It’s Saturday night. Husbandface is reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Son1 (how he’s not freaking out I don’t know but he seems to be coping, even if robbers do feature fairly highly in play at the moment…). Son2’s brain has gone mental and he has become a small limpet on me right now. Thus I’m sitting on his bed as he drifts off to the sound of his Daddy’s voice. I think our situation is upsetting his brain and clinging to me as his safe place is the only way he knows how to cope. That or he’s just being super annoying. I prefer the first explanation. However much I swear at him as his little hands seek out my face in the middle of the night.
We’ve had a lovely day with Nana and Grandad at an awesome farm we got our annual pass for. I can’t wait to spend time there each week watching the boys love the soft play, tractors, sand and water fun, small animal joy and general time outdoors whilst I sit and watch. (I can but hope). I got a nap whilst the boys were entertained and we finished the day with a lot of pizza.
For a Saturday recently it was a Good Day. This week was pretty much the same as all the rest. Husbandface is still very ill. The boys are still very cute and very annoying. I am still finding life hard, wondrous, joyful, exhausting and relentless. I shout too much but I also have read all the books in the house to them many times and had lots of cuddles and fun. That’s all ok. This evening all of it is ok, the good and bad. There is a bigger picture. There is a bigger love. There are hands holding us. I am glad. This week has been as rollercoasterish as ever but tonight there is a brief moment of perspective and for that I breathe a sigh of relief.
It therefore seems a good time to tell you about the books I’ve been reading in January and some of the music stuck in my head. Part of my self care strategy in this mess is to read more. To be taken into worlds that are not mine. This month I’ve read some beautiful amazing books that have helped and drawn me away from this house and books that have helped me be rooted deeper here.
It’s been a good month for reading. So. Here we go. A whistle stop tour through the list.
What falls from the sky- Esther Emery
This is a beautiful memoir of a year away from the internet and the surprise of finding God beyond the world of social media. It’s written wonderfully. It made me seriously want to up my writing game. It made me want to reach out in love to the people around me more and deeply long for a sequel in which Esther shares the story of how she manages the internet well now, after that year away. I think it’s always good to read books like this which challenge something that seems so integral to our lives and helps us question how to use it better.
Bel Canto- Ann Patchett.
A beautiful novel based around opera and a hostage situation gone badly wrong. Into a tense claustrophobic atmosphere comes tales of love, of the beauty of music and the response of people learning to live in a static strange situation. Gorgeous from the start, I could not put it down.
Ink- Alice Broadway
Tipped to be the latest hot young adult fiction, Ink tells of a world where all your life, good and bad, is tattooed onto your body for all to see. At the end of your days your soul gets weighed to see if you are worthy of the afterlife, if so your skin gets made into a book for future generations of your family. In that world we follow a girl whose Dad’s soul weighing is no straightforward affair. It’s a book about doubt, faith, power and abuse of power and what happens when you start to question everything you have ever known. It’s beautiful throughout and I can’t wait for the next instalment.
Hurrah for Gin- Katie
I got this for Christmas and laughed my way through it for an evening. It’s a brilliantly hilarious take on modern parenting. She too has two boys under 7 and I identified with SO many of her stories and am especially glad that her boys also replace song lyrics with the word poo and fight over whose Mummy she is. I think her basic premise is we put too much guilt on ourselves as parents, we should love our kids and not worry too much about the rest (and alcohol helps). It’s a sweary fun book and I love it and the blog it comes from.
State of Wonder- Ann Patchett
Another great novel revolving around a tribe in the Amazon. Really intriguing, not as beautiful as Bel Canto but still a good read.
Bridget Jones’s Baby- Helen Fielding
A fairly thin sketchy book documenting the time between the second and third books. I enjoyed it because I loved Bridget Jones in my 20s and 30s and now she’s having a baby and it’s funny to see her in that context. I think this must have been thrown together from the film scripts but it doesn’t add much to the story. Fun to read a bit of her life again but not essential reading. My main memory of it is crying at the point where she has her baby. After giving birth I can now never see or read anything to do with having them without weeping copiously (not complaining about that, just noticing).
Soul Bare- Cara Sexton
I have loved reading these stories of redemption over the course of this month. I saved them up to read one a day and have been nourished beyond all expectation that God is a God who is at work in the bleakest of places. I valued so much the honesty and vulnerability of these people as they shared what God has been doing in the midst of the black. There were very few neat nice endings, very few stories of ‘and then God made everything nice and shiny’ for that I was glad. It felt very real and extremely helpful for the place we find ourselves in at the moment.
Cheer Up Love- Susan Calman
I love Susan on Radio 4’s News Quiz and more. I really enjoyed reading this tour through her thoughts on depresssion and how she has dealt with it over her life. I’m not sure I agree with her on all aspects but she wasn’t asking for that. She was sharing her story so that more people would feel able to be open and honest about their depression. The more we keep talking about the realities of mental health issues and making talking about what goes on in our heads normal the better for all.
Present over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
I felt pretty conflicted reading this book. I couldn’t decide if I loved it or not. I didn’t really identify with the author on many levels. She was a busy person figuring out that life is best lived small and slowly. It was fascinating hearing stories of her crammed speaking schedule, her realisations that hanging out with her kids and husband were actually more important than the tours and books and really interesting hearing of her embracing different spiritualities than activist mainstream evangelicalism. It was a book that confirmed my thoughts on life and kind of made me feel slightly jealous that she even had the issues to begin with. As someone who is living a very small life right now I was glad that someone else thought that slow living was the way forward but I related to very little of her life. Having said all that I think it’s still worth a read as she’s an excellent writer and lots of this book made me love my life more.
The songs I have been unable to get out of my head this month have been:
I searched for you- Martyn Joseph
Song for Nye – Martyn Joseph
Castle on the Hill- Ed Sheeran
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- Cast of said musical.
Fight Song- Rachel Patton
Shake it off- Taylor Swift
And still anything from the stupid Frozen soundtrack. Argh.