Saturday, 26 September 2015

"Carry On Camping..."

Not having had a terribly restful sleep (I woke in the middle of the night to find the lights still on and husband snoring in time to dance music blasting from the radio - "sleep timer much?"), it is with some trepidation that I face the day. True, it's gorgeously sunny, and this weekend is meant to be the last hurrah of summer with temperatures predicted to hover around the 20 degree mark, but you won't find me sprawled on my customary place on the Common, lazily flipping through Grazia and steadily making my way through bouteille numero deux of a chilled Oyster Bay.

Instead, I'm apparently to be deposited in some giant field somewhere a few hours outside of the big smoke, courtesy of our 'Kamper Van', alongside four smelly boys, a load of undefrosted bacon and a giant bag of marshmallows. (Note to self: must remember the 'Night-Time Advil'.)

The husband tells me we'll be 'making a memory' for the boys, and that our boys need to get into a large field and run like dogs. True though that may be, the fact is that our boys are going to be bent perpendicular over their respective devices (ipads/ipods/nicked iphone), oblivious to anything around them, cramming marshmallows down their gobs and having simultaneous freak-outs when their batteries run out.

I can see it already: the husband will dutifully fry up some bacon, warm up some beans, and enthusiastically prepare food for all of us, revelling in his portable stove, the great outdoors and his ability to 'live off the land' (courtesy of Waitrose and the bottle of scotch he has no doubt already procured and stashed in the van somewhere). No one will eat anything and he'll be left scoffing the whole lot and feeling sick for the rest of the day. Squitty will enthusiastically agree to go on a long walk and then two minutes in will start his customary wail of, 'My LEGS are TIRED!" and the husband will have to hoick the chubby chicken up onto his shoulders where he will squirm, complain and rip his hair out in an attempt to hang on, before the walk is abandoned and we all return to sit in or around the van, plugged into our respective devices whilst the husband gives up on the whole lot of us and goes off to hang out with strangers camped nearby for the remainder of the time.

I know how this story goes, but am powerless to stop the wheels already in motion. Now where's that bloody Night-Time Advil????

Thursday, 24 September 2015

"Like Sands Through The Hourglass...So Are The Days Of Our Lives"

We are now fully into the shambolic rhythm that signifies our version of 'family life'.

The husband dutifully prepares the morning cappuccino and thumps it down on the bedside table at precisely 6:37am. I blindly reach for the nearest paperback and place it atop the mug in an attempt to keep it warm until I can actually sit up and partake.

Egg wanders in, shirt untucked, hair an absolute mess and tries to nick one or both of our phones before exiting again, grumbling into his mobile that we haven't started following him on Instagram yet and where the heck is a charger that works?

Squitty will either be snoring in bed between us (he's suddenly taken up middle-of-the-night visitations again after a long hiatus, and sometimes I'll wake with a start at 3am to find a silent, large-eyed child just standing there staring at me) or downstairs with Dumpie building a fort in the front room and staining sofa cushions with soggy Special K.

Egg usually tears off at 7:30 in a mad rush to catch his bus and I'll either slip into running gear and take off into the damp sunny cold for a 30 minute run (a handy substitute for Prozac) or I'll shuffle downstairs and begin preparing the most potent but somewhat vile 'SuperJuice' for the husband and I. Squit will refuse to get dressed, saying he hates school and wants to play on my phone, and Dumpie will refuse to brush his hair and lie calmly watching cartoons in his pjs mere minutes before the school bell goes - completely oblivious to my manic protestations of "You're going to be late! What are you doing?! Have you even had breakfast?!"

Eventually, at 9:15am, I'll head over to Nursery to drop Squit off for two hours and say hi to the giant tortoise 'Lightening' (who after a forced rocky start to friendship I've now decided I love and am hatching plans to kidnap), and settle Squit on his little cushion for circle time. For the first week of Nursery Squit was hesitantly intrigued and all was fine, but by the second week it suddenly dawned on him that school was going to be permanent and not just an amusing side note and drop-offs consisted of him hysterically screaming, "NO! DON'T LEAVE ME MAMA!!!" whilst being prised off me by well-meaning teachers and pulled away thrashing.

I'm pleased to say that this week this behaviour has suddenly ceased - helped in no small part by me reassuring him that he 'doesn't smell of wee' (not entirely true), and that his teachers are fine with him still wearing nappies (they don't know). Also, after pointedly refusing to sit down for circle time and stubbornly standing in the corner holding his elbows and refusing to take part since school began, he has suddenly conceded to join the rest of his classmates on the carpet on the condition that he gets his own special cushion to sit on.  I kid you not.

Egg has taken so enthusiastically to Secondary School that in an attempt to avoid FOMO ('fear of missing out') he's joined pretty much every club going - except netball which is for girls only and frustrates him as he loves it and knows all the rules (the sum of which I heard, verbatim, over dinner last night). He's apparently on the water polo team, the football team, the cycling team, the 'fivers' team, and in some sort of maths/chemistry/I.T. club. Having recently been informed that he possesses a uniquely high, beautiful, and as of yet 'unbroken' voice, he has also been persuaded to join the choral club - though the fact that travel plays a big part is no doubt responsible for much of his enthusiasm. Egg's also threatening to try out for hockey too - on the basis that his school remain undefeated champions for ten years running now and despite no previous interest whatsoever in the sport, I suspect the lure is too much to resist.

