Monday, 28 February 2011


The snowdrops are getting drenched outside, and they look very sad about it. Ana is convinced that we are under attack by a vicious gang of rain fairies. As a wiser scribbler than I might say in this situation: the sun is not shining, it is too wet to play, so we sit in the house on this cold, cold, wet day.

Thing One and Thing Two.

Last weekend, Ana and Papa busied themselves by finding computer ghosts in the closet, 'fixing' them, then sailing them off to the electronic tip in the sky. When they ran out of computer components to hammer on, they started building shapes out of marshmallows and chopsticks. Then they ate the marshmallows. Then they made more shapes for the purposes of eating more marshmallows. Not a bad way to learn about geometry, or about marshmallows.

I was consumed by cabin fever, so we popped out to the woods to check for super-duper-early bluebells. Naturally this silly idea led to more rain and zero bluebells.
Have you tried turning it off and on again? 
Of course, some wonderful things come out in the rain. Wiggly worms, puddles, the aforementioned malicious rain fairies. But rain does lead to soaking, which - as the snowdrops would tell you if they could - is sort of a drag. We braved garden playtime yesterday for a spell anyway. Ana spotted a frog, which upon closer inspection turned out to be two frogs. 'Looooook!' she bellowed in delight. 'The mama frog is hugging the papa frog!'

If my neighbourhood frogs are already so bursting with springtime enthusiasm, then I suppose sunshine, bluebells and an army of tadpoles must be just around the corner. I can only hope that Ana never outgrows her tendency to confront the general silliness of reality (and surely frog dating falls under silly) with relaxed cheerfulness - in part so that our future bird and bee conversations will be fairly straightforward.

But that's years away. For now it's still raining, and the speakers in my head are playing this song (of which Papa does an excellent rendition by the way):

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Thursday, 24 February 2011


I work a tough gig: 100-hour weeks, rubbish pay, no benefits, zero CV points. My boss has a Napoleon complex, and although I have a lovely, mature job-share counterpart, I also have an infantile colleague. The demands of my job leave no time for adopting any apparent hairstyle, or scrubbing that eternal ketchup spatter-pattern off my shirt. I get less respect than estate agents (impossible, I know) and I don't even have a water cooler to gossip around.

All fine by me. Really. I'm a tough cookie.

But there's one thing I can't abide about this job: no sick days. Not a one. You see, just like dignified humans with intentional hairstyles, even a mean, cranky mother like me gets truly gobsmackingly ill sometimes.
Help me 7UP, you're my only hope. 
Like last weekend, when I began to exhibit symptoms of the aforementioned gobsmacking plague, picked up at a wretched hive of germs and villainy, or 'playgroup' as it is known locally. My megalomaniac boss had no sympathy. My colleague could neither think outside the cereal box, nor collate lunch.

Things were looking dire. I began putting my affairs in order. But then my lovely job-share partner packed me off to bed and managed to gracefully placate both the colleague and the boss (the latter expressed her gratitude by flinging food and and sneering 'GOOGALIBABABA' in his general direction).

I am still feeling awfully sorry for myself, but thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and 7UP, the prognosis has improved from 'hopeless' to 'moderate blerg'.

The moral of this self-indulgent whine is: we all need somebody to lean on - especially us ketchup-spattered professionals in my tough line of work. Even a real toughie needs an occasional break from swimming with short sharks.

I really must inquire with my HR manager about flexible hours and work/life yadayada. Though I fear her response will be 'GOOGALIBABABABA!' and pasta-flinging.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Gingerbread girl

Ana has a patented 'proximity to head' system for ranking toys and various other objects. Cookie cutters command much respect in her hierarchy.  
Cookies on the brain. 
A flour-dusted, sticky-fingered expression for The Gallery hosted by the marvelous Tara Cain.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Adios Creepy Dog

Contrary to the normally downbeat editorial tone here at Chaos HQ, I am pleased to bring you a rare feel-good happy ending story - consider it the silly pet tale at the end of the grim evening newscast. You know, the one that leaves you grinning like an idiot and muttering 'aw shucks' even though the world is on fire in eleventy places.

You may recall that I recently embarked on massive toy purge that left Creepy Dog and his brethren bound for the tip. But at the eleventh hour, a lovely family decided to adopt him and a handful of the other doomed plastic cheep and nasties. I would tell you more about the family, but they are now in a witness protection program. Anyway, they wouldn't have time to respond to press queries because they are busy reading 'Cujo' and re-thinking their hasty adoption decision.
Pack your doggy bag. 
I can hardly believe my luck. Having finally managed to pass the curse on, I embark on a new chapter in my life. I've lived for so long with the curse that I am left with a sort of empty creepy nest feeling.

