Oh Where Oh Where Has My Baby Gone?!

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I think Smallest is going through ‘The Turn’. That wonderful time when your bubbly babbling beautiful baby turns into a snarky cantankerous little goblin. I’m guessing as much as he’s going around with a perma-pout and shouting NOOOOOOO at anything that dares breathe in his general direction. Ah, yes, the terrible twos. And terrible they are indeed.

Apparently every decision Mama makes these days is wrong. He performs when he wants a drink, when the drink doesn’t appear quickly enough, when the drink offered is the wrong sort of drink, when the drink is in the wrong cup, when the drink is exactly right. That last one can go on forever, he doesn’t want it after all so I take the drink away, but…. oh, oh no, he does want it…… oh, oh, oh no, he doesn’t. I put it on the coffee table just in case he changes his mind (and he will, about fifty more times), he swipes it off in a fit of rage and then cries because it fell on the floor.

I am, as it turns out, really mean. Like, really truly awful. I stop him from doing such brilliantly clever and fun things as running out the front door into the road the second I open it. Sticking his arm down the toilet or unravelling an entire roll of toilet paper down the stairs. Putting the end of my phone charger in his mouth whilst its plugged in. Turning the oven up to 300 degrees while dinner is cooking. Eating the toothpaste, his bum cream, my posh lipstick, Biggest’s felt tips or things he’s fished out of the bin. Climbing up onto the play table to dance. And God help me if I try to do something truly horrendous like change his nappy. What am I thinking?! I’m a terrible mother. I should be locked up and the key thrown away.

Suddenly anything and everything is a deadly projectile. I narrowly escaped a black eye the other day when he tested the springiness of my face by bouncing a toy train off it. He redeemed himself by being suitably upset when I cried (please don’t judge me, it really hurt), luckily for him. Otherwise I would probably be considering converting our under-stairs cupboard to a padded room with a slot in the door to poke dry toast and water through until he gets over this thing.

I’m about ready to give up on the pushchair. I have to bribe him with a biscuit to come near enough to it that I can whip him into it. 99% of the time this goes wrong and I’m left strapping in just his coat after he’s done a limp noodle and managed to wiggle out of it and escape between my legs. A second attempt and he will wedge himself, stiff as a board, between the bumper bar and the back of the seat.  I then somehow have to UN-wedge him, get him to bend, force his arms through the straps and do up the buckles at the exact same time (without the bribery as there is no way he’s falling for that one twice). Which is something I literally just do not have enough limbs for. I think I would have more success in trying to get a very angry tiger strapped in. If I am by complete fluke, successful, I must keep the pushchair in perpetual motion. I am not allowed to stop for any reason. Supermarket shopping must be done on the fly. If I pass something by accidentally, I must complete a full circuit by going down the next aisle and returning before attempting a second grab ‘n go.

Getting him to nap is nigh on an impossible task. I can’t lie him down for starters, it must be incredibly painful for the poor lamb to remain horizontal going by the fact he screams blue murder. And forget tucking him in. I try to give him Mr Stinker (his beloved Ted and favourite cuddle buddy – Biggest named him when Smallest was given him at two weeks old, and from the amount of slobber the thing absorbs on a daily basis has turned out to be an entirely appropriate name). The intent is to calm him down, but instead Smallest bites him and strangles him, and then the mangled thing is thrown from the cot. Poor Mr Stinker, it’s not your fault buddy. If I dare leave the room in the hopes I’m the catalyst for the rage, and that maybe he’ll settle if I’m not there, it escalates. He boots the headboard. Runs his toys up and down the cot bars like an institutionalised prisoner. Sticks his arm over the rail and bangs on the window. (Dear passers-by and neighbours, he’s fine, please do not knock on the door and tell me you think my baby is awake. Believe me, I KNOW.) And then, if he does fall asleep, he wakes up in the mood from hell. Obviously it was by accident, he didn’t intend to give in and how DARE I have let him SLEEP…. now he may have missed Something Very Important! Yes, something very important indeed, Smallest. Me, lying on the couch exhausted.

