Friday, 5 January 2018

Vicious Viscosity

So, what sadist designed this little package?


John Adams, whoevever he be, has a sense of humour.

Gilby and Eddie were, of course, desperate to get involved in this little box of goodies. And, in a titanically bad bit of planning where I had a double play date for Gertie on the last day of the holidays (and I badly needed to mark books and plan lessons), I agreed. Seven plus. Should be fine for a reasonably intelligent eight-year-old and his six-year-old brother, I thought. How bad can it be? 

Now, I should know by now, that whenever I cheerfully have the 'how bad can it be?' thought, the answer is always, 'Very bad indeed'. I had, of course, neglected to notice that the large '7+' on the box actually had an 'under adult supervision' tag line in the instructions themselves.

Thus far we have fart-powder, snot and tears (though I don't think tears were actually one of the chemical compounds). Not to mention one ruined carpet, towel and washing up sponge. That snot is viscous. Not to mention vicious. And there are still far too many pots and potions and unused things left over for my liking.

Eddie's cuteness whilst wearing the safety goggles, and Gilby's earnestness in correctly following the instructions, are the only reasons they remain alive today.


Currently reading: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans




Friday, 29 December 2017

On Durex and Mashed Potato

In her dotage Hearth-Great-Grandma collected Andrex puppies. She saved up hundreds of coupons from toilet tissue wrappers and added to her soft-toy assemblage over several years. She was obsessed with them. When she died we took a couple away in her memory, and now the kids play with them. Yesterday they began a process of renaming different toys. 

'But you can't,' said Gilby, pointing to the stuffed Labradors, and exclaiming very loudly and publically, 'These ones are all called DUREX!'

In other news, we have taken the plunge and planned a New Year's Eve party at home for the first time in a decade. For the first time post-children, in fact. They are going to be safely shipped off to grandparents for the night, ensuring that things are able to get well and truly out of hand.

We had great fun thinking about invitations and who would come, and in the end decided that we would make it for the villagers, allowing us to use the 'hilarious' slogan: A Local Party for Local People. We got Gertie to take a kind of campaign photograph on the doorstep, arms outstretched for a handshake; placards and rossettes on display.

Hearth-Father went off delivering, gleefully, and returned, still in role, announcing that, 'The invitations have been despatched!'

'What do you mean, the potatoes have been mashed?' Eddie asked.

'And that, I announced triumphantly, is why you can come back on New Year's Day.'

Happy new year everyone! 

Intelligent Parenting: In My Dreams

When I began writing these blogposts eight years ago, I think I envisaged a light-hearted look at the humorous escapades of my growing family. I don't think I realised that they would, in fact, be much more revealing of my own flaws and parental inadequacy. 

Take yesterday, for instance. After a week of living in close proximity to both the nuclear and the extended family over the festive period, my ability to cope with the constant mess resulting from incessant meal-making and food-production reached its limit.

'Right,' I snarled, staring in horror at all the crumbs on the floor at the end of lunch and after I'd already vacuumed once that morning, 'Things are going to change around here!' 

I paused, realising that I hadn't quite thought through precisely how they were going to change. 

Thankfully, inspiration struck. I stood Gertie, Gilby and Eddie in a line. 

'You are each going to take it in turns to clear up after every meal, including getting the Hoover out,' I yelled in the manner of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. (Actually, it's a Dyson, but we're quite partial to a propriety eponym in this house.) 

I circled, menacingly, to deliver the final learning outcome. 'Perhaps that will make you more careful about dropping crumbs!' I finished firmly, and with a self-congratulatory nod to myself at the end.

There was a short pause, then some shrugs of acquiescence.

'But Mummy, I don't know how to use the Hoover,' remembered Eddie, suddenly.

Um, OK, well. I didn't realise that- how remiss of me - but it was easily solved. I was very patient and parenty as I helped him to do it for the first time.

When it came to Gilby's turn after dinner, I reminded him to wipe down the table before doing the floor. 

'No problem,' he agreed. 'Where's the cloth?' 

Now, I can just about cope with the fact that the youngest hasn't used a Hoover, but if Gilby doesn't know where the kitchen cloth is kept that must mean that he has never, ever wiped anything down in his eight years on this earth. 

And whose fault is that? It can only be mine. 

Luckily, Maternal Hearth-Grandpa sent me this:


I am confident that this 1944 edition is going to sort me right out.

Hearth-Father also saw fit to present me with this for Christmas:


So, between the two of them we are about to work out a few things in this house. 2018 is going to be a whole different place.



Currently reading: The Faithful by Juliet West (as well as the above!)

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Characterisation through Rubik's Cubes

I owned one in the eighties (who didn't?) but was never interested enough to solve a Rubik's cube.

