Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


The Cheetahs and Their Fog Busting Suits

Every now and again I have to return the subject matter that started me blogging in the first place – the Cheetahs that lived in their Keeper’s shoes.  Obviously imaginary ones (just in case you were wondering).  They’ve been with us for a good 2 years now and although not quite as domineering as they were originally, they’re still a fairly regular part of every day life.

The move to Year 1 has been a challenge for the Cheetah Keeper – the physical effort needed to keep up is exhausting him, as is the processing of all the new facts, information, time-table and having to sit still for slightly longer than a nano-second at a time.  We’ve had tantrums (including the removal of trousers and pants in the street on the way to school and trying to give himself a nosebleed), refusal to eat – and subsequent very early morning starts because he was hungry and a defiance both at school and home that has raised more than a few eyebrows.

We’ve instigated a complete change of diet, rationed the screen time severely and carried out our threats.  It’s working but the changes have obviously been rather stressful for the boy as the Cheetahs are back big styleeee.  Even in his shoes before school this week – they haven’t been in them for months – preferring the snuggliness of his duvet.  They’ve been sleeping under his new orthotic insloes – because they’re so comfy and they need looking after.  We have to make sure that they’re out of his shoes before school otherwise they will be trodden on and that would not do.

This morning we set out for another trip to our beloved Whipsnade Zoo.  I love autumn at the zoo – the colours, the lack of visitors – it becomes ‘our’ zoo again before the harshness of winter sets in.  The conkers aren’t quite ready yet (cue another visit in a couple of weeks) but there are zoo babies in abundance and I have yet to see them all.

It was a real ‘pea-souper’ of a foggy morning.  The M1 was engulfed by thick fog (note dear reader, if you are driving in this, put your headlights on) and a little voice pipes up from the back of the car…

“The Cheetahs have got their fog suits on today… and their fog helmets… and fog shoes…. and fog coats… and fog gloves for their paws….”


“And it means they can ride on the top of the cars so they’re safer….”


“and their fog lamps are so bright that once they’ve got really hot they start pouring out boiling hot lava that cuts through the fog and sends it back up into the sky ready to turn into snow in time for Christmas”

ah – ok – but doesn’t the lava burn them?

“no, they have knee pads, and elbow pads and paw pads that stop the lava”

of course.

So that was that – until we got a little closer to the zoo.  The Cheetahs were riding on the road next to us on their “fast car bikes” – seemingly they can give Sir Chris Hoy a run for his money – cue much discussion about whether Chris Hoy riding against the Cheetahs would be a fair race and how it could be judged who was fastest in the world…

We had a wonderful time at the zoo – being surrounded by thick fog makes you look harder and appreciate it more.  It’s a beautiful place, one where we genuinely feel ‘at peace’ with ourselves.  As the staff and volunteers say, if you’d gone today and seen a load of foggy paddocks and some sleepy animals you wouldn’t feel like you’d had that good a day.  For those of use who visit again and again, we see the circle of life moving on (a week old giraffe today – he’s just gorgeous) and the seasons changing in their own good time.  It’s perfect.

As for the Cheetahs – they loved coming up with us today – unfazed by the boiling lava they apparently loved seeing the Cheetah cubs playing together and eating a chicken (yes, with feathers) with their mummy.  They came back with us in the car and as far as I’m aware are snuggled up with their Keeper in bed.  It’s getting a bit chilly in the porch now.


The Lunch Date

Last week I went on a date.  A lunch date to be precise.  My date – well, he’s known for his sense of humour, doesn’t drive and is a bit short – but really does love holding my hand.  He’s a bit of a cheap date as he doesn’t eat that much, doesn’t drink and isn’t allowed to stay up very late.  The conversation tends to be focussed around Cheetahs and can get a bit random – he also has a tendency to try and charm the waiting staff…

However, he’s very happy with some obnoxiously coloured ice based drink and keeping an eye on proceedings – including making loud comments about the portion sizes of some of the meals coming out of the kitchen.

