It’s a hard knock life baby, but there’s still you, and there’s still me


It’s difficult. And you have no idea, really, just how difficult it will be. To leave your country behind. To leave friends. Family. You look in the mirror and you are madly in love. Your passion and your optimism lead you to believe everything will be just fine. With love like this, your world will just keep turning around and around.

But then issues start to creep in. First his family don’t really accept you. You’re different. Foreign. You can’t speak the local lingo and you have different ideas. Different traditions. A different outlook on life. A different world view. You see life through a different set of eyes. Through a different background. Through different circumstances. He loves you, and as the dutiful husband he grows more and more apart from his family, as you do too from yours.

The children are hard work. They too have their issues. The language. The new customs and traditions. Health issues spring up out of nowhere and sometimes, they have difficulties just fitting in.

You spend hours translating homework. Hours sitting in doctor’s surgeries. And very little time at all doing normal things, like you did before and that’s an enormous loss.

You feel alone. Few people help you. Friendships are rarely deep and come and go. You miss your land, your air, your sea. Things you thought had little consequence suddenly mean a lot more.

Opportunities reduce. Exhaustion increases. Life becomes one long bumpy road. You have a lot of children, but no village to rear them, instead you are out there, alone.

Disapproving looks. Little comments. Repeated rejection. You feel it. In your heart. In your pulse. In your soul.

You begin to be less independent. Less resourceful. You cling to your husband and he takes the brunt of all your anguish, your pain, your deep seated sadness.

You love him, but you crush him. He, too, is overcome with tiredness.

Sometimes there are glimmers of hope and torches shining in the darkness and when they suddenly fail to burn or are abruptly extinguished, you plunge into what feels like a never ending abyss. And worse still, you drag everybody else with you.

Our worlds feel so different. Yet we are joined at the hip all the same. Our love, though repeatedly tested, is still as strong, maybe even stronger than it ever was. We traipse and test new pathways, together, and we falter together. Tumble together. Catch one another. Trip one another up but land joined together, hand in hand.

Another punch has hit us. But we feel the same pain. The same disappointment. The same loss. We unite in a way I never could with another. And that makes it somehow bearable. Somehow endurable.

I am with you in this strange land. With its strange customs. With its strange ways.

I stand with you hand in hand.

Through the hard stares. Through the false starts. Through every battle ground.

Hand in hand. Always.

Watch out for those wrinkly bits!


You know you married a German when your teenage daughter wanders over to you and tells you that your husband is “spachteling” around in the buff. As in completely starkers. Wearing nada. Hanging loose.

People often ask us which language we speak at home. And everyone of us always answers, “Denglish.” Which is a rather confused mix of Deutsch or German and English. The verb spachteln means to fill something in, or smooth something out. Which was in this case with plaster. As native Brits we just love the suffix -ing and half of our Denglish consists of us adding an -ing wherever possible to any German verb, which is a constant source of amusement to our German friends, and is pretty much the only reason we ourselves notice it, as to us, it just sounds so natural. They snigger when we call out, “I’m going einkaufing” (shopping). They giggle at our “spaziering” (going for a walk). And they’d crack up at our spachteling around.

I responded to my daughter that her Papa was obviously taking naturism up as an extreme sport. After all, I have a protective need to wear sturdy footwear when I’m just doing the ironing. I feel positively alarmed at the thought of using actual tools in my birthday suit.

Curious of his bravery, I later approached my husband on the subject. He explained his very simple and pragmatic approach, “I needed a shower anyway, so rather than change into my work clothes…”

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.



Corona Diaries Part 2


Phew!

We’re all still breathing, kicking, bickering and plundering toilet roll. Touch wood. I’m not attempting to jinx anything said while slapping my own head ferociously.
My husband doesn’t believe in jinxes. There’s no word for jinxing in German. So he believes it doesn’t exist. But we know. That is, the rest of the family and I. And we are quite accustomed to smacking our own heads if tables/bookshelves/garden fences are unavailable. This does make us appear slightly stranger to our German acquaintances.

Some of you have asked me how I am and I admit, it’s a difficult question to answer.
Mainly because my mood swings have become, quite frankly, erratic. But from talking to other people and watching the news, I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Some days, I am the great achiever. In actual jobs. Not just in online shopping. Other days, the minutes fade into hours and I can’t remember what I’ve actually done. Other than eaten a bit of chocolate, watched a show and washed my hands.

It took me some time, but I came to the realisation that my self-worth is closely linked with my ability and actual activity in doing stuff for others and if I don’t manage to achieve that, my self-worth buggers off to the bottom of a cliff somewhere.
I’ve not managed to completely sort that out yet. Let’s call it a work in progress.

