Tag Archive for lgbt

Why We Love: Wreck-It Ralph

We’ve been through the Frozen fever and spent a lot of time watching Tangled, but whilst I think these are pretty good films, with better themes and concepts than the earlier Disney princess movies, I am LOVING our latest Disney obsession – Wreck-It Ralph.

Eponymous protagonist Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the 9-ft tall, 600lb “bad guy” from the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.  Disillusioned with his bad guy status and propensity to wreck everything in sight, whether he means to or not, Ralph sets out to find himself a medal so that he will gain the sort of recognition Felix gets from the other inhabitants of his game.

In a similar way that Toy Story before it showed us the secret life of toys, Wreck-It Ralph shows us what happens to the characters in the arcade games after the arcade has closed.  Travelling through a central atrium, the characters can visit different games, although of course they must return to their own game in time for it to be played by the customers, lest they risk their game being perceived as broken and switched off.

In search of a medal, Ralph visits Hero’s Duty, a war game where the player must battle fearsome “cybugs” in order to win.  Ralph’s clumsiness sees him end up in an escape pod which then crash lands in another game – Sugar Rush.  Sugar Rush is a racing game set in a wondrous candy-land and it is here that Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a glitch in the computer system who wants nothing more than to be able to race but who is shunned by the other racers because she isn’t a real character.

So far, so predictable, I suppose.  We know Ralph and Vanellope will become friends, even though they don’t seem to like each other at first.  We know that he will help her to race but that there is likely to be some kind of problem, quite possibly a betrayal.  We know that both of these rejects will end up being accepted by the people around them and we will all learn an important lesson.

"I'm bad and that's good.  I'll never be good and that's not bad.  There's no one I'd rather be than me."

“I’m bad and that’s good. I will never be good and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

In and of itself, that’s a pretty good storyline for kids and I like it.  But it gets better.

What I really like about Wreck-It Ralph is the many ways in which it subverts traditional gender roles, both overtly and subtly.

Firstly, there’s Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the commander of Hero’s Duty.  She’s tough, she’s fearless and of course, being voiced by Jane Lynch, she’s freaking hilarious!

"Fear" is a four-letter word, ladies! You wanna go peepee in your big-boy slacks, keep it to yourself!

“Fear” is a four-letter word, ladies! You wanna go peepee in your big-boy slacks, keep it to yourself!

Calhoun is also the character who gets the guy at the end, proving not only that strong women like romance too, but also that you can find love in the most surprising of places.

Less overtly, the arcade customers are refreshingly gender non-conforming.  We see a girl kick some ass in Hero’s Duty and then when she wants to play Sugar Rush – a game decked out in neon pink, where almost all the avatars are female – she gets sent away by two boys who claim they are going to be playing on it all day.

Best of all, [SPOILER WARNING] when Vanellope discovers that she is actually the princess of Sugar Rush who was transformed into a glitch through an act of sabotage, she rejects her pink dress and her role as ruler of Sugar Rush, suggesting instead that they should have a constitutional democracy and that her green-hoodie-wearing self is the “real” her.

"Look, the code may say I'm a princess, but I know who I really am, Ralph, I'm a racer with the greatest superpower ever."

“Look, the code may say I’m a princess, but I know who I really am, Ralph, I’m a racer with the greatest superpower ever.”

In a world full of “beautiful” princesses with ridiculous waistlines and questionable relationship choices, Wreck-It Ralph is a really refreshing change.  For those of us concerned about the “pinkification” of our girls (and of course the inverse “blueification” of boys) there really is a lot worse you could see than Wreck-It Ralph.  On top of all this there are the frequent retro gaming references that will go way over your children’s head but will make you chuckle.  Wreck-It Ralph is definitely a film we all enjoy.

Her Day

I could wax lyrical for paragraph after paragraph about how wonderful it is to be spending my first Mothers’ Day as a mummy.

But I don’t want to do that.

Instead, I want to take a moment to appreciate the best mummy I know: my wonderful wife.

