Wednesday 26 June 2013

Look What The Postman Brought Me!

this is my happy face, believe it or not.

Paperbacks for checking. This is starting to get real, people!

By the way, I'm planning to have a launch party on facebook when it's time to go, a bit later in the summer. You'll have to photograph your own beverages and show me pictures. Please come. It'll be fun.

There will also be a giveaway of some of my favourite adoption books. I'm trying to narrow down my selection - there are so many good ones that I'm having a tough time choosing. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child is looking good, though. And Red Dust Road. And My Fathers' Daughter. And ... yeah. It's a tough job making these decisions, but someone's gotta do it.

So. Don't make me sit on facebook taking photos of my own champagne and winning books I already own all night, okay? Come. Promise? That means YOU.

But now - I'd better go - I have some shiny shiny covers to stroke.

Monday 24 June 2013


So the other day, a friend was visiting and we were talking about our kids, of course, because we had already talked about television and we are too washed up and tired to talk about anything else. Our children are the same age and after we'd discussed all the boring stuff that people do in these situations, she said conversationally, "Do you know what, Claudia? I know they are the same age, but I really think my girl seems like she is a whole year older than your two." Then, on seeing my face, she added "I just mean developmentally."
my genius children
I was shocked into silence. My mouth was saying nothing, but my mind was working at warp speed.

What a ridiculous thing to say, I thought first. My kids are fine. FINE I TELL YOU! 

And then - How dare you, anyway! How dare you say that about my children! How could you be so ill-mannered? I have a good mind to pour my coffee all over you. 

Then I thought about all the stuff my children can do, and my mind continued with anyway, my children are doing all kinds of hard emotional work that your precious princess will never have to do. They are learning about families and complications and dealing with talking about how many parents they have, and why they never see two of them. They are facing the fallout of huge, grown-up decisions they had no hand in making, and they are doing it with such grace and good humour for such tiny people - I am so proud of them, every day. They are doing amazing things. EXCUSE ME if we haven't got around to spelling yet. 

But this was quickly followed by Oh no, when ARE we going to get around to spelling? Sometimes I don't think they'll ever be ready. They'll be behind before they go to school, and then they'll never catch up and they'll never be able to get a job and I'll have to keep working forever to support their cheerios habit and oh no, she's right, they are a year behind, she's right.... 

In other words, I cycled through the first four stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression - in under thirty seconds.

I quickly changed the subject, but I've continued to think about it, obviously. I  have been thinking how this conversation was actually pretty different from the ones that people normally have about kids' development. Those usually go Oh, your child isn't SPELLING yet? Really? Oh. Okay. Oh well, I'm sure they'll catch up. 

I know this stuff is well meant, but it always makes me think Oh yeah? And if not, then what? 

Because this is a weird thing about having three-year-olds. People are still talking as if they are all going to achieve equally. Uh, yeah, not so much, I don't think. We don't really know who will do what at this point but I do know some children will be capable of more than others. And if my child is at the bottom of the bell curve, if my child doesn't 'catch up', what happens then? There must come a point where people stop telling mothers that their child is going to catch up, a point where everyone realises yeah, that kid is really not ever going to be like the other kids. Or even if the child doesn't have obvious problems, there must come a point where the teacher realises that this child isn't going to set the world on fire, academically. This child is never going to catch up to Princess Perfect and her gang.

Maybe I should thank Princess Perfect's mother for her refreshing honesty. Or maybe I should just start criticising her kid's development, and see how she likes that. "Oh, Princess Perfect can't sing arpeggios yet? I guess it's like my children are a whole year older. I just mean musically." 

But what would be the point of that? Because a) it's rude, b) who cares what her child is doing, c) no, really, who cares, d) honestly? Who cares and also e) it's still as rude as it was at a).

But people talk as if this stuff matters. People tend to say that each child will 'catch up' with whatever imaginary milestone is being discussed, apparently, but if not then what? All this oh, they'll catch up makes me think the speaker feels like the alternative is too awful to even contemplate. If they don't catch up, does that render them unloveable?

Colour me obvious, but achievements and milestones are not what makes kids - mine or anyone else's - precious. I know we don't really think this is true, but if that's the case why do we talk like we do, about catching up, with all this boring competitiveness? Why did Princess Perfect's mother feel like she could be somehow proud of her child's superior development (whether imaginary or not)? I don't want my kids thinking that way about themselves, as if this is what makes them worthwhile. I don't want my kids thinking that way about other people, either. And by the way, I think this goes for the Oh, she may not be very clever but she's very kind stuff too. What happens when our children also have below average kindness? Because even that stuff isn't dished out evenly, is it? Not in my house, anyway.

My point is this - it's not a game. It's not a race. It's not a competition.

My children are unutterably precious to me for one reason, and only one - they are my children. They do not have to be better or faster or stronger or cleverer or taller than anybody else's to earn their place in my heart.

