Friday, 9 December 2011

'Tis the Season to be Trollied

Lately I have been a BAD blogger. I have barely posted, I haven't replied to comments, I've not even acknowledged awards some kind people have given me. Please don't give up on me, thank you for sending lovely comments and emails and, come the New Year, I'll be back on it with both cylinders. Promise. Until then, I apologise for my bad blogging behaviour and consider myself well and truly put on the naughty step.

Truth is, despite having TWO of the X chromosomes, I seem to have lost my ability to multi-task. What with both our children's birthdays within a month of Christmas (bad family planning, we know), a change of childcare, a demanding freelance job, a zillion illnesses and the eldest coming into our bed every two minutes, my coping mechanism over the last few weeks has generally involved at least half a bottle of red per evening, with the occasional hot spicy cider thrown in for festive measure. Our recycling box is such an embarrassment in our well-heeled neighbourhood, The Husband has to take it out after dark and place it down gingerly to avoid the 'clink' factor. Last week we had more bottles than next door's flats put together. Oops.

All this does of course is result in 'duvet brain', more tiredness and a greater relaxing of parenting boundaries, because I'm too knackered to give a shit. I know supernanny would have me trotting my 4 year old back to his bed 15 times a night but frankly I'd rather spend that time trying to get back to the dream about me and Spencer from Made in Chelsea.

As The Husband has taken on a new 'stressful' job, I'm also in charge of all the Christmas shopping this year, which basically means wasting a great deal of my life saying the words 'Do you take American Express?' It was an idea of The Husband's that, since we were caning the credit cards, we might as well make money out of it, so he's switched us to some scheme where we clock up free air miles every time we chip and pin it. Last night he proudly announced we'd racked up enough to get us somewhere in Europe. I started mentally planning a Gite in the Loire Valley or a pretty yellow villa in Tuscany. Only to learn that apparently it's only enough for one. One way.

So it turns out The Husband is planning his quiet Christmas somewhere over the Channel, and I shall continue my wine-based meltdown towards the 25th, hoping I get there with enough brain cells still intact to play Cranium with my in-laws (or, God forbid, Trivial Pursuit...when will they bring out a celebrity gossip version?!) 

Merry Christmas fellow bloggers and faithful followers. See you on the other side x

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


The last few weeks have been a bit nuts:

The Husband has left his secure job of 15 years - in the middle of an economic crisis - to go contracting.

The children have been on a quest to catch every illness going - the usual coughs and colds, some weird stop-start vomiting bug, hand foot and mouth...suffice to say, this month I have 'got' MANY T-shirts and we are now buying Calpol in bulk at CostCo.

I have 'returned to work' freelance stylee which has generally involved Insecurity and Confidence having a bit of a grapple and Insecurity typically punching Confidence's lights out. And then Guilt popping in to say Hello several times a day because the children think their mother's face has been replaced with an iPad.

I am not looking for sympathy because I am well aware there are many marvellous mothers out there who are juggling a whole lot more than this. Instead, I wanted to share a little insight from my better half who suggested a solution to our recent Ships-Passing situation.

The Husband has come up with a concept which he has called iNight. (I should explain, he loves the Apple brand and everything it stands for. The day we lost Steve Jobs made for a solemn breakfast in our house, I can tell you. I think he believes one of the big cheeses within the Apple empire might eventually buy iNight for a large sum). He's even got a strap line: 'iNight - it's MY night'. God love him.

So, I'm going to share this with you all. iNight is a bit like Date Night. But better. (You're probably starting to see how it was pitched to me...). Rather than each planning a night once a month or so, where you go out for dinner, try not to talk about the children but end up talking almost entirely about the children and then having predictable sex, iNight breaks all those rules and tears them up. Oh yes. With iNight there are NO rules, simply that one person is entirely in charge of the evening - the food, the entertainment, the drink, everything (I refer you back to the strap line, see). The main thing is that it's just about the two of you, and it may perhaps encourage each of you to enjoy things you may not otherwise choose (for The Husband: getting me to watch an entire subtitled film, for me: relaxing in the bath with his and hers trashy mags). So, because the options are endless, you could just choose to get takeaway and watch TV or you could arrange a babysitter and some fabulous surprise night. Them's the rules: no rules.

As it was his idea, The Husband got to kick off with iNight launch (it was on the calendar and everything). Given I was fully expecting to be watching Arsenal's Top goals whilst eating orange doritos out of the packet, I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a square meal and The Last King of Scotland on DVD. And you know what, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night - because it's not what I would have chosen to do. And that's the great thing about it. I definitely have interest boundaries which could do with being pushed, and who doesn't hanker after a bit of surprise and spontaneity in a long-term love thang?

