Sunday 30 September 2007

Holding my nerve...

Rather a tetchy family meal this evening. This has more than a little to do with the fact that in their own two very different ways, my sons run guerrilla warfare against my confidence as a ‘kitchen princess’. (Not my term; it belongs to my charming Husband. Mostly when he wants something…). I am faced daily with the following MO’s;

Boy #1: favours Food Avoidance Tactics. His first line of defence is always disappointment at what we are eating (It’s too green / dry / wet / healthy / hasn’t enough ketchup / hasn’t any ketchup). This is followed by outright moaning, complaining, and occasionally tears at the thought I could even consider forcing him to eat this rubbish. However, as long as I hold my nerve – and his spoon – I am usually rewarded about half-way through with the exclamation ‘But I DO like it!’ and we are friends again. This way I normally manage to get enough food into him to convince myself that he won’t die of malnutrition (and that I am a good mother).

Boy #2: made a good start in the eating everything stakes, but recently has gone on a Lump Avoidance Campaign. He will eat anything as long as it is suitably sloppy – or if it’s fruit. If it’s fruit, then it could be the crunchiest apple you ever encountered, he will still eat it. If it’s not fruit – and he remembers about the campaign (he is only 21 months old, after all) - then he will chew the food a few times and then push any lumps attractively out of his mouth so they dribble down his bib.

Needless to say, both of these things drive me CRAZY. But obviously I hold my nerve and smile through it, because if there’s one thing all the experts say, it’s not to turn meal-times into a battle-field. Husband says not to let it get to me. He’s right of course, but usual response to that helpful comment is to retort ‘try cooking it yourself, sit through a meal like this, and then tell me that’…

Of course I might also have been a little more sensitive than normal as I am suffering the side-effects of no chocolate. Yes, today, healthy eating starts here. No more Green & Blacks milk chocolate, no more Starbucks chocolate brownie, no more Paul’s chocolate macaroons… can you see a pattern emerging? Am determined that this month I am finally going to shift those lost few kilos (well, 2 if you want to know) that will take me back to my pre-child weight. It would have been more but my recent crash diet (courtesy of a pesky appendix – which paid the ultimate price for it’s audacity) has already shifted 3. Now, the target I’m aiming for still won’t be perfect, but it’s as close as I can contemplate without looking at the back pages of Marie Claire for plastic surgeons.

This is mainly because I would quite like to reclaim my wardrobe, but must admit that it’s partly because we are off on holiday for a week in November and can’t bear the thought of being the frump in the cover-up on the beach whilst I’m surrounded by younger women, all no doubt slim, toned, groomed and plucked practically to extinction. Which reminds me – must find somewhere to get my bikini line dealt with…

Thursday 27 September 2007


Am steeling myself to take the boys for a haircut before the end of the week.

I remember the last time I took them, I saw the woman’s face fall when we walked in. Not that Boy #1 is difficult at the hairdresser’s or anything like that. I remember his first visit to the barbers aged around 1 year; in fact, I think the whole neighbourhood remembers it. So normally (well, who am I kidding, usually. No, always) I give in to bribery and placate him with a chocolate lolly (and then a chupa chup – nothing like a sugar rush to keep kids occupied, I find), and he just about tolerates it – albeit with a lot of grumbles and mumbles under his breath. (It rather reminds me of my dad when he has to get into black tie).

Boy #2 – thank god – is much more equable and usually watches his brother misbehave with a questioning look on his face. He's probably wondering ‘when do I get to be rewarded for making such a fuss?'

Potty Training: Thursday 31st August 2006

I don’t really know what to say about my experience with Boy #1 this morning.

He announced that he wanted to sit on the loo after breakfast rather than any of his other assorted potties, so I settled myself in for a long session of ‘3 little pigs’ (he demands stories when he’s on the loo, particularly that one for some reason. Hope that in years in to come it doesn’t act as a subliminal trigger; he may find himself in difficulties when he reads to his children).

However, instead of asking for his usual entertainment he wanted to hold my hands and proceeded to pull on them whilst he had a poo. I didn’t know quite where to look… and was trying desperately not to laugh and break his concentration. Is this how midwives feel? (Am reminded of when I was in labour - both times - and produced poo rather than a baby for what seemed like the longest time. It’s perfectly natural, apparently. But I didn’t know this at the time, and my embarrassment was made much worse by the fact that NOBODY MENTIONED IT. We all knew it was there, but no-one could quite bring themselves to admit it… Sorry – have I grossed those of you who haven’t had this experience out?)

