Wednesday, 2 August 2017

a day in my life - juggling work with summer holidays

I always enjoy reading 'a day in my life' posts and have written a few in the past. I thought I'd write another one or two, maybe on days that are quite different. More than anything these posts are a reminder of how I juggle the many balls of life that are thrown at me.

This post is about a Monday during the school holidays. Annie, my in house childminder has taken the day off to catch up with her friend Alice. To cover, I am working from home. James and Alistair have an orthodontist appointment and start a holiday club in the afternoon, both need a parent. It is also the day Sam is flying to Switzerland on his own. He needs a lift to the airport. I am pretending to be fine about this.

It is not our usual kind of day, rest assured. I thought I'd go for the slightly unusual first, then boring. A cup of your favourite beverage and a slice of cake is probably advisable before you embark on the lengthy post that follows these amazing photos. I hope everybody likes a good old parasite.

Giant roundworm eggs in human faeces. Infections can occur worldwide but are more common in warm, moist climates. Infection is associated with poor personal hygiene and poor sanitation. Children are particularly at risk. There's a surprise.

This is the infectious form of the parasite that causes schistosomiasis (bilharzia). It is another worm inside the human body, residing in the blood vessels in the lower abdomen. You are at risk of this disease if you swim in fresh water in many parts of Africa. 

This is a migrating larva of Trichinella spiralis, a worm that can be transmitted when eating undercooked meat, particularly  meat of wild animals, for example bear. Always cook your bear well!

This is the head of a female Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitos transmit malaria. Only females require blood, which is an energy source for egg production. 

This is the head of a male Anopheles mosquito. Males don't require blood and largely mind their own business.

These funky organisms are trypanosomes. They are the causative agents of sleeping sickness, a fatal disease (if not treated). The trypanosomes are transmitted by the bite of a tsetse fly. It is a disease of sub saharan Africa. The round things are red blood cells (a bit worse for wear).

05:40 The dog whines and I roll out of bed to let him out. This is unusual, Jack is always the last to get out of bed. I bet he has a sore tummy because he stole Richard's pork scratching yesterday evening.

06:00 James is crying. I let Richard deal with it. James had a nightmare but is otherwise fine. I am relieved as I spent the weekend cleaning up sick and worse and didn't fancy doing more of the same.

06:30 The alarm clock goes off. As usual, my first thought express hatred for the sound of music that wakes me up. Nevertheless, I crab walk my way to the bathroom for a shower. This body of mine is sometimes a bit stiff in the morning. The shower helps. I return to coffee in bed, a tradition that I love and miss when Richard is away.

07:15 I am tucked away in my sewing room, which also doubles as my office. I am working on exam questions first thing, putting together a file with annotated microscopic images of mosquito body parts and parasites (some shared here). I never get tired of seeing parasites (not in and on my body of course). Richard brings me coffee and fruit loaf for breakfast. Yes, I know, he is a keeper.

08:15 James and Alistair demand breakfast, which I provide. Richard has already left for work. It takes them 40 minutes to eat two bowls of cereals each. It is difficult to concentrate on work when two little boys make so much noise next door. Then they go off to do their own thing. This often involves a screen.

09:05 I am now working on a lecture on agricultural biodiversity, food security and human health. Not my expertise I should add but needs must and as long as I am well ahead of the students, it is good enough. Teaching in academia is often like that, apologies to all those who pay ridiculous amounts of tuition fees. I need to make slides and script the lecture for recording. The Global Hunger Index reminds me of breakfast and I make myself a roll with jam and scoff it down. Then I remember that I had breakfast already.

10:15 Time to get ready for the orthodontist appointment. Glad that I managed to get three hours of work done, just over half of my working day. I clean my teeth, supervise the boys cleaning theirs and slap on some mascara. It is a bit crumbly. I have a feeling that I am meant to bring a completed pre-assessment form to the clinic but can't find it. Just before we leave I remember that Jack hasn't been walked yet. He has full access to the garden so no big problem but I feel guilty all the same. Then I remember that he woke me up early and don't feel so guilty anymore. It is pouring down with rain anyway.

12:00 Back from the orthodontist. Sam is up, doing last minute laundry (pj bottoms and t-shirt). I threaten to charge him for the wasted energy. Annie has cooked lunch for herself and the boys so I sit down to work another 30 minutes. Still pretending I am ok about Sam travelling on his own. He packed his bag by throwing all his clothes into the washing machine, then drier, then bag. I suggested he may pack shorts and swimming trunks as it is hot in Switzerland. He cooked himself some lunch, too. It didn't occur to him to eat with Annie, or indeed offer to make anyone else food.

