Archive for the month “October, 2012”

How to guarantee an extra hour in bed

So. The clocks go back tonight. Or is it forward? I always forget.

Once upon a time, I had a little phrase to help me remember: ‘spring back, fall forward’ but then I got confused and thought it could just as well be ‘spring forward, fall back’. As Libby Purves excused her lack of solar expertise on Radio 4’s Midweek the other day, ‘I did humanities.’ I’ll second that.

Anyway. The clocks change tonight.

Part of my reason/excuse for not remembering if it’s forward or back is quite possibly due to the fact that, since the arrival of my little darlings, the change from summer to winter time makes not a blind bit of difference.
‘Oooh,’ squeal excited folk, (often without kids), ‘the clocks are changing – an extra hour in bed.’
‘Oooh,’ I retort, trying very hard to sound pleased for them and not in the slightest bit bitter, ‘how lovely for you.’ An extra hour in bed? About as likely in this house as a half-eaten bar of chocolate.

Because my boys, whilst mostly lovely, have never been great at staying in bed. True, they’re not bad at all at the bed-going process, but once asleep they struggle to stay abed for any significant time. Sleep is viewed as ‘wasted playtime’, star gazing is far more popular than snoring and if they are still asleep at anything with a 7 (or in pre-school days a 6) in it, it is either a miracle or they are probably sick.

When they were tiny, and I was still under the delusion that I could somehow change their nocturnal tendencies, I would anticipate the time change with alternately excitement and dread.

When the clocks went forward, I could revel in being somehow ‘normal’.
‘Oh yes,’ I could join in at convivial coffees, ‘my boys stay in bed until 7am’. This unusual sensation would last a couple of days, before we’d somehow revert back to ‘please let them sleep til after 6’ type.

When the clocks went back, however, I would plan the forthcoming change with Quartz precision. ‘So,’ I would dictate to my sleep deprived self, ‘if I put them to bed an hour later the night before, then surely they might just possibly-pretty-please sleep in for just a teeny bit longer on the day.’ It didn’t work. I tried 1,2,3, and then unlimited, extra hours of staying awake in the desperate hope that it might have some kind of effect. To my eternal disappointment, the late nights had zero impact on my regular as clockwork kids. After too late nights and too early morns, the FOB and I on the other hand, were absolutely exhausted.

Now some ten years later, I have finally worked out how to approach the changing times. I have discovered the secret of the extra hour. What I do is… go to bed an hour earlier.

So, if you are able to re-programme your offspring and somehow wangle that extra hour in bed tomorrow morning, then I have nothing but admiration for you and trust you’ll enjoy your kip. In this house however, we’re off to bed now, the clocks will stay put until we all get up, and tomorrow will just be a very long day.

08.26ers…the things they say

I don’t know about you, but in our house 08.26 has to be one of the most knife-edge times of the term-time day.

When the boys were tiny, and I had three under five, it was inevitably the moment my youngest chose to – urgently and obviously – need a nappy change. When the boys were slightly bigger, it turned into the time when the older two, scrabbling to be first out of the back door and thus get their feet on a football, would trample the smallest underfoot leading to screams, chaos and carnage. And now, as my biggest boy stands on the precipice of teenage ‘sleep-in-dom’, it is the time he eventually decides to mosey downstairs and dozily try to find his shoes. And believe me doing up the laces takes some substantial time.

Yes, 08.26 is stressful enough, even on a good day. On a bad day it can be akin to starting the morning without my decadent ‘Today programme’ in-bed coffee. So what makes a morning really bad? Here are the top 5 ‘08.26ers’ which can irrevocably cast my morning mood asunder:

1. “I have swimming today mummy. I need trunks, towel, goggles and hat.”
2. “I have swimming today mummy. I need trunks, towel, goggles and hat. Named.”
3. “But I told you three months ago I needed a packed lunch today!”
4. “We have an INSET day today mum. Didn’t you know?”*
5. “I- haven’t-practised-my-spellings/learnt-my-times-tables/made-a-magnificent-collage-out-of-spare-bits-of-material and ALL my friends have and I will be the ONLY one who hasn’t done it and ‘Miss’ is gonna put me in detention FOR like EVER” (accompanied by wails – theirs and mine)

*Although this could obviously be met with relief/horror/excitement, mood and plan-dependant

These are just a few of my favourite ‘08.26ers’. What are the magic words that plunge you into school run despair?

The Synchronised Loo

I live in a house populated mainly by males. And thus, their bodies, and of course their boy ‘bits’. Most of the time this doesn’t give rise to any greater issues than, I can only imagine, living an oestrogen-overwhelmed existence.

