A Handy Phrasebook For Dissuading Your Childless Relatives From Ever Procreating

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My sister Lisa inspired this post. She is a very happy, successful person who is in no way interested in having children for a long while. I credit myself in part for her lack of urge to procreate. Because even with the best of intentions, casual oversharing happens. I can’t help it!

Lisa has come a long way since I had Big Girl all those years ago. She no longer holds my children with the facial expression of a person with a ticking hand grenade glued to their hands. And she has become more unshockable as time has gone by.

But still, if I delve into the memory banks of the last seven years, I can find little snippets of information guaranteed to make her respond with, “Oh my God, I am never having children!”

I’d like to say that I don’t often share these snippets for the sole purpose of freaking her the fuck out. It would give me great pleasure to say this. But it would be a lie.

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I’m just not that nice.

You too can share the joys of parenting with your childless relatives. Go on, spread the love! I’ve made it nice and easy for you by collating a few examples together into a handy phrasebook you can refer to when you need a conversation starter.

Go forth and be inspired!

1. “Standing up after a vaginal birth can be… surprising.”

Or, in the extended version: “When you stand up after a vaginal birth it can feel like you’ve left your internal organs behind in the chair.”

A touch graphic, mayhap. But really, is it a lie? The early days of parenting are full of surprises, but looking back to those first moments in the hospital with a tiny Big Girl, that’s one of the things that sticks in my mind.

And honestly, is it all that bad? When I think of all the bodily fluid spillage, intense sleep deprivation and figuring out how to get a vest on my fragile newborn without breaking her arms, a bit of vaginal trauma seems like small beans to me.

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My sister does not agree.

2. “I can’t even nip to the loo without disastrous consequences.”

One of the biggest changes after you have a baby relates to time. All that time you had before to do whatever you wanted becomes a distant memory, and you find yourself scrabbling for a moment to shove a piece of toast down your neck or change a decidedly moist t shirt.

Toilet trips, though. I mean, you’re there five minutes at most. What’s the worst that could happen?

When Big Girl was a newborn I can remember sprinting down the stairs at breakneck speed because I was convinced that the television was about to topple over and crush her.

No, the stand was by no means unstable. And it wasn’t even a wobbly flatscreen! Ah, the irrationality that comes with new motherhood.

Love it.

Times change, though, and now instead of a helpless new baby I have a decidedly unhelpful toddler. And this week in particular, she is really indulging her mischievous streak.

Even so, I naively thought that a quick toilet trip would be safe. There’s no way a kid can do a significant amount of damage in such a short time. Right?

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Wrong. Oh so wrong.

You see, when I came down I found Squeak smiling at me innocently, surrounded by a pool that consisted of almost a pint of milk and more than a drop of self-satisfaction.

Interesting fact: Milk doesn’t half spread when poured over a smooth surface!

I’m fairly sure she wasn’t trying to drink it, as she was bone dry. I can only assume that mischief struck, and she just couldn’t resist.

And yes, I am aware that it shouldn’t have been in her reach. Frankly, I’m not sure why it was!

3. “Sweep.”

Apparently this one needs no explanation. Just a <shudder>

4. “Being accompanied to a public toilet by a small child can be embarrassing.”

An obvious solution to number two’s issue can be to take the child with you to the toilet. At home, this is fine. No one can hear the inquisitive interrogation that issues forth from your child’s mouth. But outside? In public?

That’s a whole different story.

For small children will insist on proclaiming their joy at your use of the facilities. Loudly. And in detail.

Damn that positive praise you used to encourage potty training! This shit always comes back to bite you in the ass.

A little bit of information for the kids though: If you have to, and I know you have to, comment on the appearance of my pubic hair, in a public toilet, which is very busy, at the very least don’t laugh at it.

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That emotional scarring will take years to heal.

5. “Could you change her nappy for me please?”

I threw my sister in at the deep end when Little Girl was about eighteen months old. We were moving house, and she had kindly offered to look after the girls for the day while we got everything sorted.

She did not know what she was letting herself in for.

Maybe I forgot to mention that Little Girl had some digestive issues, which meant that her nappies frequently resembled some sort of hell-sourced fluid.

I may also have forgotten to mention that changing the nappy of a busy toddler is somewhat akin to performing advanced level origami with a hyperactive eel as an assistant.

The look of abject horror on my sister’s face when she returned the children was hard to forget.

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I mean, not that I wanted to forget it or anything. Oh no. It was fucking hilarious!

Yeah go ahead, you can feel sorry for her instead.

6. “Oh yeah, babies poop this weird, tarry black stuff for a couple of days when they’re born.”

Apparently, meconium is a big conversational no-no.

I try not to discuss bodily fluids all that much with my sister. I mean, I do love her really. But come on! That stuff is horrifying even for a person who is wrapped up in that haze of newborn love.

Why? Just why does it even need to exist? And why the hell is it so bloody hard to get off?

7. “Once, when we were cuddling, she stuck her finger so far up my nose that it bled.”

My sister enjoys cuddling my daughters almost as much as I do. They adore her, and throw themselves into her arms joyfully as soon as she enters the house.

I’d prefer not to spoil these happy moments with the above piece of information. I really would. But it pays to be prepared.

I mean, sometime our children just love us a little too hard. And orifices don’t just explore themselves.

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Amirite?

Let’s just keep the accidental headbutts from a rock solid toddler skull between ourselves, ok?

8. “I wish I could get my toddler to keep her clothes on when we’re out of the house.”

I’ve mentioned before the skill and speed with which my girls shed their clothes whenever they feel like it. At home, this isn’t a problem. If you don’t want to see a squidgy toddler butt then don’t look in through my window, right?

I just wish my children could exercise a little discretion when out in public. I can remember once, when Big Girl was only two or so, I took her to a local toddler group. She didn’t have the same violent tendencies as Squeak, so once she had settled in I stopped to have a bit of a chat with a friend.

A few minutes later, I turned to find Big Girl half naked (the bottom half, obviously) and happily sitting in a sandpit as other toddlers looked on, baffled and, I believe, more than a little envious.

I raced to bundle her back into her trousers, and explain that nudity is something usually reserved for home.

Naturally, she was pissed.

9. “She just started holding her breath until she passes out when she’s mad.”

Even for me, this one is hard to handle. And I’m pretty used to the often bizarre situations that parenting three eccentric children throws at me. But it freaks me out to see a child do the exact opposite of what she needs to stay alive. I know it’s not conscious or controllable but seriously, if your brain does this to you when you get angry or hurt yourself, you’ve got to question it about its ulterior motives.

Despite the horror of witnessing and dealing with this, I try to see the positives. At least I can now say, with confidence, that I know exactly what my child looks like when she turns bright purple.

Actually, that’s not much of an impressive thing to know.

Man, I’m glad she’s growing out of this.

10. “I wish my child didn’t mix her words up so often, it’s really embarrassing!”

I know what you’re thinking. How can a poor little kid getting her words wrong be such a mortifying situation? Well, after I’ve told the tale that accompanies this statement, I think you’ll understand me.

Last week, I was with all of the children in the chemist, waiting to pick up a prescription. There were about five people also waiting, and it was very, very quiet.

