All posts in Uncategorized

Emotional Casserole

As I write, I am sitting in an empty house. Apart from the cicadas and the occasional drip of sweat down the back of my neck (this Australian summer is a fiery one), there is not a peep to be heard.

It is quiet.

SO quiet.

In this quiet house, I’m reflecting on the wildness of the week behind us. My biggest girl started a new school for Year 5, my boy started year 3 and the baby, my Poo Poo, my  little constant companion, began kindy. And I  started this next phase of my life which, for the first time in a decade, doesn’t involve the very specific and particular joys and stresses of tiny children at my feet all day.

We’ve been preparing for this big shift all summer. I’ve been re-arranging bedrooms, sorting stuff and de-cluttering like a crazy lady.  I’ve been labeling, organising and list-making so that all of us can enter the new routine with order and positivity. I think I’ve been trying to simplify and refine our lifestyle  because I’ve felt, so strongly, the change in the air and the coming of a new era.

A draft post titled ‘thoughts of a mother during the last week of the school holidays’ never made it online. It was the usual ranting and I never had the time or headspace to write it but my scrawled notes remind me of how I felt – the heat oppressive , the children always hungry, the housework overwhelming.  Even though we had a beautiful summer – lots of visits with friends, lots of time together – the ‘mum-work’ was never-ending, and the day that all three children would be off to school, leaving me in the glorious quiet, was like a shining vision of utopia. I thought I would be absolutely partying with my bad self. I dreamed of quiet space to think, freedom to temper boring mundane housework jobs with interesting radio, time to write, a schedule of my own. Bliss!

But last week the shining day finally came, and instead of partying like a crazy fool, I fell to pieces. It was a bit of a shock.

My big girl is off to start a new school for year 5. It’s a city school, much bigger than her tiny, nurturing primary that we love so much, and she is catching the public bus. She starts her day an hour earlier and ends it an hour later, and in the middle she navigates her way though a sea of new rules and requirements. She is so brave, so small, and so tired.

It is, I am sure, going to be a wonderful year, full of incredible opportunities, new friends and experiences, and she has a great friend at her side, which has made the transition so much smoother. She is stepping into her own future and I am so proud. But, my god, what a week it was.

My beautiful boy, going into year 3, has his own set of worries and challenges, and if he could stay at home with me all day, he would. School is not his favourite place, and helping him manage takes particular thought and attention.

Finally, my little one, my darling last-born buddy is off into kindy. She was so ready to start school and has taken to it with gusto, as I knew she would, but friends, the heart-punch of losing that little companion came like a blindside. Because I  am always, always craving solitude and time with my own thoughts, it just never occurred to me that being without my little sidekick would feel so sad. The first day that we dropped her at school, I was like a leaky sieve all day long. The tears just flowed and flowed. I felt so fragile, unmoored and weird, and I felt like that all week long.

It’s the end of the beginning. My mistakes, my regrets, my worries, the past, the future, they all weighed heavy on me.  There was car crying and then the floppy exhaustion that follows a big emotional release. Throughout it all, there was the mum-work of shepherding the kids into their new routine. Baking and washing uniforms and packing bags. Lots of hugs and long chats.

Rather than feeling like I’m released from some part of my mum-contract as they all go off to school, it’s felt the opposite. My big girl needs me so much at the moment, in ways she hasn’t for a long time. This is fleeting, I know – she’ll get the hang of her new school, the bus, city life, and I can step back again. But for now, looking after her in all the intimate little mum-ways feels really important. I’m trying to do my best at it, to cherish it, as I am with my darling last little chick leaving the nest. It’s bittersweet, and it’s harder than I thought it would be.

But today is Monday, where all the possibilities of the week lie, and I  feel good. I hope that the emotional casserole of last week has been turned down to just a gentle simmer. This next era of family life will start to take shape as the dust settles.

I will have that longed-for quiet time to myself. I will be able to stop worrying about the girls as they settle into their new lives, and hopefully my sweet little boy will have a good school year too. And I will have a little space to turn to my own plans and dreams, and I am really, really damn excited about that.

