Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Embarrassing erections

Long time readers of this blog will know that I believe very much in an 'honesty is the best policy' approach with my children. If they ask me a question, I will tell them the answer. Which sometimes works out well, and sometimes leads directly to a large number of the incidents chronicled in this blog. It's very much a game of two halves.

In response to some of Mr Jamie's never ending questions regarding all things to do with willies and bottoms, I decided to buy him a book. (Not least to ensure accuracy. My knowledge on the lifecycle of a sperm is scant to say the least.) I decided to go with Usborne: teaching children about rude stuff in a factually correct manner since 1973.

The book duly arrived, and I did a quick scan through it (yes, yes, I know you are really supposed to sit down and read these things through cover to cover before then sitting down again and reading it all through with your child... but on the basis I'm already well versed with the facts of life, I decided it was probably okay to cut some corners), before handing it to Mr Jamie. 'Here you go, this book tells you all about growing up and will help answer some of your questions. Have a look through it and then, if there's anything you're not sure about, we can talk about it together.' By 'talk about it together', I more meant 'go and talk to your father, who I can then hand over all responsibility to on the grounds that as I haven't got a penis I can't be expected to know what one does with one'.

I left him in bed scanning through the pages (I'd initially assumed he was doing this to find the rude bits - I know that was what I did during my quick read through - but when I went up to check on him he was actually engrossed in a page telling you about the different food groups you needed to eat to stay healthy. Such a good boy) and went downstairs.

About half an hour later, he appeared in the doorway to the lounge.

'How's your book, love. Have you got any questions?'

'Well, yes. There is something I wanted to know.'

'Of course. What is it?'

'Well, this chapter... it's all about erections. The trouble is, Mum, I think I must be doing them a bit wrong.'

'Why's that?' (Obviously inwardly thinking: this is SO a question for your father.)

'The chapter title is: Embarrassing Erections. But I get embarrassed at school quite a lot, and I don't EVER have an erection.'

Bloody adore him.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Playdates

I fucking ABHOR the word 'playdate'. The squiggly red line which has just appeared under said word on screen suggests it's not actually a real word anyway, and should more likely be 'play-date', 'play date' or even, in this social media age (with its total disregard for Proper Spelling anyway), '#playdate'.

Anyway, regardless of spelling, it is one of those awful words/phrases (delete accordingly dependent upon which of the above you think is most likely to be correct) that, when someone uses it, I immediately judge them. (They probably simultaneously judge me for only managing to get to the second word in this blog without swearing, which I can't legitimately argue with.) A 'playdate' to me summons up thoughts of either sticky children, 'mummies' and outdoor activities... or sex dungeons. Neither of which are ways I like to spend my rare free weekend afternoons (though the latter would probably be my mild preference, if pushed).

There was a point in all of this somewhere, wasn't there? Ah yes. Despite my loathing of all things playdates, Beth had one the other afternoon. In fairness to both myself and the other parent, neither of us referred to it as that. And there were no sex dungeons either. But, by dint of the fact there were two children (Beth, and her friend), playing, on a given date, at our house... I guess I can't avoid the fact it did probably fulfill the official definition of the word/phrase 'playdate'. (Have actually realised I've written the last couple of paragraphs clenching my teeth, so cringingly awful is it as a description of what is, effectively, just two kids hanging out with each other. I shall stop torturing myself now.)

I was sat in the conservatory drinking mint tea with the mum of Beth's friend, who is absolutely lovely and very tolerant of the madness which goes on in our house. All was peaceful, when Beth and her friend suddenly appeared from where they'd been playing in Beth's room upstairs. They were holding something between them with a level of care that suggested they might have unearthed a precious artifact.

'Mum, GUESS what we have found? Kiera found it in my room. It is SO precious.'

Gently, carefully, the two girls carried their incredible find towards me and laid it on my lap in clear view of the room.

