my gorgeous girl

 

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I sometimes wish that I was confident enough to call everyone by good northern pet names, love pet flower etc etc, but I’ve never found them to naturally come out. However now that I’m a mum I’m forever calling Rose by names and I sometimes cringe slightly at myself when I realise that of these ‘gorgeous’ is the one which comes out most. Rose was a deliciously squidgy baby and toddler, and squidgy names stuck most at this time – so she was forever being called pudding, dumpling and pumpkin. I was pleased to make her beautiful roundness a positive thing, at a time when I was very aware of throw-away comments from voices around us about her being a “good eater” which drove me crazy. But now she’s not a toddler anymore (sob!), they’ve mostly been replaced by gorgeous, and I sometimes worry that this is bad parenting.

I’m very much part of the feminist mum gang who thinks that telling girls that their most important asset is their appearance is terrible and damaging. And yet I want to endlessly tell Rose how beautiful she is, does this make me a bad mother? A bad feminist? I read an article a while ago which was shared by lots of mums, about an aunt who’d decided to never comment on her niece’s appearance and only compliment her on other things. Which is great, in theory. But my daughter loves to choose her outfits with the very clear aim of seeking compliments. She flounces around in front of the mirror waiting to hear that she looks nice. And she gets her desired compliments in their droves from me. Because she’s bloody gorgeous, and because I want to make her feel good. Sometimes she’ll choose a dress or skirt to wear for nursery and ask if her teacher or friend will like it. And if she comes home without someone having told her she looked nice she’ll be disappointed. So basically I’ve been a crap parent, I have taught my child that how she looks is disproportionately important, and I’ve somehow managed to catapult her into the horrible world where what other’s think of you matters most. Except I don’t think I am the worst parent ever, and I don’t think that her desperation for others to like her has necessarily come from shit parenting. That’s just who Rose is. She desperately wants friends, desperately doesn’t want to do things in the wrong way and be noticed or criticised for it, and desperately wants to be liked by all. Which is a) because she’s 3 and a half, and b) because she’s Rose Dorothy Wilson and that’s just who she is.

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As she grows and learns an incredible amount of new skills I’m spoiled for choice on what to praise my child for. In the last few months she’s started to talk about how if you practice you can learn to do new things, and it’s with this realisation in her that the warm glow of well aimed praise is working best. When she writes a perfect ‘S’ after struggling for the last few months to get it to face the right way, the pride on her face is just wonderful. And to share in her pride, showering her in words about how proud I am that she’s practiced and achieved something so brilliant, our shared happiness is really just the best.

I’m very ready to work on my parenting and to think a bit harder about how I can give my child self confidence and belief in herself, but I have no time at all for smug commentators criticising and judging parents for the way in which they raise their girls (or indeed boys). It’s incredibly easy to point out how and why some of the things I say to Rose are wrong, but I’d rather heap praise on her than ignore her clear desire to be loved in every way, for the things she does, learns, says, and the way she looks. And I’ll probably continue to beat myself up about ways in which I can improve.

 

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Monday Mornings

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Hello Monday. We had a really nice weekend, getting out in our brilliant Yorkshire countryside on both days, so I am sorry it’s over, but I’m also really happy to see Monday again. Rose was enthusiastic about it being a pre-school day, Dan’s gone to work but isn’t on long days for the first time in ages so will be home for teatime, and I’ve got two guilt free hours to myself before picking Rose up.

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I love the morning routines on pre-school days, and I already can’t remember how we coped without them before she started. We don’t usually have weekends all together, usually if Dan has a weekend day off then I’ll work it, but I decided to have a bit of a break from that after a super busy few months leading up to Christmas, so I think this Monday morning feels all the better after our days off. I love spend time with my child but a couple of hours off is such a huge tonic; I’m already looking forward to picking her up and playing together again. Plus I’ve popped to the supermarket and washed up, so we don’t need to do the jobs which’d cause a grumble and we can just enjoy doing fun stuff.

So roll on 11.38 and my power-walk to the school gates. Not that I like to leave it til the last possible minute to set off or anything.

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Veganuary

 

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I just wrote a whole very dull post about how Veganuary has been dead easy because most of my meals were vegan before and telling you all about what I like to eat. But I deleted it. No-one had anything to gain from that.

