End of Term Quick Catch-up

So what’s going on at Trout Towers just now? Well, it’s getting close to the end of term…

She's so cool and she doesn't realise it

She’s so cool and she doesn’t realise it

Every work surface at home is covered in Mini Minx’s finger-painted cards of bunnies and chicks, Midi has been experimenting with hard-boiled eggs and Maxi has started taking the instrument home from school that she’s been learning to play. It’s a double bass. She can barely lift it. I struggle not to use it to corral the kids like a shepherd. I am, yet again, also glad that we live only a short walk from the school…

Scary sight. And the egg's a bit frightening, too

Scary sight. And the egg’s a bit frightening, too

Midi was tasked with decorating a hard-boiled egg like a book character for homework tomorrow. “OOoooh”, I enthused, “You’ve got about a hundred permanent colour Sharpies that Grandma got you – you could use those!” So Midi being Midi, she slouched in her chair for an hour, meticulously colouring in her egg as Toothless, the all-black dragon. I suppose I should be glad that she drew it smiling, which is vaguely normal.

Her second bit of homework was to construct something around the egg that would allow it to be rolled along the playground without it cracking. I’m not sure that covering it in a ton of bubble-wrap is really what the teacher had in mind…

One or 2 chicks...

One or 2 chicks…

Mini, meanwhile, has a blood test later this afternoon to start investigating why she’s now covered head to foot in eczema. It came on overnight in the middle of December, as did mine. It seemed obvious that it therefore was because of something we ate or touched or did. But it’s beaten my analytical skills – I can’t figure it out at all. We didn’t eat anything new that week. We’ve never changed washing powders, fabric conditioners, shower-gels, etc. – I’m really boring and stick to the same ones year in, year out. We didn’t go anywhere special that week. My eczema took ages to clear up. Hers hasn’t. She’s been covered in moisturisers and moderate strength corticosteroids since, glugging antihistamines night and day. The only thing that’s made any difference was taking erythromycin for an infected ingrowing toenail*. Her skin cleared up briefly, but it’s coming back in bright red patches again.

So: because antihistamines seem to have no effect, I don’t think it’s an allergy to anything. You never know, though, so I guess it makes sense to start checking there while we wait for the dermatology referral to come through (crikey, that hospital will be sick of the sight of us Trouts, trouping back and forth…). Today’s drill, then, will be applying ‘Magic Cream’ and taking Mini to the nurse. I fear I’m still a little traumatised from the last time she had a blood test.

I’m starting to plan Maxi’s birthday party. When I asked her what she wanted to do, the poor girl sadly said, “I’d love a birthday party, but I’ve got no friends”. My heart broke. So I’m planning a movie night for just a couple of the kids in her class. I’m not sure that they’ll come, though, because it’s in the Easter holidays and they’re much older than her. I figure that a Movie Night is less like a child’s party and a wee bit more grown-up, would be fun regardless of whether she has 5 guests or just her sisters, and therefore is low pressure for Maxi.

She’s still having a tricky time at school. She decided to quit a pupil-run dance club because she was getting fed up being ordered about by the older girl leading it, hated the music, thought the dance moves were silly, and had had enough of having no say. She said the other kids were fed-up too, but were too frightened to quit because the older girl threatened them with all manner of trouble and ire. I told Maxi just to quit: “No-one can force you to do anything you don’t want to do. I completely endorse your wish to have your lunchtimes outdoors again. Go for it”. The older girl didn’t like this at all, and has been crowing to anyone who’ll listen that she kicked Maxi out, rather than that she quit. Maxi’s very vexed with the lies, but I gave her another coaching session in how to shrug and smirk to devastating effect. “The less bothered you look, the angrier she’ll get, because there’s nothing else she can do”, I advised Maxi. “Smile sweetly at her, shrug and say nothing. And gloat inside”. Oooooo, I’m such a bad mother!!