One more time:

If you sent kids off to little or big school this week, I hope you weren’t hit with the same unexpected emotional tsunami as I was. And if you were, I hope you are OK. x

The End of The Adventure.

Home from our travels, where the T-Bone, like a cat, immediately re-accqainted himself with his favourite spot: in a patch of sunshine in Mum and Dads bed. I didn’t have to put butter on his paws or anything.

As for me, I immediately re-acquainted myself with the normal run of Sunday: 4 loads of washing, purchasing half the supermarket, producing meals every ten minutes, washing the school clothes and searching for the hats (unsuccessfully.)

That right, I remembered. In real life I am Cinderella.

For the last 2 weeks we’ve been on the move; riding on the back of trucks, sleeping in tree-houses with rats, eating whatever is placed in front of us, and wearing the same two filthy outfits. Amazing how much time in the day there is when two parents are there to negotiate the battle that has erupted during the children’s game of Farting Rainbows, when you have no laundry to do (rather, no way to do the laundry you have), and when you have no food to cook, and must just wait for ‘dinner’ and whatever appears then, good or bad.

With all that time, we played endless games of cards and Bananagrams, read books and slept. It was a marvellous, epic adventure, one that has opened our eyes to many possibilities, and now that we are back, I feel a little smothered by all the stuff in my house. Be warned, Salvation Army. Mama has the crazy eyes.

Pics and details to follow – for now, I have a lengthy to-do list to tackle. First item on the agenda: start dreaming of the next adventure.

This Organised House Brings Calm To Every Frazzled Cell In My Body

Times might be stressful, but the work goes on.

Lunches must be packed, pantries filled, clean clothes available in the drawers (or at least in a pile on the lounge). The car still must be filled with petrol, admin forms signed, work deadlines met. Family life is steady and relentless, and there’s always washing-up to be done. Sometimes this is comforting and satisfying, and sometimes it takes all of my available brain-and-heart space; and then life asks a little more.

An unhappy child. A sick relative. Flu. Travel. A list of worries that weigh heavy.

In short, a tough winter.

I think I am tracking along fine, one foot in front of the other, and then my body starts doing something to let me know it’s not OK.

‘Shush,’ I tell my  body.  ’It’s fine, we’re on top of it all, body. Shush…’

‘Stop and listen to me, you crazy witch,’ says my body, via the interesting method of making me short of breath for hours every day.

After a battery of tests to rule out anything sinister, the diagnosis I’m left with is stress and anxiety.

My solution: keep the home fires burning, dole out love and lasagne and priorities those healthy things like walking outside, yoga, making myself leave the hermit-cave and  see my friends. I’m trying not to worry about the things that are out of my control, and trying to be a support for the loved ones around me who are hurting, without  internalising the pain that they are feeling.

Also, I have a minor obsession with this lady.

Alejanda, so uber-American, with ever-so-slightly-crazy eyes, and a serial-killer-level of organisation, is bringing me life.

Chill out, my body is telling me. Spend a little time on the lounge watching YouTube clips of Alejandra bringing lunatic order to her shiny, shiny world. I don’t want to – could not – live like this, but watching Alejandra do it is  inexplicably appealing and calming. Also: My Dad Wrote A Porno is the other shining glory of my existence right now. Listen immediately and then write and talk to me about it. It is the funniest possible present you can give your ears.  And you will never, ever think of the Titanic again without picturing ‘nipples, as hard and large as the rivets on that fateful ship’.

I hope you are travelling well out there, comrades. May life be treating you well and if not, I advise applying 20 minutes of organisation-porn and 20 minutes of Belinda Blinked, painful, fumbling and hilarious erotica written by Jamie’s Dad. Works for me.

 

Sibling Rivalry

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2016 (but the children were playing Forceful Club only yesterday. The battle over kissing the dead-bee continues.They are SUCH WEIRDOS.  I blame their father)

My four year old daughter walked into preschool recently singing a charming song her big brother and sister had made up. It was called ‘Killer Vaginas from Outer Space’, and although I got out of there very fast, I  expected a stern email all day, because I knew Pudding would perform all the verses.  There’s a bit about Venus, something terrible happens to a penis, and basically, the whole thing is a job for Dr Freud.

