Flexible Minds: 2013 365 Challenge #322

Morris Dancers

Morris Dancers

It seems everything has an up side, when you look at it. Hubbie and I are pretty rubbish at making plans at the weekend. The children don’t do any classes and we don’t have set routine things like cleaning or shopping because I do all that during the week. About the only thing we try and do is go swimming on a Sunday morning at the local pool.

The children had swimming lessons at a gorgeous private pool for a while, until it became far too expensive, and we kept up the routine all last winter. In the summer, of course, we swim in my mum’s little pool. But last week it was time to restart the weekend swim.

So, eventually, after I had written my post, and the children were fed and dressed, we made it to the pool. Only to find out it was closed until the afternoon to non-swimmers, because the pool was broken. (They have a snazzy moveable floor and they lift the ends to under a metre for the little kids. Only one end was stuck above the water level.)

Reindeer and elves

Reindeer and elves

We managed to just about redeem last weekend by a trip to the nearby indoor play centre, and we actually had a lovely morning. This week we made sure we had learnt our lesson. After we were up and dressed and ready to leave, we phoned the pool to see if it was open. It wasn’t. Unfortunately we made the mistake of letting the children hear the conversation and “Want to go swimming, now!” ensued.

We looked into going to a different pool but, like me, hubbie isn’t great at unexpected new. So we dithered. The children whined. They’d already had a whole day of broken plans on Saturday, after the abandoned trip to the zoo, and had coped with that brilliantly.

It turned out hubbie was a bit lost about the whole thing, too. I guess we all get something stuck in our heads. So, by mid morning, a plan was required. Grandad wasn’t answering his phone, the weather was too dismal for a walk.

A yellow elephant?

A yellow elephant?

Thankfully I remembered seeing a flyer on the kitchen table about Christmas events at our local garden centre! Hurrah, it was the day. We’d already missed the parade and the arrival of Father Christmas, but I was okay with that, as it’s a bit early for them to visit the grotto. But I knew there would be other activities, so off we went.

It was great. We met the horses that pulled Father Christmas’s carriage. There were morris dancers and most of the staff were dressed as elves. We had to hunt for balloons and flags, which had been given out during the parade (a nice old man found a couple under some shelves!), but even that was fun.

We didn’t bother with the Punch and Judy or the biscuit decoration because it was heaving. But we went to see the reindeer and we started to queue for face painting. There were six children ahead of us in the queue after twenty minutes (it was free!), when another genius idea popped into my head (I’ll do anything not to queue).

Spooky man with glass ball

Spooky man with glass ball

“Why don’t we buy a cake and go to Grandma’s and I’ll paint your faces when we get home?” I said brightly, muttering quietly, “As long as you don’t look in a mirror,” much to the amusement of a waiting mother. “Can I have a blue cat?” Littlest Martin said. “Of course,” I nodded, praying the cheap face paints I bought and never opened had blue.

So, that was the plan. We were lucky enough to find the balloon man with few children waiting, so we had some balloon models made on the way out. The children asked for Father Christmas and an elephant and got Father Christmas’s teddy and a yellow thing that looked more like a giraffe. They didn’t care.

We watched the spooky many with the glass ball and we went to the supermarket for cake. When we got home I painted a blue cat on my son’s face (my first attempt at face painting and it wasn’t so bad, considering my set doesn’t have black!) and my daughter did her own.

DIY Face Painting

DIY Face Painting

And, do yo know what? There were virtually no trantrums all day. A whole weekend of mixed up plans and last minute changes and they took it all in their stride. They’re three and four years old. They put me to shame! (I’ve been known to have a tantrum or two if things don’t go to plan.)

So even the bits of parenting you think you’re rubbish at – being consistent, making plans without letting the children know in case they change, changing your mind at the last minute, refusing to queue – even those things can turn out to have value.

Everything happens for a reason. 😉


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire’s ears thrummed with rage, as she drove blindly along the country lanes to the hostel. How dare he? How dare Robert interrupt like that? Wasn’t it enough that she was saving his arse, looking after his brats while he went of canoodling with his new lady friend?

She wrenched at the wheel, to avoid a pigeon sitting in the road, and nearly put the car in the hedge. Adrenalin coursed through her body, making her hands tremble. She loosened the vice-like grip of one hand and slammed it against the horn, even though the bird was now twenty yards behind her.

By the time she reached the hostel her anger was piled high like the stacks of clouds lining the endless horizon, obscuring the blue sky and promising a howling storm. Claire pulled into the right driveway, glad she’d already visited the hostel once to check in, and abandoned the car.

Striding into the hostel she wondered what exactly she was going to say to Robert. She hadn’t yelled at him since she was twelve; she certainly hadn’t had such an overpowering urge to gouge his eyes out since they were children.

The hostel seemed deserted as she stalked through the rooms, and her anger began to seep away. She reached the red lounge and stopped short at the sight of two boys wrestling on the sofa.

Great. I had to bump into the kids before finding Robert. I don’t even know which one is which.

Forcing a smile on a face that ached with tension, Claire slowed down to a walk, hoping these were indeed her nephews.

“Hi boys, great to see you. Where’s your father.”

“Bonjour, tante Claire, comment vas-tu?” the youngest boy beamed at her. Claire reeled as if she’d been shot.

Oh crap. Robert didn’t mention that the brats don’t speak English. What the…? I haven’t done French since school.

“Bonjour, ça vas bien, merci.” She smiled brightly, hoping no further communication would be necessary. Pummelling her brain for the word for father, she stuttered, “Où est ton père?”

One of the boys pointed out the door and rattled off a sentence that Claire didn’t understand. She tried not to look blank, but the amusement on the boy’s face suggested she’d failed. He mimed talking on a phone and Claire nodded. With a half wave she turned and hurried out.

Robert I am going to kill you.

She found him sitting in the courtyard, looking relaxed in an open shirt and sunglasses propped on his head, despite the clouds gathering above them. As she stood watching, he spoke into the phone in rapid French. Something about his demeanour brought to mind sweet nothings, although he spoke too fast for her to understand a word. When it didn’t seem likely that he would end the call anytime soon, she cleared her throat.

Robert looked up without a trace of embarrassment. He gave a cool nod and raised one hand as if signalling to a secretary to give him a minute. Claire felt the blood rise again, and looked around for something to hit him with. Robert’s eyes widened slightly and he said a rapid farewell before hanging up the phone.

“You’re here finally, then.”

Claire ground her teeth. “You’ve got some nerve. You called me away from a business meeting, you failed to mention your boys only speak French and now you have the audacity to act like I’m some tardy underling. You can take your brats back to Geneva with you, and you can rot.”

She took some satisfaction from the look of consternation on his face. With a vicious grin and a toss of her hair, she spun round and went in search of a cup of tea.