27 May 2013

Punishment and dementia

A few weeks ago I confiscated J's ipod after he was mean to his sister. Initially he took this rather well, but later on that night the contraband item was no longer on the office shelf where I'd left it. J denied all knowledge of it's current whereabouts and as there were more pressing matters at hand (involving the staged bedtimes of 3 children, the answering of a dozen emails and the consumption of a large glass of red wine and a family bag of maltesers) I did not pursue the matter further.

However, the next morning I found said confiscated item under its owner's pillow, and suddenly J remembered, Oh yes that's right, I did take it back without asking and yes that was wrong of me and I'm VERY sorry mummy...

So ipod was confiscated for 2nd time in as many days, only this time I did not leave it in plain view of the owner. Whoah no- I hid it. Sneakily and effectively. Rather too effectively. When I came to return the thing I couldn't find it.

Cue many tears (him), lots of apology (me), a 4 hour road trip which felt much longer than it was and the treat of being able to spend some journey time playing games on my phone (normally not allowed, but felt it was only fair given the circumstances).

On returning home we searched some more but still no iPod appeared. I knew the room I'd placed it in (our bedroom) and the general area within the room it had last been seen (on top of chest of drawers by window), but many items in our bedroom and indeed all over our house are not static at the moment (About 1/3 of our belongings are packed up in boxes and stacked in the dining room so we can move house as soon as the mortgage people decide to give us some money and stop playing email tag with us to demand bits of paper and question the wisdom of cancelling direct debits from energy suppliers who no longer provide us with energy yet continue to steal take our money). So anyway, the hiding place I'd so carefully chosen for the iPod was not only hidden, but possibly portable too, making it a really really good secret hiding place.

There have been many iPod centred conversations in our house recently. I won't bore you with them all, but here are some of them:

J: Mummy, the next time I'm bad and you have to take my ipod away can you pleeeaaase remember where you put it?

Me: I will honestly and truly try to do that mate. And maybe you could try really hard NOT to be mean and then lie to me and then you'll get to keep all your stuff! (Big smile and I try to hi-5 him).

J: (Half-heartedly slaps my hand) Yes, but it is still lost just now though, isn't it?

E: Mum, the next time you take something off Jackson and hide it I think you should tell dad where you put it.

Me: That is a great ideas. Thanks.

E: Or you could tell me.

Me: Mmmm. Probably NOT.

E: (At 12 1/2 he is often treated as an honorary adult and looks affronted at my reluctance to confide in him) But... why??

Me: That would cause the balance of power in this house to shift a little too much like this (I demonstrate with my hands) and that's not a good idea.

E: But I wouldn't tell him.

Me: Probably not, but you might do. Or you might get mad with him then accidentally tell him you know where it is even if you don't say exactly where and that wouldn't be good for your relationship with him. Yeah?

E: (Clearly wrestling with this scenario) I get what you mean by that...  but I really don't see it ever happening.

(This kind of response is why he gets treated as an honorary adult, although it's not a guaranteed consistent response which would be expected of an actual real grown up)

Madi: If you can't remember where Jackson's ipod is then it will be lost forever.

Me: I'm sure it will turn up though.

Madi: If it doesn't then he can share MINE! (An old Zen MP3 player which came free with a Staples order about 4 years ago and WAS Jackson's up until Christmas when he bought the one I have lost from Ethan for £10, and which no longer works properly after its adventure in the 40 degree wash cycle in the pocket of her jeans).

Me: That is ever so kind Madi. Jackson's very lucky to have such a thoughtful sister, aren't you mate?

J: Yeah- thank you Madi! (whispers to me) Isn't it broken though???

K: So we still haven't found his ipod then?

Me: Nope. You want to try looking for it?

K: Nah- we'll find it when we move.


12 May 2013

The S word

We're in the car listening to Blow me one last kiss by Pink, an annoyingly catchy track that sounds completely the opposite to the subject matter that is being covered (there's a name for this. Onomatepia? Nonomatepia?) Anyway, two people have broken up. They loved each other once but really hate each other now and it's all emotional and messy and heart breakingly sad, but the melody is inappropriately upbeat and joyful so the kids love singing along. They're just not sure what to do with the recurring line involving all the sh*t that the break up has caused. The CD has blanked it out, so we are trying to think of another word that will work.

We use poo dog in our house, but that doesn't fit.

