Thursday, 28 July 2011

Things To Fight About

The summer holidays have finally dawned their long awaited, but soon to be hated, heads. Three tired boys who desperately needed to some off have argued and fought their way through this first week so far. Crazily, I have created a rule about screen time (which can change at my discretion) although when I explained this rule to Toby he declared that I had "ruined his holidays". Wow. I didn't realise that the enjoyment of holidays entirely depended on the amount of screen time, but it clearly does to a 9 year old.

Here is a list of things that have been fought about so far in our house this week. I am more than certain it will be added to throughout the holidays.

Having a door open
Having a door closed
Sitting in a certain spot on the sofa
Stealing a toy snake
Whipping with a toy snake
Cleaning teeth first (after no-one actually wanted to clean them)
Kicking a football over the fence
Using a whistle (I am so grateful to my friend, you know who you are, for providing this whistle in a party bag.)
Calling each other rude names
1 boy being left out of a game while the other 2 are apparently best of friends (for 5 minutes.)
A smaller boy invading the biggest boy's 'private space'
Which televison channel to watch
Which wii game to play
Who is going to have the controlling wii-mote

Sound familiar?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

This Letting Go Business

When our boys were babies, we dedicated them to God. Although this might mean different things to different parents, in my mind I was giving them to God, for Him to do with as He chose. Whilst I took it seriously and was careful to make sure I meant what I was promising, I didn't find it especially emotional. Actually, I thought I had this 'letting go' business all wrapped up. Little did I know....

Almost 10 years on, having spent all that time wiping noses, playing tickle monster, reading stories, making penguins out of play dough and carrying a pack of baby wipes in my bag wherever I go, I have built a relationship with my boys which is deep rooted, precious and painful all at the same time. The 'letting go' business has changed somewhat.

Tomorrow, my biggest boy leaves his First School and prepares himself for Middle School. Walking to school without me, making friends with people I don't know, meeting unknown teachers and beginning his long journey into young manhood. At the same time, my littlest boy leaves his playgroup of 2 years to begin the nursery at school. This marks the end of an era for me, and the beginning of another one. As I prepare for tomorrow's events I reflect back, look ahead, and wonder. Have I done enough for Toby? Did I do all I was supposed to do before he reached the 'all knowing' age of 10? What will the next few years bring? How will he develop?

As I watch their sleeping faces tonight, I feel that pull on me to hold on to this moment. Why must Jonah's lovely little feet turn into smelly teenage boy feet? Why must Max one day sleep in a normal bed instead of in a sleeping bag on the floor under his desk? Will Toby's sleeping face one day not look like his baby sleeping face? Will Jonah one day not snuggle up to little doggie? I want to bottle the moment and keep it forever.

One day, my house will be clean. There will not be sticks, marbles, bouncy balls and odd pieces of lego littering the floor. I will not have a toilet that smells of wee. I will not find telltale crumbs on the kitchen worktop where someone has had a sneaky snack. I will not have to have my ears blasted by the tv when I turn it on because the last person had the volume so loud. I will not have a pile of muddy wellies by the front door. It will be quiet. I will only have 2 meals to cook. My washing basket will not be overflowing.

This letting go business has to happen piece by piece, moment by moment and stage by stage. I am about to begin another stage. They don't tell you in antenatal classes about the pain of letting your children go. There is no pain relief offered. It is just another part of motherhood.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Toothpaste Massacre

Mr Nobody strikes again.

Somehow, the toothpaste has been liberally smeared all over the bathroom floor, walls, the bath, the sink and the toilet. Apart from the waste of toothpaste (which I have to admit, does REALLY annoy me), it takes alot of clearing up.

Jared called together all the suspects and pointed to the crime scene.

"Who smeared this toothpaste everywhere?"

Looking at him with their most innocent faces, all three denied any knowledge. Toby was quickly eliminated from the enquiries - he is the most sensible and had not been anywhere near the scene so far that morning.

Max was the one who had discovered the incident. He was the one who alerted us to it's presence (which he certainly would not have done if he was the culprit). He was also eliminated.

So, Jonah was the last available suspect.

"Who put this toothpaste everywhere?", Jared asked him.

"I thought it was Max, but it wasn't." Jonah replied, in a quiet voice. He knew he'd been rumbled, but it's always best to try and see if you can get someone else into trouble at the same time - especially if they are your big brother.

"Who was it?"

In a desperate attempt to say the right thing without getting into trouble, he used the old favourite, "I think it was me, but it was on accident."

