Wednesday 30 July 2008

Remember, remember...

The human mind is a remarkable thing.

Whilst it has the capacity to remember the smallest unimportant detail, it simultaneously has the ability to supress those things it feels you would be better off not thinking about.

So, for example, I can remember the smell of the newly cut grass and the distant buzz of the lawn mower floating in through open windows during my O-level exams at convent school 25 years ago. I can remember the feel of the parched dry lawn beneath my bare toes in the long hot summer of 1976. I can remember the taste of the blackcurrant ice lolly I sucked in the drizzle on a walk to the quayside aquarium in Fowey on a summer holiday, aged only 7. And I can remember gazing out of my bedroom window on a multitude of quiet summer evenings - when I should have been doing my homework - as I grew up in the Cotswolds. The pale blue sky slowly darkened to indigo and the trees on the distant horizon travelled through various shades of green to black; I can see it clearly, now.

But can I remember the pain of giving birth? Of course not. This, obviously, has more than a little to do with the fact that I opted for an epidural in both instances, but not until I had each time struggled gamely on until I was fully dilated (any men reading, look away now!), when both my hefty sons got stuck. To paraphrase Lady Bracknell 'once is unfortunate, but twice?' So I had a good few hours in each case to acquaint myself with the grittier side of giving birth - as did Husband's fingers that I crushed mercilessly during that seemingly endless period (it's amazing he was ever able to write again after Boy #2 arrived) - before giving in and demanding drugs at a stage when they are normally refused. It's testament to how 'stuck' both Boys were that I got them.

But you do forget. Of course you do - or you would never allow yourself to have more children.

And just in case you haven't experienced the phenomena of Nature's Gift of Amnesia for yourself, let me assure you that I am not alone in this. One of my girlfriends, on being questioned the day after her daughter was born about how it felt to give birth, answered "Rather like sh***ing a melon covered in glass." She now swears blind I made that up - but I never asked any of my other friends after that. And more to the point, didn't give birth myself for another 13 years or so...

Well, news flash. Potty Training falls into the area that Nature has decided it would be better for us not to fully remember.

Today was a big day in the Potty household; Boy #2 wore a pull-up nappy for the first time. He's not ready for potty training, oh I know that. We talk about it from time to time of course, but I know he's not really interested - or indeed, capable - which is why I haven't pushed it. The only action the potty has seen from his behind is fully clothed, keeping his brother company before they climb into the bath. Nevertheless, it seemed like a good time to make the switch to pull-ups in an attempt to encourage him to see the possibilities of a nappy-free life.

So today, once he was suitably clad in an easily pulled down nappy, I caught him about to 'make a delivery' (aren't euphamisms great?) and in a moment of madness suggested he sit on the potty to do so. He readily agreed, but 5 minutes of enthusiastic pushing on his part yielded no results, so I foolishly left him for a moment to fetch another nappy. And in the 30 seconds or so that I abandoned my post, he escaped from the bathroom - bare-bottomed - raced into his brother's room, and weed on the floor.

I'm not an amateur, I've been here before. I should have known what to expect. But I've decided that it's not my fault. Nature had stepped in, and wiped the 'frustration files' in the folder marked 'Potty Training' from my internal computer, and just to finish the job had deleted the 'treat naked boys with extreme caution' programme whilst she was at it.

I cleared up the wee, taking great care not to get any on my favourite loose summer dress as with this heat it's the most comfortable thing I have to wear.

However, the dress may not leave the confines of the flat for a while; this afternoon our cleaner asked if I was pregnant again.

Potty Training, and being thought noticeably pregnant (when, by the way, I most definitely am not). Pass the chocolate biscuits, please. Funny how the Human Mind never forgets where they are....

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Snapshots #4

Example 1 of what happens when your children call your bluff.

You are in a stand-off situation with your younger son. It's dinner time, he won't come to the table, and it's time to show him who's boss...

Me: "Boy #2. Please come to the table. Right. Now. Or you will have to go straight to bed."

Boy #2: "That's. Not. Fair! Reeeeeeeeeeeally?"

Me: "Yes, Really. Table now, or bed."

Boy #2 considers the situation. "OK. Bed, please." And bustles into his bedroom, climbs under the duvet, and shuts his eyes...

Example 2

It's the end of bath time - or rather, it should be. You're rushing to get them both into bed, it's a school night, and it was so hard to get them up this morning that you think even 10 extra minutes sleep might help ease the pain tomorrow...

Me: "Come on, Boy #1. For the 3rd time, please get out of the bath!"

Boy #1: "Why?"

Me: "Because, it's nearly bedtime, and if you don't get out now..... your skin will become all wrinkly and you'll turn into a raisin."

Boy #1 (eyes boggling): "Really????"

Me (I've got him now!): "Oh, yes."

Boy #1: "Actually then, I'm going to stay here and see how long it takes..."

I. Got. Nothing.

And finally...

I look at Boy #1. He has an angelic expression on his face, to the point where if spotted by one of the White Father's he would have been snapped up as a Holy Child and trained as a Missionary for Darkest Africa before you could say Jack Robinson.

Me: "What are you thinking about?"

Boy #1: "Chocolate."

Fair enough. And I'll say it for you; Like Mother, like son...

Monday 28 July 2008

Is there an Echo in here?

It's too hot to blog.

Like all big cities, London's heat is cumulative. A day or so of high temperatures are fine; we all revel in it, exalting in the balmy evenings, the chance to walk around after work with only a skimpy dress and no cardigan on, secure in the knowledge that this is a fleeting thing and that we are, after all, in London. It can't possibly last, we know that. One of the best jokes - or at least, one of the cleanest - that I ever heard about the British is related to this; in Britian, apparantly, we like 2 days of the year. Christmas, and Summer. Boom boom!

But just occasionally we get more than a couple of days of hot weather, and despite our protestations that we love it, and isn't it marvellous to be able to bbq every day, and who needs to go the Med for cafe society, London and it's inhabitants wilt like spring flowers in August.