In my buggy pushing days the streets surrounding our house had a fair amount of canine excrement. Jackson got mixed up when learning to say dog poo and transposed the 2 syllables and it's confused me ever since. In moments of impending squelchiness when a childs foot was about to make contact with a pile of dog faeces, adrenaline often caused me to forget the correct English term and our made up one so we developed the poo dog alarm instead, which was simpler and quicker. But only after a few incidents like this: 

We are walking home. The buggy wheels, buggy board wheels and up to four pairs of shoes are all making intermittent contact with the ground. We are travelling pack style in roughly the same direction, with slight varience in tragectory and large fluctuation in speed. At least one child is in full conversational flow about how puddles are made / who's been on the sad list today / what good and bad reasons there are for disturbing a sleeping parent, when I become aware that in about 2 second's time we have to negotiate 3 sets of wheels and four pairs of shoes through a path recently trodden by an incontinent dog watchyourfeet! I can't get the words out fast enough poodogthere! That's not right nodogpoo! Imeantdogpoo! No that's not right either poodog! poodog! Iwasrightfirsttime! Why are so many bits of us in contact with the ground?? slowdowntherespoodog! Decelerate, I repeat decelerate! Whoowhoowhoowhoo! Nicely avoided people! Thank you so much. I'm sooooo glad you're on my team.
And so we avoided the S word. In all senses of the S word. Repeatedly. However, at some point along the line the boys became aware of the S word, the F word and a few others I don't know about. I am naive, a bit like Madi who recently alluded to the L word.

Me: I don't know that one babe. What is it exactly?
Madi: I CAN'T tell you because then I'll have said it!
Me: Maybe it's not a bad word though. We can't think what it is.
Madi: It's... It's lost.
Me: Lost? (She nods vigorously, looking shocked) As in L.O.S.T? (More wide-eyed nodding) Why is that bad?
Madi: You know, like when people say 'Get lost'...
Me: That's not swearing babe. It's not very kind to say, but it's not swearing.
J: Yeah, it's not like the F word or the B word or anything. You know Coby sometimes says the F word and then he has to go and see Mrs Wakely. And once Harry said the S word by mistake. He was trying to say 'SHIRT' (Collapses into giggles)
Madi: (Looking confused) But I don't know ANY of those words!
J: (Touselling her hair) Ah Madi, that's a good thing! You don't want to know any of those words!

Which begs the question: Why are some words swearing when others are not?
• I don't know is the answer. They just are so we don't say them.

But why?
• Well I suppose people who don't know you make all sorts of assumptions about you and what kind of kid you are by what you say. And they might think you're horrible and rude without even getting to know you.

Which is pathetic really. But it's the first answer I thought of and is probably kind of true.

It has always confused me though. I don't know all the rules and have never bothered to investigate them. Which is why I use inappropriate language myself sometimes. (I have only recently found out what knackered denotes in this part of the country, but after it meaning very tired or malfunctioning for the last 40 years, I find it hard to accept it may mean something else). 

And language changes too, so what was shocking a generation ago is acceptable now. When I was a kid I wasn't allowed to say pee. Wee was OK (or better still wee-wee) but not pee. What's that about? One tiny little consonant and grandma gets really offended.

I'm a bit intrigued by hand gestures as well. Take the peace sign. That's cool. That's reaaallly great and if more people wanted it and made active moves towards it then maybe there would be less greed and hate and pointless warfare.

But keep your 2 fingers extended and rotate your wrist round 180 degrees and all of a sudden you've communicated to someone that not only do you NOT want peace, but you are zealously inviting disagreement and conflict.

I just find that plain weird. How can the one gesture mean 2 completely different things? That's an international diplomatic disaster just waiting to happen that is.

We had a rather unfortunate incident involving a misunderstood hand gesture and a childless ex-neighbour once. I can write this now as we've moved house so often you won't know who it is.

Childless ex-neighbour lived 2 doors away from us at the time. Childless ex-neighbour was also wife-less and pet-less but did have a car that he loved and polished for hours every Saturday, and a slope in front of his house down which our kids liked to whizz on skateboards and bikes. Childless ex-neighbour did not like children playing so close to his house and his shiny clean car, especially when children in question had a double driveway and space to play outside their own front door. However, childless ex-neighbour never communicated this to anyone, and as our driveway was flat and wheeled toys + slope = more speed, the kids played there LOTS. This was a problem but we didn't know it.

Eventually childless ex-neighbour got annoyed with children whizzing and riding and bickering among themselves in the vicinity of the shiny clean car and asked them to play somewhere else. Jackson responded in the way he normally does to a direct order with a verbal 'Right you are' accompanied by a Sid-Salute, a-la Ice Age 3.

It turns out that childless ex-neighbour had never seen Ice Age 3 and thought he was being insulted on his own front doorstep by a delinquent 7 year old.

The first I knew about it was the hoover dying on me and an ashen-faced Ethan telling me that Jackson was crying and childless ex-neighbour (who was at that point a current neighbour) wanted to talk to me.

We'd been in the house for four months by then and we'd never spoken. Oh dear. I passed a sobbing Jackson on the stairs and managed a hug and his snotty version of events before opening the door.

Childless ex-neighbour was very cross. Yes I know who you are. Your child did this. And then he did this. Ice Age? Sid the sloth? Well that means nothing to me. Rah rah rah and he walked off.

I chased after him. I made the following points in a calm manner. When he interrupted I let him spout off then chased after him some more to continue making them.
1: I'm sorry this is our FIRST conversation and it's gone like this (i.e. you never came over to welcome us to the street)
2: This has clearly been bothering you for a while. I wish you'd approached me sooner and we could have discussed this without shouting (although I'm not shouting- you are)
3: Our children shall avoid playing on the slope or anywhere near your car which is obviously very precious to you (Saddo... but each to their own)
4: I will speak to Jackson and tell him to keep his Sid Salute to members of his immediate family and friends only (i.e. You are neither)

We followed this up 2 days later with a home made card confirming our conversation on the doorstep and the request that he immediately broach any future issues should they arise. We all signed it- Madi even put kisses.

