Before the pandemic hit, it had been pretty busy here in Bali, what with all the spirits in town.

Bali is so much more than the tropical paradise you see on Instagram.  It’s rich culture and traditional values set it apart from its 17,000 plus sister islands.

The majority of Balinese are deeply religious and follow a form of Hinduism known as Balinese Hinduism.  I’m not going to pretend to understand or even know the differences between regular Hinduism and Balinese Hinduism but according to our gardener Pak Ketut, who himself is a devout Bali Hindu, “its a lot more work”.  They pray.  A lot.  Three times a day – 6am, midday and 6pm.  From our home, we can hear the dawn call to prayer from the pura (temple) just up the road in the village.  It’s similar to the muslim call to prayer in that it features chanting but its accompanied by the sound of the gamelan (traditional Balinese percussion instruments) and this, together with birdsong and crickets, forms our morning soundtrack.  The sun almost always rises here around 6am, 365 days a year and the call to prayer is a daily occurrence.  My son almost always rises in a bad mood around 6am so if I’m going to be woken at dawn I don’t mind that the temple beats him to it.  Chanting is preferable to him moaning.

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My view from the upstairs hallway when I open our bedroom door each morning.  Not too shabby!

Most days you can’t go anywhere in Bali without witnessing or being stopped in your tracks by some kind of upacara (ceremony) or village gathering for praying.  I admit, when I’m in a rush it can be a pain in the proverbial but mostly, I enjoy the little glimpses into the culture of the island we have chosen as our home.  Its not our island, we are the guests here and its important that everyone, tourists and expats, respect the culture and traditions of the local people and the last couple of months have been a busy one in the calendar of cultural events.

February gave us Kuningan and Galungan.  Kuningan is the day that marks the end of one of Bali’s most important religious holidays, Galungan – a time when the ancestral spirits of deceased relatives visit the earth.  Like Easter and Ramadan, the date of the celebration changes every year and this year it fell on February 19th.  The date of Galungan is determined by the 210 day Balinese calendar and it always begins on the Wednesday of Dunggulan, the 11th week in the calendar and Kuningan is 10 days after.

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The penjor outside our neighbours house

Large bamboo poles with offerings at their tips, called penjor, are placed outside each home and line the streets much like Christmas decorations in the west.  Pak Ketut and Ibu (the lovely couple that work in our home) place offerings every day around the house and garden as gifts of gratitude for peace and as supplication to lower spirits to not disturb the living.  The offerings, or canang sari, are little hand woven baskets made from coconut leaves and filled with fresh flowers, rice, fruit, sweets etc as gifts to the gods, topped off with a burning incense stick to send it all up to heaven.  But for Galungan and Kuningan, they pimp them up and the offerings get bigger and more elaborate.  And I have a much harder time stopping the dog from eating them.  Just the other day I caught Hardin giving Arlo a treat that the cheeky monster claimed to have ‘found’.  It was a chocolate from one of the offerings upstairs!  God knows how we haven’t had a demon at the door!  But apparently once the incense stops burning the offering returns to being an earthly object and I assume the gods have no issues with hungry toddlers and dogs eating their treats…or at least I hope not.

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Eia and I with Ibu and Pak Ketut

March 25th brought us Nyepi.  On this day, Balinese Hindu’s connect more deeply with God through prayer, fasting and meditation.  This day is strictly reserved for self-reflection to evaluate personal values such as love, truth, patience, kindness, and generosity and anything that might interfere with that purpose is strictly prohibited. It’s known as a ‘day of silence’.  Mum’s everywhere be like ‘sign me up!’ except you’re gonna wanna read the small print on this one as this silence is based on four precepts:

Amati Geni: No fire or light, including no electricity and the prohibition of satisfying pleasurable human appetites.
Amati Karya:
No form of physical working other than that which is dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.
Amati Lelunganan:
No movement or travelling.
Amati Lelanguan:
Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment or general merrymaking.

Nyepi Sky

Nyepi – its awe inspiring to see the night sky so clearly without any light pollution.  I can’t take credit for this pic though, I’m reposting from Margo Zhuravleva on Facebook!

While some degree of flexibility is permitted to foreigners (you don’t need to fast for example) you must still remain at home (even the airport closes), with no wifi, tv or noise making technology of any kind and no lights, even once darkness falls.  And don’t think you’re getting around it because the pecalang (village security) patrol the streets to make sure everyone is playing ball.  So basically what this translates as is a day at home with two kids, no YouTube Postman Pat babysitting services (damn I missed that goody two shoes yorkshire postie!), lots of almost shouting and then hissing under your breath at your toddler to keep the noise down and a lot more biting your tongue while quietly trying to ‘sshh’ a screaming baby at 9pm in the pitch black after stubbing your toe on the cot in your haste to get to said screaming baby.  But in all honesty it was actually quite a nice day and even nicer night under the stars since we stocked up on our favourite booze – Cappy (Morgan Spiced) for the hubs and Bombay Sapphire for me – a tactic we have also employed to get us through the current lockdown period!

Nyepi is the third day in what is actually a six day festival.  The day before Nyepi (day 2), is for Bhuta Yajna, a village ritual involving sacrifices of chickens, ducks or pigs followed by the evening spectacle of the Ogoh Ogoh parade.  Massive handmade demonic statues, up to 8 metres tall, are carried on bamboo grids through the streets accompanied by a deafening mix of traditional bells, klaxons and gamelan music to scare away evil spirits by making as much noise as humanly possible.  But it was cancelled this year due to the social distancing measures in place to tackle the covid19 pandemic but as far as I know, the first day of the festival known as Melasti, a ritual to collect sacred water from the sea, still went ahead in some temples by the beach in places such as Seminyak, although we didn’t see it obvs, as we were social distancing.  The fourth day is spent in meditation (the Yoga Brata ritual) and the fifth day is essentially New Years Day, known as Ngembak Agni, and is the day families and neighbours visit each other to exchange forgiveness.  This is also the day of Omed-Omedan, aka the Kissing Ritual, in celebration of the New Year.  But again the Balinese Government put the brakes on both these activities this year in light of the pandemic.  Apparently, a traditional village day of Nyepi can be practiced at any time of year if it’s needed spiritually and a second Nyepi on the 18, 19 and 20th of April has been discussed to accelerate the elimination of coronavirus on the island.  The limitations on technology and lighting etc would be relaxed but if it goes ahead, which at the time of writing this is yet to be confirmed, the entire population of Bali, but specifically those living in traditional villages, would be asked to stay at home for these three days to complement the physical and spiritual aspects of the cosmos to hasten the end of the threat of covid19. It is their belief that praying will protect us and this island. Now considering that Bali lies to the north of a major fault line, is home to two active volcanos and hasn’t fallen foul of either one for a very long time, they might be on to something. Especially when you consider that an earthquake a few years back caused serious damage to neighbouring Lombok and left Bali largely untouched. I’m just gonna leave that there.

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Canang sari on the statue in front of the entrance to our home

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Canang sari at our front gate

To many outsiders this might seem like a lot of bollocks but while I’m not religious in any way, I do have a healthy respect for that which I can’t explain.  Bali isn’t known as the Island of Gods for nothing.  I’ve always been open minded about this kind of thing while simultaneously never really thinking on it too much but it is hard not to get carried along in their faith in the divine and the old magic that exists here.  Long before I lived in Bali, I’ve seen and experienced things myself that have left me wondering.  And when Pak Ketut and Ibu first started working for us and praying for us with the offerings each day, I asked Ibu ‘why’ and one of the things she said was that it’s to keep us, our home and our children healthy and safe from bad spirits.  So far it seems to be working so maybe she’ll make a believer out of me, although quick story before I go.  Last week, I was finishing putting the kids to bed when something heavy pushed so hard on the bedroom door it budged in the door frame.  It’s usually Marley and I even muttered ‘fuck sake Marley’ before immediately going to the door to let her in.  But when I opened it, no one was there.  I looked in the upstairs rooms and terrace for the source of the disturbance – still nothing – then I came downstairs to find Marley lying on the floor, half asleep, watching Hardin workout and he said she hadn’t moved.  He grew up in Indonesia and isn’t a stranger to weird goings on so I told him what happened and he proceeded to walk about the house, muttering in Indonesian that our family is not to be touched.  That night I slept with the baby monitor on and the next morning I told Pak Ketut.  He now places a canang sari in the hallway outside our bedroom and I sleep like a baby…

 

 

If you’re hanging and you know it, clap your hands…barf, barf.

Last month, I went out.  Like out, out.  Without children.  Without inhibitions.  And very much, with alcohol.  It didn’t end well….

It had been exactly 479 days since my last alcohol fuelled girls night out so I was more excited than a two peckered Billy goat.  This night off was literally all I could think about the whole week running up to it.  Adult conversation.  Being able to eat the food that I ordered.  No floaters in my table water after being forced to share with a tiny backwashing dictator who annoyingly likes to remind me to ‘bagi bagi mummy‘ (the indonesian version of ‘sharing is caring’ that has come back to bite me on the ass at moments not of my choosing!).  And no mini me stealing a sip from my mojito while the baby creates a diversion! It happened once.  Ok, twice.

