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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

We're not very well

We have not been very well. And by that I mean the whole family, not just the Royal ‘we’. Amy Jane has been the last to crumble, not least because she is the strongest of our merry band, and refuses to let something as trivial as ‘flu get in her way. In a previous life I am sure she has swatted the plague aside with the same irritation.

I however, would have succumbed to the plague but fought on as I was too busy to stop, until it grabbed me by the throat and fought me to the floor. This was pretty much how the ‘flu got me; twice in three weeks. I think I didn’t lie down enough the first time so it whipped round with a slow-motion mid-air karate kick and got me again when I wasn’t looking. This time it took nine year-old Finlay with it, so the two of us ended up bunking up in the spare room like a sweating Eric and Ernie, and slept solidly for two days and nights. He’s quite sweet to share with, he doesn’t snore or fight in his sleep, which is good news for any future girlfriends.

In a strange way it was nice to spend some time with him. Unless he is talking full pelt about his latest favourite film, or funny moment in I-Carly, he tends to get swamped by Amy Jane, who is more vocal. And more physical. To be honest, she’s more scary, so it’s easier to keep her preoccupied than risk her wrath, so sometimes I know Finlay can get overlooked. I listened with my eyes closed while he rabbited away about why The Last Air Bender was better than Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, and how worried he was about not getting his homework done because he’d been ill. This from the boy who forgets his reading book almost every other day, and wouldn’t know his 7 times table if it jumped up and bit him. It was a lovely bit of bonding time, and I quite missed him when he decided he would rather spend the following day on the sofa watching SpongeBob than lie next to his rather smelly mum.

That night Amy saw her chance and dived in. I was still in the spare room, as Steve was now fighting the flu (obviously a much deadlier, painful and noisier strain…) so in the middle of the night I woke to find her sprawled next to me like a floral-clad starfish. I was too busy peeling off yet another saturated pair of pyjamas and turning over my pillow to the ‘dry’ side to put her back. I just budged over a bit, and tried to forget my latest fever-induced stress dream involving trains that never run and a work appointment that can never, and will never be met.

She woke up at her usual time; about 5am.
“Hey, Mummy. I’ve got a joke”
I tried to pretend I was still asleep but she was having none of it. She prodded me until I gave in.
“Mummy! I’ve got a joke!”
“What is it?” I mumbled, hoping like any aspiring comedian she’d recognise a hostile crowd and bow out early.
“Knock knock”
“Who’s there?”
“Jackson who?”
“Jack’s on the phone, you’d better answer it!”

She roared laughing. This is my Dad’s joke. His name is ‘Granda Jack’, and our dog is called Jackson, and he must have made that joke up over a year ago. I had no idea why it had suddenly popped into her head.

“I’ve got another one! Knock knock!”
I sighed quietly and painfully. “Who’s there?”
I knew what was coming. My Dad used to tell us this joke when we were Amy’s age, and carried on telling it until he found someone who laughed at it. Thirty seven years later he found that someone in Amy Jane.
“Isabell who?”
“Is a bell necessary on a bike?”
She squealed with laughter.

“I’ve got another one! Why did Tigger look down the toilet?”
“I don’t know…”
“He was looking for POOH!”
Much hilarity.

Still. It was a better way to wake up than being hit with something, or shouted at for not letting her drive the car, as I have been in the past. “You won’t let me do ANYTHING!” she roared one morning, as I opened one eye to see her standing dishevelled in her pyjamas by the side of the bed. “You won’t even let me DRIVE! HUH!”. And she flounced out, bunny dangling from her right hand, swinging apologetically.

“I’ve got one” I said, and she looked at me in surprise.
“Did you hear the one about the little girl who stayed in bed all night?”
“Me neither!” I giggled and gave myself a mental ‘high five’.

Amy looked at me confused. “That’s a rubbish joke Mummy. Don’t tell any more. Let’s go downstairs and watch Peppa Pig”.

So I did. As ever, the joke was on me.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

When Amy Jane Was Good


Amy Jane was good for a WHOLE WEEKEND. She slept through the night until 7:30am - a FIRST. She didn't wet her bed - a bonus. She woke up in a good mood, two days on the trot, and didn't hit me with her bunnies, shouting that it was time to get up, where was her breakfast? Why weren't we downstairs yet? No, she bounded in smiling (well, I think she was smiling, I was asleep until she climbed into bed and kneed me in the stomach). "Good morning Mummy" she said, and snuggled down next to me for a cuddle, like normal children do. I gradually came round, rather than being shocked bolt upright by a whack to the head or the duvet being pulled off. Being Amy's Mum is a bit like being an army cadet; you are never quite sure what the rules of warfare are, or when someone is going to sneak up on you in the middle of the night and yell in your ear.

"Can we go downstairs now?" she twinkled at me. "Yes, Amy" I said, wondering who this alien was, and what it had done with my daughter. And realised that as long as the swap was permanent, I didn't actually care.
We made our way downstairs and she didn't shout that she wanted to go first. She let Jackson the dog out of the back door, without thumping him. She asked if she could have some milk please Mummy, and even smiled. Who was this little impostor?

