Sunday, 31 January 2010

Curiosity, swearing and the facts of life

Things I've learned from my children today.

I must keep reminding myself that curiosity is a sign of intelligence. Boy Three has recently got mobile and it's making him very happy. He's able to grab hold of all those fascinating things he could only squeal at last week. Lately he has had to be separated from artificial coals in the fire, all the remotes, all the phones, rubbish from the recycling bin, the rack from the dishwasher, the shower (he crawled in fully dressed), his dad's shoes (H&S issues here), my watch, and his big brother's genitals (they were sharing a bath at the time).

The Contextual Programme can cause a great deal of confusion. Boy One and I were in the car together and in 10 minutes we'd already covered topics as far ranging as coin collecting to why we can't go to Austria to the world's oldest theme park.
Then he said: "Do you have those pipes mummy?"
"What pipes, love?"
"You know, the ones full of blood?"
"Pipes in the place the penis goes that, erm, you know, get full of blood. In the swimming pool."
"Where did you learn about these pipes?"
I was expecting him to tell me it was the Sammy Sperm's Brave Race book I bought when I was expecting Boy Three.
"In school. We did boys this year and we'll do girls next year. They told us about the blood. I'm glad I'm not a girl. But then I will have to shave. I suppose if I didn't shave for, like, a month I would trip over my beard."
"Well, yes, I suppose I do. Do you want me to tell you more about it?"
"Yuk no way."
The Contextual Programme, under the Positive Steps Partnership, is how they do sex education these days.
I'm not surprised the kids are confused. The letter from school includes the following phrases: "structured within a thematic framework","this programme takes a holistic approach", "each gender is discussed and fully explored", "personal hygiene and decision making", preparing for a new baby" and "Sexual Health (their caps) has physical, emotional and social dimensions".

I don't like children swearing, but it's important to understand what it all means so they can do it properly if they're going to. On the way back from Beavers the other day Boy One had stayed in the car with the radio on while I got out to collect Boy Two. When I got back Billy Bragg's The New England was just finishing.
Boy One said: "That song was good but it had swearing."
Wracking my brains for the lyrics, I said: "Did it?"
"Yes, it was the B word."
"Which word was that?"
"You know the one that has blood in it."
"Oh that one."
"What does it mean?" Boy Two chipped in.
It was quite hard to answer really. Does it mean "very", or "horrible" or "absolutely".
There then ensued a conversation about swear words we know and what they mean and how to use them.
In the Boys lexicon are the B word, the F word and the S word.
Or at least the latter is in Boy Two's. Boy One asked: "What's that then?"
"You know. S H I T," replied his brother.
"Shy-it, sheee-t. Uh?"
"Shit," said Boy Two smugly.
Then we ranked them according to severity - B, S and F in that order.
Nearly home, Boy Two said: "Then there's the C word."
Good lord, he's only seven. "What's that, Boy Two?" I try to sound calm.
Big sigh: "Ah, put that in between B and S, Boys."

Cups overflow, boys pick up the wrong end of the stick and a new craze

Things I've learned from my children today.

If you pick up a baby who has drunk a bottle of milk within two hours of that milk being consumed, do it carefully. Actually I think I probably knew this already, but the "wheeeee, baby" game is so tempting when rewarded with a plume of giggles. Only this time I was also rewarded with a bra full of milky vomit. Nice.

Small people pick up the strangest things. Here was a conversation with Boy Two after he sneaked into my bed for a cuddle just before the alarm went off at horrible o'clock.
"Morning, Mummy."
"Morning Boy Two. This is lovely, isn't it?" Snuggling.
"It's one of my favourite things. It makes me happy for the day."
"I like it when you're happy."
"Do you? That's nice. I like it when you're happy too."
"And the pills must be working too."
"What?" I leap out of my doze.
"When you're happy the Panther says the pills must be working."

Coin collecting is an exciting and glamourous hobby. Boy One has got a notion he would like to collect coins from around the world. We were talking bout how he was planning to do this, after, of course, he'd nagged me into buying a book of purpose.
I suggested he could have a look at all the little heaps of coins that have accumulated in dusty corners of the house for a start.
When he didn't seem wild about that, I suggest he talk to all the people he knew who had been or were going to interesting foreign places and ask them if they had any.
He was even more tepid about this. "How are you going to do coin collecting then?" I asked.
"Oh, we're going to travel around the world to all the interesting and exotic countries, collecting them as we go."
Excellent, when do we start?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Let's improve the country starting with dog poo, burping and text rage

Chris Evans has inspired me. That's not something you'll hear me saying very often, in fact, I don't believe I've ever said it before.
He's no Terry Wogan, but I haven't switched Radio 2 off yet. I'm quite enjoying the sensation of not quite being able to define exactly the quality that Mr Evans lacks.
This morning he was on about a Citizen's Manefesto for the, not yet announced, general election.
The idea is simple; what policy would you like to see implemented that doesn't require either wads of cash or witchcraft yet improves our lives?
He mumped on predictably about motoring ones - jail for middle lane hoggers and speeding amnesty in the early hours.
But it set me thinking and here are my suggestions.

