Tuesday 29 April 2008

How did I get here?

Do you ever have those moments? The moments when you ask yourself "How did I get here?" Not, "How did I get here?" but "How did I get here?"

I do. Most days, in fact, and they usually involve my children - unsurprisingly.

For example. You may have picked up on the fact that my Boys luuuurve their cake. A lot. Given their heads it would be too much, perhaps, though due to my innate ability to resist anything but temptation, we don't have it in the house very often. And when we do, it's usually home-made - not because I harbour any Domestic Goddess fantasies (well, not only because of that) - but because of the nut allergy thing. So, when we have cake, if I do say so myself, it's usually pretty good - and it doesn't last very long.

Now, I remember when I was a child. If there was cake on offer, it also wouldn't last very long. (I may kid myself I'm an OK cook, but my mother was Nigella before Nigella was even helping her mother stir the soup). It would be handed out on high days, holidays, and at teatime on a Sunday in front of a roaring fire and Doctor Who on the tv. There was no ceremony involved. We weren't savages, but cake would be wolfed down behind the sofa or a cushion, crumbs scattered willy-nilly whilst we concentrated on hiding from the daleks, or the cybermen, or whatever monsters the 1970's BBC special effects department had dreamed up for us that week.

So, when I see my Boys, sitting at the table eating cake with a fork - a fork! - I marvel at their continental sophistication and do wonder how I got here...

Another example. I took the Boys out for lunch last weekend with a girlfriend and her daughter; we were both husband-less due to our beloveds' travel commitments. And I sat there with my mouth open as Boy #2 (the 2 year old) perched calmly in his high chair in Carluccio's and, taking a piece of ciabatta with one hand, dipped it into the dish of olive oil provided. And after stuffing it in his mouth, proceeded to say "Yum yum" and repeat the process. For heaven's sake. I didn't learn that trick until I was, oh, around 35...

And finally, a less sophisticated example. Picture the scene. Holland Park sand pit, this afternoon. The play area, practically deserted. It was clearly too cold for the normal yummy mummy brigade (and the wet sand might have scuffed their very shiny boots), so there were only a few diehard English mummies determined that their broods should get their full complement of fresh air and exercise before the rain set in again.

Most of the children were toddlers, younger even than Boy #2, and I stood eavesdropping on a trio of mums with kids of around 18 months. They were agonising over potty training and whether Max and Fenella were still too young to start. Being the mother of a child who is well over 2 and shows no interest in the potty other than to sit on it naked as a delaying tactic before his bath, I kept schtum, enjoying the unfamiliar sensation of - for once - not being the most anxious mother in the play ground, and also - for once - fairly confident that my children were fit to be seen in public.

Suddenly, from across the playground, comes a booming shout from Boy #1.

"Mama! I need a poo! Now!!!!!"

As I said. How did I get here?

Yet again, I've been rubbish keeping up with my blog housekeeping. Firstly, I need to say thankyou to Elsie Button at Flower Fairies and Fairy Cakes for being lovely, funny, and seeing fit to give me this award which I will add to my sidebar the moment I can remember how it's done.

Secondly, I want to thank Carolyn at Laughing Alone in the Dark for this, and for not only being entertaining, amusing (and often complimentary about what she reads here), but bringing the whole BPA debate to my attention. All the boys' Tommy Tippee cups are now out on their ears... (Check this link for more info).

And finally, Dulwich Mum, I haven't forgotten about the meme - but this post has been too long already...

Monday 28 April 2008

Mary, Mary, quite contrary...

Boy #1 was in a bad mood this morning. Everything was a problem; waking up, being given his milk in an open rather than closed cup, getting dressed, you name it. And to cap it all, he rediscovered a scratch on the palm of one hand that was the result of having a splinter removed yesterday afternoon. Oh, the pain! The drama! He wasn't ever going to be able to eat again! He wouldn't be able to hold a pencil! 'Really, mama, I think I had better stay home from school today...'

(I would like to say at this point that the scratch in question was merely that - a scratch. Just in case you think I am Spartan Mummy and being too harsh on my beloved son...)

Having had just about as much moaning as I could take I administered Savlon and told him to get on with it, which was of course like a red rag to a bull. Things calmed down - a little - over breakfast, when he discovered that amazingly, he was still able to hold a spoon through the excruciating pain. However, when he was instructed to put on his shoes, all hell broke loose.

He couldn't do it.

He needed help.

How was he supposed to do up his shoes with the scratch on his palm?

I sat there, weathering the storm, giving Boy #2 - stoically good tempered, as ever - his breakfast. Suddenly, through the maelstrom of complaints, there came a small voice.

Boy #2: "Mama?"

Me: "Yes?"

Boy #2: "Boy #1. Help. Boy #1. Shoe. Help."

Me: "You think I should help Boy #1 put his shoes on?"

Boy #2: "Esss..."

Boy #1: "No! I can do it! No!"

And promptly did.

What it is to have a two year old who is a master of reverse psychology.

Friday 25 April 2008

Four seasons in one day...

There's an ad in circulation at the moment for some hair or make-up product encouraging us to 'be a different girl every day' or something like that. Well, the copy writers for this should try being a mum. Forget being a different woman every day; it's my experience that you get to be a different mother every hour - at least...

For example, today I have been (in no particular order);

Knackered Mummy - when I woke up this morning after a fitful night of bad dreams involving spiders, crocodiles and missing Boys. Yes, you guessed it, I was dreaming of our forthcoming trip to Australia. Remind me again why we're willingly going to a country which 90% of the world's deadliest creatures call home?

