I'm driving a used 1998 Renault Scenic. It's passed the test needed to certify it road-worthy, but it needs a bit of work... or something. It screeches like a banshee when it starts up or I accelerate. I may drive it around late on Halloween just to scare young children and others who frighten easily. The fan to defrost or heat only works on the passenger side of the vehicle. To keep my windows from fogging over completely when it is misting (a better descriptive term than "rain" for what it does most days here), I have to run the fan on high (it only runs on high) and crack my window slightly. Otherwise, I'm looking through a sort of reverse mushroom cloud.
Furthermore, the clever French have devised an anti-theft system that requires you to use the key fob to lock and unlock the doors prior to starting the car. Otherwise, when you start the car it immediately stalls. That is called the immobilizer (immobiliser for those of you who prefer the UK standard). A little red light blinks on the dash to demonstrate its engagement.
The key fob (I hate that word), called a "plip key" in the manual, has been touchy from the start and it takes a few tries at different angles to get it to work. A few days ago we noticed a little red light and assumed it was time to get the battery changed. We only received one key with the car, so there is no spare to fall back on if necessary. Like today.
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We get to school, hugs all around. I thought we'd pop into the little corner store to pick up the milk and night-diapers we needed and then get home to finish off the home-made pizza that was on the menu. Right after school is not the time to go into that place. It was crazy crowded and the aisles are as narrow as the side roads. My stroller (push chair or buggy, if you please) barely made the turns!
Nevermind, we'll hit the supermarket on the way home. A different way home, but one with only two minor roundabouts that I managed the other day without dying.
I used the key fob to unlock the doors. Once everyone was safely buckled up, we were on our way!
But not quite.
It wouldn't work. It wouldn't work. And. It wouldn't work. I stun myself with an insane level of optimism (or perhaps it is really just insanity) and try again and again. I let each of the children try. I try from outside of the car - it worked a few minutes ago... I try from behind and on both sides. Nature Girl suggests banging the key... wonder where she learned that trick?
Nothing works. The kids are remarkable in their patience. I swear we sat there aimlessly trying for 30 full minutes. Then I gave up. The bus would come soon and we'd better catch it to be home before dark. GPS, insurance and registration in my purse; car seats (all boosters now for my big kids) in the boot (trunk for you Americans ;) and children and their belongings in, on or around the stroller.
As we walk past the pharmacy that is next to the small grocery, I say, "Let's just stop in and grab the wipes and diapers." After a minute of perusing the selection I look out the window and see our bus coming. I know which number from those couple of weeks without a car. Knew that would come in handy.
I have never been more impressed with my little travelers. The girls high-tailed it out the door and ran to the stop with the boy and I close behind! I was sure we would miss it, but bless the elderly, they take their time getting off the bus!
We made it. Ahh. A relaxing ride to Town Centre. I know we won't make the next train, so we'll have time to go into the supermarket across from the train station. I know that I have exactly 20 pounds on my US bank card. The only local bank card we have is in Germany... with my husband. I had 5 pounds in cash. 1.90 went to the bus driver.
I don't pay much attention to the amount I'm spending, I'm confident I've stayed around 15. We added the store's freshly made pizza as we would be far too late for homemade anything at this point.
Off we go to the train staition across the street. We have to take the maze created for strollers and wheelchairs instead of the straight shot up the stairs. In the door and into queue. It is 4:53. Our train is at 5:07. There are 4 people ahead of us. No problem.
Our turn. It's about 5 pounds 50 for our tickets. My card is declined. Twice, thanks for trying. Oh lordy. I have 3 pounds left in cash. The card passes for 2.50. Thank you.
The children know the station well. They know the buttons to press on the lift (elevator) and which platform to go to. We make it to the platform with 5 minutes to spare. It's windy and cold and misty, of course.
A helpful chap assists me lifting the stroller onto the train and the girls cheerfully follow. Children are resilient and amazing when you least expect them to be. The ride is easy and thankfully short. It's then, sitting on the train halfway to our stop that I realize The Boy is wearing underwear. No diaper.
I look at him. He smiles his gorgeous I-love-you-mommy-smile and says earnestly, "I'm holding it, Mama." He is awesome.
A 10-minute walk (the girls skipped) through the misty dusk and we're home. The boy proudly pees on the toilet. He says, "I'm a big boy now!" Then, thoughtfully, looking up at the light-switch, "Well, I'm not really a big boy. I can't even reach the light switch. I'm still a teeny-tiny boy." He makes me joyful.
I haven't told you about the oven... it cooks unusually fast. We once roasted a duck in 45 minutes.
I burned the pizza.
Oh well. I think sometimes the Universe just wants to remind us to appreciate when life runs smoothly and to keep us humble. The girls have a ride to school in the morning (thank you, Miss T). My mom (best mom ever) dropped some cash into my US bank account so I can get the key fixed before pick up and I'm off to bed.