Why I’m Normal But Don’t Think I Am

Recently I took DG on a Where’s Wally hunt around Abingdon. This involved going into several shops, searching for a small cardboard cutout and getting a piece of paper signed or stamped. Therefore this also involved talking to lots of different people, making random conversation about their shops, asking for hints and asking for the form to be completed.

Later I also went back to two of the shops to buy presents, where again I chatted with the person/people in there, discussed different options, asked for things that weren’t pre-packaged to be made up and talked about random nothings.

So what’s so special about that you might be thinking? For me, it’s utterly amazing. To talk to people I don’t know, to make decisions on the hoof, to deal with an unknown situation whilst probably coming across as an average human being!

Let me take you back in time, a little over thirty years ago (almost 32 if you want to be precise). I’d just turned five and I’d just started school. At home, I had four older siblings and was a chatterbox. At school, I spoke not a single word. At home, I had an extensive vocabulary having been talked to on an adult level since a baby. At school, I spoke not a single word. At home, I read the books that came home to my parents and gradually learnt to read. At school, I spoke not a single word.

I don’t remember all the details but from discussions with my mum, the situation was something like this: After a year of not speaking at school, the school decided to mention it to my parents and got a child psychologist to speak to me. These adults decided that I needed to be sent out of school for two mornings a week for remedial education on the basis that, because I didn’t speak to them, they didn’t think I could learn anything. My parents trusted their decision.

In the meantime, at home, I had this extensive vocabulary, an amazing aptitude with maths and was reading and writing because despite not speaking I had picked up everything that was being taught. At “the unit” I attended two mornings a week from Y2 to Y5 (I think I dropped to one morning in Y4), I wondered why all the other kids were so dumb 😦

If I used the typewriter, that was borrowed from the next door secondary school class, and typed the alphabet in order (aged eight) it was pointed out as an amazing accomplishment. I felt bemused. I hated it there. I hated being out of normal classes. I have memories of ‘being cornered’ because they wanted to speak to me but I was like a wild animal, lashing out because I didn’t want to talk and felt cornered and afraid. At school I was different, I was an outsider, I did not fit in, I was not always in class with my peers so didn’t have as much time to build relationships.

At school, in order to prove that I was learning to read (because my parents knew I could), they got my mum to record me reading to her. Then played the tape in front of the entire class. I reacted badly. I screamed and thumped myself and had to be taken out of the class. I didn’t understand was my tape played in front of the entire class when all other children had their reading in a one to one sessions with the teacher? I hated the sound of my own voice. I hated myself.

Over the years I started to talk. I attached myself to one or two friends and I started to whisper to them and to teachers. Over the years I started speaking in a normal voice in small groups. By the time I left primary school I could speak in a one-to-one or small group situation. By the time I left secondary school, I could answer a question asked in a lesson in front of an entire class.

That scared and silent child is the person I am in my head. Not a thirty-seven year old mother of two who spoke her wedding vows in front of eighty people, who has held down highly technical jobs and given presentations in front of groups of 40+ people (twice :lol:), who chats on Twitter and in real life with a variety of people. No, that’s not me. Inside I’m screaming and flailing and thumping my head with my arms and concentrating so hard on keeping eye contact sometimes that I’m not really listening to what’s being said…

A lot of the time, that internal me is quiet and I really am normal – whatever that is. But if I’m sitting alone in a large group, not talking to people I do know, it’s not because I’m rude and aloof – it’s because I don’t understand why you’d want to talk to me so assume you don’t. After months of practice I will smile and talk to you whenever I see you, but if you’re busy that one time and don’t respond, I go back several steps. It’s not conscious and I’m not doing it on purpose. Inside I am just a frightened little child who doesn’t understand social interaction and is screaming in fear and frustration…

Stacking the Shelves – June 2012

I saw this meme on a book review site, where you were encouraged to post your weekly book stash aquisitions. I’m doing this for one month and I’m not going to do it again, because it’s too embarassing.

I think this month has been slightly excessive in the amount of books bought for various reasons, so this isn’t a typical month of book aquisition. It’s more like an average three or four months (I hope!)

Review Books
The Something-O-Saur – Tony Mitten & Russell Ayto (HB)
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom – Christopher Healy (PB)
Paddington’s Guide to London – Michael Bond

Second Hand (local charity shops) £8
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury (PB, missing DVD)
Dinosaurs and all that rubbish – Michael Foreman (PB)
Tricky Tortoise – Mwenye Hadithi & Adrienne Kennaway (PB)
The Monkey and the Panda – Antonia Barber & Meilo So (PB)
Lucy & Tom go to school – Shirley Hughes (PB)
The Red Tree – Shaun Tan (PB)
Hello, Postman Pat! (Board Book)
Mog’s Garden – Judith Kerr (Board Book)
Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny: Second Skin – Richard Dungworth (PB)
Scooby Doo Spooky Jukebox (HB, novelty)
The Lost Treasure of the Mummy’s Tomb (HB, pop-up)
The Lost Treasure of the Dragon’s Cave (HB, pop-up)

Second Hand (online) £6.60
The Big Milly-Milly-Mandy Storybook – Joyce Lankester Brisley & Claira Vuillamy (HB)
Hop into Bedtime – Clara Vulliamy (PB)
The Bear with Sticky Paws Goes to School – Clara Vulliamy (PB)

Mostly Books, Abingdon £10.98
A Place to Call Home – Alexis Deacon & Viviane Schwarz (PB)
Magic Tricks (book & tricks)

