Wednesday 30 September 2009

'All that is necessary...

...for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.' (Edmund Burke)

The Potty Diaries is not usually a contentious blog. I use it to practise my writing, record amusing or significant events in my family life, and occasionally to witter on about stuff that bothers me but is probably not of much interest to anyone else.

However, I've been watching what's been happening in the public arena with regard to comments and attitudes on the Roman Polanski case with interest and a certain amount of disbelief. I'm not going to go into details on the history of all this; they are a matter of public record, and irrefutable. Hell, the man pleaded guilty to raping a thirteen year old girl. That's guilty. As in 'I did it.'

Apparantly however, there are a large number of people who think that because, after admitting his guilt, Roman Polanski ran away and didn't go home for years, because he has had a number of tragedies in his personal life (none of which I want to diminish, they were diabolical, no doubt about it), and because - poor diddums - he didn't even get to go home to collect his Oscar in case he got banged up as a result, we should put the events that happened 1977 behind us and move on.

Now, I'm well aware that the quote I've used to title this post is dramatic, and can be used with reference to any number of news stories circulating today with even more relevance. But consider what Noble Savage writes on her post 'This is what rape apology looks like':

'If Polanski doesn’t end up serving his sentence I (and countless other girls and women) will have completely lost any last, teeny-tiny shred of hope that rape would ever be taken seriously in the eyes of the law, and our society.'

Take a look at her two posts to-date on this subject, and see whether you still feel comfortable with consigning this debate to la-la land and dismissing it as something that happened somewhere else and which isn't relevant to your life.

Then ask yourself whether you're happy for the great and the good of Hollywood, who have never experienced the pain and humiliation that the 13 year old girl in question did (and, please God, never will), to be the only ones who's voices who are being heard, speaking out - in Polanski's favour, no less - on this issue.

I'm not.

Tuesday 29 September 2009


At lunch today Husband was trying to coax Boy #2 to drink - never an easy task. My younger son hasn't yet worked out that often, when he thinks he's hungry, he is in fact thirsty. So it's an uphill battle to get him to take on any water /juice / milk.

Although when all else fails, our little connoisseur can often be tempted by a glass of elderflower cordial with a single ice cube in it. (Thank you, Mother-in-Law, for starting that precious habit...).

So, back to lunchtime;

Husband: "Come on, Boy #2. Have some water, please."

Boy #2: "No."

Husband: "Yes. If you don't drink you won't grow up big and strong."

Boy #2. "No. I'm not thirsty."

Husband: "Please. One for Papa?"

Boy #2 passes Husband his cup. "OK. There you go then... Drink up!"

We're doomed, I tell you. DOOMED!

Monday 28 September 2009

It's Monday...

... and I'm having one of those days. If I tell you that having started putting my weekly shop through the self-service till at Sainsbury's this morning, the white noise, beeping, and bossy computer voice all got a bit too much and I had to find a kindly check-out assistant to cancel my purchases so I could retreat to the safety of the conveyor belt where someone else would put my barcodes through the scanner, do you get the picture?

So, given my lack of vitality, I'm not even going to attempt to write anything entertaining today. Instead, I'm going to send you over here to Powder Room Graffiti, where I'm having a bit of a rant about fussy dinner party guests.

I know. Me, having a rant? What are the chances of that?

Sunday 27 September 2009

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

There's something about an Indian summer. We're having one right now in London; or at least, we've had sunshine and clear skies plus 21 degC plus for the last week, and if you're at all familiar with the weather in the UK, you'll agree that a week of any of that (not necessarily together, either), is enough to qualify.

Of course, living in a basement flat does mean that perhaps we don't get to enjoy quite as much of the sunshine as most people, but we're making the most of the weather with trips to the riverbank and Battersea Park Zoo. That was last weekend, mind you. By the time this weekend rolled around we were laissez faire about the weather. "Sun?" we said. "Hah! We get that all the time. Let's make the most of it and go to the... cinema. What better to way to spend a cheery Saturday morning than to climb on the tube (again, note the absence of light), and on reaching our destination walk around the corner and into a dark cavernous space for a couple of hours..."


Not quite getting into the spirit of things, I agree. But in our defence, we went to see Thomas the Thank Engine 'Hero of the Rails', a thoroughly enjoyable new DVD release from Hit and in which - gasp! - the engines actually speak. (You probably need to have a preschooler in the house to understand the magnitude of this development). It was good. We enjoyed it. Buy it for your pre-schoolers as a Christmas pressie. As a mark of how enthralling he found it, Boy #2 didn't need to get up to go to the loo once during the hour long showing (which is more than could be said for his mother).

Apparantly there were even a few 'slebs to look at - although I'm rubbish at knowing who they are, and always find myself thinking 'You know, I'm sure I've met you before - or is it just that you were on the Bill once?' And, in my usual seamless link, let's move from 'slebs (because of course, on BMB we are all 'slebs...) onto this week's British Mummy Blogger of the Week.

Nikki at Clinically Fed Up writes of herself:

'Shacked-up mother of 3, part-time social policy and psychology student, part-time everything else a shacked-up mother of 3 is required to do under some law nobody told me about. I would have killed someone for this blog in the 1980s, now I barely have time to wash AND dress in the morning. If I have posted something it means the family weren’t fed hot food that day...'

It takes a lot to get me thinking about actually making pickle (what else is Mr Sainsbury for, I ask myself, than to supply me with roasted tomato pickle), but she's managed it. (Oh, and thanks Nikki, for helping me to cross the Magimix food processor off my potential list of pre-Russia purchases). And her description of finding buried treasure with a very wide aperture was very entertaining...

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

Friday 25 September 2009

Play Dates

Poor Boy #2. For nearly four years now he's been the side-show to the main event - his brother - being pulled from pillar to post, from playdate to party, from school to after-school activity. He's been good-natured about it, sure, but heck, when a guy is nearly 4 years old he needs some space and time of his own, know what I mean?

So he's started, in his own winning way, to make his feelings on this matter felt. No longer is he content to sit back and play the adoring little brother whilst Boy #1 calls the shots. Now Boy #2 wants to have his own playdates, his own activities, his own visits to other peoples houses with - and this is the most important thing - other people's toys.

I have to admit that organising this has not been top of my list of priorites. But today, when he asked me again to organise a play date with a boy at his school who he's been mentioning for the last 3 weeks now, I decided that it was time to do something about it. And as luck would have it, there was a party this afternoon that this little boy would be attending.

