Life is full of surprises and not always where you’d expect them

tango face surprise

It’s nice to know, that even at 44 years old, life still has the opportunity to surprise me.

I mean, there are some things which remain pretty much the same. Like the fact that we rent a new car each year through my husband’s company. And the fact that, it takes me the whole year to get used to that new car. The whole year to learn to recognise it in the car park without pressing the central locking button on my key, to make the lights flash. Without that button I would never, ever find my car, let alone get into it.

To be fair, I do try really hard. I have stopped relying on the kids (who are nowadays, no longer always accompanying me on my journeys) to ‘know’ where I last left my vehicle,  and  I do my very best to focus in on car park letters and numbers and street names and notable landmarks and try to memorise them. Some times it works well, I’ve discovered, other times not quite so well.
But however well it works I always need my secret weapon central locking button.

Take last year’s new car as an example. I drove it to my local supermarket, carefully selected a space, in the very same row I always try to park in (that way I have a much better chance of finding my car). It’s a less popular row, as it’s a bit further away from the supermarket, but it still has a trolley park in it. I don’t mind the walk. It’s direct. If I have to wander round and round the car park, all the while sneakily pressing my ‘locate vehicle’ button in my pocket, it turns out that I have to walk much, much further, which is a horrible experience with a wayward trolley and besides, if I press my button too much, I end up needing a new key battery which means taking my key to the local car dealership and watching the salesman scratch his head while saying, “The battery doesn’t normally run out within a year, that is very strange…” OK, technically, I never did take my key back, I always made my husband do it: I was far too embarrassed.
So, as I said, last year, I parked my then new car in my favourite row, and then, on completion of my shopping, I strode back across the car park towards my new Mercedes. The row was almost empty so I confidently withdrew my key from my pocket, pointed it unwaveringly at my car and I pressed and I pressed but strangely, the lights remained unlit. I wondered, what on earth was wrong with the damned car then, in good faith, I opted for the ‘open boot’ button instead. I pressed and I pressed the button. Then I shook the key a little bit, as you do when today’s gadgets don’t seem to be performing properly, but that didn’t help one bit. The thought did flash across my mind that I’d potentially already worn out the battery in the key with all my pressing, but really? The car was only a couple of weeks old… It was at that moment that I spotted a woman standing, staring at me, mouth gaping… Apparently she was standing next to my car I mean, her car. By the time I’d actually noticed her, I was almost at her boot, which I thought was my boot, ready to unload my overflowing trolley. She stood there, protectively, as I glanced fervently around, that’s when I noticed, two spaces further along, another car with its boot wide open and its lights flashing like a full on disco.

You could think that was one of the surprises I’m talking about. And you’d be partly right. To be honest, I am quite used to attempting to gain entrée to a vehicle that is not my own. It all started when I was a kid. I was shoving an extremely heavy, headstrong trolley towards my parent’s car all by myself. I rammed the key in the boot’s lock and I could not understand, for the life of me, why it would not turn. My parents marched on past without more than a mere  glance in my direction. I did my best to twist the stubborn key in the lock. Then I started to notice odd things in the boot as I peered through the window. Like a blanket which wasn’t ours… Something wasn’t quite right… So I looked deeper into the car and I’m sure you can imagine my absolute shock when I noticed a couple, sitting in the two front seats, glaring at me through their rear window.

But the thing is: the car was exactly the same colour as ours, an unusual kind of rusty orange brown colour, and it was exactly the same model.

So really, I could be excused, after all, it was an easy mistake to make.

But last year, when I’d almost pressed my vehicle finder to death, and started rumours of a disco at the supermarket car park, I realised, as I saw the two cars parked practically side by side,  that they looked completely different. Mines was a Mercedes. Hers was a Ford. And to top it all, hers was a completely different colour.

That threw me a bit. I must admit.

And, to be honest, I suspect the stranger thought I was a proper loony.

Slightly more than a year has passed since that little incident and yet, again, we’ve swapped cars. The thing is, they’ve adapted the model. So it looks a bit different and it has new features.

I’m not so good with new features. Don’t get me wrong. I like them. I even get quite excited about them when my husband describes them or better still shows me them. But within ten minutes I’ve forgotten how to use them. I am starting to suspect that I am not really a very technical person.

Each car, each year has new features. As a matter of fact, last year’s car had an App that you could put on your phone to help you find it. I guess there are more people burning out the key battery than that head scratcher cared to admit!! My husband kindly put the App on my phone and taught me how to use it. To be fair, I have managed to check out whether my car is locked or not. It wasn’t. My husband thought this to be a silly feature, but I actually proved him wrong! Still, the main reason for using the App, car location, is something I haven’t managed to conquer. So I’ve stuck by my tried and tested method and kept my nickname: Battery Depletor.

