Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Travelling with Children, by Numbers

Kilometres from arse-end of Sweden to Stockholm airport:  255.
Kilometres travelled before car was stopped and first comedy-trying-to-smack-legs-in-the-back-of-the-car took place:  0.01
Kilometres for which smackee glowered at driver in the rear-view mirror: 254.99
Number of times asked if we’re there yet:  510
Number of Good Behaviour Lollies in driver’s bag at start of journey:  8
Number of Good Behaviour Lollies in driver’s bag at end of journey: 8
Distance travelled before baby vomited everywhere:  254.5
Number of towels, wipes, or other vomit-wiping items in the car: 0
Number of driver’s freshly laundered, super-absorbant scarves in the car / around driver’s neck: 1
Number of minutes between finding the airport car park and flight taking off:  40
Number of people in our party who understood the importance of HURRYING UP WE STILL HAVE TO CHECK IN:  1
Number of children it feels like you have when you’re trying to get 3 of them through security and onto a plane: 33
Minutes spent sweating and hyperventilating on the plane before it finally took off:  60
Number of times asked if we’ve taken off yet during that time:  120
Number of iPads brought to entertain children on flight:  1
Number of iPads dropped and smashed by one of said children on flight: 1
Actual duration of flight: 2.5 hours
Emotional duration of flight: 25 hours
Duration of flight for which Boy had his head in a sick bag and wailed about the UNFAIRNESS of travel sickness:  2 hours
Number of times Boy actually got sick on the flight:  0
Duration of flight for which Baby had her head in a sick bag and wailed about the UNFAIRNESS of travel sickness: 0 hours
Number of times Baby actually got sick on the flight: 1
Number of miles left to travel when Baby got sick: 0.01
Number of mother’s knees Baby was sitting on at the time of sickness: 2
Percentage of mother’s body covered in rancid, putrid, high-smelling toddler vomit:  85%
Number of fellow passenger startled by mother roaring “OH GOD” upon impact of vomit: 179
Time spent sitting in a pool of toddler vomit waiting for the fucking plane doors to open: 20 minutes
Time spent waiting for luggage, in vomit-sodden clothes: 25 minutes
Time spent waiting for car hire, in vomit-sodden clothes: 40 minutes
Number of fellow queuers who commented on awful smell:  5
Number of sworn promises made to self NEVER to travel with kids again: 1
Number of days until we have to do it ALL again, in reverse: 27

Monday, 30 June 2014

In which I am MEAN.

I’m now somewhat over the air and the trees and the dairy.  I’d sortof forgotten that the reason it’s so green and lush and fresh is because the weather’s default position is to rain, nonstop.  Which is all well and good for a day or two, but three, four, FIVE days in a row?  The low-light of the past week - possibly the past year - was a family day out to Ikea, purely because it had wifi, a children’s area, and a cafe.  So there I sat, as the rain hammered down, in Ikea, in Sweden, where they were playing – I swear – Abba, feeling that I couldn’t be more immersed in Swedishness if  your covered me in meatballs and put me in a dungeon with a schnapps-drinking serial killer.  (On the plus side we managed to leave without ownership of any tealights or paper lampshades, which as far as I’m concerned is an Ikea-victory.)

All this rain is fraying tempers somewhat.  Everyone is borrrrrreddddddd with the indoor toys, and there’s only so much tv / iPad playing which I’m comfortable with (2 hours, twice a day, in case you’re wondering). As a result, I am now the family Meanie. “You’re so MEAN!” the Boy roars at me several times a day.  “What’s the point in having a tv if we can’t watch it whenever we want?  YOU’RE SO MEAN!” “When I’m old I’m going to play video games ALL DAY LONG and I won’t let you do what you want, YOU’RE SO MEAN.”  “What’s the point in you having Angry Birds on your phone if you won’t let me use it, YOU’RE SO MEAN” etc etc. 
On the plus side, it is fostering some interesting conversations. 

Last night, between the Boy and the Girl:
Boy:  I’m not going to marry you when I grow up.
Girl:  Oh.  Why not?
Boy:  Because I’m with you all the time as a kid, I don’t want to be with you all the time as a grown up too.
Girl:  Oh.  But that’s ok, I’ll just give you some space!
Boy:  NO! What’s the point in having you as a sister if I have to be married to you as well!  I need to get to know someone else.
Girl:  That’s ok.  I’ll marry Daddy instead.

And earlier today:
Boy:  Mum, what’s Heaven?
Me (Knowing this can only go one way, and it ain’t up):  It’s the name of a place where some people believe your soul goes after you die.
Boy:  Oh. What’s a soul?
Me (See?): It’s what some people think is the part of your body which stores your goodness and your badness, and all other bits which make you you. 
Boy: You mean your brain?
Me:  Ummmm.... More like a ghost that lives inside you and makes you, who you are.
Boy:  Oh.  So my ghost would be curious?
Me:  Probably.
Boy:  And Ava’s ghost would be clumsy?
Me:  Almost certainly.
Boy:  And Mia’s would  be cute?
Me: Definitely.
Boy:  And yours would be MEAN!

Roll on a month of rain in Ireland...  

