Thursday, 22 January 2015

Tea AND crisps AND newspapers. I'm almost in heaven.

Excitement – and by that I mean near-hysteria – levels in the house are at an all-time high at the moment.   
First of all we have this:

Which is about 1/10th of the amount of gifts brought by my mum who is - joy! - visiting. So as well as having their beloved grandmother here (note to all grandmothers out there:  to ensure undying love of your grandchildren, give them Doritos and 7UP for breakfast while you’re minding them), the kids have IRISH JUNK FOOD also.   (I must admit to being pretty excited about this myself).
We also have these –

PROPER ENGLISH WEEKEND NEWSPAPERS!  (And look – it’s Esther from Recipe Rifle on the cover! [No need to explain yourself to me, Esther; anyone who enjoys playing with children is either (a) lying (b) insane or (c) being paid]) The Guardian remains unopened because I’m keeping it for this weekend.  (Pathetic, I know.)
Less excitingly for me, we also now have this:

Which is one half of the Furby Horror Show*.  If you’re fortunate enough to be ignorant on this matter, they are electronic pet-type things, not unlike Gremlins, but FAR more irritating. In fact they appear to be the creation of a very troubled mind indeed.  I think – although my limited experience on this does not so far back me up – that their behaviour changes the more they’re attended to;  in which case perhaps we have the faulty ones?  The faulty porn star Beavis and Butthead ones?  They seem to say little other than “Oh YEAH, Oh YEAH Baby”, and then snigger in a disturbing 15 year old male sort of way.  There is no Off button.  They fall asleep eventually,  but only if you put them on the balcony with a large cushion over them.  They can be quite cute if you put them facing each other, but within 3 minutes they’ve reverted to sniggering and panting like cheap hookers, and occasionally demanding food. It  goes without saying that the children LOVE them, cart them about everywhere, and leave them in unexpected places to cackle at me when I least expect it (the car;  the bathroom cupboard;  under my desk).  I am demented by it all.  
(*The other half was hidden away somewhere soundproof, and now we can’t find him, and I suspect the batteries have run out, so he cannot moan / thrust out his pelvis for help.  HUZZAH!)
And so I have been retreating to the kitchen more often than usual, despite the heat and the humidity and the lizards (one leapt out of a cupboard at me last night, frightening the life out of me.)   During one of these hideouts I happened to combine a drawerful of slowly-dying red peppers with my favourite easy dinner turn-to, and - Ta-Da! - a new easy dinner turn-to was born. 

Pasta with Red Pepper and Tomato sauce.
You need (for 4)
  • 4 peppers (red or yellow),deseeded and roughly chopped.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
  • Generous splash of olive oil
  • A few basil leaves (not a deal-breaker if you don’t have them)
  • 2 tins of tomatoes (whole, chopped or pureed)
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Pasta, to serve.  (Any type, and shape, any amount.)

Place a generous glug of olive oil in a large heavy pan, add the garlic and a couple of the basil leaves (if using).
When it starts to sizzle, add the chopped peppers. Stir well, turn down the heat, cover, and go have a cup of BARRY’S TEA while sitting on the balcony, feeling nostalgic for the sleet and damp of home.
Once you’ve got that out of your system – about 5 minutes – return to the peppers, stir, and add the vinegar.  Let it sizzle, then add the tomatoes and basil. 
Raise the heat, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover.
Go have half a block of Irish cheese and three packets of crisps, then go for a run / vomit. (Or not.)  Either way, after about 10 minutes, make your pasta, then drain, and add to the sauce (you want to give the sauce between 15-20 mins to simmer). Which you’ve taken off the heat, of course.
Mix well, and serve, with or without parmesan.

Actually, don’t limit this sauce to pasta;  it’s great with almost anything – eggs & warm tortilla wraps;  cold on hot buttered toast;  atop roast potatoes – or even better, eaten alone, warm, and topped with grated parmesan.  (Alone, that is, apart from four sinister robotic eyes watching your every move.)

Monday, 12 January 2015

Let sleeping birds and bees lie.