Little Girl was in a fidgety sort of mood, and spent a good few minutes flipping up her skirt and adjusting and re-adjusting her knickers.

This would have been embarrassing in itself, if I hadn’t had the experience of most of the above points. I’m pretty thick skinned now.

Bending down, I whispered to her, “Little Girl, can you keep your skirt down please? Nobody wants to see your bottom!”

Quick solution, right?

Ha.

For instead of acquiescing, and passing the rest of the time busily attempting to read the instructions for various brands of diarrhoea medication, Little Girl gave me a terrible frown. Then she proclaimed, in that crystal clear, echoing tone that only children can communicate by, “But I’ve got a WILLY!”

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I raised my eyebrows slightly, trying without success to hold in my mirth. She looked confused for a second, and then giggled. “Um, I mean a wedgie.”

Big Girl and I exploded, giggling our heads off. What perplexed me the most was that not one single other person who must have overheard let out even the tiniest snigger. How do these people control themselves?

Ok, actually this wasn’t all that embarrassing for me. But if I hadn’t, after years of exposure to extreme mortification, been pretty much dead inside, it totally would have been.

Ah, kids.

11. “Watch out, she bites.”

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I feel like this is self explanatory.

Go on, try it out! See just how many people you can horrify and traumatise. Spread the joy!

And then, you know, come back and tell me all about it. Because I could always do with a laugh!

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Instructions As Written By Children

Some people hate following instructions. Not me. I love them! In fact, unpacking something irritatingly complex and then smoothing out the instruction booklet gives me more than a reasonable amount of pleasure.

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Yes, I know. I have issues.

Sometimes I get the feeling that my children have rewritten the instructions for various household tasks and items. How else can I explain their uncanny ability to fuck things up in exactly the same way?

Hmmm… Maybe, ooh maybe there’s a secret manual hidden somewhere, which all of the world’s toddlers get to read as part of an elaborate initiation process.

Well, there probably isn’t. But if there was, it would almost definitely be called ‘The Casual Home Destruction Handbook.’

I’ve taken the liberty of recreating a few imaginary excerpts. No doubt, these ones would have to make their way in!

1. Stickers

Stickers are awesome.

Stick them to your face!

Stick them to the couch!

Stick them on your butt!

Stick them to the cat!

Stick your little brother’s eyelids shut!

Stick the STICKERS!

Sticker mila

2. Washing Hands

Ensure a lack of adult presence.

Turn both taps on as far as they will go.

Shove hands under water.

Observe impressive arc of spray as it cascades onto every available surface.

Pour liquid soap directly down the drain.

Turn taps in opposite direction until both are dripping.

Wipe hands on towel in lackadaisical manner.

Drop towel on floor.

Feign ignorance when asked why the bathroom looks like a scene from Titanic.

Engaging distraction sequence...

Engaging distraction sequence…

3. Chairs

Move chair (if possible) to an area of the room containing an optimal level of breakable objects.

Stand on chair.

Ignore admonishments to apply buttocks to said chair.

Jump.

Recall halfway down that you haven’t exactly learned how to jump yet.

Cry.

4. Dog Food

Eat it.

5. Pens

Remove cap.

Drop cap behind extremely heavy piece of furniture.

Apply pen liberally to skin.

Draw a penis on the wall.

Cover artwork with paper.

Do not, I repeat to do not draw on the paper.

Abandon pen on absorbent and/or expensive piece of material.

rargh

6. Reading Books

Select time to request a book when your parent is in the middle of an involved and/or messy task.

Clamber into his/her lap, applying a knee to the crotch or an elbow to the breast, as appropriate.

Waiting until your parent is halfway through the first line, then turn the page.

Turn it again.

And again.

Insist that you can do it yourself. Loudly.

Wait until your parent has moved a few steps away.

Rip page in half.

7. Muddy Puddles

Locate largest and most revolting puddle in local area.

Trip just as you reach the deepest part.

Fall on your face.

Pretend to go swimming.

Eat some mud.

Insist on removing welly boots to walk home.

Complain about stones.

muddy zora

8. Toothpaste

Eat it.

9. Getting Dressed

Apply knickers to your body sideways.

Tell no one until you reach a suitably public venue.

Put both legs into one leg hole in your trousers.

Yell, “I’m a mermaid!”

Fall on your face.

Express distaste at scratchy label despite it having been removed three months ago.

Put top on backwards.

Insist that you like it better that way.

Put your shoes on the wrong feet.

Argue that they’re not on the wrong feet until lateness has been achieved.

Put your sister’s coat on.

10. Stairs

Begin stair descent routine approximately six feet away from the first step.

Slide laboriously along carpet on your stomach.

Bump slowly down each step.

Change your mind three steps from the bottom.

Turn around.

Jump. Just jump.

Someone will catch you.

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11. Cats

Get cat in your sights.

Scream excitedly at the top of your lungs.

Run towards cat at top speed.

Fall over.

Get up.

Run more.

Stroke cat’s fur the wrong way.

Gaze forlornly at window from which cat made a hasty exit.

12. Potty

Stand in it.

Use it as a boat for your toys.

Wear it on your head.

Use it as a bowling ball.

Trip over it.

Pee on the carpet directly in front of it.

(Caution: not to be used for urination or defecation.)

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13. Unidentified Object You Dropped Behind The Couch Three Weeks Ago

Eat it.

14. Brushing Hair

Repeatedly request permission to brush your parent’s hair.

Roll eyes at reminder for you to do it ‘gently.’

Apply brush firmly to the top of the parent’s head. From a height.

Repeat as many times as is tolerated.

Apply regretful expression to your own face.

Kiss your parent’s head better.

Lick brush with the utmost discretion.

Brush hair ‘gently.’

15. Going To Sleep

Take fifteen minutes to select an appropriate before bed storybook.

Kick bed with your heel throughout entire story.

Also, hum.

Acquire urgent need for a drink.

Acquire urgent need for the toilet.

Express fear over non-existent monsters under the bed.

Insist on a minimum of eleventy million kisses.

Transform shadows into ogres and ghouls.

Scream.

Close your eyes for three seconds.

Pick your nose until it bleeds.

Go to sleep.

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***

Ok, I may have recreated slightly more than a few. But what can I say? I get carried away easily!

Reading back, I’m starting to think I might have a point about this ‘imaginary’ instruction book. I mean, otherwise kids are just doing bizarre, unhelpful and downright irksome things for no discernible reason whatsoever!

Now that? That’s crazy.

Things I’ve Learned About Single Parenting

I have now been a single parent for just over a year. And while I am an utter newbie compared to some, I do feel that I have come a long way in that time.

When I first started out, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to cope. I was almost definitely sure that I was going to crash and burn within weeks. I mean, how do you meet the needs of three demanding children without splitting yourself into pieces?

It turns out, there’s only one way to do it. And that’s just to do it. And do it again. And do it some more. Then you realise that actually, you’ve been surviving for a while now, nobody has any lasting physical damage and you’re actually not all that bad at it.

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That said, I couldn’t have managed without learning some valuable lessons. Some came from friends, some just came into my head late at night when I was talking to myself (I do that a lot.)

