The Day Trip

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‘I’ve booked for us to go to Wisley’ says my husband.

This is our first day trip in nearly a year. I am so excited I immediately jump in the car to buy supplies. In my haste I forget my mask. 

I scrabble around in the boot and find every conceivable combination of clothing. I could even dress up as a birdwatching snowboarder with plastic spiders attached to my knees. 

But there is no face mask.

I consider attaching a nappy to my face, but decide it will look odd and I’m not convinced it’s clean. Instead I find one of Midnight’s wooly hats with little strings at the side. Perfect. I pull the hat over my mouth and tie the string round the back of my head. 

I check myself in the car window. The pom pom is hanging down from my chin but I am pleased with my creativity, and head inside. A member of staff approaches me. 

‘Would you like a mask?’ she asks.

‘Oh.’ I feel myself going red and nod enthusiastically. The bobble nods with me.

‘We have spare masks for people who’…  she regards my hat face ‘…For people who forget…’

I accept the socially normal mask. But I have tied my hat too tightly to my head and I can’t undo the knot so I weave through the aisles with a face mask over my mouth and the bobble hat around my throat. It is a sweaty trip.

At home my husband sighs as he removes the hat from my neck with a snip of the scissors. ‘I just don’t know how you will ever manage to return to the adult world.’

I agree with him.

We tell the children where we are going. ‘It’s like a magical adventure park with a big glass house,’ my husband waves his arms around enthusiastically.

‘Do you mean a garden with a greenhouse?’ asks Milk not even looking up from his complicated lego assembly.

‘Kind of…’ we concede ‘ but it has a shop at the end’.

The children roll their eyes. ‘That sounds boring,’ says Mayhem.

Midnight copies. ‘That’s borin’!’, he shouts. ‘That’s borin’ Mummy.’

I’m surprised at my two-year-old’s attitude, considering the most exciting thing he has done is buy some underpants in a supermarket. 

And then we hit the motorway. 

‘Lorry!! Midnight screeches. ‘Transporter! Lorry again, Mummy! Lorry again, car, car, car, car. ‘Ment Mixer!, Lorry!’

We get an hour long inventory of the vehicles using the M25. 

Unfortunately my husband took the wrong week off work and the great glass house with the man-eating plants and giant lily pads is still closed. We press our noses against the glass, allow the children to terrorise other garden-users for an hour and then buy expensive organic yoghurt lollies from the shop, which the boys quickly realise have no sugar in them.

‘Tastes weird’, says Milk. Mayhem nods and hands his to my husband.

Midnight is inhaling the lolly through the sleeves of his jumper. ‘Cold hands.’ He starts to cry.

At home my husband eases his day-trip disappointment by watching football. 

There is a mixed reaction to this event. Milk slinks off to play Lego. Midnight squeals every time my husband yells at the TV, and Mayhem seeks me out in the kitchen.

‘I hopped all the way from the television to here,’ he says a little out of breath. ‘It was 38 hops.’

‘See if you can hop back,’ I say sipping from a glass of wine while online shopping.

‘Blow your whistle! Blow your whistle! Blow your whistle!’ My husband is incensed. 

‘Blow your whistle Ref!’

‘He can’t hear you, darling,’ I call from the kitchen and buy ten face-masks and a tub of ice-cream.

Lockdown

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It occurred to me, as I let my husband cut my hair, while Milk and Mayhem ran around the kitchen screaming ‘macaroni cheese!’, that I might find lockdown a little bit challenging.

‘It looks quite good actually,’ says my husband putting down the scissors, gingerly.

‘But you’ve only been doing it for five minutes. Most people spend hours at the hairdressers. I haven’t even had a cup of tea.’

I eye the scissors he has been using. He said he couldn’t find the ones we use for the boys’ hair, so he chose the big blue kitchen scissors, which we sometimes use to cut up pizzas or raw chicken.

My husband looks a little afraid as I jump up from my chair to look in the mirror.

My hair looks absolutely fine – if you’re not seeing anyone for 12 weeks – which is lucky because the whole country is only seeing people through computer screens or over the garden fence for the next three months and counting.

‘At least you don’t have to do the school run with it…’ offers my husband sheepishly.

