Two Swims For the Price of One

Mini Minx and I had gotten out of the habit of going swimming every week, so I decided to formally reinstate it, with proper swimming lessons. We’d done the same ones 2 years before, with Midi. Mini bloody hated them, which was why after that block was over and Midi ‘graduated’, we’d let them lapse into just going the odd time ourselves. So… how did Mini get on?

Well, she enjoyed them. Can’t say the same for the hitch-hiker, though… I’d put a big old waterproof dressing over my now stitch-less back scar, in a bid to keep manky swimming water out. I’m getting used to a permanent low-grade tickle over that area as it heals. But I felt like there were beads of water running down from my neck. Then it felt like they were running sideways. Hmmm… Nope, gravity was still the same as normal. I brushed at my shoulders and back in case a wee insect was fluttering about. The tickling kept up, so I looked over as much of my shoulder as I could. I thought I caught a glimpse of a body. Oh God…please don’t be a wasp! I asked a fellow-mum if I had any insects crawling on me.

“Nope, nothing th-ARGH!” and she looked in horror at my shoulder at the front. Assuming everyone has a wasp-phobia like me, I thought the worst, and kind of levitated out the water while brushing madly at my skin.

It was a little bigger than this

It was a little bigger than this

“Plop”, went the big thing that had been hitching a ride on my shoulders – a big old house spider. It was one of the bigger ones that I’ve seen: maybe palm-sized. Me, I have a soft spot in my heart for cows (and a soft spot in my tummy for lambs, yum) and quite like spiders, so I scooped it up from where it was dancing frantically in the water and threw it over the side, where it sat lurking and miserable for the rest of the swimming lesson. It wasn’t dead, as it had disappeared by the very end.

Just in case you thought I had unusually small hands...The actual lesson was fine: Mini refused to put her face in the water and didn’t like being told what to play with and when. She wanted to rocket down the slide all lesson. I tried to trick her by dropping toys in the water (“Oops, silly clumsy Mummy! Please can you help me pick them up so my back doesn’t get wet?”) but that only worked twice before she scolded me and insisted, “Just leave it be, Mummy!”

Predictably, it wasn’t the swimming that was the traumatic bit – it was the showers before and after. I tried putting her goggles on for them and it helped a little, but not enough to get her properly rinsed. But the brilliant thing about only having one child to worry about: after lunch I gave her a leisurely bath, long massage with thick moisturiser, and slow blowdry. She is now a calm, drowsy, happy little thing again. Result!

Baby Knows Best x 2

Yesterday was Swimming Day. I was also incredibly hormonal and the grumpiest of grumpy old trouts. Not a good combination…

We set off a little late because the minxes had refused to get changed quickly. To compound my bad mood, I was stuck behind a maroon Jaguar. I generally don’t mind tucking patiently behind slower drivers and being 1 – 2 mins max later than usual on such a short journey, but I was feeling very impatient and intolerant. As we came up to the one straight bit of the road where I could safely overtake, so indicated and started to pull out, the Jag driver accelerated from 30 – 40mph to over 60mph. OK, fine, I’ll stay where I am, then. Except that once past the straight, she was back down to 40mph and veering all over the road. Sheesh…

I vented my frustration vocally, but kept the language clean because the 6 little ears in the back seat have picked up a few too many Glaswegian-isms. I called her a fool, a dangerous driver, a menace, rude, ignorant, stupid, … Och, I’m sure you can imagine. The minxes didn’t comment and ignored me ranting away. As we came to the T-junction with the main road, Mrs Jag-Driver veered right. I cheered hooray and started to steer left. Then she swerved in front of me, indicated left and pulled out, causing the oncoming car to brake. Not hard, but enough.

“Ah”, I commented aloud, “Either drunk or lost”.

A little 5 year old voice piped up from the back: “Mummy, I think you should give her a happy smile and a big thumbs up, because she tried her best!”

I nearly crashed the car, laughing in astonishment. Sometimes little kids are actually wise beyond their years and experience…

After months of Maxi and Midi having their swimming lessons at the same time and the same day, they’re back to being staggered (Maxi finally passed out of the front crawl improvers class – attagirl!). So Mini and I no longer have our decadent weekly 20 mins treat  of munching through a shared bag of crisps and staring into space. Instead, we’re back to squeezing in a bit of the week’s homework with each older girl while Mini looks on, perplexed. Well, except for the reading books: she loves the ones about Kipper, Chip and Biff, can’t get enough of them, and sits rapt as Midi reads them aloud.

