The Great Testicle Adventure

“Have you noticed that one of his testicles seems bigger than the other?”

Years ago, the sort of questions my husband used to ask me over dinner were things about interesting articles he’d read, or a new film coming out. With kids, if the questions are not about why a three month’s old poo seems to have grass in it, or if throwing a duvet over a child is an appropriate response to a tantrum, it’s about bits of their anatomy.

I pause, trying to picture my 2 year old’s testicles, and instinctively lower the meatball that was heading mouth-wards back to my plate.

“Hmmm. Maybe.” To be fair, I am not a testicle expert and nor do I want to be.  I have met a few pairs in my time, anything from nodding acquaintance to a more intimate, long term relationship, but I have to say, I do not spend hours gazing at my son’s privates. Testicles were never meant to be stared at, let’s face it. They are the ugly, saggy pillows on which a length of manhood is presented; always the bridesmaid and never the bride. And now I have a mental image of a willy in a white veil, which should never, ever have happened…

So at the next nappy change, we both peer at my son’s balls, prodding, poking and comparing. His right one seems fine, a little marble draped in creped skin. His left looks more like someone had inflated it with a foot pump. “I’ll call the GP in the morning,” I say and sigh, because a conversation that starts with those words scarcely ends well.

And so, there we are, sitting in the GP’s room as I explain the problem. I strip B off from the waist down and the GP requests that she examine him with him standing up. This presents a few more logistical problems than a supine position, as I can already see my son has the ‘you touch my willy and all hell will break loose’ look in his eye. So I sit in the chair, he stands on my thighs holding onto my shoulders whilst doing everything he possibly can to make it impossible to get ball access, and the GP tries to manoeuvre herself between us both to cop a feel.

She is there a long time, doing whatever it is she is trying to do, and I am starting to sweat with the exertion of keeping B from wriggling away. Finally, she straightens up. “I can’t find his right testicle,” she says with a frown. I begin to wonder if she is a GP or I actually sat down with the receptionist by accident, because I definitely saw it yesterday, and unless the testicle thief paid him a visit last night, it should still be there. (In case you were wondering, the testicle thief is the maverick cousin of the tooth fairy, whose life is a tragic example of what happens when fairies fall in with the wrong crowd).  “But the left one is swollen,” the GP states. Blimey, there are no flies on her, are there? Mind you, if B is forced to stay here much longer with his tackle dangling in the breeze, the same won’t be able to be said about him.

“I think he should be seen by the paediatrician at the local A&E,” she concludes, at which point I see my day of work rapidly turning into a bucket of shit. So off we go, hospital bound. B, at this point, is starting to cheer up, as he is realising that what started as a routine day in nursery has turned out to be a magical mystery tour with his mummy, involving talk of snacks and a bag full of toys. I am slightly less cheerful as I give up trying to find a parking space in the hospital grounds because they have seen fit to build a new wing across half the car park without making the cunning deduction that what they actually then need is more parking spaces, rather than less. I end up parking in a dingy, dank  multi storey opposite the hospital. Ah well, I think, as I shovel the best part of a tenner into the ticket machine, at least if I get stabbed in the stair well I could probably make it to A&E under my own steam.

We reach children’s A&E and wait. Toy Story is playing on the TV with the sound just too low to actually hear it, and it entertains B for barely two minutes. We wait some more. Then they weigh him by making him sit on a chair, and he cries. Well, it gives him something to do for a while. Then we do a bit more waiting. At some point, I am given what is in essence a large sanitary towel to put in his nappy in case they need a sample, so I change him, singing the Bodyform advert to him to get him in the mood. He is seemingly unimpressed. Then it is back to those hard, uncomfortable chairs for some more waiting. The A&E waiting room is a strange, other-worldly place. Time is in stasis between these four walls. The windows are covered so anyone inside cannot see life progressing forward outside, there is no reception for my phone and the levels of boredom are so acute that miniscule events become the centre of this tiny, static universe: someone actually entering the room causes a frission of excitement amongst the current occupants akin to the arrival of royalty. Shame it’s just a nurse carrying a urine sample.

