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How do you advise non-parents on how to get ready for parenthood?

Preparation for parenthood is not just a matter of reading books and decorating the nursery. Here are 12 simple tests for expectant parents to take to prepare themselves for the real-life experience of being a mother or father.

1. Women: to prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag-chair down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months, take out 10% of the beans.

Men: to prepare for paternity, go to the local pharmacy, tip the contents of  your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper. Read it for the last time.

2. Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels, and how they have allowed their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behavior. Enjoy it -- it'll be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

3. To discover how the nights will feel, walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 lbs. At 10pm put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, 'till 1am. Put the alarm on for 3am. As you can't get back to sleep get up at 2am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2.45am. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4am. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

4. Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, first smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a fish finger behind the stereo and leave it there all summer. Stick your fingers in the flowerbeds then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

5. Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems: first buy an octopus and a string bag. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this - all morning.

6. Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet tube. Using only scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into a Christmas cracker.

Last, take a milk container, a ping pong ball, and an empty packet of Coco Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations. You have just qualified for a place on the playgroup committee.

7. Forget the Miata and buy a Taurus. And don't think you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that. Buy a chocolate ice cream bar and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there.

Get a quarter. Stick it in the cassette player. Take a family-size packet of chocolate cookies. Mash them down the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.

8. Get ready to go out: wait outside the toilet for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette end, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you've had as much as you can stand, until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house.

You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

9. Always repeat everything you say at least five times.

10. Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this do not even contemplate having children.

11. Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Weetabix and attempt to spoon it into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane. Continue until half the Weetabix is gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12-month old baby.

12. Learn the names of every character from Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When you find yourself singing "Postman Pat"at work, you finally qualify as a parent.


Toddler Property Laws

1. If I like it, it's mine.

2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.

3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.

4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.

5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.

6. If I'm doing or building something, all of the pieces are mine.

7. If it looks just like mine, it's mine.

8. If I think it's mine, it's mine.

9.  If its worthless and I've never payed it any attention but someone else shows interest, it's mine.

10. If its slightly valuable and breakable, it's mine; and now broken.


An FYI Guide. How to Identify the Driver's Home:

One hand on wheel, one hand on horn: New York

One hand on wheel, one finger out window: Chicago

One hand on wheel, one hand on newspaper, foot solidly on accelerator: Boston

One hand on wheel, one hand in pants, cradling cell phone in lap, brick on accelerator: California*

* with gun also in lap: L.A.

Both hands on top of wheel, one foot on brake, watching pedestrians cross against the light: San Francisco

One hand on the wheel, one hand drumming (with drum stick) on the dash board, left foot tapping, right foot on the accelerator, head bobbing from side to side: Silicon Valley, listening to KFRC

Both hands on wheel, eyes shut, both feet on brake, quivering in terror: Ohio, but driving in Boston.

Both hands in air, gesturing, both feet on accelerator, head turned to talk to someone in back seat: Italy

One hand on Latte', one knee on wheel, cradling cell phone in lap, foot on brake, mind on Win95 GUI: Seattle

Both hands on steering wheel in a relaxed posture, eyes constantly checking the rear-view mirror to watch for visible emissions from their own or another's car: Colorado

One hand on steering wheel, yelling obscenities, the other hand waving a gun out the window and firing repeatedly, keeping a careful eye out for landmarks along the way so as to be able to come back and pick up any bullets that didn't hit other motorists so as not to litter: Colorado resident on spotting a car with New York plates.


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A woman is suing the pharmacy that sold her a popular contraceptive jelly - because she ate the stuff on toast and got pregnant anyway.

And, incredibly, many legal experts are saying she's got an excellent chance of collecting!

"The woman is a complete idiot," said one attorney who asked that we not use his name. "How bright can you be if you think eating a vaginal gel will prevent conception?

"But certain aspects of the case involve truth in labeling and false advertising issues. She may not collect but she'll make a lot of noise and trouble. People are down on lawyers anyway. They think we waste time and money on frivolous lawsuits. This isn't going to help our public relations any."

A spokesman for the unnamed mom-and-pop drugstore says he's shocked and angry that such a case could ever be taken seriously. "All she has to do is open the box and read the directions," says the spokesman. "Next thing you know someone will come after us because they couldn't stick things together with their toothpaste.

"I can just imagine some moron saying: 'It's paste, isn't it? Why can't I glue these papers onto my bulletin board?' "

But attorneys for Mrs. Chyton say she was swindled and lied to by implication and they intend to make the pharmacy pay $500,000 for the hardship the woman will have to endure.

"It says right on it 'jelly,'" says Mrs. Chyton, a former model who was once a cheerleader for a popular professional basketball team.

"And they kept it on the shelf just two aisles from the food section. I know, now, that the directions say it should be used vaginally with a condom.

"But who has time to sit around reading directions these days - especially when you're sexually aroused?

"The company should call it something else and the pharmacy shouldn't sell it without telling each and every customer who buys it that eating it won't prevent you from getting pregnant."

As bizarre as it sounds, the pharmacy could wind up losing the lawsuit.

"It's hard for businesses to avoid troublesome lawsuits," said another attorney.

"With the courts bending over backwards to please consumer groups, the temper of the times is perfect for these crackpots to bring legal action against businesses - even a moronic legal action like this."


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