It’s true. The schools have closed, and after the initial shock, everyone is now printing out maths worksheets and ordering glitter glue and pipe cleaners online, in an effort to be home schooling heroes.

It was something we all knew was coming, but we didn’t believe would happen. Like dawn, when you stay up too late with a glass of wine. Dawn always comes too soon.

My first ‘home-schooling’ dawn arrived with Mayhem crawling over my head to drink from my glass of water on my bedside table.

‘Is my hair made of circles or lines? Why is this water a bit warm? How do I make a triangle with my foot?’ he fires the questions at me as if I am on a quiz show against the clock.

I look at the time. It is 5am.

‘The thing is,’ I say to Mayhem, removing him from our bed, ‘the thing is I’m not starting the home school thing yet. Not quite yet.’

‘When are we starting the school at home thing?’ says Milk bounding into the room, dressed in jeans and his school jumper.

‘Where’s daddy?’ I ask, trying to distract them. It works. They seem to think it’s a game of hide-and-seek and rush off shouting, ‘we’re coming to get you daddy. Ready or not!’.

I know they will find my husband downstairs with Midnight, feeding him blueberries and playing cars on the carpet, which has recently also become a picnic mat.

Later I am sitting down at the kitchen table while Milk and Mayhem stare at me in expectation.

‘Are you OK teacher?’ they say.

‘Please,’ I say resting my head on the table. ‘I’m not a teacher.’

‘Are you OK?’ Asks my husband returning from his lockdown run.

‘I’m not sure PE with Joe is meant to be done with a one year old throwing soft toys and fruit at participants,’ I say.

The boys want to play Star Wars in the garden while Midnight sleeps in his buggy, so I write and drink tea. My husband opens the fridge and closes it again.

‘There’s nothing to nibble’ he says grumpily.

‘I guess nibbles don’t count as essentials.’

‘I guess so.’ He says. ‘I’ll ask the neighbours if they can get some chocolate.’

‘You can’t ask people to risk their lives for you to have some chocolate.’ I say.

But my husband can.

We spend the evening gawping at the news in disbelief and eating essential chocolate.

‘Life will never be the same again. Everything has changed.’ says my husband popping another piece of chocolate in his mouth.

The baby wakes up.

‘Not everything,’ I say heading upstairs for a sleepy cuddle.

Bum Talk

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‘Mummy my bum is orange!’ squeals Mayhem from upstairs.

I wonder what he has done. He likes to draw on himself but we haven’t got to that area yet. I hope.

‘Have you done a poo?’ I call back.

I am hopping around the high chair in the kitchen as Midnight throws squashed banana at me.

Milk wanders in. ‘No, he hasn’t done a poo, he is just looking at his bum in the mirror.’

‘Oh good,’ I say.

‘He’s talking about bums all the time,’ sighs Milk.

I nod sympathetically. I am hoping Mayhem’s interest in bums will not be as long lasting as his interest in Captain Jack Sparrow. He manages to shoehorn the infamous pirate of the Caribbean into every conversation he has, no matter who he is talking to, or how tenuous the link.

Now he has started talking about bums, I rather miss the mischievous Jack Sparrow.

‘I’m looking at that lady’s bum bum!’ he shouts when we are out shopping, and runs off, weaving between rails of clothes until he reaches a mannequin wearing a dress.

I find him with his head under the cloth.

‘This lady hasn’t got a bum!’

I look at the mannequin. She hasn’t got a head either but that doesn’t seem to matter.

Midnight wipes banana into his eyes and starts crying.

‘I’m doing a poo now!’ proclaims Mayhem from upstairs. I imagine a whole loo roll being shoved down the toilet.

The front door opens.

‘Daddy’s home!’ screech the boys as if they have been holding their breath for the last 14 hours.

‘I’m wiping my bum and there is treasure in the toilet!’ Mayhem tells his dad.

I wave banana hands at my husband as he goes upstairs to investigate.

I hear him groan. ‘But that’s £1 why have you put £1 down the toilet?’

Mayhem mumbles something about Davy Jones’ Locker and laughs, ‘Look! It’s on my poo!’