Doggy-Do DNA.
Ok, this one isn't exactly free, but I believe it would be self-funding. It requires every dog owner to register their mutt's DNA on a central database. Unregistered dogs will be confiscated.
Then kits are issued to everyone else for collecting dog poo found on the pavement, your shoe, your garden, the park, basically anywhere it shouldn't be. Simply post off a tiny bit of turd in a special envelope to a DNA testing lab.
Boffins in white coats will easily figure out whose dog crapped and the owner will be fined enough to cover the cost. That should stop them.

Mandatory manners
Here we have the Politeness Act 2010. It covers table manners - no elbows on the table, cultlary will be held properly and not waved around, pleases and thankyous observed and eating at a table as a family at least twice a week enforced by law.
The bodily functions section deals with burping, farting, scratching and unattractive rummaging.
There's a clause on public spaces and events. This is likely to address rustling in theatres and will include a return to capital punishment for mobile phone use in some circumstances.
Unwarrented skin exposure will be clamped down on. This should bring an end to the scandal of builders' beer bellies and women's cornbeef legs. Special funding will be given to police to enforce this section in the first warm spell of the summer.
Lastly, the cornerstone of the Act will be its stance on noise pollution. Campaigners are keen to see it it cut out slurping, chewing loudly and sniffing.

Mobile Communications Diclosure
This is a new set of bylaws making it compulsory to reveal who just texted, tweeted, mailed and what they said if the message made the recipient smile, sigh, raise an eyebrow or stay pokerfaced in a really obvious way. This will diffuse frustration and avoid "who the hell was that from?" text rage.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Stanza and deliver

In the absence of inspiration - here's one of my favourite poems
Production journalists don't often get the treat of being done in poetry, so I have a soft spot for this one.
And while the internet can provide most things a newspaper can, the funny, punny, clever headlines just don't work. I think this is quite sad and a generation of talented headline writers will soon find themselves with a skill no one wants.
It's by poet laureate and all-round good egg, Carol Ann Duffy.
I hope she doesn't mind that I've bunged it up here.
Carol, if you're reading, I bought the book.

Poet for our Times

I write the headlines for a Daily Paper.

It's just a knack one's born with all-right-Squire.

You do not have to be an educator,

just bang the words down like they're screaming Fire!



Cheers. Thing is, you've got to grab attention

with just one phrase as punters rush on by.

I've made mistakes too numerous to mention,

so now we print the buggers inches high.



I like to think that I'm a sort of poet

for our times. My shout. Know what I mean?

I've got a special talent and I show it

in punchy haikus featuring the Queen.



Of course, these days, there's not the sense of panic

you got a few years back. What with the box

et cet. I wish I'd been around when the Titanic

sank. To headline that, mate, would've been the tops.



And, yes, I have a dream — make that a scotch, ta —

that kids will know my headlines off by heart.



The poems of the decade . . . Stuff 'em! Gotcha!

The instant tits and bottom line of art.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What I'm worrying about today

Fret, fret, bother, bother, sigh, fidget.
Here I am. worrying. What? No nothing special, or unusual.
I seem to be going through a little phase of self-discovery, or navel gazing because it's less effort than digging the next-size-up car seat out from under the stairs.
In any case, I realise I spend a lot of internal dialogue time worrying about stuff - almost all of which is pointless.
Here's the current list.
I worry that my Green Cone won't, in fact, eat any of the waste I've been diligently tipping into it and I wonder what I can do to hurry it up.
I worry that someone will spot one of the errant hairs that grows out of my chin before I can tweeze it into submission.
I worry that people I meet will find me boring and compare notes about my dullness yet still talk to me out of politeness.
I worry the baby has been sick down my back and I haven't noticed and that I have a general milky puke whiff about me.
I worry that they'll cancel the school bus and therefore all my plans for the next six months will collapse.
I worry that when I meet anyone in connection with Boy One and his Asperger's, they look at me to see if I'm the parent who has it too.
I worry that I am the parent who has it too.
I worry that the wheels will totally fall off the child-care wagon on the day I have something important to do.
I worry that Boy Three will get dehydrated (none of my children ever has done so far).
I worry that the ceiling will fall down due to the leaks.
I worry that I'll forget something really significant - like a child. (Several times I have actually stopped the car to check there's someone in the baby seat.)
I worry that I'm really not very good at writing but no one has the heart to tell me (not fishing, just completing the list)
So, there you have today's inhabitants of my ever-changing but always-there list of nagging concerns.
Have you got niggly fears you just can't shake off?

Monday, 25 January 2010

New girl blues

Today I spent the first day in a new place of work. Not quite full-time, but filling in and, hopefully, working when it suits. I loved it and I'm very excited by the opportunity. It's really stimulating to be learning new stuff and, for once, it resembles a career move with career as a noun.
My head is very full of lots of stuff like how to work a CMS and what ad tags are but I still had time to learn - or at least remember - some other things today.

