Sunday 30 November 2008

Read on if you need a nap...

... Well, you clicked. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've been pondering Economics. Not just any Economics, oh no. The most important kind - at least, in my current situation. Home Economics.

I can't speak for everyone of my age, but Home Economics was a subject that did feature in the curriculum at school. Not hugely however, and once you got to 13 it was no longer compulsory, to the extent that it was viewed as one of those subjects you took if you weren't particularly - how can I put this? - bright. Not stupid, exactly, but not very bright. It tended to be the lower streamed pupils at my convent school who took it on past the age of 13. You know, those of us (note the 'us') who were condemned to take 7 rather than 9 or 10 O-levels. (Oh, the shame, the tearful explanations to parents, the embarrassment of telling your friends that you wouldn't be joining them in Higher Maths. Thank god!)

Anyway, enough dwelling on the past. I was talking about Home Economics, and it's secondary citizen status. Despite it's grandiose name - because, let's face it, it didn't seem that relevant to girls of 14 who's dearest ambitions were to be a doctor, physicist (neither of them me), or a meterologist in the Royal Navy (dear god, why? Because I liked the maps, that's why. I didn't do it, obviously. You needed to be able to add up and draw isobars for that sort of thing...) - it didn't actually teach us very much that was useful.

A few things stuck; how to chop an onion (don't laugh, to this day people are impressed when they see me do it), how to do backstitch - barely - and how to wear a too-large school uniform apron by folding up the waist-band. No need for that nowadays, can't remember the last time an apron was too large...

So there we were, school-leavers at 16 or 18 years old, still wet behind the ears, with no real inkling of how to look after ourselves in a 'home-making' sense. Oh, we could conjugate French verbs. Add using bases (well, some of us could), and tell you that Pool was the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. We could even make sarcastic remarks to the boys we fancied from the school down the road. But fend for ourselves? You only had to take a look at my room in university to see that that was still some way off...

To be honest, things didn't really improve much for the next 20 years. I got tidier, obviously. I learnt to cook. Ish. I familiarised myself with a hoover and an iron. But really, it wasn't until I found myself home full time that I began to discover the short-cuts. You know, the things that, once you do them around the home are so glaringly obvious that you can't imagine why you didn't do them before. Perhaps most people do, perhaps they took notice when their mums tried to instruct them, but I'm afraid it all washed over me a haze of Cyndi Lauper, Spandau Ballet and Human League.

Now, it was at this point in my original post that I put a list of a few 'things I wish I had known earlier' in the housekeeping department. But I just reread them and frankly, you would have more fun watching paint dry. Apologies to those of you who have already waded through, and the couple who kindly left comments; I don't know what I was thinking...

Instead then, let's have a few of the following. A list of Things you were told would make your homelife easier and which absolutely don't, and which, in the interest of Home Economics, you should never have shelled out for... Like:

1. A cot-top changing table for your new-born. We had one. We spent money on it. And, of course, we never used it - not once. Why would you when you have a much more stable TABLE next to the cot. (I once nearly got myself thrown out of Peter Jones when I interrupted a salesperson in full spate who was trying to palm one off on an unsuspecting mother-to-be, when I suggested that it was a waste of both money and space if there was a table in their baby-to-be's room. I'm not quite banned from the baby section but it was a close call...)

2. A hand-held dustbuster. Easy to use, I agree. Useful to have around. But have you ever tried to clean one of those babies out? Gah! I'm retching as I type (and yes, I know I should do it more often but somehow there is always something more pressing on my list...).

3. A coffee machine. No! TWO coffee machines! Perfect - except I don't drink coffee. Husband does - of course, he's Dutch - but for the 50% of the time he's not here they sit on the counter top taking up space and mocking me as I try to use the remaining 2 cm square space roll out pastry (not often) or unstack the dishwasher (far too often).

4. A wine cooler. What bottle lasts long enough to benefit?

5. Electronic mouse deterrents. We have 2. And mice.

This list, of course, is just a beginning. If you would like to add your own items to it, you know where the comments box is...

Thursday 27 November 2008

I say, I say, I say...

Boy #1 has discovered jokes. Not filthy ones. Not wry ones. Not even - yet - funny ones. Just - jokes.

For example, on the way home from school today...

Boy #1: "Why did the seagull fly up in the... No, that's not right. You say it, mama."

Me: "Why did the seagull -"

Boy #1: "No! No! Not seagull! Seaweed! I said, seaweed!"

Me: "Are you sure? (heavy sigh from the back seat). OK, Why did the seagull - what?"

Boy #1: "What?"

Me: "What did the seagull do?"

Boy #1: "Oh. Why did the seaweed - seaweed, mama - fly up in the sky? You say it now."

Me: "Right. Why did the seaweed fly up in the sky?"

Boy #1: "Because it wanted to be an airplane, silly!"

Cue Boy #1 and Boy #2 laughing like drains in the back of the car.

And so it continued. Did you know that the cow jumped over the moon because it wanted to...? Or that the chicken crossed the road to be an astronaut?

After a while, these 'jokes' start to get quite funny. Really.

Or is that just hysteria setting in?

Tuesday 25 November 2008

It's official, I'm worth it...

So there it was, sitting innocently in my inbox.

You know the the sort of e-mail: Dear Potty Mummy,... working on a project for our client, ...blah blah....blah blah blah, please read me, blah blah blah, please blog about me (ha! This post showed them!), blah blah blah, etc etc.

And then... it got interesting.

'We’ve created a calculator tool for people to be able to work out the value of their own household economy – and see which member of the household does the most valuable work. It’s a brilliant way to settle arguments – or even to start them – about who does what around the home.'

Well. Well, well, well.

Suddenly, I started to pay attention.

And I defy any stay at home mum to have the will-power not to take a quick peek at that calculator tool.

I looked. I tapped in my hours per household job. I didn't even exaggerate. Well, not by much, anyway. Apparantly, my worth to the 'house-hold economy' is 315% higher than that of most of mums - but I'm not getting carried away by that: I stay home, I do most of the child-care, and I have two sons of 5 or under. Anyone with any sense knows that this is the most time-intensive period of a parent's life if they are the main carer. That's not to say there is more intrinsic value in being a parent to young children than there is to being a parent to older kids, in fact if the feedback I get from all my friends and family is true, the older they get and the less they see you, the more they need you when they do.

But, if you put a monetry cost per hour on what I do, it's actually quite well paid. If you get paid.
I shall be asking Husband for a pay rise when he gets back, is all I'm saying...

On another note, Boy #2 is currently home sick from nursery. Not anything serious, just this nasty cold/flu virus that's going around and which you just have to get through. Thank heavens, we are now past the nightly vomit-fest of a few days ago and he is recovering, albeit slowly. Now, don't get me wrong; I value my child-free time highly. Those 3 mornings a week when I get to go unencumbered to the gym, the supermarket, to run errands, to do stuff around the house (and of course to blog, but let's keep that as our little secret); they are like gold to me.

But Boy #2 is just so... Boy #2-ish. Obviously, when ill, he's a snot fountain. He's tired and cranky. He's demanding. He wants me to read book after book after book. He moans. Frankly it's exhausting - if I had the time I might have to come down with something myself just to recover. But I can't begin to adequately describe the feeling of contentment that washes over me when he and I are curled up on the sofa reading 'The Polar Express' or Thomas the Tank Engine. His neat little head resting in the hollow of my shoulder, his chubby little hand resting on my leg, his sniffly breath in my ear (well, maybe not that last bit - but it's part of the package right now); all are serving to remind me that being a mother to small children is so fleeting, so transient.

