You’re not allowed to lie. Except at Christmas.

The excitement of Christmas Eve was like a permanent fizz ready to explode in my stomach. The anticipation was totally unbearable and my brother and I would wish the day away, keeping ourselves as busy as possible, till sleep time. Not that I could sleep; I just wanted to vomit with excitement at the prospect of an overweight man with magical reindeer delivering a heap of swag under our Christmas tree.

Every inch of our house was covered in decorations. The ceiling heaving with dangling, metallic wonderments and windows alive with flashing electric rainbows busy fulfilling their pre-programmed patterns.

When it was finally time for bed, I crept up the stairs, knowing that the buzz I had been living off since day one of opening my advent calender, would soon be replaced with an overwhelming happiness as I played with my new toys.

As I stepped into my bedroom, tingling with excitement, I noticed my window open. My room was cold. Why was my window open? There….there on the window sill…was that….magic dust? And on the floor underneath the window; two boot prints only a large man could make. Wait, had He been in my room? It wasn’t Christmas Day yet?

I looked around, holding my breath with trepidation at what I might find, scanning every inch of my room for clues. There it was! A present! Laying on my pillow! I shouted, “Mum, Dad! He’s been! He’s been!”

My brother came running in to see what all the commotion was about and saw me looking wide-eyed and open-mouthed holding my present. He looked at me, looked at my present, looked back at me and instantly I could see his thoughts. If He had been in my room, perhaps He had been in his bedroom too?

We both ran as fast as we could along the landing, banging the door open making an almighty crash against the thin, plasterboard walls. We stood still, neither daring to breath in the silence as we searched for any signs of activity. Laying on his pillow, in exactly the same way, was a present.

We couldn’t contain ourselves and ripped off the paper with such ferocity our presents inside came flying out. HOT WATER BOTTLE COVERS!! WOW!! AMAZING!!!! I had a bear one and my brother had a lion one. The best water bottle covers EVER!

That night, as my brother and I finally came down off of our adrenaline high, we decided to stick together so we could both witness anything we heard or saw.  I camped out on his floor in the darkness and we whispered, dissecting like detectives, all the possibilities of how Father Christmas had made it into our house undetected.  Every now and then we could hear a muffled bang from above, convincing ourselves that we could hear the reindeers landing on our roof. Was that sleigh bells? We both definitely heard sleigh bells. If I didn’t do a bit of wee, I was definitely going to have a heart attack at any moment. It was just too tense. Too exciting. And I loved it.

I too, vividly remember the year that I knew the truth. The sparkle was lost somehow and the presents became less important without the fantasy behind it. Certainly for me anyway.

However, I never once felt like I had been duped, lied to, or deceived.  I only felt grateful, amazed and thankful at the lengths my parents had gone to make Christmas so special. Reliving those stories now only make them more exceptional as I find out the details – I only discovered a few years ago that it was my very own Dad that was the Father Christmas that visited our school. I had sat on his lap, heard his voice ask me what I would like, whispered in his ear, “a My Little Pony pencil with a rubber on the end,” and had tottered off happy knowing I had spoken to the great man himself, without one iota that it was actually my Dad. I love that. I love that I was taken in so much by it all that I didn’t suspect a thing. An innocent acceptance that only a child can have. No matter how much I revisit that memory, I can only remember Father Christmas (and a little boy who was very upset that his little pre-Christmas present was a Garfield pencil and notebook, and not the truck he had asked for.)

Nearly three decades later, it’s my turn to create the magic. Fortunately, I have the added bonus of a smart phone, which Father Christmas has too – he can be messaged instantly to check whether ‘a gold chandelier’ is a possibility (“Sorry, Alice – Father Christmas says it’d be too tricky to put in his sack”) so there won’t be any disappointments from unrealistically high expectations.

The benchmark has been set ridiculously high by my childhood, but I’m going to give it my best shot. My mind gets filled with possible scenarios of trickery and illusion and it feels desperately important to me that my children get to experience that sensation of pure escapism that I felt. To feel like the possibilities are endless.

