At Home Mums' Blog

Take a light hearted look at the issues faced by mums home with the kids. Read some personal views on the challenges of raising children today, and the pressures mums face. My website - - has some more serious and hopefully useful stuff on all these topics. I'd love to get your comments and advice. If anyone out there can help this mum maintain her sanity, it would be much appreciated!

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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

At the library

"Are those your children", the librarian asked, as I queued to get our books signed out. I turned briefly, in the hope there was someone else behind me with worse behaved children than mine. No one. I contemplated complete denial, but short of abandoning them, and the books, this wasn't going to fly. "Yes, they're mine"

"Well you know there's no running in the library"

Actually, no, there's no specific signs and you have wide carpeted slopes which are completely irresistible to young children, and we have been in here lots of times, and not been told off before. But yes, of course, it's a library, not a playground.

"Sorry", I said

"Could you please ask them to stop"

I envisaged myself chasing children down a slope, trying to look like I was in control, eventually grabbing one or other so they had to stop, explaining the situation, being ignored, causing a tantrum, or possibly two tantrums, and I took the easy option. May as well admit defeat up front, as everyone was watching now.

"I'm sorry", I said, "but it would be easier if you just signed my books out and we'll leave immediately, otherwise I'm likely to have tantrums and screaming children, and I think that's worse, don't you?". I smiled sweetly (desperately).

Luckily at this point another librarian spontaneously told the children not to run, and the unknown potential power of a stranger turned them into obedient creatures for a moment.

"That'll be $5.60 please" the first librarian said. (They only charge 20 cents per day in late fees)

"Sorry", I said, again "we don't get here very often, for obvious reasons..."

As we left, Michael requested a carry. I gave him two options; the pushchair or walking options, and he chose the laying down on the floor option instead. I walked up the slope with Holly and just out of his view, in the hope that the potential loss of mummy would return the power to his legs, but no, he knows I'll never really leave him. It took more quiet direction from the librarian and he walked obediently up the slope. Oh, to have such control over my children....

We have had an on again, off again relationship with the library over the last few years. They do a great half hour of stories, music and craft for the children three days a week during school term, and I have taken one or other children over time. I tried taking both, but together they cannot resist the lure of the slopes and steps, and together they cannot remember to keep quiet. I was brought up in a time and place where libraries really were quiet places and I'm well aware that some people are there to study or read in peace, so my instinct is to keep the children quiet and still. To a large extent, I fail, and I therefore find our library sessions rather stressful.

Having said that, on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning between 10am and 11am, the library is full of children and it is definitely not quiet. I guess I have assumed the rules are not as strict as they used to be, and I sense a tension between the old school librarians and those who do the kids' sessions which bring chaos to a place of natural order.

Personally, I think that the more exposure children have to books and reading, the more likely they are to develop a love of reading themselves. Letting them explore a library and read some books with mummy until we decide which ones to take home, is great. They just can't be expected to control their natural exuberance for very long.

I came to the conclusion today, that we should have separate children's libraries, with the usual supply of books and videos or DVDs, plus space for reading sessions, and a play area where those who cannot be contained, can be free to climb and run and shout, while mum gets the books. The basic rules can still be there - no running or shouting in the book area, but everyone involved would have enough contact with kids to know that it's hard for them, and us, so the rules are there to teach us how to progress to the big library, and not to make us feel bad.

In the meantime, I have decided that if I return to the library with the kids, it needs to be between 10 and 11 on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, when hopefully my children can blend in with the 20 or so other children who are oblivious to library rules and regulations, and just there to have fun.

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Sunday, 22 March 2009

Gym Junkie Mums

Gym junkie mums. You know them because they're the ones who are dressed in lycra shorts and running shoes at pre-school drop off and who drop and run (literally) to the gym for the 9:30 class. They're the ones who discuss the merits of the different personal trainers and enthuse about how great the 5:30am spin class with Warren is. They are also the ones with the perfect bodies who look happy and healthy and full of life. Then there's the mums like me, who look like they could do with another 3 hours in bed, only ever run after the children and wouldn't dare wear lycra for fear of what it might reveal.

