My boys and other animals…

By the end of last week, this quote from Plato seemed particularly apt:


It didn’t spring to mind because they were rampaging like wild beasts through the house, nor because they were constantly hunting down food – it was because my sweet, little one-year-old, The Cute One, had learned to screech like a pterodactyl. (So much so, that I was began to wonder if it was time to rethink his moniker. He really wasn’t living up to his name.) If he didn’t get what he wanted, when he wanted, some atavistic reflex would take over and he would pierce the air with his indignant squawking. My ears were bleeding.

And when The Cute One wasn’t being a prehistoric horror, he was being a parrot: firstly, because he has just discovered that he can mimic sounds, so I was hearing lots of laughably adorable attempts to say “trousers” or “glasses”; secondly, because one of those new words was “cracker” (or “ka-ka” in Cute-speak). So, while his big brothers foraged in the kitchen for a never-ending supply of snacks, he would point at cupboards and yell “KA-KA! KA-KA!” until his needs were met. (And if they weren’t met, then the Jurassic language of the pterodactyl would come loudly into play.)

This primitive behaviour from The Cute One set me thinking about what other animal-like behaviour I witnessed on a daily basis, living among boys like Jane Goodall among a whoop of gorillas. Here are my anthropological thoughts:


But despite the kinship my boys share with much of the animal kingdom, ultimately I refute the Plato quote. Boys aren’t that unmanageable, are they? There are means and ways to manage them. But then again, Plato was writing in an era before the invention of tranquilliser darts and iPads. Either one of which will control the most bestial of boys in my household.



Getting the Boy Band from one place to another requires a tour bus – and like many other larger-than-average families, we have chosen the ugliest car we could find that met our needs. Actually, given the width of child safety seats, plus the amount of space you typically need in a family car for empty crisp packets, sticky juice boxes and forgotten hoodies, even families with 2.4 children often need to ‘upgrade’ their vehicle. (I’d like to be clear: by ‘upgrade’ I really mean ‘upsize’ – do not for one moment think you’ll be improving your car-owning status by investing in a Multi-Person Vehicle.)

Car-purchasing is dull at the best of times – even duller when buying an ugly big box on wheels. To help you in your decision-making process, here are some pointers:

1. Choose the most depressing colour you can find. As you have given up your dream of ever owning a two-seater Audi TT, manufacturers of MPVs have acknowledged this in an array of colour options: Dust Of Your Dreams Grey, (Financial) Suicide Silver, Got the (Baby) Blues and This Is The Closest You’ll Get To Bordeaux In The Next Twenty Years.

We chose Dust Of Your Dreams Grey. It’s a somewhat sombre colour. Having researched it thoroughly before choosing, I can tell you exactly how the colour was formulated. First, the car manufacturer asked a selection of single ladies in their twenties what their dream car of the future was. With those answers in hand, the manufacturer then took the said purple Lotus Elise, the cerulean blue Mercedes SLK and the sunshine yellow Ferrari 458 Italia and incinerated them until nothing was left but a pile of ash. This ash was then mixed with the tears of loss shed by mothers in their thirties, grieving for their figures, their sleep and those sports cars they would now never own. Et voilà – the colour of our current tour bus was born.

ugly grey tour bus

2. Go for a practical colour for the interior. Forget taupe or silver birch. You are looking for camouflage here (after all, wars will be raged in this vehicle). Tick the box that says Weetabix Grey, Creamy Spit-Up or Cadbury’s Brown. In the long run, this will save you a fortune on car valeting services. If you can’t see the food, it isn’t there.

3. Safety first! In the 1970s, my mother didn’t need an MPV. She could just put 6-8 children (family and friends) in the back of her Ford Cortina Estate – a few of us were on friends’ knees, a couple of us loose in the boot, one or two could stand between the front seats – and she could ferry us to the Wimpy at a moment’s notice. Now, however, I give myself an extra 20 minutes to get the Boy Band strapped into a variety of child safety seats and restraints. These boys are my retirement fund. It’s worth keeping them safe. But given that the tour bus is (I believe I have mentioned this before) U to the G to the L to the Y, I could probably just as well have opted for a Panzer tank. Equally aerodynamic. Similar acceleration. Excellent side impact protection.

