Friday, October 29, 2004

hamster in a wheel ... reflections on a theme!

Yes, it's the weekend! Noble Spouse is spending most of his weekend at a transport fair, and hoping to sell more of the tram videos and other transport memorabilia that has been cluttering up our hall for months. Anyone trawling the web, reading this and having a transport-minded spouse - send him to Cathcart, Glasgow, for the weekend. And let him buy as many videos as you've got room for!

Meanwhile - Pseudo-Supermum has to be the family taxi-service to Anchor Boys, Boys' Brigade, Intermediate String Training Orchestra, Church, Swimming lessons, and hopefully fit in a trip to town to collect my glasses - I only had the eye-test five weeks ago, and now they've put a second lot of lenses into the frames after the first lot fell out.

And of course, there's my research. And booking a trip to Poland. And a trip to Norwich next weekend. Nothing to it - plenty of time .... huh! Better brush up my time management skills - I found this article in SheSaid, an Australian women's magazine.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The hamster on the wheel

All week, I've had this image in my head - of a hamster in a wheel. First it was a gerbil, chasing its tail - but then I realised my life is more like a hamster's than a gerbil's. Less chance of catching that tail! Even on a treadmill, I'll never catch up.

And then I started looking on the net. What did I find, but ...

The hamster on the wheel - positive thinking, by Beata Bishop. Not quite the same use of the hamster metaphor, but equally valuable.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

In my Pseudo-Supermum capacity, I had ten minutes at home this evening - no time for a meal - between getting back from Uni and taking the boys out to a piano lesson and Boys' Brigade. I hoped there'd be a piece of music waiting at church for me to pick up - there wasn't - so after the music lesson, we tore home and I phoned round parents of cello-players, to try and track down Time Pieces for Cello volume 2. Success! Also booked a babysitter for Saturday, so that we can go to the party of a work colleague. Two successes.

Could I expect a third success in the same evening? Not on your life! Even the University's online IT course has got it in for me. First it said I had two more assignments to do, then after I'd done however many elements of the tasks that came up, it said I'd done everything. Except - I knew I hadn't. The course monitor thought there must be a system fault. It would happen to me, wouldn't it?
Back I went, completed the course, tried to check the last tiny detail on my document before submitting it - and got an online "Page not found!" message. You could practically hear it sniggering, "Ha, ha, caught you out! Thought you'd finished, did you? Stupid!"
Well, some things I can get right. I have large pot of homemade Scotch Broth simmering in the kitchen. Domesticated Pseudo-Supermum rules OK. And am going to sew a button back on my jacket before noble spouse arrives home from his committee meeting. Now why, at twenty to midnight, do I suspect they must have adjourned to the pub after the meeting ...?

Saturday, October 23, 2004

What's a nervous breakdown? What if the nerves bend but don't actually break?!

I'm working harder than I've ever worked, but there's more work than there's ever been. This, to put a positive 'spin' on it, is a challenging situation. When work comes IN faster than it can be processed, a backlog develops. There is no-one able to help me get through it. That in itself is a lonely situation. The whole department is understaffed - so how can I ask for help? (And how do I put a positive spin on such a dire situation? Answers on a postcard, please. I haven't time to read anything longer!)

So ... I worked and worked, running faster and faster to stand still ... until finally, a whole shelf-load of cassette tapes fell off a shelf into a muddled heap on the ground. And I cried. Pseudo-Supermum? Huh! Pseudo-Superworker? Hardly. "Why don't you go home early?", someone suggested. Not a chance - that won't get the work done, will it?

I don't know how I'm ever going to catch up with myself. It's not like chasing your own tail - it's more like chasing your tail but realising it is disappearing as fast as you chase after it. Don't think gerbil, think hamster.

Ah, well. Took the boys to the childminder, went to work, had the day from hell, collected the boys from the childminder, home to cook tea, clean football boots, process three loads of washing and do a weeks' worth of ironing. Made tea for Noble Spouse (of whom more in the next paragraph), wrote shopping list. Boys ready for bed (well, in varying degrees of readiness.)

Noble Spouse took Alzheimer Auntie to Turriff for the day by taxi, train and hired car. Exhausting her, and himself into the bargain. It was harder than he had imagined. She was more repetitive than ever, and became completely nutty and rather agressive round about tea-time.

