Tuesday 29 October 2013

Not a sponsored post...

Is it wrong that I'm actually looking forward to seeing this with my kids?  (Check out the cast list before you disagree...)

Monday 28 October 2013

Bless me, father...

... for I have fibbed to my children.

But before you judge too harshly, let me set the scene.  It's the first weekday of half term.  Nevertheless, we had to get up earlier than we would do on a normal school day, as we had some tricky-to-sort-out admin to attend to that required the four of us to get in the car and wrestle with the black heart of Moscow's rush-hour on the MKAD (the Moscow motorway ring road).  You can imagine our delight then, when we arrived at our destination, to find that the offices we needed to go to are closed on a Monday.  Of COURSE they are; this is a municipal office and, like most museums and art galleries, doesn't open that day unless there's a bank holiday somewhere in the week (when all bets are off and who knows what the schedule is).

This, by the way, is not where the fib took place.  The Boys were aware we messed up (when I say 'we' I think you understand that I am not talking about 'me' - but no finger pointing, it never helps *cue much polishing of PM's saintly halo*) - and took the situation amazingly well.  Almost as if they were used to it.  Cough.

Then, we decided to make use of our trip by making a visit to the bank on our way home to carry out a transaction, which necessitated a) me to wake up out of my oh-so-attractive dribbling doze in the front seat and b) the boys to stop ribbing each other for long enough to get out of the back seat of the car so that c) Husband could negotiate with the bank clerk on a transaction which, we realised once we got home, was not actually completed.

Still no fibbing.  Some muttered cursing, yes, but no fibbing.

Subsequently, we managed to persuade Boy #2 to practice his Taekwondo routine with his older brother (admittedly, with promises of hot chocolate for the Boys who At Least Tried), play a few rounds of Uno without resorting to fisticuffs, get through some holiday homework, eat some lunch, select some activities for us to do later in the week, speak to the grandparents and check their house was still standing after the storms (it is), and choose which movie to watch later - all without me fibbing to my children.

Boy #2 is now ensconced in the music lesson he loudly complained about when informed it was happening (But it's the HOLIDAYS, Mum!), and as far as I can tell, enjoying it.

But he wouldn't be if I hadn't fibbed.

Boy #1 is supposed to have lessons at the same time, you see.  And here's where I may have muddied the waters a little; I got a text 3 hours ago telling me that Boy #1's teacher was not able to make it.  I knew that Boy #1 was looking forward to his lesson and yet I kept the information to myself and chose not to tell him about the fact that it had been cancelled until after his brother's lesson started.

Why?  Because I simply couldn't face the battle that I knew would ensue if my younger son realised that whilst he was having his lesson, his brother would simply be lying on the sofa reading Harry Potter*.  So, as far as Boy #1 is concerned, the text arrived half an hour ago, after Boy #2's lesson began.

So will my tongue turn black and fall out of my head?  Or am I simply utilising 'smart parenting' in this sin of omission with my younger son?

*This is, in fact, exactly what is happening.  And he doesn't seem too upset, after all...

Friday 11 October 2013

International Day of the Girl - and a question


Did you know that a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5 years old?*

Did you know that a girl with just one extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult?*

Did you know that an educated mother is twice as likely to send her own children to school?*

Did you know that a girl with 8 years of education is 4 times less likely to be married as a child?*

Did you know that 14 million girls under 18 will be married this year?  That's 38,000 girls today alone - or, to put another way; 13 girls in the last 30 seconds*.  Some of them will be as young as (or younger than) 11 or 12 years old - and mothers themselves by the time they reach 13.  Always assuming, that is, they survive giving birth.

Because, did you know that the largest cause of death in girls aged 15 - 19 years old, world-wide, is childbirth?*

It's easy, in our privileged parenting world to lose sight of, not know or to ignore the facts above.  We get bogged down in cajoling our own children out of the house on the school run every week-day morning whilst we recite the daily litany of of 'have-you-packed-your-lunchbox-where's-your-school-sweater-and-don't-forget-to-take-your-library-books-back-today', and forget those girls who through factors outside their control are unable to access education.  But they exist, in their millions.  33 millions, to be precise. (There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary schools worldwide*).

