Fish Birthday Cake Tutorial

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Happy birthdayI made Maxi a fish birthday cake and it seemed to go down quite well… I took photos along the way to remind me how to make it next year, so this is a wee photo tutorial in how to do it. I bet you could make it far, far better! Maybe next year I’ll do an all-chocolate one, with gills made of Flakes and flat scales made of white and milk chocolate buttons. Yum! Can’t wait!

You can base this cake around any round cake you like: sponge cake, Victoria sandwich, pound cake, fruit cake, etc. I made a Madeira cake (recipe at the end). Partly because it makes a dense sponge that’s really easy to cut, partly because I know I can make them easily and they turn out the way I want every time, and partly because I’m greedy and I love them.

1. Start with your round cake.

1. Start with your round cake.

Anyway, the cake can be any size. This one is from a 9″ cake tin.

So: start with your cake. It’s up to you whether you level off the top or not. I didn’t bother.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

5. Smother in buttercream.

5. Smother in buttercream. No need to worry about a crumb-coat and no need to be neat – just smother that fish in buttercream (I used 200g butter, a little milk and about 450g icing sugar).

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as 'bubbles'

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as ‘bubbles’. I used a shop-bought tube of icing: they look like big toothpaste tubes, come with 3 different shaped nozzles, and are sold in the home-baking aisle. The pink buttons were in the home-baking aisle, too.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye. I used a few little packets of Fruit Buttons as fish scales. I thought they might be in rainbow shades of pink, red, orange, yellow and purple, but they turned out to be various shades of orange. And they were a nightmare to stick in the icing: too soft. Meh! Next time I’ll use Smarties or chocolate buttons.

Close-up of the scales

Close-up of the scales

fish cake tutorial 11

I added little wave wiggles and some writing and details using a little tube of chocolate icing I had leftover from another cake. I admit that I only added them because stupidly I’d placed the cake too much to the left and had a big gaping space (doh!), but it made the whole cake look pretty good.

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Madeira Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 300g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 400g plain flour
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • grated rind of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Put oven on at 170degC/340degF/gas 3. Line a 9 inch round cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar till light and airy.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture. Add big spoons of flour any time the mixture even hints at curdling.
  5. After that, add the egg and flour alternately.
  6. Stir in the lemon rind.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  8. Bake for about 1hr 10 mins. If the top is getting too brown, put some foil over it. At the end, check the cake’s cooked the whole way through by putting a skewer / clean knitting needle in the centre and checking that it comes out clean. If mixture sticks to it, it needs at least another 10 mins baking.

Chimps Tea Party

Today I was supposed to go to a lovely-sounding Daffodil Tea at Mini Minx’s nursery, but I spent the entire day pouring coffee down my neck and chasing around (school run, then Gym Teds half an hour away, then boringboringshopping half an hour away from that, meet The Boss for lunch, 40 minute chase back home, chuck cold food in the fridge, school run, stuff food down the minxes, half an hour drive to gymnastics, hang around for an hour, then back for dinner). This doesn’t include the Standard Daily Fights to have the girls dress and eat on time… I decided to do something about feeling overwhelmed (and knock 12 miles off today’s taxi route), so I ‘forgot’ the Daffodil Tea.

tea party 1Mini looked a bit crestfallen when I confessed what I was going to do. She certainly wasn’t on top form anyway – she’d come thundering into our room last night and clung to my neck for a few hours before she settled enough to go into her own bed at 5.35am. In a bid to cheer her up and make up for being selfish, I said tea party 2we could have a tea party of our own. It was a surprise success!

I bought some cheap strawberry tarts from the supermarket and opened a packet of Party Rings I was stashing for Maxi’s birthday next week. I put them on white plates, added some napkins that we’ve been hoarding for decades in case we ever have a dinner party again (maniacal laughter), got out some tiny cups and saucers (espresso ones – same future mythical dinner party) and put some fruit tea in a little tea pot. I helped Mini rip out the tea bag and brew the tea party 3tea – the wee soul thought she had to empty the bag into the pot. I chose fruit tea because (a) I don’t want the minxes to drink tea and coffee when they’re children, and (b) it’s pink: perfect! I took out the bag when it was brewed enough then left it to cool in case one of the inevitable spillages happened quickly.

