In one weeks time I will be turning (furtively looking around, lowering voice to whisper) forty.  I’ve deliberately written that in word form rather than numbers, because it just looks too scary with that big 0 behind something bigger than a 3.  I know, I know, forty is the new thirty and all that.  But frankly I don’t look anywhere near as good as Demi Moore and I certainly don’t rate my chances at getting a hot toy boy.  Not that I’d want one, in all honesty I don’t have the energy.

So I have to admit I’m struggling with it a bit.  For me it’s the true step into middle age and a realization that I don’t have any plans for this part of my life.  It’s a life-goal dead zone for me.  In the twenties I had my career, in my thirties I planned marriage (which I did at 30, check) and kids (31 and 36, check).  But my forties?  Well apparently that’s when you start getting mammograms according to the letter that came through the post a couple of weeks ago – yeah thanks for that, you couldn’t have waited until after my actual birthday?  Oh and I may have perimenopause on the horizon too, so that’s something to look forward to.

So you see when it comes to being a woman in my forties I can’t help but think about it from a twenty year old perspective or to put it in my darling 8 year old Mo’s words.  “You’re old.  Not really, really old, just you know, old.”  So when I went to buy a swimsuit the other day, for my upcoming birthday weekend away, I had a choice.  Choice number one was the instantly slimming costume, complete with full bottom and chest coverage and ruching across the stomach.  Choice number two was a sexy halter neck that showed off my ‘pretty perky for past my thirties’ breasts.  The obvious choice for middle-aged woman was number one of course.

Except, I don’t feel old.  I still feel as uncertain, unsettled and new in my skin as I did when I turned twenty.  Ok, so I have more authority and assertiveness when dealing with difficult situations and I don’t fall over so much after a good night out on the town, but damn it I refuse to consider myself as anything but young.  So I’m having the sexy swimsuit and if anyone so much as dares to mention the words “mutton” or “lamb”, I’ll poke you in the eye with my knitting needle and crack your shins with my walking frame!


About a week or so before the holidays we were told that Flo’s preschool class would be having dress-up day on the first Friday back to school, to celebrate their favorite animal.

Christmas was looming and for some reason I was in a particularly relaxed (unorganized) state of mind this year, so January 6th seemed a lifetime away.  I therefore did what every good parent would, stuck it in my diary and then filed it away in my mommy brain under ‘not important yet, will get to later’.  Now as everyone knows, this particular file has an uncanny knack of randomly selecting items and magically storing them under ‘trash’.

In my defense I did give it 5 minutes consideration over the holidays when I casually asked Flo what she might like to be.  Some lively discussion took place where we considered the options.  A pony seemed to be the favorite, at which point I thought about how I would purchase a pony costume 2 months after Halloween or alternatively, make one out of felt, left-over fabric, cardboard and 2 pieces of string.  Following which, out of some sort of mental survival instinct, I went into utter denial and forgot the whole thing.


As we were piling out of the car on the first day of school (which happened to be a Wednesday), feeling a little smug that we were on time, had all our snacks, water, lunch, hats, gloves and even Mo’s clean gym kit, (which she didn’t even need until Friday!), Mo asks “Isn’t she supposed to be in costume today?” “No,” I say casually, “that’s not until Friday.” Light goes on over head! Which would be THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!

At this point while I start sweating in panic, Mo and Flo start chatting about what the costume should look like.   “It’s ok”, I reassure Flo, “we can still make a quick run to the costume shop before Friday,” (which is 40 minutes roundtrip and may still not have what we need). Suddenly Flo has decided,  “I want a butterfly and a dog and a pony.”  “That’s a lot of costumes Flo, lets just stick with one shall we,”  “No, I want to be a butterfly, dog, pony.” “In one costume?” “Yes.”

Now this I can work with, I know for a fact that we have dog ears and butterfly wings in the costume box, now just for the pony part.   And whilst my poor, early morning, caffeine deprived brain starts smoking, my darling 3 year old Flo pulls one out of the hat, “And I can wear my butterfly t-shirt and put my ‘My Little Pony’ stickers on it.”  The child is a genius!


We all do it right?  Even as early as October, some of us will play the, “don’t forget Santa can see you,” card!  Well this year I took it to a whole new, mess with your little head, fodder for future therapy sessions, level!

