The Tooth Fairy Manifesto

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When I became a mother, after exhausting, painful hours of labour and the relief/shock of suddenly finding a new little person in my arms, I was presented with a free Pampers goodie bag. Wow! I remember feeling quite excited. A pack full of free things. How lucky is that? If I’m honest, it was a total and utter let down as I discovered that this bag contained nothing more than money off vouchers for branded nappies and formula and a little NHS booklet containing patronising advice about how to care for a new born baby. Now, some years later, and with the benefit of several years of child rearing, I feel that what would have been a whole lot more useful would have been a book of rules and instructions for some of the more murky areas of parenthood…

Over the years, I have woven a complex and sometimes, although I say it myself, impressive web of lies surrounding the existence and lifestyle of the many and varied members of the magic community who populate our childrens’ lives. What is the MO of Santa’s elves, where does Santa live, what does Rudolph really like to eat on Christmas Eve? What does the Easter Bunny look like and how does he/she deliver all the branded chocolate to our homes? How does the tooth fairy get under your child’s pillow and leave money without detection?

This is a good one – How come the tooth fairy sometimes doesn’t come for days even though your child leaves countless notes and gifts with their tooth? How do parents know that the tooth fairy is sometimes so busy that they can’t come the same night, and why does it often coincide with the fact that mummy has fallen asleep on the sofa after that last glass of wine and has then hauled her fat arse to bed!

None of this is news to any parents out there. We all do it. We collude in the lie, we try desperately to remember all the elaborate tales that we tell and which seem to be swallowed whole and taken on board. Goodness only knows what our childrens’ dreams consist of.

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A recent letter to the tooth fairy – this time she even gave it a hashtag!  Can you see the tooth in the middle?  You might need a magnifying glass!

Anyway, last week, my daughter’s tooth fell out, her 3rd. A tiny, virtually non-existent appendage. I can’t believe something so small had been carrying out a functional role in her mouth! That evening, she wrote a little note for the tooth fairy, placed it and the microscopic tooth in an envelope and slid it under her pillow.

The envelope is a new addition to the saga, following an unfortunate event when the tooth fairy spent a long time fumbling around in the dark searching for another similarly minute tooth. It was nowhere to be found so the tooth fairy had no choice (and was so tired that she just wanted to go to bed) but to leave the money and hope that the next morning the tooth would remain hidden allowing for the tooth fairy to do a full sweep of the bed area in daylight and find the tooth which was clearly not visible to the naked eye. Sadly, the child did in fact find the tooth, so mummy dutifully added yet another string to the bow of lies and explained that the tooth fairy sometimes thinks the teeth are so beautiful that the child should be able to keep the tooth for posterity. She bought it. I made a mental note to remember what I had just said. I should have written all this shit down. I really have no idea what I have said over the years.

So, this time, it would seem I had done belt and braces and this was a bog standard tooth fairy scenario – don’t go to bed and forget, take the envelope, deposit the cash, boom, the magic stays alive.

As my daughter was going to bed she smiled wistfully and told me how excited she was that the tooth fairy was coming that night. I smiled. Yes, she said, her friend had recently lost a tooth and the tooth fairy had brought her a gift.

“Oh” I said, “what was that?”
“A sticker book.” she replied. “Yes, maybe the tooth fairy will bring me that Rainbow Dash book I want”
For those of you lucky enough not to know, Rainbow Dash is a member of the (in my opinion) much reviled and hated My Little Pony franchise that has reigned for too bloody long in this house. The book in question is a free book that comes with the utterly shite magazine that costs far too much and comes adorned with plastic crap and, in this case, a thin book.

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This is Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony.

Oh how my heart sank as she said this. So many things that I wanted to say. So many feelings went coursing through me. The first one was, shit, it’s 8pm and my husband is out so it is impossible to go to a shop that might still be open and that might possibly sell this awful publication so that I can keep the tooth fairy dream alive. The second thing that went through my mind was, since when did the tooth fairy deliver actual presents – it’s money, she/he/it leaves money and surely this is understood worldwide? And yes, she leaves whatever change is available at the time – I guess there is a going rate which these days seems to have escalated to around £2. But let’s face it, at that age, a few shiny coins usually hits the spot.

I made a few comments to try and deflect this certainty on my daughter’s part, that in the morning a magazine would have replaced her diminutive piece of enamel. But it seemed to bounce off her as if there was an anti bullshit force field around her. I abandoned the child and sought solace in wine and master chef.

