Friday, February 17, 2006

Horrid Half Term Torture

A propos of my last posting about Half Term Hell, I thought I had to pass on this poem which my nine year old presented me with the other day. Such insight in one so young...

Needless to say, my half term has been somewhat better then this...

Day 1 they lost the hamster.
We looked everywhere.
But I know it didn't vanish
Into thin air.

Day 2 they broke the telly
And lost the baby's shoes.
Then they ripped Dad's ticket
For an ocean cruise.

Day 3 we went to the cinema.
I got absolutely soaked.
'Cos my nine year old son
Splattered me with coke.

Day 4 it was my birthday.
It was a rubbish day.
They gave me a present -
Of horse manure! Hooray!

Day 5 they smashed the laptop
And ripped my favourite book.
They ransacked my bedroom,
My jewels is what they took.

Day 6 we fixed the TV,
But Suzie smashed it up again.
Then Jimmy broke Granny's vase
While playing in his den.

Day 7, grande finale,
They broke the window pane.
I'd just got a new laptop,
But they smashed it up again.

Now the holidays are over.
I thought it would never end.
Those pesky little children,
Drive me round the bend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

All Lurved Up...

Being as I have spent the last eight years attempting to become a romantic novelist (current wip, entitled Allotted Time, only two years in the making. My poor hero has been standing in his hallway confronting his ex since well before Christmas. It is about time I rescued him...), I really can't let the most romantic day of the year pass without comment.

I should mention here that I am married to the most unromantic man in the universe. Here is a man who regularly tells me buying flowers is a waste of money (He is totally immune to my cries of But that's not the point...), and once made me a heart out of dental alginate material. It took him years to remember whether my birthday was in June or July, he regularly provides Christmas and birthday presents late, and one year when he realised that he had forgotten my birthday (again) made me a card out of two bits of wood hinged together. Inside it bore the immortal words, Happy Birthday, you old bat. He also despises Valentine's Day as a purely commercial venture designed to lighten his purse and make money for the card and flower industries. So romantic he definitely is not.

The flowers things is partly my own fault. I read in a book somewhere that men start buying their wives flowers out of guilt when they are having affairs, and made the mistake of telling him... I know, I know. But look, I was very young at the time, and it never dawned on me that I would pay for that remark for the rest of my natural born days.

Still, he has improved of late, managing to whisk me off to Venice for my 40th last year (so all those years when I kept on about how much I would love to go there, he was paying attention), and I nowadays generally get birthday and Christmas presents on time. (It helps, I find that he has a nine and a seven year old to give him advice about what Mummy might like). And once or twice I have even had flowers.

But leopards don't change their spots, and quite frankly I wasn't expecting a great deal out of Valentine's Day. Although having been sent out on Sunday (Sunday???) to the local Sex Emporium that graces our shopping centre, to buy his Valentine's present, it was quite clear what he did have in mind.

Apart from having to take a deep breath when going into a shop which advertises that a girl's best friend is her Rampant Rabbit, I actually find going into these places hilarious. Once I get over my natural I-am-a-mother-and-therefore-a-frump tendencies, I can even have a laugh with the girls behind the counter who are all very helpful and are so much younger then me, they think working here is normal. Me, I can't help wondering everytime I go into shops like this what on earth the marketing meetings are like. They must be a hoot.

I always feel slightly panicstricken by the sight of all the more - ahem - novel items on display, so take refuge in looking at the bras, as even frumpy mums need them. And being as I am now the rather unhelpful size of 38B, I tend to look these days now more in hope then expectation. Once upon a time I was a rather more normal 34B, but that was pre-children and now I have ended up in a strange hinterland as far as bras go, and find it nigh on impossible to get them anywhere. So finding not just one, but to my amazement, three bras that fitted meant I was of course obliged to buy them all. Lord alone knows when such manna will come my way again.This cut into my present buying budget rather. But as I already have a wide selection of French lacey stuff with which to delight my other half (why is it always French lace? I suppose Nottingham lace, just doesn't have quite the same ring to it...), I opted to go for something a little more sensual instead. The only trouble is, the panic started setting in again, and I was seduced into a last-minute- grab-and-leg-it buy.

Which is how I came to leave the shop clutching a bag containing two big shiny boxes from the appropriately titled Sin range. One was meant to spice up your love life with the sensuous smell of rose petals, delicately scattered on the bed (I've always wanted to do that, but being of a practical nature, can't help thinking about the mess, and clearing up), while the other was to get you going with smellies and candles in the bathroom. All of which I hoped would help me rustle up what is left of my libido (precious little after four children I can tell you), and at the very least bring a smile to Spouse's face...

As this is half term, all the children were at home come the big day. No 1 has inconveniently sprained her ankle, so we have been stuck in doors all week. Talk about cabin fever... In between bouts of fighting and watching too much tv, I have been getting rather desperate to say the least. Yesterday, however, lurve was in the air and the children decided that it being Valentine's Day they all ought to be nice to each other. So, they spent most of the day making each other cards, and when they had got bored of that, making them for me and Spouse.

