Category Archives: madness

Meet Fred

I bought a butternut squash at the farmers market on Sunday morning. I’ll make one of those nice galettes, I thought to myself.

Mabel had other ideas. Apparently this was the cutest, most adorable butternut squash ever. She cradled it in her arms and called it Fred.

By the time we were on our way home from the market, the children were reading stories to Fred in the back seat. In the kitchen I found them negotiating a custody arrangement whereby they take turns looking after him.

Last night Mabel put Fred to bed on her bottom bunk, on her unicorn pillow pet and snuggled up under her red blanket. She didn’t wake him this morning, but she told me on the way to school that he needs a lot of sleep.

Vegetables. My children love them far too much to ever eat them. What sort of a monster would you be to do that?

Dash was very excited to hear he would get Fred on Tuesdays, because Tuesday is already his favourite day at school, with makers’ class and bridge club (yes) and science as well. Having custody of Fred the Anthropomorphic Gourd as well is just the icing on the cake. So to speak.

Tonight Mabel ceremoniously presided over the handover and now Dash is sleeping with Fred.

Today I went to the supermarket and bought a new, less cute, butternut squash. He won’t see the light of day until his demise is imminent. Galette will be mine.

Things my children have recently talked me into

1. Accepting a very large toy dinosaur into the house, unwanted by neighbour child. “For at least a year,” said Mabel, refusing to budge on the matter.

large toy T-Rex watching TV with Mabel and Trixie the slightly smaller dino

2. Financing a lemonade stand. Going to Aldi specifically to buy more lemons. Sorry, lemins.

"leminade" stand

3. Two popsicles in one day. Maybe three. Silly freezer-on-the-bottom fridge.

4. And an ice-cream from IKEA.

5. Being allowed to use a box cutter. (The 9yo only. He’s very handy.)

6. Being allowed to use my camera. Selfie city.

Selfie by Mabel

7. Luminous yellow trainers.

8. Luminous pink trainers.

Mabel with new pink shoes

9. Turning the TV back on. Again.

It’s the end of summer. My defences are weak.

Dramatis personae

Mabel is still astounded by the child-sized Anna-from-Frozen doll we saw at Target today. It was just a couple of inches shorter than she is. Here is a direct transcript of her conversation with her brother just now:

M: I have NO IDEA how anyone would play with that. You’d have to be nine or ten to play with that.

D: You’d have to be 18. It would be terrifically bad.

M: And it might get mixed up with someone in your family who was very quiet and good.

… American Girl Dolls, fine. They’re not huge.

D: Though I still hate them. No doubt about that.

My children crack me up. In between infuriating me and driving me bananas, if I can just stop and listen to their turns of phrase, they crack me up. The other day Dash asked me “Do you know what irks me?” I had to ask “No, what does irk you?” just to get him to say irk some more.

Mabel talking to Dash

I turned off the TV on Friday after school, with some trepidation, adhering to our new policy of only four shows a day (yes, that should be plenty; but the step of actually turning it off is tricky and unpopular) and since then Dash has taken to playwriting. (Playwrighting? He’s both writing a play and being a playwright, so I guess either would do.)

All weekend he’s been writing scenes and badgering us to type them up and then perform them. His opus now stands at four short plays in each of which his parents die and come back as ghosts (or “goghsts” in Dash spelling). Then there’s a villain whose bullets rebound killing himself, and someone always intones mournfully, “I was a great friend of your mother/father.” We each have at least one role and often several, and sometimes have to bilocate.

Honestly, we’re getting a bit exhausted by all this and I might have to turn the telly back on.

Questionable moments in parenting #267

Lately Dash has been doing his reading with music in the background. It was a suggestion somebody came up with to help him relax while he reads, thus leading, hopefully, to more fluency and swifter reading with no loss of comprehension. I have no idea whether it’s working, to be honest, because he reads in his room nowadays, but he’s really liking the music. He’s becoming quite the mini-authority on Bach and Handel, actually.

As a result of which, I thought it would be good to get him a music player of some sort for Christmas. Something hefty in size and old-school in style: a CD player boombox, in fact. (It has a bluetooth capability to play mp3’s too, if we want to use that.) He loves it. Of course, Santa also had to bring him a CD, so I thought I’d pander to his inner tweenybopper and get a Kidsbop CD. It’s just like the MiniPops of old, if you remember the MiniPops (OMG now I’m having flashbacks of Hey Mickey and Bucks Fizz rendered by 10 year olds*), only more professional sounding. I’m pretty sure when they say “sung by kids” they only mean the backing vocals. Anyway, the one I got (no. 25, Gawd help us) has a fair selection of songs he already knew (Cups, Roar, Royals) and several that are now his new favourites, educating the rest of us in One Direction and Miley Cyrus all the while.