I’ve taken the liberty of writing some of these lessons down. Not because I think they’ll be particularly useful to you, but more because they’re a little bit funny. And if I can’t let my various trials and tribulations stand as a form of amusement for you all, then what the fuck is the point?

Anyway, here we go!

1. Friends can teach you the most bizarrely useful skills

One of the handiest things I have learned this year was taught to me in the very first week. I was trying to declutter, which as anyone knows is at the top of the to do list in this situation. While doing so, I ran into a bit of a problem.

It was the children’s play tent. Or, as I like to call it, ‘the place where balloons go to die.’ You see, I have a slight… balloon issue.

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That is, I’m fucking terrified of them.

It’s not the balloons, per se. It’s all that potential they have.

Popping potential.

And they’re just so freaking unpredictable. You can sit a toddler of a weight roughly equivalent to a small boulder on one, and nothing happens. Breathe on it two seconds later and BANG!

So, you see my problem.

My solution for an unreasonable amount of time had been: shove them in the tent and forget all about them.

You know, you can roll your eyes as much as you want. It worked! Up to a point. For now, the tent was full. Of course, I could have just taken a pin and popped them all. But the mere thought of that made me do a nervous dance on jelly legs.

Which, by the way, looks goddamn hilarious. But is not an entirely practical method for completing the task at hand.

Luckily, there was a friend on the way to solve my problem. She taught me to snip the balloon next to the knot, so that it deflated slowly and, mostly importantly, noiselessly.

Life. Changed.

Yes, I am aware that everyone knows this trick. I apologise deeply for my lack of practical life skills.

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I don’t even care, problem solved.

Next!

2. A double bed containing one adult can fit three children in

Not comfortably, mind.

Between illness, nightmares and general fuckery, my bed can become like a conveyor belt at times. Big Girl and Little Girl tend to sleep through as a rule, while Squeak has maybe once? Twice?

Nah, I’m exaggerating again.

So, there’s always at least one child in there, snoring, sleeping with her eyes open and casually groping my boob.

Standard.

And when it goes wrong with the others, they have to do it simultaneously. In comes Little Girl, clinging to my back like a limpet, wheezing and flipping a 360 degree turn every time she coughs.

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Just as I drift off again, Big Girl pads in, quivering as she exits a particularly gruesome nightmare. A nightmare which, of course, she must tell me absolutely every detail of before passing out on whichever sliver of sheet she can locate.

It’s a full house! Or should that be full bed?

Hang on a minute. Does it still count as ‘fitting’ if I am lying rigid and glassy-eyed, sandwiched between two children who are attempting to reach temperatures approximately three degrees hotter than the Sun? How about if it takes me four hours to get back to sleep because I feel like I’m being slowly suffocated?

Ok, how about if I’m weeping? Twitching?

Hmmm, I might need to rethink this section.

3. Even my phone knows

I have to admit, this did amuse me just a touch! I was texting a friend, and for some reason I needed to type the word ‘kiss.’ No, I have no idea why. What occurred next clearly shows that I do not write it very often.

So tippety-tap I went. And up popped this:

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Whaaaaat? How did my phone know? Is this part of the new update?

It’s like my phone peeped at me through its creepy, stalker eye (what, you thought that was a camera?) and said, “Yeah, she’s got no call to be writing that.”

Judgy pants.

4. The evenings are quiet

If there’s one thing I can say about my house, it’s that it is loud. The usual; soundtrack sounds a bit like this:

“BANG! Ow! THUMP! Nooooo! SWISH-CRACK! Not my pigtails! CLICK-CLACK! Pikachu, I choose YOU!”

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It’s an eclectic mix.

So once everybody is finally floating along the plane I like to call ‘sleeping with one eye open,’ I like to collapse and become one with the couch. And, you know, throw a couple of blankets over me and switch on Netflix.

The only problem is, none of these objects are particularly good conversationalists. Therefore, I spend a lot of time sitting in silence. Well, silence interspersed with the metallic tick of knitting needles, anyway.

It isn’t really that big an issue. I’m a quiet kind of person, so I savour these moments.

Aah, peace!

Then, the phone rings. Uh oh.

For anyone who’s not sure why this wouldn’t be absolutely fine, allow me to illuminate you. You see, it’s in this sort of situation that you can get a bit of a surprise.

Well, I can get a bit of a surprise. That is, my voice. It comes out sounding not exactly as I would expect it to.

In my head, I sound pretty perky. Energetic, even. And definitely female.

But out loud, after three hours rest? Well, my voice box tends to take a little while to catch up to the party.

So what actually comes out of my mouth is croaky. It’s grouchy. And it’s decidedly deeper than I anticipated.

Dammit, I sound like Yoda!

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Which is great for the self esteem, as you can imagine.

5. When a kid throws up on me, I have no idea what to do first

Stomach bugs. In a house full of bacteria-laden germ factories (or as some like to call them, children), they’ve just gotta happen. The last one we had hit Squeak harder than everyone else. The poor kid must have been puking for about four days!

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I know how to deal with a vomiting child. I have a handy checklist that goes a bit like this:

a. Comfort child

b. Clean up child

c. Stand up without dislodging revoltingness onto the carpet

d. Get changed

e. Put washing on

f. Rinse and repeat

Ta-da! Couldn’t be simpler. Except… where do I start, exactly? All of the towels, cloths and general cleaning paraphernalia are rather more than an arm’s reach away. Said child is howling, there’s a rapidly cooling pool around my nether regions and I’m doing battle with my over sensitive gag reflex.

I’m sorry,  that was a bit graphic.

Oh no, wait! Actually not that sorry.

I’d stand up, but the mess! But I have to stand up. But the carpet! I haven’t really figured out a successful method as yet.

Man, it was way easier when someone could just pass me a freaking towel.

6. Quick thinking is essential

So, at the moment, Little Girl’s most favourite and best activity in the world is building with Lego. That stupidly pointy shit spends most of the day strewn across the floor, repeatedly stabbing me in the feet because goddammit I don’t have time to look where I’m going!

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I did wonder if we would have any trouble with Squeak attempting to ingest some of the smaller pieces, but so far that hasn’t been an issue.

Mainly because Squeak doesn’t really dig predictability.

Therefore, when she came to me, whimpering and with her finger digging in her nostril, I guessed that things may have gone a little awry.

Fun fact: Did you know that the diamonds from Lego kits are almost exactly toddler nostril sized?

I know, right? Actually, strike the ‘almost.’ That thing was a perfect fit.

Obviously, my first thought was, “Shit.” Then, “I’m in the middle of cooking dinner on a school night!” And finally, “How the fuck do I get that out?”

I couldn’t drop everything and go to A&E. Well, I could, but it’s not really desirable to trail two extra, hungry children along with me.

At times like this, it’s not what you know. It’s who you know. And luckily for me, a friend of mine once had this happen with a couple of raisins and a much younger child.

Her story is way grosser than mine. But she taught me a little trick, which I remembered at this most opportune of times.

So I grabbed Squeak, pinched her empty nostril shut and blew in her mouth.

And it was out! That was it. From disaster to success in a second, all thanks to my ability to retain pieces of information that spend most of their time being utterly useless.

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Go team!

