Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh! My poor ikkle baby short story. It's a massacre...

Have you ever entered your child into a 'Bonny Baby Competition'?

You know the sort. The kind run in a newspaper that only local taxi drivers seem to read. The kind that get excited that Sam from 'Stenders is going to switch on the Xmas lights. That kind.

No? Why ever not?

Is it because it is demeaning to your child, judging them solely on their chub-chub looks? Is it because it is the slippery slope to American style pagentry where you end up in a Holiday Inn in Bracknell, cheering on your Pussy-cat Doll-stylee three-year-old who is trying to twirl a baton like a majorette?

Or is it a little bit because, you have a tiny fear that your child might just come last?

Well, putting your creative writing work on a review website like 'Authoronomy' is a bit like hurling your toddler into a Darling Dimples competition.
Your darling story. You gestated it. You birthed it. You polished it up and plopped a bow on top.
Then finally you display it to the world. Friends and family will 'ooh and aah' over it anyway. They don't count. Nor do writers groups or creative writing classes. Everyone is too frightened about what you will say about their stuff to squeak more than a small criticism about grammar.

But an annonymous critiquing website - they are just thrilled to point out the metaphorical cradle cap and milk spots on your poor little work of fiction.
I just had a scathing review about something I posted. And one not so scathing. Of course, all I can think about is the scathing one.

Call my baby ugly? How very dare you.
I am planning the rewrite already.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do you ever suspect you aren't doing too well at this parenting lark?

We just had another contretemps with my toddler.

We seem to always be having contretemps with my toddler.

He is three years old, wilful as a colt, sensitive as an eyelash and, at times, demonic. This morning it was about switching off the TV, as usual. They had been watching it for a blissful hour, allowing us to lounge in bed a little longer. I warned of the great TV shut off, I executed the great TV shut off. Queue a toddler nuclear explosion.

He lashed out at me in fury, his tiny fists really wanting to do harm. So, in great Supernanny tradition, I time-outed him. Lately, when he gets a time out he has taken to spitting or peeing on the floor. He had done both this time, so more time out (not sure if that is the right way to do things, but hey, advice gratefully accepted.) Then we cleaned up the mess together.

So my husband is going to the gym and taking them to the soft play there, and I get a morning of peace. Toddler realises we aren't going to the same place and screams and shrieks that he needs me. Husband now loses cool as we have now been engaged in battle for about half and hour. He doesn't understand how a tiny chap can make life so unpleasant for everyone. My daughter is the biggest casualty. While we are all focused on the human air-raid siren, she is quietly ignored in the corner. (yes, we know that is now the way to do things, but in the heat of the moment...)

So I am now having 'my morning' but feel horribly guilty that husband has to put up with screaming toddler, and toddler is potentially going to be traumatised by absent mother.

Sometimes I wish I had Supernanny in the attic, to wheel out at times like this. Or Tanya Byron to advise me when yet again the kids are whining about food, clothes, going somewhere, not going somewhere etc. I just feel as though I have a plan in my mind how to deal with child hot-spots, but when it comes down to the heat of the moment, all these plans become tangled and incoherent.

Does anyone else feel as though they are not only making it up as they go along, but also that they aren't exactly in control of their children and their lives?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tell me about your Bonfire Night. I miss it...

Canadians seem to go crazy for hallowe'en.

I mean, there is a house on the next street that, not kidding, has a twenty foot spider scaling the wall. I have seldom seen anything quite so barking, apart from those loons who put a strain on the national grid by covering their 3-bedroom semi in fairy lights every year, complete with Santa, a sleigh and his reindeers 'en rampant.'

But I kind of like hallowe'en. Gory witches, spooky skeletons, trick or's loopily nice.

Why are the holidays we celebrate so violent and bloody though?
Guy Fawkes night - hurrah! Lets burn a catholic on a pyre. And make dad nail a rubbish catherine wheel to the fence.

Easter - hurrah! Lets stuff our faces with Cadbury Creme Eggs because some chap got nails through his hands.

Hallowe'en - hurrah! Ghoolies and ghosties abound. Some of the masks you can buy here are beyond terrifying. I can't wait to see my daughter's reaction to being offered candy by a sinister straw man with a sewn up slit for a mouth. My bowels are turning to water just thinking of it. Will she need counselling in later life? Have a corn field phobia?

Christmas is a little bit jollier, birth and all that. Diwali with the festival of lights also sounds like a pretty happy event.

But I do miss Bonfire Night a little bit. The 'oohs' and the 'aaahs' as a roman candle farts light into the air. The drizzle. The numb hands holding sparklers. The fact that our old neighbourhood seemed to think that firework night started two weeks before and two weeks after the actual date, condemning our pitifully bad toddler to a months worth of broken sleep.

Ah. Perhaps I don't miss bonfire night after all.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

When your child is a bit racist...

I do not live in a terribly ethnically diverse area.

Essentially, the demographic is white, middle class 2.4 (actually, more like 3+ children, we are in one of those areas where 3 children is the new 2.4) children. And tons of Japanese students who go to the local language school.

My daughters school has a good mix of nationalities. Iraqi, Jordanian, German, Acadian, and many, many Chinese students etc. But I struggle to think if I have seen any black children at the school.

Nope, still struggling.

I took my daughter to her first cheerleading class yesterday. (hmm...) The class was in, what friend's black nanny (who I often hang out with at the park) described as, a 'ghetto' area. I lived in one of the roughest parts of London for 7 years, so didn't think too much of it. Surely even the worst parts of chirpy Canada-land can't compete with the depths of 'Sarf-Laaandan town'.

Yep, the area was a little intimidating. Scrawny-looking, heavily-tattooed men hung over balconies. Young men loitered in the park, holding up their half-mast jeans with one hand on their crotch. Every surface available was covered in graffiti tags. Swarms of young children, from about age 3 up, ran on the grassy square in the centre of the community centre, with no obvious parental supervision. An enormous part of me envied their freedom, it looked so much healthier than my friends and my helicopter-hover. Altogether, it looked like a cross between 'The Wire' and 'Sesame Street'.

My daughter then asked a question which no cringing middle-class liberal parent wants to hear: "Do you have to be a brown person to live here?"

I went into Guardian reading overdrive, giving what I hoped was a informative, culturally sensitive speech about how we are all the same, yet differences are to be celebrated...yadda yadda. My teeth started itching with how hideously politically correct I was. Trevor Philips would have held me up as a beacon of hope for integration.

Yet here I was, nervously clutching my purse and holding my child's hand a little tighter because we had arrived in a part of the city where folk were unlike me. I try and think, would I be as defensive if there were a bunch of young tattooed white dudes hanging out at a park looking intimidating, and I am relieved to say that I think I would be just as nervous.

My daughter loved the cheerleading lesson. She was the only white girl there. At the end I asked her how she liked the other little girls.
She said, "Mummy, I like brown people, even though I am not meant to call them that."

Nothing like a middle-class cringe to end the day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I want to go home. Only I don't know where home is...

We are not coming back to England. At least, not as of this morning when my husband found out he didn't get the job that would have seen us secure the rest of our lives.

Part of me is happy - the town we would have ended up in made me feel elderly even just looking at it.
Part of me is terrified - there have been so few jobs on offer anywhere that we are in limbo, just waiting and hoping for a job to come up anywhere.
Part of me is desperate - I miss my family in the UK and now we are thinking we may have to look further afield to New Zealand and Australia it has become a reality that we may never live in the same country again.

I feel homesick, but not sure for which home. I think it is the home in my mind where we are secure, my daughter is in a school for longer than a year and my husband is settled in a job, at last.
That home is not here, as this is temporary. It is not in England, they don't seem to want us.

Where is my home now? And if I don't know that, when will this longing end?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you remember the first time you ever saw...?

...a pierced tongue?
...a mobile phone?
...the Internet?
...a video player?
...a CD?
...a 'normal' person with a tattoo?

I remember all of those things, so that probably makes me officially very old even though age 40 is a way off yet.
The pierced tongue had to be around the time of 'Firestarter' by the Prodigy. So, what, around 1995-ish. I remember being really disgusted that spaghetti would get wrapped around it and potentially you could end up chatting to someone whilst flapping Linguine Carbonara at them.

