Friday 28 November 2008

Au revoir - I'm off to Paris

Speed blogging because in 1 hours time I need to be catching a train and I still have to get dressed, make a bed up, finish packing and drive to the station. That's because I'm off to Paris for a dirty weekend. Yes folks, first time in five years that my husband and I are actually going away for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS without the children. I'm not actually sure what we'll talk about come to think of it (but I guess dirty weekends aren't really about talking). We might go into shock having to spend 48 hours together without anyone asking us to peel the wax off their babybel or wipe their bum. But we're willing to risk it.

Of course my husband has had to pack himself a bag and head off to work, while I have had to call in the national guard for advice on the logistics of going away for two days leaving our children in someone else's care. Trying to coordinate who picks up which child where and where the rendezvous point will be and where to leave a key and what bags need packing and what meals need to be prepared - I am already in need of my first bottle of French bubbly and it's not even 9.30am.

What's more, the childminder will be staying at our house but this has meant an early morning spring clean to get the worst of the crunchy bits up off the floor and I actually made the kids beds today for the first time ever because I'd like her to think that I always do instead of being the slob I actually am. I've left the kids with strict instructions on how they need to help her out and to remember their manners and to not pee in their pants and to eat what they're given without saying it's disgusting. But they were busy trying to balance balloons on their heads at the time so I doubt too much of it went in. Good luck the childminder.

Anyway, I've decided that my weekend in Paris is not going to be a mammoth citywide dash trying to take in every site their is. It's going to be a leisurely stroll around with many stops for refreshments. My biggest challenge has been what to wear. I'll be doing lots of walking outside so I need comfy shoes and a warm coat. But this is Paris. I can't don my normal yeti attire and hope to not incur the wrath of the Parisian fashionistas so I've tried to come up with something that looks tres trendy and chic but still meets my practical requirements. I fear I'm going to fail on both fronts.

But who cares. I have two whole days without children. And did I mention I was going to Paris?

Kiss kiss

Thursday 27 November 2008

Desert Island Discs

I have been invited by the lovely Katyboo to come up with my Desert Island Discs collection as per the BBC Radio 4 show which invites celebrities on to discuss what they'd take to a desert island. I'm allowed 8 pieces of music, one book (not the Bible or Shakespeare but that's cool because they wouldn't have been on my list anyway) and one luxury item (not to be used for escaping from the island).

I do wonder a bit about the logistics of this. I mean, is it a trick question? You take 8 tunes with you but unless you take your ipod, record player, walkman or gramphone as your luxury item, you might as well be humming the 8 tunes in your head. In which case, why limit yourself to 8?

But assuming they've got the technical bit covered - perhaps the tunes are piped out of a low hanging coconut - here are my choices (note: for your listening pleasure, I've linked each song to the YouTube video of it so you can have it playing in the background - it's all about ambience):

Track 1: Andrea Bocelli - Con te Partiro. Because it's beautiful and moves me to tears whenever I hear it. It would be perfect for watching gorgeous sunsets from my lonely island and weeping for home. Plus I walked down the aisle to it so it's got meaning for me. So that's my soppy choice.

Track 2: Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the waves. Because my island would obviously be sunny. Probably hot. Probably too hot. But I would endeavour to remain upbeat and optimistic despite getting diarrhea from living solely on coconut milk and would celebrate the sunshine. Plus, you just can't help but get up and boogie when you hear that tune. So it's a good work out number too. And it's important to stay toned and trim as you never know when a boat of gorgeous naval officers might sail past.

Track 3: In your eyes - Peter Gabriel. Because it's a falling in love song that I can never hear too many times. It would probably inspire me to whittle coconut shells into the shape of hearts and then link them together as ethnic jewellery (again, useful for when the naval officers come by).

Track 4&5: Bohemian Rhapsody & We are the Champions - Queen. Because where else could you sing these two songs out loud at the very top of your voice using all the lung power you can muster, with a piece of driftwood as a microphone and a palm frond for a mock guitar without a shred of embarrassment? You know you want to do it now, don't you?

Track 6: Under Attack - ABBA. This isn't one of their well known songs. I could have selected any number of those, but this song has special meaning for me. As children, my sisters and I would spend hours, days, weeks, months practicing a dance routine to this song. Time well spent as I can remember exactly none of the dance moves. But with nothing but time on my hands, I could use the time on my island to reach into the dark spaces of my brain and recall each and every step or possibly make up some new ones. Not only that but I imagine myself wearing a camoflaguey type head band and a t-shirt of the same tatty fabric, tied in a knot just below my breasts which would be remarkably pert given their lack of bra and my diet of coconut milk would display my bronzed six pack. Honestly, I'd look bloody marvellous. And if that isn't enough, then just take a look at the first verse words to show you how appropriate it would be for when my paranoid delusions set in:

Don't know how to take it, don't know where to go
My resistance running low
And every day the hold is getting tighter and it troubles me so
(You know that I'm nobody's fool)
I'm nobody's fool and yet it's clear to me
I don't have a strategy
It's just like taking candy from a baby and I think I must be

Under attack, I'm being taken
About to crack, defences breaking
Won't somebody please have a heart
Come and rescue me now cos I'm falling apart

It's a toe tapper.

Track 7: Under African Skies - Paul Simon. Because it reminds me of home and makes me smile. Not to mention giving me a great chance to show off my infamous butt dancing.

Track 8: Lollipop - Mika. Because it is camptastic and I LOVE IT. Sad but true. But no-one else will be there so no tutting and telling me to act my age. So phhht. (I particularly like the brass marching band bit - I might even whittle a baton from palm tree bark and start marching and twirling. I'd definitely have a palm frond hula skirt to go with it.)

So that ends my musical interlude and I've worked up a sweat typing this as I've been bopping to all the tunes (thanks YouTube).

Onto my book. Tricky one. Honestly and this is terribly, terribly sad but if I could get away with 7 books it would be the Harry Potter collection. But as I'm limited to one, it would probably be 'Teach yourself French' so that on the off chance I ever got off the island (or indeed am rescued by some dashing French sailors) I could sound tres sexy.

And finally, my luxury item. Tricky - do I go practical or do I go pampering or do I take something to eat? Probably a diary (that comes with a pen attached so that it counts as one thing). I imagine the entries would go something like:

Day 55:
Woke up. It's sunny (again). I'm thirsty. And hungry. Coconut milk for breakfast then. Again. Feeling a bit down. Probably time for a bit of Katrina and the Waves.

Day 56:
It's sunny. (again). Didn't sleep due to sprained ankle. Must remember not to dance like a loon nearby long drop. Wish I'd brought soap as my luxury item.

Day 57:
It's sunny (again). Think I might try catch a fish today. Coconuts are just sooo yesterday. Sure I'm allergic to them but what the heck.

Day 58:
It's sunny (again). Turns out I really am allergic to fish. But the good news is that I used my pen to stab a hole in my throat so now I can breathe again. Hoorah. Time for some soul lifting Paul and Peter. Might whittle myself a new heart necklace too.