So instead I will advise anyone thinking about becoming vegan to join a facebook group because it’s absolutely hilarious and will spur you on. I do think that anyone going from meat eating to vegan in one step is far braver than me, but reading the many tales of drunken chicken burgers has been a real laugh. Sometimes laughing at others is the best way to get out of my own embarrassment of what a nob I feel asking if anything is vegan in a small town cafe (it isn’t).

For anyone wanting to go veggie, or vegan, a few insider tips; couscous is crap.You don’t need to eat it. There are so many other options all of which are infinitely tastier – lentils, quinoa, giant couscous, beans or a whole world of different kind of rice. Most dried pasta is vegan, who knew? I didn’t. ‘Just Puff’ puff pastry is vegan! Some noodles are vegan, not just rice noodles, YAY UDON! Almost all food tastes better if you take inspiration from Ottolenghi and sprinkle a load of toasted crushed seeds on it, and you can just do this in bulk and keep it in a jar, I go through a tonne of Caraway, Coriander, Fennel and Cumin seeds. So good. Beetroot and Caraway is a particular match made in heaven. You don’t need to buy weird vegan products, I haven’t. I am looking forward to eating blocks of paneer in February but didn’t bother getting any vegan cheese or fake meat. Oh I did get some soya custard, which was delicious. You might not loose weight. I’ve certainly not. Thanks a lot family sized bags of crisps for being vegan. You’ll hate yourself for saying the word vegan several times a day, especially if your husband or friends point it out every time.

I’ll definitely not be vegan after January, but I’ll also definitely be eating less dairy. I didn’t struggle at all to cut out eggs so I’ll be hoping to very rarely eat them, although it’d make going for a coffee infinitely more enjoyable if I can sometimes have a cake too. I’d also like to make my switch from milk to almond milk permanent, so the main change will be not reading ingredients of ready made things, and being able to eat non-vegan chocolate and biscuits again (phew!). I baked three vegan cakes this month and they were all delicious. We’re lucky to have a local amazing vegan bakery called This Old Chestnut, who supply lots of cafes in Leeds with vegan cakes, and we had all vegan cakes baked by them at our wedding. So I’m very aware that vegan cake is just as good as non-vegan, but unfortunately where we live, in Otley, our only option is to bake our own.

three and a half

Yesterday Rose turned 3 and a half. As pretty much every other parent I’ve spoken to has said, you think you’ll remember all the little things they do as they grow and change, but you don’t. And then you regret not writing everything down. Photos definitely help, especially instagram ones with mind jogging captions. But I’d like to write more down, so I’ll try.

To Rose aged 3.5,

You’re growing up so quickly. You started pre-school in September and we were so proud of you for being a brave little thing and going every morning. You’ve made best friends with Isabelle and Harry, and have a few other friends you like to play with if they’re not there. You’re a little worrier, much like your mummy and daddy, so if you don’t see one of your friends when we arrive then you get upset, but you want so desperately to be independent that you insist we leave straight away so you can just get on with it. It breaks my heart when you wave at the window with your eyes filled with tears, I’m so very proud of you. You’re a champion at colouring in. You’ve also mastered writing your name including that pesky S. You had a shocking cold over Christmas, but you had a wonderful time. We were really pleased at how magical you found opening your presents, and impressed at your good manners in being thankful for all you got. I wish you’d got less from our families, but I know its unfair of me to worry so much about you being spoiled when it makes people happy to buy you things. I do look forward to talking to you about thoughtful consumerism though and maybe even one day not having a house filled with plastic toys we feel so strongly about not buying. But you were very pleased to get so many dolls, and love to play with them on your own, reenacting Disney princess plots mixed up with modern story-lines – Elsa goes to work while party barbie looks after her babies.

You’re the funniest little thing in our life. We laugh all the time, and have such fun being daft together. You make up brilliant songs and you’re so so clever. I love that we’re still the only people in the world who completely know who you are and what you want, so encouraging your growing independence is sometimes tough when I just want to cuddle you and get as many kisses in while your cheeks are still so deliciously squishy.

You’re absolutely beautiful.

Love you.

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my 2015 in books

I have to open with an apology for the gap between posts. Our laptop died and I couldn’t face trying to post using my phone, but thanks to a very generous wad of cash from santa we’re back in the 21st century with a shiny new (red!) laptop. I’ve got the Goodreads app on my phone, so our lack of technology hasn’t effected my ability to keep track of my reads this year, or indeed to post on Instagram a slightly obscene amount (sorry).

