Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fending Off A Masked Intruder With Soft Furnishings

Last night started off like every other Friday night that I have the boys. It is 8.00pm, both boys are asleep and I am half plugged into my iPod trying to compile a playlist for a party on Saturday, which is not going too well. As usual, the back door is open and there is a pleasant breeze drifting through the kitchen into the living room.

I am totally focused on sifting through songs, but keep getting the feeling that there is someone at the back door. I hear rustling and peek over my shoulder at the door, but see nothing and assume it is the cats or the neighbours. I get back to the task at hand. However, the feeling continues and I curse inwardly at my two felines for making me so jumpy...until I realise that they are both sitting in front of me, staring with hair raising concern at the back door. The hairs on the back of my neck begin to prickle and I glance with trepidation once again at the back door. Nothing. I breath a sigh of relief and decide to just shut the door and be done with it.

Which is when I see him. My masked intruder. Sitting calmly in the middle of the kitchen eating his way through the cat food. A raccoon. A massive beady eyed furball, the size of an overstuffed corgi, intently gorging himself on the finest organic cat chow within 6 feet of me.

I scream. I think. It might have been an internal scream. And I grab the nearest weapon to hand - a small green sofa cushion - to ward off what I assume to be an imminent attack. My instinct is to run hell for leather out of the front door, get in my car and sit there with the doors locked. Which is probably the tack I would have taken if I had been home alone. But my protective maternal instinct kicked in and I stood my ground, willing to fight to the death with my 8" squared piece of soft furnishing.

"Get out! Get out!" I shouted, waving the green cushion menacingly towards the intruder. He didn't even flinch, much less pause for breath between mouthfuls. "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!" I screech at twenty thousand million trillion decibels, advancing forward two cautious steps whilst waving the cushion more threatening.

At this point the raccoon does deign to register my presence. Looks at me nonchalantly, stands up slightly on his two hind legs...and hisses malevolently.

Oh Holy Mother of God. Now I am a lover of all animals but have learnt through hard experience to have a healthy respect for all creatures, especially those not renowned for being man's best friend. There was the time I was chased by an elephant through Kenya, then later that evening stalked at close range by a peckish leopard. A baboon spat at me when I tried, without success, to retrieve my backpack that he'd pilfered. I've had my finger bitten by a giant mackaw, my eye bitten by a small yappy type dog and let's not forget the time that a horse wrapped it's nashers around my boob and refused to let go, even when offered an incentive in the form of a polo.

I didn't know much about raccoons and had no inclination to become a close range expert. Or fodder for an entertaining story on the evening news. I could already hear the headlines: mother mauled beyond recognition by vicious raccoon whilst trying to defend herself with a handful of feathers stuffed into a cotton casing.

Whilst still using a combination of the slow advance/loud shriek technique I managed to reach the stainless steel bin in the kitchen and started to kick the living daylights out of it. The resulting racket finally rattled the raccoon sufficiently to give me one farewell hiss before slouching off out of the door. I ran to the door, slammed it shut, bolted it locked and, with my heart still in my mouth, backed away from it slowly, convinced the furry critter was going to reconsider his retreat and barge his way back in to eat me for dessert.

Try as I might I could not relax. What if he had been having a dinner party at the cat bowls and the rest of his guests were lying in wait for me in the corners of the utility room? I was too spooked to check.

Three hours later I mustered the courage to open the back door to reassure myself that the intruder was not patiently laying in wait...and almost had a heart attack when I saw him sitting two feet from the door. God, that cat food must be really tasty. I spent the whole night half awake, tossing and turning, hallucinating that my kitchen was overrun with raccoons and as soon as they had eaten the contents of the fridge they would rampage the rest of the house, killing us all.

This morning I regaled the boys with the tale of the raccoon and then, while looking for a picture to show them, found this. It is compelling reading - I promise you won't be disappointed - and essential reading for those of us not as clued up about this particular mammal as we should be. (For those of you who aren't sure you can be bothered to click the link, let me tempt you with the promise of a photo of a raccoon's penis bone. There. Thought that would get you.)