Once I'd tried - and failed miserably - to explain the reasons Beth a) had a Tena Lady pad in her room (I attempted to explain that it was my Nana's from when she'd stayed with us, but fear it just ended coming across in the classic 'it belongs to my 'friend', honestly' way), b) thought it was a suitable toy for her to play with, not to mention c) why her daughter had also ended up playing with it, and finally d) despite the fact it was unwrapped it really was completely unused, honestly... I made some more mint tea to attempt to look like I was a responsible adult, really, and then we sat back down and continued our conversation.

From upstairs, all was quiet.

Until...

'Mum, MUM! Guess what, guess what?! Auntie Helen has left her hooker in my wardrobe!'

Well, there's no way of recovering from that, is there? Thankfully Kiera's mum is the sort of person to laugh uproariously at such an interruption as opposed to removing her daughter from our premises and never returning again. Bloody Beth though. Would not shut up about sodding hookers. 'And it's not just Auntie Helen's hooker. I've got looooooaaaaaads of hookers in my wardrobe, and I've told my teacher at school ALL about them!' I bet she bloody well has as well.

Later that evening after Kiera and her mum had left, I took Beth up to bed and tucked her in.

'Did you have a lovely day?'

'Yes. I love Kiera.'

'I know you do.'

'And I love my hookers too.'

'Beth, you know they're-'

'Hangers. I know. But hookers are so much better, aren't they, Mum?'

That's my girl.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Home Alone

I don't know whether it is just my children, or whether everyone's kids are similarly odd, but my two could not care less about the festive sacredness of Christmas films. So far as they're concerned, if it's got slapstick humour and mediocre acting in, it's suitable for all year round viewing, any time, any place, any where. Oh, and the shitter the film... generally the more loved it is. Of course.

Mr Jamie at least has relatively mainstream tastes. Beth, on the other hand... well, as we know, she's entirely inexplicable. Which might explain her behaviour a couple of weeks ago...

It was a Tuesday morning, and I had headed off to work in the wee small hours (7am feels pretty wee and small when you're not a natural 'morning person'), leaving Neil to wrangle Mr Jamie and Beth for the day. (Despite the wee-ness and small-ness of the hour, I knew which of the two of us I thought had the better deal.) Neil is pretty self-sufficient when it comes to parenting, which is why I was slightly surprised to get a phone call mid way through the morning from him. Turns out, Beth had woken up that morning with something on her mind...

Of all the Christmas films - or, indeed, films she's ever seen - the one which had spoken loudest and clearest to Beth (due, no doubt to its impressively high ratio of the aforementioned slapstick humour/mediocre acting requirements)... was Home Alone. Slapstick and shit acting aside, I suspect that the reason it had so appealed to Beth was the fact that here was a small child living out her wildest fantasies. Living alone, having got rid of all responsible adults, eating everything that wasn't nailed down and committing acts of unspeakable violence on anyone who dared to cross the threshold. (She is a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan for the same reasons.)

Although both children have seen Home Alone several times, it appears the disc had mysteriously gone 'missing'. (What are the chances, eh?) Beth had been muttering about the unfairness of the fact she could no longer watch her favourite shit festive film in April just the previous day... and had apparently awoken that morning with a brainwave...

Through her powers of observation, Beth, although something of a novice with the Sky remote control, had realised that you could type in the name of any programme that you wanted to watch and it would then somehow magically appear. Beth wondered if the same theory might also be true of films. Say... Home Alone films.

While I drove down the motorway and Neil attempted to doze upstairs, Beth went and sat on Jamie in bed and harassed him at length until he gave in and came downstairs with her. Once downstairs, she handed him the remote control and demanded he typed in 'Home Alone'. (Knowing the spelling capabilities of my two children, I suspect a number of attempts were required at this.)

To her delight, what came up was not only Home Alone... but Home Alones 1, 2 AND 3! (Because, if one shit festive movie isn't enough for you...) Beth had never even seen Home Alones 2 and 3, but she could tell already she was going to absolutely love them.

The only problem was, when Mr Jamie selected the Home Alones... it turned out you had to put in the special code for the Sky box. Now, Beth didn't know the code... but she knew that Jamie did. (She also knew that under no circumstances was Jamie allowed to enter the code without asking a grown up first... but wasn't going to let a little thing like that bother her.)

