Crafting, Flatpack Furniture And A New Plan

Crafting is hailed as one of the most essential activities to do with a toddler. Their lives are incomplete without at least one nappy with a higher proportion of glitter than poop and a fringe created with safety scissors.

Oh wait, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. I’ve read a crapload of blogs about crafting with kids, so I know that the end result is always a beautiful work of art full of sequins and happiness. Always.

Maybe that happens in other households. Certainly not mine.

Splodge!

Splodge!

I know you just gasped with surprise. Surely it’s a scientific impossibility that anything could ever go other than according to plan in the Awesome abode?

Yeah, it’s a shocker.

Before I had children, I always thought that I would do a lot more crafting with them than I actually do. I’m quite a creative person, and love making things, drawing and writing (duh). But it has not exactly turned out that way. Some of it’s thanks to the juggling of needs between babies and big kids. It’s hard to set up a fun craft activity with a baby hell-bent on either destroying it, climbing the curtains or clinging to my legs.

That’s happened twice. Little Girl, after screaming, vomiting and screaming some more for her first year of life, developed a horrifyingly good talent for climbing. I’m talking Spiderman style. And she could sense when I was even a bit distracted, and took full advantage of it. I did try and include her in the things I organised for Big Girl, but with an attention span of a half-asleep tarantula, she never lasted long. It ended up being more stressful than it was worth at times.

Add Squeak into the mix and organising anything has been a right bloody faff. The only table we have is in the kitchen, where her chances of ending her life prematurely increase tenfold as she crosses the threshold. Having the audacity to restrain her in the highchair with crayons and papers result in a meltdown at a volume equivalent to that of God in the scene at the end of Dogma.

Me? No, I'm just dancin'. La la la...

Me? No, I’m just dancin’. La la la…

That’s not pleasant.

We also have a kids’ Ikea table in the playroom, which I thought would be ideal for drawing and colouring. And it was, until Squeak became vertically mobile. Now all I hear is a constant refrain of, “Muuuuum! Squeak took my picture!” And I turn to see her scrunching it up in her squidgy baby fists, with an evil grin on her face.

I’m not saying that she is definitely doing it with malicious intent. But let’s face it, she probably is.

Then there’s the whole mess situation. Don’t get me wrong, I am no neat freak. But throw paint into the mix and even I take a step back. It’s just so bloody messy! I know it must be tricky, coordinating yourself to apply brush to paper when you’re not even tall enough to flush the toilet. But that’s so not the problem. These are:

  • The irresistible urge to run at speed towards a cream wall when you’ve spent the last ten minutes studiously covered your hands in paint.
  • The magnetic force which attracts a loaded paintbrush towards any piece of available bare skin. Which is their entire bodies, in my case. I’d rather throw them in the bath and hose the paint off than do battle with so-called ‘washable paint.’
  • The ratio of time preparing to time spent doing the activity. Which (in minutes) appears to be approximately 15:0.2. And that’s being optimistic.
  • Toddler colour mixing. It doesn’t matter where they begin, it is guaranteed that they will always end with brown. Different shades of brown if you’re lucky, but still, every picture’s going to resemble a muddy puddle.
I'll have you know that I am a goddamn Picasso!

I’ll have you know that I am a goddamn Picasso!

It’s safe to say there are a lot of barriers in the way of a rewarding crafting experience. But I was determined to figure it out. So I pondered it for about six months or so.

Which I think definitely confirms that I have far too much thinking time on my hands. I’m not even sure how that’s possible when I struggle to remember what I’m making for dinner, or exactly what time it is I should leave the house to pick up the kids. But there you go.

(Oh the irony. Just after finishing that paragraph, I glanced at the clock and thought, Shit, I should have left to pick up Little Girl five minutes ago! Whoops.)

Anyway, I knew that I really wanted the big kids to have a safe space to get creative, but where I could still keep an eye on and play with Squeak. So it definitely had to be in the playroom, where they spend most of their time. But I also wanted it to be compact, so that they still had space to throw themselves around around the room.

Oh sorry, I mean dance.

It took a while but, ladies and gentlemen, I have found the solution. We now have a completely awesome crafting station.

The first thing we needed was a set of drawers. We’ve had a cupboard to store the multitudes of crafting equipment for ages now, but it doesn’t work at all. The very nature of a cupboard (at least in my case) is that when you’re in a hurry you can throw everything in at top speed and close the door really fast before it all falls out again. Then you can happily trot off, until next time.

The side effect is that you can’t find a fucking thing.

So the other night I sat down and built a shiny white set of office drawers from Ikea. Although I was successful in the end, I didn’t start out well. The box weighed at least seven tons. Or something like that. I hefted it across the room and eased it down gently onto the floor.

Oh no, I didn’t. I dropped it onto three toes. And it wasn’t eased all that gently, either. Yowser! All I could do was collapse on top of the box, clutching my toes and moaning loudly. Which freaked Mark out a bit. Still, I’m glad to say that all toes appear to be intact.

Fgs, Mother.

Fgs, Mother.

Aside from the tantrum I threw when I couldn’t get the drawers to go in (snug is not even the word!), I nailed it. I filled the drawers with lots and lots of fun and colourful materials.

I even bought glitter. And people who know me know that is a big fucking deal. I just hate the stuff. I hate the way it sticks to you and pretty much everything in the surrounding area. Grrr.

Next was a place to work which was up and out of the way of Squeak, without taking up the whole room. Enter, folding table! The assembly of that went a lot better than the drawers, thankfully. Add in a pair of folding chairs and we’re good to go!

Now I can put my guilt about the lack of crafting opportunities to rest. Yes, I felt guilty. And yes, I know it’s rather trivial. But what would parenting be if you didn’t have something to feel guilty about?

It’d be fucking fantastic, actually. But it’s not going to happen.

The kids were so excited watching it come together. They can’t wait to fill their sketchbooks with eleventy-six drawings of queens and Batman, and cover their hands in PVA glue and peel it off. We actually put up the table as a surprise last night while they were sleeping. Astonishingly, none of them woke up!

Although Little Girl was found fast asleep on the floor, wrapped up like a sausage roll in her duvet. But I don’t think that was linked.

I can’t wait to see the different things they come up with. They’ve already tested out some of the different new things I bought. A firm favourite is the soft pastels. Little Girl in particular got her hands absolutely covered in it the other day. This turned up a surprise disadvantage for her.

It’s impossible to deny nose-picking (bright blue nostrils, anyone?)

What do you mean, I've got something on my face?

What do you mean, I’ve got something on my face?

Little Girl is sat at the table right now, with a doll-shaped cutout and some art supplies. I’m sure she’s going to make something fantastic, which will be great to decorate the wall above my new crafting area. It’s lovely to see her focussing so intently on the task at hand, frowning as she…

Oh wait, she totally just chopped the doll’s head off. Fuck.

Ah well, there has to be some allowance for artistic licence, right?

I’m still putting my protective armour on. Better safe than sorry, after all.

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The Eight Stages Of Language Development

Learning to talk is a pretty big milestone in the life of a baby. It’s not something that happens all at once; it’s months and months of emerging realisations and developmental leaps.