The mobile phone must have been around the same time, or at least in common usage. Whilst I was university it was all about the landline and hoping someone would take pity and actually leave a message on a scrap of paper.

I definitely remember the internet. It was 1997 and I had just spent a year writing lovely long letters to my boyfriend in Australia. Someone took me to the computer room at work and showed me this newfangled thing called email. I managed to ignore it for another year. I have kept every letter my boyfriend/husband sent me. The same can't be true of our emails. Shame.

The video player we had was a Betamax, and I have felt the stigma ever since. I think we watched 'Lord of the Rings' the cartoon on it about 800000 times.

The first CD I saw had to be the same one that everyone else saw, the one being smeared with jam on Tomorrow's World. My sisters and I loved the rainbow iridescent surfaces.

Trying to remember when I stopped associating tattoos with ropey sailors. I think I was about 20 and they started to become de rigeur.

Would love to know when you remember seeing these things or whether they were always there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to write a novel. It's actually working!

We all have a book in us. Apparently.
At least, if Katie Price is able to 'write' several bonkbusters, surely I can as well? And you. And the dustman...

I read on Powder Room Graffiti an article called 'Give NanoWriMo a go'. Here is the link.

Essentially, you write 50,000 words in the month of November. You write quickly, with minimal editing. It works out at 1667 words a day. Pretty intimidating, no?

Actually, it has been surprisingly easy so far. I decided not to wait until November to try this out. I've had an idea for a ghostly, prison tale for older teenagers that has been brewing in my brain for some time. Splatting it out on the page and not editing is liberating. It doesn't matter if it isn't perfect, you can always edit later.
But the main point is, at least you have something to edit. All too often I start my writing, falter at part of the plot or dialogue, then stall. I've had fiction published before, very minor league stuff, but since the kids have come along I have less energy to do it.

If you are the kind of person, like I am, who works better under pressure and with goals, I think you will find this amazing. I've been using this blog to warm up my brain before starting. So in two minutes time, I will be churning down my 1667 words. It's getting to the exciting part where she is just about to pull back the plastic sheeting in the prison wing...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Different countries, different smut.

Americans, Canadians and Brits speak a different language when it comes to smut.

OK, so the standard words of fuck, shit and c*** (apologies!) are pretty much universal, but around the margins the edges are blurred.

This morning I was having a bit of a chuckle at the 'Up and at 'em Morning Glory Muffin' at my local cafe. Now, to me, it is a celebration of an early morning erection. To them, it was a peachy keen baked goods label.

Or me inviting my daughter the other day to 'stroke the cat'. Apparently in Canada, stroke is definitely a rude word and I should use the word 'pet'. Now, I can see how it could be rude, but I'm pretty sure unless you said 'stroke the pussy' in the UK what I said is not particularly laughable.

Having lived in the UK for so long, there are so many many words and phrases that just aren't recognised. I asked where my handbag was the other day, queue lots of Canadian laughter. I should have said purse or pocketbook.
I asked what my daughter 'got up to at school', also laughter. God knows why.
Even new words like 'minger', 'chavvy' and 'Sat-nav' are met with a blank face. I need to use the word 'heffa', 'ghetto' and 'GPS'.

It can get exhausting trying to translate in your brain even simple phrases. How on earth do people cope with having English as a second language?

Anyway, I'm off now to enjoy my morning glory muffin. Sounds damn rude, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are we all Daddy's Girls at heart?

I have always been a Mummy's Girl. My sister was Daddy's Girl.

That was, until their divorce and we (my mum, sister and I) moved a continent away. I remained mummy's girl but my sister flailed around, trying to find where her father figure had gone. She looked for it in boyfriends, male colleagues, anyone with a drop of testosterone. I thought I remained unaffected. I generally find Men and Men-Stuff unappealing. I am a girls girl.

But over the years, about once a year, I am confronted with the tiny nugget within me that will always be daddy's girl. That wish for a father's praise when you have done something well, that certainty that your father thinks that there was never a lovelier creature that walked the earth than you.

Studies show that girls with strong bonds to their fathers have higher self esteem. I can see that in my own daughter. My husband adores everything about her - apart from her table manners. I try and imagine what that must be like to be the sun to my fathers moon, but fail.

My dad has let me down again. My charming, hilarious, handsome father has yet again decided that it is more important to go golfing in warm climes than to take the relatively short trip to see us. For the first time in 30 years I am living on the same continent as him, but he would much rather spend time with his golfing buddies.

It's funny, I understand I have never been a large part of his life. I have told myself it doesn't matter that he didn't bother seeing his grandson for the first year of his life. That he never knew what school I went to as a child, that he always seemed faintly unimpressed by my achievements. It's that part of me, the Freudian child that doesn't understand why I am not even third on his list of important things.

Are we all at heart Daddy's Girls, looking for their approval, even if we pretend we are not?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What argument with your husband keeps rearing it's head?

My husband and I have had our weekly argument about me not wanting to leave Canada.

We are not used to arguing, he is mild and jovial, I am spikey but a coward. Arguments are rare things, except for this one. It pops up like an evil jack in the box on a weekly basis for the past couple of months. It goes like this:

"Have you honestly, honestly exhausted all possibilities that there might be a job for you in the whole of Canada." [Me]
"Yes, I have sent out seven emails and no one has replied. There are no jobs in my incredibly, ridiculously specialised line of work. A line of work that you now curse because we will probably end up in Wolverhampton because that is the only place with an opening suitable." [him]
"Seven emails and no follow up calls?!?!? FFS!!!! It's hardly pounding the pavements. Canada is a big frickin' place. You aren't trying. You know how much I want to stay here and how happy the kids are but you secretly want to get us back to Blighty and I can't do a damn thing about it."
"I love it here too, but I love it in Blighty. Even Wolverhampton."
"You are so passive-aggressive."
"And you don't understand how it all works over here applying for jobs!!!"

Much crying and stamping of feet from both, and we are back to the beginning.
I want to stay here so badly. I was brought up here and only came to England because of my parents divorce. He knows that, and yet tells me he hasn't the time to look into the work situation here properly as there is a job coming up in England that he wants to go for.

I am not saying I couldn't be happy in England. I have been before, I could be again. I would be near lots of family (although the same could be said for Canada) and I could work in my profession there. But this longing to stay in Canada is a visceral thing. I feel like I finally belong. My heart thrills at seeing the Maple Leaf flag. I understand this place and it understands me. I never realised how deep my roots were here, and to tear them up is going to tear a piece of my soul. The children seem to have blossomed here. They are freer to run around the streets, we catch frogs and caterpillars, they love their school, but they also miss England as well.

I don't know why I have written this post, except to insult the good folk of Wolverhampton. Perhaps I have written it because it is better to write this and scream at the keyboard rather than scream at my husband again.
The screaming is not working, but neither is persuasion and kind words. Perhaps sometimes you just have to accept that your life cannot be as complete as you would like it to be.

Does anyone else have cyclical arguments they get into with their partners that has no resolution?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A place where mothers are being treated as second class citizens

This is a national disgrace.
A scandal so underground that the government has, for decades, kept the public in the dark about the sheer magnitude of this inequality.

And it's happening in your home, right now...

Yes, I am talking about 'Protected Poo Time'.
The smallest room in the house has become a battleground of the sexes, and mothers are being treated as second class citizens when it comes to Number Twos.

Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Was your husband/partner in the loo this morning for more than 20 minutes whilst you frantically rallied the troops for the school run?
  • When was the last time you were allowed to poo in peace without tiny fingers clawing their way under the door and the word 'Mummmmeeee' being shrieked repeatedly?
  • Did your husband take his laptop in with him? If so, yuck.
  • Is your idea of luxury is having a poo without your husband occasionally shouting 'darling, have we run out of envelopes?'
If you have answered yes to any of the above, you are not alone. Write to your MP. Demand that men try and have a go at pooping with a tiny bit more rapidity when all your children are having a meltdown at once. Recommend funding for studies into how women can acheive equality with men in this fraught dispute.

