The Christmas ‘Denial Diet’

It’s time to start your special festive diet. Here are the rules, written by my inner voice…

From 25 November:
“It’s socially *expected* to accept any festive treats offered at work / a friend’s / on supermarket displays.”
 
Christmas nights out:
“It’s actually rude to diet at a party and I’ll probably dance off 2000 calories anyway.”
 
24 December:
“Sod it. We’re officially celebrating now.”
 
25 December:
“I’m going to explode…. ooooh cheese!”
 
26 December:
“My family will be offended if I don’t eat a bit of everything they offer / on this buffet table.”
 
27 December:
“I can’t be arsed cooking, let’s get a take away.”
 
28 December:
“I look like Jabba. Just salad from now on. Oh, but these mince pies go out of date tomorrow. We can’t just throw food away.”
 
29/30 December:
“Fuck it. I’ll start a diet in the new year.”
 
31 December:
“Final binge. Let’s go out in style!”
 
1 January:
“I feel so rough… Only a bacon sandwich / McDonalds will cure me.”

Dry January:
“Well if I’m not drinking, I’m eating cake.”

Windows to the soul

“Eyes are the window of the soul”
My soul must be frigging knackered.

So why doesn’t this soul get some more sleep?
Because it owns an Unbalanced brain that won’t shut the fuck up about all the things it really needs to do today.

Brain: You’ve not read all those papers for that meeting tomorrow…
You really need to sort out selling your car before the MOT runs out…
Those pictures you bought 3 weeks ago are still leaning against the window…
Actually this whole house is a shit hole…
And you’ve not done any washing…
Do you realise you’ve not hit your 10,000 steps or 5 a day once this week. You’d better get outside at some point…
And buy fruit…
And you’d better do something nice with your child today because you’re going to London for 2 days and won’t see him….
And the cats need fleaing…

Soul: Fuck off brain. Give me a break. Can’t you see how busy I am carrying these bags under my eyes?

Brain: Oh yes I most certainly can. You’d better go shopping and buy some Touche Eclat. You can’t go to London looking like THAT.

Soul: f$•% *@wg~s

(My soul also has a foul mouth.)

Weird Compliments

I have been complimented on two parts of my body that I’ve never thought of as compliment-able. I’m feeling quite smug. They are my eyebrows and my cervix.

Yep, I’m surprised too.

1. I have excellent eyebrows, just like Cara Delevigne apparently. I’m “so lucky” because others pay a fortune for high definition brow work.

Until recently I never knew that brows where something people even noticed, unless left to form a Gallagher-esque mono-brow.

Mine have only ever been a disappointment to me that I can’t move them independently and give people that one raised eyebrow what-the-fuck?-face. How I covet that skill.

2. My second unexpected body brilliance is my ‘obedient cervix’. I have been told this twice so I know it’s a fact.

At a smear test I was told that most cervixes hide away and make it difficult to perform the test. But mine is ‘well behaved’ and pops straight into view. As if saying, “Hey there visitor. Welcome. Swab me? Of course. You’re welcome.”

So while they both might seem weird to me, if someone is handing out a body compliment I will take it. With relish.

And next time I admire another woman’s pert bum or her ability to move gracefully into downward dog, I will not chastise myself.

I will think, “Her body is great. I’ve got *naturally* high definition eyebrows and an extrovert cervix, so yay both of us.”

Am I past my prime?

A few things have happened recently that have made me realise I’m getting older. See if you recognise any of these too….

Signs you may be Past Your Prime:

1. People more than a decade younger than you complain that they are getting old.

2. You get excited when you realise you have absolutely no plans for the next weekend.

3. You have to put your glasses on to pluck a hair out… of your chin!

4. People remake your favourite TV shows, films and music (and you are sure they are not as good you the original)

5. You make clothing decisions insisting, this is comfy AND stylish.

6. You talk to colleagues about really famous bands from your party days and they say ‘who’s that?’.

7. You wonder why someone asks “Are you OK?” when you stand up, and realise you groaned and put your hand on your back. But you’re not even in pain.

8. Someone suggests you get involved in a roller blading party for kids, and you mentally scan your calendar to think what you’d miss if you ended up in plaster (or if a broken limb could be the perfect way to get out of something you don’t want to do).