We watched Peppa Pig and snuggled under a blanket while I tried to sneak in a little extra snoozing, and she didn't prize my eyes open with jaggy fingers, shouting "Don't sleep Mummy!" She sat quietly and let me doze, so I did, for at least an HOUR.
We then made pancakes for breakfast like we do every Saturday, and she stirred with the whisk, rather than her hands. She even ate three of them. She was helpful and lovely all day, and right through until Sunday night, even when the rest of the weekend went a bit wrong.

Having a dog means that our 'family time' is often taken up with walking him, with varying success. If I walk him after dropping the kids to school and nursery, it is very successful; he has a great time and I enjoy an hour of peace and quiet to myself, knowing that I am multi-tasking by not just walking me, but him as well. The family walks don't go quite as well. Finlay HATES going for walks, and always has done. If it is cold or wet, the moaning and mithering is hideous. Amy doesn't care about the weather; the wetter the better as it means mud and puddles, her two favourite things.

Anyway, on the Sunday we took Jackson for his walk, and decided to try somewhere different. We parked up by a big field and made our way along the well-trodden footpath. The sun actually shone, and the kids actually skipped, and Steve and I held hands like a picture-postcard family. It was lovely. Finlay found an interesting tree to climb, which was great as it took his mind off the cold, and Amy hung around underneath it, shouting at him to come down. We wandered ahead a little, towards a stream. It was fairly deep and fast flowing, but Steve has got an idea in his head about us getting kayaks (don't ask) so he wanted to see if it was suitable for kayaking (or whatever you call falling in the water out of plastic open canoe things). Jackson was beside himself, he LOVES water, so he ran ahead into the rushes, and promptly disappeared from view. There was a splash; he'd fallen straight down the sheer drop hidden by the long reeds. Steve and I ran after him, and saw him thrashing about in the water. "Come on Jackson!" we called, but he couldn't get up the steep bank. Panicking, I said to Steve, "I'll run along to where it's more shallow and he'll follow me" and sped off like Lindsay Wagner in The Bionic Woman, without the funny 'tsh tsh tsh tsh' noise, and of course the speed.

There was a set of sleepers embedded in the bank and I took them two at a time to get to Jackson. The thing is, I didn't actually MEAN to take them two at a time, I kind of got carried away with myself, and the next thing I knew my ankle twisted and crunched into a very strange angle and I fell, splat, into my hands, head and hip onto the concrete base at the bottom of the steps. Not so much Bionic Woman as You've Been Framed. The pain was hideous. I rolled onto my back and lay gasping and winded, and cursing my stupidness because I don't have time to have a broken ankle. My little finger on my left hand had taken a battering and was bleeding, and I had bitten my lip.

I was still lying on the ground when I heard Steve's voice calling for me. He appeared at the top of the steps, and looked down at me on the ground. "What are you doing?" he said. "Where's Jackson?"
"I fell down the stairs. I think I've sprained my ankle. I don't know where Jackson is."
He dithered for a micro second then said "I'm sorry, but you're OK and he might be drowning. I'll be right back." And off he went. Before I could even get cross, Jackson bounded up to me and dripped happily all over my head, mouth open and tongue lolling from the excitement of his little adventure.

Steve appeared again, and helped me take off my welly and sock, and prodded my now very swollen, bruised and sore ankle. I don't know why he prodded it, maybe to make sure I wasn't pretending. It must be a bloke thing. He helped me put everything back on again, and pulled me to my feet. The family walk was over.

Feeling a bit pukey, I held onto Steve and hobbled my way back to the kids, who were now hitting the tree with sticks.
Amy came running over. "Can I have a carry Mummy?"
"No Amy. Mummy hurt her foot. I can't carry you right now."
"I want a carry!"
"Not just now Amy. I've really hurt my foot, and my finger, look." I held up my bleeding hand.
"Oooh..." she breathed, impressed. And she took my other hand and held it all the way to the car.

Steve put an ice pack on my foot when we got home, and settled me on the sofa while he fed the kids and got them ready for bed. I felt sore and useless and a bit teary, especially when Amy decided to do some exercise by jumping over a toy on the floor, saying, "This is my exercise Mummy.It gives me air. When I watch TV my air runs out, so I need to jump."

She kissed me goodnight, and looked very concerned that my finger had a plaster on it. The foot didn't even register, the fact that I had a Cinderella plaster on my finger meant that things were SERIOUS! She was lovely, in fact they both were, in the way that kids are when suddenly you can't run around after them because 'something has happened'.

I thought I'd better write it down before I forgot, as twelve hours later, she had Finlay by the hair and was screaming at him to hand over his Transformer, had pulled Jackson along by his ears and poked the cat in the stomach. I wanted to write it to remind myself that it really had happened, because there are times when I feel it may never, ever happen again.

Unless of course there are twisted ankles and ice packs involved, and I'm really not sure it's worth it.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Big Night Out

It's a bit tricky going out with a nearly four year-old. Amy is almost old enough to behave herself; in fact, if she was another child she may well be in the stride of behaving herself, but not our Amy Jane.

Last night I took her and big brother Finlay on a very special cinema outing, in London, to the Odeon Leicester Square. We caught the train into town and then walked round the corner to Yo Sushi. (Sorry, I know there is an exclamation mark somewhere in there, but I can't remember where). The kids were very excited; anywhere that has food arriving on a winding conveyor belt is a WINNER in their eyes. We settled down into a booth. Amy grabbed the first dish the came past, a plate of endamame beans.