All that’s said, its also a really wonderful time.  He’s learning so much. A few weeks ago he discovered if he repeatedly spins around on the spot he gets dizzy and falls down. This causes much mirth, and has the added bonus of entertaining Biggest. This week he learnt to jump, if a little haphazardly. He is beginning to play pretend, and his toys all speak the same language; high pitched gobble-de-gook. He is learning to count (eight is his favourite number). He recognises colours. He has lots of new words. ‘Off’ has replaced ‘car’ as his favourite. Everything is off, even if its on. But don’t you dare correct him. Your life isn’t worth that much.

I Do Not Like Pea Soup

This morning, probably as it’s gotten really cold and miserable these last few days (yes, sorry UK, apparently I jinxed us all earlier in the week with my post about how mild this winter has been), I woke up with an insatiable craving for a big bowl of proper chunky deliciously warming-and-comforting winter soup. As Mr O is on a late shift, leaving it just me and the boys for dinner, I decided for convenience sake to dash out and buy some rather than spend two hours chopping vegetables and fending off Smallest’s grabby grabby hands and telling Biggest that while I know he is hungry he CANNOT have another biscuit. And that if he does not stop opening that bloody fridge door he won’t be getting ANYTHING, FULL STOP. No, there is NOTHING you can have to ‘snack on until dinner’ in there. SMALLEST! Get OUT of the DISHWASHER! GIVE ME BACK THE CHEESE GRATER!

As it turned out, the local shop ain’t big on soup. Catering mainly to the student population the cold shelves are stacked up with pasties and microwave burgers, and it left me with a choice of two soups. Italian Vine Ripened Tomato and Lentil, which the kids wouldn’t eat, and Pea and Wiltshire Ham, which I couldn’t eat. I have a real aversion to pea soup. Pea soup makes me a bit sicky in my mouth. When I was pregnant with Biggest I went through a mad craving for it and I ate it every day, twice a day, for an entire week. On Day Eight of Pea-soup-a-thon I put the spoon to my mouth, and before I even tasted it was overcome with an instant wave of nausea. I had my head down the toilet for an hour afterwards. The brief and torrid love affair was over, along with any residual feelings I may have had towards garden peas, minted peas, marrow fat peas, mushy peas, canned peas or any other pea you can think of. I’ve never got over it. However, lack of choice left me with no option but to get one Tomato and Lentil for me, and one (shudder), Pea and Ham for the terrors.

Upon opening it, I thought I would be alright. Despite the claims of being ‘Blended with 100% British Crème Fraiche’ it was a rather startling bright green and very runny, but I managed to get it into the pot without even a tiny bit of splash back (which would have been a disaster, if the damn stuff had got ON me), and I definitely did not feel pukey. Once it started warming up however, it was a different story entirely. Not even the rich earthy scent of my own soup bubbling away, or the enticing aroma of the garlic bread baking in the oven managed to counterbalance the pungent pea-ness emanating from the pot. I stifled a teeny tiny dry heave. Extractor fan was upped to full, tea towel clenched tightly to face, but even so by the time the damn stuff was warmed through I was dry heaving so much I’d given myself the hiccups. I broke up the garlic bread in record speed, poured the soup into the bowls whilst hopping from one foot to the other, snapped a quick pic for a daily dinner post on Facebook I’m part of, and then basically threw it at the children in my attempts to get it as far far away from me as possible in the quickest amount of time. As I fled the room I shouted over my shoulder that I was just going to eat my soup in the kitchen. Shout if you need me.

I immediately threw open the window, and took a few deep breaths before I tried to attempt my own soup. Once I was a few mouthfuls in I began to feel a bit better. It was tasty. Oh, it was lush! As I finished up I silently congratulated myself on being So Awfully Grown Up as to be able to control myself (fancy that?!), and went to check on the kids.