Thing is, Pudding’s big brother and sister have as much influence on her as I do.  They, at four, were pure as snow, raised on nothing but Play School, Angelina Ballerina and a little old-school Narnia for balance. Pudding, on the other hand will recite (unrequested) ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a poo. Perhaps she’ll spew.’ Her literary references range from Zombie Bums from Uranus through to Captain Underpants and the Talking Toilet, and when cornered, she’ll shout ‘My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!’

Pudding has watched her two older siblings hone the art of war, you see. With three kids under ten, the fights in our house can be epic. Hunger Games, Real Housewives, crisis-in-the-Middle East epic. A lot of my parenting time is spent in negotiating squabbles that are both ridiculous and deadly serious.

Take the Forceful Club, for instance, a trampoline game created by the two eldest. The rules are hazy, but two things are clear: it involves violence, and to join the club, all members have to kiss a dead bee. The four year old cried bitter tears about the bee rule, the big two were adamant and I was shoe-horned into one of my more hopeless conversations. ‘Pudding does not have to kiss the bee! Can’t you bend that rule? Well, can’t she just get her face close to the bee? She can blow on the bee! Be reasonable!’

Basically Forceful Club is like Fight Club except the first rule is that you have to talk about it. Endlessly. Other things my children have fought about lately: who was which number on the digital clock, who would get sucked into a black hole first, who owned the dead caterpillar in a container, whose turn it was to wear the comedy teeth, and (this last involved furious shouting)  how to pronounce ‘Nuttelex’.

I’ve got brothers and sisters of my own. I remember the intensity of sibling rivalry in childhood and these days I love how we facilitate the magic of cousin-gangs. The parental bond may be our lodestar, the central fact of our lives, but siblings are the first scratching posts on which we figure out how to deal with the weird landscape that is other people.  The relationships we have with our brothers and sisters are often the longest and most profound of our whole lifespan – for good, or for bad.

‘Be kind!’ I urge my kids, too fiercely.  ‘Speak nicely to each other! We are never, ever rude and mean to each other in this family!’ This is, of course, clearly untrue, probably impossible, and, like so many other aspects of parenting, driven by the ghosts from my own childhood. It’s hugely important to me, this job I have of nurturing that sibling bond. After all, I hope these three people, who I adore so much, will be looking out for each other long after I have gone.  Today, the comedy teeth; tomorrow, the inheritance.  Good luck, my little loves, enjoy raising each other, and may the Forceful Club be with you.

On Running Low, Saying No and Letting Go

I haven’t been here for a while – my tank is low on juice.

It’s been a fairly depleting few months with Keith travelling a lot and the children having one of those loops of winter sickness.

Running as a constant low sad note through our lives right now is the illness of my father-in-law. He’s a wonderful friend, an important person in my life, a brilliant and kind mathematician with a capricious twinkle in his eye. The  more I understand Alan, the more I understand many parts of my beloved partner Keith, and watching Alan cope with lung cancer has taught me many lessons about dignity and stoicism. I wish I was not learning these lessons, but there we have it.

Being social feels too exhausting right now. I am at peak capacity with these children, this house, this husband, these feelings. It feels good to be honest about saying ‘no’. It feels important to be home, playing chess,sorting the endless washing pile, cooking spicy beans and drawing the blinds down on the outside world. I am trying to find moments to write and trying to conserve my energy.

Sometimes it’s impossible to manage more.

In the meantime, Raised by Wolves, written by my spirit animal Caitlin Moran and her sister,  is bringing me many,  many laughs. (Free on SBS right now – is anybody watching it? It is hilarious), and it was my birthday this week (forty-five!)  Keith and I  went for a lovely quiet date last night. We saw Tarzan – my advice is to suspend the critical eye and enjoy the scenery – i.e Alexander Skarsgard (happy phwooarsdday night!)

Afterwards we ate bresaola, drank Prosecco and talked travel. Home by ten. It was lovely. Quiet. Perfect.

