Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Clean is my House?

Going to dinner with friends on Saturday night, who probably have the tidiest and cleanest house in the known universe (they are the only people I know who seem to live completely clutter-free), had the effect of making me look at my own, less then perfect abode through mud-tinted spectacles.

My house varies from being vaguely tidy to a total pit. It is very rare that I manage to clean properly anywhere - apart from the bathrooms about which I am fastidious. Sadly my spouse isn't. So I have spent most of my married life cleaning the bath after he has been in it, because apparently the effort of running a shower round a bath after it has emptied is too much to manage in the morning. As he is big on ergonomics, I have tried to explain that if everyone who uses the bath cleans as they go, when I come to clean it properly it isn't such hard work. But I explain in vain. Apparently two minutes to clean the bath in the morning will definitely result in being late for work, and I wouldn't want to be responsible for that. I did once try to leave our bath and use the kids' one instead, in the vain hope that he would get fed up of the dirt and take some action. But do you know what? He didn't even notice. And I, sad git that I am ended up cleaning it because I couldn't stand it any longer.

To be fair to him, while cleanliness might not be his thing, he is much tidier then I am, and does a fairly decent job of tidying up after the sprogs. Which of course is the main problem with my vision of having a clean abode. Our friends have one child, aged nine, who like her father is dementedly tidy. We have four. And not one of them possesses the tidy gene.
However, in an insane fit of Keeping up with the Jones', I decided that I would have a go at spring cleaning (yes, I do realise it is the wrong time of year, but as I didn't actually do any such activities in the spring, I have some catching up to do).

I started in the kids' bathroom, where, not content with a good scrub of the bath, sink and loo, I also cleaned windows and wiped surfaces. By the time I had finished, it was sparkling - and here I have to make a BIG confession, I actually get quite a buzz out of cleaning. It makes me feel better about the world, but like a chocolate fix it is - oh so temporary. Particularly in this house...

On a roll now, I decided to tackle no 4's bedroom. This was a brave move, as no 4 has spent the last few months showing her creativity by liberally decorating her walls with crayon. It took me about half an hour to pick away at the red crayon on the front of the door, and another half an hour to tackle the back. I then emptied both her toy boxes, removed all the detritus from under the bed, and cleaned the skirting boards. It took me ages, but eventually, toys were vaguely replacd where they should go (it frustrates my anal inner soul not to put everything in its proper place, but hell, I only have one life, and the little buggers will have messed up my good work before I can blink, so there really is No Point).

After that I started on nos 2&3 - who share a bedroom. I have to say I entered it with a fair amount of trepidation. It has been my aim all term to get in there and Do It Properly, but helas, I keep running out of time, so just shove toys back willynilly in the toybox, throw books back on shelves, and whizz the hoover around a bit. I haven't looked under their bunk bed for months... This is a very bad move as it happens, because under the bunk bed is obviously the only place to drop clothes, books, feet from your Bratz dolls, old stickers, torn up bits of paper, and the odd biscuit (from the rare occasion months ago when I ill advisedly let them eat something in bed). It reminds me of a title of a book I once edited, It Came From Beneath the Sink... and yes it's very very nasty...

At the point at which I was beginning to lose heart with this project, Spouse reminded me that it was time the sprogs were fed. And thereafter house cleaning duties had to be put to one side, as I was taking the little ones to the school Christmas Fair, while he was taking the big ones to Harry Potter (I got the long straw, evidently...)

So I took a well earned break from my activities, and instead endured the horror that is the Christmas Fair. Given this is my sixth year in attendance, to say I am somewhat jaded is to put it mildly. At least it is easier now then in the days when I had small babies, plus after many years of having MUG printed on my face I have finally mastered the art of saying NO. So though I had offered to help on a stall, it was only the one stint(last year having two at the school meant I spent some time as an elf at Santa's Grotto plus a stretch selling some old tat on another stall). Sprogs came with me and managed to fleece me of nearly all the money I had bought as our class had the pocket money stall, full of nice bright shiny things... And you have to do something to do distract the little darlings...

Duty done, we had a quick visit to Father Christmas, a rather slower visit to the face painting table, and then I was able to escape back home, to the joys of cooking the Sunday roast, followed by a revival of my cleaning campaign.

"Mummy, that was fabulous," said no 3 clutching her favourite new treasure, a ghastly make-up collection (I am sooo going to regret that). Oh to be five and so easily pleased....

Once the dinner was on, I left the sprogs watching Annie, and returned to face the horrors that were lurking under the bed. Spouse came in half an hour later and stood thunderstruck in the doorway, "It's worse then ever," he said. Er - yes. But part of the joy of clearing up is going through that painful middle bit when everything is out, before you can attempt to put it away again. Like Macbeth, I was in so deep, it was going to take some doing to get myself out...

