Marriage

I love mornings.

Not getting up, that bit is lousy; but I love the coming to life of a house, my family.  The fights for the bathroom, the loo, the attempts to pass on the stairs, the raiding of the kettle, bread bin, fridge.  Dogs dashing out for a wee, then dashing back in to greet everyone.  And in that wonderful Dachshund way, they have to greet everyone personally and separately.

First though, my husband gets up and goes to work.  Don’t get me wrong, I love him dearly, but he washed his hair last night and has gone deaf in one ear.  I spent most of the evening repeating myself while he looked at me in exasperation and said “Eh?” as if I wasn’t speaking clearly enough.

So help me, if he goes deaf as he gets older I’m taking out a life insurance policy on him.  I can’t say any more or else it becomes premeditated and you get longer in prison for that.  So I’m told.

Right now I have six dogs in the house.  There are six humans in this house.  So if each dog greets each human each morning, that’s thirty-six sets of tailwagging and doggy happiness each morning.  They’ll do it all again when the kids come home and Chris and I get in.  That’s seventy-two wagfests.  Add in a mealtime twice a day and we get to eighty-six.  Except that one day a week, one of the dogs will be with me at a show and will eat two of those meals on the hoof – subtract two happy times.  Grand total of six hundred expressions of Dachshund ecstasy a week.  That’s thirty one thousand and two hundred doggy daft sessions a year.

Poxy Roxy accompanies most of hers with an involuntary bladder release.  We greet Le Pox in the kitchen where there’s no carpet.  I am saving up for vinyl right through.

If you just take the greetings, and add in the amount of times they get taken for a walk – you make eighty four a day, or four thousand, three hundred and sixty eight a year, which is a bit of a coincidence within my calculator today.

Mike goes first.  He goes to school on the bus.

That leaves me with Alfie, Joe and Zak.  Alfie is collected and taken by council transport.  No one quite matches up to his first driver, Malcolm, but at the moment we have a lovely team who collect him.   In the past we’ve had some who were, ermm,   “less than competent”.  Including the one who after ten days asked me (in front of Alfie) “is it a boy or a girl?”

But back to the morning.  Mike has gone, Alfie is dressed and Joe is still in his “snooty suit”.  Lunchboxes are packed, toast is being eaten and I’m having a coffee while leaving the parenting to Ms Nintendo for five minutes.

So, ten years on, this is what it’s like being married.

It’s pretty good.

What is marriage anyway?  What is supposed to be the “perfect marriage”?  The one where you stay together for 50 years hating each other?  Or the one where you end up with two children, a huge house and two foreign holidays a year?  How can a marriage be a good one if one partner is unfaithful but never found out?  How can that same marriage be unsuccessful if both parties are happy and stay together till death us do part?

I don’t know.  Mine doesn’t fit into any of those categories, and like everything else in life, it’s a story not yet written right through, but I wouldn’t change much right now.

Alfie’s transport arrives, and he is led off, bewailing his fate as usual.  As soon as the front door shuts, he turns into a little lamb and enjoys the bus ride, but he does like to inform me and the rest of the street of how unfair it is that he has to go to school.  Even when has been glued to the front door waiting to go.

Zak doesn’t want to go.  He is having trouble with a child there, his little face already has three scars from this boy – he doesn’t want to change school, doesn’t want to be homeschooled, he just wants this other child to fall down a big black hole.  So do I.  In fact, much as I like kids, I’d happily push the little git down that same hole and fill it in for him.

Zak is in tears.  I offer him the day off but they serve sausages on a Friday so he decides to go.  Joe insists on singing Iy Iy Yippee Yippee Yiy! all the way to “playgloop”.

My husband arrives home at lunchtime and asks me to pour olive oil in his ear.  Is this being married?  A deaf man you shout at and who leaves greasy patches on the pillow?  Then he goes back to work.

Laundry.

Socks.

There are two adults and four children in this house.  Each of whom require a clean pair of socks daily.   (2 x 6) x 7 = 84.  That’s eightyfour socks every week that have to be retrieved from wherever they were dropped, then washed, dried and then lobbed into a bucket to await the arrival of their mates.  Eighty-four.  Unless someone gets wet feet and uses extra socks.

In a year, I wash four thousand, three hundred and sixty eight socks.  Is this marriage?

I wonder how many actually never make a pair.