"No, Amy" I said. "Only Mummy can take the food off the belt, OK?" she thought for a moment, then ignored me and picked up another dish. Of endamame beans.

"What are these?" she asked, whipping the lid off. "Are they peas?"
"Yes" I said, thinking that if she went to nursery the next day saying she had eaten endamame beans, everyone would think that a) she was a precocious little nightmare and b) I was a precocious slightly larger nightmare.
"I don't like them" she announced and pushed them away.
"You can pop them for Finlay and me" I said, and she did, which kept her busy for a full five minutes while I ordered some hot food and a calming glass of wine. My wine order went something like this, because I felt sorry for the friendly waiter: "You know the wine that they didn't like?" (nodding my head towards two women who were very particular considering they were in a Yo Sushi; with an exclamation mark, obviously). "Well, I'll have a glass of that"
"A large one?" he asked hopefully? Perhaps he was on commission, perhaps he needed to get rid of the bottle, who knows? But I said "Yes".
The wine came, and I drank it. Finlay tucked into his chicken and rice. Amy announced she didn't like it, and pressed the lever for the still water spout. A glint came into her eye; water! At the table! I quickly gave her a glass and asked her to fill it up, and then handed it to Finlay to drink.

You can be in charge of our drinks today Amy" I said, trying to instil a sense of responsibility. She filled three glasses, very carefully, one for each of us, and then swung her arm to bash Finlay and sent one flying across the table. Water poured onto her plate, onto Finlay's plate and then the glass rolled off the edge of the table and smashed with a resounding tinkle on the floor. She looked at me, stricken.
"It was an accident Mummy!”
All heads turned towards us, and the fussy about their wine ladies grabbed a wad of napkins and started mopping her down. I gritted my teeth and wiped the table with soggy napkins as the friendly waiter rushed over, and told us it would be safer to move to another table, because of the broken glass. We moved one table away, shifted our food, and settled down to eat, and then bosh! She did it again.

I apologised, I paid, we left.

By the time we got to Westminster Bridge I had forgotten about it. Their faces made the whole fiasco worthwhile: "Look! Big Ben!" shouted Finlay.
"Look at the big wheel!" shouted Amy, "And the boats! And the water!"
"Look at the big red bus!"
"Look at the statue of Boadicea!"
"We learned about it at school. That's Boadicea."
I was impressed.

We walked the rest of the way to Trafalgar Square, and headed for the Odeon. I was treating them to the special occasion of a film premiere; 'Despicable Me'. It was an animated children's film, so we turned up in jeans, looking windswept and like we'd popped down the local cinema for a night out. We got round the corner to see huge spotlights swirling up at the Odeon, hundreds of people screaming, and glittering celebrities mooching and posing their way up a bright yellow carpet. Bugger.

We got our tickets from the smiling PR girl, who must have wondered what we'd come as, and sneaked our way past the photographers, past Russell Brand being interviewed on a stage by a glamorous Jenni Falconer and crept inside. The kids didn't even register how scruffy we were compared to everyone else; they just saw the bright lights and the cartoon characters from the film wandering past. We found our seats, and I felt better in the comfort of the dark.

We watched Jenni on the big screen, interviewing the major celebs from the film; Russell Brand, Steve Carell and... (cue smoochy music, dimmed lights and possibly some tweeting birds) the beautiful young girl who plays 'I Carly' on Nickelodeon. Only Finlay's favourite show of ALL TIME. He sat bolt upright in his seat and stared at the screen, "That's Carly!" he shouted, "She's here?!"

Sure enough, just before the film started, the beautiful girl who plays I Carly (who I have no idea what her real name is) stood in front of the screen with Steve Carell and said hello and that she hoped we enjoyed the film. Then they left, and I don't think Finlay heard a word of the film, the violins and love hearts pulsing from his eyes made him deaf and blind. Amy giggled her way through it, and only got fidgety towards the end, which is not bad going.

Me? I loved it, it's hilarious, and I really recommend it. But the best bit of the night? Crawling into bed after putting two smiley-faced children to sleep after a night out in the Big Smoke. That's what being a mummy is all about.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

When Things Don't Go Swimmingly

It can't be nearly Autumn, can it? I can't believe it's been two and a bit months since my last blog, not great, so thanks for sticking with me, and for prodding me via twitter to get going again.

Anyway, now we're back home at work and school, and getting back into the daily grind. So, this afternoon, I took the kids along to the local leisure centre to have them assessed for swimming lessons. Just to see what classes they'll be in, as Finlay (8) has had lessons before, Amy hasn't but wants to be a 'big girl'.

So, after much scrabbling to find the swimming costumes in the as yet unpacked holiday suitcases littering the floor, we raced over, got changed and arrived breathless at the poolside. Steve had told me to wear my costume as I would probably have to go in with Amy as she can't actually swim yet. It was pretty busy, with parents waiting by the side of the pool to have their children assessed, and in the audience-style seating at the side, watching their little darlings splash up and down. It was busy, but not with any parents wearing their swimming costume, apart from me. It was like turning up for a job interview at a bank dressed as a banana.

