29 Dec 2014

Jigsaws (pt 2)

For the fourth year in a row we and some friends have dedicated an evening in between Christmas and New Year to eat, drink and complete a jigsaw. You know - for fun. I'm not a natural jigsawer and aside from the wooden toddler puzzles that typically co-exist in a house with small children, we've not had jigsaws in the house since I was a kid myself.

A few years ago we inherited a whole room full of toys from some friends whose house we rented while they were overseas. Among the treasures in the converted double garage / playroom was a 500 piece Map of the World jigsaw. It remained in its box for almost 2 years before launching the Eat, Drink and Jigsaw tradition that began the following Christmas holiday.

It turns out the world is a big place. There are lots and lots of oceans. It took hours to complete. In the end the kids went to bed, everyone who didn't live in the house went home, and Keith and me sat up to three in the morning until we finished it -  all bar a single piece of Turukhansky District in Northern Russia which was missing. Anyway, we glued the almost finished thing to a rectangle of cardboard and ManChild had it above his bed for a couple of years (in 4 different bedrooms in 2 different houses). (Another story).

The following Christmas holiday we turned our attention to a second hand 500 piece jigsaw of some trees and a lake purchased at the school Christmas fayre. As already proven, second hand jigsaws can be a bit of a risk, but we knew this one was complete as it was already finished and cling-filmed to a piece of cardboard. It didn't have a box, but we could see what the thing was supposed to look like. We took a photo of the puzzle, printed off an A4 copy of what we were aiming for, then crumbled the puzzle back into its component parts.

But we used a flash to take the picture. And the layer of cling film came out better than the detail underneath. So the only copy of the finished picture was not that helpful. The rebuilding effort lasted several futile hours, during which time such little progress was made that everyone lost interest and the project was called off (although the eating and drinking continued so the evening wasn't wasted).

Christmas 2013: Fire works at Tower Bridge (500 pieces)
OK - this puzzle was technically similar to all previous attempts, but as 90% of the thing was either black sky or black Thames river, the overall percentage of one colour was higher than 71% blue ocean of the whole world with a missing bit of Turukhansky. Worse in fact - because the oceans at least had latitude and longitudinal lines on them. Black was just black. This took ages to complete- although spurred on with additional help from more mates and the older children among us, it was completed within the evening.

The last few pieces were a bit of a challenge as previous misplaced pieces meant what was left wouldn't fit into the remaining space. We ended up reversing the whole thing and using the pattern of the manufacturer's logo on the back to correct the mistakes. No one could go through all that again and remain of sound mind, so this jigsaw was glued down onto cardboard too. (Then spray painted white and made into a birthday present for a mate a few months later).



Christmas 2014: The Wild Wild West with Where's Wally (1000 pieces)
We upped the stakes this year with this one, but this was counterbalanced by the detail that exists in Where's Wally. Despite doubling the puzzle pieces it took only an evening and an hour of the following day to complete. Yay! It's still on our kitchen table right now because no one has the heart to crumble it back into the box and Jackson doesn't want it glued down and sprayed white or any other colour. The Wild Wild West was completed by 6 adults and no children (who were Minecrafting, devising an intruder alarm with technics lego and playing mums and dads with Build-a-Bears)- which was fine because progress was quicker without them. Crucially, progress was also much quicker when in possession of the box lid.

There's just too much going on in Where's Wally to guess at what goes where without it. With a sea of characters and at least a dozen of them wearing blue trousers or a white waistcoat or a brown stetson, any suggestion of just one of these things could potentially belong in over 30 places. Without the finished image for reference, a piece of wooden paneling could be a wardrobe, a wagon, a goldmine entrance or part of the town jail house. And without seeing the image in the first place you don't know these things even exist and are part of the picture anyway.

With the box, everything changes. The basic structure of the frame is easier to form. A strategy can be formed and pieces grouped. Whole areas can be delegated for efficiency or put to the side temporarily to clear the work space until they are needed. With the box lid in your hand or looking over the shoulder of the one who has it, you could select a bit of jigsaw at random, scan the lid for 30 seconds or so, and pretty much identify exactly where it went and (in the later stages) click it right into place.

With the box, the confusion that exists within one little puzzle piece is given context and it makes sense. It belongs.

I've always thought there are huge correlations between jigsaws and faith. I've just googled it now and lots of other people have also drawn parallels, so the concept is not original. It's effective though. How else might you describe the idea of believing what you know to be true while trusting what you don't yet understand?

• Building and grouping and clicking pieces together in the belief that the finished picture will make sense when it's complete.
• Trusting that none of the bits are missing.
• Trusting the advice of the people around you who have also seen the lid of the box.
• Having the stamina to continue building when nothing has clicked into place for a while.
• Trusting the manufacturer of the puzzle when you don't have the box lid yourself.
• Removing / adjusting an individual piece placed in error in order to keep the overall picture correct (and not getting arsey if someone else on your team notices the mistake first).
• Not abandoning the whole project when the pieces don't make up the picture you were expecting.

(The random lake and some trees from 2 Christmas puzzles ago was dull beyond belief anyway- the one you're making now will be much better. Honest. And... Hey - THERE'S WALLY!!!)




20 Dec 2014

Evolution

I am now the parent of an employed person. ManChild has a paper round.

He's had paid work before, but it was from us so doesn't count - especially the times we've paid him in chocolate. This job was sourced and secured by himself without us getting involved at all - even to verify his age of 14 years (which as he's 6' tall, the newsagent didn't query).

I am working out what this means in parenting terms and tweaking my schedule accordingly:

Day 1: Up at 6.30am to ensure ManChild was up. K was leaving the house early anyway, so gave him a lift to the newsagents. Deliveries completed on way to school, which I verified by text.

Day 2: Up at 6.30am to ensure ManChild was up. Established he was then went back to sleep until my usual alarm.

Day 3: Texted ManChild from my bed at 6.30am when alarm went off. Received a reply within 10 seconds. Fell asleep again immediately.

Day 4: Vague memory of ManChild coming into our room to say goodbye before he left the house. Woke up to usual alarm. And a text from him to say round done.

Day 5: ManChild off school for training day, but had to be up for paper round anyway. Feeling bad for him plus I need the exercise, so got up and did the round with him. Went back to the newsagents afterwards and waited outside while he collected his first pay. Took him for coffee to celebrate before walking home together.

Week One complete.

I'm such a grown up.


12 Dec 2014

Man Flu



I used to joke about man flu. Like many women, I considered it to be a simple cold or similar virus with symptoms exacerbated by the imagination and the desire to be pampered. I was wrong.

11.12.14

04.00 (ish): Woken by poorly child coming into our bed. This was kind of expected. Yesterday when he got in from school he complained of a headache and being cold, then took himself off to bed before tea and fell asleep immediately. He informs me he still has a headache. I had a headache yesterday too but repressed it all day with paracetamol, working, cutting the grass, making pancakes with the kids and generally pretending I was fine. I apply 4head to both him and me and and we snuggle down and sleep.

