Greedy Old Trout

Trout: <tummy rumbles> “Mini, are you hungry?”

Mini Minx: “No, Mummy. Let’s play shops!”

Trout: “In a minute. Do you fancy a biscuit?”

Mini: “No, Mummy. Let’s play shops!”

Trout: “Shall we bake biscuits?”

Mini: “No, Mummy. Let’s play shops!”

Trout: “What about baking Vampire Biscuits – I’ll let you lick the icing spoon! Shall we bake?”

Mini: “No, Mummy. Let’s play shops!”

Trout: “If we bake biscuits, we can play Biscuit Shops!”

Mini: <crumbles>

plate of iced empire biscuits

Vampire Biscuits, aka Empire or Imperial Biscuits. Whatever they’re called, they’re a bit nice

Midi Bites Again

On 19th May, the Tooth Fairy finally visited Midi Minx.

She’d been hauling on that tiny wobbly peg for weeks. She twisted and twirled it every minute she remembered. It just wasn’t shifting. She’d asked and double-checked what age

new adult tooth behind baby tooth

Exactly one month ago

Maxi had been when she first lost a tooth (5; Midi is now 6), and how much she’d been paid in shiny gold coins (£1 a time).

Eventually, after a lot of blood, the teeny stump came out. She proudly made a little cushion of fabric in a plastic heart-shaped case, and nestled the tooth on top. It went safely under her pillow while The Boss outdid himself this time, Brasso-ing that coin.

When Midi came screaming into our room at 6am on 20th, it was the reflected, concentrated sunlight flash off that golden nugget that woke me up, as it burned off my eyelids, not Midi’s demented shrieking about being rich.

It was her new lower left incisor that pushed the tooth out in the first place. It’s grown so much that it’s now the longest / tallest tooth in Midi’s mouth (all the rest having been ground to flat little stumps). Midi can now bite again. Her sisters are quaking…

Name Your Kids Carefully


When we named the minxes, we diligently thought through everything: did their initials spell out something silly? If they hated their first names, did they have popular and ‘classic’ alternatives in their middle names? Did their names sound ok when shouted loudly in the street?

I thought we had it covered. I really did. Till these 2 incidents:

1. Stood in a garden centre, yelling for Mini, who’d disappeared. People look at you really strangely when you’re shouting, “Rose! Rose!” right in front of the rose bush selections.

2. Watching Mini disappear into the distance at a rate of knots in the supermarket. People gasp and snigger when you shout, “Wait, Rose!” in the middle of Tesco.

Cleaning and the Average Family

This weekend was brought to you by the word ‘dirt’. I knew it was going to be one of those days when I’d washed my hands 5 times already and still hadn’t had breakfast or dressed. I’m not suffering from OCD – I just have mucky daughters, the youngest of whom also has a track record of blocking toilets when left to wipe her bum unsupervised… Give me strength!

Actually, did I tell you about the last blockage? I don’t think so. Anyway, this was back in February, while we were renting the enormous farmhouse that let in water from the living room lintel and that used a million gallons of oil to keep it warm for an hour. So… we were getting ready to move out and were making sure that everything was clean, tidy and in as good repair as it was when we moved in. I was weeding outside the dining room window and noticed what looked like shredded toilet roll on the patio. Um… I followed the toilet roll trail all the way to a drainpipe. With an overflowing drain. Oh-oh… I set The Boss to work with a plunger and some rubber gloves. The Boss toiled for an hour and filled a bin-bag with yuck. But the blockage still wasn’t cleared. So we tried the old synchronised flushing routine that usually works. Nothing. And worse, the toilet that was fairly blocked when we first moved in (so we’d just stopped using it) was now totally blocked. Oh hell. The Boss got out his long prodding rod things that I’d laughed at him buying, years ago. He prodded. He poked. He swore a lot. He thanked his lucky stars for another bout of sinusitis. He filled another bin bag of ming. But it was *still* blocked. He managed to open drain covers and haul out more toilet roll. Yet another bin bag of used, shredded toilet roll (thank God I’m so bleach-friendly – at least the toilet roll was bleached white…). He decided to nip over the fence and ask our lovely landlord if he had any longer rods we could borrow. Lovely Landlord came straight over and offered to help. For the rest of the afternoon they poked and hauled and dry-boaked; they retched and gagged and used a high-power hose. Eventually… hallelujah!… the blockage was hauled out. The Boss reckons they hoiked out years of toilet roll, from long before our time, but Mini Minx must have been responsible for at least half. Anyway, as they were clearing up and hosing down the patio again, Lovely Landlord looked up the drainpipe. His face was a picture as he spotted shredded toilet roll all over the wall, 3 storeys up. I have no idea how the hell it got up there. Somehow the blockage must have been all the way up the drainpipe… and somehow forced its way out… under pressure?! I’m so very glad we fixed it ourselves!

