Life Story

18 Jun

Kept safely on a low shelf inside my wardrobe are 3 very special books:

One is a book crafted by my own fair, dextrous and creative hands. Lots of perspiration and profanity went into its fine production.

The book is a veritable Who’s Who of the Permanently Pickled household. It holds pictures of me, OH and Gherkin, the Olds, the animals, the car, the house. Surgically sutured into the back of the book is a DVD, containing a short clip of moi (as the protagonist) standing in the doorway, rather awkwardly and gawkily offering a warm welcome to Casa Chaos.

From the hallway, I glide towards the living room with all the gracefulness of a bag of bricks and, à la Anthea Redfern, present my loving family – just as my cousin quickly dives out of the way of the lens.

It’s cringe-worthy. It’s god-awful. It was a horrid reminder of those not-so-halcyon days of GCSE drama.

But there was a damn fine reason for putting myself into such an embarrassing position. This book and – soon-to-be-acclaimed – DVD were to provide Pickle with his first glimpse of his new forever family. The foster carers adeptly used them to drip-feed information to Pickle, so that when we finally met he would have some sense of familiarity with the random strangers he was to call mummy and daddy.

The second book is an album of photographs meticulously compiled by Pickle’s foster carers, charting his time with them. This was the most useful book to us in the early days following his transition. It made Pickle feel warm and safe to look back on the good times with the foster carers when he was feeling uneasy and at his most insecure and vulnerable. He would also understandably cry a lot and miss the sanctuary of their home. It could be difficult to sustain animated enthusiasm and a jolly tone when a frightened and anxious child was crumpling in your arms.

The final book is Pickle’s Life Story Book. Assembled by the infinite number of professionals who have flitted in and out of his life. Ultimately, this is the most important book. It’s my link to Pickle’s babyhood. It tells me the place and time he was born, how much he weighed, the circumference of his head. All those specifics that you naturally absorb at the moment you hold your newborn in your arms.

It’s factual and to the point, if not actually that detailed. It’s an honest account of the reasons that Pickle can no longer be in the care of his birth parents.

Up until now, we have only ever looked at the photographs in this book. Photos of him as a tiny baby. There are only 3 or 4. Taken on a mobile phone. Grainy with very few intricacies, like cute dimpled cheeks and knees. I’ve tried squinting my eyes to see them.

I hadn’t therefore expected him to hand me the book last week and ask if I could read the words to him. I wasn’t ready or prepared, but I duly obliged, siphoning off the inappropriate and unnecessary, and watering down the complex language. He then blurted out “Why can I not live with Mummy X and Daddy Y?” I really hadn’t expected THAT question just yet.

But what both flummoxed me and gave me the best feeling ever was when I explained to him about how he came to live with us, about how he was specially chosen. He maturely put his arms around me and asked me where was heart was.

I pointed.

He kissed the place.

Silent Sunday

17 Jun 2916_93425727655_789767655_2497816_7798049_n

Saturday Caption

16 Jun IMG03922-20120607-1334

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Whistle a Happy Tune

16 Jun

6.30am: I woke to the twittering beaks of calmness. A dawn chorus of complete and utter inaudible noise. I could hear the distant silence beyond the silence. Perpetual tranquility rolled like tumbleweed over my duck-down duvet, filling me with a sense of apprehension and generating an uneasy breeze which tickled the tiny hairs on my face (teeny tiny ones, the non-testosterone-fed type. OBVS).

A shiver rippled down my spine. Goosebumps appeared on my bumpy geese. I felt agitated, uncomfortable, on edge. I raised my head from my pillow, peering owlishly like Mr ‘wot-no’ Chad (only with a much smaller and cuter nose) over the edge of the duvet. I looked all around me.

For a moment, I was unsure of where I was. I was confused. Was this my bed? My house?

I crept tentatively down the stairs, my heart lurching with each creaking step. My head could make no sense of what was happening. I suddenly felt like a visitor in my own life. An onlooker. I glanced down at my hands. They seemed to be mine. But without a Bacardi glass, it was hard to tell.

With bated breath, I shuffled to the end of the hallway, caressing the floor with my bare feet, desperate not to make a sound. I could hear a clinking sound, or was it a clunking? I wasn’t sure. It sounded a bit clinky and clunky.

