Friday, July 25, 2014

Camping is Vantastic!

We camped! And there weren't even heavy thunderstorms or projectile puke, which is most important. I will take pretty much anything over children vomiting in a location with no running water.

Everyone spent the best part of two days getting completely covered in dirt and running around like feral animals. The campsite is surrounded by a moat with alligators a fence, so we felt safe letting the kids bike around on their own and run a bit wild.

Camping is a strange thing, really: you pack up a MASSIVE amount of stuff, load it all into a van*, unload it again a couple hours later, unpack it all, spend a couple hours setting everything up, get it all really dirty, then pack it back up again and take it back home. I can understand why it might not appeal to everyone, but I love it. It's one of the few places where there really isn't anything to do but the absolute basics; you don't get distracted by running errands, you don't check your computer every 10 minutes, you don't do chores around the house, you just chill out. We cooked delicious meals, biked around, went to parks, told jokes and drank wine (as I said, the basics.)

We also used camping as an escape artistry test ground for The Baby. Turns out, he can now work zips. Up to now, this has been my only means of keeping him somewhat restrained at home so that I can do other important things like shower, go to the toilet and tweet about my kids. While camping, he learned how to completely unzip and remove his sleep sack, climb out of the travel cot, unzip the tent, and run to freedom. This is unfortunate for us, because what's next? Climbing out of his crib at home? Unlocking the front door, taking the car keys, and driving to Spain? I am trying not to think about it too much.

Next on the agenda: camp and holidays. Did I mention that it's sunny and warm in England? As in, ACTUAL HEAT, not "hey, look, there's the sun so it must also be warm so therefore I will find my smallest items of clothing and wear them and shiver." Or as someone so artfully put on Twitter, the weather forecast for this week is "Put Your Fucking Shirts Back On."
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*Have I told you about The Van? Along with two other neighbors, Husband has joint custody of a hideous green former police van which gets used for important errands like going to the dump, transporting barbecues and motorcycles, and functions as a camping storage unit (when covered with an always-classy blue tarpaulin.) He and the other two owners spend a lot of time doing things like "changing the door handles," and "checking the oil," and sometimes they have Van Meetings at the pub. I would make fun of it more, but I've actually ended up needing it a lot, so I'll admit that it's practical. Ugly, but practical.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Of Tattoos and Vomit

We're going camping this weekend. What's that you say? Why yes, they ARE predicting thunderstorms. And did you mention stomach flu? Don't worry, only M has it for now, and I'm sure it will all clear up and not get passed to anyone else. It's highly unlikely that The Baby will start vomiting in the tent in the middle of the night.

I've been valiantly trying to control the spread of germs, but kids are gross not always consistent with hand washing, so I'm not sure how much good it will do. M has spent the last 24 hours throwing up and only just kept down some pita bread and half a banana. Now she is on her 500th hour of crap TV and seems to be getting a bit better. I, however, am just sitting here waiting for one of the other kids to start up because it's never just one. That wouldn't be a challenge!

Somehow, Husband has missed all the fun, timing a trip to Paris with the beginning of the barfing. I'm convinced that he has some sort of sickness radar that triggers an alert to European colleagues to schedule meetings in other cities the minute one of the kids comes down with something. It's OK though, I know who will getting up in the middle of the night to run a kid through the woods to the latrines.

(Ugh, probably me.)

On a bright note, I'm just about to take our friends' French au pair to the tattoo parlor (do they still call it a parlor? Somehow I don't think they do), so I'm pretty sure that nothing can go wrong with that!  He's looking for a souvenir of his summer in England, and he'd like me to translate his request to the tattoo-er (tattoo-ist? Despite a totally awesome tramp stamp, I have doubts about my expertise in this area.) How do you say, "I'd like an extra large image of Queen's face in the middle of my back, please?"

I'll let you know how it all goes. Smoothly, I'm sure.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer? Summer? Bueller?

I have superpowers! Yesterday, I was able to get someone to scream bloody murder simply by turning off the television, and today I ruined someone's life when I put jam on the wrong part of the plate. It's not exactly laser vision or the ability to fly, but I bet if I work on it, I can get a kid to levitate with rage.

We are now counting down to the summer holidays, with only seven school days left until they break up. It's taking F...O...R...E...V...E...R. Everybody is grumpy, no one wants to do homework or put on their uniforms, and I'm lacking the motivation and creativity to make them do it. It's with sheer force of shouting that I get them out the door and walking to school, usually about 10 minutes late. Some people take a different tactic. A friend of mine showed up at school 30 minutes early last week, purely because she couldn't stand to have them in the house for a second longer and preferred to let the grumpiness run its course on the school playground.

It's not a very long summer break - only six weeks - but it means no schedules, no uniforms, and for us, a few weeks in France. So at least I get to shout at them in a really picturesque countryside setting. 

