Musings on Moscow

>> Saturday, 31 October 2009

I've been thinking about our forthcoming move. Of course if you are kind enough to read The Potty Diaries regularly, you'll know that train of thought has been going on for a while now, but I've summarised my current feelings over on Powder Room Graffiti, so once again I'm going to send you over there...

Note: I would reproduce it all here to save you the click, but once they accept an article from me, I'm not allowed to - which is absolutely fair enough... (And come on, it's a Saturday!)

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What's important when you're 6 years old...

>> Friday, 30 October 2009

So according to Boy #1, the Potty Family is poor. I was somewhat confused by this, as we may be many things (in transit for starters), but 'poor' is not a word I would usually use to describe us.

I mean, OK, in comparison with many of our swankier Porsche Cayenne-driving, nanny-toting, business-class-travelling neighbours I suppose we couldn't be described as 'rich', not materially, in any case, although frankly they can keep most of those trappings of wealth. Except the business class travel, obviously. And perhaps the 5 bedroom houses. And the account at Lidgates Butchers, definitely. But apart from that, they can keep it all.

But we are not by anyone standard's 'poor' - except, it seems, Boy #1's. Interested to understand the basis for this statement, I questioned him closely. We have somewhere to live. We have plenty of food, and enough clothes to wear. We even go the cinema ocassionally (we went to see Fantastic Mr Fox yesterday. Great film - for adults. A bit boring for the kids though, in my humble opinion...). Anyway. Why did he think we were poor?

"Well, you know."

No, no I don't.

"You do, yes, you know."

No, I really don't.

"Because we never have CHIPS! So we must be poor..."

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Nowhere Near Wordless Wednesday...

>> Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I don't post family portraits - or even individual ones - as a rule. It's a privacy / anonymity / keeping Husband sweet thing really, underlain by a hefty dose of paranoia about what might happen to photographs of my sons if they got into the wrong hands. And apologies if that sounds a little dark, but I've just put down this weekend's issue of the Sunday Times Magazine, and the piece about child abuse will stay with me for a while...

So it was with some relief this evening that I saw Insomniac Mummy had given me a distraction from that when she tagged me on the Picture Perfect meme. The rules are:

Ask your child (regardless of age) to draw a picture of you.
Post it on your blog.
Tag others if it floats your boat.

I'm bending the rules slightly as I'm using one Boy #1 drew of the Potty family this morning, when I was being Educator Mummy (for which read; casting about desperately for any half term activity that didn't involve the television, a trip to the cinema, or a fight with his brother).

In an attempt to start building bridges to his new school in Moscow (where he has a desk, a coat hook, and a locker with his name on it already, all the while being absent himself), I suggested that he draw a picture of his family and write a very short note introducing himself to his new classmates. So of course, when I saw Insomniac Mummy's tag I was delighted to be able to say, in my best Blue Peter styley, 'Here's one I made earlier'...

And, oh yes: you will note that we are all in disguise. And no, we don't all have snooker balls on our heads, those are lions' manes. And tails. Of course. And whilst it looks like Boy #1 is carrying a handbag, that is in fact his brother's left hand - or rather, paw. I'm not sure if the fact that it's so large is some not-so-subliminal comment by Boy #1 on his brother being grabbing and grasping, or just a struggle with perspective...

Anyway, here we are: Me, Boy #2, Boy #1 and Husband lined up in all our glory.


















Damn. That's the anonymity thing shot to hell, then...

If you would like to participate in this meme, please consider yourself tagged and just leave a comment so I can take a look at your disguise. I know I'm supposed to nominate but I've got a kill to make for the pride and it's getting late...


Note: This post was supposed to be part of Wordless Wednesday. Fat chance. I never managed to do one of those yet...

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More stuff and nonsense

>> Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Apologies; a self-indulgent rant follows. I would click away now if I were you...


Last week I had a too-close encounter with another car. Below is a paraphrased e-mail I sent today to my insurance company - with one or two amendments for the sake of entertaining t'internet...


To whom it may concern (is anybody listening? Hello? Helloooo? Anybody?),

following my conversation earlier today with a member of your 3rd party team regarding claim no: xxxx, (where it became clear to me that not a single fact I have previously provided you with about this incident has actually been filed anywhere useful or accessible), please find attached a scanned copy of the letter I recieved from the 3rd Party's solicitor Claimit & Rip M. Orf this morning, along with two photographs of both cars involved in the accident.

As I stated on the phone in our earlier call, I seriously doubt that there was any injury at all sustained by Mr X (other than, it seems, some damage to his reality filter); at the time he appeared fine and stated to me that he might not even make a claim, and in that case he would simply ask me to make good the damage to his car by paying a garage of his choice to repair it. I am not however disputing that this accident was my responsibility, and for your records what happened was as follows:

At approximately blah time on blah date, I was turning right onto Busy Road from Quiet Back Route Lane. Mr X was coming from the opposite side of the crossroads and was going straight over. (He saw me coming). He stopped suddenly (he said at the time this was to avoid a cyclist) (whom I never actually saw but who's existence I didn't question at the time because I am a gullible twit) at which point my driver's door scraped his rear bumper. I fully accept that this was my fault, and was because I had wrongly anticipated that his car would have moved from the point where I actually hit him when I started the turn (So sue me. Oh, right. He is doing...)

I was driving at no more than 5 miles an hour at the time. It is possible to see that my speed was not excessive from the photographs attached (both timed and dated) which I took with my phone (because apparantly although I may be a gullible twit I am, thank god, not a stupid one), where it is clear that neither my door nor Mr X's bumper are even dented; they are only scratched (a good clean and a bit of turtlewax would probably take it out, but let's not split hairs). Whilst I have not of course seen him since the accident and so don't know about any long term physical effects he's suffered, nor been present at any assessment of damage to his car, it seems excessive for him to claim not only for a replacement vehicle but for whiplash as well, when it was a relatively minor incident (which resulted in the need for only cosmetic repairs to a car that was frankly in not that good a state to begin with. And his car wasn't that great, either...).

