Thursday, 21 April 2016

The body of a child, the head of a walrus.

Just when I thought the school runs couldn’t get any worse, they did.   I now have an additional 22km leg, which is hideous, although not without its moments of amusement:

I should point out that this car was the only one involved in this accident.  Actually, I’m not even sure that you can call such fuckwittage-ness an accident - there has to have been some element of intent involved.  How else would you get your car up onto the central reservation of a highway – backwards?  (You can also see me being scathing about it over here.)
Otherwise,  nothing else of any interest is happening here.  I am driving driving driving the live-long day (7am-920am;  130pm-245pm;  then usually some sort of late afternoon child-ferrying), about which you will have to take my word is even more dull for me than it is for you.  (Today’s whirling ball of stress was spiced up by a forgotten – and crucial – gym bag, so off I went, a dutiful little parenting lamb, spitting nails and muttering to myself, and worrying people in cars nearby who could see me yelling and banging the dashboard with my fist.)
So you can understand the MAJOR excitement yesterday when my textpat spouse dragged me off to the Singapore equivalent of Costco – I was *this* close to crying off, zombified as I am these days and unwilling to do ANY MORE DRIVING (this place is as close to Malaysia as you can get without finding that the government has slipped a couple of million into your bank account – or, more likely, taken it out) but she lured me with the promise of cheap groceries and European produce, and SHE WOULD DRIVE.
Reader, it was wonderful.  We oohed and ahhhhed and caressed things, and instantly signed up, and then piled our trolleys high with such items of wonderousness as this:

And this:

I concede that this isn’t such a big deal really – oh look, a large supermarket which sells stuff – but for me, starved of grocery-novelty, it is HEAVEN.  (I have just had the cider and it was the sweet Somerset nectar of the Gods.)   
By the time I got home from Round II of my new favourite game, Is My Arse Now The Same Shape As the Car Seat?, a large sea was falling from the sky and we were all wet and cold – or close to cold as you can get when the temperature has plummeted to a chilly 27° - and I found myself thinking wistfully of the crates of instant Cup A Soup I had poo-pooed in Singaporean Costco Eden. So instead I made my own, which took 20 minutes, and was so good I finished the lot.
Just when I was starting to think that maybe, on balance, it wasn’t the worst day I’d ever had, I brought the Baby to the doctor where a sweet, quiet, similar-aged deigned to pick up and use her abandoned sticky plaster, and the Baby screamed at her with such vehemence that both the girl and her mother got quite upset and when the abuse continued - through my mouth-clasping hand - they actually got up and left the surgery!  And if that wasn't enough SHAME AND HORROR, she later asked a boy at the taxi stand if "you is wearing a mask, or is you just weird-looking?"  
He wasn't wearing a mask.
And not for the first time yesterday I wished that I could just lie down on the ground and go to sleep.

20 Minute / Almost Instant Cup A Soup

(This is basically carrot and lentil soup.   Which is not to be knocked, as it is a thing of delight and wonderousness.)

You need:  (for about two large bowls / four cups /one distended stomach)
  • Some oil – olive / whatevs
  • Clove of garlic, crushed
  • One carrot
  • Four handfuls of dried red lentils (I’m starting my own measuring system)
  • About 1 litre of stock (whatever you have)
  • Squeeze of lemon.
  • Handful of fresh coriander (optional)

Heat the oil, and add the crushed garlic.
When it’s starting to sizzle grate the carrot directly into the pot.  Stir well, add a splash of stock, and leave to bubble for a couple of minutes.
Add the lentils and the rest of the stock.  Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 10-15 mins, or until the lentils are soft. 
Puree with a machiney thing, mash with a mashey thing, or leave as is.  Add a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander, if you have it.
Eat with an accompanying bottle of cider, while Googling "ways to temporarily mute small children".

Friday, 15 April 2016

Bleeding from my sun-sizzled eyes.

