Thursday, 22 December 2011

"Naughty Elves and The Dreaded Gift Exchange"

Yesterday in the kitchen while eating dinner, Dumpie shook his head woefully.  "I don't think I'm going to get any presents from Santa because I've been naughty."

Egg glanced over from where he was cello-taping various kitchen implements together in his latest invention.  "That's true Dumps...I don't think you will."

If I'm being frank, the boys haven't exactly been angels this past week, but then again they are little boys and I can hardly expect them to act like little princes I suppose (although how nice would that be?).

If for any reason I end up dying young and the husband is left to raise our charges solo, I suggest he hook up with some perky young camp counsellor or activities co-ordinator...for that's what children really need.  Bored, unchallenged children seek their own fun, and if (as Dumpie demonstrated yesterday) that means drawing a Christmas picture reducing your expensive, discontinued lip liner into a useless little nub - then so be it.

The boys are terribly excited about Christmas this year...ridiculously so.  Given that this is undoubtedly the last year they shall believe in Santa (and I'm not even 100% sure they do - they are clever chaps and have already had vehement discussions among themselves about the improbability of a fat man gaining entrance via a chimney to deliver toys they haven't even asked for...not to mention the fact that many homes don't even have chimneys...) we are trying to make it as special as possible.

For the husband and I, Christmas is usually an excuse (and an excellent one at that) for guzzling bubbly, sipping fine wines and stuffing ourselves stupid with cheeses and homemade shortbread.  However, given my current state of being 7.5 months pregnant (a really sexy look, believe me), the severe heartburn and limited stomach space I suffer from these days - not to mention the fact that I'm supposed to be tee-total at doesn't make for the most indulgent of Christmases I reckon.

Having been together for twenty-odd years now, the husband was (understandably) delighted a few weeks ago, to catch me at a weak moment and declare a mutual agreement that this year we will abstain from giving each other presents.  True, the prospect of shopping in claustrophobic crowd formations, aggressively trying to protect my ever-expanding bump, all the while seeking out my next toilet pit stop - well, hardly something I was looking forward to.

However, as Christmas creeps closer, I have found myself acquiring a few 'little' things for the husband - as to have nothing at all would seem rather churlish I'm afraid.  This of course is the first he will have heard of this, and may right this second be reading this with a look of horror on his face and every intention of racing out to the nearest department store for some perfume or (god forbid) misjudged 'maternity lingerie'.

But I would just like to say, "Don't worry about it my love."  For although I find practical gift-giving between lovers nothing short of depressing (excepting anything with an apple logo on it of course) I nonetheless feel that forgoing present giving altogether is even worse than gifting your other half with a new hoover or kitchen aid.

So really, I do not want anything (or want for anything for that matter)...truly.  I just don't want to be one of those sad 'practical' couples who put common sense over sentiment.  After all, if it weren't for love and all that gooey stuff, I wouldn't find myself currently knocked up now would I?

So if you're reading this dear husband, don't fret.  I've got it covered.  In the absence of anything trincketry or jewellery-box-sized under the tree this year, just know that come Feb, after baby boy numero trois escapes from my swollen stomach, I shall be anticipating something small and expensive to compensate for the utter hell I will have undergone to provide you with the much coveted fourth member of your future 'band'.  Either way you won't escape unscathed :)

Just sayin'...

Friday, 2 December 2011

"Hark The Herald Eggie Sings..."

Egg is very upset today.  It has dawned on him that because he joined choir and an after school drama club, he will be expected to don (and I quote) "a stupid, stupid, silver hat" and sing carols around the after school Christmas Fair this afternoon.

He burst into our bedroom this morning, accidentally jumping on my ankle - almost spraining it in the process - and practically BEGGED me to get him out of it.  He said he is too shy to do it and that everyone will laugh at him.  I of those pesky parenting conundrums:  get him out of it like a superstar cool mum, or teach him to be strong and do things that he's scared of so he can become a better, stronger person.

I of course went with the latter, but have planned a sneaky escape for him if things go pear-shaped and he really is miserable.  One crocodile tear and I'll have no choice but to save my little Egg from social suicide...we'll see.

On another note, in what was either enlightened genius and pure good luck OR crazy pregnant woman hormones, I impulsively bought our Christmas tree while out shopping this morning.  It was there, all 6 ft of it, plump and gorgeous and it just felt like it had to be ours.  I emptied my wallet on the spot and am taking delivery of it later today, but am now suffering the first pangs of buyers remorse and wondering whether it's going to be greeted by disdain by the husband - who is prone to splash out on obscenely priced and way too tall trees in a rather Griswold manner.  Hmmmm....

And so life continues on...I have approximately 9 more weeks in this fat suit before a screaming, squalling bundle of joy arrives to join our shambolic crew.  Can't believe how fast this pregnancy has gone, but hey I'm not complaining.  I'd be lying if I didn't confess to being mildly petrified about the logistics of labour at a hospital a good 20-30 minutes away in traffic - especially considering Dumpie came so fast that he was born in the bathroom.

And of course, having no car somewhat livens up the scenario a tad.

On the plus side, being the hyper-organised, multi-tasking freak that I am, I pretty much have Christmas sorted:  posh Christmas crackers (with silver-plated pressies inside no less - check me out), a rough menu planned out for indulgent stuffing of our respective tummies (though how much room is left in mine for food at that point remains questionable), and all the presents pretty much bought.

Sadly there is one problem I don't quite know how to undo:  in a fit of 'man-shed-rearranging' a few weekends ago, the husband unearthed my obviously 'not hidden well enough' box of xmas presents, left it in the hallway, and was as surprised as I when a short while later the monsters came upon it and started  pulling things out exclaiming excitedly.

So do I gloss over the whole thing and possibly dispel their belief in Santa Claus forever when they discover 'He' left them the exact same presents that they came upon that fateful day?  Or do I defy the recession, go out and buy them a load more presents, thereby ensuring we are buried - avalanche style - in a mountain of remote-controlled plastic come Boxing Day?

Off to mull over this conundrum by way of orgasmic pomegranate inhalation....adios

Monday, 21 November 2011

"Flappers, Monsters and Leaks...Oh My"

I can't believe how fast time is going.  Here we are, only five weeks till Christmas, and eleven weeks until our family swells from four to five.

My tummy is certainly swelling.  I now look like I'm smuggling a basketball beneath my All Saints jumper (thank goodness for that fashion line - all that asymmetrical draping does wonders for concealing my burgeoning bump...well, for the most part).

Amusingly I even had to don a 1920's vintage flapper dress for the husbands birthday party last weekend.  It made me realise why women who were pregnant in those days were said to be in 'confinement'.  Too right.

Sadly, life is so full-on these days that confining myself to home is the last thing I can do.  Egg belongs to not one but three after school clubs, which means that I have to do double pick-ups in the cold dark evenings three nights a week.  On foot.  With Dumpie...who usually has to be physically prised (and bribed) away from his Nintendo game, a mere forty-five minutes after arriving home himself.

Moreover, Dumpie has just been initiated into the joys that are 'play dates' and is now begging me for them several times a week.  (Which of course means more traversing by foot through the neighbourhood to pick up the monsters from various school mates homes...either that or having to spend an hour before bedtime returning their trashed bedrooms to some sort of sane equilibrium.)

It seems like just yesterday that the boys were excited about Halloween and clamouring to go out 'trick or treating'.  Of course, this being Europe and not North America, the tradition is not so firmly embedded here, and the majority of home owners do not participate in this pagan holiday of greed and questionable disguise by way of flame (un)retardent polyester.  Unfortunately, having begun the process slightly too late in the game (7pm or so) meant that even the few homes that did sport encouraging outdoor decorations, soon had signs taped to their door saying, 'Out of Sweets'.
they have yet to have their hopes dashed... signs such as these
So the poor monsters in this instance got gypped and we ended up calling it a night quite early, with their near empty baskets looking almost as forlorn as the streets.  Oh well, there's always next year.

