The Old Tin of Worms…

Radiohead minute

It’s easy to get lost in the tin of worms.

My head is going around like a tin of worms.

Not because I’m having a Squirrel Week, but because I have been absent from this small patch of cyberspace for more than a month and my brain is overloaded with partially constructed blog posts, bizarrely random thoughts and more than a few reminiscences.

I was struck last week, for example, that on 16 June 1997, Radiohead released their OK Computer album, followed ten days later, on 26 June 1997, by J K Rowling first publishing Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone.

HP 20 yrs

Two decades of brilliance!

Can we all just take a moment, please, to appreciate the fact that it has been twenty years since these two marvellous creations found their way into the wider world — and in the same month, no less?

I know this happy coincidence may not be considered particulary newsworthy in many circles, but in this weird and wacky era of Fake News and Alternative Facts, I think I would prefer to have my attention drawn to the fact that two of my favourite things in the whole world are celebrating two decades of existence rather than having to acknowledge the things that actually make the papers these days…except we don’t actually read newspapers any more now, do we?

See? That’s what my head is doing — leaping from one thought to the next, much like an Alaskan salmon struggling determinedly yet somehow dementedly upstream to spawn…something…

I mean, this is the time of year that all those Sockeyes and Chinooks and Ketas run, but given that I live more than half a world away from the Kenai Peninsula and haven’t set foot in Alaska for over ten years, I don’t think I can reliably claim to be having a Salmon Week?!

Perhaps it’s because we have finally found ourselves at the beginning of the Winter School Holidays here in the Antipodes that I am thinking such thoughts. Or maybe it’s because I’ve watched a few too many episodes of Life Below Zero on Netflix recently?

I freely admit that Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop have beeng pushing every last one of my buttons lately — including buttons I didn’t even know I had — but I can’t really make my children scapegoats for my scattered headspace, particularly when I know that in addition to being more than usually annoying (because end of term and upcoming birthdays) they have also been responsible for some moments of actual joy I have experienced in the past weeks.

Take Miss Malaprop, for instance. Miss Malaprop was blowing up (and believe me, she possesses explosive power and matches it with unbelievable volume) because she couldn’t find anything to wear when I asked her to get dressed before a dinner out with her grandparents. Resisting the urge to retaliate in kind — a feat I managed only because I knew I would probably be poured a cold glass of Sav Blanc at some point in the not so distant future — I ventured into the demon’s lair Miss Malaprop’s bedroom and proceeded to extricate every last piece of clothing from her overstuffed drawers and wardrobe, removing anything that was too small or seasonally inappropriate, then carefully refolded and rehung what remained, all while speaking in soothing tones and encouraging the fiend my dear daughter to get dressed.

IMG_2871

To keep or not to keep…

Three bags full of charity later (more mine than hers, I thought at the time), Miss Malaprop was suitably attired.  She also behaved impeccably when dining with The Bloke’s parents. And then, a couple of days later, when I asked her whether she really wanted to give away a favourite top that had made its way into the hand-me-down pile (a dark blue t-shirt with a glow in the dark picture of the Millenium Falcon on it) she surprised me — no, she actually humbled me — by saying that even though she really loved that top she would rather pass it on than keep it, because that way someone else would get to enjoy wearing it, too.

Who knew?  Who actually knew that Sunday evening’s shrieking banshee could turn into Wednesday afternoon’s wunderkind?

Because now I feel completely and utterly torn between wanting to keep the top even more, so I can present it to her in twenty years or when her teenaged self most needs it, as a reminder of that beautiful moment when she showed such generosity of spirit — and yet knowing that to keep it would be completely contrary to her own wishes and the selflessness she so willingly displayed.

And so the worms turn yet again, and my mind remains a squirming mess, until my thoughts eventually happen upon Marcel Proust’s musings, and I am reminded that:

We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us. 

Much like Harry Potter, really.

For a minute there, I lost myself…but I’m OKNOTOK now.

