Wednesday, 16 September 2015

My plans went to hell and I couldn't be happier about it.

It's no surprise to the people who know me well that Dom was a complete surprise to me.  Having kids wasn't in the long-term plan and certainly wasn't in the short-term plan, just wasn't on my radar.  I was having fun, having boyfriend trouble, having the occasional meltdown, having to go to work with stinking hangovers, but was definitely NOT HAVING KIDS.  

And then, suddenly, I was.

All that stopped me from being the world's worst pregnant woman were the hormones, the planning and the new world of reading material that had opened up in front of me with this new situation.  I floated around in a mellow ocean for the first eight months or so, reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and birth and occasionally dipping my toes into the waters of "what will happen when the baby actually gets here."  I love having a project, so preparing the baby's room and researching my childcare options proved welcome distractions, preventing me from having to admit that I didn't actually believe the baby was real.

I wasn't losing my mind.  I was just losing my life as I knew it, and I wasn't sure how to deal with it, so I buried myself in paint colours, kellymom articles that seemed useful for those people who might actually need that sort of thing (you know, like people with babies), and cute little outfits for the baby I was half-convinced wasn't going to ever wear them.  My body was way ahead of my brain for the majority of my pregnancy.  

I was possibly the only pregnant woman ever who didn't just want it to be over with by the time the third trimester rolled around.  During the three years that made up my final month of pregnancy in a sweltering Barcelona summer and despite the fact that the 99% humidity arrived at the same time that the hormonal high waved goodbye, people asked me constantly if I was excited to meet the baby, if I couldn't wait, if I was ready.  I said yes to all of these things, because while I may have been delusional, I still knew that the answer they were looking for wasn't, "No, actually, I'd rather suffer the feet in the ribs, head in the bladder and utter discomfort forever than ever get to the end of this torture and have to actually be a real mother," so I smiled and laughed and nodded and cried when I got home, sure that I was going to fail and I was going to hate failure and the baby was going to hate me and that I'd ruined my life and his, plus his father's for good measure.  

Of course, I didn't believe this all of the time.  I didn't HATE the baby, I didn't NOT WANT the baby, I just was not mentally ready for the baby at all.  Thankfully, compared to Mat, I was on the ball and ready for anything - earthquakes, colic, triplets...  Having to pretend to be the grown-up meant that shit got done, regardless of my inner turmoil.  

So, in this maelstrom of emotions, the pregnancy progressed and Dom was eventually born.  It's as much a reflection on my state of mind throughout the pregnancy as evidence of the exhaustion of labour that, when Dom was born and Mat broke down, blubbing, "There he is!", I croaked out, "Who?".  During the birth, I'd become so overwhelmed and out of it that I'd forgotten who all these people were and why they were shouting at me, cutting me and pushing with their full weight on parts of me that would have protested about being tickled with a feather at that point.  Evidently my addled brain had eventually reached the conclusion that there were more of them than there was of me and if I did as they said, eventually they might stop torturing me. 

It worked and they did stop torturing me.  However, now was the moment of truth.  I HAD A BABY.  I hadn't broken him through not fully believing in his existence, though the birth itself had - we later discovered that, in the urgency to get him out, his collarbone had been broken.  Poor little angel, what a welcome to the world.  Someone breaks your tiny bones with giant metal spoons and your own mother is so out of it that she doesn't know who you are.  

I loved him from the start, but I didn't have that OH MY GOD I NEED HIM straight away, so I had to fake it so as not to leave everyone I met appalled at my lack of material instinct. On top of the agony and the exhaustion and the terror, I felt like I was faking being a mother and somebody would find me out.  I finally understood the cliché of leaving the hospital and panicking because none of the staff have checked that you know what you're doing.  But, leave the hospital we did, and the next stage of our adventure began.

Oh, the tears, the fears, the agony.  NOBODY WARNS YOU ABOUT THE POST-BIRTH AGONY.  I hadn't made the connection between the nice nurses dropping in with tablets every few hours and my ability to shuffle to the bathroom.  Once we got home and I was armed with nothing stronger than paracetomol (I'd known you couldn't take ibruprofen during pregnancy and wrongly assumed that meant it was off limits when breastfeeding too), I realised just what a dog's dinner they'd made of my downstairs area.  I made this pleasant discovery around the same time that I realised just how difficult it is to walk, roll over, sit up or do anything except cry without involving your downstairs area in some way.  And Mat couldn't take any time off work.  

I dreaded Mat leaving for work. The days were short but the hours were so, so long. I couldn't walk, could barely move, and spent a lot of time wondering who I could call and how I could explain how much this hurt so that someone could tell me whether it was normal. 

I started to heal physically, which made things better, but then came the self-doubt. I'd been hit full force with the "I need my baby" stick shortly after getting home and way before the healing started, but sometimes I resented him so much because I just wanted to go and grab a pint of milk but that meant getting him dressed me dressed him dressed all over again oh now he's hungry and shit now he needs changing and I JUST WANT A CUP OF FUCKING TEA AND THERE'S NO MILK.  I hated not being able to just pick up my keys and walk out of the door, and I hated myself for feeling that way because, against all the odds, I had this amazing, beautiful, perfect son who I adored and who I didn't deserve and here I was sobbing because I wanted a cup of tea.

And then, slowly and yet suddenly, it got better. I learned how to be a mother. I didn't know we had to learn it like learning to drive or kiss or make lasagne. I thought it just happened and there was something wrong with me because it hadn't.  I remembered a particularly low point in my pregnancy, where I'd cried to Mat that all that lay ahead was stress, drudgery and hard work.  I hadn't realised that it could be enjoyable.  I hadn't realised that I'd feel like my soul had grown wings, never knew it was possible to feel good at something that I'd been so adamant I wouldn't be suited for, was completely blown away by the fact that I was LOVING this.  People told me after the first couple of months to start "getting my life back," and I thought they were mad.  Getting my life back?  This WAS my life, all of it, all I needed, all I'd ever need.  I laughed and cried at the thought that I'd seen only backbreaking toil ahead, like I'd somehow missed the rainbow because I was still complaining about the storm.  

