Category Archives: kids are icky

In all its glory

Nature, consider this a warning. You’re on notice.

I was just thinking the other day that I hadn’t pulled a tick off my children all summer. This is probably because they’ve spent far too much time indoors glued unhealthily to a screen, but there are upsides. As soon as they go outside, bad things happen.

Yesterday, Mabel (who had a great first day of second grade, thankyouverymuch), came to me saying there was something stuck in her hair and to take a look. I parted her locks and saw a wriggly thing that instantly made me drop the hair and recoil with a startled “Ew!” Then I had to coax her back to me so that I could be a bit more adult about the whole thing. There was a large tick attached to the back of her head, wriggling away happily as it embedded its front teeth in her scalp. Delightful.

I removed it with my favourite loop-of-thread technique, without pulling half her hair with it, and, for want of a better plan, imprisoned it in a tupperware container where I hope it has expired for lack of oxygen by now. I could have set it free to roam again, or drowned it in alcohol (waste of good vodka) or put it in a baggie and sent it off to be analyzed, but I’ll probably just wait till it’s dead and put it in the bin. Little fecker.

It wasn’t on her long enough to pass on Lyme disease, because she would have noticed it when she brushed her hair that morning, which I know she did because, see above, first day of school, so it’s fine. Probably. I’ll watch out for fevers. I know all about the Lyme stuff. But ticks are gross.

Also yesterday, Dash woke up looking like he’d been savaged by a particularly angry horde of mosquitoes in the middle of the night. As the day progressed and it seemed to be getting worse instead of better he decided that it might be poison ivy, from when he was helping his friend’s dad with some yardwork at the weekend. Indeed it might.

Today he looks as if adolescence has abruptly descended with a really nasty case of acne on his face and neck. I might have to take him to the doctor tomorrow. I bought some stuff over the counter at vast expense and I even think it was working, but he said it stung too much to give it a second try.

Stupid nature. Safer inside playing Hungry Sharks on his iPad Mini. Sure, it’s melting his brain one cell at a time, but at least he’d be outwardly unscathed. (Also, he learns about sharks.) (No, it’s not educational. Don’t get it for your child. It’s quite gory and rated 12s and he shouldn’t be playing it at all.)

Mabel walking along a green path in the sunshine

Walking to school, surrounded by nature, waiting to pounce

Lower your expectations

My ambitions for this week are not so lofty as most people’s, I think.

You may be training for a 5k or a triathlon, eating paleo or wheat-free, or implementing all sorts of wonderful screen-free, eating-at-the-table rules in your house, and maybe I thought I would be too, but actually I’m just trying to keep us all on an even keel as body clocks return to normal. Since B decided to add an extra three hours to his jetlag by heading to California for a three-day conference on Sunday afternoon, I get both the bedtime and waking-up ends of the messed-up-sleep stick, which strikes me as a little unfair. The fact that his hotel room was upgraded so that now he has an ocean view and can see the Queen Mary liner from his pillow-top mattress with plush down comforter is just rubbing salt into it.

Tomorrow, I lie in, is what I’m saying. No matter who’s stealing whose markers or hiding whose Barbies or pulling down whose pants.

[At some point while we were away my children discovered the delight of the moon. Not the celestial orb, you understand, but the fact that you could pull down your pants and wiggle your backside at someone and it would be the most hilarious thing ever invented. I hope this is over soon. Maybe in ten years, if I’m lucky.]

So we are unpacked, the laundry is under control, the kitchen is clean(ish), and I have baked and given away most of half a batch of peanutbutter cookies, but other than that chaos reigns. It doesn’t matter: sleep is a priority, and getting everyone back to square one is the vital thing.

I’m sure I’ll get round to training for the 5k and overhauling my diet next week.

Where’s Freud when you need him?

Mabel’s having a bit of a penis obsession. Again.

Yesterday we had friends over for a playdate. Mabel took off her clothes and tried to show them her penis. I hid under the table.

This morning we went to Ikea.

Mabel: Peenie, peenie. I want a peenie. I love your peenie, Dash.
Dash: Mabel, say peenie again.
Me: Stop it. Both of you. Dash, you know better.
Dash: Mabel, don’t say peenie.
Mabel: Peenie, peenie.
Me, darkly: Nobody will be getting any ice-cream.
Mabel: Ponnie, ponnie.
Me: That’s fine.