07.45: Woken by well child who needs cheese grating for her packed lunch. Keith gets up to do sandwich and school run. Thankyouiloveyou.

08.00: Eldest child enters bedroom to say goodbye. I'm not always dressed when he leaves the house but I am usually vertical. Ah well. Good bye mate- have a good day. Snuggle back down with poorly child.

10.15: I have now been in bed for 13 hours straight. This has not happened since the summer of 2007 when the boys were on holiday with their grandparents and Madi had chickenpox and slept 18 hours  a day. I still have a headache. Annoying. Also, I normally don't have to think about regulating body temperature- it just happens, but this has suddenly and curiously become problematic. Get up for paracetamol, 4head and a cup of tea which I drink half of. Do some work on lap top, then read Harry Potter to poorly child while he soaks in the bath. I would love a bath but the naked bits either side of the soaking part would be too much hassle with a dodgy thermostat.

12.00: Have a lie down on couch. Poorly child watching pop junior. I am half working, half fantasising about returning to bed. But I'm in denial. This is a mere cold. I am fine. Besides we have 2 extra children to look after this afternoon so I'll just have to be functional.

14.00: Take more paracetamol. This can't be good. I am clock watching in order to take tablets. I am one step away from those little medication dispensers with days and times on to stop the elderly and confused overdosing.

15.30: Keith returns home with well child and another 2 borrowed ones whose mum is working today. They are told to help themselves to snacks and drinks. They refuse both and disappear upstairs to play.

16.30: I really want to go to bed. I lie on couch with poorly child and hot water bag instead and pretend to work.

17.00: Borrowed children go home. Eldest child has made tea (reheated leftovers, pasta & garlic bread) for himself and well child. No one else is hungry.

18.00: I tidy up the kitchen as my token act of motherly love for the whole of today. Then I make Madi and Jackson hot chocolate as I'm on a bit of a roll. Hmm, maybe not. I brush my teeth and go to bed because I'm freezing cold. I've clearly overdone the mothering thing.

18.45: Keith leaves house with Ethan for a carol service rehearsal at church. Poorly child and well child come into my room for more Harry Potter. Poorly child has been in jammies all day. Well child gets ready for bed while I'm reading to them.

19.00: After final story and prayers I put well child and poorly child to bed. Poorly child still feels poorly. We've run out of Calpol and he refuses tablets so I apply more 4head instead. I refill hot water bag, take paracetamol, apply 4head and return to bed. I am very tired but can't get warm. Then I am too warm. Then I'm having a hot flush so I discard hot water bottle completely. Within 5 minutes I retrieve it from the floor because I am cold again.

21.00: I am dozing when eldest child enters room to say he is home. Can he have supper? Yes. Then I'll have a shower, ok? Thank you mate- yes go ahead. I love you. Night night.

23.50: And that's the time now as I type this. I still haven't managed to sleep, my headache hasn't shifted all day and I can feel my pulse pounding behind my ears after the slightest exertion- like getting up for a pee or even reaching over for a drink. And I'm freezing. No wait- now I'm too warm. Uncomfortably hot actually. So let's just move the duvet a teeny bit and... Oops too far, too far- now I'm cold again. Move it up to HERE that's kind of half way between where it was before and when it all went wrong.... and... Yes I believe we have equilibrium Houston!

I am grateful for a functioning hypothalamus and wish to repent of the many times I have taken this for granted. I am also deeply sorry for my previous refusal to acknowledge the existence of man flu and wish to apologise to all the men in my life I have ever ridiculed for claiming to have suffered from it.

I'm a believer now. Thank you. (You may leave).


2 Dec 2014

Trains, Pigs and Autocorrect

My Bible in a year thing is kind of going to plan. In that the plan is still there. And with a month left to go, I am just under a month behind- so I should be finished by the end of February next year. Except by then I'll need to start again and repeat the exercise and actually concentrate on the minor prophets this time as they've all been a bit of a blur. And the Kings. Aside from David (good) and Ahab (bad) I'm having trouble remembering who's who and what side they were on.

Anyway. I am loving the Psalms. They are so raw and intense and full of honesty. There's celebration, tears, laughter and complaining, the whole spectrum of human emotion- sometimes even within the one Psalm. Read this a while ago (this whole thing has been stuck in a draft for ages- but at that point I was less than half the year in and The Plan had a far higher chance of going awry)...

Psalm 25
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Teach me your paths (vs 4)
Isn't that cool? God's plans are multiple and varied and there's almost always more than one way of doing things. And actually, even if we screw up, God remains God and can autocorrect as we go, making sense of chaos and tweaking a million different background details so the trajectory of our lives remains within the parameters of his will and the ultimate destination is still reached. We just get to where we're going a different way with a different assortment (or greater volume) of baggage. Like Gwytheth Paltrow in Sliding Doors - if we ignore the haircut and the minor detail that she ends up dead in one universe and not in the other and instead focus on the way that she ends up with John Hannah whichever train she catches.

So... if a cosmic-wide autocorrect is in progress, then one day life will make sense. If God's working through the mess and chaos of the planet, compensating for and redeeming bad choices (some made before we even got here) in a million seen and unseen ways- then this should relieve the burden on us a little bit.

• Perhaps the years between cradle and grave will ultimately be quantified in some other way, rather than the sum of our achievements
• Maybe it's more about how and why we do what we do rather than what
• More about our conduct within a situation rather than the situation itself
• More about motivation than action
• More about how we deal with success and loss rather than what we did to get the success in the first place - and what we would compromise on in order to keep it
• More about stewarding than owning

Either that or the Hokey Cokey really IS what it's all about.
In which case we are all screwed.
But I doubt this very much.
Just consider the lilies of the fields, the birds of the air or bacon.




22 Nov 2014

Being Big

Aftermath of sibling argument which conveniently took place while I was on the phone. 

Me: Why was Madi yelling at you before- repeatedly?
E: Because I was annoying her.
Me: *Sigh* Was that a smart thing to do?
E: (Affronted) Well, she shouldn't have shouted at me!
Me: What did you expect to happen?!
E: I expected her to be the bigger person and deal with it better.
Me: How old are you? And your sister...?
E: 14 and... and... Hmm... how old is she again...?
Me: 8. 14 and 8. That makes YOU the bigger person. Do the maths.
I give him my best withering look. He is fighting a smile. He's enjoying this. In a twisted way I am too, but I don't tell my face.
E: (Patting my arm) It's a figure of speech, mum.
Me: Don't move from here! (I walk into hall and shout for Madi. She appears within 20 seconds, bubbly and co-operative. This is her standard default approach to most things, unless she's in trouble). Babe, you know how you yelled at your brother when he was kicking you on the couch, what else could you have done?
M: Um... I could have asked him to stop kicking me. Rather than shouting.
Me: And if he'd ignored you and carried on doing it...?
M: I could've come through here and told you.
Me: Great idea. Note it for next time. Now... Can you do something for me? Even though he kicked you and was being really annoying... can you be the BIGGER PERSON and apologise for shouting? I think it may help...
M: (Considering my request) But... Jackson is always the biggest person.
This is absolutely true. Emotional intelligence wise, he outstrips them all. Even me. He often patches things up between these two that I don't even get to hear about.
Me: I know babe, but you see (turn to eldest) it's a figure of speech.
M: OK. I'm sorry Ethan.
I smile and give Ethan The Look
E: Thank you Madi.
More of The Look
E: I accept your apology.
Little bit more. 
E: I'm no longer offended.
Little bit more still. With higher eyebrows.
Me: And.....?
E: And I'm sorry too.
Thank you. My Big, BIG people.