If it's possible to enjoy looking after a mildly unwell 2 year old, I am doing.

Who'ld have thought it?

Note: For those of you wondering about my decision on whether to review products and services sent to me by pr/marketing agencies, the jury is still out on that. The reference to the calculator tool at the beginning of this post was not paid for; I simply thought it made interesting subject matter...

Monday 24 November 2008

It's Carnival Time

So, it's here. The Best of the British Parent Bloggers Carnival...

There are 28 links below to posts from British bloggers (in no particular order), all of which are great. Some are quite simply hilarious, others will make you think, and still more will tug at your heartstrings.

If you would like to vote for one in particular as the stand-out submission, simply leave a note in my comment box and I will post in around a week with an update on who 'won'. No prizes, I'm afraid, other than the satisfaction...

And finally before you get stuck in, if you are interested in hosting one of the carnival posts yourself, click on this link and see just how it easy it is...


Frog in the Field writes of the fun of being introduced to the in-laws in:

Reluctant Memsahib takes a look at how marriage and having it all aren't necessarily intimate bed-fellows in :

Samantha Smythe writes on the perils of allowing your soup to become a living entity in:

Part Mummy, Part Me writes on the frustrations of marrying parenting and work and a nitty problem in:

Iota tells the story of how her 6 year old learnt his own, special, pledge of allegiance when he started school in the US:

A Modern Mother recounts how resorting to bribery with your children might not be ethical - but it works, in:

Nappy Valley Girl tells us why she won't be sending the kids off to boarding school in:

Bush Mummy writes of how the simple of act of taking a shower in the morning, isn't simple at all...:

Majajibba tells us how those baby urges can creep up when you least expect them in:

Little Mummy takes a look at a new website for families and wonders if there's space for everyone in the blogosphere in:

Mud in the City writes about the perils of internet dating in:

Jaywalker at Belgian Waffling writes of the fun of being a parent and said with her submission note: "Promise you'll give me one of those bbc style health warnings "with strong language right from the start...". Consider yourselves warned...:

Footballer's Knees tells us how her crush on Nigella may be more off than on in:

Ella at Most/Least considers how stay-at-home motherhood is grossly undervalued, both by Society, and herself (I have SO been there, Ella) in :

Paradise Lost in Translation tells us of the perils of driving in Albania in:

Single Dad writes of how the differences between boys and girls are starting to be taken seriously by the educational establishment in:

Mya takes a look at her recent trip to the UK and the perils of eating stall-bought soup on Bonfire Night in:

Working Mum tells us of being ambushed by choice in Tesco in:

You think you've been flooded by decisions? Take a look at Nunhead Mum of One's post on:

Grit takes a wry look at Home Educating in:

Expat Mum writes about the satisfaction that comes from beating the system in:

Rotwatch muses on AA Gill, growing your own veg, the X Factor and the Mountain Marathon Race in:

Milla at Country Lite shares the delights of supermarket eavesdropping with us in:

Charlene at Thames Valley Mums mourns two lost child-free hours in:

The London Mums Blog wonders whether the marketeers at J&J really thought it through before they released an ad guaranteed to upset every mother who has ever used a baby carrier in:
Jo Beaufoix discovers that the future is not, as she had previously thought, Barak Obama, in:

And lastly, here's an exerpt from my Potty Diaries, on why nativity plays ain't what they used to be:
Stop press: a late entry from Tara at Sticky Fingers was too good to leave out: in it, she ponders all the things she told herself BC (before children) she would never do. Are you brave enough to go there with her at: ?

Sunday 23 November 2008

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...and a free gift!

So, Christmas is just - just - around the corner. We entered the festive fray this weekend chez Potty with a family trip to the ice rink at the Natural History Museum yesterday afternoon. It all looked very pretty and twinkly, with white lights glittering on the trees and brightly coloured skaters zipping around the ice... Though of course, this being England, there was not actually that much 'zipping' going on - more flailing, teetering, tottering, and crashing headfirst into other skaters and the wooden barriers.

But you don't need to know about me...

Husband, being Dutch, is a little more used to this ridiculous practice of strapping a couple of razer blades to your feet and pushing off, so he bravely took Boy #1 in hand and set off. Amazingly, despite a couple of encounters with the ice where he discovered just how unyielding and hard it is, Boy #1 really enjoyed himself. This was partly because Husband, knowing what he was about, had the presence of mind to request the double-bladed skates for him, so balancing was less of a problem than it might otherwise have been. Hell, even I could have skated with a pair of those on... maybe.

But you probably don't want to know about them, either.

No, what you want to know about is that we saw Elle Macpherson en-famille on the ice too, that she is very good looking in real-life, that she is tall with a great figure, and that she can skate, dammit. Well, better than me, at any rate. Somehow I suspect that her earliest skating experiences were a little more glamorous than mine at Bristol ice rink sometime in the late 1970's... You know, I bet I would be a great skater too if I had learnt at Aspen or Gstaad, or Lech, or Courcheval... and if I was 6 foot with honey blonde hair and... well, anyway. We had gone with my brother and his girlfriend L, who cheered me up considerably when, having had said Supermodel pointed out to her looked at her narrowly and said: "I'm going to get her."

She didn't, of course. Probably because, like me, she was incapable of leaving the side of the rink.

So, that's one reason I know Christmas is around the corner. Here's another; I've been fielding calls all weekend from ridiculously organised family members asking for Christmas present ideas for my sons. Oh, for the days when Christmas shopping could be left to the last minute and be covered off with a quick pop into John Lewis on the way home from work on Christmas Eve... Apparantly though that becomes a criminal offence when you have children, so now, when asked, I normally I just list a couple things from the top of my head; "Oh, books would be good. Or trains,. Whatever you think..." and leave them to it.

This year though, I thought, let's do this differently. (This may have something to do with the fact I'm still standing on small pieces of lego given to Boy #1 for his birthday). So, pen in hand I've spent this evening poring over catalogues to come up with lists for both my boys. And I must say, I think I've done OK. It includes presents from £4.00, and nothing on either of their lists costs more than £20.00. It's got books, games, toys, crafty stuff, stuff for their rooms. I hope it's not too worthy, but I am their mum, so it probably is.

But here's the clincher: I have e-mailed the list to all interested parties, complete with links to websites where they can buy these things if they want to, and asked if, once they have chosen a present, they can hit the 'reply to all' button and let everyone else on the distribution list know what they've bagsied.

No doubt I will be accused of being controlling where normally I am seen as being disorganised. But I don't care.

Because there's no lego on this list. At all.

PS. I have just had a thought. I am going to give you - yes, you - an early Christmas present.

Check that link to go to a new blog page I've set up, to see the lists for yourselves. Then, if you want to cut and paste them into your own family e-mail, you can. And if those presents don't suit, but you like the idea, how about e-mailing your lists for your children to me (at so that I can add them to the page for other parents to use?

Think of the time we might save in the future... Are you in?

Note: apologies to all outside the UK for whom this won't work. But you could always start your own lists...

Saturday 22 November 2008

Stop Press... may have noticed a couple of weeks ago that I mentioned I'm hosting the next Best of British Mummy Bloggers carnival on Tuesday (25th November).
Now, I know it says 'Mummy' bloggers, but this is an all-inclusive deal; you simply need to be a parent (of either sex) to get involved.

We already have some fantastic bloggers participating, but there is always room for more: if you would like to take part simply e-mail me with a link to your favourite post from the last 4 weeks (that's one that you have written, obviously), and I will include it. I will drop you a line on the day the carnival starts and send you a link. If you want you can paste that into your blog so that people can visit and vote for their favourite entry by leaving a comment on The Potty Diaries.