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The cheeky face of my mojito thief

I have two kids and we live 4 degrees north of the equator – my default hair setting is towel dried and often up by 9am and as for makeup, anything more than tinted SPF moisturiser is a waste of time since I’m just gonna sweat it off anyway!  So I save hair and make up for nights out and when they roll around, I relish the time to get ready.  Hubs likes to moan that it takes me two hours to get ready.  Not true.  I could be ready in 30 minutes but I like to drag it out and add steps to the routine that are usually lacking such as exfoliating, moisturising, drying my hair and taking my time to do a little makeup as if I actually know what I’m doing.  You know, like those naturally pretty, childless, teen instagrammers who churn out make up tutorials.  “I like to use Bobby Brown’s Full Cover Concealer in Cool Sand…”  Oh piss of Khloe with a ‘K’ – you’re an “IT consultant” for your dad’s greengrocer, not Charlotte Tilbury.  And you’re about 12 years old!  Your skin is flawless, you don’t need concealer.  Look me up in 20 years when you’re a couple kids down and several years into sleep deprivation with eyes like Kung-Fu Panda.  Concealer won’t cut it then sweetheart, its thick camo paint you need.  I like Warm Beige.

I spent the days running up to my night out imagining how I’m going to do my hair and makeup and what I’m going to wear and how freaking put together I’m going to look (you, two kids? No way!) and feel for a change but life like to giveth and taketh away.  I should’ve been quietly f**king grateful with my freedom.  A clear path there was clearly too much to ask!

We’d spent all morning surfing over on the other side of the island.  The plan was to surf in the morning, have lunch and the kids could nap in the car on the way home getting us in mid afternoon with way more than enough time for me to piss fart around getting organised before boobing the baby to sleep and heading out the door.  Any mother who has endured a significant dry spell between nights ‘off’, say 479 days, will tell you that upholding the routine of the day preceding the night out is paramount to success (by success I mean getting out the door on time with no SOS calls from the babysitter, sorry, I meant husband).  If they’re not tired enough, its gonna throw things but if they’re over tired….you’re fucked.  Mine were over tired.  Our ‘car nap’ plan went sideways quickly after the heavens opened and flooding ensued meaning the normally hour long drive home took more than two hours and also meant the car didn’t move fast enough to lull the kids to sleep.

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Flash flooding, Bali style

This, plus the fact that we were late leaving the beach meant that my plan to get ready in my own sweet time went to hell in a hand basket.  So you can imagine my frustration when the power went off just as I began to shampoo the saltwater out of my hair!  This is Bali, the power going off isn’t unusual.  Sometimes its a grid switch off but more often, if you try to put on AC in more than one bedroom at the same time as the water pump, pool pump and the washing machine, it will trip a fuse.  But this time it wasn’t our fault.  Thunder storms are an almost nightly occurrence here during the rainy season and a particularly bad one a few days before that not only took out two trees in our back garden, one of which ended up in the pool, but it screwed up our electrics.  Since that storm, the power keeps tripping but this is the first time its gone out and stayed out.  I finish my shower in now almost complete darkness (it goes from dusk to dark in 30 minutes here) dry off and go to see what the chat is.  Fifteen minutes previously, my parting words to hubby upon going for a shower were ‘honey, if the kids are finished eating, can you shower them and get them into their pyjamas?‘ but coming back downstairs I find, to my horror, that the kids aren’t even close to being ready for bed.  Eia is still dressed as rice, chicken and vegetables, Arlo is eating grains of rice off of Marley (the dog) and all I can make out of Hardin is his sweet ass in the air, buried under the side board, flashlight in hand, looking for the mouse which has apparently moved back in (assuming its the same one Pak Ketut caught the week before and freed, clearly not far enough away from the damn house!)  God as my witness, it took all my strength not to plug his fine ass with the bloody flashlight there and then, instead opting to grit my teeth and say as sweetly as I could muster (because I still need to keep him on side to get out the door on time) “honey, maybe you can worry about the mouse later and we can get the kids ready for bed before it’s darker than Frankie Boyle’s sense of humour?”  This seemed to snap him out of it and to his credit, he came upstairs with no arguments before the implications of the lack of power dawned on him.  Disclaimer: I adore my husband.  He is a wonderful husband and incredible father but when he’s not keen on doing something, say all of a sudden having to spend the night alone in darkness without wifi, without AC in the bedroom and with two kids who may or may not wake up due to the heat, all of which serve a very large threat to the chilled night he had in mind, he can very quickly become the problem, instead of the solution.  “We’re going to have to go to a hotel, we can’t stay here without AC‘ he says.  Back the fuck up!  Say what now?  I’ll admit my motives in this moment are entirely selfish.  I wanna go out.  My adults only freedom is within touching distance and I’m not ready to pass it up, yet.  I was in the exact same situation a few nights ago when the storm was doing its damage.  No AC, kids waking frequently, everybody sweating – it was shit AND I went outside three times in the pissing rain and pitch black to put the power back on until at 2am I chose a sweaty sleep over this merry dance with the fuses.  So my argument is basically put your big boy pants on and suck it up.  Time to wo-man up sweetheart!  He see’s sense and decides to call PLN, the state electric company, while I boob the baby to sleep.  They’re gonna send a guy.  Eia goes to sleep without too much fuss and now I can turn my attention to getting ready in the 15 mins I have left before my lift arrives.  Dreams of blow drying my hair into a smooth, shiny style evaporate (natural beachy waves it is then!) and given the near complete darkness, I can’t be sure if I’m putting mascara on my eyelashes or eyebrows when the car arrives but I grab my sandals and get the hell out of dodge.

Expat Bali joke – Kuta is for the teens, Seminyak is for the party hard early 20 something’s and Canggu is for the 30-ish vegan poke bowl eating, fresh coconut drinking, wannabe surfer crowd.  We’re a group of margarita drinking mums over 30.  So we went out in Sanur.  Sanur is popular with families and retirees, both tourists or local foreigners.  It’s just about the right amount of touristy to offer a good night out without any of the idiots. We inhaled our meal at Taquisa and moved on to Casablanca (those Mexicans really know how to have a good time!), a live music joint with tasty mojitos and a dancefloor.  And I love to dance.  Two tequilas, a marguerita and I forget what else, has me feeling pretty loose and fuzzy already so when the bar man rocks up with a complimentary drink for me, the birthday girl, with what I can only assume is ethanol laced petrol given how well it burns when he sets it alight, it was always gonna be all down hill from there.  The band call me onto the floor for a victory lap of the dance floor to their take on ‘Happy Birthday’ and after that it all gets a bit disjointed.

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Yes I know its blurry but we were all half cut, what do you expect?!

At the time I felt fine, dancing the night away, sweating (the booze out, or so I thought) like a nun in a cucumber field but when they called last orders and we stopped dancing, the sudden lack of motion in my feet allowed my brain to register the spinning in my head.  F**k knows how I managed to message Saiful, the driver, in flawless Indonesian (and I only know this after checking my WhatsApp the next morning trying to piece together how he knew to pick us up).  I’m no Virgin Mary but I can count on two hands the number of nights I’ve been so wasted I’ve tossed my cookies.  With my limited experience in this area (ha, ha) it seemed like a good plan to be sick in my bag to save the car.  It was not so much of a good plan to Chloe, who’s bag I’d borrowed for the night.  Luckily when she asked me if I was ok and I confessed my plan about 2 minutes before executing it, she asked Saiful to pull over and I lost my dinner in the got (a sort of deep gutter).  This happened once more before dropping Chloe off and I vaguely remember some bright spark (either Debbie or Chloe) hooking me up with aspirin and water which totally saved me the next day.  After that I must have passed out because the next thing I remember was waking up  at 6.30am with the kids and feeling not too bad, surprisingly.  However, hubby took great pleasure in filling me in on the details he was privy too, like Saiful having to phone him to open the gate because I was passed out in the front seat.  Or how he had to carry me up to bed.  Oops.  And he thoroughly enjoyed my rapid descent from waking feeling fine to hanging over my poached eggs, bacon and avocado (what the hell was I thinking!)  in the cafe he took us to for breakfast that morning.  Note to self – on mornings such as these, the correct answer to the question ‘where do you wanna go out for breakfast?‘  McDonalds.

I wish I could say that I’ve learned my lesson but by the time all this coronavirus shit blows over in, for example, 479 days, I’ll be first in line at Casablanca.

 

 

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the sea south of Bali the other day.  Its our third since moving here 6 months ago.  It did no damage and no tsunami warning was issued but the mere fact that we felt it, serves to remind me of how fragile we all are.  That, and the current covid-19 pandemic gripping the world.

At any one time I have 2-3 blog posts on the go in varying stages of completion but I’ve put them on hold tonight to hitch my ride to the coronavirus wagon.  As the seriousness of the pandemic began to sink in, my first question was ‘are my children’s lives at risk from this?’ quickly followed by ‘are our lives at risk from this?’  The collective ‘our’ being me and hubby.  A few panicked google searches later and I came to the conclusion that even if me, hubs and the kids contracted the virus, we’d most likely be ok.  Not that that’s a reason to go out and start licking door handles but it initially quieted my racing mind.  However the world response hasn’t been about protecting the healthy, its been about protecting the most vulnerable so we’ve made some changes.  Hubs 40th birthday holiday celebrations have been postponed, we pulled Arlo out of nursery (the week we did, they closed the schools anyway) and we’re ‘social distancing’.