7. Changing a lightbulb involves risking life and limb

When it comes to completely this, the most mundane of all DIY tasks, the odds are stacked against me. Here’s why:

a. My ceilings are super high.

b. I am super small.

c. I am also terrified of heights.

d. My stepladder is a rickety freaking deathtrap.

But you know, you gotta do what you gotta do. And sitting in the dark isn’t exactly my idea of fun, either.

There be scary things in the dark.

There be scary things in the dark.

Even with this knowledge, it’s still no picnic. Changing a lightbulb when you can’t look at the fixture because you’ll freak out and fall off the ladder. Bracing yourself four times on the way up so you don’t fall off the ladder. Desperately trying to control your quivering legs so you don’t wobble the ladder over.

It all boils down to the fucking ladder, essentially.

<looks up> Shit. Bulb’s gone.

***

So, what parenting lessons have you learned this year?

Parenting Skills I Have Never Acquired

Parenting is essentially a college course that you never graduate from. Everything is a learning opportunity, and I am constantly picking up little tips and tricks to make my life a bit easier. I have the walking with a child hanging off my leg, the cooking in three minute bursts and the dressing an octopus skills down pat.

But there are some skills I’ve never quite managed to acquire. Maybe I missed that lesson, maybe my kids were busy doing some other fuckery or maybe I’m just an idiot.

my face

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, let’s get on!

The Ability To Change Nappies Standing Up

I know that so much of writing depends on the visual. So, for the purpose of enlightening you all, I must explain that in this scenario, I am not the one doing the standing up. Obviously. Because while due to my slightly underdeveloped height I am closer to the floor than the average person, my arms are also proportionately stumpy. So, in summary, I cannot change a floor-lying person from the vertical position.

Glad we cleared that up.

Anyway, I have seen so many posts online where people bemoan their newly mobile babies’ inability to lie still for the essential nappy changing process. The solution that is always given, without question, is ‘just changing him standing up!’

Well folks, I am most certainly not without question. More specifically, I am asking, “How the fuck do you do that??”

squeak standing

Lookit the thighs!

You see? Now you’re visualising!

Is there something I’m missing here? I get that changing the nappy of a kid that can corkscrew his own freaking body borders on the bloody impossible, but I can’t see how this makes it any easier. I mean, I’m seeing mess, I’m seeing chaos, I’m seeing my hand wedged between two ballooning baby thighs. And yes, I’m also seeing stealth poos and me futilely chasing a waddling shit machine across a room with a cream carpet.

How do you do it? Seriously tell me, because despite my last child rapidly approaching potty training, I feel like this knowledge would bring me peace.

So bring me peace, goddammit!

The Ability To Listen To Two Conversations At Once

My kids come out of school smiling, rumpled and extremely rosy-cheeked.

What, you mean that's make up?

What, you mean that’s make up?

Does the school’s heating even have an off button?

We begin the walk home, that inevitably involves snails, falling over and an awkward conversation about genitalia.

You know, the usual.

As we walk, I ask the same question I always ask: “So, how was your day?”

What follows is a cacophony of noise that sounds approximately like this:

“Blah blah blah geflurgle bleath a playtime vegan hurly flooby hot dinner mooga PENIS!” Or something along those lines, anyway.

Ten points for anyone who tried saying that out loud. No judgement, I did it like ten times.

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Squeak tried it too.

Now, in my opinion I should have the ability to listen to both of my attention-hungry scholars simultaneously. I mean, I have two ears! But actually what results is an overwhelming of the senses so great that I have to fight the urge to stick my fingers in my ears and shout, “La la la la la la la!”

So instead I have to referee a game of turn taking, partial sentences and periods where a child grabs at my sleeve urgently, only to follow it up with, “Errrmmmmmmmmmm…..”

What a pain in the arse.

The Ability To Make Sense Out Of Utter Nonsense

If you guys agree with me on just one thing in this post, it’ll be this: Kids are really fucking weird.

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Mmm hmm.

You’ve got to be constantly on your toes. Forget brain surgery, screw quantum physics and military strategies can kiss my ass. Trying to figure out what oils the cogs of my kids’ brains is one of the more perplexing tasks of my day.

You’d think that, having had so much practice, I’d be really good at knowing how to respond.

Well, I don’t want to undersell myself. I do have a fairly consistent response. It’s just not all that helpful.

Allow me to illustrate with a little story. The other night, Squeak woke up. On the scale of zero to hysteria, she was hovering somewhere around the strangled howl level. So, being the responsible mother that I am, I ran upstairs to sort her out.

Sliding into bed next to her, I asked my usual question, “Ah honey, what’s the matter?” I don’t know why I bother asking, the answer is nearly always *mumble* *mumble* *squeak* But hey, after being silent for the couple of hours following bedtime, it’s always good to know the vocal cords still work!

That night, Squeak decided to mix it up a little. Her face crumpled as she yelled, ” I lost my head!” And she continued to sniffle.

Now, what I should have done at this point was to comfort her. Cuddle, kiss, wave my boob in her general direction. Like, whatever.

What actually happened is that I sat on the bed, staring at Squeak with an incredulous expression on my face. I’m guessing it was akin to the look I imagine I would wear if I ever actually managed a full night’s sleep.

They're not in my bed, but it's only a matter of time.

They’re not in my bed, but it’s only a matter of time.

Yeah, as if that’s ever going to happen.

I didn’t do any of the comforting things. And the staring lasted for way longer than is truly acceptable when faced with a wailing toddler.

My bad. Really got to sort this shit out.

The Ability To Look An Angry Child In The Face Without Laughing

There is one thing I know to be true about angry children: They look really fucking funny.

I don’t know if it’s the sight of such an adult expression on a young face, or if I’m just some sort of sick individual who glories in the less pleasant emotions of my offspring.

Nope, it’s definitely the first one. They just look so freaking funny! And of course you’ve got the foot stamping as well. Squeak has levelled this one up with her invention of the ‘double foot stamp.’ I mean, essentially it’s just pissed off jumping. But that’s what makes it special!

cheese

It’s clear to me that I need to find a way to contain my laughter. I can’t think of one situation where it’s ever made it any better. But for me, the easiest giggler in the whole world, that’s easier said than done.

So I’m going to continue, messing up my authoritative stance within my house and escalating minor altercations with my guffaws.

That is, until they stop provoking me!

The Ability To See My Child Falling And Not Stand Frozen To The Spot (Sometimes With My Eyes Closed)

I’d like to begin by stating that I am neither evil, nor mildly sociopathic. I can’t help it! I think it’s some kind of fucked up reflex, although for the life of me I can’t figure out how it could possibly be useful.

It can be kind of frustrating. As we’re walking along, I see the trip, the tangled feet, the flailing of arms as my kid begins the downward journey towards the ‘splat!’ on the pavement. And my brain is yelling, “Run to her! Catch her! Fucking do something!” But apparently, the connection between said brain and my traitorous body momentarily lapses, because instead I become like a tree, completely rooted to the spot. And yes, sometimes my eyes close.

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Why??

Once they’ve landed on the floor the spell is broken and I can run to them, scoop them up and do all of the various comforting things that are in my repetoire. All good. Well, except for the complete parenting fail that preceded it, anyway.

