Friday 20 March 2015

'Tales from the Land of the Lost... Property' continued...

You know how sometimes bloggers use a little poetic licence when writing their posts?  I have to admit that the post I wrote yesterday - about Boy #2 losing his coat - was actually about an incident that happened the day before.  So sue me.

What I'm writing about now, though, happened this morning - honest, guv.

So, in an effort to communicate to Boy #2 how much of a pain in the backside losing his coat is, I have made him come with me to the Lost & Found cupboards at school 3 times since he mislaid it.  We went there yesterday morning.  We went there yesterday afternoon.  And we went there again this morning.

No sign of it - the coat is still lost in the space-time continuum.  But I figured that if nothing else, as a result of the hassle of going backwards and forwards to L&F, he would take better care of his belongings from now on.

This morning, however, after another fruitless expedition to the cupboards, I walked him to his class.  We were almost at the door, when THIS happened.

Me: "Have a good day darling.  See you later..."

Boy #2: "Bye Mum!"

Me (with a sinking feeling):  "Wait.  Where are your hat and gloves?"

Boy #2 looked at me with a dismayed expression.  "Um.  I left them at the Lost & Found?"

Well.  That lesson in taking responsibility for his possessions really worked, then...

Thursday 19 March 2015

Gaaaaah! or, 'Tales from the Land of the Lost... Property'

The scene; this morning, Potski Mansions.  It's 8.05am.  The boys and I need to leave for school in three minutes.  I'm standing by the back door doing my usual normal morning routine to get them out of the house (that resembles nothing so much as herding cats), when it happens.

Me:  "Boy #2 - where's your coat?"

Boy #2:  "My what?"

Me:  "Your coat."

Boy #2:  "Oh, that.  I don't need it."

Me:  "What do you mean, you don't need it?  We live in Russia, for Pete's sake!  It's only March - it could still be -15degC outside!"

Boy #2 looks at me despairingly, and opens the back door, gesturing at the scene outside.  "Mum.  The sun is shining.  The snow is practically gone."

I splutter, realising that it's finally happened - I have become a Russian babushka - and that if I'm not careful I will start shouting at families who's children are not wearing snow suits to the park in May.  "Yes, but...  But... it's March!"

Boy #1:  "He's right - it's +5degC out there.  Practically tropical - I might leave my coat at home, too..."

Me (feeling very much as if the situation is slipping away from me).  "Hang on a moment.  Boy #1, you don't have to WEAR your coat, but you do have to take it to school.  Boy #2, you too."

Boy #2:  "Ah."

Me (sinking feeling):  "Ah, what?"

Boy #2:  "It's not here."

Me:  "Not here?  Where is it, then?"

Boy #2:  "At... school?"

Me:  "Where at school?"

Boy #2:  "I don't exactly know..."

Reader, I am not proud of the explosion that followed.  Or of the harrumphing and general bad behaviour as I drove the boys to school (the gentle and of course highly fulfilling amble filled with parental/son bonding that I had previously envisaged - prior to 'Coat-Gate' - having been cancelled out by the time this conversation took).

In my defence, the thought of replacing Boy #2's perfectly OK winter jacket at this stage in the game - when there are only a few weeks left when he will actually need it - was not an appealing one.  Neither was the thought of ferreting through the school's Narnia-sized Lost & Found cupboards every day for the next 2 weeks whilst Boy #2's coat works it's way there through the ether from wherever he left it.  I mean, what HAPPENS to the kids' missing stuff in the interim period?  Is there a kind of 'Room of Requirement' that is full of coats, hats, gloves, shoes, water bottles, lunch boxes and suchlike, where this stuff languishes until some evil house-elf decides that the parents have been tortured enough, and OK, joke's over, you can have this crap back now?  Is there?  IS THERE?

(Can you tell I've given this possibility some thought?)

Anyway.  Back on Planet 'Well, It's Just A Coat, After All', we reached the school.  I parked the car and noted that amazingly we were still there 5 minutes early.

Me:  "OK, Boy #2 - you can come with me to the Lost and Found section and look for your coat."

