Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Painting Clothes

Hello there. How's it going?

Me? Well, I haven't been out of my painting clothes in over two weeks*. I've been ripping up carpet, stripping wallpaper, damp proofing and painting, painting, painting. I feel like it will never end. It's a little overwhelming but also very exciting. I can't believe It's mine...ours, all three of us with our very own bedrooms. I can't wait to get to the fun part of moving in furniture and hanging pictures on the walls.

In the meantime here is a picture of my boy, beautiful, smiley, very fond of rolling over and allllwaaays awake. I thought babies were supposed to be sleepy? Not this one, he doesn't like to miss a thing.

I want to point out that the shirt he is wearing here is actually Molly's. With a little bit of sleeve rolling they can fit the same clothes, crazy.

* Ok, Ok, I got out of my painting clothes once to see one of my hero's in the flesh. Mark Kermode, aka The Good Doctor, was doing a Q&A session and film screening in Belfast last week. If you're a movie lover you should definitely tune into the Kermode and Mayo Film Review Podcast. Even if you don't agree with him on everything you'll appreciate his convictions/rants and you'll have a little chuckle along the way.

This is my starstruck face, not the most flattering of faces, it has to be said.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Unveiling of Finch's Secret Middle Name

Confession, I was extremely, embarrassingly late in registering Finch's birth. Here in the uk you need to make an extra special trip to 'The Registrar' (sounds like a bad thriller). So a full twelves weeks after Finch's birth I shamefully made my way to 'The Registrarrrrr'. Finch was all cosied up in the Baby Bojrn and Moll was toddling by my side. I wandered in and began with my red-faced apologies for my tardiness.
Lady no.1: I was just saying to (lady no.2) that this couldn't be a birth registration because the baby looked far too old

Me: Yes, yes I'm so sorry, i'm terrible, I've just been so busy with these two

Lady no.2: You know your child benefit won't be fully backdated?

Me: yes, i'm sorry.


It wasn't until I was working through some of the details on the form, namely the fathers details and my maritial status, that 'Lady no.1' looked up at me and said 'Ah , yes, you have been busy'.

'Uh yeah'

However, I am grateful for my tardiness on this issue. It gave me extra time to think carefully about his name. Names have been on my mind a lot lately. Should I change mine? if so, can I change the kids? Would I get consent to do so? Would I go back to my 'maiden' name? or should I chose a new one altogether? Blah Blah Blah.

With all these questions, doubts and ideas bubbling around in my head I had a good long think about Finch's name. I've never doubted his forename for a second, it is brim full of meaning and I love it. But, for reasons that shall remain unsaid for now, I felt he needed an extra middle name. But what?

As the precedent had been set, It would need to have meaning, the 'I just liked the way it sounded' approach doesn't really work with me. I started to think of the names of admirable, history-making men. 'Bartlet', the president from West Wing came to mind.

And then I stopped myself. I wised up. He already has Atticus freakin' Finch as a role model, perhaps I should give the little guy a break, and maybe even a bit of a reality check. He's human and fully capable of making mistakes, perhaps even massive ones. Just because he is 'The Man of the House' doesn't mean we'll be sitting at his feet asking him to pass on his wisdom and guidance. And Then I smiled. Because there had been a name (or a word more so), all along, just waiting for me to realise how perfect it was.

Around a year ago, In the midst of 'the unravelling' I became addicted to the debut record from Mumford and Sons. These songs were pretty much on repeat for about 6 months. One evening when I was listening to the album in the company of friends, my oh-so-special-lady-friend Ms. Heather Kerr jokingly said to me "um, Alli - did you write these songs? Are you a secret member of Mumford and Sons?". I laughed But I also breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't just me that thought these songs were so fitting for my crisis.

One particular song that spoke to me was this:

(Me and Heather now jovially refer to each other as 'brother' due to this very song.)


I won't go into it line by line, but I assure you, each sentence resonates strongly with me. It acknowledges the pain and desolation I feel but reminds me that whilst 'it may steal my innocence [but] it will not steal my substance'. It tells me that I am 'not alone in this'. It is particularly this verse that strikes deep within me:

"You are the mother, the mother of your baby child, the one to whom you gave life. And you have your choices, and that is what makes man great, his ladder to the stars"

I got to see Mumford and Sons in concert a few months ago. It was my first night away from Finch. I waited for this song anxiously, knowing it would bring up a lot of emotion in me. There were tears, there were hugs, there were even a few strange looks. But who cares, I threw my hands up in the air, closed my eyes and let the little bird inside my soul fly freely for a while.

(Photo taken of that very night by the very talented Mr Darren Anderson)

Upon falling in love with this song I researched the meaning behind the title. Timshel is Hebrew for 'Thou mayest'. The word is explored in John Steinbeck's book 'East of Eden' :

"The Hebrew word Timshel, which means ‘Thou mayest’ - gives man a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. It says the way is open... and throws it right back on a man.

‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods - for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.

And I feel that a man is a very important thing — maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed — because Timshel: ‘Thou mayest.’"

Timshel - It is resplendent with significance. It speaks with sorrow about the choices his father made. It empowers me by reminding me that I do have my choices. It is because I could run away that makes the staying so much sweeter.

And So this is my son's not-so-secret-anymore middle name. Finch Timshel Steen Magee. It's quite a mouthful and will probably not be used very often. But it's still important, at least to me. I could name him after all the most influential and nobel men in history but at the end of the day, he is his own little person with his own little (and large) choices to make. As his mother I cannot make his choices for him, I do not own him. Kahil Gibran says "you may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts." I must surrender to the fact that he has been granted free will, free choice

- Thou mayest.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Parliament

(Again, apologies for the poor quality of photos, still can't find my camera so they are still taken with a hijacked iphone)

This halloween we were a parliament of owls. I took inspiration from this tutorial and made us all little owl costumes. We attempted trick or treating but most people didn't answer their doors. In the first house that did, Molly ran straight into their hallway and took a tantrum when I told her we had to leave. At the second house Molly began shoveling marshmallow treats in her mouth, started to choke and had a mini vomit-fest right there in the doorway. Methinks she might be a little too young for this trickin' malarky. Finch tagged along too, so I really was chancing my luck.

I felt a little disappointed by the amount of people who wouldn't open their doors. It really doesn't matter if you have no candy, just open up your door, ask the kids what they are dressed up as and tell them they look great. That's all it takes.
Anyway, the whole day turned out to be a bit of a downer. After spending at least three evenings toiling away making the costumes until 1 am, we wore them for a maximum of 30 minutes and were seen by about 5 people. If I had gotten them made one day earlier we would have stole the show at the fancy dress contest in the town hall which was awash with only store bought costumes. Ah well, there is always next year.

They did make pretty cute owls though :o)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Ode to the Apartment

8 months pregnant at the University of Ulster art show.

Only 6 months. That's all this little place has given shelter to our sleepy heads. It was always meant to be temporary. I've hung pictures and done my best to make it homely and it has served us well. but it has felt transitory and i'm ready for something more permanent. A garden to play in so we won't feel cooped up. A table to eat at, instead of dinner time spent with me leaning over the ktichen counter whilst molly kicks about in her antilop.

Pre-apartment and post-Canada I'd spent a few months intermittently living at my Dad's abode. Intermittently, considering there was an interval of a few weeks I was sleeping on the floor at a friends apartment which served as my refuge when father/daughter relations became strained. Sharing the same roof seven years after I'd left for my university dorm came as a bit of an unwelcome shock for both of us.

I had almost written off the significance of this apartment until I started to remember those pre-apartment days. It's only in looking back to those days that I realise how far I've come. Days when I could barely look at molly without feeling awash with fear and dread of my future. Days, and even weeks, when I didn't looked at Molly at all. I shudder to think of the distance I put between us back then. And I feel like I was robbed of the joy of motherhood for that period.

I filled my afternoons with long car journeys through the back country roads, where I'd hold raging imaginary arguments, yelling at the window shield and thumping my fist off the steering wheel. And the evenings were so long, at first filled with frantic and desperate phone calls followed by tightly bound rocking fetal positions(which isn't easy to do when you have an actual 6 month old fetus inside!). Then It became just about filling time, somehow, distracting myself from the unraveling that was going on around me. I was looking through photos with my not-so-wicked-stepmum when I found this one of me sewing for a craft fair. She accurately commented that "they where long and difficult nights". They were.

But the emphasis is on the were. This is my epiphany. Already, I am able to look back and see I have come a great distance in a very short space of time.

Somewhere along the way a corner was turned. And having a place just for me and moll was a big part of that. A place where I could no longer shirk my parental responsibilities. Where we could begin the work of undoing the damage done in those previous months, the distance i'd put between us. I needed to learn how to relate to her again, under these new terms, the 'sole parent' terms. Slowly I have gained in confidence and now It is only occasionally that I mutter 'I can't do this' under my breath. Because I am gradually learning that I can, many days it's simply that I must. 'Needs must' and all that. sometimes however, there are moments when everything is just perfect and my sole parent status is...preferential.

Recently I was given the task of drawing myself a lifeline and marking significant events along the way. Naturally, most of the marks on the line occurred within the last five years. But it dawned on me that ten years down the line, this era in my life will most likely become summarised by just one little notch. Trauma fades, time heals and someday i'll get a better perspective on this time.

6 months is not very long but it has provided a bridge from one precipice to another. So thank you little apartment.

** Still waiting on getting keys to the new house, there's a bit of a technical difficulty on the sellers side but I should hopefully have keys v.v.soon**