At midnight, true to form, I woke with a start and remembered that the fucking tooth fairy hadn’t done her duties. So I woke myself up enough to get out of bed, scrabbled around in my purse and managed to find some change. I fell back into bed feeling totally relieved that I had not completely forgotten and that I had pulled the situation back from the brink of disaster. As I drifted back off to sleep I smiled as I imagined how finding the coins would dismiss all thoughts of magazines and all would be right with the world. How ridiculous, the tooth fairy bringing presents, how ridiculous.

A new day dawned. For once, as I came crashing downstairs already racing against time, thinking only of coffee and what I could scrape together for packed lunches, I did not have to pull the duvet off my cosy, snoring child as she was already sitting up in bed. To be more accurate, she was kneeling on her bed, facing her pillow, head bowed. I approached her, expecting to find a face beaming with joy and excitement at finding money under her pillow and the envelope containing her tooth miraculously gone. But no, I found a sad face, eyes brimming with tears. Shit. The acting started:

“What’s wrong? Didn’t the tooth fairy come? What’s happened?”
“No, the tooth fairy came” – she opened her palm to reveal 2 shiny pound coins.
“Oh, that’s great! That’s so much money! You lucky girl. Go on, put it in your money box. Why are you so sad?”

Here it comes…
“Why didn’t she bring the magazine?”
“Well, she’s only tiny isn’t she. Perhaps she couldn’t carry such a big magazine. She’s really busy too.”
“But my friend got the sticker book. She must be able to carry it”

At this point my eldest daughter came into the room. She has ‘known’ for a while but she is committed to keeping the dream alive, thank goodness. She suggested that maybe it was a different tooth fairy. Obviously, there are loads of tooth fairies worldwide!

This didn’t seem to cut it for her at that moment. So we tried another angle: perhaps the tooth fairy couldn’t find that specific Rainbow Dash book;

“After all” I said, “I think that book is very hard to find. The money was clearly left for you to go and buy the magazine yourself.”

Ok, this went down a bit better, the tears were abating. Ah, but then she remembered that she only had £2 and magazines cost more than that. Yes, of course, all those occasions in the shop when I flat refuse to buy these terrible publications stating that they cost an arm and a leg. So, of course, I found myself desperately fumbling around and then I heard myself promising to buy the magazine and pay the difference. Oh for fuck’s sake. This is not what was supposed to happen.

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I found myself thinking, why don’t new parents get the starter pack that we all really need? A sort of guide to the myths surrounding all the magical creatures who will fill our lives. There would be useful role play sections highlighting situations that may occur with your children, giving you possible answers and solutions to these difficult but common scenarios! Things such as, where does the tooth fairy come from? How does she get into the house? What exactly does she leave under your pillow? If she doesn’t come the first night, why not, and when will she actually get here?

Most importantly, there would be a very useful section entitled – Things NOT to do or say. These rules must NEVER be violated as it fucks it up for everyone else, right? Are you with me here? If we all stick to the rules, then we will all be happy, capiche? And our kids? Yes, one day they may hate our guts for a bit as the veil falls from their eyes and they see everything in stark, boring, grown up reality, but then they will understand and they will pass it all on and keep the dream alive. But only if we all stick to the rules – YES?

Losing is for Losers…

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Obviously this is a lie.  Happiness will never be achieved when playing a board game

What do you do when you are the least competitive person you know but your child is cut from different cloth?

And, what do you do when your child is constantly nagging you to play a game of chance that she is unlikely to win every time, but openly cheats or throws a shit fit if she even looks like she might be losing? And how do you deal with this situation when you, as an individual really don’t give a shit either way but realise in your role as a parent that this is the opportunity to crowbar a few life lessons in; you know, the ones about learning to lose gracefully, enjoying the process, taking it on the chin, chalking it up to experience and going in more determined to win next time. Oh yes, and the fact that it’s supposed to be fun, a shared experience, a chance to interact with each other. Yes, fun!

Half way through one of our ‘game ordeals’ over Christmas, I drew it to an early close as the tears and the huffing and puffing had reached critical levels. My soothing words about a game being a bit of fun and that losing was part of playing were falling on the usual deaf ears. I then dropped the responsible parent routine and let out my inner 6 year old as I exclaimed that ‘nobody wants to play with you if you cheat all the time nah ner ner nah nah!’

