Four and a Dog

A blog about family life

Night Challenge

Since having children my life has certainly changed. I have acquired many new skills (buttering toast with one hand) and lost many old ones (I can no longer concentrate the whole way though a film).

Tonight I was faced with one of my biggest challenges yet. Hubby has been out with colleagues and I put the children to bed on my own (another new skill I am particularly proud of). Both children have been suffering with coughs and colds so I was not too hopeful for a relaxing evening. However, other than an occasional cough, neither children have stirred. After a pleasant evening half watching a movie, I eventually decided to retire. I came upstairs carrying the usual armful of clean washing, iPad and monitor.

Unfortunately, upon reaching the landing, I was faced with one of Bruiser’s toys lying directly in my path. It was a small orange tambourine that plays music, counts, makes whizzy noises and clangy noises and flashes bright lights. The slightest nudge would have set this toy off in to a musical frenzy which would undoubtedly wake up both sleeping children. Before panicking unnecessarily (how embarrassing would that be?), I lowered my armful of things and checked if the thing was on. It was. Of course.

I was now faced with a serious dilemma. I could just step over the toy and deal with it in the morning…

But, Hubby would be returning late, after a night out, and would not be forewarned of danger. I could text him…

But, he would probably not remember or might even be a bit merry and therefore a bit unstable. I would just have to turn it off…

But, it is a particularly sensitive toy. Picture, if you will, the image of a harassed mother crouching over a small, light up tambourine on a dark landing. She approaches the object much like a bomb disposal specialist, and very gently pushes the switch from right, to left. Picture that same mother lifting the turned off toy triumphantly out of harms way and walking, nay, strutting in to her bedroom proudly.

Now picture her realising just what happened.

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Worship

Bruiser worships two things in our house- the biscuit jar and the iPad. If he is denied either of these two things he throws himself to the floor and wails. His performance would not look out of place next to Juliet Stevenson in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’. Only in that movie, somebody had died. Last time I checked, no such fate has befallen the biscuit jar or the iPad.

If Bruiser wants a biscuit, he stands next to the kitchen counter, arms stretched high and makes a persistent ‘uh, uh’ noise that increases with volume with the progression of time. Occasionally he throws in the odd foot stamp and then hangs his head with his hand in his mouth and sobs. It truly is a theatrical masterpiece. Distraction occasionally works, as long as no one mentions the ‘b’ word or accidentally walks in the direction of the biscuit jar. Mostly we try to ignore it. Mostly this works.

His reaction to the iPad is only slightly different. This he carries around until he finds a big human to hand it to (I should point out that it is kept in a practically bullet proof case for this very reason). If his chosen big human does not immediately open it, type in a pass code and then find one of his favourite games, he throws himself to the floor, claws at them and the iPad and then throws himself to the floor again. If the wrong game is chosen, he throws himself to the floor and wails. If the right game is chosen but the big human does not play the game for him (I know), he grabs their finger and forces it on to the iPad. If this does not work, he throws himself on to the floor and wails. Generally the iPad spends its day hidden behind cushions and in drawers.

Apparently Diva has taught her younger brother well. Touché, Diva, touché.

A Catalogue of Disasters

Some days just go wrong. I’m not talking about full on disasters requiring the assistance of trained professionals or superheroes, just days when small things continuously go wrong until you feel like somebody must be messing with you on purpose (Jeremy Beadle has made me so suspicious).

A few days ago I had one of these days. It was a Wednesday and Hubby was going in to work late so that we could go and visit one of our local primary schools. Diva starts school in September and we have no idea which school would be the best one for her to attend. We’ve never done this before so we had no idea what to expect. The plan was to look around the school, Hubby would catch the bus to work and I would take the kids in to town for lunch before dropping Diva off at Nursery. I would then take Bruiser shopping before picking Diva back up and heading home. It seemed so simple.

Unfortunately the school visit took a lot longer than we had originally anticipated, and we only had 15 minutes to spare to get lunch before Nursery started. In our rush to leave the school, I somehow managed to twist my shoulder awkwardly and had to take a moment to ‘suck it up’. Hubby dashed to the bus while I cried internally and envisioned various scenarios in which I had dislocated/broken/amputated my shoulder just by opening a door.

