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)

March 31, 2010

Everybody's talking about.....

....competition. If there was a competition for 'Theme of the week', the winner would be 'competition'. This has been discussed and debated this week all over the blogosphere, in national newspapers and even on Desperate Housewives.

I recently wrote a light-hearted post about the competitiveness of mums. It received some very interesting comments which suggested that this is not a laughing matter to most and is an aspect of motherhood which most of us could do without. But if we're all saying that, then someone must be lying, otherwise who is doing all the back-stabbing and competing?

In an excellent post yesterday,
The Noble Savage brilliantly dissected an article written in the weekend's Observer Magazine, where it was implied that mummy competition is getting so fierce we're not far off being issued with bullet-proof vests as we leave the maternity hospitals. This got me wondering. Are we really all trying to sabotage each other's already fragile beliefs that we're doing the best job we can and if so, why? Is it simply just a way of validating our personal approach to mothering. If our kid is the best, then surely by default, so are we. And maybe that proof that we're good at our jobs is something we all crave.

Then, in last night's Desperate Housewives, Gaby and Susan start competing about their children's academic ability, and whether they are in the Leopard (advanced) or, god forbid, Giraffe (average) maths class. I'd like to think that such frenzied 'mom competition' is TV drama at it's best (or worst). My child starts school in September so I'm sure I'll find out then just how much of this is fiction, or reality.

Also this week, we saw the launch of The MADs, 'the Mummy and Daddy (MAD) Blog Awards, celebrating the utter brilliance of British parent blogs.' Competition, or celebration? Some excellent posts from
Babyrambles, Sleep is for the Weak and You've Got Your Hands Full offered their respective viewpoints on this matter.

Having seen the level of interest this has sparked and obvious joy this has brought to those nominated, I can only conclude that the MADs is a positive addition to the community. I was genuinely surprised and delighted that someone nominated me for the Most Innovative Blogger (moi?). I didn't seek a nomination and it can't be friends or family as they won't be aware of The MADs (until after they read this). To be considered good at any of this by a fellow blogger means a lot. As I wrote in a recent article about why I blog, 'all this gives me a great sense of belonging and personal achievement; two things which would otherwise be hard to find as I put on another load of washing and stand on another lego brick in my bare feet'.

Of course, the MADs will produce winners and losers (and surely that is the definition of a competition), but maybe if we're all grown ups about it, we can admire the eventual winners and applaud their badges of honour in recognition for a job well done.

So, maybe an element of competition in our lives is inevitable and at times welcome. As long as we don't end up dodging any bullets and remind ourselves that after all is said and done, it's not the winning, it's the taking part. All you can ever do is your best and what feels right for you. And we'd do well to remember that as both mothers and bloggers.
Read more about the mother behind the words in my interview with


March 29, 2010

The Delicious Mrs Hot Cross Mum: Cabin Fever

Oh, hello! Gosh, you're early! Look at the state of me - I'd have applied a little rouge and a jaunty apron if you'd given me another half an hour (flicks fringe coquettishly out of eyes). Anyway, delighted you're here. Pull up a chair - oh, not that one. It's still got a little bit of sick on it from the toddler's teatime last night. Now, that's better.

So, after our theme of 'Chaos' last time, this week in the Hot Cross Mum kitchen we're talking about 'Cabin Fever'. What better way to celebrate the onset of the Easter holidays and all the howling wind, lashing rain and snowfall which has arrived with it (laughs hysterically).

Of course, cabin fever gives us the perfect excuse to start baking. There's nothing more comforting than taking some poor quality cooking chocolate and discount brand breakfast cereals from your badly stocked cupboards and concocting 'easter nests'. The children adore getting involved and spilling everything, arguing over wooden spoons and making themselves sick on mixture (smiles to camera and takes a sip of something alcoholic).

After a busy morning sweeping up toast crumbs and changing nappies, a good hour of biscuit baking is another way to deal with cabin fever. If you can't be bothered to make actual biscuits (rolls eyes), then why not cheat? I know, very naughty of me but rolling out and cutting shapes from play doh takes up just as much time and skill. Also, you won't have any of those nerve jangling discussions later about why you just can't eat 5 biscuits before dinner and will have to wait until daddy gets home to see what the biscuits taste like.