Way back in March I stopped working, as many did. I buckled down with homemade soups, crossed my fingers and my toes and sometimes held my breath. Our battle plan was how to avoid coming into contact with the virus and how not to contaminate anyone else, should we get it. We avoided people. We remained in our own little bubble and used more soap in a few short months than we would normally use in a decade. We consumed the news. We became experts in reading and interpreting graphs and statistics. We gardened. We missed our children and our friends. I missed work. My husband, on the other hand, revelled in his new found home office and worked even more than he normally does. I attempted, at random times, during the day and during the night, to find a possible delivery slot for our supermarket shopping. I read. I discovered new shows. I nodded off during the day and sometimes found that I couldn’t sleep at night. I got the scissors out and chopped away at my daughter’s hair and it turned out not too badly.

So far, touch wood, no one I know personally has been really sick. There were a few precarious moments, like when my son needed to be tested. At first, I wasn’t too bothered as I was really sure that he was suffering from pretty bad hay fever and I thought that the doctor’s were being rightly cautious. But while we were driving to the GP’s outdoor testing centre in the carpark, my son nonchalantly admitted that the wife of a colleague had tested positive and the colleague had been sent home. My son had forgotten to mention it previously. My brain imploded, right there and then. But after a few seconds I managed to pick up all the pieces and glue them back together while simultaneously driving the car. And in front of the doctor we appeared relaxed and unvexed.
The test was negative. Hay fever was the cause of his itchy eyes, sneezing and loss of smell. Wine was drunk in celebratory merriment.

PHEW!!


My life has changed beyond all recognition. I have discovered my own green thumb giving life to extraordinary vegetation and colonies in the garden. I say extraordinary because the potato plants that thrived in the high bed turned out to be rape seed (how does that even happen?) and the broccoli and cauliflower shot but never produced any broccoli or cauliflowers. The lettuce did it’s best to take over the garden. The coriander flourished while the chives and the rocket just decided not to grow. Not only that, the whole garden seemed to develop some kind of mass growing competitiveness. I keep having to cut back the wisteria as it’s continually venturing into the neighbour’s garden as soon as I turn my back. The neighbour can’t stand us already, without our vines invading his territory! The apple tree, despite being considerably hacked back by me at the beginning of spring, has sprung so many apples it’s in danger of toppling over. A pretty weed seeded itself next to the rose arch, it seemed so innocent at first… Now its thick wooden stem has massacred the clematis and we have no idea how we’ll detach it from the archway. Maybe a chainsaw… Then there’s the ants. I found these ‘stones’ in the high bed. Nope. Not stones. Ant nests!!!

Lack of human contact has seen me talking to the dog even more, who often appears confused by my tales. I also try to banter with the plants. But unlike the dog, they rarely respond.

I find myself even more agitated by the neighbours. It’s one thing not to speak, even when we’re in a crisis. But one neighbour got chickens. Live chickens!! And my problem is, I can hear them, but I can’t see them. I drag the dog all over my suburb in pursuit of visiting any old farmyard animal and now I have chickens opposite my house!! Only being able to hear them is deplorable.

I have discovered I am still terrible at sewing. I have made mask upon mask. Each one takes hours because I spend so much time fixing them. And they have so much stitching they look more like thread than actual material. Now, as my daughter has returned to school, they are being thoroughly tested by the washing machine. And they are not always passing muster.

My health so far, has been unaffected by Covid itself, but because I’m not constantly coming into contact with germs, my asthma has greatly improved while my Crohn has been exacerbated considerably. So much so, that it’s become difficult to leave the proximity of the house most of the time or think about starting to work again. But I will see a new doctor next week. So hopefully we’ll find a way forward.

How are you doing?

Corona Diaries


08.00, Thursday 19th March

Total cases Germany: 12,327

Total deaths: 28

Total recovered: 105

I am doing my utmost not to leave the house. There are two reasons for that. One, I do not want to help to spread the virus. Two,  I do not want my family or I to catch the virus especially as my husband, my daughter and I myself, all have asthma, so we’re considered high risk.

♦♦♦♦

I am one of those people who consumes news. That is, I read the news, a lot. I watched the virus from afar, in China, and I was horrified. And I felt trepidation. My children call me their dragon mother. They always proudly recant stories of me, puffing up my chest and blowing out my flames at any remotely dubious character who would even dare to glance in their direction.

So I started rabbiting on to my husband about that proper larder I had been planning on installing in the cellar for the last couple of years. He readily agreed that it wasn’t actually a bad idea.

Then the numbers in our almost neighbour Italy, suddenly shot up. And luckily, I was ahead of the curve.

It seems to me that Germans (at least in my area) haven’t quite got the concept of supermarkets. They still tend to go shopping most days. Whereas I’m a buy in bulk kind of lass. Partly because of my British heritage. Partly because I have four whole children. And going shopping with four whole children is a mammoth task. Two of my children are ‘blessed’ with ADHD, one of those is also sprinkled with autism. Growing up, our shopping trips meant once a month, a big, massive shop with two overflowing  trolleys and then, every now and then an attempt at nipping out to top up milk, bread and other fresh stuff. Even that became a bit too much at some point. So I started having our milk and yoghurt delivered and a fruit and veg pack for a while too. Those deliveries may well have saved my sanity.

