I’m still tidying…

You know King Cnut? (Boy, do I have to be careful typing that name). He was the one trying to hold back the tide. I feel a bit like him, but with the toys, the odd dirty socks and discarded outerwear that washes like a tsunami through my house…

 

 

If you have enjoyed this blog (putting my singing to one side, obviously) then perhaps you would be so kind as to vote for me in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards. There’s a link to it on the right side of this page. I will be your friend* forever**.

*By friend I mean someone I’ve never met and probably never will.

** By forever I mean approximately 1 minute 32 seconds. But just approximately.


The novel sound of tiger hitting window

Birthdays. Everyone loves a birthday. Well, at least everyone did love a birthday, but I am not so sure now. My son turned two last weekend and I thought I would push the metaphorical boat out and celebrate it with something special. You see, I am not a huge party-thrower, cake baker or celebrator. (It’ s just one more thing that my kids can throw back in my face when they are stroppy teenagers and are regaling me with the long list of parenting misdemeanours for which I am responsible). To illustrate the point, let me tell you about the cake that I created for both my sons’ first birthdays. It was a slice of banana on a square of tin foil. Ta-da! Look, it had a candle stuck in it – I am not a total bastard, for chrissakes. But that was pretty much it. Well, neither of them had actually asked for a cake and it was a particuarly tasty banana…banana_slice

Anyway, as my son had made it all the way to two without escaping, I thought we could take a trip to the local wildlife park. So off we all went. It wasn’t long before we came to the tiger enclosure. The last time I had been to any kind of a zoo, we were lucky to see anything even vaguely resembling wildlife. There was much “look, you can just see the tip of his ear over that rock…” and “well, it is difficult to explain just how big they are when they are that far away, and asleep…” whilst my son squinted dubiously in that general direction and gave a quiet ‘mm’ to appease me. But not that day.

As a special birthday treat for B, the tiger was pacing up and down a path right next to the fence. Well, fences. You know you are dealing with something that has the capacity to get really pissed off when there is more than one man-made obstacle between it and you. And as we watched the sodding great tiger stomp back and forth, it did cross my mind that he was looking a little peeved. I don’t know why I was so shocked to note this. Perhaps it was too many readings of When the Tiger Came to Tea. I mean, I do think that creature was a tad rude, rocking up unannounced and eating all the buns, but he seemed a genial kind of chap overall. Unlike this tiger, who it seemed would be more inclined to slam doors and throw something, if only he had opposable thumbs. And doors.

M wandered ahead with B, and sat at the end of the enclosure behind a glazed area to get a close-up view of the tiger as he walked directly towards them. I watched as the hulking great fur ball stalked down the path in their direction. Then, he quickened his pace. I raised an eyebrow. Then the tiger broke into a run. I peered down the path at the window, seeing the outline of my husband with B on his lap, who was pointing at the tiger, which  was probably seeming quite large and perhaps a little too near all of a sudden. Then, the tiger pounced. He launched into the air, paws outstretched, jaws agape. On retelling this tale, I have spoken of a loud roar. To be fair, I am not sure he did roar, but he might as bloody well have done, so I am going to stick with my story and say he let out a loud roar.

The next thing I heard was the quite novel sound of tiger hitting window. Now, whilst I take an inordinate amount of glee from the unmistakable ‘donk’ of a bumble bee flying into glazing, this was a sound that provoked a little less mirth. I saw my husband leap backwards in fright, before the ear-piercing screams of my son filled the air. To say he was inconsolable was a little like saying that the tiger appeared to be mildly irritated that he hadn’t been able to grab that plump, juicy morsel of small boy to have for his elevenses. Tears repeatedly plopped down my son’s puce-coloured face as he pointed at the tiger enclosure, and perhaps more specifically at the tiger saliva that was dripping down the window, and howled.

Many, many sob-filled minutes later, calm was almost restored, and we decided a snack was just the thing, and found a picnic table. As soon as we sat down, two black chickens strutted out of nowhere on the lookout for a nibble or two. I say two black chickens. Through my recently-traumatised son’s eyes, they were ninja chicken assassins, hell bent on plucking out his eyes. It was interesting to watch my son physically scale his dad so that he was perched almost atop his shoulders, glancing over at the evil fowl lurking below, eyes filled with terror. To divert him, I held out a grape, but much like the British relay team, we had not practised our hand-over well enough and the grape fell to the floor, to be plucked up and devoured. Cue more crying. And his fear eventually got the better of his older brother too. So there we were, trying to have a nice relaxing snack on my son’s birthday, one child clinging to his dad’s neck and demanding through tears to be moved, whilst the other was on all fours on the top of the table shouting at the chickens to go away. Well, as birthday outings go, this was going swimmingly.