I struggle to remember faces. There's a great buzz about being in a big busy office, but it'll take me weeks to figure out who's who. It's actually not so bad in the first few days when I'll be forgiven, but the problem starts later on when I still don't know the name of people I've been looking at for ages.

I can't place faces either. Scottish media is a small world, so a new newspaper office will usually throw up someone from somewhere you used to haunt when you were both thinner/less bald/more wrinkled/less cynical/fresher faced. Therefore, it's always a good idea to smile and nod at everyone even vaguely familiar. There's a bit of a hitch at a TV station though. I'd like to apologise to the newsreader, weather chap and former-reality-star-turned-presenter who caught me grinning at them in a weird way.

Don't forget the basics. When you go to the loo take your pass with you so you can get back into the room. Then you won't have to loiter furtively until someone else opens the door.

If you don't understand the equipment, don't mention it. This lesson was learned during my first print journalism rehabilitation stint at a PR agency. I was one of half a dozen ready to participate in a meeting about some campaign or other at a power company's swish and shiny office. The big meeting room table had a high-tech thingy in the middle. "Oh, what's that? Is it part of the air conditioning?" I asked loudly.
"What do you mean you haven't seen one of those? It's for conference calls, you dozy cow," my colleague muttered through gritted teeth.
We were supposed to be a dynamic, modern communications agency.

You're going to be hungry and thirsty. As a new girl I can never make up my mind - is it better to appear with a Tupperware of sarnies and a Thermos of soup looking nerdy and antisocial or twitch with hunger until someone suggests that you can take a break to go to the canteen. Once in the canteen, prepare to dither looking for an empty table or butt in on someone else's lunchtime gossip.

Hang back until you figure out the rules. These are the real rules of any office. Who makes/gets the coffee? Do you do DIY or is there a silently understood rota? If you offer and they accept have you unwittingly become new girl/tea lady and ruined your whole career? Whose mug is whose? Beware. If you get the wrong one there will be spiteful emails. It may seem like there are dozens of cereal boxes and they are all more-or-less similar. They are not and someone will notice.

On some things, men have the upper hand. The what to wear puzzle is easily solved with a shirt and tie. But we've got to decide on sharp suit where you might look like you're selling something, smart-casual or casual-smart (there's an important difference), or going your own way regardless. On, and your clothes have to fit and be clean. This is a huge challenge.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Why Monday's paper looks familiar

Newspaper rules

For the most part, things that go into newspapers must be fresh, new and not seen anywhere else.
There is, however, an important exception. It's Sunday. That's the one day of the week when that strict and sacred rule isn't worth a half-chewed toffee. You see, on Sundays - the day when Monday's paper is prepared - recycling is fair game. So anything even slightly interesting that appeared in the Sunday papers will be re-hashed for Monday's eager newsstands. Theoretically, the stories will be "taken forward", that is some hot and exciting facet added to the already gripping tale. In reality that's not always possible.
Sundays - the day of rest for most people - are typified by empty PR offices, people on no-telephone days out with their families and a general inability to get hold of anyone knowledgeable about anything.
Over the years at a couple of papers, I've worked on a Saturday for the Sunday edition and then on Sunday for the Monday version of the same organ. It's a very odd thing to find yourself working on the same story two days in a row - you do try to find a new headline.
But what's to be done? While newspapers carry on their sorry limp into the internet generation, probably nothing. The problem is Mondays - new week, new beginning - demand a big proper paper chock full of all the information you'll need for a well-informed successful week, yet Sundays - flabby, stay-at-home-in-your-PJs-and-eat-too-much, snoozy - mean nothing much happens. Business is shut, as is legislation and the wheels of justice. Government offices are silent and even Katie Price is sleeping off her hangover.
So, really, we'll just have to put up with the Sunday roast disguised with a new sauce on Monday. Either that or we'll have to make do with stories that come from Big Brother, I'm A Celeb or any programme featuring Simon Cowell.

PS For the purposes of this discussion I've ignored the fact that there are actually very few properly new stories and, in fact, only the names and places change.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Noise abatement and a terror attack

Things I've learned from my children today.

The volume needs to be turned down. I've been offered the chance to do a bit of extra work somewhere new and I'm very excited about it. During the process of all the necessary sorting out to free myself to get there, I thought I'd organised out another day a week for Boy Three at his lovely childminder. As luck would have it one of her bigger charges had just graduated. However, yesterday, I learned that she wasn't sure that would actually work because Boy Three was so raucous that he was upsetting one of the other children. Then I realised that, it's true, he and his brothers are all super noisy. So we have launched Operation Shhhhh where we all attempt to turn the volume down so Boy Three doesn't learn to live life at hearing-damage-inducing levels. And maybe he won't frighten the other kids too much.