I am jealous of course. I would love to be motivated enough to want to get up early to exercise, but I'm not, and let's face it, even before kids I wasn't. All my life I have done some exercise, just never with any great passion. I didn't find my sport at school and although I tried rowing at university, I soon gave that up when it came to 6am rows on a partly frozen river in the middle of winter.

As a teenager I religiously did my Jane Fonda exercise program, and I had an exercise bike that gradually became a clothes horse over the months. I have purchased several sit up devices, exercise mats, videos, and weights and I have been an on again off again member of the gym, depending on the prevailing distractions, motivations and stage of life.

I object to have to pay too much to exercise, but I kid myself if I think I'm motivated to go it alone.

I found yoga in the years before Holly came along, and have continued on and off in various forms. I tried Bikram yoga, which is done in a heated room, and I have to admit part of the motivation was to cheat a bit on the whole workout. All that sweating has got to get rid of some excess somewhere... But having decided I wanted to have a baby, I came to the conclusion it wouldn't be good for a potentially pregnant body. Whether I had any grounds for that belief I can't remember, but it was a good reason to move on.

Yoga suited me perfectly when pregnant as well, although the class I went to when I was pregnant with Holly, felt more about relaxation than exercise. We did some belly dancing and 'visualisation' and even had partners come along to prepare for the birth. I probably used one yoga move in labour, but the one thing I took to heart from my yoga teacher was the right to make noise. Labour hurts, and making noise releases some of that pain. For those who know me, it probably seems strange, but I was loud, and I mean loud. In fact at one point they had to tell me to shut up and put the effort into pushing rather than screaming.

I digress.

As a mum, exercise became not only about being fit, but also getting the pre-pregnancy body back. I was lucky pre-kids to have a pretty flat stomach and nice long legs. The legs stayed, all be it with a few more veins and capillaries showing, which means my preferred skirt length now is floating, rather than flirting, but the tummy suffered slightly, as you might expect. I made a concerted effort to exercise when Holly was born. I tried some 'bring your bub' yoga classes, but it didn't work for me, having to whip the boob out in mid pose in order to calm the baby. I tried it again when Michael was a bit older, but what two year old can resist sitting (or jumping) on mummy when she's lying on the floor. It didn't make for a relaxing or productive class.

I walked a lot with Holly. Stomped the streets in fact. Walked to the shops, walked to mothers' group, walked to the clinic, walked to the park. This worked for both of us, until my knees started creaking and I was advised by a physio to vary the exercise as I was building muscle unevenly in my legs. Combining a mix of walking and yoga did the trick, but as the kids changed, the possibilities changed. There comes a point where your compliant little baby no longer wants to sit and watch the world go by from the comfort of her pram, but wants to be out and about enjoying it first hand. Walks become strolls at best or full on bribery sessions.

Walking was also more fun when there was a destination, which often meant a hot chocolate half way through and the early introduction of baby chinos.

I tried the gym again, but my two objected to being left with strangers in a crowded creche, where television was the main comfort. I think the furthest I made it through a yoga class with Michael was about 10 minutes, before the creche called me out to comfort him. They were equipped to look after happy kids, but didn't have the staff to cope with the unhappy ones. I eventually gave up trying during the week and as soon as my membership permitted, I switched to a once a week pass and left the kids with the other half at the weekend. My week day exercise was back to walks to the shops, so long as it wasn't too hot, too cold or too wet.

I tried to find other ways of exercising with the kids. I bought a skipping rope, but it's frustrating for a 4 year old who can't skip, to have mummy trying to get to a hundred before she'll help. I went through a phase of chasing games, where the real objective was for mummy to get a run around the garden. I have a go on the swing, and I'm a regular on the trampoline, but it's not quite the same as a proper workout.

In recent months, I have become a fan of Pilates, and realised exactly how little strength I have in the mid regions, even though (of a morning) my stomach can appear reasonable flat. I have to be careful not to get demotivated, as I watch other ladies with seemingly larger bodies go from lying flat on the floor to sitting bolt upright with no help other than the tummy muscles. I have a tight back, apparently, which I can use as another excuse for needing to grab my legs and haul myself up to sitting.

Just before Christmas Richard Branson's new Virgin Active gym opened up near us, and, given that I didn't have to commit for any more than a month, I thought I'd give the whole gym thing one last try.

