My teeny hand is frozen

This post has been part-written for a while. The weather took me – and a lot of other people – by surprise. So although this might seem unseasonable, trust me that it will be useful when it’s really chilly again. So, May, probably.

There are some babies who will not wear gloves. I have had three. The eldest refused gloves until that -17 degree winter we had, when he was old enough to reason with. Yeah, ok, old enough to bribe.

What did we do in the meantime?

Sock gloves.

The child’s own socks, or a size up, all the way up on top of the jumper sleeves but underneath the coat. The elastic creates friction between the fabric layers something something science something physics something and they can’t pull them off.

For extra credit, apply multiple layers, eg long-sleeved vest or t-shirt, sock one, jumper, sock two, coat, actual glove (for appearances’ sake).

Here the youngest at the zoo modelling his sock gloves. The sulky expression is because of hating to have his hands covered. Unlucky.Featured imageFeatured image

Polish the porch

I mentioned in a previous post that I am not the world’s best housekeeper.

That was an understatement. I vastly resent adulthood for requiring me to have standards. And as I trundle through my thirties I realise I do have standards. A tidy room is nicer than an untidy one. It is easier to find things that have a place to live and do in fact live there. I do prefer the look of an ironed top to that of an unironed one.

But. But. But.

All of these standards require action, and that’s really hugely unfair. I should somehow be able to reap the benefits of responsibility and adulthood without the boring labour involved. Introducing into my personal space four male persons with less high standards <understatement> sometimes seems like a huge error.

Friends joke about a commune, to which we will one day escape, to drink wine, read books, and eat cheese, mostly. There will not be messy children or husbands in it. We might employ a dishy gardener, but not one who talks.

In the meantime, in my non-commune, and despite labour-saving devices a fifties housewife could barely have dreamed of, there is approximately fifty-eight megatons of housework to be done all the chuffing time. Laundry, cooking and washing-up are the main time-suckers, but floors come close too.

Anyway, I have reached a kind of equilibrium now, so that when people drop by unannounced I am not completely humiliated, and when I want it to be clean-clean it doesn’t take a hundred years.

However, sometimes someone gives me notice that they’re popping round and I want the house to appear to be clean-clean when in fact it’s only not-humiliating. The tips and hacks for that illusion can be summed up in the blogpost title: Polish the Porch.

Yes.

Take your most strong-smelling polish, and your cleanest microfibre cloth, and go to the porch/front door. Polish the walls around the door. When your guest arrives, they smell polish, and their brain is tricked into thinking the whole house has been dusted and polished.

<picks self off the floor after falling down laughing>

Other hacks in this category include floor wipes. But for the ultimate lazy floor solution, tune in next time.

The Great Outdoors

My husband and I used to camp a lot when we were first an item – indeed the first time I met a large group of his friends was in a field full of tents, and they had thoughtfully strewn soft porn inside his tent for me to find.

In those days camping was a cheap (often free) source of accommodation when we wanted to go gadding about round the country, and our equipment was extremely basic. Nutrition was mainly found in pubs or in the off-licence, so the presence or absence of suitable sleeping bags was largely unnoticed.

Fast-forward a decade. I am writing this on my smartphone in the dark in a tent with two children snoring and one, well, not quite asleep yet. It is three-quarters dark and we had fish & chips for tea. We are also less than five miles from home.

This is a trial run before our Great Adventure in the summer holidays. We have forgotten (at least) bin bags and ketchup. We had practised putting the tent up before we came – and it only nearly ended in divorce – so today it was a smooth operation. All the anchors and guys are pegged and I have even hung up the fairy lights.

Oh, the fairy lights. These were recommended to me by the seasoned campers of Mumsnet. Camp it up, they said. Nothing could possibly be too naff, they said.

Incredibly, they were right. Admittedly the man of the house (man of the tent?) vetoed the gnomes I wanted, and left behind the mini Victoriana lanterns. But oh, the fairy lights. The tiny green LEDs, like Christmas tree lights, turn out in context to be very subtle and understated even though they are strung on the outside of the tent. The little red ladybirds on the other hand are just right, and I love them. They go with the flickering of candlelight and the funny little metal mug and the VERY NOISY GEESE and the way the flysheet shivers in the breeze.

It’s ten past nine, and feels like midnight. Google told me you can’t take too many fleece blankets, and oh yes that’s true too. I’m cosy and content.

I’m too old to rough it, especially now that I can’t mitigate the cold, hard ground with six rum and Cokes and a cheeseburger. My chair supports my back, I can stand up straight in the tent, and I’ve brought the teabags I like best.

Hints and hacks? Well, solar-powered fairy lights FTW, obviously. But what’s really amazing is how long we have been here with not much to do (and no telly) and how utterly engrossed the children have been. They are CAMPING and there are tents and caravans and other children. There are trees and even a railway line within sight. We planned to bring lots of stuff for them to do but ran out of car space. And it hasn’t mattered (yet) because CAMPING.

Ask me again in the morning, obviously, when the airbed’s gone down and the children wake with the morning chorus… but this is lovely. Just lovely.

Going On An Expotition

A quick one.

Sometimes your children go away without you or any of your family – with school or maybe Brownies or Cubs or something. It’s amazing.

I mean, it can be very scary and result in tears and tantrums. But don’t worry, you’ll have got over yourself by the time they get back.

They will get grubbier than you thought possible, and they will wear every item of clothing you pack, except the things you thought would be useful.

A few tips:

  • In the name of all that is holy, give them a case/bag they can carry themselves. Make sure they recognise it. This might mean attaching ribbons or toys to the outside.
  • Don’t pack a note or letter. It doesn’t end well. Instead, put an object you know makes them feel better, and hide it in an agreed place. It’s for just in case.
  • For short residentials (one or two nights) pack an outfit for each morning. Lay it out with underwear on top and jumper/trousers on top. Then roll the outfit into a sausage.
  • Additionally, more spares. More socks than a human being could wear during the apocalypse.
  • Lots of carrier bags. Every time they take off clothing, they put the clothing into a carrier bag.
  • When they get home, take all the carrier bags of clothing out of the holdall/case and put them into the washing machine. Yes, that’s right. Put the carrier bags into the machine with the clothes still inside. As the machine flops about, the clothes come out of the bags. At the end of the cycle you have clean clothes and clean bags, separately. You don’t have to touch mud.

They’ll have an absolutely amazing time. And by golly the adults who take them deserve gin. School trip? Why not leave a big tin of biscuits or chocolates in the staff room as a thank-you. Volunteers? Gin. You know it.