A whistle. Was it a whistle? Yes, I could hear a penetrating whistling sound. It was shrill. Harsh. Tuneless. My catatonic brain couldn’t deal with its piercing invasion. I winced.

I paused, too scared to exhale. I stood there. Frozen. I needed to exhale. I really needed to un-bate my bated breath. I exhaled. Thank God. I regained my composure – and my breath. My heart was now pulsating so violently – probably from quasi-asphyxiation – I could feel it in the back of my throat.

Curiosity drove me forwards. I felt an innate fear swelling inside me. A tsunami of terror gripped my entire body. I was afraid to see what was clinking. What was clunking. What was whistling behind the white, wooden door.

I placed my trembling hand on the cold wood, not before noticing there was a strange blue crayon mark. It looked like the letter P.

P? P? Was it a code? I mentally noted that a bit of elbow grease would whip that off in no time. No time at all.

I pushed the door. It glided smoothly and effortlessly, like a diaphanous ghost entering the room.

Clink. Clunk. CLINK. The clinking or clunking continued to reverberate in my ears. Whatever – or whoever – was making the noise had not detected the unvoiced, wooden, ephemeral intruder. I closed my eyes, and mustered up all the courage I could, then took one careful and graceful step onto a huge pile of eggshells.

I strained my eyes open.

Seated at the head of the dining table, was what looked like a small boy. My small boy. My small, fully-school-uniformed ( including spade-sized shoes) boy eating his non-hemlock-laden Weetabix, inelegantly made by his own mammoth hands.

I beamed. Still wondering if I could be in some form of parallel universe, I gave him a bear hug and an undoubtedly noxious kiss.

He grinned and fired his opening salvo at me:

Mummy, look at me-I’m dressed-I’ve even got my shoes on-I’ve had my breakfast-I’ve put my jumper on myself-I’ve brushed my teeth-I’m ready to rock-n-roll-Are you proud of me?-Has my x-box game arrived yet?

6:45am: The cynical sun rises.

Day 4 or 5 (I’ve lost count) on loop. Immaculate, impeccable behaviour.

Day 1 or 2 (I’ve lost count) of one hidden Xbox game.

Sssshhhhh! I’ll ‘fess up tomorrow. I promise.


12 Jun

I’ve just walked around the house calculating the extent of the damage since Pickle moved in. Figuring he’s calmed down muchly, it’s about time we titivate the house somewhat and restore it to its former…ahem…glory:

1 x broken radiator cover

15 patches of scratched-off wallpaper

1 x wobbly spindle on staircase banister (shaken in prolonged moment of wrath).

1 x Banksy-style graffiti on Gherkin’s floor.

Numerous scribbles on walls in Pickle’s room, playroom, hallway, landing.

1x broken toy box

1x broken laundry basket (used as climbing frame)

1x broken ceiling shade

1x broken halogen mother-and-child lamp (beyond repair)

1x snapped dog collar (An actual collar. For the dog. On dog at time of snapping).

1x smashed toothbrush holder

Several dented surfaces, skirting boards, cupboards etc.

Not forgetting:

1x basketball-shaped hole in window (repaired long ago)

Nice Shot

There were no broken bones in the breaking of the items on this inventory.

What’s that smell?

8 Jun

There’s something in the air.

And it’s no longer the smell of despair, singed ends of wits, or frazzled nerves.

Yesterday, I reached out for a modicum of support. Just had a need to not quite feel so alone after a tough few weeks with Pickle. In all honesty, I felt a little foolish and a bit of a failure, but I am glad I did it.

The support came in 140 characters or less. From a small circle of people who could genuinely understand the dark, heavy shadow that is meagrely attempting to shroud me. I have never met these people. They are faceless, some of them even nameless. It is highly likely I will never meet them. I am however thankful for their small uplifting utterances and consistent humour. No murmuring of ‘oh, they all do that’, just kind virtual nods of empathy.

In response, I kicked my own tushy – which is pretty difficult what with it being so little – and the result was an amazing day out with a much calmer young man. We spent a solid 5 hours in the fresh, damp air, chasing the most inventive and hilarious scarecrows lurking around the countryside.

It was fun. I haven’t had fun – I mean real belly-giggling, doubled-up, rolling on the floor fun – with the kids for a while. I had become too engrossed in the whys and wherefores of the intricate and complex nature of the child psyche. I had been blinded by theoretical discipline techniques. I had been over-analysing (though, as part of my own intricate and complex psyche, this will NEVER stop). I had forgotten one blinkin’ basic thing. To smile. To laugh. Ok, so that’s two.

