New Year’s Eve

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The last night of the old year, a time when people traditionally look back on the path their lives had taken and weep piteously into festive drinks. It’s a time of new resolutions, of rash promises to be healthier, cleaner, leaner, better and most of all someone else.

Each year I approach this turning over of a new leaf with glee, I decide to give up drinking, lose many, many pounds, learn a new skill, save money, be a better parent and every year I fail.

Fail?

I have never managed a year, all too soon the lustre of being a noble, self-sacrificing, parsinimous person fades and I get bored. Bored of denial, bored of maintaining the enthusiasm needed to make these changes.

Now this year is different. I have evolved. Well, evolving, I think I’ve found the key to success but only time will tell.

I will commit to a 30 day challenge. No, more than that. I am commiting to 12, 30 day challenges.

I want to give my all to my resolution and by the time my interest is fading? That’s fine, it’ll be 30 days and I can drop it and move onto the next challenge. I don’t want to watch the scales everyday, I don’t want to see a pound gained as confirmation of failure. I don’t want to deny myself drinks at a barbeque or Easter Eggs or lazy Sundays where I stay indoors and read a book all day. I want to do all these things and still lose weight and get fit and healthy.

So, this isn’t a revolution. You cannot overthrow the choices you make yourself. No one forces me to eat chocolate, drink wine, hide under the duvet and pretend the mounting pile of chores doesn’t exist. I do that.

No, this is an evolution. I am developing. I intend to throw my heart and soul into the challenge and see what sticks and discard what I don’t need anymore.

This is a 30 Day Evolution.

Why it’s Time to Ditch the Kindle

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They’re amazing right? I mean you no longer need an old lady shopping trolley to carry your latest essential reads about. You can read them in sunlight, read them in the dark, Hell you can read them in the bath so long as you have a firm grip and a dry hand.

Death to the paperback and long live the Paperwhite!

In the first flush of love of the Paperwhite I donated, lent and sold all my books (I say all, I kept the vital 50 or so), I no longer needed them. Think of all the space I could save! Think of all the dusting I didn’t have to do!

But I miss pages. I miss the beautiful covers and the thrill of holding a new book. I miss the yellowed edges of a second-hand, well loved paperback. I noticed that I wasn’t re-reading books on the Kindle, I’d forget them, scroll past the title and not think of the story. I was no longer connected to books.

So I am making a stand. Power to the paperback. I am no longer using ebooks, I’m all about the physical and it really is making a difference. here’s why:

Books look Good

Not only is it homely to see a bookshelf crammed with novels of different sizes and colours but Instagram has taken books to an art form and I can’t get enough of some of the creative ways people are styling their bookshelves.

@jenniferwindram

Bookstagram is a big community and it’s a really friendly one too, not surprising really when you think about it. I mean with parenting there’s always someone that can do it better, more organically. But who can read a book better? It’s not like you can get competitive about identifying with the characters more or reading it quicker or staying up to finish it later. If you find someone that loves a book as much as you do then it’s a great moment, no competition needed.

Books look Good

What, I just said that? Well I mean it. It’s important that children see people reading, books look good. If I’m reading on my Kindle app, the children see that I’m on my phone, they don’t know what I’m doing and if they don’t see it, it never happened. Children can spot a weakness in an arguement with their eyes closed and looking to all intents and purposes that they haven’t even noticed you in the room. So you really have to practice what you preach when it comes to this.

I love that No.4 will sit on my lap and ask me to read to him, to read what I’m reading. I mean it bores him quickly, there’s no pictures and I’m not putting on a funny voice (although maybe I should, I wonder what I’d make Moriarty sound like?) but he wants to share what I’m doing.

Raising readers rarely happens by accident.

They are More Expensive

Again, What? They are more expensive. You can’t wander into a bookshop and pick from 3000 books at 99p or even free and this is a very good thing. Books that have made it through the physical publishing process have been chosen. Publishers have assessed the work as being worthy of the costs of a print run. They have not only curated content, but edited it and checked it for spelling and grammar too.