I congratulated myself too soon. As briefly mentioned in my first post, Smallest loves throwing his spoon/bowl. Usually at the end of a meal after he’s shouted ‘ALL GONE!’ and we haven’t been swift enough in clearing his plate. Sometimes, there is still food in the spoon/bowl. And while I’m sure he didn’t mean to, on this particular occasion he threw his spoon just as I walked into the room, hitting me on the shoulder and splattering pea soup right the way down my arm. Instantly, I threw up in my mouth. I charged up the stairs, and emptied near enough the entire contents of my stomach into the great white ceramic church. It erupted with such force some came out of my nose. I may have cried a little. And all that beautiful tomato and lentil soup I’d just demolished, wasted. Oh good god, it was awful. The whole experience was regretfully repeated a few minutes later trying to get my pea stained t-shirt off, when some accidently got on my face. And then afterwards, when I blew my nose, a lentil shot out. My humiliating defeat was complete.

Needless to say, pea soup shall grace my stove top no more.

A Mild Winter, Why I Do Not Like Snow, Spiders

Approximately two seconds after I published my first post the realisation that I was going to have to follow it up dawned on me. Horror began to take a tight grip of my chest. It swiftly became that difficult second album. What if I used up all my good material in my first post? What if I suffered writer’s block? What if baby brain took over? (Baby brain, I can reveal, is not exclusive to pregnancy. It continues to get progressively worse as the apple of your eye grows into his childhood. Its pretty funny when, three months pregnant, you accidently put the milk in the cereal cupboard and your phone in the fridge door. Not so funny when your ‘baby’ is four and you’re still doing it. And this ailment is only exasperated by the arrival of a second baby. Let’s just say I’m pretty used to cold calls.) Then my baby sister saved my arse by posting this hilarious meme to my Facebook wall, and between that and a recent infestation of mosquitos in our back garden I found my inspiration.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Mozzies? In the UK? In JANUARY? You see, its supposedly been a particularly mild winter here this year. Although I personally have still been wrapping up in forty layers before attempting to venture outside, and returning stamping my multi-socked feet and rubbing my multi-gloved hands together and exclaiming “Its bloody BALTIC out!”, just loud enough for the neighbours four doors down to hear. I guess to some extent it must be true, it hasn’t snowed this Winter, for which I am very, very, grateful. For those reading this who don’t know me personally, I’m an ex-pat Kiwi. New Zealand has a warm temperate climate, and where I grew up we don’t get snow.  It just doesn’t get cold enough. If you want to see snow, you have to go up ‘The Mountain’, a good few hours drive away. Suffice to say the first time I woke up to see snow here, it was something of a novelty, and I immediately threw some clothes on to get out and go stomp around in it. However, I’m one of those people that suffer an inability to get from A-B under normal circumstances without some form of balance related miscalculation, so you can guess I pretty much immediately went arse over tit in a massive way, ripping open my leggings and bruising my knee so bad I couldn’t walk on it for two days. It kind of took some of the shine off of it.  I now view snow with trepidation. I don’t go out in it unless I absolutely have to, when it comes down to a no way around it, we-are-gonna-starve-to-death-unless-I-get-groceries situation, and definitely NOT without strapping tennis racquets to my feet as makeshift snowshoes. If I ever move to, say, Canada, I am so screwed.

But I digress. My point was, its not as cold as it usually would be at this time of year, so things that would normally be hibernating or killed off by the drop in temperature, like the mosquitos, are thriving. When first I spotted the little blighters swarming around in our back garden I was halfway through the dishes and did what anyone else in my position would do; I ran out swinging my tea towel Karate Kid styles, hoping to take out as many as I could. I looked like I was winning to begin with, until one of the little b*stards managed to get up my sleeve and bite me. The next logical step in the mist of red rage I was under by this stage, was to dig out the can of Raid I had in the depths of the cupboard In Case of Spider Emergency. I must have emptied at least half a can on them, but it didn’t do jack sh*t. A couple of them might have looked a little dizzy, but that was about it. Indestructible bloody things.