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She (half) jokingly tells me all the time how lucky I am to have her and she doesn’t mean just as a wife, although obviously I am incredibly lucky to be married to her, but instead she means as half of our parenting team. And she’s right. I don’t know if it is because she is a woman or if it is just by virtue of being, wonderfully, her, but I know how fortunate I am when I hear my other friends with small babies talk about their own husbands and boyfriends.IMG_2505

I guess there is an element of the fact that we have two babies to look after instead of one, but she has never considered not getting up in the night and leaving it all to me. Whereas other “dads” have resumed their weekend golf days and nights out, my wonderful wife would never dream of missing out on time spent with the babies unless it was a break we were both being given together. My friends talk about how their partners can’t settle their babies and just seem to make them scream louder, whereas L seems to often have a more calming effect than I do – although of course the one area I do still trump her is that I have the “magic boobs”.

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She hates having to spend so much time away from us all. She calls herself the Strange Lady, saying how she only appears in the mornings and the evenings; she says the girls wonder who this strange lady is who only shows up twice a day. She jokes, but she worries that they don’t know her. She is reassured when a grandparent hands her back a squalling baby and she manages to settle them. Because of course they know her – they love her, it’s obvious.

I love the way the girls’ faces light up when she walks through the door. Whether she’s been out at work all day or is just coming back from the toilet, their little faces break out into wide grins and their eyes go straight to her.

I send her pictures and updates throughout the day. I tell her what we’re up to and send her messages from Claudia or Imogen explaining how the day is going and I know she checks her phone constantly – even sometimes when she shouldn’t – because she’s so eager to find out what we are doing or see another beautiful photo of her daughters.IMG_2559

She likes to remind me that I didn’t change a nappy for the first two weeks of the girls’ life. This is an outrageous lie! It was about four days and it was because after the birth I couldn’t get out of bed without it taking about five minutes or without help.

The birth was traumatic – probably more for her than for me – but she was amazing. As the midwife told the doctor she couldn’t stop the bleed, as I went pale and started throwing up, as the doctor called out for code red and the room flooded with people, as she thought she might lose the person in her life she loved the most (besides the two brand new babies who lay in a cot across the room), she just gripped my hand and told me to stay awake.

And then after, when I couldn’t get out of bed or walk across the room to pick up my crying babies, she was so attentive. Day and night she was there to hand me my daughters so that I could feed them. She changed their nappies and dressed them and swayed back and forth with them. All the things I couldn’t do. All I could do in those early days was feed them and everything else fell to her. Even once we were home, I was still on crutches and she still made sure I had everything I needed. She would hold a glass of water under my nose, with a straw sticking out, so I could have a drink whilst I fed the babies. She made sure I had enough to eat and prepared bottles and fed them when I was too exhausted.IMG_2600

So whilst I might argue that it certainly wasn’t two whole weeks that she changed every nappy for, I can’t fault the wonderful care she took of me and our daughters in those early days. And it’s never really stopped.

She misses us all so much when she’s at work and we miss her. When we worked out our finances and realised it made no sense for me to return to work permanently, she didn’t get annoyed that she has to work whilst I get to stay at home. Instead, she was pleased, happy that the girls would have a parent at home with them, instead of a childcare provider.

In the morning, she gets Immie up and changes her nappy. These days Immie often sleeps on her tummy and when her mummy goes in to see her, she lifts herself up on her arms and flaps her little legs inside her sleeping bag like a baby seal, giving her mummy a big beaming grin that says good morning. Some mornings at the weekend, I will go in to Immie instead, and L will snatch a couple of precious minutes with Claudia, who is sleeping in our bed pretty much full time at the moment. As she wakes she does the biggest stretches.IMG_1640

In the evening, L gives Claudie her bath. Now they are bigger we bath them together, but we still always bath the same baby. She splashes and shrieks with delight. She doesn’t mind getting water in her face, she just splashes away, soaking her mummies and her twin too.

If Immie wakes in the night, L goes in to her. IMG_3024 She gives her a bottle and they have a cuddle. Sometimes she sleeps right through and the next day L tells her that it’s okay to wake up, that she likes seeing her in the night for cuddles. She likes having Claudia in our bed too. She likes being able to look over at the two of us curled up together. She likes to kiss her bald head, which is rapidly becoming less and less bald.

