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A Fiery Start to 2014

The first time I saw Chinese lanterns was in a movie. The second time I saw them was in another movie. I had never seen one in person until New Year’s day, 12:27 am precisely. We attended the watch night service at church and part of the festivities to ring in the New Year included lighting Chinese lanterns and releasing them up into the sky. I was as excited about it as the boys were. Their exuberance was expected considering the fact that the reason there is an unsightly burn mark on the top left corner of my bathroom window is due to their worrying obsession healthy curiosity with fire. Did I ever share about the day they made a rocket? It wasn’t from a rocket kit from the toy shop. No. These boys chose to make one from scratch since their mother isn’t ‘in the habit of buying toys willy-nilly’

So they gathered all their components together. A single A4 paper and Vaseline. They made a paper airplane, smeared the tail with Vaseline, yes petroleum jelly. In case there is a non-greasy type I’ll point out that they used the greasy one. Placed a large blob of the jelly on the nose of the plane, set fire to it and yes, attempted to fly it out of the window upstairs. I’m guessing they went upstairs to give themselves a head start into space.

Back to the lanterns. The wet weather prevented us from lighting our lanterns at church, so we took them home. Of course the weather has never been known to hinder my boys’ determination for adventure so straight to the garden we went. After a few false starts we had success. The challenge then became how to get it to lift up in a straight vertical manner just like the movies. Wasn’t it supposed to just float upwards until it became as tiny as a star?? Eventually #3’s lantern lifted up, we stared in excitement, barely able to contain ourselves that this was really happening. As if on cue the lantern decided to change course and chart a horizontal path towards our neighbour’s garden. It carried on past their’s to hover over the second garden and then began it’s desent, all the while staring at us in a mocking fashion. It was still alight. For all we knew they had gas cylinders on their patio- they were the heavy barbecuing type- but the lantern didn’t care and the patio was precisely where the lantern made a bee line for. The swift change from excitement to mad panic deserves a place in the Guinness book of world records. I’ll point out too that the mad panic was neither experienced nor displayed by the boys.

I flew in my high heels to their home and knocked on the door. No one peeked out of the window to see who was knocking at that ungodly hour.  There was no shuffling of feet or  tinkling of keys. All I got was pitch blackness and silence. By this time I could hear the sirens of the fire brigade coming to douse the flames of an entire house, while the residents whispered in small circles about the woman with the four sons who was bent on burning down their quiet street. And how certain people really should be certified sane before being allowed to move into the borough of Bromley.

I ran back into my house where I told the boys to get ready to climb over two lots of fences. From our garden I could see the orange glow of the flames in the darkness which told me trouble wasn’t looming, it had successfully loomed and doomed.

I  dashed back outside, this time to my next door neighbour rambling on about fire, cylinders and the Chinese. I think it was out of fear for the safety of his future that he let me in.  I brushed past him, tore through the house to their garden to climb over their fence. Thankfully the fire was out and the lantern was smouldering. I then had to do the walk of shame in front of his family who had gathered on either side of the hallway to see how someone who didn’t even know their name was now tearing around the house like she lived there.

As I walked I tried to talk away the shame, focusing on safety and lanterns and all the right things I thought they’d want to hear.

Needless to say our experience with Chinese lanterns shall remain confined to movies. We have a large screen, what more do we want?

BTW it turned out that the ‘orange glow’ was only their garden light. Phew!

Good enough!

My new year resolutions for 2014 can be distilled into one buzz word, authenticity.

Not that I have gone out of my way to be pretentious or fake, but after some reflection in the last few months of 2013, I realised and faced up to the fact that there have been times when I haven’t been entirely comfortable with who I am. I love myself to bits- I don’t want to be anyone else, I don’t wish I was Michelle Obama, but still I noticed that I have struggled to be myself in certain situations, especially when outside my comfort zone.