I do get to spend a fair amount of 1:1 time with the Cheetah Keeper (yes, that’s who I’m talking about) but it is so rare that we spend time together doing ‘cool’ stuff that going out for a bit of lunch becomes a huge and wonderful adventure.  Our ‘normal’ time together is spent going to hospital appointments and as much as going on the train to London or driving in so far and getting a taxi can be made ‘fun’ (whilst we desperately try to avoid the conversations about how many needles they’ll be sticking in him this time) it’s just not the same.

At weekends it tends to be that we’ll man to man mark – however it’s often the case that I will be the one staying at home with whichever child is unable to/too unwell/too fatigued to do stuff.  Alternatively I’ll take the Cheetah Keeper and his sister out to give their father a bit of bloke time.

The Cheetah Keeper’s sister loves coming into town with me (on the bus, it costs more than driving & parking, but hey) on a Saturday – but that’s usually to collect prescriptions.  We don’t ‘do’ mooching around the shops together – we don’t necessarily have the disposable income to indulge as she’d like and actually, after an hour or so, she’d rather be back with her brother. (long may it last). Mooching around doesn’t have a routine and is sometimes a bit random for her to process to a level where she’s enjoying herself.  The routine that she’d like to be in (involving a trip to the milkshake bar, the purchase of yet more Hello Kitty merchandise, lunch at Wagamama and then perhaps the purchase of something else pretty/crafty) is not going to happen!

But this time, the Cheetah Keeper and I got our lunch date as his sister was at a party.  I’m not sure who loved it more (maybe it was just the pudding) – although my enjoyment kept having twinges of ‘I wish we did this more’ and he did keep flirting with the waitress…

The thing is with dates, sometimes they start well, you have a lovely time and then something happens and you wonder whether it was a good idea in the first place…

I’m linking this, my 200th post (200, how did that happen?) to #definenormal hosted by the ever so gorgeous Renata at Just Bring the Chocolate
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Sunday Gallery

The Cheetah Keeper and his Sister both wanted to contribute to the blog today.  They’re seriously chuffed I’ve gone .com and are liking the new look (they’re a picky pair!) and kept asking if I’d done my #SilentSunday yet…

Yesterday they went to Whipsnade Zoo (yes, again!) whilst I was at the Save the Children #blogup2012.  The amazing HPMcQ has written about the event just here far better than I could so please go and have a read (now– go on – it won’t take you long – it’s brilliant) – it makes me even more grateful for what we have here.

So back to our Gallery – inspired (of course) by the zoo…

The Cheetah Keeper’s Sister has been wearing her Hello Kitty stationery kit (it comes with a shoulder strap) and drawing at every opportunity this holiday (including at the dentist!).  This is a new logo for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.  Note the poo on the top of the rock – it’s where the Cheetah’s relieve themselves in real life – you have to pay attention to the details.

Cheetah on her rock

She is still determined that she wants to be a Sealion Keeper when she grows up – she’s very busy learning the hand signal commands that they use in the demonstrations and is getting better at knowing which sealion is which and who does which tricks!  So here is Dominic the Sealion doing his ball jump trick.  His flippers are flat down at his side – because that’s how he jumps.  Oh and the 4 is because he’s still 4 years old – his birthday’s in about 6 weeks – she may make him a card.

Dominic the Sealion doing his ball jump

The Cheetah Keeper was not to be outdone.  So here is his interpretation of Sealions:

Sealions (of course)

From left to right Bailey, Dominic, Salt (Dominic’s mum) and little Kyra.  Dominic has to go in the middle for the demonstrations at the zoo because if he goes at the end he mucks about (in a Sealion sort of way) – so he’s in the middle of the picture.

Finally, he drew me a Cheetah.   Not one of his Cheetahs because if you draw them they disappear.  So one of the Cheetahs, a very happy one, at Whipsnade.  Of course.


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Cheetahs in the Washing Machine

The Cheetahs have had an incredibly busy week – they’ve been doing stuff that hasn’t been mentioned for a good 6 months (running down the white lines of the motorway to ensure they don’t get squished amongst others) and a whole load of other things.  Their newer forms of transport (jet packs, rocket boosters) still are the preferred mode of travel – but they are very focussed on exercise and getting a good run every day is very important.  They have however (and as we know from the zoo) only a limited distance that they can cover at full speed.  Admittedly their distance is probably a tad further than in real life but they do need a means of transport when their legs get tired.  The solution is that the jump onto the back of the car, hold onto the back windscreen wiper with their front paws and let their back legs fly out behind them and then ‘surf’.  Apparently it’s incredibly good fun.

