Tuesday 30 September 2008

Mandela, sausages and the changing of minds.

So apparently pork sausage falls into the vegetarian genre of food. Which meant that today son 1 deigned to eat meat. However, that didn't mean we were clear of food dramas. Oh no my friends. Today I proved that being a reasonable parent is a wholly futile exercise.

Son 1 decided that he didn't want school dinner and that he wanted packed lunch. He came to this decision after vacillating back and forth for quite some time. So I duly made packed lunch. The minute he saw the lunchbox sitting on the kitchen counter he spiralled into screaming banshee mode, yelling that he absolutely definitely didn't want packed lunch.

There is no reasoning with the child...AT ALL. So after quite a bit of this, I said fine, have school lunch and I shut the front door and started the walk up to school. Three steps in and another tantrum ensued as he noticed that we didn't have his lunchbox. Does he perhaps have the shortest memory span ever? So breathing quietly through my ears and attempting to remain calm and rational (particularly as we were now in public) I said that he had exactly 5 seconds to make up his sodding mind once and for all. Five...four...three...two...one..... "Well?" "I DON'T WANT PACKED LUNCH OR SCHOOL LUNCH. I WANT NOTHING." Done. Lunchbox stays at home, teacher deals with problem.

The rest of my day passed calmly without any tantrums, mainly because I was sitting on my own in my office, eating a packed lunch.

Fast forward to this evening. I suggest that we have Toad in the Hole for dinner. "Ooh yummy", squeaks son 2. "I don't want Toad in the Hole," wails son 1. "I HATE IT. I HATE IT. I HATE IT." Oh how I am enjoying this phase.

So I politely asked what he would like instead. "Sausages and mash" was the reply. "But I HATE mash," wailed son 2. And to be fair, he does. And so the tussle commenced. MASH! Toad in the hole! No, MASH!! No! Toad in the HOLE!!

Ready to shove both of them in the oven, I tell them to be quiet (although not quite so politely) and say that I will make Toad in the Hole with a side portion of mash. Peace at last. Some might view this as being a pushover. I like to view it as keeping the peace. I feel UN troops could do well to come to me for lessons.

Fast forward to the dinner table. Son 1 has a plate of sausage, mash, gravy and veg. Son 2 and I have toad in the hole, gravy and veg. All is peaceful. All is quiet. All is lovely...for about 2 minutes when son 2 pointed to the yorkshire pudding battery stuff and said: "What's this?" And I said: "Toad in the hole". Son 1 looked at his plate and wailed: "But I don't have any Toad in the Hole!"

So I said: "No, but I did make you your very own portion of mash just like you asked." That was apparently the wrong thing to say. I suddenly had a plate of mash and sausages flying at speed across the table at me with a small devil child across the way with his face screwed up screaming: "I DIDN'T WANT MASH. MASH IS STUPID. I WANT WHAT YOU HAVE."

Now seriously. It's time to call Supernanny right? What do you do in this situation? Maybe the child has a gaping hole in his brain that he leaks his most recent memories from. But personally, it's at times like this that I fully understand the need for corporal punishment. However, I didn't opt for violence, although was sorely tempted. I deployed a new strategy that I read about on the internet today.

It's called a Mandala (as opposed to a Mandela which would have meant having a little old man nodding sagely in our dining room and I doubt even the great man himself would be able to reason with my son. He might have helped bring about the end of apartheid but that would seem a breeze in comparison to rationalising with this child).

So a Mandala is basically a picture with patterns on it (you can print them out from the interweb). When a child heads off into a rage, you suggest that they might want to go into the next door room for some quiet time and colour in the picture. This allows them to 'reflect on how they feel'. (Alternatively this allows them to colour in your walls as they take out their rage with the full arsenal of the crayon box.) But I gave it a try. Once he had calmed himself down to decibel levels that didn't damage our ears, I explained the concept to him and suggested that he might want to go colour in to calm down.

This intrigued him and he calmed down without having to colour anything in. He just sat and ate his sausages (not the mash) and wanted to know about the pictures. He then took himself off midway through the meal to colour in. When I asked him if he could come back and eat his meal, he said: "No, I'm colouring." Fair enough. It's a new thing. But I don't think he quite got the idea that it's to calm you down, not to avoid eating your mash and broccoli.

Anyway, I am going to attempt another Mandala tomorrow (I predict it will be at roughly 7.30am when we have the first tantrum ...probably about what breakfast to have.) Wish me and my cream walls luck.

Monday 29 September 2008

Food glorious food. Or not according to my son.

I have just eaten my body weight in pork stroganoff and now feel a little ill. Actually quite a lot ill. I made this dish thinking that a mild creamy sauce with thin strips of pork with braised rice and peas would be something my children actually ate. (Obviously I would hand pick out the mushrooms and onions as they would instantly poison the entire plate of food.) But no. Silly me.

'I HATE THIS! I HATE THIS! I HATE THIS! WHY ON EARTH DID YOU MAKE THIS?' was the response I got from my precious little cherubs. Good question? Why on earth did I possibly think that a meal I had spent more than 5 minutes preparing would be consumed? And why - pray tell - did I think that rice was a good idea on the day the cleaner had just been? I'm now going to be treading on rice for a week.

It appears that son 1 has decided to become vegetarian. This is both troubling and annoying. For a while now, he's not been wanting to eat meat that he has to chew (except for bacon, because no human being on the planet can resist bacon). So I could sort of get away with a bolognaise sauce, but really he'd only eat what was stuck to the pasta and leave the rest. I assumed laziness or texure issues. But I'm beginning to think it goes deeper than that.

Yesterday we had a roast chicken. He looked sideways at the uncooked bird and asked: "Did that used to be a real chicken?" So I said yes. No point letting him believe that supermarkets manufacture them straighout out of the shelves (although I do believe some of the chicken products on offer in some of the supermarkets have been made exactly this way). So he then asked where the head had been. I could tell that this wasn't going to end well. But I vaguely waved in the right direction. He was quiet for a few minutes and then announced: "I won't be having the chicken, just the vegetables and potatoes." Sigh.

Today I asked him to please try a piece of pork. He did with the promise of 3 jelly beans. He gagged on it. Sigh.

I asked whether it was the taste or texture that bothered him. He said: "it's everything". I think he just doesn't like meat. And this is bad for the following reasons:
  • We are a family of meat eaters. Meat features highly on our nice things to eat roster. Particularly beef that is pink in the middle.
  • I am not going to prepare separate vegetarian meals for him. I already have to make about three breakfasts before one is eaten, packed lunches, a dinner that can be made fast, that suits kids, that I want to eat and that can hang about for when husband gets back. On top of this I prepare about a billion snacks a day plus puddings. I am NOT going to be making a special vegetarian meal.
  • However, I am now going to be concerned about whether he's getting enough protein and just know that I am going to have to start looking into quorn sausages and nut roasts and a range of other hideous things.
  • Because somehow our son - who is likely to be well in excess of 6 foot tall and strapping - just isn't going to fit the physical profile of a vegetarian.

I blame his over-sensitive nature for it. I read an article this weekend about hyper sensitive children who are prone to vegetarianism because they can't reconcile eating the little animals they enjoy petting at the farm. Fine. Then how come my son delights in pulling the legs off spiders, smooshing snails, squashing caterpillars and whaaa-ing ants (that's where you put your face really close to the ground and yell whaaa and see if you can get the ant to stop in its tracks. Frankly, most of them don't seem to give a shit from what I've seen)? So I don't really see the hyper-sensitivity coming into play that much. Maybe I should serve him snails and see if he goes for those?