Dumpie is taking things in stride as is his nature. He's like a little version of me, and as such I'm onto him. More concerned with the social fabric of junior school than the actual work, he is a clever boy who can easily achieve decent grades with very little effort but is not motivated to excel when he'd rather play with lego or run a trading cards racket from the playground (from YoYo Bear Fun Facts cards to Football cards to Pokeman cards in the space of only six months I can barely keep up).

As for the husband and I, we're pretty much managing to hold it together - some days more successfully than others. We've sold our home at long last but with things moving at a snails pace and simultaneously trying to sell our other flat to finance the purchase of the 'Chestnuts- roasting-on-an-open-fire' home (yep, we're back in the running with that one) despite the best efforts of a petulant, resentful and uncooperative freeholder trying to thwart our every move, it's proving to be incredibly nerve-wracking.

Plus, the 'early onset dementia' jokes are becoming less funny with each passing month, and we are seriously reconciling ourselves to the fact that we are getting stupider and stupider as the children get smarter and more canny. If this continues, in a few years time, we fully expect to be ensconced in the loft, a la 'Flowers in the Attic,' being pacified with electronic ciggies, a recurring Wine Club subscription, and only Spotify and our Sonos speakers to amuse, whilst the three boys take over the running of the household (in no doubt superior fashion) and implement novel but illegal ways to finance their addiction to ipads, iphones, Netflix and Pringles.

Bring it on I say...

Thursday, 10 September 2015

"The Age of Amazing-ness"

How can I not sit here today and take a moment out from my washerwoman duties to highlight the fact that this is the first time in a millions years (okay...over a decade anyway) that I can sit here, however briefly, kiddie-less, in our House of Shambles and NOT hear the distant drone of CBB's telly on in the background...or plaintive wails of "I'm hungry...what should I eat?...I want something something something _____"

It's true.  I think I jumped the gun yesterday when I announced that our last, littlest weeny sprog had hatched the nest so to speak, and ventured off to Nursery for the first time.  Really it's today that must be marked as truly historic, for after dragging a reluctant Squit off to school, I actually got to leave him there and have a little bit of time to myself.  (Shamefully, I got round the highly traumatic 'leaving' issue by setting him up in the little kitchen and rattling off a litany of foodstuffs I expected him to prepare for lunch upon my return.  The little guy totally fell for it, and began mixing and pretend pouring in earnest as I hightailed it out of there, expecting a plaintive wail which never came. Well I'll be...maybe after all this time the little guy is in need of more stimulation that he's thus far gotten watching me clean, launder and grocery shop these many months.)

So what did I do with my newfound freedom?  Nip off to my local coffee shop, laptop in hand, and celebrate with a double shot cappuccino? Come back and have a leisurely bath and rearrange my wardrobe? Catch up on a few chapters of my latest book with a cup of tea?

Nope.  True to form I spazzed 90% of my first day of freedom on kitchen cleanup, bed making, yet another load of laundry, and concocting a killer green juice from scratch courtesy of my Dualit juicer (which unfortunately takes eighteen times as long to clean as it does to conjure up said juice.)

Anyway, in two minutes I must dash across and collect little Squit and then likely get told off the entire way back about how i deserted him and be informed in no uncertain terms that there is no way he is going back.

I have news for you little man.  You are SO going back and moreover, tomorrow I shall not squander my 2.5 hours of morning freedom.  Oh no...housework be damned.  I am going to use my time decadently artistic fashion and see what comes of it.

Perhaps a new tune is just waiting to be put down...or that novel that for years I've been meaning to write is going to be birthed at long last...or maybe I'll just get to grips with the mountains of paperwork and documents which need to be sorted and collated in order to move us out of here and into a new home.

Whatever it is, I do know that last night when the husband asked me whether I had felt teary dropping off our youngest 'onto the conveyor belt of the rest of his life', it took me a millisecond to realise that I had not.  Not at all.  Yes, it's the end of an era, and yes, that munchkin voice and eggbeater run of Squit's is on the way are tiny jeans, baby breath, and blowing kisses.  I know that in a blink of an eye I'll be a ladyshape in the midst of four big menfolk, sniffing the testosterone in the air and being held ransom by infinite smelly sweat socks.  But...I will also get my life back.  And while the boys grow monstrous and come to see me as little more than a meals on wheels/drycleaning service, I shall quietly be concocting my next move on the sly.

I am already daydreaming my future incarnation into being as we speak...

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

"And Another One Bites The Dust"

Today was the first day of the rest of Squitty's academic life - and if early indications are a sign, then he will be a-okay in my opinion (as long as none of the nursery teachers peep below his waistband and spot the tell-tale crinkly nappy sticking out).

Yes, it's true (sigh). Despite swearing to the contrary (and now feeling an absolute failure as a parent) I have indeed sent my 3.8 year old child to school whilst still in nappies.  The shame of it.

