December Chat with a Dad: Alan of OMG It’s a Girl!

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Tell us something about yourself (your blog) and your little ones.

I was born to Irish parents in England. Abandoned by my mother and then put into an orphanage and adopted by Americans. I now live in Ireland with my very long suffering girlfriend, two stepsons, my own son and daughter.

When not on twitter I’m full time carer to my autistic stepson.

I started the blog http://omgitsagirl.WordPress.com when I found out that the fourth child was going to be a girl. I envisioned it as a humorous look at living with a girl in a house of boys. So far the only real difference is there is PINK everywhere!

What were their birth stories like?

Not being with Mrs OMG for the births of the first two I can only say what I know about their births. The eldest stepson was an emergency section, by all accounts it wasn’t the most pleasant of births. Stepson #2 was 6 weeks premature. My first ever experience of childbirth was Buddy’s birth. It took all of 29 minutes from the midwife breaking the back waters to him being born! Curiosity got the better of me and I had to peek at the business and once the head was out. Mrs OMG took a seizure and things went a bit mental. I got queasy and sick, therefore missing the rest of the birth!

Little Miss OMG was an entirely different story! She took hours to arrive!! I’m not sure how many lives I got through on Candy Crush. The epidural meant there was no seizure this time and at 6.44 pm on the 9th of Feb last year my perfect little girl was born.

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What you wish you knew about being a Dad before becoming one?

There is nothing that can prepare you for what life with a baby you helped create is like. Having lived with the stepsons who were four and nearly three when I moved in with their mother I thought a baby would be a breeze. How wrong was I!

How do you balance your time between work/blogging and fatherhood?

Really badly!! Even with two of us at home full time. (Mrs OMG has epilepsy) It seems I never have enough time. Between normal household duties, taxi between sports and school and a very active toddler there’s just about time for coffee! It’s the blogging that suffers. There’s also my habit of breaking uninsured mobile phones! As this is my only way of blogging it slows things down.

Any favourite anecdotes of your kids?

Oh there are so many! I’m such a bad parent! Buddy will do something that I should give out to him for but I end up laughing.

This one time at band camp, (well Lidl really) a recently toilet trained Buddy announced he needed a wee. I told him to go round the side of the shop. He ran out the in door. I wasn’t quick enough and they closed on me. As I hurried round to the exit I looked out the window and saw Buddy peeing against the shop window!

What is it about fatherhood you love about?

Everything! But if you insist on one thing it’s watching them in those moments they learn something new for the first time. Even better if it’s something they’ve struggled with.

If there is anything about fatherhood you dislike about, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to go for a wee or a shower on my own again! Buddy was obsessed with the shower! He was about 2 1/2 and happily playing so I told Mrs OMG I was gonna sneak off for a shower. I nearly had a heart attack when I finished washing shampoo off of my hair and found a naked Buddy had joined me!

If you were given a chance to be a stay-at-home dad, would you take it?

Technically I am a SAHD. Back in 2008 I was a supervisor on the night shift for one of the largest bookmakers. Mrs OMG had a tough pregnancy with Buddy. She was taking lots of seizures, had to go for injections to stop early labour and eventually be glued. This coincided with Stepson #2 Autisim diagnosis. I was taking more and more time off work so in the end made the decision to leave work and stay at home as full time carer.

I do miss work and certainly miss the money, but I’ve seen every milestone. First steps, first words, school sports days and concerts, not forgetting parents evenings and extra curricular activities like football matches.

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Best Advice you’ve received about Fatherhood?

The best piece of advise I was given surprisingly came from my mother. When Buddy was 2 he was running around a restaurant one lunchtime. I was getting noticeably fraught as he wouldn’t sit down. My mother said “Relax”

If you can give yourself advice before becoming a Dad, what would it be?

Enjoy every moment. They are only small for a short time.

THANK YOU SO MUCH ALAN! 

Do head over to Alan’s blog.  You can also stay connected with him through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, G+ and Pinterest.

And click here if you haven’t read last month’s Chat with a Mum.