So, why not try it?! Launch iNight in your lives. I'd LOVE to hear what you all get up to! And you never know, perhaps The Husband will get his global branding after all : )

And Ps. Next week it's MY night! I wonder...Singalong Sound of Music or ice skating...?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Throughout both my pregnancies other mothers felt it necessary to comment on my size in the way that is almost obligatory when you are ‘with child’. Under no circumstances would a stranger brazenly march up in Sainsbury’s and remark on how large your arse is, but it seems that bumpism is fair game. Mine was apparently ‘extremely small’ which of course had me free-falling into a worry pit and Googling into the early hours, accompanied by much eye-rolling from The Husband.

When my children were born, they were both enormous babies. Huge doughballs with several chins, and cheeks so pendulous they practically dragged along the floor. At my son’s first trip to baby clinic, the Health Visitor carefully plotted his weight on the percentile chart and I watched as her pencil headed into a blank wilderness somewhere above 99.6th. Apparently there was no baby on record bigger than mine. Other mothers would look on wide-eyed as they cradled their neat little bundles, and say helpful things like ‘Wow, he’s a whopper’ and ‘Did you crave a lot of cake in pregnancy?’. Ironically (and downright ridiculously) my ‘too small’ had apparently now become ‘too big’, which had me straight back in the worry pit, all over Google again and The Husband probably on the phone to the Lawyer citing irreconcilable differences.

I can see the silliness in this more clearly now, with the cynical-tinted glasses of four years later. But my concern, paranoia and self-doubt at the time was largely a result of comments and comparisons made by other mums. Surely we should all know better?

As I went on to discover, it only got worse as the babies shed their sleepy newbornness and started to actually do some stuff. Fortunately as it turned out, my firstborn stamped out any chance of me joining any games of mum-upmanship in the early years by being the laziest child when it came to any developmental accomplishment. He viewed each ‘next stage’ less as an exciting milestone and more as another tiresome hurdle. Consequently, I had to endure months of fever pitch excitement from other mothers proudly logging First Word, First Sitting Unaided, First Steps…whilst mine was still just sliding along the floor like a slug.

When he did eventually decide that being vertical was more interesting, we walked to the park one day and bumped into a mum I vaguely knew. She was one of them: A Smug Mother. I suspected as much when she started cross-examining me on exactly when the boy had started walking and whether or not he was yet able to run. She was satisfied to hear that ‘No’ he could not yet run, which therefore meant that her son, who could, was better. She was then compelled to add that he was also – aged 21 months – taking French lessons. Well of course.

Why do us mothers do this to each other? What is the point? We are all in this game together, with no rules and several opponents (most of them under 3ft tall). Yet, at times we still try and outrank each other. I know in theory we should all be batting for the same side, but sometimes I’m really not feeling that Sisterhood thing.

We’re a funny old mix, us mums. Sometimes we can be so supportive of each other and other times not at all. There are some fantastic networks, yet there are so many cliquey groups. There is a sea of mothers feeling the same insecurities, yet so many try to hide them for fear of admitting they might need a life-raft sometimes. There is so much honesty and yet still so much pretence.

Having spent many a night pondering the point of mum-upmanship with a large glass of red, my belief is that if mothers pass comments and make comparisons about their child and yours, it has nothing to do with your child. As women, we tend to seek validation for our decisions and we need to know where our own triumphs and failures measure on the overall scale of mummydom. So perhaps some mums are making themselves feel better about their choices and using yours as a benchmark. So what? Just try and consider it a jolly beautiful benchmark. Let’s be honest, we all pass occasional judgement about other people’s offspring and different parenting styles and we believe our own children are completely brilliant. The trick is to just keep your bloody mouth shut about it.

Without sounding cheesy here, The Husband and I just want our children to be happy above all else. And if that means they come last at sports day or need some extra help with fractions or don’t turn out to be the high flying executives we’re planning to retire on, then that’s just fine by us.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Lately, my three year old has become rather obsessed with death. Thankfully, there's no immediate catalyst for this, so Im putting it down to a 'Developmental Stage' - along with his desire to be naked whenever possible - and hoping itll pass. Please feel free to reassure me...

Trouble is, I'm finding it quite a difficult one to manage, especially publicly. And Im not quite sure of any of the right answers ('Will Great Grandma be staying in heaven overnight mummy?' 'Ummm....'). On a recent walk to his nursery, I asked after one of the staff I hadnt seen much of lately. 'Wheres Melissa at the moment? I said, 'I havent seen her for ages. Casually, whilst taking on a particularly bumpy part of pavement with his scooter, he replied, 'Oh, she just, erdied.

Now, had this been the case, Im fairly sure that nursery parents would have been pulled aside to be informed, or at the very least it would have made the monthly newsletter. So this little gem of twisted fiction is merely a product of (what I thought was) his pure, angelic mind. Shit. Should I worry? Is it normal? Should I just have another glass of wine...?