This same child tried to kill himself yesterday. Not kidding. It was one of those heart in mouth, feel sick and dizzy afterwards type incidents. While testing the chicken for doneness, I put my metal meat thermometer on the counter. When I turned around, my son had the metal thermometer and had inserted it into the electric plug socket and was jiggling it violently. Thank God - and I mean that with all sincerity - that the switch was off. It's normally on as his younger brother enjoys flicking it on to annoy me. I aged visibly. No anti-wrinkle, gravity defying, serum plumping, beauty flashbalming creams can ever help repair the damage young children can do in an instant.

Anyway, he managed to not electrocute himself but still presents me with his new found vegetarianism issue. It's a bit of a problem as he's not really a fan of fruit either. We went collecting blackberries yesterday (I have the black fingers to show for it). He refused to try any of them and declared that the apple and blackberry jam that I made (which I am immensely proud of) looked "DISGUSTING!"

What all of this tells me, is that no matter how many hours you spend lovingly peeling, chopping, steaming, pureeing, and freezing little cubes of food for your baby all with the intention of exposing them to the taste of real food so that they're not fussy, makes not a jot of difference. I might as well have fed them Gregg's sausage rolls and Iron Bru from birth given their current food preferences. I guess it's baked beans on white bread here on in...

Thursday 25 September 2008

I am a mum to boys

I just had a moment. One of those big moments that feels like a large veil being lifted from your face while simultaneously being kicked in the stomach. I was watching a fairly hideous programme on Channel 4 about Virgin Daughters and fathers who get their little girls (aged 6 onwards) to take purity vows to make up for their own shenanigans when they were teenagers. It was all a bit creepy and weird.

But while watching it, it hit me. Like a tonne of bricks. I AM NEVER GOING TO HAVE A LITTLE GIRL (because we aren't having anymore children).

I'm never going to shop for pink things. I'm never going to buy hairclips or brush hair or tie ponytails. I'm never going to be the Mother of the Bride. I'm never going to get to pretend dress up like princesses. I'm never going to be able to dance like a loon to a tune on the radio with a daughter who knows exactly why you feel moved to do that. I'm never going to go shopping with a child of mine who actually wants to browse rather than shop with purpose. I'm never going to share recipes or perve George Cloony or talk about women's issues with a child of mine (unless they go seriously off the rails). I'll never get to know what it's like to be the mother in a mother/daughter relationship, however good or bad it may be. I'm never going to experience what my mother experienced. I'm never going to see my husband dance with a daughter and be amazed that he could create a girl child that he's besotted with. I'll never be able to watch that daughter dancing with her dad and know the delight she feels. I'll never truly know what my children are going through because I've never been in their shoes.

I am a mum of boys. And while they may bring a million joys, they will never be girls. And sometimes, just sometimes, I need to have a quiet cry about it.

Today we don't give thanks for...

As you may have gathered by now, I find it quite hard to get through the day without having a moan about something. I mean being cheery all the time is frightfully dull. Where's the drama? The angst? The fun of making a mountain out of a mole hill?

So despite having a fairly pleasant day, I think it's worth noting certain things that I'm not thankful for (in contrast to my happier list from this morning):

Cucumber. It's not that I'm anti cucumber. In fact it is a staple vegetable source in our house despite having almost zero nutritional value. By virtue of the fact that it's green, I can tick the healthy meal box for my children when I give it to them. However, for a fairly innocuous vegetable, cucumber has an insidious way of making other food it's nestled against taste nasty. This means that when I pick at my children's leftover pizza that was served with the obligatory cucumber, it tastes rubbish. Cucumber also makes lunchboxes smell, which makes cleaning out the lunchboxes a less than pleasant task.

Hidden costs on cheap airlines. I booked some flights to Ireland today so that I can go visit my sister during half term. I booked on BMIBaby which charged £2 for a flight one way and £10 for the return. Bargain I thought. However, taxes are then added. Fair enough, that's the government's way of saving the planet (or lining their pockets) so I accept it. So they give you the total. It's reasonable.

Then as you haul your credit card out ready to pay, they say: How many bags would you like to take with you? Now first of all, how the hell should I know how many bags I'm likely to be taking?? It's weeks away. But then I see that they charge you per bag. I consider going bag free to spite the system but realise that my children won't enjoy wearing several changes of clothes at once and our concealed toothbrushes might be taken for weapons. So I add two bags (optimistic packing there). That's another £20.

Then I get to choose my seat. How nice I think. Only, I have to pay £6 per seat to book the seat. 'Don't risk it' the site advises. I think, sod it. We'll take our chances. But then think a little more and realise that I'll be travelling on my own with two under 5s on a late night flight. I cannot risk the off chance that the flight is full and I have to leave a three year old sitting next to a complete stranger (although the idea does have some appeal I must admit). So I fork out for that. Again. Then they have the cheek to add insurance to our bill and make it very, very tricky to remove it. But I do. And so my once cheap flight is now not so cheap after all. Personally, I would prefer to get a higher price and know that I'm not going to be charged for another thing. Oh, and that they throw in complimentary nannies onboard.

Leftovers. Because my husband is barely ever here, I've found it quite hard to work our way through a normal family size meal. Son 1 is having main meals at school so doesn't want a lot in the evening. Son 2 is going through a 'I'm 3 and so I'm going to be dismissive of just about anything you serve me' phase. Which leaves the eating of the lovingly prepared home cooked meal up to me. And despite my ability to put away quite a bit of food, there're still leftovers. And rather unsuprisingly, my children don't want the leftovers of the thing they didn't want the day before. So I eat them. And then I eat some more of them the next day. I've now had chicken pie for 3 meals and quite frankly will gag at the site of puff pastry if it comes into view.

Wrinkles and grey hair. Because they're just not fair. What's even more not fair, is that both of these evil things make men look better. Distinguished. But on women, they just plain suck.

Duplo. Because there are just so many bits to pick up at the end of the day.

Which is what I now need to go do. Toodle pip. Moan over.

Monday 22 September 2008

Today we give thanks for...

This week my son was given a homework assignment. He had to cut pictures out of magazines and stick them onto some paper to make a new picture using the theme 'Thank you for...'. What that meant was that I was given a homework assignment. I refused to do the cutting and sticking, but tried to give my son some guidance as far as the theme went.

I asked him what he was thankful for. He said: 'Nothing'. So I explained what thankful meant and gave him a few examples like his family, his home, the food he eats, his friends etc. I asked him whether he'd like to make a picture of any of those things. He said: 'No'. I asked if there was anything in the whole world he could think of that he was thankful for. He thought long and hard and decided on two things: toys and chocolate buttons.

So instead of a lovely sentimental picture, the type that makes you go 'Aww, let's put that in his keepsake box', we got a collage of toys cut out of last year's Christmas gift guides with an empty packet of chocolate buttons stuck on for 3D effect. I hope that the teacher will appreciate my hands off parenting attitude in letting him be entirely materialistic in his thanks-giving.

But the homework project got me thinking about things I am thankful for. Here's my list of just a few things I'm thankful for this week (luckily I don't have to cut and paste pictures to illustrate it):

I'm thankful that I misread the homework assignment due date and had it finished almost a week before it was due so that I can now sit back in smug mum fashion while the other mothers scurry about trying to convince their 4 year olds that they're thankful for something other than E-numbers and Cbeebies.