Day 60:
It's sunny (but there is a solitary cloud in the sky). Today I'm going to have noir de coco for breakfast. My french really is coming along nicely.

Day 61:
It's sunny. There's a surprise. Fab sunset last night though. Inspired choice to bring the ol' Bocelli with me. Just as shame all the weeping dehydrates me so badly.

Day 62:
It's sunny which means I need to have an early start before it gets too hot. It's time for a dress rehearsal for my Big Show. I'm opening with Abba, then doing a bit of butt dancing, some baton twirling, before closing with my two big Queen numbers. My audience is a coconut, my washed up log (I call him Bert), a turtle shell and three stones. I'm pretty nervous. Tough crowd. Wish me luck.

Day 63:
It's sunny. Who fucking cares. Not so much as a smattering of applause last night, much less the expected standing ovation. And after all my effort too. This place blows.

Day 64:
I think I see a ship. Ooh, looks like it's got French men on board. And they're all doing the YMCA. Am sure they'll love my Mika track. Must fly.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Tricky, very tricky

Obviously the God of All Things That Can Go Wrong has cast its eye upon me and is giving me a long hard stare. As I got out of my car this morning trying to hold a picture of lovely fragile autumn leaves stuck with copious amounts of glue to blue card made by my 3 year old, and a tray of 6 eggs I'd just collected, I somehow managed to have the car door jolt my arm. This resulted in the picture flying into the road and losing half its leaves and all six eggs leapt to their messy deaths upon the tar. Picture in tatters and eggs scrambled, I went inside, head in hands.

This incident followed a delightful visit to the doctor. For me. Yes, an actual doctor's appointment for something wrong with me, rather than one of my children. The doctor was suprised. He was even more surprised when I regaled him with my sad tale of woe (which I won't regale again as it definitely falls into the TMI category). But suffice to say that it resulted in me performing a swab with a giant ear bud from a place you really don't want a giant ear bud. I really can't go into graphic details, but let's just say that as I'll have to wait for the results before they can prescribe any treatment, it will have an impact on our lovely jaunt to Paris this weekend. Nuff said.

But neither smashed eggs or giant ear buds have been the major problem of the day. No, that honour falls to the fact that this morning the children discovered their Christmas presents. They hadn't been wrapped. They hauled them out and wanted to know who the Hotwheels cars were for and why I had a spiderman mini laptop thingie hidden away. I instructed them to put them back immediately and to never ever go into that cupboard again. That of course is an open invitation for them to do exactly that. So I now need to find a new present hiding place. I wanted to say that there was a monster with large fangs living in the cupboard and that if they opened it, it would jump out and eat them. But I figured that was just opening myself up for numerous broken nights as they shrieked from night terrors.

They persisted and wanted to know who they were for. I said I was looking after them for someone. 'WHO?' they demanded. 'Someone you don't know,' I said before frogmarching them out of the room.

Where do I go from here? They didn't see all of the pressies luckily so those can come from Father Christmas and I guess the ones they saw will have to be from mummy and daddy. But I just don't know how much they saw. I'd like to believe that they will have forgotten all about it come Christmas day. But my almost 5 year old has a memory like a crotchety elephant and there's no way he won't notice that the same toys I was keeping for someone happened to end up under their Christmas tree.

I have a sneaking suspicion that parenting is about to get harder. You can't fool them anymore. They are becoming cunning - like foxes. It sucks.

Bermuda triangle: the mystery of the missing things

I believe that the Bermuda Triangle has relocated itself from the Atlantic Ocean to our house right here in West Berkshire. It's downsized from making ships and airplanes disappear to more mundane household items vanish in the night.

Two weeks ago on the Sunday evening I read my library book in bed. By the time I got into bed on Monday, the book was gone. There might be a rational explanation. Our cleaner came that day and she might have put it somewhere. Unfortunately, she's gone back home to Romania for a couple of weeks so I can't ask her. I seriously doubt that she took it with her because she can't really speak English so an 800-odd page book might be a bridge too far. Then I thought that perhaps my husband had hidden it. It was a feminist book - the Woman's Room by Marilyn French - and he thought it was making me 'uppity'. He certainly noticed fewer cooked meals waiting for him when he got home since I started reading it. But he swears blind he hasn't touched it.

Next up are the kids. They are very, very good at squirrelling things away, never to be found again. Like the mystery of the missing toothbrush which I eventually found squeezed in between a cupboard door and full length mirror attached to the door. But they assure me that they haven't touched it. And even the promise of a chocolatey reward for anyone who could find it didn't bear fruit. I have turned this house upside down. I have looked in completely improbable places like the freezer, in the loos, rummaged through the bins, all to no avail. It has gone. The mystery of the missing book in the night.

Next my watch vanished. I always take it off when bathing the boys because bathing small boys is a wet experience. I put it where I always put in in the bathroom. But it's gone. Again, rewards have been promised to watch finders. I've been through every cupboard, shelf and squirrelling hole in the house. Nada.

Then with a heavy heart, I decided to return to the library to explain about the missing book and return the other now very overdue books. I looked in my wallet for the library cards. And whaddaya know. The library cards were gone too. Not one, not two, but three library cards. Once again, I uprooted the house keeping my eyes peeled for the library book, the watch and the library cards. And still I came up empty handed.

This morning I have woken to find only one slipper. I have a very cold left foot. I have to hope that the missing slipper is simply lying under a pile of dirty clothes somewhere and that it hasn't been taken to the Portal of Missing Things, where no doubt my watch, book, library cards and several thousand single socks are roaming.

I feel as though my life has become a Famous Five mystery and any minute now George, Anne, Dick, Julian and Timmy the dog will come bounding out through a gorse bush clutching my missing things and handing out rounds of sandwiches washed down with lashings of ginger beer. Until then, I have nothing to read, no way of taking out new books, can't tell the time and must hop around on one foot. I'd appreciate it if the Bermuda Triangle could bugger off back to where it came from and return my things.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

In which I practice pouting

I don't know about you but I am so incredibly bored of the whole credit crunch doom and gloom. Personally I hold the media responsible. If they didn't tell everyone that there was financial disaster in the banking sector, the average man in the street wouldn't know and would carry on spending away. This would mean that businesses would remain profitable and people would stay in jobs. I think if we all collectively stick our heads in the sand or our fingers in our ears, we could achieve the exact thing the Chancellor tried to do yesterday by lowering the VAT rate. Only without the higher tax rates at the end of it. Vote HomeOfficeMum for Chancellor of the Exchequer!

But moving swiftly on to far more important subjects. Lip plumping gloss. Now I'm not really very good at being a girl. I do own eyelash curlers which gives me a foot in the door to the Girly Girls club, but that's just a throw back from when I lived in NYC and leaving the apartment without perfectly applied make up was a greater sin than not dressing up for Halloween. I don't follow the latest fashion or beauty trends. I'm not really sure I know what botox is. And achieving 'a natural dewy look' for me means getting out of bed and doing the school run without fully rubbing my moisturiser in.