Send your mail to:

before Monday lunchtime if possible.

Best of luck!

Thursday 20 November 2008

Fat is a Bloggamist Issue...

Fat is a bloggamist issue right now, it seems. Lots of us are focusing on it, and Tara at Sticky Fingers has even gone so far as to set up a blog with two friends, specifically about losing weight and supporting those who are trying to do the same thing. Check out BlogToFit and be swept away by the enthusiasm and determination of the team...

Now, right at this moment, at this particular instant in time, I am not overweight. Sure, I am a few kilos heaver than I would like to be, and probably 4 or 5 more (9 - 10lbs) than my fighting weight, but I haven't been there since before I got pregnant with Boy #1, and frankly? It's a distant dream, and I know it.

I could get there of course, but only by making changes to my lifestyle that just don't seem worth it. I already go to the gym 3 times a week where I burn calories and sweat buckets in a most undignified fashion, I eat healthily, and I don't drink during the week. Or even very much at the weekends, sadly. (Though that self-discipline is more to do with the hideousness of dealing with children whilst battling a hangover than any weight-related concerns.) So if I want to shift those last kilos it would mean - horror - going on to skimmed milk, eating grilled chicken with salad, cutting out the carbs, and shunning the chocolate. Which, if you know me at all from reading my blog, is never going to happen.

It would also mean facing up the fact that the little lies I tell myself about food are just that. Lies. Come on, you know the ones I mean... you probably have your own. Here's my list, in no particular order, developed over many years of self-delusion;

- If you are travelling abroad, food has no calories. Once you leave these shores, the calories stay behind. (They can't get passports, apparantly.)

- If chocolate is eaten whilst you drink a diet coke? No calories. (In fact, the diet coke trick works with just about everything).

- It takes more calories to eat a stick of celery than that stick contains, so if you put it in a sandwich or salad, guess what? The rest of the snack has no calories either. (Unfortunately I don't particularly like uncooked celery but cucumber does just as good a job in my mind...)

- If a biscuit is broken in two, the calories have leaked out. Stands to reason.

- If it's a vegetable - no calories. (Which is handy, because put me in front of a plate of roasted vegetables and they're history...)

- If it's eaten standing up - you guessed it. No calories. Or at least, the immense effort of staying upright cancels them out.

- This one is a classic, of course. No calories if left on the children's plate.

- No calories if no-one sees you eat something.

- Butter is good fat. We need it in our diets or all our fingernails will break and our hair fall out. Actually, this happened to a friend when she was young and foolish and cut all fat out of her diet. I wish it hadn't - for her sake, obviously, but also for mine as now I feel entitled to have butter in the fridge. Which leads me on to...

- If it's on a crispbread (i.e. Ryvita), no calories. So a ryvita smothered with butter / peanut butter / cheese / taramasalata / guacamole (not all together, clearly) is a healthy snack. As is the second, third, fourth and fifth...

- If you walk to pick the children up from school, a Starbuck's Hot Chocolate is the least you need to keep you sustained on the long 20 minute trip.

Those are the first of my 'food fibs' that come to mind - and I haven't even scratched the surface or spent more than 10 minutes thinking about it. What are yours?

Come on, spill!

Wednesday 19 November 2008

A stitch in time...

I'm in trouble. I mentioned in a previous post that Boy #1's Christmas (i.e. Nativity) play is fast approaching. So far, so good, so sit in the audience snivelling a little at how he's grown, fishing desperately for a clean handkerchief in my bag and finding only a used remnant from some time last summer...

But there's a problem.

This play is 'in costume'.

Now, I can at least thank my lucky stars that unlike the mums / grandmothers / nannies / paid help of the families of the 3 little boys who need to dress as Elvis (the King), I don't have to spend the next 2 weeks sourcing a white jumpsuit and sewing spangles and sequins onto it. (What on earth are spangles, by the way? I think I first heard the term in a Ballet Shoes book around 30 years ago, and I still don't know... And no clever answers telling me they're a sweet from the 1970's and 80's either, please. Those I do remember - and can still taste the orange ones now.)

So, no Elvis.

No, Boy #1 is going to be dressed as a waiter (that well-known character in the timeless Christmas story). Which means black trousers, and a white shirt - both of which are easily found and can be pressed into service at Christmas lunch if we want pocket-sized help to carry complicated stuff into the dining room at my parent's. Complicated stuff like... napkins, that is.

It's the third item on the costume list we received by letter from the school that is bothering me.

He needs an apron. A white, waiter's apron.

Bearing in mind that at school my home economics teacher used to have the same reaction to my sewing that my sports teacher used to have to my tennis - to wander past slowly, sorrowfully shaking her head - you will understand when I tell you that my first instinct was to source this on the internet. Unsuccessfully, of course. I mean, who in their right mind would stock a white waiter's apron for a 5 year old?

And as my Mother in Law, otherwise known as 'she who can rustle up a child's kilt at a moment's notice' (which was lucky, as she had to do just that for last year's festive extravaganza - click if you want to see just how out of control a nursery drama teacher can get when her medication runs out) is out of the country for the next week or so, I can't even turn to her for help on this one.

I am, horrors, going to have to Make This One Myself.

It's just me, a new white tea towel that I plan to butcher into a suitable shape, and some of 'that tape they use on seams' to make the ties. You see, I'm so rubbish at this, I don't even know what the tape is called. They're going to laugh me out of the Peter Jones haberdashery department when I go there tomorrow to buy some...

Oh well. At least the tea-towel / apron will be washable to get rid of the blood and chocolate stains. Blood from my fingers, and chocolate, well, because why not? It is nearly Christmas, after all.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Isaac and Jeremiah

Two MAJOR tantrums from Boy #1 this evening - to the extent that I am just about wrung out. And why? Well, have you got a moment?

Tantrum #1 - let's call it Tantrum Isaac, since that is how far down the alphabet I believe we've travelled since the beginning of term - probably rated a 4 on the scale. It blew up out of a relatively cloudless sky shortly after bath time. Admittedly, it did follow a short squall over dinner that dissapated amazingly quickly once gingerbread cake was promised for pudding if all the main course of gnocchi was eaten, but there was no hint of the mayhem that then followed when I refused to top up Boy #1's milk immediately, the moment he asked for it. I was making a telephone call, and asked him to wait a couple of minutes, hence the sudden and unexpected visit from Isaac.

I dealt with it as best I could, confining the eye of the storm to his room for 5 long minutes of time out, during which time Isaac blew itself out with shouts of 'Milk! Milk! Milk!', 'I'm not your best boy any more, mama!' and the classic 'I've been in here for HOURS!' We made up, apologies and kisses were given, calm was restored, and normal service was resumed.

Or so I thought.

Isaac may have been powerful, however, but it was nothing compared to Tantrum Jeremiah, which arrived 20 minutes later when I switched off the television 7 minutes earlier than normal. I wouldn't usually do this - both my Boys look forward to their tv probably more than they should - but Nick Jr were showing seven, yes, that's SEVEN, minutes of adverts before the next scheduled programme, and whilst I'm OK with the boys sitting through a couple of minutes of pleas to buy the latest Power Ranger / Hot Rod / Baby Born / Gameboy etc, 7 minutes seemed just a little excessive and rather manipulative no matter what the time of year.

So, I switched it off.

