Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last reflections before 2018

I am utterly dreading 2018. I wish there was some huge rock I could crawl under and hide for a year or even two. I can't understate the level of horror this new year fills me with.

Before us lies the biggest decision of our life, and also of our children's lives, and it is not something we can influence in any way. Over the next few months it will become clear whether we get to continue with the life we have built up here, in a house that is already 65% paid off, where the third of our kids is already in high school, where my two oldest have already reached university (yes, I know Charlotte hasn't started yet, but with 6 A Highers, I doubt she'll be getting straight rejections from UCAS this spring). I get to find out if my my husband can continue working as a consultant in areas of linguistics where he has built up a wealth of knowledge and a name for himself in Scotland. We get to find out if our company, which has been running for nine years, will make it to ten...

I am the problem, not the other six. The other six are free to come and go as they please across Europe, they will still be EU citizens at the end of 2019; I am the only one who has had their freedom to move voted away and so it is my clock that is ticking. If we want to stay together as a family and give the kids a future in a country that isn't considering skidding off the economic rails, I have to get out by March 2019 unless things take a dramatic turn for the better.

I stupidly assumed it would have been clear by now and the government's intentions would be obvious, but a more clueless government, I have not seen in my lifetime. As recently as last month May's government signed up to not creating a border in Ireland, not creating a border in the Irish sea while emphasising that they would indeed leave the internal market and customs union. I don't know if they are incompetent or just downright liars but the first two promises make the third and fourth impossible.

So as we move towards midnight, I won't find leaving 2017 behind particularly difficult. Every day we have woken up in the stressful limbo that only those of us in a mixed EU/UK marriage know. We don't think about Brexit on bad days, or when something big is in the headlines; we have lived and breathed it every minute of every tiring day since June 2016 and we are desperate to take back some control of our lives, rather than leaving everything to the whims of the right-wing press and the most incompetent Tory government every to head up Westminster.

Sadly, I can't say I have any faith that 2018 will be any better but at least at the end of next year I may have more of a clue about where our futures lie and whether my family gets to stay together or is forced apart in the short term at least.

Life's little pleasures

When all your kids are old enough to build their own snowmen, you can take the photos and drink Glühwein in the garden - class.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Funny eyes

Léon has a strange mix of blue, green, yellow and grey in his eyes. It is often hard to put your finger on what colour they are, and they simply often reflect his clothing... he has blue eyes when he is wearing a blue t-shirt, green, when he's wearing green, so for fun I decided to put a photo of him through the photoshop filter that removes all except a specific colour from a photo - I chose blue. Interestingly, it seems the bottom half of his eyes are predominantly blue, but the top two halves have come out in grey so they must be green or grey!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

That hang-up again

I've mentioned it on occasion over the years - that hang-up of mine, namely being called Phyllis... I think in my most recent rant I was finally coming to accept that as I grew older, greyer and frumpier, I would maybe start to suit my Phyllisness, and come to be at ease with it, but I hadn't factored in a new issue that would strike me. It is one that has always been there, but that is only dawning on me now.

I was named Phyllis because I was born on 4/2/68 and my gran had died of cancer on 30/1/68. At her death my granny was exactly 50 years, six months and one day old. Next year on 5/8/18, I will turn 50 years, six months and one day old... and that chills me. Strange; I've never been a superstitious person, but as Phyllis Buchanan the 2nd, I feel ill at ease with it all the same. Will Phyllis Buchanan the 2nd be a luckier Phyllis? a longer-lived Phyllis? Will she break the curse of Phyllisness?

I have a sneaking suspicion the next eight months and sixteen days are going to take a long time to get through, and I may be a bit touchy, irritable and perhaps a tad over-sensitive... I may consider coming back out to play on August 6th (if I make it through till then), but in the meantime, bear with me as I question every ache or pain I suffer in a slightly hysterical manner. (I've got five kids! I'm needed on this planet!)

It really is no fun being a replacement person for a dead one...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Weather report, school-style

Last time p6 had an assembly for the parents something big was going on. There was a good deal of whispering and giggling for the best part of a week beforehand but they kept telling us that the project 6A had been working on about natural disasters was top-secret! When we were finally let in on the game, it was awfully cute! Here, thanks to the school twitter account, is Anna's class's natural disaster presentation!

Xmas songs in Silverburn

Anna and her choir performing in Silverburn on Monday (taken from the school tweet)for anyone who missed her.

Family planning

Amaia's sensible approach to future family planning, over breakfast this morning:

Amaia: When I grow up, if I decide I want to be a teacher, I am going to have a few kids. I think it is important if you decide to be a teacher that you fully understand children...
Me: And if you decide you don't want to be a teacher?
Amaia: Well, in that case I'm definitely not having any. They wear nappies, mum, don't you know?!

...No, I never noticed, pet...


