Warts and All

After years of ignoring my problem the time has come to take action.

I’ve got a crop of verrucas on my feet. They’ve been there for a very long time, but weren’t bothering me until recently. A couple of years ago I had them frozen and I thought that would be it, but they were just dormant, obviously so deep I didn’t notice them and now I have a new small dark-centred spot on the second toe of my right foot.

It’s 8am. I ring the doctor. To get an appointment for the same day, you have to ring my doctor between 8am and 8.30am. The answer machine tells me I am in a queue and will be answered shortly. I put the phone on speaker and shove the kids into the bathroom to brush their teeth. S is resisting. He grabs the brush, licks all the toothpaste off and wiggles it about on his tongue.

“Go get your shoes quick” I snap at A. “We’re in a hurry”

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

I try to wrestle S out of his pyjama bottoms to put a clean nappy on him.

“No no no!” he shouts at me

Holding firmly onto his left leg I manage to open the poppers and pull the old nappy off. I try to lie him down on the sofa but he screams uncontrollably, tears are bursting from his eyes, he’s red in the face and he’s rotating from side to side.

To any innocent person who had never met a 2-year-old before he would look like he was having some kind of seizure.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

“Keep still” I’m pleading with him. A has to be at school in 5 minutes.

OK shall I push him down flat with all my force or just carry him to school with a bare bum?

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

“Help! I can’t handle this anymore” I’m starting to have my own tantrum.

I run to the door to find my jacket, run back to S, try to lie him on the sofa, he pushes me back and escapes again, I run back to the door to help A with her boots, I run to the kitchen to grab an apple and stuff it in A’s bag.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

 P is on his way down the stairs and supposed to be leaving for work, but I‘m starting to panic.

“We’re late! We’re always bloody late! I’m just trying to get his nappy on! I can’t stand this!”

“Ok go, just go” says P “leave him here, I’ll wait”

Phew

I hold A by the hand and run out and across the road to school.

A is taking her coat and hat off in the hallway. The phone is still in my pocket. I can hear the same message still on repeat.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

We go into the class and A takes her place in the circle. The teacher starts her gentle lyrical singing. The room hushes and the children start to join in. I quickly move to the doorway of the classroom, turn the speaker phone off and hold it to my ear. The display tells me that I’ve been on hold for 11 minutes, so I’m not giving up just yet.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

…“Good morning, Dr. Meeuwvis, how can I help you”

Finally.

“Um yes I need to make an appointment” I’m whispering in the hallway next to the open door of the classroom. As quietly as I can I try to explain to the woman on the other end of the phone that I have several verrucas on my feet (I’m actually using the word likdoorn which I think is the Dutch word for corn because I don‘t know the word for verruca).

I get an appointment, hang up and look around to see if anyone has heard my conversation. Then I creep back into the classroom and stand behind A until they sing the goodbye mums and dads song. I give her a big hug and head back home.

S has got his nappy on! Yippee!

Now for the trousers and shoes. P and I spend another half an hour coaxing him out the door with apple flavoured rice cakes. For a crazy moment I forget the crucial rules of managing a 2-year-old and I open the front door. No!

“me do it, me do it”

More screaming. We have to close the door again. Go back inside and spend 10 minutes of S trying to reach the catch, lifting him up, fiddling and straining, him pulling at the handle. Now we’re out and we bundle him in the bike. He goes rigid and won’t get in. We give him biscuits. He screams when I try to get the safety belt over his head, but I just have to go at this point and zip up the front of the bakfiets (bike with a front container). He’s kicking and yelling under the plastic cover as I cycle along.

The doctor is a stand-in trainee doctor today. A young man of about 30.

Yes they are ‘wratten’. Foot warts.

“W_R_A_T”

This sounds a lot more harsh than ‘verruca’ which is a rather pleasant word, and could almost be a girl’s name. Now the doctor offers to freeze them for me and I agree.

