"Really, my children are lovely!", I have to keep telling people who identify me as the woman who has made a sideline in constantly griping about her kids.
From disastrous holidays that have aged me a decade overnight, to constant battles to keep a tide of cheap, crappy toys from engulfing our house, to unsuccessful attempts to give my two children a little sibling (the sibling hasn't eventuated but the children have picked out their preferred name already - "Poxy Poxington") - I confess to filling more than my fair share of column inches with my lovingly barbed observations from the life of a wholly typical modern mum.
Why, even surly political blogger Cameron Slater - aka Whale Oil - has called me a "whiny tart" - a title even my husband confessed to taking no issue with.
But I do love them of course, like anyone else loves theirs. My feeling is that my posts are less about my children, really, and more about my inability to keep things in perspective when they spiral out of control in typical fashion.
And I preface this post with a semi-defence of myself because I'm working myself into the mother of all rants.
I'm about to describe something that made me really question my abilities not only as a mother, but as an adult human being.
This last week, while I was taking a short break from this blog, I was introduced to the wonders of international plane travel with two young children aged 2 and 4. And wondrous it sure wasn't.
I hear so much about people travelling here, there and to outer Mongolia with their kids and seeming to have no trouble at all. But all it took was one flight back from Australia to convince my husband and me that we are not constitutionally made to get on a plane in the late evening, all of us with colds, cram into a steel tube flying at high altitude across the Pacific and then carry our children through what feels like about 20 rugby pitches to get to customs, then another 20 rugby pitches, this time weighed down by six pieces of luggage and a car seat, to find our car and trek back out into the suburbs, finally laying our heads down at about 3am local time.
We are pathetic, I know. But there you have it.
The flight was badly chosen for 6.30pm Australia-time and the kids were already ratty by the time we got to the airport. Well, you are if you get up each morning at 3.45am, like they had been the whole 6-day holiday.
We were the first to check in, which was great, but that was offset somewhat by the fact we had to negotiate about 150 metres of empty queue barricades, going back and forth and back and forth, with an enormous trolley covered with baggage and two young kids while ground crew discussed their weekends with great animation.
Using up time browsing duty free is obviously a thing of the past, but even shovelling through didn't stop our brood catching an eyeful of the Winnie the Pooh kits hanging from the walls and crying because they couldn't have them. They were given a couple of boxes of Smarties to keep them occupied, and promptly dropped them all over the floor (and then promptly crawled through every bit of mucky slime to rescue and devour each small piece).
Finally on the plane, and thankfully Air New Zealand put seat-back entertainment sets on each flight, but the kids had used up their amusement on the system on the way over and had practically watched everything suitable already.
Their toys, so novel on the first trip, were now old hat.
The food - fish cakes and shepherd's pie - didn't exactly set them on fire, but lemonade and juice, which ended up mostly worn by their parents, got the nod.
Our two-year-old worked herself up into a lather and, unable to sit still, demanded loudly to "get off now!" "stop nagging me!" and "stop doing that, you poo!" and had to be wrestled for three hours (she did finally get to sleep in the last 10 minutes of the flight, as you'd expect).
I couldn't eat my meal with a two-year-old going feral in my lap so - not sadly - I downed several red wines which did help take the edge off, but unfortunately meant that every 45 minutes or so I would have to leap frog children, coats, bags, candy, dinner trays and the poor Chinese couple to my left to visit the ladies, where I would have a five minute sanity break before rejoining Ali, who was not only taking one for the team but also battling a serious cold.
By the time we got off the flight we were truly wrecks.
The kids were both asleep - and heavy - and had to be carried, along with the bags, passports, coats and other detritus, to customs.
At one point we had to stop because Ali said he was not only deaf in one ear, but if he had to go another step he'd vomit. We had many pitying glances and a few offers of help, it is true, but most people I thought had a look of "thank God those days are over!"
Back home and lovingly tucking my children into bed at about 2.30am, I asked them what they had enjoyed most about our week-long trip across the ditch where they'd been taken to museums, playgrounds, indoor activity centres, cousin's birthday parties, and exotic restaurants.
"My favourite Mummy," said my four-year-old little cherub, "was playing with my Pez [lolly container] I took over on the plane".
Indeed.By Dita De Boni