Friday 27 February 2009

The question of marriage

"Can men marry men mummy?" asked five year old son yesterday.

Hmmm. Tricky question alert.

"Why do you ask?" I deflected.
"Just because. So can they?"
"It depends on where you live but yes they can, although it's more common for men and women to get married."
"Why? Do think you'd rather marry a man or a woman?"
"A man," he says.

Ok then. He's five and fairly anti girls which might be why .... or not. He has always preferred pink and is a massive Abba fan and did ask for ponies in my pocket for his birthday.

"Why's that?" I ask.
"Dunno," he says kicking a football repeatedly against the kitchen cupboard.

More kicking. I slice vegetables for dinner.

"Mummy, do you have to get married?" he starts up again.
"No, you don't," I say.
"What happens when you get married?" he continues.
"Well you see what mummy and daddy do. We live together. We do the chores. We play with you boys. We go on holidays together. We do stuff together because we're married," I attempt.
"No, I mean when you actually get married, at the wedding," he says.
"Oh right. Well that can happen in lots of different ways. Often it's in a church and the lady wears a pretty dress and the man wears a smart suit. All your friends and family are there. You stand in front of the priest..."
"What's a priest?" he interrupts.

"Like Daniel's dad," I explain.

"He's not a priest, he's a vicar," he informs me.

"Right, same sort of thing really. Anyway, you stand in front of the vicar and you make promises to each other about how you will always love each other and look after each other no matter what. And because you're making these promises in a church, you're making the promise to God too, so it's really important that you don't break the promise. And you wear a ring to remind you of the promises you made," I say sounding far more religious than I actually am.

"Oh.." he contemplates.

A few more kicks of the ball.

"Do you get to choose who you want to marry then?" he asks.


"So God and the vicar don't choose?"


Silence. More kicking.

"Why are you interested in marriage, is it something you talked about at school?" I ask wondering where this is all coming from.

"Just wondered," he said and sauntered off.

What on earth is going on in that small brain? Is this normal five year old conversation?

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

Click here, turn the volume up and then read on.... (actually, because I can't get the silly link to launch in a new window or embed the clip you'll need to have a listen and then click the back arrow)

Why you ask?

Last night son 2 - aged 3.5 - slept without a nappy and kept the bed dry. First time ever.

He normally manages to fill a nappy with so much wee that it leaks. But last night he said he didn't want to wear a nappy. And he was fairly adamant about it.

I was willing to give it a go. He emptied his bladder before bed and I managed to put him on the loo at 10pm (on the few occasions I've tried this before, all of hell's fury has been unleashed by the small boy).

I put him back into bed, crossed my fingers (and his legs) and this morning he woke up DRY!!

Ironically I bought a new pack of pull up nappies yesterday, cursing under my breath that I was still buying sodding nappies, five years on (taking both boys into account).

Now it seems that our nappy days might be over. Small miracles.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Boys vs girls: the great top removal debate

Cast your mind back to when you were a teenage girl (obviously if you're a bloke reading this it might not apply unless you've had some dramatic surgery since then.) Anyway, you'd be standing next to the rugby/football/cricket/field/pitch thing. You'd be looking glam, watching the teen boys strutting their stuff and looking manly. And whenever you saw one of them change tops or take a sweatshirt off - getting a glimpse of honed tummy - you noticed something.

Boys pulls their tops off over their heads. They reach behind their heads, grab and yank. This causes maximum belly revealing. It also means that they tend to get their heads stuck particularly if it's a tight fitting top resulting in maximum messed up hair effect. At the time, you think they do this because it looks cool....

Fast forward to now. Two small boys aged 3 and 5. They haven't got a clue what cool is. They don't know how to impress and couldn't give a flying fig about doing it even if they did. Yet they too pull their tops off in the exact same bizarre manner.

Girls don't do this. Girls cross their arms over the front of their bodies, clutch the bottom edge of their shirts/tops and pull them off upwards so that they go over their face first before finally going off the back of their heads. This is a slightly more elegant way of doing things although it can also result in maximum belly revealing unless you have a friend near by to hang onto your underneath layer so that it doesn't creep up too revealing your boobs in all their glory.

