Friday, December 5, 2008

Seven/sept/sette/siete/sieben is the magic number!

What a lovely end to the week, when you wake up to the sound of trumpets rejoicing you and the gleam of new bling landing 'plomp!' on your blog.
OK, so the ringing in my ears was the in fact Cheeky and Monkey's usual opera for milk, but the arrival of new bling is bona fide. The lovely Nappy Valley Girl has graciously awarded me with a Superior Scribbler award. What a fantastic early Christmas present. Thank you very muchly NVG!

Plus, Nappy Valley Girl and my fellow home-improvements 'sister' Hadriana, from Hadriana's Treasures, also tagged me to write some lists of sevens. So, as I've sadly got nothing better to do with my Friday night, here they are.

(To mix it up a bit, as 'tis the season and all, I've given some of my 7s a Christmas theme. Forgive me, but I've got AOL Radio Christmas music on and my Chrissie tree lights are a-twinkling...)

7 things I plan to do before my parents arrive next week for Christmas

1. Buy their Christmas presents. (This includes remembering to collect the mugs the boys have made for them, with their own special brand of toddler artwork.)

2. Wash their bedding, dust and hoover their bedroom.

3. Empty out their closet, which is currently full of cobwebs, old files, papers and various mystery cables and leads Him Downstairs and I have no idea what they are for.

4. Wash the cushion and couch covers in the living room. They once were cream. They are now taupe.

5. Take the garden furniture into the garage. My parents will be appalled to see our summer outside toys, table, sun brolly and chairs covered in snow and rotting in the backyard. Hey - autumn kind of flew by.

6. Learn to cook. More than a roast, spag-bol, lasagna, shepherds pie and cakes. I have to feed them for three blinking weeks and both my parents battle for the title of the 'new' Nigella/Gordon in the kitchen. It's a lot to live up to.

7. Get my roots done, legs waxed and eyebrows reeled in. Currently brows look like two squirrels have left their tales above my eyes. Must revert back to the daughter they once knew and not the sweat pant clad Amy-Winehouse-in-rehab state am currently languishing in.

7 things I do now (instead of preparing for Christmas)

1. Worry constantly about how we will afford college/university fees for the boys, our retirement plus feed two extra mouths during the holidays.

2. Spend time blogging and surfing (internet, not oceans) when I should be playing with my children/learning to cook/do the laundry/clean my house/grocery shop. (I could go on...)

3. Trawl Facebook to see what my friends are up to instead of picking up the phone and calling them.

4. Stay in my dressing gown and PJs unless we have to leave the house. Even I am embarrassed for the post-lady who this week, has rung my doorbell three times after midday to deliver parcels,and found me in the same bespectacled PJ state every time. (Bless her, she thought I was sick!)

5. Constantly fight the urge to eat a cookie, every goddamn half hour. Thanks to BlogToFit, I have put myself on a treadmill of cookie deprivation. This is meant to be a good thing, right?

6. Let my children watch too much TV. So I can blog in peace. (I know. The shame. Major Bad Mummy/Mommy points.)

7. Wonder how I will find time to sneak off to blog while my parents are visiting. (And whether to confess to them that I blog. Yes, probably best not to.)

7 things I can't do this Christmas

1. Watch a gazillion hours of crap TV - My parents will want to, wait for it, TALK TO ME!

2. Have drunken sexy shenanigans with Him Downstairs on Christmas morning.

3. Have a wee with the door open. See how that will go down with the children.

4. Go outside for any sneaky celebratory Christmas ciggies. (That was a highlight of having my sister-in-law to stay last Christmas.)

5. Bring myself to take the giblets out of the turkey. That's what you have Mums for.

6. Spend Christmas just the four of us. On a beach. In the Caribbean.

7. Win Monopoly. Well, maybe there's a first time...

7 Christmas wishes

1. A new kitchen. (If I'm a good girl and the US auto industry doesn't sink, Santa might bring me this before next spring.)

2. Some cashmere lounging socks. My current ones are a disgrace. And not cashmere.

3. Zero arguments with the parents. (I'll keep you posted about if this wish comes true, seeings as I can't help but revert back to a sulky teenager in their presence.)

4. Time away from being Mum/Mom. (Hurray, this one's coming true as HD and I are off to NYC for a romantic three night break away from being parents. Thank you Mum and Dad!)

5. To be a better Mummy. This is also a New Year Resolution. I will play with them more and spend more one-on-one time with each of them next year. Honest.

6. To make HD happier. Bless him. He doesn't complain much. But apparenty I don't put out enough. He has a point.

7. Peace, love, harmony and good fortune for all whom I love. Cheesy but true.

7 things I say most often as Christmas approaches

1. Remember, Santa's watching.

2. Stop it! Do you really want me to have to phone Santa?

3. No, no more toy catalogues have arrived in the mail today.

4. Yes, Mummy and Daddy will put the fire out so Santa doesn't burn his bottom when he comes down the chimney.

5. I don't think Santa will fit quite that many toys just for you in his sack darling.

6. No, the reindeer don't live at our house.

7. Thank god: they're asleep.

7 celebrities I'd invite for Christmas dinner

1. Ruth Jones - but for added entertainment, she'd have to come as her Gavin & Stacey character, Vanessa-Shanessa wouldn't she?

2. Louis Theroux -like Nappy Valley Girl, I think he's witty and rather gorgeous.

3. Matthew Macfadyen- great British sex-on-legs actor.

4. Sarah Jessica Parker - great American actress with great shoes.

5. Maureen Lipman- good British actress, very funny and she'll always be Beattie from the British Telecom ads to me. I love the fact that she won an award for "You got an Ology ... "

6. Gary Lightbody - singer and front man with Snow Patrol. He could serenade me as I baste the turkey.

7. Victoria Beckham - just to see if she'd actually eat anything except dust.

7 favourite festive foods
(Though of course, because of my participation in BlogToFit, I'll only be indulging in these modestly this year...)

1. Roast turkey and all the trimmings
2. Cadbury's selection boxes. Hope Santa brings me one. Hint. Hint
3. Terry's Plain Chocolate Orange
4. The Boxing Day ham, mustard mash and green beans we always have
5. Chocolate Yule log
6. Leftover turkey and salad cream sandwiches (Can't get enough of these)
7. Sausage rolls (I've already scheduled my Mum in to bake her usual freezer-filling batch)

7 other bloggers who can do this too if they so wish but please don't feel obliged (I've chosen from my fellow pound-busters at BlogToFit)

1. Turf Dad
2. Deconstructing Jen
3. ThatGirl39
4. NotSuperMum
5. Dave Fowler
6. Tara Cain
7. Dave Wright

And then, not forgetting that Christmas is a time for giving, I'd like to bestow the Superior Scribbler award to the luscious Confused Take That Fan, who has me laughing and crying regularly at her blog and my favourite Auntie, the rock n roll machine that is, Auntie Gwen. I'd love an Xmas mosh with you both!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

BlogToFit update

OK so after feeling a little pleased with myself that I didn't go OTT at Thanksgiving (except with the G&Ts.) I made a big step for BlogToFit this week and got on the scales. I also made some big mistakes - I ate McDonald's for dinner last night. Yes, 'Ouch!' said my hips as another 2lbs of pure fast-food fat crashed onto them.

So feeling bad for my innards, I gingerly dusted down the scales this morning and decided today was the day to find out the truth about how much of a Victoria sponge my muffin top (MT) has become.

I did as all my fellow BlogToFitters advise and had a big wee (a horses wee, Dave?) before I stepped on. Plus I went an extra inch to hopefully save some inches, and shaved my legs and under my arms too. Well, all that winter fur must add to 5lbs surely?

Apparently not. Am not quite as beyond my goal weight as I thought I was, but am also a bit shocked at how the lbs have crept on since the summer, when I last weighed myself.

So, here are the stats:

Starting weight: 125lbs (8 stone 9lbs)
Goal weight: 112lbs (8 stone - pre-babies weight)
Weight last week: N/A (Didn't have the guts to get on the scales!)
Weight this week : 125lbs
Weight lost: N/A
Cookies eaten in a week: 4 (This I am very pleased about as it's usually 2 or 3 a day.)
Exercise: Didn't do so well with this. When I went to the gym, it was closed for refurbishments. (Shows I go so infrequently, that I'd missed the notices warning of impending closure.) But, I did play in the snow twice with the kids, dragging them up the sledging hill and running about, sweating in all my Thinsulate, so I figure that would have knocked some of the evil MT off its perch!

I'll update my stats every Wednesday with the others over at BlogToFit, and hopefully I'll see some improvement in the next six months. I haven't set myself a deadline, but it would be nice to feel back to pre-baby weight by next summer.

I've done it before, two years ago, when Monkey was six months old and we were going to England for Christmas to show him off. I was determined to lose all the baby fat and turn up in the UK looking a Yummy-Mummy. And I walked and walked and walked with the double stroller/pushchair until every last baby pound dropped off. (The jetlag though obviously did nada to help achieve said Yummy-Mummy look. I was more Herman blimmin' Munster's twin for the first five days.)

