Two nights she has pulled 'My eardrum hurts.' Now, Ivy is a seasoned theatrical actress. It's not her first time around the boards. She's been honing her craft since her early pre-verbal head-banging performances. By age five, she has developed a subtle style. Both Keith and I have fallen for the sickness at dinner-time ploy (and once memorably, refused to be fooled. 'Nope!' I insisted one night. 'Your tummy does not hurt! You will sit there until you finish your vegetables!' Sit there she did. Until she vomited with the beginnings of a gastro bug.)
You cannot sneakily pass a quick hand over Ivy's forehead to check for fever. She clocks it. And she knows, then, that she has found a chink in your armour. I went along with possible-ear-infection for a while but I knew Ivy was acting when she forgot which ear was hurting. 'Wasn't it the other ear before?' I asked as she held a cold washer to her face. 'It's....moving!' she said quickly. 'I think it's moving around.'
Teddy had been quietly watching this medical drama unfold. 'My regg!' he suddenly wailed. 'My regg is hurting!' Ivy looked at him with horror and then back at me. 'That's not real!' she shouted. 'It's not even real!' Ah yes, I thought. The day has come for the student to betray the teacher.
'My regg!' Teddy moaned, waving both legs in the air.
'That's it from both of you,' I said. 'No more banana work. Go to sleep.'
Last night, Ivy didn't go near the ears. Instead, she complained about the smell in her room. I went in to check. 'Oh, it's fine', I told her. But it did actually stink. 'Go to sleep.'
I went out to ask Keith if he'd noticed a smell in the kids room.
'What does it smell like?' he asked. I thought about it. 'Sort of like a cross between Dencorub and shit,' I said. 'Well, I did put Dencorub on Ivy's foot earlier...' he said. 'So it's just shit then,' we agreed. And we laughed. Like the evil parents we are.
The crying continued. 'It really stinks!' Ivy sobbed. ' I can't sleep in this smell!' Both Keith and I went in and turned the light on. We inspected the room but there was no obvious stains. We questioned Teddy but he denied poo crime.
'I think it's my foot,' she whimpered. Keith smelt her feet. 'Well, Ivy,' he said - always the meticulous scientist - 'you seem to have a small amount of foot odour but that's not the big stink.' I laughed. I couldn't help it. Poor Ivy was infuriated. Eventually she went off to sleep. This morning Keith found a rotting lizard in a bucket outside her bedroom window.
Ms McIntosh, this is your fifteen year call. Ms McIntosh, the Oscars stage in fifteen years.