The Caravan of Love

Someone from my hometown, and whom I know from my scouting days many years ago, wrote a book a couple of years or so ago entitled “Ten Stories about Smoking”. It is by Stuart Evers and is very good apparently, although I must confess I haven’t read it yet. I think I have it on a bookshelf somewhere. It even won prizes. I mention it because this blog is in danger of becoming “Ten Stories about Pooing” if I’m not careful, and if I regaled you with the account of how I was once forced to defecate into an upturned traffic cone we would definitely be well on the way to ten. I will spare you that one, but I will apologise in advance that poo really is an integral part of child rearing and I’m sure this won’t be the last time I mention it.

We got away with nine weeks and two days without major incident, but it had to happen at some point. I had heard about the phenomenon and had hoped our boys were above that sort of behaviour, but finally it happened and Henry managed to not only fill his nappy but also his vest and his baby-grow. It happened while Grandad Aitchworld was holding him, at Grandad Aitchworld’s house. I invoked a rule as soon as the boys came home that handling the boys was a bit like pass the parcel and whoever was holding a boy when they filled a nappy was in the hot seat for unwrapping them and changing them. The thing is, it just wasn’t fair on Grandad Aitchworld to land him with a change this major. As he handed him back to Mrs Aitchworld he was visibly brown all down one side. It was so bad we christened it Poomageddon. I did ponder out loud if it wouldn’t be better to just take him outside into the garden and hose him down but Grandma Aitchworld suggested sticking him in the shower instead.

We’re used to having combi-boilers and hot water on demand at Aitchworld Towers but at the folks’ house it is a traditional boiler all the way. Cue much heated (if you will pardon the pun) discussion about whether there was enough hot water in the tank or if the immersion needed to be switched on. For some reason, despite having a tumble drier, Grandma Aitchworld had been drying some clothes in the airing cupboard so the immersion had been switched on. You’d think this was good news but Grandad Aitchworld muttered something about how big the next electricity bill they would be faced with, how they were poor pensioners and would end up losing their four bedroomed detached, despite paying off the mortgage on it decades ago, before wandering off to pack in preparation for the third foreign holiday they have had this year.

Once we had stripped poor old Henry off, I held him while Mrs Aitchworld hosed him down with the shower head. The only difference between this and doing it in the garden was supposed to be the temperature of the water but I don’t think the hose would have been any warmer as the immersion heater didn’t seem to have made any difference at all. No wonder Grandad Aitchworld was grumpy about the bills if it made no discernible change to water temperature.

After the last of the poo was hosed down the plughole with the shower-head, something reminded me of something Grandad Aitchworld had taught me that it would one day be my turn to pass on to Henry and Arthur. When I was growing up, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, my family didn’t have a great deal of spare cash. My dad was squirreling it all away into various savings and pension schemes in order that he could have a foreign holiday every other month in his retirement, apparently. We did, however, always have a family holiday in the summer, initially in a tent and then in later years in a touring caravan. The Sprite Musketeer that my dad bought did have space for a chemical toilet, but didn’t have such luxuries as a shower. In fact it barely had any luxuries at all. Forget carpets, it was cold hard practical linoleum and running cold water came courtesy of a manual foot pump. When we got the caravan all the lamps were still gas powered and had to have mantles replaced on a regular basis. As my dad was an electrical engineer he soon got round to fitting a battery system that powered some lights. I vaguely remember helping with this endeavour, as my dad is largely colour blind and has trouble differentiating between red and black wires, which are the two colours used in automotive and leisure wiring usually. I was the eyes, telling him which wires were what colour, and he was the brains of the operation. When I converted the loft at Aitchworld Towers some thirty years later, I drafted in my dad for a repeat experience to help me with the electrics and wiring. Between his colour blindness and his penchant for working with live electricity, not understanding the necessity for turning everything off at the fusebox (“they didn’t have any of this health and safety nonsense in my day”) it was an interesting (and potentially hair-raising, literally) experience.

When we went off on our family caravan holidays, to get a shower we had to traipse across a (usually wet) field to the ablutions block and stick our ten pence pieces into a meter to get a short, sharp dribble of water falling on us. At least they were usually hot, thankfully, but the shower blocks themselves were very rarely heated. My dad taught me a trick that has stayed with me to this day, and that was to always dry myself off in the shower cubicle itself – the residual heat from the shower was sufficient to keep a bit of warmth hanging around for long enough to get dry and dressed in slightly more comfortable conditions. I thought about it with Henry for a couple of seconds, but realised there was little point. However, it did make the penny drop that we all turn into our parents one day and at some point I will be teaching my boys that they should be drying themselves in a shower cubicle to stay warm.

Despite getting some early nights in, occasionally tiredness rears its ugly head. It’s not so much the time we go to bed, more about the number of times we are woken throughout it, and the length of time it takes to feed the boys. They are going longer between feeds admittedly, but Mrs Aitchworld had read about something called dream-feeding and we decided to try it. The idea is that a couple of hours into their first sleep after bedtime in the evening, very gently you lift the boys up and sneak the teat of a bottle into their mouths and feed them. Just by giving their cheek a little rub, it sets off a suck-swallow-breathe reaction and they will polish off an entire bottle without them waking up. You don’t change their nappy, or talk to them just feed them. You don’t even really wind them as such, just rub their back gently before putting them back in their cot.

If you do this just before you go to bed yourselves, the theory is that they stay asleep a lot longer. We tried it twice because it didn’t really work. At most they slept for five hours beyond the dream feed. Without a dream feed, they have already started to increase the time between feeds and when we put them to bed at their bedtime, they are having a long sleep. They even managed six hours last night. The issue is, this is three hours before we are going to bed, so we are only getting a stretch of three hours sleep. We need to somehow shift their bedtime to two hours after we go to bed and we can get a full eight hours in. The other problem is, of course, because we aren’t changing them before the dream feed, they are going up to seven hours between changes. We nearly had Poomageddon 2 on Sunday night. It was touch and go whether the nappy was going to contain it all.

As well as dream feeding we have also been dream talking. There have been several occasions, and both me and Mrs Aitchworld are guilty of doing it, when we have woken up in the middle of the night, roused from slumber by the boys wanting food, absolutely convinced we have had an entire conversation with each other about something. Usually it is about who is going to fetch the bottles of milk and who is going to change the nappies, and it takes a few minutes to establish that the entire conversation has taken place only in our heads.

I mentioned before that our tumble drier seems to shrink the waist band of my trousers, but I’m starting to think that idea isn’t really plausible and there must be another reason. I have started to accept I may be putting on weight. I lost all my pre-baby weight from when I was sympathy eating for three during the pregnancy, when I was in the hospital following the birth, not eating properly. Since then my exercise routine has increased. I’m continually running up and down the stairs to fetch things, most of the time twice because I keep forgetting what I went up for first time. And I have started to walk quite far with the twins, pushing them in one of their many pushchairs.

If Mrs Aitchworld is having a bad day, usually I can tell the moment I walk through the door following a day at work, so I will offer to take the boys out for a wander to give her some respite. I even walked to the local supermarket with them the other day to do some shopping and I bought a few bottles of pre-made formula, a couple of large bottles of pop, shampoos and a couple of cartons of tomato juice. All told I had ten litres of water on board the pushchair, which if I remember my physics lessons from school correctly, works out to be, give or take, ten kilogrammes. Pushing that back up the hill to get home was hard work! Despite all of this, the trousers have started to get tight again. I do, however, have a new theory as to why that has happened: somebody is dream-feeding me. And I think it’s burgers and Haribo…

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