Through a combination of bribery ('I'll let you watch them with me') and coercion ('If you don't do it I will wee on your Lego Ninjago'), Beth got her way. (Plus ca change.) Mr Jamie entered the code not once, not twice, but three times. Beth's morning could not have been going any better if she tried.

Sadly, I can't quite say the same, when Neil phoned to break the 'happy' news to me. Not only had I paid premium prices to download Home Alones 1, 2 and 3 (the Sky people must have been having a bloody field day, whilst simultaneously wondering who in the world is stupid enough to spend that much money on shit Christmas films in April) - thanks to the joy of modern technology, Macualay Culkin in all his technicolour and HD glory was now captured on my Sky box - taking up valuable storage space - for all of fucking eternity.

It's a bloody good job I adore her.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Dispelling the Myths

One of the advantages of having children disproportionately early on in life is that you can then watch your friends and acquaintances go through the hell magical journey of parenthood from the smug position of one who has been there, got the eye bags, and SURVIVED. I have been asked by a couple of people recently about various aspects of becoming a parent, and thought this was the perfect opportunity to dispel some of the myths which circulate out there.

1) Does giving birth hurt?
Do bears shit in the woods? Actually, no, that's not fair. 'Hurt' is completely the wrong way to describe childbirth. You 'hurt' your knee if you fall over and graze it. You 'hurt' your eye when you accidentally stab it with the mascara wand. There is a whole other verb which probably hasn't even been invented yet to describe the sensation of getting a head out of your front bottom. Does it hurt? It is absolutely fucking HIDEOUS.

2) But you forget all about the pain straight afterwards, right?
Oh yes, yes, absolutely. If your birthing partner hits you repeatedly over the head with a mallet so that your power of recall is now equivalent to that of a goldfish, that is. If you are the sort of person who 'forgets' how it felt when your vagina got stretched to 50 times its normal size... then there is something very special about you, that's all I'm saying.

3) How much sleep do you actually get when you have a newborn?
Well, this is probably a bit of a 'piece of string' question. Every baby is different, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. I don't know about you though, but I always like to plan for the worst case scenario. Which is probably Mr Jamie. In which case, I would say that you can probably count on about 30 minutes' sleep per night. In 3 blocks of 10 minutes. This doesn't last for ever though... I would say that after the first 6 weeks it increased to the heady heights of a full hour per night. Still in blocks of 10 minutes.

The short answer to this question is: None.

4) How soon after having a baby can you start having sex again?
Depends on your personal preference. Assuming you a) quite like your partner, and b) quite like having sex, then I can confirm that both times in my experience all seemed to function perfectly well from about 1 week post childbirth.

If, on the other hand, you find both your partner and the concept of sex abhorrent, then I have friends who are still using the 'the doctor said we had to wait' excuse... 8 years later.

5) Will I have to stop wearing makeup/wearing heels/looking like I've even vaguely made an effort once I have a baby?
Absolutely not. Since having both children, there has not been a day when I have not worn makeup, worn heels, and straightened my hair. I will freely admit I have quite possibly prioritised all of these above the needs of my children at one time or another... on the basis that a set of GHDs have often been the one thing still connecting me to some semblance of my sanity.

However, as with #4, if you've simply been waiting all these years for an excuse to chuck out your make up bag and slob around in trainers and 'mum jeans' every day... then you go for your life.

6) Will my house become filled with plastic crap?
Only if you want it to. You get to make your own choice here about how much plastic crap you can cope with within eyesight. Neil and I both have a tolerance level of zero for plastic crap, to the extent that most people who visit us at home have questioned whether a child actually lives there at all. My children are in no way deprived of plastic crap... but it lives in their rooms or in well disguised storage boxes. I do not need a living room full of Fisher Price, thank you very much.

