Surviving a weekend with no woman in the house
8.20AM: THE good woman has been gone for 24 hours. It is now an annual tradition where she, the mother-in-law and two friends load up the wagon and hit the road to check out the spa delights that Ireland's hospitality sector has to offer. In my arms lies the younger lad, tucking into his first bottle of the day.
The bedroom door creaks open and in marches a Darth Vader lookalike. The young lad has been bitten by the Star Wars bug. 'I am your father,' he tells me in a distorted voice. Then he breaks out of character and says he wants to watch the Heidi DVD that his nanny has given him as a present. Good to see his masculine and feminine streaks have struck a healthy balance. In the mirror I catch sight of three-day-old stubble and I know that by the end of the weekend it will have aged by another 48 hours. My bed-hair stands so high that I have to bend down to get out through the door. There will be time to comb it later.
9.00am: The oil has run out. After underestimating how much kerosene we needed to get over the Arctic blast, my breath now forms clouds in the utility room. Heidi keeps an eye on the boys, tucked under a blanket on the couch. I light up the open fire.
Flicking on the laptop, I google the name of some home-heating oil distributors in our area. No answer from the first number dialled and I hope that these people work six-day weeks. A female voice answers at the second number dialled. She tells me that they do deliver on Saturdays. I put in the order. Then she cuts me off mid-sentence and asks if there will be someone there to pay the man when he arrives. Any oil company I have dealt with before gives a month's credit and I tell her that I usually pay by card, so I'll take my business elsewhere. She relents immediately and says paying by card is fine.
I have no time to be stubborn. The delivery man arrives that afternoon and I tell him that the lock out light has sprung up on the boiler. 'You'd better bleed it so,' and he's gone. That's what you can expect for handing over a few hundred euro to people these days. A few twists and thumps later however, and the burner roars back into action. We have heat.
2.30pm: A wise woman once told me that babies go through growth spurts around every seven weeks and it makes them sleep more. I check the calendar and younger lad has just passed 14 weeks, which means he could be in the mood to do some snoozing. We take him for a spin in the car and by the time we return home, he's already dreaming about teddies and rattling monkeys. For the next three hours he stays asleep in the car seat until I wake him for a feed. I think about fitting the car seat into the cot.
5.00pm: The young lad wants a duel. He has found two lightsabers that arrived over Christmas and for the next half hour I have to be Luke Skywalker. I ask him if he wants to actually watch a Star Wars film and he almost faints. He tells me Darth Vader is too scary to look at on television but that he likes to pretend to be him. Twenty-four years later and that clankering piece of half-human half-mechanical monstrosity can still shoot tingles up the spines of children's backs. A quick bit of research reveals that he has regularly been voted the worst movie villain of all-time, alternating the honour with such vile creations as Norman Bates (Psycho) and Hannibal Lector. And he can also be blamed for making heavy breathing fashionable.
7.30pm: The young lad's usual bedtime but tonight he suspects he can swing himself a little while longer. The younger lad lies into his baby gym and starts pumping baby iron. He does it three times a day and you can really see the difference it makes to his biceps. Upstairs I'm asked for a drink of red, three stories and another game of Star Wars. I know I shouldn't, but I cave in and answer his requests. Daddies are suckers. Eventually, after a dozen runs up and down the stairs I find him conked out with a spaceship on his head. Just in time for the Premiership.
Sunday: 6.50am: I hear a scream from the young lad's room. Once again the younger lad is resting in my arms, helping himself to another feed. The young lad comes running in and tells me that he spilled a cup of juice on his toes. He's right, they are stuck together. I try to get him to go back to sleep but there is only one place he wants to be - downstairs. At least it's not downtown. Heidi goes on the box again and I tell him to call me when it's over. True to his word, an hour and twenty minutes later he's roaring up to me. He has learned what a goat looks like, and that they produce milk.
12.00 midday: We hit Playzone. He takes off into the padded jungle and I sit back and catch up on the weekend's sport in the Sunday paper. The younger lad is snoring again. A quick scan around and I notice I am among a gathering of switched off mums, and dads that are expected to step up to the entertainment mark. I spot the young lad is wearing his little brother's socks, but decide there's nothing I can do about it now.
6.00pm: After an afternoon of doing this, that and I'm not really sure what, though we did fit in time to see Hurricane Fly produce another classy performance in the build up to what promises to be a cracking Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, the door bell rings. It's the good woman. I hug her and squeeze her like she's just returned from the War. So does the young lad. And the younger lad too. The little people are bundled over and I go to the kitchen, open the fridge and hoover down an ice-cold Bud. I am proud of our survival. Then from the sitting room I hear, 'What has he got on his feet'...