("YOU never told me you'd married again. Who is she? I don't know her. I'VE never met her, I'VE never seen any children. How do I know you're not lying to me?"

"Auntie, you were at the wedding. It was 17 years ago. You often come over to the house - you've seen my family countless times ...")

Oh, dear. It's sad to witness the mental degeneration of a relative.

Anyway, home he came, and we had tea (very late) before I went to do the evening supermarket run (even later), getting home a little before midnight. And that was Friday that was.

Today we slept in - hallelujah! And we were delighted to be visited by my German penfriend, whom I used to write to in my teens. We got in touch again about 4 years ago. Having established that it would be hard to cook anything sophisticated that the kids would like, I came up with Plan B: chicken nuggets, spaghetti and chips for the kids first, and a full British Christmas dinner for the adults, afterwards. It worked wonderfully well. We did the lot - turkey and stuffing, baby sausages, roast potato, 2 veg, cranberry sauce. I forgot the sprouts, but who cared? Christmas pudding and cream to follow. Gentle reader, I might be at breaking point in some respects but I can still cook a good dinner!

I have just been surfing other people's blogs and came across a scathing comment about "Mommie" blogs. So if anyone finds this unbearably Mumsie, then I apologise. I hope you find a more interesting blog next time you look!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Adolescent boys are a conundrum! Why is PseudoSuperson no.1 in a highly distressed state? He's obsessed with chatlines. What, at the age of eleven, has he been up to or got himself into?

The more he protests his innocence, the more we can't understand what he's so upset about. He keeps throwing up red herrings about things he's already told us about, which happened months ago. And which we've assured him don't even matter. We don't understand.

Meanwhile, back at the coal-face ... the day started badly. The soccer school was cancelled due to bad weather. The childminder wasn't free until lunchtime, and the boys had to go to work with Dad. They behaved for the hour that he had to be there - that's a miracle.

I had a high-level meeting first thing, and had to go to the University to pay my fees a second time, in my lunch-hour. Got back and continued with my new List of Priorities. Dealt with the first point on the list, and half of the second. Things are (kind of) looking up.

Tomorrow I have to prepare for another research students seminar (giving this one at work, not attending it at the University) - and continue working down the List of Priorities.

But first thing, I have to take the boys to the childminder, before I drive back to Glasgow and park the car. PseudoSuperspouse is taking Alzheimer Auntie to her father's birthplace for the day. It's way up in Aberdeenshire, and they're going by train then hiring a car. She will neither remember where she's going, where she is or where she's been, but he feels that at least he will be able to tell her that she has visited it recently, and maybe that will stop her going on about it. Or maybe not!

Yesterday I had a lovely trip to Blair Castle on a wild goosechase, research-wise. I ploughed through lots of old documents but didn't find what I had expected to find. Such are the joys of research. It was a restful day, anyway!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bad things go in threes - or fours, or fives?

Lunchtime? I got away at 2.15 pm for my lunch. Couldn't get my suit from the dry-cleaners, as a sign on the door told me they'd gone to the bank.

By 4.30 pm, Super-Spouse phoned me at work to tell me that (a) the chemist HADN'T collected my repeat prescription from the health centre - indeed, they said they had nothing to do with it, and I must have phoned the health centre myself. I don't think so!!! and (b) would I phone a lady at the University Registry.

Knock-knock. A student wanting to see me. "Are you busy?"
"Desperately, but tell me what you're looking for!"

Assured her that if she wrote a list of all the things she wanted me to get, I'd deal with it later this week after my away-day tomorrow.

Back to the phone. Discovered I was in arrears at the university, in spite of having HAND DELIVERED my matriculation form and cheque three weeks ago. What had happened? A temping member of staff must have torn up the envelope with the cheque inside.

Decided it was necessary to leave work at 4.50, tore down the road to the building society - where I couldn't breathe to explain what the problem was - and was relieved to pay £15 to stop the cheque and have a replacement issued. Phoned the Registry lady to say I'd bring the cheque later this week. "You could always post it to me..."

"Not on your life! I am going to put this cheque into your hand. And you're going to pay the £15 fee for stopping the cheque, since it wasn't my fault."

Back to my work to borrow a laptop for tomorrow's research outing. Then to the underground, then to the car, then to the chemist to get the prescription.