Case in point the new blog issue. I wanted to start a new blog that would appeal to my clients, none of whom I live like or look nothing like. So I struggled with a blog name and content. The plan was to write as this personality that fit in with the quintessential Brit. A lady who lunches. I was to visit places and appreciate the sort of art I normally don’t care for, then write about it (in a genteel tone) as though it was normal for hubby and the boys to go to Lords Cricket Ground, while I had afternoon teas with the Windsors. Don’t get me wrong I do love the finer things in life and appreciate art and beauty, but your girl wanted to take it to another level so she could fit in.

After struggling for a while I pushed the  idea to the back of my mind. But the comments you kindly share on this blog, the email responses I get from friends and in conversation with my friends, I tend to get two main descriptive phrases that resonate deeply. One of them is being authentic.

I have come to the conclusion that the best personality I can portray is mine. I cannot successfully try to be someone else. The fear of not being accepted in a different social circle is gone, because God made me with a personality that cannot be replicated. So who I am is unique and beautiful as it is, I don’t need to alter me. This is not to say I won’t try to improve on areas that need improving on, I believe in education outside the classroom and life-long learning, and I will still go out to expose the boys to the epicurean lifestyle, but I will do so while remaining authentic. I love my name and totally love my skin colour and I’m comfortable in it.

I have also come to the conclusion that excellence can only be achieved when you’re being yourself. Because that’s what you were pre-wired to be. Imagine a car trying to be a boat? Or an apple hoping to taste like an orange? You get the picture!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2014, filled with the confidence to be you! Thank you so much for being in my life and sharing my journey with me!

I’d love to hear your buzz word for 2014.

PS:

On the blog note, I have decided to step out and create a separate page on the business blog, complete with my photograph and sharing my life and loves, the real one, not the imagined one, it’s a big step for me and I’m VERY excited!

Crazy, Ditzy, Cool

Crazy, Ditzy, Cool

Crazy

I owe The Wordsmythe an apology- and that’s putting it mildly. I stole her fiance. In the dream she was getting ready for her traditional wedding. There wasn’t going to be a white one, she was marrying  Chief Muyiwa, a semi- illiterate man. I don’t know how and where my obsession with illiterate old men came from to the point that I have now started to dream of stealing someone else’s own. Nkem, forgive me, I’m baffled myself. Anyway, in the dream I positioned myself for a hostile takeover of her husband-to-be but pulled back just in time. Needless to say her aunties were not pleased. I have no idea how I got from the village to Kent but I’m glad I did.

Today I’ll be explaining Apartheid to #4. That’ll be a challenge as I don’t want him looking strangely at our caucasian friends and questioning if they have any desire to rule over his family. He is likely to do that. The thing is he would start his sentence with ‘my mother said…”

Hubby, I have had to ban from grocery shopping. In a bid to cut down on my workload I shifted the weekly shopping responsibility to him. The man buys premium everything. I walked in to find a pack of Andrex-quilted-scented-premium-luxury-limited-edition tissues in the kitchen. I had one question. ‘Why?

However there are some things I won’t compromise on, like cotton buds. It has to be Johnson’s. Add cotton wool to the list too as the last one I bought appears to be polyester instead of cotton- completely useless at removing nail polish. It glides all over my fingernail as though the polish is the one trying to take the cotton wool off.

Talking about nail varnish, I am currently obsessed with glitter polish. I used one the other day and referred to it as glitter burgundy. My friend asked; ‘Is that burgundy? It was a simple question yet I spent the remaining part of the week staring at my nails  asking chanting; ‘burgundy or purple? burgundy or purple?

