Thursday, 29 December 2011

How to get a diagnosis

I knew there was something different about my son from when he was about 6 months old. He didn't cry, smile, babble or move. It's ironic because the medical profession, who worried me sick when Bobby was a baby with scares of jaundice, too tall, not gaining enough weight, were completely panic free when there actually was something the matter.

Every new parent is given THE RED BOOK. This book is to be brought to every appointment and weigh in, filled in regularly and kept in a fire proof, damp proof, lockable safe chained to the wall and guarded by laser beams. It's that important. No new parent, however brave, would dare forget to take THE RED BOOK to an appointment with any health professional.

One of the pages in THE RED BOOK charts the growth of baby. It is marked as a percentage, or 'centiles' and there are lines between which the 'normal' baby should fall. By the time Peter was 2 his height and weight were well under 'normal' on the 7th and 9th centile respectively, and his enormous head was off the scale. As Bobby had often bordered the 'normal' line I was expecting some kind of reaction to this, however the doctor who saw Peter wrote in his report that this was nothing to worry about as "Mother was short with a big head." Humph.

When Peter was 4, a different doctor asked if Peter was showing any signs of toilet training or awareness of 'movements'. I told the doctor that Peter, who had very little speech, would sometimes indicate that he had soiled his nappy by saying "Stinky bum" or, in Peter speak, "Gik gik m-uh." This was translated by the doctor in his report as, "When Peter has soiled his nappy he will ask his mother to change him by saying 'Kinky Mum'." I ask you. It's a wonder I wasn't put straight on some kind of register.

Any parent who has a child with 'additional needs' (I think that is the latest Politically Correct term...) will know that it is not the moment the doctors give the diagnosis that is the hard part, it is getting the doctors to listen to you in the first place. I eventually got a diagnostic appointment for Peter by changing his routine (guaranteed to make him scream blue murder), sitting in the GP's office and refusing to leave until I had an appointment. By the time Peter had trashed the place, I had an appointment for the following week. Peter was diagnosed with hypotonia and autism, at which point the medical profession and support groups could not do enough for me.

To those parents who are going through this, I would say that tantrums in the over 18s work. Keep throwing them and people will listen. Unorthodox advice, but it works. To those who work with these children I would say be patient with us parents; there's a reason we're a nightmare breed.

Today: Embrace the difference
I call Peter my Little Weirdo. He is proud of his title. I tell him all the time that ordinary people grow up to stack shelves or work in offices; it's the extraordinary people who change the world. I'm expecting great things from my Little Weirdo. Watch out world!

Mama Jax

Sunday, 4 December 2011

How to make the most of Santa

It's that time of year again when excited little faces begin to look eagerly to the sky and count down the sleeps 'til Santa. It's also the easiest time of year to keep your small ones in check. If you are having trouble disciplining your child, may I suggest that now is the best time to crank things up a notch.

Lots of children, when they are small, are frightened of Santa. This is a healthy fear which should be encouraged for as long they believe. Santa is not a jolly fat man who brings goodies to all and sundry. Santa plays it fair. Good children get presents, naughty children don't.

I start threatening my kids with Santa from about August. Phyllis firmly believes that I have Santa on speed dial:

"Hello, is that Santa? I have Phyllis here, she'd like a quick word with you. She doesn't think it's fair that she has to put away her toys. Oh no, wait, she's changed her mind."

I have a friend who rings the kids in early November, as Santa, just to check up on them and make sure they are behaving. The Brightest Star in the Sky is Santa's special fairy, who checks in on them every so often, and the little security sensors in the corners of many public places are really Santa-cam. These are just to start you off. One of my friends was inspired enough to tell her kids that I knew their names because I worked for Naughty List Intelligence. Oh, if only that were a real job! We parents must stick together, and anything we can use that makes our lives easier is a Good Thing.

By the time December comes round, my small folk are so terrified that they will have nothing in their stockings that they are paragons of saintly virtue, leaving me free to eat chocolate and drink mulled wine in peace. So Santa, much as I curse you for making me do your Christmas shopping, I have to say you are alright really.

Today: My Christmas wish list

Dear Santa,

I have been a good girl this year. Please may I have:

1. An extra pair of hands

2. These shoes:

3. Johnny Depp

I humbly thank thee Santa, and promise faithfully that if you can deliver me these things I will be very naughty with them, so you won't have to buy me a present next year.

Mama Jax

Friday, 2 December 2011

How to give your kids ambitions

What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a question we often ask small children. I don't really know why we do it- if you are anything like me you still don't know the answer to that question, or when indeed the 'growing up' will happen.

When Bobby was 3 she wanted to be Prime Minister. She could see how much I struggled with parking, especially in multi storey car parks, so decided that, to make me happy, when she grew up she would be in charge of the country and flatten all 'squiggly wiggly' car parks.

From the ages of 5-12, after a brief spell of wanting to be a Jedi, she wanted to be a spy for the government. We endured 7 years of having traps set as we entered doorways, having listening devises set up through walls and having to decipher codes, before she eventually went off the idea.

She then went through a brief spell of wanting to be a doctor, although not liking blood, hospitals or medicine was a huge drawback.

Peter has always wanted to be an actor, however after his triumph as 'Understudy Lord 4' he has had a rethink as he doesn't think he could cope with the paparazzi. (Who knew 'Understudy Lord 4' would turn out to be such a popular character portrayal?) He has since wanted to be an animator as he can indulge his creativity but still retain a degree of anonymity. His animated series 'The Annoying Slug' gives a weird and wonderful glimpse into the autistic mind, particularly the episode where the Annoying Slug escapes from the Daleks in a model of a VW Camper Van.

The best answer to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" came from one of my pupils, who answered,
"When I grow up I want to be Santa because I am jolly, I have a very loud 'Ho Ho Ho' and I have a belly that wobbles like a bowlful of jelly."
Me: "It's very seasonal work though. What are you going to do for the rest of the year?"
Child: "Well, there are the reindeer to feed, the elves to look after, toys to make..."
Me: "Yes but that still won't take you a whole year.
Child (thinks): "I'll be Santa for the winter, autumn and spring. In the summer I'll work at Butlins as a wrestler."

Can you imagine the excitement of kids on Christmas Eve when the catch sight of Santa, and then the slight, doubtful pause before they ask, "Wait a minute... Didn't I see you at Butlins?"

Today: Lead by example
My friend asked her daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her daughter replied,
"When I grow up I want to be a mummy so I can shout at my kids and go to Tescos."
My friend was mortified. "Is that all I do Amy?"
Amy, after a 'thinking pause', "Um..Pretty much."

Mama Jax

Thursday, 1 December 2011

How to put your daughter (or son) on the stage Mrs Worthington: Part 2

Last year, Peter auditioned for the school production of 'Twelfth Night'. Although I prepared him for the fact that he probably wouldn't get a part as he was one of the youngest auditioning and was up against 6th formers, Peter threw caution to the wind and decided to audition for Orsino, the main part.