Efficient Mummy - on my solo trip to the supermarket. What normally takes 45 mins to an hour when accompanied by the Boys was polished off in 25 minutes this morning. You could hardly see the trolley wheels as they whirred along the aisles. I dashed from one section to the next, remembering what I needed, finding it in double-quick time, and getting out of there so quickly that the till assistant barely had time to ask if I wanted to take the school vouchers. This morning's visit was at light speed compared to our normal progress round the store. This usually involves frequent stops to check the list due to failing memory (which I blame on the constant distractions of dealing with runny noses, requests for 'CAKE!', and the necessary passing of all purchases to Boy #1 so that he can put them in the trolley), and the compulsory stop at Starbucks to 'reward' (for which read 'bribe') the Boys for good behaviour with a chocolate coin. (And a skinny hot chocolate for me. Obviously).

Proud Mummy - when Boy #2 used his scooter for the first time on the way to the bakers a little later. Never mind that he walked rather than rode most of the way; he was simply as pleased as punch that he was not sitting in the buggy. He strutted importantly along the pavement, narrowly avoiding walking into walls and hedges, his tummy puffed out with pride. I imagine that I looked somewhat similar...

Frustrated Mummy - when Boy #1 decided he could scoot and eat bread at the same time, only to spend the next 5 minutes falling flat on his face as he discovered that - actually - he couldn't. (Must admit I was also - initially - Amused Mummy at the look of shock on his face when he pulled himself up from the pavement, piece of bread still intact and stuffed in his mouth, looking around indignantly as if to say; 'Who did that? It couldn't possibly have been MY fault...')

Push-over Mummy - when I found the Boys bouncing on our bed and instead of ordering them off it immediately, gave in to the sound of their delighted laughter and giggles and gave them 2 minutes more before getting off. And then another 2 minutes...

Creative Mummy - when I got the paints out for Boy #2 and helped Boy #1 make himself a mask out of biscuit packet, some tin-foil, string and glitter.

Resigned Mummy - when I found then myself covered in glue, glitter, and paint. And why is it that the activities take 20 minutes and the clearing up around 40?

Unsurprised Mummy - when Boy #2 needed a complete change of clothes after lunch due to over-enthusiastic spoon action with the soup.

And Slightly Embarrassed and hoping I wasn't spotted Mummy - when I realised after lunch that I had gone to the bakers with glitter and paint in my hair like some 80's throw-back...

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Lost; one brain

The Potty household was in crisis yesterday morning. Or rather, I was. I was lost, ruderless, up a nasty brown creek without a paddle. I was compass-less, I had mislaid my charts, I had no idea which way was up or down. What caused this shocking state of affairs?

I lost my diary.

Now, pre-children, this would have been no biggie. I would have been working, for starters, so all the important stuff would have been duplicated on Outlook in the office. And - rather more relevantly - I would still have had some kind of a memory. But post-kids? Memory? I'm sure I should know what that is, but you know, I've kind of... what's the word again... oh yes. Forgotten.

Sometimes it feels as if the grey matter in my head, which used to be, if not razor sharp then at least capable of inflicting a nasty graze, has just turned into a sludgy, porridge-like mess that is no use to man nor beast. Think treacle, and you'll have some idea of how quickly my thought processes work on occassion. It's normal, apparantly, post children, to feel like this. And I do remember that after Boy #1 was born I felt very similar. Crucially though, I went back to work between kids, which forced me to sharpen up rather more than I've had to since paid employment went by the wayside after Boy #2 arrived.

Nowadays things can literally go in one ear and straight out of the other. Not everything (Husband, in case you're reading this, of course I remember every conversation we ever had, and if I claim you haven't told me something then of course you haven't...), but if we're talking fine details, like dates and times, then forget it. Literally.

For example, I will remember that Boys #1 or #2 have a doctors or dentists appointment coming up soon. But when? What day? Where? Who knows... Or, a playdate. I can tell you there will probably be a playdate sometime this week. But will it be here? Will I need to provide dinner for the chosen friend? What time will their mummy be collecting them? Anyway, you get the picture. I have to write it down to remember it.

So, when I realised late on Monday night that I couldn't find my diary, I had a bit of a panic, to put it mildly. I hunted everywhere. I looked in my handbag. I looked in the nappy bag. I looked in every room in the house (which I'm ashamed to admit did include my cherub's bedrooms - with a torch, though, not the light on. Because turning the light on to hunt for something in the middle of the night in your child's bedroom would be crazy, right? Unlike crawling around on your hands and knees with a torch in your mouth as you rifle through the toy chest...). I checked in the car, the boot of the car, my gym rucksack, and cupboards that hadn't been opened in months. In brief, I resembled nothing so much as Olivia in 'Olivia and the Missing Toy' (if you don't have this book for your kids, check it out, it's hilarious, especially the look on her mummy's face when her daddy promises to buy her a new best toy. Then again - you probably know that expression already...). Then, when I had looked everywhere, I looked again. And still I couldn't find it.

The next morning I woke in the foulest of moods and my darling Husband promised to help me look. He looked in all the places I had looked - and then, just to make sure, I looked again. Still, no diary.

Now, whilst all this was going on, I was fighting the natural inclination any mother has. The default mechanism that arrives when the baby starts to crawl, and only strengthens when they begin to walk. The inclination to blame the children. Because, let's face it, a small silver-coloured book with empty pages perfect for drawing on has to be a Boy magnet, doesn't it? But there was no evidence of foul play from the Boys, and Boy #1 swore blind when questioned that he hadn't touched the diary, hadn't seen the diary, in fact what was a diary, and could he have television now?

I relented and started to think the diary was lost for ever. Which of course put me in an even fouler mood. And the realisation that this was JUST A DIARY for CHRISSAKE!.. didn't really help. Social ostracisation due to missed birthdays, dinners and playdates, blackballing by the nursery due to failed appearances at parents evening, not to mention being refused entry to the doctors, dentists, hairdressers due to non-attendances at appointments, loomed.

So when Husband finally found the blasted thing tucked under the sofa (which I had checked, I hasten to add), I was relieved, delighted, thankful and embarrassed at having been so worked up about the whole thing.

And, of course, justified. I knew it had been the Boys - all along.

