Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: April 2018

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Listen to Your Heart: A Tongue In Cheek Review of What The Ladybird Heard Live

'What the Ladybird Heard" - Julia Donaldson's modern classic about a small, timorous  insect who uses her ingenuity to overthrow a local crime ring when she learns that they threaten those to whom she is closest - is a story that the breeders of this country are well acquainted. It is a story which transcends race, class and the age of faecal continence; the tale of good overcoming evil and a small, noble voice finally being, not merely acknowledged, but revered. 
We were an hour early

In short, the telling of such a beloved chronicle was always going to be a tough undertaking and I arrived at the doors of the King's Theatre in Edinburgh under a cloud of scepticism. To be honest, when I entered the world of children's literature in the summer of 2014, I favoured those publications with rhyme and elegant art. Having stumbled upon Julia Donaldson (which in parenting terms is like stumbling across J.K. Rowling) I favoured the Axel Scheffler illustrations as I thought them more pleasing to the adult eye (and my daughter was an avid book reader so you had to look out for yourself) but when she saw the rainbow colours and farmyard animals adorning the cover of this volume she was enraptured. I, however, was less than enthused as I thought the drawings simplistic and two dimensional but my faith in Jules was strong so we made the investment and our life was never the same again. Well, ok, maybe not but it was a bloody good children's book.
Bloody good

When my son finally started showing interest in the literary world at the grand age of 18months, having previously been far more concerned with the laws of physics (how far can I throw this ball/meal/small animal?), this was the cornerstone of his education. It had everything from colours to first animal noises with a dusting of moral philosophy throughout. He would read nothing else. 
The ONLY book he will read

So when I happened upon "What The Ladybird Heard- Live" and saw that it was coming to a theatre near us I was rushing to stand in line at the box office (the digital line, obviously, this isn't the 90s). Three months later, having battled through a particularly nasty bout of gastroenteritis (me), prolific protestations regarding leaving the house (them) and incredibly inclement weather (Edinburgh), we were there. Along with our own "fine prize cow" and the entire breeding community of the Lothian area. 
Our "fine prize cow"
Whilst attempting to rouse one toddler from an untimely slumber and placate the other, who has more questions about life than the British people do about Brexit, we took the opportunity to survey the set design. It was meticulous both in its childlike form and in its ability to transport us into the world of Lydia Monks (the book's illustrator). My cloud of scepticism was lifting.
Setting the Scene
The play closely adhered to its origins, focussing on a motley group of farm workers and their enactment of the favourite tale. The farm had a prize winning cow, two cats (who spoke and were the Muppets Waldorf & Statler reincarnated) and a timid ladybird. The remaining creatures were cobbled together on stage using paraphernalia from the farmyard. While I was initially disappointed at this turn of events the livestock eventually assembled were even closer to their illustrations than a puppet could have ever been. It was sublime. Furthermore, the score was infectious and had me audibly singing along during the performance (despite the heckles from the stalls) and on numerous occasions since.

The acting was simply divine with the (clearly classically trained) thespians inhabiting their roles like Daniel Day Lewis in an Oscar winning performance. Raymond, in particular, who played the part of Lanky Len has impeccable comic timing and the voice of an angel (albeit a fallen, gravelly one), a true credit to the actors guild and a shoe in for a Tony as soon as this show hits Broadway.

In summary, should you get the opportunity to see this production (and I believe they are on tour around the UK) I would strongly urge you to nurture your inner "culture vulture" and feast upon this delectable banquet of stagecraft. 

PS. Genuinely, this is one of the best children's productions I have seen to date and I have seen quite a few (anything to take a break from Duggee and the Jetters). Having said that, my daughter is to "inhabit the role" of the lead character in Julia's later work of the "Snail and the Whale" in her nursery performance in a few weeks so this crowd are sure to be bumped down the leaderboard soon.