As predicted, the multi-school-drop-off mornings are a total PITA, and I am exhausted.  God knows how the Girl – currently lying on her bed, catatonic (although happy and content in her new school, so hurrah for that) – feels. (Apart from sartorially ashamed: she got dollied up in her new school uniform, which is  straight out of the 80’s - the 1880’s - took one look at herself and burst into tears, announcing that she looked like one of Santas’s elves. Which was totally spot on, she did.)  The alarm goes off at some unearthly hour – there is still mist over the trees and the sun is not yet up – and I roll, asleep, out of bed and into the shower.  Then I tiptoe into her room, pick her up – asleep – and dress her – still asleep.  Five minutes later she is in the car, still asleep, seat completely reclined, and off we set.  (To the North Pole, where all the other elves learn how to count.)  
By the time I’m home – usually by 8am – and getting ready for the next interminably long, boring school run, the sun is up and setting about blistering the skin off anyone stupid enough to be out.  It is SO HOT here at the moment.  I actually saw a Singaporean sweat the other day.  That’s how hot it is.  
But it isn’t all hiding from the burning furnace of the outdoors and trying to get the air-conditioning in the car to stop me from nodding off as I hurtle down a motorway.  I have a new project!  Here it is.  I suspect it will only be vaguely entertaining if you are also an expat in Singapore, but come say hello anyway.  We plan on updating it every day, which is not only insane -  because who has the time / energy to try to be amusing 7 times a week?  - but also highly unlikely, because who can text when the sun has singed the ends of their fingers and driving fatigue has them lying in the cats’ basket  beside a fan?  - but swing by and check on us from time to time if you remember.  (It’s planned as part of a longer-term project which we will get around to just as soon as the temperature falls below to 37°, and the kids have left school.) 
Speaking of the cats, I put them on a diet a few weeks ago – because they were getting ridiculously fat and lazy, and if I’m not allowed to be fat and lazy then no one is the house is – and they got all skinny and evil for a while, but now they’re somehow back to being big-boned.  I could not work this out – where are they getting the food? – until this morning when, tip-toing to the Girl’s room I stumbled across the Baby tip-toing out of hers.  It turns out that the one thing I didn’t consider when I moved her into a Big-Girl Bed recently was that she might get up before dawn and go feed the cats, then go back to bed and go back to sleep for a while. 
You see? School-run fatigue.  It’s wrecking my head.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

I think I see light!

We’re neck-deep in school holidays at the moment, aka The Holidays That Never End.   This endlessness has not  been helped by the kids all now being on different school schedules, so their holidays overlap ever-so-slightly, like a well-made potato gratin (just not as comforting or welcome), meaning what should be a week and a half is now four.  We’re two and a half down, and I’m feeling a bit murderous.  Also,  nothing is getting done – not the birthday present buying, nor the tax-filing, nor the much-needed physical attention (legs, toes, bikini regions) – instead every day is a long stretch of howarewegoingtopassthetime.
I decided to fill part of yesterday – well, an hour – by bringing the Girl for a cycling lesson.   Paying someone to teach your kid to cycle is quite a thing here, propelled, I suspect, by two factors:  the fact that there is no decent, easily accessible  outdoor space where you can safely teach your little one yourself;  and the general lethargy amongst most people when it comes to standing out in the searing heat and blood-boiling humidity yelling at / catching / chasing after your small person.    Also, the teacher is sortof legendary here – 100% success rate, no nonsense local – and he is literally across the road from us,  AND I just want her to cycle so that we can get on with trying to find Things To Do As A Family which don’t make me weep tears of blood, AND the Man keeps talking about teaching her but never quite getting around to doing it.  So I signed up (I can’t bring myself to tell you how much it cost) (okay, it cost $80) and off they went.  She got on so well in fact, that after a few minutes the Baby and I wandered off to the cake shop to ruin our appetites and kill some time.  Something was niggling, however.  I’d forgotten to do something. Something... important...  Which I remembered as soon as the Bicycle Man called me 20 minutes later, barely audible above the screeching in the background.  Dammit!  I’d forgotten to either say goodbye to the Girl, or even inform her of my departure.  Which isn’t the worst parenting in the world  - unless of course you look at it from her point of view: I’d brought her to a block of flats, handed her over to a total stranger, money had changed hands, and I completely disappeared.  Which I suppose could be interpreted as the worst parenting in the world.  (In my defence, I paid him;  if it was the other way around, I could somewhat understand the hysterics.)
And boy was she hysterical.  Screeching like a skinned cat.  So, less than half-way through her $80 lesson, we sloped off home,  her sobbing and distressed, me thinking:  Fuck!  That was an expensive trauma session.  Less than 7 hours later, she was back in the saddle again, and I was another $80 lighter.  Nothing like throwing bad money after  good (or is it good after bad? Either way, there was quite a bit of money being thrown around.) Immediately the hysterics recommenced until, 10 minutes in, the teacher announced (unnecessarily angrily, considering he was getting $160 for  half an hour’s work)  that there was nothing he could do; she was, basically, unteachable.
Reader, I fixed her. Nothing  repairs a traumatised 5 year old like the sweet nectar of a lollipop.  The sugar shut down the malfunctioning emotional circuitry, and we were back on (cycle) track.  (But do you think I got a cut of the $160 for services to bicycling-kind?  Bollox I did.)  It’s still a work in progress, but she no longer shudders when she hears the whoosh of a passing cyclist, so my job is done.
Except of course it isn’t.  I’ve another week and a half of this lark left.  GOD HELP ME.
It hasn’t been all bad however.  Last week I had an epiphany of sorts:  I am through the tunnel! The tunnel of despair. The tunnel of exhaustion. The tunnel of PARENTING SMALL CHILDREN.   This struck me at a toddler group which one of my friends runs, when I looked around and realised that everyone else had lots and lots of toddlers and babies, as well as that blank, glassy-eyed look of the un-dead – and I didn’t.  Not the toddlers, nor the babies, not the glassy-eye.  I made myself a cup of tea and chatted away (as much as you can chat with someone who hasn’t slept in four months) and felt really quite smug.  And then a baby was handed to me and I put him on my shoulder, whereupon he promptly disgorged the contents of his stomach on me.  And this is when the epiphany truly kicked in:  I wasn’t nonplussed or understanding or  unphased.  I was, I’m ashamed to say, a bit disgusted.  