All the best out there, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Girlfriends: The Icing On The Cake Of Life

I had a story in last weekend’s Sunday Life magazine about the joy of girlfriends. It contains that gold-star anecdote about the time I accidentally showed a topless selfie to the deputy principal, and also this tale:

Home from holidays recently, I faced a towering pile of laundry. My friend S came over to help me fold and bring me up to speed on the local goings-on, but she lost her train of thought each time she encountered a pair of my knickers.

She was horrified on a number of levels – age, bagginess, general nanna vibe.

“I’m staging an underpants intervention,” she said.

Yesterday I found a paper bag in my letterbox containing two pairs of new knickers and a letter from The Ministry of Unacceptable Underpants, beginning: “It has come to our attention that you have not renewed your underpants at the recommended intervals. By following our quick checklist you can ensure the reliability and safety of your underpants.”

The list was exhaustive. It included the following questions: can you see through any part of your underpants that were once opaque? Does the elastic around your underpants hold the garment securely in place? Is the integrity of the gusset still acceptable? Can a breeze enter through any part of your underwear?

The Ministry gave me four weeks to update my collection, after which they warned of direct community action.

While underwear-shaming and accidental sexting scandals are key components to my female friendships, this community has another function. We are a safety net for life and all its unpredictable slings and arrows. Here, deep in the trenches with small children, we lean on each other for help. Any time one of us drops, the machine rolls into action. Lasagnes land on doorsteps and schedules to manage the kids start circulating. There is a direct and practical aspect to my female friendships: when we have to be responsible, we are. And when we bundy off the responsibility clock, we are absolutely ridiculous, making each other laugh until our weak pelvic floors give way.

These moments, cackling in the coven of my witches, bring me such joy. They are the icing on the cake of life.

Read the rest at Daily Life online. 

It’s a love letter to all the ladies in my life – word counts made me restrict this piece to only my beloved school mum gang, but I’m lucky enough to also have a school-friend gang, an online lady-squad and a coven of Pink Ladies, all of whom hold sacred spaces in my heart.

Thank you, friends out there. I love youse all!

 

Taking Stock

Like Pip, I’m taking a minute to stop, smell the roses and capture a little of this moment in time.

Reading: White Eskimo, the story of polar explorer and super-hottie Knud Rasmussen, who mapped and explored Greenland in the early 20th century. I love a good explorer tale – ( here I’ve written a list of some good Man Vs Wild books, and here a list of some women adventurers). Rasmussen is very cool, and also, SO PRETTY.

Come on! Imagine that face, speaking Greenlandic through a mouthful of whale blubber, and you have my dreams.

I’m also loving Edmund White’s ‘Inside a Pearl: My Years In Paris’ ; ‘Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants’ and re-reading the Amanda Foreman biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of my all-time favourite women of history.  The kids and I are reading Dahl’s Danny, The Champion Of The World.  (So lovely. One of his best.)

Eating: A lot of what we call ‘horses dinners’ – a sort of random snacking plate.  I don’t like to advertise on the social medias when Keith is away, but he’s been in China. I’m in the single mother zone and there are  and Wagon Wheels and Coke in the fridge. Nuff sed. He’s back now. Roast lamb appeared in celebration.

Watching: Things have been quite fraught around here, to be honest. My father-in-law is very sick, Keith is stressed and sad and busy. I was so buggered after he left last week  that I watched Sex and The City 2, just to see if the movie was as bad as I remembered, and it was, of course, WORSE, even, unbelievably, comically bad. Then, later, I found myself watching Sex and The City 1, just to see the progression of shame. So weirdly reminiscent of some pre financial-crisis, gone-forever time, I told my Wagon Wheel.

Also, I went down a delightful rabbit hole of Tate Studio vids on Youtube, and some Vogue 73 Questions (Sarah Jessica’s house is gorgeous, Iggy Azalea is a weird fembot). The kids and I have been enjoying watching Catalyst archives while we eat our horses dinners.

I watched Marley and Me with the girls – beware! Don’t try this before bedtime! The last twenty minutes are tragic. I didn’t see it coming (I’m sharp like that) and it took me forever to calm them down enough to go to bed.  FYI – when you have two daughters sobbing on either side of you, don’t say  ’It’s really OK! All dogs die! Everything dies!’ It does not help the situation.

