Thursday, 27 June 2013

Beware PMT (men - you might want to look away now).

If you are a man and particularly if you are a man related to me in some way, either by blood or marriage, you might want to look away now because today I'm going to talk about women's things. In particular I'm going to talk about PMT. I know! This is how to spot the signs...

You know you have PMT when the mother in front of you, innocently dawdling into the playground in the morning, walks just a little too slowly for your liking causing you to think - WHY THE HELL CAN'T YOU HURRY UP, YOU STUPID BAG!

You know you have PMT when you realise you have forgotten something at the till in Waitrose (I make no apologies) and you politely turn to the man behind to say - "I'm so sorry, I've forgotten something, I won't be a 
tick," and he turns his head away from you to indicate that he is annoyed and this makes you want to SLAP HIM IN THE FACE.

You know when you have PMT when your youngest child says: "Are you sad, Mummy, that I'm leaving primary school and you won't see your friends any more?" and you want to BURST INTO TEARS. 

You know you have PMT when you come back from taking same child to a club/tutor/playdate and it's your tenth trip in the car somewhere that day and you left the kitchen immaculately tidy (it took you hours) and someone has made a sandwich and in the process scattered breadcrumbs and ham and lettuce and God-knows-what all over the kitchen work top and the floor and so you scream at the top of your voice - WHO DID THIS! And then you make the two eldest children clean up while actually timing them with the cooker timer: "You have four minutes! I'm going to sit here and drink my tea," and the eldest one shouts - "Do you have PMT or something!"

You know when you have PMT when UNICEF call you on your mobile in the middle of timed clearing-up session and the conversation goes"We're just calling to tell you about our work in Syria..."

"That's great. I fully support your work in Syria, which is why I texted so you could buy warm blankets for freezing children, but I don't think you should then use my number to call me in the middle of the day."

"Oh I'm sorry would you prefer me to phone in the evening?"

"Not really, I would prefer you not to phone me at all. I would like to decide when and how I donate. I don't agree with cold calling."

"This isn't cold calling, we're just ringing to tell you..."

"...and I don't think you should argue with me when I say I don't want to talk to you."

"Well, madam, I think you should just relax." 

And you think - RELAX! YOU WANT ME TO RELAX! HOW CAN I RELAX! MY KITCHEN FLOOR IS COVERED WITH CRAP! but you can't say this because the person has hung up on you and consequently you would like to KILL THAT PERSON, if only you knew who that person was, or had any idea how to ring them back.

And then, finally, you really know you have PMT when your new phone app, called Pink Pad by the way, which tracks your menstrual cycle and is jolly useful, sends you a message that says: "Aunty Flow is coming" and you think...




Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Last Sports Day.

It should be my chest the teacher is pinning a 'well done' sticker on to, not the kids'. What have they done that's so special? Turn up as instructed and run and hop about a bit and throw a foam javelin? Pah! Piece of cake. They want to try being a mother and planning for sports day every year like it's a military operation. Trying to find something that resembles P.E. kit out of the bottom of a festering dirty washing basket at 11 o'clock the night before to a symphony of "Where are my trainers Mummy? You've moved them!" whistling down your lug holes

I don't know where your sodding trainers are, why can't you look after your own Goddam stuff, like I have to do? (That's in my head, not out loud.)

And now I can't speak. My heart is pounding like the proverbial percussion instrument. It takes a full five minutes before I'm able to utter the blasphemy forming from somewhere deep within, because I've just done the parents race again, for the last time. Ever. 

Well I had to, didn't I? Even though it's exhausting and exhilarating and excruciating and embarrassing all mixed into one  - like one massive big E.

Did my boobs swing about with a life of their own? Did I look as ungainly as a gangly goose? The sheer terror of it all is hardly worth the candle. But really, does anyone give a ****? No. I should just embrace experience whenever it comes my way - any experience, even if it is flailing around on an athletics track in south London with a load of other puffed-out middle-aged parents.