I’d love it if someone could give me an insight into this one, because it makes me feel really guilty! But no matter how hard I ponder it, I always come back to the same conclusion: I am really fucking stupid.

Help me!

The Ability To Pick Up Children From School Without Leaving The House

Well ok, I haven’t exactly figured out how to achieve this one yet. I think you’ll agree it’s a bit of a pipe dream. But come on, a woman’s gotta hope.

Right?

Right??

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Things My Kids Love That I Just Don’t Understand

As much as we love our beloved broods, they can be rather different to us. Sometimes they have beliefs which clash with ours, or act in ways we would never dream of.

Serious stuff.

So obviously I am not addressing that here. I am choosing instead to focus on the various trivial odd or annoying things my kids do, which I cannot even begin to understand.

The things that make me attempt to raise an eyebrow, before remembering that I can’t actually do that.

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I guess I’ll just frown instead.

1. Stripping Naked In The Dead Of Winter

I appear to have raised three children who don’t really don’t get the appeal of clothes. Nor do they see the point in keep them on, except under extreme duress (because, you know, hypothermia?)

I can’t say it’s something I’ve ever been particularly keen on. I like clothes! Well, except when I was pregnant with Big Girl during a heatwave in 2007, and even then there was underwear involved!

But in summer, when it’s absolutely roasting, I can kind of see where they might be coming from. You know, waistbands and seams can be so irritating! But they don’t restrict their nudity to the warmer months. They’re quite happy to strip off in all temperatures.

To put it bluntly, what the fuck? I’m not even going to try it out to see what they like so much about it. I mean, in winter I get dressed in stages just so I never have to be completely naked. At any time. And getting out of the shower is just torturous. Did you know that my hair needs rinsing like eleven extra times when it’s cold?

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Uh huh, for real.

So, when I’m sitting looking at my daughters’ chilly, pink toes, I’m going to suggest they get some goddamn socks on. No matter how much they roll their eyes at me. No matter how much they explain that they are not even a tiny bit cold.

Because that, my friends, is obviously a lie.

2. Being Upside Down

Do you ever play that game with your little one, where they sit facing you and then you slowly tip them backwards so they’re lying on your knee with their heads dangling off the end?

Do yours giggle as much as mine do when you do?

I did this to Squeak yesterday, and she reacted exactly as predicted. Uproarious laughter, cries of “More! More!” and a couple of amusing instructions to put her ‘upside up.’

Which, of course, is the opposite of upside down. Duh!

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Now, if somebody tipping me upside down, with or without my consent, I would react in one very specific way.

That is, I would freak the fuck out.

It is just not natural to want to spend so much time upside down. We are not bats! The girls even watch TV upside down sometimes, and holding Squeak up by her ankles is often a surefire way to prevent SqueakRage.

I don’t care, I’m not convinced. Despite spending my childhood being epically good at headstands, I actually do not enjoy the sensation of all of my blood rushing to my head. Who does?

Um, I meant besides bats.

3. Eating With Their Hands

If there’s any statement that I’m sure most people will agree with, it’s this one: Children are bloody disgusting.

I know, right?!

I may be biased with this one, because I am not a massive fan of getting things on my hands. I don’t like being greasy or sticky, and I hate getting dough on my hands when I’m making bread.

Which, you’ll agree, could be an issue.

They say it’s easy to pass on your own pet peeves and idiosyncrasies to your children. Well, I guess mine must be immune to this, because they love nothing more than getting very very dirty.

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Success. Or is it?

Regardless, that’s the way they are. They’re the kids you see elbow deep in mud so it impacts under their fingernails <shudders> or licking random outdoor items.

We’re working on that one.

Now, I have attempted to teach my children some table manners. And, as a rule, they’re pretty good! But God, knives and forks are such a hassle. They delay the passage of delicious food to mouth by oooh… milliseconds!

So when the girls think I am not watching, or if they get distracted, I see the little hands creep out.

I guess it must taste better! And this applies to all foods including, after Squeak’s vast experimentation, yoghurt.

Ick.

4. Bacon

I’m sure there are tons of people scrambling for their keyboards right at this moment to admonish me and make me mend my ways.

Well at least I hope there are. Otherwise I’m just talking to myself!

Anyway, you’ve got no chance. You can try and try and try, I am never going to like that shit, or understand why anyone else does.

I mean, ewww! Just ugh. It’s all salty and greasy and chewy and urgh! Just no!

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No no no.

Of course, being contrarily-natured little hellcats, my kids love it with a capital L. I don’t cook it very often, but when I do they scoff it down. They have tried feeding me their half-chewed morsels, but I am not to be swayed. Yuck!

And if you’re sitting there thinking that I only wrote this bit to piss you all off, well how very dare you!

Honest.

5. Watching The Same Crappy Programme Over And Over

Not the most succinct of titles, but I couldn’t think of a way to shorten it!

Anyway, do your children have a favourite TV programme. For a long time (and I mean a long freaking time), Little Girl’s absolute best one was Max and Ruby. You know, the story of two little rabbits; one being a rather bossy older sister, and the other being a stubborn, slightly sociopathic younger brother who won’t do a damn thing his sister says. Oh, and a neglectful grandmother pops up once in a while.

Hmm, pretty sure that’s not the synopsis you’ll find on their website.

Anyway, Little Girl was obsessed with them. It was all she asked for, all she paid attention to. To be honest I think she may have identified just a touch with single-minded little Max, but who am I to judge?

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She watched it as often as she was allowed. She didn’t care if she’d seen the episode a thousand times. By the end, she could recite whole scenes without a mistake.

Me, on the other hand? Well, if you play the theme song I’ll run away screaming. Or tear all of my hair out. Or just lie on the floor, desperately weeping.

Don’t get me wrong. I get liking a programme. I’ll happily rewatch things I’ve loved in the past and have a great time. But over and over again? On the same day? And for months and months afterwards?

Kill me now.

6. Lying (Badly)

Now, I do admit that this one may not quite belong on this list. But if kids don’t love crappy lying, then why do they spend so much time doing it?

I mean, I’m not saying that I’m complaining about this. So much of my parenting revolves around being able to work out what to believe from the tangled webs of imaginary stories I have to listen to on an hourly basis. Once, the lies actually become plausible, I’ve got no chance!

So I don’t want them to grow out of it too soon. Plus, it’s sometimes (read: often) rather amusing.

For example, Big Girl’s toothbrushing debacle. Now, we haven’t quite reached the stage of lazy hygiene issues with her, but if she’s got the choice of flopping on the couch and reading a book or performing some necessary cleansing task… well, you can guess what she picks!

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So one day, she came downstairs rather speedier than I expected, given that she likes to spending at least ten minutes staring at the ceiling while in a world of her own. “Have you brushed your teeth?” I asked.

“Oh yes!” she replied. A little too confidently, I thought. But she absolutely insisted that she’d done it.

“Ok,” said I. “I’ll just go upstairs and check your toothbrush,” thinking that I’d be able to tell if it had been used as it would be wet.

It turned out, it was much more simple than that. For you see, in the process of construction her work of fiction, Big Girl forgot to leave out one crucial step.

She put the toothpaste on the toothbrush.

Score 1 to me!