Spouse meanwhile manfully went to take charge of the dinner. He even made Yorkshire pudding (and to add insult to injury on this, his virgin attempt, the buggers actually rose. It's taken me years to get beyond biscuits...)

Eventually the deed was done. No 2 &3 also had a pristine bedroom. But I had yet to tackle no1's room, our bedroom, the spare room and our bathroom. And as for downstairs, well don't even go there (I stand an outside chance of getting there before the next millenium).

As a result of my activities, we had dinner an hour later then planned, the kids therefore went to bed too late, and I had ignored all the washing, although Spouse had not. Now here I should state that I am totally grateful to have a man who knows how to work a washing machine, and now he's got the idea of separating whites from coloureds, he is also quite helpful. However, he still hasn't mastered the notion that folding things as they come out of the dryer, saves time later and cuts down on the ironing - why is it that ergonomics don't apply to housework? Anyway, net result is that there is not one, but three baskets overflowing with clean washing, none of it folded, and none of it put away. By bedtime I am so hacked off with housework, I really can't face it, so leave it for the next day, which turns out to be a big mistake, as somewhere hidden deep in the piles lie all the children's uniforms...

The next day I am out, so have no time to finish whatI have so foolishly started. On Tuesday and Wednesday I am busy playing catch up on my freelance work. Tomorrow I have to start the Christmas shopping. By the time I get to tackling the rest of the house, the rooms I've already started will need doing again.

How clean is my house?

Not very...

Author's note
I started this blog, partly as a result of some very generous and supportive friends on an egroup I am on. Sadly, I heard this week, that one of them, Pam Cleaver had died suddenly. Although I never met her, she was kind, considerate and funny. And like most of us in the group, not that big a fan of housework. I would like to dedicate this column to her memory. She will be much missed.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Homework Heaven

Being as Ruth Kelly was splashed all over yesterday's papers talking about homework, I thought I'd give today's blog a bit of a topical bent. Call me old fashioned, but it seems to me that a) encouraging kids from an early age to plunder the internet for any information they need (relevant or not) and b) creating an exam system which allows you to retake again and again till you get the right mark is asking for trouble. And it therefore should come as no surprise to anyone that people - er - cheat. Well, knock me down with a feather. It's sort of instutionalised cheating if you ask me (which you probably didn't). I think all government departments should forthwith be replaced by a mega department, called the Department for Stating the Bleedin' Obvious.

My offspring as yet haven't reached the dizzy heights of GSCE internet cheating (although as we are two years off secondary school, those days will be upon us before I know it), but I have news for Ruth Kelly. It isn't just GCSEs that throw up dodgy results and dubious practices. The rot starts much earlier. In fact I'd say about year 3 in the Juniors is as good a place as any to start...
Homework in primary school is a bit of a mystery to me, as I can't recall ever having any. For a start I am not sure what the benefit of a five year old bringing home their sums is, given that no parent in their right mind will send said five year old back to school with the work done wrong. At present the work my five year old seems to get bears little or no resemblance to anything she has done at school. Viz: this week's homework was to reach the no 45 via different sums using 5, 10, 15 and 20 - apparently you can do this eleven times. To begin with she didn't understand the question (even when I explained it to her) and then she ran out of steam after the fourth permutation. Can't say I blame her really, I was getting rather bored too. We didn't even get on to the next bit which was to do the same for 50. On top of this she also has spellings (fairly simple), to write four sentences about her favourite toy (she can just about do that, but it takes forever), and practise writing the letter i a thousand times. Educational value? Nul points, I'd say, but then I'm not a teacher.

Now here is another oddity about the homework system operating in primary schools. In years 1/2 they seem to get stacks. Years 3/4 very little and now we have reached Year 5 we have to sweat through homework three times a week. It's very trying.

As it happens, no 2 did have a bit of homework this week (her first all term). To design and create a leaflet about insects. I seem to vaguely remember no 1 doing one on spiders when she was in year 3, and it was an epic performance. A true child of her generation, she begged to go on the internet. Why? I said. To find out about spiders, was the reply. Whatever happened to good old books?

I encouraged her instead to get the information she needed from the library, and she did a fantastically detailed and decorated leaflet about tarantulas and wolf spiders. This effort came at huge cost (mainly to my sanity) as no 1 is not only very thorough, but incredibly slow. So she ended up giving the work in late. Meanwhile the rest of the class had got their mums and dads to print off pictures from the internet, and no 1 quickly discovered that Style over Substance is what counts in this brave new Internetted-up world.