At the point at which B has exhausted all the toys we bought, the toys on offer in the room, most of his snacks and me, we get called to see the doctor. Twenty pages of questions later, she finally examines him.

“Well, that’s a relief, there’s his right testicle,” she says. “I was very concerned when I read it was missing.”

“I think it had just rolled under the chair when the GP examined him,” I quipped. She looked at me for a moment, then referred back to her notes. Note to self: don’t try to be funny with medical staff. You are likely be sectioned.

“There is nothing to worry about,” she continues. “It is a small hernia and he’ll need a small procedure to sort it out. You will have to go to a London hospital as we don’t do this procedure on under fives.”

I am relieved that it is not serious, that he is going to have his two testicles remain intact, and that (and this might be the largest proportion of relief) we can finally leave this god-forsaken hell hole. I mean, esteemed medical establishment.

“I just need to call them to refer you, so please take a seat and I will tell you when I have spoken to them.”

Noooooooooo. I want to scream, but in A&E no one can hear you scream, apparently, as there are too many other sods screaming as well.

It is at this point I make a very foolish decision. I blame the four hours I have spent trying to entertain a two year old in a confined space. I think it has turned my brain to mush. I decide to get us some lunch in the hospital cafe. There is not much on offer, but I choose a baked potato for B, and a sandwich for me. I mean, no one can fuck up a jacket spud, right? Wrong. Apparently, they can. B valiantly eats about a quarter of it, then pushes the plate away. He then tries a bite of my sandwich whilst I sample his potato. Because I am an adult, and have been taught a little about socially acceptable behaviour, I chew the disgusting, dry, metallic-flavoured potato and swallow it with a grimace. But my son, being two, takes one chew of my foul, slimy sandwich and promptly starts to ineptly spit it out, dangling his tongue out, shaking his head and scraping desperately at his mouth with his fingers. Which was what I wanted to do when I first tried it, to be fair. So grim was the taste and texture, he even let me wipe his tongue with a wet wipe rather than have a morsel of that foodstuff remain on his tongue.

We abort lunch and return to the waiting room, still hungry and now even more fed up. I still have the Bodyform tune in my head and I think I am starting to go a little insane, until finally, the doctor appears and tells us she has spoken to the hospital and they will contact us, so we can go. I am so soporific with waiting for five hours, I don’t even question why we had to wait around for that. I just nod dumbly and head for the exit.

The fresh air and rain hit me full on in the face, but I didn’t really care. We had survived the first chapter of the Great Testicle Adventure alive, with both balls intact. But next time, I’m packing a stash of Kendal Mint Cake, an inflatable cushion and a distress flare.


Wiping the face of a furious ferret made of jelly


Going on holiday. I have blogged about this topic before, but as anyone who knows me will testify, repeating myself until someone – not necessarily me – feels distinctly nauseous is not uncommon.

This summer, as every summer previously with kids, we have stayed in this country. A UKation, as absolutely no one ever refers to it. Mainly, because the thought of getting my 2 year old to sit still on  a plane makes me both simultaneously laugh hysterically and want to chew my own lips off in anticipation of the horror of it. We simply couldn’t afford the lawsuits of a planeful of people whose eardrums have exploded due to being subjected to three hours of high-pitched screaming. And let’s not even consider the fact that he could happily spend hours repeating “poo poo bum bum boobies” at the top of his voice whilst giggling manically, or his ability to throw any object that is not bolted down at great velocity at least twenty foot in any direction. I can see it now: on go a hundred happy holiday makers. Off come a hundred gibbering wrecks, clawing at their own eyeballs as they climb over each other frantically whilst screaming ‘get me away from that child of Beelzebub’.