Blackwell’s, Oxford £20.96
The Worst Princess – Anna Kemp & Sara Ogilvy (PB)
Ping – Chae Strathie & Marion Lindsay (PB)
The Monster Machine – Nicola L Robinson (PB)
Secret Agent Splat – Rob Scotton (PB)
Shark in the Park – Nick Sharatt (PB)

Scholastic Book Fair (school) £37
George’s Dragon – Clare Freedman & Russell Julian (PB)
Fix-It Duck – Jez Alborough
Engines, Engines: An Indian Counting Rhyme – Lisa Bruce & Stephen Waterhouse
Find Chaffy Now – Jamie Smart
Thomas Flintham’s Marvellous Maze
Lulu and the Duck in the Park – Hilary McKay
Animal Antics: Sharks – Monica Hughes & Andrew Griffen
Start Reading: The Fun Race – Pippa Goodhart & Sue Mason
First Fairy Tales: Hansel and Gretel – Margaret Mayo & Philip Norman
Ladybird: The Emperor’s New Clothes – Audrey Daly & Sally Long
Ask Tracey Beaker and Friends – Jacqueline Wilson
Pirate Island Activity Fun Stickers
Get Growing (with mini plant pots)
Pocket Power: Best Friends (with keyrings)

Red House & The Book People (online) £61.43
Don’t Want to Go – Shirley Hughes (PB)
The Night Pirates – Peter Harris & Deborah Allwright (PB)
You Choose! – Pippa Goodhart & Nick Sharatt (PB)
Erroll – Hannah Shaw (HB)
Tiny Little Fly – Michael Rosen & Kevin Waldron (HB)
Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole World – John Burningham (HB)
The Three Wishes – David Melling (HB)
ORT Traditional Tales Collection – 20 books, various (PB)
The Tiger-Skin Rug – Gerlad Rose (HB)
Mr Pusskins – Sam Lloyd (HB)
Silly Doggy! – Adam Stower (HB)
Whatever – William Bee (PB)
Two by Two and a Half – David Melling (HB)
Dragon Stew – Steve Smallman & Lee Wildish (PB)
Rotten Island – William Steig (PB)
The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm – Norman Hunter (PB)
How to Blow Up Tollins – Conn Iggulden (PB)
School’s Out – John Foster (PB) *
Excuses, Excuses – John Foster (PB) *
I’ve got a poem for you – John Foster (PB) *
Football Fever – John Foster (PB) *
Splat! What’s That? – Andrew Pinder (PB)
The War of Words – James Inglis (PB) **
Turning the Tide of Battle – Joseph Cummins (PB) **
Obscure Events that Shaped the World – Joseph Cummins (PB) **
Good Girls don’t make History – Jan Stradling (PB) **
Fame & Infamy – Ed Wright (PB) **
The Clash of History’s Titans – Joseph Cummins (PB) **
Shakespeare’s Champion – Charlaine Harris (PB) ***
Shakespeare’s Landlord – Charlaine Harris (PB) ***
Shakespeare’s Counselor – Charlaine Harris (PB) ***
Shakespeare’s Trophy – Charlaine Harris (PB) ***
Shakespeare’s Christmas – Charlaine Harris (PB) ***
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion – Charlaine Harris (HB)
The Fat Duck Cookbook – Heston Blumenthal & Dave McKean (HB)
Natural History Museum: Art of Nature – Judith Magee (HB)
* = set of 4; ** = set of 6; *** = set of 5

W H Smith (online) £16.79
Fables Deluxe vol 1 – Bill Willingham et al (HB)

The Book Depository (online) £46.33
Fables Deluxe vol 2 – Bill Willingham et al (HB)
Fables Deluxe vol 3 – Bill Willingham et al (HB)
Fables Deluxe vol 4 – Bill Willingham et al (HB)

Kickstarter £23.05
Daisy Kutter – Kazu Kibuishi

Number of individual books: 99 Average price per book: £2.35 (average price excluding the 5 expensive graphic novels: £1.55)

So, um, that’s another insight into my book-addict personality. Oops…

Reviewing Resolutions 2012

I created Grown-Up Chaos to be a place where I can ramble about things which I didn’t feel belong on Child-Led Chaos, although there’s ramble there too! One thing I started were my non-resolutions for the year, which I meant to review each quarter but…

Health: I haven’t been swimming, but I have started Weight Watchers at least. Seven weeks in and I have lost 16lb which is a huge achievement because I have been unable to stick to a diet for longer than five days in the last six years… Still a very long way to go, but I really hope I can continue this good start.

Driving: I failed my ninth and tenth driving tests and have been avoiding the thought of another ever since. My provisional licence runs out in August and I’m toying with taking one more test before giving in and renewing the provisional licence – although maybe it will be ELEVENTH time lucky…

Writing: I have made an effort to read more and I started a children’s short story, but got stuck on the ending (not what happens, but how to write it in an interesting way without feeling rushed). I’m also trying to blog two or three times a week, one of which being a Fiction Fridays book review.

Parenting: La la la la la… I’m trying, more or less. I tried going back to work two days a week, term times in the hope of helping me be a better parent by being able to do “grown up” things occasionally but I got too stressed (again) so have given that up more or less (still have projects to finish up).

Clutter: Um. Pass. No, that’s not fair. I have had a couple of clearouts – one day resulted in six sacks for recycling and I have another three boxes of toys & books to sell / charity. I just still have them sitting waiting for something to happen so they’re still clutter…

I have an additional non-resolution which is Socialising. I aim to make more of an effort to meet up with people, to join in with a children’s book group and to input on literacy at my daughter’s school because it all feeds in with my passion for children’s books and I want to develop myself. I’ve started attending the PTA meetings at school too.

Not a great start, but a start, and one I plan to continue with.