It’s a magical time. Squeak is picking up words all over the place at the moment, and I love it. It’s great to hear what her little voice sounds like, even if it is frequently far too loud. And it’s cute as hell when she runs around the house calling for her sisters.

Hey Big Girl, I fink I brokeded your stuff!

Hey Big Girl, I fink I brokeded your stuff!

It’s a long road to get to this bit, though. Babies don’t just come out asking for a biodegradable nappy and an organic kimono vest (It would be fucking awesome if they did though). Here’s a bit of a list of a few stages I’ve noticed as my kids were learning to talk.

1. Crying

When you’re a helpless newborn human animal, there’s only one way to get your point across: crying. And that is what tiny babies do a hell of a lot of the time.

Over the years, I have often read articles about understanding your baby’s cries. The cry for food, the cry for wind, the cry for a dirty nappy, the cry to call the other babies to arms and take over the world…

Ok, I may have made that last one up.

According to the writers of these articles, if you learn your baby’s cries you can work out exactly what they need and settle them much quicker.

An excellent theory, I’m sure you’ll agree.

And one which I think of as complete bollocks. I’ve done the small baby thing three times now. I’ve held them close and listened and attempted to meet their needs speedily. And the only sound that I can hear when they cry is, “WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

I'm giving you one more chance to release me from this hell-basket, and then I'm letting rip!

I’m giving you one more chance to release me from this hell-basket, and then I’m letting rip!

Baby crying is a clever little set-up, overall. In those hazy, hormonally driven early days of parenting, the sound of your baby crying makes you want to simultaneously want to throw up and pass out. Or at least sob uncontrollably until you can make them stop.

Just me? Well, that’s happened before.

You see, babies are all about needs. They don’t want to be picked up, or want to be fed. It is an intense and overwhelming need that they need to have fulfilled. Right NOW.

Babies are like an evolutionary throwback. If they were quiet, peaceful little creatures, nobody would know that a sabre-toothed tiger was imminently going to make the baby its next meal. And from a ‘staying alive long enough to grow up and procreate’ viewpoint, that kind of sucks.

I supposed that means it’s quite appropriate, really, that crying is so loud, shrill and stressful to listen to. Because essentially, it is a baby’s klaxon, an alarm that is completely impossible to ignore. If newborn babies could talk, I think this is what they would say:

“Don’t forget about me! Did you forget me? Did you? I’m freaking hungry over here! Am I invisible or something? Aaaaaargh!!!”

There’s no ignoring that.

2. Babbling

Babbling arrives just as you start to feel that if you hear unending screaming any longer, you’re going to lose your mind. What you don’t know is that your battered and traumatised mind took flight and legged it out of your head a long time ago. Funnily enough, it was almost exactly the same day as your first baby was born.

And it ain’t coming back.

But that’s ok, because actually it turns out a mind is not all that necessary for survival. I mean, I’m doing fine!

Babbling is your reward for all those hours of gurgling and cooing at a baby’s whose usual response was a scrunched-up sceptical glare.

Little Girl never really grew out of it.

Little Girl never really grew out of it.

Stop fucking with me guys, I know that’s not just me.

Babies are inherently sociable things. Which means that even though they think your rendition of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ is mundane and borderline tuneless, they just can’t help but start to respond.

And so they start with the ‘dadas’ and the ‘babas.’ Not the ‘mamas.’ Oh no. Don’t be silly. They save those until the point where you’re convinced they’ll never call you anything. Seriously, Big Girl had mastered sentences before she bothered to figure out what the piece of furniture with arms and breasts was called.

Not that I took it personally. Obviously.

In my opinion, watching a baby learn to babble is one of the cutest things ever. I love to look on as they contort their faces and purse their lips, trying with all their might to recreate sounds that they’ve only heard before. And the deep frown as they focus all of their brainpower on the task just clinches it.

It gets a lot easier for them after a while. They practise and practise and practise and practise until they’ve got it down pat. It takes a lot of work. But it’s ok, because this is the stage where they also realise that there are a whole load more hours in the day that previously advertised.

In other words, they wake up all goddamn night. And as you snuggle them close, feed them and try to soothe them back to sleep in the darkness, you hear a tiny voice say, “Ba ba ba ba ba.”

That’s no sleeping noise.

3. Shrieking

I write this having absolutely no idea whether this stage is something every parent goes through, or whether it’s a custom level created by my children to keep me on my toes.

However, it makes me feel better if I think that I’m not alone. So if this doesn’t apply to you, just nod and smile and pat this poor woman on the head, why don’tcha?

That’s the way.

Right, where was I? Oh yes, shrieking. At some point, when babies have mastered a touch of babbling, they realise that there is a whole load of unlocked potential there to be experimented with.

There are so many ways to experiment with your voice. Whispering, using funny voices, growling… so why begin at the loudest bloody option?

All of my kids, at a similar age, have gone from gurgling and cooing (and squeaking, naturally) to developing an ear-splitting screech which must be employed at least 68.5 times a day.

ARRIBA!!!

ARRIBA!!!

What is the purpose of this? Even in our loud and chaotic house, it’s rare that it is necessary to go above a Yell on the Loudness Scale. I can only assume that this stage occurs to prepare me for that fearful, on edge feeling I get when a just-walking baby learns how to climb on the couch.

I’m not even going to think of the emotional effects of having these two stages coincide.

4. First Words

It’s an amazing moment when your child says their first word. So amazing, in fact, that I have managed to forget two of them.

This would be more shameful if it wasn’t for the fact that one of the one’s I’ve forgotten is Squeak’s. I mean, it was only a few months ago, for God’s sake! Little Girl’s has disappeared into the ether as well. Although in my defence, I was averaging about two hours sleep a night in total when she started talking. I was impressed that I managed to keep on breathing at that point.

Sorry 'bout dat!

Sorry ’bout dat!

I know Big Girl’s was ‘ball.’ And I have a crystal clear memory of the first time she said it.

The one thing I do know for sure is that Squeak’s third word was ‘poo.’ Unsurprising, really, in a house where toilet humour reigns supreme. In fact, when you asks her if she needs a nappy change now, she looks down, sniffs herself and says, “Ehhh, poo poo.”

It frequently isn’t, but hey, it’s a start.

It’s a wonderful time in a baby’s life. It keeps me going through the separation anxiety, the sleepless nights and the frequent meltdowns (Squeak’s, not mine). Suddenly she is turning into a ‘proper’ person, rather than a baby who is motivated by instincts and reflexes. She can ask for food, and makes a passable attempt at singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’

And, of course, she can also yell, “No! No! No!”

Because it would all be unreasonably blissful, otherwise.

5. Understanding

With first words comes understanding. You can say, “Go and get your shoes!” and your baby (ok, toddler. I’m in denial) will run and fetch their shoes for you to put on.

And then they will undo the straps and run around precariously before falling flat on their faces.

But let’s forget that bit.

You can also say, “Look, there’s some food for you,” and they will turn and walk straight to the snack you have left out for them. You will marvel at how much easier it is when they understand you.

Then, they will tip every single morsel of food onto the floor and grind it into the carpet. Even if they’re starving.

Sorry, what was that?

Sorry, what was that?

Hmm, let’s forget that bit, too.

