They bloody lied to me, life does not begin at forty!


So this is my present state of play. Just in case you should want to know it.

Starting from my scalp:

My scalp is somewhat tight because in an effort to keep my hair away from my neck (you’ll learn more about that later), I have bundled my crows nest fake auburn tresses upon the top of my head. My saving grace, in that department, is that I have a bright, shiny, new scrunchy, which really is something to get excited about when you have four kids and are a little more than forty years old.

I look a little like a scarecrow.

With extra straw.

Following downwards my brain is stuffed. Not with the lovely brains and wisdom of my fully spent youth. But with good old fashioned snot. Lots of it. I’ve tried blowing it out. I’ve tested setting it free with a nasal spray. I’ve attempted to shower it out with a nasal irrigation device, but at best, I only dripped. I’ve even done my utmost to pump it into oblivion with a special sinus attachment for my nebuliser; but to no avail.

So my head? It hurts. Somewhat.

My eyes are actually fine. Well, with the exception that I need to take my glasses off in order to see something that’s right there in front of my face.

I’ve discovered, on kissing my husband goodnight, that he is indeed quite a handsome fellow.

My nose is very dry. And bright red.

I have recently heard the name Rudolph being brandished about…

My skin is peeling, especially on my face. It seems to be some kind of wicked side effect to my immune suppressants. I’ve plateaued at a kind of flaky-old-lady with a chaffed look niveau.

I have attempted to replenish the skin with various lotions and potions but my now immune suppressed body reacts with a fiery, burning wrath rash when I do so. So, I’ve resolved to stay flaky and remember back to yesteryear when it seemed, somehow, like being called flaky was some kind of compliment.

My neck. Ah yes my neck.

Yesterday, it was fine. Although my shoulder was attempting to be a little troublesome…

Then this morning, it complained (a lot) that I had slept wrongly in my bed.

I gently turned it this way and that. I told it, that we were finally out of bed and that, really, it doth protest too much. I promised it a nice warm scarf and a massage.

Then I sneezed.

One almighty sneeze.

And ever since that moment, I have looked like someone shoved a plank up my back as I can now only manoeuver with my whole body when turning to my right.

Hence then my crows nest; it’s the only possible way to stand a chance of the heat patch glue actually staying glued to my neck. That and the quadruple insulation scarf I have wrapped seventeen times around it.

My shoulders are now okay. Ish.

But my lungs? Well, er, let’s keep it short and just say they are competing on the whole mucus front thing.

Glad tidings from my throat though, considering how much I’ve been coughing, my throat is feeling fine. I suspect that’s down to the incredible volume of onion juice and honey I’ve been knocking back.

A little point of interest: my boobs are south facing. South facing!! How did that happen?

Fuck!

Anyway, my hips, ah yes, my left hip twinges. You got it: Twinges.

And my stomach, well, it feels a little nauseous, but, to be honest I’m putting that down to the incredible volume of onion juice and honey I’ve been knocking back.

My lovely Crohn’s bowel? It loves immune suppressants (in stark contrast to every other body part I own) so it’s absolutely fine and dandy.

Though, (and this information I only normally give out on a need to know basis), my bottom cheeks are continuously clenched together, nowadays, in an attempt to maintain a grip on my bloody grapevine otherwise known as my piles.

My left knee is trying to convince doctors that I was some kind of heroic sportswoman, with a pretty array of meniscus tears. But I’ve told them, quite emphatically, I generally stuck to gentle walking. Albeit I did tend to cover large distances, seeing as I am a woman and not a feminist one at that. Therefore, I can freely admit that I cannot park. Not to save myself. Which in turn means that I have always had to abandon my vehicle in the largest possible space I could find. Of course, that then has always happened to be the space that is furthest away from my desired destination. And I also have a tendency to forget where I parked my car, in that good old flaky spirit of mine, so that has, on many occasions led to some gentle strolling too. Not gentle on the nerves, mind you. There was, at times, quite a lot of shouting. And some swearing too. But I doubt that either of those things would have affected my left knee.

And while I’m bearing my soul; my right knee is sympathizing.

Which I don’t need.

I’m quite capable of feeling sorry for my left knee all by myself.

Don’t be thinking that I’m body-sidist, but what on earth is going on with my left foot?

It has some strange lump on it that doctors insist on poking, with an unnecessary fury and injecting concoctions into which has not improved matters in the least.

But the good news is: we live in modern times.

I joked with my daughter, the other day, “By the time you bury me I’ll be half plastic.”

My husband, who apparently still loves me, despite my decrepit frame, retorted, “Titanium, you’ll be made of titanium, it lasts longer.”

After I recovered from his unusual interlude of romanticism, my first thought was, “Wow, I’ll be the one setting off all the alarms at the airport!”

Then I had a little premonition. I realised, long before my own death, exactly what song will play out at my funeral:

Titanium!

“I am titanium……”

A New Year has begun


So we celebrated the New Year twice last night/this morning. Once at midnight, with the Germans, and then again, at 1am (through the lovely means of satellite television). We raised our glasses and clinked along with the Scots as the canon blew, the bells clanged and then we all sang along to Auld Lang Syne. Well, most of us did, Akasha informed me, mid song, that she was humming because she didn’t know the words. Then Joni and I attempted the Gay Gordons in  a too-small-space and I got dizzy way before she did. I think that means I’m officially getting old.

Though to be honest, I’d already discovered that during the festive season. We’d purchased a cork board map of Europe and some little flag pins for Lori for Christmas. Despite her travel sickness she’s an ambitious traveller. She showed me where she’d stuck her pins and I got the shock of my life as I looked at her hung board and realised I couldn’t read a single name of a town anywhere in the whole of Europe! I zoomed in and out with my face but it was all blurry and only when I instinctively removed my glasses and placed them on the top of my head, then hovered in front of the board could Vienna and Rome and Lyon be easily deciphered.