Your voice counts, even if your bottom does not.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

With hindsight, as a parent, I would have...fill in the blank for me please.

Have you ever tried to give advice to a pregnant friend or relative? It is like walking a tightrope with snarling sharks on one side and rabid wolves on the other. I try and remember whether I ever listened to advice from parent friends. I regret to say that I don't think I did. It was NOT NEEDED. I had read the books, used my instincts and I KNEW BEST.

I didn't know best. I bought a frickin' awful pram, terrible car seat and could have done with listening to my mother-in-law about routine and discipline. You see, I have those children.
I always thought I would have obedient, pliable children who would sit and converse with adults in cafes in a charming way, who would use please and thank you and basically do as they were told but still be spunky and plucky. Hmm...

My sister is pregnant and any cautious pieces of advice are met with a polite stonewalling. I feel like shaking her by the lapels and screaming "I've been through the fire, damn it. It's a war out there with children and you need to know your enemy. I'm like a veteran of that war, hear me out!!!" Instead, I just chuckle and think 'Just you wait. Heh, heh, heh.'

Here are my top 5 things I wish I had known as a newbie parent.

  1. If you are even contemplating having more than one child, immediately buy a Phil & Ted's or similar. Otherwise you end up with just having to buy another pram after no.2 arrives. And a McClaren. Most of my friends and I have fine, expensive collections of prams. The worst thing that happens is that you can shove extra groceries or a friends toddler in the seating area of a stacked pram.
  2. Don't get too wedded to your birthing plan. The goddess of birth has a hilarious way of farting in your face if you assume all will proceed as planned. Whale music, schmale music.
  3. If someone offers to babysit - take up the offer! Short of the wicked witch from Hansel & Gretel babysitting I wish I had hurled my babies at more bystanders. An exhausted parent is not a joy to behold.
  4. Sometimes you should just give in. I did not want to co-sleep with my babies. My son wanted to sleep with his tiny face pressed against mine. We always started out with good intentions but ended up doing the dance of the seven beds where we would ricochet randomly into various bedrooms at night in search of sleep. I wish I had just given in at the beginning.
  5. Don't buy a 'diaper genie' (nappy bin). The room will just end up smelling of stale poo.
What are your top 5 hindsights?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Throw out 10 toys. Right now. You know you want to.

We have so much crap in our lives, don't we?

There was that chap who once said:
"Never have anything in your home that isn't useful or beautiful."
They forgot the second part of that statement which was:
"Except my children would kill me if I threw out their too small Thomas the Tank Engine Slippers, those broken Despicable Me Happy Meal toys and that 'That's not my Sweeties, That's my Mummy's Prozac' hardcover books. So we keep all that shit lying about the place."

We moved here in January from England with 7 suitcases of necessities. I can tell you, it has taken the gestation period of a baby for the crap to have spawned. I swear my daughter's Barbies have been humping away at night and creating more Barbies. Where the hell have they all come from?

I dare you all to go upstairs, pick up ten toys that your kids haven't played with since Jedward made their debut, and toss them away. THEY WON'T NOTICE. And if they do, just put on that blank face that means, well mummy doesn't know what you are yammering on about.
I just did that, and it was cathartic. Now for a well deserved gin.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Friends - When is it 'safe' to have an argument. Part 2.

So my daughter comes home from school last night and delightedly tells me:

"Mummy, *** says that his mummy has decided she will be friends with you again."

If you read my post from a few weeks ago (just scroll down a bit) you will see that I had a bit of a ruction with two friends because their lovely but boyish boys were making my daughters life a little bit uncomfortable when we went away together. I snapped, I apologised, I forgot about it. One of the mums and I have a bit of a laugh about it sometimes, and have since been away together, with great success.

It would seem not so with Mum no.2. We have gone from contact each other several times a week to me occasionally calling, and being either ignored or a flimsy excuse given for avoiding me. I have seen her a couple of times, and I hoped I had been forgiven. I don't want to beg to have her as a friend, but it all feels so teenage girl 'she said, then I said'-ish. I could tell I was still in the dog house, and this was proof from a child's mouth. She is a really great lady, she makes me laugh, but I guess I pushed her too far in my irritation with her son.

It's awful to think that I am able to make a close friend and lose a close friend within 9 months. It makes you question how likeable you are. We all think ourselves as being flawed, but never suppose it would stop people from not wanting to know us. I am a gregarious person, I love my solitude but also love to have a great old yak with friends.

It also makes me wonder what she is saying to other people: 'don't go near 1950s Housewife, she's a right psycho'. I guess the only thing to do now is smile at her outside the school and move on and make other friends. Only this time I will keep my mouth firmly shut about criticising their child in any way. If there is ever a problem again, I will just walk away with my daughter.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yippee! Back to school tomorrow. Am I the only one who is excited?

It would appear that I am one of the less 'Muesli-like' parents around the place and I am positively rejoicing in the return of my daughter to her school. Added to that, my son is going to be starting pre-school so I will have a little bit more 'sanity time'.

I thought that every parent would be thrilled at having their time back to themselves again. It would appear not. I seem to be in a very small minority of people who can't wait for school to begin again. Every other person I have spoken to seems to be in the doldrums about the end of chaos and return of the school run. But then again, as I have mentioned, the Canadian school holidays is nearly 3 months long.

Am I such a child hating parent? No....
But I do think children are like chillies. A little bit of them adds piquancy to life. Too much is just a brain blowing mess.
Perhaps it is that I love routine. I like knowing that I do blah on a Tuesday, Yadda-yah on a Thursday and thingy on a Friday. Summer holidays are too much like anarchy. And yes, there is the excitement of being in PJ's until 10am if you want, but when your toddler is up at 5.45 every morning, a chance to lounge around until late is not a bonus. He is chewing the furniture by 9a.m. unless we get out of the house. Roll on teenage years when I will get my revenge in hideous fashion by playing '90's music loudly outside his bedroom and hoover in an inconsiderate way at 7am.

How has your summer holiday been? Are you glad to see the wee devils go back, or am I the only one.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When can you officially call yourself a 'writer'?

Lately, I have been flogging a few articles around the place and actually earning money from them. Not much, but enough to have covered this weeks food shopping bill.

In total, I have earned $60 from writing non-fiction this month and $500 from fiction. What does this make me professionally? Apart from still a bit poor?

I look at the website and see that many of the articles are written by 'freelance writers' or 'journalists'. When do they feel able to label themselves that? I would feel incredibly cheesy putting 'freelance writer' on my passport, and yet that is what I currently do to earn pocket money. I have a profession that I can only do once I go back to England which earns me so much more than I have earned from writing. I should label myself with that profession, right?

I only ask because I do think that putting freelance writer on your letters to editor when you are flogging ideas sounds better than 'bottom and nose wiper, dealer in tantrums, cleaner, meal preparing current full time mum.'

By the way, I am honestly writing this sitting on my basement steps surrounded by spiders and winter gear trying to escape from my children. I think they have found me. It's like The Shining....
"Here's Johnny!!!!!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I am so sorry blog for my neglect.

Blame the summer holidays spent with two small children taking me away from you.
Blame my new Mac computer, which I cannot work out how to put photos on my blog, so feel guilty that it all looks a bit dull.
Blame the fact that sometimes I just can't be arsed to write and that watching Jersey Shore 2: Miami seems more appealing.
Blame the fact that I have discovered that I can get paid to rant online. A minimal sum, but if you are going to write about it anyway, you may as well earn some pennies.

But I miss you. I miss being able to splat my thoughts onto you without editing my brain. I miss reading other people's blogs on British Mummy Bloggers, but that has fallen by the wayside as well. I miss the routine and structure of sitting down and writing, but my children are like mini-Paris Hiltons, incredibly high maintenance. And as I mentioned earlier, the summer holiday is now approaching three months long. THREE FRICKIN' MONTHS. WTF?!? It's not like children are being used to bring in the harvest anymore. Although there are a couple here I will lend for some threshing of wheat if anyone takes them off my hands.

