A Child’s Guide to the Art of Keeping Parents.

(Including how to destroy their house, sex life, and mental stability.)

1.) Cry.

From the moment you make your entrance into the world, crying is your main source of attention-seeking. Should they attempt to put you down on a surface – be it crib, Moses basket, rug or bed, CRY. This will ensure that they pick you back up almost immediately. Especially if they’re first-timers. Even the more hardcore ones will cave if you give it a few hiccups and chokey-style breaths in between bawling. If this seems not to work, try holding your breath too. You’ll soon be back in a lovely, comfortable pair of arms in no time.

2.) Sleep.

Do not do it. Enough said.

I could end there, but there may be further details you need, because sometimes even the tougher ones among us give in to a little shut-eye. If you must sleep, try your hardest to do it in the daytime. Do not close your eyes when it is dark. They’ll try to train you to do it the other way around, but pah, we spit milk on their ‘training’. And on their carpets, clothes and bedding.

It is particularly important to sleep as much as you can if visitors come bearing gifts for you. They will cuddle you and make weird yet soothing clucky sounds – and you’ll get lots of great comments about what a good little sleeper you must be. Mummy and Daddy will try to tell the visitor that you’re not, but no-one will believe them and they’ll look like big fat (especially Mummy) liars.

When you are put to bed at night you must try your hardest to escape from it. This is where your crying tactics are very useful indeed. Cry for hours if you must – they may be trying out a little ‘controlled crying’. Ha. All you need to do is make some eye contact. If you can get them (particularly Mummy) to look you in the eye, and then try a little smile at her, you’ll be back out of that cot pronto. Now here’s the really good bit. Listen up.

If you can get yourself into their bed – that’s right, in it, and right up between them, then you need never face a night alone again! Better yet, if you can do it not once but two nights or more in a row, you are home and dry. You’ll have developed a ‘routine’, and they’ll have made something that they refer to as a ‘rod for their own backs’. Heh heh.

Whilst we’re at it, we’d best mention sex. For some reason, they’ll assume that even though you’re in the same room as them, it’s ok for them to do it because you’re only little. Well your lungs ain’t little kiddo. If you sense them making a move on each other (you have a built-in radar for this kind of shit), then scream the place down. Anyway, if they’ve got time to have sex then they’ve got time to sleep, and you’ve been around long enough to ensure that they’re far more likely to choose the latter. You can scupper this too though – little do they realise until you come home from hospital that you make the same sounds, at the same volume, as a farmyard.

3.) Feeding.

The choice is yours. Mummy thinks it’s hers. It’s not.

Pretty soon after you make your grand entrance, Mummy may try to waggle a gigantic, engorged mammary in your face. Give it two or three days and that boob is going to be larger than your whole head. If you feel like taking to this breast-feeding malarkey then lovely. If not, then hey, where’s the harm – play around a little. Swat your head all over the place, refuse to suck on the damn thing, and dig your little gums in. If you keep this up, then there’s every chance that you’ll be switched to something known as The Bottle.

The Bottle is a joy to behold. Mummy and Daddy will spend the next couple of years having to tote a bag the size of Mummy’s bottom around with them. Sometimes one or other of them will leave something crucial (nappies perhaps) at home, and then Daddy will always get the blame. They’ll spend hours faffing about with formula dispensers and sterilisers and teats. But that’s ok – cry whilst they’re doing it and then you’ll definitely be half way to driving them nuts!

4.) Nappies.

When you’re really small you have no choice, you’ve got to be strapped in them. But fear not – once you’re slightly bigger you can start arching your back (also an excellent method of buggy-escape) and rolling around in them. Try hard to kick down as a pooey one comes off; you’ll be able to get a foot in one and also splatter a bit around the place. Sometimes you’ll even succeed in doing a poo so voluminous that it’ll squirt right up the back of your vest and they’ll be gagging over you as they try to work out how to get the vest off without pooing-up your hair.

Eventually you’ll be big enough to actually take your nappy off! Do it in your cot! Poo or wee straight after, then cry. They’ll come running, and you’ll be out and about in seconds. (If all else fails then just remember that one day Mummy and Daddy are going to be back in those things themselves anyway, just make sure you’re not about to have to change them. Get them in a home for God’s sake.)

5.) Weaning.

