thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “school”

The Working Mother’s SnapShot

On contact lenses and early encounters with the occult

(Ed’s note: this blog post was written in September/October 2015 but life got in the way of my posting it before. Here it is now.)

At the end of a rather strange work day recently, I couldn’t even say, “Well, this day was a total waste of make-up!”

I didn’t apply make-up because of my new-ish contact lenses. I haven’t applied make-up for a couple of weeks now, and this is because, while I wait to get my new spectacles, I haven’t yet found the mascara that is compatible with my lenses. I’m sure it’s out there, but I haven’t yet found it.

While I wait for my lovely new spectacles with their flattering tortoise-shell frames, I am, according to my optometrist’s assistant, apparently legally blind when it comes to driving without vision aids, and so I’ve had to resort to wearing the lenses in the interim.

contact lenses 1

I am not a natural contact lens wearer. Well, I ask you very sincerely: is anybody?

I mean, they really are foreign bodies in one’s eyes. If you don’t clean them correctly, they come with an abundance of health hazards in the small print, which I won’t go into right now, save to say that apparently if you swim or shower while wearing lenses, you open yourself up thereafter to microscopic life forms invading your eyeballs like a new planet to be conquered, and you might (seriously) ultimately require medical attention to permanently vanquish these tiny invaders.

 

contact lenses 2

Eye infections are soooo not a good look on anyone.

For me, however, the greatest health hazard right now is the fact that I’m regularly putting my lenses onto my eyeballs inside out, thereby still rendering me legally blind for driving, at least in the relevant eye. (Thus far I have, at least, only got it wrong at the same time in 50% of my eyes.)

If you’ve never had the required misfortune of sticking contact lenses onto your eyeballs in order to see better, you can stop sniggering right now and take the Contact Lens Challenge, meaning ‘Wear Them For A Day – I Dare You’.

contact lenses 3

Once you have – in a truly professional manner – stuck these fiendishly clever but fiendishly hard-to-live-with devices onto your eyeballs correctly, endured a working day with them in your eyes and then taken them safely out again at night time (without losing even one), you can then snigger once more at the fact that I keep putting them onto my eyeballs inside out.

Till then, trust me. In my opinion they remain foreign bodies in one’s eyes.

On the morning in question, I spent ten minutes inserting the foreign bodies so I could drive (legally) to work. I was only allowed this luxury of time after I’d first spent over an hour chasing both my children out of the house to school like a cowgirl driving cattle to a branding event – I can’t truthfully say it was fun for anyone.

 

cowgirl

 

Anyway, after ten minutes of struggling with the dratted lenses, it was therefore somewhat annoying when I realised halfway to work that the right eye was not ‘settling’. I chose to pull over just outside my favourite en route bakery, where I first removed the offending lens in the car, and thereafter limped into the bakery and bought myself some lovely treats for the day to improve my mood.

The bakery employees, who know me quite well, looked at me strangely when I conducted the entire business transaction with one hand over one eye, but hey, that was the least of my worries.

Soon after I got to the office, I mustered all my courage to the sticking place and marched purposefully into the Ladies to stick the damned thing into my eye the right way around for once and for all. I then promptly lost it somewhere over the sink. (The contact lens, not the eye.)

Temporarily flattened by this new and unexpected development, I sat on my haunches outside one of the loos for about five minutes, feeling somewhat defeated and debating whether or not to plead illness (‘Temporary 50% Blindness’ seemed like a good diagnosis) and go home for the day to a waiting bed and cosy duvet. Fortunately no one else came into the Ladies during my short yet animated negotiation with myself, because I imagine it would have looked rather strange.

Mordor contact lens

Finally I got up and wandered back into work, sighing inwardly and reminding myself of the old mantra, ‘This too shall pass.’ Not being one to keep my trials and tribulations entirely to myself (sharing, as they do say, is caring) I soon got a couple of offers from friendly, better-sighted colleagues to help me look for the lens. Unbelievably someone very quickly found it! On the tap…

Later that day, after the lens had been allowed to sterilise again for a while, I won the battle and got my vision back 100%. It was a sweet victory.

contact lenses 4

Finally I was able to carry on working without the ongoing threat of a migraine. However, this particular work day was never meant to be the world’s most productive.

I had to leave the office early after the concerned phone call from the school clarifying that the Grade Fours had all been hysterical around lunch time, and the teachers had sprung into damage-control mode. Apparently some child had discovered an online version of a Ouija board-inspired game using two pencils, paper and an over-ripe imagination. That was not a fun phone call for any parent to experience, although I do commend the school’s handling of the situation.