Now - before you disappear to much more entertaining blogs, take a look at this link (courtesy of Alpha Mum), and if there is a man in your life you will laugh your socks off. Particularly watch out for the reference to the 'man with a hurty knee'...


Sunday 20 April 2008

Polly, put the kettle on...

It's been a busy day at the Potty homestead. I hadn't expected it to be, since Husband is still away and it was meant to be just me and the Boys, but we seem to have had one visitor after another today.

First off? Steve Irwin and a lion dropped by at around 8.00am. The Crocodile Hunter was in fine form, hunting down the big cat and cornering it in the sitting room. This was perhaps a little easier than usual, since the lion in question was clomping around with a pair of my boots on it's front paws, so was not able to pad around the flat with it's usual stealth and cunning. It still put up a fight though, growling and roaring like the king of the Savannah it is. This necessitated the intrepid Aussie to counter with his own shouts of 'crikey' and 'Irwin, Steve Irwin!' before the wrestling pair had to be separated for breakfast.

Steve left, but as he departed he entrusted a model Tasmanian Devil to Boy #1's care - the relevance of which will become clear shortly.

Breakfast over, I took my life in my hands and decided to fly solo for the first time. Yes, I took the Boys to mass on my own. Somewhere between the car and the church however, a miracle took place and instead of being accompanied by two squirming complainy Boys, I found that I had acquired a couple of angels who, for the first part of the service, seemed to deem it their mission to show up every other child in the building with their model behaviour.

During the opening hymn Boy #2, standing on the bench between his brother and I, reached out and took both of our hands, resembling nothing so much as a child at an evangelical church about to speak in tongues. It was quite exceptionally cute. However, the moment passed rapidly come the sermon, when Boy #1 started to demand juice which I refused to hand over, forseeing treks back and forth to the loo shepherding not just him but his brother and all our coats and bags as well (it's a central London church holding around 400 people on a Sunday morning. I am not so naive as to leave my bag lying around unaccompanied, un-Christian though that might be...). This resulted in much fierce whispering until his attention was distracted by the winsome 4 year old girl in the bench in front.

Unfortunately (and this is where the relevance of the toy animal becomes clear), in a bid to impress, Boy #1 decided to show off the charge left with him by Steve-o. His command of the word 'Tasmanian' is not good at the best of times. This resulted in his replying, when she asked him what the animal was; "A Tis..m..n DEVIL" during the period of quiet contemplation before communion.

Well, he didn't actually say it like that - that's just how it sounded to me. And everyone else around us. Her mother, not seeing the toy, and no doubt only hearing the word 'devil', shot me a reproachful look before gathering her daughter closer to her...

So, that was mass. Afterwards, we went home and were joined by the celebrity chef from Friday again, this time in full whites regalia, who insisted on accompanying Boy #2 and I to the garden where we met a friend and her daughter before going for lunch. I wouldn't have minded, but his overalls could really have done with a wash, and looked a little odd hanging out beneath his coat whilst the whole ensemble was topped off with his cycling helmet. Still, I guess that's the rich and famous for you...

When we reached the garden? Well, the chef rapidly metamorphosed into a 'pirate chef' with his sidekick the pirate captain, who commandeered the lookout post and refused to come down until tempted to do so with biscuits.

The Boys joined me briefly again for lunch in Carluccio's, but when we got back and Boy #2 went for a nap, Boy #1 went missing and was replaced by Diego, the Sabre-Toothed Tiger from Ice Age, who was hunting his prey all over the living room and doing his best to destroy what remains of the springs in the sofa (where I was trying - unsuccessfully - to take a post-prandial nap. As if. Have you ever tried to get some shut-eye with a fearsome tiger breathing in your face?)

It wasn't until dinner that calm was restored and it was just me and the Boys again.

I'm bushed.

Friday 18 April 2008

Sisters, sisters...

Boys #1 and #2 were playing together in their fisher price kitchen this afternoon. Boy #1 was the chef, Boy #2 was his dog (of course). Boy #1 was cooking up one of his favourite delicacies ("Ladies and gentlemen! Today, I will be cooking... pancakes with chocolate ice-cream!"), whilst issuing instructions in an officious tone of voice to Boy #2.

Boy #2, crowned rakishly in a tall white chef's hat (heaven only knows how he spirited that away from his brother), wilfully ignored the instructions given by the celebrity chef, and crawled around under the dining room table, concentrating on generally getting in his brother's way whilst dancing in a reggae styley to whatever was on the radio.

Even at 2 and 4, they make a good team.

Earlier today, a friend had asked me what the gap between my two Boys actually is. I replied that it is almost exactly - less around 1 week - the same as the gap between myself and my younger sister. Whilst I hadn't planned on being quite so precise about it, that time-frame was in the back of my mind as a guideline when Husband and I were 'working on' Boy #2, because it had seemed to work out pretty well for sis and I.

And that got me thinking on my relationship with her and how, if the boys duplicate it between them, even slightly, they will be very lucky.

We've had our ups and downs, my sis and me. Whilst we were growing up we could go from inseperable to deadly enemies in the blink of an eye. If you have a same-sex sibling you probably find the same thing. There is no-one - and I mean, no-one - who can drive me insane with a tut, a blink, a look, or a curl of the lip, like my sis can. (And I like to think that compliment would be returned). Likewise, there is no-one who can pull me from the depths of despair and gloom to hysterical wet-your-pants laughter in the same millisecond.

It's amazing how shared memories can bring you together.

It's amazing, actually, that she still speaks to me at all after the tactless comments I've made to her over the years. A particular low-point was my telling her that she would be quite pretty - if it weren't for her big nose. We were around 10 and 8 at the time. (I'm not sure I would have forgiven her that one, or indeed any number of other goody-two-shoes incidents that happened subsequently between us. No prizes for guessing who was wearing the shoes; I was the oldest, it was my job - I thought...) She got her own back though, by being much cooler, and consequently having much more success with boys than me - and by having better legs. And by being blonde. And blue eyed.

