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?

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25 thoughts on “Things aren’t going swimmingly at the moment…”

  1. Swimming can be fun, but sinking and scrambling back to the surface can be a weird kind of fun too. There’s more adrenalin involved, lol! ;o) Life sounds very busy for you, make sure you make time for yourself too, and that doesn’t mean just locking the bathroom door!

  2. Oh wow, I feel tired just reading this! I hope things calm down for you.

    I know how you feel about the place looking like a bomb’s hit it – my kitchen is an absolute tip and I’m just too tired to do anything about it (besides, the dishes are supposed to be the boyfriend’s job!).

  3. Doesn’t it feel good to let it all out? 😉

    I hear you about getting your daughter to school on time. That’s my struggle every morning but I manage to get my son on time every day by doing a few things. First, I set his alarm really early, because he needs time to wake up, play and screw around before school. Second, I give him a couple of choices for breakfast. When he’s too busy playing to eat, I feed him. I know it sounds silly because he’s six, but I know he’s not particularly hungry (I can’t eat first thing in the morning) but he needs food in his stomach to feed his brain. If he doesn’t get dressed, I undress him to give him a headstart. Same for everything else. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s a lot easier to help him do these things than yell the same requests 20 times in a row with no results. At least his younger brother is much more helpful and wakes up with a big appetite.

    1. Once she starts eating, she eats and eats. I’ve tried to nip that in the bud a bit by sending her with a larger snack to Kindergarten. I think the problem is, we’ve always done ‘leisurely pace’ (because we could). Before she went to Kindi, she always ate three or four courses for breakfast EVERY MORNING. She didn’t eat much the rest of the day and it was a good way of getting healthy food into her so I went along with it (one course could have been for example natural yoghurt with various fresh fruits). We worked it down to one or two courses now but the leisurely attitude is still there. Being the youngest in a four child household I think she relishes being the only one in the house at that time. I completely get that!!
      In September though, it will all change. She’ll need to get up 90 minutes earlier and get ready at the same time as her brother (he needs a lot of one-to-one support in the morning, because of his problems).

      I guess she’ll be pretty tired, mixed with, leisurely with a splash of added ‘not alone’.

      Doing a race works well with her (getting dressed etc) but it isn’t fitting all of the time. For example, sometimes I’m already dressed in the morning, before she even gets up. And when eating, she chews everything to death so I can’t seem to hurry her there.
      It will be really stressful, I think. Aden needs to be advised on every move and hurried along to get his bus and Akasha will be singing and saying, “Can’t you just read a story?” when we’ve got to go and then we have that thirty minute walk ahead of us to school… I will be going grey and pulling my hair out!!

      I still help my son, at times, in the morning. His fine motor skills aren’t so good, especially before his meds have kicked in. It means shoe laces, for example, are a problem. He can do them but it takes a long time, so sometimes I do one and he does the other when he’s running short on time.

      I hadn’t really thought much about getting the two ready at the same time until I read your comment. Things are better in the morning than they were with Aden even a year ago, so I hope that by September there are even more improvements!!

      I guess right now, we should just enjoy the fact that we can do the leisurely thing and next year start a brand new chapter…

    1. I’ve actually done this if we had to travel early the next morning. Popped her in something comfy like soft leggings and a comfortable top. And then she’s eaten a lengthy breakfast in the car…

  4. Your life sounds lovely. Not the comment you expected? I never had children so I can appreciate yours and all their energy. 😉 And I totally understand how you felt when trying to order a pastry without peanuts. I have Celiac and often get frustrated with servers who have no idea about what’s in their food!

    1. I like your comment. There’s a lot of loveliness in my life. 🙂

      My son is extremely excited today. He said that he heard on the radio that a new Titanic is being built. I think, actually, he is more excited than he normally is at Christmas… He has actually gone off to call a friend to tell him about it. I’m not so sure that his friend will be so excited… But you never know. 😉

      I actually wrote to the restaurant chain. They sent me a message back to say that they can’t guarantee that there won’t be traces of peanuts in any of the cakes. I don’t actually react to ‘traces of peanut’ as my allergy is mild. No one actually asked me that though. What I asked for was if the nuts in that specific cake were peanuts. I think it should be standard (as with the whole horse-meat thing) that as consumers we know what we’re being fed. I should be able to ask for a list of ingredients, for example.
      I know loads of people with intolerances or allergies to specific foods. We have larger parties once or twice a year, sometimes three times, I know what food is in every recipe I cook and I can tell any guest what they can’t eat.
      Last year, we had almost 70 people at one such get together. Several were lactose intolerant. Two were Muslim. One couldn’t eat any vegetables or fruit products. One had nut allergies. Two were diabetic. Several were children.
      Then there’s me: I’m allergic to peanuts, and I can’t tolerate wholemeal products, peppers, and cabbage.

      Of course, I’m not usually cooking these recipes and definitely not for such a large amount of people. In contrast, restaurants tend to stick to the same recipes for a while. In my mind then, they should easily be able to have a list of ingredients available for each product. Then the consumer can decide.
      Before Christmas, I went into a shop which sells different types of bread with toppings or you can have them closed and toasted.
      The first problem was trying to find something without wholewheat. They had around 10 types of bread but after much asking around they found I could only eat one type. Then I looked at the menu and picked a great looking ‘toasted’ bread with feta cheese and roasted aubergine. I ordered and waited patiently at the table. My friend had ordered the same and I notice that when she bit into it it looked red inside so I opened mine up and it was full of red bits. My friend said that it was probably tomatoes but I felt sceptical so I went over and asked the waitress. She confirmed it: peppers.
      The sandwich had been pretty expensive and I was so hungry. No where on the menu did it mention peppers, so I hadn’t thought to ask. I felt like the ultimate difficult customer as I ordered a new sandwich.

      Like you say, it is very frustrating. I don’t like being difficult and asking about every ingredient but it seems more and more that I have to.

      Another time I ordered a side salad in a restaurant. I started to eat it and as I did so I noticed my throat got all itchy the way it does when I eat peanuts. I stopped eating it and dug around in the salad. There were no nuts in it. I felt puzzled, how could I have that closing up itchy feeling when there were no nuts?
      I asked the waitress and she asked the chef and it turns out he dressed the salad in peanut oil!!!
      I had noticed so I was OK because my allergy is so mild. But what on Earth was he thinking, there are people who could have died from that!!

      In Britain that just wouldn’t happen (not with peanuts). But we’re a bit behind here on the peanut allergy thing.

  5. As somebody else said .. I got tired only reading about your day. So this is what I have been missing out on as single and no kids … *smiling. I hope you had time to breathe today. You have a brilliant way to express yourself and use the written word. I enjoyed this even if I lost my breath halfway through. And I clicked the LIKEbutton!

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