Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Summer in a (large) nutshell

You’d never think that I came back from Europe with great grand plans:  start a large writing project;  try new recipes;  work out every day; update my blog every other day.  STOP WASTING SO MUCH TIME DOING NOTHING.
But, as it turns out, I don’t in fact do nothing;  I do a LOT of driving hither and thither, almost exclusively for child-related purposes.  Which, of course,  is the first cousin of nothing – but not a relative I can avoid at the moment.  It really is very time consuming – the older 2 to school, the Baby to nursery (24 kms round trip, with the morning traffic and the crap Singaporean drivers to content with), the Baby from nursery about 20 minutes after I’ve left her,  the older two from school about 20 minutes after that - and set to become more so, if the Girl changes school this year. Then I’ll have 3 offspring in 3 schools triangulated such that my commute will cover more or less the entire surface area of Singapore. (“Put them on the bus!” everyone cries, and I usually do, for the older ones, for the afternoon ride.  But I had my suspicions about the morning journeys – we’re the first pick-up-point of an almost hour-long trip - which were confirmed when the Boy told me - gleefully – that the bus auntie gave him a bowl – a BOWL! – to pee in when he just couldn’t hold it in any more.  (And who then held the bowl? I wanted to ask.)
Anyway.  This is a very long and convoluted excuse for my absence.  I was going to talk about the summer, wasn’t I? God, it feels like a hundred years ago. It was great.  Especially the bit where I packed my husband and children and their hired mother off to Sweden and skipped off to London ALONE for A WEEK. Looking back on it, it feels quite unreal. Did I really get to leave my family for a whole week?  Did I actually go to museums and the theatre and art exhibitions, and pound the banks of the Thames and have uninterrupted coffees and lunches and drinks with best friends, and cycle all over and feel like I was 30 again?  Why yes!  I did! Isn’t London fabulous?  (WITHOUT KIDS, obviously.  With kids it’s just one endless day after the next of expense and obstacles and whining and dragging.)
Before that, we had almost two weeks in Mallorca en famille, which was also great (but really, can anything top a week in one of the world’s top cities, alone?) although I overestimated my capacity to embrace the Spanish laid-backness, and after ten days of shit service and literally waiting for hours for menus or a coffee or PLEASEGODJUSTGIVETHEMSOMETHINGTOEAT (don’t these people have children?  Don’t they know what happens when they’re hungry?  GIVE THEM A BREADSTICK FOR FUCK’S SAKE) I decided  that I probably won’t be realising one of my many unfeasible dreams and retiring to a Balearic rural idyll.  “Foreigner dies of irritation and thirst in local cafe”.
Before that, we finished off our stay in Ireland which, despite the best efforts of the weather, was marvellous.  Helped largely by stumbling upon a DIY sangria recipe which saved my life in the pubs (I hate beer, and UGGGH, Guinness, and so I spend my time in Irish pubs saying “Ummmmm.... Ummmmm... A gin & tonic?” and then they take down some manky old gin which their dead neighbour’s great-aunt made in 1979 to celebrate the Pope’s visit, and I panic and end up with a pint of Heineken, or GOD, Smithwicks, because I can’t think quickly enough.  Here it is:  Order a mini bottle of red wine (it’ll be shit, that’s fine); a brandy, no ice; a bottle of 7up; and a glass with ice.  Pour half the contents of each into the glass of ice.  Drink.  Pour again.  Drink again.  Fall home, holding on to your octogenarian father, who did not sign up for this longevity of child-care.  [Warning:  it being Ireland, it’ll set you back about E47, but better than a pint of Smithwicks, no?])
Then Sweden, where I was tearfully (truly!  But not the good ones) reunited with my bairn, and rewarded for my absence by the Boy telling me that sometimes I’m nicer than Daddy. (Daddy had ground his teeth down to stumps by that stage and declared that he was never minding them ever again.  Poor Daddy.)
And so we’re home.  Where I have amazed myself by cooking a few things beyond the normal pasta/cous-cous/baked fish repertoire, including the most AMAZING noodle/salad sauce thing, but I’m beginning to bore myself, so you’ll have to wait. (Hopefully not two weeks, but never say never.)  In the meantime, I leave you with my favourite image from the summer.  The Girl had her 5th birthday, and included in the gamut of cack received was this little piece of plastic wonderousness:  Pregnant Barbie! (Actually, the full effect of said wonderousness calls for three photos.)  It should come as no surprise that Barbie is Too Posh To Push:

Alas, later, there were complications when the under-age ObGyn placed the baby back in, breach, and the baby got totally stuck, as did the revolving stomach, and so now Barbie is forever mid-delivery – which is not a good look on a child’s toy AT ALL.  Although if it’s a deterrent to pregnancy you’re after for your child, I highly recommend it.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Sticky topics of conversation. (Hohoho)