And you know what? It's working.

I can't guarantee, given the track record, how long I'll last, but I'm going to the gym three times a week. So what's the formula? Well, the kids are now old enough to communicate with me, which makes leaving them easier, as we can talk about it; they also like playing with each other; and actually, they like the gym. Club V they call the creche, and it's more like a play centre than a normal creche, with climbing areas, slides and ball pits. There are toys and craft activities, and they even do dance and football classes with some of the slightly older children. They have a television area of course, which I wish they didn't, as mine will be drawn to it whatever else is going on, but I can't complain, as I can now go for a workout (and have a coffee) and still find the kids aren't ready to go home yet.

So does this make me a gym junkie mum yet?? Given that I tend to stick to the aqua classes, pilates and yoga, and I'm still not ready for lycra in public, I'd say not, but I'm working on it. Michelle did a fantastic aerobic aqua class this morning, I'd highly recommend it...

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Pool Safety

We have a swimming pool in our backyard, and I worry about it a lot. My kids love the water and officially they know that they must never go into the pool area without an adult, but kids are kids and they have no concept of safety. They haven't been badly hurt and they haven't seen badly hurt, so they only have mum telling them about it. How do you explain to a 4 year old what drowning is, without either trivialising it, or frightening them? At this age, they assume they are invincible, they don't expect to be hurt, and they expect mum to keep them safe. They have not yet developed the sense enough to know what's safe and what's not. Also, they have that rebellious, independent streak that might just mean that one day, because they're not supposed to, they will.

Last year my neighbours' 6 and 7 year old girls took my then 3 year old inside the pool fence, and they saw the mummy monster come out in me for the first time. It was a first for me as well. I would not usually tell other people's children off, if their mums are there, as I think it's the mum's responsibility. But this was my child in danger, and it's my pool and my responsibility. And the rules are my rules. You do not go into the pool area, for any reason, without an adult.

I have admitted in the past to a certain level of paranoia, and it definitely comes out with the pool. We have the neighbours round for a swim on a regular basis, and the kids are now older, and able to swim quite well. Their mums are happy to relax, enjoy a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and have a natter while the children swim. I need to have at least one eye on the pool. My two never go in without me, and although they're younger, I think this'll continue for a few years to come. It'd be nice if I could just sit on the side and watch, as they often want to go in when it's officially too cold for mummy. On those occasions, swimming is restricted to the shallow end where I can avoid getting my shoulders wet...

My parents were out from the UK over Christmas and mum was a regular pool user, even on days when the kids thought it was too cold. I'm a firm believer in never swimming alone, so I made sure I had an eye on mum whenever she was in the pool. Mum's reaction was not to worry, dad was out there with her. My 74 year old, rather deaf father, was snoozing at the table at this point, and bearing in mind the last time I saw him in a swimming pool was about 37 years ago, I couldn't quite see him diving in to rescue mum if the need arose.

So I chose to watch. It's not that I don't trust them. I feel responsible for the safety of anyone using our pool.

And actually, I don't trust the kids. I don't trust them not to have the sudden urge to see if they can climb the fence, or open the gate or follow the cat into the pool area. Someone told me recently that if a child can reach the top of the pool fence, they can climb over. And we have chairs and toys that could easily be moved if the desire was there.

I have a few rules I follow myself. When I go in or out of the pool gate, I always make a note to check that the latch has clicked shut. I turn round and ensure the gate is closed properly. We also have a key in the lock, which is turned on the way out (but left in the lock so you can always get in in a hurry, if needed).

Also, rather than stress on a daily basis, we've invested in a pool safety net, which I'd highly recommend to anyone who has a pool. I looked at all the options for making the pool safer, and it came down to two. A pool safety net, or a safety cover which completely blocks off the pool. I chose the safety net as it is something I can take on and off my myself in 5 or 10 minutes. The safety cover requires two people, and I could see it becoming too much of a hassle for day to day use. The manufacturers of these recommend them for closing off the pool over winter, as they make it safe and also eliminate any sunlight from the water, reducing algae growth to a minimum.

