Go AwayOver the last few months, spending time with various family and friends and their young kids, I’ve noticed a few behavioural patterns. There have been tantrums galore; screaming, crying, shouts of ‘GO AWAY!’ and ‘No that’s MINE!’ and ‘I will NOT share!’. Toys have been thrown, fuses have blown and little fists have pounded the floor.

In the midst of all this, you’ll find me, breathing a sigh of relief and thinking thank goodness.

I’m so glad it’s not just my toddler who does this. I’m so relieved it’s not a reflection of how we’ve been bringing him up; that sometimes he’s shrieking and cross and bad-tempered. Because every single one of these kids, who’ve mastered the art of the fake cry or the stamping feet, have awesome parents. Parents who are mindful of their kids’ manners, mortified when they will not stop screaming and are as keen as we are for their kids to be kind, caring and sharing.

But oh what a pain it must be, to be two or three and constantly told to share this, pass that, give that over here. It’s a daily battle and one we’re all trying to strike a balance with. It is pretty unfair to be told to hand over your favourite car or crayons or play-doh pot, because some other kid has set their heart on it. It’s also hard to witness your child snatching things back, screaming ‘It’s MINE!’ and glowering with their fists clenched. It’s embarrassing. But we’re all in the same boat. And these kids who make us want to hide away until the shouting’s stopped, are the same kids who give us giant bear hugs and fall asleep in our arms. They are funny and sweet and mischievous and endearing.They ask questions like ‘Mummy, if we go too high in the sky will we bang our heads?’ and make us burst out laughing in the supermarket by exclaiming ‘LOOK at that giant apple!’ whilst pointing at a roast chicken. They leave our hearts fit to bursting twenty times a day with the things they say, watching them play (when they’re playing nicely) and the sound of their laughter. Actually, just by being here.

MineLast week started with Zach shouting from his room ‘Go AWAY Mummy, I don’t like you want Daddy!’ and ended on Friday with him declaring, as we waited for a train, ‘Mummy I don’t LIKE the sun (?), I love you as big as the sky.’ My heart burst a little bit and I grinned like a fool. We then went to a cafe where he screamed the place down for the sake of a toy car. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I totally won that day with declarations of love from my boy. Even if I did lose the car present battle and let him open it before we got home. Anything for a coffee in peace – though at that point I wished it was gin.

All the fun of the fancy dress

KnightsWe have just celebrated Zee’s third Halloween. Before having a child, my interest in Halloween was minimal. However, I am very keen on fancy dress and happily, Adam is too. Our greatest* fancy dress achievement to date is the time we went to our friend’s 30th birthday weekend, and the fancy dress theme was ‘white’. We spent a while pondering what to wear and suddenly I had a brainwave. ‘Knights in White Satin!’ I exclaimed, Adam agreed, and we duly ordered highly flammable white polyester ‘satin’ shirts and plastic knights’ helmets off the internet. We wore our costumes proudly, amongst the Mummies, tennis players and Roman gods at the all-white event.

A few years later, we realised the song is not, in fact, ‘Knights in White Satin’. It is ‘Nights in White Satin’ and we will never live it down. Not that we mind, at least we were in it together and both got it wrong. Unlike that time when I walked to the Lido wearing a wetsuit, but that’s a different matter.

So anyway, becoming a parent brought a whole new meaning to Halloween, because having a small person to dress up is The Best. To this day, one of my greatest personal achievements is Zee’s first ever Halloween costume. There must always be a concept, and my concept was for my little pumpkin to transform into the lead anchor for KVWN’s Channel 4 News Team, Ron Burgundy.

I am not ashamed to say I dedicated pretty much a whole day on maternity leave to this little Halloween photo shoot. I took it upon myself to dye an old wig dark brown, because how could he be Ron Burgundy without a head of luxurious hair (which he possesses now, but did not then)? I located one of H’s white shirts, his burgundy jumper and a tie. I took two of my prized possessions; my Anchorman DVD and my hand-stitched, embroidered, framed Ron Burgundy, made by my very talented friend, and placed them ‘on set’. I found Ron’s ‘news desk’ – Z’s Bumbo – and filled a glass with scotch (apple juice). I dressed Zee, popped him in the Bumbo and affixed his ‘tache. He was DELIGHTED (he was not delighted). I attempted to place the wig on his little bald head, but this was an absolute no-no, so I cast it aside and snapped as many pics as I could in the 30 second window before he had an entire sense of humour failure. It was one of the happiest and most productive days on maternity leave I ever had, what larks.