I sink to the floor wiping bits of potato and half eaten cucumber into a small soggy pile as Midnight leans over and grabs at my hair with sloppy fingers.

While the bath is running Milk comes in wearing full camouflage.

‘You look great!’ I say. ‘Are you hiding from someone?’

His face crumples. ‘You! I’m hiding from you and you ruined it. THIS IS THE WORST DAY EVER!’

Yes, it is pretty bad,’ I say, noticing a large blob of baby snot on my shoulder.

I explain to Milk that camouflage only works in certain environments and definitely not when standing in front of a fridge spattered with milk and banana.

He nods sullenly and runs into the garden. I know he will be hiding in his den.

After a moment he comes back. ‘Mummy?’

‘Yes?’

‘There’s poo in my den.’

‘Rabbit poo?’ I say hopefully, lifting Midnight out of his highchair.

‘No. It’s quite big.’

Of course it is, I think. ‘Did you touch it?’

Milk shakes his head.

‘Good. Let’s go up for a bath.’

There is a loud grunt from the bathroom.

‘Is everything OK?’

‘No, it is not OK. It’s a Euro,’ says my husband.

‘What?’

‘The toilet treasure wasn’t a £1 coin, it was a Euro.’

‘Worth sticking your hand down the loo then isn’t it, given the value of the pound?’

‘Not quite what I expected as soon as I get in from work,’ my husband huffs.

I hand him the baby and he gives me a look. ‘What are you doing now then?’ he asks.

I smile at him. ‘I was planning on sitting down for 15 minutes with a hot cup of tea, while watching Wimbledon highlights, but actually I’m about to scrape regurgitated food from the kitchen floor, crawl deep into a child’s den to remove a human poo, and then cook us dinner. Do you want to swap?’

‘Bath time boys!’

 

 

 

 

Banana Drama

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“We’ve run out of bananas,” my husband gasps one morning as he makes the porridge.

This is a crisis. It’s like the Ritz running out of tea, or McDonald’s running out of Big Macs.

I suggest we take a family trip to the supermarket. It’s a good way to kill a couple of hours, and we can feed the kids on the way round, throwing bread at them while we argue about whether it is necessary to heat up the oven before putting food in it.

We swing into a Parent and Child space and start unpacking the kids.

I bend over, struggling to get Mayhem out because his jumper has caught on a stick, which Milk has wedged between the car seats.

“That’s my sticky bridge!” Milk yells as I yank at Mayhem. “Don’t break my sticky bridge!”

“It’s fine I won’t break it,” I say, just as the stick snaps, and Mayhem tumbles out of the car.

Milk is inconsolable. “Mummy said my sticky bridge wouldn’t break, but it did break,” he wails as my husband picks him up to go and find a trolley.

While Mayhem and I wait by the car, a black BMW roars into the space next to us, and a man gets out and walks briskly towards the shop.

He doesn’t have any kids.

“Hey that space is for people with kids!” I call after him.

He half turns, shrugs and continues.

I am not having it. I wave my arms frantically at my husband, who is spinning Milk around in the trolley, shouting “Bananas! Bananas!”

I yell across the car park. “He doesn’t have kids!”

My husband is momentarily confused but stops shouting about bananas and spins Milk once more to block the man’s path.

I can see him saying something to the man, and then I can see the man saying something to my husband. Then the man side steps my husband and continues on his way to the shop.

“Dickhead!” My husband shouts after him.

I beckon him over.

“He said he wouldn’t park in a Disabled space, but it’s our choice to have kids and he doesn’t believe in Parent and Child spaces.”

“What does he mean he doesn’t believe in them? They exist.”

“What’s a Dickhead mummy?” says Milk.

I wink at my husband. “It’s that man’s name,” I say.

I rummage around in the nappy bag and after poking my fingers into a few bits of old food and a dirty nappy, I pull out a small pot of cream. It’s the thick white, waterproof, barrier cream we smother over Mayhem’s bum, to stop it getting sore when we forget to change his nappy for an entire day.

My husband’s eyes widen and he nods in understanding.

“Get back in the car boys, we need a quick getaway.”

We stuff the children back into their car seats, and I hurriedly write Dickhead across the BMW windows.