4. Sliding doors are a must! You can probably appreciate the importance of a sliding door for the back seat passengers. When you’ve done some shonky parking (and we all have), it’s great that the kids can sidle out without banging a swing door into someone else’s two-seater Audi TT. (It could have been ours! Dammit! It should have been ours!) Our own tour bus bears evidence of the selfishness of other families who didn’t invest in sliding doors. In fact, if I were a CSI tech, I could scrape chips of Dust of Your Dreams Grey from many a car door of a family who didn’t choose the sliding door option and but did choose to cozy up to the tour bus in a car park.

5. Automatic sliding doors are even better!  Remember when you were little and misbehaving in the back of the car (with your seven unseatbelted friends) and your mum used to yell, “Stop fighting or I’m going to put you out and you can walk home!”? Well, an automatic sliding door allows you to escalate that threat. You make that pronouncement, you pull to the side of the road, and you don’t even have to step out of the car to truly terrify your kids. Straight to DEFCON 1, baby. With a simple push of a button, that door will whoosh open and your kids will scream with fear that they are about to be ejected for the long walk home. Believe me, the Boy Band’s screams are shrill!

6. Install toilet facilities! All good tour buses have conveniences, but most family MPVs seem to lack them. A big oversight! I suggest stuffing some nappies, an empty bottle (ah! the blessings of having boys) and a port-a-potty in the boot of your car. Or be prepared to stop before you exit the driveway for a desperately needed toilet-break.

I just wish someone had shared the above tips with me before I went out and bought a second car to use as a little run-around after Drummer Boy (the third child) was born. I chose a racing-red Ferrari with white leather interior. What was I thinking??? It’s been absolutely ruined inside – not to mention all those ugly paint chips of Dust of Your Dreams Grey that adorn the edges of the doors (thanks to poor parking by MPV-owners). May as well burn it now…

The Lyrics of my Life – part 1

“Do NOT put that astronaut from Thailand up your nose!”

Have you ever strung some words together and thought: Since time immemorial, I bet no one else has ever put those particular words in that particular order. Maybe someone else admonished their child for putting an astronaut figurine in his ear? Or perhaps a marble in a nostril? I am even willing to admit the slim possibility of a spaceman from the USA being inserted into a nose… but surely the planets have never aligned to create an identical scenario anywhere, anytime, anywho? Only in my life.

I like to think I have moments of uniqueness, when a jumble of words that aren’t usually found in close proximity are tossed from my mouth to form elegant phrases as they land on the heads of my beautiful boys.

“Please don’t eat the gunk from your eye in public!” (Note the addition of “in public” – am I suggesting this behaviour is perfectly acceptable behind the barricaded doors of our asylum home?)

“Why did you hit your brother so hard on the bottom with the binoculars. Those things cost good money!” (I’m referring to the expense of the binoculars, not the buttocks.)

And sometimes, it’s just: “Wibble, schmibble, bongley-foogle!” This is either when I’m conversing with Drummer Boy in his invented language of Gong-Gong. Or after a particularly testing day when I’m reduced to rocking in a corner while sucking my thumb.

The great poets and lyricists that came before me – namely, Shakespeare, Springsteen and Sandra Boynton – perhaps drew on their own lives to pen unique lines like: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, “You’ve gotta learn to live with what you can’t rise above,” and “I want to be your personal penguin.” That’s what makes them so memorable.

I’m hoping that the songs I write for the Boy Band to sing in the future will also include quotable lines that will transport them back to their idyllic childhood, full of Thai astronauts and conjunctivitis (works in progress include: “One More Wipe Might Block The Toilet”, “No, I’m Not Trying For A Girl, Thank You,” and the traditional lullaby – and I think this one will be a chart-topper – “I’ll Give You Something To Cry About, Baby!”)