The sun beats mercilessly down for 3 days or in this case, a week, and the heat builds up in the tarmac and pavements. By the late afternoon what would, elsewhere in the country, be a pleasant 25 deg C becomes an oppressive 29 deg. And that's discounting what it rises to on the tube. Being lucky enough not to need to use it on a daily - or even weekly - basis these days, I've managed to avoid it, but you can't miss those who haven't. They tumble out of the station at Gloucester Road, dazed, confused, and hunting desperately for the nearest air-conditioned shop to cool down in.

Boy #2 particularly seems to be finding the heat difficult to handle. At 2 years old, he has decided he would rather play inside than venture out into the furnace, and I can't say I blame him. Tempting though it is however to retreat into a hermit-like existence over the summer holidays, I find myself unable to do that. It's probably something to do with the fact that with Husband away in Mother Russia for a large part of the week, if we don't keep to our pre-arranged schedule of play-dates, summer school and haircuts, the only things I will find myself saying for 3 - 4 days a week will be:

Oh my god - is that another mouse? (because yes, they're back, probably sheltering from the heat outside like the rest of us. In fact, I think it's here in our tiny office with me right now, since every now and again I'm hearing unexplained movements. What, look? Are you crazy?)
Don't touch it - it's dirty!
No, we cannot keep it as a pet...
Don't touch that - it's poison! (we're using child-proof bait boxes but you never know. I am waiting for the boys to go on their grannie visits when trays of the hard stuff will be left in out for the little rodents to sample in relative safety.)
That's true, mice don't like poison.
Yes, they taste it, then decide they don't like it, and leave... That's exactly what happens.
Have you done a poo, Boy #2? (As I am overwhelmed by the olfactory evidence)
Are you sure you haven't?
Are you absolutely sure?
Yes, it is a big one, isn't it?
Maybe sometime soon you can start using the potty...
Why not?
Off you go...
Boys! No-one is allowed to play with the bicycles indoors!
I know it's yours, Boy #1, but it's not to be used inside... Boy #2, have you done another poo?

And so on.

Oh, the glamourous lives we South Kensington Mummies lead. I'm going off now to melt in front of the tv and think nostalgically back to the days when warm evenings meant sitting on the roof with my girlfriends knocking back a glass or two of white wine. Check out the link below to the Echo Falls ad if, like me, you've forgotten that somewhat more carefree existence...

Thursday 24 July 2008

Note to self # 795...

a) Before you collect your children from a hot morning at summer school and promise them a dip in the paddling pool when they get home - check that you actually have one.

b) When making an unscheduled trip to Homebase to purchase a paddling pool, don't bother to ask customer services for the measurements to make sure it will fit on your tiny terrace. They won't have them. And at least 3 people will try to queue jump whilst you are trying to persuade them to find out, convinced that their need for sprockets, loo seats, and a particularly putrid shade of paint are far more important than that of a mummy dealing with two mildly irritated small children who are desparate for a cooling dip in their own palatial Thomas the Tank Engine pool...

c) Always remember to take a lead or similar for Boy #2, to whom DIY stores are places of great wonder, majesty, and a perfect opportunity to get lost.

d) Do not offer said paddling pool experience the day after taking the children to visit a friend in Leafy Surrey who has her own swimming pool. Even a 4 year old can see the difference (though, thank God, mine was too polite to comment on it).

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Pillow Talk

You know you're getting old when you get excited about finally finding the right pillow to lay your head on at night. I mean, what type of a saddo would wax lyrical about that?

Me, obviously.

When I left home at 19 years old, my mother presented me with a set of bedding which included a pillow. Being young, skint, and not very well organised, although I complained about the paltriness of the pillow for a little while, I didn't get round to replacing it - and pretty soon, I got used to it. But this presented a problem. Whenever I slept on a different - more normal - pillow, my neck ached.

Not for me those big puffy marshmallows that you see used in American soap operas and in department store windows. Not for me the luxury of sinking back, properly supported, on acres of goose-down. No, for years now I have been on a quest for the perfect skinny pillow. I hunted high and low. In department stores, in bedding stores, and invariably, with no luck. At times, I even resorted to sleeping on a folded towel when the puffiness of replacement pillows got too much.

Some well-meaning girlfriends, knowing of the fruitlessness of my quest, and no doubt bored with hearing me whitter on about it, even bought me what they thought was a thin pillow for my 40th birthday. I'd rather been hoping for Liberty gift vouchers or something unspeakable from Myla, but there you go. However, whilst a pillow did not score that highly in the excitement stakes, it did get closer to wish-fulfillment than the table linen my MiL was originally suggesting she buy me for the same birthday... (In her defence, when she saw my face fall, she quickly followed that idea up with an alternative of vouchers for a facial. Result! Though, now I think about it, perhaps not very flattering...) Anyway, if that 40th birthday pillow was thin, then I'm Cameron Diaz.

So, I was still looking. Until last week. When I finally did what I should have done years ago, and in a fit of very belated genius googled the following: Thin Pillows. And I now have the pillow of my dreams, thanks to Lily Sophia Silk & Cotton.

Now I know my dream pillow exists, I'm going back to the site. I plan to order more so that I am never without a skinny pillow. No doubt as I get older and even more of a pain (though of course I will much prefer to call it 'charming eccentricity'), I will take to bringing one with me whenever I lay my head somewhere other than home...

But before I wander off contentedly into a world of silk-filled pillows and high thread count Egyptian cottons, I have a couple of thank-you's to make.

Tara at From Dawn 'til Rusk has very kindly given me this award. Ain't it purty?

Expect to see it appear on my sidebar very shortly. As ever, there are rules attached, as follows:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate seven other blogs - but Tara cut it down to 5 because in her words 'I'm lazy', and I'm much too polite to do otherwise...
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blogs.

So, here we are with my five (yes, FIVE) nominations, in no particular order. Before I start, you may notice I've included some bloggers that I've only started reading relatively recently. Let's spread the luurrve, people...

Mud in the City, who says about herself: Never happier than when I'm knee deep in mud in the country after a bracing walk, instead I find myself living in Fulham and trying to live a professional life. I love my independence, cheese and too much pinot grigio. I hate baked beans, rudeness and cotton wool.