I went and sat on the sofa. She was at the table with her back to me. I could see her shoulders heaving. I could feel the indignant heat radiating from her angry cheeks. And still with her back to me she said in her best angry voice:

“I know I cheated Mummy, but it’s just that I REALLY HATE LOSING”

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The calm before the board game melt down. Please note the medicinal wine in the foreground!

I never joined a team. I wish I had. I did not grow up with sport, I never enjoyed Monopoly and I’m not very competitive.

I should say at this point that I don’t necessarily WANT my kids to be like me. I am your ultimate apologist – the sorry box of my childhood being a perfect case in point. My non-competitive nature could very easily be mistaken for apathy or dis-interest. I must stress that this is definitely not the case. But, I cannot deny that I really find it hard to get worked up about winning a game or a quiz, coming first, beating someone else. I mean obviously I’m there screaming for Mo at the Olympics, cheering when England (or Denmark) do well in international sport, and I’m generally just very very relieved when the mighty Liverpool actually win a game because then I know that my house will be a calm and happy place! But on the flipside, I actually feel quite desperate and sad when I see the ‘runner up’ at Wimbledon, or the team that has just been knocked out of the FA cup on penalties. I see their pain, I feel their disappointment and it tarnishes for me the sense of happiness and victory for the other side. Even as I write this I realise how utterly wet and limp and other words describing weak this is! But I can’t help it.

In addition to this, I find board games quite tedious and trying, especially where the children are involved, preferring instead an uncomplicated, non-biased activity such as a puzzle!

I have learned that when children (well, mine anyway) reach the age of 5 or thereabouts, the ability to control themselves when it comes to playing competitive games is tough to say the least. There are invariably tears and red faces and explosions of anger when things are not going their way: when the snakes outnumber the ladders and the lotto cards are filling up faster on the other side of the table, or all the top trump cards are in someone else’s hands. The pale cheeks flush a puce red and the little eyes start to brim with tears. Then the blind anger sets in and more often than not, it’s all over!

But this small person has a big big big persuasive streak. I try so hard to stand up to the barrage of whingeing and whining and cajoling. But invariably, I give in (I am weak I am weak). So, in an attempt to salvage some control over things, I have over the weeks and months tried various game play strategies with her.
1. Let her cheat – By letting her cheat, and subsequently win I am taking the line of least resistance. And, seeing as I don’t give a rat’s arse about winning or losing, it is no skin off my nose. Yes, she is learning that dishonesty and emotional manipulation pays, but, hey, we are in post Brexit, post truth, Trump Land where ‘alternative facts’ are actually a thing! Maybe these are the life lessons she needs to be learning: Go out there, grab what you want and win AT ANY COST.

2. Let her win (a bit) – I let her win for a bit, I ignore some of the the indiscretions and blatant cheating. But then, I start to actually play the game properly, partly to stop myself from falling asleep. Perhaps I even win the game of lotto or spotty dogs! Then, through the tears and the stamping and the wailing, I attempt to explain mainly 2 things, namely, you can’t win everything and it’s luck whether you win or lose and after all, it’s supposed to be fun!

3. No more Mrs Nice Guy – I go in hardcore, from roll 1 of the dice. This usually means a swift conclusion to the game as she walks (or rather stomps in a flouncy way) very fast from impending defeat.

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In my naivety or stupidity (how after 12 years of child rearing can I be this dense?) I think that this no nonsense, teach them what real life is really like, you can’t win em all attitude is going to actually work. Then I take a step back and reflect. She’s 6. She is the youngest (indulged much of the time). She lives in an affluent home in a free (at the time of writing) country. Did I mention, she’s 6? Does she need to learn life’s harsh lessons from A through to Z right now? Do I have to be the nasty person who dishes out the truth every time? Can’t I let her believe for a little bit longer that she will win a game of chance every fucking time she plays it? Is it really that bad to maintain the status quo for a little bit longer? It’s either that or explain that until she learns to lose with some grace and dignity, ain’t nobody gonna want to play a game with her!

But, in all honesty I have to say, how brilliant that she articulated exactly how she felt at that moment. Respect to my 6 year old daughter who gets it more at her age than I can now – it’s ok to not like it. It’s ok to really hate it. And it’s ok to say you hate to lose! I’m guessing, that like her siblings, she will also put herself voluntarily into situations where she might win or lose and she will get upset and frustrated sometimes and she will invariably find herself on the losing team. And she will really really hate it! But I hope by then she will also hear my voice in her head saying – it’s ok to lose sometimes. This is how you learn. And losing well is a great skill and a useful quality to have. But, most of all, she has the voice and the confidence to express this.