This lesson was borne out for her doublefold last year when she had to produce a leaflet on Mexican Animals. Again I banned the internet and we went to the library to find some books. Sadly all the books were out, so much against my better judgement we went online to discover something - anything - about Mexican creatures. We did actually manage to find a decent website, but I gave her strict instructions about rewriting material and not just regurgitating it. This homework was supposed to be done over a period of five weeks. But no 1 being so slow ended up running out of time. So as she came to do her final version, she rushed it and it was scrappy. I gently suggested that she might like to redo it more neatly and was met with floods of tears. Deciding that it simply Wasn't Worth It, I let her finish it and hand it in. At least, she'll get a good mark for effort and detail I thought. Wrong! She got C+-B- because it was untidy. The kids who copied off the internet all got As. Way to go.

This year so far we have had tears nearly every week because of literacy homework, which no1 takes three times as long over as everyone else as a) she is so slow she hasn't finished the work in the classroom so has to catch up at home b) she writes three times as much as everyone else (I was actually told by her teacher that to get the grades she is capable of, she shouldn't write so much - it's so nice to see creativity being encouraged in the school environment) c) as she is lefthanded she struggles to write fast. The net result is that she has been doing her homework and I have (reluctantly) been typing it up as otherwise she'd be up till 10 o clock. She has also learnt that typing things up gets a better response from her teacher. Style Over Substance wins already. And she's only nine.

No2 meanwhile is a different kettle of fish altogether. She is bright and quick and dashes things off in no time. I watched openmouthed as she created a leaflet in the space of ten minutes based on everything she knew about insects. It was scrappy and not very neat, but it did the job, with a fraction of the time spent/pain expended on no 1's efforts. I can forsee that come year 4 and the Mexican animals project, its going to be As all round. She has grasped even quicker then no 1 that Style over Substance is all that matters.

So, Ruth Kelly if you're out there listening. While you're conducting your review of the role of plagiarism at GSCE level, why not take a look at what's going on in primary schools while you're about it. Because that's where it goes tits up. And now that we're going to be ofsteading three year olds, before you know it, they'll be singing Q, W, E, R, T, Y, U, I, O, P instead of A, B, C, D, E, F, G....

