Oh Crumbs!

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Storm Dennis is coming and my husband calls from work to check we are OK.

‘Any news?’ He asks as if I work for the Met Office.

‘It’s raining.’ I say.

‘That’s not news.’

‘Actually, there is news.’ I say picking porridge out of Midnight’s hair as he wipes his nose on my knee.

‘Go on.’

‘We have a mouse living in our car.’


‘A mouse!’ squeals Mayhem. ‘Milk we have a mouse living in our car!’

My husband lowers his voice. ‘What are you talking about? Have you seen it? How do you know?’

I explain that I found mouse poo in Midnight’s car seat.

‘That is disgusting! I can’t believe it!’

‘It’s quite common apparently.’ I say defensively.

My husband laughs but it’s the sort of wild laugh the baddie does in the movie before they push the red button.

I don’t know why he is so shocked. He has been an integral and enthusiastic guest at our ‘car picnics’. Long ago we realised eating in the car before or after a walk is better than spending £60 on a pub lunch while chasing small children round the table.

I try and diffuse the situation. ‘I’ll clean it out. No more car picnics.’ I tell the boys who look like I’ve told them they won’t eat again.

My husband is placated but the next morning he picks up the car keys.

‘Are you checking on my cleaning?’

‘We need loo roll,’ my husband says.

‘But there’s a storm!’ I say dramatically.

‘I know but we need loo roll. I don’t know how we can run out of loo roll.’

I stare at him as he pulls on his coat, and I’m a little surprised his head hasn’t caught fire with my laser-eye beam burning into his skull.

‘What?’ he looks up a little unnerved.

‘You don’t know how we can run out of loo roll?’

‘I do!’ Shouts Milk from the bathroom. ‘Because Mayhem wees on the floor and we put all the toilet roll on top of it.’

‘And…’ I call back.

‘Because Milk uses it as a blanket for his dog.’ shouts Mayhem.

‘And…’ I start but my husband waves his hands in the air. ‘OK I get it. So, no one uses it to wipe their bum?’

‘Bum!’ Screeches Mayhem. ‘Daddy said BUM!’

‘Well I use it for that.’ I say sheepishly ‘Don’t you?’

‘Of course. That’s why I’m going to get toilet roll.’

Midnight is pulling at my leg. ‘Eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh.’

Midnight spends his days wandering from room to room, looking for cars or biscuits and climbing into the Tupperware cupboard. When he has exhausted these means of entertainment he says ‘eh eh eh eh eh’ until someone gives in and picks him up.

‘Do you want to take the baby?’ I say trying to hand him over to my husband.

‘I’m not taking a baby out in a storm just because you don’t want to play cars.’

I have to agree it is a little extreme.

When he returns with the toilet roll, he says ‘I didn’t see any mouse poo.’

‘Maybe it’s gone.’ I say relieved that picking up bits of old sandwich and a black ball that was once a tangerine was successful.

‘The car mouse has gone!’ Says my husband happily.

Milk starts crying. ‘But I loved the car mouse. I want another car mouse.’

Mayhem joins in. ‘I love the car mouse too. I want the car mouse.’

Midnight senses the mood and throws himself on the floor rolling his head from side-to-side leaving bits of biscuit and slimy snot trails on the carpet.

‘It’s OK. It will come back,’ says my husband tramping upstairs to the loo.

He’s right. It will be back.

As sure as the rain falls, so the crumbs collect, wherever we go.

Holiday Horrors

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I have tonsillitis. I know this because I have Sylvester Stallone’s neck and because we are going on holiday in three days.

The doctor is sympathetic but questions my sanity.

‘A caravan, with three children, in October?’

‘In France,’ I add, to spice it up a bit.

‘Ah. Wine.’ Says the doctor smiling.

We chose to go to Normandy on our first trip abroad with three children because it is only three hours’ drive from Calais.

‘It’s not three hours though is it,’ I say to my husband as we all clamber out of the car for the fourth time.

Midnight has been screaming and we discover a large poo has spread up his back and onto the car seat. When Milk did this as a baby we would laugh and say ‘ooh he’s done a poonami’ but now we grunt ‘he’s done a massive one, it’s your turn.’

We spend most of the day exploring French motorway service stations and throwing money into the Toll Road machines and arrive at the campsite ten hours after leaving our house.

We have stayed in similar places before. In the summer.

The boys don’t seem to notice the driving rain. ‘Oh, I love this place!’ says Milk jumping out of the car. ‘Can I go on my bike, can we go swimming, can I have an ice-cream?’

‘Let’s just play in the caravan while we unpack’, says my husband opening a crate of beer.

We booked a three-bed caravan as a treat but soon realise the third bedroom is made out of all the available turning, walking and breathing space.

