Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Beaver Feaver

So tonight I bust my Beaver virginity and attended my first ever meeting of 'The Colony'.


They call it 'The Colony'.

I had had no previous experience with Beavers, what with being a girl and all that. I'd done Brownies and had a short experience with Guides (before my dad removed me amidst mutterings about the women running it - something to do with lace gloves, Madonna and rumours of prostitution - totally unfounded I'm sure but who knows, odder things happen in village halls regularly. I should know). But never Beavers.

My eldest son is now 6 so he can join and as another boy from his class was doing it and as I think it involves things that he might enjoy (like maps and using Mento mints to explode bottles of coke) I decided to give it a go.

So I phoned the lady in charge up (The Beaver Master so to speak) and she said 'sure, bring him along to the Colony!'.

Seriously? A Colony? Wow - it's like proper Beaver-tastic.

So I took him along but for the first night you have to stay. And as I was staying it meant his younger brother was staying.

Oh dear god. A wanton mini-Beaver.

Things started well although I was quite alarmed by the Rules written out on the wall. From where I was sat I could read 'Beaver's DON'T spit, bite, hit, kick or swear'. Part of me wanted to grab the chalk and add 'or growl' but I was too scared of the ladies in charge. However boredom soon set in and whilst the older one behaved meticulously the younger one set up a chant of 'Stinks like a Beaver, Stinks like a Beaver'.


How can two children born from the same womb be so, erm, bloody different? The older one is quaking in his boots in case he gets anything wrong and the younger one is already aiming to tick off everything on the 'Beaver's DON'T!' list before he even starts.

There is an innocent explanation to his 'phrasing' - it just sounds bad. He is a big fan of the film 'Cars' and of all the dialogue in that film he's taken the joke phrase 'stings like a Beaver' and misheard it into something even worse.....thus 'stinks like a Beaver'. His current 'phrase of the day!'.

He must know it's not a great thing to say because he even asked me 'is Stinks Like a Beaver a bad word? Like when Grandma says bloody?'. Yes I told him. Hmmm he said, with a smile. And thus the game began.....

In an act of great kindness (or desperation - I'm never sure where the line falls myself) the Beaver Master said he could join in with the crafts - and thus I found myself supervising a table full of small boys painting bits of egg box. At this point I was deeply regretting still wearing my work trousers. But not as much as I was several minutes later when, in act of over excited glee,' Stinks Like a Beaver' child ran behind me, stuck his head up my top and yanked my trousers down hard.

Don't ask me why. I don't know why. Like I don't know why he Sudocremed the cat or hid my mum's car aerial in a hedge or shouts 'Boobies' 99 times a day. Just because he can I guess.

Now I've had a stomach bug since Sunday night and after 3 days of living off boiled sweets (with one brave foray into Super Noodles) my trousers are rather on the lose side.


Down they came.

And in a moment we had a whole new spin on the meaning of a Beaver meeting.

The small boys fell about laughing. I gave a brave ho ho ho and tried to redirect their egg box painting efforts. I don't think the Beaver Master and the Vice Beaver Master noticed. Well maybe they did but they felt it wise not to point out the obvious and inform the rest of the room that I was half undressed. I don't think they do a badge in 'Looking at Half Undressed Ladies'. Yet.

At this point I should probably point out that the Beaver Master and her Deputy aren't actually called that. No. They are in fact called 'Sunshine' and 'Snowflake'. I'm not quite sure what to make of this. They are clearly lovely women very very good at their job but they'd be equally at home on the door outside the local nightclub strong arming drunk men into wheelie bins. If you're going to control a room full of 6-7 year old boys you need a bit of steel in your veins (I found this out when I went to wash my hands and within minutes witnessed an arm wrestle, a deliberate attempt to flood a sink and way too many farting noises). Calling them 'Sunshine' and 'Snowflake' just doesn't fit. I think it might be ironic. Or maybe it's just to mess with the kids' heads and help control them? There's something kind of extra powerful about saying 'sit down, keep your hands to yourself and STOP TALKING or Snowflake here will have to take points off you'.......

Very clever.

Anyway gradually the egg boxes gained antennae and became caterpillars. The boys then had to stretch out sheets of cotton wool and stick them to the painted backs of their caterpillars.

My son had painted his caterpillar red. Blood red. As he sealed a sheet of cotton wool on top of it I was reminded of something. Pondering it for a moment more I was hit by the shock realisaion that my son had made a rather too realistic model of a sanitary towel. A used sanitary towel.

Oh god no!

And then they covered them in cress seeds.....

From one unspeakable sight to another.

Both children have brought their caterpillars home, expect they haven't quite made it into the house. They have displayed them artfully on the dashboard of my car, lodged up against the window.

Other people have bonnet trophies of Jaguars or leaping stallions or soaring stags. I get the 'Bodyform Ultra Cress Covered Two' (without wings).

So if you see a harassed woman driving around wearing tightly belted trousers (or better still a jump suit) with two 'sanitary-protection-like' objects wedged on her dashboard, don't worry, it's only me.

And don't tell Sunshine or Snowflake what I said because I'm actually really scared.....