9. You have finally learned that you have a drinking limit, and it’s possible to stop before you get totally shit-faced. (Who knew?)

10. Within an hour of getting up you’re already thinking about what time you can go to bed.

Holiday packing

Packing for a holiday: Women vs men (or just me vs my husband..?)

ME…

One week before holiday

  • Start mentally packing, putting things to one side in my wardrobe

3 days to go

  • Start wearing old crap underwear so I can save my least grey stuff for packing (not sure why I need to to only take my best knickers away).
  • Become laundry obsessed. Even more than usual. Everything must be washed NOW in case I decide to pack it. 
  • Pack my toiletries bag.

2 days to go

  • Freak out because I’m going to a party tonight and nothing in the ‘won’t be taking these away’ section of my wardrobe seems acceptable. Try on everything in the hope that it has suddenly become suitable. 
  • Go shopping and get over excited by ‘Travel Sized’ bottles of everything. Spend 10 minutes deliberating if it’s OK to buy 50ml versions for £1 when 200ml is £1.50. Find empty travel bottles in the next aisle. They are also £1.50. Kick myself for being so indecisive. Return to mini bottles and and buy mini everything. 
  • Buy a new pair of shoes I don’t really need.

Day before holiday

  • Choose the clothes I definitely want to take, attempting to achieve the coveted ‘capsule’ set where everything goes with everything (who am I kidding?). 
  • Limit myself to 3 pairs of shoes, including the new ones. 
  • Try on every outfit to make sure it goes with one of the 3 pairs of shoes.
  • Decide on my travelling outfit and hang it on my wardrobe door. 
  • Pat myself on the back for being decisive and limiting myself. I have NOT overpacked.

Morning of holiday

  • Spot things in the ironing pile that I could probably squeeze in. That top is a bit nicer than the one I packed. It’s only one top. Oh but if I take that I’ll need to pink shoes. That’s just one more pair of shoes. 
  • Repeat two more times
  • Mentally shout at myself for over packing. 
  • Accept it and move on. I am the boss of me. 

Happy. 

MY HUSBAND…

Morning of holiday

  • Put on some clothes. 
  • Pack whatever else is in his wardrobe that he fancies taking. 
  • Grab any toiletries he fancies taking. 

Happy. 

I think he’s got it right really.

Organised, disorganised or unbalanced

Celebrations like Fathers Day, offer a fantastic insight as to whether you are a naturally an ‘Organised person’ or a ‘Disorganised person’. Or it could be an opportunity to prove just how Unbalanced you are and have a total melt down.

My mum commented that she is fascinated that there were people in the supermarket in the afternoon of Fathers’ Day, flicking through whatever cards are still available on the shelves, even though they have known this celebratory day has been in the calendar all year. Clearly her disbelief proves that she is an organised person. Organised people don’t understand Disorganised people.

Organised people plan ahead for these days. They carefully choose just the right card, with an appropriate picture and oh-so-personal words that will evoke exactly the right sentiment, humour or abuse appropriate for their loved ones.

Organised people set aside time to consider a choice of gifts, and perhaps even compare prices while wandering round the shops on a day of shopping that has most certainly required A List.  Organised people always have A List. Or perhaps, the modern version of organised, where they peruse multiple websites, allowing plenty of time for their gift to be despatched and delivered ahead of the calendar-marked day.

Organised people will already have a choice of wrapping papers, cello-tape (in a handy dispenser), and if required, a packet of stamps in their purse or wallet.

Organised people are brilliant. I want to be one.

Then there are Disorganised people. I know quite a few of these, and I have to say as a sweeping generalisation, that many of them are men. Disorganised people don’t understand Organised people. They don’t see the point.

Disorganised people embrace, and often celebrate that cards and gifts are purchased at the last possible minute. An absolute maximum of celebration minus 48 hours, (more likely minus 2 hours).

Disorganised people buy a card and gift that is ‘exactly’ what the recipient wants. Even if in reality their choice of gift is something the recipient has vmnwver before clasped eyes on, or even knew existed, the Disorganised person will have convinced themselves at the point of purchase, that the fact the items are are a) in front of them, b) within an acceptable price bracket and c) gender appropriate or neutral, means they have chosen wisely and can move on with their day.