We called Nursery to tell them we would be late and drove to a coffee shop to grab some lunch. By this time Bruiser had not had his morning nap and both children had missed their morning snack. The mood was not pleasant. The guy in the coffee shop sensed this and brought the children food swiftly. As the children were munching on their sandwiches and I waited for mine to arrive I decided to get out my purse to pay for the food. It wasn’t there. Amazingly, I don’t think this has ever happened to me before. I put on my most respectable, responsible and honest smile and approached the counter. I explained my predicament and handed over all my details with a promise to return as soon as I could. The guy looked at me very suspiciously (I obviously need to work on my honest face) and agreed to my terms.

I then hurtled over to Nursery to drop Diva off. Once in the car, Bruiser fell asleep immediately. Shopping was not going to happen. I would take Bruiser home for a sleep and go after Nursery had finished. Unfortunately Bruiser woke up the second we arrived home and was not keen to take another nap. Instead he decided to torture me with tired and frustrated wailing. No activity would appease him- not even his Mirror Me book would work (unheard of!). At one point he head butted me so hard in his frustration that I thought he had dislocated/broken/amputated my jaw.

Fifteen minutes before I was due to collect Diva, he fell asleep. Sadly he did not stay asleep when I tried to transfer him in to the car. This did not help the general mood of the day. After an overly long search for a car parking space, I quickly ran in to the coffee shop to pay my debt. Imagine my horror upon discovering my debt was actually fifty pence more than I had in my purse. I offered for Bruiser to do some washing up but that was apparently not an acceptable trade. Thankfully the coffee shop owner was nice enough to let me off. Very generous considering he’d completely overcharged me in the first place (most expensive bit of grated cheese between two slices of white bread I’ve ever bought… or part bought anyway).

We then whisked over to Nursery to get Diva and headed to the supermarket where things finally seemed to improve. The kids were enjoying the trolley ride and I felt like my shopping experience was slick and efficient. However, after placing our weekly essentials on to the conveyor belt I made a startling discovery. My purse was not in my bag. During the rush of Nursery pick up I had managed to put it in Diva’s bag and not mine. Her bag was in the boot of the car. Clearly my brain has been dislocated/broken/amputated. I wheeled trolley and children out to the car, collected the purse, returned to till, avoided eye contact with the queue, paid and left.

I think it’s time we considered moving to a new town.

Bruiser Turns One

I can’t quite believe it, but it is true. Somehow we seem to have made it round the Sun again and Bruiser has officially been with us all the way. He has changed from a floppy, ever feeding bundle in need of constant carrying; to a waddling, ever feeding toddler in need of constant watching. He is full of smiles and love, and we feel very lucky to have him as part of our little family. The love and adoration between Diva and Bruiser is especially perfect. Not to mention all the love and wonderfulness of the fabulous family and friends who all came to help us celebrate. People are great…or at least the people we like are great…I’m not sure about the rest of them.

To celebrate the momentous occasion of Bruiser’s first year we decided to have a party. We also like to multi-task so we combined his first birthday with a Welcome Ceremony (non-religious alternative to a Christening). The planning for this began a long time ago and involved many different things that should not be attempted by a non-party planner on a limited budget. But when we like to dream in this family, we like to dream big! We also like to dream of dinosaurs, fairies and rectangles, according to Diva.

I stole the concept from a friend of mine who had arranged a circus theme for her son’s first birthday. We chose to do a traditional funfair idea and I made a variety of games for the children and adults to enjoy. We had a tin can alley, face painting, bean bag toss, hook-a-duck, candy and popcorn stand, a home made photo booth and a ball pool. We also had balloons and bunting and prizes. For the adults there was proper afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones and cake….so much cake.

The idea was that we would arrive at the hall half an hour before the guests to set up, the kids would play for a bit, we would make speeches, everyone would eat stuff, there would be photos, I’d do a puppet show (I do that sometimes…ask anyone), everyone would help tidy up to be nice and we’d go home.