A lady washing cars watches me silently with a smile; her sponge dripping bubbles on her shoes.

“He’s coming!” my husband almost squeals, and I have a second to admire my work before jumping into my seat.

“Go! Go!” I shout.

We try to reverse, but there is an old lady standing behind us having trouble with her trolley wheel.

“He’s coming! He’s coming!” scream Milk and Mayhem, kicking their feet in glee.

I can see the man making his way through the car park. He has a bunch of flowers in his hand.

“He’s probably going to see his mum or a poorly friend. He’s probably quite a nice man.” I say, instantly regretting what I have done.

“He was not a nice man,” my husband says quietly as he looks in the rear-view mirror, and I can see him considering whether to reverse over the old lady.

“What if you left your finger prints on the car?” my husband whispers.

“I used the sticky bridge,” I say proudly.

We start reversing just as the man approaches his car. His face changes from smug BMW driver, to shocked smug BMW driver.

We swing out of our space like a getaway car in a movie, except we are driving a Volvo with two kids in the back, and my husband has to let the old lady with the wonky shopping trolley cross in front of us, before we can move forward.

BMW man looks round furiously for a culprit, but he can’t work out who to blame so he hits his car with the flowers.

We all shout “Bananas! Bananas!” as we speed away.

 

 

 

 

 

Shop ’til you drop

“There’s a hole in your bum,” my husband says loudly as we traipse around a National Trust garden in the rain.

I realise this is not the beginning of a biology lesson when he pokes the tip of his umbrella at my jeans.

“You need to go shopping.”

I shudder. I never go shopping. I order things online, wait for the package, try it all on, hate it all, and send it all back. I spend my life taping up plastic bags and filling out returns forms, ticking the “Not what I expected” box.

I’m not surprised my jeans have disintegrated. I have been crawling around pretending to be a horse for weeks, and they are so baggy the knees stick out when I stand up.

“Take the kids in half term,” suggests my husband, as we eat our squashed packed lunch on a damp bench. “It’ll be fun,” he adds gingerly.

“I’m not sure it will be fun,” I say as I watch Milk and Mayhem terrorising some ducks, “but there will be fewer queues, and I will spend less money than going to Legoland.”

I wait for half term and drive the boys into town. It’s a short journey but I still have to chuck rice cakes behind me to stop them complaining of starvation. In the clothes shop Milk and Mayhem discover if they hide in the middle of a rail of coats they can surprise each other (and innocent shoppers) by sticking their heads out and screaming. I persuade them to run around a table of neatly stacked jeans instead, while I grab at different styles and sizes. Everyone is relieved when we head to the fitting room.

The children watch me as I undress. “Mine,” says Mayhem pointing at my chest.

“Not anymore,” I grimace as I pull on a T-shirt. I get the first pair of jeans over my knees but have to do a wiggling motion to get them up my thighs, so I take them off and drop them in the ‘no’ pile.

“Have you finished now?” Milk asks, his finger up his nose.

“No.” I am red faced and sweating as I pick up the next pair.

These jeans do fit, if I tuck in a bit of fat.

Milk rolls his eyes. “This isn’t fun Mummy.”

I agree with him but Mayhem seems to be enjoying himself. He has climbed onto the bench and is shouting “Yellow! Yellow!” at the mirror, while rubbing snot across the glass.

“Nearly done,” I say taking off the jeans and putting them in the ‘yes will fit when I’ve been a horse for a few days’ pile.

I hear a grunt and notice Mayhem is disappearing backwards under the door. I grab his wrists at the last second.

“No Mummy,” he screams. “Walk! Walk!”

“Stay with Mummy,” I plead, lying on the floor to see if there is anyone more responsible than me on the other side.

“Can we go now?,” says Milk pushing the door.

“No!” I yelp, but I am holding Mayhem so tightly I am caught on all fours in my underwear as the door swings open.

“Shut the door!” I screech and push Mayhem’s head down so he won’t be decapitated when I drag him back into the cubicle.

I make it home to find my husband is back from work early.

“So, did you have fun?” he asks swinging the boys over his shoulders.

“Mummy did,” says Milk reaching for his sword.

I slump into the sofa and close my eyes. “Exactly what I expected.”