If I look for a Kindle book I can spend hours wading through self-published stories that quite frankly I could have done a better job with and that is saying something. My school girl attempts favoured the words “and then” which was often coupled with the amazing plot twist, “and then I got bored of writing this woke up”.

They Have a History

I have a book that I love, it’s not a worthy story but it’s my comfort read and I’ve read it many times. The spine is cracked from when I slipped it into my bag, open, when I was riding on the bus. It’s pages are rippled from where I left it next to the bath in a puddle of condensation. When I pick the book up I remember not only the story in the pages but the story of the pages too. I have no particular recollections of my Kindle and any I do, I can’t remember the story I was reading at the time.

I Can Pass Them On.

There are books in my family that have changed hands 4 or 5 times between us, I gave my first midwife a novel she’d been interested in. I’d never give someone hand lotion I’d used but giving someone a used book is a recommendation, a promise of enjoyment.

I’m not saying never again but I am going to re-embrace the paper and enjoy a book the way it was always supposed to be read. I just need to invest in one of those little head-torches for nighttime reading!

How to Become Orthorexic

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www.huffingtonpost.com

I love school. I mean they take my children for six hours every week day, for free and teach them stuff too! What’s not to love?

But just recently they’ve been making my life harder. There’s a new headmaster and he wants to make some changes. Hurrah! Better school, better education, better all round.

But he’s parenting not teaching.

I’ve happily left teaching to the school staff and I’d kind of expected for them to extend the same courtesy to me, but they’ve decided to have a say in what my children eat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that we are in the middle of an obesity crisis and it’s unacceptable that 20% of children are leaving primary school obese. Not puppy fat, curvy, big boned or any other euphemism you can think of, obese. Something needs to be done, but is school really the place to do it?

I’m all in favour of the school’s new recommendation for the children eating fruit at snack time rather than the usual pack of Monster Munch. Anything to get them to expand their horizons beyond completely blemish free apples and bananas would be a winner too

<looks sadly at growing pile of browning bananas>.

However the nutritional interference advice doesn’t stop there. In a genius move by the school they have allowed the children to play a game, Cookin Castle that has food recommendations by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The aim is to safely prepare food for a family that’s nutritionally balanced, the better you do the higher the score you get. Apparently this isn’t a diet plan, it’s a broad strokes approach to teaching children about food groups.

They’ve been happily beeping away on various devices claiming “But it’s homework Muuum.”

Fair enough but I’ve played this now and this isn’t to do with healthy eating, it’s all about weight loss. Suddenly my children are asking for skimmed milk and worry that butter is bad for them. They’re asking about the fat content of meals and eating apples like they’re going out of fashion.

Children need fat, up to 35% of their calorie intake should come from fat. It helps to absorb non water-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E. During periods of growth and development (err, what childhood’s all about) they are essential for the formation of nerve tissue in the brain. Even the big no, no saturated fat is essential  for the body’s production of steroid hormones, including sex hormones like oestrogen and testosterone.

Yet when playing the game, there are prompts advising to cut fat from foods when the chosen meals contain less than half their essential daily fat requirements. And don’t even get me started on the messages praising them for making calorie reducing choices, it seems like they are positively encouraging an eating disorder.

I realise that the plan is to try and catch the children that would otherwise never be taught about portion control and balancing their diets but to disguise this as healthy eating is wrong. They have stripped taste, enjoyment, sociability and fun out of food and that’s not healthy at all.

The result of this is I have a couple of choices:

a.) Become that mother and refuse to let my children sit these lessons.

b.) Demand the headteacher stops teaching about something they’re unqualified to advise on (that’d go down well)

c.) Take on the FSA and challenge their concepts of healthy eating (yeah right!)

d.) Teach them about healthy eating at home.

<Sigh>

It looks like I’m going to have to start improving my children’s (and my) diet because I can hardly tell them that the school are getting it wrong while simultaneously letting them have chocolate everyday.

