Saturday, November 28, 2009

Whatever Happened To Nativity Assemblies?

So here is proof beyond question that I am not going to be winning prizes any time soon for creating the most amazing costume for Captain Underpant's Christmas assembly.

Can anyone guess what this is meant to be?

What do you mean you need more clues?  Isn't it patently obvious?

Well, it is a tuna fish outfit of course.  Duh.  Life-like isn't it?  (Please stop sniggering at the back...let's leave that privilege to all the parents who will be attending the assembly next Friday.)

Yes, Captain Underpants is going to be a Tuna Fish Who Can't Carry A Tune in his Christmas assembly next week.  What relevance does that have to the festive season, I hear you ask?  Ah.  Good question.  Maybe there is supposed to be a tenuous link to the Loaves and Fishes biblical tale...I have no idea.

Of course, this isn't the whole ensemble (hey!  I can hear that collective sigh of relief you know).  There is also a hat with a picture of a tuna fish's head on it (well, there will be when ex prints off the picture and I stick it onto a circular piece of card and plonk it unceremoniously on Captain Underpant's oversized 6 year old head).  Oh and a microphone - because as part of the script Captain Underpants has to regale us with the sound of a tuna fish who can't carry a tune (my ears are still ringing from the round-the-clock rehearsals).

Needless to say, I am a little bit embarrassed by my efforts.  But not quite as embarrassed as I am sure I am going to be next Friday.  Costume making is SO not my forte (as if you hadn't figured that out for yourselves already).


I am sure it will all look okay when the outfit is complete and I am viewing it from a distance at the very back of the school hall.  I'm sure from a distance those pain-stakingly applied glittery scales will come into full effect.  Or they'll be invisible, one or the other.  I did toy with the idea of dressing him as a can of tuna, but quite frankly I wouldn't have known where to start with fashioning that costume.  Maybe I should have just taken it easy on myself and had him just stand on stage simply holding a can of, that is a costume I could handle.

Whatever happened to the traditional annual nativity play, where parents simply had to cut three holes in a white pillow case for a shepherd's robe and secure a tea towel on their child's head, held on by one of daddy's old ties?  That's what I want to know.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

An Unexpectedly Good Thanksgiving

I have been a bit gloomy at the prospect of the 'holiday' season. There doesn't seem much to look forward to with just a grumpy ex and a couple of rambunctious kids to share it the new dilemma of which man to invite to the one Christmas Party I have been invited to. Maybe the answer is neither and I should just take my chances on adding one more to the mix. Or not. I am already struggling to juggle two as it is.

My MIL and her partner are in town for a few days and so I offered to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for us all. Only ex refused to participate, preferring instead to sit home alone and watch American football - as if my food is really that unpalatable. I can't deny it. I was upset. Cried even. Just seemed so sad that he couldn't tolerate a couple of hours of my company for the sake of the kids. No matter, we have in fact just had a lovely day - my boys, my MIL and her other half. And maybe it was just as well he wasn't a part of it, because there was certainly no tension and it was a joy to cook for family and just chill out entertaining the kids with two other adults on hand to assist me. What a luxury.

Now I just have to get through Christmas...not sure what the plan is there. Will the four of us spend the day together, like last year, or is ex planning to abort that family day as well? I need to get an answer - because the last thing I can handle is spending Christmas Day just the three of us like little Billy No Mates. That is not my idea of Christmas one little bit.

Green Eyed Man is being as attentive as ever but I am glad he is in St Louis for the weekend with his family. I am finding it hard to be around him right now, for so many reasons. He is a lovely guy but it all feels a little bit too serious, a bit too soon. He is so eager to please and I can't help but find that a little irritating, which makes me feel like a bitch. He has just changed his huge, petrol guzzling monolithic truck (which he was totally in love with) for a more eco-friendly car. He is updating his wardrobe. He is practising his Brit speak. He is reading every single book I have banged on about. And instead of being delighted that I am such a positive influence all I can think is...NOOOOO! STOP being so adoring - the sun really doesn't shine out of my arse and, even if it does, this is all just a bit too much.

Told you. BEYATCH. Jeez I thought this was exactly what I wanted to make me happy. And maybe in a couple of years time or so it will be. But right now I am finding that I am really appreciating my space - and whilst I do like male company and male attention, the last thing I am ready for is to get emotionally involved.

