Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Corona Diaries

Words always find a way of spilling out of me. When there are people around they will pour gently, a soft babble in the background. I will talk to my kids and my husband and my colleagues and my neighbors and my friends and the dog and the cat and the mail man and the grocery store employees I know by name. More words will flow at the school gates and as I pass the people I know dotted around our tight knit community and the partners we serve at work. 

And it turns out when there are no people, when the world is on its head and we are all safely trapped in our own corners of the world, they gush. And after much writing of snippets and ideas and (fairly amateurish) poetry anywhere I happen to be, I find myself back here. A mere 4 year after I last poured my heart and mind and words out to the internet. A quieter, quarantine-permitted version of screaming into the void.

I looked back at a few posts before I started writing this, wondering if I ever really had a voice to call my own. Instead, I had to tell the poor, exhausted woman attempting life with two toddlers to suck it up because worse was coming. Here we are, on lockdown in our own house because of a global pandemic. When I say it out loud, I want to laugh. It's a hysterical laugh. The kind tinged with fear and laced with the unknown. The sort of laugh that says 'This is it. This is real and this is what is normal now and there are no emotions for this'. 

I indulge myself with these laughs every few days. A few moments to allow myself to feel the depths of the absurdity of the situation before I have to pull myself together. There are children to feed in the middle of food shortages (or is it supply issues? The food exists, I just can't quite seem to always get to it when I need it) and lessons to be taught in the midst of school closures. There are family and friends to catch up with from afar. There is work to do. There is so much work to do. 

The strangest things make me cry in all of this, the flipped coin of hysterical laughter. When I drive to work and the roads are empty apart from the desperate day laborers. When the sign outside the comedy club said "We Love You All. We'll See You Soon." When the home and decor section of Target was empty. Aimlessly wandering, sniffing candles and prodding at pillows now off the agenda. When the radio DJ says "we're all scared and we're all in this together and if you need someone to talk to you can send me a message." Too much kindness, too much emptiness, too much cruelty. Those are the things that bring me to the edge now. A different edge than I had before, simultaneously closer and further away than the one I used to have.

We have grown callouses talking about numbers of dead. Numbers of sick. Survival and sanity demand a thick layer of skin between us and the news of those we don't know. Our vocabulary has twisted and adapted with frightening rapidity. 'Stay safe' and 'stay healthy' are have replaced 'goodbye' or 'see you later'. Said with urgency, too. We mean it. 'Not you. Not you this time please' we hope to convey with those two little words.  We, all of us, veer between hope and despair. Optimistic mornings give way to pessimistic sunsets. Where we once had surety we now see fog. No one knows when schools will return or when we can go to the park again. When we will be able to go and sit in a restaurant as someone politely brings us drinks and choice after choice of food. No one knows when libraries will open and we'll be able to wander round, casually indulging in options. I miss options.

And so I finish up screaming into the void for this day. Day 17 of our new normal. Tonight is our glorious take out night. A night when there is a little less work. When I don't have to mentally catalogue what there is in our fridge and how long it will need to last. And at least I have this for posterity. A reminder that this was not a collective fever dream. That it happened and we lived through it. That we did the work and sometimes cried and sometimes laughed. And we were together. So very, very together.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


We've just had a long weekend. A glorious one, at that. I think one of my favourite things about living in the US is the unique cultural ability to bookmark seasons with holidays. Every new season is heralded in with a day off, helping those of us who didn't grow up here know exactly when and how to turn the page. It makes sense, in a country as geographically and culturally varied as the US to have set days where everyone comes together and agrees to move on to the next phase, whether it seems obvious or not. It's a way of maintaining a shared year.

This one was Labor Day. The basic equivalent of May Day in Europe, but with less rioting. Labor Day is the start of Autumn. This made absolutely zero difference to anything in Los Angeles, where the schools go back at the beginning of August and the heat only intensifies throughout September, the kind of heat that seeps up through the soles of your shoes and makes any activity seem beyond reason. And for the most part it was hard to see how it was the start of Autumn this weekend. The sun blazed in the brightest blue sky. We went to our local outdoor pool, floating and splashing then repeating. Husband and the kids made an epic den in the back garden, built around the outdoor table and chairs.