And then there was yesterday. As Big Girl was getting changed, I noticed that she had had a slight tights malfunction.

“Big Girl, what happened to your tights?”

“What do you mean?” she replied innocently, attempting to peer behind herself. (It also makes me giggle when kids do this. They’re like dogs chasing their tails.)

Huh? “Well, possibly I’m commenting on the fact that your entire left thigh is almost completely exposed. Are you trying to tell me that you didn’t notice that?”

“I didn’t do it!”

I think you can all guess how that story turned out.

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Now I just need to crack the ability to predict Big Girl’s long twisty tales that will eventually turn out to be entirely fabricated before I listened to them for ten minutes. She does it so well! The whole thing sounds entirely realistic, until just one detail at the end makes it all fall apart. “Was any of that true?” I cry.

“No.”

7. Being Thrown Up In The Air

Now I’ll admit, I don’t have a great many recollections of being thrown up in the air. That is because I have been far too heavy to become airborne for quite some time. But I’m sure I must have been, because that’s what parents do. Right?

But as an adult, I just. don’t. get it.

My kids ask to be thrown up high all the time. Squeak in particularly I suspect may have been a bird in a former life, because she loves it.

I know she loves it because she shouts, “Again!” as soon as she lands safely in my arms. But she doesn’t sound like she likes it. She does that really intense giggling that kids do when actually they’re shitting themselves. You know, like when you push them just a shade too high on a swing and you hear that laugh seconds before the hysterical tears begin?

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This time, however, the tears don’t come. It makes no fucking sense! If humans were meant to fly then we’d have hollow freaking bones. And feathers. And a much smaller population of people who are terrified of heights.

Oh yeah, and wings.

My kids’ love of being thrown in the air leads me to suspect two things: either, kids are crazy and have no concern for their own safety, or…

We are on the brink of an evolutionary leap.

Crap, I hope it’s the first one. If children manage to add flying into their repertoire, we’re all fucked.

***

So tell me, what do your kids love that you just don’t understand?

The Many-Pronged Attack Of The Squeak

Hello, everybody! Apologies for the radio silence, awesome blogging has categorically not been what I do recently. Apart from a rather absorbing revival of my knitting addiction, I have spent most of my time either child-wrangling or pondering the meaning of life.

Turns out, this is not exactly conducive to an outpouring of hilarity. But handily, it’s also quite boring!

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Not the knitting. That’s still awesome.

But all the rest, I have tired of somewhat. And so I am back! For how long, I’m not sure. But hopefully, there’s life in me yet.

I may be a little rusty, mind.

In the time that I have been gone, Mademoiselle Squeak has turned eighteen months old. And with that have come some… interesting developments.

Sure, she still has the adorable, goggly eyes and the delightfully chubby cheeks. And that little crooked smile is to die for.

Awwww.

But seriously, watch yourself. Don’t be fooled.

Because underneath this irresistible exterior lies a boiling core of pure, unadulterated baby rage.

And she’s really small, so it’s all concentrated and stuff.

Ask me how I know about that, if you dare.

Anyways, it appears that Squeak has read the memo about that shit we call the terrible twos, and decided to get in there early. At the moment she appears to have only two emotional states: consumed  with fiery fury, and asleep.

And she doesn’t do all that much of the second one.

She spends these sleepless hours refining and honing her technique, in a bid to take over the world. Or at least, her family.

What, you didn’t think she’d have a technique? Tut! Do you read anything I write?

Kids always have a technique.

Read on to discover a little bit about Squeak’s. (It’s not a little bit because I’m too lazy to write it all down, either. I’m not naive enough to think that she’s in any way finished thinking up ways to fuck up my life yet!)

1. The Screech

It has come to my attention that Squeak’s nickname may be a touch outdated. Gone are the days when she squeaked and gurgled her way around the room, gnawing on whatever mouth-sized gadget she could find and imbibing vast quantities of crumbs and fluff.

I never thought I’d say it, but I kind of miss that now.

For starters, she’s getting pretty good at talking. She’s learning more and more words every day, and sometimes even remembering how to use them. A personal favourite is when she proffers a toy that isn’t working, and proclaims, “Need hewp!”

It’s cute. Obviously my response is, “Oh dear, I guess the batteries ran out. I will definitely, totally change those, like, at some point in the future… honest!”

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No, that is not a lie! I resent the implication.

But as much as she is learning to talk more, Squeak is also realising that actually, she doesn’t need to talk at all.

Why would you need to talk when you can burst numerous ear drums with one sharp screech?

Oh yes, she screeches. Anyone who has heard said screech will agree that it is a source of considerable sensory discomfort. It just freaking hurts, ok?

She’s not particularly choosy about when she uses it, either. Walking towards her? Screech! Looking at her? Screech! God forbid, touching her? Screech!!!

She stops older children from grabbing her toys in seconds. Even I quail at the thought of having to stop her from doing something at any proximity closer than the other side of the room.

It’s a highly effective skill, and one I’m almost a little jealous of. I mean, how cool would it be to be able to stop everyone in their tracks with one (albeit, energetic) sound?

I can’t do that shit.

2. The Casual Face Slap

It has come to my attention that Squeak is somewhat keen on moving into a bed of her very own.

The evidence of this is most certainly not an impressive ability to fall asleep (and stay asleep) without my considerable input.

Not. Happening.

No, I am aware of this fact because Squeak has certain, less than civilised ways of telling me. Oh yes.

And she doesn’t want just any old bed.

She wants Little Girl’s.

Our evening routine ends with stories in Little Girl’s bedroom. Squeak listens and participates happily, as well as she can.

By that, I mean she turns the pages before I’m done reading and rips as many straggling pieces of paper as she can get her hands on.

Me? Nuh uh.

Me? Nuh uh.

It’s fun.

When the stories are finished, Little Girl and Big Girl share a cuddle and kiss. And that’s where Squeak sees her opportunity.

She leaps under the covers, grabs any available teddy bear and yells, “My bed!”

Or, more accurately, “My Bett!” Because apparently she can convey her meaning better in German.

Little Girl, understandably, is more than a little irked by this. So she protests by attempting to clamber in next to her beloved baby sister. You know, for snuggles and shit.

Here enters the Casual Face Slap.

Squeak don’t want no snuggles. Or shit, for that matter. All she wants is her very own bed. And the double that supposedly belongs to me, in which she persists in taking up all the space?

Meh.

So as Little Girl snuggles close, wrapping her arm around the small demon child’s waist, Squeak lifts her hand and delivers a stinging slap right on the cheek.

Well, not quite stinging. That’s why I call it the casual slap. Because there’s no aggression in it whatsoever.

Actually, do you know what it’s like? You know when one of those annoying flies with the high-pitched buzz gets right up in your face and refuses to leave no matter how much you swat at it? It just buzzes and buzzes right in your ear, in a calculated attempt to make you get the fuck out of its habitat?

Yeah, it’s like that.

3. The Drop To The Floor

So it’s always nice to know that people are reading the shit you write. Except if you realise that one of your kids is reading it.

To anyone under the age of about seven, this blog is less fantastic entertainment, and more a devilish instruction manual.

So imagine my dismay when I realised that Squeak had come across my post about Tantrum Techniques.