The thing is, because abstract concepts are so difficult to convey to this age, The Husband and I have come up with some slightly more fluffy explanations than Six Feet Under. So perhaps wrongly, when our children lost their Great Grandma earlier this year, we said she'd gone to live in the clouds along with their other Great Grandparents. Our son thinks this is rather fantastic. I think he genuinely believes we might pass them next time were on an Easyjet flight and see them all joyfully having a tea party somewhere above The Alps.

The positive thing (I think?!) is that it’s not something he is frightened of, or truly understands. It’s just another concept to explore and be interested in. The macabre fascination continues through to stories and pictures. Yesterday he and a friend were drawing at the table. Sweet. I went over to look. 'Thats a nice picture', I said to my son, noticing a tall tree and something that resembled a duck. The tree is about to fall over and squash the duck he said proudly. OkaaaaaaayWondering if I might have more luck with his friend, I commented, 'Wow - that's good, is it a sheep? No, its a dead dog came the reply. Oh, isnt he asleep? No, hes dead'. Right...

Well, at least I can rest in peace in the knowledge that hes not alone. So for now, I WILL have that glass of wine. And perhaps start saving for therapy, just in case.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

ENGLAND: Nil Points

A very good friend of mine and I have just returned from a weekend in Paris. I should point out this is absolutely NOT usual behaviour. It is precisely BECAUSE of usual behaviour (mainly on the part of our four under fours) that we got drunk one night and spontaneously booked an Easyjet flight and a tiny cupboard in Le Marais, before we could sober up and return to being vaguely sensible.

Keen to make the most of Vin Rouge time and the least of baggage claim boredom, we decided to take hand luggage only. A bonne idée until both bags set off the infrared scanners at security due to the sheer volume of vanity products. It’s a rude awakening to be given a small see-through bag and politely told you can only take what fits into it. Having to publically prioritise your beauty products is quite a challenge I can tell you, especially when you’re off to Paris of all places and will require at least an inch of foundation to get from bleak to chic. I could see the panic in my friend’s face as she had to question on the spot whether Touché Éclat should outrank Beauty Flash Balm.

Having spent a wicked 48 hours in a blur of cigarettes, sequins and ridiculously beautiful people, I have returned to a sickness bug. My daughter pretty much greeted me by vomiting at my (fabulous) heels and has whined ‘Mu…mm…y’ ever since, as if to provide a constant reminder of my role lest I had forgotten somewhere over the English Channel.  

Since there’s no chance of setting foot outside the front door, I have broken all my own rules and told the kids they can do what they want, learning in the ensuing half hour that ‘iPad’ is a key part of my daughter’s vocabulary – at 22 months - and my four year old liberally uses Google as a verb. Oh shit.

I have spent the afternoon making rounds of dry toast, stroking heads, attempting to catch vomit in various receptacles and wanting to punch Mr fucking Tumble. I’ve got a good mind to go and put my sequins back on.

Friday, 30 September 2011

You're It!

Lately, a game of 'tag' has been afoot in the blogosphere, which goes a bit like this: you find a blog which makes you giggle, cry, think a little or a lot and then you choose to present said blog with a Versatile Blogger Award, as follows (ta dah!):

During a week or so of loveliness, I have been given the award three times. I'm not going to go all Kate Winslet in my thank you speech as I currently have PMT and could quite easily end up crying all over The Husband's MacBook, but I definitely do need to say a big thank you to the very talented bloggers who directed some more people my way - A Thoroughly Modern Mummy, Living It Little and Rollercoaster Mum. Please go and have a read of them when you have a moment. 

So, the rules are I must share 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to 5 other newly discovered blogs. Here goes:

1. I can't eat food off other people's plates, or share cutlery (even with The Husband)
2. I love Derren Brown (yes, in THAT way)
3. I am a middle child, and every text book character trait that comes with it
4. I once did a handstand in the school playground and had forgotten to put knickers on that day 
5. I am a Scorpio, and every text book character trait that comes with it
6. I have bunions (born with them, not due to a love of fabulous but impractical shoes)
7. I am currently plotting a way to get Gary Barlow to leave his wife. The Husband doesn't know this yet

And here are the following brilliant blogs who I'm passing on The Versatile Blogging award to:

Happy Friday! x

Monday, 26 September 2011

Newborn Nuggets

Some good friends of ours have just had their first baby. News which has left me all gooey and sentimental.

So I am writing today’s blog post for all those new mothers out there – and if you know anyone who’s just given birth or is about to, be sure to pass it on. The following is actually taken from a card I wrote to a very good friend of mine (she knows who she is), when she had her first baby:

I still have days when I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing with this motherhood lark, but here are ten little things I’ve learnt along the way, which might be of some help to you and your little one.