Now I'm not quite such a bad mother as I've made myself out to be here. At the end of last week I gave Boy #2's nursery teacher a note for little X's parents, asking if it would be possible to set something up. Admittedly, not knowing the surname of this boy (the curse of 'subsequent' siblings is that their mother never has time to hang around the school gate learning names and mobile phone numbers in the same way she did for their older brother or sister, I find), I had been forced to address the note to "Dear X's parents...." and also, not knowing X's schedule and desperate on my son's behalf to set something up, had been forced to list Boy #2's activities out in almost obsessive-compulsive detail (who, me?). In spite of this, I thought I struck just the right warm, fuzzy, slightly manic tone... (Oh dear). Of course I heard nothing back.

So at the party today I reminded myself of Boy #2's wish and kept an eye out for the little boy in question. Once he arrived, I approached anyone who looked remotely as if they might be his parent, and finally struck gold when I was pointed in the direction of a young-ish dark haired woman. (X is blonde. Perhaps that should have been my first clue that she and X are not blood-relatives.)

I approached her and spent 5 minutes chatting away about how Boy #2 was always mentioning X, how much he liked him, and how he really wanted to ask him over for a playdate. I mentioned the note I had previously written, to check that the nursery teacher had passed it on. I suggested a couple of days that a playdate could work, and threw in a passing reference to our proximity to a garden square with a playground in it to bait the hook. As a further sweetner I said that she was welcome to come too, or if she wanted to 'dump and run' and come back in an hour or so, that would be fine. I mentioned Boy #2's older brother, and even commented on the lovely weather we've been having.

Finally, I drew breath. She responded.

"I... sorry. I - nanny. I not speak... much... English?"


Foiled again...

Thursday 24 September 2009

The angst of the stay at home...

You may have noticed that every week I pick out one of the members of the British Mummy Bloggers Ning to be British Blogging Mummy of the week. This means that I get to check in on lots of new bloggers and have a good old rummage around to find out what they're writing about. Recently I've noticed that a lot of them are touching on the angst of the Stay at Home Mum.

Then this morning I noticed that Sandy Calico has also written of how telling people she's a stay at home mum makes her feel awkward, and that sometimes she feels the need to justify her role. Checking in on her comments box, it seems that she's not alone in this.

Now, this post is not about the advantages or disadvantages of being a stay at home or a working mum. I've written before of how I see each individual's choice as the business only of those involved, and if it works for your family, then it works - end of conversation.

But I am a stay at home mum; I have been now for getting on for 4 years, and I totally identify with those comments and posts. It's hard, when for your working career you've been driven by tangible targets, regular feedback, appraisals and pay rises, to suddenly find yourself in a situation where none of that happens. And it's especially hard if you discover - as I did, when I stopped working - that you have previously almost totally defined yourself by job. It was who I was; the woman with the interesting career, who got to go to interesting places, and made fun products.

Obviously, in reality my job had as much crap involved with it as the next person's, but that's not what you share when a complete stranger asks the question 'What do you do?' You don't tell them about the boring spreadsheets, the early starts, the schlepping from one meeting to the next, the utter frustration of being mediator between clients with unreasonable aims and creatives with unrealistic ideas. No, you tell them about the foreign travel, the liaison with fun people at happening companies. You tell them about the great toys you've made, the exhiliration of being able to say 'I made this happen - and look, here it is, solid, real, in my hand.' In brief, you give them a good story.

But try making a good story out of being a stay at home mum to someone who hasn't done it, and never plans to. Not easy. Their mind is made up, and very little you can say or do is going to change their perception of your choice.

It took me a while to work that out. And once I did, I realised that frankly, there is no need to justify my choice to anyone else. If it's right for me, then it's right for me. Easy to say, of course, not so easy to actually believe it myself. And that's when my second epiphany happened. Until I began to respect my own choice, to see value in it, then what hope did I have of anyone else doing the same?

Suddenly I began to see being a stay at home mum / full time mother / domestic engineer as a job. MY job, in fact. It won't be my job for ever, I will definitely move onto other jobs in the future, and some of them might even - gasp - pay me, but for now, this is it. And, after 3 1/2 years of practice, I'm good at it. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I even enjoy it. I have made a worthwhile choice.

Like any job, some of it stinks (quite literally, hence the title of this blog), some of it's OK, and some of it's great. OK, so I don't get performance appraisals (other than 'I'm not eating / drinking / tidying this up'), and I don't get time off. I can't walk away from it and close the door on the world in the same way I might be able to if my job were in an office elsewhere, and I most definitely can't throw a sickie. But this is still my job. It's not for ever, and there will come a time when I will need something else, but here and now I am caring for my sons and it's working; they're still alive and what's more, they're happy.

When I reached that understanding, guess what? I stopped feeling the need to justify my choice to others. If they don't get it, that's their issue. I'm at peace with my role, and that's all that matters.

I'm a stay at home mum - and I'm worth it.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Service Announcement...

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a bit of a luddite. Frankly it's a wonder that I ever got myself organised enough to set up a blog because my track record with 'technology' is not great. Sure, I know my way - vaguely - around a keyboard, and have been known to set up the odd -extremely basic - website for a friend, but ask me to twitter, show me an i-phone, or present me with a new camera and I will at best work out the most basic commands before thinking 'well, I managed without it before, why bother now?'.

But that, ladies and gents, is changing. Only in a small way, but great oaks, and all that. For example, I've begun by suggesting to Husband that rather than simply inheriting his much used laptop when he upgrades without discussion (as he surely will - men have a habit of just doing these things and presenting you with the shiny shiny results in a neat fait accompli, I find), I would quite like a shiny shiny laptop of my own, preferably before our move to Russia. How I'm going to fund that I've yet to work out, but give me time...

I've also been thinking about the fact that once in Russia, on-line purchasing might be something I do a bit more of. It's not that I won't be able to go out and buy stuff over there, you understand; it's just that actually getting the opportunity to do it might be a little more complicated. So if I'm going to become an internet shopper, as a person who has indirectly (i.e. via by Husband) been affected by account-related fraud, any technology I can find to make that particular aspect of life safer and easier has got to be a good idea. So I've found one.

Hmm - aspirations for laptop purchase - items found plentifully on-line - and a way to pay for things on-line. Could the two things be related? Surely not...