The other thing which is becoming patently obvious is that being the primary carer for two young children and having an active dating life is actually not a great combo. I really don't have the time, energy or inclination to see someone on a regular basis. When I have the children (which is most of the time, let's be honest) I am physically depleted by the time they are in bed. The last thing I am interested in is getting dolled up to go out on the town and having to pay a babysitter a shed load of money. The alternative - of having the gentleman in question come to the house and then getting all jiggy with it on the sofa, while my two little innocents are sleeping upstairs - also just feels plain wrong.

Turns out there is a reason why people typically date - get serious - marry - then have kids and raise them together...and not any other order. It's just too bloody exhausting. I'm 42. I struggle to muster the energy to get through a boy filled day. There's very little left to get me through a date filled evening, which typically requires at the very least flirtatious, titillating conversation and at most...well, something requiring typically less conversation yet a little more athletic endeavour.

The reality of it is that I have one evening a week kid-free and then every other weekend. And some of the time I just want to chill out alone and other times I want to catch up with girlfriends. Turns out there just isn't enough free time to go round.

Which is why, of course, I have added another man to the mix.

So not just a beyatch but a contradictory one to boot.

I met guy #2 by chance while sneaking a quick chai, in the midst of my best bag-lady-recovering-from-contagious-disease impression. He is TOTALLY different from GEM. For a start he is not American, he is Lebanese, and like me has lived in Chicago for the past 9 years, after leaving Beirut. He has travelled the world and lived a very full life. He is an ER doctor, specialising in pediatrics (I kid you not - I found this out on our 2nd date and of course was immediately hooked) and disaster management. He has degrees, MBAs and PhDs coming out of his ears. He is a little bit full of himself and definitely a free spirit. If I was looking for a man to marry, I hope I would have the good sense to lace my trainers double quick and run hell for leather in the opposite direction. But I'm not. And I can't help but be a little impressed by him and also very intrigued. He's fun. He's interesting. He's asking me out. And while I am playing it super-cool, I know I'd like to spend some time getting to know him a little better.

It does feel a little underhand and illicit though. I haven't said anything to GEM and, even though we haven't discussed being 'exclusive', I am sure he would be upset at the thought of me dating someone else. I know dating multiple people is commonplace in America - and that the trend is filtering over to the UK too - but it is very strange to have text messages from GEM and Dr Disaster sitting alongside each other on my phone. Both such different men, with such different qualities. Oh, how is a girl meant to choose between them? (back of hand sweeps up dramatically to rest against my forehead...)

After all this angst and relationship navel gazing, chances are I'll get dumped by them both this week anyway. I guess that would be one way of solving the issue once and for all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Be A Man Magnet: Tip #1

Be at the tail end of having Mum Cold (ie Flu).

Make sure your skin is pale and blotchy, your hair limp after not being able to face a shower for 3 days, your eyes bloodshot and your nose red and scabby from not having the impetus to use tissues imbued with aloe vera but instead have blown your nose for 72 hours straight on the scratchiest, recycled loo roll.

Venture out of the house in your PJ's, with a hat covered in cat fur over your head in a vague attempt to disguise the disaster area that is the hair/face combo.

Nip into your local coffee shop for a warming chai, before moving onto the afternoon school run.

Sit at the only vacant table, making eye contact with book/blackberry only.

Wait for 4 seconds.

Briefly consent to allow the sexy 40-something man who approaches to share your table.

Return all focus to your book/blackberry.

Slurp chai due to blocked sinuses.

Lick chapped lips.

Sneak a cheeky look at sexy 40-something's bum as he orders his coffee at the counter. Give him 8/10.

Allow brief eye contact when he returns to the table and make some smart arsed comment about the fact that he is being very Italian drinking an expresso at 2.30 in the afternoon.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Nice Timing

Parent Consultations. What a moment of shared parental pride they can be.

It was our first teacher consultation for Johnny Drama this week...and let's just say it is one that will stick in our memories for years to come.

The boys' school has changed the format of the consultations this year and the children are invited to attend. I duly hang around the school with both boys in tow and we wait for our appointment time. The boys are beside themselves with excitement. They're impressed that they get to attend a 'meeting'. But more keen to muck about without much supervision in Johnny Drama's classroom for 15 minutes.

Finally, our appointment time arrives, ex shows up and we go in to meet the teacher.

Oh it's all good stuff. Ex and I beam with pride as Johnny Drama's multiple virtues are discussed. Outstanding letter formations (even though he is left handed and up until 2 months ago all marks on paper appeared to have been performed by a pencil gripped with his toes or his teeth). Fantastic letter sounds. Great participation in French. Excellent listener. Friendly, polite, enthusiastic, social and caring.