I tried to pretend it was the most normal thing in the world to stand next to fully clothed people while wishing I had shaved my legs or at least put on some body lotion. Or make up. Or a wet suit; anything but my functional-but-not-attractive black cozzie.

Finlay got into the water and thrashed his way up and down the pool with varying degrees of accuracy, and was told he could sign up for level 5. Marvellous. Now it was Amy's turn.

Amy had kept herself busy during this time by wandering over to the water's edge and giving me a heart attack; it helped pass the time and distract me from my lack of clothes. The lady came over and asked us to follow her to the kiddies pool so she could see how Amy managed in the water. Amy ran straight for the slide. "Not now Amy" I said quietly, trying to look in control while holding my tummy in. "The lady wants to see you swim". "I want to go on the slide!" shouted Amy. I crouched down and explained in what I hoped was an authorative yet loving voice that we were here so the lady to see which swimming class she could start, so she could be a big girl. I saw it sink in, and she let me take her over to the lady, who was wearing a T-shirt and shorts and had the hairiest legs I have ever seen on a female human.

"Come on" she crooned to Amy, who took one look at her and said "No. I want Mummy to teach me". So I got into the knee-deep kiddies pool and helped her in. "Can you show me how you can swim?" asked the lady, kindly. "No!" shouted Amy, and scampered off to the slide again. I prised her off and led her back to where the lady (whose legs were now wet AND hairy) was waiting.

As I let her go, she doubled back and legged it to the blooming slide again. The lady looked at me, and I looked at her, and all the people in the stand looked at me looking at her, and I threw in the towel. Not literally, they were still in the locker; I just decided this wasn't really working. She agreed, and quietley told me Amy should apply for level 1, and headed back to the big pool where sensible children wearing swimming caps were doing as they were told. I looked around; we had now been joined in the kiddies pool by two groups of tiny tots, all wearing swimming caps, and all listening like little angels to the girls telling them what to do. They splashed when they were told to splash, they kicked their little legs when told to kick, and all their mums and dads watched from the side, nudging each other smugly.

I waded my way through the shallow water over to Amy, who was sitting on the top of the slide. "Right. Come on, it's time to go now."
"No! I want to slide!"
"OK, one more slide then we go."
"Three more!"
"Two more."
"Two or none, don't push it missy."

With a look of triumph, Amy slid down the tiny slide and raced round to the ladder. I looked at her and said quietly "One more, then we're going". I walked over to Finlay, who was standing bored by the side of the pool. Amy slid down the slide.
"Right mrs, that's your lot, we're going now."
"No!" Amy ran round again and climbed up the little steps, and sat on the top of the slide. I could feel every eye in the place watching how I was going to handle this - it was better than Emmerdale. I held in my tummy and panicked quietly to myself. What would Supernanny do?

"Get down Amy" I said quietly, and looked firm.
"No" she said quietly back, and her little hands tightened their grip on the slide.
"You either get down now, or I take you off. One.. two..." And the little devil slid down the slide, a look of supreme triumph on her face; she had had THREE slides instead of two.

I decided to ignore that fact (for now, people were leaning forward, I'm sure popcorn was being passed around). "Let's go Amy, time to get changed".
"No! I want a swimming lesson!"
"Not today, we're finished here now. Let's go home and have some tea shall we?"
She dropped down onto her back in the inch-deep water. I bent down over her, keeping my voice low. "Get up Amy, or I go home without you". People were straining forward in their seat to hear.
"I WANT A SWIMMING LESSON!" Amy bellowed. I took her hand and tried to pull her to her feet. She thrashed in the water and drenched us both, slipped out of my hand and started to run away. I grabbed her and made a bolt for the changing rooms, with her yelling at the top of her voice all the way. I was so stressed I forgot to hold in my tummy, and actually didn't care if my cellulite was showing. I just wanted to get AWAY. Finlay quietly followed us back into the changing room, where Amy tried to run out the door into reception.

What followed was a series of shouts, banging of locker doors, mutterings and finally dragging of one wet, half-dressed little girl to the car, followed by one fully-dressed, wishing he didn't have a sister, little boy.

They are in bed now. We had tea, did bathtime and homework and snuggled down as a little family watch Finlay's current favourite show 'One Foot In The Grave'. We laughed a lot, and Amy fell asleep curled into my side. she looked like a little angel when I carried her up to bed.

A little angel who quite possibly will never be taken to a swimming pool ever again.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

My Weekend

OK, let’s get this straight. You have a baby, they are small, pink and they cry a lot. FACT. You get through that by reading instruction manuals that tell you to put the baby in a totally dark room, wrap them in muslin and sing rare Armenian folk songs to them every hour. You get through that bit. They learn to crawl, then walk, then eat solid food and they call you “Mummy”. All fine. They decorate their cot with their own pooh, not once, or even twice, but so many times you dread going into their room first thing. Then they get their first big bed, and hooray, the pooh smearing ends, but so too does the staying in one place all night, now, your baby has discovered freedom, and she’s not afraid to use it.