He fetches a huge tank of liquid nitrogen, some small sticks and cotton wool. We discover that I have a total of nine ‘foot warts’. He dips the cotton wool into the liquid nitrogen. There’s a white icy fog billowing out of the tank. He presses down hard onto the sole of my foot. Wow this is intense! It hurts like hell! S is looking at me closely. I grimace at him but try not to cry out. I breathe out in a long controlled out-breath. It reminds me of all those breathing exercises I learnt for giving birth. The doctor takes a new stick and continues on to the next spot.                                                                                   

S is standing glued to my leg with his toy bunny in his mouth. He peers at the white marks appearing under my feet,

“Mummy got a ow-ie”

“Yes”

When we’re finished with all nine we wait a minute or two and then the doctor repeats the whole process again.

“It’ll take a couple of weeks to heal”

I shake the doctor by the hand and we leave.

I hobble into the lift. S has a great time pressing the buttons and then we go outside hand in hand.

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Warrier Women

A is five. She was three when her brother S was born. She saw my pregnant belly grow and in the later stages move and writhe about. She knew that there was baby in there and she used to talk to him and introduce herself.

“Hello baby, I’m your sister” she would say.

She wanted him to know her. When he ‘popped out’ she was asleep. I was taken to the hospital because his head was not sufficiently engaged into my pelvis. So for the second time I was denied a home birth. All credit to the midwife for being thorough, when I arrived at the hospital things seemed to get steadily worse. The baby had moved into a superman pose, his arm up above his head and no amount of shoving seemed to persuade him to conform to the proper birthing position. When I say shoving the real truth is a doctor half submerged her arm up my vagina in a move that reminded me of classic veterinary TV shows involving cows. They tried their best to manually move his arm out the way – weird to think he had already been shaking hands with another person before even being born! He kept his hand above his head and proceeded to wrap his elbow around trapping the umbilical cord so that with every contraction he squeezed the cord between his shoulder and his head and cut off his own oxygen supply. We heard the heart rate go down as each contraction got longer. Needless to say the doctors couldn’t leave it any longer and I had to have a c-section. Having a c-section is just as weird as a ‘normal’ birth, all these blue masked people around you and the bright lights. You feel everything, the squidging, the slicing just without the pain and you can imagine the blood and guts on the other side. I thought it’d be the easy option, but I surprised myself by yelling in my best Dutch,

“Is it OK to scream in the operating room?”

I was given the go ahead so I screamed myself dry. I was disappointed to be cheated out of a second birth since everyone goes on about how much easier it is the second time around but hey on the other hand I accepted it, I knew I could have done it the other way too. I had a first birth under my belt and so there was the proof of my real warrior woman status.

The first time around was very different. There were minor complications that landed me in hospital but I ended up with a more or less natural birth. Granted I was very naive and had perhaps listened to too many positive stories about tranquil water births at my prenatal classes. Coming from a hippie dippie family I was aware of the facts, but in a very innocent way. I witnessed 3 births by the time I was 10 and I even dug a hole for the placenta planting ceremony after my sister’s birth. Birth was beautiful and soulful. But this was no match for the hard core reality of the deal and nothing nothing prepared me for the agony of having my bones ripped brutally apart like that. Nonetheless I did it and I did it with style. Apparently I was cracking jokes between the screams. I had been going to kundalini pregnancy yoga and I had practiced my mantras, so after two days of contractions, a few hours waiting in the corridor of the hospital and another 10 or so in the labour ward, I stood up at the side of the bed, clenched my fists and shouted,

“I am a strong and capable woman!!”

The Caribbean midwife in the London hospital chuckled at me and opened 2 sachets of sugar from the tea trolley which she poured down my throat. After a minute or two she advised me it might be an idea to stop shouting quite so much as I was losing all my energy out the front of my mouth by screaming instead of using that energy to push. I love a good drama, but she had a point and I focused in on the pain. I concentrated on the downward impulse and I think the scream turned into a low-pitched growl like a bear. Finally the most amazing person I was ever to meet arrived.

5 years later the baby girl that I gave birth to is lying in her bed and we’ve just read a bedtime story. Quite out of the blue she asks,

“When you have a baby in your tummy, how does it actually get out?”

I hesitate and think how to answer this. I won’t lie to her but I want to keep it simple. I’ve thought of it often, as soon as she was born infact, the fact that she’s a girl. What a destiny to be dealt this particular biological hand of cards. To tell the truth it terrifies me already. I tell her what I can.

“The baby moves down here” I say touching her abdomen “and it comes out through there.” I point.

