Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Forget the pegs, we hit the bottom of the barrel

Further to Lewis' latest jabs at my personal appearance, it would appear that he noticed they had an effect, because he has now reached new heights/scraped new lows in this little battle of wits. I do wish he didn't have such an excellent poker face.

Have you seen the Thunderbirds movie? Remember Rose Keegan playing Transom? That otherwise thoroughly beautiful woman whose 'I'm a baddy' prop was a really dodgy set of teeth?

Well if anyone can find me a shot of her, in that role, displaying those gnashers, I would be grateful. It just seems that, barring a short film clip, there are no fixed shots of that to be had - anywhere. Her promo shot is tight lipped, as is her photo on her artist profile (which is sad really, she could probably do with showing her real features) and where she has not been mysteriously dropped from the cast list altogether, she appears at best, with back-of-the-head shots. Its wrong.

Anyhoo, her character's teeth are something like a cross between these and these (sorry, blogger picture upload is on the fritz, will edit when it works again) - framed startlingly by proper, full, bee-sting lips of the starlet variety. The lips, I know, are her own. The movie was on TV last night.

Lewis: Ooh look mum, she's got teeth like yours!
Me, scowling: Do WHAT?
Lewis: Oh no, well, don't mind, I mean they are just as big as yours, but she cant get round them; your face fits yours.
Me: Pardon? As Big?
Lewis: Well maybe as big as yours, but she's smaller, so she doesn't fit.

I have an overbite, and have developed a slim version of the gap you can see on, ooh, Jilly Cooper or Madonna. Yup, thats it, I pretty much have Madonna teeth. Nonetheless, when my first husband bitched about everything, I did once, young and insecure, admit I could put them in a brace. I was about to shut him up with a few observations of my own, when his reply, out loud in a pub (and to the raucous laughter of his equally charming brother) was "Put 'em in a brace? You could put 'em in the back of a lorry!" What a wanker.

So you'll pardon me and understand if my youngest son's latest jibe has left me grumpy, bad tempered and with a desire to learn ventriloquism/chew on a brick.

No, forget the brick thing. The NHS the way it is these days, I'd end up with more gaps or metal caps.

That boy is gonna pay, this one is going down on the maternal list of insults that come out as 'funny stories' along with the nude baby photos, the very second he is old enough to bring a girlfriend home. Just you wait, kiddo.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Down A Peg Or Two

Apologies to those rare few who recall my novice posts and have already heard me compare myself to a fisherman's friend - not the cough sweets, the craggy old man sketched on the packet.

It is sadly true that, although of almost pure Welsh descent, I have London skin and hair - it looks best with a layer of pollution. Since we moved to the coast just under a decade ago, my hair has resolutely determined to look like the stuffing from a horsehair sofa, barring copious amounts of gloop which will settle it for half a day at best.

Add to this that my silver hairs (not grey, I bypassed grey and went straight to the colour of angels wings) start out as curly as pubes. The fringe, which, for fifteen years was my one patch of silver, is now sleek and glossy. Everywhere else, however, my dry but wavy hair is bolstered into bizarre shapes by an erratic, underlying corset of pube-like coilsprings. Some arrange themselves on the top and I look like one of those Barbie dolls that got lost at the bottom of the toy box. Dry and whispy bits are not supposed to stick out at funny angles even when you've just combed them, but tough luck on me.

So I am growing it. I refuse to resort to old lady bouffant a la Thatcher, and anyway, long hair usually weighs itself into submission, which is just what I am hoping for.

Lewis often tells me I embarrass him. Thats his prerogative, just as its mine to do the best 'embarrassing mother' routine that I can possibly muster. Today, however, he reached new heights in this war of wide eyed sarcasm.

We were discussing having his friend Haydn back round to play one more time before school restarts. (In England, Autumn term doesnt begin until the first week of September; probably because we don't do Thanksgiving.) It went on, as follows:


Lewis: Well, okay, he can come round here, but, just don't be so friendly, you scare him.

Me: Lewis, be serious, did Haydn say I scare him? How?

Lewis: Well no, you just creeped him out a bit.

Me: ???

Lewis: He just thought you smiled too much and kept offering him things and talking to us and werent being like a proper mum.

Me: Oh, oh well okay, I'll leave you two more to it, next time. That ok?

