“You have a lot of grey hair Mummy,” says Belle as she gets into my bed this morning. Charming. No ‘good morning Mummy’, ‘I hope you slept well Mummy’.

“Er, yes, thanks for pointing that out.”

She snuggles down and I decide to change the subject before she starts pointing out my blackheads or poking the fat on my thighs.

“Belle,” I say, “what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?”

“What are strengths and weaknesses?”

“They are things you are good at or do well, things about you that you are pleased with, or things you don’t do so well or would like to improve.”

“Um…” she doesn’t looked particularly gripped by the question. “I don’t know. What are yours?”

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Words, words, words…

I love ’em. Can’t get enough of ’em. We use words and letters every day – we talk, we write, we read. The use of language is what defines us and sets us apart from other animals.

Of course you could argue that some people’s use of language is more limited than others. Bee for example communicates chiefly in grunts and smiley face emoticons, but she seems to get by.

How much do we take language for granted though? It’s true that the actual words we use only make up a small percentage of our communication, but it’s a pretty important chunk. What would you do if words or letters were suddenly taken away? I have to admit it wasn’t a question I’d given much thought to until I recently read a book called Ella Minnow Pea.

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Today is guest post day, courtesy of a mystery draw over at Little Mummy. I was thrilled to find out I was swapping with Eggs, Cream and Honey, as obviously I love cake. I was less thrilled than when I found out she is up against me in the MAD blog awards, as her blog is as scrummy as her name suggests.

If you want the other half of the swap, you’ll find me over there today talking about my (cough) love of all things baking. So let’s give it up for Eggs, Cream and Honey! (Welcoming round of applause)…

Chances are if you’re the parent of a teenager, you may have heard the “everyone else” phrase shouted back at you more times than you care to remember. This is the catchphrase adopted by your teen in response to the “no you can’t” line us parents feel the right to exert on occasion. They say it to make us feel guilty, inept and generally out of touch with the mass of other parents who are saying “yes”.

Here are some of the privileges everyone else might be getting:

  • a laptop of their own
  • a bedtime/curfew of midnight
  • unlimited texts and calls on their mobile phone
  • co-ed sleepovers
  • 18 and over games on their X-box
  • access to Facebook whenever they want
  • both Friday and Saturday nights out (sometimes Thursday too and don’t get me started on Orange Wednesdays)

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Yesterday, after a fleeting reference to camels, I was challenged to write a post in which camels became our only means of travel and communication. Always a girl up for a challenge, I decided to push it a step further and try my hand at fiction. So this morning I have written what is surely to become an extract from the most critically acclaimed post-apocolypse-self-discovery-tragi-comedy of our generation. Enjoy…

For a long time afterwards everything was quiet.

The water subsided and the ground was still, save for the occasional groan as the new landscape settled itself. Trees that had previously marked out the horizon were reformed as bridges between islands of debris.

The woman lay on her back, partly covered by the shell of what had once been a car. She did not move. Only the barely perceptible rise and fall of her chest marked her out as different from the other bodies. The sun moved slowly across the sky above her, as though ritually scanning for some form of live. As it moved round and shone through the broken car window onto her face, she stirred.

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“What shall I write about today?” I asked Belle.

“Write about Emily and me making a house in the shed and making a TV out of the cardboard box that the wine came in.”

It’s a rather sad fact that when I am feeling calm and relaxed and not overloaded with work (like I am now), that my brain goes completely blank, totally devoid of literary inspiration. If I sit down at the laptop with a whole evening in front of me to spare, I just can’t think of anything more interesting than the fact that the tasty snacks I won in a competition arrived today, resulting in my eating six Cadbury’s Turkish biscuits for my lunch.

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Yesterday I had my contraceptive implant removed. Don’t worry, it’s nothing gruesome, just a tiny plastic hormone releasing matchstick that goes under the skin in your arm. Maybe it’s a weird thing to write about, but it actually raised some interesting issues for me. If you’d rather not read about my contraceptive dilemmas though, probably best to look away now.

I had my first implant six years ago when Belle was one, and had it replaced when she was four. As this one approached the end of its useful life, I had been intending to have it replaced again, but then it struck me that actually this time round I’m not in a relationship, I’m not even really dating, and I began to wonder if such a permanent method of contraception was really necessary.

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Kids. Don’t you just love ’em?

On a good day they’ll say the sweetest things, shower you in kisses and bring you glasses of water if you’re feeling hungover. But just like the girl with the curl, when they are bad, they are horrid. In the heat of a temper Belle will say the most outrageous things – that I can handle – but often they will say or do things that are just thoughtless or uncaring, things that when you hear them over and over can be a bit of a dent to your self-esteem.