Anyway, we have gone with the pool safety net, and I take it off when we swim and put it back on after. The net is custom made to fit our pool, it hooks into the ground around the pool at regular intervals, and has two tension ropes to pull it tight. The squares in the net are about 10 centimetres across, so they are small enough that a child's head could not fit through. What it means is two things; the children cannot be tempted to go for a swim on their own, as they can't get into the water; and if they did fall onto the net, they would get stuck close to the edge so they could call for help. I have a slight urge to test the net for real, but I figure asking the kids to give it a go is slightly cruel and possibly self defeating. They might find it fun. So I have to trust the pictures and testimony of the supplier.

The safety net adds an extra 10 to 15 minutes to the whole swimming routine, but even if were never put to the test for real, it reduces my stress levels, and I plan to use it long after my children can officially swim.

For more information see the Child Safety page of my web site.

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Monday, 16 March 2009

Too much television

'I looked in the mirror and they're still round', Holly said earlier. It took me a while to figure out what she was talking about. She wanted to know if she could watch more television. I felt a bit guilty about the 'square eyed' comment I made a few weeks ago, which obviously stuck, and concerns her slightly. But, given the option, my 4 1/2 year old would be a couch potato in the making, so anything that puts her off has got to be good.

Today is an exception. She is home from pre-school with a temperature and is not really up for anything else. We've done stories and she's half asleep, so I can convince myself it's ok.

Television is a continuing battle in our house. She wants it. I restrict it. I even get to the point of avoiding going straight home from pre-school so she can't ask for it.

We have rules. Honestly. On a pre-school day, they must be dressed and have breakfast before television. There is no television after dinner, and the amount is restricted.

But there are times when I need the built in babysitter in order to cook the dinner, do the dishes, put the washing out, pay the bills, mop up wee, have a largely uninterrupted phone call or just get a cup of tea. How do I fix the rules and still get the flexibility I want??

I've chosen a level of flexibility, and I pay the price. My sister's kids watch 3 things in the morning (and on cbeebies in the UK these are quite short) and that's the rule. No questions. My rules are slightly more flexible, and therefore I get the questions. And the tantrums.

I have an ongoing feeling of guilt about the TV. There are definitely days when she watches too much and it is often because mum has things to do and has taken the easy option. To switch it off means I am requested as the alternative source of entertainment, and some days, I'm just not up to it.

I'm happy to say that the younger one is more discriminating in what he watches and is easily distracted. He is also more easily scared by seemingly harmless images on the TV, so I tend to encourage him into other activities.

As for the content, I think I can safely say that almost everything that Holly watches has an educational content at this stage. She is quite specific about what she will and won't watch so we are limited to a handful of shows and a fair amount of repetition. I have tried to introduce the odd movie such as 'Finding Nemo', 'Cars' and 'Aristocats', and although we have watched them, Holly doesn't find them as appealing as the shows she watches, and also finds parts of them need mummy's company. Not scary exactly, just a bit worrying. I think this is a good thing at this stage. My adult mind would far prefer to watch 'Cars' than 'Handy Manny' or 'Finley the Fire Engine', but if I think about it, it's because the films are aimed at a wider audience, are more complex, fast moving, complicated and subtle in their sense of humour. The kids programs Holly watches are geared to her age and stage.

We had a power cut a few weeks ago, for most of the afternoon and evening, and Holly took some convincing that the television didn't work. In fact she went round the whole house switching things on and off to ensure mummy was right and nothing was working. I could just picture the power coming back on at midnight, along with half our lights, the radio, the dishwasher and of course the television.

After the initial distress, we managed to create an interesting diversion by hunting for candles and torches in case they were required later and the kids soon got distracted into a game of mums and dads (with torches of course). The immediate pain of no TV was severe, but it was not long lasting. Perhaps we should have a few more power cuts of an afternoon....

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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Child safety and a mother's paranoia

I dreamt last night that my 4 1/2 year old, plus my mum and dad were eaten by a crocodile. We'd been for a picnic by the river and chose an area covered in long grass. While I was distracted by something up river, the crocodile struck, and all that was left was Holly's white leggings with the frilly bits round the bottom. In the meantime, a friend of mine was bugging me about which handbag she should buy.

