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HOW TO BE A HAPPY STEPMUM (Vermilion, £10.99) is the definitive guide for stepmothers. Based on extensive research, it addresses the common difficulties associated with stepfamily life and offers practical tips and advice to help women adapt to their role in stepfamilies. The author, Dr Lisa Doodson, is a family psychologist. For more info, visit Lisa's website: www.happysteps.co.uk

Talk Round-up
28 May 2010

Finally, blissfully, summer has appeared and, in this season of sun-dappled fecundity, the thoughts of the MN gardening contingent automatically turn to sex and death. "I've just caught eight lily beetles in the act of carnal congress," reported GrendelsMum brightly. "It slows them down and makes them easy to catch. And they died happy." "Oh yes," agreed FlyMeToDunoon, "they are always at it. I put them in a Tic Tac box and put it in the bin [nasty]." "They die after mating?" enquired Hecate hesitantly. "Yes," confirmed the bloodthirsty asmallbunchofflowers with more than a note of triumph. "If you catch them while they're distracted and squash 'em!"

More acts of gory murder were being contemplated elsewhere, with redshoesnoknickers making a desperate plea for MN benediction on AIBU to let the sea monkeys die? "Essentially, as DH pointed out, we now have a jar of LICE in the kitchen. They are multiplying. What do I do? They are freaking me out but it seems cruel to stop feeding them... Shall I just chuck them in the flower bed and be done with it?" BallpointPen suggested ritualising the moment of their death to make it more palatable for the kids: perhaps 'a little freedom ceremony' before flushing them down the loo? "Prepare a beautiful speech about animal liberties," she suggested, "and play the theme tune from Free Willy." Cece was unsympathetic: "Haha, mine lived for over a year... Sadly, the water turned green and they were all gone when we returned from our holiday."

The thought of such longevity panicked redshoesnoknickers further. "Maybe I could release them into the sea?" she fretted. "We live really near... Or would they affect the ecosystem or something? They would probably just die, right? Not develop into giant mutants terrorising the local yachty types?" Aquarium-owner monkeyfacegrace made it clear that this is standard 'circle of life' stuff, testily pointing out, "FGS, they are brine shrimp, a common food in tropical fishkeeping. Find someone with a fish tank. Bung in sea monkeys. I do it every day!" but Hangingbellyofbabylon proposed freezing them as the kindest way to go: "Months later, when you re-discover the frozen bag of sea monkeyness, you can bin it." Good idea, said TheBoyWithaSORNedMX5, but, "for goodness sake, if you do freeze them, make sure you label them properly. Otherwise in a few months' time, you'll be serving a most unusual jug of Pimm's..."

"Things I have learned from adverts," proclaimed ChickensNeedOpposableThumbs. She had made a list: "You don't need to teach your children to take pride in their bedrooms, or to clean them ever. They can, however, cover up the smell of discarded trainers and stale farts with a bottle of Febreze and their opposite-sex friend will be deeply impressed. The cool women are all sitting about discussing their hard bowel movements. Stereotyped Italian puppets are a great way of flogging horrible pasta sauce." Fireupthequattro has gathered from watching TV that what she really needs to do is "invite all my girlfriends round to view my collection of stones and then delight them with the fact that one of the stones is not actually a stone; it's an air freshener! They'd all be really happy for me and we could bond over yoga later." "Periods are, in fact, blue," added the scientifically-minded BoffinMum, who seems unperturbed by "the fact that mine are not – must be some sort of aberration", while wahwahwah notes bitterly: "Men can't help acting on Impulse. How right they are." Talking of whom, how's this for a focus group, Garry Lace? Any use?

AITCHXXX

BABY'S HERE! WHO DOES WHAT? by Duncan Fisher gets down to the basics of domestic politics. Do fathers do enough caring? Do mothers do enough earning? Why do so many children miss time with their dad and feel their mum is stressed out? Fisher argues that we have lost the idea of parenting as a team game and appeals to 200,000 years of history to make the case.

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