Very cheekily, I'm going to send you over here to Powder Room Graffiti where I've written all about it, to find out what that method is.

Happy spending!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Dear Dresses

Dear Dresses,

this is a hard letter to write, but I think you both know what's coming. Well, I'm sure you do actually, languishing as you are in the bottom of a plastic bag side by side, waiting by the front door to make the final journey out of my life to the charity shop.

We've been through a lot together, the three of us. You, black satin strapless number; you were the first dress I ever put on that made me feel truly beautiful. Aged 20, I wore you to the Christmas Ball at college and felt I could do and be anything. You were made with love by my mother, and if I do say so myself, together we looked a million dollars. In fact, it was in part down to you and your slinky black satin that I first caught the eye of Sporty Boyfriend, and then spent the next 5 years in an on-again-off-again relationship that -whilst it certainly had it's disadvantages - taught me how to be independent, self-sufficient, and not to rely on any man for ratification and justification.

As far as I can remember, I only ever wore you the one time. There wasn't much call for 1930's-inspired strapless evening wear at my university or indeed through my succession of jobs over the pre-child years that followed - when I could still fit into you. It's a shame, because looking at you this morning - leaving aside the rips on the hem and the scratch across the bodice that mysteriously appeared on your one outing - you really were a knockout.

And you, lilac strapless taffeta number with the trailing sash. How we danced the night away at the college Going Down Ball. (For those reading this who are not au fait with British University traditions, yes it is a ridiculous name, and means the final ball for those graduating that year. Why it can't be called what it is - a Graduation Ball - is something I never understood...) It was whilst wearing you that I put Sporty Boyfriend's shennanigans with that hockey-playing hussey once and all to the sword. She never stood a chance when I put you on, and I knew it - as did he. Whether I should have put them to sword is a different story entirely, but the next few years with him were certainly useful for building foundations for long-distance relationships (like London:Moscow, for example), so I don't regret having done it for a moment.

Again, I only ever wore you once. And apparantly I was so delighted with your performance that I didn't even check you over when I took you off to see the red wine stains on the back of the skirt or the rip under the arm. Still, I was a penniless graduate at the time; money for repairs and dry cleaning bills was scarce. Which is odd, bearing in mind the amount of time I spent agonising over your design and colour before handing the material over to the seamstress for the first non-mother-made hand-sewn outfit I ever owned. But there you are; I used you and abused you. I'm sorry.

We're off to the charity shop shortly. I could hold onto you both of course, dragging you from one home to the next as I have done over the last twenty years, but with no daughters to want to dress up in you in years to come I think it's time I put you 'out there' in the hope that someone else might find some use for you.

I'll miss knowing you're hanging in the wardrobe, reminders of what once was - even if you are now both forever too small and too distressed to wear again at this stage of my life - but I really think this is for the best. All three of us need to find new challenges (or in my case, new styles; strapless really isn't my thing any more, regular work-outs or not) and I hope with all my heart that you find new owners and get to go the Ball once more.

Yours always,

Potty Mummy x

Monday 21 September 2009

Motherhood's Job Description

There was an article in The Times this morning about new tests that have been introduced to detect the early signs of various cancers. One of the tests mentioned to detect early signs of bowel cancer was the FOBT (faecal occult blood testing) scheme which is being introduced across the UK. Although it is non-invasive, can be done by the patient in the privacy of their own home, and is certainly a lot less unpleasant than a colonoscopy, the scheme is apparantly less than successful, with only 50% of patients approached actually taking part because of their reluctance to handle stool samples.

What are you willing to bet that the 50% who do comply is mainly composed of mothers who at some point spent years wiping their children's bottoms?

And this got me thinking about things you never expected to be part of Motherhood's job description. Here are just a few of them...

1. The ability to tune out multi-directions and criticisms of driving from the back of the car whilst simultaneously doing the school run, mentally running through your to-do and shopping lists, worrying about the fact you left the dishwasher on and the water supplies are due to be turned off today, asking your older child to quickly run through their spellings, and writing 'notes to self' on the matters of unpaid bills, the night nappy left on the floor of the bedroom, the name tapes to be sewed on, the not-small matter that supplies of chocolate have run low. And then having the strength to smile at the teacher when you finally deliver your child to school.

2. The ability to sound informed on the advantages of diesel vs petrol fuel when questioned at length by a 3 year old.

3. The ability to negotiate between two injured parties both wanting to wear the policeman's uniform from the dressing up box, and the quickness of mind to suggest that one of them be an undercover police-officer 'for added secrecy'.

4. The ability to throw inhibition to the winds and race around a park pretending to be a monster, growling, snorting, and generally being unpleasant whilst at the same time acknowledging friends and acquaintances in a 'this is perfectly normal behaviour' way.

5. The ability to distinguish a small-boy 'I don't care that Thomas is on his way to the station, you need to go to the toilet now!' smell from more general small-boy produced wind and flatulence...

6. The ability not to faint at the evidence of either.

7. The presence of mind to cope with demands from visiting playmates for a) jam sandwiches with honey on the top, b) money so that they can go and buy a magazine, c) their complaints that they are bored and that they don't WANT to go to the garden and their nanny never makes them go outside after school, and to keep smiling throughout

8. The diplomacy to smooth things over when your son tells same visiting playmate that the reason he wasn't invited to his party was because your son didn't want him there...

9. The ability to discount a certain amount of low-level stainage on your clothes.

10. The ability to forget where the nearest dry-cleaner and shoe repair shop actually are, due to lack of use.

11. The ability to apply mascara - pre-school run - to eyes that can barely open after a night of disrupted sleep, and to convince yourself that the results do make a difference.

12. The ability to zone out - with your eyes open - whilst looking incredibily interested and muttering appropriate negatives or affirmatives when being regaled with the latest Power Ranger or Transformer adventures.

13. The ability to wipe up wee first thing in the morning - without gagging and then having to go back to bed to recover - when your son over-shoots the target.

14. The front to tough it out when your 6 month-old baby throws up all over a friends' new sofa, the friend, and their expensive cashmere sweater.

Anything to add?

Saturday 19 September 2009

British Blogging Mummy of the Week

It's Friday night, the one just gone (the day is important, at least if you live in the UK - read on to find out why...)

Me: "Come on, there's half an hour before 'Rebus' starts. I know we've never watched it before, but let's take a look at 'Strictly Come Dancing' and see what all the fuss is about..." (Yes, that's our rock & roll weekend right there, laid out on a plate...)