God. It's no wonder we didn't get on.

But, thank heavens, we both left home, and incredibly that is when our friendship bloomed. Aside from being my sis she is now my best friend, the person I call when I really want to let rip and who I know will always understand without 'sympathising', rounding off her summing up with some tart comment that will make me snort into my tea.

Only today she rescued me again; once after fall-out with my mum, and once when I was trying to contact Husband who had, it seemed, left the planet and travelled to Mars on his rally given how contactable he was today. (Now sorted. Men and technology. Numpties...)

Thanks K. For understanding without sympathising. (I can deal with anything but sympathy...). And by the way. This does not mean you can have my brown LK Bennet boots.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Just fo' the fun of it...

I'm sitting here waiting for the phone to ring. Husband has gone off for the weekend on a charity fancy dress car rally with my brother and a couple of his friends. He left at lunchtime today, telling us not to expect him back until Monday. However, my darling - but occassionally very slightly disorganised - brother is in charge, so when I got a call this evening telling me that the team's car had broken down around 25 miles from where they had met up, I must admit I was not surprised.

The AA are working on the car now. Heaven only knows what they thought when they turned up and were met on the hard shoulder of the M25 by a group of 4 rather middle class blokes dressed as mo'fo' pimps...

Whilst I wait, another gem from around our dinner table. The time: yesterday evening. The occasion: our first family dinner in a week. I had prepared a lovely meal of chicken (sorry to mention the Meat word, Pig in the Kitchen, but it's relevant) roasted in a mustard and marmalade marinade, with mashed potato, carrots, and broccoli. I was being hopeful with the broccoli, I know, but it gave me another bargaining chip in the compulsory negotation of what will and won't be eaten. On top of which, the green looked so pretty on the boy's plates... (And before you ask, the marinade was not my own idea, but it was a triumph).

Boy #2 did his normal party trick of getting stuck in and then spitting anything that required more than minimal chewing into his pelican bib. Lovely.

Boy #1 attacked the potato and carrots with gusto, completely ignoring the broccoli and the chicken. Well, the broccoli embargo I expected, but the chicken?

Me: "Boy #1 - can you try some chicken, please?"

Boy #1: "I don't like it..."

Me: "You haven't even tried it yet. How can you say you don't like it?"

Boy #1: "I just know I don't like it..."

Me: "Try some please, Boy #1. You know what always happens - you try some and then you say: 'Mama! I do like it!'"

Boy #1 regards me soulfully with his big eyes, clearly working out how far he is prepared to push it and at what stage I am - horrors - going to start including the broccoli in our discussion. He heaves a great sigh. "Oh, OK..."

He takes a bite, and chews thoughtfully, resembling nothing so much as one of the Masterchef judges at the semi-finals. Having considered his verdict, he leans toward his father. "Papa. I want to whisper something to you."

Husband turns towards him obligingly. "OK."

Boy #1 gets right up close to Husband's ear, probably spraying the inside liberally with the contents of his mouth, as he says in a loud stage whisper: "Papa. I do like it!"

Tuesday 15 April 2008

My mother taught me better...

Mum would be appalled at how remiss I've been. I have a big apology to make to three excellent bloggers, who out of the goodness of their hearts all separately awarded me the'Good Blog Chat Award'. Ladies, I don't know what I was thinking not to acknowledge this is in a post before now; having a sit down for a good chat with a cup of tea and a mate is something I don't get to do enough of, so the last thing I should be doing is passing up the opportunity when it comes my way.

Lady Thinker
A Mother's Place is in the Wrong
and Carolyn at Laughing Alone in the Dark

Thankyou all, for this:

And if were to be able to sit down and have nice cup of tea right now, I would probably be bending your ears about taking the Boys for a haircut this afternoon...

The Boys have a 'history' with haircuts. I suppose that really you might call it 'form'. Until Boy #1 was a year old, we never needed to bother with them. Well, that's not quite true. If either of his grandmothers, or indeed my Husband were asked, they would no doubt say that Boy#1's first haircut was well over-due by the time I finally got round to it. But I didn't mind the slightly girlish whisps and tufts, and it just seemed... well, you know. Too soon. But finally the day came when I could put it off no longer. And I was right to wait, because let me tell you, we had not been missing out on any joyous experience.

Everything got covered in hair. Boy #1. Me (or Husband, who I must admit also took on the burden when possible, dragging his son across the road to the Thai barbers when he could). The hairdresser. And indeed, any poor unfortunate who happened to be sitting in the next seat having their hair cut.

We persevered with that barbers for around a year, reasoning that since it was only over the road, we had a much shorter distance to carry a sobbing boy home at the end of the bitterest cut, but finally (when they started getting unaccountably booked up and shutting early for lunch), were forced to find another innocent victim.

Our next hit was a toy shop / children's hair dressers nearby. The first time we took him it wasn't so bad; he was distracted by all the shiny pretty things on the shelves around him, and the enormous model T-Rex we were waving in his direction as a bribe for good behaviour, but things went rapidly downhill from there. After frequenting them for around a year, I saw the woman's face drop when I walked through the door with him and realised we had to move on - again. I quite liked her - and couldn't continue the torture...

So, we tried Trotters on High St Kensington. Amazingly enough, Boy #1 approved. They had fish to watch, a toy train (not moving, I hasten to add) to ride in, and even purchase / bribery opportunities situated all around. The winner for him though was the lollipop he was handed at the end. Unsurprisingly, as he is a child of mine, the chocolate worked and Boy #1 was an instant fan. Personally though I think it was a lot more to do with his age by this time (around 3 1/2), and less to do with the surroundings. Which might explain why Boy #2 - now aged 1 and in need of his first haircut - proved a harder nut to crack.

He twisted. He turned. He tried to throw himself from the high chair. He squealed and yelped and cringed in abject terror every time the nice lady with the scissors came anywhere near him. And, as with his brother before him, he scattered fine baby hair over everyone and everything within a 3 metre radius. (Anticipating a certain level of 'hairage' I had brought a replacement t-shirt for him along - but not one for myself. Man, baby hair is itchy when it gets inside your bra cup...)