My oh my, Jeremiah was what I believe they call a Doozy. Screaming, shouting, pleading, throwing himself on the floor, you name it; it must have registered a 5 on the Tantrum scale. Clearly, Boy #1 was over-tired, and the simplest thing would just have been to give in and turn the blasted box back on, but I couldn't, for two very simple reasons.

Firstly, if I give in to that behaviour then I am making a rod for my own back in the future; being consistent and sticking to your guns is one of the only ways to exert control over your children, so I knew that if I gave in I had lost not just this but many future confrontations.

And secondly, who was standing wide-eyed, watching the whole performance? Boy #2. Who, just for the record, had already been sent to the Naughty Chair (for spitting out his food and repeatedly getting down from the table) during dinner. So it was doubly important that he also saw justice being carried out for his brother.

Tantrum Jeremiah was sent to blow itself out in Boy #1's bedroom. It took a little longer than it's predecessor, but it did die down eventually, and is now all forgotten by my beloved older son.

Whilst it was dying down I had Boy #2 on my lap in another room, and was calmly trying to explain to a spooked two year old that his brother was fine, would be OK in a couple of minutes, that mama was not a monster (OK, I didn't say that but - even though I knew I was doing the right thing - it felt like I was being one), and that Time Out was what happens when you behave badly like that.

I don't know about you, but when Husband and I became parents, we agreed that smacking / hitting / physically punishing our children was not on the agenda. You don't hit an adult, we reasoned, so why would you hit someone whom you supposedly love even more than life, who is defenceless, and who is less than half your size?

I still believe that, really I do. And I still believe that Time Out is the most effective and the best way of dealing with these situations.

But god, it's exhausting being the Grown-Up sometimes.

Monday 17 November 2008

Snapshots #2

Snapshot 1

Talking to Boy #1 this evening, I learnt that people are all different shapes. Some are fat, some are not. Some are tall, some are not. And some, who are reeeeeeeaaaaally old, get square tummies. Though not before you're 30, of course.

Well, that's a relief.

Snapshot 2

Changing Boy #2's nappy at lunchtime (it's a pull-up, I tell you, a pull-up! So not really a nappy at all. Not by my standards, anyway...) we heard the roar of a petrol engine outside. "That's. Loud." he informed me, wide eyed. "I know, Boy #2. What do you think it is? I think it's a motorbike." He looked at me disparagingly. "Not. motorbike. Mama. Silly. Ferrari. Red."

Snapshot 3

I may have mentioned before that my younger son is something of a petrol head. He loves cars, and is never happier than when sitting in the driving seat of one. But his devotion goes further than that; he is even perfectly happy walking down the street pronouncing on the relative 'coolness' of the parked cars he passes - and, just occassionally and rather embarrassingly, trying the doors to see if they're locked... Obviously, since we drive a Skoda (generally agreed upon to be anything but cool), this does skew his criteria somewhat. I mean, a chap couldn't possibly admit to driving a not cool car, could he? So he strides along stating "Cool car (Ferrari). Not Cool Car (Volvo 4 x4 - my work here is done...). Cool Car (Peugot van). Cool car (Aston Martin). Not Cool Car (Renault Clio). Cool Car (Skoda)."

That's my boy... What? Whaaaat?? Want to make something of it, Frog in the Field?

Snapshot 4

Always check, before taking off your younger son's 'virtually not nappies' pull-ups at bathtime, that there is no nice little suprise waiting to be scattered across the bathroom floor, racing to the corners of the room like marbles, for you to hunt down whilst wondering which deity you wronged today for it to end like this. (Boy #2 clearly needs more liquid in his diet).

Helpful hints; that's what I'm here for...

Sunday 16 November 2008

Venus and Mars

Another weekend, another birthday party at the Army Museum in Chelsea for Boy #1.

Luckily no Bolshy Blonde was in evidence this time round; instead it was the usual gathering of 5 year-olds - racing manically around, hyped up on excitement and the expectation of too much sugary party food - and parents, reeling from the noise, the commotion, and the results of having spent the week either incarcerated from 8am - 6pm (if they were lucky) in the office, or alternatively with the children, on taxi duty.

There were actually a few more men in evidence than is normal at this party, however. I expect that this was because it was being held at the Army Museum, so their wives were able to persuade them that it would be different from the usual run of such things, probably with macho stuff like Men being Men in Manly situations...

It wasn't different at all of course, apart from the fact that the children got army hats to run around in and the jungle gym had camoflage on a couple of it's walls...

But the dads' morning wasn't completely wasted; I saw a few of them sneak out guiltily, and come back in hefting plastic bags full of books from the museum's bookshop. One of them admitted quietly that coming to the party was 'completely worth it' for the opportunity to stock up on the '3 for 2' offer of hard-to-get books on military history.


They're just different, aren't they?

Friday 14 November 2008

Dance with the devil...

First off - it's been a blustery evening here Chez Potty. And not only because I've made the mistake of serving up chili con carne the very night after I gave the Boys chorizo casserole. (Will I ever learn?)

No, I'm being buffeted by more than the internal weather of my children, and I can't make up my mind about something. I need input, and here's why...

I'm at a bit of a crossroads - and so, it seems, are an increasing number of bloggers out there.

When I started this malarky, it was for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to); recording my darling Boys' antics (oh, how we laughed!); exercising the little grey matter I have left (could I still string a sentence together after 2 years of solitary confinement with my children?); to do something for myself; and not least, to connect with people worldwide that I would never usually have any cause to meet.

What it was not about, and what I was determined would never drive 'The Potty Diaries' was cash. Of course, if someone read my witterings and contacted me with an offer to be paid money for writing then I would have bitten their hand off, but I haven't written a single post with that aim in mind and have never really believed for a moment that it would happen. Which is lucky, because it hasn't.

What has happened, though, are two things.

1. Blogging is dead, apparantly. Wife in the North referred to it her most recent post - and check here on Wired for a pithy summary of why we bloggers are passe, according to those 'who know'. Apparantly the blogosphere has become a 'tsunami of paid bilge', and the cool kids can now be found elsewhere.

I take issue with this comment because as far as I'm aware most of the blogs that feature on my sidebar are neither bilge nor paid for, but who am I to argue against 'medja' opinion? However, whilst it may be true in general - and what would I know differently, being only a mummy blogger and all - the 'tsunami of bilge' is not the blogosphere that I inhabit, thank god. At least, not so far.

Which leads me very neatly onto the second thing.

2. Within the last 3 weeks I've been contacted by 4 or 5 separate pr and marketing agencies asking me to get involved in various panels and reviews of products, concepts, or ranges.

Now, I used to be in marketing myself. I like to think that I am not a complete idiot. There is clearly a current wave - you might almost call it a 'tsunami' of 'let's put the show on here!' enthusiasm going round these companies about this great new source of information and publicity that they've found in Mummy Blogland. And no doubt, the most exciting aspect for some of them (oh, alright, probably all of them) will be that it is mostly free. In my previous working life, I would no doubt have been presenting this concept to my clients with all the gung-ho 'it's a win-win situation' attitude I could muster.

At no stage have the parties who've been in contact offered to pay me. Should I agree to get involved, there is no obligation on my part to review these products or services favourably. I could be as rude as I like and not lose a night's sleep over it. But as someone who has not yet even made the jump and installed GoogleAds on my blog, it just doesn't feel right.

It feels more than a little bit like exploitation, and as if I would be adding to the seas of 'paid bilge' that those who are - ironically - paid to write refer to. (Not that I'm calling 'Wired' bilge, you understand...)

So yes, pay me to write (as if!), or be up front and pay me to review.

But expect me to do it for free?