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Social distancing, you’re a bit of alright

For the most part, Indonesia is still a developing country and Bali, behind the luxury resorts and exotic Instagram posts, is largely poor.  Hospitals take MasterCard and if you can’t pay, you don’t go, covid or not, so – and I’m not going to get into the politics of it all – I think its a fair assumption that given this fact and the reality that the country is made up of over 17,000 islands, many without hospitals and corona testing kits, coronavirus must be more widespread here than we know.  Especially in Bali, arguably Indonesia’s most famous and popular island, and crowning jewel in its tourism crown.  It’s hard to get a measure of the situation here.  The streets and beaches are eerily quiet.  No-one is panic buying but hand sanitiser has disappeared from shops and pharmacies everywhere.  And a face mask is this seasons must have accessory.  But yet it still feels like business as usual on the surface because the Balinese believe they can pray it away.  And that’s not me being a dick with this last comment.  They are deeply spiritual and they truly believe that will save them from the sickness of men.

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Usually filled with holiday makers, Sanur beach is a ghost town

The first confirmed death in Bali from covid-19 earlier this month was a British tourist.  Hubs flies in and out of Bali all the time for work and he can attest to the fact that they are diligently screening people and sanitising surfaces all over the joint but for this poor lady to have died of covid on this island, she either came in with it (which doesn’t put much confidence in the border screening tests) or she contracted it here (which doesn’t say much for the reporting of cases and calls those screening tests back in to question since covid-19 was only confirmed here upon her death).  However, until today they are still reporting no local transmissions.  That’s just not possible.  Unless the praying is working.  We’re watching coronavirus unravel societies across the world and despite the insistence that Bali is safe and putting aside the ‘we’re healthy, we’ll be fine’ attitude, I don’t want to contribute to passing the virus, which may or may not be among us, about the masses, who may or may not be able to afford the treatment that could save their life.  So that’s point number two in the ‘Reasons for Social Distancing’ column right behind ‘we don’t fancy taking our chances, fuck you very much covid!’

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An apple a day keeps covid away…according to Pepito

For every direct corona worry I have about me, hubby or the kids getting ill, I have several indirect ones.  The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020 hasn’t reached us yet (bum hose win!) but hysteria has been growing in the capital, Jakarta, as people begin panic buying and the government are talking about locking down the city.  Thankfully in Bali, its yet to get that bad but if things change, an Andrex shortage is the least of my worries.  Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world and you can’t drink the tap water.  We have an Aqua water dispenser in the house (think office water machine) which we buy 20L bottles for and if things start to get crazy, clean water would be my first concern.  We always keep a few bottles in the house.  We’re up to 5 now. You can survive for only 3 days without water, but up to 3 weeks without food…a bit melodramatic I know but the UK is fighting over piss paper so let me have this far more legitimate concern.

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Daddy day care

Indonesia has now closed its borders to 8 countries entirely, including the UK and is denying on arrival tourist visas to all.  The British Embassy is calling last orders on British citizens to return to the UK on the last few flights that are leaving in the next day or two.  Like the rest of the world, we are worried for our extended families but if any member of our families back in the UK falls ill from coronavirus or anything else for that matter, we won’t be able to get to them.  Before the World War Z lockdown scenarios were put in place across the globe, I could hop on a plane at a moments notice if the need arose but now with all the border restrictions and quarantines in place, if something happened to a loved one 7000 miles away, the fear of not being able to be with them is very real, no matter how far fetched it may seem.

Like many Indonesian families, we have staff to help around the home with cooking, cleaning, garden and pool maintenance.  In the short time we’ve been here, the lovely couple that work for us have become like a second family.  We attended their daughters wedding, their 5 year old is like a big cousin to Arlo and they WhatsApp me in the middle of the night after an earthquake to make sure we’re ok, so we have agonised over how to handle their presence (if any) at home during this pandemic.  They are Balinese Hindu.  They regularly attend prayers and mass gatherings.  If we’re trying to protect ourselves and society with social distancing and staying at home, are we undoing our efforts if we can’t control the source of bugs under our roof?  But we can’t just send them away.  There are no government hand outs here for the poor or unemployed.  If we ask them to stay away, what will happen to their family with little or no income?  The Balinese are enterprising and we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of fisherman on the beach as many return to the land while tourism slows so I don’t doubt they’d figure it out, but this is the very time where we need to be looking out for each other.  So they’re staying.  We’ve set up a little makeshift hand washing station at the gate for when they arrive each morning and bought lots of bleach and antibacterial sprays to keep surfaces clean from all our germs, theirs and ours.  We’re still paying their full salaries but we’ve restricted their tasks around here to be ‘less involved’.  Pak Ketut is working outside as usual but in the house, we’ve asked Ibu to continue going to the market and cooking, only.  We’ll clean.  I don’t know if this is a wise course of action or an indulgent, naive one but its the best we can come up with for now.  However, if someone coughs, they’re gone!

Something that is worrying us as much, if not more than the virus, is the risk of social unrest.  Ramadan is just around the corner and people would usually be returning home to their villages except the BNPB (they are Indonesia’s organisation for the prevention of disasters) have created a ‘state of emergency’ until 29 May.  It’s a bit of a grey area, where at the moment, it seems the government is asking, not telling, people to stay put but if it becomes law, people fear riots.  Bali is a Hindu island so we have less to worry about than say Jakarta, but there are plenty of Indonesians here from other islands that will want to leave Bali to visit their family at this time and Indonesia is not a nation of people that will just bend over.  They are like the French on steroids.  I think we’ll all be holding our breath for the next few weeks.  But maybe that’s no bad thing while covid walks among us.

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Not so ‘social’ distancing – waiting in the car with the kiddos while daddy takes Marley to the vet

As if all of that wasn’t reason enough to empty my gin shelf, the rainy season is drawing to a close and the mozzies are bad so dengue fever has been a concern. We spray the rooms, the kids, ourselves and burn spirals to try to avoid bites which may or may not transmit dengue.  For the most part, the hospitals here don’t have a first world standard reputation and if they start to get crowded with coronavirus patients, that standard could fall so my usually very free range kiddos are being reigned in slightly to keep them out of a hospital where, in the current climate, an admission could make them more ill.  However, on the plus side, the quinine in tonic water is said to help prevent mosquito bites so I’m knocking back the G&T like its the end of the world.  Every cloud and all that…

 

 

 

Walking, talking and turds in the toilet.  We tackled the latter of these three parenting milestones recently.  That’s been fun…

In November last year, about a month before his second birthday, Arlo announced at the crack of dawn one morning he needed a ‘doo doo’.  We thought ‘what the hell, no point in ignoring him since we’re gonna have to tackle toilet training soon so…’ and plopped him on the toilet.  And he ‘did did’.  The next day I bought pants and a loo seat.

We had a super relaxed attitude to toilet training.  The general consensus from the wider audience was that ‘he’s too young’ but we live in the tropics, running around butt naked is comfier than a nappy and crapping in the garden is good for the plants so why not, have at it son.  My mother in law was staying with us at the time and she toilet trained her kids in Indonesia when they were really young and if I’m honest, I went along with it at first because it seemed like the thing to do here but I honestly didn’t think it would come to anything and very quickly I felt it was a mistake to try since he seemed to develop an aversion to the toilet almost immediately.  I imagine hanging your tiny ass over a gaping hole is a bit scary to a toddler.  I was ready to shelve the whole thing, trying to save face by agreeing with folk  ‘yeh he probably is too young’ but then I thought lets just try a potty and see what happens.  Hardin wasn’t game.  It’s not really a thing here (unless you’re western) and he wasn’t raised that way.  If I remember correctly, his exact words were “hell no, ewww“.  I bought one anyway.  Bless him, he still thinks he lives in a democracy.  Home alone five days a week and with a baby to boot, the potty gave us convenience which gave us success.  I let him run around naked like a poor mans Mowgli and when he had to go, he could pop himself on it.  It couldn’t handle his adult size jobbies though so the potty became obsolete pretty quickly and we moved back to the toilet seat.  That too got old quickly mostly because mummy kept forgetting to put it on before sitting him on the throne but also they don’t have kiddie seats in public loos so he was gonna have to learn sooner or later.  The loo seat has been relegated to a colourful bathroom decoration now.  Yet more money well spent.  TMI – we’re a family off bum washers and have been washing Arlo’s little tooshie since he was 6 months old so pooping was never much of an issue.  He hates being dirty and he’d been telling us for a while he needed a ‘doo doo’ because he wanted washed asap so he took number 2’s on the toilet in his stride.  At the beginning, wee wee’s were an issue though. He was really good at telling us after the fact, thanks son.  He didn’t want to take a break from playing to empty his bladder so we had a few accidents but we got there.  No, my real issue with potty training was and still is (because lets face it even if you bang it out in two weeks, you’re still on high alert for some time after!) the ‘footnotes‘.  Those ancillary pieces of information, ticks specific to your child and their potty training journey that no one can warn you about.