They had a lovely time at the seaside with Mammasaurus and the Minisauruses (or is it Minisauri?) and until this evening, it was reported that they had a brilliant time all surfing on the Solent.  Now, it’s just the little Cheetahs that went surfing (Mammasaurus got to see the surfboard – she is truly honoured) because it was a bit chilly for the older Cheetahs (too right).   They’ve also had a top time riding on the bus to go shopping and also got Actually Mummy and The Bug fully involved in building some new doors in their Keeper’s bedroom to allow the Banana People better access once they’re back out living in the garden and under the house for the summer.

This evening they’ve wanted to have a ride on some of his hot wheel cars and apparently then go in the washing machine – here’s the Cheetah Keeper showing you how it’s done…


The Cheetah Keeper on Slides and Rocket Boosters

I know that videos aren’t everyone’s ‘thing’ so for those of you who want some more ‘normal’ photos and writings, these will come soon.  It’s just a week ago that I was sitting with a very groggy Cheetah Keeper on Peter Pan Ward in Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Today he’s finished his antibiotics and his nose has only bled a very tiny bit.  He’s still off in Cheetah world – but in that I think Cheetah world is better than being glued to the computer screen (give him half a chance and here’s there) so, apart from their demands for Easter Eggs, I’m going with them for a while.  And if that includes building them slides out of duplo, bring it on…


The Cheetah Keeper Speaks

The Cheetah Keeper has never let me film him speaking about the Cheetahs…until today!  He was very sad yesterday (even squeezing out some real tears) that all his imaginary friends had gone on holiday and left him at home.  They had, to be fair, worked incredibly hard during our stay in Great Ormond Street (I bet it’s the first time they’ve ever had Cheetahs in the anaesthetic room) but I’m not sure they should have deserted him when his nose is still a bit bloody and his fuse is ridiculously short – then again…

They came back today – and he’s been making something for them…


Blue Skies but darker thoughts

We have had the most glorious few days of blue skies, warm sun and spring blooms.

The magnolias are showing off their finest colours, there are buds and flowers at every turn, the ladybirds are out, the children are wearing their shorts and summer dresses to school.

I can see all of these things – I’m thrilled that the Cheetah Keeper tells me that the sky is beautiful in the evening.

I am deeply worried about the Cheetah Keeper’s sister and her progress at school following consultation evening yesterday.  Having your child described as ‘needy’. ‘struggling’ and ‘failing to make progress in her literacy’ is stomach churning to put it mildly.  It is incredibly difficult to assess each aspect without trying to apportion blame – the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, delayed speech, the fact her mother has been less than functional over the last 3 months.  I need to learn, very quickly, how we can support her at home – whilst continuing everything else we need to do – reading, homework, maths games, piano, physio, occupational therapy – oh, and life.

The Cheetah Keeper’s operation has been confirmed (all things being equal) for Monday afternoon.  The hand surgeon is planning to ultrasound scan my wrist and possibly put a guided steroid injection into it should it be deemed necessary.  If that doesn’t work that will more than likely mean more surgery for me.  That’ll be #17.  My wrist/hand is not in a good way – I’m nearly 37, it needs to last for an awful long time (I hope).  The surgery they did last February (so successful at the time) may well need repeating so I can continue to have feeling in my fingers – something that’s a bit of a luxury for me.  Back in 2 months for a plan.  It makes me feel a bit sick.

I’d quite like to be out in the sunshine with my camera snapping away in a metaphorical sticking my head in the sand.  Instead, it’s time for some serious thinking, researching, logistical planning and carrying on, before my family gets split by our health problems again.

Unfortunately something that happens too frequently in this household – as it does to many all over the country.  The skies may be blue but the sunglasses may hide the true look in the eyes of many.