At about six months you’ll be trying some proper food, wahoo! It might be earlier, could be four months, and it might be something called Child Lead Weaning. No matter either way, ‘cos Mummy’s just following whichever trend is currently in baby-fashion. So smear that stuff all around your little chops, get some on the floor, mush it about, wipe some on Mum too. If you can manage to mash a banana up then so much the better – that stuff stains things black once it’s dried!!! Who knew?!

If wheetabix or porridge come your way then you’re in luck – that gloop dries like cement on furniture. Spread it about a little. They’ll need a chisel to get it back off.

6.) Car Seats.

As soon as you’re able, arch your back and do Spaghetti Limbs. They’ll never get you strapped in that bastard. And if they do, just squish a few raisins down the sides of it and try at least once to puke in the car. That smell will be around for years after.

7.) Going Out.

Soon after you’re born, Mummy and Daddy will try to take you out to places. No matter what, do not allow them to leave the building the first time they try. In fact, consider any mission that takes less than two attempts an outright failure. If Mummy ever makes the mistake of wearing black again, then get some snot on it. You haven’t lived until you’ve made your mother spend an entire day out in public in a state of blissful ignorance about the slug-trail flaking on her shoulder.

Sometimes, they’ll try to take you out to see their ‘friends’. When this occurs, whatever you do, against all the odds, do not allow them to finish a conversation. Let them start one, sure, what’s the harm in a little false reassurance? But once they really start to get into it, CRY. Fidget too. Get up on a lap – hell, get passed about a bit. Flop around, dig your elbows into them, and swat their face with your hands. If you see an opportunity to get down and let loose on a floor, take it! If you hear Mummy and Daddy say something similar to “I don’t know what’s got into them, they must be tired – s/he’s never usually like this” then you know you’re on to a winner.

8.) Nursery/Childcare.

We all have our own way of dealing with being separated from the oldsters. You may be glad to be free, or you may be glad but decide to make ’em pay anyway. (Remember ‘sleep training’? Same principle. Cry when they’re dropping you off, they’ll hang about and you can cling to their legs as your keyworker prises you off.) However, whether you decide to go gracefully or whether you put up a fight, remember the cardinal rule: be as good as gold when you’re there, no matter how you act at home, and make stuff. Loooooots of stuff! As many paintings and cut-up plastic cups, toilet rolls, and bits of wool, as you can possibly handle. Seriously, work that shit. ‘Cos when Mum or Dad come, they’re gonna have to take it home with them. And not only that, but they’re gonna have to stick it up in the house! Oh yeah! All that dry pasta with paint on is coming home baby!

9.) Christmas and Other Festivities.

Drag that tree down. At the very least ensure that all your homemade shit from nursery is at the front of the tree. Preferably losing glitter like Katie Price loses fiances. Check the tree in the morning too – you can bet your bottom dollar that Mum will have tried to sneak your washing-peg Mary and Joseph round to the back whilst you slept.

The best bit about Christmas is the toys. Some big fat guy will creep into your bedroom one night (creepy, right?) and leave a load of presents in the house. The very best thing you can do is play with them just for that day, then ignore them all and revert to being ‘bored’ and playing instead with either a scrap of gift wrap or a Peppa Pig soap. Hold out on those new toys for as long as you can, try not to break until mid-January before showing a vague, cursory interest.

10.) Siblings.

You may already have one or you may get one. Once you’re in a bedroom of your very own then Mummy and Daddy have not only got more time but they’re so riddled with amnesia from sleep-deprivation during your first few months that they’ll have forgotten just how bad it was. The trick to a new sibling is to be kind to that new arrival. Be adorable. Pose for pictures and pass his/her nappies to Mummy whilst blowing kisses for the camera. Keep this up for as long it takes her to proudly tell all her friends that you get along just fine with no envy or sibling rivalry whatsoever. Once she’s laid this down in stone, flip it round: pull some hair, snatch some toys, CRY. Most importantly: do it all in front of the aforementioned friends.

If you do ever feel a tad left out then don’t fret. Simply position yourself near a plug socket, lick a finger, and wait for Mum to spot you. She’ll drop that baby like a hot potato.

Once the baby is bigger you’ll actually be able to co-ordinate your missions. The key to this is fighting. Fight until Mum and Dad come into the room. Stop. Let them go back and – this is key – wait long enough for them to get back into whatever they were doing. Fight again. Repeat.

11.) Last but not Least: Never Forget that you have the Control.

