Ladies Only

“It’s MINE!” All about (not) sharing

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Eat your heart out! Photo courtesy of a friend

One of the nice things about being back in the motherland is the large, green park just a short walk away. It’s a firm favourite with the boys: a jungle-themed adventure playground, a cricket pitch, an indoor pool with slides, paths to scoot along, and the best bit (in Son2’s opinion), an ice cream van.

Leaving the house today, Son2 turns to me and says, “Bring money, Mom!” He grins. He checks I’ve remembered every time we go to the park. That old chestnut, “Oh, I’m sorry, no ice cream today, I’ve got NO money!”, no longer works.

And I have to admit that even I listen out for Mr Whippy’s jingle because without a tinny rendition of Greensleeves it feels like there’s something missing.

Ice cream vans conjure up such wonderful images of summer, sticky-faced kids, and days at the beach. Growing up in the UK, summer holidays weren’t complete without the thin, peculiar chime of an ice cream van shooting down a warm, child-cluttered, residential street, a crowd of excited kids in pursuit. Unless you lived in certain parts of the country, in which case they were undercover police.

But as much as Son2 loves indulging in a lolly, he loathes sharing it.

Today, there was thunder and lightning forecast for 1pm (living in a country where there’s very little weather, it amazes me that the British weather people provide such up-to-the minute forecasts.) Sure enough, as 1pm rolls around, dark clouds roll in. A stiff breeze drifts across the park, rustling the rhododendron bushes. Never mind that five minutes previously it was sunny and hot.

“Quick Mom, let’s get the lolly!” Son2 swivels on his heels and runs up the path towards the van, strategically parked just outside the play area.

I follow him, hand over the money and watch as he rips it open.

His eyes widen as he takes those first licks of strawberry ice.

“Can I have some please?” I raise an eyebrow. I’ve already opened my mouth and closed it twice.

“Nope!”

I stare back, then ask him again. My taste buds are being teased.

“I gave you two Hula Hoops, remember?” Son2 says impassively. “Just before we came out.” He puts a protective hand around his lolly, as though I might suddenly launch myself at it, and devours it in a sticky mess.

When he finishes, he hands me the wooden stick.

“Wh– What? NO WAY!” I give him an incredulous-Mom glare. “You didn’t give me any so you can put it in the bin yourself. Look–” I point at a rubbish bin. “Over there.”

“But I did all the hard work of eating it, so it’s your turn to do all the hard work of throwing it away.”

Gah! Kids!

Postscript: He did throw it away himself, and has promised me one bite tomorrow.

Ladies Only

Confessions of a cruiser (part 2)



Perhaps the biggest surprise came when checking in at the cruise terminal. “Oh, there’s Davin from school,” said Son1, as though it was completely normal to come across a school friend some 8,000 miles away from home. They gave each other a dab. Davin’s mother and I, both clutching our suitcases and bags, thought the boys were joking until it became obvious our sons really did know each other – and we really did live just two streets away from each other, in the same compound.

Small world.

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Tourist trap: Not my favourite area of the boat, but the kids LOVED it!

The next revelation was that, although there were some 2,600 passengers on board, which did, at times, suggest no let up from tourism hell, you could actually lose almost everyone by finding a quiet corner of the ship from which to read, or just watch the ocean. At night, the moon sparkled on its dark, wrinkly surface, and without any bright city lights, the stargazing was amazing – like being cocooned (make that dwarfed) in your own enormous, outdoor planetarium.

I also loved having a porthole in our little room, from which (we were just above sea level) the docile white-tipped waves looked like carpets unfurling, splashing the side of the boat playfully. On the last evening, another cruise ship floated past on the horizon, its lights a necklace of glitter.

Of course, the kids had their ‘moments’, especially as they had to go cold turkey from wifi. “What? Seriously, NO wifi? Son2 whined, his eyes widening, pulling a tortured face like he’d eaten a lemon. [Whispers:] Actually there was wifi, but it was an extra and expensive.