Suddenly the summer is over, and with it the summer holidays.  THANK YOU GOD.  Because, while they were fabulous, I have started to eye up the large pack of paracetamol over the past few days.  Jetlag, children and no childcare do not a smiley-mummy make.
This is a short one (phew).   There are school lunches to make, and school bags to drag out (and, in fact,  clear out  - I am a total lazy slut when it comes to things school-related), and HORROR – the laundry of items such as school hats to be done.  (It is a national holiday here – Happy Birthday Singapore! – and as such our helper is, quite rightly, ignoring all things domestic.)
I thought I would welcome myself back by entertaining you all with a prĂ©cis of this morning’s enlightening conversation with the Boy.
“Mum, can a woman have a baby if she’s not married?”
Seriously, this again?  “Yes, of course. Just look at your auntie Anna.”  (Thank you Anna – your marital non-status is the source of most of the sex-education conversations in our house.)
“No, I mean without a boyfriend or anything like that.  Just by herself.”
“Well, yes.  And no.  She doesn’t need to have an actual man, but she needs a man’s seed.”
“How does she get it?”
“From a doctor.”
“A man doctor?  He gives her his seed?”
Huh. Sometimes, I guess. But perhaps now is not the time for that conversation.  “Well the doctor will work with a scientist, and they can get seed from a man, and put it inside the woman and the seed meets the egg and, all going well, a baby will start to grow.”  God.  The worst explanation of IVF EVER.
“How do they get the seed from the man?”
You know, from the very first question, I should have known that this is where we would have ended up.  “Oh, they just take it from him.”
“But HOW? Is he asleep?  Do they just dig into his willy and get it?”
“No, he gives it to them.”
“From his willy?”
“But how? How does he get it?  Where is it?”
“It’s in his testicles. It comes out from his testicles through his penis.”  For the first and only time this weekend, I’m really glad our maid – or anybody else - isn’t around.
“But how does he get it out?”
“THROUGH HIS PENIS.”  A firm voice.  A firm let-that-be-the-end-of-it voice.  
“BUT. HOW. ?”
I roll a mental dice.  Is this a conversation I want to have now?  He’s 6.  However, I don’t want to lie or fudge it. But he’s 6. And he cannot be trusted to keep his damn mouth shut with other kids. So I fudge it. 
“It’s just one of those things to know when you’re a bit older. TV?”
Today’s lesson in parenting:  TV always trumps masturbation.  For the moment. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Land of Rain and Sports Camps

I am in Ireland, land of my ex-pat dreams. Except when it is raining, solidly, ALL DAY, and then it just becomes land of wet and sog, and a place where I need to wear my six year old's rugby socks and  his sleeveless puffa jacket - yes, in the house; no neither of them fit - to keep warm. (I didn't think to pack either socks or a jacket for myself. Luckily however I brought three sun hats, so my face is at least dry.) Even the children are starting to be a bit bothered by the INCESSANT RAIN but possibly only because they've run out of dvds to watch, and I'm too cold to work out how to make the cable box thingy work. And anyway, no one is allowed to use any electrical items at all (this iPad doesn't count, natch) because the house we've rented has a coin-operated meter -!!- and I have run out of €2 coins, and it is too wet to go out in search of any. I do feel a bit like we've been catapulted back into the 1970s, but not in an entirely unpleasant way.  When it is not too wet and cold to venture outdoors, the children revert to their natural feral state, subsisting on Tayto crisps and a variety of ice-pops (the Boy's summer mission is to try every one of HB's deep freeze offerings) and insisting on marrying their cousins and sneaking their fingers into my wine for a sneaky lick. They are all up til at least 10pm every night - it's a little known fact that Ireland becomes part of the Arctic Circle in the summer, all bright and freezing - so I've had to blue-tack black bin liners over all the windows or else we'd never get any sleep. Between the bin liners and the coin-eating meter, we are quite the classy act, I can tell you.
But oh, the fresh air, and the food and drink. It's glorious. Cheese and soda bread, and eggs with bright orange yolks... I have turned into quite the breakfast fiend. As soon as I can work out how to add photos via the iPad, I will regale you all with my current morning  obsession (clue: it involves eggs and microwaves. I know, horror! Let me tell you, however, when you're trying to eek out an electricity allowance, the microwave is your friend. Electric stove-tops Are Not.)
Also pretty fabulous - and reason alone for anyone with offspring to spend a chunk of the summer here - are the kids' summer camps. Cheap as chips, amazingly run, and last all day. The Boy was unceremoniously dumped into a rugby camp the first week we got here, which he loved (or rather, didn't bitch and moan about all day and night) - and at €15 A DAY (which is currently only about £2.75, thank you Greece) including rugby ball, top and back pack, I loved it too. Also, it happened to be in my favourite neighbourhood in Dublin, right beside one of my best friends, and one of my favourite cafes. So mummy was both happy and full.  Of course then I got carried away and booked him into a camp  down here ('here' being a strip of land sticking out into the Atlantic) by which stage he had Had Enough, and just wanted to devote himself to eating Loop the Loops and thundering across fields, hollering like Braveheart. Still, it only cost €50,  and managed to get one day's childcare as well as another entire outfit and back pack. (In Singapore I'd have been down $700, not to mention the gear I'd have had to buy, and the wrath of the organisers.) So, all you parents of energetic young children - come to Ireland on your holidays, put your kids in camps, and spend all the money you've saved on tea and poached eggs and rain gear.
Little else. We survived the flight, which - shhhhh, jinxing myself- wasn't too awful. Although admittedly not great for the very nice man sitting one (empty) seat away from us, who had the Girl's head on his lap for the second leg of the journey. (Bless him, at one point I looked over - having given up hissing at her to Get Off Him Now- and there he sat, trying to sleep, with one arm up in the air so as not to disturb her as she lay across his knees, drooling onto his jeans. Irish people are lovely, no?) . We head to Spain on Thursday - to a village which I chose entirely because a glass of wine in a restaurant there last year cost €1.40. Now that I think about it, I don't recall a single thing for the children to do there. Oh well. I'm sure they have the Spanish version of HB. And I might even find some cheap summer camps.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Packing Procrastination