Why is it that men and women do this simple task so very differently? I mean really? This isn't a rhetorical question. I want to know. It's as though we're hot wired that way. My children watch me getting undressed far more regularly than they do my husband so it follows that they'd copy what I'd do. But they don't. They continue with the very masculine backward shirt pull.

Is the boy way of doing it more effective? Less time consuming? Is it so that their line of sight is unobscured for longer so that they can see potential baddies coming for them? Are girls more protective of their bodies and so wrap their arms around themselves this way?

I know this isn't up there with solving global warming or coming up with a cure for cancer. But it is vexing me all the same. Enlighten me please.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Cue trumpet fanfare - the new blog is unveiled

Thanks to the efforts of the lovely Tasha and my colleague Helen, I now have a brand spanking new blog that will track my countdown to my sailing adventure.

It is It's still a work in progress and I've yet to add everyone to my blogroll but I'm too excited about it to not post the link. I will hopefully have a little logo thingy that anyone who wants to help promote the blog can have for their blog - otherwise please just add the link to your blogroll and spread it around so that I get lots of people going to it, which will hopefully convince me to get more corporate sponsors signing up.

And of course if you fancy sponsoring me, but all means feel free to click the Paypal donate button and let me know if it works!

Hopefully I can still keep this blog up to date too but the focus for the next while is going to be on Moretolifethanlaundry. I will hopefully have a subscribe button on it soon too.

Ironically, I must now sign off to go do a vast pile of laundry. Go figure.

Sunday 15 February 2009

We are perfect parents

This weekend has been a singular disaster in terms of 'having a fun day out'. We were meant to visit a zoo or museum or something other than our living room, but we didn't. The children wanted to stay at home and play zingo (again). My husband wanted to stay at home and watch rugby. I wanted to hit the shops and spend wildly on my husband's credit card. Neither my husband or my children would let me do that.

At lunchtime today my cabin fever had hit an all time high so I convinced everyone that we should go out for lunch to ASK pizza. They have a three course kids meal with fun pack for £5.95 - more importantly, they have pizza for me and I don't have to cook or wash dishes.

I always believe that these excursions to restaurants will be fun. They seldom are. They usually involve a lot of stern whispering of 'sit down', 'don't shout', 'stop stabbing your brother with the knife' type of conversations.

This was no different. Son 2 has no idea about volume control and must shout everything he says. So I told him that we were secret agents and that everyone else in the restaurant were potential baddies who might overhear our secret plans unless he whispers. He then spent the rest of the lunch pointing at our neighbouring tables and shouting: 'Are they baddies mummy?'

What's more, ASK pizza Newbury is apparently staffed by people who donated their brains to a medical research facility. We got there at 1pm. We left at 4pm. Three hours in a pizza joint. With two kids. I could have whipped up the dough and made all the pizzas for the entire establishment in that time.

Anyway, despite my husband putting his angry eyes in with extra loud sighs thrown in for dramatic effect, the children were actually reasonable, thanks to playing eye spy and two little dickie birds on repeat cycle. It wasn't fun but we were surviving it.

Then the table next to us got up and the old gentlemen turned to our boys and said: 'You two were immaculately behaved. I think I'll send my grandson to come and live with your parents for a while so that he can learn some manners." (This despite him being labelled as chief baddie by son 2)

PREEN. Yes, we are indeed perfect parents. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. With two little angels who are the height of perfect children. Well done us.

If only the lovely gentleman knew the truth.... But I could have kissed him. I really could have.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Move over romance, pass the remote controlled robot

Five years ago today I was lying in a hospital, staring at a small wrinkled creature who despite being only a few hours old was already demonstrating drama queen tendancies. My first born. I was a mother. I was bewildered and very, very tired.

Son 1 had very, very nearly been born on Friday the 13th (which might explain some of his devil like tendancies from time to time) but just made it into Valentine's Day. We should have called him Romeo. We didn't.

It was an amazing Valentine's Day. I got a brand new baby, an enormous bunch of roses and a shiny eternity ring from my lovely husband to say congratulations on pushing a 7lb 9oz lump out of my fanoir without saying fuck too many times.

Since then, the romantic music and candlelit dinners of Valentine's past have been replaced with the noisy toys and family birthday meals of hotdogs with jam donuts. Even if we have managed to remember that it's Valentine's Day, it's usually a card and small pressie thrown at each other as we charge around trying to find batteries for a new birthday toy. By the time evening comes, we're so knackered, the thought of going out or doing anything remotely amorous gets shunted in favour of lolling in front of the TV with a bottle of wine.

