Sunday, 30 January 2011

Booking a guilt-trip through Easyjet

How can mothers make you feel guilty so easily? It's a life skill I really must learn.... probably should ask my mum, really.

I phoned her the other night and happened to mention that I was planning a trip back to Derby in April. Just Friday evening until Sunday lunchtime - nothing excessive. But of course I mentioned also that I am going without the kids. Not good, in my mother's opinion. According to her it would be wrong to "leave the children in a foreign country" (eh, with their father). She would "feel terribly funny" doing such a thing, and says she never left me and my sister ever.

I'm not entirely sure I believe that. I must check with my sister, but I do remember there were always 'dinner dances' throughout my childhood, and when I say I remember them, I don't mean because I recall my sister and I looking lovely in our long dresses sipping cocktails by the bar.

The reason I gave for going on my own is that I feel like I just want/need some time on my own. And also because if I took them we'd be sleeping in one room together, and to date my children have never been able to sleep in the same room, so I'd be awake most of the night and then I'd be even more shattered than usual and it wouldn't really be a break at all.

I had the option of going back last week when Stevie was heading back for a couple of days with work. But he was staying in a hotel, and we were going to be staying with a friend, and I weighed up no sleep plus constantly worrying about my children ruining this friend's child-free lovely house, and I just thought it wasn't worth it.

I don't think I lead a necessarily 'typical' life. I am never without the kids. I am a full-time mum in the fullest sense of the word. I live in another country from my family and even when I lived in the UK, I've always lived far away from them. So it's not like I'm working full-time and my only quality time with them is at the weekend and early evening, and it's not like I can drop the kids off at their granny's when I fancy going to the shops or have a doctors appointment. Nope, everywhere I go, they go. So I find it pretty unrelenting. Gruelling even at times.

In fact last night is the first time I have ever used a babysitter. Apart from once when I went to a wedding and they stayed at their granny's house. But with this trip, I feel like I am being perceived as doing the wrong thing and well, definetly it's like I am being really selfish. But really, am I? Doesn't everyone need a little time to themselves?

Of course my mother is somewhat fickle. Recently she (ok well, maybe not just recently. She has always thought it was wrong for me to put the kids in nursery, but recently) she has been saying that it's not really fair to have Hamish in Kita as he doesn't like it, and how my sister and I never wanted to go so she didn't send us. Of course I don't like that he's hating going but I need to learn German and so if we have any problem when I finish my course then I'll take him out. My mum has suggested that I maybe just do the evening course, but then you learn very little at any great speed and really, with hospital appointments and other things of importance I really feel like I need to know what's being said and so it's important that I learn as quickly as I can.

I don't think she agrees. I can tell she's thinking "JUST CHUCK IT!", and I too have my moments of thinking maybe I should. But then the next time I speak to my mum she'll have done a complete u-turn and will say that she thinks it would be a very good idea if I stick at my German and do the exams at B2 level because then that gives me further career options when I return to the UK as maybe I could "teach German to retired folk". Well, that's only another 24 weeks away, and while I would like to do it, in all honesty teaching German to retired folk is lingering somewhere around fairground ride attendant in my list of career aspirations.

So I can't win. And selfish old me is still planning to get on a plane alone and see her friends. Feel free to side with my mother and share your criticisms below. Go on, I'd enjoy it!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

My daughter, the Hallmark greeting card.

Honestly I haven't trained her! I swear! Orla came up to me and told me she needed to give me a special kiss. I asked why and she said "Because you're so pretty, and you do all the tidying up and cleaning, and do nice things for me". It practically brought a tear to my eye.

I'm just glad she doesn't have many people to compare me with. If she knew that fluff in the corners of the rooms, and 2 washings backing up waiting on me taking one out of the machine 12 hours after it finished its cycle was a sign of a mummy who possibly doesn't do all the cleaning and tidying up she should in favour of more fun things, perhaps I wouldn't have got that kiss.
So there we go, nearly 4 years I've waited for that feeling of being appreciated. Yippee!

We've been invited to a birthday party over at workingberlinmum's where the theme may be 'What I want to be when I grow up'. Orla will look lovely dressed up as a Greetings Card Copywriter, and so easy for me! Hamish of course wants to be a Professional Tiger when he grows up. I'm not concerned. I'm sure there will be a degree course in that somewhere.

I'm busy doing nothing.

I think I saw this on FB somewhere and liked it (no, not 'liked' it, just liked it in a normal way)but I forgot to save the source details, so apologies for not linking back to the life coach who created this.