DISGUST!  I have moved past shoulder-cheese! I AM DONE.  (She says, as she spends 2 hours putting the children – repeatedly - to bed.  Everything’s relative folks, everything’s relative.) Woo hoo!  

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Red Faces

Occasionally, when the Man and I are desperately casting around for something to feel parentally smug about, we remind  each other that notwithstanding over 2 years of Equatorial living, our children have yet to ever get sun burnt.   SUN-SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN, we roar at them, as they slither out of our grasp and disappear into the pool, then slather it on as they wriggle and complain and whinge and announce that they DON’T CARE ABOUT SUNBURN, and HOW BAD COULD IT BE ANYWAY?
I’m not sure what happened to my brain this weekend, but having screeched at the Boy to GET OUT OF THE POOL AND PUT ON YOUR SWIM TOP,  I then completely and utterly forgot to follow up with sunscreen.  No, I don’t get  it either.  Especially as I’d slathered the other two.  (I suspect my mind was on the drinks menu.  It was Sunday!  We were at the beach! The sun was shining! Alternatively, I’m getting old and stupid.  Or, both.)
Anyway, we had a lovely day – 5 long, scorching hot, uninterrupted hours - where the rays bounced off the pool and the sea and the white sand, and the Boy’s pale European skin absorbed it all.  We were in the car when I realised that he was actually quite red.  By the time we got home, he was really red.  By bedtime, I had never seen anything quite so red (which wasn’t associated with childbirth).  He was actually so burnt that I had to give him paracetomol and get up in the middle of the night to re-apply his Sudocream.  (I’m Irish, OF COURSE Sudocream works on sunburn.  Also on tumours and dismemberments.)
Anyway, on the plus side I don’t think anyone in the house is going to wriggle or complain or whinge any more during sunscreen application. (Hurrah!  never again will I be asked how bad it could be anyway.)  On the downside –  apart from the guilt and the shame and the forthcoming freckles and impending skin cancer – the Boy is clearly traumatised by it. Here’s yesterday’s school self-portrait:  

(I’m calling it:  Snowman with Sunburn).

Speaking of trauma, I got trolled this weekend!  Yes!  I’ve never been trolled before. (Actually I have, but with just one teeny flick of the wrist, the trolling is removed and we all pretend it never happened.)  I wrote a piece for a newspaper about my relationship with my home country (spoiler alert: I MISS IT) and this got the trolls all salivating and frenzied.  Which amused me 80% and pissed me off about 20%.  Oh trolls.  Where do you get your energy?  Please send me some, and also gin (because apparently I am depressed and disillusioned.) Also, send some friends (again, apparently I don’t have any.)  And aloe vera. 
Actually, I mean the last one. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

If you're wondering what has befallen me...