Finally, my long-haired trio now all sport neat bobs. Maxi started it last year, and her bob has been getting shorter and shorter. It’s now chin-length. Midi had her waist-length blonde locks cut into a chin-skimming sharp cut that makes her look very grown-up. Even Mini’s ginger frizz is now swishable for the first time in her 5 years. Ah, they’re growing up so quickly, now.

Bud 2

I just realised that I never did update on what happened about Maxi Minx being called names at school. Forgive me – I’m in the middle of 5 birthdays and as many teaching workshops, as well as all the standard gubbins, so I’ve not been writing much at all. The school’s response was very heart-warming:

Maxi showed Moore’s quote to her teacher that very morning and asked for it to be discussed at Circle Time* that afternoon. The teacher decided to call Circle Time straight after the immediate admin of registers and school dinner lists. He and a more experienced teacher discussed general name calling with the class. It sounds like they covered some brilliant points: what constitutes name-calling, why it hurts, where it stems from, and what they can all do about it.

*Circle Time is when the class sit in a circle and discuss a sensitive topic. Chatham House Rules apply, though they don’t call it that.

The thing that struck Maxi the most was probably the first and simplest thing:

“Mr S asked everyone who’d ever been called a name that hurt them to put their hand up”, Maxi told me. “And every single person put their hand up! Even the teachers!” she said, eyes huge. “Can you believe that, Mummy? Every single one of the grown-ups, too!” Well, yes, sweetheart, me and your Daddy told you that, but I guess you had to see it for yourself to believe us…

After Circle Time, Mr S pulled Maxi aside and checked how she felt. They agreed a little secret signal they’d use every day at home-time to use as a barometer of how she was feeling: he’d spot her in the line and give her a thumbs-up. If she returned the thumbs-up then that was fine and she could get on with getting ready to go home. If she gave a thumbs-down, she and he would stay behind and have a chat about what was bothering her. Maxi said she felt very reassured about that, as was I when she told me.

The teacher also discussed Maxi with the more experienced teacher of the other class, who then took Maxi aside later that day and sat her down. She told her that she (Maxi) was a very special girl; that she loved her; that the school was better for having a Maxi Minx in it; that there was no-one else in the whole world who was a Maxi Minx, and that she was never, ever to change.

When Maxi related this to me, I welled up. What sensitive, lovely teachers! I caught them both before school a few days later over another matter, and thanked them for the kindness and understanding that they’d shown my little girl. Mrs T gave me a huge hug, but Mr S and I just smiled broadly at each other (hugging a male teacher half my age doesn’t really feel appropriate, no matter how wonderful. And he, and Mrs T, are both wonderful people).

The headteacher told me that he’s planning to have a Special Educational Needs teacher come in at some point, as an intervention, to go through different social scenarios with Maxi. The aim would be to bolster my and Mr S’s attempts to help her become more emotionally resilient.

My favourite - the Gallic shrug. Breton-style stripey top optional. Photo from www.davidplusworld.com

My favourite – the Gallic shrug. Breton-style stripey top optional. Photo from http://www.davidplusworld.com

I hear that the name-calling in the school general has gotten worse, though. Perhaps before it gets better? The school sent a letter home to parents asking us to discuss respect for others with our kids. A whole school target of respecting others was made. Closer to home, I taught Maxi 5 or 6 different styles of shrugs so that she’s armed with suitable non-verbal replies to the idiots still trying to get a rise out of her. I know that as an adult she’ll have name-calling and snipes to deal with, that will hurt just as much but will be less overt, so I think that it’s important that she learns to deal with it rather than have the teaching staff lay down a ban and try to enforce it. And that’s why I’m so proud that she managed to discuss the issue with her teachers and then the class by herself, without me wading in with my size 5 feet.