I'm thankful that our Romanian cleaner has at last returned from her long trip home. The house is clean again. Clean and sparkly and shiny and fresh smelling and dust bunnies no longer trip you up.

I'm thankful that I live in the internet age where with a few clicks of the mouse in the evening, I get a week's worth of groceries delivered into my kitchen by the lovely Ocado man the next morning.

I'm thankful that I was intelligent enough to take out insurance on my mobile phone without even realising that I'd done so. Because with two small children who like to hide things behind radiators and down toilets, it was only a matter of time before I needed to get a new one. I'm less thankful for the fact that I now have to plug in everybody's numbers again and figure out how to get the email function to work.

I'm thankful I don't have a TV crew following my every move ala The Family programme on the telly because I wouldn't come off at all well. Particularly when I'm dealing with my thousandth tantrum of the day (usually around bathtime) and my unruffled-mother exterior develops some gaping holes.

I'm thankful that typing was included as one of the subjects in my PR diploma so that I can type without looking at my fingers or bash away violently with only two fingers as per my husband's method.

I'm thankful that I've been given a get out of jail free pass for the first weekend in October in which I get to go to a spa with a girl friend, read trash magazines and talk shite. And drink wine. All with no children in tow.

I'm thankful that the pre-school committee meeting was only and hour and a half long on Tuesday evening.

I'm thankful for coffee. And cake.

I'm thankful that we managed to find something to take to show & tell today for the theme 'Something natural'. I'm even more thankful that I managed to convince my son that his remote controlled plastic, roaring dinosaur wasn't particularly natural and that he might do better to take some walnuts from the garden.

I'm thankful to our friend who went to South Africa last week and brought me biltong back as a treat! I'm less thankful that I've eaten the entire bag and now feel quite sick.

I'm thankful that this morning I got to have a shower, get dressed, blow dry my hair and put make up on (shock!) entirely on my own without having to break up fights, stop my mascara from being used as a paint brush or explain that my hairdryer is not a semi-automatic weapon.

I'm thankful that a friend offered to take son 2 to pre-school today giving me time to blog for the first time this week.

Sunday 21 September 2008

I'm pigged out.

I feel fat. None of my trousers seem to fit me anymore. I blame the tumble dryer. The gallons of wine and eating all the kids' leftovers has nothing to do with it. But I think I'm going to have to finally take the wrapper off my fitness video and watch it. That should make me feel exhausted. Perhaps by next week I'll actually try to copy what they do.

I've actually just returned from the Royal Berkshire Show and I think I saw the solution to my fitness issue. It is a Powerstep Plus (or something that sounds like that) and basically you just stand there, it vibrates and it supposedly tones you up and makes you look goddess-like without you having to break a sweat or spend too long doing it. Sounds marvellous. Except for the £1000 price tag. That bit was less marvellous. But I am tempted. I can just see me standing on it vibrating away while watching Desperate Housewives on TV, turning ever more svelte with every passing TV show. Maybe Father Christmas can bring me one?

Anway, part of the reason I feel fat is because of the enormous hog roast roll I had to eat at the Show, along with quite a bit of crackling. Having gorged myself on roasted pig, we then went over the livestock area and viewed the pigs in the flesh. Looking at the size of them, I feel they would do well to get onto a Powerstep Plus. But then again, they wouldn't be able to make the lovely crackling. We also saw many sheep all being paraded around by very young children dressed up like butchers in white coats and ridiculous hats. I think they were farmers-in-waiting. They weren't attractive. Or glamorous. You could just tell that their future was spelled out for them and it wasn't going to involve anything to do London Fashion Week ever.

I attempted to look at the food halls and craft stalls. My children wanted to go on the army assault course repeatedly or sit on tractors. My husband wanted to lust at some 4x4 car porn. The children were irritable. They wanted a ride on the merry-go-round, then didn't. They wanted to win a prize at the Hook a Duck stall, and did, but then changed their minds about a million times and ended up with an inflatable dolphin on a blow up hammer and a furry worm on a stick. They decided the best thing for these lovely prizes was to poke them at passers-by, drag them on the ground and get them trapped under the buggy wheels. I was delighted when the inflatable dolphin died a deflating type death. They wanted an ice cream. NOW. They didn't want hog roast rolls. They wanted sausages that might have come from a pig but probably didn't and were more fake than Jordan's chest.

We admired the combine harvesters and the feeding pens that were for sale. I imagine the farmers getting quite hot under the collar looking at some of this fine merchandise 'Ooh-ar, look at the thresher on tha one darlin.' We watched some soldiers dressed in their finery prance around on horses to the strains of Hope and Glory. One of the horses obviously felt the whole thing was way beneath him as he refused to do what he was supposed to do making his rider feel like a bit of a twit.

And then when the children were becoming quite unpleasant to be with, we went home. And all we had to show for our endeavours was a deflated dolphin, a furry (now quite frayed) worm on a stick, indigestion and a large luminous pink plastic washing basket (because our old one broke).

I feel exhausted and fat. I think I will have a soak in the tub to wash off the livestock grime and contemplate changing my name to Moby Dick.

Thursday 18 September 2008

Could stressed mothers be a renewable energy source?

I would like to conduct a scientific experiment. I would like all mothers to wear heart and blood pressure monitors for a day. I would like these mothers to do what they do every single day. Then I'd like to view the results.

I predict that between the hours of 8 and 9am, heart rates will universally be racing and blood pressures will be through the roof as they attempt to get school children and themselves out of the house on time. Collectively, the extra energy generated by these racing hearts and soaring BPs would be enough to power Wales through winter. I also predict that between 5pm and 7pm the same thing would occur, slightly less intense but prolonged over a greater length of time. Again, the power surge would see the Blackpool lights lit year round.

My final prediction is that around 7 to 8pm, there will be a collective sigh, a group slurp of wine and a massive spike in endorphins as mothers around the country collapse in a small heaps on their respective sofas.

If there was some way to harness these power surges and indeed capture the expelled breath from all the sighs at the end of the day, I'm sure we'd overcome the need to build wind turbines. We could bid farewell to our need for oil. Our economy could be saved. All would be well.

To ensure that their energy source remained secure or even increased, the government (and industry) could do things like dig up more roads making it more difficult to do the school run, package food items in containers that are even more impossible to open, cancel cbeebies and push the price of wine up. Luckily, the MPs making these decisions (mostly male) probably assume that mothers do little more than watch trash telly and shop for groceries and barely have a thing to get worked up about, so don't realise the potential replacement oilfield they have sitting on their doorstep. Thank God for that. For now Cbeebies is safe. Long may it last.

Note to self: research stress absorption machines and how they can connect to the power grid. Call Patent Office.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

It was all going extremely very well.

I was having such a good day. Seriously. I could almost imagine my husband calling me from whichever European country he is in today and me telling him what a glorious day I'd had. I'd be positive, without a single moan. He'd realise what a lovely wife he has and return home laden with Parisian pastries.

But I'm not sure I can now. Things went awry late afternoon....(insert twinkly going back in time music here with cloudy edges around your peripheral vision - ala Balamory)

I started out triumphantly. Not only did I manage to make a cottage pie before 7am in a bid to get a headstart on dinner, I also managed to clean the kitchen, do laundry, catch up on email and get the children fed, dressed and out the house all without raising my voice once.

