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Sunday, 28 June 2015

#33: 10 Reasons Why Glastonbury & Parenthood Are The Same

1.You’re surrounded by the smell of shit and baby wipes.
Whether you’re front left at the Pyramid Stage or stood in your kitchen, you’ll be inhaling this aroma the whole time. It’s omnipotent.

2.You’re lucky if you get two hours sleep a night.
It could be your baby screaming the house down or the early morning sun turning your tent into a sweat-den after a late night at Shangri-La, but sleep isn’t happening either way.

3.You inadvertently sing along to some truly terrible music.
From Peppa Pig to Chas and Dave, Tellytubbies to Kanye West – it’s all crap. But you will be humming it. Just because it’s catchy doesn’t mean it’s good. Ebola is catchy.

4.You can say goodbye to nice relaxing toilet breaks.
Whether it’s queueing to squat over a rancid portaloo or doing a poo in installments because you thought you heard your baby crying, neither are attractive options.

5.You’re only ever five minutes away from being kneedeep in sludge.
Maybe it’s a torrential downfall or maybe it’s a poonami nappy leak. Either way you had better be prepared.

6.Peculiar fashion choices and dubious stains are par for the course.
Is that Nutella on the sofa? Are you wearing a tutu? Why are my hands brown? Are those underpants on your head? WHY IS THIS NORMAL?

7.You feel something wet hit your body and you pray it’s just water.
First you feel the liquid hit your body. Next you hear the noise and try to work out what it is. Surely no-one would wee in a bottle and throw it into a crowd, would they? And surely gravity would prevent my son from puking onto my neck from his playmat?

8.You try to capture everything on your phone instead of enjoying the moment.
And why wouldn’t you? Your kids will never be that age again. Although there’s no excuse to be whipping out your iPhone at Glasto, just to capture some half-arsed footage that would end up on the cutting room floor of a GCSE Media Studies project. The BBC are filming it all with professional cameras and everything, so put your smart phone back in your sweaty pocket.

9.You’ll see things you won’t see anywhere else.
At Glastonbury in 2007 I witnessed a twenty stone bollock-naked man who was painted silver wave his willy in my mates face before stealing his chips. Yesterday at home I saw my son wee in his own mouth and totally enjoy the taste. I’m unlikely to see either of these things in Tesco.

10. It’s hard going but totally worth it.
Trudging back to your coach pick up point with a ripped rucksack and chafing wellies after five days on the ale is nobody’s idea of fun. Neither is mopping up baby poo with a pair of socks because you’ve run out of wipes and the shops are shut. But both are insignificant next to the joy you get in return.

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

#32: Is That Wind In Your Belly Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

Since the dawn of time parents have been experiencing the following scenario:

Your baby looks at you.
You look at your baby.
Your baby smiles at you.
You smile at your baby.
You are filled with an indescribable joy.
Their face turns red.
They strain.
You frown.
It wasn’t a smile.
It was a difficult poo.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a genuine smile. It’s hard to imagine living in a world without them although I have visited London.

I enjoy the different breeds of smile - a lottery winner’s smug smirk; the proud beam on the father of a bride; the relieved grin of a commuter reading a text from last night’s date. And lest we forget: a baby squeezing out a massive turd. They’re all wonderful in their own way, apart from the last one which was such a massive let-down the first time I experienced it. I thought we were sharing a beautiful moment but his only agenda was to share his bum nuggets with my jeans.

I read somewhere that if the baby smiles with their mouth then it’s wind but if they use their whole face it must be genuine. I prefer to use the following method:

If they look FRIENDLY, it’s real.
If they look EVIL, it’s wind.

(Obviously you could be really unlucky and have a future Bond villain as an offspring but let’s not focus on that right now.)

The windy smile is a peculiar beast. Just a half-arsed sneer, usually reserved for the face of someone unspeakably foul like George Osbourne or Satan. And it suckers you in day after day until you get the real stuff.

