The Nutella Diaries

 

I write a weekly column for a number of newspapers, which is all about my life as a mum of 3 boys - aged 10, 7 and 3. It's a little different from my books, not least because they're entirely fictional. But it's fair to say that when writing about parenthood, I'm rarely short of new material. Here are a few of my recent entries...

Blustery Day of when he asked me to read it for the fourteenth time in five hours. He just never got sick of it.

If only the same could be said for me.

Eight years on, I could still recite every word.

Only I’ve now got other things to concern myself with: the fact that my three year old is as prone, if not more, to this than the other two children.

And so despite the fact that we have shelves that are straining under the weight of the sheer volume of books on them – including two copies of the Gruffalo and a couple of Ladybird books that must be contenders for the Antiques Roadshow – he’s not interested in anything but a single book.

It’s called Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. And I hate it with a passion. Not, I should stress, because it isn’t a fantastic read, full of adventure, humour and brilliant illustrations; exactly the kind of thing ALL pre-school kids love in fact.

But because I have read it every night for three months now, complete with the same

silly voices and actions.

Against all the odds, he never, ever tires of it.  Despite my attempts to read something – anything! – else. My case of Captain Flinn fatigue is so bad I try to get story time over with as fast as possible, only he knows the plot so well now he protests when you miss out so much as a word.

I know this is entirely normal – psychologists say repetition helps children learn new words, and provides them with comfort.

Which is nice. Though if I don’t find something new soon, somebody might have to provide me with some Valium.

11.01.16:

Here we go again

 

One of the things I love doing most with my kids is discovering a new story – whether that’s by reading a book with them or going to the cinema.

But those with toddlers will know what I mean when I say things have a tendency to get a tad familiar.

The first time your two-year-old discovers how magical Jungle Book is, their instinct is not to simply hum Bear Necessities for a couple of hours afterwards and perhaps ask for a pair of Baloo pyjamas.

They immediately want to watch it again. And again. And again.

When my first child – who’s now 10 – was a toddler, I was astounded by how he never tired of a particular book or movie; you’d have thought he had the recall skills of a goldfish with a head trauma.

Only it became apparent that he hadn’t forgotten the story of Winnie The Pooh’s

29.12.15: New Year just ain't what it used to be.

 

We all know that things change when you’ve got kids.

 But the biggest shock to the system after my first baby wasn’t just the lack of sleep, or loving someone in ways I’d never thought possible – or even that it had somehow become acceptable to have a conversation with your other half about another human being’s poo.

It was what happened on New Year’s Eve.

When you’re childless, what you’re doing on 31st December is of monumental importance.

You might welcome in the new year in Times Square, a big old farmhouse with friends, or by dancing the night away with like-minded people who don’t have to be up with a toddler the next day. It really doesn’t matter where – as long as it’s awesome. It just isn’t acceptable to consider something low-key. If you’re childless, under thirty and even know

 

who Jools Holland is, people think there must be something wrong with you.When you have kids, there is none of this pressure.

Your focus is so firmly on Christmas, that it’s only when that’s over that you actually remember New Year exists - and that in previous years you’d have been planning something for months that would involve the kind of excess from which you’d need a magnum of Alka Seltzer to recover.

I know some people will be lamenting the death of their massive NYE party, the champagne, the round-the clock celebrating.

 

But, while I’m a few steps short of spending the evening in my slippers, I’ll be honest and say I prefer the lack of fuss these days.With three kids, it wasn’t a wrench to leave behind the kind of night that ended in youholding your friend’s hair back while she introduced her dinner to a toilet bowl, or got chatted up by a couple of blokes who only started shaving last year

I still love a big night out – just not on New Year’s Eve, when half the population seems to be fighting for a taxi.

New year is all fur coat and no knickers as far as I’m concerned (and I mean that metaphorically, not that it’s my preferred look for the evening).

It’s not worth the hours waiting at a bar, or the mild deflation afterwards when you realise you could’ve had a mini break for the amount you’d spent on one night.

So this year, I’ll be surrounded by my family, a few friends and possibly Jools Holland - to bring in the new year such a low key way it once would’ve horrified me. And I won’t even need to get a taxi home.

22.12.15: Pass the Pro-plus - it must be Christmas!

 

Any working mum knows that the most wonderful time of the year is also the most exhausting.

A newspaper decided to prove this by printing a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge looking less than her sparkling, Reiss dress-wearing self this week.