After that, I sat back and let her pour me cup after cup of tea! She was in Girly 7th Heaven: real tea pot, real (pink) tea, real (pink) biscuits and no sisters to fight with. She’s begged me to let her have afternoon tea tea party 4tomorrow morning when her sisters go to school. “And I can make scones to go with a tea? A lovely big pink tea?” she asked. Oh go on.

Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.

I can’t wait!

tea party 5

Today I Spent My Birthday…

March 20

Today I Spent My Birthday… having a strange man guddling in my lady-bits. More on that later.

I’ve been awake most of my birthday. Lucky me! I went to bed after midnight, then was woken by my thoughtful youngest at 1am and 4ish, because she didn’t want to sleep in her own bed. The deprivation! Around 7am, Midi and Maxi brought in 2 sheets of writing they’d carefully and colourfully written, and sang me the songs they’d each made up. Ah, such a sweet thing for them to do! My heart burst, but my ears really needed my morning coffee first. Mini brought me 3 special family portraits she’d drawn. I think in honour of me, she’d given everyone purple hair. Bless! I unwrapped my present before The Boss left for work – a sleek, shiny, silver-coloured CD-player / amp / DAB radio. Argh! It’s so dinky I could just die! And the sound… Wow, wow, wow! I’ve been relying on dodgy radios and the car CD player for far, far too long. I’d forgotten that music actually has depth: bass lines as well as tinny treble.

I had Midi Minx home with me and Mini this morning – school had sent her home yesterday with abdominal pain and a hot, itchy forehead rash. Well, they did when they finally got hold of me! There’s no / limited mobile signal in the village, so when the school had called my mobile at 11am and left a message asking me to come pick up Midi and take her home, well, I didn’t get it. I didn’t hear them call the landline, and no message was left. At 1230 hrs I’d left the house to take Mini to a playdate. At 1330 hrs, school had tried the mobile again. At 1345 hrs, they called the house where we were at the playdate. Imagine my surprise to find that the call was for me… How had they tracked me down?! Impressive! And mortifying. And worrying. Emergency phone numbers are now updated!

Actually, yesterday was evidence of my progress towards being a less clingy mum: I’d left Mini with the kind mum who’d invited us over when I went to get Midi. Well, Mini had been having a lovely time, and had piped up: “I don’t want to go with you, Mummy!”, pushing my face away from hers by boinking me on the nose. Riiiiight! Although I’m happy and proud to see her independent self-confidence, I’m still haunted by the preceding 3 years of extreme clinginess. God, the evidence of that clinginess is all over most early posts of this blog! The same lovely mum dropped Mini back at home at school hometime, and even picked up Maxi from the school for me so that Midi hadn’t had to leave the house. I felt very humbled by her thoughtfulness.

So. Back to 20th. Midi was at home with us, wrapped in a fleece blanket in front of the TV, with Mini snuggled beside her, trying to win some sympathy points from me too. My friend visited and the girls happily drew on an activity book she’d brought them while we talked. Ha! That was the only time that day that I sat down and relaxed…

Midi had a GP appointment at 1110 hrs, and after lots of quizzing yesterday I’d made a mummy-guess-diagnosis of a possible UTI. So all morning I’d made sure she’d drank lots of water. I tried to get a sample of wee from 1030 hrs, 3 hours after the last time she’d gone to the toilet. Nope. I tried reassurance. No. I tried silence. Non. I tried turning on a tap for the sound of flowing water. Nothing. I tried dribbling water from a jug over her vulva. Nowt. The poor wee thing had real performance anxiety! I gave up at 1100hrs and chased off to the GP’s surgery. We tried again after another flask of water in the car. No.