Husband: "What? You've got to be kidding! Oh go on then - there's nothing else on..."

30 minutes later...

Me: "Shall we turn over? 'Rebus' is about to start."

Husband: "Hang on, I just want to see the scores..."

He then proceeded to check back on the action every time there was an ad break on the other side... Please, somebody tell me I'm not alone in this?

Speaking of cheese-tastic entertainment, this week's British Blogging Mummy of the Week does a fantastic line in cheesy songs, and writes of herself:

'I honestly love being a mum, more than anything I love being puked on, I love spending most my nights awake, I love singing the “wheels on the bus” although my favourite one is “Old McDonald” and I love reading “Owl” stories every night... Honestly who would trade that against lovely pairs of Gucci shoes, D&G bags, nights out at the drop of the hat, and holidays in resorts that ban children? I can put my hand on my heart and say I wouldn't, although I would quite like a little bit less puke and more sleep... '

And Peggy at Perfectly Happy Mum's recent post about putting her oldest into pre-school rang a lot of bells in the Potty Family - check it out here.

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

Friday 18 September 2009

Married shorthand...

Text from me to Husband:

'Your bike needs moving. Where are the keys?'

Text from Husband to me:

'on top of glass cabinet, or in trouser pockets, on on chest of drawers in bedroom or on table in office. In that order xxx'

I took a moment to think about how, when he loses things, they are never in the first place Husband looks. Then I decided to start with the table in the office.



A week ago the internet was full of tales of remembrance for those who lost their lives in New York on September 11th, 2001. Many of them were emotional and affecting, but none of them moved me as much as this one posted yesterday on Boondock Ramblings; I recommend you take a look.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Moving on...

I knew the day would come eventually - and it arrived yesterday.

Small children have a wonderful knack for twisting words to suit them; 'bye bye' becomes 'boy boy', 'yellow' becomes 'lellow', 'napkin' becomes (if you are Boy #1) 'nyapkyin'. If you have children I have no doubt there will have been a trademark mispronounciation at some point in their development, one that you will probably always remember, to be brought out, polished up, and passed around at family gatherings or on first parental / sibling meetings with boyfriends and girlfriends.

My brothers' trademark at 3 years old was a line from a book; Babar the Elephant. You may remember that when the old king ate a poisoned mushroom, he '...lay down, and he died.' Unless you live in Gloucestershire, when he '...lay down, and he doyed.' See? Thirty years on, and I still remember it. Got to love big sisters, huh?

Boy #2's signature word was - unsurprisingly - related to transport, what with his worship of all moveable machines. He has never been able to say the word 'helicopter'. Or at least, he never felt the need to. Instead, it was always 'hello-lo-lok', which personally I quite like, and actually think that it even sounds a little like the sound that they make. (OK, not much, but I'm his mother...).

Yesterday afternoon in the playground however, the era of the 'hello-lo-lok' drew to an end. He said 'helicopter' - correctly. And then he decided that he liked the sound of it so much that he was going to say it again. And again. And again...

I applauded, of course. It is the right pronounciation, after all. Even though I preferred the old one.

My baby is growing up.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Ill-fitting shoes...

If you're not a seasoned ex-pat who moves from one country to another as a matter of course, or young and reckless without any baggage, making a significant move for the first time in your life can be a very interesting process.

I knew in advance that logistically moving to Russia would be a challenge; simply sorting out the paperwork is proving a bit of a marathon. And I have been both experiencing and anticipating the emotional fall-out for a while now.

But what I hadn't expected was how draining it can be dealing with other people's negative reaction to the news that we're going. I've had all sorts of responses; from the commiserations offered by our solicitor (thanks, by the way; I really needed to hear how your friend got drugged and robbed after an ill-advised drink in a shady bar in Moscow - which I suspect he shouldn't have been in anyway, his being a family man and all...), to cautious optimisim expressed by our families, who whilst they don't want us to go, know we've been working towards this for a while and also that we'll only be a four hour flight away.

Most people are great; supportive, excited for us, whilst at the same time understanding that it's going to be a wrench. These are the ones who ask 'What do you need from me to make this easier?' They understand that we have enough to deal with without endlessly examining the down-side; we're going, we have to, and that's an end to it. And who knows? Hell, we might even - gasp! - enjoy it!

There are others, however, who can't see a bright side. Russia - Moscow - to them is the grey utilitarian totalist state of the Cold War of their childhood. It's freezing for months at a time, it's a city of food shortages and queues, there are no bright colours, and the Mafia are everywhere. Why on earth would anyone want to go and live there?

I don't blame people for thinking this way when this image is perpetuated by news rooms and fiction writers all over the world. Admittedly it was a few years ago, but on one memorable occassion Husband (then Tall Skinny Dutch Boyfriend) phoned me from Moscow and I mentioned in passing how cold it had looked there when I watched an item on the news about Russia earlier that evening. The reporter was standing in front of a backdrop of window opening onto a wintry sky with flakes of snow swirling prettily around. Husband was nonplussed. "What on earth are you talking about?" he asked. "Cold? It's 20 degrees C here!"

Well, anyway, my point is that common perceptions are often wrong, and you can't always believe what you see on the news - even when it's the BBC. (Or is that 'especially'?) And also that these negative reactions - which I understand are invariably about the individual I'm talking to and their thoughts on how they would cope with such a move, rather than on a rational assessment of our situation as a family and why this is all necessary, for the best, and actually quite exciting - are so easily made. I've certainly been guilty of that in the past; it's how we put things in context, how we relate to other human beings; by imagining ourselves walking in their shoes. The problem is that right now, for a lot of people, the thought of walking in our shoes scares them witless - and they say so.

But experiencing this from the other side for a change (it's normally we who are staying put whilst others go off and live in unusual places) has shown me that whilst imagining walking in another's shoes is definitely a good thing, it doesn't always do to tell people how you think those shoes might feel, that you don't like the colour, and that they're not your style at all.

I'm wondering; is this something that others who've made this type of a move have experienced too?

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Wardrobe Therapy

OK, first off, I've been at it again. Here's a link to Powder Room Graffiti where I've taken a tongue in cheek look at ways of cohabiting successfully with a partner who's going through the shock of suddenly 'working at home' (yes, that is a euphamism...) following years safe and cosy in the bosom of the corporate world. I wrote this a few months back so it was interesting to re-read it yesterday and see that I stand by everything I wrote in it. (With the exception of the references to excessive chocolate consumption, obviously. My body is a temple, and everything, as you no doubt know...)