Best Laid Plans Up in Smoke

Today I intended to take up Maxi Minx’s school trousers and spend some good quality time with her – just me and my girl, building complex train tracks in the peace and quiet of a 48hr germ-isolation from school. But you know me and my plans – they never materialise. It’s probably easiest if I just share my Facebook status:

“The silver lining: well, it’s always nice to have a spotlessly clean kitchen: every surface wiped, inside of cupboards clean, all the woodwork (yep ALL of the woodwork, including wooden cooking utensils, skirting board, doors, window frames, table and chairs) and walls scrubbed down, curtains washed and blinds aired… I may even finish by nightfall if I speed up.

“The cloud: leaving a pot of chicken stock on all night to go dry, burn and leave a thick cloud of smoke doesn’t half leave your kitchen pongy.

“The room’s sealed so well it didn’t set off the smoke alarm. So….

“The moral: The Boss is buying and fitting an additional smoke alarm for the kitchen. And we’re double-checking each other when we say the cooker’s turned off at night.


I’m also grateful that we didn’t die of smoke inhalation in our sleep, but y’know, saying that would have taken away from the humour of the status update. The Boss was horrified at how thick the black, acrid smoke was when he staggered into the kitchen this morning. I must retest the smoke alarm tonight before we go to bed. Yet the oil tank leak / theft alarm has been going off constantly (the alarms are bogus – we’ve been checking!)

So I spent from 7am till 3pm with only 2 coffee breaks continuously airing and scrubbing and sniffing everything in the kitchen. I went through an entire bottle of Flash. It’s now 9pm and I still can’t get rid of the smell, despite baking a huge toffee apple cake and a chicken pie. I have nothing left to wash or wipe. I think the smell is in the walls. The now squeaky clean walls.

Poor Maxi was abandoned to play and read all day without me – I kept the kitchen door closed to keep the bitingly cold wind and the terrible smell to that room only. She wasn’t on her own, though – in a wily move, Mini declared this morning that she had a sore tummy: “It’s stinging, Mummy! Can I have chocolate?” Normally I’d have given her short shrift, but with a bunch of newborns, old people and immuno-compromised folk in the community, I will *not* be responsible for killing one of them with a carelessly shared sick bug. So Mini stayed at home. She quickly regretted it. Not only did she not get any chocolate, but she soon realised that ‘alleged sore tummy = having to sit or lie down and no fun’. She was also there to see my dismay when the second highlight of my day happened:

“What else can go wrong? Oh yeah, I just found a nugget of something smelly and horrible that should have been in a toilet (my youngest hiding a little accident?!) lurking instead in the door seal of the washing machine. So that’ll be that wash load rewashed on boil wash. If any of it survives. I guess it’s one way to get grease stains out of The Boss’s workshirts. Every cloud and all that ;-)

The Boss brought a bottle of rum home from work tonight. He knows exactly what kind of day I’ve had!

I've been out-minxed by my mother. Bah!

I’ve been out-minxed by my mother. Bah!


Paint a Red Cross on the Door and Be Done With It!

Nooooo! Not the bleach! Anything but the bleach!

Nooooo! Not the bleach! Anything but the bleach!

Oh, I do love the mingling aromas of bleach and dinner in the evening!

Poor Maxi is ill. She started having smelly eggy burps and raging halitosis again yesterday, so I checked her throat – she’s got tonsilitis again, for the 2nd time this year. Liquid paracetamol seemed to be managing it. I saw her playing rounders outside when I picked Mini up from nursery before lunch. She waved weakly at me, ashen-faced. I hung around to watch, not because I’m interested in the kids’ sports class or their young teacher, but because she looked quite ill. Sure enough, 5 mins later, she asked to be excused back indoors. I agreed with her teacher that she could have lunch and see how she felt, and assured him I’d nip round in 2 minutes flat to pick her up if he called.