All of that I understand, I have two children so I have been through it before, (apart from the pooh-smearing bit, my son never did that so it was a bit of a shocker.) Amy Jane is three and a half, and when she is good she is very very good, and when she is bad you don’t want to be within reach or earshot. All of which is fine, as long as I get a good night’s sleep. I can cope with most things on a good night’s sleep. The world is a lovely place when I have had a good night’s sleep. But I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since 1997. That was when I started working in breakfast television and had to get up at 3:30am in the morning, which we all know is ridiculous. Fast forward to now, and although I have left the warm, fuzzy world of breakfast TV, I am still in a permanent fog of sleep-deprivation because of the short nocturnal person who lives in my house. Some people have Dream Catchers, you know, those strange broken tennis racket-looking things that you hang up in your room to catch all your lovely dreams. I have a Dream Snatcher; a small child who wakes me up just when a dream is getting interesting…

I have started a reward chart, to convince her that it is a good idea to stay in bed all night. Sometimes it really works, and she will do anything for a sweetie and a sticker. Other times, she pretty much blows a raspberry in my face and tells me to forget it. Then I can’t sleep just knowing at some point she will appear… my ear feels like a periscope on a submarine, constantly up and swivelling, listening out for tiny enemy footsteps.

Tomorrow is the weekend, so I am actually going out tonight, and I may even indulge in a few white wines. I very rarely bother because being sleep-deprived AND hungover is a double whammy. I’m going to have fun tonight because the husband is home this weekend, after a week-long trip to Spain for a friend’s stag do. During which he didn’t call home for 48 hours, and then finally made contact in the form of a short, raspy-voiced call in which he asked for some money to be transferred into his account… I didn’t ask, I just did it. Why? Because now he owes me major brownie points, and this weekend it will be HIS turn to respond to the sleep monster, and after last weekend I deserve a treat. My weekend went something like this…

On Friday night Amy actually slept through the night! The whole night, from 7pm until about 6:30am; amazing… The only problem was that our dog Jackson went mad at 2am and decided to eat his bed, which gave him a bad tummy. He barked until I eventually came downstairs, to find the biggest, nastiest puddle of dog sick in the world… I won’t say any more as it was too horrible.

The next morning, Amy was very pleased and proud of herself that she had been a ‘big girl’ and had stayed in bed all night. So I let her play on the Playhouse Disney website on my laptop while I had a shower, and stood and dozed upright while pretending to wash my hair. As I was getting dressed I heard a sing-song “Oh, no…” and then quiet. The kind of quiet that only mums can hear; the calm before the storm quiet where you know something terrible has happened. I made my way downstairs, calling “Aim-meee… Whatcha do-ing?” She ran out my office and into the kitchen, shouting “Nothing!” I walked into my office and towards my new laptop… She had removed EVERY SINGLE KEY from the keyboard. I didn’t even know you could do that. Now I was quiet, the way you are when your scream is silent…

Later, after the carpet on the Naughty Step had been worn very thin, I decided to take the kids out for the afternoon as we were all getting cabin fever. The local garden centre beckoned, as they have huge tanks of fish and Amy thinks it’s a zoo. I filled the trolley up with plants to kill, and the kids tried to smuggle on board SpongeBob Squarepants figures for our fish tank. I smuggled them back on to the shelves when they weren’t looking. After cake, drinks and struggling back to the car with things that will never grow in my garden, we headed home. Amy yelled all the way back that I was going the wrong way. She is a backseat driver at 3, because she insists on having the sat nav on for every journey and setting it herself. She then gets very cross when we don’t end up in Blackpool.

The next morning at 5:12am, after visiting me twice in the night to tell me her bed was funny, Amy thundered in shouting that it was her birthday and she wanted fireworks and her face painted with the England flag. She did not take kindly to being refused. By 5:23am we were sitting downstairs watching Peppa Pig on SKY Plus. I watched the Nick Jr healthy eating advert and felt my eyeballs twitch. No children will happily eat olives and lettuce; I just DON’T BELIEVE YOU Nick Jr.

Spurred on by the need to cook something for the children’s breakfast to prove I wasn’t a bad mother, I waited until Finlay got up, and then made them a lovely pile of pancakes. Amy drowned hers in maple syrup, and then tried to drink it off the plate by tipping it into her mouth. She missed, badly, and dribbled most of it over herself, the table and her chair. Finlay inhaled his and muttered “Thanks Mum” before rushing back into the living room to watch I-Carly, and Amy ran behind him. The kitchen looked like it had been overrun by a child and pancake tsunami.

While bending down to wipe the floor, my hair got stuck to the maple syrup covered table; I looked like Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary; without being a blonde Hollywood bombshell, just with the sticky fringe. Coffee was the answer.

I noticed a tiny crack in the cafetiere as I poured in the ground coffee and added boiling hot water. I thought to myself that we must get a new one, as it is the most used piece of equipment in our kitchen, after the bottle opener. I wondered quietly whether it was safe as I pushed the plunger down, and BAM! The glass cracked and I was showered in boiling brown grainy water, all down my front. I leapt back and it bubbled out onto the kitchen surface, down the cupboard door and onto the floor. Thank God I need help in the chesticle department and was wearing a padded bra because it could have been really nasty, not to mention time consuming, having to take two small children to A&E to explain third degree burns and a LaVazza smell to a doctor. I ripped off my clothes and threw kitchen roll at the mess. At the same time, Amy came roaring into the kitchen, having fallen off the sofa and bumped her head. I cuddled her in my damp Italian coffee smelling bra and pants, and tried to stop the flow of brown molten water dripping onto the floor, while she wailed and clung on. Eventually she got it out of her system and padded back into the playroom, leaving me sitting on the floor in my pants surrounded by pancake mix, maple syrup, soggy kitchen roll and a steady drip of leaky coffee.