Last year, what with leaving work and going freelance, I could not dedicate quite as much time to my concept. However, there was still a storyline and it was in fact based on one of Zee’s (and ours) favourite picture books, Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants by Giles Andreae and Korky Paul. My little Halloween spider transformed into the brave knight (yes he is an actual knight) Sir Scallywag, and I located a host of props to complete the look. His toy tent became the castle, his ride-a-long lion the horse and a plastic cutlass his lance (his lance of COURSE). Once again, it was all about the timing before Zee totally lost interest (and hurray, my knight’s helmet came in handy again).

This year, my husband set his heart on a haunted house Halloween party for his family at ours, which also coincided with his birthday. Having been informed of this idea in July, I’d had a while to plan our costumes, but only really engaged with it a few weeks ago. A moment of inspiration; for Adam’s birthday, the three of us could be The Adam’s Family. But I did not want to be Morticia. I would be Cousin It, Adam could be Uncle Fester and Zee? Gomez Addams, of course. Pugsley is just in shorts and a stripey T-shirt – too easy. For his ‘look’, eyeliner would be key. Brilliant! For about five seconds I toyed with dyeing his blonde locks black, but the prospect of the mess and fuss (and the glares from my mother when I proposed it), put me right off. We started seeding the fancy dress idea with him last Monday, so by Saturday his cries of ‘Don’t WANT to wear a costume, no, no, NO!’ were met with ‘Can I wear my costume mummy?’ Result. Speaking of results, we had a great time dressing up, though hosting a party for over 20 people dressed as Cousin It was a bit of a challenge, what with getting hair caught everywhere and not being able to see. So that’s Halloween done for another year. Time to start planning those festive outfits. Tra lalalala, la la la la.


I Can’t Get No Sleep: A Top Five Playlist for New Motherhood

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The Faithless song repeats the line ‘I can’t get no sleep’ a lot, which pretty much sums up life with a new baby. A hungry or thirsty baby. A poorly baby. A teething baby. A baby having bad dreams. Then an older baby, who has been sleeping but suddenly decides They Don’t Want to Anymore. Or a toddler who just knows when you’ve been out, and likes to wake up crying just as your tipsy head hits the pillow, and so on, and so on . . . There is a particular quality to newborn baby sleep deprivation. It’s like you’re operating in a fog, wading through treacle, with aching bones and struggling not to give death stares to anyone who suggests they too, are ‘quite tired.’ It becomes a competition with your partner as to who needs more sleep or a lie-in. ME ME ME! I Can’t Get No Sleep – the theme song for new parents, everywhere.


Not the soulful Marvin Gaye song, more like Four Non-Blondes. I’m thinking back to those first few days at home, when the hospital (following the forceps and episiotomy) merrily sent me off with some paracetamol and ibuprofen, oh and a tiny, helpless baby. ‘Just take these together if you’re in any pain!’ Not helpful, medical people. Paracetamol sometimes barely touches the sides of a bad hangover, let alone the aforementioned Things I Don’t Care to Mention. On our second night home, around 3am, there was me howling in the bathroom in agony, Zee howling in the bedroom and I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs What’s Going On?! Thank goodness for my lovely midwife, who arranged for the doctor to prescribe Volterol the next day. Even now when I see Volterol in Boots, I can’t help but gaze lovingly at it. Paracetamol? Meh.


Friends and family, couldn’t do it without them. Shout out to the NCT ladies; we went through the exact same experience at the exact same time and there’s something pretty special about that. It’s great to know that everything you’re dealing with for the first time, they are too. The first time Zee ever fell off the bed sent me into a total panic, terrified I’d broken my baby. z11After making sure he was okay I immediately turned to our Facebook page, they were there to reassure me, and it had happened to a couple of them too. Phew. They are a group of kind, strong, funny, smart women and I wish I could see them more but, you know, geography. We do still get together though, and I love it when we do.