And today...well, the back door remains well and truly locked and I have unearthed a rubber baseball bat from the back of the play room cupboard. Just in case.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Update On the Man Front (should be a short post)

The Man I Left With A Kiss

He's the guy that I talked about here. Remember him? I do (vaguely). Oh, the kiss that held such promise of possible things (of a potentially R-rated nature) to come. The evening of talking and laughing while he looked at me with, what appeared to be, such interest. Following our date he sent a short text message on the day I left for the UK - 'have a terrific trip!' he said. Into which I read, 'can't wait to see you when you get back...' Which goes to prove that my powers of telepathy are really somewhat lacking and can't be trusted in any given situation but particularly those where members of the male species are involved.

Which is a very long-winded way of saying that I haven't heard from him since.

Nada. Zip. Zilch.

If anyone happens to know where the edge of the planet is maybe you can give me directions. Then I can go and peer into the Great Unknown and there he will be, lying on his back reminiscent of an upturned beetle with his arms and legs flailing helplessly. 'Oh, there you are,' I will say. 'Wondered where you had got to.'

Maybe one day he will right himself, manage to crawl back onto the planet, recover from his period of short-term-memory-loss and get in contact again.

Or maybe not.

Such a shame. That kiss really did hold promise.

Travel Man

Okay, so this is a situation where I really could get my knickers in a twist (except of course they were Magic Knickers and we all know how resilient those little buggers are).

In an effort not to beat about the (untrimmed) bush, I haven't heard a dickie bird from him either. Which really does make me question my talent for perceiving there to be a mutual connection when, in reality, it was just what I originally set it out to be - a One Night Stand.

Don't get me wrong - I wasn't under the mistaken impression that I had found my Soul Mate. But given how much I enjoyed his company and that we seemed to have much in common, I thought I had found a friend. Someone that I would be interested in getting to know a little better. Unfortunately I don't appear to have same allure. Can't think for the life of me why. A single mum to two unruly boys, who struggles with every day living, travels as far as the school and back on a good day and lives 4,000 miles away. What's not to like? How can he fail not to be intrigued in getting to know me better? With all these compelling attributes, plus bras with more air than your average blimp and a pair of magic knickers to boot, you'd think I would be beating this guy off with a stick...

On the positive side, it was a reassuring reminder that there are men out there that really embody the type of life I intend to live. Men who have a great work/life balance, combined with a passion for travel and philanthropic to boot. That is the life I was focused on creating before I met ex and I am not sure, on reflection, how I managed to stray so far from pursuing these desires. Time to get back on track.

Green Eyes

In a nutshell, haven't heard from him either. It's now nearly 2 weeks since he asked for my number and so I am assuming that he is yet another victim of the 'falling off the edge of the planet' syndrome.

And yes, I do have his number too. And no, I am not going to call him. This isn't down to a sense of false pride on my behalf, more self-preservation. If a guy is interested he will be in touch. For all my bewilderment where men are concerned, this much I do know.


So, what is it with these men? Or is it just me? I am obviously easy prey to a little bit of male attention, which smacks a little of desperation. And the last thing I want to be is the stereotypical divorcee, dating anyone who asks, shagging any male with a pulse.

So I guess for the time being it's just me and my boys (oh - and my battery operated companion).

It could be worse.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Psyching Myself Up to Grow Some Balls

I was determined to have a carefree week this week, without the boys, but instead my emotions have been all over the place, just like the weather.

It started on Tuesday. Ex had to work and asked me to pick the boys up from camp and be with them until he got home. Bit of a pain, to be honest, but of course I agree because I am trying to be flexible and supportive and heaven forbid I upset the apple cart by saying no. What I hadn't anticipated was that he would be dropping the boys off at 7am and I had to drop them off at camp, as well as pick them up. The boys were excited to see me, exuberant to be home and made it quite clear that they did not want to go to camp. Johnny Drama was particularly obnoxious, refused to sit nicely to eat his breakfast, preferring instead to lob small toys into the living room from half way up the stairs. So the morning quickly deteriorated and 45 minutes was wasted trying to get him to sit quietly for 3 minutes on the 'naughty step'. What a great start to the day.