Then I was brave enough to ask someone to fetch son 2 from pre-school so that I could attend son 1's school poetry event. That person kindly agreed and I was filled with a warm feeling that I am at last getting to REALLY know people here. Know them well enough to do me a favour. I actually felt deeply, seriously part of a community. In my advancing years, this is something that is becoming increasingly important to me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I grew up in a small village where you knew everybody's names (including all children and dogs) and everybody's business. You couldn't go for a walk along the towpath without stopping for a chat and very often a quiet beer (obviously as a child I wasn't the one drinking the beer. I was the one fetching it.) I think I'm trying to recreate that, only now I'd like to be the one drinking the beer.

I had a triumphant day at work where I think I might finally be on the cusp of doing some PR with a celebrity. It's a heady experience for me. I don't really do celebrities. I don't read Heat magazine (sorry Katyboo) and I'm not particularly clued up on who's gained a pound or dropped twins and is back in a size 0. So this is all very new and exciting. I also managed to speak to a solicitor who will help me get some proper, grown up contracts in place and he won't charge me the earth to do it. I got sent my business plan from Business Link and it all looks do-able if a little heavy on red tape. I was super proactive on almost everything in fact and came away feeling as though several of my to do things are now ticked. Always satisfying.

I then scuttled off to watch the poetry thingy at the school. I hid behind the other parents so my son couldn't see me and melt into tears. He joined in very well wearing a cardboard hat that I think was meant to be bear ears as they had to recite a poem about honey. It was very sweet and it made me feel all boingy.

I then got to have a cup of tea with the lovely lady who fetched son 2, which just helped rekindle my feelings of community love. And we all traipsed home to have a story and a box of smarties - because I was feeling benevolent.

Next up I did something I've been meaning to do for months. I called the tumble dryer company to let them know that although our machine tumbled, it didn't dry. The girl on the phone was about as clueless about tumble dryers as I am but she suggested that maybe I check the lint filter. I told her I cleared it after every cycle. But I did say that I didn't think it fitted in the slot very well. She suggested I might want to check it. I plunged my hands into the murky depths of the tumble dryer lint slot and discovered to my horror, a lifetime supply of lint that had squeezed through the ill-fitting lint liner. I told the lady I'd call her back. I then got a wooden spoon and spent several satisfying minutes fishing lint out and at last pulled out an inch size wooden block, which was the cause of the lint thingy not fitting. I felt like a genius (it really doesn't take much) knowing that I had solved a niggling problem and saved myself lots of money in the process.

By this point I was positively radiating good thoughts. However, it all came crashing down around us when son 2 refused to eat the cottage pie because it was 'gusting' and son 1 refused to eat the cottage pie because 'he hates it.' This resulted in quite a lot of bad behaviour - including my own in which I had to prove that it wasn't disgusting and ate enough for three people.

We moved up to the bath and son 1 decided it was appropriate to spit his toothpaste bubbles in his brother's eye. This was not a game. It was malicious. He was duly dealt with by being removed from the bath and plonked in his room. This was his cue to turn on the booster volume knob and let loose his lungs. Just when we thought it couldn't get worse, we discovered a small pile of half chewed olives that son 1 had left lying on son 2's bed. When I asked son 1 to pick them up and put them in the bin, you would have thought that I was actually asking him to fish maggots from the recycling bin and eat them.

And so the screaming continued. And little by little my shiny, happy glow got yelled out. Worst of all, I vowed and promised, promised and swore that tonight I would absolutely, definitely not be having a glass of wine. Whose dumb idea was that anyway? Not sure whether to be resolute and feel virtuous in the morning or simply say, sod it. I think I know which one I'm plumping for.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

What happens when you go to jail and other interesting conversations

I think I might start to enjoy my children soon. They're becoming all grown up and can have actual conversations that are relatively interesting. What's more, they make me feel omnipotent, as though I am the world's most intelligent human being because I can answer things like: what happens when you go to jail?

Before you get excited, no I don't have first hand experience of prison, but son 1's godfather is a prison officer so I feel very well informed. I told them that you sit in a small room called a cell that has big bars on it so you can't get out. But you are allowed out for some meals and some fresh air in the yard where you might do some exercises (think I've watched a few too many prison flicks). You could have heard a pin drop such was the gobsmacked silence from the two of them for about 5 seconds as they took it in. Then a barrage of questions unfolded.

How do they get locked in? A big key
How do they get out? Same big key
Are they allowed breakfast? If they're good
Do they stay in prison forever? Not with today's current overcrowding situation
Why do you go to prison? Because you do something bad
Like what? Sigh. Like stealing.
Or killing someone? Yes.
How do they kill someone? Let's not talk about that now just before bedtime.
Can they get tools and escape from prison? Well yes occasionally, but then your godfather (codename: Captain Haddock) would catch them.

Silence. Does Captain Haddock really catch prisoners? Yes. Sort of.
Wow. Stunned silence. Captain Haddock expect many, many questions next time you come to visit.

All of this came about as a result of a reading a book called Icky Doo Dah and the Royal Bling or something. And Icky Doo Dah wasn't a particularly nice chap who stole some jewels and then tried to blame it on a dog, cat and fish. This in itself led to a very interesting conversation about how fish couldn't really steal jewels because they can't really walk. Son 1 believes they can. I proceeded to explain how gills worked, once again proving my incredible awe-inspiring knowledge.

I do believe that my children now think they have the cleverest mum on the planet. I used to think that when I was little. Not only could my mum sew and cook and do DIY, she knew the answers to everything. I now question whether she truly did know the answers to everything (sorry mom) - but at least she could sew and do DIY which a lot more than I can do.

I hope that my children's belief in my super wisdom lasts for some time but I fear that they might become sceptical quite soon, far too soon for my liking. But at least for now we can have good conversations - where they can ask reasonable questions and I can give whatever answers I like and everyone leaves happy. Fabulous.

Monday 15 September 2008

Baking under the influence

WHOOOSH. KERFLUMP! That is the sound of me shooting out of the birthday party organising flume and landing in a crumpled ball of lethargy. I have survived. And can now joyously forget about children's parties until next February. Hoorah.

It all went remarkably fine. Well except for the birthday boy getting so uptight at the prospect of the happy birthday song being sung to him that he came out in a blotchy rash all over his face (or maybe that was just from excessive e-numbers?) I'm not sure why my children hate the birthday song as much as they do. I can't blame them. It's a fairly doleful, cheerless dirge. In fact I think the composer of the song might have been Eyeore.

But besides that, it went swimmingly. The pirates made their pizzas. My kitchen remained remarkably red sauce free, although there is a gentle dusting of flour on the surface of most of the kitchen appliances. My pirate stickers are all untouched as none of the small boys were interested in decorating their pizza boxes. Why would you when you could charge around naked hitting each other with balloons instead? The presents were ripped open and muddled up so I have no hope of ever knowing who gave us what. Most of the presents have already lost most of their component parts and we're left with the boxes, which is really all they're interested in anyway.

So all in all, an absolutly exhausting past time, but a success nonetheless. However, there were two small baking incidences that are worth reporting. On Friday night (i.e. birthday party eve) I had finished vaccuming the floors, wrapping pass the parcels, blowing balloons, making pizza boxes and a myriad of other tasks, I thought I'd better knuckle down to make some fairy cakes. However, I had by this time had some wine. Quite a lot in fact.

I opened my baking bible (Nigella's Domestic Goddess) and turned to the fairy cake page, only to find that I'd obviously dropped a lot of icing sugar or cake batter onto the page at some prior baking extravaganza and most of the fairy cake recipe had been obliterated. So I had to resort to a different recipe book. Sob.