The lot of an Aspie is worry. Boy One is looking forward to the Primary Seven school trip - the really grown-up one for the Big Kids that involves staying away for a whole week. Boy One is considering what he'll have to pack and how to guard his precious Lego and Bakugans from invasion by his brothers while he's away. Hmmm, the thing is Boy One is only in Primary Six and this trip won't happen for at least another 12 months.

Imagination changes your perspective on events. Apparently there was an incident at our village petrol station. By all accounts - well one each from Boys One and Two - there was a fire, a car ended up in the road, a petrol pump may or may not have expolded and no one was hurt but the traffic was delayed. Boy One said: "I didn't believe it but I saw the black car with my own eyes."
Boy Two said: "It was probably a bomb planted by terrorists."
In Bridge of Weir, I don't think so.

Other things I've learned.
Sometimes the rules don't make sense. The wider Scouting organisation - Rainbows, Beavers, Cubs, Brownies, Guides and Scots - is a marvellous institution. Providing old-fashioned (ish) order, fun and adventure to our youngsters. And it's run by volunteers giving up a lot of time and energy to make these things happen. So how bonkers is it that the organisation will not accept help from volunteers who are over retirement age? There's an army of able-bodied grandparents who are keen to get involved and who likely have more time and oomf than hard-pressed parents.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

May contain adult language from the start

Just the other day while indulging in a little gentle subediting at at the Newspaper I Occasionally Visit the chap sitting next to me apologised. And it wasn't the first time either. He was saying sorry for swearing within range of my delicate female ears. For him it was a kind of reflex - you don't say rude words in front of ladies, ever. But what he'd said hadn't shocked me, in fact, I barely noticed as effing and blinding of the most ripe kinds just wash over me.
When I made my brief foray into the world of public relations, the cursing - or lack thereof - was one of the most shocking aspects.
Compared to many of my newspaper colleagues, of all genders, I was a very mild swearer, turning the air only the very palest duck egg. So, within days of starting at the PR agency I was surprised to have to turn down my inner oath generator (or at least keep them to myself) and it wasn't as if my new PR chums were shrinking violets, far from it. They just didn't use crude language with the enthusiasm of print journalists.
Now given that women have been part of the newspaper office landscape for many decades, you'd think that their male colleagues would have got over the notion that they might some how be offended by the explosive use of a frankly described sexual organ or act.
If you think about it, the words themselves are just direct descriptions of things most of us grown-ups see, do, or, at least, bring to mind, reasonably frequently. So why would they bother us at all?
In fact, most of them don't really cause offence. If you think back to 1994 and that cuddly floppy Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It opens with the words: "F***, f****, f***ety, f***."
(Here you'll see that I had a bit of a dither about the use of asterisks given the nature of this blog. However, I've decided to go with the coy option in case full frontal rudery confounds search engines and the like.)
When safe-as-houses Mr G used that word to such cute effect, you couldn't really get upset by it now, could you? He f***ed up f*** for us.
There is one word though that still causes an intake of breath. It was recently described to me as the C-bomb. You know that word. Actually it's an extraordinarily satisfying word and it is another name for a bit of anatomy I posses, so I don't see why I shouldn't use it when I like. In fact, it might be time to liberate the word from its "oooh naughty" status. Anyone up for a campaign - I've got a c***, therefore I demand the right to say the word?
As with so many things it's not what you say but the way that you say it. Swearing itself shouldn't to be banned - but bad, boring swearing should be. Conversely, a right good blasting of profanity can be just what the doctor ordered. Follow the example of The Thick of It's Malcolm Tucker for some properly creative and biologically improbable dirty word wizardry.
And as he would say: "That's enough of that big, flaccid, donkey cock wank."

bread vs poo and some suggestions

Things I've learned from my children today.

Don't patronise them. It appears one of our neighbours is letting their pet use our garden as a lavatory - again! Boy One brought this to my notice, but I wasn't sure at first.
"Don't you think it might be some of that bread we put out for the birds during the snow and not it's gone soggy?"
"Mum, I know the difference between bread and poo."
That's me told.

Toy manufacturers need to think about ditching the garish colours. Boy Three is interested in the world, but especially the in the world that his big people populate. If he's fascinated by everything his parents and big brothers do, then it stands to reason that he's fascinated by everything they do it with. That's why in our house he makes a constant grab for phones, newspapers, books, remote controls, coffee cups, car keys and computers. Maybe toy companies should just make baby-safe replicas, instead of bright red ones that play Greensleeves. None of this, however, accounts for Boy Three's curiosity about the wine rack.

Sometimes attention-seeking behavior has an up side. Boy Two's bedroom is a disgrace. It's impossible to cross it at a normal gait without doing the Lego-foot dance. Generally none of us has the energy to tackle it, we're too tired with dealing with the other stuff - including the set-piece fights Boy Two starts just to get us to pay attention. However, lately he's realised that demanding some help to tidy his room has the same result without the collateral punishment. It's a bit of a result all round as, finally, we can start to see carpet and walls in there. And he's on a winner because it'll be months before the job is finally finished.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The fascinations of scatology, garbage and chemistry

Things I've learned from my children today.