One morning last week for instance Bee was in my room, trying her best to make her hair look as neglected as possible. Eventually she flung the brush down in despair, a look of thunder on her face – she was clearly not getting the back combed height she was striving for.

“Arrrggghhh!” she groaned, and turned to me accusingly, “my hair is FLAT. Can’t you just go away, the flatness of your hair is dragging mine down.”

Charming.

After presenting me with such a beautiful love note last week, Belle obviously felt the need to redress the balance. I was chatting to a friend in the kitchen on Sunday morning when she came in smiling, with a piece of paper behind her back.

“You look very pleased with yourself,” I said. “Have you drawn a lovely picture?”

She nodded, but there was a sparkle in her eyes.

“Have you drawn a naughty picture?”

Her smile widened and she nodded again. She took the picture from behind her back and laid it on the table, giggling.

“That’s a bear,” she said, “that’s me laughing, and that’s you crying with your foot in a bear trap.”

disturbing kids drawing

Lovely. With kids like these, who needs enemies…

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How old does a child have to be before they can walk to school on their own? It’s questions like these that I ask myself, and wish I had a partner to ask. I might not agree with him, but at least it would be someone to share the responsibility with. As it is, I decide by myself, and if I get it wrong? Well, it’s down to me.

This morning Belle and I walked to school in complete silence. Not because we were too busy appreciating the beauty of the morning, nor was she sulking at having only sandwiches and fruit in her lunch box – we were silent because Belle was four metres ahead of me at all times.

She had decided she wanted to practice walking to school on her own, so I was to stay well behind and keep quiet, so she would know what it was like. So the whole way there I kept my distance, watching her quietly, my baby, all grown up, looking both ways carefully before she crossed the (very quiet) roads.

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Now I’m not normally a sentimental kind of mummy, I try to sneak the majority of drawings and painting into the recycling as soon as I can get away with it, but I just had to share this lovely note I got from Belle last night.

She’d had a bit of a teary bedtime, apparently upset over the fact that I do so much for her and she is unable to pay me. I always do get the impression I’m looked on more as ‘the help’ than as an authority figure.

“But Mummy!” she sobbed and wailed, (she is a tad melodramatic), “You are sooo kind and caring and buy me books from Oxfam and sometimes I don’t even read them, I just leave them on the shelf, and I can’t buy you anything back!”

“It’s fine,” I reassured, “That’s what being a mummy is all about. When you are a mummy you will want to be kind and buy books for your children too.”

She ran off into her room and returned proffering her money box.

“Really,” I said, “it’s fine. I don’t need your money, I’m happy to look after you.”

So while she was in bed, and I was downstairs on the phone ignoring her, she made me this lovely card. I don’t know if it’s the message that made me smile as much as the turn of phrase – affectionate yet practical:

child's love note

 I even managed to bite my tongue and not point out the errant apostrophe, which I think just proves how touched I was.

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As a mother to two daughters, I’m extremely conscious of the way women and young girls are portrayed in the media and how this influences how they feel about their own bodies. There has been a lot in the press lately about the use of airbrushing and younger and younger girls wanting to wear make-up, but what can we do about it? How can we make our daughters feel good about themselves without closing them off from the real world?

Wednesday is my day for volunteering at Belle’s school. I sit on a coach with 50 small children and we all get taken to the nearest swimming pool. My job is to look after the girls in the changing rooms, supervise the switchover between the year threes and the year fours, and make sure everyone goes home with the right pants on. It is an intense couple of hours.

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This weekend I was tagged in a meme by Hari at Thank You For The Days, asking me to write a letter of complaint. How it works is this – I have to write a letter, complaining about something (natch), and then I tag some other people, thus triggering a ripple of whingeing across the blogosphere.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? A nice simple meme for a sleepy Sunday evening. The twist is that it has to be about something true. Now I’m not saying my posts are normally outrageous lies – I’m not really a single fifty-year-old northern man or anything. Nor am I claiming that ‘I’m just not the moaning type’ – cue regular readers snorting with disbelief. Now that really would be an outrageous lie.

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This afternoon Belle and I went to see Streetdance, the British dance movie featuring Diversity, Flawless and George Sampson – basically it was a warm up for watching Britain’s Got Talent this evening…

One of the main attractions of course is all the flesh on display – taut, sweaty, topless young men, leaping and bounding, lifting the girls above their heads and making it look easy.

Then there is the opportunity to indulge my fantasy of being an equally taut, gorgeous young street dancer, spending my days passionately throwing myself around London and my nights holding dance offs in painfully trendy clubs.

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