Getting them to camp was a fiasco. Cue tears and histrionics, with repetitive cries of 'I miss my daddy, I just want to see daddy.' I realise that this is a delaying tactic - the most successful one they could employ in the circumstances - but I still feel guilt-ridden about the situation they are in. And also angry. Angry that their father hasn't taken time off work to be with them in the only week they are with him the whole summer. It's not asking much is it? Five measly days? Anyway, it's no longer my position to have an opinion on his priorities so I quell the rage within and, as usual, keep stum.

The day is spent preoccupied with damning thoughts about ex and sorrowful thoughts about our boys, who worship him so much. I arrive back at camp in the late afternoon, trying to shake off my dour mood and plaster a smile on my face. I take the boys for ice cream and everything is fine, but my nerves are still on edge and I snap at them without reason and then internally berate myself. Once back at daddy's flat the boys settle down to play, with Scooby Doo blaring in the background. There are repetitive requests for daddy, which continue to jangle my nerves. I don't feel comfortable being with them in his place and just want him to get home so I can 'love them and leave them'. I have no idea what time ex is intending to be home, assume it must be soon, so send him a text requesting an eta. I receive a blithe reply that he should be leaving just after 7 and home just before 8. This knocks me for six a little. I had no idea that he wouldn't be home to see them for bedtime for a second day in a row and my fury at him skyrockets.

Suffice to say, bedtime is a shambles and the boys refuse to lie quietly to listen to stories. I end up having a stand-off with Johnny Drama who, after lights out, is still bouncing all over the bed in a hyperactive state, being particularly belligerent. I try to keep my cool but my temper surfaces and I huff and puff, screaming and shouting at them to behave. 'Daddy doesn't shout at us at bedtime', whispers Captain Underpants. Which throws me over the edge. Oh yes...your daddy is a fucking saint, isn't he? Externally I attempt a demeanor of being calm and in control. Internally I am a ball of fury and just want to smash through ex's belongings with my bare hands, destroying everything in my wake. I can't trust myself to speak to the boys anymore for fear of shrieking, 'JUST GET INTO BED YOU FUCKING LITTLE SHITS" and bursting into tears. That is the sort of mother I truly am. A beast. A hideous monstrous woman full of vile thoughts and a temper she struggles to control on a second-by-second basis. I hate myself. But I hate him more.

Just before 8.30pm I finally hear ex's key turning in the door. 'Lie down boys, daddy's home now. He'll be in with kisses in a minute.' I leave with a brief goodbye to ex, not trusting myself to speak for fear that I will erupt. By the time I have driven home my fury has reached a crescendo and I am tempted to trash my own place, just to relieve it. This is not just about ex being late home and me having to step into the breach on my 'week off'. I know that. This is all about the underlying tension I feel about trying to be amicable and supportive, but ultimately feeling that I am being taken advantage of. This is all about the undercurrent of fear about my current financial predicament and the fact that I feel like a child having to ask for money for any financial expense not currently within my 'allowance', of which there are many. This is all about my own uncertainty and lack of confidence in standing up for myself - the guilt I ultimately feel about walking away from an incredibly unhappy marriage and the impact this has on my children and our future.

My morose thoughts continue to dive bomb through my brain for the next couple of days. I am distracted and feel a permanent weight sitting on my chest, making it hard for me to breath. It's time to take action. It's time to get a proper financial agreement legalised after 12 months of our separation. It's time to stop feeling like a 2nd class citizen because I am not contributing financially, right now, to this situation. It's time to start believing that my current role of stay-at-home-mum has value and that it is in mine and the boy's interests for me to stand up for my rights as a wife of 11 years, so that we can all move on.