Thankfully, we have moved on. Boy #2 is now over 2. He doesn't do the screaming and the crying anymore (at least, not at the hairdressers). He still regards the hairdresser with pouty suspicion everytime she comes near him with those scissors, but he tolerates the procedure and proves suprisingly easy to distract with a Thomas the Tank Engine book. He even manages to say his version of 'thankyou' when handed the chocolate coin at the end.

And Boy #1? He is quite the little gentleman. He sits calmly in his chair. He chats with the (invariably attractive) young lady attending him. He moves his head as requested, and watches the fish in the big tank in front of him when he has to look up, commenting on colours, shapes, and deliberates on which of them might be related to sharks. ('All of them', I tell him. It makes for a longer conversation...)

Yes, my angels are both a lot better behaved at the hairdressers these days. A lot.

So tell me. How come I have still come home with hair clippings in my bra?

Monday 14 April 2008


You have probably noticed by now that this blog is anonymous. Shocking as it may seem, my real name is not Potty, or indeed at all related to loos, kookiness, or anything else included in the dictionary definition shown on the side-bar. (OK, well, occassionally I might do something silly - but that's still not my name...)

It's anonymous not because I have anything particularly earth-shattering to write about, or scandalous, or secret. No, it's anonymous purely for the selfish reason that I want to write what I want, about whom I want, when I want, without fear of upsetting anyone and also - if I'm honest - without worrying about what any of my nearest and dearest think of my blogging style. It's taken me a little while to find it, and I'm happy(ish) with it . And if I feel that I'm looking over my shoulder all the time, then the words won't flow so easily.

Clearly, I'm not writing high-brow literature here. Nor, even, anything worth publishing. But I like blogging, it makes me feel as if I'm achieving something other than wiping bottoms and clearing up snot, so I don't want to feel stifled in any way.

This is why I haven't given the address of this blog to anyone other than a couple of girlfriends who I rarely get to see for logistical reasons. Not even Husband has the details. And if I'm not giving the details to Husband, I'm surely not planning on giving them to anyone else.

But he has them now - because this morning, I gave them to him.

Yes, I was busted this weekend - and it was completely my own fault.

I mentioned to friends that I wrote a blog, and that I enjoyed it. When they asked for the details I explained that since Husband didn't have them I wouldn't be comfortable for them to, and thought that was that.

How naive can a person be? Google can find anything if you key in the right words - and it found me.

Of course, I knew this day would come - eventually. But you know what? I thought I would care more. And I must admit that when I spotted their visit via Sitemeter, my pulse did race a little. But then I took a look back through my own posts, and actually, I really don't mind. In a way, it's quite liberating not to have to worry whether Husband has or hasn't bothered to find the details.

In fact, Mariel, if you're reading this now; thankyou, you did me a favour. I'm relieved it's finally out there... (but am still planning on keeping our parents in the dark. What? Surely you don't think I'm completely potty?)

And now, an excerpt from an early morning conversation with my beautiful Boys. Standing in the kitchen, knocking back my daily quota of vitamins, EFA's, organic tinctures and so-on (I swear, you can hear me rattle when I walk to the breakfast table), I suddenly became aware of two pairs of eyes watching me solemnly from the doorway.

Boy #1: "What are you doing, Mama?"

Me (thinking, I don't want them climbing up here on a chair to help themselves when my back is turned, so better not make it sound too attractive - and isn't it amazing the safety filters automatically installed in mother's brains?): "Oh, I'm just taking some tablets and stuff. To make me feel better."

Boy #1: "Why? Are you sick?"

Me: "No, no. It's just something that grown-up ladies do..."

Boy #1 (in apparent astonishment): "Are you a grown up?"

Me: I certainly hope so.

Boy #1(in even more astonishment): And are you a lady?

Good question...

Saturday 12 April 2008

Cauliflower tastes like chicken...?

Warning - sentimental outpouring ahead...

Who would have guessed it?

Not long ago - and still now from time to time to be honest - mealtimes chez Potty were a battleground. I've blogged about it before, I won't bore you with examples now.

But this evening we passed a milestone. Boy #1 ate cauliflower.

Not knowingly, you understand. If he were to have willingly picked up a fork and said "Gosh Mama, this cauliflower truly is delicious!" I would have taken out a full page ad in The Times publiscising the fact. So no, we haven't quite come that far. But this evening the Boys and I sat down to chicken in spicy red lentil sauce with a few steamed cauliflower florets thrown in for good measure. And to my quiet astonishment they ate the lot.

Now, I'm not ashamed to admit that this admit that this blog is mainly about the trials and frustrations of being a stay at home mum. And I'm also not ashamed to admit that I may - just occassionally - change the course of events (very slightly) to make better copy or to keep you guys interested (there's blogging, and then there's real life, right?). But what you don't generally find me writing about is the good stuff. The times when I actually feel that I might be doing something right.

For all the times when I want to tear my hair out; when I find myself under the table for the nth time that day sweeping up the debris from yet another disregarded meal; when I find myself sounding like a broken record, channelling a shrill-voiced harridan; when I'm on my hands and knees picking up after them; when the only way to get their attention is to lose my temper intentionally, there are the other times. The times when I can't imagine life without them.

Times when I think back to my life pre-children and wonder if I really was that shallow selfish individual. When they astonish me with the knowledge they've collected from I don't know where. When they astound me with their ability for love, devotion, and forgiveness of the tired, snappy parents they sometimes find themselves with. Times when they make me laugh out loud, and times when their wonder at the world around them forces me to see it through their eyes and realise just how fortunate we are to be living it. Times when I'm sitting there with one or both of them on my lap, or cuddled up with the 4 of us in bed in the morning, when I know that all the choices that have led me to this point were the right ones.

