Thursday, 26 June 2014

"My Hungarian Handyman"

all trace of monsters wiped away...
Talk about inconsistent.  I get so caught up in the every day struggle of trying to 'raise' four dudes (three smalls one big), that for months I let my beloved blog wither away, starved of love and attention.

Then BOOM!  A veritable literary eruption explodes from my cracked and blistered dishpan hands out of the blue one week in June.  Go figure.

So imagine this scenario: Yesterday lunchtime I'm sat in the dining room with my new best friend:  a Hungarian Handyman with a ten-a-day habit and a blazing smile.  He is my new best friend because in the equivalent of 8 hours in the past week, he has DIY'ed this place back into working order - doing all the things my DIY-shy husband refuses to do.

He's not cheap, but he's a good sort and I trust him (enough to tell him that Jay and the boys will be away camping next weekend and I'll be here alone...shortly after I asked him to saw through the locked terrace doors which are now no longer secure - as Squitty had lost the keys).

Anyway, I was going on about something or other (aren't I always?) when my mobile rang and cut me off mid-sentence.  It was our estate agent telling me that we had a viewing in four hours.

"You WHAT?!" I thought.  But what I said, in my trademark 'voiceover voice' dulcet tones was, "Of course.  That's absolutely fine.  No problem at all.  Go ahead and book it in."

My Hungarian Handyman looked up incredulously from where he was sat on the floor, surrounded by two giant sets of ceiling lights he'd taken apart and a huge amount of rubble.

"You think this good idea?" he asked, nodding to the general debris, locked terrace doors and newly painted cupboards freshly crayoned on by Squit the night before.

"No," I repled. "But I'm desperate.  And I'm going to clean this bloody house even if I kill myself doing it."

"Okay" he said shrugging his shoulders, and got back to trying to screw drive some life into our broken transformers, shaking his head and leaving me to it.

So I cleaned like I've never cleaned before - or rather at a speed I've never cleaned before.  Cleaned my little heart out I did.  My hands were moving so fast you would have had to slow down the dvd if you were watching a replay of it.  Like a whirling dervish I scrubbed, scoured, binned, shined, stashed, trashed, and polished this home into a state of near-normality.

Then I begged my Hungarian Handyman to help transfer approximately 1/17th of our possessions into the husband's camper van parked round the corner, and help me frantically clean all the outside windows by precariously balancing on the outside of our window sills.

Later, after coughing up what I perceived to be a fairly inflated sum, I ran around the flat manically turning on lights, lighting candles and stashing dirty little boy's underwear wherever I could safely cram and conceal.  At last, with only seconds to spare, I stood back and surveyed. And I was happy.

An hour later, after doing the school pick-up, force feeding the monsters vanilla ice cream cones and detouring via the park, we finally arrived back home at our (now insecure) flat only to find that a local builder had been privy to the viewing and when quizzed confided that the viewing went well, they liked our home, but felt there was nowhere to add value to the place.

I thought to myself, "They're 'Empty Nesters'...they don't have three boys under ten and they would actually use the terrace to chill and drink wine on - not scream themselves hoarse trying to halt sudden cricket matches."

Surely by virtue of NOT being us that would be adding to the long-term value non??

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

"Sticky Fingers Squit"

So I've got this wee problem see.  My youngest, Squit (aka 'Fat Baby') has developed a penchant for shoplifting.

This first came to my attention several weeks ago when I returned home from my daily shop, pushchair piled high with shopping bags from various local stores...

I unclipped the baby, lifted him out, and noticed that there was a pack of 'Mentos' in his seat.  At the time I didn't think much of it as I sometimes buy them and thought perhaps he'd found them in a drawer somewhere.

A few days later, a similar scenario unfolded, whereby I again unclipped the baby from the pushchair, arms loaded with shopping, and noticed that there was once again a green pack of 'Mentos' in his seat - but this time a pack of chewing gum as well - and of a variety I am not partial to and therefore would never have bought and stashed in a drawer somewhere.

I suppose that's when the penny dropped so to speak.  I knelt down, took the offending articles in hand, and very calmly asked Squit where he had got them.

"There!" he said, gesturing vaguely out the door.

"From a store?" I asked tentatively...

"YES!  From Store!" He grinned proudly.  Uh oh.

