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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?”

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Little America: Baseball in Dubai

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At 9am this morning, I found myself looking out over a self-contained quad of baseball diamonds on a green plot of land in clear view of the Burj Khalifa.

There were hundreds of kids, all trying out for the upcoming baseball season. My two were giving it a go for the first time – all part of our mission to get the boys playing sports. (To date this has included dabbling with karate, diving, golf, football, ski-ing and boxing. I say dabbling – because it seems that as soon as you’ve bought all the kit/equipment, and signed up for at least AED1,000-worth of lessons, they go off the whole idea.)

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is: if you’re American, and don’t already know about Dubai Little League, you really should check it out. I’m seriously impressed by the dedicated group of parents and volunteer coaches who enable more than 450 players ages 4-17 to enjoy baseball and softball in Dubai. It’s strangely comforting to hear so many American accents and positively uplifting to be surrounded by the ‘can do’ attitude I came to love while living in the States. The hot dogs are great too.

I came to the realisation, though, that I have a lot to learn before I can even think of qualifying as a baseball mom.

With temperatures in the high 30s and not even a hint of a breeze coming off the neighbouring manmade lake, it was incredibly hot. I got talking to a veteran mom, wearing – very sensibly – a wide-brimmed hat so her face looked as fresh as a flower on a dewy morning. She pointed out her boys’  baseball shoes while a trickle of sweat made a slow, tingly descent down my back. I wiped my brow with a sweaty hand and I’m sure she told me they had baseball socks too.

I’m making a mental note of where to get all this kit from, while trying to watch out for my boys, melting on the other side of the field, and wondering how the game works.

The sun was beating down relentlessly as the coach raised his arm and threw the ball towards Raptor. He connected: thwock! And I inwardly cheered. He’s hit the ball! He’ll want to come again.

DH’s practice session the day before was paying off.

And so I allowed myself to feel a little bit pleased – mostly that I’d got them there on time, because 9am on a weekend did feel rather early. Well, let’s just say, I quickly had the satisfaction wiped off my face.

The second lady I spoke to told me she’d been at the baseball fields all morning the day before too, with her older son. “And we were at hockey at six this morning,” she said.

“Six!” I replied, in awe, “this morning?”

“Yes, before the ice rink opened.”

I’m pretty sure she told me they had a third activity that day too – but by then the heat had done something funny to my hearing.

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