I know that when I look back, I will wish I had taken more photos, shot more video, filed away more keep-sakes, and boxed more memories for the years ahead when they have passed through this demanding but oh so rewarding phase, and are in yet another - different - oh so rewarding but demanding phase.

If I could bottle their hugs and kisses, and the feeling of their arms clasped around my neck, I would. But I can't, so every now and again I may just blog about these things.

But don't worry - normal potty 'I went out to a smart restaurant with bogeys on the back of my black dress' (and yes, that did really happen) service will remain the usual order of the day...

Thursday 10 April 2008

More Despatches...

It's been quiet on the Frontline recently. Too quiet. I knew it couldn't last. And this afternoon, the ceasefire was breached...

The battleground: the back seat of our car.

It had been a peaceful afternoon. Well, as peaceful as it can get when you fit in the nursery pick-up, a quick dash home to hang out the laundry, and rushing to the leisure centre for Boy #1's swimming lesson. But overall, calm. (Excluding the tonka toy in the face incident whilst strapping Boy #1 into his car-seat at nursery pick-up, which caused more than a slight sense of humour failure on my part... But I don't think the bruising on my lip will last more than a couple of days).

So, as we walked back to the car after Boy #1's successful lesson of jumping, floating, and underwater dragons (I know, I have no idea what that is either), there was no inkling of the storm that lay ahead.

Boy #2 was toddling along, one of his hands in mine, the other clutching the remains of an apple that he'd been gnawing at for the last 15 minutes. Now, for some reason, he views an apple as one of the greatest treats it is possible to lay his sticky little paws on. I know. I have produced an angel, you say? Just wait...

Lifting him into the car, the apple was knocked from his hand. Not the whole apple - just the 15% of it that was left. It rolled under the car. It was nearly finished. It was now filthy. It was, essentially, an ex-apple. And there was no way that I was going to get down on my hands and knees to retrieve this ex-apple.

Boy #2, of course, had other ideas.

I strapped him in.

"Ap! Ap! Ap!" he started as I walked round to the other side of the car to secure Boy #1.

"He wants his apple, Mama." Boy #1 said helpfully. "I know. But it's gone, Boy #2. It's op (Dutch for finished, in case you were wondering). You can have another when we get home." I climbed into the front seat and started reversing out.

"Ap! Mama! Ap! Ap! Ap!" (Is she deaf? Look, I can see it - it's just there, lying on the ground...)

I pulled out of the car park. "It's gone, Boy #2. I'm sorry, but it's finished."

"Ap! Nee! Ap! Ap! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!" (I can't believe it! Doesn't she recognise an outright order when she hears one? Get back there, right now, and pick it up!)

"Is it a plane, Boy #2? Do you want your plane?" This from Boy #1, waving a plastic plane at his brother and - bless him - frantically trying to diffuse the situation. I pulled out onto the main road. In the distance, I could hear air-raid sirens beginning to sound.

"Nee! No payne! Aaaaaaaaap!" (That's it, I've asked them nicely, no more Mr Nice Guy. Attack!) "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPPP!"

On the Frontline the plane was flying low along the road towards us. The rattle of it's machine guns were becoming increasingly audible. In my peripheral vision I was able to see the little puffs of dust the approaching bullets were making as they hit pavement on either side of Ladbroke Grove. There was only one option - to head for home. But something made me glance over my shoulder, and what I saw made my blood run cold.

Boy #2 was out of his straps. (Well, just his upper body, you understand. But still. Hardly ideal - or safe).

The noise level hit new highs as I screeched to a halt, hazard lights flashing, and dashed round to the other side of the car to resecure Boy #2. Tears were flooding down his bright red face. I could hear bombs starting to explode in the near distance. I saw a passing cyclist veer erratically as a particularly loud blast from Boy #2 coincided with my opening the door to force his arms back under the straps.

I got back in the car. The shelling continued, down Holland Avenue, and onto the top of Earls Court Road. This must stop soon - surely he's forgotten what he got so upset about in the first place?


Apparantly not.

We turned left. Not far now. "He's out of his straps again Mama!" I pulled over, repeated the hazard light routine, and resecured my little angel.

"Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" (This is torture like no other. Where's my bloody apple?)

A botoxed mummy in a black 4 x 4 looking as if she was going to give me a mouthful for obstructing the traffic thought better of it when she heard the battle in full force. I sprinted back to the front of the car and pulled away in a haze of burnt rubber, hoping to make it across the lights and the last few yards home before the next attack. I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw Boy #1 stoically reading Mr Strong, trying to ignore the shrieks and whistling as the blasts continued around us.

There was a pause, and an intake of breath from Boy #2. Oh no, we're not going to make it. So near, and yet so far. The Hurricane is making another pass and has us firmly in it's sights now - we're toast.

Silence. And then...


Home at last, I parked the car.


The Hurricane waggled it's wings in salute and flew on.

Did that make any sense? I'm still shell-shocked...

Wednesday 9 April 2008

An evening in the life of...

7.35pm. Finish reading 'The Snowman' to Boy #1. Lights out, after our nightly ritual of various types of kisses which I know, come some time around his 7th birthday (if not before), will be greeted with disdain if not disgust. So for now I am making hay whilst the sun shines...

7.36pm. Husband has gone out networking, so I decide that instead of breaking into the Green & Black's chocolate ice cream, I will have a long leisurely bath. Not; some time later this evening, when I've finished the washing up, tidied the sitting room, and blogged for a while. No, now.

7.37pm. Am interrupted on way to the bathroom... "Mama! I have a headache! I need water to cool me down." Grudgingly give a very small glass of water to Boy #1 (thinking about wet sheets if I give too much...)

7.38pm. Make my way to the bathroom. Turn on the taps.

7.39pm. Go into the sitting room to turn off the tv and get distracted by a chimpanzee giving birth on Monkey Business. God, she makes it look so easy...

7.45pm. Return to bathroom. Fish out some bath oil given to me for my birthday last year, and decide to use it. It's expensive, so surely it won't set off my eczema?