Perhaps we should abort any more close encounters with the wildlife, they all seemed a little too… well, wild. Let’s go on the train, instead, we decided. M stayed on the platform with the pram whilst I dislocated both kneecaps fitting me, my five year old and my two year old into a tiny carriage. Actually, carriage is a little optimistic as a description. Two miniature benches on wheels would probably suffice. We slowly pulled out of the platform, giving daddy a cheery wave. “Daddeeeeeee…” wailed B, as we trundled into the woods. “Dadddeeee…..” And he started crying. Again. Surely, he’d run out of bloody tears by now?  If he cries much more I will be carrying home a large pale raisin once formerly known as my son. We rounded a corner to be confronted by a twenty foot fibre glass dinosaur, provoking yet more howls. Well, this whole train idea is turning out to be a stunner. The couple in the carriage in front of us turned to look at him, smiling thinly in that ‘oh dear, he’s not happy…now please bloody shut him up’ kind of way. I smiled back. Or I could have snarled, I am not sure. Let’s just go with smile, shall we? So there I sat, knees pounding with pain as we jolted and bumped our way round the track, clinging on to my wriggling, distraught son as if my life depended on it. Which it probably did, as if I had pulled into the station one son down, explaining that he had made a dive for freedom just after the fifteen foot high Kung Fu Panda (just don’t bloody ask) my husband may have throttled me. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity (although still a rip off at a pound a head and long term patella damage) we arrived back in the station. I glanced at my watch, wondering just how long it was to go before wine ‘o’ clock and whether the zebra-striped Snack Hut sold Jack Daniels.

We were all pretty relieved when we arrived home. I knew the whole celebratory day-trip thing was not for me. Nor, it turns out, for my son, either. Next year, I am reverting back to a slice of banana and a quick scoot to Tesco. That’s much more my style.

As usual, I am on the scrounge… for your vote. I would be ridiculously grateful if you could pop a little vote my way in the Brilliance in Blogging awards. Just click on the coloured image in the right hand menu on this page and there you have it. An inordinate sense of wellbeing. That, or a sore mouse finger…


A tsunami of toys and discarded drinks cartons

They say that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I don’t know who these fabled ‘they’ are. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are a group of renegade fairies, chucked out of Fairy Forest for repeated dope smoking and flashing their tits at the hedgehogs, who now spend their days hanging out in the air vents of fast food outlets, making up crap adages that dissolve like fairy wings over a naked flame as soon as they are held up to even the most fleeting scrutiny.

Anyway, probably enough fairy chat (now there’s a phrase surely deserving of a wide audience). I used to think I could choose my friends. And then I had children. And, it turns out, they get to choose them for you. Because no matter how much you really like Mum A, because she is funny, and down to earth, and doesn’t seem to notice that you have turned up in the playground with the same top on all week, your child does not want to play with her child. No, your child wants to play with the child of Mum B, who seems to have a team of stylists coiffe her to perfection every bloody morning and whose child would not be seen dead with a dried snail’s trail of snot on their coat arm. Unlike mine.

And nowhere does this become more apparent than on play dates. As my son is in reception year, we are getting right into the swing of play dates. And there is a lot to be said for a play date. Let’s make a list, shall we?

1. It is a great way to fill that yawning chasm of time between the end of the school day (which, let’s face it, is pretty much a half day anyway) and bed time. Or to put it another way, it lets me off the entertainment hook.

2. It is a grand old excuse for sitting on your arse with a generous supply of tea and nattering, an activity which otherwise is far too indulgent given how much work I have to do and the size of my washing mountain which is directly inversely proportionate to how full the food cupboards are.

3. Occasionally, you get to meet another mum who is also prepared to admit that they can be a little bit crap when it comes to parenting and it is a pleasure to be in their company and to be honest about being a mum. “…and then, we turned round, and he had fallen in the sea…oh, how we laughed…” (Yes, this did happen, but no, it wasn’t that amusing at the time. However, we laugh about it now, mainly to keep the panic that still gnaws at our insides at bay).

4. I will admit, I do love a good nose round other people’s houses. I mainly marvel at how tidy they are, to be fair.

5. Oh, and I suppose there should be something here about how nice it is for my son to play with his friends, blah blah blah. Blimey, anyone would think play dates were for his benefit.