Nowadays, things are a bit more balanced.  Dom is, of course, still my life and my world, but now I do embrace the rare occasion where I get to spread my wings for an evening or even a weekend.  He drives me absolutely crazy sometimes, but he makes me smile like my face is going to break.  He's the funniest person I've ever met, and coming from a Scouser, that takes some doing.  I'm so, so glad that he decided to be born, because I'd have never taken that plunge and if I hadn't, I'd have missed the best thing that ever happened to me.  He made me be a mother, and I'll be forever grateful.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bilingual Blogging!

Well, not quite.  I recently had a post published at, titled The Joys and Challenges of Raising a Child Abroad, and was asked if I could translate it into Spanish.  I gave it my best shot but it only served to emphasise just how much I need to work on my written Spanish.  Luckily I was saved from embarrassment by my friend Alexandra, whose eloquence in at least three languages puts me to shame.  So, below you can find the translation.  The original English post is at

Me fui de mi país natal hace casi diez años y, después de dar unas cuantas vueltas, me instalé en Barcelona. Sé desde hace mucho tiempo que no voy a volver al Reino Unido de forma permanente, a menos que sea absolutamente necesario, y ahora que he tenido un hijo aquí, las raíces que he echado son aún más fuertes.  Siento una mayor conexión con mi comunidad y he descubierto un lado de la ciudad que no sabía que existía. Me encanta que los niños aquí lleven vidas más activas y al aire libre y que los adolescentes parezcan estar, en general, mejor educados y que sean más respetuosos que los de mi país. Estoy encantada de que mi bebé crezca hablando tres idiomas. Con todo esto, me siento muy afortunada de estar criando mi hijo en esta maravillosa, vibrante ciudad, de mente abierta.
Sin embargo, hay otra cara de la moneda. Ser una inmigrante, al igual que ser madre, comporta retos; y cómo respondemos a estos retos afectará a nuestros hijos por el resto de sus vidas. Con esto en mente, creo que es importante quitarse las gafas de color de rosa y asegurarse de que hay un diálogo sobre el lado menos agradable, más difícil de vivir en el extranjero con los niños.

Culpabilidad por los abuelos:
Crecí en una familia grande, con tías y tíos por todas partes y mis abuelos al frente. Fue caótico a veces, pero fue muy divertido. Yo era la adorada primera nieta  y yo adoraba mis abuelos, en especial a mi abuelo, a su vez. Desearía que cada niño pudiera tener la suerte de tener abuelos tan maravilloso como los míos - y al mismo tiempo estoy manteniendo voluntariamente una situación en la que mi hijo ve a su única abuela, mi madre, sólo dos o tres veces al año. ¿Es eso justo? ¿Estoy haciendo lo correcto?

El estrés del hermano:
A raíz de mi primer punto, no son sólo los abuelos lo que mi hijo se está perdiendo. Sus primos son extraños para él y la mayoría de sus parientes de sangre son voces en el extremo de un teléfono. Hacemos todo lo posible para mantener vivas los lazos, con fotos en casa, llamadas de Skype y conversaciones acerca de lo que es la familia “en casa”, pero es difícil mantener el interés de un niño de 3 años por mucho tiempo. Una de mis mayores preocupaciones es que, si algo le sucede a mí o a su padre, no tendrá a nadie que estuviera presente durante su infancia y que todos esos recuerdos se pierdan. Con esto en mente, siento la presión para hacer crecer nuestra familia para aumentar las probabilidades de que, en algún punto del futuro remoto, cuando yo ya no esté, todavía tenga a alguien para jugar al "Recuerdas cuando…?"

Angustia idiomática:
Hablo muy bien el español, pero soy más divertida y más elocuente en inglés. Nunca voy a formar parte de un club de comedia, pero me gusta pensar que tengo un sentido de humor decente. Desafortunadamente, las diferencias culturales en el humor y mi falta de fluidez nativa implican que, mientras que provocar una risita en español no es un problema para mí, a menudo me encuentro limitada a explicar las cosas en términos de bebé ("... y luego el caballo saltó fuera de la ... casa donde viven los caballos!"). Desde que soy madre y mi vida social ha caído en picado, mi español se ha resentido: hay días en que estoy tan agotada o agobiada que apenas puedo construir una frase en inglés, por lo que navegar alrededor de los campos de minas de mi segunda lengua me parece casi imposible. Existe, además, un segundo idioma oficial en la región en que estoy, una lengua en la que me desespero por nunca ser capaz de comunicarme de manera efectiva, y es en esta lengua en la que mi hijo se educará en el colegio, y así se puede entender por qué todo el asunto a veces puede parecerse a escalar el Everest en chanclas. Aunque yo puedo hablar de infecciones de oído en tres idiomas, por lo que algo tengo.

La pérdida cultural:
La crianza de los niños entre dos culturas es un acto de equilibrio. Por un lado, la integración es esencial y si tu hijo va a ser criado en una cultura que no es la tuya propia, es tu deber como padre facilitárselo. Por otro lado, como padres, puede ser difícil cuando hay partes de nuestra propia cultura que se pierden porque que nuestros hijos abrazan el país que es su hogar de una manera que nunca puede ser para nosotros.
Ahora mismo, con mi hijo siendo tan pequeño, es en el habla en lo que más lo noto. Su padre y yo somos de Liverpool, una ciudad con un acento muy fuerte y distintivo, y la idea de tener un hijo que no suene como yo nunca se me había ocurrido. Sin embargo, parece que, a pesar de que la mayor parte de su conversación en inglés tiene lugar en su casa con sus padres, su acento lo debe más a Peppa Pig que a ninguno de nosotros.
Por otra parte, la tarea de enseñarle cosas de nuestra cultura puede ser una carga. Si hubiera nacido en el Reino Unido, su cultura como niño británico probablemente no me habría pasado por la cabeza. Sin embargo nosotros, como padres, constituimos la gran mayoría de su exposición a nuestra propia cultura y con ella los recuerdos y las tradiciones que han ayudado a formarnos como personas. Eso es mucha presión. Mi hijo nunca sabrá lo que es el Pancake Tuesday (Martes de tortitas) a menos que me acuerde específicamente de decírselo, de explicárselo. Cuando le caigan los dientes, tendremos que decidir si se los llevó - el Hada de los Dientes o el Ratoncito Pérez. Y eso sólo son cosas pequeñas. ¿Qué pasa si se me olvida algo importante?! Él nunca va a compartir mi bagaje cultural totalmente, y siempre habrá aspectos de su cultura que serán sólo SUYOS. No puedo entrar en su paisaje cultural, sólo puedo observar a través de una ventana.