Mum Muddling Through

Friday, 27 April 2018

Taking Care of Business: The Transferrable Skills of Motherhood

It would appear that I may be up for a promotion. Now I will admit that this has taken me a little by surprise as my "external commitments" (also known as children) mean that I constantly feel like I am short changing my employer. I appear to be either setting up for work having arrived harassed, dishevelled and clutching either a rancid sippy cup, part masticated banana or nursery essential whilst cursing under my breath for having forgotten to drop it off with the relevant child; or loading myself up like an over worked pack horse about to start an expedition to outer Mongolia as I attempt to make my way out of work with a ten minute window to collect two children in two separate buildings who will undoubtedly want to show me everything in their respective nursery rooms from the rose coloured pebble amidst 7437 other rose coloured pebbles to their new, rather loquacious best friend who demands a play date, tonight and won't take no for an answer. Meanwhile the intervening period at work, between arrival and departure, is filled with a sense of being rather incapable and more than a little inefficient.

This aside, it would appear that the powers that be either know something that I don't or are too easily distracted by my ability to procreate at the most inconvenient times of the work calendar to notice my short comings and are really committed to positive discrimination. Regardless, I thought I should prepare myself for interview process as, if memory serves me right, my interview technique is somewhat lacking. I recall having perfected the art of profuse sweating from the underarms, back, belly and upper lip accompanied by an incessant and indecipherable babble akin to a toddler who is keen to express the inner, rather convoluted, workings of their mind. What my technique does not involve is poise, clarity of thought and confident, articulate answers. Therefore, I decided to research what skills I should possess as potential "management" and prepare my answers accordingly.

The numerous websites which I stumbled upon listed several key skills that one should possess in order to be a successful manager and that during interviews one should be able to "use specific examples from one's own experience to illustrate how one has acquired the necessary skills and to demonstrate how one has used them effectively."

Well one was stumped. 

One had nothing.

Whilst examples in the work place eluded me I got to thinking; I spend 3 days a week between the hours of 9am and 5:30pm doing my paid job and every other minute, hour and day attempting to do my more than full time occupation of managing the two unruly rug- rats at home. Those children had spent their entire lives (a grand total of 6 years) preparing me for this moment. I was ready.

They had had me in training for this day

Communication and Motivation

I am a skilled communicator. This is evidenced in the multitude of ways in which I can convey and effectively disguise a negative answer from “I’m not sure”, through “not right now” to “oh look, there is a bus/bird/pebble/lamp/key/dog/chair!” Furthermore, I also have a strong background in the field of translation and a history of effectively deciphering a variety of instructions, emotions and frustrations uttered by my “juniors”.

However, I would strongly contest the belief that a person in my position should be available at all times and establish an "open door policy" as I feel that a healthy distance should be established between management and the “junior staff” to allow for authority to be maintained. I find that locking myself in the bathroom for regular intervals throughout the day aids me in this practice.

Distance is key
My ability to motivate is second to none. I am universally acknowledged in our family unit to be the most effective at inspiring our "staff" to defaecate in the appropriate vessel. I have even gone the extra mile and devised an anthemic song to encourage those who are doubting their abilities and inspire them to achieve their excrement related goals. Go me.

Visualise your goal

Organisation, Forward Planning and Strategic Thinking

Organisation and forward planning is an essential part of my daily life. Anyone with two toddlers must be organised and able to identify all the possible eventualities that may be encountered if they wish to leave the house. Should they also require the toddlers in question to accompany them they must also employ some effective, strategic planning. On multiple occasions I have found myself facing a mutinous duo who would no more like to venture out into the elements than they would feast on cold cabbage stew and under these rather testing circumstances, where appointments are looming and scheduling is tight, I must employ the most strategic of thinking. I must engage my experience, knowledge and insight to achieve my goal. More often than not this involves bargaining, followed by reasonable threats, then excessive bargaining before I start to issue threats that some might consider far beyond the reasonable punishment of a 4 year old and entirely unenforceable but I get the job done.  

