Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


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Hiding in the Church Hall Toilet

In the last week I have spent way too much time in the Church Hall.   Enough time to require everything that I’ve worn in there to be washed to get rid of that oh so unique smell of dust, damp, sweaty ballet shoes, over-cooked meals for the elderly, smoking candles and assorted toddlers.

Long enough to have seen 2 sunsets, 1 sunrise and a flood in the car park.  Long enough to have eaten both my evening ‘meal’ (ok, M&S salad, time was short), breakfast and a party tea there as well.  And long enough to have resorted to hiding in the toilet.

Thursday night is Brownie night.  23 delightfully over enthusiastic 7-10 year old girls who bounce in like monkeys on some form of ‘upper’ drug.  Their energy and chatter never ceases to amaze me, neither does their stream of completely random questions.  Heaven forbid that you should have the pleasure of their company after a day of wet playtimes at school – having been in all day they are like a pack of coiled springs that fly off in all directions the minute the pressure of conformance is released…  I digress.  Thursdays means an hour and a half tops in the Hall.  It’s doable.

Somewhere along the line I seem to have agreed to helping out at the Brownie Sleepover.  This hellish joyous experience meant the entire Brownie Pack (all 23 of them) plus 2 teenage helpers were to sleep in the Hall on Friday night.  That’s right, 25 girls in one room to ‘sleep’ over.  Arrive at 5.30pm and leave at 9am the following morning.

Now, as you know, I will volunteer for most things however, I draw the line (and it’s a very thick black line drawn with an extremely permanent pen) at being in charge of large groups of other peoples children overnight.  I will help.  I will mop up the bodily fluids.  I will not be in charge.  I will run meetings, I will do the paperwork but this Tawny Owl does not do overnight.

I also don’t like sleeping on the floor.  It does me no good.  I do not pay the osteopath the amount I do to undo all her good work but sleeping on a mat on the Church Hall floor.  I volunteered to be the off-site overnight emergency contact.  I got to ‘sleep’ in my own bed – and said I’d stay on site until the girls went to sleep.  Sleep??  Went to sleep????  Who was I kidding?

I left at 11pm.  ‘Midnight’ feasts had been consumed by 9pm, stories read, lights were out.  Then the toilet trips started.  In the space of 2 and a bit hours, there must have been the best part of 300 toilet trips. It was biologically/physiologically impossible.  They didn’t care.  They pee’d and giggled and giggled and pee’d. Most of them were still awake when I left.  I didn’t sleep much at home – I kept waking up wondering if the phone was going to ring…

I was back on site by 6.50am – principally to get the kettle on for the 4 heroine leaders who’d stayed overnight.  25 over-excited girls running on pure adrenaline (it sure as eggs wasn’t the regenerative power of sleep) required a lot of tea and the patience of an army of saints…  It reached the point where I could take no more (despite a couple of danish pastries) so what did I do?  Dig deep, draw on my years of Guiding experience, push myself to the next level?  No.  I hid in the toilet.  Took a moment (or 5) and regathered myself enough to go and teach them to sign the favourite Little Green Frog in Makaton.  Then I hid in the toilet again and nearly fell asleep.  Classy huh?

For those of you who leave your children in the loving care of the volunteers of the Guide and Scout Associations…this is what it does to us!  And we do it, for free.  As we handed them back to their parents, with fixed grins and wishing them luck for dealing with their over-tired daughter for the rest of the weekend, the words “when we do it next year” were uttered.  We’re planning a different hall this time – with more toilets.

The rest of the day was sponsored by Twinings Earl Grey and Pepsi Max and I admit to raiding the cooking chocolate box.  Just so tired.  It’s like a hangover but worse.  I can do staying up late and getting up early (occasionally) but it’s the graft of looking after 24 kids that aren’t yours, plus 1 of your own.  I took to the sofa.  I was asleep by 9.30, ignoring the amorous intentions of my DH (yeah right darling…)

So how to spend Sunday…? a luxurious lie-in, breakfast in bed, leisurely morning with the papers, F1 Singapore Grand Prix… I can dream.  A mad morning of shopping, homework, family visits and a party for the Cheetah Keeper to attend.  Guess where it was?

Yep.  Back in the Church Hall.  27 hours after leaving, I was back there.

