Cough cough splutter splutter

Small children wake in the night for any number of reasons, some of which are utterly infuriating.

Unquestionably legitimate

Needing the toilet / nappy change
Needing milkĀ (very small children only; does not include hollow-legs 7yos)


“There was a noise”
“I think there’s a monster”
“My pyjamas are funny”
“I really love you”

At the risk of invoking Samuel L Jackson, it’s hard to accept Infuriating Wakes when they are remotely avoidable.

“A bit of a cough” is to be expected when a small child has a cold. Something about lying down and the drainage something something gross this is why I am not a doctor.

Smearing a bit of Vicks or similar on to the SOLES OF THE FEET somehow magically relieves the cough a bit. I am a bit of a cynic about “woo” remedies but reflexology occasionally annoyingly does something and this is one of those things.

Note: it even worked on the totally cynical “I will do this to prove you wrong” husband who had been miserable with a cold-cough and within ten minutes of Vicks-ing had fallen into a coughless sleep. HA. VINDICATION.

For the sake of the sheets, put socks on over the Vicks.


The sun has got his hat on

The weather certainly took me by surprise.

I’m of the complexion politely called “English Rose” or more accurately “blue”. So a few days after the hail and sleet, when the sun came out over Cheshire, I was completely unprepared for the UV.

Aaaaaand this happened.

ouchy chest

Fortunately, our youngest is not yet potty-trained, so I used some of his nappy rash cream and the painful sunburn was gone overnight. As if by magic!

Plague! Plague!

Ay me. I’ve been poorly. What they call "poorly sick". I lost about ten pounds in four miserable days. Fortunately only one of the children followed suit, and he had bounced back after twenty-four hours. Fingers crossed that represents an end to it.

When you’re poorly before children, you can crawl back into bed, take any medicine you fancy, and wait. Not so for me nowadays, alas.

On day one, as I fell into incapacity, they wanted feeding. Curry, specifically, as promised. No. Just no. In the end, after a spectacular disaster in the kitchen, there was an emergency dash to the chip shop. I had to hide from the grease because it was overwhelming.

You know, they want feeding every single day? Multiple times a day too, with variety, and balanced nutrients. I mean, that’s enough of a challenge when you’re fully fit and hungry yourself.

And they want taking to school, and stories reading, and clothes washing, and oh good grief they never, ever, ever stop talking.

Mummy, may I…?
Mummy, will you…?
Look at this!
Watch me!
I want a …

But this isn’t a post just complaining. I’m here to talk about how to survive a plague day/week.

First of all, I’m afraid you have to clean things promptly. It’s misery, but puking into a clean loo is marginally nicer than … well, a less clean loo. If you have a healthy adult around, it is absolutely their job.

Wash everyone’s hands like they’ve been playing with bin juice. Keep hand cream handy or you’ll desiccate like coconut.

I recommend antibacterial surface wipes for door handles, taps, etc. I’m not a brilliant housekeeper at the best of times, but containing the contagion is high on my list of priorities.

Secondly, drop your culinary standards. I managed an online grocery shop that was about 90% Favourites, and pointed the children towards the fridge. So what if they have beans on toast for tea a few times. Fish fingers never killed anyone either. Stock the fruit bowl if you’re concerned about nutrition.

Same for you – if you can stomach something, try it. Half a chocolate digestive for breakfast? Better than nothing. Plain pasta with nothing on? Great. Who cares if your meals don’t have a name?

The BRAT diet is often recommended at times like these: Bananas, Rice, Apple juice, Toast. Yes, yes, yes.

And finally, the tv is your friend. Who cares if it’s been on for three days straight? The children aren’t asking for things you’re incapable of providing, like conversation or intelligence.

I’m conscious, after writing "finally" there, that there’s another coping mechanism I’ve left unmentioned.

If help is offered – or has ever been offered in a general sense – then for goodness’ sake take it. Seize it. Someone else doing the school run? Take it. A few hours of child-wrangling so you can go back to bed? TAKE IT. Don’t get to the stage of sobbing down the phone before you say "Actually, yes, how about…"

They say it takes a village to raise a child: nowadays the village may not be a literal geographical place, but the support you can get can make all the difference. Let’s talk about villages soon.


Sharing resources

In my very first blog post I said we are all doing the best we can with the resources we have.

What happens when our resources are insufficient? Well, of course the usual course of action is compromise – how many parents have gone without something (sports car, luxury holiday … shoes without holes, dinner) in order to provide something for a child?