The kids went back to school today.  *DEEP THANKFUL SIGH*.  I am exhausted. The week passed in the usual blur of shame, poverty and frustration, with a few FaceBook photo opportunities thrown in for good measure, so that everyone – including me - can see what a fun, energetic, harmonious family we are.
I asked the kids last night what their highlights of the week were.  Once I got past the groans and the moans, and the Boy’s  assertions that there were NONE, this was what they came up with:
  • Watching The Incredibles while eating a tube of Pringles
  • That bit in Indiana Jones 2 when the man gets his heart ripped out
  • Computer time (the Boy)
  • Sleeping in Mummy’s bed (the Girl)
  • Wearing pyjamas all day
  • Eating all that sugar in the cafe (Oh, if the woman who screeched at the Boy is reading this – FUCK YOU)

So - not the beach, or the zoo, or the science zone, or the indoor play area, or the Botanic Gardens, or the water park, or Universal Studios, or any of the other money-burning and brain-bleeding activities we went to?
  • Oh yeah, University Studios.

Speaking of which, the kids got more of an education than they – or I – were expecting yesterday.  Driving home from the water park the Boy started asking about my sister’s marital status.
Boy: So is Uncle B her husband?
Me: No, they’re not married.
Boy: Oh. (Pause) So how do they have a baby?  Did they just kiss without being married?  Are you allowed to kiss without being married?
Me: You don’t have to be married either to kiss or to have a baby.  (Inwardly: What are you talking about?)
Boy:  Seriously?  You can just kiss and have a baby any time you want?
Boy: When you kiss, that’s how you get a baby.
Girl:  Yes.  You kiss and kiss and the seed goes into your tummy where the egg is waiting and then it hatches a baby.
Me:  No. That’s not how you get a baby.  (OHGODOHGODOHGOD) 
Boy: So how do you get a baby?  Not from the seed in your mouth?
Me:  The seed to make the baby is in your penis, you know that.  
Boy: And then you put the seed in your mouth and kiss the girl, right?
Girl:  Who lays a baby.
Boy:  Well WHAT THEN?
Me: The seed goes from your penis into the woman’s vagina.  (PLEASE LET THAT BE THE END OF IT.)
Boy: HOW?
Me:  The. Man. Puts. His. Penis. In. The. Woman’s. Vagina.
Me: Ahem.
Me:  Seriously.
Boy:  But.... WHY?
Me:  To make a baby.
Boy: But... Why can’t you just take the seed out and put it in the vagina?  Why do you have to put your penis in there too?  (He is almost in tears at this point.)
Me:  Ask Dad.  He’ll tell you all about having a penis.
Me: (Sudden awful thought) Oh, and Freds?  No talking to other kids about this, ok? 
Boy: (Totally disgusted)  NO WAY!

Well.  I think that went well, don’t you? 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2015, and all that (already)

Hello!  And happy 2015! So, where were we?  Ah, yes, it was New Year’s Eve.  And then it was New Year’s Day, and I decided to abandon my Caring For The Sick duties for an hour or so, and headed out with our driver (I know!). About an hour into my  Peace and Quiet – about which I was taking my sweet time - his phone rang. He barked some Bahasa waffle into it, and hung up.  My husband, I mused aloud, wondering where I am?  No, he responded - it was the villa manager.  They need the car urgently because one of the kids had an accident and needs to go to hospital. 

Well, that was not at all stressful.  For the next 25 minutes one part of my brain was hoping that the statistics, stacked against me as owner of 60% of the children, would fail, while the other part berated me for, by default, wishing ill on my nephew and niece.  Common sense kicked in tho', when it dawned on me that of course it was the Girl who’d fallen or tripped or bashed herself in the eye with a bat. Without wishing to put her in a box, if she was put in a box she’d fall out of it and break a tooth.   As it turned out, I was right – she’d tripped and split her chin, and so I got straight back in the car and off we crawled through the deeply annoying Bali traffic to hospital.

