Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

November 27, 2009

Jim: A Cautionary Tale

Q: What do you get if you cross a young boy, a lion, a classic story-teller and an award-winning illustrator?
A: A most excellent book.

We love a good read here at HCM Towers, so when I was asked by some nice people at Random House if I would like to review 'Jim' by Hilaire Belloc and Mini Grey, I stretched my hand up very, very high into the air and trilled, "Me, me, yes please".

The tale of Jim, the boy who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion, was first written in 1907. Hilaire Belloc's classic cautionary tale has been updated in a special new edition, illustrated by award-winner Mini Grey*, whose completely brilliant pictures depict Jim's tale with amazing detail. The fold out map of the zoo is like a mini book of it's own, there's so much in it!

When the book arrived, I had a quick flick through and, although I thought it was brilliant and very funny, I wasn't sure whether a 'lion eating boy' story was suitable bed-time material for my four-year-old! Anyway, we read it after lunch one day and he absolutely loved it. The front cover of the book states 'Warning: Comes with a dangerous beast and a miserable end' - it does not lie!

The book is aimed at 7-9yr olds, but I have to say that my four-year-old thinks it is hilarious -and hasn't yet had any irrational reactions to lions after reading it several times! My two-year-old also loves the picture of 'chocolate, with pink inside' and the part where the pop-up lion jumps out and starts nibbling on Jim's ankles. Yes - it doesn't leave much to the imagination!

The interactive pull out maps and flaps all help to make this a really enjoyable read and a real treat of a book. My only slight question being whether 7-9yr olds would feel the flaps and pop-ups are a little baby-ish? Not sure on that one.

Anyway, 'Jim' gets a very big thumbs up from us. Keep an eye out for this book - it would make a lovely gift and a great addition to your bookshelves.

*(apparently so-called because she was born in a Mini - lucky for her she wasn't born in a Punto or a Passat then)

This post is a 'Hot Cross Mum Loves...' book review.


November 25, 2009

Tiny Details

Why is it that there always seems to be something else to do, or something you forgot to do, when you are already doing SO much?

For example, after getting myself and both boys washed and dressed on a morning, you’d think we’d be ready to pop on our coats and shoes and head off for the day. But, oh no. I must first attend to a hundred tiny details, absolute minutiae which, if forgotten or over-looked, will cause utter calamity. I will give you just a selection from this morning…..

1. Make 2 slices of toast (standing and holding the toasting handle down because it is broken and there isn’t time to fix it or buy another). Cut one slice into 4 triangles, leave the other as a whole piece.
2. Apply Burt’s Bees to two-year-old’s dry patch on forehead
3. Apply Vaseline to four-year-old’s sore patch on top lip
4. Blow four-year-old’s nose and put tissue in his pocket for pre-school
5. Find small green car which two-year-old is losing his mind over
6. Put cheque into crèche bag, otherwise my children will be evicted
7. Have a serious chat with two-year-old about how he must remember to be a good boy at crèche today and not bite anyone
8. Remind four-year-old not to pick his nose but to use tissue in pocket
9. Remind four-year-old not to use the hand-soap at pre-school as it makes his hands sore
10. Find red cup for two-year-old’s milk for drinking on the way to crèche
11. Put shopping bags into car because I’m going straight to the supermarket after crèche drop
12. Take buggy out of the boot to make room for the shopping
13. Allow two-year-old to climb into the driver’s seat
14. Fiddle with four-year-old’s seatbelt which is somehow all twisted, again
15. Fiddle with very temperamental lock on house door and swear
16. Start car engine and pretend the car will go without us to entice two-year-old into his own seat
17. Go back into house for four-year-old’s lunch box which I thought he’d taken out to the car
18. Grab another tissue and blow four-year-old’s nose again
19. Find Track 16 on the Abba CD before everyone has a complete melt-down
20. Get teddies out of crèche bag for two-year-old to hold, along with milk, while driving to crèche
21. Arrive at crèche – ensure four-year-old gets out of car first
22. Let two-year-old press the buzzer and then wait for him to say hello to the cuckoo clock and the bee mobile
23. Sanitise everyone’s hands with gel to prevent swine flu
24. Deposit two-year-old. Try and ignore his look of utter desperation and head upstairs with four-year-old.
25. Deposit four-year-old.
26. Dash back to car and speed off to supermarket. Screech to a halt. Turn back and take two-year-old’s teddies into him.
27. Speed off again, avoiding the strong urge to make a diversion into the lovely new coffee shop which has just opened opposite the creche.