Plus, I piled all the weight back one with one tin of Roses and several Terry's Chocolate Oranges mind you, but, for the few hours as we flew home and kissed our family and friends hello, my muffin top (MT) took a sabbatical. On the flight back to the US though, MT decided to settle his feet nicely atop the desk again and I haven't been able to fire him since.

Until BlogToFit. And now, even though MT is putting up resistance, with the team of support behind me, I feel I might just be able to finally kick that b*stard's ass once and for all!

Friday, November 28, 2008


As those of you who've read my blog before know, I'm not exactly Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. (Or in the bedroom for that matter, if recent headlines are to be believed!)

Well, that all changed this week as I donned the Cath (Kidston apron) and for the first time since living in the US, hosted a Thanksgiving dinner.

Two other Brit families and the Mom/Mum household got together to celebrate this American holiday, complete with the traditional bird and all the trimmings.

I am thankful for the close friends we have made since living here - the other Brits and us who get together on days in the US calendar usually reserved for family time. With our families across the pond, we tend to search each other out and become 'family' for those days. It's really nice and means we aren't alone on these special holidays.

So this year there were 11 mouths to feed at my house for Thanksgiving. 'Eek!' said I after I offered to host. That's one big bird we need.

And one big bird I purchased, then had to Google, 'How to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey' to ensure I didn't give my guests food poisoning.

The five small people had their own little table, next to ours, which Superdad (aka Him Downstairs) duly decorated with paper hats and stickers for the kids (all boys aged 2-5) to decorate whilst the bird crisped. They were happy chappies - dinner, crafts, a movie in PJs and a sleepover beckoned. (As you can predict, five little boys in one bedroom = not much sleep and plenty of giggling!)

I must admit, I was little apprehensive about cooking this holiday meal. When you're not exactly Delia Smith/Rachael Ray in the kitchen, taking on the task of cooking for 11, can bring you out in a mild 'glow' (OK, very clammy hands and a sweaty back. Nice.)

Too many peas? Not enough brocoli? How many roasties? How many minutes per pound? All that maths had me reaching for the Merlot.

Plus, this year there was the added worry of BlogToFit. Having been inspired by the two Daves and Tara to take my eating bull by the horns and wrestle myself free of its calorie inducing ways, I wasn't sure how I was going to cope with the red wine trying to seduce me and the banoffee pie screaming, 'Eat me, NOW!' Let alone being able to refuse the dripping butter glistening atop the green beans.

Thanksgiving was fast becoming a landslide into food temptation.

There was only one thing to do.

Take a break.

Have a day off.

After all, I've been really good all week. (No exorbitance with the cookies and only fruit munched after 7pm.)

Heck - a big roast won't kill me will it?

So, with the pressure off, I relaxed and enjoyed every last mouthful of my big bird and yummy dessert. I didn't beat myself up that it was a meal of excess, but congratulated myself for not having seconds. Although the table was bursting, I didn't eat myself into a coma and felt much better than I usually do after a holiday dinner. For that I thank BlofToFit. Without their inspiration and the support from the community of fellow bloggers who, like me, are attempting to take those all important small first steps into a healthier and fitter lifestyle, my Thanksgiving day would have been a calorific food mountain.

Instead, it was more of a gentle hill. And I'll all about an amiable stroll than arduous mountaineering.

I have to confess I did indulge in a post-dinner Magherita (err and a few gin and tonics.) Yes, I had the hangover I deserved. But those calories didn't count did they?

pic: cartoon by Rebekah Failla and Artie Romero

Monday, November 24, 2008

HRH Mummy

Tonight as eldest offspring, Cheeky, was getting ready for bed, he comes to me and says,

Your Majesty, please can you help me with my pyjamas?

Shock. Horror.

Hurray! My Family Hierarchy Bootcamp for Toddlers worked!

Job done.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Material Girl

So, there I was last night, watching Madonna Veronice Louise Ciccone of Michigan, rock her broken heart at Ford Field, Detroit. A rare performance in her hometown. (FYI - born in Bay City, but her family home is less than a mile from my house).

A show I definitely did not want to miss.

But a show that left me feeling fat, frumpy and deeply uncool at not too far off 40.

This woman is 50. Yes, 5.0. FIFTY! And she leapt, skipped, danced, bumped and grinded around that stage for 2 1/2 hours like she had the energy of my toddlers.

Me and my friend (sat not quite in the Gods) weren't surprised at her showmanship. I mean, she is all all about theatrics. What had us digging deeper into our popcorn was the vast difference in what we've achieved body and health-wise these past 10 years, since we last saw her play live, and what Madonna's achieved.

We felt old. Much older. We have baby fat. Plenty of it. We were out of breath climbing the stairs at the parking lot. She looks younger. Fitter. And definitely skinnier.

I know all celebs are skinnier and smaller in real life than they look on the TV or an album cover. I've interviewed enough of them to realise that you rarely make the A list until you're pocket-sized. (Except of course, if you're a model.)

But this woman, The Material Girl, is Pollyanna on uppers.

I've cooked spaghetti thicker than her thighs.

We couldn't take our eyes off her thighs. And nor could all the men in the audience either. Gay or straight. Her thighs pay homage to diet, exercise and expensive body treatments.

I wonder if Kabbalah gets you great thighs too? (Join and get a free pair of spaghetti legs every time?!)

What I did observe though, to my great relief, was that she did sit down three times. Ah, see old age does affect us all. Even multi-millionaire pop icons.

She still obviously would kick all our ar*es at the gym. She certainly gave her 'teenage' dancers a run for the money in the energy stakes.

But she definitely took her looming divorce rage out on that stage. It was a show tinged with angry moves. Lots of thrashing the floor (and not just in the Spanish dancing which accompanied La Isla Bonita). And even 'fake' tears during an acoustic version of You Must Love Me (Am I the only Madonna fan, who loved her in Evita?) The old romantic in me, likes to think she was singing this to Guy in an attempt to save her marriage, but the realist says that she was singing it to us, her audience and fans, in another insecure cry for lifelong audulation. Such is the psyche of an artiste.

Whatever was going on under her costume (not much, consider how lacking in coverage those shorts were) one thing stands out from last nights show..

I have, unwillingly, become an unfit, unhealthy, lazy-arsed, 30-something, who hasn't exerted as much physical energy in the past 2 1/2 years as Madge did in those 2 1/2 hours.

I've got old without really taking note of it, acknowledging it or changing my lifestyle accordingly to accomodate this ageing process.

And as much as I try to remain hip, cool, fit and young, who am I trying to kid? I mean, me and my friends approach to last night was so 'Mumsie' it was embarassing.

We emptied our wallets of excess credit cards and pics of our kids - in case we got robbed.

We charged our phones - in case we needed to make an emergency call.

We took two maps - one in case we got lost on the roads and one in case we got lost inside the venue.

We located the bathrooms straight away - thankfully near enough our seats so we didn't miss too much of the show when our bladders gave out.

We rang home twice - to tell hubbies we'd got there without being shot (Well this is Detroit). And the second time, to tell them the car hadn't been vandalised and we hadn't been carjacked when we were leaving.

We didn't drink - alcohol.

We ate popcorn - kill me now!

We wore jumpers - enough said.

Jeez - the last time I saw her (at Earls Court, London) I smoked, boozed and danced my way through her concert. All inhibitions thrown to the wind and I did every move to Vogue. This time, I tapped my toes, not wanting to annoy the lady next to me with any invasion into her 'dance space' and got mildly annoyed at a girl two rows infront who stood up and busted dance moves that kept blocking my view of the big screen.

So, that's it. I'm done hurtling into middle age with my middle age spread. Things are going to change in Mom/Mum land. They have to.

I am, wait for it, going to get fit! I am going to put away the supersize box of cookies and opt for a smaller pack. With fruit. If Madonna can leap around at 50 like an Oompa-Loompa, then so can I.

Alright, that might be a tad overambitious, but I am going to join the loose-some-pounds party with the wonderfully inspriational blogcrew at BlogToFit.

I can't promise to step on the scales all that often, but I can promise to cut out some of the cr*p from my diet and to use my legs for something other than putting up on the couch.

And hopefully, like the two Daves and Tara, in a few months, I will be fitter and healthier than I am now. If I lose weight, that'll be a bonus. As Tara says, it's 'baby steps' and if I can do some of those steps to the soundtrack of the Material Girl then it'll be Like A Prayer answered for me.

Join the Wednesday Weigh-In at BlogToFit

Come on over with me and get that party started!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Manic Monday

Today's list of Must-Dos read: (Yes, I really do make a list. The evil placenta zapped most of my memory. Twice).