Instead, I had watched the downward spiral of Pickle’s behaviour until it spludged into an abyss of crappy crap. Then I slumped down and seethed with silent fury, and self-pity.

Light bulb. Worra-a-noob!! Laugh. Smile. Inject some life and spirit and it’s amazing what can be achieved. Even with a fiercely stomping 5-year old decreeing: “That’s it! I’m just not living here anymore.”All the while I am bemoaning Pickle’s behaviour and all the while my own has been to blame.

One simple rule that I had briefly forgotten: Calmness breeds calmness.

Don’t think I am overly berating myself. I’m really not. I am human. Mostly. And some hardcore pontificating from Mother Theresa would be nothing short of miraculous should it have the slightest dribble of influence on Pickle.

I am merely stating a fact. I have been trapped in ever-decreasing circles of intolerance. And through my recent posts, you may have had a whiff of the fact that my patience has been tested almost beyond the point-of-no-return.

There’s something in the air.

It’s the smell of cwoffffeeee. I’ve woken up. In this moment, at least.

I shall revel in the delights and achievements of today and tackle tomorrow with the same vibrant determination. That is providing I don’t hear the thundering feet of my mini man mountain pre-dawn chorus.

The Big C

6 Jun

I mentioned recently that my lack of social networking presence had been, in part, due to a close family member being pretty poorly. It’s been a terrible time for all concerned. There have been a lot of assessments and investigations and a few weeks ago we received the dreaded diagnosis of The Big C.

This jubilee weekend also coincided with my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. We had a planned visit to join my in-laws Darn Sarth and celebrate together as a family. Unfortunately last Tuesday, my mother-in-law was admitted to hospital with some complications. This meant that the plans would understandably have to change. We, of course, still went down to visit and thankfully the hospital allowed her day release to come home and, more importantly, allowed her to partake in a glass of Rosey.

In the months leading up to the visit, the children were blissfully unaware of the reasons for the numerous clandestine calls. As The Big C decided to bugger things up for my mother-in-law, it became clear that the children would need to be given some information about Grandma’s illness.  We decided that there was no need to be overly detailed in our explanation and that we would drip-feed the necessary.

We mentioned to Gherkin – separately from Pickle – that Grandma was poorly, we were unsure what was wrong, but the doctors were carrying out some tests. Pickle was simply told that Grandma was poorly and her greatest birthday wish was peace and quiet. That was greeted with a nod, relentless spinning, and more machine gun style peowm-ing.

As the weekend approached, Gherkin started to ask more questions. He argued candidly that he thought he was old enough to know what was wrong with Grandma. The subtle changes at home were clearly being noted far more than we had realised. Could this also be one of the reasons for Pickle’s recent extremely testy behaviour? Ultimately, he was right. They both deserve honesty. Age-appropriate honesty, that is.

The dreaded conversation finally took place in TGI Friday’s, on Gherkin’s birthday. Not planned. Without warning, Gherkin blurted out ‘Does Grandma have cancer?’ Initially, there was stunned silence. OH remained dumbstruck and couldn’t utter a syllable. It was down to me.  I answered with a firm ‘yes’. I wanted to say all the right things.

There was no pretence to soften the blow. I was open and honest. I explained that some cells just grow faster than others and that medicine would be needed to make her better. To a 10-year old who only really knows the negative connotation of the word, it was difficult answering questions in a matter-of-fact way. I told him stories of close friends and more distant family who have and are stoically battling this horrid disease. I reminded him of the son of one of our close friends – for whose fund he recently helped raise money – who is kicking cancer’s fat, wobbly tushy.

He got very upset and couldn’t finish his birthday ‘tea’. He’s concerned but ultimately happy that he feels included, and understands the need for positivity. I think, or at least I hope, I pulled it off.

Thoughts are with all those laughing in your face, Big C.

And for those whose fighting spirit you have beaten and have taken from us too soon, sleep well.

Why? (a meme)

5 Jun

For those of you who don’t know, a meme is simply blogspeak for an idea which spreads from blog to blog.

The incredibly witty and delightfully delightful Mr @BabberBlog (original meme by @mummycentral) has dunked me in the mystical/murky (delete as applicable) waters of the meme pool for my inaugural swim/flounder.