Even with this magical leap in your baby’s brain, there are still three things that your baby does not understand:

  • Don’t touch that! (Especially if the object is murderously lethal.)
  • All gone! (Particularly in the case of food sneaked off your plate.
  • Time to go to sleep.

It’s at that point that you realise that they understand a lot more than you thought. The thing is, they don’t give a fuck. They get that you want something to happen, but they happen to disagree. Vehemently.

Ah well, it’d suck if it was always easy, right?

No. No, it would not suck. It would be freaking awesome.

6. Mistakes

I love the mistakes that occur when kids are learning to talk. Those misspoken words and odd turns of phrase provide me with considerable amounts of mirth.

It must be hard, learning a whole language just from listening to other people. Particularly because, when you really think about it, English makes no sense at all.

For instance, I often tell Big Girl and Little Girl to put things ‘on the side’ in the kitchen. On the side of what?? It makes no fucking sense. I only say it because it was always said to me when I was a kid. Which is a fairly crappy reason for doing just about anything.

The kids would agree with me, as well. Even though I’ve been saying it for years now, they still look at me in baffled confusion every single time.

Eh?

Eh?

Really must stop saying that, actually.

Here are some of my favourite mis-sayings from the smalls:

  • Punky – monkey
  • Pog – pig
  • Blenna – umbrella
  • Liddle-Liddle – drink
  • Pak – cucumber
  • Baggies – yup, still milkies

Most of those are from Little Girl. She really did talk a fantastic amount of shit when she was small.

It saddens me when they stop using these words, and replace them with the correct pronunciation. It’s just a blatant message to me that my babies are growing up. Sob.

In protest, I will continue to call a pig a ‘pog’ and a drink a ‘liddle-liddle’ forever. Yes, forever. Because they are just too fucking cute to throw into that forgotten place called ‘the past.’

7. Sentences

Once you reach the stage where your kids start talking in sentences, you think you’ve got it covered. Finally they will be able to express their wants and needs clearly enough so that each request does not result in a floor-hitting tantrum of epic proportions.

Silly, silly, silly.

Obviously that’s never going to happen. Instead, being able to talk in sentences just gives children the opportunity to ask for things that they can’t have with even more words.

“Can I have a snack? Can I play with [incredibly messy toy]?” Sound familiar? This is what my house sounds like all the damn time.

Then there’s the arguing. It’s hard to argue with a parent if all you can say is, “No! Doggie! Argh!” Not much scope for reasonable debate there. But if you can talk in sentences, then you can say, “Mother, I disagree with your proposed actions.” Or something like that.

I wouldn’t be telling you a lie if I said Little Girl’s first proper sentence was, “I don’t like dis.” I waited fucking forever for her to talk. She refused to say a word for ages, until she was about two I think. I worried and angsted and signed. And after all that, all I got was a short, crushing review of the dinner I had prepared.

Sounds about right.

8. Realisation

Having done this whole talking thing a couple of times, I have come to a conclusion. It doesn’t matter how much they can talk. It doesn’t get any easier for one simple reason:

Kids make no fucking sense.

Don’t buy it? Ok, fine. My kids make no fucking sense.

I really thought it would be easier once they were able to chat and discuss things. I would know what they wanted, I would understand why they were upset, and I could reason with them if they were annoyed.

Or not.

Here’s an example. The other day, Little Girl was playing in the living room after school. She turned to me, and said, “Muuum, can I play on your bum?”

W. T. F?

Obviously, my reaction was to stop and stare, open-mouthed. She giggled and said, “Oops, I mean iPad!”

Ha ha, yes that didn’t freak me out or anything. Just a daft mistake. Funny.

So there’s the replacing words thing. How am I supposed to know what they’re asking for if they won’t even use the right word?

I’m fighting a losing battle here.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

And the whole ‘knowing why they’re upset’ thing? It’s not really working out for me. Big Girl came out of school sobbing this week. This is a rare occurrence, she’s normally bouncing and screeching and other such enthusiastic things. I gave her a hug, and asked her what was wrong.

“[Friend 1] is cross at me because I hugged [Friend 2]!” she wailed. Which makes no sense whatsoever. So I dug a little deeper. She stuck with that story for at least five minutes. It got to the point where I was starting to think I wasn’t going to get it out of her. And then, she told me that her friend is changing schools. It wasn’t about hugs at all. Poor Big Girl.

But tell me, how can they tell you what’s the matter if they don’t even know? They can’t. Life is just too complicated for children to fully understand, and even harder for them to explain.

Every conversation’s a mystery. Luckily I always carry around my trusty magnifying glass!

(N.B. I don’t actually carry a magnifying glass.)

For me, one of the crappiest things about having talking children, is hear my own words repeated back to me. Sometimes it makes me realise that I didn’t sound that nice, or that a phrase I use is a bit confusing.

Sometimes it just makes me look stupid.

But every so often, it’s extremely amusing. One day, when Little Girl was being particularly trying, I said, “If you don’t stop spreading that yogurt on the table, I’m going to take it off you.”

Perfectly reasonable, in my opinion. Yoghurt-spreading is bloody infuriating, right?

But another little person didn’t agree with me. Big Girl gave me a look I would interpret as a touch judgemental, and said, “That’s a bit harsh!”

Yup, there’s my words.

Despite the shortcomings of being able to communicate with the kids, it’s still pretty awesome. Little Girl’s new favourite catchphrase is, “You’re the best mummy in da world!” which I will never tire of hearing. I love the whispered “I love you”s, and the singing. And most of all, I love this joke:

Why did the stars cross the road?

Because they were going to poo in the bin.

Roffle.

Roffle.

Thanks, Big Girl.

I’ve Used 99 Nappies And I Still Need One

Today, Squeak had a routine hospital appointment. When she had her one year check, the nurse noticed that she has uneven leg creases. So we had to go and get her hips x-rayed, and looked at by a consultant.

I was fairly unbothered by this. Big Girl had the same check done when she was small, and it turned out to be fine. Mostly, I was just irked about the amount of faffing required to get there.

To get to the appointment on time, we had to leave the house soon after picking Little Girl up. I don’t drive, due to having the spatial awareness of a drunken bum and the coordination of a sedated donkey. So bus it was. The bus route to the hospital takes bloody ages as it goes all over the place, so we had to leave early.

I could see so many ways that this journey could go wrong. So I did what I always do, and obsessively planned ahead. I had lunch and snacks packed for hunger and distraction purposes. I had toys and drinks, plus all the regular baby stuff. For me, this is just a couple of nappies, a pack of wipes and a change of clothes. I like to travel light.

I was pretty sure I had covered every potential disaster area. In my head, it was all going to go swimmingly, and I would look like the organised and capable mother that I am (in my head.)

See, Supermum! Oh, it's a catface.

See, Supermum!
Oh, it’s a catface.

And, as always, I still fucked up.

I can’t say I was particularly surprised by this. Prior to leaving, I even pondered posting a little message on my Facebook page, along the lines of, “Off to the hospital with Squeak and Little Girl for a routine appointment. I wonder which kid will embarrass me today?”

It’s like I’m psychic, or something. Something being ‘resigned to chaos inevitably following me wherever I go.’

I’ll leave you to pick.