Anyway, back to Boy #1. Of course the end result was a poo in the toilet, which only a month ago was something I never thought I’ld see, so should be grateful for that. But have to ask myself; is this hand-holding something I’m going to have to keep doing, and for how long? And if so, is he going to demand the same service of his teachers at nursery? Could be embarrassing at parents evening…

And finally; where on earth did he learn the trick of it?

Tuesday 25 September 2007

It's all about me, me, me...

There was an interesting article on BBC News at 10 last night. It featured the delivery of a baby at home, without a midwife in attendance (she was stuck in traffic), and consisted of an interview with the baby's father who called 999 when the contractions were 1 minute apart, and was talked through what to do. A key section went something like this:

Interviewer: so how did you feel - doing this all by yourself?
Father: Well, it was a big responsibility, quite scary really...

Continue on with more platitudes and exclamations of sympathy and horror from the interviewer at the hideous ordeal the father went through, whilst he shyly took his applause.

Fair enough, I thought. Perhaps the baby's mother was too traumatised by the whole experience to consider going on camera. But then the camera panned left - to the baby being calmly breastfed by the mother, listening patiently as her partner had his moment of glory.

Now, forgive me if I'm missing the point here, but wasn't it the mother who did all the work and ran all the risks?

Oh yes, and at the end of the article they revealed that this was planned to be a home birth (hence the intended attendance of the midwife) and that one baby is born like this every week. ONE BABY EVERY WEEK! Now, I'm not an advocate of home births (as a seasoned veteran of epidurals and one emergency c-section), but you have to wonder if there is not some NHS think tank sitting in a room somewhere with the chairman saying "This home birth thing is getting a bit out of control. How can we stop the numbers rising? Ideas, anyone? Nigel?" "Well, John, we could try scaring the pants off the fathers. Tell them they might have to get down the business end...?" "Brilliant Nigel. Call your mate at the BBC."

Conspiracy theory, anyone?

Monday 24 September 2007

Life A.C.

So there is life after children...

We piled into the car and went to visit friends in Holland over the weekend. We got home totally exhausted, and vowing never (NEVER) to drive over there again during rush hour. Suffice it to say that Husband's late return home meant we didn’t make the crossing we’d booked, though thankfully he’d had the foresight to expect this and booked a flexible ticket. (So you can teach an old dog new tricks!). However, the fact we didn’t leave home until after we were due to be in the tunnel rather mucked up our timings... Consequently what should have been a 5 ½ hour journey door to door turned into an epic 10 hours. The boys were, unexpectedly, stars throughout. Unlike their parents…

We even made it to a party (I know, a party!) on Friday night; admittedly only as everyone else was leaving due to our hellish journey, but we did get there, which was really the point, I thought. It was held in a cool location in a beach-cafe; so cool in fact that we couldn’t find it. We ended up reaching the beach at entirely the wrong point and yomping – there is no other word for it – crossly along the dunes until we found it 10 minutes later, wet, covered with sand, and barely speaking to each other.

Luckily a couple of glasses of wine much improved our moods, and I was at least able to congratulate myself that I had gone for the boho-chic look (or at least a pale imitation of) so the beach experience didn’t stand out too much. Can’t remember the last time I aspired to any other style actually – at least the snot / chocolate / pasta sauce / dirt is normally disguised by a bit of a pattern or a cardigan I can shed when the evidence of children becomes too glaring...

Speaking of which realised after I dropped the car off for an MOT a couple of days ago that I had a badge of honour on my left shoulder - again. No wonder they treated me with kid gloves – probably expected me to go off on one in a true exhausted woman tantrum if they tried to mess me around. Who, me?

Potty training...

Tuesday 29th August 2006
Potty training was overall a success this weekend; I can’t believe how much easier it is not having to lug around 2 sets of nappies everywhere. Or, it will be once we don’t have to take 2 changes of clothes everywhere for Boy #1 instead. He had only two accidents during the entire weekend; one in the paddling pool at a play park we went to (I did the decent thing and looked the other way, and then in true white trash mother style splashed his legs afterwards), and once on the beach, (likewise) so neither were exactly the end of the world. And after a completely dry day today, he crowned his achievements by having a poo in the potty before bedtime, rather than in his nappy. How proud am I? How sad am I…? However, we may have crossed the foothills but at some point soon we are going to have to face the Everest that is naps and night-time training. Will it never end?

Friday 21 September 2007

The Facts of Life - and Death

My two boys are crazy about animals.

Well, I think the younger one is, but he may just be going along with his older brother and toeing the party line to keep the peace (aged only 20 months he's already good at this). But the older one is totally engrossed in anything from the animal kingdom, to the extent that when we finally caved and got Sky, one of the channels we subsribed too is Documentaries, purely so Boy #1 can watch Discovery and Animal Planet. It's paid off; his nursery teacher informs us that he frequently fills in gaps in her animal knowledge and if she wants his attention all she has to do is wave some four-legged creature in his direction.