The GP was very thorough, but couldn’t really conclude anything. The lack of peeing went against UTI. The rash didn’t really link with anything. I’d given Midi Piriton this morning when her left eye had puffed up. There was nothing obvious giving her a rash. No new animal or obvious allergen exposure. No fever. No sore throat. No raised glands. Just a funny itchy head, intermittent ab pain by her left bottom ribs and burning when she peed.

Luckily, I had 3 more trips to make that day past the surgery, so could take that bloomin’ pee sample in our own sweet time and hand it in later (I did. It looked clear and normal. I didn’t hear back so it must have been fine).

We drove home, had just enough time to have some soup for lunch, then back into town (yep, same one that the GPs surgery was in) to drop Mini off at nursery. Back home. Half an hour to clean up and fretfully hoover a bit, then back to the GPs to go have a coil fitted.

I’ve never had one before, and only agreed to it because my periods are so heavy that it’s been affecting my life for a few years (leaking after 90 minutes on the Uber-Mega-Massive-Nelly-the-Elephant sized tampon for 1 or 2 days out of every 24, and not being, em, well, dry for more than 3 days in every 24. And having to take iron tablets for more months of the year than not. Rubbish, eh?). So why now? Well, I’d gotten so iron-deficient recently that I was having palpitations, struggling to breathe after even minor exertion, freezing cold literally all the time, toes and feet turning greeny-black for a few minutes when I got in the bath to heat up a bit, pins and needles most of the time, bad brain fog, blah, blah, blah. So it had to be worth a try to see if getting the coil (Mirena) would help a bit, eh?

Anyway. I was a bit apprehensive about lying semi-naked in front of 2 strangers, one of whom would be rummaging around inside me. Whilst I was still having a period. Gruesome. I was also nervous about whether it would hurt. I’ve had 3 children, but all by caesarean. My cervix only ever managed to dilate to a weedy little 5cm 6 years ago.

So did it hurt? Aye. It did. Fair nipped. The GP and nurse were both very sensitive and kind and really very caring towards me, so I felt a bit of a rotter admitting to them that it bloody hurt. Achy at first, then sharp stings. Just for a few seconds at a time, but on and off for a few minutes. I didn’t cry, but I did swear a bit. I tell you, though, if it stops me bleeding so much it’ll be soooo worth it! Though Lillets might go out of business…

Whilst I was spending my birthday having a rare old time (!), little Midi was quietly sitting in the waiting room colouring in for 15 minutes. What a wee star! I felt fine afterwards so was ready to nip off and do the half-million other jobs I had to do before picking up Mini from nursery in half an hour, but instead just sat and admired Midi’s drawings for a few minutes first. Lovely! It’s the stolen moments like that that really make me happy. That, and the 30 minutes nap I snatched snuggled into Mid’s shoulder on the sofa in front of CBeebies later that afternoon (bliss).

For my birthday tea I made us sausage rolls, ham sandwiches, the obligatory Philadelphia sandwiches (no-one likes them, but it wouldn’t be a party tea without them curling up uneaten in the corner), veg sticks and home-made houmus, tzatziki and tomato salsa, hula hoops, ginger beer (aye – lashings of it) and some fruit kebabs that The Boss made. …damn, I just realised that we forgot to eat the Party Ring biscuits. Argh!… The kids and The Boss had made me a lovely lemon drizzle cake last night, and it was delicious. Maxi doesn’t know that, though – she didn’t get any:

Normally after the Birthday Boy or Girl blows out their candles, we sing Happy Unbirthday to everyone else in turn and let them blow out the relit candles. At Maxi’s turn, instead of blowing out the candles, she kind of huffed / coughed over them. Trying to be funny. The Boss and I scolded her for being disgusting. Cue instant hysteria from our eldest. She wailed. She howled. “You always, always tell me off for everything!” she exaggerated. She wailed as loudly as she could and generally stropped about. “Thanks for spoiling my birthday”, I sniped, pettily, as her sisters joined in with very brattish Give-Me-That-Big-Slice-Now-No-That’s-Not-Big-Enough-Aaaaaarggggh!-It’s-So-Unfair. Maxi was sent to her room till she was ready to apologise or at least feel a bit calmer, while I magically stopped the others’ bratty behaviour in its tracks and pretended nothing had happened. Midi and Mini ate their cake, giggled, had a laugh, then toddled off to get ready for bed. All the while Maxi wailed, “Everyone hates me! No-one understands me! It’s so unfair!”