Disorganised people will usually remember to buy wrapping paper too. Even if they have 15 other half used rolls and sheets at home, it’s best to get some more.

Disorganised people are brilliant and worry free. I want to be one..

And then there are Unbalanced people. Me, of course.

It’s fair to say that I fluctuate between the organised and disorganised camps. I have a very strong desire to be organised. I even sometimes write A List. I rarely complete many of the activities on it, but I’m fine with that.

And I’m not unthoughtful. I THINK about the presents I want to buy for even longer than organised people spend shopping. I just might not make that essential purchase until the last minute.

My Fathers Day experience this year…
My mum’s birthday is two weeks before Fathers’ Day, so in a fit of ‘watch how organised I can be!’ I ordered personalised Funky Pigeon cards for my husband and my dad, 3 weeks in advance. Yep, 3 whole weeks. Someone should have given me a Well Done sticker. 

Suitably proud of myself I set about the long-term present choosing thought process. I even somehow managed to make a decision, go to the right shops and have gifts in my hands with 72 hours to spare.

I didn’t seek out wrapping paper because I remembered that only a few weeks before I had bought suitable paper and there was enough left over for the size of presents just bought.

Smug smile, I am (for once) Little Miss Organised. Seriously, why do people not make stickers for that?

Until the day comes to go visit my Dad. Now, where did I put those cards? Seriously, where the fuck did I put those cards?

You know when perspective goes out of the window? That happened. I had a total melt down. I turned the house upside down. I looked in the same places at least 20 times. I made my husband and child look in all those places, while I followed them round watching them do it. No amount of my husband saying ‘just get another one’ would stop me. In my head this was a symbol of everything that is wrong with my Unbalanced life. I just HAD to find them.

And the end of the story is that I didn’t find them. I still have absolutely no idea where they are. So I had to join the Disorganised people in Tesco, to panic-buy any card on the way to visit my Dad. But I took with me an utter frustration and self-loathing that I had qualified for the Organised person Olympics, in the run up to the race, and then fell flat on my face just before the finish line.

So there we have it. Whether you are an Organised or Disorganised person, this Unbalanced person is jealous of you. Because whether you bought a card two weeks or two hours in advance, you know where your fucking card is.

I’m a hypocrite

I came across a school paper this week that set out a series of rules that should be completed each day ‘before you turn on the screen’. It included:

  • made your bed
  • had breakfast
  • dressed, brushed your hair and brushed your teeth
  • completed 20 minutes of reading AND 20 minutes of writing or colouring AND played outside for 30 minutes AND made or built something creative
  • cleaned a room 
  • helped someone in your family in another way

My first thought was, “Jesus Christ!”, and my second was to quickly check if these rules are intended for the adults or just the kids. I would physically harm anyone who tried to make me follow these rules. Not really, but I would call them some rather disgusting names. In my head. I’m a coward really.

image

But it made me think… do I set rules for my kids that I don’t follow myself?

First of all, let’s tackle the screen time one. I spend the majority of my day looking at a screen, for work, for communication and for entertainment. I think there are few people left who don’t multi-screen – watching TV while intermittently checking messages and social media on our phones.

It’s rare that I won’t have looked at a screen before completing any of the first three things on the list. Often I look at my phone before I’ve even got out of bed!

We live in the digital age and, here’s the point, so do our children.  Reading a story or watching a story – who gets to say which is better? I love books, theatre, film and TV, and blogs, let’s not forget blogs. They are all just telling stories. We recognise Shakespeare as the ultimate writer, but let’s remember that the majority of his celebrated work was written as plays – for people to WATCH. Could TV and film and even You-Tube arguably be considered as just ‘modern theatre’.

My boy has just shown me a Spiderman world he’s created in MineCraft, with pants-wetting excitement and pride because he’s worked out how to build something he’s not done before.

