Category Archives: Rambling and Opinion

Pinch Punch…

Some neat and tidy looking shelves to show that baby steps have been happening in the Chaos household.

Some neat and tidy looking shelves to show that baby steps have been happening in the Chaos household.

It’s October. Insert inane comments about how fast the year is flying past again. Three quarters of 2015 at an end, and I still find years starting with ’20’ a novelty but in a decade I’ll have lived the same time in the 21st century as the 20th. Assuming I’m still around, of course. I do assume I’ll still be alive at 50. With two teenage daughters. Eek.

It seems as good a month as any to try to do a blog a day. At least 31 posts from now until the 31st either on here or Chaos Castle, scheduled to appear once a day (or written last minute most likely).

It seems a good month because I’ve already written that I want to write more, and do more, and be more. Whatever more is.

It seems a good month because Jax has just opened the idea of a creative circle and getting back to proper blogging is my challenge, one I’ve been failing for about eighteen months now. That and decluttering, which I’ve been failing at for forty years ūüėČ

It seems a good month because (shh, don’t jinx it) I’ve been mostly feeling okay this week. I’ve got a couple of small tasks done. Small, tiny, baby steps. I’m trying not to push myself too fast so I don’t collapse again. Little by little…

So all in all it seems like a good month. Maybe some of the 35 posts in draft might actually get finished. Maybe that huge review pile might get a bit dented. Maybe I’ll manage to keep on getting things done little by little.

Maybe.

It’s as good a month as any ūüôā

Insert Catchy Blog Title Here

Doodle #2 ūüôā

A photo posted by Anne-Marie (@chaoscastleuk) on

I had some lovely comments after my last post, which I really should have replied to (sorry, I really do appreciate them all), and it made me think. Comments along the lines of “sorry you feel like this at the moment” – but I think my moment has been the last ten years. That’s quite a long moment to have.

Okay, so I can’t help being ill, and I can’t change the years of being undiagnosed autistic spectrum, but the whole of my thirties have mostly been a write off – and that includes getting married and having two children, which are supposed to be some of the happiest days of my life.

Not that I’ve spent a decade being miserable all the time, but often fogged over and fracturing. And I’ve been thinking about the blog posts I write in my head every day, and how it might help me if I get them onto (virtual) paper.

So my plan is to commit to one Chaos Castle and one Child-Led Chaos post every week. I could write on here most days, even though I love writing about books it takes longer so one a week to start with until I get into practise.

Feel free to nudge me if I don’t get anything up. I could write about that doodle at the top for a start…

 

Wedding Shoes

weddingshoes

One of the (many) female stereotypes I don’t fit into is a love of shoes.¬†I just don’t get it. Shoes should be flat, comfortable, and worn until they’re full of holes.

I compromised on our wedding day, and bought one inch heeled ivory silk shoes. “You need proper heels,” I was told. “I don’t want to fall over,” I replied.

By the time of the wedding breakfast, after wearing them for a few hours, my feet were thoroughly uncomfortable and I ditched the shoes under the table during the meal and went barefoot (tight-footed?) for the rest of the day.

The picture above sums up our wedding for me. Mr Chaos getting to be James Bond for the night, and neither of us completely conforming to other people’s expectations (although I¬†still think we were too conventional really…)

I Should Be Doing Something Else

No matter what I’m actually doing, I always feel I should be doing something else. If I’m decluttering, I should be cleaning. If I’m reading, I should be reviewing. If I’m walking, I should be doing the laundry. If I’m putting the clothes away, I should be tidying the lounge floor. If I’m sweeping the kitchen, I should be cooking dinner…

The problem with all these conflicting thoughts is that my brain just freezes and can’t decide what to do. I can’t do everything, so which things should I prioritise? I want it all done already, and if I schedule I get stressed by the length of the list.

I spend far too many hours starting at walls, or playing inane games on my phone. If I’d walked in all that wasted time, the house would still be a mess but I’d be fitter.

And I’d still feel guilty about the mess.

I’m still processing my autism diagnosis (autism spectrum condition, not Aspergers, although I assume I’m Aspergers) and trying to work out methods that will work for me. I have spoon limitations (look up spoon theory if that makes no sense) and now I know I also have executive function limitations, I can’t follow a scheme that might work for thousands of other people. I need a way of decluttering and organising that actually works for me. I need to get rid of the backlog of mess and have time to have a life again.