This year has been less romantic than that.

Today my husband completely omitted to get me anything - not even a card. This is very unlike him. He is usually the excellent gift giver and I am rubbish. I however got him a card and tiny red hot water bottle with a heart on it (because he keeps whinging that he's the only person in our house without a hot water bottle and that he has to warm his cold feet on me). In the past if I'd had no card or gift for Valentine's day I would have pretended that I didn't care but secretly would. This year I genuinely don't care.

All I want is for the batteries of the sodding new Wall.E remote control robot to die, die, die because it is the loudest, most obnoxious toy I've ever had the misfortune of coming across.

And I want the children to go to bed. The whinging has been going non stop since 7am. Son 1, the birthday boy, isn't 100% well. So he didn't want to go to the zoo or science museum (which was our plan). He didn't really want to go get the fish for his new fish tank. All he wanted to do was play game after game of Zingo, another new present (which thankfully is quieter than the Wall.E toy). That and accompany me for a trip around Sainsburys. I spent a small fortune on crap so that my husband can feed the children all of next week. He's taken half term off so that I can work. The only way any of them will survive is if there are snacks and plenty of them.

While in Sainsburys, I attempted another vague stab at romance by buying fillet steak and bits to go with it, pink champagne and some Gu chocolate puddings so that we can have a romantic Valentine's meal. But I think my husband would have preferred a curry and a shag.

Anyway, time to go bathe small beasts before transforming into a sex goddess. I fear my brown Tesco tracky bottoms that have shrunk to half way up my calf, set off nicely against my blue socks and baggy jumper, might not set the right tone for the evening. Wish me luck.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

The fat envelope has arrived

It came in today's post with a satisfying thunk through the door. It contained a letter saying that my application was successful and that I've been offered a berth on the race. It also had a long contract outlining just how much it's going to cost me, my commitments and many other scary things. So I promptly signed it, enclosed a cheque for £500 and posted it before I could change my mind.

The deed is done. GULP. There is no going back now.

I now wait to hear back from the training officer to tell me dates when I can go freeze my bits off in the seas surrounding the UK and the marketing team to give me guidelines about sponsorship and raising funds. This is why my new race dedicated blog is not yet created - I don't want make something only to find out I've violated ten different rules.

But there you go. It has taken just 20 days for me to see an ad in the paper to being a fully signed up crew member. I feel just a leeetle bit ill when I think about all the ramifications, workload, emotional turmoil this is going to cause. But you know what, 2009 just got very interesting.

And this afternoon was a case in point about why working my butt off on a boat for five weeks can sound appealing. I had to go into town to:
a) deposit cheques
b) see a bank manager
c) buy envelopes
d) put two letters into the envelopes and post them
e) return library books and get new ones

How hard could this be? Apparently, very. Both boys left school hating the world and me in particular. Going to town was boring, boring, boring. They didn't want to go, despite me promising hot chocolate at Costa Coffee. (To be honest, I didn't want them to go either but I didn't have too much choice in the matter.) They whinged all the way there. Then they wailed and shouted and stropped and stamped their way to the bank, so much so that people either stopped and stared at us or gave us a very wide berth.

Once in the bank, they proceeded to let everyone know just how much they hated stupid banks and quite how boring they are. They wailed their way across the street to WH Smiths, until they saw the sweets and crisps inside. They then switched to full volume nag culminating in son1 standing with his hands on his hips yelling: "UNLESS YOU GET ME THESE CRISPS I'M NOT LEAVING THE SHOP".

You could see everyone looking to see what I was going to do. Was I going to give in to this tantrum and prove just how spoilt these little beasts were OR was I going to do what the WH Smith staff certainly wanted which was to buy the crisps and get our noisy selves the hell out of their shop. I opted for the latter just to buy me mileage to get to the post office. We finally got to Costa Coffee and the boys got their hot chocolate. They sat their happily crunching their quavers until they noticed that there were no marshmallows with their hot chocolate. Cue the next outburst. Son1 then said that he really was still hungry - which is normally true as school apparently burns a billion calories a day.