12:45 Dropping James and Alistair off at holiday club. Yeah!

13:00 Sam and Richard are leaving for the airport. I have butterflies in my tummy. I am sure he will be ok. He has a phone and a debit card. I continue working. Just two hours left. I eat my lunch the desk, as I always do. Bad habit. Mozzarella and tomato sandwich, held together with mayonnaise. The roll is ancient, from Friday. Predictably, the tomato slices fall out, onto my chest and keyboard. Feel like I need a G&T to wash it down but have coffee instead. I am bored with my lecture and faff with emails to get a break. My gaze drifts longingly to my box of fabric strips. I force myself to concentrate for just a wee while longer.

14:45 I finish work. I am not quite up to my required 5 1/2 hours but call it a day anyway. I often work longer than strictly necessary, even in the evenings. Dash off to collect James and Alistair from their club. Walk the dog at the same time. Jack was taken out twice by the older children but refused to walk because of the rain. It is now dry and I don't accept his excuses.

16:00 We return from our walk with Jack. We went along the river Kelvin and the canal. It wasn't the best of walks, James and Alistair really seem to have exhausted their brotherly love and need some other children to play with. I sit down for another 30 minutes of work (I know), instructing the boys to play a quiet game in the kitchen. They choose to play darts and are not quiet at all. At least they are not fighting. Meanwhile, Sam's flight is airborne. I assume he is on board. I am now a bit worried about the transfer in Heathrow.

16:30 I give up with work and put up my feet on the sofa for a few minutes. Reading a few blog posts is always restorative. I think about dinner.

17:00 I make my way into the kitchen and start cooking. I decided to make pork chops with a salsa verde and a warm potato salad with radishes and water cress. I don't really like pork chops. I have no mint, which is quite important for salsa verde. I consider a tantrum but Richard volunteered to go and pick some up at the shops. I get on with the preparations. It turns out that I don't have creme fraiche either. The potato salad recipe asks for it. I make a pretend version with with natural yogurt and  cream. I love the radishes in the salad, such a beautiful colour. The mint arrives and I add it to the already whizzed remaining salsa verde ingredients. I must remember to give you the recipe, it is a bit different and has a good kick. Annie and I have a chat. She has been so lovely, I am enjoying her company. Long may it last. Sam called from Heathrow with the complaint that there are 'only posh places' for food.

18:00 We sit down for dinner. It appears to be well received, there are no left overs, which is a shame. I was looking forward to having some potato salad for lunch. Dinner stretches out for a long time, it is nearly 7 pm when we get up, lots of chats, ice lollies for pudding and a couple of biscuits that Annie made. Meanwhile, Sam boards his plane but is delayed because the pilot takes a bad turn and the airline needs to find another one.

19:00 We tidy the kitchen. Normally I would go to yoga on Mondays but I felt too exhausted to leave the house again. Also, Sam texted me to tell me the pilot had taken ill and they were now waiting for a new one. Air travel is such a pain.

19:15 I sit down with my box of fabric strips and whip up 20 little squares. Sam texts to let me know he is now departing. I call my brother to let him know. I remember that Sam has not got his phone number, nor does my brother have Sam's.

20:00 I send the boys upstairs to put on their pjs. I want to read them a chapter of 'Five children and It'. They fight and scream and pull out all the books from the bookcase. I decide not to read to them, they would not be able to concentrate, totally hyper. Try to keep a lid on my temper and succeed somewhat. I send Alistair to bed (he was a tad more difficult) and keep James up as there is no way they would go to sleep otherwise. I try to ignore James who is doing his best to test my patience. I use the time 'saved' to cut some more fabric, I seem to be running low of fabric strips.

20:45 I tidy up my fabric and put my own pjs own. James is in bed now. I should do some housework but I don't. Instead I manoeuvre myself into my armchair, Annie's quilt at the ready.

21:00 Sam has landed in Basel 30 minutes ago but hasn't texted yet. I assume my brother would call at the off chance Sam didn't show up in the arrival hall. Richard puts on a weird science fiction movie. The film is called 'Lucy'. If you can avoid it, do so. I don't pay much attention, it doesn't need any. I am hand-stitching the binding to Annie's quilt.

21:30 My brother texts to let me know Sam is safely at their house now. Sam obviously sees no need to text himself. Amazing really, the little boy he just was is now travelling by air to visit far flung places. Ok, maybe not so far but still.