But this year’s car is truly confusing incredible. It can even park all by itself if you can remember how to let it.

I was really surprised because you don’t use a key to start it: instead you press a button. And there is no hand brake. At all.

So, my mornings now go something like this: make sure the kids are ready for school. Run around looking for my car key (which is now just a set of buttons: one for car location unlocking the central locking, one for locking the central locking and one for opening and closing the boot). Yell at Tell all the kids necessary to get into the car. Press the unlock central locking button (which by the way, to my confusion, also on one occasion opened all of the windows?!?). Stand next to the car, trying to figure out what I should actually do with the key once I am in the car? Should I put it in my pocket? Because then I might, yet again, forget to lock the car… Once I’ve come to a decision about the key and I’m sitting in the car,  I then have an exhaustive search for the hand brake… Eventually it dawns on me that there is no longer a hand brake. Then I get excited that the lovely people at Mercedes decided to bless me with a camera at the back so I reverse the car out of the driveway without knocking over my or my neighbours bins and I drive off up the hill. On my return home I have to exit my vehicle. This means: press P for Park. Press the start/stop button to switch the car off. Locate the key. Leave the vehicle. Remember to lock the car and then carry on about my business. This may sound simple. But I have noticed that I’m pretty fixated on the key location aspect of the task, so much so, that I keep forgetting to switch off my car. To which my car responds by screaming at me “You bloody idiot!!” flashing red lights and beeping loudly.  Which sets me off with a little adrenalin rush for the start of my day.

Who needs coffee?

My son has surprised me a lot this year. He’s reached the grand old age of 16. This was not absolutely clear as he’s the semi-autistic/extreme ADHDer who is mostly driven by impulse. He has become extremely tall and even more gangly than before. He has grown a full head and shoulders above his eldest sister which he sees as his greatest achievement of the year, because way back at the start of 2016, his head was still bobbing along below hers.

We have been trying to encourage him towards other productive – not just growing – activities. He needs to find direction and no, not the astronaut one. The European Space Agency will not let an extreme ADHDer loose with their space rockets. It seems even the German military won’t let an extreme ADHDer loose with their tanks. Which, having watched my son grow up, I can kind of understand.

Last week I thought I’d encourage him in the kitchen. He has a natural cooking ability although he doesn’t seem to like to use it too much. I told him to dislodge himself from his tablet and he entered the kitchen and I warmly explained to him that I would make him my  masterchef in the kitchen. I said that Papa wants him to be his prodigy on the computer. But I nabbed him first. He didn’t look too impressed but I soldiered on. I informed him matter-of-factly that today, we’d be making pastry. I asked him if he knew how to make pastry and he said yes, I’d already taught him. But I carried on. I had yet again another mammoth headache but life goes on and I stipulated how much flour and how much butter A.D. should measure out. He did so, accurately. I’m more of a  ‘throw it together’, ‘that’ll do’ and a ‘bit extra for good luck’ kind of chef, in all honesty. I looked at the amount of flour and through my strange haze I thought something isn’t quite right here. Then I realised that actually, I exchanged the flour and the butter quantities. Aden corrected my mistake by himself and then I double checked his work and decided, through my fog, it was wrong again, so he re-fixed it. Once he was ready to continue, I noticed that he’d actually been right with his own correction and I had fluffed it up yet again. He painstakingly weighed out the grams as I profusely apologised and blamed my head.

Flour met butter in the processor and I relaxed a little bit as Aden pulsed away and produced perfect ‘breadcrumbs’. Then I told him, that the secret of making good pastry in the food processor lay in adding splashes of water slowly and pulsing the mix until the dough starts to come together, then removing it and doing the rest by hand.

Our pastry started to come together, I instructed  Aden to stop pulsing  and I turned my back for the briefest of moments.

Suddenly, I heard quite rigorous pulsing behind me. I span around and saw the arm of the food processor, no longer in the bowl but in the air, freely spinning with dough swinging from it.

Frankly, I yelled. Then I exclaimed how the dough needed to be used for cooking and not for spraying the walls.

In all fairness, it did seem like Aden was having the time of his life before the yelling.

I recovered my dough, took it to my floured work surface and prepared it to be chilled.

In the meantime we made toppings for the mini quiches we were creating.

Once the dough had chilled I talked Aden into buttering the creme brulee dishes while I rolled out the pastry.

Then I said, “Now we are going to bake the pastry blind. What does that mean?”

He bounced excitedly up and down, not something he’ll be able to do in our kitchen much longer if he continues to grow at such a rate, and squealed, “I know! I know!”

“Is it that you throw loads of ingredients in without looking and then you don’t know what you’ll be eating?”

“What??? No!!!”

He paused for the tiniest moment.

Then he started leaping around again. “I know. Is it that you poke the pastry with a stick like a blind person?”