So yes, little monster child, continue to hate to lose, just learn to do it with a rye smile on your face and with renewed determination to win next time and then learn to love the process of winning FAIR and SQUARE!

Candy Cane Crush!

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Buddy the Elf and the Candy Cane Forest

My childhood Christmas was essentially a traditional Danfest, from the tree adorned with Danish flag garlands and real candles which were lit on Christmas Eve, to the traditional boozy rice pudding dessert at the end of our meal which contained a whole almond. Whoever got the whole almond won a marzipan pig. Santa delivered our gifts on Christmas Eve – he would leave them on the doorstep in a black bag and ring the bell. For 3 years in a row, I was convinced Santa drove a motorbike as every time my sister and I opened the door, we would see a bike speeding down the road into the darkness. I never noticed that my mum was quite out of breath and was coming in through the back door as we were running to the front!

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My Danish Aunt Rigmor’s amazing Christmas Tree from last year complete with real candles and Danish flags.

For me and my sister, there were no stockings on Christmas Day. No, for us, Santa’s elves did the leg work on the long run up to the 24th. Throughout December, our advent calendar or Julekalender was a magical pocket hanging on the wall and every morning, the Nisse (Danish Elves) would leave us a small gift: a pencil, a ruler, a sweetie, a book, sometimes some knitted items that looked suspiciously like things my Grandma might make! Then, on Christmas Eve, the main event.

After my Mum died far too young, it became of the utmost importance to keep our Christmas traditions alive. There were a few incredibly painful years when it just seemed too much as teenagers to keep it going. It felt wrong that the very reason why we were doing all these things was not there. None of us felt like doing it much anyway. However, there was also something so therapeutic about getting the tree, digging out all the old decorations, cooking the food in the same pans and serving it in the same dishes that our mum had done for us.

So what about my 3 melting pot children? Well, they get the Danish Julekalender and, I must confess that there is a stocking in the mix too. Lucky kids, stupid mother! But hey, why not?

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My advent calendar visited by the Danish Elves over the years.

My youngest has this year developed a regular and lengthy correspondence with the elves. This is very heartwarming and sweet. It is however, rather time consuming. On the 1st of December, I was met in the morning with an indignant child who was quite frankly pissed off that she had not received a reply to her picture and extensive list of requests that she had left in her basket. The elves learned fast and the next morning there was a reply!

Then, what can only be described as candy canegate occurred. The elves delivered a very cute candy cane pencil, a lot like the ones you can buy in Tiger! It was well received. This got my daughter thinking. Last year, the elves had delivered real candy canes. She hated them obviously because they were minty but she knew of a candy cane in other flavours, strawberry to be precise. So yesterday afternoon another detailed letter was produced. Yet another list for Santa requesting such things as puppy surprise (retailing at £29.99), some mental interactive chimp doll (retailing at almost £100), a smart watch and ‘my own ipad’. You have got to be having a giraffe my girl. My oldest daughter and I laughed heartily and explained that Santa can’t bring you everything you ask for. Youngest child shed a few tears and exclaimed ‘why not? He’s Santa’.

Anyway, at the end of the note to the elves asking for high ticket items, was this sentence: ‘And please give me a real candy cane tomorrow morning.’

I tried to deflect this. Even my son (still a believer) had to point out that it was unlikely seeing as mummy only lets them have sweets on Saturday (technically yes, in reality this is almost never achieved). But my girl was adamant. Who were we to question her resolve? As if it is any of my business anyway.

So, into the magic basket went the letter.

And finally, everyone was in bed, and finally, I awoke from my usual position, slumped on the sofa from where I had intended to arise to do all the boring shitty stuff that needs to be done most evenings. It was 9.45. The elf had to wrap some presents and write another fucking letter. Sadly, not being magic, there was no candy cane. So, the elf wrote the required response, fully supporting mummy and her rule of no sweets until the weekend. The elf then added strawberry flavour candy cane to the now growing list of requests that the kids have – yo-yo, ruler, smelly pencils, etc.