Panic! At the School Gates

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I appreciate that by having a massive rant on my last post and then disappearing is the blogging equivalent of those Facebook posts. You know the ones, the dramatic “Checked in at local hospital” posts with the ambiguous “I’ll PM you hun” when anyone asks what the fuck is going on.

It wasn’t that, I didn’t drink. I really wanted to. But then I’d be pissed off and hungover and that didn’t seem the most attractive option. So I dealt, weathered the storm and something surprising happened, I started doing real life stuff. Really boring real life stuff, cleaning and sorting and visiting family.

My husband’s away so this morning I was parenting solo, to four children who seem to make it their life missions to drive me insane. I timed No.3 getting dressed, after 15 minutes I discovered he was  still in is pyjamas contemplating which clothes to wear (your UNIFORM, you put your uniform on, their is no choice!). After 25 minutes he had removed his pyjama bottoms and after a full 50 minutes he was dressed bar his socks, these were not to be applied until 30 seconds before leaving, reasons unknown.

Why didn’t I supervise him? Well, No.1 decided to encourage No. 4 to be Superman. This involved removing every cushion in the sitting room area to make a landing spot before leaping off the sofas. Inspired by the superhero theme, No 4. spontaneously decided to accessorise his outfit with a rather snug toilet seat over his head. However he somehow managed to get this wedged so was screaming at full volume while I wrestled it off (I actually thought I was going to have to take him to A&E to get it removed, at least I’d have got a Facebook post out of it).

superhero

Why wasn’t I supervising them? I was in the kitchen preparing 3 packed lunches while bellowing out spellings, “calves!”, “unnecessarily!” at No.2 who currently has ear problems resulting in him being as deaf as a post.

In the past this would have started me down a well worn track. I would justify to myself that the morning had been hectic enough that I should reward myself some way. Eat shit, zone out on the internet, do nothing. Then when it came time to collect the children I’d already be stressed because I wouldn’t have accomplished any essential tasks that day. So then I’d try and fit them in while parenting and it wouldn’t work and I’d get more stressed until the only thing keeping me going would be the thought of collapsing on the sofa, drink in hand and forgetting the day had happened.

But today is different, I did eat some junk, I am on the internet right now but I’ve also done some of those essential tasks and what’s most important, I will not have a drink.

Childhood, the most draining years of a parent’s life

The Watcher – Ross Armstrong

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The Blurb

Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can’t help spying on her neighbours.

Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat.

Before

Now I have to admit, I nearly didn’t bother with this book. I saw it in my local supermarket with the usual ‘If you loved The Girl on the Train, you’re gonna love this’ type sticker and I just thought it was another pulp fiction, disposable story where you read it quickly and forget it instantly.

Why do they put those stickers on anyway? If I hated The Girl on the Train, I wouldn’t touch this book and if I loved it…well, I would still assume I was going to hate it because books like another book are never as good as the book they claim to be emulating, are they?

Lily and I share a love of peeping on the neighbours though, I love a good curtain twitch if I can hear something happening in the street outside my house, so it’s lucky I don’t have binoculars. I think there may be a quiet chat from the police looming on the horizon if I decide to add a pair to my Amazon Wishlist. See? This book has already taught me something.

During

The narrative can be a little hard to follow at times because it seems to come out as a stream of consciousness, this is not a time to put the book down for an hour or two and then resume. You need your full focus on this one Goddammit!

I found myself identifying with Lily at the outset, sometimes it can be a worry when a male author uses first person narrative for a female character. Are they going to step down the hackneyed stereotypes of womanhood? Is the character going to be overly fixated on man pleasing or her heaving breasts?

“You write good women”

“I think I just write people. Hopefully.”

Ross though doesn’t fall for this trap and instead makes Lily a person. A spiky, introverted, funny, compassionate person. But one that (at this point at least) is starting to make increasingly irrational choices.

She seems oddly disconnected from her life and it feels like she’s just going through the motions rather than actively living.