Boy #2:  "Fine, Mum. And whilst we're at it, can we see if the water bottle I left somewhere yesterday is there, too?"


Thursday 12 March 2015

Marking time

Today I have:

  • Got myself and both boys up and ready for school
  • Acted as referee when Boy #2's antics got too much for his older brother (no children were harmed in the making of this blog post.  My sanity, on the other hand...)
  • Made two school lunches and ensured they actually reached the right backpacks
  • Checked the Boys had the correct musical instruments, sports equipment and homework with them
  • Walked them to school and kissed them goodbye (still allowed to do that - and yes, I know how lucky I am)
  • Spent an hour volunteering at the used uniform exchange
  • Had two stitches removed (ouch)
  • Put away two loads of laundry and washed and hung up another (shoot me now)
  • Arranged a follow-up medical consultation in a different time zone
  • Tidied up my clothes cupboard and drawers, and the same for my children, making sure that Boy#1's outgrown clothes are safely put away for use by Boy #2 in a year or so's time.  (Thank god I don't have children who are fussy about wearing hand-me-downs)
  • Been through various boxes of clothes and selected an embarrassingly large amount to go to charity (and yes, some of them hadn't been out of the box since we arrived in Moscow over 5 years ago.  Oh, the shame.)
  • Eaten lunch.

So tell me; at 1.30pm, why does it feel as if I haven't actually been very productive so far today?

Monday 9 March 2015

Pre-travel insomnia - PM styley

My bloggy mate Expat Mum has posted eloquently about Sunday Night Insomnia, here.  That's not a condition I generally suffer from, I have to admit, but I do know something of how it works because I think I suffer from Pre-Travel Insomnia.  Not a 'thing', you say?  Or at least, not a thing that bothers most people because generally, you only make a trip that might prompt it a couple of times a year?  And when do you travel it's all so exciting that you're willing to put up with a shorter night's sleep than usual?

Fair enough.  If I lived in the UK I would absolutely agree with you.  But living here even a weekend to catch up with family or friends requires a flight, so let me enlighten you, then, about one of the Expat First World Problems which I experience more often than I care to admit to...

It's the day before I - and invariably, the Boys - are due to travel.

I spend the afternoon whilst they are at school trying to get ahead of myself so that I don't spend until the small hours packing, in order to get to bed at a reasonable time and avoid complete exhaustion when the alarm bell rings at stupid o'clock the next morning.

I count out the requisite number of pants, socks, t-shirts, trousers, cuddlies and so on.  I do the same for my children. (Boo-boom.) I KNOW I'm supposed to get my kids to do their own packing but frankly I have little enough control over my life already without riding the roller-coaster of 'what do you mean you've run out of clean underwear?' on only Day 3 of a week-long stint away from home with no laundry facilities in sight.

I pile them all on my bed, along with the required toiletries and hair products.  (I'm relatively low-maintenance but a woman has to have some standards).

I pull out 2 medium-sized suitcases and pack them to the gunnels.

I pull out another suitcase to pack the excess (that wouldn't fit into the first two suitcases).

On doing a quick calculation of what groceries and other hard-to-get items I can pick up in our destination to bring back at the end of our trip, I put the first three suitcases away and pull out two larger suitcases.

I pack everything into the two larger suitcases and then realise there is no space for a) our soap bags or b) those groceries I plan to buy, so go back to the cupboard and pull out another (small) suitcase to put the soap bags into, which I can carry onto the plane.

I remember the no-liquids in carry-on baggage rule, and then unpack one of the larger bags so the soap bags can go in there (in the hold), and the pants and cuddlies get to travel in safety on the plan with us (priorities, priorities).

I pick up the Boys from school.

We come home, sort homework, eat dinner, and I give them strict instructions to sort out the electronic items they were reminded to charge yesterday, and put them into their backpacks.  They assure me that it's all taken care of so I potter about doing a last load of laundry and sorting out the fridge so it won't smell too revolting by the time we get back.

Shortly before bedtime, the Boys admit no charging actually took place, so we hunt around for enough plug points to charge their various pieces of electronic paraphernalia and I make a mental note to remember to remind them to pack them in the morning.

