re a seven year old girl these are A Big Thing). Now I’m an author I always feel slightly guilty about buying books in charity shops because the author doesn’t benefit at all. However, on the positive side, the purchase (along with a stack of the fairy books) was a donation to the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, which is a very worthwhile beneficiary.

I gobbled up the book in 24 hours, reminding myself why these days I often choose to re-read old favourites rather than tackle something new. The thing is, I am slightly addicted to reading, and when in the grip of a new book by an author I love, I do tend to let everything else in my life slide. Which includes neglecting my children a bit. Nevermind, at least I read quickly, so they didn’t have long to put up with burnt toast, a lack of home-made cooking and distinctly absent-minded responses to their chatter. And I remembered to pick Anna up from school on time and everything.

The book is set in modern day London, following the lives of the families living in the houses set round a pretty shared garden over the course of one intense and eventful summer. Lisa Jewell’s overwhelming strength is her characterisation. She is able to get inside the heads of alcoholic single mums, disillusioned forty-something dads, bereft teenage girls, neglected teenage boys and many more totally convincingly. Even the most minor characters are beautifully drawn and contribute to the overall verisimilitude of the story. As with all her novels, I would absolutely recommend it.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is another favourite author of mine. She is American, and I always find it interesting to spot the differences and similarities in culture, identity and social mores between Britain and America when reading her books.

Who Do You Love has something of the feel of One Day by David Nicholls about it. Controversially, I’m not a big One Day fan – to get on my feminist high-horse, if it had been written by a woman it would have gone utterly unremarked upon by most critics; dismissed as chick-lit. Because it was a man venturing into the world of love and relationships it was deemed worthy of critical note. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate One Day, and Nicholls is a talented author, but I just think that authors like Lisa Jewell and Jennifer Weiner are writing wonderful novels with stunning emotional depth, vivid characterisation and wittily detailed social observation, but that because they are written by women they get lumped into ‘women’s fiction’ genre rather than being treated as mainstream literature. Which is a pity. Rant over.

Who Do You Love follows the lives of a bi-racial boy from a poor area of Philadelphia and an upper-middle class Jewish girl from Florida over the course of three decades. The book is their love story, but it is also the story of how who and what and how we choose to love is the biggest influence on all of our lives. A brilliant read, unfortunately leading to a little more benign child neglect. Although apparently the biggest factor in whether a child grows up to love books and reading is how often they see their parents enjoying books, so perhaps I have actually been a model parent after all this month.