Thursday, 28 October 2010

Mind the Gap...

Some of you may have picked up on something in the press recently, a new fad/phenomenon. Gapped teeth!

I heard of this this morning from my folks (who are very nice people really but do watch utter garage on the TV such as X factor and the Wright Stuff). It is a subject dear to our hearts given that 75% of my family sport varying sizes of gaps between their teeth (natural and otherwise...Friday night bar fights anyone?). I have the good fortune to be gap free and often displayed a certain smugness during my childhood years given that both of my front teeth meet in the middle. My lack of gap was both a blessing and a curse. A good friend of mine won't mind me relaying a story from our childhood here (I think unless it digs up some deep seated psychological scars, then if so I apologise). I was lucky enough to have had two best friends at High School and they were very beautiful girls. Unlike myself, they could be bothered with their appearances and often took great pride in their hair, clothes and general appearance. I like Nirvana and Pearl Jam (enough said!). One weekend I was staying over on one of our sleepovers and unbeknown to me, both girls were shooting off in the morning to a modelling photo shoot competition thing. After they dragged a brush through my hair, I was dragged along. Several shoots later, we were informed that given that both girls had gaps between their teeth, I (ME??!!) would be picked for the official shoot and was promptly sent home with a portfolio, much to the delight of my mother. This smugness, it seems, was in vain...


Diastema (a gap between teeth) has often been viewed as a cosmetic defect, but there are indications that modeling agencies, fashion designers, and casting directors have changed their point of view.
At model casting calls for New York’s fashion week, which begins today, one of the most coveted attributes is an affront to modern orthodontics: gapped teeth.
The look is a bold departure from recent standards of idealized beauty that have rewarded curvaceous and perfect-smile models… In editorial spreads in Vogue and W, as well as ads for high-end brands like Chanel and Marc Jacobs, gaptoothed gals are having a moment…
“It’s a love for the imperfect, and the authentic,” says Stefano Tonchi, editor-in-chief of W magazine. “These are values that are more and more important for younger generations. Originality, authenticity…in a world that is more and more digitally enhanced.”
Don’t have a gap between your teeth?  Don’t despair.  You can have one created. David Deflin, the designer had one such procedure.

Struggling with a sense of alienation following the death of his father in 2008, fashion designer David Delfin asked an orthodontist to insert a bracket to open a space between his two front teeth."It was a metaphor for the separation I was feeling," said Mr. Delfin, who called his spring 2009 collection "Diastema," the medical term for the space. 

Now Miss B's front teeth are coming in further and guess what I see...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How do you tell your child that they are autistic?

To be perfectly honest I have no idea how to do this.



But here is our kak-handed attempt at telling our eleven year old boy that he is autistic. Perhaps you have been through a similar thing? If so then please share...

We embarked on our journey to make A aware of his ASD a while ago and I knew it would be a journey rather than an event, one that would take constant explaining and dissecting over a considerable period of time. How exactly would we broach the subject and tell him about such a complicated thing. I often find it hard to tell adults about A's autism and it is extremely hard to explain what autism is.

Part of being a parent of a disabled child means that more than most, you shield your child from negativity, from hearing the misunderstandings of other parents, adults and children regarding their condition and as a by product you can (and I have) protect them from the terrible A-word in its entirety. Parenting like this has its effects though...

We worked so hard to make A feel included in everything (normal life and society) that he had absolutely no idea he that is autistic. Our first attempt at telling him was about a year ago. He had no idea what we were talking about. He got that in his support class, there were autistic kids but didn't understand that he is as well hence the reason for him being there. He said "but yeah, I'm not like them". And then came the bit where we tried to explain to an autistic child what autistic spectrum disorder is....

So we left it for a while. We answered any questions that he had at that time and since we had started to talk about it, we mentioned the A-word in front of him more and more. Then a few weeks ago we were having a blazing row over the state of his bedroom. He has been a simmering mass of pre-pubescent hormones for weeks now and is constantly on the verge of a Kevin and Perry style meltdown. This room was disgusting which was quite unlike him as he usually keeps things tidy and organised. There was a funny smell coming from somewhere, a pen had burst and been splattered over the walls and about a weeks worth of manky clothes. During the row, he said the following: "You're not listening to me and you don't understand me...I can't tidy my room because of my autism"!

So the autism meter has come full swing and we are now trying to redress the balance...

I'm in the middle of ordering another set of books from Amazon that he can read himself this time so we can talk about this again (after I've killed Santa that is).