“The fanny!” She literally looks astonished.

I quickly try to go over some basic facts, that it takes time, that the body is amazing, that it stretches and expands and even changes shape. She’s 5, I’m not going to let her in on the real truth of the searing pain and the blood and the vaginal stitches. Let’s spare her the details. For now.

She looks at me, laughs a brief nervous laugh and then snuggles down between her rabbit and her huge teddy who she calls big mamma.

“Night mummy” she says and hugs me tightly.


Grey Day (or the one about wee and poo)

We parents are so trying. So obsessed with our progeny are we that every gurgle enthralls us, every damp squirt has us studying the wonderment of their bodily functions and on top of that we won’t stop going on and on about it. We bother you with our stories of poo and sick, like you could care less. And ‘mummy bloggers’ we’re even worse, so it was only a matter of time.

Here we go then. No mercy.

We start the day with a wet bed. All night long A has been coughing up her guts, to the point where she projectile vomits a mucusy yellow liquid over her pillow. She crawls into our bed and I give her some paracetamol and a few sips of water. Her lips are all rough and she keeps asking for more water to soothe her dry throat. She’s been throwing everything back out, so I only let her have tiny fimble-fulls at a time. She coughs continually for what seems like for ever. She flings the covers off, then flings them back on. She sits up and asks for the bucket. Nothing comes out this time. I prop her up with pillows to try to reduce the coughing. She lollops from side to side slipping off the mound of cushions. Eventually she falls asleep and the paracetamol must kick in because the coughing dies down for a while. When she wakes up the non-stop hacking cough is back. She grabs for the bucket just in time. Well done, no sick in the bed! She’s puking up last night’s water.

“I need a wee” she says

I try to shake myself awake. P jumps up

“OK, let’s go downstairs” he says

But A has got the bucket under her chin again. A few more dribbles of slimy water.

“OH” she’s whimpering in between spews “wee wee”

I look down and see a wet puddle spreading onto the middle of the sheets. The retching reflux has made her let go of her bladder.

We clean her up but she’s floppy and lies miserable on the sofa for the rest of the day.

The remainder of the morning consists mainly of doing hulking laundry runs and struggling to lift our ten-tonner of a mattress, replenishing A’s tea, administering spoonfuls of warm apple juice, running about in my pyjamas after S who is not phased by his sister’s illness at all and shoves his big yellow tractor into her face expecting her to join in. At midday I see a delivery man waving at me through the front window. I am a bit sheepish about opening the door to him in my red christmas snowflake pyjamas that my mum gave me last year but he’s carrying a large parcel so I open the door a crack.

Well done mum, there I was scoffing at the pyjamas, but they do the job a pair of pyjamas is supposed to do. And here you are coming up trumps again with this year’s offering already. It’s a large parcel full of various wrapped goodies.

“You can open one each today” I say “and the rest are going under the tree.”

Early Christmas presents, perfect just when today was looking like a total loss. S gets some wooden skittles which gives him something to bash about instead of pestering his sister and as luck would have it the one A chooses to open is a DVD of Annie.

I prop her up on the sofa and stick it in the machine.

Maybe far away, or maybe real nearby,
He may be pouring her coffee,
She may be straightening his tie

I plonk down the washing and join her on the sofa.

Something strange has taken grip of me, I’m singing along, I know all the words! How did this happen?..I’m watching A watching this film and I’m taken back to a misspent childhood of musical appreciation. Hours of listening to the Annie soundtrack. And I always thought I hated musicals!

So my mum is at it again, indoctrinating the next generation.

Only the early 80’s could whitewash a story of alcoholism, child labour and kidnap to this extent.

She’s sitting playing piano,
He’s sitting paying a bill!

Harmless romanticism or should I cover A’s ears and protect her from dangerous gender conventions?

Bet they collect things
Like ashtrays, and art!
Betcha they’re good —
(Why shouldn’t they be?)
Their one mistake
Was giving up me!

Why would I want to collect ashtrays?

So maybe now it’s time,
And maybe when I wake
They’ll be there calling me “Baby”…
Maybe.

