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Om nom nom nom: me love simple things

5 Mar


I’ve been wondering why I write so much about my daughter and so little about my son. The former is 5-going-on-15 and the latter – still my big baby – is approaching 3 years old. To redress the imbalance, here is the story of one boy’s obsession with Play-Doh, Cookie Monster and YouTube.

I am preoccupied with the idiosyncrasies of my daughter. Perhaps it is because she is older than my son and is blossoming (nay, erupting) into an independent being that makes her so fascinating. I’m not sure I’d go as far to say that I understand her – some days I don’t understand my her at all. She’s 5 years old – I shouldn’t expect to. As a female I am sensitive to what she might come up against in life and topics involving women now make me rantier than ever before.  My daughter thus provides plenty of writing inspiration, directly and indirectly.

When it comes to my son I seem to have missed (or at least underestimated) his power to make me to write. Whilst worrying about the surge of pink in the house, I’ve taken my eye off the ball and this baby boy of mine has grown into a fully functioning, determined and funny little man. He has the randomness typical of all toddlers, but, when he wants to, he has the focus of a laser beam – ie, he gets inexplicably obsessed with unusual things.

Nothing demonstrates this more than his current obsession with watching YouTube videos about Play-Doh. Somehow he stumbled across a review of a Cookie Monster set and his passion has known no bounds since. I suspect that a good proportion of the 7 million plus views this particular video has had can be traced back to our house. There is something wonderful about his fascination with something so simple: a blue plastic monster being fed Play-Doh fruit and vegetables. Nothing more, nothing less. Over and over and over again.

In the last few days his YouTube obsession has manifested itself in the real world. (Let it not be said that an addiction to technology stops children from engaging in ‘proper’ play.) Ten empty tubs of Play-Doh later and we have a whole box full of Cookie Monster’s favourite foodstuffs. I’ve had to hide the remaining tubs of Play-Doh lest they lose their virginity to the swirling, sticky mass that is Cookie Monster’s lunch.

Here is the thought process of a 2-year-old boy in pictures.  Only three pictures. He’s a simple beast. (I suggest you look away if you can’t cope with more than one colour of Play-Doh mixed together.)

Play doh collage

In my preoccupation with the complexity of a 5-year-old girl making her way in the world, I’d forgotten that simplicity is just as wonderful.

Next time: The one where my son watches a video (13m 14secs) on loop of someone opening 100 Kinder eggs. No, really.

Pigby: when pride comes before a pig’s ear

31 Dec

First Saver Children's Savings

Remember the NatWest piggy banks? I do. I remember that I never had one because most of my family worked for a rival high street bank. Funny how long you can feel hard done by. NatWest have now rebooted their piggy theme with Pigby and Friends, the porcine cuties who are the faces of Natwest’s recently launched children’s savings account. Thanks to BritMums Pro, my 5-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to get a place on an Animate It! workshop with the Gods of Animation, Aardman, to make our own Pigby. A roomful of kids with their parents trying to make the best plasticine pig the world has ever seen? What could possibly go wrong?

The workshop, held at the M&C Saatchi offices in London, was eagerly awaited in our household. We approached the day with wide-eyed trepidation – for my daughter because she is a big fan of Wallace and Gromit, and for me because I’m new to PR events for bloggers. Neither of us knew quite what to expect but, boy, did we learn a thing or two or three (to be precise).

1. Freebies vs Theft

I’m pretty terrified of meeting anyone I consider to be a ‘proper blogger’. They might wonder who the dickens let me in. I’m even more terrified of freebies. Or, more specifically, what is a freebie and what isn’t. When faced with such a situation, I would encourage you to stand back and get your child to help themselves to the food and drinks. If no one rushes to stop them then you’re okay. They provide a neat scapegoat (who pilfered in all innocence) should the need arise. Think of them as your canary in a coal mine.

2. Helicopter parenting

It’s freakin’ hard not to be a helicopter parent when faced with piles of luscious plasticine. It’s even harder when you are surrounded by parents who think pride might be at stake. During the course of the hour long workshop I had to exert extreme restraint and let my daughter express her creativity (darling). I channeled Montessori. Of course it didn’t matter if Pigby had unevenly sized eyes. Of course it didn’t matter if the fingerprints were so deep it looked like Pigby had lived a very hard life, probably without a bank account of his own and addicted to acne medication. (Actually, she did a bloody good job given the conditions – see point below.)

