If it isn't raining, it usually will have been at some point in the day, and there are plenty of wet places for Secundus to drag the bottoms of his trousers through. Being in the buggy prevents him from going on strike half-way to school and lying down on the pavement, silently, with mournful eyes, until I have to carry him the rest of the way over my shoulder. So rain is good.
We get to school and hang about for Prima to emerge, usually carrying her coat, wellies, three drawings, a water bottle, a letter for parents and an empty book bag. During the walk home we debate the purchasing of goodies from the baker's (always a no unless it is Friday), whether they can watch telly for the next three hours, and why so-and-so isn't so-and-so's friend any more. By the time we get back, one of us usually has wet feet, wet hair or wet pants. Sometimes the front door key sticks, sending Prima into a panic and increasing her need for the toilet fivefold.
Clattering in past the array of vast shoes, a bag of magazines for recycling and two crates of Hobgoblin, coats are discarded, bringing about the first of many requests to be reluctantly met that afternoon. Drinks are ordered. Snacks are prepared and eaten (apart from the crusts), alleviating the cries of "I'm hungry" for around thirty minutes.
The television debate begins - what to watch, how long for, where to sit etc etc. I catch up on emails, drink several coffees in quick succession and begin cooking tea, having set the dishwasher and hung more washing out on our Victorian-style airer. I go in to the front room periodically, to see how glazed-over their eyes are; it happens quite quickly if Ivor the Engine is on.
Sometimes I succeed in coaxing them away from the television. Prima loves listening to audiobooks and is often content to do anything or nothing as long as she can listen to Enid Blyton's The Mystery of Rat-a-Tat House. I would choose music every time, but her daddy is a Radio 4 addict, so I guess it comes from there. Her latest craze is making books such as "Songs and Rimes for Baybes". Secundus, always keen to watch anything on telly, will frequently deign to play Cbeebies computer games (I kid myself it's less passive) if "the television doesn't work anymore".
We all eat tea together when my OH comes home, usually in a fairly heroic, "I've done a day's work" manner. Most times I'll have actually cooked something but there are occasions when he's had to walk in and pick up a saucepan as soon as he's taken his shoes off. At least now I have an ally during the negotiations at the table, namely "Eating your Food", "Sitting on your Chair", "Who Needs the Toilet?", "Not lying under the Table", and "The Promise of Pudding".
I don't know what we do after tea, really, it just seems to go. Sometimes I'll wash up and we'll dance to such classics as Deee-lite's Groove Is In The Heart whilst clearing the table. Or my OH will spend a while in the front room with the kids, playing throwing games (throwing the kids), monsters, pirate, circus skills. Maybe Prima will read her book from school.
Depending on the injuries sustained during the games and the level of arguing and whining, bathtime is usually at about 7.00, often culminating in dramatic assertions from nearly six-year-old Prima that she is "Too tired" and "Can't Get Out of the Bath", "Can't get Dry" and "Can't get her Jamas on" and "Will Not Be Our Friend". Beginning the bedtime story (currently The Children of Cherry Tree Farm) in her absence usually convinces her to regain her skills.
By the time bedtime arrives, I don't know who is more frazzled. I have to work hard to stay patient and try to keep the atmosphere calm. Secundus loves listening to me sing so that's a good way to wind down, taking deep breaths and going through my repertoire of songs from the shows or from my childhood (think Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and The Only Living Boy in New York).
Prima is keen to join in and make up her own verses which can become rather epic, so we have discovered that CDs, such as those in the Magical Meditations for Kids range (Diviniti Publishing Ltd) are a good way to settle her down. Often I'll lie next to her on the bed and we'll both benefit from the chance to breathe deeply and slowly, perhaps for the first time that day, following a guided meditation. It only takes one track and we'll have been up in space or tried out a magic carpet, ventured to the end of the rainbow or met an angel. You can listen to sample tracks here.