Ex and I share a grin over our little 4 year old wonderboy protege. (Even though behind us Johnny Drama is attacking paper with scissors so violently that he has snipped several holes in his jumper and is on the verge of surgically removing a finger from his right hand.) No matter. The boy is surely just steps away from certain stardom. All is good in our world. Irrespective of our circumstances we are obviously doing something right and we absorb all this praise as a reflection of our own talents and apparent parenting abilities.

All too quickly the meeting is at an end and we start to gather up various bags and belongings and instruct the boys to put their coats on. Which is when the drama begins.

"My tummy hurts a little bit" whispers Johnny Drama.

And in the next instant he has liberally sprayed the whole front of the classroom and at least 6 Lilliput chairs with the contents of his stomach.

The world stands still for approximately 0.1 of a second before I leap into action and pick up my pale little boy in an attempt to get him into the bathroom at the back of the class.

Before I can reach my destination a loud cough signals the next round of barfing, which succeeds in covering the remaining back of the classroom. The fact that I am holding him a few feet off the ground ensures that the splatter effect is even more dramatic. As I scuttle him quickly towards the loo, I notice that the new Teddy Bear Picnic display features freshly adorned remnants of, what I can only guess to be, partially digested ham sandwich and several pieces of carrot.

Now, if Captain Underpants is the Stealth Vomiter (he could regurgitate his own gall bladder and you'd never know it) then Johnny Drama definitely favours more of a Shock and Awe approach. His preferred tactic is to deliberately withhold the vomiting reflex until it is physically impossible to contain any longer and then project a semi-digested mix of lunch chunks, fluid and phlegm over a 10 metre radius. Over and over again.

Given that there are 4 adults in total in the room and just one sick child, you would think I would have received some assistance. Er, nope. I glance out of the bathroom, whilst holding a limp and ragdoll-like sobbing Johnny Drama, knee deep in puke, to see the teacher and the learning assistant paralysed by the classroom door turning a Shrek shade of green. As for ex, well he was doing his best not to wretch into the tiny wastepaper bin full of bits of shredded paper.

"So sorry," whispers his teacher, just before exiting room, "I'm really not very good with dealing with sick."

Ex keeps gagging while trying to help by covering a 20 metre squared radius with 7 paper towels.

Captain Underpants carries on cutting out Dragonoid, seemingly oblivious to what is going on around him.

Finally, Johnny Drama finishes being sick and lays limp in my arms. I am crouched in a bathroom surrounded by mini mountains of multi-coloured puke and can't even begin to think how I am going to even start to clean the mess up. Luckily, another helpful teacher arrives on the scene - allowing at least their big toe to cross the classroom door threshold - and volunteers to grab the cleaners to start the sanitation process.

We're escorted quickly from the premises, exhausted and drained, to ensure that any further projectile incidents occur off school property - and as we step outside one teacher kindly points out that my jeans are still covered in a varied array of Johnny Drama's stomach lining. I smile wanly and accept the donation of a large plastic bag for the journey home.

Gold Star JD.

The humiliation of a decimated classroom I can handle. I was just so glad and thankful that you hadn't waited to empty the contents of your stomach in the car. I know from many personal experiences what a bugger those bloody car seat straps are to clean.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mum Flu and Other Matters

The past few weeks have been a sweaty blur of plate spinning - trying to keep on top of everything with very little assistance - and I guess it was no wonder that the blogging plate fell to the ground and smashed into very small pieces. I wasn't sure I was going to be back. I didn't check my blog, didn't read other blogs, basically avoided my computer like the plague for over 2 weeks and had almost reached the point where I just couldn't face getting back into the fray again.

I feel my blog is just one more area of my life that I just don't do very well.

I have the best of intentions but can't compete with the general brilliance that surrounds me and it is beginning to feel like it is just one more thing to add to the list of things that I am generally failing at. Marriage. Motherhood. Career. Friendship. Fitness. Cooking. Being on top of things. Money management. Having the foggiest idea of how I am going to move continents in 8 months time. Hand me the duvet will you someone? I need to pull it back over my head so I can carry on pretending that none of this stuff bothers me.