So while looking for Christmas gift ideas recently I stumbled upon some Lip Plumping Gloss. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain I recalled a TV show where they tested these plumping products. Being the owner of a very thin pair of lips, a pucker pout is something I'd quite fancy having. Thin lips = hard, cold, bitchy. Plump lips = friendly, sexy, lovely. So I bought some of the Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker lip plumping gloss.

With great excitement, I applied it. And watched. And waited. For a full minute nothing happened. Conned again, I thought. Then all of a sudden, it felt like I'd just munched my way through a bowl of prawns. (Being allergic to shellfish, I've had on rare occasions, the pleasure of feeling my lips and tongue and indeed face swell up.) My lips began to tingle. Initially it felt quite nice. Like the first tingles you get when you use a TENS machine during labour. But then it got stronger and more intense. My lips felt on fire. I was convinced the product was actually made out of squashed shrimp. I was about to rub it off when I looked in the mirror.

There before me stood my face with big lips. Not vast. Not Mick Jagger-esque. But certainly on the fuller side. Fabulous, I thought. No pain, no gain and all that.

And then I tried to talk. I no longer had control of my lips. They were a force unto themselves. It felt like I'd just left the dentist's chair after several anaethetising injections. I could feel drool start to dribble out the corner of my mouth. It wasn't pretty and effectively undid the good work that the big, pouty lips were supposed to achieve in the first place. Less sexy love goddess, more dribbling, blubbering mess. What's more, my lips were very, very sticky. I couldn't imagine kissing my husband for fear that we might never come unstuck (not that he really fancied getting a mouthful of drool anyway).

Not a triumphant success then. But I didn't give up. I have used it since and am finally mastering control of my lips so that I can now talk without spitting. I'm beginning to get used to the tingle (in fact regular lipstick is starting to feel fairly dull in comparison) and my husband might even want to kiss me again soon.

So there you have it boys and girls. A beginner's guide to fat lips. For allergy prone people on a credit crunch budget, simply rub whatever you're allergic to on your lips for the same effect.

Sunday 23 November 2008

A day in which things get done. And a Christmas gripe


It's not quite 7.30am on a Sunday and here I am. Despite the early hour, I have already ticked off one thing from my 'list of things that never get done'. I have tidied out the tupperware cupboard. It was reaching for the kids' milk cups and having an avalanche of plastic land on my feet that I decided that the time had come. And so I now have lovely neat little rows of plastic bowls reunited at last with their long lost lids. The plates are stacked nicely. The cups all have their appropriate component parts (they all come with straws or sucky bits or something half-chewed and annoying.) I estimate that this little haven of perfection will last until 8am when the boys decide they want breakfast and go get their bowls, at which point it shall return to its previous shambolic state. I should take a photo of it just so that I can console myself on dark mornings.

I am also about to wrap up the last of the Christmas presents destined for foreign shores, before heading out on my morning march in the freezing cold air. I had hoped to be stomping through a fresh blanket of snow. Instead it looks like I'll be slipping on a paltry sprinkling of snow that's frozen over the ground. I've got two local mums who've agreed in principle to come marching with me. They might change their minds when I bang on their doors at 8.30am with a gust of icy cold air hitting their ankles. I managed to go for my stomp yesterday morning but it wasn't restful. I decided to trespass on private land again and quite quickly discovered two landrovers parked next to the woods. There's only one reason that people in landrovers would be up that early in the morning - shooting. Not even two minutes walk later a rather loud bang followed by many strident squawks from the woods next to me encouraged me to about turn lest they mistake me for a rather large blue raincoat clad pheasant.

I can feel in my bones that today is going to be one of those satisfying days in which I get a lot done. I like these kind of days. Yesterday was also a picture of efficiency in our household. I braved the madding crowds to buy the rest of my Christmas presents. Apparently Christmas is coming early this year because everyone and their aging relatives, noisy children and dogs were at the shops. It was the Christmas chaos but without any of the festive cheer. So people were just downright grumpy, barging their way through with heavily burdened trolleys, grabbing for things and pushing into queues (yes, even here in England there was queue jumping).

I managed to get most things but failed to find something for my husband, The World's Most Difficult Man To Buy For. I think that my gift to him should be for me to buy something for myself that will make me happy so that he gets to live with a less scowly wife. I fear he won't agree with my plan. I saw many, many things I would like. Most of them were shiny. But I think I might be getting more tupperware. Or new pots. Woohoo. I guess at least pots can be shiny if you hold them at a certain angle to the kitchen lights.

On the subject of Christmas, I have a gripe. (There's a surprise). I've been flicking through the gazillion women's magazines that I have lying around (care of my job, not my spare time or a desire to flagellate myself for not being the perfect fashionista according to said mags). All of the December issues - without fail - tell you how to glam up for the festive season. There are tips on how to do your makeup/hair in a nano-second while feeding children fish fingers. There are all sorts on tips on how to squeeze yourself into little black numbers and other articles on how to wear the same dress three different ways for all the various parties you'll be going to.

And that's my gripe. Am I just Norman No Mates who doesn't get invited to festive parties or is this whole mega party season just a fabrication of the deluded editors? Sure you could have an office party. At a push you could have two office parties - one for you and one for your partner. But I'm willing to bet that a good number of mums don't work and therefore have no office party. OR they work like I do and have an office party for one in which we toot a party blower, wear a pointy hat and don our pjs to settle in with a tub of ice cream to watch the X-factor. I'm also willing to bet that many companies don't invite partners to their Xmas parties (cost cutting in the credit crunch and all that). And even if you do get to go to a Christmas party, you'll be so busy trying to get the kids fed and into bed that your look will be far more 'au-natural-cum-pulled-through-a-bush-backwards' than glamour puss anyway.

The alternative I guess is to be reliant on friends to throw glamorous Christmas parties that you get invited to. We have quite a few friends. I know of no-one throwing a Christmas party. Well, except our elderly neighbours but given they're the ones who want us to cut our hedge down, I don't think we'll be making it onto the guest list this year. How disappointing. Everyone is too busy attending school nativity plays, pre-school parties, carol services and simply surviving to have time to throw Christmas parties even remotely approaching something glamorous.

By the same notion, who really has time to stencil their own tablecloths, create home-made Christmas decorations from pipecleaners and pine cones and snowy white pom pom garlands? I'm all for having festive decorations and a well laid table, but these magazines seem to suggest that we should have started our cottage industry of Christmas crafts last January. And the whole notion of getting dressed up for Christmas dinner. Seriously, do people really wear their Jimmy Choos and YSL frocks while shoving a turkey baster up the poor dead fowl's arse? I don't think so.

So prove me wrong. Tell me about your glamorous parties that you'll be practising your eye shadow application for. Send me pics of your home-made holly wreaths. Convince me of the merits of looking fabulous while slaving over a hot stove. Go on. Make me weep with jealousy.