Not so long ago the in-laws were visiting and Flo in a very uncharacteristic, ‘I’m going to stick up for my big sister, rather than beat her black a blue’, moment decided that Grandad was the enemy because he’d upset Mo.

She refused to hug him, she refused to kiss him goodnight, she refused to talk to him.  Hell, she would not even glance in his general direction, he was THAT persona non grata.

He tried everything, humor, playing with her, treats, gifts.  Nothing, it seemed would work.  So we played the final card, the Santa card.  And then, we took it a step further.  I still have no idea where it came from, but apparently Grandad is good friends with Santa.  Oh yeah, they go way back.  No mere acquaintances either, oh no, Santa and Grandad are like best buddies.  Well now we had her attention.  Then Grandad pulled out the trump card, he picked up the phone.  Not only does he know Santa, he has his telephone number.

Wide eyed and nervous, a clearly rattled Flo announces, “But I like you now Grandad, I like you.” Victory!  “but I’m still not going to talk to you.” It was progress, trust me!

Anyhow, I now have the ultimate weapon between now and December 25th.  You better watch out, you better not cry, you better behave, and here is why, Grandad has Santa on speed dial.  


A few weeks ago I got a call from my daughter’s school.   One of the local T.V. channels was doing a segment on Halloween costumes for kids and their dogs and the school had been asked to supply some child models.

Figuring that Mo could talk for England (or America, she’s not particular) and is borderline obsessive about dogs, she was a natural choice and so we prepared for Mo’s big 5 minutes of fame.  The atmosphere in our house was, electric!  The DVR was set up, every T.V. in the house tuned to the correct channel, Daddy had found the website where he could watch it live and relatives across the pond were eagerly joining in the excitement on Facebook, waiting for pictures and videos of the event.

At 6:30am Mo and I left the house full of anticipation.  The glamour, the celebrities, the fully stocked luxurious green room.  Boy, were we in for a shock.

I guess the costume fitting, held the day before in a scruffy, smelly stock room of a pet day care and accessory shop should have been a give-away for what can only be described as the tawdry-ness of morning T.V.  What can I say, we were blinded by fame!

Just in case you missed it, we had to leave at 6:30am, IN THE MORNING to make it to the studio for 7:00am, a full 2 hours before the show.  Imagine then my horror, on being shown into a small stark conference room to find out that my visions of a bounteous buffet of pastries, nibbles and drinks were just a fantasy.  There was a plate of doughnuts and some sodas, perfect fodder for 6 over-excited kids who have 2+ hours to wait for their moment of fame.  But more tragically, there was NO COFFEE. Oh the inhumanity.

At this point I could probably write a 10 page diatribe on the indignities, disappointments and ordeals of a local mid-morning T.V. show, but I know you have a life so here are the highlights.

There was no hair, make-up and costume assistant, only me fiddling with Mo’s hair trying to make it look less like I’d dragged her out of bed at the crack of dawn, barely showing her mass of frizz a brush.  And me trying to roll up the waistline of her costume for the fiftieth time, because it was 3 inches too long, an accident waiting to happen in a small studio with bright lights and too many raised areas.

Far from the next Selena Gomez (or whoever is the latest cool Disney girl), poor Mo had to be talked down from a very high ledge of panic after realizing that she only had one shot at this and that there were so many things that could go wrong (with small children and dogs, both in costumes, really?!)

But on the plus side, Flo did brilliantly, dragging her 11 year old scrawny Chihuahua, which was dressed in a princess costume intended for a Labrador, across the stage like a true professional.  And everyone was super proud and thrilled that the one time Mo wore a pretty princess costume instead of an animal one, it was witnessed by millions, thousands, hundreds of people.

But Flo, whilst I know how much you love to dress up, put on make-up and heels, perform to anyone who is willing to sit and watch, my show mom days are over and there will be no toddlers in tiaras in this house.


Warning: do not read if you are eating or have eaten in the last 30 minutes!

For last 5 weeks I’ve been dealing with a dog with Giardia.  If you are fortunate never to have experienced this, it basically means that your dog will poop incessantly the nastiest, smelliest, squishiest poop you’ve ever known (and I’ve had 2 kids).  Of course they gave us medication for it, which I was warned, “could upset his stomach.” That’s ok I thought, it can’t get any worse.  It did!  Which leads me to my point, sometimes it takes the worst crap you’ve ever seen, to appreciate only the slightly crappy in life!