I next Googled natural remedies, hoping I had something in the house that would discourage them. Citronella, of course, was the first one to pop up, but I don’t have even one, never mind the many, many candles I’d need to get rid of this lot. Another website suggested clearing the property of stagnant/swampy water.  Yet another suggested an influx is best dealt with by installing an electric bug zapper. WTF? Stagnant/swampy water? Bug zapper? Did I move to the Bayou and not know it? Meanwhile I had completely used up the bug spray and what the hell was I going to do if I saw a (dun dun dah!), spider?!!

You’re probably at this point thinking why I have a can of bug spray for dealing with spiders. The answer is I am absolutely terrified of them, and I need a backup plan in case Mr O isn’t home to rehouse them far far away. People here don’t often understand my fear of spiders. “But you come from New Zealand, and don’t you guys have, you know, poisonous spiders there?” While we do, (the Whitetail and the Katipo), one (the Whitetail), usually lives in things like woodpiles and I’ve seen maybe all of a dozen in my life. The other I can honestly say I’ve never in the flesh. Regular ol’ Kiwi house spiders (what we call a Daddy Long Legs), are dozy looking things, similar to the UK’s Harvestman; teeny tiny itty bitty body and long gangly legs. They are hardly threatening. Here in the UK, however, house spiders are the stuff of nightmares.  They are big. Really big. In my eyes, they are pretty much comparable in size and weight to a small bear. I swear they skulk around in dark corners waiting for the right moment to pounce and maul me. They seem to be particularly fond of my front room for reasons unknown. (Speaking of which, Mr O? Where did that hairy brown armchair in the corner come from? Oh, that’s just Fred, the house spider? He moved in last night? He’s friendly enough, is he?) I am, of course, exaggerating slightly. Emphasis on the slightly.

Out of sheer interest I’ve done a little research on spiders this week. One study I found suggested there are an average of 130 spiders per square metre in the UK (I nearly threw the computer out the window in horror at this point, fortunately I read a bit further to find most are minuscule. I would be writing this on a plane on my way back to New Zealand otherwise). The study worked out UK spiders consume on average 0.09 grams of bug each per day. So that, by my calculations, works out to be 11.7 grams of bug per square metre per day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, until you multiply that by the number of square metres in the UK. It comes out as 2,864,394 KILOGRAMS of bug consumed by spiders per day in the UK alone.  I found another interesting article (based on the same study and working with the estimation that an average person weighs 150 pounds), that calculated spiders globally eat the bug equivalent of 12,400,000 people per day. PER DAY. That’s a lot of freaking bugs man!

So I maybe wouldn’t mind them so much if they stayed sight unseen and just got on with their spidey business, (yeah, I’m looking at you here Fred). I don’t really want to be up to my armpits in bugs, thanks. But due to the afore mentioned unseasonably warm weather they seem to be confused into thinking its still Autumn, which is the time of year they like to run into the middle of the room and sit there on the rug, glaring at me menacingly. According to my research it’s a kind of mating call. Like a “Heeeeeeey ladies, here I am, look at me, check out my fiiiiiiiine as opisthosoma!” (That would be spider butt to you and me.) I personally see it as more of a “Heeeeeeeey human, I see you. I see your feet on the ground there, I’d move those before I eat them suckers, you looking the right kind of tasty.”  Mr O, in all his wisdom, once tried to make me feel better by telling me although some species of house spider might bite me, its not that painful, just a bit like a wasp sting. I mean c’mon! Wasps are another on my list that instantly motivate me to run from the room screaming “Please dear God, I’m not ready to DIE!” I was stung (painfully I might add), on the foot when I was fourteen or so and had a reaction that caused my ankle to swell to elephant like proportions. Not overly keen to repeat that experience. So thanks for that tidbit. I now have to sleep with one eye open and my hand resting on something large and heavy.

I really should to get back to dealing with the mozzies. Its been four days, and is completely beyond a joke now, so I’ve decided to get a bit more tactical about it about it.