I may be hopelessly naive, and ignoring the remote - very remote - possibility these offers could result in something more concrete and financially rewarding in the long term. I may write a blog that begs for ratification at every turn. But should I really be that needy?

What do you think?

Thursday 13 November 2008


... from Maison Potty.

Number 1.

Boy #1, standing watching the boiler engineer (back for the 2nd time in two days), evidently felt the need to impress. "We went to Australia for our summer holiday" he announced self-importantly. "Oh yes?" replied the affable gentleman, trying hard to concentrate on reaching a particularly tricky bolt and thus solve our problem of icy cold where there should be hot water.

"Yes, we did. And do you know what we saw there? We saw a Bingo."

Number 2.

Dinner this evening did not go well. My fault for making it too spicy - even my normally intrepid Boy #2 refused to eat the Spanish Sausage casserole. Still, the heat wasn't completely wasted. In an effort to break the whining deadlock I suggested we sing 'Pop goes the weasle' afterwards. (Mothers of sons probably know what's coming next).

All went well through 'Half a pound of tuppeny rice, half a pound of treacle, mix it up and make it nice...'

But at this point, Boy #2 assumed an intense 'concentrating' expression.

'Pop! goes the weasle!'

Yes, you guessed it, my two year old supplied his own sound effect to the word 'pop'. And then laughed hysterically at his own wit - as did his brother, I have to admit. OK, and I may have cracked a smile myself.

But really, he's two. What next?

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Shxt happens

Can you tell me a fitting end to a day that has included the following?

A visit from the British Gas engineer because, no, the boiler still isn't fixed, which I discovered at 7.30am - with a window of approximately 3 minutes to make sure we would leave on time to get Boy #1 to school - when the water ran cold on me as I stood under our serving plate sized shower head. Our shower cubicle is not as big as you might expect given the size of the shower head - so there was no escape from the icy jet...

A visit from the painters (and subsequent depletion of our stocks of tea, coffee, sugar, milk and loo roll) to finally make good the damage done to our flat on two separate occasions when the numpty builders gutting the first floor flat in our building messed up. I mean; once, well it happens, but twice? And then to drag your feet over the insurance claim for 6 months? In any case, it's all being sorted now, thank heavens, but as a result the paint fumes mean that my Boys are sharing a room tonight and I can hear the whispering and giggling from here. Any minute now the 'I need the loo!' and 'I'm Itching!' will start, I can feel it...

Dealing with a cross and snotty 2 year old who's been kept off nursery for the second day running due to a nasty cold, and who, due to the afore-mentioned painting of the sitting room, is unable to ensconce himself on the sofa channel surfing for any mention of Chuuuuu-ggington (Chugachugachugachugachuggington!).

Dealing with same cross and snotty 2 year old who is also on antibiotics for a skin infection on his ankle, and who unsurprisingly hates the taste of his medicine with a vengeance, shouting "Don't bend me back, Mama, don't bend me back!" every time he sees me approach with a plastic syringe full of it. (The only way to administer it, I'm afraid, is to manhandle him over my lap and squirt the stuff in, ignoring the screaming and struggling, and waving a square of Green & Black's finest at him throughout as a post-dosage reward. The chocolate doesn't make it any easier to give him the medicine, but it does mean he forgives me for forcing him to take it a little more quickly...)

So, yes, a fitting end to the day?

Here's one; leaving your 2 year old safely strapped into the buggy on the pavement whilst you secure his older brother into his car seat, only to find as you are about to transfer your younger son to the car that he has been using his left hand to remove what he thought were leaves from the top of the rear tyre of your car.

Except, they aren't. Leaves, that is.

It's dog shxt.

And it's all over his hand - the very hand he's using to reach for his raisins....

So, if you were in Chelsea this afternoon at around 4pm, and passed a manic looking woman shouting "Stop! Don't move! Just... stop!" at a cute little boy in a buggy, whilst ferreting in a nappy bag and waving wet wipes all over the place - I guess I've just blown my cover...

Now, I've been tagged by Little Miss Rachel to do two things. The first is to pick up the nearest book, turn to page 56, and write out the 5th sentence. However - I'm in our office. The nearest books are either my husband's study books (think exciting titles like 'Fixed Income Securities' or 'Corporate Finance Theory') or his even scarier collection of 'bloke' books. By which I mean the finest works of Robert Ludlum, Bernard Cornwell, Wilbur Smith etc. All very well if you're stuck on holiday, you've finished your chick lit / educational biographies, and the hotel has no library, but really. This is a mummy blog. I am not going to inflict that on you. Not tonight, at any rate.

So, I'm sorry Rachel; no book excerpt, I'm afraid. (If you want to see a previous post detailing the full horror of my reading habits, check here... Sadly, they haven't particularly improved since then).

The second part of the tag though is to come up with 4 things I value, and 4 I don't.

Hmmm. Only 4?

I could go on for ever here, so rather than that I'm going to treat this as a stream of consciousness exercise and write down the first thing that comes to mind. Here they are then, in no particular order...

4 things I value:

Time off. (This is particularly pertinent to me right now after 2 days of dealing my normally gorgeous 2 year old who has currently been replaced by a willful snot monster...)

Sunshine. (As if - I live in a basement - in London)

Family. (And being a grown-up, and making it work)

Knowing what is the right thing - and doing it.

4 things I don't...

Reality tv (It usually isn't - real - and there's enough of what is in the news and all around me)

Conspicuous consumption (By which I mean 4 x 4's, £20 party bags for children, designer children clothes, £300 sunglasses, increasing your mortgage to buy a brand new car...)

Computer games (read a book, take a walk, get a life. Or, alternatively, live through your blog...)

Dog poo. Particularly today.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Things that make you go; hmmm...

1. Checking your stats counter to find that one of your recent visitors found your blog by using the search words 'my cleavage' (thanks, sis, for this one in your recent guest post...). And then seeing that this same visitor clicked out to Millenium Housewife - which totally bears out her recent post here (hilarious, check it out). This leads me to assume that there must be a lot of people out there who have expectations of reading about things other than mummyhood, parenting, and potty training when they arrive at my blog. That'll teach me to have a named it 'The Potty Diaries', I suppose. You could say I was 'asking for it' (ooh er missus...).

2. Arriving at your mother-in-law's, spotting the Boden catalogue in her sitting room, and experiencing the cold realisation that you and she shop at the same place. And that she is currently wearing the same skirt you wore the previous day. I mean, I like my mother in law, but Oh, the Horror! So that's it, Johnny. No more weekly catalogues from you, please. It's Zara, Stella Forest, or Marilyn Moore all the way for me from now on.

3. On the same visit, watching the same mother-in-law present your sons with traditional Sinta Klaas outfits from Holland, for Saint Nick and his little helper Zwarte Piet. And realising that on the front of the packet containing the latter costume the little cherub pictured, demonstrating how it should be worn, really and truly has his face blacked up. I mean... WTF?

4. Discovering that bin men in Kensington and Chelsea are not required to collect from bins situated within 5 metres of scaffolding because, as the lady on the other end of the telephone said 'we don't supply them with hard hats, love'. It is of course fine for me to be wheeling my children in and out of our flat underneath the same scaffolding, however.

5. Noticing that the chemical toilet installed by the builders working on your house - directly in front of our only working window in the sitting room, by the way - is being used not only by the team working on your property, but by the builders working on around 3 separate properties in the same street. The stairs leading down to it look like the M25 at around 11am and half an hour after lunch each day....

And more generally...