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Land of Milk and Horseflies

Greetings, from Europe's largest -and most expensive (possibly in the world) - indoor play area. What else were you expecting from Sweden - forests and trolls? It is, alas, raining, after 5 days of glorious sunshine, so the forests and trolls have been put on hold.  Only temporarily, mind you - irrespective of the forthcoming weather, we will shortly resume our traipsing through Swedish mulch and clouds of horseflies, because I can't afford another trip back here. Also, it's somewhat disconcerting being the only person in a 7000 sq ft area with brown hair.  Everyone is blonde. If you are a blonde fetishist, this is the place to be. (Also if you like angry, dour looking women of middle age (NOT ME, bitches), get here soonest.)

So. We arrived. It is green and the air is wonderful, and the silence overwhelming. (Not right now, obviously.) And the food... Ah! The potatoes taste like potatoes, daim bars fall from the skies and smoked salmon dangles from trees. There are rivers of milk and mountains of cheese, and lakes of yoghurt. The air is heavy with pine and juniper, and the children sleep until 8am. Although this might be due it the fact that they are still catching up from the non-sleep on the Airplane Trip Which Came From Hell.  My usual survival mechanism of blanking it all out has kicked in, but notable lowlights -and there were many - included:

  • The Baby pooing so comprehensively that I had to strip her, squish her, dough-like, into the airplane toilet sink and bathe her, and throw out all her clothes
  • The Boy doing his usual about-to-land I'M GOING TO PUUUUUUKE, and then, true to his word, puking everywhere
  • The Baby, hysterical and insane from lack of sleep (yet, natch, vocally refusing to sleep) alternating between laughing like a hyena, and barking like a dog. While the rest of the plane slept (or tried to sleep; it's hard to sleep when you're glowering and muttering about bad parenting) 
  • Landing (covered in Boy vom) and breaking the news it the children that we had another flight ahead of us 

Anyway. We are here, dividing our time between eating and frolicking and sleeping. (Also - in case I gave the impression of it being too perfect - bickering and scratching mosquito bites and gazing in amazement at the creation of a cankle from a horsefly bite, and worrying about the maid disappearing into the night, in search of The Promised Land (Norway, apparently -who knew?)) The children can play outside on their own which is amazing. Actually, what is amazing is that I can say GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY without having to organise minders and play dates and anti-drowning devices. So this is what you country folk have been harping on about!
Tonight I get into my Volvo (naturally) and drive, through the not-dark, to Stockholm, and get on a plane to Mallorca.  ALONE. I may never come back. (It is my version of Norway). I think it's fair to say that these are shaping up to be good summer holidays.
I've now totally jinxed it of course.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Weekly Review

The Good
I got a doctor’s appointment!
We go to Europe in less than 2 weeks!
I’m not covered in blisters!

The Bad
The Girl is sick sick sick. It is, of course, entirely my own fault, for having mused, aloud, on Monday about our good fortune in none of them being really sick (leprosy aside) since we got here.  That, and the Man’s travelling schedule this week, ensured a human furnace as my bed-fellow these past 3 nights.  I’d never seen a thermometer with a 40.7 reading before.  Who knew?  Tropics Schmopics.

OhGodOhGod, the nightmare that is packing for, and travelling with, children.  I cleverly packed away all their “European” clothes (so called to make them sound chic;  in fact they’re just warm) when we got here, to ease the hell of packing.  Totally forgetting, of course, that children grow like weeds.  Nothing fits.  (Actually, not true;  the Boy’s fit the Girl, and the Girl’s fit the Baby – how???  - but neither will allow their younger sibling ownership of “their” clothes.)  So at some point, as well as the sickness and the packing and the panicing and the not sleeping, I have to find a shop here that sells stuff with long sleeves, which is not made out of polyester.  Not as easy as it sounds.

The Ugly
Older people in Singapore – possibly throughout Asia – are called / referred to  as “Auntie / Uncle” by children .  So the old man who clears plates at the hawker market is an uncle (I would have thought he was more of a great-grandmother, but let’s not get too technical), and the older – tho not so ancient – women who help on the school buses are Aunties.  Last week TWO children referred to me, in SEPARATE INCIDENTS, as “Auntie”.  Jesus Christ.  Yes, I am somebody’s auntie (many in fact), but JESUSCHRIST kids... Seriously? So anyway, I was so traumatised that I booked self in for some Fraxxelling. Basically you get your skin lasered off, and then new skin, the skin of a baby unicorn, eventually appears from within your cocoon of scabs.   At least that’s what I was expecting.  And frankly, for the cost, that is what anyone should expect.  Except there were no scabs. No new baby skin.  Really - no difference whatsoever.  

Then some little fucker said “excuse me Auntie” at the petrol station today.