As the years went by, kids started moving out, and I starting relaxing and going shopping alone more and more often. I love cooking, so I would really let the food inspire me.

But experience is experience. So before almost anyone else started ‘hamstering’ as the Germans call it. I was standing in line, once again with my two trolleys full to the brim of things we regularly eat and drink, but have a long shelf life (the shop assistant looked rather surprised). I had decided, before the shit hit the fan, I would get myself together and sort my larder out once and for all! Not only that, I would give my two grown up children who have moved out, but live on a pittance, a few bits and pieces to keep them going  too. Let me assure you: I am not greedy. I did not buy anything we would not normally use and I did it at a time when the shelves were full and everything was in abundance. And since then, I have only bought regular levels of shopping.

I am organized. I am one of those irritating mothers who has an itinerary planned for a holiday.

I’ve also realized that, any time I hit a crisis my reaction is to feed people. Be it a death, a storm, or a virus.

I think it’s how I take control.

Last Friday
They announced the schools were closing as of Tuesday. I was so glad. The numbers of ill people had been rising day after day. My asthmatic daughter was squashed like a sardine on the bus and I was fearful. So fearful, I had started losing sleep.

I just wanted to have her at home and put her in a cocoon. And stand guard over her.

I might be the dragon mother but this dubious character, who wants to attack my family is invisible.

Saturday
I cooked. Soups mainly. I thought,  if we get the virus we will need something healthy. I stayed up late until they all cooled down and then I put them in the new freezer.

On Saturday I also cried. A lot. I cried about my grown-up children. Who have stopped coming to visit because they are scared to infect us asthmatics. I cried about the people in Italy that I do not know. I cried about the people in Italy that I do know. I cried about my dad, who died, 40 years ago – the anniversary was the day before, on the 13th of March, – and when he died, he was the same age as I am now. Just 47. I cried about my mum and my step father who are not nice people and who want nothing at all to do with me, but I know there’s a high chance they would not survive this virus, should they get it. I cried about random acts of kindness. I cried about my daughter losing her job, her income and her premier the night before in the theatre. I cried about her happy bubble bursting and her insecurities awakening. I cried for friends who have diabetes, heart conditions, asthma and cancer. I cried for people I do not know and have never met. I cried for people who are alone and sad and scared and lonely. I cried with fear that I may never see my children have their own children and that I may never be able to be their dragon grandmother.

And then I dried my face and I started to cook.

I tried to plan how I could stay home as much as possible. How I could try and help people from inside my home. What could I offer? I wanted to go out and do my bit. It’s quite a hard realisation when it suddenly dawns on you, you can’t be the protector anymore. You have to be the protected.

So I called people. I wrote to people. I tried to see if everyone was OK. A lot of people were not OK.

Monday
Akasha had to go to school. I had cancelled work completely for the following five weeks. So we juggled things around and my husband drove her back and forth, so she at least didn’t have to be a sardine on a bus.

♦♦♦♦

Friends call. They offer to deliver food and help in anyway they can.

I start to see my invisible foe everywhere. Is he on the box the postman just delivered?

I read somewhere that the virus can live on cardboard for 24 hours. Is it fake news? So I take the box in. And leave it sitting for 24 hours before I open it. I wash my hands, saying the alphabet twice. Just to be sure. You may think that I am paranoid. But the very next day two postal workers in Italy die from the virus and unions are demanding the closure of postal services. The day after that our postman has gloves on.

There’s no cheery banter at the door. Not much more than a brief thanks in that sudden, momentary contact.

I feel sad. It’s hard to motivate myself to do anything. I am so tired because I have trouble sleeping. And I have a persistent cough that I know is just from a previous bad cold. But I want to be healthy, so if I get the virus, I can fight it with all my might.

♦♦♦♦

Tuesday
My mood improved dramatically. I felt more normal and motivated again. I realized that I probably went through a few stages and it seems to be happening to a lot of people around me.

The first stage is denial: I cannot believe this is happening. I cannot accept this. From my perception this is a longer stage for the young. When you’re young you feel invincible. And most likely, you haven’t experienced much death. Also, with this virus, the young don’t seem to be as badly affected as older people. At least, so far.

After that comes acceptance and with that often some kind of crisis. Maybe you feel angry, or can’t sleep, perhaps you cry a lot like I did, or start to be really anxious. This stage is horrible. But I think it’s important not to suppress it. Once you let it out you can get onto the next bit.

For me that’s definitely take control. Do something. This is a good stage. I don’t know however, what comes next.

We are all, suddenly, in the same boat. Young and old. Across the nations. Some of us are at earlier stages, others at later. This is our war and we need to fight it together.

I wish you all strength. I wish you all courage. I wish you all patience. Above all, I wish you all to feel the love from and give the love to one another.

Stay safe.

10.15, Thursday 19th March

Total cases Germany: 12,343(+16)

Total deaths: 28

Total recovered: 105

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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. ❤

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!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.”

 

 

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…