2013 wasn’t my best year to date. And it wanted to make itself felt with it’s very last day. The morning had started with a notifying single bark from the dog as a piece of paper apparently fluttered down from its home on the whiteboard. I entered the hall to find the paper, amazingly, intact but the magnet, which had been holding it in place, missing. After an extensive search of the small hallway my son sobbed his poor wee heart out (believing that that would be the end of the dog) while I sped read the whole of the World Wide Web on the matter and then knowledgably informed him that it should be OK. The dog who was presently leaping around, full of madness and joviality would probably be fine. Just to be sure to help the magnet travel through in a more gliding fashion I then ran to the kitchen and prepared various vet-recommended recipes and nourished the delighted dog (she can barely contain herself when there’s boiled chicken on the hob).

I thought I’d leave 2013′s muck and grime behind, so I wandered upstairs to run a bath, only to discover that there was no hot water. As in, no water came out of the tap when it was turned to hot. Being a woman with no practical sense whatsoever I tried turning the tap on and off lots of times to see if that would make the water sploosh out again. Aden shook his head in despair at me and then looked around the house for a sensible man, i.e. Papa, and got, in my opinion, more than a little over-excited about the potential use of tools. Reini sweated in winter as he stared at the completely tiled-in bath. And I helpfully informed him that I had never thought a completely tiled-in bath was a good idea when we bought the house, although, it does, of course, look nice.

But Reini is our Mr Fix-It. So he managed to run me a bath through the shower and then, after many more beads of sweat, do a temporary fix on the tap, which according to him has some technical bit that will, at some point, no doubt in 2014, need to be replaced.

We started to prepare for the evening’s Raclette. It’s originally a Swiss dish that’s also eaten a lot in these parts. You need a special grill machine. There’s an element in the middle which warms the plate on the top so you can cook meat pieces etc and then simultaneously heats little individual pans underneath. Each participant has a pan and they fill it with whatever prepared ingredients they want, in our case: boiled potatoes and eggs, bread, tomatoes, pickled gherkins, onion, olives, ham, white asparagus, corn, and mushrooms were all part of the selection; then you place a piece of Raclette cheese on top and then grill it under the element. It’s a very sociable and fun meal but it takes a bit of preparation and at some point during those preparations I started to feel a little dizzy. Then I started to feel a lot dizzy. My husband sent me to the sofa to put my feet up and at that moment I started to see flashing lights. Black and white ones on the right side. It was a bit like a flashing kaleidoscope and, to be honest, it was rather annoying. To top that the rest of my vision seemed blurred by some  sort of black smoke.  Minutes ticked and the flashing continued at full bothersome force and as I didn’t seem to improve our visitor mentioned that perhaps I might be having a stroke. I laughed it off at first, telling myself that I’m just a slip of a girl but then I remembered.

I remembered the illegible cork map. And that grey hair I pulled out. And I looked down at my spreading belly and I realised that actually I’m 41. 41!

So, Reini sped read the World Wide Web and what do you know, I was actually suffering from a migraine. My body confirmed his diagnosis within a few short minutes with a great big stonking headache.

I do admit, it’s the very first time I’ve ever said, “Phew!” to a headache.

For some strange reason, right after this incident Reini moved the computer and discovered the dog had chewed through the network cable.

Let’s just say he wasn’t impressed.

And so we waved avidly goodbye to 2013 and warmly welcomed 2014.

After all, it’s a brand New Year. A brand New Start. A slate wiped clean.

And despite my migraine, I’ll raise a toast to that.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you. May 2014 be filled with health and happiness and adventures of a delightful nature!!!

Don’t cha just love Christmas?


So here it is: that time of year again.

Here anyway, there’s not a single, solitary flake of snow on the ground. The mulled wine is still in its bottle, as far back in its cupboard as it’s possible to be. After Thursday’s level of celebrating I have decided: I am never touching alcohol ever again. Well, not before tomorrow anyway.

The gifts are wrapped but not placed under the tree. Aden wanted to deposit his interestingly packed package for Joni, under the plastic needles, but we ran to the rescue as we anticipated the dog’s eyes excitedly lighting up and her wrestling the paper off. We explained to Aden that the dog would contentedly nibble away on his lovingly purchased present.

So he thoughtfully offered to squirt it with anti-chew spray.

The turkey is stuffing up the bottom drawer of the fridge. Reini’s chocolate gooey puddings are ready to cook, directly from frozen. Akasha’s covered the window in home-made stars and the apple tree is welcoming passersby with it’s twinkly, strangulating net of lights.

Cards have been sent, received and put up. The dog’s had her hair cut. Akasha’s offered to make extra presents – origami birds from loo paper. Excitement truly is in the air.

Christmas is coming and apparently we’re ready; even waiting for it.

Wishing you all a very, very Merry Christmas!!!!!

Goals and triumphs


Can you believe it – it’s the last day? Of my enormous assignment for myself, to do 101 challenges in 1001 days.

I feel a little bit giddy, to be honest.

Even though there are no bright lights and I have not (yet) sipped a single swig of champagne.

In fact, for all intents and purposes, it’s a normal day: the frost lies crisp and white upon the ground, the trees stand still in a windless sky, the computer softly buzzes while I write and simultaneously shovel copious amounts of chocolate into my mouth and the puppy and I argue over who is actually typing on the keyboard.

Ah, yes, the puppy… Our new family member… I’ll introduce you to her properly later.

There are no banners drooping in the still, crisp air; no party hats sitting on dandruff free hair (this is not an advertisement; but we do use Head and Shoulders); nor have there been any clinking glasses, well, unless you count the ones precariously balanced in the dishwasher this morning.