It's time to grow some balls and tackle all of the uncomfortable and sensitive issues that ex and I prefer to avoid like the plague.

It's time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Most Perfect 72 Hours

It's Friday. My last day with the children before they head off to their dad's for a week. The weather is beyond glorious. Thank God for that, because we are off to a water park in the burbs and the boys have been gearing up for this trip for days.

I pick up my friend and her daughter and then drive like the clappers along Rte 94, to a non-stop backseat chorus of "WHEN are we going to be there?" in surround sound. Not soon enough, obviously. Finally we are there, the kids jig all around us with barely contained excitement and just miss being hit by a Ford 150, driven by a distracted mother on the phone with, what appears to be, at least 9 children untethered in the back. I wonder what our chances are of surviving this aquatic adventure in one piece? Optimistically - fair to middling. Realistically - slim to none.

Once inside we get our bearings and nab a row of sun loungers near the shallow end of the water. It's my first time here and I am impressed. The majority of the pool is under 3ft deep. The kids fidget relentlessly whilst we smother them in spf50. "Okay kiddos," I announce, "time to listen to the remember, No smiling, No giggling, No playing nicely, absolutely No having fun - oh, and NO getting wet. Alright?" Three solemn faces with smiles twitching at the corners of their mouths hold my gaze, toes and fingers fidgeting.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Go break all the rules!" And that is pretty much the last we see of them for the next 3 hours.

I spend the whole time marvelling at the boy's competence and confidence in the water. Those swimming lessons, although expensive, were worth their weight in gold. I dip in and out of the water in the guise of Fun Mummy and take videos of the boys charging full pelt towards the pool, screeching 'cannon ball!' at the top of their lungs before launching themselves into the water. I even manage to grab a few minutes here and there, virtually horizontal and partially relaxed, on my sun lounger chatting to my friend. There are no fights. There are no meltdowns. And nobody drowns. A successful day.

That night, after the boys have left the house for the week, I join some friends at a lap dancing class which is taking place at the pole dancing studio. There are 10 ladies in the class and 2 armchairs. We go through a brief warm up, consisting mainly of stretching and cavorting (supposedly) sensuously on a mat. And then the fun begins. First, a lesson in chair person etiquette: when sitting in the chair and being a lap dance recipient there is to be no giggling, no wriggling and definitely NO coping a quick feel. Alrighty then.

Sorry to disappoint but there are no photos of our lap dancing attempts. It's probably best left to your imagination. Suffice to say that we arrive a bunch of nervous, middle-aged, somewhat inhibited women but by the time we leave there is a certain swagger to our walk and a wicked glint in our eyes. I'm guessing that there were husbands who certainly got lucky that night. It goes without saying that one of them wasn't mine (well, not with me at least).

On Saturday I decamp to the beach for the day with a friend. We park ourselves a safe distance from the melee of families at the waters edge. iPods are plugged in, books relinquished from the bottom of beach bags. Clouds scud across the sky and a warm breeze dances across my skin. I trail my fingertips lazily across the layer of sand embedded in the glossy coat of sunscreen on my stomach and relish the peace and quiet. I read Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup (who wrote Slumdog) vociferously for nearly 5 hours, determined to finish but then with a sense of almost sadness when I read the last page. Why do I always rush a good book? So eager to devour the words and eat up the story instead of savouring the way the book unfolds. So impatient. You'd think I would have learnt by now.

Late afternoon we drag our sandy selves to the cinema to see (500) Days of Summer. My bikini knickers are holding hostage to at least an acre of the beach. It's not the most comfortable experience I've ever had and I pity the poor usher who was ultimately responsible for detaching sand from velour seat and the surrounding areas.

By the early evening we are back home, freshly showered, drinking chilled white wine on the deck. Exhausted by all that lying down and relaxing. Now what's that all about? I always find a day of minimal activity to be completely dehabilitating.

