Use the right tone with your children and your phone


I am useless with names.

My ex-mother-in-law who very sadly, passed away last year, understood my predicament all too well. Apart from having her own issue remembering the names of her six children, she always used to delight in telling me the story of her old school friend, who not only had an abundance of brothers, but also oodles of dogs. According to Grandma, her friend’s mother would frequently recite all of her son’s names, closely followed by all of her dog’s names before she finally addressed her one and only daughter.

I am blessed with two daughters and two sons. Throughout the years I have frequently misnamed them. And our dog too, of course. I have always been in awe of how, during a telling off, they managed to keep a straight face, when I sometimes yelled, “You, whatever your name is…”

You can imagine my secret joy then too, when our son, who we had originally believed to be our daughter, changed, very thoughtfully in my opinion, his name from Lori to Lawrence, AKA Lawrie for short.

Currently I still have no grandchildren to burden with false names. But that does not mean that I do not grow additionally confused. I have technology.

A couple of years ago, my son, Aden, got a phone he could talk to, not just on. I’d hear him shouting, “Hey Google…” And then asking the phone a question. “What’s the weather going to be like today?” For example.

That same summer, Akasha and I , decided to do a fantastic trip. Travelling by train, first out of Germany, then across France, we hopped on the Eurostar and through the tunnel and then to several spots in the UK, all the way up to Scotland, back down again, with a bit of a detour through Belgium and the Netherlands. Staying with various friends along the way. It was a truly magnificent two weeks which we still often talk about very fondly.

But two summers on, I am still left with a tiny problem.

Two households had a new playmate in their homes. Alexa. They’d whoop, “Alexa! Play [insert name of song].” And she would play that exact song. Well, mostly. Or they’d holler, “Alexa! Turn the volume down!” And she’d oblige. Or they’d ask her questions on all kinds of topics and she’d tell them the actual answers. I was well impressed and somehow Alexa snuggled herself into a little corner of my brain.

We returned from our travels and life continued as normal. I called the dog Akasha and Lawrie and Aden and Joni, before I remembered that her name is Lexi. The dog looked confused and didn’t really know how to respond.

We recounted our journey to anyone who would be prepared to listen.

Then, one day, my mobile gave up the ghost. And my husband suggested, that for the first time in my life, I might like an iPhone? We found an old model which had been on display in a store and decided that that would be my new phone.

My phone arrived a few days later and she had a special gadget. Siri.

She works like this: you call out, “Hey Siri!” she wakes up and then you can ask her a question. Or give her a task. She’s especially useful when you need to be hands free and say, you want to call someone, or you have your hands deep in dough and you forgot the remainder of the recipe.

Problem is, I find myself bellowing “Hey Google!” Then when that doesn’t work, I reselect and screech, “Hey Alexa!”

It has even been known, in our household, for me to complain to my husband, “That iPhone is rubbish. She never answers me.”

The poor, slightly disturbed man, looks back at me, somewhat incredulously.



Reputation Eradication


If I were to list a few adjectives to describe my own characteristics then quite a few come to mind. Like creative. Chatty. Loyal. A little bit impatient. Funny. Friendly. Opinionated. Stubborn. A little bit hot-headed. Instinctive. Passionate.

If you were to ask my husband he’d have a fairly similar analysis: creative, a right blether, loyal, impatient, hilarious, keeps chatting to all and sundry, OPINIONATED, stubborn, impulsive and hot-headed, follows her instincts/illogical, passionate. I think he’d also enumerate: untidy, a good cook, smart, thoughtful, kind and reliable. In private he’d probably also add sexy. But that’s his own, very unique, point of view.

Furthermore, were you to phrase the question to any of my kids, their answer’s would go something like this. Creative. Never shuts up. Loyal. Impatient. Funny. Social. OPINIONATED. Stubborn as a mule (which they’d say proudly). Instinctive. They’d also have their own contributions. Protective – our dragon mother. Tidies up when guests announce themselves. Has a huge laugh that was embarrassing when we were little, but was pretty cool when we got older. Embarrassing in general. A good cook. Wise. Strict. Helpful. Annoying. Unnecessarily anxious. Storytelling. Nosy.