Of course, there might be a soppy love song or two on the first album, but I don’t suppose there’s anything original about “I Love You So Much I Don’t Mind The Smell Of Your Vomit!”


So, what are the lyrics of your life? Those phrases that you make into Facebook status updates as soon as you’ve said them, because they are too good not to share with an audience?

FAMILY RULES (or so they say)

I’ve recently seen wall canvases showcasing “Family Rules”. All very worthy and admirable. “Use kind words. Take turns. Say sorry if you’re wrong…”

So, in the spirit of togetherness and family bonding (and contract law), I’ve created some for the Boy Band:


What are your own family rules? What works for you?


I wonder if three-year-old Justin Bieber ever spat his strawberry-flavoured medicine across the room?

This is on my mind because, as a Mumager, I’m concerned my boys may go off the rails like so many young stars before them, and start smoking/ingesting/injecting mind-altering substances. I’m hoping that given the way they take (or rather, don’t take) their medicines now, they’ll also refuse harder drugs in the future. (I imagine the Biebs opened his mouth wide and said, “More please, Mama!”)

Here’s what medicine-taking looks like in our household:

Option 1: I try the up-front, honest approach. “Here, son. You’re not well. Now, this medicine doesn’t taste great, but you can have a gummy bear afterwards.” Lips clamp shut so tightly that a 2-metre lever wielded by Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t prise them apart.

If I were the kind of mum who keeps score, that would be: Boy Band 1-0 Mumagermedicine boy band

Option 2: I try the sneaky approach. “Would you like this yummy blackcurrant juice. It will cool you down and you’ll feel so much better.” Trusting eyes gaze at me with appreciation. One sip later, and the eyes snap wide open while the bonds of trust snap wide apart. “YUCK!!! DISGUSTING!!! What is this, Mum?!!”. The lips snap shut, the offending juice is spat out in the way that John Wayne spits snake venom from a wound, and for weeks afterwards, every sweet drink I offer is sniffed at suspiciously.

Boy Band 2-0 Mumager

(Ha! I’m even sneakier than you think, boys. I give crushed up de-worming tablets in cheesy baked beans. You weren’t expecting that, were you?)

The scores creeps up: Boy Band 2-1 Mumager

Option 3: I call in the Roadie. “Your son won’t take his medicine. Pin him down and squirt it in him, Papa.” The Roadie sweats it out, the eyes of distrust are focused on him, and I get to be the good guy who gives hugs and gummy bears afterwards.

I score the equaliser (Roadie gets the assist): Boy Band 2-2 Mumager

Option 4: The preferred method for Lead Vocal. “Mum, can you put some medicine up my bum?” “Really, son? Really? You won’t take this teeny, tiny, yummy, strawberry-flavoured spoonful of goodness?” Nope, this child would rather have a small torpedo inserted where the sun don’t shine.

Dang it! If I have to use latex gloves and a pot of Vaseline, there’s no way that’s a win for me. Then again, it’s hardly a moment of glory for Lead Vocal either. Let’s settle for an honourable draw: Boy Band 2-2 Mumagermedicine 2 boy band

With Air Guitar and Lead Vocal, we felt so confident that they wouldn’t pop any pills voluntarily, we never even had a locked medicine cabinet. However, Drummer Boy is a big fan of M&Ms, so we’ve now got the pills and potions under lock and key in case he thinks they’re sweeties. If anyone is going to go off the rails at a future Pharm party, it’ll be him.

And as for the socks in the title? Well, they are there because my boys won’t be getting up to any hanky-panky. They may, however, take an interest in darning socks. How rock ‘n’ roll would that be?


labels boy bandAs a mum, I’m always looking for labels for my children – by which, I mean those iron-on / stick-on / sew-on type that give me about a 20% chance of getting back that expensive Sigg water bottle that my eldest son deliberately (I’m sure it’s deliberately – maybe accidentally the first five times, but subsequent times must be deliberate, right?) leaves on the bus or beach or bench.