And I really need to write all those book reviews I have in my head. Sigh.

Sneak Peek at New Book Blog

It’s World Book Day (UK)! I love WBD, especially the ¬£1 books. As a parent, WBD dressing up can be a stress, but so far I’ve not been asked for any exotic outfits. This morning my daughters have gone in as Ottoline (home clothes, odd shoes) and Cinderella’s fairy godmother (fairy dress over home clothes)!

As it is world book day, and I’m bursting to share this anyhow, I thought I’d give you a geeky sneaky peeky at Chaos Castle…

ChaosCastle

Chaos Castle is home to lots of lovely books, predominately illustrated books (but I’ll stretch that definition to ‘just’ an illustrated cover if I feel like it!) It will only showcase¬†our favourite books (that¬†still means a lot of books!) and aims to cover all age ranges.

I’m starting from scratch, so all reviews will be new, so it won’t be huge at first but I’m planning to add our old favourites alongside new ones. The reason I’m not ready to launch¬†is because there is virtually no content up yet, and I haven’t given myself a deadline…

This is a geeky sneaky peeky because I want to talk about what I’ve been doing behind the scenes. Firstly, there is my amazing illustrator, Wellington Drawe (Duncan Wilson), who is creating a world for me to populate. Without him, Chaos Castle would not exist.

Secondly, there are¬†my theme alterations. I’m on WordPress, and I chose the Mantra free theme because it gave me the look I wanted plus¬†is so easy to customise without going anywhere near the code.

There are a few customisations that weren’t offered in the (extensive) options so I created a child theme to play with the CSS and PHP. I know very little about CSS and PHP. PHP has been the easiest part for me to alter, because there are plenty of online references and I come from a programming background. CSS has been a nightmare, and I still haven’t managed to get it to do what I want yet!

Some of the customisations I’ve added are:

  • Different headings for category archives, depending on parent category. e.g. if the parent category¬†is ‘ages’, the header will be “Books suitable for AgeRange”
  • Different headings for tag archives, depending on tag slug. e.g. if a tag is defined as a publisher (which I set in the tag slug), the header will be “Books Published by PublisherName”
  • Added curved boxes for tags, with different colours depending on tag type (e.g. Publisher, Creator, Theme)
  • Format of review page (which I’m currently tearing my hair out over getting the CSS to do what I want!)

SneakPeek

The image above is a sneak-peek of how part of the front page and archive pages might look. Chaos Castle is home to various book-loving characters ūüôā

Technically Chaos Castle is live, but I’m making constant changes and using temporary images in many places so I’m not linking to it yet. I’m very excited about my project, and I hope you will enjoy it too. It is a vanity project I guess, but also a thank-you to the wonderful people who create the books we enjoy.

Thank-you for letting me gush, and Happy World Book Day (UK)! ūüôā

2014 in First Lines

Again inspired by Annabel’s House of Books, a retrospective of the year’s blogging. Not that you can see last year’s any more because it’s set to private. As are 245 posts of the probably-twice-as-many that I removed in February when I had a bit of a crash. So some of these first lines are from the still-published posts, rather than the actual first posts…

January: Another year, a new set of stats! (Our Week in Books #1)

February: Oops, we seem to have acquired a lot of new books this week! (Our Week in Books #5)

March:¬†It’s March. (Our Week in Books #9)

April:¬†The plan today was to add books to Goodreads that aren’t there so I can update my picture books read list properly, take a photo of the books I’m going to giveaway for #300PBs and update Monday’s post at last, and write an update here of all the decluttering and tidying I’ve done in the last two weeks, with pictures. (Our Week in Books #14)

May:¬†It’s almost like the Hoo’s Kids Book Fest programme has been made for the Chaos household. (Who’s At Hoo’s?)

June: This is a wonderful idea from Borough Press, an imprint of HarperCollins. (#BookADayUK Favourite Book from Childhood)

July:¬†I haven’t blogged much for a long while it feels, and I’m still working out whether I’m going to return to diary blog or just write about books all the time, but writing is therapy so please indulge my rambles. (July Update)

August:¬†It’s August already, and I haven’t finished June’s #bookadayuk. (Our Week in Books #31)

September:¬†Another week, another set of excuses why I’ve not done much blogging again. (Our Week in Books #36)

October: A modern re-imagining of the traditional rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, with a boy playing building blocks in a farm setting. (The House That Zac Built by Alison Murray)

November: This November I am going to attempt to blog every day. (November)

December:¬†It’s the first day of December. (Advent 2014)

Yup. I think that pretty much sums up 2014. Sigh.