Right, so, now you know why Mini has been told to call a parent when she poos, and only to wipe under supervision. Occasionally she doesn’t bother, and occasionally I get to fish out an entire roll of toilet paper that hasn’t flushed away. Meh! So yeah, my hands get washed a lot.

Going to end in tears EVERY time

Going to end in tears EVERY time

That weekend we set the kids to work, washing the cars. Well, it’s only slave labour if they realise it’s not a game. I never wash the car and drive down tractor tracks most days. You can imagine the mess… After 2 hours of soapy graft and toil, it still needed a proper clean. At least all 3 helper-girls were still talking to each other. And as Chief Wielder of Hose, Maxi didn’t get too much hassle from her sisters at all. Funny that.

I DID wash my hands! Oh, ok, I might have missed a tiny bit...

I DID wash my hands! Oh, ok, I might have missed a tiny bit…

Minger Minx

Minger Minx

Still, if only we’d waited to clean the cars till the next day – the kids decided to make mud-pies in the garden. At our last home, with its sandy soil, mud-pies were innocuous and cleaned up easily; we discovered the hard way that the clay, non-draining soil here is a different kettle of fish altogether. And worse, it stains. I wonder how quickly Midi would have been cleaned up had we hosed her down first? Oh and those shoes in the picture? They’re her school shoes. Yes. Exactly. I think me calming down enough to take a photo is what saved her life.

On Sunday The Boss did a little DIY on the girls’ bikes. I still haven’t published the draft post from Easter, when Mini went from her balance bike to a 2-wheeler with *no* stablisers in 5 minutes flat, but she needed her seat post lengthened already. And it involved lots of technical engineering work (spanner, little hammer, and BFO hammer). After The Boss had footered around with it, he left a load of metal shavings on the drive. As both cars are parked up there, and all 3 girls spend a lot of the evenings racing their bikes there, he decided to clean it up pretty thoroughly. (No, it’s nothing to do with me being a dragon – how could you accuse me of that?!). He has an old Dyson liberated from a skip, whose parts have been salvaged from various town dumps.


Cleaning up those pesky metal filings

So it’s a real Trigger’s Broom of a vacuum cleaner – none of the original parts, but still going strong. It lives in the garage to hoover up wood dust and chippings from The Boss’s workbench. But no: Sunday tea-time, The Boss thinks it’s a smart idea to plug it in and hoover the drive-way. Back and forth, round and round. He hoovered up dust, metal, stones, grit, insects, grass and dirt. And any lingering ideas amongst our neighbours that we are a normal family.

Sports Week

One of the drier bits of the route-march, the Sunday before...

One of the drier bits of the route-march, the Sunday before…

All week the kids will be doing something sporty at school. Fantastic! Well… it would have been fantastic if I were one of those super-organised mothers. In fact, if I were forward-thinking *at all*.

I got on the back foot on Friday and have been playing catch-up ever since. It was only on Monday morning, for example, that I realised that Maxi only had a pair of wellies, her school shoes, a pair of party shoes and a pair of indoor plimsolls to her name. Och, plenty shoes, you’d think. But: what would she wear for outdoor sports? All week?