Not all our resources are material, however. When your first child arrives, you suddenly have to develop vast stores of patience, resistance to fatigue, tolerance of repetition, tolerance of repetition, tolerance of repetition, negotiation, imagination, innovation and good cheer, among other attributes. If you have more than one child then your powers of mediation develop very swiftly, too.

There’s no hope of compromise when your soft skills run out. The cracks inevitably start to show.

Maybe you forget to turn the bathroom light off. Maybe you fail to turn the oven on. Maybe your recycling doesn’t make it to the kerb on bin day. Maybe you mess something up at work – with any luck you merely neglect to attach the attachments to an email.

You’ll know when your resources are running low. I always seem to get a puncture on the pram when mine are running low – on a normal day I groan and repair it, but on a bad day it is All Too Much and I sob into the rubber glue.

I try to keep my "game face" in front of the children, because they’re only small and adult problems are often too complicated for them. But sometimes it’s the patience that runs out first, and they suffer the exasperated bark, or even the passive-aggressive sarcasm.

I do feel awful when it comes to that, by the way. If the outburst can be turned into a joke, I’ll try it. I don’t want to frighten or upset them, or anyone else.

Now, this entry isn’t just an outpouring. There is something I can recommend when one is reaching capacity/crisis. No real substitute for a full night’s sleep and a lottery win, or a doctor’s visit perhaps, but sometimes it can be the difference between being able to take a deep breath and carry on, and bursting into tears or yelling.

Behold: the Solidarity Hand Squeeze.

You need another human being who can empathise. Any parent will do, although I recommend choosing one you actually know. You don’t have to explain a thing: you just say, "I need a Solidarity Hand Squeeze". Then you hold hands with the other person (one hand each) and give a quick, reassuring squeeze.

Alternatively, if someone mentions that they’re dealing with something tricky, or seem a bit overwhelmed, you can offer a Solidarity Hand Squeeze.

The Solidarity Hand Squeeze says, "Life can be hard, but you can do it."

The Solidarity Hand Squeeze gives you more than it takes from you, whichever side of the transaction you start from. It reminds you that are not alone.

It’s no panacea, and I don’t want you to think I am minimising the very real emotional problems and mental illness that can go hand in hand with parenthood. But in that moment it can help. And any help has to be worth a try.

Take my hand: you are not alone, and neither am I.

When verrucas just won’t give up

Eldest son had a verruca, which spread and turned into two verrucas, on the sole of his foot. They became painful, and we didn’t want them to spread to anyone else in the house or beyond, so we were diligently treating with Bazuka. The adverts promised such great things.

Several weeks in, nothing was changing – if anything they were getting bigger, uglier and more painful. So I searched online for “how to get rid of a verruca”. At this point I should warn those with weak stomachs, or those eating: Do Not Google Image Search Verruca.

Anyway, over and over in the various links people kept mentioning duct tape. A little further reading revealed that any verruca treatment works by creating a hostile environment for the verruca. Applied treatments such as Bazuka or apple cider vinegar (I considered it, but I needed mine for a new pulled pork recipe and couldn’t bear to use it for both reasons at once) create a chemically hostile environment, and duct tape starves the verruca of oxygen, apparently.

Eldest son was very skeptical about the treatment, which involved applying Bazuka after his bath or shower, then wrapping duct tape around his foot to completely cover the affected area. I can’t convey his intonation here, but “DUCT TAPE? ARE YOU ACTUALLY KIDDING ME?!” is a fair representation.

Two weeks it took, after two months of nothing at all. Every time we uncovered it, the skin was a bit more wrinkly and the verruca itself was looking a bit more unhappy.

One day he got changed for swimming (note: when I tried to buy a verruca sock the pool staff told me you don’t have to have one any more so long as it’s being treated) and as he pulled his sock off it had a great lump in it. He brought it to me in great satisfaction.

“Look, mummy, my verruca has come off!”

And indeed it had. At long blooming last.

Terrible picture, but this is the lump of skin with one of the verrucas itself visible as a lump in the middle. Man alive, it was a thing of beauty. I mean, completely disgusting. Ahem. Like using those blackhead remover strips.

Aaaand here’s the craters left behind. We are now a couple of months on and nothing has returned.

So there you have it. Weeks of Bazuka did nothing until we destroyed the verrucas’ habitat by covering the area in duct tape.