The headline read, ‘Two young children, three official functions in a week AND Christmas shopping . . . no wonder she looks shattered.’

Personally, I think she looked pretty good, certainly compared with how some of us (aka me) appeared at the school gates by the end of term.

Because while having young children makes Christmas more magical than ever, it is also sucks any reserves of energy you might still have like a top of the range Dyson.

Gone are the days when you’d have a whole weekend to sleep off the excesses of an office party, with nothing more to tax your little self than wrapping a couple of presents those tasteful bows you once actually bothered with.

These days, anything more than three glasses of Prosecco and you know there’llbe hell to play the following day – usually

in the form of small children jumping on your head at 6.30am.

Ironically though, your to do list at this time of year is enough to turn anyone to drink.

Just when you’ve sorted out costumes for nativity plays, attire for Christmas jumper day, cleared your diary to attend two Christingles, one carol concert and a parents’ association mulled wine evening, you’re suddenly WAY behind on the Christmas shopping.

You go to blow all your Tesco Clubcard vouchers on presents . . . and realise you’re behind the game on this too; the only thing left for the three year old is a subscription to BBC Good Food magazine.

Then there’s the dinner.

Just when you’ve sorted out costumes for nativity plays, attire for Christmas jumper

day, cleared your diary to attend two Christingles, one carol concert and aparents’ association mulled wine evening, you’re suddenly WAY behind on the Christmas shopping.

You go to blow all your Tesco Clubcard vouchers on presents . . . and realise you’re behind the game on this too; the only thing left for the three year old is a subscription to BBC Good Food magazine.

Then there’s the dinner.

If by now you hadn’t already booked your online shopping slot months ago, you are about to enter the seventh circle of hell: namely, any supermarket in Christmas week, WITH YOUR KIDS IN TOW.

Months ago, you’d imagined Christmas dinner as a civilised affair, starting perhaps with those glazed nuts you saw on Saturday Kitchen, following with the resplendent turkey on Nigella - and you’d never say no to Jamie Oliver’s honeyed parsnips (ahem).

But with the kids now off school, if you manage to throw a few pre-packed roasties, a ready-glazed turkey and a bag of chestnuts in your trolley, in my book you deserve a medal.

It is of course all worth it to see the smiles on their faces on Christmas morning.

Just make sure you have a long lie down at the first opportunity.

15.12.15

Mince pie mayhem

 

I love the idea of baking with my children. And at this time of year, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was obligatory.

The foodie magazines are full of festive recipes – for gingerbread men, child-friendly mince pies and present-shaped pastry decorations with which to adorn your tree.

TV programmes are overflowing with suggestions for home-made gifts, truffles and fudges that are false-teeth-friendly and therefore ideal for grandparents - the idea being that you can whip them up with your youngsters before wrapping them in tissue paper and handing them over (the truffles, not the youngsters, that is).

And what better way to spend an hour on a rainy day than creating pastry stars for the tree, piping the edges with icing and placing them on your Nordic Pine as a home made alternative to the shop-bought stuff?

There is an onslaught of this sort of propaganda at this kind of year, leaving

hapless mums like me with the idea that this is what any half decent parent WILL do in the run up to Christmas.

With this in mind, I decided to make some mince pies with the toddler this week.

I will tell you now that it didn’t end well.

I deliberately picked a recipe entitled, ‘Really Easy Mince Pies’. But I quickly discovered that the ‘really easy’ label could only be applied to those who aren’t attempting to make them with a two-year-old intent on flinging flour across

the kitchen, sticking pastry in his ears and shovelling mincemeat into his mouth with his bare hands.

The preparation part of it wasn’t even the most challenging. He gave up on that after the first five minutes and decided it was time to do some washing up.

While the feminist in me was glad to be raising a boy unafraid to get stuck into domestic chores, I turned my back for a second to attempt to stick on a pastry lid . . . and found the washing up bowl upturned and the kitchen looking like the floor of our local swimming pool.

By the time I’d cobbled together the first uncooked mince pie, the oven had been pre-heating for over an hour.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the ensuing the fiasco, except to say that after mopping up, wiping up and sticking the toddler in front of Mr Tumble for eight minutes – to keep his mitts out of the mincemeat long enough for me to actually get it into the pastry cases - I couldn’t help but come to one conclusion.

That I’ll leave all this to Nigella next time.

2021 by Catherine Isaac