Slightly more exciting was Dumpie's fifth birthday which just passed last week.  My little man turned five amidst a plethora of aunties and uncles (both official and non-official) who all showed up mid-week to celebrate.  He is now outfitted with so many toy guns and remote controlled paraphernalia that our home resembles an Argos warehouse.  We despair.
Dumpie's last night as a four year old...
What could we do?  The boy wanted guns...
Dumpie insisted on 'Pass-the-parcel'...comedy style
Big grins from the birthday boy (he insisted on the badge)
Alas here I sit, waiting glumly for a plumber who is gleefully on his way to no doubt relieve me of copious amounts of cash for repairing the latest leak we have.  One of the joys of London living in all these lovely converted buildings (sigh).

And to think that one year ago today I was eating fruit salad on a Goan beach, chasing the monsters into the warm sea and dodging semi-rabid dogs on my early morning runs...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

"Teeth, Tantrums and Roman Soldiers..."

Poor Egg.  His play date has been hijacked by Dumpie.  
So as his school mate and little brother play upstairs, he watches a movie by himself in the front room...having been comforted by a homemade peanut butter cookie, a bit of a cuddle and a knowing sigh from Mama.

We're on half-term holiday at the moment - which would be tolerable were it not for the evil cold that has decimated me for the past ten days.  All I want to do is crawl into bed with a box of tissues, a good ol' cheesy movie from the 80's ('Father of the Bride' will do...) and some extra-strength cold and flu Nurofen.  Sadly, my up-the-duff state renders the last option impossible - but then again three boys under seven currently trashing the bedroom upstairs at the moment renders the first two laughable.

On the domestic front we've had big news this past week.  Egg finally lost his other front tooth (for which i was mightily relieved as it's crooked, hanging stance made him look like he'd just washed up from a farm in Iowa or something...I almost yanked it out myself several times in a stylist intervention.)  Fortunately, his lifelong belief in the tooth fairy was salvaged by the sudden last minute recollection early Saturday morning of yours truly, that Dada and I had forgotten to place the requisite £5 note under his pillow and nick the tooth.  Oops.  So I nudged Dada awake and grabbed onto Egg's leg, tickling and distracting him for the better part of five minutes while the husband did the deed.  Whew.

In other news, besides having belted a fellow student only days before, Dumpie surprised us all by bringing home a coveted bright green 'Achievement Award' signed and presented to him by the head teacher in assembly.  I had to double check the name and make sure he hadn't swiped if off another kid (as he has inexplicably been bringing home his best friend's artwork for several days now) - but was his.  Go figure.

The day before school broke up for half-term holiday, I overheard one of the mothers in the playground saying that she had spent her only day off that week looking for a costume for 'Roman Day' for her son.  I of course had not.  Foolishly I had taken the husband's enthusiasm for 'Roman Day' the previous week to mean that he was not only going to sort Egg out with a costume, but magically morph into a super-stylist designer to boot.  

That would explain why Friday morning saw us snapping at each other while I tried to fashion some red wrapping paper and a bin lid into a formidable shield, and the husband tried to sew a silk red pillowcase onto one of my Bali shirt dresses - the thing hanging limply off his shoulders like a tragic afterthought.  

We got there in the end.  We always do somehow.  And the teacher even congratulated him on his 'inventive' costume, posing for a picture all the while shooting me a look which seemed to convey the fact that she knew that I had not, like my friend, spent a whole day sourcing an authentic gladiator costume.

Fair enough.  I suck at costumes - my fashion know-how does not, unfortunately extend to children's dress up.  (I got through university costume balls by doing what every other girl in residence did - dressing up like some sort of barbie doll, middle class hooker....).

Anyway, I had better go and explore what's happening upstairs.  It wouldn't surprise me if Dumpie had tied up Egg's friend in the bathroom or something and was lording it over him with a sword or a foam dart gun.  It truly wouldn't.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

"Beyonce My 'Pregnancy Twin'...Blech!"

Before I go off on yet another pregnancy-related tangent (sorry - but if you were growing an ever inflating beach ball which not only hindered approximately 78% of your mobility and rendered 92% of your wardrobe a no-go zone - I'm sure you'd forgive), I have to say one little thing about yesterday's post re: Little Man Dumps.

If you saw him go to bed last night, zipped up into a tiny blue fuzzy all-in-one pair of pj's, you'd understand how ridiculous it felt to even harbour thoughts of potential 'thug-dom' for a moment.  Moreover, the feedback has been overwhelmingly in favour of Dumps (no biases there then!) so perhaps I should step back a bit, stop fretting and worry about something far more potentially disturbing:  Beyonce the pregnant superstar.

Okay, here's the problem.  Every time one gets pregnant, there is undoubtedly a slew of pregnant 'celebs' also expecting, and I always joke that you get 'paired up' with whichever celeb happens to be sharing your due date.

By this I mean that said celeb is plastered across all manner of digital media, magazines, telly, and even billboards sometimes (remember Demi Moore and her infamous preggie nudie shot?), regaling the 'miracle' that is their pregnancy.  They are (inevitably) 'glowing', 'blooming', 'radiant', 'excited', and 'blossoming'.

I on the other simply...expanding.  I do not feel any of those things (except maybe the excited bit - can't wait to meet the newest member of our family - poor guy doesn't know what he's in for). Moreover, I do not have a coterie of make-up artists to plump my sallow face into something resembling a glow.

I do not have hair stylists ready to weave luxurious extensions into my hair - thus turning me into a modern day fecund slippers replaced by towering Louboutins, upon which I can perilously wiggle my way from one glamourous restaurant to another.

No.  My reality is more beleaguered housewife circa 1950 (minus the killer retro wardrobe).  I traipse (who am I kidding...more like trudge) through various supermarkets on a daily basis, arms weighed down with over-priced produce which will get turned into meals which the monsters will later refuse to even try.

I've no personal chef to ensure I'm getting a healthy balanced diet during pregnancy - no one monitoring my sometimes obscene intake of jaffa cakes, diet pepsi and sour skittles.  Just little ol' me staring daily down the barrel of an endless to-do list which mocks me at every turn, ensuring my days are spent in the most pointless, meaningless way possible...with very little that is tangible to show for it.

Meanwhile Queen Beyonce is papped in various cities around the world, strutting her long brown legs in obscene mini skirts which only she and Naomi Campbell can get away with - due to the nature of their limbs ('exotic' versus 'skanky').  Her 'bump' is draped in finest designer wear, with just enough give to prove she's not doing the 'buy a baby by surrogate' trick (thereby ensuring a lifelong enjoyment of trampolining and enjoyable intercourse with no vaginal reconstructive surgeon waving scary implements in ones nether regions...but i digress).

Despite going down mother nature's route, there is absolutely no sneaky peeking out of blubbery tum for way.

On top of it all, she is parading around with what I like to call 'F.T.M.S.' (First Time Mummy Syndrome).  Gauging by the unconcealed delight she exudes at having proven fertile enough to begin personally populating the Mega-Jay-Z-Beyonce Empire, one would think she and her mega-mogul hubby had just invented the act of procreation due to their superstar genes exploding in a cacophany of life-giving wonder.

And the worst of it is that she is due in February as well.  So that means that for the next 3.5 months I have no choice but to compare myself with a young, fabulously rich, super-fit incarnation of Tina Turner (let's call it what it is), and come up unfavourable each and every time (sigh).

Me?  Bitter?  Huh.

But I'll tell you what: I bet at night, when she's holed up in some posh hotel and she strips off the sequins, the wigs, the drag queen make-up and rips off the bustier...she's just a bloated, sweat pant suited, matted (real) haired, varicose veined lass...tucking into an heaving room service plate of nachos (extra cheese) and root beer floats.

I guess it could be worse.  It could be bloody Gywneth-the-Princess-of-Goop and her mawkish macrobiotic twig limbs mocking me from the front cover of Heat Magazine each week...

Monday, 17 October 2011

"Dumpie the Destroyer..."

It was really only a matter of time...the husband knew it.  I knew it.

Picking up Dumpie from school today (overlooking the fact that he was the second last child of thirty to be collected - damn that huge queue at the supermarket and the idiot woman in front of me who kept dropping her fresh produce on the floor and demanding new items) I knew something was wrong the moment I saw the teachers face.

"I'm afraid we had an 'incident' today" she told me, her face scrunched up and so unlike her usual happy demeanor.