Ok, TMI again but if you’ve had kids, and I’m specifically looking at you here mummies, you checked your shame at the door as soon as they said ‘ok, lets see how dilated you are‘ so don’t go all prudish on me now.  When I go to the bathroom, I go.  I need and I go.  In and out in 5 minutes, tops.  Wiped, washed, dried, done.  My hubby on the other hand, and he’ll kill me for saying this (its the gins fault honey, I’m under the influence), decides he’ll need to go for a poo on Friday and goes to the loo on Wednesday.  I’ve never known someone to spend so long on the crapper!  God love him.  Its the only place he gets peace,  I’m clearly missing a trick.  Anyway, I digress.  Our son has inherited this trait from his father.  Arlo can go to the bathroom, do his business and then sit and wait for more.  Like.  Fifteen.  Minutes.  More.  And thats a long time when theres a screaming baby in the other room that was interrupted mid feed for her elder siblings bowel evacuation.  Even if he’s clearly finished or maybe doesn’t need a doo-doo at all, he’s decided he wants to go and we’re not moving until he’s done do-ing.  I must say though, when asked repeatedly if he’s finished, his response of ‘no mummy, I wait for more doo-doo to come out‘ is the sweetest thing, I could squeeze the life outta him, its sooooo cute.  Hmm…maybe squeezing him would help, I’ll keep that in mind.  I’m still trying to make him understand that going to the toilet is a calling and not a choice but hey ho, in the meantime I can expect to spend a lot more time staring down the barrel of the crapper.

Leading on from this, my sweet boy likes to hold hands on the toilet.  I haven’t yet decided if its for moral support or something to brace against but he forces me to be at head height for this ritual and mummy isn’t getting any younger and after 15 minutes, I can no longer feel my legs.  At home, I can sit on the floor but in public loos….?  Eh, no!  Which brings me on to my next point.

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Don’t open the door!

Bali is hot.  Bali is humid.  Toilets are small and squatting in one for 15 minutes with a toddler that insists he still has more doo doo to do is sweaty work.  Its gotten so unbearable in the heat that as soon as Arlo even hints at the subject when we’re out, hubs and I call shotgun on who’s gonna take him.  He likes daddy better than me nowadays, the ungrateful little monkey, so I’m currently winning this one, boo ya!  Oh yeh, and this is Indonesia so squat toilets are still a thing.  Helicoptering a squirming two year old who insists he can only go on the potty (since thats what you’ve taught him, ffs!) over a small hole in the ground doesn’t end well.  For his shorts.  Or your sandalled feet.  Enough said.

I mentioned earlier we’re a family of bum washers?  Well, Indonesia is a country of bum washers and every toilet is fitted with what I affectionately refer to as a bum hose.  A little shower head situated next to the loo that serves to wash your bum after a number 2.  But fancy toilets have a built in bidet – a little pipe that is ejected from the back end of the seat upon turning a little handle.  Designed I’m sure, but failing, to be discreet, anyone that has ever been in a toilet cubicle with a toddler will know they insist on touching and turning every little Tom, knob and Harry they come into contact with (as well as licking the sanitary bin given half the chance!) so of course my son found it on his first encounter in a fancy public loo and turned it on just as I turned around after locking the stall door.  The jet is angled upward to make contact with the appropriate orifice however, unfortunately for me it found my face and a wholly inappropriate orifice.  No where in Indonesia is tap water drinkable.  Especially when it comes out of the bum hose.

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Curious George – drying on the line after a bum washing

And as if all of this wasn’t bad enough, Arlo has recently decided that not only does George (as in Curious George, his monkey comforter) need to do-do now, he too needs to hold hands with mummy.  By my calculations, I’m now spending approximately 30 minutes of my day supporting a stuffed monkey through his wee wee’s and doo doo’s.  When did it all go so wrong?!!

 

Mummies repeat after me…self care isn’t selfish, its self preservation.

Its been a while since my last (tired and teary) blog post and I wish I could say I’ve been sleeping all this time but motherhood waits for no woman so I’ve had to get my shit together.  When I first had Arlo, I was cocky.  Sure, motherhood is relentless but its really not that bad, I thought naively.  And even just after Eia was born, I thought I was bossing it with the two of them.  But it slowly started to dawn on me that with hubby working away and having just moved to a foreign country with a new baby and toddler, I was well on my way up shit creek.  I had a paddle originally but at some point in the last 3 months it just fucked off, leaving me with nothing but my dick in my hands and not a bloody clue about what the hell I’m doing.  And I’m taking on water.  Or someone is peeing on me.  That my friend, is parenthood.

Like all mums I’ve had my share of rough nights, boo hoo me, but something broke in me that night and I’m not even going to try to put the pieces back together the same way.  Nothing changes if nothing changes so after that night of – it would be too melodramatic to call it complete hell so lets just go with – purgatory, I fixed the hole in my boat, remembered I also have a sail so to hell with the paddle, or lack thereof, and I used the winds of change to get back on track.  Chin up, charge the mountain.  Boom.

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In my happy place – happy mums, raise happy kids

Hubs and I had spoken previously about putting Arlo into pre-school for two mornings a week at some point.  Well, that shitty night lit a fire under me.  He started the following week.  It doesn’t help with the baby sleeping at night but those precious few hours each week give me a little break from the really tough parenting gig so I can be a better and more patient mum the rest of the time, at least that’s how I sold it to hubby.  There were tears the first few times, Arlo’s and mine, but now he loves ‘school’ especially the principal, Pak Sudi.  Though I don’t get his sense of humour.  I was there an hour when he asked me if maybe I (or anyone I know) would like to volunteer a couple of times a week as a native english speaker in the older kids class.  HA!  You’re joking right?  He was not.  I don’t like children.  I mean, I like my children, obviously, but other peoples…hmmm, not so much.  I’m sending my kid to nursery to get a break from his crazy beautiful – I’d sooner walk barefoot across a yard of lego before offering myself up willingly to a room full of feral five year olds.  But my mouth said ‘I’ll ask around‘.  As for Eia now, I’m getting to know my sweet girl better as she’s being treated to my full attention when its just us.  And when she naps, I can binge on Netflix, swim or do yoga.  The very things I wanted to do, needed to do, to relax in the evenings but can never manage with all the drama around sleeping.  But now we can all have cake and eat it too!  Nursery where have you been all my life!  Or, all his life.

The second thing that needed to change was transport.  Having a driver was a nice luxury to begin with but I was really grieving this loss of independence and when Arlo took ill in the middle of the night and we had to wait for the car to take us to hospital, that was the catalyst for change.  The next day we got a car.  First day out on my own – it had been a few months since I drove so it took me a little while to figure out where the noise was coming from as we pulled onto the main road.  Checked the windows, all up.  My door was closed.  Passenger door too.  Holy Mary Mother of God, Arlo’s door is wide open and flapping about in the wind.  He’s managed to get his arms out of his seat belt and open the frigging thing!  I’m trying not to raise the alarm as Hardin is on the phone after I’ve literally just called him, all smug and stupid:

Me: Hey honey, guess where we are?  In the car! Wish me luck!

Him: Why is it so noisy?

Me: Erm…I’ve got the window open.

Him: Why don’t you put the air con on you numpty?

Me: Mm-hmm.

Him: I’ll let you go honey, you need to concentrate.

Me to myself: Yeh, no shit sherlock.

I hang up and pull over immediately.  Now, where are those bastard child locks?!

Driving in Indonesia has been an education.  Or really its been more of an un-education as I shelve everything I know about driving. So far, these are the lessons I’ve gleaned from my time on the road.

  • Motorbikes move like schools of fish. Be a whale. They’ll move around you.
  • Lanes pose a philosophical question – just because there are two lanes doesn’t mean there are two lanes. Sometimes two is three, or four. But one is never one.
  • Roundabouts are just for decoration, you don’t actually go around them…how stupid would that be!
  • Pavements are for pedestrians. And mopeds. And gerobaks. And the occasional cow.
  • Driving the ‘right way’ down the road is subjective. If it suits you to drive the wrong way, have at it. But don’t forget your hazard lights! That makes it ok.
  • In Indonesia, mopeds are used as people carriers and/or SUV’s.  Neither is mutually exclusive and I’m in awe of this fact.  Dad is often the driver with a kid standing between his legs, maybe even a dog too.  Mum is side saddle on the back, on her phone or eating fried rice with a baby strapped to her front while another child sleeps, yes sleeps, in the space between maw and paw.  And in Indonesia theres nothing you can’t tie to a moped.  Chickens, ladders, eggs, a fridge – anything is possible.
  • Always carry cash.  In your pockets.  

It’s madness.  I love it!

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Family dinner on the beach following an afternoon of surfing and sandcastles

When Hardin is home, I get enough of a rest having him to tag out with.  A long lie or an offer for him to take the kids for a bit is great but when he’s home I wanna spent time all together as a family.  So we’ve worked out a solution.  I’m not much of a fashion kinda girl, fitness and the outdoor life has always been my bag but having had two kids in close succession put the brakes on things a bit but with Eia in particular becoming a little more independent in the day time at least, it’s giving me some time to focus on activity again, which has been good physically and mentally.  We’ve taken the kids climbing but mostly surfing.

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Surfer boy – giving Arlo his first taste on the waves

In Bali, the beach is an extension of home.  The kids are practically being raised in water! Either we all go together and the kids play on the beach building sandcastles and drinking coconuts with one of us while the other is on the water or more recently I tried an early morning session.  Getting up at 5am feels totally different when its your choice!  The conditions were glassy and mellow, I beat the crowds and managed a couple of hours on the water before enjoying a quiet cup of coffee on the beach while I dried off.  I was home just after 9am to boob Eia to sleep for her nap and didn’t miss any family time as they’d all been asleep!  Success!  My hubby jokes happy wife, happy life but happy mums raise happy kids so I’m gonna do me for a bit.  At 5am….