Friday 21 November 2008

Sick children have their merits

I have been an absentee blogger. That's because much like the sun in Britain, I've been weak and feeble. I was struck down by the myriad of germs that seem to be lurking in dark corners of our house, pouncing on victims as they unwittingly pass by. Not only have I been poorly, but son 2's poorliness which started on 3 November has continued unabated. This has meant having him at home all...the....time. Despite relying heavily on the babysitting powers of Cbeebies, it's still had an impact on the volume of work I can get through. So blogging got dropped in favour of earning a living, sneezing violently, mopping fevered brows and generally feeling sorry for myself.

But yesterday, he got prescribed antibiotics. Halleluja! I was convinced he had a urinary tract infection and so spent the afternoon crawling around after him trying to get him to pee into a cup, which I could then present to the doctor. He - for the first time in his three year long life - displayed excellent bladder control and refused to pee, despite me running taps and making pssspsspass noises. Despite having no pee sample, the doctor agreed that he'd been poorly long enough and whatever the cause, antibiotics would probably cure it.

It has. Thanks to the wonders of penicillin, the child is back to his normal trying self after a mere 4 spoonfuls. The lethargic, quiet, undemanding child has gone only to be replaced with a hooligan who bounces off the sofas and feeds his peas into his space rocket before sending the whole lot blasting into orbit and landing on the family room rug in a modern art mushy pea tribute.

Now it's supposedly bedtime. But instead of collapsing into a snotty heap in his bed, with me tenderly stroking his forehead and making maternal clucking noises, he is bounding about the place yelling 'I'M NOT TIRED!'. He's just called me into our bedroom (because he apparently can't sleep in the dark so must sleep in our room with the blackpool illuminations going on) saying he just needs me for a second. I refused this request several times but eventually - just to shut him up - went in.
'Yes?' I asked.
'Umm, mummy, umm, umm, umm,' he said.
'So actually there isn't anything in particular, is there?' said I.
'THERE IS, mummy, THERE IS!'
'Well what is it? Because it's bedtime and you should be sleeping,' I say rather fractiously.
'Umm, umm, giggle, umm, umm,' he says not very intelligently.
'Go to sleep. Don't make me come back in here,' I warn.

I turn to leave. He starts yelling. He follows me into the study. In the nano second he is there he pulls three books off the shelf leaving them in a messy pile on the floor before berating me with: 'I did have a real question. You were silly. You shouldn't have left.'
'Well what was your real question?'
'Umm, umm, umm...'
That's when he was frogmarched back to bed.

He's just returned and stood outside my study door yelling: 'I DID HAVE SOMEFINK ACTUALLY REALLY TO TELL YOU, I DID. COME HERE ATMEDIATELY!'
i said: 'So tell me.'
He said: 'I want to tell you in my bed.'
So I promised that I'd be there in two minutes (hoping that in two minutes he will have fallen asleep) but this kid has staying power. Who else is sick for the whole sodding month of November?

But this is why I haven't been blogging. Because I get one sentence in and I am summoned once more to the all powerful children gods who insist on their crusts being cut off, their sheets being straightened, their bums being wiped and their gogos being found.

My two minutes are up. I'm being called. Must go.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Going postal

The various Christmas presents that I've ordered online have started arriving. This is good for several reasons. First, I'm sure I come across as being awfully important/popular/lucky to be receiving so many exciting brown paper packages and stuffed envelopes. Although who I'm supposedly impressing I'm not sure unless I have neighbours with twitchy curtains (quite possible) and the postman himself, although he probably finds parcels dull given the volume he sees in any given day.

Actually, come to think of it, I wonder if postmen do get bored of parcels? Maybe they deliver a stack of bills and junk mail to house A with a heavy heart and then skip over to house B to deliver some brightly coloured handwritten letters and a package. Surely he must get more of a buzz out of the latter? And do you think postmen wonder what's inside them, coming up with make believe fantasies in their heads about who the letters are from? Possibly secret love trysts? Or long lost families being reunited? Or a mafia boss sending a chopped off finger to someone he doesn't particularly like? I would wonder these things if I was a postie. But then again, maybe that's just me.

Moving swiftly back to my original point about the joys of my internet purchases arriving. Secondly, I feel virtuous as I can start to tick off 'my list of things to buy', smug in the knowledge that I haven't had to battle through crowds of the great unwashed all coughing their November germs on me to get them. I did it all from the comfort of my sofa. And lastly, it makes me feel just a teensy tiny part excited about the fact that Christmas is coming. Particularly as my apple cider and calvados pudding arrived today. Not convinced it's going to last till December 25.

On the downside, shopping online has its problems. For example, the beautiful heart shaped fabric keyring with little buttons sewn all over it (which really is more lovely than it sounds) turns out to be a LOT smaller than what the picture led me to believe and is really not worth the £6 I paid for it. Then again, some very patient, long suffering fool, obviously sat there stitching the buttons on for hours (well it would have taken me hours and it would have looked like shit) so perhaps £6 for their efforts isn't too bad.

Then there's the condiment gift selection which arrived and looks ok, but just a bit, well, fake. I could have given away my home made chutney and jam but I undercooked the first and overcooked the second and although my family is forced to eat the stuff, I can't really foist it on other people. Except perhaps my neighbour who wants me to cut down our hedge. But the bought stuff just looks a little bit mass produced, particularly its ye olde worlde packaging that's supposed to make it look home-made. It doesn't.

Then there's the small issue of having to post much of this stuff out again to far flung family. That involves trying to find suitable packaging materials, a trip to the post office (home to the world's grumpiest post master), spending a month's housekeeping money on postage, a drama about why my children can't have sweets/magazines/crisps in the shop and having to restack all the greetings cards once my children have pulled them all out.

All of these things make me less excited by the volume of goodies arriving daily at my door. And it also serves to remind me that I have about two weeks to write and post my international Christmas cards. This involves finding the correct addresses too, so it's more onerous than it might appear at first glance. And it involves a trip into the post office again (to visit my favourite post master) because all the stamps required are different and he's such a cantankerous old fart that I will have to weigh each card despite them all being the exact same size and weight.

I'm beginning to suspect that Christmas is actually a cunning marketing ploy created by Royal Mail to boost annual revenues.

I must away to bath small beasts and to wrap small gifts thereafter.

Sunday 16 November 2008

Refreshing walks in the rain

Well I did indeed don my raincoat and wellies and head outdoors into the mizzle. I went on my own leaving husband watching Ratatouille with the boys. It was roughly 3pm when I left.

The first 15 minutes were wet. And I pondered my sanity on being out. But I perservered. Then something amazing happened. The wind blew the rain directly into my face and literally washed the cobwebs away. For the first time in what seems like a billion years I felt entirely on my own. My brain felt free. I wasn't being nagged. I wasn't cajoling. I wasn't shouting. I wasn't working. I wasn't watch trash on TV. I wasn't talking. I wasn't doing anything except being. And it was marvellous.

The freedom of the it was the best bit. I actually did start talking to myself but only because the moment was so fantastic that I felt I had to say something, even if it was to myself. I felt so light. So free. So reconnected with the part of my brain that used to get used for random thinking.