His audition was like theatre for the deaf. Peter, being very literal, had interpreted his audition piece in his own sweet, autistic way and had added an action for every line for clarity. His audition ran thus:

"If music (conduct orchestra) be the food (pretend to eat) of love (hug chest) play on (conduct orchestra); give me extheth (excess- Peter has a slight lisp) of it (gather in excessive love)"

Alas for Orsino; Peter was cast as the understudy of Lord 4, a non-speaking part made up by the school to give the voluminous cast something to do.

Peter had one performance to do, with the other understudies, where he had to provide background reaction in Orsino's court. The thing with Peter though, as I have already mentioned, is that he is very literal, so when the director told Peter and Understudy Lords 1, 2 and 3 to react that is exactly what Peter did, in a melodramatic style which would make a silent movie star proud.

By the time the performance came round, the director was at his wits end trying to tone
down Peter's reactions, and as a last resort had assigned two year 9 girls to stand one on either side of him and be 'Peter Monitors'. Every so often, Peter would attempt to (over)react and those members of the audience in the know would see the two girls gently but firmly hold his arms down by his sides.

Peter is playing a goblin in panto this year. Whilst the other goblins are 'Panto' scary, Peter creeps across the stage like Gollum from 'Lord of the Rings.' But this is fine; panto is one stage genre where overacting comes into its own.

Today: Is this the most awkward panto moment ever?
I took the kids to the panto one year when they were small and Buttons chose 4 children (not mine) to go on the stage.
Buttons: So, small boy, does mummy have any 'Uncles' who come round to visit when daddy isn't there? (Knowing sniggers from the adults in the audience)
Small Boy: Yes. Uncle Adrian. He comes round all the time when daddy goes to work.
Daddy did not look pleased...

Mama Jax

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How to expose your kids to different cultures

There has been a big hoo-ha in the UK news this week over a post on You Tube showing a woman being incredibly racist. The woman has, quite rightly in my opinion, been arrested, but it got me to wondering how people develop these views.

I want my three Peapods to be exposed to as much culture as possible. When choosing Bobby's first school we looked round one where the headteacher told us proudly,
"We're quite multicultural here. We have several different shades of pink." thanks!

Bobby, at 16, has already caught the travel bug, not craving sunny beach holidays, but trekking through the Amazon in Peru and building sensory gardens in Romania. There is no need to travel that far to experience the world. The UK is a lush garden of cultures, which can surely only be a good thing.

To those who say that people should stick to the country they were born in, I would say this: Think of all the things we would not have if people didn't move around a bit. Pizza, Chinese food, Italian fashion, the wheel... A world without cultural enrichment doesn't bear thinking about!

To those who are still skeptical and are worried about overcrowding, lack of jobs etc, I would like to propose a solution to the problem.
(Government, I hope you are listening.)

My solution is this: We simply operate a swap system. We will allow into our country all the people that want to work, pay taxes, contribute to society and live in peace BUT we will swap these people, 1:1, for our violent louts, lazy druggies, drop-outs, persistent criminals and anyone who has ever appeared on Jeremy Kyle. Eventually, the countries where there is violence and political unrest already will be filled with the kind of folks who can basically just slug it out amongst themselves, whilst all the other countries will be filled with good, honest, hardworking people. It's such a simple solution I wonder that no-one has thought of it before. Vote for me!

Where you are born is purely a fluke. If this country became a war-torn dictatorship I would have no hesitation at all in trying to get my children to a safer country, and I believe any mummy would do the same.

Today: My favourite Peanuts cartoon
I remember a Peanuts cartoon I had when I was growing up, where Lucy and Linus discuss the worrying problem of overpopulation.
Overpopulation is a real problem! You should be worried about it. Some night you’re going to go to bed and when you get up the next morning there’ll be no place for you to stand.
Linus: Why should I worry? I’ll just go back to bed.

My kind of solution. Don't worry, be happy!

Mama Jax

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How to save money on haircuts

When Bobby was small we didn't have much spare cash. (Hark at me acting like we're loaded now! We're not- we just don't care anymore!) I worked hard to save money wherever I could, making their clothes, using leftovers, walking everywhere; you get the idea.

Bobby was born with long thick hair which never fell out, as baby hair usually does, so haircuts were a must. On my tight budget, I decided a haircut in a hairdressers was an unnecessary expense and decided to cut her hair myself. I did some basic research with other mums on budgets; one of the best tips was how to cut hair so it was even on both sides. The tip was, to make sure you get your child's fringe straight, simply stick a piece of sticky tape across the child's fringe and cut it off. Sticky tape is straight, so if you follow the line of the tape the fringe will also be straight.

Right. A Good tip. Sticky tape in one hand, dressmaking scissors in the other and Bobby in the third* I set off on my haircutting mission. What I forgot to allow for was that Bobby was a wriggler. Just as I was about to stick my perfect straight line, she wriggled and ended up with sticky tape tangled in her hair. Her hair was, and is, incredibly thick, so by the time I had hacked out the sticky tape (NOT in a straight line), I still had several layers of hair underneath. I went sheepishly back to the hairdressers and pretended she had cut it herself...

* Not a typo- if you have kids you automatically get given a spare hand. It's God's way of trying to make it up to you, a bit like petrol station flowers.

When Peter was old enough for haircuts I decided to give it another go. Boys had to be easier than girls, right? Wrong. I invested in clippers, but by the time I got round to getting them out of the box Peter's hair was too long and thick to 'clipper' it without pulling.
"Never mind," thought I, "I will cut it a bit shorter, then clipper it."
Out came the dressmaking scissors again. I have to confess I got a bit scissor-happy, pretending I was a proper hairdresser. I then 'clippered', but had cut Peter's hair so unevenly that it was impossible to make his hair look good. By the time I finished, Peter looked like he had mange.

I have never made any attempt to cut Phyllis' hair; she is far too vain to even let me try. Either that, or the other two have warned her to RUN FOR THE HILLS if she ever sees me with scissors.

Today: The importance of teaching your kids to use their 'thinking voice'
Peter (really loud): Oh look, there's the man with no hair again!
At 3 or 4 that would be pretty cute, but Peter was 13 at the time. Not so cute.

Mama Jax

Sunday, 27 November 2011

How to win a fancy dress competition

If you have kids you will at some point be expected to enter them into a fancy dress competition, be it at school, on holiday, for a party or a carnival- if you have small fry it will happen. Best to be prepared.

I'm a very competitive mum. I try not to be, but I'm the one who, for example in colouring competitions, gets their child to create a collage to give them the edge. It's not the winning particularly, it's the prizes I love. Trophies, gift vouchers, chocolate... I'm not really fussy. I really identify with Violet Beauregard's mum from Johnny Depp's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory': "Eyes on the prize, Violet." That's me.

Ok, here's what I've learned about fancy dress competitions. A bought costume will never win. Much as you think they are judging the kids, they are not; they are judging your competence as a parent. It is also no good to painstakingly sew a beautiful costume. Judges will become suspicious and think you bought it on eBay. The best kind of costume is one that looks as if the kids made it. Luckily, my craft skills are such that everything I make looks like it was made by a preschooler.