According to an official-sounding website : 'In 1974, a young Professor of architecture in Budapest named Erno Rubik created an object that was not supposed to be possible. His solid cube twisted and turned - and still it did not break or fall apart. With colourful stickers on its sides, the Cube got scrambled and thus emerged the first “Rubik’s Cube”. It took well over a month for Erno to work out the solution to his puzzle. Little did he expect that Rubik’s Cube would become the world’s best-selling toy ever. As a teacher, Erno was always looking for new, more exciting ways to present information, so he used the Cube’s first model to help him explain to his students about spatial relationships. Erno has always thought of the Cube primarily as an object of art, a mobile sculpture symbolizing stark contrasts of the human condition: bewildering problems and triumphant intelligence; simplicity and complexity; stability and dynamism; order and chaos.

Well, in our household it seems to illustrate not just stark contrasts in the human condition, but start contrasts in character.

Presented with a cube each, they have responded in very different ways.

Gilby has spent hours meticulously researching solutions. (I suspect that Father Christmas might even bring him a book on it.) He takes it in logical stages and is making good, if somewhat slow, progress. His eight-year-old mind wants to understand this thing.

Eddie has...ripped the stickers off and made the whole thing black so that it is perpetually 'solved'.






Sunday, 15 October 2017

Running in Colour

'There is no such thing as fun for the whole family' is an epigram attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, and I am, ordinarily, inclined to agree.

Until, that is, a few weeks ago we took part in Brighton's Colour Run.




Getting ready (in pristine white t-shirts) was fun in the morning: I had kept the race packs hidden until the big day so it was a nice surprise for everyone to get their goodies over breakfast.

5km was short enough for Hearth-father and his dodgy hip, and for Eddie and his little legs, and enough of a challenge for Gertie and Gilby who, to give them their due, ran pretty much the whole race.

It helped that it was a gloriously sunny day, despite being near the end of September.

The race itself involves being squirted with dry paint and/or foam every kilometre or so. Not sure why this is such a laugh, but for some reason it is.



And the fun didn't end at the finish line. There was a kind of after-run party that felt like a festival with periodic colour bursts into the crowd and great music.

 Apologies that this post is more of a photo album, but there were some good ones!




There was even, and this was one of my most favourite parts of the day, an opportunity for a celebratory post-run beer on a roof-top terrace overlooking the beach. Not bad for late September!
(Admittedly this part was probably more fun for mum and dad, but hey.)







So, Jerry, take note: Everyone wants to sign up again for next year's run!




Currently reading: H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Toothless Grin

Got the call from school. 

Not the neglectful 'you've forgotten to pick your child up' one that we sometimes get when clubs are cancelled at short notice. 

No, this time it was the 'your child's been hurt in an in incident' call. I'm not a fan of that word, 'incident'. 

The 'incident' this time was that Eddie had lost a tooth. Probably a frequent occurrence amongst Year 1 children anticipating visits from the tooth fairy. Except that the tooth in question hadn't even been wobbly. Eddie had been 'pushed into a bin' by another child (a five-year-old in reception class) and his front tooth had come out. It was his first one. He wasn't ready. It had an enormous root and I couldn't believe that something so enormous had come from such a small person.

The headteacher and other staff were mortified and apologetic. Should never have been allowed to happen. Lots of blood. The other boy has been severely sanctioned. Entirely unprovoked, etc. etc. 

(I was just pleased that it was, indeed, entirely unprovoked.)

The other tooth is also a bit wobbly, so Pirate Eddie may have to have a trip to the dentist.


Currently reading: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Saturday, 30 September 2017

What the Six-Year-Old Said to the Bishop

Last night was the induction mass for our new parish priest, presided over by the bishop, and Gertie and Gilby were asked to serve. (Dangerous in these daddy-long-legs infested days; nevertheless Gilby maintained concentration throughout the service.)

Eddie was (unusually for him) immaculately behaved. Whilst this had more to do with falling asleep right from the responsorial psalm all the way through to communion, than with any great triumph of will, it was worth the dead arm for some peace.

At the end of the service, the bishop shook hands with all of the congregation and thanked Gertie and Gilby profusely for their help. Eddie, wide-eyed and only just awake held out his tiny hand. The bishop, with a twinkle in his eye, looked back and forth between them. "Well," he said, "I think you must be the brother of young Gilbert and young Gertrude here! How do you think I know that?"

"Duh. Because of the eyes and the hair," came the unimpressed retort of the newly-six-year-old.



And the bishop wasn't the only one to be on the receiving end of this treatment. An unsuspecting member of the blue-rinse brigade had overheard that it had been Eddie's birthday. "Let me guess...you were...fifty!" she joked, affectionately.

"Don't be ridiculous. I was six, " came the dismissive, refusing-to-join-in-the-banter reply.