Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Having a mid-week crisis

5am. Am woken by daughter #3 coughing. Lie there, staring at the ceiling in the half light, wondering anxiously why it is that she sounds like a Victorian child who has grown up in a damp workhouse and spent all her life climbing chimneys, when in fact she is a pampered product of twenty-first century comforts who spends her life lounging in front of the TV and combing the garden for ladybirds to keep in boxes. Conclude this must somehow reflect on my parenting, which reminds me of the imminent necessity of putting together three packed lunches. This in turn leads to gloomy musing on the eternal argument between the senior members of our household (me and Him) and the daughters, which can be summed up in two words: Cheese Strings.

5.30am. Gloomy musing interrupted by the alarm clock (which, being nothing like a real princess, I keep stuffed under my pillow) Get wearily out of bed and trail downstairs. Ruby is asleep on my laptop, and since I feel guilty enough already about being a terrible mother I do not turf her off, but instead switch the oven on and pull out sticky, flour-dusted copy of Nigella's Domestic Goddess book.

5.40am. Make tea.

5.50am. Make scones.

6am. Kitchen is filled, not with homely, comforting smell of baking, but foul, sour fug of last Saturday night's roast lamb from the disgustingly filthy oven. Sniffing disdainfully, Ruby rises from the laptop and takes herself fastidiously outside into glorious, damp morning for fresh air. Follow her, and am spellbound by utter perfection of the misty garden, complete with icing-sugar pink apple and cherry blossom, and exquisite, dew-frosted grass. Briefly consider going to wake the children up to share the magic (surely what a proper wholesome mother would do) but am able to imagine all too vividly the scorn with which this would be greeted by daughter #1, so desist. Go back into the kitchen for more cups of tea.

6.05am. Discover fug in kitchen to have thickened, due to blackened, burning scones.

6.10am. Make more scones.

6.25am. Take perfect, golden, unburned scones from oven. Experience moment of extreme satisfaction.

6.30am. Eat one scone, hot, with pools of melting butter.

6.33am. Eat another scone, with raspberry jam.

6.36am. Notice misshapen scone, which spoils beautiful WI style symmetry of batch. Eat it quickly, on its own.

6.38am. Experience moment of extreme guilt.

6.40am. Survey kitchen, taking in flour-strewn surfaces, chaos of bowls and wooden spoons lying greasily in the sink, spilt milk soaking into letter to be returned to school. Feel very tired. Wish I had stayed in bed.

7am. Am just finishing cleaning entire kitchen (though floor still suspiciously crunchy underfoot) when He appears, sniffs, and asks why I am cooking sausages. Retreat, with admirable dignity under the circumstances, preferring to let lovely plate of scones speak on my behalf.

8am. Offer lovely scone to daughter #1 for her lunchbox. She looks pained. 'No thanks. It's embarrassing. Can't you just buy cheese strings?'

8.15am Offer lovely scone to daughter #3. She accepts enthusiastically, and requests jam and butter to accompany it. Ask if she would also like smoked salmon sandwiches cut into tiny triangles and a china cup and saucer for her water, but discover irony is lost on her as she considers this matter carefully before politely declining. We turn our attention to the matter of a container for the butter, and an extremely depressing ten minutes ensue during which daughter #3 empties the entire contents of the cupboard where ex-ice cream tubs are pointlessly kept, virtually disappearing beneath a landslide of plastic lids and pots. Impossible to match anything up. Am still in pyjamas. Feel in need of vodka with breakfast, but am just drinking fourth pot of tea of the day when daughter #3 discovers large tub and lid that seem to belong together. Put small quantity of butter in the bottom and discover it won't fit into lunchbox.

8.55am. Drop children at school, and head to Sainsburys to replenish supplies of milk and flour depleted by the morning's double scone effort.

9.15am. Linger wistfully in front of cheese strings...


Kate Hewitt said...

I sympathize, India, as packing lunches remains the bane of my existence, especially as my children seem to think that having the same kind of sandwich or snack two days in a row is unacceptable. I tried to get them to eat cheese strings--a change from sugary yogurts and apple sauces I end up relying on--and they won't because apparently they become slimy with time. I bought Daughter #1 a new lunchbox yesterday that keeps things cool and she won't use it because it's blue and apparently she likes only LIGHT blue, not dark blue...! And the day before I actually managed to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast and Daughters #1 and #2 said they weren't hungry! So I ate them all myself...

Rachel said...

Oh dear, India, you are so patient!

I have now officially given up on packed lunches as they became such an utter bind, to quote: 'WHY can't I have two packets of crisps a day?'. And all the fruit and veg I spent ages preparing simply came back again for the bin/rabbit to enjoy.