He’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooth like Gromit.

He’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooth like Gromit.

3. Practice what you preach (aka set a good example mums and dads)

I’m forever telling my children to listen. How many times have you said: “If you just listen then you will find out how to do it.” What makes it okay then for parents to do exactly the opposite? Because we always think we know best, even when being instructed by experts. By experts I mean representatives of a world class animation studio and not a 2-year-old afficionado of homemade playdoh. I get tense when people don’t listen when they ought to be listening. Tense and downright uncomfortable and embarrassed. It was only the presence of children that stopped me from standing on my chair and telling the grown-ups to shut the f*ck up. Oh, and lack of balls. But I did it in my head and all the kids applauded.

It may sound like a stressful morning (at times it was) but it was also a magical experience. As I kowtowed out the door, I felt privileged to have been in the presence of truly imaginative, talented and creative people. (God no, not the other parents – the animators.) Pigby went on to survive a day out in London, only (tragically) losing an ear in the Rainforest Café. And by the end of the day he looked ten years younger, almost as if someone had smoothed out all those tiny fingerprints. You see there’s only so much self-restraint a perfectionist, chopper flying parent can exert.

If you’d like to have a go at stop frame animation, you can download a free trial of the Aardman Animate It! software here. The site also has lots of top tips for budding animators. Sadly nothing though for annoying parents.

Disclosure: We were invited by M&C Saatchi to attend this free event. We didn’t get to pet the real Gromit but we did get a lovely t-shirt.

Why blogging can give you the horn

3 Dec

Orange rhino

I need to ask you to allow me to navel gaze. Why I’m asking permission, I’m not sure, after all blogging is a self-indulgent activity. I put my thoughts on the screen and expect you to (a) read them and (b) find them interesting – (b) doesn’t naturally follow (a) but thank you anyway.  Lately, I’ve been wondering  why I bother blogging. I don’t have a massive following and I certainly don’t get nominated for bloggy awards. My posting is, at the best of times, sporadic as I favour the ‘waiting for inspiration’ approach where a post is slowly stewed and then finally emitted as an enormous, post-roast dinner belch. So why do I feel the need to write?

I’ve not been proud of myself recently. I’ve become more than a bit shouty with the kids. Having read this superb article by The Orange Rhino I now consider myself in rehab but it has led to some soul searching as to where my throat-shredding volume (and shameful lack of patience) has come from. Digging around inside my cranky old brain, I eliminated PMT, the kids being on the slippery slope to ASBOs (they’re generally quite sweet) and any other stress-inducing factors I was immediately aware of. What had turned me into a fishwife? What had changed? And then it struck me that the onset of foulness commenced around the same time I left the comfort of my office job and went freelance.

Ah, freelancing! Working when you want, having a midday nap, endless coffee and cake, having no sustained adult conversation. HAVING NO SUSTAINED ADULT CONVERSATION?! I’d struck psycho gold. I have no one to listen to me for the bulk of the day so when the kids come home and they don’t chuffin’ listen to me either then the frustration builds until it pops. Through no fault of their own, they have become vinegar to my bicarbonate of soda. There has been lots of fizzing and quite often a big explosion. Add into that chemical reaction my having embarked on a whole new and uncertain career, spoon in a lump of the sense that I’m not yet quite where I want  to be and it’s a recipe for psychological/emotional/parenting  disaster. This wasn’t a side effect of freelancing that I’d anticipated having a problem with. Unpaid invoices – yes. Lack of crazy watercooler chat – no.

Don’t feel sorry for my children. I’m well on the road to being an Orange Rhino. Does this child look unhappy? Guitar glasses

But what has this got to do with why I want write? I’ve realised that since becoming freelance I’ve done very little blogging – perhaps even less than usual. My voice (small as it may be) has stopped being heard in the virtual as well as the real world. Whilst I can’t rent a mob to come and sit around my laptop and recreate an office environment (eek, but do I want one?), I can keep on communicating via blogging. Really, that’s not as sad and lonely as it sounds. It might put an end to my chats with the goldfish. And talking of animals, writing might just stop me being an almighty cow. If that’s all I get from blogging then that’s good enough for me.