I know all of this well. We often played a game at the dining table that the children had learned at school, where we told each other the other’s characteristics. When each kid hit a certain age group, it became an obsession.

A few months ago I was asked to be part of a panel who answers questions, mostly with regard to advertisements, but based on my own opinions about anything and everything. I get paid for the honour. Literally cents for each questionnaire (I started months ago, do a questionnaire most days and I still haven’t made my first 10 Euros). Obviously, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in for the chance to say exactly what I think. About advertisements. About corona. About supermarket policies. About the government. About holidays. About the media.

But there’s this little issue. I have very little brand awareness. I have a few brands that I know and like but apart from that I just tend to ignore them. So sometimes I’m hit with a questionnaire and I’m really rather clueless.
Then to top it all, this thing happened the other day.

I was sent my questionnaire. I opened it with glee, wondering what I’d be asked to give my opinion on now. (I’m still waiting to be quizzed on what to do about Trump, Brexit, the school system, the neighbour’s constant need to keep drilling – will our semi collapse at some point because there is no actual wall left? Though, to be fair, I have been able to direct some sensibleness with regard to environmental policies within supermarkets etc). Again, unfortunately, the subject was advertising (that one comes up far too regularly, in my opinion) but at least this time they’d tried to make it a bit more fun.
I had to play a game. It was a kind of click game, and at first I had to do practice runs which began with easy steps and then built up to the grand finale. I had to click all over diverse magazine entries. I clicked merrily away on various things that drew me.
Suddenly, my clicking frenzy was over. I’d mastered many clicks. I am after all an internet professional. And, I’ve played many a round of candy crush and am a true expert in clicking.
Swiftly a new page uploaded on my screen, with one single question.

“What was the last film you watched at the cinema?”

I was thrown slightly. I knew that I’d been to the cinema quite recently. To the drive-in cinema. It had been our very first experience of a drive-in. We’d watched a film on the enormous screen. Cricking our necks and wishing we’d brought even more cushions. And maybe some popcorn. And less salty crisps. Perhaps a blanket… What was the film called? It was German… A comedy… I remembered I had specifically looked for a German film because I hate watching dubbed English films. I get totally confused lip reading in English while listening to alien German voices. Nope. Gone. I’d have to look it up. But I had absolutely no idea what it was called. So I typed “German comedy” into the internet. Then I searched. No, no, no… “German film comedy”… No, no, no… “Recent German films”? Ah there it was. Das perfekte Geheimnis!! (The perfect secret – brilliant by the way, really funny, do watch it if it comes to drive-in cinema near you). So I typed D-A-S was that the right article? I doubled checked… Yes, ok P-E-R-F-E-K-T check no? It has an E on the end? Why do they randomly keep adding E’s or ER’s or EN’s even ES’s? Come to think of it, why do they sometimes make the simple A into an Ä? How do I spell Geheimnis? Check. Enter.

My children and my husband may also tell you that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Except when it comes to tidying. And maybe an overthinker?

The screen refreshed and the new question reverted me back to my previous clicking experience. I had to list all the objects I’d seen and all the brands.

I’d been had. They’d distracted me with a simple question and now all I could remember seeing was an onion and a radish. And I’m not entirely sure it was actually a radish. Don’t they know about my storytelling tendencies? Don’t they know, by now, that I would need time to look up the information they required so I wouldn’t make a mistake? Don’t they already know that I don’t really care about brands much at all and what I really want is to tell them, at length, all about my thoughts on Trump and Brexit and the lack of a speed limit on the Autobahn and my disdain at us still using fossil fuels, and that my new favourite author happens to be David Mitchell and that I recently read Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, but I much preferred White teeth. That I believe in the right of abortion, although I would dread having one myself and would find it a very traumatic experience. That I believe you are beautiful if you are homosexual, trans, straight, black, white, religious, atheist, male or female as long as your soul is good and kind. That I think the additional costs to move house are ridiculous. That I love travelling but don’t mind one jolt if I never ever fly again.