Here are a few easy yet impressive ideas, all of which have been tried and tested by either myself or a close friend:

Bin liners:
  • Put your child in a bin liner. Add a few white spots. Hey presto, a domino.
  • For the more artistic among you, use a gold pen to scroll on the logo of an After Eight mint
  • Glue on some brown cardboard spots, cover a sink plunger and a colander (with the handle facing forward) in bin liners, attach chrome salt and pepper pots for antennae (available in all good budget caravans). A Dalek.

  • Put your child in a box. Cover with tinfoil. A robot.
  • Put your child in a box. Cover with wrapping paper and add a bow. A present
  • (My own personal favourite, courtesy of one of my very best friends) Put your child in a box. Cover in coloured squares. A Rubik cube.
*If you put your child in a box costume, make sure you are on hand to help them move. A stuck child is not a winning child...

Other easy costumes:

  • Cover an umbrella in bubble wrap. A jellyfish
  • Stick a few leaves on a kid's bikini (girl) and swimming trunks (boy). Give the kids an apple and a plastic snake. Adam and Eve.
  • Stick some yellow circle stickers for buttons on a red t-shirt. Cover a plastic toy policeman's helmet (or similar) in black faux fur. A Beefeater.
  • For the intellectuals among you (you know, those of you who can afford a proper holiday and don't have to go on the £9 holidays from The Sun with all the other Lidl families): Make your child a 'dress' from newspaper. The Guardian is good for this- you will see why in a minute. Add a tiara and a Miss World style sash reading 'Miss Print'.

The only thing with being a competitive mum is that you will come across other competitive mums. My kids came second with my slapdash Adam and Eve costumes, and the Umbrella Jellyfish woman's child came first, which REALLY annoyed the mum who had spent ages papier macheing her child into the shape of Elmer the Elephant...

One last tip: try to get the judges to focus on the costume, not the resigned and embarrassed face of the small child IN the costume. If you feel a twinge of guilt for being a pushy competitive mum, just think how much fun your children will have when they have children of their own to dress up, and how good they will feel when their friends describe them as 'marvellously creative.' Sure, your grandkids will suffer, but that's their parents' problem.

Today: How this obsession was born
At the age of 10, my school held a Christmas Hat competition. Other kids' parents had rigged up working circuits for lights, sound and moving objects. My mum covered a straw sunhat in tissue paper leaves and stuck what I think was supposed to be a partridge on the front. It had feathers anyway. She then, bizarrely, sewed 4 foil milk bottle tops to dangle right in front of my face in the style of an Australian cork hat. No idea why, so don't ask.
My 'Partridge in a Pear Tree' hat came first. I don't even want to think about what mum did to make that happen. I won a plastic comb from the chemist, just like my Grandad's. Go me.

Mama Jax

Thursday, 24 November 2011

How to create an Essex girl

This week I took Phyllis for her first fake tan. I know 6 is a little young, but before you judge me, it's for a theatrical event.

Phyllis was born in Essex. The hospital were selling little pink fleece blankets with 'I'm an Essex girl' written on them.
"Ah look, they're so cute," cooed I, placing one gently over baby Phyllis as she slept.
Little did I know that that one action would be akin to Maleficent's curse in Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty':

"Before the Princess reaches her 16th birthday, she will don a pair of stilettos and become...a TOWIE girl! Mwah ha ha!"

Fearing the curse placed upon his small daughter, the King (aka hubby) issued the following decree:

Princess Phyllis must go into hiding in the countryside, where she will learn to talk to animals, bake the perfect Victoria sponge cake and call people, "My luvverrr."

For extra measure the King decreed that all stilettos in the kingdom should be BURNED.

But this was not enough to stop the curse of the 'Essex girl' blanket. At the age of 3, Phyllis had already raided Bobby's make-up bag and tried on everything, much to Bobby's annoyance. There wasn't one square millimetre of her face that wasn't covered in 'slap'.
Birthday money was spent on sequined bags. Pocket money was saved to buy 'clippy clop' shoes.

At the age of 4, a friend came to play (a friend who has lovely parents who teach her words like 'consequently') and the two girls went to play upstairs. They came down an hour later covered in 'tattoos' that they had drawn on themselves in pen. The friend, when daddy came to pick her up, instead of thanking me politely for my hospitality, looked at my small daughter and together they recited, "Loser, double loser, whatever GIRLFRIEND," with actions. The horrified father turned to me and accused, "You've made my child... street!!"

We had a mummy/daughter day in the school holidays and I allowed her free choice of what to do. Phyllis chose to go shopping for dresses and get her nails done in a salon.
She has asked Santa for a pink poodle for Christmas- a real one, not a toy. Santa has said, "No."

Phyllis loved every minute of her fake tan experience, commenting, "I don't like my white skin anymore. Can I have these all the time?" Again, no.

We are eagerly awaiting her 'true love' to come riding in on his tractor and give her Love's First Kiss to break the spell.

Actually though, if I'm honest, I love my little Essex girl. She's her own little person who is not influenced by those around her and dances to the beat of her own drum. How wonderful to have a daughter like that. Bet you're well jell!

Today: What Phyllis has learnt from living in the country:
"When you have roast chicken, you can eat all of it except the bum. You have to put the bum in the fridge, else how will you have any eggs?"
We may as well have stayed in Essex.

Mama Jax

Monday, 21 November 2011

How to survive your gene pool: My grandma

My grandma had a colourful life. One of her 'claims to fame' was that she had been thrown out of one of the very first UK cinemas for snogging in the back row. She'd then turn to my grandad and say, "It wasn't with you dear..."

My grandma was a very accomplished lady; she could sing, sew, play the piano and was fluent in French. Her house was like something from a Jane Austen novel. Everything in it was 'Top Drawer' i.e. worth a small fortune. This suited her breeding, but didn't quite fit with some of the things she got up to.

She used to wear stockings and suspenders, which would regularly 'ping'.
"Oops, woe is me for I am undone!" (Isaiah 6:5) she would giggle, whipping up her skirt and doing herself back up. Isaiah would have been turning in his grave to be quoted in this context.

Every year at Christmas she would buy all the men in our family porn. While this grates on my feminist ideals, you can't help but admire the self confidence of a woman who would give her own husband and the husband of her only daughter a little bit on the side.

My grandma's accomplishments really came into their own when my mum and dad were first married. She was driving my dad somewhere (up the wall probably!) when he commented, "Did you notice that you just drove through a red light?"
Grandma: "No. Oh well."
Dad: "Well the police car behind you did."
Grandma looked in the mirror and lo, there was a police car chasing her, lights flashing.
Grandma:" Don't fret. I'll shake them off."
She then proceeded to speed through the streets of Ireland like Starsky and Hutch, the police car in hot pursuit. Unfortunately she eventually turned down a blind alley and had to stop the car. My dad by this time was hiding under the seat, cringing with embarrassment and wondering how he was going to persuade my mum to raise bail for not only her husband but her mother as well.

The policeman sauntered up to the car. My grandma wound down the window and smiled beatifically, but the policeman was having none of it. It was at this point that my grandma began speaking in French and pretending that she couldn't understand a word he was saying. The poor policeman, a young whippersnapper fresh from school, became so confused that he let her go with a caution, which he believed she didn't understand anyway.