14 Nov 2014

Vomit

Please discuss the following situations and explain why you selected your answers. Diagrams are welcome but not essential.

1: Would you rather suffer debilitating nausea for hours and hours, or throw up once and be done with it and functional again?

2: Is it preferable to experience a family-wide sickness bug simultaneously and put up with the associated problems of having more people than bathrooms and no one well enough to take care of anyone else, or individually, thus increasing the likelihood of a toilet being empty when needed (although not necessarily being reached) and extending both the overall period of quarantine and volume of laundry?

3: Is it better to be woken at 2am by a poorly child, or a well child who has wandered through the entire house to tell you she got up for a pee and trod in some cat sick on her carpet? And she immediately came downstairs to tell you there's cat sick on her carpet- she didn't waste time washing her foot first.

4: Is it better to deal with 1: A small amount of rank, concentrated vomit that has been inside a person for 12 whole hours and which gives the person enough warning to be hunched over the toilet bowl in readiness, or 2: Copious volumes of recently consumed iced water and 3 green Skittles® which project from said person forcibly and suddenly resulting in a large, clear pond in the hallway?

5: Does the following conversation reflect well or badly on a particular parenting style?
I'm in the office at my desk (which I should state is at the bottom of our back garden). The phone rings. I see by the display it is poorly child last seen 35 minutes ago on couch watching Pop Junior.
Me: Hi Babe- are you OK?
J: Yeah I'm OK. Can I have a bath?
Me: Of course you can. Are you happy doing that on your own?
J: Yes that's fine. (movement)... I'll go run it now...  (weird gurgling noise) Hmm, I feel a bit... (more noises) Oh I'm sick again...
Me: (I get up off my chair) What - you're being sick right now?!
J: Yes that's right... (More noises) Oh I'm sick a LOT!
Me: HANG UP THE PHONE AND GET TO THE TOILET!!!

Some of these musings I first thought of ages ago. Scenario 1 for example. I'm not a puker. I fight it. My brain chooses to make me feel awful rather than going with the retching and probably feeling better much quicker. It's like the gastrointestinal tract can only be a one way street - the contents moving in one direction at all times making vomiting unnatural and something to be avoided at all costs- like colonic irrigation.

Then there's Scenario 4. I only thought of this today. On reflection, even though it involved being up at quarter past 7 (earlier than I prefer), it was less traumatic to deal with type 1 sick. There was far less fuss and mess involved and I multitasked my way through the sympathy and back rubbing by sipping a cup of tea with my free hand.

We look forward to your feedback and perhaps a diagram or two. Floorpans of bedrooms and their proximity to the bathroom* are most helpful.

*Obstacles between these locations should be avoided

10 Nov 2014

The un-American dream

We've been to Centre Parcs 3 or 4 times over the last decade with an assortment of friends and family members. The last time we went, several families booked the same week and we all managed to secure chalets within the same area, so a big group of us who all knew each other ended up being neighbours from Monday - Friday too. It was ace.




After unloading all our stuff and moving all vehicles to the designated car park, the new neighbourhood quickly became a carless playground / abandoned bike area and children milled around with a bit more freedom than they would otherwise have at home. It was probably like going back in time - children had a home but were welcome elsewhere, using the scrum of bikes and scooters to locate their mates. They came home to eat, but could pick up a snack at a friend's house too. Individually, families made plans for the day, but these were quite fluid and in between unpacking, food shopping and meeting up at the pool / gym / ice rink, children re-enacted a more free range lifestyle as described in those viral news feed cloggers usually titled I survived being a child of the 50s / 60s / 70s (which curiously never seem to mention the national treasure that was Jimmy Saville or child road death statistics in an age before booster seats were available, let alone compulsory).

Anyway.

The layout and inventory of each of our houses was exactly the same, and although decor did vary slightly, the overall appearance was fairly generic- the developers clearly shopped with the one supplier for all their finishing touches. (What a dream job for someone that would be- shopping for a living then playing house with the results...).

Again. Anyway.

As the week wore on I noticed that people were a bit less precious about their belongings in this fake temporary environment. Granted, on holiday you generally have less things in your life to be precious about, but even so- there was an increase in trust and /or a decrease in security awareness. Bikes were stacked up in racks outside communal areas, helmets clipped into handlebars. There were dozens of buggies outside the pool, babies noticeably absent but carrier bags stuffed underneath them. And people were far less likely to close their curtains at dusk, meaning anyone walking by could easily see into their living rooms.

This last thing especially intrigued me.
Q: Why did no one care?
A: Because variations between us had been suspended and everyone was pretty much the same.

There were 2 grades of accommodation - Woodland Lodge and Executive Suite. Only fellow holiday makers were passing by and given that each had exactly the same facilities at their own disposal, there was no reason to be looking in through someone else's open curtains. Even if an Executive Suiter took an accidental detour, they were only on their way home to a slightly bigger living room containing identical (or very, very similar) soft furnishings & furniture.

I enjoyed this week for many reasons: No work or school, dossing with people I love, swimming every day, no post to open, being able to walk everywhere we needed to be, not needing to be anywhere, actually... But something else was great too and I couldn't quite figure out what. At first I thought it was spending time with our neighbours who were already friends, but it was deeper than that. There was a commonality between us that week. We were all living in a similar way. It was unfamiliar but comforting. Stuff wasn't as important. I'm all for downgrading stuff. I have too much of it yet am caught up in a way of life that requires it. Clearing out and passing things on is like therapy for me. After a bad day, most people phone a friend, go to the gym or reach for the wine. Me? I clean out a cupboard. Or a friend's cupboard. Or in the days of our lets move house every year-a-thon, pack a box of possessions and label it with a sharpie.

I can see why Communism was considered a good thing. On paper it must have seemed the perfect solution to inequality and a fractured society. Unfortunately, as a collective, people don't do restraint very well and when we tried it, the whole thing became so extreme it travelled full circle and met Capitalism coming the other way. But everything in moderation, you know? Just a little bit of Communism. Would that have been so bad?

• What if the movement had ended with the idea that stuff doesn't define you?

• What if the party members had managed to screen out the power trippers and schizoids when they elected their leaders and the movement had remained pure and uncorrupted? (NB- Russell Brand is definitely onto something but likely falls into the whackjob category. Disappointing. Avoid).

• What if the remaining legacy was not oppression, corruption, enforced atheism and the dismantling of human rights, but the overwhelming acceptance that your car is a thing that gets you from A to B? End of.

• What if some were not created more equal than others but rather we were just created equal?