Secondly, I'm feeling unaccustomedly perky at this moment in time. Why? Well it's a small thing, but I feel I've finally started to take positive action about our move; I've fulfilled this week's pre-moving vow of going through a cupboard every week and getting rid of anything I don't want to pay good money to take to Russia with us. For which read; crap that has travelled from one house to the next with us over the last 2 or 3 moves, often in boxes unopened from the last time.

I went through my cupboard today, and fought my way through the leaf-litter that lined the bottom of the drawers, undisturbed for eons as I simply wore what sat on the top of it all on a constant repeat cycle. This exercise left me with a couple of questions; how many stretched, faded, deoderant-stained v-necked black t-shirts does a woman need? Or, for that matter, how many faded nursing bras does a 42 year old woman with no intention of having a last gasp pregnancy need? Because, let's be honest, if the unthinkable did happen and I got pregnant (please god, no!), I think that the very least I would do is treat myself to some new nursing bras.

So I got rid - of probably 50% of my wardrobe. I tried on too-tight jeans, too loose t-shirts (not many of those, but a couple, just to help me save face), and just too damn' horrid to even contemplate wearing skirts. I am now Mrs Minimalist, heaven help me.

Amazingly, it feels good. Here's hoping that continues to be the case when I finally arrive in Russia and find I have nothing to wear...

Monday 14 September 2009

Motherhood Spectacles

Boy #1 was 6 years old last week. I've known his birthday was coming, just like it does every year, but how can it be that my darling is now 6 years old? My little bear, the baby reluctantly pulled into the world a bright blue colour, his enormous worried eyes looking quizzically into mine.

"Who are you?" we asked each other, as he rested on my chest for those few fleeting moments before he was whisked away for evaluation and - thank god - to turn a healthy pink.

Over the last 6 years we've slowly worked each other and ourselves out. As I sat in the hospital bed with him curled up, still in foetal position on my chest, afraid to put him down, afraid to entrust him to anyone elses' care, I began to understand that my thought processes had altered. One of the first casualties of this was my natural English reticence; it got pushed to one side, never to fully recover it's previous position as default reaction. Suprised by nerve I hadn't known I posessed, I suddenly found myself reprimanding any visitor who arrived via public transport to pay their respects at the crib of the one true baby and who didn't wash their hands before daring to put their finger in his mouth. This forcefulness, this willingness to put others' feelings to one side if my baby's well-being was threatened was a whole new aspect of my personality that I hadn't known I ever possessed.

Only a few days previously I had said confidently at work 'This motherhood thing won't change me', before weeble-wobbling off on maternity leave. 'I'll be just the same person I was before, only with a baby in tow. Who, by the way, won't slow me down at all...'

Famous last words.

How could I have been so naive? OK, so perhaps the person I was after the arrival of Boy #1 was not so different from who I had been before, but my priorities certainly were. The woman who blithely organised a nanny share pre-baby surely wasn't the same one who felt so crushingly awful about leaving her 7 month old son at home with a loving carer when her maternity leave ran out? Who told herself for the first couple of weeks back at her desk, as she wilted in meetings and watched the minutes tick by until 5.30pm; 'if I still feel this bad in 6 weeks time, I'll stop work, it's not worth this'. I didn't, of course. Stop. Not until his brother arrived two years later, anyway, and I decided that it might have been worth that but it definitely wasn't worth this...

My boys. Or rather, since this post is in celebration of his birthday, my oldest boy (Boy #2 will have his turn). I am terrifyingly proud of Boy #1. I have to force myself not to big him up at every opportunity. His gorgeous face, his winsome smile, his cheeky sense of humour, his sensitivity, his innate sense of rhythym. When friends tell me how cute he is, I know it, but I have to wince and make a disparaging remark; I couldn't possibly confess and tell them that yes, he is, and whilst I love their child too they're right, and there isn't really any comparison. My boy is the most beautiful, the most wonderful, the best, the brightest...

Of course, I know that when I look at him, I am wearing my Motherhood Spectacles. That very possibly, whilst he is no doubt a winsome child, my son is no more special than anyone else's, so I always smile politely and dodge the compliment.

Oh, alright, I don't really believe that. What mother does? But every now and again I am reminded of the presence of the Spectacles. When Boy #1 was about a year, we unearthed a photograph that a friend had taken of him when he was around 5 months old. If you have had children you may be familiar with this situation; when your baby is born you look at him or her and you don't just think your child is the most beautiful that there has ever been, you know it, with every fibre of your being. Only you don't talk about that, because you don't want other parents to have to feel bad when they acknowledge - as they surely must - that your child is beyond compare, a pearl without price.

And then, you have a wake-up moment. In our case, it was the photograph taken 7 months previously. Who was this baby, Husband and I asked each other. Our Boy #1 was much better looking than this, surely? Why, this child looks almost... ordinary. The realisation that yes, as we looked at him back then we had been wearing our parent goggles, was a bit of a shock. We laughed at how foolish we had been, in retrospect. We wondered how on earth we could have been so blinkered, and put it down to post-pregnancy hormones still being rampant around the home (those little blighters stick around for ages, didn't you know?).

And then we congratulated ourselves on having had this moment of truth, looked at our boy again, and said something along the lines of 'Of course, his hair was only just coming back through when that shot was taken, and his eczema was pretty bad. Now though, he really is the most wonderful boy in town...'

Happy Birthday Boy #1. You are my favourite oldest son, in the whole world, ever...

Sunday 13 September 2009

British Blogging Mummy of the Week

Boy #1 is growing up. Not only was he 6 years old last week (more of which tomorrow), but he is learning to spell. A friend of my mine found this out today when, at the end of this afternoon's play-date, she asked me "Is it time for the kids to have an I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M?", he piped up; "Did you say 'ice cream'?"

So, after the present-fest that accompanied last week's birthday, I've scaled the piles of power rangers, transformers, Ben 10 figurines and assorted books and games (I feel a car boot sale coming on) to reach the computer and tell you about the British Blogging Mummy of this week.

Hot Cross Mum writes of herself:

'Having stepped off the corporate ladder, I now ride the domestic rollercoaster of life as a Stay At Home Mum. My days are now less about deadlines and boardrooms and more about washing lines and bathrooms. As an antidote to washing floors, worrying about what to cook for tea and the pain of stepping on small cars in bare feet, I write about my life as a mother and other mother's lives. It's very therapeutic!'