No hay opciones en la vida que son solo negro y blanco. Nunca sabemos qué nos está esperando a la vuelta de la esquina, y a veces los desafíos de la vida pueden hacernos sentir sofocados. Pero con todo dicho, con todas las preocupaciones, el estrés, la soledad, y la nostalgia que viene con criar sus hijos lejos de casa, aún así, es una opción que volvería a hacer.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Kindness of Strangers

I just got back from a trip to Liverpool with Dom.  I was apprehensive about flying with an energetic two-year-old, especially as it's the first time I've:  a) flown alone with him and b) flown with him since I stopped breastfeeding.  The ability to provide food, comfort, entertainment and a knock-out sleep potion all in one simple movement is not to be sniffed at, and the thought of boarding a plane without my not-so-secret weapon was intimidating, to say the least.  

Also intimidating was the thought of who would be the unlucky third people in our rows.  We've all heard stories of passengers who tut, roll their eyes, or (if they're not British and passive-aggressive), go so far as to complain to staff or the harassed parent of a screaming baby.  I've read blog posts and articles from people who feel that kids should be banned from planes; people who think that the best way to deal with an obviously stressed parent as s/he wrestles a furious toddler is to ask if they could "shut that baby up" (because we're CHOOSING to suffer and enjoy making everyone around us suffer too); people who've forgotten that at some point in their lives they were probably less than perfect too and that nobody particularly welcomed their presence on a flight, on a bus or in a restaurant.  I was hoping and praying that if one of my fellow passengers were so inclined, they'd be seated far from me.  I was expecting the worst while hoping for the best.

The gods of travel, however, appeared to be smiling on me.  Dom was fairly well behaved for most of the outward trip and a demon in human form on the return journey, but with the help of several wonderful people, we both survived.  These angels in human form deserve more than the effusive thanks I showered them with, and as most of my words were probably lost as I bolted after a child who can move faster than the speed of light (or maybe it just seemed that way thanks to the many heavy, bulky, awkward bags that slowed my pursuit), it's only fair to make their kind-hearted deeds known.

First up are the two young Catalan guys who helped me out at the bottom of the aircraft stairs as I simultaneously collapsed the buggy, juggled three bags and tried not to let Dom run into the path of an oncoming plane.  One held Greased Lightning's hand firmly as I made a packhorse of myself with the aforementioned bags, while the other, noticing that I had more luggage than hands, took the bulkiest, heaviest bag up the stairs for me and dropped it off right at my seat before settling himself and his friend in, meaning that I could safely get Dom up the stairs and into his seat with the minimum of fuss.

The journey itself was fairly uneventful, for which I'm sure the man in the aisle seat next to us was extremely grateful.  Only in the last 15 minutes, as we began to make our descent and I began to feel that it was safe to breathe again, did Dom realise that he'd been trapped in a tin can for two and a half hours and begin to express his displeasure.  In his defence, I think he'd have lasted the entire flight had he been allowed to keep the window shades down as we came in to land, but aircraft rules forbid this and meltdown was imminent.  (Just out of curiosity, why can't the window shades be down?  Are we as passengers expected to be on the lookout for air traffic control towers or surprise mountains and act accordingly, warning the hatchet-faced Ryanair staff of our demise seconds before it occurs?  And why only on take-off and landing is our role so important?  If we run into an enemy fighter jet bent on taking us down mid-flight, wouldn't they want some warning, or doesn't it matter above 35,000 feet?)  Anyway, for whatever reason Meladdo had to put his window shades up and all hell was about to break loose, when the older lady behind us distracted him by chatting about what they could see out of the windows while I was pinned to my seat by the weight of the toys and snacks he'd rejected throughout the flight.  She saved the entire plane from 15 minutes of ear-shattering shrieks and I am incredibly grateful, as would be the rest of the passengers had they been aware of the alternative that they narrowly avoided having to endure.

I won't go into details about the holiday itself except to say that I went to a Levellers concert on the Friday night and left Dom with my mum.  He paid me back for abandoning him to more chocolate and Peppa Pig than he'd be allowed from me in a year at home by whining incessantly, sleeping badly, getting up at the crack of dawn and refusing to let go of my leg for all of Saturday and Sunday.  By the time Monday rolled around, I was frazzled and more than ready to hand him over to his father.  But first, the flight home had to be endured.  

It would be remiss of me to not give a special mention to the Ryanir check-in lady who pretended not to notice that my suitcase was a little overweight, thus avoiding tantrums (mine, not Dom's) at the check-in desk.  Of course, the fact that said suitcase had weighed 14.9 kilos at my mum's house and 15.5 at the airport, while Dom's little Trunki had weighed 4.9 kilos on the same scales at my mum's and 3.7 at the airport, leads me to believe that they make it up as they go along and maybe I just wasn't the intended victim that day, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.  For those who aren't familiar with the joy that is travelling with Ryanair, I won't bother explaining it.  These ladies do so in a much more hilarious way than I ever could.  

In Liverpool, you leave the airport building to reach your plane by way of 7,562 stairs, meaning I had to drop the pram at the boarding gate and wing it (har har) across the tarmac.  A third guardian angel relieved me of my bags and inched painfully forwards with me at Dom-pace down the stairs, across to the plane and to our seats, where he beat a relieved retreat to a seat far enough away from us that I'm sure it was a cosmic reward for being nice enough to offer assistance.

The third person in our row was a man travelling on business who had quickly given Dom the window seat, probably due less to altruism and more to a desire to survive the journey with eardrums and sanity intact.  Whatever his motives, it afforded us a whole 10 minutes of tense peace before Dom got antsy.  

Having learned the hard way that Dom is a creature of habit in need of much stimulation and should never be allowed to become hangry or bored on an aircraft, I travelled in both directions laden down with food and entertainment.  Story books, colouring books, blank paper, crayons, Teddy, enough Peppa Pig on the tablet to see us to Australia, dinosaurs, berries, pasta, cherry tomatoes and biscuits were deemed sufficient fuel to last a 2.5 hour flight.  How wrong I was.  Dom wolfed his way through the pasta before we took off, ate half of the berries and tipped the rest on the floor, and violently and vocally eschewed everything else in favour of hitting, biting, butting and pinching me.  I feel that I should say in his defence, I've since found out that he's got a virus so probably wasn't feeling great, and had been up since 6 that morning (his own choice).  Of course, toddler logic advises against sleeping when you're ill and knackered, so beating the living crap out of me was his only way to express his frustration.  Let's just say he's lucky we weren't travelling by sea.