The next morning, I awoke to a relatively happy child. After all, the stickers she got were pretty shit hot really and she does love stickers. The letter to her (that had been lovingly written in elvish swirly script) was glanced at, tossed aside. There was a bit of crying, but mainly because her brother laughed at her and she was irritated. And then, much to my horror, a new letter was wafted under my nose before being deposited in the basket for that night.

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Dear Elves please please please please give me on Saturday a strawberry candy cane please please love from Ivy

What is this monster I have created? Can I take much more of this? Perhaps the next Elf response will be in Danish. That might slow things down in terms of correspondence. Maybe the elves will explain that there is a postal strike or that Santa has a backlog of notes to respond to. Perhaps I should just suck it up and enjoy this moment which will surely pass as quickly as it has arrived, and hope that one day she will not hate me when I present her with all of her letters.

Suffice to say, she will not be disappointed on Saturday morning, thanks to the local ‘Elf’ shopping centre in Feltham which luckily sells strawberry flavoured candy canes.

planets & unicorns & rainbows, oh my…

Last week, my son had to dress up in a space related costume for his topic at school. I am not very good at that stuff. After a brief chat in between Pokémon Go and some irritating game involving a ball rolling around on the iPhone, we settled on the planet Saturn. Thank the Lord for Amazon and a few clicks later I had ordered a rubber ring – ring of Saturn, an orange tshirt and some fabric pens. Boom. A planet is born. Admittedly, on the day, he just looked like a boy wearing his scruffy trackies, an orange tshirt with some brown squiggles on it and a neon orange swimming pool ring. He loved it. This is why I love him!

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Obviously the first thing you think of when you look at this is the rings of Saturn!

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The fabric pens had been left abandoned on the table. The smallest child clocked them and then the nagging began. ‘Mummeeeeee, can I draw on something, can I colour in my trousers, pleeeeeeeessssseeeeee, mummy,mummy,mummy, please, can I draw on my clothes’. For the full effect of the campaign, just re-read this about 60 times. Blimey, it’s irritating and mind blowing how a 6 year old can ALWAYS do enough to get exactly what they want. I came up with quite a lot of reasons why she shouldn’t deface her clothing. Eventually, I caved. It was the only way I could get on with all the other shit I was trying to do. So I told her to go and get one of her school tshirts. She reappeared a few minutes later with a white tshirt, white pants and white socks. I heard not one peep for over an hour. She sat at the table scribbling away. For a brief moment the allure of Youtubers opening kinder eggs and My Little Pony or Peppa Pig playing on a loop was redundant.

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As you can see, there is a distinct theme here. The rainbow is key. I’m getting strong My Little Pony vibes with a definite nod to naive art. Quite worrying to see that the unicorn in the top left appears to be farting a rainbow. It is literally propelling itself with the magical multi-coloured gas.

The t-shirt received un-solicited plaudits from the siblings. They were impressed and this gave me that warm glowing feeling you get from your children. It went something like this:

Child number 1, ‘that’s really good!’ Child number 2, ‘yeah it’s sick.’
Both children, ‘can we have some ice cream now?’

Listen, it’s enough!

Luckily for my daughter, the next day was wear your own clothes day at school, commonly known as mufti day – don’t ask me, I don’t know what it means. I do know however that it means that we need to bring either jars full of sweets or booze to school to contribute to the Christmas fair tombola. It’s a quid pro quo thing – you have an argument with your kids about what they can wear on a school day, and, oh yes, you also get to have that moment of panic when you realise that you haven’t got anything to take to school for the fair!  Not much of a deal to be honest. More like another way to fail dismally at co-ordinating more than one action that is not routine. Luckily for me, I live a few 100 metres from a petrol station, so cut price, chemical filled wine that will surely give you the hangover to end all hangovers found its way to the school (sorry fellow school people, but you know you do it too)!

The youngest child ecstatically and enthusiastically dressed herself (a rare occurrence). From rainbow striped pants, to socks and finally the tshirt displaying the farting unicorn. I had a mixture of emotions: fear that by the end of the weekend all her white items of clothing would be adorned with wobbly rainbow etchings, joy that she didn’t care about what she was wearing, pride that she had created her own unique art and above all, deep, uncontrollable, inexplicable love.