Is it any wonder I look ever-so-slightly harrassed?!


November 24, 2009

Ten things

Thank you very much to World of a Mummy and Carrot In Mum’s Hair for bestowing me with the ‘Honest Scrap’ Award. I am slightly relieved because at first glance, I thought I had been handed an 'Honest Crap' award - which I may not have been so pleased about!

The rules of this award are to tell you 10 things about myself which you don’t already know and to pass it on to other bloggers you'd like to know more about. Hmmmm – what, oh what, to divulge?! W

1. I completed the London Marathon in 2001 (I will never do one again!)

2. As a result of my daily proximity to the kitchen, I am actually now half-mum, half-biscuit*

3. I can juggle (proper juggling, not just multi-tasking!)

4. I am 6ft 10" tall*

5. I have portion-control issues as I always, always cook way too much pasta and rice. I am an intelligent, well-educated woman, why can I not get this simple task right?

6. I am partial to a pork scratching when back in Yorkshire

7. I have kissed Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme anyone? No, I'm not particularly proud!)

8. I can't knit, darn or crochet

9. I would very much like a cleaner for christmas**

10. I have never been to Iceland (despite the fact that I am a mum!)

*this may not be true
** I don't think even Santa will be able to manage this one

Now, I call upon the following bloggers to please step forward to collect this award, which I dutifully pass on.

Mummy Tips
Older Mums Are Fun
Baking Mad Mama
Wives and Daughters
Bare Naked Mummy



November 22, 2009

Soccer Mom Me

For the past few weeks I have been taking my four-year-old to a soccer skills class at the local community centre.

Due to a combination of a badly timed promo flyer and my mistaken assumption that ‘all weather pitch’ didn’t include rain and a biting wind, we missed the first 2 weeks so it was Week 3 before he made it onto the pitch.

By now the other boys had a 2 week advantage; they knew each other, the activites and the ‘coach’. My little man, on the other hand, stood like a rabbit in the headlights, stranded in the middle of an astro-turf ocean. My noisy, enthusiastic, confident little boy had turned into a shrinking violet in front of my eyes.

In hindsight this was probably because to his young mind ‘football skills’ meant he was expecting to run about kicking a semi-deflated Mickey Mouse ball whilst dodging some sheets and towels hanging on a washing line, occasionally aiming the ball at a brick wall to score a goal and immediately be given a high-five and loads of praise and encouragement.

The activities the coach was playing with the boys bore little resemblance to the 'football' my little man knew. So there he stood. Dazed and confused.

I urged him on from the sidelines - trying not to sound like a pushy mother whilst trying to resist the urge to take us all for hot chocolate and brownies instead. So we struggled on for 15 minutes - him looking increasingly forlorn and me getting increasingly frustrated. Meanwhile, my two-year-old, who is a year too young to participate in the programme, had found a football and was very skillfully dribbling it around the pitch.

Finally, my young Beckham relaxed enough to kick the ball around a bit, just as the session ended. He was, heart-breakingly, the last to be given a vest to wear and the last to get a high-five off the coach.

We persevered and went again the following week. The same thing happened: four-year-old rabbit in headlights, two-year-old displaying ball control which Wayne Rooney would be proud of.

Week 4 pretty much the same and my increasingly desperate attempts at coaching, or rather, coaxing from the sidelines seemed to be getting us nowhere.

Undeterred, we went for the final week and hallelujah! Finally, he found his footballing mojo! He was the first into the hall, the first to grab a ball, the first to get a vest. He joined in all the games, laughed and was the first to get a high-five at the end.

The programme has been extended for another six weeks and I’m delighted. I don’t actually care whether he’s any good at the football or not. I’m just so proud of my little man for sticking with it and growing so much in confidence through this experience.

Me? I’ve learnt that being on the sidelines is a tough place to be sometimes for a mum. But I’m sure I’ll get better with practice!


November 19, 2009

A Letter From Santa

I am sure mine is not the only household at the moment to be occupied by little elves who are frantically deciding what to put on their lists to Santa. These will be sent up the chimney in due course (cough, stored in a secret box to look back on in years to come).

Sending a letter to Santa causes enough excitement so I cannot imagine the delight a letter from Santa would bring!

This year, the NSPCC have a wonderful fundraising initiative 'A Letter From Santa' which gives parents, grandparents and anyone else the chance to nominate someone special to receive a magical letter from Santa for a suggested donation of £5. The letter is personalised with the child’s name and age and the envelope shows that it’s been safely delivered through ‘express Rudolph Mail’.

