Friday, 24 April 2015

Just another everyday school run.

In the car this morning: 

Girl:  Let’s have a ghost story!
Me:  No. Way.
Girl & Boy (together, difficult to differentiate):  Please! Why not?? PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE! WHY NOT?
Me:  Because the last time we had a ghost story, you (glancing at the Girl) started to cry, and you (glancing at the Boy) wouldn’t go to bed on your own that night. 
Girl & Boy (deflated): Oh.
Baby:  Kessuns!  KESSUNS!
Girl & Boy:  Yes!  Questions!
Me:   Ok.  Um... What is your favourite movie?
Baby:  Jassick Pak! 
Girl:  Star Wars!
Boy: Godzilla!
Me: You haven’t seen Godzilla.
Boy:  But I would do if you weren’t SO MEAN, and it’s still my favourite film.  WHICH YOU WON'T LET ME SEE.  
Baby:  JASS-ICK PAK!  No, weet...  In-yany Zone!  INYANY -ZONE!
Girl:  Which one Moog – Raiders of the Lost Arc, Temple of Doom or the Lost Crusade?
Boy:  It’s the LAST Crusade
Me:  Ok, um... What do you think is the yuckiest smell?
Baby (Gleefully): Woof woof!
Boy (More gleefully): Bum! 
Baby (More gleefully still): Woof woof bum! YUCKY!
Girl (Ernestly): Penis.
Me (Brightly):  Right! Music?
Baby:  Music!  MUSIC!  Fow-now-cow-dow!
Girl:  No!  I hate that!
Boy:  Yes Mum, PLEASE!
Baby (I swear):  Da-na-na-naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa FOWNOWCOWDOW!

And so it came to pass that I arrived at school with Europe blaring out of the car, two of the three children competing to see who could bang their heads the fastest, one contemplating scent-of-a-penis, and me reconsidering my stance on the school bus. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Braces & Lentils

It was the 31st of March recently, which meant I had one day to get all my New Year’s resolutions done.  (I’ve decided that March is a far more sophisticated timeframe for personal growth than January.  January sucks, for many reasons;  let’s not add self-loathing and despair at one’s lack of discipline to the list.)  Top of the To Do list – or bottom, depending on whether you rate it according to its importance, or my totally unreasonable fear of addressing it  - was visiting an orthodontist.  Yes, braces!  Because nothing says “yoof” like a mouthful of metal.  (In truth, nothing says Middle Age like retreating teeth.)
Which is how I found myself today lying flat on my back with my mouth wedged open, and the following thoughts to entertain me:
  • God I hope that TV is securely fastened to the ceiling.  It’s right above my head. What if it falls?  Will they replace my broken teeth for free?
  • You know, for an orthodontist, he doesn’t have very nice teeth. 
  • For an orthodontist’s assistant, nor does she.
  • Are they actually orthodontists at all?
  • What is that TV programme RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD about? 
  • Jesus is that... yes!  It is!  It’s A COLONOSCOPY!  ON TV!
  • I think I’ll just look at the assistant’s manky teeth for a bit.
  • Why is there a vibrator in my mouth?
  • Oh look!  They’ve made a computerised model of my teeth!   Where was the gooey putty stuff that used to make me gag?
  • Christ.  I really need to get my teeth done.
  • And that woman on the TV needs to eat more fibre.

Speaking of which,  I’ve become a bit obsessed recently with tinned puy (green) lentils.  The posh organic ones, which you lot can pick up for 97p in any corner shop, but for which I have to take out a mortgage and drive to the other side of Singapore.
I don’t have a photo – because I keep eating it before I remember to take a pic – but it’s my new easy lunch: drain, rinse, plonk in a bowl, add a handleful of anything green (parsley, chopped cucumber, whatever) and – this bit is fairly key – warm vinaigrette. Which sounds quite complex, but it just means taking a vinaigrette (put a couple of glugs of olive oil in a cup, one glug of vinegar, and a teaspoon of mustard, and stir) and popping it in the microwave for ten seconds.   Pour over your legumes, and gobble.  