[Five minutes pass; we are almost past the checkouts and at the double-edged sword of ice-cream.]

Dash: Mabel, don’t say poopy.
Mabel, with glee: Poopy! Poopy!
Me: No ice-cream, then.
Them: […]

Ice-cream is consumed. Lunch is deferred. Once again, I resolve never more to darken the hallowed Swedish doors.


The answers to all those questions that have been bugging you. Me.

Why does it take Monkey so long to get ready in the morning?

Well, I still don’t know what takes so long in the bathroom, though I strongly suspect there’s a bit of staring into space, a bit of messing around, and probably some putting as much water as possible into the basin to see how the overflow hole works. But I know part of what he’s doing in the bedroom, since I was putting away laundry this morning while he was dressing.
First, he carefully picks out his clothes.
Then, he meticulously folds them.
Then he puts them on.

Why yes, I have Googled “OCD+children”, thank you for suggesting that. (I’m not too worried for now, but will be keeping things in mind. I think when two type-A people have children, the likelyhood of extra-super-duper-type-A-ness emerging is pretty high.)

What is Mabel doing with her yogurt raisins?

Not eating them, that’s for sure. She’s rubbing them all over her ankles and calling it sunscreen.

This is not what I was going to say

Naturally, because I wrote about it, Mabel decided it was time to let me know in no uncertain terms that the only change I have effected is one of creating more laundry for myself. Still. We’re in it for the long haul, and it has begun. That’s all I have to say about that.

Monkey just jumped off a too-high bay windowsill one too many times and bit his tongue pretty badly. I know he really wanted an ice-pop, but there are less painful ways to get one. He’s lying beside me on the sofa, still sniffing pathetically at intervals, but the bleeding has stopped and he’ll be fine. I offered to put on a DVD, as some sort of special treat, but he said, “No. I love Qubo.” What a testimonial for public TV.

Yesterday he told me he thought I should make another baby sister, a smaller one. And that it said in his book about the human body that I could make one every month. When I reminded him that Daddy would have to be involved as well, he said “Oh yes, you have to do that special hug. Well, you can do it in there, in the family room.”

Which led to a bit more of a conversation about s-e-x (he was unimpressed and mostly uninterested), and how grown-ups like to do it even if they’re not making a baby, and how sometimes they do things to make sure that they don’t make a baby, and that if we wanted to make one we’d stop doing those things. But that we probably aren’t going to because we’re probably good with just two.

And yet, part of me wanted to say, “Oh well, since you asked so nicely and you clearly mean it, then I suppose you can have a new baby sibling. Just wait a minute till I’ve finished my lunch.” Because that’s a good reason.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this next part, but it’s too good to keep to myself. It was probably inevitable, given all the, um, region-specific acrobatics Monkey was doing, that something interesting would happen. He discovered that he could make his penis go all straight and standing-uppy. I happened to find him doing this when trying to hurry him up in the bathroom one afternoon, and I thought I should let him know that it’s perfectly normal and something that happens to all boys, in case he was worried in any way. Far from it: I think he was a little disappointed to find out it wasn’t just him. He probably thought it was a fabulous new superpower.

Now, from what he said to me yesterday, he apparently has a whole scenario in which his penis is a monster chasing things… I was trying not to listen, really, but as his father said when I regaled him with this latest, he’d want to refine his notions a bit before he starts trying to interest the girls.

I begin to see where all this male idolatry of the penis stems (ahem) from – as far as a five-year-old is concerned at least, it’s a magical animal all of his own. But then, some men, as we’ve seen all too clearly in recent days, never really progress from the five-year-old stage, do they?

Snips and snails

Monkey has been thrown in among the two-year-olds quite a bit lately, thanks to the school break, and I have to say that he plays nicely with the younger kids – all that practice with Mabel must be paying off, or something. Though I’ve noticed that often, while parents are keen to pair kids of the same age off – the closer the better, for some reason – they often interact more happily when there’s a bit of an age gap. Monkey plays well with seven-year-olds and two-year-olds – maybe it’s because there’s less jockeying for position when the natural order of leader and follower is so obvious, and everyone prefers it that way.