Please note that as requested during my conversation with your office (call centre), I have contacted Claimit & Rip M. Orff by telephone and spoken to Mr D'Odgy, and have given him your details and the claim reference number. I have also explained to him, as you requested, that from this point on all contact should be between them and yourselves, (instead of the almost daily calls from various legal representatives of the Mr X asking me to repeat again - and again and again and again - the details of the accident. The reasons for which - now that I've recieved their letter - have become clear; I've been blithely giving them the true story whilst he has been making me out to be the worst driver since Dick Dastardly, and the two stories clearly don't match.). Mr D'Odgy has confirmed that he now has all the information he requires and that I do not need to forward him any further information on this matter.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or need further clarification on this matter. (I appreciate that it's not my decision as to how you proceed with this but personally I think Mr X is taking the michael something awful and if you fall for this then I may well be forced to take my business elsewhere, since paying out for such nonsense claims is obviously where my too-high premiums are going.) (Or I will, once I get my no-claims bonus back, that is). (In about 10 years, probably).

Best regards,

Potty Mummy


Right, now that's out of my system, it's time to deal with the pr exec who sent me a useless non-Potty-Diaries-relevant press-release and then followed it up only 10 minutes later with a second e-mail chasing me on whether or not I was going to use it...


And - breeeeaaaaathe.

Note: normal service - possibly featuring Boy #2's Patented Pooh Classification System - will resume tomorrow.

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Things I will teach my sons...

>> Monday, 26 October 2009

(with apologies to their father and grandfathers, and reminders to them that blogging is all about poetic licence...)


That no matter how neatly or tidily a wet flannel is folded and placed on edge of the bath, it will still get all skanky and smelly. Hang the damn' thing over a tap, the edge of the bath, the showerhead, towel-rail, please!

That socks don't pair themselves.

That on the floor by the bed is not the same as in the laundry basket.

That the women in their lives are far more likely to return their affection if the washing up is done without the fact that it is sitting in the sink waiting needing to be mentioned.

That long-ago promises to unload the dishwasher (in the face of a wife's refusal to use it because of her childhood memories of parental arguments over who's job it is to do so) have not been forgotten.

That the dishwasher fairy is a myth.

That Muriel the invisible housemaid is not invisible because she is a gift from god, but invisible because she too is a myth.

That removing an empty packet of cornflakes from the cupboard, putting it in the recycling bin, and kindly requesting that she who is in charge of the shopping replace it is far more likely to result in cornflakes for breakfast the next day than than simply leaving the empty packet there and hoping she senses it's finished.

That changing the toilet roll is not an affront to manhood.

That it is does matter which way round the toilet roll faces.


I could go on - but I'll spare you...

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British Mummy Blogger of the Week

>> Sunday, 25 October 2009

One of the unexpected benefits of blogging - for me, at any rate - has been the fact that it gives me the opportunity to record 'interesting' thoughts. You know the sort of thing; those 'aha!' moments that you have whilst putting on the laundry, doing the shopping or during the school run, and which hang around for all of 2 or 3 hours before disappearing into the great filing cabinet that is your brain, never to be found again. I've frequently found myself talking to Husband, family or friends and thinking 'I know I had an intelligent thought this morning / last night / last week, and at the time I thought I must tell x. But what the hell was it?'

Well, here, on the day that the clock goes back and we gain an extra hour, is mine:

Why don't we make this day of the year - the day of the extra hour - Mother's Day?

Oh sure, I know Mother's Day is supposed to be all about being treated by your family, not having to lift a finger, and generally relaxing, but who gets to actually experience that - all day? So my proposal is that whilst we don't lose the opportunity to kick back and relax, we do it on a day when we all get an extra hour in bed and as a result we're so much better to equipped to cope with it if we the promised 'Mother's Day' treatment doesn't really appear...


Anyway, enough wittering. Living in a central London flat without a garden and with two children for whom mud is something to be looked at from the safety of the path rather than played in, it I'm not automatically the target audience for a blog about gardening, but this week's British Mummy Blogger of the Week has pulled me on board. Dawn Isaacs writes of herself:

'Once upon a time I led a glamorous life. I designed gardens for fabulous clients on big budgets. I created an award-winning Chelsea Flower Show Garden. I wore clothes that weren't decorated with baby vomit. Then I had a family... Now I live in a tiny Cambridgeshire village and, between doing the school run, changing nappies and dealing with tantrums, I try to pass on my love of gardening to my three children - Ava (6), Oscar (4) and Archie (1).'

And if you ever wondered how Michelle Obama and Nina and the Neurons could feature in the same post, here's a master class.

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

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Time moves on - and now Boy #1 understand how.

>> Saturday, 24 October 2009

Reviews are funny things. I get a fair few requests in my Potty Mummy inbox to take a look at things, view movies, and try stuff out, and I have to say that since most of it is not in the slightest bit relevant to my life or The Potty Diaries, I don't take the bait. Every now and again though, a brand or a pr agency scores a direct hit, and I bite. It happened with Keycamps and Little Dish in the summer, with Dyson last February, and with Disney Blu-Ray over the last few months.

The secret to getting my attention? There is no secret, it's an out and out matter of luck. If the timing's right, and the product's right, I'll probably do it. I'm not sniffy about these things; if a pr agency wants to include me on their mailing list they have every right to do so, just as I have every right to either refuse (or even ignore) their kind offer, and to be completely honest with any readers of the blog about my reaction to a product if I decide to participate.

So when an e-mail dropped into my inbox entitled: 'Aramazu - new way of teaching children to tell the time - proven to work', it was purely a matter of luck that I had just that week been thinking 'I really need to start thinking about teaching Boy #1 how to tell the time'. Mainly because if he can, then those early morning shouts at 6.00am regarding whether it's time to get up yet might stop happening.

I mean, 6.00am? That's just so rubbish. At 5.30am, even 5.45am, you can with justification think; 'loads of time, let's go back to sleep, tomorrow hasn't properly started yet'. But 6.00am? Personally I just lie there thinking 'Must sleep... is the dishwasher going to beep and wake them up again? Better go and turn it off... Must sleep... Got to remember to put the recycling boxes out for collection today. Must sleep... Did I wash Boy #1's pullover? Oh bxgger. Might as well just get up.'