Resting: my head on the electrical tape the holding my bath together while I dream about interior design projects of the future. (All in good time, grasshopper.)

Sharing: my bed with the children, who take it in turns to ‘be Daddy’ when Keith is away. This means they get to tuck up in the big bed, so important and special, at bedtime, and then I tell them ‘now, prepare to get cuddled in your sleep.’ Frankly, it’s a moot point, whose turn it is to be Daddy, because by the early hours, all three of them are in the bed. They press up so tight against me that I feel as though I am in some sort of old-timey prison cell where there is not quite enough room for us all to lie down together and at some signal we all must turn over at the same time. It’s terrible and lovely – they are so cuddly and warm, their strong little arms and legs so gorgeous – but it is also painful and hideous.

Also, wee.

Pondering: Whether the hat I bought is wrong. In the shop it read ‘boho’ and now it is reading ‘Amish’. Hats! You kill me, Hats.

Listening: Two Dope Queens. Yaaaaas! Also, the Carol soundtrack.

Trying: Not to touch anything on the backseat floor of my car. It has moved beyond disgusting to scientifically interesting.

Laughing: at the children. ‘What you thinking about T-Bone?’ ‘I was imagining what disgusting sandwiches I could feed the dog if we ever get one.’

Scrambling: Under last minute instructions: I need this note signed today. I need a superhero costume for the morning. I need to finish my speech before bed. I need my old soccer socks for tomorrow.

Honestly, this guy captures the tone so perfectly! God this made me laugh.

Writing: Not much. The Mumming has been intensive.

Planning: to get started on my embroidery project. I just need a hoop for the K Dog and I have everything else ready to go. I’m looking forward to some winter fun listening to podcasts about Donald Trump and doing embroidery with my boyfriend.  Once he gets home from his Talking From My Balls mens group on Thursdays, that is. Of course.

Making: A long-overdue photo book of our Tasmanian adventures (and thinking I should really include that story about the topless gardener, which still cracks me up.)
Appreciating- Keith getting home safely. All’s well with my world again. Although, even less room in the bed.

Respecting: As always, when Keith is away, single mothers. You are amazing!

 

 

How are you? What are you watching, reading, avoiding, marinating? I hope you and your beloveds are well and happy out there. x

Bad Buddhist

I haven’t been around here much. I’ve been too busy being disgusting. A mother cockroach scurried out of my linen cupboard last week and when I had a closer look, I  found some big brown balls. Heart in mouth,  I did a Google image search on ‘cockroach eggs’.

Nooo!

Each one of those little bastards can hold FIFTY EGGS.

I had to empty out the whole cupboard (yay! Fun times with laundry!) and in the end, I found about fifteen eggs. ERMERGERD SAH SAH GROSS. Dr Google said that I should bash the eggs with a hammer – if I threw them away, they’d just hatch in the bin. While emptying the cupboard the mother cockroach appeared and tried to make a run for it down the hall.

I chased her and squashed her under my boot and it was awful. Since having children I can’t kill living creatures. Even the ugly ones have mothers. But I did, I chased her, I murdered her and I wailed the whole time like a crazy lady. ‘OH I”M SORRY EWWWWW I”M SORRY’

Then I took all the little egg babies out to the front steps and killed them with a hammer.

I’m not finished. That afternoon, all five us of covered our heads with evil insect-killing lotion and  murdered a whole bunch of lice.

Unfollow me if you must after this. I understand. You probably thought I was a reasonable lady, not a serial killer. At the very least, a terrible Buddhist.

Hey! Come round for sleepovers!

Guys?

Guys?

Finite And Fleeting Moments

(Last Days Of Shanghai, 1949, Life Archives )

I love this useful bit of mental arithmetic, especially during the school holidays!

“In the course of each bedtimes bedlam, try to see into the future. The next time the clamour crescendos, but before the din dims, imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time they have grown and left home. Picture their formerly tousled bedrooms as neat, clean and empty. See the tidy backseat of the car, vacuumed and without crumbs or Cheerios. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then wind the imaginary clock back from the future to now, and see those moments of mayhem for what they are, finite and fleeting moments. Never to be reproduced. Precious.”