Yesterday he wanted to play hide and seek in the back garden. He hid first and Mabel found him pretty quickly. Then it was Mabel’s turn. Monkey covered his eyes and counted to some random number – maybe it was twelve, and Mabel crouched down exactly where she was, her dark pink stripey t-shirt contrasting beautifully with the tufty new green grass. When Monkey looked up, he was momentarily discombobulated to see her right there in front of him, but he recovered beautifully. “Where’s Mabel?” he asked the world at large. “Where could she be?” He proceeded to walk straight past her and wander round the garden a bit, and then came back and sat down on her. “This is a nice round rock,” he commented. “Why is this rock laughing?”

I looked on and was all quite glowy with pride in my great son.


And then, there are times like this:

– Mummy, do you want to see a Scrumbly-Wumbly?
– Wha–Gah! What are you doing? Doesn’t that hurt?
– No – look. You just roll it up like this, and then you pull down your scrotum and put your penis inside and squish it in and then … ta-da! It pops back out. And that’s a Scrumbly-Wumbly.
– Okay. Right. Just finish up, please.
– But don’t you want to see a Scrunchy-Wunchy?

As was pointed out to me the other day, he may have a great career ahead of him with these people. I’m glad that other options may present themselves if the metal-making for universal jet-packs doesn’t work out, but I think I might just keep quiet about this avenue for the time being, lest he start practicing in public.

Monsters and sausages

I have created a monster. A two-headed monster that can’t sleep without me, whom nobody else can hear or comfort in the dark of the night. A monster of my very own, to love and hug and call George.

I lie in bed with the one, listening to the other toss and turn. When the one is finally asleep enough, I creep away, to lift the other from his repose and direct him towards the bathroom, where he relieves himself and can be deposited back where he belongs. The other one wakes up because I’m no longer there. I go back to her. Lather, rinse, repeat. I crawl into my own bed and lie there for a while, waiting to see what will happen. I hear a cough, in stereo, one from each room.

I wonder how I got myself into this mess, and how long it will be before I remember it longingly and wish for the days when I only had to lie down beside my children to soothe their ills and quiet their restlessness.


This morning, Monkey stood in the bathroom calling to us: “Hey! Guess what shape I can make my penis into! Come and see!”


On to more lofty matters. I had a notion that I would blog dinner for a week, just to see what happens. I did the shopping yesterday, so I’m starting there. I have done my usual amount of meal-planning; that is, I have an idea of about three days’ worth of dinners, and after that it’ll be the seat-of-our-pants all the way. And you can be here to see how it all pans out. I promise to faithfully chronicle what we eat, hopefully with photographic evidence, from last night for the next six evenings. (I will even try to remember to take a photo of the food on a plate, from today on.)

So, without further ado: Saturday – Sausages, Beans and Mash.

I cut some potatoes in half, boiled them for 15 minutes, drained them, and mashed them with some grated parmesan, a couple of pats of butter, a splash of buttermilk, salt, pepper, and a grating of fresh nutmeg. (I highly recommend investing in some fresh nutmeg. It lasts forever, is simple to use, and smells light years more amazing than the pre-grated stuff.) Here are the potatoes before the masher met them.


I took my sausages (sweet Italian), poked a few holes on each side, and stuck them in the oven at 425 for half an hour, turning after 15 minutes. Easiest way to cook sausages.


And then I topped and tailed my green beans (which looked a tiny bit the worse for wear as they’d been sitting in the fridge for the best part of a week), and boiled them for 7 minutes. I tossed them with some olive oil and salt and pepper and wished I had a lemon to zest over too, but they turned out really sweet and delicious.


This is where the photo I forgot to take goes. (Sorry. Will try harder tonight.) But it tasted good, if basic and unfrilly.

Child score: 
Success! Mabel, having dined on baked beans, chomped down almost an entire sausage and discovered she likes green beans. She still refuses to try mashed potato. I don’t undersand my children, turning their backs on the land of their forefathers.

(Monkey will not be appearing in the child scores, as he would skew the results irreparably.)