I knew it was one of two things:  either Dumpie had wet himself (or worse, done a numero deux in his school issue trousers) OR he'd been involved in a punch up of sorts.

A year ago in India, at only age three, we watched some kid who foolishly picked on Egg, be bombarded by a charging Dumps - racing across the sand and shoving the older child with the words, "You leave my 'brudder' alone!"

We were amazed.  Not only at his courage but at his innate protectiveness of his older brother.

Moreover, a few weeks ago, on the way home from his third day of school, Dumps broke some news to me.

"Mama, I have good news and bad news to tell you...which one do you want first?" the cheeky chappie enquired.

"Uh...the good news" I said.

"Well, the good news is that the teacher gave me a sticker for good behaviour."

"Cool" I said.  "Where is it?"

He looked disdainful.  "I don't like stickers.  They're stupid.  I threw it away."

"Oh" I said.  "Okaaaay, so what's the bad news Dumps?" I asked, somewhat tentatively.

At this he looked up sadly with his big brown eyes.  "Two boys tied me up with skipping rope and pulled my hair".

I stopped in my tracks.  Nothing like a child being bullied to get ones hackles up.  "That's terrible!  Did you tell the teacher?" I asked.

"No."  He paused briefly.  "I punched him in the face."

"Um...okaaaay...then what happened?" a sickening feeling spreading throughout my gut.

"The boy fell down," Dumpie said matter-of-factly.

"Then what happened?"

"Well, he got up and said 'Is that all you got?'"

I was almost afraid to ask, but ask I did.  "So then what happened?"

"I told him that I'd punch him again if he didn't leave me alone."

What to say?.  On one hand I was kind of proud and relieved that my little man could take care of himself in the playground (which let's face it, will no doubt translate later into real life).  But on the other hand, it was only his third day of school...ever...and well....ummm...

Should I have been more concerned?

Turns out yes.  Yes I should have.

For today, his teacher told me that the 'incident' in question involved another classmate giving Dumpie's best friend a hard time.  Apparently Dumpie responded by issuing the offender with a brusque hand slap to the face.

For this (I am told) he was taken to the teacher's staffroom and made to sit cross-legged in a corner for five minutes.
(To hear Dumpie tell it, he was granted a privilege of sorts, and everyone was very nice to him in there as he amused himself by counting until his teacher came to collect him.)

What's the moral of the story?  I'm not sure.  But I am left somewhat bewildered.  Is my youngest son a hero of sorts?  A miniature Robin Hood defending the rights of those unwilling or unable to stick up for themselves?

Or am I raising a little thug?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

"On Being A Bad Pregnant Person..."

That belly ring ain't going nowhere :)
I am a very bad pregnant person.  I know I am.  Forget the odd glass of wine or champagne I rather enjoy now and again ("I'm like the French," I proclaim to dubious onlookers).  By nature I have a (ever so slight) problem with authority and being told what to do.  I also have a bit of a 'know-it-all/been-there-done-it' attitude towards pregnancy...especially this, the third time around.

Take for instance blood tests.  They like to give them to you at least twice during the nine month period, and the first time round with Eggie I managed to get out of them completely, and with Dumps I only succumbed post-birth because of a severe, potentially life-threatening infection.

I have a severe needle phobia you see, and the odd injection I can just about manage if it's a precurser to a looming exotic holiday or something - but otherwise forget it.  Blood tests and their evil uncle 'I.V.'s' are to me akin to the type of torture involving having your eye sockets prised out of your skull by a clumsy thug.

So this time round when the well-meaning but exhausted midwife started preparation for a blood test some weeks ago I just smiled and shook my head.

"No way" I insisted.

"Come on girl!" (She was a rather large, older black woman who been round this particular block many times and was not going to put up with any lip from a girl in black converse and pink lipstick, arms wrapped possessively around her body.)

"Sorry, but there is no way...I'm sorry.  I'd rather die."

She looked at me disdainfully, shook her head and let out a long sigh of a whistle while scribbling something no doubt disparaging in my big orange pregnancy book.

"Okay girl but I think you wanna be getting the blood test done at the hospital.  You gotta try to be brave  - there's a lot worse things than a needle comin' up if you're gonna have this baby," she warned.

Don't I know it.  Still, I did not budge, and it was only when I went for my first scan that I was told a blood test was necessary to check for fetal deformities and Down's...  Gulp.  That did it.

In I went to sit across from a middle aged Kiwi man (what is it with all these Kiwi's??) who barely registered my scared mutterings about having a severe phobia and didn't even glance up when I warned that in all likelihood I would faint.

"Roll up your sleeve...come on now," he ordered, and then proceeded to rue the day he got stuck taking blood from the snivelling, soon sobbing, hyperventilating wreck of a woman sat before him.  It wasn't pretty.  I probably ruined his day.  (I know he ruined mine.)

Anyway, today I saw the same midwife for my 21+ week appointment. She looked at my notes then at me.

"I remember you," she said, whilst glancing down and shaking her head at my silver belly ring.  "You gonna keep that thing in?" she asked disbelievingly.

"Yep," I answered.  "I kept it in for my other two pregnancies and it was fine," answered little Miss Know-It-All...

She didn't look impressed.  Fair enough.  And even less so when I shook my head no to joining any ante natal classes or pre-birthing programmes.  Frankly, until someone comes up with a totally pain-free method of birthing (in which case sign me up asap) I'm not interested in any classes, books or advice.

I know exactly what I'm in for, approximately how many screams and cries of "Kill me now!  I want to DIE!  I want to DIE!  You raise this baby cuz I'm going to die and I'll see you in heaven!" wait in my not so distant future...

Eggie and Dumpie were, until recently (thanks to Auntie Ba), under the impression that the baby would come popping out of my stomach somehow...much like a burst Jiffy Popcorn I imagine.  However now that they are aware of the true birthing path, they share a somewhat awed opinion of my lady parts.

When told they were expecting a little brother and not a sister, their reactions were typical.

Eggie had been hoping for a sister (who can blame him) as he was of the belief that 'another Dumpie' would be too great a burden for his weary little shoulders, and that a little girl would be gentler and not break all his toys.  The night before the scan he told me not to tell him when I picked him up from school, but rather to let him look at my face and he'd just 'know'.  Bless him...for he did.

For sure enough, when I picked them up last week, having just returned from the hospital a few hours before, Egg came exploding out of the school and ran straight up to me.  He peered through my darkened shades and thought for a moment.

"It's a boy isn't it Mama," he said knowingly, then looked away for a moment.  "You know, I knew it was going to be a boy, ever since you told me you were having a baby," he admitted.

"How did you know?" I asked confused.

"Because sometimes when you really want something badly you get the opposite of what you want," said my wise little man, before scootering off out the school gates, leaving me somewhat shell-shocked at his understanding of one of life's little ironies.

Dumpie on the other hand stood leaning against a tree, gazing up at me with a little smirk on his face.

"I KNEW it was going to be a boy.  I TOLD you it was going to be a boy.  Why didn't you listen to me Mama?" he said.

Little scamp.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

"Resistance Is Futile..."

...So there I lay, waiting to hear what the sonographer was going to say.  I realised I was shaking ever so slightly.  For days I had obsessed over whether I was at long last going to get my little girl, or whether I was going to forever be the mother of THREE(!) strapping lads.  I had suffered bouts of severe insomnia, waking up in the middle of the night and playing out the various reactions I might have to the news either way.  And here I was, on the cusp of finally finding out.  You could cut the silence in the room it was that thick and heavy.

Then the husband interrupted with, "So have you seen anything which might give you a clue?"

She turned to us and smiled.  "As a matter of fact I have!" she chirped brightly.

And with that, I knew.  It could only be one thing:  a tiny penis waving about between the little ones legs.

And sure enough, seconds later, there it was, visible to all:  my little baby boy.

I was rendered speechless.  In those seconds which followed, I found my head full of a million thoughts and feelings.  Content in the knowledge that it was by all accounts a healthy, perfectly formed baby, I watched as the internal movie in my head played out:

(Two little babies - one a girl and one a boy...the girl baby smiled and suddenly POP went the cartoon bubble surrounding her and she disappeared in a plume of smoke.  I was left with a chubby little male cherub smiling broadly at me, who got bigger and bigger and took over my whole headspace.  But then he started to grow, and I saw Egg and Dumps enter from corner stage and they were all teenagers and they were all HUGE and they were tearing food out of cupboards and stuffing their faces and dumping loads of laundry on the kitchen floor and being so LOUD and trekking in mud everywhere and....and...)