Cue one swift visit to Tesco after Mini’s swimming lesson. I basically bought every vaguely outdoory kind of shoe in vaguely her size, took them all home to try on at lunchtime, and will take all bar one pair back at the weekend.

(Tesco shoes. I know. I’m going to Non-Clarks Hell when I die).

I’m relieved I found one pair that fit – most shoes from Tesco are seriously random sizes. One pair of 12s will be too small, whereas another pair in the identical style with the identical barcode, will be too big. I found one pair of shoes so wide that the velcro straps couldn’t be fastened tight enough to hold the shoes on her (wide) feet, and this despite leaving 10″ long tails. I guess Donald Duck was that factory’s shoe-last model…

Today, we went on a sponsored walk. I sat the girls down at lunchtime and laid down the law. Kids, it’s not going to be a family walk where we can bimble and go see things and talk about things and look around: it’s going to be a route march. Maxi and Midi are to stick together like glue or I will botch-tape you side by side, and Mini will be on my back in the Wompat. You don’t need to enjoy it. Just get through it. Questions? Issues?

Well, I didn’t actually think it would be a route-march. But you know what? It was. We set off in a wiggly worm of staff, kids and parents: big kids and adults With Something To Prove raced off immediately, and the buggies and tiny nursery tots clotted in the middle and strung out the line. It was drizzling as we set off, and the cloud-dam burst within 5 minutes. I discovered that my waterproof jacket wasn’t waterproof; I learned that Mini didn’t care that she was wet through because she could snooze on my back all afternoon; that Midi thought it was funny to sing “Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside” with me; and that suddenly me and the minxes were at the very back of the line when the folk who’d come to a dead halt earlier decided to about-turn and go home. I don’t blame them – the route ahead wasn’t fit for buggies or small babies.

I’m ashamed to admit that I spent the rest of the entire walk stressing and narking at the girls to hurry up / wait for her sister. On and on I nagged to get them to stay together. Unknown to me, Midi was suffering the consequences of not wearing knee-high socks with her wellies as I’d instructed, and was now sporting 2 big long friction blisters (cue a ton of guilt when she told another adult about her sore calves instead of me). Maxi was pretty good and only came to a dead halt 20 times or so. I growled at her until she cried. Yep, like shouting at a committed daydreamer on perma-chat is ever going to actually achieve anything (!). I’ll feel guilty about upsetting her for years. I mean, I’m supposed to be a capable adult. I could have just decided to amble round at Maxi’s pace – just me and my 3 girls – enjoying the views and the thunder and the birdsong. But no, stupidly I was On A Mission to keep up with everyone else. Dolt! One helper hung back to walk with us, but basically everyone else zoomed off. With 20kg on my back, soaked through, overheating as I squelched through the thick mud the path had become, and struggling with 2 little girls who really didn’t want to be rushed around a 4.5km walk (I know, because we coincidentally walked it with the in-laws on Sunday afternoon), watching everyone else head off in the distance, I can’t say it was the most fun afternoon I’ve ever had. Though to be fair, the others were probably just rushing to get away from my snarling! Anyway, I’m sure that the activities they’ll do for the John Muir award will be entirely different, and will embrace having space and time to look to left and right, instead of marching left, right… And I *will* conquer this stupid bad temper and intolerance! (Or will I…?)

Have Sewing Machine; Will Traumatise.

May 6

Maxi-gets-through-morning-school-run-without-being-shrieked-at shocker! She got up at 6.45am with The Boss and they had a lovely leisurely breakfast together. When I stumbled into the kitchen at 7.20 she was happily sketching on her billboard-sized drawing pad. Then she had her favourite kind of morning: safely tucked away in her room, away from her noisy sisters, making Lego models. Who was this happy, cheerful, compliant little girl?!