(Warning – braces + lentils = unsightly. If you are a yoof, or are of a certain age and trying to sidestep the inevitable decline which marks that certain age, keep a toothpick handy at all times.) 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Mum Jean

It’s Saturday, which is my favourite day of the week.  That honour used to fall to Mondays, with the kids back at school after two days of me Surviving Parenthood, but in the past few months Mondays have become a never-ending stream of racing-around horror, ferrying kids to and from school and to appointments and classes, ferrying myself to the supermarket, and all the teeth-grinding hell which goes with all of the above.  Anyway, now I have a new Saturday morning routine spurred by the Boy’s obsession with rugby (how delighted is he to hold an Irish passport?), which manifested itself in him DEMANDING to join a rugby club.  I ignored him, as I usually do my children when they demand things which involve down-payments and invoices and more ferrying around and the purchase of gear (especially when that gear includes kids’ rugby boots, of which approximately two pairs a year are available to buy in Singapore), but then the Man mentioned that he’d like to bring him to a class, and I found out that a team quite far away has 2-hr classes at 9am on Saturday mornings, which would necessitate all the males in the house being out from 830am until 1130am... Sold! to the middle-aged woman weeping with joy at the prospect of some TIME ALONE. 
So this is what we now do on Saturday mornings.  On Friday nights I set the kids’ Gro Clock to 8am, and give them strict instructions NOT TO COME NEAR ME UNTIL THE (digital) SUN IS UP.  At 8.30am, having made snacks and filled water bottles and packed kit into bags, I wave the Boy and Man off, and once I’m sure they’ve properly gone, I run out – to the extent that anyone can run in this humidity - and buy the weekend Financial Times – the only non-Singaporean weekend paper* available in our local shop.  Then I come home and make myself a pot of proper tea, with proper tea-leaves and $500/litre milk,  and lock myself, my tea and my paper on my balcony for an hour. Every so often one of the girls escapes the clutches of both the tv and the maid and manages to prise the lock open, but a quick shriek is usually enough to send them back inside.   And there I sit, content despite my light sheen of sweat, reading about handmade winter coats, quantitative easing, and what various CEOs like to eat for lunch.  It’s wonderful – as close to perfection as you can get when you’re sweating involuntarily.
Which brings me – lengthily, and circuitously – to today’s topic:  “Mom” jeans.   Oh yes.  Mentioned in today’s FT, so it must be true.  According to my favourite pink paper, a “mom jean” is:  “a classic high-rise tapered cut”. 
I'm confused.  Is the idea that you’re wearing your own mother’s jeans - akin to the Boyfriend jeans? Which – with all due respect to my mother (and mothers everywhere) – is most unlikely to ever happen.  Or is it a “jean” made specifically for us mammies, practical and useful, designed to minimise the daily minor embarrassments and mortifications which comprise motherhood?  In which case quite honestly, a high-rise tapered cut just isn’t – excuse the pun – going to cut it.   
And so, dear Reader, – I give you:

The Mum Jean:

Made from sturdy denim which has been treated to be wipe-clean and splatter resistant, the Mum is the first jean incorporating shock-absorbing pads in the ever-vulnerable groin area – so now your toddler can head-butt you to his heart’s content! 
Other features include:
  • An elasticated waist– because who has time to do up zips and buttons when your children are in the next room tearing chunks out of each other, or when you've gone for a pee for the first time in 11 hours and your offspring have climbed into the bath and are spraying water all over the bathroom?
  • Built in, removable knickers – never again will you have to hold a screaming infant in a public toilet while trying to pull down, inch by torturous inch,  your jeans and then your knickers;  our built-in “knicker” works in conjunction with our elasticated waist to facilitate all situations when the speedy pulling-down of pants with one hand is required. (Each jean comes with 3 replaceable pairs of greying granny pants.)
  • Side pleats at hip / thigh level, to accommodate the vagrancies of the condition known as Expanding Mother’s Arse
  • Removable muslin cloth – handy for emergencies involving body fluids, but can also be used to drape over your head during bouts of particularly mortifying kiddie behaviour
  • Discreet wipe-dispensing pouch
  • Refrigerated snack pocket – with child-friendly access
  • Water-proof, leak-proof, smell-proof, extra-volume, sick pocket – available in a range of leg locations, depending on height of off-spring
  • USB port – never be caught in a public place with an uncharged tablet again
  • Water-proof turn-ups – perfect for the constant stream of used shit your children hand you to dispose of.  Now simply train them to place it in your turn-ups instead!

