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Hols are bliss with Messi and prawn cocktail crisps; ShariLow

TEN days and counting. Nine days and counting. Eight days and counting.

The most surprising thing about my boys' annual countdown until school's out for summer? Drum rolls and trumpets please My teeth no longer clench with terror at the thought of amusing my angels until the bell rings again in August.

In the olden days, the school holidays were anticipated with an emotion that sat somewhere between unbridled joy (oh the giddy bliss of uninterrupted time with my offspring) and anxiety (oh how to keep them amused for six weeks of a torrential Scottish summer).

It was a daunting prospect, but one that came with a huge sense of relief and satisfaction at the finish line.

I'd imagine it's the same emotional roller coaster as embarking on an expedition to the North Pole. Or climbing Everest. Or getting into size 14 jeans.

Much as I'd love to say summer was all picnics in the sunshine and glorious walks through flower-strewn woods, the truth is there was repeated cupcake baking.

There were Power Rangers. And there were 35 visits to the cinema, followed by a visit to the bank manager to explain that I'd blown the overdraft keeping the international popcorn industry afloat.

Being mum to two under-10s was a magical time, but it came with a few challenges along the way, so my empathy antenna flashed like a strobe light when I read about the poll of mums with young children who admitted they felt stressed at least five times per day.

According to the study, mealtimes, mornings, shopping and housework create the biggest tension hot points.

Thankfully, my dynamic duo are now 11 and 12, so most of those daily danger zones are behind us.

We're in that mid-space between sticky fingers on the walls and teenage hormones kicking in.

They're self-sufficient and independent, but they haven't yet decided that I know nothing and I'm so old and out of touch that I'm to be pitied.

But if I close my eyes really tight I can conjure up the traumatic flashbacks.

Mornings used to be a logistical nightmare. I was once late for a meeting with a Hollywood producer because I'd been embroiled in a Mexican standoff with a three-year-old who refused to remove his night-time, Buzz Lightyear pull-up pants.

On a supermarket run, my other child, four-year-old Usain Bolt, grabbed a tin of pears off a shelf, flicked it open and drank the juice before the man from Del Monte could yell "Shoplifter in the tins aisle".

The Gods of Domesticity would clutch their sides as I attempted to do the housework while a toddler walked behind me emptying a bumper size tub of talc across the floor.

And agreeing on one meal for dinner used to require negotiation techniques developed by the CIA. We finally cracked and taught the boys to cook.

They now rustle up the family dinner and threatened to ground me last night because I wouldn't eat my broccoli.

But the biggest transformation? Holidays are now a breeze. They make their own plans and - weather dependent - either meet up with pals for a day of footie/basketball/cycling or fill the house with chums intent on defeating Ronaldo and Messi on PlayStation Fifa, while consuming the entire west of Scotland's supply of prawn cocktail crisps.

However, it's not all fun and Fifa, because all of those little niggles have been replaced by a major ding at the top of the stress scale - the school run.

Crazy parking. Congestion. Irate parents. Short tempers. Attempts to avoid the best dressed mothers because I've slept in and look like a burst couch.

Yes, we've come a full circle and now, it's me who is desperately crossing off the dates in the calendar until the last day of school. Seven days and counting.

'I'd imagine school holidays as the same emotional roller coaster as climbing Everest'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 20, 2013
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