“Ahh,” I think stroking my ailing little girl’s arm “my baby”

I’m getting sucked in watching her giggles at the ‘hard knock life’/pillow fight scene. By the time we’re at the turban helicopter rescue, a dose of stage-school sentiment is pepping through her bloodstream. She agrees to honey on toast and a bath.

They both get in, but S is screaming. A realises she needs a poo. I wrap her back in a towel and she runs to the toilet, which in our house is unfortunately nowhere near the bath. S keeps crying, so I end up having to wipe one child’s bum with another naked shivering child wrapped round my waist.

Back in the bath, S is farting.

“Poo poo coming” he says.

Shit…I run and fetch the potty. I fish him out of the bath for a second time and try to plonk him on but he locks his knees rigid and shouts “NO”

“No poo in the bath” I explain “On the pot”

“No”

After a minute or two of potty face-off the poo threat seems to fizzle out so he gets back in the bath.

A is larking about with a rubber ring splashing and S is hooting with laughter. Hopefully the coughing and gut wrenching is easing off for today. Yes tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll both be able to get out of our pyjamas.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on til tomorrow

A gets out of the bath and brushes her teeth.

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya tomorrow
You’re only a day a….

“Ahhh, noooooooo”

A long brown turd is floating up to the surface of the bath water.

“Come on! I said No…poo…in…the…bath!”

I grab S quickly out of the bath, sponge him down in case any poo-crumbs have stuck to his wet skin. Then I get the cat litter scoop and start shit shovelling.

The kids are finally in bed and I’m disenfecting the bath. A day that starts with a wee in the bed and ends with a turd in the bath. Is this one of those grey days Annie means when she says you should stick out your chin and say…“Oh

“Oh” I say


Naked Snails

I’ve been in the garden scooping slugs and snails out of the sandpit. The slugs have been an on-going problem for a while now. Last summer I must have found hundreds of them. I am not a very keen gardener, or more to the point I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, but we have inherited an oasis of green and even an overzealous grapevine that seems to sprout new shoots on a daily basis. The branches creep down trying to invade the house through the back door.

I remember a time last year that the garden in all its blooming glory almost gave me a heart attack. I was sitting watching a film on the sofa and I kept hearing a scary tapping noise at the window. Luckily it wasn’t a horror film, but we have all seen enough of those film scenes to imagine a light tapping at the window to be the scrape of a scythe or a meat-cleaver. I bravely drew back the curtain to discover that the wind was repeatedly knocking a particularly gnarly shoot of grapevine against the window pane. It just goes to show that I have the mind of a city dweller. I have never really had a proper garden before and I wasn’t aware of the noises they are capable of making.

I am equally naïve when it comes to slugs. Last summer all my pot plants were eaten, and that felt hugely unjust since it took me an enormous effort to even have any pot plants. I had a tiny baby. I didn’t have time for gardening! I just shoved any pretty looking flowers I found into random jars and containers. They were only annuals (my new word) but all the same it is a shame to have your fledgling efforts spoiled by a plague of gluttonous molluscs.

They even started trespassing through our kitchen. I don’t know where they got in but the evidence of their silver trails was there in the early mornings and I wouldn’t risk walking in bare feet. When my sister came to stay, P had warned her about them,

“Don’t be alarmed if you see any naked snails in the kitchen”

“Ok I won’t” she said

In dutch they have one word ‘slak’ . This can mean a snail or a slug, but to clarify when referring to a slug they say that it is naked.

Today I am outside with my daughter and her friend. It is a surprisingly warm day and they want me to open the sandpit. It has been decked in black bin-liners for weeks to guard against the summer rain (?) but now I am peeling it back. There are scores of slugs all over the plastic, both the naked and the clothed variety, and then I discover yet more wiggling through the sand itself. I find a bowl and a spade and I start picking them off. A and her friend stand at a safe distance watching me recoil in disgust.

“Urgh”

I also have to spoon up trails of black poo all over the sand toys. I never realised that slugs poo so much. The bowl is starting to get very full. They’re writhing over each other, like one wet mucousy mass of black slime. Their tentacles are wiggling trying to escape. I have to work fast, as with each new slug I scoop up into the bowl I discover several more that have squirmed their way to the rim and I have to push them back down with the back of the spade. Why did I use this shallow bowl? It’s too late now. I have to keep going.