Without a doubt, you’ll never know, my dear boy, how much I love you. I can’t begin to adequately express it, usually not without welling up. I am often overwhelmed with love for you. You make me laugh until I cry (sometimes you wind me up until I cry). You endlessly fascinate, surprise and delight me. I often want time to stop, because you are little (despite your assurance ‘I a big boy mummy!’) and you won’t be little for very long. You are absolutely my sunshine, and we are lucky to have you.


Knives, hot drinks, vases – You Can’t Touch This. Glasses, cutlery, china – You Can’t Touch This. Shoe polish, my make-up, ovens – You Can’t Touch This. From the moment they’re on the move and those chubby little hands can reach for every possible danger in sight, you find yourself repeating ‘Don’t touch!’, ‘No!’, ‘Leave that alone!’, ‘Not for you!’ and ‘Arrrrrgggghhh!’ There becomes an in-built radar everywhere you go – specifically other people’s houses and restaurants – for Potentially Hazardous Objects My Child Will Grab. That beautiful vase, a family heirloom? He could smash it. Those scissors? He could – nope, don’t even want to think about that. That salt shaker? Salt everywhere. And so on, and so on . . .  MC Hammer’s ‘You Can’t Touch This’ – the theme song of parents with young children, everywhere.

We are mums and we are heroes

Earlier I cried a little bit on the way home from nursery because I really shouted at Zee this morning and then felt bad.

I feel bad because the house is a mess and the washing’s piled up. I feel bad because I only have one kid and what must it be like for families with 2+ kids and single parents and families with both parents working full time and . . . enough.

I shouted at Zee this morning because he would not let me dress him and wriggled and screamed and made it impossibly hard, like every morning. For nearly four weeks now, he has woken 2-3 times a night, crying, shouting for mummy, wanting milk or ice cream (?) or MoreGuin (who is right next to him) or his hairbrush (?). This morning I’d just had enough. I suspect he is having bad dreams and is unsettled because of potty training. Sometimes there are cycles like these and broken sleep coupled with working stacks up and it’s not fun. So then I get the guilts for feeling this way, because all I can think of are those who are even more tired or busy or ready to bang their head against a brick wall when the tantrums begin.

That’s not right though, is it? It isn’t a competition. Sometimes it’s just tough. It’s different for us all and comparing doesn’t help. Instead of dwelling on all the things I’m not doing well at the moment, it’d be nice to think about the things that I am, though I don’t know what they are because my brain is so foggy from the broken sleep.

So for every mum today who might be feeling a bit like this, this is what I’d like to share:

Brilliant job

It’s a GinBunnyPrints.com card, which I saw on the brilliant Hurrah for Gin’s blog the other week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Because motherhood, for all its magic and wonder and joy, is bloody tough sometimes. No matter what our situation is, sometimes it’s good to remember we are all doing our best and that’s all we can do. And that a glass of something icy cold and alcoholic should always be kept in reach.

Five ways motherhood has messed with my mind

OrchardPraise be to Gina and that little book of potty training wisdom, for on Sunday Zee had a major toileting triumph (and that’s all I will say on the matter, no one but us needs to know the, erm, finer details). ANYWAY, he achieved what Gina had promised he’d achieve, in seven days, his little face was so filled with glee, and my heart was so filled with pride. Somehow whilst thinking about all of this, I kept finding myself wondering how all these rugby players’ mums must be feeling during the World Cup.

This is a strange link but bear with me.

Now I am a mother, it seems there are a few things I can no longer think about, see or do as I did before . . .

You see an epic try; I wonder ‘Did his mother cry?’

It’s safe to say I am not the ideal person to watch a rugby match with. I like the idea of it all; I’m very patriotic, love to belt out the national anthem and really appreciate a good sense of occasion. But during England’s first match against Fiji, it took me 20 minutes to realise they were playing in red and I asked Adam ‘What is a scrum, exactly?’ I was still keen to watch the match against Wales on Saturday though. But whilst all those around me were losing their heads, I was sipping gin and pondering how overwhelmed with pride those players’ parents must be and that I never, ever want my baby boy to play rugby, ever. Not ever. Not my choice, I know, but still. Ow!

Broadchurch? I can’t even.

Earlier this year, with all the hype around the new Broadchurch, we thought we’d have a look at the first series. Better late than never? No, just never. We lasted about five minutes, until the harrowing scene when the mum realises her son isn’t at sports day and that was it. We looked at each other aghast, said ‘No way’ and switched it off. Not these days.