Some people call it lying.  I call it imagination and for me, that’s what Christmas is all about.

More Cuban heel than snow boot, but I'm working on it.

More Cuban heel than snow boot, but I’m working on it.

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Now You’re Talking

theconsciouslyincompetentcamel:

It’s been a bit of a tricky and stressful year with Ted, hence my recent absence.

We’ve been working really hard on getting him to communicate with us; teaching him signs for ‘more’ or ‘help’. It seemed to take some serious repetition and time to get it but even then it would be hit and miss and meltdowns were violent and frequent.

Recently, my husband and I started a course run by the National Autistic Society which has revolutionised our thinking.

All this time, we were so stuck on trying to get him to speak ‘our’ language that we couldn’t see he was already talking to us. The power of non-verbal communication is key to development in babies and is the building blocks for verbal communication. It is what unfortunately gets a bit skewed with children on the spectrum. But it’s still very much there and now we have been awakened to it, it has started to change our lives.

Originally posted on Hello. My Name is Ted:

Me and my Dor

Me and my Dor

Hello. Ted here.

It seems there has been a bit of a communication break through between my parents and me. I have learned to understand some new words; some I like and others not so much. ‘Finished’ and ‘hands down’ are my least favourite.

But it seems something more than that has happened. Dor has started to pick up more on my language too. There always seemed to be such a lot of noises and hand gestures that I just didn’t understand and when I did understand, I would tell her my answer but she didn’t seem to get it. Sometimes I would tell her with my eyes. Sometimes I would tell her with a small gesture of my hand. Sometimes I would try and make my own sound but she wouldn’t respond to me and this would make me feel angry and frustrated.

I never…

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A Letter To My 34 Year Old Body

As I shifted uncomfortably from side to side, trying to get my hips into a less painful position, it suddenly dawned on me. I have been incredibly ungrateful to you for as long as I can remember and taken you for granted. It’s only now as aching sets in and the spontaneous groans exit my body when I bend down to pick something up that I realise how much you have actually done for me.

As a teenager, I blamed you for everything. You were the reason boys didn’t think I was pretty and so I starved you. I’m sorry for that. I’m also sorry that the not feeding you properly lasted ten years or more.  My weight was a constant source of antagonism to me; it taunted me and told me I wasn’t good enough. Even now, I could have had the most amazing day professionally and/or personally but taking my clothes off in the evening, inspecting every flaw and fat roll, can make me feel worthless and pathetic. I believe I can only be truly successful if I am thin and that I am not and have never been.

You gave me two beautiful babies and fed them. Maybe not 100% perfectly or conventionally but you did it and yet I cursed you for not doing it properly. I never had to experience the pain of my body failing me. I never had to stare at you and ask you why you didn’t work properly or why you let me down. But somewhere I still blamed you for my lack of perfection.

Despite the lack of respect for you in the early days, you are healthy. You’ve stuck it out and haven’t given up on me. So, I’m turning this around on it’s head for once and am going to give you some gratitude.

Thank you for my children. For providing me with the most satisfying part of my life. Instead of meticulously inspecting the scars of motherhood and wishing they weren’t there, I will from now on be grateful. My husband is. He sees what you did, what you’ve accomplished, and I will try to see you through his eyes.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to engage and play with my children, enriching their lives and mine. As much as I may moan about being on my hands and knees crawling through yet another soft play or having to run after them to stop them charging into danger, I am so very grateful that you do and when my back hurts at the end of the day, or my hip is giving me stick, I’ll remember that you’re helping me make wonderful memories for my children.

Thank you for keeping going. Those days when each step feels like it could be the last, but you put another foot in front of the other until you’re home again. Those days when you’re merely holding things together, precariously balancing on the edge of oblivion, but mustering the energy from somewhere to see it through, I am so very grateful that you do.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If only I had been able to see past the surface when I was younger, I might not have been so hard on you. I can’t guarantee that I won’t be hard on you still but hopefully I’ll be a little more gentle and perhaps my vision not so obscured by what you can be, but by what you are – a fully functioning human body with the ability to ensure your daughter doesn’t have to envisage her potential in hindsight, but only the reality of what she is now; brilliant, magnificent and good enough no matter what shape and size she is in the future.