As a mum, I can’t help but give my children labels as their personalities and character traits develop. The eldest is The Slapdash One. The Bright One. The Lazy One. Unfortunately, I may have mentioned the last epithet once or twice in the presence of this too-too-clever child (okay, I confess, I berated him bitterly and loudly for his lazy-ass ways). Now, he wears the Lazy Label with pride. He owns it. I ask him to tidy: “But, Mum, I’m too lazy, remember?”. I ask him if he wants to go for a bike ride rather than a spin round a Mario Galaxy: “Nah, can’t be bothered. You know I’m lazy, right?”

And as a Mumager, I’m now going to label my boys in the context of this blog.

Taking it from the top, Boy 1 (The Lazy One) will henceforth be known as Lead Vocal. Do not take this as any indication of the sweet harmonies of his voice. He sings like a strangled cat. But he deserves this name as his personal volume control button seems to be broken. This child doesn’t know how to whisper. He talks loudly ALL THE TIME (or so my frayed nerves believe). And yes, he talks over the top of his three younger brothers – he’s an interrupter, a contradictor, a naysayer. (More labels? Sue me for the therapy costs, son!)

Boy 2 –  in real life, he is The Sensitive One, The Sweet One, The Sweet-toothed One – in blog-life, he shall now be known as Air Guitar. He doesn’t have the confidence to take the leading vocal role, but he’s a great wingman for his older brother. And there’s also a nod to his fantastic imagination. He’s never held a guitar in his life, but that won’t stop him acting it out. I love the world in his head.

Boy 3 – The Cheeky One, The Showman, but best known and loved as Wreck-it Ralph. He can just look at a new toy (or one of my prized possessions) and it breaks. But he’s always “weally sowwy”. So, that’s all right then. But, in this boy band of the future, this special child will be Drummer Boy. Nothing he likes better than banging and bashing (usually things that shouldn’t be banged and bashed) – add in a dash of that showmanship – he will be in his element behind an indestructible drum kit.

Boy 4 – The Little One, The Young One… what more can I say? At only 18-months-old, he hasn’t shown us his true colours yet. We’re not sure what his ultimate label will be. For the purposes of this blog, he will be the Michael Jackson of the group (circa 1970-something, before the weirdness began). He will be The Cute One. Any girl would be lucky to have a poster of this heartthrob on her wall.

I am, of course, the self-anointed Mumager of the still-developing boy band. And as for the proud father of this houseful of testosterone, let’s call him The Roadie. We will let him come on this trip with us, but he may find he has to do a bit of heavy lifting – and keep the fans at bay. Especially those girls who are going to want to run off with The Cute One.


How come if you have four boys, helpful friends (or weird strangers you stand next to in the supermarket checkout queue) suggest “A couple more and you’ll have a football team!”? Are these people mathematically challenged? That would be seven more boys – not two! (And, common sense tells me that nine more boys would result in a stronger squad; any decent football team would need a couple of substitutes given the likelihood of injuries, boy-flu and vomiting bugs – believe me, we have our fair share of those setbacks even with our mini-squad of four.)

But I have NEVER heard anyone suggest to a mum of four girls, “A few more and you’ll have a netball team!”. And that really wouldn’t require much effort on that (lazy-ass) mum’s part. Surely she can squeeze out three more girls for the mild amusement of those helpful friends (or weird strangers)?

I long ago discounted the football team idea. Can you imagine the laundry? And besides, I’ve seen how my first three play football. We’d only ever make it to the local leagues and there’s no money in that. (My fourth, however, at the ripe old age of 18 months, has a great left foot on him – now, if I could just clone him…)

So, being a smart lady, I have decided to steer my boys in the direction of fame and fortune from an early age. You are reading here about the NEXT BIG THING! Move over One Direction! (Or Take That! if you are from my century.) I am going to mould these young men into the world’s most popular boy band. And I will be their Momager. (Only I’m British, so I’ll be a Mumager – which sounds even more stupid.)

One small point – my boys have inherited their father’s inability to hit a true note.

But on the plus side, they ARE good-looking.

And there’s always Autotune.