  1. Always carry a spare pair of breast pads in your handbag (believe me, you don’t want to get caught short in public….I’m speaking from experience)
  2. You can never have too many muslins.
  3. Don’t be alarmed by a sudden onset of emotion around day five. I was pretty much inconsolable during an entire two hour Christmas final of X Factor. Luckily, the midwife had warned The Husband.
  4. Gripe water is brilliant.
  5. Avoid ‘Smug Mothers’ (there were babies allegedly learning French before mine could even walk).
  6. Always ensure you’re in possession of some expensive foundation and truck loads of Touche Eclat. Within two minutes you can look vaguely human, possibly even radiant, despite two hours sleep.
  7. Just when you start getting a little tired of giving out unconditional love and not getting a great deal back, your baby will smile at you for the first time and it’ll instantly recharge your batteries.
  8. If in doubt, feed (the baby, not the father).
  9. Sometimes you may cry for no reason, or eat an entire packet of chocolate Hobnobs in one day. Both are entirely normal.
  10. You start to see your mum in a whole new light, because you suddenly ‘get it’.
And now for the soppy and sentimental bit….despite some of the more challenging times, and moments in the middle of the night when you feel like you’re the only one in the world awake, being a mother is the most wonderful, fulfilling, incredible privilege. Don’t worry about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, or what other parents are doing. Follow your instincts, love your baby, and look after him/her as well as you possibly can. And that’s the best you can do.

Most of all enjoy it. These days go so quickly and are so, so special.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Play House

This morning I found Iggle Piggle in my knicker drawer. I don’t recall reading that he’s a cross-dresser. Perhaps he was looking for The Tombliboos' trousers.

In the bathroom, my entire collection of candles had been lined up along the edge of the bath, with a single Immac upper lip wax strip balanced carefully on top of each one.

In the garden for most of this summer, approximately 20 plastic clothes pegs (‘Boats’) lay across the decking, each gripping a leaf of varying size (‘Sails’).

This is the work of the little people. And I am not allowed to touch.

I don’t know if it’s just my children, but there seems to be a constant Arrangement of something somewhere, which uses a combination of their toys and my household objects, and which is usually very precisely laid out. There is huge imagination at play here and I am loathed to disrupt or untumble one of these carefully constructed scenarios, just because I really could do with my spatula back. On the one hand I love witnessing the creative expression, the scientific experimentation, the way the inanimate can animate their little, new minds. On the other hand, my OCD tendancies are going into overdrive and I just want to get hold of all the bloody Stuff and put it back into piles and boxes.

It’s when their play area pervades ours that perhaps my tolerance is most tested. Pre-children, I’ve always maintained that the bedroom should be a serene sanctuary – absolutely NO television, stylish décor, scented candles and beautiful bed linen. These days, it’s not unusual to find a plastic pony poking into my back during The Act, or to glance over The Husband’s shoulder to see The Gruffalo peering out at me from under the duvet.

The Husband says that all this chaos makes the house looked lived-in and gives it soul. I am certainly aware that our ‘Beautifully appointed Victorian terrace’ which we bought as DINKs from another couple of DINKs would now be described as a ‘Much loved family home, in need of some attention’. But honestly? I rather like that the chips in the skirting are from where Thomas' wheels hit the edge during a particularly fast race, that the scratches on the leather sofa are from a 'real dinosaur fight' and that the biro swirls by the front door were our daughter’s first drawing.

Perhaps because they serve as little memory nuggets of days already gone by. Days when they are little. Days which we won’t get back. The house bears the scars of their childhood – proudly - and that’s exactly what a family home should do.

And anyway, the plastic takeover that comes to us all does no real harm. Iggle Piggle looked quite content nestled amongst my M&S cotton pants (I’d love to say frilly French lace but The Husband follows this blog and is likely to post a comment exposing me as a bare-faced liar). And you never know, perhaps The Gruffalo even enjoyed his threesome.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ab Fab

A few weeks ago, in 'Muffin Top? Yes, melted cheese please', I did some shameless product placement about something called NIP+FAB.

The claims are: if you're in hot pursuit of a flatter, more toned tummy, but working up a sweat every day just isn't an option, this 'clinically proven' gel will help to tone, smooth and tighten your full-fat muffin top into more of a skinny one.

I must admit I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to lotions and potions, but frankly I'll try anything which allows me to swap the stepper for the sofa, so I've been following the instructions, morning and night, for the last few weeks.

Ladies, it works.

Okay so I'm not quite ready for Strictly, and there's still a little duvet on top of my stomach muscles, but let's just say the cover looks like it's had a good iron.