Fundraiser Binita Patel said: "Letter from Santa is a brilliant way to put an extra twinkle into Christmas this year and make a child feel extra special. The appeal also helps us to raise money to support children who are perhaps not as fortunate."

Also on offer is a Baby’s First Christmas letter from Santa, which is the perfect keepsake for newborns celebrating their first festive season.

To order a letter from Santa for a child you know, visit or call 0845 839 9304. Alternatively look out for a Letter from Santa order postcard in your local Debenhams, SPAR, Thorntons or Bhs store.

This post was written in support of the NSPCC.


November 17, 2009

Dear Sam...

Happy 2nd birthday little man! I cannot believe that it is already two years since you arrived into our world - that tiny, perfect little bundle with red hair - RED! What's that all about?

You were the best baby on the ward. So quiet and peaceful. Just us two in our little make-shift world of two walls and two pale green curtains.

And to think that I was worried I wouldn't be able to love you as much as your big brother. You have made that incredibly easy with a smile that could melt ice, the twinkle in your eyes and your impish sense of humour.

You have given me plenty of scares over the last two years, with your 'thing' for pulling the blankets over your head since you were tiny and your love of climbing. You are fearless, reckless and confident beyond your tender years. You have loved your Ted Ted to absolute bits and can't get enough of mummy's cuddles. I hope you keep asking me for those cuddles for a very long time.

When I asked you how old you were today, you simply said 'cake'! You have always made me laugh.

You haven't had the best birthday as you are not feeling very well. In fact, for the first time in as long as I can remember, you fell asleep in my arms tonight. Which seems like a very fitting end to the day. You may be two, but you will always be my baby.

Happy birthday sweetie. May there always be icing on your cake, and plenty of it.

Sleep well. Hope you feel better in the morning.


November 14, 2009

The Wonderful Thing About Bloggers

I often get asked why I blog. The short answer? Because I love writing and I've grown to really enjoy the community.

The long answer? Because in February I lost my job and decided to stay at home to look after the children full time. I also took this opportunity to finally do something about the novel I have been promising to write for the last 15 years.

So, I attended an excellent writing workshop run by Inkwell Writers and came home buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm. Most importantly, I was advised to start a blog, and to start social networking on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to raise my profile as a writer. This was all completely new to me.

I also got some excellent advice from hugely successful author Sarah Webb, who encouraged me to start writing articles for local papers and magazines. Generally, just to keep writing while working away on the book.

Eight months later, my blog has reached No. 28 in the latest Tots 100 Parenting Index! I am so pleased (and genuinely surprised!) about this. Not because I’m a competitive freak who thrives on rankings and stats (I actually have no idea what my stats are!), but because I put a lot of time and care into the posts I write and it’s wonderful to be ‘appreciated’. It’s always nice to know you’ve made someone laugh, or connected on some level through a shared experience and I really enjoy the spontaneous interaction with other amazing writers in the community through blog comments and Twitter chatter.

In addition to the blog, I write a weekly column for a regional Irish paper and have had several articles published in national paper The Examiner and in parenting magazine Modern Mum. I also blog for Hello magazine and Eumom and write reviews for MummyMaps. I am a member of British Mummy Bloggers and Irish Mum Bloggers which are fantastic networks to be part of.

Again, through Inkwell Writers, I have recently been in touch with an agent who has given me some very encouraging feedback on my novel. I am now full steam ahead to get the manuscript finished before the end of the year so it will be ready to submit to publishers.

ALL of this has come through my re-discovered passion for writing and the confidence which my blogging experience has given me, and, with the exception of a few hours on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning (when I really should be cleaning the bathrooms!), this has all been done when the children are tucked up in bed, or while they are listening to bad rock music with their daddy on a Saturday morning!

So that, reader, is why I blog.

For more information on successful blogging, read this excellent post ‘The Secret Of My Blogging Success’ by Sandy Calico at Baby Baby.


November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Picture Perfect

Inspired by the meme started by the fab Tara at Sticky Fingers , and which the lovely Insomniac Mummy passed on, I give you my four-year-old's depection of me! I think it's reather lovely! The two-year-old was also invited to participate in this activity, but politely declined.

To keep this great meme going, I'd like to pass the task of getting your children to draw a picture of you, to the following excellent bloggers:-

Mummy Do That
Life Slightly Used
Tartan Mammy
Life and Times of a Househusband


November 4, 2009

I, Mumbot


For those of you not familiar with the term, a Mumbot is defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary* as follows:-

Mumbot (def)

An individual (usually of the female genus) who has become routinely predictable and dull in her approach to parenting.