The next page was, in my mind, a little sarcastic. It told me that we are all able to forget things. Then it presented me with a huge list of brands and asked me which ones I’d seen in the click exercise.

Was it a trick question? Were all those brands in the game or only some of them? Besides, another of my characteristics is honesty. I actively struggle to tell any lie. So I clicked on just two.

I had to fill out my age: 48.

Sigh.

Now the survey company believes I am a 48 year old woman who has a worryingly high level of forgetfulness. But that I can still spell “Das perfekte Geheimnis”. Almost as if it were my native tongue.

The next questionnaire will probably be a health one.

Tick tock says the clock but will there be a beep?


It is 2am! And there’s been a disaster! A calamity!

Sorry. I’ve swallowed a Mr Man book  been reading Mr Men books with my youngest students. Which 30, God no… 40 years on… seem rather more inappropriate. Though, just like me all those years ago, my students adore them.

But I digress.

It started off like this:

My husband abandoned me in the living room.

OK. OK. He left me  watching TV on the sofa. Where I started to nod, then drift… And the next thing I knew, I shot, bolt upright, only to discover that I was splattered with my own dribble.

I staggered through the living room, into the kitchen and desperately tried to remember exactly which medicine I should take and in which order. And not to take any of those correct medicines twice. Or even thrice. And not to take anyone else’s medicines by mistake. After all these years on the planet, I am finally getting used to myself and my own funny ways. I staggered and I blinked and I filled a glass with water. But in the time between the glass moving from the tap to my lips, a suicidal fruit fly had nose-dived into my water and appeared to be drowning.

I blinked a lot more. Yes. It was definitely a fruit fly. So, I calmly emptied the glass, rinsed and repeated. This time, luckily, without the invasion.

I wrote  a quick note for my son, said goodnight to a 20-something, fed the bewildered dog and pottered upstairs to the bathroom where I got into an argument with my own pubic hair. Don’t ask. It was all a bit icky.

Then I tried to find my bed in the dark.

I’ve eaten thousands and thousands of carrots in my lifetime. But they have done me absolutely no good. I have basically no night vision. Normally, I repeatedly switch my Fitbit on in an attempt to shine a light on the whereabouts of my bed (which helps somewhat, although I still stand on or walk into various items in the room, just less regularly. But that’s not so bad any more as my clever husband now wears earplugs to bed and so is rarely disturbed by my frequent shrieking/swearing/banging). But I had accidentally left my Fitbit charging in the car…

I clambered into bed and slapped around my bedside table in my nightly ‘alarm clock search’ routine. As usual, I knocked over the clock then picked it up again and pressed the snooze button down to see the time setting. Due to my acute night vision deficiency this is a repeated action. Without it, I can’t see the buttons or the changing numbers.  I altered my wake up time and I wanted to double-check I’d got it right. I’m a double-check kind of person. The simple fact is that I don’t trust my own brain.

I pushed on the snooze button and the snooze button stayed pushed. As in, it didn’t pop back up.

I pushed and I pushed and then, in desperation I attempted several pulls, with varying techniques. I even put the actual bedside light on to help me with my situation. But to no avail. The pushed button remained disconcertingly pushed.

Would the light remain on?

Would the battery wear out?

Would the alarm go off or would it believe, that in that very moment, when it had intended to beep, that I could possibly have simultaneously hit its snooze button?

And if that should be the case, would it live in some kind of limbo? Convinced that my finger hovered over its button?

Black Friday over by just a mere two hours and I had managed to incapacitate my alarm clock.