But there is a dark side to a play date. It’s not all bloody harmonious laughter wafting down the stairs as you sip your delicious tea.

1. The unaccompanied play date. Now, in theory, packing your kids off to someone else’s house without you is genius. However, I do feel, given that my son is only five, that I would probably want to go with him for the first one. A mum asked my son round for play date once, and her chin nearly hit the hop scotch when I asked to come with him. How do I know she doesn’t have a rabid Rottweiler who likes nothing more than to chew on strangers’ legs? How can I be sure there is not a pentagram chalked on the kitchen floor and a faint smell of goat’s blood lingering in the hallway? I don’t think I am overprotective as a parent (cf. Point 3 above, my son’s unscheduled dip into the sea) but perhaps I am.

2. The Play Date Ninja Mum, who prepares a number of activities in advance of you and your child turning up – you know, she has actually given some thought to what the kids might want to do. And then serves up a nutritious, homemade meal. And not bloody fish fingers and waffles. Note to self: up your bloody game on the food front, you lazy bitch. You are letting yourself down. Well, and your son. And his friend. And his friend’s mum. In fact, you’re letting pretty much everyone down with you ‘meal on a grill pan’ approach to life. You disgust me.

3. But despite my self-confessed crapitude on the meal front, things can get a little tricky when there is a clash of snack cultures. We rocked up on a play date where my son was given a chocolate bar, followed by the offer of a whole plate of biscuits for himself. Not just one. A whole plate. Call me a snack snob, and each to their own, ya-dee-ya, but I am just not convinced about consuming half the biscuit aisle an hour before tea. Luckily, he said no the biscuits, so I loved him a little bit more after that.

4. When play dates turn sour. Sometimes, after a long day at school building misshapen space ships from Lego and painting your shirt cuffs and shoes, the kids are a little tired and irritable. So rather than spending an hour playing nicely with your friend, it turns into the Shitbag Olympics where both children try very hard to win a gold medal in Stropping, Shouting or Pretend Crying that is all Noise and No Tears. This is a lose-lose scenario for all concerned. If you are round someone else’s house, you feel your kid, as the guest, should behave. If you are at home, you feel your kid, as the host, should behave. Either way, I am shit out of luck.

5. Play dates at your house are just a little bit rubbish, because you run around in a flat panic trying to tidy up a week’s worth of mess in ten minutes, shoving things in cupboards that have no right to be there whilst scrubbing a dubious stain off the table with a wet wipe, just so the visiting mum doesn’t volunteer you for the next series of a Life of Grime. Then after the play date, you wade through a tsunami of toys and discarded drinks cartons and wonder why you ever sodding bothered.

 

So, if you have made it to the bottom of this blog post, well done you. And if you have raised a smile, a laugh or just an eyebrow, then perhaps you would consider voting for this blog in the Brilliance in Blogging awards? All you have to do is click on the purple and yellow badge to the right of this page and you will be magically transported through space, time and the internet to the relevant page, where angelic eunuchs will serenade you whilst you vote. Perhaps.


Oh look, it’s Mother’s Day again

Oh look, it’s Mothers Day again, the day you treat your mum.

So why the hell, you may well ask, do I look so fucking glum?

I’ll tell you why, but I warn you now, you really won’t be keen

To hear the reason why it’s so, but stay: I’ll vent my spleen.

It’s not the sentiment, you see: we know all mothers rock

It’s not the lie-in that I get, more sleep I will not mock.

It’s not the lunch, should I be blessed, to have it cooked for me

Nor the shop bought chocolates, I’ll devour those with glee.

There’s just one thing about it that really doesn’t make the grade

It’s the presents from my children that are clumsily handmade.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I do applaud the effort that was taken

But whatever it is in front of me is… crap, lest I’m mistaken.

They did try hard to make it look like something, I am sure

But this pile of card with daubs of paint is in no way craft couture.

Lumpen shapes of cardboard have been forced into a shape

Hacked until surrender, bound and gagged with Sellotape.

Paint, all seven shades of brown, has been thrown in its direction

On top of which a ball of foil has been rolled to imperfection.

 

A haphazard clump of pipe cleaners protrude from near the head

(I really would have just preferred the Elbow CD instead)

To finish off this masterpiece, they’ve gone crazy with the stickers

I know full well that by tonight. I’ll find one in my knickers.