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The Atlantis Bahamas – I always forget that Dubai wasn’t the first with this

Both DH and I lapped the ship numerous times looking for them when they went awol (my mind working overtime wondering if one of them had pushed the other overboard), and then, the worst ‘moment’, Son2 vanished while we were snorkelling off CocoCay Island (Royal Caribbean’s private island – perhaps not the Bahamian paradise advertised with some 2,000 cruise-goers all over it – yes, some did stay put on the boat! – but a wonderful stop nevertheless).

Put it this way, the island’s lifeguards are now on first name terms with my eight year old, who’d simply had enough and decided to swim half a kilometre back to shore all by himself. They found him on the beach, perfectly fine, his mask and snorkel jettisoned in the sand. I’m still recovering from that one.

All in all, I loved the cruise. It didn’t turn into a nausea-riddled, hermetically sealed cruise passenger pen; no-one went overboard; exploring Nassau was fab; and the 70s disco was lots of fun. While DH wasn’t looking, I even visited the ‘Next Cruise’ on-board sales stand and pocketed a few leaflets advertising longer floating jollies into Alaska, and to Mexico via Cuba. I’ve got a year to persuade him …

Ladies Only

The big shop (kill me now!)

Catherine the Great presents me with a list on a square sheet of paper. She’s really good at writing out the shopping list and giving it to me with a hopeful look on her face. “We’re running out of everything,” she says regretfully.

But I only went shopping five days ago. How can this be? I think. I know the answer: it’s living with boys, who storm through the kitchen leaving it as though a plague of locusts have passed through.

Son 2 pipes up, “Mummy, don’t forget the hot dogs and the strawberry milk.”

Son 1 says, “And the rice cakes. You forgot them last time.”

“Cereal bars!” yells Son2.

DH has just left for Thailand, but I picture him opening the fridge door, the fridge light coming on, and his disappointed face as he finds nothing tempting. He’ll do this a few times, as though something might magically appear – but all that happens is the fridge motor starts purring louder as it cranks up after the door shuts.

My eyes scan the list. It’s long, but not as bad as a few months ago when Catherine the Great was annoyed about having to move house to a compound with no shop and set me really complicated lists, requesting items like ‘square-shaped laundry basket’ and ‘bitter gourd’ (a very bitter-tasting vegetable-fruit that looks like a cucumber with a bad case of warts). She’s added a few branded toiletries to the list, even though we give her money for this, but I always turn a blind eye to these and buy them anyway. And there’s a section for the pets, plus items to make ten lunch boxes. There’s no putting it off. I’ve left it too late to order online. I have to go to the supermarket on a Saturday.

“Anyone want to come with me to help?” I ask the boys.

“Naaah.”

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To the woman of today, the grocery store is not a challenge but a relaxing place to spend an hour.” May 1955 issue of Better Living Magazine. As Envisioning the American Dream points out, gosh, why go to the spa when you could just as easily melt those tensions away by pushing a shopping cart down the aisle of a supermarket.

The store is super-busy, of course. Perhaps because I’m trying to get out of there as quickly as possible, there are people and trolleys everywhere I turn. The fluorescent-lit aisles seem brighter and noisier than usual. The pumped-out smell of baked bread wafts over and I remember the special hot dog rolls Son2 likes. In the closed-off pork section, I find some German ham that looks tasty and DH might like.

With gritted teeth (I really wish I was one of those people who enjoy supermarket shopping), I lug the same old groceries from shelf to check-out to car to kitchen, occasionally going off-liste to make it less tedious.

I don’t manage to get everything as my overloaded trolley, which seems to want to veer right all the time, gets too heavy to push. I’ll order the rest online, I decide.

At home, the boys circle the mountain of shopping like hungry scavengers.

“Where’s the long cheese, mummy?” asks Son2. He starts scrabbling through bags. “Where IS IT? And the rice cakes?”

“Did you bring me a sandwich?” says Son1.