7.50pm. Step into bath. FXXK that's hot! Step (aka leap) out again. Phone rings - someone trying to persuade us to move our energy supply. Lie and tell them I am on my way out...

7.55pm. Step back into bath. Now too cold. Turn on hot tap...

7.59pm. Step back in for 3rd and final time. Relax...

8.00pm. "Mama! Mama! I want to tell you something..." Curse the miracle of modern technology that is the babyphone and breathe deeply. If it's important enough he'll come and get me...

8.02pm. "Mama! Are you there?" Take a deep breath. "I'm in the bath, sweetie." "Why are you in the bath?" "Because (oh for god's sake...)... what is it?" "I need to talk to you..." Thoughts of Boy #1 on psychiatrists couch in 20 years time talking about uncaring mother who put herself first knock gently on the door of my subconcious. Plus, this special bath oil really - isn't...

8.03pm. Get out of bath. Dry off. Pad through to Boy #1's room. He is - of course - asleep.

8.05pm. Break out the Green & Black's chocolate ice cream.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly

I can just imagine you reading the header of this post and thinking; "What? She's obviously using the laptop again." Which, as it happens, I am - but no, I haven't forgotten the basic rules of punctuation.

No, dear reader, I have just got back from a gig. And 'Get Cape Wear Cape Fly' was the name of the band. (Check them out here - you won't be sorry)

But anyway, a Gig.


Staid, pedestrian, domesticated, elderly 40+ PM has been let in to a Gig. With young people, and everything.

And I have to say, it was rocking.

(How embarassing is that, me trying to sound right on?)

The music was great, the guy fronting it all fantastic, and I really enjoyed the experience of being surrounded by tall young men in their 20's who knew all the words to all the songs without sounding like complete idiots. Well, wouldn't you?

How did this happen? It was because of a friend. The same friend who hooked me up with Husband all those years ago, actually. I have known this friend for more years than I haven't known her.

We went to college together. We were unleashed into so-called adult-hood together, living in the same all-female hall of residence, sharing the same two ring cooker and spin dryer along with 18 others. Before we really met, I admired her long hair, narrow waist, and rower boyfriend. It was thanks to her I developed my taste for vodka when we worked together in the same student union bar, nicking glasses of the stuff when the bar-manager's back was turned, mistakenly imagining he wouldn't smell it on our breath. (Even if he couldn't, he surely noticed our getting gradually drunker throughout the evening. Though I'm not sure he minded, given the opportunities it gave him to look down our sleeves when we poured drinks, the letch.)

We lived together after college in good places and bad, with slugs in the kitchen (yet another reason why it's good to wear slippers in the morning when you fetch your cornflakes. Have you ever had squashed slug between your toes?), and landlords that we all not-so-secretly fancied. We encouraged each other to go out on school nights, getting horrendously drunk and dragging ourselves hungover into work the next morning. We fetched water for each other when those hangovers forced us to 'pull a sickie' and stay home together watching Dirty Dancing when we knew we should be out earning an honest wage.

We commiserated with each other when relationships foundered and the bastards that we knew all along would break our friend's hearts did just that. We kept our mouths shut when those same bastards showed up for a second round (and in my case, a third, a fourth, and so-on). We helped each other move into and out of flats and flat-shares that didn't work out.

We sympathised with each other when each new boss turned out to be just as clueless as the previous one, and encouraged each other when it all became too much and we finally moved on.

And, now I think about it, this makes the name of the band this evening even more apt.

Thank you, Cate.

You helped me to get my cape, wear it, and fly.

(And yes, I have been drinking vodka. But only a bit...)

Monday 7 April 2008

Take TWO posts into the shower...?

I know, I know. Two posts in one day - it's not decent. But I just had to relay this conversation I had a few minutes ago.

A friend of mine, C, is newly pregnant - for the first time. C has the address of this blog but I don't think she ever reads it; however, if you are doing darling, I'm laughing with you (or with the 'you' you will be in 6 months time when the baby arrives) - not at you...

C: "... and can you believe it, one of my friends who's just given birth has someone to come into her house 10 hours a day for the next 3 months, just to help with the baby!"

Me (thinking, the lucky devil): "Really? Sounds like a good idea. If someone offers to pay for that for you, I suggest you bite their hand off."


Me: "C?"

C: "You can't be serious. I mean, feeding a baby every 3 hours and preparing a meal - how hard can it be?"

I was like that once.

It's the little things...

It's Monday, and all things doth conspire against me, Horatio...

Well, actually, they don't. Not really, it just feels like that.

For example, Husband has commandeered the desktop, so I am -for the first time - struggling with our laptop. The very same laptop he purchased, claiming our office was too small for him to work in, that he needed to spread out, and wouldn't it be nice to be able to sit in front of the tv and log on... For a while this did indeed prove to be the case. But now it seems that the office is no longer too small and the only chance I get to go in there is when he takes a loo or a coffee break (the latter having a direct impact on the former, especially since he is now addicted to the Nespresso maker), so I have been relegated to using the laptop. \where nothing is where I expect to be and which takes 3 times as long to make a connection, boo hoo... \so apologies if there are tiypos, capital eltters missing, and a fragmenbted a pproach to this post...

Then, the dishwasher packed up over the weekend. Well, we thought it packed up. Luckily I read the instructions that the previous owners of our flat very thoughtfully left behind (they will definitely go to heaven...). What kind of idiot would not know that you need to add rinse-aid and salt to their dishwasher by the time they reached the ripe old age of 41? However, after a swift trip to the supermarket this morning, the missing components were purchased and order has been restored to the kitchen. And thank heavens, because I can just imagine the dishwasher repairman filling his mates in on the stupid woman who called him out to fill up the rinseaid compartment... No, actually, I don't want to.

Let's move on...