Smiling was the last thing on my mind at first, I was just trying to cope with my new role and daily duties. It was pure chaos when we first got the lads home from hospital – we had all this new equipment in our house and I couldn’t fathom any of it. To add to the confusion our sleep patterns were weirder than Joaquin Phoenix and I was really struggling with nappy changes. Our house was like Wall Street – people heading for a meltdown while they shouted and waved bits of paper in the air.

‘BUY LOW! SELL HIGH!’
‘WHO THE FRIG IS TOMMEE TIPPEE?’
‘IS THAT A SHIT STAIN OR JUST CHOCOLATE?’

As the new routine evolved into habit our household anarchy transitioned slowly into a parenting operation that felt smoother than a cigar hand-rolled by a freshly waxed Michael Buble. Or at least it seemed that way compared to the first few weeks of total bedlam. (Regular readers will know I still struggle with nappy changes but I’ll definitely have that sussed by the time they start university.)

More importantly, regaining some kind of order meant I could start to enjoy their daily progress instead of sweating and swearing. That’s when the waiting game began for those little smiles to arrive.

The first time they open their eyes and look at you the entire world stands still. It’s such a strain for them to open those little eyelids initially I got the feeling they must REALLY want to look at me. People look at me every day but nobody seems to put any effort into it anymore.

Most of the time they’d spend thirty seconds getting their peepers out, just to glance at me with disappointment and promptly shut them again for three hours. Or they’d just open one eye first to check if it was worth opening the other one, like a manager of Tesco does with the tills. 

I was a little concerned about Zac after he’d been opening both eyes for a while as he’d just lie wide awake in his Moses basket staring at the side sheet. There was so much in the room for him to feast his new found senses upon but he just stared at the off-white fabric with a frown on his face that said, ‘Is this all there is? Because I must tell you, this is shit.’

Our two lads started smiled intermittently but they seemed unsure at first. No wonder, as everytime they moved their lips into anything remotely resembling a grin I’d start shouting like I’d seen the face of God in my cereal.

‘HE’S SMILING! HE’S SMILING, THERE’S SMILES HAPPENING!’ and everyone in the house would rush in as if the washing machine was violently leaking, just to catch a glimpse of this historical event. That would scare the bejesus out of anyone and their smile would quickly retreat back inside like a shy zoo animal.

They looked happy and content though so I spent a couple of weeks staring them in the eye, willing them to smile with all the subtlety of a hypnotist with Tourettes. After a few false alarms, twitches and near misses (they sure know how to work a crowd) I got what I thought was a smile from Ben. He then suddenly puked down my front and started crying which quickly dampened my enthusiasm and my socks. He was clearly as disappointed as me. So close yet so far.

Ben always seems to be about two days behind Zac in his development, possibly from being the smaller twin. Although it could just be that he doesn’t want to rush into things. Maybe he’s the smart one, letting Zac jump on the bouncy castle first while he slowly takes his shoes off and checks it has the requisite safety certificates.

And then just like a Parcel Force delivery, it happened when we least expected it. I was late for work, rushing around to leave the house and my wife had hold of Zac. Putting my shoes on I looked up at his face to be met with a smile wider than a drive-in cinema.

I made the noise of a twelve year old girl who’s just been picked to play Goal Attack for the school and did that little camp finger clap in front of my face, but this time it didn’t scare the smile away. Instead it got bigger and broader and more real. To cap it off, as he grinned his heart out he scanned his eyes around the room which seemed to say, I really like it here.

The room must have been quite dusty because I seemed to get something in my eye all of a sudden.

I hoped he wasn’t smiling just because I was leaving the house but I definitely heard giggling from the lounge as I closed the front door.

"I say dear boy, you sure can tell 'em..."
I guess sleep deprivation makes you paranoid. 

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

#31: Why, son? Why?

I starting writing this blog two months ago to capture my emotional journey into parenthood. But let’s face it, most of these blogs have been about poo.

Your entire life changes when you have kids. The three most beautiful words used to be I love you but now it’s puke free burp.