The reality was that our morning birthday brunch we’d arranged over ran and everybody arrived while we were still setting up. I immediately put everyone to work and had the teenage sons of one friend untangling the five bunches of balloons I’d brought. Other friends and family were made to hang up bunting and fill a tub of water for plastic ducks. My poor parents spent the entire party preparing cream scones, serving tea and collecting empty cups.

Ten minutes in the children had played all the games that had taken me several hours to prepare and wanted to know what the prizes were. One of my lovely friends spent most of the party face painting after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hubby had to make an emergency trip home when we discovered the kitchen had no cutlery and the ball pool was missing the pool. Bruiser had barely slept and needed to be taken for a walk so that he would stop screaming at kind relatives. We nearly forgot to do the toast after friends and family spent ages handing out plastic glasses of champagne. We did forget to do the photographs. I lost all feeling in my legs crouching behind a small puppet theatre. We forgot to bring bin bags to tidy up at the end.

I think people had a good time. I spoke to a couple of them and nobody was crying. Diva certainly had a good time playing with all her favourite people in the world. I loved having all my friends and family in one place and finally getting to introduce Bruiser to some people. Our chosen Godparents were marvellous and made me very proud of our awesome family, as well as our ability to delegate parental responsibility.

However, I think I’m definitely more of an ideas person. Next time I need to hire a full team to do all the actual work for me. This may require me to become substantially more rich than I currently am, so I guess I’d better work on the money making side of things too.

Bruiser also received some really lovely and thoughtful gifts. Thank you. Occasionally Diva lets him play with them.

Thank you everyone for helping to make Bruiser’s first birthday one to remember.

Tiger, Tiger

We went to the fair the other day. Diva was ridiculously excited before she even knew what it was. She wanted to go on all the rides that went fast, high and backwards. Instead she went in a circle on a bus, car, rocket and train. Her favourite one was the car because occasionally that one also went up and down.

She also won a small, soft, scary tiger.

You know the ones…it came from a stall where everyone was a winner no matter which duck you hooked. I strategically avoided all the ones with enormous cuddly toys and opted for one that had small gifts that would be instantly forgotten once the novelty wore off.

Sadly not.

As soon as she saw it, she wanted it and immediately called it Tom. Not being one to miss an opportunity, I introduced the concept of alliteration through Tom the Tiger. I could tell she understood by her lack of response. Clearly she was thinking very hard about this valuable lesson.

Regardless, this misshapen, badly sewn, poorly dyed creature, made from cheap, rough fabric is most definitely a favourite. It has replaced all the lovely, beautifully made toys that usually adorn Diva’s bed and has successfully avoided being lost on several occasions. It has already visited Nursery, Nana and Grampy’s house and even came on a trip to Sainsbury’s.

A couple of nights ago Diva awoke in the night screaming the place down. I totally panicked and ran in to her room where she was sobbing uncontrollably.

Mummy: What’s the matter, sweetheart? Are you hurt?
Diva: I…can’t…find…Tom?
Mummy: You mean Tom the Tiger? (You can’t waste these opportunities.)
Diva: Yes (wail). Oh, here he is under my pillow. I’m okay now.
Mummy: Okay…well, goodnight then…sweet dreams…I love you.
Diva: I love you too, Mummy…and I love Tom.

Ah…there’s nothing better for your self esteem than to be considered an equal to a misshapen carnival toy. I suppose at least it wasn’t a dead goldfish.

Diva Wisdom 4

1. There must be somewhere else in England I could play.
2. I will have my dinner outside now (said with a dismissive wave of the hand).
3. When I am eight I will be like Mummy and Daddy.
4. I can speak French, “Bonjour, spaghetti!”
5. That is the deep end of the swimming pool and that is the shadow end.
6. When I have a poo poo they will be straight because I had chips.
7. (Whilst looking at a friend’s wedding picture) You’re lining up because it isn’t your turn to get married yet.
8. When I hurt myself at Nursery, Mrs. D gave me a cold princess to put on it (cold compress).
9. Daddy is good at wiggling the car. Mummy is good at putting things in the oven (notice how she didn’t say I was good at cooking).
10. Sometimes I can ride on a horse but they won’t let me ride on a chicken because they’re too little.