However, having a UKation (I am going to keep repeating that word until I see it in the OED, so get used to it) brings it own unique challenges. Packing, for a start. A week in this country in August means that you can leave behind the snow boots, but pretty much everything else needs to be packed. Shorts and sun cream. Wellies and rain coats. And inevitably, holiday packing brings out the siege mentality in me: I pack as if we are spending a year marooned on a desert island. Emergency Calpol.  Piriton (because once, three years ago, one of them needed a dose). Plasters. Extra clothes. Extra pants. Bedtime books (a selection of). Some cereal, in case our destination town with several supermarkets nearby is suddenly hit with a plague of Shreddie-eating locusts. And so it goes on, the stuff piling up by the front door until we need crampons and a safety harness to scale it in order to leave the house. Might as well pack the climbing gear, whilst we’re at it. Well, you never know.

But wherever we go, there is another holiday challenge that will be with us: ice creams. Eating ice cream is not just on my sons’ holiday agendas, it IS their agenda. Given half a chance, they would spend their days with a 99 in each hand whilst licking a scoop of ice cream from a bowl in their laps. I hate ice cream. No, let me rephrase that. I love ice cream. I just don’t like my kids eating it, particularly the 2 year old. It is just so… labour intensive. We are walking along, and they spy an ice cream van. So, we acquiesce to their pleas and all traipse over to the sweaty man trapped in the metal box on wheels. In order to facilitate the consumption of an ice cream by a 2 year old, it requires:

  • Locating somewhere to sit, close by. Do not ask a 2 year old to walk and eat an ice cream. As soon as his tongue starts a licking motion, all other bodily functions shut down. His legs don’t work properly, he can’t see what is right in front of him (this may have something to do with his face being obscured by a bloody great ice cream) and he moves forward so slowly that the spacetime continuum begins to reverse.
  • At least half a packet of wet wipes. There is nowhere that ice creams drips cannot reach.
  • A volunteer licker to stem the tide of molten ice cream as it runs down the cone and races to his elbow.
  • The patience of a saint not to scream when the first thing he does when given his ice cream is to bite the bottom off the cone. Again. What he then basically is holding is a funnel that delivers runny ice cream directly onto his lap.
  • A quick lesson in the structural properties of ice cream when subjected to gravity. Because eating just one side of a Mr Whippy is just blatant stupidity.
  • A head clamp, to hold his head still whilst I try and mop up the third of the ice cream that didn’t quite make it into his cake hole. It is a bit like trying to wipe the face of a furious ferret made of jelly.
  • A full change of clothes. For anyone who had the misfortune to come within six foot of him.


And so we returned from our UKation, suitcases full of ice-cream stained clothes, exhausted, and with the car axles groaning under the weight of all the extra baggage we transported home (I have no idea what this extra baggage is, but what fitted quite snugly on the way had to be crammed, pushed, squeezed and hammered into every car crevice to get it to fit for the return journey).
Friends ask if I had a nice holiday, and I pause. It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, but with two small children, the word ‘holiday’ is not really representative of the experience. We need something a little less… relaxing sounding. Like… Fatigueday. Or Knackereday. “Are you off on holiday this year?” “No, we’ve booked a Knackereday though. A UKation, actually.”

The sound of my life force dripping out of every orifice

The summer holidays. Or ‘an extended period of leisure and recreation’, according to one online dictionary. Funny. No, stop, really, my sides hurt. Actually, that may well be down to wine-induced kidney ache, but I digress.

Six and a half weeks. Forty five days. I am not saying I am counting them down, but there are tally marks being scratched into the wall next to my bed. However, my five year old is not spending the whole time at home. Good god, no. I am not clinically insane. I have traded insanity for an overdraft, as we shell out for activity camps, tennis camps, football camps… anything to a) get him out of the house for a large proportion of the day and b) wear him out.

But I have conceded a couple of weeks where nothing official is planned, and so I am desperately trading children back and forth in a series of play dates. At times, I feel I should be running a clocking in and out system next to our front door just so that I can keep track.

