Thursday, May 15, 2014


My six-year-old is properly opinionated.
Actually, when I say "properly," what I really mean is "outrageously" and he's been like that from birth.
From the moment his bossy wee body first entered the world, he defied medicine by lifting his head to look around, the message in his new-born eyes, "I am the boss, deal with it."

Throughout his six short years, he has taken his own time with whatever task is in front of him. He caused concern, developmentally, as he didn't really bother talking until he was three. Then, when he did talk, it was in fully-formed sentences.
He is the single, most-opinionated, person I know,  so although I should look back on his pre talking days with a sense of "how worried I was, " I occasionally reminisce, "Those were the days."

This year, at kindergarten, he has worried teachers by his initial apparent inability to comprehend math - though now he reliably informs me that 62 plus 62 is 124, and dividing is about knowing how many groups of things you would get in a number.

Presently his reading is dodgy. There are certain words that he can read and when he comes across a word, he cannot read, he will look me in the eye and say - without any sense of doubt - "That isn't a word." So at the moment "monkey" "tree" and "umbrella" simply do not exist.

But the weirdest he has always been, is in terms of food.
To say he is picky would be an understatement. More accurately he is, "An ongoing pain in the ass."

He eats: cheese, pasta with no sauce, bread (wholemeal and french), french toast, bananas, apples, carrots, chicken, pizza, salmon, pretty much any kind of fruit bar from Trader Joes, and of course, an insurmountable amount of crap covered in sugar or chocolate.
Going to a restaurant is a drag, because there are only certain things on the menu he will consider as foodstuffs and if they're not on the menu, he would rather starve. (Except, of course, he would never really starve, as I know he keeps a stash of stuff he has pilfered from the kitchen cupboard,  in a drawer in his little desk, and under his bed.)

Oh and I've read those articles too about how you just have to "make problem foods into an interesting little model like a train or a smiley face on a plate," and it's all wonderful. And maybe that works for some kids. Maybe.
But for my kid, if you dish him up something looking like a little train, he will look at you with such disdain, that you will be ashamed for even considering yourself to have parenting skills.

He is vehement on foods he will not eat.  Vehement, because, as he explains, "They are not food."

Pretty much from the moment he decided he would concede to conversation, he has taken great offense to 'The Peanut".
Randomly, sniffing something placed before him at mealtimes or as snack,  he would ask, "Are there peanuts in that?" 'Does this have peanuts in it?"
And, I mean, for no reason.
We're not particularly big on peanuts in our house and I've always gone with the medical advice of no peanuts before 6 anyway, but from time to time, his distrustful little expression would eye me, like we were in an Agatha Christie novel and I was the butler, "Any peanuts here?"

He was complaining of late, that he felt he wasn't being respected at school. When they refused to let squeeze in beside his friend at the  'No peanut table" he announced that his life was being put in danger.  I figured that at some point, to keep the peace, I'd get him tested - if not for allergies,  for being a cantankerous, wee, know-it-all.

Recently though, that changed.
He had been given a bag of assorted candy from school and squirreled it away in his "secret stash" in his desk drawer, probably so he didn't have to share it with his brother.
It was not a school day and the house was relatively calm,  both boys were playing on computers (bad parent, bad parent).
Suddenly my 6 year old let out a weird, loud, gutteral noise and ran out of his room. Almost getting to the bathroom, he started vomiting, his little body spasming with the strength of the wretching.

Both Mark and I ran to get to him. His whole body was rigid, tears down his little red face both from crying and from the sheer force of his gagging reflexes.
We were both trying to work out what had happened?... what to do?... had he swallowed something?  should we call an ambulance?
Only 6 years old and so completely small and vulnerable. We were terrified.
"Chocolate. Chocolate." he managed to wheeze.

My other son fished out the chocolate wrapper from the hidden stash. Peanut butter cup.
When my 6 year old stopped vomiting, we gave him water,  and as a ruby-red rash started to creep its way rapidly up one side of his body,  antihistamine.
Within minutes he was fine, and announced,  "Somebody tried to poison me," in an accusatory tone.