So I tried to explain that taking things from the store was wrong and that you had to pay for them or give them to Mama to pay for them...blah blah blah...(the usual 'first shoplifting lecture' known the world over I'm sure).

He smiled, snatched the goods from my hand and toddled off up the stairs, leaving me to wonder which of the many stores had fallen prey to my sticky fingered baby son.

From that point on I took great care whenever we were out shopping to steer clear of the racks of sweets near the till, and I soon forgot about it.

Until about three weeks ago when all three boys were with me at our local M&S and whilst waiting for a free till to become available.  Egg suddenly yelled, "Look Mama!" pointing down at Squit in his pushchair, who we all watched deftly snatch-'n-grab a bag of sweets, in the blink of an eye (literally - it was so quick - like one of those blurred comic book illustrations) stashing it behind his back in the pushchair then looking up cherubically at us with absolutely no look of guilt whatsoever.  I sighed.

So you can see where this is going.  I now realise that at eye level, the various shops we frequent provide too much of a temptation for the little guy - who probably bored out of his mind - cannot help his two year old self from treating every grocery errand with Mama like his own version of 'Supermarket Sweep'.

I literally, now when doing my daily run of the shops, have to swerve and twist the pushchair in bizarre formations to keep him from grabbing and stashing whatever is within his reach.  Turns out that's quite a lot.

Yesterday in the crowded post office I had to wrestle a can of beans from his grubby little paws, all the while him shrieking, "But I NEED this!"

God help me.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

"Silver Linings...In There Somewhere"

It doesn't look as though the Fat Baby is going to cease and desist his random fridge raids anytime soon.  We've lost probably fifty quid's worth of Haagan Daz in the past week alone (what we were doing with that much ice-cream is another issue I suppose) what with the seal on our fridge now irrevocably broken and the freezer compartment buggered from being left slightly ajar several times throughout the day (sigh)...
a common sight in our home
On the home front, last week's hopeful jubilation has been replaced with despair and premature defeat. After having spent hours scrubbing up this place in the hopes that someone might walk in and fall immediately in love with it like we did several years ago, the feedback from the agent about the two viewings we had on the weekend was lukewarm at best.  I have faint recollections of yelling downstairs to the husband to not forget to clean our huge lovely drawing room windows...but of course we forgot, and the agent was quick to point out that we had neglected to show off one of the most appealing features of this flat to its best advantage.  Oops.

So now, much like a rejected model on her first two promising castings, we now feel like we'll never grace the cover of Vogue, but rather end up asking, for the next thirty odd years, "Do you want fries with that?"

Last night was a tough one actually, so perhaps that's contributing to this rather negative train of thought.  Squit broke the nib off of the husband's beloved fifty quid fountain pen, got his hand caught in the clips of the battery charger for the camper van and managed to re-graffiti the bespoke white cupboards we just paid a handyman £100 to repaint four days ago, with impossible to remove oil pastels no less.

As if that weren't enough, I diverted near disaster yesterday on the tube when I foiled Squitty's attempt to chuck a set of our rental flat keys onto the tracks when it emerged that he'd somehow squirrelled them away in his 'pocketses'.  But the REAL disaster is that the Fat Baby has managed to lose our ONLY set of keys to the back terrace. Which is currently steel bolted shut.  So that means that should we be lucky enough to have further viewings of this place, the estate agent will sadly have to gesture to our huge back terrace with a flippant wave of his hand and say, "All this could be yours..." but I'm afraid I can't show it to you today.

Saying that, you know that old saying, "Beneath every cloud is a silver lining"?  Well thanks to various members of my beloved family all mucking in self-sacrificially, it emerged yesterday that this year, as a one off, the husband and I get to venture to Glastonbury alone this weekend.  I can scarcely believe it myself.

Of course it also means that my sister and her husband, soon to become parents for the first time later this summer, have put a humungous deposit in the Bank of Tomorrow by way of ensuring that at some point in their parental future, should they desire a weekend sans bebe, they have merely to deposit their little sprog outside our door (probably here, where we'll no doubt still be living), ring the doorbell, and bugger off.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

'Old Mutha Hubbard'

...I was affecting a similar pose upstairs yesterday afternoon
Today we're celebrating Father's Day a week late.  That's because last weekend the husband and another father from Egg's class took a dozen boys on a birthday party camping extravaganza and when they arrived home on Sunday they were so wiped out that they spent the rest of the day drooling face down into the sofa.