Which is why Sunday found me lazing around in my PJs until mid afternoon, watching back-to-back episodes of the new series of Entourage. That was exhausting too. So much to do. So little impetus. I was thankful that the weather was abysmal and I watched with some satisfaction the rain lashing at the windows, whilst thunder rumbled, the sky dark and ominous. Anyway, it was just as well that I was conserving my energy because that night my friend dragged me to a Hustle and West Coast Swing dance class which went on for HOURS. Well, the lesson itself, which was simple enough, only took an hour but of course after that it was freestyle. Which apparently does not mean 'anything goes' or front crawl, as I found out when attempting to ad-lib the step-step-triple step-triple step combination.

Luckily for me my partner was very forgiving. And most attractive. Mesmerising green eyes. Tall. Silver haired. Sexy. Not what I was expecting on a Sunday night in the middle of nowhere at a dance class, that's for sure. We danced. We talked. We danced some more. He has my number. So, I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rock Chick

One of my favourite alter egos is Rock Chick, so last weekend saw me gallivanting along to the 3 day music festival in Chicago, Lollapalooza. In days of old I would have spent those 72 hours dancing wildly in a beer soaked haze. Now I am too concerned about having to venture into the horror of the plastic cage of hell, known as the portaloo, and would rather collapse into a dehydrated faint rather than risk having to answer a call of nature during the 12 hour periods of attendance. Which does tend to dampen ones enjoyment a tad.

However, prolonged dehydration does provide its own version of lightheadedness, which certainly helps to explain, if not excuse, the degeneration of my dancing ability as each day wore on.

The first day felt like a proper festival. The weather was dire - it had been tipping it down all day and by the time my friend and I arrived in the late afternoon the site was like an overpopulated swamp. There were drunk 'youngsters' careening about in the slop like 1950 B Movie mud creatures. Girls in barely there bikini tops and minuscule shorts wrestled each other in pools of sludge. The fields were strewn with abandoned flip flops, stuck deep in the mire. It was great.

Due to our late arrival we only managed to see three bands on the first day: Crystal Castles, Thievery Corporation and then Depeche Mode. I have seen Depeche Mode once before, many moons ago at Crystal Palace, and they didn't disappoint then or now. From a distance they seemed to have escaped the ravages of time. It was only when you saw their faces in close up on the giant video screen that the ageing process was cruelly confirmed. Not that it stopped them from putting on a fantastic show. The encore of Personal Jesus was worth the entrance fee alone.

Day 2 and 3 were in stark contrast to day 1, being incredibly hot and humid without a cloud in sight. After an hour or so I would have happily led the inebriated masses in an impromptu rain dance, for a brief respite from the overwhelming heat. The two main stages were a mile apart and it almost became too much of an effort to fight the crowds and trudge between them. After being, what appeared to be, the sole dancer at Ida Maria, Gomez, the Arctic Monkeys and Glasvegas I finally ran out of steam on day 2 and left before seeing either of the headline bands: Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Tool. I could feel my credibility as a Rock Chick dwindling as I sat on my deck that evening nursing a chilled glass of vino and the beginning of a headache.

After a good night's sleep and a glass of Berroca I re-entered the fray with a little more gusto and managed to summon the energy to see Friendly Fires, Bat for Lashes, Kaiser Chiefs (fantastic), Vampire Weekend, SnoopDog and The Killers. By the end of it all my blisters had developed blisters, I was covered in layer upon layer of baked on grime and my brain was resonating from the constant ringing in my ears. And boy, did I need a wee.

Although I had been looking forward to the festival for months - and now, on reflection a week later I will happily wax lyrical about what a great time I had to anyone who asks - in reality there were probably just 4 bands that I really enjoyed. And given the heat and the crowds, I would have much preferred to see them in a smaller, indoor venue where the acoustics aren't predominantly lost to the sky. I know I am missing the point of festivals in this preference. Whatever. I have been spoiled in Chicago and have had the opportunity to see many fantastic bands - particularly British bands trying to gain a foothold in America - in ridiculously intimate venues. As a result my Rock Chick expectations are ludicrously high.