Grit on Grit's Day, who writes: Grit. Mother of 7-year old home-educated triplets Squirrel, Shark and Tiger. We survive. I am married to Dig who is important.

Reluctant Memsahib, who says of herself (and apologies RM, for cutting short your long and wonderful 'About Me' description): That I am a third generation Celt in Africa, means I am a Memsahib, like it or not. I’d rather be mama or dada (sister) or – especially – simply addressed by name. None would bear bloodycolonial connotation. But no, third generation and white, African logic (or quiet humour) dictates I am memsahib.... I write, I walk, I teach my youngest at home in lieu of a school run and I try not to mind being memsahib.

Dulwich Divorcee, who writes: I'm just like you - but maybe a bit sadder and trying to get wiser

Samurai Beetle, who in 'About Me' says: My name is Rachel M. I live in South Florida with -Husband, Baby Girl, 2 enormous boy cats, 1 pretty princess cat, 1 cavalier king charles


I also need to thank Hadriana's Treasures for another award, but to do that proper justice I think I will do it in the next post. And of course it means I get to enjoy the moment a little bit longer...

Now, please excuse me; not only is my silk-filled Thin Pillow (note the caps, because it's worth it) calling me, but Boy #1 is refusing to sleep and I need to go and give him a teaspoonful of milk masquarading as medicine to help him drift off... (The lies we mummies tell!)

Monday 21 July 2008

There may be Trouble ahead...

You can almost smell the panic in the air.

Outside schools and nurseries all over western Europe (or all over Kensington and Chelsea, at least), mummies and carers gather with a look of desperation on their faces. Details of summer schools are exchanged and noted down in Smythson diaries and on Blackberries. Enquiries about who's nanny is looking for filler work whilst their employers head off for sunnier climes are bandied around. (This is last ditch talk, of course; we all know that most families moneyed enough to employ a nanny and who have a second home in sunnier climes are actually doing the sensible thing, and taking the Help with them...) And playdates with families with gardens - or access to garden squares - are being set up with indecent haste.

You guessed it.

The Summer Holidays are upon us.

Are you ready? I'm not sure I am.

I have booked playdates - a number of them. The Boys are signed up for a couple of days of Summer School at the nursery. And Boy #1 is due to attend a week of morning sessions at a drama class, with the theme of Pirates and Mermaids. I'm not sure if this is wise, given his tendencies to overdramatise, but needs must.

Ahoy, me hearties! Is that a beached whale I see before me? No, it's a mummy doing her impression of one, following a summer of having children at home with no child-care and thus no time to go to the gym, who has had only biscuits for company and consolation...

Thankfully, The Grannies have both been marshalled, and are each standing ready for their 3 - 4 days 'quality time' with the Boys. I hope they know what they are letting themselves in for. By the time we deliver our little cherubs, Boy #1 will have been immersed in a week of life on the ocean seas so no doubt will be sleeping in an eye patch, and Boy #2 is getting more independant every day.

It's amazing to me that 2 year-olds make it to their 3rd birthday really, given all the scrapes mine gets himself into. Any day now I'm expecting to walk into the living room to find he's scaled the bookshelves in search of some electronic device to use as a phone. If today is anything to go by, he'll be sitting up there next to the untouched Penguin Classics (the legacy of a university education, and abandoned to splendid isolation ever since), with the Sky remote control pinned to his ear, saying "Uh huh, yes. Yes. Mmmmm. Tractor. Riiiight. Train - water. On track."

This afternoon in the nursery playground, my back was only turned for an instant when he proceeded to try and climb into the front of one the other mum's Bakfiets (think; Dutch invention of a bicycle with a box on the front for the kids to ride in - or check out this link if you think you've never heard of such a crazy thing and that I couldn't possibly mean what you think I do).

On it's own, this would have been fine, but he was using the spokes of the wheel as steps, and since he's not the lightest of little princes, visions of recieving invoices for £1000's to repair the damage flashed across my mind. I dragged him away, kicking and screaming, to the garden square, thinking that at least here he would be contained. Where he then proceeded to make his way over to one of the gardeners bags, open it, and as I turned round to catch him in the act, was about to sink his little gnashers into one of their very tasty looking sandwiches.

And the holidays don't officially start until tomorrow.

I'm feeling a bit twitchy about the Boy's granny stays, to be honest. On a recent visit to MiL's house, half the soft furnishings in the conservatory turned out to be works in progress and full of pins, whilst yesterday evening my mother 'fessed up to having had to remove a tick from my father's leg last week. Not from their garden, obviously. Oh no. From a neighbour's.

Well, that makes me feel so much better...

And then, to make me feel even more relaxed with this news, Mum went on to list the diseases that ticks can carry. Lyme's Disease. Encyphalitis. Meningitis. And so on. My laughter at that stage became more than a little hysterical, and noticing this, she hurried to repair the damage by assuring me that during their stay the Boys would not be allowed outside without long trousers and wellington boots. A 2 and a 4 year old, outside, in long trousers and boots, in the summer?

Whatever it takes.

Now, where are those carrot, apple and chocolate muffins I made for the Boys' last day of term? Some quality control checks are needed, I think.

Friday 18 July 2008

Children say the funniest things...

Well, you better be laughing, is my point of view.

This morning at the Amazing Butterflies exhibition at the Natural History Museum, a friend's daughter asked me:

"Have you got a baby in your tummy?"

I replied: "Thanks for asking J, but no, I haven't."

What I wanted to say was: "You cheeky little so and so. You're 5 years old and you think you can diss me like that? In your pedal pushers, with your cute blonde bunches? Have 2 kids, honey, and then come round here with your impertinent questions..." Can I tell you how relieved I was when her gorgeous skinny yummy mummy then said quietly to me "God, she's obsessed. She asked me that on the way here too"? (It may not have been true, but I'll take anything...)

Then, this afternoon, Boy #1, having spent the morning with 2 very girly girlfriends and their long/shoulder length haired mummies, turned to me and said:

"Mama, you have Boy hair."

And there was me thinking it was chic, attractive, sassy and stylish, not to mention being the best cut for the shape of my face. In addition it's the only way of dealing with a head of hair that, if it grows any longer than my collar, sits flat on my head like a very dead thing.