After maybe my 3rd attempt to get her to listen to why I’d found her coughing over a cake unacceptable behaviour, she stopped squawking long enough for me to speak. I don’t think she actually understood, though. Sheesh, it’s so bloody hard sometimes trying to explain! At 7 I think she should understand why her dad and I had objected to her coughing over others’ shared food. The wee voice in my head reminds me that she probably genuinely doesn’t understand, but it doesn’t stop me getting exasperated sometimes.

Spot the, um, power-tool

Spot the, um, power-tool

So, what high jinx did I get up to the night of my birthday? Helped The Boss build the huge Besta-moth of cabinets in the kitchen. Don’t panic – the blue is just the protective covering. It’s all glossy white. It will hold an entire room worth of clutter. The smaller Billy bookcase in the right of the photo will hold all my sewing stuff. Oh wow, it’s going to be so great to cram everything behind a shut-able door!

Spot the child

Spot the child

And Madam Midi Minx? Oh she’s snoring her little head off, surrounded by a couple of her toys (!) Can you spot her?!

Settling In

March 11

This morning the minxes had their biannual dental check. Back in September, I remember that the lovely new dentist had seemed quite intimidated by the Family Trout descending noisily on him at 0845hrs. And immediately afterwards, Midi and I had had to rush back to Elgin for a hearing test (she’s since been signed off the ENT department – hooray!). Gosh, only 6 months ago… Feels like a lifetime!

Today, the girls bickered about who was going to go first in the dentist’s chair. Mini shrieked loudest, and proudly strutted to the big chair, climbed up, laid back, closed her little eyes tight and opened her mouth trustingly, as wide as she could. Model patient. Like her sisters, there were no issues, no decay, no plaque. Easy-peasy. And like last time, I acknowledged that I had no part in their clean teeth so couldn’t claim any credit or glory – The Boss does the bed-time routine after work while I tidy up. And faff around on Facebook.

The socialising of Maxi continues. I had to teach her, as gently as I could, that talking about the dentist loudly, rather than to him, when he was in the same room, was rude. She got upset, even though I’d taken pains to make sure she knew she wasn’t being scolded, just taught. This is the approach me and The Boss are starting to take with her when she does or says something really awkward. It’s part of the dawning realisation that she genuinely struggles with understanding and taking in all the little social niceties that her sisters happily absorb, but she doesn’t. We’ve noticed repeatedly over the last 24 months that Maxi does take everything literally, and that she’s not trying to be cheeky.

Example, last week after an overly-boisterous and grizzly afternoon I ended up yelling, “Just eat your dinner and keep your mouths shut! Tight! No noise!” After a few minutes, I chided Maxi for not eating her dinner. Instead of arguing, she started to cry big fat teardrops. I asked her what was wrong now. She stared at me mutely, her lips pressed together. Lightbulb. “It’s ok, you can speak”, I told her. It all came tumbling out: how could she possibly eat with her mouth closed? And even if she was allowed to eat, how could she eat and make no noise? I took a big deep breath and tried to explain that I’d been too cross to speak literally and had used a kind of shorthand. Satisfied with that, she happily ate her dinner without grumbling too much. I remember The Boss raising an eyebrow at me, and us comparing notes: she really, really does take everything literally. Oh boy…

The dentist (still lovely, and great at explaining things to the kids this time) was very fast, so all 3 were safely tucked away in nursery and school by 9.40am. What to do, what to do…? It was still gloriously sunny, so I took off for a wee swift 2 mile circular walk round the village, ending up retracing the end of the walk me and Mini had done yesterday. It was mostly on big estate tracks or on woodland tracks, and it was just heavenly. Oh, the bliss of being able to walk at my own pace! To be able to walk in a straight line without detouring to check out every single pebble! To be able to march and stomp about and swing my arms and feel *energetic* once more! Ah, if I’d not worn tight jeans I think I’d have jogged round, I felt so euphoric! I spotted a field of snowdrops and an enormous clump of daffodils that should be out in a week or so – lots of reasons to repeat the fun.