JKR

More words of wisdom…

Insanity…Uncovered

covered-ombre-linen

Ombre linen covers, anyone? Perhaps not me…

Here in this Great Southern Land — which, over the weekend turned into the Great Scorched Land when the fifteen hottest places ON THE PLANET were all on Australia’s Eastern Seaboard — our children have started a new school year.

Two weeks ago, all our gorgeous little munchkins trouped dutifully off for another year of educational learning and fun at primary and high schools around the country. For the record, it was not much cooler then: last Sunday night was the first time Sydney’s temperature dipped below 20˚C since January 20th. Seriously. That’s 23 days and nights of temperatures above 20˚C and, believe me, it got hideously hot during the day…

I mean, a lot happened in those twenty-three days. America, apparently, got itself a brand new President. Those crazy cats in North Korea tested another missile. Beyoncé took to Instagram sporting a veil to announce she’s having twins (though I should point out she was also wearing mismatched underwear, which as all mothers know is a dead giveaway that you’re already raising children). Over on Twitter, the hashtag #ShePersisted was born. In the Amazon, a butterfly flapped its wings.  (Disclaimer: this last event may not have been deemed newsworthy but I’m reasonably sure it did occur…though I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of the aforementioned events, if any, are connected.)

But anyway, it wasn’t the heat or any of that other stuff that caused me to lose my mind, people.

No, it was far more simple than that:

covered

Yes, yes…I get the general principle. It’s the execution I struggle with.

I TOTALLY LOST MY SANITY COVERING MY CHILDRENS’ SCHOOL BOOKS IN CLEAR PLASTIC ADHESIVE.

Yes, you know what I’m talking about…I can sense you all nodding sagely and feeling my pain, because I suspect that you, too, have experienced it.

Here in Australia clear plastic adhesive is commonly called “Contact”, though I’m no longer sure whether this is because Contact is the brand name used by the major manufacturer of the diabolical stuff, or because contact with your children is likely to be limited by whatever they’re currently calling the government department that deals with emotional abuse after you’ve finished screaming expletives and threatening violence covering all their school books.

I mean, I try. I really do.

Most things about being a mother of primary school aged kids I think I’m reasonably good at. My children generally turn up at school wearing the right uniform and carrying the correct equipment. Including their nutritious lunch and recess and fruit break and water bottle.

Every day.

But covering school books in Contact?

I’m utterly woeful. Completely hopeless. Borderline dreadful.

And, to make matters worse, my darling cherubs spent a considerable amount of their first few days back at school carefully colouring in beautiful cover pages for their school books, which they dutifully glued to the front of their workbooks. Paper cover pages, you understand.  Some of them, in the interests of being environmentally and economically responsible, had paper covers on BOTH sides of the book so it could be used for two subjects. (Those ones are my favourite. No, really they are). At any rate, they were really quite lovely, until…

…well, until I totally bungled covering one of the books and, when trying to remove the plastic adhesive from the cover, ripped one of my kids’ ornately decorated cover page in two.  (This, to be honest, may actually have happened more than once).

I’m so sorry, I whispered.

covered-more-likely

All those nifty Pinterest “how to” videos on book covering? I suspect this tome would be just as helpful…

My younger daughter looked down at the mess I had made, aghast and uncharacteristically silent.

The older one — who has now had her books butchered by her mother for the fourth consecutive year — was a bit more supportive: she sighed (quite philosophically, I thought), shrugged, and said: Well, Mum, you did your best.

Which I did.  Really, I did.

And I promised them that next year, Next Year, would be different. Because next year, I am going to be PREPARED.

Yes, my friends!

Next year, I’m going to study all those lovely Pinterest tutorials that do their utmost to appraise you of the tried and tested tips and tricks for book covering — and look! Oh, will you just look at their darling photographs of the seventeen new and exciting ways you can cover your books: decoupage covers, coloured duct tape covers, ombre linen covers, crocheted covers.

(What the…are these people actually serious?!)

Next year, I am going to source the highest quality clear plastic adhesive money can buy for covering my childrens’ school books, and I am going to unroll said adhesive (probably down the entire length of my house) and weigh it down for a week or three so it does not spontaneously and sadistically re-roll itself during said covering process.