Mermaids Trump Shark

So, yesterday was a pretty shitty day. Just the same as with the EU referendum, I had gone to bed at 1.30am having seen Clinton edging ahead and I felt a bit less twitchy. I woke up to the words President and Trump being bandied around. Came downstairs to the boy watching BBC News and looking scared and confused. It had rained all night and continued to rain heavily. It felt like the day was a direct representation of what was happening on a global scale. It is hard to laugh right now. Scary times. Forgive me then for this trivial frippery of a blogpost. But in a way, this is all I can talk about right now, because anything else is just too scary or painful.  It might also make you smile which is hopefully a positive thing. I mean, bear in mind that by smiling or laughing you are directly laughing AT me, but given the disastrous situation out there in the world, I think I will not take offence if you do decide to laugh.

Last week I finished my latest craft project. It started in September when I made a mermaid tail blanket for my youngest for her birthday. Have you seen them?

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It’s like a big tube with a tail really.  Very sweet.  Looks like you’ve got a mermaid tail, albeit a cosy, woolly one which wouldn’t be happy should it get wet. I was very excited to give it to her because she had told me that she really wanted to be a mermaid! I mean, she liked it when she saw it but she didn’t gush all over it as I had secretly hoped in my heart.

Surely you will agree that if you make something with love, and you use those precious moments after kids have been shouted at, fed, watered, put to bed (which is getting later and later by the way) that you want some kind of positive response, at worst a smile, at best a hug.  You know, when all the shit from dinner has been tidied up etc., and you have awoken from your post meal nap on the sofa and then settle down with your craft project whilst drinking wine, eating chocolate and watching violent shows on Netflix such as Fargo, (that your husband has assured you won’t be too bad at all but is in fact the goriest, bloodiest thing you’ve watched since the last gory, bloody thing we watched, and by now you are completely hooked anyway, even though you have to hide behind your hands for a lot of it, but hey, that’s why crochet is so great because you can look down at what you are doing and count how many stitches you’ve gained by accident) you do want some love back.

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I realise in hindsight that it is churlish and naive to expect a 6 year old to heap praise and gratitude on her mum for a homemade thing! I know I was extremely unimpressed with home knits when I was that age.  The plastic my little pony equestria girls won out on the day. However, the blanket is now very popular and when my other children wanted to use it, the 6 year old got a bit antsy and territorial not wanting to share it. This secretly pleased me as it indicated that she had grown an attachment to it, and I resolved to make 2 more blankets for my son and oldest daughter so that there would be no more squabbling.  I had admittedly bought quite a lot of wool so I did need to use it up. I made another one for the oldest child and then my friend asked me to make one for her daughter! So I whipped one up for her.

Can you tell I’m feeling quite smug here? And then my friend made an inspired suggestion. For the son, a shark tail blanket! The clever lady who sold the pattern for the mermaid tail also luckily had a pattern for a shark. You should check out her patterns here.

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The shark was a bit of a longer project as it involved a dorsal fin and side fins and teeth! Different wool too. But I was so chuffed when I finally finished it. I pulled a late night in front of a documentary about Kate Bush. Very satisfactory! My son loved it. I took some cool pictures of him in his blanket which look like he is being eaten by the shark. I was very very pleased. The only problem was that when I showed my husband, oldest daughter and other family members some photos of him in his blanket, they all laughed quite a lot. And then I saw it as if with new eyes and I realised why they were so amused. As you can see from these pictures, it is quite glaringly obvious!

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Yes yes, it’s ok, you are allowed to laugh. I seem to have created the most phallic shark fin imaginable. I laughed but then I got extremely irritated! They just don’t bloody understand, I was thinking. I have slaved for hours to make this fucking thing and you are all laughing. I think it is safe to say that I over-reacted and possibly should have lightened up slightly! I was certainly a little bit sensitive about my crafty endeavours. It played on my mind. I kept looking at the picture on the pattern. Where had I gone wrong? Why didn’t it look so rude on her pictures?  It really was not bothering my boy, but still, it niggled away.  So, the other day I unpicked it, did a bit of jiggling around and took some stuffing out of the fin so that it has now gone a bit floppy but it is now more triangular than willy shaped!!  I then took a photo of my son lying on his side in order to deflect the idea that the fin is sitting in ‘that’ place! I’m still thinking about it though!

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Is it worse that it is now a bit floppy rather than sticking up all the time? Why can’t I make it look less funny or phallic? Why do I care quite frankly? No-one else is going to see it (apart from anyone who reads this now I guess).  But seriously, Donald Trump has just won the Presidential Election.  Need I say more?