So to recap, if you want to be like my wonderful grandma:

1. Behave inappropriately in cinemas
2. Buy porn
3. Drive like you're in a movie
4. Learn a language to avoid arrest for 1, 2 and 3

Today: There's no-one quite like grandma
Eventually my grandma was unable to look after herself and my mum made the difficult decision of putting her into a home. We visited regularly and tried to keep her cheerful.
Me: "This is nice grandma. You've got your own room, lovely windows..."
Grandma: "Don't be ridiculous, darling, it's full of old people and it smells of urine and cabbage."
There's no flies on grandma!

Mama Jax

Friday, 18 November 2011

How to talk to kids about sex; A guide for teachers

There is only one thing more cringe-worthy than having to talk to your kids about sex, and that is having to talk to other people's kids about sex. It is a sad fact that teens believe so many myths about sex, STDs, pregnancy and birth that the government should be seriously concerned that the human race could die out.

Teachers now have to talk about sex to children as young as 4, and deal with irate parents who, quite rightly, think this is a tad too young. Here's a news flash for those parents: the teachers agree with you.

There is a set curriculum for teaching kids about sex, but most teachers do the following:
Reception: "Stand up if you are a boy. Stand up if you are a girl. Great, now let's do maths,"
and develop it on from there.

There is some controversy by the time kids reach years 1 and 2 as they learn the scientific names for the less talked about parts of their bodies. Among the penises (penii?) and vaginas is the humble clitoris, which has causes ruffled feathers among the teaching profession who think this is a body part too far. My argument though is that we are training up a future generation who will be so rubbish at dirty talk ("Sexual intercourse my vagina...oooh yeah baby!") that if we don't teach at least the boys about the clitoris, we as a species will definitely die out. And let's face it girls, how many of you wish your partners had been taught where the clitoris is at school? Thought so...

Actually, the 'naming' lesson can cause a few giggles as the teacher has to ask, before teaching the correct names, what names kids have been taught by parents. We usually get things like front bottom, willy, lady garden, flower, pee-pee and other harmless terms. One of my colleagues, however, was totally floored when one 6 year old said daddy called his 'male parts' Verne and the Twins. How she got through the next parents' evening without blushing I'll never know.

The trouble with sex education really starts when kids hit about 14 and they know it all. They take great delight in trying to embarrass the poor teacher by asking personal questions. It takes a brave teacher to face a class of year 9 pupils. Whoever does this deserves a medal and a knighthood from the Queen, at the very least.

By the time kids reach 16, they usually do know it all, or at least more than the teacher. It is at this point that the cunning teacher, whilst giving the impression of teaching, will really be picking up tips to inject some passion into his/her own flailing love life. After all the embarrassment of years 1-10, the humiliating realisation that one's sex life is lame will just about finish one off. Never mind, I hear Tesco are hiring...

Today: The nursery rhymes my dad sent me to school with
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
Jill came down with half a crown...and she didn't get that for fetching water.

Little boy blue come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn
Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under the haystack, 'doing' Bo Peep.

Mama Jax

Monday, 14 November 2011

How to talk to your kids about sex: A guide for parents

This is always going to be a tricky one. Let me start by telling you what NOT to do:
1. Don't leave it too late
2. Don't make it personal.

When I was 18, and after having been at university for two terms, my mum sat me down in her room to give me "The Talk." She proceeded to tell me in graphic detail about her first time with my dad, while I tried in vain to imagine myself in a happier place, humming 'Lalalalalala' on a loop in my head.
Therapy has not helped.

She also tried to scare me by informing me that once 'it' was over there was a knock on the front door and there stood a nun as a sign from the Lord that she had committed a cardinal sin by indulging in sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Now I'm all for scaring kids into behaving, but if mum had asked me, I could have saved her the warning and the
embarrassment. At 18, "The Talk" was a little too late.
Sorry mum.

I have tried to always be open and honest with my small fry, answering their questions about their bodies as they arise, and I am proud that my kids all talk to me about sex quite openly. Not quite so proud when they start asking about periods or pubic hair in restaurants. But despite some minor teething problems, openness so far seems to be working better than stories of nuns.

It's important when talking about sex to clarify the question before answering. For example, if a child asks, "Where did I co
me from?" check before you launch into a full explanation about 'Special Snuggles' that this is what they actually mean. I fell foul to this with Bobby. After explaining in a very lengthy, mature and sensible way about conception and birth (on the bus, I might add) she said,
"No, I mean where was I born?"

I'm a great advocate of using the correct terminology to avoid confusion. Talking about seeds and eggs to a child of four or five is enough to have them fear chickens and garden centres. Babies do n
ot come from tummies, they come from wombs. A friend of mine who was heavily pregnant with twins took her four year old to the park. On the bench sat a lady who could only be described as huge. Her little boy, having been told that mummy had two babies in her tummy, looked curiously at the woman before asking,
"How many babies have you eaten??"

Using the correct terminology also has the added bonus of annoying teens; when they swear, you can correct them by insisting they say 'Sexual Intercourse off', or call someone a 'Masturbator'. Hours of fun.

If all else fails and your stubborn teen remains firmly on the path to promiscuity, scare the heck out of them. There is a scene in the film 'Little Shop of Horrors' where Steve Martin as the Dentist is warning a timid Rick Moranis of the dangers of a neglected mouth (see photo). Watch this scene, and apply it to the dangers of sex.

You might think this last tip is a tad extreme, but before you judge me too severely let me ask you this: Do you really want to be a Granny/Grandpa at the age of 30? No? Didn't think so. Scare away!

Today: An important warning
It is your job as a parent to teach your kids about sex. If you don't, they will leave home and you will just begin to get your life back when they will move back in with boy/girlfriends and babies, who will then grow up and trash your house whilst their mum/dad goes out on the town all night and sleeps all day, leaving you to babysit.

Mama Jax

Saturday, 12 November 2011

How to make money from your kids

In these frugal times we are all having to tighten our belts a little. With Christmas coming up, budgeting is probably to the forefront of most people's minds, especially when you have kids. Last Christmas, hubby and I decided to go for homemade hampers for that 'personal' (i.e. cheap!) touch.
I have a wonderful friend whom I love dearly who bought me the most beautifully exquisite crystal tree decoration. Our 'homemade Christmas' idea didn't seem quite so inspired as I presented him with a personalised gingerbread man...

I have discovered with Phyllis that she is a media child and will ask for whatever happens to be advertised on T.V. at the time. I have become very cunning, and will ask her what she wants from Santa during adverts for Pringles.

There are ways, however, of making your small fry earn for you. There are obvious ways, such as child modelling, but much as I love my small folk I can admit quite openly that it is not for everyone...

For older kids, paper rounds and Saturday jobs alleviate the need for providing pocket money, and serve the double purpose of freeing your house of teen friends who will eat all the food in the fridge and bump up the electric bill with a variety of games and gadgets.