Accessories adorn this thing: a badge, a coin, a peg

And protruding from the very rear, a plastic pirate’s leg.

Was this thing an act of love, by my precious two?

Nah, it was hastily assembled before watching Scooby Doo.

 

To decipher what this thing is I’d need the skills of DI Morse

Part troll? Part monster? A hint of rat? Or maybe mutant horse?

It has one eye… or sphincter – it is difficult to tell

And if I’m not mistaken, a slightly feral smell.

I casually enquire as to what this thing could be.

Apparently, it turns out, that the bloody thing is me.

Do I love them any less just because they’re crap at making?

Of course I don’t, but suggest next year they have a go at baking.


Feeling sixty-four

You know that feeling when you are sodding knackered and it’s all your kids fault? Yeah, that…


A tasty recipe for a family day out

Mothering Frights

Ingredients:

1 x 5 year old, free range

1 x 23 month old, unsweetened

2 parents, slightly crushed

1 change bag, over-stuffed

1 pram

1/2 an idea that it will all end in tears

A sprinkle of misplaced optimism (optional)

Method

1.The evening before, pack the car with all the non-essential ingredients. Alternatively, this can be done in a flat panic three minutes before departure.

2. On the morning: Prepare main offspring ingredients by stuffing them with Shreddies and not allowing them to talk, move or blink until they have finished. Time is of the essence here.

3. Check temperature by making a wholly inaccurate guess of ‘hot’ as you look out of the window, then add hats and gloves to the sun cream at the last minute.

4. Pour everything into the car. The order in which you do this is not important, but do try to remember to add all main ingredients. Leaving the 23 month old on the drive tends to leave a funny taste in the mouth.

5. Stir everything up by forcing the children make a choice between Finding Nemo or Ice Age 4 DVD in 20 seconds. Insert DVD into player, then remove and swap for the other one, as things already seem to be bubbling over.

6. Let all ingredients settle as the journey progresses, allowing the slightly menopausal sat nav bring your blood to a gentle simmer.

7. Remove family from car on arrival and decorate pram with a fortnight’s worth of baggage and excess clothing.

8. Grease two children with sun cream, forgetting immediately to do the same to yourself. Wipe all excess sun cream from your trousers / top / hair with a wipe.

9. Whisk the children into a frenzy of anticipation by promising a snack in the near future.

10. Leave the children to fizz in a warm place for half an hour until they develop a thick, glossy sheen, at which point remember that you have forgotten to add any liquid whatsoever to proceedings.

11. Allow to rest for 10 minutes whilst you rapidly add caffeine to the adults. Remember to add just one mouthful of hot liquid, then spend the rest of the time separating the two over-excited children to ensure the atmosphere does not curdle, before adding the rest when almost cold. (Note: if curdling occurs, you can salvage the recipe with the last minute addition of a liberal sprinkle of threats for the children and a splash or two of wine for the adults).

12. Toss the children into the next activity and check your timings.

13. Roll out the picnic blanket and divide up the warm, dry sandwiches. Throw in a handful of small flies (optional).

14. Add a drizzle of rain to proceedings to dampen down any sense of enjoyment and discard all further plans. Watch the youngest dissolve into tears.

15. Finally, add all ingredients back into car, which by now should be hot enough to slowly bake all occupants.

16. Baste frequently in the juices of disappointment.

17. Arrive home, drained.


Somewhere between the birthing squat and an impression of a sumo wrestler

There are many duties as parents that fall under the heading of ‘If we weren’t blood relations, there is not a chance in hell I would be doing this’. You know the sort of thing. Wiping shitty bottoms. Going to soft play centres. Hanging around in soulless community buildings whilst your offspring bounces on a trampoline / fails to kick a large ball into an even larger net / indulges in ‘messy play’ which actually involves them wiping crap all over you . And top of my list, so far ahead of everything else I have dedicated an entirely new list to it, entitled ‘I am doing this with clenched teeth and a barely contained sense of fury’ is swimming.

I loathe swimming. I detest it. Quite frankly, I am really not that keen on it. And in my abject hatred of it, I feel compelled to list the reasons.

1. In order not to be jostling, bare-skin-on-bare-skin, next to another parent of dubious hygiene whilst I bob in the water, you have to get to the pool bloody early. This Sunday, we were in the foyer at 8.20am. I will repeat the crucial facts of that sentence: 8.20am. On a Sunday. That is utter madness.

