Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Which would you rather: Dengue Fever or Meningitis?

I mean, if you had to choose one or the other.  The Man would go for meningitis, possibly because he has no notion of the discomfort (hahahaha, “discomfort”) of feeling like your brain is about to blow your eyeballs out: also, having never had a long needle inserted into his spine, he thinks it would be fun.  I’d go for dengue,  although concede that the risks of being really sick – as in bleeding-from-orifices-sick - the next time you’re unlucky enough to get it might tip me slightly more towards VM, but then the headache and the spinal tap send me scurrying back to the Aedes mosquito. It’s a tough call.
This conversation was the culmination in awfulness of a really awful week.  It started with the Baby having a fever, and so all parenting-time-killing-activities play-dates  were cancelled.  And then I started to feel a bit fevery.  But of course the day I actually tried to indulge this, by, you know, taking some pills and going to bed, she said “Me sick tummy” and promptly threw up all over the place.  And again, ten minutes later.  Then again, about twenty minutes later.  At which point she got into her stride and threw up, on cue, every two hours for the next twenty-four.  (Interesting fact – toddler bile is yellowy-orange, not green.) 
By the time we were out the other side (the vomiting having transformed seamlessly into a hacking cough in the middle of the second Night Of Hell) I was putting my high fever and pretty appalling headache down to no sleep, self-pity, and just something I picked up from her.
Although I did wonder at one point if it was normal to be crouched, standing, with my head between my legs, pressing my temples as hard as I could with my hands,  to try to contain my brain.  Seriously.  I know most normal people would have gone to hospital at that point, but this was a Sunday, which meant the maid was off, and the Boy had a rugby tournament.  And frankly I’d rather have to clean up my own brain from the floor than deal with the fall-out of his missing a match.  So the Man brought the older kids to rugby, and left the two invalids together for the morning, whereupon one of us (ahem) passed out and the other one pretended that she was watching Ben and Holly on YouTube but as soon as her mother was comatose played around with all those stupid side-bar suggestions until she found something entirely inappropriate for... well really for anyone, but most certainly for a 2 year old.  And so it was that I woke up to the Man standing over me wondering why the Baby was watching Spiderman eviscerate My Little Pony.
Anyway.  We got to the hospital, which was the least fun car ride ever, mainly because the Baby screamed I DON’T LIKE DADDY the entire way, while the Boy and the Girl screeched at each other over a peanut-butter sandwich or something  (I didn’t take in too many of the details, because by now my brain was dripping out my nose) and the Man was insisting on trying to break them up with one hand while driving all over the road with the other.   (I do remember however limping into the A&E and still being able to hear the medley of kiddie-screeching from the car as it drove off, which made me laugh, at which point I had to quickly stuff my brain back in through my ear.)   
Fast-forward past the Registrar musing ALOUD about possible causes – Brain trauma?  Brain mass? Stroke? - to the bit where I’m in a room with the infectious diseases consultant, and he’s calling his neurologist buddy and we are scheduling me in For. A. Spinal. Tap. 
Because, you know, MENINGITIS.   Then I gave 25 pints of blood, and then, finally, the Man arrived and laughed at the state of me, and we had the above conversation, and I got wheeled off to have the inside of my head looked at.
Oh, and sorry, did I forget to mention this?:

My fingertips are in shreds. 
Seriously.  It was a really shitty week.
HOWEVER!  I am fine.  As it turned out the scans showed that my brain was remarkably average (as the neurologist put it), everything pointed towards viral meningitis (Mr Bacterial’s kinder sibling), and so no need for a lumbar puncture. HURRAH.  Because honestly, as far as I was concerned, that  boat – the one involving needles and my spine - sailed about two and a half years ago.   And then I got to stay in hospital, away from the many demands of my many children.  And then, even better, when I came home, US Prosecutor friend dropped over a wad of trashy US magazines (at unimaginable expense – thank you sweetheart) and even better, a bag of French pastries.  And so I made a cup of tea, hauled my booty into my bedroom, and locked the door for two days.  

Actually, now that I think about it, I’d almost recommend it. Almost. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

And so the rot begins.

It’s that awful hour between dinner being eaten and bedtime beginning, and the Boy is on my heels, wanting to know why I deleted Macklemore’s Thrift Shop from my phone. [Thanks for that, Anna]. 