Think about it, before you had kids did you appreciate being able to go to bed at a decent hour and sleep without interruption, even if you have to wake up a the crack of dawn?

Before kids I never realized the joys of 30 minutes peace and quiet to read a magazine, or the bliss of doing grocery shopping alone.

Who would have thought that I would be grateful for McDonalds, especially one with a playroom attached.  Hell when things get really bad I can even appreciate Chuck E Cheese’s.

And whilst I’ve always loved a glass of wine or a martini, I’ve never appreciated alcohol the way I do at 3:00pm 5:00pm 7:00pm each night.

But just to drag you back like a toddler home from the playground, to my bloody poor dogs digestive issues, I am currently praying that the latest cocktail of drugs that we are administering will at least reduce my poop scooping duties to 2 solid ones a day.

So while thousands of people across the world are probably right this minute wishing for more money, a fulfilling career where they are recognized and respected, to live in a big house with a swimming pool or go on exotic holidays staying at only the best hotels, today all it would take is for someone to reduce the level of shit in my life and I would be like a pig in rose scented, diamond encrusted, Champagne accompanied, muck!


I now have undeniable proof that I am totally insane, (not that I really needed any). I’ve been looking forward to the free time I would be able to enjoy when Flo started pre-school, for a whole year. I thought about all the things I would do, (make it to the gym more than once a week, get a regular pedicure, finally get my house tidy, write my second book, get a multi-million dollar publishing deal and spend the rest of my life in the lap of luxury). Ok well maybe I’d achieve the first two.

We were just 2 weeks away from the much anticipated day and I brought home a 6 month old puppy! I know, what the hell was I thinking? But Mo has been asking for a dog practically since she could say the word and we’d promised her one when she was 7, (she just turned 8!) And ‘poof’ in a flash of dog fur and ripped treasured belongings, my idyllic vision was shattered.

Instead of two and half precious ‘me hours’, I now walk the dog for an hour or more until he’s within an inch of coma inducing exhaustion, in the hopes that he will pass out for most of the day, rather than chew my shrubs/furniture/arm or dig six foot holes in my garden. (I’ve considered burying the dog in one of these holes, but hubby talked me down from that ledge). Instead of picking out fabulous colors for my nails, I pick up poop. Instead of reading a trashy novel intellectually stimulating book, I’m scouring the internet for ways to make your dog behave better.

And then, just when I was at the darkest depths in my mourning for the life that I never quite grasped, I discovered the most fantastic thing ever created by man, woman or beast – doggy day care!

Now when it comes to kids there are a number of reasons moms chose day care. For moms who work it’s a safe nurturing place where their children are cared for, for others it’s a place where their little ones can learn social skills, for some it’s an opportunity for their child to gain confidence on his/her first solo venture into the world. For me doggy day care is none of these.

He is very cute, granted. He can also be very sweet and affectionate. But damn it, he’s messing with my master plan to finally have some freedom. So I have to say with all honesty, doggy day care for me, is quite simply, my opportunity to GET RID OF THE BLOODY DOG!

So whilst I am a self confessed, less than perfect mom to my two girls, as far as my abilities as a pet owner go I will now forever be known as, “The World’s Worst Dog Parent!”


For those of you who know me or who are followers of my blog you will already know that I’m not a natural, born to nurture kind of mom, nor do I ever pretend to be.  Playgrounds full of screaming kids turn my blood cold, hours (or in all honesty, minutes) playing make believe with My Little Pony is to me, a form of torture and my tolerance for looking after sick children lasts only for a day or so.

I love my children dearly and am, like all parents, limitlessly proud of their every achievement, but the relentless 24 hour/7 days a week nature of being a stay at home mom, quite frankly drives me cuckoo at times.

I have therefore been excitedly awaiting my youngest’s first day of preschool in the Fall.  Five mornings a week of quiet, uninterrupted time.  Oh the endless possibilities, watching Rachel Ray, laying on the sun lounger, reading People magazine cover to cover, the gym, a tidy house, the 10 novels I will write in a year!  Then there is the return of the long naps she’ll take in the afternoon exhausted from a morning of stimulation.   This is it, the utopia I have been working towards for the last 8 years.