2. Getting undressed. No matter how big the cubicle, a family of four getting changed for swimming puts me in mind of a world record attempt of how many people you can get into a Mini. If one of us does not sustain serious injury from an over-enthusiastic elbow in the face, or squashed toes as half the party still have their bloody shoes on whilst the other half stand there butt naked, it is a bloody miracle.

3. The lockers. We go to a family pool. Unfortunately, the idiots who specified the fixtures and fittings thought it would be hilarious to install lockers the size of a child’s shoe box. Out of the cubicle we come, with shoes, coats, four changes of clothes, a sports bag, towels and various other essential paraphernalia as befits a family of four whose idea of travelling light is to only bring three trailers-worth of crap with them. All of which we then have to shoe-horn into the lockers, paying 20p per locker for the privilege. Not a fortune, granted, but with the amount of stuff we have, the locker bill can run to £52.60.

4. The walk to the pool. Your nice, dry, warm, clean feet walking on the bobbly, rough, cold, wet floor. No. Just no.

5. Being in the pool with a toddler. We have tried B in a floatation vest, but not only did we have to break three ribs to zip it up, it made him float at a strange angle that terrified him. So one of us has to hold him, all the time. There is nothing quite like the sensation of toe nails scraping through three layers of epidermis on your thigh, seemingly hell-bent on reaching the bone. And that delightful muscle burn in your upper arms as you bounce your nearly-two year old up and down in the water for the eighty-seventh time, wishing you had one of those skinny kids with chicken legs rather than one built like a brick shit house.

6. Being in the pool with other people. As soon as I win the lottery, I am going to hire out the whole pool for my family and tell everyone else to piss off, with their splashy kids and excessively large inflatable accessories.

7. The learner pool crouch. So there you are, in 0.6 metres of water, holding a toddler. You cannot stand, otherwise said toddler would be out of the water. So you do the learner pool crouch, a ridiculously uncomfortable position somewhere between the birthing squat and an impression of a sumo wrestler.  Not ideal for someone whose pelvic floor has been condemned by the local council as unsafe, and a hard hat area only.

8. Inadvertent breast exposure. Holding B in front of me is a high risk strategy. Not because he is likely to lean forward and wipe his runny nose on my mouth, that is simply par for the course. But because he loves to hang on to the front of my costume, pulling it toward him and giving some poor unfortunate dad an eyeful of something that no one needs to see right after breakfast. I am under no illusion that the breast-flashing  of a middle aged women who has (reluctantly) breastfed two boys and is demonstrating super-gravity in action is nothing other than QUITE UNNECESSARY.

9. Getting dressed again. See point 2 (getting undressed) and multiple it by a factor of cold, damp towels, a slippery floor and trying to get your trousers pulled on with wet legs. Beyond hideous.

So there you have it. Nine good reasons to hate swimming. I thought nine was enough, until last Sunday. But then, last Sunday, there was a bit of an incident:

10. Almost drowning your offspring. B loves to copy his big brother. So when E repeatedly jumps in from the side of the pool, B decides he wants a bit of the action. So with the help of my breasts as a handy stepping stone, he hauls himself onto the side. He shuffles side to side, causing me to crab-walk back and forth in the water with my arms outstretched to try and stay in front of him, in case he suddenly jumps. I am already sweating a bit with the responsibility of being the only thing currently in between my son and the bottom of the pool. He jumps. I catch him. He laughs. “More!” he cries. Oh yes, let’s do this again. I am having SO much fun.

Again and again he jumps. Again and again I catch him. And then, one time,  I don’t. I see him hurtle downwards but I am not even sure I get a fingertip to him. I just see the shape of his body, under the water, in front of my shins. I grab at his arm, which was being held aloft in joyful triumph but is now simply the only means by which I can catch him, and pull him from the bottom of the pool. He emerges and his mouth opens in a watery ‘o’ and he emits an ear-drum perforating scream of: “DADDY!” Which is simply an abbreviation of: ‘get me out of the arms of this incompetent mad woman, she is trying to drown me’. Which is a fair point, well made.

I thought I hated swimming before this happened. But now, I have the image of my son stage diving off the side of the pool whilst I flap my arms uselessly in front of my like a demented seal every time I go in the water. The worst part is, there will be another trip to the pool. My parental duties to not cease even though I am blatantly not cut out for this swimming malarkey. But next time, my son will be sporting a buoyancy jacket, two pairs of armbands, a rubber ring round his head, a woggle tied round each ankle and I am investigating the possibility of pumping helium in through his poo hole.

 


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