A mumbot provides standard issue meals for the family in a strict daily rotation. She moves around in a hypnotic manner, apparently devoid of life to those who observe her.

She shouts commands and orders at those around her and is on constant high-alert for a total system overload which can lead to component parts ceasing to function properly. System overload can be triggered by the smallest thing going slightly wrong in her day.

Mumbots often seem to have no sense of humour and tolerance levels are also particularly low in this type of droid.

Unlike the newer model ‘Dadbot’, Mumbots do not have much fun with their children – being programmed specifically to focus on providing the more basic needs of food, comfort and hygiene.

Mumbots are capable of feeling mild human emotions of envy towards Dadbots when they see them playing a game of rough and tumble with a child, or having an extended bedtime chat with them about different types of snakes or patiently role-playing pirates to encourage them to eat their dinner. Mumbots are not capable of doing these things as most models do not have the requisite specifications of patience or energy for these activities.

Mumbots move around particularly quickly for the entire day, rushing from one place to another (often carrying a child or a pile of washing or lots of toys), and yet they never appear to actually get anything done.

They sigh a lot.

Unlike the Dadbots whose systems are programmed to completely switch off between the hours of 11pm and 7am, Mumbot systems are programmed to switch to stand-by mode at around 11pm each evening. They never power-down completely.

Following any form of system overload, Mumbots can be given cups of tea in bed on a weekend and should be sent off shopping on their own regularly in order to restore their systems to full working order.

If you encounter a Mumbot, you should speak calmly and pleasantly to her and mention that her hair looks nice. She will detect that you are not telling the truth, but will appreciate the gesture anyway.

*not really, but perhaps it should be in there

November 3, 2009

We now interrupt this blog with some urgent messages…

Well, well, well – October was some month wasn’t it? What with birthdays, carnivals and Hallowe’en all rolling into one, I feel as though I have just got off a gigantic pumpkin shaped birthday cake merry-go-round to discover that there is a world out there (a world in which, according to Argos, it is Christmas Day tomorrow)!

As a result of my manic month, my poor blog has been somewhat neglected - not to mention my Twitter account which is in dire need of a night out, some flowers or at the very least a bottle of wine.

I have also been particularly rubbish at reading and commenting on all those other fabulous blogs out there and have been given awards which I haven’t even acknowledged yet. So, I hang my head in shame, offer an olive branch and promise to address these oversights asap starting with…..

a very big thank you to Sandy at Baby Baby who tagged me a million years ago with the ‘Dream’ meme which was started by Zooarcheaologist from Being A Mummy. Sandy wrote a lovely dream of her own (check it out) and I certainly owe her a response before the week is out! Watch this space.

Thank you also to the lovely Clareybabbling for tagging me with the subtly-titled (!) ‘Your Blog is Bloody Brilliant’ award and to Ellen at World of a Mummy who tagged me an embarrassingly long time ago with the ‘I love your blog’ award. I’m passing both these awards onto the following brilliantly lovely blogs. Do with them what you will – they are yours to keep!

Metropolitan Mum
Muddling Along Mummy
Muddy no Sugar
Babies Who Brunch
Being a Mummy
Thanks also to the fabulous – if very tired - Insomniac Mummy who has tagged me with the Picture Perfect meme. I have the crayons on stand-by and as soon as the kids stop sneezing everywhere, I will bribe them accordingly to produce a lovely picture of me!

Finally, thank you very, very, very much to the incredibly lovely people who selected my little slice of motherly ramblings for listing in the Independent Top 50 parenting websites and blogs. To say I was shocked and stunned to find myself appearing on this list is an understatement. I am, nonetheless, massively delighted to be in there!

And finally, I owe some people some pictures. So, for the excellent Sally at Who’s The Mummy – here are the shoes I treated myself to for getting onto the Tots 100 Index in September. I have my eye on others if I keep climbing!

Anyone who read my Ode To The Kitchen Table post should note that the actual kitchen table referred to is pictured below (sadly not nearly as nice, or as tidy, as the original one pictured – but I still love it). And finally, here is the pirate’s Treasure Chest Cake which I made for my little boy’s 4th birthday last week. If you are in any way interested in the finer details of this, please leave a comment and I’ll contact you directly!
Oh I feel SO good to have cleared that all up. Thank you for bearing with me. Right, transmission interlude over - normal blogging service will resume asap.

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