So, here's to spending the easter break cooped up indoors in our woollen jumpers and mittens. If things get really bad, why not mix yourself a Dirty G&T (that's just a regular G&T served in a tumbler which has come out of the dishwasher slightly grittty and not at all like the sparkling, squeaky-clean glassware promised by the manufacturer).



March 27, 2010

Earth hour, summertime and me time

At 8.30pm tonight, lights will go out for an hour all over the world. This is 'Earth Hour' a global call to action to every individual, business and community throughout the world to get involved in the world’s largest global climate change initiative. Tonight, iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness, and so will my house. Check out the Earth Hour website and follow activities on Twitter @earthhour

Tomorrow also sees the start of summertime as we put the clocks forward at midnight. I used to feel completely cheated by this concept. It seemed so unfair that you would wake up one morning and an entire hour would have gone from your life. Since becoming a mum, I really don’t miss that extra hour in bed; I feel deprived of an extra hour's sleep most mornings as I stumble around the kitchen foraging for Cheerios and coffee.

Also, without the need to dress everyone up in multiple layers of jumpers, coats, hats and gloves before leaving the house (have you ever tried getting a toddlers hand into a glove?), I reckon I’ll be gaining at least an extra two to three hours a day. So losing one really isn’t such a big deal.

So, rather than bemoaning the loss of an hour this weekend, I, for one, will embrace the onset of summertime and take every opportunity the extra hours of daylight bring to get outside and run the little legs off my boys until the sun sets. With all that fresh air and exercise they might, just might, crash out and sleep soundly through the night until a reasonable hour of the morning; buying mummy just a little bit more 'me time'.


March 24, 2010

The Delicious Mrs Hot Cross Mum

Well, helloooooo (said in a breathy, girly way). Thanks so much for dropping by. Apologies, I meant to place jugs of pretty flowers all around, but didn't get chance. Nevermind, these wilting daffodils still look quite jolly don't they?

I like to think of the time I spend in my kitchen as a reflection of a particular mood. So today, the mood is ‘Chaos’ (giggles). You know, one of those days where you don’t have five minutes for yourself, everyone’s annoying each other and everything you touch breaks. It’s such fun! (bats eyelashes over large bushbaby-esque eyes). After a joyful hour shopping for loo roll, spaghetti hoops and jaffa cakes, I like nothing more that to retreat to the kitchen, and stay there for the rest of the day.

My perfect recipe for a day of Chaos is as follows. So, pour yourself a dirty coffee (that’s just regular coffee in an unwashed mug), and get stuck in!

1. Ensure all work surfaces are completely cluttered and that all cooking utensils required are left unwashed in the sink from the previous meal (this is very important).
2. Take one hassled parent and place near a hot oven or hob.
3. Add one or more children and leave them to whip themselves up into a frenzy. This recipe works best with children under the age of five.
4. Leave everyone to simmer for a few moments.
5. Sprinkle an assortment of small cars, balls, books and bricks around your feet.
6. Ensure your nerves are very finely shredded before turning up the heat.
7. Stir in a few disagreements and season with intermittent cries of “Mummeeee. He’s hitting me.”
8. Apply a glaze to your expression.
9. Grind your teeth and allow your blood to slowly come to the boil.
10. You may wish to mix yourself a fancy cocktail at this point, although this is totally unnecessary. A cheap bottle of wine will do equally well.
11. Throw the food quickly onto plates, paying no attention whatsoever to the presentation.
12. Sit down for ten minutes before getting up again to scrape the uneaten meals into the bin.

Just wonderful. So, that’s my perfect day of Chaos. Join me next week for more delicious treats from the Hot Cross Mum kitchen.

image courtesy of Miss Anne Traintor


March 22, 2010

I can’t get off the mummy-go-round

It should have been a totally relaxing, blissful hour all to myself. It should have been. Except, it wasn’t.

I was in a hotel spa, wrapped up in my robe and slippers. After completing the questionnaire confirming that I wasn’t about to expire or have a baby, I was greeted by my therapist (not that sort, the other sort) who can only be described as a cross between Mrs Doyle from Father Ted and Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter. Slightly perturbed, I followed this crazy lady into ‘The Lotus Room’ and settled myself on the table thingy while she went to fetch me a glass of water.

I’m actually rubbish at relaxing. I find it hard to turn off my internal mum-ologue which always seems to be going over my ‘To Do’ lists. Moaning Myrtle's incessant chatter didn't exactly help: “Have you travelled far? What do you think of the hotel? Do you have any plans for the evening?”