22:20 I am watching the tail end of the news. It is the usual: Brexit means Brexit crap, the ludicrous comings and goings at the White House, unrest in Venezuela. I remind myself to watch the jewellery sales channel in the future, more entertaining.

22:30 Off to bed. I put on a podcast. I love going to sleep with someone talking into my ear. I particularly love sonic male voices, puts me right to sleep. Night night.


  1. Long-time reader, first-time commenter here in New Zealand. Loved this post (apart from the slides - ooh!)

  2. I wish I'd read this at night, because I am now exhausted. How do you do it all?! This was a fun post. Here in the U.S., we are following the revolving White House doors with great interest. I was at lunch with my kids and a friend when my mom texted me about Scaramucci being let go. We actually burst out laughing. If only we could wake up from this terrible nightmare...

  3. Wonderful post, Christina! I don't know how you accomplish so much in a day. It's no wonder you decided to skip your yoga class. I'm glad you got a bit of time to play with your fabric in the midst of all of it. It's so important to carve out a bit of "me time" in the midst of busy family life. And perhaps I'm a bit strange, but I enjoyed seeing the photos of the parasites.

  4. Love these 'day in the life' posts and hats off to you, you're an ace juggler. Those parasites, though....

  5. I like day in the life posts too. Enjoyed your parasite pix, nothing like a good 3rd world disease to get you going.
    I'm amazed at what you get done, I'd be a screaming maniac.
    Looking forward to the boring one.

  6. Good Lord woman what a day! I rather like the parasite photos. I pretended they were patterns and decided they would make excellent fabric. I take my hat off to you, you are officially superwoman! X

  7. Oh my, what a day, how long is it until school restarts? Enjoyed the photos and descriptions, what an interesting career x

  8. ha - opened this to read with my muesli and yoghurt and ick parasites... Do love reading a day in the life of. I need some of your perserverance to do real work at home!

  9. Loved this, Christina. My favourite kind of post, though I'm not so keen on the parasite photos. You inspired me to do a similar post. X Doris

  10. I enjoyed reading your DITL of you and your family. Sounds like you are a busy bee! We're retired so we have it a lot easier.. but still we keep pretty busy. I swam today. It's very hot here. I hope you have a calm and easy weekend ahead. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  11. Excellent slides, I do like a bit of something different over breakfast. I do admire how much you get done in your day. Mine seems to be a lot of being cross and getting nothing constructive done at the moment. There are rare moments when the boys are not driving each other mad and the puppy isn't destroying something. It's a bit disorientating and for a moment I don't know where to start. Glad Sam got to Switzerland okay, what an adventure for him. I can relate to the evenings of trying to ignore distracting behaviour and despairing at the news. Enjoy the rest of your week. CJ xx

  12. Loved reading this... other people's lives are so fascinating and yours sounds so busy. I can't believe how much you get done in a day. Loved seeing the slides and so pleased Sam arrived safely in Switzerland x

  13. I loved reading this. I had a similar day on Monday the first day of our holidays at home too. Except as well as ferrying children to places my mums car broke down so I she was in the mix as well. Will email you later with a little story to cheer you up. Jo x

  14. I'm impressed that you make time to do your sewing – it's so easy to end up doing everything for everyone else and sort out the house but important to keep sane :-) Hope Sam enjoys his holiday; he sounds like my 17-yr-old who we've left at home with the pets while we're in Yorkshire for a week. (He didn't want to come!) We've spoken to him daily but his main concern was that a pizza was past it's use by date... Your work sounds fascinating, by the way. Hope today is calmer. Sam xx

  15. Fascinating post, particularly the slides. Glad Sam made it to your brothers ok. They never feel the need to let us know. Mothers are psychic you know! Love Five Children and It one of my favourites. I'm impressed you can work at home with familynat home. You must be a very focused person. Hope the rest of the week goes well. I'm having fun with 8 year old triplets. Exhausting! B x

  16. Really loved the account of your day and found the parasite photographs absolutely fascinating! I am rather envious of your job! I hope Sam has a wonderful time in Switzerland - it's hard letting go though for parents and realising that one is at the bottom of the food chain so to speak! There was a depressing item on this on Woman's Hour yesterday - I don't recommend listening to it if your are a parent of a teenager unless feeling particularly robust! Not all of it applies but enough was recognisable to lower my mood considerably. Unlike your post which cheered me very much! thank you Christina - have a lovely day today! E x


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