Here's the science: apparently, it's to do with something called AmaraShape, which contains caffeine and synephrine. Both ingredients activate the breakdown of lipids in fat cells within the body, meaning you can pretty much leave the little beauties to it whilst you enjoy ogling at Gary.

This product is perfect for me and I'm only half way through the tube, so perhaps in another month I'll even be mistaken for Gwyneth. So, if you're looking for something with minimal effort but a certain 'Je ne sais quoi', NIP+FAB tummy fix is it.  As it happens, in preparation for a girlie weekend sans les enfants in Paris (more on that later), I'm reading a book called 'Two lipsticks and a lover' all about how French women pull off that effortlessly chic look.

And I was pleased to read that apparently les madames don't exercise at all, they just move around more. I like the sound of that very much. Wonder of it matters if my movements are mostly back and forth to the Chablis in the fridge?

Monday, 12 September 2011

...and Three's a Crowd

I think I may have seen The Light. The Light of hope and promise that people talk about when your second child turns two. The Light you think about when you're pacing the landing with your crying baby, knowing your older child will be up at six. I think I've had a glimpse of it.

My children have been playing together for 45 minutes. All by themselves. Upstairs. Knowing that absent, quiet children under five usually means mischief, I have been to check. They have not climbed onto something they shouldn't. They have not found my Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and squeezed it along the bathroom tiles 'Like little worms, Mummy'. They are playing nicely. Properly playing and talking to each other. As I write, I can hear the cadence of their little voices and, so far, not once have I heard the shout of 'MINE!' I have tidied the kitchen, had a proper plunge coffee and read The Week cover to cover. For the first time in nearly four years, I'm actually feeling a little surplus to (their) requirements.

I'm almost reluctant to write this down for fear of setting off some sort of Sod's Law alarm which'll rattle me out of my smugness. But I think we might have arrived at the elusive 'There'. This is where people with The Knowledge promised me and The Husband we would get to, when we appeared grey faced and red eyed on most public outings during the first year of two children.

And if we are 'There', where things get a little more manageable, perhaps we can start some of those things we promised ourselves we'd do and get back some of that stuff we once did. Inside my mind is now a mini-landslide of excitement - might we soon be able to go for brunch with the Sunday papers whilst the children chat happily to each other? Could we possibly both get a weekend lie-in beyond 8am, if we leave out some raisin boxes and a selection of lurid plastic toys on the kitchen table?

But then a little voice says, if we are ALREADY Here, at 'There', it means our children are growing up. And all that Knowledge does is make me want another baby.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Learning to Loiter

I am scared of The School Gates. This is not a rational apprehension because my son is starting school this week and the very fact is causing me nervous, sleepless nights. No, my son starts school exactly a year from now. This is an irrational anxiety based on events so far in the future I can't control. My favourite. The angst I do best.

The thing is, I'm not very good at loitering on my own whilst still looking friendly and approachable (which is precisely the balance I understand one needs to perfect at The School Gates). Instead, I appear stern, a bit frowny and pretend to be busy fiddling with something terribly important. So people tend to avoid me. In actual fact, I'm concentrating very hard on looking like I don't really feel uncomfortable in the slightest (when really I do) and quietly hoping someone might come and start a conversation. Which they don't. And there you have it - a whole bucket load of ironies.

After all, what we mums really want in these enforced-loitering situations is to meet other mums, with like-minded outlooks and reasonably clean children. At the moment, my only experience of loitering is at the practice 'School Gates' (my son's nursery) which I'm treating as a sort of apprenticeship to see what skills I can learn over the coming months. Mostly, I look for completely shallow clues as to who might make a nice friend, so I spend a lot of time checking out 'the wheels' of other mothers. For me, it's a bit like the mum's version of 'What car do you drive?' and what it says about you. If I see a Mamas & Papas Pliko Pramette, I know I'm on fairly safe territory.

But then you have to add the children into the mix. Or as a friend pointed out to me the other day, it should really be about the children: which ones my son enjoys spending time with and who he might like to invite home. But when he selects a kindred spirit and then asks to have them over for the dreaded first play date, it all feels a bit like blind dating on my part; door bell rings, mouth goes dry and you pretty much know within seconds if you're going to get on with this mother, or if it's going to be an hour of stilted conversation about which type of weaning you did and when your baby first slept through the bloody night (I can always lose that one, hands down). Equally, I've spotted mums I like the look of, loitering in their skinny J Brands and Uggs, and have been about to bound over to them like an excitable puppy, only to see their child is the snotty nosed grubby little urchin whose just hit mine over the head.

Like so much of life, I guess the politics of The School Gates is a fine balance. It's a bit about the mothers, it's a bit about the children. It's about making an effort without trying too hard. It's about smiling sincerely not grinning desperately (or frowning sternly!) It's about learning to loiter with dignity and intent.

