Friday, 30 August 2013

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I've been reading this book recently as it was recommended by MrM. From the third page where I told MrM that this was the most relevant book I've ever read, I later came across this passage which made my eyes pop out of my head:

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions--sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments--both physical and emotional--unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss--another person's shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I have very rarely come across a paragraph that sums me up so comprehensively and ended up reading it about 20 times, 10 of them aloud to MrM. If I had read this years ago, it would have changed my life. Far from being the loner I thought I was (compounded by my Mum telling me "I always thought you were odd" recently), it's just a personality trait.

The reason I mention this is that always being a bit quiet has had a huge impact on my life and children like me are constantly being told to "buck up and stop being shy". I've done it myself to the McBaby when a stranger has approached him in the supermarket. "Don't be silly," I'll say. "Say hello!", conveniently forgetting that I don't tend to high five total strangers in the shops.

I had a torrid time with people thinking I was a rude teenager when I simply didn't know how to interact with people who wanted to talk about clothes and hair. I realised that I was not coming across well and have masked this social unease, but still would prefer to talk to people face-to-face rather than addressing people I don't know at parties and asking inane questions.

I thoroughly recommend this book, even if you're not an introvert as it will provide an insight into the thinking of the quiet person in the office. It also may stop you making your child think they're something wrong with them.

If you're a busy introvert, then check out Susan Cain's TED talk here:

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Bank Holiday

Can't believe it's all over and we're back at work, but at least this week is going quite quickly!

On Saturday, we headed to Cornwall for a party where every attempt I made at having a conversation with someone was thwarted by the McBaby stroking a dog too vigorously, trying to drink beer, trying to drink wine or running at top speed towards the river. On one occasion under an unnamed person's supervision, he ran straight into the river and soaked himself right up to the waist.

Then back to Newbury where we met with someone toddler friends for a picnic at Snelsmore. How lovely it was to catch up with other toddlers that we've known since birth! Here's a pic of them pretending to be oblivious to each other....

Is that it for bank holidays now? The next one's in December, you say?


The McBaby shushed me this morning! I am appalled!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The lull after Beautiful Days

Sadly, Beautiful Days ended a couple of days ago. These few days are always a bit of a downer.

However, we’re still in festival mode as we’re back at the campsite and in our bigger tent (after an initial glitch where all of us had to “sleep” in the two man tent that MrM had pitched on a slope, meaning a night of sliding into each other and then getting cross – the incident even included an episode where MrM drove over a bag of toiletries in the van), we put up the bigger tent and all is well again.

In fact, the McBaby is so insistent in continuing the party that every time he sees me barefoot, he’ll run off to get my wellies and then will bring them to me and try to put them on my feet.

In his countdown yesterday, he forgot to share some of the funny things he saw at the festival. The first one was not amusing for him but hilarious to watch. The McBaby thoroughly enjoyed Sinead O’Connor, but was not so keen on the headliners Ocean Colour Scene. What a philistine.

Anyway, he proceeded to bawl so loudly that a woman came over and started stroking his head. “I own a nursery,” she said, comforting him and massaging his eyebrows. Well after The Riverboat, he was still screaming, so she looked at me and said: “No, can’t fix this one.” I knew he cried more than anyone else – people always say that your own child’s screaming sounds louder, but I don’t think that’s true and it was good to have it confirmed by someone with experience in childcare!

On a better note, he likes to hide under A-boards and was joined by a lovely little boy when he was under a sign advertising pizzas. You may know that the McBaby is a quarter Chinese and has slightly Asian features. This little boy did too and I wonder if that’s what caused them to have an affinity (apart from their desire to sit under an A-board). From laughing together and playing with the chain, they started pointing at each other’s noses and then the McBaby gave him a big kiss and cuddle! He never does that to me, but never mind. They had a lot of fun until the McBaby started to point out his new friend’s eyes as well as nose and then the boy’s dad took him away.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Beautiful Days Festival - by the McBaby

McBaby here:

We’re all back from Beautiful Days. I know mummy and daddy have been lots of times but it was my second time and now I’m 18 months old, I was able to do a lot more naughty stuff than I did last year when I stayed still in my sling.

Here’s a top ten of what I got up to:

10 (+) the number of bands I had to sit through when I really wanted to go exploring. I liked the Levellers acoustic set but I was bored during the finale and mummy had disappeared down the very front to do something called “moshing”.

9. The number of times I ran off to leap up and down in a muddy puddle. When I started on Sunday morning, it was a couple of metres wide. Thanks to the sun and my persistence, it was less than a foot long when mummy dragged me away.

