A Letter to Boys 1 and 2 …

Dear Boys 1 and 2

We’ve “successfully” reached the 6 week mark of the summer holidays…3 more to go and so far we are all largely unscathed.  However, I thought I would just make a few observations which could help the last 3 weeks go even more smoothly (if “smoothly” is the most appropriate adverb)  than the last 6 weeks.

  • If you wish to beat the c*** out of each other, be my guest, but I would appreciate it if all fighting takes places out of sight and out of earshot.  We all know that it will end in one of three ways: Boy 1 injured and crying, Boy 2 injured and crying or Boys 1 and 2 both injured and crying.  Since the outcome is inevitable, I would be grateful if you could only report back to me if life or my property is endangered.
  • Please could you refrain from tormenting your younger sister any more than is necessary.  I understand that baiting her is good sport but over the last 6 weeks she has turned from a fairly well-adjusted individual to someone who screams at the sight of an ant and who becomes a gibbering wreck at the mention of a sha….rk even when we are at least 500 metres inland.
  • Please stop “liking” my pictures on Instagram.  This is frankly narcissistic as most of the photos are of you and secondly, it is not exactly smart to “like” my Instagram photos when you are on an “electronics” ban – I am no technological wizard but even I know that in order to “like” my photos, you have to go on-line, for which you need access to any one of the electronic devices from which you have been expressly banned.
  • Please don’t tell me to “chill” or “stop being so stressy”.  Such vernacular has a polar opposite effect on me.  Those very words make my blood pressure rocket and the probability of rage quadruple.
  • Please don’t ignore my every word all day as if I do not exist and then insist on speaking to me when I am on the phone. I cannot work out why you are completely unable to respond to any of my questions/requests throughout the day but as soon as I am temporarily unavailable, suddenly you wish to speak to me with the utmost urgency about something which is always of very little consequence – along the lines of “can I have a snack?” – why are you asking me now…you don’t normally ask, you normally just help yourself?  Why does the appearance of the phone at my ear suddenly turn you from monosyllabic to positively loquacious?
  • Nothing awful will happen to you if you don’t look at a computer screen or a TV for a whole morning or afternoon, or God forbid, both – I promise you.  It is not, as you maintain, Boy 2, “child cruelty” to keep boy and screen apart.
  • Please please could you brush your teeth…just occasionally.  It literally does take 2 minutes.  I don’t understand your antipathy to such a simple task which takes you so little time but means so much to me.  Boys, you are prepared to spend hours getting the contours of your hair exactly right, so why not your teeth? Believe me, you will thank me in a couple of years time…girls don’t appreciate a lack of oral hygiene.
  • I understand that a bit of competition is healthy but you two take it to a whole new level.  Even the simplest of tasks become a mission for one of you to outdo the other.  What makes it all the more annoying is that you ask me or your father to referee/judge every little “competition” – quite apart from the fact that I don’t care or want to be involved, this is an impossible task as whatever the outcome,  the results mirror those in my first point although sometimes, thankfully, without injury incurred.  Boys, you’ve just got to “chill”….see, how annoying it is???
  • Lastly, this morning you educated me on another of your incomprehensible expressions – giving someone a “shout-out” on Instagram.  Apparently, you give your mates a “shout-out”on Instagram to tell everybody how wonderful they are and how much you appreciate them/their friendship etc.  Lovely sentiment.  Where’s my shout-out? Forget your M8s for one second and tell everyone how gr8 your mother is and then you and everyone else can “like” that to their heart’s content.

I expect you won’t read this – Boy 1 because it is in the form of a letter rather than a text/email and Boy 2 simply because you are yet to appreciate that enjoyment could possibly be gained from reading…but if you chance upon it, then despite the above, you are both wonderful boys with whom there is never a dull moment.

Much love Mum x

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We’re all going on a school residential trip…

Today my elder son has gone off on his school residential trip to Newquay.  As he set off at 5.30am, I have to admit to a few pangs of anxiety but also excitement for him.  I remember only too well my first school residential trip to Streatley (although I was only 7 at the time) – we ate loads of sweets, wore our cagoules all day despite scorching sunshine and had a field trip song which we sang endlessly on our return – well, until Graham in my class swore at the familiar first strains of the song – “not that b***** song again” – overheard by the headmaster… an error that I am sure Graham has never repeated.

So back to my son’s trip.  The build-up has been going on for weeks – who’s sharing a room with whom; who’s sitting next to whom on the coach; should he buy a KFC or a McDonalds at the service station on the way down; does Lucozade count as an energy drink (banned apparently) and so it goes on.

