If (Apologies to Kipling)

If... MHM

Mad House Rules

Mad House Rules

Rösti Respect

I’m flicking (reading for those who are short on time) through the Saturday Times and I stumble across Family Favourites in the Weekend section. Simple recipes for tasty weekend lunches: Spiced aubergine and pumpkin-seed muffins and roasted vegetable galette, to name but two. What the f**k is a galette? Am I not middle class enough? Does this woman know what my weekends consist of? Kids, dogs, walk, work, wine, collapse.

Then, I realise that ‘this woman’ is Annabel Karmel…that’s THE Annabel Karmel, who I was a slave to when my kids were babies. THE Annabel Karmel, who made me cook peanut butter cookies and avocado mush. This is the woman who I was in awe of throughout the terrible two’s. A woman who had the ability to make me feel empowered and emancipated in the same breath, as I gazed at the photos of her and her children in neat little pinnys in a spotless kitchen. I bought her books, I read her books, I have given her books to Oxfam. Now, she pops up in my free middle class paper from Waitrose. I guess this means that I haven’t actually moved on in 15 years. Except that I have. I feel totally alienated by the words: ‘galette’ and ‘wrap each gougon in a piece of Parma ham’. You are having a giraffe, Annabel. My kids had Waitrose Economy Gougons tonight and I considered that ‘posh’. They were excited by the fact that I combined these with fresh green beans.

‘As our lives get busier, many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking’ – yes, Annabel my Hun: economy mash and Richmond sausages and my kids think it’s Christmas.

I could feel like a failure. Here was a woman who was a part of my baby past. Without her, I wonder whether my kids would have ever been weaned. Yet now, I feel alienated by words like: ‘mini tartlets’ and ‘chicken rösti’. I am a Spag Bol and filled pasta woman, Annabel and I feel that we have moved on at different tangents, reconvening via a freeebie.

It was Pizza last night, Annabel, but you know what: I don’t care. I am the brazen hussey of the parent world and you are the foodie queen…actually no, I do care. Rösti respect Annabel…I’ll go and google it.

The Penny’s Dropped

Find a penny, pick it up, all day long, the person behind you who picked it up after you dropped it, will have good luck. That is how it started. It ended with a trip to minor injuries. The bit in between was fine, except that it involved buying a new bread knife, which partner cut himself with at lunchtime. 

I am upstairs and hear the dreaded exclamation of ‘ow!’ and then silence. I am mid pee – I take my pelvic floor to the limit by running downstairs. I’m not good with blood. Put it in the air, I say, helpfully. I’m a first aider, I know what to do, as long as I keep my eyes shut. I’m going through procedure: apply pressure, do you feel faint, keep it in the air – I’m like a competent, but blind nurse. Then, I spot the bagel on the side with the knife still through it. You were cutting exactly how I’ve been telling you not to for the past 5 years, weren’t you? I begin to rant, and then when you ignored me I told the kids not to copy you…I’m really upset now. So upset that I’ve forgotten about partner standing with his finger in the air, waiting patiently for me to stop. But I’m not about to stop any time soon. I’m so angry with you, I continue. How could you be so stupid, after me going on at you for so long about it. Partner is edging out of the door. I’m off to minor injuries he says, as the door shuts behind him. It’s then I remember about his finger and I feel bad that I wasn’t more sympathetic. I go back into the kitchen to wash the knife. Dog 2 is capitalising on the situation and has eaten the two bagels that were being cut. I fill up the kettle, which reminds me to finish my pee. I’m feeling rather proud of my bladder control, whilst at the same time feeling bad that I was such a terrible nurse. I decide to send partner a sympathetic text.  I scroll the emojis for something suitable, but can only find the big thumbs up sign, so that has to do. I juxtapose it with a sad face, so as not to seem heartless. I can’t find a knife emoji, so cut my losses with a few kisses and press send. 

Later that evening we are reconvening over a bottle of wine. I hope you’ve learnt your lesson from this, I say to partner. I am fully aware of the potential for this to sound patronising, but I absolutely have to say it anyway. Partner nods his head and looks extremely sheepish. I leave it at that. Today has come full circle, as the penny has finally dropped. 