Yours forever,

Me. X

Probably aged around 12 or 13, I remember clearly at this age being incredibly self conscious about my weight, convincing myself I was fat.

Probably aged around 12 or 13, I remember clearly at this age being incredibly self conscious about my weight, convincing myself I was fat.

My biggest achievements

My greatest achievements

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The Internet User’s Guide to Internet Users

The internet is a wonderfully faceless entity which allows all and sundry to have a voice. To impart their wisdom, knowledge and opinion. I mean just thank God for this person standing up for what they believe in.

www.lamebook.com Why I love the internet

http://www.lamebook.com
Why I love the internet

In my short time of loitering around internet forums and chat rooms, I have come across many characters, but it seems the following internet users crop up time and time again:

The Know-It-All Example: You’re doing it all wrong. You do it this way.

The Aggressor Example: You’re doing it all wrong. Are you some kind of dick?

The Diplomat Example: It’s a good idea, but it might be worth trying it this way.

The Please-Join-My-Club Example: This is how I do it. Give it a try.

The Peacekeeper Example: I think both ways are right.

The Self Righteous Example: You should be ashamed of yourself for doing it any other way.

The Passive Aggressive Example: I’d think very carefully about what you do or you might be sorry.

With so many emotive subjects on the internet, many hitting right to the heart of humanity, such as breastfeeding versus formula feeding, UKIP versus the rest of the world, Corporate Monsters versus The Common Man, and not forgetting gary rights, it doesn’t take long to find a forum that houses many of the aforementioned characters in one place, impassioned and ready to fight for what they believe in.

Real comments taken from a hard hitting article entitled Max George: The Wanted Broke Up Because of One Direction Rivalry gives you the following examples:

There was only one person missing from this particular conversation, however, I found her not so far away in a heart wrenching and deeply resonating discussion about who is best; One Direction or Justin Bieber:

See how many you can spot today and if you know of any Internet Users not listed above, then please get in touch. If any of you are wondering which category I belong to, you’ll find me filed firmly under ‘Sarcastic Twat’.

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Does you child suffer from school-induced schizophrenia?

Is it just mine or has your child developed a split personality since starting school?

My daughter has suddenly developed skills that I never even knew she was capable of, like putting on her own socks and shoes, putting on her own coat, wiping her own arse – that kind of thing. Skills that are, however, exclusive to school time only. Between the hours of 8.40am and 3.15pm, a perfect child emerges like a butterfly from a chrysalis, stretching it’s wings in anticipation of gaining knowledge and wisdom. Outside of those hours, it’s a severe impairment of fine motor skills causing total paralysis and hysteria with a persistent exclamation, “I’m too tired!” or “I can’t do it!”

Perhaps it helps that she has a particularly wonderful teacher that is the epitome of Miss Honey from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. It’s already happened on several occasions that my daughter has accidentally called me her teacher’s name and role play now involves my daughter being her teacher with conversations going something like:

“It’s carpet time. Please use your thinking thumb.”
“But I’m just trying to make the dinner, Alice.”
“Mum, you’re not doing good listening.”

I made the hideous mistake of one day asking if I could be her teacher instead, only to be met with such bewilderment. “No mummy ,*chortles* you’re not a real lady.” Christ, I know my legs are hairy and I haven’t waxed my tash for a while but surely she is aware I am actually female?

Or perhaps it’s because schools have to nowadays celebrate mediocrity in order to encourage children to engage.  My daughter turned the bath tap off of her own accord the other day. When I thanked her, her immediate response was, “do I get a treat for that?” My initial response was, “are you on drugs?” but then realising this probably wasn’t the case for a 4 year old, I quickly added, “how about the happy feelings you get from helping mummy? They’re your treat.” Somewhat unsurprisingly, my daughter pulled a face akin to having constipation and disappeared into her room muttering something under her breath.