So that’s why I am going out tonight, and it will be down to the large snoring man to pick up the pieces tomorrow, while I lie in bed, hopefully feeling hungover and remembering the wild and crazy things I got up to the night before. That didn’t involve children, dogs or kitchen roll…

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

So happy you like it!

Wow, thanks so much to all of you who have been in touch with me, either on here or through twitter to say how much you enjoyed my introduction to life with Amy Jane. She’s a little handful, as you can see… I focus on the thought that one day all this spirit will mean she will be running her own company, or the country, or maybe even the world. Then I can retire and let her look after me… and I intend to act disgracefully, just to get her back. Wearing a purple dress and a red hat that doesn’t suit me doesn’t come CLOSE to the things I have planned!

So, what has Amy been up to in the past few days? Well, this afternoon was mainly spent tormenting her older brother, a pastime she excels in. I took delivery of some new garden furniture today, and the kids were beside themselves with excitement at the size of the empty boxes, especially Finlay, my 8 and a half year-old. He loves a box does Finlay; his bedroom is full of them, all to be made into rockets, or spy dens or just somewhere to hide from his nightmare sister. Anyway, today he was overjoyed, and busied away making some kind of den, complete with crayon sign saying ‘Keep out!’, aimed directly at Amy. She spent roughly 30 seconds on her box and got bored of colouring it in, and decided to wind him up by drawing with pink crayon on his. Sure enough, within seconds he was raging, and a slow smile of satisfaction spread across her three year-old face. Mission accomplished. After she had climbed into his den and refused to get out, scribbled on it and ripped off the windows I had carefully cut out with a Stanley knife, Finlay was so angry he had to climb to the top of the tree in our garden, just to get away from her and I think, to stop himself strangling her. I was very proud of his self-restraint; even though there was an awful lot of shouting that he hated her. I don’t think he means it. Or at least if he does, he should have got over it by the time they are in their 20’s. Or at least their 30’s…

Box-time ended when I called them both inside and gave them both a quiet but stern talking to; Amy for being so naughty and Finlay for shouting. I sent them both upstairs, and I sneaked into the kitchen and had a crafty handful of Amy’s smarties and a glug of white wine. Feeling more in control, I oversaw bath time, tooth brushing, bed time telly and story-telling. I then had to humph Finlay’s box up to his bedroom as he decided he wanted to sleep in it, and help him pull the duvet off his bed and shove it into the box with his pillow, night light and (don’t tell any of his friends, his teddy). And now I can’t relax because I am convinced he is going to either suffocate or have nightmares, or worse, tell his teacher that he now sleeps in a box. How do I explain that?

I had finally settled down to catch up with How To Look Good Naked, when I heard a noise from upstairs. It was soft, but I recognise an Amy footstep anywhere. She was supposed to be asleep, tucked up in bed after milk, too many stories and lots of promises to stay in bed all night like a good girl. I made my way upstairs; there was no sign of her in bed, which was not a good sign by any stretch… I heard the noise again, ‘pad pad pad’, stop. ‘Pad pad pad’, stop. Giggle. Soft mutterings, then a kind of squelching sound. I followed it along the hall to my bedroom, and then my bathroom. I could hear it again; ‘pad pad pad’, giggle, low chatter, thump… I pushed open the door, and there was Amy, naked and covered in my Champney’s body lotion, surrounded by white, fresh-smelling footprints. “Hello Mummy!” she cried, looking thrilled to see me. “What are you doing Amy?” I gasped. She looked at me like it was perfectly obvious, and I had to admit it was a pretty stupid question. “I’m making footprints Mummy! Look!”. And she grabbed a fistful of cream from the tub (that I had foolishly left by the sink instead of hiding under lock and key like the dangerous weapon of mass destruction it obviously was), smeared it on the floor, and then walked through it, making, yes indeed, some very clear footprints on my bathroom floor. “I don’t want footprints on my floor!” I think I said, although I can’t be sure. “Look at the mess!”.

Amy looked at me pityingly, as if I had no sense of adventure. (I’ve bungy-jumped for God’s sake! I know adventure!). “You need to use Cilit Bang Mummy. Bang! And the dirt is gone!”

Friday, 16 July 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Hi everyone,

For those of you who have been following me on Twitter, you will know a bit about me and my daughter Amy. For those of you who haven't been following me (where were you? You've missed so much!) you can follow me on andrea_mclean.

I've had such a lovely response from you all to my twitterings about Amy and her adventures that I thought I'd start a proper blog. I'll be able to write a bit more about what we've all been up to in our crazy house; whether we've managed to get any sleep (unlikely) and what Jackson the dog has eaten to date (today, just the one chilli pepper from the garden. Still sneezing and feeling a bit sorry for himself).