After the second swimming lesson, I plonked Midi and Mini together in a cubicle with a little shared snack while I waited outside the showers for Maxi. I made it crystal-clear that they had to stay together, and that Midi Was In Charge and Ueber Grueppen Boss. I could see them in the mirror, so headed off a few escape bids at the pass and enforced my rule. Except that the second I turned my back to ask Maxi to hurry up, Midi raced out the cubicle to get out of sharing her snack with her sister, who then promptly locked the door to keep Midi out. Great. This from the girl who’d wet herself twice that day (including one amazing one, timed to perfection, just as we were leaving the house on the morning school run). Exasperated was my main emotion that whole day… I heard my little 3 year old’s triumphant cackles change to frightened wails as I banged on the door. I tried to describe how she should turn the handle. She was panicking too much. I reassured her, then checked out the space below the cubicle – nope, too low even to send another minx under to rescue her. My sausage fingers were too chubby to grab the square lock bolt and turn it. I tried 2 coins on either side of the square, and twisted. Nope – too shallow. I bellowed, “Excuse me, please!” over to a passing staff member who nearly jumped out her shoes, then went to fetch the key.

Had this been 4 years ago and it was the first time one of my children had locked herself in, I maybe would have felt a wee frisson of panic myself. But this time, I admit I gleefully thought: “You’ll never do this again!” Mini exploded out of the cubicle like a cork, into my arms. Sod the stitches, my wee baby was shaking and gripping my waist with her little legs. After she calmed down, I took her back in the cubicle and showed her how to lock and unlock the door. She went back to looking smug, probably planning her next adventure with this new-found knowledge. Maybe I said ‘never again’ too soon…

Sunny Sands

Today was the second of 2 School In-Service days and the troops were getting restless…  Although my stitches are only sore to the touch and otherwise I’m pretty much back to normal, I’m still a bit leery of carrying Mini Minx on my back in the sling, or hoiking about rucksacks with changes of clothes or picnic food. So ok, long walks were out, but there’s no way we were being confined to barracks!

Well, except that we hung around a bit for a phonecall that never came and I washed the downstairs windows and hung out 3 mountains of clean washing in defiance of the circling seagulls (I had 2 secret weapons: Killer and Foster Cats. Who had a fight last week and really hate each other, except when ganging up on seagulls, when suddenly they look like a loving partnership). I thought I’d hear whether the mole I had cut out was a melanoma or not within a week. Today was Day 8. I did phone the number I’d been given if I ever needed to talk to someone, and the dermatology staff nurse I spoke to was wonderfully understanding, but really didn’t know how long it would take to hear, just that it was normally 6 weeks for standard biopsies. I guess I must have misheard the surgeon, then, and it’ll be sometime next week. Damn: I’d hoped to have the weekend off from my surreptitious fretting. And on that topic, The Boss changed the waterproof dressing for me earlier in the week. The scar is a lovely neat 2″ line on a very jaunty angle, with 4 stitches and 4 steristrips. It’ll be a very interesting scar, so I think I’ll like it a lot.

Back to the mutinous monsters… They wanted to sit around watching DVDs and CITV. I wanted them out, out, out in the fresh air, getting physically tired enough to sleep properly. But with me lacking stamina and enough moral fibre to cart around everything we’d need, we compromised and went to the beach.

Big WIDE open space!

Big WIDE open space!

For the hour we were there at low tide, it was gloriously sunny and virtually empty. I let the minxes wear whatever the hell they wanted, so long as their wee scalps were covered with hats, and Little Miss Fiery RedHead especially had her face and neck in the shade. Well, the sight of them gallumping around in wellies, fluffy ballet tutus and paper-flower-bedecked bonnets stopped 2 ladies in their tracks, who exclaimed how pretty they all looked. I guess ‘pretty’ translates as ‘downright weird’, sometimes. The minxes shyly stumbled along forlornly for a bit, till I started skipping about on a pretend horse. Oh aye: full reins, whinnying, clopping noises, horse-dung-dropping, the lot. That’s all it took for them to join in. Mini insisted on being a Princess in need of rescuing from the top of a 3″ rock, and roughly pushed Midi away, even though Midi was doing fantastic impressions of dragons and dragon-slaying. Maxi found a stick and half-heartedly waggled it about as a sword for a few minutes, then, token-effort made, happily set about her normal beach business of drawing things in the sand.

Inspired, me and the youngest 2 started shuffling names in the sand, with letters 10 feet tall. I did all 3 of their names and a huge love-heart. Midi shuffled a seriously neat ‘Mumma’ and a circle for a hug. It was exactly what we’d done in the snow on the way to school in March. But bigger. And even more fun. We were like a mother duck with 2 ducklings following along, as we shuffled and jumped between letters.