So I went and bought a bag of mini muffins in my bid to encourage healthy eating. Son 1 ate three in quick succession. Son 2 finally tried one, spat it out and yelled: "This is disgusting! I WANT SOMETHING ELSE!" I said no. Our difference of opinion ended with me trying to carry a small beast dripping hot chocolate, kicking and screaming all the way out.

We finally got to the library and every book I chose was "stupid". I gave up the fight, let them choose an assortment of crappy books and left. Supper has been ignored despite wails that they were so starving they might die within minutes. And I am having to type this to the background strains of Wall.E, another demand in the libary that I was too tired to fight (tantrums in WH Smith are one thing, in a library with everyone saying Sssh is quite another stress level). I can't possibly go to my study as the film is too scary, but they won't let me turn it off.

So this is why facing gales and high seas seems a breeze in comparison to my normal life.

Saturday 7 February 2009

Moon shadow, moon shadow

If you live in Southern England and are still up, do yourself a favour. Put on your coat and some sturdy shoes and head outside. Right now. In the middle of the night. You will never again see such a beautiful thing.

The night is perfectly still. Perfectly calm. Perfectly quiet. The sky is clear with stars shining as though trying to out do each other. The moon is full, round, heavy and magnificent. The ground is shrouded in white snow. The moonlight picks up the ice crystals making them sparkle like diamonds. The light is surreal, a strange twilight, magical, enchanting.

I stared out of the window for a long time wondering what it was that made everything look so utterly different. And then I saw it. On the ground was the stark, black, perfect shadow of our bare walnut tree. Its branches looked spookily beautiful, like a traced drawing in charcoal. In all of my 35 years I have never seen a moon shadow. Certainly nothing like this. Because normally the moon shines its light and the shadow is cast on dark ground. But now it has a irridescent white canvas on which to paint its shadowy masterpieces.

It was so magnificent that I had to go outside. I stepped onto the crunchy snow, breathing little puffs of steam in the cold and stood in the middle of our garden in awe. I gazed at the moon, its shadows, the stars, the snow and the ice crystals. I breathed in deep, the cold air cuttingly pure. I was filled with the most incredible joy and utter peace.

No words can do justice to the beauty I've seen. Just go outside and see it for yourself.

Friday 6 February 2009

The verdict

I'm back. Exhausted. The roads were hideous. But the children went off without a fuss, my friend was a life saver and despite horrid roads, I managed to get to the sailing interview without incident. I passed the first test. Tick! I earned my 'Getting there despite all odds' badge.

We then got in-depth insight into what living on a boat for five weeks was like including the charm of having to poo with an audience and the fact that you'll burn up to 5000 calories a day. We braced the icy rain to go onboard one of the boats. Luxury probably isn't a term you'd use to describe the living quarters. But it was great just to be on a boat and it made me want to do it even more, rather than put me off.

Then I had the interview. It was a very informal affair. I think I might have rambled a bit - or maybe it was just enthusiastic chatting. But when I asked what the next steps were, my interviewer explained that next week interviewees would either be sent a 'fat envelope' that had a contract inviting them onto the race or a 'thin envelope' saying thanks but no thanks. Then he said: "You'll DEFINITELY be getting a Fat Envelope." I also got an email from him since returning home that said: "We'd love to have you on the race."

So while I'm not going to do any hula dances or make any whoop whoop noises until the fat envelope arrives, it sounds pretty much like I've got a place. (If my blog had audio, this is where you'd hear a loud gulp.)

Assuming the fat envelope does arrive, I need to ensure that it is for the leg that I want and I still need to pass the training. Apparently they have a 15% drop out rate after the first week of training - both on the part of the people doing the training and the organisers who feel you don't cut it.

I didn't get a clear steer as to what I can do about getting sponsors/setting up blogs but it is now something I need to put my mind to. And there's the small issue of logistics like childcare and managing my workload. Phase 1 of my barking mad plan was getting my application in. Phase 2 was today. Phase 3, assuming the fat envelope arrives, will be getting the first week of training done. I've suggested Feb half term given I have childcare that week. Of course it would be high seas in snow blizzards, but what the heck. I seem to have stumbled onto a roller-coaster ride and there's no getting off now!

Am off to collapse.