Available in a variety of colours, including vomit, snot, spit, grime, and camouflage, the Mum jean can be worn for months on end without ever needing the washing machine.   
We think you’ll agree that it kicks a classic high-rise tapered cut to the curb somewhat.

*Surely you should integrate yourself properly in your new country and read a local paper?  I hear you all cry;  ah yes.  But unfortunately all the local papers are a heap of badly-written, poorly edited, highly-censored shit, and so for a decent morning’s read, I must look further afield.  

Thursday, 19 March 2015

St Patrick's Day Woes, etc

I feel like I ought to be posting a recipe for something green, it being The Day It Is and all  [sorry – I started writing this on Tuesday – Belated Irish Greetings to you all!]  but I won’t – not because I don’t have a fantastic Green Recipe (I do, in fact, just no photo), but because I had a major Irish Parent Fail today.  I wished my children – Irish children – a very Happy St Patrick’s Day, and they looked at me bewildered and confused.  “Is it my birthday Mummy?” the Girl asked;  “Do we have to go to school?” the Boy asked, his voice wobbly with hope.  And then, even worse, later on when I hissed at the Boy to wish my mother HSPD, he said:  “Happy... Jackson?  Michael Jackson day?”  (At which point I gave him a clip across the ear with a wooden spoon, so I haven’t truly forgotten my roots.)
Anyway.  Things of note (in my small, dull, world) from the past few days:
  • I got stung by a wasp for the first time in almost 40 years.  Direct hit on a neck vertebrae.  It felt exactly like a needle going into my spine – I half expected someone to start rummaging about in my guts and produce a newborn - and 5 days on is still itchy as hell.  However!  It has cured me of my wasp-phobia – which was fairly enormous – because while it was sore, it didn’t kill me, as I’d always assumed a wasp sting would.  (I don’t know why I thought that either. Something possibly to do with my 2 yr old mind taking the last wasp sting I got and blowing it out of all proportion.)  
  • I am inhaling the latest David Mitchell book (The Bone Clocks), which is just so brilliant that I am wishing about twice more often than I normally do that I didn’t have any children to parent and could just sit and read this wonderful, amazing, incredibly imaginative book non-stop, all day long.   Get it, lock your children in a shed / car / kitchen drawer for three days, and start inhaling.
  • I went to a 70s party at the weekend, which was great;  what was not so great, however, was that I was able (bar the ‘fro wig) to dress for the party by simply reaching into my wardrobe and pulling a few random (actually, not that random) bits out.  It is somewhat mortifying to realise that you dress much the same as a character from The Good Life.
  • I decided, most uncharacteristically, to get organised about our summer plans.  So I steamed ahead and bought our flights, and yesterday started the process for the various visas I need to get for our helper (of course she’s coming with us;  I can barely do the school run on my own with the kids, so a 14 hour overnight flight – two, in fact - alone with them?  Don’t be silly).  Anyway, because I did it all last year, and managed to not wipe the letters etc off my computer, it was just a matter of putting aside an afternoon and filling in forms.  Halfway through the first form  I noticed that her passport expires 16 days short of the required 6 months on our return to Singapore – which means she can leave but wouldn’t get back in – and then where would I be? (Alone, at home, with my children and the laundry, that’s where.)  So just get a new passport, right?  10 weeks minimum.  Change the flights?  Yes, except all whizzing-across-Europe flights are booked too.  All of which are non-changeable,  because, you know, Ryanair. Get an extension on her passport?  Ah, I thought of that.  Alas the earliest appointment I can get for that – and there’s no guarantee they’ll extend it – is three days after we leave for Europe.  Meanwhile, I need the damn passport to get all the visas.... Christ, I feel like I’m juggling rabid cats. Why is anything to do with passports just do deeply stressful?
  • As a Fuck You to everyone responsible for the scourge that is Kiddie Menus in restaurants – chicken nuggets? Hot dogs? “Pizzas”?  COME ON PEOPLE, WTF?? – I cleared out all the half-dead bits and bobs at the back of the fridge / freezer and gave the children Rainbow On A Plate for their Sunday dinner: Red (peppers), Yellow (corn), Pink (salmon), Green (soy bean and coriander), Orange (carrots), Purple (noodles) and... no blue (are there blue foods, other than blueberries?)  AND they were delicious, AND the children wolfed them down (possibly because they hadn’t had any lunch because even they, with their no-standards-whatsoever wouldn’t eat the shite offered to them at the kiddie play place), AND they were easy and cheap.  (Did I mentioned delicious?) While I know it’s probably unlikely you can get purple noodles in your non-Asian neck of the woods – the colour is apparently from Purpleberry flour (whatever that is) – give these a go with the regular sort. Because even with only 5 colours of the rainbow, it’s still got to be better than a hotdog with a consistency, colour and sell-by-date which even David Mitchell himself couldn’t have dreamed up, right?