But worry not. For tonight I will celebrate on the last of our 33 date nights. I’ve already marked it off. I fear I may just celebrate a little too much to be allowed to be left in control of machinery and other potentially perilous objects.

So what am I celebrating, exactly?

The Highlights:

  • Becoming really good friends with Tilly Bud, The Laughing Housewife my partner in crime during the challenge.
  • The murder mystery dinner (we had such a lot of fun especially as I was picked out as having had an affair with the murderer, which led to me being, shockingly, pulled up to waltz with him, in front of an audience of over 100 people – all German people can waltz (except my husband, which is the main reason we fit together so perfectly – I can’t waltz either. I have an excuse though not being German), but not knowing I wasn’t an authentic German participant – I had to play an Italian - the poor unsuspecting bloke had no idea what he was in for i.e. severely trampled feet and a hysterically laughing dance partner (there were over 100 people watching)).
  • Making sure every single month – without fail – that Reini and I went on a date and made time for each other.
  • The Eurovision Party.
  • Watching 101 films. Watching films as a challenge means you can indulge yourself whenever you want and you don’t start to feel like a couch potato.
  • Writing the first draft of my first book in NaNoWriMo.
  • Trying new restaurants. I liked this challenge so much, I upped it from 10 in the first year to a total of 30 and I’m happy to say that I achieved this goal.
  • Going on a bonding trip with Lori to a spa!
  • Going to a wild west show – I really didn’t expect it to be so much fun and all of the kids really loved it too.
  • Going to Linderhof Castle – beautiful.
  • Taking Akasha to ballet. I only planned, originally, to give her a bash at it but as it turns out – she’s a proper full on little ballerina!
  • Planting bushes in the garden. I have actually managed to grow something. OK I have also managed to kill several things but I succeeded in growing a few bushes!!!! I suspect I have found attached to myself half a green thumb. It might not be exactly in the thumb position but who cares? It’s half a green thumb!!
  • On the theme of planting – finally I have a longed for pampas grass in the middle of the garden. In the spirit of honesty – the first one did die. But I soldiered on replanting. The second one is still alive, but we’re not through her first winter yet.
  • My 40th birthday party. I totally loved it. But I do admit, I did go a little bit mad in organizing it. What with fancy dress and preparing 1000s of canapés and an art area for the kids and stilts and space hoppers and  a trampoline and bubbles and a piñata and and and… And then a massive storm came and excited the Scottish visitors  and drowned and tore down both the marquee and the carefully arranged tables. Aden had a full meltdown because, apparently, I had promised in a true British optimistic, weather-woman spirit that, no, it would not rain, when questioned (without reading any meteorological charts or anything!) and in contrast it poured.
  • Resolving the pet question. We bought a puppy. A half-baked thing to do considering I’d not long had my third burnout. But she’s also been my salvation: going for walks, having cuddles, throwing a ball and then attempting to wrestle it back out of her mouth again. On top of that, she’s been an incredible asset for each of the kids for which I will be eternally grateful.
  • I finally found support for my family. I’ve saved the best until last haven’t I? Last month my son was granted a Sozialpädagoge. He’s highly trained to work with autistic and ADHD kids and comes to the house and takes Aden out, two afternoons a week, and undertakes different challenges with him on a one-on-one basis. At the moment he’s working on helping him concentrate and gain confidence through various activities like climbing, potholing, swimming, and geocaching. And the local council have offered to pay for this support for the next two years. Sensational!

I did not finish all of my challenges. I expected far too much of myself and I realized quite early on that my wish to complete the whole assignment was nowhere near attainable. But that was OK. The idea for me was to have goals to aim for. Considering my burnout and how long it’s taken me to recover I do feel that I’ve done quite well. Moreover, although it was added pressure, I also feel that the enterprise helped with my recovery because I had a huge selection of entertaining tasks that I had personally chosen, to focus on.

Saying that, there have also been a few ‘lowlights’.

The Lowlights:

  • I wanted to turn our office into an inspiring place to work (instead of a dumping ground) – I did so, I even put plants in there. The plants, of course, died and the office now looks worse than it did before. :-(
  • I didn’t write a letter to myself to be opened in 10 years. I wanted to do this around my 40th to open then on my 50th but around my 40th I was so busy hosting a Spanish student and going to choir concerts and ballet performances and doctors appointments and preparing 1000s of canapés and collecting egg boxes (for the art area of the party) and eating my way through shop bought puddings so I could reuse the little bowls they came in for my own canapés, that I just didn’t have time. I would have loved to have known what I would have said in that letter to myself.
  • Reading three German novels. I failed here appallingly.  I started one with my dictionary in hand and my translator husband lying next to me but he ended up snoring and I ended up dropping the dictionary and following him to slumberland. N.B. Not snoring: the official line is I don’t snore!
  • Losing control of the 101 list. I couldn’t seem to keep control of the numbers and the letters on my page. At times my list would merrily head towards 101, while at others it would stop counting at the end of one section and then restart at the start of the next from 1?!? Then at other times my list would utilize the letters of the alphabet abandoning any kind of numerical system whatsoever. At first, I was infuriated and spent hours – OK – minutes trying to fix it and shaking a frustrated fist at the screen and yelling at my page, comments like; “Why are you doing this to me?” and “Who gave this computer free will?” Then my husband pointed out that actually, I’m just completely untalented when it comes to dealing with html.
  • Learning how to make a photobook. I attempted this challenge sometime after we returned from France. I thought it would be lovely to have our favourite French photos compiled into a book that could be kept  to be poured through by grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. After quite a struggle (remember my html experience) I managed to effectively put a photobook together online. I wanted to order it and then I saw the price of the masterpiece I had created, had a small fit and then decided to opt for a different company and a less glossy keepsake. I deleted the file, as you do, and rushed off to pick up a small person from somewhere. Then my husband accidentally destroyed the contents of our computer including addresses, kept emails, MY BOOK (luckily I had gone against his wishes and printed the whole thing off), important work he had done and our photos which hadn’t yet been backed up. Oops!
  • Archery. For some reason I had a romantic notion in my head of taking a bow and pointing an arrow and releasing it off into the atmosphere… It would spin and twirl and then land itself on the exact, precise, on the nose particle that I had, a few mere seconds before, deciphered. What actually happened was: the arrow dropped to my feet, I had trouble ‘springing’ the arrow, the arrow couldn’t even find the haystack and the kids then hit every single target. I have discovered I have a deep dislike for archery. I felt like I did that time at school when I accidentally threw the discus into my screaming team mates or those days I could not throw the javelin any further than a meter. Or those endless lessons when I spent the whole double period trying to just hit the damned shuttlecock with the badminton racket – I’d drop the shuttlecock down towards the racket which was placed directly underneath the-said-cock and then I’d hit up the way and I’d miss every single time. I scratched my head quite a lot in those days (but I’m fairly sure that’s not the reason I buy Head and Shoulders in bulk every time I see it on special offer).

