Men & Motors

>> Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Boy #1 is staying with his paternal grandmother for a few days so Boy #2 is taking advantage of the lull to make himself heard and to hone his conversational skills. Since staying with my parents on a farm a couple of weeks ago, any kind of heavy machinery elicits comment (what is it about men and motors?), and he now shouts 'Wow!' whenever we pass anything vaguely similar to farmyard equipment. (Frog in the Field - thank your lucky stars you have daughters). In urban ex-pat-ville this includes tractors, cranes, dumper trucks, rubbish trucks, and - most importantly - the rather more common-place flatbed truck. Since in this area home improvement is mandatory when you move, and flatbeds are builder's vehicle of choice whethere they are delivering a load of scaffolding or a single bolt, a simple walk to the shops turns into the toddler equivalent of a visit to Stringfellows...


August 21st, 2006

As a sign of how far we’ve come in the ‘portable family’ stakes, we went out for brunch this morning with friends. How very civilised…The only hiccup was when Boy #1 – plainly in need of the potty, hopping around like a rabbit and clutching himself in a Rod Stewart styley – refused to use either the portable potty or the loo in the disabled toilet. I had visions of vast quantities of wee engulfing the floor of the restaurant and being shunned by polite society for the rest of my life, so did what any self-respecting mother does in that situation. I sent in his father. Who of course got a result in less than 2 minutes. The phrase ‘a word from me and he does as he likes…’ keeps echoing through my head.

But... No pooh at all today. Am hoping for a result tomorrow morning like the one Husband got on Sunday but somehow I doubt it will be that easy. Spoke to a friend at the weekend who said that during her 'potty-training hell' (her words, not mine), she ended up frantically stalking her son around the house as he disappeared to furtively produce poohs – in places other than the potty, of course. Our flat isn’t that big but really don’t fancy games of hunt the pooh… unless we’re talking about the stuffed bear variety, obviously.

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She flies through the air with the greatest of ease...

>> Monday, 27 August 2007


I have to come clean here and tell you that we are not a sporty family. Well, how sporty can a Boy of nearly 4 years old and 19 month old toddler be, so in effect, I mean that Husband and I are not sporty. Husband can lay claim to some physical effort in his youth, having been in the Army, and having grown up in a naturally sporty country, but I came very late to the world of phsyical exertion. Had to be dragged into it kicking and screaming, almost. At school, I was usually last but one to be picked for any team games, and during tennis lessons our scarily masculine head of sports (I went to a convent - no prizes for guessing that one) would walk past me, sadly shaking her head and tutting loudly.

It was only when I got to my mid-20's and realised that periods of pizza-filled excess followed by crash diets weren't cutting it any more that I started to get into the gym thing, and I still have to force myself to make that effort now it's become even more necessary. I mean, who wants to go to some high-tech torture chamber to get hot, sweaty, and breathless (ooh-er, convent girl childish joke being choked back here), and not only have other people watch you do it but to have to watch yourself do it too in those horrific mirrors. But I digress...

The one area of my life (other than walking down the Kings Road) where I approach anything like enjoyment of an outdoor pursuit is cycling. A few years ago both Husband and myself bought ourselves a couple of cheap second-hand bikes, and most summers would find us pootling around central London, ignoring one way systems (in his case), and panicking at the sight of more than one lane of traffic (in my case). My Husband is Dutch, you see, and was practically born on a bike, so he shows a more than healthy disrespect for road rules, whilst I - brought up in a hilly area of West England - would no more put foot to pedal whilst growing up than I would have worn navy with burgundy (OK, so we all did, but you get my point). The arrival of Boys #1 and #2 didn't really slow us down; in true practical Dutch fashion, Husband simply went out and bought first one and then two child seats for his bike. He now cycles round ex-pat-ville with two winsome boys helmeted up front and back of him, breaking all the tourists and old ladies hearts.

However...