7) Should I become resigned to having nursery rhymes on loop in the car from now on?
Good grief, no. Not unless you're a masochist, that is. I'm genuinely not even sure if my children know that 'children's music' exists. I have never played it once to them. They are both huge music lovers, and have been brought up on a musical diet which has varied from The Beatles to Kate Bush, and from Radiohead to Andrew Lloyd Webber. (You can probably guess which of the aforementioned are Neil's musical influences, and which are mine...)

8) Do I have to spend my weekends doing 'children's activities' for the next 18 years?
Again, absolutely not, unless that kind of thing is your 'bag'. I would rather remove both of my eyeballs with rusty spoons than spend any amount of time at 'soft play', a 'country park' or, worst of all, a 'children's party'. I do plenty of things with my children on weekends, but they are all activities that I can tolerate. And believe me, there's plenty of variety in there. We've been to the theatre... climbed up a large hill... all gone bikini shopping together...

9) Do I have to cut my hair short once I have a baby?
(This was the point that personally mystified me the most before I had kids. Absolutely everyone I know - I can think of only 1 exception - appeared to have a baby... and then immediately go for the 'mum chop'. Did they remove your hair follicles at the same time as the placenta?)

No. And ignore anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. My hair is, today, probably slightly longer than just before I had Jamie. Babies and hair below your shoulders are not mutually exclusive.

10) Is it all actually worth it?
Hell yeah :-)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Reason #439 why I should never be allowed out in public

Like many parents, I juggle child-wrangling with holding down a full time job, where I go primarily to have a little rest from what would otherwise be 24/7 Beth. (She never stops talking. Ever. I've tested this theory this morning. In the 3 hours that she's been awake, the longest pause between words was 10.7 seconds - and that was only because she was briefly distracted by sodding Peppa Pig.)

Over the past few years I've got this down to a reasonably fine art. By which I mean, in any given day the children usually end up somewhere in the vicinity of school, I usually end up somewhere in the vicinity of my office, and no one is required to undergo any kind of therapy. Which we all count as an enormous success.

However. There are always Those Days, when, no matter how carefully laid your plans... it all goes a little bit to shit.

On the day in question, it was a Monday. I don't know if it's just me, but Monday mornings always seem to be that little bit more fraught, primarily because my weekend repertoire of 'haveyoufilledinyourreadingdiaryandpianodiaryyet' will have been persistently and steadfastly ignored by Mr Jamie, and as a result we will still be racing around searching for fucking reading and piano diaries (and PENS! Where all the pens in this house disappear to on a Monday morning is anyone's guess) whilst simultaneously trying to leave the house 15 minutes ago.

This particular Monday, it was raining. Drizzling, but promising more. I'd eventually managed to get both children, book bags, homework, reading diary and piano diary into the car without anyone either killing anyone else or bursting into tears. If I'm honest, I was tempted to quit while I was ahead and end the day there: that was an unparalleled level of success for a rainy Monday morning.

We arrived at school and parked outside the gates. The rain became more persistent. I eyed my children in the back of the car suspiciously. None of us were in the slightest bit dressed for wet weather activities. I see other parents all the time whose children are happily decked out in (school uniform approved) wellies and waterproof coats. When I grow up, maybe I will become one of those parents.

At 8.44am - a full minute before the gates were due to open - the heavens opened. It was no longer raining. It was fucking SHEETING. I remained optimistic. Rain like that couldn't last for more than a minute or so. We would just wait in the car for it to stop.

Five minutes later... and if anything, it was getting worse. Most other children - suitably attired - had been hurried into their classrooms by cagouled parents, and the clock was ticking. Looked like we were going to have to brave it.

'Mum, why didn't you buy us coats with hoods?'

'Because skin is waterproof. Right, come on. Let's make a run for it.'

Now, the first thing to say, is that running in five inch heels (like the children, I couldn't have been less prepared for wading through floodwater) is a complete non starter. Mr Jamie attempted to sprint into school but I was having none of it. 'Jamie, we are a family. We stay together.' I could see him wishing he'd picked a different family to join.

