Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A Terrible Smell & 1 Careful Previous Owner

I bought a new car this weekend. I said goodbye to my top of the range people carrier with all mod cons and LOTS of space. Goodbye to seven seats which have all been used in a variety of combinations. Goodbye to the full length sun roof which blinds the children when the sun shines. Goodbye to the parental controls for the windows and doors in the rear. Goodbye to just enough space that the children can’t touch each other from opposite ends of the car.

Hello to my new car, 9 years old hatchback with 5 seats, a terrible smell and 1 careful previous owner.

During the negotiations with the one careful previous owner the 2 year old asked to be picked up so that he didn’t have to stand too close to the "scary man". Luckily the scary man was discussing the finer points of fuel consumption with my husband and didn’t hear. Just for my equal opportunities record this man was White British and not wearing a Hijab (see previous post The eyes). The 2 year old does not discriminate; scary people come in many forms.

My husband agreed a price with the scary man, there was even a manly handshake to seal the deal. The children, so excited by our new purchase snubbed their father and came home in my new car.

I was less than excited when the car started. It made a rasping noise. The scary man assured me that this happens every time it starts but was nothing to worry about. The 4 year old thought the noise was great. “Mummy’s car farts!” she said.

When we set off I was trying to concentrate. It was the sort of concentration which made me so tense that I looked like a hunchback. This new car was alien to me, I thought I was going to stall, forget about the manual handbrake or press a random and unfamiliar button causing me to kill myself and my children.

I felt like I was riding in a go kart, that if it weren’t for the seat my arse would actually be scraping along the road. The engine sounded like a tractor.

The 4 year old suddenly exclaimed "What’s that?” … she was pointing at the radio cassette player, I gave her a brief description of this aged technology. “Mummy, this is the bestest car in the whole world” was her response. I must admit that after visiting the petrol station and filling my tank for £40 rather than £100+ I had to agree with her.

Ten minutes from home and travelling at 60 miles per hour along a dual carriageway the 2 year old discovered his new fangled window winder “What’s this, what’s this...” he repeated over and over as only a 2 year old does. Cackles of glee ensued as he discovered what it was and wound his window down. A wind tunnel formed and the 4 year old followed suit. During their wind filled excitement they discovered they could touch each other across the car which turned into a full scale scrap where the 3 year old would merely wave his finger in the general direction of the 4 year old and she would whine and shout, flailing her arms in his direction. They also discovered that they couldn't shut their respective windows which meant the wind tunnel effect was constant all the way home.

I’m looking forward to the changes in modern cars over the next year or two. Maybe when I am ready to buy a new car someone will have invented the ‘whinescreen’, a soundproof screen which appears, at the push of a button, between the front and rear seats separating parent from child. Bliss.

For now I'll just have to use the old fashioned method of gags and straightjackets … and I must get an air freshener to rid the car of the smell of scary man.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Peanut Nipples

The 2 year old was in the bath tonight. Pouring water from one vessel to the other and making sure he splashed sufficiently to soak me and the floor. When he’d made sure there was more water out of the bath than in it he stood up and pointed at his nipples “what are these?”,
“Nipples” I replied.

Always one to encourage education in the everyday world in which we live I pointed out “You have two nipples”, he looked and counted.

He looked again at his nipples, then asked “Mummy nipples?” to which I replied “Yes”, “Daddy nipples?” to which I replied “Yes”. We then had a whole family nipple-athon. Grandpa, Aunties, Uncles, sisters, cousins, the man who lives next door. No one was safe … then he got to our dog.

I have to declare at this moment that our dog is called ‘Peanut’. If asked why I always blame the children for naming her even though neither of them were even born when we got her. Regrettably it was me, all me and I am unable to explain my actions to this day.

Anyway, back to the nipple-athon … “Peanut nipples?” to which I replied “Yes”. He looked at me as if I was a crazy fool, shook his head, laughed and said “No, Peanut no nipples!” adamantly.

I fear for the dog in the morning. The 2 year old’s one and only thought when he wakes will be to check if I was telling the truth.

Not only will the dog get a rude awakening but imagine the 2 year old’s surprise when he discovers that not only does she have nipples but she has six of them.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


I have just unwrapped two newly framed pictures. They were wrapped in a large sheet of bubble wrap. I am sat writing this in the office, the children are in the living room and all I can hear is popping.