On accident? How can you accidently squeeze the toothpaste all over the bathroom and up the walls? How can you climb into the bath and coat it in toothpaste, by accident?!

Poor Jonah doesn't even realise we can see through his tricks. He was given a cloth and had to clean up the crime scene. I am, unsurprisingly, off to buy more toothpaste today.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Cake Baking Revelations

I had a small revelation the other day whilst attempting to bake some cakes instead of buying them.

Carefully arranging the boys in front of the television, I snuck out of the lounge and into the kitchen in the desperate hope that they would not follow me and want to help. Unfortunately, Jonah's ever watchful eyes did follow me and he was soon behind me carrying the little stool (This stool is the bain of my life. Why on earth would you want to buy a toddler a stool to help them reach the very things you don't want them to reach?). He placed it squarely in MY space in the corner of the kitchen, climbed onto it and asked "Can I help?"

At this, my shoulders sagged and a deep sigh escaped. I really wanted to make the cakes quickly. I did not want to have to spend extravagant amounts of time and patience explaining anything or cleaning up the scattered flour afterwards. It certainly was a dilemma.

"You can't help me because I want to do it really quickly, but you can watch", I replied. Much to my relief, he seemed to accept this and settled himself on his stool ready to watch the action. I collected together all the ingredients, the mixing bowl and the electric whisk and got started.

Then, the chatter began.

"Those eggs look like bird's eggs." I couldn't believe it. All I wanted was to make the cakes, not turn it into some educational moment and here he was, trying his hardest to coax me into being educational. I refused to be drawn in.
In my most non committal voice, I answered "That's because they are."
He persevered. "Well, where are they from then?"
I persevered too. "Tescos"
He tried a different tack. "How many eggs are there? Let's count them."
I couldn't even bring myself to acknowledge the counting ability. "There are 3."
"Is that flour?"
"Where is the flour from?"
"Where is the sugar from?"
"Where is the butter from?"
"Oooh, chocolate powder! Where is that from?"

Poor, poor Jonah. No long chats about chickens laying eggs. No explanations about wheat and flour. No disucssions about butter coming from milk which comes from cows. It was the perfect opportunity for teaching but I just wanted to make the cakes as quickly as I could. I was not in the mood to be drawn into any discussion. In my perceived kindness, I had agreed to him watching me, but talking about it was not part of the contract.

This, and this only, is the reason why I am not able to home school my boys. Sometimes we have wonderful moments that are full of questions, answers, investigations, fun and excitement. My revelation, however, was that these moments only come when I allow them to and when I am in the mood for them. Sometimes, I am not in the mood. Sometimes, cakes just have to be baked without thinking.

Monday, 11 July 2011

How (not) to prepare for Home Visits

I have had a bit of a history with home visits from the school. It's always a good idea when you sign up for it. How great for the teachers to meet the child in their own home. How special it is for the child to have their teacher actually come to their house!

Signing up for it the first time round, I had Toby aged 3 and Max aged 1. When the day finally arrived for the teachers to cross over our threshold, we had been up for most of the night with our non-sleeping boys and the morning had not a pleasant one. I had totally forgotten they were coming and, when the doorbell rang at exactly 9am, none of us were dressed or had even cleaned our teeth! Morning breath, I decided in that split second, was even worse than wearing pyjamas in front of teachers so I dashed upstairs and cleaned my teeth before racing back down the stairs to answer the door with a sparkly smile. Needless to say, the house was not spotless and nor were the children. I apologised for our attire (or lack of it) and attempted to prove to them that I was not a slummy mummy. At least I knew I had clean teeth.

Second time around was in a new area, a new house and we had a new baby. Having only moved into our new house 4 weeks previously and with a 1 week old baby (baby Jonah), I was keen to make the transition to nursery an easy one for Max. The teachers arrived and settled themselves into our bare lounge (the boxes were yet to be unpacked - we'd been too busy having a baby). Out came the book all about the nursery for Max to chat about with the teachers. However, chat he did not. In fact, our chatterbox son had turned mute. The teacher tried question after question, but he would not talk. He didn't say hello when they arrived, or goodbye when they left. He did not say one word the whole time they were at our house. We had never ever heard him so quiet. I was sure that on their way back down the drive the teachers were making a mental profile of Max as a quiet, reserved, bordering on rude child...... I am equally sure that he totally shattered that image on his first day at nursery (except the rude bit).