My year in books 2015:

I read  51 books. Annoyingly close to the big 52 (one a week). I feel like I read a lot of very average books this year which made me score everyone a bit over generously on Goodreads, which means that when I go back through all the 3-5 stars some of them really weren’t that great. Of the low scorers I think the latest Franzen was probably the biggest disappointment. I’ve always found some of his writing incredibly cringe-worthy (he’s definitely written the worst sex scenes I’ve ever read), but I would still call myself a big fan, so I was disappointed to find Purity almost entirely awful. It reminded me a lot of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot  in that I came to it having enjoyed everything I’d previously read by the author but found that he really struggled to write from the point of view of a woman in her early twenties and it all just felt a bit silly. Once I’d got far enough into the Franzen to hit the complicated soviet Germany plot I found it more interesting, but it all felt really trashy and the usual slightly daft Franzen plot was pointless without his usual amazing characters. If you want to read Franzen read The Corrections. Don’t read Purity.

So, onwards to my top 10.

  1. Karl Ove Knausgaard – My Struggle Book 1,2,3,4,5.

I guess I’m a Knausgardian (sp?). I wasn’t crazy about the first book, but by book 2 I was completely hooked. I’ve really enjoyed his brutal honesty of his experience of being a parent to young children, but also his descriptions of childhood, adolescence and his family life. I don’t particularly like him as a person, he comes across as a pretty massive arsehole both in his actions and in his apparent belief that everything which has happened to him is in some way important. But I don’t think it’d work nearly as well if you weren’t allowed to dislike him. He’s brilliant. The books are so funny too. I’m completely addicted. I read book 5 as a proof which isn’t published until later this year and I don’t think the next book has even been translated yet so I’m going to be waiting a while for my next fix!

2. John Braine – Room at the Top

I bloody love post war literature set in the North, and I knew I’d like this when Guiseley was mentioned in the first sentence (it’s a few miles from my house). I found the dialogue brilliant, and I seem to remember crying at it which wasn’t expected!

3. Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird

I re-read this in order to run a reading group at work (Waterstones) on her ‘new’ book Go Set a Watchman, which was finally published this year. And I’m so pleased that I did – it’s brilliant. I remembered so little from reading it as a teen (which is hardly surprising because I can barely remember what I read this year), and I’d hugely recommend books you read in your teens which you think might survive a second read now because I got so much more out of it. Which makes me think that the publication of GSAW is kind of a shame because it doesn’t even compare.

4. John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath

Oh wow, the bleakest of bleak. The shocking inescapable poverty of the lives described was just too sad at times, but an absolutely beautiful book.

5. Tom Drury – The End of Vandalism

If you like Fargo you will probably like this book. It has the exact feel of a Coen Brothers’ film – humour, dread, eccentric and odd. I love smalltown America nearly as much as Northern England.

6. Marlon James – The Brief History of Seven Killings

I’m not really a person who reads Booker winners just because they’re Booker winners. In fact the award often goes to books I have little interest in. I’m never going to read Wolf Hall. But this book is really really good. I was pre-warned about swearing and violence, of which there is a lot, but I hadn’t been prepared for quite how much I’d have to concentrate while I was getting used to the different voices the story is told from. My only criticism would be that the book could easily have finished much sooner, and I was far less interested in the last section of the book set in New York than I had been in the various stories from Jamaica.

7. Keith Waterhouse – Billy Liar / David Storey – This Sporting Life

I’ve muddled up these and the John Braine in my head, but I definitely enjoyed them too. I’d love to read this style of fiction written by a women, suggestions please!

8. Hiromi Kawakami  -Strange Weather in Tokyo.

I have a confession to make. In my day job at Waterstones we’re encouraged to draw customers attention to a few titles each week. One of those books was the newest paperback Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tzaki, which I read in hardback last year. But in my head I muddled up that book and Strange Weather in Tokyo, and have been selling the Murakami to people when I was actually talking about SWIT. I’m really not the right person to write summary’s of my reads of 2015, my memory is shocking. But this book was great. A lovely delicate love story which made me want to visit Japan and eat noodles.

9.  Lydia Davis – The End of the Story

I find Lydia Davis’ short stories wonderful, but quite hard going. I quite like a good old fashioned plot which I can follow. I found her novel much easier, which says a lot about her stories as the novel has no real plot or dialogue. It’s about a relationship, and has some beautiful, poetic lines.