I find I dream more nowadays, and I remember the dreams. It's something to do with being on high alert for a night time call out, while still trying to sleep. This dream woke me for sure. I just dreamt my child was dead. We managed to prise open the crocodile's jaws and mum and dad actually stumbled out, but it was all over for Holly. I can still picture the image of those trousers.

So at 2 o'clock in the morning I'm suddenly wide awake, trying to rationalise my dream and resist the urge to go and check on Holly.

There may be some deeper meaning to dreams, but in my experience, they pick up on random thoughts and put them together in a way that seems perfectly logical to the night time mind.

So where did this come from. The long grass can be explained. Our lawn needs mowing. Actually our lawn badly needs mowing. The grass is long enough for the cat to hide in and stalk the local wildlife, but crocodiles? Ticks maybe, but no sign of crocodiles so far.

It must have been a story in a news a few weeks back, of a 5 year old boy being taken by a crocodile, in the Daintree National Park. The Daintree is the other half's favourite part of Australia, and he took me there early on in our relationship. I can appreciate its beauty, charm and appeal, but, and my paranoia comes out here, I couldn't get beyond the crocodiles. Finding a deserted beach with beautiful clear seas, pure white sand and no other human in sight led the other half to suggest a nudie run to the sea, and I'll leave it to you to imagine what else he had on his mind. My mind couldn't get beyond the big sign saying 'Beware of crocodiles'. And in the evening it got worse. Walking along a board walk and then a stony path to dinner, I saw at least three crocodiles (honest). It's amazing how dark it is up there under the stars, in an area still largely free from human disturbance. The squealing instinct I mentioned in Possum Magic came out in style and by the end of the evening I even had the other half paranoid. I must be a city girl...

So there's the crocodile, and by the way, he was big.

Mum and Dad. That's easy. I miss them. They were over from the UK for Christmas and everytime I talk to them, I suggest they move out and join us. Purely selfish of course. I have two sisters back home who would not be impressed, along with the other relations, friends and the Plymouth Bowling Club. Anyway, I have to ask, just incase the thought had crossed their minds...

So now we get to the big one, and it feels weird even writing it. I dreamt my child had died, in a horrible way. I think it came from reading the story of the Central Coast mum whose twin boys drowned in their backyard pool. Personally, I cannot think of anything worse than losing a child, however it happens. Words cannot describe how devasting it would be, and for me my paranoia over their safety has to be balanced carefully.

In a previous life, I was with my then boyfriend at a dinner party and someone suggested we go round the table and think of one word to describe our partners. His word for me was 'careful'. My word for him was 'annoying'. Needless to say, we didn't last.

Anyway, the point is, I am slightly paranoid about safety and becoming a mum took that paranoia to a whole new level of anxiety. Taking Holly out for the first time in the pram, it took me ten minutes to cross a virtually empty road and every time I carried her down the stairs I had visions of dropping her. I have, hopefully, managed to get a balance between paranoia and a sense of humour, so the kids do actually have fun, but it's probably a good job the other half is a lot more laid back and less inclined to stress. (He gets told off if he doesn't cross with the green man...)

So (and I know you're wondering) what about the handbag?? I have a friend who I caught up with at the weekend, who has an obsession with handbags, and also actively dislikes kids, so I could just picture her being oblivious to my distress and the predicament of my child. You might wonder what we have in common, and I think the answer is not much, but when I need a child free couple of hours and a shopping companion, she's a good distraction from the stresses and worries of motherhood.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Stair gates - don't get rid of them too soon!

We have found a whole new use for our stair gate. Put the television on downstairs, lock the gate at the top of the stairs, and take some time out for yourselves without risk of a little person coming in at the vital moment. Ok, so they can still stand at the top of the stairs and yell at you, but it gives you time to regain some composure or shout back a delaying tactic.

A friend was horrified when I told her we did 'it' when the kids were awake, but in reality, what else do we do? Mornings are out as the kids are in our bed before 6 and my sex drive is way below that required for any earlier. Evenings are out as one or other of us, or usually both, are too tired, so it has to be middle of the day. And we can't really get a babysitter, or ask the neighbours if they can mind the kids while we get a bit of private time. Or can we..? Anyway, it works for us.