Which is therefore why I have spent more time than strictly necessary (or desired) in the company of five year old boys. It has not been altogether an edifying experience, it has to be said. And as I collapse into bed of an evening, exhausted and with barely the strength to switch my Kindle on, my brain can’t help itself but to subject me to some kind of edited highlights package…

  • Whilst eating lunch, a boy asking my son if he want to see his winkle, to which my son nods enthusiastically and leans over to get a better view.
  • A brief monologue from a boy as to why kissing his brother does not make him gay, but kissing my son would. At this juncture, I offer him another piece of garlic bread and hope he does not suggest a practical demonstration. Not until we have finished our salmon pasta, at least.
  • Repeated exclamations of “BOO-YA!” at any given opportunity. I have no idea where this delightful turn of triumphalist phrase comes from, and I am sure, neither do they.
  • Entering my son’s bedroom to be confronted by three boys, stark bloody naked, bouncing up and down on the bunk bed. My first thought is, surprisingly: ‘if they knew how cheap that bed was, they would not be doing that’, swiftly followed by ‘I am not sure I am liking this CBeebies reinterpretation of Brokeback mountain’.
  • The look of astonishment, then horror, on a boy’s face when I tell him we don’t watch television during the day. To which he replies ‘why?’ and I fail miserably to provide a convincing response. Fast forward twenty minutes, after prolonged yelling and trashing of play room, and I am reconsidering the error of my ways.
  • Repeated requests from any house guest under four foot to get naked.
  • The sound of a five kilogram box of assorted Lego being tipped out onto the floor. Again.
  • The sound of my life force dripping out of every orifice as there is yet another argument over who can jump the highest.
  • Interrupting an utterly hilarious game of ‘let’s throw Lego bricks out of the window’. Well, to clarify, only two out of three of us found this amusing.
  • The most utterances of ‘bum’, ‘bottom’ and ‘willy’ I have ever encountered. And I hang out with people who say these words a lot.

Well, the dictionary got one bit right about the definition of summer holiday: it is an extended period. We are only on week three, and as I squint hard into the future, I still can’t see the end of the bloody summer holiday tunnel. Oh, hang on… I can see a chink of light… oh, my mistake, it’s just the sunlight reflecting off the puddle of orange squash that has mysteriously appeared on the lounge floor. BOO YA!

I predict a riot

Have a 2 year old? Yeah, me too. Pour yourself a large glass and watch this…

Dragons, willies and the Apple of Destiny

Mothering Frights

Being the mother of two sons, it was only a matter of time before the topic of willies reared its ugly head. Hmm. Maybe I should rephrase that… Actually, let’s not bother. I don’t think I have a sufficiently sophisticated grasp of the English language to prettify willy talk.

Obviously, my sons love their willies (well, someone has to). Their appendages are a seemingly constant source of entertainment and intrigue, and they are an ever-increasingly frequent topic of conversation and focus.  My two year old was in the bathroom last week, nude, waiting with me for the bath to finish running. He leaned over and swished his hand in the warm water, and was astonished and more than a little delighted to see a stream of wee burst from his willy. If he wasn’t already urinating, I swear he would have wet himself laughing.  I laughed a little less voraciously as I mopped up a large puddle of piss from around his feet. So now, he is working his way through all the different bath-based positions that he can wield his magic wee-making willy: crouching with his bum cheeks skimming the water’s surface, standing up in the water, lying down, seated with his legs akimbo… and as the bath water turns a pale shade of yellow, the use of the flannel floating in the water is like a little game of Russian Roulette for the face.

Not long before that, my five year old had got out the bath, spotted his rather alert-looking willy and proclaimed: “Look  mummy! Pinocchio Willy!”  After I had eventually stopped laughing, I mused on the fact that quite frankly, it is an absolute crying shame that willies don’t grow large every time their owners tell a lie. It would save me, all other mothers, and let’s face it, humanity in general, from a whole world of pain. Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just lying through your bloody teeth again? Marvellous.

And then, on a walk to school, it became clear that his willy was still very much front of mind. Or front of pants, perhaps. E picked up a small apple-type fruit that had fallen from a tree. He held it in his hand for a while, and then said:

“Look, mummy, it’s the Apple of Destiny.”