1. Bank - sign forms.
2. Boys haircut asap.
3. Post Office - post parcel, buy stamps.
4. Send off gas bill payment.

Shouldn't be too hard to achieve, should it?

Achieving #4 went without a hitch. Even I can't mess up writing a cheque and putting a sealed envelope in the mailbox. Well, almost. I put the envelope in after the post had been collected, thus missing today's mail. Then I forgot to take the bill to the main post office when attempting #3, therefore missing my second chance at getting the bill started on its little journey.

Don't fret Big Gas Company, my payment is in the mailbox for tomorrow's collection. I promise.

#2 was priority. I figured I should get what I anticipated to be the hardest errand, over with first.

However, getting both their hair cut turned out to be not that big of a deal. Littlest boy, Monkey, went first, and granted, there was a certain amount of objection to the water spritzer and the kids coverall. (He chose the much more chic chocolate brown one to wear instead of the one emblazened with Mickey Mouse. This child has taste. My work is done!) But he sat quietly and still (most of the time) on my lap and had me gobsmacked at his co-operativeness.

I put this down to the fact that the hairdresser was extremely cute and her big brown eyes definitely worked their magic on my two year old's mini babe radar. Older boy, Cheeky, even sang along to the ABC song with her, such was her power of persuasiveness. That and the fact that she plied them with butter cookies throughout their time in her 'Magic' chair.

Anyway, Mummy paid the tip and left on a high. Proud of my boys for being so good and also chuffed that for once, their hair hadn't been butchered and it looked exactly as I'd asked for: trimmed, but not too remand centre short. I am a fan of the longer locks.

Careful not to be smug, (I run too many errands with my boys to get cocky about good behaviour in public) we left the hairdressers and went to the Post Office. Time to do errand #3.

Wish I hadn't bloody bothered. This was an unmitigated DISASTER. They burst through the doors and ran round and round the counter in the middle of the room (the place where you write your address labels, can't find a pen, lose your keys, drop your cellphone, realise you forgot your wallet etc. You know?) I attempted to control them at the same time as stuffing my package in a padded envelope.

I tried diversion tactics. Hey boys, how about you go look at those airplane posters over there? I suggested.


While my eyes were averted and busy helping me fill out the Customs Declaration form, they boys wrecked the US Mail historic poster display and got told off by Mummy and the postmaster.

Monkey then decided he was off. Literally. He bolted for the door declaring it was time to eat. He had a point.

I went chasing after him causing me to lose my place in line, which totally peed me off as you can imagine.

The boys big finale however was when Mummy finally got served. The following debate about parcel tape ensued:

Me: Sorry I haven't taped the parcel. Could you?
Cashier: Well, we don't usually...
Me: But I had to buy the envelope here. i'm not going to take it all the way home to tape it, then come all the way back am I?
Cashier: We are not supposed to tape customers parcels.
Me: Could you make an exception please?
Cashier: Errr, well...
Me: Pass me that tape and I'll do it then!
Cashier: Ok, I'll make an exception. But only because we already have some tape open. Really you should buy your own roll.
Me: (inwardly) Arrrrgggghhhh!

And then the boys (accidentally) pulled over the whole, let me say it again, The Whole, display of envelopes and mailing boxes. My inward 'Argghh' went stadium and before I knew it my scream was audiable in the Post Office car park.

We paid and left. Fast. And I forgot to buy the blinking stamps.

I almost abandoned errand #1, fearing a trip to the bank would just about finish me off. But the forms had to be signed and I'd promised Him Downstairs I'd do it. Today. So we drove there amid serious discussion on how to behave properly in public places.

Me: Hands in pockets or by your sides please boys! Do not touch anything!
Them: Crying because Mummy was shouting.

Anyway, they cheered up slightly when we got to the bank because there were a few toys to play with. I breathed a sigh of relief as they situated themselves on the couch with the Abacus and a Dora book.

All was going well until Mr Bank Man took FOREVER to print off the forms and fill in his paperwork. Small boys can only find so much amusement with some wooden beads and one book. Had I remembered to bring a digger/airplane/train with me, we could have hung out in the bank all day.

Then Cheeky announced he needed the potty. A diversion. Hoorah! A nice lady showed us to the bathroom and we three locked the door behind us. Confined in a small space, we couldn't get into much trouble could we?

Yeah. Riiiigggghhht.

As I'm helping Cheeky with his 'toilette' Monkey spies a cabinet by the basin and opens it. It contains what I assume are the female staff members make-up bags and hair accessories. Before I can say, Flush and wash! he's opened two of the bags and has dropped compacts and lipsticks onto the floor.

I can feel the tears prick at the back of my eyes.

Why Me? I ask no-one in particular.

That's it. I'm so done running errands. So I scoop up the spilt make-up, hand it all in at the front desk, apologising profusely and I take the boys out to the car.

The forms can wait.

The glass of wine and the tears can't.

I think I failed the Teach My Children To Behave Well in Public lesson. Big time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Share and Share alike..

I've been tagged by two bloggers I totally adore, Tarte Tartan and A Confused Take That Fan to share seven random facts about myself. So here goes...

1. I am a leftie. Left-handed that is. I've been told all the best people are, but hey I know some pretty lush righties too.

2. I once slow-danced with Sophie Dahl at an after-hours lock-in at a swanky London celeb hangout. Not that I had romantic inclinations towards her, or her to me, but she asked and as I'd had one too many cocktails, who was I to refuse an A-lister? We looked utterly ridiculous. She is 5' 11". I am 5' 2"....

3. I have never been able to finish a copy of Watership Down or watch the movie to the end. It has me in floods of tears. Every. Single. Time.

4. My parents live in Spain. Up a mountain. So I don't have a 'home' to go to in the UK anymore. Sniff.

5. My first pet that I was solely responsible for (aged 6) was a goldfish named, 'Goldie.' Not very inventive, but he was actually named after a Blue Peter dog. I manged to kill him by over-feeding him. Luckily, I've had more success at raising children and they are both alive and well you'll be pleased to know.

6. When I was 13 I purchased a bottle of Sun-In from Boots in an attempt to lighten up (in so many more ways than one)! I didn't bother with the instructions, poured the lot on and blasted my mane with a hairdryer. My hair turned orange and I was the laughing stock of the school for the rest of that year, especially as I then permed my mop to try and disguise the bad dye job. The result was an uncanny resemble to orphan Annie.

7. (This one's included especially for A Confused Take That Fan)

Once, after getting invited to a prestigious UK music awards VIP after-show party, I rocked up in my bad jeans and and The Office Jumper, worn inside-out (probably to conceal the coffee stains). The jumper was a manky grey hoody promoting 1998 James Van Der Beek's terrible movie, Varsity Blues. Not being a slave to fashion, I merely looked like a slave to homelessness. It was not a fashion highlight and even my editor looked like he was ashamed to talk to me. (Were you ashamed of me too ACTTF)? I sooo should have gone for the Karen Millen frock and a pair of heels. No wonder I didn't pull Liam Gallagher....I still have the jumper. I still wear the jumper. It still rates 10/10 for comfort and doesn't look quite so out of place with PJs.

And to pass the baton on, I'm tagging Tara at her new blog-home,
Sticky Fingers and one of my favourite Daddy bloggers, Clark Kent's Lunchbox

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

There's A Baby In My Belly?

Smelling of shampoo and baby soap, Cheeky and Monkey were tucked up in bed for stories. Tonight I was on bedtime duty as Him Downstairs was off throwing himself round a soccer pitch in an attempt to keep fit.

I read them a book called Mommies Are For Counting Stars which is all about all the lovely things Mommies/Mummies do for their children. Lots of…

’A mommy knows how to kiss a boo-boo…’

’If you need an audience for your puppet show, a mommy will watch.’

’A mommy reminds you to say “thank you”..’

Then I turned the page and read…

’A mommy can look like a rose. A mommy can have a baby inside her.’

This one is accompanied by a drawing of the mommy in a maternity dress and a hat adorned with roses. (Personally, I have never whether ‘up the duff’ or not, worn a hat with a load of dead flowers on it, but each to their own.)

Anyway, Cheeky and Monkey who have been paying close attention (for once) to my words, stop me from turning the page.

Cheeky looks closely at the picture of the mommy’s swollen belly and asks, “Mummy, why is there a baby in her tummy?

(Maybe this book was a bad idea. That’ll teach me to purchase before thoroughly reading every page.)

Because that’s where babies grow darling” I say. (Am crossing my fingers no more questions will follow, but who am I trying to kid?)

Meanwhile, his brother, Monkey, is looking down his pyjama top and saying, ”Baby. Baby. Baby? This?”

Yes boys, that mommy has a baby in her tummy, that's where babies grow.

Cheeky looks at me in exasperation. “Don’t be silly mummy, babies don't go in our bellies. We don’t eat babies, do we Monkey?”

And his brother looks at me and says, “No eat baby Mama. No. No. Me baby?