Anyway. Aramazu. I took them up on their kind offer and recieved through the post (which given current Royal Mail performance is a miracle in itself), 3 books and an Aramzu Mountain watch. Of course, we didn't get round to using it straightaway, but on Wednesday afternoon Boy #1 and I sat down and looked at the first book:

'Aramazu; The Learn to Tell the Time Right Now Book' (for children who can count to 60)

Within 20 minutes, using the book and the card clock supplied with it, Boy #1 understood the concept of hours and was able to tell the o'clock and the half past. In fact, it was easier for him to learn that than it was for me understand the instructions on how to attach the card clock hands to the card clock face. But perhaps that's just me...

Two days later, we sat down again after school for 15 minutes, and hey presto, now he can tell the minutes too.

To say I am impressed and amazed is an understatement. This method of teaching children to see hours as mountains and minutes as steps up and down the sides of them (and you really need to see the book to understand what on earth I'm on about, I know) is so tuned in to the way their minds work that they catch on practically instantly. Now admittedly, Boy #1 needs his Aramazu Mountain Watch right now to be able to do so, but when using it he can tell the time. Cue overexcited phone calls to grandparents who frankly completely missed the point and didn't get anywhere near excited enough about this amazing milestone in my genius child's development for my liking. And I'm confident that given practice he will be able to transfer his new knowledge to ordinary analogue clocks.

Thankyou, Aramazu. I'm hoping now that the 6.00am alarm call will be a thing of the past - at least until Boy #2 starts it, at any rate...


This was a sponsored post.

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Middle-aged angst

>> Thursday, 22 October 2009

I seem to bemoan the passing of time on here quite often, mainly because it's a bit of a shock every time I look in the mirror. What happened to that fresh-faced 20-something who frequently got asked for id in pubs and bars, I wonder? When was it that the creases in my face started to last after my morning shower, to jump out and assault me when I put my contact lenses in? When did I become that woman who no longer bothers to look in the mirror between applying mascara first thing and taking it off at the end of the day?

I don't feel middle-aged, I tell myself, but if I live until 84 years old then this, right here right now, is definitely my middle age. Of course, if I beat the odds and am still fighting fit at 95 like my grandmother, then I don't hit it until another 5 years have passed - which actually doesn't seem very long, now I come to think about it.

Mostly I just ignore it in the hope that the whole age issue will go away, but every now and again something happens that makes me realise my priorities have changed and are no longer in line with that of a young whippersnapper. Like, when I don't have the last glass of wine. Or I put the beautiful shoes back on the shelf in the shop and decide that whilst they're gorgeous, I just don't have anything to wear them to. Or, when I make a purchase that even 5 years would have seemed incomprehensible - like the 'coat with a hood' that I've written about in Powder Room Graffiti this week...

(Apologies, but yes, it's a link post...)

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National WHAT?

>> Wednesday, 21 October 2009

I'm in a quandry. November 4th is United Nations Day, and Boy #1's school is putting on a show for parents, who are 'kindly requested' to attend. For 'kindly requested', read; 'you will be the worst parent in the world if you can't make it and your card will be marked not only at the school gate but in the class room at parent's evening as well if we don't see you there bright and early on the relevant day. But no pressure, of course...'

Obviously I would want to go in any case; Boy #1 has been practising renditions of 'The Hello Song' - no, I hadn't heard of it before, either - and 'We are the World' at the dinner table. Even without a tune, it's powerful stuff, I can tell you, and I will be stockpiling emergency tissues to stem the 'emotional mummy tide' well in advance of the great day. They've been practising hard, he tells me, and I can see that; so hard, in fact, that his throat was "really hurting, mummy" (assumes sad, tired voice), "and I really don't think I should go to judo today because the rough and tumble at the end won't do me any good at all..."(tails off into complete pathetic-ness).

Now, the quandry is not whether he should or should not have gone to judo. He didn't go, as it happens; his glands were swollen and I need him well tomorrow, so I decided to make like a panda and give in on this matter like a proper mummy for a change. That is, as opposed to the seargent major persona I normally adopt when a male member of my family is ill (it doesn't do to encourage them, what with their being the weaker sex and all).

No, the quandry is related to this part of the letter informing us of the United Nations Day Celebrations:

'Children should come to school in their National Costume...'

This is all very well if you have a national costume. In fact, it's all very well for probably the other 51 of the 52 nationalities attending Boy #1's school. But can someone tell me what the English national costume actually is?

I've been going through the options and they're not great...

Football / rugby kit in England strip. Not great, lacking in imagination, maybe slightly (whisper it) chavvy, but on the plus side easily obtainable.

Bowler hat and suit. No, don't laugh, looking at it from a non-Brit's perspective that seems to be what many people think is actually worn to work in the city of London. Thankfully however we posess neither a suit nor a bowler hat for Boy #1. Thankfully, in fact, we don't posess a bowler hat for any of us...

Morris dancing outfit. (Rationale for suggesting this is as above). And no, no, no and no. Aside from anything else, our stock of white handkerchiefs wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. Plus, white jeans in late Autumn? Darling, I think not.

Cricket whites. Could be onto something here - if it weren't in NOVEMBER. And no matter how Oxbridge he might look, I refuse to outfit my son in whites for a one-off event when we're off to the land and snow and ice, where cricket is about as common as marmite, in a few weeks time.

So please, help me out here. Anybody got any ideas that don't include any of the above or the final option; what seems to be the standard 'Brit abroad' uniform of crocs, an umbro t-shirt and a pair of three-quarter length jeans?

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The oldies are the goodies...

>> Tuesday, 20 October 2009

I can't stand it anymore. For the 3rd time in as many days I heard the new urban myth about spiders (this time at the Super Savvy Me launch, thankyou P&G, by the way), mentioned by Lowri Turner in her very funny and engaging speech, and I have to post about it. Call it a primal urge; what with spiders being something of a bete noire, I can't help myself.

Can it be true? Can keeping them out of your home really be as simple as putting a pile of conkers in the rooms that they tend to congregate in? Because - allegedly - our little hairy-legged friends don't like the smell, and will stay away.