After

I’ll describe my reading journey whilst making awkward references to physics, that’s going to make the whole experience far more relatable, right?

Initially reading this book I was easily distracted and when I had a moment I was reaching for my phone rather than the book. However, as time passed it started to get its grips into me and more and more I began to neglect the children and the cleaning in favour of finding out what Lily was doing (they’re half-feral, it’s fine).

Back to my appalling analogy, we’re going to use this wonderful equation:

p=mv

So, for the purposes of this review, momentum (p) is my neglect of other duties, mass (m) is the story arc and velocity (v) is the level of suspense shown by my inability to put the bloody thing down and go to bed last night.

It’s interesting to follow the journey with Lily, she observes humanity acutely yet as an outsider, she misses so much. A fertile imagination plugs the gaps but it means the reader is left questioning how much is real and how much has been distorted in Lily’s head. The disconnect with her life and those around her was well written and there is a dream-like feel that carries you through the story until, at the very end Lily finally wakes up and takes control.

There were twists aplenty that, whilst foreseeable, were exciting nonetheless. This was written by a British stage and screen actor and this comes through in the book, it almost feels as though it was written for the screen with the climax in particular stretching toward the implausible.

Overall though it has to be said that this was an enjoyable suspense novel and I will watch out for Armstrong’s next book. I’ll just make sure to pencil in some childcare before starting it.

Oh, and I was shit at physics in school, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

 

 

How to Win at Mornings

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The morning started with such promise, as all days where everything turns to shit are wont to do. I had spent the previous evening making lists and checking them twice a la Santa with the use of brightly coloured pens and stickers. Yes I had discovered Bullet Journals.

To the uninitiated, Bullet Journalling is a system created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from New York, that allows you to quickly organise and prioritise your life. It’s amazingly simple, yet as soon as you look at the huge community that’s built up around it, you can see examples of just how intricate and elaborate the journals can be.

I appreciate that this is not a new phenomenon, as usual I’ve arrived late to the party and not in the good way. Not:

Hostess: Oh look! It’s Sarah! Turn the music up and get the cling film off the dips, the party’s started!

Me (walking in nonchalantly & swiping a blini, supremely confident and styled to perfection): S’up?

More like…arriving to see a few streamers blowing across the dance floor, empty plastic cups rolling along the trestle table and a couple in the corner oblivious to the party’se nd, slowly exploring how much flesh they can expose while remaining on this side of the law…late to the party.

Back to this morning, the children were trying to find clothes suitable for the school’s themed dress up day that we’d been given less than 24 hours notice about. Cue accusations of theft, sabotage and malice aforethought amongst the three oldest. No. 4 immediately understood that I would need to divert my attention from his every demand and do some actual parenting of his siblings so of course he ramped up his volume to eye watering.

This is how I managed to find myself with 3 children clutching ill-fitting T-shirts with a 4th hanging from my legs screaming “Grandpa!” at 7:45 am with not one of my daily tasks complete.

Why Grandpa?

Has he seen him in the last 2 months? No.

Had we spoken abut him in any way? Nope.

I think it may have something to do with the ladder to the bunk-bed but your guess is as good as mine beyond this point. Maybe he’d seen Grandpa climbing a ladder or maybe he thought he was hiding in the top-most bunk, waiting for the right moment to leap out shouting “Surprise!”. Whatever, it pays not to linger on the logic of a 2 year old for too long.

The root cause of distress in the other three seemed to be a missing top that meant No. 1 had co-opted No.2’s top and this had filtered down to No.3 trying and failing to fit in a top that would be more at home on No.4.

I hate themed dress up days.

With a calm efficiency, I emptied every drawer of clothes onto the floor into a heap rivalling the EU butter mountains of yore, yet still the elusive item of clothing remained hidden.

There was no other option but an emergency dash to the supermarket. I wrestled No.4 into his car seat and jumped in the front and waited for the others to catch up. And I waited. After 3 minutes the wail of “It’s alright now” carried out the front door and a moment later my husbands head popped out.