Thomas has been reading his grandfather's memoirs again and was lamenting the fact that he didn't make much mention of his many siblings or their personalities. Maybe that was in case they happened upon them, as they were all alive at the point he was writing them. That got us on to discussing what might be of interest to descendants, were we to write about our own lives.

Thomas was saying it would be interesting to tell people about how fashions have changed over our lifetimes. An obvious example, he cited, was ties. When he moved to Scotland, he was expected to wear a tie to work, a few years later he was expected to keep one in his desk in case of outside visitors but in general management went without, and now they don't expect anyone to wear ties in any of his workplaces, no matter the meeting.

I thought from a Scottish perspective, I could mention the evolution of the school uniform. When I was a child, skirts were compulsory in my area. Come rain, shine or snow, nothing allowed a girl to don a pair of trousers. I remember the year our school heating system broke down (winter of '79 or '80), wearing skinny jeans (leggings hadn't been invented yet), with a slightly-too-long skirt and long woolly hockey socks on top, so no one would discover I was breaking school rules. My legs were a lumpy mess but I was deliciously warm for the first time at high school! Fortunately, when the first immigrant girls arrived from Pakistan, they fought the trouser rule on religious grounds, the school gave in and then found they couldn't allow trousers only on religious grounds, so trousers became an option. It was after I'd left, but at least I knew my daughters wouldn't be hiding jeans under socks at some future date.

The item of dress, however, that would probably shock my offspring the most was 'navy blue gym pants'! This was a compulsory item of clothing. Everyone wore blue pants to school every day (unless you could actually remember when you had PE lessons) because PE forced you to strip to your pants. Given all the underage '70s sex scandals that have been coming out in the press over the last few years, you have to wonder who ever thought it was a good idea for all girls aged 4-12 to prance about in these and a t-shirt as they vaulted over horses and climbed wall bars - it must have been a paedophile paradise! Boys, as far as I remember, wore shorts, only girls were forced to do PE in underwear! Given that many girls start their period before leaving primary, it is quite shocking to think back on. I certainly never particularly liked the big, scratchy blue pants and I'm thrilled my own daughters now get to wear shorts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Santa Dash fun

Glasgow holds an annual 'Santa Dash' every December. It's on a Sunday morning at 10am - and it isn't just any Sunday, it's the coldest darkest Sunday of the year. Sunday is the only day we can have a lie-in because of school and violin. Every year I suggest going along (not even necessarily running or walking it, even spectating, and every year everyone in the family just looks at me as if I've asked them to poke rusty nails in their eyes! I'm sure my daddy would have come along with his camera if he'd still been here - he liked mornings and photo shoots.

Anyway, last Saturday as always I came out with my nonchalant 'Santa Dash is on tomorrow morning, we'd need to get up at 9. Who wants to come?' Thomas already had his get-out - he's been in bed on steroids and antibiotics for a week now with a bad chest infection, Marcel was home for the weekend but claimed a dissertation that happens to be part of his final degree was more important, Charlotte didn't even bother to reply, she just rolled her eyes, the girls said they'd rather sleep... Then suddenly Léon volunteered! He has a broken arm at the moment so instead of sleeping long as he usually does on Sundays, the pain has been wakening him up so he figured he might as well come along!

I got up, my phone read -7 degrees, I opened the curtains and saw nothing - freezing fog so thick I couldn't see the garden bench. Léon came down, at that point the girls came down too, having had a change of heart so the four of us went in and watched 8000 Santas, half a dozen elves, snowmen and reindeer braving the Glasgow weather for a good cause. And it looks like next year I may have to come again, as they've all asked to take part next time. 😀 Maybe then the fog will be less thick so you'll be able to see more of the Santas stretching into the distance!

And here are the photos to prove what fun it was!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sweet Anna

Anna's choir is singing in shopping centres and at school show performance nights over the next two weeks. She's learnt a dozen Christmas songs, including the one above (which is actually called 'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, rather than alot like Christmas - hee hee - just check out my favourite point of reference on the 'alot'...) 

Anyway, taking her to bed the other night, she asked if she could sing me it, which she did until she got to the line 'And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again!' (at 1:01). She stopped, as if realising what it implied for the first time ever, lip trembling and spat out 'Omg, is that true?' I assured her it wasn't, and I meant it. I never long for my kids to go back to school after holidays; yes, I long for an evening off occasionally, or a week where evenings are not spent predominantly on homework, but they are only little once, and having a 20 year old too, I know that all too soon, 'Mom and dad' will be left home alone with their memories, while the kids are somewhere new making their own lives, so no, I genuinely don't wish for school to start again (especially not on a dark, freezing scrape-the-car Scottish January morning!)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