Since our local primary is in an area where there are more Boden mums than you can shake a catalogue at, I definitely need to be wary of my school run attire before stepping out of the house (see August's 'I Can't Take Me Anywhere' post). So, I have exactly a year to perfect the understated, not-made-an-effort look (which takes more effort than any other look). Oh, and to learn how to smile in public.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 2 September 2011


It's that time of year: Autumn's around the corner, X Factor's back on TV (OMG Gary Barlow) and the nights will soon be drawing in.

To me, this means hot Radox baths and going to bed at 9pm to devour a good book or to pick out AW/11 essentials in Grazia.

To The Husband, it means one thing. More sex.

There is one time when you can guarantee our libidos are entirely in balance, and that's when we're trying for a baby. On both occasions we conceived, I vowed to be relaxed and Zen about the whole thing but in fact my style was more military than missionary. Before too long I was taking my temperature and weeing on sticks at every opportunity, then demanding The Husband comes to bed in the middle of Top Gear.

Recognising how the 'trying for a baby' process may wrestle with my impatient gene, The Husband bought me a job lot of ovulation and pregnancy tests from eBay (TOP TIP - they are super cheap, you can buy stacks at once and they work just fine). Which meant I could test for eggs or babies pretty much daily and the only cost was the complete Mind F**k it was causing me.

So, for all you Autumnal baby-bonkers out there, I've got some freebies to give away:

10 boxes of First Response Easy-Read Ovulation Tests (each box contains 5 tests plus a free pregnancy test)


A Positive Pregnancy relaxation CD by Andrew Johnson

To win, just mention me on Twitter @NPMother or leave a comment here. The best comment will win the CD as well as a box of the tests. Good luck!

As for me, I'll just be watching X Factor and having an early night with a good book.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I Can't Take Me Anywhere

I have frequently left the house with yoghurt / milk stains on my left shoulder. I have been out with dried puree in my hair. I have done an entire Sainsbury's shop with a small, pink Hello Kitty grip in my fringe. But never before have I had a 20 minute chat with our elderly neighbours - outside the front door - forgetting entirely that I am wearing a T-shirt with the words SUGAR TITS across the front.

I am mortified. Our neighbours are in their sixties, kind, gentle, unassuming, fond of the children and - perhaps until now - always complimentary of our approach to parenting. And I should point out, this is not a T-shirt which could be missed or mis-read. It is navy with its SUGAR TITS logo in large, shocking pink capitals.

You see, since I woke up this morning and someone replaced Summer with Autumn, I thought the kids and I would have a lazy day in the house. So on went the slipper boots and some cosy inside-only clothes. Having spent all afternoon safely ensconced indoors, I'd become immune to my non-public-appearance outfit and, since my three year old can't read, no one pointed out to me that even a trip out to the wheelie bin with a dirty nappy could be dangerous. Living in a terrace, we're talking neighbours of close proximity where it would be churlish not to chat when popping out front, and we often do. I did have an inkling during this evening's chat that Mrs Neighbour seemed keener than usual to get back indoors, but just assumed she wanted to get on with the dinner and so I continued chatting to Mr Neighbour for at least another five.

It was only when The Husband arrived home this evening and directed some dirty comment at my chest that the penny dropped. He of course has found the whole thing utterly hilarious. Particularly as the T-shirt was an Anniversary present from him on our second (cotton) year of Marriage. I remember it well - giggling at the gift I went to try it on, only to discover that tragically my tits (10 months into breastfeeding at the time) hung a good 2-3 inches below the logo.

So, this evening I've decided the T-shirt is cursed and I shall re-home it to some pert twenty-something who will wear it somewhere more fabulous. And in the meantime, in a bid to clawback my neighbours' respect, I shall be dressing in entirely age appropriate attire and mostly avoiding the wheelie bin. I just hope they're not down with Da Kids and following me on Twitter or reading this blog.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Poxy Pox

I am on holiday this week, house-borrowing in Bray. It's very middle-class, full of yummier mummies than me and occasionally you hear the whirring of a helicopter landing a celebrity to dine at The Fat Duck.

Whilst I sit here fantasising that Robbie (still old-skool in my crushes) might be slipping oysters down his gullet a mere hundred metres away, the reality is that it's raining, it has rained a lot since we arrived, The Husband is watching a 'Very Important' Arsenal match, and the children have behaved like little shits today.

I decided not to blog this week, as there's only a crumbly dial-up connection which will leave me feeling like I want to rip it out before it gets going (not the most patient person, me) and, of course I want to spend some Quality Time with my lovely family (and can't keep banging on at The Husband to put his Twitter feed down if I'm doing much the same).