I have an un-American dream. It involves less stuff. And clean cupboards. And wine (in moderation).

4 Nov 2014

Do not post until 2020

This, like several other posts has been sitting in my drafts folder for ages. It's immensely frustrating. I live in a vibrant household with 4 other people who are kind enough to provide me with bloggable interactions and situations on an almost daily basis. But to publish them too soon (or at all, sometimes) is not funny or clever.

Eventually enough time elapses and stories can be repeated for the good of families everywhere.

I have confiscated E's phone for the following reasons:
1: He took it upstairs with him when I'd expressly requested he keep it downstairs in craft box and tidy his room.
2: He had not tidied room, but was playing on phone in middle of messy room
3: He had complained to younger siblings that I was 'stupid' for confiscating phone for no valid reason. Younger siblings quickly dobbed him in. (There are no secrets with 8 year olds).

Several hours have elapsed. E is going upstairs to bed.
E: I'll need an alarm for tomorrow morning. Please may I have my phone back?
(I do not do mornings. He has me there. I retrieve phone from kitchen drawer).
Me: Just remind me. Whose phone is this?
E: It's yours. You're lending it to me.
Me: Yes I am.
E holds out his hand. I do not release the phone.
Me: And....?
E: I'm sorry
Me: For...?
E: Taking your phone upstairs.
Me: And...?
E: Calling you stupid.
Me: It's really pretty stupid to call another person stupid when that other person is responsible for providing you with many things, including said phone. Out of the goodness of her heart. Isn't it?
E: Yes it is. Absolutely. Very stupid. And rather ironic.
Me: Indeed. I accept your apology. Here's my phone back.
E: Thank you.
Me: You are welcome.

22 Oct 2014

Power trip

E and I are doing late night Tesco run. We are in intense negotiation as he is attempting to persuade me to change my mind about something. He has spent the last 10 minutes and 3 aisles addressing each of my objections to his request and dismantling them in a considered, mature way. I am slowly realising that his eagerness to accompany me was less to do with the shopping experience or my dynamic company and more a divide and conquer thing.

E: So... There's no real reason why I can't go to the airport with dad tonight then... would you agree?

Me: I am genuinely impressed by your skills of reasoning. You are constructing strong arguments there for your case.

E: Thank you.

Me: How will you use these powers of persuasion as you grow up? Will you use your superior intellect and rationale for the the good of mankind or will you use your powers to manipulate others and bend their will to your own...?

E: Hmmm.... (Thoughtfully rubs his chin in a cartoon villianish kind of way). I'll probably do a bit of both....



6 Oct 2014

Exchanges

The first time I try out any unfamiliar currency I always have this nagging doubt in the back of my brain like I'm about to be busted. Like someone's going to call me out on this and I'll have to admit that yes- here I was about to trade something real and tangible and useful for a bit of coloured paper. Sorry.

So far this hasn't happened, but what if (after the apocalypse) it stops working? Then I'll know I've been right all along and have just been playing the game along with everyone else pretending I understood why.*



*We have found and agreed upon the lowest common denominator that's a bit more compact and easier to transport that goats.

5 Oct 2014

Riches

So... After months of planning and fund raising and visa applications and injections and ordering currency and (v last minute) packing we've been to Kenya and come home again and I'm left feeling a bit like a kid on Boxing Day - wishing it was Christmas Eve again so I could do it all over again. 

(And when I say it I mean the bit that happened when the plane took off as all the preparation was pretty much done for me. All I did was follow the email instructions, get jabbed when I was told to and show up at the airport).

I totally wasn't prepared for this. I thought the being away bit would be hard if anything was going to be- not the being home. It probably didn't help that we were so manic with work in the run up to going and I was so (unusually) super organised that I've come back to a tidy office and an empty inbox - bar the junk emails and voicemail messages I get copied into, so there's nothing to get distracted by and focus on. Maybe just as well as I've no energy or motivation to do anything. 

Chris said it's not unheard of for people to spend a short time volunteering in a far off land, be exposed to extreme poverty and hardship, then return home to the western lifestyle and suffer a mental breakdown. Ha! The Larium (anti malarial) is starting to look a less attractive option now- although it was the cheapest. Which is why I'm on it. The vivid dreams are quite fun though.

I'm not in melt down. I'm just working out what the changes mean. Like puberty I guess- there's no going back. You can't unsee the slums.

I'm having flashbacks to student nights out half a lifetime ago... Fury Murrays in Glasgow... a permanently sticky dance floor... air thick with fag smoke (masking the flatulence and BO)... clutching bottled cider (harder to spike and easier to dance with)... singing along to James with my best mate:

Now I've swung back down again
It's worse than it was before
If I hadn't seen such riches
I could live with being poor
Oh sit down
Oh sit down
Oh sit down
Sit down next to me...

Except the lyrics have flipped round in my head. And I don't know what the consequences will be. 

I am rich.

I've always known this and been grateful for it. Even when our card has bounced at the checkout or we couldn't go food shopping til the child tax credit came in or we had to put just enough fuel in the car to get it home rather than fill it up properly. Even then things were good. We had a home and smart price tinned goods in the cupboard. There was no danger of starving to death or having to sell a kidney or one of the children.

I am really, really proper rich. Super dooper wealthy. With an eternal inheritance as well.

Kah-Ching!

And now I have to live with it knowing that poverty exists.

It really does.

11 Sep 2014

Onions

Madi started the dinner tonight unsupervised as I was busy in the garden and we were all hungry. Came in after 10 minutes to find her like this.


27 Aug 2014

How not to parent

I need to learn to interact appropriately with my children with regards to what is polite social behaviour and what really isn't. It's kind of fun to push the boundaries with them and joke around (especially when my tolerance of most things foul is much higher than theirs, so any attempt by them to gross me out generally backfires), BUT when you are dealing with a smaller person who is not aware does not care about such boundaries then my plan should probably be longer term than the next 30 seconds of mirth.

Exhibit A
I am doing pre back-to-school appraisal of uniform /shoes / PE kit. I am two down one to go. I call the last one in to reassess fitting of final item - his coat from last term. I hold it out as he slips it on and we deem the coat still fits. Yay- back-to-school clothing and shoes are sorted! I just need to spend this coming week making sure we are all up and dressed before 11am or Monday will hurt a whole lot more than normal.  I'm about to dismiss him back to Miscellaneous Leisure Activities when...

Me: Argh. Look at my hand! I have one of your bogies on my hand!
J: I don't think that's mine.
Me: It must be mate- how would one of mine get there?
J: Good point. (He turns to leave)
Me: And... I have no tissue. You could just eat it?
(Immediately he sucks it off my outstretched finger then wipes his mouth with the back of his hand).
J: That DEFINITELY wasn't mine...
(He hugs me and walks away).

Exhibit B
Linked to inappropriate parenting issue above, but more about my cooking issues and what happens when I've not properly cooked for almost 2 months (working away /visiting mates & relatives / working away some more / visiting some more) then going shopping without a list and ending up with far too many cornflakes for the cupboard and finding expired food products that make me panic because I have a love/hate relationship with the food bin...

