Still learning how to parent...

>> Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Boy #1 is growing up.  Getting taller, broader, etc etc.  So when I picked him up from the sports camp he's been at for the last couple of days, red-faced and a bit sweaty, I suggested that he might want to take a shower when we got home.

To my relief, (because let's be honest, boys don't always see the need for such trivial pursuits as showers) he agreed and disappeared upstairs when we arrived back.  Thirty minutes later he appeared in the kitchen; wet-haired, clearly cleaner but - and this, I think, may be where my understanding of boys and their priorities falls somewhat short - crucially in the same clothes he'd been wearing before his shower.  The ones he'd been training in all morning.  The ones that - well, I don't think I need to spell it out.

I pointed out that climbing back into his dirty kit - no matter how comfortable he found it - sort of negated the beneficial effects of the shower.   His response?  'Mum, you asked me to take a shower.  You didn't ask me to change my clothes as well..'

Lesson learned.


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Of mice and AI

>> Friday, 18 August 2017

I just spotted something small, brown and furry emerging from under one of the kitchen cabinets.  Now, I've been here before.  I have form in this area, but not for some time now have I had the fun of dealing with unwanted household visitors.  As I sit here typing my feet are on high alert (who knows when I may need to stand on a chair whilst I assess the situation at the top of my voice?), with a weather eye on the gap between the dishwasher and the cupboard, that it used as an escape route.

I'm kidding myself that it was temporary incursion made through the kitchen door left open into the garden all morning, and also hoping that my initial impression from the fleeting glimpse I caught of the creature - that it was a shrew, rather than a mouse - was correct.  I'm not sure why, but a shrew in the house seems far less concerning to me than a mouse, which is ridiculous, really, because both are rodents and both are unwelcome; it's just a matter of semantics, really.

Whilst I wait for the fugitive to show itself, I'm taking my mind off it with some displacement activity; namely that of today's rant.

As an aside here, I do find this whole getting older thing makes me far more sensitive to - and crosser about - things that in the past I would yes, have noticed, but probably shrugged off as just part of life's rich tapestry.  Hormones, eh?

In any case, the subject of today's mini rant is Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based home management system.

Tell me please: why is Alexa a woman?  Or more specifically, since I'm sure there are options to customise the system and have an 'Alex' rather than an 'Alexa', why is the one featured on all the advertising a woman?

Because I don't know about you but I am sick to the back teeth of being the go-to person in this house for just about any query regarding home administration, especially when the person asking the question has usually not even bothered to raise their eyes from whichever screen they're watching to try and locate the information themselves.

As a feminist (a label I'm proud of by the way; more of that in another rant in the not too distant future), I'm trying to raise my sons to make no assumptions that it will be the woman of the house who will sort home-based admin problems out for them.  Yet on every side they are confronted with images that tell them no, your mother's wrong; no matter how much she may try to encourage you to adopt a non-sexist approach as you deal with life, it IS a woman who is going to run things for you.  And here, on the tv and radio is Alexa, an early version of AI - complete with female voice -  to underline that fact.

I can't be the only woman to be annoyed by this, surely?




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Eight Reasons to Suspect Your Chosen Holiday Destination is Middle Class.

>> Friday, 28 July 2017

1)  Every second child playing Wholesome Outdoor Games on the beach is called Saskia, Lolly, Sophia, Algie, or Fred.

2) Red shorts, red trousers.  Everywhere.

3)  It appears to be a legal requirement to have a dog, to the extent that you begin to wonder if there is a check-point at the edge of town refusing entry to those families who turn up without them. (You personally don't own a dog, but congratulate yourself for having taken the precaution of borrowing one for the duration of your holiday.  Although - picking up pooh.  Do people really do this ALL the time?).

4) Said dog must be either a Jack Russell, Border Terrier, Labrador (any colour acceptable), Golden Retriever, or a Springer or Cocker Spaniel.  (Your borrowed dog is a Labrador / Cocker Spaniel cross.  So THAT's a relief).