She sings to the girls. Silly songs about poos and wees but they love it. She shakes her hair at them and they giggle and reach out and grab it.

She is so good to all three of us. We all light up when she walks in through the door in the evenings. I don’t know if my wife knows how truly amazing she really is and how much I really truly love her and what a totally brilliant mummy she is.

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I hope she knows now.

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Fragility

Before the twins were born I knew they were safe and snug in my belly. I loved feeling them wriggle and kick (although I preferred it when they weren’t aiming for my ribs or bladder). I was prepared once they were born to feel a bit bereft to no longer have them inside me, and to feel anxious that my body was no longer protecting them, as I had heard others say. However, I felt neither of those things. I was overjoyed to meet them and be able to hold them in my arms and I knew that L and I would do everything in our power to keep them safe.

Occasionally I would allow myself a glimpse of what it might feel like if tragedy struck and I knew I would be absolutely destroyed if something were to happen to either of them. But I wasn’t scared.

I was pretty sniffy about the SIDS advice. I didn’t think we would want them in our room until they were 6 months and I was happy for them to nap in their cots rather than in the same room as me as soon as I felt I was reading the tired cues correctly. I put Claudia to sleep on her tummy for a while because she seemed to hate being on her back, screamed if we swaddled her and had a strong Moro reflex that made lowering her into her bassinet on her back a real challenge.

I always felt that the two of them seemed just so robust and strong – even at the beginning when they were weighing barely 5lb – and it just seemed impossible that anything could happen to them. When Immie first started sleeping in her own room (Claudie was still in with me), L made me check her when we came up to bed, and we used to debate whether it was worth the risk of disturbing her. She was always fine, as I always said she would be.

I never felt anxious; I took everything in my stride. My babies were strong and tough; SIDS was what happened to other people. L says she would have abandoned BLW weeks ago because the babies’ gag reflex freaks her out so much and she worries they are choking, but my calm and confident attitude to it reassures her, and they do always manage to either swallow or spit out whatever they are struggling with. I’ve never (yet) had to deal with an actual choking situation, but have always trusted the babies to move the food around their own mouths – and it’s worked. Claudia would sometimes look so still sleeping in her buggy that I would have to poke her to check she was still breathing, but I never really worried and would send L jokey picture messages saying Claudie was playing dead again.

In early February, however, I heard news of two babies dying in their bed, within a week of one another. These weren’t tiny, helpless newborns, but strong and robust babies of 9 and 15 months. Their parents didn’t smoke, hadn’t been neglectful, just suffered from awful, terrible luck. Both babies were still being breastfed. Both babies spent a lot of time in their parents’ beds or being carried in a sling…

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I have to keep checking the girls now when they sleep. They’ve been taking longer naps, which I’m not complaining about, but it has made me anxious and I’ve had to check on them several times. Immie has also started sleeping on her side or tummy, which is less desirable than her sleeping on her back.  One morning Immie fell asleep on her side diagonally across the top of her cot, with her forehead pressed against the cot bumper and I checked her every twenty minutes or so for the whole two hours she was asleep because I was just so afraid. I have felt the need to check on her on my way to bed again, which we haven’t done in ages.

The other night the babies were with L’s parents and we were walking back from a really lovely curry when a car sped past us doing way over the speed limit. We both glanced at one another, shocked that someone would drive so recklessly through a residential area. My stomach lurched and I had a horrible vision of the car careening across the pavement and taking us both out. Obviously I have no desire to be killed by a speeding car anyway, but the realisation that such an event would leave the girls as orphans sent shivers down my spine and my stomach churning.

There is nothing like parenthood to make you appreciate the fragility of life; to feel so terrifyingly out of control and unable to guarantee the safety of your progeny. The thought that something might happen to us and leave the girls without their mums is unbelievably gut-wrenching, and the concept of something happening to one of them is almost unthinkable. It’s like having your skin peeled back, exposing nothing but nerve-endings, each one screaming in agony as another fearful thought brushes roughly past.

But these things happen. God, tragedy happens every day and not because people were neglectful or careless, but because sometimes bad shit happens.