Dr. Harley Rotbart

The Near Poo Episode

From the book I’m writing, here’s a chapter. It’s in draft stage, not tidied and completed.  There’s stuff I’m trying to explore that is deeper, more serious and intense, stuff about identity and pain and motherhood, but this is not it; rather, here we have a charming tale of the time I nearly pooed my pants at Aldi.

I feel nervous! But I’d love any feedback you guys have. Thanks. x

 

It’s sad, but years of growing humans who won’t let me sleep are taking their toll on my face. There are lines getting etched in there that I can no longer cover up, and the greys are taking over my head. When I let the roots of my wild brown hair grow out I look like an old witch. Add that to the permanent cranky-frown between my eyebrows and it’s probably just a matter of time until the local children are afraid to pass my driveway in case I run out to hit them with sticks.

Having kids has taught me my place in the evolutionary totem pole. Keith and I have replicated ourselves (and added a spare)and so our usefulness is over. What need now for a fresh face and perky young buttocks? What point trying to trap a mate? Move along now, Mother Nature is clearly telling us. The new generation is here, and your time in the sun has passed.

In lots of ways Keith and I are super happy to be settling into mid-life. I feel like I partied enough as a youngster, prolonging my adolescence well into my twenties, and even (cough, pathetic fist-bump!)my thirties. I’ve done my time interpretive dancing on bar-tops and throwing up into pot plants. I don’t long for more freedom, or miss nights on the town. Life on the couch with a cup of tea, a bag of nuts, Netflix and a kindly physicist to cuddle is as rich as I ever hope to be. I hope I can do this until the curtains come down.

But getting older brings up a lot of fears for me about health. My chosen method of dealing with health problems is denial, and it’s getting harder. Middle age approaches loudly. I see it in the mirror with my creases and lines and I feel it in my creaky old bones. I can hear it coming: tea at 4pm, complaints about young people, a slight whiff of Eau D’Incontinence (say that one out long with a French accent; you’ll be glad you did.) For me, my fears centre around my back and its inorexable decline into crunchy rigidity, but every once in a while I am served a preview of what other joys might be in store as my body falls apart. I get one of those hints this week when I nearly shit my pants at the supermarket.

Normally, an Aldi shopping trip is a low-to-medium grade thrilling event for me. It’s pretty impossible to get out to the real shops with three small kids in tow, so Aldi, with it’s middle aisles of fantasy, is as good as it gets these days.

Depending on the state of the household budget, I sometimes have to put the invisible blinker on. This prevents me from looking left or right and keeps my mind solely on spaghetti bolognaise and blueberry porridge, but today, we’re in a great mood and grabbing our fun where we can. A trip to Town! What ho! How spiffing!

George is in the baby seat, Ted inside the trolley and Ivy wandering at my side. Everybody is in a delightful state of equilibrium, all the more precious for its rarity – all kids sufficiently fed and toileted to give us half an hours time free of the demands of the body. Even the baby! It’s wonderful.

We travel the aisles and I muse aloud.

‘Shall we make some little burgers, kids? This organic mince looks nice. Tacos?’

The baby gurgles, Ted mutters nonsense and Ivy chats to herself about Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Everybody’s happy. I am too, except for a slight gassy pain in my tummy. I try to fart silently (one of the greatest blessings about having children is that there is always somebody to blame for bad smells, which gives parents incredible gastro-intestinal freedom). It helps a little, that release, and I turn my attention back to the shopping and pick up my pace a little.

I take us up the final aisle. Eggs, frozen blueberries, orange juice. I pause at the fish freezer. ‘What do you think about these prawns, Ivy? Are they from one of those anti-biotic Vietnam fish farms, or are they maybe OK?’

Ivy likes being consulted about these things, and she is thoughtful for a moment.

‘Great, I think Mummy,’ she says but I’m not listening. I’ve been suddenly hit with a desperate need to go to the toilet. Specifically, I need to poo. And even more specifically, to poo Right This Second.