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Terminal Trouble

I have been terribly quiet this week. Mainly because at last I have my old computer back, so I have been catching up on some workstuff. In theory I work two days a weeks as a freelance editor while sprogs are all at school/nursery. This is a newish arrangement as no4 has been going to nursery for two full days this term. Prior to this I had a wonderful nanny, who could be on hand in the event of puking fests et al. The biggest downside of losing her is that when the children are ill my work days go for a burton. I think so far this term I have lost about ten days to children being sick (inconveniently they tend to take it terms, so whatever bug is going round stays with us for DAYS), one day because of an inset day, a week thanks to half term, and with the collapse of my computer, three weeks of being unable to work at ALL.
It's my own fault really. Our computer is positively ancient by computer standards - it 's six years old and was running onWindows 98. I knew it was in trouble as it was so slow to start up, but being as a) I never have any time to sort stuff like that out and b) Spouse is the most untechie husband in the universe, I just never got round to doing anything about it. So ostrich-like I ignored the terminal decline of my terminal until the fatal day when AOL told me that the version I was running was so outmoded as to be laughable. In fact it was so outmoded they were no longer supporting it, so a spanking new CD for AOL9 was about to arrive in the post.
The CD duly came, I duly loaded it (but the battiness of my machine ensured this operation took several centuries), and hey presto! I was about to leap eons into the future in internet terms. Except that I couldn't. Because the damned thing didn't work. So now I couldn't get any internet access at all.(And as a selfconfessed email junkie this is seriously bad news) Very techie mate came round to play with the machine and pronounced it practically braindead by computer terms. So it was time to stop being an ostrich and face facts. My failing machine needed urgent attention, so it was time for a trip to the computer hospital - a tiny little outfit round the corner, recommended by aforementioned techie mate.
I left the computer with a rather vacant looking girl, who said she would get the computer guru to look at it and he would call me in a couple of days.She seemed so dozy I didn't hold much hope for this, but figured that as it was half term and I wasn't going to get anything done anyway, I could survive for a while.
There followed a deafening silence. As I was busy dealing with German guests I didn't pursue it terribly hard, but did get our new laptop up and running, so I could at least email people to say, sorry I can't do any work for a bit. But when a week had elapsed ( I find weeks elapse with an alarming speed these days, leaving behind a terrifying trail of Things Not Done, on my To Do list), I went into the shop where the guru swore blind that he'd tried to call but couldn't get through.. Call me Cynical Sal, but somehow I didn't believe him...
Anyhow, he then offered me a deal with a brand new Dell, which sounded good to me, till I got home and Spouse told me that it didn't possess nearly enough Gigabytes to be anywhere near useful, and why hadn't I got a proper spec out of him. (Amazing the way his interest in technology rears its head when he thinks his money is being spent unwisely...). Forebearing to say I wouldn't have had a clue what aforesaid spec meant anyway, I went back to plan A. Namely, I wanted my terminally challenged terminal, to be reconfigured, remade, and rebooted till it was slick, sleek and speedy - a thing of joy to behold forever...
Hokey Dokey says my friend. It will be done on Monday.
By now I am two weeks behind on my work. I have people sending plaintive emails asking when they are going to hear from me. And I can't do a thing about it, because I have belatedly realised that my superdooper swanky laptop doesn't have Word on it. So I can't actually do any work at all, even if I had backed up stuff properly. Which ahem, I haven't. I know. I know. This is another feature of my too busy life. It's something I'm always meaning to do... Oh for the joys of office life and techie support..
I do have the most important stuff on disks, but having never been able to get my zip drive to work properly, the majority of my files were worryingly trapped in the motherboard of my sick computer. I had requested three times that everything in My Documents should be transferred to the upgraded machine, but was terrified it would all go. And I am so behind int the technology stakes. I don' t possess a memory stick either (the original machine only having one USB port which I needed for my printer). Which all goes to show that I should have embraced our Throwaway Culture much sooner, but it just goes against the grain to me to get rid of something which is only six years old. I know that makes it practically neanderthal in computer terms, but still....