Phew! Enough, enough.

Home I drove. Opened my mail at 5.50 pm - to find a letter from the car insurance company to say I didn't seem to have responded to their renewal notice. I had just 48 hours left in which to do it. The next letter I opened WAS the renewal notice, apparently posted 4 days earlier. Still, a quick phonecall ("You are in a queue. We value your custom, please hold") later, and it was paid. Well, at least that went right.

Last night I got into a total fankle trying to understand Excel spreadsheets for an IT certificate. I spent the ENTIRE evening on it, and didn't complete the assignment. I haven't yet acted on the helpful hints that they sent me back this morning. (This morning, we overslept by an hour. Maybe that was a bad omen for the day?)

Meanwhile, it's the midterm break for our sons, who are loving every minute of their soccer course, and apparently not even minding playing in the pouring rain. Curious, that, but I'm glad they don't mind. Maybe it's considered macho to get drenched in the name of the Beautiful Game?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I'm happy to acknowledge for this gorgeous ginger cat picture!

We've been moving things around in our house. The arrival of the new 3-piece suite led to a total tidying up and clearing-out of clutter from our lounge. It's now officially designated a Tidy Zone.

That meant the gerbils had to go. To the dining-room, in fact, where they are now comfortably installed onto a brand new table/trolley from Ikea. (Well, it's a baby-changing table, but it fits the gerbil cages perfectly.)

The table is in front of the window, which is where Amber (our neighbour's cat) enters the story. She spied the gerbils ("Yummm! Rodents for tea!") and sat on the windowsill outside for up to half an hour, every nerve and sinew twitching. Honestly, it was so comical to watch. I nearly phoned up our neighbour to apologise for upsetting her moggie!

So - the kitchen is a near-tidy zone, the bathroom IS a tidy zone, and the lounge IS a tidy zone. Where next?! The dining room is a likely candidate. I have to allow super-spouse another fortnight before he goes to another transport enthusiasts' fayre and sells some of those tram and bus videos and other stuff. It's GOT TO GO. It's messing up our hall, and has been there several months too long already.

Right, time for some postgraduate reading. Better get on!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

That's it, I've had enough!

I was meant to go by train to Blair Atholl today. The wheels fell off that arrangement - the only afternoon train back wouldn't get me home in time for hubby to go and play for an evening church service.

Heigh-ho, off to work we go. By subway. The wheels came off there too. Got halfway there, strong burning smell, everyone OFF the train please! Waited for next train, which arrived absolutely hoaching wi' folk. We still all pushed on, squeezing and suffocating the smaller passengers. I had a handback, work bag, bag containing dry cleaning and my mother's birthday present - and a work laptop. A heavy one. Heck, what a squeeze.

Work? Busy as ever. I can keep up with stuff that lands in my in-tray, but there are unfinished tasks from the summer that I can't get near. My office is a tip.

My home is a tip, too.

And the final straw was the arrival of the new suite. Hubby tried to move the settee before I got home, and a foot fell off.

I'm going to cry. I think I'm stressed. And if you don't hear from me for a while, please have pity on one of the victims of the 'nineties - those whom the government wanted to believe could Have It All. Family, Career, Home - no problem. Nuts!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Pseudo-Supermum has a split personality. Mother, wife, working woman, postgraduate student. The fun begins when one persona impinges on another. Yesterday, I took the morning off as flexitime, so I could go to the University Library and be a student. That was fine - it felt very comfortable being a student, I can tell you. Before I could do that, however, I had promised to take a wee bike to work for a colleague's little boy. I took it on the subway. Yes, folk - I set out at 7.45 am. It wouldn't have been possible when the rush-hour really got going. It was quite entertaining even at that hour. Left the bike in my office, and set off for the Uni.

I spent the morning in the Uni Library, then got a coffee at Hillhead (with a student discount!), before going back to the subway yet again. Between Hillhead and Cowcaddens, I morphed into working woman. Made it to work for 1 pm, as I had promised. Worked the afternoon, came home to be mother/wife for a while, drove no.1 son to Boys' Brigade, did a pile of ironing, and got nos. 2 & 3 ready for bed.