So, the gist of the story is: I’ve really, really, really enjoyed the challenge. I’m a little bit sad that it’s over but on the other hand I’m extremely pleased that despite being ill, I’ve continued to plod on through.

Today is no exception, I’m planning to finish off my Freerice challenge: I’ve donated 84,680 grains of rice so far and I’m hoping to reach 100,000 by the end of the day. I’ll have click-ache!! Plus I’m off out with Reini for the last of our 33 scheduled ‘date nights’.

A lot can happen in 1001 days and some of the goals lose their appeal or their importance as life evolves. But there are a few tasks from my list that I would very much still like to do:

The New List?:

      • Make soap with the kids (I’ve even bought the ingredients but the kids are rarely all here at the same time).
      • Try belly dancing (I need to get fit first).
      • Take a pottery course (hopefully my pot won’t slide to the ground like my arrow did ;-) ).
      • Publish my book (I need to edit it first!).
      • Write a children’s story.
      • Cook a goose (my foodie section was my most successful section but I didn’t manage this one, I am a bit intimidated about cooking a goose properly, especially because I have no idea how it’s supposed to taste).
      • Go to Insel Mainau.
      • Go to Herrenchiemsee.
      • Go to Poland (this year we went to Hungary instead but I would love to do a city break in Poland).
      • Do car boot sales with the kids.
      • Write up my recipes.
      • Floating (I have vouchers now – I just haven’t been able to ‘fit it in’).
      • And put up that picture frame – why have I not done this? I do admit I did have pictures printed off at one point, but in the wrong size, deary me).

Thank you so much for all of your support. Luckily I’d also gone against my husband’s wishes and periodically uploaded photos to Facebook so here are a few visual reminders of the last 1001 days/143 weeks/33 months. Enjoy!

So…


I’m on the mend.

Tortoisely slowly, I’m on the mend.

And, to be honest with you, that’s not been easy.

You see, I’m more of a hare than a tortoise: busily running through life. (What kind of analogy is that for children anyway? Slowly and methodically wins the race? Shouldn’t it be: speed, practice and focus is what’ll make you a champion?)

Apparently, I’ve been the victim of some unwanted role reversal. I’ve switched from being a hare to being a tortoise and it’s been excruciating.

Because, quite frankly, I have very little patience.

I tried to learn patience: it is a virtue, after all. But I failed miserably.

However, I’m finally, irrevocably, for once and for all on the mend.

Thank bloody fuck for that.

Joni – A Ray Of Sunshine


Today is a mammoth day.

Today my first born stops being a child and becomes an adult.

Joni, Happy 18th Birthday sweetheart!

I have a few things that I want to say.

Firstly, I’m sorry that the very first words you heard from my mouth were, “Ooh, she looks like a punk!”

But you proudly wore the best hair gel known to man, child or midwife. Which leads me to my second apology – I’m sorry that I made you crap yourself in the womb. The midwife explained that you must have had a rather large shock, she could even pinpoint roughly when in the pregnancy that shock actually happened, the marvellous woman. So you’re in the loop: I was running for a bus, heavily pregnant and I fell. I know, I know, the midwife tutted a bit at the thought of my all-up-front-baby-belly crashing down toward the ground. But in my defence, I was trying to help another, even more heavily pregnant woman. You see it wasn’t my bus. Instead, my friend, another future mother-to-be, sat on her bus and forgot to get up and dismount the said bus (she was coming to visit us) and so I raced alongside banging on the window and well, you know the rest…

Despite calling you a punk, you have to know that I was totally smitten with you from the second I laid eyes on you. I thought that you were the most beautiful thing I had seen in my life. I was high on drugs and somewhat uninhibited so I got away with banning every visitor from leaving the room until they had admitted that you were, in fact, the most beautiful baby ever to be born. Those visitors included our own guests of course, as well as midwives, auxiliaries, cleaners and naturally a sprinkling of doctors. Some of them seemed to find it all highly amusing (though not as funny as when, post caesarian, I yelled at the doctor to “Bring back my foot!” – I couldn’t feel my legs and all I saw was some gentleman’s hands carrying my foot down the operating table – a foot, I’d like to add, that I hadn’t seen for quite a while (you being all up front and that), I do admit that I did have a panicky moment or two thinking that he had surgically removed my lower limb, without permission, and had then proceeded to taunt me with my once bodypart) but some did appear a little irritated – especially once they became known as frequent visitors…

I was so inspired by your beauty that I made up a song for you, right there, in the hospital. I couldn’t stop singing it. And I still remember it. It went like this:

I’m Joni Beth, Joni Beth (insert your surname)
That’s who I am
I’m a beautiful, beautiful baby
With a cutie face

That’s it.