I particularly suggest you check out her Top of the Tots post on how children never fail to find new ways to embarrass their parents...

PS, in the interests of full disclosure, this post was written yesterday - before HCM was kind enough to pass an award in my direction. Bribes etc, whilst welcome (because I am a mother and as we all know that whilst a little chocolate goes a long way with getting kids to do what you want, it will go even further with their mums - or this one, at any rate), have no impact on who gets nominated...

But if you must know, Green & Black's Butterscotch is my absolute favourite.

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

Friday 11 September 2009

Where's MY Cosmo?

Do you remember the first 'grown-up' magazine you ever bought?

I'm not talking about Bunty, Smash Hits, Honey, Mizz or the like here; I'm talking thick, glossy, full of advertising and offering a glimpse into a world that I was in no way part of but which I thought - one day - I might be. I was probably a late starter in the area of fashion-porn, because it wasn't until I was nearly 18 and 'Elle' was launched in the UK that I was at all tempted to spend my hard-won Saturday job cash (keeping the men's pants fixture in M&S on Boscombe High Street tidy - oh, the glamour!) on a glossy.

I can remember it now; Yasmin Lebon (then Parvenah - can you believe I even remember her name?) glowed on the front cover, looking young, gorgeous and oh-so-sophisticated. And even more amazingly to me, living as I was in blonde-surfer-babe obsessed Bournemouth, she was a brunette. Well, that was it. My commitment was assured, and for the next couple of years or so I always found the cash for my monthly fix.

Now, though? Well, I'm a bit lost when it comes to glossy magazines. But I'm afraid I'm going to ask you to click here to check out my latest piece on Powder Room Graffiti if you would like to find out why...

Thursday 10 September 2009

Some PR Agencies do the stupidest things...

Yes, that title was a reference to 'Kids do the funniest things'. Here's why...

I've written before about having recieved shoddily directed e-mail proposals from pr companies. Whilst some pr agencies are clearly working hard, and the numbers who appear to have actually read The Potty Diaries before getting in touch is definitely on the increase, there are others whose approaches simply beggar belief. For all the attention that has been paid to what I actually write, I suspect that some of these companies have simply pulled their nearest work-experience intern out of the post room and said 'Here, find some parent bloggers, let's see how much free coverage you can get from them. There's a lollipop in it for you if you can get anyone to mention this turkey...'

Anyone at all familiar with this blog might have picked up on the fact that the well-being of children - primarily my own, but essentially all - is top of my list of priorites. Christ, I put my career on hold because I felt my children (disclaimer: that's my children, not yours, your neighbours, or anyone else's, just mine, no judgement here on other people's choices) would be better off having me at home.

So I was somewhat nonplussed to get the following e-mail into my inbox.

'I wanted to drop you a quick note to say that we are working on a new family TV show called 'xxxxxxxxxxxxx'. (I've deleted the name here because I don't feel like giving them free publicity).

'It's a really lovely concept as kids are put in grown up situations and are secretly filmed to see how they react... I saw your blog and I wondered if you might be interested in receiving more info on the show to feature on there. We have lots of fun content and clips, interviews by kids etc that we could send you.'

I checked, and the children they are referring to are 3 - 6 years old. Have I entered some kind of a parallel universe here? Where on my blog does it suggest that I might be interested in this? Am I the only person to whom this seems a just a tad exploitative and more than a little inappropriate? Putting children in 'grown up situations' and secretly filming them?

For some reason this seems so much grubbier to me than family-shot home videos sent in to be given a cheesy voice-over and used as part of a compilation. Don't get me wrong, I dislike those programmes too, but that's because I'm a tv snob and it's just not my cup of tea. In this case however, it's the 'professionalism' of this approach which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Most of my working life was spent in the agency world, and for some reason the following scenario comes to mind. Some media execs are sitting round a table, sipping their cappucinos & Red Bull, and the big banana is pacing around the room...

"Come on, people. We've got that slot on Saturday night to fill. Those softies at the animal cruelty lobby won't let us use any more film of dogs water skiing, and the Japanese have stopped sending us shots of guys eating maggots for fun. What cheap crap can we sling in there?"

"Well, boss, it's probably mad, but..."

"No idea too crazy. We're all mad here, right? You know, like that slogan on my door? 'You don't have to be mad to work here but it helps'? I'm sooo wacky... Come on, spit it out..."

"Well, I had this idea. We take some kids - "

"How old?"

"Uuummmm - 7 - 10?"

"No, younger, got to get them younger and cuter."

"3 - 6, then."

"Yep, like it, go on..."

"And we put them in funny situations - "

"Funny situations? Been done before, seen that, got the video..."

"No, boss, this time it's different. This time we make them do things that adults normally have to do..."

"I'm listening, go on."

"And we see how they react."

"That's it?"

"Well, yes. Oh, and we film them too, of course. Secretly."


"And... we use that bloke to present it?"

"OK. Let me get this clear. You're saying, we'll take a load of kids, and get their gullible parents to sign release forms for nothing other than the possibility they might get to see little Lola on the telly. We put the kids somewhere they feel safe and are enjoying themselves, manipulate the situation so things get a bit out of control, force them to make possibly uncomfortable adult decisons because for some reason the adults who are supposed to be in charge can't do it, and film them secretly to see how they react?"

"Yeeessss. Um. When you put it like that -"

"Brilliant. Bloody brilliant. TV gold. Let's do it."

See my point?

Wednesday 9 September 2009

The Environment, Vegetarianism, and real life...

I've been reading a lot about carbon footprints recently. Well, not a lot. That implies I have the chance to sit and read the newspapers in places other than on the loo, whilst my sons rampage outside and interrupt every few minutes to ask me to get out the other train set / fetch them a biscuit / help them find the tiny bit of transformer that I know for a fact I threw out in a rage after I stood on it in the dark for the nth time last week...

But I have been reading about carbon footprints a bit. And it's seems as if more and more people are deciding that one way of reducing theirs is to change their diet. Apparantly, if you are concerned about global warming and believe that human activity can impact on how quickly it happens, you may well believe that eating meat every single day of the week is Not A Good Thing. At-least-partial vegetarianism is being touted as the responsible way of eating if you want to be environmentally aware in the kitchen (along with recycling, growing your own compost heap, minimising packaging for your weekly supermarket shop, getting a vegetable box, never throwing any food away unless it's hit puberty and has started to grow a beard, and knitting your own pasta...)