And so the challenge begins

Today is the day of my big interview for the sailing race. I live in West Berkshire. The interview is in Portsmouth. Take a look at today's summary of weather conditions for where we live. There is up to 10cm of snow forecast for the route I'll have to drive. And it's forecast to stay snowing on this area till 3pm today. It is absolutely dumping it down right now. I have two small boys complaining that they don't feel well. And a husband who's already set off for London.

Pre-school will almost certainly be closed AGAIN. The school has endeavoured to stay open all week but I still have a challenge on my hands. A friend who lives across the road has said I can drop both of them off with her at 8am and she will get the older one to school but then she's stuck with the younger one as pre-school won't be open. Plus he's complaining of a very poorly chest plus the possibility of vomiting. I have no idea whether he's making this up or not.

So what do I do? Just accept that my friend will hate me forever for abandoning my poorly child with her when she herself isn't 100% well, force my child to spend the day not with mummy / at home when he's not feeling well, willingly put myself in danger by driving on hazardous roads (West Berks has said it has enough grit left for 3 primary roads and that's it) and just go for it? I'm going to have to because if I don't then I miss my chance.

But this is just giving me a little taster of how hard this is going to be.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Small talk

"Muuuummmy!" Son 1 yells from the loo.
"I've got one more poo and I can't get it out! It's huge and it just won't come out!"
"Well what exactly would you like me to do about it?"
"Get something and stick it up my bum to get it out."
"I don't think we can do that."
"C'monnnnnnnn. It juuuust woooon't cooooome ooooooout! I think this poo has been in my bum since, since.....since I was born!"

Who says I don't get scintillating conversation?

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Failure in many things

My tummy hurts. This might be because I've just wolfed down two half eaten bowls of pasta, pesto and peas, a home made jam tart (burning my tongue in the process) and two carrots (in a bid to eradicate the calories of the other stuff). This wasn't my dinner. That's still waiting for me. This was me doing my duty to starving children in Africa and not letting food go wasted. It's the same reason I ate one and a half hot cross buns that were far from hot earlier today. The kids hadn't eaten them (despite demanding them for breakfast) and so they sat there folornly with the butter congealed, nibble marks on the side of them. Their sorry state didn't deter me in my efforts to stop world hunger. Sigh.

Remember how I was clinging to that resolution wagon with white knuckles? It's safe to say that I fell off a while back and the dust kicked up from the wagon has long since settled. My exercising has reduced to once a week on the weekend when I finally get a moment to myself. And the no drinking in the week rule seems to mean that our weekend actually runs from Wednesday through to Sunday.

So in general I'm not doing spectacularly well. I would ordinarily feel despondent. But I don't because I still have my resolution trump card - the 'make time for myself' masterpiece in the form of flitting across the ocean on a yacht for five weeks. Friday cannot come fast enough and I'm now desperate to know if I'm going to get a place on the race.

I've already got my PR machine in place to start my fundraising efforts. Just this week the Daily Express was looking for mums who'd taken a sabbatical from their families to do something for themselves. I got in touch and told them that I hadn't yet but was really hoping I could. They're dead keen on the story and hopefully if I get a slot on the race, I'll manage to get a good hit that will drive billions of people to my blog (which has yet to be created - don't want to put the cart before the horse and all that) which in turn will result in people throwing money at me so that I can sail this race without getting myself in debt. It's not that I live in laa laa land, I'm just optimistic. Hopeful. A dreamer. A Piscean.

Anyway, today's big news was that we went to the dentist. The last time I attempted to take the children to the dentist, they hid behind me, quivering in fear before throwing the mother of all paddies and charging straight out of the dentist's room, out through reception and out of the building. The dentist didn't get within a 100 yards of their teeth. It was a failure of the most spectacular proportions.

So of course I was really looking forward to today's visit. I'd given up on getting the 3 year old in the chair. He doesn't clean his teeth at the best of times, eats sweets whenever he can (including old congealed things he finds under the sofa) and is according to his nursery teacher 'the world's most stubborn child'. No, the appointment was for the almost 5 year old and I.

For those of you who don't know about my 5 year old, let me fill you in. I've been convinced since his birth that he suffers from bipolar disoder, a split personality or schitzophrenia. When he is good, he is Angelic. When he's not, he'd make Satan weep. The thing is, you never know which one you're going to get.