I have no idea what he has been watching to have come up with a phrase such as the Apple of Destiny, but I was intrigued (and a little apprehensive) to find out more. After all, if you can tell your future by staring into a glass sphere, I don’t see any reason why taking a nibble from an apple can’t at least predict what might happen tomorrow.

“So what does the Apple of Destiny do?” I asked.

“It saves people.”

“From what?”

“From dragons.”

Well, why not indeed? “Oh, that’s excellent,” I replied. After all, a plague of dragons is surely going to be the next big public health scare, so it is very reassuring to know that we are in possession of the Apple of Destiny to save us.

We walked in silence for a short while.

“Do you know what else it does?” E asked me, holding the Apple of Destiny in his outstretched hand.

“No. What else?”

“It makes your willy grow bigger.”

And right there is a conversation that encompasses a five year old’s universe: dragons, willies and the Apple of Destiny. In fact, where’s that pencil… I feel an idea for a board game coming on…

The debilitating condition that is Book Ending Anxiety

Am I alone in getting BEA? This stands for Book Ending Anxiety, in case this debilitating condition has so far passed you by.

I have been plagued with BEA for as long as I can remember. As I approach the half way mark of a book, I start to wonder just how the book will end. The protagonist will be wrestling with a knotty moral issue, or a terrible event, or an angry crocodile, and things are looking bleak. I am enjoying it, this bleakness. (Generally speaking, I am quite a fan of bleak. Industrial landscapes, winter weather, the music of the Smiths: I find it all quite uplifting on the whole). So what I dread, as I turn another page and somehow the terrible event is now sparkling with a hint of a silver lining, or the crocodile gets sudden onset lockjaw, is a happy ending. Oh woe! Their relationship has irrevocably broken down and they are destined to be locked in a vicious battle of hatred forever! But wait! He has found one of her toenails that he kept in a small jar in the loft, and it has reminded him of his undying love for her, so now they are reconciled and everything is really sodding perfect. And the crocodile has become their pet and has voluntarily had all his teeth removed. God, I find it all so depressing.

And having spent the past five and a half years reading to my sons is not helping one iota. In fact, it has simply aggravated my condition. Because pretty much ALL of the book endings that we have read so far have been irritatingly, nauseatingly bloody happy. We are on the cusp of something interesting, I feel. If I squint hard, I can see Roald Dahl, like a shimmering mirage of wit and naughtiness. But for books for the under fives, forget it. Heroes get a cheer, mistakes get righted, baddies get chastised. Not even locked up. Not even spanked with a wet fish. Just chastised enough so they see the error of their ways, blush politely and everyone sods off home, hand in hand.

So I am thinking I may have to start an alternative library for sufferers of BEA. It would contain such classics as:

tigercametoteaThe Tiger who Came to Tea: a tiger comes to tea and scoffs the lot. Mummy buys a large tin of tiger food in case of a return visit, and sure enough, the tiger, recognising a good thing when he sees it and still a bit drunk three days later from drinking daddy’s stash of home brew, comes back. However, with no opposable thumbs, the tin of tiger food proves too much of a challenge to open, so he eats the family instead.



guess+how+much+i+love+youGuess How Much I Love You: “Guess how much I love you?” he said. “Oh, I don’t think I could guess that.” “Not a bloody jot. Nada. Fuck all. Know why Pops?  Because you stink of wee and you have freakishly long ears.” Quite a short book, this one. Perfect for bedtime when wine ‘o’ clock is approaching.




the-gruffaloThe Gruffalo: Mouse tricks the woodland animals into believing in the existence of the Gruffalo, and on seeing the hideous beast himself, manages to hide under a leaf and escape his evil clutches, primarily because he is a tiny mouse and the Gruffalo is a huge, lumbering idiot. However, on leaving his hideout, he is lynched by the militant arm of the Woodland League Against Vermin (founder members: fox, owl and snake) and is savagely killed. Could have a pop-up end page for added impact.



veryhungrycaterpillerThe Very Hungry Caterpillar:  On Monday, the caterpillar ate through an apple. Unfortunately, this apple belonged to Mrs Bartholomew-Jones of number 48 who abhors creepy crawlies, so she bludgeoned it to death with last week’s copy of the Radio Times.



dear_zooDear Zoo. ‘I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet. They sent me an email that thanked me for my interest in the zoo and their customer service team in Bangalore would respond to my query as soon as possible, and please do not reply to this email as it is an automated account. I am still waiting six weeks later’.