I can’t help smiling. “Yes, you’re right. We don’t eat babies.”

They wouldn’t taste good would they? I don’t want a baby in my tummy Mummy,” says Cheeky.

And with that, I wrap my babies in a bear hug, cover them in night-night kisses and assure them that in no way, will they ever have babies in their bellies. (Well, obviously not unless medical science gets that advanced in their reproductive lifetime, but that's not a conversation to get into with a 2 and 3 year old, is it?)

On the way out of the door, I dump Mommies Are For Counting Stars in the back of the closet. That was quite enough 'Where do babies come from?' talk for one night. I think I cleared it up quite well for them, don't you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not a VW Bonnet In Sight!

So, unsurprisingly since I last wrote, it’s been Halloween–a–go-go round our way. As my last post testified, the Mom/Mum household's schedule the last few weeks, has been full of parties to celebrate the ghouls and goblins in our lives. We’ve had a blast and it will be a Halloween we will always remember.

But, now it’s all over and today as the citizens of America were voting, we were using our day off to take down our gravestones, pumpkin lights and skeleton bones that Him Downstairs had buried in my flower-beds and to sweep up the invading leaves.

As Obama and McCain slogged it out, we sat on the front steps drinking tea and marveling at the 20oC sunshine.

But I digress, what I want to tell you is that, the biggest event on our street Friday night, wasn’t the little Batmen and Doras that came Trick or Treating for candy, it was the appearance of Camel Toe Mom, without her Camel Toe!

I wrote this post Camel Toe Ted about how a neighbour of mine insisted on wearing her Halloween costume too small, giving us all a good glimpse of her lady pocket. But now, with her VW Bonnet not making an appearance this Halloween. I have to report, the night wasn’t quite the same.

However, I was also relieved that I could make small talk with her and not blush in the shadows of the pumpkin light; this year’s Witch costume was far more appropriate for her than last years Teddy Bear.

The night was also a special one for me this year because one of my best friends from the UK was here to share in the Halloween fun. And for all you UK readers who marvel at the American’s penchant for an OTT Halloween, she totally reveled in it.

Our visit together was too short (she’s currently shopped out in Chicago and trying to squeeze through the crowds to get a glimpse of Obama at Grant Park) but it was a very special 48 hrs together that has left me yearning for a trip to the UK.

Most of the time I cope quite well being so very far from my closest girlfriends, but then I have a long phonecall with one of them, or a luxury face-to-face visit and my heart breaks all over again and once more I am a weeping in an airport saying ‘Goodbye’.

Some friendships fall by the wayside when you move abroad, like a snake sheds its skin, I’ve shed some friends (not for the want of trying to maintain regular contact I hasten to add.) But then you have your Golden Oldies. The friends that no matter what continent you live on and how infrequently you see one another, they will always have a place in your heart and you in theirs. To those friends, I say a silent thank you every day. Because it is them that keep me smiling and keep me sane in this crazy world of parenting, in this crazy country I now call ‘home.’

It also helps to keep the fires of friendship burning when they bring you over a job lot of Minstrels, Cadbury's Shots, Curly Wurlies, PG Tips, Branston Pickle and M&S Percy Pigs!

Now that’s what I call a Treat. Wake me up from my sugar coma at the weekend will you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pumpkined Out

Phew, I’m pooped and I mean really done in. All this Halloween schmarky is totally wiping me out. Apart from the usual school run and play dates, my weeks are now jammed with pumpkin and Halloween events galore too. My feet have and will barely touch the ground in October.

I swear, autumn in England wasn’t this exhausting. But here? It’s one social event for the kiddos after another. Here’s a snapshot of how my calendar looks:

Saturday 11 Oct Pumpkin carving and pumpkin bowling at local farm. Plus a nature trail and pony rides if you weren’t already stressed and knackered from arguing with the kids over your pumpkin designs, and chasing after them and their escaping pumpkins.

Sunday 12 Oct Cider Mill visit. More soaking up of fresh air by walking through the wooded glades with the promising reward of some hot doughnuts (donuts – tsk!) and apple cider afterwards. (Why oh why is the cider non-alcoholic over here? Call it apple juice please.)

Saturday 18 Oct We go here, Blakes Farm, another Cider Mill, to pick pumpkins for the children to carve at home. (See the size of those things?) Plus we spend a lovely half day racing round the Barnyard fun – a 3-level haunted barn, a hayride through the apple orchards, and a train ride through the same apple orchards, more pony rides, and a pumpkin shaped bouncy house. Then we climb the biggest haystack I’ve ever seen, get lost in a corn maze giving any parent a heart attack as their little ones run off out of sight, feed the chickens and the goats and eat more doughnuts.

Sunday 19 Oct Neighbour’s Halloween party. Ten little ones 5 yrs and under all running around in their Halloween costumes and screaming at the fake eyeballs lurking in the bowls of spaghetti and sauce.

Wednesday 22 Oct Me and the boys pile in the car and head to a local mall to watch Boogah and Hoogah’s Halloween Houseparty! A cute Halloween themed mini musical show with Bippety Boolarina, (a twirling pixie ballerina) that impressed Monkey so much, he was straight down the front into the toddler mosh-pit twirling his little jean-clad legs like he was in the Bolshoi Ballet. Had to come home and have a nap after all that excitement.

Saturday 25 Oct Straight from Cheeky’s swimming lesson he’s off to a Spooktacular party at RARA (a community centre that runs toddler classes.) He will don his Halloween costume (he’s a Storm Trooper) for the 4th time this month, and spend a couple of hours sans parents making a pumpkin craft, eating pumpkin shaped cookies and playing pumpkin themed games. (Just as well he likes pumpkins.)

Meanwhile, his parents will be running his brother across town to a 2nd birthday party. This one, thank goodness, has nothing to do with pumpkins and is themed ‘Space Camp’. A rocket ship would be very handy at this point, as five minutes into that party I have to go get Cheeky from the Spooktacular party, de-robe him from planet Halloween and dock him back at Space Camp.

And the day of fun doesn’t end there. Oh no.

At 6.20pm we have to charge to yet another location and go to a local Nature preserve for a Halloween Hoot. This involves taking a 45-minute candlelit walk, to meet fairytale characters and watch short skits. The evening includes cider and doughnuts (Of course. Everything you do in America includes food) and a campfire with entertainment.

Sunday 26 Oct No lie-in for us! Today we’re off to Hess-Hathaway Park, a farm park for a hayride with friends. We won’t be partaking in the cross-country skiing (the snow’s not here just yet) but am sure we’ll be feeding the animals, walking the hiking trails, checking out the playground and bumping around on bails of hay as the tractor pulls us along through the woods. Oh and no doubt, cider and bloody doughnuts will be served!

Tuesday 28 Oct Halloween costume party at Monkey’s toddler class. Bet we have to carve another pumpkin! (He’s dressing up as a monkey too by the way) but if I’m offered another cup of cider and a doughnut comes anywhere near me, am jumping on that plane and heading back home!

Thursday 30 Oct Cheeky’s school Halloween party. Will have lost count of the number of times he’s worn his costume by this point. Then it’s a quick dash to the airport to collect one of my best friends from the UK who is flying in for some trick or treating. I will need the job lot of PG Tips tea she is bringing; to stay awake for the next 24 hrs of catching up we are looking forward to doing.

Friday 31 Oct Halloween is here!!!! And we’re starting our family celebrations with a drive along Tilson Street Halloween Haunt . Apparently the decorations are astonishing and it’s like driving through a Halloween movie set.

Then, back to our house to light the pumpkins on our front steps for the neighbourhood trick or treating. The boys will be in heaven and are sure to be on candy-overload for the rest of the weekend. Great!

Saturday 1 November SLEEP, SLEEP and hopefully more SLEEP!

They say it’s tough to keep up with the ‘Jones’, I say it’s tougher to keep up with the Americans at this time of year. Tell me, how are you celebrating Halloween?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Queen speaks!

As it's Monday and am sure we could all do with a smile to start the week, I really couldn't resist sharing this with you all. Bear in mind, you need to have a good sense of humour (not HUMOR) when reading....

To: the citizens of the United States of America
From: Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas , which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor forAmerica without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter "U" will be reinstated in words such as "colour," "favour," "labour" and "neighbour." Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "-ize" will be replaced by the suffix "-ise." Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up "vocabulary").

2.Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as '"like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U. S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter "u"' and the elimination of "-ize."

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler, although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. Australian beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors t o play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body amour like a bunch of nannies).

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the Australians first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time Flies...

When you’re having fun doesn’t it? It also seems to fly when you’re juggling your children, the laundry, the housework, the grocery shop, the swim class, the soccer tournament, the doctor’s appointment, the school run, paying the bills, shopping for birthday gifts, the mom & tot class, the meetings with the builders and the weekend away.

For, I see that since I’ve been blogging, this is the longest I’ve gone between posts. A whole nine days. It’s been so busy in Mom/Mum land that I’ve not had five minutes to check in with my blog, let alone read all my favourite blogs. Sorry!