Mid-morning. My mate, her kids, me and 2 of my kids are in her car on way to IKEA. Aside from a vague plan concerning purple curtains and purple accessories, the day has not been strictly planned.

Mate: Have you had lunch yet?
Me: No.
Madi (from back): I haven't even had any breakfast yet!
Me: Why not?! Didn't you have your chocolate crispy cake?
Mate: For breakfast?!
Me: (Defensively) They have cereal in them...
J: I had a chocolate crispy cake AND jelly!
Me: Because there was no room for the cornflakes in the cupboard (stuff sitting out on the counter makes me anxious- she knows this) and the jelly expired 4 months ago and I only found it again yesterday...

I suspect this does not happen in many other houses. Even if it is the holidays.

18 Aug 2014

RIP Calvin & Hobbes



Whether fan fiction or an original, this has to be the saddest cartoon strip ever.

4 Aug 2014

Mine mine mine!

A few weeks ago we signed up to Geocaching and like over 6 million people around the globe, we are in the process of finding and logging the 2.4 million+ caches around the world, starting with the 8000+ ones hidden here in the UK. So far we have logged 34 of them. It's a long term project.

The boot of the car now contains essential caching equipment so we can spontaneously pull over in random locations en-route to somewhere else and search for undiscovered treasure.

Kit list:
• Gardening gloves
• Pruning shears
• Pen
• A long branch (acquired during cache find 26)
• Piriton (Manchild has hayfever)
• Small treasure tupperware of lego bricks, cinema ticket stubbs, shells and loom band bracelets
• iPhone (not in boot, but constantly on person as we are sad that way).

Our limited hunting experience has unearthed 3 trackables- items with their own ID tags which allow them to be tracked online by their owners as they are placed, retrieved then carried to the next cache in the real world.

Trackables are given a goal of reaching a particular country, or series of locations, or in the case of Futuristic Freddy (retrieved from Cullompton services and deposited in Bridgend) seeing as much of planet earth as possible before returning home to the planet Zarg. Whatever goal the owner sets, 6 million fellow cachers are pledged to assist as long as they are nearby, have a decent phone signal and no Muggles are watching.

One of the trackables currently in our possession wishes to reach Scotland. I was in Scotland a week and a half ago. I could have made someone's dream come true but it's still sitting at the front door because we forget about it. Trackables are not stored with common or garden caching treasure in The Tupperware. (They are too special and would make the loom bands jealous).

We need to get a move on and deposit it SOMEwhere though, even if it's not in Scotland or even North of our position right now. Cachiquette requires that hunters keep trackables in their possession for no longer than 2 weeks and time is running out! Of all the things going on my life right now that require urgent attention- like the kids passports arriving in time for the flight we have already booked in 4 days time, losing a car key for a hire car resulting in K being temporarily stranded 230 miles away, invoicing our last job so we can pay the suppliers who helped us deliver our last job and a flea colony in one of the bedrooms (which our house sitters pretty much dealt with in our absence thank you very much and sorry about the bites), getting rid of the coin is consuming my thoughts a little more than it should.

Because it's not ours to keep.




Ownership is a strange thing.

Sometimes what isn't actually ours can appear to be so, purely because of the length of time we've had it. If I keep the trackable coin, it won't cease to belong to it's true owner - I'll just annoy whoever that is and maybe get an arsey email or have our account suspended or something. The coin won't become mine just because I choose to keep it.

Paul said the message of Jesus is just like this. It's a trackable. It's meant to go far and wide and change lives wherever it goes- because it's owner has set the mission and wants it that way.

The trackable doesn't belong in one place. One people group, country or denomination does not have the monopoly on Grace. It's for everyone and it's free. And if you keep hold of it you violate the rules of play and prevent others from coming into contact with it. You become a gatekeeper. A Pharisee. A trackable thief.

Some people try to referee- but the mission is to sign up and play. To leave the treasure at another cache, ready for the seekers who are already on their way to find it.

I don’t care about my own life. The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me—to tell people the Good News about God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

28 Jun 2014

ItchyScratchy




These are my elbows. They don't match right now. Some unknown insect(s) bit me the other day while I was gardening cutting the grass and now my right forearm itches so badly I could gnaw it off myself. The itch caused by this creature's saliva trumps all pregnancy and yeast related itchiness known to woman and I have become a piriton junkie, waking in the night clawing at my own skin if I haven't have any medication before bed.

My 8 year old daughter is unimpressed by any of this.
Conversation of the day (as I'm putting her to bed)
M: Mum! Stop scratching- it will only make it worse!
Me: Yes I know, but this itches really badly.
M: Well, (she puts her hand on top of mine to stop me scratching) You've just got to live with it! Do you remember when I had my spots (molloscus) and the nurse told me not to scratch and I didn't - even though I really wanted to and sometimes I even cried in bed at night as they were so itchy, but I just LISTENED to her and didn't scratch and just put up with it. You need to do that too.
Me: Ok- thanks.

Oven gloves are too warm and cumbersome to wear in bed and nowhere seems to sell adult sized scratch mitts. I see a gap in the market.

13 Jun 2014

Socks and sanity

Feeling rather anxious and unable to remember the way to my happy place.


3 Jun 2014

Discovery of the day

Leaving a caravan in storage over the Winter months with a solitary packet of Jamie Oliver's Lemon and Spring herb cous cous in a cupboard says this to mice:


Come and live here rent free over the long, cold Winter months.

Stay for many weeks and feast on our generosity. Satisfy yourselves with lemony herbyness. You are but tiny rodents and there is a bountiful supply. Tell your friends!

Procreate. Increase in number and raise your large families amongst our soft furnishings. Munch your way through that groundsheet in your spare time. We are not using it. How selfish of us to expect you not to nest there.

And please do not freeze your tiny furry backsides out in the bitter cold, honestly- there is FINE. And there. And there. Our entire caravan is your communal latrine. 



21 May 2014

Shackled

The sun is out. Heart's time tunnel is on and I'm driving to the tip, our car so full of rubbish that the rear view mirror is redundant. A tidy garage, rubbish disposal and music from an age when I actively followed the top 40 all in one go. It's a good day.

For the first time in a long time I'm listening to Shackles by Mary Mary. And in the moment I am transported back, not to the year of its release (2000) but Summer 2005. A band at the festival we are at are covering the song and I am hovering at the rear of the massive tent containing 8000 sweaty, dancing teenagers with a small wriggly child who is determined to crawl underfoot and get trodden on. We have retreated to the small area near the exit designated exclusively for buggy pushers and wheelchair users. The whole tent is shaking and I can feel the bass in my chest. My vocal range doesn't naturally include some of the notes, but I'm singing it loudly anyway, bouncing around with small wriggly child, secure in the knowledge that that no one can hear me sing or him squalk.


I gradually become aware of a girl nearby and try not to stare in her direction. She is a wheelchair user and looks like she has never walked. Her legs are painfully thin with no muscle definition or bulk in the normal places. Her arms are contracted at the elbows and her fingers are curled in on themselves. Like me she is singing along and like me she probably doesn't sound anything like Mary Mary.