At the other end of the spectrum I have a new and terrible three word sentence which is up there with rail replacement bus and his was bigger.

He hasn’t pooed.

It’s all about context – if you say this yourself after a nappy change then it means you dodged a shitty bullet and it’s party time. If your wife casually throws it your way as she heads off to bed before you take the reins of the late feed then you know you’re in for a grizzly affair.

Ben’s nappy was appalling, a ten-wiper. To his credit he lay still and let me clean his rump with minimum fuss, like a Roman Emperor being attended to by his minions.

Next came Zac and that’s where business really picked up. Some nappy changes turn into a show and this was our Live Aid. It began as I picked him up and felt simultaneously reviled and intrigued by the smell emanating from his backside – an unsettling combination of burnt Quavers and treacle pudding. I felt sick and hungry at the same time, like after you’ve just eaten at McDonalds.

I opened his nappy and it was clean. Suspiciously clean, almost too clean. Heavy but none of the brown stuff. If I was quick I knew I’d get away with it and the wife would have to mop up the consequences at 3am. The perfect scenario.

I whipped his old nappy away like that tablecloth trick that leaves the plates and cutlery in place, because he had a look on his face that told me a storm was brewing.

I gave his bum a cursory wipe and reached for the new nappy. That’s when I heard it. He let out a caustic grunt that belonged in the Olympic clean and jerk which told me I had a split second to get the new nappy in place. Hitting the panic button I stupidly dropped the new nappy on top of the old nappy, causing the adhesive bits to stick together like the worst kind of bunting, and as I fumbled for another new one he began to trump.

I’ve heard a million different farts in my time but never one like this. It was majestic, celebratory, as if he were signaling the triumphant return home of his troops from a victorious battle. I also felt the full force of it’s gust on my hand – this thing could have dried towels.

Then the trump played it’s final note and for the briefest of moments there was silence. The pure and total kind I get at some of my gigs. He looked me dead in the eye and took a deep breath as a frown more gloomy than a Morrissey B-side descended upon his face.

And then it came. This river of Marmite. And it kept on coming. There’s not much you can do while it’s in progress, you just have to let it happen, like an ice hockey ref waiting for a fight to finish before he steps in.

But this didn’t end, it was relentless. Like a Bruce Springsteen concert or the Leveson Enquiry.
I managed to keep my panic at bay but only until we began to run out of changing mat – he was covering the whole thing like a dirty game of Risk.

I had to move him away from the danger area but it was impossible, he WAS the danger area. He was doing an uncanny impression of a manic arcade penny pusher machine, kicking his legs back and forth trying to push it off the mat and onto the carpet.

I noticed he’d got some on his foot. This then smeared onto his leg and somehow ended up on my hand and then t-shirt. It was a Rik Mayall t-shirt so I think he would have approved, strangely.

The whole horrible scene resembled an explosion in a Nutella factory. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I just sat there, filled with panic, covered in my sons excrement and wondered, ‘Is this it? Is this what parenthood is all about? Poo?’

Then he smiled. And then he giggled.

And instantly, none of the previous ten minutes mattered. In fact, nothing else in the history of the world mattered. Just a baby smiling at his father and his father welling up with joy.

I wiped the tear from my face and in doing so smudged the tiniest globule of my son’s poo across my 
cheek. I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter but in my book, faces and poos should never meet. They shouldn't even exchange pleasantries, never mind get up close and personal with each other.

Top of my to-do list is to design a baby change mask. I'll take it on Dragon’s Den and make a fortune.

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Monday, 8 June 2015

#30: The 12 Different Types of Nappy

Opening your baby’s nappy is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get and you’ll probably end up with sticky fingers. My twin boys are 10 weeks old and these are the 12 types of nappy I’ve encountered so far.

(If you’re eating your dinner I recommend reading this a bit later on.)

1.The Leak (AKA The Pooseidon Adventure)
It’s everywhere except in the nappy itself. Worse still, it’s leaving a trail. If Hansel and Gretel had a leaking baby with them the story would’ve ended happily.