 

 

I’m usually quite good at keeping my shit together but last night I cried.  Hard.  I had been up and down the stairs 7 times since bedtime, which isn’t unusual but last night something just broke inside me and I sobbed my pathetic heart out until I had no tears left to cry.  Sweat mixed with tears as I stood with my beautiful baby girl in my arms crying because I was hot and exhausted and she just won’t go to sleep, crying because I am tired of fighting this battle and losing every. single. night.  Crying because I feel guilty and ungrateful that I even see it as a battle instead of a blessing when there are people that would trade places with me in a heartbeat just to be a mother.  Crying because tonight I’m dealing with this alone while Hardin’s at work and crying at the truth, that in this moment, I envy him even though I know he’d rather be here with us.  Crying because I can feel the unreasonable anger rising inside me at the thought that she’s going to wake her brother any minute and crying harder because I know I have to swallow all of these, unreasonable yet very real, feelings down inside me and now they have no where to go except out through my tears.

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I love her regardless though – my sweet girl

It’s a sucky reality of parenting that despite being the only person in the house who really wants to sleep, you have the job of putting to sleep the people that don’t.  Arlo has given me a good run for my money these last few months but right now he has passed that baton to his little sister.  Pipe down haters, I know having a baby means sleep deprivation, this isn’t my first rodeo, but damn its so much harder to take the second time around and I’m allowed a good moan.  With Arlo, I could ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ but with baby number 2 that just seems like a cruel joke.  The baby barely sleeps.  Correction, she does sleep but only with a mouth full of my boob.  And this is a problem when I want her to be asleep in her cot and I don’t want to be asleep in her cot.  At 6 months in, I really hoped that by now I’d manage an hour maybe two in the evening to have my body and thoughts to myself but no such luck and its this feeling of injustice, no matter how unreasonable or selfish, along with the terrible nights sleep thats waiting for me, that finally caused me to lose it.

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I don’t subscribe to the idea that mothers should be martyrs.  Like most parents, I almost exclusively put my kids needs above my own and I’d rate myself a solid 8.5 out of 10 as a mum but in order to be a good mum sometimes mummy needs to put mummy first.  And currently that means getting a little head space in the evening and a decent nights kip.  In fact I’d settle for half decent and would be willing to negotiate on some kind of agreement whereby we still boob over night but once she’s fallen asleep and I try to put her down, she just stays asleep.  Everyones a winner!  But so far, she isn’t going for it.  Co-sleeping has a lot to answer for.  It was a short term solution that has really sent me up shit creek without a paddle.  With Hardin working away it became the best way for me to feed on demand – she could find the boob when she needed it and I was only waking to switch sides instead of getting up repeatedly and falling asleep in an arm chair with her on me (danger!) – and still get enough sleep to be able to parent in the day.  The problem is now that she’s reached a point where she doesn’t seem to know what she wants.  She wants the boob to get back to sleep (not for a feed so much now but more for comfort) but is so tired and irritable that she fusses, popping on and off, wriggling, booting me in the lady garden and running her tiny razor sharp toenails down my tummy and thighs.  I love our cuddles and have zero issue comforting my baby to sleep but its no longer cuddling, its sore.  And when she braces her tiny hands against my chest and feet against my torso and pushes outwards with my nipple still in her mouth (Jesus H Christ on a bike!), its clear that what she actually wants is to separate my breast from my body so she can comfort suckle with freedom to move in her sleep, without the rest of me crowding her.  Avent have a solution for this – its called a dummy.  But will she take one? Nope!  Which both annoys and relieves me because although a dummy could be my short term saviour, it’ll just be another thing to wean her off later and I’m not that big on kids with dummies anyway.

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She’s lucky she’s so cute!

I hit exactly the same brick wall at almost exactly the same time with Arlo where any kind of soothing technique just served to piss him off further.  He too stood firm.  It was boob or nothing else.  I know a lot of mums that just continue down this route and that’s great for them but with a hubby that works away in the week, it just wasn’t sustainable for me.  So with Arlo we did controlled crying.  It was brutal for the first couple of days but it was the best thing we could have done.  He was a happier (marginally more obedient!) child once he started getting the quality sleep he needed for his age and I was a happier, more patient mum with a solid 8 hours under my belt.  Eia is getting close to the age Arlo was when we employed this strategy but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  Somehow she seems smaller.  Maybe its because she’s the baby and Arlo was a baby.  Or maybe its because even though I desperately want a good nights sleep and an evening of peace, I can’t stand to here my baby scream.  Does that make me a better or worse mum this time around?  Am I more selfish or less?  Thinking about it, I’ve reached exactly the same point as my baby.  I don’t know what I want.  I want her to be able to sleep alone and I really want to be able to sleep alone but I can’t take any more screaming, even if it is for her greater good (or selfishly and more accurately, for an evenings peace).  And this is my conflict.  This is why I’m crying.  I guess I’m a martyr after all.  Damn it.

When I faced the same struggle with Arlo, a dear friend said ‘you’re just not ready because you’re not desperate enough for controlled crying yet’.  Until I was.  She was right.  I got there.  So maybe I’ve not reached that point yet with Eia?  But on this night, I reached out to a new and good friend and she said ‘she’s just not ready, she’s too young.  She’s still a baby’.  She too is right.  I don’t regret my decision with Arlo.  Even the health visitor, who seemed marginally concerned for my mental health at the time, suggested controlled crying.  He was more than a healthy weight for his size so he could be night weaned and encouraged to develop better sleep habits.  For the last 6 months I’ve had the same finishing line in my head, telling myself that when I crossed it with Eia, I’d do exactly the same thing but they are chalk and cheese.  And I’m chilli.  They are so different and this time, so am I.  And so are the variables.  The most important being we live in the tropics and even if she’s a healthy weight, I don’t want to night wean her because she might be legitimately thirsty and I don’t see how I can do controlled crying without refusing her the boob so this time I’m taking a different, softer approach.  I don’t know exactly what that is right now but it’s not going to be controlled crying…yet.  In the meantime I’m going to try to make peace with the current status quo and hopefully there will be less tears from now on, theirs and mine.

I absolutely love Christmas.  I’m one of those irritating people that starts singing Christmas songs in late November and by the first of December, my tree is up and my halls are fully decked. So I was a little apprehensive at the thought of celebrating Christmas on a Hindu island in the largest muslim country in the world but it turns out Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year wherever you are.

Being born and brought up in Indonesia, Christmas is just another day for my hubby but he’s been a great sport for almost 15 years, humouring me at the most wonderful time of the year with his luke warm generosity of Christmas cheer and thinly veiled contempt for the now overly commercial holiday.  So having moved back to the tropics and with less than a week to go before the big day, no decorations erected, the poor b**tard probably thought (wrongly) he was off the Christmas hook so you can imagine his horror when he woke from an afternoon nap on 21 December to find the boy and I tangled in 15 metres of fairy lights to decorate a metre high, oh so tacky, pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree.  ‘O tannenbaum, please take it down, before I get the matches!’  It stayed up for 6 days.

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Our contribution to Christmas 2019

Hubs adores our family but too much affection in the wider arena makes him ‘icky’ so the big family Christmas tends to give him hives.  However, he loves me and happy wife, happy life eh babe so he always gets stuck right in.  But this year, with us now being so far away from everyone I think he thought (still wrong!) that once again he was off the hook but grandma quickly wiped the smug grin off his face with a pair of Emirates tickets and 4 little words – see you at Christmas!

So, now our tree is up and we’re merrily on our way to the airport to collect grandma and grandad.  In an attempt to get Arlo out of the pool without an argument we bigged up the journey – we’re going to the airport!!! Yay!!! Yes, thats where the planes are sweetheart, clever boy!  But I think toddlers have some kind of hearing dyslexia.  They hear a word they know and like and make up the rest of the sentence to suit themselves so suddenly ‘we’re going to the airport’ is ‘we’re going to see planes’ or worse, ‘we’re going on a plane’.  As usual it’s all harmless fun and games (whatever gets you in the car sweetheart!) until he finally understood that he’s not going on a plane, there are no planes in the arrivals hall and no, mummy can’t get one sweetheart.  After over an hour of listening to ‘I want plane back mummy‘ I was ready to buy a sodding ticket and put him on a plane just for a moments peace!  But finally, my parents made it out and we headed home.  Side bar – a few weeks ago I went into the village to have some photos printed.  Using my expanding Indonesian vocabulary, I started a conversation with the couple who owned the shop and it turns out they live in the house almost across from ours.  I gleaned this nugget of information after establishing we live in the same group of houses (they call it a residence here) to which she said ‘ah, is it your kids I heard screaming last night?’ Guilty!  ‘Don’t you have a nanny?‘ Nope! ‘Why not?‘ Good question, since clearly I need wine, sorry, help.  Anyhoo!  We’re now bezzie mates and she pops in now and again to see how we are.  My poor mum had only been here five minutes and was already a bit jumpy with all the ci caks (geckos) around the house so it probably wasn’t the best time for our neighbour to drop in to let us know that she now only has three ducks after she lost the fourth to a snake!  This revelation coupled with my mums first encounter with Allan that night (the large tokeh lizard that lives on the upstairs landing), I thought for sure we’d lose her to a hotel by day 2 but she stuck it out.