...however, today, he decided that he was sick of doing all the work in this relationship, and that we should try transferring one of the seats to my bike. Critically, the one that sits in front of him, which Boy #2 occupies. OK, I thought. He can do it, and never sees the inside of his gym from one year end to the next (Husband takes the most expensive swims on the planet, averaging out at around £600 per session if you take into account the amount he spends on membership vs the number of times he visits), and I can definitely beat him on the straight, so why not?

I'm sitting here now with a bandaged knee, sticking-plastered toe, and bruised wrist (not quite typing through tears of pain but wincing every now and again), and Boy #2 will probably never get on a bike with me again. We must have managed, oh, 1 meter? before I realised that a) my centre of gravity was now completely different to what I was used to, b) my knees would have to go round the outside of Boy #2 to pedal properly, c) I really shouldn't have worn a short(ish) skirt, d) annoyingly Husband was right and those sandals really weren't appropriate for cycling, and e) oooh, here's the ground coming up to meet me rather too fast for me to do anything other than protect my beloved son.

Lots of swearing - from me, lots of shocked (but thankfully not hurt) crying - from Boy 2#, lots of 'ooh look, blood mummy, blood!' from Boy #1, and a rather half-hearted attempt not to laugh (whilst transferring the seat back to his bike) from my beloved.

'Grace' is not my middle name.

So, potty diaries...


August 20th, 2006

I hardly dare say it but it all seems to be going spookily smoothly.

We’ve had no accidents over the weekend, the below-floor cables are still intact, and I haven’t drained the national grid with the washing machine and dryer running 24/7. What’s going on? The strange thing is that now Boy #1 is handling the whole thing in such a mature fashion I almost (but not quite) miss the interaction of changing his nappy… I remember when Boy #2 was first born, after the c-section I wasn’t allowed to lift his older brother (officially for 6 weeks. Does anyone actually stick to that?), so I had a break from changing him for a while. Consequently, the first time I did it – having only dealt with a scrappy, skinny little newborn bottom for the previous couple of weeks – changing Boy #1’s nappy seemed slightly obscene, like changing a teenager, and I couldn’t wait for him to be out of nappies. 7 months later and here we are, with the Thomas pants in full use in all their glory and his taking every opportunity to show off his new skill. Never thought I would feel ambivalent about it but actually….

And to cap it all, I was out of the house this morning and he actually did a poo in the potty. A poo! I know! Although I can’t believe he waited until I was out to proudly present the gift to his dad (typical). Probably the only time in Husband’s life he’ll be pleased to have someone hand him what was – apparently – a very impressive turd. Although of course to hear him speak it happens (metaphorically) all the time at work…

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Look after the pennies...

>> Saturday, 25 August 2007


Have just been reading (and admiring the nerve of) Dulwich Mum's blog, and it put me in mind of a very different conversation I had with Husband on the way home from our regular Friday night date (the only way that he and I get to spend time together awake and chat unencumbered with nappy changes, shouting toddler and pre-schooler, and distractions like picking crusty bits of Ready Brek out of the place-mats).

Whilst checking that we had enough cash to pay our babysitter, my beloved pronounced himself horrified that I wasn't sure if her rate was £8 or £8.50 per hour, and that I should make sure we weren't overpaying her as we are spending money like water at the moment. (Yes, it's school fee time for us too). I bridled at the suggestion that over-paying by a total of £2 was extravagent and countered by a) asking how much his new bespoke tailored jacket that he was wearing with such pride cost - to which he answered shamefacedly 'a lot', and b) by pointing out that we currently pay our cleaner more per hour than we do our baby sitter, which surely is not the right way round. At this point we parleyed and changed the subject...

But the best form defence is attack, and I have to admit that he may have had a point on my not knowing the babysitter's rate. Must try harder on the house-hold accounts...

Anyway, babysitting aside, here is Husband's second - and final - contribution to the Potty diaries (although don't worry, I do have plenty more of my own. Hurrah, I hear you cry...)


August 20th, 2006

Don't know how she does it (Husband here by the way).

Just when you think you have things under control with the one, the other starts crying for attention. I may soon have to concede that the weaker sex is superior in the multitasking arena.