No 2 being the most touchy feely of our children was the worst culprit. She started by bringing me a card addressed to: Mum and Dad and loving sisters, (I don't know about loving sisters, most of the time they want to kill each other). Inside it proclaimed that Love is in the air. Where does she get this stuff from? It's not like we encourage her... By the end of the day she was maniacally cutting out hearts and leaving them all over the shop. Spouse got one in the entry to our bedroom, and I got one in the study. Thanks to all their efforts, my eventual haul for the day was about a dozen hearts, and seven cards. Somewhat better then normal then, and just what I would have been after as a teenager. Oh well...

Just before Spouse came home I was explaining to no 1 that he isn't very romantic, while making him prawn cocktail. Why are you doing that? She wanted to know. Because we're not going out, I said. I think it is slowly dawning on her that her parents actually have a life of their own that doesn't include her. But I suspect she also doesn't want to think about it too deeply. It's been enough of a shock to her to work out where babies come from. She probably doesn't need the added horror of thinking that her parents actually did that. Or still do for that matter...

My idea had been to get the sprogs into bed early and have a romantic tete a tete, over a lovingly cooked meal. But it being the holidays, I was later getting them to bed then intended. Plus our enforced stay indoors has meant everyone had far too much energy. So I was still settling the little ones down at 8pm, no 2 had only just got out of the bath, and no 1 wasn't even in yet. I chased her up to bed and then toyed with the idea of getting all Togged Up For Him. However, by now it was nearly nine o'clock, I hadn't finished cooking and I knew that no 1 would no doubt be in my bedroom at any minute to dry her hair. Having once had to hide under the bed from no 2 while in the middle of putting some sexy underwear on, I didn't fancy a repeat performance.

So I didn't bother with the Togging Up (is there any point putting things on to take them off, I wonder? Mr Maniac Mum, he say, yes), but did cook the meal. And a bottle of red wine later, it was time to try out the shiny new boxes from the Sex Emporium.

Oh how I wuz robbed, dear Reader... The petals were plastic and didn't smell remotely roselike. And there was a rather small bottle of some kind of massage oil, which pro rata probably costs about £100 a gram, whilst the candle set was just that. A couple of candles and some bubble bath which produced the most minimal bubbles I've ever seen.

Which goes to show you shouldn't be seduced by nice shiny boxes. Particularly when you're in a shop where you'd be embarrassed to meet your mother, so a tendency to impulse purchases runs high.

I'm beginning to see Spouse's point. Valentine's Day is a purely commercial enterprise for the card industry, and increasingly for Sex Emporiums.

OTOH, candles, baths. They kind of work for me...

PS. I did get: one red rose, Pride and Prejudice DVD and the Kate Mosse book. So the boy done good, in the end...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Changing Rooms

I have no idea at all if anyone is out there in cyberspace reading the witterings of an insane mother, but if you are, many apologies for the long delay since my last blog. Blame a rather too large dose of real life, namely a book I have been editing which has kept me busy since Christmas (about which more later) combined with a more then average busy spell in our house at the weekends, and an office move...

...So, while some weeks ago I was going to blog about the travails of my recalcritant car breaking down on my friend's driveway on the way to school, I have now decided the moment is past, but there is still time enough to tell you about our recent changing rooms experience.

Being as we have four children we need rather a lot more room then most. Our current house had four bedrooms when we moved into it when no 1 was on the way. Over the course of time, and with the arrival of the subsequent offspring we have acquired an extra bedroom, but due to the nature of the house it came in the shape of two railway carriage rooms next to each other. When we first had these rooms the two little ones shared one room with a small bed and a cot, while the big ones were in a bunk bed in the other, and we had two spare bedrooms. Eventually, no 1 moved into the box room at the front, no3 into the bottom bunk and no4 had the other bedroom all to herself.

Such is the shifting nature of children's needs, no4 has of late taken to being rather fed up with this arrangement, and a) either gets scared or b) annoys everyone else and keeps them awake. Nos 1&2 seem incapable of sleeping alone so nine times out of ten no 2 creeps out of her bed and into no 1's. This used to work when no3 went to sleep and didn't realise, but of late she has twigged that her big sis deserts her after dark and has been making rather a fuss about it.

So the time had come, I felt to shift things around. However, we had decided that no 1 needed a high sleeper and therefore have spent some fruitless months looking for one (fruitless as the height of most of them is still too low for our requirements, though I am indebted to the person who posted a message on this blog directing me to various websites.), and have therefore remained in a state of limbo for some time. However, one night recently after some meaningless debacle in which nos 3&4 were kicking up stink about some supposed extra benefit the big ones were having, whilst no 1 was weeping in her room that life was so unfair, and no2 as usual was accusing me of ruining her life (god knows what she'll have to complain about when she's a teenager...), in a fit of desperation I promised them a change of scenery. What was I thinking...?