With one large suitcase almost entirely filled with gifts from the grandparents, family and friends back home plus grandads rosy cheeked glow, cotton top and belly that wobbles like a bowl full of jelly, I’m pretty sure Arlo now thinks that ‘gran-gran’ is Santa Claus.  Other than a few presents for the kids, we didn’t really bother with gift giving opting instead to spend time, instead of money, on each other.  We did dinner on Christmas Day but it wasn’t the traditional meal we’re used to much to my dads disappointment.   We invited a few friends and family that live close by to share in a feast of traditional Balinese and Indonesian dishes – there was bebek betutu (duck roasted in spices – head still attached much to the horror of my father!), babi guling (suckling pig), nasi uduk (coconut rice), tempe orek (fermented soya beans fried in chilli, sweet soy and spices), gado gado (white cabbage, green beans and beansprouts served with a spicy peanut sauce), krupuk (deep fried crackers), watermelon and pineapple, all washed down with litres of cold Bintang beer and wait for it, wine!!!!  My parents, the good little booze mules that they are, brought us three bottles of France’s finest.  It was four but one was confiscated at customs.

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This years family Christmas card

We had a jolly old time showing my parents around the south of Bali – the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of Uluwatu and its swanky resorts, the cheeky monkeys of Ubud, snorkelling in the sublime Blue Lagoon, taking in the majestic Pura Lempuyang (Gates of Heaven) near Amed, dinner and a traditional Barong dance show in Ubud and we partied the New Years Eve away at Komune Resort on the beach of our awesome local surf spot, Keramas.

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Happy New Year 2020

They thoroughly enjoyed spending time with us and the kids but I’m not sure Bali was quite what they expected.  I think they were expecting the Seychelles but its more Hawaii or Barbados but without the surf.  It’s a surf island, one of the most wave rich in the world, and here, that usually means coral reef.  The breaks are impressive but the coral is sharp and though there are quite a few beaches that are good for swimming, the waves are still powerful and caution should be exercised.  I thought witnessing my poor mum and dad navigate the strong breaking waves and swash of Blue Lagoon in bright orange life jackets, snorkel head gear and flippers (which they decided to put on on the beach and then shuffle backwards into the water like some kind of tango-d, confused penguins) was a low point, all be it a hilarious one for those of us on the beach, but oh no, the best was yet to come.  Virgin Beach.  When Santa got stuck up the chimney….grandma said ‘hold my beer’.  You ain’t seen nothing yet…

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Swashing Machine – stuck in the swash

Towering coconut trees and jungle stretch right down to the white sand and clear turquoise water like a scene from Robinson Crusoe.  However the waves aren’t gently lapping at the beach, they’re trying to rip its face off.  It’s not a surf beach and the swimming is lovely once you get out past the breaking waves, to where its calm and beautiful.  So I gave them some tips gleaned from surfing – start swimming as soon as possible so the waves aren’t breaking in to you and if there’s a large one about to drop on your head in the ‘impact zone’, dive under it and swim through blah blah blah – and waved them on their way.  Hubs and I are sitting a way up the beach with les enfants, enjoying a cold afternoon beverage when I turn around to see my poor mum being put through the washing machine of the knee deep swash while my ‘trying to be helpful but actually useless’ dad, bless him, is trying and failing to drag her onto the beach by one arm while she flops around his ankles like a pissed fart.  It was like watching a drunk couple on a Saturday night out in a scene from Geordie Shore but with less booze and more clothes. So I did what any good daughter would do – ran to the waters edge and started recording!  By the time she got out of the water, the gusset of her swimming costume was hanging prrretty low from the amount of sand she’d collected.  It might look rough but other than her pride, she walked away intact and pretty unscathed luckily so before you watch the video and call me cruel you should know this is a mother that, during my fragile early teen years, strutted through our village leading the gala day parade dressed as a Vegas showgirl in nothing but a leotard and enormous feather headdress.  That does something to a girl.  I’ve waited a long time to get even!  Ha, ha!  Best Christmas present ever!!!  Thanks mum. x

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Our eldest little terrorist turned 2 last week so we threw him a bitchin pool party.  Nothing fancy, just bbq, swimming, cake and booze for the grown ups because I don’t know a parent of any toddler that doesn’t need to indulge in a little daytime drinking to get them through a party with children.

Nowadays, with two kids, I am not the hostess with the mostess so elaborate kids parties are not my thing but with people coming over some effort on my part is required, like buying rice, a cake etc.  You know, the easy things.  However, every day here is an education.  On an almost daily basis life throws me little bastard curve balls that I choose to see as opportunities to learn and grow as a mother and person in this crazy place as opposed to what they really are – contributing factors to the nervous breakdown that will one day soon see me institutionalised.  This last week has been no different.  Let me share with you some of the little #BaliLife lessons I’ve picked up recently.

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Our local market – the smell is something else.  Or something dead.

Lesson number 1.  Rice in Indonesian is nasi.  Or so I thought.  It turns out that ‘cooked’ rice in Indonesian is nasi, uncooked rice is beras.  And while we’re on the subject, rice that’s still growing in the ground is padi as in ‘padi field’ but in Indonesian its actually called a sawa.  Still with me?  So going to the market and asking for nasi is like walking in to Tesco and asking for toast.  My exchange with the shop keeper went like this.  Sidebar – I’ve translated my simple yet poor Indonesian into English to avoid further confusion.

Me: Hello sir, do you have nasi?

Him: Nasi?

Me: Yes, nasi.

Him: *silence*

Me: Nasi.  To eat.  I’m now ignorantly making the action for eating rice with my hands.

Him: Ah, you want beras?

Me: No, not brass.  Nasi.  Internal dialogue – whats wrong with this guy.  You’re one of the biggest rice eating/exporting countries in the world, how can you not know what I mean?!

Him: *more silence but now he’s looking at me as if I’m a moron*

He walks away.  Am I supposed to follow?  I do.

Him: Here *points to huge sacks of rice*  Beras.

Ah! The penny drops.  How could I be with an Indonesian for almost 15 years and not know this!!!! I say terimah kasi pak (thank you sir!) but its to his back, he’s already lost interest in this stupid bule (foreigner). Fair enough.

Lesson number 2.  Last year, I made Arlo, from scratch, a two tier blue and green fondant icing covered sponge cake complete with handmade fondant icing jungle figures.  In hindsight it was probably a wasted effort for his first birthday but I instagrammed the shit outta that cake and the shower of compliments I received made me feel like a rockstar mum so screw it, I’m still proud of that masterpiece.  Thats 21st century parenting for ya eh!  However, this year, I have neither oven nor fondant and f**k knows what ‘flour’ is in Indonesian, probably ‘bread’, so this year its shop bought. But in Bali, childrens novelty cakes are not available in bakery’s at short notice or in supermarkets period.  You must order in advance.  Hmm, that’s a problem since I’m now standing in the bakery on the day of his ‘party’ with my visions of a car themed cake going up in clouds of icing sugar.  They don’t have much and they don’t have anything for kids.  So its a ‘manly’ brown Oreo cheesecake or a ‘girly’, maraschino cherry decorated pink red velvet cake.  Mummy likes red velvet cake so red velvet cake it is!  I did manage to get them to write a little chocolate sign for the cake – Happy 2nd birthday Arlo – but I’m not sure the lady understood Arlo was a boy so that too is pink but f**k it, gender neutrality is all the rage nowadays and cake is cake at the end of the day.  Before all the hippies give me a hard time about the gender neutrality issue I’ve made here, I should point out that my problem wasn’t entirely with a pink cake (we’re all for not gender stereotyping in our house!) but more that I wanted to get him a cake with characters I knew he’d love and it just so happens that currently he loves cars, trucks and any type of moving vehicle.  So I stuck one of his Hot Wheels in the cream cheese icing and called it a job well done! Happy birthday baby!

Lesson number 3.  Pants are not a suitable substitute for swimming nappies.  It’s a pool party so kids in the pool is a give in, right.  Problem is, we’re all out of swimming nappies.  The few we brought with us from the UK I’ve already used at the beach club playdates where a requirement of using the pool is that you bring your own swimming nappies.  They might as well ask you to bring your own unicorn because the blasted things are impossible to find here!  So I’ve been sticking pants on him under his shorts and playing ‘swimming poo-l (see what I did there?) roulette’ for the past 2 months.  My luck was bound to run out.  At least it ran out in our pool and not someone else’s!  I caught it quickly (thank god because I think he had a dose of the runs!) and thankfully most of it was still contained in his pants.  Still, I’ve never seen a swimming pool empty so fast on such a hot day.  My bad.

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Saving the baby from ‘poo-l gate’

Lesson number 4.  Don’t let your kid eat tempe at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It’ll give them the runs.  See lesson number 3 above.