Unfortunately, despite my inspired moment, I’m no Carole King.

Dearest Joni:

You have developed into a young woman who is not only beautiful on the outside but also on the inside (which is the most important bit).

But sweetheart, despite the fact that you are now an adult, you will always, always be my baby.

;-)

Where I’m at right now


So, firstly, I want to thank you all for your wonderful comments. Every one of them touched my heart. Thank you.

It’s been tough, but I am getting there. However, I’ve realized that the only way I’m going to avoid this situation happening again is to make some changes in my life.

And that’s the tough bit.

Because it’s like I have to reassess the whole way I run my life.

The decision I have made is to do so slowly. Which, I think, is a good one. You see that’s already a change in me (I have the tendency to act like someone shoved a rocket up my jacksy).

I’ve racked my brains (and other people’s for that matter) trying to figure out where I can find support. I am ready to admit that I can’t carry on dealing with our families health issues by myself. We need respite. We need support. But although I’ve asked (OK begged) we still aren’t receiving any.

Support is the key to our future because neither my husband nor I have any reserves left.

My slow and deliberated thinking is starting to make me understand, where it is though, that I’ve been going wrong.

Yesterday, after only four hours of being awake my poor exhausted husband lay on the sofa sound asleep.

I told the children to be quiet and worried sadly to myself that he too is not too far from burning out. And then I realized. I realized the difference between the two of us:

There was ‘stuff’ to do but he felt exhausted and so he lay down and had a sleep.

My natural reaction would have been to pour espresso down my throat and march onwards and upwards.

It’s those ‘click’ moments that I’m presently waiting for. Once the penny’s dropped and I know what I’m actually doing wrong, I might be able to stop and take stock and then actually change myself.

My blogging over the last few months has been sporadic to say the least! I think what’s best for me is to make a clear break because I put myself under pressure there too.

I will be back. And I am still plodding through (some of) my 101 challenges. I just need some time out to deal with my past and my present and to try to persuade my future to go in the right direction.

People ask me how I manage it, but evidently, I don’t…


Yesterday, I sat at the table and I cried through lunch.

Not one of those snotty, bellowing, heart-wrenching cries. No. Silent tears dribbled down my face and plopped into my lap – I was tissue-less.

Yesterday, one child after another tried to console me at the dinner table and one child after another faced me with a just a little despair in their eyes. When is Mama finally going to get better?

I recognized their despair – had they have been able to see through my water-logged eyes it would have been mirrored right back at them.

Five weeks ago today, I awoke, as usual,  but it took me 45 whole minutes to be able to force my body from the bed.

I had run into a wall.

Again.

This is my third burnout in five years.

It took me every drop of willpower I’ve ever owned to throw off my quilt, push myself up and place my feet, slowly and continuously, one in front of the other and whisper, “It’s time to get up…” to an unsuspecting six-year-old who was due to go to Kindergarten.

Time was running past me and if I couldn’t motivate myself enough, she’d have to stay at home, and that would mean that I’d have to look after her.

If I could just get her out of the door, drive the short distance in the car, then I could return to my bed and sleep…

She was so good. So obedient. She dressed herself without much fuss and got her shoes on.

Which was more than I could do.

I managed to drag a scruffy pair of joggers over my nightie and shove my arms inside my winter jacket. Looking back, I think I tramped through the snow in my slippers.

No one gave my shamed, exhausted face a second look as I accompanied her from the car to the door. And I was truly grateful for that.

I have spent the last five weeks sleeping and crying and struggling to chew the food my husband cooked for me because, quite simply, it felt like so much effort. I’ve almost drowned in daytime telly. I’ve battled headaches and dizzy turns and stuffed myself with caffeine so I could keep a bleary eye on where an ADHD child and a six-year-old were bouncing to.

I’ve complained.

I’ve scolded.

And I’ve felt very, very sorry for myself.

I’ve dodged dentists. Avoided the drip, drip, drip of the anaesthetists drugs because I feared that if they put me chemically to sleep for my yearly procedure, my body might not actually bother to wake up. I’ve bypassed blood tests. And just generally avoided my usual multiple monthly visits to doctors’ waiting rooms because I couldn’t get there and anyway,  I had no intention of adding various other ailments to my wrecked body.

Except, that is, when my youngest succumbed to gastroenteritis and couldn’t even keep a splash of water down, leading to “blurry vision”. My husband raced home and I rallied myself for a brief moment, as he drove and I held a blue bucket under her nose.

Luckily, she was classed as ‘probably infectious’; so we sneakily side-stepped the germy waiting room.

I’m not a patient ill person. I hate lazing around. I am a person who constantly needs to do something.

It is starting to dawn on me that that is probably one of the reasons I landed in this situation in the first place.

It’s been five weeks, but today, at last, I felt a little different. A little less tired than yesterday. It was a little bit easier to climb out of bed this morning. I laughed instead of cried. I hope, I really, really hope that I’ve finally reached a turning point. That when the children head back to school next week and it’s all ‘action stations’ once again, I’m still laughing, still getting out of bed and not going to the Kindergarten in my bloody nightie and slippers.

Things aren’t going swimmingly at the moment…


Things aren’t going swimmingly at the moment.

The house looks like a bomb went off in it.

Yesterday, I was away the whole day. Doctors in the morning. Pick up the littlest kid from Kindergarten and then take said kid, as promised, for a bit of one-to-one-time back into town for lunch and then a trip to a local museum, that apparently, has been there for four years, but we had yet to discover. I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it. Being a museum lover and all that.

