Monday, April 27, 2009


Max asked me last night,
'Is the dark coming, Mummy?'
'Yes.' I said
'Has it got stars in it?'
'Yes, it has.'
'I want to eat them.'
Ah, 'Might be difficult. They're very big and very hot.'
But this morning he woke with a fever, so perhaps he was out guzzling supernova in the dead of night.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Credit crunch casuals

Here we have classic recession wear, Dom's XL jumper, felted in the wash, now in the new-look junior range. Not sure about the fashion photography, especially with the the curtain pulley as choking hazard illustration, but you have to admit the fashion is pretty fetching.
I had 'felting' as one of those craft ideas I might try one day when I had a spare inch of brain space and half an hour to myself. Then like a ray of sunshine on the rug, it was suddenly upon me. I gathered up all the jumpers that I'd even stopped wearing on the daggy days when I wasn't planning to see anyone (except the kids, oh and Dom of course). I put them on a hot wash and waited. Nothing happened. So, it turns out they were all felted already. I should have just trusted my lazy laundry gene (The part of my DNA sequence that goes I'll-just-put-it-in-the-machine-this-once-and-next-time-I-promise-I'll-hand-wash). The great thing about felting is that it doesn't need hemming either so I cut and sewed this jumper in about 5 minutes. Voila. Only 4 more jumpers to reversion, now I'm just waiting for that ray of sunshine again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Max tries to communicate with his foreign mother

This is an update to the post where I get all sad because Max says 'warder' not 'water'.
It was about ten minutes before the whole bath-bed routine kicked in when Max decided he wanted to fill a bucket with water using the hose. I was cradling Oli, our little sumo seven month old, who was hinting loudly, a pulsing thumb in his mouth, that it was time to wrap things up and give him the bottle.
'Please can I have some wadder, Mummy?'
Max is by the outdoor tap, bucket in hand. I am standing on the deck, staring blankly, thinking on what grounds I can deny Max water and get him up to bed. He did say 'please' after all. There are at least 3 seconds of silence, they surprise everyone. But they are broken loudly.
It's 6.30pm, my brain is a blur, I'm on auto-pilot. Bath, teeth, bed and somewhere in there, a bottle for Oli. Spontaneity is not an option tonight.
'Warder.' Max says. It's quieter than I expect, like he's testing his voice. Then I realise he's changed his pronunciation. He either thinks I don't understand or he wants to keep me sweet with my pronunciation.
'Warder!' It's louder this time. I'm keeping quiet.
'Can I have some wharder?' There's real emphasis on the crucial word, and it now has a hint of breathy Irish.
His look says 'Do I have to spell it out, lady?' There's another pause between us. I'm intrigued as to where this vocal somersault will end.
'I need some war-Ter Mummy.'
And in that single word he sounds so English, if he was ten years older I'd be convinced he was taking the piss.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Wigwam

It was meant to be ready for the birthday party - and I was actually quite curious to see how it stood up to the test of 5 three year olds mauling it - but it wasn't to be. I have now finished it though. Five poles and two pairs of Dom's old jeans. It was too hot outside earlier so we set it up in the kitchen. I'm waiting for the call that 'Daddy's trousers have fallen down!' when the stitching fails but Max seems more interested in enjoying rather than destroying...

Friday, April 17, 2009

A birthday's coming...