I don't need to worry about modern communications taking my children into a sophisticated adult world too soon. Boy Two decided a while back that he would like an email address to write to his grandmothers, his dad and his friends. It was fairly hard to find a reason to say no, so I set it up. I sneak on to his account from time to time to see what he's up to. His most recent correspondence was to the Panther of News. It read: "Pooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Rubbish is endlessly fascinating. Boy Three, frustrated by trying to crawl and falling over, takes freewheeling refuge in his baby walker. He's very happy there scooting around and causing havoc at 18 inches from ground level. It doesn't matter what manner of appropriate, colourful things we plant for him at that height - the bin, usually starting to overflow at about grabbing hand level, is irrisistable.

Sometimes I only have myself to blame. It all started when I dropped Boy One's favourite mug on our unforgiving kitchen floor. In a fit of remorse, I promised to buy him a new one that would be just as good. Happily this happened on a morning I was meeting the Mrs H for coffee and buns in Glasgow's West End. With her direction I found the very thing in Felix and Oscar - a mug with the periodic table on it. I knew Boy One would like it, he's a bit of a boffin and loves things that sort into tidy logical cateogories. This morning the breakfast conversation turned to his new mug.
"So these are the ingredients for everything in the world then?"
"Pretty much, yes."
"Cool. So this is chemistry?"
"Uhuh. And that's part of science, with physics."
"What's physics about?"
"Um. Energy like electricity and forces and stuff like that. How things in the world relate to each other."
"What's quantum physics then?"
"Um. Er. Eat your Cocopops or you'll be late for school."
"OK. And, mum?"
"Can I have a chemistry set?"

Saturday, 16 January 2010

getting it off my chest again

More things I've probably never told anyone before.
This confession thing is getting out of hand - I can't stop thinking of more secrets I just want to share with a load of strangers.
Maybe blogs have a sort of Big Brother effect where people forget their boyfriends/husbands might be looking and cop off with the least nasty housemate out of boredom.
Whatever the reason, here's today's offering:

Generally I much prefer texting, emailing or writing to people than actually speaking to them.

I really like taking dryer fluff out of the filter and seeing what colour it is.

I get really paranoid when I pay someone to look after my children that they - because they know about these things - will be thinking that I'm a rubbish mum.

I change light bulbs without turning the plug off.

When the children can't find me and are shouting for me, I often keep really still and quiet.

I hate subbing page 2 stories.

I once pretended that some baking I'd bought in a shop for a school fund raising coffee thing was homemade. I even roughed it up a bit first.

If I have more than one of a kind of toiletry open at one time, I like to use them in strict rotation. This means I can also tell when someone has pinched some.

I never liked night clubs, even when I was young enough to go to them without looking like someone's mum come to pick them up.

Sometimes I'll negotiate a lie in for myself, but I don't sleep I pretend to sleep and enjoy not making or clearing up the breakfast.

I only had one pregnancy during which I didn't smoke at all.

Now I am the most obnoxiously ferocious anti-smoker you can get - yuk, yuk, how can anyone do that?

I was too scared to try LSD or magic mushrooms.

I hate gardening. I'm convinced things grow, or don't grow just to spite me, yet I love nice gardens.

Sarcmarc inventor LOL

Other things I've learned

There's a new punctuation mark. It's called the Sarcmark and for $!.99 you can use it as often you want to let people know when you're being sarky. I can't make up my mind whether this is sheer genius and just what communication is calling out for or yet more e-piffle.
I'll admit there were occasions where The Panther of News and I became locked in a clash of huffs because one or the other of us couldn't tell that the text or email was accompanied by that wiggly-fingers-under-the-chin gesture. I may once or twice failed to understand that he couldn't tell I had typed in a weird and humorous voice. So perhaps the Sarcmarc could have kept the peace by bringing the equivalent of a nudge to our conversations.
On the other hand, had we just slowed down a little and used language properly these misunderstandings might have been avoided. We've also learned that it's important to check for all possible meanings before taking the hump, but we've had quite a lot of practice.
The big danger is that it's just another key stroke on the road to the fatuous shorthand that is taking the place of real - even virtual - conversations.
However amusing the PoN and I are we've rarely found ourselves LOL, PML, ROFL, LMAO, LMTO or victim of any other undignified expression of mirth.
IMHO I fail to see how @mosFER is easier to type than atmosphere, but maybe I'm missing the point.
Perhaps it would be more useful to come up with a whole new set of acronyms - alternaticons if you will?
IMSFUICSACIMY - I'm so fed up I could stick a carrot in my eye.
IIHYSTOMTYBIC - If I hear you saying that one more time your birthday will be cancelled.
HMBAFIBHMFI - He might be a flipping (or whatever) idiot, but he's my flipping idiot.
GYOINYSATIAH - Get your own I'm not your servant and this is not a hotel.
NJCCBMASCC - Not just chocolate cake but M&S chocolate cake
HCSASAYBATBADAC - How can someone as stupid as you be allowed to breed and drive a car.
So, ESWBOIIMCTROFL entertaining suggestions welcome but only if I'm certain to roll on the floor laughing.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

More secrets

A couple of days ago I shared a few of my little secrets. It felt good - I'm clearly on the way to being a shiny, absolved person who will manage to defy the laws of time, age and clutter. So I've decided to come back for another go.