But something felt different. The tables and chairs will need to come in soon. They are starting to sink in to the grass, which is now peppered with leaves. The breeze made getting out the outdoor pool a little less pleasant than before. It's closed until next May, now. Tomorrow we're meeting some new friends at the indoor one. Target was full of Halloween decorations; leaf garlands and things that say 'Thankful' on them. So we attempted to mix the last of summer with the first of fall. New winter boots and tights for the big one and plenty of ice in our water bottles. Bike rides and baking banana bread (spotting alliteration is K's newest trick. She says "Hey! They all start with B!" and for some reason my head explodes every.single.time because how? How is she big enough to work that out? Is that normal? Her brain must be so busy all the time. It also is a testament to the excellent work of PBS. Ha.)

I got a new bike for my birthday. It's called Glenda after the bike in a book I happened to pick up at the library at the same time I went to the bike shop (The Sweetness in the Bottom of the Pie- highly recommended for anyone else who happens to like period murder mysteries...) but cycling around our neighbourhood has definitely added to the sense of change in the air. The freedom of flying down the street with the wind in my hair feels so achingly familiar. I can hardly explain it without descending into a slew of cliches, but riding a bike is exactly lie riding a bike. With every peddle I am riding every bike I've ever ridden in my whole life. From teaching myself to go without training wheels in our back garden, to the time my church youth group rode around Millport and all got so sunburned we looked like lobsters in their cages on the harbour. And yet now I have a trailer with two very loud passengers on the back. And the bike was to get me to places we all actually need to be, like school and the shops, whilst I wait for my license to be sorted out (this is a LONG and BORING story about visas and local DMV offices and it will end soon. I hope.) I've never cycled to get anywhere before. Riding a bike has been the ultimate in freedom to this point. But as autumn starts to draw in, I need to watch the clock.

And after 5 long years, I am so unbelievably ready for autumn. To not be so goddamn hot ALL the time. To use hot drinks and blankets and sweaters to make myself warm rather than having it forced upon me sounds so unbelievably glorious, I can hardly believe it's real. I am brilliantly, marvellously excited to draw the curtains and hibernate. This summer has been one of epic change for us all, and autumn represents the 'getting on with it'. Routine and structure somehow imply a sense of belonging, and as we establish ourselves more and more, roots spreading a little wider and a little deeper, the thought of a rest of sorts is so achingly appealing.

Labor Day worked its magic. This morning as I loaded the kids into the bike trailer, I added sweaters and jeans and pedalled through grey clouds and damp air. When the baby and I got home, we turned on lamps and lit candles and munched on the banana bread we made together yesterday, when the sun blazed and the heat from the oven felt stifling. Of course it won't last, it's not supposed to. We ease in to new seasons, rather than trip. But I'll take what I can get.

(Truly and honestly, 97% of my excitement about autumn is not having to shave my legs constantly. So there is that.)

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


The purple bush next to our front porch vibrates constantly with the movement of bees. I keep thinking how nice the flowers would look in a vase on my dining table, but I can never bring myself to do it. We are the Chipotle of the bee world, it seems mean to take some of it away.

I sit out here every nap time, for at least a little while. Crickets chirp, cicadas buzz, click beetles... well, that's fairly self explanatory. But traffic hums in the background, too far away to pick out any one car, but close enough that I never feel alone. I am, deep down, a city girl. I dream of a decent garden so we can grow all our own vegetables again, fantasize about a coop of chickens with quirky names and fluffy hairstyles I can instagram, but when push comes to shove, I hate the silence. I need to know there are people around, as if somehow that can cushion me from feeling alone. 

We do have a milkman, though, in a nod to country living. He (or she, I have no idea) comes in the middle of the night on a Sunday and fills the box on the porch with milk and butter and blessed, blessed coffee creamer and it's all super organic and I feel so fancy. And also horrifyingly middle class, but I am learning to swallow those feelings down and accept that I AM horrifyingly middle class. And a bit old. We were watching 'Stranger Things' on Netflix last night and husband pointed out that these days we watch TV and have nothing left in common with the young adventurous ones. Because, really, Nancy. Stay away from Steve. He is the WORST. K's favourite movie is (god help us) The Little Mermaid and every time Ariel says "I'm 16, I'm not a child" I have to resist the urge to say 'oh PLEASE, of course you are.'