I took out my 'How to cook anything' American book as it does what it says on the tin and tells you how to cook anything, including fairy cakes. Except that as this is an American book, a single recipe won't make the standard 12 fairy cakes as a UK recipe will. No, my friends. American recipes will make enough fairy cakes for all the children in my son's school... and their extended families. So I had to at least halve it. I was going to divide by three but that was way beyond my mental abilities after 3 glasses of wine. So I began.

Except that I was foiled at the first hurdle as it called for a stick of butter (or rather helpfully, 8 tablespoons). Now having lived in America, I know they very kindly sell their butter in sticks. They don't do that here. And I didn't quite see how I could scoop 8 tablespoons of hard butter out of a lump and I didn't feel like sticking the whole block in the microwave.

So I googled 'stick of butter' (thank god for google) and came up with the answer. Which was 4 oz. Which I then had to divide. At which point I got a bit lost and guessed. I think I then kept switching between the full and the halved recipe until at last I got the bit calling for two eggs (i.e. one) which had to be separated. I did so and mentally patted myself on the back for not getting yolk into the white and vice versa in my less than sober state. It then said to beat the eggwhites until they reach soft peak stage. That's all well and good if you have more than one egg white. But my big beater just wouldn't work on one egg. And besides, it was already dirty and I wasn't in the mood to wash it.

So I opted to use my handheld blender. I ended up with egg on my face (literally). What remained of the egg white never managed to reach anything remotely close to soft peak stage. it reach frothy on the top with runny underneath, vaguely reminiscent of sperm. I gave up and dumped the lot in the cake mix and said sod it.

Despite that, they rose and tasted fine. I'm not sure how. But they did. There's something to be said for drunk baking (although one does find the kitchen in a bit of a mess the next day).

Having mastered baking under the influence of alcohol, this morning I thought I'd have a go at baking under the influence of a ticking clock. I was meant to bake a cake for my son to take to pre-school today but quite frankly, could not be arsed. So this morning, he asked where his cake was with big doleful eyes. At which point my heart broke and I said: It's coming right up.

So having gotten up at the crack of sparrow fart to open presents, I then had to feed the children, do all the normal before school pandemonium and bake a cake, which I did at warp speed. However, I hadn't quite factored in enough time for the cake to cool. I left it cooling while we sprinted up the road to deposit son 1 at school. I had exactly five minutes once back home to turn two semi warm cakes into something that my son would be proud of. He had requested pink icing, so I liberally smeared pink butter cream frosting between two cakes and smeared even more on the top and sides. Son 2 and I took turns pelting it with smarties and that was that. Perfection. For five seconds.

Then the heat from the cakes began to melt the butter cream and the top cake oozed away from its friend below. Tough, we were late. We set off for pre-school, me driving at 30 miles per hour the whole way. I never realised how many hills there were between our house and the pre-school because everytime we went up one or down one, the cakes would slide ominously apart, threatening to decorate the upholstery with pink frosting.

We got there. The cake looked like a pink, melting leaning tower of pisa, with many fingerprints on one side where I'd valiantly tried to slide the two pieces back together. The staff gave it some sideways glances. But I didn't care. Son 2 thought it was magnificent.

I then raced home, packed in a full day's work in 4 hours, fetched children and the remainder of the cake which by late afternoon had solidfied nicely, and had more small boys around to play in the afternoon to help eat the rest of the cake. Everyone is now in bed. I have a lot of cake washing up stuff to do downstairs. But I have made it through to the other side of the birthday. I'm not sure if I feel more exhausted now, or three years ago having just given birth.

Only how many more years of birthday parties to go???

Thursday 11 September 2008

If God was a parent today...

Just when you think life can't get much tougher, your 4.5 year old asks you (as you're trying to fill the car with petrol): 'Mummy, did God make the whole earth and why did he do it?' Which then led to: 'How did God make earth and who is God?' All good questions my son, all good. However, I don't have the mental strength right now to answer them.

So I said: 'Yes God made the whole earth. He did it because it was just dark before and he thought it would be better to have something else to look at. First he made light and dark and then land and seas and then animals and plants and people (am sure I got the order jumbled up somewhere along the way but it's been a while since I was in Sunday school). And finally, who is God? That's a difficult thing to answer. He's different things to different people.'

That wasn't good enough. 'Well how come God could make the earth?' he asked. 'Because he is God and he has the power to do so,' I explained, not being a complete believer myself but having christened our children felt a duty to say something vaguely appropriate, all the while cursing in a non-religious way under my breath at the cost of diesel. He kept quiet for a bit and then said: 'So he's like a Power Ranger.' 'Yes, almost certainly that's what God is like,' I said, anything for a quiet life.

On the way home, looking out of the window he asked: 'Does God make cars?' And then before I could answer, he said: 'Oh no, I forgot, factories make cars.' End of discussion. Thank God for that.

I think this new found fascination has come from having Religious Instruction at school and indeed tomorrow they'll be visiting the church, no doubt dispelling my son's belief that God is a power ranger.

I've recently had to read him his children's Bible which he is fascinated with, particularly the story of Jonah and the Whale. He especially likes the bit where Jonah gets swallowed by the whale but is disappointed that the picture doesn't actually show him inside the whale as he wants to know what the inside of a whale would look like. Don't we all. And it's occured to me, during the course of reading this Bible, that if God were a parent (I guess if you believe the Bible he is) then he would definitely go well beyond the supernanny/naughty step school of parenting. I'm thinking he might actually have leanings towards corporal punishment. I'm not convinced the earth mothering types of today would approve of his parenting style to be honest.

I mean the people of earth weren't being well behaved - probably not eating their vegetables or hitting their brother etc - so God decided to drown all of them by sending a big flood. Well except for Noah of course because he was very good (shared his toys nicely perhaps?). Now doesn't that seem a little harsh? What about just counting to three or giving them a time out? And let's not forget about Jonah who refused to do what God asked him to, and as a result ended up getting swallowed by a whale until he begged for forgiveness. Surely even Gina Ford would find that a bit harsh (Small print: this is a joke and in no way meant to be slanderous to the aforementioned person. Please don't sue me).

I keep trying to make the point to my children, that perhaps they should do what their mother asks them to because bad things happen when you don't listen. But it doesn't seem to work. I think they secretly hope that they will be swallowed by a whale so that they can finally see what it looks like on the inside. Which might explain why they never do as they're told.

Wednesday 10 September 2008


I should at this very moment be writing my new plan that will see my home office turn into a global PR empire. I should be coming up with extensive action plans and to do lists. It's not like I even have to do the stuff on the to do lists, I just need to write them. But when you are very, very tired, your brain doesn't work. And I don't think writing a business plan with a tired brain is going to result in a very effective business. Certainly not one that is going to take over the PR world in a masterful feat of world domination type of way.

I am tired because my husband is away. Again. And I'm experiencing my first full week of both children going to school/pre-school. This has meant a) no Wednesday off like I normally have b) I have to make dinner every night because the nursey isn't feeding them anymore c) I have to make packed lunches every day d) I seem to have to wash and dry uniforms hourly and e) I have to pack gym bags, book bags, spare pants in case of pee accident bags, sign homework books, ensure show and tell stuff is done and sign a million forms. Each little thing takes up a few of my brain cells, and believe me, given the amount of wine I have drunk in my 35 years, there aren't many of the fellows left. This means the remaining brain cells have to work twice as hard, hence the tired brain syndrome that I seem to be experiencing.