No fighting, no shouting, no whining .... just pop pop poppity pop.

I might invest in a roll.

The eyes ...

On a one shop mission before lunch, with the 2 year old, I was foraging in Next for some jogging pants to increase our ‘spares’ collection for potty training next week. Not surprisingly the ones I wanted were in every size except 2-3 years. I was aware that he was backing into me but annoyed with the audacity of Next to sell out of the only item I required and frantically flicking through rails of jogging pants I took no notice until he started shouting ‘scary’ over and over again and trying to scuttle up my legs like a startled squirrel up a tree. This was more the behaviour I had wanted when he started pre-school, not whilst buying emergency joggers.

I turned to see three Muslim women wearing Hijabs stood next to us eyeing up some rather nice boys coats. He pointed fully at them and continued to shout ‘scary’. They looked at him, they looked at me. They probably thought we were some upper class twits who had never encountered a person of another race. I went red, smiled as if to say ‘2 year olds huh?’ and rushed the 2 year old round the corner to find 2 more Hijabs walking our way.

Now we live in multi-cultural Bradford and this is not the first time he has seen women wearing Hijabs. It is the first time he has pointed and shouted at them. On the way home he kept muttering ‘the eyes, the eyes’.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Displaying my bottom and wobbly thighs ...

I very rarely get any time when I am without children or a child whilst shopping. Today I took full advantage of my lunch break from work and went to Marks & Spencer. I like nothing more than wandering aimlessly round a shop without having to wonder where my children are, if one of them has stuffed something in their pocket and thinking they may break something very expensive. I regularly frisk the 2 year old before leaving a shop, he has been known to cram a packet of Quavers into the smallest of pockets without being seen.

To make my solo shopping experience extra special I sometimes try random clothes on, just because I can. I can remove my clothes without one of my children swishing open the curtain, displaying my bottom and wobbly thighs, shouting something inappropriate like ‘Why has that woman got such a fat tummy?’. The other child makes a break for it with my trousers and hides in another cubicle. It has happened, and is the reason why I no longer try clothes on. Time after time I bring home clothes that do not fit and have to return them.

So, today I wandered aimlessly. I stroked clothing, clothing I didn’t even like. I sniffed toiletries, toiletries I would never use and I walked around the food hall pretending in my head that I could do a weekly shop there and hand over £500 for amongst other things the privilege of having my vegetables peeled and diced for me.

I was brought back down to earth in the children’s clothing department when I heard the familiar sound of a mother berating her child for not obeying instructions.

There are 3 levels of stress for this category which I call ‘public disobedience’.

1. You ask the child to do something in a nice but firm voice whilst maintaining eye contact

If the child does not respond …

2. You threaten child with something horrible through clenched teeth, spraying them with spittle but still maintaining eye contact

If the child does not respond …

3. You scream at the child because you no longer care what anyone thinks. You are no longer able to maintain eye contact because to do so would burn a hole through their soul. You grab them by the arm and march towards the nearest exit. If you could rip off the arm and use it as a weapon to beat your child you would.

She had skipped number 1, gone straight to number 3 then ended on a number 2. I had to admire her style. Her finale was "If you don’t stop running off, someone nasty will come and take you away".

Judging by the look on the child’s face he probably thought that 'someone nasty' was a better option than the crazy woman that he had to go home with.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today we met my family at our favourite dog walk. It has a bit of everything. It has deer, cows, the odd pheasant, fantastic views of North Yorkshire and is perfect for 2 and 4 year olds to ride their bikes. It is also the site of many an egg roll championship.

I watched my children ride their bikes, I watched my Dad give the 4 year old a shoulder ride when her legs got tired and I watched the 2 year old whining his way up a big hill, tired and muddy.

I think it's one of my favourite places in the world. It is also where we scattered my Mum's ashes almost 21 years ago. Today would have been her birthday, she would have been 63. The sun came out for the first time in a week and I thought about the happy times.

I'm glad we went there today, it was very calming.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Man

‘The Man’ as the 4 year old affectionately calls him visits when she has a high temperature and always in the middle of the night. He hasn’t visited in over 6 months now, but normally she summons me betwixt the hours of midnight and 4am from her sweaty bed, points over my shoulder and simply says ‘The Man’ in her Calpol breath. I, turn around, see nothing and scared shitless return (scurry) to my own bed. I then tell the husband that he will have to go to her if she calls again. In the light of day I sensibly put her visions down to not giving her enough Calpol the previous night.