We leave for Europe in three days.  Actually, less than three days.  We have also just downloaded Game of Thrones 5.  And, as of last Friday, the kids are on school holidays.  So these alone should go some way towards explaining my absence. Added to this hellish mix (except for GOT, which is exceptionally hellish for the hundreds of people who get gratuitously slaughtered in every episode, but rather enjoyable for the rest of us), the Girl had her birthday party on Sunday, and the Baby has decided to grow herself up.

But first things first: Europe. I’m fairly sure that I was a bit more organised about this last year – bags out and clothes strewn and lists made and gifts bought;  this year?  Not so much.  My “list” says things like “PACK” and “FIND HOME FOR HAMSTER” but no more detail than that.   Also, I have created sub lists – Things to Buy,  Packing for the Plane – which are distracting me.  At some point – some imminent point – I am going to just have to start packing.  Ugh. On the plus side,  it will divert me from the forthcoming Flight of Horrors.

School Holidays. I was able to ignore this reality until yesterday morning when the Man headed off to work, leaving me with a full gaping day of parenting.  By 9am I had made five different breakfasts to satiate the demands of my insatiably demanding offspring, had played a game of Monopoly, made play-doh sea creatures, and fought with my teenage-esque daughter (over the thorny issue of 4 year olds wearing make-up.)   We managed to get out of the house by 11, drove across Singapore twice, collected a play date, went to a beach, got back in the car and went to another beach which wasn’t closed, walked for many miles under the searing sun, and then collapsed onto the industrial sand while my children swam in what must be toxic sea.  (I very much doubt that the hundred or so container ships 500m from shore aren’t sitting out there cleaning the water.) But - Glory Be! – the Boy had a sleepover last night, which meant that the girls’ bedtime took 5 minutes, and we all slept until 8am this morning – no tornado of energy crashing into us at 650am – and I barely know myself today.   More of those, please.

The Girl’s birthday party.  Her actual birthday falls in the middle of July, and to date she has celebrated only with her nearest and dearest.  Which is great for me, but not so wonderful for her, especially as she spends at least one afternoon every weekend watching her friends be the centre of attention (and, more importantly for a nearly-5 year old, receive a million presents.)  So this year I decided to parent-up, flung money at the situation and invited 15 of her pals (actually, only 13 – her siblings had to be invited too) to one of the many indoor-play centres which litter Singapore. Apart from the eye-bleeding expense, it was great – and so easy.  Until we got home, at which point the wrapping paper and packaging hit the fan, tempers frayed (the Boy literally negotiated his present-wrapping position for 45 minutes.  NON STOP.) and tears were shed.  However!  Amongst the presents were some much-wanted Forbidden Fruits, leading to yesterday morning’s fight, and a new family rule: No Leaving The House Wearing Makeup.  The Girl:  “But you do, ALL THE TIME!”  Me:  “I truly hope I don’t do it looking like that”.  “That” being this:

(What’s sweet about it is that she truly thinks that she is the most beautiful thing ever.  What’s not so sweet is everything else.)

Into this mix, the Baby has decided that she is now way too mature for both her day-time nap, and her day-time nappies. The nappies I can live with – although I’d have liked either some notice, or some involvement in the cessation of use.  As it was she announced one day last week that she needed a wee-wee, I checked that she was wearing a nappy and told her to go ahead, and in return she screamed at me for being a SILLY CRAZY CAT, and I DO WEE WEE AND POO POO IN TOILET.  And that was that.  The cancellation of the day-time nap, however, is a thing of horror, and frankly, I want compensation of sorts. You can’t just cancel something with no warning, surely?  