Indeed, most of the time I’d rather not dwell overly on the stereotypical bleedin’-boy-bits-obvious. Yes, boys (big and small) find farting hilarious… and I (still and forever) do not. Yes, males (admittedly more young, than old, with the exception of on a football pitch) do walk around with one oblivious happy hand cupping their crown jewels… and I (for reasons of both anatomy and decorum) do not. And yes, those who wee standing up are blissfully blind to the soggy consequences of not putting the loo seat down… and I (unfortunately and frequently) certainly am not.

Since acquiring my own beloved ensuite and adopting an ‘I can’t hear you!’ hands-over-ears approach to any emissions, I am mercifully shielded from the less appealing realities of living with boys’ bodies. Today however, there was no escaping my boys and their bottoms. The morning went a bit like this:

08.23 ‘Hurry up,’ I shout up the stairs, ‘brush teeth, wash faces… we need to get to school!’
08.24 ‘Coming mum,’ replies eldest Sensible Son from his room, ‘just going to the loo.’
08.25 Screams overhead. ‘What’s going on?’ I ask. ‘I need the loo,’ wails middle Binary Boy, ‘and Sensible Son’s in there!’ ‘You need the loo right at this moment too? OK, OK… you can use my ensuite – just this once though,’ I tell him, ‘and hurry up!’ Two down, one to go. ‘Feisty Fellow? Where are you?’ Silence.
08.26 ‘Feisty Fellow! Where on earth are you?’ ‘In here, mum,’ shouts a small voice from the downstairs loo. ‘What are you doing in there?’ I ask, realising as I do what an utterly ridiculous question this is. He replies, surprised, ‘A poo, mum. Why?’

And thus I experience the synchronised loo.

‘Give me strength,’ I say, five minutes later as I stand by door, car keys in hand, still waiting for my loo-bound boys. One by one they tumble out of their respective rooms, drying their hands on their sweatshirts as they rush to put on their shoes. Eventually we jump in the car and zoom to school.

***

Sometime later, I get back home and carry out the obligatory ‘they washed their hands but did they flush?’ spot checks. ‘Could be worse I suppose,’ I reflect, as I pull the various chains. I remember an article I’d read once about how girls living together often find their hormonal cycles go in synch.

An excess of boy bottoms I can just about cope with. Oestrogen overload I fear I could not.

Could do better!

’Tis, apparently, the season to find out how your small darlings are doing at school. And our parents’ evening starts out auspiciously enough.

Inhaling that unique aroma of disinfectant, stale PE kit and photocopier toner, the FOB and I stride into the hall where our son’s work is neatly packaged in his drawer for us to peruse. We wade through 10 whole pages of ‘Me and My Family’ trying to spot the similarities between his vision of ‘home sweet home’ and our own, and fearing the family truths that might have been divulged during its fabrication. We balk at a sea of numerical equations methodically laid out in his numeracy file – already too complicated for my strictly non-mathematical brain. We squint helplessly at the tattered literacy book full of the almost unintelligible whirls of a seven year old’s attempts at cursive handwriting. Eventually, we abandon his drawer and head for the serving hatch, where school dinner pizza has been set out to sample.

‘Mr and Mrs Evans… Miss X will see you now.’
Gulping down our morsels of Margherita, we enter our son’s classroom and drop like overgrown stones onto pint-sized chairs. ‘So, about your son…’ she begins.

What is it about entering a classroom that transforms a competent mother of three into a shivering, quivering eight year old, anxiously fiddling with a twist of her hair and picking at non-existent spots on her nose? Palms slightly moist, we lean forward expectantly as she delivers her verdict.

‘He’s doing very well… loves school, loves learning, he’s enthusiastic.’ We smile, basking in his reflected glory. ‘In fact…’ – my heart lurches – ‘in fact, you could say, a little too enthusiastic. We do have to remind him occasionally to put his hand up and let others… ’
I interrupt: ‘But surely that’s a positive quality?’
‘Miss’ fixes me with the piercing stare of one who is used to dealing with wayward infants.
‘Let others speak!’ she finishes firmly, as I stand (or rather crouch awkwardly) corrected. I can feel a flush flood my cheeks.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the FOB sneak an impatient glance at his watch.
‘Anything else we should be aware of?’ he prompts, glaring at me and daring me to interrupt again.
‘Well, he does have a bit of a tendency to rush – very eager to finish a job which is good, but sometimes it’s to the detriment of quality. He can’t wait to move on to the next activity, it can be a struggle to get him to slow down.’ I meet my husband’s uncomfortable eye and we exchange sheepish grins. Three children in just over three years could, by virtually any normal person’s standards, constitute a bit of a ‘rushed job’. Not to mention the other high-speed aspects of our multi-faceted lives.