It's time to call it a day when you start to see stuff like this:

I mean, what the hell are they DOING at school? How is this much dirt possible in an academic setting? Aren't they supposed to be learning reading and math? Because that stain is made of at least 10 different substances and my money is on none of them being pencil. That loom band was not on his wrist when he left, and, wait, are his eyes covered in soot? What is happening here??

Come on summer, hurry up.

Friday, July 11, 2014


When you're not working, tasks and events expand to fit the time you have. Everything that you used to squeeze around work and into nights and weekends can now be done over a longer stretch of time, and if you think that you can't make shopping for a couple kitchen stools last more than an hour or two, you are wrong. Because I'm on day 37 of the Kitchen Stool Expedition and there are still no actual stools in my possession. (Also, the more I use the word "stools," the more I want to make jokes about it, and I don't think that's helping.)

I find myself doing a lot of things that I probably would have ignored before or just couldn't do because there wasn't time. Printing out and framing photos? Check. Taking too-small clothing to a charity shop? Check. Bathing my kids? Just kidding. I think we've established I don't do THAT very often.

There are definite advantages to staying at home - I'm able to give a lot more attention to schoolwork and extra-curricular activities. I can volunteer to help out at school. I can commit to and train for races. I can stay on top of all the household admin (which is increasing for us, with a recent decision to buy and do up a new house.) I'm also around for the kids - there to drop them off in the mornings and there to pick them up in the afternoon. Doctor appointments and hair cuts are easy to schedule.

I understand that it's a luxury to be able to spend time with the children without the financial pressure to work, but I can't help feeling that I still should be trying find a "career." The part of my identity that used to be filled with Media and E-Commerce is somewhat blank at the moment, and I'd like to start redefining it. Whenever I have to fill out the little blue and white landing card at UK airports, I feel slightly panicky when it comes to filling in the line marked Occupation. Like, what do I put? "Recently e-commerce but in-between gigs"?  "Looking for a part-time role. Call me!"? "Official Purchaser of Stools"?

It comes down to the fact that right now I'm not willing to go back to an office job full time, and that limits my options. I know the resentment I end up feeling when I miss out on important bits of the kids lives, and I remember how tired and stressed I was being out all day and only getting home for bath and bedtime. I am enjoying this time at home, perhaps more so because I don't think it will be forever.

But I miss being part of a work team. I miss having a different place to go spend my day, where I can do something entirely unrelated to kids or school or home. It will happen again at some point - whether in the short term or a bit farther down the line. Good part-time roles are hard to find, but they do exist. In the meantime, I'll keep volunteering at school, running people to gymnastics classes, writing a bit, working out, shouting at the kids, researching kitchen bar stools.

100 bucks says that when you read this post title you though it was going to be about something else. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Well, let's try this again.

As it turns out, blog writing isn't hugely compatible with working/parenting/breathing (at least for me.) But now I'm back at home after a few years of gainful employment, and since I have a guilt for not working more free time and a nanny who helps out with the kids, I figure it wouldn't be bad to get this blog going again. Because surely with no job AND childcare, I should have many hours available to make significant contributions to society, right?? Of course! Many hours! Blogging counts as a contribution to society, surely. I'm also counting my eyebrow threading appointment on Thursday, because wow you do NOT want me to stop doing that...

Lucky for you I have actually learned some things in the last 3 years, which I think important to share. You can thank me later.

Important Wisdom:

1. Sometimes, when you think might get a family dog, it actually ends up being a third child. If this happens, do not also get a dog. That would be overkill.

2. Never cut up your child's food until you receive SPECIFIC instructions from them on how many pieces they want and whether they prefer triangles or squares. Get it in writing, if possible, because you cannot undo that shit.

3. When you have more than one kid, bath night should be an every other day thing at MOST. In winter, this stretches to every 3 days. The way that I see it, the clothing protects them from the dirt, right? If your clothing is that gross after school, I'm assuming it took the brunt of all the encounters with earthworms and playground equipment and the underlying skin is still pristine.

4. If you weave enough loom bands together and attach them to a pen, you can fire sharpened pencils at the baby's eyeballs, bow-and-arrow style.

5. You can never get all of your children to all behave well at the same time. The universe won't allow it.

6. Most children do not still have a pacifier when they are 18, so no biggie if they have one when they are little. Especially if it gives you 8 minutes of peace and quiet. Same goes for TV. Sometimes you have to let them rot their brains. You wouldn't want them to end up smarter than you anyway; it would upset the power balance.

7. If you are still wearing your pajamas while shouting at your kids to get dressed, they won't listen to you, even if you are using your best threats.

8. "You are never going to watch Frozen ever again!" is a very effective threat. Exception: See above.

9. A kid's tooth can get knocked back up into the gums and it will COME OUT AGAIN and completely recover. You, however, might not. 

10. It doesn't matter what you pack your kids for entertainment on a long haul flight, they will only want to watch the iPad, roam the aisles or fight with each other. Everything else is just a 30 second distraction. On the other hand, you can never have too many snacks and changes of clothing. 

There's probably more, but I have some other important contributions to make to society.