Beth was absolutely horrified and completely furious at what I'd forced her out into. It was now raining so hard that water was flying back up from the puddles on the ground. She'd have been less wet if I'd taken her through a car wash. I thrust her, sobbing and raging, at her teacher, who was good enough to take it all in her stride. 'Bye bye darling, I'm sure you'll dry out by the weekend. Have a lovely day.' If Beth had known the Childline number, I am pretty certain this was the point she would have called it.

Mr Jamie, meanwhile, had been emboldened with Blitz spirit, and was now laughing his head off as I attempted to run with him - still in my 5 inch heels and skinny jeans, with not a coat in sight - around to his classroom. 'Mum, I can take it from here. If you fall over into one of those puddles people will laugh at me for ever.' He had a point, I waved him off into his classroom.

Two down, one to go. I now had to get me back into the car. By this point I'd kind of stopped caring. I was at a level of wetness which I don't think I'd have achieved even if I'd spent my morning scuba-diving. As I half walked, half staggered back into the main playground, another parent who I knew vaguely kindly suggested to me I might want to check my face. In the middle of a monsoon? Really? My vanity however knew no bounds, and within seconds I had my compact out and was taking a look to see what she meant.

So, there is a reason people who do go scuba-diving don't wear eye makeup. Particularly the amount of eye makeup I wear. Eye make up that I'd spent a careful 10 minutes applying that morning, when actually, based on the state of me now, I might as well have just rubbed coal across my entire face.

'Oh good grief', I said out loud. (I'm sure that, once upon a time, I did actually have an inner monologue. I just can't remember where it went.) 'I cannot go into the office looking like this.' Fuck, what was I going to do? I didn't have time to go back home and clean my face - I had to be in the office to greet a group of new starters in 30 minutes. What did I have in my bag which I could use? Tissues? Wipes? Please. I'm sure the Proper Parents in their cagoules and wellies would have had a veritable range of toiletries in their handbags which I could have made use of... but I was far too into the realms of looking like a mad person to consider asking. Instead... well, I was just going to have to improvise.

Which is why, on that rainy Monday, I could be found in the playground of my children's school... using an unwrapped tampon to carefully remove my smeared eye makeup from across my face.

Life skills: nailed 'em.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Facts of Life

While Beth's excelled herself when it comes to coming across as totally unhinged, Mr Jamie shouldn't be forgotten in all of this either. Now that he's eight (no, I have no idea how that happened either... the head-out-of-front bottom moment is still as fresh in my mind - and vagina - as if it were yesterday...), he is rather less erratic than his earlier years (the day when he stole all the other children's trousers from them at nursery will never be forgotten)... but still entirely bonkers.

It was a Friday evening, and Neil and I were sat quietly in the lounge drinking herbal tea before we went to bed. (I know. I know. A less thrilling Friday night, you'd be hard pushed to find.) All of a sudden, Mr Jamie hurtled down the stairs and into the lounge.

'Mum! Dad! I have just decided. I really really really want to have a baby, but I'm not allowed to have one yet, so can you two go upstairs and have some sex so that we can have one please?'

Silence.

'Um... Jamie... it doesn't entirely work like that.'

'Yes it does. The man puts his' -

'YES. Yes, thank you. I know about how making a baby works - I have had two of you.'

'So just go and have some sex, just quickly. I can pause the TV for you so you don't miss what you're watching while you're gone.' He's all about the practicalities, is Jamie.

Neil and I looked at each other. We have always taken the stance of being completely open with our children. If they ask a question, we will tell them the answer. Jamie has known about how babies are made since whenever I first chronicled said conversation on this blog. There are no secrets here. However... it appeared it was time to go to the next level.

'Jamie. First of all, I am not having another baby. I am only just on the right side of sane after having Beth and you. Another baby would send me completely over the edge, I can assure you. Do you honestly think we could cope with another Beth?' He looked dubious.

'In any case... people don't only have sex if they want to have a baby. You can just have sex because it's a fun thing to do. WHEN YOU'RE A GROWN UP, OBVIOUSLY.' (Neil suggested I stopped shouting.)

'So, how does that work then? How can you have sex and not have a baby?' I debated pouring some neat gin into my mint tea.

