It's a bit of a social time for mums at the moment - the beginning of a new school year.
Yesterday, on the school run (for the older ones), I felt a bit like a celebrity - waving and saying hello to long lost friends who haven't entered my orbit for months. Everyone was on top form - enthusiastic, all of us showing off our new clothes. However, I'm a realist. This celebrity feeling is bound to be momentary. I'm sure it'll have worn off by this afternoon and by next week we will all start looking tired from our 6am starts - back to the old routine.
After the annual 'summer' break in 'expatsville' (it's acutally winter here in Nairobi and anywhere south), where shops have been empty, the sky has been consistently overcast and everyone has been shooting off in different directions around the globe - we are now back to full tilt expat living - traffic jams, sunshine and not being able to find a parking space or pop to the shops without seeing someone you know.
For the past few days, in addition to having a mega tidy up and clear out at home, I've been frantically scouring the shops for pencils, erasers (local shops have sold out of these!), coloured pens and pencils, rulers, calculators - then been buried neck deep in a pile of sticky tape, needle and thread and nametapes - surrounded by alternately bickering or screaming kids.
Whilst venturing out, each time I've seen a fellow school mum, it's been the same question:
'How was your holiday?' or 'How have your summer holiays been?'
(meaning, the period of time since schools broke up in July - it's now September.)
I tend to give the honest answer, 'Long!' (meaning, '9 weeks with the kids at home is a little too much - I'm looking forward to a break!')
I find it quicker to say, 'long' than to track over what has been quite a fun, busy couple of months with a lovely trip to England in the middle. The people who ask this question are not really interested in hearing a blow by blow synopsis of your life.
However my answer (evidently) is the wrong one because it's met each time by a humourless look of mild shock, mixed with pity, implying that no one else finds 9 weeks long at all and for goodness sake I should be more grateful. Apparently, the right answer would be;
'It's been simply marvellous to have had the little darlings around me for so long and now I'm devastated to see them go back to school.'
In fact I'm guiltily elated to reclaim my solitude.
Having said this, it has not come without cost.
Having carefully NOT lost our seven year's old's four school library books ALL holidays (the wisdom of handing out school library books at the end of the school year I find questionable) - she quite miraculously managed to lose one of them on her first day back before handing it in!
Driving my youngest (5) to kindergarten was a trial this morning. She cried for the whole twenty minute journey and when we got to the school, wouldn't get out of the car.
'You are lucky,' I said coaxingly, 'you know the school, you are one of the oldest now, your friends are all there, you have a lovely teacher! Plus....' (I said this rather more impatiently), 'this week you're only actually doing two school days because Friday's most probably going to be yet another public holiday!'
'It's so unfair,' she accused, tear stained face, 'YOU don't have to do ANY hard work Mummy! You just get to stay at home EVERY DAY!'
'I've done my time at school,' I said rather lamely, then bundled her through the school gates.
In spite of her protestations, I cruelly left her (in the arms of her lovely and sympathetic teacher) and took myself off to the gym for the first time in months. Doing aerobics was hard work today. Out of shape, I could feel a lot of wobbly bits that even my smart new gym trousers couldn't hide. The place was packed with other school mums reclaiming their 'me' time.
Now I'm back home and at a bit of a loose end, so therefore blogging and wondering what I might have for lunch. Instant noodles? The house is eerily quiet. It's deliciously decadent isn't it?