5)  The dog's name must be Saskia, Lolly, Sophia, Algie or Fred.

6)  You walk into a shop looking for a friend who has wandered off and ask the sales assistant if she's seen her.  The conversation goes as follows:

Me: 'Is my friend in the changing rooms?  She's wearing a blue & white striped top.'

Sales Assistant - without missing a beat: 'You mean, like everyone else in town at the moment?'

7)  The narrow streets of the town are clogged with people, children, and dogs, and things get somewhat fraught when a random parent calls out to their child (using, of course, a name from the prescribed list) and assorted toddlers and dogs strain at the leash to see who is summoning them, tripping up their red-trousered matelot-top wearing parents' and / or owners as they do so.

8)  The same narrow streets are regularly jammed by traffic in the middle of the day, not by holiday makers hopelessly circumnavigating the town in their shiny 4x4's hunting for the El Dorado of an available parking space (they do at least keep moving, even if it is at snail's pace), but by Waitrose and Ocado vans driven by dead-eyed men and women trying to deliver halloumi and couscous to the hungry masses.


Please Note:

No, I'm not telling you where this is.  I'm far too busy shaking the sand out of my deck shoes, sorting whites from coloureds (red shorts have a tendency to run when washed with blue & white striped tops), and hunting through the cupboards for some couscous to serve with a delicious grilled halloumi salad for dinner tonight.



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That thing when...

>> Thursday, 6 July 2017

... you click on your child's school Twitter feed, hoping to see a picture of them enjoying themselves on their week away doing Wholesome Outdoor Activities, but knowing it's something of a fool's errand because previous experience has shown that they are clearly working on their camera avoidance skills (perhaps they have a great future ahead as a spy?), as they NEVER appear on photos on these trips. Every other child in the class seems to appear with impressive regularity, but yours?  No.

Yes - I know all about that.

But this year, bloggie mates, I made Arrangements to Deal with It.

This year, I bought said child a red baseball hat, and ensured that not one but two red fleeces made it into the suitcase.  Not only would he be visible - if he DID make it into the shot - but based on my admittedly limited understanding of what teachers look for when they point and shoot, a child in a bright colour makes a much better subject than one in navy, black or dark grey.

I know - it's a long shot.  Truthfully, I never really thought it would work.

Today, however, I clicked on the school's feed and there he was; Boy #2 in a starring role kayaking, on climbing walls, hanging out with his mates whilst waiting for another day of Wholesomeness Outdoors, and so on.  All the while in red hat, fleece, or both.

Well, friends, that did it; I got cocky and decided that if Boy #2 was so highly visible then his older brother - far less camera-shy - must be visible in at least a couple of photos of HIS school trip.

But no.  Not a whiff of him, kayaking, climbing or otherwise.  And you know why?  No red baseball hat, no red fleece, that's why.

Lesson learned.






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Breaking out of stasis

>> Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Tick, tick, tick...

I think the world might be trying to tell me something.  On facebook this last week I've been assailed with suggestions that I might like to look at posts featuring activities for Empty Nesters.  Has someone told them both my children are away on activity weeks with their school?  And if they have been told, why would fb then think it a good idea to follow up that suggestion with a link to a new scary movie; 'It Comes At Night'?  Why, fb, why?  For all they know, I'm alone in the house this week.  And even though I'm not (alone, that is), I am SO not going to click on a link to a movie that will make it even more difficult to get to sleep in a draughty old house on the occasions that I am...

And then, to add insult to injury, when I checked my email this morning there was an ad in the sidebar from Boots, inviting me to 'Stay Dry and Confident' with incontinence pants.

I used to like you, Boots.

The thing is, I don't actually feel my age.  Yes, I'm 50.  But I feel somewhere in my mid 30's. Having kids a bit later can do that for you, I think.  Well, either that, or it will make you feel somewhere around 70 when they roll their eyes with embarrassment as you try unsuccessfully to stay relevant and up-to-date with their latest musical crush - but let's not dwell on those moments.  (Is it my fault I didn't react in a suitably outraged manner when Boy #1 confronted me with the news that Justin Bieber essentially stole all the credit for 'Despacito' from Luis Fonsi?  Is it?  Well, apparently, yes...)