I am so desperate for time to myself I have taken to going to the scary bug-ridden basement that the children won't enter and typing away for a few minutes. How and why do people who home school do it? I love my children, but not all the bloody time.

So, as the new term starts, I promise to stop neglecting you. Even if you don't pay me anything.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Are you happiness levels fixed?

I think I am a moderately happy person. Not dalai lama happy, not depressed. I have my moments of sheer joy, and moments of doom and gloom.

But I think that no matter how my circumstances chance, no matter how wonderful my life may, and could be, I cannot change my base-level happiness.

I know this, as I am living my 'dream life'. I live abroad, in a fantastic cheery country, my children are a bit whiny, but otherwise hale and hearty. My husband is my best friend and I love him after all these years. I am finally being a stay at home mum, which is what I yearned to do when I was trying to juggle my job and young children.

Six months of this, and I could categorically say I am no happier than I was when I was stressed at work, not pleasing my husband, and snapping at the children.
You see, other stressed invade the place of the old ones. The new ones involve the illness of family members back at home, the guilt of dragging the children away from their home, the guilt of knowing we will be dragging the children God-knows-where in six months time, the guilt of not contributing money, the guilt of abandoning a hard fought for career. This list goes on.
Perhaps you could say the honeymoon period of the emigree is over. So the bliss of the new for the first six months is over. Perhaps it is biology that keeps our happiness levels at a fixed place, and you have no choice where that place may be.

It is said that happiness is a fleeting thing, not a background emotion. It is slippery to catch and hold onto for long periods.
I have one secret weapon though in the search for happiness. There is a pond near our house where we go 'frogging' most evenings. Hearing the squeal of my daughter as she picks up a particularly juicy big frog and the fruity Sid James laugh of my son as the frog indignantly plops back into the pond is like an injection of sheer happiness.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why old fashioned is sometimes best when there are children around.

I have been reading the paper this morning. No, not the shockingly awful Canadian papers that take roughly 3.5 minutes to flick through before realising there is no news here. The good ol' British press.
I love the Times on Sunday. And The Guardian, and the Mail, and the News of the Screws. Hell, just stick 'On Sunday' at the end of it and I will read a toilet roll packet.

The problem is, I can only read it online. This is obviously a good thing, in a lot of ways. Five years ago I would have been stuck with the hell of Canadian newsprint. But the bad thing is, when I am on my laptop, I am fair game for the kids.

Holding a dull as ditchwater newspaper up around your face gives a signal to the children. It clearly says 'I am doing dull adult stuff. You are welcome to join me doing dull adult stuff.' And off the children trot to greener pastures.

A laptop to them is the treat of The Flintstones on YouTube, CBeebies games, seeing Granny on Skype. Fun fun fun stuff. I am no longer in the realm of dull. I am there to be pestered on Sunday morning.

I wish the Canadians would get their act together with their newspapers, otherwise, we are moving back to England so I can get an hour of peace on a Sunday morning.

Oh, and two things, I have a new laptop and have no idea how to cut and paste for photos yet [blush] and I have seriously spent money lately that my frugality is well out of the window.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What do I do about my lying, cheating, stealing daughter?

That title seems a little harsh. I have made my 6 year old daughter sound like J.R., or worse still, Jeffery Archer.

But that is the bare truth of it. Around about now, children learn the ability to lie. And my daughter is doing it in spades.
"Did you take those sweets when I told you not to?"
"No Mummy. [sound of crunching sweets and the rustling of a wrapper being shoved under a pillow.]

It's so hard to deal with. I know, because had there been a prison for tiny prisoners, I would have been placed there many, many times. My life of petty crime was sustained, and extremely petty. I stole: an eraser from a shop, a party popper (which I then let off in the car, forcing mum to stop thinking we had a tyre blow-out), a brass bracelet from a play group and untold sums of coins of small denominations. Shocking.
I also would cheat at any board game I could get my hands on, even Cluedo (and that is difficult). I used to lie to everyone about truly trivial crap.

In short, I have enormous sympathy for my daughter and feel a hypocrite for having to chastise her. Do I come down on her too hard (like my stepfather used to, with the effect of alienating us from him) or too soft, like my mum, in which case there is no effect at all.

My friends have been of no help either. Apparently, their children are of such high moral fibre that they never do such things. They seemed so shocked by my daughters sneakiness (pilfering stickers when told not to etc) that I feel as though my child must be the only one on the planet to have told a fib.

I was getting in quite a state about it, until I spoke to my sister yesterday. She laughed when I told her my worries.
"For God's sake. When I was six I told the mother at a friends birthday party that I wanted to take two party bags for each of my two sisters. I then proceeded to eat all the contents myself until I was sick. I have not been sent to Holloway Prison as far as I know. Lighten up."

It was just the advice I needed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friends - when is it 'safe' to have an argument?

I have spent the past two days a cottage with a friend. We fell out midway through the first day. Only for a minute, possibly five. But still...there it was, for that five minutes we did not like each other.

How soon can a NBF (New Best Friend - ick) and you argue, and the friendship survive? A week, a month, a year, never? This friendship was shiny-new, about 6 months old. Like a newborn we tended it lovingly, excited over every tentative development. We could drop in on each other. She was starting to hear about my skeletons in the cupboard, and me hers. But it feels as though the newborn has suddenly sprouted fangs.

What was the row about? Children, of course. That is a surefire way to disagree with even the most amiable friend. Her son and my daughter are kind-of friends. They wouldn't choose to hang around each other - she is Queen Barbie, and he doesn't think the day has been a good one unless he has had roughly 88 sword fights. But when it is just the two of them they muddle along fine.

Only, it wasn't just the two of them. A friend had rented the cottage next door and she has a son - who also likes swords. My daughter was teased, battered, subtly and not so subtly ignored, "Girls can't be in the rebel space command". Until the point she just looked pale faced and miserable.

I tried to think of 'bonding games', games that might give her a toehold in the boys imagination, but it was no good. By this time, she had become dull and flat, wouldn't you if every time you tried to join in a conversation you were put down?

I pointed it out to my friend, how it was upsetting me that my daughter was miserable. Her son got a sharp speaking to, and I got a sharper telling off. It was brief, 'He is fine. My son is being just fine' I think she said. I tried to apologise, telling her I was just worried. But by this time, the red mist had descended on her, and I just looked an overreacting bitch.

The afternoon limped on. I wanted to go home, but couldn't as she was driving. We forgave each other, we laughed about out little contretemps and gave each other a hug. She told me she never argued with friends. I felt that made me look kind of special, in a bad sort of way.
This morning, all was well. Except a little scar on the newborn friendship. It itches, it is healing, but hasn't healed. We left each other, all smiles, and yet my hand is going to hesitate next time I think of calling her.

I feel like a schoolgirl who angered her best friend. It's so sad, as I like her, and I like her son. These are such petty, silly things that won't be remembered in a decades time. But friendships are such precious, fragile things. I wonder if this one will get beyond the forgive, so that we can forget and move on.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why don't I like men much?

That sounds incredibly sexist and marginalises 50% of the population, doesn't it?

So let me qualify that statement. I don't understand men much, and I think it is quite a recent thing. I have always been mystified by boys and their stereotypical interests (rugby, football, collecting strange things, mending shit etc), and was never able to banter with them. I blame having 3 sisters and an absent father (never blame yourself, always blame your past. It's so much easier that way I find!). Eeeps - saying men are only interested in sport and mending is like saying women only like gossip and shoes. Ah well, it I am aware of the stereotyping here.)

But there were boys who were able to be a little bit girly (we called them blo-birds. i.e., part bloke, part bird) who I did bond with. Boys who didn't seem to have to adopt that weird barking laugh when some lame joke was told. Boys who could watch Dirty Dancing, or at least tolerate the soundtrack. Boys who chatted, rather than held forth about topics.

But those boys seem to have disappeared from my life. The last one was a stay at home dad who had me in fits of giggles at the crusty old church hall toddler group I used to go to. We have now moved away, and away from the blo-birds it would seem. The men around here laugh-bark at golf jokes, hold forth on why the healthcare system is collapsing and seem obsessed by playing squash.