We spend an hour moving our bags around in a circle while the boys jump on the beds and Midnight pushes toy cars down the back of the electric heaters.

‘Time for some French food!’ My husband declares and we head to the campsite restaurant, which serves pizza in front of a stage covered in pumpkins.

‘I fancied Moules Frites,’ I sigh.

‘One day,’ my husband smiles.

‘Maybe if we tire them out tonight, they will sleep in tomorrow…’ I say hopefully.

We look at our children. Milk is crawling around with Midnight, helping him take the lids off some pumpkins, while Mayhem is tearing up and down shouting and shaking his head from side to side.

‘I actually think that could happen,’ my husband says sipping at his beer.

But Milk is at my side. ‘Mayhem’s being sick,’ he points.

Mayhem is now retching into a pumpkin on the corner of the stage.

I race over and take off his jumper to cool him down and use it to clear up the vomit.

‘You need to calm down. You’ve made yourself sick.’

He nods and wipes his nose and then runs off yelling ‘Arghhh I’m a Halloween pirate! I’m a skeleton pirate arghhh!’

Meanwhile my husband has won a cocktail for catching a ping pong ball in a pint glass.

‘We should play this at home!’ he says happily.

The boys go to sleep seconds after we put them to bed so we think it’s a good idea to drink two bottles of wine.

We were wrong, mainly because it is never a good idea to drink when you have tonsillitis and children, and also because we didn’t take into account the clocks changing.

Midnight rises at 3.30am.

‘It’s ridiculous why is he even awake?’ my husband groans.

‘He’s a baby! He doesn’t know he’s in France.’ I pour our third cup of tea.

‘He should do – he’s eaten four croissants and a block of Brie for breakfast.’

‘Bonjooooor! Bon appeteeeeet!’ Milk and Mayhem appear rubbing their eyes.

‘Are we still in France? Asks Milk looking out of the window at the pitch-black night.

‘Yes, we are.’

‘Are we still on holiday?’ Asks Mayhem.

‘Apparently,’ says my husband. ‘For another five days!’ he adds winking at me as he fills up the kettle for the fourth time.





The Sex Pets

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‘We don’t have a pet mummy. Why can’t we have a pet?’ Milk moans on the way to school.

I roll my eyes. ‘Yes, we do have a pet. We have two pets. THE RABBITS.’

My eldest son looks confused but then his face relaxes. ‘Oh. The rabbits.’

‘Yes, you know the animals at the bottom of the garden? The ones Daddy feeds, cleans out and takes to the vet. Those are your pets.’

‘I don’t like that grey one.’ Says Mayhem picking his nose. ‘That grey one scratches the white one.’

‘They do have names you know.’ I say a little crossly.

We’ve looked after Barry White and Mrs Grey for four years.

‘I wish we had a dog,’ says Milk.

I ignore Milk because he says this around 47 times a week.

‘Actually.’ I say, a little too brightly, ‘Daddy is taking the grey one to the vet for an operation. Hopefully that will stop her hurting the white one.’

Mrs Grey has not been spayed and keeps trying to hump Barry White, which is confusing for Barry White, because he had the chop a while ago and has no idea what Mrs Grey is doing.

Mrs Grey mounts him and claws at him in her futile passion, pulling the hair from his back. He looks like a zombie rabbit.

My husband takes the sex maniac to the vet, and when the boys return from school, he sits them down for a chat.

‘Operations on pets are sometimes too much for them, so Mrs Grey might not come back.’

‘You mean she might die?’ asks Milk, his eyes widening with interest.

‘Well yes, I suppose she might,’ my husband says carefully.

‘Will we be sad if the grey one dies?’ ponders Mayhem biting the head off his ginger bread man.

‘Errr, we might be’, says my husband.

‘Then can we get a dog?’ asks Milk.

‘No’ my husband and I say in unison.

We actually agree on something. We do not want a dog. Yet.

I can not imagine any scenario where I would want a dog while still looking after small children. Adding an animal to the school run, as well as having to stop to pick poo, is unthinkable.

‘One day, when we have more time, and money, we might get a dog.’ I say quietly.

‘So, we are getting a dog?’ Milk smiles positively.

I’m not even sure why Milk wants a dog anyway. He is terrified of them. He practically jumps into the road every time he sees one coming down the path.

Some mad old woman once told me that if we got a dog it would solve the ‘whole being scared of dogs thing…’ as her mutt tried to eat my flip flops (with my feet still in them) and the boys hid behind my skirt.

I mean that’s like telling an arachnophobe to “just embrace all the spiders”– although to be fair on spiders, they are free and don’t poo on the pavement.