  • Is he being creative? – tick
  • Using logic, intellect and tenacity? – tick
  • Writing and colouring? – (in computer code) tick
  • Social skills – tick. He has friends who share his passionate hobby and they discuss ideas and teach each other new skills. 

image.jpg

So why do screens get such a bad rep? “Because of risks to eyesight, posture, lack of exercise” my argumentative brain cries. OK, all fair points. We have to watch those, for kids AND adults in the digital age. But my brain’s back with a counter-argument: is that different to when we had to learn from all the back and lung problems people had in the industrial age when manual labour, like working in a mill or a mine, was the norm?

So I do watch what my boy does, and try to make sure there’s a balance of activities and responsibilities. The same as I try to make sure he gets enough exercise, sleep and healthy food. I admit I’m absolutely guilty of being more bothered about those rules for him than I ever apply to myself, which makes me a total hypocrite. He eats better, sleeps longer and gets more exercise than I ever do. 

I think I might just cut him some slack on the screen time.

Slow down?

There’s a song and video doing the rounds called ‘Slow Down’. Everyone gushing how they sobbed when they watched. But I didn’t. I’m clearly a cold-hearted freak. Am I missing an essential mothering gene? 

Apparently Mothers around the world are hailing it the best song ever made. Accompanied by a compilation of videos of children playing, smiling with their parents and siblings and showing beautiful memories of everything in a perfect childhood.

The message is clear, “time with your children moves so fast”. 

I get the message – there are plenty of ‘blink and you miss it’ phases of raising a child. I’m just not feeling the sentiment with quite the same emotion, for two reasons:

 The stages the singer wants to Slow Down weren’t that fucking picture-perfect in reality

My experience so far tells me that actually it just gets better. So bring on the future! 

I can honestly say that every age my Ginger Boy has been so far, has been my favourite. When he was a new born baby, I remember people saying that babies are boring until they start to talk and show some personality. I was absolutely outraged! Had they not met MY baby? My completely gorgeous, expressive baby whose gurning face made me laugh every single day? 

But of course, as he grew in size and expression, I have to admit, babies are pretty damn boring compared to what comes next. And while I cherish all those memories of me bursting with love as his tiny fingers wrapped around mine, they are also entwined with memories of a period of no sleep, a mini breakdown and phoning friends asking how long this period of crying through the night (him and me) would last. 

 I most certainly did not want that time to Slow Down!

Last week my friend made a sad face because her youngest is now potty trained. I was amazed that this was not a celebratory event. She explained that it signifies he’s growing up and he’s not a baby anymore. Apparently many people feel the same way when their kids hit a significant milestone. 

I get it (I think), but again I was left thinking that I must have a heart of stone. When we reached that stage there was absolutely no mourning period. All I felt was a joyous realisation in a garden centre that when Ginger Boy told me he needed a poo, I was no longer required to perform the obligatory shit-sniff before taking my toddler into a disabled toilet, lay him out on a plastic tray, stinky end nearest my face, and hold his windmill-propelled legs away from my head with one elbow, to stop me being hit in the face by a shoe, a wet wipe or, let’s get real… actual shit. It never EVER occurred to me that I might look back on that phase with anything more than a vague fondness for the comedy shit related memories. I certainly don’t ‘miss it’!

And that’s how I feel about life, not just motherhood. Life phases are amazing. I don’t mourn for any of them or want them to Slow Down because there’s always something else ahead to look forward to. 

 For example:

‘School days are the best of your life’. Yes they are but…. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be old enough to go to the pub

The butterflies in your tummy for a first kiss are fantastic. But… Look at what comes later (sex obvs!) – a long term intimacy that’s well worth moving on from those butterflies

My single, party days were amazing. But…. then I got to meet my husband. 

Does my practical attitude mean I’m cold? Maybe. Should I take the video’s advice and Slow Down? Perhaps. The good phases and the bad phases and everything in between, all move fast. Thankfully I have a good memory and about 1000 photos to help me remember the good bits (I never took any photos of the poo windmill in action, so maybe I’ll forget those bits. Maybe that’s not a bad thing). 

I guess in summary….  I’m thankful for where we’ve been so far, happy with where we are now, and excited about where we might go to tomorrow. I don’t want to slow down OR speed up. I’m just grateful to be on this roller coaster of a parenthood ride. 