It started off well. Despite Little Girl’s unrelenting urge to scoot with no feet on the ground, which makes things rather slow-going, we got home in plenty of time. The food was already prepared, so all I had to do was change Little Girl’s clothes and we were ready to head to the bus stop.

I was feeling a little smug, I can tell you.

The first thing that went wrong happened just after we got on the bus. The brakes on Squeak’s pram jammed, for no apparent reason. So I had to stand for the 40 minute journey, holding it in place with my inadequate leg muscles. My favourite bit was when the pram repeatedly slammed into my poor shins, which are already bruised and battered from many scooter-carrying injuries.

Still, I totally nailed it. Kids were fed, and we got to our appointment just in time.

After a bit of a wait, we were taken through to get her hips x-rayed. And that, my dear friends, is where it began to fall apart a bit.

You wanna do whaaaaa?

You wanna do whaaaaa?

I think I’ve mentioned that Squeak is going though the separation anxiety stage at the moment. This has made her really cautious of strangers. She’s fine as long as she’s with me, and they don’t look at her or touch her.

Which is totally achievable in most circumstances. A hospital appointment, as you can imagine, is not on the list.

As soon as I lay her down on the bed in the x-ray room, she began to scream at the very top of her lungs. Nothing I did made her feel better. She just really, really didn’t want to be messed with.

Yay.

The radiographer showed me how to hold her still. I had to stretch her legs out completely straight, and keep them there until the x-ray was done. A piece of cake it was not. Somehow, Squeak had the strength of ten men, and she was fucking furious with me. I felt like I was holding down an irradiated baby octopus.

The radiographers retreated behind their screen. One said, “Have you got her completely still?”

“Yes!” I called. What I mean was, “I have no goddamn idea. Maybe?”

DSC_0111

But my faux confidence must have been plausible, as they went ahead. And thankfully, it worked. Because there was no way I was doing that again.

Off we went, back to the clinic to wait for the consultant. Squeak was royally pissed off by this point. I think she sensed that we were not done yet.

The examination went exactly as I predicted. She yelled and kicked and threw herself about as the consultant tried to check her. He was trying to teach a student how to do it, but I’m fairly sure she didn’t hear a damn thing.

I can’t help but have a lot of sympathy for Squeak. The poor kid was scared shitless.

No, I mean that literally.

As this whole thing was going on, she managed to crap through every single nappy I had brought with me.

Don’t even ask me how. Don’t even ask.

It reeked.

My feelings of smuggery had become a bit tattered around the edges, but at this point they completely evaporated.

I managed to get her calmed down and happy by giving her a feed in the Reception area, but the stench remained. I racked my brains, but I only had one option.

No, it wasn’t fashioning a nappy out of my t-shirt. I may be resourceful, but I have my limits.

And it’s fucking January!

The bus journey home was a nauseatingly unpleasant sensory experience. Seriously, I feel bad for the passengers. The air was thick with the smell of the Devil’s faeces and strawberries.

Ewww.

Ewww.

Oh, they had strawberries for a snack. As convenient as it would be, I do not exude air-freshening pheromones on demand. And if I did, based on this experience I would emphatically not choose strawberry as my scent.

Ugh.

Squeak had the overwhelming audacity to fall asleep before we got home. Now, full nappy or no full nappy, there’s no way I’m waking that kid up.

Nope. Sorry. Not happening.

So I had to wait until she woke up to rid the house of that revolting object. I was starting to think that even strawberry pheromones would do, for now. Eventually, and assisted by a loud and dramatic tantrum from Little Girl, she roused. I am happy to say that I then rid the world of the closest thing to hell I’ve ever encountered.

For now.

I am surprised at my naivete, in thinking that anything will ever go according to plan. But I like to think that it’s best to be hopeful, just occasionally.

I might hold back on the smuggery next time, though.

And possibly, invest in some body armour. I suppose you can never be too prepared.

One can never be *too* prepared.

One can never be *too* prepared.

Right?

My Enchanted House

I’ve had my suspicions for a while. So I’ve been watching. It always pays to watch. Quietly, sneakily, and always out of the corner of one eye.

That’s how you notice this sort of thing.

I’ve tried to figure out other explanations for the phenomena occurring within my house, but I’ve drawn a blank. Therefore, I can only conclude that my house is enchanted.

Ooh, spooky.

Ooh, spooky.

I can hear you scoffing, you know. That’s cool. I was skeptical myself at first. But read on, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it is the only logical solution.

1. The Automatically Refilling Washing Basket

Now, in a house overflowing with children, I expect to do a lot of washing. We invested in a dryer shortly after Squeak was born. I had resisted up until then, but I had to admit that it was just impossible to get the washing dried quickly enough. The fact that Squeak was a never-ending vom rocket didn’t exactly help matters.

So it should be easy to keep on top of the washing pile, right? Having the dryer means that everything can get cleaned and put away at speed, surely.

Yeah, no.

And I’m not even talking about the extreme lack of clothes putting-away. Because that’s not a magical mystery, that’s just me.

This is what I don’t understand. I throw in the last load of washing. Yes, I’ll admit to engaging in a bit of a silent cheer at that point.

It’s the small victories that count.

Then I walk away to do other things, obviously. Because standing in front of an empty washing basket for prolonged periods would be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?

Maybe that’s my mistake.

When I return to the kitchen, somehow the washing basket is full again. To the brim. How?! In a house where nudity is the preferred lifestyle choice (amongst the population with an age of single figures, I hasten to add), how can they generate so many dirty clothes? And so speedily, as well.

I'm not wearing clothes for oh... about *two* years.

I’m not wearing clothes for oh… about *two* years.

It must be magic.

Or maybe I need a bigger laundry basket. Whatever.

2. The Toy Box Poltergeist

Ok, so I may be stretching the definition of ‘enchanted’ slightly with a poltergeist. But who gives a shit? Not me.

For me, it describes exactly what goes on in the playroom when my back is turned.

We don’t actually have a poltergeist. At least, I don’t think so. Sure, I find that the house frequently looks like something has gone through it like a whirlwind, but I’m not sure that’s a particularly reliable indication of supernatural activity.

Still, I could be wrong. Let me describe what occurs. I try and tidy up the playroom a couple of times a day. Nothing excessive, just throwing the small things into boxes and moving the big things back where they live. I find it helps prevent the frequent howls from Big Girl and Little Girl because they’ve stood on a plastic arm, as well as Squeak’s many trip-overs.

It takes all of three minutes to do. But as soon as my back is turned…

I hear a clatter and a clunk.

I look back. One of the toy boxes is sitting empty in the middle of the room, its contents strewn across the floor.

Of course, you could blame the kids if you want to. Occam’s Razor and all that. I suppose it is the mostly likely explanation. But that’s the thing.

There is never a single child anywhere in the vicinity. And their faces look pretty damn innocent, I can tell you that.

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See?

On second thoughts, it must be a poltergeist.

3. The Disappearing Fruit

I think it’s true to say that if you have small children, they get through a lot of fruit. Usually.

Mine love it. They’ll eat almost any kind. So needless to say, we buy loads of it.

So, where does it go? And I don’t mean into their mouths. Some of it does, but I’m convinced that is not the end of the story.