Nope, it's school dinners for mine. Organic and locally sourced, nutritionally balanced two courses for £2.00 and they eat the lot. The kitchen even bakes its own bread which is more than can be said for me!

Hope your day improves and no comment on the oven situation (guilty blushes...)

Lots of love,


Brigitte said...

Oh India, you never cease to make me laugh....Actually have half slid under the computer table while reading what has happened to you this morning!
You really are a good Mum, making scones at such an unearthly time of the day (night?!)
On the other hand I really believe you have serious issues with your oven. Have you considered seeing a shrink about it? :)
Maybe if you talk nicely to your oven it will blush and auto-clean??
I think you should cherish your oven. It will help you make the most fab cakes and bread.
At least mine does!!:)))

Over here the children have hot lunch at school. Saves me from raking my brain every morning, like you poor lot have to do.

India said...

Kate, I'm laughing because I've done that cooked breakfast thing too and had exactly the same outcome! Ungrateful little beasts, aren't they? Do you think the cheese string thing just shows that they reject, on principle, any food that we try to press upon them and yearn indiscriminately for foods they feel are forbidden? This calls for a cunning strategy of reverse psychology: from now on the fruit bowl shall be kept under lock and key...

Rach, I have to be completely honest and confess that my two younger ones only have packed lunches one day a week (hence the sense of dread on Wednesday mornings) But actually, after years of Argentinean free-flow frozen 'mince' and sausages made from abatoir floor-sweepings, our school has finally embraced a local food policy so I might actually be able to drop the weekly ordeal-by-sandwich because they really seem to like the new lunches. Your kids' school sounds fabulous-- do you think they'd feed a struggling (I hesitate to say 'starving'...) romance writer if I turned up in the dining room?

Oh Brigitte, you're right! My oven and I definitely need relationship counselling. The trouble is, I loved my oven in the last house (which was the era of the fairy cake) but this one is, frankly, a huge disappointment. Not only is its personal cleanliness a problem, but its inconsistency drives me mad. There's nothing worse than being scorched on the outside, but left cold inside...

Katharine said...

I'm jealous of all of you with school lunches... our school has nbo cafeteria, so I have to pack 3 lunches every day...

Donna Alward said...

Oh INDIA. I did research on rescue ranches for my last book and so your sweeping of abatoir floors totally grossed me out.

I pack lunches four days a week. But at risk of having all your burnt scones hurled at my head (punctuated by Kate's bacon and eggs) my kids are LOVELY to feed. Ham and cheese is the staple sandwich. I can mix it up with cold grilled cheese or mini pizzas - they love all of them. One day a week they have hot lunch.

And Kate- if I made bacon and eggs my kids would NEVER say they weren't hungry. I shove a box of cereal in their direction in the morning...

The only thing the girls aren't big on is raw veggies, but they love them cooked. My eldest is 11 and we shared a whole bunch of roasted asparagus last week...

Trenda said...

What a perfectly lovely Mummy you are, India, darling! I love how you bring your elegant writing voice to both your blog and your beautiful books. I always feel as if I am peering over your shoulder into your apt are your descriptions.

Hope daughter #3 is feeling just peachy by now.

Hugs to you all,


P.S. Not much baking being done around here, as I am suddenly and completely addicted to jewelry making. Pop by my Etsy shop sometime when you have a moment to spare (I know those are few and far between!)

Trenda said...

India, I now have proof my kids see only the best in me despite all evidence to the contrary...

[sitting beside my almost seven-year-old on his bed at 10 p.m. last night]

Me: "I'm sorry you're having trouble getting to sleep tonight."

Him: "Yeah, me, too."

Me: "Hey, you haven't listened to your radio in awhile. Maybe that'll help."

[I reach for the small radio which rests on his headboard's shelf.]

Me: "Wow!" I wipe off a thick layer of dust from the black surface. "You really haven't used this in a long time!"

Him: "Yeah, I know." He sits up and studies the charmingly cluttered shelf. "Boy, my headboard sure is dusty."

Me: "You can borrow my cool blue dusting glove tomorrow," I offer helpfully.

Him: [nodding] "O.K., but since it's soooo dusty, I'm going to need some help from a professional." [points at me with a sleepy grin]

Professional duster? My, my, haven't I reached great heights!

India said...

Sympathy, Katharine. It's one of those areas where personal guilt, kid pressure and multi-billion dollar global marketing campaigns collide and conspire against us. What chance do we have against all that?

Donna, I watched a programme about it. Or a bit of one. Anyway, think yourself lucky that my throwing is so girly I'd be lucky to get a scone to the other end of the kitchen. (However-- bring your hard hat next time you're over here, my girl...)

Trenda-- congratulations on the promotion! You must be so proud!! (Of your lovely boy, anyway. How sweet is he?!!)