Which brings me to my most recent moment of questionable parenting. He wanted to hear the originals, so I showed him how to search for them on YouTube on my computer while I was making mince pies for the party we were throwing (wildly! with abandon!) yesterday. So I was standing right there telling him which option to select when he looked up Wrecking Ball. And I even thought that this might be a little PG rated as videos go, but I didn’t have the presence of mind, apparently, to nudge the pointer in the direction of the boring lyrics-on-screen version instead, oh no I didn’t.

So then we stood there, he and his little sister and I, watching Miley cavort salaciously with a sledgehammer in her undies (“That must taste yucky,” I said) and ride the eponymous ball and chain with nothing at all on but her rather nice doc martins. “That’s so funny,” said Mabel, “She’s naked!” “Ooh, she must be very cold,” said I, invoking my mother, and all sensible mothers before me, wondering just what this experience was doing to their tender psyches and how long they’d have to be in therapy before this moment was finally exposed as the root of all their troubled lives.

We should maybe stick to Beethoven and his ilk a while longer.

*You’ll be devastated to hear that I can’t find either of these on YouTube to share with you. But there is lots of other MiniPops goodness there. I just can’t decide which one to link to.

Imaginative play

Mabel is really good at playing. She has a gift, I would even say, for play. Solo play, by herself, with just her imagination and all the toys at once. On the floor. Together. All the furniture out of the dollhouse. All the doll clothes out of their tub, which is overturned so that the dinosaurs can stand on it while they’re lined up for school and so the clothes can become a nice soft beautifully laid out bed for a family of stuffed bunnies (who adopted a platypus).

Scene in the dollhouse

All the other stuffed animals are ranged across the floor because she was looking for Poby the red panda she got at the zoo and he was at the bottom of the basket. All the babies are on the carpet because their container is now a hutch, on its side and covered by the big fleece red blanket that belongs on her bed, for the red panda and his associates. There are acorns strewn around because they were snacks for tigers or squirrels or tiny beavers.

Toy beavers

Four three-inch-square blankets I knitted with my own two needles for the family of tiny rabbits (or beavers or owls), not being used for their original purpose but for something else understood only by their ruler. Plastic babies wrapped in baby blankets that once held my real babies. Teddies dressed in doll clothes; horses dressed in bunny clothes, turtles in hats. Markers and crayons and sheets of coloured paper and bits of yarn cut up and taped together and stuck to other bits of yarn.

Dollhouse scene

She’s like a very messy omnipotent being, and her realm is vast and ever-expanding.

Tonight I picked everything up for the first time in days. I put little people into one tub and little plastic animals into another and big animals in another and stuffed animals in their laundry baskets and babies in their baby baskets and furniture in the dollhouse and blankets in bedrooms. I put all the tiny bits of lego on the shelf and the acorns in the trash.

I’ll probably be in big trouble with the omnipotent being tomorrow, but for tonight, the wide open expanse of floor space is worth it.




Saturday night

– Let’s have a sleepover!

– We want a sleepover!

– Okay, you can have a sleepover, since it’s Saturday. But Dash has to do his reading first.

– I’ll read to her!

– He’ll read to me!

– Okay, up you go, then.


– First I‘ll read to you. I know all the words in this one.

She starts to read Red Hat Green Hat.


– I’ll go up and see what they’re doing.

Dash is trying to thread a giant IKEA fake flower through his sister’s hair.

– That’s not reading. But your hair is lovely.

– I’m styling her for the doggy show.

– Woof woof.

– Right. So you’re not reading to her, then? You can play for ten minutes and then you have to come and do your reading. I’m setting the timer, okay?

– Okay.

I go up again. They’re tying their legs together with a piece of ribbon.

– This is for the three-legged race. We have to have a three-legged race.

– Okay, race to downstairs, and then Mabel has to come back up while Dash does his reading.

Long pause at the top of the stairs as the ribbon comes untied and must be tied again. I help, eventually. Then I go down and designate the finish line.

– Yay! You won the race. Right, upstairs with you, Mabel, I’ll give you a piggyback. There’s your book, Dash.

Mabel insists on tying her legs together so she can have a two-legged race back upstairs. I help her hobble thus up the stairs, bring her to bed, read two chapters of her book. Dash comes up, having read his chapter.

– What about our sleepover? We’re still having a sleepover.

– But I want to have it in my bed.

– Your bed’s too small. You have to come into my room. [Dash has a small loft bed with a spare mattress on the bottom, so it’s like a set of low bunk beds.]

– But I’m scared on the bottom of your bed. It’s dark and strange.

– But I don’t fit in your bed. I know, you can be in the top of my bed and I’ll be in the bottom.

– Okay.

Mabel goes into his room, with duvet and stuffed toy and doll, and installs herself in the top bunk. Dash brushes his teeth and puts on pyjamas.

– But I want to cuddle with you.

– Okay, you can cuddle with me.

Dash gets into the top bunk with her, which is exactly the same size as Mabel’s bed that he wouldn’t sleep in because it was too narrow for two. But never mind that. Daddy reads them a chapter of Dash’s bedtime book.