It does mean that the whole process has to be speeded up a bit. Foreplay is out, and the use of a battery powered finger helps move us along more quickly. (You just have to watch where you store those things as the children love finding new toys...) The sexy lingerie remains in the back of the drawer and there's no lingering over undressing nowadays, but at the end of the day, it's some private time and if mummy and daddy are happy, the kids will be happy. For once we embrace our children's tv addiction without guilt.

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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Possum Magic

'Be brave mummy', my 4 year old says.

'I will Holly', I declare, sounding confident, as I peer into the pool filter basket. I have just stuck my hand in the water to clean out the basket and been attacked by a large rat. Slight exaggeration, but there's something in there and I really don't want to have to deal with it.

I think about the options. Why don't I ask the kids if they'd mind not going for a swim. Something else is using the pool, and it doesn't want to share. No... they're not going to buy it.

Ring the other half, get him to come home from work to deal with it. No, not an option. Ask a neighbour, dial a friend? No, come on mummy, be brave. I will just have to bite the bullet and remove the rat. As it turns out, on closer inspection, it's a bandicoot, and for some reason they are far cuter and more manageable than a rat.

Thank goodness, as the children are watching in fascination (from the other side of the pool fence, of course) as mummy tries to convince a poor soggy bandicoot to move out into open water so I can scoop it out with the net. I bring it round for closer inspection and we decide to release it in the back yard under the tree. The moment it's free, a gang of minor birds swoop on it, squawking loudly and the traumatised creature gets another fright and scuttles away under the shed.

I know we're supposed to respect the native wildlife, but sometimes it gets too much. We had a possum living in our roof recently, and one day I was in the kitchen getting lunch, when I heard a scrabbling from one of the cupboards. My immediate reaction was that the kids had shut the cat in the cupboard again. (I try to get them to treat her nicely, honestly, but sometimes the cat just asks for it - a combination of curiosity, love, blind faith in us, and not many brains). Anyway, this was a brief thought, because today's scrabbling was coming from the cupboard above the fridge where I keep all my cleaning stuff and nasty sprays for getting rid of unwanted creatures, and it's definitely supposed to be inaccessible to kids and cats. I went over to take a look, and there, sat on top of our fridge was a large brush tailed possum. It had come down a gap behind the cupboard and was now quite calmly trying to scramble back up my nicely painted wall. It stayed long enough for me to prove to the rest of the family that, yes, there was a live possum on the fridge, not Holly's soft toy, and then it finally made it back up into the roof. It has since been seen in the same location again, and twice, diving out of a hole in the roof in the middle of the day. This is one insomniac possum. Having heard horror stories of possum pee leaking through the ceiling and all sorts of other nasties, we have fixed the roof (while the possum was out) and put up a possum box in a nearby tree. We now hope he relocates permanently.

Did I mention I'm a squealer? I didn't realise it myself, until I came to Australia. We don't get as many creepy crawlies and creatures living in the house back home, and taken by surprise by one one these, I am prone to squeal like a girl and jump a mile.

I took it too far one day, when, without contact lenses in, I was having a shower, and something black ran across the bath. I squealed, caused the other half to come running to the rescue, only to find the plug had rolled off the side of the bath and landed at my feet. Those squashy lizards the kids have can cause a similar reaction if trodden on in bare feet...

Since having kids, I have had to be braver, call upon my inner resources, and learn to deal with these things. I am the one who removes spiders, gets rid of cockroaches, disposes of the dead bunny that the cat brought in, and tries to be calm and sensible about it, so as not to make the children afraid. But occasionally they just get the better of me.

A large huntsman spider was running round the outside of the car when I dropped Michael at Occasional Care. It caused a slight increase in heart rate, but was outside so I could deal with it. But, as I tried to swipe it off the car, it reared up on its hind legs and ran inside the boot. Now I had a huntsman in the car. The logical brain said it wasn't going to harm me, but the squealing instinct whilst driving is highly likely to cause an accident. I explained my predicament to the Occasional Care teacher, and she tried to convince me not to worry, but I know my limits and this one had to go. I lingered after drop off, had a coffee, avoided the issue, but soon realised that if I ever wanted to use the car again, I had to do something. I bought a can of insect spray and sprayed the inside of the car, went and did some shopping and drove home with the windows down.