“For god’s sake woman SHUT UP! I’m not in the hairdressers. I don’t want to talk to you. I'm trying to relax. Just get on with it."

(I didn’t actually say this).

Unfortunately, get on with it she did. This woman’s hands were about as relaxing and healing as I imagine an old fisherman’s barnacle encrusted ones would be. So they I lay with my limbs being slowly eroded; listening not to the sounds of crashing waves, but to my rambling thoughts.

“Ouch, that salt scrub is really scratchy. Bloody hell, she’s being a bit rough. I wonder what the boys are having for tea? Blimey, those hot towels on my face are boiling hot. What if I’m scarred? Oh, I must remember to ring the school on Monday. I wish she’d stop pressing so hard on my scalp, I think I’m getting a migraine. I bet the boys haven’t had a bath. I have to get our flights booked for Spain as soon as I get back. Ouch. I can’t remember if I defrosted those sausages……”

An hour later, I emerge from The Lotus Room not in the slightest bit relaxed, still not sure if I defrosted the sausages and looking like I've escaped from a home for the terminally bewildered. Maybe next time I’ll just have a manicure

I'm currently guest blogging at Cuddledry. Check out my post about being
a little bit pregnant and overwhelmed in Mothercare!


March 20, 2010

Competitive? Me? Never!

I think all parents are secretly competitive. While we might pretend to show disdain to the mothers in the playground who ask you how old your little boy is and then inform you that their little boy had been walking for six months by that stage, the reality is that most of us are hiding a competitive streak behind the façade of niceties and polite conversations; covertly on high alert for a snippet of information which we can use to bitch to someone about at some point later in the week.

“Alice said that Ella needs assistance with her scissor skills. I don’t think we need to worry about that. Did you see this perfect cutting out of the Taj Mahal that Little Jonny did today?”

We eye up the artwork on display in the classroom and do a quick scan for our own child’s work before checking out everyone else’s. Of course we are delighted to see that our child’s painting is one which has managed to stay, mainly, within the lines and has some nice colours in it rather than the page covered completely in black which some other child has produced.

We ask our children furtive questions as a way of gathering information about the other kids and their parents. “Did you eat all your snack today? What did everyone else take?” we enquire, secretly hoping that our selection of smoothie drink, muesli bar and apple stacks up well against the cans of Coke, packet of crisps and king size Mars bars sent by the other parents.

Maybe it's just me? Or is the truth of the matter that we are actually all competitive souls underneath; it’s just that some of us hide the fact a little better than others.


March 19, 2010

The 'un' truth about Hot Cross Mum

I have been challenged to lie to you. I know, shocking isn't it? But I don't like to turn down a challenge, so lie to you I will. The challenge which has been passed to me by the lovely Bridgid at Sort Of Writing, is to list 6 untruths and 1 half truth about me. But which is the half truth?

1. I am actually half mum, half robot. Technically, this makes me a Mumbot. Here's the proof.

2. Approximately a year ago I was attacked by swans and they stole my engagement ring.

3. My poem, 'Ode to the Kitchen Table' is being turned into a West End musical starring Jedward and Kerry Katona. The first three weeks are already completely sold out.

4. While I pretend to be a busy Stay At Home Mum, I actually have an army of assistants who I employ to manage my sprawling country estate and write my blog posts. Even my son occasionally contributes. I actually spend most of my time luxuriating in goat's milk and drinking champagne.

5. My children are practically organic from head to toe and have never been to McDonalds.

6. I am extremely lucky to be married to a real life Superhero.

7. I have never traumatised my child by taking him through a car wash.

So, which is the half truth and which are just blatant lies? I'd also like to pass this award/challenge onto the following, who I'm sure won't have any problem coming up with some little white lies!

Before you go, head over to the latest British Mummy Bloggers carnival over at Baby Baby. It's the biggest ever (and that IS true!)


March 15, 2010

Moving on

You came into our house nearly 5 years ago, a symbol of hope, excitement and expectation. I watched you being put together, screw by frustrating screw. I put the lovely new sheets on your mattress, carefully lined up the few teddies I had bought along one of your sides and stood back; unable to really believe that you would soon hold our baby.