I waited for the call. No call. So Mini and I spent a lovely sunny afternoon doing gardening: I’d picked up some dinky metal buckets and herb seeds when I raced round the supermarket this morning (Supermarket! Without Mini? However did I manage without my little shopping buddy?! But it was so I could pick up one of her birthday presents unseen. A pink and purple Furby. It’ll be friends with Midi’s rainbow Furby. Three kids, 1 cat and 2 Furbys… I must be mad). Anyway, Mini had fun dunking the compost tablets in water and watching them whoosh up in seconds to fill the pot. She loved scooping up the compost and twirling the seeds on the top, especially when I said not to worry about the mess. She looked at me like I’d been possessed, then gleefully chucked a bit of compost at the cat.

Then in a fit of bravado, I decided to finally plant the tulip bulbs, outside in the howling gale. Forty of them. Yeah, the ones that should have been planted in autumn. Oops… Well, I’ve been enjoying counting all the little daffodil buds poking through the soil by the fence and in pots every day just as much as the minxes have. And we only planted them last month!

So, to work. Maxi and I had dug out the turf and a round tonne of rocks and boulders from a little 8 x 4ft patch in the back garden at the weekend. It’s one of those annoying patches that are really annoying to mow, and that no-one wants to play on because of the horrible, aggressive, yappy dog next door barking and salivating through the gaps in the fence at us.

I found some weed membrane and fought with 30m of that stuff flagging the air in the blustery gale. Mini and I managed to haul it down from roof-height and lay it roughly over the bare soil. I pinned it down with scrubby pot plants, boulders and a big old hexagon of wood that The Boss had made 2 years ago in a bid to build a climbing frame for the minxes (and that’s stood by the oil tank going grey for the past year). It would make a fine flower bed border. Mini and I dug and planted those bulbs (maybe a third looked ok, a third looked iffy and the remainder had blue mould on them), then shook some creeping thyme seeds over the top. I don’t care that it’s far too early to plant them – the packet said Sow By Year Ending 2009. Oops again… I have plans to plant herbs and strawberries all around the border, through the membrane, but that’ll be when the temperature is high enough for me to take the winter tyres off the car.

We just had time to water the hexagon bed, chuck everything into the wheelbarrow and wash hands before racing off to pick up the other minxes from school. Maxi came out of school looking pale and sad and burst into tears as I hugged her. Her teacher said she’d been complaining of tummy ache and a sore throat. Poor wee mite! She’s rarely ill and even then doesn’t complain much.

So I cancelled swimming classes yet again, parked Midi and Mini in front of the electrical babysitter with hot chocolate and marshmallows, then gave Maxi a big deep bubble bath. I’ve never seen an 8 yo enjoy a bath so much! She played with the bubbles like a toddler, and floated around in the quiet for half an hour while I got on with laundry, picking up discarded jackets and shoes, emptying schoolbags and asking how her day went. (She’d had her second double-bass lesson over lunch break. She’s called the instrument Brian and it’s bigger than she is. She’s so cool and she doesn’t realise it!). I washed and conditioned her beautiful hair, washed and dried her like she was a wee girl, trimmed her toenails, gave her Lovely Strokes (massaged her skin with moisturiser) then blow-dried her hair. She had a bit more colour in her cheeks and sighed with pleasure at all the gentle, quiet pampering. I made her a little nest on the sofa with cushions and blankets, parked a water bottle beside her, shooed away her fussing sisters who suddenly wanted to kiss her, then got on with making the monthly cauldron of bolognaise sauce.

I got as far as chopping onions when I heard a gurgling wail – Maxi had raced to the bathroom, catching her vomit en-route. The poor kid was stood at the sink, holding her Bagpuss in one hand, vomit in the other, balancing on one foot – the hand hadn’t been enough, she’d really needed a bucket, so it was *everywhere*). She was distraught at fragging her Bagpuss and her clean PJs that had been on for 9 whole minutes. I gave her a quick clean up and a hug, parked her back on the sofa with a big bucket, fresh water and different teddy, got Bagpuss into the washing machine and scrubbed the bathroom and hall.