But no. It's Boy hair, apparantly.

Ah well.

Rejoice. For our children are getting Opinions.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Mainlining Chocolate

I have just been saved by the bell. One spoonful, I told myself. Just one spoonful of Green & Black's chocolate ice cream. I'll even stand up whilst I eat it, to burn more calories. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.... And then I will return it to the back of the freezer, and walk away.


I mean, I can resist chocolate - most of the time. The problems start when I have a taste of it. Then, I can't stop. Which is of course exactly what was happening this evening. One spoonful turned into two. Then into Three. It wouldn't have been long before all that was left was me, an empty tub, and a whole lot of regret.

But luckily the phone rang and snapped me from my chocolate trance. Grabbing the life-belt with both hands, I left nothing to chance and put the lid on, threw the tub back into frozen oblivion, and slammed the freezer door shut before running to answer the phone. Thank god for girlfriends calling when the kids are in bed!

But why, after a month of control (and, to be frank, precious little visible result from all this self-denial; my waistbands are still too tight), was I in search of a chocolate hit?

My children do a lot of things, but one they can normally be relied upon is to behave in public. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are usually model Boys when they have an audience. This may be changing, however.

This afternoon, Boy #1 was due to go home after school with a friend for a playdate. My plan was to sneak into the nursery at pick-up time, collect Boy #2, and get the hell out of there before I was spotted by my older son. It was a plan hatched in full knowledge of Boy #1's potential for suddenly deciding that it would be much more fun to stay home with his mum and brother than it would be to go and have a blast at someone else's house. It was a good plan. It almost worked.

But I was busted. Moments before I left the house on the school run, the mum hosting the playdate called to ask if I was happy for her to take Boy #1 swimming, and if that was OK, could I pass his swim-kit over to her at pick-up time? Absolutely, I said, not thinking that of course meeting her to hand over the bag would probably also mean seeing my gorgeous boy. Who, once he spotted me, burst into tears, announced he was not going anywhere without me, and that he only really wanted to spend the afternoon playing with his brother.

Why? Who knows or can understand the workings of a five year old mind? Obviously, I should have just bundled him into the other mum's car, kissed him goodbye, and watched them speed off to the Harbour Club for an afternoon of swankiness with, no doubt, Boy #1 doing a passable impression of The Scream from the back window of the people carrier as they left. From the disapproving looks on the other mum's faces, that was clearly their expectation, at any rate.

But I couldn't do it, and took him home. In disgrace, yes, but I still took him home. Actually I think it was probably me in disgrace, giving in so easily, but sod it, it felt like the right thing to do at the time.

I'm wondering why. I mean, why be subject to the foibles and tyranny of a pre-schooler? I know I shouldn't let it happen. But come September when Boy #1 starts big school, I suspect there are going to be enough tearful partings. So home we went.

He didn't get off scot-free, however. To make clear to him the enormity of saying he would do something and then changing his mind, resulting in one of his best friends also becoming upset since she had been looking forward to an opportunity of uninterrupted Boy #1 time, I told him that he was not allowed any television today.

Finally, he got the point. But he still wouldn't go on the playdate. And of course, who really benefits from the Boys watching a little television?

That would be... me.

Television as babysitter whilst you get some chores done - we all do it, even though we promise ourselves we never will. Tara at From Dawn 'till Rusk has just posted on it, in fact. So with-holding it as a way of disciplining your child is really cutting off your nose to spite your face. I carried it through, of course; in this situation consistency is king, yes? But man, I could have done with a quiet 5 minutes with the Boys tuned into C-beebies this afternoon.

If nothing else, it would have given me the chance to make my grovelling phone apology to the little girl's mum in peace...

And this evening I could always have opened a bottle wine on my own (Husband is travelling), to take the edge off just a little, but this would probably have had an even more disastrous effect for my sticking to the healthy eating plan. No doubt I would not only have finished the bottle, but I would then have lost all willpower and finished the tub of ice-cream as well.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

It takes all sorts

Walking through Chelsea this morning, we passed a young guy with a pony tail getting out of a van. Boy #1 did a classic double take, and then made the following observation - at the top of his voice.

"Look, Mama! That man's got girl hair!"

Are we living in too middle-class an area, do you think?

It's been a busy day in the Potty household. We started off with both Boy #1 and Boy 2#'s sports day.

I must admit that my hopes for this were not high. Previous experiences of school events have led me to believe that there is a special kind of hell invented solely for middle class parents, known as sports day and christmas plays for under 3 year-olds. This was Boy #2's first foray into 'show-off marketing' on behalf of the nursery (let's call it what it is, right?), and since his older brother until recently refused to show willing and join in, normally skulking at the edge of the stage on a teacher's lap, my expectations were limited.

However, overall the day went relatively well. OK, so Boy #2 didn't actually compete in any races, but frankly I wouldn't be too happy to be left with a group of screaming class-mates and told to run to the other end of a 10 metre track for no good reason that I could see. Much better to simply run back to the parents and older brother and watch proceedings in comfort with the other spectators...

Boy #1, on the other hand, loved it when his turn came, and threw himself into the races with gusto. Whilst he didn't actually win anything, he came a close second in the space hopper race, which is good enough for me. Bearing in mind my total lack of sporting ability, anytime the Boys achieve any place other than last is a bonus in my mind.

Then after we got back home, we had the builders in. They rolled up around 3.30pm, complete with reflective vests, hardhats, and toolbelts. I thought the hardhats were a touch over the top, but I guess you can't be too careful when you've come to help construct a railway around the sitting room.

Sadly the railway was never actually finished. It snaked from one end of the room to the other, taking very little account of the lie of the land and features like sofa's and tables. The builders had high hopes at one stage of reaching all the way from Sydney Harbour to London Airport, but they were distracted by an attack of killer dinosaurs on a nearby castle.

The dinosaurs were intent on removing all the occupants of the castle by the simple means of stuffing them down the back of the sofa, but the local mama police scuppered this plan and insisted instead that they be placed in the seat of a toy buggy until other suitable accomodation could be found. The only problem with this plan was that the buggy has an unfortunate tendency to fold itself up without warning, which the younger of the two Builders (I believe his name was Bob), found so frustrating that he found himself full length on the floor shouting and banging his feet.