Ditzy

I was invited to the launch of BMW’s first electric car. It was a very posh event. Posh because of the canapes and ‘very’ because of their size. Seriously. The whole evening was spent trying to figure out how on earth the canapes were made. Even with tweezers it would have been quite a task to layer one itsy-bitsy shred of slow-roasted beef over a crouton piece of pastry drenched in half a drop of sauce. Every so often a waiter would show up with a teeny wooden platter and 8 pretty ones perfectly arranged for presumably 8 people. He would begin the spill; This is french Pain de mie with slow roasted pheasant and a single dried olive dipped briefly in a 200 year old rice vinegar, drizzled with  olive oil and a hint of mild Japanese black pepper’. By the time he finished I’d have popped two or 3 in my mouth. How some people were able to bite into them is beyond me. I didn’t want to appear any less dignified than I already did by also taking a photo with my blackberry, but they were the size of #4’s thumbnail. Then there was the small matter of the verbal faux pas. When a representative told me the staff each had a company BMW Toks of course forgot herself and asked if they had vacancies. Half jokingly, half serious. He looked at me quizzically, no doubt wondering why one who couldn’t drop £100k for a car was doing in their Park Lane, Mayfair showroom. We were looking at the i8 due out later this year. I noticed Helen take 2 steps away from me, denying that she even knew me. I heard Aji’s thoughts as she wondered why her friend would embarrass her in that manner.

We’ve had some big changes on the business side. Very exciting indeed. Now I go to the website and spend about 5 mins smiling in sheer admiration. And another 5 wishing I had spent that time working instead. I’ll be writing a book on our business experiences. Crazy customers featuring will include the one that told me he wasn’t excited about the pregnancy since his wife had STDs.

Cool

I have been invited to speak at a major event at the NEC in Birmingham. This is huge. So understandably I spent the first 2 weeks waiting for the email to tell me they were sorry- it was sent to me in error. Consequently I haven’t prepared yet. And mild panic is starting to set in.

On that note I’ll stop for now. What have you been up to?  I’ve missed you!

Operating Manual of Number 4

”I can’t wait to meet #4” He is so cute!!

I write a lot about #4 because, well I figure that by the time he’s old enough to read my blog the world would have moved on from blogging to another oddly-named fetish, yooking- or some other term- unintelligibly sounding, yet life changing on a global scale. It’s not like we knew twittering would ever become a verb used by humans.

I feel sorry for those who have expressed innocent interest in wanting to meet #4. Like Kemi- formerly justjoxy’s friend but now mine. She kindly invited us to her daughter’s birthday party and ended her invitation with; ”I can’t wait to meet #4”.

Let this be a quiet, but sound warning to all who wish to meet him.

1) He would not ‘greet’ properly. It’s not like I haven’t tried with him. Now he says ”Good afternoon, evening” but he doesn’t look up when he does. Unlike Tolu’s boys. Those boys can greeeet!!!

2) He hates being woken up every morning. He rants and raves about how his day has been ‘ruined’ by the one who woke him up. ” You have ruined my day”. ”Now my day is spoiled”. One day I picked him up after school and he asked; ”anything fun after school today mum?” He looked so hopeful, his deer-like eyes staring expectantly at my hardened ones. I replied with a steeliness that matched my eyes; ”no, we’re going home”. His response? Flaps arms about in frustration and says; ”you ruined my day in the morning, in the middle it was fine, and now you ruined it again at the end”. I had to call a friend to share this episode, it was too much for me to handle on my own

3) He believes blood comes from the devil. Because it hurts when he bleeds. Our most recent conversation on blood went something like this;

”What happens to Batman’s blood when he gets cut with the silver thing and he doesn’t bleed? Mum, why did God make blood then? How do you make silver? Like batman’s silver? How do you make gold? I know, you make lellow (yellow) dark and it becomes gold”. As you can see it wasn’t a conversation as such, I could barely get a word in. Okay truth be told, I had no answers for the child.

4) He is incredibly good with words.  A little wordsmyth he is. He makes up words too like putted. ”I putted it in the kitchen”. And inexpection. All my friends play football, inexpection of George. He likes Tennis”.

5) He wants another brother. Three is apparently not enough and his mother is clearly a child making machine. A Factory.