Maxi barfed again later, so I guess that’s her confined to quarters for the next 48 hours and me cancelling a stack of appointments. Och well. So long as no-one else catches it! Midi had the vomiting virus a couple of weeks ago and my washing machine was on without a pause for 36 hours. A whole day and a half. Well, when you projectile vomit from the top of a bunk-bed, there’s an awful, awful lot of collateral damage…

Maxi’s now asleep on the sofa, spooning Killer Cat who is purring away contentedly. I’m fairly sure that the cat’s bucket of nails for a brain works fast enough so she’ll leap away if Maxi throws up in her general direction…?

Trout’s Chicken Soup

I’m trying to muster the energy to tell you about last couple of weekends, with a couple of birthdays, parties and poorly children. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d jot down the directions for my favourite chicken soup because I’ve eaten loads of it this week. I love it when I’m feeling a bit off-colour, or when I want something light to eat that’s filling, or when I need comfort food, or when I’m fed-up with bland food. Bland this definitely is not! The minxes love it too, though I suspect in their cases it’s mostly because I let them add the flavourings at the end to their bowls as suits them, ie they get to play with their food.

I also say ‘directions’ rather than recipe, because it’s not the kind of thing I make the same way twice. Finally, this amount is generally enough to feed all 5 of us. And we’re pretty greedy.

1. First, put 1.5 – 2 litres of chicken stock in a big pot. You could use 1 or 2 stock cubes and the right amount of boiling water if you wanted, but honestly, if you’re roasting a chicken any time soon, it’s much nicer and really, really easy to make your own. See directions at the end.

Chicken Soup Ingredients2. Add some vegetables (the last time I added some sliced bits off the green end of a leek and 2 big carrots sliced on the diagonal. The time before that it was chopped onion and a tin of drained sweetcorn. Whatever you like. Think about colours: leek, carrot, red pepper and sweetcorn would look amazing!).

3. Add some leftover chicken meat and / or 1-2 sliced garlic cloves and / or a chopped up ginger slice, if you like.

4. Bring to the boil then simmer for 3 mins to start cooking the vegetables.

5. Add some thin noodles (it’s ASDA udon noodles in the photo. They were perfectly light. Thread noodles are great, too).

6. Continue simmering until the noodles are cooked – 4 mins or so.

Ready to serve up

Ready to serve up!

7. Remove from the heat then add your flavourings! In this amount of soup, I like 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce (nam pla) and the juice of half a lime. I don’t add salt because it doesn’t taste right in this soup.

8. Serve with whatever bread you fancy. Adjust your flavourings to your own taste.

Chicken Stock: pick the roasted chicken carcass of most of its meat. Put the carcass in your biggest pan. Cover it with cold water (about 2 litres of water). Add a single sliced garlic clove, a couple of spring onions chopped into 3 or 4 bits, and a couple of slices of ginger. Bring to the boil. Put the lid on. Simmer gently for 90 mins – 2 hours. Strain. Chuck away the bones and veg. The liquid will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, or you could freeze it the same day.

My Weird Bud

Maxi Minx has been feeling particularly troubled recently with classmates continually calling her a weirdo. It’s been going on for a while. She’s carved the hidden side of her bed with “I am a weirdo” and I sometimes find that she’s written it on bits of paper littering her bedroom. Every time she’s mentioned it I’ve told her to keep on daring to be different, that I treasure her individuality and that when she’s an adult she’ll be glad she wasn’t a sheep. But it’s hard to take that perspective when you’re only little!