6. 4 x 4's in London. Why? (Well, 'why?' in any big city really, but especially here with the narrow roads, rubbish parking facilities and heavy traffic...). I know. Not particularly relevant, but I just can't help myself.

So... what's made you go 'hmm' today?

Best of British luck...

I must be a sucker for punishment, because I've submitted a post in for another blogging carnival (and no, I didn't win the last one. Try, try, and try and again - just call me Robert the Bruce). There is a difference this time though: this is the Best of British Bloggers carnival.

Check the link below for some brilliant bloggers - and enjoy!

And whilst we're on the subject, I'm hosting the next one on 25th November. If you would like to participate send a link to what you consider to be your best post of the last 4 weeks to:

And don't worry - I will remind you closer to the time!

Sunday 9 November 2008

Rockin' around the Christmas Tree

Boy #1 is practising for his Christmas play.

Whilst Christian in ethos, his school has made some concession to the vast array of nationalities (around 52 at the last count, I'm told) and the no doubt corresponding number of religious affilitions of the pupils attending, and has stopped short of calling it an out and out 'nativity'.

I don't know who they think they are kidding, however. There's a Mary, a Joseph, an angelic host, some shepherds, and, oh yes, some waiters - of course. Boy #1 is one of them. Quite how they fit in, I'm not sure, but bearing in mind the following conversation anything is possible.

Boy #1: "And we've been practising the songs. And the dancing."

Me: "There's going to be dancing?"

Boy #1: "Oh yes, with jumping, and back trotting, and front trotting (of course). And the Three Kings, who don't say much but roll around on the stage (here he demonstrates very efficiently), and wobble around a bit."

Me: "Sounds great."

Boy #1: "And they're going to be dressed as alvers."

Me: "Alvers?"

Boy #1: "Yes, Alvers."

Me: "What are alvers?" (Thinking, does he mean elvers? And why would they dress the 3 kings as baby eels?)

Boy #1: "With the hair. You know. Alvers. The King."

Suddenly, it dawned on me. Who else would the 3 Kings be dressed as in a modern day version of a nativity play? It could only be The King himself.


I just can't wait. (And is anyone else thinking of the nativity play in 'Love, Actually'?)

Saturday 8 November 2008

Dinner Parties for Beginners

Things one should know better than to do if one is hosting a dinner party for 8 people...

... which we did last Saturday. It's taken me until now to recover and find the strength of mind to revisit the experience in writing...

Never plan to make every last thing yourself. Even the damn 'croustades' (curse you Nigella, curse you for your easy writing style and your promises that it 'couldn't be easier'. I should have known better than to believe you, swept away in your talk of sophisticated chat in the sitting room with all the hard work done earlier...).

Under no circumstances ignore your non-British friends who tell you to get caterers. (It seems that other nationalities are not afflicted by the need to 'show-off' with purees and casseroles in quite the same way as we natives of Blighty). Anyway, next time - if there ever is one - it's Maccy D's all the way. Though with home-made swan napkin place settings, of course.

Don't even consider making the pea and parmesan topping for the croustades on the day of the party. It includes roasting a whole head of garlic for an hour in your oven. Did I mention we live in a basement and that our kitchen has no windows?

Always check that you have enough of everything more than 1 hour before the guests are due to arrive. Leaving it late will end only in tears and a last minute stampede to Sainsbury up the road to find organic carrots, frozen peas, and a replacement topping for the croustades because the pea and parmesan that you made in the morning tastes disgusting....

Don't ask your husband to tidy the lounge and expect that his top priority to be putting the toys away, plumping the cushions, or shoving your embarrassing chick-lit novels to the back of the book shelves. No, as any man will tell you, when you have 6 sophisticated guests arriving in a couple of hours time, the most pressing task is rearranging the cd's in alphabetical order. (I jest, of course. Darling Husband made the entire flat sparkle for our guests. And our cd collection has never looked neater).

And finally, never decide on making a pudding that is famed for it's trickiness simply on the basis that it looks as if just about everything can be done in advance. Yes, I speak of that 1970's / 80's classic - Baked Alaska. Or, in our case, the rather more sophisticated 'Italian Baked Alaska', (which, I'm sure, is some kind of geographical impossibility) a recipe from that time-honoured cook's cheat book 'The Sainsbury Magazine'. This particular point deserves a few sub-points to fully illustrate just how foolish an idea this was...

If you should however throw caution to the winds and decide to go with Italian Baked Alaska, be aware of the following:

- When you hollow out the panettone to fill it with ice-cream, do not allow yourself to be left alone with the discarded inners. They will not last long and you will hate yourself afterwards.

- When placing a meringue-covered ice-cream filled panettone in the freezer, make sure you have a tray deep enough to take it. Frozen egg white everywhere is not a good look, believe me.

- Always take your frozen baked alaska out of the freezer a good 20 minutes before you actually need to put it in the oven. Otherwise when the meringue has coloured up, looking like the Brazilian Beach Babe of desserts, the panettone casing for the ice cream inside will still be frozen solid...

- If you must take the complete pudding out to show off to your guests, do not attempt to cut it up at the table. They will then witness your increasingly desperate attempts to chisel through the rock-hard panettone, cracking the plate and covering yourself and the person next to you with meringue...

- Have a knife sharpener ready. It's not rocket science - though perhaps a little unexpected when dealing with an ice-cream dessert.

And finally, if you're particularly sharp eyed you may have noticed a new name on my blog-roll. Yep, you guessed it, following the success of her two guest posts for me 'Footballers Knees' has set up her own blog. Go sis!

Friday 7 November 2008

Office Christmas Parties, Sister Style

After much pleading and many promises of chocolate from me, my sister has agreed to write another guest post. Enjoy.

(and any comments on how she's a better writer than I am should be kept to yourself...)

Well, the Christmas party season is almost upon us and, as I’m in a new job and trying to network, I’m planning on attending the company do this year – something I normally avoid due to the unfortunate combination of alcohol and my idea of what is acceptable conversation with work colleagues after 4 large G&Ts, and a bottle of cheap champagne.

I’ve begun my search for a dress which reduces my 36Fs to a more modest non-Jordanesque cleavage and shows off my legs without revealing my footballer’s knees. An interesting challenge. Have I told you about my post weight-gain knees? After I tore the ligament in my right knee skiing, I pulled up my trousers in the pharmacy and the Austrian chemist gasped and said ‘My God, it’s really swollen’. She was about to dial for an ambulance until I pointed out that she was looking at the wrong knee and that I was just chunky. She agreed and calmed down.

With my body shape, not even magic knickers will do the job; the last outing of my industrial scaffolding arrangement ended in an unfortunate Bridget Jones moment when the gusset unpopped and my lower half started to roll up towards my chest. The resulting moving bulge was reminiscent of the scene from the great ‘80s mini-series ‘V’, when the doctors started to deliver the alien baby to screams and a flurry of obstetric equipment. Not a moment to be repeated.

Still, if we’re talking about making an impact through costume choice, I can’t beat Christmas 2003, when I was managing an IT support team.

It was announced that the theme of the party would be ‘The Oscars’ and, in the interests of team bonding, I suggested that we choose 'Saving Private Ryan', a film with a large cast so that we could each choose a character. Our team of 15 men and 2 women started to prepare. For weeks, we studied stills from the movie, gathering around the monitor like extras from CSI (of course, the Las Vegas version. God knows what they’re trying to do with Miami – Horatio comes across as a strange man with many dark secrets of a sexual nature. And don’t even get me started on CSI: New York . He should have stopped at Lootenant Dan in Forrest Gump).

