A sting in the tale 

My husband has already finished his Christmas shopping. Which is an indicator of how excited he is about Christmas. He seemed particularly pleased about being able to hide his hoard of gifts in the loft – our last two houses have had the attics converted into bedrooms, preventing him from doing this. The instruction was to keep our oldest son out of the loft, which is easier said than done at the best of times. It was even harder today, because we had a tradesman visiting and ‘doing stuff’ up there.

Tradespeople and any kind of emergency worker are like catnip to young children. They gravitate towards their high vis, toolbelts, or uniforms like bees to pollen before staring at them with abandon whilst interrogating them about their job or what they are doing until parents drag them away. 

The tradesperson was an electrician, and he had to go in the loft, leaving the ladder dangling down tantalisingly. Our son tried to follow, so my husband stopped him (fearing the discovery of presents from ‘Santa’) and gave the first excuse that came to mind: ‘There’s a wasp nest up there and they will sting you, but Tony is trying to get rid of them.’ This was partially true as there is a nest, but they’ve all died off now. Our son was deterred from ascending into the loft, but intrigued by the wasps. He had a lot of questions about them, questions which lasted all day. They lasted to the supermarket and back. And commenced again when we walked back into the house to find Tony still there: ‘have you got rid of the wasps now?’ They continued while Tony tried to do the job we’d called him out for. In order to try and stop our son from harassing him further, we suggested he sit down and draw a picture of the wasps for us. He was surprisingly game for this. The resulting piece of artwork included a depiction of his baby brother being stung by a mother and baby wasp. He took quite a lot of time over the stings, and asked me for a red crayon to finish off. I feared its purpose and didn’t ask what it was for. ‘That’s blood mummy’, yes… I thought it might be that.

Next year we are going to hide the Christmas presents somewhere else. 

Forever sleep 

Recently our son has been asking about death a lot. It seems to be a normal stage for an inquisitive 4 year old to go through, but I think it was triggered by him being allowed to watch the new Star Wars film. Which led to me having to explain that Han Solo was having a ‘forever sleep’. In some ways it’s been quite a useful conversation to have, because now my warnings (threats) have leverage; I.e. Don’t do that because you could have a forever sleep.

Anyway… The grandparents of my husband and I have also come up a lot. Where they are now to be precise. I thought they were all gone until I realised my dads mum is still hanging in there at the admirable age of 95. Whoops. So we headed up to the nursing home to see her, with my son intermittently asking ‘When is your grandma going to die?’ and me explaining that you don’t know when you will die, but at her age it could be any minute now, and please don’t ask her when she will die because she will get upset. In fairness he didn’t ask her anything. At all. He seemed to freak out instead and was rendered mute for the whole visit, which was probably for the best.

That was a few weeks ago, but this morning he asked me again ‘Where is your grandma?’

‘She had a forever sleep.’

‘Why?’

‘Because she was very very old and poorly?’

‘Where is she now?’

‘Erm… heaven, hopefully. It’s a nice and peaceful place.’

‘Who took her there?’

(Fuck sake…) ‘Angels.’

He looked a bit puzzled at this last answer and then carried on playing with his Star Wars toys. Thank goodness, because I’m really not ready for a frank talk about religion just yet. May need to read up on the best approach for that first!

Half term tricks and treats 

It’s halfway through the school term so the teachers have decided to take a well earned break and hand our delightful offspring back to us to look after ourselves for a week. Well, six days if you take the Inset day into account (what are they anyway?) Any school holiday brings me out in a cold sweat because it’s tricky enough to entertain an inattentive, energetic four year old boy for the weekend. But a week is manageable, unlike the six weeks of school holidays which most definitely did not fly by. 

So far this week my son has spent two days and nights with my mum having some bonding time and keeping her busy. Mostly by turning her home upside down and shouting demands at her for a full 48 hours (such happy times). We’ve also checked out some of the local attractions offering ‘special’ Halloween activities for kids. As per usual both of them seemed to be more about me trying to give my son a pleasant day out, than the ungrateful little monster actually enjoying himself.

First day out was to New Tredegar House, a stunning old country home near Newport. They put on a pretty good traditional Christmas shenanigans last year so we gave it a go. It was £2 to park plus £8 entry. Of course my son didn’t give a shit about the house, or grounds, apart from two very climbable trees. He just wanted to decorate a Halloween biscuit. We couldn’t find where they were, but managed to explore a great deal of the house looking for them. Even the staff toilets after the boy announced he needed a wee in the house after I’d just struggled up ten steps with the baby’s pushchair, and the loos were back by the car park. Then I was told that pushchairs weren’t allowed in the house. Faced with the choice of letting a strange man escort my little boy to the toilet without me, or leaving the baby and pushchair with his colleague, I chose to abandon the baby and hope for the best. After all, at least he was surrounded by other people in a public place. And had a rusk.