That horror novel? Can’t go there either.

I used to be all about the horror novel or film – the scarier/gorier the better. Maybe it was an antidote to all the children’s books I worked on, trading a Magic Kitten or Pigs in Planes by day for a Karin Slaughter or Paranormal Activity by night. Just last week I realised the new book, by a writer whose debut I’d enjoyed last year, was publishing soon. ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘I’ll be adding that to my list’. It’s not a horror so it’s fine.Then at Charing Cross, I saw the tube poster for it, with the book image and the single strapline ‘The cot was empty.’ Simple, brilliant, powerful – but not for this mum whose young son sleeps in a cot.

So over hangovers

Ooh I still love a glass of something bubbly or an ice-cold Hendricks in one of those big fun fishbowl glasses, but these days the very thought of a hangover gives me the dreads. Zee seems to have developed some kind of a radar so he just knows when I’ve gone out Out, and subsequently wakes, screaming ‘Mummy, MUMMY!’ just as I drop off after a rare night gallivanting. Water and paracetamol have never been more important than when faced with a toddler after a shandy or two. Peppa and the iPad are very much my friends in these situations as well.

Pub lunches

The idea of a long lazy pub lunch with a few drinks is SO NICE, but the reality is so awful. It’s just a colossal waste of time, with a toddler who doesn’t want to sit still for longer than the five minutes it takes to messily eat what’s in front of him. I don’t want to spend the whole time worrying and shrieking ‘No!’ as he shrieks ‘BOING MUMMY LOOK BOING BOING ON THE LADY’S HEAD!’ with the balloon from the trying-to-be-helpful staff. Sigh.

Obviously, the sole reason for all of the above brings me more delight than any book, TV series or roast in the pub ever could. Those gory novels or shows filled with murder and all things awful I may well be done with, but as for the pub lunches, we’ll most definitely be back.

No mummy, *you* the best

Our conversations with Zach just get better, as he learns more words and surprises us every day with new observations, comments and thoughts.

One of my current favourites is:

‘You’re so lovely/funny/cheeky/wriggly (insert appropriate adjective here) Zach!’
‘No I’m NOT, I’m Zachary!’
‘Yes you are!’
‘No I’m not, I’m a big boy!’
‘Yes, a cheeky big boy!’
‘NO! I not!’
‘Yes, you’re the best!’
‘No I NOT! You the best mummy!’
‘I’ll take that.’

I was thinking about this a bit more when I was feeling absolutely not my best; very tired after a fun night out. Those days of going out three to four times a week at uni, followed by getting up and going to lectures the next day, are so long gone. Though they probably didn’t start till 2pm and lasted two hours. Looking after a toddler + working + a late night are not the same.
yellow ice creamI know when he says this to me it’s a game. But I am, after all, the one who dresses him, feeds him, cleans up his mess, makes sure he’s warm, not hungry or thirsty, I find his toys and shoes and MoreGuin ten times a day. I deal with his mad tantrums (‘No don’t WANT that t-shirt mummy want my pyjamas nooooo nooo not THAT one want that t-shirt mummy noooooooo!’) and I now ask him quite a lot if he needs a wee and have no objections to cleaning up his wee or worse (although yesterday I was delighted not to). So actually yes, mummy IS the best (daddy too).

Yeaahhhhh! I’m going to remember this now and not feel bad that we’re lazing in our pjs as I write this and he watches Peppa on my phone. Because he just rested his head on my shoulders for a few minutes whilst giggling at Peppa and that was the best.

The Potty Training Diaries Part V

Tomorrow I am going to work and must remember not to ask every person I speak to ‘Do you need a wee? Do you need a wee darling? Do you want Mummy to help you? Shall I sit you on the toilet?’ because wouldn’t that be awkward with a capital A?

Over the last four days, Zee has gone from screaming and crying at the idea of using the potty to sitting on it earlier this evening and doing a big wee. In front of Peppa, but if that was what it took to get him to sit on it for an extended period of time, then fine. He did it, and that’s what counts. Today has been very much more of the same, with delight at pretending to use the toilet and screaming when he needed to, so the potty breakthrough earlier felt like a real achievement. Tomorrow I hand the potty training over to his excellent nursery carers, and yes I am positively punching the air at the prospect of this.