I did carve out time to write a little something for Tara over at From Dawn Till Rusk after she kindly asked me to do a guest post on her fantastic blog. (Thank you Tara.) So if you want to read more of my ramblings, you’ll find me having a cuppa over at her place.

Most of the reason why I’ve been absent from t’internet has just been that we changed gears to a frenzy of activity in the normal hum-drum routine. But for three of those days, I’ve had a very good excuse for leaving you.

I left home. Without my children and without my husband. But I did have a little suitcase of clothes, a stash of gossipy magazines and a few bottles of wine.

Last weekend I had my annual spa weekend away with seven friends from my mom/mum’s group. You could barely see us for dust, as we all zoomed away from our families for a couple of days in a luxurious Mountain log cabin up in North Michigan.

Lots of bloggers have been writing about sunny autumn (fall) days and my four hour drive up to Boyne Mountain was no exception. The colour of the trees was breathtaking. The car was even nicer (my friend’s cream puff car – a VW convertible Beetle) and we went topless - it was a freakishly hot weekend.

Getting away from it all is a luxury I rarely afford. Something I truly miss from those LBC days (Life before Children) so the annual October trip up North has been something of a highlight in my calendar.

It’s not necessarily always exactly the same women that go each year, but there are a few of us who have become the regulars. And the newbies mix it up a bit - we need the new sex/dating stories.

For the main event of the weekend (apart from the half a day in the spa) seems to be the Saturday Night Sex Stories.

It makes me laugh how under normal ‘at home’ conditions we are almost prudish with each other’s personal lives. We don’t get too intimate with our tales and I’ve been known to struggle for something to say to some of these women. I mean it’s not like I’m going on a mini break with seven close girlfriends. There’s usually one very close friend of mine that goes too, but that leaves six others that I sit with at playgroups and book club, but I’d never normally confess to them where I lost my virginity.

Yet, once we’re back from our day spent being massaged and scrubbed and we put on our PJs and open up the wine, then all inhibitions vanish. The stories that come out could make even Jenna Jameson blush.

Don’t get me wrong, I love girly bonding moments like this. (Me and my bed-pal for the weekend stayed up past 2am chatting both nights like a pair of teenagers on a sleepover.) But I think there’s something remarkable about how some of these women barely speak to me the rest of the year, yet tell me the most intimate of stories when we’re stuck in the woods by a roaring fire.

We go by the unsaid rule of ‘What goes on up North, stays up North.’ We’d never bring up some of the things that are confessed whilst we’re chatting at the kids Halloween party, but I always wonder how much of what you reveal about yourself really changes a person’s perception of you?

This is some of what I learnt about my ‘roommates’ this weekend:

  1. One lady, a slim and attractive brunette I always thought was an exercise addict hence why she was so slim. Turns out it’s because she doesn’t eat. Except fruit and a little porridge.

  2. One used to date my sons pediatrician when he was in medical school. Although she confessed they never slept together, apparently he is “very big down there.” I will obviously never be able to go look this doctor in the eye again. Literally.

  3. One (who I always thought was nice but a bit holier than thou) was a right go-er during her high school and college days. I lost count of the number of drunken sex stories she told.

  4. One seduced her boss and now he’s her husband.

  5. One has a brother who’s sterile and has asked her husband to father his and his wife’s much longed for baby.

  6. One has time for sex three times a week with her husband (but no kissing on the mouth! Odd, yes?) and she has three kids and a home business to run. Lucky her. Lucky husband!

And there was more, but am still reeling at how much I’d misjudged some of these women. I thought I was a pretty perceptive judge of character. I think this is what happens when becoming friends with woman post childbirth. We are all a little guilty of forgetting that they too had a fun and carefree past before they swapped gears into family life. I am no prude and I’ll confess all after a few glasses of Merlot, but I was most shocked at how shocked I was.

Did I really think that because most of these women present an indefectible life where I can feel such an inadequate Mummy at times (not at all deliberately I must add) that they really were so flawless?

Hmmm. Not sure. Because even though I’ve been a Mummy longer in the land of Mommies than Mummies, I’m used to the UK parenting ways, i.e. seeing kids being screamed at for misbehaving in the street. It’s normal for my British friends and me to talk very openly about our low points along the path of parenthood. I feel no shame in confessing that sometimes shouting like a fishwife at the boys is what need to do to release that moment of tension and anger. But I have found with some American Moms that it’s all about the appearances. The pressure over here to maintain a calm and controlled façade at all time with your kids is suffocating. I mean it’s taken me nearly three years to confess to a US friend that I’ve raised my voice to my children.

Not that I’m tarnishing all Moms with the same brush. Please don’t think that. I’m just talking about the very small group I know.

So, to hear some of them to divulge such secrets of recklessness and capricious behaviour threw me off balance somewhat. But you know what, I’m glad they told those stories. It makes them more human, more vulnerable and means we’re all from the same playing field. It’s just how we play the game that differs.

Bet they scream at their kids too. But behind their closed doors eh?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can't Cook, Won't Cook?

So, it’s that time of the month again – Book Club and thus today I’ve found myself in a position mostly alien to me; knee deep in cookie dough.

I rarely don the apron (Cath Kidston btw) and I’m more Carlos Solis in the baking department than Bree Van De Kamp. But for Book Club, I have to make the effort and face my kitchen fears.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’d get thrown out if I turned up with boxed cookies, and that’s really not far from the truth. And this I learnt from bitter experience.

Three years ago, after living here for a couple of months, I joined my local chapter of the national moms organisation, Mothers & More. It’s a great group to be part of and gave me the gateway to meeting most of the women I now call friends. But there are unspoken rules to our gatherings. Rules that don’t appear on the mission statement.

Food etiquette.

One of the first evening events I went to was their Book Club. (I hadn’t read the book, but was assured that didn’t matter, as gossip and eating were the main order of the night.) All I had to do was bring a dessert or appetizer to share and show up. Not knowing what kind of treat to bring, I went to a local gourmet market and picked out a sugar laden box of Christmas cookies. (Twas the season n all.)

When I arrived at the host’s house and went into the kitchen, I saw the counter was bursting with edible delights. There was spinach dip and crackers (home-made) brownies (home-made) Molten chocolate cakes (home-made) peanut butter cream pie (home-made) mini meatloaves (home-made) cheese n ham spirals (home-made) oatmeal raisin cookies (home-made) and chocolate chip muffins (home-made).

My heart sank as I sheepishly added my boxed cookies to the mix.

Conversation flowed and everyone started to fill their plates and the wine was poured. I starred in awe as the host laid out little Christmas themed napkins, plates and knives and forks. Even the spoons had Santa on them. Clearly, coming from the UK where a gathering means you are lucky to get a plain white paper plate and a plastic fork, this scene left me gob smacked. (I have since come to realise that this sort of spread complete with holiday themed cutlery (silverware) and matching napkins is completely normal in a US home.)

I thought I had come to her party-of-the-year, not an informal discussion on the Bronte sisters.

The women made me feel really welcome and we to-ed and fro-ed from the kitchen refilling throughout the evening. I quickly realised my mistake in having dinner beforehand.

However, every time I went into the kitchen, I noticed my lurid green Christmas tree cookies remained untouched. I didn’t fancy their chances against this gourmet feast. Three hours passed and the oatmeal raisin cookies were devoured. The spinach dip was all gone and the molten cakes left us with gooey fingers.

Still my cookies remained sealed.

At the end of the night, everyone takes home what’s left of the dishes they bring. I was the only one to bring home exactly what I’d entered the house with. I was crestfallen. I’d failed in the bring-a-dish-to-pass department.

So Him Downstairs had a Christmas cookie in his lunchbox every day after, until they eventually ran out around Chinese New Year! (He reported, that they were, “OK-ish.”)

My lesson was learnt. Though shall never bring store-bought goods to Book Club.

And so the monthly book meetings leave me all of a tizzy in two ways. First, I have to finish the blooming book on time (this is fine when I enjoy it and can race through it, but when we’re doing some sleep-inducing American historical ‘masterpiece’ I barely open the front cover.) And secondly, it means I have to get the Cath out.

The Cath (my apron) and I have become better friends since that first Book Club. And actually she always brings a smile to my face when I wear her, because one of my best friends in the UK sent it to me when I moved Stateside. She said I needed something to wear whilst I baked all the apple pie I was surely going to, now I was a desperate housewife! She was right. Sort of.

So here’s this month’s finished product, hot off the pan so to speak. My very own chocolate chip cookies, Mom/Mum style. (Not exactly all round and perfect, but they're home-made!) No so impressive to all you culinary queens out there, granted. But to me and my little family, they are a miracle worth photographing. Plus they’ll keep me in Book Club for the next month at least.

And Valley Girl I have a tip for you. If you do move to America, whatever you do, make sure you have a decent oven!

