Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dog Days

This is Eli.

Eli is eleven months old, and at this moment bombing round the house like a dog possessed.  Full pelt, around the living room, down the hall, into the kitchen, round the table, back into the hall, then back into the living room and around again.  Three circuits later, he's jumped up on the sofa next to me, laid down on top of my feet, panting away!

* * * * * 

He's a cross between a shih tzu and a llasa apso, and I'm still not sure whether we should call him a shih apso or a llasa tzu ~ seriously, try saying each aloud and see what you think!

* * * * * 

He's a complete softie, and spends his time following me around the house like a toddler ~ whenever I settle down he sits on my feet, or as close as he can.  It's very handy, now the weather has turned a little chilly ~ he's like an everlasting hot water bottle to keep my feet toasty when I'm sat on the sofa or snuggling in bed.

I think dogs are a little like children ~ once you've acquired one (through whatever route), and he/she/it has spent a couple weeks getting to know you and vice versa, it becomes very difficult to remember a time when they weren't around!

* * * * *

At the top of tomorrow's to do list is trim the hair around his eyes and face ~ he's starting to look a bit like the  Dulux dog!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Next Abstract Christmas List

I briefly explained why we write wish lists for Christmas here, and I have to say it does make it easier ~ my mother~in~law phoned earlier and asked what sorts of things they wanted for Christmas, and I managed to sound like a reasonable coherent human being for once!  I think as long as the people writing the lists realise they are what they would particularly like for Christmas, and not necessarily what they will get, you're fine.  And don't restrict yourself ~ if you have a fantastic idea you think they would love ~ maybe it isn't on their list because they don't know it exists!

So here's the next list ~ written by Petal ~ my gorgeous eight year old girly.  And a pic of her when she must have been about four.  They really do grow up fast.

  1. Books ( Tracy Beaker)
  2. Arty things
  3. Lego
  4. Sewing box (a box or bag for my sewing things)
  5. Some gloves and a scarf
  6. Matiryel to make Eli a stocking
  7. Animal rubbers
  8. Miny aquarium
  9. Nighty
  10. Pgs
  11. Jumpers
  12. Pensals

Points to note:

~ #6 ~ It seems she's definitely my daughter.  Material (AKA matiryel) to make a stocking for the dog ~ I can't help wondering if she's realised by the time she's made it Christmas would be over.  Maybe she's planning early for next year...

~ #8 ~ I have no idea what she has in mind with the mini aquarium (yep, that's what that word is!).  The best bit is that she spelled aquarium correctly!

~ #9 / #10 / #5 ~ She knows it would drive me mad to buy things I can make, so  she's managed to extend my already pretty lengthy to do list to include sewing pyjamas and a nightie, and crocheting gloves/scarf/hat...

~ #12 ~ Pencils. How much do I love phonics, let me count the ways...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

I'm Lucas, how do you do?

So, about time for introductions I suppose!

I'm Lucas.  I grew up in Sussex, and moved to Bristol to go to university ~ literally did not know a single person here, and that was pretty scary.  It also felt like freedom, and a perfect opportunity to start over ~ new city, new people, new me.  You've heard 'fake it til you make it'?  Well, that was me.  I pretended I was confident, and knew what was going on, and over time, it kind of worked!  I was hugely insecure though, and had real problems with my self~esteem, or more accurately, the lack of it.  Which is why I put so much energy into pushing away anyone who seemed even slightly interested in being anything more than friends.  

But one guy persisted.  Every time I hung up on him, he rang back.  Even though I told him to leave me alone, I'd find him waiting outside after a lecture.  Okay, putting it like that makes him sound like a stalker!  Anyway, he somehow managed to convince me it was worth a try, and it turns out he was right.

We moved in together, and I fell pregnant.  I had pretty bad morning sickness, which unfortunately coincided with my finals, so I had to keep leaving the exam room to throw up ~ not a lot of fun.  But this was another new start ~ a new beginning for both of us.

But this baby did not like keeping to a schedule, and although I was due to give birth on September 4th, I was still waddling around very bored with the whole thing when I watched a plane flying into a building on September 11th.  Morbid fascination I guess ~ I kept watching.  Part of me wondered if it was like War of the Worlds ~ you know, the radio broadcast that everyone thought was real?  It seemed too out of the blue to be true, but of course it was.  