Lesson number 5.  If you spill anything, food or liquid, clean it up.  Immediately.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect 200,000 rupiah.  Do not wait.  In the tropics, you are under constant stealth assault from ants.  Even when it appears like you are alone, you are not. They come from everywhere at the drop of a crumb so we’ve practically laid out a buffet for them following a party of little mess makers whose ringleader, my son, has smeared cream cheese icing on pretty much every surface on the terrace,  the dog and my breast pump.  Argh, I don’t even….Nevermind, I don’t wanna know!

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While we’re on ants, something else I’ve learned.  Lesson number 5a.  If you have an itch, its probably an ant.  The teeny tiny ones are blown in the breeze onto you’re sticky sweaty skin.  Thats fun!  And when you stand in one place too long the big ones will crawl up your legs, yay!  They are mostly harmless, except when they bite (oh yeh, they bite here!) and they are super useful.  We’d be drowning in a sea of dead leaves and spent frangipane flowers if it wasn’t for the little f**kers so they’re not all bad.  Except when it rains and they grow wings and fly.  Then its very very bad.

Lesson number 6.  Spray your room before bed time.  Every. Single. Night.  It keeps the mozzies away but more importantly in my house, it seems to deter our bastard resident tokeh, Allan, from crapping on our bed.  As if its not bad enough that I have to fish my kids crap outta the pool, I regularly have to clean lizard poo off the bed and/or floor.  The other night I forgot to spray the room and the baby woke.  I ran upstairs and the instant I opened the door I could smell Allan’s distinctive toilet odour.  Its bizarrely chemical, not what you’d expect for a number 2.  My brain registered it as being particularly strong, and therefore close by, at almost the exact same moment that I realised I’d stepped in it, in my sodding bare feet, upon entering the room – the little beastie had gone right beside the door frame!  If he wasn’t so bloody fast, he’d already be a purse!

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Allan – its a love/hate relationship

Mostly what I’ve learned so far is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable in this magical land – the heat, the humidity, the creepy crawlies, my embarrassment over my failures at communicating in Indonesian to name a few.  Note to self.  Kotor means dirty.  Kontol means d**k.  So shouting at your kid ‘don’t touch that sweetheart, its kontol‘ does not go down well with the locals!  Or my mortified husband for that matter.

 

 

 

A couple of weekends ago, we took a little trip.  More a migrant right of passage, if you will.  To Singapore.  Hashtag #VisaRun!

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Chilling in the pool – because we don’t do enough of this at home!

Hubs might be Indonesian but if me and les enfants wish to remain in Bali, we had to pick up our new visas.  But here’s the kicker – you can’t collect them from inside Indonesia.  That’s right, you have to get on a plane and go out, to stay in.  And the popular country of choice for this little non vay kay – Singapore.  With a flight time of 2 hours 45 minutes its considered the easy choice because its close to Indonesia.  HA!  Not with two kids it ain’t!  For most, its a straightforward 24 hour ‘shopping’ trip.  But not for us…Not. For. Us.

I’ll give you the abridged version.  And even then, just the high (and low) lights.  Because there’s a whole other story that precludes this one but I can’t go into it.  It’s too soon and I haven’t put enough days (and by days, I mean bottles of wine) between myself and the events regarding immigration that led up to this trip.  So let’s just say that hubs came very close to my offing him but thankfully everything worked out ok in the end so I have been merciful and granted him a stay of execution.

After a lot of piss farting around from immigration, we finally get to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore only to be told by the security guard, after standing in a long, hot queue, that we can’t enter dressed in shorts and flip flops.  It’s 32 freakin’ degrees! We’re not going to be the only ones getting turned away today me thinks.  Even a lady in a burka was denied access because she had sandals on.  I couldn’t see her face but I bet she was flipping him off!  So back to the hotel we go to change.  One problem – I didn’t bring shoes but I had trousers, of a fashion. Half an hour later and we’re back in the queue.  Hardin in his trousers, t-shirt and trainers and me in my batik print pyjama bottoms, socks and sandals in a pathetic yet creative attempt at gaining access.  Hardin got in.  I didn’t.  Shocker!  So the kids and I park up with all the other rejects in the sweaty waiting area and Hardin goes it alone on our behalf, leaving me with a whispered “Arlo’s done a doo doo”.  No worries honey, theres a toilet.  So sorry Mrs, those are for staff only but you can just change him here on the floor.  So let me get this straight.  I can’t enter the embassy because my toes are visible but getting my sons little pecker out, that’s ok?!!  We’re a family of bum washers but theres no where to wash here so now Arlo is kicking off because I’m trying to wrestle him into a new nappy without following the usual protocol.  I pacify him with promises of Postman Pat because clever mummy packed the iPad for a moment such as this.  His joy is short-lived and the tantrum quickly resumes as, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the You Tube app refuses to play any of the 127 minutes of Postman sodding Pat I had downloaded that morning.  My kids are like Newton’s Cradle.  Setting one off, sets off the other and back and forth they go.  So now is Eia is crying, Arlo is moaning and all three of us are sweating more than a nun in a cucumber field when into this slippery mess of sweat and tears strolls a woman I can only describe as stupid because she thinks it wise to provoke me in this state.  She starts by ‘sshhhing’ Arlo but not in a nice, comforting, helpful kind of way, more in a ‘shut up’ kind of way.  I ask her not to shh him because he’s tired and hot and I’m dealing with it the best I can.  He calms down for about 10 minutes thanks to a little sweet treat from the same security guard I’m unfairly holding indirectly responsible for getting us into this mess but then the tantrum resumes.  And the same woman rolls her eyes at me and says “again?” Its the straw that breaks the camel’s back and I round on her with all the anger I have accumulated throughout this entire immigration saga:

“Do you have kids? No?  Then you have no idea that when they are tired and upset its a nightmare!  And folk like you are not helpful so just mind your own business!”

After Hardin, the poor security guard and now this twat, its my third brush with murderous thoughts in as many days so she’s fortunate the former returns soon after with good news on the visa front – everything is in order and we can collect our passports the following afternoon.  Halle-f**king-lujah!

 

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Our family christmas card

In the run up to and after this episode, we had some time to kill so we did the tourist thing.  The obvious thing to do in Singapore is shop but that gets old quickly with two small children to suck the fun out of it so we took them to Universal Studios on Sentosa Island.

I was worried that living in Bali, Arlo would miss out on the intensely Christmassy experience (Eia too but she’s still a baby and doesn’t give a tiny rats ass about Christmas).  However, it was like Santa threw up there so he’s had his fill.  Also it turns out even though Arlo was tall enough to get on more than we thought he would, a baby in a baby carrier strapped to an adult doesn’t qualify to even ride the tea cups so we took turns literally holding the baby.  Hmm, did not see that coming.  It wouldn’t have been a problem in Indonesia with their lax health and safety, god love them.

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Waiting for the boys

Despite the money we spent in the park, I’m pretty sure one of Arlo’s highlights was riding the $4 ‘train’ (monorail) to the island – good to know son since Santa Claus is broke now!  I used to say I’d never spend the money to do stuff like that with small kids but I don’t regret it after hubs changed my perspective when I asked him if it was money well spent as they’re technically too young to appreciate it.  He said “we’re making memories with them for ourselves too.  They might be too young to really appreciate and remember it but I’ll never forget Arlo’s wee face today”.  He’s got a point.  If we only do fun things when they’re ‘old enough’ what’s the point in really doing anything with them at this age?  So I took this logic and ran with it.  Next stop, Raffles.  All aboard kids!  Mummy and daddy are thirsty.

 

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Cheers baby…or toddler

The Long Bar at Raffles is the home of the Singapore Sling.  Big bags of monkey nuts sit in the centre of each table and in a throw back to the colonialism of the plantations, its acceptable to brush your peanut shells on to the floor.  Its probably the only place in Singapore where dropping rubbish is encouraged!  We had fun with it but after spending the last 18 months telling Arlo off for throwing food on the floor, I fear we may have made a rod for our backs here.

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Some girls just can’t hold their drink!

Daytime drinking, littering, a two year old enjoying peanuts and the baby passed out at the bar – its irresponsible parenting at its finest.

5 star hotel, roller coasters, cocktails, Christmas shopping and to top it off, new visas!  I’m not a city person, but Singapore – you ain’t half bad.

Pre children, Hardin and I backpacked the globe, rock climbing. Holiday accommodation – no stars? No problem! My idea of hell would have been any kind of luxury resort jobby. And beaches where people actually pay for loungers and brollies?  Bitch, please! I’m not a ‘tourist’, I’m a ‘traveller’. Not only were we not the kind of people that would visit a place like that, we secretly judged the people that did. Funny how having kids changes you!  Raising them is relentless and nowadays my idea of a good time is anything restful, easy and fun for the kids because if Arlo isn’t having a good time, nobody is.  The beach features heavily in our life here but now we’re actively seeking out beaches with family sized loungers and brollies because:

(a) kids (and parents) need shade from the baking Bali sun,

(b) a sun cream slathered baby at sand level is a bad idea unless you’re a fan of donuts, and

(c) mummy and daddy aren’t getting any younger and a comfy sun bed is preferable to the ground, even if it is made of sand.