We had him allergy tested for peanuts and the result came back, positive. Super positive, in fact.
The allergist told us if he has peanuts the next time, it would likely affect his respiratory system.

Nowadays he has his own EpiPen, he always sits in the 'no peanuts" table at school, and he is much more careful with the calibre of foods he squirrels away ( in the secret stashes in his desk, and under his bed, that none of us are supposed to know about).

And I have conceded. When my six year old dogmatically states that some foodstuffs "are not food, I'll (mostly) accept that for now. Just as he has to accept, that sometimes I'll, by chance, happen upon his stash and announce that some of those foodstuffs are "not real food either".
I hope that just as my eldest's food choices expanded with age, so will it be with my youngest.

Announcing I thought I should get my  eldest tested for allergies too, my six-year-old, chipped in.
"I can tell you what Fergus is allergic to."
"Oh what?" I asked, intrigued.
"Sharing," my six-year-old announced. And on that, with a smug little chuckle, he headed off to his room.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Been an odd couple of days. Have this constant niggling in my head, like I've left the cooker on, or there's a bill that should have been paid, or a meeting I didn't remember to go to. It's been driving me mad.
It's dawned on me this morning as I got an e mail from my 11 year old son's school, announcing what time he'd be back from the annual school trip,  that I may be having detachment issues.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't cry when he went on the school trip or plead with him to take care. I may have nagged him slightly about teeth brushing and deodorant wearing, and suggested how he put laundry in one bag and keep clean clothes in the other, but I didn't think I was clingy. And I definitely didn't make one, single, comment about how I couldn't even call him on the phone for almost three whole days

Since he's been gone, I haven't sighed to my husband  or my 6 year old about how I wish he was home. I haven't commented on how quiet the house is. I haven't let myself get into the place where I worry that he's sleeping alright, that he's eating properly, that he's taking care of himself. I haven't focussed on how much I want him to be happy.

But as I look over the photographs the school are diligently sending on of the kids on the trip, I find myself hoping that when he put on that sweatshirt this morning, he remembered I packed it for him because I wanted him to be warm. When I see him sitting down for lunch, I hope he's chosen vegetables because it's important to be healthy. Looking at him settling down for the night in his sleeping bag, I hope that he closed his eyes knowing how very much he is loved.

The school say this trip is absolutely instrumental in developing the confidence to allow independent growth.
And I get that.
But for me or for him...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

To or From

Mucho apologies to anyone who may have been attempting to reading these on a semi regular basis, for not having blogged for ages.
The trouble is, that though I absolutely love love love the nature of blogging - which is,  you can throw down your thoughts and then send them out into the stratosphere for anyone to pick up or bin (according to their preference) my appreciation of it completely gets in the way, once I sit down to write.

There's something so intensely personal about a blog. You can read when the writer is not being honest, or wants to impress, or is trying to hide something from you or from themselves.
With a blog the fact is, it's always best to say what's on your mind.
The problem for me is,  I often find the contents of my mind so seemingly random, that the idea of placing them into a blog for anyone to read, seems about as entertaining a prospect as emptying my Hoover bag out on the carpet and asking if anyone wanted to look through the contents.
With blogging, as with many things,  it's difficult to know where, or even when, to start.

So why now?
Well, Mark and I have been collaborating on this project called "Journeys to Glasgow" an online storytelling site about Glasgow, to coincide with the 2014 commonwealth games, along with some great friends of ours from old.
Everyone else involved in the project seems to do a whole lot of hard work, grafting, thinking, constructing, traveling, navigating through the early mornings and late nights caused by the time zones between us, based here in Los Angeles, and everybody else based 8 hours ahead in Glasgow.

My input has consisted, so far, of a bit of posturing saying stuff like, "Have you thought about that?' "Remember to mention this" and "You know your logo looks squinty?"
I figured the least I could do was write a little story about what I think of the city.