This is what I tell myself, it's my new philosophy. One brought on by mid-life and the realisation that it's the beginning of the end, full-time parenting wise. The prospect of no longer being there for them ALL THE TIME is flickering at me like a very dim nightlight at the end of a winding toy-strewn plastic play tunnel. From IKEA. Plus I'd hate myself if I didn't do it.

To be honest, I'm full of mixed emotions. Thirteen years of primary sports days. In a row. The child/children in question always needing an extra special protein-filled packed lunch. Me always needing an extra special protein-filled packed lunch. And a flask of tea, and lots of water and snacks, and some gin wouldn't go amiss. 

Every year with the massive rucksack, weighed down with food and liquid and sun block and rain mac/umbrella/sun hat, depending on which extreme weather is being thrown at us, and it always is extreme weather down there on that baking/sodden/windswept athletics track with a microclimate all its very own. 

It might be slightly chilly out in the real world, "Drizzly day with a light wind," perhaps, but once in the middle of that track this suddenly translates into "Howling wind, rain, sleet, expect to be swept off your feet with hypothermia". Only they don't tell you that on the weather forecast on the Today programme on Radio 4 in the morning. Oh no.

Ditto a pleasant day: "Fine and sunny, 19 degrees..." Not once we get down there, it isn't. Then the sun will be beating down on us like we're hapless ants trapped in a plant pot, silently frying to death. "Boiling sun that will peel the skin off your neck like it's cling-film the very next morning... while you're listening to the Radio 4 weather forecast". That's more like it, and that was this year - Wednesday. Hot. As. Hell.

But I shouldn't moan because I actually love it. You heard me. Loathe to admit it as I am. Because the track in question is just down the road from us, nestled among beautiful mature trees, a pleasant stroll across the Common. And now I don't have to spend the whole day there because I don't have children running in the morning session and the afternoon session, or at exactly the same time on different parts of the track, or a toddler to chase after, and I'm not pregnant, or dragging a laden buggy across a lumpy field while chasing after said toddler, it's actually rather nice. At last.

And sports day is one those occasions primary schools give to us to mark the passing of time. You know: Ah! It's summer now, it must be, never mind the crap weather because it's sports day - see! And then, it's actually Autumn now because it's parent's evening. Oh yes! It's Christmas now because it's the carol concert and the early years play...

I'm going to miss it all like hell.



Thursday, 13 June 2013

Wash day.

Who does the washing in your house? Do you share it? Is it all your responsibility? Or do your clothes smell of rancid old cheese because nobody gets round to it? 

I like to think we're a fairly equal and forward thinking household here in Tooting. Husband does his fair share of chores, possibly even more than his fair share at times and he loves, I mean really loves, putting a wash on. It's kind of weird. 

I'll often get up on a Saturday morning to find he's already put a load in. He's an early riser you see. It won't necessarily be the load that needs to go in, of course. You can bet it's not the school shirts or that P.E. kit that would benefit from a jolly good sterilisation at an extremely high temperature but there'll be a load in nevertheless, usually his own stuff, some shirts or running gear or something, but often with other bits and bobs out of the washing bin as well. 

Oh and he loves stripping a bed and putting that in. "Shall we do the boys' beds?" he'll say and before you can say Ariel, he's denuded all three down to the mattress covers and got the whole lot whirring around in some suds. And then there's stain remover. Don't get him started on stain remover...

(I should point out that this photograph is merely for illustrative purposes and in no way represents an accurate portrayal of my husband.)

If he spots a wine stain or a bit of ground-in grass on the knees he's in heaven. "That needs pre-soaking," he'll say, or, "You are going to spray that with Vanish before it goes in aren't you?" He loves Vanish. So much so that I've started to go down the "You love it so much, you do it" line of thinking. 

Then there's hanging it out on the line, he loves that too. Adores it. He'll even go out there late in the afternoon in winter and peg it all out in that last hour of daylight. Consequently I'll sometimes accidentally-on-purpose leave a wet load by the back door. "Does that need to go on the line?" he'll say, tripping over it, all unsuspecting like. 