We left the next day, the sick and the weak and the injured, and climbed aboard an Air Asia flight over the Java Sea to Singapore.  The plane shook and bounced around like a tin can, and I swear, every single person on board held their respective breaths for the entire journey (except for my children who demanded apple juice, and fought over the ipad, and all announced bursting bladders at precisely the same time as the seat-belt sign was turned on, etc).  And then – phew – we were safe and sound, and HOME.   (Say what you will about sterile Singapore, but when you’ve spent what feels like 80% of every day in another Asian country sitting in unmoving traffic on roads made from spit and sawdust,  it is somewhat joyous to get back here.) Santa had been and there was much initial excitement (which in retrospect was more likely a bed-time procrastination technique), however since then, and in line with a recent Onion-esque headline, 100% of children are totally ignoring their Christmas presents.  (Actually, what it should read is: “100% of children are more inclined to bicker and fight than deign to glance at their Christmas presents”). 

And now the Man has buggered off to London for TWO WEEKS (in his defence he’s not just going to London for a jolly - he’s going skiing in France for a weekend too) and the kids are still on The School Holidays Which Will Never End, and the Baby has decided that as she’s suddenly all lanky and skinny, it’s time she joined in the intra-sibling violence.  

However.  It is not all hideousness.  Some light relief in the form of the Boy, when, at the weekend, atop a tall building and looking down I remarked that I had the willies, he responded:  “Don’t be silly Mum, you have the vaginas.”  And then there’s always parenting mortification to distract one from Holiday Hell.  In the lift today, a nice (I thought) lady asked me what floor I wanted.  7 please.  She pressed 6.  “What apartment are you in?”;  I told her.  “Oh, you’re directly above me.  You’re children are very... lively....”  “Ah, yes”  I smiled, and rolled my eyes and grimaced a bit, in a conspiratorial, aren’t-they-shocking sort of way.  “Maybe you should get some furniture.  It sounds as if you don’t have any.”  “Really?” “Yes, it sounds very... empty. And energetic.”  “Oh.  We have furniture.  Generally they’re jumping on it. Or pushing each other off it.”  She didn’t laugh.  Thankfully, the World’s Longest Lift Ride came to an end, and she stepped out, shaking her head, and saying “So very lively.  More furniture I think.”  

And then when I got in to the apartment I discovered that a bird had gotten into the Boy’s room and shat all over it, and I found self wishing that we didn’t have any furniture, or at the very least none in that particular room.  Also, somewhat bizarrely, the Boy REFUSED to accept that it was bird-shit, insisting instead that it was melted chocolate. Because, you know, it’s so much more likely that melted chocolate dropped from the ceiling and splattered all over his room, than that a poor stupid bird managed to get through the half-inch window-space, crap everywhere, and then squeeze out again.  My parenting day ended a couple of hours ago with a game of backgammon with the Boy, and further humiliation. (He's six. He learnt to play YESTERDAY. He clearly cheated.)  

Ah, it’s good to be home. 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Out with the old...

We decided that, it being New Year's Eve and all, a teeny lunchtime drink was in order. (Also we felt compelled to celebrate no longer sitting in a hot car in traffic.) So we got a bottle of champagne, and then a bottle of wine, and even while the sweet sweet nectar was slipping down my throat, I was thinking - no good can come of this. Because everyone knows that mid-day drinking - whether it's just one beer, or a big blow-out - is one of the (many) casualties of parenthood.  The inevitable evening hangover - perfectly timed to coincide with kids' dinner and bed-time - has for us been accentuated by a trip with the girls to the doctor; through the afternoon fog of fermented grapes I realized that actually, four days with a temperature probably isn't healthy. The doctor  announced with some flourish that the Girl had sand in her ear, and armed us with all manner of questionable tinctures and remedies, including cough syrup and some sort of ointment. Thinking about it, I'm not in fact sure that he was a doctor at all. Or else he was taking advantage of my slight inability to focus properly, and decided to clear out some old medicine cabinet, which is probably fair enough. (He could probably have even found something in there for my belly button, which my 3 year old nephew told me today was 'not normal at all'.)