My role, as usual, has been to ensure that he is provided with suitable clothing and footwear and to pack his Lordship’s bag for him.  I have carried out this task with my normal sunny disposition, a minimal amount of complaint – just the odd muttering under my breath.  Of course, as to be expected, my son has fully appreciated my input and has been unable to stop thanking me for all I have done.

The kit list provided by the school has though presented a few issues.  I have tried to follow the instructions to the letter and hence have packed accordingly 7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks.  I have done this in the full knowledge that 6 pairs of underwear and 6 pairs of socks will return unworn.  We were asked to pack black bin liners so that the boys can put all their dirty washing in a bag to bring home.  Well, I am fairly certain that I shall be able to use those very black bin liners for their original purpose on his return as I have placed them in a side pocket which since he suffers from that all-male congenital condition “man eyes”, he is very unlikely to see let alone open and use.  I did point the side pocket out to him and the black bin liners and he asked me to write “black bin liners” with a Sharpie on the pocket – I declined on aesthetic grounds and anyway it won’t make a blind bit of difference (I refer you back to congenital “man eyes”).

The kit list also gave rise to Deodorantgate.  I am not thanking the school for this.  The innocuous  “wash bag containing – toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo etc” has unleashed a whole new beast in our house – Lynx “Africa”.  I have so far avoided having to buy deodorant for my son – having judged it not yet necessary but since it was on the kit list my son with an uncharacteristic regard for detail and obedience told me that he had to have some.  I duly bought his first deodorant but forgot to tell him that less is more.  Consequently our house (and its occupants) are now gasping under a cloud of heady (read “headachey”) and intoxicating (read “choking”) eau d’Africa.  Personally “Africa” is not what springs to mind on inhalation unless we’re talking part-hyena with giraffe dung or something.  Anyway, teachers who were mad enough to volunteer to go on this trip with my son, beware the morning (and evening) spray – it’s powerful stuff.

As for the toothbrush and toothpaste, this has become somewhat of an obsession with me – I must have said to him at least 40 times this weekend – “don’t forget to brush your teeth” .  Who am I kidding? There is no way that toothbrush will see the light of day over the next week let alone the meet the toothpaste.  Anyway, it’s not as if my son brushes his teeth religiously when he’s home – if I’m brutally honest, despite my threats, he probably only brushes them on average 2.2 times a week.

Anyway, I hope he and his friends have a wonderful time – I know they will, the trip looks amazing.  He won’t care if he’s wearing the same underwear every day and I’m not there to care and anyway if he does, less washing on his return for me.  Silver linings….

Unsung Heroes

Perranporth - best foot forward

Perranporth – best foot forward (Photo credit: Ruth Flickr)

Today I want to give shout out for three unsung heroes who day in, day out, fulfil professional obligations which go far and beyond the call of duty.

Of course it is only right that we should praise our firemen, policemen, nurses, doctors etc for all the sterling work they do every day to ensure our safety and good health.  However, I want to highlight three professions which remain under the praise radar but for which as far as I am concerned being in the line of fire is all in a day’s work: chiropodists, children’s party entertainers and dental hygienists.

Now I actually quite like my feet as body parts go – not that I spend much time contemplating their loveliness.  However, as much as I like my own feet, I can categorically say that I don’t like anyone else’s feet and that there are a lot of feet out there which could have their own starring role in a horror movie (“Psych -toe”, “The Toe -men”. “The Exorblist(er)”.  This brings me to the very underrated occupation of chiropody.  These people selflessly put themselves in close proximity to other people’s feet every hour of every day.  They not only have to look at other people’s feet but they have to touch them too.  In fact it is a job with sensory overload – seeing, touching, smelling (but not tasting – thank god for small mercies!). Imagine a job where bunions, verrucas, and ingrowing toenails are your bread and butter (as it were).  These are the unsung heroes that keep the nation on its feet.

I guess dental hygienists fall into a similar bracket in some ways – looking after the health of a nation.  There are some differences though which perhaps make them even more heroic than our chiropodists.  Firstly, whereas a chiropodist might come across a well-kept pair of feet may be once a day, I do not believe that one could ever say that the mouth and teeth of anyone over 35 is pleasant to survey.  Secondly, although chiropodists do inflict a level of pain which may make a visit a little uncomfortable, no-one likes going to the dental hygienist.  How depressing it must be to be viewed with such horror and fear by everyone you see, knowing that you will almost certainly encounter blood, shrieks and swearing at every appointment.  But dental hygienists are tough types – they are working for the higher good of mankind (or at least for their teeth).  Yes, they too are, in my opinion, unsung heroes.