I am an expert when it comes to frittering away time. I just need to sit down with access to the internet and all of a sudden two hours mysteriously pass. Which surprises me really, because I don't look at that many websites, not really, well, maybe just a few, enough I suppose that if you asked me where you could get a really pretty digital radio from online, or which website would give you the best price for a chrome Magimix food processor, I would have no hesitation in telling you. Incidentally, I have neither of these things, which is probably why I have these things stashed in my head taking up space where some German verbs should be conjugating.

Stevie has gone back to Derby for work, and I, secretly, having a little holiday. Just from German class. I think it has done me the world of good. I've had two lovely mornings of frittering away time. Yesterday I used the time well I think and took the long trek along to the doctors to get my repeat prescription. I altered the amounts so that I don't need to go back for insulin as often and the receptionist didn't bat an eyelid. I'd expected to have to have a discussion about this, so perhaps there are benefits to the German medical system after all.

Anyway, I also stopped along the way on the way back and did some food shopping, went to the post office and took some photos of some of the 60's and 70's style U-Bahn stations along the way.

Then I came home and did a little light blog reading and pottering around the house. Lovely! Today was much the same but with some tidying up thrown in. I've really enjoyed having a break from class. Stevie's back tonight so I'll be back at school tomorrow. Bah humbug!
But it's been nice while it's lasted.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Timing is... everything

I've had a 'What am I doing here?' morning. Sometimes something will happen and I'll just suddenly find myself wondering why on earth I am bothering to put myself though this. Of course I know the answer, it's not the obvious question I'm asking myself.

This morning we arrived at Kita and had just gone to wait for the lift, when another little boy arrived with his grandmother. There were other parents and kids there too, but this little boy came up to Hamish and hit him. And I just couldn't think of what to say in German straight away, and then the moment passed and by the time I had formulated the words in my head it felt like it was too late.

The grandmother had already had a talk to the little boy, but I felt like there should have been an apology to Hamish at least. I wanted to say "Hold on a minute!", and I could have said "Woah! Ein Minuten bitte!" but all I could think of was 'I don't know the verb for 'to hold' and that got in the way of thinking of simpler alternatives. I felt so frustrated and angry with myself, and it left me feeling totally downhearted for the rest of the morning.

I hate not being able to express myself properly, and instead of saying what I want to say, constantly having to think of simpler ways of expressing myself. But to be honest I haven't really had any moments before this where I've really needed to say something and the timing has mattered. That seems to be the thing that has left me feeling most frustrated and wishing I was just back 'home' telling random people exactly what I thought of them.

Except I don't really do that. In fact after being sat in German class I spoke to Stevie and told him how I was feeling and he said "But did you tell Hamish just to hit him back?". Well, apart from the fact that I don't want my kids hitting other kids, it did cross my mind, but I thought to myself "Crap, I can't even say that because I bet one of these other parents speaks English and they'll know what I'm saying and then I'll seem like the bad mummy". So I stayed frustrated with my muteness.

Well I did until I got upstairs, and then in front of this grandmother I told Hamish's teacher that this boy had hit him and pointed at the culprit and asked if they could keep an eye on things as I wouldn't like to think that this might be another reason why Hamish is hating Kita. But even that didn't shake my gloom, and normally being really obvious like that would cancel out my earlier frustration and amuse me back into a normal state of happiness.

My German is annoying me at the moment. I know the more I do and the longer I stay on the course, the better my German will get and the better equipped I'll be to respond to people the way I want. But at the same time I am feeling like I don't have enough time to properly go over what I have learnt and as new stuff goes in, some of the old stuff is just leaking straight back out again. After this morning and thinking, 'I should be able to deal with a situation like that: I've been learning German for 14 weeks!' I can't help but think 'What is the point?'. But it could also be that we've just been doing endless grammar and I'm feeling my vocabulary isn't getting any better. Who knows. I'm booked on until April. So I have time to decide if I want to go further at that point or whether I want to have a break from it for a bit.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Potty training: Smartie incentive scheme

"And it was fun, fun, fun, till his mummy took the Smarties away."

A while ago I mentioned that I was letting Hamish potty train himself. The reasons for this are twofold: (a) At Kita with a ratio of 1 staff member to approx 10+ kids I'm guessing Hamish wouldn't get the help he might need to get to the toilet on time, so I'd need to send him in with an extra 10 pairs of trousers and pants every day; (b) I'm lazy and don't feel any pressure whatsoever to have him potty trained by a certain age here. At home people would probably be starting to talk. Certainly with Orla as soon as she turned 18 months, doctors, nurses, and health visitors were saying "Is she not potty trained yet?". I thought it was far too soon, and she wasn't ready, and frankly I have far nicer things to do than to be washing knickers and other garments non-stop.