Here's an interesting thought; when I was 13 (as my older child is now) my mother was only 37.  And I STILL thought she was out of touch.

Boom.

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Just do it... (writing as therapy)

>> Wednesday, 3 May 2017

I've always been a firm believer in the truism that 'A writer writes'.  Except, I've not been doing very much of that recently - either here on the blog or elsewhere - which begs the question; am I still a writer?

I'm not sure.

Life has got in the way recently.  It's drained the energy from me; any creative spark I have is easily snuffed out.  I get inspiration for a post, or a story, get excited about it, start to plan, maybe even begin to write, and then bam!  Out of left-field it comes; another metaphorical body blow knocking me sideways.  Just like that the idea - and the impetus to put pen to paper - is gone.  A brief flare of the match and then, before the flame has even had the chance to take hold, nothing. I know I had it, I could almost touch it, see the words on the page, feel the satisfaction of having written and created something just for myself but now... it's gone.

I'm not sure if it's the life-stage I'm at (that pesky menopause is knocking on the door at the very time I need all my wits about me), or the external influences surrounding me, but for the last few months I've felt about as creative as a worn-out floor mop.

It occurred to me recently that perhaps I should just let this blog go.  I've been writing The Potty Diaries for ten years now, perhaps it's time to move on.  Other bloggers I started this activity with have - perhaps I should follow suit.

But then, why should I?  It's not that my life has become less eventful or that I have nothing to record.  In the last two years I've moved countries, re-assimilated to my home country (or at least, have tried to.  If' I'm honest that's still something of a work in progress), moved house - twice - excavated and sifted through 20 years of the detritus and leaf litter that's accumulated as the result of modern living, coped (yet again) as a week-day widow whilst Husband continues his work abroad, and kept the family more or less intact as we deal with the short-term impact and long-term ramifications of understanding newly diagnosed learning difficulties in one of our children.  That last one's still a work in progress too, actually.

Frankly, I'm exhausted - never a good state to be in if you want to be creative.  But I've been here before, years ago, when I started this blog to - literally - make shit funny, and back then it helped enormously.

Maybe it will again - watch this space.

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The difference between...

>> Sunday, 30 April 2017

... Men & Women trying to eat healthily, #1550

Me: 'I think I'll skip dinner tonight.  After a late lunch out this afternoon when we split the sharing plate 4 ways and then followed that with the Salad Nicoise, a couple of chips from Boy #1, and two forkfuls of Boy#2's fish pie, I'm really not hungry.'

Makes a cup of tea and eats two squares of Lindt 70% chocolate.

Husband:  'I think I'll skip dinner tonight.  After a late lunch this afternoon when we split the sharing plate 4 ways and then I ate that really healthy beetroot and avocado salad along with some bread, a handful of stolen chips from Boy #1, and a glass of sauvignon blanc, I'm really not hungry.'

Opens fridge and helps self to half a pizza left over from Friday night, and follows it up with 75g milk chocolate.

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Pushing water uphill

>> Wednesday, 11 January 2017

It was Boy #2's birthday recently (he was eleven.  ELEVEN.  How did that happen?)  He loves the fact that it's so early in the year as he sees it as an opportunity to mop up the items on his Christmas list that didn't turn up under the tree.

One of those was a laptop (we try to keep Christmas presents relatively modest, so there was no way this was going to make the cut), and another a game he's long been lusting after, to play on it.  Lucky boy, he scored both for his birthday.

However...

Neither OH or I are computer wizards.  I would, in fact, go so far as to call us complete dimwits in this respect.  OH has been carting around 2 laptops for a month now; his old, barely functioning one, and a brand spanking new shiny-shiny that he has not got around to setting up yet.  I'm no better;  I've been having problems with my own 4 year old model recently, and have my suspicions that this is due in large part to the fact that I probably never set it up properly in the first place.  Not that I would admit that to my beloved, obviously.  Not when there is the chance of a new laptop for me as a result (my own birthday is not too far away, so... ).