Do the same math with underwear and my washing machine sees forty-two underpants and knickers.  Or it should…    Michael was in the bathroom one evening when he was about six.  I was running him a bath and he began stripping off.  He was wearing four pairs of underpants so I asked why.  He said

“Mummy you told me to put on a clean pair every morning”

Six dogs.  So that’s six dinner bowls, twice a day.  (6 x 2) x 7 = Eighty-four.  That’s as bad as the socks.  In a year, I wash four thousand, three hundred and sixty eight dog bowls.  Water bowls would be extra.

Cups of tea.  Like most people, we have a cup of tea in the morning and at bedtime.  This adds up in the same way as the socks.  So each week I make eighty-four cups of tea.  And unless I bribe a child or Chris gets there first, I wash eighty four mugs.  You see where this is going?

That’s a lot of washing up liquid too.  Ecover rocks.

Joe comes out of playgloop singing.

♫ Row Row Row your boat, gently down the stream.  If you see a frockadile, Don’t forget the cream ♪

I collect Zak from school.  The other boy was absent and they served pizza instead of sausages.

Alfie is dropped off a little later.  He has slept most of the way home they say, and he proves them truthful  by going back to sleep on the sofa as soon as he gets his coat off.

Chris comes home with a lump of tissue poked in his ear.

I didn’t get all the laundry done, but I realised a single truth.  I have discovered the sum of this happy marriage.

It is four thousand, three hundred and sixty eight and a detergent that shifts oil out of pillowcases.

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Words to live by – Babies don’t keep

Mother, O’ Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek – peekaboo.
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew,
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo.
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
~ Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
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The Nativity

It is irrefutable fact.  Alfie and Christmas do not mix.

We have had the year Alfie hid under a duvet moaning in the corner because scary wrapped lumps had invaded his house, supposedly delivered by an intruder in a red suit.  He was finally tempted out on day two with a plate of jaffa cakes and a bottle of water with glitter in it so we could unwrap his presents, at which point they became acceptable.

We have had the year where the annual Santa photograph shows Mike and Zak standing happily by with gifts, and baby Joe on Santa’s knee.  On the floor were Alfie’s legs, the rest of him out of shot as he prostrated himself in protest at having to share grotto space with the red suited intruder.

So this year he has a role in the choir of his first nativity play.

We went to watch.  Mistake #1.

We took Joe.  Mistake #2.

The only saving grace of school plays is you can break wind and blame small children.  If you were sitting on my right, it wasn’t me it was my husband.  Even better is that Joe, if asked, will always agree that he has trumped.  Gotta love the ickiness of sons.

Alf spotted where we sat.  Alf wasn’t happy.

Alf spent the entire play with his head (JUST his head) underneath the chair of the child in front of him.  At one point when his rocking got more intense, I left Joe with Daddy and sneaked to the front and whispered to his teacher that I could take him out if it was easier. It turns out he was dancing like that.  And tickling his own left foot with a feather.

Joe acted up.  Joe really isn’t happy with situations in which he isn’t the centre of attention.  Perhaps I should have realised it wouldn’t work when he got in the car after playgloop.

“So what are the other children called Honey?”

“They’re called Joesy”

“No Joe, that’s YOUR name, what are THEIR names”

“They’re called Me”

I am currently trying not to dwell on that conversation.  I’m sure Freud would make something of it.

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Discover Dogs

I really ought to check the calendar before agreeing to stuff.  Especially when it is stuff I can’t get out of later.

And that is how I ended up driving to Earls Court for Discover Dogs, armed with a pile of Miniature Smooths and a lone Miniature Long on Zak’s eighth birthday.

Cue the *Bad Mother Alert*

Actually it worked out okay because Nanny Barbara had booked Zak a birthday party, which meant that he was going to be out for most of the day.  I figured that this enabled me to mutter moodily that I had intended to take Zak with me for a treat, thus blatantly denying that I had forgotten when I was invited.

Cue the *Disappointed Mother Alert*, which sounds better.

Michael decided that playing 18 rated games at a friends house and then fibbing about it later was going to be more fun than lugging dogs, bedding and bowls through London and declined my offer of a day out.  Which adds to the alert above.  I was on a roll.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I adore Christmas cake.  I mean seriously Adore.  If it came down to banning wine or Christmas cake I would be unable to choose.  So on the way, Poor Lisa and Joy had to wait in the car with Poxy Roxy while I loaded up with boxes of Christmas cake slices.  My friend Sue who I was meeting there is the only person on earth who loves Christmas cake more than me.  One box was never going to cut it.   We eat Christmas cake all year round.  In the car, at shows, in the lounge, down the kennels, on the ferry – you get the idea.