Our allocated ten minutes over, we rise stiffly from our seats, thank our son’s teacher and head silently for the door.

‘Well that was interesting,’ says the FOB as we leave the school.
‘Hmm,’ I agree non-committal. ‘At least we know what we… I mean he needs to work on.’

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and it’s not, I think, called ‘parents’ evening’ for nothing. Next year, I vow silently, we will do better.

A Right Fug Up

So my youngest son, my ‘Feisty Fellow’ is 7. He is, he announces at the breakfast table as he waits for his porridge, a ‘donut.’ His brothers and I nod, knowledgeably. A donut. Course he is.

You see the problem is that there are some words, some turns of phrase, which my boys use and which I can’t quite bring myself to correct. Words which will forever evoke certain memories of their very young lives.

Take ‘vee-ve veel’ for instance. Any guesses? Let me give you a clue. We are in a cafe en route to stay with friends who live a hideously long way away. It is late, we are hungry and the menu is limited. We have chips. The waiter delivers bowls of crispy French Fries. ‘Any sauces?’ he asks. ‘Ketchup please,’ replies our 3 year old eldest ‘Sensible Son’. His 2 year old brother looks at the red stuff in disgust. ‘Vee-ve veel?’ requests ‘Binary Boy’. The waiter looks confused. ‘He means…er… olive oil,’ I clarify, a tiny bit embarrassed by his precociously odd tastes. The waiter returns with a bottle of Bertolli’s, Binary Boy drizzles it all over and guzzles his chips.

Did we correct his pronunciation, then or indeed later down the line? No. Why? Because it was cute, sweet, made us all smile. And so ‘vee-ve veel’ lives on to this day in the Evans’ house. As do catameringues, seeeriup (Golden, a special treat topping on the afore-mentioned porridge), ‘thumbs’ (of the numerical kind), ‘wirells’ (red or grey and found up trees) and Savil (that miracle antiseptic cream which cures just about anything). Should we correct our children’s minor verbal misdemeanours? Are we condemning them to a life of ridicule by encouraging, and perpetuating, our own in-house lingo?

The other evening, I was having supper with some ever-so-slightly posh people. We sat at the beautifully laid table, a large log fire crackling in the background.
‘Goodness,’ I exclaimed merrily during a lull in conversation, ‘it’s a right fug up in here!’

Silence. The hostess inhaled through her teeth, an elderly gentleman fiddled with his hearing aid.

I reddened, then burbled… ‘A FUG up… you know? Fug… like it’s really toasty and warm in here.’ They stared at me blankly as I continued to roast. ‘Well,’ I mumbled, sensing I was fighting a losing battle, ‘that’s what we call it in our family… it’s what my mum’s always said.’ Someone passed me the potatoes and I quickly muttered my thanks.

Anyway, back to the donut and Feisty Fellow.
I turn from the stove where I’m stirring porridge oats. ‘It’s a ‘grown up’ you are (nearly!) not a donut, I’m afraid.’
He looks a little disappointed not to be sugary, round and oozing jam, but is swiftly distracted by the appearance of his birthday breakfast.
‘Seeing as I’m a grown up today, can I have some seeeriup on this?’
‘I’ll get some from the cupboard,’ I say. He may not be a donut, but for the time being at least, he can still stay sweet.

***

What in-house lingo do you let go in your house?

What Floats your Boat?

So as you know, I am a MOB. I didn’t expect to be one: always thought I (like my mum) would have one of each, a ‘Perfect Pair’. But I didn’t. Instead I was blessed with three oh-so-bouncy boys and, of course, their ‘biggest boy’ dad. I adore my males; love every last hair on their why-bother-with-a-brush heads, but I often wonder if being surrounded by testosterone has changed the way I live. Whether I would be doing what I am now had I been tickled pink rather than bathed in blue.

Take last weekend.

For reasons too complicated to explain, we are currently babysitting a rather large boat. It sits outside our sitting room window, old and elegant. Or rather, it did. Until Sunday, when the Father of Boys (or FOB as he’s known) decided that the boat needed to go out. For the day. With us.