6) He is irresistibly cute and knows it. Be prepared to be extra affectionate with him. Bear in mind that giving affection to him will not result in you getting any back- in fact you wont even get an acknowledgement. To be completely honest your affectionate moves will be met with deep frowning and resistance. Ignore it all. That’s just how the child chooses to show love.

7) He loves his teacher. This one is quite annoying- and I can feel myself getting rather annoyed as I type this. He honours his teacher’s words above mine. If I tell him to do his homework on lined paper for instance, my request will be met with first an incredulous glance, then a condescending look as he shakes his big head stating the words; ”that’s not how you do it mama, my teacher said…”

I was going to carry on but don’t want to ruin any chances of actual adoption of this child. Unlike #3 who has so won the hearts of the Family *Smith, they literally beg to take him home constantly. Like here. We have been known to forget him with them and I am now certain the reason they bought a larger car was for #3. And that one knows how to charm the socks off them. When we pick him up he walks out with words of praise bathing him; ”He is incredibly polite, he is so sweet”.  ”He loves the baby”. ”The dogs just love him”.

Today is going to be a good day, I can just feel it. I might even come back and add another post that’s been brewing!

Have a lovely Sunday and thank you for reading.

May I shamelessly beg that you add a comment in the box below? It helps me to breathe easy 🙂

Midnight Post

Beautiful and crazy in a good way. That’s how I was described last week. This week so far I have heard Petite– that’s a first. The beautiful and crazy definition is also a first.  I’ve had my fair share of adjectives used to describe me, each time I get a new one I search to find Toks in it, (or it in Toks)

The crazy part I can’t argue with, I have an imaginary husband-to-be, Chief Bello. I remind hubby I’ll leave him for Chief whenever he gets on my nerves. Please note that chief Bello exists only in my mind, but he does exist.

He is twice thrice my age, pot-bellied and semi-illiterate. He also has 3 wives and I’ll be the fourth. His educated wife to show-off to the rest of the villagers. On a good day I remind hubby that I dumped John Legend for him- yes, I have a healthy crush on John Legend. And Denzel Washington. And I kind of like Lionel Richie, my favourite song is Three times a lady.

Petite. I was skinny as a child and consequently gathered some unsavoury nicknames. Now I’ve got some meat on me and I am sooo happy! I unashamedly stare at  shop mirrors when I walk past- just to make sure it’s all still there. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that I’m arrogant, or that I suffer from of kryptonic levels of self-esteem, wrong, but forgiven. So I refuse to agree with the petite part- even if it has any truth to it.

I love music. Music transports me into a world I can’t physically get to, but can arrive at in every other way. The downside of this is that once I start listening to songs that have a nostalgic effect on me, I could go on for hours. So I understand my dearest friend Iluobe’s pain when she lost hundreds of tracks some years back. I can only hope she is completely healed.

My favourite meal remains Rice, Fried Plantains and Stew. I think it’s a waste to have tasty stew and perfectly cooked rice without fried plantains. However I’m on a mission to improve my meal choices, swapping good, tasty foods for crap, so-called ‘acquired taste’ ones. I can’t quite fathom people who have cold green salads for lunch on a winter’s day. But they have said I will eventually acquire the taste. Let’s see.

I had a happy childhood which included growing up with pets- dogs and cats usually, but once had a monkey, an anteater and a crocodile. See explanation here. I want my children’s experiences to be even better- if that were possible. Unfortunately I’ve grown into an irritatingly protective mother and want to shield them from the pain of losing a beloved pet. It happened to me way too often as a child. Then again I’m torn between protecting them from pain, and  preparing them for pain, as life will dish out its fair share.

The only reason I’m blogging at 00:36 hrs is to avoid tackling work that’s staring at me menacingly from the other nine tabs opened on either side of this page. And I’m avoiding work because I refuse to accept that the Bank Holiday is over, so we’re err… trying to stretch it. It also explains the rather lame title (and content) of this post.