Fortunately, I was at least able to see with both eyes during my hurried drive out of Sandton to collect my little boy earlier than usual and make sure that my (sometimes overly-stoic but always very sensitive) 10-year-old was all right.

What’s that you say? ‘Online Ouija board-inspired game?’

Sigh.

Apparently some silly game has been doing the You Tube/social media rounds during 2015, and it naturally came to our shores in due course. The ‘#CharlieCharlieChallenge’ involves crossing two pencils over each other at right angles, writing down ‘Yes/No/Yes/No’ in four squares around the pencils, and then asking some questions to an alleged manifestation of the spirit world, who may or may not appear at the time of being summonsed.

yes no

Apparently the spirit is Mexican and named Charlie, although I wouldn’t have guessed Charlie as being a particularly Mexican name, would you? (Carlos springs more easily to mind. Or Juan.)

Anyway, when the pencil moves, brought inevitably into play by the forces of gravity, friction and no doubt fear, the children get hysterical. The big thing about it, for me, is that it’s out there on You Tube and has its own hash tag. No wonder it’s doing the rounds. My little boy did have a nightmare that night but not since (although he does want the passage light on outside his door again at night, which I thought we’d grown out of). I think it is all under control, at least until the next occult hashtag starts doing the rounds.

I was thinking later that evening how parents today have social media and the internet to contend with in combatting unpleasant events like bullying and the spread of childish nonsense. I wondered nostalgically if it would have been easier to be a parent during the sixties. Being a hippy and going to San Francisco and wearing flowers in my hair was once a major ambition of mine, you see.

Haight Ashbury

But then I remembered that the sixties went down in history as officially bringing the world sex, drugs and rock and roll, as well as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones as teenage icons. So perhaps my jury remains out on the issue of parenting in the 1960s versus the 21st century. On the other hand, at least back then John Lennon never had to stick contact lenses in his eyes…

Now there’s something to make me consider my verdict.

 

John Lennon

 

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Dear God, we’re OUT of sherry!

It has been such a week on the homework front. With both children, it seemed like the homework load was just spiralling off into semi-unmanageable territory.

On a daily basis it has been h-e-a-v-y. I kid you not – daily.

 

H

E

A

V

Y

We are talking projects to run with, both big and small.

boys projects August 2015

We are talking weekly tests and the need to crack the revision whip for Liam, who is blessed with enough brain cells that he has already mastered the fine art of ‘coasting’, and now needs to have this habit corrected.

We are talking newsletters from the school that need to be read and forms that need to be returned: Matthew, following in his big brother’s footsteps, has made the Under 8 hockey team and while this is a cause of celebration, Well done sweetheart! it comes with a lot of info to p-r-o-c-e-s-s. Maps. Indemnity forms. General information.

Argh.

 

A

R

G

H

 

Sometimes it all just seems a bit much, especially at the end of a long day.

Last night we got home well after dark and had to do a lot of cutting up of cardboard and sticking of pictures. In short, we had to make up a set of cards for a memory game as part of Liam’s English curriculum. And Matthew had a speech to practise: ‘My life as a mosquito’ (yes, really).

And this was all over and above the homework that they’d already completed during the afternoon – but you see, Mom, aka moi, is the ‘speech expert’ and the ‘projects expert’, and fair enough: I do, mostly, enjoy these lateral moments of advanced learning.

 

Mostly.

But not so much last night.

 

It was fast approaching 8:30pm and I was wearily aware that I had not had a break since getting up many, many hours before. It was the third heavy homework night in a row. It was all just getting a bit much. Luckily, there is always Frasier to fall back on in a crisis, and so we did.

In our house, we love watching the Frasier series. We have every episode from season 1 to 11. And even though Frasier and his brother Niles and all the rest of the gang have been off air now for over a decade, in our house the humour still rules. It’s just so clever and the boys have grown up on it. (Winnie the Pooh who? Just kidding.)

 

So we put the cardboard away with the intention of finishing the mini-project in the morning (which we did).

And we put on Frasier once the boys were both bathed and ready to pop into bed.

And we watched an episode from one of the later seasons, and we laughed and we restored our energy.

 

frasier niles

 

The extract below shows why I like watching Frasier so much – this particular line just kills me every time!

 

Frasier: My show today was a fiasco. For the second day in a row,

we had virtually no callers. It’s getting harder and harder

to blame it on Roz.

Martin: Well, maybe you fixed everybody.

Frasier: Oh wait, there was one caller. My date for Saturday night

called to cancel because I am not her type. Oh, and guess

what? Her honesty was not refreshing.