It’s not that I have an aversion to boats. On a calm, sunny day, with Jackie O sunglasses and a stylish scarf I can see the attraction. On a choppy, storm-threatening triple-waterproof kind of day, I cannot. My Naval FOB however, won’t be deterred by a ‘bit of breeze’ and our sons are super-excited by a whiff of adventure and danger. So, not for the first time, I find myself outnumbered by the delights and desires of the lads in my life. A little reluctantly, I enter the world according to… boy.

We attach trailer to towbar, bundle kids, lifejackets and a brand-new bucket barbeque into the car and set off for the slipway. I croc my way through fetid mud towards the boat. ‘Do we really need 2 cans of petrol? Surely we’re not going out that far?’ I shout hopefully into the cutting wind. The FOB doesn’t hear me; he’s gazing at the horizon and staring out to sea. I zip up my Berghaus and haul myself aboard.

Two hours and a thankfully less-choppy-than-anticipated estuary crossing later, my doubts (like the storm clouds) have all but disappeared. The boys are busy re-enacting Olympic long jumps on our almost-empty beach, the FOB is in the boat doing something important with ropes, the bucket barbeque is appropriately smouldering. This is the life, I think, dolloping ketchup on baguettes, and sausages on the grill. There’s a tiny hiss as fat splatters coal and I lie back in the sand, wriggling my toes.
***
The sausages take over an hour to cook. The FOB eyes the barbie with the expert eye of an Aussie. ‘Might be better using firelighters next time… ’ Then, ‘Right,’ he says authoritatively, quickly downing his just about ‘hot’ dog, ‘we’d better get going. The tides going out quicker than I thought and look,’ – I follow his finger towards the now exposed sandbanks mid-river – ‘we’ll be stuck on the sand if we don’t move soon.’

Too late.

Moments later, he’s up to his thighs in water, dragging the boat, me and the boys across the flats. ‘Can I help, dad?’ asks our eldest Sensible Son, threatening to leap from the boat to his father’s side. ‘Sit down!’ I growl, fearing mass ‘men overboard’. Reluctantly, he puts his bottom on the bench as the FOB lurches forward once again.

45 minutes later and we are finally free of seaweed and sand. The boat is floating, and we start the engine. ‘How long will it take us to get back to the slipway?’ I ask my panting husband. ‘Not too long…’ he replies, scarily vague. We putt tentatively into the now narrow deep water channel, and head slowly back whence we came.
***
‘The problem,’ the FOB informs me cheerfully at around 11.30 that night, ‘is that the slipways round here are too short.’ We are ankle-deep in mud, it is dark and it is cold. The FOB is holding the boat’s anchor, inching it up the mud flats as the tide v-e-r-y slowly comes in. This has to be the MOB equivalent of watching paint dry. ‘If the slipways were longer we would’ve been able to get the boat onto the trailer and out of the water even at err… an…umm… unexpectedly lowish tide rather than…’
‘…Rather than discovering that getting it out was impossible, having to drop anchor in the nearest-to-shore spot, wade across a mudflat to catch a bus back to where we left the car and then return in the middle of the night to haul the boat further up the beach in case the short anchor doesn’t hold in the storm that’s predicted for tonight?’ I yabber.
‘Well… yes,’ he accedes, catching my less-than-ecstatic drift. ‘But,’ he puts a long arm around my shivering shoulders, ‘Just look at that moon… it’s so romantic!’
I can think of a few more luxurious and frankly, less soggy, locations for a romantic assignation. Ones involving champagne perhaps, candles, cordon bleu food. I sigh and look up at the sky. The clouds have parted and the moon is indeed spectacularly bright.
‘Cheers!’ I say, pouring steaming tea into metal mugs, ‘here’s to boats, boys and maybe even checking tide tables.’
He grins and we stand and sip in silence.

What things have you enjoyed as a MOB that you didn’t think you would?

Welcome to the MOB’s blog!

Hands up. I am not the most techno-literate person in the world. Or even, I’ll admit, in my family. If I want to work the DVD player I ask one of my boys, who are substantially more ‘with it’ than my ‘what’s-wrong-with-putting-pen-to-paper’ self.

Thus, starting a blog is slightly scary. Akin, for me, to playing beach volleyball in a bikini on Horseguard’s Parade or indeed picking up a chicken. But that’s another post, for another day.

After weeks of re-thinking, re-designing and frankly procrastination, my MOB Rule blog is good to go.

My biggest boy husband (the Father of Boys) calls MOB Rule and my writing in general, my ‘therapy’. I hesitate to say so, but he’s probably right. So if you, like me, are in need of female therapy, if you’ve ever tripped over Lego as you stumble down the stairs or gone to sit down on the loo and found the seat still up, welcome! Come follow my blog and join… the MOB.

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