The Lyrics of my Life – Part 2

“Muuuuummmmmmmy! I’m fiiiiiiiiiiiiinished.”

Three little words that every mother dreads. It means a bottom needs wiping.

I know, a lot of you think I lead a glamorous life, being an expat in Hong Kong, jetting off to Australia and South Africa, having an ugly car with automatic sliding doors (if you’ve read Family Cars, you’ll know I’m proud of this detail.). But the reality is that I spend many of my waking hours changing nappies and wiping peachy little bums.

The only nappies left in the house belong to 21-month-old The Cute One. He’s just starting bombarding us with words, so I am lucky enough to be (metaphorically) hit with an emphatic “Poo poo!” several times a day. On bad days, it’s followed by the descriptor “BIG!”. And on the worst days ever, I may be (literally) hit with an emphatic poo-poo.

As for the dreaded “Mummy, I’m finished”, it’s a refrain I hear at least once a day from Drummer Boy (twice if he ate too much fruit the day before).

There’s a school of thought (“The Deluded Optimist School”) that turns negative experiences into ‘teachable moments’. Drummer Boy embraces that philosophy. “Look, Mummy! A letter C!” he squeals with delight. Or, with giddy excitement, “I made a letter S like ssssss for Snake!” (He loves phonics at nursery school.)

He was particularly proud that yesterday he produced something that he described as “an aeroplane with a horn like a rhino.” Cautiously, but curiously, I peered into the murky depths. It was uncanny. I really couldn’t argue with his description. That toilet bowl is his own personal Rorschach Test

Six-year-old Air Guitar is more self-sufficient at wiping, but I get the occasional invitation to “come and have a check, Mum!” Even Z-listers get better invites than that.

His best description, a few years ago now, but forever etched on my mind, came after he peered down the loo to see his day’s work, and sang out happily: “It de same colour as my big bruvver’s hair!”

But with Lead Vocal (he of the poo-brown hair), it is I who sings the chorus, every time he exits the bathroom: “Did you wipe?”, “Did you flush?”, “Did you wash your hands?” It’s a rare day he can answer yes to all three queries. *Sigh*

And if it’s not poop in the toilet I’m dealing with, it’s things that should not be there. A full roll of three-ply toilet paper, toy cars, a drinking bottle (never to be used again) and – expensively – Drummer Boy put a Wii controller in the toilet once. (Oh, I just got it! A wee controller. He was just confused!) All I can say is they get none of this behaviour from me. [Looks accusingly at The Roadie]. I have flushed many things down the toilet (my career, my patience, my sanity), but never a game controller or an aeroplane with a rhino horn.

toilet

 


 

I do apologise for all the toilet talk. I should probably have given a warning somewhere at the top of this post, but then I was worried no one would make it past the first line. I just wanted to (over)share the somewhat scatalogical ‘lyrics of my life’ with you.

Feel free to share this page with anyone else, friend or foe, who would like / needs/ deserves to read such a crappy post. (Perhaps send it as revenge to a first-time mother who keeps describing her baby’s poo in excruciating detail. We get it. It looks like chicken korma if you’re breastfeeding. Chicken tikka masala if you’re formula feeding. No we don’t need to see your camera roll.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Extreme Sport of Packing

So, the Boy Band is halfway through our world tour – leaping through the skies from Hong Kong, we hit Australia (hard!). But it’s a tough country and it barely yelped. Tonight, we jet off to South Africa.

Since the Malaysia Airlines aeroplane disappeared from the sky, my fear of flying has increased to an unhealthy level. And it’s not helped by tough questions from eight-year-old Lead Vocal: “Why did that plane crash? Will our plane crash? But hardly anyone dies, even if we crash, right? Do I have to wear that life vest if we crash in the sea? Really? Even though I can already swim 10 metres??? How do planes stay in the sky?”

I HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE HOW PLANES STAY IN THE SKY!!!

They really shouldn’t. It makes no sense. Not only is it a heavy, metal tube, but it’s full of heavy people. We are lucky. We live in Asia, so most of the people are really skinny. But I personally add a few extra unwanted kilos, plus we smuggle on litres and litres of apple juice and Ribena and lemon squash for the Boy Band, whose food fussiness extends to liquids. (See: Food, Glorious Food.)