I’ve just had a request for another mermaid tail blanket.  I will happily make it. At least there will be no ambiguous phallus/fin to contend with. But first of all I am going to make some cute Santa slippers for everyone in my house. Yes, everyone. No, I don’t give a shit if they want them or not! Double edged sword living with a crochet obsessed person!

The Shopkins Effect

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can you tell that this was not created using a template from the internet?

Back in May I talked about my youngest child’s 2 week abstinence from poohing! As a result, I hastily created a sticker chart. I say a chart, I drew some wobbly lines and wrote Pooh Stickers all over it which amused me because it made me think of Pooh Sticks in Winnie the Pooh. Nobody else seemed to get the joke though.  Oh well.  The rules were as follows: 2 small rabbit pellet poohs get 1 sticker, a medium sized pooh (left to discretion of inspector) gets 2 and a mahoosive log gets 3. Fair enough I thought. When she has filled in one row, she would get a prize up to a certain value.

Anyway, the Pooh Sticker Chart is going very well. There have been leaps and bounds and massive mounds of pooh! And stickers galore. This has resulted in an abundance of Shopkins.

What, I hear you ask are Shopkins?  Good question. I had no idea either. They are very small plastic collectible figures that mainly resemble items of food from celery to doughnuts, but sometimes home appliances like vacuum cleaners. They have little faces and come with tiny shopping baskets that I assume they must live in. They each have a name that relates to what they are like Cheekie Cherry and Pamela Pancake and some are apparently more rare than others.  Having investigated on the internet, I am informed that they have their own Youtube channel and a Twitter account.  They seem to have no provenance like a TV show or cartoon. They are utterly utterly bizarre, useless and I am unable to understand their purpose. Yet, they are truly a victory for the world of marketing as they are advertised mercilessly on the childrens’ tv channels resulting in children like my daughter believing that this is something they really really need.

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the ever increasing Shopkins collection

What does the kid do with them? Well, she mainly tips them out of her bag and lines them up and then she puts them back in her bag. Nice. That’s worth it then!

But actually, on balance, at the moment I am forced to say that yes, it is worth it as it is currently providing the most regular bowel movements of her 5 year existence!

One question I have asked myself is, when will the pooh chart be able to be safely shelved? How many weeks, months, years will the chart be the crutch, the incentive for a regular bowel movement? And, more crucially, how much more money can I justify spending on this stuff that, let’s face it, may well find its way into the bin before the year is out? There is a large part of me that feels guilty for denying my oldest daughter the joy of Silvanian Families or the other odd collectibles that were the rage when she was 5. I happily bought all that stuff for her friends’ birthday presents, delighting in palming off the tiny furry figures and their even tinier accessories.  Ha ha I would chuckle to myself – no child of mine will collect strange little items that will sit gathering dust and silently mocking my errant cleaning skills and chiding my empty bank account.

And yet, here I am in desperate times, bribing the youngest with tiny plastic avocadoes with scary faces. This is not helped by her obsession with Youtube and its abundance of films of what can only be described as saddo (though undoubtedly very shrewd) adults, usually American, who collect these things and film themselves opening the packages and cooing over them in high pitched whiney voices. The most prolific of these is Cookie C Swirl who seems to like Shopkins as well as the miniature My Little Pony toys that come in Kinder Eggs.  She gets hundreds of thousands of views which is just mind-blowing to me and inexplicable really.  But, whilst totally freaky, it is I guess, harmless and is clearly very lucrative for Cookie C Swirl!  And hey, because of it, my daughter is producing body waste every other day and is a whole lot more chirpy. We all have our crosses to bear.

I’ll have the empty plate with the food ‘on the side’

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This is a picture of my youngest 5 years ago. One of those smug mummy pics that so many of us are guilty of posting on social media. I must apologise for this now! She was 9 months old, in an Indian restaurant, chomping away on a poppadum. How proud I was and how sure that my baby led weaning had been the right decision. Here we were, in a restaurant and everyone was eating the food we had ordered, no complaints! I saw the years stretching in front of me of relaxed family mealtimes full of smiles and squeals of delight as curries, tagines, pulses, complex flavours were paraded in front of us and I only had to cook one meal for the whole family because they would all be happy to tuck in.