Christmas Gift Suggestions for your Little Book Worms (ages 6+)

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If you’ve been reading our little space for some time now you may have come across most of the titles on this list, all books are from little T’s collection and are her personal favourites.  Some of the books, her Dad or I have read them to T, or do a combined reading, taking turns to read a paragraph.  But a couple of them she reads on her own.  We have a very long bedtime routine you see, it starts off with her Dad reading her a story, then I read to her too.  Then she reads on her own, or if there’s a book from school, she reads that book to me.

Hope you enjoy our list!

1. Goth Girl Books by Chris Riddell

Again, we’ve mentioned Chris Riddel so many times in our little blog, since he is obviously T’s favourite.  Last October, we drove all the way to Bath in a day just to meet the Children’s Laureate at the Bath Literary Festival and have him sign her book.  He was absolutely lovely.  Ever since meeting him, I’m a big fan now too.

If your child is anything like T who let’s just say likes a bit of goth, then they’ll enjoy Goth Girl.  The books are about the adventures of Ada Goth, who is roughly around nine years old and lives with her father, Lord Goth who is known to be “bad and dangerous to gnomes”.  Sadly, he lost his wife when Ada was really young.  The author based Lord Goth on the poet Lord Byron, whose daughter also happened to be called Ada.

As of writing, there are four Goth Girl books written and illustrated by Chris Riddell: Goth Girl and the Ghost of the Mouse, Goth Girl and a Fete Worse than Death, Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright, and Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen.  As you can tell, all books are caricatures of well-loved classics.  Chris also happens to be a political cartoonist of the Observer.

T loves them all.  My husband read all of the Goth Girl books to T.  Many times I would hear both giggling away, at times, I’d hear my husband laugh-out-loud followed by an explanation to his daughter why the belly laugh moment.

2.  Ottoline Books by Chris Riddell

And then there’s Ottoline Brown who lives with Mr. Munroe (her sort-of guardian), a creature (looks a lot like cousin It from the Adams Family) whom her parents found living in a bog in Norway.  Like Goth Girl, the Ottoline Books are about her adventures with Mr. Munroe.  As of writing, there are three Ottoline books:  Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, Ottoline goes to School and Ottoline at Sea.  These books are very much of T’s age range, so yes, she can read this on her own, although my husband enjoyed this too.

3.  Clarice Bean Books by Lauren Child

The well-loved creator-author of the very popular Charlie and Lola series, it won’t come as a surprise to some that Clarice Bean also reads a lot like an older version of Lola.  Like Lola, Clarice is very inquisitive and a very individual kind of little girl.  There are seven books in this series: Clarice Bean, That’s me. My Uncle is a Hunkie, says Clarice Bean. Clarice Bean, Guess Who’s Babysitting, What Planet are you from, Clarice bean? Utterly me, Clarice Bean, Clarice Bean Spells Trouble and Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now.

4.  Harper Books by Cerrie Brunell

Harper lives in the city of clouds with her Aunt.  She can play lots of instruments like the cello and the harp to name a few.  And her life is as fun and adventurous as Goth Girl and Ottoline.  Thse charming books are penned by Cbeebies host Cerrie Brunell and has written three books in this series:  Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella, Harper, The Circus of Dreams, Harper and the Sea of Secrets

5.  Isadora Moon by Harriet Muncaster

Isadora Moon is little T’s latest find.  The heroine is half-vampire half fairy, for my six-year-old, what’s not to like?  Of all the books, this is probably the one that’s best suited for her age.  When I say that, it means, she can read this on her own without any help from us.  She likes to sit up in bed and read her Isadora Moon books on her own.

There’s an Isadora Moon Goes to Ballet, Isadora Moon Has a Birthday, Isadora Moon Goes to School and Isadora Moon Goes Camping.

These books can be bought in any bookstores whether in the highstreet or online.

Have you seen anything on our list your little one would be interested in?  Or perhaps would make a lovely Christmas present?

Do share.

Come Take A Walk in the Rain with me

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We’ve had awful wet weather last week.  It certainly felt like Winter has crept in bringing rains and cold days with it.  In days like these, going out and having fun in the rain doesn’t seem possible.  Why would you want to leave the cosiness of your house, especially if you have the fire going?  Not even our pets like to go out in bad weather.

