Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Carols, Coughs and Gas...

I hadn't planned to write this as today's blogpost - in fact I had almost forgotten about it and to be honest, I'm not actually supposed to be here. At this very moment I'm supposed to be sat in the school hall with three hundred other parents all desperate to get a look at our darling children as they murder some Christmas Carol or other - as you may remember from last year's post (or was it the year before) the school carol concert is usually quite comical - for all the wrong reasons. Instead of craning to see my 8 year old belting out While Shepherd's washed their socks (that never gets old) I get to see him close up as he sits on my lap coughing and sneezing... it really is quite unpleasant. Maybe I should have sent him to school and then I could see him coughing and sneezing from a distance - although that would be irresponsible as he would infect the rest of his class.

It wouldn't be so bad if KC wasn't at home as well. He broke up last week and has been driving me bonkers ever since - he's bored, there's nothing to do, can he watch TV?... again. Of course everything I suggest we do together is 'boring' - my ten year old has suddenly turned fifteen.

But last week we had a bit of a scare - I went into my eldest son's room and smelt something very strange. Odd smells are normal in a ten year old boy's room - I know this after sharing a room with my particularly smelly brother for many years - I, of course, smelled only of Giorgio Armani - the after shave of choice in 1985!

However, this smell was very strange - a sickly sweet odour that could only mean one thing - gas!

We recently had a lot of alterations to the house and most of them involved KC's room which is directly above the car port, where the main point for the gas is. I rushed downstairs and got the carbon monoxide monitor which immediately went off. We panicked.

I immediately opened all the windows and called the emergency gas number. I followed their instructions, turned off the gas at the mains, opened all the doors and waited for the gasman to come.

To be fair, he arrived within the hour, not bad for a Saturday afternoon, and came straight into KC's room. "I don't know what that smell is?" he said, "but I don't think it's gas. What worries me is that your carbon monoxide alarm keeps going off."

He took out his own monitor, it said everything was fine but, unfortunately for us, the gasman wasn't prepared to take any chances, and he had a flight to Tunisia to catch at 7pm (I know he told me... many times!) So he shut everything down and told me to call a gas repair man to check on the problem.

You try getting a gas repair man on a Saturday evening - it wasn't going to happen. So we were facing a weekend without heating or hot water.

Then I had a brainwave. I called the builder that did the work on the room. He immediately called his mate who did the plumbing and fitted in the radiators. He promised to be round straight away. As luck would have it, he lives around the corner from us.

So he came and checked everything out. There was no Carbon Monoxide and no gas leak. He checked our carbon alarm. It was dated 2009 and, as we were then told, after five years it would begin beeping to let us know that it needed to be changed. They only last for five years apparently. So that was why it had gone off - it just chose to go off when I placed it in KC's room.

But that didn't explain the strange gas-like smell - we were all puzzled. Then KC came into the room and immediately looked sheepish.

"What have you done?" I asked him.

"Well," he said, "You know that you told me to clean my rugby boots? Well, I did and then they were wet - so I put them on the radiator to dry - and I think that's what is making the smell."

I looked at the radiator which had now cooled and there on top was balanced a pair of rugby boots. I didn't need to smell them - we could all smell them, a strange mixture of over heated plastic and boy foot sweat... It's amazing that once you know what a smell is then you can pinpoint immediately where it is coming from.

The plumber howled. I sighed with relief. "Emergency over!" I laughed.

"Yes," agreed the plumber, " Now that'll be a £75 weekend call out fee," he laughed.

I didn't.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Cheers!

The problem with Christmas is that it seems to take ages to get here and then suddenly everything seems to happen at once - and at the same time! (not unlike the storm bomb that the UK is currently experiencing - such a great phrase, 'storm bomb' - it makes great headlines!)

Well, we are currently experiencing a Christmas bomb - I'm not sure how we are managing to fit everything in - in fact, sometimes I don't actually know which event I'm attending. I'm guessing this is how members of the royal family must feel - hurriedly moving from one mind numbingly boring event to the next, making small talk and shaking hands whilst simultaneously wondering if they remembered to set the Sky plus to record 'Casualty' - or perhaps thats just me.

Whilst having the boys in two separate schools has made life so much more bearable in many ways, it's at this time of year that it becomes manic. We have two of everything to attend - carol services, Christmas Fayres (both spelt with in a jaunty medievial fashion - in fact they both pretty much had exactly the same things on offer, although the posh school's one priced everything at double the state school.)

Actually, one really nice thing is that this has been the first year since the boys came to us that they both seem completely immersed in the whole Christmas experience. They wrote proper full-on 'lists' to Father Christmas - completely selfishly asking for everything they have ever seen on telelvision -and then adding a few more. Previously, we have taken a peek at their lists only to find them having barely anything on them - and never anything of value - as if they weren't worthy of asking for nice things. Last year KC asked for stuff for the pets as he 'didn't need anything'.

So I was heartened to see the 'full on' list.

I know it's hard, and I am in no way knocking foster carers, who do an amazing job, but Christmas must be so difficult when you have children in care living with you alongside your own family. For the boys they had an 'allowance' of £20 each from social services for the foster carrer to buy them a Christmas gift - they were with their final carers for 2 Christmases, and I know their foster carer bought more for them - but it can't be the same sitting with another family on Christmas morning and knowing, deep down, that you are not really a part of it. And I'm sure that the boys must have missed their birth families at that time - perhaps they still do, or rather they miss a memory of what they think it was like - fuelled by television shows. I do know that KC is very wary of people being drunk at this time of year.

However, I found out that TJ ripped his list up and decided to change it. He has decided only to put on the things he wants the most - so Santa will get him the right toy (a Nintendo 3DS). I know this because he told the hairdresser last night whilst he was having his hair cut. It was the first I had heard of it - luckily Santa is able to fulfil that wish.