(Because that won’t inconvenience a soul, will it?)

covered-tequila-mug

Ah yes…the tequila cup I ordered for Christmas, in preparation for “Book Covering Season”…

Next year, I am going to make a quiet trip to the family doctor and get a prescription for beta-blockers (and/or whatever else he’s prepared to give me), followed by a stop at the nearest bottle shop for some tequila (or any other clear, water-like substitute, with which to wash those tablets down).

(Ahhh…now this might actually happen…)

In the meantime, I’m going to sit in a dark, quiet corner, hyperventilating into a brown paper bag while I count up to 1,349,265 (or maybe 1,349, 266) and wondering just how Beyoncé would go covering books for her soon to be three children in plastic adhesive…particularly if she’s still wearing mismatched underwear and a veil…

Breathe…

T spoon

Just one spoonful…every now and then. You can get a spoon just like this on Esty, here.

I just put a spoonful of sugar into my tea (Earl Grey, black, piping hot).

That might seem like a very ordinary thing to do, but some time ago I banished sugar to the top shelf of my pantry. Nowadays, the sugar jar only really makes an appearance when my Dad comes over (English Breakfast, white with one).

But there are some days — and quite often, for me, they are grey-skied, quiet days — when I prefer to take my tea with a spoonful of sugar. These are the days when I feel the need for that gentle buzz only sugar brings. (And yes, you really do notice it once you’ve gone without it for some time).

If I’m honest, however, it’s not the weather that made me pick up the sugar jar, even though autumn is descending rapidly upon Sydneytown at this time of year. And it’s not the solace of stirring, either, which I’ve written about before.

No, it’s my kids.

Lord knows I love them — dearly, oh so dearly — but by the end of the school term, my kids are driving me crazy. Bonkers. Mad as a box of frogs.

After ten long weeks of school, my children’s behaviour…ummm…deteriorates.

That’s the nicest word I can find to describe the out of control crazytrain ride that confronts me before drop off and after pick up every day at the end of term. I don’t think it’s deliberate or in any way malicious: I suspect my girls are really, truly worn out and that self-regulation is, quite simply, beyond them when they have to front up for six hours each day of being ever-so-good for their teachers.

And, having picked up all the signals that the crazytrain was careening towards me this week (the least of which were tears and tantrums), I have taken steps to look after my own sanity and have managed to keep it — mostly — together. It just so happens that today, one of those steps involved stirring sugar into my tea. But yesterday, for example, I made sure I got to yoga.

T so ham

So…ham…in…out…just…breathe…

My yoga teacher is like a lovely little gypsy fairy (seriously, you can almost see her wings sparkling silvery bluey-green) with a beaming smile that is as warm and open as her beautiful heart. And yesterday, bless her, she introduced our class to a very simple mantra that has helped remind me to take a couple of deep, life-saving and sanity-preserving breaths whenever the kid-filled crazytrain has looked like it was about to derail.

The mantra: SO HAM.

It’s pronounced more like so hum, which resembles the sound of inhaling and exhaling, and allows you to connect the mantra to your breathing.

But what has really helped me this week is what so ham means: the mantra translates, very simply, as I am that. So when you connect the mantra to your breath, and repeat it over and over again, you connect also to the core of your being:

I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am…

 And I came to realise, in those moments of stillness, when I connected to myself and my breath, that even though I am a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend and a freelance writer and a carer and homemaker who cleans and washes and irons and makes lunches and all manner of other meals and snacks and everything else —

T peace— that really, at the centre of it all, I just am.

And no one can take that away.

So hamso ham…so ham…

 

 

 

The Healing Power of Disco

Disco ball

Disco, kids’ tantrums and crime drama? It’ll all make sense soon…

So I’ve discovered a new phenomenon this week: the healing power of disco. It has been a two phase discovery — partly inspired by a mega-meltdown from Miss Malaprop, and the rest by Stellan Skarsgård’s mesmerising performance of a police officer grappling with mental illness and the murder of his partner in River.

Yeah, I know: disco, a child’s tantrum and a crime drama are not usually things that get mentioned in the same sentence, but bear with me here — even if it’s only because the silly season officially starts today.