Because it seems to me that whenever I look into the fruit bowl, all that’s there is three oranges and a rather tired looking apple. Even if we’ve only just shopped. It doesn’t make any sense.

Nope, I got nothin'.

Nope, I got nothin’.

I know they’re not sneaking it. I’m sure they could if they really wanted to, but they’d be foiled by their constant and irresistible urge to parade their spoils in front of me with a cheeky grin on their faces.

I’m considering buying shares in a fruit shop. Or at least a new fruit bowl.

4. The Time Travelling Carpet

I have to confess to being a little bit slack about hoovering. It started because Squeak was abjectly terrified of the hoover. She would scream blue murder as soon as it switched on, and cling to my legs. Not a set-up conducive to successful floor-cleaning. However, she’s over that now, and I still haven’t shifted my arse.

I do try and do it fairly regularly though, much as it irks me. Because we have a very light coloured carpet which gives approximately zero leeway to bits and crumbs. And for some reason, the children appears to moult in a way akin to a pedigree cat. If I leave it a few days, I find that the carpet has acquired enough kid-hair to make a wig for a giant.

It’s… odd.

Odd, you say.

Odd, you say.

I can’t help but feel that my effort are futile at times, though. It seems like my nice clean carpet lasts all of five minutes, before it looks just like it did again. I have pondered it, and I think I have worked out the cause.

My carpet can travel back in time.

Sure, laugh all you want. I’ll have you know that I thought hard about this. For at least 37 seconds.

I’m not sure exactly why the carpet does this. I am not arrogant enough to think that I can easily pick apart the mind-set of a floor-covering. But whatever the reason, it’s happening. Right before my very eyes.

Well, ok. Not right before my eyes. Just before I turn around, then.

Close enough.

5. The Teleporting Children

Predominantly, the animal I would compare my children to is the baby elephant. That’s what they sound like most of the time, leaping and crashing about. I always say that I can tell where they are in the house simply by closing my eyes and listening for a second.

Except sometimes, I can’t.

This happened to me just the other night. It was after Squeak and I had had a delightful, poorly-baby nap on the couch together. She didn’t wake up until 6.45pm, so obviously she was still playing long after the others were in bed.

It's party time!

It’s party time!

I went off to the kitchen to get a drink. On my return, I was convinced that Squeak was playing next to the bookcase. She does that a lot. Her favourite game is to pull all of the books off the lower shelves and attempt to rip their covers off. Need I mention that these are my books. Of course she wouldn’t do that to her own.

I was so convinced she was there that I headed over there to give her a cuddle. Now, that bit of our room isn’t visible from the kitchen door. So I couldn’t see her, but she was definitely there.

Just as I was about to reach her, I heard a little voice say, “Daaaaaat!” From the other side of the room.

And I have to say, it totally freaked me out. Because I would swear that she was next to the bookcase. I could sense her.

Hmmm, might have gone a bit too ‘woo,’ there. But I could! She couldn’t have walked across the room, because I would have seen her. And I will not agree that she had always been on the other side of the room, and I am just imagining things.

Pah!

I guess this means Squeak can teleport. And if she can, the others must be able to as well. So…

How do I persuade them to use this magical power to get themselves to school in the morning?

6. The Spoons

Oh the spoons. The bastard, stupid, annoying spoons.

I hate spoons. Or, more specifically, I hate our spoons.

They are some seriously disloyal motherfuckers. All the rest of the cutlery just stays in its pot in the kitchen until it’s needed. But not the spoons.

They just can’t wait to go off on their travels.

Yes, I do realise that talking about spoons as if they are sentient beings may sound a little questionable. But still, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

I would say that we buy spoons at least every few months. Therefore, there should be a relative treasure trove of soup-scoopers available for the taking.

You guessed it, there isn’t. Almost every time I go to grab a spoon, all I can find it forks and knives. How is that even possible? They stay in the same room all the time, for God’s sake! It’s like some kind of fucked-up version of Beauty and the Beast.

Oh, apart from the spoons that Big Girl takes to school for eating yoghurt with. But I’m pretty confident that’s not the problem.

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That’s just too obvious.

No, the only explanation is that the spoons come to life when noone is looking, and plot their escape. It makes total sense, amirite?

I’ve just checked, and we are approaching critical level as we speak. Time to go spoon shopping!

Well, it would be, but I’ve got a better idea.

I’m thinking that I will dress up as a ninja, and conceal myself in a cunning and devious spot where I can effectively observe the evil spoons.

Well, I’ll probably just hide under the table. I don’t think I can fit anywhere else.

But I’ll catch them. And then they will pay.

So, having read my well-researched but not exhaustive list, I’m sure you will agree that my house is positively, absolutely enchanted. Right? Yes?

Is your house enchanted? Do you ever feel like everything is secretly working against you? If so, let me know in the comments!

Surviving When Sickness Strikes In 11 Easy Steps

I have had plenty of experience of this kind of survival recently. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had an entirely healthy household since September. There have been chest infections, ear infections, sore throats and those unnamed viruses that just make you feel a bit ‘meh.’ And of course, Squeak’s hand, foot and mouth.

We haven’t had any tummy bugs though. Yet. Taking into account my run of luck, I expect one will hit… oh, about tonight!

Thanks to the abundance of practice the small people have given me, I have managed to work out a bit of  system to make our lives run a little bit more smoothly when the lurgy hits.

1. Abandon All Hopes Of ‘Proper Cooking’

Now is not the time to be spending a lot of time (and more importantly, expending a lot of energy) chopping, steaming and roasting.

Even if you do have the energy to drag yourself into the kitchen, and the brainpower to think up a meal, don’t do it. All you’ll end up doing is burning the food while you try to settle screeching children who need you right now.

Despite imitating distraction with an obviously contraband article, pick me up now!!!

Despite imitating distraction with an obviously contraband article, pick me up now!!!

Been there. Yesterday.

This is the time for beans on toast, pasta with grated cheese, and that beige stuff from the freezer that kids seem to love.

You can make it up to them later.

2. Pretend The Housework Doesn’t Exist

If it helps, pretend the house doesn’t exist! I’m telling myself this as much as you guys. So often I have sat, pinned to the couch by a heavy, sweaty lump of a toddler, listing in my head all of the things that desperately need doing.

The thing is, they don’t. The world will not end if you leave the hoovering until tomorrow. Nor will anyone notice if the bin is a leetle bit full.

I don’t even know why I get so bothered about it. Normally I’d just let it go (I’m nothing if not a slack house-cleaner), but as soon as it’s physically impossible for me to do it, it’s all I can think about.

Pathetic, really.

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Yes, yes it is.

So from now on, I’m going to make sure there are clean clothes, and enough plates to eat off. Oh, and also that there is a clear path through the living room amongst all the toys (standing on lego does not improve my general outlook).

Beyond that, sod it.

3. Create A Sickness Station

Ok, I never actually remember to do this, but it is a fucking great idea.

There’s nothing worse than suddenly and urgently needing something, and being completely unable to get to it. I’m not talking about anything dramatic, like the solution to a Rubik’s cube, or world peace.

I’m talking about a tissue, for one of those sneezes. You know what I’m talking about.

TAKE COVER!!!

TAKE COVER!!!