Nice idea, huh? And so decoratively sympathetic to the season, too! But wait. Firstly, who knew spiders could smell? Not me, that's for sure, and I whilst I know there is scientific evidence that proves they do, the thought of them having their own hairy little nostrils is so nasty (can you tell I'm not an arachnid fan?) that I still need to be convinced. And secondly, are we absolutely certain that there is not a group of street and park cleaners congregated in a smokey room somewhere, laughing their socks off and congratulating each other on coming up with such a great wheeze to get someone else to collect all those annoying conkers that clog up their lawnmowers?

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but...

It got me thinking about all those other fantastic urban myths and who could be responsible for them. In particular, the old classic; 'If your baby is overdue, a curry and some sex will get things moving.' I mean, really. I can't be the only one who suspects that men the world over periodically gather together in a smokey room (probably the same one as the parkies and street cleaners), and slap each other on the back whilst saying "I never thought she'd go for it, but..."?

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Too distracted to even think of a witty title for this post...

>> Monday, 19 October 2009

The snowball that is our move to Russia has started to gather speed - mainly because, as Husband pointed out last weekend, we will probably need to be out of our flat in around 8 weeks.

I'm sorry?

8 WEEKS?

It's at this point that my 'laissez-faire cosmopolitan it'll-be-alright-on-the-night' attitude starts to get a little frayed around the edges. How did we go from 'oh, there's plenty of time, la la laaaa, I'll do a cupboard a week, and before we know it everything will be brand spanking ready to go' at the beginning of term to the beginnings of 'blind panic! which-way-is-up?' confusion, in one easy move?

We made a list this weekend, of all the things that need to be sorted. Correction; since Husband is working in Russia every hour god sends, all the things that I need to sort. It wasn't too scary to begin with, but as with every list about moving, you blink and suddenly somebody has snuck into your handbag, kidnapped the list, and added another 40 tasks to the bottom of it.

This morning, for example, from out of nowhere, 'get scratches on car door fixed' appeared after a particularly hairy school run.

Distracted? Me?

I don't really.............

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British Mummy Blogger of the Week

>> Sunday, 18 October 2009

Not only have we turned the heating on (I know, I know, put on a jumper, but I did and I'm still cold in a 'take your eye out' styley if you know what I mean, so heating it was), but today, there was more evidence of the season; pumpkins are taking over the world.

Driving through town, they were heaped up in an artlessly merchandised pile in a supermarket window. Boy #2 stirred in his car seat behind me. He was taking a short break from pointing out every single double-decker bus, bendy bus, coach-bus, taxi, motorbike, and truck we passed. It was funny, at first. Then it got old - surprisingly quickly. Then, after another 5 minutes, it became funny again, which was a good thing because it carried on for a while longer...

Anyway. He was quiet, until we drove past the supermarket. "Mama! Look! Look! Lot's of..." "What, Boy #2? What can you see? (Thank god, something other than buses for us to talk about. Thankyou Mr Waitrose!)." "Lot's of them! Look!" "Yes? Lots of what?"


"Lots of bus-stops!"

Of course...

This is the sort of conversation I can imagine the British Mummy Blogger of the Week might have with her children. She writes about her blog:

'Fed up seeing all these Supermoms effortlessly gliding through the day while I seem to have a bit of trouble just getting out of my pyjamas. Created it so all the other NotQuiteSupermoms can grab their cape from the bottom of the dirty laundry pile and join in celebrating the crazy things that happen to your life when you have kids.'

NotQuite SuperMom's description of her trip to holiday is fantastic (I'm hoping she has used true blogger's license in describing her her husband's behaviour regarding plane seats here, and if not she has my sympathy and understanding), although it's her tale of her Nemesis that really made me laugh...

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

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Who's 'Jerusalem' is this, anyway?

>> Friday, 16 October 2009

I went to Boy #1's school assembly this week. As his parent I have a standing invitation to attend, so I try and go when I can. It's powerful stuff, watching all those bright and open faces paying attention to their headmaster (or not, as the case might be), singing the school song, fidgeting when it goes on too long, pinching each other, listening to the band or the choir or whatever is 'on show' that week.

Boy #1's is not a church or even slightly religious school - with 52 different nationalities it would be hard-pushed to find one religion in the ascendant over the others - but it is most definitely a British school, in the traditional sense. In fact, not a British school, since I have no experience of Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish schools, but an English school, if I'm honest. And they sing English hymns, one of which - 'Jerusalem' - appears every week.

'Jerusalem' is a Marmite hymn, I think. You either love it or hate it, and I love it. Well, I can take or leave the first verse, but the second makes me fill up every time. Don't know the words? Here they are...

'Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!

I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land'

Why do I love that? Because it's symbolic. It's about a state of mind rather than a state per se. For 'England' read 'your home', which could be anywhere. It's about taking where you are and trying to make it better, it's about constantly striving to to make a difference, at least to me. Like so much poetry - which, by the way, is what 'Jerusalem' was originally - it's all about the individual's interpretation. And also because it is not representative - to me, at least - of only one Jerusalem (or Mecca, or Delhi, or Beijing or New York). It can be about anyone's Jerusalem.

Now, I am not going to get all patriotic and jingo-istic here. But I would like to point out that in the past, a lot of different interpretations of 'Jerusalem' have been given house-room in the UK. People moved here from all over the world because they were allowed - almost more than anywhere else - to live as they chose within the framework of society. Of course you could say, well that's no freedom at all, 'within the framework of society', but I beg to disagree. Not for nothing has the phrase 'An Englishman's home is his castle' been in common use since before 1628, and enshrined in law since around the same time.

Which makes the increasing levels of control and censorship (think; cctv cameras - 4.2 million in the UK at last count - think; id cards; think; biometrics on your passport) that we all blindly accept seem even worse to me. Cut to the chase, PM. What's the point of all this wittering, I hear you ask? Well, I've been checking in on Grit's blog recently. She has been documenting the current government push to control us, by persuading people that home education is intrinsicially wrong. Never mind that there might not be much other choice for a child. Never mind that they may have been bullied at their local school and that the educational establishment has run out of alternatives. Never mind, in fact, that it's a parent's right to decide what is the best educational choice for their child.

