My kids have some lovely toys. They really do. One of them is a particular favourite. Of mine, that is. It is a little tin with 10 very realistic looking bugs inside. It was bought at Dublin Airport by one of my sisters on her happy holidays as a present for Screecher Creature No. 1 and he loved it. He carried the lady bird and the dragon fly with him everywhere. And then one day the lady bird got pushed through the hole in the bath. Down the back. Never to be seen again. So now the tin contains 9 bugs. The only reason there are still 9 bugs left in the tin is because their anal mother does not allow them play with it any more. I did say it was a favourite of mine, didn’t I? Occasionally Screecher Creatures No. 1 and 2 will remember the Bug Tin and request it. It distresses me because while they are playing with it, I hover like a fervid OCD sufferer and bite my nails. I cannot relax. “Where’s the dung beetle?” I will cry out in alarm when he goes missing. “Don’t let him (Screecher Creature No. 3) have two, Conor. He’ll lose them.” And then, the first chance I get, I am scooping them up and counting them obsessively to make sure they are all present and correct. It’s the only way they still have them. There is no such thing as longevity with my boys. They also have all the little Toy Story characters that came from those €2 machines you see in the shopping centres. Buzz, Woody, Jessie et al came in about three or four little parts and I super glued them together to be forever frozen in stance. Then they “disappeared” into the lads’ memory boxes. As a keepsake for their own children. Yes, the irony of this is not lost on me. But such things have been known to come back into circulation and who knows, they could very well be a collector’s item one day. The boys are also the owners of a gorgeous wooden Noah’s Ark. This was a present from Santy in crèche a number of years ago. It came complete with Mr. and Mrs. Noah and a whole ensemble of beautifully painted wooden animals. I say “came complete” because an elephant was kidnapped on the day. I can still see the little girl clutching it but I didn’t know how to grab it from her hand without incurring the wrath of her parents. The only reason this, too, is still in existence is because I “minded it.” I put it In Storage Upstairs. The Screecher Creatures have no memory of it. It’s just too good for them to play with. This morning Screecher Creature No. 2 requested his Spiderman jigsaw book. This is a favourite and I admit it makes a regular appearance despite there being eleventeen hundred pieces to it. It came out from Storage Upstairs and Screecher Creatures No. 2 and 3 played with it for all of ten minutes before it was abandoned in favour of something on the telly. I collected up the pieces a grand total of 5 times. Head wrecker. It lives in an old Hoggis Figgis bag and I had forgotten that the bag also contains another hidden treasure; two little wooden trains with carriages that are made of initials to spell the names of our two oldest boys. I bought them at a French market. They used to have pride of place on a window sill in our old house but would be destroyed in an instant if they were left unattended today. So what are they allowed to play with I hear someone asking down the back? Well, everything else. See, our lads are very much outdoorsy types. If it’s wet and mucky; all the better. The trampoline is probably the best thing that came to live with us. It gets used each and every day without fail. They are also great little builders and love to construct whole cities out of their bin of blocks. Despite the fact that we plant acorns and conkers every year, the volume of paper they use for drawing has probably doubled our carbon footprint. And how could I forget how much they like to torture each other? For boys who have never seen wrestling, they’re bloody good at it! I suppose the Chinese burn trick was picked up in school and sure, once you’ve been the receiver of one, you know how to give in return. At this stage I truly believe every male has an innate knowledge of how to administer a dead leg. Head locks are a bit trickier but if their mother can master one (purely as a mechanism to get their coats on!) it would follow that learning is born of demonstration. Wedgies made a brief (get it?) appearance but must not have been a gratifying skill as it died a death. Thankfully. That’s one injury I don’t fancy explaining to the GP. There is a gadget, however, that holds them spellbound and is the cause of many loud and raucous arguments; Mister Husband’s phone. This is often used as a bribing tool and equally, a new game will be downloaded if they behave themselves when we’re out and about. It’s a business phone and naturally enough it will ring on occasion. Usually in the middle of a very difficult level on some game or other and the Screecher Creatures think nothing of disconnecting the incoming call. Lemme tell ya, hell hath no fury like a small boy when his game is interrupted, or indeed when he loses a life, thanks to a pesky client not having the sense to know better and hold off on his phone call until the game is finished. Currently, I am promoting teamwork and encouraging them to play nicely together, with varying degrees of success. Although there might be a nice surprise in the near future. Mister Husband has put his very excellent technical and drawing skills to work and drawn up an impressive blue print of a one roomed play house for them. Hold it right there!! That sound you just heard was my brain screeching to a halt. A one roomed play house for them? In keeping with my customary practice of removing their playthings, I fear this one will suffer the same fate. Except of course I cannot remove it per se. More like move into it. Now there’s a thought. I wonder, could it be sound proofed?