Censorship and big knickers

1 Oct

Big knickers

Bridget Jones fans have been getting their big knickers in a twist over Helen Fielding’s latest book, Mad About the Boy. The author has had the audacity to kill off Mark Darcy, Bridget’s chief love interest and the character lusted after by fans of the novels. Imagine One Direction splitting up and you’ll get an idea of the hormonal outrage. Should the author have considered the Darcy entourage over the story she wanted to tell? Should authors be pressured into not touching what fans cherish or is that a form of censorship?

A couple of months ago I tweeted a slightly disparaging remark about One Direction. I didn’t think twice about it. It wasn’t offensive and it made me warm inside. Now, bear in mind this was around the time of the TV programme about how demented and obsessive, sorry, how truly supportive 1D fans can be. After I sent my tweet a friendly fellow tweep (*waves to Fi at @Childcareisfun*) suggested I ought to be careful as anything mildly derogatory about that group of supremely handsome and talented young men could unleash the wrath of their fans. Gulp.

There’s been a lot about trolling on the internet in the news recently. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced such vicious, offensive or unlawful harassment or anything approximating to it. But now the prospect of being hounded by angry teenage girls hiding behind their parents’ laptops loomed like a black Topshop-clad cloud. (I didn’t delete the tweet of course. Let them come at me with their sharpened Shellacs, I thought.) It left me feeling unsettled that what I write in public domains, whether it be on my blog or on Twitter, could potentially be shoved venomously back in my face. I decided, with a shiver, that I should be more careful about what I write. Yet in acknowledging this I had a horrible feeling of being unfairly stifled or, dare I say, censored.

For a blogger, self-imposed censorship can be a good thing. I write about my children but constantly bear in mind that, as long as prolonged iPad use doesn’t cause permanent damage, they will one day be able to read what I’ve written. For that reason I try not to write anything that may make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in years to come. A waste of so much material but worth it to be the Best Mummy in the World. The sacrifices I’ve made …

Back to Bridget Jones. Hats off to Helen Fielding for being brave and bold in the face of her readers. The decision to kill off a much-lusted after character can’t be an easy one to make but, boy, it gets you publicity. Some of her readers may be fuming but ultimately they’ve got a great storyline. Let the poor woman be. JK Rowling will have met with much howling from kids, adults and her publisher alike when she brought the Harry Potter series to a close. Yet everyone survived post-Harry to see millions made from spin-offs (also known as milking the cash cow until it runs dry).  So don’t despair Darcy fans: you may yet see Mark resurrected in the shower Bobby Ewing style. And maybe he’ll keep his shirt and breeches on for you.

Wanted: a thick skin

5 Oct

Warning: Self-indulgent blog post.

Why do I blog? A question I often ask when I’ve sat up into the wee small hours writing a post and only my husband and mother (god bless ‘em for their loyalty) read it. Bloggers are warned not to get fixated on site stats but is there anyone who doesn’t?

Over the past few days, I’ve been asking myself “Why do I blog?” in the sense of “Why do I blog when sh*t like that can happen?”. I’ve ranted so much about my little blog’s eventful week that my rant tank is empty. So I’ll cut a long story short. A well-intentioned post of mine has caused offence to a couple of people. When I say “a couple” I don’t mean any more than that, I literally mean two. (Well, there were three but one was less abusive so I don’t count them.) One word describes how I felt about the force and manner of their reaction: gobsmacked. If you feel hard done by and want three words to encompass the fact I was asked to take the post down: knocked for six.

Ricocheting between tears of sadness and tears of indignation, I could quite easily have deleted my blog and my Twitter account. Social media suicide, I guess – the fashionable, techie way to do a Reggie Perrin in the 21st century.  It struck me like a great big sledgehammer that however little visited my blog might be it is still very public property and as such I am (as is any blogger) an unwitting target for the less polite, less measured people who inhabit the blogo- and Twitterspheres.

As a sensitive type, I find it easier to express my thoughts via a blog than I do when I’m required to think on my feet face-to-face. Yes, I hide behind a screen and in doing so can invest a lot of myself in what I write. What I’ve learnt over the past week is that if I want to be a happy blogger I must get myself a thicker skin. If I blog for me and for the people who are interested in what I write then why should I care what random people who stumble across an isolated post of mine think? Easier said than done.