Their interest in outdoor pursuits is often lacking

Problem Solving and Decision Making

I have read that effective problem solving and decision making “requires outstanding attention to detail and the ability to remain calm under pressure" and I am sure that some of the other candidates may have regaled you with numerous examples of how, having been presented with a critical issue late in the process, they effectively managed to overcome the obstacle and calmly extricate both themselves and the company from the situation with aplomb. However, until they have had to deal with a raging toddler, excessive layers of winter clothing and a liquid excrement expelled at high pressure when armed with only 3 wet wipes and a “can do” attitude, I doubt they are in the same league as I.

Three wet wipes people!

Commercial awareness

I have a strong track record of anticipating the needs and wants of my “clients”. Many is the time I found myself catering to the unvoiced demands of those I serve without prompt, be it procuring the latest episode of “Go Jetters”, enabling (against his audible protestations) the youngest to recharge his batteries by putting him to bed during the day or engaging the eldest in an arts and crafts situation. It is merely fortuitous that this ability to pre-empt my “clients’” needs also serves to provide me with a brief hiatus in the middle of a long day at “work”, which in turn, undoubtedly increases my productivity (on social media).

It's about recognising the specific needs for each "client" where here we see arts and crafts are not effectively engaging the youngest

So, as you can see, we as mothers have many a transferrable skill and should not fear the workplace or question our abilities to thrive there. After all, if I can tame a couple of lawless toddlers who would no more be reasonable than they would perform algebraic equations, then I can definitely hold my own in the corporate world.

Management here I come.

Totes Profesh.

3 Little Buttons

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Stand By Me: The Art of Staying Married with Children

Today I saw one of my favourite sights in the world. It is a sight that makes my heart sing like a toddler channelling Elsa. It is a sight that makes me realise, even in the darkest times, that the world is not such a bad place. It is a sight that, one day, I hope to be able to re-enact. Today I saw two elderly people holding hands, and when I say elderly, I truly mean old. This couple were less spring chicken and more wise old owl, they had spent less of their life with Google and more with encyclopedias, and their gait was less strident and more shuffling in form but they were beautiful. They were still strong and independent and their hand holding visibly affectionate rather than based in a need for physical support. 
6 years and counting....
Now, I am usually a cynic and I realise that this pair of octogenarians may have only been together for the past two years having endured bitter divorces battled out in court or cruel, untimely bereavements which left them seeking solace in one another. Perhaps, as they walked the streets of Edinburgh, they were amidst a torrid love affair fuelled by a cocktail of Irish coffees and Viagra, downed while their better halves were distracted having devoted themselves to more charitable activities. Perhaps this was the case, however, I am choosing to believe that they had shared their entire adult lives together. I am choosing to believe that life had neither been exceptionally cruel nor unusually kind to them but having set their caps at one another they had chosen to stick together; they had chosen to recognise the value of what they had invested in one another.
39 years and counting...
So today Husband, I ask you to wait. Wait for the day when my hands are free to be held; when they are not so busy wiping streaming noses and wriggly bottoms. Wait for the time when my hands are not constantly engaged in the intricate princess tea parties and trainset assembly. Wait for the day when my arms are not consistently wrapped around a small person who is inconsolable with rage or fear and wait for the day when my body is no longer a climbing frame; a safe house or a buffet station. Just wait.

For I too am biding my time. I wait for the day when our home is flourished with nice things and is no longer a shrine to the Gods of vibrantly coloured plastics. I long for when we spend our time together, not apart, even doing the banal administrative tasks of adult life and not constantly having to pass the relay baton of parenting so that we can go to the bank, do a supermarket run or get a much needed haircut. I want for the day when we argue over things other than who is better placed to pick up the childcare slack when nursery falls through or who is bearing more of the weight of responsibility for earning the money for nappies, formula and education.
45ish years and counting (actual years rarely disclosed)...
I want us to travel; climb hills and scale mountains. I want us to socialise together, not apart. I want us to run a marathon in a place we have never been. I want us to go on dates and kiss like teenagers again. I want to see you for you and not just the amazing dad you are.