I leave you with this picture I discovered in one of the Boy’s school work books – seems they were asked to draw a scene from their favourite movie (or possibly just asked to draw something which would make their parents laugh out loud.)  This is from Jurassic Park 1*.  Full marks to the Boy for his attention to scatological detail, and for perfectly capturing the look of glum defeat on the face of the dinosaur’s dinner.

(*If you’re not familiar with JP1, there’s a scene where a suit is eaten by a dinosaur while he** sits on a toilet, and two children watch from a nearby car.)  
(**The suit, not the dinosaur. Dinosaurs, like nuns, don’t go to the toilet.) 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

I am Alive! Barely.

Well that three weeks went quickly, no?  There’s been much toing and froing, almost entirely in the bottom-sagging comfort of the air-conditioned car, because it is now too hot to go outdoors, and certainly too hot to actually move around outdoors.  Everyone is sweaty and tetchy, and gagging for a Summer’s day in Ireland.  Which, assuming the visa process  - (happening as we speak, in the Spanish embassy, somewhat randomly; frankly, I can’t imagine two cultures more wholly juxtaposed than the Singaporean and the Spanish.) -   is successful, will be underway in just over two weeks.
In the meantime, highlights (a very generous description) from the past few weeks as follows:
Some good intentions on my part, mostly unattainable, including the virtually impossible Never Raise My Voice To The Children Ever Again. This is going splendidly, as you can imagine.  (Actually, I am mildly impressed at myself – only once today, and once yesterday - but am also somewhat concerned about the emotional impact all this retention of negativity is having on me.  Bed-time (theirs) comes and I want to MURDER someone, but I have desisted (so far) which is good, because infanticide is probably a bit worse than shouty-face.  So instead I sit and neck alcohol in a manner that can only be described as devoted, committed and murderous.)
In another vain attempt to better myself, I’ve also been trying to practice mindfulness once a day for a few minutes.  I had to do a bit of research about it for a work thing, and it’s basically Meditation-Lite.  I amuse myself by seeing the most ridiculous situations I can do it in (eg, hurtling around the supermarket - feel the trolley handle under your hands!  Hear the squeak of the wheels! Hear the shriek AND feel the thud of the tiny man you just knocked over etc.)
Speaking of the supermarket, ENORMOUS excitement at my regular Pit of Grocery Hell this week when I discovered a shelf laiden with Tesco goods!  This apparently was the English section of the International fare. Sadly, I was too overwhelmed by misguided love for all things Tesco Basic to think to take a photo.  I will say this however – whoever is responsible for the ordering needs to stop drinking on the job and put away the cocaine.  Otherwise people are going to think that English people subsist on a diet of lite-chocolate sauce, custard creams, (own-brand) coco pops, strawberry jam, salad cream, and mint sauce.  (Despite this, the aisle was packed with a throng of English women squawking in glee and fanning their faces with their hands in deep excitement.  This should give you some idea of just how unappealing your average Singapore supermarket is.)
My phone remains unfixed, my fingers shredded.  I’ve sort of gotten used to it now, and it’s no longer on top of my Things To Do Urgently list.  You’d think that the nick I got from it on my ear the other day while making a phone call would have hastened its repair, but no. Which means, of course, it will only get done once my ear starts to bleed into the phone and renders the screen totally, as opposed to only partially, unreadable.
The Baby has a new phrase.  SHUT UP MUMMY!  It’s lovely.  Especially when paired with “I WASN’T TALKING TO YOU.”
A few moments of parenting pleasure watching the Boy as he watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on Sunday afternoon – the scene when Indy is getting a thrashing from the burly bald guy who’s about to have his head minced by a propeller. (Ideal viewing for a 6, 4 and 2 year old).  “Get him.  GET HIM!  Go on.  Pow!  POW!  Smash him. SMASH!  Blood.  BLOOD!  Bloodbloodblood.  YES!”  Disturbing and hilarious in equal measure.
I’m sure there was more to the past three weeks, but the heat has melted my brain. 
Coming up: I go to open a local bank account and storm out of THREE banks in a fog of teeth-grinding fury; I try to bake a birthday cake for the Girl’s pre-birthday party (don’t ask), worthy of a fairy princess, but die from heat exhaustion and complications arising from melted icing;  I fail to get all the class-contributions from the Boy’s class-mates’ parents, and realise I have approximately 6 pence to spend on two teachers’ gifts; and I try and fail to find a dermatologist who can tell something about the brown patches spontaneously (and I mean really spontaneously – as in: not there at 9.05am and there at 9.10am) on my skin, other than “oh they might clear up in a few weeks, we can’t be sure.” 
That'll be worth waiting three weeks for, no? 

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.