"You okay?" the husband asked kindly, rubbing my arm and shaking me out of my reverie.

At once I was back in the hospital, staring soberly at the screen.  But I ignored him for the moment and addressed the sonographer one last time.

"Are you sure it's a boy?  I mean are you 80% or 90% sure?" I asked.

She grinned her happy, healthy Kiwi grin, swinging her luscious blond locks over her shoulder and winked knowingly, "I am 99% sure...look!"

And there is was.  That little penis, up there on the screen.  My black and white, practically waving at me.

Spun out doesn't even cover it.  I had secretly 99% believed it was going to be a girl.  I 'knew it' deep inside and even had her full name picked out.

Going to be a crazy few weeks mentally and emotionally as I get my head around not just the fact that I was so, so wrong, but that I am soon to be the mother of three(!) boys.

I'm not even one of those hearty, sporty women with ruddy cheeks who I imagine whip up weekend hog roasts for their big sons and all their mates.  I'm already drowning in a sea of dirty laundry, spills and stains, and I can guarantee that every single toilet in this house, is right now, as we speak, decorated in a sea of urine.

The husband is of course taking the news much more in stride.  Already over the shock, he is now amusing himself by thinking up potential boy names, and looking at me quizzically out of the corner of his eye, wondering if I'm going to hold up or lose the plot.

I suppose my biggest worry right now is making sure the poor little guy doesn't get named something ridiculous like 'Barabbas' or 'Hallellujah' - the strong contender at the moment.

And giving away the cute little girl outfit I purchased ages ago, which was simply too darling to resist (sigh)...

Monday, 26 September 2011

"Three (BIG) Milestones..."

My goodness...can it really be THAT long that I've ignored my public outpost for all things of a maternally moaning nature?

Heartfelt apologies for having been silent for so long.  Life just caught up with me, lassoed me head to toe and toppled me over on one side is all...

But I'm back.  And boy do I have news to tell.  In fact, you could say we've recently bridge three big milestones:

1.  Eggie lost one of his front teeth!

Yes, yes, I's not the first tooth or anything, but given its prominent placement in his little mouth it's nonetheless a 'face changer' and he's morphed into this adorable, cartoonish character with the slightest hint of a lisp on certain words.  Too cute.

More importantly, when it happened, he was so utterly ecstatic to lose it, that he let out a blood curdling scream so intent that I thought Dumpie must have chopped off his arm or something.  It was almost anti-climatic when he awoke the next morning to find a crumpled fiver under his pillow.

2.  Dumpie started proper 'big-boy' school!

Dumps doing his favourite activity 'Tap-Tap' in the outside classroom area

Okay, I know I've been looking forward to this day for a long time, but my goodness was I choked up when I dropped him off at school for the first time last week (sniff).

I think it was the sight of him in his slightly too big hand-me-down school uniform, clutching a book bag nearly half his size, that gave me the true perspective of what a little guy he still is (despite possessing one of the biggest personalities I know).  Or maybe it was the realisation that the end of an era has I shall never get back - nor he.

Clowning it up (and refusing to even touch his school lunch...fair enough - look at it!)
Dumps has been my partner in crime for a few years now.  We'd drop Eggie off at school then head out for grocery shopping, long walks to strange parts of town, Starbucks (so much so that before he could read he could point out the familiar company logo in cities as far afield as Kuala Lumpur...shameful I know), and occasionally clothing stores - where he would sneakily slip out of his pushchair and make a run for the nearest locked change room, under which he would wriggle out of reach, leaving me red faced and half naked trying to find someone to unlock the door.

My little man at the start of his first day (not entirely sure this school gig is for him)
Oh those were the days.  Still, you'd never know the little tyke wasn't thrilled to be at school, for after initial hesitancy during an open house day and an impromptu 'hide and seek' nightmare on the first day of school (when Dumpie went 'missing' for almost three quarters of an hour only to be found buried amidst rubble in 'The Room of Doom'), he has taken to it like the proverbial duck to water....
Big smiles at pick-up time (possibly because we're about to go and buy him a big reward treat!)
3. I had my 21 week scan last week and it all looks good.  The baby appears to have the right number of fingers, toes and such and by all accounts it appears to be a healthy baby (whew!).

A lovely YOUNG blond Kiwi girl did the ultrasound, and as the husband and I waited with baited breath to hear those immortal words, "Do you want to know the sex?" a hush fell over the room.  Without hesitation, we both said "Yes!"

So she once again turned to the screen, slid the monitor over my belly and turned to us, uttering the words that would (WILL) seal our fate for the next...oh who are we kidding - the REST of our lives...

(to be con't)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

"The Shed" (Not To Be Confused With Bestselling Novel 'The Shack')

One day in and 'the Shed' is already expanding again (sigh)...

Lest you think I was exaggerating my distress over the whole 'cleaner incident' the other day, let me just make one thing clear.


Perhaps there are women out there who are quite happy to potter about in a messy, toy-strewn creche - I mean home - complete with freshly laundered pants drying on radiators and the contents of last night's supper on the kitchen floor.  But I am not one of them (despite the alarming frequency with which my home resembles the aforementioned hell hole).

Mess makes me depressed.  It always has.  My mother still tells the story of how when I was a little girl I was often to be found in her walk-in closet arranging her myriad of shoes into perfect rows of paired up prettiness.  That's just who I am.

So you can imagine how distressing it is living in a predominantly male household where 'tidiness' comes right after 'must remember to empty dishwasher' and 'replace toilet roll' in order of importance.

And fair enough I suppose.  What four and seven year old boys are going to take delight in helping keep a room clean?  (Not unless I can magic myself into some sort of all singing and dancing modern day Mary Poppin's figure complete with requisite singing mice...or is that Cinderella?)

And the husband of course has little if any interest in our home outside the dining room, which he has pretty much taken over as his 'shed'.  We jokingly (lately with slightly less mirth and more annoyance on my part) refer to it as such because it's where all his STUFF (and believe me, for a guy, he has a LOAD of stuff) ends up:  various guitars, electronic equipment, random bicycle parts, tool kits, commemorative knick knacks (three beer festival pint glasses anyone?), empty tea cups, odd socks, old hard drives, cameras, shoes, get the picture.

Yesterday with a zeal which surprised even me, (second trimester anyone?) I ventured into the 'Room of Doom' (more on that later) grabbed the biggest box I could find, tore down the stairs and proceeded to downsize all the husbands possessions I could see into said box.  With a pride I haven't experienced since finally mastering the world's yummiest lemon and poppyseed loaf, I proudly stepped back and gazed happily at my handiwork.  Result!  I had my beloved dining room back and now instead of a shed masquerading as a dining room, I realised that I had magically compressed said shed into a 12 x 16 inch container.  Brilliant.

(Now, regarding the 'Room of Doom', it's actually a third bedroom masquerading as yet another indoor shed.  All manner of things lost, forgotten and missing can be found inside.  Generally I find that keeping the door shut allows me to believe that it doesn't exist and causes no real anxiety when I pass.  So for all intents and purposes at present we live in a rather spacious two-bed home.  Suits me.  I wouldn't be surprised if one day many months from now I open it to find squatters residing inside, or someone having a car boot sale out the window...but I digress)

The husband is less than impressed (okay, downright offended) that his 'shed' is no more and that all his 'play things' (ie. most important things in the world) have been crammed into a green plastic storage box.  He does not share my glee at being able to see, let alone use our lovely Habitat hardwood dining table again, or allowing the children to start up play dates again on account of not being horrified of their parents entering our home.

The irony is that I have way more STUFF than the husband.  I can't even admit to myself let alone the world at large, how many pairs of shoes I own, lovely leather bags I have hidden away, armfuls of jewelry and scarves I possess, or fabulous clothes I have squirrelled away. But (and this is a big but) I am an expert 'stasher'.  You should see me fill a suitcase.  I learned this amazing skill from my father - making room where this is none.  There is a science to it honestly.  It's a bit like 3-D life size 'Jenga'.