To be honest, it was watching River that came first, and provided me with the inspiration for dealing slightly differently with Miss Malaprop’s apocalyptic outburst yesterday morning (OK, it probably wasn’t quite that bad…it just felt like it at the time).

River is definitely not your average police procedural — it’s far too psychological and, dare I say it, Shakespearian for that. And despite the fact that Swedish Skarsgård plays the lead (and is in virtually every scene of the series’ six episodes), it’s not a Scandinavian crime drama either. Brilliantly and elegantly written by Abi Morgan, it’s a BBC production that follows the increasingly unstable detective John River (Skarsgård, obviously), who is — quite literally — haunted by his partner, Stevie (Nicola Walker), as he attempts to unravel who was responsible for her murder, a traumatic event he had the misfortune to witness.

River

Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker at their brilliant best in River: “Madness can bring its own kind of clarity”, but a bit of Disco helps…

It’s compelling viewing, as dark and disturbed as River’s own mental state, yet punctuated with moments of startling insight into the beauty and fragility of humanity. And over the top of it all? A sparkling soundtrack full of the disco hits Stevie loved.

Oh I love to love…but my baby just loves to dance, he wants to dance, he loves to dance, he’s got to dance…

I’m not going to say any more about what happens to River, other than to say that I think the series is so good it probably deserves multiple viewings, that I am in total agreement with Michael Hogan’s assessment of Skarsgård’s handling of the final episode:

Skarsgård delivered a powerhouse performance: sad and soulful in one scene, sardonically spiky and manically energetic in the next. With his craggy face and crumpled demeanour, the haunted detective has prowled the streets of east London like a wounded bear, pawing at thin air as he pursued his prey.

Oh — I should probably also mention that since watching River, The Bloke and I have been humming disco anthems for at least a week now. And smiling at each other when we do. Not just because we know that we’re both remembering how Stevie made River smile when she sang along to disco songs while they drove around East London, but because it’s really hard to be grumpy when there’s disco in the house.

And that, of course, brings me to the god-awful Gotham morning I had with Miss Malaprop: what do you do when your younger child, sleep-deprived and still sugar-high after her very first camping trip, completely loses it before preschool?

Disco kitchen

Disco: my new remedy for counteracting meltdowns.

You dig out the Greatest Hits of Boney M, that’s what you do. Because it really is hard to be grumpy when there’s disco in the house.

Admittedly, it did take a little while, a whole lot of hugs (plus a hot chocolate with big AND small marshmallows), but before too long, Boney M were working their disco magic in my kitchen. And before long, there were smiles all around.

So this silly season, if the need arises, give it a spin at your house and embrace the healing power of disco…you may even discover yourself asking Santa to bring you a mirror ball to add some extra sparkle to your kitchen this Christmas.

Oh I love to love…but my baby just loves to dance, he wants to dance, he loves to dance, he’s got to dance…

Best wishes for surviving the silly season from Blue Jai.

And good luck trying to get that song out of your head now, too…

 

Welcome to Gotham

“Gotham” by Justin Van Genderen…travel art for the descent into madness…

Some days, being a parent is fun — it’s an absolute breeze. Everything runs smoothly and everyone is happy. But other days, it’s like a slow slide into madness, Gotham style.

Those of you know me will understand that I am usually far more partial to the Marvel Universe than I am to the world of DC Comics, but on those days (yes, you know the ones) there is something about Gotham and its seedy underworld of crazed criminals that I can relate to. Those are the days when I feel like a disillusioned lawman, struggling to bring order to a city intent on dragging itself down into madness. The days when you either channel your inner Detective Jim Gordon or risk winding up in the crumbling confines of Arkham Asylum.

I’m not sure whether I’m making this (massively tenuous) connection because I have just binged on Season One of Gotham on Netflix or because in this part of the world we’re halfway through the final term of school — both possibilities are equally likely.

It’s just that time of year. Term Four. The kids, despite their best efforts, are beginning to get…ratty (I’m trying to be nice, here). And I, despite my best intentions, am certainly not being the model of a rational, reasonable mother I aspire to be. Everyone is a bit tired, a little strung out, and a tad more likely to snap. To answer back. To yell, instead of taking a single, soul-saving breath.