Hip hip horray. Five sheep shop for the big big day. One of Max's favourite books. He actually knows the rhyme off by heart and reads it out loud as he turns the pages. It impresses Oli anyway.
So the birthday is on it's way and despite my attempts to play down the event there is supercharged excitement in the house.
'I am free in April' Max has been saying, then 'I am free soon.' Now, 'I am free on Sunday'. How am I going to break it to him?
The calendar on my computer has been popping up with '8pm Make Max's birthday cake' for the past 2 evenings. Why I thought 8pm was a good time to start baking, I have no idea. Glass of wine in hand, I've been pressing the 'snooze' option just to make it go away. But tonight I realise I am running out of time.
Baking. I do it sometimes and then it's out of my system and everyone is safe. I blame my tools, or really the lack thereof. Firstly, my Magimix is from the UK and needs a voltage converter the size of a microwave and an adapter plug I can never find. This evening I have resorted to the old fashioned wooden spoon. I think I could now arm wrestle a pit-bull.
My next problem is that I have, just the one, 9 inch cake tin. It's a challenge enough to get all the ingredients in the house but then I open the drawer and curse the day I only bought that one cake tin. At this point it is usually well past 8pm and the cake urgently needs cooking so (and now I remember doing the same last year) I pour all the mixture into my single tin and when it finally rises, I slice it through the middle.
Ting! To my surprise it seems to have worked. At the moment the cake is cooling down concave on a V-rack (the type you roast a chicken on). No wire rack, must get one.
In fact whenever a member of Dom's family come to stay (love 'em though I do) I realise how ill-equipped my kitchen is. There's the absence of the garlic press, the cast iron pan, the non-stick saucepan, the ice cream scoop, the spatula, the cutlery. I made the last one up, obviously.
So with a resolution to properly equip my kitchen by next year I will endeavour to put enough chocolate icing on this year's cake to disguise my culinary limitations. And in the mean time I can be thankful that my cooking is being judged by a group of hungry three year olds...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You should control your kids.

That comment is still eating at me. We were at the airport, just off a five hour flight, waiting for our baggage at the carousel. Everyone was tired. Oli was swinging his legs in the stroller, red eyed and hungry. Kristi was trying to entertain him with a plastic spoon. I was getting a bottle for him. Dom was at the luggage rail, waiting for the conveyor belt to start moving. Like all the other passengers we had our empty trolley parked up, hoping to be the first ones to put it to use. Very few, or more precisely, no-one, was sharing Max's excitement for the baggage reclaim area; the strange noises, the flashing lights, the carousel's clunky engineering, the trolley wheels. Max was enthusiastic, but he wasn't out of control. I admit, Max was in my peripheral vision, but here's what happened: Our excited 2 year old climbed onto the front of our trolley. Our trolley. He wasn't pushing it, he was actually just trying to sit down on it. As he climbed up, it moved. It moved about 6 inches and knocked a man's shin. I heard a sniper-like 'Fuck, you should control your kids.' The man wasn't actually addressing me, just swearing in my direction. I was too tired to deal with aggression, so I ignored him. He limped around for a while, occasionally massaging his shin, sucking in air and swearing under his breath. I made a kind of 'whoops' face to myself and told Max to stay near me and not sit on the trolley. The man's wife was standing next to us. She didn't say anything or look in my direction. I glanced over at Kristi and we exchanged a look that said 'that-couldn't-have-hurt'. I reassure myself that you can't get much speed up on an airport trolley in 6 inches. The man's bags come through and the couple move off. I assume that's the end of it. A good five minutes later we too have our bags and we head for the elevator. That's when the man ambushes us.
'You should control your kids.' he says again.
He's blocking our path, not shouting but jutting his chin out and frowning like he wants to start a fight. I'm holding Max's hand tight. Kristi is pushing Oli's stroller. Dom puts his hand across me as if we are bracing for impact in a car crash. Dom hasn't got a clue what the man's talking about or why he's starting with us. He was battling suitcases while all the shin-knocking was taking place.
'He pushed a trolley right into my fucking leg. I've got an ACL.' His voice is rising.
All I was thinking was, 'what's an ACL? Did he say ACL? ACM? ATM? How was anyone to know he had one in his leg.' Dom, incredibly, knows all about ACLs, the knee's anterior cruciate ligament. He's also got a quicker tongue than me and tells the man to mind his language in front of a 2 year old.
'Mind my fucking language? She didn't even fucking apologise.' He's indicating me.
At this point I start walking, Max in tow. I can see a sign for the elevator.
Dom has the trolley loaded up with 4 bags, a car seat and a cot and is probably thinking it inconceivable that it could be pushed at all, let alone with any precision into this man's leg.
'Go away.' Dom says.
To which, amazingly, this man shouts 'WHAT did you just say to me?' As if he's just been threatened with an expletive-loaded insult.
'I said go away and leave my family alone.'
With a bit of rocking back and forth, Dom finally gets the trolley going and he catches me up and rounds into the elevator. With Kristi and Oli quick behind, we press any and all the buttons to try and get away from the scene we just experienced. Perhaps the man had a point, but he blew it when he started swearing at us. I should have said as much - why do we always think of the wise cracks too late? Way to late. We were leaving the long-term parking lot before I managed to put my mind to the biting words I needed. Cue one of my favourite quotes: 'Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.' Let's just say if it happens again, I might, by then, have come up with the right response.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I sometimes feel as though I live with a dozen boys, not just three, with one hardly off the starting blocks. There are spluttered raspberries and then, 'Is that my butticks?' followed by Max dissolving into giggles. Just one guess who taught him that. Then there's the issue of the loo seat, never down. I don't want to put you off ever visiting us or indeed inviting us to stay when we need a bed (or 3) but I can't pretend I'm not extremely tempted to install a urinal in the downstairs loo and put a picture of a stick man on the door. At least I'd never have to go in there. I haven't really been one for incense or potpourri but the time may fast be approaching. Before Oli was born I heard a comment made by a mother of 4 boys that alluded to the 'constant smell of fart.' I'm beginning to understand.
Sure, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love the rough-housing, the chaos, the fascination with wheels (for Max the trucks, for Dom the sportscars). I love trying to get the train-set to fit together using all the track. I love the need to be creative with sticks and I love dirt under the finger nails. I love extracting splinters (how satisfying?) and kissing grazed knees and I love the colour blue. Oh, and of course a rare treat are those early morning rugby matches when all the boys are up and I am 100% off duty. And now it seems another happy surprise is when I find the loo seat down.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Postcard from Hawaii

