“Why is Chewie covered in cheese?”

I bet Han Solo never had to ask this.

I don’t want to know what’s happening behind me. So I stare ahead and focus on chopping onions.


Letters to Santa

Dear Santa, please can our baby go to sleep now. Its very late and you’ll be here soon. Thank you and Merry Christmas (24 December, 23:21)

Dear Santa, thank you for helping baby fall asleep by midnight. It was touch and go there for a moment but he succumbed just before the midnight bells. If I’d thought ahead I’d have asked you to stop him from dropping the two glass dishes on the floor but hey, what’s Christmas about if not being on your hands and knees hoovering up the tiny sharp splinters. Anyway, we’re off for a week. What could go wrong? Will keep you posted. MC dude (25 December, 09:54)

Dear Santa, it was great that baby got to bed normal time on Christmas Day, thanks for that. But you were just fucking with us weren’t you? False sense of security and all that. That he now needs to put his toys to bed as well, well that was a moment of genius on your part. Not only do we have to get a recalcitrant toddler to bed, we also have to get a Lego Stormtroopers alarm clock; two plastic safari dudes and their vehicles; and a wooden fire engine with two firemen, a woman who frankly doesn’t really look like she needs saving from any kind of fire but that seems to be her lot in life, and the fucking fire station cat to bed as well. How complicated is it to put a bunch of toys to bed? Very complicated. Very very complicated. I had no idea until two days ago just how complicated it was and how precise putting toys to bed has to be. Or how long it would take. Or what the penalties would be for trying to put them to sleep in the wrong place. I have learned so much more about the intricacies of parenting this Christmas. Thank you! PS, the five hour journey home yesterday was fun. Having the tablet strapped to the back of the passenger seat was a life saver. Unfortunately I forgot to actually download the other movies so I think we’ve now listened to The Muppets Take Manhattan five or six times. Won’t make that mistake again. Take care dude (28 December, 21:54)

Dear Santa, It’s almost twelfth night so I guess it’s time to wrap up this whole Christmas thing. Of all the things I didn’t actually ask for but really wanted, to have my son be a crazy Star Wars and Muppets fan was way high up the list (Lego imperial shuttle is still there too). it was a wise person once said be careful what you wish for you just might get it…
Thinking the Star Wars episode of the Muppet Show, conveniently appearing as a special feature on my Best of The Muppet Show dvd, was the best of all worlds was at the time a stroke of genius. Then very quickly Moo decided he didn’t want the whole show, just the Star Wars moments. Then just the end when Chewie appears. Over and over again. The mantra: Da Wahs Da Wahs over and over again whilst a remote is waved at me requiring the sequence to be replayed. Six, seven times. It should be noted that Da Wahs is the first time he’s strung two words together (hooray…)
I find my patience, and my love of Star Wars and The Muppets becoming severely tested. And then we reach bed time. Da Wahs. No baby, bed time. Da Wahs. No baby, bed time. Da Wahs. Da Wahs. Da Wahs. Remote gets waved. Then thrown. DA WAHS. KafrigginBOOM. Meltdown. Total meltdown. Nothing else will do, nothing else is going to happen. We have rage, we have tears, we have screaming sobbing pleading. And that’s the parents. This is now a curse, to be repeated again and again and again.
Thank you Santa, I got what I most wanted and if things keep going the dvd player is going out the fucking window. It’s been fun, see you in twelve x (4 January, 22:12)

Evil that must be destroyed

One of the many things ante-natal classes and parenting manuals won’t tell you is that some toys don’t have an off switch.

Which means they can’t tell you that they are also the toys with the loudest, the longest, the catchiest and most teeth grindingly really-fucking-annoying sounds. Or that they are the ones you are most likely to step on and accidentally activate mere seconds after you’ve just managed to get baby to sleep.

I have a sneaking suspicion these toys also follow you around the house to ensure they are always immediately behind you wherever you happen to tread.

You might want to disown any friends or family who mistakenly bring you such an offending item. Alternatively they make great gifts for other parents whose lives you’d like to make just that little bit more uncomfortable.

Two weeks off but on, never off

We’re not long back from our summer holiday / vacation / leave depending on where you’re reading from. If you haven’t been to the Snowdonia region of North Wales then I highly recommend it; it’s one of the most beautiful places this island has to offer. Its craggy mountains with sudden drops, mist and rain, sharp slate steps, hard stone walls, fast flowing rivers, tight country roads and potentially edgy rams and bulls make for a perfect place to take a 15 month old toddler with an Indiana Jonesesque craving for exploration and adventure.

Any parent will happily tell the world that a holiday (leave or vacation) stops being a holiday (leave or vacation) the moment the children arrive. Last year when we went to Dorset (also very pretty) at least the boy stayed where you put him and only went places when you hung him off your front. In years to come he’ll be able to mind his own time to a degree, and we certainly won’t be able to hang him off our fronts anymore. But toddler time… oh toddler time’s special.

Toddler time is when you have two holiday’s for the price of one: yours and your wife’s. At any one time one of you is trying to relax, perhaps sit at a table at a restaurant and eat some lunch, enjoy a view, read a book, forget about work. At exactly that same point the other is at work in their new capacity as bodyguard, guide, interpreter, traffic cop and mountain rescue service. The moment toddler’s feet hit the ground, which they often do running, then it’s your job to stay two steps behind with an ear out for danger and an eye out for trouble.