But unlike me she is giving the song her all. Seriously- she is going mental. Her whole body, as limited and deformed as it is, shakes and rocks and lurches from side to side. She is whooping and laughing as well as singing. Her carer- a young woman in her 20's, is clearly wrestling to keep the wheelchair and its occupant stable and is standing on the anti-tip bars at the back of the wheelchair in an effort to keep the whole thing from toppling over.

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you

OK - I am staring more in their direction than anywhere else now. I can't help it. The disparity between the girl's physical condition and the words coming out her mouth are intriguing and puzzling and humbling and I feel strangely jealous. My chest shakes with silent sobbing that has nothing to do with the bass or the wriggly toddler kicking my ribs in his struggle to be released to onto the floor.

She is actually free.

The wheelchair. Her contracted muscles. The uniformly thin legs. Her crooked fingers- they are all a fa├žade. Her soul is free. Her body is lying.



Honestly- what does disability look like? And why do we choose to define it so narrowly? And one day, when we've upgraded to super enhanced post resurrection bodies- what will our earthly shells look like to us? Will we be all like Can you believe we used to walk around in those things?... No airborne or telepathic or teleporting facilities...  Connecting to the world around us with only 5 senses- each operating within such a limited spectrum... HOW did we manage??!

One day the finest athletes of the world will be looked upon as more disabled and limited as the semiconscious bodies that lie in every ICU department bed.

One day the healthiest, strongest and most desirable homo sapiens the world has ever known will be seen as imperfect, wounded and tainted by sin.

And I'll be free. Like the girl in the wheelchair.



15 Apr 2014

There's somebody at the door

Our doorbell went twice yesterday, which is still something of a novelty as we haven't had it that long. The kids still occasionally sneak outside and press it, just so the others will run to answer the door. But the door bell was pressed yesterday by genuine callers and not resident chap door runners.

Caller 1: A child young man who has just started work with a roofing company. They will be in the area tomorrow and will be offering free no obligation quotes guaranteed for 12 months. We spoke politely for 2 minutes, I took one of his flyers to get rid of him and as we said goodbye he remarked 'Wow- you have your hands full' (referring, I assume to the 2 youngest kids who during the course of our brief conversation interrupted to ask if was time to go swimming yet).


Caller 2: TNT delivery driver dropping off a box of conference supplies. The door was actually open when he called and the kids were in that glorious in-between state of weaving their scooters around the swimming rucksacs on the drive and running back into the house to ask me are we ready to leave yet? I hurriedly signed for my delivery and commented to the driver that now we could go swimming (hurrah!). Instead of sharing in the excitement of the occasion he rolled his eyes and offered me a 'Good luck.'

Maybe if one of these exchanges happened in isolation or I was experiencing a different balance of caffeine or hormones or it wasn't the holidays therefore I wasn't both working and trying to enjoy the company of my kids (and feeling guilty for doing neither particularly well) I wouldn't be typing this. But collectively, both blokes hacked me off.

Is it a common assumption that a casually dressed woman answering the door in the middle of the day and being willing to speak politely to a stranger while child related noise is heard from another room is desperate for adult conversation about no obligation quotes for anything as long as it offers respite from CBBC, finding bits of toast down the side of the sofa and accusations of who started something?

And are most people so out of touch with their inner children that the sight of 2 real ones scooting around their own front yard means that luck must surely be needed to cope with the exhaustion of observing them do so?

It's ironic really- the parenting thing is pretty low maintenance at the moment. Keith and me are enjoying that blissful lull between needy small child clinginess and hormone driven grunting and door-slamming. To illustrate, the events of yesterday went thusly:

09.00: Wake. No school so I can lie here a bit longer. Yeah!

09.15: Get up. Kids up already. They have had breakfast. I wipe table and fill sink. J does dishes (his holiday job). E hangs out 2 loads of washing (his holiday job). Madi makes me a cup of tea (her holiday job).

09.40: I put another load of clothes into wash. Leave kids playing the wii-U. Go back to bed with lap top and phone.

10.00 - 12.00: Madi makes me another 3 cups of tea. I drink them. I answer many emails, reconcile 4 payments, work through the amends on a manual that goes to print next week and answer the phone 5 times.

12.00: Kids make their own lunches. Madi makes me another cup of tea. I drink it and sneakily eat 5 bubble gum bottles. (The kids don't know I have any left). J does the lunchtime dishes and says he'd rather be on laundry. It's tough being 2 foot shorter than your brother. You get the low jobs. I'll have to get up soon. I need my laptop charger and a wee.

13.00: Ethan brings in washing which is now dry, and hangs out another 2 loads of damp stuff. I fold the dry washing into separate piles according to owner and the kids put it away and make their beds.

13.30: M and J pack swimming bags for all of us. I am finished my amends (yeah!) and have almost got my inbox down to one page. I get quite excited by this, then remember our new system involves categorising emails. I filter by category and am met with a page of them requiring attention. Darn it.

14.45: The kids are ready to go. I am almost ready. I've just got to allocate the cheques I want to bank today. Give me one minute.

15.00: The one minute coincides nicely with Mr TNT Man. Great - another thing not to wait in for tomorrow. We leave the house, walk to the library and choose 6 books. I do the banking while the kids scoot on to the park. I take a detour to get a takeaway coffee then drink it while watching them play. I collect Dragonvale coins and re-breed my 2 dragon pairs on my phone then we walk / scoot to the leisure centre. The entire pool is now our oyster as everyone can tread water for 30 seconds and swim a length without stopping. Madi and Jackson show me their diving. I can't dive. Water goes up my nose and fizzes around in my sinuses making my eyes water and the rest of me panic. We discover I can still swim faster than Ethan, even though he can easily outstrip me on land. I am happy. He is not, but hides it well.

19.00: We walk to Tesco and get picnic elements for tea. We meet Keith at train station and drive back to park and eat tea together in the sun. Jackson won't have to do his holiday dishes tonight. He is happy. He is glad his holiday job involves dishes and not laundry.

20.05: Brrr. Getting cold. We go home. Everyone gets ready for bed. No one needs a bath or shower as we are clean from swimming. Jammies on and straight to bed with new library books. Everyone is happy.

See what I mean? Things are a doddle now. I made these people. I enjoy their company. They are pleasant and helpful and after years of sacrifice and servitude it's payback time and they are actually quite useful. Especially Manchild. He can reach high stuff and carry heavy things. And at one hour on Minecraft and one Tassimo latte per day, he's easy to keep and quite good value.

So Roofing Child: Little tip for you (the art of small talk is such a tricky thing): Stick to comments about the weather- It's safer. And people like my mother in law love talking about rain and how the forecast is always wrong.

And TNT Man: Just bring me parcels, not conversation. Unless you want to request a go on the scooter. Kids love that. You will instantly become cool and get a swimming invitation which societal norms dictate you must decline.