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A bit more of ‘normal’

Wasn’t last week’s #definenormal brilliant?  *bows down in direction of Renata*  I’ve read some awesome posts and ‘met’, in the way that you ‘meet’ people in this cyber world, some really really lovely, inspiring people who have left some equally lovely and humbling comments.  It’s been a pleasure and a real thought provoker.

This week the opportunities to write about ‘normal’ in our house have been many.  Mountains of cake, Easter Bonnets made of Rice Crispie cake (it seemed a good idea at the time), another bout of tonsilitis and running around like headless chickens would all feature highly.  However, it seems a better idea tell you a little about why I write a blog called “Cheetahs In My Shoes” and the fact that I currently live with 200 (imaginary) Cheetahs, a varying number of Banana People, 48 Dinos (please note, Dinos, not Dinosaurs) and 48 Dino Brothers, all called ‘Strike’ who flew in from Spain.

Mummy Cheetah keeping an eye on things

The Cheetahs came first.  Just a pair of them.  Inspired (we assume) by the Cheetah Keeper’s love of the Cheetah cubs born at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo almost 2 years ago.  We were there the afternoon they were first let out on show to the public.  He has adored them ever since.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is also known as Benign Joint Hypermobility Syndrome or Hypermobility Syndrome.  With us, it affects our joints and all our other connective tissue.  For the Cheetah Keeper it means (amongst a whole load of other things) that his left foot turns out – from the hip.  That meant that his feet hurt in his shoes.  So how did he try and explain his feet hurt?  There were Cheetahs in his shoes biting his toes.  So we used to take them out, put them in his pockets (so they could be stroked if necessary) and then he could put his shoes on.

Only when we saw the podiatrist from Great Ormond Street Hospital did she take this completely as ‘normal’ – for a 2-3 year old to explain why his feet hurt.

OK, if that bit was ‘normal’ I’m not sure what the rest of it classes as.  The Cheetahs have bred, invited friends over (who tend to stay), bred a bit more, invested in a comprehensive transportation offer, taken up both education and employment, have all sorts of clothing and a long list of what they like to do and like to eat.  They sometimes return to the shoes to sleep but spend most of the time wherever the Cheetah Keeper is – and they do like a snuggly warm blanket at night.

The Banana People initially started off living under our house but moved in during the Autumn (it was just too cold) and the Dinos were inspired by a visit to the (fibreglass) dinosaurs at Knebworth House.  Why the Strikes flew in from Spain (we’ve never been there) I’m not sure.

They’re the Cheetah Keeper’s coping strategy.  They come to the hospital, the come to blood tests, they go to school, they come on holiday and sometimes they just stay at home and play in the garden (or come to work with me!).  It depends how he’s feeling.  Sometimes they’re everywhere (ie times of stress), sometimes we think they may no longer be needed.  When they reappear it’s time for me to try and work out what’s bothering him.

They’re also the finest form of distraction that I have ever known.  Whilst only being blamed for a little bit of mischief (if the Cheetahs are small enough to live in shoes, they can’t do too much damage to stuff unless they all gang up) they are also a brilliant way of getting him out of a strop, taking his mind off a needle being stuck in his hand and getting him to think about what other people around him may be experiencing.   Oddly enough, they sometimes really need whatever toy/gadget/foodstuff he’s got his eye on at the time.

I somehow suspect that no-one else lives with 200 imaginary Cheetahs who live in shoes, bite toes and fly an aeroplane.  Or indeed Dinos that like eating out at the Harvester or Banana People who have multiple tiny doors that mean they can get around the house.  For me it’s normal.  Well kind of.

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Mother’s Day According to the Cheetahs

I haven’t written about the Cheetahs for a while.  They’ve become a very active part of our lives again, which, with a bit of soul-searching, I put down to the fact that I haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders for the last couple of months and the Cheetah Keeper has returned to the world of imaginary friends to regain some stability.  It grieves me that he’s had to regenerate the Cheetahs (and the Banana People and the Dinos and the Strikes – as the Dino Brothers are now called) to such an extent, but as they never cease to make me smile and/or baffle me into a bemused state of mirth and I think know that I’ll be very sad when they leave us forever.