I've been too busy pondering the following to indulge in such frivolities as blogging (or sleeping or showering):
  • Sick small people (Part I):  How can something so boring be so exhausting?
  • Sick small people (Part II):  Could sick 3 year olds possibly be the most objectionable species ever to have lived?   (Example:  “I’m HUNGRY!”  (Deep intake of breath, sharp biting of tongue) “What would you like?” “I’M NOT TELLING YOU!” (Sit on hands to prevent inadvertent strangulation) “Would you like a yoghurt?”  “I SAID NO AND THAT’S FINAL!”)
  • Sick small people (Part III):  Will she ever stop fucking coughing?
  • Sick small people (Part IV):  Oh balls, which did I give her last, Calpol or Neurofen? 
  • (And related:  Is  Singapore really an island, or just an enormous petri-dish of persistent rampaging bastarding viruses?)
  • How is it possible to develop an addiction to a FB classified’s page after just two days?  (Current tally:  two vast Duplo sets; two big scooters; one kid’s Ikea kitchen - all for less than 80 of your English pounds.  (My addiction has been particularly boosted by the kitchen – almost new and ALREADY ASSEMBLED and $35.  Kerchung.))
  • Why is my nostril itchy?
  • What if they actually do elect Donald Trump?  Where can we hide?
  • Christ, will I really be ferrying three children to three separate schools every morning come next month?  Starting at 7am? Ending at 920am?
  • And while we’re at it, what is it with schools and their on-line portals?  Surely life was easier when parents didn’t know a damn thing about school life, and information was restricted to the occasional scrunched-up note about fairs and sports days?  I DON’T FUCKING CARE.  THEY BELONG TO YOU NOW. (At least until 3pm).
  • Could I actually have impetigo up my nose?
  • What to do with the Girl?  (Latest social transgression:  taking a boy’s snack out  of his bag on the school bus (I think that’s also known as “stealing”),  gobbling his food, then gleefully showing him her mouth full of crumbs when he was scrambling around under the seat, frantically searching, tummy rumbling.  [Consequence:  a serious talk about disappointment, shame, crime and punishment; handwritten notes of sorrow and regret [“Dir  dOY, I am sOree I tuK YUr Fud”] ; and the inclusion therein of $2 pocket money. Could she have cared less?  I doubt it.])
  • How honest would a Classified’s ad for one’s children have to be? (And how much could I get?) 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

What to do when your 5 yr old talks like a drunken sailor?

The Boy got off the school bus a couple of weeks ago and announced that the Girl had said “the F word”.
When I recovered from the shock, I asked him which F-word?  There is only one, of course, but hope was springing eternal in this human breast that there might be some others: flip, perhaps, or finance.  I used to get away with “frog” as an explanation for my own outbursts when they were too little to copy me (as they furiously absorbed it anyway, damn sponges).  Also, the “S-word” is, to them,  “stupid”, so theoretically the “F-word” could be – oh please God let it be – Flabbergasted.
“Fuck”, he said.
Once I got over the shock of hearing this from the mouth of a babe (he'll always be a baby to me), I spoke sternly to the Girl, telling her that it is unacceptable for a 5 year old (or, furiously digging my way out of the hole I'd just made, a 6 year old or a 7 year old, or anyone who is not a very very angry, and later remorseful, grown up) to say that word.
“A_ told it to me” she said. A_ is older, and more worldly, and the recipient of much awe from the Girl.  
“Well A_ should not be saying it either,” I responded, then lectured her some more, until she looked suitably mollified, and gave her some crap punishment – no after dinner treat (so, just like every other day then), or similar – and dragged a pinky-promise out of her that that was the end of it.
(As an aside, the Boy then asked, in one of our more surreal conversations: “What does fuck mean?”  I gave it a moment’s deliberation, then told him – figuring that it would mortify him into never saying it.  This of course back-fired.
“Seriously?  That’s what it means?”
“So that’s what grown ups say when they want a baby?  “Do you want to fuck?””
At which point I realised that I had just opened a can of very slippery worms indeed, who were wrapping themselves around my throat, making breathing difficult.)
Anyway, cut to today - different day, same story. They get off the bus and the Boy enlightens me as to his sister’s bus etiquette (or lack thereof).
So she was sent to bed early, her treat for tomorrow’s lunch has been rescinded, she’s not allowed to bring any toys into school for a week, AND – worst of all – I’m telling her father.  (Not to mention you lot.)  She is, as we speak, crying crocodile tears in bed, and feeling very hard-done by.
So, dear reader, I would like your advice / guidance / tales of dealing with similar.  I HATE hearing young kids cursing.  She is FIVE.  It’s appalling. Also, there are little  - and big – kids on the school bus and I really don’t want my child to be the one teaching them to curse.  I can’t keep punishing her every time it happens (of course it’s going to happen again), because it seems to have little effect – other than make me feel as if I’m taking proper steps.  What have you done when confronted with a potty-mouthed youngster?  Does anything work? Am I on a hiding to nothing? 