She must have, there’s simply no other explanation.

In case you’re wondering, the move she has mastered is The Flop. When she gets pissed (and I mean really pissed. We’re not talking irked, here), she immediately throws herself flat out on the floor.

Like this. Except angrier.

Like this. Except angrier.

And she’s not careful about it either. Personally I like to have some respect for the small amount of brains I have, even if they are safely enclosed in that rather oversized skull of mine. Squeak? Not so much. That kid has absolutely no consideration for her delicate, beautiful little head.

She doesn’t care what she hits, be it a toy, a shelf or just the floor itself. She’s going doooooown!

She actually seems to prefer it if she injures herself while she’s doing it. Then she gets to flash me that sorrowful, slightly reproachful look that never fails to tug at my heart-strings.

You know, because it’s my fault she hurt herself.

I like to think she operates The Drop on a point-scoring system.

A plain old Drop – 1 point

A mild head injury – 2 points

An injury of epic, breath holding proportions (see below) – 10 points

A fall which results in both of her arms coming out of the coat that I just spent ages wrestling her into – JACKPOT!

My House – Where Messing With Your Mother Is A Sport.

4. The Death Grip

One thing that a child with older siblings learns almost as soon as she can move around is that you’ve got to hold on to shit.

Ready? Set? Squeeeeeeeze!

Ready? Set? Squeeeeeeeze!

Like, really hold on.

Because they’re bigger than you, and they will use that size discrepancy to their advantage at any opportunity.

In our house, Squeak totally has the advantage. She can hold onto shit for longer than I, frankly, would be arsed about keeping it. Her face turns red with effort, and the aforementioned screech shows its face more than once. She’s willing to travel up and down the room, stamping her little feet and pulling as hard as she can.

But she will. not. let. go.

It doesn’t matter what it is. A toy, a piece of food, a forbidden object. Hell, she’d probably keep her grip on a grenade, if she really wanted to.

Big Girl and Little Girl are beginning to learn that they have less than a decent chance of getting their stuff back when Squeak has it in her sights. And that’s saying something, because I didn’t think I’d ever meet a kid with a tighter grip than my determined, ever-focused Little Girl.

But Squeak. Man, she’s got some superhuman strength going on. And so the older ones release their prize, dejection and frustration written all over their faces.

That’s where I have to step in. The eternal fixer-upper.

Because you know, I’m amazing at getting her to let go.

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Yeah.

5. The Breath Hold

This one comes last, but by no means least. It is the most spectacular tool in her much varied arsenal. Not to mention the cause of great aesthetic trauma, which is guaranteed to bring me to a rather abrupt stop.

Now, I am not at all new to the concept of breath holding in small people. Big Girl used to do it every time she bumped her head. Thankfully, I think she’s grown out of it now. At least, it hasn’t happened for at least a year.

And I was a breath holder myself, until the fairly shameful age of ten. I don’t know quite why I’m ashamed of that, it’s not like I could control it!

Seriously though, ten???

This, however, is my very first encounter with the sacrifice of life-giving oxygen simply as an expression of rage. And it’s taking more than a little getting used to.

I wasn’t prepared at all when she started. I didn’t realise the significance of the scream, followed by an ever-reaching spell of utter silence.

I thought, for some illogical reason, that she’d simply…. stopped crying. I mean, is it really that unreasonable to assume that?

Seriously?

Seriously?

Yes. Yes it is, you foolish, full of nothing approaching awesome woman.

I mean, ugh.

When I did sense something was slightly off kilter and looked up, I was faced with a baby staring at me with a grotesque, contorted grimace on her face. Oh, and for good measure, she was turning an unpleasant shade of purple.

Shit.

I reached out to grab her, but I was too late.

Obviously.

Over she keeled, and hit the floor like a sack of spuds. Oops. But on the bright side, that totally kicked the whole breathing reflex in again. Hurrah!

This wonderful phenomenon is showing absolutely no signs of letting up as yet, but you’ll be glad to know that I am getting way better at catching her.

Go me.

As you can see, life in the Awesome house is just that little bit more colourful right now. But fret not, it’s not all bad I suppose. Squeak has also learned to give kisses that don’t result in an accidental (I think) headbutt, and she can say, “I luff you!” And best of all, she has just realised that she can jump.

I mean, her feet aren’t leaving the floor, but she doesn’t need to know that. She couldn’t look more delighted with herself as she lifts herself onto her tippy toes and yells, “DUMP!”

Oh yeah, she calls it a dump, as well.

Ha!

Ha!

Man, I’m so fucking infantile.

God it feels good to be back. I’ve been churning ideas over in my head for weeks, but when I sat down in front of the computer they just shrivelled up and died.

Nice image, huh?

So I’ve been hunkering down and flexing my knitting muscles, waiting for my muse to return. And I think it just may have!

Hope you like it 🙂

8 Simple Rules For Surviving Your Kids

Today I’m channelling a bit of John Ritter. Because why not? I used to watch ‘8 Simple Rules’ on ABC1 when we first got Freeview. I mean sure, it used to crackle, break up or plain old disappear at least half of the time. But it beat having to do anything productive, idle-arsed teen that I was.

Anyway, I got to thinking (as I do). And I thought, what I really need is a list of 8 simple rules for surviving my kids’ childhood. Sometimes it does feel as if I navigate the days like an army obstacle course, hanging on grimly to the very edges of what I laughingly call my sanity.

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And, because I’m a helpful motherfucker, I wrote this shit down for you guys. Think of it as something similar to the WARNING! page in the instruction booklet for an electrical item. You’re not going to always need that information, but when you do, you’ll know about it!

Take heed.

1. Never Make A Special Effort With Food Just For Them

I have made this error on numerous occasions. It could be said that I just never learn.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying, “Fuck healthy food! Just feed your kids beige!” I’m just saying, make the effort for everyone, you included.

One thing I’ve found is that when you have three children, it is almost guaranteed that at least one will view your latest offerings with something approaching distaste. Like last night. I made the girls meringue nests with whipped cream and strawberries on top. Mmm mmm. I mean, who’s going to turn that down?

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Um, Squeak.

She looked at that stunning dessert as if I’d shit in a shoe and handed it to her on a plate. She glanced from it to me with an expression of increasing suspicion. Tentatively, she poked the cream and licked a finger.

It was not a hit. But she did eat the strawberries at least. Grudgingly.

I didn’t mind so much though. Big Girl and Little Girl devoured theirs, and I had one too. It was decidedly not bad.

But there are times when I want to eat after they’re in bed. And I have an awesome idea for a meal I just know they’ll love. So I plan, and shop, and cook. And as I proudly place in on the table in front of them, I am rewarded with three pairs of eyes staring up at me, with an expression that clearly states, “What in the fresh hell is this?”

Now, I cook the same thing for everyone. If they don’t like it, that just means extra leftovers for me.

And I’ll never shake a stick at that.

2. Never Admire Yourself

Yes, you bastarding parents! Dress in sacks and smear your faces with dust from the fireplace you totally meant to clean last week.

Well, that’s not exactly what I meant. Although sometimes I think I don’t look that much of a step away from that, at the close of the day.