I had time to shower and blow-dry my dumb-ass stooooopid hair (love the colour; hate the length!) before picking up Mini from nursery. Just as well – instead of running towards me shrieking “Mummeeeeeee!”, Mini waddled towards me, looking uncomfortable, plucking at her bum, trailing a fog of green smoke. She’d poo-ed herself. Lovely. When I told the staff I was going to be in the toilets for a while, not to lock me in, the lovely ladies offered to clean Mini up for me. Nooooo! (Though I did think about it for 5 whole, tempting seconds).

Still, we got back home in time to put some potatoes on to boil before picking Mini’s sisters up from school. This was their second ever home-lunch, and turned out to be just as successful as the last one: the girls raced home, were overjoyed at there being peas and cake (lunch was just last night’s dinner’s leftovers – we’re on a biiiiiig economy drive), ate everything enthusiastically like they were half-starved, declared that they loved stovies* (recipe below) more than anything (even lasagne), and got back to school in time for a 15 minute play. Perfect!

When we got back from the lunchtime school run, Mini looked like she was going to fall asleep, so she had a quiet afternoon in front of CBeebies while I ironed *yawwwwwn*, then played with me at taking selfies with the camera.

It’s not everyone’s idea of a heavenly day, but it’s pretty close to mine.

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Stovies

It seems there are a million different recipes for stovies. The best one I ever heard of was via my friend I. He quoted: “Peel some potatoes and boil them tae fuck”. That’s probably about right. I’ve tried lots of different variants, and this was today’s version that the kids seemed to enjoy – they licked their plates and begged to be allowed to scrape the pot clean.

  • peel about 1.5 potatoes per person
  • slice them thickly and put in a thick-bottomed pan
  • poke them around with half a sliced onion and some lard over a medium heat for a few minutes.
  • dollop in leftover gravy and roast beef from the weekend. The gravy was dark and thick and strong; I diced the roast beef up.
  • add enough boiling water so the liquid reaches halfway up the potatoes.
  • bring to the boil, put the lid on, lower to a simmer, leave alone for 2 hours.
  • don’t let it boil dry. Season at the end if it really needs it.
  • just before serving, throw in a double handful of frozen peas.

Spring is Sprung

Right, now that I’m feeling more of my old self than I have in 7 months, I’m going back to my old style of blogging: just a daily blah of all the mundane minutiae that we get up to.

Today felt special, even before I opened my eyes. I woke up unsquashed by minxes (they’d slept in their own beds. Finally!), I’d had a full night’s sleep, and I could smell the coffee The Boss had lovingly brought me in bed. (OK, I say lovingly. That’s actually shorthand for “very afraid of the consequences of me stomping about without a jolt of caffeine first. Very, very afraid”). When I peeled my eyelids open, I could see sunshine seeping in around the blind. I could hear only Killer Cat complaining that she wanted out – the minxes were all snoring. Ah… peace for a precious 5 minutes!

We still managed to be almost late for school, though, but that’s what happens when you let your kids eat their breakfast without nagging them. And sneak a peek on all the things you’re desperately eBaying. And a cheeky check on Facebook while you’re there.