I distinctly recall most New Years Eves that until the last five years of my life, were all spent exactly the same. I would examine my life. I would think grand ideas. I would imagine and dream and come up with positive ways in which I would change my world and the world around me for the better. Obviously on New Year's Day with a hangover, I seldom did any of those things, but at least I'd had the chance to navel gaze and examine my life for a few moments. It's been a long, long time since I had the chance to do that.

And although this walk gave me that chance, I didn't want to ruin the walk by thinking deep things. I just wanted to enjoy knowing that I could if I wanted to. And so I walked on. I stomped in a lot of puddles, which in itself was lovely instead of reminding small boys not to let the water go over the top of their wellies.

I was just going to do our normal walk - the loop - as we call it. But I got to the bit where we normally turn back and I thought to hell with it, I'm going exploring. So I headed up a public footpath that I'd never visited before. I quickly realised that I was no longer on the public footpath but on private land, but I didn't give a rat's bum. I stomped on.

Then I got to the top of a hill and before me lay a view of jaw-dropping beauty. Rolling hills, a herd of at least 20 deer with a stag, several hares that were larger than most dogs lolloping about in the fields and dozens and dozens of pheasants clucking about. It was like I'd stepped into some kind of film set. Except here it was. Right on my doorstep. And in three years, I've never discovered it. So I walked on. And on. And on.

I found a forest and literally had deer jumping across my path. At this point I was convinced I was on some kind of cold air acid trip but I kept walking. Eventually deep in a wood, the path ran out. I was surrounded by trees dripping rain off their leaves. Quiet. Nobody except me and lots of things that could have been shot and put in a stew pot. For about five seconds I thought it was bliss.

Then my South African paranoia kicked in and I realised that I was on my own. In a wood. It was almost dark. I wasn't 100% sure which way home was but I'd been walking for at least an hour. No-one knew where I was. And things could go horribly wrong turning my disney skip through the woods into something more sinister.

So I about heeled and retraced my steps until I spotted a field that looked vaguely familiar. After a long time, and now in the almost complete dark I found my way home.

I was exhilirated. It was the most head-clearing, slightly scary yet relaxing, life changing thing I'd done for a long time. I got bollocked by husband when I got home as he was starting to worry (which I did have a debate about with myself on the way home as to whether he would be worrying or whether I could have ended up in a bear trap in the woods and he'd only notice when the kids started to nag for food).

I have now decided that stomping across the fields, regardless of weather, is something I am going to fit into my week - at least once a week. I am going to risk getting shot at by grumpy farmers and pheasant poachers and being disembowled by protective stags. It was bliss. And I highly recommend it to all mothers. It's the new sanity saving tool. Move over prozac. Hand me my hunters and mac.

In which the promise of Sundays is rained out

It's Sunday. This day held so much promise. It was a blank canvas upon which we could paint any number of happy family memories. But son 2 is sick again (now that son 1 is on the mend). I'm definitely poorly but ignoring it (I don't really get a choice in the matter). And our options as to what we could do were always going to be limited.

So without much of a concrete plan but feeling we really ought to do something, we decided to try to teach son 1 how to ride his bike without stabilisers. Given his temperament this was never going to be an easy task. And it wasn't. He refused to leave the house. Then once we finally got him to the park, he refused to get on the bike. Then he refused to put on the helmet. We eventually got to the point where he was riding his bike with me running behind him, holding on, putting my back out, coughing up my poorly lungs and breathing out through my ears. My son felt it was far more interesting to watch the passers-by than the path ahead so kept overbalancing. I never even got close to taking my hands off him. Then husband had a turn. Pretty much the same success rate, except that he - who is supposedly far fitter and healthier than I at the moment - also returned clutching his back and breathing through his ears.

We decided to break for lunch (i.e. let aging parents sit down and breathe). As son 2 had been largely ignored during all of the bike riding he was allowed to choose our lunch destination. We suggested pizza. He said: 'chicken and chips'. Which means KFC. He's only been there once but it obviously made a big impression on him as he's been nagging to go back ever since. So in we went along with other fraught families, people with weight issues and many people who looked as though they'd just got in from a heavy night out.

It was vile. Son 1 pronounced: 'this food is revolting. And it's not healthy. (well done son). I don't EVER want to come back here again.' My husband was very quick to agree, given that he's lived on a diet of salads and cereal for the better part of a year and the shock of vast quantities of fat and salt wasn't sitting well with his digestive system. Husband said: 'Everything's so full of FAT.' 'Well yes,' I said. 'There might be a clue in the name Kentucky FRIED chicken.' He harumphed. We left, all feeling a bit sick.

We were busy tossing a coin as to who was going to run behind boy on bike trying not to bring up our deep fried nastiness when a large cloud decided to loiter over Newbury, turning the day into a grey, wet, mizzle-tastic misery. We convinced the boys that it would move on and tried to pass the time browsing the toys in Woolworths because that's as exciting as you get on Newbury High Street. We're trying to get an idea as to what Father Christmas can get for them, but they just want everything. If you ask them to narrow it down to one or two things, then nothing's good enough to make the list. Personally I don't want anymore plastic crap in the house so don't feel like getting anything. But that would be cruel (yet cost effective).

So having pushed every button on every mutant alien, lightsabre, combat vehicle and rescue chopper we headed outdoors again in the hope that we could continue the bike riding experiment. But the cloud had decided that Newbury was rather a nice place to empty itself on. And so we came home. Husband seems thrilled at the idea of lying on the sofa watching a kids cartoon. I am less ecstatic. For almost a month now we've had someone poorly. We've had TV on 24/7. My heady is foggy from radiators and the melodic strains of cbeebies. We are in dire need of fresh air.

I don't want to be indoors. I want to be having a good long stomp across the fields but given that I'm not altogether well and that it is very wet out there, I'm not sure it's a cunning plan. And so I'm here, typing this. Debating whether to plan my Christmas lunch menu now so that I can get my order in with Ocado, and thus secure a good delivery slot before they're all gone. But even for me that seems a bit anal.

On the subject of Christmas, I am pleased to report that I did 80% of my Christmas shopping this weekend - half of which came from two stores, the rest done online. I was almost masculine in my shop, choose and leave approach. It was the scorched earth policy of Christmas shopping. I've bought my Christmas cards, have my paper and tags and could probably spend the afternoon wrapping gifts to post to the far corners of the earth. It's just not really what I had in mind for today.

I think I might go put my wellies on after all and turn my mild, irritating chest cold into flaming influenza and be done with it. I'll write again from my sickbed.

Friday 14 November 2008

End of week energy depletion

I have started this blog post many times and just keep deleting what I type. Because quite frankly I am bored of writing about how my children are driving me mad. So I'm fairly certain you all must be bored of reading about it. These last three weeks have been hard, hard work. First half term. Then child 2 sick. Then child 1 sick. Now both in recovery phase which is worse than both of them being sick together. And now I am feeling poorly but have had an immensely busy work time over the last three days with no chance for a rest. All I want to do is cuddle up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and stay that way all weekend (although I might need my wine stocks to be replenished).