Rainbow Noodles

I’m not posting a proper recipe for this  - in fact, I’ve just remembered that I’ve posted a recipe for noodles before – you just bung in anything you want:  any type of fish, meat or seafood, any vegetables , fresh or frozen (just defrost anything frozen  first, by leaving to sit in boiled water for at least 5 minutes.)    Measurements are up to you.  A handful or this, a spoonful of that – whatever you have or need to use up.  I used two small “blocks” of dry noodles and the end product would have served 6 kids.  
What you can’t deviate from, really, are the fundamentals of Asian stir-fries (or, at least, my take on them):  ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and lime.  And noodles, obv. In fact if you only have these ingredients, you’ll still have a fairly delicious quick meal.  (Re chillies – no chance in hell my kids will eat spicy food  but by all means add them for your own selves, or your more adventurous offspring;  just fry at the same time as the ginger and garlic.)
First steps – cover the noodles in boiling water;  put anything which needs defrosting in boiling water, separate to the noodles.  Don’t leave the noodles too long or they’re be mushy.
Then fry the ginger and garlic in hot oil, in a large pan (or wok).  Add vegetables, in order of what needs most cooking to go in first (eg grated carrot, red pepper, uncooked meat / fish etc);   then cooked / defrosted ingredients (tinned salmon, defrosted soy beans, defrosted / tinned corn);  then noodles, soy sauce, and lime sauce.  If you have it, add some chopped coriander at the end.  Keep the heat high throughout, don’t let the garlic burn, and keep stirring. 

Best eaten while wearing a ‘fro and your favourite bellbottoms - nothing says the 70s like psychedelic noodles, baby: 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Bits and Bobs. (The Bits are tucked away, thankfully).

I feel like I have a lot to tell you all, but every time I sit down to write something – puff – it’s gone.  When I think of what I’ve done in the past week, all that really springs to mind is more shouting and getting beyond annoyed at a variety of  useless and possibly negligent service providers, and wondering why it is I get so terribly het up (is that a global expression, or just an Irish one?  Whatever - it means teeth-grindingly riled and agitated) by people failing to meet my expectations.  And I don’t think my expectations are particularly high – eg try to employ someone who won’t bully and intimidate my kids (ESPECIALLY IF I’M PAYING YOU AN ARM AND A LEG TO DO IT), or put sunscreen on them when you said you would (or else don’t but then don’t lie about it when I return and they’re burnt to a cinder), or even simply bring me the fucking bill within fifteen minutes of my asking for it – but I just get really really annoyed by bad service.  I always have done, but particularly so here.  I suspect because I’m not working I have time to get embroiled in the minutiae and even more time to get worked up. 

What else... Oh yes, I have been confounded by my emotional reaction  to the Baby starting nursery, which was initially “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, but then – wholly unexpectedly – I WANT TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY.  I know!  Me! Jesus wept.  And just as suddenly as I’m yearning, with every fibre of my being, for a newborn to hold and stroke, it’s gone, and I’m left thinking – what the fuck? This has happened three times in the past few days, including a pang of jealousy when my new yoga teacher (oh yes, I’ve started yoga) announced she was pregnant, and I looked at her teeny bump and thought “I want your teeny bump”.  Seriously folks, what the actual fuck? Is this the so-called “baby hunger”?  (I’M NOT HUNGRY.  I have had a very very large meal, thank you. In fact I continue to be fed intravenously, and I am replete.)  Or maybe it’s just the after-dinner mint of baby-hunger?  