Mr Businessman, who'd been engrossed in a film on his tablet, noticed that Dom was pausing between bouts of cage-fighting practice to stare at the screen.  He turned off his film and switched to an app for kids that kept Dom happy for a few minutes.  However, in our brief chat before he'd put in his earphones and tuned out the world (lucky sod), he'd told me that he had a three year old and a nine month old, so I was loath to interrupt his blissfully offspring-free flight too much and returned to wrestling with Dom, whose interest in tablets did not extend to the one I'd bought specially for the trip and loaded with kid-friendly distractions.

Several hundred years later, we landed.  Mr Businessman offered to help me off the plane, but I told him to go on ahead as I was going to wait until the rush had subsided before disembarking.  As I dragged my battered body and my fiendish child off the plane and through the SkyBridge towards the airport, I saw Mr Businessman heading back towards the aircraft.  He'd been a good five minutes in front of me so I assumed he'd forgotten something, but this knight in shining Armani had suffered pangs of conscience and traipsed back through the airport to come to my aid.  He saw us through almost to baggage collection and left us with words of encouragement and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart at his kindness.

Our ordeal journey almost at an end, we had only to wait for the cases and the pram at belt 23.  The cases came off pretty quickly, but the pram was nowhere to be seen and images of me having to cart Dom home under my arm flashed through my weary, almost broken mind.  Now working on my last nerve, I was just about to burst into tears when I saw a family I'd briefly spoken to in the departure lounge.  They were travelling with a baby a little younger than Dom and were also pram-less.  It seemed unlikely that the airline would lose two prams, so their presence gave me hope.  Shortly after, we found out that the airline or baggage handlers or somebody who will, I hope, suffer greatly for the decision had put all baby equipment on carousel number 29, for reasons unknown.  The joy of discovering we had transport outweighed the rage at this unnecessary act of evil that played on the weaknesses of those most stressed and vulnerable of passengers - those travelling with Satanic imps small children - and I began to gather my paraphernalia to head off in search off my errant wheels.

But the universe had one more random act of kindness to offer my tired and shredded self.  The other family who'd been waiting for their pram told me to run down and grab mine, leaving my luggage with them.  By this point I didn't care if they filled my bags with drugs and black-market organs as long as I didn't have to take them with me, so I thanked them profusely and, dragging Dom on his Trunki (highly recommended buy), I headed to pick up my pram.

So there you have it.  I have no tips on travelling with toddlers because nothing I tried worked in the face of Toddler Tantrums, which intensify the higher in the sky you are.  All I can say is, hope and pray that your fellow passengers are decent human beings and I wish you well.

And to everyone mentioned in this long-ass post, I hope your journeys are speedy, your delays are non-existent and your transfers are tranquil.  You were all wonderful. I could have done it without you, but I'm glad I didn't have to.  Thank you.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Moments that melt me

I've been struggling a little bit with patience lately - nothing major, I just haven't been as calm and relaxed as I'd like to be.  So when Dom had trouble nodding off tonight (he's just gone to sleep, a few minutes before 10 pm, when he's usually snoring by 8:30), I resolved to get some practice in at being patient instead of making it clear that I was annoyed by the change.

He was sitting on my knee, mid-cry because I wouldn't let him get up, when I started crooning "Hush, Little Baby" - the only gentle song I'd been able to remember on coming home from the hospital and a song which had consequently become "ours," but which I hadn't had occasion to sing for a while.  He quietened within half a verse and snuggled in to listen, making me think that some part of his brain remembers the baby days and can still be soothed by the old lullaby.  When I finished, he took my face in his hands, kissed me and said, "I happy now.  Mama, sing it again."  Then he proceeded to gently stroke my face until I started singing again, punctuating the verses with kisses and laying his head on my chest between giant baby-cuddles.  Soon, he was snoring on my chest - the first time in I can't say how long that he's fallen asleep on me.  He stirred as I laid him in his bed, but a caress on the cheek sent him back to dreamland and there he stays.  

Saturday, 6 December 2014

I'm so tired of this conversation

I've steered clear of wading in on the whole breastfeeding discussion in this blog because - well, frankly, it's been done to death. In the same way that every love story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, the thousands of newspaper articles, blog posts and heated Facebook discussions don't seem to be adding anything new to the debate. On one side, we have the "offended". The "uncomfortable". The "I can't handle seeing a titty" committee. On the other, women feeding babies. How does this become a global discussion? WOMEN FEEDING BABIES. What?

But sadly, it is, and Nigel Farage's most recent foray into misogyny in defence of diners at Claridge's whose eyeballs don't work the same way as everybody else's has pushed me over the edge. Yet again, I'm having conversations - sadly, often with people I respect and care for - about why their refusal to turn the other cheek should not infringe upon my physical comfort OR my reproductive rights, never mind the ability of my child to eat in the most nutritious and natural way around.

So let's break down these arguments.  Just why are people so upset about breastfeeding?  

They say:  Having sex is natural and we don't want to see that in public either.

I say:  The moment breastfeeding my baby brings me to orgasm, I promise I will get a room.  And possibly therapy.  And if you think that the desire for sex and the need for food are of the same importance, I wonder if you might not benefit from some time with a shrink too.

They say:  Our bodies were also made to defecate and urinate.  Shall I do that at the table?

I say:  By all means, in your own home.  However, given that you seem unable to differentiate between a bio-hazard and a meal, you'll understand if I turn down your invitation to Christmas dinner.

They say:  But now we have an easier way - formula!

I say:  Perhaps my definition of "easier" differs from yours.  Planning ahead to ensure the correct amount of powder is in a sterile container; finding somewhere clean to prepare a bottle; giving said bottle to a reluctant, squirming infant who isn't fond of a mouth full of plastic; washing and sterilising said bottle and ensuring that all of this is possible at the exact moment a baby demands it is not, in my eyes, quite as easy as lifting up a piece of fabric.  But if you would like to test my theory, you're more than welcome to pay for the formula.  I'll stick with the free stuff, thanks.

They say:  A child that can ask for it is too old.

