It's been a busy few weeks in our household, with Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes night and two birthdays in the middle. So our normally ramshackle, chaotic house has been turned into something like the seventh circle of hell.
First there was the Boy's birthday, which included the usual highlights of screaming children, masses of toys with teeny, tiny parts that vanish neatly up a vacuum cleaner and, of course, cake crumbs. Everywhere. At one point I found cake crumbs under my eyelids.
As with last year the Boy entered into the spirit of things by greeting each new arrival at the house with the word;
In a resigned "you've-been-at-the-door-for-nearly-two-whole-seconds-why-haven't-I-been-given-a-motorbike" tone of voice.
Then, because we feel that our lives are just too damn stress-free, we threw a party for both Kids between their birthdays. I have dealt with kid's parties on numerous occasions in this blog, so I won't go into details. However, I would like to make two points;
First of all, if someone suggests playing musical statues, punch them firmly in the eye and drop the F-bomb on them. Even if they're elderly. Because I'll guarantee whoever suggests it won't be the one that has to pick whoever is "out" when the music stops.
"Er... the little girl dressed as a zombie. Sorry, darling you're out."
"No I'm not."
"Er... you are, I'm afraid."
"Mum, he said I'm out. I'm not out."
"She didn't move as much as that boy."
"Um... okay. The little boy dressed as Harold Shipman. You're out."
"YOU SAID SHE'S OUT!"
And then, of course, I weakened.
"Okay. We'll start over."
Fatal. We had about six rounds where no one was out. Frankly we'd still be there now if we hadn't just randomly thrown the prize into a scrum of kids and let them fight it out.
Secondly, if you have a bouncy castle, you'll want to deflate it while they eat. This is a completely sensible move as; whilst the bouncy castle is wipe clean, most of the rest of the hall won't be. However it comes with a sting in the tail. When the kids have all finished eating and you switch the generator back on the kids will go i.n.s.a.n.e.
I suspect the Romans during the last minutes at Pompei had more decorum than these kids. They let out a scream that stripped the wallpaper and then started chanting. Seriously. Chanting.
I don't know what they were chanting, but they were all chanting the same thing. It sounded a bit like "Kill! Kill! Kill!" The adults in the room went white. I turned to the Wife and she was mouthing;
"What the fu-?"
We were one step away from human sacrifice and cannibalism in that hall, I shit you not. I consider myself lucky to have my life and sanity.
For once my Kids were paragons of virtue, and were extremely well behaved right up until the Boy disgraced himself at bath time by clouting the Girl whilst I wasn't looking, causing the Girl to say in an offended voice;
"Oi! Dad! The Boy just punched me in the nunni."
Embarrassingly I had to look up what "nunni" meant. I was quite shocked.
Guy Fawkes night was a lesson in going from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the Friday before we took the Kids to the local police headquarters for their yearly free firework display - which involves lots of confiscated fireworks being set off for charity. I can thoroughly recommend it because it was very spectacular. Mainly because it didn't quite go to plan. About ten minutes in they set off a firework that sent up a steady stream of rockets. Initially it all went well, the first rocket went straight up and exploded and the crowd went;
The next firework went up at about a forty five degree angle and burst just over the crowd's collective heads. The crowd went;
Then the third one went off parallel to the ground and the crowd went;
After this things got a little duller, as everything went to plan. Right up until the big finale when a very large rocket lifted a whole three feet off the ground before exploding in a gigantic shower of sparks, sending people in fluorescent jackets swearing and running pell-mell in every direction. The Boy thoroughly approved.
"That... was... AWESOME! Tell them to do it again! THAT MAN'S ON FIRE!!! BRILLIANT!!!!"
Then, a week later, we had fireworks night at Grandma's. This was a very different experience as it involved my mother-in-law tipping her cardboard recycling on the lawn and setting light to it. In all honesty it lacked a certain razamatazz.
Typically the Boy has gone a bit obsessive over Guy Fawkes night, and only tonight was still going on about his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament (Guy Fawkes I mean, not the Boy.)
"So why do you think he wanted to blow the Houses of Parliament up, Boy?"
"Because he was a bad man."
"And why do you think he was bad?"
"Because he was Catholic."
Right. That was a bit steep, I thought.
"Er, Boy... you know I'm Catholic, don't you?"
"Oh good. Well that clears that up then."
And then there was the Girl's birthday. This was not unlike the Boy's birthday, with the family coming round with presents, and tiny things vanishing up vacuum cleaners and the entire world being indelibly coated in cake crumbs again to the point that birds now attack me in the street. Since the Girl is a little bit older, she didn't throw a tantrum when we sang happy birthday to her this year, which was a blessed relief. She was unbelievably well behaved in fact and we were very proud of her because she's being going through a bit of a feral stage recently.
Unfortunately to counteract this "stress deficit" the Wife and I had unwisely said our Niece could stay over. Now, that sounds like I don't like my Niece, which isn't true. I'm very fond of her. She's very funny and sweet. But...
She's also, to put it mildly, rather high maintenance. To demonstrate this an hour after we'd got the three of them to bed she suddenly strode into the living room and with a no-nonsense look in her eye she looked at me and said;
So an hour after she went to bed my Niece was eating a ham sandwich at the dinner table. As was the Girl who'd followed her down to see if she could get away with it too. Which - it turns out - she could. Meanwhile the Boy called me back upstairs to grumpily enquire;
"Seriously, do they have to sleep in my room?"
"Well, they aren't at the moment. They're eating dinner. Again."
The next morning became a battle of wills between my Niece and I. One which I constantly came out the loser. First she woke up with the Boy at five o'clock in the morning and had a long whispered conversation at the volume of a jet plane taking off. When the Wife went to go and "talk to them" (or, more accurately, shout "SHUT UP!") she discovered the Niece prodding the Girl who was still asleep.
This is not wise. In fact, on a scale of "things I don't intend to do" I would put it on a par with resting my genitals on the nose of a hungry wolverine. Fortunately the Wife intervened before the Girl woke up and discretely told our Niece not to prod the Girl. It was close. Someone could have lost an arm.