So, if you wish to find me this week I’ll be camped out in the kitchen, in my camo gear with a bazooka strapped to my back, practising my commando rolls. I would avoid the front room if I were you, I haven’t been in there lately but last I looked Fred was looking a bit hungry. I did have a brief thought I could simply let him out to eat the mozzies, shut the kitchen door behind him, kill two birds with one stone… but I’m a bit afraid if I let him out he’ll eat one of the kids.

Futile Expressions I Really Need to Give Up Using, Boys V Girls, Introducing Biggest and Smallest

As parents, we all have ‘those’ expressions. You know the ones. You use them a hundred times a day. You use them so often, that not only does no one listen to them, you aren’t even aware half the time you’re saying them. They are about as useful as a snowsuit in the Sahara Desert. I’m the first to admit most of mine are regurgitated from my own upbringing. They are the lines I most hated hearing as a child. So why am I using them? I’ve no fricking idea. They didn’t really work back then, and they certainly don’t work now. At best, I get a sideways glance (also known as the rooster look… you know, the out the corner of one eye “yeeeesss??” look), before wallpapering the bath with wet toilet paper/running around with no undies on/smearing peanut butter on the window is continued.

Before I go on, I think now is an apt time to introduce the tag team of terror, the fearless subjects of my wasted breath. For the purposes of retaining some sense of anonymity and to avoid creating too much of a digital footprint for my darling boys before they are even old enough to read, let’s call them Biggest and Smallest.

Biggest is 4, and is into superheroes (Spiderman, Batman and Ironman), art, space, Skylanders, Angry Birds, running (usually in the opposite direction of wherever it is he needs to be at that exact moment), being too tired to do as he’s asked, whining, and all round general destruction.

Smallest is 2 in a couple of months (bejesus, how did that happen so fast?), and is into cars, shoes, bouncing, throwing his spoon/bowl/crusts, pulling things out of cupboards, eating things he shouldn’t, flicking switches on and off, and shouting.

They are two little balls of furious energy and tornado like destructive powers from the second their eyes spring open in the morning, until they pass out from sheer exhaustion at night. The Duracell Bunny has nothing on my two.

I think any mother/father to boy/s will agree with me, boys are different to girls. They seem to have an entirely different idea of what constitutes acceptable behaviour. Boys are louder. Boys like to pull things apart, just because they can. Boys aren’t fussed if a previously much treasured toy breaks because it made a really cool noise when it hit the floor after being launched from the top of the stairs. Boys like to get dirty. Really dirty. Not jumping in muddy puddles dirty, more rolling around in muddy puddles, then a pile of dead leaves, then a bit of extra mud for good measure dirty. Boys will do something over and over because although they got in seriously deep sh*t last time, maybe, MAYBE, Mama/Dad will think it’s really really funny this time. Which, in a roundabout kind of a way, brings me to futile expression number one.

1) Do you think that’s funny?

Is that an actual serious question? Of course they think it’s funny. Would they be sat there grinning like a pair of Cheshire cats if they didn’t? And I just *know* when they nod their agreement I’m going to go from mildly irritated to a level of rage not dissimilar to the force of a nuclear explosion in a split second. So why ask?!

2) No

Which according to both my children means ask again, but this time a bit louder and a bit whinier, I didn’t quite hear you properly.

3) Who’s the boss?