To be a financially savvy parent requires one to think outside the box. There are several places where money is lying around for the taking, and having a small child makes the job of taking it much easier. Here are a couple of examples:

1. When Bobby was little we took her to a pub/restaurant for a family 'do'. She got a bit fidgety, so we allowed her to go for a little toddle around, always keeping her in sight of course. She came back with about £15 in pound coins. When I asked her where she got them from, she said that most of the empty tables had money (that's tips to you and me) on them so she just helped herself.

2. When Peter was about 18 months we took him to church. I took my eyes of him for a minute to check in my purse for change for the collection; when I looked up, the bag had been and gone and Peter had a fistful of fivers.

Now I'm a really honest person, so I couldn't keep the money my kids had 'found' but it just goes to show there is money out there for the taking.

Actually maybe don't take this advise. With an influx of mini criminals the government will have to introduce Baby ASBOs and Kindergarten Jail, which means our taxes will be increased to pay for it. On reflection, this is a false economy.
Now where did I put that number for the model agency...

Today: How much should you put in the church collection?
It's a tricky one. You don't want God to think you are mean, particularly as He decides on your fate after death, but on the other hand if you only go sporadically you don't want to give loads towards a church roof that you won't appreciate. I have a friend who just opens up her purse and empties out the contents. Some weeks God gets £10 or £20. Other weeks he gets 24p, a Kirby grip and a used bus ticket. It all evens out in the end.

Mama Jax

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

How to put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington: Part 1b

Bobby on the second night
After Bobby's Diva-esque behaviour on the first night of the show, the director decided, wisely, that our small Heavenly Host was too much of a liability to be allowed to wait on stage. Instead she was to wait in the wings with Marshmallow Lady, who would nudge her on when it was time to 'appear'

Up to the point of Bobby's entrance, all had gone swimmingly. Mary's soul magnified the Lord, 3 Kings bore gifts and traversed afar, Shepherds watched flocks, inns had no room; it was everything a nativity should be.

Gabriel, safe in the knowledge that no small people were waving from behind her wings, shone with glory as only an Angel of Our Lord can. (Literally- the costume mistress had got a deal on a job lot of sequins. Most of the audience sported sunglasses.)

It was Bobby's big moment and she was poised like a greyhound in a trap. Unfortunately, Marshmallow Lady, instead of sticking to direction and just nudging, must have decided to 'big up' her part. At point of nudge, she whispered to Bobby, "Mind you don't trip over your dress." Bobby, freakishly obedient for once, grabbed her skirts, held them high over her head and streaked onto the stage in a blaze of gold costume and navy blue knickers. Her dress was held so high that she was unable to see where she was going, i.e. where to stop, the result being that she ran straight across the stage and off the other side. End of scene.

Gabriel and the shepherds shuffled off the stage awkwardly, like bewildered Telly Tubbies. There was no Heavenly Host in the sky that night, although to be fair they had been given the message only the night before...

Bobby, distressed at missing her big scene, was again mollified by marshmallows.
Hmm... Does anyone else think these antics may have been planned by a cunning Heavenly Host with a penchant for fluffy treats?

Today: The birth of Our Lord (rewritten by an 8 year old)
During my teaching practice I heard tell of a nativity where the innkeeper and Joseph both had a bit of a crush on the girl playing Mary. The boy playing Joseph was made up with himself- holding her hand, putting his arm around her and sneaking the odd kiss. Little did he suspect the evil plot brewing in the jealous innkeeper's mind...
Joseph: We-are-weary-travellers-and-my-wife-is-with-child-do-you-have-any-room-in-your-inn?
Jealous innkeeper: Mary can come in. You can b***er off!
Mary pulled in, door slammed in Joseph's face, and... Scene!

Mama Jax

Sunday, 6 November 2011

How to put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington: Part 1a

All three of my small fry have inherited my love of all things theatrical, daahling.
Bobby got her first taste of treading the boards at the age of 3 when she was cast as one of two 'Heavenly Hosts' in the church nativity. This was a proper 'show', mainly adults, with real lights and everything, and not a tea towel in sight.

The show was on for two nights. On the first night, the other Heavenly Host (the director's small son) got stage fright and refused to go on, leaving all the Heavenly Host glory to Bobby. And boy, did she milk it!

The plan was that while the shepherds were watching their flocks by night, Gabriel would be on stage, but in darkness, with the Heavenly Host hiding behind her enormous satin wings. At the given cue, the lights would blaze, the Heavenly Host would spring forth from behind Gabriel's wings and lo! the skies would be filled with angels (or angel) saying, "Glory to God!" That was the plan. This is what actually happened:

The shepherds, as well as watching their flocks, were engaged in an 'entertaining'* and 'comic'** chitchat about wind. The audience, much to the shepherds' surprise, began laughing. The shepherds, already hammed out to the acting max, upped their theatrical game. The laughs increased.

Little did they know that in the background a small Heavenly Host hand was waving at the audience from behind Gabriel's wings. Laugh. The hand disappeared, then waved again from the other side. Laugh. Then a hand appeared from one wing, and a foot from the other in a bizarre Superman/Angel love-child fusion. Laugh.

On her cue to appear, Bobby got tangled up in the enormous satin wings. Gabriel, looking embarrassed (she was a teen), tried valiently to untangle her. Once freed, Bobby stomped to the front and literally ROARED, "Glory to God!!!" No wonder the poor shepherds reacted with fear and trembling. Would you want a pint sized, growling Heavenly Host jumping out at you on a dark night??

It was at this point that Bobby realised that her part wasn't all it was cracked up to be. In true Diva style, she refused point blank to leave the stage. Gabriel tried desperately to usher her off, whilst one of the stage hands stood in the wings and tried to coax her off with a bag of pink marshmallows.

The following night, the direction was amended...
Tune in tomorrow to find out what happened next!

Mama Jax

*Not really
**Definitely not!

Friday, 4 November 2011

How to embarrass your teen

If you have a teenage son or daughter, you will know that no matter what you do or don't do they will find you embarrassing. They will hate your music, your clothes, your decor, your social interactions, anything at all you say at parent consultations... The list is endless.
So what I say is, if you are going to be an embarrassment anyway, why not have some fun with it!!!

Hubby and I sing along to show tunes at full volume in the car with the windows open ('Oklahoma' being a current personal favourite due to 'YEEOW!' opportunities).
We have decorated our house in colours so vibrant they would make Laurence Llewelyn Bowen consider sunglasses.
We have a 'phone shaped like a pink stiletto (keeps them off the 'phone!) and a cuckoo clock with a camp donkey which 'Hee-Haw's on the hour every hour.
We dress up in fancy dress whenever we get the chance, party or no party.
We talk about "Special Snuggles".
We wear t-shirts with slogans such as 'I beat anorexia' to parent consultations, and we generally enjoy ourselves!

Bobby's current catchphrase is, "I'm SO going to take you on Jeremy Kyle..."

We had an outing to Lyme Regis last year with a very good friend of ours and his small person. The kids were all pretty relaxed, safe in the knowledge that, as it was fairly chilly, the beach was pretty much deserted and there was little chance of bumping into anyone they knew. Oh how wrong they were!