Boy #1 is wearing his normal pants. Bit concerned as he has not done a pooh yet, and whilst at the time I was unaware of his earlier doing-the-business-direct-in-pants-experience, I understand the risks here clearly. He now dutifully asks to sit on his new potty and whilst I feel he is taking the Mickey when he after 5 times (each without any result, of course) asks again, naturally just as I sit down to give Boy #2 his bottle (probably because), I swiftly install him on his throne in the bathroom.

After nestling back on the sofa with my other son slurping on my lap I suddenly wake up (yes, I may have dozed off for a moment) as a potty - not the throne but an old one - is held under my nose by beaming Boy #1 exclaiming: 'dunna pooh, dunna pooh'. And so he had, quite an impressive one at that. Of course this result was all down to Papa parenting. So when PM returned, and I had the washing up done, bottles sterilised, flat cleared up (well in my definition anyway) I could detect her uttering a silent 'typical, here I am, toiling away every day and Boy #1 does this whilst I'm out'. Life just isn't fair.

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It takes two...

>> Wednesday, 22 August 2007

So the planning for Boy #1's party continues apace. Have just ordered what seems like a gargantuan amount of dinosaur kit on-line (sorry Frog in the Field, loved your stuff, but dinosaurs were demanded, so we had to go elsewhere). Am now hoping it will arrive on time - along with the party guests, who are being just a tad tardy in their replies. I guess that's what happens when you live in ex-pat central and send out invitations when most of the kids are sunning themselves in the south of France or wherever their yummy mums originally hail from (at the last count; France, Germany, Denmark, US, Spain, Italy, Australia, Thailand, Netherlands, and oh yes - Fulham). Sometimes it's just not glam being a white-bread Brit...

Am hatching plans for rebellion, however. It's de-rigeur round here to have not just the kids but also the mums / carers / ridiculously smart nannies at a party, but am wondering if there is a way out of this doubling-up... Had my eyes opened to this possibility by a friend who recently had 25 kids over for her little girl's 3rd birthday – and did not have their parents. Whisper it quietly, but it seems they were delighted to offload their little angels for a couple of hours. Mind you, this was in Teddington, rather than here where unfortunately, nobody seems to have told my neighbours about this revolutionary retro development... The one friend I’ve mooted it to so far gasped at the suggestion that she should – horror – leave her daughter in my care. So unless we manage to pull it off, for 15 kids read 15 hangers-on – who also need to be fed and watered for a couple of hours. I guess this is why you get the caterers in. Or don’t do it all… (Not an option for us now however, as I have just ordered clicked 'process order' on every piece of dinosaur merchandise that ever existed).

Onto the potty diaries. Bit of a departure here as last summer, in the thick of it, I actually got my husband to contribute his musings for a couple of days - and or course it was much more entertaining than my own thoughts. Typical. So I have included it for your amusement - although don't get too excited, this effort only lasted a couple of days. Men, huh?



August 19th 2006

Hello, my name is Husband, aka Dad. Am taking over for the day. Not just the diary but also the Boys, well tomorrow morning anyway but don't say I do not take my fair share of parental duties. Am the one who is always away and therefore is regularly accused of not taking my fair share, having it easy not being home all day, having all-day adult conversation (PM clearly has never been to my place of work), going non-stop to Starbucks with colleagues (filthy coffee machine in office kitchen more likely) and going to loo with the door shut (would quickly be spending more time at home if didn't). I guess life just isn't fair. Well after a week of little sleep, jetlag and no luggage I was told I would be getting the boys ready this morning while PM would be out. In honesty have been quite impressed she has got Boy #1 to sit down on potty regularly, even if with mixed result. The only way I can get him to sit still is turning on a Bob DVD (technology is Man's best friend).

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Nuts! Whole hazlenuts...

>> Monday, 20 August 2007


...and brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamia, pistachio, and pretty much any other nut you care to mention - I love them all. Which leaves me with a bit of a nutty problem, since nearly two years ago now we found out that Boy #1 is allergic. To all of those I already mentioned, and a few other beauties as well.