Now the baby is not really a baby (evidenced by asking him "Are you a baby?" and receiving a comical "Nooooo" as a reply, with the "stupid woman" heavily implied) and he takes long naps and the big one goes to preschool (and comes home sounding vaguely like Scarlett O'Hara) I find myself with time again. I have had no time, at all, for most of the last 3 years. Every second has been a challenge of balancing all the things that desperately need to be done with all the things that really need to be done but never including any of the things that I would like to do. I found myself saying "man, I need a hobby" last week, before remembering that I actually used to have a few, and writing in this tiny corner of the internet is one of them.

I suspect there will be less parenting babble, as the longer I do this, the more I realise I have truly nothing original to say. My general parenting philosophy now looks more like 'meh, whatever" than it ever did, which is saying something as I have never been particularly passionate or principled about anything when it came to the kids. Every one knows they are valued and loved, in this house. And that is about as high as I aim on anything. It is so easy, at the start, to feel like you have discovered a whole new universe all by your self, and to babble about it constantly because HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS, WHAT HAS JUST HAPPENED. And after many years of talking about who is eating what and 'what should I do about XYZ' I feel like I've simply reached the end of the road. Of talking about it, any way. As capable as the big one is these days, she still can only read a couple of words at a time thus I am required to stick around.

So what *do* I talk about if it's not the children? Who knows. Books, mainly. I am seriously struggling to finish The Nightingale, despite everyone telling me it's great and getting that general impression from it. Frustrating. It's the same way I felt about Kavalier and Clay. I really wanted to want to read it, but alas... I read a really good one a few weeks ago; the sort where I went back and read the end twice because it was so good and made me so happy without being saccharine. It had a really stupid title about Gravity and Birds (I sometimes wonder if there is some sort pinterest style name generating tool editors use in a bid to make their books exactly the right mix of 'female interest without sounding like chick-lit'- book friends?) but I enjoyed it none-the-less. We have an epic library here. The books are all shiny and new looking, in stark contrast to our beloved, but rather sad, local one in LA. (See previous paragraph on middle class/suburban guilt.) It also has a giant stone fireplace, with an actual fire in the middle of it, surrounded by squishy sofas. Sadly leaving the baby to sleep in the house while I head down there is frowned upon/illegal, so my opportunities for enjoying it shall be limited to 3 minutes of playing 'seat!' with another 15 minutes of screaming 'do not touch that. We need to go home if you touch that!' But still. The concept is beautiful.

Monday, 11 January 2016

On being "just"

My fingers feel stiff and awkward as I attempt to move them across the keys. It's been so long since I typed anything never mind a full blog post of swirling, grey thoughts, that it feels like exercise after all this time. This is probably a horrifying indication of the last time I managed any actual exercise.

There is a temptation to do a full recap of life since the last time I managed to write anything here, but given that I know everyone who reads it is a bit foolish. And yet... We are now 4. We are still in LA, but only for a few more months, before we head to Denver, Colorado to start all over again. That's about it. That's everything you need to know.

I posted a photo on Instagram yesterday with a long, blabbing comment about how hard I found December, and how I was ready to tackle January. There was something cutesy about painting my nails. I definitely made a passing comment about my expectations of a glorious Christmas being shattered. 

January saw my comments and laughed. Today is our first day back to normal of the new year, as husband worked for most of the holidays everyone else had. I was so ready and raring to go. I had totschool activities planned for K, who is learning letters and can count to 20 and is an absolute sponge, for good and bad. There was food to make and activities and games to play and the house was mostly clean but a few things needed done. 

Then there was a night with no sleep and raging temperatures and this morning; more snot and self pity than I care to think about. Then the inevitable "I have to work late" text. It's funny really, in the most ironic and least 'ha ha' way. Of course illness was almost inevitable, as I watched my toddler eat chocolate cupcake off the airport floor (the one we told her she couldn't have but the cashier decided otherwise) and aeroplanes are always the kind of hotbed for disease that make my normally laissez-faire skin crawl. I should not have been remotely surprised.