I'm addicted to carrots. I eat bloody hundreds of them. I suppose it's better than smoking, but considerably less cool.

I enjoy Hoovering up Lego.

I'm really very glad I don't have a daughter. I don't like all that pink stuff, unless it's mine.

I once had a pornographic dream about Gordon Brown and then another about the whole Top Gear team.

When I'm in a yoga class and everyone's doing a downward dog, occasionally I have a mental image of everyone being in the same position but naked and with a tulip sticking up out of their bottoms. Once you get it it's a hard image to shake.

I sometimes put clean things back in the dishwasher or washing machine because it's easier than putting them away and it makes them vanish for a while.

I find telly-off time exhausting. Too exhausting to enforce sometimes.

I am a snob. I find it harder and harder to be open-minded about sports clothes not worn for sports, lack of table manners... or any other manners for that matter, processed food, margarine, instant coffee, little children with pierced ears and perfectly healthy people who choose not to work. Oh and I really, really want an Aga.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

sugar farms, worry and bringing up the rear

Things I've learned from my children today

The sugar farm has begun. Both of them were at it so I gave in. I bought lots of food colouring and cooked up a pan full of sugar. Now I have a string covered in green crystals hanging from my drying rack and dripping sticky green goo into the clean socks. There will be different flavours too and Boy One is already planning a book of secret recipes.

If the work of a parent is worry, the work of an AS parent is to worry even more. Boy One has got the notion that he can amuse and make friends by offering himself like a sort of slapstick sacrifice. "Boy Three loves it when I hurt myself." "It's funny when I hit myself in the face with a shoe." I'm trying really hard to explain that humour and pain may occasionally be bedfellows but there is not an inevitable link. You've Been Framed has a lot to answer for.

Boy Three is rear wheel/ leg drive. The feet are going forward but the arms aren't. The net result of this apparent progress is that the smallest bum in the house goes skywards until it reaches its zenith... then he falls over looking puzzled and laughing.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Sharing a few secrets

Apparently confession is good for the soul. And while I don't have anything half as interesting as Iris Robinson to fess up to, I thought it might be time to get a few things off my chest. Just see it as part of my New Year- new me drive and I'll live with the risk that you might all just start looking shifty and edging away from me. On the other hand, I might find I'm not alone and that we all feel better for a bit of honesty.

Here goes with the things that currently make me feel guilty:

On the way back from yoga on Saturday I bought just one fresh cheese twist from the Co-op and scoffed it all in the car.

Sometimes when the someone says "mummy" it makes me want to scream.

Sometimes at bedtime I put whisky in my tea.

There are lots of words I can't spell and, as a some-time sub-editor, I really ought to be able to. I have learned to cheat.

I love it when I have a shift at the newspaper I occasionally appear at. I get to wear clothes that don't have sick on them and to have a whole conversation.

Mostly, I find politics boring.

I have a thing about Tim Roth and James McAvoy.

Once I scraped my car against another one in the car park, but no one was watching so I drove off.

I'm getting lazier at housework and mostly only clean the bits people will see when there are people to see them.

I only go for a bath when I've got a good book I want to get on with, the whole lying in water thing doesn't actually do much for me.

I have sometimes sent the kids to school dosed with Calpol when they were probably too poorly to go because I had work to do.

While I love my family dearly, most days there are times when I wish they'd just bugger off and leave me alone for a while.

Dangers, the sock pair machine and breasts

Things I've learned from my children today.

Always check a room for baby hazards. The kitchen table is exactly at the forehead height of a seven-month-old in a baby walker.

No, we can't just do the job in the simplest manner. So Sock sorting (a fun-filled weekly event in our house) began. Then Boy One hurried off and returned with a large cardboard box with a hole cut in it. The flap over the hole said: "NI". It was upside down. However, the way it worked was Boy Two posted paired, but not yet folded together socks through the hole and, miraculously, conjoined socks were shoved out from underneath.

You don't need to wait for puberty for breasts to be fascinating. During sock sorting Boy Two was found cavorting around the bedroom with one of my bras on, upside down, over his Ben 10 PJs. Boys One and Three seemed weak with giggles and guffaws at his antics.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

mending, baby-led weaning and The Bridge to Terabithia

Things I've learned from my children today

The thought is definitely the important thing. Putting the clean dishes away, two mugs skittered out of the overfilled cupboard and splintered on the floor. My thought was "ho hum, never mind there'll be a bit more space in the cupboard now". I stopped buying "good" mugs after our tiled floor took one too many casualty. So I picked up the bits and put them on the counter ready to find a box to put the shards in then went to have a bath with a good book. I was enjoying what passes for a treat thest days when: "Mum, we've mended them!"
"Oh," bath peace didn't last long then.
Here's the result of their efforts.
"We put sellotape over the gaps so they won't leak."
Thanks boys.