8. The number of times I threw my ear defenders on the floor each time mummy and daddy tried to put them on me.

7. The number of hours I spent drumming on a plastic bottle in the drumming circle.

6. Number of times mummy tried to put my dog mask on (the theme was Animals) before she gave up.

5. The number of times mummy disappeared in pursuit of one of the Levellers.

4. The number of times I climbed up the outside of the Bimble Inn.

3. Number of swigs I tried to take from a can of John Smiths I found in a field.

2. Number of performers whose face I screamed into (Miser Bill and Wino Tyrone).

1. Way of Life!

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's every boy's dream to ride on a steam train

I was looking for something to do with the McBaby on Saturday afternoon and came across the Cholsey and Wallingford Steam Railway which was free to any child under eight over the weekend as long as they were carrying a teddy bear.

After all, what little boy doesn’t love a steam train? Well, ours as it happens.

As you know, all of our stuff is in storage, but McBaby’s George Pig (why is George the only cast member of Peppa Pig who doesn’t have an alliterative name – apart from Joey Kangaroo?) happened to be in my car under a pile of newspapers, so we dusted him off and headed to Wallingford to find that the train left from Cholsey.

We headed to Cholsey!

We were just in the nick of time for the last ride of the day. McBaby was free and MrM and I paid £12 between us for a return journey.

There was time for an obligatory shot of the McBaby in the driver’s cabin, then the whistle went, the guard waved his flag, and we sat in first class. The McBaby then cried and cried and cried until he saw some cows to mooooo at.

Then we stopped in Wallingford, had our picture taken by lots of interested people and then sedately travelled back to Cholsey.

I think I was the only one who enjoyed it. Just check this face out....

Successful interactions!

As a loner and curmudgeon, I always worry that the McBaby will take after me and be friendless. So it raises my spirits when I see him interact successfully and make people happy.

Here are some of the highlights of the weekend:

1. There was a homeless man in town earning a few pennies by playing the spoons. Very masterfully, I might add. To be fair, some people were giving him money, but there were some people giving him the look and manoeuvring their offspring away from him. However, the McBaby went up to him and danced, applauding at the end of each song. Good boy.

2. We were in a coffee shop when he went and high fived a little boy of the same age. The boy gave him a biscuit (but then tried to take it back!) and the pair parted with a hug.

3. We were in another pub (we’re homeless at the moment, remember!) and there were two dogs behind a fence. One of the dogs was trying to pick up a stone. Worried that he would break his teeth on it, I hid the stone in a flower pot). After our meal, the McBaby retrieved the stone and gave it to the dog.

All weekend, and in fact all of the time, whenever he sees a dog, even if it's me just wearing a dog mask (I am preparing for a fancy dress weekend in which we must all dress up as animals - gosh, that didn't sound convincing!), he will woof at them in the belief that they understand what he is saying.

4. We were in some gardens and a little girl approached the McBaby. He started mumbling to himself, so she backed off. The two of them then performed a strange dance type ritual, ending him the McBaby running towards the gate and the little girl lying on the floor as if in the last scene of an opera.

5. Watching the McBaby playing catch with two lovely and patient children who were camping with their foster parents.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A Pizza Hut, a Pizza Hut......

Poor McBaby.

I moan at him for being loud in a restaurant, but of course he’s not going to be comfortable in the surroundings of a posh eatery or gastro pub.

I realised this as I hit “send” on yesterday’s post (rant).

So last night, I took him to somewhere he’d never been before, and I don’t think I’d been in one for 20 something years. It was full of families and a lot of grandparents treating their grandchildren to a pizza. A treat. So I decided to adopt the same mindset and treated myself to a beer. Only joking!

The McBaby and I went to the salad bar and I ordered him this:

Which I actually ate more of than he did. We then shared a pizza and he quaffed a glass of milk. He was very well-behaved, but what’s interesting is that the laid back vibe, music and cheery atmosphere was probably more to his taste and enabled him to be good. Sitting in a quiet restaurant probably isn’t going to entice him into being quiet. If he did shout at Pizza Hut, he would be drowned out. If he threw some food on the floor, it wasn’t the end of the world.


More tales from the campsite

Leaning over the fence of our campsite and looking at the cows in the next field, the McBaby learned how to “moooo” effectively last night. Then he saw someone driving the same exact vehicle as ours and ran towards it shouting “daddy, daddy!” which was quite an interesting thought process.