But, I'm starting to think I should get a shifty on with Hamish. He's completely perfected using the potty when he is nappy free, and given that he's now in the full throes of casting off his clothes at every given moment, that's pretty much all the time when he's not at Kita.

His stumbling point is that when he's wearing pants he tends to think they'll act just like a nappy. Every time. So today I tried a new tactic. Bribery. With escalating incentives. (I should be in sales, honestly).

He was happily running around naked and then at one point said his bum was cold, so I suggested that he might want to try out his new Disney 'Cars' pants. Surprisingly he agreed and I told him that if he remembered to take them down when he needed a wee-wee and go on the potty he'd get a Smartie. Then if he remembered again the next time, he'd get 2... and so on. So straight away the pants were down and he produced a wee-wee. Bingo. So I reminded him of the Smartie incentive scheme and this afternoon he was never off the potty.

Hamish likes to drink a lot anyway, but he really forced himself to take on liquid today. I hadn't bargained on that. For the first hour I felt I was never done cleaning out the potty, and I ended up having to cap the limit on Smarties when we reached 4. Then I brought it down to 2 and he didn't really complain. I feel like I am actually a genius.

I just have to teach him that he can just drop the pants round his ankles, rather than completely remove them and really I need to teach him how to put them on again. Every time he tried on his own he ended up with both legs through the same leg-hole and was wearing them in a kind of bum-bag style round his waist. It's a look that works for him, but unless I actually stop being lazy & train him, he could still be wearing them like that when he starts school.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Colour Me Happy!

Yesterday when I was on my hands and knees I discovered that Orla had been writing her name in biro on the door slat-thingy between the hall and the bathroom. (n.b. for those of you learning German, here's a question: do you ever find that you forget the names of things in English - not that I know the name for that in German...). Actually, it was less like writing and more that teenage habit of 'embedding' her name in the wood of the desk in Chemistry.

As you can imagine I wasn't too happy, but at least these days I am able to identify the culprit as Orla's signature is becoming recognisable. Lot's of big 'O's' and 'l's' and 'a's' that look more like 'q's'. The 'r's' look a lot like the 'l's', so it's hard to pick those out but none the less, since I didn't end up calling Hamish 'Arlo' there was only one person to blame. We had a little chat about it, and Orla said she would NEVER do it again. I thought I was being smart as well, because I remembered to add that we aren't allowed to draw ANYWHERE on the house, rather than being caught out with only saying you can't draw on this part of the house, and then living to regret it.

But I shouldn't have worried. Less than 24 hours later, I wander into Orla's bedroom to discover that she's in the process of marking our ages on the wall under the window in great big stripes of colour. As a result I have confiscated her crayons, pencils, and pens and her brand new scissors which I bought her yesterday after a fair amount of begging. She's gutted, but I can't think of any other way of stopping her from doing this. And it drives me to despair when it does happen (...this was not the first time sadly.)

Stevie is constantly telling me I need to do myself a favour and relax a bit with the kids and not be checking on them every 5 minutes to see what they are up to. He says it does my blood pressure no good and he's right because invariably I catch them just as they are about to do something I don't want them to - yesterday's list included nearly smashing the living room window by swinging the heavy metal curtain pull at it, and pullling their little IKEA chairs into the kitchen to climb up at the cooker (which was on) while I went to the toilet. But I would argue that it wouldn't do my blood pressure much good either if I walked into the living room after a loud crash and discovered Hamish surrounded and impaled by shards of glass from a 5 ft high window, or heard screaming from the kitchen and found the two of them burnt or scalded and had to spend the evening or longer at the hospital.

But today I decided to ease off for a little bit as they were only messing around in Orla's bedroom and I was busy trying to tidy up while listening to Stevie throw up. Why when you feel dreadful would you think that Orange & Pineapple juice would be a good thing? So that's what I get for taking my eye off the ball. The only good thing to come out of this is the fact that it says that I am only 6 to Stevie's wopping 8 years of age. So that's a bonus at least.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Number-crunching with 'boys in tights' at the 'Commerzbank' 'is giving me gip'

'Like' at your own risk, elf perverts!