Oh, the backchat...Marvel Girl is currently obsessed by penguins, but I'm glad she hasn't come up against THE Penguin yet...

Oh, the backchat…Marvel Girl is currently obsessed by penguins, but I’m glad she hasn’t discovered THE Penguin yet…

I’m not sure why I always find it surprising that at this time of year simple things — like buckling car seatbelts, for instance — seem to become inordinately difficult for my children. That everyday activities like locating a hairbrush or two matching shoes of a morning, or washing a stack of lunch boxes each afternoon, suddenly leave me teetering on the edge of insanity.

It’s not like November creeps up on us or anything: it’s there on the calendar, in the same place, every year. I have nothing against November, nothing at all. I love that the jacarandas are out, that summer is on its way. But it’s not quite December, is it? The finish line is just out of sight. Sometimes it feels like November is the month when they ring the bell to remind you there’s still another lap to run…

Regroup, re-caffeinate...

Regroup, re-caffeinate…

Next year, perhaps, I will put a big circle around November 1 on my calendar to remind me that it’s time to regroup. To return to my First Principles. To restock my caffeine and chocolate stashes. To remember that while I may be fluent in both profanity and sarcasm, neither represents my best self linguistically.

I would also do well to recall some of the lessons learned from Gotham, particularly those that the young Jim Gordon imparts to the even younger Bruce Wayne, long before one was appointed Commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department and the other became Batman. Of the importance of honesty. Of doing what is right, rather than what is easy. Of treating people, including my family — no, especially my family — with respect.

Everyone has to matter...

Everyone has to matter…

As Jim Gordon says, “Everyone has to matter, or nobody matters”.

We all have Gotham days, all of us. And for every one of us, Gotham looks and feels slightly different. We’ve all experienced times when we’ve shouted at our kids instead of holding them close, when we’ve lost it over something trifling and insignificant that we look back on with almost instant mortification and remorse. But it’s also important to remember that we’re not alone, even when it feels like the descent into chaos is only a step away.

Everyone matters.

Even on Gotham days. Especially on Gotham Days.

And that includes the person who feels like they’re sliding slowly into insanity.

There will be light...

There will be light…

Yesterday, as you might have guessed, I had a Gotham day. I’m not proud of it, or of the way I behaved. But today, I’m doing better. I’ve apologised to my family for yesterday’s yelling and unnecessarily sardonic remarks. I’ve sent up my bat signal, I’ve made my mental phone call to the GCPD. I’ve had a coffee (definitely not decaf).

And, instead of checking myself into Arkham, I’ve embraced the insanity and set up plastic dinosaurs in a potted plant in the bathroom for my girls to discover when they come home.

I’m looking forward to their laughter.

And the light? Well, I’m looking at that already.

The Case of the Invisible Parent

Party HatsI went to a 5th birthday party over the weekend. This is not an unusual occurrence for me — though I should probably point out that technically I wasn’t invited to this do. These days the only parties I’m actually asked to attend are 40th birthday celebrations, and all the other events I turn up to are ones that my kids have been hanging out for, counting down the days until they can revel with their little mates.

Yeah, I know: you’ve seen me. I’m one of those parents hanging around in the background, chatting away, a takeaway coffee in one hand, my handbag bulging with cast off socks, shoes, sweaters and irreplaceable pass the parcel prizes that I have been instructed to keep very, very safe.

Saturday’s event was no different. The venue was a play centre with a focus on make believe, the birthday girl was looking resplendent in a white and pink dress, and the kids who she had asked to share her day were lovely — quite lovely. No one rough, no one rude, no one restlessly prowling around looking for strife. Not that I was surprised by any of that — the birthday girl’s parents are, after all, two of the best people you could ever meet, and their kids have been raised to know the meaning of love, kindness, tolerance and respect. For me, it is genuinely heart-warming to see that their children have befriended other kids who appreciate and value those very things (even though there are times when my dear Miss Malaprop and Marvel Girl need reminding in no uncertain terms — though firmly gritted teeth, even — just how much they ought to appreciate and value those very things).