I looked over at my Mr Fix-It. Sleeping soundly. I didn’t dare to wake him with my conundrum.

Especially as he’d reminded me, before he went to bed, that I had woken him up at some ungodly hour, excitedly showing him a few early Black Friday deals.

Will I wake on time in the morning?

Should I brave the minus temperatures in my nightshirt and rescue my Fitbit from the car?

Will I ever get back to sleep?

Such a misfortune! What a calamity! A bloody disaster!

 

 

 

Old-ageing alert


Bloody cripes.

I just caught sight of myself in the mirror.

I have herpes. Twice. That means I look like I’m doing a pretty good  impression of the Joker.

My grey has finally rejected my hair dye completely and is stubbornly and proudly making a horrific appearance. As if that’s not bad enough, my thinning hair point blank refuses to be brushed into any even mildly orderly style. It can’t even decide if it wants to look greasy or dry. And I only just washed it.

WHOLE SHOPPING BAGS have attached themselves under my eyes and I look like I have hardly slept for a month. To be fair, I have been burning the candle at both ends somewhat, and suffering from only short bursts of sleep.

On the other hand, my skin looks as if it has been slept in for a whole week…

I’ve done the best I could with what I’m left with. I’ve attempted to yell, pull and drag my hair into submission. I’ve thrust my ever increasing girth into ‘nice clothes’. And I’ve slathered my face with that expensive cream my daughter bought me.

And I swore at the mirror!

Still, on the plus side, my husband still seems to approve.

Shhh! Don’t tell him he’s due a trip to the optician!

Elaborate Dreams


So I know that everybody has dreams.

But the one that I had last night, or should I really say, this morning was totally and utterly bizarre, to say the least.

Firstly, I think I was a man (I actually change gender continually in my dreams, I thought this was completely normal, until I casually dropped it into a conversation with my family and they gave me that mum-you-are-weird look) and I was running around with some kind of hectic, chaotic feeling (at this point I can still relate), I think I was either looking for someone or trying to rescue them, I’m not entirely sure now – it’s one of those hazy bits, there seemed to be a lot of adrenalin involved and a lot of rushing around various streets (some of which seemed remarkably similar to those that I had played in as a child) then suddenly, the man that I was looking for appeared, and you know, this is where I start to think this dream is particularly extraordinary, I think it was a James Bond actor. SERIOUSLY. But with a moustache. I can’t tell you which actual actor though, as in real life I suffer from an affliction called Facial Recognition Incompetence. And to be honest, I’m not convinced he normally has a moustache. Did any James Bond actor have a moustache? I digress…

So, Bond appeared (he wasn’t being Bond, he was just well, being himself, but from now on I will call him Bond anyway so that we know exactly who I am talking about), and some other person unexpectedly just happened to be beside me, he was apparently looking for Bond with me, I felt at this time he may have actually been helping me the whole time, but I just hadn’t noticed him before. Anyway: so we had Bond and we tried, wholeheartedly (and perhaps a little breathlessly) to usher him into a safe building nearby but then, just like that, he scooted off, at high speed, in an old sports car. Suddenly the man I was with, conjured a car out of thin air and we (I am aware that I was changing into a woman at this point) raced off in pursuit of Bond. But he was nowhere to be seen. We decided to separate and I got out of the car and explored the streets on foot.

I found myself in a hairdresser’s and there, sat upon the styling chair was Bond, gowned and waiting to have his haircut while reading a newspaper. Suddenly, I was the female hairdresser standing behind him but I didn’t feel like giving him a trim. Something was wrong with me and I made my excuses and scarpered out back, into another room.

Now to be honest, this is where things got really complicated. The man who had been helping me to search for Bond had reappeared and was now a doctor. I meanwhile, was trying to hide, somehow, between a white partition wall and a  roller blind. It wasn’t working well as the other sides were open to the elements and in truth, the blind was swinging about in some hopeless, swishy swashy way. I realised I was actually in a hospital or maybe some kind of treatment room somewhere. And I was no longer a random person of alternating gender looking for Bond. I was a nurse, or maybe even a doctor and I was hiding from a patient.

Suddenly, a yelling mother pushed her child in on a hospital bed. She was yelling about me. And why I’d buggered off instead of doing the operation.

Finally, it was all clear. I knew what was really wrong with me. I really, really needed to poo. But I couldn’t. I was constipated.

The doctor was awesome. He knew it without me saying a word. He handed me a teeny tiny suppository and a slightly bigger folded bag to poop in. He wanted to test my stool sample, apparently.

Now get this:

There was no toilet.

And in the same room, behind a small partition wall was my patient waiting agitatedly for his/her operation.

So I just crouched down, inserted my medical wonder and waited for a sec. Sure enough, wonders were worked and things started to move.

At that point I noticed the prying eyes, peeking around the roller blind or just standing there, openly at the side. The mother had calmed down. She seemed to have some consideration for my predicament (though not enough not to observe).

I started to unfold my bag, only to discover, it was not a white plastic bag, but a white paper party hat. You know, like the ones that burst out of a cracker at Christmas, just lacking the bold colours. The situation was impossible, that hat had no chance of retaining my deposit.

To be fair, I did wave at the doctor to inform him of my tricky predicament, and concerned, he noticed his mistake and rushed off, into the adjoining hairdressing room to counter that mistake, but alas, what with crouching and gravity and medical wonders…

Weirdly, the prying eyes pried on, unabashedly throughout the sordid affair and then the doctor pushed past and handed me the only thing he could find, a bright yellow shopping bag.

Let’s just say, I bagged a very heavy load and handed the bag right back to him.

Then I went off towards my patient to perform whatever treatment was expected of me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being stubborn may well save your life – and that of your beloved sister!


Phew. Back again.

I love this picture. For me it speaks a thousand words. Two of my girls and me. Caught in a moment of focus and affection.

Girls

These two sisters are amazing. I have never known two sisters who were so incredibly close. I remember once, going into the bathroom and finding them in the shower together. Both were yapping ten to the dozen. They had so much to tell one another that the noise of the flowing water was not permitted to intrude. I found that fascinating. They had shared a room for many years, they had attended the same schools, they had hung out with a lot of the same people, mostly they had shared the same hobbies. But still, they had so much to say to each other and felt so much urgency to say it, that they couldn’t bear to be separated.

Now, you might think that as they’re so incredibly close that their relationship is a pretty harmonious one. But there you would be wrong. They can argue just as passionately as they get along.

Think fireworks.

Take, for example, the time that Lori got so annoyed with her elder sibling that she gave her a  shove, while she was standing  on the steps of a bus. Joni lost her footing and fell out of the bus. I know. I was there. I saw it all. No matter what I said, Lori refused point blank to apologise.

I remember once, the girls’ choir teacher taking them off for a couple of days on a workshop. She was quite excited about taking those two sisters, who have such an amazing rapport with each other, off to sing in the countryside. She anticipated what effect their close relationship would have on the dynamics of the group. What she failed to anticipate was: what would happen if they fell out. I met her weeks later and she was still slightly dazed.

The truth of the matter is: that although the girls tend to be passionate about pretty much the same things, their characters couldn’t be more polar opposite.

When Lori was born I thought that I’d be able to bath both of the girls together. I couldn’t though. Lori hated the cold and Joni hated the heat. I had to throw my boat-shaped baby bath thermometer in the bin. Both girls were completely off the scale. Joni cried at ‘the correct temperature’ because it was far too hot and Lori cried at ‘the correct temperature’ because it was far too cold. It was like my own two bears story. Lori even balled her eyes out in the supermarket every time we veered near to the fridges.

Joni grew up dressed in pink. Wearing nail polish. And with a serious conviction that she was actually Snow White.

While Lori started the trend of wearing a t-shirt over a long-sleeved top and destroyed one action figure after another.

Bringing the two of them up has taught me a lot.

One of the things it has taught me is that compromise is not always such a good thing.

Laid back Joni has a leisurely pace. She meanders through life in her own good time. In fact, we actually call her our very own chill pill.

Intense Lori rushes on ahead. There is always something else to do. There is always something else to say. There is always something more to make of her day.

One such day both girls were on the bus together heading home from school. The bus pulled up at our stop and they both got off. Together. An argument erupted. Lori felt cold and wanted to rush home from school, at full speed and get on with things.
Joni, on the other hand, wanted to take her time, bask in the winter sun’s rays and float along the street towards home.

A compromise could not be found. Joni’s attempt at her fastest pace could not placate Lori’s need for speed and so after a few cross words, Lori stormed off ahead.

Joni was angry. Why couldn’t they just compromise? Meet in the middle? Lori could slow down her pace and Joni could hasten hers and they could walk home, as sisters, together!

Lori skedaddled and was about 100m ahead of her elder sister when behind her she heard the shrill screeching and then crumpling of metal, and the shattering of glass. She stopped and whirled around. A van had hit a car and now the van was on the path. Approximately 50m in front of her sister. Approximately 50m meters behind her…

She ran back, checked everyone was ok and then rushed on home.

It was at that very moment that I came around the corner in our car. I had picked up my two younger children and, we too, were almost home. I pulled over as I couldn’t easily get past the blockage in the road. My son, who’s always keen to see what’s going on, leapt out of the passenger seat before I could shout, “Hold your horses!!” and ran along the street to find out what had happened. I looked out of my side window and then it dawned on me: one of the people standing next to those contorted vehicles was my daughter Joni.

And then it hit me! Joni and Lori should be taking the same school bus home and Lori was nowhere to be seen…

I tried to leave my car, but it proved difficult. The road was in chaos. It had been sprayed with broken glass and vehicles were slowly attempting to make their way around the debris and the gathering crowd of bystanders. I swore at a lorry driver who attempted to reprimand me for getting in his way. Somehow, finally, I managed to park up on the side of the street, then I ran, screaming, towards a shocked Joni, “Where’s Lori? Where’s Lori?

I dared not look under the vehicles…

Joni took a while to answer. She was in shock. She’d witnessed the whole accident. Lori had just been ahead of her… They’d had an argument… Lori wanted her to walk faster… If they had compromised they would have both been hit by the van which now sat on the pavement.

“But where’s Lori now?” I queried. I needed to see her for myself. To make quite sure. Quite sure she was intact and unharmed.

I quickly checked the distressed car driver then took my paler than usual eldest daughter back to the car and drove her home.

At home I discovered an unblemished but rather disappointed Lori.

Disappointed because she’d not been able to put her recently gained first aid certificate to good use. There had not even been a cut to bandage. She’d been forced to march home and start her homework instead!

 

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So… Love


As some of you already know I have four whole children. I’ve counted and double counted and it’s true – there really are four of them! It’s bizarre. I can’t always quite believe it myself. But there you are.

They entered the world like this:

  • girl
  • girl
  • boy
  • another girl

When my then six year old son heard that his third sibling would be yet another girl he was so pissed off disappointed that he said, “Bloody hell!”, crawled under the dining table and refused to come back out.

Bringing up four whole children is wild. Seriously.

Firstly, you spend a lot of time counting heads to make sure that you haven’t left one somewhere. Or added one accidentally. You learn, quite quickly, the importance of making sure that you haven’t double-counted the same head, because that leaves you with the false sense of security of having all of your children present and correct.

You swiftly learn, to think on your feet when your children well and truly drop you in it. You also develop the art of the quick getaway.

Saying sorry becomes second nature, so much so that you often say it as a precursor to an event, the moment you enter the room/shop/tourist attraction/bank/doctor’s office (delete as appropriate).