If I did have a sickness station (and I totally will, next time), this is what I would have in it:

  • Tissues
  • Some sort of sick bucket
  • Towels (because you just know they’ll miss the sick bucket)
  • Drinks
  • Snacks (mostly for me)
  • Spare clothes
  • Nappies and wipes
  • TV remote
  • An electronic device of some kind

I bet I’m forgetting something. But even so, I think with this set-up I could make it so that I barely had to move. For hours.

I can get behind that.

Until I realise what I’ve forgotten, that is.

4. Avoid Getting Dressed At All Costs

Hmmm, this is more my mantra for life, really. But it applies even more so when the kids are ill. Unless you have to take currently healthy children to school, or overly sick ones to the doctors, I have only one instruction.

Wear Pyjamas.

Wearing them like this is, of course, optional.

Wearing them like this is, of course, optional.

Unless you can give me a damn good reason to get dressed, that’s what I’ll be doing.

If I’ve got to feed, snuggle and soothe a miserable, sick kid, then I’m going to be comfortable while I’m doing it.

Because of my child-picking-up obligations, I am dressed today. Reluctantly.

And, not for long.

5. Be Patient With Irrationality

I have been practising what I preach with this one, just this afternoon. Squeak is feeling a little better, but she is by no means fighting fit yet. This means she is up and down off my lap every few minutes, feeding, grumping and slapping me across the face when the urge takes her.

So when she became engrossed in playing with her tricycle, I was relieved. At last, five minutes peace!

Or, not.

Yeah, not.

Yeah, not.

Because apparently, the tricycle is the most annoying thing in the history of existence, according to Squeak. She can get on and off it, she can ride it forwards and backwards, but she cannot turn.

This didn’t stop her from riding it, though. She went forwards, and crash! She hit the couch. She screeched. She went backwards, and crash! She hit the TV stand. She screeched.

Are you seeing where I’m going with this?

I tried to help her. I showed her how to turn it, I turned it for her. I put it in the middle of a completely obstacle-free area of the room for her. And you can imagine how challenging that was.

But it didn’t matter. She still managed to get herself stuck in the middle of two unmovable pieces of furniture. Repeatedly.

And screamed her damn head off, every time.

I kept my cool. In fact, I think I surpassed myself. Despite thinking, Stop fucking riding it then!, I helped her, I comforted her, and when it came to it, I distracted her. Eventually, she forgot about it, and moved onto something else equally if not more frustrating. As you do.

Oh, you thought this section was going to be about being patient with your own irrationality?

Ha!

No, I don’t know how to do that.

6. Take Any Opportunity To Horizontalise

I’m not talking about the times when a child wants to live on your knee, or passes out on you, or maliciously ties you to the couch.

Although, disregarding the last one, those options aren’t that bad.

No, what I’m talking about is those times when your kid is momentarily distracted by the TV, or feels just about well enough to play with their toys for a bit. There are a thousand things that you could do with this time.

But they are all stupid.

What you should do is horizontalise. On the bed, on the couch, on the floor even, who cares? Just flop and exhaaaaaale. Because you deserve it.

And also, it’ll be over in 2 mins 42 seconds, anyway. So you might as well savour it.

7. Acknowledge That It Would Be Sensible To Go To Bed Early, Then Stay Up Late Anyway

Ok, maybe that’s just me. I am a self-professed night owl, and also more than a bit of an idiot. I know that once the kids are finally asleep, I should collapse into bed and catch up on all the hours I’ve missed. It’s simple.

But I just can’t do it.

After a stressful, intense day of meeting the needs of a poorly child (or failing to meet them, as the case may be), all I want is some time to myself. If I go to bed straight away, then it’ll be morning again.

Which is crappy.

So I waste time reading pointless articles on the internet, playing inane games and consuming my own bodyweight in carbs. Occasionally I might go wild and watch a film with Mark, or read a book if I’ve got enough brainpower left to comprehend words of more than one syllable.

Doh!

Doh!

Yeah, I’m reading shit on the internet.

It’s not logical, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make me feel better than a bit of extra sleep would. But it’s just how I’m built. I like going to bed about as much as a strong-willed two year old does, i.e. Not. One. Bit.

You should totally not copy me in this though. Be sensible.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Go to bed.

8. Medicate With Cake

Well, duh.

Ok, it doesn’t have to be cake. I’m not that controlling. And you should definitely not use food as an emotional crutch.

So, don’t do that.

But if you’re anything like me, sometimes the thought of a bit of a treat can get you through the toughest of days. Unless they’ve infected you with their revolting diseases as well, in which case… bleurgh.

There are only two criteria for selecting this delectable foodstuff. These are:

  • It must be tasty.
  • It must be bad for you.

Have you got that? Go on then, go wiiiiiild.

9. Weep Occasionally In Secret

I’m not exactly saying that this will help, but it’s definitely always on my list! I like to compare myself to a pressure cooker sometimes. Except rather than releasing gas (phnarrr), I release salty salty tears.

And for me, it helps. A bit of the tension eased, I can go back to the feeding and changing and wiping and stuff.

And fill up that tension-ometer all over again.

10. Celebrate Small Achievements

When it feels as if the entire world is falling apart, and you’re never going to sleep again, it’s important to focus on the small things.

Got through a whole day without getting covered in vomit? Pat yourself on the back.

Kept everyone alive and moderately uninjured for 24 hours? That’s serious good karma, right there.

Kids played without your input for a whole five minutes? Paaartaaaay!

DSC_0541

If you only see success in the big things, then life will be plagued with disappointment and feelings of failure. And that’s not cool.

Although I have to admit, number two on the ‘small things’ list may be a bit of a big deal, actually.

11. Enjoy The Cuddles

I don’t know about your kids, but when mine are feeling ill, all they want to do is deposit themselves on my lap and cling to any available skin I have been daft enough to leave exposed. Except for Big Girl who, in her advancing years, often prefers to simply lie around looking stricken.

But mostly, there’s cuddling.

There are times when this is incredibly frustrating. To be restricted in your movements, unable to grab a drink or nip to the loo when you want to is just… grrrrrrr!

It doesn’t always have to be, though.

Yesterday afternoon, poorly Squeak fell asleep while feeding. As I looked down at her peaceful face, I thought, When was the last time we did this? Then I realised that it was about six months ago.

And that sucks.

It’s really convenient to be able to leave your kid sleeping in bed or wherever. You can get all the things on your to do list ticked off, or give attention to your other kids. Or just sprawl around doing nothing.

Whatever.

But I have to say, I really miss the days when all I used to do was feed, cuddle and stare at my small babies.

So yesterday, I savoured it. I grabbed a pillow and a book and just chilled out with my warm little beast on my chest.

DSC_0083

Bliss.

Just one thing, though: if your kid’s got a temperature, take a layer of clothing off before you get snuggling.

Otherwise, it’ll get pretty uncomfortable.

Everything Is Not Always As It Seems

I am writing this through the heady haze of sleep deprivation. Luckily, I have found that if I close one eye the screen comes back into focus.

Which is handy.

The Squeaker has decided to come down with hand, foot and mouth disease. Translation: she is spotty, grumpy and a wee bit disgusting-looking. Last night, she decided her sleep quota was completed at around ten. Amazingly, the two hours kip she had had prior to that enabled her to throw an awe-inspiring pity party until 3.30. In the freaking morning.