We then invited childless ex-neighbour to our house warming.

He never came, but he started to wave and say Hi in the street.

Then we moved house 5 months later and he officially became known as The man who doesn't know who Sid is. (And we NEVER mention the salu*e)...

5 May 2013

More more more

OK, HayDay is making me question identity and the nature of existence FAR more than is actually healthy or probably even sane to do so, but we are 3 weeks away from a big conference, we are moving house imminently, Keith isn't here, I'm pre-menstrual and there's no wine in the house. Oh and our next address could be one of 3 places - just to make life interesting. Hence I shall ramble on about pixels and other pretend stuff and not about how real life is scaring the pants off me.

I've told you about this game before but honestly- there's SO much mileage within the confines of this digital farming experience that my head is bursting just thinking about it.

I'll presume you've read the other blog and have looked the game up and are closet farmers yourselves, OK? And I'll then ask you to consider with me that the items available to buy in the game are either functional or decorative - yes? 

Goats = functional. They produce milk that can be made into goats cheese that can be made into feta pie that can be sold for many pretend coins. Goats have a job. Goats pull their weight. But goats are not pretty. Sorry, but they're just not.

Cats & dogs = decorative. As in real life, so in pretend farm world, these household pets offer no contribution at all to the day to day running of things. They simply wander around leaving you to do all the manual labour stuff alone, look miserable until fed, then without so much as a thank you swan off to sleep under a tree somewhere. Useless.

However some items offer a bit of both. Form and function. Hurray- we can have it all  with apple or cherry trees. Invest in raspberry or blackberry bushes and gain both attractive foliage and edible fruits. Jam making. Pie baking. Cherry lolly freezing. A whole range of possibilities open up while the overall appearance of your farm is improved as well. Win win.

Then we come to fencing / walling options. This is where my brain fizzes and I start asking Noodle (our real cat) for advice because everyone else has gone to bed.

These items are purely decorative- it says so on the fake shop screen. Chicken coups and cow fields have already got secure boundaries, so we don't need additional fencing to stop our animals wandering off and getting squished by the delivery lorry. 

I'm not into decorative, but I AM into organised, so I do have a bit of fencing around my edible plants and some more lining the driveway up to the farm house. Nothing fancy, just white picket fencing, like this:

Now, for slightly more fake money you can have hedging. I have some of this next to my orchard. Just because.

And for just a few fake pennies more you can invest in some stone walling. It will last longer and needs no maintenance. I have some of this on the main road leading off the screen. I bought it in a moment of weakness. I have no excuse. I'd just levelled up and it became available.

The choice of boundary options is only limited by budget and acreage. And it's the budget thing that causes me some concern. Because somehow, for some reason, the game makers saw fit to programme in a type of wall that is so outrageously extravagant and unnecessary that surely there has been some sort of mistake. My shop screen must have a glitch because at the foot of my 'pretty but useless' list of fake stuff for sale is THIS:

Yes, a GOLDEN wall. Made of yellow pixels. And retailing at the market price of 10,000 of your fake hard earned non existent coins.

Why Why WHY???

The ONLY reason anyone would buy this for their fake farm is to make it pretty. The golden wall does not sprout golden leaves or golden fruit. It's primary purpose is to stand there and sparkle and do sod all towards helping you fulfil the never-ending orders of consumable goods. 

Fencing is fencing. Fake golden wall or fake white picket fencing- it will do the same job for you.

So why buy it?

To show off, maybe? So you can enjoy the cha-ching of the purchase, place each section of it in pride of place within your kingdom and then LOOK at it? Then if you are lucky, some other (poorer) farmers may stumble upon your farm and gaze in wonder at it's sparklyness and envy you for it.

I'm trying to feel the envy. Honestly I am- because I think that's what they want. Instead I'm thinking Are you MAD??!

My brain won't let this go. Why were these purchases were made? And how can farmers such as the one below have possibly have accumulated so much wealth that they have been able to purchase too many golden wall sections than there is comfortably room for? 

I have analysed the possible explanations and offer the following explanations:

• The farmer is a child who has access to both an iPad and a parental apple account password (and hopefully the full knowledge and consent for both).

• The farmer is an child in an adult body who has access to both an iPad and more money than responsibility.

• The farmer is a nerd who has hacked into the mechanics behind the game and has unlocked the secret to infinite diamonds and coins. This person or persons unknown would be most suited to a career in cyber crime prevention and should probably contact the MOD. Or NASA.

• The farmer's best friend is fake friend and regular level 50 customer from the farm next door, has no other job aside from fake farming, and has nothing else to do all day except play HayDay and repeatedly buy the most expensive thing the game can offer in order to go to bed each night with a sense of achievement.

I hope it's the third one. And I hope they will be fake friends with me.