During September, Animal Planet has been showing a series of practically every Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter documentary ever produced. They put it on at prime viewing time for Boy #1; 7pm, after his bath, when he gets half an hour guaranteed tv viewing time (yes, I am one of those antiquated mums who restricts the amount her children get to see). He is now absolutely in love with Steve, Terry and Bindi Irwin.

For the last few days all his role play and let's pretend has centred around that family and the various reptiles, mammals and sea creatures they encounter (I get to be Bindi, their little girl - see where I come in the pecking order?). Having sat and watched much of it with him, I have to admit that I too find it fascinating, and have been won over by a man who I previously thought a bit ridiculous; his enthusiasm and passion for nature, incredible knowledge, and simple optimism are pretty unusual in these cynical times.

The problem is, when Boy #1 finds out what happened to his hero, will his faith in Crocodile Hunter, human / animal interaction, and his own world view that this is basically a great place to be, be shaken? And should we tell him or let him find out for himself?

Any thoughts?

(I know that this is what some might call a 'luxury problem', hardly life-threatening, but like any mum, I just want to wrap my kids up in cotton wool for as long as possible. So shoot me...)

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Greased Lightning

Took the boys around the block this afternoon to give Boy #1 the chance to get used to his Birthday Bicycle. He has christened it variously 'Fantastic Super-bike', 'Thunder' (because of the lightning flashes on the saddle), and Mine. This excursion was a challenging experience and I think that I probably walked 3 times the distance that he actually cycled, as the walk proceeded as follows:
  • Help Boy #1 get started by gently pushing his legs in the right direction
  • Follow him with Boy #2 in buggy
  • Pass Boy #1 who had, according to him, unaccountably stopped. This was usually due to the fact he was so overcome by excitement that he had forgotten to keep pedalling.
  • Walk on a few yards, put the buggy brake on to stop Boy #2 jolting it into the road in his enthusiasm to support his brother.
  • Walk back to Boy #1 and remind him which direction to move his legs

Repeat to fade...

It was all worth it though when he finally got it, and after streaking along the pavement at a snails-pace turned to me and said 'Look how far I came! My Daddy is going to be so proud.'

Tuesday 18 September 2007

It isn't easy being green...

So this evening I am mostly making roasted butternut squash soup. Not to eat now, you understand. Oh no, that would be far too simple, and far too late, as in fact it will probably be midnight by the time the blasted stuff is ready. That will teach me to sign up for an organic veg box scheme. Great in theory; seasonal vegetables, locally (well, in this country anyway) produced, delivered to your door. What could be better?

Vegetables I know how to cook, that's what. I mean really, who knows what to do with fennel (other than Pig in the Kitchen, obviously, whose superior knowledge I rate second to none in the kitchen), or how to survive the Great Tomato Glut of last week? Thank god I had appendicitus and my mother came up to keep an eye on me. She took one look in the fridge and set to; preparing, roasting, mashing, bagging, you name it, virtually every vegetable you could ever think of.

Oh, and by the way; I didn't know how to cook fennel because it's horrid. But obviously, I didn't tell her that...

Potty diaries - have been remiss here for a while - sorry...

Thursday 25th August 2006

Potty training today was uneventful. Boy #1 was almost dry all day, although he fell at the last hurdle during dinner when he was so carried away with his sausages that he was too distracted to notice – well, you don’t need me to spell it out. However, the situation was saved – even if slightly too late – and his pride was redeemed.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Vintage goods, anyone?

Just a quick blog today, but I had to relay what happened to me last night.

Husband and I were at a friend's wedding yesterday, and so have been off gallivanting - w/o children - all weekend as a result. Consequently we were able to drink far more than we were used to, stay up late (didn't get back to the hotel until 3.30am this morning; get me for young and trendy. I am, of course, paying for it now in shedloads....), and generally wander around unencumbered with the usual enormous hold-alls, plastic bags, buggies and toys that accompany the progress of our two Boys.

It was a great wedding, lots of interesting people, and of course they only became more interesting as the evening progressed and the beer / wine / champagne goggles were ever-more firmly fixed upon my face.

At one stage I got into conversation with a guy in a cutting-edge suit and an interesting job as head of marketing for a fashion chain in Austria. Well, as interesting as a job can be in Vienna, anyway. On learning of my great age (40 - say it loud and proud), and the fact that I had two small children he came out with the immortal line (said in a very camp and rather fey voice); 'But surely not! You don't look used at all!"