After all, isn't this why kids need families? The strongest, the fastest, the cleverest, the prettiest - they are the kids who would probably survive wherever and however they grow up. Families are what the rest of us need. Families are the places where we clutch our average children close to our average chests and run our fingers through their average hair and whisper in their average ears that nobody, nobody is more precious to us than them, and we say this because it's absolutely, totally true.

You know what? Maybe my children really are developmentally behind Princess Perfect. Maybe they always will be. And I would spare them hardship, if I could. I would like them to be clever and tall and beautiful and a dozen other things that would grease life's wheels for them. But I can't, and I wouldn't love them any more if I could.

I do think that my two are largely fine, developmentally, but that's not the point. And Princess Perfect's mother really was rude, but that's not the point either. And it's also not the point that my two are scaling emotional mountains no three year old should have to climb, or that actually, they may never 'catch up' academically, or that I may need to pay for their breakfast cereal until they leave home at forty-five.

The point is that we're a family, and I love them, and they're precious, and they're mine. And really, that makes the rest of it seem kind of irrelevant.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Public Service Announcement

Because sometimes I think we all need a bit of this.

Monday 10 June 2013


The last few weeks have been heavy weather around here. It's the stuff with our little girl, of course, but it's not just that. Those of you who are married, do you find yourself surprised by how hard it is to be married, sometimes? I do, and then I feel like I shouldn't admit it's hard, even though the idea of putting two different people in a house together with a big chunk of responsibility for each others' happiness is so MIND-BLOWINGLY CRAZY that surely everybody knows it's going to be hard, right? IT'S GOING TO BE HARD. But then it actually gets hard, and I'm shocked.

Over the last few weeks, my husband has: Failed to help me put a bookshelf together; not said thank you when I baked him his favourite cookies, generally been silent and moody, not said thank you when I made his favourite meal, not wanted to celebrate with me when I finally got my book off to the typesetter, and refused to open a bottle of wine on the basis that it was 'only Tuesday'. Seriously.

None of these are the end of the world, and I'm sure there's a list twice as long of things I do that annoy him. (She never gets up in the morning! Why does she always yell at the children? Is she seriously buying more stuff online?) But he always thinks everything between us is fine, whereas when I'm having trouble communicating with him, I start to panic and I'm all WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ME ANY MORE? (Because I'm trying to eat my dinner and you keep asking me questions, Claudia, is the honest answer to that one, I think).

It's hard. I find it hard. I love him so much, and I know he loves me, but sometimes we're not in sync and it's hard.

Here's what I think: if you have a generally happy marriage, most of the hard stuff you face in life is faced together. For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. Etcetera. You're working hard but you're working together. But then when you have a hard time in your marriage, when you feel like you're 'working on it', it feels like you're doing that work alone. If you were working together on your marriage, it probably wouldn't feel like there was a problem, right? So you're working on your own on trying to improve a relationship, and thinking about your relationship when you feel lonely inside it just exacerbates those feelings of loneliness.

It's hard. It's normal. It's hard.

I don't know about you, but when this kind of thing happens I get involved in displacement activities. I develop short-term obsessions with things that really don't matter. I'm setting up a work space at home (FINALLY, and yes AFTER the book is basically finished, but obviously I'm very happy to have it - I'm calling it my Lady Room and I'll tell you more about it another day) and I need a few office supplies. I discovered poppin and was all set to order a matching set of desk accessories (in aqua, which would look bee-yoo-ti-full with my new dark veneered wood desk and white MDF drawers). And then I realised What the hey? These people don't make a hole punch! I can't buy a matching set of stuff and then have a non-matching hole punch! This set off a crazy need to find either a beautiful hole punch that would coordinate with the aqua set, or an entirely different set that included a hole punch and would fit within my approved palette.

This hole punch is beautiful, but it is also £130 and plated with gold. This hole punch did not solve my problems. 
And that's how I found myself creating a Pinterest board devoted entirely to office supplies, and how I spent hours googling combinations of exquisite + desk set + hole punch + stapler + happiness and how I found out that the world has waaaay more beautiful staplers than beautiful hole punches. I think I'll probably go with a boring (but acceptable) transparent acrylic hole punch, but now I'm stuck, totally unable to decide which of the beautiful stapling objects I've found will make me not just happy, but happiest. I want them all.
The clear acrylic casing? The gold underneath? COME TO MAMA.  

This stapler is in MOMA. Not buying this stapler would be like saying I'm too good for MOMA. That would be terribly arrogant, don't you think? 

What's not fun about this? 
It's a stapler, but it's made of wood. Do I really need to explain any further? 

This is the aqua stapler that started this whole debacle. I still love you, aqua stapler.  

And I found myself thinking: hey, why don't I just decide that now, I collect staplers? After all, if I just bought, say, three staplers, that would be buying too many staplers. But five or six staplers would be a hobby. Right? 

Want to know the stupidest thing? I barely even staple. If you asked me where my current stapler was, I would not be able to tell you. 

Something tells me it's not really about the stapler.

It's hard work, sometimes, this life. It's hard work, staying stapled together with another human being who is sometimes thinking about other things than what will make ME happy.

It's hard work. It's worth it. It's hard.