 

Frasier picks up a bottle. It is empty.

 

Frasier: Dear God, we’re out of sherry. Insult… [placing the bottle

         down] made injury.

 

He goes to the kitchen. Martin follows.

 

(a little later in the episode)

 

Frasier opens the door to Niles.

Frasier: Niles.

Niles: Oh, Frasier, I have had… the worst day imaginable. I need a

sherry.

Frasier: Brace yourself.

Niles: [noticing the empty bottle] You always think it’s going to

happen to someone else…

 

 

And there’s the point. Sometimes bad days do happen to good people.

And when you are out of sherry, as I have been for some years now actually, wine is a marvellous plan B.

 

But if any of my friends would like to buy me sherry again at any point, I seem to recall that I liked that expensive stuff from the UK that came in that beautiful blue bottle… #JustSaying

 

 

 

 

First day of school

From: Panda’s work name 

Sent: 20 January 2014 10:14 AM
To: Panda’s boss
Cc: Panda’s neighbours at the next-door desks
Subject: First day of school

 

Hello Boss  (And copying my office ‘neighbours’, and Other Office Mom, for whom this all awaits)

Thanks very much for letting me take a half day this afternoon and work from home this morning. The photos show why. As you can see Matthew is beaming from ear to ear at having now officially started Grade 1!

Liam and Matthew 20Jan14

You will all be very pleased to know that I got my children the last two pairs of brown school shoes in Woolworths Cresta that could fit them.

When I went to Edgars initially, all confident-like of a quick in and out, tick-that-box and move on to the next school requirement I had to sort out, I went dizzy and faint for a second (okay slight exaggeration) when the Edgars assistant told me very sadly that due to some horrible error, Edgars Cresta had not received a single pair of brown boys’ school shoes.  Only black.

I squeaked in horror, “Do you have any idea how much business Edgars is losing right now?” and he shook his head in sad acknowledgement. I trust that somewhere in the Edgars supply chain there is a headless body sitting at its computer frantically trying to prevent a final written warning from being issued…

Anyway it was a very close thing.  But we now have school shoes and all the other bits of required uniform, as well as stationery, lunch boxes, school bags, stationery boxes duly art-worked (okay I’m an over-achiever)…. It is all Done with a capital d.

Matthew 20Jan14

So all good. Proud Mom now signing off and getting back to work. Less stressful, come to think of it…

See you all tomorrow!

Weekday mornings are not the same as they used to be

I’ve recently re-discovered the music of Barbra Streisand and have been playing it loudly in my car on the way to work. And singing along too, also very loudly. Which as any ‘Babs’ friend (and yes, I am sure she and I would be friends, if we had ever met) knows is the best part: the loud singing along to this awesome amazing voice, which so effectively drowns out your own feeble cheeping noises that you can pretend that Barbra’s voice is actually yours. It’s a great fantasy.

So anyway, Barbra and I sing very loudly all the way to work these days, once I have dropped off my two boys at pre-school (Matthew) and ‘big school’ (Liam). Where matters are currently quite interesting.

Matthew, aged four, has a girlfriend. Little ‘T’ is a tiny-boned, fragile-bodied child with flaxen hair (truly, it’s not often you get to write ‘flaxen’ and be accurate) down to her waist. Her eyes are a pale ethereal blue and her skin is porcelain fair (again, I use ‘porcelain’ and am entirely accurate). With her exquisite face, she looks like she has just stepped out of fairyland. And my Matthew, who is quite a pretty creature himself, even for a boy, is absolutely smitten.

Cicely Mary Barker's 'The rose fairy'

Lately, he likes to bring her flowers in the morning. Posies of rose buds that my mother makes up for him to hand over with as much love as if T belonged to her too.

And Liam, six-almost-seven, thinks it is just too icky for words. This ‘love stuff’. He cringes at the mere mention of it and tries to block his ears. Certainly this was his reaction when we were taking a drive one day recently, when all the schools were still on holiday. In the interests of revving up some back-to-school enthusiasm, I said brightly to my smallest son: “So, Matthew, who do you think will be back at school tomorrow for you to play with?”

“T…,” chirped Matthew confidently (as if there were any shadow of a doubt). “Because she loves me and I love she.”

I was so surprised and touched, I nearly drove into the pavement while trying to stifle a sudden burst of what would surely have been very inappropriate and hurtful giggles.

“Aaaaauuuuuggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh! Accccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkk!” roared Liam from his spot in the back seat beside Matthew, trying to block his ears and simultaneously making vomiting noises.