"Oh yes!" I'll say, "Did I leave it there? I just haven't got round to it..." Because I hate it, I've got to be certain it's a warm sunny dry day before I'll venture out there. I mean, pegging it all out properly? Bit by bit? Shirts upside down, sleeves the right way out with socks paired together? Jeeez! I have much more important stuff to be getting on with, like reading the paper or updating my status on Facebook. And what if the weather turns? I might have to bring it all in again and hang it inside. No thanks.

Recently he's got into extra spin cycles as well. I'm not allowed to take towels out or the duvet cover unless it's had that extra spin. "Aren't these things build into the wash cycle already?" I ask. 

"Oh no!' he replies, "You must spin heavy things like towels again to get all the water out." Apparently he read it in the manual. He loves the manual. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than read a washing machine manual. I'm funny like that.

He's not so keen on putting clean clothes away though. Not likely. In fact he never does it. Ever. Show me a man who actually puts piles of clean clothes away and I'll... Well, I don't know what I'll do, but I'll be very surprised that's for sure. They'll even step over a pile of clean washing in this house, if it's left at the bottom of the stairs to go up, all three of the blighters. They're collectively clothes blind the lot of them. 

But I do have to concede Husband is a bit of a whizz with the washing. And the ironing. I never do any of that. He irons all his own shirts without a word of complaint. But we all make mistakes, don't we? I've never let him forget that time on holiday in Italy when he took control of the top loader in the villa we were renting and did a great big white wash along with something very, very green that was left behind the lid. 

My sexy white shorts have never been quite the same since.

Here's some washing he did earlier, on Saturday...



Friday, 7 June 2013

Feeling sick.

Youngest has his secondary school interview. I say interview, really it's just a chat to welcome him to the school and tell him what to expect in September. As we walk through the gates he says he feels sick. "It's just nerves," I say, "You'll be okay in a minute."

I don't tell him that on my first day at secondary school I threw up on the front steps as I left home. I was terrified. We had just moved to a new house in a new area and I didn't know anyone. I'd never set foot in the school. It was to be the fourth different school I went to in five years because we had lived abroad. I wouldn't recommend it. Going to four different schools in five years, that is. The school was okay.  

I do tell Youngest that he is lucky to be going to a school where his two brothers are and lots of his friends will be going, and lucky to be invited in for a chat and an induction day later in the summer.

I remember when it was Middle One's interview a few years back. "Welcome to the school," said the teacher. I was waiting for her to ask him what he was looking forward to. He was all prepared to say that he wanted to learn German and couldn't wait to do experiments in a real science lab. But she didn't ask him what he was looking forward to, at least not at first. She said, "Hello. Our Lethal Weapons Policy is not to bring knives in school..." 

Youngest had to write a personal statement to take with him. I'm not sure anyone ever reads these things. His was all about penguins. He loves penguins. Then down at the bottom there was a lonely little line: "I hope I don't get bullied when I come to this school". All his friends tell him he will be bullied because he's so small. So that's nice.

When I read his personal statement with the penguins and the line about bullying I decide to send the school an email to suggest that they don't mention the Lethal Weapons Policy this time, at least not as an opening gambit. I cut and paste the personal statement about penguins to add at the bottom by way of 
explanation. I don't get a reply.

"I really do feel sick," says Youngest as we sit in the reception area waiting. His skinny legs swing back on forth on the too-high shabby chair and we chat to the boys who have been charged with looking after us. One has a lazy eye and the other has a gold earring, but they're very friendly.

A senior member of staff passes and stops to talk. She kneels down to get to his level and Youngest tells her all about the two penguins he sponsors. She says she likes penguins too. I'm impressed.

Youngest goes in for his chat. The teacher doesn't mention the Lethal Weapons Policy. Not once. She is gentle and friendly and charming and helpful. She couldn't be nicer. She takes his personal statement from him to "read later".

When we come out we bump into the Head.
 Well, one of them. "I sent you an email yesterday," I say. 

"Yes," he says, "I shared it with all the senior staff this morning." 

"That was okay, wasn't it?" I say to Youngest as we walk out. Are you happy?" 

"Yes," he says, "But I do still feel sick."

I take him back to his primary school. Later they ring me to say he has stomachache and will I take him home? I go and collect him. At bedtime he starts to throw up.