And all I can do is hug my girls a little closer and try to be a little more vigilant and hope and pray that tragedy won’t strike us. And as I sit here, writing this, with Claudia’s slightly clammy head tucked under my chin and her arms draped sleepily over my body and her little heart beating over mine, I know that I’m one of the luckiest people alive and I cling on to every precious moment I get with my beautiful family – my three wonderful girls.

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And that, Mr Jones, is a warm and safe environment.

Half. Twice.

Today Claudia and Imogen turn 6 months. Half a year they have been in our lives and it has flown. Of course there have been some long days (and some long weeks!), but I can’t believe the girls are already 6 months old!

Happy 6 month birthday, beautiful girls!

Happy 6 month birthday, beautiful girls!

It seems impossible to remember how tiny and fragile they were when I was first wheeled through to the recovery room after the birth (and my subsequent haemorrhage) and I finally met them properly.

Claudia and Imogen minutes after their birth

Claudia and Imogen minutes after their birth

It’s amazing how much they have changed in the last six months, becoming strong and robust little creatures with different and yet equally amazing personalities that continue to grow and be shaped into who they will one day become.

They were skinny little creatures when they were first born, their weight dropping into the 0.4th centile, their scrawny little legs looking like twigs beneath their big bulky nappies. They are now solidly above the 9th centile, although Imogen’s weight has fluctuated between the 2nd and the 9th. At last weigh in, on 2nd January, Claudia weighed 13lb 11.5oz and Imogen weighed 13lb 6oz.

These are the outfits we brought them home from the hospital in - size 'petit petit newborn' from Mamas and Papas, for babies <5lbs!

These are the outfits we brought them home from the hospital in – size ‘petit petit newborn’ from Mamas and Papas, for babies <5lbs!

That’s almost two stone of baby I carry around day to day, on my hips or in the sling, although of course mostly I only carry one at a time. Immie’s cute little hamster cheeks mean that everyone assumes at first glance that she is the bigger baby, but Claudia is longer as well as heavier.

As Claudie was born, the doctor and midwife delivering her told us she had hair. Once Imogen arrived, however, Claudia’s hair seemed non-existent. Immie has had a full head of hair consistently for the last six months. People prepared us for the possibility that it would fall out, but it never has – although she does have a thinner line around the back where her head rests on the floor or her mattress. It has grown into almost a mullet at the back (which L keeps threatening to trim) and her quiff at the front has grown too long and heavy to curl upwards and has developed into more of a side parting. Claudia, by comparison, has remained effectively bald, although we can finally see some growth and I don’t think it’ll be long before she has an obvious head of hair.

Their eyes, a deep, dark grey when they were born, are starting to turn brown. At the moment they have a sort of greenish hazel appearance, but I expect they will end up dark brown, like mine and the rest of my family’s.

As you probably know, Immie is more like my twin than Claudie’s.

Me, Imogen - spot the difference

Me, Imogen – spot the difference

However, weirdly, Claudie actually seems to be L’s twin, as proven by this photo her mum found when they were moving house.

My lovely wife, Claudia - separated at birth?

My lovely wife, Claudia – separated at birth?

Everyone has always seen a resemblance between Claudia and L’s side of the family – in fact people have even asked if the embryos were made from an egg from each of us! But no, genetically the babies are both mine; I just think it’s wonderful that we really do have one that resembles each of us and I guess that’s testament to our instincts in choosing the donor!

They can both roll over – both front to back and back to front – although neither of them choose to do it very often. They can sit unsupported, although probably not for much longer than about 30 seconds before they keel over to one side or the other. We have to be pretty on the ball when we’re letting them sit up because they will try and reach for something and then just overbalance. We’ve had a couple of bumped heads.

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They are so aware of things around them now. Before, they would reach for something we dangled above them, or something hanging from their baby gym or bouncers. Now, they will spot toys lying beside them on the floor and reach for them. Imogen’s motor skills here are very precise, whereas Claudie sometimes ends up pushing things further away in the process of reaching for them, which she finds very frustrating. Immie usually manages to get hold of whatever it is she’s after and will even flip over onto her tummy in order to reach something a little further away. I’ve even seen her use her foot to manoeuvre something closer to her hand on more than one occasion!