I am engaged in a battle of wills with Boy #2. At 2 years 3 months he still refuses to drink his milk out of anything other than a bottle with teat. Juice is fine from a sippy cup, or with a straw. As is water. But milk? Oh no... I wouldn't mind if he had been breastfed for more than a few weeks, but it's not as if he and I were able to enjoy a long and fruitful boob to baby relationship. (There were a host of medical reasons why it didn't work out, which I won't bore you with now).

In any case, he clamps his mouth shut tight as the proverbial gnats bottom the moment he spies anything other than the beloved teat coming his way, and the resultant tussle usually ends with him (and me too, I'm afraid to say) in fits of giggles and liberally splattered with milk. I know, I know, I should let him go thirsty. But unlike his brother, who would drink rather than eat, Boy #2 will quite happily go without drinking all day. So the milk is important in keeping his hydration levels up and the eczema at bay...

Oh well. If he's still using a bottle with a teat when he graduates, then I'll worry...

Saturday 5 April 2008

Saturday nonsense.

I'm in the thick of the 'mummy wars' at the moment. Both my delightful sons have set their sights on only one objective; my attention.

  • Boy #1 wants a story. Boy #2 demands a drink.
  • Boy #2 wants to help with the cooking. Boy #1 needs his bottom wiping.
  • Boy #1 wants a cd. Boy #2 refuses to let me up from my chair as he is sitting on my lap (and then, to assert his dominance over his brother still further, leans forward and lets rip. Charming).

This morning, to break the deadlock, I gathered up the results of my most recent clothing cull and yomped to Oxfam with both Boys in tow. Note; drop-offs at charity shops where the Boys' clothes are involved are invariably at lightning speed these days; mainly because, having delivered clothes that have mostly been worn by two active youngsters, I'm worried that the good souls in Oxfam will take one look at the contents of the bags and hand them straight back to me. Especially in our area, where unworn Christian Dior and Calvin Klein baby clothes regurlarly appear on their shelves... Somehow I think that our worn-out Gap and M&S may not cut it. So I do a smash & grab in reverse, hustling the boys into the shop, practically throwing the bag at the counter, and high-tailing it out of there as fast as our legs and the buggy can make it, before they even think to open up the booty...

So, we set off. I was in my dark glasses, Boy #2 was doing his Buddha impersonation in our pantechnicon buggy, and Boy #1 was on his scooter. In between asking me whether we were nearly there yet, falling off due to cracks in the pavement, and demanding unscheduled stops for snacks, he announced that he was 'exhausted' His legs were 'bendy'. He was 'incapable of scooting any more'. Repeatedly. This was on a walk of around 15 minutes each way...

But it put me in mind of a conversation I had with a friend this week. Her two sons are similar ages to the Boys, and she mentioned in passing that her younger one - H - is not really speaking yet.

There was a pause - I think in her case in expectation of an exclamation of horror or sympathy from me. Privately, I was thinking 'you lucky devil', but after a suitable interval I asked if this was a problem.

Friend: "Well, no, not really. But I met up with X on Tuesday and she mentioned that H is not really speaking, and asked me if I was worried. Should I be worried?"

H is not yet two.

Now, I have an opinion on people with opinions on other people's children. Namely, that they should keep them to themselves. Because frankly, unless learning difficulties are involved, by the time they are 4, most children will be at similar levels. I remember when Boy #1 was the same age as H. Barely a syllable passed his lips. I was completely unruffled by this - because I knew that with two languages being spoken at home, he was going to take much longer to start than children with only one. Plus - without generalising - he's a boy. And let's face it, we all know that girls start talking earlier (and then don't stop).

In fact, it wasn't until Boy #1 was more than three that he really started motoring in the conversation department. But with 'incapable' and 'exhausted' featuring in his vocabulary now, I feel justified in not having been overly bothered about the delay. And rather cross with the competitive mothers who told me I should be...

I told my friend not to worry. And asked if she really was that desperate to have two little angels correcting her driving skills from the back seat of the car...

Am off to the garden now with my cherubs - and am hoping not to trip over a bag of clean but rather crumpled Gap and M&S children's clothes returned to my doorstep...

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Animals and Children...

Standing in the garden square this afternoon, the Boys running around like mad things, with Boy #1 putting on an especially good show as he was trying to ingratiate himself with some older (5 year old) role models, I was approached by a member of the garden committee. Now, Husband and I are currently engaged in a major sucking-up exercise with the garden committee as we are planning on 'reclaiming' the gate from our terrace area into the garden from the undergrowth, so that we have direct access. Consequently, it is vital at all times for us - i.e. The Boys - to be on our best behaviour....

Me: "Oh, hello Garden Committee Member (GCM). I was just thinking what a fantastic job you all did with the new play area."

(To give me my due here, I was thinking that, because they have just installed a brilliant new climbing frame with a slide that is so whizzy it gives unsuspecting parents a nasty electric shock if they put a hand on their child during their descent, and that child happens to be wearing any man made fibres... So my son's coats are nylon - I admit it.)

GCM: Yes, isn't it good. I just wanted to warn you that of course, since it's made of wood, there may be a problem with splinters.

Me: Right... (Thinking - probably better than climbing the trees though, which was the only previous option). Well, in any case, it's great that the children now have somewhere to let off steam.

GCM: But would you believe it - some of them are still climbing the magnolia over there and breaking the branches...

Me: Oh, that's terrible (thinking: where's Boy #1? Where's Boy #1? Please not on the tree...)

GCM: So if you see any children doing that, can you stop them please?

Me: Yes, yes, of course...

GCM: Of course their mothers should do it really...

Me: Yes, it's shocking that they don't... (tut tut tut)

GCM: And obviously, we need to keep the children out of the flower beds as well...

Me: Yes, obviously.

GCM: Which is where I see Boy #2 is now, actually.

I am not sure Operation Suck-up is going entirely as planned.



And on an unrelated issue: we are currently planning a trip to Australia - the East and South East of that vast continent. Have you been there? And if so, what shouldn't we miss?