It hasn't helped matters that either one of the boys or I have been sick every single day for the past 3 weeks. Half term was a wipe out, due to the boys being ill. Being the generous little souls that they are, they very kindly passed on their virulent germs to me and I have been fighting a horrendous cold ever since. Of course, I call it a cold, because I am a mother. And a single mother. I am not sure if a cold typically involves 2-3 days of a raging fever accompanied by 5 nights of night sweats plus heavy, aching limbs which feel as if someone had attacked them brutally with a sledgehammer. But I really didn't have the time, or luxury of anyone to help me out, to have the flu, so I classified it as a cold and simply tried to get from one end of the day to the next with the assistance of copious amounts of Ibuprofen.

With the boys being back at school it would make sense to assume that I would have plenty of time to convalesce and just concentrate on getting better. But no. Is it just me? Am I the only parent who feels that sometimes I spend far more time at the school and doing bloody homework than my offspring? I am Parent Representative for Johnny Drama's class and that involves 'encouraging community' among the parents (most of whom are new to the school) as well as assisting the teacher with administrative duties. I am basically an unpaid lackey in yet another area of my life. Oh well. If the shoe fits... So I have been up to my ears in coordinating parents to participate in the weekly Mystery Reader and IPC lessons, which has been no mean feat because it appears that most of the parents actually have a life and it really isn't practical for them to just be shoehorned into any old opening on the schedule that I throw at them.

Finally the schedules are coordinated, after multiple circulations and several diplomatic emails to parents who, in my mind, couldn't list tact as one of their personality 'gifts' (although 'blunt' and 'obnoxious' would most certainly feature near the top of the list). Then there was the coffee morning to cobble together, followed by the parent's social evening where we all got to know each other a little better through the social power of alcohol. It all went off without a hitch but from my point of view the timing couldn't have been worse because the only relationship I am interested in truly cultivating at this point in time is with the fucking sleep fairy and my Tempur-Pedic pillow.

Alongside this Johnny Drama needed to create a poster on bears and make a bear costume for the teddy bear picnic and Captain Underpants had to compile a work of art for International Dressing Up Day and then come to school dressed in 'national costume'. Having had sludge for brain for over a week, and the natural handicraft abilities of your average slug in general, I tossed and turned for many a sweat-ridden night over the 'national costume' dilemna. What on earth does that mean for the UK? Do we have a national costume? Not having any Morris Dancer tassels, sticks or bells to hand, or bowler hats, braces and black umbrellas or even a fake Bobby tit helmet, I was at a bit of a loss. A knight was a possibility but I couldn't face the exertion of fashioning shields and swords from cereal boxes and tin foil. We didn't have an English football strip in the house. Eventually I managed to rummage through cupboards and unearth a rather majestic blue velvet 'crown' finished with fake ermine and add a back-to-front super hero cape to make, what I like to believe, was a rather convincing King outfit. Captain Underpants was impressed anyway and that's what counts the most.

To top it all off - and as if I didn't have enough on my plate - as well as being Mystery Reader for both boy's classes that week and attending a Literacy Insight lesson which took the best part of yet another day, I also volunteered to conduct an hour's lesson for International Day. I roped in my new best pal, Subversive Mum, and we opted to do a lesson on Scotland. Why Scotland is really anyone's guess, although I have a very tenuous link due to the fact that my dad plays the bagpipes and I thought we could regale the class with some bagpipe music, teach them some Scottish lingo and maybe finish off by practising a Highland Fling while eating shortbread. All very cultural and fitting for the theme of the day. Only one of the other parents had already nabbed Scotland (even though she is an authentic Scot I felt a bit miffed that she had pipped us to the post). So in my medicated state (not sure what Subversive Mum's excuse was) we opted to ignore the brief altogether and conduct a session on general dressing up instead.

We consciously met to develop a lesson plan that we were sure would blow their little ankle socks off. It involved lots of dressing up in strictly non-cultural costumes, playing a game involving giving the kids a true sugar high just before home time by having a relay race dressing in oversized clothes and then eating Cadbury's chocolate with a knife and fork, watching the first ever episode of Mr Benn and reading The Smartest Giant in Town and the Charlie and Lola oracle on dressing up But I Am An Alligator. I borrowed some dressing up clothes from my babysitter (as fancy dress is a category that doesn't particularly feature in my adult wardrobe) and we were set.

My friend and I were pretty pleased with ourselves for being so imaginative and got ready with much enthusiasm for our lesson slot in the afternoon. And it was only when we were sitting in the school reception, in our finest fancy dress, surrounded by a crowd of other 'sensible' parents wielding various cultural activities, that it occurred to us that maybe we had gone a little far off the brief.