Oh yes. They may think that they do (they’ll tell you that they’re ‘grown-ups’, they’ll tell you that they don’t enjoy telling you off. They may even try to spin the line that it’s ‘for your safety, not because Daddy’s a meanie who wants to spoil your fun’), but you have the control. You have the power. After all, what are they gonna do, sell you on ebay?? No! You’re theirs for keeps and vice versa. Until you reach 18 of course and then you can fleece them for all their cash, spend it vomiting in Kavos, and scare the shit out them with your choice of partner, career, and area to live in.

Long live the child in all of us!

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The Banishment of Insidey-ness. Or, the Turd in the Swimming Pool.

Hello Dear Readers! As promised, I have spent the past fortnight attempting to banish all post-Chrimbo feelings of hibernation and general bleeeeurgh, and as the title suggests, I have had some fascinating experiences and lessons in personal hygiene along the way. So, I shall comment on each of the main areas necessary to make one feel a tad more alive during a grey old January. (Fear not, turds in pools is not one of them.)

Exercise

It stands to reason of course that getting out and doing some exercise when you feel like you’ve been hibernating in a hobbit hole all winter is going to make you feel better. However, it’s tricky to get out there and do anything. I usually swim, run and cycle. The running has had to take a back seat due to my current injury, so I have kept plodding along with the cycling and the swimming.

Rather sadly, on my first post-festive ‘proper’ day back in the pool, I encountered the now infamous Chlorinated Turd. Just as I came to complete my mile, happy in my endorphin cocoon, I espied a lifeguard asking people to “Clear the pool please”. Assuming that this was due to a private lesson, gala, or similar, I climbed out by way of the steps, pleased with my efforts, only to find said endorphin high getting pissed upon (or more aptly, shat all over) from a vast height. I quote, “There’s a poo in the pool. We need to fish it out… It’s breaking up in the water”. AAARGGHHHHHH!!!!! Horror at the dawning realisation that I’d been swimming with another person’s shit! (Not that I want to swim with my own either you understand.) Never have I seen people run for a shower so fast – not easy on a slippery poolside I hasten to add. The bald guy next to me, who was entirely hairless, was scrubbing his bonce like Vidal Sassoon with OCD on speed. A tragic end to my first feelings of hibernation-escape. Tom Daley doesn’t have to put up with this kind of thing on Splash I tell you. (Though I hear from friends that that’s a different kind of shit altogether.)

Anyway, I have since joined a nice private gym with a nice private pool, that – I sincerely wish – does not include any nice private turds. Most unfortunately I can also confirm that this was not my sole encounter with the bodily waste of strangers as I battled the January Bleurgh Blues, for as I cycled the 3 miles back from Southsea last week, I pedalled through the subway that lies beneath one of the city roundabouts. There near the entrance stood a man with a can of Strong Bow at his feet and his penis (I hope it’s withered) in his hand. Not only was he pissing against the wall (urgh!), but he turned to face me as he did so!! What’s next I wonder? A stranger ejaculating onto the back of my Adidas vest whilst I cross train at the gym?

In conclusion, I can confirm that exercise makes one feel fabulous, minus the wee and turds of course. My friend Emma had a good idea in that mixing up your usual routine gives you back some of the lost mojo following new year. One friend, Lenka, has just joined a gym, and is running for the first time in a while, thereby finding herself thoroughly motivated by just how quickly one can build mileage when running. So try a class or two, or go for a swim if you usually run, or try a spin class if you normally hog the treadmill. Either way, exercise does – even though it’s a drag to get started with – make us feel better about ourselves.

Food and Drink

I can most definitely vouch for the mate and marshmallow tea that I was given by the wonderful Wendy at Budd’s Herbal Apothecary, and also the schisandra tincture. It’s funny because we acknowledge that other naturally-sourced products do what they say, eg: caffeine, tobacco, cannabis etc, but for some reason we often have a dippy-hippy view of herbalism. However, it turns out that even a prior-cynic such as myself can be converted. I awoke two days after beginning the tea/tincture feeling so much better that I spent the morning wondering why I felt so much more alert and energetic – and it was only then, when I thought “what’s different?” that I realised.

I’ve also cut down to only 1 or 2 coffees a day (cue withdrawal headache) and have been very clean and lean with my diet, only indulging in a glass of vino on Friday and Saturday evenings. My friend Caroline has completed a dry January thus far and lost an inch from her waist in doing so – and she also gave me a great recipe for curly kale crisps. They sound like they’d be grim but are actually delicious, as verified by my sceptical husband. Simply spray the kale with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt or sea salt flakes, and pop in the oven on 180 for 8-10 mins, or thereabouts. Yummy, savoury, salty, yet pretty good for you.