I tell Spouse of this foolish plan, which is enough for him to go haring off to Ikea on Saturday morning while I do the ballet run - he is nothing if not impetuous.

Meanwhile I end up taking four children first to no 2's Holy Joe classes, before braving the horror that is the Fame School. However, no 2 preferring not unnaturally to watch Dick and Dom in Da Bloody Bungalow is pretty pissed off with this arrangement and promptly turns into Devil Child. This is quite appropriate as she is shortly to make her First Confession (or Reconciliation as they call it in these PC days) - at least she now has something to confess. So she screams and sobs and wails at the unfairness of it all. By the time we arrive (late) she is sulking in the moodiest manner imaginable. I actually have to physically carry her to the Church door (and at seven she isn't desperately light), where the very kind but rather misguided people who run the classes offer her such delights as going to sit in the church and light a candle, or praying quietly to Jesus in a corner. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. I don't think so....

By this time it is about ten to ten - no 4 should have been in ballet ten minutes ago. So I foolishly promise no 2 that I will come back and check she is ok - I can't believe I'm doing it, it's the sort of deal I make with the three year old, but needs must and all that. Sweating profusely I make it back to ballet at ten to discover that thanks to no 2's appalling behaviour, I was so distracted, we have left the ballet bag behind. Luckily no 4 is wearing her dress under clothes, so she can pass that on to no 3 at the end of the lesson, but no one has any socks or shoes. I debate going home but realise that I have run out of time, to do either that or get back to church to check on no 2's progress. When my superorganised lifesaving friend arrives to take her daughter to ballet she nobly agrees to look after all my offspring while I check on the Devil Child. I get back to church and of course she is fine, but they let her go home with me early. And all I can say is they must have been drumming in the saying sorry bit good and hard today, as she is suitably repentant...

...Then it's back home to have a spot of lunch before heading back again with nos 1&2 for their ballet/gym classes. I get back to discover Spouse in the process of putting the bed together. It's high - very high. I try not to have too many palpitations about the thought of no1 breaking her neck, but given my propensity for imagining the worst, this is a nigh on impossibility. Worrying is what I do best, so I'd better live with it...

The good news is the bed liberates oodles of space in the bedroom, and we can put my old desk in there. The bad news is I now have to rearrange three bedrooms. So while Spouse tries to put the bed together with a friend whose children have come round to play, I move clothes around the house in rotation. This being Ikea furniture, nothing is straightforward as the boys suddenly discover when they realise they have put the bed together the wrong way. Much cursing ensues, but in the end the bed goes up, the boys hive off down the road to indulge in a spot of hovercraft building, while I hoover everywhere. In a moment of madness when Spouse is out, I decide I will have a go at moving the desk, which proves easier said then done. I manage (just) not to push it down the stairs, but when I get it into the bedroom, I discover the side has collapsed. I have now created further dust and dirt, so have to hoover the room all over again...

Meanwhile the children are rampaging about the house, and as is their wont, every toy from every room gets removed played with, discarded and left somewhere it shouldn't be. As usual I have the screaming abdabs about this, for all the good it does me. As no one ever takes a blind bit of notice...

By the time Spouse is back, I have decided that the desk actually fits better under the bed, and rearrange things accordingly. I then go into tackle the little ones' bedroom. In the process of the move, I have accquired an extra set of shelves, which is probably just as well as no4 is still at that stage in childhood where she seems to have amassed an obscenely large numbers of toys, most of which she never plays with, but if you tried to lose them she would scream blue murder.

In order to put things on the shelves, I have to sort out what is already there, as of course nothing is where it should be. Most of no 2's possessions have fallen down the side of the bed, and no 3 obligingly hoiks things out for me, but soon the floor is covered in bits of paper (too, too important apparently to bin), books, doll's clothes, bits of puzzles, Bratz dolls' feet - you name it there' s enough to start a toy shop here, if only I could put the right bits and pieces together...

By now it is gone eight o'clock, and I am seriously doubting that any of the children will get to bed tonight. I consider putting them in the spare room, but as this is where Spouse has been dumping the rubbish from the new bed, this is a bit of an impossibility. So instead I clean up as manically as possible, while Spouse sorts no 1's mattress and duvet out (getting a mattress on a high sleeper, requires the ingenuity of an Einstein, but between us we managed it). Meanwhile he starts dumping everything from no1's old room into the new room. And by dumping I mean dumping... trouble is he's seen the floor in the other room, so is taking heed, what he's not worked out is that I am actually putting things back on shelves...

By nine, the rooms are just about liveable in, though you still can't see the floor of no 1's room. "Time for bed," we say firmly, and are met with a chorus of protests. "But I don't likeitwantitimscaredinmynewroomthebedstoohigh..."

Whose idea was this again?