Tuesday, 11 March 2014


As the manager of team S. I faced my biggest challenge to date: a whole weekend without Mr S. mid sport season. As Friday evening approached I honestly started to doubt the whole undertaking. Would I honestly be able to pull it off?

In Switzerland, England or Italy I would have welcomed a husband free weekend of blissful uninterrupted book, or B-film filled evenings and idyllic day trip filled days. Back in the Netherlands however, our weekends are taken over by field hockey games and rowing practices.
Saturday morning  I wake up with a start. I have been ignoring an email from my children's scout leader - as a principal I never open any emails that pop up in my in-box adorned with infuriating red exclamation marks - which contains the packing list for the upcoming scout camp next weekend. I decide it is time to face the music.  My daughter doesn't mind so much any more to go away on an overnight camp, as long as she is able to prepare for every eventuality well in advance. She needs this list. Now!
The list actually isn't too bad. I only need to buy two sleeping mats, two high visibility vests and try to locate our camping gear and the children's sleeping bags that I made to disappear somewhere last summer after the move. The accompanying letter from the scout leader even manages to make me smile with its very stern warning against showing up for camp wearing 'UGGs, or any other fashion type boots' as 'a scout with cold, wet feet is a miserable scout'. Indeed.
As our village doesn't have a camping, or outdoorsy type shop, I decide that may be internet shopping is best. Or then again may be not. As it turns out the package and postage fee for two ('light weight!') sleeping mats is almost double the cost of the mats themselves. So we need to drive to Amsterdam to the sports emporium to go buy the darn mats ourselves. But when?
Later today I need to be at the rowing club for my practice session (from 1-2.30) and my son has a field hockey match scheduled for 2.30 for which he demands my in situ support. I need to help out with my daughter's rowing practice on Sunday from 1.00-2.30, which leaves us just enough time to quickly change before we need to take my son and his best mate to the cinema, because they happen to have two coupons that have almost run out.
My daughter by the way doesn't want us to miss the local market where we usually spend our Saturday mornings tasting olives, looking at interesting vegetables and buying cheap jewellery and I don't want us to eat fast food two nights in a row. Oh and did I mention my son's exam week starts on Monday?
It takes the three of us  about 45 minutes and six cups of tea each to come up with a military type operation (code name 'Anaconda') to fit it all in. It's almost ten 'o clock as the 11yo and I cycle to the market where we buy arms full of spring flowers for a ridiculously small amount of money and treat ourselves to hot chocolate and cappuccino in our favourite cafe.
Five minutes after we've come home I am back on my bike again. This time with the 12yo who will help me find high visibility vests. Three shops and many enquiries later it turns out we should have searched for them in a bike shop. Of course!
When we finally get home, I have exactly 8 minutes to change into my rowing clothes. My daughter, bless her, makes me two sandwiches  to devour whilst cycling to the rowing club. All by myself. Me time! Unfortunately it is spend rowing solo for the first time in months. Although I manage to stay afloat it takes me a couple of hours on dry land to get my shoulders down again and my breathing firmly under control.
From the rowing club I bike straight over to my son's field hockey club. It's lovely to watch him play. The weather is warm and sunny for a change so I can soak up some sun while I chat to the other parents. I am honestly having a really good time.
Too soon the match finishes. Time to go sleeping mat shopping. Other than the the fact that we get lost on our way to a shopping mall attached to a football stadium which you can probably see from Mars without a pair of binoculars, it is a very uneventful trip. The shop even has the sleeping mats in stock. While my son and I try to locate all the scout camp necessities, the 11yo will prepare dinner. Which she does. Yay!
By nine 'o clock that evening my children wake me from my sofa slumber and send me to bed. They will follow suit in a little while. Honestly. I am so tired, that - although by now I should know better -  I decide to trust them. They are definitely both in bed when I wake up the next morning, so at some point they must have actually gone to bed. That's good enough for me.
No leisurely cappuccino drinking and newspaper scrolling this Sunday morning however. Instead I get to ask my son silly questions like 'Is there a zoo near by?', 'Are you American?' or 'Is the swimming pool open?', which he translates more or less adequately into French. We have a bit of a giggle at his attempt to write 'qu'est-ce que c'est' (what is) and also at his uncanny ability to make all female words male and vice versa ('une chat', 'une chien', 'un addresse', 'un village').
After the French intermezzo,  he explains in great detail the feudal system, Charles the Great and Saint Boniface. I must admit that I secretly quite enjoy this reacquaintance with the secondary school history curriculum. As soon as we finish our history lesson though, I need to go rowing with my daughter and her team mates.
We set out in a wherry. Two girls row, one steers and I go along for the ride (and to make sure they don't get themselves (or another boat!) in trouble while they are out on the water). We amuse ourselves by coming up with silly names for the various water birds that we spot ('water chicken' and' 'black duckling number 25a' being my favourites by far).
After rowing practice we cycle home, get changed, ready to take the 12yo and his best mate to the cinema in Amsterdam. 'Fortunately' it's the warmest day in March since 1921, so the cinema is completely deserted. While the boys opt for the 'Lego Movie', my daughter insists we go see 'Frozen', (how appropriate) which turns out to be utterly enchanting.
Dinner consists of a tray of limp chips and rather sad chicken nuggets in a fast food restaurant. No matter what 'made from scratch' loveliness you usually prepare at home; fast food is what they secretly want. So much so that it is almost impossible to divide 20 nuggets between the three of them. It isn't until my son decides to forgo a seventh nugget if he can eat all my chips, that peace is being restored.
By nine 'o clock I have them in bed. More me time! A glass of wine and exactly twenty two minutes of staring at God knows what on the telly and I am ready to call it a night. Just as I am about to drift of, I give myself a huge pat on the back. I did pull it off after all. And even better, I really enjoyed this weekend. Time to seriously count my blessings:  three days at the office to recover and two days at home to prepare, before, just like Katie Perry 'We''ll do it all again!'.