Low-cost AND child-friendly – there’s plenty to do in and around Dumfries, Scotland

Low-cost and child-friendly; things to do in and around Dumfries

Sometimes, we all need time to rest and recharge our batteries, without the children.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend the weekend with my own mum, and it was wonderful to be able to put my feet up without calls of “Mu-u-um…?” and “I need a drink”, or “I’m hungry”, and “I need a weeeeeeeee!” as soon as I’d sat down. Despite that, I missed my girls terribly and as they were never far from my thoughts, I frequently swept my analytical eye over the attractions I was lucky enough to visit without the crazy brood in tow.

Of course – these are just a snapshot of some of the things you can do in this curious part of Scotland. I’m intrigued to learn more about the area – I have strong family connections to the area as it’s where my mother’s family hail from. I’ve reached an age where I feel I need to know more about my own heritage and history (and this of course has nothing whatsoever to do with a certain fictional character named Jamie Fraser – ahem), and intend to revisit as soon as I can with my husband and children. Continue reading

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Beautiful Corfe. Have you been?

Corfe Castle is as its name suggests; a castle nestled high on the hill in the village it dominates and lends its title to. As a child, on our way to Studland Bay, I’d gaze wistfully at its majestic beauty, my forehead pressed up against the window as I dreamed of lords and ladies and princesses of yesteryear, always dreaming of visiting one day with my own gallant knight. Corfe Castle had me entranced, and I knew my first experience within the castle grounds had to be with someone special. Not just anyone, but the man I was going to marry. Continue reading

‘A day off?’ she laughed. ‘Don’t be silly dear, I’m a mother.’

I decided to take a day off today.

I never stop. Never. Never get a day off. Never get to just impulsively hop in my car and disappear for the day. Not without intricate planning. That is a luxury pre-parenthood. Because, let’s face it, once you become a parent, your life is no longer your own.

Oh no, wait, I'm a mom
Oh no, wait, I’m a mom

As a writer, I’m always pushing myself to work at every spare opportunity I get to myself, which means ‘me’ time regrettably takes a back seat. Whatever my vocation in life may be, whether I work in retail, in an office, or from home; first and foremost I am a mother, and I guarantee every single mother will identify with this.

Your day starts as soon as you open your eyes, when the first thing you hear is the click of your child’s bedroom door down the hall, followed by a mini-elephant running across the landing and bursting into your bedroom. The first thing you feel, is your child’s knee in your stomach and elbow in your face as they climb up next to you for morning cuddles. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE morning cuddles, but occasionally I get to experience that rare moment of waking up before my child, when I have just a few precious minutes to gather my thoughts before the day starts. And so it begins. A long, challenging day of random conversations, cleaning, washing, fetching drinks, snacks, chiding, coaxing, pleading, prising crayons out of sticky mitts before they connect with the wall, rocking in the corner… right up until that delicious hour before your own bedtime, when you get to do your best impression of a stoned zombie. Except, for me, this is also my time to catch up on other necessities like texts from family and friends, social networking, not to mention the growing list of catch up TV which is clogging up the Sky box. When I do get to bed, I like to indulge in making a dent in my To Be Read pile, which I manage for approximately half an hour before my eyes start to roll back in my head. This is all providing I haven’t had numerous return-calls upstairs to check the wet and windy weather, or say goodnight to the moon, or change a nappy, fetch a drink, or just for a cuddle (I don’t mind this one, of course). If I’m lucky, I’ll get a full seven hours with no interruptions, although this is rare.
Once again, before we know it, we’ve come full circle and are doing it all again.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my life, I really do. I left the security of a full-time salary in favour of looking after my family while working on my writing career, with only one income coming into our home. I make no secret of the fact that my husband is the bread-winner, although some days I really miss having an income of my own [sobs]. But the fact remains that whether I have an office job, or am a stay-at-home mum while trying desperately to create an income of my own from home, my main role – motherhood – never stops. A mother is on call 24/7, has the patience of a saint (mostly, with off days), is the peacemaker, home-maker, problem-solver, nutritionist, nurse, counsellor, and many more.

Anyone who thinks being a parent is easy – particularly being a stay-at-home mum (and childminders will identify with this) has clearly never done it.

Motherhood – no, scratch that – parenthood (not forgetting the stay-at-home Dads whose wives go out into the ‘real world’ to earn the main income) – is bloody hard work. But, when all is said and done, it’s also the most rewarding job in the world, and I wouldn’t change it for a second.

I have to go now. Someone just pulled the entire toilet roll off the holder.

Important note: As indicated by this blog post, any mention of time-off was theoretical and never actually happened.

The best decision I made

For each day that goes by, I don’t regret my decision to leave my 9-5 office job to look after my daughter full-time and focus on writing in my spare time. I don’t even know where I found the time to do anything else after being at work all day and still had a family to look after and a house to run. It’s a non-stop day even now, from 7:30 in the morning until around 10pm at night (on the nights I write – I make a point of stopping at 10pm at the latest otherwise I’m just permanently knackered). Things aren’t so bad now that the little one is getting older, she sleeps through the night most of the time – unless she has a very bad case of teething (molars, I hate you). Many of you will know that I’m a fan of cooking from scratch and creating meals with thrift and care. They’re always tasty (so I am told, and even if I do say so myself) and always nutritious, but they do take some time. Especially my home-made pasties where the pastry is made in advance and then a roux has to be made for the sauce (I recently made some “highly recommended” chicken, bacon and mushroom pasties from the New Year leftovers, which was generously donated to one of my husband’s work colleagues). Then there’s the soups, the breads, the soaking and boiling of beans, the quiches; the list goes on. In between that I adopt several roles including Playmate, Teacher and all-round activity creator, as well as trips out to a few toddler groups throughout the week. Then there’s the running through the house pretending to be a monster before turning around and being chased by a little monster in a bit of role reversal. Occasionally I’ll sit down for five minutes with a cup of tea and catch up on Twitter, Facebook, Emails etc, read a few posts before looking at the clock and getting up again because the schedule around a small person needs to be tight. When she sleeps, I write. I write blog posts or I write articles or I research markets for article submissions.

So I’m getting there slowly but surely. First there was the launch of my mini-ebook: 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget in October. Then of course in November there was NaNoWriMo where I wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days. It was hard graft, and it needs lots and lots of editing, but it was such an achievement and a buzz to know that I have a full manuscript to work on. I started another novel for NaNoWriMo 2010 which I didn’t complete so I’m throwing myself into that at the moment.

I now also have a Facebook page and have just uploaded a short story on to Wattpad, which you can read here for free.

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve sold a few copies of 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget, which is fantastic news and really encouraging. A lovely review has been put up on Amazon for it, too.

So there you have it, my achievements so far in the three months of 2012 since I left my office job.

In 2013 I intend to complete my second novel, finish my course with the Writers Bureau and finish editing both novels for publication. It’s ambitious, but I believe I can do it.

As Henry Ford said: ‘The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.’

What are your plans for 2013?