Howdy dear readers, I wonder how you found me today? I've been meaning to write about 'stats' for a while but, well, you know, I'm always busy with something else. Don't worry though, I am starting to get on top of my mountain of tasks - why even as I write this I am on hold to the Tax Office. Actually, that's not true, I tried to write while I was on hold to them but their hold music/messages are so fluffy and hard to hear that I couldn't concentrate because I was never sure if I was still on hold or if it was an actual person. I did eventually get through to someone who told me to phone back in February or March, so I have effectively ticked that one off my list of things that really need doing (right now). So that's at least one thing slightly sorted, the rest can probably wait until after I get out of jail for failing to sort out my double taxation issues in January.

But where was I? Yup, stats. I'll try not to bore you, I won't actually give you any numbers or anything, I'm not that way inclined, but I thought I would tell you some interesting stuff from 'behind the scenes' of the blog. At least I find it interesting, who knows, maybe you'd like to hear more about the UK Tax System.

I've been inspired to write about this by Mwa who always has people landing on her blog via the most interesting search terms. I won't re-type them here, you can click the link in a minute and see for yourself. I said "in a minute"!! I am always surprised by the things that people type into Google. An awful lot of people find my blog via Google by searching for 'boys in tights'. Barely a day goes by when there's not someone looking for boys in tights. Or 'facebook boys in tights'. I wonder what it really is that they are looking for. I'm pretty sure it's not me, otherwise I would be gathering up followers like nothing on earth.

Incidentally if you search for 'boys in tights' in Facebook you find the list of pages above. Does anyone want to 'like' the North Pole Sexy Elf Boys for me? I also have a fair amount of people searching for more random things on a weekly basis. This week so far my favourites are "My piles are giving me gip" - and I hope they found comfort and a little relief here, and "The noise in my heating system is driving me crazy". Why would you even type all that into Google? Isn't it more logical to search for something like 'NHS Direct+piles' for the first one and perhaps 'heating system+noise' for the second?

Other peoples searches just have me wondering though. Someone in India (who do I know in India??) searched for 'fiona gray orla hamish'. That's a bit precise isn't it? I really don't think I know anyone in India, unless that's where the UK Tax Centre calls are directed to.

Someone else recently blogged about 'the lurkers'. The people who read your blog faithfully, yet never comment. People from strange far away lands. Well, not that strange really, America mostly. So I'd like to take the opportunity to say "hello & thankyou" to the people who check my blog every single day from various places around the world to see if I have written anything new. You're awfully shy though, aren't you? Why not leave a comment the next time you read (eh, this), or maybe something else so everybody isn't staring. It would be really nice. I'd love to know who you are.

My readers mostly come from America. The UK follows as a close second. Then Germany, then Russia, & then the Netherlands. Recently I've seen an upsurge in my popularity in China and France (Nia hao! (I only know that from Nia Hao Kai Lan) & Bonjour!). I also seem to be rocking in Belarus and Slovenia (but my language skills don't extend far enought to say hello properly).

In terms of what people like to read, well I find that a bit of an odd mixture too. My most popular post is the one about the 'old & new' Commerzbank. Like, by MILES! Why??? I wonder if it's because things go wrong in that one, but then they go much worse in the one where I get locked out the house, and then the Commerzbank waves it's magic wand and makes things a goddam nightmare.

Next up in popularity is 'Only her hairdresser knows for sure'. This is the one where you get to see some quite horrendous photos of me, and read about some expensive highlights that I thought were good at the time and then I saw the day after that they actually started half way down my hair in some places.

After that we have 'I bring my fish bowl home'. I like that one too, and I hope you are all sitting reading this with the copy of it you made from the photos displayed somewhere prominently in your house. (I wonder if I could buy a better one on etsy now?)

And then, then we get to 'boys in tights'. Considering how popular it is search term-wise, it makes things with the Commerzbank post even more unfathomable to me as people very rarely use that in their searches.

Anyway, I thought I would share that with you. I hoped you enjoyed it. While I'm off photographing boys in tights for a new post that'll have my stats going through the roof, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

1. organise, 2. prioritise, 3. & get off that bloody internet!

Of course I do the nice things first, and leave the actual important things till last

I feel so way behind on everything at the moment. It's driving me crazy. All I want is to have a few extra hours every day to just get things done. I read lots of blogs (particularly the creative ones) where people seem to be able to do a million things a day, every day and I'm not sure why this kind of beautiful life evades me. How do people have time to blog, knit a dress, go thrifting, take some time out to photograph a friends new baby, spend some time in their studio painting gorgeous pictures, and take photographs of their enviable homes, etc, etc, and yet I am struggling to find the time each day to phone the tax office and stay in a queue for 20 minutes?

Perhaps it's because I spend too much time reading these blogs? I do hope that's not the answer.

