Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thursday, 1 November 2012

On the move!

Ctrl.Alt.Parent is on the move.

From now on, you'll find us here.

Hope you'll come and visit soon.  x

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Chat chat chat

A little while ago, my friend Margaret (remember her from the Blessingway?) and I were in a big store in the Big City, looking for some fabric to make a window blind.  Margaret's baby was in his pram, keeping quiet, Alt.D2 was sitting in my shopping trolley, amusing herself with something probably entirely inappropriate, and Alt.D1 was talking.  She was talking the hind leg off a donkey.  No, more than that, off the donkey, down the hill, round the corner and back again!  My head was buzzing, I couldn't make a decision, I just needed two seconds of QUIET!

I turned to Alt.D1 and asked her:
"Are you on fire?"
Silence.  Puzzled look.
"No, Mummy."
"Then it can wait just one second, can't it?"

Margaret creased up with laughter, Alt.D1 was a bit confused (and therefore quiet for about 30 seconds), and the decision on the fabric was made.

The day before, we had been doing our grocery shop, and I had forgotten my list.  Trying to recall what we needed, I explained to Alt.D1 that I needed a tiny little bit of quiet inside my head to think about the shopping, but all I could hear was her chattering, going in my ears and filling my head... could she please stop talking for a moment so I could work out if we did, in fact, need soap or cheese?!

Of course, I think she is lovely, she really is, and the incessant crying of her early months gave way pretty quickly to real words and coherent conversation.  At 10 months old, she was pointing at a friend's dog calling "dog dog dog dog dog doggggeeeee" and pushing her breakfast over the edge of her highchair to the waiting jaws of her new best friend and biggest fan.  From then on, the words just came tumbling out of her mouth.  Now, at rising four years old, she will say to me "Mummy, we've had this conversation before" (the implication being that she knows how it ends and she doesn't like it!) and I swear if she could, she would raise one eyebrow as she says it. 

I have always talked to both Alt.D1 and Alt.D2 as if they could understand what I'm saying, even from day 1.  Eventually (like now) they can understand, and they can talk back.  I really believe that Alt.D1's (comparatively) early verbal skills saved us from the worst of the terrible twos.  "Use words, please!" I would ask when the bottom lip started to tremble and the foot started to stamp. 

Now she is big enough to verbalise most things, and smart enough to figure out how to get us to understand when there are gaps in her vocabulary.  Last week we went to the local Wetlands Centre, where we are members, for Alt.D2's birthday.  We had a great time, and I said we could come back again another day, because we've got a special ticket that lets us in whenever we want.  Walking back to the car park, the conversation went along these lines:
Alt.D1 "You are a loud person, so you can come whenever you want"
Me "I'm not that loud!  I was quiet looking at the baby moorhens!" (We all were - they were very cute)
Alt.D1 "No, you are a loud person!"
Me "Am I?  I was trying to be quiet."
Her (getting a bit frustrated with me) "No, Mummy, I mean you are a welcome person, you are allowed to come back whenever you like, because of the special ticket!)
Me (feeling a bit stupid for not understanding in the first place) "Oh. Yeah. I am.  You're right."

Sadly though, the "Use words" trick doesn't always work now.  She uses the words, we still don't comply with the request, and the tantrum is thrown.  Sometimes it's thrown with a fair amount of force, too.  Even with the big words that little girl has, sometimes they are not enough to express the injustice of "No, sorry, you can't have a third chocolate biscuit just before tea time."  

Sometimes my own communication skills could do with a bit of work, and sometimes I am not quick enough off the mark when it comes to saying the right thing to diffuse the situation.  I have just re-read the first chapter of the really excellent book "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  I read the first chapter about 8 months ago, when Alt.D2 was still quite little.  I haven't managed to get back to it until now, and this time I am going to commit to it a bit more.

The book was recommended to me by my health visitor when she came to visit me at home one day.  She's one of a rare breed of health visitors.  She is non judgmental, and actually very nice. She suggested that if I could develop the way I communicated with Alt.D1, I might be able to catch the difficult situations before they took hold.  She realised that I was busy with the new baby, and that Alt.D2 was (naturally) playing up due to the fact that I only had one pair of hands.  She was bored by the baby and wanted my attention.

