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!’