They’ve been travelling by jet-pack again, been off to Running Land for some sunshine, MudLand for some muddy puddle jumping and to a new holiday destination – CleanLand.  CleanLand is generally where you go after MudLand and before you come home.  It’s full of swimming pools, rows of hot showers (Cheetahs can swim but don’t like cold showers) and has lots of big fluffy towels – especially for the little ones to be wrapped up in by their mummies and then have cuddle buggles.  Awww.

The Cheetahs also seem to be very fond of ladybirds (must be the spots) but also of camouflaging themselves in big black furry coats so they don’t show up.  I assume that’s when they’re out in the dark but as far as I’m aware they’re too busy sleeping in shoes when it’s dark.  Yes, the Cheetahs are back in the shoes and causing all sorts of problems of a morning – especially the little ones who hide right down in the toes and won’t come out when they’re told to.  I suspect it may be time to visit the podiatrist again – or maybe it’s just going along with the fact that the Cheetah Keeper is trying out very single stalling tactic available to make it difficult to get out the door to school – we’ve had the “you’ll be going to school in your pyjamas” ultimatum on several occasions recently!  (however, if you go to school in your pj’s there’s no where for the Cheetahs to hide during the day – lack of pockets – so he’s gone dressed every time – so far!)

The little Cheetahs have been thinking about what to do for their mummies for Mother’s Day.  They’re apparently getting them flowers and chocolates and will then be taking them out to lunch at the Cheetah Harvester for a lunch of their favourite Cheetah food.  This includes, Cheerios, Cheese, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes and then pudding – chocolate chip donuts (it gives them spots) with lots of sauce and lemonade to drink.  We’re also going to be ‘cellotaping’ some of the little Cheetah’s birthdays as well – I suspect they’ll be wanting a party so their poor mummies will then have to organise all of that…

After lunch they’re then going to get their mummies to the Cheetah Wii shop so that the daddies can buy them a Cheetah Wii.  This means that they’ll all be able to play really cool games together like, errm, Mario Cart.  Apparently.

I wonder what the Cheetah Keeper’s thinking of… 

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High Speed Cheetahs

The imaginary menagerie have been pretty quiet recently.  They’re still an integral part of the Cheetah Keeper’s life but much of what they are doing has become highly classified information and they are still adamant that drawings of them are not allowed.  They have conceded to having their photo taken running over our duvet but seeing as they move so quickly, the pictures do tend to end up a bit blurry.

The Cheetah Keeper isn’t overly happy about ‘something’ at the moment.  His beloved cuddly ‘Tesco’ the giraffe (it’s what the label said his name was) is back coming to school and the Cheetahs are mobilising – as are the Banana People, Dinos and Dino Brothers – now affectionately known as “The Strikes”.

Their main focus has been improving access to the Cheetah Keeper’s bedroom (apparently more doors were installed over half term, including one into our bedroom) and upgrading their transport.  First came the Cheetah sledges (Cheetahs wear extra snow boots during the snow, they have black spots on them) which were jolly good fun – I feel a little sorry for the Daddy Cheetahs who had to pull the little ones around.

Then came the jet-packs, enabling to fly up to open windows (they’re awfully smart these Cheetahs) but they’re a secret, so I’m trusting that you, good reader, will make sure that this information is on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis.

A flying train came next and this afternoon I have learnt that they’ve upgraded their aeroplane to be able to accommodate extra friends.  The original banana plane is still in the fleet, as is the larger one that they got to fit the Dinos and Strikes in.  The new one has televisions and computers on the back of the seats so the little Cheetahs don’t get bored (is that a hint Cheetah Keeper?).

Today, the Cheetahs have discovered that they’re rather fond of pancakes.  They would have done so yesterday however there was a “Dissarsta” of the greatest kind in the Food Tech room at school when the hob wouldn’t work, so they have had to wait.  Disappointment all round – although be assured that the Cheetah Keeper has definitely made up for lost time by scoffing as many pancakes as he possibly could today.

Apparently they like pancakes with any sort of sauce in – ketchup (strange tastes…), meat sauce (slightly more understandable), toffee sauce (wonder where they got that idea from?) and chilli sauce.  Chilli sauce???

It makes them run faster.  Obviously.