And I suspect that tomorrow morning there will be further ructions when the builders return and find that not only have the killer dinosaurs been returned to their place in the natural order of things (a tray in the corner of the sitting room), but that the railway has unaccountably been swallowed up by an earthquake and returned to it's original home in a box in Boy #1's bedroom.

Monday 14 July 2008

Excuse me...

...whilst I rant for a little while.

On last night's BBC news, it was reported that scientists hope to have vaccines available to combat MRSA and C-Difficile within the next 10 years.

This is good news, especially for the many people who have picked up strains of these Superbugs on hospital trips over the last few years.

But here is my problem. Why are these bugs in hospitals in the first place?

Forget the handwringing, and the blaming of the 'visitors', and the apologists who point out that our hospitals were often built 50 - 100 years ago so are very difficult to keep clean. Can somebody please tell me why they are so present in our NHS system and yet why in other countries, i.e. Holland, there are 50 times fewer cases of these superbugs?

I'm furious, because both of these bugs have directly affected my family within the last 4 years.

Boy #2 picked up an unexplained skin infection in hospital within 2 days of being born. When he was a week old he was readmitted with a combination of jaundice and Scalded Skin Syndrome. (Apparantly a sizeable minority of us carry this bug on our skin. But we were all tested - and it wasn't from his family that he caught it).

The jaundice, whilst serious and nasty, was sorted within a few days. But the SSS meant he was hooked up to IV's to pump antibiotics into his bloodstream for the next week. He pulled out canula after canula, each time meaning that it needed to be re-inserted in a different vein. Not much fun when you're 8 days old.

For the majority who are I hope unfamiliar with SSS, imagine a carpet burn spreading and proliferating across your newborn's stomach at the rate of around 1 centimeter diameter a day. Then imagine that because they don't know whether it's being caused by Staph or Strep, they have to give a double hit of antibiotics to a baby weighing less than 3.5 kilos, just to make sure they are giving the right treatment.

Then imagine that after being sent home a week later, this condition continues to reoccur around once every 3 weeks. You give antibiotics again - usually a double hit for the same reason as before. The condition clears up. You finish the course. The condition reappears. Guess what? More antibiotics.

Imgagine 4 months of this, during which you are pushed to the limit, knowing that the last place you want your precious baby is back in the hospital you suspect to be the cause of all this, but which you have to use because your doctor is not on call 24 hours a day and invariably it's during the evening bath that you spot the return of the condition. And the condition is so aggressive that you can't leave it until the next morning to pop back into the doctor's surgery for yet another repeat prescription. So where do you go? Yes, back to the hospital.

Finally, when your baby is 4 1/2 months old, you pop back into the hospital for yet more results and guess what they tell you? Your darling has MRSA. And this whole thing may have been a side effect, who knows? (Again, we were all tested. Again, negative.)

This diagnosis, however, was not all bad news. We finally - after all that time - got to see the right doctors, who very quickly helped us sort the whole thing out. These were the peadiatric dermotologists who we asked to see when Boy #2 was first admitted at a week old, and who we were told repeatedly were fully aware of the case and directing treatment but who, funnily enough, were never available to see us. The same peadriatric dermatologists who, when they first met us following the MRSA diagnosis, told us they had never heard of Boy #2 or our situation.

Are you getting why I'm mad yet?

And Husband's grandmother, Omie, acquired C-difficile during intermittent hospital stays to deal with a very low blood count. Perfect for an elderly lady who's immune system is incredibly low.

Neither of these - Boy #2 or Omie - were prime candidates for vaccination. In fact, if someone had come to me and asked if they could give my newborn child a jab just in case he picked up something nasty in the 2 days we were in hospital following a c-section, I wouldn't have waited to be discharged; I would have picked him up right then and walked straight out.

So please, can somebody tell me, why should we be happy that there is going to be vaccine available to prevent the spread of superbugs that are already preventable?

It's a simple solution.

It's called keeping the damn hospitals clean.

Rant over.

Friday 11 July 2008

Love is Blind

We live in a visual age. A picture is worth a thousand words - apparantly. I happen not to agree with that unreservedly - you may have picked up on that by the amount of drivel on my blog, along with the lack of images - but I can see the merit in that statement.

Everywhere you go, people are videoing, taking pictures, watching tv. They're 'preserving the moment'. Boxing it for the future. They do this anywhere, at any time. At home. At their desks. Out and about. In planes, trains and automobiles. Other than on a bike, there is no form of transport where you can't tap into some form of visual communication if you wish. Even the tube has jumped on board. It was once a bastion of the written word, with commuters hunkering down behind broadsheet and tabloid newspapers in an attempt to create a little personal space and an escape from the maelstrom surrounding them. But that's changed too now; one is no longer automatically removed from the onslaught by the simple means of going underground since the introduction a couple of weeks back of enormous tv screens to various underground stations, showing ads continuously throughout the day. How did we live without that, I wonder?

But still. This post is not a complaint about a society of people increasingly tuned in only to instant visual stimulation, or a lament about the falling numbers of people prepared to pick up a book and engage their brain. Hell, I'm sitting here blogging rather than reading 'War & Peace' or 'Daniel Deronda', who am I to comment?

No, actually this long-winded introduction is to a post about how photographs can cause you to reassess your memories of a particular time or person. How you can have a set of images in your mind that you are almost certain are a fair representation of reality, but that when you look back at the pictures, you realise that actually; it wasn't like that at all. And since this blog is mostly about my boys - well, you've probably guessed what's coming. It certainly isn't a deep philosophical reflection on the state of our media-driven society...

I bet, if you have had babies and young children in your lives, your own offspring or otherwise, you were pretty sure they were perfect. You cooed over them, you cuddled them, you took joy in every snuffle, snuggle, burp and puke. (Well, maybe not the last one). You knew that your baby - or your sister's baby, or your best friend's - was essentially the most gorgeous baby you were ever going to see. And you took pictures, to prove it. You showed them to your friends, your long-suffering colleagues, the strangers on the bus. You framed them, hung them in your sitting room, stuck them up on your desk at work, carried them around on your mobile phone. Visual communication Rules OK! Without even opening your mouth you were able to say; 'Look, look everyone! See how beautiful this baby is!'