All my friends husbands are very pleasant, but they make me feel as though I am whittering. I probably am, but who wouldn't want to have an indepth conversation about whether Robert Pattinson would kick Zac Efrons arse, or the other way around?

I am lucky that my husband is a blo-bird. His little sister beat girlishness into him from an early age - he even knows how to sing all the harmonies to the soundtrack to 'The Kids From Fame'. Thank goodness he can tolerate my whittering and I can tolerate him shouting at the TV when there is sport showing.

But I feel as though, as a full time mum, I in some kind of conversational convent. Where men are not invited or welcome. I want to change that. It is toxic to only be exposed to one gender, one way of thinking, one way of doing. So in the next few weeks, I start adopting a barking laugh, you will know that I am trying my hardest to get rid of my prejudices and integrate with the other 50% of the population.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I have so blown it...

My spending diary looked quite fascinatingly frugal until about 3 hours ago when I was let loose in our local mall. Unchained from the kids I seemed to do a 'clothing binge' and now I feel a little bit sick.
All the clothes were fairly cheap, but there it is, in black and white, I spent $300. That's about £175 in Blighty-cash. For that, though, I got:

  • 3 dresses (lovely light and airy ones that will let the breeze float about my nethers)
  • 10 little t-shirt thingies. The white ones I had were starting to go terminally grey. I know there is an ancient way of solving this by borax and sunlight but the 'Going to Gap sale' method was far easier.
  • 4 pairs of nice pretty nude-ish knickers when I realised that the lovely floaty dresses were a touch see-thru.
  • A pair of Nine West Jackie-O style sunglasses that probably make me look like a bug rather than Jackie-O.
  • A cute sundressy-nightgown, the nights here are now officially muggy and I am past wanting to terrify the kids with me ranging around naked at night.
  • A rather enormous feeling of guilt.

Never mind. Back to the budget tomorrow.

Just worried about how to explain this binge to my husband though. I think the 'Look how pretty and seethru this nightydress thing is, so much more sexy that the flannel PJs I normally wear' will probably do the trick.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Have I betrayed my daughter?

I feel as though I am the Judas in our mother/daughter relationship.

I left my white-faced daughter at day camp this morning, in a room which epitomised her worst nightmare. My daughter loves dolls, and sitting, and flowers and sitting, and card games and sitting.
This room had about 30 kids hurling hoops about with gay abandon, basketballs flying, noise noise noise and not a single doll. In fairness, this is a 'nature camp' where the day involved planting, a nature walk and 'playground based activities'. That doesn't sound too bad, I reckon.

But she was NOT BEST PLEASED to be left.
In Canada, there is a day camp culture during the summer that doesn't exist in Blighty. The summer holidays are much longer here, and it is the norm to send your child for football, swimming, arts and crafts camps etc. They are great...for parents. And I hear you argue why have kids if you just send them off the minute they are on holiday? Because the holiday is THREE MONTHS LONG!!

Not always too sure about how these things are for the kids. One of my friends had her child thoroughly mutiny this morning and refused to go. She is desperate for some time off and sounded gutted about having the chap around for the week.

I grew up in Canada and have nothing but fond memories of camps. The shinned knees, getting a crush on the hot camp councillor (who was probably age 17) and giggling alot. I probably blocked out the homesickness, the boredom and the repetitive macaroni sticking. I think she may like the 'Acting Camp' she is going to do in 2 weeks time (that is my plan, one week on, one week off).

Poor daughter, I am picking her up in half an hour, and then I will know if I get the rest of the week 'off' with just my toddler.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What to do on 'no-energy days'? Ideas please.

I repeat blah, blah, blah.

Do you ever have days where you are just not in the mood for 'doing stuff' with your young children? Where you wish their days away hoping they will morph into a teenager and not want to know you - just so that you could get on with your day in a sane and orderly fashion?

I have woken this morning with a summer cold. So has my toddler. We are both a wee bit crabby, but nowhere near bed-ridden. I am not in the mood to play 'Go Fish' with my newly card-sharkish daughter. I don't want to push my son around on the pavement on an oversized bike for hours on end. I want to go 'Blah' all day.
It was one of those days where I watched my husband go off to work (it was a day to be spent 'doing paperwork' rather than seeing patients - in other words, a bit of a doss day) with envy.

And my friend cancelled on me as her child has 'bowel problems' so I have faced the day mostly alone.

We have cycled/scootered up to the local cafe, decimated the local toy shop and played several games of 'Go Fish'. To the point where I want to tip toxic waste in the fish pond.


I don't like wishing the days away. I want to enjoy each day with them, to savour their precious childhood, to admire every ladybird and examine every flower.

But it's bloody hard work when your head has been stuffed with lint. Off we go, in a minute, to the park. Blah, blah, blah.

Today's spend: $20 on a coffee, 2 chocolate milks and an insulated coffee cup. Surely the insulated cup with help with future expenses.
Oh yes, and $5 for a pack of cards, which i am deeply regretting now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The tyrrany of sunshine...

Do you find the sun a tyrant?

In Britain, there is so little sunshine usually it's a wonder we are not all walking around with rickets. It's hardly a surprise that when the sun does make a rare appearance, it seems a sin to waste the day indoors.
Which is fine if it is sunny for a couple of days, then grey for a day, then sunny again for a bit, then grey etc. But when the sun lasts weeks - what is a housewife to do?

I see that England is enjoying a heatwave. It's pretty damn hot here in Canada as well.

My natural instinct as a Brit. is to fling myself and the tots outside and soak up every precious ray of Canadian sunshine now we are living over here. But that means that my house will look like a hole within a week and instead of rickets we will get scurvy from lack of supermarketing.
I can't resist the calling of my inner nag telling me 'not to waste the day, God knows when it will be sunny again' and yet I feel guilty being inside writing this on such a glorious day.

It's not as though I love slinging on my bikini and getting a tan. In fact, I loathe tanning. I just love to be outdoors, in the shade, or pootling around on a beach or paddling pool on a day like today. With a great big floppy hat and Factor 60 sunscreen.

I think I like rain. It allow me to potter about the house, guilt free. I don't think I could live in Florida, or Perth where it was sunny all the time. I know after a while the sun worshipping novelty would wear off, but I don't think the perpetual guilt about 'wasting the day' would.
Canada seems perfect, with it's imperfect weather.

Spend today: $11 on coffee and chocolate milk at a cafe. We ended up staying out later this morning than I thought and the snack disappeared far too quickly.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is this the worst parenting advice?

I don't even know where to start, this advice is so awful. The normally reasonable Dr Tanya Byron has effectively medicalised a nine-year old girl for wanting to be a tomboy. This is the article.

The mother is complaining that her nine year old, who in all other ways is 'normal' only wants to wear 'boys clothes'. And Dr T.B., instead of saying:

'Yes, this is quite normal for many, many, many girls. And they do not
grow up to be warped, hated individuals, they are simply girls who find they
can climb, play football better, run, cavort, do roly-polys better without a
skirt made of tulle and a push up bra specially designed for tweens.
They have not entered that world yet where they will be judged mainly on their
appearance, and long may she stay a child and unjudged a while longer.'

Instead, she adds fuel to the poor, overanalysing mothers fire and throws out comments about sexuality, 'tactile defensiveness' and essentially labelling this child to be abnormal.

Now, I don't know about you, but I was a 'tomboy'. I don't think I wore any other colour apart from navy blue until I was about 13. My hair was a rather unfortunate bowl haircut, and I hated to go to the hairdresser to be girliefied. Both my sisters were 'girlie girls'. I don't think I had a gender problem, I just wanted to climb trees. I didn't have 'touch sensitivity' I just hated the hairdresser. I didn't have any abnormality, I just HATED shopping with a passion only rivalled my passion for ponies.

My mum didn't make a big deal of it. As long as I was clean, that was fine. Bless her.

At age 13 a man in a shop called me 'sonny'. And that was the end of my tomboy days. I slowly accepted prettier clothes, and hairstyles, modelling myself on Susannah Hoff from the Bangles.