With a little knot of trepidation we walked into the dentist's room. The dentist said hello and asked who was going to go first. I was about to open my mouth, when 5 year old confidently marched up to the chair, sat himself down and said "me". He then lay back, opened his mouth as wide as a person can possibly open it without turning into a hippo and let the dentist carry on. He politely answered the dentist's questions. He examined the instruments when they were shown to him. He was the perfect picture of angelic loveliness. I was so proud - and not a little flabbergasted - that I had a quiet weep, which was a little embarrassing as I then had to lie down on the chair and have the dentist gaze into my tear filled eyes.

Anyway, it was all over in under 10 minutes and we left. I congratulated my son on being such a star. That was apparently the wrong thing to do. The angel had left the building. I was subjected to a half hour diatribe about how the dentist is stupid and he's never going again and why did I have to have my teeth cleaned because he was sooooooo bored and did I mention that he's never going to the dentist again. I gave up the fight and just nodded.
Then he asked: 'You made another appointment, didn't you?'
Loaded question this. 'Er, yes I did,' I replied.
'Who was the appointment for?' he asked warily.
'Me,' I answered, omitting the small fact that he was included in the appointment given his obvious hatred for the dentist.
Too tired to argue and arms not long enough to turn around and thump him for his sheer contrariness, I said: 'But it's also for you.'

He's right. But I prefer to think of it as giving myself an easy life. I obviously failed on that count.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Being a parent

More than just a mother has written a beautiful post about what it means to be a parent. She has described the joy of being a parent perfectly. But there is an alternate version to her morning love story...

Thanks to More than for the inspiration (you might want to read her version first).

My version

Thud. Thud thud thud thud thud. Small penguin-like footsteps make their way ever closer. Then a tentative creek of a floorboard as our three year old son waits at the entrance to our bedroom. Heavy breathing breaks the silence. He stands there, perfectly still. Reaching some conclusion in his mind, he decides to venture into the darkness where I lie, edged out of sleep into a half awake state of alertness.

He fumbles with his tiny nightlight that he carries in his hands, crammed with two teddies, a stuffed monkey and its partner in crime, a blue cow. The light casts a dull glow on the bedroom wall, as he attempts to quietly step his way over piles of discarded clothes littering the floor, edging ever closer to our bed.

I hold my breathe. It's decision time. Is he going to head left towards my husband's side of the bed or veer right and come to me? It's always me. On the rare occasion my husband has been roused from his slumber, he will whisper to our son to come to him. He will easily wrap our small boy in his arms so that he's lying tucked into his armpit, snug and cosy.

But today is not one of those days. Today the small stealth terrorist sneaks towards me before shining the night light directly into my eyes and pronouncing: 'I'm thirsty mummy.'

I fumble for my water glass and give him a sip. Then in an inelegant dance involving several knees and other hard bony bits, he hoists himself up and over me so that he can lie spreadeagled in the bed. My husband grunts and rolls over.

'Cuddle me mummy,' he whispers in a voice mere decibels away from a shout. I wrap my arm around him and snuggle him into me. It's a wonderful oneness, warmth, a reminder of the tiny baby he once was. Contented I shut my eyes...

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi .... and the snuggle ends with a pointy elbow rammed into my nose and another full volume stage whisper of: 'I want to get up and have milk mummy.'

'Atsigsoclock,' I mumble, desperately clinging to the last few strands of sleep that are keeping me anchored to semi-consciousness. 'NO, NOW!' he whispers emphatically. 'Firstsnuggle,' I say attempting to regain the loveliness of the few seconds of closeness.

He lies supine for another half minute. Then performs the crocodile death roll, grabbing the duvet and attempting to roll himself and me up in it. I push him back into the space between my husband and I, pleading: 'Lie still'. He does. For ten seconds. Then he rides his imaginary bicycle under the covers, scraping his toenails up and down the length of my leg. I ignore it until I feel he might gouge a varicose vein, so grab his leg and hold it still.

Restrained he has a momentary lapse of energy allowing me just time enough to drift off towards slumberville...

GAH! My eye is prised open and the night light shone directly into my fully dilated pupil. I'm awake. I don't want to be. '," I stage whisper through clenched teeth. 'But I'm thirsty and hungry and I want to go downstairs,' he wails. 'It is six o clock!'