And to top it all, the best bit of it is: it’s a children’s museum. So having four of the things, I found that rather disturbing – that I’d managed to miss it.

In my defence, I was probably too busy being confused by the one way system in that part of town to notice a great big building with Museum written on it, beside me.

We returned home after a long and tiring day (it started very early, Joni having to catch a bus at 6.45 for a school trip to Strasbourg and, of course, she required a mammoth packed lunch for the journey, as you do when you’re sitting there, not using up any calories) followed by chucking a couple of kids out of the door and wishing them a nice day at school.

I have no idea how Akasha (who’s presently in her last year at Kindergarten) will ever get ready for school on time. She starts in September. I’m dreading September. It’s not so much that she goes along at a snails pace in the mornings. No. It’s more that she’s ‘busy’ doing more important things than eating breakfast or getting dressed or brushing her teeth. Like singing or drawing or putting yellow (her favourite colour at the moment) nail polish on the table her nails. I admit, I have indulged her. Taking her to feed the ducks before Kindergarten or reading her a story. The pattern has stuck and I have no idea how we will shake ourselves out of it.

As I said, we had an early start, but we were still running late for my doctors appointment. So much so that I had to drive to Kindergarten and abandon the car there – then race to the bus stop. I’m sure that confirmed, for many of the parents, that I am, as they suspected: a right loony.

I abandoned the car and ran for the bus and just made it by the skin of my teeth (that’s an odd saying isn’t it, enamel could have been more appropriate?) but there is method in my madness. Parking is expensive in town and so it’s much cheaper for me to buy a day ticket and go from one bus to another and, of course, it’s environmentally friendly too.

But yesterday it was freezing. And freezing at bus stop after bus stop is not really my idea of great fun.

I completed all of my patiently duties in town, missed the bus and went for a nice warm coffee and a bun. I decided that I had earned it. Having walked past several empty bus stops along the way in an effort to keep warm. Besides, as I’m the only person I know who actually lost weight over Christmas (thanks there to the delightful Mr Crohn) I can absolutely shovel a bun or two into my rashed face (yep, also a Crohn gift) and I headed into a nearby warm and welcoming looking coffee shop.

I ordered myself a Latte Macchiato, yum, and a piece of ‘homemade’ banana loaf. As I was admiring the loaf through the glass though, I noticed it contained nuts. They looked like walnuts, which I also put in my own banana loaf, but I knew I had to check, because of my peanut allergy.

“There could be peanuts in it, ” the assistant answered, aloof.

Bitterly disappointed I eyed up the other cakes on display. The fruit tarts. The doughnuts. The cheesecakes. The brownies. The muffins.

She watched me, then injected, “There could be peanuts in any of them. You should have something savoury. A bagel. You could have one of these bagels.”

She waved her arm at the bagels menu behind her as if she was on commission.

I almost fell into her trap. But right then, as I was about to take the plunge, I held myself back. I wanted something sweet. Not savoury. Without peanuts. Why would there be peanuts in doughnuts? Did they have such a sloppy kitchen? Why did she have no idea what her ‘homemade’ banana loaf contained? Did she just fire in any old ingredients?

I rejected her sales pitch and opted for ‘just coffee’ and stretched into my bag to pull out a tissue to wipe away my little tear of sadness. Except, when I looked down I noticed some-bloody-body had already been there and had only left me the snotty ones.

I arrived back at Kindergarten ten minutes before the door would open. I stood there, shivering. Chilled to my very core. I knew I didn’t have time to drive the car home and then walk back to the Kindergarten, get my child ready and sit us both on the 12:15 bus which, I’d arranged, as an extra treat, to meet my husband on. We’d agreed to lunch together with the small one.

Yep. The weather page read at that moment ‘feels like -10°C’ and we’d agreed to do the clever thing, and take our daughter for her favourite food: sushi.

Few people had the same idea, it has to be said. There were only three full tables in the restaurant including ours but we managed to keep them busy. Akasha dropped and smashed an almost full glass of apple juice mixed with lemonade upon their once un-sticky floor.

I think they noticed my shattered nerves, or perhaps it was actually my frostbitten body that did it, whatever, they came over – bearing free coffee.

We apologized with intensity and left a large tip along with the shards of glass behind us.

We waited around for a few minutes then waved the man of the house off as he boarded his bus.

Upward and onward to the museum.

I thought it would be small and over briefly but I had to drag a six year old out at closing time. She could only be persuaded to leave the building by promises of returning soon and being smacked by the realization that the workers had themselves homes to go to and children to see. Although, I suspect in all honesty, that most of their children would have already left home by now. But the children thing still works for Akasha, so I still use it. She hasn’t progressed much in the guessing age abilities yet. I know this because I played a game with her recently in which I asked her if she thought the OAP along our street was older or younger than Mummy she clearly and excitedly yelled out “younger”. I know my rash has taken over my face, but please?!?

As the museum trip had taken longer than expected I had taken a slight panic attack about the older children, who had late school, and so I called my husband to take responsibility on that front. The charge on my mobile was yet again running out and so I couldn’t phone backwards and forwards. He also had to get home to prepare himself for the one-in-Strasbourg’s parent evening.

Sitting on the bus on the way home finally, my mobile rang, but refused to let me answer since I didn’t have enough juice. I could see my husband had called. That he had left a message. But I couldn’t get into it or call him back.

I felt nervous as my daughter quizzed me about her future school days, “What should I do Mummy, if someone accidentally punches me in the eye at school?”