We analyse too much what little girls are up to. Too boyish in blue, too girlish in pink. I just hope Dr Tanya Byron has not given this mother free reign to try and squash her daughters free spirit.

Todays spend: $10 for magazines. Had a long wait at the dentists, and knew I didn't want to read 7 year old Readers Digests.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just another manic Sunday...

When did Sunday's stop being about having a leisurely read of the papers, followed by meeting friends at the park/pub/cinema?

Oh yes. About the same time as I had children. Strange

Saturdays & Sundays still linger in my memory as days of complete sloth. But since my son arrived, he who is incapable of sleeping to a decent hour, he has given me the gift of the morning. A not altogether wanted gift most mornings. But yesterday morning, I hauled us out of the house at 7.45am (he had been awake for 2 hours and was threatening to wake husband-with-a-hangover and daughter) and took a walk along the waterfront.

And how beautifully precious was that walk. In gentle daylight we observed all the bunting-bedecked warships in the harbour, some returned from Haiti, some British, all fascinating to a little boy. We ambled along the wooden waterfront walkway and had a chocolate milk in a cafe. Then explored the buzzing farmers market as he pointed out all the colours of the flowers - wrongly but cutely. Then we climbed on a wooden pirate ship and 'torpedoed' imaginary foes.

All before 9a.m.

There is something wonderful about seeing a city at daybreak, a stillness and newness which makes you want to repeat it the next weekend. Only next weekend, I suspect I probably won't be arsed and instead switch on Bob the Builder DVD instead, as usual.
I hope not. I loved sharing the morning with my little boy.

Total spend for yesterday: $10 on an overdue library DVD. Damn it - Pocahontas wasn't even that good!

$10 on frickin' jelly beans. I bought them as a little present for a girl, and it was only after they were wrapped prettily in ribbons that they weighted them and it was too late to back out. Bugger.

$20 on lunch for my daughter and I. Oops. I tried hard on that one, I only had a starter size salad, daughter had chips, and yet it still came to quite a bit.

$25 for a book for a baby.

Total: $65. Not good. I repeat - Damn it. Must try harder.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't put baby in the corner...

We recently joined (at great cost) the whitest, most 'Dirty Dancing' type club you could imagine. So there is no Baby with a shirt tied above a toned little belly, or a lithe Patrick Swayze rhumba-ing about the place. Instead there is me, skulking away in a black Speedo swimsuit, trying to assess if I have 'spiders legs' peeking out from the bottom half, whilst wrestling with my kids in one of the many pools in this place.

I wish someone would put me in the corner, so I could have a couple of minutes to myself.

I became very concious today that there are many uber-yummy-mummies about the place. The kind that may have the odd stretch mark, but are otherwise toting a beaming baby and tow-headed toddler and giving Heidi Klum a run for her money on the 'post-baby flat belly' phenomenon. They are the kind of mums who have shiney honey coloured hair, and the shine is not from a mix of grease, suntan oil and mayonaise (as is mine) but from careful use of serums.
And yes, many of them are my friends, damn it. I am letting the side down somewhat, and one pair of glittery FitFlops is not going to do it. I am going to have to go full Bree Van Der Camp methinks.

Joining this club has made a mammoth dent in our budget, but so far, out of the week we have been members, I have been there five days. Five days of not having to devise a plan to entertain the wee blighters. Just plonk them in the giant sandbox with running water or bob about in a pool, trying to ignore the spiders legs resembling sea anemones around my ladygarden.

That makes it good value for money if I essentially take up residence there? I keep trying to justify the expense to myself and my husband. Perhaps we could move out of here and move into the clubhouse boiler room.

And who knows, maybe I will have a mild flirtation with one of the lithe tennis instructors who inhabit the club. After all, at that club I would be considered a 'lady who lunches', even if the lunch is some sweaty, sagging ham sandwiches on 'best of both' bread. And flirting with tennis instructors is what lunching ladies do? Right?

Today's spend: Nothing! Again!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Spendthrifts Stab at being Frugal - The Anne of Green Gables Attitude to money.

I feel I have a touch of Anne Shirley about me. I daydream too much, I talk too much and I am also in love with Gilbert Blythe.

There is a part in Anne of Green Gables where (not the exact quote, but the spirit of it) Anne acknowledges that she talks too much, but if you only knew how much she wanted to say but didn't, you would be quite impressed.

This sums up my relationship with money quite nicely. If I bought all that I reaaally thought I needed, I would need three times our income. So my restraint in only buying one jar of overpriced, home-made, gorgeous jelly last weekend from this adorable store at $10 a jar shows, in my mind, remarkable restraint when all around me my friends were buying up the shop.

Unfortunately, my husband and bank manager would not see the effort in this. Sigh.

Day 2 of my spending challenge and I spent: $4 on a parking meter!

So far, so good. I took the kids to a Natural History museum and packed water and chocolate chip cookies. I could have walked to the museum and saved the parking fee. It is about 30 mins walk away, but you know those walks that are easy to do with the pram, but not so easy with a reluctant 5 year old? This is one of those walks. I thought it best for all (except for the seals and penguins in the north pole) if we took the car.

This blog is definitely helping. I have sent an email to all my close family explaining that I don't want any presents for us or the kids for the rest of the year (we would only have to leave it behind when we move back to England anyway next year) and that a card and photos would be great instead. We will not be sending presents either. I have had very happy people emailing us back saying they are also on a budget so it's been well received.

Off this afternoon for a paddle with the kids. That will be free as well. Hurray for mother nature.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Spendthrifts Stab at Frugality - Part 1

The summer holiday here in Canada at my daughter's school arrived two weeks ago. Two bloody weeks ago. What the hell is that about?

That means it is roughly three months of entertaining two gorgeous, screechy, energetic, diverse, doll-obsessed, train-obsessed children for umpteen weeks by myself from 7am-6.30pm.
I thought my daughter's 6 weeks holiday back in Blighty was bad enough.

That makes me sound like I don't like my children, which I do. A lot. But I also like brie and champagne a lot too but wouldn't want to be force fed it for 3 months. This morning alone we have:
  • Read stories in bed
  • Had a friend come over for 2 hours and played fairly well at 'Star Wars - Let's Pretend the Toddler is Darth Vader and Attack him for the Duration of the Playdate'
  • Gone for a very slow painful bike ride around the block, each taking it in turn to whine if the gradient rises even slightly on the sidewalk
  • Play-doh toss and hide in Mummy's soles of her socks.
  • Etc.

I seem to lose my temper every quarter hour. Help. It is going to be a long summer if this carries on.

Anyhow, the reason why I have written this is that I seriously need to budget.

Seriously. As in 'Oh Shit, I am scared to look at the bank balance'

You see, this part of Canada is not as cheap as you think. Coupled with the fact that I am not allowed to work and my husband is on an academic salary (read that as low), we are up a creek financially. Our rent takes up the whole of the salary even before we wake up. And the expenses, mainly on the kids...eeeek.

We have accepted every second hand thing thrown at up. Begged, borrowed and nearly stolen. But some things have had to be bought. Like a new bed, as the futon the house came with was like being interrogated by the Spanish inquisition. Like the 3 helmets my daughter needed, one for skating, one we bought thinking it was a skating helmet and turned out to be a skiing one but couldn't be taken back, and the one for her bike. I mean, come on, how many ways can you hit your head?!?

Like swimming lessons for my daughter, who goes off in an almighty huff if she suspects my husband and I are trying to teach her swimming ourselves. Like two snowsuits and boots for the winter, like new sunsuits and shoes for the summer, like the kettle which exploded week 2, like the kids cutlery, like the frying pan, like sheets for the bed. AAARRGH.