But right now, I am relishing every moment. I am treasuring each clammy hand wrapped around my neck or placed in mine without request. I am cherishing each inconsequential toddler secret that is uttered in my ear and for which I am sworn to absolute secrecy. I am savouring every first be it step, word or school day but most of all my love, I am delighting in sharing it with you.
59 years...
For one day we too shall be old and we will likely have travelled to those exotic locations, scaled the numerous mountains and spent evenings and weekends with friends old and new but as we walk the streets I know we shall be discussing our two greatest achievements and everything they have brought to our life together. That day, my love, we too shall hold hands. 
Unless I have said something rude (then our bellies will "shake with laughter, and we shall live happily ever after")

3 Little Buttons

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Just Another Manic Monday: A Day in the Life of a Two Year Old

I scare myself half to death at 5am when I attempt to pass wind and get a little bit more than I bargained for so I decide to communicate dissatisfaction at being so rudely awakened to the rest of the household. I mean, they would want to know about it and it's not like they are doing anything else. Plus, I can't go back to sleep now; what if it happens again?! This nappy can only take so much. They do seem to be taking their time responding to my summons though, maybe I need to take this up a notch? Really ramp up the anguished, blood curdling shriek I have going. Ah wait, yes here she is. Why does she ricochet off the wall like that? It's almost like she hasn't been poised; ready to react at a moment's notice to my beckon call. Odd.

Anyway, a cuddle. Oh this is nice, so warm and soft. Maybe the world isn't such a terrible place. Maybe I will make it to the morning alive. Hey! Hang on! Why are you putting me back down? Oh hell no. This is not happening. Pick me up woman. What on earth do you think you are doing? I know, I'll throw a few agonised "Mummy"s into the mix, clench these clammy hands round her neck and she'll soon crack. That's it, well done. Now, head towards the door. Good work. Your bedroom is that way. Great.

Oh! Daddy? I never realised you were here. You can leave now. I've got this. There is a bed in my room. We'll see you in the morning.

If anyone is looking for me this is where I'll be

Mummy? Why are you closing your eyes? Mummy? Mummy! Mummy! Oh good, there you are. What's that? Oh a picture? Really? Interesting. Oh Mummy! Sorry you were closing your eyes again and I had something really important to ask you; what's that?! Still a picture? Wow. Mummy? Mummy! Hi, me again. Just checking, what's that? Did you say lesser spotted woodpecker? No. Picture? Huh. There you go.
It's all love really Mummy
Well that was a really fun two hours in your bed Mummy. I know you weren't too into the routine eyes checks I was performing but one can never been too careful (or forceful.) It paid dividends when you relented and let me watch Go Jetters on the "Tapper". Don't be too harsh on yourself, after all, it is educational. Did you know that Loch Ness holds more water than all of the lakes and rivers in England and Wales combined? A real live unicorn taught me that.

I don't mean to criticise but I think you really need to work on your listening. I don't know why you thought I wanted the Cheerios, yoghurt or toast for breakfast. I was very clearly just practising my ability to say those words and nod in an assenting fashion. Of course I didn't actually want them. I thought you would have realised that when I watched you prepare them and didn't say anything. Not one word. I mean if you aren't going to listen to me then I will have to show you; across the wall.

Raspberries were clearly what we wanted

Talking of walls, I really think you are being more than a little contradictory. Yesterday you were allowing me, no, joining me in decorating the stone walls in the garden with our unique "Banksy" stylings but today? Today, you seemed to be more than a little disgruntled when I tried to introduce my creative flair to your rather pedestrian walls in the hallway. Pick a side people!

Did it not speak to your soul?
I did enjoy our little trip to my sister's ballet lesson though. Sure, I vocalised my scorn for the mobile baby cage for the duration of our journey there but when we arrived I had the best time mixing with the other siblings whilst we waited for her return. I know you question this as apparently the shrieks of "mine!" came across as quite hostile but I thought my enthusiastic rugby tackles against those who were showing interest in my ball were heartfelt? Wouldn't Daddy be proud of me? No? Well I am struggling to see the difference.