I have loved hearing from you all on Twitter, but now we can swap longer stories and share our mum-type nightmares. I'm not sure how long my posts are supposed to be on this, but
I thought I'd start off with a description of a fairly typical day....

You know the start of the film Groundhog Day, when the weatherman played by Bill Murray wakes up every day to his alarm cheerily blasting out ‘I Got You Babe’? He reaches out a tired arm, casts a bleary eye at the time, and then gets out of bed to relive the same day, over and over again.

Well, apart from the fact that I’m not a weather presenter any more, and instead of hearing Sonny and Cher in the morning I am wakened by a three year-old’s yelling, my life is pretty much the same.

5am: Wake with a start as thundering feet race into the bedroom, followed closely by the body of a nuclear-fuelled child, yelling “Can I go downstairs and see Jackson?!” He’s our dog, named after the dearly-departed Michael.

This is followed by much wailing and thrashing on the floor if I have not responded appropriately within the allotted time (which changes daily like a secret service security code, so I have no idea what the correct password is).
I think the only acceptable answer is an immediate “yes!” and a leap out of bed, but as that has yet to happen I can’t be one hundred per cent sure. While still trying to focus and recover from a work-induced stress dream involving inappropriate nakedness, I lurch out of bed and drag on my dressing gown. The other half remains in a comatose state, and will only be roused by a fog horn sounding alarm, or a cup of builder’s tea.

5:01am. Amy and I wrestle at the top of the stairs as I try and open the stair gate and stop her hurling herself down like a greyhound out of a trap. We tussle over who gets through first, and I sometimes win. Then we fight over who will close the gate behind us; or rather she fights with me, I have no real opinion over who shuts the gate, only that it gets done, but she likes to get the first punch in first, just in case I might want to sneak in with a crafty shove and click it before she can. Then we battle our way downstairs; with me trying to protect her from her kamikaze self, and her fighting to slide down the banister, roll down on her side or white water raft it on her bottom. I am exhausted by the time we get to the bottom of the stairs. It is now 5:04am.

5:05am. Amy hurtles into the kitchen like a heat-seeking missile, heading straight for Jackson’s cage. Jackson has heard the commotion on the stairs and is now whining, barking and throwing himself against the metal frame like a deranged prisoner. I race to open the back door before Amy can get the cage undone; if the timing of this is out by under a second, there will be wee on the floor, closely followed by pooh, and usually followed by tears – mine. The tears that is, not the smellier bodily fluids. Jackson launches himself at us like he hasn’t seen us for weeks, jumping up, licking and wriggling with joy. “Outside Jackson!” I call, and step out into the back garden to remind him where he has to go. “Do your business Jackson, good boy!” I croon, hoping the neighbours aren’t up yet and can hear me. Both my neighbours are very old, and old people don’t need much sleep, so I always worry that they can hear my morning madness. “Good boy!” I say to him, as he pees the entire contents of his bladder on to the grass. I give him a doggie treat from my dressing gown pocket, and ruffle the fur on his head. He runs turns away from me and hunkers down, in that awkward primeval hunch that announces a pooh is on its way. He looks at me embarrassed, and out of respect (and slight nausea) I turn away. When he has finished I walk over to him and give him another doggie treat, and ruffle him again saying “GOOD BOY JACKSON! GOOD BOY FOR DOING YOUR BUSINESS OUTSIDE!” I then reach into my other dressing gown pocket and pull out an orange nappy sack, turn it inside out and neatly scoop up the (gulp) still warm pooh, tie a knot in the bag and put it in the outside bin. Jackson trots along side me looking very pleased with him self. As right he should; I would probably wee on demand if someone gave me a present every time.

5:09am. I go back inside the kitchen and open the utility room door. Moogue, the huge black and white cat that came with the other half when we got together six years ago, glares at me in a “What time do you call this?” kind of way. I give him a sachet of Whiskas, tickle behind his ear, then get out the dog food. By the time I have put the dry dog biscuits into the dish and put the packet back into the utility room, Amy has tipped the whole lot into Jackson’s water. Jackson doesn’t really care, and is eating and drinking at the same time, in the way that men eat crisps and gulp lager, it just saves time. He knows to eat it fast before a) Amy tips the whole lot out onto the floor b) it goes soggy and fat with water or c) the cat boots him out the way and eats the lot. Since the arrival of Jackson, Moogue has transformed from a big, lazy hobbling old thing to Dr Evil of the Disney cat world. He stalks around the house with his eyes narrowed and his tail swishing slowly and with great pleasure, sauntering past a terrified Jackson who backs away whenever he sees him. And like any victim of playground bullying, Jackson has learned to keep off his patch, to back away when he picks a fight, and to sneakily eat his dinner when he’s not around to kill him. Revenge is a dish best served in a cat bowl…

5:12am. Amy is now shouting for her milk, so I make her go and get her bottle out of the cupboard (I have to look like I have some kind of authority around here), and heat up her milk. While it is in the microwave (I know, I know, how many mummy brownie points have I lost in the past twelve minutes?), I feed the two fish: Black Butt and Spotty Butt, so named because of their appearance, so no prizes for guessing what they look like. “Ping!” goes the microwave, Amy starts jumping up and down and shouting “It’s ready! It’s ready!” and I have to get it into her grasping hands in less than 0.003 of a second before the wailing and thrashing starts.