“What??????????????? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

He looked slightly deflated.

I handed him a fork and told him to prick the pastry then we’d place baking paper between the pastry and the ceramic baking beans. He pricked rather enthusiastically at first, all in all there were more holes than there was pastry. So I showed him how to do it properly and then returned the fork to him. Then he got the baking beans from the cupboard and asked if he could try one…

At least he asked. Which is more than the crazy dog did. When I accidentally rolled some off the tabletop onto the floor. She stole one. Ran off. Then spat it back out on to her blanket.

No wonder there always seem to be fewer ceramic baking beans in the tub with every use…

We did manage to finish the quiches and I have to say, they were delicious. But by the end I was thinking of offering Papa Aden as his prodigy…

Life rolls on. The end of the year is nigh and the kids only have a couple of days left at school. Aden rolled off to the bus stop this morning on his scooter. A few minutes later the phone rang. He was extremely upset. He’d started to feel rather squeamish on the bus then had suddenly vomited. Everywhere. Including on three fellow passengers.

He’d got off the bus. At some random bus stop and had no clue where he was. Bless. I had to look his whereabouts up on the internet and go and rescue him. He was covered from head to toe in sick. I am still not sure how I didn’t puke in the car because of the smell.

Yes, the new car.

I got him home, heaved as I put the sick filled clothes into the washing machine and then ran out to thoroughly disinfect the car. I have so learned since the Norovirus.

My husband pointed out that at least we don’t have to put up with that new car smell anymore…

My son may not be the next astronaut or the next tank driver. He may never decide to be a chef. But at least I know that when he projectile vomits, he does it properly.

I wanted to finish there. But my daughter arrived home from school. Calm but I could sense she had something on her mind.

It wasn’t that she’d had yet another nosebleed (she had, but that’s beside the point). She’s a first aider at her school and had to deal with an emergency. A boy had been pushed, and had hit his head against the edge of a table. He had an actual hole in his head. She said that she’s never seen so much blood. At one point she even saw clots that she momentarily thought might be bits of brain on the child’s neck. She remained calm and collected and helped patch the quite young boy up and sat with him, keeping him calm, until a relative could be on the scene to take him to a doctor. I am in awe. I would have fainted. Or have thrown up. Or both.

My kids never cease to amaze me.

Happy Christmas!!!








14 thoughts on “Life is full of surprises and not always where you’d expect them”

  1. After reading this…all I can say is… I’m wishing you a new year without loss of car nor confused car owners wondering who that strange lady was next to their car…..and one where your children continue to amaze and provide you with love and joy…Cheers!

  2. I have to wonder how many accidents are caused these days by people who are trying to figure out how to do stuff on their new fangled, overly complicated vehicles.

    I have had my new car for about 4 or 5 months now. Even though I know it is blue, and I head out to the lot saying to myself, “Self, you have a blue car now, look for a blue car…” I still have to rely on reading the license plate to find my car. For some reason it is easier to wrap my brain around the 3 digit alpha portion of the code on my plates than it is to look for a blue car. I deliberately did not buy a car with all the fancy bells and whistles, so mostly I took to the rest of it okay. Except the Bluetooth enabled stereo, I still can’t figure out how to use the Bluetooth to make phone calls….

    1. I’ve given up on the number plate. Everyone in our town has the same two first letters and I can remember nothing after that. I thought the self parking thing could be good for us. We are always have parking accidents. I have tried but I cannot figure it out. Argh! When my husband showed me it looked so easy!!!! Merry Christmas Janie!!

  3. Wow. This is quite a post! I will respond more later, but we are on the way out to dinner. You struck a chord with the new car story and also with your son adventures. Be back soon………

  4. Wow, your daughter amazes ME and I’ve never even met her. I’d have been entirely useless faced with an actual hole in a child’s head.

    They have those blind baking beans at the local supermarket and I’ve been wondering what on Earth they’re for! The little pictorial explanation just confused me more. So thanks for that.

  5. Hi. I’m back. Yes, your piece about new autos is funny. I have a new car. Being lazy as I am, when I first learned how to shift it (the shift is more like a turn signal lever) I decided that was all I had to know. Then, when it came time to turn on the lights when driving through a Christmas light display or turning on the defroster or getting back to auto shift after I accidentally hit the manual shift paddle, I went to panic mode and had to pull the car over to finally read the manual. And yes, I often use the key beeper to find my car in the parking lots. I’m not smart enough to always park in the same row at the grocery store like you do!

    As for the funny but frustrating adventures with your son, I know what you mean exactly. Our son (who is now 45) has Tourette’s Syndrome as well as OCD. There were many times when we experienced the oddest adventures with him….times when you could just cry but instead you laughed it off. We survived and he is on his own making ends meet. There are miracles.