What a difference 5 years make, the benefit of hindsight, the realisation that there is no prescribed way to do things with your children that will get the desired result. When number 3 was on the way, I pretty much knew that for the foreseeable future, I would not be returning to work. The oldest was at school, the boy would be starting nursery, and I would have 3 hours a day alone with my baby. I started to create a world in my head where I would be an earth mother and I would implement all of the baby rearing methods that I had not had a chance to indulge in before – baby led weaning being the most notable. I even read a book about it!

When my oldest was born, the big name in weaning was Annabel Karmel. My sister had handed me a puree splattered, well used copy of her book with advice about the best recipes, having religiously mushed and pureed good, healthy meals for her babies. It had worked well by all accounts. My friends in my NCT group were all following her meal plans. It was a rewarding if time consuming business. My oldest loved her nosh and it was rewarding to shovel in the spoons of multi-coloured semi solid mush. The boy loved it too. Never had any trouble with them eating. And yet, and yet… I seemed to think in my baby number 3 fug that I should change a tried and tested formula.

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Oh Annabel, why did I ever doubt you?

So there I was, 6 years on from baby number 1 and there was a new buzz amongst the mummys of suburbia – namely, the mind blowing realisation that you could feed your baby the food you were eating without liquidizing it to an unrecognisable, unappetising beige sludge. Looking back I’m a bit embarrassed. I was guilty of buying into a craze, a new way, because someone wrote a book saying it was ok, and not a terrible, irresponsible or dangerous thing to let your 6 month old put a piece of food in her mouth that hadn’t been pre chewed. I was up for it. My daughter was going to get the best dietary start and would be ‘that’ child who would eat whatever we threw at her!

I know that possibly millions of people have derived nothing but success and pure joy from baby led weaning. I salute them and their very well fed children. I realise that I am definitely substandard and for this I do apologise. But, in my considered opinion, baby led weaning has about as much chance of success as England winning the Euros.

Yes, we had a honeymoon period of my gorgeous, hilarious child smearing chick pea stew all over her high chair, face and floor – some might have gone in. She ate all sorts of vegetables, meat and fish and she gorged on fruit – yes, I learned not to fear the gag reflex and I was fascinated to witness my precious load gagging and then launching a chunk of carrot half way across the kitchen. I learned that babies and small children have absolutely miniscule stomachs and that the portion sizes I gave my other kids were far too big. I learned that my baby would eat until she was full and then she would stop. All good things, all good things.

But then I also learned that for a toddler, choice is BAD! I did not have the wherewithal or the energy to be honest, to create inventive and healthy selections every day and, as a result her main diet turned into what I hope most people will admit to – fishfingers, pasta, the odd pie, chicken korma etc and oh yes, fucking chips. Over the months and the years, her repertoire dwindled quite alarmingly. The beans on toast, boiled egg, pasta pesto options that I guess were acceptable suddenly turned into pasta with nothing and the odd baked bean.

She turned into Sally from ‘When Harry met Sally’ requiring everything ‘on the side’ – spaghetti with bolognese ‘on the side’, baked potato with beans ‘on the side’, empty plate with crumb of food ‘on the fucking side’. We are now in a situation where my brilliant, energetic daughter survives on a diet of oranges, raspberries, wheetos, mini cheddars, the odd mouthful of protein, the odd forced broccoli floret and cheese. I am bemused.

I also read in a book (which clearly means it’s kosher and 100% true) that toddlers are often grazers and THAT’S OK. They might not follow the traditional 3 meals a day rule, but instead enjoy healthy ‘snacks’ throughout the day, chomping on a carrot stick and some cheese and salami whilst playing with their wooden blocks and lego. Fine I thought, my youngest just likes to graze. The problem is, as the toddler years turned into pre-school years, the ‘snacks’ and the ‘grazing’ turned into frubes, mini cheddars, mini biscuits, fruit…. Mea culpa! This is not healthy grazing.

I don’t think I’m a terrible mother. I attempt to cook from scratch most days. The other 2 children eat a varied and mainly healthy diet. But I have to admit that I cannot bear the moment when the 5 year old comes to the table, makes a face like I have put a pile of steaming pooh on the table and declares she doesn’t like it before she even knows what it is. My resolve has gone. I don’t know what to do! I am hoping that one magical day she will wake up with new taste buds, feeling hungry and will devour that chicken pie, the lasagne, the roast dinner. Please, let me dream as I prepare yet another plate of toast with beans ‘on the side’ with as little bean juice as possible!

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“Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side.”