Today, the International Day of the Girl, I was lucky enough to attend a screening of a new movie 'Girl Rising'.  It presents the stories of 9 girls fighting for their right to education, as told by celebrated writers from their own countries and voiced by well-known actors.  It will leave you with powerful images and most likely, the understanding that unless we face up to the statistics above - and try to change them - nothing will alter and the cycle will simply continue.

So, one more question:

What if a girl's life - the lives of 33 million girls across the world - could be more?

*Statistics from the Girl Rising website

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Hoist by my own petard...

You want to know what's galling?

When you make the following statement to your 7 year old son whilst trying to help him with his homework; "I am 46 years old, Boy #2.  I think I know how to answer questions on using a ruler.  Please try it my way - if it's wrong, I will send your teacher an email to explain it was my fault."

And then, the next day, having to write said email.


Sunday 6 October 2013

Sunday morning snapshot

Husband and I are sitting downstairs; I'm blog gardening, he's indulging in a spot of voyeurism on the London housing market.  Boy #1 is out, and Boy #2 is upstairs beetling around with his lego.  Suddenly, from upstairs:

Boy #2:  "Ow!".

Silence.  Husband and I are used to these outbursts, so we carry on with what we're doing.

Boy #2.  "OW!"

Still, we say nothing.  If he wants us, he knows where we are, right?

Boy #2:  I said, OW!!"

Husband and I look at each other and start to crack up.  (Any child who can say 'I said, OW!' is clearly not in mortal peril.)

Boy #2:  "Did anyone hear me?  I said, OW!!!"

Me, giving in:  "Yes, we heard you.  Are you OK?"

Boy #2  "Yes.  I'm fine.  I just wanted to check you heard me..."

Thursday 3 October 2013

In which I put my hardened cynical self firmly back in her box...

I'm a cynical old bat, and when I saw this posted on fb by someone else fully expected to find it cheesy.  But having watched, I can't resist sharing this.

The dad of the little girl in the clip below writes on his YouTube post:

"She thought she kept hearing fireworks and couldn't sleep, so we sang to keep her mind preoccupied. In the end, nothing competes with fireworks."

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Assimilation - Moscow-style

You know you've adapted to living in Moscow when...

...you walk back after dropping the kids at school, notice a burst water main in the neighbouring compound on your way home and without wasting any time once you get there, put the washing machine on pause.  Why?  Because you know without being told that the water pressure in your home will drop substantially and that even when it's sorted, the next lot of water coming through the tap will be brown and murky - and the wash you currently have on is white.

...you subsequently receive a call from your compound manager and start the conversation by saying 'Good morning A* - did you know the water is off because of the next-door compound's leak?' before she even has the chance to draw breath and inform you that the water is off for 2 hours due to - guess what - a burst water main.

...travelling home in a taxi after a splendid night out you suddenly realise that you're listening to 'Jerusalem' being sung by clear-voiced choristers on the radio, at 2am, on a busy Moscow highway - and that it doesn't seem at all surreal.

...the girl on the other end of the order line for your water bottles drops your call because she can't be bothered to find someone to speak English to you, so you shrug your shoulders and call back using your pidgin Russian to order it.  Then you buy a couple of 5 litre bottles at the supermarket just in case you - yet again - misunderstood the delivery day/time and you don't want to spend the day at home waiting for a drinking water delivery that never comes.

...your children are wearing woolen hats and gloves as they cycle to school - and have been doing so for the entire last week of September.

...what's more, you let them do it without comment (and in fact, are digging around in the glove basket for your own).

...you have already washed the kids ski trousers and jackets ready for the first snow fall.

...you watch the first snow falling (today) and instead of despairing, check that you have wax for your cross country skis and that you can find your glove warmers.

...you find yourself looking at the fur coat and jacket shops without the same levels of disdain that you did when you arrived in Russia 4 years ago.

...you even come up with a rationale for wearing a lambskin shearling coat (FYI; I eat sheep and lamb - why shouldn't I wear them?), although you still can't quite bring yourself to purchase one

...your children no longer ask new kids in their class where they are from, because they know the answer may well be 'Well, I was born in Houston but then we moved to Singapore, before living in Australia and then Amsterdam'.  Instead, they cut out the blather and ask 'Where did you arrive from?'