8 Apr 2014

I spawned a man

It's finally happened. Manchild (aged 13) can now beat me at arm wrestling. We have had several re-matches and although his victory is not consistent (yet), beating him is now exhausting and has left me with aching biceps in both arms and a deep seated sense of unease about my own middle aged feebleness.

How did this happen?

He was only born 5 minutes ago.

I still think of him as being like this.


Now he's more like this.



I don't know why I'm freaked out by this new development. What's parenting all about if it's NOT to watch your kids get bigger, stronger and possibly a bit smarter than yourself?? I am consoling myself with the fact that The Look still works and he's still scared when I get mad (which isn't often).

Keith finds my reaction amusing. It'll be interesting to see if it's still funny in a couple of year's time when Manchild can slosh him too.

31 Mar 2014

Technology (part 2)

I recently spent a fantastic weekend at a cottage in the middle of nowhere with some lovely mates, a collection of books, CDs, wii dance, half a dozen chick flicks and enough food to feed twice as many of us that were there. It was perfect.

Aside from the lack of ability to contact anyone in the outside world.

The holiday cottage backed onto the house of the proprietor, who because of recent storms had temporarily lost her landline, which BT were in the process of fixing.

Between the 5 of us we were customers of 3 different network providers- none of which gave coverage at the house. (Everything Everywhere? Really EE? Have you ever been to Ingleton?)

The closest place to get a signal was over the ridge of a large hill about 2 miles away. We drove out there a couple of times to check on the whereabouts of the last friend to arrive, talk to our respective husbands and kids before bedtime and (me only) forward on half a dozen work related emails to my line manager / husband because I'm on holiday thank you very much I love you.

Ah....
No internet.
No phone line.
No interruptions.
Just friends.
Eating and talking and laughing and being reminded about what made us friends in the first place.

This may sound idyllic to some, and for the most part it totally was, but I am practical and think about things like being able to alert the emergency services in the event of one of us waking at 3 in the morning with crushing chest pain, which given that more than half of us are now over the age of 40 is becoming more of a statistical possibility.

Thankfully this didn't happen and no such assistance was needed. But it did make me think how reliant I am on technology, how I am online a little more often than is probably healthy and the hypocrisy involved in trying to police my adolescent son's dependence on Minecraft when I don't cope too well without email over a long weekend.

WooWooWoo: When does security and sense of self become unhealthily linked to the presence of wifi? And is the answer to this in any way related to missing the sound of Siri's proper voice since the last upgrade?


Am testing this out by leaving the house today for 5 days WITHOUT my lap top. Like on purpose- I didn't just forget it.

I am not strong enough to do this cold turkey thing alone though, so am going with my husband and kids and 2 other families and their kids and my phone (with international calls, texts and data roaming for £4.99/day).

Baby steps.

17 Mar 2014

Facedown

Have recently started this Bible in a year plan, as I've never read through the whole book before. I've attempted it on a few occasions but always got bogged down among bloody animals or a minor prophet.

Am really enjoying it this time. The readings are divided up into chunks from different sections so we hop around a bit. There's stuff in there that I'm reading for the very first time, things I vaguely remember from ages ago but have forgotten the details of, stories I am very familiar with and enjoy reading again and again and other things that confuse me so I end up googling them - like laws about compulsory side burns or avoiding sex during menstruation.

It's an eclectic book, really.

Anyway... from a few days ago:

Psalm 24:1-10
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

Clean hands and a pure heart.
Who can live like this?!
Really and honestly?
No one will be on their feet in God's presence.
NO one.
We'll all be hitting the deck.
Face down.
Completely humbled and overwhelmed in the proximity of holiness that hurts the eyes.

Will it be like the scene in Goldfinger where the plane flies overhead releasing nerve gas and all the soldiers below collapse to the ground as one?

Or the fainting goats - who don't actually faint but their muscles lock up when startled and they keel over and become temporarily paralysed.

I picture the whole of humanity collapsing like narcoleptics. All of us dropping like startled goats or poisoned soldiers.

Some intentionally- the ones who have loved Jesus on earth. Those who are excited and welcome his return. Sheep who know and love the shepherd.

There will be others though- who are hard of heart and refuse to acknowledge his authority- or maybe even any higher power beyond what our limited senses can know and touch and see. 

It doesn't matter- physiologically we are all the same: our muscles will seize in his presence and we will HAVE to fall to the ground and assume a position of worship anyway. Facedown, we will all look the same.

Oh dear God. Then you will separate the sheep who follow you willingly from the paralysed goats who are only bowing because their created muscles and tendons honour your presence even if the goats themselves don't.

This is sobering, frightening and thrilling all at the same time.

And makes me question all the time I waste blogging...

11 Mar 2014

Jigsaws

When a group of friends get together for food, drink and jigsaw building, the conversation can become somewhat nonsensical- primarily due to the lack of consensus re vocabulary. 

I have tried googling the correct anatomical terms for commonly shaped jigsaw pieces but can't find any. So either there are none, or they do exist but are not shared outside some secret jigsaw builders society- you know like Freemasonary or Mormonism- but for jigsaws. 

26 Feb 2014

Rock





I love rock. You know where you are with rock. What you see at one end of the bar continues right the way through, no matter where you break it or bite it. There's a consistency and knowledge of what to expect.


Some people are consistent like rock. They are genuine. Their words and their actions match. Their words and their words match too as the content of their speech is not dependant on the presence or absence of anyone. But we all modify our behaviour on occasion. It would be odd if we didn't- job interviews have a different set of rules than conversations with your grandparents. A night out with friends means a whole different set of social norms than a parents' evening or paying the milkman. Everyone knows this and we somehow adapt to fit in. We understand the rules and are grateful that they help society function. But at what point does over-thinking and moderating our behaviour become deceptive?

I can only presume that Danny, a character met by Dave Gorman at the end of his 91,000m Googlewhack adventure crossed that line (wherever it is) a long time ago. Compromising in a million different ways over time and cyberspace, Danny eventually finds himself with 2 completely separate identities, each tied to an aspect of his sexuality and both completely independent of each other:

Every year I go to the (Mardi Gras) parade with my girlfriend and every year I think: This is it. This is the day that my 2 worlds collide. This is the day my world ends. I see gay friends of mine in the parade and in the crowd and I see straight friends of mine in the crowd and I don’t know who I am. I don’t know who to be. I don’t know how to wear my hair, my collar, my jeans, how to behave. Which me do I be?

OK that's an extreme example, but Danny started somewhere. And employees of MI5 and everyone on the Witness Protection Programme aside, there are a whole host of small and subtle ways to compromise who we really are:

• Hiding texts from a partner
• Taking sides in office politics
• Tweeting/posting stuff to carefully reinforce an edited version of ourselves
• Downplaying or adopting a belief depending on company

The list could go on and on. I don't presume to know where the line is in every situation or necessarily think it's in exactly the same spot for each person - I just know it's not normal to bite into rock and find cola bottles.
Or porridge.
Or cabbage.
Edible, but unexpected.
(And may cause retching)



19 Feb 2014

Book review

This book is doing my head in. They should have called it 'Inept parents who constantly reinforce negative behaviour then whinge when they get it'.