As I said, I didn’t haul my sorry bum out of bed till 7.20 – Mini had had me up for ages last night. She’d come in because … nope, I can’t even remember. A twisted sock. She missed my snarl. She wanted a cuddle. Whatever it was, it was enough for me to relent and let her in bed beside us. As usual, this was a huge mistake because she then spent the night waking up and complaining that she was cold and needed more covers; I was facing away from her and she needed Mummy Cuddles; I was facing her and my breath smelled like bums; I was cuddling her and making her too hot; I was facing away from her and she needed parental attention Right.This.Instant… yawn.

You can see how short the dress was without its new bottom tier. Loads more years left now. Ish...

You can see how short the dress was without its new bottom tier. Loads more years left now. Ish…

I spent my 90 child-free minutes today finishing off an owly dress for my Owly Girl. I’d bought a metre of owl fabric for Midi a year ago, but never used it. I’m on an insane bid to get to the bottom of my fabric stash, so decided she needed a new dress to run around in. As this was just 2 types of cotton, it was really easy to work with. Such a treat after last week’s trauma, discovering that t-shirt jersey is harder to work with than voile. (“I’ll just fold this jersey fabric in half… Argh, it keeps slipping! <shove, poke=””> Right, let’s line up this end and pin it as I go along… Smooth out! Smooth.Out.NOW Actually, banging helps <bang, thump=””> Oh hell, now it’s going all 3D on me!”). Five whole days of sailor-mouthing just to get a metre of jersey cut it in half, joined in a circle, hemmed, gathered, and attached to the bottom tier of a too-short dress. I’m never working with jersey ever again. Evil stuff! Och well, at least Midi doesn’t mind that the gathers are wonky.

Midi's Owl Dress

Midi’s Owl Dress

I finally bit the bullet and accepted that one of Mini’s library books was indeed lost forever and went to our old library to confess and pay up. The lovely librarian checked her entire stock of kids’ books in case we’d actually brought it back and it hadn’t been stamped in. She checked the bookcases; she checked the shelves; she checked the back rooms. It was so kind of her to take the time! She gently explained that the book I’d brought along to donate as a swap was no good because it had been published at a different time. We looked up the price. Yikes! She checked on Amazon for me in case we could get the exact same one cheaper. Yes!!! No… it was out of stock. Ach well, I’d brought my cheque book. The librarian said she’d check with HQ about the price because she didn’t think it fair that I pay the full price when she was sure it hadn’t been in great condition. She’d let me know. I thanked her profusely, grabbed Mini’s new stack of books and headed off.

Footery buttons and loops, but the twirling says that she likes it

Footery buttons and loops, but the twirling says that she likes it

Within a minute or 2, the librarian caught up with me in the carpark – HQ had agreed just to write it off. Wow! How lovely! I’d been fretting about the money, so I could have swung her off her feet in joy. What a kind lady! Libraries and librarians are (sometimes) just ace.

A less-than-enthralling afternoon ensued, fielding squabbling over who was getting to ride their bikes and who was going on a scooter to pester our long-suffering neighbours in the cul-de-sac. We’re so lucky that folk driving into the street seem to be very wary of 3 little female hooligans on wheels.

Though there were nearly only 2. Midi was determined to push every button of mine this afternoon, and make both her sisters cry repeatedly. I sent both her and a wailing Maxi to their rooms to separate them and give my ears a chance to stop bleeding. When I went to “have a little chat” with them 10 minutes later, Maxi was suitably penitent and looking chastened, whereas Midi was nonchalantly lounging on her bed, happily reading her new library books. She absolutely refused to apologise to Maxi for hitting her, or to me for shrieking and screaming like a banshee. I think the fact that she quietly apologised to Maxi in person, when they were washing hands before dinner together, saved her from yet another reading of the Riot Act.