After this overload of live music, it seemed a coincidence this week to receive several Facebook requests for the 'first 50 bands you have seen live' list. I'm not very good at responding to anything on Facebook apart from friend requests. The endless 'test your IQ / reveal your inner personality / see how much you have in common with...' opportunities do nothing for me and are always ignored. But, as much as I tried to resist, my brain began to populate the list of bands I have seen live, as though trying to desperately reassure myself of my Rock Chick credentials.

I am never going to get around to displaying this information on Facebook but just for the pure opportunity of having this useless information archived somewhere, here are the bands I remember going to see so far in my lifetime (in loose chronological order):

Paul Young, UB40, Level 42, Jesus Jones, Wonderstuff, Spear of Destiny, Soul Asylum, Squeeze, James, INXS, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Ocean Colour Scene, Dodgy, Kula Shaker, Texas, Lightening Seeds, Seahorses, Charlatans, The Verve, Sneaker Pimps, Embrace, Divine Comedy, Space, Ash, Mansun, Supernaturals, Reef, Supergrass, Oasis, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Fun Lovin' Criminals, Moloko, All Saints, Blur, Manic Street Preachers, Suede, Faithless, Rolling Stones, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, Travis, Elton John, Alanis Morrisette, Coldplay, Gomez, Gorillaz, Franz Ferdinand, Dido, U2, Neil Finn, Duran Duran, Keanne, Snow Patrol, The Swell Season (duo from movie: Once), Lily Allen, Razorlight, The Ting Tings, Take That, MIKA, Kanye West, Crowded House, Friendly Fires, Thievery Corporation, Depeche Mode, Crystal Castles, Ida Maria, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Glasvegas, Vampire Weekend, Bat for Lashes, Snoop Dog, The Killers.

Eek. 85 bands in total (and they are just the ones I remember).

There's no one band that I can pinpoint as being the best gig I ever attended, although Michael Hutchence was hands down the sexiest front man by miles. This might diminish my credibility somewhat, but I think MIKA might even top the list for most fun/energy (hey - don't knock it till you've seen him live. He's fantastic.) Gorillaz was without doubt the most original.

Next on the list? Possibly Kylie in October, for the sheer entertainment factor. And I have all fingers and toes crossed for the possibility that Kasabian will tour in the next few months (once the lead singer has recovered from swine flu, obviously).

How about you? Are you a live music buff too? What is the best / sexiest / surprising / worst band you have ever seen?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Every Cloud

The upshot of our recent break-in is that I now have a brand spankin' new MacBook Pro laptop and I LOVE it with every fibre of my being. I had been coveting one for some months. I'm not sure where the longing to convert to Mac rather than PC originated from but in the past year or so I have become aware of friend's almost zealous conversions and I think that is where the seed germinated.

Everything about this machine is sleek and minimalist and oh so easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to use. It is giving me the illusion of being almost competent in areas that used to terrify me and that I would have a tendency to avoid like the plague. For example, the downloading of photographs. Now, nobody in their right mind would accuse me of giving (insert famous photographer's name of your preference) a run for their money. I am no Annie Liebowitz. I am very much a point and shoot gal. And I can point and shoot as good as the next person until the cows come home. However, ask me, since the digital revolution, to then actually do something useful with these photos - for example, download them, categorise them into organised folders for ease of reference, upload them to Facebook, email favourites to family and then, heaven's alive, actually print some of them to display in my home - and that's where I would become slightly unglued.

So it was with some trepidation that I tentatively wedged my camera's memory card into the new Love of My Life yesterday and waited with baited breath for the illusion of my new found competence to come crashing around my ears. However, in the blink of an eye the iPhoto application opened, welcomed me with an intro video (which I admit I ignored due to the roaring in my ears and floating specks in front of my eyes, caused by low level anxiety) and before my body had time to create sweat on the palm of my hands my photos were downloaded, automatically categorised into events by date and I was one click away from uploading them to Facebook. Bloody genius. Not genius enough to actually feature a selection of my impressive photographic repertoire on this blog of course...but it is early days.