So to my third group of people – children’s party entertainers.  My eldest son had his birthday party last weekend and all things considered it was a bearable affair – definitely better than two years ago which nearly resulted in an extended stay in The Priory for his mother.  The thing is I only have to suffer the birthday party once a year – I get 364 recovery days in between parties.  Not so the children’s party entertainer.  No, these courageous people willingly put themselves in a room of up to 30 children every single day and attempt at best to entertain them, at worst to maintain some semblance of control.  Have you ever encountered a more unappreciative audience than a bunch of kids? How on earth do they put up with the noise levels? How do they pretend to be happy the whole time?  How do they manage to pretend for 2 hours that even the most charmless children are a joy to be with?  I take my hat off to them – this is a herculean task which they carry out uncomplainingly and for the most part dressed in ridiculous costumes.

So let’s hear a bit shout for my unsung heroes of the day.  I’m sure there are many other unsung heroes out there – do let me know who your unsung heroes are.

The clock is ticking…

teeth whitening

teeth whitening (Photo credit: torbakhopper)

27 days, 9 hours and 3 minutes until the end of my thirties.  Ok, so I’m going to have a party, celebrate (what exactly?) and I’m sure I’ll feel no different to the day before.  But something has changed, is changing…ever so subtly.  The signs are there: my obsession with “what to do next?”, my over-interest in the yellowing of my teeth and the deepening of the wrinkles on my forehead and the hated frown lines – to name a few of the subtle shifts in my perception of the world and my place in it.

Look, I’m not going to get all philosophical.  Ageing is rubbish and we all know that – well at least those of us approaching 40 do.  So today, I am going to get my whingeing out the way – I’m going to address the physical imperfections which are bugging me most and then going forward, I promise I’ll mention them only rarely (or at least not daily!)

Let’s start with the yellow teeth.  Someone said to me today that when they moved back from Australia recently, they noticed how yellow the Brits’ teeth are compared with the Australians (and of course the Americans).  I’ve never really given my teeth much thought until recently, but about a month ago, I started to obsess about their colour – everywhere I turned there was a mirror of sorts reflecting back to me this familiar face with these grotesque yellow teeth – like the archetypal witch in scary childhood fairy tales.  So I acted and I’m currently undergoing whitening courtesy of some deeply unattractive plastic moulds of my teeth and some chemical which I can’t help but think is not something you should have in your mouth.  I have taken to wearing these new accessories in the evening which has a surprising and not altogether unpleasant side effect – I put them in at about 8pm and from then on I can’t drink (wine) or eat anything, a bonus for both my middle class alcohol problem (if the newspapers are to be believed) and for my ever-increasing nearly-middle-age spread.

To those who have not tried the delights of whitening, let me explain…when you put the trays in your mouth, you are unable to speak without lisping; your children look at you with genuine fear; you obsessively measure the whiteness of your teeth in all manner of lights, hoping to see some radical change in colour. I’m sure my teeth are whiter – or less yellow – than a week ago but it might just be wishful thinking…

My other physical obsession at the moment is the wrinkles that are appearing at an alarmingly fast rate on my face.  Ok so I’ve always liked the sun – so part of the responsibility is mine.  However, if one more person tells me that they are laughter lines or the lines add character, I will not be responsible for my actions.   Please explain to me how one gets laugher lines on one’s forehead and above the bridge of one’s nose? Or what kind of a character my lines show me to be?  A miserable, grumpy, frowning sod I can hear you say – again, quite possibly this does apply to me…however, I can’t change the habit of a lifetime now and every day the lines get deeper, more entrenched and more difficult to disguise – I can’t even fill them with foundation now (like some plasterer’s job).  And as for the horrendous discovery last week that my lipstick had “bled” into micro-lines around my mouth….well, frankly, it is more than I can take.  I finally have to accept that not only do I have to use lipliner just to keep my lipstick on my mouth and not half way up my face but also I have to accept that lipliner is not one of those airy fairy, waste of money products that painted dragons on cosmetic counters always try to persuade you that you need.

Feel better now…although I do need reassurance that I am not the only person who feels like this…comments please.  Anyway, must dash I’ve got teeth to whiten, lips to line and frowns to fill!