I hope you had a lovely long weekend.

Do come back, I promise I’ll have a more substantial post next time!

One Woman, Several Lives

Courtesy of my sister-friend Tiwana, I have been delivered from my involuntary blogging hiatus. And I feel sorry for you because this is going to be one looooong post!

I do get asked often a question that I feel should be reserved for the real superwomen; ”how do you do it?” By ‘‘it’‘ specifically they mean running my business, a household of 5 guys, blogging, hosting the occasional brunch- and by occasional we mean up to once a year- and living this seemingly fabulous life. I always have two answers, depending on how desperate they are for an encouragement or the naked truth.

Answer #1, the encouraging one.

My alarm goes off at 4am, if I’m really lazy I snooze till 4:30. I have my quiet time and exercise for 30 minutes. All of this happens in my clean and spacious kitchen, it would have been made spotless the night before as the boys are quite good staying on top of their chores, bless them.  Then I get ready, shower, hair make-up and all. They get themselves up and ready for school, I get the younger ones up, sorted and fed for the peaceful drive to school. We go over timetables or spelling during the drive, or I tell them a story with a moral at the end.

I return home for my healthy breakfast, tidy up breakfast things- just #2 and #3’s as #1 and #2 would have done theirs before they left for school. Grab my laptop and head off to work where I meet a load of orders that arrived overnight, some thank you emails from delighted customers and enquiries for new orders. I go through my work in bliss, then leave at 2pm to go prepare dinner. The school run starts at 3pm and by 4pm everyone except hubby is back home.  The boys have lunch and at 4:30pm it is homework time. They don’t need to be told.  They play from 5:30 to 6pm when hubby arrives, and we have dinner at 6:15pm. I incorporate quizzes and chit chat during mealtimes. After dinner they do their chores, clean their teeth and go to bed. At that point having watched some TV or chatted on the phone for about 40 mins, I work for an hour and go to bed, I usually read a book before I nod off.

Answer #2: Flip all I’ve said the other way round and insert yelling after the word boys. Every time.

So my laptop died on me. Actually it was a bit unwell. The experience of being separated from it showed me how alarmingly attached I can be to an inanimate object. I took it to the repair shop where I met Akhtar* name changed for protection, mine and his. Before he looked at it he made the sign of the cross and a silent prayer. You’ll understand my confusion- if Muslims had a look, a smell and a sound, this was it. I asked why he did that and his response was so God could help him find the source of the problem. I proceeded to remind him that he was  Muslim- then rephrased just before the words tumbled out;

Me: ‘Are you a Christian?’

A: ‘Yes, I converted’

Me: ( getting all excited) why?

He lowered his voice: ‘ever since I found out that Mohammed was a paedophile, its not good’.

Me: Both feigning and actually being surprised at the same time- really? I didn’t know that.

A: Yes God told him in a dream to look after an 8-year-old girl, why couldn’t he be a dad or friend? Why did he have to marry her? It’s not good. I’ll call you when your laptop is ready.

I leave deep in thought, pondering on my new-found knowledge that there are actually Muslims who convert for other reasons besides being preached to.

I received an invite to the launch of Polo in the Park, being held at an exclusive venue, champagne, blah blah blah. The invite added: Please RSVP to confirm as spaces are limited. Instead of replying via email like anyone else would do, Toks chose to call the guy- Chris – with an excessive amount of confidence. Here’s how our convo went;

Hi this is Toks from blah blah, I am calling in response to the invitation to the launch, I would like to attend. We’ll need 2 spaces.

Chris: Who is this?

Toks from blah. (whose company you recently requested the pleasure of- abi  were you drunk when you sent the invite?)

Chris: Oh I see. It err.. isn’t lunch, it’s champagne and strawberries.

Toks (confidence crumbling):  I know it’s not lunch as in to eat, but the launch of Polo in the park, right?