We try to kick Doc out in the rain and he would always look at us as if we we’re out of our minds.  I don’t blame him really and so with a sigh, my husband would put his wellies on and rain coat and actually walk outside with him in the cold, wet dreary weather.

It can actually be a lovely experience walking in the rain, provided that you are dressed for it and perhaps, go to a special place where in spite the weather it would actually seem worth going.  That’s exactly what we did last Saturday.

After little T’s ballet, armed with new rain-coats from the lovely folks at Lighthouse we drove over to the beach at Rock here in Cornwall.  The weather was bad.  We sat in our cars watching the pouring rain, wondering if it would ever stop, and just when we almost called it a day.  It actually did.

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I quickly grabbed my new Reva Waterproof Parka coat and T’s Ella Waterproof Rain Coat and with wellies on, marched off into the light drizzle.

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I wanted to walk on the beach, but T wanted to play with her dolls on the sand.  After some coaxing though, she relented.

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It was actually beautiful, in spite the greyness and wetness of the day.  It was lovely in a dramatic sense.  There were people out walking their dogs, fishing or just having a day out on the beach, blowing cobwebs I guess.

We only ended up walking towards the water, because T wanted her dolls to have a little dip in the freezing sea.  Poor dollies.

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I’m glad that we wore our new Lighthouse rain coats out that day, because it definitely kept us warm and dry.

What we liked about T’s Ella Waterproof Rain Coat:

  • This was actually T’s own choice, I wanted the one with the cloud print in blue, but she chose the bird print.  Obviously liking the colour and design.  T gives the design and colour a  big thumbs up.
  • I like that it has a nice fleecy lining, some coats I noticed have thin linings of a different material, that’s a thumbs up from me.
  • I like that the coat pockets has buttons.  If your child is like mine who likes to take small toys when out and about and dropping them, the buttons are a good idea, another thumbs up from me on this one.
  • I like that the hood is garterized, which means it stays snug on her head when it’s on and most importantly, stays on her head even when she’s running around like loony.  I don’t have to worry about her hair getting wet in the rain, another thumbs-up from me on this one.
  • At £29.95 I thought it was just right for the price, especially if it meant my daughter was snug, warm and dry.

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What we didn’t like about the coat:

  • I only have one gripe:  The sizing is too small.  I decided to order a bigger size for her (ages 7-8).  I was really nervous about this since my daughter is the smallest one in her class, but in spite this, decided to order a size bigger.  Imagine my surprise when the coats came and hers was just the right size!  I was hoping that it would be a little bit bigger so it would last her longer, but at least, it fits her well now.

What I liked about the Reva Waterproof Parka Coat:

  • I liked the colour and design of the coat.  Just because it’s a rain-coat doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish.
  • I liked that it has drawstrings which you can pull just to give the coat a bit of shape (though I didn’t do this for the shoot).
  • I also liked the drawstrings for the hood, although I didn’t use it, I imagine it would really keep my hair dry, handy for longer walks in the rain.
  • I like that it has a lovely-cosy-fleecy lining in the hood and inside of the coat.
  • It kept me really dry.  At one point, it started really pouring again and the coat made me feel really warm, snug and dry.
  • I like the details, like the buttons in front, it just makes it look a bit different from other rain-coats.
  • I was hesitant to choose this coat at first because of the length (even though I really liked it when I first saw it online).  As you can see, I am obviously short.  I was worried it was going to make me look even smaller and bigger than I actually am.  But I actually found the length alright when I tried it on, especially if it will mean keeping my trousers dry, so all good there in that aspect.

What I didn’t like about the coat:

  • At £109 I found it a bit pricey.  That’s just me.  Then again, if a rain coat keeps you nice and warm, I guess it’s worth it in the end.

What about you?

What’s important to you when buying/choosing a raincoat?

Here’s what really happened that day, another shortie by Little Steps.  Do tell me what you think.

*We were sent the coats by Lighthouse for the purpose of this review, however all photos and views are by yours truly.