I am hopeless at household budgets. I am no stranger to charity shops, all my books come from the library. But bugger me if the money still rolls through my fingers. Like a dieter who secretly knows where they are going wrong but deludes themselves they are perfect - my list of no-no's is terrifyingly long. Here they are:

  • Magazines. Just the odd one, but they add up.
  • Coffees at coffee houses. I don't know how I will stop those, as half my social life takes place at a fantastic cafe with a train table which keeps my toddler happy for a blissful hour.
  • Presents for other people. Did I really need to buy my friend a handmade wooden chopping board. Yes I did, it was from such a cuuuuuute farmers market.
  • Expensive meat. Because cheap meat gives me the eebie-jeebies.
  • Shoes. Perhaps buying Fit-Flops for $100 was not a good economy. But you never know, I may get buns of steel from wearing them. Hmm.
  • Just petty little crapola spends in a day which you don't even notice and yet there they are, adding up.

So, like a dieter, I am going to write down what I spend every day this holiday (or until I forget) so that it may bring back control to my life and possibly even a degree of shame.

Today's total spend, thus far = Nothing!

Hooray. But I must point out I have really not left the house properly yet. Ah well.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Toddlers - when they finally break you.

For all my good intentions this morning, I ended up bellowing at my toddler.

He is an adorable, lively, car-obsessed little chap, and we all love him dearly. But his emotions would put a hormonal, hissy teenage girl to shame. He chooses a cereal, then decides it's the wrong one (once the milk is poured, of course) - major cadenza. So we do 'dance of the seven cereals' every morning.

He wants to wear his wellies, but it's 27 degrees out, he wants to wear sandals in the pouring rain, I let him, he sobs that his socks are wet.
He carries a tiny car in his little mitt, everywhere we go, but loses it just as we are about to leave somewhere.
He wants whatever his sister wants. It doesn't matter what it is.
He will only eat noodles at lunchtime.
He wants to 'drive' our car as soon as we pull into the driveway - then will not leave it without a ten minute fit.
In short, he is a toddler.

I know what I am writing is true of all, or at least most toddlers. I know it is exhausting for all parents. I know bellowing is not the answer. But when you have to summon the negotiating skills of Butros Butros Ghali and ALL of the United Nations for every tiny detail of the day, a bellow sometimes escapes.

I like to think I am quite a jolly mum usually. I have a fine repertoire of talking stuffed animal chats, I am more singy than Rod, Jane and Freddie put together, and I think nothing of making a tit of myself on a regular basis - purely for the delight of my children. But I don't think I do the toddler thing well at all. It all seems so needless, the fighting and cajoling, the 'time-outs' and the givings-in.

I just left him at daycare, his one short day a week where I get to have five hours off to sort the house out. But I feel so sad that he is thinking of me bellowing at him because of his new stupid, bloody coat. His little tear stained face is going to haunt me all day. The worst part of it is, he loves it there, and within five minutes I know he has forgotten about it already and is making a big mud pie with his mates.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Friends who make you feel insecure.

Some women seem designed to make you question how entertaining you are. Are you fun, are you stylish, is your house a thing from the pages of Elle Magazine? Are your children from the pages of a Boden catalogue? Or are you more likely to be from the pages of Mumsy Magazine Quarterly (in this months issue - how to blend in with your oatmeal coloured sofa. Simply wear your usual dull clothes and ensure you don't apply lipstick. That should do it!)

There is a saying that you should live in the worst house in the best area. I am not sure if this holds water. We do, and it sucks. Just a bit. Our house is not tiny, but it is bijou. It is charming. It has mismatched rental furniture which is always just a bit sticky despite cleaning. It could fit into the extension of the house around the corner from us. All around us though it is like Wisteria Lane. Yummy Mummy's, gorgeous flaxen haired children romping about in clap-board New Englandly mansions. We look a bit like trailer trash compared to them. Having the worst house in the best area is a recipe for discontent. (I fully, fully acknowledge that compared to real suffering this is extremely minor league. Having sticky furniture is not a national emergency.)

And it is not to say that the mum's aren't lovely folk. They are. Very warm and welcoming. But you have to sing for your supper with quite a few of them. It is like trying to keep up with the popular cheerleaders in school, when you know that really your should be with the band geeks. These mums have really opened their hearts (concealed in perfectly gym-toned bodies) and doors (architect designed) to me, but there is a part of me that feels insecure that there doesn't seem to be conditional friendship there. I'm absolutely sure that I am reading too much into it, but I sense I have accidently started moving in circles of the super-wealthy 'royalty' in this area.

On the other hand, I have made some 'warm bath water' friends. They kind of friends who look a little frayed around the edges, don't have personal trainers and admit to their imperfections. When you are at coffee with them it is like immersing yourself in a warm bath and going 'ahhhhhh' with pleasure that you can be yourself.

Why do I run myself down? My children are both flaxen-haired, we are not slack-jawed fools (infact, I would probably be classified as 'a bit posh and brainy' back in England), and although I talk way to much, I am generally considered entertaining. Why am I put off these women by the fact that their kitchens and abdominal muscles look like perfection?

Perhaps it is that they are not a perfect fit for me, nor I for them. So the kitchens and abdominals are a good scapegoat.

It takes a while when you move to a new place to find out which friends are glitter, and which friends are gold.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Finally - a proper posting about housewifely-ness! Holiday wreaths.

A fine example of a holiday Spring Wreath. I want it.

I have been letting the side down about not discussing more housewifely things like muffin baskets and the uses of baking soda.

I think this post will more than make up for it,
I am here to discuss holiday wreaths. In England, wreathes are generally used to celebrate Christmas and well, for the dead.

Here in Canada (or perhaps just the Maritimes - I'm not sure), any occasion is a wreath occasion. You can buy St Patrick day wreaths with shimmering green shamrocks, Easter egg wreaths, generic spring wreaths with silk crocuses (or croci?), wreaths with tiny deck chairs and suntan lotion for summer. You name it, it goes well beyond Christmas and Death.

I have just ordered a spring holiday wreath. A 14inch twisted willow wreath with hydrangea/spring flower melange. I do this because I covet all the wreathes in the neighbourhood. They just seem to lift a property and looks welcoming. Wreaths celebrate whatever time of year it is and they look dead pretty to boot. Once you have the basic willow skeleton, you can embellish it as you will.

So many things have infected the British culture for the worse - trick or treating instead to Guy Fawkes night (I prefer the good old innocent holiday where we burn a catholic on a pile of rickety boxes and watch a Catherine wheel attempt to go around despite being nailed too firmly to your shed.), the term 'whatever' etc. But this is one quirk which I hope will cross the pond.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't bloody tell me 'you haven't got time' to DO something!

It's a phrase that is infecting the English language and it's p*ssing me off.

'I am so busy I haven't got time to...' Fill in the blank. So far I have friends/acquaintances/ heard it on the telly who haven't the time to:
  • Read a book

  • Exercise

  • Keep in touch, even with a quick email

  • Cook a fresh meal for their family, so the kids live on chips and kebabs

  • Clean

  • Read a newspaper

  • Put their feet up

  • Go see a film

  • Have a date with their other half

  • Take their kids to the park

  • Calling you back to say they won't be able to come/meet after all

This list goes on, and on, and on.

Now. I am not saying that we should all be doing all those things on the list. Exercising and keeping in touch are sometimes my weak points. And cleaning. And ironing. But please, could we start calling it what it really is? For 'I haven't the time' please from now on say 'I CANNOT BE ARSED.'

My friend who can't be arsed to read a book or take her kids to the park, goes on three 10 km runs a week and never cooks anything other than beautiful organic food for their children. She also hoovers every day. (gasp)

Another friend can't be arsed to tell you she won't be coming, until 15 minutes after you have arrived at the arranged spot. Yet she is able to have lots of fun making crafts with her children and gardening .She also is able to watch Eastenders, Corrie and Emmerdale. (Something I am 'too busy' to do - watch soaps.)

We all have our priorities. I 'haven't the time' to go on a date with my husband or wash windows. I also 'haven't the time' to do paperwork, but I read two newspapers a day and go to the gym three times a week. I love to cook for the kids but 'have no time' to trim my hair every 6 weeks. Could we all please though start telling people like it is?