And so, with the party in full and joyous swing, the play centre hostess invited all the children from the party we were attending to line up behind a curtain for a fashion parade, so they could show off their party clothes or a costume from the “dress shop” beside the stage. The kids dutifully trooped backstage, and the parents — equally dutifully — rummaged through overstuffed bags to produce their phones, ready to record their small starlets emerging onto the stage to strike a pose. Cue lights, cue music, cue the birthday girl’s grand entrance, but…hang on, who’s that kid in the red shirt with the plastic dinosaur hanging out of his mouth, stomping all over the stage and whipping the curtain around?

That’s right, folks. We had a gatecrasher.

At first, the parents who were watching tried to laugh it off. It’s not easy trying to capture your child’s big moment on a camera phone when another child is running amok from one end of the stage to the other. Surely the boy’s mother or father would come and get him, tell him to get off the stage and out of the way of the kids who were trying to get through the curtain for their turn in the parade? Surely they would recognise that his behaviour was unsuitable? Uncalled for? Downright rude? I mean, I understand that the play centre is a public venue, but this particularly fashion parade was part of a private party that the birthday girl’s parents had shelled out their hard-earned for. Those yellow wrist bands weren’t just a fashion statement for the parade — they were proof of payment. We all began looking around, wondering when dino-boy’s parent or parents would arrive on the scene, when he would be hauled off the stage and given a dressing down, or at the very least be presented with an explanation of why his interference was as inappropriate as it was unwanted.

But no one came forward. No one at all.

And it kept happening. The party ran for two hours, and by the time the birthday girl and her little mates were sitting down to feast on chips and chicken nuggets, we were all tired of dino-boy trying to muscle in on the action. We stopped him going through the (closed) door to where the kids were eating. We asked him not to throw things through the window at them as well. We, the onlooking parents (that is, those adults who were actually bothering to look after their children), became, unsurprisingly, less polite.

Much has been made in recent years of so-called helicopter parenting in all its many and varied manifestations. But what, I ask, about invisible parenting? What of the parents who let their kids run riot, who fail to provide anything approaching adequate supervision, who rely on some kind of (increasingly non-existent) communal goodwill to deliver in absentia parenting to their little darlings who are invariably interrupting carefully planned and paid for events, occasionally hurting themselves or others in the process? Because dino-boy’s parents weren’t the only ones guilty of invisible parenting while we were at the play centre: a small girl fell headfirst off the stage, began howling at the top of her lungs, and no one turned up. Again, those of us who were watching quickly came to her aid, asked where her parent was, and deposited her — still screaming — into the arms of a staff member.  Five minutes later the employee was still holding her, still looking for her mum or dad.

I understand that there are times when things happen — sometimes they’re just little things, sometimes they’re full-blown Holy Mother of God crises — and you can’t watch over your children. I would venture to add that parents and non-parents alike appreciate that this can and does occur and, in my experience, most people are more than happy to help out when it does. But I am getting to the point where I take umbrage at the sight (or sound) of an unattended child being allowed by an invisible parent — or perhaps by their very invisibility — to disturb other people’s peaceful enjoyment of their lives. I do not wish to live in a nanny state, nor am I advocating hovering over every child’s every move. But common sense (which may not be as common as one would think) suggests that treating others with a certain level of decency is generally appreciated.

Unattended childrenWe still don’t know who dino-boy’s parent was, or what they were doing during the hours in which he did his level best to gatecrash a party that, despite his numerous interruptions, was a great success. To their credit, the birthday girl and her friends had a wonderful time and managed to ignore the annoying impostor in their midst. I suspect this has a lot to do with them being raised to know the meaning of love, kindness, tolerance and respect, and I applaud them for it.

Holiday Bonus Points — A Cautionary Tale

Note to prospective readers: this post may contain traces of nail polish or acetone and could, quite possibly, have resorted to the use of expletives.