All About the Cold

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I knew when we first moved in our new home that it would be colder than in our old house where it was always snug and cozy.  In the winter, friends who’d visit would always comment on how warm our house was as soon as they entered.  We lived in a terraced house back then, that’s why.  Now we live in a detached house with no neighbours.  In spite the central heating, and two fires in the kitchen and living room, I’m still cold all the bloody time.  To be fair though, both fires aren’t on all the time.  We only put them on when we’re using the rooms.  What’s the point in wasting the fire if there isn’t anyone in?  Sometimes I think we only heat the rooms for our pets.  Thank goodness for wooly socks.  I love them.

In spite the cold, T still complains that she’s feeling warm.  What’s it with these kids?  When it’s cold, they complain about being warm.  I can understand when they’re running around like loonies, of course all that energy burnt will keep them warm, but at night?  Apparently, T isn’t the only one, a few  of my mum friends commented that their little ones are exactly the same.

And speaking of the cold, I’m noticing mold have started to show up in some of our walls and ceilings.  I try to wipe them off as soon as I notice them, but before long, they are there again.  Sigh.

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I think I’m slowly getting into the Christmas spirit.  We’re going away in the first weekend of December, so my husband said that it would be okay to start decorating this weekend.  Normally, I’d do the dance of joy, but he was surprised when all he got was an “Oh okay”.

I’m hoping to be able to drop by our favourite garden centre after T’s ballet on Saturday.  They have a fabulous Christmas display and items.   I’m sure that will do the trick.

What about you?

Any exciting plans this week?

The Reading Residence

Five Christmas Gift Ideas for the Book Worm

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I once did a “Five Valentine’s Gift Suggestions for the Book Worm“, since it’s almost Christmas, and  I’m trying to get myself into a festive mood, I decided to pen another one for the gift-giving season.  Let’s see if this will get me into the Chrissmassy mood.

I’m starting my list with books.  After all, it is a list for the book lovers.  It’s no secret how much I love beautifully made books, especially once with lovely illustrations.  I’m slowly building up my Folio Books Collection, they are all a dream.

 Hansel and Gretel, by the Brothers Grim

If you follow me over at Instagram, you’d probably noticed I posted a photo of this book already.  Sadly, I don’t have it … yet.  It’s a bit pricey at £250 but if you’re a book collector, I think it is so much worth it.  It’s not advisable though to buy it for your child, or maybe for older kids who know how to take care of books.

This beautifully illustrated book has 12 colourful plates reproduced from the copy of the first edition and text is printed on Caxton  wove paper.  I think it’s absolutely beautiful.  When I’m gone, I won’t be able to leave T a lot of money (unless I win the lottery), nor expensive jewellery (a few trinkets perhaps).  Rest assured though that she will have lovely books to hopefully, leave to her children too.

I Am” Sylvia Plath Necklace

While I’m not a big fan of words in a necklace (Is there even a term for that?), I do love this Sylvia Plath one.  For those who love poetry, or if you like Plath like I do, you might want to have this on your list.  It’s a quotation from her first novel “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.  I am. I am. I am”.  It’s solid brass with 9 ct gold plating and can be extended if you prefer a longer necklace.  This book was like a bible to me when I was a teenager, her words will always be special.

I’ve had this on my list for the longest time and it’s always out of stock, luckily it seems to be on stock at the moment.

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Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit Lampshade

I love anything book-inspired, though admittedly don’t really have much of it.  Would love to have this White Rabbit lampshade.  For the price of £115, I’m just glad they included the cushion cover!

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I do have a white wicker chair already.  All I need is that lovely lamp and cushion.

Wool Blanket

And of course, imagine being curled up in that arm-chair with this lovely soft Kilnsey Wool British made blanket wrapped around your legs in a chilly winter evening, kids asleep upstairs, with the Alice in Wonderland lamp on, giving you just the right amount to read your book, at the same time casting a lovely ambience in the room.  Now that’s what I call bliss.

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Go Away I’m Reading Mug

And lastly, what’s a gift idea list without including a mug, right?  Priced at £8.99 – this lovely bone china mug is perfect for coffee, tea or hot chocolate, curled up in that white arm-chair (pictured above), legs wrapped in that wooly blanket, with your favourite book and the world outside, can disappear even for just a while.  And if anyone disturbs you, just point to your mug.  No need for words.

Remember, some times even book lovers like a variety of presents, not just books, but that won’t apply if you’re buying them Folio books. But then again, that’s just me.