J. R.  Bowen (I’m presuming this isn’t Jim) says that “The cyber bully is nothing more than a coward with a gadget”.  That’s something to remember on those days when your epidermis is feeling paper-thin.  Perhaps those bullies will learn that debate is more important than trying to dictate. In the meantime I’ll be shaving my skin to make it grow back thicker. Or is that my moustache?

Wanted: new knickers

26 Nov

I received a tweet today from the lovely Mammasaurus asking where the nelly I’ve been and whether I’ve lost my ‘mojo’. I feel like my bra strap has been twanged. Rightly so – my blog has been sadly neglected for a couple of months. At the moment I don’t even feel entitled to call myself a ‘blogger’. I’m more like a ‘blogged’. As for my mojo, well I’ve had a peek and I think it’s still there (unfortunately only in the blogging sense). I’ve felt a couple of twinges anyhow.

Trouble is, I’m a lazy little blogger. I sit and wait for inspiration for strike. This approach is probably quite effective unless, like me, you’re so knackered that inspiration would have to knock several times with a sledgehammer before any brain cells flickered into life. Much of my inspiration comes from people I know or have met and, when I wasn’t on maternity leave, office life. The problem is, this has enormous potential to offend. There’s been many a time when I’ve been itching to put fingers to keyboard but concluded that the likelihood of offence far outweighed the amusement value. I live in a small city where seven degrees of separation is six degrees too many – I rarely speak without checking over my shoulder and certainly never venture an opinion on someone as more often than not it will turn out I’m talking to their closest friend.

Looking back at topics that have inspired me in the past, I could blame the below for my silence (although somewhere in there should be demanding children and Twitter addiction):

  • I’ve accepted that the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2 is an insufferable mix of high and low brow, I can’t do anything about it and I’m tired of ranting about it (lest I should turn into the type of ranty person who calls into his show – god forbid).
  • I’ve accepted that keeping pink and princesses out of my 3-year-old’s life is a losing battle. Bring on the sparkles, I can handle it.
  • The weather’s turned cold and women have stopped getting their boobies out in the name of women’s rights. Shame.

Is my blogger’s block therefore because I’m too accepting? Perhaps I need to go back to what I do best – getting my knickers in a twist. And if I want to go from ‘blogged’ to ‘blogger’ then I’d better find a big pair.

Bare naked lady

30 Jul

Inspired by a good friend (who like me had been blogging secretly until yesterday – see Links), I have at last decided to tell the world about my activities online and let you all into my mind. Not even my husband knew what I was up to – in fact I am still waiting for him to notice. It took him a couple of days to spot the dirty words spelt out on the fridge with magnetic letters (I hope our god fearing cleaners didn’t notice – the shame!) so I’m not too hopeful for a pat on the back soonish.

I nearly changed my mind about going ‘live’. As I sat on the train home yesterday my eye was drawn to a newspaper on the seat next to me. Kym Marsh had been papped with her top off. But, no,  it wasn’t that. “20 times more boobs than the Sun or the Star!” a flash on the front page boasted. How on earth could I compete with that? My little blog where the only tits are likely to be blue-tits and the only boobs will be spelling errors.

So here it is. My little blog in the big bad world! More fluff than you’ll find in Mr Terry Towelling’s bellybutton.  Do enjoy.

Am I already out there?

29 Jun

I’m only on post #2 and already I discover I’m not as original or clever as I thought. Searching for my blog (to see if it works on my mobile of course) I find that someone has already adopted the fanastic, amazing and original blog title Full-time Everything. What’s more they’ve added a couple of extra words to the title that hone it to exactly what I meant mine to convey. Oh gone on – rub it in! Even the topics they’re covering are what I’m most likely to blog about. And to top it all off – they even look like me! Unbelievable. I don’t feel like I’m in a parallel universe. It’s worse than that.  I feel like whatever I write they will have written it before me. Probably the day before. Most probably better than me.

PS. In a huff I have since changed my blog title to Crumbs and Pegs. Not an entirely random collection of words (the title that is – the posts could indeed be described as such depending on how much you like them). Explanation at a later date …

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