Here is what we've learned so far:


1) You need to process your child's diagnosis first. Don't expect yourself to be able to talk about it intelligently and unemotionally. I still get tongue tied when people ask me to explain autism.


2) Brace yourself for questions from friends, family, acquaintances and the woman in line at the shops who knows all about autism because her brother's girlfriend's cousins step-son has "it". Use answers like "We are still trying to figure things out," or for unsolicited advice and a gracious "thank you," works well.


3) Talking about autism with your child doesn't need to be like THE talk. Share information about the diagnosis little by little(keeping it simple) and in a matter of fact way,"We're going to the speech therapist to learn some cool tricks for play dates," and my favorite " I'm not sure why some things are so hard for you, but I think you are wonderful, and I'm so lucky to be your mum."

For further information the NAS offers advice on broaching the subject with your child. 

My precioussssssssssss......




I started to write this blog post in a tone which presumed like me, every mother out there has gone through this experience and then it struck me. What if....no-one else does this? What if I am alone in my selfish pursuit of precioussesssss..... Gah! What if I will appear like a complete monster upon publishing this post? Oh well, bugger it.

Miss B's first birthday is fast approaching and I've been trawling the tinterwebs looks for wonderfully exciting toys for a one year old. I have fully researched what toys are age appropriate, what toys are developmentally stimulating and what ones are recommended by toy-type-people. And you know what? They're all quite boring! Electronic thingy-me-bobs whizzing and beeping and singing silly little songs in sickly sweet American voices and I hate them. I do, of course buy them as that what everyone else buys their kids but I do keep a mental wish list. A wish list that reads if I were a one year old girl, then I would LOVE this...

I did the same for A and I appear to be doing the same for Miss B.

Does that make me a monster? Every so often, I will buy one of these ridiculously expensive age-inappropriate toys.  I do have to remind myself, that it isn't me that will play with them!

I'll show you a few examples of my maniacal toy buying trends:

Exhibit A

Miss B loves to play musical instruments and already has quite a few. I thought this would be nice to add to her collection. It's the whizz-bang-wallop VTECH piano electronic thingy-ma-bob.



Now this is perfectly respectable and I'm sure she will have lot's of fun with it. But if I were a one year old child who was into music, I would want this:


How awesome is this?!! It has 25 keys, is hand crafted in Germany and is a proper teeny tiny piano. A bit less X factor and a bit more conservatoire...

Exhibit B
Now this is another all singing, all dancing thingy-ma-bob. It's a Fischer Price Learning Kitchen

Now this, is the wooden Brio Red Stove for quiet contemplative cooking...
I AM a monster!

Wordless Wednesdays - Bedtime Stories





Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The modern sympathy with invalids is morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. -Oscar Wilde

I've had a funny old few weeks here at Oh Mammy Towers. Miss B has been ill with one thing or another for the past four weeks and at varying points we have all caught something off of her!
I am the latest victim. Despite bleaching everything (and wrecking my hands to boot), I have her gastric bug and am still in my PJ's. I cannot enjoy this rare leisure time as I have a migraine and just generally feel floored...

As an added bonus I have had to plan dinners, cook and feed everyone. And at the moment, talking about food, the smell of food and the sight of food is not nice.

Anyways...here are a few dishes for you to possibly try and enjoy (Sainsbury's has that shed loads of meat for a tenner deal this fortnight) seeing as you all have the capacity to eat without offering it up to the porcelain gods. 

Pot Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  1. 60g butter, softened, plus a knob for frying
  2. 1½ red chillies, 1 deseeded and diced, ½ thinly sliced
  3. Large handful of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  4. 4 large garlic cloves, 3 crushed, 1 thinly sliced
  5. 1 lemon
  6. Medium (1.8kg) free-range chicken
  7. 2 tbsp olive oil
  8. 8 large shallots, thinly sliced
  9. 620g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into wedges
  10. 200ml white wine
  11. 750ml chicken stock, hot
  12. 100ml crème fraîche
  13. Handful of fresh tarragon leaves