5:13am. Jackson has inhaled his food and is nosing his way towards the utility room, sneakily hoping Moogue has gone and left a little morsel behind. He hasn’t, and with a hiss and a swipe of his paw catches Jackson on the snout and sends him howling and barking across the kitchen floor. Amy rushes over to see what the commotion is, yanks her bottle out of her mouth and shouts “Be nice Moogue! Be nice!” and whacks him. He saunters off looking like he’d like to nuke the whole lot of us. Jackson bounds up to say hello and thank you for rescuing him. “Be nice Jackson!” shouts Amy, and gives him a whack as well.

5:16am. The kettle has boiled and I am sipping my rescue juice; a cup of black coffee so strong you could stand your spoon up in it. It tastes like molten nectar, and I can’t wait to feel it kick in. There is silence apart from the squeaky voice of Peppa Pig coming from the little room off the kitchen. I feel my shoulders start to lower from up round my ears.

5:16:01am. Amy rushes out shouting “Jackson has done a wee-wee on the floor! Naughty Jackson!” I grab some kitchen roll and spray, and sure enough there is a yellow puddle on the (thankfully) tiled floor. “Out Jackson!” I bellow. “Yes! Out Jackson!” repeats Amy. I nudge him out the door, manage to get it shut before he launches himself back into the room and wipe and spray the mess. On my way to the bin I pass Amy. She is now naked, having yanked off her pyjamas and her nappy and is crouched on the floor examining its full brown contents. “Look mummy! Amy’s pooh!” she cries excitedly. “Don’t touch the pooh. Leave the pooh alone” she says to herself; a cry drummed into her after a spectacularly bad episode where she decorated her cot with the contents of her nappy. That was a horrible sight to wake up to…

“Don’t touch it Amy!” I warn as I rush past her to put the doggie wee-soaked kitchen roll into the bin. “Wait for Mummy!” By the time I turn around she has disappeared. I hear the noise of the toilet seat in the downstairs loo banging. By the time I get to her she has climbed on to the toilet and has sat down heavily, legs dangling over either side and pooh streaked down each leg and most of the seat. “Amy’s a big girl now Mummy, I can go to the toilet!”

“Yes, good girl Amy” I answer, running back into the kitchen and yanking open the cupboard with the spare nappies, wipes and nappy sacks. “I’m finished!” I hear from the toilet, and in the time it takes to get back in there she has climbed off the toilet, leaving yet more pooh streaks on the toilet, the floor and all over her hands. Which bit do I clean first? I decide to go for the hands, then the bottom, then the bathroom. I wipe, then wash her hands with soapy water, holding her under my arm while she wriggles and thrashes and shouts that she wants to turn the tap off by her self. I am now wet with water, slightly streaked with pooh, and smelling of dog and cat food. “I want to see Jackson!” she shouts, and wriggles out of my grasp to run naked into the playroom, leaving me to clean the explosion she has left behind.

5:23am. I have managed to get her into a clean nappy and back into her pyjamas – it’s not worth dressing her until after breakfast, as most of it usually ends up in her lap and on her head. It is like trying to feed a chimp dressed in florals. Jackson is under her seat lapping up tossed aside Cheerios and dripping milk. I drink my coffee; it is now lukewarm, but it just means I can gulp it down quicker, and wait for the caffeine fizz to start.

5:27am. Amy is down now, and standing in the playroom banging the hammer of her big brother’s old building set. Bang bang bang she goes. She is singing The Wheels on the Bus to herself as she does so, which makes me feel like an evil mother for wishing she’d just be a bit more, well, quiet… There is a scream, then a shout, then another bang, then a bark, then a shout of “NO JACKSON!” then a loud wail, and Amy comes rushing in. “Jackson has got my dolly!” she shouts, tears coursing down her face. “Drop it Jackson,” I say in my firmest voice, and bless him, he does. If only Amy was as easy to train. I soothe her, give her a kiss and follow her back into the playroom to put on Big Cook Little Cook. Thank God for SKY Plus.

5:30am. Jackson is asleep on the rug, Amy is snuggled into my side, and I am pretending to watch the TV with my eyes shut. In half an hour, Amy’s big brother Finlay will be up, all engines roaring and carrying on the same conversation we were having before I put him to bed, as if the eight hours sleep he had was just a short pause for thought.

It will involve discussing who is the best Transformer, who has the most weapons and what they can do; an in-depth analysis into the intricacies of Ben Ten Alien Force vs Ben Ten, and possibly a full rendition of his favourite scene from Ice Age 3. I will be expected have a view on these things which will not be fobbed off with half-hearted answers; justification and back up will be required. In an hour the other half will stumble scratching and heavy-eyed downstairs, will eat the toast and drink the tea I make for him, and head out to work without really noticing how he got there.

In the film Bill Murray has to re-live Groundhog Day until he finally learns to see his mistakes, change his ways and turn his life around. My Groundhog Day is far more straightforward than that; I just have to wait until my three year-old has got to grips with sleeping, eating and going to the toilet without giving me a nervous breakdown. Once I can stop her peeing in the garden like the dog, I figure I’m on to a winner…