"What? Those home-ed people? She's fighting their corner?" I hear you mutter. Well, yes, actually. In the interests of full disclosure, I don't home educate, because I don't feel I have to. But I fully sympathise with those who feel it's their only choice, and this is the type of treatment home educators are currently facing:

'Basically, they require home educators to request to home educate, register, and apply annually for a 'licence'. Home educators have no power to prevent access to the home, must submit to monitoring, and are required to give up their child to interview alone (police and social workers don't have that power). The government is in effect outlawing autonomous education - which can be a play-based education - while making home ed appear too disreputable or threatening for parents to choose.'

There isn't space here to go into all the implications of what Graham Badman's select committee are trying to push through, and I don't pretend - as an outsider to this debate - to understand each and every back and forward. I suggest you visit Grit's blog to take a closer look, and if you are inspired to take any action go sign the petition here to reject the report currently under consideration. What I do know is that this just doesn't seem fair; children who have been failed by school based education in the UK, are being forced back into it because it doesn't fit with the government's plans that their parents have made alternative arrangements.

I can't help but wonder where this madness is going to end. Soviet-style schooling, where all individual choice and preference is removed from the equation? Because let's be frank, whilst it might seem a wonderful dream to imagine a country with equal education opportunities for all, it is well-documented that there was a pecking order even in the glory days of communism; all schools were equal but some - invariably the ones attended by the children of Party luminaries - were more equal than others.

Surely, even if you don't agree with the choice to educate children at home or in establishments not funded by the government (i.e. privately), you are open to the fact that in an ostensibly free and democratic society, there should be a choice in the first place?

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Notes to Self #799

Note a):

Sometimes, when a care label on a wool/angora sweater says 'handwash', handwash is what it means. Not, for example, putting it in the machine on a short cold cycle, unless you want to spend the next day or so picking pieces of grey wool out of any subsequent washing. And off the floor.

Action:
Buy new sweater. Empty the Dyson vacuum cleaner of pieces of soft grey wool.


Note b):
It doesn't matter how cute Boy #2 looks when he falls asleep on the sofa before bed-time. Now he's not in night nappies, it's always best to wake him up and put him on the loo before he crawls under the duvet.

Action:
Find a clear slot in the washing rota to wash a complete set of bedding, duvet included. Buy Febreze for the mattress. Get to bed early tonight to negate the effect of previous night spent with small boy kicking, rolling around, and demanding you find his cuddle blanket (located under his pillow) at 3am.

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Is it me or is it getting hot in here...?

>> Thursday, 15 October 2009

So, it's Blog Action Day, and the subject this year is Climate Change. Gather round children, and pay attention because we're going to learn all about how your activities today impact on the world tomorrow.......

Blah.

Blah,

Blah.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

WAKE UP!

Now, I know, I know. Climate change is a common subject nowadays. We're all hearing stories of how in fifty years, one hundred years time, our world may be unrecognisable. And whilst that sends shivers down the spine, many of us won't be here in 50 years time, and unless the NHS improves it's performance considerably, none of us will be here in 100 years time. (Not that I would want to be, unless of course I got the chance to seriously upgrade my body, but that's a whole other post...).

But for those of you who didn't catch the news this morning, we haven't got 100 years before this starts to happen. We probably haven't even got 50 years. We might not even have 20. The Catlin Arctic Survey Team spent this summer measuring the thickness of the ice at the top of the world, and based on their estimates:

"In just ten years or so 80-85 per cent of the Arctic Ocean will be ice free, and within twenty years we'll have completely lost the summer ice."

“Sea ice is a critical part of Earth’s climate system and the loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is happening decades ahead of most predictions. We cannot predict all of the effects of this ice loss, but scientists foresee severe disruption to the natural world on both a local and a global scale.”

So what? you might ask. Why should that matter to me? I mean, it's a shame about the polar bears and all that but...

I am not an expert. I don't have the answers to how we can stop this. I mean, I turn off lights, I recycle, I try not to leave the tv on standby (she says, rushing off to the tv and guilty switching it off). And it's hard to get too worried about it when for the moment it appears that there is no consensus on what happens next, should there suddenly be an ocean at the top of the world instead of a vast area of ice reflecting enough of the sun's rays back into space to prevent it from getting uncomfortably hot in here. Apart from the fact that it is not going to be good news...

But it does seem to me that we should be paying just a little bit more attention to all this. If we want our childrens' and subsequent generations lives to bear any relation to our own, that is.

Just a thought.

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House Rules

>> Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The management reserves the right to close her ears to repeated requests for biscuits only 20 minutes before dinner.

The management reserves the right to leave coffee cups and empty drinks cans and cartons where they have been discarded.

The management would like to point out that on the counter top does not equal in the dishwasher. Neither does in the kitchen sink.

The management kindly requests that voices be kept low in the morning as Air Traffic Control at Heathrow have been complaining they cannot hear the incoming flights.

The management would like to remind residents that whilst laundry is part of the service, folding, pairing socks and putting clothes away is not.

The management is not a servant.

The management kindly requests grandparents not to call between the hours of 5.00pm and 7.30pm because that is the witching hour and if you do pick up the phone to her then you will get a short answer.

The management wishes she could leave the phone to ring at that time but is unable to do so as she is invariably overcome by panic that if someone does call her then, that it must be important; i.e. hospitalisation at the least. Having a chat does not count as important - it can wait until 8.00pm.

The management reserves the right to surreptitiously bin crxp plastic toys from the front of comics when no one is looking.

The management reserves the right to deny all knowledge of their whereabouts when questioned.

The management would, just for once, like the oppportunity to finish what she starts in the smallest room without interruption.

The management reserves the right to shout if she is not granted this opportunity...

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The Swine Flu Diaries...

>> Tuesday, 13 October 2009

...or are they?


Day 1

Husband returns from Moscow on Friday. Feels a bit ropey, complains about a headache, slumps on the sofa all evening. Retires to bed at around 10.30pm, asking if we have any paracetomol.