And what about the luggage in the cargo hold? What the Hongkongers lack in girth and height, they make up for with ridiculously large suitcases, bursting with weather-inappropriate clothes. And two of the Boy Band insist on bringing Trunkis on board (if you haven’t had the pleasure, they are those ride-on, child-sized suitcases, guaranteed to take you out below the knees if you step backwards at the check-in desk. And the kids ride on them for about 50 metres before they either beg to be pulled along, or dump the Trunki on the already overladen luggage trolley.) And those darn things are like the Tardis. I’m sure if they ever got weighed, we’d end up paying for excess baggage. Toys and more toys and blankets and secret snacks burst out of a fire-engine design suitcase when Air Guitar opens it up, just as we hear the “Final Call” boarding announcement.

But back to Australia. We had a blast at the family wedding. The boys didn’t disgrace us. We had drugged them with excessive iPad usage, so they were zombie-like during the ceremony and meal.

We didn’t do too much sight-seeing. Darling Harbour, a wildlife park, the toilets of the wildlife park, the toilets of Darling Harbour, the toilets of MacDonalds… Drummer Boy was very keen to see inside Sydney Opera House, but we knew that precious landmarks and Drummer Boy just don’t mix. “I pwomise not to bweak it,” he said, batting his baby blues. We didn’t believe him.sydney opera house

By this point, he had already broken his Uncle’s swimming pool safety fence and a mannequin in Rebel sports shop. We knew our insurance would not cover the Sydney Opera House.

The other major break we’ve had is my toe. My left little toe, to be precise. It may now be the most expensive left little toe in the world. Thankfully, our medical insurance is picking up the humongous bill, only quibbling over the crutches and the fancy-dancy cast, which seems a little mean of them. It’s the most expensive left shoe my husband has ever treated me to.

We arrived back in Hong Kong from Sydney at 9pm on Saturday night. We were scheduled to fly to Johannesburg at midnight on Easter Sunday. It was going to be a crazy turnaround, but we were confident we could unpack and repack and get on our way.

Until I kicked the skirting board as I rushed towards the suitcase. More haste, less speed and all the jazz, my friends. Oh, if only I had a time machine. Or was less of a klutz. But no… a kick is a kick, and I heard the bone snap like a twig. I wailed like a baby.

broken toe

Fast forward eight hours (because they can’t give you anaesthetic until you have fully digested your children’s Easter eggs), and I ended up on the operating table at 6pm, and now have a bionic toe with a permanent pin in it, an ugly “Aircast” boot so I can channel my inner Stormtrooper, and a Tango tan from my toes to halfway up my left leg after an enthusiastic swabbing with Agent Orange, or whatever germicide they use in surgery.

But the tour must go on. We are now scheduled to fly to South Africa tonight. Thankfully, with wheelchair assistance at the airport. Little does the porter know, but by the time two members of the Boy Band, some Duty Free bags, plus a couple of Trunkis have been piled on top of me in the wheelchair, it will resemble a Bangkok Tuk Tuk.

On the plus side, the aeroplane will be lighter (and therefore more likely to stay in the sky), because now I only have to pack shoes for my right foot. Every cloud, dear readers… every cloud.

 

 

 

Tour preparations – Part 1

The Boy Band is preparing to go on tour! We have been invited to Australia at the end of next week to fill in for the Rolling Stones. (Ok, we’ve actually been invited to a family wedding, but it still feels like we are preparing for a tour…)

Here is how the members of the Boy Band usually prepare: they jump about the furniture screaming hysterically about the idea of (a) staying up past bedtime to get to the airport, and (b) missing a few days of school. This giddiness will escalate, over the next 10 days, to an unacceptably high level of naughtiness. On the WHO scale of bad behaviour (I believe there is an app to measure this), it will reach Dangerously High, followed by Harmful To The Health Of The General Public. This craziness will result in me losing both my cool and my mind, and insanely screeching, “That’s it! You’ve lost all iPad time for a month!”