Anyway, what with the shouting and the yearning, it hasn’t been a good time to be in my vicinity.

Other things I have done this week:
  • Rung a person about a job (I know [again]!). 
  • Gone to TWO yoga classes (I am taking India Knight’s advice in In Your Prime very seriously).
  • Thought about joining a club (but then they scorched my children alive and LIED ABOUT IT (see above) so I am revising these thoughts)
  • Joined a French conversational class – which is wonderful.  The teacher looks just like the woman who played Amelie, and is deeply Parisian and chic and lovely, and it’s just great.  (I have images of self cycling gently along one of Singapore’s many motorways, my Chinese produce glowing radioactively in the front basket, the air fragrant with exhaust fumes wafting through my face mask.)
  • Oh, sent the Baby to nursery.  Which was not in itself an emotional event - the Baby is the Margaret Thatcher of small people  (there is no emotion, other than fury, ever. Also – thin wispy hair.) –  but I outdid myself by being late for both drop off and pick up.  On both days.
  • Failed to find any wellies in all of Singapore for the Baby (wellies required for the nursery garden play, I assume to fend off both mud and snakes)  except for one pair for $70. Which is about twice what the anti-venom shot costs, so I’m willing to take my chances.
  • Marvelled at this:
  • which is one half of the nest’s occupants, the other half having – literally – flown the nest already.  Who knew that a two-week-old bird could resemble Winston Churchill?
I will leave you with this, at which I laughed myself stupid - which I call “What colour is this dress?” (The only answer to which can be, as one of my friends put it – “What dress?” Also, when did Buffalo Bill get out of jail?):

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Babies, beaches and more babies.

Baby update.  She starts nursery next week! Holy moly. That light at the end of the tunnel just got a whole lot closer.  Just two mornings a week, so hardly opening up a whole new world for me, but still.  Two will become three, will become five, will be boarding school before she knows it.  (That’s what she gets for coming out with this, after months of us yearning for a full sentence from her:  “YOU NO COME MY PARTY!” Any slight, and we are NFI’d. “Me have party.  Big party.  Big Amow-Woof-Woof party.  Dada come.  Yaya come.  Deddie come. MAMA NO COME.  Mama MEAN.” )
In other news, we fled Singapore last week, three hours’ drive  up the Malaysian coast.  So, if you live in London (and managed to find a time of day with no traffic, and a route with no road works) it’s a bit like you driving to... Poole?  Weymouth?  Anyway, somewhere coastal and beachy.   Which is, I think, where the similarities end. 

(Listen, if I can’t show off on my own blog, where can I do it?)  Of course, because we had children with us, it was less Paradise, more Paradise Lost.  The usual refereeing and cajoling and berating and trying to work out the best sleeping arrangements, and cut feet and insect bites and sunscreen in the eyes etc.  Also, the most atrocious table manners I’ve seen outside of the zoo’s Orang Utan enclosure.  But still, LOOK AT IT:

(If you want to know why we moved to Asia, that is why.)

Much excitement when we got home – not least because we’d had a return car journey devoid of any vomit – to find that these little balcony dwellers (aren’t nests amazing?  How do they do it? I’ve got hands and opposable thumbs and I can barely make my bed*):

Had turned into this: 

I must admit to having gotten a teeny bit choked up.  Little babies!  But then I got a grip and called the nursery to confirm the Baby’s start date.  AND THEN, giddy with the whiff of FREEDOM I went online and looked up jobs.  But it turns out that I am good for nothing, and so I did something equally optimistic, and loaded a few books onto my Kindle. 

First up:  Elizabeth Is Missing – about an old woman losing her marbles who spends a lot of time shouting at her daughter.  Hmmm.

(*Theoretically speaking, of course...) 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Happy Chinese* New Driving Licence (*sort of)

Happy (Chinese) New Year!  It’s sort of great having another go at New Year resolutions – because I really didn’t do too well at the last ones.  Two weeks since my last post?  Ridiculous.   What could I have been doing with my time? 