We found the biscuit decorating eventually. We’d walked past it at the beginning. Fucking typical. The biscuit was decidedly average for £10, and I felt like it would have been better to just buy a pack of them from the supermarket and stay at home. 

It’s a lovely place to visit if you’ve got more time and an accommodating youngster. There’s a play area next to the house and huge grounds to walk your dog in. A tearoom is also on site which sells some pretty decent cakes, but I’m not sure it’s always open so best take a back up snack with you if you’re always hungry like I am.

 

Have your cake and eat it

Decided to treat myself to a bannoffee muffin as a reward for spending the day in public with my children and not losing them (hooray!) or killing them (double hooray!) Made the mistake of trying to eat it on the sly in the car on the way home. Figured I’d be ok because they were in the back and I was in the front, right? No.

Me: *quietly breaks off piece of cake while sat at traffic lights and starts eating it noiselessly*

4yo: ‘What are you eating?’

Me: ‘Apple.’

4yo: ‘What’s that rustling sound?’

Me: ‘Apple wrapper.’

4yo: ‘Open your mouth!’ 

Me: *tries to swallow cake quickly*

4yo: ‘It’s cake! You’re eating cake! Can I have some!’

Me: *Hands over piece while mumbling profanities* 

This is the problem with teaching your kids to share, you have to do it as well.

Also, how the hell does he hear a wrapper rustling when he can’t hear me shouting his name repeatedly from the other side of the room?

A shining light in the darkness

I haven’t written a post for a while, because I literally have no time or energy anymore. The baby is six months old. He still wakes three times a night and won’t sleep in the day. Those people who said ‘The second one is easier’ were fucking liars. Yeah, you vaguely remember what to do but that’s it.

Last night the baby woke at 9pm, 2am, 4.30am and for the day at 5.45am. He spent half an hour shrieking with joy and ignoring my pleas for him to settle down, before I gave up. Obviously he woke the older one up too, so by 6.30am we were all in bed listening to ‘Highway to hell’, ‘Thunderstruck’ and ‘Gangham style’. He has very eclectic musical choices for a four year old. And nobody should EVER have to listen to Psy at 6.30am. Except convicted rapists and terrorists of course.

The only upside to being downstairs when it was still pretty much nighttime is that we saw the full moon, bright and beautiful in the sky. I think it was the first time my son had seen the moon in all its glory, and he was suitably impressed. But then of course we had to spend ten minutes explaining why he couldn’t catch the moon, or visit it just yet, and why the sun was made of fire. Hard enough when you’re not scraping by on 5 hours sleep each night. 

Now he wants to ‘fix’ my back with his tools…. I’m too tired to stop it.

School rules 

We started uniform shopping as soon as the summer holiday started.It might even have been the first day actually. Our son would happily have waited for weeks but we were keen to crack on because we were so excited about it, possibly even more so than a lot of other parents we know. This was because we’d gone through so much stress and worry about whether our son would actually get into school at all!Our area is very competitive for school places, even primary. We knew that when we moved here a year ago. It’s a very popular school and demand for places is high. But we were less than a mile from the school and well within catchment so I wasn’t worried. My husband was though; he fretted about it for months after we applied for a reception school place along with 3000 other parents across the city at the start of the year. I just assumed it would be fine. Because why wouldn’t it? We were expecting a second child the same week as the council announced the results so I was focused on that instead. Then on the day we found out our son hadn’t got into any of the schools we applied for. It was awful. He was one of 11 children in catchment who didn’t get it – our direct neighbour did though. So our son was the first on the waiting list, and remained so for weeks. And weeks. Everyone accepted their places. Fellow pupils parents were outraged on our behalf but that didn’t help. We took on a solicitor to advise us and entered the appeals process. I had our baby 6 days after the announcement but the initial weeks of joy were tinged with sadness and anxiety about our older sons future. We tried to hide it from him but could tell he knew something was up. We visited other schools and considered moving as a last resort. It was horrific to be honest. I’d burst into tears about the thought of him having to go to a school where he didn’t know anyone and how we would explain to a 3 year old (4 just a few days before school started) that he couldn’t go to his school anymore, where he’d attended nursery for a year. My husband did everything he could to get him into the school, hardly sleeping for three months and researching every possible option. And then we got lucky – a place came up and he was offered it. We cried with joy and relief and our son was over the moon to visit his new classroom and teacher. And to know he would stay with his friends, at his school.

So we bought his uniform straight away, and he wore it beaming with pride for two days even though it was school holidays. Then we bought his new school shoes and he wore them for two days as well. And scuffed the hell out of them. Of course. But it’s ok, because that photo of him we will take on his first day of school will be utterly perfect anyway and nothing will ruin it.