Day 2

Husband wakes up moaning, groaning and generally being a bear with a sore head. Asks for paracetomol again (which I have to dig out of the bottom of my bosky handbag because he has finished the stuff in the cupboard without telling me) and the thermometer. Takes a reading in both ears.

38.4deg C and 38.6deg C.

I think; 'Not low but not bad. We should be able to get some stuff done today.'

Husband says, in voice of doom "That proves it then. I'm sick", and retires to bed for the day.

Muffled laughter from the kitchen as I try not to think about how high my temperature would have to be for me to consider that an option...

However, Husband then spends the next evening and night alternatively throwing up and doing the opposite thing, so I am forced to revise my opinion somewhat and become slightly more sympathetic. Not too much though. That might encourage this illness-type activity...


Day 3

We are both exhausted; Husband from his nocturnal bathroom activities, me from being woken by them and being asked to fetch buckets and remedies at 4am. Husband's temperature still the same, and he rattles as he walks (not far, obviously) from all the paracetomol. Around 9.00am a thought occurs to me and I ask tentatively if he thinks he might have swine flu. Husband is surprised and unsure, so I go and check the symptoms online.

I present Husband with a printed out sheet. He reads it. The voice of doom reappears. "I definitely have it." I source some tamiflu, go out with boys to fetch it, bump into a friend on the way and we laugh consipiratorially about men and illness. Even so, when I get back with 'the goods', I wipe all the surfaces he's touched with antiseptic wipes. Just in case. And actually, it doesn't take long, since all he's done since he's been back is lie in bed and use the bathroom. (For those of you who snigger 'same difference' I ask you to keep that to yourselves...)

Husband spends the rest of the day in bed. I cancel all our scheduled activities and take the boys out for lunch where I console myself by stuffing down a mexican burger with fries. Better build myself up to fight off infection...


Day 3.

Definite improvement but not out of the woods yet - he tells me. Some 'light work' undertaken with the blackberry and the laptop, along with a pre-booked visit to the chiropractor which I suspect he mainly went to so he could come back and point out that the guy hadn't noticed there was anything wrong with him., so chirpractic really is a load of old bull...

I wonder what happened to my weekend.


Day 4.

Husband is sitting in the lounge having a meeting as I write.

I love him, but - hmmm.

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Dear So & So...

>> Monday, 12 October 2009

Dear Web Design Company,

I know it's a cold hard economy out there, and that we are in the land of Credit Crunch Crisis. I know too that being clue'd in to this online world as you are, you must see lots of opportunity for free advertising, and I accept that it must be very hard to hold back from utilising that.

But really. Did you actually think that leaving a facile comment, completely unrelated to the post I had written, and referring only to how easy it had been to potty-train your own children and how you couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, would endear you to me? And did you imagine that putting a link to your web design company at the bottom of the comment might pass unnoticed?

Or was it simply that you thought it was OK to do this and that being a soft-hearted easily-exploitable mummy type, I wouldn't mind?

No? Oh, I get it. This was in fact a subliminal message you were trying to send in my direction saying 'Come and visit meeeeee.... I see that your blog design could do with some titivating.... I will do it for freeeeeee.....'. Ah. Not in the habit of giving away freebies?

Neither am I.

Yours sincerely,

Potty Mummy.

PS - Yes, I did delete your comment. Yes, I am a control freak. No, I'm not sorry.

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British Mummy Blogger of the Week

>> Sunday, 11 October 2009

Unclean! Unclean! Run! Head for the hills!!! It seems that swine flu has struck the Potty household - and in the worst possible way.

Husband has it.

As a result I can't really stop to chat, you understand. I'm far too busy ministering to my failing-fast beloved and writing ascerbic pieces for publication elsewhere about 'the differences between the ways men and women handle illness and how I really need to get a sense of perspective on all this and just be sympathetic because it's not his fault he feels so awful' - and breaaaaathe...

Buckle-up; it's going to be a bumpy ride...

So I'm going to jump straight in with the Mummy Blogger of the Week. She writes of herself:

'Mother of two, teacher on a break until done procreating. Moved about the UK for a good few years, now back living in Belgium with Scottish man and two kids.The children speak Dutch to me and English to their father. Sometimes we get lost in translation.'

Right now at Lost in Translation she's involving her readers in an interesting debate on the merits of CAPTCHA (yes Mwa, I voted), and I particularly liked her post regarding her Dirty Little Secret about Bono. Despite being a big U2 fan, I have to say that I sort of agree with her...

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

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Happy Friday!

>> Friday, 9 October 2009

This week's edited lows... (and there have been highlights too, of course, but we all know they make for much less entertaining reading);

1. A bucket full of rain poured directly on my head every time I stepped out of the front door. Luckily, I recently invested in a cherry-red coat with a hood which arrived on Monday so this was less of a problem than it might have been. Although...

2. ...when it arrived it became clear that the coat was not actually cherry-red but belisha beacon orange. I look like a traffic cone (only without the fetching reflective stripe). Hmm. Not quite the style statement I had intended...

3. Losing our cleaner who has had the temerity to go and get herself a full time job. I mean, of course I'm happy for her, really I am, but - not to go on about it - it's VERY inconvenient...

4. Our previously reliable but now a bloody pain in the arse car has conked out, sadly without the Ferrari sound effects this time, and instead with an extremely off-putting bubbling grating burbling sound coming from the exhaust. Just for fun, there is also an additional off-putting sloshing sound in the door. I diagnosed a faulty exhaust and a perished window seal, and took it straight to the garage where Ray 'I take look tomorrow morning PM you try to drive gently nothing is hanging down from the bottom you did check yes you did check right because that could be dangerous and yes I know you say you check already I am listening PM I know you tell me already you check and I must go now bye see you tomorrow bye' the motor-mouth and punctuationally-challenged mechanic is working on it. He tells me it will be sorted by midday today, but if that's the last we hear from our sulky exhaust, I will eat my sopping wet new hood.