Anyway it got to Monday and nothing had happened. I rang computer guru, who told me the parts hadn't arrived. Two days later, he was going to start on it tomorrow. Tomorrow arrived (Thursday) and he was still waiting for parts. But it was going to be done on Saturday -honest.
By now I was tearing my hair out - My Computer's At The Menders And I Am So Technically Illiterate I haven't Got Anything Backed Up, starts to wear thin after a while. I already fret about being unemployable - but if I can't even manage to hold onto my freelance stuff then where would I be?(Looking at the prospect of fulltime motherhood and housewifery - a thought too ghastly to contemplate...) I did have a hissy fit at the guru's sidekick, so come Saturday I was actually graced with a phone call to say that his van had broken down on the M1 and he couldn't mend the computer today, but it would be finished by Monday for defiinte.
Monday morning came and I hadn't heard anything, so I rang up and was told it would be ready in the afternoon. Salivating at the prospect, I waited till after I'd picked the sprogs up from school,and then went into the shop to see how he was getting on. It'll ready by the latest in the morning, he says, in tones of a reasonable adult dealing with a fractious child (I know those tones well, I usually employ them on no 2)...
To my surprise it actually was ready the next day. (I had begun to believe I was having some kind of hallucination, that once in the dim and distant past I had had a computer that actually worked...) So in a lather of excitment, I got it home, set it all up, turned it on and got.... lines on the screen. I rang my little friend up, and it turns out our monitor is too old, too small and too damned poxy to cope with Windows XP. My guru mate offered to give me a monitor for a tenner, and that did the trick.
So now I have a spanky new machine, am all interneted up (I even successfully sorted us out with broadband), and have started to play catch up on all the work I've been missing.
The only trouble is. I now have several documents which I created on the laptop, which I need, but can't transfer to thismachine, and I still haven't bought my memory stick yet..
But on the upside, the guru didn't lose anything - at least I don't think he has...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Just When you thought it was safe to go in the toilet...

Well, I spoke too soon...
The upside of the vomiting was that noone apart from no 4 was well enough to attend their various activities, leaving me and Spouse a little time for our own pursuits. He even managed to do some Christmas shopping. Wonders will never cease.
In the afternoon nos 1 &2 had to visit the opticians, and as they felt so much better, we were able to accomplish this with ease. En route we bumped into their best friends, one of whom had also had the tummy bug. Her mother told me it was every half an hour for a whole night. Cripes! I got off lightly. Imagine that times four...
However as Saturday wore on, I was aware of a rather nauseuous sensation growing in my gullet. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away. So by the time the sprogs were ready for bed, so was I. The best thing, I thought was to sleep it off. At least everyone else was over the tummy bug.
Around midnight, I was awoken from a rather dodgy sleep (the grumbling in my tummy getting louder and louder as the night progressed - while my will NOT to be ill was working overtime to prevent the inevitable), by a yell outside my bedroom.
"I tried to get the toilet," said no2 before promptly throwing up on the landing floor.
I find this whole business quite the worst thing about parenthood. But with a wobbly stomach all of my own, it's the last thing I needed. It was time to call the cavalry, who was sitting downstairs with a pint of beer and a crap DVD. He manfully came up and did noble Clear Up duty, while his feeble wife leant against the wall, before nearly keeling over herself.
I had to sit on the floor with my head in my knees for a bit, still trying to control my relactricant insides But helas, vomit will out, and so I found myself head over the basin, while Spouse liberally applied disinfectant to the whole house.
No 2 who had got rid of all that was troubling her, found the whole thing very amusing. Yes, ha, bloody ha. And settled happily down into a makeshift bed on a mattress in the spare room. As she sleeps on the top bunk, she has been known to liberally cover the walls, floor and underbed drawers before now, so a mattress on the floor seemed infinitely safer.
I meanwhile retired to my bed, from whence I emerged feeling distinctly weak and feeble at around 11 the next day.
I'm still not feeling quite right now. No2 is still off with a tummy ache. And Spouse has also succumbed.
Never mind bird flu. We need a cold snap to stop this bug in its tracks. Otherwise I forsee this merry-go-round of nauseating misery lasting till Christmas...
I'm just waiting for no 4 to start it all off again...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tears before Bedtime