And so here I sit, waiting for my muffins to rise, and preparing for my second caffeine injection of the day (and it's not even 8am...on a weekend) before the boys and I pile onto the bed and gift the husband with a motley assortment of 'gifts' specially chosen to illicit either a wary smile, raised eyebrow or a smile of delight depending on his mood.

You see we've both been in 'less than ideal' moods lately.  And that's an understatement.  They say that moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do after death and divorce.  But what they don't tell you is that moving home can often lead to death and/or divorce.

Now that the 'baby' is no longer a baby but rather a rambunctious, curious toddler, sometimes it feels like we're over run with boys and toys and screams and fights and mess and chaos, to the point that we look wearily across the table at each other mid-spaghetti food fight and shake our heads in defeat, the husband mumbling, "These are the hard years...."

And so the husband and I have a bit of a conundrum on our hands. Glastonbury Festival is next weekend and though very expensive tickets have been procured we have not yet finalised what our final line-up is going to be in terms of attendance.  Our options are thus:

1.  We go as a family
(minus the baby - as Auntie Mo and newly minted Uncle Chancey, about to become parents for the first time in August, have kindly agreed to Squit-sit the darling little bugger for us and save him from being ravaged by raved-up trustafarians in some muddy field in Somerset).  This option is unappealing for a number of reasons - the main one being that we did it last year, and much as we are glad we did, we have little to no desire to spend the weekend inside the family-centric enclosure known as the 'Green Fields', watching better parents than we, build puppets and practice circus stunts alongside their wee ones, betraying not an ounce of resentment over the fact that they can hear strains of their favourite band four fields away, with not a hope of seeing them in the flesh.

2.  We go as a couple
(this remains the most coveted and yearned for option.  For obvious reasons.  See above comment referring to death and/or divorce.  Nuff said.)

3.  The husband goes solo
(during these number-crunching house hunting days, it would be near insanity to waste a hallowed Glasto ticket - not just for the wasted poundage, but for the sheer stupidity of actually having miraculously procured a ticket and having it sit wasted on a desk whilst you watch sporadic coverage on BBC 3 and wipe mouths and bums in your husband's absence, all the while pity and resentment building.  Not good.)

So...what to do??

For now, put the whole dilemma to one side, celebrate 'Dada Day' a week late, and try to not think about what the heck we're going to do about Glastonbury, about buying a house, about trying to sell ours, about when on earth Squitty is going to allow us to attempt to potty-train him, and try harder to enforce the strict 'no cricket matches' on our back terrace so as not to further devalue this already worn 'Old Mutha Hubbard' cupboard with more broken lanterns and mirrors (sigh)...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

"Dishpan Hands and Frazzled Nerves"

So here's the deal:  we've put our home on the market for an exhorbitant sum, in order to be able to afford a bigger home for an even more exhorbitant sum.  What this means of course, is that in order to be able to afford a stupidly expensive home in this area of London we call home, we need to sell OUR home for a stupidly expensive price.

Translation:  It is up to ME to turn this glorified den of testosterone-fuelled boy-mess into something resembling a 'lovely home' (ie. somewhere someone is prepared to pay serious money to live).  (Sigh).

My bones fingers are cracked and head hurts...I am as weary as a Jersey cow giving birth to an oversized calf in extended labour.  In short, I want to die.

What's worse is that after two years of perusing all suitable properties in the area, we have finally come upon what is known in Bourgeoise circles as our 'DREAM HOUSE'.  It is a house so glorious, and so perfect for us, that I want to break out into one of Squitty's 'Happy Dances' every time I think about it.

The sellers are playing hard to get, and the only way we stand a chance of nabbing the most perfect house in the world (okay fine, in this area) is by convincing the two sets of potential buyers tomorrow that they must absolutely part with a vast amount of cash in order to occupy what on most days resembles a replica of Peter Pan's Neverland Island of Lost Boys.

I'm serious.

Forget that the Fat Baby (aka 'Squit') loves to pass many an afternoon scribbling indelible marker imprints onto our bespoke cupboards...or that Dumpie has constructed a fake play land in the corner of his bedroom made out of 90% of his toys, emptied out of various toy boxes, faster than I can stash them out of sight.