5. After testing our central heating for an hour or so last night our boiler decided to take some time off this morning (perhaps striking in sympathy with those postal workers?) meaning that I had to make yet another 7am phone call to the oh-so-helpful people at British Gas to arrange an emergency appointment. After much pleading they agreed to come this afternoon, and of course when I got back from the school run (which had to be done on foot due to previously mentioned messed-up car), the blasted thing had stopped working to rule and has sorted itself out...

6. Also? I am experiencing the side effects of over-indulging in the French Onion Soup I decided to make to try and reduce the great Veggie-Box Onion Glut of '09 in the fridge. It's the Boys I feel sorriest for on this one, actually.

Not that they ate any of the soup, you understand. They've just had to live with a mother who has...

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Questions

>> Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Most of the time I bumble around in this stay-at-home mum existence, just moving from one day to the next, rarely taking the time to sit and evaluate what's going in our lives. But sometimes - as now, when I find myself envying a friend who is shortly returning to work - I take a closer look at the alternative that I'm currently living. I know why I'm doing it; I won't bore you with that here, and I believe it's the right thing for us. But we can't all be 100% confident all of the time about our choices (can you tell my hormones are getting a bit antsy right now?), and on those darker days I find myself wondering; am I making enough of a difference to my Boys' lives by being here? Is it worth it?

In short, am I doing a good enough job?

When my sons look back on their childhoods, will they remember happy times, a mother collecting them from school, reading them stories, helping with homework, showing them how to make shadow puppets with a cut-out shark and piece of kitchen towel, and helping them locate that vitally important toy / blanket / Power Ranger magazine?

Or will they remember only the back of me, turned away from them as I stack the dishwasher, hang up the laundry, write a shopping list, tap away on the keyboard, and try to have a grown-up conversation on the mobile?

Will they remember the 5 times I ask them to do something in a calm and reasonable way? Or will they remember the 6th, when I lose it and raise my voice?

Will they remember the laughs around the breakfast table, the discussions of which words rhyme, and my finding a myriad of them that work with 'pooh'? Or will they remember the panicked racing out the door to make school on time, the forgotten folders and the uncleaned shoes?


I'm a rational person. I look back on my childhood and it's mainly the happy times that come to mind. I know that it wasn't all picture post-card, and yet that's what I remember.

So I'm going to hope that history repeats itself and that my boys have similarly sunny memories. I will square my shoulders, carry on (for now, at least), send my friend my most heartfelt congratulations (the lucky bitch), and get on with it.

Onwards and upwards...

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Myths and Nonsense

So I'm taking a break from pondering what on earth is going to happen next on the riveting Criminal Justice series currently screening on BBC1 (check here if you haven't seen it - although maybe don't, unless you have 2 hours to sit and be glued to the first 2 episodes as you play catch-up on i-player) to ponder the lies we tell ourselves about food.

For example...

Myth 1: If nobody sees me eat, it doesn't count. For example, a friend of a friend will eat a bar of chocolate at the same time every day. She does this standing up and with her head in the cupboard - even if she's alone in the house.

Myth 2: If it comes off the children's plate, it can't be that bad for me. In fact, if it comes out of the pan that contains the leftover pasta with creme-fraiche, smoked trout and steamed veggies that they didn't eat, it can't be that bad for me. Even if I am going out for dinner later. (Note to self: stop making food for my kids that I like...)

Myth 3: It's better to eat more natural full-fat butter than the chemically messed-about-with alternatives. Well, this one is true actually (or at least it is in my alternative reality) but only if you eat them with caution. As in, not on top of a digestive biscuit, for example. Of course that - putting butter on top of an organic digestive biscuit and then topping it with, say, cheddar cheese - would be madness in itself. Who would do such a thing?

Myth 4: If it's organic, then it can't be bad for you. Possibly true when applied to vegetables. Not true when applied to chocolate. Or digestive biscuits.

Myth 5: Skipping dinner because you had a big lunch is a good idea. True - until you find yourself stuffing down toast (slathered, of course, with the devil of Myth 3 - butter) at 10pm because you are now starving hungry...

Myth 6: There is no sugar in bran flakes. (Apart from the 20% of them that is only sugar, of course).

Do you have any to add?

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The question no sort-of Roman Catholic wants to hear from their child...

>> Monday, 5 October 2009

Forget that talk about the birds and bees. Been there, done that, it's a walk in the park compared to this little doozy.

"Mummy. Who made us?"

For chrissake. What kind of a question is that to throw at your mother when you're only 10 minutes into a 2 1/2 hour car journey?

It's funny, but it's entirely possible for a grown adult to blindly just bumble along, affiliated with one belief or another, not really speaking out about anything that they don't agree with because, well, they did that whole thing when they were very much younger and after a significant investigation process of alternative systems, decided to stick with what they knew. Until they have children. And suddenly the sort of prayers and creeds that a person may be happy to blindly recite every Sunday without actually listening to any of the words (or is that just me?) are suddenly put in the glare of the spotlight and found wanting when you realise you are supposed to pass this belief structure onto your 6 year old child....

Initally though, being Roman Catholic, when asked the question above, I couldn't help myself. Generations of conditioning kicked in and quick as a flash all those catechism classes that - wait for it - I never actually went to (because I didn't grow up in the Dark Ages) came back from the far distant past and took control. Without even thinking about it I replied "God made us." And then I nearly crashed car. What on earth was I saying? Because whilst I do believe that some higher being certainly had a hand in his creation, I would also like equal billing - if not top billing - to be given to Boy #1's father and myself.

So I back-tracked somewhat, and threw in a brief reference or two to myself and Husband being involved in making him, too. When that proved not to answer his real question of how human beings came to be in the first place, we then moved on to a brief discussion of Darwin's theory of evolution. I also suggested that God was probably standing around passing Mother Nature the odd test tube and keeping the temperature of the laboratory at optimimum for successful development whilst she beavered away in the 'Human Project.'

Overall I think I was about as clear as mud. I know this because Boy #1 has decided that unlike the rest of us he is not most probably descended from a species of ape. He is, of course, the ultimate progeny of some highly evolved lion.

You might think that was enough for one car journey - but there was no way I was going to get off that lightly. As Boy #2 slept in his car seat, Boy #1 and I discussed the fact that different people believe different things about God, and sometimes in different gods entirely, and sometimes not in any god at all, and that none of these beliefs are any better or worse than each other, they are just different.