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C/gas 6. In a bowl, mix the butter with the diced chilli, parsley, crushed garlic and grated zest of the lemon. Ease the skin away from the chicken breasts with your fingers, starting from the neck end. Spoon in the butter, smoothing the skin with your fingers to cover the breasts evenly.
  2. Season the chicken inside and out. Halve the lemon, squeeze the juice inside, then put the halves inside. Tie the legs with string.
  3. Put a flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat with the knob of butter and the oil. Add the shallot and fry, stirring, for 5 minutes until softened. Add the sliced chilli and garlic for the final 2 minutes.
  4. Add the pumpkin or squash and stir. Nestle the chicken in among the veg. Pour over the wine and bubble for 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Add stock to halfway up the side of the chicken (you may not need it all). Bring to the boil, cover, then cook in the oven for 1 hour.
  5. Uncover, then cook for a further 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a skewer.
  6. Remove the chicken to a serving dish to rest, loosely covered with foil. Return the pot to the hob, skim off any fat from the surface, then bubble for 5 minutes to reduce the juices a little. Stir in the crème fraîche, adjust the seasoning, then spoon around the chicken and scatter with tarragon.
  7. Carve into pieces at the table and serve with the juices and squash spooned over, with crusty bread for mopping up the juices. 
Cider Pork with Apples

 Ingredients

  1. 850g king edward potatoes, diced
  2. 4 x 125g pork loin chops
  3. 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  4. 2 braeburn apples, cored and cut into 8 segments each
  5. 2 medium onions, sliced
  6. 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  7. ½ tbsp plain flour
  8. 500ml strong dry cider
  9. 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  10. 8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  11. 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  12. 4 tbsp 2% fat Greek yogurt
  13. 300g cooked green beans, to serve

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes in a saucepan of lightly salted water for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, season the pork chops and fry in half the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, until browned on both sides. Remove and keep warm.
  3. Add the apples to the frying pan and brown on the cut sides. Remove and keep warm. Add the onions with 200ml boiling water and simmer for about 5 minutes, until reduced.
  4. Add the remaining oil and stir until the onions are caramelised. Stir in the garlic and flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the cider, then place the pork chops back in the pan with the apples, vinegar and sage, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, drain and mash the potatoes, stirring in the mustard and yogurt. Season well and keep warm.
  6. Remove the chops and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes to thicken, then season well. Divide the mash between plates, place a chop on each, pour over the sauce and serve with some cooked green beans.
Creamy Bacon and Potato Soup

 Ingredients

  1. 200g pack smoked lardons, or 6 rashers smoked bacon, roughly chopped
  2. 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  3. 1 onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
  5. 2 large potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  6. 1.2 litres fresh vegetable stock, hot
  7. 198g can sweetcorn, drained and rinsed
  8. 142ml carton single cream
  9. Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Method

  1. Heat a large non-stick saucepan over a high heat. When hot, add the lardons or bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until golden. Remove and set aside. Add the oil to the pan, reduce the heat slightly, then add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened.
  2. Add the potato and stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potato is tender but still holding its shape. Add the sweetcorn, cream and bacon and simmer for 2-3 minutes to heat through. Stir in the parsley, then season to taste. If taking to a picnic or to warm your cockles whilst watching fireworks, pour into warmed flasks. 
Chicken, Butter Bean and Pasta Ramen

Ingredients

  1. 600ml chicken stock, hot
  2. 2 skinless chicken breasts, sliced
  3. 75g dried spaghetti, broken into short lengths
  4. 410g can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  5. Good handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  6. 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  7. Handful of chopped fresh parsley

Method

  1. Pour the stock into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then add the chicken breasts and spaghetti. Simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the butter beans, tomatoes and chilli. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken and spaghetti are cooked.
  3. Season and stir in the parsley. Divide between deep bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

OMG...I'm one of those mothers!


I said that when I had A I would never do it...but I've entered Miss B into a baby modelling competition. Like most mothers I am convinced my kids are just beautiful and motivated by the prize money (Xmas is coming and we are el skinto) rather than the smug factor, I have entered her into the Next modelling competition.

Now this will probably disqualify her but I would love it if you would vote for her. The judges have the final say but the amount of votes does count towards the decision.

Here is the link to the Facebook page. Once there, if you click on the Baby Modelling Tab and click the category 0-18 months. You will find a rather windy picture of one Miss B.  (real name Annabella)


Much Love xxxx

Friday, 22 October 2010

Do you believe in magic?

Well, my son does. The problem is though that he is 11 years old. 11 and a half to be exact! My son (my autistic son) still believes in Santa Claus!


The time has come where Oh Daddy and I are wrestling with whether we actually tell A that Santa does not exist. Usually the normal course of these things is that over time, kids find out these things from older siblings or from friends in the playground. Being the eldest this life altering moment has passed him by and I suspect that his friends at his new school have not started talking about it, given the time of year.