Chris: ohhh Lau-nch!

Clearly I need elocution classes. Excuse me for being raised in Nigeria and not enunciating the way you do. E kpele. ndo. Sorry

I went back for my laptop, and my new friend told me he was stressed due to poor business performance. I suggested networking events attended by nearby businesses, since he supplies a service that small businesses need. He dismissed it as irrelevant to his current need. Then I suggested going to award events which are again attended by small businesses so he could be directly in front of them.

His response? (squinting and pointing to a building across the road)

You see that restaurant over there, don’t go there. I bought chicken yesterday but it was bloody expensive. Not good

Yes my life in actual fact is more often like answer #2. A mish-mash of crazy, unrelated events which somehow manages to reconstruct itself and fool everyone into thinking that I have it all together.

I need my bed!

Thank you for reading, kindly leave a comment- it helps to boost my ego confidence.

War in the Audition Room

So child #3, the sweet, chatty one was invited to audition for a role in The Bodyguard, the musical. Today marked the third time I’ve been in a high-pressure environment with boys and their mums.

Typically the boys sit unperturbed,  playing with their phones or consoles- except mine of course, this is not a playing matter. I’m a novice but the other mums are not. They are busy shooting poisoned thoughts at each other, each one is sheathed with a thin smile. Behind the smile a debate with self rages;

He’s too tall for the role, didn’t his mother read the brief?

Nope, not cute enough, my son is cuter.

I bet he can’t act, see his buck teeth.

Hmm, this one looks confident, I wonder if he has been to stage school.

As if on cue, the internal debate s politely interrupted by the voice of the confident one’s mother. She says a bit too loudly;

‘Yes he’s been in 3 plays and a movie, and a couple of adverts’.

She speaks loudly because with each decibel her ego is heightened- so much so that she is now being quietly revered by the other mums. A hierarchy which previously did not exist is formed and she is at the top. In this game no one wishes anyone luck, why pretend?

The second time was in a less combative environment. This was when the selected few were called back for a second audition.

I engage in a tête a-tête  with a parent I meet in the waiting area and within 20 seconds I discover something about him I don’t like; he is a name dropper. But he must be dropping T-list celebrity names since I don’t recognise any of them. No, I don’t know the actor that plays golf with your father-in-law, or the newsreader that shares the carpool on the school run with you. I don’t know them and I don’t care to either. His next sentence infuriates me. I ask him to repeat the name of a stage school he just mentioned, he does- then quickly adds- ”you need to be able to sing and dance and act- all three excellently to even get in”. I nearly punch his already crooked nose but take a deep breath and count to 100 instead.

Today is the third time. They want an African or Afro-Caribbean boy. A dark-skinned boy. Like my son. They are very specific. We walk in and see one mixed-race boy. I feel my confidence rising. More children arrive, all mixed-race. The hierarchy is being formed and guess who’s at the top? More children arrive, all very light-skinned. No shaking. Then a couple of dark-skinned ones turn up. The battle lines are being drawn- but I shan’t be moved.

The assistant announces that she’ll start collecting our completed forms- which I forget to bring. She’ll also collect the passport photos. I of course forgot those too. I have 4 sons, a husband and a demanding business, in fact I’ll be silly not to forget them.

The woman next to me produces her completed form, photo and CV- for her dark-skinned 10 year old. Yes a resume. She apologizes for not stapling the form to the resume. I take the unanimous decision to dislike her. The hierarchy has been rearranged. I start to rehearse my non-commiseration speech to child #3 which will go like this;

Next time when your parents tell you to practise, I hope you will”

Shey you’ve learned your lesson now abi?

Whose fault is it that you were not picked? Mine? Did I tell you to watch looney tunes while you should have been practising your lines?

You’d better not cry or else…

Thank you for reading, do drop a line below!

Stop by my other blog, Inspireme, a blog for the faint-hearted