I am like a sniffer hound, frantically grabbing up bits of clothing and mini boxer shorts splayed across the boy's bedroom floor, ascertaining in quick whiffs whether or not they belong in a drawer or a washing machine.  I stand by wanting to sob as two year old Squit shoves a chair across the kitchen floor, props the refrigerator open, grabs two or three yoghurt drinks, eludes my grasp and tears into the front room proceeding to sip and spray the half-full containers over our suede sofas and impossible-to-clean carpets.

I won't even get into the psychology of why my boys appear to take great delight in emptying their bowels into the toilets and leaving their various emissions to fester for hours until I come across them and have to scrub, flush and spray in order to erase the lingering odours.  And don't get me started on Squitty's favourite past time which is filling the bidets to overflowing in order to sail his little plastic toy boats....

As one of four girls growing up, this boy behaviour is foreign to me.  No amount of crying, banging fists and threatening immolation seems to have any effect on my sons, who when witnessing such manic behaviour are more prone to smile sardonically as they look up from their various ipods and ipads and mutter, 'Chill out Mama', as stop what they're doing and help me rectify the diabolic mess they've created.

In short, I face an impossible task, and only a miracle is going to deliver to us the house of our dreams.

No amount of chilled white wine is going to abate my sunken spirits, and as I sit here and despair, the only light at the end of the tunnel is the reality that should said attempted house move fail (for reasons mentioned above), at least I can console myself that the beaches of Goa and/or Bali await, and if our boy-centric family of five is unable to make it in the 'Western World' perhaps it's a sign that we belong on the beaches of Goa, where sandy sheets and dirty faces are not only encouraged, but the norm.

Middle-class London...we've tried our best to fit in...but perhaps we don't.  Only today will tell whether the countless hours of shunting the bulk of our possessions into an overpriced storage facility and rubbing my hands raw with chemically enhanced cleaning products will yield the result we so desperately crave.

Otherwise, I'm getting out my sandals, digging out my sarongs, and declaring defeat.  Sorry darling Egg, I know you're terribly clever and an academic in the making, but it's either boarding school for you or you're going to have to manage your expectations from being a star on the debating team into being chief conch blower on a sandy beach.

I officially give up.  Let the fates decide...

Friday, 20 June 2014

"I'm Baaaaaack...(In Black)"

It is beyond shameful.  I have not updated my once beloved blog in SO LONG that it's like one of those awkward moments when you run into a former best friend at a checkout till, arms bulging with cut-price wine, trying to mumble an excuse as to why you have failed to get in touch for so long (though I suppose the eight bottles of precariously balanced wine might do the trick) and feeling horrendously guilty.

I suppose that's part of it.  I have been so busy trying to juggle this crazy life o' mine these past several months that frankly, I have had to abandon all former personal pleasures: reading, telly watching, baking, shopping (okay, not that) and former dvd habit - just to name a few.  I simply have NOTHING left in me at the end of each day, to the point that I give myself a metaphorical pat on the back should I manage to floss my teeth and apply my under eye cream (these days a necessary evil) before lurching into the soft folds of my duvet and promptly passing out.

So I'm sure you can understand how despite the personal importance of this blog to me, I have simply been so awash in dirty pants (not my own), endless scrubbing, sorting, scouring, hanging, grocery shopping, dishwasher emptying, school running, bum wiping, lunch making, etc. that all non-Cinderella pastimes have faded into the ether of yesteryear.

Until today.

Why today you ask?  Why choose to start piping up again after all this time?

Come on people, surely you know me by now.  When I get so incredibly desperate, hovering on the edge of insanity, about to blow my brains into smithereens if I have to scrape just one more splatter of dried poo off one more toilet...well, it stands to figure that when I'm JUST about to lose the plot, I turn to the (relative) anonymity of my blog to release even just a tad of the pressure.  (So I don't have to be carted off to the funny farm, howling about forgetting my candy yum-yum lipstick and clutching my portable speakers blaring "My Silver Lining"...tears running down my mascara-streaked face.)

So that's where I am now.

Oh, and did I mention that we're in the midst of trying to move home?

....more tomorrow folks :)