And they are. No doubt about it, every baby is beautiful. In their own way.

Now, let's move on to birth announcements. (Bear with me here). For a lot of people these are really important. The Dutch especially, it seems. Over the years Husband and I have amassed what seems like hundreds of them. This is mainly because we are too disorganised to get round to having a birthday calendar, so this is an easy form of reference for when we are going to visit friends with kids and we have no idea how old they are, when their birthday is, and even in some cases - I'm ashamed to admit - what the children's names are.

A lot of our friends don't just send out the bulk-standard be-ribboned card, either. No, they will include a photo of their newborn cherub. (Can you see where this is going yet?) And sometimes - pre-children - well, sometimes I just wondered why that is. There has been at least one occassion when Husband and I have looked at the photo accompanying the card and thought 'oh, dear'. Now invariably the less attractive babies grow into beautiful toddlers and children, but those photos taken a few hours after they've fought their way out into the world are often not representative of the child's 'full potential'. (Have I put that tactfully enough?).

Before you have your own kids you look at these photos and think to yourself "I would never do that. Surely they can see what we can see?" But then, you have your own children. And suddenly you too develop this form of myopia. You don't just think your baby is The World's Most Beautiful; you know it. With all your heart. And you are absolutely certain that this is a fact that everyone must acknowledge, and that you alone have been spared the blindness afflicting other new parents.

Wake up and smell the coffee, new parent. No-one is immune.

A couple of years ago I was rifling through some photos and came across one that a friend had taken of Boy #1 and passed on to me. It stopped me in my tracks. Who was this 5 month old baby? Not mine, surely? I remember him having more hair. Better skin. Looking a little less like the michelin man. And then it hit me. I was blind too! How had this happened? Well, clearly it was hormones, but I determined on the spot that it wouldn't happen again.

And then I had Boy #2. Who was, it turned out, the most beautiful baby you could ever hope to see in your whole damn life. I was certain this time. What, you don't believe me? Just look at the photos...

Which I did this week, as I was putting together some 'eye candy' for the grannies birthdays, coming up in the next month or so. (Photobox do hardbacked printed albums of your little angels - what doting grandmother could ask for more?). And so I went back through our files of digital photos to pull some out of both my angel Boys at the various stages of their lives to-date.


Apparantly, The Blindness got me again.

Luckily, though, it wears off. You can look at your children objectively as they grow older. Which is good, because if I couldn't, I wouldn't be able to say so definitively that my Boys are the best looking four and two year old that you're ever likely to meet.

What? I mean, come on! Just look at the photos...

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Potted Wisdom

'Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift - that's why we call it the Present...'

Sounds profound, huh? I'm sure you're wondering which great philosopher wrote that. Check out 'Kung Fu Panda' and you'll see.

For yes, at the weekend I screwed up my courage and took Boy #1 on his first ever cinema visit. Not without some misgivings, I must say. And these were only further underlined when, in the morning before I took him, I had a conversation with a mummy of one of his friends who gasped in horror when I told her our plans for the next few hours.

It transpired that not only had she never taken her 4 year old to the silver screen, but she'd never taken his 7 year old brother either. All down to Control, it seems. Now, I'm the first to admit that if I buy a dvd for the Boys I normally watch it myself first, without them there. Come on, give me a break; Husband's travelling, tv is rubbish, and there are only so many times you can watch a new series of '24' without working out in advance that Jack is going to save the world in the end. Again. Ooops! Sorry, did I give it away?

Anyway, back to Control. So I freely admit to pre-vetting the Boy's dvds. I've yet to watch one that I couldn't show them, but it did give me due warning to fast forward through the opening scene of Finding Nemo. I pretend it's because Boy #2 couldn't take it, but really - it's me. I can't take it. I'm filling up right now at the thought of that poor little clown fish losing his loving mummy in such tragic circumstances. (What do you mean, it's not real?)

However Control mummy from Sunday morning then admitted that she not only fast forwards through that particular scene - and others like it in her children's favourite movies - but she cuts her own dvd's with the offending passages taken out.

Is it just me, or is that a tad over the top?

But I'm getting off the point. Boy #1 and I went where we had not gone before, and made a trek to our local Vue cinema complex to see the movie he'd been asking about since he first spotted Po the Kung Fu Panda in glorious technicolour on the side of a thousand London buses. Bearing in mind that Boy #1 worships television and would watch it until 3am everday given the opportunity, I had a sneaking suspicion this trip would be a success, and it was.

I did learn a couple of lessons, though. The first was not to get there too promptly. You know, when the programme actually starts. I sat there flinching as ads for other, scarier movies flashed up on the screen before the main picture started, whilst Boy #1 blithely ignored them. I ask you, how can the third episode of The Mummy be given the same certificate as Kung Fu Panda? But it has been, and so the ad in all it's gory glory was played out in full to a cinema full of 4 - 8 year olds.

So next time, we leave it another 10 - 15 minutes before going in to watch the feature.

The second was that taking a water pistol - an empty one, of course - to the cinema isn't such a bad idea. It gives your 4 year old something to wave at the screen when things become a little too scary and they feel the need to retaliate to the baddies. I could, of course, do without the muttered 'Freeze!' and 'Bang!'s that accompanied the gestures, but overall he kept the volume down, so I don't think anyone noticed....

(Note: before you judge, I did not buy Boy #1 the water pistol, or indeed, any gun he has in his collection. This one was handed out at the football party beforehand in the party bag. And I have long since given up trying to confiscate any weapons, since if I do so then a piece of lego, a stick, or even a rolled up napkin will apparantly do the job just as well as brightly coloured clearly toy piece of plastic. Boys. It's not like he ever actually sees these things in use. Unless, of course, C-beebies has started to run cop shows when the parent's back is turned.)