Not thirty seconds after Daddy leaves the room with the two of them snuggled up in Dash’s top bunk, Mabel follows him downstairs at speed.

– Mummy, I need to go to the bathroom.

– Okay. Come on.

– And then I want to go to sleep in my bed.

– Right.

Poor Dash. Another foiled sleepover. Maybe next weekend.


Strengthening exercises

Step 1: Tell the chiropractor that yes, you do (probably, still,) have an exercise ball because you used it when you were pregnant (and in labor, for that matter). He is impressed, and gives you a sheet of exercises that you can do using it.

Step 2: Come home and find the exercise ball, deflated, in its original box, pretty much exactly where you thought it would be in the basement. Since you moved house 1.5 years after the last time you used it, this is quite an achievement.

Step 3: Find a pump and the plug right there in the box along with the deflated ball.

Step 4: Let the five-year-old help you inflate the ball.

Step 5: Watch the five-year-old bounce the ball around until you can finally use it for its intended purpose, briefly.

Step 6: Pick up the second-grader from school. Have the five-year-old refuse to go to dance class even though it’s dance class day and in spite of your best efforts, bringing her all the way there and making her tell the teacher herself that she’s not coming to class today.

Step 7: Suggest that the seven-year-old do his homework straight away when you get home, just as he would have done in the library while his sister was at dance class. He will agree, but he won’t mean it, and as soon as he comes in the door it will be mayhem times two with the exercise ball until you banish it to the basement, amid wails and gnashing of teeth.

Step 8: Wonder when next you’ll bother your arse to get it back upstairs and do your exercises.

Maybe it’s my resolve that needs strengthening, just as much as my back muscles.

Exercise ball in basement

Injustices perpetrated upon her

Miss Mabel is having trouble with bedtime at the moment. The biggest problem with bedtime is that it’s not fair.

Nothing about bedtime is fair, but in particular the fact that she has to wash her hands and brush her teeth is not fair. It’s not fair that she has to brush her teeth because now, after all those books I read her, she’s hungry.

And it’s not fair that there are strawberries in the freezer and she can’t have any because all I’m giving her is a waffle. It’s particularly not fair that I won’t read her book upon book before she brushes her teeth and it’s not fair that when she finally does brush them, she still doesn’t want to.

It’s not fair that she has to get up again and go and wash her hands because she didn’t wash them earlier but she knows she has to wash them. (Note that I did not say she had to. At this stage, I really didn’t give a monkey’s uncle what she did so long as she lay down and shut up.) It’s also extremely not fair that her hands get wet when she washes them because it takes so long to dry them and that’s just not fair.

Sweet child, you need to save some of this not fair for when you’re a teenager, because then you’re really going to need it.

Mabel looking grumpy

Round trip to Melodrama Central

Things Mabel had a meltdown about this morning:

  • 7am: I wouldn’t go downstairs with her. Daddy was already downstairs. I wanted to stay in bed for five more minutes. This was unacceptable.
  • 8am: She was asked not to sing Frozen songs loudly while jumping on the sofa in the room where Dash was trying to read. This was completely unfair. Also, she wasn’t hungry and didn’t want breakfast yet.
  • 8:55am: She doesn’t want to have to walk to school (in clement weather) when she goes to Kindergarten next year. That will be just too hard and she doesn’t like exercise.
  • 8:59am: Her best friend insists that he’s in charge when they play together. He never lets her be in charge and won’t even take turns. He says his mom says he’s in charge.

Things I believed this morning:

  • None of the above.

How happy am I that my county did not call a two-hour-delay on school this morning, even though we had freezing rain and they probably should have?

  • Very.

Sibling revelry

Mabel had a tantrum over the little teddy bear beside the checkout in the supermarket that I wouldn’t buy for her. I was being wonderfully patient and gentle with all my “No’s” until finally I just had to wrestle her to the floor and pry it out of her hands. Perfect.

I’m reading Siblings Without Rivalry just now. I was trying to write up my notes to make a useful post for you lovely people (and for me to come back to, seeing as how it belongs to the library) but the children are thwarting me at every turn.

I tried to keep the TV turned off today when Dash came home from school, because TV time has been expanding exponentially lately and we need a moratorium. Pretty soon, he was complaining of boredom. I decided to use some of the techniques from the book:

“I know that you are a resourceful and smart person, Dash. You can think of something new to do.”
“How do you know I’m resourceful? Give me an example of a time when I was resourceful,” he countered.
What is this, a job interview? I don’t know. Probably some time when you got up to mischief and didn’t want me to know about it. Sheesh. I didn’t say any of that, but it was admittedly tricky enough to think of something. Evidently all the TV has been quashing his opportunities for resourcefulness.

I ignored him and Mabel some more.

Then there was some interval when they were both standing on the kitchen table, which hardly seemed safe, and the next time I looked into the room Mabel was throwing off all her clothes while Dash held her upside down by the legs.

I turned the TV on. Some days it’s the only thing that stands between us all and bodily harm.