His bequeathed topic is entitled Why!

“Kids like saying why. Why? Dunno. But they do. It’s an indisputable FACT. Actually, my kid’s only eight weeks old, so I’m going to have to assume he will, at some point, like asking why. The meme is our chance, as parents, to ask some questions back” @BabberBlog

So here I trundle, on my own waterwheel of whys, remembering of course to take account of the great Socratic Method which states something along the lines of: Only by asking ‘why’ can one get to the truth.

Yeah whateva, oh Great Greek Dude. Surprisingly, he too had kids. Wonder if he was regretting his pontificating as the hemlock concoction slipped down the back of his throat? *scratches head. Hmmm how easy would it be to grow a foetid, noxious weed in my kitchen?

My Waterwheel of Whys:

Why are you kicking my radiator cover/picking the wallpaper uh-gain?

Why are you daubing the walls/floors/cupboards with your obviously talent-riddled artwork?

Why do you have to spin round and round, fall over, then laugh when you split your chin open?

Why do you incessantly thump your head while you’re eating?

Why do you hate me again? Remind me.

Why do you want to hit/scratch/kill your brother?

Why do you not understand the words QUIETLY/NOT NOW/IN A MINUTE?

Why can’t you resist the urge to eat your own bogeys?

Why can’t you stop that innate expressive urge to interrupt a grown-up conversation?

Why can’t you do your homework without causing serious damage to my vocal cords?

Why do we have a collection of sticks, bricks, stones and bottle lids outside the front door ready for any opportunistic vandal to lob through the window?

Why do you have to have the last word when you know I have dibs on that?

Why can’t you just GROW UP?

Why? Really, just why?

Hemlock with your Weetabix, darlings?

Feel free to add your own list.


31 May

There is no purpose to this post other than to rant my little tushy off. Yes, I am proclaiming a LITTLE tushy. That’s the exquisite charm of the Internet.

It’s been quite some time since I posted. This could be down to a number of reasons:

1) There has been illness in the family which has paled everything else into frivolous insignificance and has ultimately meant I couldn’t be tushi-ed.


2) Pickle’s behaviour has worsened again and I am suffering a cerebral battle of wits with myself and a delightfully destructive and downright contrary little 5-year old. I appear to be pointlessly searching for answers to his impudent deportment that are basically non-feckin-existent.


3) I have had blogger’s block.

Actually, it’s a combination of all three.

After several days of school-holiday hullabaloo, I have turned into the new, modern-day Medusa. Full head of tousled, hissing and spitting snakes, writhing agitatedly in aimless abandon. Wary. Edgy. Awaiting the next unexpected bout of insolence or aggression. But without the powers of being able to see over my shoulder, behind my ears, under my armpits, OR of being able to turn small children (and Other Half) into stone.

Now, if I could, THAT would be seriously SICK (as my now 10-year old would say)!!! It would be like having an integrated pause button (couldn’t be a permanent mutation) at the tip of my cornea. I could halt any given moment that fecked me off. It would give me the time to think before dishing out a string of erratic and inconsistent punishments, which simply lead to the kids proffering that look of scornful disdain at the crazy-noob-woman.

I know it’s the same-old ‘routine’ issue that’s causing Pickle’s metamorphosis into utter horror-bag. I know it will settle again. At school, there are many more distractions, quick-changing activities and professionals trained in exercising the virtues of patience which make Confucius look like Victor Meldrew. I crave this kind of patience. Consistent patience, I mean. Maybe if somebody paid me to be patient, I could actually BE patient. *rubs chin *dials for careers advice.

I’m inclined here to blame surging hormones for my surging stints of (im)patience but since I am now a contemporary Gorgon and can turn men/small boys into marble with my post-feminist glare, I shall refrain from any girly diatribe.

Confucius say: “It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”

Confucius do not say how the feck to start in the first place.

Pickle’s Profound Philosophy (2)

22 May

A few weeks ago, the Reception class were learning about 3D objects.

Pickle:   Mummy, did you know a 3D circle is called a fear?

Me:        *sniggers.

Pickle:   And a 3D triangle is called a jail?

Me:       *puzzled look.

Think you’re mistaken with that one, Pickle. Oh ohhhhh, you mean a prism.

*sniggers more.





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