Parental Boasts

Parental Boasts (overheard in a playground, anywhere)

He did that all by himself!
She is so creative!
He’s 2 years ahead of himself in Maths
She’s developing her own, mature writing style
He is already using rhyming couplets
Her junk modelling skills are well beyond her age

Parental Boasts (that you never hear)

My hat won the best Easter Bonnet competition – real turf and the mechanical egg-laying chicken probably clinched it

The science project my 5 year old had to do is on display for open day – I am particularly pleased with my erupting volcano 

I got all those fractions right 😃

‘Good use of connectives’ – another house point, go me!

My poem got published in the: Young Writers Poetry Book. We’ll get Grandma a copy for Christmas

I won: Best Harvest Festival box, for the second year running, due to the addition of my working combine harvester!

The invaluable life lesson that the children are learning is: sit back and watch the parents sweat it out and then have the last laugh by getting all the credit. 

If the Maggots don’t get you, the Alcohol will

Daughter 1 has never, in her 16 and a half years of life, ever been sick and by that I mean thrown up. When she reminded me of this fact the other day, I could hardly believe it. However, having had enough time on my hands this half term to actually clean my kitchen cupboards, I can now completely understand why. They were filthy! I have been feeding my family food from bowls and plates that are kept in these cupboards for the best part of five years and they are utterly disgusting. Which is great, because it means that all the kids have developed an iron constitution and it is for this reason, I have definitely decided, that daughter 1 has never puked. Nevertheless, I did give them a cursory wipe and then turned my attentions to the fridge. Now, since the fateful morning that step son’s bright red fishing maggots, yes, the whole stork margarine container full of them, escaped from the fridge and into every corner of the kitchen, the fridge has never, ever been the same…and neither have I. 

I came downstairs early one Sunday, to find daughters 3 and 4 on their knees with a dustpan and brush, desperately trying to sweep the maggots up in their hundreds, as a pool of red wriggling creatures slid, on mass, out of the top shelf of the fridge, across the kitchen floor and under the skirting boards, leaving a trail of red dye behind them. Today, a good two years later, there are still traces of that red dye in the fridge that simply will not be scrubbed away. It’s only food colouring, step son had told me at the time. I wasn’t impressed. 

Bearing all of this in mind, the likelihood is that daughter 1’s first chundering experience is going to be self (alcohol) induced and neither I, nor the state of my cupboards, will have any influence over it whatsoever. 

To Mothers of Daughters

To a Mum of a daughterTo Mothers of daughters

Tell your daughter that you love her every day
But expect a few, ‘I hate you’s’ in return
Tell her that she is beautiful just the way she is
But let her dye her hair anyway
Tell her that it doesn’t matter whether she is tall or short
But if she is short, accept that she will use fake id
Tell her that it doesn’t matter if her hips are wide,
But still support her periodic healthy eating campaigns by buying quinoa and dates
Tell her that what really makes her beautiful cannot be seen in the hundreds of selfies that she takes every day
But ‘like’ them anyway
Tell her that what is important is in her heart
But expect it to be broken several times and be there to piece it together again and again and again.

Know Your Audience

I totally sympathise with Stephen Fry over his ‘bag lady’ comment at the BAFTA’s. Jenny Beavan is his friend and it was banter between them. The fact that it was shared with millions of viewers on tv and media, just meant that he didn’t quite get away with it. Over the past year, this has happened to me more than once. I’ve made, what I totally saw as a jokey comment with a like minded person and it has spectacularly back fired.  

Sometimes I open my mouth and say something and as I do so I am watching the person’s reaction with bated breath, crossing everything on my body that I know them well enough to be confident that they will take it the right way. Such as the other day. Danish friend’s daughter got hit by a car outside their house, as she was crossing the road to catch the early school bus. Is she ok? I enquired when I saw my friend. How awful for you to run outside and find her lying in the road and then, in the same breath, I uttered the words: were you still in your pyjamas? 

As the words left my lips, I could see partner’s horrified face out of the corner of my eye. Oh shit, I thought, there I go again. 

The moral of all this, of course, is: know your audience and on this occasion, I did. Unfortunately for Stephen Fry, he didn’t. 

Post script
Danish friend’s daughter shattered a car windscreen. After 10 X ray’s they could only discover two small marks on her entire body. A very lucky girl. She has, however, lost a shoe. If found, please send it to pyjama lady. 