Upon which Matthew got very offended and started punching him forthwith, so that was the end of the icky love stuff. For a few short days, that is, until everyone was fully in the swing of the back-to-school energy that always seems to flow at the beginning of a new term.

We were visiting my parents on the second Sunday after school had begun when Matthew requested one of my mother’s famous roses from her garden. For T…. To take to school the next morning. Ignoring the loud vomiting and roaring noises from his older brother, he took possession of a rosebud with a very satisfied look on his face as we drove off home.

Sadly, though, when we got home we discovered that the little rosebud had got a bit battered during the short car journey, probably due to the proud manner in which he was clutching it safely to his chest. I decided to ask my mom to let us have another one the next morning. After all, when giving flowers, it should be done right, right? With flair and panache and above all pristine floral specimens.

The next morning we were all ready to collect a new rosebud for the unsuspecting fairy friend. First, though, we had to drop Liam off at ‘big school’, where he is newly in grade one and suddenly looking very small and forlorn – in comparison to the big children – as he wanders onto the playground in the mornings.

And this is an odd repositioning of my perspective, because Liam is actually very big for his age. One of the biggest, according to the paediatrician, because whenever the good doctor has checked him out over the past few years, Liam has consistently hovered at around the 97th percentile for his height and weight. (In other words, out of every 100 children exactly his age, he would be about the 3rd or 4th tallest and biggest in the group. Or something like that, but anyway it’s quite impressive.)

So there was Liam. My tall blonde curly-haired confident handsome son: suddenly looking small again in his new school uniform, wandering around a much bigger playground than he’s been playing on for the past four years, surrounded by loads of children much bigger than him. Heck, quite a few of them are bigger than me, and that’s just the girls. (Children are getting bigger these days, have you noticed?)

Matthew and I stood together and surreptitiously stared after him while he walked away. This was after I’d kissed Liam goodbye on the lips and he’d jogged off, wiping off the kiss, and I had called him back to insist that we try this small gesture of affection all over again, with no wiping off, or there will be a scene in front of everyone, see? (He really doesn’t like this ‘love stuff’.)

“I see Liam!” said Matthew excitedly, while continuing to grip my hand very firmly. As I said, the playground is much bigger than they are both used to.

“Me too,” I said, thinking to myself, Go on my son! Find someone to play with! Find a place to belong for the next ten minutes before the teachers call you to the classroom. Don’t remain all alone looking so small and lost – find a friend…

And he did. My little trooper. A male friend of course, but then again, if it had been a girl I would have been looking for the aliens and their cloning machine hidden in the bushes.

Happy again, I next zoomed off with Matthew to my mother’s house, where we collected a posy for T…. Picture some artistically positioned tin foil and wet tissue paper encasing a perfect cream rosebud, some rose leaves and a bit of fern for luck and there you have it: the little flower of yesterday had been magnificently upgraded. Bless my mother, who is also intent on raising sorted young men.

Consequently, there was much ooh-ing and ahh-ing when Matthew and I walked through the gates of his pre-school as he clutched his posy (we don’t have to go into detail on how the rose fell out of the posy as we were crossing the road and I had to run back for it). We were quite early and T… wasn’t at school yet, so Matthew put her posy into her locker. The teacher beamed. I beamed. Matthew beamed and then ran off to play in the classroom. I went back to the school gate so I could leave for work – and there was T and her mom.

“Matthew has brought T… a flower,” I whispered.

Her mother dissolved instantly into a puddle. We all walked towards the classroom together, where I stood outside and looked through the window so as not to embarrass my small son on his brave new journey.

“Look T…!” said her mom. “Look what Matthew has brought you!”

The little fairy child bent down, picked up the posy and dropped her perfect rosebud mouth into a classically feminine ‘Oooooh!” of surprise and pleasure.

Matthew got up from the circle of children seated on the floor around the teacher and walked shyly towards his sweetheart. He suddenly looked taller and was wearing an air of pride. Slightly embarrassed pride, but pride nonetheless. There was a new dawning in his eyes as he staked his first ever claim to a lovely young female’s affections.

I brought that for you. Nobody else. And sure it’s a little awkward – I get that now – but know that it was me.

“Thank you Matthew!”

“You’re welcome!”

With T… clutching her posy they sat down together in the circle of children around the teacher. Looking really happy and proud, Matthew put his arm around her in a brief hug and then dropped it again to concentrate on what the teacher was saying.

I drove off with a song in my heart and slightly moist eyes. When I finally turned on Barbra’s music, it was to one of the songs that Frank and I played on our wedding day. Which Barbra had composed especially to sing on hers.

Listen here...

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