My hamster-wheel existence

8-30 Take 3,4,5 to school, running late and ranting, return home.
10-15 School phones to say Léon is wanting to come home as he feels under the weather - cold, throbbing broken arm, temperature. Pick him up, return home. Get a long and philosophical conversation about how he wants to grow up to be a phonetician (is that normal when you are 12?!)
10-45 Charlotte needs dropped in Glasgow to sit her LNAT exam, return home, with Léon recounting more about phonetics in my ear while I drive.
11-15 Primary open day for an hour: cut, glue, glitter, colour in, melt in the heat of two overcrowded classrooms, return home.
1-00 Gulp down some leftover chilli, then work for one hour uninterrupted 🎆(glued Léon in front of a Danish movie).
2-30 Pick Charlotte up from train after LNAT, return home. Get a blow by blow account of the exam  which was much harder than all practice runs, rant, rant, rant.
3-00 Pick up Anna from school, return home. Get a blow by blow account of p6 activities and how thrilling and wonderful everything about December is.
4-00 Pick up Amaia from baking club, return home. Get a blow by blow account of baking club and how she'll just 'die' if she doesn't get into it again next term, especially with her best friends Ameya and Sophie.
5-09 Drink a (cold) cup of coffee I've been trying to reach for over an hour.

I'm half waiting on Marcel to phone and say he has a sudden desire to visit the family at short notice and needs picking up on the moon or somewhere even less convenient.

I refuse to go shopping for dinner - if we have no food, we're not eating. So there!😝

And I wonder why I never get time for the day job! I'm meant to do at least 5 hours Italian today. I need a 30hr day. Sigh


Friday, December 01, 2017

Fractured wrist

I knew as I reached the top of the hill (that the high school stands on) that something was amiss. Léon and Charlotte were standing by the roadside as they always do on a Friday, waiting for me. They were smiling, talking and joking together but I noticed immediately that while Léon was only holding his schoolbag in his right hand, Charlotte was holding both her schoolbag and Léon's PE kit bag -- that's odd, I thought. I pulled up and they got in. 'Oh by the way mum, I think I've broken my arm', Léon joked. 'Seriously? What? When?' So then I got the proof once again that he is a bit of a space cadet...

The story seems to be that he was standing in the busy Maths corridor holding his phone to check a message, between classes (which Charlotte assures me you're not allowed to do!), when an s5 kid, who was rushing to class, tripped over his own shoe and went flying smack into Léon's arm and thumped him against a wall, quickly apologising and carrying on his way, as did Léon, who hadn't realised the enormity of what had just happened. When was this? 10am!!!! He said the pain kicked in half an hour later so he asked his PE teacher if he could be excused from his social dancing class and sit and watch, after that it didn't occur to him to go to the medical room, have anyone call me or even ask a teacher what the best plan of action was... It was my left hand and I'm right handed so I didn't think breaking your arm was a reason to ask to go home! Give me strength!

So I dropped off the girls and went to the Vicky where they confirmed he had a 'buckle fracture' which would probably take three weeks to heal.

At first his main worry was that they might make him sit out social dancing and he didn't want to miss the opportunity to 'get the girls' sympathy!' (like brother, like brother 😉). It turns out they are trialling putting splints rather than plaster casts on them as they are short lived and not too dire, but I expect that isn't the best situation to be in with fifteen days to go to his orchestra Xmas performance - he'll be the first one-handed first violin in the junior orchestra's history - sigh. Mind you it apparently holds his wrist in 'waltz position' so he's pleased!

To cap it all, we don't even get the benefit of a long lie for the first time in five years of Saturday school when he misses his lesson tomorrow as it's the primary school winter gala day and Anna's choir is performing at that!

Cosy reading and baking pizza

Isn't this just the sweetest idea for a Friday afternoon in December? The p6 teachers decided to let the kids bring in pillows and blankets and build dens under their school desks, then they got to change into their onesies and read their books with their friends. Lovely to see (half of) Anna with three of her best friends Inishka, Marie-Liang,  and Akshara in this tweet from school.💜

After discovering the tweet of den day, I looked through this week's school tweets and found little Amaia at baking club making pizza too and really enjoying it. Cute!

New word

A great new word that I think will need to enter the general family vocab forthwith...

Amaia to Léon: 'Oh stop being sooo kiddish!' 🤣

Large families

It's funny how you become public property when you step outside the norm...

A friend (who also has five kids) posted this on Facebook today and I can really relate to it. Strangers have actually asked me every single one of these questions, unprompted - in the street, in a supermarket, at the school gate!! They did omit two extras that I've been asked; was it an accident? and were you having a midlife crisis? (and that was when I got pregnant with Léon (no 3) at a mere 37!!)

The one about daycare is actually the one I've been asked most often in recent years - well, to be honest it is usually phased something like: 'I've seen you at the school, you're a childminder, aren't you?' but that's the same idea, no?! Though you'd be surprised quite how often I've been asked if I'm Catholic or if I know what is causing them, no, seriously!

Anyway, for my friends with too many kids, enjoy... and for those with a normal family - this is what you missed out on!