But husband has had a very busy, difficult week having to lay off people. So he is just as pooped. And unless we can magic a nanny or a granny out of thin air, our well laid plans of remaining horizontal on the sofa all weekend are going to come to nothing. Instead we'll break up fights, play snakes and ladders, make food that is pronounced disgusting and ignored, get some food shopping and do chores. The weather is pants. And life looks bleak. There are times that I envy our childless friends.

I'm tired. Can you tell?

This weekend I do also have to do something about Christmas. The last posting day for the rest of the world which is where my family lives, is 4 Dec. And so far I've bought nil presents. I have written a list (checked it twice just to make sure who's been naughty or nice) and so far it's looking pretty dispiritingly long. Obviously everyone has been good this year. There are so many people to buy for. So many presents to think of. So much international postage to pay. Am thinking camels, goats and other charity-related gifts might be the way to go. Feed the world, make it a better place, save on shopping hours and postage costs. Not to mention saving the environment by not flying parcels around the globe and not generating more packaging waste. Its all good. Spirit of giving and peace on earth and all that. But it's not quite the same as opening something shiny, is it?

So that's my big goal for the weekend. Although I'm going to have to give myself a serious motivational talk between now and tomorrow if I hope to get my bum off the sofa at all.

Right I'm off to summon up my last ounce of energy to get the kids bathed and into bed. Dishes be damned. Then I have a date with the remote control, sofa and my chilly friend chardonnay.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Snorting valium

So seriously, are those mothers who NEVER lose their cool and who always remain calm, reasonable and unflappable secretly snorting valium from the dashboard of their people carriers? Do they spend their spare time doing yoga, thai chi and meditation in order to chill out? Are they simply blessed with angelic children who never do anything worth getting riled about? I'm beginning to think so.

Today my children have taken my patience and hit it out of the park, scoring a home run on the driving their mother demeted scale. It's all part of the illness recovery period. Son 1 is still ill (officially). He had a slight temperature this morning and still wasn't eating so I felt it was best that he stayed off school. Son 2 is on the mend but irritable and used to getting his own way. This morning I told son 1 that he wasn't going to go to school, but could stay at home and watch TV and eat snacks. I would have thought any normal kid would have been jumping through hoops to get this. But no, not our contrary fairy.

He immediately began to wail loudly about wanting to go to school. At the exact same time, son 2 started wailing that he didn't want to go to pre-school, he wanted to stay at home and have what his big brother was being offered. I tried to calmly explain to both why they had to stay home/go to school. This immediately prompted son 2 into pulling out all he'd learned in his master drama classes as he attempted to cough up a lung in a bid to prove he was still unwell. Son 1 just kept yelling in ever increasing decibels.

This went on for some time. I tried to get son 1 to put his jumper and slippers on so that he could get in the car for his brother's drop off. He refused (read: flung slippers and jumper around the room and flailed about yelling on the sofa). Meanwhile, son 2 had decided to take matters into his own hands and had removed all of his clothes and was insisting on getting his Jarmers put back on.

In case you haven't tried, it's very, very hard to to pin down two small boys at once. You just manage to get one to hold still and the other scarpers off. You get one dressed and the other has pulled their shoes off. And this was them both supposedly weak and feeble and recovering from ailments. God help me when they're both at full fighting fitness.

Eventually, after a brief but well deserved smack to both backsides (apologies to the anti smacking brigade, I'm with you in principal, but failing in reality) which did little to change their minds other than to increase the volume of their yelling, I could feel myself wavering. Do I give up the fight? Do I call their father and tell him to get off his train and return home to deal with them? Or do I soldier on ignoring all protestations?

I opted for the latter. I grabbed son 2 in all his naked glory and carried him outside into the freezing air to the car. The shock of the cold actually took his breath away giving momentary respite from the yelling. Before he regained it and continued screaming only this time howling: Get me dressed. Which I duly did in the car, strapped him in and left him yelling angrily. I then had to frog march son 1 into the car clutching his jumper before strapping him in.

Now you might be reading this thinking I'm a cruel and vile mother for treating two ailing young children in this way. It did cross my mind that I shouldn't take a child whose just spent a week with a raging temperature outdoors with no clothes on. And it did cross my mind that a sick child really isn't themself and need to be given some leeway. But honestly, I am at a loss as to what else I could do. How far do you give in to the so called sick-bed shenanigans? How much leeway is too much? When are they being a bit difficult vs say completely taking the piss?

I'm afraid my placenta didn't come fully loaded with a manual on how to deal with the small baby that had been attached to it for nine months. A design flaw I feel. And so I continue to stumble on through the child-rearing battlefield hoping that I don't run out of ammunition before the enemy strikes back.

Perhaps it's time for me to get the razor blade and valium tabs stashed into the car cubbyhole. Or perhaps I should just order a jumbo size bottle of rescue remedy. Or perhaps I should just hire a nanny. Whatever the solution, for the sake of my sanity, I need wellness to return to this house. Pronto.

Sunday 9 November 2008

My big reveal

For Katyboo's viewing pleasure, here is a picture of me in my 60s gogo girl finery. Husband cut the boots off in the shot. But you'll get the idea.

Party was fab. Going to bed at 3am was less funny this morning. Dancing all night to Abba and other dance floor classic was superb. Note to self: must dress up like a fool and dance like a loon more often. Now I know how I can spend the evenings when husband is abroad on business trips. Dress up, clear the living room floor, put on some toe tapping tunes and shake my groove thing, baby yeah. It's the most exercise I'm likely to get anyway!

Must now go rest (and feed children).

Saturday 8 November 2008


As parents of two young children, going out on a Saturday night is a rarity. In fact going out any night is a rarity. Going out to a party where you get to dress up in ridiculous 60s Austin Powers outfits with all your good friends therefore is something to get wildly excited about. And I have been for months. I've spent hours scouring the web for costumes that make us look ridiculous yet gorgeous at the same time. I booked the childminder months ago. Everything is sitting waiting in a state of excited anticipation for this evening's festivities.

Then this morning son 1 woke up with son 2's illness of the last week. His temperature hovered around the 40C mark. Despite this I still donned my optimistic 'he'll be fine by this evening' face and cracked on. I was just wondering how I was going to break it to my childminder that she was going to be looking after one seriously ill child and one recovering child when she called. To say that her father is being rushed to hospital and isn't looking good at all. So she won't be able to watch the boys after all.

This seemed to be karma's way of saying: yeah well, you shouldn't have been a bad mother and even thought of leaving them when they are ill. My husband kindly said that he would stay at home and look after the children and I could go to the party. He was being kind but he also knows that I am a woman on the edge having spent a week couped up with a sick child and a week before that travelling abroad on my own with the two of them while he lounged on the sofa watching football and eating curry. So had he suggested anything he else he'd have received a stab through the heart with a platform boot.