Mambo madness

I’d planned to take the boys to a fruit farm with a heavily pregnant friend and her daughter. She had lovely visions of the children wandering through the strawberry fields filling their faces with unpaid for fruit, whilst I was up for anything which got the 3yo out of the house and burning off energy. Of course, the British summer is shit. So the day was grey and ground waterlogged from several days of rain, and we decided to abandon and go to one of the numerous indoor play areas in Cardiff instead.
Mambo used to be located on the other side of the city near our old house but has recently reopened in a larger, newer facility not that far from where we live. My husband has taken our son several times recently and said that it was amazing, so we decided to try it out. Evidently so had the rest of the city. Both car parks were full and vehicles were strewn all along the road leading up to it. Doubts were already setting in before we’d got through the door but i figured ‘How bad could it be?’ Well, it was like hell on earth. Every table and seat was taken by weary parents and grandparents, children’s screams filled the air and dance music was pumping through the air – to make sure you couldn’t hear yourself think. Maybe it was a ploy to make you buy more? As I looked around startled and wondering where to park the pram my son removed his shoes and absconded to the towering play frame, not to be seen for half an hour.   
I managed to grab a table just before my friend arrived, negating being forced to take advantage of her being Über pregnant to guilt trip someone into giving theirs up (wishful thinking). Her daughter went to find my son, we chatted for about five minutes before her daughter started screaming from the top of the play frame. She was stuck. We called to my son to help her but his idea of assisting was to talk to her for ten seconds and then run off again. In the end I handed the baby to my mate for safe keeping and then went and brought her daughter down. It was no mean feat, as she refused to take the slide and forced us to go down the ‘up’ route. Where a torrent of children were flooding up non-stop. I may have knocked a couple flying in order to get us down eventually, but no bones were broken and all was well. We didn’t see my son again for a while until he emerged dripping in sweat from the mayhem, downed an overpriced, sugar stacked ‘fruit’ shoot, begrudgingly let me remove his jumper and then headed off into the melee again.

Until she and my son got a little cocky and climbed up inside the spider webbing tower anyway. This time the girl had the common sense to stop halfway up and return to the bottom, but my foolhardy son kept going to the top. Then promptly started to cry and scream for me. An older boy did try and help him but in was in vain. So the baby was handed over once again, and I scaled the webbed tower to rescue him. There were five layers of webbed elastic cords but there might as well have been twenty five. I’m not a big build but struggled to slip quickly through the gaps, which are obviously constructed for the shape of a child. It felt like they were vines wrapping around my legs and arms, pulling me back as I tried to call out reassuringly to my offspring at the top being consoled by an older child. In fairness to him, it was pretty terrifying at the peak with nothing to grab above you and just wobbly elastic bands below you. Especially with other kids hauling themselves up, and hurling themselves down, with no thought for their own safety or the predicament of the wailing toddler above them. There was a tube leading back to the relative safety of the jungle gym on the other side of the webbing, and my balancing precariously with one arm and hoisting him along with the other, I finally got him to it. Where he just ran off again. 

When I finally managed to push my way back down through the maze and kids, the baby was hungry but we were in the middle of the tables and I felt exposed so we moved a couple over to a table by the wall so o could feed him there instead. We kept an eye out for my son but somehow managed to miss him. And the tannoy announcement saying he was lost at reception. But a nice lady finally brought him over to us and he was so scared by his ordeal of thinking we’d left him behind that he actually sat still on my lap for ten minutes. Until his bravery returns and he ran off to the ball pit to wreak havoc by chucking them at smaller kids until a mum told him off. So he started throwing them at her instead, forcing me to leave the baby once again and intervene. 

The visit ended as so many outings seem to – with the older child screaming and having a meltdown through exhaustion and over excitement. But this time he was at the very top of the jungle gym with his trousers and pants down around his ankles shouting that he had done a poo. Luckily another mum was up there and looked after the hysterical little fellow after pulling up his joggers until I managed to get up and carry him back down, still fighting against the torrent of children. 

And then I got to carry him out whist pushing the pram, both children crying. It was a fun day. We haven’t been back yet.