Back to the point, which is the abandonment off my offspring on the birthday of Number Two son.  The ruse outlined above, aligned with the old “I-figured-it-would-do-you-good to-have-some-quality-time-with-your-little-sons-seeing-as-you-miss-out-on-them having-to-work-such-long-hours” to my husband clinched it, and by the time I got to the M25 I wasn’t feeling guilty at all.

I was feeling quite liberated and giggly in fact.  And smug.

Now, if the idea of doing this was subconsciously to escape from small children for the day, I played it all wrong.  Sue loves small children too, and while our Lord may have said “Suffer the little children to come unto me” we took it to a new level today.  We arrived, Sue put her five in the middle display area, I took Cindy and Adam into one end and Joy took her Truffle and Poxy Roxy to the other.  By 9 am, the fact that our booth was dismally underdecorated didn’t matter as you couldn’t get in for people wanting to fuss the dogs.  Joy swears that people were dropping off small children and collecting them later.  Those fabulous dogs from 8.30am until 5pm were ruthlessly, fussed, pulled about, cuddled, posed for pictures and overloved by many children.  In the end I had to limit entry to four at a time and we had a queue waiting to come in.  Sue seemed to be able to take about eight at a time, but she did have more dogs to cuddle.

Joy had more sense.  She locked her gate and passed Poxy Roxy and Truffle over the top.

Now, at about the time all this was going on, somewhere within those eight and a half hours, about 60 miles away in a Stevenage soft play area…

  1. Zak had a wonderful time partying with his friends
  2. Chris supervised small brothers Alfie and Joe at said party
  3. A staff member discovered a little boy who had liberally shat himself in the toilet
  4. Alfie told Chris that Joe was in the toilet
  5. Chris didn’t believe Alfie
  6. Staff member asked Joe what his name was
  7. Joe apparently punched the air and yelled “I’m the Messiah”…

Cue that call over the tannoy we all dread…

If you are the staff member who encountered three year old Joe semi naked in the loos – I apologise unreservedly, and yes he truly believes it.

If you are the wonderful lady who came to my husband’s rescue and provided him with a clean pair of underpants and a packet of babywipes, I owe you big time, as without your kind intervention, I would have had even more grief to listen to when I got home.  Contact me, there is a bottle of wine here with your name on it.  And a slightly used but washed pair of underpants.

But more importantly, if you are that lovely Polish lady with the lovely autistic daughter who hustled her out of the dog pen when she began to flap and spin – big hugs and I wish I spoke Polish, or had better sign language to explain, you could have left her in with my dogs and had a cup of tea with us.  My lovely dogs are well used to autism and all the ups and downs that go with it.  Sending you a virtual cup of tea, piece of Christmas cake and ten minutes peace.

If there was a lesson to be learned today for me as a dog breeder it was that temperament is everything.  And checking the calendar is good.

Hiding the last slice of Christmas cake however, is priceless.

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Words to live by – Welcome to Holland

Sometimes, you find something to read that is almost life changing.  Something to make you laugh and cry and reevaluate just where you are at.  For me, this was one of those pieces.

“Welcome to Holland”

by Emily Pearl Kingsley

“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability. To try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this:

When you are going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo, David, gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“HOLLAND?!” you ask. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I have dreamed of going to Italy.”

There has been a change in the flight plan. They have landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. Learn a whole new language. You will meet a whole new group of people you would never otherwise have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. However, after you have been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandt.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they are all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that is where I was supposed to go, that is what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever go away because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

However, if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, You may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

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Delights of Shopping

Well, it’s been one of those weeks.  Went shopping Thursday morning.  His Lordship pulled a muscle in his back so was off work (apparently it’s entirely my fault cos he did it doing my shed) so to avoid the shopping grumps, I sent him to the café to have breakfast and I took the kids to give him some peace.  Mike buggared off to look at lego.

Zak sat happily in the trolley.

Alf Screamed.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about autism and meltdowns but only ever had dealings with it once.   On that occasion we were in a bookshop (stacked books make vertical lines and Alf only likes horizontal ones) and the only way to quell the noise and head banging was to lie on the floor, open my shirt and show him a boob. Needless to say, the Oxfam bookshop have not had my custom again and I hide my face when passing.  On this occasion, wild horses were not going to get my miniscule mammaries out in the middle of Tesco.  So poor Alf screamed himself into a fury and began bashing Zak.