A period of intense research followed this discovery and we found - much to our dismay - that a lifetime of home-baking awaits, since unless they can prove otherwise most manufacturers find themselves legally required to include three little words - 'may contain nuts' - on all their packaging. Can't blame them, really, but it does somewhat limit our choices in pre-prepared food. Consequently I have become adept at producing home-made biscuits and muffins to keep Boy #1's sweet tooth satisfied, and have had to re-educate my husband on the ingredients commonly found in shop-bought goodies (yes, carrot-cake does usually contain walnuts; no, isn't it terrible that it isn't called carrot and walnut cake; yes, isn't all this checking of ingredients a pain in the backside; and so on). Luckily we've had relatively few incidents so have managed to avoid the dreaded culmulative effect that we've been warned about (repeated exposure to nuts for nut allergy sufferers can often make the problem worse rather than better). Now all I have to do is wait until he's 3 and then find out if Boy #2 is also allergic (have been warned it's a strong possibility), and then wrap them both in cotton wool. For the rest of their lives...

There have been some positive side-effects to this discovery, however. The afore-mentioned home-baking (although perhaps not so positive on my waistline). The increased understanding of how to work the NHS system - and that in amongst the red tape and jobs-worths there are some people who are truly amazing. My recent discovery of Pig in the Kitchen's fabulous blog full of 'free-from recipes' and amusing musings. And the fact that I can no longer have peanut butter lurking in the cupboard to mug me when I'm searching for what would otherwise be only a healthy rice-cake...(in my dreams, at least).

Enough self-indulgent bleating though - I know you only read this for my Potty training hints...


August 18th 2006

‘The mind is willing but the flesh is weak’… that pretty much sums up the impasse Boy #1 and I have reached on the potty training front today. Finally, he’s telling me he needs the potty – hurrah! However, he tells me this as he needs it, which is about 30 seconds too late for me to catch the torrent. And I mean torrent; when he wees it’s rather like watching a horse relieve itself…. Where he keeps it until that moment I just don’t know. Which is of course fine when he makes it to the potty in time (which happened twice today), but when he doesn’t (which happened 3 times), it’s all hands to the pumps, quite literally. Am starting to worry about the effect on the electrical cables under the floor-boards…

To top it all have now run out of kitchen roll (vital for clearing up the copious quantities of wee) so short of getting Macro to send a lorry with a bulk delivery overnight, may have to make a midnight flit to the mini-mart on the corner to deal with tomorrow mornings’ floods. Either that or will have to resort to using the unread copies of the FT that have backed up since Husband has been away. Should probably do that anyway as at least then I won’t have to own up to not having read them… (My husband thinks reading the FT would improve my knowledge of world markets. No potty training hints in there though, I’ve noticed. Or reviews of the latest chick lit novels. Or lists of summer activities for potty-challenged children. Or articles about carb-curfews helping you lose weight… Need I go on? Will let you draw your own conclusions about my usual response to those comments…)

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Whistle whilst you work...

>> Thursday, 16 August 2007



Am taking advantage of the lack of Boys (still living it up in fresh air with my parents) to start planning Boy #1's birthday party. Have just spent half an hour on-line surfing for vital supplies as the Event is – oh god – only 3 weeks away. Last year's party was a big success in a retro-styley (cakes and games in the garden, Thomas party bags etc etc), but suspect we will need to up the ante this time around. The silver lining is that his birthday is usually the first of the school year so at least we don't have to compete with previous extravaganzas (thank heavens 4 year-olds memories are relatively short...)

Boy #1 knows his birthday is coming and frequently wakes us in the morning singing ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ to himself. And then repeats it a few times – just to make sure we get the message. Am trying to keep it small (small is 10 – 15 kids, apparently. Who knew?), but have the dreadful feeling it could balloon out of control. Like the 3 year old’s party we went to recently where the birthday girl sat shivering in the corner whilst 40 (yes, 40, I counted them when they sat down for their bespoke miniature burgers and hot dogs) screaming children rampaged around the ‘venue’ scaring the pants off any adults foolish enough to get in their way. I expect Birthday Girl will still be talking to her therapist about that when she’s 40…

Anyway, potty training in retrospect....