Little Miss Tidy

Look. LOOK! I tidied a cupboard.

Now, who’s going to give me a well done sticker? I’d like one that says ‘Little Miss Tidy Super Star’ please.

untidy-cupboard
dumping ground

 

tidy-cupboard
smug

 

I’m not sure anyone will realise what a big deal this is. I’ve just been contemplating removing the doors or replacing them with glass so that everyone can see just how tidy I am.

But then of course I remembered that I’m not naturally tidy, and it won’t be long until it becomes a dumping ground again.

At least for a week though I shall occasionally peak inside, and then walk around with a smug smile on my face. Because even if only for a short time, and only in a small space, I can say that I, an Unbalanced Woman, achieved tidiness.

This day will go down in history. Fuck it, I’m off to make my own sticker….

little-miss-tidy

I love you, but do I like you?

When I first meet someone, a new friend, partner, work colleague, whatever, I ponder ‘do I like them?’. I assess their characteristics: Are they a nice person? Do they make me laugh? Do I enjoy their company? Do we have things in common? And so on.

But when they have been part of my life for a while, like a few years or decades, I stop thinking about it. By then I assume I must just love them – love them enough to keep them in my life rather than just let them drift away.

So I’ve been thinking… If you’ve loved someone for years, or you are family, does love replace like?  And is that OK? Whether that’s your partner, your sibling or your best friend, do you ever stop to think ‘do I still like them?’ or even perhaps, ‘do they still like me?’!

When we love someone do we take for granted the things that we once noticed as good characteristics? I think that just possibly, as time goes on, we are more prone to notice and acknowledge their faults and the things that niggle us. I’m pretty sure that if a made a tally chart of the times me and my husband comment on each others’ flaws, vs the times we point out each others brilliance, the flaws list would be just a touch longer. I doubt we’d need a recount to be sure.

This week me and my Unbalanced Man went on a date. Just us. It’s a rare thing. Usually the need to get a babysitter means we’ve been driven by a specific reason – an invitation to a party or night out with others. Very rarely do we make a conscious decision to spend sociable time out of the house with each other. Only each other.

And let’s be totally honest, on a normal night – mid week or weekend – when we reach that special time where it’s just the two of us, we don’t set the table, light a candle, pour a glass of wine and debate the deep and meaningful topics of life. Don’t be ridiculous. We plop a plate on a tray table (you know those ones with the bean bag thing underneath), choose something to watch on TV and act like we’re on Gogglebox.

Other than comments about our chosen TV programme, the sum our our conversation post kid bedtime is not much more than three questions and answers:
1. Q: How was your day?
A: Busy.
2. Q: What shall we watch?
A: Whatever, you choose.
3. Q: Are you making a brew or what?
A: Sigh… Yep

So do we actually still like each-other? I know I love him, I know I appreciate lots of the things he does and I know that we’re a good partnership. But, that’s all a bit grown up and a bit practical.

Then…. date night. Suddenly I become acutely aware that our conversation will probably need to run past the usual 20 or so words (Yes, I did just count them).

I found myself getting giddy on the train into town, telling stories from my day and talking about plans for the weekend and I actually paused and thought, ‘slow down crazy girl, we’ve got all night to talk. Don’t say everything now or we might run out of things to say later.’

Is that bad? I was actually sort of nervous. I know that’s ridiculous, but in a weird way it was also exciting because it turns out that we did have plenty to talk about. And before you get suspicious, it wasn’t all about planning the practical stuff we need to do next week, or the typical parent cliche of talking about our kid all night. We just talked. Not about anything in particular, just about stuff. And that’s when I remembered how much I LIKE him. Truth be told, I’ve never even stopped liking him, I just forgot to think about it for a while. Perhaps that’s a good, comfortable, natural progression, or perhaps it’s a little sad.

We came out of the restaurant to find a bar with a live band playing and immediately knew that was what we both wanted to do. Because we have things in common! There it was. Just like being on a first date, I was assessing him all over again and I LIKED him. We find it easy to talk, to make each other laugh, to be nice to each-other.

do i like you.jpeg

Even better…… later, I got lucky!
We might even go on another date soon.