Now, who wants a cookie?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Are you the next Survivor?

My friend sent me this and it gave me such a laugh I thought I'd share it with you. After the the week I've had battling with my bedtime Monkey, a giggle couldn't come too soon.

(Little update from previous two posts: I've taken a harsher line on the going-to-bed front thanks to all your advice and last night, he was asleep, in his own bed, by 9.15pm. So, fingers crossed, the tables have turned..)


Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play:
Two sports
And either take music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must:
Take care of his 3 kids.
Keep his assigned house clean.
Correct all homework.
And complete science projects, cook and do laundry.
And pay a list of 'pretend' bills.
With not enough money.

In addition, each man:
Will have to budget in money for groceries each week.
Must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives.
And send cards out on time - no emailing.

Each man must also:
Take each child to a doctor's appointment.
A dentist appointment.
And a haircut appointment.

He must make:
One unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the A & E.
Bake cookies or cakes for a social function.

Each man will be responsible for:
Decorating his own assigned house.
Planting flowers outside.
Keep it presentable.
At all times.

The men will only:
Have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must:
Shave their legs.
Wear makeup daily.
Adorn himself with jewellery.
Wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes.
Keep fingernails polished.
And eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks..
The men will have to endure severeabdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend:
Weekly school meetings and church.
Find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

They will need to:
Read a book to the kids each night and in the morning.
Feed them, dress them.
Brush their teeth.
Comb their hair by 8:00 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information:
Each child's birthday.
Height, weight.
Shoe size, clothes size.
And doctor's name.
Also the child's weight at birth.
Length, time of birth.
And length of labour.
Each child's favourite colour.
Middle name.
Favourite snack.
Favourite song.
Favourite drink.
Favourite toy.
Biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance.

The last man wins only if:
He still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.

If the last man does win:
He can play the game over and over.
And over again for the next 18-25 years.
Eventually earning the right to be called *Mum!

* Of course, we need to insert the word, 'Dad' for all those stay-at-home Daddies amongst us..

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Locks of Love

For the umpteenth night in row, my evening went something like this…

Me: "Come on boys, bath-time, bed-time!”

Monkey: “No night night.”

Me: "Yes night night. It’s late.”

HD: “I’ll run the bath for them.”

Monkey:” No! Mama!”

Me:” Come on darling, Mummy’s tired. Go have some fun with Daddy.”

Monkey:” No. Mama bath.”

Me: (with, oh zero enthusiasm in my voice) "Alright then."

HD is resigned to standing on the sidelines, crossing his fingers he’ll be brought on for the second half, while both boys splash more water over me than the tiles.

HD: "Time to get out. Who wants to get cosy in their towel with me?”

Cheeky and Monkey: (in unison) “No! Mama/Mummy.”

Mummy sneaks off, pretending she needs a wee, just to escape their jaws of love for five whole minutes. (Must add earplugs to the shopping list; I can hear their cries for me through the walls.)

Me: “Here I am. Jammies on. Pick a story for Daddy to read.”

Monkey: “No! Mama book.”

HD: ”I’ll read. Mummy will stay though.”

(Thanks darling. My eye is on the clock. It’s now nearer eight-thirty than eight and all the good TV starts at nine.)

Monkey: “No. Mama book! Mama book! MAMA BOOK!”

Me: “Oh pass me the blinking book then!”

HD sneaks off in search of a warmer reception from the football (soccer) news on the internet.

After we’ve done Noddy’s Super Busy Day, The Curious Little Dolphin, and Harry and the Dinosaurs Make a Splash, cosied up under Monkey’s covers, we begin the hell that has become getting him to stay in his bed.

Kisses and cuddles are dispensed to Cheeky and he trots off up his wooden hill to the top bunk. Monkey makes a dash for the ladder, grabbing as many trains and small diggers as his two-year-old hands can fit.

Me: ”Oh nooooo, this is your bed.”

Monkey: “No. Up! Up!”

Cheeky: ”No! Your bed is down there. This bed is for bigger boys. You can’t come up here!

Me: “Yes. Come back down here.”

I bang my bloody head on the bloody bed for the billionth time this week, as I scramble off lower bunk to retrieve escaping Monkey.

Monkey: “Noooo! Humph.” (He’s got that toddler folding of arms and pouting bottom lip thing off-pat.)

HD reappears as back-up. Ha ha.

HD: ”Come on. Night-night time. Let’s get tucked in.”

Monkey: “No! Mama.”

Here we go again…

HD: “Mummy will stay, but only if you get back in your bed.”

(Thanks again darling.)

Monkey: (now smiling) ”Mama!”

Me: “Come on then. Snuggles.” And we get under the covers together again.

I will skip the next 45 minutes of conversation. Suffice to say, it involved mass over-use of the words ‘Mama,’ ‘bus,’ ‘whooow’ and ‘raaah’ as Monkey rallied against going to sleep with a repetitive on and off the bed re-enactment of plastic school-bus crashing into plastic passengers and tumbling over plastic Stegosaurus.

At 10 O’clock (!) as I was contemplating tying him down and gaffer-taping his gob, Cheeky piped up: ”Be quiet. You are both too noisy!”

I’d barely said a word, but apparently, my under-the-covers shussshh-ing was enough to offend and have me down as co-disturber of bedtime peace.

As Monkey’s eyelids finally started to look a little heavy and his plastic passengers bruised, I tried to creep out. But with one shuffle of the duvet, he sat bolt upright and said,“No Mama!”

Oh the price we pay for popularity eh?

Twenty minute later (at practically 10-frigging-30 PM) he is finally asleep deep enough (and still in his bed) that I can escape his locks of love. But, yet again, bang went my evening. So, all tips for getting little ones to go to bed without Mama, will be gratefully received. I am desperate to reclaim nights as my own…

Monday, September 29, 2008


Places Monkey has chosen to sleep at bedtime over the past two weeks:
• In the car
• On the floor in the guest room, beside the spare bed
• In the spare bed
• Under the spare bed
• On the rocking chair in the nursery
• At the end of his brother's bed
• On the floor beside his brother’s bed
• In Mummy and Daddy’s bed (numerous times)
• On the big couch in the living room
• On the small couch in the living room
• On the floor in the living room
• On the couch in the playroom
• Under the Thomas train table in the playroom

Places Monkey has refused to go to sleep:
• His own bloody new big boy bed!

No nights lounging in front of the TV soaking up all the fab new fall shows for me. Oh no. Every night I’ve been playing a new game with my second born: musical beds. And so far I’m totally losing. Or should that be, I'm a total loser?

Give me strength for the week ahead....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You've Got Mail

Opening up my email inbox today, I was excited to see 13 new messages. “Ohhh what gossip from friends?” I thought as I clicked on mousey.
Nada. None. Nope. Not one. Nothing. Not ONE email was from a living, breathing friend. It was all junk mail landing with a big fat ‘splat!’ in my inbox.

How did these companies get my email address? Isn’t it enough that I’m plagued by advertising interrupting my TV shows every five minutes with their in-yer-face commercials? (Thank the lordy for DVR) My mailbox over-flows daily with flyers for this grocer and pamphlets for that car dealer and coupons for goodness knows what. (Tsk, think of the paper wastage advertisers!) I can’t even enjoy the radio in the car without some booming voice yelling at me to ‘buy’ 'buy’ 'buy'! (Plug in the ipod.)

And now this. Despite me setting my junk mail filters, somehow these advertisers have broken in and are ready to pounce. These guys either have mummy-cams set up in my home and think they know me well, or they randomly hacked into my life anyway. Whatever, I’ve got some stuff to say back to my intruders….

· From: Tri Slim
Subject: Lose up to 30 pounds in 30 days
Have you been spying on me and my late night snacking?

· From: Acai Cleanse
Subject: Oprah’s Superfood of the year
Ever since the James Frey book debacle, like I’m going to ever trust what Oprah rates!

· From:
Subject: Spend Less with New Discount brand Products
Will you deliver to the USA? Didn’t think so.

· From: High Success
Subject: Quit your boring job and become a google millionaire!
Don’t think HD and boys would accept my resignation if I tried to quit. And it’s not boring. Well, not much. Though the housework part, I’d happily swap for googling any day.

· From: Michael Vincent
Subject: I found you a new job
Err, stop stalking me Michael. You infiltrate my inbox every day. Get a new job yourself!

· From: Finally Here
Subject: Better for weight loss than any other anti-oxidant! How the French eat lots of fat, but stay skinny and live longer than anyone!
Finally here? Like I’ve been waiting for this email ALL MY LIFE! Based on what research is this statement about the French true I ask? Maybe blogger friends, Petite Anglaise and Tarte Tartan can shed some light on this for me?

· From: HealthcareBilling
Subject: A brighter future starts with a Medical Billing Degree!
Excuse me? Are you seriously implying you have to get a DEGREE to send out bills for doctor visits??? Is this an April fool?