I am sure there are more to add to this list… I will give it some thought when I am feeling a tad less happy…

Who’s up for a game of Top Trump Parents?

I came across a photo yesterday of my eldest as a baby. Scrunched up in a baby grow, little fists clenched, face scrunched in delight – or possibly wind – like an inordinately pleased-looking frog. I was transported back to those days of milk, crying and utter bewilderment. My son did his fair share of crying and bewilderment, too, I seem to recall.

Babyville is not a place I inhabited with joy, on the most part. Being a parent seemed to be just one long ‘I don’t know what the fuck I am doing’ moment, briefly interspersed with ‘oh well, I am officially too tired to care’ thoughts. I did read my fair share of parenting books. I even may  have highlighted a few choice phrases, because in those pre-kid days, not only did I have time to highlight words in books, I could actually find my highlighter because it wasn’t lying behind the sofa with the lid off, having been used to colour in a whole sheet of A4 just for the sodding hell of it.

I may have digressed slightly.

Seeing as most books are wholly inadequate at preparing people for parenthood, given their predisposition to gloss over anything that seems a little bit too much like a challenge, I was wondering if there was a better way. Which is when I realised that, like children, the best way to learn is surely through play. I don’t wish to reinvent the wheel here. Just take some of the games that we know and love, and give them a little… tweak. So, in the future, when a first-time pregnant mum wanders down the aisles of Mothercare, wrestling duvet-sized sanitary pads into her basket and feeling a little queasy, she may stumble across these:

Top Trumps Parents: Want to know the sort of conversations you will be embroiled in the moment your baby pops out? Then play a few rounds of Top Trumps parents. The starter edition contains such gems as birth weight, how many hours sleep a night you get and age when they first crawled. Thrill to being trumped every time you mention your baby’s achievements! Be amazed when a mum claims their daughter walked at 8 months!  The Junior edition has great stats to compare, such as what phase reading book your child is on and how tall they are. Because with Top Trump parents, if you are not wanting to punch a fellow parent in the face, you’re just not playing hard enough!

Parenting Twister: The perennial family favourite has been updated for today’s busy parents. Spin the dial… and it’s one hand to hold the baby. Spin again… one hand on the milk bottle. Spin again… oh, it’s another hand on the soft toy… and again… this time it’s another hand to answer the phone… and again… a hand to eat that digestive… and again… a hand to wipe biscuit crumbs from the top of your baby’s head…  it’s Parenting Twister, the game that ties you up in knots!

Parents’ Scrabble: acclimatise yourself to the incomprehensible rubbish that your young toddler will spout by playing a few games of Parents’ scrabble. Take as many tiles as you like, it won’t make the slightest difference! Randomly lay down a string of letters, preferably without vowels, and read them out. Hey presto! Toddler talk!

Cluedo for Parents: Was it the five year old in the lounge with the felt tip? Or the teenager in the kitchen with the dirty plate? Pit your sleuthing wits in this high-octane game of mystery as you try to solve your offspring’s crimes. Deluxe 2014 edition comes with Interrogation Button – press to hear the suspect’s response, including ‘It wasn’t me’, ‘I always get the blame’ and ‘it was my brother’.

Trivial Pursuit (Overly-Curious Junior edition): Think you are ready to answer your offspring’s questions? This new edition of Trivial Pursuit will test your knowledge of the most random facts,  from ‘Why do bagels have holes?’ to ‘why can’t I see electiricty?’ these questions will have you scraping the barrel for answers before you can say ‘ask your daddy’. Each question is repeated thirty times throughout the game – because we don’t only test your know-how, we test your patience too!

So there you go, Mattel, Hasbro and Winning Moves. You can have those ideas on me. For free. Don’t mention it.