Big mistake. my friends. HUUUUGE mistake! Who am I punishing here? We’re about to go on a nine-hour flight and I’ve just banned iPads. Quick! Somebody invent a time machine so I can whoosh back and bite my out-of-control tongue! In fact, just pass me a rusty knife and I’ll saw that wagging flesh from my mouth rather than utter those words again.

I have seen the future, and the future is unpleasant. Therefore, I will not – NOT – be provoked into confiscating iPads or other handheld sedatives before a long-haul flight. So, while the hyper behaviour slowly creeps up the scale from “Boys Will Be Boys” to “Let’s See What The Police Have To Say About That”, I am going to practise deep breathing, find my inner zen and mentally prepare for being in a small metal tube for nine hours with my four ‘energetic’ (a euphemism for ‘out of control’) darlings.

To be honest, nine hours will seem like a walk in the park, given that our usual journey from Hong Kong to visit Grandma and Grandad in the north-east of England takes about 22 hours door-to-door. We’ve survived enough long-haul flights with the Boy Band over the years that One World have recently awarded us Medals of Valour (and requested that we switch to Star Alliance for all future flights.)

I am willing to share my top tips for air travel with infants and young children. These, my friends, are the essentials to be packed in your carry-on luggage.

luggage

  • Benadryl. This is not for the Boy Band. Goodness, if I drugged my children every time I felt they were annoying other people, they’d spend their childhood floating in a soporific haze. No, the Benadryl is for the adults in the rows behind and in front of me. They may be grateful for a swig of it by hour five.
  • One thousand small packets of sweeties/candies. Again, not for the Boy Band. Do I look like a rookie? Under cover of darkness, once the cabin lights have dimmed, I distribute these to children sitting in our section of the plane. With a bit of luck, their sugar high will detract from the antics of my own children.
  • Sticky tape. This has a two-fold purpose. When Drummer Boy refuses to stop rhythmically pounding his feet into the spine of the man seated in front of him, I use the tape to secure his errant legs in the brace position. Safety first, folks! And when The Cute One is being less than cute and wailing at a pitch that drowns out all four jet engines, I go all Eastern Bloc orphanage and tape his dummy firmly into his mouth. Sweet, sweet silence.
  • Small toys galore. As soon as the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign has switched off, I fish handfuls of small toys from my bag (e.g., die cast cars, crayons, dice, plastic dinosaurs and the like) and strew them liberally on the floor, making sure to toss most of them far under the seats about 3 rows in front. Then, I stuff the few remaining pieces of Lego or toy soldiers down the sides of the seats, mashing them in with bits of month-old food and other people’s skin flakes. This skips the annoying step of playing with a toy for three minutes before losing it, and goes straight to the more challenging “find a small toy in the dark” game. It’s especially challenging for Drummer Boy when his legs are taped to his chair.
  • iPads. Forget all the above steps if you must – but pack those iPads before you even pack your passports or e-ticket printouts. We like to take an iPad 1 (it has a certain quaint antique value), an iPad 2, an iPad Air and an iPad Mini (did I mention we have four boys, and we are cooped up in a very tight space for a very long time?). All bets are off, all rules are in abeyance. If the one-year-old wants nine hours of Baby Einstein, I am not going to be Amish about it.

One final gem of advice: make sure your iPads are all different (whether it’s the type of iPad, the colour of the cover or the apps you have loaded on them). This invariably sparks a lively argument about who gets which iPad. I am always grateful for these little diversions. The fight over the distribution of iPads occupies at least 15 minutes of the flight, which accounts for a substantial amount* of the journey.

*It’s important to note, minutes in the air work like dog years:- 1 dog year = 7 human years; 1 minute in the air with the Boy Band = 7 minutes on solid ground with the same children. So, a minor tiff about the iPad actually lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. And the flight to Australia will, in real time, last 63 hours!!! Just make sure you save the last swig of Benadryl for yourself.

 

 

 

My boys and other animals…

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

Slide2

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:

Slide1

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.

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:

Image

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

SOCKS AND DRUGS AND ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

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?