Baby boy made an appearance on the 24th, and that was when the fun really began.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Christmas Wish Lists in the Abstract household

We've started writing Christmas wish lists over the last couple of years, partly due to the fact that one of my son's ended up buying his father a tin of baked beans one year because I got so sick of doing the rounds of the shops with him and that was all he could think of.  Oh wait, that's not true ~ his first idea was to give him a monkey.  So now everyone writes a wish list, so the little people can get a headstart on ideas for us and each other, without driving me round the bend!

So, here's the first one (nine year old boy child):

  1. Pensal case
  2. Lego (ninjago or star wars)
  3. Batugan
  4. Footballs
  5. Football cards
  6. Sweets
  7. Socks
  8. Jumpers
  9. Money
  10. Cheesecake 
  11. Cool pensals
  12. Cool pens
  13. Cool rubbers
  14. Crystals or fossols
  15. Skylanders
  16. Alex rider or worrier cat books
  17. Lego harry potter (Wii game)
  18. Pgamas
  19. Dressing gown
  20. Slippers
  21. Tourch

Points to note:

~ the spelling is his, I promise, not mine!  I'm not entirely convinced about phonics being the best way to learnt to read ~ mainly because it doesn't work when you try and spell!

~ I'm a mum. How am I supposed to know the difference between a pen that's cool and a pen that isn't?

~ he's asked for books ~ that has to be a good thing!

~ I know, he wants socks.  He does have socks, honestly! 

#10 ~ what can I say?

I make really good cheesecake.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Spots and Dots for Children In Need

Oh yes, it's that time again ... oh joy.  Surely it isn't only me?  I don't mean the whole Children In Need  ideology, I'm all in favour of such things, it's just the school bit of it ...

{My house, three hours ago ...}
'Muuuuuuuum ...'
'Yes dear?'
'You know tomorrow?'
(In general terms, or actually tomorrow tomorrow?) 'Yes dear?'
'Do I have any t~shirts or jumpers with spots on?'
'Well my darling, I'm not sure ~ are there any in your drawers?'
'Then probably not.'
'How about trousers ~ have I got any spotty trousers?'
(Good god I hope not) 'Don't think so love'
'What can I wear to school tomorrow then?'
'Ummm ... school uniform?'

Yes, it's that day again. Once again I have proven myself to be a complete failure of a mother and a human being by managing not to have found each child an entire outfit of clothes covered in multi coloured spots. Oops.

But I did make these ...

(Don't worry, that isn't all of them!  Each child has a proper cake~tin full of 'em.  Spotty tins too ~ check them out in the background!)

According to a nine year old boy child I know, biscuits with spots and dots are better than clothes.

So ner.

I'll post the recipe when I get a chance ~ Lucas~proof, look like they took time, effort and patience of a saint (actually 10 minutes, a food processor and an icing nozzle), and yummy ~ it's a win~win~win!

Still I Rise

Over the past few days there have been a couple of lines of poetry floating around inside my head, and while I was trying to work out where they were from ( turns out a~level Eng Lit ~ I'll share another time!), this caught my attention ...

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness upset you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that wonderously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

                            ~Maya Angelou

I love the imagery within this poem, and even more, I've fallen for the spirit ~ the absolute confidence, the complete defiance of another's expectations.  Maya Angelou grew up in a different time, a different world even, but the message of complete self belief in the face of another's judgement hold just as true today as it did when she wrote it.  Instead of using her (undoubtedly hugely traumatic) past as an excuse for giving up, or a reason for self pity, she instead rose above it to lead a life packed with international literary acclaim as well as personal fulfillment.

The concept of truly regaining control over an aspect of one's own life is, and should always be, incredibly powerful.  Similar to that well trodden path of television teenage angst where the clever kid uses their brain to beat the bully into submission by using the very attribute which was picked upon in order to gain the upper hand is trul poetic justice.  To not only take back your sexuality but to positively glory in it demonstrates immense strength.