Happy trails Creepy Dog. Good luck new family - time and sanity allowing, I hope you will carry the creepy mantle and report back on the doings of your new, moderately psychopathic canine companion.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Directive's cut

Ana is enchanted with WALL-E. She lives on a spaceship with EVE (a renamed snowman toy), boot and plant. Together, they are determined to carry out DIRECTIVE. Upon a mountain of very cute past contenders, it is in fact the very cutest thing she has ever done.
Coming down to the ground.
I am a WALL-ite too, having now watched the flick with her eleventy-hundred times. When I see WALL-E and EVE dance in space, propelled by a fire extinguisher, music and their own laughter, it strikes me as the most wonderful and romantic piece of cinema on record. And the film even features pizza plants - who doesn't want one of those?

Nothing compares to Ana's beloved robot, but these four come next in my mind:
  1. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983). For the Anglo-American dinner party sketch (with no balls), featuring the Grim Reaper and fatal salmon mousse. 
  2. Lilo and Stitch (2002). Because I essentially live with both a Lilo and a Stitch, which serves as a daily reminder that ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind (or forgotten). 
  3. The Fifth Element (1997). Luc Besson, Mila Jovavich, a bunch of aliens and Bruce Willis. What's not to love? 
  4. The Milagro Beanfield War (1988). About a magical lost corner of the world, featuring a pig called Lupita, and the notion that nobody would do nothing if they knew what they were in for.  
Clearly, with two kids movies in the list, I need to get out to the cinema more. Thanks to Kate Takes 5 (of television fame - congratulations) for another great listography idea. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Peas in a painted pod

In this house, we find that Jackson Pollock research is a good bonding activity. This is a post on togetherness for Tara Cain's Sticky Fingers Gallery.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a shape sorter? 

Monday, 14 February 2011

When you wish upon a heart

I am embarrassed to admit that I forgot about Valentine's Day until this morning. But I've been inspired by the lovely Moi and Listography committees (thanks guys, a great idea) to make a wanted list anyway.
Doesn't matter who you art. 
In the spirit of heart day, I the aforementioned forgetful procrastinator wish for:
  1. What she's having. That is, dinner for two at the Cinnamon and Truffle cafe, especially the scallops and sticky toffee pudding. 
  2. For the many winter plagues that have descended upon our poor accursed home to depart. The power of Calpol compels you. 
  3. For a truly good night's sleep, followed my children bringing me a wonderfully calorific fried breakfast in bed at about noon (in ten years - one can dream).
  4. For this tentative sunshine to blossom in confidence and stick around a while. 
  5. Waffles and love songs, both home-made. Two things my life has been so abundant and blessed with for the past, wonderful, decade of co-existence with my beloved. 
Happy heart day, from all of us here at Chaos HQ.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


The Mañana mothership has transitioned from to (please forgive any minor hiccups, the old url should still work). I have high hopes that the hyphen in the new url will clear up any pronunciation confusion - because after all, any normal human when subjected to such a lengthy 'm' and 'n' trainwreck as 'mananamama' (not to mention tildes), would naturally say it thus:

I like to think of this as the unnofficial blog theme, at least this its the noise going in my head most days. Manamanamanamana...

This week at Chaos HQ

My favourite picture from recent days.
Kid batteries need recharging. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Flying in thunderstorms

February in England, and in the overworked insult to injury department, it's raining. No thunder, no lightning, no terrifyingly beautiful thunderheads, just drizzle. Blerg above, blerg below, a generous helping of blerg on the side. 

 But on the bright side, the lovely Polish Mama on the Prairie has given Mañana Mama the Versatile Blogger Award - high praise indeed for an old stuck-in-a-rut type like me - thank you Polish Mama. As per the terms of the honour, here follow three mostly true trivialities about me (more versatile bloggers than I go for seven, but I'll stick to three to save on reader eye-strain).  

Firstly, I am a bookish* Lutheran from a Catholic town, which means that I am contractually obliged to regard Garrison Keillor as the patron saint of English majors everywhere.