And then yesterday we went to the beach.  It was the perfect day, sunny with a gentle breeze and Flo was the perfect child.  She was funny, affectionate, super cute and an absolute joy to be around.  See for yourself!










As we talked about the fun we’d had that day while I settled her down to sleep, it suddenly struck me.  Today is Mo’s last day of school before the holidays, which means this is probably the last of those Flo and mommy days I’ll have.  Sure we’ll have the afternoons and the days when we go and do something special with just the two of us.  But those days are so often filled with an expectation of perfection and a need to extract as mommy time as physically possible, to keep in store until the next time.

The last 3 years have been those precious just hanging out together times, with no agenda or opportunity for disappointment.  Just the simple act of being together, doing every day things.  Companions.

I know what you’re thinking, did Jo find some Prozac at the back of her bathroom cabinet or has she started early on the wine today.   But no, I had a genuine profound and emotional moment.  I even shed a little tear.

So when Fall arrives, if you see me getting centered at yoga, sitting at Starbucks with a coffee and a good book or browsing in Ann Taylor, take a moment for a little sympathetic thought.  Because no matter how much I look like I’m enjoying it, (and I may really look like I’m having fun) you’ll know the torture I feel inside.



I knew my husband was in for a tough time the minute the ultrasound technician announced that we were having a second girl. I watched his face go ashen as his future being the sole male presence in our household flashed before his eyes. The pink, the frills, THE HORMONES!

Hubby and I had agreed long ago that as two people who enjoy eating at nice restaurants, spending quiet afternoons sipping wine, shopping or people watching and who go cold at the thought of an hour spent in a park full of screaming kids, two would be our absolute limit. So his fate was sealed, the women would rule the roost.

Of course he has attempted to adjust the balance, by introducing them to baseball, football and soccer, even bribing them with the free giveaways he gets at games. But while my eldest is in no way a girly girl, she’s no tomboy either. And my youngest, (through my systematic scheming gentle persuasion) is girly through and through.

For the most part, considering he is a full-blooded sport loving, testosterone packed male, he does pretty well. He picks up cute clothes for them on trips, he watches their living room theatre productions, he’s even been know to sip water from tiny little pink cups as an active if unwilling tea party guest. But he has his limits and the end of year dance recital for Mo, pushed him above and beyond those limits.

This is no cutesy little show where 20 or so kids do a little jig in a small hall and 20 minutes later we all go home. This is a major production that could rival a Broadway show. Costumes are purchased, an auditorium is hired, a 2-hour dress rehearsal is attended and the big day is nothing short of an extravaganza. Not only did my dear hubby sit through our daughter’s stellar performance, applauding with impressive enthusiasm, he had by this point already sat through 8 other dances, mostly performed by 2-5 year old girls. The commentary went a little something like this. “It must be Mo soon. When is Mo’s turn? How much more is there? My God this is painful!”

And after all of this, he even took Flo and Mo for cupcakes, in the 90 degree heat. It was obvious poor hubby had really put in an A+ effort, but no more so that when in response to an event that was just too girly and cute for his man brain to handle, my poor long suffering hubby laid down on the couch and slipped into a self-protecting coma for an hour.


For the most part I can complete the various jobs required of a mom with competence, if not greatness. I safely chauffeur the kids from A to B, (not easy when world war 3 is breaking out in the back seat) and provide nutritious meals often catering for my family’s different tastes with a variety that would rival any diner. I am cleaner, laundry maid, personal shopper and on occasion even hairstylist. But one job at which I fail spectacularly, is nurse.

It’s not that I’m squeamish, I just have no patience for it. When poor Mo comes to me doubled over with pain because Flo (4.5 years her junior and around 20lbs lighter) has beaten her up again, my response is likely to be along the lines of “you’re ok, just walk it off.” Similarly when she comes to me with the initial signs of an egg shaped lump on her head, from hitting it on the granite counter (AGAIN, you’d think she would learn that it hurts!) a quick rub and she’s sent on her way. Even last week when Flo had a horrible cold with a hacking cough, the nurturing mom thing began to wear off after a day or two, not helped by two very sleepless nights and an incident that involved me using my hands as bucket to prevent certain projectile fluids hitting the duvet!