Last week I had to make the 4 Minute Walk of Shame with a shrieking, screeching, tantrumming Mini who kicked and windmilled at the deprivation of being made to walk the whole 100 yards to school. She screamed the whole way there, the whole time I waited on the elder 2 going into school, and the whole way back. Mortified. Good morning neighbours, time to rise and shine. Yes, I just moved into your neighbourhood last week. I’m sure you can’t wait to meet me or my noisy kids either. Yes there are 300 of them, and they’re all as badly brought up as this one. Today, I got the 4 Minute Walk of Shame with a wailing Maxi, who was objecting noisily to me not stopping everything and everyone in order to listen to her opinion about something. She seems to be growing up to be like my mum: absolutely no concept of keeping time, or being on time, or the need to be at a place for a specific time. Drives me insane.

MiniAfter faffing about with laundry and giving the air a chance to warm up, me and Mini set off exploring. We walked down a little country lane. I wasn’t sure whether it was a private drive or not, but we walked along, enjoying the snowdrops and the yew trees and the looking at the coal-tits (when you’ve only see seagulls, pigeons and oyster-catchers for years, the variety round here is great!). We took photos of each other. Looking at them, I can see that my 3 year old takes better photos than me! I seems like only yesterday she was learning to focus her own eyes, never mind focus a camera. The camera’s nearly as big as she is!

GrumpyOldTroutIn the distance, I saw a big black labrador without a lead. The dog saw us. I realised how alone we were and felt a little vulnerable. I remembered how much Mini hates dogs, turned on my heel and suggested we walk back, whilst setting off at a good tabbing pace. It was a smart move: the dog and its owner caught us up, the dog straining on its lead to jump lensmanup on Mini, slabbering its drool everywhere. I stood between it and my baby, and hauled the stupid thing away a few times by the collar. The owner happily chattered about how his dog was still just a puppy and still liked to jump up on children (!), and how he’d put it on the lead when he’d seen Mini. He was completely oblivious to the dog actually trying to jump on her and me. Right now. In front of him. Lead or not. Blimey, I don’t think he really ‘got it’ that he could pull the lead himself and actually control the dog’s behaviour… Bless.

I walked around a little public garden with Mini, looking at the unblossomed daffodils and all the different tree buds. She then decided that she was too tired and wanted to paint a picture of me instead. So we walked home, and I let her do her worst with her paints while I attacked the entire house’s glassware with the Mr Muscle. You do *not* want to know how black the living room windows were. And now they’re streaky. But they’re clean!

After dropping Mini at nursery, I enjoyed my first day in weeks of NOT having to nip down to the rented house to load up another car-boot load of stuff and clean another room. I spent the precious 90 minutes eBaying anything else that I had photographs of and thought I could maybe sell.

It takes 4 minutes to walk to school in the morning; it takes Midi 2 minutes to run back home; it takes Maxi about half an hour if she’s cajoled and dragged (an hour or longer if I left her to herself). It was still sunny (balmy high of 9degC. Too cold for middle-aged mummies with faulty internal thermometers, but fine for 3 girls with anti-freeze for blood), so the minxes played in the garden from 3.30 till 5. I’m not surprised that Mini and Midi fell asleep by 8 this evening. And Maxi? Good God, the bonkers child has decided that right now (9pm) is a great time to practice her recorder! Sheesh.

New School Mk II

Argh, where to start? Well, we’ve been busy at Garrison Trout: we’ve moved house. Our lovely home on the beautiful Moray Firth coast finally sold, and we’ve bought fairly close to where we’ve been renting since August. I’ll give you the low-down on the new house and village another time, but in a nutshell: light, airy, warm, clean, functional, friendly neighbours, welcoming community, smiley people, hills and woods, rolling countryside, rural, happy, happy, happy.

It also meant a move to yet another new school for Maxi and Midi Minx. I didn’t take that decision lightly, remembering the full month that it took them to settle down in the last new school in August. And even then, we still had leg-clinging and tearful goodbyes for weeks afterwards. This time I went over to interview the headteacher first, to intercept any problems.

“[Maxi] doesn’t have Asperger Syndrome, but she shares an *awful lot* of traits with people who do”, I’d told him, knowingly. He looked a bit alarmed, but didn’t skip a beat. At the end of an hour’s chat, he’d worked out a plan to gently induct Maxi and Midi to the school. I’ve no idea if other kids get this kind of attention, but my word, what a star!