And I learned something else, too. Boy #2 and Husband were on their own fun-filled adventure that day, so for an extra treat I took Boy #1 for a pizza before the film. (It's pure coincidence that I didn't fancy walking home in the rain between the morning's football birthday party and our cinema extravaganza, and that Pizza Express have an outlet in the cinema complex. Pure coincidence). During our lunch, my son and I had the following conversation:

Boy #1: "Mama, what do teenagers do?"

Me: "Oh, well, they go to school." (I hope).

Boy #1: "No they don't!"

Me: "Don't they?" (Who have you been talking to? Their days are numbered.)

Boy #1: "I saw them. No, teenagers turn into animals."

Me: "Really?" (How observant of you at such a young age...)

Boy #1: "Yes, and then they tell other people what to do. And wave sticks."

Me: "Gosh. And how do you know this?" (This gets better and better)

Boy #1: "I saw them, I told you. On the wall. They're HUGE. In the car park. By the ant killer."

(A faint understanding starts to dawn).

Me: "Do you mean teenagers, Boy #1? Or do you mean Ancient Egyptians?" (pictured on the wall with various Jackal, snake and crocodile heads outside our local DIY store, where he and I had travelled for pesticide the previous week. They were clearly the subject of much interest)

Boy #1: "Yes, that's it. Teegiptiagers. Or something. How do you say it again?"

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Tag! I'm it!

I've been tagged, by not one, but two bloggers: Tara at From Dawn 'till Rusk and Nunhead Mum of One, to reveal 5 of my favourite posts in the last month, and give anyone reading the chance to look in on them by linking to them.

An easy task, you'ld think. It certainly should be; there are loads of posts out there that strike a chord, made me laugh, or pulled at my heartstrings. But there's a problem. Me and Memory? We were never that close in the first place, but since the Boys have arrived we're not even really on speaking terms anymore. Ask Husband, he'll tell you. In fact, ask anyone. I have to write it down if I want to have any chance of remembering it. I am perfectly capable of sitting down, making a mental list of my chores for the next few hours, getting up, arriving in another room to do the first of said chores - and having forgotten what it is.

I blame my sister, actually. She clearly got my memory cells in addition to her own. She is capable of telling you not only where we went on holiday when we were aged 5 and 7 (Cornwall), but who we stayed with (my cousins), what we did when it was raining (visited the aquarium), and what flavour the lolly was we ate on the way (blackcurrant). I mean, that's not normal, is it? Though I am of course more than prepared to admit that neither is forgetting to look at your carefully prepared list when you get to the supermarket...

So, forgive me if I miss anyone out who should be on here, but these are the posts I can remember - and just as importantly, the ones that haven't already been hoovered up by the bloggers who have previously been tagged!

So, let's kick off with a post from Gone Back South. It's beautifully written. Of herself, she writes: 'I stomped away in my teens, and came back the day before my 40th birthday. At the little school where I once was a daughter, I am now a mother. Some people morphed slowly from one to the other, without setting foot outside this town. I see them in the mornings, ghosts from school-days past, looking exactly the same. Only 30 years older. '


Next, right back at you Tara at From Dawn till Rusk with the post she wrote about her daughter speaking her mind at the supermarket. Very, very, very, very, very funny. And her daughter is right - it is disgusting...(though of course I speak as a mum who's boys may no longer use dummies but refuse to go to sleep without their blankets. So really, I'm no better...)

Now, onto Pig in the Kitchen. Pig is on temporary sabbatical (please god, let it be temporary), but she recently wrote the post linked to above, about a good friend giving birth and the impact it had. I love Pig's writing. She is in fact the reason I started blogging in the first place, so blame her for everything... (Oh yes, and if you're on a diet, I suggest you don't look at her photographs of food...)

Finally, I had to include this one by Elsie Button in Flower Fairies and Fairy Cakes. It tells how she got caught out on an ill-advised flip comment on some-one else's blog. Very funny...

I'm afraid I'm going to be a spoil-sport here, and not pass this tag on. I know I may never be tagged again (and consequently will lose out on a rich vein of subject matter when I can't think of anything interesting to write about), but frankly, I'm just too tired. Husband's in Moscow, I'm suffering from a sugar low (or is that a famine), and I went to Boy #1's graduation picnic today (more of which tomorrow), so I am taking myself off for a bath and some rubbish tv in the hope I will forget all about the two tubs of Green & Black's ice cream in the freezer....

Like that's going to happen.

Saturday 5 July 2008

Oops, I did it again.

Boy #1, sitting next to me at breakfast on Thursday morning, said in a delighted tone of voice "Mama! You're getting fatter and fatter!"

Needless to say, given the amount of food I haven't been eating and the amount of exercise I have been doing, I was somewhat less than delighted by this revelation. Grasping at straws, I replied: "Do you mean 'fatter', Boy #1, or do you mean 'thinner'?

Boy #1 realised he may have made a tactical error. "Thinner. I think."

"Because you know, 'fatter' means bigger, and 'thinner' means smaller."

Boy #1 glanced at my chest, clad in my most supportive sports bra and work-out vest top as I was on my way to the gym after dropping him and his brother at nursery. "Fatter. Definitely."

Out of the mouths of babes. But it was definitely the sports bra.

So, when I woke up this morning, I had even more incentive to do some exercise. Swimming today, I thought. The offending costume from last week had been binned and whilst I had taken Guinea Pig Mum's advice and checked out a swimsuit website, I hadn't actually been organised enough to make a purchase. Consequently, the only option swimsuit-wise was a Boden number that I inspected closely for fraying and perishing before leaving the house. Thankfully, it passed. No way was I going to put my merchandise on display again.

I thought.

Note to self; beach swimsuits, one piece or otherwise, are not designed for energetic front crawl in a pool. 1 1/2 lengths in, I realised that the pleasant feeling of freedom I was experiencing in the nipple area was because they were just that; free.

I completed the swim. But not without stopping at the end of each length and pulling up my suit at the expense of exposing a bikini line that could do with some attention. But hey - at least that was below the water line... You've got to compromise in this life, right?

And then, fully clad, no nipples on show, I went upstairs to gym reception and bought a new swimsuit. One fit for the job, that I had been planning on purchasing on-line. It was £6 more expensive to buy at the gym of course, but at least I now have it in my possession. And whilst paying, I tried - and failed - to ignore the tv screens behind the desk showing full views of the pool through the surveillance cameras...