No doubt he was suffering from similarly thick beer goggles, and non-pc it may have been, but his flip comment made me fall off my chair - and rather embarrassingly, warmed the cockles of my heart...

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Sartorial elegance

The boys and I went with a girlfriend and her two sons to the Natural History Museum today to see the dinosaur and mammal exhibitions. Both were a run--away success, despite the fact that the mammal display mainly consists of rather sinister and dilapidated-looking hundred year old stuffed animals. Appreciate the reason the museum use them (they don't want to replace them with updated, newer dead animals), but they do have a rather spooky look to them – hope the Boys don’t get nightmares. Can just imagine them on the psychiatrists’ couch in 30 years time trying to work out why they can’t bear to be anywhere near an otter, or small flightless birds for example… and of course it would all be mummy’s fault. (‘They fxxk you up, your mum and dad….’).

Husband is away again this week; then on Friday we’re off to a wedding, leaving our beloved children with my parents (this is becoming a habit). Have been frantically making lists so that they are not left without vital items like water-wings (in the West country in September?), or vegetable stock. Vegetable stock? Good grief. I remember when my main concern before a trip away was whether or not my suede trousers would be too hot… Nowadays, suede trousers? Are you kidding? Even if I could fit into them (and I’m just not going to find out. Not unless all sharp implements and harmful drugs have been removed from the house first, anyway), I can tell you that in the first five minutes I was wearing them, they would be covered with puke, biscuits, milk, paint and possibly poo or wee. Not necessarily in that order. Which leaves me with a rather scary conundrum; what the hell am I going to wear?

Nowadays, if you blindfolded me I would have no idea what I was wearing. When I went to meet my girlfriend and her kids from the tube this morning I had to ask her when I got there if I looked OK – since I had completely forgotten to check before I left. And to cap it all, think I may have walked all the way back from the museum with my flies undone – since they were unzipped when I nipped into the loo when we got home. Which leaves me with two equally unattractive possibilities.

1. Am so porky at the moment that they came undone of their own accord (possible but really too scary to contemplate).

or 2. I left them undone in my haste to get Boy #1 out of the disabled loo in the Mammals section of the museum after he refused to deliver and I started to worry we would find a queue of irate/desperate looking wheelchair occupants waiting to get in after we left (needless to say, the corridor was deserted when we came out).

And in addition, did my friend spot that I was flying low, and if so did she not tell me out of pity, because she expects that sort of thing from me nowadays? Worry worry worry.

More chocolate, anyone?

Wednesday August 23rd 2006

Potty training today was reasonably successful until, having denied that he would ever (EVER) need to go to the loo again, Boy #1 had a rather spectacular accident this afternoon. Think he was putting it off from the excitement of having spent the morning with a slightly older boy (who could wee standing up, the show-off). Anyway, once our visitors (and the peer pressure) had gone, he waited until I was putting the buggy away before delivering. I came back in to be met with the results of what must have been a deluge – it was everywhere. In classic ‘who dunnit’ styley I could see where it had started and how he had tried to make his way his way to the potty before giving up just inside the bathroom door and simply going with it (really by that time, it was probably the only thing he could have done, poor thing…) Thank heavens Boy #2 was in his raised play pen – otherwise he might have drowned – he would certainly have been rolling around in it given his propensity for finding pools of unpleasant liquid (up until now, his puke) and spreading it about a bit. Of course today was the day the cleaners had come, so it was all over a sparkling clean flat, perfect.

Repeat after me; I AM a yummy mummy… I AM a yummy mymmy…

Tuesday 11 September 2007

A nest of little vipers

So the party is over, literally. I can finally get my life back and not have to spend every spare moment writing, checking, re-checking, losing and re-writing lists. Oh, the joy of children's birthday parties! But it all went well; 21 (yes, I kid you not - I must be mad) 4 year-old cherubs were entertained, fed and watered without incident yesterday afternoon. Mini-beasts were collected (earwigs and worms to you and me), flora and fauna admired (who knew that there were toads living in Holland Park under logs?), and snakes stroked. No, really. Royal Pythons, to be precise. I hadn't realised that snake charming was an option when I organised the party in the Ecology Centre, but in fact that turned out to be the best bit for lots of them. Clearly, most of the mums were cowering shaking at the back of the room at the time; smiling encouragement whilst trying not scream and thinking 'Do as I say, not as I do...'