But I’ve come to realise, there’s always a ying to the yang. There are ways in which I can use this to my advantage: Behaviour control.

“What would your teacher say if they saw you doing this?” “If you don’t do as you are told, I’m going to tell your teacher and she will be so disappointed in you.” “You should be ashamed of yourself; your teacher definitely will be when I tell her what you’ve done.”

(Just for the record, I don’t actually do this. I tried it once and my daughter told me, like Smuggy McSmuggerson that her teacher would never tell her off. Damn you, Miss Honey. Now I’m going to have to rely on Father Christmas to threaten her into submission with his naughty list. Nah, just kidding again. She knows it doesn’t really matter if you’re naughty or nice. Mainly because we told her Santa was put in prison after a particularly nasty drink and sleigh incident and there will be no presents regardless of how much she begs.)

No matter how feral or non-responsive my daughter becomes after school, it is ultimately passing the baton of responsibility to someone else for just over six hours a day. Six hours of stimulation whilst I can feel 20% less guilty about my parenting. Therefore, its obligatory and totally acceptable to make up for that guilt deficit by sticking on the telly till bedtime. “What’s that, Child? You want to watch the DVDs you found in the back of Dad’s wardrobe? Oh, go on then. Knock yourself out. You deserve it, Kiddo.”

In the meantime… I wonder if I’m ever going to actually meet this ‘tidying expert’ that apparently exists at school?

The irony

The irony

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It’s all about the beige, ’bout the beige. No vegetable.

My maternal meltdowns seem to ebb and flow like the tides of the sea. I’d like to think that my most recent was my last, but let’s be frank, it’s quite unlikely considering my house is inhabited by two tyrannical tiny persons, intent on bringing me down like a pack of hunting dogs.  They know my weaknesses well. But they’re not the only ones able to wage war and after my recent self excommunication from all things vaguely associated with social media, and generally other human beings, I decided to reignite the beacon of oversharing and shine a light on the atrocious reality that is my children’s diet. That and my quest to improve it with actual real life nutrients.

Perhaps not the best battle to attempt when my mind is as fragile as my pelvic floor.

Before investing in cookery books for idiots, I decided to Google how to hide vegetables and get recipe ideas so that I could start immediately on Operation Vegetable. Who knew that hiding vegetables in food is as taboo as smacking your kids? It’s categorised under lying, deceit and treachory and will teach children not to trust anyone ever. Like with all terrible parenting choices (that I appear to make), it inevitably leads down the rocky road of substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. All because I tried to hide a piece of fucking broccoli inside a meatball.

Guilt ridden, I tried a week of positioning unscathed veggies on the side of the plate in the hope that their sudden comeback would inspire my children to wolf them down like a carrot-starved rabbit but alas, to no avail.

Homemade chips, fishfingers and sweetcorn. Miraculously, sweetcorn excretes it's nutrients so the fishfingers can absorb them through the process of osmosis. Not actual eating is required.

Mmmmmm…appetising Homemade chips, fishfingers and sweetcorn. Miraculously, sweetcorn excretes it’s nutrients so the fishfingers can absorb them through the process of osmosis. No actual eating is required.

I know that I should persevere. That the poisonous accompaniments will one day be accepted, even if it is only ritualistically once a week when they’re drowning in gravy. The veg, not the kids. My brother reckons that even the kids he saw in poor areas of South America on his travels complained about the vegetables, preferring to gnaw on a mud-covered dog leg. However, for peace of mind, I just need to know that at least once a week, I have managed to get one over on them when they unwittingly consume a cube of courgette.

I employed two women to help me in my fight. A Girl Called Jack and Jo Pratt Madhouse Cookbook.

The write up on Jo’s book was promising. Recipes for a busy working family that are quick and will get kids eating. It was very apparent, however, within the first 14 seconds upon opening the book and reading the first recipe that this wasn’t the cookbook for me. Twee photos of children eating kumquats in pristine, freshly ironed clothing and happiness. A family that, as far as I’m concerned, is a complete fantasy. A fairytale. Or at least somewhere in Kensington.  Here are some examples:

Chicken, Potato and Spinach Curry in a Hurry. The only bit of this my kids would eat is the crumbs on the table.