I don't understand why we can't use the baby carrier! Do you not love me anymore?!

Lunch? Lunch is for losers; as is sleep. Do you even know how old I am? Two. Two whole years. Basically, I have seen all of this before and I have more than enough energy to last the day. Just give me the milk and be done with it lady. Ah milk. The sweet nectar of the gods.

I think I have a milk problem
Our afternoon was fun! Painting! You are quite literally the bravest person I know, and I know at least 12 people. I hope you liked the many variations of brown that I managed to concoct. I really am quite proud of myself. When life gives you a rainbow pallet make brown, that is what I say. I could tell you were a little nervous when I started using my fingers, then my palms before moving on to my feet and my nose but you handled yourself well. I could barely tell. The dog from next door says hello by the way, he tells me that when you make that particular noise it reminds him of his mother when she was trapped in the well.

Do you see the way I have captured the depth of "stick brown"?

Bath time followed swiftly especially after I doused myself in the soup which you presented at dinner. It was perhaps a little harsh to hold me at arm's length while you whisked me into the bathroom and slightly confusing when you shouted at me for trying to wash my hands in that big sink that you all sit on. I can't seem to do right for doing wrong sometimes. I did enjoy the bubbles though and helping my sister wash her hair, even if she wasn't initially inclined. Her chanting my name really boosted my confidence so I ignored her wriggles, pouts and intermittent "stop it"s. Go with your gut I say.

Daddy's arrival home soon followed so I managed to get my horse riding practice in. He really needs to work on his lateral movements though or we are never going to place in the dressage finals this year. He tries his best though so I gave him his treat and let him read the book about the Ladybird to me again. He bloody loves that book and seems to get a kick out of me saying all the animal noises. Bless him. I have noticed that sometimes he pretends to show interest in other titles and will on occasion pretend to be unable to find that yellow book but I soon find an image of it on one of Julia's other volumes and he feigns annoyance but I know he loves it really.

This is me, just practising a timely "Moo"

Bedtime once again, who knew? Certainly not me, I mean there was dinner then water play then our beloved book, teeth, nappy change, sleep sack but to be honest this declaration that it is time for some shut eye is coming a little left field. I have a few thoughts on the matter that I would be more than happy to voice to you through my closed door. I know you appreciate the feedback. I'll sleep on the rest and get back to you in the morning. 5am work? Brilliant. See you then Mummy. 

Love you.

Letters to my Daughter
Mum Muddling Through

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Nursery Run: Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

I am incredibly lucky. Let us just get that out of the way right now. I realise this, I am blessed. I have a husband who earns enough to allow me to work part time and a mother who is willing to sacrifice both her fine wardrobe and a day each week to reduce our childcare costs, meaning I am only required to do the nursery run on two days of the week.

I age on those days.

I mean, obviously, I age on all days but on those particular days I feel that you can visibly see the permanent shadows cast over my face and the creases deepen around my weary eyes. My children break me on those days.


On those days, having routinely been up to greet the (by comparison) rather lazy lark, I shall have to coax the offspring from their slumber. Now this is a rather precarious process as I have a limited time frame in which to act but if I rouse them too abruptly then they shall be unsettled; needing both loving, physical reassurance throughout the getting- ready process and a protracted drop off in the nursery room. Frankly, no one has time for that. 

So ease them from their repose I do, with gentle beckons and a loving caress. Their lips curl into a smile, their eyelids begin to flutter and gentle murmurs are uttered. I painfully angle my body across the respective cot/bed railings, contorting my neck and manipulating my body in a way that would make a yoga master proud whilst desperately trying to hear their first words of the morning. Speak to me angel, Mummy is here; Mummy is listening: 


Without fail. Every morning.

Damn you Child Whisperer

You would think that at this point, in my jealous rage, I would tear those covers back and expose their little warm bodies to the arctic conditions that is an old house in Edinburgh; like a wife who has come home to discover that her adulterous husband has struck again. Alas, no. On those mornings I must play the long game. I swallow my envy down, dress my face in the warmest of smiles and continue to ease them into the day.