It’s at this point that I realised what love truly is. Most people would have thought “What the fuck?” but no, he thought “Could this situation be improved with caffeine?”. Moments later he returns with a cup of coffee for me and I sit, in the car, with a 2 year old playing happily and I drink a cup of coffee.

And the good news? I’d put organising the children’s clothes on my monthly log so now I’m able to tick off that job.

Gold star.

An Angel With A Dirty Face

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It’s like Groundhog Day and like Bill Murray’s character I’m a slow learner, haters gonna hate, judgers gonna judge.

We all have a parenting ideal and pre-children we think it’s going to be so easy to set boundaries, be consistent, show them who’s boss and be the perfect parent. Then real life intervenes and you suddenly realise that you would do anything for the ability to finish a sentence. Going to the loo alone seems an impossibility and you question how it’s possible for a creature who purportedly needs 15 hours sleep seems able to get by on 3. We’ve all been there but apparently it’s easy to forget.

Take this afternoon for example, my child had a meltdown and I rewarded him by buying him a toy car.

<BUZZ> We have a winner! Unfit Mother of the Year 2017

You see we’d decided to buy a little RC car but when getting to the checkout, we discovered that the reason it was reduced was the remote control was missing. So what we were about to purchase was effectively a flimsy, over-priced, slightly bigger than a Matchbox car. I said no and we walked away (but not far). No.4 wasn’t amused by the lack of car and he made his feelings felt by screaming (and he has an amazing set of lungs, he has to to be heard over his brothers). Red faced, arched backed, limb flinging, A-star, premium tantrum.

So I did the usual public parenting.

Me: It’s okay darling, the cars broken. We don’t want a broken car do we? Ooh look at those pretty…<scrambles wildly for object of distraction>…bras over there.

No. 4 (Not even pausing for breath): “CAARRRRRR!”

Me: No, no…its okay, look take my hand and we’ll go (as quickly as possible).

No. 4 (Free fall of snot and spit soaking front of his top): Waaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Me (knowing a hopeless situation when I see one): Okay, look we’ll just go and queue up again and see if we can ask the nice lady for the car, shhhhhh.

No. 4 (Couldn’t give a shit what I’m saying): Caarrr!

So I carry him back to the tills and wait (an eternity) for the two frowning women in front of me to be served. The entire time No. 4 screams, sobs and arches in my arms until it’s finally our turn to be served.

Me: Turns out the remote control aspect isn’t the deciding factor in our purchase.

Assistant (adjusts bitch face from mild to monumental): Hmm

Me: So £5 was it?

Assistant (Looking down nose at dirty, sweaty, red faced child still tantrumming in my arms):…Yes

And that was the sum total of our conversation. I’ve been here before, I know when I’m being indulged, I know when I’m being admired and I certainly know when I’m being judged. This was the latter.

What they didn’t know was this car was an almost exact replica of the car my husband drives. They didn’t know that all his cars are chipped and have wheels missing from 3 previous uncareful owners. They didn’t know that he’d been to this shop twice before and wanted the car but it was too expensive. They didn’t know that he’d been in the garden all morning and then walked around 3 different shops without complaint.They didn’t know I’d unexpectedly found the £5 note in my wallet and wanted to reward his good behaviour.  They didn’t know him and they didn’t know me.

Yet they knew enough to know I was doing a bad job and felt compelled to let me know through passive aggressive glances and silences.

Nothing to See Here

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I started this for me. I wanted somewhere that was mine, I could decorate how I liked, say what I liked and just be me with no pretence. With that in mind I want to, and really need to vent. I don’t want to send this all one person’s way, to make them responsible for how I feel. So I’ll put it here to no one, to everyone.

To me.

I didn’t realise what drinking was doing to me, that I drank to escape. I didn’t realise there was something to escape from. How can you have perspective or insight when you’re hungover and all your energy is diverted into just getting through the day?