He then decided to lighten the mood a little and moved onto the signposts in cemetaries (headstones, to you and I), whether it was necessary to have a license to be a grave digger or could anyone just go in with a spade, and what the police would do to you if you did (I believe Boy #1's recieved wisdom on this one was that beheading would be the probable outcome).

Then, just to round things off nicely, we touched on burial vs cremation and the fact that of course it doesn't really matter to the person who's died what happens to their body because it is, after all, just a body once their spirit is no longer present, and...

...crikey, this child-rearing game can be hard work.

I'm off now to google 'antidisestablishmentarianism', the roots of Marxism, and to bone up on the great schism of the Roman and Orthodox churches in 1054AD.

We've got another long car journey coming up soon, and me and Baden Powell? We like to be prepared...

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British Mummy Blogger of the Week

>> Sunday, 4 October 2009

'A good marriage is like a violin. When the beautiful music stops, the strings are still attached.'

No, I can't take credit for that. Husband and I went to a wedding yesterday (Boy free), and this was one of the many pearls of wisdom that the groom's father shared with us in his speech. I say many; I know there were others, but unfortunately the demon drink had hold of my right arm by the time he said very much more, so the additional wonderful things that both he, the bride's father, and the groom said didn't make it to the 'file' section of my rather decrepit computer of a brain.

It's not my fault, your honour. Did I mention that the wedding was Boy Free? As in, no dependants needing Husband and I to remain compus mentis? That's a powerful ingredient, to start with. Throw in a couple of 'not-previously-met-but-by-the-end-of-the-evening-bessie-mates-and-dancing-partners' to lead me astray and before I long I make the fatal mistake of actually listening to that better-off-ignored voice at the back of my head telling me to 'dance like nobody's watching'. Not pretty when you're in your twenties. Positively unattractive in your thirties. And in your forties? Well, to be honest, I think that if all I lost last night was the ability to remember the finer points of the speeches then things didn't derail too badly...

However, back in London, and I've managed to crank my rubbish computer brain back to full service now (Diet coke can work wonders), so I can point you towards the British Mummy Blogger of this Week. She writes in her 'about me' section:

'I'm a 32 year old woman living with a Jamaican of the same age. Our relationship works because we don't understand one another. Our son was born in Oct 2008. He arrived 10 days early. I blame this on a broken window that I was wrestling with the night before. I don't think of myself as a 'mother', mainly because I can't remove stains from things. I'm just someone who gave birth. I'm lucky, fabulous and imperfect.'

Troutie's writing is hilarious. I've been giggling at her posts since she attracted my attention by using the post title 'Fucked in Russian' - because, well, before very long I probably will be (in terms of the language, Timothy, nothing else!) - and I loved her most recent post concerning the emotional blackmail grandmothers are willing to resort to if they believe their little treasures are not being accorded the required amount of respect...

To check out the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too)

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Things I said yesterday...

>> Friday, 2 October 2009

...and what they actually meant.

1. "No, thankyou". Trans: Do I really look like I can afford to knock back about 300 empty calories by adding whipped cream to my tall skinny (as in 'low fat', as in 'I'm watching the fat intake') hot chocolate to go? Is this some kind of a joke at my expense, Miss Skinny Bilinky Long Legs?

2. "Thankyou". Trans: Gosh, no, really, no. There is no need to actually stir the afore-mentioned hot chocolate, I like it when it's plain steamed milk on the top and disgustingly sweet undrinkable chocolate gunk at the bottom of the cup...

3. "Just a trim, please". Trans: please don't shear me like a sheep because I turned up 10 minutes early and made you cut short your lunch...

4. "No, that water temperature's fine". Trans: OW! OW! OW!

5. "That looks great!" Trans: Help! Got to get home as soon as possible and wash my hair into some kind of normal style rather than a futuristic bouffant hair-sprayed helmet. Where are my sunglasses so I can pretend I'm not me?

6. "Oh, that's a shame, Boy #1 will be disappointed. Let's reschedule the play date for a couple of weeks time." Trans: Thankyou! Thankyou! An afternoon with no scheduled activity? I think I might love you! Do you have a best friend, because I want to be it...

7. "Right. You don't want to fold up your napkin because it's boring. Well, sometimes I find cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, tidying your clothes, and doing the shopping boring too... So, please fold up your napkin." Trans: There isn't one. I actually said that.

What did you say? And what did you actually mean to say?

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Discretion, married-style

>> Thursday, 1 October 2009

Husband has been travelling a lot recently, and on the mornings that he's not here the pre-school run timetable has to run like clockwork. You know how it is...

6.45am, alarm goes off, I hit the snooze button.
6.47am, mobile phone alarm (handily situated on the other side of the room to get me out of bed and straight into the shower) goes off. I stumble over to it, turn it off, and... climb back into bed.
6.50, first alarm that I had put on snooze goes off again, I drag myself out of bed, into the shower etc etc.

The Boys have to be chivvied out of bed no later than 7.15am if we're to leave the house at 8, or all of the above preparation is for nothing and we end up stressed, late, and with me kicking myself for hitting that snooze button a second time... (What? You never do that???)

On the mornings that Husband is here, however, we can kick back a little. Two pairs of hands is supposed to be better than one, right? Right?

So at 7.20am this morning, when I pointed out to my beloved that it was time for he and the boys to stop having fun and start getting dressed, I was told to chill out. And as he was - for a welcome change - doing the school run, I did as I had been asked and backed off.

Cut to 8.05am when the boys are still sitting at the table eating their breakfast, un-shoed, un-teethbrushed, un-hair-combed (who am I kidding - they never get their hair combed on a school day), and most importantly, not ready to leave, I was told by my beloved that;

"You know, we really have to get the boys sitting at the table eating their breakfast no later than 7.30am, or we just end up running late!"

You will be pleased to hear that I didn't retort what was on my mind - 'No shxt, Sherlock!', but instead smiled sweetly and put on Boy #2's shoes.

I expect my sainthood to be announced any time now...

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