Secondly, Cassiopeia is my favourite constellation in all of the big, black night sky. Sometimes I step outside, close my eyes, and picture Cassiopeia etched on the backs of my eyelids. Before you call me a wierdo, remember I live in Britain, where 'looking at the stars' is an old Scots phrase that means 'use your flipping imagination'. 

And lastly, a rambling childhood ghost** resurrected in my mind by the pitter-patter of little raindrops outside.
I grew up down a bumpy dirt road that crossed an arroyo by way of a dirt bridge*** with a tin culvert in the middle. One summer thunderclouds rolled over the llano in June and didn't leave until September. And one afternoon in that monsoon summer it rained - as per my favourite agricultural phrase -  like a cow pissing on a flat rock. A torrent of angry muddy water filled the arroyo and then - with a terrifying boom - blew the culvert clear out of the bridge like a cannon shot. When the flood subsided we found the culvert farther down the arroyo, washed up like a sad, beached corrugated whale in a sand bank. And there is stayed for years. 

There were huge, lush, neon-green weeds everywhere that summer, covered in velvety black caterpillars - a bit of a fluke in the high desert. In June a flotilla of construction vehicles descended on the neighbourhood to widen the narrow highway that connected our culvert-less dirt road to town. The builders paved the new stretch of road parallel to the old one, working hard all morning to drop tools by late afternoon. In the quiet evenings, my dad and I would sneak into the site armed with a pink bike and a set of training wheels, and he taught me how to ride.

The tarmac was so smooth, smoother than the proverbial baby's backside, and while I peddled like mad down the newborn road, wind in my face, the smell of the warmed summer earth and car exhaust in my nose, I used to shut my eyes and pretend I was flying.

On a good day, that's what it feels like to sit down to plonk out some nonsense on a keyboard. 

Learning to fly, ain't got wings. 
    Anyway, in the spirit of versatility, and for any reader left awake, here's a handful of the wonderful stuff I like to read, when not otherwise occupied with imaginary stargazing and a Prairie Home Companion.
    To all the above: it is always such a pleasure to read your work - thank you for sharing it. Please feel free to pass on the versatility bug (or not) as, if and when you see fit.

    In the meantime, rain, rain go away.

    *A devastating condition for which there is no known cure.
    **Really quite rambling, so permission granted to commence TLDR now.
    ***You may have noticed a general 'dirt' theme at work in my life by now. 

    Monday, 7 February 2011

    Even pack rats get the blues

    I live in a homing beacon for crap toys. For the past three years an entire galaxy of 'cheap and nasties' (term courtesy of A&E Mum) has found the magnetic draw of my house irresistible. My research indicates that this is due to my home's geographical location on the conversion point of two ancient polymer ley linesit is essentially a semi-detached plastic henge.

    For the first three years I didn't mind. I became a bit of a toy-pagan myself. My Mama Stockholm Syndrome reasserted itself and I began identifying with the junk, even giving the most hateful bits names: Creepy Dog, Molly Dolly, etc. But the clutter that alighted innocently at first began to flock in an increasingly Hitchcock-esque manner. Before long there was something menacing and undeniably stickerman about.
    The Clutterati. 
    Things went bump in the nightagainst the arch of my foot any time I was so foolish as to set foot out of bed. By day I was mad-dogged by their fearsome leader. Sometimes I could have sworn that he changed location without any human moving him.

    One morning I had a premonition of a mighty judgement coming: a vision of myself turned into a plastic cat lady, buried under shape sorters and poorly-drawn fake plastic kitchen food. Clearly something had to be done. But for the life of me, I couldn't think of what.

    Then, while stumbling over toys one day, I landed upon an insightful documentary on this very subject called 'Toy Story 3'. Inspired, I commenced operation 'Crap Toy Desertion'. Now the teeming plastic masses are in bin bags in the garage, bound for the charity shop (which is where most of them came from in the first place).

    Riding off into the fake sunset. 
    I can once again walk across my own sitting room without risking foot injury. All that remains is to hang garlic above the doors to prevent a recurring infestation.

    I feel unburdened, weightless, peaceful, as I sit here. The first toy was the hardest to toss. But each one became easier, more rewarding, until I was chucking them into bin bags more rapidly than Sylvester McMonkey McBean throws Sneeches into his Star-On machine.

    Hang up your plastic saddles. 
    I had a joyous epiphany: having children doesn't have to mean a houseful of crap. Funniest thing about possessions: they grow to possess you, if you don't show them the door first.

    Saturday, 5 February 2011