Babies have opinions too. While I've been reading the BLW book and pondering the rights and wrongs of it all, Boy Three has made up his mind. Two days ago, when I started to feed him he yelled, loud and long. Eventually, I worked it out. He wanted to do it himself. It was his way of saying: "Give me the spoon, the dish, the bread, that sausage, the fruit, that drink. Go on. Now. Give it to me and I'll do it myself."
Fair enough. So now he has goop spread on anything he can pick up and the time I save on spooning I spend on cleaning.

A good movie will need some debriefing time. Family movie this time was The Bridge to Terabithia taped by the Panther of News over Christmas. Supper eaten, snacks distributed and sofas and beanbags all arranged for comfort. So far so good. What an amazing and shocking children's film. I won't spoil it for you, but when I tucked Boy Two in to bed he asked: "Did that girl die because she said she didn't believe in the Bible?"

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Things I learned from my children today

On funeral behavior, snogging and a sweet enterprise

Babies have no sense of occasion. At his Nanna's funeral Boy Three started off ever so well. He understood his role was to be life-affirming, charming and distracting but otherwise sit quietly and behave himself. It was all going ever so well as he admired the polished shiny stuff, coloured windows and blinking Christmas tree, then he noticed. The place was full of people, many of whom he knew were good for a tickle or a game of peepo. Yet, you could see his confusion, they weren't playing. So he started grumbling, then squeaking and, finally, yelling. You didn't need the baby whisperer to tell you it meant: "Me! Me! I'm smiling as cutely as I can, now play with me. Now."
I bundled him out and he spent the rest of the service squeaking loudly at the undertakers before falling asleep during the last hymn and snoring enthusiastically.

Snogging is the worst thing ever. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is a fabulously Gothic concoction of menace and tension complete with proper tragedy and peril. Asked what he thought, Boy Two said: "Yeah a tiny bit scary but the snogging was the worst bit. Yuk Yuk Yuk. I hid behind a pillow for that."

We are going to open a coloured sugar factory. Apparently we are going to make - and sell - the stuff. Boy One tells me you dissolve sugar in water, add food colouring, then suspend a piece of string in the solution. Pretty coloured crystals will form on the string. You crush them and put them in jars. Open the shop and people will flock to buy them.

other things I have learned

cold snap rules

If your boiler packs in don't panic, silly. Simply read the instructions you filed in a safe place and establish that the condensate (!) outlet is frozen and needs remedied. You do this by pouring lots of kettles of hot water over that pipe thing on the front of the house. The weird farting noise and alarming cracking of ice are just a distraction. Of course, it should have been insulated, see, it says so in the instructions, but, no, I'm not going to insist that the man who installed it gets out of his bed and comes and sorts it out at 10pm on a Friday three years later. In any case, look, it's mended now.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Things I learned from my children today

On Wrestling, eyebrow crocodiles and Pokemon.

There's a new workout in town. It's called the Boy Three Wrangle. Getting a wriggly, busy and hugely nosey seven month old out of nappies (especially when stinking) or in to clothes has become a task that uses every single muscle group and a great deal of aerobic energy.

We have microscopic crocodiles living in our eyebrows and armpits. Apparently it said so in Horrible Science so it must be true. They lay eggs and eat skin. But it's impossible to tell them apart so it's probably a good idea to give them all the same name.

The Pokemon star still shines bright.
"Hi Friend did you have a good Christmas?" said Boy Two.
"What are you doing?"
"We're going to watch a movie, do you like Pokemon?"
"Who doesn't?"
Friend and Boy Two skip off toward the TV.

other things I have learned

Snow rules
If you leave your wipers on when you turn the ignition off, when you turn it back on again they will wipe. This is mostly fine except when it has snowed and you are leaning in to the car to start it to warm it up. You get snow in your boots.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Yoga game turns out to be a downward dog

I like yoga, it makes me feel pleasant and relaxed neither of which happen all that often these days. However Boy One and his rather inconsiderate need to be supervised, combined with football matches and occasional visits to the newspaper I sometimes grace with my presence mean that I hardly ever get to a class.
So I was really chuffed when I found Yoga (Wii) the first yoga only game for the Wii balance board. I imagined it would be along the lines of the rather lovely Wii Fit - not exactly full-on but vigourous enough to count as exercise on can't-be-arsed days.
The Panther of News was dispatched to get it as a Christmas present.
Yesterday I found the time to have a go.
It has three modes. Story mode is a rather ponderous wander round a temple place while your guide tells you all about yoga history and what's nutritous to eat. There are rooms where you learn to do a single pose. Training mode is a series of poses with instructions but no suggested sequence. The other mode - see I've already forgotten its name - takes you through about eight fixed sequences for certain things such as backache or arthritis. Here's where I thought I'd found what I was looking for and clicked to give it a go. Great until we got to the downward dog - looking the other way, I couldn't see the screen and the wee wumman teacher didn't say anything more helpful than "your posture is fantastic". How the hell did she know? So, actually, she hasn't told me to change position yet so I'm still there, bum up, in front of the telly. When I finally get out of the pose I'm going to tell everyone I know that this game is rubbish and they shouldn't bother.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Things I learned from my children today