Here in the Great Southern Land, the summer holidays are drawing to a close: those longed-for, clear-skied, sprawling days of uninterrupted leisure are now well and truly numbered.  In five more sleeps Miss Malaprop will be back at preschool, and in nine my Marvel Girl will resume school.

Looking back over the past five or six weeks, a large part of me is already veering wildly towards nostalgia.  I have relished my time with my girls this summer, the hours of building jungle hideout forts from shoeboxes, of creating crazy craft and science projects, of swimming every chance we got, of reading books (and more books) aloud, of happy chatter during endless sessions of imaginative play.  I will miss, in particular, the little gems that have dropped into their conversations…“Ants are very capable creatures — I want to get a magnifying glass so I can see how big this ant’s eyes are!” or “Our new cubby house is hotter than a vampire bat!”, or the many sentences that ended with the phrase “this [whatever it was] has been the best EVER!”.

Realistically speaking, however, I admit that my already sentimental recollections of the summer holidays have blithely glossed over the numerous occasions when the kids have not gotten along, or when I have raised my voice, or when one of us — or sometimes more than one — has completely lost it.  We are, none of us, angels (a fact which, quite naturally, reminds me of Sherlock Holmes’ marvelous quote from the superb Reichenbach Fall episode).  But these holidays, I did manage to introduce a new scheme aimed at promoting more angelic behaviour: Holiday Bonus Points.

The concept of Holiday Bonus Points came to me one morning when I was about to launch into my customary post-breakfast tirade about hair brushing, bed making, teeth cleaning, floor tidying or whatever it happened to be that day.  Instead of rattling into my usual rant, I took a deep (supposedly calming) breath and made a proclamation from the middle of the mess that was my kitchen: a Holiday Bonus Point would be awarded to any child who performed a task without being asked to.

Two gleaming pairs of eyes, one dark greeny-brown, the other light greeny-blue, locked onto mine, followed by a rapidfire barrage of questions, and before I knew it, the Holiday Bonus Point scheme was up and running — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it was made up and running.  The details were invented as I quickly as I answered the kids’ questions: any child who got five HBP’s before school went back would get a special treat of their choice, but the award — and the possible removal — of points was entirely at my discretion.

For the most part, Holiday Bonus Points were a roaring success: instead of constantly nagging the girls, I was able to (ever so vaguely) wonder aloud whether anyone would get an HBP that day.  Conversely, if anyone was misbehaving, I could warn them that if the infraction continued an HBP might be taken away from them.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the scheme worked brilliantly — until Miss Malaprop surprised us all by being the first to be awarded a full five points a whole week before the holidays ended, and promptly requested a trip to the shops to buy some nail polish.  Specifically, aqua and purple nail polish.  And pehaps a pink one, too.

And here, as you may have guessed, begins the cautionary portion of our tale — the part that begins right after I managed suppress the loud groan that very nearly escaped me when the words “nail polish” were mentioned.  It was, of course, the point when I realised that I not only had to purchase her chosen treat, but that I also had lost the by now almost mythical power of the Holiday Bonus Point scheme for the final week of the holidays.  This flaw, this great gaping hole in my formerly smooth-running system, was brought into particularly sharp relief when Miss Malaprop — despite being told in no uncertain terms NOT to open her brand new five-pack of glittery nail polish until I had finished showering and was able to supervise her — was unable to resist the siren song of the brightly coloured bottles, removed them from their shiny silver packaging, and promptly spilled some of the green (yes, green) nail polish on the carpet in her bedroom.

After a great many tears (hers) and far too much yelling (mine), we managed to resolve the situation. Miss Malaprop’s room still has a faint whiff of acetone, but the carpet is clear and we have both calmed down.  As it turns out, bottles of nail polish are just as easy to remove as Holiday Bonus Points, so the scheme has been salvaged to some degree.  But it was not without a serious amount of trepidation that I asked Marvel Girl (who is currently in possession of four HBP’s) what

The brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in The Reichenbach Fall.

The brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in The Reichenbach Fall.

she was planning on getting should she manage to procure her final point. To my great relief, she simply smiled dreamily and said she’d love to get the fifth book in the Swallows and Amazons series.

We are, none of us, angels, but I think even I can handle that.