Depression

Sometimes it sneaks up and you don’t realise that the long-term ‘head cold’ you seemed to have probably wasn’t that after all. I did have a cold for a bit too, which confused everything.

So I’m in depression mode. Have seen GP. Need to phone Talking Space (e-mailed saying I don’t like phones, really nice reply but I still need to phone initially) so obviously I’m avoiding that, which won’t help.

Another side-effect is not feeling able to thank people for nice comments. I guess because I feel I don’t deserve them. But it’s so rude not to. But I feel a bit sick thinking about trying to. So I stare into space. That’s not very helpful either.

I decided not to change my anti-depressants just yet. They may not be working to keep everything completely at bay but I’m too scared to go to the place I go to when I’m not on them, and GP said I have to wean off these to try another. With Christmas so close, I’ll stick with what I’ve got for now.

Self awareness helps. I am trying very hard to talk myself into doing something other than staring into space. I’ve not got there yet, but it’s getting close. Something creative will help.

Duvet Day

This morning went something like this: my alarm goes off at 7am, I ignore it, I stare at my phone for a bit to try to get my brain going, the children crawl into bed and fidget, I realise it’s 8am and we have 30 minutes to get ready but I don’t care.

I don’t care most mornings. I don’t want to drag myself out of bed, into the cold, after repeatedly reminding two children to do the same things they’re supposed to do every single morning but apparently forget.

Wash face. Brush teeth. Socks on. Shoes on. Coat on. Jumper on first. Did you brush your hair? Where did you leave your shoes then?

This morning, Mr Chaos was quite ill. And I felt like crud as usual. And MG (7) looked pale, was coughing, and didn’t seem well at all. Then DG (5) shouted “I’m poorly!” repeatedly and refused to get dressed because MG¬†seemed ill.

I managed to convince them both to get dressed, but MG looked even worse and just curled up under a blanket with toast and milk. And neither of them ate their advent calendar chocolate. And DG still shouted “I’m poorly!” and there was no way I could carry her all the way to school with the way I was feeling, and she is so stubborn that she regularly just stops walking and refuses to go anywhere.

So I told the school we were all ill.

Then by 11.30am, both children were bouncing around the house and DG was shouting “please can I go to school?!” having realised that a day at home with two sick parents was really, really boring.

I’d slept most of the morning. Mr Chaos spent most of it in the smallest room. MG and DG had been wonderful. They made craft flowers together, and played games, and watched TV, and were quiet and self contained for two hours, but that was their limit.

Fortunately the grandparents came to the rescue. They picked up our daughters, fed them lunch, dropped them at school in time for afternoon registration, picked them up, fed them tea, and took them to DG’s nativity play in the evening (which I’d seen yesterday but Mr Chaos is gutted to have missed), dropping them home just in time for bed.

I slept until about 2.30pm, did some laundry, the dishwasher, put the online grocery shop away, put the recycling out, and basically felt a whole lot better for not having to do the school runs, and having extra child-free hours. Mr Chaos managed a bit of soup this evening, but is back in bed now.

As I read DG her bedtime stories she said, “Can we go back to school tomorrow?”

I think we can chalk that one up to huge parenting fail number several million and something. Tomorrow is another day.

P.S. I recommend everyone to read Merry’s post today. Her description of ‘improper depression’ is spot on.

What To-Do 2014

It’s countdown to the end of 2014. Possibly most people are counting down to Christmas but bah humbug and all that jazz, I’m going for the arbitrary number change to reset my priorities (again).

There are 24 days left, ten of which will include at least a few child-free hours. Four include after 6pm school stuff; two include work; at least two or three will be entirely eaten up with family/friends visits etc (that’s probably way underestimated, maybe make that five); six days are weekends… I’m not sure what I’m working out here so I’ll move on.