Yesterday afternoon Monkey grabbed a pen and demanded paper and said he wanted to draw a picture of Elongated Man (yes, he’s a real B-list superhero) for a story. While such doings are Mabel’s constant MO, this is unusual for Monkey, so I provided the materials and waited to see what would transpire.

He drew a long blob and gave it spindly legs and ball feet. Then there was some scribbly stuff between the legs. I wasn’t really watching, but as I sat beside him eating a bowl of mid-afternoon Cheerios, I heard him say – to himself or to me, whomever – “…and that’s the bum, and that’s where the poo and the wee come out…” Then: “I’d better give him a penis.” A short line appeared between the legs, above the cloud of scribble. Now I realised what the cloud was.

“Does he have a head?” I asked, curious to see where his priorities lay. He pointed at the top of the blob.
“There’s his head.” He drew a horizontal line to signify the division between head and torso.
“How about eyes and a nose and things?”
“Oh. I never thought of that.” He provided two round eyes, a circular nose, a wide smiling mouth, and goggles. “Now. He’s done.”
“Arms? Does he have arms?”
“Oh yeah, he needs arms.” Arms were appended.

It was interesting to see what he considers the most vital body parts to be.

Then he coloured the whole thing in with royal blue marker, obscuring all the interesting details, and dictated the story for me to transcribe. I will reproduce it here for posterity. (I reworded a little for clarity and to avoid repetition, but I didn’t change the story. This version has been approved by the author.)

Elongated Man started to call Batman when he noticed that baddies were fighting and were thinking about their machine that would crush the whole planet. He realised that the baddies were on the case. He tried to break the robot with his hammer while he was on the phone. Elongated Man was in the lab at the time. They fought (“fighted and fighted,” he said) until Elongated Man had a good idea: he called Plastic Man to help him make a wall to trap the baddies so that then they could crush them and the machine with their hammers. Crazy Quilt was the person who invented the machine.

The end.

I look forward to many more illustrated stories once he starts writing his own.


Mabel likes words. She likes long words, and compound words, and synonyms, and sometimes she just likes to use words even when she’s not quite sure what they mean.

In the playground opposite the library there’s a metal bouncy turtle thingy. You can sit on it and bounce. More interestingly to most of the children, it has a hole at the front and a hole at the back, enabling you to feed it sticks, and make it poop them out at the other end.

This afternoon we took advantage of the milder weather and stopped by the playground on our way home from the supermarket. After some climbing and some swinging and some sliding, Monkey was feeding the turtle while Mabel crouched at his other end like a consciencious proctologist and poked around his nether regions with a twig.

“I’m just making the poo come out,” she told me. “With my epilogue.”

Toilet humour

Okay, so I mostly phoned it in yesterday. But I was just thinking of you, you know. Sometimes you don’t want a whole, long diatribe about my life to wade through, no matter how full (or empty) it may be of thrilling hilarity and/or insightful witticisms. But I want you to know I’m still here for you, so I limit myself – with great personal sacrifice – to no more than a line or two.


Twice today Monkey raised my hopes and then dashed them. Mid-afternoon, he announced loudly that he was going to the toilet, and then ran off to the bathroom by himself. I followed, to see what was up, and he told me to go away. “Oh-kay,” I thought. “Maybe this is it. Maybe his need for privacy and a big truckload of sense have both just kicked in. Together. At once…. Hmmm.”

Five minutes later he emerged with his jeans tucked into his socks and wearing cardboard 3-D glasses under his pulled-up hood, and annouced that he was Baseball Man. His superpowers are speed and strength, I believe. And, as his father remarked when he did the same thing later on this evening, a bladder of steel.


Earlier on, he and Mabel had found my discreet emergency stash in the spare-toilet-rolls drawer in the bathroom. (Not the chocolate digestives. The Ladies’ emergency stash, if you know what I mean. Oh, wait. Same diff.) When I got to the scene they were passing them back and forth, bartering a pink panty-liner for two yellow maxi-pads, and finding out how many tampax regular you can fit in the centre of one toilet roll. (Five, if you must know).

Which is still better than the day I had to remember to remove the unwrapped panty-liner from the coat-closet door where Mabel had stuck it (and where it was impressively camouflaged) before company arrived.

Mabel pulling her hat over her eyes

Gratuitous culprit photo