'Well, there's something called contraception - there are different types' - I could see Neil out of the corner of my eye mouthing 'you don't need to give him the entire Wikipedia entry on contraception' - which was a shame, because I felt like that Year 7 biology lesson putting condoms onto test tubes was finally going to have a use - 'which you don't need to worry about just yet... but what it means is that, if you use contraception, the egg and the sperm don't come together and you don't have a baby.'

He contemplated this for a bit. Jamie is one of life's great thinkers. After a pause, sudden dawning realisation crept across his face.

'NOW I get it, Mum! Auntie Helen [my sister - currently child free by choice] and Uncle Matt... that's why they haven't got a baby. They're doing the sex all wrong. They mustn't know about the contra-thingy.' He grabbed my phone off the sofa. 'Mum, I'm just going to call them and tell them... ow, Mum, what are you doing... give me the phone back!'

'Absolutely never. Now, you go to bed, and let's try and forget we ever had this conversation, ever.'

Good grief.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Dentist

In the 49,939,200 seconds that this blog was out of action, there was an awful lot of madness chez us which went on. Fortunately, the madness wasn't entirely lost forever as my personal Facebook feed did a good job of capturing it for posterity. This now means that, thanks to the Facebook archives, the very greatest moments of What The Actual Fuck can be translated over here to be shared with you all. (Facebook friends: apologies. In art, as well as in life, it appears that I also repeat myself ad infinitum and still expect you to find it funny...)

When I look back over that year and a half, there are a number of stand out moments, but there is one that, perhaps, stands out beyond all others... for its sheer What The Fuck-ness. Ladies and gentlemen... I bring you... Beth.

Another reason for bringing this blog back is that Beth has come into her own over the last few years. At the time I had Mr Jamie I remember thinking: blimey, this one's a bit odd. Had I known then what I know now, how I would have laughed. Because seriously: Mr Jamie has absolutely nothing on the madness which is Beth.

On the day in question, we were off to the dentist. I was perhaps naively optimistic as to the likely outcome of our visit. Dental hygiene is treated extremely seriously in our house, and the children have been going regularly to visit the dentist since they were babies. The promise of a sticker at the end of each visit has always guaranteed good behaviour and - well - let's just say I am an idiot who will never take normality for granted ever again.

Arriving at the dentist, Beth asked to go first and got up into the chair. She lay back and opened her mouth beautifully, as the dentist snapped on his latex gloves and got to work. I was briefly distracted by some incongruous questions from Jamie ('Mum, would you pick Jamie Vardy or Harry Kane to be the captain of your football team?' 'Um, what now?'), and in what seemed like no time at all the dentist was hurrying Beth out of the chair.

'Is everything okay with her teeth?'

'Yes, yes, fine, fine... let's have a look at Jamie's teeth now, up you get Jamie.'

He seemed a little flustered, but I thought no more of it. Beth tends to have that effect on people.

Dental check over, stickers collected, we walked out to the car and set off for home. I praised the children for their good behaviour and drove out of the car park.

Beth was uncharacteristically silent (she is usually a constant wall of white noise), until halfway through the journey, when she suddenly piped up.

'Mum?'

'Yes Beth?'

'I've got something to tell you.'

'Oh. Okay. What is it?'

'Well. When that dentist's hand was in my mouth... I was doing something.'

'Oh god. What were you doing?'

'I was licking his glove. I kept doing it and I didn't stop until he took his hand back out.'

At this point, I had to pull over, as Mr Jamie was laughing so forcefully I was actually afraid he might choke.'

'Oh Mum... oh Mum...' - in between gales of laughter - 'Beth LICKED the dentist.'

'Yes son. Yes she did.'

'Beth, WHY did you lick the dentist?' He asked a valid question. We both waited for her response, as she sat happily back in her chair and declared:

'Because I like to.'

Of course you do.

(Oh, and the postscript to all of this? When we went back - not without considerable trepidation on my part - for our next check up... WE'D BEEN ALLOCATED TO A DIFFERENT DENTIST! Yep, blacklisted due to glove-licking antics. Now there's an accolade.)

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