I breathe through what appears to be some sort of bum labour pain, and when I can walk, push the trolley at speed towards the checkout. Party’s over. Time to get out of here.

‘Do you have a toilet?’ I ask an assistant as I pass by. He gazes at me with his dead eyes. ‘Across the road, behind the car park,‘ he says.

He may as well be suggesting Uzbekistan. I thank him through gritted teeth, make it to the checkout and start unloading my trolley.

There is an art to shopping at Aldi. Heavy things first. Fragile stuff last. Get it all up on the moving track and then start refining, adjusting and finessing, all before the checkout assistant actually starts ringing up your goods. When that begins, you move immediately to the position behind your trolley and as the products are flung at athletic speed you catch and arrange them, so the eggs are not smashed, the feta is not leaking on the gluten-free olive foccacia and you can create a flat platform on which to rest your Outdoor Room Daybed on the top (you have, of course, failed to block the temptations of the middle aisle.)In silent partnership, you work with the checkout assistant to beat some invisible and utterly pointless speed grocery record.

Today, I am incapable of managing any of these Aldi Athletics. Rather than thinking about the Tetris-style game, I am totally focused on not shitting myslef. It is actually that bad. A vision leaps to mind. A meerkat sticking it’s head out of the cave to look around.

‘Just get to the car’, I tell myself, breathing deeply. ‘You can shit yourself in the privacy of your own car.’

The pain and pressure in my belly is intense. Farting is no longer an option. I can easily blame a bad smell on the children, but the inevitable follow-through would leave physical evidence on my own pants, and it would be much harder to blame that on the baby.

I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead as I throw items into the trolley, willy-nilly. Should I just run? Abandon the shopping? This is tempting, but really, creates more problems for me in the long run. We need nappies. Snacks. Dishwashing liquid. Possibly, specialty adult undergarments for what may be an ongoing health issue. If I don’t pick up these things, the delicate balance of my small household will fall apart and all will be chaos. ‘You can shit in the car’, I remind myself, breathing through this yogic mantra like a Buddhist in intestinal crisis.(What would the Dalai Lama do?) “You can shit in the car. You can shit in the car.’

The baby is whimpering, Teddy is asking for an apple and the supermarket is busy and noisy. But all of these things have faded to a background hum behind the mantra pulsing in my ears.

Don’t. Poo. Your pants.

Don’t. Poo. Your pants.

I am transported to a daydream, a future reality, where I have, somehow, ended up with colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohns disease. My bum, which has before always ticked along, barring the occasional codeine-constipation or gastro episode, really successfully.

I’ve never really had bum or gut problems before. I’ve never appreciated the smooth running of my downstairs lounge. Is this the start, I think in panic. Is it? Is that what’s going to start happening now? Sudden urgent bum crises? Am I going to have to pack adult nappies and spare pants for me too, as well as all the little bastards?

This future, she is grim.

But finally, at least, the shopping is all rung up. It’s a devastating mess in that trolley, but not in my trousers. I pay the lady, who must be wondering what kind of mental demons I am struggling with as I blink and sweat while I work the card machine. I drag the trolley awkwardly out to the car park,legs trotting spastically like a marathon runner in lactic overload.

‘Get in!’ I squeak at the children. Once we are all in the car, I release a glorious, cleansing fart. It’s probably the best fart of my life. I am fully prepared for terrible things to come once I have opened those sphincter gates, but – miracle of miracles! – there is no follow-on effect.

Sitting in this private box, having made it through what seemed with every passing second to be certain humiliation, I feel elated. I still need, desperately, to shit, but I am not going to do it in public. It’s a near-poo experience, I made it through, and both my dignity and my trousers are unsullied. ‘Let the records show that Mummy has avoided middle-aged humiliation for one more day,’ I announce to the children. ‘Let’s go home.’

I don’t always feel in control of my life and my direction as a Mum. I frequently question my decisions. I wish very much that I was better at different parts of the job, and some days all I can see are my failings. But, just like when my mother-in-law said to me that the key was to just keep the children alive until the end of the day, sometimes you have to celebrate the small wins of life.

My name is Rachael, I am a mother of small children, and today, I did not shit my pants in the supermarket.