Last night the 2 year old was playing up after I’d put him to bed. I went into his room and told him it was definitely time to be going to sleep and stop throwing his rugby ball across the room. He pointed over my shoulder into the darkness and just said ‘Man’.

Today he was out on his bike, on his own, in the garden and my husband heard him say 'No Man'.

Now, is it just coincidence that they both see ‘The Man’? Are my children conspiring to have me committed to an institution for the terminally bewildered or was the 2 year old really playing rugby with ‘The Man’ last night and riding pillion with him in the garden today?

Divine Intervention

I would probably class myself as an atheist. I was christened and went to church fairly regularly as a child, until that is my mother died when I was nine and God and I parted ways.

I find amusement in the crazies who stand in the city centre with loud hailers clutching a bible with their beards and anoraks shouting the odds and I feel sorry for the deluded Saturday morning, briefcase carrying visitors who I hide behind the sofa from.

The 4 year old started school last week. The school is a church school and was picked for the school provision rather than the religious background. The husband and I both attended church schools and are living testament that a bit of hymn singing and the odd prayer never hurt anyone. I’m not sure what they’ve taught her so far about Jesus though because during tea she announced that Jesus makes electricity and puts batteries in things.

It all started this morning …

When the husband and I went away to Edinburgh recently we brought the children back ‘we left you for two nights and had a great time guilt’ presents. The 2 year old got a Bob the Builder Sweeper and the 4 year old got a pair of binoculars. She did ask for binoculars, we weren’t being tight. I just don’t remember her asking for night vision binoculars. As I perused the shelves in John Lewis, I came across a pair of bog standard binoculars, I was pleased. The husband however, as I can only assume most men would, was more than pleased about the night vision binoculars which had the word ‘spy’ on the packaging and were more expensive. He could see no reason why we shouldn’t purchase them.

Every night since, the 4 year old has lain in bed playing with the binoculars. Apparently the novelty of being able to see your own ceiling and bookshelf after ‘lights out’ hasn’t worn off. These binoculars require 4 x AAA batteries a week due to them having several pop out infra red lights. So, last night as I was saying goodnight, she realised that the batteries had run out again. I told her that due to excessive binocular use we had no batteries and I would buy some the following day.

This morning I could hear her chuntering to herself on the other side of the bedroom wall. When she came in I asked her who she had been talking to.

“Jesus” she answered casually.

“Oh yes? What did he have to say?” I asked her.

“He told me he’d fixed my binoculars and I was thanking him” she said as she wandered off to get them. She came back and she was right, they were working.

I have decided that if Jesus is going to provide our electricity and batteries then I’m a believer!

I might see if she'll ask him to provide a new washing machine too because it's on the way out.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Scooter Boy Strikes Again

It was a Saturday morning at the beginning of Summer. The kids were in the back garden, the 2 year old on his scooter and the 4 year old on her pinker than pink bike. I was still in my dressing gown, doing general chores … the removal of the dog hair carpet that forms on the kitchen floor during the night, picking up stray banana skins left by the 2 year old in the bathroom, retrieving the TV remote from the Lego box … that sort of everyday thing.

Suddenly there was a clatter and crying. The 4 year old had fallen off her bike and was nursing a grazed knee. Those of you who know the 4 year old will know that she is unable to let any injury pass without a full drama. In her mind grazing your knee is on par with been knocked over by a herd of stampeding buffalo and she makes it known, not only the occupants of our house but the occupants of every house on the street. God help all around her if she were to have a serious accident.

I brought the invalid into the house so that I could inspect the damage. There was a graze and a speck of blood which according to the 4 year old warranted a full bandage. After rifling through the contents of our first aid kit; one latex glove, one pair of tiny nail scissors, a pack of one size plasters and an eye patch I negotiated her down to a plaster the size of a potato waffle.
The 4 year old was admiring her new accessory and limping back to the back garden (on the wrong leg I might add) when the front doorbell rang. There, on the doorstep was a neighbour, next to her, my son with his scooter, grinning from ear to ear and our dog looking sheepish.