Lewis: Well, its okay, its just that hair, and when you look all bushy and you keep smiling, it IS a bit creepy.

Me: Go on..................

Lewis: Yes and the way you're so friendly to everybody and keep saying hello to people and you look a bit mad with that hair and then you smile and say 'Hello Stranger!' ALL THE TIME, and you're just really embarrassing and why cant you be like normal mums and not smile and not talk first?


I tidied my hair, pumped it full of conditioner, got it almost glossy and tucked it behind one ear, but no. I am, he says, too old for young woman hairdos. He looked horrified.

Poor Lewis, it seems a'proper mum' to him is one who doesn't know all the kids in his class, can't talk at their level and wouldnt want to, wears tidy, boring hair, and never smiles. He's got six more years at the very minimum under my roof, I hope he has a longsuffering nature!

(And no, I am not going to tell him the 'mad woman hair' comment got to me, but I am wondering how I would look bald, with maybe a few scalp tattoos.)

Two Milestones And A Memory

Two milestones slipped past this week, and I have only just realised.

Milestone 1

Lewis, aged ten, having finally allowed desire for sweets to overrule his fear of crossing roads alone, has made it to the local sweetshop not once, but four times in the past two or three days. The Aspergers kid who would sooner sit in front of his computer, the one who had no interest in anything at all unless it either:

A) involved soldiers, or
B) could be downloaded to his personal memory stick

has now got a feeling for independance that involves being outdoors. This is HUGE news. Right now I am sitting here on a lovely sunny day, with the front door wide open, because Lewis has taken Imogen down to the sweet shop. They've gone on their scooters, and for the first time in ten years I am a hands-free parent.

My first reaction, after breathing out and feeling strangely refreshed, was to try and count back - ten years since Lewis was born, but also as he is around a decade younger than his brother, I had a new baby to worry about last time we got to this point. In fact the last time I had no-one else to be alert for was twenty two years ago before my eldest, Alex, was born.

Admit it, thats one hell of a milestone, for me too; off the hook for ten minutes after 22 years.

Milestone 2

The second one was Imogen, a week after turning nine years old, went out with her big sister yesterday to go shopping for her late presents. Alex knew Imi wanted the Bratz foldaway scooter (I hate Bratz, but the scooter is cool - no sign of over made up pouty tart faces on it or anything like that), so instead of buying it for her, gave her £50. The deal was that she had to spend it all on proper stuff, that day, so it wouldnt go home and disappear in drips and drabs.

My child came back with scooter, 'real jewellery' (a watch, purse and pendant set from Argos), fluffy topped pens and a lilac desk organiser, and a battery operated potter's wheel; all her own choice. Just like Lewis she has visibly been through a transition. She knows she is older, her confidence has rocketed and its a strange thing to look upon.


Lewis has only Aspergers - boring genius professor syndrome. His older brother, Andrew, also has ADHD and the big memory was how, even when Andrew was fourteen, I would have my heart in my mouth allowing him out of the front door. He would keep talking to you, peel a satsuma and cross a main road backwards, all at once. I remember getting him a youth social worker after he was excluded from seniors. One day the guy stood on my doorstep telling me Andrew really only needed more choices, that I should allow him options and practice at being responsible. Meanwhile, Andrew, bored of waiting for their day out, had nipped into the garage. All six foot of him was right behind the social worker, balancing a solid metal rake (heavy end up) on his nose, like some circus act, with both him and it swirling round at balletic but dangerously acute angles as he tried to keep the act going whilst the rake tried to succumb to gravity.

To begin, this guy was insulted and disconcerted by the way I kept glancing behind him, fear written across my face, but deciding it was simply proof of my psychotically overprotective tendencies, he ignored me and kept talking, stressing his point harder. Once he did finally look round (after I nearly grabbed him to get him out of the way) he never suggested it was my fault again.

Isn't it lovely when you wake up to realise that humiliations which were a normal part of your life have not continued, but are now safe, sanitised and repackaged as 'the past'.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I've worked out what my problem is

...well, the latest one, anyway.

I have a long list of things going on that the back of my head is telling me ought to make me really, really worried or angry or guilty - you know, things that really should give me that sick sensation like walking to school for a public dressing down because I got an extension on my homework project and still didn't do it.

