On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the school of the two elder children was unexpectedly closed because the Medeu district water authority needed to connect the Olympic Ski Jump to the water mains. The Olympic Ski Jump is about 400 metres away from the school buildings. All the mothers of course panicked at the thought. We have all just been settling into our term-time routines after a stretching summer holiday and the thought of having them all back again mid-week when we have barely had time to let the cracks in our fingers heal from all the food preparation and tidying up of the summer holidays was hard to bear!
Tuesday was satisfactorily filled with play dates and two friends stayed over on dreaded "sleepover nights". On Wednesday morning, however, things started badly as husband had to take the car to the Kyrgyz border for a day of meetings in Bishkek which meant leaving at 5am and using the car all day long.
I had called my friend Wise Old Owl the night before, and arranged for her to give our two-year-old a lift to her new Russian-speaking play school in the morning which she has been attending for four days so far. Wise Old Owl took a drag on her fag and said, "Sure, no problem, but you might want to give me a call in the morning to remind me that I am picking you up because I am going to Salsa dance class tonight and I might be a bit tired in the morning."
With six children to feed for breakfast and pancakes and eggs being demanded, I was running late by 7.45am, which is a rather depressing thought any way you look at it! By 8.30am, when we were due to be picked up, I was still in my pyjamas and had just decided to listen to a bit of the previous day's Today programme to catch up on the news. I texted Wise Old Owl. Running Late. Don't need lift. Will get taxi later.
Then Gulya the super nanny arrived. I managed to get a few more of the rabble into clothes and then asked her if she would mind walking the two-year-old down to the play school, leaving the pushchair there and getting a taxi back. I was going to meet a friend with the remaining older children, and together walk down the river to a playground which is conveniently located near the play school. I would then go and get the two-year-old and wheel her back in her push chair to the playground at 1 o'clock when she would be finished.
Gulya went with the two-year-old and came back without her and without the pushchair. It fleetingly crossed my mind that she had been quite quick, but there were other things to do. Then we all had a very lovely, smooth morning with the sleep over friends working their magic and everyone having a lovely morning play in the garden. At around 11am another friend came to join the posse of our eldest daughter. And at noon, as planned, we set off to meet mates by the river and walk down to the cafe and playground for lunch while the baby stayed with the nanny at home.
All I then had to do was leave the five older children with my mate in the cafe, dash off to the playschool, get the two-year-old and dash back to the cafe where they would just be finishing their buffet lunch, and we would all go to the playground.
I got to the the play school at 1.10pm, frankly-speaking feeling pretty chuffed with myself that I was keeping it together with all these children to look after and everyone was having a ball.
"Oh, why didn't you come today?" the teacher asked me (in russian).
"Well," I explained, "My husband is down in his Bishkek office today so he took the car really early this morning which is why our nanny brought Connie in her pushchair. By the way, where is the pushchair? I can't find it out here,"
"I don't know," she said and we all went out to look for the missing pushchair, including opening the outside toilet block in case it had been put in there to keep it out of the rain, she said. I started to detect that something was wrong at this point, since the sun had been bursting out of the sky all morning and there hadn't been a cloud in the sky. I called Gulya to ask her where she had left the pushchair and she told us she had just left it outside the door. But there was no sign.
By this point, I was finding it quite weird that I hadn't seen the two-year-old who normally comes bouncing out of the school in a state of high excitement to be collected at the end of her session. Maybe she is settling in so well that she has just lain down and gone to sleep with the other guys in the class, I thought.
"Where's two-year-old? Is she sleeping?" I asked, innocently.
"No, she hasn't been here all day, that is what I said," said the teacher, looking at me.
"What????" I squeaked.
Rapidly dialling my mobile phone again, I re-called Gulya.
"Gulya, where is two-year-old?" I asked.
"She is at Playschool, the one on Al Farabi," she said.
"Well, I am standing at Playschool in Kompot where Two-Year-Old comes to school," I said.
"Oh no!!!!!" said Gulya (probably pooing her pants!), "I'll just go straight along and get her then. Assel (her daughter) is here. She can look after the baby."
I dashed back to the cafe where great mate was holding the fort with the other five kids, and told her what had happened while waiting for Gulya to call and tell me two-year-old had been safely retrieved. Great mate helped calm my nerves and watched as I ate about 5 slices of pizza in a state of nervous tension - doh! I hate stress eating! Then Gulya called to report that the Pigeon was in the Coop, so to speak, and she jumped in a taxi and brought her down to me.
The two-year-old was fine... happy to see me and to join her sisters and the considerably number of friends who had gathered to play together. Clearly, another day of not really knowing her way around, or who anyone is, had not made much difference to her.
"Did you go to a different place with Gulya this morning?" I asked her.
"Yes Mummy, I did go to a different place today. I think it was a shop." She told me, before racing off to join in the games.
The two playschools are run by the same person and our two-year-old happens to be registered at both buldings after I tried to do a couple of hours day care two years ago when we first arrived. So when Gulya had appeared in the morning with the little one, they had asked her if she was attending this playschool, and the nanny had said that she had just started and was attending half days from now on. They checked the paperwork and sure enough, her name was in the system. The staff thought that the owner had forgotten to tell them that there was a new little one coming back on a more permanent basis. The two-year-old had told the nanny that she didn't want to stay, but since she does that most mornings, this had largely done un-noticed and there she stayed. ha ha ha. She played, had lunch, and, according to the ladies who worked there, had a great time and is more than welcome to go back at any time.
Bit of a brain storm on the part of the super nanny, who had clearly only been half paying attention to where the child is going. But a huge relief that the two-year-old had not been really upset all morning.
However, we will have to wait and see how she feels when she is taken back to the original playschool tomorrow morning.