Did you see anything you like from my list?

A Shortie By Little Steps

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No, I’m not talking about me.  I’m talking about a recent video I re-edited into a short film, hence, the word “shortie”, although to be fair you can call me that too.  I don’t mind really.

If you’ve been following my little online space regularly you might recognise some of the clips used in this little shortie from a post I wrote in the late summer of this year which I called “What was your Sunday like?”  It was a beautiful late summer day, when the day was long and the sun was glorious.  It was a lovely lazy day etched in my memory, where I actually relaxed while my husband cooked (he loves cooking on a Sunday), in between doing chores (changing sheets for me, mowing the lawn for him) and T doing her homework, and the Doc being a dog, and Boots, napping as always, basking in the sunshine streaming from the window.

When the weather is grim and I’m feeling a bit sad, I think about that particular perfect summer day.  I’m glad I have it in film, when memory fails, I will always have this.

If you have time, do have a little peek and tell me what you think.

Thank you!

Are You feeling “Christmassy” yet?

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I’m not.

Is “Christmassy” even a word?

Yesterday, as we got into the car to take T to her gymnastics class, Christmas songs filled the air.  I looked at my husband, and he said “Don’t look at me.  Blame her!” pointing at T who was busy mucking about with her friend in the car.”  Apparently, the-not-so-little-one has managed to find the Christmas CD which was part of her Now That’s What I call Disney CD which I thought I had hidden away.

Off we went as the song “Jingle Bells” blasted through the car, with me gritting my teeth, thank goodness, her new gym club isn’t that far from where we live.  I don’t think I’d survive the car ride if it were longer that 20 mins without turning into the Grinch.

I’m not just feeling the Christmas vibe just yet, which is a bit unusual, because I’m someone who loves and embraces everything about Christmas.  My husband recently brought all our decors from the shed because the boxes were being nibbled by mice.  If I were my “normal” self, I’d take this as a signal that it was okay to start decking the house with Christmas garlands with the husband protesting in the background and reminding me that “We agreed the first of December, remember?!”  And of course, I’d completely ignore him.

Nope, not feeling Christmassy yet.  In spite the Christmas adverts being shown on TV.  I finally saw the controversial John Lewis Christmas ad and found it really cute.  It didn’t upset or annoy me at all. But I did understand why some parents might be bothered about it.  If T asked me, I’d say. “The trampoline was from Santa, but he didn’t have time to set-it-up so  he asked the Dad to do it for him.  After all, he still has loads of presents to deliver all over the world right?” And she would believe me.

My mum sent me a photo of her beautiful Christmas tree.  Again, normally I’d feel really envious but I just admired it from afar and didn’t have the urge to go and pester my husband to get one before the agreed dates.

We’ve decided that it’s okay to decorate the house in the first of December.  We also have this Christmas tradition every year, where we go to a Christmas tree farm and choose a special tree.  But this happens usually on the second week of December.

What about you?

When do you start decorating your house and putting up your tree?

The Reading Residence

A Country Kid’s Post: Planting for Spring

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I know it’s barely Winter and here I am talking about Spring.  But you see, it’s all about focusing on small joys, and doing things that makes me/our little family happy, and planting for Spring makes us happy bunnies!

Last Sunday was a quiet day of doing chores, homework and planting for us here at Small Hill Cottage.  My husband bought some bulbs for planting and he and little T had fun doing it in the garden.  They planted crocuses, irises, daffodils and trilliums.

I reminded him though that when our garden is in full bloom, it is dotted with loads of daffodils, snow-drops and other lovely spring flowers.  “Yes”, he replied.  “But not where I want them to be”.  Off he went, planting them down in the garden, where he wanted them to be.

Silly flowers indeed, not sprouting from where he wants them to grow.

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As for little T, my little gardener, she was blessedly content with planting the bulbs in her chosen pot.  There, she said, as she pushed the last bulb in the soil and asked me to help her cover it with compost.

We were all out in the garden, enjoying the fresh air in spite the dull weather.  Well, except for the cat who opted to stay in, sleeping by the fire.  Doc was busy running around and barking at imaginary shadows.  T and the historian with their bulbs, and I, as always, was busy raking the leaves.