To be clear, I wasn’t worrying about someone accidentally punching her in the eye. As I told her, I don’t think, statistically, that that is very likely to happen. But if it should, she could just go and tell the teacher. (Although, Lori did once get a crutch in the mouth when she was just walking along, minding her own business, down the school corridor. She did require medical treatment. I didn’t have the car as my husband had needed it for work, and because I live approximately 2km from school, the poor teacher had to take her to the doctor. I say poor because when they finally arrived at my door, Lori stood there, face covered in blood and with a thick lip and the teacher stood there, chalk white repeating the words, “She can scream really loudly…” over and over in some kind of shocked trance.) I was worried why my husband had called. Had something happened? Was he at home? Were the children home alone? Had he missed the bus?

We descended from the bus and shivered all the way to Kindergarten, where Akasha had a sudden burst of energy and started racing towards the car.

That’s when I heard the screams. And wails.

“The car’s been stolen!”

I ran after her and panic engulfed me.

Why had I abandoned the car at Kindergarten?

Had I locked the car?

How would we manage without the car?

How do I get in touch with the insurance?

Why do I always forget to charge my mobile phone?

How would Reini get to the parent evening?

Then my brain clicked a little.

I took the hand of the despairing one and dragged her in the direction of home. “Perhaps Daddy’s taken the car,” I proposed, “Perhaps he’s already off to the parent evening. I told him where I left the car at lunch, do you remember? And that would explain his call.”

I chatted as she whined most of the way home. We approached the house. The lights blazed but no car could be seen outside.

We entered the house to two cheery children. Papa had just left the building and the merry ones were about to set off to Fire Service Training.

Importantly: he had the car.

I’d forgotten about Fire Service. More one-to-one-time spotted an ever-enthusiastic-fourth-child.

I abandoned the idea of a bone-warming-bath and settled down next to her on the sofa to watch house programmes. (I’ve carefully nurtured the nosey instinct in her, so much so, she actually once opened the cupboards in someone’s house we were invited to – for a birthday party – needless to say, we weren’t invited back.)

◊◊◊

Things aren’t going swimmingly at the moment.

I think, perhaps, I spend too much time in the company of children.

I looked at the bomb site and told the young ones that there would be no lunch unless they cleared the mess from the table. (Joni being in Strasbourg and Lori being at her drama class.)

Their tummies rumblingly persuaded them and we finally sat down to lunch.

The conversation went something like this:

“Would you like to try some of this, Akasha?” I pointed to a pot of fig mustard on the table.

“OK… Yuck it’s too spicy!!”

“Of course it is, it’s mustard. You don’t like mustard. Ooh it’s really spicy, I think I just got a bit of chili!” responded her brother.

My head was slightly furrowed at that point, “It’s fig mustard. There’s not any chili in it.”

“Have I tried mustard before?” wondered the smallest person in the house.

I changed the subject slightly, “Can you guess which country this mustard was made in?”

Aden blurted, “Germany?”

Me, “No…”

“Afghanistan???” Keenly.

“No. Could you sit properly on your chair please.”

Aden was swinging his chair to the side, thus hovering diagonally across from his plate.

Unsurprisingly, the ADHD one was incredibly surprised to learn that the mustard was made in our neighbouring country: Switzerland.

The cheese, the butter, the drinks were all analyzed to see where they originated. Then he turned to his full glass.

I had a little flashback to yesterday’s lunch and stretched out my hand quickly.

“Yesterday Akasha smashed a glass, didn’t you Akasha?”

“I smashed a light bulb at Fire Service. It was really cool. It exploded (inclusive exploding noises). It wasn’t a good idea to wash the fire engine outside though. The water froze up and we had to scrape it off (accompanied by noises and rigorous scraping gestures).” Aden revealed with much excitement.

“Could you sit nicely on your chair please, Aden?” The chair was swinging quite vigorously and I could see him landing, quite possibly with half the table contents, on the floor.

“What’s a cubic millimetre?” Aden suddenly quizzed.

“It’s a three dimensional measurement.”

???

“A one dimensional measurement would be…” I glanced around the table, then picked up a tub of soya margarine (made in Germany), “this side of the carton. A two dimensional measurement, like centimetre squared would be this side times this side to calculate how big this area is. And a three dimensional measurement, like cubic millimetre would be this side times this side times this side and that calculation would tell you the space in the whole carton.”

“Like the size of a room?”

“Yes!” I enthused.

“Can I go to bed? I feel tired now.”

“Yes.” I knock back another swig of cola, my last attempt at staying awake. I know he’s off to his room to do something. But I’m genuinely too tired to ask what.

He leaves the room.

“Why don’t you whistle?” demands a sweet, but, well, demanding Akasha.

I should have said:

I’m too busy.

I’m too busy dragging children from museums and being friendly to the environment.

I’m too busy sitting on the loo and telling people to do their homework and to sit on their chair properly and thinking up cool ideas for English lessons.

I’m too busy listening to the storyteller in my head.

I’m too busy being refused buns in coffee shops and washing mud splattered fire suits and driving back and forth to ballet classes and applauding completed puzzles and baking homemade banana loaf and avoiding mirrors revealing face rashes and it may just be, that lately, I got a little bit too stressed to whistle.

I’m sorry baby.

But I was always crap at whistling, how about I try singing a little more instead?

Mother hysteria: The curious case of the caught nipple


Reini’s evening started something like this:

His one and only son called him at work and announced, “There’s been an accident… In the kitchen… With the mixing machine… And Mum…”

I should probably admit to you, at this point, that we have recently been playing rather a lot of Cluedo.

◊◊◊

I’ve just risen out of a calming bath (despite at least two children being in the room at any one time, babbling) and looking down at my naked body I can see a few tell-tale signs of the week gone by.