But since the wine is poured and The Very Important Match still has 20 minutes to run, I wanted to share some quick advice on Chicken Pox. Random I know, but a good friend of mine rang earlier to ask for help, since my two kids sailed through it without too much bother. So, for anyone who hasn't had to endure The Pox yet, here's my (fairly) failsafe guide:

You Need:

Rhus Tox - a homeopathic remedy, by Nelsons, which is said to dramatically reduce the symptoms, especially the itching. The sooner you start giving it the better. It worked wonders (particularly on my son who took it before the first spots appeared).

ViraSoothe - fairly new to market, it's a gel which applies really easily and stays on - unlike Calamine lotion which is impossible and gets everywhere. If you insist on Calamine, get the cream which is mixed with Glycerin (I think?) so at least it sticks.

Dead Sea Magik Bath Salts (Boots do these) - pricey but worth it.

Bicarbonate of Soda.

Bath every morning and every evening in two big scoops of the bath salts plus a good tablespoon of Bicarbonate of Soda. The two really work well to dry out the spots and speed up the process.

I know none of these things are new, wizardly solutions (except perhaps the Rhus Tox), but the combination honestly seemed to make the experience fairly easy for me. And with two naturally dramatic children, I'm not saying that lightly.

Thankfully Arsenal are currently 2-1 up, which should deliver The Husband back to me in a happy state, so I will leave you with my Poxy advice and get back to the red. Get well soon, E.D x

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Muffin Top? Yes, melted cheese please.

For some reason, I always leave a Pilates class feeling like I want to slap Gwyneth Paltrow. I'm sure she's lovely, but it's all just a bit too pure and wholesome for me. I can't help but walk out with an overwhelming desire to put all the toxins straight back in.

I have a similar problem with yoga. I've never been able to take it seriously since a friend of mine once let out a loud fanny fart whilst going in to Downward Facing Dog, so I have a Pavlovian giggly response the minute I'm in a class. Besides, I can never seem to manage the 'focus the mind' bit, and end up wondering what I might have for dinner. Not very Zen.

I've tried aerobics, but at 37 years of age I’ve STILL never managed to do The Grapevine. I simply don’t have the co-ordination for it. I can only assume that gene was replaced with a fabulous ability to seek out a bargain in Topshop. Personally I think the latter is far more useful and better to pass down to the children.

Since I stopped breastfeeding a year ago, my body responded as if it was one of those instant inflatables and up (and out) I went. Earlier this week, the words Muffin Top exited from my three year old's mouth and, given it’s probably a little un-PC for him to have picked up from Charlie & Lola, I imagine it's something he's heard me muttering under my breath. Not good.

So rather than just whinge at The Husband, I've decided that I should probably do something about it and that body pump will be my exercise class of choice. Largely because the loud, shouty music makes me feel like I’m on a night out, so it sort of acts like a double whammy for me (tragic as that may be). Although, am I the only one who looks like a complete prat when doing squats? Certain women seem to perfect that bum out 'as if you’re sitting down on a shelf' motion and still look sort of sportily sexy, whereas I just look like I’m trying to locate a loo.

Happily, amidst this week's soul searching for the right biscuit vs body pump balance, some lovely people have sent me a 'miracle' tummy flattening cream to review on my blog. Like a timely Fairy Godmother. It looks, and sounds amazing, and is apparently so effective that Boots are selling 100,000 tubes of the stuff every half an hour! It's called NIP+FAB ( and contains something called AmaraShape which helps to break down fat cells and generally tighten the skin around your wobbly bits, so mums are swearing by it for post baby tummies. Apparently I can literally lose inches from my waist, whilst sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea, which definitely sounds more appealing than abdominal crunches. I should see some results within six weeks so will be re-blogging how I get on. In the meantime, perhaps body pump can wait for another week...

So this evening, in my slightly bloated PMT state, whilst my head is saying go and exercise, my heart is saying go and eat some saturated fat. I have chosen the latter and am off to a friend's house to drink Rioja, eat cheese and maybe even have a naughty rollie. Sorry Gwyneth, not very pure, not very macrobiotic, possibly not even organic. But better for the soul (mine at least).

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Go the F**k to Sleep

The baby monitor is showing me a single, serene, green light. My favourite light. The light that denotes successful routine management by me and obedient sleeping by my child.

As someone who lived my professional pre-children life with (mostly) highly-perfected control, how to ‘Manage’ sleep became my number one agenda point when my newborn arrived. I naively expected my baby's sleep patterns to fall beautifully into line like cascading numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. Ahhh...that pre-motherhood naivety.

For the two weeks after we brought him home from hospital, the ONLY place my son would sleep was in his Moses basket. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Well, nothing – except that said Moses basket had to be placed on our bed in between us before he would even consider dropping off. This left me and The Husband approximately six inches of mattress each either side. And as if this wasn’t enough, the boy would only settle after being given a sort of Indian head massage from my side of the 12 inch bed. I was torn between admiration that he had the self-confidence to enter the world making such demands from the off, and a sense of bewilderment that my child could be so imperious at less than a week old.