By yesterday morning it looked as though a vomitfest wasn't in the offing and I really thought we'd Got Away With It. In your dreams, pal...
Viz no 3 woke up, tearful and complaining of stomach ache. As no2 pulls this one on me regularly my modus operandi on these occasions is to send 'em in and see what happens. Cream generally rising to the top and all that. Or in this case, vomit. But we probably don't want to go there...
Anyway, I hardened my heart, and shoved her into school - though not before enduring the wrath of the Obergruppenfuhrer standing guard on the school gates. The rules constantly change as to how the little ones get taken into school and under the current system we drop them at the gate and leave. As no3 was weeping I thought it best to take her right the way into school. I passed two teachers en route who said nothing. But on the way out I was accosted and told that in future I should go via the school office if I was taking her into school, as they don't want strangers wandering the school. Now while I appreciate the desire to keep my children safe and secure, a) I didn't actually enter the school building b) the teacher in the school saw me and c) I have been taking my children to this school for five years. I'm sorry but where has common sense GONE????
No3 thus cruelly despatched, it was off to the hospital for a physio appointment (tendons in my right hand if you're interested), followed by a run home. So Sproglet was probably better off where she was. Besides, most hospitals have enough horrible bugs without me bringing in anymore.
Physio (tendons weak but on the mend) and run (slow but steady - despite completing the marathon earlier this year, my running style is definitely tortoiselike) duly done with, I emerged from the shower to a phone call from school. No 3 was ill, surprise, surprise. So it was back to school to pick her up, and then off to nursery to pick up no4. Sometimes it feels like I never sit down. I wish I could say it had an effect on my waistline, but sadly it doesn't...
Luckily Spouse then pitched up as he had the afternoon off, so he whisked off to get the big ones from school, while the little ones watched TV and I attempted to catch up on some work. As I work from home I generally find that home tends to take over somewhat. So for the last three weeks, with halfterm, inset days, German visitors and general sickness, you could say I have got a bit behind. Factor in a fractious computer which has had to go to the Hospital for Terminally Sick Terminals and you can see I have my work cut out to get back to any semblance of normality. So that being the case, I also ended up taking some stuff with me to the big ones'swimming lessons, leaving Spouse in charge of the little ones, while he attempted to make order out of the chaos that is his filing system. This hasn't been touched for eight months needless to say, and is only being touched now as he needs to sort his stuff out for the tax man. Ostrich? My husband? Never!
All was going swimmingly till the end of the lesson, when no 2 stole the best towel and no 1 burst into tears. I then had a wailing and gnashing of teeth because their teacher had cruelly insisted they practise their crawl (mind you as one who can swim length after length of breastroke but a mere wussy 2 lengths of crawl I can sympathise), and wouldn't be pacified by the notion that practice makes perfect...
Back home it was time for tea, and I was in a hurry as I was out for the evening - excitingly to no4's parent's evening - (yes, I know what can you say about a three year old? But hey, soon they'll be having their own curriculum. The words rats and run spring to mind...) followed by one of those cookery evenings where you end up coming away with all sorts of pricey gizmos you would never normally buy and will certainly never use. It's sort of a posh and expensive form of tupperware parties and so not me. I was only going out of guilt, as I'm always saying no to stuff. Spouse was under strict instructions to be back by 7.30 as the previous night he came in ten minutes after I was due at the grown ups' version of Holy Joe classes (The argument for married priests has never been more compelling - if THEY had children they would never insist!)
So when they sat down I read them the riot act about getting through tea nicely. To which they all surprisingly concurred except no 1, who though normally not of a sensitive disposition has recently taking to having Hormonal Moments (remind me when puberty is again?). Tonight hearing no2 boast about how she could do handstands, sent no1 into paroxysms of grief. "But I ca--an't," she wailed. "And my little sister can. It's sooo embarrassing." I can relate to her grief. Aged 9 I was gawky and awkward in a similar way, and though I eventually got the hang of handstands it was much later. I tried to tell her this to no avail. "But Ihaven't been able to do them forever," she sobbed - forever, representing, well forever to a nine year old. "And everyone else can do them." What everyone? "I can't," chipped in no3. "Yes, but you're only five,"was the scathing reply.
Failing dismally to pacify my oldest I tried the you-may-feel-like-an-ugly-duckling-but-will-grow-into-a-beautiful-swan routine, to even less effect. At a loss I told her that her father was fat and useless till he was about 14 and that at least produced a watery smile. Great, I thought,as I reheated my tea, now Mummy gets to eat...
No chance. The full force of no1's evident misery about all things sporting burst forth in a veritable sea of grief. "AND I can't play tennis. AND I hate the crawl. AND everyone else is better then me..." I abandoned my dinner again and tried to point out that she was good at reading and writing and maths - and she can do sudoku much better then I can. But what's the good of any of that if you can't do handstands? Her siblings by this stage had abandoned the dinner table and were playing some complicated and violent game beneath it. What it is to have parental control...
Eventually I opted for the brisk approach. "It will all be ok in two years time" - in two years time her head will doubtless be full of boys not handstands, but she's not to know that. This seemed to work and I managed to finally eat my tea. (It is a mystery why I'm no thinner), by which time of course I was running incredibly late. So I scooted the littlies off to bed. No 3 had by now gone into a decline and I tucked her up with calpol, a hot water bottle, and a feeling of foreboding.
I dashed downstairs to make some order out of the mayhem the offspring manage go create in the lounge in about two minutes of being in the house, before realising it was twenty to eight and Spouse wasn't back. Fortunately for him, he was spared the meat cleaver as he chose that minute to walk through the door. "But I thought you were going out at 8," he said.
After an exciting evening consisting of five minutes discussing my youngest's achievements so far at nursery - she can hang her coat up and is rather quiet apparently. Both of which sound most unlikely to me - I had the further thrill of attending the cookery class. The people were all very nice but it simply isn't me, and I couldn't wait to escape.
As I came through the door, I could hear the dulcet wailing of no 3.Oh joy. I went upstairs in time to get her to the toilet before she puked everywhere. Result. Normally my children end up chucking up all over their toys. However I had spoken too soon. "I'm not going to be sick," she said turning to face the wall. Want a bet? The next minute the wall and carpet were liberally decorated, with a token effort ending up in the toilet bowl. I can cope with most aspects of motherhood, but vomit isn't one of them. Hold your breath, said Spouse when he came up to help. Yeah, right.
Her next offering at least made it onto the towel I had placed on her pillow. But the pillow and part of the sheet were soaked, so at midnight I was changing beds. And at 6 this morning I was woken to the news that the vicious little bug inhabiting her stomach had made it to the other end. So I changed her and the bed once again, and crawled back into bed with the vain aim of getting a little more shuteye. No chance. Another accident, followed by another puking incident ensured two more changes of clothing/bedding, and Mummy having to call it quits. I went to call the others. Apart from no4 who having recovered from the superbug is now horribly bouncy, the other two got up looking dreadful. They were both complaining of stomach aches and feeling sick. I know when I'm defeated, so told them they could stay in bed.
So apart from no4 who went to nursery this morning, the other three have all been at home, lying limply on the sofa watching videos. The washing machine is doing overtime and I'm wondering who's going to be sick next...
Welcome to my world. Fun isn't it?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Not with a Bang but a Whimper