It appears that during the excitement of the 4 year olds fall he had climbed onto something (I fear the dog may have been used as a step) and opened the lock on the gate. The neighbour had spotted him pootling up and down the road happy as Larry shouting for the dog to follow; which she did, happy to be partaking in a bit of impromptu hedge sniffing.

The shame of my son disappearing and making solo scooter jollies with his brown hairy friend was overshadowed by humiliation as I realised I was stood there in my tatty grey old man dressing gown, sporting bed head and a week’s worth of leg stubble. I thanked her profusely and she left.

The husband reinforced the gate adding a further lock completely out of reach or so we thought. It turns out that by standing on one leg on the saddle of his bike he can reach that too. However, the pride the 2 year old feels at being able to open the gate outweighs his desire for freedom as he now proudly drags me to the scene to show me his handiwork. Even the dog dared not venture out.

I must thank my neighbour again for returning my son and the dog. I also want her to know that I will be asking for a new dressing gown for Christmas and that I have started shaving my legs more often.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

They cut the apron strings whilst I wasn't looking ...

My beautiful 4 year old big girl started school on Monday. It wasn’t a great shock as she’d been to the nursery in the adjoining classroom last year. Really, she was only moving 3 metres right, staying for lunch whilst wearing a shiny new uniform with nametags lovingly (frustratingly) sewn in by her brilliant (swearing) mother. She had some niggling worries the night before. ‘But Mummy, I haven’t learnt all the letters of the alphabet’ she said. I explained that was why she was going to school. On the day itself she went off without any drama.

She has a buddy from Year 6 who helps her with the daunting task of choosing what to eat for lunch in the big hall. I asked the 4 year old what her buddy was like. ‘She’s nice and she's fat’ she replied. When I met the buddy a few days later I was greeted by a normal sized child. Her cheeks were slightly rounded but she certainly wasn’t of the lardy persuasion. I now wonder how the 4 year old describes me to her new school friends and teachers … ‘My mum is a nice enormous elephant’.

The 2 year old started pre-school in the same week. Pre-school is slightly more traumatic as it’s the first time that most children have been away from their parents for a lengthy time. I walked into pre-school and was hit by a cacophony of wailing children clawing at their mothers as they tried to sprint towards the exit. As I filled in the emergency contact forms the 2 year old wandered off to play. When it was time for me to leave I had trouble locating him, but he was busying himself in the home corner. I gave him a kiss, said goodbye and left. I wandered reluctantly towards the door, turning to make sure he wasn’t chasing me. No, he was offering another howling child a plastic croissant.

The whole thing was an anti-climax. I don’t know what I expected. A little part of me wanted them both to cry and hang on to my trousers whilst I tried to prise their fingers away. I wanted a teacher to hold them back as I sprinted, coat tails flapping in the wind, for the door. I wanted to walk away feeling guilty for abandoning my children, tears streaking my cheeks, wondering if I was doing the right thing. I’d packed a whole packet of bloody tissues!

Does this mean that I’ve done a good job in raising children who are independent and happy to be left with complete strangers (albeit in an educational setting)? Or is it the psychological scarring of watching their mother dance to ‘The Bear Necessities’ naked. Is it because when they stuck raisins up their noses (yes, they have both done it, independently and the 4 year old twice) they still remember me coming toward them with tweezers whilst their father held them down?

I think in all honesty they are just relieved to be with normal people for a few hours each day.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Morning Log

The 2 year old is almost ready for potty training. I am dragging my heels slightly because he starts pre-school this week and I want to get that ordeal over and done with before we embark on flying with no nappy. He likes to perch on the toilet before his bath, dismissing the potty. He likes to announce during dinner in a loud voice that he is doing a wee. It turns out he also likes to poo on the carpet first thing in the morning.

I was alerted to the morning log by my husband who is usually in a coma first thing but had got up to investigate the clattering noises in the 2 year olds bedroom. I then heard a desperate beckoning. My first thought was that our intrepid early morning adventurer had covered himself head to toe in nappy cream … again. But, no, I was greeted by a cream carpet with a flat semicircle of poo. The arc had been created by the poo being deposited behind the door, then the door being swished back and forth at least 20 times. I can only imagine the look of glee on his face upon swish three as he stood back and admired his work.

An artist by the name of Chris Ofili created a controversial painting of the Virgin Mary using elephant dung and sold it for a fortune. I’m thinking of asking the 2 year old to try and create a vision of Christ tomorrow morning.