So - It's New Year's Eve!  (Gosh. 2015. It sounds like something from a sci-fi film doesn't it?) My hopes for this new year are that it'll be much like the old one just passed - relatively uneventful, but with a few small adventures thrown in.  Perhaps less kiddie-vomit and fewer nappies (seriously, I'm having a party the day the Baby gets her toilet-act together), and more good books and even better cocktails (although only in the evening, obviously). I have given up on resolutions, because seriously -What Is The Point? - but I think I will try not to drive quite so much, and to shout at other drivers less when I do drive. (I reserve the right to shout at any people who happen to be related to me, and in the car, however.). I might also try to cook a bit more - although honestly, our kitchen is SO HOT and grocery shopping SO TORTUROUS that I really find it hard to muster up much cooking enthusiasm. (Plus what's the point in having a maid if you're not going to get her to do every single little thing for you? Christ, I'll be expected to dress myself next.)

Anyway. It's time to recommence drinking and put the kids to bed (possibly not in that order.) I'll leave you with my top parenting lessons learnt in 2014:
  • A block of cheese, a lump of butter, bread, and a pack of pasta shapes gives you about 7 different dinner options. 
  • If they cough twice then stare at you strangely, you have 4 seconds to either get them off your lap, or grab the sick bowl. 
  • Always always always carry a change of clothes for yourself when you travel. Or at least a pack of wipes. 
  • There is no point having expensive sunglasses until your children leave home. 
  • Sharing a bed with a child is a great idea only if you wish to get no sleep whatsoever. 
  • And finally: Chubba Chubs. The cheapest 10 minutes' peace you'll ever buy. 

Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

In case of emergency, whip out your tweezers

As predicted, it was a beautifully sunny day today, most of which I spent in a dark air conditioned room, applying cold cloths and sympathy to the victims of the ongoing pestilence. It meant however that I could finish the fabulous Station Eleven, which has come in at this very late hour as one of my favourite books of the year. Strangely, if i hadn't got it as a gift I doubt I would ever have read it. I'm not a huge futuristic fan, and the back cover synopsis out me off somewhat. However, it is FABULOUS, and if any of you plan on being cooped up with a sick child in the near future, I highly recommend it as a distraction.
Mind you, it was a bit disconcerting to put down a book about the end of civilisation due to a vicious disease, then find out that Ebola has reached Great Britain. (My recent reading material suggests that you should stock up on water, meds and ammunition. Also, stick to the back roads and avoid weird prophets.)
Other day's highlights include an unexpectedly delicious bagel, when I ventured out with the Girl at lunch (all 1.2m of her shoe-horned into the Baby's pram); an unexpectedly, um, full, child's underpants when my assistance in the toilet was requested (thank you, Bali Belly); and a visit to a motorcycle workshop/skateboard emporium/ cafe full of Indonesian hipsters with the Boy - a teeny slice of Shoreditch here Bali.
Also- the promise of rich pickings in the Boy's ear: something black and putrid-looking had been stuck in there since yesterday at least, my bet being on a dislodged grommet (thank GOD for that, fucking things have been nothing but bother). But an afternoon in the pool has - most disappointingly - thwarted my anticipated lip-smacking tweezer usage. (In fact thinking about it, no survival kit would be complete without tweezers too- pluck your eyebrows and remove gross body bits in one fell swoop!)
Right, I must go and administer paracetamol. I was using my sister-in-law's Spanish brand, which was FANTASTIC - knocked the kids out and killed their temperatures in no time. But then I realised I'd been reading the wrong measurement on the applicator and had - oops - been giving them almost twice the recommended dose... I can't, hand on heart, promise that my understanding of the Bahasa instructions won't go similarly awry, but ignorance is bliss. As is an uninterrupted night's sleep.

Monday, 29 December 2014

I love ya, Tomorrow... (Today? Not so much.)