Despite our technical shortcomings Boy #2 is now - understandably - desperate to get his new laptop operational and to get said game installed, so OH 'took control' of the job at the weekend.  Much frustration ensued, and when he left the house on Tuesday he hadn't managed to finish the job; he would, he informed us, install the game on his return at the weekend.

The issue, however, is that Boy #2 needs motivation at the moment.  (OK; bribes, essentially).  He's coming to the end of a long road with school tests etc, so it seemed to me that completing the installation earlier than that would be a good reward for all his hard work.

It should be easy, right?

In the last 2 days I have spent over 3 hours trying to get the bloody game set up, and have got precisely nowhere.  This afternoon I thought I might have made a breakthrough when it looked as if our anti-virus software might be the roadblock, but to circumvent that I needed the serial number of our account.

Which led to the following conversation...

Me:  'So, I can't set up that game on Boy#2's laptop.  I think the anti-virus software is blocking it - can you send me the serial number?'

OH:  'What anti-virus software?'

Me:  'The one you set up on his new laptop.'  silence.  'You did set it up, didn't you?'

OH:  'Well - no.  I didn't set anything up.  Because I couldn't even get Windows to work - that was what I was muttering about on Monday evening.  God knows what the problem was but other than registering Boy #2's name on the laptop, nothing's been done.  Were you not listening to me?'

Me (carefully ignoring the last question - of course I was listening to him...): 'Which is probably why I can't get this game set up.'

OH: 'Correct.'

Me:  'So I've been wasting my time.  All 3+ hours of it.'

OH. 'Uh-huh...'

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Thanks for the memories

>> Thursday, 5 January 2017

So Carrie Fisher is gone.

Hard to believe that the woman who managed to rock that ridiculous hairstyle as Princess Leia - and still look gorgeous - is no longer with us.  I have lots of wonderful memories of her movies, but the one I'm going to share with you does not directly involve her.  It was, rather, inspired by her.  I hope that had she known of it, it would have made her laugh.

It's the summer of 2014, and the Moscow summer party season is in full swing.  Husband and I have been invited to one with a theme inspired by the first names of the joint hosts, the letter 'S', and I have no idea what to wear.

In desperation, I ask friends for helpful ideas.  One offers me a loan of a Princess Leia costume that might do - the link to the theme being the title of the movie franchise - and I quickly accept her offer.  (It's the white number with the headphone hairdo wig, from Episode IV, by the way.  Not the Return of the Jedi bikini outfit.  I may be foolhardy, but not completely insane...)

The costume arrives and I try it on, much to the amusement of my children who are intrigued by the sight of their mother prancing around in a polyester-based white dress and want to try on the wig themselves.  It goes without saying that they look far better in it than I do.   Meanwhile, I mention to one of the hosts what I'll be wearing.  She gets very excited; her husband and a friend are both going as Stormtroopers.  'Perfect!  You can get changed in the house next door and then they can come and fetch you, so you can all make an entrance as they escort you into the party!'

I say yes, reflecting that since I'm as tall as both the men involved, Princess Leia's initial exchange with Luke Skywalker will at least be relevant....

The big day arrives, and I realise that I've not discussed with Husband his plans for an S-inspired costume.   He has, of course, given the matter much thought.   'I don't know.  A shirt?' Which, if I'm honest, doesn't seem to be in the spirit of things.

So I hatch a plan, and after some fast talking (OK, some very fast talking) manage to persuade my husband to buy into it.

A couple of hours later two 5' 7"-ish stormtroopers arrive to escort Princess Leia to the party and are confused when I open the door wearing a silver sequinned dress (see what I did there?).  All is made clear, however, when my 6' 4" husband, dressed in a white dress and headphone wig, delivers Carrie Fisher's immortal line;

'Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?'



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