· From: Acai Free Trial Kit
Subject: Lose 20lbs instantly the Brangelina Way!
Is this a free pair of fingers for sticking down my throat then?

· From: Saks Fifth Avenue
Subject: Louboutin: More Fall Styles
Oh sigh. In another life, with another budget, I’d love to be sashaying about in my new fall Louboutins. Sorry Saks, think you’ll find you have more success targeting this customer with Uggs.

· From: Quality Kitchen Remodeling
Subject: Transform Your Kitchen with Sears
Ok, so this one caught me eye, as we are planning a new kitchen. But, right now, my kitchen would be transformed with a mop, bucket and some bleach. Oh and a spare pair of hands to pick up all the cheerios and rice krispies that have become embedded between the tiles.

· From: Janie and Jack
Subject: Up to 50% off! An autumn sale Not to be missed!
Ahh, now I love this children’s clothes store. But even at 50% off, they’ll still have me paying $30 for a sweater. Email me again after payday…

· From: VistaBusi8nessCards
Subject: 250 Full Color Business cards
Hmm. Lack of actual business ownership is a problem here. Though I could get a card for my line of work.
It might read, “SUPERMUM/MOM FOR HIRE” Available 24/7. Great rates! Specialises in: Thomas the Tank Engine, Cadbury’s, Greys Anatomy, GeoTrax, Fireman Sam, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, getting boys to aim in the bowl, wiping bottoms, chopping melon, cooking pasta, playing hide and seek and floor wrestling. (Note: the last one I charge extra for)

· From: First National
Subject: Your spending power has been increased!
Oh great. But, more importantly, what about my net worth?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Camel Toe Ted

It’s only 40 days to go until THE BIG event: Halloween. The children have been buzzing about what costume they will wear since, err, August (!) and some of my neighbourhood Moms have been talking about what their kids will be wearing since, err, August. Not this Mum though. I was still looking at swim shorts.

However, as all the shops have been full of all things Halloween since, err, August, recently it has been hard to avoid the impending dive into costume choices and sweet treats. So, this weekend, I caved in. Leaving it until the last minute (as some Moms round here would believe) we took Cheeky and Monkey off to Target (sort of a cross between Woolies and BHS) to purchase their ghoulish threads before they all sold out.

Cheeky had his eye on a Storm Trooper costume. He’s been carrying round a costume catalogue since, err, August (he’s gotten sooo American – it’s all about which ‘holiday’ we’ll be celebrating next.) Anyway, the Trooper costume he picked out was $50. Fifty bucks? I don’t think so. And as I skipped the sewing gene, we looked for a cheaper alternative to buy.

The Trooper costume in Target was $19.99. Still plenty, but I wouldn’t mind as much if he only wore it once, or worse still and more likely, refuses to wear it at all on the BIG night.

With younger son, Monkey, the costume thing is more of an issue. Last year he was still so little we could put him in anything and he wouldn’t complain. (He was a very cute Tigger.) This year, at two, he has an opinion and can say the word, ‘No!’ Ironically, or aptly, he chose a monkey costume. And after some wrangling, I got him in it and he looked so sweet I couldn’t stop kissing him.

Halloween is one of the holidays here that I really enjoy. (Nothing to do with the fact it means a stash more chocolate in the house, honest.) I love it because it’s just so American and it makes me so happy to be in America on that night. They really go for it, so much more than I ever experienced living in England.

Last year, Halloween on our street was just like that scene in ET where he’s dressed up as a ghost and all the costumed kids are running up and down driveways, shouting ‘Trick or Treat?’ Except, as far as I was aware, we had no extra terrestrials or cameramen floating about.

My point is, it was so magical I felt like I was in a movie. House after house had carved lit pumpkins glowing on their porches, some pumped out ghostly tunes. Houses were decorated with spider webs, (I actually didn’t have to buy any fake ones, seeings as we have a pesky arachnid who weaves enormous webs over my front windows.) Some put fake grave stones on their front grass; others string little pumpkin shaped lights over their garages. There were purple path lights, fake spiders on the brickwork and plastic skeletons hanging out from upstairs windows.

It looked like a film set. It looked brilliant.

But most of all, Trick or Treat Night brings a smile to my face because of one Mom who, I shall forever refer to as Camel Toe. She’s an All American Mom of four and she takes this costume business very seriously. She joins in too. Her disguise of choice? A teddy bear. A very authentic teddy bear. She has brown paws, a soft and fluffy belly and a shiny black nose.

So authentic, there must be a tiny, naked, shivering teddy bear somewhere in her house, crying for his lost fur. Because her costume is about 10 sizes too small for her. Worse still, it rides up in that place where, lady or man, you just don’t want your clothes drawing attention.

'Camel toe' or 'camel balls', you've heard of it, right? Some people call it 'moose knuckle', other synonyms are 'cats paw' or 'deer hoof'. (US TV host Conan O'Brien even has a character called 'Cameltoe Annie' on his show.) Whatever you call it, one thing is for certain: it's not a good look!

I find it hard to maintain eye contact with Camel Toe Ted on Halloween. The urge to stare in horror right at her squashed lady pocket is overwhelming. Never mind the ghouls and gravestones, she's definitely the scariest thing on the street. Am hoping 2008 will be the year that she treats herself to a bigger costume. Or buys herself a mirror. I’ll be sure keep you posted…

Photo credit: Travisleebutton,

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is it Me?

Or do I have,'LOONS ARE WELCOME HERE' tattooed upon my forehead? I've been staring in the mirror, exfoliating vigorously (I even dared to get really close. With my contacts in.) But I just can't see the words that surely must be etched above my brows, else why would another one have popped by to ruin my day? (Note to self: Book a brow wax. Urgently.)

I find it disconcerting that I seem to have more loons (lunatics) in my life of late than I have diamonds. Recently, I have blogged how these very special people have taken centre stage in my life during, Act One: Scene Five:
Lovin' The Loons and Act Three: Scene Two: God's Good Work?

To me, the lights were down, the applause long gone and the theatre had been shut up for the night. Silly me for trying to leave the show early. The Loons did an encore. Today. At the school drop-off.

Naturally, the car park (parking lot) is always busy at drop-off and pick-up. Cars line up with Moms/Mums looking left and right for their chance to pounce upon a space. I joined the line of shiny automobiles and waited my turn.

I noticed a car ahead of me pulled in to the side. The driver was gazing away from the parking spaces and looking towards the school doors. She didn't have her warning lights on. She wasn't indicating for the space about to become available to us, either. She looked 'parked.' I pulled past her and swung in.

"Ohh, we're nice and close to my classroom this time Mummy. Are we in those yellow lines?" Cheeky asks from his position as Backseat Driver. (Clearly, he'd been paying attention when, on his first day last week, the teacher had given us a mini lecture entitled, How To Park Safely at School'.)

How stupid can parents be?

Very, apparently. Because, as I'm getting Cheeky and Monkey out of the car, the Mom unloading her offspring next to me says," I hate to comment," 'But you're clearly going to aren't you?' I think. "But did you not see me sitting there waiting for that space?" She asks. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise you were," I said, all smiles. I'm thinking, 'Why is she bothering to voice this? She got another space, right next to me!'

But she wasn't going to let this go. Oh no. Of course she wasn't. She was another fully paid-up member of the chorus line of Loons that seem to be attracted to me, like a toddler to tantrums.

"But I was right there!" She is now gesticulating furiously at the place where I had passed her. "I was clearly waiting for this spot. I mean, come on!"

Cheeky and Monkey are looking up at us, confused as to what is going on. I wanted to kneel down with them, become pint-sized and say with inappropriate toddler honesty, 'Why are you shouting at me? And why do you have a big fat black hair coming out of that BIG ROUND HORRIBLE black spot on your face?'

But instead, I said, "Well I'm really sorry. You weren't indicating for the space. I didn't know you were waiting." "I was right there!" she continues to unlease her tirade upon me, enjoying her moment in the limelight. "It's just not necessary to do that to me," she says, shuffling her children towards the school.

I hang back, not wanting the other Moms to think I am a fully-paid up member of The Loon Association of Dramatics. But she's not going to give up, this one.

"You really are out of line!" She is shouting over her shoulder at me now. Someone pass the straight jacket.

Not wanting to cause anymore of a scene (a British philosophy I've noticed many Americans don't seem to share) I apologise AGAIN and repeat the fact that I didn't realise that she was waiting, "You got a good space after all, no big deal."

She stops in her tracks and swivels round in her Crocs," No big deal to you but, THAT WAS MY SPACE!" (Am guessing by this outburst, she won't be inviting me to join her Knit Night anytime soon.)

I have lost the will to live, so I don't bother to answer back. Instead, I march Cheeky to his classroom, kiss him goodbye and get the hell out of Loonsville (carefully avoiding not to ram her car in anger as I reverse.)