Fun on the farm

Last weekend we visited Cefn Mably farm as a treat for the 3yo. Quite frankly the little monster didn’t deserve a reward because he failed to gain the required number of stars on his ‘good boy chart’ after a fun packed morning of bad behaviour and hooliganism, but it was either take him out or risk having the house burnt down. So off to the farm-come-cafe-come-play area-come shop we merrily went. 
Obviously he fell asleep in the car. Then my husband missed the correct motorway turning, but we got there in the end, both children still out cold. For thirty sweet seconds we discussed just staying in the car and enjoying the silence, or having our own sneaky nap, but then the older one sensed there was a moment to kill and woke with a jolt. Perhaps it was the smell of pig shit outside the car which roused him? It definitely roused me when we got out.
It cost £18 for the three of us, baby went free (whoop…) which can probably be justified if you spend the whole day there, but we were going to be an hour. There’s actually lots to see and do at the farm – animals, pony rides, indoor play area, outdoor play areas, combine harvester, mini diggers – a plethora of enjoyment for children! There were also a lot of chubby children for some reason, guzzling on slushies, ice cream and crisps, whilst their parents sat oblivious to the danger of childhood obesity and absorbed in their smartphones. Of course my son decided he just wanted to rampage on the indoor soft play area. So I sat rocking the baby in his pram whilst he and my husband chased each other for a while then went to see the animals outside in the sun by myself (including a sow suckling a litter of piglets who I instantly had an affinity with). That was fun for about five minutes and then the baby got hungry, so I had to go back in and find a quiet seat amongst the chaos to feed him. By this time the other two were outside. On the diggers. And go karts. And having a pony ride. Spending more money. 

We were supposed to leave after an hour but that clearly didn’t happen. Our son disappeared into the soft play area again with a battle cry and a determined look on his face. Whilst we waited for the inevitable sound of another child crying after his challenge to do ‘fighting’ was rebuffed but ignored, a young girl came out of the fighting arena brandishing a pair of underpants and presented them to her parents at the next table to us. They weren’t hers. Just a random pair of pants from the play area. There was much horror and disgusted shuddering from the assembled adults as her parents tried to act normally and encouraged her to take them elsewhere. Her mother and I locked eyes and exchanged a look of weary despair and amusement. That’s when the girl spotted our 10 week old baby on my lap and zoned in to touch him. I tried to say ‘Oooh, maybe you could wash your hands first?’ in a lighthearted way, but my eyes were still on her mother and she must have seen the fear in my eyes and sensed the serious tone in my voice. So she tried her best to de-pant her daughter’s hands with a wet wipe, which was just as well because I was about to whip out the antibacterial gel. The girl then spent 5 minutes pawing at our baby, literally hugging and stroking him on my lap, whilst I ignored every screaming instinct to push her away and made polite conversation with her mother to reassure her that it was fine (it wasn’t) and the girl wasn’t bothering me (she so was). But the girl was 3, and meant no harm, so I had to suck it up. When her parents finally managed to drag her away my husband was beaming at my discomfort and said, ‘That’s the closest I’ve ever seen you come to punching a child.’ Which obviously I’d never do. But I wouldn’t have stopped my son from doing it if he’d suddenly appeared. Which he didn’t, so we eventually had to drag him kicking and screaming from the play area. Too many days out seem to end in that manner… 

I resent paying to visit a farm because I come from a line of farmers, so I spent most of my childhood roaming free on a farmyard and buggering about in barns. Even had a pony on loan for a while, which was great fun and hard work in equal measure. But I see the attraction for my children, even if most of the appeal isn’t actually farm related. If I could find somewhere that just has a ride on digger we’d save a lot of money. 

Tea and biscuits not insults and offensive notes 

This afternoon I went to visit a neighbour and take her a gift. It’s something I’ve meant to do for a while, but the results of the referendum and reading about some of the disgusting racist behaviour since prompted me to pop across the road and see her. The gift was to say ‘thank you’ for some baby clothes she gave us for our new baby. I’m not sure she recognised that though, because she doesn’t speak English. And my Urdu is non existent. But I wanted to try and show our appreciation for her kind gesture, and show that the small minded morons in Britain telling non-British people to ‘go home’ are not speaking for everyone. The last few days I’ve been horrified at the thought that our neighbours, and friends, and family, might be thinking they aren’t welcome in the UK anymore. Last Christmas my neighbour and her family gave us a card and box of chocolates, even though they are Muslim, because we were new to the street and they wanted us to feel welcome. When I took biscuits over we were invited into their home for tea but I declined because it was Christmas Eve and we had to buy carrots for Rudolph (seriously). After our baby was born the lady came over to see him as we walked down the street. Conversation consisted of hand gestures and facial expressions, but she was clearly thrilled for us and wanted to wish us the best – first touching him gently on the head, and then patting my head too whilst cooing over the older one (who of course was asking ‘who’s that lady? What’s she doing?’) I don’t even know her name, and she doesn’t know mine or my baby’s, but she was thoughtful and kind enough to go out that day and buy him a ‘welcome to the world’ gift. It makes me very sad to think that nice people like my neighbour are being abused and told to leave the place they’ve made their home now. We should be sharing tea and biscuits, not insults and offensive notes. 

Where’s willy?

I was changing the baby with the ‘help’ of the older one. He started laughing when I took the baby’s nappy off and said ‘Look at his little willy!’ (Toddlers don’t give a crap about giving someone else a complex do they?) I pointed out that it was little because the baby was so little, but my son was already dropping his trousers and pants to check out his own willy and compare the size with baby’s. 

Men start young don’t they?