The Boys go to bed, and I give the completed luggage a once-over to make sure I've packed everything.

I remember the passports.

I realise I still have to print out the boarding passes.

It is now 9.30pm; we are leaving at 6.30am and there is NO WAY I am leaving the house without a shower in the morning, so I head for bed.

As I brush my teeth, I remember our travel first aid kit.  And the thermometer.  And the anti-histamines and the epi-pens.  (And yes, generally speaking all of these things are available at our destination but other parents will know that they are never needed when you happen to be passing a pharmacy, doctors' surgery or ER.  No, they are needed after dinner in an isolated restaurant when the chef has used the same spoon to dish out your children's vanilla ice-cream that he did the previous order of pistachio, or at 2am when you are in the middle of nowhere and your child is running a 39deg fever.  So better pack that Nurofen for Children, too, then).

I go downstairs, fetch the medicines etc, and realise that they will not fit into the suitcases.  I repack the suitcases.

It is now 10.30pm but by my estimation I'm still ahead of the game - just.

As I climb into bed, my mobile beeps; it's a text from Husband, who is - more often than not these days - meeting us at our destination.  Can I just throw a few pairs of boxer shorts, some socks, a couple of shirts, a pair of jeans and some shoes into the suitcase?

I look at the pile of luggage, and consider telling him to fuck off.

Then I put my dressing gown on, go back into the cupboard, unpack the small bag, and repack it's contents along with Husband's clothes, into a larger one.

It's 11.30pm by the time I climb back into bed and set the alarm for 5.45am.

At 12.45am I am still awake.  What have I forgotten?

I get out of bed and print off the boarding passes and stick them into my handbag with the passports.

I go back to bed before turning around at the bedroom door to go back downstairs to find and pack the Boys' electronics and various chargers into their back packs.  Because yes, they can do it themselves in the morning but if I don't do it now, I will just lie awake fretting about remembering to remind them and who needs that hassle?

I lie awake for another 15 minutes anyway, guilting myself out about not making my children independent enough.  It is now 1.30am.

Finally, I fall asleep, wake up as scheduled at stupid o'clock, get myself, the children, the luggage and the backpacks organised and into the taxi, before realising on the way to the airport that I have forgotten my own laptop charger and mobile phone charger.

And I'm too tired to care...

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Goodbye, sweet poison...

Sometimes, I catch glimpses of you across a crowded room, always looking cool, sleek, and refreshing.  For over half of my life you were an integral part of my routine; I couldn't imagine twenty four hours passing without your featuring in it at some point.

Sure, there were days that I had to make do without you, but it was never by choice.  Sometimes, other people who didn't understand how important you were to me just didn't want you around, so I was forced to do without you.  I couldn't bring you everywhere with me; that would have been rude and crazy, so from time to time I was forced to replace you with others.  I knew though that they were just pale imitations; they never lived up to what we had together.  They never quite delivered the same hit that you did, that same rush.

I'm a clean-living girl.  I don't drink (much) (anymore) (only at weekends), never smoked, was never interested in drugs. I eat healthy food, and not to excess.  Sure, I could exercise more, but other than that I'm boringly 'good'.  So it always came as something of a surprise to others when I confessed that I couldn't do without you.  I used to laugh it off;  "I'm allowed to have some kind of pick-me-up, surely?" but the fact that you were such a habit used to bother me, I admit.  Not enough to do anything about it, not really, but the concern was still there at the back of my mind.

My relationship with you was toxic.  Just a little bit, mind.  But still toxic.

And then recently I caught the flu, and suddenly you didn't seem so appealing. In fact, I found even the thought of you uncomfortable.  The next time our paths crossed I stood looking at you, temptingly decked out in red and silver, and I realised; I didn't need you now.  Why not try life without you for a while? I didn't imagine I would manage it for long; in similar situations in the past the craving has always crept back in the end; a few days or a couple of weeks were the longest I could do without you.

But it's been 10 weeks since I last reached in your direction.

So whilst we had good times for over 20 years, now? I really think I might be over you.

Goodbye, Diet Coke.