Of course, the fact that they are able to identify things they want means they are already having to learn about sharing! Often they will reach for something that is in their sister’s hand. Imogen usually wins these battles, possibly because she has a better grip rather than because she is more determined. Imogen is also determined to get her hands on my phone. If I am using it anywhere in her vicinity she will reach for it, often activating something on the touchscreen that is really quite inconvenient like skipping to the top of my Twitter feed. Of course, I’m also keen to avoid her grabbing hold of my phone because their other favourite thing to do at the moment is put things in their mouths: toys, teething rings, their hands, their feet… it all goes in. Imogen is rarely seen without a fist in her mouth and plenty of their soft toys are now really quite gross because part of them has been sucked and slobbered on. This is great really though, because it means they are ready for weaning and will taste their first solid food tomorrow!!

See, we'll eat anything!

See, we’ll eat anything!

Both really recognise us and get excited when they see us or hear our voices. Claudia will smile at ANYTHING and laughs at the drop of a hat. She is ticklish and loves being kissed. She will often try to return the favour and grabs your face in both hands before bringing it to her (open) mouth. We call these “Claudie Kisses” and they are super cute albeit rather slobbery. If you’re not careful your nose or chin will end up in her mouth, but thankfully she still doesn’t have any teeth so you’ll just get a good gumming. Immie is always really pleased to see us after a nap. We will hear her babbling away to herself and go in to see her. She will kick her legs and throw her hands around with a big smile on her face – she also responds like this if you show her a toy she particularly likes or do something funny.

Immie was slower to smile than Claudie, but now her grins are almost as common. She is much harder to make laugh however, and we only really heard her laugh properly for the first time over Christmas, when her grandad tickled her tummy. She is more confident and independent that Claudia though. Imogen will happily entertain herself for 15 or 20 minutes, whereas Claudia needs some interaction and will object if you don’t pay her enough attention. Claudia is also the more likely of the two to need cuddles and seems to react more to changes like L going back to work – she became much more clingy and cuddly the first week after the Christmas holidays.

Claudia (Claudie, Claudelicious, LaClaude, Baldie Claudie, Queen of Sheba)

Claudia (Claudie, Claudelicious, LaClaude, Baldie Claudie, Queen of Sheba)

They both love to have nappy-free time – especially Imogen. They kick their legs around and Immie usually puts one or both feet in her mouth. Of course, having their nappies off is asking for trouble and I’ve lost count of the amount of “accidents” we’ve had, which range from a little wet patch on the changing mat to a puddle on the laminate and a baby splashing their feet in it!! We always put them on a changing mat when we take their nappies off but, although they aren’t crawling yet, they really are fairly mobile and Immie in particular will end up across the other side of the room from where she started if you’re not careful. Once I went in to get Imogen out of her cot after a nap and her feet were up the head end! She manages to manoeuvre herself by doing a sort of teddy-bear-roll. L is convinced we’ve got ourselves a little gymnast.

Imogen (Immie, Imogenius, Little Imp)

Imogen (Immie, Imogenius, Little Imp)

Both are very chatty. They like to babble to themselves or to their toys. Claudia has really found her voice recently and now likes to shriek – preferably whilst kicking her heels on the ground. Whilst this might sound like a tantrum, it’s actually a sign she’s happy or excited, although I’m never sure people appreciate that when we’re out and about and it sounds like I’ve got a banshee in the buggy!

Practising their sitting

Practising their sitting

They both love being sung to (I often finish the day with a dry, sore throat!) and, even if they’ve been crying, will often be grinning at me by the time I’ve finished the first line of a song. (My repertoire is mostly show tunes cos that’s just how I roll; L’s is made-up songs, mostly about poos and wees.) They have both figured out how to splash in the bath, although whether they do or not depends slightly on their mood. When they do though, you really know about it and the bathroom looks like it’s been hit by a tidal wave. As soon as they are a bit more confident sitting up, we will retire our baby bath and bathe them together in the big bath, which hopefully will minimise splashing the floor until they are a bit bigger. They both strongly object to having clothes put back on after their baths – especially sleeves. I’m not sure what it is about sleeves that bothers them so much, but that’s usually when the screaming starts and it doesn’t stop until they are fully dressed with a bottle in their mouths!