DSC_0233

Who, me?

So I hope you can be understanding when I mistype words and go off on a tangent and forget to finish my…

Heh heh heh.

Anyway, today I’m talking about outward appearances and secret realities. Or in other words, everybody lies on Facebook.

The thing about social media is that we tend to pick the pictures to post that make us look good. The ones where our kids are clean and dressed, for starters.

What can I say, I aim low!

We post up pictures of our kids playing nicely together, or giving each other cuddles.

Like this:

happy kids

Not the ones where they are gripping the same toys with fists of steel and screeching in each others’ faces. Or the ones where they are sulking at opposite sides of the room because they can’t agree on the same game to play.

Even though the latter occur much more frequently than the former.

True story.

Then there’s the crafty pictures. We post pictures of our kids blissfully painting, sculpting and sticking. And we post pictures of the amazing crafts we have made for ourselves and our children.

I do this a lot.

What I don’t post is:

1. The gagging face Squeak made when she tasted bubble mixture seven times. Yes, seven. And I didn’t stop her. Because she had to learn for herself that it was not tasty.

Also, because it was funny.

2. The time Little Girl painted almost her entire body in black paint. You know, the kind which proclaims ‘WASHABLE’ in big letters on the side, but is in fact more long-lasting than a bloody tattoo.

3. The many phallic drawings and models lovingly made by Big Girl.

Actually, why didn’t I post those?

4. I did post pictures of the cat costume I made for Little Girl for her second birthday. It was awesome.

mila cat

What I didn’t post was my hideous cat claw, which was a result of sewing at speed through my finger. The needle snapped and became embedded in my index finger.

The nurse at the hospital needed three different types of pliers to get that one out.

I am imagining a load of repulsed faces looking at their screens after that story. Sorry.

Actually, not that sorry. Ha ha ha.

All of this perfect photo-posting, whilst making us feel good about ourselves, does have a not so nice side effect. People can be fooled into thinking that our lives are perfect all of the time. And when their lives don’t match up to the blissful perfection we project on our Facebook walls, they can feel inadequate and like they are failing.

We can’t be having that.

Because it’s not true. We all fuck up at times. We stick the tv on when life gets too overwhelming, and all we want to do is chop some vegetables. And our kids aren’t perfect, either. They argue and tantrum and vomit everywhere.

Not just mine, surely?

Thought not.

I’d like to think that this blog helps to address the balance a little. You guys all know that I fuck up.

Regularly.

I have no shame in admitting that I get stuff wrong. And I’m definitely not claiming that my kids are permanently joy-filled individuals. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to.

Perfection just ain’t that funny.

So I’ll post about the face-smushing,

face smush

the strops,

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and the just plain odd-looking.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ll consider it a public service.

I have to admit, a good camera with a talented photographer behind it does add a rather rose-tinted vibe to proceedings. Eyes sparkle, skin glows, and you can’t really see those pesky crumbs on the kids’ faces.

Thanks, Mark.

But even so, you can only photograph what is happening on the other side of the lens. For every beautiful shot, there are a dozen outtakes.

Or as I prefer to call them, ideal blog pictures.

As evidence, I present this photo:

DSC_0218

I love this shot. It’s so rare to get a picture of me, for starters. And to have two happy looking girls into the bargain is more than a little unexpected.

It’s the kind of picture that needs framing and sticking on the wall, in my opinion.

But that is not the only image Mark got on that day. And there is one in particular that illustrates my point about perfection, well, perfectly.

DSC_0214

Aw, that’s beautiful…wait, what the fuck is going on with my face?

Today I learned something. I learned that this is what my face does when Squeak throws herself into my arms and stands on my delicate inner thigh skin.

It’s decidedly less loving than I hoped it’d be.

So go on, push the boat out and mess up a couple of times. Then take pictures of it and stick ’em on Facebook!

It’ll stop me from standing out so much.

Time for me to fly. Squeak is standing in front of me with a doleful look on her face, begging for ‘baggies.’ She means ‘milkies,’ as in the breast variety.

And yes, I am a little insulted.

Made For Babies, But Not Designed For Them

When I wrote My Must-Have Baby Gadgets a little while ago, I talked about the ridiculous amount of unnecessary crap you can buy for babies. But that is not all. There is also a load of necessary crap that you have to get as well. If there’s one constant in this world, it’s that kids need stuff. Even if you’re aiming to be the most frugal parent on the planet, you can’t get by without shelling out for at least a couple of things.

Over the last six years, I have purchased plenty of said stuff. And I have come to the conclusion that frequently, the designers of the things I need didn’t really think it through. I mean yeah, the things look about right, but they don’t always function in a way that is completely desirable.

Clear as mud? Allow me to elaborate.

1. Free Flow Cups

These are the cups that you are recommended to give to your kids. In case you don’t know, they have no valve, so the kid doesn’t have to suck his or her face inside out to get a drink. Apparently, they’re good for oral development and teeth and blah, blah, blah.

I have a couple of these. Because they cost about a pound, and I am stingy. But I hate them with a vengeance normally saved for or number three on this list.

Because they don’t fucking work.

Well actually, that’s a touch inaccurate. If the definition of working is that water flows freely out of it, then it works.

With bells on.

And that is the problem. It took Squeak approximately three minutes to figure out that tipping the cup upside down and shaking it furiously creates an impressive lake in the middle of her highchair tray. This can have many enjoyable uses: splashing the entire table, destroying previously dry food, soaking clothes, and so much more!

The cup is always empty by the time she’s finished eating. If I was estimating how much of the water actually got into her stomach, I’d say about… one millilitre.

This delightful occurrence is not just reserved for the kitchen. Squeak has discovered that the havoc-wreaking properties increase ten-fold when she can walk around carrying the fabulous free flowing cup.

I know. After that display, why is this woman dumb enough to let her run off with the cup?

DSC_0234

It’s just…I can’t……it’s because…

I just forget, ok?! And if I had to confiscate every single thing that the kids used for the purposes of destruction, I’d be sitting in an empty room right now. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick your battles.

And sometimes you forget there was a battle. Whatever.

Squeak’s favourite thing to do is to sit down, and shake the cup so the water spills all over her clothes. The optimal time to do this is five or so minutes before we have to leave the house. Obviously. I’ve heard it’s frowned upon to take a child outside in soaking wet clothes in the middle of winter. I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. When I realise, the race to change her begins. I dive into the clean washing pile to locate some clothes (Yes, dive. I told you, my washing pile is big!) Then, I peel off the dripping wet clothes, realise I’ve got the wrong kid’s tights, run to get the right ones, catch Squeak and lie her back down and throw on the clothes.

I’m that used to fucking up in this way that I can now change her in record timing.So at least there’s one upside.

The drenching is not just limited to her own clothing. She’ll pour water over toys, into boxes, over my books (grrr), even over her sisters’ faces if they’re thoughtless enough to prostrate themselves in her vicinity.

Thankfully, she’s avoided electricals. Thus far, anyway.