This whole 'such a busy person' thing is just a load of chaff. Even when I was working three long days a week, taking a degree and raising the two mini-ones I still ploughed through about 2 crappy novels a week and otherwise lived in the park with the kids. Because that was where my priorities were. I was terrible at going to the gym then, not because I didn't have time, but because my enormous butt was not a priority. My paperwork mountain was a sight to behold and my laundry mountain even higher.

There is almost a feeling of competitive business between people, even friends:

'Sooooo sorry for not getting back to you about that thing last week, I was just sooooo busy.' I tend to read it as 'You are just sooooo low priority in my life that you didn't even factor in my to-do list.'

I would much rather hear: 'Sorry didn't call, I had lots to do and couldn't be arsed. Hey-ho, I'm here now though.'

So let's all just stop being so bloody busy the whole time. Down tools, relax and do something that perhaps you are too busy to be arsed to do. my case that would be paperwork. Bit too busy for doing that at the moment, it would seem...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cringe. How can I ever face my smirking builders again?

Oh the shame.
I can hardly bare to share.
But perhaps you too are having a bad day and hearing someone else's misfortune may give you a little glimmer of joy.

I have just finished rocking in the corner whilst sucking my thumb, trying to erase the sight of the twenty-something builder knocking on my door to remind me not to flush the toilet again as they had disconnected the waste pipe. (They are working on an oil spill in the basement.)

The worst part is, I remembered they were going to do that this morning, just seconds after I had flushed away my, erm, number two.

So I can only speculate in horror at what havoc my flushing 'solid waste' (as they described it - aaaarrrgh) into their work area.

To compound the horror, the workman asked me, in a helpful manner, if I needed another half hour to 'finish up'.

I am NOT my husband, who lives in the loo for the length of a Wagner Ring Cycle (hoho) so I didn't need another half hour to 'finish up'. By now I had swooned with shame in the hallway. The builders smirk remaining on my retina like the Cheshire Cat's grin.

There you go. Just a bodily function tale of cringe. Perhaps I am oversharing, but as it is making me chuckle, so it might make you chuckle as well. Not a life changing post, but just vent my shame. I am going to go now and crawl under a small rock.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smoking in Cars - what else will we look back on and laugh about?

I see that in the news today the effects of passive smoking in cars on children is being debated.

Someones civil liberties are going to be eroded by any law passed or not passed, but whose will it be - parents or child?

I do take a second look at people smoking in cars with a toddler strapped in in the back seat. It just looks, well, wrong, in the same was that lighting up now on a plane would look. Trying not to judge here. Probably failing.

As an asthmatic, this is a subject close to my heart (or lungs). My mother smoked when pregnant with me. It was the 1970s and hey, a few glasses of wine for the road as well was the norm. She has cursed her younger self ever since. Nothing like having to schlep your wheezing, allergic child to clinic after clinic to make that Marlboro lose it's blissful allure.

And no, she didn't smoke with my siblings - all of whom are hale and hearty.

She was able to plead ignorance for the effects of smoking on me. Had she known, she would have given up without a second thought (or so she says).

So what are we doing nowadays that we will look back and cringe about with our children? Will the car seats of the future resemble full body casts of foam and we will laugh at our feeble attempts at safety? Will we find that fizzy drinks are the alcohol of the future, just one sip leading to the undiagnosed 'Foetal Fizz Intoxication'? Or perhaps, what we have slightly expected all along, that any mother who let their child go near a phthalate (a plasticizer in a children's toy, for example) is a BAD, BAD MOTHER.

What will cause future harm will probably come out of left field. An innocuous thing we are all doing and seems normal, like a Victorian mother letting a baby suck sugary gin-soaked rags as soothers. (Mmmm - gin soaked rag. I could just do with one of those right now...)

Occasionally, my mum will apologise to me about her smoking. I always hug her and tell her that having asthma, eczema and allergies has made me a stronger person, in a funny kind of way. Challenge is a good thing, right? But part of me will always point a little finger of blame at her for not knowing then, what we know now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coping with a disasterous haircut - help!

Dave Hill of Slade

Never trust a hairdresser who tells a thirty-something woman their proposed haircut will make them look 'edgy'.

It is impossible to look edgy when you have a face puffy from lack of sleep (thanks darling toddler) and lack the sharp cheekbones of Audrey Tatou. The concept of 'edgy' in these circumstances is about as likely as an outfit making me look 'fierce'.

I asked for a hairstyle that might make my standard 'Rachel cut' updated. (yes, I know it's all a bit 90's, but it really suits me. Honestly - I even look a little like her if you squint really hard after a glass or two of Pinot Noir) My perky 20-something hairdresser suggested an asymetric 'edgy' fringe and then lots of flicky layers.
It sounded so reassuringly nice...

...and looked great coming out of the hairdressers.

The problem is, in common with most mothers, I do not have the time (or finances) to apply three different products to my hair, use clips so I can pouf it up at the back and then flat-iron the hell out of it.

The asymmetric fringe has boinged up a centimeter so I look like a cross between Dave Hill (above) of Slade and the local village idiot. The flicky layers have removed any natural volume there was before so I now have, what can be best described as a limp mullet.

I have not had such a bad haircut since I requested my mum cut my hair to resemble Princess Diana in the mid-80s. At the end of that I looked like a boyish village idiot.

Why is there not a mirror at the hairdressers that doesn't show the hair as it is immediately after a cut, but as it will be when you have had a bit of a go at it two days later? I am going to develop one to save millions of women every year the trauma of FDS - Follicular Disappointment Syndrome.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Child goes to 'Alice in Wonderland' Scandal

Warning: plot spoiling blog!

What kind of fool parent takes a sensitive 5 year old girl to Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland' for a March Break treat?

(1950's Housewife tentitively raises hand to tutting from the audience)

OK, OK so it wasn't the wisest of cinematic choices. But when your daughter begged to go to the cinema as a treat and the two choices are 'Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 -Let's Give Mum a Migraine' or scaring your offspring witless with Johnny Depp and some dodgy highlighted hair, then there is no choice. One of us was going to have nightmares and I decided it wouldn't be me.

And possibly, just possibly, making her see it in an IMAX theatre in 3-D was also not sensible. Tim Burton could not work out if this was a film for children or adults so it was a bit like watching a Disney film crossed with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

My daughter held up well, fuelled by a vast bucket of popcorn, until poor Alice had to climb across corpses mouldering heads to reach the Red Queens castle. Even Anne Hathaway's white queen brought no relief for us - she made a potion, not from fairy dust, but whithered severed fingers.
By the time the Jabberwocky's head bounced down the stairs my daughter was curled up in foetal position on my lap, unsettled, mewling but refusing to leave.

Was it a good film for adults? Erm, not great. I found it to be a strange mixture of dullness and frenetic activity. Alice was bland in a flouncy dress at the beginning, her journey took her to a place where she was able to be bland in armour.

Tim Burton has a signature style of gothic curiousness, but one day I would just like to see him try and film a common or garden cop movie with Bruce Willis. Alice in Wonderland was recycled Edward Scissorhands, crossed with The Nightmare Before Christmas crossed with more than a bit of Sweeney Todd (boy does Tim love his bouncing heads.)

He is clearly deeply in love with Johnny Depp, not so much so with his wife Helena Bonham-Carter. The camera lingered on Johnny Depp at every opportunity. Poor Helena was quite marvellous as the Red Queen, but at some point she should give in to the fact that no matter how ugly her husband makes her in each film, she is beautiful.
Matt Lucas was a small beacon of light as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

All in all, I would not recommend this film to parents with children under 8. And in the same breath, I would not recommend this film to parents, unless you have had a couple of gins first and have a bit of a snooze.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Butter with EXTRA SALT - sweet mama it's so good...

There is very little left to say. Canada is surely the country of the Gods when there is a product, such as butter, where the unique selling point is that there is extra salt in it. Miraculous.
I just tried some on a buttermilk scone (homemade - see and I swear it was the best thing I have eaten. Ever.
Ever, ever, ever.
I have to weigh up the adverse effects of this extra salt. Cardiovascular disease, kidney issues and it is not exactly a friend of cellulite, but compared to the 1.8 minutes of bliss I just experienced, I don't give a tiny rats arse.