18 Feb 2014

Theology

Bedtime. We are discussing The Lord's Prayer which I was shocked to discover our children actually know (we didn't teach them - at least not the trespassey version that they recited to me in Borg-like unison tonight).

Me: What do you think this bit means, 'Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven'?
J: It's like God's in charge of the Earth too, just like he's the boss of Heaven.
M: Heaven is just the same as earth you know. Except there are no toilets.
Me: Um, yeah... There are a few other differences too I think...?
M: Yes- you're not allowed to be sad or punch people. Because nobody can cry and nobody can be mean.
Me: Yep! What else might be different?
J: God will be there.
M: Of course, God will be there. But... that isn't really a difference really because he's here right now as well but in Heaven he won't have his invisibility cloak.

11 Feb 2014

Cooking issues (ongoing)

Our Cookiemoon is definitely fading. There's less enthusiasm for picking menus. Shopping is still fun and educational, but I only get willing volunteers if the alternative involves homework or getting ready for bed. After 20 years of meandering up and down the aisles in a carefree manner, I falter and panic without a list. The putting away of stuff on return home is getting old with K and me doing rock paper scissors to see who gets the fridge, and that's before the cooking part has even happened yet.

Hmm.

I can scrutinise our lifestyle and analyse it to death, but I think my basic problem is I like the kitchen to look like this:


But it often looks like this.


It also involves me spending much time doing this.



When I'd much rather be spending time with them (plus the 
biggest one who has refused photography permission).



Doing things like this.



And making things like this.



Then arguing over this.



Can someone please hurry up and invent this?



That would be great. 

3 Feb 2014

Boredom

E passes me a pen to sign his homework diary. There's a curl of plastic casing peeling away from the nib end, like the pen is unravelling.

Me: Did you try to sharpen this pen?
E: Yes I did.
Me: With a pencil sharpener?
E: Yep, that's right.
Me: But... why?
E: I was in French. 
Me: ...?
E: I was bored.

24 Jan 2014

Cookies

Give a child a cookie and he shall eat for 60 seconds.

Teach a child to bake cookies and behold- you shall both eat cookies and cookie dough until you are satisfied.

And the kitchen floor shall be hazardously slippy until you mop it twice.

And you shall find remnants of flour in all rooms of the house for many days henceforth.

19 Jan 2014

Storage

I recently found myself back in the house we used to rent. Only one kid was present and he was a toddler again which is very weird as he's the middle child and there was no sign of the other two. My cousin was pleading with me to help her die as she could no longer cope with depression. After explaining that an overdose would take too long and anything involving blunt or sharp instruments would create too much mess, she outlined her method to me. I accepted her rationale, helped her climb into a duvet storage bag then vacuumed packed her to death with the hoover hose. Then I hid her body in a kitchen cupboard, which was now no longer in my ex-kitchen but in Molly and Arthur Weasley's. Disturbingly, there were MORE vacuum packed people in the cupboard, all stacked neatly in the fetal position, head to toe. I knew nothing about them. I don't think I did anyway.

Oh.

Dear.

God.

Maybe I do...

I have never been more relieved to wake up. Ever.

My dream hangover lingered way longer than one cup of tea. Normally I wake from much more pleasant (or at least neutral) scenarios and can literally feel the details slip away from me as I become aware that the thing that just happened was a dream. The very decision to recall the finer points of events only speeds up their escape from my head.

Not this dream.

Honestly, this is concerning.

Would the argument for efficient storage and containment of bodily fluids be compelling factors for my subconscious' agreement to participate in assisted suicide? Perhaps on more than one occasion?

There are many reasons I left the NHS. This should have been one of them.

11 Jan 2014

Sleeping arrangements

OK, and while we are considering family guidelines, let’s refresh our memories on how to handle sleeping parents:

Let them sleep

A sleeping parent is a beautiful thing. Consider how peaceful and undemanding they are in this state. Consider also how much unpleasantness may be avoided by allowing them wake naturally. Some crucial wonderings should remain in your head and not be verbalised before the alarm. These include things like:

• Can I have hot school dinners tomorrow?
• I have nothing to do
• I can't find the iPad charger
• Noodle has no pouches/cat biscuits left
• When is it my birthday again?

Conversations that begin before 7am with any of the above opening lines will not go well.


Very occasionally it may be unavoidable to disturb a sleeping parent, but I reiterate, these will be rare situations that demand an urgent response from a grown up (well, me or your dad). Examples are:

• Blood loss
• Fire
• Vomiting

In between these two extremes lies another, less clearly defined group of scenarios. These are instances which are more pressing that the lack of imagination or cat food, but do not involve haemorrhaging. In these 'in-between' cases, may I suggest you first assess the situation to establish that adult intervention is absolutely necessary, then approach the bed quietly and in darkness and whisper to get our attention. Examples of such situations here are:

• Nightmares (I admit, monsters are deeply afraid of our warm double bed and never bother us)
• Pain (Please pick up the Calpol on your way in and I'll do the fiddly child lock thing once my hands wake up)
• Christmas Day (After 7am. And bring me a cup of tea to sip while we look through your stocking)

Thank you for doing life with us. Please re-familiarise yourselves with the above to maximise the good bits. XXX




6 Jan 2014

Amendment

Proposal for change in family charter. Raised by myself on 06.01.14 at 1800hrs (after feeding and therefore gaining the trust of those present).

Background to case: 
1. I personally wish to be fitter. And a little bit lighter. This way you (Oh largest Brewsling) can overtake me in weight as well as:
• height (this happened last year) 
• shoe size (May-ish 2011. He's now a size 9 and mocks my childlike feet)
• ability to synch our shared iTunes account (I still can't do this), reboot the server (I CAN do this as it's a simple off and on again job) and
• basically fulfil all household technical needs in the absence of your father (there's a whole ton of man crap that goes on in this house that I have no interest or gifting in. This covers ALL of that).
• Finally you shall likely gain the upper hand when we arm wrestle

Doesn't that sound good? Yes? Ok- moving on. 

2. Gym membership is a drain on our family's resources.

3. We now own Wii dance. Using it in the comfort of our own home is therefore effectively free of charge, bar what we bequeath to e.on each month out of the goodness of our hearts. 

Recommendations:
I hereby propose that from this day forth, the Wii U may be used on Thursday - Tuesday for the purposes of health and fitness by jumping and sweating along to I kissed a girl and Gimme Gimme Gimme a man after midnight until one of us gets co-ordinated enough to win more coins and unlocks a wider variety of (perhaps more edifying) songs. Weekend game play will remain unchanged.

Would anyone like to second this proposal?
Biggest Brewsling. Fab- thank you. You don't dance so I wasn't sure how this would go with you.

Family vote?
Yeah! Everyone's happy.  Fantastic. Let's adopt this policy immediately. (No- PUT THE CONTROLLER DOWN! Thank you- we shall reconvene in the den after you've washed up and I've emptied my bladder.)