They’re repulsive creatures, but I’m not exactly trying to harm them. When I was about 6 I kept a family of snails in a tupperware box in the kitchen as pets and I fed them on lettuce.

“ooooghhh” I shout when my hand squelches against a runaway on the underside of the bowl.

P is inside with his back to me, head burried in the computer. He’s sniggering.

“What’s the big deal, it’s only a few slugs”

“I know but you’re not the one dealing with them!”

I run in and shove the convulsing bowl under his nose. I go out front and open the green bin. Is it ok to put them in here I wonder? It is supposed to be for all green waste – this counts as garden rubbish doesn’t it? I start throwing the slugs in, but seeing their tentacles reaching out towards me at eye-level is too much so I just throw the whole bowl in. It’s made out of wood anyway. That’s green.

I can see the neighbour looking over. She says she heard me in the garden. Apparently I was using the word ‘slimy’ a lot.

“Don’t worry I throw slugs in the green bin too.”

Well at least she’s admitted to the militant slug abuse act, so we’re in it together. They’ll be fine. They probably love it in there anyway. All dark and moist.

I go back into the garden to find A and her friend picking the leaves off my pot plants to mix up into a soup. They have lost interest in the sandpit.

It starts to get chilly so I poke and prod at the wayward vine to struggle to close the back doors. There’s a blackbird out there on the path nibbling at a slug, probably one that I dropped.

“Go bird! Kill!”


The Crunch

A few days ago I was making my daughter a sandwich for school. It was very early in the morning so I still felt a bit bleary headed. I asked her what she wanted in the sandwich.

“Cream cheese and cucumber?”

“Yes that’s fine” she answers “no no uum I won’t have cucumber”

I find this puzzling since cream cheese and cucumber has always been a winner.

“Why don’t you want cucumber?”

“Because when you’re at school and it’s time to eat the juffie turns this thingy round and it plays a tune on the music box and then you all have to be quiet.”

(Juffie is the generic term for female teacher)

Listening to this I suddenly feel a lot more awake and attentive.

“Ooh” I say  “so you mean cucumber is too crunchy and it makes a noise?!”

“Yep”

“I’m sure the juffie doesn’t mind if you crunch a little bit when you’re eating”

“Yeah, but I just don’t want to anyway” she says

I am thinking to myself that this is ridiculous. How did I ever produce such a law-abiding goody-two-shoes? How could a bit of cucumber ever be rebellious?

I make a vow to myself to try to encourage a bit more wild disobedience.

I did recently fail to read the note pinned up on the classroom door so I baked jam tarts for a school trip instead of pancakes as all the other mums had done. I was the only one that did something different but this was more an act of disorganisation than of rebellion. A jam tart is not really a symbol of living life on the edge so I needed a new plan.

I bumped into a friend and her two kids at the farm and while our brood were stepping on the goat poo and stroking the rabbits we managed to have a short conversation about our music tastes. This was a good start, just to talk about something other than the kids. It turned out that she was a reggae DJ and I am a big reggae fan. Talking to her was bringing back memories of wilder days at festivals, being young, dancing all night. She was going to be Dj-ing at the weekend.

Here was the perfect opportunity to liven up an old passion with a few “Irie vibrations.”

So I turn up very keenly at 8pm on the dot. Maybe a bit too keen, the place hasn’t even opened it’s door yet! My friend is the first to play at a whole evening of reggae. I have really built this ‘going out’ thing in my head since it happens so seldom. Things start off very slowly and the place is empty for the first hour apart from us two mums and then a few friends of the DJ start to arrive, one of whom is heavily pregnant. We swap birthing stories and talk about pregnancy yoga. Wait! This is not the wild evening I had planned. Then my friend, the DJ needs to go to the loo and quickly shows me what to do in her absence. I’m standing in the DJ hotspot and I’m switching the faders! My heart beats a bit faster and I feel like I’m very cool…I look up from my brief moment of triumph and remember that I’m playing to an empty dancefloor!