So I've told him that either he gets more clever about stashing his stuff out of sight, or he better get used to living out of a box.  

Either that or we have to buy a bigger place (with a cellar-like dungeon which he can use to house his many bicycles, computers, guitars and contents of his imaginary 'shed').

I reckon he'll get used to the box.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

"If Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness...What Does That Make Us?"

Like butter wouldn't melt right?...WRONG
I was so excited today.  After literally weeks of trying to secure a new cleaner to help me keep this place in a state that would discourage the breeding of small insects and animals, I finally managed to hound down a lovely young girl named Olga.

She came recommended from a website, and it took me literally days of thinly disguised pleading and text-begging to pin her down to this initial visit.  I fear this shall be her last.

Not only is she still cleaning (we've just rounded the four hour mark here...three is standard in these parts), but she's having to do so amidst the din of screaming, feral little boys armed with Nerf Blasters...who, I might add, have, for the last few hours, been taking aim at her pretending she's 'the enemy'.

Before Olga came today I spent three (count 'em...three) solid hours running around 'pre-cleaning' the place in anticipation of her arrival.  But it wasn't my normal frantic scouring, tidying and wiping.  No, I couldn't do it properly because then there would be nothing left for her to do.  But at the same time I had to get it into an 'clean-ish' state (I was aiming for around 75%) so as not to repel her and increase the likelihood that she stayed with us for awhile and didn't develop some mysterious illness or fake pregnancy around week 3 which concluded her services with us.

As it turns out, I very much doubt she'll darken our doorway again anyway.  Not after today.  (Oh why oh why didn't I hold off and ask her to come when the monsters were at school in a few weeks?  And why did they choose today of all days to act out like savages?  Anyone would think that I had been feeding them E-number rich blue smarties all morning in preparation...)

Inexplicably they have both insisted on going trouser-less today and have been running around in just their pants.  It's been futile trying to forcibly dress them as the trousers have been shorn as soon as my back has been turned.  They have been involved in hardcore role play, screaming orders at each other and yelling '"Attack!  Attack!" every time poor Olga has come into view.  I struggle to think of which television cartoon or show has inspired this 'Lord of the Flies' behaviour today...but to be safe I think I'm banning channel 72 for awhile.

That way we will have blessed silence for the coming we sit...the three of us...watching the place gradually gather in dust, crumbs and general debris, until it resembles its 'pre-Olga' state.  And I shall go online shopping and spend the money I would have given to dear Olga, on something pretty and pointless.

And why the heck not I ask you?

As soon as Olga catches sight of the hallway she just finished hoovering minutes ago (thanks Dumpie for your inspired idea of sprinkling finely-grained play sand onto the floor - thus turning a bog standard hallway into an indoor sand pit) it's going to be some head down incoherent mumbling about getting in touch again, followed by my shoving the contents of my wallet into her outstretched hand...followed by her pressing 'Delete' under my phone number as she hurries off down the street....
The perfect way to ensure a new cleaner doesn't return to your home ever again...

Monday, 22 August 2011

"Wilderness Festival...Rocked"

Dumps ready to take on Wilderness Festival 2011

It's been a week since we've been back from Wilderness Festival, and still I find myself thinking fondly back to our time there and wondering whether parts of it were just a dream (clean toilets!  that smelled good! Even on the Saturday night!  I mean come on...).

Things had gotten off to an ominous start before we even left home.  As the husband was packing the rental car he noticed that he was being watched rather too intently by a local 'hoodie' (sorry, I mean local youth who may or may not have been a delinquent involved in the recent riots, and who happened to be adorned in a tracksuit top with the hood concealing most of his face) standing on the street corner.  As he brought another load to the car he mentioned in passing that he wouldn't be surprised if we got broken into while we were away.

Well that was all I needed to affirm my own uneasy instincts, and what followed was a frantic half hour delay as I ran around the house gathering up assorted laptops, ipads, and random electronic gadgets and sliding them under sofas, whilst simultaneously grabbing handfuls of jewellry only to end up stashing them in entirely obvious places that practically screamed 'LOOK HERE'.  Finally, despite envisioning some local teenager adorned in all my rings and bracelets, we attempted to leave (a mere three hours behind schedule at this point) when suddenly, half out the door, it dawned on me that we didn't yet have contents insurance.  

What followed was (strictly in retrospect) a comical race to procure one of the stashed laptops, followed by me being locked out of my account with the wrong password, an increasingly irate husband,  one child parked lazily in the pushchair in the entrance hall and the other pacing the streets outside with his bear talking quietly to himself, and the frantic typing in of facts and figures (how on earth am I supposed to know when this place was built?!) resulting in the signing up for a year of expensive contents insurance set to become in effect immediately.  'Hoodies' be damned :)

Two hours later as we neared the Oxfordshire destination it became apparent that the husband would be setting up the tent in the dark.  He was not well pleased about this.  Egg kept up a moaning monologue from the back seat that he was sick after having gulped down several of his beloved cheese and pickle sarnies and having long since abandoned his 'Sea Bank Sickness Bracelets' (which Dumpie wore contentedly in his sleep) I had the sinking feeling that this was not going to end well.

Sure enough, in the parking queue to the festival entrance, Egg threw open the door and jumped out, proceeding to projectile vomit all over the side of the road - in full view of the stopped festival goers behind us.  I jumped out (momentarily repulsed and necessitating a prompting from the husband), stood in the drizzling rain and began to question the wisdom of a family camping adventure in my pregnant state. 

I'll tell you what though.  The moment we walked into the festival, welcomed by funny, laid back gate staff, through gorgeous grass and amongst happy smiling people, that all changed.  No queuing in the mud, no rude staff, no jostling drunkards knocking over tired children.  It was all simple, easy, clean and organised.  I was quietly impressed.

Once inside, the husband took Egg off to scout for a good camping spot and Dumps and I sat down on our luggage and people watched.  (At this point, if I could go back, I would have reminded the husband that regarding toilets, NEAR was good and FAR was bad.  Considering that it's not uncommon for a pregnant person to visit the loo on average a total of five times a night, this perhaps should have fared higher on the 'things to look for in a good camping spot' rating chart.  oh well...)

At other festivals (I'm thinking Glastonbury and The Big Chill here), if you are not one of the first people in, you end up having to camp in awkward spots, virtually on top of others, and it's not uncommon to have your entrance face the rear of another's tent.  Not so at Wilderness.  The family camping area was not only green, vast and spacious, but the giant trees scattered around had lovely fairy lights dangling from branches, turning the whole area into something out of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.  I kid you not.

Leaving the husband to get on with the task of putting up our shambolic tent (more on that later) I took the boys on an exploratory journey through the grounds, excited at all the cool tents, art installations and live music playing everywhere.  It truly felt magical, and I was loving the fact that there were enough people (3000 odd it turns out) to make it feel like an exciting gathering, but not too many (like 190,000 at Glastonbury) to make you feel like you were in a rather hectic rural city.  People were laughing, dining, drinking, strolling, dancing, dressed up, and there were enough parents and children about to reassure me that I wasn't a bad mother for not having the monsters already tucked up in bed somewhere - but not enough to make me feel like I was in a giant creche.

An hour later as we rocked up back at the tent, the husband stood sipping a beer with his new mate.  His new mate had apparently taken pity on the husband, watching him struggle for ages with two wrongly coded, mistakenly mismatched tent poles, before taking pity on him and climbing out of bed to come help construct the rest of the tent.  Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers (especially booze toting ones).  Turns out he was a keen cyclist as well, and the two sat comfortably in the dark, sipping whiskey and speaking 'bike-anese' whilst I begged off to bed and fell asleep in a cozy heap.

Wilderness Festival felt like a couple of festival aficionados had gotten together and decided to start the best festival ever - eliminating all the horrible parts and adding all the coolest elements they could think of.  Turns out I was not far off.  

Gone were the disgusting unhygienic toilets which are often a source of freak show revulsion at festivals ("You saw what in there?!).  I personally have been known to flirt with dehydration over a weekend in order to limit my visits to the onsite pits of hell to as few as possible.  If it means I lie about feeling mildly ill and lacking in energy so be it.  Not so here.  The toilets were not only cleaned regularly, they smelled good(!), had working antibacterial spray gel inside and always (with one exception) had full rolls of toilet paper!  On the last night I even found a set of loos that were mirrored and carpeted and wouldn't have been out of place in a pub dining room.  It blew my mind.

The other thing they got so right was the Boutique Babysitting on offer.  With day or night slots (7:30pm - 2:00 a.m.) your little ones, for a fee, could be taken into a mini-festival of their own and cared for by loads of staff while you got on with the business of good is that?  Finally - someone looking out for the poor parents, and realising that life as we knew it (and loved it) doesn't end with the onset of tiny pitter-pattering feet.  Amen.

I haven't even gotten to the best part:  THE FOOD.  You know how after being at a festival you feel positively ill from all the junk food you've imbibed?  Well at Wilderness, they had taken care to choose decent food venders and as a result I had the pleasure of partaking in delicious cream teas, homemade pasty's and soup...not to mention THE BEST COFFEE i have ever had in the UK.  Go figure.  Proper luxe gourmet lattes in the morning couldn't be beat, and if you fancied a picnic by the gorgeous manmade lake (I kid you not) you could simply purchase a tapas selection of cheese, olives and other gourmet was inspired.  

Not only that, but each of the three days a giant banquet was held in a huge white marquee, where for £27 per person you could dine on a sumptuous several course gourmet feast prepared by top chefs, complete with banqueting tables, wine, and serving staff.  It all looked and felt terribly decadent.  (Sadly the tickets to this sold out before we could get our hands on some, but next time it's a definite.)

But about the lake: there was free boating, swimming and general cavorting amongst the trees on shore whilst indulging in glasses of refreshing Pimm's if one wanted.  Honestly it felt like being at someone's posh stately home for a big weekend party.  That was the vibe.  Rolling green hills straight out of 'storybook land' spread out on all sides of the gorgeous stately home.  The main musical stage was decorated in woven twigs, perfectly blending in with the theme of Wilderness and there were plenty of places to sit and chill out if you didn't feel like plopping yourself on the ground to listen to the likes of Laura Marling, Toots and the Maytals, and Antony and the Johnsons.

On the Friday night there was a Secret Garden Party in a hidden location in the woods, complete with bunting, giant campfire and amazing sound system which went until the wee hours of the morning - ending in an explosion of fireworks.  On the Saturday night there was an exciting Masked Ball which also went on till the wee hours, and watching everyone dressed up in outrageous costumes and resplendent in exotic masks throughout the evening was something to behold.  There were several places where you could dress up and borrow fanciful costumes, some of which were for sale if one so desired to take their 'new look' back into real life.  Hats, waistcoats, bustles, gowns, masks and assorted outlandish costumes were there for the taking.  They had it all.

The monsters loved their time at the festival.  They made loads of friends, loved dancing around to thei music, and enjoyed hours of free entertainment in the Kid's Field (circus shows, craft and drama workshops, even a place where they could examine bugs close up in microscopes and handle real snakes and lizards).  Over the course of the weekend they developed a rather severe hot chocolate addiction, but came out of it feeling like they'd had a great adventure - Egg even having a go at walking on a tightrope and learning some magic tricks.  Simply put, they had a blast (and the husband and I got to indulge ourselves with gourmet lattes on the green grass whilst poring over the weekend papers a fair distance away...ah bliss).

Frankly, I don't have a bad word to say about Wilderness Festival.  Not a one.  In fact my only horrid moment was brought about by my own foolishness.  The toilets were so clean (yes, I know I'm going on about it, but seriously I'm still blown away) that when I took the boys to use them for the first time I mistook a set of urinals for a hand washing latrine and tried to get the boys to follow my example of rubbing the big yellow chunks of what I mistakenly took for hand soap onto their wet hands.  (I think at some point my hormonally-addled brain cottoned on to the fact that the 'soap' simply wasn't lathering up, and moreover, the suddenly distinctive acrid smell alerted me to my horrid faux pas).

Anyway, if that was the worst thing to happen at a festival that's something I can totally live with.  Not only are we definitely going next year, but this time we're going to drag all our friends with us as well...and anyone reading this would do well to follow suit - kiddies or no kiddies.  It's an incredible weekend with something for everyone, and can even please the fussiest of campers.  Is it a bit posh?  Only in the best way possible:  no drug zombies wondering around at dawn, crashing into your tent and freaking out the kids with wasted eyes.  No bands of drunken yobs puking up all over the place and no needing to sidestep passed out lasses with last night's knickers in a twist.  

Just an up for it, cool all ages crowd of people who want to have fun but don't necessarily feel you have to be filthy, wrecked and steeped in last night's vomit to be able to say you had a blinder of a time.

And like all good festivals, there are enough hidden delights on site that you can't possibly sample them all in a weekend.  Whether it's gastronomic delights, breathtaking scenery, or having a daily swim in the gorgeous lake, where it's possible to wash the daily grime off before dipping into an outdoor hot tub, having a massage at the spa or sipping a glass of civilised wine as the sun goes down....

Anyway you look at it, Wilderness Festival rocked.  And I feel so lucky to have sampled it on it's inaugural run.  Bet this one goes and goes...

Proper GOURMET a festival...(now that's what i call heaven)

The boys get to grips with their morning smoothies

Egg gets hit on by a wee lass who will minutes later sidle over to Dumpie and steal his biscuits...little minx!

Big one the night before...

I wasn't joking about the breathtaking scenery....

Egg contemplates an art(ful) installation....

"Mama and Dada...I WILL go to the (Masked) Ball!"

Festival Die-Hards...(sponsored apparently by Gap)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

"So Four Are To Become Five (Gulp)"

Me in all my festival glory (Wilderness Festival August 2011)
The husband and I had an interesting exchange of words on the drive up to Wilderness Festival, brought on by some lovely well-meaning messages and calls of congratulations as his phone starting beeping whilst traversing the late rush hour traffic of London.

"What?" he asked.  "Did you drop the bomb...on your blog??"

(gulp) "Uh...yeah.  What's the big deal?  We discussed this and you agreed."

Apparently he did not remember the discussion in question, and was none too pleased that I had issued forth such massive news on the blogosphere without letting him know exactly how and when I was doing so.

"Well it's not like it's our first child or anything...I mean it's our's more casual no?" I offered.

Apparently not.

You see, it's the funniest thing.  I've always been like this.  No matter how big a deal something is to me at the start (like buying a new outfit you've been lusting after for weeks and simply MUST have - which after a wearing or two ends up strewn at the back of your closet), once I get used to it I become very laissez faire about things (which makes the fact that we're about to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary nothing short of extraordinary...).

Anyway, I'm just very laid back and casual about the whole 'having another baby' thing.  Maybe it's because I've done this twice before and it feels like no big deal, or because it's still months away (five and a bit to be exact), or because I have the gruelling 'swelling up like a star of Supersize Me' period to come and THAT is what is causing me anxiety if anything.

Babies are adorable, precious and truthfully not too much trouble until they reach the mouthing back stage.  Besides, the monsters are old enough now that they will be of some help I'm sure (well Egg will be - Dumpie remains to be seen) and as Dumpie is starting full time school in September, it's not like I'll be saddled with three little ones underfoot all day every day (whew!).

I think it's been timed perfectly to be honest.  If this had happened any sooner it would have been a disaster with the sibling dynamics as Dumpie continues to persist in referring to himself as 'Baby Dumps' - besides being more prolific than the average twelve year old.   As it is, he isn't going to take terribly well to being usurped by something smaller and in need of more constant cuddles than himself.

Of course the question on everyones lips is, "Do you know the sex?"  No, we do not.  Though we wait with baited breath to find out in four weeks or so.

Will it be a much-longed for girl to help right the imbalance of testosterone and provide a calming influence on our very loud, energy ridden household?  Or will it be another boy child (we do make them rather well after all) destined to be groomed as Dumpie's little man servant until he leaves home?

Hmmm...only time will tell.  But in the meantime I have pressing issues.  With no real nausea to speak of - only sheer CONSTANT exhaustion (which shows no signs of abating) - my biggest dilemma at present is how on earth I'm supposed to get through the next several months with my once fabulous wardrobe drying up by the day.

I'm in the unhappy stage of not looking obviously pregnant per se, but am sporting a beer belly of sorts - looking like I've been boozing it up at my local whilst eating all the pies in sight.  Great.

Sayonara skinny jeans and cheekbones...hello big girls blouses and water retention.

(Note:  I have to devote another whole blog post to our festival it was SO amazing and we all had such a brilliant time, that even Dumpie deciding to wee surreptitiously on the husband's leg underneath the table where we sat indulging in afternoon tea, did little to dampen the enthusiasm.  I think.)

No bath or showers for three days...yippee!

Friday, 12 August 2011

" 'Tramping' Not 'Glamping' "

Dada, Egg and soon to be tent-mates (God help me)
For anyone not familiar with the term 'Glamping' - it's basically 'posh camping'.  Instead of trying to erect a threadbare £19.99 Argos tent in blustery British summer weather, you get to sleep in an already erected Tee-Pee, or Pop-Up Boutique Tent, or some such.  There are usually warm showers, decent caterers, and the toilets are less 'trench warfare'- more 'petrol station' (not unlike the loo in our beloved abode in India - which was such a shambles that a good friend who visited got caught out taking souvenir pictures of it...but I digress)

Though I can scarcely believe we're doing this, in a matter of hours we shall be taking the monsters to The Wilderness Festival on a beautiful estate in Oxfordshire.  By all accounts it looks gorgeous, and there is a lake, swimming, boating, a spa, 5 course banquets, and even boutique babysitting where you can drop your 'I love them but I don't like them right now' rugrats off for up to six hours of kiddie festival fun while you either bunk off back to your tent for a decadent nap, or get up to no good with your significant other somewhere else on site (Masked Ball anyone?).

However (and this is a BIG however), we have done this once before - at The Big Chill Festival three years ago - and it unmitigated D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R.

To be fair, fun was had, but strictly during daytime hours.  As soon as the sun fell from the sky, so did any hope of surviving the coming nocturnal night from hell, as our normally darling little Dumps was transformed into a screaming demon from hell.

(Dumpie, as you may or may not recall, did not take to camping very well.  In fact he hated it.  A light sleeper at the best of times, he would wake shortly after midnight and spend the next several hours before dawn issuing forth with the most torturous screams such that offers of 'Do you want some milk for your baby?' from disgruntled strangers in nearby tents, was easily translated into "Are you torturing that poor child?!  Should we be getting the police in?!")  It was enough to traumatise us to such extent that we've never attempted festival camping since.

So you see...even though Dumpie is a few years older now, indeed nearly the age Egg was when we last went camping - and he was fine - Dumpie is NOT Egg.  Not even close.

Dumps has already developed a taste for the finer things in life.  He likes his utensils to be sparkling clean or he won't use them...tables must be shiny and devoid of spills (even if he made them!) before he will deem to put his plate down...he will NOT sit on a toilet that is dirty in any way.  OOPS.  That could be trouble...big trouble.  Wait until he gets a look in at the festival toilets....there is NO way he is going to deem them fit for use (a fair point) - so does that mean he's going to spend the weekend soiling himself and his little Gap skinny jeans as a makeshift porto-potty?!  Urgh.  I hope not...but yet I can see it (sigh).

It's been a crazy week what with the riots - one of the worst just down the road from here.  Tuesday night I was upstairs in bed watching the breaking news on telly, idly wondering why the husband wasn't doing the same, or indeed even in bed at 2:30am.  Turns out it's because he was down at the riots of course - filming scenes of hooliganism on his little nikon and trusting his big red bicycle to transport him safely home through the skirmish.

I don't know why I was surprised.  Of course he was there.  One of the benefits to living in a tall skinny home is that when you're on the top floor (lately more and more my escape lovely balconied bedroom) you cannot hear what is happening on the lower floors.  Usually this is grand - especially when the monsters are watching 'The Octonauts' at ear splitting volume downstairs - but in certain cases it makes it tremendously easy for the husband to slip out for whole evenings of frolicking of which I have no idea about.  Oh well.

Nonetheless, with local shops still boarded up and the whole area feeling a touch too 'inner city' at the moment, it's not a bad thing to be getting out of the city, to walk amongst beautiful green farm land and get back to nature for a few days.

I hope this is a good idea and that i'm not being totally delusional - which is always a risk.  Are we 'the camping sort'??  I mean we have two boys so I guess by proxy we are but...hmmm...I can't help but wonder whether twenty-fours or so from now will see me standing outside a set of loo's, trying to cajole Dumpie inside as opposed to soiling his very last pair of clean trousers.  In the rain.  While the husband is off watching 'Toots & The Maytals' in a field somewhere...oblivious to his wife's mental anguish.  His PREGNANT wife's mental anguish.

(Yep, you heard it correctly folks...and on that bombshell...) be continued...

Monday, 8 August 2011

"How To Make A Mama Cry"

Tomorrow the husband starts his first day of gainful employment in over a year and a half.

Anyone would think he'd be sad, given that this signifies the official end of our "Adventurous Year And A Bit Away," but actually, I think he's kind of relieved.

This being home 24/7 (mysterious last minute bike trips and music festivals aside) has really gotten to him (well to the both of us truth be told).  I think he is seriously relishing his swish out the door every morning at 8:30am, knowing that he's a free man for the next ten hours.

I on the other hand am not.  I am like a microcosm of Britain right now - what with all the cuts in public service funding.  I'm like a care worker for young delinquents who has just gotten her workforce slashed in half.

From now on any arson attempts, kitchen blender mishaps, deliberate property damage and public scenes of parental humiliation are MY problem - and my problem alone (sigh).

Yes, I know there are thousands of mothers in Britain who deal with their children alone every day while their husbands conduct meetings, lunch in Soho establishments and meet up with mates and colleagues in central London pubs after work...only are they raising a four year old terrorist and his seven year old accomplice?

In all fairness, Egg isn't so much a handful as an enabler.  He is (unfortunately) talked into all manner of mischievousness by his younger brother, and due to the forceful persuasiveness and threatening tactics of Dumpie, he honestly appears perplexed when I confront him with that good old "But you should KNOW better Egg - you're the older brother!" Anyone would think that he had no choice but to go along with Dumpie's latest naughty shenanigans.

Take last week for example.  I was climbing upstairs with my umpteenth load of folded laundry, and my nose crinkled in disbelief at the smell of acrid smoke permeating the entire second floor.   I looked around for open windows, wondering if one of our neighbours were having a bonfire. Then I remembered that we were no longer living in India and the smell of burning rubber and plastic is not terribly common in SW11.

Sure enough I found two little boys huddled over a small flame in the bathroom - burning up the cardboard which forms the centre of the humble domestic toilet roll.  Upon hearing my shriek they dropped the evidence and went scampering down the stairs, but I managed to grab Egg's shirt collar and demanded an explanation.

Truthful to a fault Egg proceeded to unearth all the burnt artifacts they'd had a go on:  a bag of marbles, a piece of a train track, a storybook and a pencil.  He also reluctantly handed over two lighters and confessed that he had caught Dumpie torching things and had been warned that his teddy might be next if he told Mama - but could have a turn lighting things himself if he didn't tell.  Easy choice it seems.

One would have thought I'd be traumatised over this, but truthfully, the previous weekend had proven much more nerve wracking and I suppose that much like growing up in Jerusalem must be like, I'm just getting desensitised to the level of danger that living in our home at present entails.

The husband and I had bid farewell to our friends on the street after a lovely afternoon wandering on the Common.  In what I didn't recognise as a foreboding sign of things to come, we suffered mild embarrassment as we tried to cajole Dumpie from through the letterbox on the street into letting us in our home, after he snuck quickly inside and put the chain lock on the door.

As cute as this was for the first minute or so, it quickly became tiresome and irritating as our friends refused to leave until they knew we were safely inside.  (Do you know how hard it is to whisper threats through a letterbox without tarnishing your reputation as a decent level headed parent to a 'spirited child'?)