If the gods are smiling on me, the mini dictators  may take me up on the offer of CBeebies, permitting me to throw clothes onto merely mildly uncooperative mannequins but more often than not they shun the mesmerising gogglebox and choose to investigate the box of toys. This is despite the fact that the plethora of playthings have previously gone, at best entirely unnoticed and, at worst, cast a casual disdainful glance. On those days though, the wicker basket is a positive bounty of treasure with riches to please even the most jaded of toddlers.
Having wasted a solid twenty minutes feigning interest in assembling an intricate train route, I try to wrestle the necessary low grade clothing on to the small one while he wriggles with the fury of a ferret trapped in a rabbit hole. Eventually I emerge victorious but battle weary, bruised and with make up half way down my face but still ready to mount the next challenge. This particular opponent requires a different set of skills; a completely new approach. This opponent will not respond to brute strength; this opponent must be fought with reasoning (and failing that, bargaining.)

"Bear, sooner we get there, the sooner we get back!"

"Bear, you don't want to be late for your teacher do you?"

"Bear, mummy will be late for work!"

"Bear, if you get ready now there will be a treat when you get home... No one! ... Oh ok two? ... Fine, three [insert chocolate based treat here]."

So, both dressed, work and nursery bags packed and hanging from my person, we head for the door; this is it, sure we are twenty minutes late (stupid train track) but we are out. Jackets on, shoes buckled, teeth brushed (usually). "Sayonara house, catch you later!" Wait, what's that smell. It's bad. It smells warm and pungent. Can it wait? Yeah, definitely. No, wait; he'll probably want on my shoulders and I have a dry clean only coat on (otherwise I may not be so picky.) Damn it. Right, jacket off, nappy and wipes located, small child rugby tackled to the floor and cleaned up to a chorus of "Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, are we going yet? MUMMY, I DONT WANT TO BE LATE!" Should have thought about that during your 3rd bowl of Cheerios Sugar Lump.
Stupid train track
Finally, we make it beyond the threshold and venture into the daylight only to be greeted by the dull, dreich downpour of a spring Scottish morning. We stand side by side in the doorway glowering at the deluge; brothers in arms against the inclement weather. I grab an oversized brolly and foist it upon the eldest who walks along unseeing and struggling under its weight whilst I forsake my own blow dried, work ready hair in favour of mobilising the masses. I force the small one up onto my shoulders (despite the fact that I am laden down with a bag holding my world of work and two nursery bags overflowing with nursery essentials) and venture out into the squall; we are doing this. 

Not so Singin' in the Rain

3 Little Buttons

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Toy Story: The Adult Years

Generally I write about something that I know will sound familiar to many; words that will resonate across thousands of barriers be they gender, race or class. I try to pick topics that most of you can relate to or see as a possibility of your future or a well dodged bullet of your past. I am both thoughtful and insightful like that. You are welcome. Well today is different, today I must talk to you about what is bothering me and that is Toy Story.

You heard me.

Toy Story.

I am talking about Woody and I am talking about Buzz. I am talking about the terrifying predicament that they found themselves in and the fact that Rex, Mr. Potato Head and (above all) Slinky could not help them. I am talking about the classic film of my childhood where two, beloved toys were accidentally thrown to the wolf that was the terrifying, malevolent thug of a next door neighbour; Sid and had to journey back through a number of harrowing ordeals to be reunited with their little boy. An utter gem in the Pixar crown.