The reason I bring this up now (I can hear your groans from here "it's bad enough that Tescos thinks it's Christmas in the middle of August...") is that I'm worried that he will casually mention it in the playground and will be subsequently mocked. At his old school, the rumour went around the playground and I was called into the headmistress office the next day as A had punched the offending mythbuster in the playground. I forget where exactly about his person he punched. He was so distraught by the news that  I went online and bought one of those letter from Santa things to calm him down. I sensed them that dispelling the myth of jolly old St. Nick was going to be harder than we thought.

At some point this week (I'm waiting for my moment) I will be killing Santy Claus. I will be taking out my imaginary AK-47 and blasting a big fat hole in him.

I'll let you know what happens and if we need referred to a psychiatrist...

I don't suppose you have any tips? Or a body bag handy?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

'A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.' - Jane Austen

*Please do not read this if you are looking for in-depth or astute political analysis.

Sigh...

Today in the House of Commons, the new ConDem coalition announced their Comprehensive Spending Review. Depressing news for most and this is only the start of it. So while Oh Daddy pondered the future both for us and in terms of his job (because he's the sort of man who loves to pick at scabs until they bleed), I pondered the dinners of the past week and whether or not to shave my legs tonight (because I am the kind of woman who puts Germoline on it and forgets about it).

Come April 2011 I will be blogging about how to boil up a sheep's heid and 101 ways with mince (lamb, beef, pork, cat) so lap it up while you still can...

Colcannon with Mustardy Pork 

   Ingredients

  1. 700g floury potatoes, such as King Edward or Maris Piper, peeled
  2. 50g butter
  3. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
  5. 1/2 small savoy cabbage, shredded
  6. 50ml milk
  7. 4 x 225g pork loin chops, fat snipped
  8. 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Method

1. Cut the potatoes into even chunks, put into a large pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain and return to the pan. Put over the heat for 1 minute, shaking the pan occasionally to drive off the excess moisture. Set aside. Preheat the grill.

2. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in another pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and cook, stirring, for 6-8 minutes until softened. Add the cabbage and a splash of water, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, until soft. Drain, add to the potatoes with the remaining butter and milk, season, and mash together. Cover and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, brush the chops with mustard and season. Place under a grill for 4-5 minutes each side, until golden and just cooked through.

4. Divide the colcannon between 4 serving plates and serve each with a chop.

To make the perfect plain mash…

  1. Cook the potatoes as above, then pass through a potato ricer for a really smooth mash, or use a potato masher. Melt 50g butter with 50ml milk and add to the mashed potatoes with plenty of seasoning and beat well.
One Pan Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1½ kg chicken
  • 1 lemon , halved
  • 50g softened butter
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 750g potatoes , chopped into roastie size
  • about 7 carrots , roughly 500g, each chopped into 2-3 chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Marmite                           
Method                                                                               

  1. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Snip the string or elastic off the chicken if it's tied up, then place in a big roasting tin. Shove the lemon halves into the cavity. Rub the butter, herbs and seasoning all over the chicken. Put the potatoes and carrots around it, drizzle everything with oil, season and toss together. 
  2. Roast for 20 mins, then turn the oven down to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and roast for 50 mins more. Stir the peas, stock and Marmite into the veg in the tin, then return to the oven for 10 mins more.  Simples...

Chilli Burritos with Relish



             Ingredients

  1. 1 tbsp olive oil
  2. 1 red onion, finely sliced
  3. 2 tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander
  4. Good pinch of chilli flakes
  5. 500g beef mince
  6. 400g can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  7. 300ml beef stock, hot
  8. 8 medium tomatoes, deseeded
  9. and chopped
  10. Glug of extra-virgin olive oil
  11. 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  12. 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  13. 8 flour tortillas
  14. Grated Cheddar, sliced avocado and soured cream, to serve

Method

1. Heat the olive oil in a big frying pan over a gentle heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes until tender. Add the spices and mince and cook to brown all over, then add the beans and stock and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Mix the tomatoes with the extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar and coriander. Season and set aside. Foil-wrap the tortillas and warm in a low oven.

3. Put the chilli in a serving bowl, place everything on the table and let everyone make their own burrito, adding cheese, avocado, soured cream and tomato relish to the chilli and wrapping it in a tortilla. 

It's bloody freezing tonight. I might just wear my jacket instead of putting the heating on...

Poorly bebe!

The reasons for the recent radio silence is that little miss B has been ill. Very ill.

She caught her very first cold (see earlier rant about mixing with germ-ridden children).


However, what started off as a cold developed into a chest infection. I had to really press the GP to give her something to speed up her recovery.