I’m unhappy, I’m so fucking unhappy right now. How didn’t I know?

If you’ve read this far, give up now, what follows is a self-piteous rant, I’m only writing it so that I don’t forget these feelings. That I don’t minimise and dismiss them as maudlin.

I hate my house. I hate the fact that while everyone I know has climbed the housing ladder, every step we’ve made has been a mistake that has cost us until I’ve somehow managed to make my forever home a shit-hole in a street populated by people more at home on Jeremy Kyle, facing a car park filled with broken down caravans and boy racer cars. The road is pot-holed to the point of collapse and it’s made me give up. Give up on having a home that I want to invite anyone to, give up on clean walls or unstained furniture.

When I moved here 10 years ago, fresh faced and newly pregnant, I saw a family home in the country, sure the road was a bit bumpy but it was scheduled to be resurfaced and the land opposite was to be built on.

I saw potential.

But the land remained empty, taken by neighbours to park on, the resurfacing never surfaced and there was no time to dream with 3 little children under the age of 4 and a husband forced to work over 250 miles away.

I’m isolated and I’ve isolated myself. I’ve been so busy, my house is always filled with children, my own (another one in addition to the first three, what was I thinking?) and others. I am surrounded by people and yet I’m alone. I’m alone and fucking lonely.

I remember being on my knees sobbing four years after we moved here, husband away, family abroad, friends in a distant city. There was no one to talk to, no one to give me a slap and tell me to pull my socks up and get on with it.

But that changed. I always used to look forward to weekends, my husband returning and a few drinks to relax and forget the stresses of a busy week. Then he had a job closer to home and we could have a few drinks any night, we could have them every night. It didn’t even have to be just a few.

I am so pleased that I’m doing this challenge, pleased that I’m pressing the reset button and pleased that I’m taking back control.

I’m really fucking annoyed that I’ve left it this long though.

 

Pah!

Feelings

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I’ve had depression in the past where I was at the point of tears for nothing and everything all at once, but what I’m feeling right now isn’t that. I spent the day yesterday juxtaposed between laughter and tears. I could have gone either way at any given moment for no reason at all. I think what I’m feeling are…feelings.

I never really stopped to consider how numbing alcohol is to my perceptions and emotions, I’ve damped them down for 20 years and now I’m starting to feel their return.

I exhaust myself.

But that’s not the only reason I’m tired. I may not be waking sweaty and panicked at 4am any more but I’m dreaming.

Collective voice of the entire internet: Shes not going to tell us her dreams now is she? No, no, no, she wouldn’t do that, she knows that everyone hates listening to someone drone on about their subconscious mind’s thought-junk.

I had a particularly vivid one last night.

Collective voice of the entire internet: Ah Jesus, she’s going to do it. Quick someone distract her…ooh look kitten memes!

I can’t remember the first part now but…

Collective face of the entire internet: [adjusts polite glazed expression]

…the end had a friend who is a bigger drinker than I sitting in his pants laughing like a drain while I tried to pick up all my teeth that had fallen on the floor and, since I couldn’t put them back in my mouth in the correct sequence, I was saving them in a glass with ice to take to the dentist.

Now I’m not certain if my subconscious has lapsed on its First Aid certification (fingers and frozen peas come to mind) or if it does a really great line in bad punning (Long Island Iced Tea-th?) but that wasn’t the worst part…

Collective voice of the entire internet: [distinctly disinterested] Oh?

…I woke up with a peculiar feeling in the back of my throat, I swallowed and had that sensation you get when you dry-swallow a small tablet. A small tablet with a slight trail.

I think I swallowed a fucking spider!

Collective body of the entire internet: [thunk]

It must be my imagination mustn’t it? I mean the fact that I’d just been dreaming about putting things in my mouth?

I didn’t sleep much after that.

Sweet Dreams (are Made of This)

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I have a general rule in life to try and avoid anthropomorphisising my organs. I find it doesn’t go down well at medical appointments:

“Midwife: So, how’s baby doing today? Lots of movements?