L's Christmas present from the girls!

L’s Christmas present from the girls!

They are quite aware of each other. They like to look at one another and often respond in the same excited way they do when they see us. However, they don’t really understand that there is another baby beside them as they often poke and pinch one another. In fact, the other day I saw Imogen kick Claudie right in the face, just because Claudie happened to be in the path of Imogen’s wriggle trajectory.

It’s been an amazing six months, one that has taught us a lot too. We have learned patience and kindness with one another. I thought we were always patient and kind with each other – and we were – but add a bit of sleep deprivation into the mix and suddenly you need to be far more sensitive to one another’s feelings and far more forgiving. We’ve learned that no baby is the same – at least these two little monkeys aren’t – and that their little personalities are apparent from so early on. We’ve learned – and come to accept – that babies just don’t sleep through the night. Immie can, and is possibly (touch wood, fingers crossed) starting to do so again after around a month and a half of not, but Claudie really doesn’t and so we have accepted that she might just be in our bed until she’s three (or, god forbid, even six, like our Deputy Head’s son!). We have agreed that as long as she starts off in her own bed every night (which she does) then at least we do get some time together that’s just for us, then if she wakes up in the night and can’t be settled she can come into our bed (although we would both appreciate her not taking up half the bed as she is the smallest person in it!). L’s reasoning is that sooner or later she will make it through a whole night without waking – and that means she will stay in her own bed. We just need to give her time and let her do things at her own pace.

We have learned that these babies can bring you to your knees; that there is nothing more frustrating than a baby who won’t stop crying and you can’t figure out what’s wrong; that nothing can make your heart sink like it does when you’ve rocked a baby to sleep, gently placed them in their cot, crawled back to your own bed and laid your head down on your pillow only to hear the snuffling that you know precedes the tears. There are long days and even longer nights, when it’s hard to figure out if you’re doing the right thing – and it’s hard to be mad at a baby who really should be sleeping when they give you a wide awake and very cheeky grin.

We have learned that nothing can set your heart on fire like a cheeky smile or a delighted giggle from your baby; that when they are sad or hurt, it makes your heart shatter like a fragile vase dropped from a great height; that when they reach up with their tiny little hands and stroke your face, or curl an arm around your neck you feel such an amazing surge of love and protectiveness that it almost takes your breath away and you know that you would lay down your life a million times over for this incredible little person; that you can’t believe you could ever be this lucky.

 

Our merry little Christmas

Admittedly this should have been posted about two weeks ago, but although the girls were brilliantly behaved on Christmas day and we all had a wonderful time, since then any and all good sleeping habits have flown out the window so it’s been a struggle to get anything productive done at all.

Still, it would be remiss of me not to post the details of our Christmas, despite it now being the middle of January.

We left out a carrot for Rudolph and a mince pie and glass of Baileys for Father Christmas.

We hung the girls’ stockings off their cots and dressed them in their new Christmas pyjamas.

L and I enjoyed a glass of Baileys and a quiet evening and Claudia slept from about 11pm until 6am!  She must have known that Father Christmas wouldn’t come if she was awake.

In the morning we fed them and then opened their stockings.

After that we went downstairs and L and I opened our presents to one another.  We were then both able to take it in turns to shower and start to get things ready for the day.  L’s parents were first to arrive and we Skyped with L’s brother and his wife in Sydney.  We opened our presents from them over Skype and the girls tried on part of the outfits they had been bought by the Australian contingent.

Then my family arrived and we started getting ready for Christmas dinner.  L had promised “Turkey at two”, but in the grand tradition of Christmas dinners we didn’t start the main course until closer to 4pm.

After dinner we all opened our presents, including an absolute MOUNTAIN of gifts for the girls!

We had an amazing day.  The babies had cuddles with everyone and were really, really good.

Without a doubt the best Christmas ever!

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