So I have a long list of things that all need doing now, some of them nice things like design work and making a photobook for both my mother-in-law and mum (see above), and some of them ok things like completing Orla's school application, and some tedious but necessary things, like reapplying for Orla's Kita voucher as she gets it free now, and possibly going to the Burgeramt to wait for 2 hours to get a form stamped for the tax office.

Of course on top of these things I have my general day to day stuff to do, tidying up, cleaning, cooking, helping people pee in toilets and potties, stopping people breaking legs from jumping off the table and from scaring the living daylights out of their sister by locking her in our wardrobe. Oh and German. My German needs quite a bit of attention and when I do have the time to study, I generally have no desire to do that.

Anyway, I just can't fathom how to fit more into my days. There must be blogs I could be reading about this... (and that is a little bit of irony right there).

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sheena Easton comes to dinner

There's always something. Just as Hamish has turned a small corner with his hatred of Kita - he quite enjoyed it on Friday, especially as he went to the aquarium and got to see sharks and water snakes, and fish. I'm keeping an eye on things though and if I need to then this week I'll ask to have him moved down to Orla's class.

Anyway, things are looking a little better, and just as they are, all of a sudden Orla has developed the strangest accent. It seems to have just 'happened', and it's a bit odd. Last week Orla had a perfectly nice English accent, developed in Derby. Despite coming from two Scottish parents our accents have never influenced hers. But since Friday, I think, she's suddenly turned into a tiny version of Sheena Easton. (Follow the link for a youtube video)

Do you remember Sheena Easton? Her Scottish accent went a bit funny in what?, the late '80's/early '90's when she began working in the US, and she developed a 'mid-atlantic' drawl. Well, this is not a kick-in-the-shins away from what has happened to Orla. She suddenly has a Scottish accent but she draws out the last word in an odd drawl that also seems to increase in pitch. If they started casting for a Scottish version of Melrose Place or 90210 (I like the sound of PA2 7TE - classy) she'd be perfect.

It is of course driving me nuts. It sounds hideous, and it's constant. All of a sudden I'm longing for her to develop a German accent, I don't even care if it's like one of those dreadful German accents off 'Allo, 'Allo, ANYTHING would be an improvement!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Germans shoot from the hip

My mind is still pounding away thinking about Hamish and his unhappiness at Kita. This morning was hellish again, with him screaming "I don't want to go to school" all the way from the front door to the U-Bahn, with a brief respite for train happiness, then back to the screaming at the other end.

I spoke to one of his 'teachers' today and they said that things are a little better, and he is a little happier. I don't know about you though, but I NEVER trust the things that nursery workers say. I base this on my first experiences with Orla's nursery in Derby, when I would ask, "How was she today?" and they'd always say "Yeah, she was great. She ate all her lunch, blah, blah, blah". I could always stop listening after that point because I knew that it was all made up. The only way Orla would eat all her lunch is if they were only feeding her cake soup, followed by cake, with a little cake for afters. I've always found that I just get an "everything was fine" response.

Why do we do that? Why when asked how things are, or how we are, do we always say "fine"? Ok, so maybe we don't want to always be moaning "Ah, well actually, my piles are giving me gip. Do you want a look?".

In Germany though I find things a bit different. This afternoon we got back into our building and met one of neighbours who lives a couple of floors down from us. She asked how things were going, and I told her things weren't going that brilliantly for Hamish at the moment. She asked what was going on and I told her and said "You've probably heard him screaming from the lift in the morning!". And she said "Yes, I've heard him in the mornings.". In Britain I reckon most times your neighbours would say "Oh no, no, no, I haven't heard him" even when they have because it's unavoidable, but here they just tell you in a nice straightforward manner. The same if you are making too much noise, playing your music too loud, or not doing your recycling right, they just tell you. There's none of this keeping quiet and having a good moan behind closed doors and then if the subject comes up pretending they know nothing.

So maybe things are going a little better for Hamish. They think he's having problems with the language, and that he doesn't like it when he doesn't understand when they are giving instructions to the whole group and he doesn't know what to do. I understand that, but I'm not sure what I can do about it. They think it'll improve in a few months when his language skills get better, but a few months is a very long time in an unhappy toddlers world. I am going to find me some books...or maybe an English speaking Kita.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

What your toddler may be doing now:

Following on from my last post, Mwa suggested I find a book to resolve my Hamish-hating-Kita problem. I cannot remember the last time I looked in a baby/child development book. The pages of my 'toddler' ones have barely been opened. I used to really love these books, especially after having Orla and you could see what she might be up to in the forthcoming months and think what a smart baby she was when she was doing things advanced for her age and curse her for not being able to do half the things she should be able to do for her age.