This type makes me actually doubt gravity. How can something that goes down end up on their shoulder? If it wasn't so gross you'd stand up and applaud. Unfortunately you can’t even enjoy the irony of removing a sleepsuit with bum juice up the back and ‘Too Cute’ across the front.

(There are many causes of The Leak, one of which I covered in it’s full gory detail here.)

2.The Tardis (AKA The Turdis, The Doctor Poo)
This is when the amount of waste inside is more than physics will allow. Normally accompanied by a cry of ‘HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?’ from the erstwhile changer.

Disgusting but scientifically fascinating.

3.The Adidas
Three stripes of poo in perfect unison.

In the interest of corporate balance I once had some baby sick on my t-shirt that looked like the Nike swoosh.

4.The Turn A Blind Eye (AKA The Can I Leave it?)
We’ve all been there – you’ve had a tricky feed with enough puke to wallpaper the lounge. You’ve just got them down and you’re about to drop off yourself. But just before you reach the promised land of nod the silence is pierced by a sound so squelchy that you suspect a pair of ducks have broken in and started mud wrestling.

The questions go through your head.

Should I get out of bed and check the nappy?
Or should I just pretend there is nothing to check?

If you go with the latter make sure you have a decent cover story when the grisly incident is uncovered.

“Sorry luv, he was fine when I went to sleep. I must have already dropped off by the time he shat on the curtains.”

5.The Phantom (AKA The X Factor - all hype, zero content)
You've heard plenty of bottom chatter but you open the nappy and it’s emptier than an MP’s promise.  Has it gone back up from whence it came? Was it (for want of a better word) a poomerang? It’s a fecal mystery. The depressing reality is that you may be about to witness the sheer terror of the next type of nappy below.

6.The Live Poo
This is when the whole (and indeed, hole) incident plays out in front of you like an advert for one of those Play Dough factories. Before my sons were born I had never seen a turd leaving it's natural habitat. Now I’ve seen it more than Eastenders.

The first time I was subjected to the abject horror of The Live Poo I was so appalled at what my eyes were seeing I yelped like a dog with its tail caught in a car door. As I shrieked in disgust I jerked my head back, like I'd been shown a truly obnoxious yet very impressive magic trick.

The last time I dealt with a Live Poo the new nappy filled up almost instantly too, as my son continued to download the brownload at high speed. So I ended up recreating the famous scene from Indiana Jones (with my second new nappy) where he quickly replaces the precious stone with his bag of rubble, just to stop the bum nuggets scattering across the carpet.

At times this one can feel like your child is giving a less-than-stellar review of your parenting.

7.The Encore
It’s finished. It’s over. You’ve dealt with it. You’re moving on. Except it’s suddenly started again and you’re back to square one. Like a low budget horror movie villain, this one takes some licking (if you’ll pardon the expression).

8.The Katie Hopkins
One that is completely full of shit.

9.The Colonel Mustard
Named after the infamous Cluedo character, even though it’s very obvious whodunnit. The smell is troubling, as is the colour – never mind the Bristol Stool Scale, you’ll need the Dulux Colour Chart to figure out what’s going on with this one.

10.The Deal or No Deal
When you open the nappy to find the opposite of what you were hoping for, but respond by saying ‘It’s alright, it’s alright.’ Even though it’s definitely not alright.

11.The Profiterole (Male Only)
When the sheer amount of anal snakes released into the nappy has caused your poor baby’s gonads to be drizzled in bottom chocolate, causing them to resemble the famous French faux pastry balls.

12.The Poonami (aka The Turdal Wave)
All of the above combined. This will ruin your clothes, your day and your spirit. It’s also guaranteed to happen in Costa.
Forget wipes, you need to bring in NATO. Keep your pets at arms-length too or they’ll be looking like those poor sea animals when there’s an oil spillage.
If you haven’t experienced one of these yet, you will. And it will leave a stain on your soul just as stubborn as the one on the sofa.

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