And then there's the pirate pizza party looming on the horizon that needs organising. Today I made the foolish mistake of taking both boys directly from school to Tesco's to buy party supplies. A rookie mistake and one I shouldn't have made but I did (mainly because I just don't have another chance to do it). So I had to deal with the consequences of my 4.5 year old not being able to choose the prize for the pass the parcel game (because he wanted something large and very expensive and I wanted a £2 Mr Men pirate book). And so he unleashed his fine set of lungs upon the poor Tesco shoppers. It's amazing how a small person's voice can reverberate off the ceilings of such a vast space. He was so loud that people literally flocked from across the store in the hope of seeing something incredibly exciting, like someone losing an arm in a wood chipper. But all they saw was one small, tired boy exceptionally unhappy with his lot in life, and they left tutting about how he needs a good smack and 'if only parents could control their children' etc. Which is always nice and soothing to one's stress levels.

Tomorrow I get to do all of the above mentioned bag packing and brief child 1 on what he needs to do for show and tell (apparently it's a lot of showing and not much telling). Then I get to launch a client, write the business plan I should be doing now, all my regular day to day work, then fetch kids, take them to swimming lessons, feed them, and then spend my evening inflating a large plastic pirate ship which is going to become a ball pool. I've had to do this because it's guaranteed to rain on Saturday which means I can't send the kids out onto the trampoline to bounce off the e-numbers from the party sweets, and our lawn is so long we'd definitely lose children, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but their parents might complain.

And Friday isn't shaping up to be much easier as I have to (after work) make pizza dough, fairy cakes, prepare pizza toppings, prepare fairy cake toppings including tiny little pirate sails on cocktail sticks, blow up balloons, vacuum the gunge on the downstairs floors, wrap the pass the parcel, string up pirate bunting, strategically position chairs around our kitchen island to accomodate 8 mini pizza chefs dressed as pirates, and drink several vats of wine.

So this is why I'm tired. You see I don't make it up. I really do have quite a lot to do. And one thing I shouldn't be doing is whittering on here when I have a billion other more enterprising things to do. But this is where I brain dump. It's my mental spa. A mini brain massage before carrying on....But my de-stress time is over. Time to crack on.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

The Business Link Man is coming. I'm a bit twitchy

I have a vast amount of work to do but I can't settle down and do it. That's because I have a man from Business Link coming to see me in about 15 minutes time. Since setting up my little business 2 years ago, I've yet to get any real expert advice so I'm a little nervous in case the man falls off his chair laughing at me when I start describing the way I work. I think they're trained not to do that. Or at least I hope they are, even if inside they are tutting and clucking at the idiot small business owners they have to meet.

I've written a list of all the things I want to ask him, but I fear that the allocated hour won't get us through more than the top 3 items. I've also printed off my business plan, such as it is, and I've vaccuumed the downstairs bit of the house, put away the toys and cleaned the kitchen in the hope that it projects a professional 'office' environment. Ordinarily I would take him into our drawing room - which is the smart grown up room that is never used - but it is currently filled with piles of clothes destined for a women's refuge shelter and eBay sales. Plus there's the start of a 1000 piece puzzle scattered on the coffee table and which is likely to stay that way until the children leave home. I won't show him my study which looks as though the taliban have been carrying out bomb detonation training classes in it.

I've put some lipstick on and changed out of my slippers and into real shoes. I'm all twitchy. I keep telling myself that this isn't a test. It's not the taxman. He's just a nice government-funded expert to help me grow my business. Yet my heart is racing. I'm not sure what I'm more afraid of. Him telling me that I've been doing everything wrong. Or him telling me that I've been doing everything right and now here's another million things to do. Because I'm just not sure when I'm going to be able to do them. Ordinarily I would say between 2 and 3am, but son 2 seems to have taken that slot with his nightly birthday cake nightmares. Every night he wakes up in a vile temper, flinging his moo moo cow across the room and shouting that I've made the wrong birthday cake. Yesterday I was told that it had to be a dinosaur cake, despite it being a pirate party. I don't know how to make a dinosaur cake. However, I could stick the plastic dino toys into some buttercream icing atop a fairy cake. I wonder if that will cut it?

Sorry, I'm wibbling. Just nervous. Better get off blog and mentally prepare. Practice my birth breathing. Who would have thought it would come in handy so often?

Monday 8 September 2008

A frightfully successful couple of days, what.

This cartoon shall be explained in the last paragraph.
How did it get to be Monday evening already? Not that I'm complaining as it means a) the children are in bed and b) it's nearly Tuesday. Not that I had a bad Monday. In fact, it was quite exciting as my shiny new Organised Mum Life Book Planner thingy arrived. I plan on spending my evening morphing into super geek girl (which involves a fetching cape thrown over elasticated pants) and writing in super neat writing everything that I have to do.

I've collated the several thousand newsletters from schools and invitations and doctors appointment cards and address books and the Sunsail brochure (just in case I need to add their holiday hotline number to my emergency contacts) and enter each item with great dedication so that I am the very picture of Organised Mum. In fact the Organised Mum people might want to hire me to be their new model as few will be able to compare in organisedness.
What's more, I am positively glowing in domestic goddess-ability as I whipped up a triumphant batch of courgette chutney last night using up the last of our triffid-like vegetables and used our home grown apples to make my children apple crumble for their pudding (it was pearls before swine as one wouldn't eat the fruit and would rather have had an ice cream in a cone and the other didn't like the crunchy bits because they stuck in his teeth - not to mention that he had a sore bum bum that was putting him off his dinner).

I still however, have about 1000 apples and pears to deploy in a cooking crusade but they can loiter on the kitchen counter and indeed on their trees for a while longer.

I've had a fairly successful work day, remembered to take a friend's childs birthday present to pre-school, found someone to mow our lawn and had the world's strangest chat with a mental health charity from whom I made the grave mistake of ordering some pirate aprons from.

You see I need the aprons for son 2s birthday party this weekend. And despite scouring the interweb could find no pirate aprons that wouldn't cause me to remortgage the house, except these. So I ordered them last week. Today I received a note saying thank you for your order. We're processing it and you can expect it in 10 days. The party is this Saturday.

So I wrote back explaining that I would be having 8 three year olds dressed as pirates in my kitchen ready to make pizzas but not without their pirate aprons. So a very charming chap named David gave me a call. He congratulated me on being the first person EVER to buy anything off their website, which is why they were caught a bit off guard, not realising they might actually need the products that they sell. I asked if that qualified me for something complimentary, forgetting that I was talking to a mental health charity. So he chuckled and said, 'erm, yes we might be able to rustle something up.' I do hope it's not a mental health problem as I have enough of those already.

Anyway, David said that he was terribly sorry but they only had enough pirate fabric for four aprons and could he send me 4 with lighthouses on instead. Now what, pray tell, are you supposed to do in this situation? Do you say, 'Abso-bloody-lutely not. I paid for 8 pirate aprons and the theme of the party is pirates and without the pirate aprons the whole thing will just fall apart as all the little beasties argue about who's going to get the pirate one vs the WI inpired lighthouse ones.' Or do you think, 'These kind people are trying to raise funds for people who don't have a lift going all the way to the top and perhaps I should just accept it and go.' So I reluctantly agreed to support the mentally ill and accept the lighthouse aprons, knowing full well that I would be the person breaking up fights come Saturday morning. In fact, by donating money to the charity, I'm probably just investing in my future as my sanity is on the brink anyway.