I say:  Maybe communication isn't your strong point, but you know when my 2 hour old baby cried?  He was asking for something.  If what you mean is "a child that can verbalise their needs is too old", I would love to see the evidence of this.  Last time I checked, punishing babies and children for developing and learning wasn't on the curriculum at Parent School, and taking away something they they love, that is good for them, because their vocal cords have reached a certain point of maturity seems not only unfair, but faintly ridiculous.

They say:  But there are CHILDREN around!

I say:  I know.  One of them is mine.  Should I let mine go hungry so you don't have to have a conversation with yours?  Then we can both be in the Shitty Parent Gang!  Hey, we can build a clubhouse!  No kids allowed, though!

They say:  Just use a cover!

I say:  I agree.  Every breastfeeding mother should carry a cover for those moments when her baby needs to eat in public.  If anybody expresses offence at the horrific spectacle unfolding in front of their (apparently paralysed) eyeballs, she can then put it over their head.  I'm not going to make myself and my baby hot, awkward and uncomfortable to satisfy the arbitrary demands of a random stranger.  If I were to ask that you wear a green sticker on your left knee just because I like it, would you feel obliged to do so?  Even though you'd probably forget it was there after a minute, unlike a breastfeeding cover?  Didn't think so.  

They say:  Can't you just go over there in the corner?

I say:  Unless you're Stephen Hawking, you're going to find it easier to swivel your eyeballs than I am to take myself, a child and all of our paraphernalia off to social isolation for the duration of this feed.  Just pretend I'm a market researcher or a pushy, slightly mad religious zealot on the street and look past me as if I'm not even here.  I promise I won't be offended.

They say:  The toilets are over there.

I say:  I plan to teach my children that we don't shit where we eat.  It didn't work for Clinton and it won't work for my baby.  Plus, metaphor aside, I tend to shy away from small rooms filled with the floating poo particles of strangers when attending to a dietary need.

They say:  But why do you need to post pictures?

I say:  Because you're still asking.  Because it's still seen as something odd, or private, or something to be kept to one side.  It'll never become the norm if it's not treated as something normal.  And you know what?  If I cook a beautiful meal, or run a race, or graduate, or get a really high word score on Scrabble, or have a wonderful time with my son, I take pictures of that.  I'm so happy to live in a digital age where I'm be able to access a visual recollection of my beautiful memories at any time. I document my achievements, my celebrations and my happiness.  Breastfeeding is all of those things.  And in case you're of a nervous disposition, I should warn you that I've documented some of those beautiful moments with my son at the bottom of this post.  If breasts offend you, look away now.

But look, all joking aside, this is a ridiculous argument and I have something to say to those who are against breastfeeding in public (those who are against breastfeeding full stop, I have a lot more to say to you but my mum might read this, so I'll have to bite my tongue).  You're not owed a world without slight discomfort or occasional offence.  My breastfeeding my child demands nothing of you, yet you feel that it is appropriate for you to ask me to put myself out for your benefit.  I don't understand how this came about - should we force all strangers to adhere to our moral code?  How would that work in a world of 7 billion people, all with varying ideas of what is acceptable?  Should I ask you to refrain from ordering steak in a restaurant if a vegetarian sits at the next table?  Perhaps I have asthma - should the rest of the world put away their perfume bottles in case they trigger an attack?  I cannot stand chewing gum - how people look and sound when they chew it, how it gets stuck to my shoe when they don't dispose of it properly - but I'm not starting a movement to deny people the right to minty-fresh breath.  Live and let live, people.  Move on.  Nothing to see here.

My child has a right to eat, and I have a responsibility to provide the healthiest, most nourishing food source I can.  The day you see my 3 month old brandishing a McDonald's french fry, you will be welcome to step in.  Otherwise, understand that I have chosen one of the two options available as a food source for infants, and afford me the same respect you would a woman who chose formula.  

For God's sake, people - even the Pope can handle a bit of side-boob.  Let's worry about the children who are starving, not the children who are eating.

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.  And I ALWAYS want to be right.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Living the dream

I read something the other day about how we complain in lieu of conversing.  It struck a chord with me as it's something I know I'm guilty of, mainly because I like to make people laugh and there's little humour, though much happiness, in a dialogue about how wonderful life is.  A good rant, on the other hand, can be very enjoyable if done well and in the right company.

That being said, sometimes it's nice to just stop, take stock and appreciate how lucky we really are; and as today marks nine whole years since I landed in Spain ready to start a new life, it seems only fitting to do so now.  

I suppose the thing about being happy is that it never looks how you expect it to.  If I'd been asked back then where I wanted to be nine years down the line, I don't think any of my current life would have featured.  I don't spend my days writing a best-selling novel while sipping wine in my very own beach bar; I'm in bed by 11 most nights and I never did marry a dashing Spaniard (for which I'm sure Mat is eternally grateful).  Instead, my happiness comes from places I'd have found equally boring and terrifying in my early twenties.  

I didn't plan to stay in the first country I got sent to as a holiday rep back in 2005, so falling completely in love with the first town I worked in came as a shock.  Being moved from there after only 6 months to a place I did not like in the slightest took the shine off my job for me, yet losing that same job 12 months later felt like a disaster.  My heart broke when I left Andalucía to move north with Mat, and it was breaking again when I packed up my things and left the home we had made in a little Costa Brava town to strike out on my own in Barcelona.  

Yet these setbacks, difficult and sometimes painful as they were to overcome, set me on a path to the life I have now.  It was in Barcelona that I finally began to settle, that I became part of a wonderful group of friends, that I gained in confidence and started liking myself.  It was this city, "trapped between a crescent of mountains and a sea of light, a city filled with buildings that could exist only in dreams," where a life built itself around me and I finally felt like I'd come home.

Things are very different now to they were when I first got here - people have moved on, nights out have become something I plan weeks in advance and seeing my lovely friends is now an occasional luxury rather than a daily pleasure, but the rarity of this only serves to make me appreciate it more. 

I'm very lucky and very grateful that my dreams were flexible enough to adapt, that there have been setbacks along the way but nothing I'd term a failure, and that I get to wake up every day in a life I love. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, there are problem areas and parts that need work, but it's a project I'm delighted to commit to. Not everyone gets to live their dreams, and even fewer people know it when they're living the version of their dream that's exactly how they should be living. I still have moments where I'm awestruck that THIS IS MY LIFE, and that, to me, is what living the dream is all about. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

I won at parenting today

Perhaps if your experience with toddlers is limited to having been stuck in front of one on a plane as it screams, tantrums and caterwauls its way through an eight hour flight, you might be inclined to believe that a quiet toddler is a desirable thing.  Having heard the apologetic mumbling of a woman with a tiny human, purple and apoplectic with fury at being denied permission to slake its thirst in the cleaning products aisle, shoved under her arm as she tries to manoeuvre a shopping trolley through a busy supermarket, it would seem logical that sweet silence is preferable to the brain-drilling shrieks bursting forth from that little bag of rage and irrationality.  