What had we been thinking? The other parents stared at us in open amusement, as though in the company of a couple of women fresh from lobotomy surgery. There was no doubt about it. We looked like a couple of prize prawns. To add to the air of parental respectability, we both collapsed into a heap of near-knicker-wetting giggles like a couple of naughty schoolgirls who'd just whispered 'cock/fanny/blowjob' under our breath while in assembly. This attitude of general silliness continued as we leapt and pranced about in front of 20 somewhat bemused 5 and 6 year olds for 60 minutes, clearly entertaining each other more than them - and certainly more than the teacher and learning assistant.

Later that night the teacher emailed a note thanking all the parents who had participated and featuring a photo from each of the parents sessions. The first 8 photos all depicted sensible and respectable mums and dads educating the class on various cultural aspects of a chosen nationality.

And then there was this:

Luckily for us, the photo actually captured us during the 7 or so seconds at the start of the class where we were actually standing still and before we started lampooning around the room like a superhero and manic bride/princess on amphetamines. These were also the most professional of all the costumes featured during the lesson - most of the others definitely required a 5 year old imagination to make any sense of whatsoever.

And I am sure that our session did pass on an important life lesson that day. Academically we did pass on the knowledge that some parents aren't actually any more mature than their children. After all, being a grown up doesn't naturally dictate that you are destined to mature beyond your original childhood state, as we very clearly demonstrated.

And once a Drama Queen, always a Drama Queen.

Now, where is my long lost tiara?

Monday, November 16, 2009

You Missed A Bit

So on the days that I bother/have time to have a shower in the morning, I typically have a bathroom companion in the form of my 4 year old, Johnny Drama.

Heaven forbid that I am allowed even 10 minutes of peace and privacy to soap down my genitals with cascading warm water and some Lush shower gel, without an audience and ongoing commentary - typically revolving around the difference in our genitalia appearance. (Although I guess I ought to be grateful that the functionality of our individual sexual organs hasn't become the prime topic of conversation. Yet.)

Although Johnny Drama rarely ventures into the shower with me, he invariably takes the opportunity to get naked whilst he expresses his sympathy, once again, over the fact that I am still incapable of growing a penis. He views this as a great tragedy, that I bear admirably. I try to assure him that in my mind, it is no great loss but he clearly doesn't believe me and I usually receive several consolatory hugs around the knees, whilst trying to towel myself dry.

These naked little hugs can be the highlight of my day. The incredible softness of his sturdy, plump, lush flesh pressed against my bare legs is so exquisite that, even when I am severely pushed for time and we are late, yet again, I can't help but pause for that moment and savour this affection. This morning I bent over and covered his pensive face with kisses.

"Geddoff me, mum! No kisses!"

Oh, the joys of the 4 year old who already thinks he is too old to suffer a peck on the cheek from his own mother.

Sometimes I obey his indignant command. But mostly I ignore him and simply dive in for more. This morning was no different. I grab him and start to smother him in kisses, from behind his ear, to his elbow, armpit, tummy, back, knees, thighs and chubby little feet.

"No kisses, eh? No kisses? I'll give you 'no kisses' you little monkey..."

Johnny Drama writhes in ecstatic giggles as I bite his bottom and continue to kiss him all over. Finally I let him go with a mock warning: let that be a lesson to you for telling me, your own mother, no kisses...

He looks at me with a face of pure innocence, penis outstretched in his hand..."You missed a bit mummy".

I pause, completely taken back.

"You missed a bit mummy" he repeats, "c'mon, kiss my penis. C'mon. Kiss it." He smiles up at me, totally guileless.

I feel completely unprepared for how to deal with the situation. I've never had an issue with nudity - mine or theirs - but even when they were both babies, and I kissed every square inch of them from head to toe, I never kissed their genitals. I wasn't sure how to explain, at 6.53am, that the kissing of his penis wasn't really appropriate - even though it appears to be by far Johnny Drama's favourite body part and I am sure he would spend a fair amount of his waking hours kissing it himself, if it was physically possible.

I shuffle with embarrassment into the bedroom, as JD stalks me with penis still in hand giggling while he seeks to continue the kissing game, and start to get dressed. Would it really be so bad if I gave it a quick kiss and then we just got on with our day?

I acquiesce by blowing his penis a kiss as I busy myself with making the bed.

I am sure that, during your lifetime Johnny Drama, there will be plenty of women willing to give your penis a kiss. Unfortunately my love, I just can't bring myself to be one of them.

But I am sure your peachy little bottom is not regarded as 'out of bounds' for at least a couple of years yet...right?