The phone rings and my husband answers. It’s the vet.

He goes very quiet and lowers his voice. ‘Oh, OK. Yes, I see. OK. OK. Mmm.’ He puts down the phone.

‘Is everything OK?’ I ask.

‘Not really.’

‘Oh God, is Mrs Grey dead?’


I try to think what might be worse than Mrs Grey being dead. Lots of things actually, but I don’t have time to consider them before my husband drops the bomb.

‘The rabbit is fine but the bill is £137.’

‘What?’ I sit down.

‘Yes. Exactly.’

‘We might as well get a dog,’ I whisper angrily. ‘

Mayhem goes to collect Mrs Grey with my husband, and Milk, Midnight and I wait on the doorstep for the most expensive bunny in the village to return.

We hear them coming up the path.

‘Daddy!’ Mayhem is chatting away. ‘Daddy I can’t believe I am carrying a NOT dead rabbit in a box!’

‘No, I can’t believe it either,’ says my husband grimacing as they appear at the gate.


Back to School

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‘Am I going to preschool today?’ Asks Mayhem suspiciously as I sort through Milk’s uniform two days before term starts.

‘No. No one is going to school today.’

‘So, I’m not going to preschool ever, ever again?’

‘Errr. Yes, you are.’ I say shaking out Milk’s jumpers in the hope they will look new.

‘Awww this is the worst day EVER!’ cries Mayhem throwing himself on the sofa in a huff.

It is definitely not the worst day ever. I know because I have lived through several of those during this holiday.

My husband and I have somehow managed to survive six weeks with three boys on an average of four hours sleep a night.

Even the rabbits get more sleep than us, and they don’t have to make their own breakfast.

We have stumbled through most days in a blur of coffee and cake.

I never drank coffee before this holiday. I wonder what I will be shoving down my neck by Christmas.

As far as I’m concerned, the summer holidays are an opportunity to create a world away from school. A world of little structure, no time pressure, no rules. Just fun.

And this involves becoming sloths.

‘Are any of you going to get dressed?’ my husband says one day on his return from work.

‘Not really worth it now is it? Only two hours until bedtime.’ I reply throwing popcorn into my mouth as the boys scramble for the pieces I drop.

Milk and Mayhem have stopped using the toilet, and taken to throwing open the front door and peeing off the doorstep.

‘Not on my tomato plants!’ my husband calls from the bedroom as Milk aims with glee.

A lasting memory is a naked Mayhem racing towards me on a packed Suffolk beach screaming, ‘I need a wee! I need a wee! I need a wee!’ before relieving himself in the breakwater as toddlers and their paddling parents looked on in dismay.

I also discovered the sweet spot of child care.

As long as you don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, acting normal, looking after three small children isn’t too bad.

However, in my effort to avoid leaving the house and the £100 ‘big days out’, we have pretty much destroyed our home.

Midnight has worked out how to open all the cupboards and particularly enjoys his Tupperware parties, and Milk and Mayhem have brought most of the garden inside.

I also wonder how we are going to wean the boys off ice cream – my husband’s holiday mantra is ‘it’s ice-cream time every time the sun comes out’, which this summer, it really did. A lot.

As September arrives the school run looms.

I don’t like the person I become on the school run.

I am the crazed woman marching along in porridge-stained baggy trousers, wild hair scraped into a bun, still trying to swallow a piece of dry toast I managed to shove in my mouth before we left the house.

I am the frantic one pushing the buggy too fast for my children to keep up, barking orders back and forth answering the same questions over and over again.

‘Come on we’ll be late; do you want to be late? Don’t run in front of that driveway. Did you even look? Milk leave that stick behind. Stop running! Walk faster. Slow down! No, we can’t pick blackberries now. I don’t know why that old man has no hair. Watch out for that dog poo! I don’t know, probably because the owner doesn’t want to pick up poo. That’s why I don’t want a dog. You want a dog? But you’re scared of dogs….’

As we get ready for bed the night before school, I ask the boys what the best part of their holiday was.

‘Playing,’ says Milk.

‘Ice cream,’ says Mayhem.

I think my best parts were probably the smallest things too.

Hold them close, they are going back to their other world now.

Happy Holiday!

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‘They know! They know!’ I mutter loudly as I stomp about the house with a handful of tooth brushes and a nit comb.

‘Shhhh! You’ll wake the kids!’ my husband says grabbing another bag from the pile in the hall.

‘That’s my aim,’ I grumble.

We are loading the car for our holiday. It is 6.45am and we are leaving in 15 minutes. All the boys are asleep.

My husband checks his watch. ‘How can they still be asleep? They never sleep past 5.30am. How is this happening?’

I shrug. ‘I told you. They know.’