As a reward for all my planning, baking and fretting, in the evening Dad came to stay and offered to babysit. I did not need to be asked twice, and hot-footed it off to meet up with a couple of (single and unencumbered with children) girlfriends who still have spontaneity on their agendas. It comes with not having kids, apparently…

I was expecting an evening of girly gossip and reminiscing about our disgraceful behaviour from years gone by, and did get some of that, but also found out that Friend #1’s father is dying and that Friend #2 is about to be made redundant because her department is being moved the US and she doesn’t want to go. Hmmm… it makes ‘fun with potty training’ seem like a walk in the park, doesn’t it? Have seldom been as conscious of my good fortune. We did – thankfully – get a little more cheerful though in a conversation regarding minah birds being quite useful to talk to in the evenings if you are newly single – as Friend #1 is.

Think about it;
1. They don’t go out, get drunk, and come back reeking of curry and beer and making declarations of undying love as they fall out their pants onto the bedroom floor
2. They don’t spend too much money on useless gadgets that only get used once
3. And can’t work the remote control (‘nuff said).

Mind you;
1. You do have to put up with their incessant chatter
2. They would probably cramp your style if you had visitors by shouting out inappropriate comments
3. And they need to have their cage cleaned out once a week – so maybe not so different from a lover after all.

Or is that just me..? Anyway, potty training reminiscences...

August 21st 2006

So apparently no self-respecting 3 year-old makes do with only 1 potty nowadays. Boy #1 uses the throne (wees), the small potty (poohs – probably something to do with positioning although have to be honest, thought that sort of thing didn’t happen until you reach your dotage), and the conversion seat on the loo (for when he wants to be a grown-up and for general time wasting – as he has yet to perform on this one). However, am not complaining as we have now had a completely dry day, no accidents, no extra washing, and no nasty niffs (to coin a phrase)… other than those he had established already, anyway.

The only fly in the ointment was when we were in the garden this afternoon, and I looked up to see that he, unable to wait to go back inside, was weeing al fresco – in plain sight. Thank god it’s August and am not at risk of being drummed out of the garden square by irate pensioners as they are all on their yachts in the south of France. Or Wittering. Mind you, come to think of it, they should be used to it given the high number of French families that live on the gardens…(or am I confusing them with the Belgians?). At any rate, Boy #1’s little intermezzo ran the risk of turning into tragi-comedy when one of the dogs that lives on the garden decided to run up and give him a shock mid-delivery. It nearly got very messy; only my presence of mind saved the day - and my trousers…

Friday 7 September 2007

Muriel's Holiday

When my parents got married many, many years ago, my father found that he had hit the jackpot. Not only had he found himself an intelligent, beautiful and loving wife, but she had brought with her a family retainer; an invisible maid, whose name was Muriel.

Whenever he left his keys, change and used handkerchiefs in a pile on top of the sideboard, Dad knew not to worry about it. Muriel would tidy it up. Whenever he dropped his clothes on the floor in the evening instead of in the laundry basket - Muriel would tidy it up. Unwashed breakfast bowl? No problem, Muriel would get it. And so on... Over the years, Muriel became a much-loved and trusted member of our family. My mother, Dad commented could sit around, drink coffee, arrange flowers, and eat chocolate because Muriel would do all the hard stuff. And boy, did she work for her non-existent bed and board. Oh, she took a few holidays over the years, notably when my mother's 3 children were born, and when she had a hysterectomy, but mainly she was there come hell or high water.

When I moved in with Husband, I swore that Muriel would not be coming with us. Not only could my parents not do without her, but I didn't want that in our relationship; my husband could be trusted to pick up after himself. Ah, how little I knew.

However, as Husband and I have moved on throughout our life together, we have discoved that Muriel has a daughter. Who would have thought it? Heaven only knows when she found the time for a personal life, but it seems that she has children - who, for simplicity's sake, we also call Muriel (terrible to generalise in this way, I know). Amazingly, both of Muriel's daughters have made it their raison d'etre to make life easier for both mine and my sister's husbands and children. God bless them.

But last week, out of the blue, our Muriel took a holiday.

Typical, because of course I went down with appendicitus on Thursday and was in hospital over the weekend recovering from the operation (there is hell, there is recovering from a general anaesthetic, and then there is staying on an NHS surgical ward for 3 nights - more of which another time).

And where was Muriel when my Husband needed her? Off enjoying the sun in Puerto Banus, that's where. And did she rush back on my return? No, she dragged her feet and has only made an appearance today (apparently she could only get a week return with National Express), which is how I now have time to make this post. She has found us in a messier, more bedraggled state than that in which she left us, with laundry piling up and Boy #1's party to execute on Monday, but she has come back. And that is what counts.

Welcome back, Muriel.

(No potty training hints today - normal service will be resumed shortly, but for now I need to go and lie down...)