We finally bribed/threatened our way in and the husband made like a tornado and was in and out like a flash - zipping off on his bike for a prearranged get together across the city.  His last words were, "I'll probably be really late," or something to that effect.

Now to fully appreciate what followed, you must be provided with the following facts.  Sometime during the previous week the boys had mysteriously dismantled all the doorknobs on the first floor and hidden them.  This was highly irritating to say the least, as more often than not the door wedges were also misplaced and we had to use great big cushions to keep the doors propped open.  (I suspect the boys were just being canny and clever - knowing that by keeping the front room door shut they could sneak telly at all hours undetected.)

Anyway, about an hour after the husband had left, the boys had already eaten and were watching a movie in the front room whilst I finished off my meal in a leisurely fashion before bath time.  I was aware of some muffled banging and screams, but of course this sort of clatter doesn't really even register on my mangled maternal mind anymore.  It's like white noise.

I finally got up to get the bedtime ritual started and threw open the door of the front room (using a pair of kitchen scissors I might add) to find that the boys had been locked in there for ages!  Egg jumped into my arms and started kissing me he was so relieved.

Dumpie on the other hand took the scissors out of my hand, tossed them back out the door then slammed it shut as I (in slow motion) lunged for the door just a fraction too late and watched it hopelessly click shut with a bang as I dropped Eggie and wiggled my fingers pointlessly against the door frame.

"Hahahaha Mama!" laughed Dumpie.  "Now we is ALL locked in here!"

Indeed we were.

With no scissors or any other implements to use to escape, it would seem that whilst my husband spent the next several hours sampling vino in a trendy wine bar in Hackney, the monsters and I would be sitting out the next eight or so hours in our front room.  Without any water or food.  Or toilet facilities.

As I frantically glanced across the room I ascertained the grim reality of our situation.  I eyed up the hearth and wondered who would be the first to relieve themselves there.  My throat already felt dry and parched. I thought longingly of my ice cold Diet Pepsi languishing in the kitchen...right beside my  mobile phone.

I couldn't help it.  I sank to the floor in defeat and started sobbing.

Egg came up to me and started rubbing my back, soothing me saying, "Don't worry Mama - I'll get us out of here - we'll think of something."  Dumpie came up, bent down with his little arms behind his back and peered into my teary eyes.

"Mama is crying...Mama is locked in," he uttered decisively, then (wisely) moved out of reach before I could throttle him in a moment of insane frustration and anger.

After almost an hour of tearing the (for once spotless) room up for anything to help us magically unlock the door, I gave up and resigned myself to a night of hell.  Eggie, bless him, refused to give up.

"Mama you said that you should never give up when you have a problem...remember?"  Ah, the poor naive boy.  Didn't he realise that sometimes giving up is but a stage on the way to acceptance and inevitability?

But turns out the boy was right.  After persuading me to move our ancient and heavy corner sofa several inches, we unearthed half a pencil, a random silicone earphone bud and some unidentifiable crumbs (earlier the husband had been charged with hoovering the front room in preparation for our guests).

Somehow...miraculously (and don't think I wasn't fervently praying aloud as I did so - making all sorts of plea bargains with God) I managed, over the next fifteen minutes or so, (despite having no engineering degree) to construct those two items into something that was able to click us to freedom.

The next day when the husband sauntered in during the early hours of dawn, I woke up (albeit from the comfort of our glorious king size bed and NOT our alcatraz of a front room downstairs) and sleepily glared at him.  He had no idea of the ballistic scene he might have walked into, had he done a decent job of hoovering up the day before.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

"All The Live Long Day..." (Groan)

I am not a happy puppy.  Nor am I a happy camper - or anything with the prefix 'Happy' attached to it.

You remember that movie 'Groundhog Day' wherein Bill Murray gets stuck for days on end, filming in some hick town in winter?  Well at least he had the very pretty Andy McDowell to provide entertainment of the carnal/fantasy kind, and eventually worked out how to make life bend to his wishes.

With me, it's that but without any of the chance for redemption that getting to truly live each day identically over and over would afford.  You see the days are still tick-tick-ticking by, the calendar is progressing through July, and the state of my unwaxed legs would attest to the fact that yes, indeed a touch too much time has passed since I properly turned a much needed critical eye toward my personal grooming habits....but I digress.

What I mean to say is that every morning I wake up to either Egg or Dumpie jumping on me (more on that later, and why this is the absolute worst possible wake up I could endure under present circumstances) and whooshing open our balcony door to declare either 'It looks like it might rain Mama" or the more usual, "Look Mama, it's raining...what are we going to doooooo today?" (Insert random bored whines, sighs, and rustling through bedside drawers for treats or neat things to break.)

Like the husband said the other day, it feels like we're on some sort of really bad reality tv show, only there are no cameras here to film our descent into madness and squalor.  Mores the pity I guess.  But taking that theme to heart....

"Week Seven in the Non-Big-Brother House and the contestants have all now resigned themselves to getting on each others nerves 24/7.  The Father of the bunch wears a look of perpetual weariness and defeat, choosing to harness himself to his laptop at the dining room table most of the time, doing all manner of who knows what all daylong - only breaking occasionally for killer bike rides across Britain - (which may or may not have been fabricated in a desperate attempt to escape his family for a time.....the jury is out on that one).

Approximately twelve days ago the Mother figure awoke in the middle of the night to such piercing neck pain that it made her pause briefly and shuffle the 'Pain-o-Meter' in her head such that giving birth (previously the most pain she had ever experienced) reluctantly took second place to this new and excruciating neck spasm-y thing.

Since then, despite being bedridden on and off, feeling utterly claustrophobic (never mind the danger that crossing roads take on when one cannot subtly glance over ones shoulder to ascertain whether there is indeed advancing traffic coming quickly up one side) and a total grouch (chronic pain will do that to you - you betcha), there are still beds to make, food to be procured and meals to be made, and two lively little boys to entertain all day every day.  Oh joy oh bliss.

The little boys have long since given up the daily battle for power in this household.  There is no need.  They won fair and square a long time ago.  This is their world and we are merely living in least as concerns the various four walls of this domestic purgatory the four find themselves cohabitating within.  

The little one has taken to carrying around a tiny polished teaspoon in his shorts pocket, the better with which to randomly help himself to the Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream he rather favours, dipping into the freezer whenever he fancies himself a little treat.  

The elder boy has taken ownership of a gigantic cardboard box which has the remnants of five or so rolls of tape decorating it's outer layer, and inside hosts an assortment of expensive leather pillows, cotton throws and all manner of kiddie bric-a-brac.  He insists on carrying it up and down the stairs and when it's in situ in a hallway there is no way around it, it is so large.  If anyone so much as threatens to do away with it, inconsolable tears are wept and brows are beaten and it's just too much to take, so the little guy is allowed to further cramp up our home with a structure large enough to house a small family in the Indian slums."

"Get a cleaner!"I hear you roar.  Well we would, if only a cleaner could as much as step over all the clutter threatening to bury us alive in here (like the people on that BBC Documentary about hoarders a long time ago).  We are at least a week away (maybe more if this neck thing don't sort itself out pronto) from even beginning the dialogue about hiring a cleaner to come and help us out once a week.

In fact, it's laughable.  I forgot how cleaners usually visit weekly, for a mere three hours a time.  Ha!  I do three hours of senseless ceaseless (PAYLESS) domestic labour each morning - and that's just in order to imbibe my breakfast Kellog's Special K in a room that doesn't make me want to a) scream  b) throttle my husband and children with rage  c) off myself with an overdose of vitamins.

Who are we kidding.  I need (in this order):

1. Live-in Osteopath (to daily sort out my messed up neck until I no longer sob upon awakening)
2. Live-in Pembantu/Nanny/Au-Pair (must be fat, ugly and hairy)
3. Live-in Cleaner/Cook (so I can spend my time actually DOING something with my life besides    ageing my hands with cleaning products and breaking my back mopping all the live long day)
4. A bigger house (to accommodate the above-mentioned staff)

In my dreams right?  (That's what the husband more or less intimated when I brought this up earlier, bent over the dishwasher having a right old moan about the current state of things).

Well in that case I'm off to bed...perchance to dream...