Just as I'd managed to eventually squeeze the GP to give her an antibiotic, she caught some nasty gastro bug and has spent the best part of the last few days re-enacting THAT scene from The Exorcist!

The little limpet has had this default position for the last few weeks

Our October break plans to go away were scuppered but we're using the opportunity to spend time doing nothing and soaking up our first Autumn in Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Wordless Wednesdays - A's certificate



Is Andrew Marr right? Are bloggers "inadequate, pimpled and single"?

Hmm....

Some of you might have picked up on a story reported last week regarding former political editor of the BBC, Andrew Marr's comments about bloggers and the act of blogging. Marr has dismissed bloggers as "inadequate, pimpled and single", and citizen journalism as the "spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night". "Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all." he added. "A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people," he told the Cheltenham Literary Festival. "OK – the country is full of very angry people. Many of us are angry people at times. Some of us are angry and drunk".
"But the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night.
"It is fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism." He added: "Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. Terrible things are said online because they are anonymous. People say things online that they wouldn't dream of saying in person." 


I don't find this offensive at all. It is his opinion and not a very well researched opinion at that. There is a sincere difference between journalism and writing a blog. I've blogged before about a brief phase I went through when I was debating the very same point with myself. There has to be some degree of integrity when it comes to blogging. I'm a bit of a grump sometimes and can be very opinionated but I would never deliberately set out to hurt someone or to cause offensive. At the same time, this is my blog. I don't necessarily want to be fair and balanced. That is the job of the proper journalists. I want to tell it like I see it and I like the fact that outside the bounds of human decency, the blogging community isn't policed by a strict code of rules and as a result, real opinion, real experiences can be found. 
A recent blog post by the very experienced and esteemed blogger Rosie Scribbles shows that as well as being attacked or belittled by influential media types, attacks on bloggers can come in a very personal form through comments. A recent experience has left this blogger shaken and mistrustful. The line between opinion and abuse is crossed.  
I do, however, think that he may have a point when it comes to political bloggers or at least the ones he comes into contact with. Nick Robinson wrote a piece earlier in the year on why he no longer reads the comments on his own BBC blog. He said that he found the comments section rather than widening the political debate commenters were "people who have already made their minds up, to abuse me, to abuse each other or abuse a politician". I regularly keep up with CIF section on the Guardian website and he does have a point. For every insightful comment on a piece there must be at least 50 banal and acidic comments and that is on a niche piece.The line between opinion and pure abuse is blurred. If it's a political hot potato piece, then hundreds upon hundreds of comments are removed for their inappropriate and abusive comments. Saying that, the forum opens up the way and makes possible that one enlightened comment. So is it worth it? I would say so but we must endure the rest of the rubbish put out there.

A blog is just a format for writing in the same way that a review or a feature article is a format. Blogs just happen to be well suited to the internet - and to the experience of reading on a computer. They are personal, yes, opinionated - often, but good blogs tend to deal deals with one particular topic in a clear way with regular updates and they are often bang on time because they can be published easily. Blogs can be a very useful source of information, and the personal character fits with the experience of reading on a computer - a one-person, one-screen interaction which works with a more conversational tone.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

One month to go...

Miss B is eleven months old today!

Which means I have exactly one month until her first birthday and I am wondering where the time has gone. I need to write that reflective post about B, to give you all a glimpse of who she is.


...and this means that I have exactly one month to plan Queen B's first birthday bash! Huzzah!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Did you really just say that?


Right. Another ranting post ensues....

This is based on an accumulation of utterances I've had thrown at me over the last few months. I've had a few comments on my blog from other parents of autistic children and I thought that maybe this was one that quite a few of us could relate to. And if you would like to comment below to let off some steam but all means write away...

After six months in the area we are still meeting new people on a daily basis and working out what ones to keep and what ones to discard immediately. The kids have a heavy afterschool/baby activity schedule and this  involves meeting other parents, a task that takes its toll on me...sometimes. I've grown accustomed to recanting our life story time after time as we are weighed and measured by yet another group of mothers and/or fathers and this is usually when it happens. I have to be honest and say that the majority of people who utter this are from the upper class. And that faction of the upper class who think it seems to say whatever goes through your mind at any given time, however un-PC, however personal, however rude or condescending.I know it genuinely doesn't come from a bad place but I can't help feeling a little insulted that the tone in which this is uttered implies that I somehow forgot to consider this fact...

Here goes:

UC (Upper class): How many children do you have?
Me: I have two, a little girl called B who is ten months old and an older boy, A who is eleven.
UC: Gosh, that is a rather large age gap.
Me: Yes, it is...
UC: Why did you wait so long to have another child?
Me:...
UC: It wasn't the recession was it? Awful business...
Me: No, I went to university between kids and my son is autistic so he's harder work than most children.