Next Week:  I go gift shopping.  (Spoiler alert:  Singapore is shit for buying stuff.) 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

I Go, You Go, They All Go IMPETIGO

Do you like that rhyme?  I made it up myself.  It’s good, no?  Catchy.  Just like impetigo.  Christ almighty.  One day the Girl had a teeny cut on her thumb, three days later they all looked like lepers, bits of skin flaking off them, noses hanging off, arms and torsos like they belonged to rotting cadavers.  The initial shame of being seen in public with them was quickly replaced by the horror of being ordered to keep them away from EVERYONE, plus NO SWIMMING ALLOWED.  Basically we spent last week shut up in the apartment, sweeping up scabs and flakes of skin. But as quickly as it appeared, it – with the magic of antibiotics – disappeared. Except not entirely. The Baby’s has morphed into something which makes her look like she has been transported from 17th Century London slums (although fatter, and with fewer club feet) and so today I eventually sought medical intervention; scales growing on a child can only be ignored for so long. The doctor more or less told me he had no idea what it was, and handed me some cream “to try”.  “The Tropics, huh?” he said, as we left.

Huh, indeed. It is just beginning to dawn on me that we are living In. The. Tropics.  The writing has been on the wall for sometime, but I – with my English Breakfast Tea, BBC World Service, Guardian Weekly, and penchant for fish-finger and tomato ketchup sandwiches (oh yes) – chose to ignore it.  Which is fairly impressive, considering what I’m up against.

The first – and overriding – tropical indication is the heat.  But more than the heat, there’s the humidity.  Currently it’s hovering around the 100% mark.  To give you an idea of what that’s like, I opened the dishwasher the other day (it must have been Sunday, when our maid was off - why else would I be opening the dishwasher?) when it had just finished its cycle, and while I could feel the heat, there was hardly any steam.  (It’s nice to know that our kitchen is as hot as the inside of a full-speed dishwasher.)

Then there are the bugs.  A bumble bee so big that I momentarily thought I had shrunk stumbled against my head yesterday;  if I had had my wits about me and not been screeching dementedly I could probably have held onto its legs and hitched a ride home. There are currently moths as big as bats flapping around.  (Put one thumb above the other and stretch out your hands;  that’s how big they are. Now imagine the noise of one of those fuckers trying to mate with your light bulb while you're trying to unwind with a post-kids-bedtime bottle glass of wine.) Ditto the wasps and the ants and the (venomous) caterpillars. Bugs are super-bugs here – there must be something in the (wet) air.

Plus there’s the thunder.  As the old saying goes, with great humidty comes great thunder. Back in civilisation there’s something very comforting about a nice thunder storm;  you, cuddled up in bed; the elements raging futilely at your secure window pane.  Here, however, the elements have crept in through the mosquito screens and are ripping the sky apart several inches from your head.  It is TERRIFYING.  It is also constant and relentless.  Someone showed me a weather app yesterday that tracks lightning bolts, and last night, in one half-hour slot, there were 1672 over Singapore. Why they bother having street lights here is anyone’s guess.

HOWEVER.  In three weeks I will be gearing up for TWO MONTHS of European chill.  Packing- and travelling-hell aside, I am rather excited. As well as wearing jumpers, squishing normal-sized bugs between my fingers, and sleeping through the night, unblighted by celestial strobe-lights, I plan to spend a disproportionate amount of my time gazing at, fondling, and generally acting inappropriately towards the dairy products in the supermarket (I’ll be in Sweden, no one will even bat an eyelid). 

Assuming they let us in, of course.  Let’s hope the baby-leprosy clears up before then.  And the maid's visas come through. Because otherwise we’ll all be staying put...  

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Return of the Front Bottom

I’m sitting on my bed, working.  Actually, I’m trying to work – the caterwauling from some other room is seeping under  my (locked) bedroom door.  Our helper is scolding the Girl, something to do with “making it all [something].”  The Girl responds by yelling “NO!” repeatedly.

Eventually I can take it no more.  I go to investigate.  The Girl is leaping, naked and furious, on her bed. 

“Ma’am,” says our helper, frustrated.  “I’ve tried telling her, but she won’t listen to me.  She keeps scratching her pussy and she’s making it all red.”

At least I assume that’s how the sentence ended.  I stopped listening – stopped breathing, in fact - after "pussy".  I look at the Girl.  I look down towards her...  Eugeline. It is indeed all red.  I put some pants on her, and she recommences her bed-leaping. 

I bring our helper outside for a Lost In Translation chat.   On balance, I decide not to confuse the issue with made-up words, and so we settle on Front Bottom. 

So long, Eugeline. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Eugeline, and Other Tales

The Boy:
Mummy, why is a eugeline so important?
A what?
A  eugeline.  (I am guessing at the exact spelling here)
What’s a eugeline, sweetheart?
A EUGELINE.  You know!  A eu-gel-ine.
I don’t know.
YES YOU DO.  It’s what girls have.  It’s very private and delicate.
Do you mean “vagina”?
Oh.  Yes.
(People, we have a new word in the house.)

The Girl
(Curiously, and with added lisp): Mummy, why do you have mosquito bites?
I don’t know honey,  I guess mosquitoes love me.
Why do they love you?
I don’t really know.  Maybe because my blood tastes so nice?
(Earnestly) Or maybe because they like old wrinkly skin?  

The Baby
Wah! WAH!
Can’t you just speak?
Any other words?
(Waving a biscuit in front of her face): You sure?
NO! (Pause.) Mo-ah?
No.  (HA!)