So anyway, not eating meat 3 days in 7. I'm prepared to go with that. As a student and pre-children, I probably only ate meat a couple of days a week in any case, mainly because vegetables take longer to go off and I couldn't be bothered to do anything more than a weekly shop (unless, of course, we are talking about the off-licence). However, nowadays, it's not just me. There are Other Consumers in the household to be taken into account as well. Consumers with Opinions. And these Opinions are especially strong on the matter of fruit and vegetables.

Take Boy #1, for example. Boy #1 has Very Strong Opinions, mainly on the matter of fruit (the devil's food), but also on the matter of some - or is that most? - vegetables. I hate to complain, because after his first birthday we hit 3 years of hell when it was pistols at dawn every time a meal went on the table, so the fact that nowadays his food repetoire includes carrots, broccoli, and brown rice is something of a victory. However, have you ever tried introducing a semi-vegetarian lifestyle when you are unable to include fruit, courgette, any kind of squash, aubergine, tomatoes, onions, parsnip, cauliflower or lentils?

I tell you, even Delia would be bored by the limited opportunites such ingredient restrictions present. And there are only so many times in a week when you can wilfully ignore the 5 year old critic on the other side of the table and use things from the 'no' list in spite of him if you want to retain your sanity and a reasonably shouty-free dinner table.

And then there's Boy #2. Boy #2 has a totally different issue. He will happily chomp down on most foods, thank god, but that doesn't mean it's all plain sailing. For Boy #2 has decided that if his brother is going to be fussy about food, he will be fussy about drink. As in, he's not going to. Now, I'm prepared to deal with food-avoidance. I have managed to keep a calm and reasonable tone when faced with most food-related tantrums, but when my 3 year old son is refusing to have even 3 glasses of water in a day (and no milk or juice or indeed anything else liquid), I get a bit itchy.

Basically, it freaks me out. Minimal food for a couple of days? Fine - I know my children won't waste away in that time-frame. No drink? Well, that will put a child in hospital, and having seen far too many of those over the last few years I will do virtually anything to avoid that.

How does this impact on trying to eat less meat? Well, it doesn't, not directly. But it does add to the stress of mealtimes if you are on the one hand trying to persuade your oldest to at least try the butternut squash on his plate (as if), and on the other trying to persuade your youngest to at least sip the water in the glass in front of him.

So I'm afraid to say that something has to give. And if I can at least remove the onslaught from one side of the table by replacing butternut squash with sausages, so that I can concentrate on cajoling / insisting / threatening Boy #2 with all sorts of withdrawals of tv-watching priviledges if he doesn't finish his glass of water by the end of the meal, then I have only one thing to say.

Would you like some ketchup to go with those chipolatas?

Monday 7 September 2009

Dear So and So...

I'm taking inspiration from the 'postcards' theme that I've seen popping up in various blogs recently...

Dear parents of (some of) Boy #1's classmates,

I know you are busy. I know you are, in fact, rushed off your feet being all busy and important each and every day. I know that of course you are obviously far more important than little old me, but I was just wondering if you happened to check in your child's schoolbag this weekend. You know, the one we are always supposed to look in at the end of every week to see if the children have homework, dirty clothes or rotten apples lurking at the bottom in there? Or, indeed, party invitations?

You have? Right. Well, then I wondered if it would be out of the question for you to actually open the party invitation? Oh. You have. I see...

Well, I know that it's only a children's party, but they do get quite excited about these things, and as my son's is coming up in only a few days time, is there any possibility you could get off your very important very rushed bottom to send a text or email, or even - god forbid - pick up a phone? Just to let me know if your child will be there? (And - just a suggestion here, you understand - it's always a good idea to check the date on the invitation to avoid embarrassing situations like one that happened last year, where a dad called the week after the party to announce very sweetly that his child would just love to join the fun next Saturday. When the fun was in fact, last Saturday...)

I hate to rush you on this one, it's just that we are entertaining your child at our expense at a play centre which is not - in these crunch times - what you might call 'inexpensive'. OK, I have to come clean and admit that it's not my favourite place, and probably not yours either (indeed I have, embarrassingly, been very rude about it on this blog in the past - thank god for anonymity I say), but I have yet to encounter the child who doesn't love this place and it is, much as I hate to admit it, their party.

So it would be just dandy to know in advance if your child is actually going to actually attend, if that's not too much trouble. Because if he / she can't, my son might quite like to invite somebody else...

Yours in anticipation (and in the hope that you never read this blog),

Potty Mummy.

OK, not a postcard then. More of a letter...

Sunday 6 September 2009

British Blogging Mummy of the Week

There's nothing quite like dragging yourself out of bed early on a Sunday morning, pulling on your gym clothes and sorting breakfast for the family before you leave, only to have your three year old son look at you incredulously - as if the last year of thrice weekly visits to the house of pain never happened - and ask, in an astonished tone of voice:

"What? Are you actually going to the gym?"

Henceforth I may well call him Mr Motivator...

All of which is longhand for announcing that I wasn't out on the tiles yesterday evening (if I had been, the chances of my breaking my 3 week abstention from exercise this morning would have been zilch, obviously), and instead spent a while surfing through the British Mummy Bloggers Ning list of members.

My, but there are some good looking blogs out there. I am feeling very frumpy and aged with my lack of gorgeous graphics and hot or pastel tones. Forget shopping for an autumn wardrobe or working out my aging bod, I think I need to focus on toning up The Potty Diaries pronto. In the meantime though, I want to point you towards the British Blogging Mummy of the Week.

Now, I'm an urbanite through and through. Brought up in the country, the chances of my ever returning to live there are slim and none (and I believe that Slim just left town, boom boom), but every now and again I do hanker after green fields, open vistas, and a lack of air traffic. So when I come across a blog that says...

'After accidentally living in Brisbane for eight years, Folly and her Other Half upped sticks from the city and did the tree-change thing, moving to five acres in the beautiful north of Tasmania...'

and follows it up with:

'Two years on the family have some livestock, a place in the local community and a veggie patch. They have some pointless alpacas, three guinea fowl, numerous chooks and a sheep dog but no sheep....'

it does tend to catch my attention, especially when it's beautifully written and entertaining like Apple Island Life. I particularly enjoyed Folly's description of her huband's bond with her mother and how she fears that it may even reach into their bedroom...