A good couple will balance the role between them thereby meaning they are both equally exhausted come the end of the holiday which is only marginally better than one of you being near death. You will after all have walked more miles than you care to count although only ever taken two steps in a straight direction, have dusted down scrapped knees and made friends with every dog owner in the vicinity. You will have passed only a handful of words with your partner of which half will have been “your turn”.

But at the end of it all we did spend two very precious weeks together as a family, even if often alone.

You are at least guaranteed to spend a certain amount of time packed up as a familial unit because you need to travel to your destination. This is the time when you least want to be crammed up in a small space with a toddler. And the worst possible way to travel is by car. So we drove.

At best push it takes about five hours to drive to North Wales. That means five hours with a small dervish with an attention span of two and a half seconds and all the patience of a lightning bolt strapped in a bucket seat not wanting to be there. You pack the back seat of the car with more books, snacks and toys than is sensible knowing that they will all ultimately fail, one after the other, like paper walls at a demolition derby.

The best you can hope for is that baby will be lulled to sleep for far longer than the usual nap time and in that time you will cover Herculean distances, leaving only a short hop left to travel once baby awakes and the complaining begins.

This is not what happens of course. Because it’s the summer holidays and every other living soul south of Orkney is doing the same thing. Of these approximately half are also doing it very slowly. If you do manage to get past these gentle cruisers who apparently don’t have ten kilos of tiny homo-sapien dynamite strapped to the back seat and for whom time is very much not of the essence then it’s only to get caught behind the tractor at the front of the queue.

So the only thing to do to counter the extra weight of traffic is to remove half the road space. The folks who maintain our roads and highways have I am absolutely certain incredibly complex algorithms that detail with utter scientific certainty to three decimal points why the first day of the school holidays is the day all the road works start. That magic moment when baby’s eyes shut. The moment the counter starts reeling off – 30 minutes, 29, 28, 27… how much distance have we made? One metre, two. Two… Two.. Fuck, we’ve been stationary for twenty minutes now, baby’s stirring. Ohshitohshitohshitohshit please traffic start moving now…

Ten hours. Ten hours (including stops). Bless the little man he did his best but ten hours travelling will bust anyone’s chops. And so there comes the point when there is you, your partner, the trapped confines of a slow moving vehicle and the real time affect of having Motorhead playing white noise in the boot with no pause for breath and no chance of a diplomatic resolution – please stop screaming baby, please????????

Weirdly we have found one thing, one thing that works. One thing that stops baby in his tracks and lulls him back to, an quizzical calm at least. It has to be played at a volume at least louder than his screams, for which not all car stereos might go that high, but the lilting rhythmic lullaby gruffness of Tom Waits’ Blood Money works a treat. Every time.

Can’t wait to get away again.



The law of edible indivisibility

If baby takes a square of paper towel, tears it in half and gives half to daddy, tears the remaining half in half and gives half to daddy, tears the remaining half in half and gives half to daddy and repeats the action consistently; before he breaks the laws of physics he will get bored and eat what’s left.

Box fail

Today the wife came home with a bin. The bin will replace the box we put our recycling in. The bin will stop baby from accessing our recycling as he used to with the open box and trying to a) eat it and/or b) redistribute it across the kitchen floor. The first thing baby did, even before we’d put a single item in or peel the annoying sticker off the front, was stand up and pull the bin over onto the floor.

The wife’s trip to town left me in charge of baby for the morning, a perfect opportunity for a walk to the hardware store for the pin hammer I need to fix some panels and lunch out with me and baby. Baby declined his tuna melt and opted for as many of my chips as I’d give him and the meagre chicken content from my chicken, bacon and sweetcorn sandwich instead. The wife’s lunch was hugely more successful in that the only person she had to share it with was herself.

I did at least manage to get the pin hammer. On the way home I also found the sock he’d removed and thrown away without me noticing on the pavement and a large amount of tuna melt stuck to the frame of the pram.

The bin being only a partial success now baby can get into it, also brought into the home a bin sized cardboard box. That would make a great tunnel said the wife. It would said I having laid it on the floor and sized it up against baby. So I cut the end flaps off the box and the box collapses.

Tunnel collapse I think to myself and wonder where the stupid movie dog is that cowers in the car as the tunnel collapses forcing a main character back to rescue the dog and face possible certain death.

Determined that baby will have one and a half feet of cardboard tunnel to crawl through before bedtime, my inner engineer takes over and I start to tape the end panels to each side to act as firming supports. It works. The box stands. So does baby who leans on it and it collapses again, cushioning baby’s fall with three layers of soft cardboard and packing tape. Baby starts to remove the side panels and there is a fear that he’ll start to eat the packing tape. This is foolish, of course he’s going to eat the fucking packing tape, he’s a baby he eats everything.

Baby is removed from the box and the box re-stood. My Blue Peter style structural engineering holds and there is a square tunnel through which baby crawls first one way then the other. He repeats twice more during the afternoon and loses complete interest in the tunnel. I now have a large cardboard box with the ends taped on to the sides taking up valuable living room real estate. Where are the rest of the toys going to be spread if there’s a stupid box in the way.

I consider busting it down and putting it in our new recycling bin.