My new TV also arrived yesterday. And not just any old tele, oh no. A multi-regional TV no less. So now when I move home next year the TV in my possession as of this moment actually has a chance of working, rather than being discarded for peanuts stateside and having to be replaced for more than peanuts in Blighty. (Assuming of course the bastards don't return a week from now and nick my shiny new replacements...not gonna happen, not gonna happen, not gonna happen repeat to fade.)

Only two other items appear to have been taken - my Tag watch and my wedding ring. Both of which had been unceremoniously slung into the Kitchen Drawer of Tat, due to the Tag needing a new battery (which I had been meaning to get replaced for months) and the ring having been removed over 2 years ago but not yet relegated to the Jewellery Box Containing Stuff I Never Wear in the bathroom. I should feel sad about both. And maybe in time I will. But instead I just feel irritated with myself for being so careless and laissez-faire - it's been a common trait in my life, born from a natural tendency to laziness, and one that my ex particularly despised. When I discovered the watch and ring were missing I could almost hear his voice in my head, "Well, what did you expect? You never did appreciate or show a decent respect for the value of anything I have ever bought you..." It would be pointless to defend myself because the evidence of stuff I have broken, lost and mislaid over the years is just too damning to refute. I am an excellent receiver of valuable gifts. Just not so good a keeper of said gifts. Yet one more thing to work on, along with the countless other less noble traits I exhibit on a frequent basis.

Needless to say, the watch and the ring are not going to be replaced. In fact, if there is money left over from the insurance then it will go towards replacing my ex's Tag, which went missing when we moved back to Chicago 3 years ago. The official version of the story is that the removal men must have stolen it when packing up the kitchen (yes, his watch had also been unceremoniously dumped into the Birmingham Kitchen Drawer of Tat...although of course this is no reflection of his lack of appreciation or respect for items of sentimental and monetary value).

However, in all truth I rather suspect that I inadvertently threw his watch away. Now, I can't be hand-on-heart sure about this. But there was one particular box of kitchen 'essentials' that was getting a little bit laborious to unpack and find a home for. It contained the contents of several Kitchen Drawers of Tat. (They're like rabbits aren't they? Once you have one then they just tend to multiply without your permission until, one day, only the drawer containing cutlery is sacrament and even that has a tendency to be infiltrated by odd coins, paper clips, rubber bands and plasters if you're not constantly on your guard.)

Anyway, there I was, diligently unwrapping several layers of paper - like the most unrewarding and relentless pass-the-parcel game in the world - to reveal a small rock that the boys had deemed irreplaceable, or the dismembered hand of an action figure, or 4 pens which no longer functioned, or a broken plastic lid for a container that had long since been binned. This particular box stood approximately 4 feet high and by the time I had unwrapped half of these 'treasures' I had lost the will, if not to live, then certainly to waste my time unwrapping any more. So I simply dumped the remains of it. I thought nothing more about it.

A couple of days later ex asked me in passing, "have you come across my watch yet?". Er, nope. Where was it? In your bedside table with your cufflinks? "No, I'd left it in that kitchen drawer, under the microwave. I was going to get the battery replaced but hadn't gotten round to it."



Needless to say, I never confessed to even the possibility that my tardiness had potentially played a role in the disappearance of his valuable timepiece. And so now, if there is any opportunity to make it up to him, and replace this watch, then I will take it gratefully and with no regret for my losses - because I have the new Love of My Life and right now that's good enough for me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ah The Internet...My Long Lost Friend

I can't believe the four weeks back in the UK flew by so quickly. And the only fly in the ointment was that I didn't have a chance to participate in the blogging hemisphere. When staying with friends the last thing that I wanted to do was to shut myself away on their computers and miss out on spending time with them. This wasn't such an issue when staying at my dad's but the problem was that the boys were sleeping in the room housing the computer. If I even dared to touch the keyboard when they were awake they were instantly upon me like flies drawn to a turd. And once they were asleep the computer, of course, was out of bounds.