"Oh look!" whispers Peter, pointing subtly, "There's Miss Carter from school."
Hubby and I exchanged a swift glance before yelling, "MISS CARTER!!!" and diving behind the wall. Miss Carter turned and waved in a friendly way.
Peter and Bobby were not amused.
"Why would you do that, why why?? I'm SO going to take you on Jeremy Kyle..."

The most embarrassing thing though is that all their friends think we're actually pretty cool... Now that IS a crime!

Today: Dressing up dare to parents of teens
Hubby and I have Smurf costumes (long story) and love dressing up in them of an evening, blue faces and all. We've never got round to it, but here is the dare for anyone brave enough:
Dress up as a Smurf, go to a cinema where they are showing the Smurf movie, and when you get to the front of the queue, put your money on the counter and say,
"Two for 'Harry Potter' please."
Go on- DARE YOU!

Mama Jax

Thursday, 3 November 2011

How to survive your gene pool: My Dad

I confess it now- I'm a daddy's girl! To me, there is no-one else in the world who comes even close. Even with the socks and sandals.

My dad, as well as being a master joker (see 'How to teach your kids to have a questioning mind'), is also the King of conspiracy theories. I don't mean the obvious ones, like 'Who is Prince Harry's dad?' or 'Elvis is alive and working in the chip shop'. Oh no, my dad's theories are much cleverer. In fact I'm surprised he hasn't been head hunted for MI5. Or maybe he has and he's just not been allowed to say...

My personal favourite of all his theories involves the Queen Mother. Cast your mind back to August/September 1997 when the media-created 'People's Princess' was tragically killed in Paris. There are a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding this 'accident', but none quite so plausible as my dad's.

My dad's theory is that the Queen Mother, by this time old and poorly, actually died at the same time or shortly after Diana. The royal family, knowing that their matriarch's death would be overshadowed by the media frenzy surrounding Diana's death, decided to keep the news to themselves until the hysteria had died down and Britain's upper lip was stiff once more. They estimated, erroneously, that this would take about 5 years.

With this end in mind, they hired Dame Thora Hird on a 5 year contract to pose as the Queen Mum's stunt double. You may scoff, but from that moment on YOU NEVER SAW THE TWO OF THEM TOGETHER! Co-incidence? I think not...

By 2002, after 5 years of playing the Queen Mother, Dame Thora's contract had come to an end. Her Majesty the Queen, aware that the furor over Diana had NOT died down, tried to engage Dame Thora in a further 5 year contract, but Dame Thora refused, forcing the royal family to announce the 'death' of the Queen Mum earlier than they would have wished. The announcement drew a respectable amount of media tributes, but nothing like the glory the Queen wished for her adored mother. This, obviously, annoyed the royals and wheels were set in motion.
Dame Thora died of a 'stroke' exactly a year after the announcement...

So, surviving my gene pool? Are you kidding?? With that amount of brilliance swimming around in it, I'm grabbing my tankini and jumping in!

Today: A Marilyn moment
"While tearing off a game off golf
I may make a play for the caddy
But when I do, I don't follow through
Cause my heart belongs to Daddy" x

Mama Jax

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

How to deal with the death of a pet

The thing about having several children is that you invariably end up with lots of pets. At our busiest we had 7 dogs (2, plus 5 puppies), 2 bunnies, 3 cats and 3 chickens. We are now down to 1 dog, 3 cats and a bunny, with 2 guinea pigs on order.

One of the consequences of having so many pets is that sooner or later one of them will die and you will have a distraught child on your hands. Phyllis went through a hamster phase. Her first hamster was lovely, really tame and friendly, but when that one "shed it's coat" she had a horrible vicious thing which bit everyone with its tiny hamster fangs. But like Emily with Bagpuss, Phyllis loved it. When it died, I asked hubby to go and get another one (only £5- bargain!) and tell her once again that it had "shed its coat." Hubby however thought she should be told the truth, as dealing with death is part of life.

That evening I heard the whole story of what had happened...
Hubby had broken the news to Phyllis that Demon Hamster had gone to the great hamster wheel in the sky*
Phyllis was adamant it was just asleep in its house, so to prove that Demon Hamster was in fact dead, hubby shook the hamster house and out thudded a very dead hamster onto the floor in front of Phyllis. Phyllis screamed hysterically and refused to be comforted.

By the time I got home from work, a red-eyed yet much cheerier Phyllis bounded into my arms and excitedly cried, "Mummy, my hamster's dead. It's sad but guess what... DADDY'S BUYING ME A KITTEN!!!" And not just any kitten, oh no. A £50 rescue kitten. £45 more than a new hamster.

So the moral of today's tale? All pets shed their skin from time to time, children. It may make them look different, but they're still the same £5 pet you know and love...

*Code for "It's burning on Beelzebub's barbecue as we speak"

Today: Where does milk come from?
Teaching my kids where food comes from...
Me: What do we get from cows, Phyllis?
Phyllis: Burgers, roast beef and milk.
Me: And what do we get from pigs?
Phyllis (thinks): Pink milk!

Mama Jax

Sunday, 30 October 2011

How to lose the baby weight

There is no doubt about it, having a baby changes your body for the worse. Bits droop that shouldn't droop, things leak that shouldn't leak, lines appear all over as if you were sponsored by A-Z maps; it's not pleasant.

My theory is that Mother Nature does this to mothers to make sure that no-one (except the father of the child in less serious cases) ever sees her naked again, thereby ensuring a stable relationship for one's offspring.
Mother Nature is warped in the head.

Before your baby is a year old, as a new mother you will find yourself in one of two places:

First, the gym where you will compete with a whole bunch of beautiful, single women, and men who are waaay out of your league, if you had the energy to care. You will stand in front of a wall of full length mirrors, dressed in a baggy tracksuit with an elasticated waist, and a greying t-shirt with sick on it. Why women think this experience will boost their self esteem is beyond me.

The second place you may end up is the Diet Club. These days there are many diets to choose from, each more faddy than the last. You can try the cabbage diet, the red/green diet, the yogurt and fruit diet, the milkshake diet, the Fab lolly name it there is a diet for it.

I chose the second option after birthing my kids and trotted off to Fat Club. To be honest it was more like a maths class. I had to add up points and calories, then add a percentage for every kilogram I was over a certain weight, then convert this weight into pounds as I don't understand kilograms. It was all very complicated. My waistline stayed the same, but I came out with an A-Level in advanced mathematics.

The trouble with diet clubs, for me, is that they bring out the feminist in me. I found myself reassuring women that they are beautiful as they are, and ranting about how today's ideal body is hairless and straight up-and-down, i.e. the body of a prepubescent girl. I urged women to embrace their womanhood, curves and all. They did, gained confidence and left Fat Club. I wasn't very popular...

I think there must be a special school where the women who run these Fat Clubs go to learn 'motivational' slogans. Two which stood out for me were:

"Now, you could have this fat and calorie laden fry-up ("Mmm...yes please!" think I) or you could swap it for this just as delicious tinned tomatoes on toast." Just as delicious? Really...?

And my all time favourite (in an Essex accent for full effect):

"All that glitters is NOT gold girls. IT'S FAT!!"