Thursday 3 July 2008

To do AND Diet

The 'diet' has been going well. No chocolate, no bread, just good healthy food, plenty of water, and a 300% increase in the level of exercise. (That last is not hard to achieve if you also include walking to collect the Boys from school in the tally. Yes, I'm desperate). Still, knowing my luck, I will not have lost a single pound when I next weigh myself, though of course I can always console myself with the old 'muscle weighs more than fat' myth. I know this is a myth, by the way, because I trotted it out in front of my trainer at the gym when she gave me my new programme - and she laughed. Pityingly. I think she thought I had rather a way to go before that becomes a problem.


Checking my diary today, I noticed with horror that next Tuesday is Boy #1's school 'graduation' picnic. I know. Graduation - for four year olds. Has the world gone mad? But that's not all, oh no. Those of you with slightly older kids will no doubt already be shaking their heads, and saying "You didn't, did you? Tell me you didn't do it. Tell me you didn't give in to the pressure, pick up the pencil, and write your name next to an item on the list of party foods. You did, didn't you?"

Yes, yes I did.

"Well, tell me at least that it was something simple. Something like punnets of strawberries. Or sausage rolls, available frozen oven-ready in the budget section of the supermarket. Please tell me that, at least!"

I'm afraid I can't.

"Oh, for chrissake. I give up."

And you should, dear reader, you should. For what, in my jet-lagged post Australian trip haze did I sign up to? A batch of 40 home-made jam tarts, that's what. I must be crazy. Not for saying I would make the jam tarts - but for owning up to them in advance. It's one thing to take in a spontaneous offering of muffins or similar for the kids to consume in class, but this? This is a whole different ballgame, for at this Graduation Picnic... there will be Parents.

And not just any parents, oh no. West London Parents. The most competitive of the lot. Very few of them are British, and those that are have long ago spurned Fair Play as for weaklings. The result? Well, here's an excerpt from a post I wrote about Harvest Festival last October, and decide for yourself.

It’s Harvest Festival week at Boy #1’s nursery, and all parents were asked to bring in a box to be donated to the needy, filled with suitable tins, fruit, veg etc. To add to the general excitement it was suggested that the children should decorate them, and that the best would win a prize. Full of team spirit, we duly collected leaves in the park after school and last night Boy #1 and I indulged in an orgy of cutting and sticking whilst he decorated a (large) shoe box in a seasonal styley.

I then filled it with what I thought was appropriate fare (a couple of tins of soup, some biscuits, a home-made jar of redcurrant jelly – home-made but not by me, do you think I'm crazy? - some dried fruit etc). Oh, how little I knew… When we arrived at the school to drop Boy #1 off, I realised I had badly misjudged the situation.

We had to fight our way through the entrance hall; it had suddenly become home to acres of beautifully cellophane-wrapped wicker hampers, boxes, cartons and (I kid you not) one pink enamel rustic style bucket filled with goodies. The were all overflowing with the best that Fortnums, Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nicks could offer.

Suddenly our Waitrose goods looked a little cheap… Whilst his teacher valiantly rose to the occasion and pointed out that Boy #1 was one of the few kids who had actually risen to the challenge of decorating their own harvest gift, I must admit that if I were one of the ‘needy’ recipients I know which I would prefer. Am simply not sure that a foliage decorated shoebox - albeit a large one - could cut it compared with some of the grander offerings available...

So. These mommas take no prisoners. I expect most of them to have their chef/house-keeper already working on delectable offerings for next week, and those that don't have staff will probably have booked the local patisserie to supply whatever it is they are providing.

But I refuse to give in. Home-made I have promised, and home-made I will provide. Even though I can see a long weekend of tart making ahead, trying to make the perfect pastry, choosing the perfect jam. Not good, since I'm on a diet, so even if I do manage to restrain myself from testing the tarts during the baking marathon, I am likely to consume most of the results in a sugar-low induced frenzy on the way to drop them off at the school on Tuesday morning.

Something tells me that if I turn up with a few crumbs in the box, and jam around my mouth it may give the game away. Perhaps I'll task Husband to make this delivery.

I can resist anything but temptation.

Tuesday 1 July 2008


One of my best girlfriends called today. She moved out of London a while back, so it's rare that we get to catch up without being besieged by husbands and children, but today we managed it. What we should have been discussing was where we are going to meet on a joint family trip in a couple of weeks time. After agreeing that this was a top priority we got distracted however, and our subsequent 15 minute conversation covered, in no particular order:

1. Babies sleeping through the night (her 10 month-old just did for the first time. Gosh, it's good to be out of the baby jungle).

2. Travelling husbands who take their gym kit / swim shorts away with them even though both they and we know the chances of their being used are none.

3. The same husbands refusing to get any help with their training regime from the professionals at their gyms in the form of exercise routines. We decided it must be because that sort of support is just not macho enough. Or that they are scared of that they might have to work harder at it...

4. Why we ourselves are so rubbish at taking the very helpful advice given to us by those same professionals at our gyms. Well, we do actually take it... for about 2 weeks. Then it's just quicker to cut out some of the exercises in order to make the school pick-up in time. And wouldn't you know it, the more difficult exercises are the ones that get dropped. Who'ld have thought it?

5. That Botox is no longer the preposterous idea it once seemed to us as relatively fresh-faced 20 somethings.

6. That beauticians have taken to offering us collagen 'filler' treatments when we go in for a facial. What, you mean I don't have the unlined face of 17 year-old?

7. That Botox is actually a pretty good idea and would probably a lot cheaper where she is.

8. How it's quite ironic that nowadays beauticians offer Cosmetic Enhancements in the wilds of Gloucestershire, but that the same town can't provide a dry-cleaning service that returns your clothes in less than a week.

9. How squeezing into your work clothes after your second baby is a mug's game - but that layering can hide a multitude of sins.

10. That unfortunately layering doesn't really work on the hottest day of the year so far...

11. That we used to have lives on a Friday night - and now we have ironing to do. (Layering is very wasteful on the linen front).

And did we arrange where to meet? Of course not.