Milking It

Partner and I are rattling around the house this half term, with just the two dogs for company, as step daughter is at uni, step son is in Australia and the girls are at their dad’s. 

Of course, I realise that this totally alienates me from all you poor, suffering parents who are ∗knee deep in Lego and fighting minute by minute battles over camps in bedrooms and sibling hatred/enjoying culturally fulfilling days out at museums ∗delete as appropriate and yes, it is a perk of divorce. However, let me reassure you that the two puppies and partner, as well as teaching lots of gorgeous little rugrats Taekwon-do, are keeping me busy. 

Such as this morning, when partner got locked in the loo. The washing machine is on a spin cycle and the dogs are play fighting. All I can hear are the words: come upstairs, from somewhere above me. I ignore them as I’m busy blogging. I hear the voice again. Now I’m irritated as I’m not only blogging but I’m already trying to zone out from the noise of the dogs. Just come upstairs, now! The spin cycle has finished and I am aware that the voice sounds more urgent, so I finally respond, reluctantly, to the ‘now’, muttering all the way upstairs about what an inconvenience this is. I release him from his loo prison. You took your time, he said rather grumpily. Blame the ten minute spin, I reply, stretching the truth. 

It’s a beautiful day. We’re sitting outside with the dogs as psychologist mum is heading across the Waitrose car park to claim her free coffee. Eldest son has broken his foot, she tells us. I didn’t notice for three days and now he’s milking the fact that I must be a dreadful mother. We’re off to Bluewater. I’ve ordered the wheelchair and have contacted shop mobility, so that we get to use the disabled parking, she continues gleefully and with that, she heads off into the shop. Now who’s milking it, I think to myself. It sounds as if she has her half term all wrapped up. 

Bad Mother

I have decided, that since they were about three months old, I have been a fairly awful mother. I have let them get away with things that they shouldn’t have been allowed to get away with, I have not followed threats through and I have tried to be their friend – big mistake. The annoying thing is that I know exactly what I have done wrong, but they seem to be able to wind me around their little…paws. 

The worst bit about it, is that with the girls I developed a bit of a reputation amongst friends and sisters and I was frequently used as a threat: if you don’t eat your broccoli I will send you to your Aunty – the wicked witch. I ran the house like an army boot camp, as it was the only way I felt I could maintain any degree of control with four so young and so determined. 

Then the dogs come along, with their cute, wet button noses and big doey eyes and I find myself giving in. Dog 1 is on the bed as we speak – what is the matter with me? 

Number 1 friend was at the dentist today with her eldest son, who was having two teeth removed. She has a phobia of needles and nearly fainted. She was no support whatsoever, as she sat with her head between her legs. This reminded me of daughter 2’s teeth extraction experience, which started in a similar way, with me perched at the end of the couch, back towards her, muttering the words: you know I’m here if you need me – just wave your right foot. This prompted me to reflect upon the top 5 bad things I have done as a mother, that the girls remind me of fairly frequently and that no doubt they will be in therapy for in years to come:

Sent daughter 2 to school on the train, with open, bleeding gums and feeling faint after tooth extraction, because I was feeling too queasy to deal with her 

Made daughters 1 and 2 share the same pack of 2 school shirts up to years 11 and 9 respectively. I finally gave in and bought a new twin pack for daughter 1’s final year in uniform – which they shared

Made daughter 4 walk through a hospital  and into school without any shoes on and in holey tights (see Shoe Storm). Apparently, the sixth formers who were in the classroom where her trainers were stored found it very amusing. She, as a small year 7, didn’t. 

Kept daughter 1’s dead hamster in the freezer for a few days, while I worked out what what to do with a dead hamster

Put all daughter 4’s cuddly toys in a bin bag and took them to Oxfam – where she discovered them for sale and bought two of them back with her pocket money

So, I am resolving that from now on, I am going to be firmer with the dogs, in the same way that I have always tried to be with the girls. I would never have let the girls sleep in our bed, for example, as I would have been too worried that it would become a habit. 

That said, I’m looking at dog 1 lying on the bed now, curled up in a large fluffy ball, keeping partner’s side warm and I just can’t bring myself to do anything about it. I’ll be a better mother tomorrow, I tell myself, just as I have often told myself, lying in bed at this time of night and with that thought, I turn out the light.