For instance, my lower right leg champions five, yes five, bruises. All attained crawling through tunnels and up and down ladders at Sensapolis (I am still completing my challenges ) on Sunday. There are probably a fair few lumps and bumps on my head too because if I wasn’t bashing my right leg then I was beating my skull against something.

My left knee has a long, bloody looking scratch above it, but I can’t remember for the life of me what exactly I scraped it on.

The melted skin on my right palm, from Wednesday’s omelette pan, can barely be seen. And no longer hurts. Thank goodness. I guess it fades into insignificance across from the centimetre long blister, that rose up today, on my left wrist.

But the ordeal my right nipple went through this evening is completely invisible.

◊◊◊

It’s the last day of the mid-term holidays and I was determined to fulfil dreams.

Some wanted to feed the ducks, so we did that.

Others wanted to cook and to bake. So we poured through recipe books and opted for home-made Minestrone Soup with Pesto, and Banana and Walnut Loaf along with Blueberry Muffins. We shoved a shopping trolley around the supermarket and jammed it with ingredients.

Some wanted to play Cluedo. Again.

Some wanted to relax with a foot spa and a massage.

And one person wanted to be read to.

The latter dreams were abandoned. Their mother was too busy drinking vodka after the terrible shock.

◊◊◊

I’m not sure when the fluster started.

I think it was definitely after Aden pricked Akasha with a knife when they were simultaneously chopping mangetout, for lunch.

Yes. I remember still being quite rational in the afternoon. Despite shopping with two bouncy, blabbering children.

I recall though, being somewhat distressed when I opened a cupboard and a spiderman cup threw itself at me. Although what I was actually looking for was a bowl. And I had not been the one to stack him up on top of a much smaller mug. He still attacked me, then fell sharply to the floor, smashing himself to smithereens. I did shout a little when I couldn’t find the dustpan and brush until I’d rooted around in the paper bin. I quietened down once I switched the vacuum on for the second time in a couple of hours. There’s not much point in trying to be heard by those who try not to listen over that noise.

Oh. I know when it was. It was the moment I looked at the time remaining on the timer and realised we had to move up a gear if we wanted to get the soup on and the next cake ready for the oven before the ‘ready’ beep would sound. Too much time had been wasted clearing up broken crockery and searching for tools.

That was the precise instant that my feathers ruffled.

I raised my game. I had one mashing bananas and one washing leeks and one peeling carrots and another weighing out sugar. I raced between them, firing out both instruction and praise in my effort to motivate and march on. I flicked through recipe books. Provided chopping boards and compost bags.

The muffins screeched out about their baked-ness but we were not done. Not by a long shot.

I ran to the oven, purple gloves covering my hands recalling my blunder from earlier in the week *do not pick up hot pan with bare hands, silly*.

I removed the buns from the top shelf and decided, in a split second, to leave the second tray in, for a couple more minutes but only after placing them on the top shelf for good measure.

As I moved in for the manoeuvre I clipped my left wrist on the side of the shelf. Ouch!

I’m an impatient burnt person. I don’t do well with holding my hand/finger/wrist under a cold tap for any period of time. I normally burn myself while cooking and that generally means that I’m still in the midst of it or it’s ready to eat and so my instinct is to get on with it.

So, I have, in my many burned experiences, developed a technique. I shove the blistering skin under the cold tap for a minute or so, then I pop a tea towel into the cold running water, let it soak up the coldness for a few seconds, wring it out a bit and wrap it around the affected area. Ta-dah! I can work on and cool my injury at the same time.

I wrapped my wrist and ran across the kitchen to a bowl of sugar and marg. and a whisk and started beating them together.

That’s, I guess, when my multi-tasking got too much for me.

I was standing there quite the thing. Cooling and mixing and glancing at the recipe book and ordering around talking to children. Admiring carefully chopped walnuts and apologising again for pricking Akasha with the knife while chopping up the courgettes ten minutes before.

The margarine and sugar were almost creamed and I slowed the electric whisk down and pondered over my mixture.

Just a few seconds more. And this stage would be complete.

I glanced away. What’s next?

I called out to the kid with the other recipe book.

I hit the switch to turn the power off, but not quite enough, so instead of switching off, it just carried on whirling at the lowest setting. But I hadn’t noticed, distracted, I tried to set it down. On the table top. It tipped to the side and rolled out of the bowl.

I still had the handle loosely in my hand so I tightened it and tried to take control.

I outstretched my fingers and flicked at the power switch again.

But in the wrong direction.

The beaters whirled and whizzed and the machine turned itself around to face me.

The rest is a bit of a blur. Thank God. I remember the beaters, somehow, catching a hold of the bottom of my top.

And my top twirling around and around in her spokes.

It was like she climbed up me.

Wrapped herself in my clothes.

And then she went for it.

My right nipple.

I don’t know what to say.

How to describe it.

There was pain.

And screaming.

A lot of screaming.

Mostly from me.

But also from four children.

There was also some giggling.

There was fear.

My fear.

Of losing a nipple.

To an electric whisk.

To an electric whisk.

How the fuck could I explain that to the ambulance men?

I whisked my nipple?

There was turning. And Whirling.

And I kept trying to hit the switch in the wrong bloody direction.

There was no blood. No blood at all.

My son My hero pulled the plug from the socket and it all stopped.

There was no more turning and whirling.

No blood.

The pain left.

Shock I supposed.

Hands helped. Unravelled. My top. And my nipple.

I yelled around for people to check if my nipple was still intact.

And it was.

I laughed.

And I cried.

Hysterically.

I cupped my precious nipple and they poured vodka down my throat and in the background I heard a boys voice saying, “There’s been an accident… In the kitchen… With the mixing machine… And Mum…”

Quest for humour in my existence

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