ProfileI’m so glad I was able to spend these four days with him though, trying to help him progress in this next big step. He has been his usual lovely, cheeky, playful and mischievous self and not in the least bit bothered at pretty much spending four days in the house and garden. The worst bits weren’t clearing up the messes (though yuck) or being wee’d on, but seeing him so distressed and feeling like the Meanest Person Ever when I wouldn’t give him a nappy when he asked.

But at 7 this evening I did, because I could not face a poo-gate situation on a Sunday evening so close to bedtime when he gets a nappy anyway. I’ve now got him to a weeing on the potty stage, having frankly wanted to abandon it after his sobs on the first day. The first stage is done. Roll on Tuesday when I can finally Have a Drink. Hurray for Drink!

*Update* As potty training Zee feels like one of my biggest achievements (and his) this year, I wanted to make a note of how he went from tears to triumph in a week, via this post for Ladybird books here: http://blog.ladybird.co.uk/2015/10/20/pirate-pete-and-princess-polly-the-proof-is-in-the-potty/

The Potty Training Diaries Part IV

I was never able to follow Gina Ford’s advice on getting babies to sleep through, something to do with letting them cry or crying it out, I can’t quite remember now, but anyway it didn’t work for me. That’s because I just could not bear to leave Zee to cry for extended periods of time, although I can see how short term pain, if it works = extremely useful and sanity-saving long term gain.

GardenBUT when it comes to potty training, I am all over the *idea* of completing the task in one week, as Gina’s aforementioned book promises. A few people have recommended it to me and I have found it really useful and sensible in preparing for this stage. Day three was, up until earlier this evening, like Groundhog Day, with more willingness to sit on the potty until he needed to use it, tears, accidents etc. This was not, by the way, how it should go according to Gina, but every child is different and I didn’t expect to follow it that closely. Luckily today was sunny, so we played in the garden and he charged about with no nappy on whilst I found myself periodically going on and on and ON at him about potties and stickers and wee-wees and being a grown up boy and so on and so forth blahhhhh blah blah. Meanwhile, chats like these occurred, which weren’t helpful but were fun:

‘Would you like two more stickers for your chart?’

‘Oh yes PLEASE mummy!’

‘Okay well if you do a wee in your potty you can have TWO stickers.’

‘I’ve been thinking about it Mummy.’

‘What have you been thinking?’

‘It goes rounds and round and round!’

‘What does? What were you thinking about your potty?’

‘I don’t know mummy, don’t worry, it’s down there on the telephone.’

Later on he had a nap, woke up, we played, he had dinner and then the stress and tears began again as he clearly needed a wee but would not sit on the potty. Suddenly he said ‘Mummy I want to sit on the toilet!’ and I paid no attention because I’m sorry, what now? If he’s scared of the potty, then surely the toilet would be an altogether more frightening prospect for him?

But he asked again so we went upstairs, me carrying him and the potty because obviously we’d get up there and he’d scream and resist and demand the potty but wouldn’t really want it and I’d be wee’d on, again. I duly affixed the special seat for him and . . . and he let me sit him on it, smiling away, chattering, telling me he was going to ‘point his winky down’ and ‘Look Mummy, a little bit of wee!’ I was so surprised and full of glee and praise that this was actually happening and also thinking WHY WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GINA AND PIRATE PETE AND THOSE TWO PLASTIC POTTIES WHYYYYYYY didn’t I listen to the several people who told me to skip the potty stage and just put him straight on the loo?! It makes a lot more sense now it’s happened, as he is familiar with the little loo at nursery, but still. It’s called Potty Training, the name threw me off.

PantsAlso, I’ve never before had to second guess for three days when a little and highly emotional person may or may not want to empty their bladder, but my goodness I’ll know for if there’s a next time. He was delighted to use toilet paper and do flushing and hand washing and drying – so delighted we repeated the process three more times, with tiny trickles occurring, before going downstairs to ring daddy* and get stickers for his chart. And then he had a really big wee all over the kitchen floor, but of course this didn’t matter at all, because PROGRESS! Will it continue tomorrow? Let’s see . .