I’d picked up some bits and bobs for half-lunch in the Post Office on our way down and hidden them in Midi and Mini’s little rucksacks. Maxi decided when we could stop and eat them. Only then did they discover what I’d bought. So after troughing 3 little cocktail sausage rolls each and half a bag of sherbet lemons (a nutritious, wholesome lunch that any stay-at-home mother could be proud of (!)), we started the serious beach work of splashing through puddles and turning over rocks. Until my welly sprung a leak. I guess I’d hidden one piece of broken glass deep in the sand too many. I don’t mind having soggy feet, but can’t bear one wet and one dry, so we slowly ambled off towards home.

That was probably the best part of the day, just bimbling along, hand in hand with various minxes, blethering about nonsense, no rush to be anywhere, no-one else around, nothing to be super-alert about, enjoying them racing over in turn for a hand-squeeze then zooming off freely for a wee explore before coming back to show me more of their found treasures.

We were almost back at the car when 2 young black labradors came excitedly bounding down the ramp towards the kids. It wasn’t a lollop; it was a proper I’m-Making-A-Beeline-Right-For-You. Mini hid behind me and clung on, and Midi screamed as they both came up to her, jumped and then dashed off. I called over to Midi just before they reached her that it was ok, they were just being a bit too boisterous, she’d be just fine, to keep on walking, not to worry. The owner gave it the usual “Oh, ha-ha, they’re really friendly, they’re great with kids, honestly, they’ll do no harm, they’re around kids all the time”. What kind of special kind of stupid do you have to be to see that making a child scream in terror isn’t being harmless? I mean, call me old-fashioned and reactionary, but either those dogs were out of control and she couldn’t stop them as they ran to Midi OR she thought that them doing that was entirely ok. I had a Bad Mother 10 minutes: I blanked the stupid woman, who was swinging her enormous bag of dog-shit about like a trophy, comforted Midi, distracted her with a sweetie and got her back to the car. What I *should* have done was ask the woman which was true: she couldn’t control her dogs or she thought it was ok to let them frighten my daughter? Then ranted appropriately. But d’you, I was just too bloody *tired*. It’s such a shame, too, because the vast majority of dog-walkers on that beach are stellar – they either keep their dogs well away from playing kids, or put them briefly on a leash as they pass, or keep them obviously under a tight voice command (jeepers, some of them are so good that I’d love to ask them to teach me how to do that with my own daughters). I need to make sure that the girls don’t see the (lack of) actions of one fool as being indicative of how all dog-owners act. Sometimes I think they do, even though I try to downplay when it happens, and keep my thoughts to myself (or till The Boss comes home and the kids are in bed).


In my last post I said I was having the mole on my back removed yesterday – sorry, I got the date wrong but didn’t amend the blog post: it was today.

The Boss drove me and Mini Minx the 45 min drive to the little cottage hospital where I was having the little procedure done. We were early, then had to wait another 20 mins past the appointment time. That was fine – Mini’s at that age when kids seem to want to use every toilet they come across, in some kind of 3-year-old territory-marking thing.

When the Dr called me in, it felt a bit overwhelming: him, 2 nurses and an observer. And music… That music felt like a 6th person in the room. You know how the right music creates an ambiance,  and can be ignored? Well, not this. Greatest Easy-Listening Hits of the Early 70s. Not my cup of tea at all. But being a child of that era, they merrily and instantly lodged themselves as today’s earworms. Meh.

“Do you mind if I sing along?” asked the surgeon.

“Do you mind if I don’t join in?” I grimaced, face down on the table, trying to bury my ears in the pillow.

He was a jolly fellow who asked lots about my hair colours and chatted to the rest of the room non-stop throughout the procedure. In hindsight, I should have taken a book along to distract myself. I’ve been acting feeling fairly blase and nonchalant about it all up till now, but when it actually came to climbing up on the table and getting comfy, I couldn’t relax my tense shoulders and back at all. When the first of 3 (!) blood-soaked swabs went over my head and sat flaunting their cheerful red colour at me a few inches from my face, it didn’t do much to stop my quaking and shivering. (Even though it did strike me that it would be the perfect shade for my next hair dye-job…). Of course, I did what I always do when I’m frightened – turn into a bad stand-up (ok, lie-down) comedian and fire off one-liners and jokes until I’ve raised at least a few laughs. It’s a sub-conscious thing that I’ve noticed I do. It irritates the hell out of me, so must have been pretty tedious for the medics.