Anyway, we trawled military memorabilia sites, found trousers, shirt and boots at Army surplus stores, and felt we’d hit the jackpot at Argos when we discovered the Junior Action Man Dressing Up Outfit. All it took was a quick trip to the local mall, a double take from the checkout girl, and I was the proud owner of 17 small helmets, plastic daggers and pairs of mini binoculars.

But the piece de resistance was the ammo belt. My friend Sue and I worked like the mice from the Tailor of Gloucester, hunched over sewing machines for several evenings whilst we assembled the belts from Hessian sacking and then added tampons wrapped in tin foil as bullets. Finally, the outfits were complete. Every detail had been considered. Each of us was dressed in character, from the fag packets stuck in helmets to the medals, carefully copied from the film and pinned on our uniforms. We agreed to meet in a pub near the venue in order to apply our night-manoeuvres face paint and set out to enjoy the evening, safe in the knowledge that we were the best dressed team and would definitely win any fancy dress prize.

After a few pre-match drinks, we made our way en-masse to the venue, and decided to run into the vast and impressive entrance marquee as a unit, shouting instructions to each other using our plastic walkie-talkies – ‘Nice work, Marine!’ ‘Incoming!’ And so on, you get the picture. It was as I hit the red carpet in a Doc Marten’ed run that I started to consider my surroundings.

A red carpet.

Flash photography.

Several people milling around in black tie and evening dress.

Yes, dear reader, you’ve guessed it. So here I am, safe in the knowledge that, although this year I may have brought an expensive dress in a size smaller that I should have, in a colour far too young for a woman at the wrong end of her thirties. and with a length that doesn’t hide my knees, I will never, ever do worse than turning up to a black tie evening themed ‘A Night at the Oscars’, wearing army boots, face paint, a plastic helmet and tampons.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Not for the squeamish

It's all gone a bit quiet on the potty training front, hasn't it? I bet you thought we'd just quietly forgotten all about it, put Boy #2 back in proper nappies, and decided to try again in the New Year? Well, amazingly, no.

So consider yourself warned. If you are of a delicate or non-child friendly disposition look away now, for I am about to share a story that probably only those in the thick of potty training hell will find funny...

This morning I put Boy #2 on the potty as usual, whilst supervising his older brother getting dressed. I wasn't really paying attention, when:

Boy #2: "Done. A. Wee!"

Normally this pronouncement heralds a tiny amount of liquid in the bottom of the throne, the sort of amount a mouse might produce. Still, we rejoice. It's better than nothing. Today, however, he had produced a respectable amount, so Boy #1 and I congratulated him heartily.

Me: "And are you ready to get off yet?"

Boy #2: "Notyet." (Boy #2 speaks either with full. stops. between. each. word, or in one long word - particularly when he says 'notyet'. Which is a lot, and particularly when you want him to hurry up with something...)

Me: "OK, let me know when you are and we'll get you dressed."

I turned my back and continued to check his older brother wasn't putting his leg through the wrong hole in his pants (as happened when he got dressed after swimming at school yesterday, resulting in a rather uncomfortable day for him). Suddenly:

Boy #2: "Doneapoo!!!!"

Me: "Really? Fantastic, Boy #2! Well done!"

Boy #2 stood up and turned round to inspect the evidence. There was an audible intake of breath, not surprisingly, as this was quite an impressive result. Then, he made the following pronouncement:

"That. a. scary. poo."

When I dropped him off at nursery an hour or so later I thought it best to tell them about the 'scary poo' incident, just in case he used the same label later on (like he's going to come up with the goods in the potty twice in one day. Uncharacteristically optimistic of me, I agree). In any case, on hearing this story, one of his class teachers asked him if he had had a scary poo. He looked at her. His expression clearly said, 'of course I did, you know that, I just heard mama tell you.' But what he actually said was:

"Yes. I. did. It. scary. It. had. a. tail."

I can't think where he gets his imagination from...

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Recharging your batteries

Subjects any dinner with friends you've known since you were 19 must cover... .

I have decided to petition the government to make this law after spending yesterday evening eating too many crisps, eating too much food and talking non-stop with Girlfriends A, B, and C. It made me feel so much better that I think it should be made available on prescription.

1. Long conversations with Girlfriend C's children about the latest cool tv programmes, complete with re-enactment of particular sketches they find amusing and, if you are lucky, some guitar practice thrown in for free. (This last is very important as it will remind you that under no circumstances - ever - should you allow your children to pick up a violin, since not only you but any guests you have will be treated to impromptu recitals. Believe me, a guitar is fine, but having played the violin for 7 years, I have only admiration for my parents that they persevered through the first - oh, I don't know - 5 years or so).

2. Gossip concerning people you don't know, will probably never meet, but who are key parts of two of your girlfriends' working lives. This is particularly entertaining when Girlfriend A absentmindedly lets slip something that she really shouldn't have, since it directly concerns the partner of a person working with Girlfriend B. Luckily Girlfriend B was already aware, but the comedy possibilities of asking Girlfriend A to 'keep a secret' now stretch off into a long and shining future.

3. The new haircut that Girlfriend A is sporting, taking at least 10 years off her and reminding you, B, and C, that short-short hair doesn't only have to be worn by Isabella Rossellini or Juliet Binoche to look good...

4. But that putting any weight on around your chin might not be a good idea with said haircut.

5. The recycled Dolce & Gabbana reversible mac that same Girlfriend is wearing, which whilst it is designer somehow manages to successfully channel the pink plastic mac she used to wear whilst we were all in college.

6. How we can't believe the amount of air-time and newsprint devoted to analysing the Brand / Ross debacle on Radio 2, and thank god for the US elections finally taking it off the front page so we have something else to talk about.

7. Spending the next 10 minutes talking about the Brand / Ross debacle on Radio 2.

8. Our children. Between us we have 8, ranging in age from 14 to 1. The list of topics provided by this are of course endless, spanning girlfriends, spots, Doctor Who, Irish Dancing, front trotting, school uniforms, broken arms, monkey bars, and potential additions to the total of 8.

9. Birth control.

10. Hair colour - or the lack of it.

11. The state of the economy. (But not for long - far too depressing)

12. 1950's tea sets and mis-matched dinner services.

13. Vintage clothes. Even though only one of us (Girlfriend B) can claim any real affinity with or possession of said items.

14. £260 parking fines (pah!) incurred in times of 'having to keep the receipts' and subsequent tight-lipped conversations with spouses. And how it could just as easily have been Husband who got into that mess since he gets far more tickets than I do, but simply hasn't been towed yet. (Thanks, girls, for the support on that one!)

15. Of how my boys share educational establishments with celebrities children, and how I am shamefully poor in getting to know their parents, having them over for dinner and including Girl A (particularly) in the invitation. We came to the conclusion that since Girl A is an avid reader of Hello, Grazia etc she should do my school run as she would be able to spot said celebrities far better than I. We also came to the conclusion that it's probably better for everybody if she doesn't...

So, that's the first 20 minutes of my evening covered. How did you spend US Election Night?

Monday 3 November 2008

Fright night

Halloween is over. Thank god. THANK GOD!!!

The last mini-twix has been eaten, the last mini-mars bar has been bolted down behind the children's back. Every year, you see, I stock up in miniature chocolate bars just in case we are visited by trick or treaters, and every year, I lose my nerve and decide that no, I won't put the pumpkin outside the door after all. The net result of this is of course a large bowl of treats that somebody has to finish, and I'm not so careless of my son's diets that I would let it be them. I do it out of love, you see. Eating the chocolate, that is. To save my boys from themselves.