I OUGHT to be wailing, whimpering, gnashing my teeth and possibly resorting to eyelash fluttering or fainting spells. Puke.
I just can't be bothered.

Do you get that? Its like watching life happen on a big TV screen.

The question now is whether I am either dangerously disassociated, or floating in a little calm puddle of faith and trust in God. Interesting conflict of opinion, that, and its all going on in my head, like two Einsteins across a table. I tell ya, theres chalk everywhere.

No its not schizophrenia - possibly split personalities, because it seems that my two lines of thought are battling it out between themselves and my own front brain is disassociated even from that, the conscious me just getting on with getting on. Oh, and they don't get let out to play in the real world, so I guess that means they are safely metaphorical.

Can you imagine having split personalities, all of them called Einstein, all of them identical barring driving principles? That would be the final condemnation of an uncreative mind. No, if I ever lose it, there'll be a Lola, a Candy-Mae, a Cruella, a mousey librarian and all the facets of my character that never get a day out. At least.

Hopefully Bulb won't stop by in his role of Psychiatric Nurse, because, to quote him, "psycho nursing involves telling psycho's they are weird and forcing medication down their throats." Nice.

What is weird, anyhow? Surely the most unstable and scary person imagineable must be one totally convinced that they are NOT weird - that they have all the answers, convinced they are the solitary professor in a worldwide loony bin.

We're all damaged and different - give me the people that know it.

The whole point of this post is/was to explain the last one. I am surprisingly, perhaps scarily okay. I really want to get stressed about finances and bad debt and potential for court cases and all that, I WANT to open a red and rude letter from company X and get aeriated and panicked, I just can't. The only thing that makes my shoulders sag under the weight is having to choose my words and play nursey to the men in this house.

Gary is the son of a policeman. His dad is a good man, not a dyed in the wool wife beater (although, surprise, the police force apparently has the highest proportion of them), but like the entire force, he spent his days taking flak from oiks and replying politely, taking any residual resentment and potential for ulcers home to the family. He was also threatened (again, as were they all) with demotion or, more subtly, lack of promotion, if his kids didn't lead exemplary lives. It doesn't look good trying to wear a uniform that says 'pillar of society' when the whole block know what your teenage son did last Wednesday.

Gary as eldest child had more than his fair share of dire warnings and strict admonishments, amounting to a very Victorian upbringing which, to be frank, is tiresome. 'We' don't have problems. In his little world, only 'he' has them. Its all about him and we are never ever a team where money is concerned, because he has this silly thing going on that the man should be able to provide for his family, that the entire burden is his preserve. He is the one that suffers from this lack of sharing - I could do with a hug, someone to share plans and methods to change things, for sure, but Gary could do with someone to share the guilt. It doesn't matter what I say, he wont see that in me, and goes off in a corner to mentally beat himself up.

I gave up feeling sympathetic years ago.

Then theres Lewis, the ten year old poster boy for Aspergers syndrome.

The last real clash Gary and I had was a couple of years ago when Gary would get up for work without me, and watch the world news while he ate breakfast, whether or not Lewis had followed him to the living room.

He would then wake me just before he left the house and I would fumble to the kitchen to be confronted by Lewis, fully awake and running on overdrive, with plans (that I simply HAD to hear in detail) to get the SAS to hide behind the fence at Saddam Hussein's house.

By the time we were nearly at school, and his little sister was dragging her heels behind us, unable to get a word in, the plan would have moved on to include giant lasers, or ways to establish British world domination without bloodshed, using equipment which Lewis would have to design and create because it didn't exist yet.

I have a picture on my wall that Lewis did at school during that time, entitled 'my dream house.' His dream house has:
  • guinea pigs
  • lizards
  • soft toy lizards
  • a cat
  • a swimming pool
  • a bouncy castle
  • perimeter laser guns with sensors.

And that, dear readers, is why I don't, perceptibly at least, indulge in worrying. Too many people do it too well already, it would be overkill.

What I do is simpler, I change things. Yes it means I'm like a puppet on a string, waiting for the worry to erupt into verbal acknowledgement, or for other people's attempts to change things to go belly up and make it worse, but like a Stepford Wife on valium, I step in smilingly and sort it all out, or if the damage is done, lead by inspirational example as we all learn to be cheerful with less.