I’ve given up on all decluttering plans for the year, they can start again in January. I’ve given up on launching NewBlogTM this year, entirely my fault as I’ve not put anything into creating content for it while my brain works out what I want to do with it. I think I know what formats I’m going to use, but need to look into setting up subscription mailing list thingies and rethink the categories a bit.

So what do I want to achieve? I would like to manage a post a day for December, which may fall apart as soon as school finishes, but I can try. Specific blog posts I want to complete:

1. Gift recommendations ASAP (following on from this post)

1b. #IndieAdvent for YAYeahYeah

2. NetGalley and other recent reads reviews (at least: Archie Green and the Magician’s Secret; A Song for Ella Grey; The Astounding Broccoli Boy)

3. Favourite books 2014

Bookish-wise I want to:

4. Finish reading at least The Magic of Reality and Alphabetical; possibly The Etymologicon (also The Dreamsnatcher, but that’s not a challenge!)

5. Collect the 2015 books together for getting stuck into in January

6. Complete updating book spreadsheet and Goodreads

7. Tidy up bedside and create TBR pile to scare self (might leave to 2015)

Household-wise, I want to:

8. Put the clean clothes away, and repeat…

9. Get the 4-5/5-6 clothes out for 5.5yr old (she’s still in 3-4 size)

10. Keep floor as decluttered as possible, things back in correct boxes as much as possible, avoid clutter magnet areas as much as possible…

11. Keep on top of dishes and grocery shopping

For Christmas:

12. Write list of presents already bought, complete any gaps

13. Sort out grandparent gifts (school photos, tea-towel etc)

14. Finish making wrapping paper and tags; wrap all presents

15. Post presents to children not seeing over hols

It’s an eclectic list, and of course is missing out lots of other things that just get done, plus e-mails I need to write, and a GP appointment I need to prepare for, but it will do for now.

Oh, and comments, must reply to comments in a timely manner too…

No Good With Change

I started writing a post for today just before school pick-up time. Having felt cold-y all day, I’d not achieved anything but I was starting to feel better and luckily for me, both children had after school playdates on the same day.

However, I still walked to school for pick-up time, to collect all the book bags and packed lunch bags and related paraphernalia, and because Mighty Girl (7) can be anxious and the person collecting wasn’t who she was expecting.

I thought it was the right thing to do to allay her fears.

I was wrong.

Seeing me, she clung to me and burst into tears and said she didn’t want to go.

She’s known her friend since she was 5 months old. They were at nursery together for four years. They’ve been at school together for over two years. She’s been to their house several times (admittedly with me there too) and the person collecting was someone from nursery who she also has known for most of her life.

But.

But she doesn’t get to go to their house often. But she’s not been to after school club at her old nursery for over two years and had forgotten the people there. But she was worried about people she didn’t know being in their house. But she was worried because she said she’d bring a game to play and she’d forgotten. But she wasn’t ready today.

Danger Girl (5) happily skipped off for her playdate without a backward glance or a wave goodbye, as I dropped all the bags in the mud of the car park to clutch Mighty Girl to me so she didn’t run off.

Short of forcibly dragging her into their car and letting her go screaming, there wasn’t any choice. She didn’t go.

She missed a playdate with a lovely family that we’ve known for over seven years but just don’t see enough of. She missed an afternoon with friends she doesn’t see enough of. She missed out.

Because I was there.

If I hadn’t got to school today, she would have had no choice and would have gone. And she would have been nervous but the nerves would have faded. And she would have had a wonderful time.

But I was there.

So she came home with me. And she cried. And I cried, for being a useless parent, and because I couldn’t hold it back. And she apologised for my crying being her fault, and I told her it wasn’t, and it wasn’t.

But the unexpected change threw me. I’d planned to finish the blog post, and hang up the laundry, and get the packed lunches ready for the next day, and have just those extra two hours of silence.

And I tried but I just felt miserable. I felt that everything had gone wrong because I didn’t get to do what I planned. I felt like shouting at my child just for her existence. I wanted to scream, and cry, and slash my arms with a sharp knife.

How pathetically melodramatic.

How pathetic.

So I stared into space, and cried, and reassured my daughter it wasn’t her fault. Of course it’s not her fault. And I booked a GP appointment online.

And she played quietly at my feet. And we coloured in pictures together. And it wasn’t perfect, and I did push her away more than I wanted to.

All because of a tiny change, and I’m not good with change.