And yet here I sit, wallowing in a steaming hot bath of woe-is-me. Yet again, reality has quietly shaken its head at expectations, lips pursed and muttering a half-hearted platitude of apology, Which begs the question- should I just accept that things are inevitably going to be hard and a bit rubbish for now (at least until the kids are like, 8 and 6,) and embrace the good moments when they happen to pass by? Should I remain ever optimistic and occassionally (frequently) heartbroken? I have no answers to that.

There is, of course, the additional voices of guilt, desperate to make sure I don't miss them out too. The one that says "Jesus Christ, woman. Your kid has a COLD. A COLD. They'll be better by the weekend. Man up. Imagine they had something actually serious. Then imagine that parent sitting reading this pile of self-indulgent nonsense." This voice is often right and rarely welcome at any self-respecting pity party. There is the other one that says "Don't you know how lucky you are to even have kids? Right now there are people pouring their heart and souls into making that happen- think they'd say 'no thanks' if they got offered one with a cold and one that doesn't sleep? Course not. Get on with it." Often joined by her friend, who likes to make sure I know that no one on earth is interested in Mum Problems. Especially Stay-at-home Mum Problems. And I should try having some real problems.

So what's my point? I'm not sure I have one. Perhaps that being "just a mum" is an insult leveled at those of us who don"t leave the house to go to work every morning, and yet it is an astonishingly challenging hat to wear. On the one hand, I am unspeakably proud of what I do. It is something I enjoy. It is something I think I'm fairly good at (I am 2/2 at keeping early walkers alive so far, which is pretty impressive if I say so myself) and I HATE the way people look down on us, as if we are too stupid or unambitious or whatever else to have a life outside in the real world. We are not entitled to an opinion on anything outside the domestic sphere, and the only solution anyone ever has to offer to any problem is to go out and "do something with yourself", as opposed to all the "nothing" I do around here all day.

And yet at times like this, being "just a mum" feels every inch the insult as thrown at you. I have nothing else to talk about bar my own grumpiness. There is endless chores to be done and nappies to be changed and the walls are closing in on me. I can, of course, handle it. But I am tired of handling it and really want to enjoy it. I just need to decide if it's a matter of will or luck. 

But I do intend to try and write again. Mostly because I feel better after that little rant and let's face it, Instagram isn't really the place for it. It's for over-exposed pinterest projects. Everyone knows that.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Packing it up...

I realise this space is pretty neglected. I think that's probably the way it's supposed to be. To be so busy with real life that online life slips by the way side. And I am busy in the dullest, most boring stay-at-home-mom kind of way. My days are spent chasing the blur that is K, trying to keep her alive (a job that gets increasingly difficult with time, I must confess) and attempting to maintain some facade of normality- a clean(ish) kitchen, clothes without oatmeal on them, eating actual meals.

And I think here lies the problem with my sad, lonely little blog. On the one hand I am acutely aware that I don't really have much going on. Generally people don't want to hear about boring mum stuff. You hear that criticism all the time. Hell, I levelled that criticism at people: 'All they talk about is the baby.' And yet I have become one of those people. Because life is so incredibley FULL of her. My absolute basic needs are dictated by her. I sleep when she has a clean nappy, a full tummy, the temperature is right and she is not teething. The fact that my sleep will be dictated by the temperature of someone else's bedroom is insane to me even now, but before I had her I couldn't have possibly have got my head around what that feels like. So I have these discussions with other, similarly shell-shocked parents (I'm not saying mums here, because I hang out with a stay-at-home-dad called Steve most days) and find myself not saying anything to my other friends/this blog because I can't think what to say that won't bore them. It's hard. Because I crave non-baby conversation, but feel like I have nothing to add. I've started reading again, which jolting my brain back in to action. But even that, which has always been such a defining part of me, is only happening because K lets me (she is now napping for an hour plus at a time. I don't know what changed but there you have it.) But it's a start. A small glimpse into a world where Other Things happen. Maybe one day in the not so distant future I will have other things to talk about.