The thing with the Cheetah Keeper and his nosebleeds is that parties are difficult.  I am completely happy leaving a pre-filled syringe of medicine with some hosts, others I’m not.  Yesterday was a ‘not’ day.  I was staying.  I may as well move in.

This party was a joint 6th birthday for two children in the Cheetah Keeper’s class.  It was the first ‘big’ birthday party the parents had ever done.  Both cultural backgrounds meant that the room was full of extended family and friends not doing anything.  The catering operation was phenomenal (and delicious).  The balloon art was eye-watering.  The entertainment for the children was… non-existent.

Not prepared to watch the boys attempt to beat the proverbial out of each other, Tawny Owl took over.  I sorted some games, I split up the fights, I co-opted another mummy (Reception teacher) to help.  I provided the best part of an hour of entertainment.  I got them all sitting down for food.

I enjoyed the grown-up catering and then guess what I did next…

Hid in the toilet.

The parents have yet to say thank you…


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Certifiable – the life of the Rainbow Leader

I volunteer.  Too much.  I tried to make 2010 my year of not volunteering – it didn’t work.  I returned to the worldwide family of Guiding and became a Rainbow leader (oh, and started playing the piano for the school choir).

Rainbows are aged from 5-7, all my Guiding training is with Guides (10-14 year olds), and Brownies (7-10 year olds).  I’ve risen to the dizzy heights of Assistant Division Commissioner, been part of the consultation for the introduction of the new IT system and taken girls camping abroad.  I’ve spent 8 years involved with the St Albans Gang Show, met my husband and worked with something like 1000+ kids over the last 20 years.  Blimey, that makes it sound very grown-up.

I’ll be a Rainbow Leader until Easter when I return to the safer ground of being Tawny Owl at Brownies.  Not every week – the Cheetah Keeper’s sister needs to have some independence , but if she’s going to go to Brownies, my skills will be part of the deal.

So today, my 2 hours ‘real’ (paid) work took 4 hours which somewhat disturbed my volunteering schedule for today.  Then a trip to the osteopath to have my pelvis back together (again) and then to Tesco to buy supplies – some for home, the rest for Rainbows.

The Rainbows programme runs around 4 themes “Look”, “Learn”, “Laugh” and “Love”.  This week (being the closest to Valentine’s Day) we were working on Love.  We made cards for anyone they love (and yes, we have a 6 year old with a boyfriend…) and then we were planning on icing heart shaped cakes.

Crisis.  No icing pens in Tesco.  None.  Nada.  NOTHING!  Ignoring the fact there were no heart shaped cakes cooling beautifully in my kitchen – there were no *insert expletive of your choice* icing pens.

So what did I do..? (and bear in mind at this point the queues in Tesco are resembling those found on Christmas Eve – there is snow forecast, PANIC BUYING is compulsory…)

I bought royal icing sugar and made icing pens for them.  With my piping bags and a liberal dose of food colouring.

Whilst making nearly 4 dozen little vanilla cakes for them to ice, and some butter icing.

All between getting home from school at 3.30pm and leaving again at 4.35pm to run the meeting.

The cakes weren’t heart shaped but to be honest, making them in paper cases rather than silicone was a good plan (they catch the sprinkles better).

So, in the cold church hall, we played games, sang songs, made cards, iced cakes, welcomed new Rainbows into the family of Guiding, wished others well as they move up to Brownies, sung Happy Birthday to a Rainbow and one of our other fantastic volunteers who’ll be 16 this weekend (she came to Brownies with me when she was 7 – I love the fact she’s stayed…)

They had a fantastic time – in a safe, girls only space.  We’re taking some of them to see the Gang Show on Saturday afternoon and after half term we’ve got a whole load of other stuff planned – including talking about International Women’s Day and continuing our theme of “Being the best I can”.

Making icing pens for them is something that is just another box ticked on the list confirming that I’m absolutely bonkers.  You know what though?  The girls had a fantastic time and that’s what volunteering is all about.  It’s why I find it really hard to use that little ‘no’ word when someone needs a hand.  Which is why I was shovelling snow off the school playground on Monday morning (please don’t tell my GP…)

I work, I have children with additional needs, my health isn’t that predictable, I have a home that needs cleaning and and an ever overflowing washing basket.  Volunteering adds to the mix – it makes me better at all these things (well, maybe not managing the washing basket) and it’s given me friends for life.

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