“I’m not telling you.”
“If I tell you, then you’ll have heard them, and that sort of defeats the purpose a bit, no?”
[Momentarily looks confused but battles on] “IT’S “BUCKS” ISN’T IT?  TELLLLLLLLL MEEEE!”
No, it’s not “bucks”.  It’s “cock” and “fucking” and “motherfucker”. 
“Is it worse than Jesus Christ? You say that all the time.”
“Much worse.”
By now he is actually stepping on my heels so I turn to escape into the bathroom, and he blocks my way.  I had a boyfriend once who did just this, and got dumped for it.  I fleetingly (and wistfully) consider breaking up with the Boy.
“Just tell me!  I won’t tell anyone.  I won’t ever even say the word again. I. JUST. WANT. TO. KNOW.”
(I start to feel for him.  Remember the frustration of being a kid and wanting to know what the Grown Ups knew?  Why didn’t they ever tell us that actually they knew fuck all and were just winging it?)
“I’ll tell you.  One word.  Only one.”
“Seriously.  But you must NEVER say it and NEVER even think it again.”
“I’ll think it but I won’t say it.”
I bend down to him, and, feeling like I am about to physically abuse my own son, I lean to his ear and whisper...
He turns to me, his eyes glowing, his mouth open, and starts to laugh.
“Shit?”  He looks like he is about to explode with joy.
I nod. 
He starts to walk away, then, supreme negotiator that he is, he turns and says “One more.”
“Sorry?  No way.”
“I know there’s more than one in the song.  One more or else I’m going to say this one out loud. In front of the girls.”
I bend to his ear and whisper “bloody”.  He looks up at me, shining again.  “I knew that one already.”
And off he goes, whispering “shit bloody shit” and I wonder if this is the point at which I start to feel nostalgic about his toddler  years.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?

I’ve been to Australia to visit the Queen!  (Well, not actually the Queen queen, who's been busy being visited by her poor grand-daughter-in-law, possibly asking her to NOT SIT DOWN lest she smear chopped liver all over a royal couch, and wondering why she was feinting before her very eyes.)  The queen I was visiting isn’t royal at all, merely one of the few queens of my heart,  (because not many friends have lived with me, and even fewer still talk to me, so she’s definitely regal in some regard).  So it was her birthday, and barely had she suggested potentially having a party than the Man and I had booked our flights and cancelled the maid’s day(s) off, and off we skipped on Thursday night, for what turned out to be 48 hours of sleeping (ahhhh) and imbibing (aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh).  It was fantabulous. The only  slight fly in the ointment were that her children were there, and they were just so well behaved that I felt a bit sick and a bit jealous.  They’re older, I reasoned with myself (except they’re not really), and there’s only two of them (because we all know how well behaved my kids were when there was only two of them), and they’re... Australian? Have lost their baby teeth?  Go barefoot a lot?  The sad fact is that some children are just calm and keep themselves to themselves, and some (“some”) are not, do not.  Between naps and glasses of champagne I studied the familial interaction to see if there were any obvious parenting flags missing on my flag-mast, but nothing leapt out.  She did seem to not fuss about them too much, and – at the risk of causing offence – sort of ignored them most of the time (IN A GOOD WAY).
By contract, we got in late last night (after 8 hours of more-or-less solid drinking on the flight, which is classy, no?)  and I, weepy with relief at being ALIVE (am I the only one getting more nervous about flying as I get older?) and possibly a bit pissed, went straight into the children and tried to wake them up to say hello.  But this morning I awoke full of resolve to start ignoring them more.  Which is hard, y’know, when your 4 year old is clinging on to your leg at school and screeching NO-MAMA-DON’T-GO, and you WANT to ignore her but wonder at what point you’d  give in  – when you got to the car-park where the ground is rough and she’s bleeding from the knees,  or before, when you’re dragging her past the head-mistress’s office and she looks out and you have to smile and pretend there isn’t a hysterical child attached to your lower body?  And so later I tried to ignore the Baby, who had found the communal jam, and its communal spoon, in a (communal) cafe and was flicking it across the room, but that stopped working so well when – ooops – it hit a man on the back of his shirt (and I still don’t know if he knows or not, because he was mid-leaving and by the time I saw the damage he was on his way out the door).  The Boy, it possibly goes without saying, does not allow himself to be ignored, and so this isn’t an experiment I’m going to have much success at with him, but I will try.  
In the meantime, exhausted both with the on-going riddle that is parenting, and the fact that my body currently comprises about 87% alcohol, I am DETOXING.  Yes, the dreaded de-toxing knock-you-up! (Like a pick-you-up, but given that it always gets me pregnant, it is in fact the exact opposite)  A scaled-down version, meaning just no alcohol for as long as I can bear it.  The trick is to automatically pour myself a drink as soon as the children are in bed – which is what I usually do – but to make it non-alcoholic.  A – shudder – MOCKTAIL.    

All you actually need to convince your brain that you’re having a well-earned DRINK is a spring of mint, lots of ice, and equal parts apple juice and sparkling/soda water.  If you can, squeeze in some fresh lemon or lime, and add some freshly grated ginger  (half a teaspoon per glass). 

My brain totally thinks it’s having a Moscow Mule, and then orders me to go tickle the sleeping children.  

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: