Star light, star bright, don’t be sick and sleep at night!

Birthday season is upon us again. My husband said to me this morning, at 00:01, as we were just dialling our daughter’s telephone number: “I can’t believe we are old enough to have a 22 year old daughter.”

I wish I could have answered that I don’t look old enough. Those were the days! But now, my middle age spread is, well, spreading. Fast! For a while, I’ve tried to convince myself that I would, one day, be a slip of a girl again. To be honest, for the last 21 years I’ve kept the dress I wore to my eldest daughter’s very first birthday party. I’m not just a hoarder. I did actually wear the dress. But the last couple of years, I had trouble waving about my arms and well just breathing. So I gave it to her last week. It was slightly too big. I may have stretched it… But I assured the slip of a girl that she would grow into it… One day.

So this is her 22nd Happy Birthday. I can tell you, some of them have been eventful. On one of them, we were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and I was carrying the cake across the room to her, as I approached her to blow out her candles, she didn’t blow, she threw… Up. I’m not sure if it was the sight of all that carefully placed sugar or if it was just excitement. But the cake got tossed to the side and a bucket was grabbed. We videoed it and sent it to You’ve Been Framed. But they sent it right back again without giving us our £250. I was gutted to be honest. I laughed hysterically every time I played it back. But I guess it was far too graphic for public consumption on a family show.

On another birthday, we had the camcorder out again, my ex and I. He was standing there filming, as I ushered her into the room. We’d built up her present, a bike, and carefully covered it with sheets, so she could still unwrap it. Then presents and cards that had arrived in the post, were strategically placed around the big, exciting, surprise. We entered the room and my ex impulsively shouted, “Come and open your bike!!!!” And I almost killed him, right there, on the spot. Seriously. If you go and visit him, there is recorded evidence of it somewhere in his house…

From Birthday One, Joni loved a party. She loved the food, the dressing up, the food, the guests, the food, the games, the cake, being centre of attention and the presents. So the night before her Sweet Sixteenth she got really excited. She’d planned a massive party. Not only had she invited all of her friends, she’d also invited all of mine. We planned to barbeque on two barbeques simultaneously. The fridge was full of meat. I always make too much food because I am petrified of someone feeling hungry, so in actual fact, there was far too much meat for the masses of people she’d invited. Then, in the early hours of her 16th, she started to vomit. And vomit and vomit. In all fairness, she really did puke rings around herself. We did not film it. We cleaned rings and walls and carpets and changed bedsheets and disinfected buckets. And we mopped up tears. Then, from the exact moment politeness allowed, we starting telephoning each and every party guest to cancel. We did not know if she was infectious. We did not know if we were infectious. We did not know how long she would continue to be sick. These questions were answered promptly. As soon as all the calls were finished, she made a miraculous recovery. She was, what’s described in your medical encyclopedia as ‘right as rain’. Physically, that is. Mentally, she crumpled. Luckily, she had invited my friends. And some of them are fearless of bacteria. They are utterly convinced they will never get sick. Besides they know Joni. And they knew that she had recently been to Budapest, where she’d been so excited to be there, she’d thrown up all over her host’s carpet in the middle of her first night. We’d been chatting at the time on the phone. She’d wanted me to know that she’d arrived safely. That the exchange family were lovely. That everything was tickety-boo. Then suddenly she felt nauseous. The phone was chucked to one side, she leapt up and hurled. For several minutes, I listened helplessly to retching noises. She in Hungary, I in Germany. Together, yet so far apart. I couldn’t hold back her hair. I listened as someone else scrubbed up the mess and she cried and apologised. After many minutes, I found myself stuck with the conundrum: should I hang up the phone? Should I keep listening? Is this really supportive? Or is it just plain creepy? Would anyone ever remember I was still on the phone? Should I shout? Would kind words, after the fact, help anyone at all, anyway? Would I ever get any sleep? How long is long enough? Would my own British politeness mean, that I was never actually able to hang up the phone? Then I heard someone shuffling towards me. It was the hostess. Of course, being British, I apologised profoundly. Then they handed me to Joni. Who was tired and embarrassed, but apart from that, right back on track again.

Joni’s ability to empty her stomach at important life events has become a trademark. A party piece if you will.  Exams – check. Birthdays – check. Presentations – check. Travelling – check. First dates – check. I have forwarned her that on her wedding day, there will be no make-up and no dress until all of the sickness is out of the way. Beauticians and lady’s maids will be poised for the last minute dash to slop slap on her face and tug her wedding dress over her head, in an attempt to get her to the town hall on time.

Today, I hope, will be an exception. She celebrated into her birthday with a few college friends, and after a little sleep and a lot of classes we’ll descend upon her and take her out to dinner. I, for one, am really looking forward to it.

To my first born: Happy Birthday! Continue to be the bright and shining star that you are. Live, love and be happy. ❤

10 years of sun, no sea and not much going to plan…

I’ve lived in Germany now, for almost ten years. Ten years! Can you believe it? I don’t think I can. Where does the time go?

Distracted. Sorry. Where was I? Ah, yes, I’ve been living in Germany now for almost ten years. And there are some things I’ve got used to. And other things I can never actually imagine ever getting used to. It’s a bit like a scale, ranging from things I got used to really easily like fruit and veg being much cheaper and things being bigger like houses and streets, oh, and the amount of recycling. I always was a big recycling fan.

Then things that were not quite so easy, like driving on the other side of the road and learning to call the Euro the Euro and not the pound (and similarly the Cent the Cent and not the pence).

Then there were the things that took quite some time but I finally mastered them like learning the language (not the grammar, I’ve officially given up on the grammar – much to my lovely husband’s disappointment, he always was a big grammar fan) and the strange school system whereby my four children all start and finish at different times every single day.

I hope that you understood me. It’s not just that they have different start and different finish times from each other, but that every day they also have different start and different finish times.

Still not quite clear?

OK, say on Monday two children should start at the second period while two others have instructions to begin at the first lesson. Then one could go on to finish after the fourth period and another say, after the fifth, another perhaps returns home after the sixth lesson and yet another after the seventh. The following day, in this example the Tuesday then, three children may start at the first period which commences at a truly ungodly hour and then one in the second. Fasten your seatbelts though because  one could already be finished by the third (not because they’re geniuses, just because that’s how the system goes). Then the others might trot home one at a time after completing the sixth, eighth and tenth lessons.

It goes on like that throughout the week but I can’t learn it because, you see, the following week it will be a completely different story. Classes will be cancelled. Sometimes children eagerly appear home for four periods at a time and then race off back to school. I never know just how many people I’m feeding lunch to, so I wait, attempting to be patient, as lunchtime seems to mean a different time for each child. This has led to some snacking issues on my part but anyway I digress yet again.

You get the general idea: I rarely brush my hair, I spin around a lot, I say’ hi’ and ‘goodbye’ at least 100 times a day and I’ve taken to snacking between loud bursts of children and wails of ‘I don’t want to do my homework’.

But I got used to it. Well, sort of.

But there are some things I could never get used to and one of those is the weather.

In winter, I have to live in thermals. I have lived through frozen solid nostrils inside my nose and my daughter collapsing at her carol concert at our local Christmas Market extravaganza in the city centre.  I’d warned the teenager to dress warmly (not just fashionably, as you do) and she’d paid attention. I’d warmed her very cockles with a lovely hot non-alcoholic punch as we’d waited for the concert to begin. She’d sung the initial song and I’d grinned like a manic Cheshire cat. Then she’d looked slightly ropey. Concern surged through my body and I attempted a step forward. It was difficult, not only because their delightful song had brought in the crowds, but I was wrapped up like the Michelin woman, movement becomes almost impossible at -15°C.

She slithered glass-eyed-ly down her neighbouring carol singer. There was a brief concerned pang across that unsuspecting victim’s face, then the motto ‘keep calm and soldier on’ was deployed by the music teacher and her choir. Any other Brit watching would have felt intense pride.

I wobbled my way over to my blond soprano and attempted to lift her from the floor. But she was already a teenager and no matter how hard I tried to convince myself, she was no longer the weight of yester-year. I could not even drag her from the ground.

Then in true X-Men style, a group of strong and able younger and older men, the type you really like to have around you in such a crisis, appeared at my side. They carried her floppy body through the crowd. From nowhere, a woman arrived, wrapped in many scarves, jackets, hats and gloves, and on top of that, balancing a chair. My child was slumped onto the chair and slowly, slowly came around.

Someone shouted that there was not a single first-aider to be found and many tutted in a disapproving manner.

My own hero, my husband, was keeping the other children out of the cold in a local department store so the X-Men offered to transport my non-walking daughter there. I gratefully accepted.

We arrived at the multi-floored store and I abandoned my precious with those kind strangers as I attempted a funny thermal-bundled run from floor to floor. I found my family. We returned and thanked profusely and the superheroes departed just as quickly as they had entered the scene.

We tried to stand the pale one up but she buckled, so my knight threw her over his shoulder, like this season’s scarf, and strode off in the direction of the car.

Only to walk right slap bang into a first-aider.

He escorted us to the safety of the local police station which just happened to be one of the buildings close by and assessed the situation. Then he called an ambulance.

It was our second ambulance of the week. Aden had managed to smack himself in the knee during sport, with a hockey stick. He’d been rushed to hospital in an ambulance. We’d been rushed out of a different doctor’s appointment to meet and greet him in A and E.

The paramedics arrived and took control of the situation. I explained that my daughter was wrapped up in a lot more than cotton wool. I informed them how I’d plied her with non-alcoholic, warm and lovely punch.

Then my eldest divulged that she hadn’t bothered having any breakfast. At all.

I had the exact same feeling, in the pit of my stomach, that I had the day she told our G.P., all those years ago, at that emergency appointment, that the reason she kept complaining of a sore throat of a morning was not because she actually had a sore throat but because she just hadn’t felt like going to school.

It’s the beginning of June. Known to us by several other names including ‘Birthday Season’ and ‘The Second Christmas’. Don’t worry, I’m not under any illusion that any of my children are the next Jesus and I’m fully aware that none of my pregnancies were conceived by immaculate conception. Besides, I had each caesarian section in the warmth and comfort of a nice clean hospital with not a single bale of hay or a little donkey anywhere in sight. Though I must admit; many wise people came bearing gifts.

Three of my children poked their heads into the world in the first days of June. Thus every June is full of presents and parties. And cakes and snacking…

My eldest is the first, every year, to celebrate her birthday. Noseying through her presents, I spotted a book: “101 things to do before you die”. I took an immediate interest, especially after doing my 101 tasks in 1001 days. I started reading the suggestions and I was shocked. Quite clearly the fantasies of a young man, I baulked at the thought of my eldest princess doing a bungee jump or taking part in a threesome or graffitiing something.

How irresponsible! OK, I know my daughters are all very artistic and encouraging them to spray paint some surface might actually add to the aesthetic value of the world. But for God’s sake, there are people like me! I can’t draw for fudge. I couldn’t sketch something aesthetically pleasing if my life depended on it. Despite my seven year old telling me that I just need practice. I know. I KNOW all the practice in the world will never turn me into an artist.

I think the heat has gone to my head.

I will never get used to this weather.

It’s been over 30°C since the weekend and the smell of not so sweet sweat seems to linger all around me. I have hardly slept because of the heat and then last night because a storm lobbed hail stones at my window.

My carefully planted and lovingly maintained salad ingredients have all melted in my tiny greenhouse.

Bugs are giving up the ghost. I’ve found several flat on their backs, legs stiff in the stuffy air, on my tabletop.

I thought I’d move in to my bikini only to discover, to live in, it doesn’t have the most comfortable crotch.

I cannot imagine ever being able to get used to the german weather.

But I’m really, really glad that just like the British, they love to talk about it.

An official apology to Dan the Man

Dearest, dearest Dan the Man
please forgive me
if you can!
I do beseech you
I had a plan:

I went shopping
some time ago
not alone, you understand
along with Aden
my own young man.
We searched and searched
through shelves and rows
for a fitting gift
that’d curl your toes!

Aden advised me
I think, quite well,
of what young men
find pretty swell…

I filled my basket
with goodies for you
and one or two
for your big brother too.

I thought I had it cracked
this birthday present lark
I laughed with the assistant
as I handed over my precious debit card.

Then I realised!
That between your birthday
and that of your sister
there’s only three weeks:
hardly enough time
to learn a new tongue twister!

So, I thought of the pennies
as well as the pounds
(it’s so important
that there’s enough
of that lovely money
to go around).

I’d share the postage
between you three
and I whistled to the birds
some strange
(tone deaf)

Now I hear from your Mum
that your birthday is today!!!
I haven’t sent your long-ago-bought-present
and you live so far away!!!

I had the date in my head
and then, somehow, I forgot
(perhaps because I’m old?
Or ’cause my head is full of snot?)

So your present
it is here
and you are there
where I am not!
Your gift
so early bought
is clearly late!
So past the date!
I’m such a clot!

But I think
that you will laugh
once you know
the reason

You see,
I waited all this time
when your birthday
actually is
I believed it was
in fact,
on a much
later date!

And the cherry on the cake?
I still needed to buy your lovely sister’s
or so I thought
although in truth
I had it already
sitting in a bag
right next to my bed
in which I climb
every… Single… Day!

And can you believe it?
In that bag
I also found
that absent glue;
the one I knew
that I’d bought
but had been missing
for a month or two….!

I was going
to finish here
my dear.
But do you know
what happened next?
Go on
I’ll give you a moment,
have a guess…

I wrapped your pressies
all of them
and placed them
in a cardboard box.
I drove to the post office,
in the town
and parked my car
in a good spot.
And then I rummaged
all around.
I shook my head.
I beeped the horn.
I swore, somewhat.

Dearest, dearest Dan the Man,
I’d left your box
Upon my table
Oh super-silly-Sarah-smelly-socks!

Happy Birthday Dan!!! Your pressie is finally on it’s way!!! 🙂








Joni – A Ray Of Sunshine

Today is a mammoth day.

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

Joni, Happy 18th Birthday sweetheart!

I have a few things that I want to say.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

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

Dearest Joni:

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

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


Excitement of the day

Last weekend my husband celebrated his birthday. Some of you may also know that I turned 40 in the summer. A very generous, angelic, amazing, crazy friend presented me with a voucher: To Take All Four Kids Overnight.

I combined the two and bought an overnight voucher for a hotel including dinner. And we’re off, TODAY.

Now, you might start to get the idea that I’m excited.

I’ve been biting at the bit ever since I managed to pull off the deal with my friend to coincide with the dinner, bed and breakfast package at the hotel.

My husband has been dutifully suspicious as to why I have been grinning form ear to ear for the past few weeks.

Since his birthday, we’ve been playfully bumping shoulders and asking, “Are you excited?”

But it took me until this morning to realise that our enthusiasm dulled into insignificance in comparison to the children’s.

We awoke to clonking on the stairs and a sharp intake of breath this morning.

Admittedly, the gasp was due to the fact that it had snowed during the night.

As was the reason for salt being dragged up from the cellar.

And the idea to take shovels in the car.

But the necessity to pack a suitcase with an arrangement of teddies and and clothes as well as being fully dressed – including winter boots and snow trousers – and ready to go at 9.30am especially when we’re not due to leave until after 1pm, says to me that my children are in higher spirits than I am!

Right, I’m off to shave my forest. There’s a sauna!

A weak week

It’s funny to think that just over a week ago we were building up pavilions (that a few short hours later were to be dramatically felled in a storm), we were rehearsing the Gay Gordons (which we wouldn’t need because we had never intended our garden to become a mud wrestling arena) and we were blowing up space hoppers (which were then inappropriately used as footballs by small boys, providing one of the first catalysts of the evening for the ADHD one’s meltdowns).

It seems like such a long time ago. And yet, it was only just over a week.

A little more than 7 days ago, a friend asked me if I ran on adrenaline. I could give her the concrete answer that I definitely wasn’t being rejuvenated by sleep. After all, I was only averaging 4 hours a night. I thought about the question a little, and decided, after looking up at the sun-filled sky, that I must run on solar power.

I stared at the sun (and the sun, after I’d recovered from my blind spot, twinkled back down at me) and I smiled. Full of giddy anticipation of cake and guests and sushi and cake and dancing and space hoppers and actual hopping, and cake and showing the Germans just how to do the Gay Gordons and the highlight: an extra stubborn piñata donkey.

And then a bloody great grey cloud arrived, cut off my energy supply and I was forced to down cheap bubbly wine and Duracell batteries homemade mint chocolate truffles.

I can’t believe that we were still living and celebrating the festivities just over 168 hours ago!

I’ve spent the days since waving goodbye to friends, attacking overflowing bins, finding little surprises I hid from myself in the midst of my I-think-I’m-funny boozed-up state, pouring through photos, wondering if I should vacuum the confetti off the grass and devouring the Olympics.

Yesterday, I overdid myself in the latter activity, it would seem.

I should inform you: I’m completely useless at sport.

I can’t throw a javelin more than a meter.


My P.E. teacher used to despair of me.

And it all got much worse when I accidentally swivelled too far and lunged the discus into my terrified team…

I suspect that my teacher had had a premonition. I’d been given a beanbag.

I really hold no malice at having always been the last to be picked for school sports teams. I suppose my classmates feared for their own safety whilst in my vicinity.

Despite my own inadequacies though,  I still love to watch the pole vaulters and the pommel horsers and the sprinters and I had a lovely, restoring nap during the men’s 10,000 meters.

But I think I must have cheered/clapped/cried too much as Ennis strode comfortably to victory in her 800 meter heptathlon finale.

Because, when I woke up this morning, something with my back was slightly awry.

Despite the assistance of painkillers, I have not been able to make the dinner. Or do the washing. Or go to the loo without some assistance in the dropping of the drawers department.

Bugger. So this is what it’s like to be in your 40s!

Aden’s surprise

Next week I will be, gasp, gulp, sigh, sob… FORTY!!!

Don’t be wishing me a ‘Happy Birthday’, yet. Germans consider birthday wishes before the actual day to be bad luck. I’m not particularly superstitious. Though I don’t walk under ladders – I’m a klutz and something could easily drop on my head. I do salute magpies – I’m polite. I do shriek quite loudly if someone attempts to put their shoes on the table – it’s unhygienic. I do swoop in and attempt to win the battle of the wishbone – I see no point in throwing a wish possibility away. I did spend around half my childhood looking for a four-leaf clover, with no success. And I do knock on my head, if I’m not in close proximity to a more perfectly formed wooden object.

No, I would describe myself as more pragmatic than superstitious.

Anyway, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I’m planning – and that means currently organizing – a proper knees up for my fortieth. I can say knees up now, I’m almost forty. Though whether I can actually get that bloody wrecked left knee up there is another discussion entirely… Where was I? Oh yes, party. So I’m currently organizing the festivities as laid out by my challenges. It’s quite exciting.

Last week, I accompanied my son to an impressive sports event involving several local schools. The finale being two dances performed by 1800 pupils in unison.

After I’d wiped my eyes (blubbery mother that I am) I dragged walked with my five-year old to find my son in the swarm and then we found ourselves right in front of the stage, watching the most amazing balloon entertainer.

I mean, this guy totally rocked.

My son stood in the long queue and waited patiently to receive the autograph of the performer.

I stood with him for a while, then wandered over to the grass and sat in the sunshine. All the other kids picked up their autographed postcards, said their ‘hellos’ and were gone. But my son had a little chat with the young man.

I quizzed him, but he was non-committal.

The next day my son informed me he was expecting a call and that I was under no circumstances allowed to answer the telephone.

The call finally came and he returned to the room, disappointed.

He’d tried to book this amazing entertainer to come to my birthday party as my birthday present.

Naturally, the entertainer (who’s been on TV several times) was completely booked up.

Now, how sweet is that?

I am relieved though. He would have had no money left = no train set that he’s been saving for forever and a day, and we’d probably have had to empty our piggy banks as well.

P.S. If you’re looking to send me a birthday present, tissues would be nice, the ones here seem to be rather soggy!

P.P.S. For my entertainment and yours, a clip of the super-duper entertainer in question (it’s in German but please persevere, it’s worth it!):

Birthdays, weddings and challenges

According to Tilly Bud we’re on week 16 of our challenge and I can’t quite believe how large a part of my life my 101 challenges have become. I’m also pleased to announce that as of this week, I have completed twelve tasks in total!!

The last fortnight has been particularly busy: we’ve thrown a rather large joint birthday party (my eldest daughter and I) and I’ve also been to Scotland to attend a wedding, with my youngest daughter.

Through visiting various restaurants in Scotland (four to be precise) and numerous invites from friends, (and the fact that I’m specifically enjoying this task :-D) I have decided to up my restaurant challenge: from 10 to 30.



I hope.

An ecstatic me also received two whole cookery books as birthday presents.

And a floatation voucher.

And while in Scotland I rampaged through carefully selected a few choice items from a discount Le Creuset shop which my bewildered extremely lovely friend introduced me to.

The choice items included a new cooking apron.

I kept having problems with the tie on my old one landing in the toilet.

Don’t ask.

And a small Le Creuset pan. 🙂

To make up for those lovely restaurant visits I have finally been back to gym.


Plus, after trying erm… several, I have found a wine I like. However, I can’t decide whether to put it on my ‘would buy again’ list as I suspect that I cannot afford it. (A generous friend bought it.)


Check out the other 101ers. They’re all listed on the side of my page.