This sucks. It's one thing dressing up like a twat when you have a twat partner going with you. Arriving at a party looking like a twat all on your own is different. Less funny somehow. And I now have to do the hour long drive to the party on my own in my dress that is so short you can admire my tummy constraining knickers with ease. Should I break down on the side of the road I fear that my long blonde wig, fake eyelashes and white patent leather platform boots might send the wrong message to lorry drivers stopping to help.

Worst of all I don't get to see my husband dressed up in psychadelic pink flares with a long hippy wig. I'm going to force him to get dressed at home just so that I can get a picture of him and take it with me to the party as my date.


I may or may not be brave enough to post a picture of me in my finery on this blog. Wait and see. Must go practice my gogo girl dance moves now.

Friday 7 November 2008

Little boys and their willies

Being one of three girls we never really had a problem with toilet seats being left up or pee on the floor. People did mention these things to me when I had two boys in that 'poor you' type of way but I was convinced that I could train my boys to pee on target and to put the toilet seat down.

What I hadn't factored in is the errant nature of willies. Having never had one myself I have failed to grasp the mechanics of these strange things. For a start, little boys, from the earliest age tend to wake up with willies that have woken up five minutes before the rest of their bodies do. Let me spell that out for you in case it isn't clear. They wake aroused, angry, erect, with stiffies. You get the picture. It's obscene really but you learn to avert your eyes. However, they tend to need to wee the minute they wake up which means you can quite regularly have wee carving a brave arc towards the ceiling before landing anywhere but the toilet.

The same thing happens when they have a poo. Not always. But with enough regularity to lead me to believe that boys genuinely find having a poo an orgasmic experience. It might explain their lifetime affinity to toilet humour and their desire to sit there for hours with the paper. If their tackle isn't correctly tucked in during the evacutation procedure, you're going to end up with a puddle on the floor.

Which leads me swiftly onto the 'Tucking In Procedure' or TIP as I like to call it. Unlike girls who can simply plonk themselves on the loo and pee at will, boys need to sit and tuck. This means they have to be scooched far enough back on the toilet/potty to allow space at the front for their willy to be tucked inside the rim. If not, get your dettol wipes out. This is a learning experience for mothers and sons. We don't have to tuck anything in when we pee. It's like the blind leading the blind.

And once they've grown tall enough to not sit on the toilet and they see other kids at school or daddy standing to pee, all of a sudden you're in a whole new world of nastiness. Boys, like men, are not able to do more than one thing at a time. So if you make the mistake of, say, calling your son's name while he's standing and peeing, he will turn his entire body to answer you, spraying the floor, walls and anything else unlucky enought to be in his firing line. Then there's the ol' target practice game in which they see if they can aim all along the rim, skirting the edge in a death-defying stunt, except missing and pissing on the floor. And let's not forget the tandem pee. The one in which both boys need to pee with equal urgency and so decide to pee together which quickly turns into a battle of pee against your enemy. Their respective wee flows criss cross and do battle resulting in full blown carnage, a change of clothes and bleach for the entire room.

My dreams of having little boys who neatly pee, return the toilet seat to it's rightful position, flush, wash hands and leave has indeed been flushed away. I've achieved none of the above. What's worse, is that I tend to discover my failings in a very tactile way. Like any mother, I delay having a pee until it's beyond putting off any longer. I then dash to the nearest convenience before the next fight over who has the most cars breaks out, and plonk myself down breathless, only to discover a wet stickiness all over the toilet seat...and floor...and walls. I then have to dettol wipe myself before heading out and reading them the riot act. Again.

But I can't really blame them. I mean girls can only aim down. Boys have a multitude of options open to them. Their willies are small missiles which they can pivot and aim at will. (Will. Willies. Hmmm. Maybe that's why they are so called??) Let's face it girls - if you could, you would, wouldn't you?

Thursday 6 November 2008

The problem with having a far flung family

Here's some background. My father, stepmother and two half brothers live in South Africa. One of my sisters lives in Ireland, the other lives in New Zealand along with my mother and stepfather. I live in the UK. Let's just say that we don't often have family get togethers. Asking my children's grandparents to babysit isn't an option. And I always need to look at the last posting days for Christmas cards well in advance as it's some point in October.

In an attempt to let my children see their grandmother and auntie for about the second time in their lives, I have been looking into going to New Zealand, a place I've yet to visit despite the fact that my sister has lived there long enough to sound like a local. There have always been good reasons why I haven't yet gone.

First I was young and poor and starting to climb the career ladder. Then I moved to the USA. Then I got married so my finances were stretched for some time. Then we moved to the UK and started a new job/found new house etc. Then I got pregnant. Had baby 1. Ten months later I was pregnant again. I had two under twos. I had little sleep and even less sanity and there was no way I would have survived a 30 hour flight with them. Then we moved house again. Then we were flooded. And now here we are.

Now I have a 4.5 year old who will be 5 by the time I plan on going. And a 3 year old. Both with the inability to sit still for a nano second (unless they're poorly in which case they just vomit on people). The thought of the 30 hour flight still makes me want to grab a large meat skewer and plunge it into my wrists. The adjustment of the billion time zone differences with two boys who don't sleep at the best of times makes me exhausted just thinking about it. And even if we have the best, most relaxing holiday in the whole world ever (which it probably won't be as there won't be hot and cold running slaves waving palm fronds over me while someone entertains my children), any feelings of calm will evaporate the minute we board for the return flight home.

But ignoring all of that. Assuming that I want to put myself through a catastrophic amount of stress, the bottom line is that the cost of four airline tickets to New Zealand could buy you a nice small car. And that's flying or Quantas which seems to have planes falling out of the sky on a daily basis. The flight prices themselves look reasonable. It's the sodding taxes. They're the same price as the flights. All well and good for protecting the environment blah blah but what's the point of having a nice environment if you can never get there to see it??

My computer screen image is burned onto my retinas such is the amount time I've spent surfing travel websites, flicking between airlines, resorts, tour operators and tripadvisor, with the latter normally sending me back to stage 1. I give up. I despair. I don't know how we will ever get to New Zealand unless someone invents one of those Star Trek 'beam me up' machines or some very strong tugboats tow New Zealand and the UK closer to each other. I wouldn't mind if they towed the UK further South. In fact they could tow it somewhere between Mauritius and the Seychelles. They could pull NZ to just below the Maldives. Everyone would be happy.

I'll take your suggestions on a post it note as to how to resolve this dilemma. Just so you know, I've already ticked off:
- let them come to us. Done
- win the lottery. Tried and failed
- meet halfway. A possibility but still doesn't get around me not ever having been there.
- stuff the children into suitcases to save on ticket costs and on-board stress. Tempting, but I think the NSPCC might have something to say about it.