By the time the second band of the night plays and it’s really filling up with the proper late night party crowd, ie. the young people I start nervously looking at the time and I sensibly head back home. I have to retrieve my coat from the backstage area though and typically enough the band members are in there taking a breather – smoking up a cloud of marijuana. The smell from outside is enough to almost knock me off my feet and I’m getting a bit nervy about the idea of going in, but I just hold my breath and make a dash for it. OK so my really reckless days are in the past, but I did get close to the ‘rebel music’, at least I danced to some tunes about the ‘uprising’.  And I had four beers! And was home at midnight!

My rebellion might be on the back burner, but I hope my daughter’s is still to come. On Monday I’m planning on slipping carrot sticks into her lunch box.


One Man and His Bike

Hobbies?!

Why do certain men have this urge to take up precious and valuable time with pointlessness? As I have mentioned to P several times of late I consider hobbies a luxury that I don’t expect to have time for until I’m at least 65. There will be plenty of time for leisure activities when we’re retired and the kids have left home. I’ll join a choir, grow potatoes, make wonky pottery mugs with the best of them, but for now, there are bums to be washed, sandwiches to be made, washing up to be done, tax returns, greasy fingers to wipe, sweetcorn to be swept from the floor etc etc. The list goes on…. By the way these domestic chores are not my idea of a pastime, if there are any men reading this I would like to point out that we women have not invented the concept of laundry, it is just there spoiling our fun too.

As far as having hobbies goes, P doesn’t agree. He has a new one to add to his list.

He is building himself the ultimate fan-daby-dozy racing bike. Apparently it has a rare Japanese frame that someone once won the ‘Tour de France’ using in about 1980….I have definitely got these facts wrong, but I am not a geek so I don’t care.

It is not enough for P that he already has a racing bike in the garden, plus a folding bike, a mountain bike, a city bike and a bakfiets (container bike).  This might sound like an affluent collection of transport but showing them off would make a laughable episode of ‘cribs’. They are an assortment of rust and various states of disrepair, so they make up a scene fairly typical in a dutch family’s front garden. And handy for visitors of course.

His new hobby is like the super-duper optimum hobby since it combines other hobbies into one streamlined obsession. One is racing of course, another is spending an inordinate amount of time searching marktplaats (the dutch ebay) for parts, another is general tinkering and the final hobby is photography. Flicking through his camera recently wanting to see his snaps of the kids I found one picture of the chain rings laid out next to the crank set (yes I now know what it’s called) and several shots of the frame without wheels taken from different angles. It’s reminds me of a lover who can’t stop snapping pictures of their sweetheart.

Whether it will ever satisfy him I have no idea, I’m sure that once the bike is finished, he’ll use it of course but the thrill of the challenge will fade and be replaced by the next obsession. No doubt, the flush of new love will lose some of it’s luster, those photos won’t be saved but discarded as the next project begins. I know from experience that there will be a next project.

Meanwhile the laundry. Today I was upstairs with little S just after his nap. We’ve just been on holiday and the suitcases are lying around the hallway not being dealt with so I thought I better get on with it. There are also huge piles of unsorted clothes all wedged in the doorway of our bedroom so I start chucking them vaguely in the direction of the laundry basket. S keeps pointing up to the attic and saying “dada”.

“No dada’s not up there” I say

“Dada” he says again and starts trying to climb the stairs.

“OK I’ll show you” I say and pick him up under the arms and go up.

When I get up there I find the racing bike suspended from the middle of the ceiling, like a sacred centrepiece. The metal parts are gleaming silver and there are several scary looking cleaning products and blackened toothbrushes on the floor.

Apart from that the attic is clear, it has exposed bare wooden walls and no floorboards. P has been up there a fair bit recently. ‘Renovating’. Basically for the last year we’ve been trying to get around to getting it finished and habitable so that it can be our new bedroom.

I go back down the stairs and continue sorting through the heaps of clothing but S keeps on pointing and I have to show him the bike several more times before he’s satisfied.

This evening after dinner I see P is outside talking to the neighbour over the fence. Initially he’s thanking him for watering the plants while we were away and politely listening to him talk about his new job. The conversation quickly moves along and his pet subject comes up, his bike. The neighbour turns out to be a racebike enthusiast as well. P is showing him pictures on his phone. They’re out there a long time and P comes in clutching some brake cables that the neighbour had left over in his shed.

“That’s the chattiest he’s ever been” he says smiling.