Sometimes, though, you hear what an outsider says better than you hear yer auld mammy’s words. So last night I shared this quote from Graham Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech with her because she’d had another anxious evening after more name-calling. We had another chat about individuality and the qualities that make people special. I found a YouTube clip of Moore’s speech and we listened to that as well. I shared the quote on my Facebook status.
Graham Moore speech

It had a huge impact on Maxi. She hugged me and said I’d made her night. She wrote out the quote twice. She pinned one to the wall beside of her bed, and she folded the other one up to take to school in her pencil case, where she can reread it when she needs to.

rainbow fishAfter she went to bed, I checked Facebook again. My status had grown into a long series of heartfelt posts sharing fellow weirdos’ school experiences. The sheer love and support in that thread made me cry. So this morning before school I sat Maxi on my lap and we read through it together (she’s 8 and I curse and rant a lot on the privacy of my page, so she’s entirely banned from seeing Facebook over my shoulder). She hugged me tighter and tighter as we talked about how so many people feel or have felt the way she does. We talked about the things all us fellow weirdos have in common (personal success, strength and achievements) and what characteristics the tormentors and bullies share.

Normally when I ask her who calls her a weirdo, she just wails, “Everyone!” This morning I challenged her to list names. Funny old thing, the same 3 names as have repeatedly tormented her for being half-English, and who allegedly bully and tease another family of kids over their surname. None of the bullies are the brightest of God’s little sunbeams (!), but they’re certainly smart when it comes to stinging other kids’ feelings. On the other hand, she told me that 2 older girls call her a weirdo and routinely tell her that being weird is a good thing to be. I figured Maxi’s maybe a bit young to discuss how people have ‘reclaimed’ hurtful slurs from homophobes and racists, for example, but I think she understands.

The minxes’ school never ignores reports of bullying. Perhaps their favoured method of dealing with it, though, is discussing it in Circle Time. I’m yet to be entirely convinced on whether it works to change attitudes and behaviours – maybe. I wonder what difference it would make, though, if kids could challenge each other directly on instances of anti-social behaviour in Circle Time instead of speaking about problems generically? Anyway, I think it’s my responsibility to teach her how to deal with unfair criticism and fools rather than rely on teachers rescuing her every time. Otherwise how will she handle bigger idiots in high school? Or in the work place? I guess I need to teach her a lot better than I’m currently doing, though, so I really valued the help from my friends on my Facebook feed! Still, I suggested to Maxi that she show her teacher Moore’s quote and ask for Circle Time today to be held on name-calling.

On the way to school this morning I called Maxi over to the miniature flower bed Midi and I had made last month. ‘Flower bed’ is a bit grand – it’s a teeny patch of scrubby ground that I put a tray of cheap, dried-up flower bulbs under. Astoundingly, some of the anemones are starting to poke through the caked, dried mud, their growing red buds leaving cracks in their wake.

“What can you see there?” I asked Maxi.

“Oooooh, there’s buds coming through! Four of them! And they’re all red. Oh wow!” she breathed.

“Do you see how even though me and Midi flattened the ground over them, they’re still breaking through? They’ve not given up, getting stronger all winter long. Even though there’s lots of heavy mud all around, trying to force them down. They’re nearly ready to blossom and show the world how special and beautiful they are. Just like you. When kids call you a weirdo, rise above it. When you’re older, you’ll bloom into a very special young woman. I promise”.

No, she didn’t vomit at that! She just smiled, laughed, wondered what colour the flowers would be, then skipped off to school: armed and ready to challenge a handful of idiots. I can’t wait to hear how she got on!

Standard Half-Term Rollercoaster

You're fooling no-one, Mini

You’re fooling no-one, Mini

Thursday was Day 1 of half-term. If the week continues like this, I’ll have aged a few decades before they go back to school.

It started really well with a playdate early on Thursday morning with one of Mini’s nursery friends and her little sister. The little sister is at that fantastic age when toddlers are becoming properly independent, able to walk where they want, use some words to express what they want, and in to absolutely everything. I say fantastic: it is to me, watching with reminiscing eyes and NOT the one with the sleepless nights, having to hover and Not.Blink.Not.Even.Once. Ha. I do remember and even blogged a bit about it… I guess this is what being a granny is going to feel like, but with the ‘affection’ feeling dialled right up into ‘unconditional love’.