It was a bit like a light being switched on, and at the same time a reminder that as parents, we have a responsibility to put ourselves in our children's shoes from time to time.  We, with the benefit of years of life experience, have the ability to imagine what they might be thinking.  They have not yet developed empathy, and they sometimes don't even understand their own emotions, let alone the effect they are having on ours

So in truth it is actyally helpful that Alt.D1 is such a talker, however tired my ears might be.  Considering we just got home from an eight hour round trip to North Wales in a small car with a big chatterbox, they are pretty tired right now.  She can (and does) articulate her feelings, which helps me to help her.

She says funny and lovely things, and I hope she never changes.
But it is so nice and quiet round here when she's asleep!

Edit:  I've just re-read this post and it sounds like "My child is so clever..."  It really wasn't meant like that, honest!   :)

Monday, 27 August 2012

Shades of something sinister?

Ok, so I thought it was about time for a book review...  Everyone seems to be reading them, and far be it from me to pass judgment without having direct experience, so I borrowed the trilogy that they are all talking about, and in between trying to get AltD2 down for her naps, I spent some quality time with Mr Christian Grey.

I was shocked, I tellya!  But not particularly by the sex, the whips and chains, not even by the repetetive language or confusing use of British English in Seattle.  

As I read on, I became increasingly frustrated by the protaganist Ana.   She was supposedly an intelligent girl, but she repeatedly demontrated a complete lack of realisation to what the heck was going on.  The plot, for those who have managed to be safely under a rock for the last six months, involves a naive university graduate who falls for a troubled millionaire with a penchent for elaborate gadgets in the bedroom and a natty taste in interior design (flogging bench, anyone?).  Can she soften his heart?  Can she "save him" from himself?... can she change her abuser?  Because ultimately that's what he is.  Maybe Ana should have checked out "the Couple Connection" before she got in too deep.

I found myself almost shouting at the character when, on honeymoon in London, and left alone for an afternoon while her husband attends a business meeting, the most interesting thing she can think of to do is stay in the hotel room and shave her pubic hair off.  So much for "I've always wanted to visit London!".  Bristish Museum, British Library, maybe the V&A, but no, instead she reaches for the bic disposable.  I think the term is #facepalm !

The sex scenes are repetetive and I found myself skipping past them towards the end.  In fairness, without them the books would be a far quicker read! 

The hope of course is that EL James' readers are sensible enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality.  If not, and certainly there will be some who are not, then some of the scenes, including one where Christian asks Ana to resist him, give a frighteningly damaging message to impressionable readers.  This is, as described by Clare Phillipson, director of women's refuge "Wearside Women In Need", an abusive relationship portrayed as a love story.

But at the end of the trilogy the author has written an epilogue. Reading that part was when I got really angry.  

Two years down the line, Ana and the millionaire are married with a child, and have one on the way (I'm fairly confident I'm not giving too much away here, after all, it's pretty much the plot of Twilight).  The following passage is reproduced here without permission and solely for the purpose of this critique:

"What is it?"  Christian tilts my chin back.
"I was just remembering Ted's birth" [first child]
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
"I am not going through that again.  Elective caesarian this time." [NB this is CHRISTIAN SPEAKING, not Ana]
"Christian, I -" 
"No, Ana.  You fucking nearly died last time. No"
"I did not nearly die."
"No."  He's emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me, his eyes soften.  "I like the name Phoebe," he whispers, and runs his nose down mine.
"Phoebe Grey?  Phoebe... Yes.  I like that, too."  I grin up at him.

So by way of a bit of background, "Ted's birth" involved a caesarian after 15 hours of labour.  The mother has been resisting a c-section, the doctors are not impressed, and when she finally agrees, there is much eye rolling all round.  "About time."  says Christian Grey.  

I was interested and surprised when I did a little bit of research into the author of "50 Shades", E L James.  She is English, and has two children.  The reason I was surprised is that having had two children, she is more than likely to have come across women who have undergone an emergency caesarian with their first baby.  For many women, there are health concerns that require subsequent childen to be born also by caesarian section.  However, for most of the women I have met where their first baby was a C-section, their hope for subsequent births is that they might be a vaginal delivery.