We had a fabulous couple of days - sunny, windswept beaches, slightly-too-rough surf, late lunches, afternoon naps - which came to an abrupt end yesterday morning. First a snuffle, then a cough, then a full-on fever and raspy chest and non-stop hacking and coughing from both girls.  All. Night. long.  We have also acquired two (mild) tummy bugs and one broken toe. Also, it's been raining pretty much non-stop since Saturday night, at which point you realise that there really isn't much to do on a sunshine holiday when you take the sunshine out of the equation. Although caring for sick needy children isn't really weather dependent (and to be honest if i have to sit in a dark bedroom watching Frozen on repeat, I'd rather it was bucketing down outside.)  
With the rain have come all manner of beasts: huge lizards, enormous toads, millions of baby frogs, scuttling crabs (somewhat unnerving having crabs in your bedroom even though you're a km from the beach), snakes (shudder). An insomniac gecko with a loudspeaker has taken up residence above my bed. A thing which looked like the result of the coupling of a small dog and a large cricket landed on the table, freaking the life out of all of us. Oh, and just as I was enjoying my first drink of the day last night a gecko SHAT ON MY FACE. (Have you ever met anyone defaced by a gecko? Me neither. If you'd asked me I would have assumed that, like nuns, they had no toilet habits at all. But let me tell you, they do. And pretty disgusting ones at that.) 
On the plus side, I have managed to read two books, both -randomly - about the end of the world. The books are unconnected, but both have the apocalypse as the result of a flu virus which sweeps across the planet, felling humans like rasping, blood-spewing twigs.  (I just know that if that IS what happens, my last thoughts will be some variation on Christ, just stop fucking coughing, can't you?)
Necessity has demanded a relaxation of the usual strict TV rules, to the extent that the Boy announced yesterday that I am the Best Mother Ever. Who knew it just took 12 hours of DVDs a day?  Little do they know that the sun is due to come out tomorrow (why yes! We have been watching Annie. Was it always so boring?) and so hopefully we will revert to windswept beaches. And mean mummies. 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Gone Girl (then Back Again- Phew)

The lights - and with it, the internet - went out on Christmas Eve. They eventually came back on, but still no connection to The Outside World - which was not wholly unpleasant. Anyway, I was about to post this then, which seems a bit out of date now.

It's  December 24, as close to Christmas as it can be. There's no turkey or roast potatoes or old-socks-smelling Brussels sprouts, no one going crazy in the kitchen, having eyes rolled at them behind their back; no neighbours calling over unannounced, filing the hall with cold smokey air and loud greetings; no tins of Guinness being ferried in from the garage, no half-eaten boxes of Ferrero Rocher lying around.  Without these essential prompts it shouldn't feel like Christmas- it's 28c for goodness sakes - but throw some crooners on the cd player, wrap a few presents, put new pjs on the kids and stuff them full of (melting) chocolate and The Wizard of Oz, and Bingo! It's beginning to look a LOT like you-know-what.
It nearly didn't. For a few horrific minutes this afternoon, the world - not just the holidays - looked like caving in: the Girl did one of her famous disappearing acts. One minute she was there, in the cafe, chatting and climbing and demanding things; the next she had gone.  Nowhere to be seen, anywhere. To begin with we didn't worry to much, we pottered about looking in the obvious places; but as the minutes ticked by, and then 10 minutes had gone, then 15 - by then I was really panicking, so much that the Boy was telling me to calm down, we'd find her, it'd be fine.  But I couldn't calm down; I wasn't screaming like a banshee - the way I was when the school bus lost her one day - but in my head I was already imagining the worst. The sitting and waiting and praying and hoping; describing her to strangers ('she's got a somewhat crazed look in her eyes, and dirty blonde, matted hair. Nits still, probably.')  It'd take one person to quickly scoop her up and that would be it - gone forever.  (I spoke to someone today [friday] who told me that, in fact, this happens quite a bit in Bali; fair-skinned western girls disappear. A few a year, she said. Thank CHRIST I didn't know that then.) Anyway - PHEW - all turned out fine. She was halfway down the beach, oblivious to the fact that I had four policemen and several (quite hot, actually*)  surf dudes looking for her, and really didn't grasp at all the enormity of what she'd done. "You CAN'T  run off like that!' I told her: 'There are people who might take you, and lock you in a cellar, and do TERRIBLE things to you, and you'd never see us again, EVER. What would you do then?" Apparently, she'd do very little, and would be completely nonplussed by whatever horror might befall her.
Anyway. All the frantic pleading with St Anthony worked and now I'm not allowed to complain about anything ever again.  (HAHAHAHA.)
So. Happy Christmas to all of you. I hope it's filled with warm Guinness and cold mince pies, music like they don't make any more, over-excited children, and Skype calls to family and friends who you really, really miss.

(*silver linings, etc)