Toy Story: the horror film for toys

But here's the thing; I have not watched this film since it's original release in 1995. Back then, I was ensconced in an Odeon arm chair, fuelled with fruit gums (they lasted longer), sharing my pew with my favourite inanimate dog/rabbit/bear of the moment (don't judge, so I wasn't that picky) and shielding their eyes from the scenes of toy dismemberment. Today, I watched it with the eyes of a mother and I was left a little bereft. I mean tearing plastic toys limb from limb is one thing but it wasn't what troubled me most today. These observations had gone undetected in the ignorance of childhood:

1. Where is Andy's Dad?

This is not a big thing and if they are, in fact, a single parent household then more power to them; because, frankly, Andy's mum is nailing it. She has packed up the house while looking after an infant and an 8 year old, thrown an elaborate birthday party for the afore mentioned 8 year old and chosen the ultimate gift. She is more than enough parent for one family and I think everyone could learn something from Andy's mum, apart from fashion; I mean the floral smock top is quite something to behold and not in a good way.

Is the fact that she is the only parent present, the reason that they are moving though? Is Andy the child of a bitter divorce, or worse; has she been widowed? Is his attachment to particular inanimate objects at the age of eight actually a reflection of his feeling unsettled and uprooted? Or, in fact, is it entirely normal to be so attached to particular inanimate objects at the age of eight? When are children meant to discard their nocturnal comforters be they cuddly, soft, food encrusted or otherwise? Should I be advocating or deterring my children from their comforters? Do I even know anything about children? What am I even doing being a mother?

Should I be planning early retirement for Dog- Dog?

2. Where are Sid's Parents?

The absence of Sid's parents doesn't really strike you as surprising; after all he clearly has free reign to persecute his little sister, wears the same outfit day in and day out, his bed is entirely undressed with no sheet or duvet cover, he sleeps fully clothed with his shoes still adorning his, likely, malodorous feet and his teeth are mottled in appearance like a bar code for an item in the "must go" section of the supermarket. Furthermore, he seems to have unhampered access to a plentiful supply of matches. The only kink in the story is that he uses the matches to light expensive fireworks ordered from the internet, attached to toys which he has won during multiple attempts at an arcade game, based in a local fashionable eating establishment a car ride away. Who is funding these pastimes?

The plot thickens.

3. The Claw Crane

I love this film. I loved it back in 1995 and I love it just as much today, even through the jaded eyes of adulthood. However, I am utterly incandescent with rage over the ludicrous portrayal of this peddler of broken dreams. The number of children who have cleaned out their parents pockets initially trying with their own sticky, dimpled hands to manipulate the device and grasp the coveted prize before turning to their older sibling or caregiver with pleading eyes to take on the challenge. Daylight robbery. Nobody wins; everybody loses. Not in Toy Story though. No, in Toy Story, the dastardly Sid manages to win, not once but twice and on the second attempt bags two prizes for the price of one. Quite remarkable for a device which has previously struggled to lift an sparkly bouncy ball the size of a hedgehog's left testicle!

I apologise. I am calm. I have dealt with the scars of my childhood. I am not defined by material items.

Bouncy balls and My Little Pony were my life (and hats apparently)

Anyway, as I said; a complete fallacy. Do Disney have shares in those companies? Are they aware that they are infecting another generation with misplaced hope?

4. How Awesome is Planet Pizza?

Whilst the thought of Sid and his tortured existence is, indeed, heart wrenching we cannot leave Toy Story without first discussing how utterly amazing Planet Pizza looks. Why has this restaurant not become the world's most successful fast food franchise to date? Disney are not usually ones to shy away from exploiting a potential goldmine, so how on earth was this nugget overlooked? The automatic doors pretending to admit you into an international space station? The slime drinks dispensers? That embarrassing big footed clown with the stupidly coloured perm who goes on about his "double rainbow" pales in comparison to this wonderland.

You had me at "slime", make mine a Galactic Giardiniera.

Pizza + Planets would complete me

When we initially started watching films with the toddler folk we would meticulously run through the storylines in our heads searching for any menacing acts or villains which they may find a little too unsettling. To date we have overlooked:
  • the "poor unfortunate souls" who have been turned into seaweed with anguished expressions and grab at Ariel as she enters Ursula's domain to ultimately sell her soul in The Little Mermaid. Just terrifying.
  • The first beggar who is forced to enter the mouth of the cave by Jafar in Aladdin and meets an abrupt end. "Where has he gone Mummy?"
  • The use of a pig's heart excised by the Hunter and placed in a jewellery box as a decoy in an attempt to try and outwit Snow White's nemesis. "What about the Piggy Mummy?"
  • The riotous crowd brandishing pitch forks and flames as they descend upon the enchanted castle with murderous intent and cries of "Let's Kill the Beast!" "Mummy mummy mummy mummy MUMMY!"