I’m... Flabergasted.  Help.   

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Broken Bones, Broken Spirits.

Yesterday was panning out quite nicely – I had packed all the children off to school and done some admin and a tiny bit of exercise, and finally sorted my phone contract AND bought self a new phone, and my day’s To Do list was looking trim and healthy.   So there I was sitting on my bed,  muttering nonononono to the phone who had recorded the Baby’s fingerprints instead of mine when the Boy bounded in from the school bus and in a quiet, mollified voice, said:  “Mum, I got sent to the headmistress’s office today.”  When I asked why, he whispered, in a tiny voice, through tears and gritted teeth: “For breaking someone’s leg.”*  Which, let me tell you, is guaranteed to totally take the shine out of anyone’s day. (Not least the kid in the cast.)
In other, non-playground-hi-jinx, news, this is what I Have Done since we last spoke:
Been to Borneo. Which was lovely, etc, but not the wild adventure I had been hoping for.  Possibly because we got on a plane, got on a bus, and got into a big international hotel, which we shared with about 4,000 other holiday-makers.  All of whom decided to go check the Orang Utans out on the same day as we did.   Which were, needless to say, very cute, but as the kids pointed out, you get a better view of them at the zoo in Singapore.  (Note to anyone transiting through Changi – take the later outgoing flight and get yourselves up to the zoo.  It is FABULOUS.  If you go early enough in the morning you can even have breakfast with an Orang Utan.  Which I promise, is a waaaaaay better option than trekking to Borneo and having a crappy breakfast buffet with 4,000 Chinese New Year tourists.)
Totally and utterly ignored Valentine’s day.  No flowers or Champagne in this house.  (HUMPH.)
Possibly found a house to live in.  Because it is bereft of sweeping gilded staircases, solid-gold chandeliers and sunken indoor fish-ponds, our agent  is aghast and cannot fathom what we are thinking.  (We’re thinking:  bedrooms upstairs, living area downstairs, pool where it belongs in the garden.)
Reached the half-way point with my braces.  I am inordinately proud of self for this teeth-straightening achievement;  it is the best of all possible achievements, in that, other than turn up at appointments, pay my bills, and try not to drool in public, I need make no effort whatsoever. 
Reached the breaking point with my cats.  Would it hurt if I pulled their fucking claws off with a plier? Would it kill them? Because if so, hand me the pliers. Alternatively, I’ll just humiliate them until they run away:

Lost the Baby in the big kids’ school.  This was enormously traumatic, not only for me, but also for the poor man who having helped me search, was rewarded by the new-found Baby glaring at him and announcing “ME NO LIKE YOUR FACE”.
Had some friends over for gossip and food last night, one of whom I don’t know that well (or at all, really.  But I have a bit of a middle-aged lady-crush on her - she’s funny and smart and interesting, so naturally I’m hoping I will become all of the above just by hanging around her.) So there I was trying to be cool and funny and smart and interesting (or at least, trying to speak without spitting on her) while, unbeknownst to any of us, the FUCKING CATS had plundered her bag, removed her gorgeous cardi, and brought it into their disgusting lair for a session of molestation. We found it, purely by accident, as she was leaving, a snagged ball of hair and shredded toilet paper.(As we say in Dublin: Scar-leh**.)
And that’s really about it.  Admittedly, not an enormous amount of activity for a three-week period, but emotionally, it’s been a bit of a packed agenda.  I’m hoping for a calmer rest-of-Feb.  (And with that, both the children and the cats have started to snigger. Bastards.)

(*Turns out it’s not broken;  I think the Boy likes to be dramatic.  Fuck knows where he got that from.)
(** “Scarlet”.  Red in the face with shame and mortification, and bilious hatred towards all living feline things.)