(Another friend, Dave, told me about the wonderful health benefits of his whisky and beer diet over Chrimbo – apparently only offset by indulging in at least one hour’s exercise 6 days a week. Presumably the alcohol also manages to pickle you, thereby acting as a formaldehyde of sorts and retaining one’s youthful looks!)

Products

Being female I cannot possibly disperse of my insideyness without the aid of lovely, scrumptious, feminine beauty products. Mmmmm, delicious. My friend Ruth suggests Liz Earle’s Brightening Treatment, and the aforementioned Caroline uses James Duigan’s (he of Clean and Lean fame) advice about organic coconut oil for hair. (The oil is fabulous to cook with too: smells unbelievably yummy whilst lowering bad cholesterol & raising good.)

In conjunction with the above products, I would also suggest any make-up or body cream by Laura Mercier (all positively covetable and available in abundance at Space NK), and Leighton Denny nail products. I am also completely swayed by the beautiful packaging of the award-winning Lanolips hand and lip creams, both of which work wonderfully well. Flower Harmonising Mist by Elemental Herbology is a real treat to use – spritz on one’s visage to protect skin and to swathe oneself in the girlie scent of rose petals, and smother said visage in Lush’s Oatifix face mask, which smells of honey and makes skin lovely and soft (as opposed to shrunken and shrivelled, which is how mine spent most of December and January until I began my mission in ernest).

And so, Dear Reader, in conclusion, I hope that you too are emerging from your cocoon. Another friend of mine does not emerge from hers until March, but then she also spent four hours climbing up and toboganning down a snowy hill on Sunday, so I’m sure she’s looking fairly spritely under the layers of clothing that we in Britain are currently swaddled in against the chill and gloom. If you have not yet started your emergence, then I hope that the advice of lushnessblog & friends is of some use to you. A combination of all of the above, plus a nice dose of positive mental attitude (and the wonders of psychosomatic positivity) should see you right!

(Just keep an eye out at the bottom of the swimming pool next time you jump in. They break up in the water you know.)

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Diet, Health and the Mechanical Extraction of Facial Meat. Hmm.

On New Year’s Eve my husband and I joined our friends for a meal and drinks across the road from where we live. (When I say ‘road’ I do of course mean that our friends own the house there; we didn’t just decide to hold the dinner party on the pavement opposite my forecourt.) Whilst there, and during a discussion about vegetarianism, the subject of chickens came up. Specifically, the subject of facial meat. (If you are of a queasy disposition then I advise you skip the following paragraph.)

It transpired during our conversation that Andy (a friend of our friends) had once bitten into a chicken pie, only to be confronted, orally, with something that appeared not to be chicken. Or at least, not one of the bits of a chicken that you would generally consume. To be precise, he bit into a whole chicken skull. In his pie. In his mouth. Urgh.

Upon realising what he had chomped into, Andy wisely – as would the average consumer upon finding skeletal remains in their lunch – wrote to the supermarket from whence his pie came. Rather than receiving vouchers or grovels of apology (the very least I’d bloody expect after that grisly experience), Andy got a letter through the post, which stated very clearly that there is apparently always a risk when munching a food item that contains meat because of … brace yourselves … that’s right – the mechanical extraction of facial meat. Eeeeeeew!!! What a sentence – what a thought! As you will know Dear Reader, I myself am the proud co-owner (have to stress ‘co’ else the husband gets cross) of the delightful chickens that are Barbara and Peggy, and I am therefore well qualified to let you also know that there ain’t much in the way of facial meat to be found on a chicken. Aside from its bone structure, and assuming that your chicken is not a mutant hybrid that has been cross-bred with Godzilla on steroids, then it’s a pretty small face we’re talking about here. It merely goes to show that when we imagine the making of a pie or similar, we think of plump juicy pieces of chicken breast, cooked tenderly and added to the other ingredients. What we do not imagine is the scraping and scratching and digging, via machine, of tiny little shreds of facial carcass, all squished together and marketed by the money-grabbing supermarkets and global pie companies as ‘lunch’. Shudder.