As I watch these classic Disney films which I enjoyed in my youth, I do so with fresh eyes. I try to see them as my toddlers would, albeit from the comfort of the couch and not from behind an oversized cushion. Fairytales are dark and those brothers were indeed Grimm but everything works out in the end. Optimism is what is required to deal with the dark times; obstacles shall be overcome, people will be reunited and love shall conquer all.

Perfect viewing position
Well, except Pocahontas. My daughter is still waiting for John Smith to come back.
3 Little Buttons

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Mummy Friends: I Ain't Missing You At All

Having spent not an inconsiderable number of weekends at children's birthday parties of late, I have started to notice some chasmic differences between the social skills of toddlers and their parents. I think it is fair to say that they are far better equipped than we are.

"Come on Mummy! It's not that bad!"

At the age of 4, children are invited to a range of parties of various formats by anyone from close family through best friends to mere casual acquaintances and they burst into each new environment with the same relentless enthusiasm. They may cling to your leg for the first five minutes but once they spot an opening, a potential void that they can fill in the social scene, you won't see them for dust. This role can be anything from befriending someone who is playing on their own, making a silly face to the group at the right time or playing it cool and waiting for the others to show interest.

Play it cool Kid, play it cool

Meanwhile, the adults (for the first time that day) are actually loathed to part with their offspring. We hide behind them, using them as a prop in our conversations with the other adults who we are only used to seeing briefly at the nursery door; acknowledging them with a throw away remark or false promises of play dates as we usher our children towards the door.

Mimicking his mother's social skills

Personally, I appear to have reached my fourth year of parenting without having forged any "mum friend" relationships. I, obviously, have friends who are also mums but these alliances are based on shared historical experiences and interactions; they are rooted in a time when sleep was only forsaken for a good time to be had, dry clean only garments were still being regularly worn and my pelvic floor was firmly rooted in my pelvis. Magical times. Our shared experiences of having procreated (not together) and attempts at trying to raise law-abiding citizens merely act to unify us further.

Some people know too much

The truth is, I find it hard to forge new friendships; it really is quite exhausting. I fear that prior to be engaged in conversation, I have a resting facial expression which imparts a stand- offish, cool demeanor (cool being cold and by no means fashionable or trendy; my active wear and terrible taste in music quickly sees to dispelling any misplaced belief that that may be the case) and if someone actually tries to interact with me my nervous attempts at humour can come across as snarky which I will then try to diffuse with a quick reassuring arm touch. As an interesting side point, my husband actually believed me to be in love with him for years prior to my actually loving him as I used to touch his arm after insulting him. Perhaps I should be rethinking this tactic?

Anyway, with my daughter's alternative start to life, I never actually joined any Mummy-Baby groups and I couldn't face NCT for the fear of constant comparisons about weight, milestones, weaning, pooping and likelihood of running the country knowing that mine would likely fall behind in all (being more likely to mount a revolution). My first maternity leave really was quite miserable.

Despite being "showered" with affection
When my son came along, all robust and such, I had a two year old to contend with so all the baby sensory/massage/tai chi groups were no longer an option. When I did manage to go to exercise groups or library rhyme time I would issue smiles and conspiratorial glances at mothers who appeared just on the right side of disorganised for my liking but I never quite managed to make that transition from passing acquaintance to coffee, cake and care free venting about our children.

He does let me vent
From a loneliness perspective, I am by no means lonely as thankfully my friends of old are unshakeable (much like herpes) and ever present but my concern lies in August; for in August the school gates beckon me. 

School Gates: Terrifying parents since the formal education system began

I had better get practising my welcoming smile.

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