Remember I said that in order to practice my French, I was going to take advantage of all opportunities to chat to non-intimidating sales people? So now I may be on my way to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness.
How did I get myself into this tangle? Last Thursday afternoon, a delightfully sweet French girl called Louise, who I met on my driveway about a month ago, arrived with her South African colleague because she thought I would like that, what with me being South African and all. It was then that I realized I am in too deep and all that yakking and practicing I did at my front door sent mixed signals. When they come knocking this Thursday, I will have to break up with them and say I am already a committed Christian and I can’t take this relationship any further. It’s a pity because they were so affirming about my French. I hate awkward, it’s-not-you, it’s-me conversations. Maybe I’ll pretend I’m not home.
We are approaching the end of the summer holidays and it is going better than expected. The key to managing sleep deprivation and general exhaustion is to keep busy and on-the-go. These holidays, the days which have been most draining and most intense are the ones when we have stayed at home with no plan or direction. Megan and Jessica don’t do chilling or pottering about the house. Megan constantly demands TV which is a catch-22. TV distracts and immobilizes her long enough for me to cook and clean up a little but the omnipresent, hypnotic effect of it also drives me nuts. I’ve watched Shrek over 30 times during the past month.
The key to surviving long holidays is to leave the house for a child-focused activity at least once a day. Silly me, today we went to the hardware store (too many small, sharp objects to fiddle with) and IKEA (endless, inescapable maze) and I learned my lesson the hard and hellish way. Ideal places include the park, the pool, the lake or the indoor playground. The best activities are outdoors so that Megan can run and enjoy the sun and open space. Kids are a lot like dogs – they need fresh air and physical activity every day.
By the end of a day with no breaks, I am wiped out, like completely and utterly pooped beyond belief. Where do children get all their energy? They take it out of their parents. Tonight Al said, ‘When the girls are in bed, can we talk about retirement planning and the tax implications related to some of our finances?’ Oh dear.
Even though I am knackered, I wouldn’t change the status quo. At least I am pouring my energy into a chalice rather than down a drain. It is good, satisfying tiredness. I feel as if I am really living rather than just existing in the way I did when I worked in those dry, dead-end, soul-corroding jobs in the corporate world.
Many of my mom friends arrange girls’ dinners or spa days away. They crave extended time out with other adults. One of my friends offered to babysit Megan and Jessica so I could have an afternoon off. How sweet, but I don’t actually long for that kind of break. I simply want two minutes to myself here and there throughout the day so I can drink my tea without anyone hanging off me or clamouring over me like I am a human jungle gym. I would love a quick pause now and again to reply to emails without someone climbing on to my lap and then patting, swiping or jabbing their greasy fingers across my computer screen. If I need to make a French phone call I would appreciate a minute to concentrate and hear properly without Megan bouncing at my legs shouting, ‘Is that Daddy? Can I speak! Can I speak!’
A few months ago, we attended a 6 week DVD-based parenting course. The presenters interviewed parents and children and it resonated with me when a little boy said, ‘I like to play this game where I pretend I am a koala and my mom is the tree.’ It is a beautiful gift and precious treasure to be a human tree but sometimes, just for 5 minutes, it would centre and reenergize me to sit on the couch or eat my lunch without someone perched on top of me.
The other day, after cooking, washing, wiping, sweeping, changing nappies, wiping bottoms, sorting laundry, giving cuddles, consoling and playing with them, I lined up Megan and Jessica and said, ‘Girls. Look at Mommy. Can you give me ten minutes to drink my tea? Just ten minutes.’ I showed them ten fingers. They stared back at me. Do you think they gave me that, those ten minutes? Not on your life. No freaking way.
Now I want to tell you about the best kind of pet that I organised this holiday. One of my healthy, green friends gave me some milk kefir grains. Kefir is a live culture of yeast and bacteria. It is raw food on steroids. It is an amazing probiotic that does wonders for digestion and gut health. It is like yoghurt, only better for you because it is teeming with live nutrition. Yoghurt has only one or two strands of bacteria whereas kefir contains about fifty.
I read instructions on the internet and some kefir lovers refer to the cultures as ‘little guys’. So they say, ‘strain your little guys and pop them in a jar of whole milk’ or ‘leave the little guys to do their work for 24 hours at room temperature.’ My friend Gemma got her little guys, her milk kefir grains, from a random lady she met on the internet. They met at a petrol station nearby and Gemma handed over water kefir in exchange for milk ones. Once she bred and enlarged her stash, she gave some to me.
Kefir has been made for over 2,000 years and is the new ‘in’ thing to drink now that fermented foods are in vogue.
The kefir bacteria or grains look like lumpy cottage cheese. You put them in some milk and leave them to ferment. I have a few bottles on the go and I feel like some sort of crazy chemist. It’s quite fun. The kefir feed off the lactose in the milk and, after about 24 hours, you sieve out the remaining liquid and combine it with things like berries, fruit and seeds to create a yummy smoothie.
I’m fascinated by the science and art of healthy eating. It bothers me how badly we all eat. I’m constantly prowling the internet for cheap, easy and tasty ways to eat fresh food. This week I hit treasure on the HelloFresh website. It’s my latest obsession. HelloFresh is a company in the US and UK that delivers healthy, easy and fresh recipes along with the exact ingredients you need to prepare them. They don’t deliver to Switzerland but I got the recipes off their website. So far I’ve made three meals and they are healthy, quick and delicious. Even Alastair was impressed which means a lot because he is such a fussy eater. These recipes are perfect for busy, tired people. You should try them too!