I think I was doing fine until the surgeon decided to cauterize the little blood vessels when he was done. I tell you, the sound and sensation of your own tissue sizzling and spitting isn’t a very pleasant one, even if it doesn’t hurt. I don’t know if I could have handled any bacon aromas at that moment (well, it was lunchtime…), so reverted to mouth-breathing. Why? Well, can you imagine? Bacon smell = appetite stimulant. But from a smell that’s been made by your own burned body? Oh no! I used to say that nothing has ever put me off my food – and in a past career, notoriously so – but this did.

Bacon Bread Pudding - vanilla bread pudding pa...

Bacon Bread Pudding – vanilla bread pudding packed with fried bacon bits and covered in a creamy Jameson’s Irish whiskey sauce – Paddy Long’s – Baconfest 2013.jpg (Photo credit: opacity)                  <——almost as minging as smelling your own skin burning

Afterwards, the nice nurse who finished up quietly told me to soak my blood-stained bra in cold water and gave me a bag for it. I should have taken it off beforehand, but after frightening poor nurse B last week I thought that this time I’d just obey the doc’s directions. So when he said to remove my top and only take one arm out the bra strap before putting on the gown, that’s what I did. Double-meh – it is was my favourite bra: greying and tatty but a perfect fit and always made my saggy lemons look like ripe, exuberant melons. I have high hopes for Ariel Stain Remover…

I had a look at the mole, swimming in its jar, before I left. It was only hazelnut-sized. The surgeon said he’d cut a 5mm margin of skin around the mole and a little cuff of fat. Well, hooray for Trout back fat (which is a sunny shade of yellow, I discovered), because I wouldn’t have fancied him digging around at muscle-level. I resisting waving goodbye to it, but mostly because I was trying to cover up the fact that I was shaking like a wuss of a leaf that needs to man-up. Apparently pathology should return the result of the mole “very quickly indeed”, in a week or so.

The Boss kindly pointed out that I was probably in very mild shock, so I’ve taken the afternoon pretty easy. He suggested sunbathing (you can tell that I married him for his sense of humour). I’m not in any pain, but it is quite uncomfortable: there’s a couple of stitches that’ll need to come out in a fortnight, lots of steri-strips and a big showerproof plaster. Actually, it’s probably the plaster that’s making it all feel so crunchy. That and the fact that I can’t unknot my tensed back muscles yet. I don’t know why I’m feeling so sorry for myself – I’m so very glad that the horrible thing is gone! And besides, it could have been far worse: Midi Minx asked persuasively and seriously if she could take the day off school to come and observe the procedure. I actually gave it a bit of thought initially, too, before deciding it probably wasn’t appropriate for inquisitive 5 year olds who still can’t keep their fingers from caressing their own bogeys, day and night.

Digging Out the Mole

It’s been nearly a month since I last updated. We’re all fine, nothing terrible has happened; I just didn’t really feel that I could write about the things bugging me (I did a spot of business with a friend and it was a pretty horrendous, eye-opening experience that’s made me feel angry, troubled, insulted and very sad). I find that I can’t write if I try to ignore the things boiling around in my little mind. Worse, if I don’t write, then the things in my head take root and take over. Bummer!

Luckily, something else took over for me to fret over that I am going to write about. About 4 months ago I saw my GP about a mole on my back that I’d idly noticed ticked all 5 boxes of the moley-things that you should see your GP about: it was Asymmetric; the Border was irregular; the Colour was irregular and changing; the Diameter was bigger than 6mm (it was about 12mm); and it was Evolving (changing). I also had a new one below it that itched. Hmmmm… My GP took a very quick look, declared both moles absolutely fine, and put me on the 6 month waiting list for minor surgery to have them removed if they were bothering me. Well, she kind of put me on the list… I think she’d had a tough morning and seemed pretty vacant and woolly; when I asked the receptionist to check how long the waiting list was, it turns out the GP hadn’t got any idea how to put anyone on the list at all, so the wonderful receptionist sorted it out for me. I went away and stopped fretting for a bit.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. I checked out the mole again as I do every month or so. Christ, it looked like it was growing antlers! And there were more shades of brown and black in it than in a very muddy puddle. So I went back to the GP’s again, and asked to see someone else. This time, the GP’s quick look turned into a sharp intake of breath, big frown, a longer look, a stare, and an urgent referral (“Two Week Wait”) to a dermatologist. I know I’d gone to the appointment ready to ask for that to happen. But it was still a bit unsettling seeing the words “possible melanoma… alarming… worrying” in sentences about yourself.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Drama Queen and Hypochondriac, the next week was a tad angsty. My appointment came through, for a few days later, at the local hospital. I’d no idea whether the appointment was just for a quick look-see, or if the mole might be removed there and then, or what might happen. I phoned to ask (Knowledge is Power and stops me getting hysterical), but by the time I was passed to the 5th different person, I gave up. The Boss sorted out time off work to come with me just in case I got it cut out and needed a driver home. He’s also being checked out medically at the moment, so I’m sure his work must think that he’s secretly attending job interviews by the dozen, rather than haunting our GP’s surgery and local hospital.