I lift my head wearily off the pillow and glance at the clock. 5.47 the red numbers glow with evil malevolence. 'Thirteen more minutes,' I say and turn my back on him in the vain hope that it will make me invisible to him.

It doesn't. The teddies, the monkey and the cow decide that my head is the best place for them to have a tea party. I move further away so that I'm lying on a knife edge, where the mattress ends and the cold winter air starts. I balance precariously, every muscle taught. Sleep scurries away. Adrenalin has taken its place.

I am kicked, jostled, poked, prodded, nagged and scraped for a further three minutes of agony until I give up the fight.

I sigh. One of those sighs that starts at your toes and works its way up so that your chest swells to maximum capacity before exhaling a night's worth of carbon dioxide. 'C'mon then,' I say fumbling about on the floor for my slippers.

'Use my night light mummy,' the devil child kindly offers, chipper and full of beans now that he's started the day.

'Thank you,' I say. And I finally understand what it means to be a parent.

Monday 2 February 2009

A snowfall of guilt

It's snowing. Really snowing. The pre-school rang and said it wasn't opening today. I called the childminder who said she could have son 2 instead. The school is open (although we don't know how long it will stay open). The boys had a ball walking to school, making snowballs and snow angels. They liked the ice cold hands a little less.

We passed a friend whose little boy I normally take to pre-school and I said that the pre-school was shut. His reply was: 'Oh, well he wasn't going anyway.' 'Why, is he ill?' I asked. He looked at me as though I was mad and said 'No, it's snowing. We're staying at home and playing in it.'

Cue the guilt. It hadn't entered my head that we could spend the day that way. I just knew how long my to do list was for work and sent them on their merry way. Now I feel awful. Like I'm the world's worst mother.

That's all I'm going to say for today so that I can plough through my work and go fetch my little boys early so that we can build a snowman.

Sunday 1 February 2009

An ode to pink wafer biscuits

Following a bacon and egg on squishy whitebread sandwich for breakfast, something forgettable for lunch and an extra large portion of lasagne and garlic bread for dinner, I decided that the diet was so obliterated that a small ice cream would cause no further harm.

I got the scoop out and handed my children triple chocolate ice-cream (deep chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate flakes on top) squished into a cone, before making one for me.
Nothing beats ice cream in a cone. Ice cream on its own is wonderful to be sure. But in a cone, it becomes something almost godlike.

I must clarify here. While those waffle cones are all very well, what you really want are the cheap wafer cones that come in tin foil tubes, neatly stacked into one another. They are made of no known natural substance, but there is something about their artificial crunchiness that just whisks me back to childhood. When we grew up the cones came in different colours, resulting in maximum arguments about who was having which colour. I am so pleased the cones I buy come in one colour only: yellowy beige.

Crunching around the top of my cone this evening in a haze of quiet contentment, I was reminded of my love for all wafer biscuits or cone type things. Where I grew up, you'd buy tins of assorted biscuits and in amongst the ginger nuts, foiled wrapped chocolate biccies or jammy dodgers, there were always little miniature chocolate and strawberry wafer biscuits. The kind with the fake icing inside. They were always the first to go, certainly if I was left anywhere near the tin.

When I was pregnant (both times) I had only one craving. Pink wafer biscuits. Not your Waitrose top of the range Italian wafer biscuits. No. The lurid pink triple layer wafers filled with fluorescent pink cream by the well-known brand 'Happy Shopper'. I could only buy them from our village shop. I've never seen them anywhere else since. I do believe 'Happy Shopper' is a brand of nastiness that supplies far flung village shops. These wafers cost 49p a pack. I know. I bought one pack a day. You get approximately 20 to 30 wafer biscuits in a pack. I could eat them all in a single sitting. By the end of it, I'd be shrouded in a pink wafer biscuit cloud, with particles floating lazily in the air, the floor around where I'd be sitting looking the base of tree in spring.

I loved those pink wafer biscuits. I mean, really loved them. There must be something addictive about the E-numbers that make lurid pink. Whatever it is, nibbling on my cone this evening made me realise how long it's been since I'd had them, or indeed, even seen them. So I did a little searching. And found that Ocado stocks these. They're not Happy Shopper, but they look suitably plastic to satisfy me. I feel an online shop coming up....