It is because of more knowledge of issues such as these, as well as having to admit that I am now physically older than 18 (though never mentally past 12), that over the last two years I’ve radically changed lifestyle. My diet was never diabolical, but now it is almost entirely unprocessed and involves much in the way of good fats. I shunned fats of any kind for years after the 90’s propaganda of ‘low fat’ this that and the other, but since finding out that the majority of low fat products, such as yogurts and so on, are full of chemicals and sugar to make up for the lack of taste caused by the loss (mechanically extracted no doubt!) of fats, I avoid all forms of ‘diet’ food. Instead, I now gobble good fats, partly due to my own facial meat – now there’s a lovely expression that’ll be sweeping the nation once this blog is published I’m sure. It is said that after a certain age, a woman has to choose between her arse (size of) and her face (wrinkles of). And it’s true: fat don’t crack. You need a healthy toned body with enough fat to keep your cheeks plumped out: let them lose weight and that’s it. Jowls begin, saggy long lines start to stretch from eye to jaw when you smile, and your neck starts to shrivel like testicle-skin. Pretty.

It was with this in mind that myself and my James Duigan-inspired diet (Clean and Lean: not rocket science but genius nevertheless) pedalled off into Southsea today in search of something to make me feel less ‘insidey’. This is a phrase coined by my mate Emma (hostess with the mostess of the New Year party) to describe the post-Chrimbo hibernation sensation. We’ve all been locked indoors like shivering, alcohol-swigging, stodge-stuffing squirrels (suspect those rodents don’t drink booze but bear with, bear with – couldn’t think of another hibernating creature at short notice), only to emerge from our homey-hobbit-holes in the new year, blinking like anaemic moles, stumbling into the grey, thinning half-light of January. (Emma, by the way, does not look insidey. She looks like she’s just stepped off of a yacht in the sunshine; I look as though I’ve just escaped from Azkaban prison, only minus the look of sheer relief that would presumably follow such endeavours.)

After 5 days (since the schools went back) of Clean and Leanness, including much green tea, lack of coffee, 3 x alcohol free days, 2 x decent cycles, 2 x decent swims, I awoke (loosest sense of the term) this morning barely able to lift my head out from beneath the duvet. I fear that even if I had been sharing the duvet with Colin (our ludicrously-named, not by us, dog), who is unashamedly flatulent, I still would not have wished to exit the bed area, such was my exhaustion – and general insideyness. When finally I swung a creaky leg out of the bed (don’t get me started on the dodgy leg; still awaiting MRI, still unable to run), I peered in the bathroom mirror, and decided that enough was enough. Help was needed. Cue: Budd’s Herbal Apothecary.

As soon as my youngest was safely ensconced in pre-school, off I pedalled down to Southsea, first stop the Garage Lounge. I had seen earlier in the week that the gorgeously eclectic and chilled Garage Lounge is now stocking some of Budd’s herbal teas, but I had already supped a caffeine-free americano, so today was the day to try the Ginseng and Liquorice that I’d had my eye on. One of the fab ladies who works there stood with me, sniffing the jars of shredded herbs and leaves, as I made my choice. And I can confirm: yum. Very light, very mild and refreshing. I’ve shopped in Budd’s before when Wendy, the lovely owner, made me a bespoke face cream late last year. Having been very pleased with the cream (mixed in front of you, to your specifications after a consultation about your skin, for the absolute bargain of £8!!) I thought that discussing the insidey situation would be a good plan – and I was right.

The apothecary is a beautiful shop, very traditional, and a treat to be inside. Wendy is a walking advertisement for her products (twinkly-eyed, youthful, cheerful and chatty) and that alone is enough to convince me that the banishment of my insideyness is possible. So, after a chat and a description of my lethargy, bleurgh-ness, and all-round wish to hibernate, I am now the recipient of one tea (mate and marshmallow), and one tincture (schisandra). The latter has a fab reputation as an adaptable herb, in that if you take it in the morning it can help to give you a little oomph, and if you take it when you’re stressed it can help to give you a little aaaah. The mate (pronounced mah-tey) can give the boost of coffee, but without the horrid jitters, and can also benefit weight loss, skin, anti-stress, as well as having antioxidant properties. Bring it on I say!

I shall report back in a fortnight on the success or otherwise of Mission: Banish Insideyness, and if you too Dear Reader are on such a mission, then I should love to hear about it! You can contact me at either of the following email addresses, or via facebook, and I’ll be happy to mention you and your insideyness (hopefully lack of!) and/or any tips that you may have, in the follow-up to this blog. If all else fails, then I’m off to take up pole-dancing (for exercise, not wages), which I hear is a fabulous all-round toner. After the previous experience of the Doctor and the Thong though (see earlier blog), I am not sure that I could bear to.

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