Then hallelujah! David rang back. They'd manage to find some more fabric 'stashed away at the back'. The back of what, I wondered? So the good people of the charity will be whipping up another 4 pirate aprons and that he would personally endeavour to get them to me before the big day, because he wouldn't want me to have a riot on my hands. Problem solved.
So all in all, a fairly successful day. And indeed, we had a lovely weekend too. We got to go to the theatre on Friday night which was both entertaining and allowed me to feel cultured, not a feeling I have very often. And I got to guzzle gins and tonics before the show and during interval.

On Saturday we attended a friend's 40th. It was meant to be a summery party in the gardens of a rambling manor house. All of it was true except for the summery part. So instead we marched in heavy downpours across Salisbury plain, which was very pleasant, but not particularly good for my hairdo that evening. We had a fabulous, if somewhat surreal, evening (or maybe it was just the wine that made it all a bit blurry and strange around the edges). All the men were asked to make a contribution to the entertainment by regaling us with tales, poems, anecdotes about the birthday boy. This varied from limericks, piano playing, to the Jabberwock poem, to singing ABBA songs. It was all very 1890s and I expected at any moment for the ladies to retire to play a game of whist while the gents had whiskey and cigars. What's more, as a foreigner, I found the frightfully proper English accents almost comical. I felt sure that I was on a black adder set. I found myself speaking as though I had several large hot potatoes in my mouth, which when combined with a South African twang is probably a little odd.
However, the best part (besides the tremdendous quiche starter and fabulous fillet of beef and gallons of wine), was the cartoon place settings created for each person. The host and hostess spent hours trying to find cartoons that they felt most accurately reflected each guest. Mine is above (it would be below except for some reason I am unable to put pictures on my blog anywhere except at the top). I believe that I have never seen anything that quite so accurately sums up my life. And the lady in it even looks like me (albeit it a rather more glamorous and skinny version of me).

Friday 5 September 2008

When discipline de-rails

I'm in a bit of quandary. I have played the discipline card but made a fatal flaw. I didn't look at my watch before doing so. Now I'm stuck as to what to do next.

You see the beastie boys were being beasties. Very, very beastly beasties. They decided that dinner was not something to be eaten. Rather it's something that can be flung across the table, pushed into each others faces and used as a new stenciling technique for the walls (chippolatas in onion gravy make a very fetching lengthways pattern on cream walls in case you're looking for eco-friendly design techniques). They also decided that poking each other with forks was a great game. As was ignoring their mother. As was pretend falling off their chairs repeatedly. As was pouring cups of water over each others heads. All gaily woven together with much screaming, punching, kicking and flailing of limbs.

I gave many warnings. Until finally I did what no parent should ever do and said: 'That is your last warning'. Which is an immediate cue that they should ignore it. Which means you as parent can either a) look like a spineless fool to be walked all over or b) follow through. I went for the Box B.

I removed their still full plates of food (except for the broccoli that had been sent into orbit and the sausages that had been used to decorate the walls) and instructed them that dinner was over and that they were to head straight upstairs for bath and bedtime. This of course prompted all sorts of howls about how they were still starving and they won't mess around and that they didn't want a bath. Having heard it all before, I frogmarched them upstairs. Actually I had to carry child number 1 who isn't an insignificant size, while he clung onto the bannistser railings, so that I had to pry his fingers off with every step we took.

So I finally got them in the bath and then realised that it's actually only 5.30 and probably a bit early for bed. I've said they're not having anymore food and that they can know what it feels like to go to bed with a hungry tummy so that next time they'll actually eat their food instead of painting with it. Of course saying this is like farting in a hurricane. It doesn't stand a chance of holding up. Their brains being the size of the peas they ignored at dinnertime, will have forgotten the entire incident by tomorrow morning. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that it will all be forgotten at 5.30 am when they wake up starving demanding breakfast.

I've also said that they're not going back downstairs to play and there's no TV. They've now been in the bath for a full 30 minutes and am sure they've shrivelled to miniature boy shaped prunes, but I'm not really too sure what else to do with them. They will certainly be having an early bedtime but it really is a little early to stick them in bed just yet.

This is the problem with being a parent. No-one tells you how to extricate yourself from sticky corners.

Anyway, I guess an early bedtime would be a good thing today because - alert the media - Mr and Mrs Homeofficemum will be going out. Yes folks, that's correct. It's a Friday night and we're actually heading out. Like normal people who have lives. We're going to the theatre. Actually I don't care much about what we're seeing, but the theatre does have a bar which is incentive enough. So the children need to be in bed and comatose by the time the sitter comes at 7.

I guess I'd better go extract them from the bath. Now, I just need to reach inside the part of me that is the grown up and forget all about the last hour of hell and put my smiley mummy face on. Deep breathe in, and deep breathe out...

Thursday 4 September 2008

Job role: Mother. Job spec: organisational skills. That's it.

Well the illustrious day finally arrived, overcast and chilly as is the nature of British weather. I thought I had been the epitome of Ms Organisation, so that I was going to be completely ready to roll this morning. However, last night as I began making the packed lunches for today so that it would be one less thing for me to think about, I noticed that the bread was 5 days past it's use by date. I was going to go with it regardless, but thought the feathery cobwebs of mould might be spotted by a teacher so changed my mind.

I sent husband out into the dark and rainy night to dig into our cavernous chest freezer that hums along quietly to itself in the garage, mostly ignored and often forgotten. I prayed that there might be a loaf of frozen bread loitering in its bowels. And indeed, praise be, there was. So that little crisis solved, I was convinced I was definitely, positively, absolutely ready.

My timings this morning would have made generals in the armed forces weep, such was their precision. I had everything accounted for down to the last minute. And that last minute was scheduled to be our photo taking minute. I turned on the camera and was greeted with the black screen of death sporting a cheery message of: change batteries. Oh joy. I had two small boys, both clean, relatively neat, not covered in strawberry jam despite having had it for breakfast, posing and saying cheese - and nada. So I had to try and charge the thing for just long enought to get me enough battery life to capture the big moment. By dragging out the final pees and ensuring everything was in place (trike at front gate - check, bag in car with lunchbox for pre-school - check, shopping list and wallet for post school drop off grocery dash - check) I managed to squeeze enough power into the camera to squeeze off a few shots.

Son 1 was remarkably calm about the whole going to school experience, neary a tantrum or rail-clinging episode in sight. Admittedly he wouldn't let go of my leg once inside the classroom and refused to write his name of the board but once he'd spotted a computer, he was off like the wannabe geek that he is, and that was that. No final tears from him or me. I was summarily dismissed.

Son 2 was practically horizontal about going to pre-school for a full day. Barely said goodbye before sauntering off to play with the trains.

And so it came to be that I had two children being educated while I got to visit Sainsburys in peace (we never ended up going yesterday). I even managed to fit in several hours of work and managed to pick both children up at their allotted times without any drama.

Feeling rather like the world's most perfect mother ever, I opened both of their bags and read the plethora of notices that spewed out. My feelings of omnipotence vanished fairly sharpish. There are at least 20 different dates between now and the end of October that I need to remember. Everything from PTA meetings to after school football to the harvest festival and coffee mornings. Plus I need to remember which days I've said son 1 will have school lunches and what day of the week he has to take something for show and tell, not to mention the weekly allotted themes. My brain feels as though its seeping gently out of my ears.