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

Friday 4 September 2009

Doin' it for the kids

Here's a riddle for you. Which movie will be demanded when you offer two tired post-school boys the rare chance to watch a dvd after school (in an attempt to get the younger and more exhausted one to drop off on the sofa for a while - as if...) and:

a) one of them is obsessed by dogs
b) the other is obsessed by trains

You won't get it. I know you won't get it. And the reason why I know you won't get it? Because unless you are a Disney Blu-Ray Ambassador (pass me those foil-wrapped Ferrero Rocher, somebody?), there is absolutely no chance you will have 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' in your dvd collection.

But I am. And we do. And guess what my sons wanted to watch for the second time this afternoon?

To be fair, it's actually quite a sweet film, and completely suitable for the 3 -5 year old age-group. I even - whisper it softly - sat down on the sofa for part of it and watched it with them for the second time. Never mind that this gave me the rare opportunity of having my younger son - normally 'he who eschews cuddles in favour of striding around being manly and playing with trains' - snuggled in on one side, and my older son - normally 'he who rarely stands still long enough for a hug as he's usually too busy pretending to be a dog - wedged in on the other... (Hmmm. Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall regarding which way their choice of movie might go?)

So what's the film about? (You really want to know?). It's a live-action / CGI movie (also available in Blu-Ray format, obviously) that makes dogs talk and of which the blurb on the website says:

'It tells the story of Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), a spoilt Chihuahua enjoying all the trappings of Hollywood from diamonds sparkling on her collar to the best grooming and gourmet food Tinsel Town can offer. However, she finds herself in a perilous situation when events conspire to take her to Mexico, lost, alone and abandoned.'

And it has trains and dogs in it.

And that is all I am saying on this matter.

The things I do for my children... and I don't even have chocolate in the house to reward myself with...

Thursday 3 September 2009

Reality Check

So both the boys are back at school this morning, and after all my chuntering and complaining the house feels rather empty...

The calm silence is particularly unwelcome because it gives me the opportunity to start beavering away at all the tasks that need to be completed before we leave on our Russian adventure. Now, whilst I was busy entertaining the Boys and doing my best impression of a Butlins red coat over the summer break, I was almost looking forward to this.

Oh goody, I thought, the chance to go through all our cupboards and get rid of stuff we haven't used since the last time we moved. I am determined that we will not do what we have over the last couple of moves, and simply move 'the crap' with us rather than getting round to throwing it out.

And where better to start with this, than my own wardrobe? In a perverse way I've been looking forward to the chance to get rid of all the clothes that I haven't been able to fit into since before Boy #2 arrrived. You know, the ones that you just keep hanging around; they're not too shabby, some of them were quite expensive, and you just can't quite bring yourself to shove them in a bin bag and take them to Oxfam. I keep thinking that I might either get a really bad stomach bug (note to self; stop taking pro-biotics if I really want that to happen, which if I'm honest, I don't), or suddenly tap into reservoirs of willpower I hadn't realised I possessed, helping me to cut out the chocolate. Either way I might finally lose that extra half a stone... (OK, probably closer to a stone but doesn't everyone delude themselves like this?)

So, I got back from school drop-off this morning, opened my cupboard doors ready to start the weeding out process, and then it hit me.

Oh bugger. If I get rid of all the clothes I can't fit into, I probably won't have any clothes left...

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Of Shouting and Punishment...

I am so ready for Boy #1 to go back to school tomorrow - and frankly, I suspect he is too. Don't get me wrong, we've had a wonderful 8 week summer break that's gone by far more quickly than I ever thought it would (one of the paradoxes of private-school education in the UK is that the more you pay for your child's schooling, the more you see of them...), but I think we're both feeling that now it's time to move on.

He has become rather more demanding and teenage-like over the last week or so than I would actually like, and I - well, I have become rather more shouty. It's as if, after 7 weeks of keeping a lid on any frustrations, I have reached the tipping point, and am raising my voice far too easily. This does happen in our usual routine, but not as often as recently (honest, m'lud), and is not the mummy I want to be. I've worked out why it happens, though.

It's because I can't swear.

I don't know about you, but in my pre-children life there was little that was more satisfying, more expressive, than to throw a good expletive in every now and again when the occassion demanded it. Not in the gratuitous swearing style of 'Yes, I would just love a fxxx'in' cup of tea', or the 'Bxxxer me, I'm tired' way of things, but more in the 'For fxxk'x sake, how much more of this xhxt do I have to take!' way of things.

But of course, when you have children, all that is supposed to stop. So whilst I might mutter under my breath every now and again, or once in a blue moon text Husband to ask 'Would it be out of the question to tell our children to eff off?' (a text that he doesn't bother to answer, by the way, since he knows that just sending it in the first place is release enough for me), I never actually use any of the 'Forbidden Words'.

Potty Mummy expletives nowadays consist of 'Bother!' 'Blast!' and 'For Goodness' Sake!', which make me sound like an Angela Brazil or Enid Blyton novel, and which just don't afford the same level of comfort in moments of crisis. And since there's nothing intrinsically different in there to the sort of language I normally use, it has as much impact on my sons as water does on a duck's back. Hence the shouting, which kicks in on my fourth or fifth time of requesting that they put their shoes on / start tidying up / just stop whining about the rain and get out of the car I've been standing in the middle of the street in heavy traffic holding the door open for you for 5 minutes now whilst you whitter on about getting your hair wet...

I don't know why I bother raising my voice though. I mean, yes, more often than not whatever perfectly reasonable request I'm making does finally sink in once I raise the decibel level, but even that's amazing as both my sons know perfectly well that they have nothing to fear from me other than - ooooooh, the naughty chair. Whilst they are not that keen on it, that's not - whatever Super Nanny says - very much of a deterrent in the punishment stakes.

I suspect that whatever remorse they show whilst seated on it is simply for form's sake and to shut me up. In fact, they are probably thinking 'best give the poor old dear a break. At least let her think she's won this one...' before, time up, they pootle off and promptly do what boys do best - just getting on with it and forgetting whatever unpleasantness happened 5 minutes ago - leaving me to feel guilty and small for having tried to impose some kind of order on their 5 or 3 year old lives...

Parenting in the Noughties. It's a mugs game. Is it any wonder I shout from time to time?