Language ~ so simple, so straightforward, and yet potentially holding so much power over each and every one of us.  Words lined up, one after another, like soldiers marching in rows or a solitary brush stroke in an old master stripped entirely of context.  Imbued with precious little meaning ... until you take two steps backwards.   Once you can see the majesty of the whole,  you can begin to appreciate how well each plays its part, how these individual soldiers contribute to the overarching objective.  Maya Angelou uses both language and rhythm to elicit an emotional response in the reader, particularly effective when you hear the words spoken aloud.  Even the punctuation contributes to the sense of grace, with well placed pauses highlighting the vivid imagery, and by facing the quasi~questioning within the verse the reader is invited (and encouraged) to join in that joyous sense of triumphant victory over violence and domination.

I love poetry, but rarely think to sit and read it ~ perhaps that's something I should try and get in the habit of doing, to give myself a little time and space to journey with some of the incredible writers who have chosen to use the medium of the written word along with  the fluid beauty of poetry to express themselves, and inspire all of us.  Any recommendations on where to start?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Easy Peasy Biscuits

Okay, I'm waiting to use the laptop to upload the photos, so I'll and them once the small people have finished on Mathletics  (great website by the way, definitely motivating for the nine year old boy child!).


225g plain flour
150g marg (I use supermarket own brand 'soft spread - perfect for baking' (poor man's Stork)
125g sugar (granulated is fine, just use whatever you have to hand)
2 tsp (teaspoon) vanilla (use 1tbsp (tablespoon) if you're using vanilla flavour or flavouring, teaspoons if essence or extract)

Here's the way I find easiest:

Get the food processor out, put the dough blade in (the blunt plastic one), then put the main container bit (technical name anyone?) on the scales.

Zero the scales, add flour sugar and marg, zero~ing between each ingredient if you're lazy like me and see no need for unnecessary mathematics in the middle of baking.

Put the processor together, blitz til it looks like damp sand.

With the motor going, splash in the vanilla then go til its kind of formed into a couple of main lumps and some little bits.

Tip out, squish (technical term that) together, then lightly flour your surface, and roll out to about 1 1/2 cm thick, cut out, and put them on the tray.

Gather all the off~cuts together, re~squish (even more technical that one), re~roll and go again.  Any more off~cuts ~ well, it's up to our but if you ask me any bits of biscuit dough that have managed to stay on the outside of the cutters for two rounds must be really scared of the big intimidating oven, so it seems unkind to put them in ~ if you aren't hungry, I'm sure you can find a small child or two that can think of a less frightening alternative.

Into the oven for between ten and twelve minutes.  Once they've started going pale golden round the edges, take them out and swap them to a wire rack to cool.

Try to resist eating them for a couple of minutes ~ you'll burn your fingers if you start straightaway!

I'll post the variations to turn these into the Spotty Dotty Children In NeedChildren In Need ones tomorrow, along with (hopefully) the photos!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

how to explain death to a child ~ any bright ideas?

I found out yesterday that our elderly neighbour died last week.  Her husband of over fifty five years died two summers ago, and her health had been declining fast since.

It got me thinking ~ how do people tell their children about death?  Is it an issue that is simplified by religious belief, or complicated by it?  Do the notions of heaven or re-incarnation or other denominational continuation provide some level of closure, or do they extend the period of grief by neglecting to include an end point?

The first time we spoke to the children about death it was because our cat had died.  We explained she was dead, she wouldn't eat or move around any more, we were going to bury her in the garden, and they could see her first or watch us putting her in the ground if they wanted. They were only three, four and five, but we wanted to demystify the process as much as we could.  I cried, they cried, we all cried.  But in the way children do, they moved on pretty quickly.

Some of this I want to come back to another day, but first I'd like to ponder the problems of language associated with death.  Why do we all have such difficulty with the phrasing?  So many euphemisms ~ we lost our dog (are you expecting to find him again?); the hamster passed on (a particularly tragic round of scrabble perhaps?; the rabbit was put down (put down what? Down the hole? Isn't that after the dying bit?).

I'm sure I inspired a few interesting staffroom conversations when our next pet death occurred ~ "the hamster died yesterday.  He isn't sleeping, he isn't in heaven, he's dead.  It wasn't for the best, he isn't better off now, he isn't looking down on us, he's dead.  He isn't coming back, he isn't happier now, he's dead.". Yep, I'm sure I came across as a really sensitive kind hearted parent that day!