If you have joined a Fat Club and have stuck to it, well done you. However, I would rather stick to my own diet which I call the comparative diet. It works like this:

You can eat what ever you like, for example a huge piece of chocolate cake, provided that you can persuade your best friend to eat double. That way, you'll always be the thin friend. Works a charm!

Today: It ain't over yet
Peter was playing a card game with my dad, and winning (just).
My dad: Don't get too excited Peter. The game's not over 'til the fat lady sings.
Peter: Grandma, quick! Sing something!!

Mama Jax

Saturday, 29 October 2011

How to get an extra hour's sleep

The clocks go back tonight, meaning that technically we should all get an extra hour in bed. Not so if you have small people. It's basic mathematics: If your small person usually wakes up at 6.30am, when the clocks go back they will wake up at 5.30am meaning that you actually LOSE AN HOUR'S SLEEP!!!!

I would like to implore the government to please stop messing around with time. Stuff the farmers- I need my beauty sleep!!! And believe me, as I'm getting older I need a lot more beauty sleep than I used to. These days it takes a good 10 hours to get me from 'Hallowe'en nightmare' to 'extra in a slightly scary black and white movie.' All the hypo-glycaemic-regenerous-wrinklefirmer-aloevera cream in the world will not be enough to persuade the Sag Fairy to put away her wand and allow me to be pert once more.

Anyone who uses the phrase 'sleeps like a baby' obviously doesn't have one. After about a month, a baby will make you look as if you are a member of an aging rock band, only without the money and the rock 'n' roll memories. To anyone who looks at a baby and thinks, "Ahh.I would love one of those," I would say stop looking at the baby and look at the mum. You'll soon change your mind.

Out of my 3, Bobby was definitely the worst sleeper. She would wake every couple of hours. By the time she was about 4 she would sleep for around 5 hours a night in total. I was torn between crying, and thinking, "Hmm she might be Prime Minister one day. I could use this to my advantage mwah ha ha!"
She would wake me up regularly throughout the night, mainly with, "Mummy I'm scared. Mummy there's a monster under my bed. Mummy there's a ghost knocking on my window." I tried all the gentle, patient parenting techniques- nightlights, fairydust, plastic swords under her pillow- but nothing would keep my child in her bed. (If you are in this position, Velcro pyjamas work, although they are frowned upon in most cultures. Simply dress your child in the pyjamas and slam-dunk them into bed, where they will stay stuck 'til morning.)

After several months of no sleep, I was propping my eyelids open with metaphorical matchsticks and sobbing, "Lack of sleep is used in wars as a form of torture wa-ah wa-ah!" That night Bobby came into my room as usual, "Mummy I'm scared. There's a monster under my bed." My tired self took over and smothered the rational me with a pillow.
"Nothing in your room," I growled, "Will be half as scary as me if you WAKE ME UP AGAIN!!!!!" Problem solved. She risks the monsters...

Today: Feeling hard done by?
If you feel it's not fair that we lose an hour's sleep, take heart. In 6 months the clocks go forward and you can relish the fact that your small one will stay asleep until 7.30am. Unless they invariably choose that day to come down with chicken pox.

Mama Jax

Friday, 28 October 2011

How to survive your gene pool: My Grandad

My mum's side of the family are very middle class. We were taught etiquette, good grammar and 'How now brown cow'.

Every Christmas, the whole family- mum, dad, me, my 2 brothers and my grandparents- would go to church for the morning service. It was the same every year; same carols, same prayers, same readings, but I liked the predictability of it. It was part of a family tradition, and traditions are important at Christmas. My dad invariably wore a musical tie or socks, which he would set off in the prayers. He would then turn around and tut disapprovingly at the people behind us, who would then look confused and embarassed as the tutting spread...

Every member of my mum's church was also very middle class, and incredibly well mannered. One Christmas we were all sitting in our pew, heads down during the prayers, when the lady behind tapped my mum on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, is that your father?" she whispered, indicating my grandad.
"Yes," mum replied, "I'll introduce you at the end."
Mum went back to head down praying. The lady tapped again.
"I'm so sorry to keep disturbing you," she persisted, "Only I think he may be on fire..."

We looked up at my grandad who had smoke billowing from his suit jacket. My dad rushed him outside and patted him out; my grandad had put a lit cigarette in his pocket to save for later, my family motto being 'Waste not, want not.'

Panic over, they returned to our pew. Middle England did not bat an eyelid but continued to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in a way which was right and proper and had nothing to do with grandparents on fire.

I have since adapted our family motto slightly: I waste, I want, but I have never as yet been on fire. Gene pool, part 1, survived.

Today: Wise words from Joni Mitchell
If you have crazy, embarassing family members (and let's face it, who doesn't?!) go and give them a big hug while you still can, and tell them how much you love them.
As Joni Mitchell sang: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Mama Jax

Thursday, 27 October 2011

How to tell the difference between boys and girls

As every new mum knows, the moment they place that little bundle of joy in your arms you fall instantly in love. If you are a mum in an advert, that is. Sometimes it happens instantaneously, but more often than not it takes a while. The 'whoop' new parents give when the midwife says, "It's a boy/girl!" has nothing to do with being pleased to have a boy/girl, but is rather sheer relief that the whole hideous process is over. The midwife would get the same 'whoop' were he/she to announce, "It's a rabbit."

When Bobby was born, she was bright red, weighed nearly 9lb and had a shock of thick black hair, punked up like Rod Stewart. I remember looking at this angry tomato-baby, then looking at the 6lb peaches-and-cream baby in the next cot and thinking, "Hmm...I want that one."

I soon got into the swing of motherhood; however being an ardent feminist I ran into the dilemma of how to dress my girl. I alternated between pretty dresses and practical play clothes (pink and punk!) and gave her a variety of toys so as not to force her onto a particular path. It is probably partly my fault that she made people call her Tom until she was 5 and went to church every week dressed as Luke Skywalker.

It goes against all my principles, but having had 3 children, I would recommend sticking with the traditional pink or blue purely because it is very irritating to be asked all the time, "Boy or girl?" I have a friend who had a little girl, Sarah, and to avoid this question dressed her head to toe in pink, had a pink buggy, pink accessories and I'm sure, if she could, would have had a neon sign flashing across the baby's head saying, "I'm a girl!!" She was stopped by a lady in the supermarket once when Sarah was a few weeks old:
Lady: Ah what a beautiful little boy.
Friend (Looking at all the pink): It's a girl.
Lady: What's his name?
Friend: It's a girl. Her name is Sarah.
Lady: That's a funny name for a boy.

There's no hope for some people...

Today: Advice on the subject by Phyllis
Phyllis came home from school with a picture of a dragon. Her homework was to use adjectives to describe the picture. I prompted her to start by asking if it was a boy dragon or a girl dragon.
"Oh I don't know," she replied, peering at the picture,"Let me see if it has lipstick on."

So now you know how to tell the difference between boys and girls- it's all in the pout!

Mama Jax

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How to teach your kids to have a questioning mind

My kids question everything they hear. They challenge facts, test theories and ask for proof. Teachers think they're marvellous and a joy to teach.