August 17th, 2006

Found myself on my hands and knees before 9.00am clearing up the first puddle of the day. Decided drastic action was needed and bundled the Boys into the car to make the trip to Baby Central; Mothercare in Chiswick Retail Park. (It was full of just-so Richmond mummies who usually shop for their cherubs in Gap but just occasionally find themselves looking for a bargain in TK Max and take a wrong turn, then finding themselves beguiled by the 2 for 1 offers and the baby-changing facilities out back).


The omens were good when it only took an hour from the moment of my decision to leave to actually getting both little angels strapped into their car seats; double-quick time, something of a record. Once inside Mothercare’s brave new world, gave Boy #1 a mini-trolley to push (which he promptly ran into the back of my ankles) and we headed straight for the potty section. After the ankle slamming incident I let him go first… I don’t need telling twice. Gave him instructions to choose whichever potty he wanted, and after giving it much thought and test-driving a few (with clothes on, I might add), he selected what I can only call a throne, complete with Winnie the Pooh branding – so it obviously isn’t the license that is the problem. Just to be sure I also let him see me buying a few pairs of training pants (which if you are nearly 3 years old and concerned with your appearance are the sartorial equivalent of the brown Clarkes shoes our mums used to force us to wear when all the other 9 year-old girls where wearing white courts. Even though the court shoes made the daintiest feet look like ducks, I still wanted them…).

Amazingly enough, the throne has been used 3 times since we got home (along with, I suspect the bath – but one step at a time), and in a real milestone, was once actually requested, so am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that the trend will continue tomorrow. But Pooh has not seen any poo, so am now panicking when – and how – that is going to arrive...

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It's oh, so quiet...

>> Tuesday, 14 August 2007

...it's oh, so still...

London in August - I just love it. Nobody's here, at least, not in my little patch of it. Being lucky enough to live in ex-pat central all my neighbours in the French mafia have pushed off to visit friends / family / their second homes, some place far warmer and more exotic than here, so we basically have the place to ourselves. With the exception of the odd tourist, obviously. (Which wouldn't be at all bad if they didn't just stop dead every few steps to consult a map / take a sip of their bucket-sized Starbucks / peer into a shop window and gasp in horror at the prices).

The quiet is compounded for me just now as this morning I dropped both Boys down to my parents for a few days of fresh bracing country air - without me. Hurrah! But before you think I'm going to be taking advantadge of this opportunity for late nights and lie-ins, I would like to assure you that my beloved Husband has laid on a fun-filled schedule of carpet installations, boiler services, house-hold chores and car services. Just in case I get bored, you understand. Darn it.

Taking advantage of a moment of calm, however, I was looking through the potty diaries and believe that I may have found a gap in the market for Mr Tiffany of New York. Jewellery - aaaah.... Am not so shallow as to covet this sort of thing myself, you understand, but think I might contact them to suggest a new charm bracelet – for mothers, of course, and encrusted with diamonds, obviously – that you can add items to signifying rites of passage in your childs’ life as follows;

Birth: a miniature silver hypodermic (for the elective caesarean or at the very least, the epidural – god bless the person who invented that, by the way, god bless them…)
Breastfeeding: a miniature silver tube of camilosan, (or a savoy cabbage leaf if you are more ‘naturally’ inclined)Teething: miniature silver tube of calgel (or miniature bottle of Rescue Remedy for the mother)
Introduction of Solids: miniature silver clothes peg – like the one you need on your nose when you change baby’s first resulting nappy
Potty training: a miniature silver mop and bucket

And so on…

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>> Wednesday, 8 August 2007

So the summer holidays are still going, so I took the boys to Legoland on Monday to try and break the monotony; not the biggest success in terms of rides achieved since they were both a little too young for a lot of them, but both were totally bowled over by the mini-world. If I'd only known before-hand that a lego train was all it took to ensure total harmony and silence as they stared, fascinated, at the miniature version of Holland and the trains trundling along the dykes... It went completely over my head - but perhaps this is a man-thing.

On to the retrospective view of potty training...