Saturday being Bonfire Night and my husband being a pyromaniac at heart (I am sure in a former life he was involved in the Gunpowder Plot), we naturally had to have a fireworks party. Spouse having missed out last year because he was busy falling out of boats in the Ganges on a whitewater rafting trip to India. Hmm, being the total wuss I am, which do I prefer - my husband doing dangerous things with water, or dangerous things with fire? Midlife crisis? What midlife crisis?
When he suggested having a party I didn't pay too much attention to the date, and it was only about a week ago I belatedy realised that it coincided with our having visitors from Germany, who were leaving some time on Saturday, plus I had also arranged a family photo session in the afternoon. When I made the arrangement this seemed a sensible idea as we are normally busy with the children's activities in the morning, but now with a party planned this seemed the height of lunacy.
So Saturday went in it's usual chaotic fashion, Viz:
9.30 - I had to get no2 to church for her Holy Joe Classes. As a rather lapsed catholic I am somewhat of a disaster in terms of church going, but it does seem reasonable to show the children what it's all about, hence no2 is now following in her sister's footsteps and learning about Holy Communion. Downside of course is that Mummy gets to go to parent classes in the evenings. I read recently that modern parenting is more stressful then a generation ago. Too bloody right it is. I don't remember my parents having to do anything like this, but oh no, we 21st century mums have to take part in every aspect of the little darlings lives. Brownies? Come and help of an evening. Swimming? Sit for hours by the side of a pool and watch your child's slow progress towards something that eventually resembles breast stroke. School work? What you haven't typed up a three page dissertation for your offspring?Tsk Tsk. Take notes I WILL NOT LET MY CHILDREN DOWN IN FUTURE...Of course we're sodding stressed. Who wouldn't be?
9.45 Is No4's ballet lesson at the local Fame School (alumni of whom are all currently treading the boards in the West End. Their most famous ex-pupil is very famous indeed). Ballet lessons haven't been going well of late, and having spent the last one in the lesson with sprog firmly ensconced on my lap, I was on the point of quitting until today when to my relief I discovered a friend from nursery had started. So miraculously all tears dried up quite quickly and she skipped in.
10.30 Is no 3's turn -except she decided that she was ill and I wimped out of making her go which was quite the wrong decision as when I got home she was jumping around quite happily.
11 - back to church to pick up no2 who has been talking about things she should feel sorry for. Aged 7 she is obviously very sinful. The thing that troubled her most was that she had been boasting about going in the convertible belonging to her best friend's dad.
We then have a brief respite for lunch, and today Spouse also took the German visitors to the station. We felt terrible we couldn't take them to the airport, but they were travelling from Stanstead which is just too far. Luckily they are an independent pair and despite the son being ill they set off quite determinedly.
1pm found us back on the road to take no 2 to gym class. She having decided ballet wasn't her thing, discovered gymnastics watching the Olympics last year. So far she seems much more suited to it then to ballet, so I think we made the right decision...
1.30pm I cross the road with no 1 to take her back to the Fame School, to her jazzdance class which looks so much fun I wish I could do it. But then I wish I could do salsa too, but Spouse won't come with me.
Then it was back home to get everyone changed so we could all look beautiful for the family photo. Which would have been no problem except that no 1 jacked up as she has apparently decided she hates having her photo taken. This was news to me, and turned out to be a total pain, as first off she insisted on having a ridiculous plait which hung limply in front of her face and secondly she refused point blank to smile. The photographer was brill and tried to get her to laugh, but no 1 is nothing if not stubborn. So her attempts NOT to laugh resulted in her resembling a constipated donkey and so the chances of us having a nice family photo are about zero.
Then it was back home to run around like maniacs gettng ready. Spouse bossily took over in thekitchen, which is always bad news, as his methods are somewhat alien to mine. Namely he never cleans up and is busy doing the next thing before he has finished the previous activity. It's not that I'm not grateful, but I must say I was extremely relieved when our pyromaniac builder mate turned up to help him with the bonfire.
Said bonfire went off splendidly - no doubt helped by the rather volatile diesel/petrol mix which the boys liberally sprinkled all over it prior to starting. Said mix was in our garage when we moved in and there is still so much left we will probably be using it on bonfire nights in our dotage. Thankfully Spouse has now seen fit to move it to the bottom of the garden...
Once the conflagraton had died down and the rather splendid guy provided by one of our friends had gone up in smoke, it was time for fireworks. The pyromaniac builder remained behind to guard the flames, while Spouse enlisted the guymaker and our neighbour (otherwise known as his fellow partners in hovercraftmaking crime) to help. So they had a happy time making lots of loud bangs, which the children enjoyed in the main although towards the end they seemed more interested in the sparklers provided by our best friend who did sterling service lighting them as fast as the children had used them up.
As soon as the fireworks were over the children ran riot in the garden and upstairs (I still can't bear to go in the bedrooms), while the adults got quietly sozzled. The last stragglers ended up leaving around 1am, the children's best friends crashing the night (so no 2 got the sleepover she was after,quite by accident), and Spouse and I found ourselves dancing in the kitchen till 2am. Very romantic. What a shame he won't go to salsa...
Naturally yesterday was spent in a state of utter lethargy. I kept looking at the house and thinking it needed attention but failing miserably to do anything about it. The day ended with no 4 who had been moaning about a tummyache throwing up everywhere, though luckily not over sisters who were playing at her feet. I'm not good with vomit at the best of times, but with a hangover??? To paraphrase Hugh Grant, yuckity-yuck, yuck, yuck.
So today instead of working as I had planned, I am nursing a sick child, contemplating the horror that is my house, and wondering when the school is going to ring to say that nos1-3 have submitted to the bug too.
One day when I grow up I really will have a normal life....