Of course, a quiet toddler is usually a happy toddler - they're not known for their ability to let their feelings stagnate into ulcers, so it's unlikely that you'd ever have an uncomfortable "Are you OK?"  "I'm FINE" conversation with anyone under 3.  Generally, when they're pissed off, you know about it.  However, those in the know - you'll know them by their eye bags and general demeanour of not quite concentrating - will be more than happy to inform you that contrary to all laws of sense and decency, a quiet toddler is very often NOT A GOOD THING AT ALL.  Because when a toddler is quiet, things like this happen:
Yes, this happened today.

Though I can think of one or two things I'd rather do than see my treasured, expensive, very necessary laptop injured (things like remove my kneecaps with a spoon; bath the cat; relive the clingy phase), the experience wasn't all negative.  I think I handled it pretty well - staying calm, explaining why I wasn't happy about what he'd done and teaching him that his actions have consequences (he couldn't watch Peppa Pig on the laptop as planned as I had to fix the laptop and it was too late once that was done).  I managed not to cry, shout or shame him, and I believe that he's understood me, though I don't think that necessarily means he'd resist the temptation a second time.  He's still two.

I'm pretty impressed that I managed to put into practice all that I've been working on, in the face of a situation which I could easily have handled very badly indeed.  It's not often we give ourselves credit where it's due - most of my posts about this approach have focused on how difficult I find it and how bad I am at sticking to it - so I'm going to be proud of myself for learning enough to override my instinctive reaction to get louder in times of stress.  And I'm going to sing that pride from the rooftops, because let's face it - if we're not good to ourselves, nobody else will be good to us, right?

Plus, publicly outing myself as a Zen master of parenting means I now have to keep it up, kind of like when you tell people you're on a diet so they tear you away from the chips at dinner time or recruit half the office to help you stop smoking by screaming at you every time leave your desk (makes leaving for a toilet break so much fun).  

So, while I'm in Superwoman mode and feeling like I could conquer the world, I need to tackle the next thing on my to-do list - making a very high, toddler-proof shelf for my laptop to live on.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Finally I can say it...

Scary Mommy
I'm a bit late, it was actually published over two weeks ago. What can I say? I'm ALWAYS late. But, with all the joy and pride in the world, THIS IS MINE!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I'm not ready

Mat gave Dom a strawberry yoghurt drink last week and it sent him off his rocker.  I have never in my life seen him so manic, and I'd be happy to repeat the experience on the dark side of never.  It was the first time in our 2.5 month long summer holidays that I thought, "God, I can't wait for the 16th and nursery to open again!"

Once I'd had that thought and the guilt didn't kill me, it slipped in another couple of times when he was being a handful.  I started to think about what I'd do in the days between him going back to nursery and me going back to work, and the fantasies of a solo coffee without having to repeat, "Lovely cup of tea" all the way through; deep cleaning the house; taking those towels back to Primark without having to carry the buggy up a million stairs to change metro lines; actually browsing in Primark rather than running through at the speed of light because Dom has his father's aversion to clothes shops; maybe even squeezing in a morning at the beach if the weather holds; all of these thoughts took hold whenever he had a handful of the tiny hairs on the back of neck that he refused to relinquish or thought it was hilarious to bite my bum (WHERE do they get these ideas from)?

Now, however, it's the night before he starts back and I'm nowhere near ready to let him go again.  Despite the fact that we've had 10 wonderful weeks and he's had plenty of fun and intellectual stimulation; despite being lucky enough to be able to give him the kind of sunshine and sand and swimming summer that I dreamed of as a kid; despite usually being patient and involved and on hand; I can't help wishing we just had one more week where it - where I - could be BETTER.  Every moment I checked my emails or silently begged for just two minutes to finish something or rolled my eyes at his demands to see the mole on my back for the 50th time now feels like a precious, wasted moment.  

But while I'm beating myself up about being a human being, I have moments to look back on such as this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

or this.

And I think - you know what?  We did OK.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

5 Life Lessons I Should Never Have Taught My Toddler.

Parenting: The process of turning our crotchfruit from wailing creatures that look like plucked chickens into happy, polite, well-balanced kids who become functioning adults of the kind we don't mind sitting next to on an aeroplane. It's a long, arduous, repetitive task, thankfully interspersed with moments of pure joy – the first laugh; the first steps; the first time they actually do what you ask, when you ask...

It is truly a wondrous day when all our nagging – sorry, effort – pays off and our little darlings actually learn something. Whether it's being able to tie their own shoelaces or being able to leave the park without a clump of somebody else's hair clutched in their freakishly strong little fists, we rightly allow ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

However, sunken in the battlefield of parenting are volatile mines that we couldn't even imagine. No sooner do our sweethearts take a concept on board than they turn it into another form of parental torture, using our carefully chosen words and well-thought-out examples against us in a barrage of bossiness disguised as “personal growth”:

1. “Me do”.
See that tiny window of opportunity you have to make your appointments on time? Wave it goodbye the second your toddler learns to pull on his own trousers. From now on, add a minimum of 5 minutes to each individual task in your 'leaving the house' routine, as they insist on taking sole responsibility for every aspect of their personal hygiene, wardrobe choices and feeding. Yay independence!

2. “Mama share”.
Toddlers resist sharing like cats resist baths. What's yours is theirs, and what's theirs is theirs too. The hallelujah moment when they first allow another child to play with their toys without attempting to gouge their eyes out will be quickly replaced with the misery of having to eat all chocolate-based products in the bathroom, or suffer the hurt bewilderment and indignation of a small child intent on shaming you into giving up the goods. And no, they NEVER want to share your broccoli. That's not how it works.

3. “I help”.
They won't help to tidy up their blocks or pick up the giant pile of books they've scattered around the living room. Oh, no. They will, however, be just DYING to assist with any intricate, dangerous or awkward jobs you're doing, preferably involving bleach or knives. If they can be steered away from imminent death or injury, their second-favourite time to assist is when you've just finished a time-consuming job. There's nothing like picking your clean, folded washing off the floor for the third time to make you rethink your emphasis on helpfulness.