    Loved this post!

    Merry Christmas and so sorry about the terrible business in Berlin. Are you near there?

    1. When we first moved to Germany, I used to go back and forth to the UK quite a lot. While I was there I would hire a car and shoot around visiting people.On one of those visits I took my German mother-in-law. When I picked up the hire car the windscreen wipers were on and I just assumed that it was like my car at home – all automated. It wasn’t – someone had actually put them on for me. When I started the car the next day and it was raining cats and dogs, I was driving along while trying to find the wipers button. My mother-in-law was screaming at me in German – I’d accidentally driven onto the wrong side of the road like how I would drive in Germany as I’d lost my focus on the actual driving. We were really lucky that the street was empty.
      Nowadays when we go over I try not to drive – I found it so confusing changing from side to side. Especially when it came to things like roundabouts. If there was no other traffic on its way around – I wouldn’t remember which way I should go around it!!!

      Tourette’s Syndrome is really hard. My son had ticks when he was younger and doctors suspected Tourette’s Syndrome. As a mother, I felt it was one of the most difficult things to deal with. He’d suddenly slam his head on the table, his shoulder would hit him in the face or he would suddenly jump up from sitting. He’d often seem quite shocked because it wasn’t an action he had chosen and a few times the ‘slamming’ was so hard he was actually injured. Inwardly I was totally distraught for him but outwardly I had to be completely calm and together so I could try and get him to relax because as soon as he was stressed he would tick again and again and again. Luckily for us one of the ADHD medications the doctors tried him on took his ticks away completely. So now they believe that his ticks were merely down to the extremity of his ADHD. Every once in a while they wean him off medication completely, last time there were no ticks. Fantastic!
      I feel humour is definitely the best way to deal with the situation – though in honesty, I do admit to having days where I have cried bucket loads.
      We have four children. Two are ADHDers. My daughter, also described in this post is the other one. They both have the same disorder, but you’d never be able to tell. She can be a bit loud at times and occasionally she makes a decision which is not so well thought through. She loses things a lot and needs a massive amount of structure and that, at times, requires a lot of support – oh and she’s extremely talkative!!! But in general she is the one who struggles with her lack of concentration and that doesn’t affect the rest of us so much. Her brother though is on a different level. And his autism just adds to the mix! My absolute dream is definitely that we all survive and one day he can live on his own and make ends meet. That would be a massive achievement.

      Berlin – yes – it’s terrible!! I am quite far away from Berlin but I have friends there (they are safe) and my husband sometimes goes there because of work. He was in Munich a couple of days before the incident there earlier in the year so it all feels close to home. A few days before there was a near miss at a Christmas Market on the border of our State – someone placed a bomb but it didn’t go off. It makes you think. I want my family to be safe but at the same time I don’t want to give in to terrorism and so we nervously opt to go about our daily lives. I also think it’s really important that we unite and remain tolerant. Every refugee I have spoken to has been extremely polite.

      1. Thanks for your reply. You are very brave to keep your humor during tough times. If you and your husband just keep loving each other you will make it!

        Our son is still on two strong medications. He tried to go off them a few years ago but it was too difficult. The only visible ticks he has are touching the middle of his head about every few minutes and turning around in a complete circle twice before he sits down in a chair. His executive function is quite impaired so holding any job requiring planning and follow up and reporting is out of the question. He is able to make his living by refereeing high school sports year around and driving for Uber. I refer to him in a recent post

        Keep in touch if you care to. My email is Best wishes for a wonderful holiday with your family.. I love Germany (and England) and have been there several times.

      2. Firstly, awesome post truly beautiful!! Thank you for sharing!!

        My husband is my true strength. I adore him, and you’re so right, it makes a massive difference.

        My son also takes strong medication. He was in hospital for 5 months this year as they tried to change his medication and get him to put on weight. They tried him without medication completely and then they told us that he needs his meds as much as a diabetic needs insulin. They said his life would be in danger without medication. I completely believe that. I do not think he would have survived this long without his medication. He is far too impulsive. I made him traffic lights for his room when he was little: red – stop, orange – think, green – decide. And we still use it as one of his mottos. I think the medication gives him the opportunity to potentially stop and think before he decides. To a degree anyway. Often he’s used it to stop and then ask me what the right decision should be. I think the age he is at now is really difficult. Legally he’s allowed to do more and more and society expects him to stand on his own feet. Society also expects that we step back and let him stand on his own two feet, which is ultimately what we want too but I’m not sure if and how this can actually work.
        My son actually trained as a sports monitor for his school and he helps the little kids during special sports day activities!
        I will email you!! Thank you!

  6. Hi Sarah, My visiting, replying, commenting and the like have fallen a little by the wayside of late, for which I apologise, but wanted to call by today and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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