So as much as I didn't want to leave (and I really, really didn't) one consolation was that I could return home to a little bit of peace and quiet and resume my little tete a tete with t'internet.

Well, that was the plan.

The trip was the usual whirlwind of travelling and socialising. Maybe it was the impact of jetlag, but unexpectedly the first week I felt out of place, as though I just didn't belong. This created a frisson of anxiety...if I'm not at home in England or Chicago, where does that leave me? How can everyone drink so much tea, I pondered? The kettle's never bloody off. Why does everyone in Tesco's sound like a yob and is that what I sounded like before I left the UK and cultivated my poor impersonation of a 1960s BBC newsreader in an effort to be understood in Chicago, whilst not developing an American drawl?

I felt full of doubts and uncertainty. Where would I live once back in the UK? How on earth was I going to make it happen? Where would the money come from, for one thing? What about a job? I suddenly felt as though I have been away for a very long time and things no longer felt as familiar as they once had. The realisation that I have spent half of my adulthood (just over 9 years) in another country was shockingly obvious this summer. I started to question whether or not I could transition back and start from scratch. It seemed overwhelming.

But before I knew it my mind stopped analysing all the unanswered questions in my life and I just felt it. Home. I began to feel like me again. The 'me' before I left on our '2 year adventure'. Even the 'me' before my marriage and before parenthood. The person who has faced major challenges in her life and has always come out of the doo-doo smelling of roses. I still don't know the answer to many of the questions I have about moving home next year, but now at least I know the answers will come. And I feel strong enough to face them.

Of course, much of this is down to my friends and family, who, as ever, earned the modern day version of a Blue Peter badge when it comes to entertaining and supporting me. I had so much fun. I was so well looked after - despite the fact that my boys were permanently tired and hyper and not on their best behaviour. The dam did crumble just once - whilst in the midst of scenic Norfolk I awoke to find Captain Underpants had a fever. It just seemed like the last straw. Of course, with all the constant commotion over swine flu in the UK I naturally assumed the worst. On a good day I can be a pretty self-less parent. This was not a good day. All I could think was, 'I don't have the energy to deal with this - I just don't want the aggro. And if I get any less sleep I'm not sure I can cope.' Cue the administration of Calpol and a thousand silent prayers.

Ultimately the fever disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and Captain Underpants seemed non the worse for it. I wish I could say the same for myself. It's never pretty to demonstrate your parenting Achilles heel to your nearest and dearest and by the end of the day I was a sobbing heap. My poor friend. I don't think her shoulder has been that soggy since her youngest was regurgitating mealtimes onto a muslin over 4 years ago. But it was as though a weight had been lifted. Releasing all my pent up emotion was cathartic. Everything suddenly seemed doable.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. Goodbye lush rolling hills. Goodbye to zipping around motorways at double my typical Chicago speed of travel. Goodbye nearest and dearest. I will be back.

The flight was uneventful and ex picked us up from the airport. "I just need to talk to mummy about the luggage" he told the boys, before dragging me off to one side. He starts to talk to me in an urgent whisper. "Now I know you're going to freak out," are the first words out of his mouth. In a split second I am hearing the subsequent words out of his mouth. I am applying for full custody of the boys. I have fallen in love and am never leaving Chicago and the boys are staying with me. My heart stops. "Your place was broken into this morning. Not sure what has been taken, but the TV and the computer are definitely missing. They have obviously gone through the kitchen drawers and your bedroom. You need to call the police as soon as you get back and I think it is best if the boys come and stay with me tonight and that we don't tell them what has happened."

I breath a sigh of relief. Only broken into? Thank God. Then it hits me. No computer? Bugger. Was planning on writing my blog first thing. What a complete pain in the arse. Welcome home Chicago. Love you too.