While we were loitering with intent, a family cycled up to the gate and asked the campsite manager if they could have a pitch for a night at which point he turned into Basil Fawlty talking to Lord Melbury.

“Have you booked, have you booked? Next time, can you book?”

Picture this against a background of a campsite with massive swathes of empty greenery. And a family of four with wry smiles and quizzical looks on their faces.

Thankfully, he let them in which was a relief as they were a lovely Dutch family who were cycling across the UK and had covered 60 miles by bike that day. They whipped their tents up in no time and then the parents and two daughters who were about 12 and 13 sat down to enjoy a meal, filled with raucous laughter. Wonderful to see and proof that there’s something to be said about living out under the stars.

Their laughter seemed to infect the McBaby who laughed and bounced his way round the campsite, trying to get into two caravans and staring at a man sitting by his tent.

Linden Homes – take your time with building our house!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Places we are barred from....

We can now add The White Hart in Hamstead Marshall to the list of places where we are no longer welcome.

Not delighted at the prospect of eating a salad in the rain, I asked MrM if I could take him and McBaby out for dinner. He chose the White Hart as we had a lovely drink there a few weeks ago and the menu looked lovely.

And indeed the food was great, served to the thumping beat of dance music emanating from the kitchen. I suspect they’d turned up the volume in a bid to drown out the sound of the McBaby wailing about going in his highchair, about being hungry and about not being allowed to watch Peppa Pig (in fact, I had no phone signal anyway, so he wasn’t able to watch it).

He was actually quite good while he was eating his delicious risotto and helping himself to my fish and chips, but he then got bored and wanted to play outside. I am all in favour of his playing outside, but not when there’s a road next to the pub. In fact, on one of his attempts to escape, a Peugeot full of chavs sped past yelling “w*****” out of the window - don't think it was aimed at us, but really it should have been aimed at anyone! So I tried to entertain him with the giant Connect 4.

While he thrashed me at Connect 4, MrM upped, paid for the meal and left, meaning that I hadn’t finished my meal or my drink. So we headed back to the campsite which is now the second place where we are probably not welcome. More wailing ensued.

In fact, there’s a strict rule about closing car doors after 10pm and our normally quiet neighbours repeatedly slammed theirs to let us know they weren’t happy. And who would be? I reached the end of my tether and when I put Peppa on my phone for him, only for him to snatch the phone out of my hand, I tried to get him to say “thank you”.

Neither of us would back down, leading the McBaby to have a crying fit that, with horror, I realised I used to do. I remember thinking my tellings off would never end and used to sob so wholeheartedly that I couldn’t stop. This is what happened to the McBaby who almost had a fit.

What is it about Peppa Pig that is so addictive? Why it one of few things that will enable him to sit down quietly and concentrate?

I’m happy to hear advice on any of the following:

1. How to wean a child off Peppa Pig.
2. How to stop a child screeching and sobbing at the smallest thing.
3. What campsites there are in the Newbury/Oxford area.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Camping - a long term strategy

There are two reactions when we’ve told people that we’re currently living on a campsite:

1. “Poor you!”
2. “My sister/friend/uncle lived on campsite for six months when their house was being built and they loved it!

Likewise, MrM and I have differed on our views about the situation. Mine has largely been positive but he’s starting to get bored of it and has even been to the Linden Homes site with photos of the little man living in a tent in a bid to get them to finish the house as quickly as they can!

The positives are these:

1. Fresh air
2. Getting a sense of freedom and being in the “great outdoors”.
3. Getting by without clutter; no need for lots of STUFF.
4. McBaby getting more robust
5. McBaby having lots of room to run around.
6. The social side of meeting other like-minded campers.
7. At £15, it’s actually cheaper than the mortgage interest charge on our house.
8. No Thatcham thugs driving past the house at 3am with their bass blasting.
9. I’m actually nearer to work so my commute is a bit shorter and much, much more pleasant.

The negatives are obviously that there’s a lack of stability, a lack of privacy (bathing and going to the loo, particularly with the McBaby) is a bit of a pain, nowhere to charge your phone, no post and the difficulty in cooking and washing up.

So all was well until it started raining, raining and raining. Then the McBaby used all of my phone battery up by watching Peppa Pig. Then the kicker was that I took some plates and a pan to work to wash up and then left it there for the weekend by accident. I then decided to call Domino’s to cheer everyone up. There was a long pause when I gave them the postcode and the address.

“We don’t deliver there”

Why? WHY? Wouldn’t a campsite be an absolutely IDEAL place to deliver? I’m now, finally, coming round to MrM’s point of view . All because of a pizza.