Especially reserved for those times a simple ‘no’ is not enough. For example, Biggest has noticed I appear to be in the general vicinity of the cupboard the treats are kept in. Suddenly, he wants… no NEEDS one. Biggest is informed that treats will not be doled out before he’s even had his breakfast. Biggest whines his displeasure. The negative is reiterated. Biggest starts demanding I give him a treat NOW. That would STILL be a no, and please do NOT speak to me like that. Biggest states he said please (he didn’t). Insert above. This question is usually answered by Biggest in a small voice, “You are.” Which of course, I know, and he knows, and I know that he knows that I know this is a lie. I am not the boss. Of the treat cupboard, certainly, while I maintain the height advantage and can put things out of his reach. But generally speaking? They are.
Everything is more or less done on their terms. Example? I announce we need to go to the shop. Suddenly, Biggest, who until approximately five seconds after I finish my sentence has had the stamina of a marathon runner, is too tired. Queue twenty minutes of coaxing him to PLEASE put his shoes on, while I begin the hunt for what the flucking duck Smallest has done with his other sock this time (oh, look, there it is, inside the bass speaker). Then there’s the coat debacle. Their Nana loves nothing more than buying the boys a nice new coat. They have smart coats, casual coats, expensive coats, bargain too-good-to-pass-up-on coats, body warmers, rain coats, snow coats, light summer jackets…. Having all these coats doesn’t bode well for a timely decision and a quick exit from the house. Precious minutes tick by while I agree that yes, that jacket IS a nice colour and yes, I DO think you look very handsome in it, but its freezing out so maybe something a little warmer is in order? I can easily lose another ten minutes in chasing Smallest round the house trying to get him to stand still long enough to get his reins on. He HATES those things, but unfortunately but they are a necessary evil as he isn’t quite at the to-be-trusted-walking-along-a-busy-road-and-not-dashing-into-it-after-spotting-something-shiny-and-interesting-looking stage. It practically takes my sitting on him to get him to hold still long enough to get the blasted things on. Try and get him in the pushchair instead? Two words. NO. CHANCE. Then, of course, he starts smelling a bit whiffy (is it possible he’s a stress pooer?), so everything has to come off again so I can change him by which time Biggest has got bored, discarded his shoes and coat and wandered off and I have to repeat the whole bloody process. By the time we are actually out the door it’s been an hour and a half and nine times out of ten it’s started raining and I have to admit defeat and ring Mr O with my urgent request for milk/bread/coffee.

4) You’re old enough to know better/you should be setting a good example!

Usually directed at Biggest. No, see, he’s four. He is obviously NOT old enough to know better, because he wouldn’t have done it otherwise. This is usually spouted after Smallest has done something naughty and been told off, so Biggest decides to have a go and see if he can get him summa that attention. Or, they’ve teamed up with devastating consequences while Mama has been otherwise detained. Utter tripe, and guess what? As an oldest child myself, and having heard this line countless times throughout my own childhood and hating the fact everyone thought I was responsible for my younger sibling’s behaviour… I’m old enough to know better.

5) STOP SHOUTING!

They’re playing together nicely, Smallest starts shouting his protest over a snatched toy (worse, squealing his protest… oh dear lord the squealing!), Biggest shouts louder, and then I roar this worthless phrase. Its usually swiftly pointed out to me by Biggest that Mama shouldn’t shout either. Well, I’m sorry, but how else am I supposed be heard over the racket comparable to two jet planes breaking the sound barrier in unison? It doesn’t stop them though, even on the off chance they do pause long enough to hear me. The neighbours must hate us.

6) If you will please be quiet for half a second, I am trying to explain.

BA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *gasp* HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! No.

7) Am I talking to a brick wall?

Waste of breath as apparently this particular phrase is one only I can hear. But then, they weren’t listening in the first place.

8) Because Y is a crooked letter and you can’t straighten it.

Actually, this one works quite well (when applied sparingly), to end the incessant stream of why, but why, but why streaming from Biggest’s mouth. It usually confuses him just long enough to implement a distraction plan.

9) Why are you two so quiet?

Because it’s not like I’m NOT on my way to find out. And do I really want to know the answer anyway? This is usually accompanied by a silent prayer to the powers that be that whatever they’ve done this time can it please not be too expensive to fix?

10) How/why did this happen?

It would be much easier to get blood out of a stone than to get to the bottom of whatever it is that has gone down. If I listen to Biggest’s fallback explanation, then its completely Smallest’s fault. It is always Smallest’s fault. What else are little brothers for if not to blame for every accident or misadventure? Best just to get on with clean up and damage limitation.

This possibly gives the impression that my boys are unruly wild nightmares. They’re not, its just they are boys, they are little, and they have their moments. I still wouldn’t trade them for all them for all the tea in China. Now, that one isn’t such a futile expression.