So, at the appointment we met the very sympathetic, professional and reassuring nurse-practitioner, B. He took a full history of the mole’s antics so far, previous sunburning incidents, etc. etc. and very discreetly asked what my natural hair colour was (it’s currently a fading pillarbox red with peach and pink breakthrough stripes). He had a good look at both with a dermascope (?) and took a lot of photos. Then he surprised me by saying that he’d need to check all my skin. Yep: all of it. Oh. If only one of the 5 folk I’d talked to had pre-warned me of this possibility – I might not have selected that particular pair of knickers to wear that morning… I changed into a hospital gown (always reminds me of Caesareans!!) while B fetched a female member of staff to chaperone, even though The Boss and Mini Minx sat looking through the curtain, sniggering and playing Hide and Seek.

Now, I understand why you change into a gown and lift bits of it up at a time for a full body inspection – it’s partly to help you retain a little dignity, and perhaps partly to act as a mental trigger to the medical professional to see the person in front of them as a big chunk of skin with moles on it, rather than a naked middle-aged woman whose husband was right beside, trying not to giggle. Now, way back when I was being induced when I was pregnant with Maxi, a strange man in scrubs came into the room accompanied by 4 or 5 female nurses. He didn’t say hello or introduce himself, and merrily put his whole hand up where a whole hand really shouldn’t go. He left without saying goodbye. Luckily, I’d been expecting him…  I suspect that painful event blew all my body modesty valves, so I don’t really get shy about my flabby flesh anymore. So when the professionally-detached B asked me to lift corners of the gown while he twisted and turned to look at other moles closely, I suggested it might be quicker to dispense with the bit of cloth altogether and dropped it before he could say “no”. He nearly lost his aplomb; the smiley female chaperone’s grin froze and The Boss let out a tiny chortle. Mini helpfully said, “Mummy’s boobies!” in case anyone was in any doubt about what I was waggling about. Well, the tiny element of comedy made me feel a bit better, stood there in my see-through, threadbare knickers, looking like I didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘topiary’, silently thanking my stars that at least I’d had a shower that morning. I’d tried cracking jokes, but I could tell that they were the standard ones that the ever-patient B had heard 100 times before, that morning, already.

Close-up of a mole 🙂 Photo: wikipedia

B explained that he’d upload the photos for the dermatology consultant over in Aberdeen to see online, and that he’d get back to me before the end of the week with an all-clear or whether they’d like to have one or more removed. He then rattled through common questions and their answers, knowing everything that I’d want to ask. He checked whether The Boss had any questions, then we left. I settled down for a 3 day wait to hear from him, but he called back a few hours later saying that the consultant wasn’t happy with the big mole and wanted it cut out as quickly as possible; if there weren’t any local appointments could I travel to Aberdeen? I asked if the consultant thought it might be a melanoma. “Yes” was the simple answer. Gosh. The world shook a little, my inner Drama Queen had a fit of the vapours, whilst the Real World Me just thanked B for phoning so quickly.

The next morning B called back with an appointment for minor surgery at a distant small hospital in 6 days time. I joked that because he’d cleverly booked it for late morning that it meant I didn’t have to worry about the school run – a huge weight off my mind! B spent quite a lot of time carefully checking how I felt, and gave me his number to call any time if I felt that I needed to talk or had any questions. It’s kind of him, but no. Phoning to talk, to a nurse whose specialism is skin cancer, is talking to a cancer nurse. I don’t have cancer; I’ve just got a big lurker on my back that’s getting cut out this Wednesday!

Now, I’m pretty good at consulting Professor Google. I have an MSc, so I can do some reasonable research (eg Netmums and Yahoo Answers probably aren’t the most credible of sites…). It strikes me that it’s most likely that the mole is a dysplastic nevus and that it isn’t a melanoma. And for most of the day, when I’m awake, that’s what I honestly believe. It’s when I wake up at 4am and my rational self is still fast asleep, leaving the irrational, scared, panicky me lying there in the dark, fretting through the What Ifs…

I’ll keep you posted. And don’t worry. Be more concerned about what poor B maybe sees every night when he turns out the light – me stripping off. What’s been seen cannot be unseen!