4. “Don't touch!”.
Given that a huge part of parenting revolves around preventing your little ones from destroying their body parts in all sorts of bizarre ways, teaching them to steer clear of certain objects probably takes up the majority of your day. They're simple creatures, though, and the idea that it's just them who shouldn't use the oven or transport pans of boiling water is beyond them. This charming characteristic means that you'll spend a good year or two feeling like you're living with a particularly nervous drill sergeant, as your every move towards potential danger is greeted with roars of “DON'T TOUCH, MAMA!” It's OK, cold food is fine until this stage is over and ironing is overrated anyway.

5. Routine Problems.
Subject of many a heated debate, routines can make or break a parent. Once your squawking newborn has gained enough sense to realise that some things, like bedtime, happen every day, routines can be a handy weapon in your arsenal of ways to make your day easier. But toddlers can be creatures of habit, which in many cases means that slight deviations from the norm result in screaming fits and general misery for everyone within a 2 mile radius. Try skipping bath time for ONE night and not only will they not sleep, they'll make sure that the world knows that it's YOUR FAULT. Remember that festival you didn't go to when they were 7 months old because it finished two hours after bedtime? Now is the time to forcefully regret it.

I've decided – number two child will be feral. It'll be easier on everyone.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Lessons in peace

I've written before about my struggles with gentle or peaceful parenting.  I fully understand and appreciate the thinking behind it, and I genuinely believe that it's an approach which has the best interests of our children in mind.  I'm completely on board with the theory, though as I explained a very long time ago in this post, I'm hesitant to commit myself fully to any parenting style or school of thought, as parenthood should be flexible enough to evolve with the needs and personality of each child and each parent.  However, Dom and I had an experience recently which has put me firmly in the "peaceful" camp.

For no reason other than mischief and toddlerhood, Dom loves to beat people up with a viciousness belied by his adorably chubby cheeks and huge, innocent eyes.  When aimed at me, these ambushes involve him smacking my face, hauling my head around using clumps of my hair for leverage and pulling my glasses off.  This last indignity is the most worrying, because I'm useless without glasses (as an example of how bad my eyesight is, if I remove my glasses while sitting at my desk, I can't read anything on the computer screen), and I don't have a spare pair.  I used to use my old glasses in times of need, but my last pair were a victim of Dom's merciless need to render me blind, and my eyes deteriorate so quickly that the pair before those are now useless.  New glasses aren't cheap and, like having kids, there is never a right time to have to pay out a couple of hundred euros for the privilege of sight.

Usually, when Dom goes on his violent rampages, we deal with it by stopping his hand before it makes contact (if we're fast enough), telling him firmly that we won't allow him to hit, and reminding him to use kind hands.  We demonstrate kind hands by stroking him gently and he usually responds in kind.  He's also a dab hand at "saying sorry" now, which involves leaning in and cuddling and rubbing his cheek on the recently-mauled face of his latest victim. With hindsight we'd have probably done better to encourage a verbal request for forgiveness, as his apologetic approach generally strikes fear into the heart of the tiny peers who have just suffered at his podgy hands. This isn't to say that he's worse than his contemporaries - he's just being a baby. Despite my embarrassment when he skulldrags an immaculate little girl around the park or lays into someone because he doesn't like their hat, I know it's normal behaviour and it doesn't make me angry at him. His outbursts are becoming more infrequent as his impulse control catches up to his curiosity about the consequences of beating Mama with a plastic spade, and I'm confident that we're on our way to convincing the local kids that it's safe to visit the park at the same time as my little terror. 

However, a few weeks ago, I let my guard down for a second.  I don't know why - I could say it was because it was Saturday and I was tired from working nights, or I'd had a dingdong with Mat, or it was the 8th time in a minute Dom had tried to break my glasses.  I could, but I won't, because I'm not looking to make excuses for myself.  That's not what this is about.  

So, he launched himself at my glasses like a crazy baby, grabbed them off my face and proceeded to pull the arms in opposite directions.  Without thinking, I exclaimed "NO!", tapped the back of his hand a couple of times with two of my fingers and took the glasses from him.  Physically, it wouldn't pass muster as a smack or a spanking - it didn't hurt him or leave a mark.  It was probably about as much force as you'd use when tapping your wrist to let someone know they're late.  To be honest, I exert more effort when patting his bum in the way he likes at night, the way that sends him to sleep while he drinks his milk.  The difference here was the intent.  I wasn't soothing him with rhythmic pats, I was using force to show him that I disliked his behaviour, and I was immediately and crushingly ashamed of myself.  I apologised to him and promised him that it wouldn't happen again.  

The sense of shame didn't leave immediately, but eventually I resolved to stop beating myself up about a mistake and learn from the experience.  I was still shot through with darts of regret every time I thought about it, but I made sure I did some reading on how best to handle similar situations and Dom made sure I had plenty of opportunities to put the theories into practice.  

After a week or so, we'd put it behind us - or so I thought.  Then something happened that made the shame I'd endured before feel like a mere pinprick of guilt.  I had hold of Dom when, once again, he snatched at my glasses.  He'd done it several times since "that" time, so I don't know what it was about this particular time that was different, but as I gently liberated them from his eager hands, he stuck out his left hand and tapped himself twice on the back of it with two fingers of his right.

My heart turned over and I felt - still feel - like the biggest failure there ever was.  In that instant, I saw almost two years of being calm, patient, gentle and loving go down the toilet.  In one moment of lowered guard, my baby boy had learned that he got hit when he did something I didn't like, and the knowledge that he'd learned from me made me feel sick.  

There's nothing I can do to change what's already been done - I can't go back in time and change that moment, though I wish wholeheartedly that I could.  Dom hasn't reprimanded himself like that since (though he often tells himself, too late, that he's not allowed to climb on the table by gleefully shouting "Get down, you menace!"), and his ongoing obsession with my glasses indicates that he's by no means traumatised by the incident.  I can't quite say the same for myself - I still writhe with remorse every time I think of it and I don't think I'll ever fully forgive myself for teaching him a lesson I'd have preferred him to never have learned.  All I can do now is hope that all of my good teaching before and since eventually obliterates that memory from his brain, and make sure that every lesson he learns from here on in is a positive and peaceful one.