I watched a tired Mini rubbing her clothes labels again tonight. Her little arm can barely twist behind her back to reach her trousers label. I asked her where she’d like me to make a tag that she could stroke on her next homemade nightie: “On your wrist? Your elbow? Your waist?” No: she preferred what she was used to (small of her back, the awkward sod). I moved her blanket round so she could reach its care label more easily. She didn’t like it. This toy? That toy? No. None of them were “rubbable” enough. I’m guessing it’s the silkiness of the tags that she loves, but Mini being the contrary sod that she is, it could be something random like the precise dimensions of the scrap of fabric!

Four Year Old Escapologist

Around 6pm, Midi Minx skipped into the kitchen. The Boss and I were cooking dinner and she sniffed at the pork biryani and apple strudel.

Then she remembered what she’d come in for. “Mummy, Mini’s outside playing with A on her scooter”, she said calmly. The 3 girls were watching Ice Age on the DVD next door: how could Mini be outside?

We dropped everything and The Boss raced outside. Sure enough, she was playing with the wee girl next door and the wee girl’s granddad, in the street. The Boss scooped her up and the scooter, to her frustrated screams of indignation, and marched her indoors.

From Hallowe'en costume or future attire?!

From Hallowe’en costume or future attire?!

Through her roars of protest I explained why we were upset. If something bad had happened to her, Mummy and Daddy wouldn’t have known where she was. We wouldn’t have been able to help her. If something really terrible had happened, she’d never have seen Mummy, Daddy, Maxi, Midi or Killer Cat ever, ever again. And we’d have cried and cried and cried. We’d never have known where she was. We’d have looked for her in every cupboard, in every corner of the house, in every garden in the street. We’d have called her name out and cried and cried. And never seen her again.

She got the message. I’d certainly laid it on thick enough.

Somehow she’d managed to escape without any of us noticing: she’d had to get out the chair she’d been snuggling next to Midi in, go to her bedroom, fetch out and dress herself in a long-sleeved tee-shirt and leggings (normally she howls in protest when we insist that her arms and legs are covered when she goes out on the bike or scooter!), put on her shoes, get her scooter, fetch a little chair and stool and climb up to open the door, go out and close the door behind her, and go join her wee friend whom she’d seen playing outside from the living room window. All this under the noses of 2 older sisters and 2 parents.

I’m glad that Midi’s eyes are pretty sharp when she’s wearing her specs!

Mini went quite berserk and wanted to hide in the cupboard. Neither I nor The Boss shouted, but we told her she couldn’t leave our sight and had to either sit up at table for dinner or sit on the kitchen floor right beside us. She thrashed around a bit, angry and upset, suddenly wanting her bed. So The Boss fetched her little mattress and put it beside the dinner table, with her pillow, duvet and favourite toy. She threw herself under the covers and had an angry shout for a bit while we ignored her.

After the rest of us had half-finished dinner, I peeped under her covers and suggested she come and eat: she must be hungry. No. She hated me. I calmly explained that she was never, ever to leave the house without telling me. I loved her very much and didn’t want bad things to happen. I was very glad she was ok. She threw herself on my neck and sobbed. She did want dinner. On my lap. I made her promise not to leave the house without telling me again. She promised, and bounded up in her chair to wolf her dinner down.

When her sisters went out with The Boss for an after-dinner cycle around the street, Mini shrieked again at not being allowed out. I explained the concept of ‘being grounded’ and why she was being punished. I’d expected her to protest more, but apart from a token whine (that’s sounding exactly like the cry from George of Peppa Pig…) she accepted my decision suspiciously well.

She decided that she really was tired and wanted to go to bed, so I had a bit of a treat getting to do the bedtime routine for once: helping her brush her teeth, wash, snuggle in her favourite nightie (a frou-frou lacy, flouncy horror that I’d sewn to her exacting specification last month) and a bedtime story. Within half an hour, she was nearly asleep. Exhausted.

I’m not sure I handled her escaping and return very well, but I’m tired and not thinking on my feet too fast. I know lots of children her age do exactly the same – I know that 3 of her uncles did! – but her sisters didn’t. Has your child gone walkies like this? How did you handle it?