That's where we've been, 'H'why'hee' as Max called it. It wasn't the most propitious arrival. Once Max realised that the airport/aeroplane experience was over he went into a wailing fit about wanting to go home. 'I just want to go HOME.' It appeared so simple. That there were now two and a half thousand miles of Pacific Ocean and sixteen degrees of latitude between him and his trains, he had not entirely taken onboard. But I'm not sure if he really wanted to be at home, or was just using home as a vehicle to get back on another aeroplane. Luckily the sun was shining and with some macaroni cheese in his tummy, he was soon persuaded Hawaii wasn't so bad. Top of the list of favourites were the rock pools in front of the house. The black rocks, once molten larva, slowly revealed to us the techincolour beauty living in their eroded ponds. There were hermit crabs in small black shells that had zebra-striped legs and turquoise eyes. They hid in holes in the dead coral. There was pale pink living coral and seaweed like little ivory trumpets. Max made a very happy rockpooling companion, obligingly rushing over to peer in the clear salty water when one of us cried 'I can see a crab' or a sea urchin or a fish. We saw a sea snake coiled under a rock and dark brown nudibranchs strewn around like sewage decorated in sand. There seemed to be tiny jumping fish and there were certainly crabs that skitter scattered across the rocks when you disturbed their afternoon shade.
At night the palm trees bent with the wind and the movement of the fronds sounded like rainfall. Lying in bed and listening to the surf, there was always one wave that suddenly sounded particularly crashing, louder than all the rest, and reminded me that we were in both a hurricane and a tsunami zone. Although we were informed that our evacuation routes were illustrated in the phone book, I searched both directories but could find nothing. I scanned the ocean horizon often and even found myself thankful that we had rented a ridiculously large vehicle called a Commander that would be able to make it cross-country to higher ground if the need arose.
When we wrote our postcards I asked Max what he would like to say to Granny. 'Dear Granny, I hope you love me. Love me.' I wasn't sure I had the punctuation right but wrote it down word for beautiful word.
Max loved splashing in the water at the beach and Oli began sitting up and developed a love for a good book - it was usually mine he was chewing on although Dom's completely disappeared so perhaps Dark Star Safari is in his tummy.
In the gardens there were red and yellow hibiscus and white orchids. And there was a tree in which you might have seen a spider web. The wasp-coloured spider was crouching in the centre. Then you might have seen another, and another and yet another, until you realised with horror and then awe that the entire tree was covered in a killing canopy, a cobweb matrix with spiders suspended all around.
At the farmer's market there were avocados the size of ostrich eggs and I bought cream apples, little plum-coloured globes that dripped milk when I quartered them.
We ate Ono and Opah and Swordfish and Mahi Mahi and thanks to Kristi, Max learnt to say the Hawiian name for a Triggerfish, 'Humahumanukanukaapua'a'.
And now we are back in San Francisco, after all my tsunami fears we are safely restored to our home in the Californian earthquake zone.