So on Sunday we treated ourselves to a day at the type of luxury beach club resort I used to loathe. Turns out they’re not as bad an idea as I originally thought. Food, cocktails and towels I don’t have to wash? F**k yeh, I’m there!  A family friend had recommended the super swanky Karma Kandara in Uluwatu on the south coast of the island so we thought we’d give it a whirl.  As it would happen, she’s young and single.  She doesn’t have kids.  And with the exception of ours, there were no kids there.  Unless you count baby faced, Insta-influencers with hungry bum syndrome – you know, when your ass eats your pants.  Its an umcomfortable trend that really seems to be catching on but then so is chlamydia and that’s not for me either so I’ll sit this one out thanks.

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Access to the beach is via a little hill tram which for a five star operation, looked a bit rickety but Arlo thoroughly enjoyed his ride on the ‘train’.  We spilled out of the death train onto the pristine white sand beach with granny in tow, a kid each, baby backpack, a supermarket hemp bag for life overflowing with swimsuits, underwear, towels (yes I know they provide them but the mum part of my brain wouldn’t let me come without them, you know, ‘just in case’), arm bands and baby swim seat.  We haul ass up the beach to find the shady beds of which there are many as the child free Insta-influencers and honeymooners are occupying the sunny spots for optimum burning, regularly rotating front to back like rotisserie chickens.  We observe the first rule of beach outings, or any outing for that matter – get the kids set up first.  Once they’re happy we can relax.  So Daddy changes Arlo into his board shorts and takes him for a dip and I set up camp with granny and feed Eia, as discreetly as possible in a bikini.  As I do so, I catch an uncomfortable glance from the young guy on the bed diagonally in front of me, who happened to turn around at the precise moment of latching.  Sorry to break it to you kid but that’s what they’re really for!  Safe to say the sight of my deflated little spaniel ear being shoved into the gaping mouth of my hungry infant has ruined boobs for him forever!  There are just some things you can’t unsee eh, pal?

Daddy and Arlo are back from their swim, Eia is fed and changed and in true mum style I’ve hung up all the clothes, out of the way, on the arms of the brolly.  Other than the obvious lack of children, our second clue to it not being a PG resort is no kids menu.  Thats fine, Arlo eats anything.  Including, apparently, sand.  I’m still at a loss to explain exactly how this happened right before our eyes except to say, he’s Arlo.  It happens.  So daddy cleans the sand out of his eyes and mouth as soon as mummy takes a photo (that’s 21st century life eh!  If its not on Facebook, it didn’t happen) much to granny’s disapproval.  I’m pretty sure that choices of mine such as this have caused me to go down in her estimation over the past two months!  Though I made her two beautiful (all be it bat shit crazy) grandchildren so I reckon I’m getting away with it.

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With the sand-wich episode behind us, we enjoy lunch, a little tipple – not too much because we’re responsible parents.  Obviously.  We’re playing in the water with the kids, looking for pretty shells and hermit crabs, taking turns for a lie down and generally having a gay old time, smugly soaking up the stolen glances from honeymooning couples who are watching us play with our beautiful golden children and maybe thinking  ‘awww, they’re soooo cute.  I can’t wait until that’s us‘. But the thing with kids is, they like to keep you on your toes and just when you think the days drama is behind you, BAM!  Arlo takes a crap on the sand right next to Camp Pardede.  But he’s not even two yet so not only is he completely unaware of the ‘you don’t crap where you eat‘ rule, he doesn’t care, so its only when Daddy almost steps in it while playing sand castles that we realise what’s happened.  Its fallen out of his board shorts (because why would you waste a good swimming nappy on the beach?), down his leg and mixed with the sand he’s playing in.  Despite our best efforts at discretion, the world is alerted to this shit storm when Arlo begins shouting ‘doo doo, doo doo’ repeatedly.  And even if they call it something else, our reaction and actions make it clear what we’re dealing with.  Hardin whisks Arlo down to the beach past numerous, now horrified honeymooners (not so cute now eh?) and Insta-influencers and I clean up the doo doo.  Hash tag mum life.

The sand-wich episode and ‘poo gate’ aside, it was another amazing day in our new homeland.  We’ve made more incredible memories and life lessons.  Like swim nappies should always be employed in swanky beach resorts and there’s nothing quite like the sight of a lactating mummy, hungry infant and poo covered father and son to make newlywed honeymooners cross their legs.  Forget condoms.  Somedays, kids are the best form of contraception.

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Oh joy! Just what mummy needs after a morning in the immigration office.  A shopping mall meltdown!

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4 sweaty hours ago….

I miss MY car.  We “have” a car but its not ours, its our drivers.  As luxurious as it sounds, its pretty standard practice out here especially for foreigners.  Hubs is Indonesian (but not local balinese) and even he doesn’t like driving here because if you have a little bump, you might as well just bend over because they are gonna extort the crap out of ya!   So having a driver is cheaper and less stressful (you don’t go anywhere fast around here).  Of course, there’s always a moped but despite the Indonesian norm of bikes being used as people carriers for a family of 5, its not for me…yet.  Buying our own car is on the to do list but in the meantime we’re using his because a driver without a car is about as useful as a chocolate fire guard.  Talk about putting the horse before the cart!  He occasionally takes taxi fares to/from the airport when he’s not chauffeuring me and my often screaming children about, which means that leaving the car seats in the car isn’t an option most days.  You think its a pain in the ass trying to pin down and belt in a wriggly toddler (I find astronaut style with a foot on the chest is a good MO), try doing that shit almost blind with sweat stinging your eyes after wrangling the damn seat into the car in the first place.  Only to have to go through the whole episode again on the other side with the baby seat.  Oh and isofix isn’t a thing here.  At least not in our sexy Kijang.  Thankfully air con is.

Our not so long but definitely suffering drivers name is Saipul.  He’s a sweet, helpful kid with a, shall we say, eclectic taste in music.  The days soundtrack can range from Celine Dion to Pearl Jam to the Twilight: Breaking Dawn theme song (I actually walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of the latter so I let that one slide.  People in glass houses and all that!)  I think he took driving lessons from the Knight Bus driver in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.  “Take her away, Erm!”  He’s crazy but in a country who’s highway code could be summed up in a single sentence – the rules are there are no rules – he fits right in.  The first trip was scary but each one thereafter has been an adventure, a bit like mushrooms.  I’m sure he must regail his driver friend group with tales of our family.  ‘The husband is cool but the wife makes no sense and one or both of the kids is always screaming.  Bule ada geblek nya.”

So the AC has caused my sweat to dry and I’m now pleasantly cold when we arrive at the kantor immigrasi (Immigration Office).  But not for long!  There’s piss poor air conditioning in the office and the open door policy is not helping the temperature.  We follow the foreigners sign to the second floor and take a number.  We’re finally seen and given a stack of paperwork to fill out.  By now, Eia is asleep in the baby carrier and Arlo is about to be treated to a Postman Pat marathon on You Tube to give me the smallest hope in hell of actually being able to concentrate long enough without any distractions to correctly fill in all the paperwork.  Side bar – does anyone else choose episodes of their kids fave cartoons based on their length?  I don’t give a tiny rats ass if its Tom Hardy reading the Bedtime Story, if its not more than 23 minutes long, it just ain’t gonna cut it.  Soz Tom.  So, I get through the mountain of paperwork in record time.  I filled in 3 lots (me, Arlo and Eia) in less time than it took granny to complete her one lot.  Now its time to get photocopies of our important documents.  We’re told we can do this downstairs.  It turns out that downstairs is actually a right turn out of the office, across the road and into the warung (eating house) where the brother of the owner will print/photocopy your documents if you email or whatsapp them to him.  Brilliant!  We head back upstairs with two now grumpy children to discover that all the desks are closed.  Midday – everyone is on lunch for the hour.  So back to the warung we go.  Might as well eat while we wait!  Soon enough its 1pm and we’re back upstairs with another number.  Twenty minutes, another Postman Pat video and dirty nappy change later – done on my knees much to the horror of the young Aussie backpacker beside me, calm down love its only breastmilk poop – we are called up to the desk to be told to come back in two days for ‘photo and interview’.  So fast forward two days, we’re back in the massive queue but this time the Yorkshire post man isn’t cutting it with Arlo and Eia wants feeding.  However it turns out two loudly unsettled children gets you to the front of the queue so its not all bad.  Our individual applications require passport style photos – no smiling, no phones and no mums!  That’s a problem since at this point Arlo has his arms wrapped around my neck and I’m having no success in untangling him in the slippery mix of sweat and tears.  The officer doesn’t get paid enough for this shit so he carries on regardless, positioning himself behind the camera, shaking a little bell above the lens, saying ‘hello boy’ in an effort to get Arlo to look in his direction as I try to duck out of the photo and peel him off me with one hand while trying not to drop the passports and my phone in the other, which is displaying yet another ineffective episode of Postman friggin Pat.  None of this works of course and the end product is a picture of the side of my face, neck and shoulder and a very red faced screaming Arlo.  Despite all of this, we pass.  Deportation dodged!

Did I mention my MiL is spending two glorious months with us here in Bali. After witnessing yet another ear splitting performance from the little prince, I reckon she’s seriously considering changing her return flight to an earlier date.  I’d say that’s fair play after having to endure such a long time in close quarters with the screaming maniacs I have spawned with her beloved son!  On that note, hubs is 40 next year and at this rate, I’ll be gifting him a vasectomy. And he should be quietly f**king grateful that I don’t perform it myself with a pair of blunt scissors after the day I’ve had with his precious children.  God give me strength.  And wine.