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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…