They first did a Friday afternoon at the beginning of February: just PE and Golden Time, so no pressure at all. The headteacher was in the playground waiting for them as we arrived, all 3 girls hiding behind my legs and clinging to each other. He called over a hello, introduced himself, and “Everyone knows you’re coming and they *can’t wait* to meet you”. Serious Maxi’s little face broke into a smile. I left them in his care and beetled off. I picked them 2 happy little girls a couple of hours later, full of tales of their new buddies (kids identified as caretakers for the newbies) and their new teacher.

Then they did the Wednesday afternoon before half-term. Like on their previous visit, I took them out the playground of their old school, with half a dozen of their friends sweetly waving goodbye to them (some really lovely kids there that the girls are now missing). Afterwards, they seemed just as happy and enthusiastic to start.

We had a long week at home for half-term immediately afterwards, where I reluctantly had to ignore them most days as I was packing up the house to move. Actually, that was quite a week: as well as packing and cleaning, and ignoring the lake in the middle of the living room (leaky window lintel), we celebrated The Boss’s 35th birthday and also celebrated Midi’s 6th birthday a day early so that she could open her presents on the last day of half-term when her Daddy was actually at home (he was heading back to Moray to supervise the removal men shifting from the old home).

So, the first day of the new term, on Midi’s actual birthday, and in shiny new uniforms – same colour as the last 2 schools, though! – they started school. I was more nervous than them, but I’m better at hiding it. I’d no need to worry – the head brought us all in early, showed the girls their named pegs, their trays, and talked them through the normal morning routine. Oh.My.Good.God… an organised induction! I swear I could see Maxi’s fret-lines disappear, and her little shoulders relaxed as The Scary Unknown disappeared in a puff of thoughtful explanation. At home time, the girls were full of tales of new buddies and yummy school dinners and everyone singing happy birthday to Midi.

The one thing that nearly reduced me to tears, though: I think I’ve said how long Maxi takes to eat. She’s linger over meals for hours if she could. She’s been like that since she was weaned. She just cuts and chews far slower than everyone. She likes to savour how her meals look and taste. I’ve tried all manner of bribes and scolds to speed her up, but realised that I’m on a hiding to nothing. At her last school, it felt like she was forever being punished for taking longer than 20 minutes to eat her lunch: she’d be made to bring her lunch tray to the foyer and finish it there, beside the toilets. And this was after receiving a scolding from the dinner lady. Contrast this with New School Mk II: Maxi was shovelling her lunch down as fast as she could, even though she was really enjoying it. The dinner lady said, “Oh don’t rush it – slow down and enjoy your food”. What a wonderful thing to say to that particular little girl! And even better: “Would you like me to stay and chat with you? Tell me about yourself?” I don’t think my little chatterbox could have been understood any better.

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We’re now starting Week 3 at the new school, and both girls have made lots of friends. From Day 3 they’ve zoomed off in the playground and not wanted to pause to kiss their Mummy and little sister goodbye. They like their teachers, they’ve started making close friends, and the brilliant thing about living in the village: playdates! And another thing: being able to walk to school in 4 minutes flat. And a final thing: last week we had our first ever home-lunch. I picked the minxes up, raced them home to a house that was reeking of my own take of stovies, they demolished it happily (first time ever…) and walked back in plenty of time for afternoon school. There’ll be lots of home-lunches now that I need to be on a serious economy drive, and now that we can actually walk to and from school and eat leisurely in time.

Yippee!! Happy, happy, happy!

The Things Kids Say No. 3971

Aside

Midi Minx stared at me solemnly at dinner.

“Mummy, I know how Jesus died”, she said, head downcast, eyes like deep pools.

“Oh?” I said warily. I’ve been trapped in conversations like this with my minxes a fair few times before.

She stretched her arms out in a crucifix. “He was pinned to a signpost”.

I’m still dying here. Can barely type through tears…