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Trick or Treat

Just when I thought it was safe not to go back into the water, but at least to be in my house without blowing a gasket, I had possibly the most maniacal-inducing day I have ever had since I first entered the hallowed portals of parenthood all those eons ago. Namely, half term is over, but nos 1 &2 still had an inset day while 3 &4 had to go to school. This caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth from no 3, who was only pacified when told that nos 1&2 would spend the day discovering what Mummy does when they are at school, namely the housework...
My cunning plan went all awry from the off when the big ones preempted me by putting on a new DVD and I was feeling too weak from the stresses of the previous week to argue. I also had the vague notion that it would be easier having them at home then the little ones. How wrong can you be...
I eventually persuaded them to come upstairs and help me put clothes away, and no 2 then excelled herself in the helpful stakes by tidying her room - VOLUNTARILY - good lord. However when no 1 was asked to do the same she "didn't hear" me the first time and then went into a decline when asked again. I found her sobbing by her desk, wailing "Where do I start?" - a feeling I know well - but she being 9 as opposed to a world weary 40 really was out of her depth. I quickly realised that she didn't know how to put right the havoc that had been wrought on her room during half term. I could have insisted, and probably would have except I knew she was right in saying that the others had done most of the damage... and yes, this time it did seem a tad unfair to make her tidy up their mess...
So muggins ended up doing most of the housework while the offspring swanned around like ladies of leisure. It being Halloween, they were of course really keen to go Trick or Treating - the bane of the modern mother's life. Yet ANOTHER (with all due respect to our friends across the pond) crappy American import along with sleepovers and crap cartoons to make your average mum's life even more hellish then it is.
Originally we were going to go with the girls' best friends, but they weren't going out till 7pm, and the little ones' swimming lesson didn't finish till 5pm anyway, which left not much time for eating and getting ready. So I was delighted when BFs' mum rang to suggest she took them all to see The Corpse Bride instead. I explained to the big ones that they would have another treat instead of doing the wretched T&Ting and they seemed happy with that - or so I thought...
...I had of course reckoned without the determination and downright deviousness of no2 (and no, I'm not being unfair here, no 1 rarely if ever instigates this kind of stuff - like her mother she is far too much of a girly wuss and hates getting into trouble of any kind). So there I was, happily sitting in the cafe at the swimming pool, when I get a text message to say I've missed a call. I duly dial it and get nothing but background chatter for several seconds before I can hear the clear tones of no 2 saying "I can't hear anything," followed by my friend saying something along the lines of "Are you sure your mum will let you?" Suspicions duly aroused, I rang back to discover that no2 had decided that she wanted to go trick or treating. Patiently, I explained that she had had a treat and no she wasn't going. "But why?" she wailed. "Because you went to the cinema instead," I repeated. "Oh you are sooo unfair," was the response. "Yup. 'Fraid so." This conversation went on rather fruitlessly for several minutes before I had to tell her that I was putting the phone down (it was all I could do not to cut her off), and coming to get her NOW!
En route to my friend's house the phone rang again. It was no 2 (who I discovered had sneaked into the kitchen and found my mobile number on the notice board), "But please, Mummy." "No." "Plea-ease." "No." "Oh you are the worst mum in the whole world. " Actually I wouldn't wholly disagree with that, as it is what I think most days, but being told it wasn't going to make a jot of a difference. That time I did cut her off, otherwise I might have crashed the car.
When I arrived to pick them up, no 2 flounced off upstairs in a strop. My friend nobly went to try and pacify her, and was met with "I'll only come down if you bribe me." (Jeez, I've spawned a child devil straight from hell - where did she get that from???) My friend suggested crisps/biscuits/chocolate, and was met with obdurate silence until no 2 came up with the idea of a sleepover "But my mum will never let me." (Oh you are sooo right there. I'm not keen on sleepovers at the best of times, but we're heading for Never Again Territory here).
I then went upstairs, and got the same treatment, followed by "And you are so unfair, we haven't seen Wallace &Gromit yet." (this despite two trips to the cinema in less then a week.) I explained between gritted teeth that Daddy wanted to see Wallace & Gromit and that is why we hadn't gone to see it yet, and was on the verge of throttling her, before it suddenly dawned on me that here I had the perfect bribe. "Ok," I said. "I'll bribe you. If you want to see Wallace & Gromit, you have to come downstairs." She appraised me coolly, "That's not a NICE bribe," she said. Too bad. It's the only one you're going to get.
Eventually after much moaning and groaning on the unfairness of life, the universe and maniacal mothers in particular, I got her downstairs and out of the door with the rest of them. As soon as we were through the door no 1 started up on the You Are The Meanest Mum In The World moan and burst into tears, followed by no 2 telling me that I had ruined her life and that I never let them do any fun things. The little ones meanwhile were being absolutely angelic and for the first time EVER I suddenly wished myself back a few years to the days when I had sprogs who might not sleep but at least couldn't answer me back.
At that point the Spouse walked in, and once appraised of the situation gave both children an insightful and clear picture of things, in a way only he knows how. Viz, "Why do you want to go trick or treating anyway? It's like begging." Thank the lord for supportive husbands is all I can say, because after another half an hour of tantrumming, they eventually came and apologised. So we let them have chocolate when their pals turned up to trick or treat, promised them some halloween games at our bonfire party this Sat, and we gave them both a cuddle to let them know they were forgiven.
To make sure no 2 was really allright (despite truly AWFUL behaviour she is a sensitive soul who takes things to heart) I promised I would read her the beginning of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
As I turned out the light, I gave her a kiss, "Have you learned a lesson tonight?" I asked. "Oh yes," she said. "But can I have a sleepover, ple-ease?"
Words fail me...