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Safe in our little bubble of country living.  The world and all its absurdities can all happen without us and we’re fine with that.

What about you?

Have you done any spring planting too?

Country Kids

A Winter Warmer Recipe: Creamy Sweetcorn Soup

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The last time I did a food post, the end result looked like turd.  And that made me stay-away from doing any more posts about food or cooking,  even though my husband and I do a lot of it, home-cooked meals is our thing.

While I’m not a big fan of the cold weather, I do enjoy winter warmer recipes, they are such a comfort and when the days are short and the nights are long, homemade soup is a must.  After all, isn’t there an old belief that said “Soup can cure any hurt or illness in this world”  If that’s true, then I better start cooking!

Our favourite is this squash recipe, which I cook a lot in the “er” months, and especially after the new year.  I actually made a big pot of it which we took over to our neighbours on bonfire night.  I’m pleased to say, it was a big hit.

And so since my theme for this winter is all about small joys (although to be fair, that’s always been a big theme in my life: to always focus on the small joys), I’ve been on the look-out for new soup recipes to try.  I’m sharing with you lovely folks, my latest find:

Creamy Sweetcorn Soup

I love sweetcorn, whether it’s in a can or a cob and I’m a big fan of corn soup.  It takes me back to my childhood where our cook made such delicious corn soup, it would make you want to keep asking for more.  I should really ask the recipe from her.

What you will need:

2 TBSP olive oil

50 g unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, chopped.

1 finely chopped onion

150g potato cut in very small pieces

200g sweet corn

600ml vegetable stock

50ml double cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tsp fresh chives.

This is a very easy recipe to make:

  • All you need to do is heat the olive oil with the butter and once it has melted, fry garlic, onion and potato, until softened.
  • Toss the sweetcorn in and cook for a further two more minutes.  Add the stock, reduce heat when it starts boiling for about five minutes or until the potato is cooked through.
  • Stir in cream and season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Pour in food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of chives.

Click here for recipe source.

Every time I try out a new recipe, I always ask my little family whether it is a keeper or not, and this was definitely one.  Try it and you’ll know why.

Do you have any favourite soup recipes?

Do share.

Strange Times

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The results of the election in the States seemed to have enveloped one part of the world in a dark cloud.  It’s such a strange world we live in now.  Like many, I was upset about the results, mostly because I’m worried about my family living there:  even though they are American citizens, they are an easy target all because of the way they look and when you have a man who seems to demonstrate all the worst “isms” in life become President of that country, what are their chances?  They might as well draw a bull’s eye on their foreheads.

When my husband woke me up on Wednesday morning to tell me the results of the elections, I wanted to grab my daughter and start digging a hole so deep and keep her there until it’s safe to come out again.  I don’t want her to grow up in a world where it’s okay to be a misogynist and sexually assault women and yet be elected President of the  most powerful country in the world.

This morning, I wanted to wake up and realise that yesterday was a bad dream.  That it wasn’t our reality.  But I’ve been here before.  We had our own elections in the Philippines months ago.  Just like everywhere, clearly our people were tired of the political elite ruling our country and wanted change.  Like the Americans they thought they could turn to a demigod, a man they thought they could trust even though he made rape-jokes and thought that he could get away with it, by apologising later on and claiming it was all humour, just like Trump who called it “locker-room” talk.  And now that man has sold my country to China. He and his supporters have re-written our history by allowing a former dictator to be given a heroes burial.  A dictator who robbed my country clean, who killed thousands, among them, a poet, the father of one of my closest friends, and also the husband of my mum’s best-friend right in front of her, forcing her to pull the trigger, when she couldn’t do it.  They just shot him, but not before using her bellybutton as an ash tray. That very same day, she lost her baby too.  The same one who tortured my own mother when she was an activist during his time.  I guess, I ought to be thankful that they didn’t kill her. Is that all for nought?  Really?

We live in such strange times indeed.  My sister said in jest, the world is ending.  I replied to her seriously and said “No, it can’t end.  We have our kids to think of!”  After all, it’s our children who will have to live with the mistakes of our past.  And here I was thinking that I’ve had it with gloomy thoughts.  Can you blame me?

Dear World,

No more bad news please.

The Reading Residence