Why do I lose my nerve? Amazingly, it's not all about unsupervised access to a bowl of chocolate on my part. Not all... It's mainly that the whole Halloween thing is just... not me, really. I mean, give me a break, I'm about as English (with all the good and bad that that implies) as it's possible to be. When I grew up, Halloween was a night of scary stories, apple bobbing at Brownies and if we were lucky, some parkin and treacle toffee that my mother had made for Bonfire night which we got our hands on early. And that was that.

The whole concept of 'Trick or treat' was a) something exotic we knew happened in America but which we would never dream of doing in the sleepy Cotswold village where I grew up, or b) something pre-teens got up to that involved flour bombs and a good telling off from a responsible adult when you got caught. Which, by the way, you invariably were.

The thought of knocking on a stranger's door and threatening to inflict a trick on them if they didn't cough up in goodies or with cash? Quite frankly it was outlandish in the extreme.

But things have definitely changed - at least, around here. On Friday night the streets of Unemployed Bankerville were crowded with parties of small children and their carers doing the 'Halloween trail', with queues of hopefuls and undignified scuffles between 5 year-olds outside the best decorated buildings. And over the weekend, Boy #1 went to three parties. Granted, two out of the three were birthday celebrations, but the third was for a Halloween party complete with themed decorations, dry ice, vast amounts of sugary treats, and an entertainer who was so convincingly dressed up as a witch that my son didn't recognise as her the same entertainer he'd seen at the previous party he'd been to earlier the same day.

(Husband took him to the first, and I took him to the second, so I also didn't realise, though I did comment to a friend that plate spinning for kids must be the 'new black', as I was sure Boy #1 had done the same thing at another party in the morning. Which, as it turned out to have been the same entertainer at both parties, was not a surprising thing to have happened...)

So anyway, here I am, teetering fatly on the chair in our miniscule office and vowing stoutly (geddit?) that next year I will not give myself the option of eating my own body weight in chocolate over the Halloween weekend. Husband can take the Boys trick or treating and I will stay home with the lights off and a single small bar of Green and Blacks for company... (Well, maybe not that small).

And it's entirely unrelated to the first part of this post, but I will leave you with the transcript of a conversation I overheard between my Husband and oldest son yesterday....

Boy #1: "Papa, what do you like best about your job?"

Husband (Did I imagine him looking desperately around for inspiration allowing him to say something other than 'the money'?): "Ummmm... The people."

Boy #1: "Because your life is going to the office, isn't it?"

Husband (probably starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the way this chat is going): "Well, no, it's part of my life, but not -"

Boy #1 (interrupting): "And my life is playing and going to school..."

Husband: "Yes, I suppose it is."

Boy #1: "And mama's life is tidying up after us."

Is it any wonder I write this blog?

Also, check this out:

I've entered a post in the Best of the Mommy Bloggers Carnival hosted by A Modern Mother, one of The Thames Valley Mums. Take a look, there are some really great posts linked to on there, and it's a good way of expanding your blog reading list. You know, for in your spare time...

And if you do get round to reading my entry, please please please read the comments after it. Frankly, they are much funnier than my original post.

Sunday 2 November 2008


Yesterday lunchtime I ventured into virtually uncharted waters - for me - as a blogger. Hold on to your hats, shipmates; I met other bloggers.

It was one of those situations where you really aren't sure of the etiquette. I mean, how do you introduce yourself to individuals who you feel you know really quite well, and yet have never even spoken to over the phone before, let alone met in person? The temptation to say "Hi, I'm Potty Mummy. What's your handle?" in a 1980's CB radio styley was almost overwhelming.

Luckily for me there was one other person there whom I had met before - Frog in the Field - who took the initiative and saved me from making inappropriate comments in trucker-speak, introducing me to 21st Century Mummy, Jo Beaufoix, A Modern Mother and The Thames Valley Mums.

And no, Millenium Housewife, they don't all have two heads. We were a surprisingly ordinary bunch actually, though I think that may have had to do with the fact that we had an average of 2.5 children apiece with us; any thoughts of glamming up (at least for me) disappeared in the mess of making it into the middle of town in one piece complete with all our offspring, nappy bags, mobile phones, colouring pens, boot heels and kitchen sinks...

This gathering was courtesy of Ludorem, the company responsible for Chuggington, a new programme for kids currently screening on BBC2 and shortly due to be appearing on a CBeebies schedule near you. I can recommend it, even though my two boys appeared stoically unmoved by the experience yesterday, to the extent that you would think they get invited to private screenings in the Movieum every week, for chrissake. Today, though, they have spent all day talking about it, dissecting the two episodes we saw, working out who were their favourite characters - Brewster and Puffer Pete, in case you were wondering - and reliving the post-match crisps and sandwiches.

If you have young or pre-school children, check it out. The storylines seem fun and educational - without being preachy - the animation is delightful, and the character voices won't drive you crazy. But be warned; the theme tune is annoyingly catchy...

As for meeting other bloggers? I wish I had done it earlier. Any other PR companies that want to set something like this up again, count me in!


I have a post to write about The Chuggington PR event the Potty family and I were invited to yesterday, but that will have to wait until later as I tell you now about the perils of living in the village of London...

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself to the gym quite early. Shouldn't be too busy, I thought, I'll be in and out of there in a jiffy.

I've hurt my knee (bear with me, this is relevant) and can't use the running machine right now, so my cardio torture instruments of choice are currently the 'elliptical edge' and the 'tread climber'. (Fancy names for things that basically make you sweat.) Fyi, there are loads of elliptical edge machines in my gym, but only one treadclimber and before we start with this, I should say that every piece of cardio equipment in the facility has a note on it stating 'please limit your use to 20 minutes at peak times'.

Here is what happened next...

8.30am: Arrive at the sports club. (I know, it's early. Too early...). Glance through the window into the gym on my way into the locker room and see the tread climber is in use.

8.35am: Walk into the gym. Treadclimber still in use. Go and use the elliptical edge instead.

9.00am: stagger off the elliptical edge, red, sweaty, exhausted, and thankful it's still so early that I shouldn't bump into anyone I know... The treadclimber is still in use. By the same person.
Go off and do some other exercises...

9.15am: Treadclimber still in use. And yes, by the same person. In case you're hungover (like me), that's 45 minutes she's been on there.

9.18am: I decide enough is enough and walk over to her.

Me: "Excuse me, are you going to be much longer?"

Bolshy Blonde: "Another 15 minutes." (Subtext - how dare you interrupt me?)


Me: "Well, um, sorry but it does say 20 minutes at peak times..."

Bolshy Blonde: "It's not peak time."

Oh, so why am I paying for peak time membership to be able to use the gym right now?

Me: "Well, I think it is, actually."

Bolshy Blonde: "It's not busy."

Me: "Well, I'm waiting..."

Silence as she keeps trundling away. I decide that for once I'm not going to give way, so just stand there and wait...

30 seconds later. "Oh, go on then. You use it. But it's not peak time..."

It most certainly is, I think, but manage to keep it in. Who knows when I might meet her again? Here, at the school gates, in the supermarket, on a playdate...

She flounces off. I use the machine and scarper asap, pleased to have avoided further confrontation, hoping never to see her again.

You know what's coming, right?

Guess who was at the party I took Boy #1 to yesterday afternoon?

Note: we studiously avoided each other throughout the party. I asked a friend of mine who she was and after explaining why I wanted to know, was told that she is a 'bit of a feisty bird' and that my mate wouldn't like to cross her.

If I don't post for a while, call the police...

I'm interested, though. Was I right? And what would you have done?