I was lucky in that both of my children were born by (fairly uneventful) normal vaginal deliveries.  I think Ana, in the passage above, would agree with many mothers who say that to have a VBAC [Vaginal Birth after Caesarian] is something they would really like to be able to do.  She's trying to argue with her husband for a VBAC and he is an inconsiderate, controlling idiot, in denying his wife the opportunity to bring their child into the world in a way where she has control of the situation.  She denies that she almost died - she has no medical reason for a C-section to deliver her second baby.

50 Shades has been criticised all over the media for many things, but as far as I can see, nobody has mentioned the way Christian's control over Ana extends to the delivery of their children.  I thought she was supposed to be intelligent, I thought the premise of her character was that she refused to be his submissive... apparently not, after all.

For information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, including how to spot a controlling, abusive partner, see and

If you would like information about VBAC, here are some links that might be of interest:
Quickfacts (US site)

And if you'd like to read the 50 Shades Trilogy, and make your own mind up about Ana and Christian, there are plenty going on ebay!

I would love to hear your comments.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Expect the Unexpected

Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?  We can plan whatever we like, make arrangements and sort everything out in advance, and then the kids arrive... it's all steam rollered and you kind of have to start again!

My life changed quite a bit last January (2011) when my job was no longer available to me.  Despite first reservations, it has turned out to be for the good in the long run.  It wasn't what I'd planned, certainly wasn't what I was expecting, but actually, so far, it's all working out ok.  You can't buy back the time you have when your children are small, and AltFather and I know that the benefits of me being with them at home are going to far outweigh the cost of the things that we are going to have to go without to allow that to happen.  I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity, which I know isn't available to everyone, and isn't the choice that everyone would make, but I love it.

Every day is full of the unusual, often preceded by a small voice telling me:
"Unfortunately, Mummy..." in that funny grown up way that AltD1 has of speaking.  She's so serious!  This blog isn't usually all about what I have been doing with my day, but last Friday was an amazing day I just wanted to share.

AltFather had the day off work, and we made a trip to a fantastic local outdoor Lido.  Olympic size main pool, heated and sparkly, with two children's pools, a fountain and icecreams.  If you're ever in the area, it's well worth a visit!  We swam and we paddled, jumped in and out, splashed and sploshed in the sunshine until our heads were heavy and our eyelids drooped [and that's just AltFather and me!] and it was time to go home.  

AltFather fancied a bike ride so we dropped him off half way and I drove home with my sleepy girls in the car.  Small snores emanated from the back seat almost as soon as the engine started, and they carried on all the way back to our house.  And so they continued from AltD1 as I carried her in and transferred her to the sofa.  AltD2 pottered happily on the carpet.  She had woken refreshed, her batteries recharged in the manner of a Nokia mobile phone - just enough from her 15 minute snooze to keep her going for a while more.  After about an hour, the doorbell rang and slightly muddy AltFather had returned.  The girls were both awake, we were all a bit hungry, it was a beautiful balmy evening...

AltFather dashed through the shower, we scooped up a blanket and two small girls, popped them in the car... and headed up to the Common for fish and chips and this:

"It's rather lovely to be going out after bed time, isn't it?" AltD1 could barely contain her excitement!  It was spontaneous and spur of the moment, but one of the best days of the summer so far.  I'm so glad we just went with it!  Shame the late bedtime didn't lead to a lie in the next day, but ho hum.

All too often I find myself muttering under my breath the parental mantra "This too shall pass, this too shall pass", often in response to an explosive and passionate moment with AltD1, or a strange and unexplained babyphase from AltD2.  The thing is, it will pass, all of it, the bad and the good.  What we'll remember best are the things like exciting evening picnics of fish and chips on the common after bed time, or the fact that Mummy was able to spend the summer before AltD2 arrived just doing stuff with AltD1. 

Even if it's unexpected or unplanned, it might just be for the best in the long run.  Because life is the long run, and it will all be ok in the end - and if it isn't ok yet, then it isn't the end!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2's birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you'll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.