Well, mostly I was driving hither and thither, as usual, and when not in the car I seem to have been queuing.  Also, shouting.  There has been a lot of queuing and subsequent shouting the past couple of weeks.   (Which reminds me - a warm thank you to the manager of Universal Studios for those complimentary fast passes.) Oh, and studying the Highway Code – I had my driving test on Monday.  (You can only drive on a foreign  licence for a year here, then you have to convert it to a local one.)  It’s simple enough – a multiple-choice exam on the rules of the road – but the logistics involved in getting it done would make you bleed from the eyes.  In fact the entire morning  - as outlined below - was one of deep, traumatising stress. (By way of background - the test was at 1030.  Registration was at 1015. I was aiming to get there before 930 to take the mock test beforehand.)

850 – Put test centre address into Google, and set off.
915 – Arrive at test centre address.  Slightly puzzled to find self at a factory.  Security guards puzzled too.  Also amused.  Get directions to the other road with basically the same name.
925 – Pull in to housing estate to ask for directions.
926 – Ask someone else.
927 – And again.
928 – Give up and revert to Google.  Goole basically says Why didn’t you TELL me it was THAT street, and we set off.
940 – Arrive at test centre, park in test centre car park.
942 – Ask Information Desk assistant [so many misnomers in that title] for assistance in topping up cash card (needed to pay for new licence.  Test centre rules – No cash.  No cheques. No credit cards.  No debit cards.  Only option for me was $50 on the car-parking card thingy you keep in your car. Top up is done at most petrol stations or small shops.)  Assistant unable or unwilling to assist whatsoever.  Is confused about mere existence not only of cashcards, but also petrol stations or other commercial outlets.  Also, looks bewildered to be approached by a stranger asking questions.  
942.30 – Start to mildly hyperventilate.
944 – Back into car and off to find a petrol station. Get caught in a one-way system just outside the test centre which brings me straight onto the highway. Curse loudly.
954 – FIND ONE!
955 – Back into car and to find a petrol station which does cashcard top up.
1000 – FIND ONE!
1003 – Breathe deeply and head back to test centre.
1008 – Arrive at test centre. Car park full. Car park “assistant” tells me to park at “government car park”.  “Where is that?” “Out there,” he says, gesturing towards the road. 
1009 – I head “out there”, and find self back on the one-way road leading to the motorway.
1010 - Perform illegal U-turn. Hope no-one looking out of Test Centre window.
1011 – Find street parking.  Parallel park like a mofo, then reach for street-parking coupons.  Remember that had made a mental note to self to buy more street-parking coupons,  and then ignored said mental note.  SCREAM AT SELF. Smile and wave at concerned passer-by.
1012 – Set off to find another car park.  Sob slightly.
1019 – Give up and just park on side of the street.  Do something very illegal, which may or may not involve reusing old car parking coupons  I find under my seat.
1021 – Jay walk.  Also illegal. 
1024 – Arrive, panting, sweating, and shaking, at test centre.
1026 – Try to explain predicament to stony-faced test centre “assistant” then start to get slightly hysterical.
1027 – Sit down. Breathe.  Curse. Breathe some more.
1030 – Start test.  This is easy! I am nailing it. 
1032 – Computer breaks down. Look around. Everyone else going hell for leather. Karma is not biting any other single person on the ass.   
1033 – Go looking for assistant.  Nowhere to be found.
1034 – Sit back down and stare at frozen screen.
1035 – Apologise, mentally, and belatedly, to all those people I have shouted at in past week.  Pray to the Gods of Driving Tests.
1036 – Assistant appears! Prayer is a wonderful thing.  Shouting is not.
1037 – Restart test, and skip through it, because I am a very excellent studier of road rules.
1045 – 98%!  I ROCK THIS SHIT.
1047 -  Take queue ticket  - C58 - for licence conversion and sit and wait.  Screen shows C41, A33, A34.
1130 -  C42 has disappeared from screen.  Now on A66, A67, A68. Try the prayer thing again.
12.10 –A93, A94, A95.   Put on mean mummy face and go find someone to shout at.
12.15 – Leave test centre with receipt for new driving licence.   

Moral of the story?  Shouting is better than prayer for getting shit done.