Most people I know would think nothing of a swift smack to the bum or a sharp tap on the back of the hand, and they'll probably think I'm crazy for being so upset by it.  Be that as it may, I'm not happy with myself for reacting in that way and I plan to make sure it's the first and last time.  Others may judge me harshly for my momentary lapse in control, and I can't stop that.  I suppose by writing about it, I'm inviting that criticism.  I just hope that the majority of people can remember a time when they struggled or failed, and I hope that they too resolved to let it be a lesson, not a loss.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Why my house never quite makes it to spotless.

Damn, Dom's finished his dinner already.  That was quick, I was hoping to have him distracted for a bit longer while I cleaned the kitchen.  Well, it was only a sandwich.  I'll see if he wants some fruit for afters.  

"What's that, my love?  Neenor?"  Hmmm.  Is he getting a bit too obsessed with neenor?  I don't want him watching too much telly.  I suppose an episode of Fireman Sam only lasts 10 minutes.  I can settle him down with that and a banana and I can get stuck into the dishes before we go out.

Right, that's that sorted.  He's happy.  Let's crack on with this kitchen.  Crap, forgot to give him his banana.  Where's the tea towel?  Oh sod it, a bit of soapy water never hurt anyone.  

Surely we can't have eaten all those bananas?  I only bought new ones the other day. I've told him he can have fruit now... maybe he's forgotten.  He IS pretty engrossed in Fireman Sa - "Yes my angel?  I'm sorry, we haven't got any bananas, my love.  Hang on, let's see what else we've got... pears, apples, cherries... OK, cherries?  OK, I heard you!  Go and sit down and I'll bring you some cherries.  I know!  I know you want cherries!  I'm bringing them in now!"

Must buy a cherry pitter.  In the meantime, where's the little knife?  Oh, at the bottom of the sink under all the other dirty dishes.  Fine, no worries, I've got nails.  Oof, I need a wee.

"Here you go, babyface."  Right, dishes.  What's that over there?  Ah, THAT'S why he was so quick to finish his sandwich.  Half of it is under the coffee table.  Let's just grab that brush from the kitchen.  There, sorted. That'll do for now, I'll brush properly later.  Dustpan... where is the dustpan?  Why isn't the dustpan WITH the brush?  Isn't that the logical place for it to - oh, no, apparently the logical place is under the bed with the dustbunny population of the world.  I'll just grab that brush.

"Oh, Dom, really?!"  Note to self - don't leave a toddler with a pile of crumbs.  They can't resist. So it looks like I AM brushing properly now.  Might as well brush my way into the kitchen.  

It's getting a bit too hot to leave the butter out now, I'd better stick it in the fridge.  Jesus, what's that?  Has it got legs?  Cloth, cloth, where's the cloth? This fridge needs a good cleaning.  I'll do it later.  For now, let's just wipe up whatever this is and get back to the dishes.  Ooh, strawberries!  Forgot they were there.  I'll have them when Dom goes for a sleep.  Well, might as well have a couple now, keep me going.

Didn't I have a cup of tea?  Ah, there it is.  Bit cold but nothing the microwave won't sort out.  God, that microwave is vile.  Whatever Mat defrosted for his tea last night appears to have taken violently against the process.  Would it kill him to clean it BEFORE it encrusted itself to the glass?  I'll have to put it in soak.  After I've warmed my tea up.  

Dom's very quiet, that's ominous.  Let's see if I can see him without him seeing me or it's game over.  CHRIST ALMIGHTY IS THAT BLOOD?  Oh, thank God, it's only cherries.  Bloody cherries.  Shit, there's some on the wall.  Better get that off before it stains.  Please come off.  PLEASE!  Crap, looks like we're repainting.  Again.  Should just do it black and have done with it, except he'd probably just wipe his nose on it if we did.  Can't win.  What was that saying about cleaning the house with kids around being like snow or something?  No, it's gone.  I'll Google it.  

Where's my phone?  When did I last have it?  I was looking up the number for the dentist this morning, then I put it in my bag, which is in the hall.  "Dom, what have we said about emptying Mama's bag?".  Half of this stuff needs to go in the bin anyway.  I don't know why I'm carrying it around with me.  No wonder my back hurts.  I wonder if I can wangle a back rub tonight?  If I don't pick on him about the microwave he might go for it.

The microwave!  My tea!  Shitting hell.  One day I'll learn to put it on for 30 seconds at a time.  At least the crusty cheese has had a bit of a soak now.  Still need a wee.  Let's just check on Dom.  Yep, he's fine.  Toilet, here I come.  Oh, God that's nic- "What?  Milk?  You need milk RIGHT NOW?  OK, just let me get off the toilet and we'll - oh, OK, no, we're breastfeeding right here."  On the toilet.  That's sanitary.  There's a meme in here somewhere.  

When did I last put the mould stuff around the tiles?  Looks like it needs doing again.  I thought the point of it was that it KILLED mould?  I wasn't aware that mould could resurrect itself.  Maybe it's been reading the Bible.  Or Pet Sematary.  Yeah, this bathroom is definitely more Stephen King than hallelujah.  

"Dom, shall we play with your blocks?  No?  OK, you play on your truck.  Mama's just going to start the kitchen.  Nappy change?  Come on then."

Christ, that stinks.  How can one tiny, beautiful person produce such a stench?  Quick, into the bin before it explodes or something.  Bin needs emptying.  Binbags?  Oh, don't say we've got no binbags!  Ah, there they are.  I'll have to leave this outside the back door until we're going out.  At this rate, we'll be lucky to make it before it bio-degrades.  Worst case scenario, Mat can take it down when he gets in.

Speak of the devil.  "Hiya babe, you're home early!  Fancy a brew?  I'll make you a sandwich if you want, there's some cheese left.  Just let me - WHAT WAS THAT?!"  No harm done, just a shock.  And that's why we don't pull Mama's books off the shelf.  

"Mat, remember to use a chopping board, I've just wiped that down.  Sorry, sorry, I know you're not stu- GET A PLATE!  How many times!"  Good lord, it's like having two kids sometimes.  Did I say that out loud?  Phew, don't want to jeopardise my back rub. 

How can one man make such a mess in 45 seconds rubbing butter onto bread and applying cheese?  I swear it looks like Armageddon in here.  I give up.  Let's just go to the park.


Shit, forgot the binbag.