Apologies that it has been such a long time since my last post. I have lots of really good excuses, some of which are even true. Rest assured that there are still more tales of family life to come.

Full of Surprises

Today we had friends come to the house. We do not live in a very big house so this doesn’t happen very often. Diva was initially not sure about the idea of sharing her toys with others and requested that we go and play with their toys instead. She even listed all the better toys each of her friends owned that could be played with at their houses. However, once they got here, she was very excited.

I’d attempted to set the kitchen up with some activities including play dough, chalk board, painting, and colouring. This worked fine, other than the usual arguments when all four girls wanted to do the exact same thing at the exact same time. Thankfully they all eventually settled down around the table to produce some fabulous modern art in crayon and ink.

Meanwhile, the mothers and babies were in the adjoining living room with the musical toys and biscuits. At one point I was invited to come back in the kitchen and see the, ‘art gallery’, the girls had produced. Impressed with their creative flair I entered the kitchen to see many brightly coloured pieces of paper displayed all over the kitchen cupboards. They had been busy.

While I was handing out the praise and giving each piece an in-depth critique, something occurred to me:

“Girls, how are all these pictures stuck to my cupboards?”

“Glue.”

Not a Good Sign

I must be looking bad at the moment.

Yesterday Diva found my, ‘wibbly, wobbly tummy’ hilarious and asked if there was another baby in there.

Today I was putting on my make-up and Bruiser handed me medical equipment from the toy doctor kit.

I might stay in bed tomorrow for fear of what Uncle M might draw attention to.

Fearless

I both love and hate the fact that Diva is so entirely fearless.

On the plus side, she thinks nothing of making friends with spiders (all called Tom or Ella) and when given a baby crocodile to hold, she asked if she could hold one of the big ones instead. She is also entirely willing to give most things a go and takes no crap from anyone (although I have recently become very aware that her ‘telling off’ voice and face match my own. Oh dear!)

On the downside she thinks nothing of walking off on her own, and very rarely even looks to see if I am following.

Today I was discussing with a fellow parent the fear when children just wander off without a parents knowledge. I was stating my astonishment that some parents don’t seem to worry about this…just as Diva disappeared around a corner some distance away and had to be retrieved.

It has taken me a really long time to get Diva to understand the importance of safety near roads and cars, and I have to say, it’s a difficult balance to maintain. Where do you draw the line between making sure your kids are safe but not going so far that they become terrified of all things? My hope is that we will find a happy medium where she’s totally prepared to take on those ‘Under-the-Bed’ monsters but understands it’s not a good idea to run with scissors.

She had a good bit of inspiration today from an elderly, fearless lady, who had no problems asking us if we would be leaving the cafe soon. She was meeting some friends and wanted to know if she should meet them elsewhere. Not that she wanted to rush us or anything, it’s just they would be there soon and wasn’t it a pity the weather was bad and the children couldn’t play outside. She then asked us, incredulously, if all the children were ours. I can understand why: three parents, three toddlers and two babies. I mean, my God! Does the government allow such a ratio? I admit that in the run up to this encounter, Bruiser had managed to smash a plate on the floor. But she wasn’t even present when that bit of bad parenting happened AND I diligently swept up all the pieces along with any offensive crumbs. I suppose the girls were chatty but very well behaved and not one adult had told a rude joke (or at least I don’t think they had…sometimes I need those explaining).

Tempted as I was to stay and make some sort of point about rights for parents and children to drink and eat in public places alongside elderly, rude people, we were actually in the process of leaving. With stunned, awkward pleasantries, we gathered our rowdy brood of children and left.

At that point the cafe was pretty empty. However, when we passed a little bit later on, we saw our new friend at her table, but the cafe was no longer pretty empty. It was now packed with people. A large number of them being families, with children, lots of children. Sweet justice. We nearly went back in to ask if we could join them, but Diva had run off again so…

Toilet Role Play?

I resigned myself long ago to the fact that during toilet breaks I would most likely be joined by Diva, Bruiser and Uncle M. I’m not sure how I feel about having to continue my role as Captain Hook at the same time.

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