The flip side of this is that I want to talk about her a lot because, holy crap, she is awesome. And no longer a little baby. Going from pregnant to holding a baby was a bit of a mind-blowing experience, but going from a little blob that just eats and sleeps to one who makes decisions about what she wants to do next, who has a tooth and eats real people food and learns a new skill every.damn.week has been all the more incredible to me. We mark the time now by the things we pack away. The clothes, the baby bath, the swaddles, the play mat, the breast pump; all these things we depended on and used faithfully now surplus to requirement. It is the packing away that leaves me in awe. That we are passed this phase, then that, then the next. It is a constant reminder that in spite of ourselves, we are surviving. actually succeeding at this.

Of course this is insane, because, duh, the lucky babies grow up. But I had no concept of life beyond the first few months when I was pregnant. I had no idea what it would look like when she went on the swings for the first time, or chased after a ball, or munched on a spicy beef taco. The continual surprise of how much joy I get from these moments is staggering, and something I am so grateful for. And it's probably boring to other people because they don't see the tiny moments, don't know what it's like to feel like the non-stop feeding and nappy changing and moving gingerly will never end. I have repeated "This too, shall pass" to myself, and others, more times than I can count and yet I am continually surprised when it does.

So the blog will remain neglected. I'll write about books and exciting trips and all the rest of it soon enough, but I'll probably just enjoy things as they are for now. I don't want to bore anyone.

Monday, 28 April 2014


It has been so long since I've written anything at all. Not that I've not wanted to, but we are now firmly in the trenches of parenting. So deep undercover that we've forgotten our real names and our families back home. Evenings are a blur of bath time, bed time and eating dinner; our blessed Dodgers and dear friend Vin Scully getting us through the hardest parts, then getting my trusty breast pump out (always, always 15 minutes too late) then trying to stay awake long enough to actually pump, finally collapsing in an exhausted, happy, if slightly bamboozled, heap.

I could make this post about the unbelievable battles we are having with sleep, but honestly, I'm sick of talking/thinking/dreaming about it. Basically, my 'she sleeps brilliantly' baby hit 4 and a half months and decided to be a dreadful sleeper. My awesome friend talks about the effect bad sleep has on your confidence in your parenting abilities here, so I'll just let her say it all, and will gladly accept any and all offers of 'but Lorna, you are a GREAT mum' anyone cares to throw my way.

I could make this post about how I now have a baby that EATS THINGS. Not just milk, but (really squidgy, pureed) things. This was a mini-meltdown situation for me as I had wanted to wait as long as possible but the kid was literally wrestling food out of my hands and was so obviously ready to eat that we just had to bite the bullet and start weaning a full month earlier than I expected too. At the same time, in an effort to save what remains of my sanity, husband started giving K a bottle of formula instead of breastmilk before bed. Partly in theory that it might help her sleep better (mixed reviews: jury still out) and partly because the constant cycle of feeding and pumping and being ON all the time was wearing out my boobs and my brain.

I could also make this post about the fact that she can now move. As in, be in one place, see something she wants in another and get to it. Not crawl, although it's coming soon, but still. Move. But this post is about none of these things, really.

Instead it's about earthquakes. We've had two decent sized ones in the last few weeks (months? Where the hell did April go?) Husband got nervous. Terrified of 'The Big One' and how the potential for bad things to happen is so much worse now we have K. I'm kind of a fatalist, and consider all these things future Lorna's problem.* I'm not so scared of earthquakes really. 'The Big One' might happen, but it might not, so why worry about it? And honestly, I just see earthquakes as a big giant metaphor. A metaphor for how our lives are steady and routine until one day they just... aren't.

This is the bit I missed when other people tried to explain having a baby to me: that you'll find your footing and feel safe and confident and secure, then a little earthquake. The ground will rattle beneath your feet and everything appears exactly the same but it isn't. And you have to figure out where you are and what just happened. By the time you've done that, the next one hits and it's time to start all over again. I never expected so many days/weeks of feeling utterly lost, of having the strange sensation of having absolutely no idea what K wants or needs. The plates shift under my feet, and I have to re establish myself all over again.