So, would I actually be able to get it right today on our third time around? The allotted time was 9am. The adrenaline pumped through my body as I not only got the boys ready for school but also managed to hang out the washing, dust and hoover the downstairs of the house, hide the inappropriate toys (guns, dvd's) and casually display the appropriate ones (jigsaw puzzles, books), make sure that the house did not smell when they walked in (this is a little concern of mine) and ensure that Jonah was clean and ready for action. I even managed to get dressed and clean my teeth! When they arrived and walked into the lounge (with their shoes, on my newly hoovered floor), I don't think they even noticed the effort I had gone to. Did they notice the Outdoors Activities book I had casually placed on the arm of the chair? I don't think so. Did they see the way I had plumped up the cushions on the sofa (not normally done because the boys spend so much time upside down on the sofa that there is no point plumping up cushions)? I expect not. However, my little star boy managed to chat away the whole time to them, charming them with his smile and a little wrinkle of his nose. He certainly knows how to win people over. He could even write a new 21st century version of 'How to win friends and influence people'. Making me glow inside, he told them all about our vegetable patch (no slummy mummies here, thank you very much!). Third and final time around, I think our home visit was a success.

Now... he just has to continue to be charming for a whole year at nursery.... Hmmmm....

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Morning Humdrums

Does anyone else out there have mornings like mine? Sometimes I think I may as well just play a tape of myself saying the same things over and over again each morning.

It all began with Max, who is sensitive in the mornings anyway, crying because Jonah had screamed in his ear to wake him up. A good start, I thought to myself. He then slowly hauled himself out of bed and wanted me to dress him (at 7 years old?!).

Over breakfast, I tried to talk to them about the arguing that seems to be a constant at the moment. I gave up on the serious talk when I realised I was talking to myself. I then said "Eat your breakfast, Max" about 20 times before he actually remembered he was eating his breakfast and not making up silly songs with Jonah.

After breakfast, Toby went straight upstairs to clean his teeth and brush his hair. Or he would have gone straight upstairs if he hadn't been distracted on the way there by playing mario cart on the wii. This created an argument while Jonah proceeded to press the power button on the wii while Toby was trying to play his game, much to Toby's great distress. "If you had gone straight upstairs like I told you to, then this wouldn't have happened....", I lectured him, rather smugly it has to be said.

In between all this, Jonah had found 3 ping pong balls, which they all then decided they wanted. After a great deal of crying and fighting over whose ping pong ball was whose, I confiscated them. Now, when I envisaged having children all those years ago, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would have to confiscate ping pong balls. However, it seems it is possible to argue over anything. Even ping pong balls.

As we were leaving to go to school, Jonah asked if he could push his little pushchair. Knowing what this would mean, I told him that he could but that I wouldn't be carrying it for him when he gave up with it halfway there. "I won't!", he promised me. He carefully put in Little Doggie and George the pretend kitten (which is Max's) to push to school. Just as we'd got out of the door, Max decides he doesn't want Jonah to take George in case he gets lost. After a long and complicated negotiation, Max was able to let Jonah push George but if George gets lost, Jonah will buy him a new one (I, of course, kept my eye on George to make sure this wouldn't happen). As we rounded the corner from our house, Jonah sat down on the pavement and sighed a deep sigh. "I can't push it anymore", he moaned. Oh, how right mothers can be! Somehow I coaxed him to push it all the way down the road so that he could hide it behind a tree and collect it on the way home again. Unfortunately, it was still there.

When we arrived home, Jonah (who was going to playgroup in ten minutes time) asked to do painting. I said no. He then asked for food, to which I also said no. He then asked for a drink, which I made him but apparently did not put enough blackcurrant in so he refused to drink it. He then asked me for more food. I repeated myself again and said no. After all this, it was time for playgroup.

I made the mistake of mentioning that it might rain later. He decided he wanted to take his umbrella. Now, if I had a sweet little child who did not have any imagination, I would not mind him taking his umbrella. However, I do not. An umbrella can be transformed into all kinds of evil weaponry which can maim innocent bystanders. So, the umbrella request was also turned down. Of course, this meant that he had to sit on the floor for a few minutes continuing to ask for his umbrella, in vain hope that he might change my stubborn mind. I did not.

Finally, oh finally, he was delivered into the hands of the smiling playgroup staff.

Now, amidst a house littered with pyjama bottoms, blankets, marbles, lego men and dirty tissues that have been left for someone else to bin, I have a few hours of peace. Aaaaahhhhh.