Just know this, take away my cigarrettes and I'll probably kill you.




Note: Humungous thanks to Allposters for turning a blind eye to me using the piccies from their brilliant fridge magnets, again, and not slapping my wrist :-)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pissed Off

The phone's been cut off. Its still taking incoming calls but today any attempt to dial out gets a call diverted message. I am avoiding hanging on for it to connect until Gary and I can discuss whether to blow off the phone bill, or the council tax.

I hate British Telecom. We would have switched the line rental and broadband to Telecom Plus by now, but theres a catch - they will only accept transference of a bill under a certain value.

BT keep promising to stop charging us for rental of a handset they had back almost immediately, to cancel all the added extras we dont want or need any more like call barring, have twice sent out bills that never got here, then charged us money for the privelige of a duplicate. Worst of all they have decided to change their terms and conditions - instead of red reminders or ability to pay in installments or within a few weeks, they now apparently slap late payment charges straight onto the account, without having told us a blind bloody thing about it, so you think you have freedom to juggle, then Bam, things snowball.

Oh, there is a booklet of info that comes out with every bill - if you use BT, please always scan it for small print. The lady (in INDIA!) at one of their callcentres said it would have been explained in one of them. Probably in with one of the two bills I never got. Thats what you get when departments arent even in the same bloody country. At least T+ is all UK, all in one place. Did you know, apparently even British Gas is French these days?

Money is tight at the moment, I admit - the other half earns a pittance in any case. I wouldn't change him for the world, just the system. Humiliatingly, for starters, he earns something like £6,000 less than the guy he works beside in the same job, because of the difference between being an Officer Instructor and an Instructor Officer. As it's vocational work both of them are in any case paid like manual labourers - tutors and workshop supervisors are on the same payscale, it doesnt make any financial difference whether you are teaching CCNA or supervising the gluing of rubber grommets. It sucks. I want him to get his teaching degree and get out of there - he has enough credits to get through it in double quick time, but he just loves helping the bottom rungs of society - he prefers people who value their opportunities to, say, gum chewing teenagers who want to nick all the metal mouse balls and drop paperclips and chains into the computer housings. He's done the school thing. He lives to teach, to enthuse.

There are a couple of creditors wanting our blood at the moment and I seriously have to go get paid employment out of the home - not easy in a hick backwater town for anyone, harder when one child has Aspergers. Its a hidden difficulty - what they call an educational need, so theres no DLA or extra cash, Lewis, our ten year old, just needs the world translated to him 24/7 or he freaks out. Even registered childminders are not prepared to cope straight off the bat (heck I have yet to meet a teacher who can relate to him inside the first three to six months) - not that I could earn enough to afford one. I need one of those gold-dust school-time jobs.

Lewis is the capper on all of this. Everyone has squeaky times, financially, if they have kids, and we'll get through, but cuts have to be made. So far he has completely failed to grasp this, and the 'can I have's have been flying thick and fast as usual. Until today.

Gary is on two weeks leave and has now taken to his bed. He's not just sulking, but actually asleep - coping with the kids is harder work (obviously) than with a room full of students. Thanks guy, nothing like teamwork.

I made the mistake of telling Lewis that, for a couple of months, we really might have to cancel the subscription to Sky TV. This has set him off on one and now his sister is in tears, on her birthday.

Why? Because he is going round the house almost hyperventilating and obsessing about saving his TV - calculating what every item is worth (from a ten year old's perspective) and trying to take charge, even interrogating me about whether we get child benefit and why its not £100 a week when his mate Hayden says it is, what I'm doing wrong to get less and what I think I could do about it. All he needs is a clipboard and a Hitler moustache.


He has just turned to Imogen and told her in a very authoritative voice to brace herself, but the first thing to go will have to be her guinea pigs and the cat.

Nice one, Lewis.

Excuse me, I am just going to find a corner, sit facing it, and rock, humming 'I'm a little teapot' until the fairies come and take me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Email #15

Dear Mrs Baggage

As promised new SA form and Consent form for you to complete and e-mail back, as soon as possible.
It would also be most helpful to have these new completed forms signed and posted for the file.

I will put these forms with the forms dated 15 July 2004

SEN Casework Administrator