In the face of this mountain of random stuff to remember, I've succombed and ordered a Family Life Planner from Organised Mum because it does seem that it will be the only way I possibly manage all these school and pre-school requirements. Not to mention our ridiculously busy social life that seems to be going on between now and Christmas. And of course there are a few work diary items I probably need to record too. Although right about now, running a business seems like a breeze in comparison to keeping up with the school requirements. And this is day 1. Pray tell what the next 16 odd years are going to be like? Actually don't.

Anyway, I have laundry to fold, clothes to iron, lunch boxes to make and marrow chutney to get on the boil because I can think of no other way to get rid of the goddam things which just won't stop growing. But first I need to order some pirate aprons for son 2's third birthday party which is a spit and a fart away. I might wash it all down with some wine.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Boys will be boys

What is it about little boys that they have to be so aggressive, destructive and loud? Why do they have brains the size of teeny tiny peas that prevent them from remembering incidents that happened mere seconds before? Like bouncing on the bed and crashing their cheekbones into the headboard and then doing the same thing less than a minute later despite shrieking in agony. How is it that they are able to beat each other so hard that they draw blood/cause large contusions yet seem to blank the event immediately and are best friends again? And why are they incapable of saying anything at a normal volume level? Why must it be yelled, shrieked or roared?

Today is my last weekday with them before they head off to an eternity of school and pre-school. I should be savouring every last moment. I'm not. I'm counting down the hours till I can hand my children over to state-paid-for employees. This obviously makes me a hideously bad mother. But on the plus side, I am honest.

We spent the morning at our local toddler group, which both of my children are now far too old for. Luckily there were several other little boys also too old to justify being there and together they caused mayhem. The little girls played sweetly in the playhouse with the pretend cooker and fake food. The boys stood precariously on top of the slide, attempting to summon the God of Broken Arms, before diving down head first and knocking the children at the bottom of the slide over like a row of skittles. They drove the ride-on cars, pursposefully bashing over every other toy and constantly crashing into each other with whiplash-inducing speed. They threw toys and smashed train tracks. And throughout it all, they roared at ear-splitting volume.

I now face our final afternoon of freedom in which we're not bound by school times. And I'm at a complete and utter loss as to how to fill this momentous occasion. I feel a trip to Sainsbury's coming on, a) because it gets them out of the house that I attempted to clean at 7am this morning and which is teetering on the brink of becoming a pig sty again, b) we need food if only to have something to put in their mouths so that they can't make more noise and c) the cavernous interior of Sainsbury's can accommodate their ungodly racket more comfortably than our low ceilinged cottage can. But a shopping trip hardly seems appropriate on such an important day.

Perhaps I just need to unleash them onto a large field and let them run off the demons. However we pass the afternoon, I can honestly say that tomorrow cannot come soon enough. I must go as one of them has thrown a car at the other causing a retaliatory whack on the head with a large plastic space ship. There is a lot of wailing and they're no doubt covered in blood so should probably go break it up. Sigh

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Big school - destiny awaits

So in just two days time, child number 1 will be entering the world of formal education. He's starting Big School. It's going to be an emotional day for both of us. I was in tears just looking at him in his uniform, which I finally managed to convince him to try on and remarkably it all fit him (well fit in an everything-is-too-big-but-will-last-him-for-several-years kind of way).

My son isn't overly fond of trying new things. His trial sessions were fairly fraught. So I've been trying to gently ease him into the notion that very, very soon he'll be heading off to school from which there will be no escape for at least 14 years (poor sod). Obviously I haven't told him that part. I think he thinks Big School = a fun day out, a once off, like going to Legoland. I fear that the novelty of it all might wear off after day two when he realises that he can't just stay at home (I'm not cut out for home schooling I'm afraid) and that he does have to wear the uniform every single day.

So in my bid to make school seem lovely, which it will be, we've done things like:
  • a pretend walk to school with him leading the way and being allowed to scornfully tell his younger brother that he's too small to go there
  • we've bought Lightening McQueen pencils and eraser to put in his new school suitcase even though I'm fairly sure we don't need to provide pencils. I needed an incentive to get him to agree to carry the school bag. He wanted a Power Ranger bag. Instead he got a navy blue one with the school logo on it. Not quite the same cool factor.
  • we've been onto the school's website. For a teeny tiny village school (only 45 pupils) it is incredibly high-tech. We've been told that the children will each be given a user name and password so that they can download their homework from the website. Things certainly have changed since the days when I was at school and a computer was the large box in the 'media centre' that was largely used to catalogue the library books. The school website has fun animated little creatures on it for each class, with the names of the children (first names only) in each class listed. My son's name is up there, along with the 6 classmates starting with him. We've gone through the list pointing out which kids he already knows. He's now obsessed with the website and nags at any opportunity to go back onto it.
  • We've looked at the school dinners menu to determine whether he wants to have packed lunch or not. He wants packed lunch. I want not. I think the school meals sound fab and had I known it provided such sumptuous faire, I would be down there on a daily basis ordering a take away.

So we're pretty much set. Except for one small thing which I forgot. Name tags. I have them. I've just not done anything with them. I don't sew. In fact I do nothing that requires fiddly little things, using hands or anything needing patience. I have the iron-on variety. So this evening my joyous task is to iron little lables onto about 8 shirts, two pairs of trousers, two pairs of shorts, seven pairs of socks, two sweatshirts and a school bag. As I have lost the instructions on how to do this, I think I might end up with an iron featuring blobs of melted plastic and clothes bearing scorch marks.

Tomorrow night, I get to create the perfect first day at school lunch box. This takes A LOT of thought. It has to look tempting (ideally with lots of colourful, cartoon infested packaging) but must be healthy, should look organic, be filling and easy to eat. Hence the fact that I'm leaning towards school dinners.

And then on Thursday, I get to march my wee man to his academic destiny, where hopefully he will learn how to spell a word other than pig (because that and his name are his current repetoire). Wish me luck.

Monday 1 September 2008

Squashed zebras. I'm at blogging crossroads.

I appear to have arrived at something of a blogging crossroads. In my head it looks like one of those very confusing intersections that you get in the US where there are pedestrians crossings going in every direction, like a herd of squashed and bewildered zebras.

You see, this blog was meant to be my musings on everyday life. It's my outlet for when my brain feels like a pressure cooker with steam fizzing out of my ears. It was meant to be anonymous so that I could be cuttingly honest, revealing my deep thoughts that I don't really want to tell anyone in person but need to air them - sort of like the pensieve in the Harry Potter books, where Dumbledore uses a magic wand to syphon out memories (and yes, I am a very sad Harry Potter addict).

But it's not anonymous anymore. It's linked all over the place and people who read it largely know who I am. They most likely already think I'm barking for doing it the first place. And now I find myself at a point where I really, really need to write something deeply personal. I have an issue. A big issue. An issue that would make fabulous blog material and would ease the chatter in my head. An issue that other bloggers probably blog about, get a book contract and make millions from. But I can't blog it. Not without risking an awful lot. Not without airing dirty laundry for all to see. And so I stand at my zebra crossing muddle and wonder if I step off the pavement in the wrong direction, will I get struck by a large bus.

The answer is probably yes. So I won't. I shall simply stew. Or call my sisters. Although one's in New Zealand and probably won't appreciate being woken up at 6am for this and the other is on holiday somewhere hopefully having a more relaxing time that I did.

I shall instead leave you intrigued. That way I come across as mysterious and enigmatic, which isn't something someone in tracky pants and marmite smeared on her top from a small child's hands is normally described as. But there you go.