When he was around four months old and still in the sort of non-routine-Routine that would have Gina Ford in a cold sweat, I was invited out to some birthday drinks. The Husband was gallivanting somewhere in Wales on a Stag Do, so I decided to go anyway and just take the boy with me. At around 9pm he took one look at me from his car seat, nestled amongst Mulberrys and Chloes on the floor of the bar, as if to say ‘Why are you nursing that glass of Sauvignon instead of putting me to bed with some warm milk and a story?’ I left immediately and decided from that moment it was time to introduce a proper bedtime routine, like the ones I’d read about.

Surely it couldn’t be that hard – after all, I was in control (wasn’t I?) So the next night I gave him a warm bath, a little massage, read him The Very Hungry Caterpillar, sang him a lullaby in my best X Factor-auditions-style voice, gently laid him in his cot and tiptoed out of the room. Easy.

In spite of my best text-book efforts, the story I’d chosen served only to stir in him a deep feeling of empathy with the caterpillar and so he woke hourly claiming he was STILL hungry. The Husband and I persevered with the nightly routine and yo-yoed up and down the landing for weeks, tiptoeing out of the nursery like a bizarre version of backwards Grandmother’s footsteps.

Battle-scarred from the experiences of our son's sleeping habits, we were armed and dangerous when our second child arrived, and quickly jostled her into a routine of sorts. Which means at least I know she's going to sleep in the day for a couple of hours, allowing me to try and re-discover my brain or just stare blankly at a wall for a bit. But is it me or is there a cruel irony to this napping lark? When I need her to wake up because I’ve planned to do something, she sleeps for three hours leaving me pacing around the house - all surfaces cleaned, two washing loads done and hung up, dishwasher empty, emails answered - feeling like the embodiment of the Power Mum, but with no one to show off to. When I really want her to sleep, she decides she only needs an hour, rudely awaking in the middle of Loose Women.

Talking of which, you’ll have to excuse me, my monitor has replaced its serene green with the flickering Lights of Doom...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Perfect Mothers, Perfect Friends & Not-So-Perfect Children

I am ALMOST 'The Perfect Mother'. Its as intentions are good and I get everything ever-so-nearly right...but never quite manage to pull it off. For instance, this morning I answered the front door, as my son skirted around my ankles in a smart little Breton top, happily munching an organic apple he clutched in one fist. I beamed at the postman, enjoying a little swell of Good Mother pride as my son peered up at him. Only to look down and spot Id completely forgotten to dress his bottom half and his other hand was wrapped tightly around a plastic medicine syringe.

And the proximity to perfection goes kitchen is spotless apart from the large pile of papers, plastic Iggle Piggles and single socks that sit expectantly in the corner waiting for a home; my flapjacks taste great but always have to be chiselled out of the tray and caught whilst flying across the room; I'm excellent at reading Bear Hunt for the five-hundredth time, until we get to Swirling Whirling Snowstorm, when I always start drifting off and dreaming of exotic holidays before having my concentration sharply re-set by a tetchy toddler.

If ever there is an opportunity to suggest I am NOT the Perfect Mother, my children enjoy taking it. Being under five, they understand there are boundaries...and that boundaries are there to be pushed and tested (as are mothers). And arent children clever? They've perfected the art of acting like little darlings when youre home alone with no one to show off to, yet the minute you get in front of the in-laws or your 'Perfect Friend' (we've all got one), you end up boring yourself with the number of times you desperately say "he's never like this", "she's usually got such good manners".

My Perfect Friend came to stay one day when we went to the Bristol Food & Wine fair. Having behaved beautifully all morning, my son decided to go for an Oscar performance at the entrance to the fair (nice and public, you see), all because of The Buggy Battle. Hes inherited my dramatic gene and therefore any tantrum sounds rather more alarming and sinister than it actually is. Quite used to the hyperventilating wails, my husband and I battled on regardless against the 98th percentile force, and tried to locate some straps from under his bottom whilst shoe horning him into the seat. At which point a yellow-jacketed security steward hurried up with a face full of concern and asked if wed like him to escort us to the First Aid tent. I laughed before realising he was entirely serious and calmly explained that this was neither health nor life-threatening, but entirely normal (to us at least).

And that's just it. We can only truly judge ourselves by our own benchmarks - those that are closely guarded behind our own front door - and not by the standards we set ourselves based on how well we think everyone else is managing this motherhood lark. There IS no such thing as The Perfect Mother, but it would make parenting a darn site easier if we were all a bit more honest about where we go right, where we go wrong and what sometimes keeps us awake at night (as well as trying to have a giggle at the same time). And that's why I've started this blog.