How did I raise such marvellous joy-to-teach children? Well, I come from a long line of jokers; my kids have learned not to take anything at face value.

My grandma, before she died, managed to convince the kids next door that she was really a fairy. My grandma was 88 and a size 26. She was so convincing that the kids used to leave her little gifts and write wishes to her.

My dad, one April Fool's Day, told his next door neighbour that the UK would be changing to the continental way of driving, and that our little town had been chosen as a pilot town. He told the neighbour that the council were sending workmen out through the night to change all the signs and road markings. The neighbour was up in arms and after a good 20 minutes ranting with my dad stormed inside to write a stern letter to the local paper.

So you see, my kids didn't stand a chance really. Jokes are swimming around in their gene pool, freaking out the life guards by pretending to drown and telling other genes that the waters are shark infested.

Here are a few of my favourite jokes. Feel free to try them out on your own children, for educational purposes of course...

1. Driving past Stone Henge Peter commented on what a shame it was that people couldn't go up to the stones anymore.

Me: Do you remember those little pebbles in jars you can get from the sweet shops by the seaside? Well, that's what Stone Henge is made of.

Peter: Oh, so that's why people aren't allowed near it anymore. People kept taking bites from the stones.

Me: Well, not biting them, but licking them. They were getting very sticky and attracting wasps. Health and safety- you know.

Peter: Stupid health and safety. It spoils all our fun.

2. On the wedding of Prince William and Kate:

Phyllis: Mummy, when you and daddy got married, were there things in the shops with your picture on them, like tea towels and things?

Me (never one to miss an opportunity): Of course, darling.

Phyllis: Well where are they now then?

Me: Well, mummy looked soooo beautiful that everything sold out in seconds.

Phyllis: Oh, ok.
(I love that my daughter thinks this is possible!)

3. At school, arriving an hour late because of a hospital appointment:

Child: Miss, where were you this morning?

Me: Well you see I'm actually not just a teacher, I'm also a spy for the government. This morning I had to fly out to see the president in America for a meeting. The meeting overran a bit.

Child (already starting to question): How did you get back so quick?

Me: In a helicopter of course!

4. On a school trip:

Child: It's not fair. That coach is going faster than our coach.

Me: It's because of the design. If you look on the side of each coach, the faster one has straight lines which makes it more aerodynamic. Our coach has wavy lines which slow it down.

Other members of staff couldn't understand why, on the return journey, all the kids were clamouring to get on the 'fast' coach. Oops!

Today: An inspirational genius
I read recently of a teacher who convinced a whole class of Year 10 pupils (that's the 4th year to anyone over the age of 25) that you could change your star sign by going to the post office and filling out a form. I don't know this teacher, but whoever you are, I salute you!

Mama Jax

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

How to get the most from your cat flap

Our house, while lovely, is full'flaws'. Windows don't fit, ceilings are falling down, carpets are beyond help and don't even get me started on the state of the bathroom! Still, it is well loved.

One of the 'flaws' is the front door. Although you can open it from the inside, for some reason known only to itself, it refuses to open from the outside. This means that to get in we have to go through the back door.

One night I had all 3 kids, the 'big shop' (Lidl, obviously), it was dark, it was cold, it was raining. Now I am usually a cheery and patient person- Waitrose fishwife incident aside- but sometimes the fates just seem to have it in for you.
"Oh look!" they say, "She's cold, wet and laden. Let's have some fun with that!" before cursing the back door so it refused to open. I wiggled the key, talked nicely to it, threatened it, then had a bit of a Tourette's moment to relieve my feelings. We were all getting colder and wetter, except for the frozen stuff which ironically was warming and thawing nicely thank you very much.

So, what does one do in this situation? The only thing one can do: choose the smallest child and post them through the cat flap.

Once inside, Phyllis jumped up saying, "I'm a cat! I'm a cat! Miaow, miaow!" to which I responded, "Darling, go and open the front door for mummy."
"I can't, I'm a cat! Miaow, miaow!"
"Darling, please open the door for mummy, we're all getting cold and wet."
I'm paraphrasing of course. I am, after all, a Lidl mummy not a Waitrose mummy.

Eventually Phyllis agreed to let us in, in return for some milk.

A few days later I was upstairs when I heard Peter shouting for me in some distress. I rushed down to see what was wrong to find him in a heap on the kitchen floor.
"Don't worry mum, I'm ok now. I just wanted to see if I could fit through the cat flap too. The answer is...not quite."
I suspect Bobby has had a secret try too when I'm not around.
(So have I! Shh!!!)

Today: Does giving birth really hurt?
This is a question I'm often asked by teens. Here's what I tell them: imagine the baby as Hagrid (Harry Potter) and your vagina as a cat flap and you're some way to figuring out the answer... If they're still keen on having babies after that, try posting them through a cat flap. It usually cures them.

Mama Jax

Monday, 24 October 2011

How to survive the supermarket shop

If you don't yet have kids and are thinking of joining the ranks let me just warn you of one thing:
You will never again shop in Marks and Spencers food hall!

There is a hierarchy in supermarkets which subliminally dictates who they welcome. M&S with kids? Forget it. Waitrose? Possibly if you have a nanny and have called your child Tarquin or Jamesina.

I tried Waitrose once. Whoever came up with the idea of mini trolleys for kids obviously didn't have them. Tarquin and Jamesina will enjoy the trolleys. They will walk next to their adult, reading words like 'Kumquat' from the shopping list whilst mentally totting up the nutritional value of each food item.
My kids pretended the trolleys were bumper cars. I spent 10 minutes trying to be a Waitrose mum before cracking with, "Darlings, please come here. You are making me SCREAM LIKE A FISHWIFE!!!!!" I went scuttling back to Asda where I belong.

When Peter was smaller I took him with me to Asda and took my eyes off him for a second. BIG MISTAKE! Children, like Doctor Who's Weeping Angels, should always be watched. Don't even blink. In that second, Peter had legged it round the corner straight into a display of cut price wine. Much of what happened next is blanked from my traumatised mind, except for the part where I'm holding a screaming Peter whilst hysterically repeating, "I'll pay! I'll pay! I'll pay" as if on a loop system. The manager was very calm. "It's fine madam, we'll sort it. You can go..." Oh the shame!

I've now found my comfort zone with Lidl. However I am very aware that I am one tantrum away from having to rummage through skips for food whilst my kids graffiti misspelled swe
ar words on the wall. I wonder if the same hierarchy exists for supermarket skips? I might end up a Waitrose mum after all!

My tips for how to survive the supermarket shop? Leave them at home. Or bribe them to behave with sweets and comics. Not the best parenting technique, but let's face it, it works.

Today: Manners make all the difference...
Overheard in a supermarket (I'll leave you to guess which one):
Kids (about 1000 of them it seemed...): Giz it 'ere! Giz it 'ere! It's mine! Giz it 'ere!!!
Fraught mum: 'ow many times do I 'ave to tell yiz?? It ain't "Giz it 'ere!" It's "Giz it 'ere...ta!"

Mama Jax