This is what I’m on about. You know when, on a whim, you actually make a bit of an effort with your appearance. You pick an outfit that actually matches, and maybe even *gasp* iron it. Perchance you wear a little makeup, and brush your hair. Then you look at yourself in the mirror and nod, or smile a little. You look goooooood!

Take me advice. Avoid your kids completely after that. Because they can sense the pride you have in your appearance, and they will do their level best to fuck that shit up.

Gizza smooch, mum!

Gizza smooch, mum!

I’m talking an enthusiastic swipe of the nose across your shoulder during a hug. Or mucky, sticky fingers on your knees. Or a particularly explosive vomit from a small baby.

If you’ve got all together too cocky, I can tell you that a horrendous nappy malfunction is almost certainly winging its way towards you.

*shrugs* That’s kids for you! They survive by keeping us in our places.

3. Never Make Plans

Ok, so maybe I’m being a little excessive here.

A bit of downtime is essential to stay sane. Be it a night out, a coffee with friends, or just a movie and an oversized piece of cake at home, it can recharge your batteries and leave you refreshed to carry on with the whole parenting thang. Also, it is important to cultivate a bit of an identity outside of being ‘a mother.’ You are still a person with wants, needs, and interests outside of a game of roll-the-ball and Mr. fucking Tumble.

So, yeah, do make plans. But just make sure that you keep them a secret from your devious, scheming children.

Sorry, what was that? No no, I said darling, sweet children. You must have misheard.

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Are you fooled? I thought not.

I have noticed, over the years, that my children are completely in synch with my plans to go out or put my feet up. In synch as in, present at the time I am supposed to be doing said thing. Honestly, the amount of times I have spent sprawled on a bed in fancy clothes, lying in an odd position so I don’t wreck my hair, feeding a child who is absolutely not going to sleep any time soon! That’s one of the reasons I don’t go out much.

And even if I only plan a relaxing evening at home, I can be sure that Squeak will come along for the party. There’s nothing like pausing a film every twenty minutes to run up to a baby who is suddenly struck down with a severe case of pretend teething.

Remember, never tell your kids anything. Because they will use it against you.

4. Never Join In On A Trampoline

Just don’t. Ok? Do I really need to go into the whys and wherefores?

I know it looks all fun and shit. Your kids are leaping up and down with gay abandon, giggling and squealing at the top of their voices. You want in on that joy. It’s understandable. But it’s a risky business.

Maybe it’s a three children thing. That is a helluva lot of childbirth, I guess it takes its toll.

Hear me now, though. I speak from experience. The first jump on a trampoline isn’t so bad. It’s the second one that provides a slightly unpleasant surprise. You know, the kind of surprise that comes from the feeling that 70% of your abdominal organs stayed at the bottom of the jump.

Gawsh!

Gawsh!

It’s a shocker.

P.S. If you insist on disregarding my helpful advice on this subject, at the very least go to the toilet first!

5. Never Stand Downwind

I don’t know if it’s just me, but my kids make some fairly horrendous smells. I guess they do eat a lot of greens. But I suspect that that is only part of the problem.

You see, toilet humour is a major focus in our house. At first it was only Big Girl that indulged in this obsession, but Little Girl has now also joined the crew. Nothing amuses them more than a good fart joke.

And in this case, the joke is firmly on me.

I have learned quickly to make a hasty exit when I see a red, scrunched- up face. It helps that they look at me with mischievous glints in their eyes. That’s a sure warning sign.

But no matter how hard I try, I still spend most of my time within a cloud of broccoli stench, surrounded by giggling girls.

Eww.

Eww.

I’m contemplating a nose peg.

6. Never Teach Them How To Play Mini Punch

Have you ever played Mini Punch? If not, then here’s a brief overview: if you see a Mini (as in, the car), you punch someone. Not a stranger, like. That would be pushing it. It’s preferable to punch the person that you’re playing the game with.

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I know. It’s devastatingly complex.

I remember having great fun playing this as a kid, so I taught it to Big Girl and Little Girl.

Big mistake.

It turns out, Big Girl is actually a lot better at Mini Punch than me. I’m sure her far superior eyesight helps, as does the fact that I spent as many moments as I can with my head in the clouds.

She can even clock an old Mini, and those souped up Mini trucks. (Is it just me that thinks they’re a complete contradiction? I mean, Mini. It’s in the name.)

And she has a competitive streak a mile wide. Which I didn’t exactly realise until we started playing this game.

I have many regrets. And a sore arm.

Oh, and Little Girl? She has absolutely no idea how to play Mini Punch. Or for that matter, what a Mini even is. So she just punches the crap out of me at every opportunity.

Which is fun.

7. Never Think Crayons Are Safe

I have a strict system when it comes to drawing paraphernalia in my house. Crayons are a free for all. They can be found on the little table which Squeak can reach, under various pieces of furniture, and inside a nappy or two at times. You know, whatever.

Felt tipped pens and colouring pencils, on the other hand, are kept well out of reach of the smallest beast. If she’s going to draw all over herself and anything else she can find, I’d rather it was temporary. I don’t want to have to explain why the kids have whiskers.

Again. (Yes, obviously that’s happened before.)

But, as usual, I haven’t quite thought it through. It is true that Squeak cannot give herself a Sharpie moustache of Dali-esque proportions. And my walls are free and clear of abstract scribbles.

However, crayons are not completely trouble-free. Because every time I enter the room at the moment, I find a Squeak munching thoughtfully on the tip of yet another one. “Mmmmm!” she says as she chews. I think she spends more time chewing on them than drawing.

The nappies are… illuminating.

8. Never Tell Them Something Is A Surprise

Can you tell there’s a story here?

Silly me. There’s always a story.

Last week, it was my dad’s birthday. So a few weeks ago, I carefully selected and ordered a really thoughtful gift. He is notoriously hard to buy for, so I was chuffed to find something that I thought he’d like. I showed it to the girls (first error), but told them not to tell him what it was, because it was a surprise.

I know that was a little ambitious, but a woman’s gotta try sometimes. Right?

And unexpectedly, they didn’t mention it to him at all. Every week they saw him, and not a word passed their lips. Which lulled me into an entirely false sense of security.

Entirely false.

On Saturday, my dad arrived. After a bit of a play with the girls, I handed him his present, all wrapped up in brightly coloured wrapping paper. Still Big Girl and Little Girl kept schtumm. I was pretty sure we were home and dry.

We were not.

He opened all of his cards, then started on the present. And as he lifted the first flap of the paper, Little Girl piped up and said, “It’s a chopping board.”

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Thanks a lot, Little Girl. I won’t be doing that again!

*

Just in case I’ve begun to sound a touch pessimistic, (Me? Never!) here’s one last bonus tip:

Always Accept The Hug.

Even if it comes with a prize. (N.B. The prize is usually some form of bodily fluids.)

Because there’s not much better than a little head resting on your shoulder, or a pair of arms clasped tightly around your neck. And as the children grow, they are so busy that a proper, big snuggle is something that they can barely take time out to ask for. I savour every one. Even the middle of the night ones, and the soggy ones, and the needy, screamy ones.

They’re almost as good as the thrill you get from jumping really, really high on a trampoline. And thankfully, without the unpleasant side effects.

Win/win.