You find going out with adult friends difficult because you find yourself continually compelled to ask them: “Do you have your key?” And, “Are you sure you don’t need to go to the toilet?”

Finally having child free time with your partner, you ban talking about the kids and then stare into space until you both give in and start talking about the kids again.

You never, ever have any money in your purse. It’s like money has some kind of aversion to your purse. You regularly find yourself going into the butchers and the bakers only to find yourself penniless. Thus having to explain to the not-always-so-patient shop assistant that you, yet again, need to nip over to the hole in the wall to grab some cash.

You can never remember the name of the child standing in front of you. Especially when you are annoyed. So in the middle of a telling off you have to shout, “What’s your name again?” before dishing out the punishment.

Food vanishes. You shop and shop and shop. You cook and cook and cook. But every time you attempt to make yourself a quick snack or snatch a biscuit: there’s nothing left.

Your house is filled with germs. For two reasons. One is: you have lost the will to clean. And the other is: they bring home every conceivable type of germ from even the remotest part of the region and then they share it all around.

At some point you get the Norovirus. In your house. For three weeks solid. You lose your mind. Especially when your children admit they might just have spread it around again because they shared a sandwich.

You become an expert nit picker.

You also become a taxi driver, counsellor, mediator and pharmacist.

Seriously, visitors come to your house just to admire the array of medicines in your cupboard and to compliment you on your ‘tried and tested’ pharmaceutical knowledge (all the while kindly ignoring the clutter that surrounds you).

You laugh a lot. It would be true to say, not always at appropriate moments. But you develop a deep, belly laugh that suddenly booms out of you uncontrollably. Finally your children feel embarrassed. At your loudness. At your lack of restraint. They whisper, “Mum!!” with agitated voices.

But you know, from experience, that one day they will say, “One of the things I love most about you, Mum, is your huge laugh!”

And you’ll say, “I learned to laugh so much because of you.”

 

 

Eye-smiler!


Love is a funny thing really. You don’t choose it. You don’t scan a vast array of heads and shout, “I’ll take that one.”

I just saw you in the street. You smiled and you had me.

I was putty in your hands. Just like that.

I had no idea if you were a good or a bad man. I didn’t know what your name was. I hadn’t even sniffed you. You were across the street, far too far away for me to get a whiff of your pheromones.

But somehow, you magnetically pulled me into staggering towards your smiling eyes and your big strong arms. It didn’t seem to bother you at all that I couldn’t hold my vodka.

It’s been almost 15 years and you have never given me reason to doubt you. Quite the opposite. You have only, over the years, given me reasons to love you more and more.

To be honest, I remained convinced that I am either extremely lucky or that one day, you’d wake up and think to yourself: what on earth am I doing with this crazy woman and her chaotic life? But each day you just kept on smiling at me with those beautiful eyes. In fact, you seemed to smile a little more the more chaotic I was. Even though, you yourself are really quite orderly.

I mean, I did spot that you’re a little odd too. After all you said things like: “You’re the spice of my life!” Or, “Maths is beautiful!”

Sometimes I really couldn’t take you quite so seriously…

But the other day, something happened that made me finally realise that you’re probably planning to stick around for good.

We’d gone to bed. Me quite late again because I couldn’t stop coughing and I didn’t want to keep you awake half the night coughing when you had to go to work the next day.
I finally joined you and after a few tosses and turns and a few more coughs, I nodded off.
Then I woke up feeling nauseous. You ran to the kitchen and got me a bucket then you ran again for a glass of water. You rubbed my back as I coughed and spluttered over the bucket – without complaining that no sick actually came up at all. Then you ran to our daughter who also needed a bucket and also retained all of her stomach contents. You returned to our bed where I lay complaining, rather loudly, about the heat in the room so you measured my temperature and stated that, it was, in fact, completely normal. You encouraged me to “just try and sleep” as I tossed and I turned but I thought I might be better off upside down in the bed, with my face right next to your feet. Then I sat up again and wailed for the bucket. I heaved and I coughed and I snotted. Then I cuddled back down and hugged you tight, breathing hot germ-filled breath into your face. I talked and I talked but I didn’t make the slightest bit of sense. At some point, I started to cry, quite hysterically, which, after a while turned into uncontrollable laughter with an added cough instead. Finally, after even more giggles and strops I drifted back to sleep.