Before the move I got rid of all my baby ones and on checking just now I have found 3 'toddler' ones: What to Expect: the toddler years; The Best Friends Guide to toddlers; and god knows how, but 'The Contented Toddler Years' by Gina Ford. (I must have been having a really bad day with Orla when I bought that. In fact when I flick it to see where it wants most to open (cause it looks pretty much untouched) I see what was going on...'sleep problems'. Desperate times and all that.

So, back to my Hamish problem. According to 'What to Expect' my 30 month old toddler should be able to put on an article of clothing, identify 1 picture by naming, jump up, name 6 body parts, and identify 4 pictures by pointing. I think we have pretty much got those covered except perhaps the jumping part. Hamish is dreadful at jumping. Problem-wise, the best I can see that they have is 'Separation Anxiety at Preschool'. They suggest that the transition between home and school can be tough for a toddler and it can take some children up to a year to get used to it. Eek.They suggest that if your childs separation anxiety is 'unexplained' to read another passage at the back of the book. There's talk there of "unexplained bruises and other signs of abuse". This does not make for good pre-bedtime reading for someone like myself.

On to 'the Best Friends Guide'- I've always liked these books. They're humourous and make you feel ok about being generally crap at parenting. On this occasion it has precisely.. eh, no advice to give on my Hamish situation. Ah well, can't have everything.

Lastly, let's see what Gina has to say: "a firm goodbye, a kiss and a hug, follwed by a prompt departure is easiest for a child to deal with". She also says "Some children develop a fear of certain people and places... . Role playing can be an effective and fun way of helping them conquer these fears.... . Read him books that involve happy stories of a child visiting [Kita]". At least her approach is consistent. I will try a firm goodbye tomorrow and advise Hamish to keep a stiff upper lip even if his bottom one is wobbling. Wish me luck!

Monday, 10 January 2011

'hamisch' Hamish

Do you believe in karma? Today was Hamish's first day back at Kita after quite an extended break with a week-long illness following on from Christmas and New Year. To say he hasn't been looking forward to his return is an understatement. To say I haven't been looking forward to dropping him off and seeing him cry and wail, and scream and cling to my leg, and beg to go home with me is also an understatement. So much so that really he could have gone back at the end of last week, but I just couldn't face it.

But there was no more putting it off. This morning we just had to do it, through gritted teeth and false smiles. The whinging started not long after we left the house, quietened for a while on the U-bahn, especially after the driver waved at him (do they know that they are complete superstars in the eyes of toddlers (along with postmen)?). As soon as we reached the vicinity of the building he started screaming and built up to a nice crescendo by the time we reached the 4th floor. Cue: more wailing, screaming, leg-clinging, & begging.

The only reason I was able to drag myself away without him was because I had to go to German class. I've already missed a week and was dreading my return and the insurmountable catch-up that I'd need to do. Anyway German class turned out to be fine, and I returned to pick up the kids afterwards. Hamish had in his own words "cried for a long time", and according to the staff this was correct and he hadn't played with anyone, just on his own, and wouldn't eat his lunch (never a good sign in a boy like Hamish). Talk about feeling guilty about leaving him somewhere that he wasn't happy? Yuck. I hate it.

So we went down to collect Orla from the 2nd floor, and as we always have a wait until she has finished lunch, brushed teeth, washed hands, etc etc, I took the opportunity to go to the toilet, taking Hamish with me to keep him out of trouble. Though it turned out that that is exactly what he was planning. My head was full of thoughts about whether I'd need to look for another Kita-solution for Hamish, or whether this might be temporary, although he's felt more or less this way since before Christmas. Anyway, my eye just wasn't on the ball.

No sooner had I started peeing when there were people trying to break the door down and shouting German 'stuff' through the door. Quick as a flash the door was opened on me (still peeing) and there are the Kita Manager and the handy man. It was only at this point that I realised that the very quiet (and I mean REALLY quiet) buzzing noise was Hamish pressing the emergency call button repeatedly. Crap. I'd say he got his own back on me for leaving him there.

BTW: My teacher told me before Christmas that 'hamisch' means 'malicious' in German. Wunderbar!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Once you're there you'll love it.