UC: You already have a disabled child and yet you decided to have another one? Well done you! You are so brave! Are you not worried that she will turn out the same? And then you'll have two autistic children...

Me: (inward sigh) Erm...

There you go.
That is what happens now on almost a weekly basis. I spent 30 minutes defending my right to have more children at a toddler tea party once and another time, I stood in the pissing rain talking though the genetic gambling game I was playing with another. They have started to blend into one another now and you know what, I'm too polite for my own good. At some point in the conversation after they will usually utter the phrase "You don't mind me asking, do you? to which I always reply no.

But I do mind, I really do mind and sometimes just want to tell them to shut up. Horrid, I know but I wouldn't dream of saying this to anyone, let alone someone I have just met thirty seconds ago.

Another cracker is this one. Now this is one usually uttered by parents of  A's friends. Again, it doesn't come from a bad place and again I am polite and talk through it with them. I think the original intention is that somehow saying this will make me feel better about A's autism. After being told when we meet that A is autistic I presume that people, either based on watching Rainman or some Channel Four documentary, stand back and assess A. This assessment inspires this phrase...


"Well...he's not really THAT autistic is he?"

This doesn't make me feel better and I know that we could be worse off but...really?

I can't even finish this post. these phrases always stop me in my tracks for a moment.

I'll pick this up when the mist descends.

Has this happened to anyone else?

I Definitely did not...




I definitely did not give you a piece of my bread forgetting that I'd just dipped it in chili oil. And I definitely did not give you a rich tea finger just to keep you busy while I did yet more washing and ironing.  I know that I definitely did not because I am a good mother.

I definitely did not take you for a Cola at that cafe just so we could have a conversation while the baby slept in the buggy.  And I definitely did not take you to that cafe after grounding you for not telling me you had a mountain of home work due. I know I definitely did not because I am a good mother. 

I definitely did not let you play on the computer for 30 minutes because I couldn't be bothered arguing. And I certainly did not show you a wildly inappropriate clip on YouTube just because I knew you would find it hilarious. I definitely did not because I am a good mother.

I definitely did not hide The Gruffalo book yesterday just because I didn't want to read it for the sixth time that day. And I definitely did not forget that you are only ten months old and give you half my croissant smeared with jam. I know I definitely did not because I'm a good mother.

And I know that I won't repeat such behaviours tomorrow because...

I'm a good mother really.

(Inspired by SoftThistle, thanks x)

Wordless Wednesdays - Friendship

Monday, 11 October 2010

Number Eleven Noses.

Right before I start let me clarify what I mean when I say number eleven nose...


This is a number eleven nose (albeit an extreme example). It can come in various shades from white to yellow to green and is sported by babies and toddlers from all walks of life. I am scared of number eleven noses and the children who sport them and I am pissed off at the parents who leave their houses and enter baby activities with number eleven nosed kids.

What the hell is it with parents and sick kids. Yeah, kids get sick all the time and it must be hard to stay in the house with them as there is shopping to do, kids to pick up etc etc. But when did it become acceptable to walk into a mother and toddler group, to plonk your infected child amongst the rest of them and then to run off after some Tarqunnia or Petunia to sit and have coffee and a blether for an hour? I suspect that the reason you haven't seen T or P for weeks is because your child looks like the picture above!

The point of this rant? Miss B has a cold, her first ever cold and it's now been going on for weeks. Although on days where she doesn't seem particularly bad with it, I take her to activities I watch her like a hawk to make sure that she isn't sharing something she has been chewing on with other kids and to make sure her nose hasn't crusted over with bogeys. I know this might be a bit neurotic but I'm just a bit funny with germs. One the one hand, I do not sterilise things but on the other hand sanitiser has been employed in our house since having B and with cooking so much, I am always wary of bacteria.

I've been swithering between taking her to things and keeping her quarantined for the time being. I would feel awful if a baby caught a cold from her but this is something that doesn't seem to bother ANYONE else at our activities. Last week we were at one class (who shall remain nameless) and there was a kid whose face looked a bit funny. Now I still haven't booked that eye test so I was peering and squinting away at this child from across the room trying to figure out why he looked so funny...

and then it dawned on me...he has conjunctivitis! Big gunky, sticky green eyes! Pink eye as the Americans call it.