Toast!!!

The baby has started talking. Well he is a toddler really I suppose. He totters about in his dungarees kicking a ball, chasing balloons, tripping over and banging his head on tables a lot. Maybe from now on I will give him his very own grown up letter – S.

Anyway he is talking, just a few words, like ‘mooo’ for a cow, ‘nose’, ‘ow!’ (when the said bumping and banging happens, he is very dramatic about it). He can also say ‘wow’, often when there’s a large rubbish truck going past or I produce strawberries from the fridge. It is all very cute really and like any parent I coo in wondrous appreciation as his vocabulary grows (even if other people can’t distinguish a moo from a shoe, or a juice from a cheese for that matter) His current favourite word is ‘toast’! He loves the stuff. The only time I am a little less charmed by this new ability to talk is at 6am. When he wakes up in the morning he stands up in his cot and shouts ‘toast!’ at the top of his lungs, he doesn’t stop until I go in and get him. He used to accept a little cuddle in mum and dad’s bed in the morning, but now it is no-nonsense, dead-on target, ‘let’s get down those stairs and get the toaster going mum’ and he will not tolerate a single moment of faff in between. If mum is not properly organised the night before with socks, pyjama bottoms, a handful of nappies at the ready, if I need to go back into my own room to pull on my slippers for instance I am greeted by a full on tantrum. And tantrums at 6am are a whole new kettle of stinking rancid fish that you don’t even want to know about. So I try to minimise the risk and have the necessary clothing/changing equipment piled up on the landing.

Then we run downstairs in the dark, and I slice the bread. He continues saying ‘toast’ until I tell him he needs to wait for the pop. Then he changes his mantra to ‘pop…pop’

P claims that I have already infiltrated little S with my English toast obsession. I have mentioned before in a previous post the Dutch crazy love of bread, and it having an almost holy place in the average Dutch diet, they wouldn’t pollute the pureness of the beloved ‘broodje’ (sandwich) by toasting the stuff.

Once the toast is ready and S is happily in his high chair munching we can relax and chat, as long as we stick mostly to a conversation using one-syllable words that contain the letter ‘O’.

Another new word that I’m not overly keen on is ‘phone’. Typical up-to-the-minute baby that he is, he grabs the phone out of my hand and uses his grubby little teeny weeny index finger to slide through all the various apps looking for something that he can accidentally buy for me. It is amazing how fast things seem to be moving along. A is 4 and a half and when she was his age and she grabbed the phone out of my hand it still had buttons to press.

Unfortunately he also likes throwing things. Yesterday he grabbed the iphone and threw it on the floor. We have a wooden floor and the impact cracked the front panel of the phone. I picked it up and bellowed in that half drill, half ox giving birth like way that P is always telling me off for. (Quick aside: In my opinion if P was a 24 hour parent like I am and didn’t get to escape to ‘work’ he would have developed his own equally annoying noise).  It is a noise of utter frustration that I make instead of swearing or hitting anyone.

I am shouting “I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS!!”

I wouldn’t have reacted so severely, if it was not for the fact that this has just happened to me not even a month ago. I had been holding onto my bike with one hand, I had leaned across to pick up the potatoes I was buying at the market and the phone had fallen out of my pocket and onto the ground, where it had royally smashed. I had had to ring a whippersnapper of a young iphone fixing boy to drive over (charging me petrol money by the kilometre) to replace the glass. It cost 80 euros!

How could I be so idiotic? How could I not have bought a cover for it the first time this happened? And why did I let a toddler anywhere near the damn thing? Now I start directing my frustration at the stupid thing itself and those abominable people at Apple for making it. It is clearly a way of fleecing all of us suckers who fall for their ‘must-have’ marketing. How can it be so easy to break that a hock high teeny toddler can smash it by dropping it on a wooden floor?

This is the cycle of thought that I am trapped in for the rest of the afternoon. I stick sellotape across the screen and set about grumpily trying to get dinner ready. S totters about with his bare feet pat-patting on the wooden floor bumping his head on the dinner table. He occasionally runs into the kitchen and climbs up onto a high step to examine the vegetables I am chopping. He fingers the courgette without enthusiasm and shouts ‘toast!’