I don't need anyone to tell me how to play with my baby. That nice Mr Salmond has sent Boy Three a pressie, or at least someone from his Department of Smarter Scotland did. It's a foam cube that makes lots of interesting noises and is decorated with jolly words. "Play", "talk", "read". It also, helpfully, has the words of Two Little Dicky Birds in case I'd forgotten. The other two sides include the following advice: "Games to play with this cube. Peek-A-Boo. Hold it in front of your face and peek out. Hiding. Hide it and let your wee one find it. Your wee one loves to hear your voice, so why not tell them what you're doing. When you're unpacking the shopping tell them what you've bought, show them where things go, shake boxes and rustle packets. Don't forget, you can kick, throw and catch it too." Thank goodness for that, I was wondering what I should be doing with Boy Three.

There's a lot we can learn from Aspies. They never, ever get fankled up about what wasn't said. They don't spend gnawing hours reflecting on whether or not someone was just being polite and secretly thinks you're a nutter or a dullard. They never get butterflies about making a phone call because although the recipient said "any time" they almost certainly didn't mean it, did they? Nope, it's simple for them - when someone says "lovely", "great" or "fab", it's because that's exactly what they mean. Wouldn't that be good?

Sony and their ilk really have no shame. Boy Two nagged, cajoled and begged for a PSP this Christmas. He wanted to play LittleBigPlanet - apparently the best game in the world ever and only available on PSP. So, looking forward to seeing his little face aglow, I shelled out for one and they're not cheap. On the big day Boy Two spent an hour or so in PSP heaven before his specs misted up with tears. "I can't save it. I've lost all the game I've played and it's all your fault."
"What! How?"
I forgave him his unreasonable outburst and ratched through the boxes and wrapping for the instructions. Apparently you need a memory card - £25 extra, not normally included and they don't mention it at the time - in order to save games during play. I'll bet the Panther of News wasn't the only parent trailing to Comet on Boxing Day to buy £25 worth of contentment.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Things I learned from my children today

Ordinary sledging is just not enough. Standing up sledging is the way to go - or rather the wahey to go. Boy One discovered an unexpected ability in this department. Unwilling to be outdone, Boy Two discovers an uncomfortable inability to know when to leap off safely.

Children, especially Boy children, do not understand body image sensibilities.
"Mummy, when will your big fat baby tummy go away?" said Boy Two patting the offending area.

The shinier the better. Boy Three will drop anything - apart from food - when a brighter, shinier, glitterier thing comes along.

Other things I've learned:
Standing up sledging is not to be recommended for people for whom repeated pregnancies has rendered the pelvis less stable than it once was.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Things I learned from my children today

Timing is all relative. The family festive huddle necessitated us all sharing a room. Normally that's not a problem. In fact, I quite like the soothing symphony of snores.
However, Boy One is an early riser, always has been. At home he's banned from getting up before 6am and then he has to sneak downstairs and put the telly on. Same rules worked perfectly well at Granny's house until the Big Day - he'd even brought his big luminous clock so he'd know. The how, when and where of unstuffing the stockings was a hot topic for weeks. The Panther of News and I like to share their fun, but not until we've had at least a couple of hours kip. Then I struck on what I'll admit is one of my best ideas yet. Once the snoring had started, I put his clock back an hour. Worked like a dream - just don't tell him and maybe we can try two hours next year.

Bamm-Bamm had a point. Boy Three's most successful DIY feeding moment came when he shared my barbecue spare ribs. Yummy and useful. It's the tasty food that's also a teething device and a percussion instrument.

It's easy to forget that late nights used to be thrilling. 15 minutes into the new year the phone rang.
"Mummy, Mummy. Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year, Sweetie Pie."
"We stayed up all evening. It's after midnight now. Daddy let us stay up," over excitement and Coca Cola in Boy Two's voice.
Thing is, we couldn't keep the yawning at bay that long. We considered changing all the clocks in the house so we could go: "Five, four, three, two, one, kiss, kiss. Yeah we made it."
But midnight is definitely a late night these days. In the event, we couldn't quite turn in till The Bells just on the off chance we might missed something. But by 12.15 the books were put down, the lights turned off and slumber in our sights.
P.S. The Panther of News also mooted taking the brandy, gin, whisky and weird liqueur stuff up from the kitchen cupboard to the bedroom with us. Slightly shocked, I asked why.
"That way if someone asks we can say we went to bed with a couple of bottles of the hard stuff. We don't have to drink any of it, we'll take it down again in the morning. It's just so going to bed early on New Year's Eve doesn't sound quite so dull."
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