Zak cried.

So I’m trying to pick bananas out while two kids scream hysterically in the trolley.  Both are big for their age, strapping blonde cherubs with infuriatingly good lungs.  And out of the woodwork come the doomsayers.  You find them in every supermarket where a harrassed Mum has ever tried to bribe a screaming kiddy into shutting the *** up for long enough to get food in the cupboards.  Elderly ladies, sucking their teeth and twiddling their grey rinses while they try to explain that national service meant this never happened in their day.  While that may be true, Alfie is a little young for conscription.

There’s no way my big brave he-man can NOT be hearing the dulcet tones of the fruit of his loins.   I can picture him hiding behind his cream scone.  I make a note to buy wax.  And pins.  The doomsayers suggest bribery, slapping, positive reinforcement, cuddling, screaming back and one even suggests parenting classes. Unfortunately the latter culprit vanishes behind the mangoes before I can shove a kumquat where the pope doesn’t rollerskate.  Finally, Him of the smelly socks appears and takes the Zak away for a doughnut.  So the noise is slightly less.  I get to the checkout nearly in tears as Alf has added banging his head on the trolley handle to his repertoire this trip, and his aim is excellent.  One of my fingers is going black and he has a split lip.  I tell the checkout girl that I apologise there’s nothing I can do for him but get out as fast as I can and that I am going to just load my shopping and ignore him for two minutes while I do so or I will cry as well.  We are half way through loading when Chief Suspect for the parenting course comment sidles in behind us.  For some reason, no one wants to get in the queue behind this battered looking woman and the screeching child, and we are the shortest line by far.   The lemon sucker behind us is muttering, thankfully Alf is too noisy for me to hear what she is on about.   Alfie increases in pitch and suddenly we hear, as clear as can be “Alfie OUT! Alfie STUCK! Alfie DOWN! Alfie FLOOR! Alfie STUCK! STUCK! DOWN!”At this, I really do burst into tears.  Alfie doesn’t speak often, maybe once a fortnight, and when he does, I always howl.  The checkout girl gets concerned and asks if I am okay.   I reply that I am fine, I am sniffling because I am so happy.  Alf appears to have shocked himself into silence.  Either that or he can’t scream AND eat a till receipt at the same time.  I hear a growl from the wasp chewer behind us “If that made me happy I’d drink cyanide”.  Some people just dont have their priorities right LMAO…
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4am Hedgepig

I was sleeping peacefully until excited mutterings from the kennel area woke me up at 4am.

Eight Mini Smooth Dachshunds, all aware that night time is not the time to be barking.  But when you go to sleep with the window open, excited squeaking seems pretty loud.

Scooby was asleep in the laundry basket, and Wiggi was still on the sofa.

I try hard to keep peace with my neighbours, good neighbours are hard to find and at this stage of 2004, I had the neighbour from hell.  So I got into my dressing gown and legged it out barefoot, quickly, but not as quickly as I would have done if we had had the nice people next door that we have now.

Kennel – Bear in mind that it is Summer, hot nights and Little Woo prefers not to come in when called, but rather to dance round the garden playing “Catch me if you can”.  I yell “Bedtime” just once, either they land on the sofa or I shut them in the run where they can snuggle into the beds in the kennel when they have finished playing.  I have enough fun getting the kids into bed without Dachshund wrestling.

On opening the kennel door, I was met with a deputation of small waggy people with a LOT to tell me.  Oh I wish I had listened!  Squeaking and bouncing, they directed my attention to a round shape in the corner.  Typical, I’d been conned out of bed again to get their football out of a rut in the ground.  Flaming furious (refer to 4am) I hefted my foot at that ball as hard as I could (refer to the barefoot comment) and realised my mistake immediately.

It wasn’t a football.

It was a hedgehog.

The hedgepig is none the worse for his/her ordeal and shuffled off happily when released into the front garden.  My foot however is swelling rapidly and looks as if I have gone ten rounds with the sewing machine.  I am not venturing out again without a torch and shoes.

Note to self.  Squeaking dogs make less noise than screaming owner with hedgehogged foot.  Next time go back to sleep.

Note to hedgehog.  I have flea powder.  Run.

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