Luckily, I do have a solution to this problem. Listen up, manufacturers, there’s a genius about! Essentially what I want is a cup with a psychic valve. When the kid is drinking, the valve is open. When the kid is making an unholy goddamn mess, the valve is closed.

Is that really so much to ask?

2. Socks

Baby socks are the cutest fucking things in the whole wide world. They’re so tiny! And they actually stay white, because babies are too small to feed their socks to the cat. Or to sneak outside sans shoes and do the twist in a pile of dirt.

There’s just one problem.

It is physically impossible to keep them on a baby’s feet.

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With each new baby, I have gone out and bought new socks. And it’s not because they’re cheap, or because I have a thing about buying new stuff.

It’s because all the socks are gone.

I don’t know where they go exactly. Some people blame the washing machine pixies for stealing odd socks. I suspect that mine are currently providing the local pavements with a nice warm blanket.

A kid doesn’t need to be able to grab their feet to take their socks off. Hell, they don’t even need to know they have feet. Squeak figured out quite quickly that all she needed to do was rub her feet on the nearest available surface, and voila! Socks were off.

There is a little solution to this problem: A product called Sock Ons. Otherwise known as elasticised foot bondage for babies. I didn’t bother to buy any for two reasons:

1. They look like elasticised foot bondage for babies.

2. I’m fairly confident that my kids could figure them out in about 7.6 seconds.

I went for a cheaper and more devious tactic: tights. It doesn’t matter how hard you tug and yank at a pair of tights, they’re not coming off.

Although Squeak has become skilled at pulling them just hard enough that she ends up with long, flippers. Which she then trips over repeatedly until I notice and pull them up.

Meh. everything’s got to have a downside.

3.Toys With No Off Button

Do I even need to write anything more than the title here? You know what I’m talking about.

When I am the ruler of the world (and trust me, I don’t think it’ll be long), toys with no off button will be illegal. Yes, illegal. Because they are one of the most infuriating things in existence.

Noisy toys in general really grind my gears. The plinky computerised music makes me shudder, as does the fact that the same five notes repeat endlessly. And the zombified voices. I mean, is a little enthusiasm too much to expect? You’re talking to children, for God’s sake!

Let’s just say that batteries don’t get replaced often in our house.

But I can accept all of that, if I can just turn the damn toy off every once in a while. Can yearning for blissful silence be so wrong? It’s beautiful to be able to flip a switch, say, “Oh dear, it’s run out of batteries,” and settle down for a peaceful afternoon.

Ha, no batteries required! Nice try, Mother.

Ha, no batteries required! Nice try, Mother.

Ok, so the last bit never happens, but the bit about turning the toys off is totally real.

A bit of peace isn’t the only reason why I like a switch on a toy. It’s because of the whole batteries thing. Even though it doesn’t happen quite as often as I claim, the fact is that batteries do run out. In my experience, this usually happens in the evening, when I am alone. It’s like the toys can sense that I am a complete chicken-shit.

I wouldn’t mind if they simply ceased to work. But of course, they don’t. No, what they do is begin to make eerie noises in sloooow moootion. I remember when Big Girl was a toddler, she had a little toy rocking horse which clopped and neighed when you pressed the ear. For a while it lived in her bedroom as she was too small to use it and it took up a fair bit of space.

One night, when we were all fast asleep, I was woken by what I could only imagine was a ghost horse galloping through the house, or a poltergeist. “Clip, clop, clip, clop, mooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh…”

It was the rocking horse. “Mooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh,” is what a robot horse sounds like in when its batteries are running out. Don’t believe me? Go find a robot horse then, and test it out.

After I had stopped shitting myself, I sent Mark to see what was making the noise.  Because a ghost was still a reasonable possibility, at that time. He took the batteries out and that was that.

Oh wait, no it wasn’t. He totally laughed his arse off at me as well.

So, what do you do when the toy has no switch? I’ll tell you what you do. You weep silently as the monotonal ‘beep, beep, beep’ threatens to burst your ear drums and slice open your last shred of sanity.

Too dramatic? Well, that’s been said before.

4. Velcro Fastening Shoes

Who the fuck though it’d be a smart idea to put Velcro on a pair of first walking shoes? Whoever it was, I can guarantee they don’t have kids.

Back in ye olden days (ok, five years ago), I got Big Girl’s first pair of shoes. And they fastened with buckles. Which makes perfect sense! I could put them on her and leave the room to pack a bag/nip to the loo/scream into a pillow. You know, whatever. When I came back, they would still be on her feet. Despite her best efforts to remove them.

But this is not the way any more.

Squeak got her first shoes last month. I have put them on her regularly, but I would guess that the accumulative wearing time would be about 37 minutes. She was foiled by them at first. Velcro is tricky when you’re only one. They stayed on her feet for aaaaages.

Yeah, right.

Yeah, right.

Or, twenty minutes. That’s how long it took her to figure out that pulling the strap and wiggling her feet at speed would send the dreaded foot-imprisoners flying across the carpet.

Now, she’s a regular pro at it. And she doesn’t just take the shoes off and discard them. Oh no, that would be a step too close. She takes one shoe, and hides it. I really think it would be less irritating if she hid both shoes. When she only does one, I am provided with incontrovertible evidence that the thing I am looking for is inches away from me. Inches.

But this is the kid who managed to conceal the remote control for the tv in such an obscure place that it took us two weeks to find it. I’ve got no chance.

Seriously, shoe-makers, throw us a fricking bone here. Don’t you think we’ve got enough problems?

Buckles!

5. Anything With Buttons

There are so many beautiful baby clothes available to buy now. You can make your kid look like a model from a catalogue, if you’re so inclined. I am not so inclined, but I do like it when they look cute.

But beautiful as some of these clothes are, they are not always practical. And there is one reason for this.

Buttons.

I understand that buttons are sometimes necessary. You know, for cardigans and shit. But they definitely do not mix well with small babies.

Why, I hear you ask? Well, even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you. Because I’m the boss.

Babies can sense when there’s something about that they can turn from a simple task into a total impossibility. And most babies hate the hassle of getting dressed. If they’re small enough to be immobile, then they hate being messed around with. And if they’re a bit bigger, they just want to be on the move again. When something is already tricky, buttons can make it even more complicated.

The mere whiff of a button induces the ‘octopus phenomenon.’ You know, where their limbs flail so wildly that they actually appear to multiply?

Like, about this wild.

Like, about this wild.

You get me.

Babies are, like, super good at octopusing. You manage to get all body parts where they are supposed to be, move in to do the fastening and wham! Naked baby.

When Squeak was about four months old, she had a gorgeous green onesie/body suit/who’s know’s what you’re supposed to call it. The colour really suited her, and it was very soft and comfortable.  So, want to guess how many times she wore it?

Twice.

Because, you see, it fastened at the crotch with eight oddly-shaped buttons.

As soon as I touched one of those buttons, she would screech and kick, kick, kick at my arms until I lost my grip. Over and over again. I basically had to pin her down just to finish the job.

No outfit is worth that sort of effort.

One could be forgiven for thinking that baby product companies want to make us suffer as we tread the rocky path of early parenthood.

Surely no one could be that mean. Right?

Have you got any baby products that you hate with a passion, yet use every day? If you’re as cruel to yourself as I am, then let me know in the comments!