Waiting on the now 20 cents dearer U-bahn, which I know about because I have started reading a local newspaper which from what I can tell is written for thick-witted folk with a reading age of 4. I figured I might as well start, seeing as I am in their ideal demographic. Lots of photos of outraged travellers holding aloft their tickets in case you hadn't grasped the story from the 6cm high headline font, and some thrilling leg amputation news for celeb-lovers.

The kids are finally starting to feel better, and today Orla felt well enough to go back to Kita. Hamish on the other hand doesn't really fancy it that much any more. I knew it was going to be hard getting him to go back after the holiday break, but it's going to be more of a struggle than I thought. I was going to be strong today and pack them both off and do my best not to succumb to the heart-wrenching wails of "I just want to stay with yooooouuuu!".

But as soon as Hamish's little bottom lip started wobbling, that was it for me. It doesn't matter that as soon as I go "oh, ok then" he starts singing a little happy song, once he's broken me, that's it. I'm weak.

The other problem is that the longer he stays away from Kita the less he'll want to go back. I know the feeling. I am dreading going back to German class. I feel like I have forgotten most of the German I learnt before the break and now missing a week (nearly) has me worried that it'll take me eons to catch up, and I kind of feel like I just don't want to. Even though really I do want to because I really would like to get to B2 level which is another 28 weeks away to completion. And then I think, why do I want to do this? Apart from wanting to be able to communicate better I really would like to get to the point of sitting the B2 level exam which if I passed would be good enough to allow me to work in Germany.

Not that I want to do that. I just want to achieve that. I'd be quite happy just setting up my freelance career again and getting back into illustration. And for that, I don't need that level of German, or any level of German really. (that's my argument and while I'm in this huff with German, I'm sticking to it.)

It surprised me how quickly I got out of the habit of speaking German once I got back to Scotland. Apart from the occasional "Danke schon! Schonen Tag!" (Sorry I cannot do umlauts on this keyboard) that slipped out without thinking in the shops (which would be fine if they hadn't already heard me speaking English in a fine local accent), it just slipped away.

Now I'm back where I was a couple of months ago, where I really just can't be b o t h e r e d! So really it's me who needs to drag myself kicking and screaming back to German class whether I like it or not.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A warming Christmas tale

My parents got a new heating system put in in December - new radiators, new combi boiler, new thermostat. But it links in with their old system. Why? Who knows. Another great mystery will remain unsolved. Anyway, new system is great, works a treat! EXCEPT when you turn it down to 8 DEGREES overnight. Then it seems a bit cold, and it takes a while to heat up in the morning/midday/grr.

So dad had asked me to bleed his radiator in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, but what with being up to my eyeballs wrapping, still buying (yup, that's how organised I am) and helping to cook, I asked Stevie to do it and he did all the radiatiors. No prob with that, he's done it loads before. Overnight the heating was down at 8 again and as had become our practice we turned it up by a further 10 degrees after my parents were asleep. So here we are, CHRISTMAS DAY MORNING- BEFORE THE KIDS HAVE OPENED THEIR PRESENTS - standing in the hall arguing. Nice!

My dad woke up freezing and discovered that "The HEATING'S not working!!", to which my mum started going off her nut and kept rattling on about how "WE'LL have to get the PLUMBER out! Call him! Call him!"

(Yes, it was a very dramatic time). So Stevie says that everything is ok, and it's just the pressure in the system that's down and he can fix it. To say my parents didn't like the sound of this idea was an understatement. They accused Stevie of breaking their heating by turning it UP!!! Ha, ha, it makes me laugh just writing that. Then I get grilled on whether I have turned up one of the radiators in the bedrooms as this "will unbalance the system, and cause it not to work AT ALL". I like this one. They stand by this argument utterly and completely. They say the plumber balanced the system and told them that they aren't to touch the controls on the radiators. Really? Then why do radiators have them then? I asked. Well, I think I got some rambled answer, but the fundamental is that these are most likely just controls for the plumber to use in his initial setting up...uh...huh...

So my parents were totally frantic and stressed out and my mum was desperate to call this plumber at 7am on Christmas morning and my dad was nearly pegging out at the thought of Stevie manhandling his new boiler, and Stevie was making it worse by trying to reassure them that he "is an Engineer after all", which obviously is no comfort to anyone who knows him. I love him dearly, but I swear if I had a car/motorbike/Vespa in pale blue or boiler that I loved, there's no way I'd be letting him near it. It's a wonder I fly to be honest.