Since having children, it would be a lie to call any of our holidays, holidays.

We tread the hopeful path of high expectations and excitement, but always slip into the ditch of irritability and disappointment.

And the whole thing has got increasingly worse with each child.

When we had Milk we went skiing, popped to see friends in Paris, flew to a remote mountain lodge in Switzerland, zipped over to Greece, and did the endless A39 drive to Cornwall.

Mayhem has never been on an aeroplane.

Midnight will be lucky if he gets out of the village.

But we think we have found the solution.

The Isle of Wight.

It’s sunny, full of dinosaur fossils, beaches and pirates. And you get to go on a boat, even if you only have time to get out of your car and stand watching your children pick up germs for 20 minutes in the soft-play, before getting off again.

On the way my throat feels tingly and I find it hard to talk.

‘Are we on Dinosaur Island yet?’ Milk says as we sit in traffic just outside Portsmouth.

‘No, we have to go on a boat to get there.’

‘Like a pirate ship?’ Asks Mayhem hopefully.

‘Yep.’ I say distracted by the swollen lumps on the side of my neck.

‘A real pirate ship?’ asks Milk seriously.

‘No. Not a real one.’

‘But you said we were going on a pirate ship!’ wails Mayhem.

‘I know I did, I don’t know why I said that.’

‘You are the worst mummy EVER!’ shouts Mayhem kicking the back of my seat.

On the boat we look at jelly fish bobbing in the wake.

‘What happens if there are cannon balls on the island and they eat us?’ Asks Milk.

‘I don’t understand what you are saying,’ I croak. ‘I have a sore throat.’

‘You know! Cannon balls – what eat people.’

‘Cannibals!’ I laugh and regret it instantly as I feel hot knives spearing the back of my mouth.

We unpack while Milk and Mayhem race around the garden waving pirate flags, and chanting, ‘beach, beach, beach!’

Midnight watches them, popping gravel into his mouth, like a kid eating popcorn at the cinema.

‘Take me to the hospital on the way please,’ I moan.

‘Happy holiday!’ My husband calls as he drops me off at the NHS walk-in centre.

The most vulnerable patients are seen first, so I spend two hours glaring at every snotty child and hobbling old person who steps into the waiting room. At last I hear my name.

‘Tonsillitis’ says the doctor as soon as I open my mouth. ‘Seven days of antibiotics for you. How long is your holiday?’

‘Six and a half days,’ I swallow.

‘Bad luck. You’ll just have to come back.’

My husband picks me up outside. They have been to Cowes to look at the boats and have somehow managed to spend £9 on three muffins.

“£9?!’ I manage to raise my voice.

‘I know I couldn’t believe it, but I had to buy them because Mayhem licked the tops while we were in the queue.’

I look at Mayhem. He is wriggling around in his car seat, trying to itch his bottom.

Two days later we make it to the beach and I spend my time crawling around in the sand trying to stop Midnight from eating seaweed, while Milk and Mayhem take it in turns to destroy each other’s sandcastles.

My husband strokes my back as I get up. ‘Are you having a happy holiday now?’

‘It’s not a holiday is it – not for me,’ I grumble. ‘I do this all the time.’

‘Well it’s not a holiday for me either,’ huffs my husband. ‘Because I’m just doing what you do, instead of what I do.’

‘Yeah but at least you are doing something different. They say “a change is as good as a rest.” I’m just doing exactly the same thing, with the same children, but in a different place, without all the things which make it easy.’

‘Except I’m here too. I’m here helping you.’ My husband says looking a little hurt.

‘Yes. Yes, you are.’ I agree and we cling to each other in sandy solidarity.

That evening we sit down for dinner.

‘The boys are exhausted’ says my husband offering me a glass of red wine. ‘They should sleep through…’

He is interrupted by Mayhem screaming ‘My bum! My bum!’

‘Shhhhh don’t wake the baby!’ I hiss.

‘My bum arghhhh, my bum!’ screams Mayhem running around the kitchen until my husband catches him.

‘His bum really hurts.’ My husband says after taking Mayhem to the toilet. ‘It’s really sore.’

I reluctantly put down my glass of wine and lie Mayhem on our bed. He is sobbing uncontrollably and grabbing at his bum.

I hand my husband a small torch.

‘What is this?’ He says suspiciously.

‘Look up his bum.’ I whisper, not wanting Mayhem to hear me.


‘Quickly! Look up his bum!’

He does, and I watch his frown turn to deep repulsion.

‘Did you see a worm?’ I whisper.

My husband nods, grimacing.

I want to hit my head against the wall but I need to take my next antibiotic. I wash it down with the wine.

‘See. They know. Even the worms know.’

Happy Holiday!




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