Since that day, you’ve held both my babies. I’ve sat for hours watching them sleeping peacefully in you. I’ve rubbed tiny hands through your bars and willed the poorly child within to get better. I’ve listened from a distance to their chats with those same teddies I placed within you years ago.

Those little babies soon became big enough to jump up and down in you, shout for their milk at the top of their voices, laugh hysterically at the antics of their brother and play games pretending to be tiny babies within you again. They have both thrown their teddies out of you in a temper, thrown themselves out of you in an even greater temper and scarred you forever with their tiny teeth marks.

All too soon it would seem, my babies have outgrown you. They have moved on. Our family has moved on. So, just as you did all those years ago, you stand empty once again. And I feel a little sad.

After all is said and done, you may just be a collection of wood and screws, but your arrival into our home was the start of an amazing journey; a journey we are very much still travelling but on which we no longer need your help.

Thank you cot. It's been emotional.


March 12, 2010

Now That's What I Call Mother's Day: Vol 1

You can’t help noticing the plethora of compilation CDs being promoted for Mother’s Day. TV ads, supermarkets and music stores are full of ‘be-daisied’ CDs offering a lovely collection of mumsy tunes selected especially for our worn out ears. Well, I thought I would add my own selection to the offerings. So I give you:

‘Now That's What I Call Mother’s Day: Vol 1' - available from this Sunday in all good kitchens.

Disc 1
Mothering Heights – Kate Bush
She Needs Sanctuary – The Cult
Wash day, bloody wash day – U2
It’s Simply A Mess – Tina Turner
Radio Goo Goo Ga Ga – Queen
Shut Up and Let Go of My Ankles – The Ting Tings
Ooops, I Spilt It Again – Britney Spears
I’m So Exhausted – The Pointer Sisters
Smells Like A Dirty Nappy – Nirvana
I Don’t Feel Like Hoovering – The Scissor Sisters

You Mess Me Up - Westlife
Walking On Lego - Katrina and the Waves

Disc 2
I Want To Break Free – Queen
Patience – Take That
Help! – The Beatles
Shout – Lulu
I Predict A Riot – The Kaiser Chiefs
Sweet Child Of Mine – Guns n Roses
Insomnia – Faithless
Hard To Handle – The Black Crowes

I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor

Volume 2: 'Now That's What I Call Surviving The Summer Holidays' will be available early July.


March 10, 2010

Happy Blogday To Me!

I can't quite believe that my blog is one year old today! It was exactly 365 days ago that I figured out how to set the blog up and then find the courage to post something. I hesitated for ages before finally hitting 'Publish' on my first post. I'm not quite sure what I expected - a public flogging for my opinions on life as a Stay At Home Mum or a deluge of congratulatory comments at the sheer brilliance of my writing. Neither happened! In fact, it was a good couple of months before anyone else really noticed my blog.

Since then, I've written 96 posts - 97 when this gets published - and so much has happened in both my personal and blogging life. It's been an amazingly 'different' 365 days and I'm thrilled to have come this far on both counts.

Without going too 'Oscar-ish' on you all, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who follows me, comments regularly or who has ever read Hot Cross Mum. Also, thanks to the British Mummy Bloggers network for expanding my blogging horizons and to Beth Morrissey at Hell Or High Water and Inkwell Writers for getting me started in the first place and, of course, thanks to my fabulous, gorgeous boys who fill my head with stories every single day.

To help celebrate this mini milestone, the nice people at Reebok are giving one of my readers the opportunity to get their hands on a pair of EasyTone trainers and Reebok training bag containing training pants, vest, windcheater and pedometer. If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning this 'get fit kit', just leave a comment below. The winner will be selected at random within the next few days.

So, I shall leave it at that and simply say that Hot Cross Mum has had a blast the last year and is looking forward to the next 365 days - and beyond. Now, I must dash. I have a candle to blow out and several piles of washing to attend to. A lot has changed in the last year - some things will always stay the same!
This competition is now closed. The delighted winner of the Reebok trainers and training gear is Not Such a Yummy Mummy. Many congrats!


March 5, 2010

What's on your bottom step?

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who seems to spend half their life picking things up off the bottom step and carrying them upstairs. How is it that everything we own seems to live upstairs and yet always ends up downstairs? I sometimes think life would be so much easier if we actually just lived on a massive bottom step. You know, cut out the middle man and all the picking up and running up and down stairs.