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Now let me start this post by saying that I am immensely grateful for EVERY moment of childcare my mother ever provides me with. Having done years and years with no babysitters or 'childcare' or help other than (now ex) Husband With the Sad Face, well I know what it's like, hard - so I know how lucky I am. But, at the same time, lets face facts here - my mum's 'childcare' services are somewhat eccentric. Well they'd have to be wouldn't they? I mean her years of nurturing produced me. And my brother. He doesn't blog but he's a Geography teacher. Which probably says enough.

So I'm grateful but, let's put it this way, if OFSTED were inspecting my mum she wouldn't just be on Special Measures. She'd be shut down with a big leading article and mug shot in the local paper. She'd then become some kind of cult figure defended by women who wear odd hats and lots of navy blue across the land and, eventually, she'd probably be debated on the This Morning! sofa by Philip Schofield and whichever blonde he's currently sat with.

Anyway I think it's good for my children to have 'input' from sources even more eccentric than myself. It makes me look better. However there are times when she makes even me a bit, err, nervy.

Let's start with the concept of benign neglect (as in hands-off let them get on with it parenting). This is the type of parenting I think is a terribly good plan. But my mum takes it to whole new levels. I got back from my Saturday morning cup of tea with the nice Relate lady to find my mum sat on my sofa doing the Suduko.

'Mum where are the children?'.

'Oh upstairs I think'.

'You think? Ok and err what do you think they're doing up there?'.

'Oh they've taken the cats up there. They said they were building a cat trap and now they've put them in it'.


'But they've been every so good. I haven't seen them for at least an hour'.


The less said about the 'cat trap' the better. I don't want women in howling-wolf-fleeces waving placards outside the front door. The cats are fine though. One of the children has quite a few 'tribal scars' and there's blood on my carpet but no one was crying so fair play mum. I think.

Next look at language. I'm not the most clean mouthed of people but I do try very hard not to swear in front of my children. I've managed this pretty well for about 6 years. Two weeks with dear old Grandma picking them up from school twice a week?

The 3 year old opens the back door and exclaims 'Good morning bloody cats!'.


'Mummy this bloody truck is stuck again'.

etc etc.

As the youngest one said to me the other day whilst watching the next 'thrilling' installment of 'Trucks and Trailers' (Channel 5's 'fly on the wall' documentary about Eddie Stobart' lorries) 'mummy, this programme has bloody in it, like Grandma'.


Then lets look at 'games we play with Grandma'. Trying to drive the car I can cope with. Eating raw jelly until you go green is a rite of passage. But how did I genuinely feel the day they walked into her kitchen and said 'Grandma, can we have the scissors please, we're going to go and cut down some more nettles'. Scissors? Not just any scissors. Kitchen shears you use to cut up meat (or small children). And off they went. With these shears. Into the nettle beds. 'It doesn't matter if we get stung mummy, Grandma sprays us with the Wasp-Eze'.

So that's fine then. I'm not sure what she does if you lop off a digit but hey, time will maybe tell?

And then we have my mum's special take on the passing of life. There was no avoiding death when I was growing up. We were constantly surrounded by small birds and mammals she had rescued from cats, window panes, ponds or water butts and put into a shoe box.

To die.

Small children luckily provide you with a lot of shoe boxes and great stretches of my childhood were spent peaking into green Clarks boxes and praying for baby voles/frogs/bullfinches/whatever to live and go back into the hands of nature.

They were inevitably on a one way trip to a shallow grave but I never gave up hope.

And so the cycle is now reignited. Most women who dream of becoming Grandma's probably hope to go and feed the ducks or pick blackberries or play Pooh Sticks. My mum clearly had other plans. Like letting small children see damaged birds die.

We got there on Wednesday morning for her to exclaim 'look children, LOOK! A baby robin!'. And there, thrust upon, us was indeed a baby robin. It was lying on it's back with it's legs in the air inside a little cardboard easter nest box the smallest child made at pre-school to celebrate Easter.

Easter might be all about resurrection but I think it would have taken more than a miracle for this robin to rise again.

'Grandma, is it dead?'.

'Mum why are you showing my children a dead bird? They've not even had breakfast'.

'It's not dead darlings. It's STUNNED! It flew into the window! I'm going to leave it in this box in the sunlight and see if it comes back to health'.

The kids give me a look as if to say 'Ok we might only be 3 and 6 respectively but WHAT THE F@CK IS SHE ON?'.

I give them a look as if to say 'god knows but if you find out, tell me. It'll help'.

At this point the smallest child realises his carefully crafted Easter Nest has been commandeered as a Robin coffin.

'Waaaaa - I want my box back!'.

I decide to let her sort that one out and quickly go to work.

When I return at the end of the day she confirms the Robin actually died. Woah - what a shocker. But not to worry she then entertained the children by letting them watch a fox try to dig out a nest of baby rabbits. It was a thrill a minute - every time he went down the hole they looked to see if he came up with any in his mouth. Luckily he didn't but no doubt if he had, she'd have run out, clutched their injured form from his jaws and put them in a shoe
box. Before arming the kids with kitchen shears, stinging nettles and raw jelly.

As the great woman herself would say - Thank God for Grandmas BUT Bloody Hell!