KC, on the other hand, is on the cusp of 'getting it'. I think his list this year is a test - seeing just how much loot he can get if he 'still believes'. He has just turned 10 now - so he has already decided he is too old to actually see Santa, but he has agreed to go with his younger brother.

We put the Christmas tree up this week and as we did so I pulled out all the things they had made over the past few years. KC took one look and demanded that everything he had made be taken down as it was 'rubbish'. I know this is how he views himself. So I insisted that everything went on, despite his mumblings that he hated me, and a little later I spot him out of the corner of my eye just looking at everything he has made.

He is in a funny place - Christmas does that...

But tonight I shall be attending his end of term drama club play (he is worried he might have stage fright - he's a reindeer - but I've told him it doesn't matter, I'll be there anyway and I shall clap really loudly for him) and then we race straight over to the cathedral for KC's carol service - he is still angry that I signed him up to be in the choir, although he loves singing he didn't want to do it in front of everyone.. because, (yes you've guessed it) he's 'rubbish'. I've told him it doesn't matter I shall sing much louder than him anyway.

And where is Papa this evening whilst I am running from place to place? At his works Christmas party!!!! I miss those - actually going out to meet people and drink and have fun - and not talk about exam results or little Lucy's ballet classes (she's doing ever so well...)

Oh well - I'd better start practising 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' - something tells me I'll be belting it out a few times in the next week or so!

And just as we get school out of the way my mother will arrive - with her ASBO dog! (I've booked the cat into a cattery already - at least he will have a peaceful Christmas...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Puppies, Grapes and Leaving Home...

It's been a hectic few days, which resulted in my missing my weekly post - hopefully I can make up for it this week!

It's been mainly the dogs that have caused us worry this week.

Our eldest dog, the toothless Cairn, managed to grow an ulcer, on her eye, it wasn't pleasant. Poor thing. After two weeks of treatment at the local vet he decided that we were going to have to see the specialist, so we drove thirty miles to the nearest pet hospital and they decided to operate there and then. The ulcer was removed and a contact lense placed on the eye to help it heal - I never realised they made contact lenses for dogs - luckily we had maintained her insurance as the bill would have ensured that Christmas was cancelled otherwise.

On the same morning the puppy, bonkers Cocker, decided to get into the fruit bowl and consume about half a kilo of grapes - I blamed the boys to begin with then found all the stalks under the coffee table. Whilst the vet was looking at the toothless Cairn I mentioned in passing what the puppy had done. I laughed... he didn't. 'You need to bring her in as soon as you get home," he said with a worrying tone, "That amount of grapes is potentially fatal."

I had no idea that grapes were so toxic. So I raced the puppy back to the vet and she stayed there all day having her stomach pumped and being induced to vomit.

It was a fun day in the Williams' household that day.

The vet continued telling me that it wasn't just grapes that were toxic to dogs, but raisins and alcohol as well - especially fruit cake. She had better not go near my Christmas cake - after three months of being 'fed' I think there is more brandy than fruit in it.

And now it's advent!

Both boys have dealt with Christmas with difficulty over the past few years - can you believe this is their fourth with us! It's also the first one where it feels like Christmas is coming.

TJ won't allow anything about Christmas to be mentioned before December the first - he gets quite angry when he sees people put their decorations up before then - I think he may be a member of the advent police.

Both boys have their birthdays this month as well, so despite being very expensive, it's also quite emotional for them both. Add to that the fact that they came to live with us just after Christmas, then seeing the tree go up can trigger off quite a few emotions.

This weekend, TJ decided he wanted to find a new family. One without any children where there would just be him. For most children I'm sure this is a usual occurence, I remember running away when I was about 9 and going to my friends house and eating jam sandwiches. I was home for tea - but at least I showed my parents I was serious about going.

But for TJ its different, he has had a few families, birth, various foster and now his forever family. But what is forever to an 8 year old? If TJ wants a new family then in his mind that is a reality that could actually happen.

We decided to treat it with humour. He presented me with his packed bags first thing in the morning, I asked him what he was going to eat. He decided not to leave until after breakfast.

After breakfast he remembered it was Sunday roast dinner - chicken, his favourite, he decided to stay for that. In between KC was jubilant, TJ was going and because letters to Santa had already been written then KC would also get all of TJ's presents. KC was practically pushing his younger brother out of the door.

I could see things were going too far. So I took TJ upstairs and sat with him. "Why do you want to leave?" I asked, "You know that we will all be very sad to see you go?"
"No you won't," he said quite calmly, "You are always telling me off and making me do stuff I don't like - like tidying my room and homework."
"Everyone has to do those," I said, "Even in this 'new' family"
"They won't," he said, "Because they want a little child and they will love me and give me everything I want."

Suddenly I thought I was being blackmailed.

"Well," I said, "Think of all the things we already do for you - cooking your meals, buying you clothes, taking you to football and to the park - and playing with your brother - won't you miss all that?"

He thought about it. "I'll come back to visit , " he said, "And I'll come back for Christmas."

"But what happens if your new family move away - or we do?" I asked him.

He thought about it - but didn't have an answer, then KC popped his head around the door, he'd obviously been listening in. "You're not really going are you?" he asked his brother. Even in KC's mind it was a real possibility that his younger brother could leave.

"He's coming down for lunch," I told him deciding this conversation was coming to an end.

We had lunch and at the end of it TJ made his announcement."I've decided to stay," he declared, "because Daddy is the bestest cook in the world."

This morning he shot out of bed with a spring! "It's advent!" he shouted, "Where's my calendar - I want to eat chocolate!!!!"

So the way to man's heart is definately via his stomch!!!!!!