Anyway, while we were arguing about the radiator controls he asked my dad for a knife which he planned on using to adjust the pressure (yes, that'll be why no one has any confidence in his abilities) which actually made my dad laugh (possibly hysterically but I didn't notice as I was laughing too) and then he gave him a screwdriver or whatever it was that he really needed and as quick as a flash the problem was solved, the heating was back on and everyone was happy (ish). Ho, ho, ho, what a Merry Christmas indeed.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Having fun while the kids are ill

Before: Yeah, yeah, just another protest shot taken in Mitte in the summer.

After: Wow! It's teeny-tiny people protesting in Mitte in the summer!

What a relaxing morning I've had. I felt pretty rough when I got up but perked up a lot once I'd had breakfast (I don't know if it's just me, but as a diabetic I've always had to eat even when I'm ill and it's the last thing I want to really do. Probably with newer insulins on the market you no longer need to do this, you can just adjust your amount, but certainly in the old days when I was 11 or 12 you just had to get on with it and eat. Now I have this weird thing whereby when I feel sick I associate it with eating and simultaneously feel both a little sick and a little hungry. I know, I know, you had no idea I was such a complex person. Anyway, as I was saying...).

Hamish declared that he was too sick to go to Kita, but Orla decided she was well enough to go. So we dropped Orla off and then had a lovely morning watching tv, playing with Orla's Christmas presents (is there any better way to cheer up a poorly younger brother?) and I played around with Photoshop. One of the things I'd like to do this year is learn how to use my camera properly so I can get the most out of it, and well to be honest, learning how to recreate tilt-shift photographic effects isn't actually doing that, but it is something I've liked the look of and fancied trying out for myself for a while.

And now I'm wondering what it would look like if I tried out this minaturisation effect on something that was already minature? Like the Playmobil Zoo for instance. Hmm...time to drug up the kids on Calpol & Nurofen I think and give it a go.

Monday, 3 January 2011

...way back, back into time...

If I didn't feel so nauseous I'd lick myself clean like a cat.

... to the days when being ill was nice, even a joy. Do you remember? It wasn't that long ago. Let me remind you: Once apon a time you could be as sick as you like, throwing up at your pleasure, lying in bed moaning and wailing and feeling as sorry for yourself as you liked, maybe even treating yourself to a wee cry just because you feel really crap, just because you can.

I could take you back even further to a beautiful time when there was someone to check you were ok, to see if you felt like eating some toast, or maybe a wee bit scrambled egg, and bringing you colouring books and comics in bed. But no, we don't need to go that far back to remember the simple pleasures of illness. Just 4 or so years.

To a time before kids. It's not that I don't appreciate that I now have a tag team of enthusiastic youngsters willing to hold back my hair, joyfully recreating the wretching noises, and even occasionally saying "It's ok Mummy, it's ok." accompanied by a wee pat on the arm. It's just that I'd really like to be in bed, reading magazines and books and drifting off to sleep as and when it comes up my humpf.

Today I am accompanied by two sick toddlers. I feel rocky, Orla has a temperature, Hamish is on the potty every 10 minutes, but the thing with toddler sickness is that they don't want to just lie in bed. They want to do stuff, make glittery pictures, grind Playdoh into the rug, make massive amounts of mess, make their mummy yelp in pain as a small plastic hippo is tossed into the path of her walking feet.

I want to lie still, drink tea, consume as much paracetemol as is possible without making my innards conk out to ease the razor blade agony living in my throat. I want a nice hot bath when I feel cold and I wouldn't mind watching some DVD's under a great big quilt. I do not want to go to the zoo and see baby animals.

Of course last night I made the mistake of not feeling tired and stayed up late pottering about with a German chocolate face mask on. From what I could gether from the packaging you could eat it if you were in desperate need of some chocolate and no harm would befall you. I would need to be stuck up a mountain with only the choice of that or some Kendal mint cake to keep me going in order for me to eat 'cosmetic products' (though god knows I bet you eat enough lipsticks in your lifetime, but at least that is more of a passive activity).

Anyway, come 2am I struck gold with Orla having a raging temperature and needing a hanky for her nose every 5 minutes. I'm feeling very tired, and I still have chocolate in my eyebrows. Times like this I wish I had a dog.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

new year, new blog!

I started a 365 photo blog today. I've seen a few of these around and quite like the idea of looking back over a year in pictures. I see a lot of different and interesting things here in Berlin but don't always have an awful lot to say about them. So I'll share them here. I've also sort of decided not to mention it to Stevie as he possibly thinks one of my new year resolutions should be 'spend less time on the internet'. Take a look every so often if you want to. Here we go...

(Oh and I'm also combining it with my 'somewhere...somehow' list of things to do in the forthcoming year, staring with the 'sorting out of my horrible hair')
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