Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Too cool for school

Aaagh! School. I used to like school when I was a little girl — I expected Little Miss Sunshine to like it too. But the first few months have been tough, as I have mentioned in earlier posts. For starters, the kiddies are due in class at 8.25 sharp, which means we are expected to get up at 7 am. Now what proper human can stand that? I'm happy to report that my daughter is a proper human — she definitely likes her sleep. She didn't take to being dragged out of bed at the crack of dawn too well and tended to mutate into a bawling yeti (a bit like her mum used to in similar situations, I guess — it's in our genes). Next she would stubbornly refuse to get dressed and quite efficiently stave off my attempts to pull down a T-shirt or pull up a pair of trousers on her wriggling body. Even the peace pipe (a bottle full of milk) didn't help much as the Little Miss was too proud to accept the bribe.

I'll just skip the part where she bluntly refused any sort of food I tried to offer as breakfast. The next of our morning delights was trying to hoist up a struggling she-devil weighing nearly 20 kg into her car seat. Please shoot whoever invented those blasted things right now. Why do car seats have to be so goddamn complicated? Little Miss Sunshine's one (her nickname was never meant to be ironical, by the way) is so ridiculously bulky and high that I have to press her poor little head against the ceiling of the car in order to get her little bum in. (Quite a feat in itself as I'm still recovering from an injured shoulder and elbow I broke some time ago.) I am already the only person I know who is able to adjust and fasten the seat belt of the contraption at the best of times, so closing the buckle on my miniature bucking bronco in the morning is a herculean task.

Then, crying tears of frustration, I'm left to face the morning traffic. Oh joy. About three hundred cars driving in both directions in a maze of narrow little streets with space for only one line of traffic around the school, maneuvered by crazed people who are so late and flustered they think it's OK to drive on the footpath or veer onto your lane because somebody's car is actually parked in their way. These people make angry gestures at you if you have the cheek to cross their path, and try to barge their way past you at any cost. Let's just say this is not where I make new friends. I was never that fond of bumper cars anyway.

(I'm begging Mr Grumble to let me cycle to school, but he's too scared our little girl would get run over. Seeing how most people drive around here — often without a licence as that trivial sort of paperwork was totally optional in Ireland until recently —, I must admit he has a point.)

The rest was easy: parking the car somewhere on somebody's flowerbed, dragging the tearful wench up the hill and into her school, and lastly peeling her off my leg to push her into class (which took about half an hour as the little mite is as strong as an ox and fiercely determined), while simultaneously trying to stop her from sticking out her tongue at the admittedly stern teacher. Then trudging back to my car with a heavy heart, wondering if moving here and enrolling her into that school was the biggest mistake ever.

Then there were the other parents. It was rather comical in the beginning when we were all looking at each other shyly at finishing time while waiting for our offspring to be released. It felt like we were back at school ourselves and wondering who would be our friends. But mostly it felt very weird to be one of them — an adult. I have no problem with the notion that I am somebody's mother, but somehow I was still seeing myself as this sort of kooky teenager who is not quite sure what she wants to do when she grows up. Waiting outside school with the rest of the old folks has made me realize I have gone over to the dark side — adulthood. Gah. (Or have I?)

Salvation came from the dark side though, because it really soothed me to find out they'd been just as miserable as we had for the first few months. Playdates helped too. Little Miss Sunshine soon announced that she had a best friend. (Never mind the fact that said best friend seems to be a different person every day.) Five months on, life is easier. No tears in the morning. But Little Miss Sunshine still stubbornly keeps her mouth shut all day in school — won't say a single word to her teachers, and would often rather miaow to her friends than use any sort of human language. She makes up for all that silence once she gets home, so there is no need to worry about her speech abilities. I just wish my little rebel would enjoy school a bit more, poor sod. I mean hey, you can see the sea from the schoolyard!

So we're now looking forward to the Easter holidays. We're going to Paris but I'm close to dreading it — I'm going home to a bunch of family problems and a string of assorted doctors who may or may not help with my mangled arm. Ah well. The more horrible the experience, the better the tale should be afterwards...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

My house hates me

Gorgeous, scorching day today — it must have been about 17°C, which is great for Ireland. (Mr Grumble's comment: it's probably the best day we will have all year.) Little Miss Sunshine started playing in her sun tent outside, while Mr Grumble took care of his garden and I tried to sunbathe. We even had lunch outside. It looked like nothing could dampen the mood — not even Mr G's comments or the neighbour starting to mow the lawn right the instant we sat down for lunch.