So yesterday evening when Mo yelled, “Flo’s crying”, I did not rush to her side covering her with kisses, but simply responded, “I’ll be there in a second.” Now before you all go nominating me for the Worst Mom in the World Award, I can tell you that this happens at least 4 or 5 times a day and is usually because Mo has the toy she wants, or has given her a taste of her pre-pre-teen attitude. Rarely is it because she has hurt herself and typically when she has, 10 seconds later it’s forgotten about. And as usual 5 minutes later all was quiet and playing had once again resumed.

When I went to get Flo and Mo for bathtime, Flo claimed “I hurt my foot, can’t walk”, and it being the end of the day I had no energy to argue and so carried her up, all the while muttering, “blooming drama queen,” under my breath. Imagine then my horror and shame when looking down at Flo’s foot, I saw not her precious dainty appendage, but a reddish-blue, swollen replacement. Immediately, to her amazement, I swooped her up and placed her on the bed with a bag of frozen peas and small foot pillow and called the pediatrician (which fortunately did not result in an ER visit since I was assuming the role of single (week-day) mom that night. And while Flo sat watching T.V. unusually late, I laid by her side asking every few minutes if she was ok, whilst stroking her head. Not even the fact that I was missing the Office season finale, which I had planned to enjoy with a glass of wine or that I could not retrieve the People magazine from the mailbox because, (most likely) Flo had hidden the keys in some random shoe again, could break my bedside vigil. Flo for her part, laid there lapping it up, emitting a small whimper of “my foot is still hurting mommy”, along with a weak smile every time I administered a healthy dose of sympathy and hugs.

Imagine then my surprise when instead of retrieving my brave soldier, ready to carry her around the house all day and cart her off to the Dr, she bounds out of bed, demanding breakfast, completely oblivious to the foot drama of the night before. Sure the foot still looks bruised and possibly a little swollen, but suddenly I realize that presented with an unusually sympathetic nursemaid, dear Flo may have been milking the situation for all it was worth.

So with some relief I can now ditch my Florence Nightingale cap once more and with a bit of luck set Flo to work on finding those damn keys.


My dear Flo turned 3 last weekend and in true Chivers tradition, I threw myself enthusiastically into the task of producing a perfectly imperfect birthday cake.

I’m nothing if not prepared and so months before the big day we started the discussion of what the theme for the cake would be.  Both Dora and Bubble Guppies were suggested by Flo and after some extensive research, whereby I located the perfect character templates, I gently pushed Flo in the direction of Bubble Guppies.  This Bubble Guppy cake campaign basically involved allowing her unlimited access to any and all episodes, singing along to all the funky songs (dear lord when did my music choice switch from Coldplay to Nick Jr?) and repeatedly asking her questions about her favorite characters and episodes.  The seeds were sown.  Or so I thought.

Now if you have been a follower of my blog for a while, you may remember that when it comes to my cake making skills I’m great at the planning stages, but not so great on the execution.  Perhaps I am overly ambitious, or perhaps I’m just crap at decorating cakes.  But this time I had back-up in the form of grandparents who were willing to keep the kids entertained whilst I worked diligently on Gil, Molly and Oona.

It wasn’t all plain sailing.   My first attempt at gum paste turned into a something resembling a mixture of play-doh and superglue, which I literally had to scrape off my fingers with a knife.  I must have spent a good hour trying to mix enough food coloring into the white paste to get those vivid cartoon hues.  And Mo may be forever traumatized by the repeated poking and removing of eyes with toothpicks, until I got a passable resemblance to the originals.  However, the end result was, I thought, one of my best to date.  The frosting was the requested pink, (Flo said she wanted strawberry cake, but she obviously just meant it needed to be pink).  And you could actually tell who the characters were supposed to be without the need for numerous hints.  I even added a couple of last minute embellishments, including heart shaped balloons which held one candle for each of Flo’s 3 years.

Several times during the making of the cake Flo asked if she could see it, it was the first thing she asked about when she woke up on her birthday, but I intended to present it later that day as a big “ta, da” surprise.   Expectations were high, but I was quietly confident.  Imagine then how my heart shattered into a thousand pieces when instead of the squeals of delight I had expected on unveiling my masterpiece, it was met instead with a quivering lip, eyes openly reflecting feelings of crushing disappointment and the words “it s’pose to be a strawberry cake with Dora and Oona!”

Oh, well it’s not the first time the Chivers birthday bakery has been met with such harsh critique, and I don’t suppose it will be the last.

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