That should have been easy enough,  Glasgow is a place I absolutely love,  but when I sat down to write, I got as far as stating that Glaswegians are brilliant, and that I still think that when the sun hits off the red sandstone buildings after the rain, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Though I was born in Cumbernauld, I lived in Glasgow for 8 years from when I was 18 till I was 26. As anyone over the age of 26 knows, a lot of stuff happens between the ages of 18 and 26 - way too much to put in any one blog.  But, long long before I ever moved to Glasgow, I knew it would be my home some day.

My parents were both Glaswegians, who moved us all out to the newly built town of Cumbernauld before I was born, with the promise of a better lifestyle and a bigger house.
They definitely needed a bigger house as their "room and kitchen" in Alford street was cramped, to say the least, with three young children and another on the way.
And though my parents loved Cumbernauld, they never lost their own affection for Glasgow, the city where they had grown up and their parents before them.

My Mum and I used to travel on the bus from Cumbernauld to Glasgow some Saturdays. I don't always remember why exactly we went.
Sometimes we went to go shopping, or to visit my Nana (my Mum's Mum) who seemed, often, to be in the Royal Infirmary - James Miller's giant imposing hospital perched next to Glasgow cathedral and - from my point of view on the bus - next to the biggest graveyard in the world.
(When I was a kid I reckoned they had the graveyard there to remind patients, that they'd better get better or else.)
Then the bus would wind its way down Cathedral street, past Strathclyde University, where my sister and brother - Janice and Scott -  were studying, finally coming to a stop at Buchanan Street Bus Station, where we would disembark.

Buchanan St Bus Station - which confusingly was actually on Killermont Street -  was always busy, serving busses on local routes, as well as coaches that would travel to further off places such as London.
As a child,  I never thought much about London. I'd heard that it was big and busy, but I couldn't imagine anywhere being bigger and busier than Glasgow.

At Christmas time we'd always head to Goldberg's - a huge department store that offered a new fangled thing called "credit" and had the best Christmas displays around. Animatronic elves would pretend to wrap presents, or reindeers would shake their heads from side to side in the window displays.
Inside the store was just as brilliant.
You could spot dark haired women with great make up and fur coats and great jewelry, or smart guys in suits with slicked hair and chunky gold identity bracelets. They talked loudly and had great smiles and huge arm movements. They were exotic amazing creatures, not like anything else I'd seen in Cumbernauld. Once, I asked my mother what  made  these people so different, and she whispered "They're Jewish."
 I had no idea what that meant, but I decided that I definitely planned to be Jewish some day.

Later, when I lived in Glasgow I would meet my mother at the bus station.  Though Goldberg's had long gone by then, we'd explore the random ridiculous wonder of Nash's, a magnificent wee stationary shop on Miller Street, that laughed in the face of modern technology.
Or maybe we'd go to Fraser's on Buchanan Street and snigger at the orange ladies,  their fake tan messing up the collars of their coats,  after the rain had managed to somehow make its way underneath their umbrellas.

We'd marvel at the selection of cakes - or "cream cookies" - with synthetic cream and a wee mandarin slice in the windows of bakeries, and sometimes go for lunch at one of the many emerging Indian restaurants.
Then, when it was time for her to go home, we'd head back to the bus station to wait for her bus.

Years later, so much has changed. I've travelled more than I ever thought I would and seen some ridiculously large train stations, airports in all different parts of the world, but none of them I've ever held in as much esteem as that daft bus depot on the side of Killermont Street.

So Mark told me that our photographer was out and about in Glasgow this week,  and was there something specifically I wanted her to shoot pictures of?

"Definitely, " I said, "Buchanan Street Bus Station"
He looked at me in that way that I always say, means that he thinks I'm an idiot, but he always says, he's just trying to work out what I've said.

"You heard me" I say, "Don't bother doing that look. Buchanan Street Bus station."
"Ok. But why? It's a bus station. There's amazing amazing architecture in Glasgow and bus stations are pretty much the same all over the world."
"Not that bus station. " I say, "I used to meet my Mum there,"
"I get that.  But that was a really long time ago, you're not going to see your Mum there now."

Of course he's wrong. In every single photograph,  I totally will.