10. Jim Shepard – The Book of Aron

A book about the holocaust, told from the point of view of a Jewish boy living in a ghetto. This book is predictably incredibly sad, but the reason I enjoyed it is that it’s not sentimental. The boy’s life is brutal, almost entirely without hope, and of other books I’ve read this year it reminded me most of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

 

I’ll stop there because this is taking me ages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’ve been reading

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I started the year with a round up of last year’s best reads and the thought that I’d record a sentence from each book I read this year in order to remember them better. I haven’t. I’ve just finished my 6th book so far this year, and I haven’t written a word down from any of them. In my defence most of the books were mediocre so by the time I read a couple with sentences worth remembering I’d long forgotten my promise. Nevermind.

So, here’s my January and February in books complete with rubbish reviews (it is my reviewing which is rubbish and not the books).

The Milkman in the night – Andrey Kurkov. Good, 3 stars. I really liked this book and even put a bookmark in a few pages where I thought I might write down a sentence, but none seemed quite stand out enough to bother. I liked the overall absurd satirical humour of the book but felt like it could have gone further with the darkness and light; none of the dark parts made me gasp and none of the silly comedy was quotable or made me laugh out loud.

Intimacy – Hanif Kureishi. ok, 3 stars. This book should come with a sticker warning that if you’ve recently married, or long married, or ever want to marry a man, you should probably not read this book. Succeeded in making me swear about blokes to uncomfortable degree.

My Struggle book 1 – Karl Ove Knausgaard. Great in parts, 3 stars. I picked this up from a charity shop and then immediately afterwards scored a proof of book 5 in this epic series at work, so I guess I’m going to have to read the whole thing. And after book one I suspect I’ll end up saying that one book might have been enough. I loved the first third of the book, where he’s an adolescent, and some of the final third is heartbreakingly brilliant too. The books are basically an autobiography which has been fictionalised to be made better, and it’s certainly the best written biography I’ve ever read, but I’m not sure if my cynical side can deal with such a huge vanity project.

Fine Just the Way it is – Annie Proulx. Hit and miss, but the hits were so great that it’s 4 stars. I hated the two stories set in hell. I keep deleting lame sentences I can think of to write about it; Annie Proulx is insanely good at writing vast, heartbreaking stories which somehow make me believe that people are tiny and insignificant, but also huge and important. She’s great. And some of these stories are right up there with those in Close Range. I need to read “Bad Dirt”.

The Circle – Dave Eggers. 3 stars. I don’t like Dave Eggers. As a thing. I don’t like the whole McSweeney’s hip young American kooky crap. But I was totally drawn in by the plot in this book (plus I got it out of the library and like to read library books I wouldn’t buy, to widen my tastes), and although I found his characters, particularly the female main character, so stupid and lame and cringe-worthy, I did keep wanting to read on to see what happened. I’ve recently started going onto twitter again after a long dry-spell, so found the story of an increasing obsession with social media to an extreme outcome, really topical for me personally – in fact I was filled with absolute dread and sometimes had to stop to remember that it wasn’t real.

The First Bad Man – Miranda July. SO GREAT. 4 stars. Best book I’ve read this year. I loved her short story collection, and I wasn’t at all disappointed by this. I do sort of agree with a review I read which said that her style is more suited to short stories though. I laughed so much, especially as I tried to read the whole thing in her voice in my head. Infinitely better than any of the other writers with a similar-sh style to her which I’ve read. Wonderfully weird. So happy to have finally read a really brilliant book this year.

I’m really behind if I want to read a book a week this year, but the Knausgaard took ages so maybe I’ll catch up.

January

January was fun.

I decided to take part in some instagram photo challenges over the year, to encourage me to take pictures of Rose as she grows. I’m trying to take part in #the52project and #livingarrows, taking a photo of Rose each week. Not that I need much encouragement! Some weeks have been busier than others, and Rose tends to be in charge of whether or not she fancies having her photo taken, so I’ve panicked and tagged a photo each time I’ve managed to get a decent picture rather than when we were doing something of note. I’m the first to moan about how awful it is to never log off and always be on my phone, but it’s hard to deny how convenient, and great, having a camera phone always nearby is…it’s so nice to look back and remember how much has happened this month; our first trip to the cinema and Rose’s first snowman jump out as particularly noteworthy.

Here are some of the photos of our month;

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1. First portrait of the month. And so so cute.

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2. Went to see Paddington at the cinema.

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3. Jumping in puddles.

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4. Posing.

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5. Snow.

I don’t seem to have moved my last portrait of the month onto the laptop so I’ll post that another time. Roll on February.