Later on Mr Grumble came back from the garden with a pale face. "Have you seen a dog around here? There is a dog turd in my vegetable patch." He was so shocked he didn't even start a rant.

Now, Mr G and I hate dogs. We are not moved in the slightest when a dog stares at us with wet, servile eyes, or rubs its groin adoringly against our leg, or pees on our bike, or barks at us, or leaves a turd on the beach where our little one like to gambol. We usually share bitter words rather than melting glances with their owners. Mr G was even bitten by a dog once, and trust me, he is one to bear a grudge. In short, we are not big fans of dogs in the first place, so this was like THE UNTHINKABLE had happened.

I went out to enquire and, sure enough, there was a big, soft turd in the middle of Mr G's dirt patch. The horror! Oddly, I suddenly imagined my mother saying, "Oh well, it's good fertilizer!" But that sort of fertilizer on our fragrant basil and fresh peas, and worst of all, on my little girl's future raspberries? That really gave me the shivers. I looked around. We are at the end of a row of terraced houses. Our next-door neighbours don't have a dog and, on the other side, a high wall separates us from the next development. There is no way a dog could climb something this high. A cat? "It would have to weigh 20 kg to produce this", retorted Mr G., ever the scientist.

Back inside, tried to forget the unpleasant incident while Mr G heroically removed the offensive thing from his vegetable patch. Miracle of miracles, Little Miss Sunshine went down for a nap without screaming the house down (or only for a few minutes, anyway). When she emerged all refreshed and in a delicious mood after her reluctant two-hour rest (luxury!), I realised that she had gotten her own back by wetting her bed. Or had she? Turned the mattress over: huge stain on the cover, the whole floor was dripping wet underneath and the floorboards had even started to lift up. Quite a pee. Actually the culprit was the heater. I had indeed noticed a little leak (and dutifully informed the property manager, who couldn't care less), but I had failed to realize it was that bad.

I am a rather patient person but this is about the SEVENTEENTH problem we have in this house (see previous post). Leaking washing machine, neurotic oven, unhealthy fridge, dud lights, stuck locks, draughty windows, dripping ceiling... I'm not even mentioning the assorted holes, cracks, missing tiles, dangerous nails sticking out of walls, peeling wallpaper and the altogether APPALLING work that has been done in this place. And I really don't like it when the appliances actually start attacking my daughter's bed. Will have to move said bed (a plain mattress laid directly on the sodden floor) to another corner of her postage stamp-sized bedroom until the agency sorts this out (around the same time next year probably).

Have you ever had the feeling that your house hates you? You know, when the problems pile up so high that you just want to give up? At first, when you have just moved in, you fanatically repair and repaint the tiniest scratch or stain, and you call the property manager as soon as the plumbing hiccups. After months or years of vain phone calls and ignored emails, you start thinking it's not the end of the world if it rains in the living room. (I did, anyway. In another lifetime.) But eventually, it gets so bad that you start feeling ready to endure the trauma of moving house... yet again.

We're not quite there yet — after all, we haven't been here six months and I want to enjoy some time in this house with NOTHING TO FIX. It's a matter of pride. It should work out eventually. I am an optimistic kind of girl.

Was writing that when Mr G called: "There's ANOTHER dog turd in the garden!"

Went to have a look. Nah, this is too small to be a dog's turd. (I am a specialist of faeces. After all, I translated two books on the subject: A Natural History of the Unmentionable and What's Your Poo Telling You? by an eminent MD!) It could be owl poo, I said, look, it's all hairy from all the rodents it had eaten... Mr G didn't agree. Insisted it was just from a dog with a hairy arse. Then came up with what is probably (alas) the right answer: "It could be a fox!"

I like foxes. Cute little red balls of fur. But I am not too fond of the idea of a fox coming that close to us, especially if it is to do its business right outside the kitchen window. Will keep an eye out...
I just need to know who's pooping in my garden.

(And for those of you who wondered: no, Mr Grumpy is not THAT ill-behaved.)