The delights of sick children

The joys of having a sick child. I'm not sure which bit I like least really:

a) The genuine concern that this might be something more than just a passing bug and that perhaps we really ought to go to the doctor/A&E/call NHS direct but have been down that route so many times and it always ends the same: just wait it out.

b) Knowing that the cheque is in the post. It's only a matter of time really until my other child gets this bug followed by me getting it. Husband probably won't as he's barely here but if he does that will be the end of my sanity as it will instantly morph into man-flu of the worst sort. He will expect sympathy and days of bedrest while I'll have to just crack on and vom/wipe my nose when I get a spare minute.

c) Knowing that the aforementioned cheque is likely to arrive this weekend which happens to coincide with a friend's 40th birthday party that's been the talk of the town all year. We have fabulous 60s style Austin Powers outfits which we can't wait to wear but they won't go well with a violent hacking cough. And besides, if the children are deathly ill, we can't abandon them to a childminder for an over night stay.

d) Several nights of no sleep thanks to a having a small furnace sleeping next to me, coughing violently all over me, asking for 'brinks' every three minutes and me bolting upright everytime a pre-vom sounding whimper is emitted, frantically feeling my way in the dark for the sick bowl.

e) Not being able to work because even when the sick one is sleeping, I am so tired and lethargic that I can't get my brain to operate.

f) The semi recovery phase where the child is still too poorly to do anything but well enough to have a bad attitude, demanding peeled oranges but insisting that not a single piece of 'white stuff' is allowed to be left on or demanding peanut butter on crumpets before flinging the lot on the sofa proclaiming that it's not spread on properly.

g) Having to watch endless rounds of cbeebies. Or reading Cock-a-doodle-do, Farmyard Hullabaloo a gazillion times.

h) Trying to keep older brother entertained at the same time as looking after younger sick brother. This borders on the impossible.

I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open and the bags underneath them are a delightful shade of deep purple. It's amazing how my child's illness can make me feel so unwell. I will write again when we are no longer a plague house. Pray that the gods of good health visit us soon.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Momentous decisions (interspersed with the odd bit of vom)

I am back from my brief blogging holiday. Much has happened since I was last here. In fact I have a surfeit of blogging material which is almost worse than having nothing to blog about. What makes it worse still is that I'm trying to blog to the background strains of the Shiny Show (Give yourself a shiny!) because son 2 is poorly. This means hot and cold running television for him, and lots of being a slave to his whims for me.

So let's start with the aforementioned poorliness. Son 2 woke up yesterday a with a horrible cold and cough. By late afternoon this had morphed into a delightful vomiting thing. In fact yesterday ranked up there with my top favourite parenting days. Those occasions where you really wish there was more than one version of yourself or that you have several sets of long elasticated arms. Son 1 was bored, bored, bored and wanted to be entertained because he is apparently incapable of entertaining himself. Son 2 was poorly and wanted to be held. I had chores to do. It all reached a delightful crescendo at around 4.45pm where son 1 was yelling loudly that he was hungry while son 2 wanted to be held. I tried to make dinner while running back and forth to comfort sick child.

It quickly became apparent why he wanted comforting when he suddenly yelled: "Sick! Sick!" and did a gigantic projectile vom all over the rug. In a less than loving way, I pushed him so that he could continue to spew on the wooden floor instead. I asked son 1 to run and fetch a cloth from the kitchen. On his way to the kitchen he hit his elbow on something. I then had two screaming children, puke dripping off every surface in sight, stir fry burning and rice sticking to the bottom of a pan. It became a war zone triage scene. Attend to the most pressing things first. I raced to the cooker, hauled the pans offs, turned the plates off, grabbed armfuls of towels to mop up the vom, rubbed son 1's elbow on the way past, wiped up small sick child, mopped up floor, grabbed a bowl to catch further sick and sprayed liberally with dettol spray to avoid the rest of us getting sick.

I eventually managed to feed son 1 and get him into bed, I lay with son 2 catching vom for most of the evening and spent a sleepless night next to a small boy wanting a 'brink' (i.e. a drink) every few minutes. This morning he has managed toast, juice and medised and kept it all down. Hurrah. Meanwhile I've returned son 1 back to school and the all powerful lure of gogos has returned.

We spent the half term in Ireland. Thanks to my sister for having us. Ireland was sunny, windy and very, very cold. My children did their best to destroy my sister's house and we enjoyed several days on the beach bundled up in a billion layers of clothes. I used to find going to the beach wearing all of your wardrobe quite bemusing. Now I think I'd find a beach in which you wear only a swimsuit an incredible shock - and indeed revealing all of my copious volumes of flesh would be a shock for everyone else on the beach. So it's a good thing that we live in this less than tropical climate.

Two important things came out of our brief sojourn to Ireland. a) It has confirmed that I need to go on a diet and do more exercise. My sister who is part human, part stick insect makes anorexics look large so I looked like a small woolly mammoth in her company. And the fact that my trousers really don't do up anymore was the incentive I need to de-lard myself before the re-larding of Christmas begins. But this led to the second important thing b) I need to spend less time working and more time living (which includes having the time to exercise).

This is a biggie. And it might get all deep and introspective-like, but I need to get this down for posterity so that when I start to get sucked back into the work vortex, I can revisit this blog post and remind myself of what I'm really on this planet for.

You see since setting up my business, I've been trying to grow it. That's normal. That's how businesses become successful. But I've now asked myself, why am I working? What's it for? Part of the reason is because staying at home with small screaming children didn't hold masses of appeal and I wanted to do something other than wipe bottoms. And I wanted to make a bit of extra cash to spend on the occasional Emma Bridgewater teapot. But doing a good job on a few clients would give me that. Why do I have this feeling that I need to do more? I posted recently that I feel like a failure unless I'm pushing harder to achieve the next big thing. That's because I've been judging the successfulness of my life on how well my business is doing, rather than how well my life is going.

The things that are important to me are my children, my husband, my family, my community, cooking, writing, having time to exercise (even just stomping across the fields behind our house) and seeing friends. Running a global PR empire has never been a goal of mine. I'll readily admit that when I see other entrepreneurs featured in papers I feel pang of envy mingled with the inspiration to be like them. But I now know what it takes to be like that and it means sacrificing lots of the things that are important to me.

It's going to be hard to realign my brain so that I don't continually feel that I need to do more, and instead, do the things I want to do without feeling guilty about it. But I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to continue to work - and hopefully do a great job for my clients - but I'm not going to take on too much. I'm not going for global domination anymore. I'm going to attempt to reclaim my life. And that's quite a big goal for a grey Wednesday morning.

I only have one other thing to add to this convoluted blog post. Hooray for the American people finally getting it right! I've had my children glued to BBC News 24 (in between snatches of Cbeebies) as the US Presidential Election has run it's course, trying to explain to them the importance of Barack Obama being elected as the first black president of the USA. I've never explained the concept of race to my children. It's quite a tricky thing to do as children don't seem to see different races. People are just people to them. Which is lovely. And I feel awful for even making them aware of the differences. But one day they will be able to say that they watched as the first black man came to lead America. OR perhaps they won't remember it anymore than they will the delights of the Shiny Show. But at least I can tell them that they did.