I woke up the next day feeling at first refreshed, you’d got up with the children and had let me sleep. At first, I thought about how tired you must be, then I started to remember bits – wailing, incessant talking, hysterical laughter. You may be my husband and my best friend, but in all honesty: I was mortified.

On your return home I apologised.

And here’s the thing: you just shrugged and said you were used to it and that it happens quite often of late. 😮

That’s when I realised that you really are here to stay. That you love me, warts and all.

I hope, that for the rest of our lives, I continue to make those eyes smile.

 

 

Post Traumatic Nipple Stress


So, last night, I sneezed so violently that my whole body wrenched forward and my nipple got caught in between my wrist and my watch strap.

#truefact #notalternativefact #youcouldn’tmakeitup

I yelped slightly, partly because of the shock, partly because of the sheer intensity of the sneeze, not so much because of the pain – it strangely didn’t hurt that much, and quite a bit because of that traumatic memory of when I accidentally whisked my boob.

My yelping interrupted the film we were watching and my husband, who luckily is used to my violent sneezes, glanced across and I exclaimed to him, “My nipple got caught in my watch strap!!!”

He winced appropriately and turned his face back in the direction of the TV screen.  After all, whisk flashbacks are mine and mine alone.

To be honest, I did feel the need to re-discuss that old event, but then, for some reason, I thought better of it.

Now, at this point, you may be forgiven for wondering why my watch strap is far too big or if I have an exceptionally small nipple? I can ease your concerns on both counts. Well, I think I can. I mean, I haven’t actually compared my nipple to other ladies nipples as it’s not really polite to do so and I am, after all, British. But my suspicion is, that in terms of size, my nipple is completely normal. And my watch strap is not too big either, rather, I have to wear it slightly loose because it says to do so in the instructions. It’s one of those Fitbit things. You know, one of those watches that measure not only time, but also your pulse as well as the amount of steps that you take in a day. What that actually means is: that it’s a watch that controls your mood – if you achieve more than the 10,000 steps that it expects of you in your day, then you feel ON TOP OF THE WORLD and if you don’t, like yesterday, you fall into a deep black hole of depression – and from then on in you just wander back and forth to the fridge scouring for sugar. I really thought my Fitbit might have cut me some slack and given me a point step for each violent sneeze, after all I’m sure they must use up more calories than a simple step. In fact, they are so whole-body-consuming that each sneeze should really be classed as exercise.  But no, my Fitbit not only discounted my activity, but it also ensnared my nipple.

Shortly after my ‘event’ interrupted our viewing pleasure, we heard a little knock on the living room door. We thought about it for a brief moment and then we shouted unanimously, “Come in!” And a  no-longer-so-tiny daughter shuffled into the room. Crying.

My husband paused the film.

We asked her what was wrong. But she was so absorbed with her own tears that she couldn’t tell us anything. So I started the guessing game:

Are you ill? Did you have a bad dream? Have you forgotten about some piece of homework? Have you lost something? Are you dreading going back to school? Did your brother annoy you?

She couldn’t speak, only sob and shake her head.

So, I thought I’d try the cheer-her-up approach. “Do you know what just happened to mummy?” I asked, excitedly.

She shook her pretty little head again.

“I just sneezed so violently my nipple got caught in my watch strap!!!!”

She screwed up her face.

But the sobs seemed less….

So I continued, “Do you remember the time mummy whisked her nipple…?”

Kids. You gotta love ’em. They have their uses…

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!!!

 

 

 

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