I think I'm sending a confusing message to the kids. You must be kind to animals and respect them; they live here too, if you aren't kind, they'll learn not to be kind either, and could hurt you. Do not chase the cat, pull its tail, lift it up by the legs, squash it round the tummy, or in any other way torture it. But, you can stamp on ants, spray cockroaches, let the cat get the bunny (actually the kids didn't see that one...).

Holly went through a phase of being scared of ants, which I think originated from an episode of Dora where the giant ants try and get Boots (and I thought it was all educational...). I have tried explaining that they are tiny compared with us, and are probably more frightened of us; that they will not do her any harm and that the little ones don't bite (which I've since found is untrue). But none of it helped, so we have resorted to a stamp on ants policy.

I have to say I don't enjoy the native or non native wildlife in my house, or in my pool, but they do have their benefits. We had Japanese students staying with us recently, and as it got dark, we got the torches out and went on a possum hunt. We only had to walk down the driveway to see a ringtail up a tree, and back in the garden the bandicoots were out and about. The students were fascinated, and the children loved it. The other half is thinking of selling tours for Japanese tourists. After all, they have never seen these creatures before. We could even throw in a couple of redbacks living under the house and show them a tick or two.

(We're going on a Possum Hunt, we're going to find a big one, we're not scared, what a beautiful night... Yeeeeek!)

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Sunday, 1 March 2009


'Daddy's boobies are bigger than yours mummy', my daughter announced this morning, as we lay in bed watching daddy get dressed after his shower.

Yes, right, thank you very much. Ok, so she's kind of right. The other half works out up top, and would claim it's all pure muscle. I work out (sometimes) in the hope that a bit of muscle might add some extra definition to my non existent boobies.

'And Daddy's got a big willy', pipes up the younger one. Well dad's pleased with that, but it's all relative in a two year old's mind! Michael tried on his first pair of undies the other day (Wiggles undies, of course), he had a bit of a grope down there and his conclusion was, 'Too little'. Whether he was referring to the undies or their contents, who knows, but I guess it must feel strange after being squashed in a nappy for two and a half years.

But back to the boobies. I have never been well endowed, sadly, and having children has not helped. I hoped for boobs as a teenager, but finally gave up at about the age of 21 and started searching for the perfect push up, fully padded bra instead.

Thank goodness I don't have to go through those new boyfriend moments again, where we're lying have a grope in the dark and he's missed my boobs and is busy mauling my rib cage..

I always thought that getting pregnant would be my only hope for boobs, and I was right. On and off for four years or so, there was a marked improvement in size. I wouldn't go as far as to say I gained a cleavage, but I was quite happy with them (as was the other half) and I actually experienced the sensation of bouncing as you run, for the first time.

About day 3 post labour was the most amazing. The milk came in, and there I was with rock solid, rounded boobs never to be seen again. Ok, so they hurt like hell, leaked a lot and required cold compresses, but I really should have taken a photo. Hey Holly, mummy had boobies too once...

It's a shame that at that stage you don't get to dress up and go out of an evening, and even if you did, you'd need breast pads to stop the leaks and 'suck-you-in-knickers' to try and hold the baby gut in place.

Last time I went back to the UK, I stocked up on my Marks and Spencer's underwear (as you do if you're a Brit in Oz) and invested in a pair of jelly boobs to enhance the look.

They work quite well. Nothing drastic, they just help fill the bras I already have. But bring them back to an Australian summer and they have been reserved for those very special nights out when I want to look my best. (We haven't had one yet, as going out for a quick pizza with the other half doesn't count...) Hot, sweaty, slimy jelly boobs in a thick padded bra does nothing for comfort levels, and, since kids, I have definitely moved away from style towards comfort, so actually they're stuck in the drawer along with the sexy underwear that never gets a look in. (Quick, the kids are asleep, we're got five minutes...)

Get home of a summer's day and the bra comes off. I have perfected the technique of removing it through a sleeve so I don't even have to get undressed. One advantage of small boobs - no support required. They can breath for a moment. Let's hope no-one drops by....

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