Corned Beef and Sweetcorn Hash with a Dash of Flexibility. I presume the ‘dash of flexibility’ is being able to replace the entire meal with a square of cheese and a packet of crisps.

Lamb and Redcurrant Casserole with Rosemary Dumplings. I never before have been compelled to deface a recipe book with, “Completely fuck off, you deluded twat” before. A first for everything.

Jack’s book has faired much better and has so far escaped any explicit graffiti. The courgette, raisin and lemon bread was a success when coated in nutella and she also inspired me with her penny pizzas although I did cheat by just using a tortilla as a base rather than actually making the dough. I KNOW I KNOW, but my daughter ate sweetcorn just because they were heart-shaped. A revelation.

I attempted a bit of covert vegetable hiding by making muffins but included my daughter in the cooking process so she knew it existed. That seemed to appease the anti-lying Gods. She loves cooking so I knew this would be a winner especially as we were using a butternut squash, the main ingredient of her favourite Ella’s Kitchen Pouch. It became quickly apparent though, after finding her being more interested in licking the butter off the butter lid that these cakes were not inspiring, regardless of how many chocolate chips we added. Clearly, just being able to suck food effortlessly from a pouch is far simpler than actually having to use muscles of mastication. Plus, the orange slightly detracts from the beige.

Mmmmmmmmm….they look….special

WP_20141116_023

Needless to say, after a fortnight of under zealous cooking and baking, I’m taking another sabbatical from trickery and treachery and returning to my roots. The freezer. However, I thought I’d share with you a few of my own recipes just in case you too are heavily bounds by the chains of Captain BirdsEye and Aunt Bessie, and fancy a bit of inspiration that doesn’t require just pouring crumbed goods onto a baking tray.

Eggy Bread, or French Toast to pretentious morons.

Eggy Bread, or French Toast to pretentious morons.

Ingredients: Egg. Bread.
Prep and cooking time:  Fairly quick unless your child insists on ‘helping’ with cracking the egg, in which case, add 45 minutes onto prep time to ensure all shell has been removed.
Difficulty rating: Easy, unless your child prefers it in a circle shape and won’t eat any of the bits left over from trying to cut out said shape. Then it’s a massive pain in the arse.
Likeliness of being eaten: 95% especially when buried under a sea of ketchup.

Plain Omelette

Plain Omelette

Ingredients: Egg
Prep and cooking time: Very quick. Can be prone to delays. (See Eggy bread).
Difficulty rating: Easy peasy. Unless your child insists on it being a particular shade of cooked with no brown bits or jagged edges. Then it’s a massive pain in the arse.
Likeliness of being eaten: 45%. Can increase success rate by calling it a pancake without the milk and flour. And applying a generous helping of ketchup.

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Ingredients: Look on the tin. But I presume it’s rice.
Prep and cooking time: About 15 seconds opening a tin.
Difficulty rating: The tin opener can be a bit of a bugger sometimes, but otherwise straight forward.
Likeliness of eating: 95%. Don’t even consider doing something wanky like adding fruit or making your own.

Cauliflower Cheese Sauce for Pasta

Cauliflower Cheese Sauce for Pasta (post defrosting). Add milk to loosen it up again and make it look less like vaginal discharge.

Ingredients: Butter, milk, flour, cheese and cauliflower.
Prep and cooking time: Bloody ages mainly because anything over five minutes guarantees constant interruptions as you have to separate bickering and fighting siblings that can’t possibly be left alone. The smell of a real life vegetable being cooked will also increase whinging and begging for crisps tenfold.
Difficulty rating: Due to the amount of steps required and therefore the amount of interruptions, rage inducingly difficult
Likeliness of eating: 0%. Despite your children liking cheese and occasionally licking a piece of cauliflower without projectile vomiting, it’s not crisps and therefore will not be entertained.