Still, you can't really blame me.  Especially if you had say peeked through our bathroom window yesterday and seen me trying to hoist a half-naked writhing toddler onto a big blue plastic potty seat whilst he screamed and tried to punch me all the while making sure I knew who wore the (nappy) pants in the family.

"I will NOT go on the potty!  Never, never, never Mama!  You can't make me!"

It would appear the little fella is spot on.  I couldn't, didn't, haven't and hold very little hope of being able to at some future point.

All that remains to be seen is how long into term we can get before getting caught out...and by caught out I mean having to drop whatever I'm doing in order to race over and deal with a steamy poo-pants mess. I dread it already but know it's inevitable.

This morning Squitty and I went to nursery together for just an hour as it was his first day, but tomorrow he goes by himself (though if you were to ask him to confirm that fact he'd deny it vehemently).

We arrived and after blatantly ignoring two friendly teachers trying to say hello, he showed mild interest in a giant Tortoise named 'Lightning' (it moves bloody fast - no joke), which they kindly took out of its cage for him and plopped onto the grass, only for Squitty to nearly step on it before losing interest completely and making a beeline for the play-dough inside.  (I of course felt obliged to take OTT interest in said Tortoise since they'd gone to all the trouble of taking it out, so subsequently ended up in stilted conversation about tortoises with a bemused Frenchman who was no more interested in the subject matter than was I.)

Meanwhile Squit was fashioning up blue play-dough sausages elsewhere and making a messy glue and feather paint picture - which he informed me he had no interest in taking home with him.  Fickle artist.

As I could have predicted, we ended up in the sandbox. There he commandeered the shovels such that his only other companion - a shy blond little french girl - was muscled out and ran off, only for Squitty to tire of the whole thing and take off for train tracks and dump truck manoeuvring elsewhere.

So that was that.  A cursory glace round suggested that Squitty's class is made up of all rather nice children from all rather nice homes...the progeny of all rather nice parents.

As for me, the only interesting conversation I had was with a 22 year old blond Aussie nanny from Bondi Beach with a strong accent and a rather striking undercut.

Says it all really.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

"Egg....Egg...And Away!"

This morning the alarm went off at Stupid O'clock (ie. 6am or so...) as the husband was determined that Egg not be late for his first day of Secondary School.  Given that our sole family vehicle is a stuffed-to-the-gills Camper Van and that only one of us is in possession of a valid UK drivers license, the plan was that the husband would drop Egg off in a taxi and the monsters and I would collect him later via the 37 through Brixton.

Last night over a Spaghetti dinner, we tried in vain to convince Egg that he absolutely had to have his hair at least trimmed for today, as his shiny dirty blond locks fall over his eyes and we know there is absolutely no way his shaggy muppet hairdo is going to fly at his new school.  He begged to differ.

Egg has this thing about his hair.  As in, no one is allowed to cut it or alter it in any way.  Every few months or so, we have an almighty row, screaming matches, and it all ends in tears and an uneven jagged hairline after I am at last allowed to make say five snips before Egg catches his reflection in the mirror, declares that I have ruined both his hair and his life, and tears out of the kitchen in hysterics - stubbornly donning a hoodie for the next few days to make a point.

Auntie Ba had begged the husband and I a few weeks ago to make sure that we gave Egg a relaxed send off to this new chapter of his life, and this promise was ringing in my ears last night when Egg predictably refused to allow me to rearrange even a millimetre of the hair obstructing his lovely green eyes.  I shrugged, put away the scissors and calmly told him that I would wait until he was asleep to give him a trim.

"Whatever Mama!  I'll just stay up all night'll see!"

I smiled...continued washing the dishes, and an hour later, did just what I told him I would do.

The husband looked incredulously at the snippet of hair I triumphantly held aloft before binning.

"I can't believe you did that.  Wow.  Egg is going to lose it when he wakes up.  I'm not sure you should have done that...invasion of privacy and all that..." the husband mumbled.

Sometimes I find it's necessary to make good on the odd threat...keeps people on their toes. And also, believe it or not it's actually easier to trim Egg's hair when he's unconscious and passed out in a pile of perspiration on his pillow than when he's dodging me in the kitchen, trying to whip sharp scissors out of my hand and shrieking "No! No!" as we try and negotiate the number of snips I'm allowed (I bet even Nicky Clarke couldn't cut under those conditions).

Anyway, this morning Egg woke up, donned his new uniform, and I barely noticed the mockery coming from the husband over my diabolical name tag sewing-on efforts (hey, I'm good at lots of things but sewing ain't one of them), so curious was I to see if I'd get rumbled.

I didn't.  Go figure.  Although somewhere between the husband sorting out Egg's tie and Squitty trying to nab my iphone, I managed to sneak in a few snips and mostly even out his fringe.

Having neglected to remember to purchase Egg new black school socks, I instead handed over a new pair of mine (we are now the same size...!), took some pics, gushed at how handsome and grown up he now looks (when did that happen?!) and ushered Egg and the husband out the door and into a taxi in the nick of time before collapsing with the September issue of Vogue, and a cup of Earl Grey as I stared out the window and watched them pull away.

Life is so weird.  Birth to Secondary a heartbeat.