I'm usually the one who puts things on the bottom step. It starts after breakfast and continues all day. Something gets put there and is picked up and taken upstairs the next time I'm passing. Actually, that's a complete lie. It has been know for stuff to reside there for days before I actually pick it up and take it upstairs.

Sometimes I play a game to add a little frissance of excitement to my day and leave stuff there on purpose to see if anyone else thinks to pick up the latest pile-in-waiting as they pass by. They generally don't.

Anyway, to make my point, here are 10 things which can regularly be found on my bottom step.

1. New packs of nappies which have been unpacked from the latest trip to the supermarket.
2. Bathroom cleaning stuff (I know, I know, I should just buy more stuff and leave it upstairs).
3. Small cars, random flashcards, trains, Buzz Lightyear and dozens of other toys which have, yet again, escaped from their upstairs storage boxes.
4. Piles of clean laundry or sometimes not even a pile, just a messy heap of clean clothes. I know, I know, I should have a laundry basket. I do. But it is usually somehow upstairs.
5. Piles of slippers, pjs and dressing gowns which are waiting to go back up to bedrooms after I - once again - dressed the boys in the sitting room (despite my pledge to break this terrible habit at the start of this year).
6. Packets of baby wipes.
7. Random sticks, stones and other bits from the great outdoors which have become lifelong friends on our latest walk.
8. Biscuit crumbs, raisins, bits of toast, clumps of mud.
9. Hats and gloves which have been hastily discarded and dumped there.
10. Naughty children and occasionally an exhausted mother who has given up the battle and decided to spend some time on the naughty step herself.

So, what's on your bottom step?

March 4, 2010

One Smart Fish: World Book Day

Today is World Book Day; an annual event promoting the enjoyment and reading of books in over 100 countries throughout the world. As a parent, I've often said that if I only teach my children one thing in life, I would want them to have a real love of reading and books. We have read to both our boys from when they were very tiny babies. I still have their first favourite books which were:

We have read literally hundreds of other books since and I'm so delighted that both the boys now have a real love for cuddling up with a pile of books for me to read to them.

We recently read a fantastic new book 'One Smart Fish' by Chris Wormell.

This is a brilliantly illustrated book which tells us about the cleverest fish in the ocean who longs to walk upon the land. He invents feet and walks out of the water! His adventures give the other fish big ideas and they all start trying to walk as well. 'One Smart Fish' is an ingenious way of introducing the concept of evolution. It is humorous, engaging and so bright and colourful it kept my 2 year old's attention as well as my 4 year old's. They both particularly love the page with the picture of the BIG fish and the one of the scary shark. They scream out loud every time we turn to that page! They keep asking for 'One Smart Fish' again and again and I'm more than happy to read it. The book is priced at £10.99 and is my top tip for World Book Day.


March 2, 2010

Excuse me, is this your child?

I’ve never been entirely sure of the purpose of indoor play centres. Is it somewhere for mum or dad to have an hour off-duty while a ball pool and a giant snake masquerading as a slide mind the kids; or is it somewhere for the kids to have fun and for their parents to have fun with them?

It's probably a bit of both for most parents, but I'm starting to get a bit fed up of going to these places to mind other people's children. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have ‘rescued’ someone else’s child from the top of a slide or rocked someone's toddler on the rocking lion or taken a wailing tot around the tables of chattering mums to see who the child belongs to.

Of course, this happens to us all; you only have to turn your head for a few seconds for something to happen and you feel like the worst mum on earth when someone else brings your crying child to you while you're paying for a scone and a latte.

But if you chose to turn your head for five, ten, fifteen minutes or longer, then that’s an entirely different matter altogether. I am just stunned at the number of times I see parents arrive, send their child off to play, shoo them away repeatedly when they come back to their table and generally do their best to ignore them for the duration of their time there.

I actually enjoy playing with my children at these places; shouting encouragement to them to come down a new slide or climb to new level and generally interact with them. Of course, play centres are a great change of scenery and a brilliant way to let the kids burn off some energy and I'm not condemning anyone for enjoying a coffee, a flick through the celebrity magazines or a much needed natter with friends.

But do I really want to spend my mornings looking after or disciplining other people’s children? Erm, nope. I have enough of a struggle looking after and disciplining my own! So parents please, please, remember that your children are your responsibility – not the play centres and not mine.
Read more about me in my interview on the internet's first BlogCom 'How Did You Get There'

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