When I get back home, there is a message on the answerphone telling me we've won a free home security system. Am all smiles again. We never win anything! Can't wait to get it installed, then I can lock myself inside, safe in the knowledge that if any more Loons come knocking, the alarm bells will definitely ring.

Photo Credit:

Monday, September 15, 2008

God's Good Work?

Sunday was Him Downstairs’ birthday. An event Cheeky and Monkey have been looking forward to since the last family birthday was over back in June. For the obvious reason that the chance to eat birthday cake again couldn't come to soon.

HD had requested his first birthday present take up at least three hours of his morning (a lie in). So when the sound of little feet stampeding towards our bedroom came at the ungodly hour of 6.26am, he took a dive under the duvet and yours truly stumbled around in the dark.

6.34am:Can we give daddy his cake now?” “No darling," Yawn. "Let Daddy sleep for a bit longer.
7.00am:I want to give Daddy his present now! And can we have the cake yet?
7.15am:I don’t want bran flakes. I want cake!

And so it went on, me on clock watch, them on cake watch. At 10 to 10 I thought, ‘Sod this.’ We lit the candles, grabbed the presents and filled a breakfast tray full of tea and Frosties (HD’s favourite). He was woken by a rousting chorus of ‘Happy Birthday!’ and two small background singers chanting; “Cake! Cake!"

I tell you, the man had it made. The boys clamored onto the bed, thrusting their cards and gifts under his nose and Cheeky proceeded to feed Daddy his cereal and plaster him with kisses. He’s smart that boy. I had him sussed: 1) Feed Daddy the sugar-laden cereal and I’ll be able to sneak in a few spoonfuls for myself and 2) He’ll be so chuffed with kisses and gifts he’ll let me eat cake!

It was a sweet morning (except for the bags under my eyes and the yawning threatening to make appear bored with the whole event). The boys had made Daddy his very own tea cup to take to work and covered it with their handprints and messages of love. (Ok, I ‘fess up: I did the writing bit). Daddy was thrilled and sufficiently elated to let us all eat cake in bed.

The second birthday request was to go out for brunch. It was here we ran into Sin City.

Happily seated in our little booth enjoying eggs (mine poached, the boys' scrambled and HD’s absent: he doesn’t do eggs) we noticed a cute elderly couple sat opposite, smiling and nodding at the boys as they threw crayons round the table and bacon off the table. (The boys, not the seniors.) We were not-so happily engaged in the business of eating out with toddlers that later, I didn’t notice the blue-haired lady approach my side.

Excuse me," she said grabbing my elbow as my eggs were midway into my mouth. “ Let me give you this.” She thrust a piece of paper under my nose and on top of my plate. Caught too off-balance to take in all the words printed on her paper, I merely noticed the Ariel rounded MT bold ones at the top that read, ‘Lord hear Our Prayer’.

Oh no.

There was I foolishly thinking she’d come over to pay me a compliment on my parenting skills.

"Will you join us?” she asked, a little too close for my comfort.

My brain, as scrambled as the children’s eggs, spontaneously combusted and I plumped for the first Get Out Of Jail card I could muster. “I’m sorry," I said. "We don’t believe in God."

Strictly speaking, this isn’t true. I do believe. In something. My firstborn was christened in a lovely Oxfordshire church in England. HD and I sang ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’ under God’s gaze on our wedding day. But since we moved Stateside, I have struggled to find the right place for us to worship Him Above. Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Christian, Methodist, Pentecost there are so very many churches in our city, I am totally confused as to which one is closest to The Church of England that I know and err, (sorry Mum, sorry God) tolerate.

So, I’ve gone and avoided the issue. The lack of religious education in the local state school system does bother me, but mainly because I miss not going to the school Nativity play at Christmas. And Christmas? That really bothers me. Do the children round here realise 25th December represents more than mountains of plastic tat? I just can’t get into the swing of being politically correct and saying, ‘Happy Holidays’. It’s still, ‘Merry Christmas,’ that spills from my lips as the snow falls. Michiganders forgive me because to them I’m just ‘the crazy English woman with her funny ways.’

Anyway, Granny is truly shocked at my response. I’m hoping it hasn’t sent her pacemaker into overdrive (if she has one). She leans right into our booth and very loudly proclaims, “You’ll be very sorry!” And with that she’s already got God on the Cell Phone and telling him to refuse my family entrance at the Pearly Gates.

HD is baffled, but not defenseless. "Our religious choices are our business!” he calls after Granny. “Tsk,” he tuts. “Talk about trying to ruin a nice birthday breakfast!"

And with that we finish up our eggs and walk straight out into Sin City.

Photo Credit:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lovin' The Loons!

I wasn't planning on this being the next subject for a post, (you'll be pleased to hear btw, that HD has finally taken of his Daddy Day Care Crown to mop his poor exhausted brow.) However, yesterday I got an email from one of my fellow Brit Sunday Brunch Gang (SBG) friends that made me laugh so much I almost had to reach for a Maxima Underpad.

The subject line read: Craigslist Looney!

This was going to be good.

You see, this friend and I have spent much of our Mid-West summer selling anything that's not nailed down in our homes on Craigslist. Tired of being Desperate-For-Our-Own-Cash-Housewives, we wanted to make a little financial contribution to our households, plus buy ourselves some bloody nice shoes!

So, we rooted round our respective homes grabbing any old junk we hadn't used in five minutes, photographed it, uploaded it onto the 'For Sale' classifieds on Craigslist and a few emails and knocks on the door later, there we were, dollars in our hands.

"Boys! You haven't played with that tractor since yesterday. Can Mummy sell it?"

I'm telling you, it was addictive. HD feared he'd come home to an empty house, literally, I was so into the swing of clearing-out-the clutter. People will buy any old crap. But they were buying our old crap!

Obviously buying and selling this way means you might encounter the odd loon (lunatic) ringing your doorbell. But we took precautions. Both my girlfriend and I were careful never to be home alone if it was a man coming to pick up the item. We both used to tell each other if we had a 'Craigslister' on the way over, and we called a little later to make sure we had not been murdered or our homes ransacked. (Not that either of us had much left in our houses now to be honest!)

Anyway, my favourite Craigslist Loons as I have dubbed them, were:

1) The 50-something lady that drove 15 miles to come look at my living room ceramic-based, cream-shaded lamps (which had photos and measurements on the advert) only to declare, "I was really after smaller pink bedroom ones in a Regency style." She then went on to ask my advice on a range of topics, including posting personal ads."I put an advert in my local paper asking for an exercise buddy," she said. "But all I got was calls from strange men. Do you think I should try the personals in Craigslist?" "Errr no!" I replied, wanting to add, 'Do I look like someone who has expertise in the field of pimping?

2) The 30-something man that wanted my $4 'coffee-for-one' Cafetiere so much that he was prepared to pay $10 for because I couldn't find any change. He beamed: "Am just so pleased to find one this small! Clearly, he needs to get himself some friends.

3) The heavily pregnant and tattooed 20-something who hoisted my old solid wood coffee table onto the back of her pick-up truck, point blank refusing my help. I wasn't going to argue. She may have been eight months pregnant, but she was six feet tall and as we say in England, 'built like a brick shithouse'.

However, my trysts with Craigslist Loons paled into insignificance when I read my girlfriend's email. Here it is for you all to enjoy:

"OK - I've had my first craigslist nutter! I had a few emails from a lady wanting to buy my cat carrier box. She seemed very reasonable. Within seconds of sending her my phone number for directions she was on the phone - half an hour later I managed to get rid of her. Needless to say I arranged to be out when she was coming to look at the carrier, but left it on the porch for her. Yes, I was willing to risk her running off with the carrier without paying - she was that bad.
This is the email she sent after she had been and found (no doubt to her huge disappointment) that I was not here. She did actually buy the carrier so I guess there was a silver lining."

Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 3:27 PM
Subject: Re: Airline Approved Pet Carrier



I left you some websites for the pandemic that is looming. Those are government websites of disaster planners. They are talking worldwide in different languages on one of the sites. The websites inform military families how to ready themselves for the disaster. Even some disaster planners from the UK are discussing their plans. I thought you might find it interesting and helpful.

The government has warned about 4 million people in the USA to get ready for the 18 month disaster, but they have no intention of letting the general public know when it will start, not in the USA or the UK. And there is a media blackout.

The USA expects to lose 25% of the population, and the UK 30%, Russia and Norway expect 50% losses. It is so sad.

I like the cat carrier. It is just the right size for my medium sized cat. I have 3 cats. One small, one medium and 1 very large. They are fun. My 2 children are grown now, so I have time again for kitties.

Have a great fall season!

You see, even in our sleepy little suburban corner of the USA there's a Loon just waiting to make you wet your pants! I think we should invite her to join our Sunday Brunch Gang. She sounds like a right laugh.

Go on - share your Garage Sale/ Classified Ads/ Car Boot Sale loon stories. You know you want to...