Me: Oh, yes. But I’m worried about my uterus, it feels worried about getting back into shape after the birth and I think my vagina’s experiencing Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder”

It just doesn’t work.

But if I were to set this rule to one side, I wonder what my poor pancreas must be thinking. Last week it was nestled there in my body, smugly glancing over at my beleaguered liver as it slowly puffed and panted its way through the day. Now this week it’s been smacked sideways with the bucket loads of sugar I’m dumping into my body. It must be like Black Friday in the Amazon warehouse, my islets of Langerhans pumping out insulin with the focus of a zero-hours contract worker on his final warning.

I have been so tired and low on…well, everything since losing the ready energy that alcohol gave, I’ve had to supplement my diet with a veritable confectionery cornucopia. I’m not going to freak out about this (yet) but after the weekend I may try providing a selection of more savoury snacks, a piece of fruit or maybe a rice cake. [adjusts halo]

Ha! Like that’s going to happen, I’ll deal with my newly emerging cross addiction later.

Art: Andy Hillman

We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Don’t worry, I’m not about to sensationally reveal that one of my boys is shaping up to be a mass murderer. This is only the third post, I don’t think we’re in that zone yet (I was always a fourth date kinda gal anyway).

This is way worse, this is about names.

Like any parents, we read the baby name books cover to cover and worried if the chosen names could possibly combine into embarrassing acronyms.

B.E – BIG EARS? BELL-END? BAstard…err?

So I like to think that the names we eventually chose were good names, names that will see them through childhood and into the boardroom/theatre/medical ward/courts, I’m not fussy.

It’s a little disappointing therefore to discover that one of our children seems to be changing his name. It’s not his choice (in fact he’s really against it) but he can’t fight it, it’s happening anyway.

It started innocently enough, the children were in the garden playing ‘Where’s Kevin?’, I don’t know what this game is, it seems to have emerged from nowhere and consists of running around mindlessly screeching ‘Where’s Kevin?’ at No.4 before falling about in fits of laughter and starting again. Childhood, the best years of your fucking life.

Now No 4. is an obliging chap and he tried to find Kevin but since he doesn’t exist, it was a bit of a fool’s errand. So, he isolates the next smallest and therefore slowest one and falls on No 3. shouting, “Kevin!”.

David Attenborough is welcome in our garden any day to witness survival of the fittest in it’s most primitive form.

This is a window into a growing worry for me, No. 4 thinks that if there’s a pecking order, No.3 comes somewhere below the cat. He’s not an omega and that means he needs to take his true place by force.  In an entirely intentional campaign of terror, my two year old is employing psychological tactics that would would make ISIS sit up and take note. He is refusing to call No. 3 by his given name.

It was funny at first:

Me: Say goodnight No 4.

No. 4: Night No.1 [kiss], night No.2 [kiss], night…[steely glare]

Then he upped the stakes, calling No. 3 Blondie on occasion. Not consistently, he throws it in at the end as a little surprise kick in the teeth.

No. 4: Go out in the garden…Blondie? <endearing head-tilt to obfuscate the barb>

Kevin was a God Damned gift to No. 4. It was like giving a child a knife and telling them to run with it. It was the ultimate tool in his plans for take-over.

Now every time No.3 opens a door for him “Ankoo Kevin”, steals his toy “KEVIN!!” or even breathes, “Kevin” <pats Kevin’s head menacingly>

And here’s the crux of it, we’ve all started calling him Kevin. We’ve got so familiar with the name when urging him “Don’t say Kevin, say No.3” that it’s entered our familial vocabulary.

Now when No. 3 falls over and starts crying, we rush over with No. 4 looking concerned (he can afford to now, he knows he’s winning) and we’ll say “Oh, no. Look, Kevin’s fallen over…are you going to love him better?”.

Why couldn’t they have played a more aspirational game like “Where’s Charles”? Although maybe I should just be grateful it wasn’t “Where’s Dick?”.

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