August 16th 2006
Well, dear reader, wish I could give you better news, but Potty Training today was a bit of a wash out…(pun intended). Think the final total was 4 accidents. Not that I should call them accidents really as am convinced Boy #1 knows exactly what he’s doing (notice how even when he’s not distinguishing himself can’t stop the ‘isn’t my son clever?’ attitude of all mothers shining through…). Have resolved that if the Monday night success stands alone by the end of the week, we will forget the whole thing for a few weeks and then start again. When he’s at school, maybe. Or even university?

Received one boost though – bumped into an ex-neighbour of mine at the park with her older child – 3 in June - and spotted his training nappies. Hurrah! Am not alone after all! However, they are off to the grandparents at the weekend for a fortnight and she seems convinced her mother will sort things out. Hmmm. Must have a word with mine…

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Keep young and beautiful...

>> Sunday, 5 August 2007

Stop the press; I have discovered a gap in the market for a great motivational tool for gym users. Those of us who have ‘work’ to do on our physiques should be issued with some kind of virtual glasses that show you what your body could look like if you kept it up 3 times a week. Instead, of course, they put all those torture instruments slap bang in front of the mirrors to remind you what the results are when you don’t… And yes, I know that it’s just as easy to look at the babes on MTV writhing around on the 300 tv screens positioned directly above said mirror, but really, the Pussy Cat Dolls? If I wanted a lap dancing show I would not go to the gym. Of course, I could watch the other gym users, but with a few blessed exceptions their physiques just remind me how good I used to look – not that I knew it then of course. 2 pregnancies and one c-section later even size 12 seems a distant memory… I must, I must, I must increase my bust – and decrease everything else.

Onto more important things than my losing battle with the scales - potty training

August 15th

Had a breakthrough yesterday. Not only did Son #1 manage to stay in the same pair of pants all day (yes, Mickey was saved from a watery grave), but he actually asked to use the potty before his bath – and then delivered. Hal-le-lu-jah! Not sure why or how it happened – possibly because I had the taps on full blast to encourage him, but happen it did.

But today – well let’s just say that will teach me not to count any more chicks. We started OK, but within 15 minutes of the Mickey pants going on I found him leaning on the loo in the bathroom delivering his morning poo. Into his pants. Was reduced to empty threats like ‘If I put you in Mickey pants and you wee in them, Mickey will get wet’. Was rewarded with a look that clearly said ‘Of course he will Mum – isn’t that the point?’

In brief, am feeling downcast as he then refused to use the potty at all – and after so distinguishing himself yesterday. Even worse, my student phobia has returned and I have no doubt the bath was more than tap water by the time he got out. Ho hum.

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And so the summer holidays trundle on...

>> Wednesday, 1 August 2007


...and on... and on...

I have to ask myself if I'm not bringing it on myself, though. I mean, what sensible person would sign their child up for a nursery that takes 6 weeks off, necessitating the herculean task of organising a play schedule to keep their 4 year old despot entertained for said period? No sensible person, that's who. It wouldn't be so bad of course, if said 4 year old showed proper gratitude and understanding of the effort involved, but these pampered princes and princesses we've created simply ask "what's next?" as soon as each carefully chosen activity is finished. Yes, have definitely brought this one on myself...

Potty training, though...


August 14th 2006

Potty training; guess what, nothing doing at with Son #1 after a week at Mum& Dad’s, so we’re trying again.


However, whilst he has stayed dry all morning in his Mickey Mouse pants (apart from one unfortunate incident on my pillow – my pillow, get that for passive-aggressive), he has also refused point blank to produce anything on the potty. Apart from a repeat of the Shhhhhh sound, of course. Am at my wits end. He’s back in a nappy for his nap now of course – and no doubt will fill it to the brim with all the stuff he’s been holding back all morning, lovely. Well, at least I know that he has some kind of control; it just seems that the need to perform gives him stage fright. Perhaps a more sympathetic licence on the potty would work. But what? Really wouldn’t have thought cuddly Winnie the Pooh would have been too intimidating - although perhaps the name is just resulting in too much pressure…

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