The vegetable battle isn’t won just yet but when it comes to beige, I’m a frickin’ champion (just don’t add vegetables).

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Dear New Parents…

Firstly, let me congratulate you on joining The Hood. It’s a somewhat surreal and scary place but it won’t take long for the pooh obsession to settle in. In fact, it’ll pretty much start from the first pile of sticky black mess you find trapped under your fingernails. Don’t worry. All perfectly normal. That’s what your fingernails are for.

You may have already started to discover the politics of parenting is quite unique and what party you belong to all entirely depends on your feeding method, what baby transporting equipment you use and what method of collecting turds you decide on.

You may have possibly unearthed internet facts such as, your child is going to be gay. This is especially if you are bottle feeding. Bottles are unsafe and contain chemicals that mimic female hormones. They tried to make non-gay bottles which became very popular but then they discovered recently that they’re just as gay as the rest. However, the gay-soaked chemical isn’t mutually exclusive to bottles, it’s anything that is plastic. Basically everything you have probably already bought for your child will in some way induce gayness. I’m not entirely sure why this isn’t written on the information sheets provided with every baby item you buy but I have written to the WHO to see if they can shed some light on the subject.

If you are breastfeeding, unfortunately, you won’t be spared from the chemical pandemic as your breast milk will also be contaminated with chemicals. These can also cause gayness and additionally autism, lepresy and an unnatural fixation with Play doh reviews on YouTube.

As a breastfeeding mother you will also be a social pariah should you wish to provocatively offend people with your milky nipples in public. If you continue this method of injecting nutrients down your child’s gullet into toddlerdom, I would suggest you just save any further embarrassment, take yourself to the local police station and request to be put on the sex offender’s register. Plus, if your boob feeding a boy child, it will make him gay.

Google will become your best friend as you incessantly research every aspect of motherhood searching for the answer as to why your baby started sleeping for four hour stretches, enabling you to emerge from your torturous head fog, but then returned to fidgeting and straining all night with intermittent 15 minutes silences whereby you desperately check for vital signs.  You may from time to time have to update yourself on what poo should look like for good measure and ‘what your baby should be doing now’ for added parental pressure especially if your friend’s baby is already walking at four months and a kid your mum knows through a friend she bumped into recently was doing sign language at birth.

Do watch out though for the billion know-it-alls desperate to tell you you are doing it all completely wrong and you’re actually a fuckwit. These Unsolicited Advisors of Anecdotes tend to lurk in chat rooms and internet forums desperate to impart their worldwide parenting knowledge from their one experience of motherhood.  You may find me in there. But I’ve had two kids so I totes know what I’m talking about.

Most helpful of all will be this phrase. You don’t need to memorise it because it’ll be said to you at least four hundred times a day and encompasses every unknown which is pretty much everything in parenting because only the children know the rules and they’ve made a pact to never, ever let on to grown ups.

Phases may be as follows:

Not sleeping
Sleeping
Not eating enough
Eating too much
Teething
Growth spurts
Shitting themselves at 4am after you have just managed to settle them
Starting the day at 5am
Finishing the day at 11pm
Having to be held continually between the hours of 5am and 11pm

Google is also incredibly useful for diagnosing symptoms that your baby may be experiencing, drawing an inevitable conclusion that it is probably AIDS. Both my children have had several bouts of AIDS now but seemed to bounce back quickly so nothing to be too concerned about.

Finally, as a new parent, it is imperative you become accustomed to your new identity as a compulsive liar.  Your baby’s hearing and understanding is incredibly acute, even from a few days old and any difficult experience you may be encountering, your baby will be listening as you recount your woes to friends, family and health professionals. Your baby will then promptly do the exact opposite leaving you looking like an attention-seeking whore who clearly hasn’t a clue what you are doing.

If you have found my unsolicited anecdotal advice useful, you may also like to take a look at my Guide to the Fourth Trimester for more of it, which doesn’t in anyway metaphorically represent what is currently residing under your fingernails.

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