And might have guessed that I only realised this when the little nipper started crawling towards me! As I steered Miss B around the play equipment, I brandished my imaginary broom handle keeping said nipper at a distance of at least 6 feet away from her at all time, which in quite a small room involved me and B slinking along the walls for the last 45 minutes!

She had an extra large chunk of sleep in her eye this morning and I nearly fainted...

What do you do?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.

Food. I can't be arsed this week but nevertheless...


I'm sitting here devising recipes for the week and doing my food shop online with a full belly. I had a continental brunch of meats, breads and cheeses and the thought of eating anything else this week combined with my cheese sweats is making the task a little challenging.

I love Autumnal food but it's all quite heavy and rich (Well, mine is anyway) so thinking of light suppers to balance the menu out a bit is also tasking.

So here's what I've came up with so far...

Roast Chicken with Grappa and Sweet Potato Mash

You may have guessed from my previous posts that I love Italian food and I bet that my recipes would make my Italian friends weep but I do love Italian ingredients and love to bastardise versions of traditional dishes. I apologise in advance... Also if you don't have any grappa in the house, just substitute it for some white wine.



  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 good pinches saffron strands, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 6 chicken breasts, with bone and skin on
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large sweet potatoes , about 1.5kg/3lb 5oz peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 150ml/¼ pint full-fat milk
  • 140g taleggio cheese, broken into chunks
  • 8 tbsp grappa (Italian brandy)
  • 4 handfuls seedless red grapes                                                                                                          
  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Put the flour in a large bowl with the saffron and some seasoning. Coat the chicken breasts in the flour mix, then shake gently to remove any excess.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy roasting tin, then quickly brown the chicken all over. Cover the tin with foil, then roast for about 20 mins until the chicken is crispy and golden, then removing the foil for the final 5 mins of cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a large pan for about 15 mins or until tender, drain well, return to the pan, then mash. Place the pan back over a low heat, season, then mix in the milk and taleggio. Stir constantly, allowing the cheese to melt gently and create a smooth, creamy texture.
  4. When the chicken is cooked, put the tray back on the hob and add the grappa and grapes. Warm through, then remove from the heat and flambé by lighting with a taper or long match (SAFETY FIRST PEEPS!). When the flames die down, return to the heat and simmer for about 30 secs.
  5. To serve, place 3-4 tbsp mash in the middle of each plate and sit a chicken breast on top, then spoon over the grapes and juice.  

Balance this out with...

Hot and Sour Soup with Tofu

Right, I cook for Vegetable-arians all the time and love the challenge. If you find the idea of tofu offensive like some of my more carnivorous companions, substitute it for some cooked chunks of chicken.

          

                                                                                                                                                                                          
  • 1-2 tsp of any sort of Thai curry paste
  • 750ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 stick of lemongrass , bashed to bruise it
  • 1 lightly bashed bird's-eye chilli
  • 1 small sweet potato , peeled and cubed
  • 2 shallots , peeled and quartered
  • 8 button mushrooms
  • 1 block of firm tofu , cubed
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lime , juiced
  • a handful of coriander                  
Bring the vegetable stock to a boil with the curry paste, lemon grass and chilli, add the sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the shallots, mushrooms and tofu and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and coriander.

Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle Sauce

You could substitute the seasoning with any off the shelf Tex-Mex marinade. We're lucky enough to live beside a fantastic Mexican grocers.


                                                                                                             
  • 2 red onions , one thickly and one thinly sliced
  • juice 2 limes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 8 fat garlic cloves , unpeeled
  • 6 medium plum tomatoes , halved
  • 2 tbsp chipotle paste (we used Discovery, available from Waitrose)
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 pork tenderloins , about 500g each
  • coriander sprigs and warm soft tortillas (flour or corn), to serve                           
  1. Place the thinly sliced onion in a bowl with juice 1 lime, half the oregano and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Dry-fry the whole garlic in a non-stick pan until blackened on both sides, about 8 mins, then peel. Heat the grill. Arrange the thickly sliced onion on a baking tray with the tomatoes, cut-side up. Season and grill until blackened, about 8 mins. Tip into a bowl with the garlic, chipotle paste, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tbsp sugar and remaining lime juice. Season and whizz in a blender until smooth. Gently heat through in a pan.
  3. Rub the pork with the remaining chilli powder, oregano, sugar and seasoning. Grill for 5 mins each side until cooked. Serve sliced in warm tortillas with some sauce, the pickled onions and coriander.  
                      Sex this up with some Dead Good Salsa


  • 2 onions , finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 peeled and seeded tomatoes 
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 6 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 225ml white wine vinegar                                                                                                          
  1. Finely chop onions, garlic and tomatoes. Toss together with sugar, coriander, parsley, white wine vinegar and season well. 