*Daddy who has been out all day at a friend’s BBQ, which we were all meant to enjoy. But me being like a bear with a sore head (thanks wisdom tooth) and the potty training not *quite* going according to (Gina’s) plan, meant that I made the Very Good Decision to stay here with Zee. I wasn’t going to give up, not after only two days. Tempted though I was to reach for the pull-ups when he was so distressed, I very, very much want this to be a success in as little time as possible. Short term pain, exactly.

The Potty Training Diaries Part III

It turns out having an infected wisdom tooth is not  ideal when potty training. The second day has been something of a catalogue of mishaps, which means I am currently upstairs drinking hot, sweet tea whilst H and Zee play trains downstairs.

This morning started off promisingly again, with Zee showing lots of interest in wearing his pants and even sitting happily up and down on the potty and being very keen to get more stickers for his chart.

Unfortunately, the fact I have been in denial about a painful wisdom tooth all week, meant I had to break one of Gina’s golden rules after only 24 hours into potty training. I had to take Zee with me to the dentist, and I could not see how it would work with him in pants and me in a dentist chair, should he need to go. I didn’t want to put him, me or the dentist in that situation, so I resorted to a pull-up nappy. This is apparently meant to confuse things wholeheartedly, but I was pretty stuck.

And then followed a series of events, which gave me a SERIOUS sense of humour failure:

  • Dentist diagnoses ‘massively infected wisdom tooth’ (owwwww) and gives me a prescription. Makes some mention of it needing to be stamped, but I wasn’t concentrating because, you know, pain and Zee was about to fall off his chair whilst heavily engrossed in Thomas
  • Drive to pharmacy. I’d forgotten wallet. Leave prescription there and drive home.
  • Return to pharmacy. The prescription hasn’t been stamped.
  • Drive all the way back to dentist’s and have to park two roads away as parking is a nightmare. Zee is tired and hungry, so I carry him.
  • Return to pharmacy, it’s lunchtime. Can I come back after 2pm? Excuse me for a moment, can I just slump over the counter and cry a bit here?
  • A few hours later, Zee and I return to pharmacy, fourth time lucky; the drugs are mine.

Back at home, potty training resumes, and I never knew the words ‘Mummy, I need to sit on the potty’ could make me SO HAPPY. But alas, whilst he’s still happy to sit on the potty when he doesn’t need to go, when he does, it’s a whole different situation. Tears, accidents, he’s very distressed, which makes me feel AWFUL. He’s now asking for his big boy pants so he can use those instead of a nappy. I do not know what to do about this as he refuses and screams when I try and help him onto the potty. I won’t go into any graphic detail, but it’s a good job I love that kid so very, very much, because only a parent could (literally) handle what I just did and not ask for the nearest bucket to be passed.

I’m trying my best, he’s trying his and we’ll get there. I’m very grateful to have nursery’s help next Mon-Weds to carry on my (hopefully good by then) work. In the meantime, I am continuing to curse this infection. A stiff G&T would be seriously nice this evening.





The Potty Training Diaries Part II

Over the last few weeks, when I’ve mentioned to various people that I would be starting potty training today, some were really positive, ‘Oh you’ll be fine,’ they said, ‘It’s really not too bad . . .’ Others were wide-eyed, with eyebrows raised and wishing me good luck.

Now I know why.

In terms of all the pre-reading, the purchasing of the pants and the potties and the personalised potty books, I was prepared. What I was not prepared for, was my child being happy to sit on the potty when he doesn’t need to go, then crying and telling me he’s scared of it when he does. This was followed by point- blank refusal to sit on it, let alone wee in it, all the while crossing his legs and crying and begging me to put his nappy on and being visibly upset and distressed. Which made me extremely distressed, though I had to try not to show it.

It all started off promisingly at 7 this morning, with him clambering into his blue big boy pants with gusto – first sticker on his chart, done. I reassured him and kept repeating myself. I felt like a broken record. ‘When you need a wee-wee darling, just tell Mummy and we can sit you on the potty, etc, etc, etc.’ By 12pm, still nothing, and that’s when his tears began. Today there have been several accidents, I have been wee’d over, as has the floor, but he did manage a little wee in his potty through all the crying and it felt like such a big moment, I nearly cried too.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but at least I have an idea of just how tough potty training can be. Last night I was joking about the Valium. Maybe by the end of this I won’t be.