“Here,” I say to Son2, and ‘Yes, I got you a sandwich Son1.” He eats it in a flash and asks for another one. And I’m thinking, ““ARGHHHHH! NO, I DIDN’T BUY YOU TWO EXPENSIVE SANDWICHES. MAYBE IF YOU’D COME WITH ME TO HELP, I’D HAVE GOT THE CRISPS. WHY DOES EVERYONE ASSUME MY SOLE PURPOSE IN LIFE NOW IS TO RUN A 24/7 RESTAURANT AND FULLY STOCKED KITCHEN, IN BETWEEN OTHER FUN TASKS LIKE BROW BEATING YOU INTO DOING HOMEWORK LATER TODAY!”

“Are you alright, mummy?” asks Son1. I might have turned a puce colour. The result of all that carrying and the knowledge it’ll soon all be gone and the weekend’s nearly over as the big shop always seems to TAKE HALF A DAY.

“Oh but, mummy,” says Son2. “YOU FORGOT THE CEREAL BARS! Can you go back?”

Ladies Only

Internet Scam Warning: Son2’s £280 iTunes bill

Parents Beware: My app-ortunistic son managed to innocently purchase adds-on to his FREE game without a password – arrrrghhh!

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Hungry Shark Evolution: There was no indication in the game that he was being charged for any of the clicks

It’s a Dubai problem, I know, but due to our compound pool springing a leak (think: standing in the middle literally paddling) the facility closed just after the Easter school holiday started, and is due to reopen the day after the kids go back.

Timing, eh!

To be honest, my boys weren’t too concerned: they just got busy doing the thing they do best – leaving their smeary fingerprints all over their iPads. Which was all very well until I got an email from my mum saying she’d been contacted by Barclaycard Fraud Squad.

I should explain: my boys and my mother share an iTunes account; it’s her credit card that gets billed. I’m the gatekeeper and my mum is in the lucky position of receiving, overnight, any apps we download. Son2 is convinced that his grandmother must LOVE playing with his Lego Batman app over her cornflakes.

In her email, my mum asked: “Have the boys sussed the password?” The fraud squad were querying two items from iTunes: one to Hungry Shark (Son2’s favourite game this week) for £79.99 and another for £39.99.

A cacophony of alarm bells clashed horribly in my head.

I questioned Son2 immediately. What’s the password, I asked? A tiny, thin line appeared between his eyebrows.

“Is it L – A …” His voice trailed off, and I could tell that was all he knew.

“We know your phone password, Mum,” interrupted Son1, “because you say it when you type it in.”

“OK, something’s not right here,” I said, blowing the air from my cheeks and making a mental note to myself: Change phone password and don’t absentmindedly tell them this time.

Within minutes, the extent of the strange Hungry Shark charges had got worse: there were TWO payments of £79.99 that day, and one of £39.99, plus another £79.99 on 29 March, and I was still questioning Son2 as to how the hell this had happened.

I watched as his face quickly ran through a gamut of emotions, the initial denial giving way first to guilt – Am I in deep trouble? – and then to indignance. His eyes darted round the room as Son1 helpfully mentioned that his brother had indeed acquired every single shark in the sea: magalodon; hammerhead; mako.

“But how?” I asked.

Son2 shrugged. “I clicked on 20 gems, and it gave me 2,000,” he said quietly, and then burst into loud, upset tears.

And, you know what, as I hadn’t put the password in for him, and I’d confirmed he didn’t know it, the damn game must have racked up that bill all by itself, whether due to a scam or a bug. £279.96! Wtf?

The good news is iTunes refunded the lot (three cheers to Apple!) and Son2 is now the envy of all his wide-eyed friends for having got to the highest level of the game, with the highest number of sharks.

But you can imagine my horror, when the next morning Son1, ever the tittle-tattle, told me: “Guess what Mum!” He grinned widely. “… All his sharks have had babies!”

TIP: Go to Settings, iTunes & App Store, Password Settings and Always Require should be ticked. (Do it now! Son2’s iPad was already set up like this, so we’ve still no idea what happened…sigh!)