The day got even better: a letter arrived addressed to me and The Boss from the school, telling us that Midi had gained 50 ClassDojo points*, that her teachers were very proud of her and that we should be as well. To reward her, she could come into school the next full day in whatever clothes she liked. Midi read it herself and literally bounced to the end of the house. I think she’s pleased… I’d thought they’d already made a big fuss of her for reaching 50 points: the whole of that day, she’d gotten to be first in every queue, her table were first to go anywhere, she got picked to be the one who did the weather chart, etc. etc. What a lovely thing to do! I suspect she is going to remember this achievement for the rest of her life!

After the world’s fastest lunch of fishfingers and beans (parp!), we got to swimming for Mini just in time, in our now-reliable car, and had a jolly old time while we waited on her lesson ending: I got to blether to my friend whose eldest daughter is in the same swimming class, and treated my eldest 2 minxes to crisps and fancy-pancy water.

So, you’d think they’d all be in a fairly good mood later that afternoon when we got home. Non. First, Midi was sat at the table, jabbering about someone (I wasn’t listening – I was mentally totting off a list of things to do for her birthday party on Sunday). Suddenly I heard the words “f**king w**ker” trip from the rosebud lips of my 6 yo. She also looked slyly at me. I didn’t get angry or shout. I just pointed out that if I told her teacher, she wouldn’t just lose one ClassDojo point, she’d have them all taken off her. I told her I was very disappointed as she knew better than to swear, and never in front of Mini. Midi went red, burst into tears and raced to her bed.

Well, I couldn’t shout, could I? That would have been hypocritical of Potty-Mouthed me. But I tell you, her accent when she pronounced those words was definitely not Glaswegian, so I think I can claim innocence – it had a definite ‘FOO-ging WANG-er’ sort of mid-Englandshire twang to it. So I’ve no idea where she heard it. And I reckon Mini is probably already gleefully repeating it. Bah.

I went to her room to calm her down and have a chat. Midi was sobbingly apologetic and promised not to say it again. I told her I believed her. “Don’t tell Daddy!” she begged, “You tell him everything!”. While we were quietly talking, we heard Maxi’s siren wail go off. I’ve had nearly 6 years of Maxi’s Drama Siren Shriek shattering my ears (since she was 3). Although nowadays I try to ignore it, it sets my nerves jangling every time. It sounded like she’d had a limb severed. This is normal for her, and usually signifies that Mini’s threatened to lick her soft toy Bagpuss or some other equally horrendous terror. The siren kept on. I went to investigate.

I don’t know why Maxi had been rolling on the floor in the first place, but Mini had decided to sit down on her face, hard, to get her own back on Maxi for something. Neither girl was clear on the reasoning behind any of this. Those were the only facts I got. So it seems Mini’s tail-bone battered off poor Maxi’s nose. From the initial swelling I suspected a broken nose. Luckily it wasn’t, and the new banana bend in her previously slim and pretty nose faded after lots of cold compresses.

I tell you, I really needed to get out for a glass of wine at the pub that night! My wallet didn’t – I never buy whole bottles for wine at home that cost that much – so had to nurse it all evening. Still, it was great to get out and have a laugh and a blether with a big bunch of women similarly escaping half-term demons.

*ClassDojo is a computer app that Midi’s class uses that tracks each child’s behaviour. The kids get awarded points for doing things like working hard, working well in a team, persevering, that kind of thing: there are 8 or so different areas. They can also have points deducted for bad behaviour. Typically, Midi gets one or 2 points a day. The sole time she had a point deducted she was devastated (she sobbed so much she made the classroom assistant who’d deducted the point cry). As the parents can view the points from their PC or smartphone, the app also lets the teacher send messages to parents in a whole-class broadcast or individually. Parents can also reply or send messages to the teacher. Handy! Midi’s teacher is experimenting with sending photos to parents, so the Dojo points are illustrated with examples of work that they were awarded for. I was skeptical at first, but am now a convert.