Sat down and wrote a couple of pages (back to postgrad mode again) before no.1 son came home. He'd been at the Scotland-Norway under 21's football match, so he was shattered and almost literally fell into bed. Got him tucked in, then back to my paper on the computer until Super Spouse arrived home from his society meeting, just before midnight. (They value their convivial time after the meeting.)

There was only one problem. Super Spouse has a busy weekend, and had no shirt to wear to work this morning. I still have the paper to finish writing, but in addition to that, I hadn't quite finished the book I was reading at the Uni library yesterday morning. So - I ironed, while he dashed out to pick up a table. (Don't ask - it's for a transport fayre this weekend.) He went out to work, I organised laundry and the weekly menu, went to the post office with the boys, and collected a library book from the branch library for no.1 son.

Then he came home, morphed into Family Chauffeur and took all the boys to drop off no.1 at his orchestra rehearsal, whilst I went BACK to the Uni library to finish the last 30 pages of that book.

This afternoon, we've been to get woodchip mulch for ageing Auntie's garden. You should have seen the grumpy faces when I told them we were going to B & Q. It is not on our list of Favourite Places. Not at all!

There is not a lot of time for sensible thought about this paper of mine, but maybe I'll manage an hour or so now, before Super Spouse comes home again.

Sometimes I can't decide which "hat" to put on at any particular time; hardly surprising, is it?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Angry Pseudo-Supermum

No.1 son went for a sleepover, two or three weekends ago. They were left to their own devices when the friend's mum went to bed before midnight. And the boys went to bed (eventually) at about 4 am. Now, they're only eleven. So in all honesty, that is too darn late.

That's not why I am angry. The friend turned the TV onto a channel showing, certainly adult movies, or possibly even porn movies. Now, he didn't PAY for it, so it was only normal, run-of-the-mill adult sex stuff. But we didn't even get told about this until last week. Guiltily, my son told me that his friend had "dropped the TV zapper, and it went onto this sex film. And, Mum, I didn't like it."

Had the friend turned it off straight away? No.

We assured him that we didn't blame him, were glad he felt able to tell us, could quite understand if he found it disturbing, and that - in all probability - it was likely to have been far-removed from what normal adults got up to!

And we thought no more about it. He did, though. At 10.45 pm, I've just found him sobbing desperately into his pillow, still upset about it. No amount of comforting seems to do any good. It hurts me to see him so worked up about something he really had no control over.

Honestly, how often has the friend accessed this stuff? It's not suitable for kids of eleven. And he should be more closely supervised, surely! It does make you fearful about what your children get up to when they are out of the house.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

My mother is a genius! You should see the Baltimore quilt that she has made for us. It went to an exhibition in Harrogate, and won trophies. Was taken on to Edinburgh, and won three more trophies. I dashed to Edinburgh after lunch last Sunday, got to the exhibition JUST in time to accept the trophies, then took my time looking at all the exhibits before the exhibition closed, then I got the quilt to take home to its final resting-place. Our bed now looks gorgeous, but we are so scared of anything happening to the quilt! No more cups of tea in bed. No boys clambering in between us, either. They can creep in at the edge of the bed, but they can't climb ON it!

If the photos come out, maybe I'll try posting one here another day. I don't have a digital camera, you see - I am a dinosaur. I love my SLR camera, and I'm quite happy waiting for the CD-rom to come back from being developed. Just this time, though, I have a horrid feeling that the spool wasn't wound on properly, so there might be Nothing There At All. And I shall be so upset! I also love my photo albums. The CD-roms are useful for sending pictures to friends, but what I like is drooling over my photos, in genuine albums, not digital images on a computer!

However, as you know, I'm not a dinosaur in many respects. Allow me to be old-fashioned in this at least!

Pseudo Supermum is nearly a stone lighter now. Eureka, the dress I wore to the Queen's Holyrood Garden Party three years, actually fits me again. And I am going to wear it when we go out to dinner with friends tomorrow night. What a triumph. Only another half a stone to go to reach what I think is a realistic target weight. My trousers are getting loose. This is very satisfying! (Almost worth being hungry for...)

There are a hundred and one more things I ought to be doing, but I think I might just stop. Pseudo-Supermums might have careers and be undertaking doctoral studies simultaneously, but they still have to make lentil soup for tomorrow's lunch! It's just cooling ready to be liquidized. I bet Cherie Blair never finds herself making lentil soup at 11.50 pm.