And K? She loves earthquakes. The whole world in a gentle rocking motion, just for her. Like her baby carrier, or travelling in the car. She doesn't understand tsunami risks or falling down buildings or the general feeling of unease left in their wake. Literal or metaphorical. She moves and shakes and expects us to keep up. Most often with a hearty chuckle, sometimes with dragon screams of frustration and rarest of all, thank goodness, pure blind rage. We are left rubbing our eyes, shrugging our shoulders and wondering if we'll ever catch up with her: read from the same page, sing from the same hymn sheet. And then one day we do, if only briefly.

The hardest part is realising that we've just had a shift. There are days of tears (mine) and frustration (mine, hers, his, Joanie's) whilst we realise that the ground has moved and we need to readjust everything. And I'm left wondering if it gets easier as they get older or do we just get better at sensing that the earth has moved, that we need to move with it? Who knows. For now, we're just rolling with it.

*Future Lorna must HATE past Lorna, she gets dumped with all her crap.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

One Quarter

Three months have passed now, since the walk and the football game and the pain and the baby. A quarter of a year. And here we are, husband a little greyer, extra lines round my eyes, settling in like the tiredness I wear like a cosy jumper. And the baby. Fatter and happier and louder and angrier and so much more of a person with every passing day. And as she becomes more of a person she begins to own all those aspects of herself, or so I tell myself as she SCREAMS in protest that she's tired or hungry or it's Tuesday, goddammit. But now she laughs too. And one came with the other, and I wouldn't dream of giving up the 'heh heh heh' sound for anything. 

I often wonder what I'll remember about these days- the ones that I think of as new infant, not newborn. Newborn was an amazing glowy haze. New infant, well, it's a bit rougher round the edges. Higher highs, lower lows and everything in between. She either sleeps all night (our personal record is 8.5 hours) or wakes every two. Often on consecutive nights. She can smile and charm or be full of rage and anger and there is nothing to be done with either but ride it out. This season is lukewarm tea, the faintly musty smell of fat folds that need constant treatment to stop rashes spiralling out of control. Big juicy smiles that go from ear to ear, the 'heh' sound of amusement as we expend untold energy on The Wheels on the Bus or making the little lion roar. And crying crying crying crying. Big fat tears falling as if her heart might break, soft wet cheeks squashed hard against mine.

I started going to a 'Mommy group', in spite of myself. In some ways, many of them are not my people. They are vegans and concerned about the chemicals in the swimming pool and talk about things that are made of hemp, and I sit guiltily munching a ham sandwich and putting chemicals on my baby's bum then wrapping them in plastic. But there is a spectrum and I am grateful for someone to share the tired look in my eye and to hear them complain that no one warned them that breast milk shoots out like a water gun and watch their babies pee all over them and for someone to say 'I'll watch her whilst you run to the bathroom/get a glass of water/step outside in the fresh air and breathe'. It's ok that we are all doing things differently, because the reality seems to be that no matter what principles and dogmas they may have started with, everyone is just getting by. And honestly, hearing that is the most reassuring thing in the world. Some days 'getting by' feels like a collosal victory.

Other days, we do a whole lot more than get by. We had a visitor from home, and we went to the Sunday Morning Farmers Market in Santa Monica. (Somewhat hilariously, husband over heard a SUPER hipster guy complaining that this was a 'sham farmer's market- it wasn't real at all.' I would be shocked if this guy has ever been near a farm in his life, in his $500 hobnail boots and red fedora in 80 degree heat.) I was worried about a day out with a baby who has taken to screeching loudly and often at weekends, but she adored it and I ate chicken and waffles with one hand and she sat in the shade and watched the little kids ride on the ponies and pet the goats, then switched to gazing at the leaves overhead and we chatted in the dappled sunlight. I could sense the future then: of mornings full of adventures and new foods and funny animals.

And that's where we are, a quarter of a year into owning a baby. Owning this baby. It's hard and it's not: no more and no less. I hate when people say 'it's worth it' because of course it is because the human race would have long since died out if it wasn't, and I never really know what they mean by that exactly. It's joyous, most of the time. And every one needs more joy in their lives. The cost for ours in less sleep, in long days with crying all round, but it seems a pretty reasonable price to pay.