The rest of the week will consist of my Secret Ragu, Lentil and Cumin Soup, Thai chicken curry which I'm sure I've blogged before...haven't I?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

National Poetry Day 2010 --What's your favourite poem?

Again, another literary event that has failed to be promoted in any major way!




I learned via Twitter this morning that today is National Poetry Day so Happy NPD to you all! I mention this at this late stage as I love poetry and couldn't let the day pass without writing about it. I love poetry of all shapes and sizes and languages. I've always read poetry to the kids and A is partial to a bit of verse. I love to read and adore books but it always amazes me what an impact a few lines of verse can do. When reading a novel, you embark on a journey one that takes you places over a period of time, a roller-coaster of events and emotions and reactions. Verse is immediate, whether it makes you laugh or weep, for me it always reinforces the power of words and the impact it can have.


I've been thinking all morning about what poem and poet to share and I'm struggling. I enjoy so many diverse types so I'll pick a few at random. My mood could probably change later on in the day and I'll add another and another and another. I've also had about two hours sleep so I'm not the sharpest this morning.
 I thought I'd start off with Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (for obvious reasons...)




It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known---cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all---
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, my own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle---
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine. 

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me---
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

1842




Now, I won't start ranting and raving about it's form and content but let you read for yourself and see what you think of it. 


My second choice is wildly different and is by Charles Bukowski, an American Beat poet, entitled The Genius of the Crowd. 





there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always 
reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art


Again make up your own mind about this. 


If you want to you could even post a favourite poem of yours in the comment box below to mark this occasion. 


Poetry is also special to us as we discovered that poetry gave A just enough food for thought but didn't require as heavy a commitment as say a novel, in the early years of his schooling and after his diagnosis. Now he's fully caught up to his peer group with his reading but poetry helped him explore language, a difficult thing for an autistic child to do.  Here is a copy of an interview with A's favourite poet, Michael Rosen. We've started showing Miss B his poetry on YouTube. She even went with us to see him perform at the Edinburgh Book Festival (again!) this year.








Thursday 7 October is National Poetry Day and Books for Keeps is celebrating with an exclusive interview with the poet and former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, whose latest collection is Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things.
Q: Some of the poems in your new collection, Mike Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things, are quite challenging. Do you see it as part of a poet’s role to challenge young readers?A: I think I like to challenge myself first. Then I look at the poem and think: will any child I know (including the child I once was) be able to get something from this? Will it arouse anyone’s curiosity? Will it be something that adults and children could share? If there are enough yes’s to those questions, the poem will go into a book for children.
Q: How important is craft when writing poetry for children?A: I avoid the word ‘craft’ but I can see that there are elements of craft in any kind of work that involves re-shaping. I like to feel that what I’m doing is getting to the heart of something, trying to find something ‘authentic’ – which might be a feeling of the ‘real’ whether that’s in its setting, its thought, its feeling, its people or wherever.
Q: Many of your poems are written from a child’s perspective. Do you draw on memories of your childhood?A: Very nearly always when I say ‘I’, it really is me. On occasions, and usually obviously, the ‘I’ is a joke ‘I’ and couldn’t possibly be me.
Q: Which poets, if any, have influenced your poetry for children?A: It all started with D H Lawrence – that self-questioning voice giving an account of something. Then it was the US poet Carl Sandburg, with his collections of sayings and conversations and jazz poetry. Over the last 30 years it’s my colleagues, people I’ve performed with. They’ve all influenced me and still do: James Berry, John Agard, Jackie Kay, Charles Causley, Grace Nichols, Ian McMillan, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Benjamin Zephaniah, Judith Nicholls, Julie O’Callaghan, Paul Lyalls, John Mole, Gerard Benson, Wes Magee, Andrew Fusek Peters, John Hegley, Adrian Mitchell, Margot Henderson, Carol Ann Duffy, Pauline Stewart... these are all people I listen to as they’re performing and what they write opens up possibilities in my mind about how to write, or what to write about.

Q: Should we be concerned that so few single poet collections are published for children these days?
A: Yes, there’s something wrong if children only come across poems when they’re themed. I’m think it’s good for children to find poems in different contexts – yes, in anthologies where methods and approaches are contrasted. But it’s also good to engage with the ‘theme’ of a poet’s writing over a period of time. That’s a reminder that it is a real human being, living in a particular place and time who writes. And that is just like you, the child.