When I've read her book, The Goldfish Bowl (well, she's co-author), I shall tell you all about it. Time I did a book review - I used to enjoy writing them!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Super-Spouse obligingly took the three boys to the hairdresser at 8.30 am today - a Saturday morning. Noble, indeed. Normally that's my job, which is why the hairdresser immediately asked if I was getting a lie-in. Huh! Instead, I was at Asda buying new trainers for no.2 son, food for the menagerie (2 gerbils and a hamster, not the people - I shopped for them last night), and frozen tuna steak (for our slimming diet).

Back home, time for coffee, then I took no.2 son to the meeting-point for his sponsored walk. After lunch, I collected him and brought him home again, to be greeted at the door by no.1 son. He'd had an idea.

Why did my heart sink?

"Mum, you know you said you'd take us to the library?"


"Well, if you walked through the park, could you take me and my brothers and James and his little brother, ALL to the library?"

Quick calculations here. Five boys, three or four bikes, and me ... and where were we leaving the bikes whilst we were in the library?

Pseudo-Supermum lived up to her name again. Between showers, and before Ageing Alzheimer-suffering Auntie came to tea, we dashed to the library by car. Just me and our own three boys, not the extra two friends! Do you blame me? It was more than I could handle!

Ageing Auntie's short-term memory is worsening each time we see her. Today she asked if I had just come to Glasgow. She doesn't know my name. She doesn't have any idea where we live, how long we've been here, where we were before ... (we've been in this house nine years, and in Glasgow since 1988). She doesn't realise that she is almost 88, that her parents are long-dead, and that the house where her father was born has long been demolished. And has no recollection of what has just been talked about.

How's this?
"Would you like a piece of cake?"
"No, thank you - I'm full up."

[Pause. Rest of family served.]
"Now then, Auntie, are you sure you don't want any cake?"
"Oh yes, please - that would be lovely."

It's very sad. Frustrating, too, but mainly just sad. What a way to end your days!

Did some reading tonight, in between supervising instrumental practices and encouraging the completion of a school project. All in all, not a bad day - just rather too busy.

Friday, October 01, 2004

This has been the busiest day I can remember. But I'm ahead of myself. Let me explain.

Yesterday I did four library tours during the day - and got 24 hours' notice to do a catalogue demo this morning. The only problem being that I couldn't produce a PowerPoint presentation OR plan an unscripted demo, while I was walking round the library with shiny new disorientated students!

So, today came. I tarted up the PowerPoint presentation that I'd scrabbled together yesterday (and revisited at home last night). Did the first library tour of the day. Got told there was about to be a fire-alarm practice, and five minutes later, was asked to produce a contribution for the weekly newsletter within fifteen minutes. Did it in five - just as well, because the rest of the fifteen minutes were largely taken up with the fire-alarm practice, out in the street.

Another library tour. Finally, downstairs to give the catalogue demo to 15 students - about 10% of the new student input. If I had 24 hours' notice of the demo, they had 1-2 hours' notice, so very few turned up. Still, I did it by speaking off the PowerPoint print-out, and improvising what I did online. And now I've put the PowerPoint on the website so anyone else can look at it if they're so inclined.

This lunchtime I tore to the University to hand in a matriculation form and fees. Only received it last night when I got home from work, but it had to be THERE by today or I'd incur a penalty.

Penalty proudly avoided, AND I ate half a Subway salad on the underground back to work again, AND did it all in an hour.

Then three more library tours and a few more queries. Friends, I am on my knees. I feel like a bath bomb. By that, I don't mean I have a yearning for one - no, I feel LIKE one. You fizz and fizz, getting smaller all the time, and finally disappear down the plughole. Yup, that's me!

Came home, had tea, took no.1 son to Boys' Brigade, did a hasty Asda shop - got home again, put it all away, got no.2 son off to bed.

He got up and came downstairs again. "Mum, my trainers are broken." It is 10 pm, and at 10 am tomorrow he is supposed to be wearing them for a sponsored walk. Between now and then, he has to sleep, I have to sleep, and I have to take all three for haircuts at 8,30 am in town. I can't see any alternative but to abandon any ambition to get research done, drop everything and go BACK to the 24-hour Asda to see if they still sell that style of trainers! The perfect end to a perfect day.