When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called "Our Tune".  Simon Bates would read out listeners' letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an "Our Tune" I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido's "Thank You", and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 

So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.

When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

'They' said to me:
"Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn't get confused." 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn't doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn't working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
"I'm not really allowed to touch you, am I?"

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

"All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be... all I do is keep the beat and bad company... all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme..."

I was only "allowed" to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms... handing her over when she got too worked up... it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn't get out of my head:

"I love you like the stars above and I'll love you till I die" (oh my goodness, isn't that just the truth?), and

"you exploded into my heart"  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed... definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn't be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn't be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It's a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  "To Make you Feel My Love".

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.

"I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love"  

Once again - isn't that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I've played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.

I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members... please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You'll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it's going to turn out really special.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Getting creative...

I am a little late to the party here, but over at Hobo Mama, they have been hosting a blogging carnival along the theme of Creativity.  The premise of a blogging carnival, I just discovered, is that you produce a post on a certain theme, together with a number of other writers, and all publish your pieces on the same day.  Loads to read on a specific subject, but all coming from different places.

So July's theme was creativity, and there were some very interesting submissions.  You can find the participants on the link above.

It started me thinking about the creative buzz there is in the Alt House.  This goes way deeper than the crayons and bits of tissue paper we find stuck all over the place.  The creativity in a three and a half year old is inspiring.  AltD1 just isn't inhibited in any way, (that is certainly true, and probably stories a-plenty for another time!) least of all when her creativity gets going.

One of my elder daughter's favourite ways to express herself is through her crazy, crazy wardrobe choices.  We have had some interesting selections.  There was the period during which she would only wear tops and tights (in October naturally), sporting them with wellies or sandals, depending less on the weather than on her frame of mind.  We once went to do the weekly shop with AltD1 dressed in a purple tutu.  On top of jeans, with a sunhat (mine) and oversized sunglasses (also mine).  She may or may not have been wearing wings, I can't remember.  We had a few funny looks in the aisles, but I'm pleased to say there were also a few admiring glances, too.

Someone once expressed to me that she was a little envious of her 2 year old who had gone to the library in a fairy dress.  Wouldn't life be more fun if we all wore dress-up on a daily basis?!  Does it make a difference that the 2 year old in question is a boy?  I do feel quite proud of my friend for letting her hilarious little guy be so self-confident in his pink tulle!  She too witnessed raised eyebrows, but I hope she continues to have the same confidence as her little boy does now.

I admire AltD1 for having her own style.  She can dress herself, and she chooses from clothes that I (for the most part) have bought for her, so I can't complain.  She is comfortable, and as long as she is dressed appropriately for the weather and vaguely appropriately for the occasion, I won't ask her to change her outfit.  Nor would I ask her to change herself. She dresses her own way and I hope she'll continue to do so for all of her life.  Just as I hope she won't feel the need to be the same as everyone else in her views and opinions, nor should she need to dress the same as they do.

It's more than just the unabashed confidence that I admire in small children, though.  They are not afraid to get stuck in.  

AltD1 loves painting.  For whatever reason, we tend not to do it at home (no child friendly paint... birthday coming up, must remedy that situation!) so given the opportunity at nursery or groups, she is straight in there, and very soon covered from top to toe.  Her favourite thing to do is hand prints, so you can guess where that leads!  Arm prints, ear prints, so on...  But secretly I would love to roll up my sleeves and squish the paint the way she does.

We are a pretty creative bunch, really, in the Alt House.  Small Person arts-and-crafts abound, with interesting shaped boxes being saved from the fate of recycling whenever castles, monsters or props for playing shop are required.  I am a stitcher and sewer, and AltFather is pretty handy with his work bench and a jig saw.  I still don't reckon we make enough of it though. Isn't it a shame that as adults most of us have reined in our creativity?  A three year old thinks "what shall I do today" and heads for the pavement chalks.  They aren't worried about their skills at drawing, sometimes AltD1 decides what she's drawn after it has come out on the page.  Actually I might apply that to dinner sometimes !  

We could all do with a bit of arts and crafts in our lives sometimes, in whatever way suits us...  just don't get me started on the glitter!  :)